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Brat and Buda

25 Aug

In April around Easter, during what is Semana Santa in Spain, two of my friends Suzanne and Julie were visiting. I had a rare long weekend off and was determined to make the most of it. So we took off for a day in Prague, a day in Bratislava, Slovakia, and  two days in Budapest, Hungary. It was awesome! One of the more interesting trips I’ve taken and very chill (somehow it was relaxing even though we were moving around every day or so). I won’t write too much, mostly just share some pics. I will say though that Bratislava really impressed me. I didn’t have many expectations for the small city, especially compared to Budapest, which I had heard several good things about. But when we arrived we found a very charming city with an enchanting old town area and a lively and classy new area along the Danube. I wish we had had more time there, but I’m glad I at least got to see it.

me and Julie on the Charles Bridge

Suz and I while walking up to the Prague Castle

in front of the Bratislava Opera House

DELICIOUS Slovakian dumplings (similar to perogis)

old and new bridges over the Danube in Bratislava

fancy cocktails along the Danube at an outdoor cafe

Budapest, parliament building behind us

in front of the Budapest Opera House

Like I said above, it was an awesome trip. We saw some cool new places, lounged in the famous baths in Budapest, and sampled some tasty, tasty Slovakian and Hungarian food. And most importantly I had the chance to make new memories with old friends.

la la

Road Trip, Destination: Munich

29 Apr

I’m playing catch-up here so this one goes back to the beginning of March…

At the end of February my old Wobblers FC (coed soccer team I played on in Arlington) teammates, Cheryl and Pete, told me they were thinking about coming over to Europe for a long weekend and wanted to know if I could meet up with them somewhere. (Cheryl works for United Airlines so the idea of a long weekend isn’t so crazy for them when they can fly first class basically for free.) Next thing I knew they had booked a flight to Munich for the first weekend in March. So Jess, our friend Lisa, and I took the company car on a little road trip on the autobahn…

It was smooth sailing on the way there, we made it to the hostel in just about four hours. And that was even after driving around in the city for about 20 minutes until we found the streets we needed. We met up with Cheryl and Pete at a beer hall in the city center and enjoyed some steins of beer with them before turning in for the night.

Cheryl and Pete at Hofbrhaus

Saturday was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed walking around the city in some sunshine. Randomly the weekend before we had met a girl, Tanja, from Munich who was visiting KV with her mom. She was super friendly and offered to meet up with us and show us around the city. We enjoyed some huge pretzels and liters of beer at the famous Hofbrhaus and later enjoyed some more brews at a beer garden in the huge English Park.

Saturday night we all went for dinner at a pub for some burgers (a nice treat and change of pace for us, probably pretty boring for Pete and Cheryl who live in Chicago now). We stayed out for some drinks, and Jess and I ended up staying out really late (let’s just say the sun was rising when we were getting home), which ended up being a terrible idea because we had to drive home on Sunday. We took turns driving so one could sleep while the other drove, and somehow we missed the highway we needed and ended up driving an hour out of the way. But we arrived back in KV after only five hours on the road and the tiny Hyundai survived its trip on the autobahn.

Below are a few more pics from the weekend…

Spring Break in Spain, Part 4 – Sevilla

26 Mar

Sol, por fin! / Sun, finally!

The last chapter of my trip included an “ex pat Jersey girls” reunion in Sevilla with my cousin Ally, her best friend Amy, and myself. All three of us were born in Jersey (but unlike them I was raised more in Virginia) and now live in Europe: Ally in Zurich, Amy in London, and me here in Czechland. In the beginning of February we were all desperate for sun so we wanted to meet up somewhere warm(er than where we live). Luckily, I had already had a lot sun all through the week in Spain, but none was quite as glorious as the sun that weekend in Sevilla.

We all convened Thursday night in Sevilla and wound our way through the narrow streets of Barrio Santa Cruz where we were staying for the weekend. I was so so so happy to be back in Sevilla, it brought back a lot of memories from last year. Not only did I stay there for the first two weeks I was in Spain, but I also spent time with all of my visitors from last year (Mike and Kyle, Brett, Katie and Chris, and Amanda) so being there with Ally and Amy brought back some good memories.

Friday morning we hit the cathedral first thing and I climbed the giralda (belltower) for the fifth time in my life. The view never ceases to amaze. After the cathedral we walked around the city, stopping at 100 Montaditos, my favorite mini-sandwiches shop, to pick up lunch (that we ate outside in the sunshine on the steps of the cathedral while drinking Cruzcampo beer… basically, it was perfection). From there we met up with one of my friends from last year, Seth, who came back for a second year and was lucky enough to get assigned to Andalucia again. It was so great to see him and catch up, we had had some fun times together last year during orientation in Sevilla and another weekend when we met up in Granada.

The afternoon was spent drinking tinto de verano (red wine mixed with Fanta limon) on a bar next to the Guadalquivir river soaking up the rays. After a short siesta we went for a tapas dinner at one of my favorite places in Sevilla, then it was on to La Carboneria for a flamenco show and the deadly “Agua de Sevilla.” We made friends with some members of the Dutch national rowing team, which brings my encounters with national rowing teams in Spain count to two. We actually saw them the next day rowing on the river, which is impressive considering they were still partying hard when we left them at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Saturday we did a little shopping, had a delicious lunch again outside in the sun, then spent the afternoon soaking up the rays and napping in the newly renovated Plaza de Espana. All last year when I lived in Spain the Plaza de Espana was under construction so it was really nice to enjoy it in its finished (and lovely!) state.

The remainder of the day was a pleasant blur of drinks next to the river, siestaing, and eating more delicious tapas. Unfortunately for me this was the end of my Spanish tour. I had to be up early early Sunday morning to catch a flight to Paris, where I waited six hours then connected to my flight back to Prague. The trip left me feeling grateful not only for great friends and travel companions I saw on this trip, but also for my amazing experience in Spain last year. Spain will always hold a special place in my heart and I was glad to experience a little of it again, if only for nine days. Something tells me I’ll be back though…

Spring Break in Spain, Part 3 – Huelva

9 Mar

For the third leg of my trip I returned to Huelva, where I lived for nine months last year. It was strange, but also really really great, to be back there.

I arrived in Sevilla Tuesday night and took the familiar walk through the city to the bus station and then the familiar one-hour bus ride to Huelva. My roommate from last year, Maria, greeted me at the bus station in Huelva. It was amazing to see her again. She is probably one of the warmest and most open people I have met in my life, and I was so incredibly lucky to randomly find her as my roommate last year.

That night Maria and just hung out at her flat (my bus didn’t get in to Huelva until 10:30) catching up on everything. Surprisingly my Spanish wasn’t so bad! (Although I had already been in Spain for four days I had been speaking still mostly English mixed with some Spanish, it was like a warm-up to being back to speaking all Spanish.) And in typical Maria fashion, she whipped up a great snack from the food in her fridge. God, I miss her cooking!

Maria in front of Huelva's new statue of Columbus

On Wednesday morning I visited Alto Conquero, the high school that I worked at last year. The first thing that struck me was how much my students had grown in eight months since I had last seen them. Some of my little ninos from last year (which don’t seem so little anymore now that I teach three-year-olds) had shot up as much as six or eight inches. They were so cute and little at the end of last year, and now they were already small adults, incredible!

All of the teachers I worked with last year are still teaching at Alto Conquero this year and I had a great time visiting with them. I also got to talk with a few of my private lesson students from last year (including one of my favs, Alvaro, who told me that if I came back next year he wants me to be his tutor again) and it was so so nice to catch up with them. And their English was really good, for which I gave myself a little pat on the back 🙂

After another tasty lunch at Maria’s (mmmm, lentils) we went shopping. I had already written earlier last year how Czech stores pale in comparison to Spanish stores so I was incredibly thankful to have an afternoon of shopping in Huelva. And to top it off, some of the stores were still have their post-New Years “rebajas” sales. I got a super cute dress from Zara for 12 euros (which I am already planning to wear, quite appropriately, to a wedding this summer of one of my American friends from Huelva, Katelyn). The only unfortunate part of my shopping experience is that I won’t be able to wear most of the clothes for probably another two months in the Czech Republic.

having a cervecita with Marcos

From shopping we went for a beer with Maria’s friend Marcos, whom I also had the pleasure of getting to know last year. Then we retreated to Maria’s flat where she cooked another amazing meal and some more friends came over. Some of my favorite memories from last year involved sitting around Maria’s big dining room table sharing food and wine and conversation so I was really glad to be enjoying another one of those nights.

It was only natural that later that night we went out to the Red Lion, my old haunt from last year. It was a Wednesday night so it was nothing crazy like when we used to go to Red Lion on a Friday or Saturday night and stay until 4am when we we go downstairs to Bagoa, the club below, until 6 or 7am.

Maria and I outside Red Lion

Thursday was another beautiful, sunny day. I’m pretty sure I won’t be in weather as warm and sunny again until May, sigh … but I digress. On Thursday afternoon Maria, Marcos, and I went for lunch in Punta Umbria, the beach town (where Maria is from) 15 minutes from Huelva. There is a culinary school in Punta Umbria where they serve lunch once a week to a small number of people. For 12 euros (apparently the magic number of the week) we got three small starters, a main course, a dessert, coffee, and a drink.

The food was AMAZING. But instead of describing the dishes in detail I’ll just include pics of them all:

artichoke with gambas topped with parmesean

morcillo (blood sausage stuffed with rice) lollipops served in a pumpkin puree

lentil salad and game hen

chicken with pecans (I think?)

and a brownie for dessert!

We had a great afternoon enjoying the wonderful food. And afterward we sat outside on a patio drinking coffee in the sunshine. A perfect day…

Like I mentioned in the beginning it was a little strange to be back in Huelva. Mostly it was strange because the people I associate most with the town (my American friends from last year: Brittany, Ashley, Katelyn, Amanda, and Alicia) weren’t there. It felt weird to be shopping in Blanco, Stradivarius, and Zara, eating montaditos, and drinking at the Red Lion without them. Luckily for me I have some other good friends who still live there that I could visit, and of course I have tons of great memories and photos from last year when I want to relive my time in Huelva with my “tias.”

I left Huelva late on Thursday night to go to Sevilla where I met up with my cousin Ally and her (and now my) long-time friend Amy for a weekend of more delicious food and glorious sunshine.

Spring Break in Spain, Part 2 — Galicia

27 Feb

Part 2: Pulpo en Orense, nubes en Santiago = muy tipico. / Octopus in Orense, clouds in Santiago = very typical.

the Roman bridge

Still reeling from an awesome time in Bilbao I hopped on a train at 9:15am on Sunday morning and stayed on the train pretty much all day until it arrived in Ourense at 6pm. (Sidenote: Galicia has its own language, Gallego. In Gallego the city is spelled Ourense. In Castellano [Spanish] the city is Orense without the “u”.)

I was actually looking forward to the train ride; it’d give me an opportunity to see some of the north of the country, somewhere I never made it to last year. And I’d have time to read and relax and maybe attempt to read a Spanish newspaper. They played “Meet the Parents” and “Notting Hill” (both in Spanish) on the train so that was entertaining and took up a few hours. Last year I loved watching movies I was already familiar with on Spanish television, it was definitely good practice for my Spanish.

When the train pulled into the station in Ourense my friend Julie was waiting for me. Julie and I met last year during what was possibly the best two-week stretch of my life: CIEE orientation and Spanish classes in Sevilla before starting my job in Huelva. It was during these two weeks that I also met my close (American) friends from last year: Brittany, Alicia, Ashley, Katelyn, and Amanda. It was just an awesome time of adjusting to being in Spain, brushing up on my Spanish, discovering Sevilla, and making friends.

Julie and me on the Millennium Bridge

Julie spent last year in Malaga and then received a placement in Ourense, Galicia for this school year. After our time together in Sevilla Julie and I only saw each other one other time when Brittany and I visited Malaga in December (2009) for a fun-filled weekend. But we’ve kept in touch and I told her when I came back to Spain I definitely wanted to come visit since I hadn’t been to Galicia before… So there we were, reunited a little more than a year since we last met.

From the train station we walked to the center of town to get some food at a restaurant in the mall—one of the only places open on Sunday, AND serving food at 6:30pm! Quite a find in Spain! I ordered a large salad with shrimp and avocado, definitely something I couldn’t normally find in Czechland. Oh, and I also ordered some croquetas, one of my favorite Spanish foods–had to get my fill in while I was in Spain.

Before we went to bed that night Julie’s roommates, two Spanish guys, asked if we wanted to watch the Superbowl with them. We declined, both of us were tired and neither of us particularly cared about the teams playing. But the two of them stayed up until 4am watching the game and eating snacks, how funny.

the Millennium Bridge

Julie had to work on Monday morning so I had a leisurely morning after which we went for a delicious lunch at a place that does “Menu del Dia” where you can choose from a few options for a starter, main course, dessert, coffee, and beverage all for 12 euros. Incredible! From there we walked around town, and crossed a few of Ourense’s bridges, which will probably stick in my mind as the landmarks of the city. There is a typical large train bridge, a Roman bridge that dates back to the 1st century, and then next to that as a nice juxtaposition is the modern “Millennium Bridge.”

At night we met up with some of Julie’s friends for wine and tapas. At the first restaurant we went to we had some of the most delicious tapas I’ve ever had anywhere.

"la bomba" and chorizo

One was called “la bomba” (the bomb) and it consisted of a large ball of deep-fried mashed potatoes with shredded spicy pork meat in the middle and spicy brava sauce on top. And we also had some chorizo in a wine sauce. Oh. My. God. So good.

It had also been decided that I need to try the pulpo (octopus) of Galicia. So the second stop of the night was “Casa do Pulpo”—House of the Octopus.

We accidentally ordered a ration of octopus instead of only a small plate, so we were brought this: (apologies for the fuzziness, something is wrong with my auto-focus when I try to take close ups)

And I found this little leg in there:

And it wasn’t so bad! It actually had a nice crunch to it! mmmm! My overall evaluation of the pulpo was that it’s not terrible, but it isn’t something I would go out of my way to order too often. The taste was alright, nothing too strong, and mostly enhanced by the tasty olive oil it was bathed in. But the texture was a little too close to rubber for me to really enjoy it.

The next morning I had to pack up and get ready to go to Santiago de Compostela because in the evening I had a flight from there to Sevilla. It would have been nice to spend more time in Galicia (especially since Julie is a wonderful hostess!) but my itinerary didn’t leave room for more than two days. Before heading out of Ourense Julie and I went to a cafe near her house for some coffee and a sandwich for the road. Julie also recommended their napolitana pastry. I usually don’t like eating pastries as breakfast (all the sugar goes right to my brain!) but this was AMAZING. It just tasted so fresh and the chocolate inside it was soooo creamy. My mouth is watering right now as I type about it. It was so good I thought about ordering a second one to eat on the bus, but decided that crossed into the “zone of excess.”

I arrived in Santiago in the early afternoon and met up with Meredith and Amanda, two other Americans who I knew from last year that are teaching in Galicia this year. Meredith picked me up at the bus station and walked me through town to the impressive cathedral of Santiago, the end of the famous pilgrimage.

Amanda and Meredith

We stopped at a bakery so I could try a tuna empanada, another typical food of Galicia. Then we met Amanda for a coffee and churros (with chocolate, of course). It was really nice getting to catch up with both of them. Meredith I hadn’t seen since our time in Sevilla. And Amanda I had last seen when I was in Malaga (she was one of Julie’s roommates last year). So it had been a while, but it was great chatting with them and hearing about their experiences this year. They both said that while Santiago is a beautiful place the weather is absolutely miserable (it is the only place during my trip that I had cloudy weather and a little drizzle). They also noted (as did Julie) that the people in the north aren’t as open and friendly as the people in the south.

My short stop in Santiago left me wanting more, and I am definitely contemplating a trip to do the Camino de Santiago in the future. It was so nice to reconnect with some friends from last year, and I will get a chance to spend more time with Julie because she’ll be visiting the Czech Republic in April during Semana Santa! I can’t wait to return the hospitality.

After coffee with Meredith and Amanda I took a bus to the airport and bid adieu to northern Spain, on my way back to the south…

Spring Break in Spain, Part 1 – Bilbao

25 Feb

Part 1: Tenia mucha suerte en Bilbao. / I was very lucky in Bilbao.

My “Spring Break”–I use that term lightly–fell in the beginning of February this year. Our week of vacation went from February 7 to February 11. This meant that I taught only 5 weeks of class after Christmas break before my week off, then coming back from Spring Break I will teach 18 weeks straight with only one long weekend… ouch. (At least I have gotten through two of those, so only 16 to go.) It was mostly just unlucky that I had vacation so early. The Czech Republic has a different system for spring vacation than I’ve seen in the U.S. or Spain because not everyone has the same week off.  The country is split up into six groups and then each group has a different week of vacation. And the schedule rotates each year. So last year Karlovy Vary had the latest possible week of vacation in the middle of March. That meant with the rotation this year we had off the first week in the beginning of February.

I decided to take the week and go back to Spain to visit friends from last year. My itinerary for the trip went like this:
Bilbao, Feb 4 Friday – Sunday
Ourense,  Sunday – Tuesday
Santiago de Compostela, Tuesday
Huelva, Tuesday – Thursday
Sevilla, Thursday – Sunday Feb 11

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

The story of the first part of my trip in Bilbao actually starts back in December in Prague. On December 12 Wattsenglish had a Christmas lunch for the teachers so Jess and I went to Prague for the day to attend the lunch and visit the Prague Christmas markets. After we had eaten our lunch and wandered through the markets we decided to stop at a pub and have some beers with another teacher Lisa (who lives in a small town on the other side of Prague) before taking the bus back to KV.

By chance we ended up sitting next to two Spanish guys from Bilbao, Ivan and Richard. We started chatting with them (mostly in English because Ivan speaks really good English, and Richard knew a little… I will admit to being pathetic and only speaking a little Spanish with them) and they were super nice. They were in the middle of a European road trip in which they drove from Spain to Amsterdam, then to Berlin, then to Prague, then they were going on to Munich before returning to Bilbao.

Ivan and me out in Bilbao

I told them how I lived in Huelva last year and how I was planning to visit Spain in February. They invited me to come to Bilbao and offered to show me around the city and such. We exchanged contact information because we had also invited them to stop in KV on their way to Munich (which didn’t end up working out because of snow and our teaching schedules/their schedule for driving).

I sent Ivan a message on facebook in January when I was planning my trip to see if it was still cool if I popped in for a day or two to visit Bilabo. At first I didn’t hear back from him for a little while so I thought maybe it was one of those courteous invitations that wouldn’t actually materialize into a visit. But  he eventually responded (Ivan admits to being “a disaster” with his email and facebook, which I kind of admire because it means he’s doing other things that don’t involve sitting behind a computer).

Itzi (Ivan's girlfriend) and me

His response included an invitation to stay with him and his girlfriend at their flat in the old town section of Bilbao. I accepted their invitation, but as my trip grew closer I became a little anxious about staying with almost complete strangers who I had only spent 2 or 3 hours with in a bar one night. And Jess wasn’t coming with me so I’d be on my own with them. What if they turned out to be weird or awkward? I decided to just treat the experience as if I was couch surfing (for the uninitiated look at the website and this Wikipedia entry) and regardless if it turned out to be an uncomfortable two days, I would get to see a new city and meet some local people.

It turned out I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Ivan and Itzi (his girlfriend) picked me up from the airport and right from the start they were super nice (I suppose that’s obvious from the fact that they came to the airport to pick me up!) . That night they cooked dinner and Ivan’s brother Alex and some of their friends came over to eat.

the group out on Friday night - in the back L to R: Pitu, Javi, Alex. In the front: Ivan, me, Itzi

After dinner we went out to a shot bar in their neighborhood. They had the bartender play a joke on me that involved me being hit in the face with a rubber penis while I took a shot. It was actually really funny, Ivan has a video of it somewhere (a video that will never be posted on the blog, sorry). Within a few hours of being in Bilbao I felt like I had been friends with them for years. It was strange, in a really nice way of course. We went out to a few bars in Bilbao, it was a lot of fun even though we only stayed out until 3:30am (early by Spanish standards!!) so we could wake up in the morning to walk around the city.

Saturday morning we woke up a little later than planned, but had a really nice walk around the city. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and 60 degrees. Ivan and Itzi told me I was lucky because the weather in February is usually never like that.

Itzi and Ivan on the Zubizuri bridge

The good luck continued when we got the Guggenheim Museum. We had planned only to walk around the outside as the building itself is the biggest attraction. It is an amazing structure, so huge and different but really cool. When we got around to the entrance a woman approached us and asked if we were going inside. We said no, but then she offered us free tickets because they had some extra corporate passes that they weren’t going to use. And of course we couldn’t say no to that… so inside we went! For free! Toma!

From there we walked around the new part of the city a little bit before stopping in some bars for pinchos, northern Spain’s answer to tapas. The first one we got was a spicy grilled mushroom on a small piece of toast–mmmmm!! So delicious!

Sidenote – One crazy development that’s happened in Spain recently is that they outlawed smoking inside bars and restaurants. I was shocked. Seriously shocked. Last year when we would go to bars almost everyone was smoking.  The result is that everyone now crowds the sidewalks and patios outside of bars to smoke.

Anyways, after some afternoon pinchos and beers we went back to their flat and Ivan and Itzi prepared a large, yummy tortilla de patatas for lunch. I ate so well on this trip it was incredible.

Straight from lunch Ivan and I left to go to see Bilbao’s soccer team, Athletic Club, play a match versus Sporting Gijon, a team from Asturias. The parents of Ivan’s friend Pitu own a bar down the street from the stadium so we met up with his friends there for some beers before the game. Then the boys stopped in a store and bought some 6-packs to sneak into the game in their jacket pockets because the sale of alcohol is prohibited inside soccer stadiums.

me and Richard sitting outside the bar before the game

Again, I was super lucky and Ivan had an extra pass into the game that I was able to use. He and his friends are all members of the Athletic club, meaning they basically have season tickets for all the games. AND our seats were amazing! We were in the fifth row, about even with one of the 18-yard boxes. Having been to a few big matches recently in the US (AC Milan versus Chelsea in Baltimore in the summer of 2009 and USA versus Brazil in New Jersey this past summer) where my seats were wayyyy high up I appreciated sitting close for a change. The advantage to being up high is that you can see plays materialize and watch players making runs off the ball and such. But you miss out on the beauty of the small details, like how well the players control the ball and their amazingly fast footwork. But back to this game in particular…

The atmosphere was crazy! So much fun! I’m sure it helped a lot that Bilbao was dominating the game and went on to win 3-0. I took a few videos during the match, one of a penalty kick that Bilbao earned in the first half.  It’s a little bit dizzy-ing, apologies if watching it makes you feel sick. You can hear and see the craziness after they score:

I am now for sure a supporter of Athletic, although my top team is still Recreativo de Huelva. My other favorite Spanish team has been Barca (it’s typical in Spain that first you support your local team, then you chose between Madrid and Barcelona as your second team) but when they took on Athletic last weekend I streamed the game online and I actually found myself rooting more for Athletic. So I think it’s safe to say Athletic has become my second team, and since they are far better than Recre (Athletic is currently #5 in the first league, while Recre is sitting in the middle of the second league) it will be a bit more fun to follow them.

When the game was over we reconvened with everyone at the bar, then drank a little before Ivan and his friends had to leave to go a reunion dinner. Itzi, Alex (Ivan’s brother), and I went and got pizza then hung out at their flat. The plan was to meet up with the boys after their dinner was finished, but we all got so tired after eating and sitting around for a bit we opted to go to sleep instead of meet up with them. I had to be up fairly early in the morning to pack and catch my train to Ourense, my next destination.

Like my subtitle for this entry notes, I was so lucky in Bilbao. I had amazing hosts, people I now consider good friends that I hope to meet up with during future travels. I had amazing sunny and warm weather. We got free tickets into the Guggenheim Museum and I got to attend a match of the local team–and they won! I don’t think there is any way my trip to Spain could’ve started better. I could have gone back to Czech after just the weekend in Bilbao and been really satisfied… but luckily I didn’t have to. It was on to Galicia to visit my friend Julie…

Dresden Christmas Markets

12 Jan

Yes, I realize it’s January, past the Christmas season, but I never had a chance to blog about Dresden before I went home for Christmas. And all that talk about maybe doing some writing when I was home for the holidays was a joke, because as it turns out when you are home visiting from a foreign country for less than two weeks you don’t have time to see all your family, friends, your newborn niece, apply to graduate schools AND write blog entries. Who knew?

The first weekend in December Wattsenglish organized a trip to Dresden to visit one of Germany’s oldest and most famous Christmas markets. I use the term “organized” loosely because we ended up having to arrange our own accommodations and transportation, and due to train delays because of snow in the morning Jess and I missed the designated meet-up time on Saturday afternoon. So we saw all of one of our colleagues during the weekend, but that’s alright because we know it’s about quality, not quantity 😉

Similarly to how last year everyone in Sevilla told me about the beaches in Huelva, everyone in the Czech Republic told me about the hot wine (gluhwein) at the Christmas markets. They were not lying nor exaggerating. The hot wine is a staple of the Christmas markets. Or, perhaps, I should say it is the staple of the Christmas markets. You had to put down a 2 euro deposit for a mug, and only a few certain places had gluhwein to go, mostly it was served in a ceramic mug specific to the market (Dreseden had  several areas of markets, that were each technically their own market). We saw no less than 15 different flavors throughout the day. We tried maybe 5 or 6 different ones between the two of us; my favorite flavor by far was the apple gluhwein. Imagine hot apple juice with some cinnamon and spices added in, mmmmmmmmm.

In addition to being very tasty, the hot wine served the dual purpose of keeping you warm–both internally and externally. As long as it was still hot, that is. I am not exaggerating when I say I have never been in weather so cold my entire life. Last year when I traveled in Scotland and England for Christmas and New Years we had some freezing temperatures but I don’t think it was as cold as Dresden. There was one point in the afternoon (it was only 4:30, just getting dark) where I was near tears because my frozen hands hurt so bad and I thought they were going to be damaged by frostbite.

So basically that meant you had to drink the hot wine fast and often. You can imagine where that got us by the end of our 6th hour at the markets… actually maybe you can’t. We ended up inside a hot wine market stall after making friends with the vendors. And I may or may not have not been surprised when I woke up on Sunday morning to see all of the ornament purchases I made Saturday night…

So yes, in addition to glorious hot wine, the markets were full of neat Christmas ornaments and decorations. There was also tons of delicious food: sausages, bratwursts, cheeses, roasted almonds, sweet breads… All in all I had an awesome time experiencing a German Christmas market (despite the cold). To attempt to capture the atmosphere I took a video on Sunday morning. Enjoy!