Ten Months of Traveling Complete

In the last month we have traveled to nine cities in two countries: Pushkar, Jaipur, Agra, New Delhi, Varanasi, and Kolkata in India; and Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Mai in Thailand. We’ve only been in Thailand a week now, but so far we are in love with it. Maybe we’ll end up extending our 30 day tourist visa!

One Month in India

Looking back on our month in India, it was probably the country we will simultaneously love and hate the most. We loved the food, the people, and the sights, but each of those also had their drawbacks. We love trying street food, but not when dishes are washed in sewer water. We love meeting people and learning about their culture and lives, but not when overly pushy vendors make you not want to talk to anyone. We love visiting new places, but so many beautiful and sacred sites are littered with trash and shit (literally - cow, dog, and even human excrement is everywhere). India was a constant assault to the senses. We’re glad we did it: we got to try amazing food, meet new friends, and have memories that will stay with us for a lifetime. However, we’re still trying to process everything we experienced and want to make sure we portray it correctly so it might be awhile until you get to see the pictures.

Welcome to Thailand!

Given what we said about India, it’s easy to see why Thailand is a breath of fresh air - literally! The streets aren’t choked with smog or covered in trash! But let’s be honest: our love of Thailand began with the food. We have finally found a country that rivals Mexican street food! We can’t say one is better than the other - that’s like comparing apples and oranges - but the food here is amazing. We ate meat about three times in India so we’re making up for it here. In less than a week we have already eaten chicken, pork, beef, and duck - although we did skip over the fried bugs. Maybe we’ll try them before we leave, but that may require a bit of liquid courage.

Fast Facts:

  • Favorite city in India: Pushkar, India
  • Favorite attraction name: Jantar Mantar
  • Smoggiest city: New Delhi
  • Favorite new hashtag: #Delhismelly
  • Best food in Thailand: Everything!

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Beer and Wine in Germany

We ended up visiting Germany twice within a few weeks. The first was to meet Laura’s parents in Munich before we headed off to Interlaken, and then again later to meet up with our friend Kim for her birthday!

Munich Round 1: Oktoberfest & Dachau

We weren’t planning on going to Oktoberfest since we’ve already been (twice), but then Laura’s parents got flights in/out of Munich so twist our arm! From our previous stints at Oktoberfest, we knew that it’s easiest to go for lunch and leave before it gets super crowded and crazy. But in true Oktoberfest fashion, you might have so much fun that you forget to leave! After all, you can’t have only one stein! You have to make the rounds, check out all the beautifully decorated tents, and - of course - try all the delicious food and beer. We recommend everyone add Oktoberfest to their bucket list. It’s an amazing atmosphere with people from all over the world who are all happy, drunk, and rocking lederhosen and dirndls. Our friend Bryant was also in Munich for Oktoberfest, and it was great to catch up with him and share a few steins.

Cheers from Oktoberfest!
Inside the Hofbräu tent.
Inside the Spaten tent and what we have dubbed "crack chicken" because it's so tasty!
Catching up with Bryant at the Hofbräuhaus.

After oktoberfest, we visited Dachau just outside of Munich. Dachau was the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis in World War II. Although we had visited this site a few years ago, it was interesting to go back since we had toured Auschwitz only a month prior.

The entrance gate and inside a bunker.
The building that housed the gas chamber and crematoriums.

Munich Round 2: Happy birthday, Kim!

After saying goodbye to Laura’s parents, we came back to Munich to meet up with Kim. We have only ever been to Munich during Oktoberfest, so it was interesting for us to see the contrast. Kim arrived on her birthday, so in addition to seeing the sights around town, we celebrated in classic style at Hofbräuhaus.

Ready for some birthday beers at Hofbräu!
This is what happens when we visit a market.
Marienplatz, the main square in Munich.
Lions at the Feldherrnhalle and the lucky lions of the Residenz.

Rüdesheim am Rhein

To shake things up a bit, we took a break from beer and headed to wine country. Germany is known for their rieslings and some pinots too. We spent a few days touring various wineries, enjoying the countryside, and walking along the Rhine River.

We found buckeyes and street wine walking through the city!

Frankfurt

Our final stop with Kim was Frankfurt, a city with a very metropolitan feel. It too has a charming Old Town, but the city is dominated by skyscrapers since it is the financial capital of Germany. We enjoyed a few more beer gardens, checked out the skyline along the river and splurged on… Chipotle! We haven’t had it since we left the US, but it happened to be located right next to our hotel. It wasn’t quite what you would expect for our last meal in Germany, but it was delicious nevertheless!

Frankfurt's Old Town, and hooray CHIPOTLE!

Auf Wiedersehen, Germany! Until next time!

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Pivo and Parents in Prague

Even though we went to Prague a few years ago, we liked the idea of having more Czech pivo (beer) and playing tour guide for our final week with Laura’s parents. While exploring Old Town by foot was convenient for most things, we figured we would get some of the best views on a boat cruise and a bit of style from an “old” car tour.

The Charles Bridge over the Vltava River.
Prague Castle at sunset.
Old car driving tour.
Don't worry, we weren't driving.

Our first stop in Prague was the Old Town Square for beer the famous astronomical clock tower. Dating back to medieval times (it was installed in 1410), the clock has an array of mechanisms that detail the positions of the sun, moon, and what month it is - but most people really go to see “The Walk of the Apostles” which happens on the hour. These moving sculptures draw a HUGE crowd so you can always tell when it’s getting close.

The crowd gathers to watch the hourly show where the apostles are visible above the clock face.
The Old Town Square during the day and night.

In addition to the beautiful Old Town, Prague has a unique blend of old historical sites peppered in with modern architecture and design. The Old Jewish Cemetery was across the street from our Airbnb and is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. Just down the street from this is the modern Dancing House, whose design was met with controversy as it is in stark contrast to the rest of the city’s architecture. Across the river is the John Lennon Wall, which has been a symbol of peace and love since the 1980s amidst the communist era. Also on the west bank of the Vlata River is the historic Prague Castle, which has an area so large the Guinness Book of Records named it “the largest ancient castle in the world!”

Laura adding our initials to the wall.
The "Dancing House" named for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Selfies from the castle!
The view of Prague from the castle.

Prague has more to offer than just pretty sights - the most obvious being Czech beer! Most places offered Pilsner Urquel (literally “original pilsner”) and Budweiser. No, it is not the same as American Budweiser. This is a Czech original that is much older and much better! We paired our beers with hearty and delicious Czech food, some of which is even made with beer! The most notable was the beer cheese, which was an interesting culinary experience. Sounds good on paper… but our only way to describe it is that it tasted like a fart.

The smelly beer cheese alongside some amazing pork knuckle and goulash.

Continuing our culinary journey, no trip to Prague would be complete without trying some absinthe. We’ll just let you see for yourself how delicious it was.

Ready to try some absinthe!
Well, at least one of us enjoyed it.

Prague was our last stop with Laura’s parents. It was an eventful two weeks full of beautiful sights and delicious beers. Thanks for coming, mom and dad!

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A Week in the Swiss Alps

Laura’s parents came to join us for a few weeks and wanted to spend one of them in Switzerland, which worked out great because we were looking for an excuse to go! We chose Interlaken as our homebase to explore the surrounding region.

Instead of museums or monuments, the main attractions in Interlaken are the turquoise lakes, beautiful mountains, and small chalet-filled villages. We got a three day pass for the area’s trains, cog railways, and cable cars, which made it easy to get up into the mountains for the best views.

Two of many trains we took throughout the region.
The view from Schynige Platte
The view from Männlichen
Jungfraujoch is the highest railway station in Europe.

Of course the best views of the lake are from the water, so we jumped on board a paddlewheel ferry to cruise around lake Brienz. And yes - the water really is that color. The coloring is due to “glacial flour” or silt particles that make the water milky colored. You can read more about it here.

On a break from the countryside, we decided to take a day trip to the nearby capital of Bern. After a few pleasant hours wandering the old town and waiting for the clock tower’s dance, we found the real attraction: bears! The city has several large brown bears inside a huge bear pit along the river, which dates back to the 1500s. The bear is a prominent symbol on flags throughout the city and region.

Over the Aare River
Bern's Federal Palace
Bern has many intricately designed fountains.
The Zytglogge is Bern's famous clock tower.

Our last day in Interlaken we went paragliding. This was easily one of the coolest things we have ever done! Our pilots gave us a chance to steer while we were up there, and we each did some fun tricks and spins on the way down before landing. It was a bit pricey but we can’t recommend it enough. We’ll have to try hang gliding next!

Vesper taking off!

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Wild Camping in Scotland

After Ireland, we had about a week before we needed to meet up with Laura’s parents in Munich. Our friends Annie and Todd let us know that Scotland allows “wild camping” (aka free!), and for only £5 you can buy a discount card at Go Outdoors and get insane deals on camping gear. Since Scotland was a quick and cheap flight away from Dublin, we headed there for a week of camping!

Our first stop in Edinburgh was to acquire camping gear. One tent, two sleeping bags, two ground mats, one camp stove, two pots, and a set of silverware later we had only spent $150 (less than our tent alone back home). This basically worked out to $30/night for accommodations. It wasn’t poor quality either; we got a huge tent that kept us dry every night, sleeping bags made for fall temperatures, and a kick ass stove that works better than the one we have at home.

Once we had our gear, we headed north to the Inverness area. We had originally planned on one site, but it was too wet and we couldn’t find a good area to set up our tent. We searched around and found a small loch nearby with an awesome little beachfront site. It was a perfect spot for our first night, with the only annoyance being the godawful midges.

Castle ruins on the shore of Loch Ness.
Rogie Falls, where it was too wet to camp.
Loch Achilty, where we did camp.

Our second day we woke up early to visit Loch Ness and drive to the Isle of Skye. We saw some castles along the way, enjoyed the crazy beautiful scenery the highlands have to offer, and ended our day with the Quiraing hike. After hiking for a few hours, we camped at Kilt Rock. It was probably the least “wild” spot since we were next to a parking lot full of RVs, but it had an awesome waterfall view!

Eilean Donan Castle
Quiraing Hike
"Wild" camping at Kilt Rock.

Our favorite hike on the Isle of Skye was the Old Man of Storr. We woke up early to get there before the crowds and began our steep ascent up to the rock formations. It was like an adult playground! We spent hours scrambling over rocks, blowing around in the torrents of wind, and splashing through mud puddles. This was the Scotland we had both imagined.

We feasted on delicious haggis that afternoon, and then headed to the fairy pools in the southern corner of the island. Unfortunately, this is when the monsoon began. Since it was cold, rainy, and late in the day, we decided to pay for a campsite with a hot shower… and a brewery across the street! The weather hadn’t changed the next day, so this is one hike we’ll have to look forward to when we come back to Scotland. Instead we stopped by the Glenfinnan Viaduct to watch the Hogwarts Express chug by before setting up camp in Glen Nevis for the night.

Haggis - just don't ask what's in it!
The Hogwarts Express!

Back in the western highlands, we did one of the best hikes of the whole trip. We parked at the base of the iconic Three Sisters in Glencoe and hiked up to the Lost Valley where the MacDonald clan supposedly hid their stolen cattle. We followed a stream all the way to the top that was too perfect not to cool off in. A rain-free day meant amazing views of the highlands from above.

After our hike we continued our journey south, enjoyed a beer at the haunted Drovers Inn, and grabbed a camp site on the shores of Loch Lomond. That evening we sampled some Scotch, and Vesper checked off his final Scotland bucket list item by swimming in the loch the next morning.

Our campsite on Loch Lomond came with complimentary ducks.
For maximum classiness, ignore the flip flops.
Falloch Falls and feeling refreshed after a dip in the loch.

Our last day in Scotland, we headed back to Edinburgh to donate our camping gear. We wouldn’t have been able to bring it with us without buying another bag so we wanted to make sure the basically new gear went to a good home. We found Gift Your Gear online, and we were able to donate all our gear right in Edinburgh!

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