i am at a loss of words here...
mostly because i havent really talked as much as i usually do... due to... getting the bubonic plague on the overnight train ride from HELL (lets just say... we woke up to guns and dogs and flashlights in our faces three times for passport checks)
it might also be that my brain has been trying to conjugate italian verbs ever since i got to the milano centrale...
it might just be that...
italia just makes people speechless. point blank.

so im here in beautiful firenze, paying about £3,50 to use a half an hour of internet, trying to shake this flu, enjoying the richest gelato ive ever tasted in my LIFE, and feeling like i have seen too much already that i wish i were a sponge soaking every little piece of info in permenately. i am jacks blinking memory cells.

the cathedrals, churches, piazzas, trattorias, everrrrything here are incredible. it just hit me today, while drawing in san lorenzo, how incredibly profound this experience is. we wake up and have lectures about renaissance and gothic art, and then we walk over and actually see it in person. its pretty amazing. apparently there is an actual medical condition where people are hospitalized by seeing too much art. you laugh over at the states, but really. this is like this overwhelming, incredibly inspiring, yet very intimidating experience im trying to get the most out of. my italian is getting better every day, though i will say i hear more english from sorority girls walking the streets than i would like to. we are going to pisa and lucca on saturday (ahhh the tuscan countryside!) and then venice the weekend after. currently, im reading invisible cities by italo calvino (highly recommend) and it is just this incredible read next to my travels especially right before venice.

i wish i could say more but the hour of paying another euro to stay on is coming, and i must say, id rather spend that on pistachio gelato. i miss you all-- i wont be updating that much but feel free to email me and i may just get back to you in the next couple of days ... weeks... whateverr

te amo! ciao ciao


so no big deal, we streaked charles bridge last night

hey it was christinas 21st, and im not the american type of girl to dance on table tops or be drunk and loud... buttt.... this was a once in a lifetime experience to tell the grandkids to, and... we did it



while walking over the charles bridge to old town in prague, as the musicians with cellos and clarinets and a washboard (YES a washboard!) play, i realized one thing: america is YOUNG. you walk under an arch that was used for defense in the 1300s and stand in incredible awe at how much detail is still preserved in the blackened stone. every wrong turn you make turns into one photo opportunity to another. im telling you-- every single corner in prague is something worth looking at! and actually, my neck slightly hurts this morning just from all the looking upward we have done.

christina and i got to prague in the early evening and automatically started falling for this city. though i dont speak a LICK of czech (not even a "si" or a "no") and still havent adjusted accordingly to their dollar (a stay at our hotel is 360 CKZ... and im still a little confused on how to convert it in my head!) everything feels comforting here. our hostel, the clown and bard, automatically felt a lot better than our hostel in munich. we are set up in 4 bunks with canadian boys as roommates (as opposed to the 50 beds in the downstairs basement that was akin the living in elliott hall for a year!). i saw the tattoo cream on our coffee table and automatically knew we'd get along with our flatmates. we went downstairs to our incredibly cute bar in the hostel and met some chicago boys on the last leg of their travels in europe. ahh... raul and pauly. lets just say, they need to have a warning sign attached to their heads if and when you drink with them! i was feeling pretty confident since in germany i drank, oh, lets just say a bloody lot, and the beer on tap here is (get ready for this dad) BUDWEISER. but bud is from prague! and its much better here, let me say. i will say that i did feel like a bit of a traitor to my family by saying out loud that budweiser is good. haha. i still love you, mike stanley. and miller too.

lets just say that after some beers and one shot of absinth with our new buddies, i was done for. and my flatmate saved my life by turning me over in my sleep so i didnt choke on my own gargling. yeah. our first night in praha... howwww embarrasssssssinggggg.

we spent all day yesterday with paul and raul, walking around the city and seeing these beautiful churches and castles and domes. the colors here of the buildings and the cobblestone streets and the puppets in the store windows are just incredible. i think ive dreamed of this city before.

my body is still adjusting to the clubs that close at 5 am here in europe (and not the 11:45 last call at the showdown) and all the sweat i perspired from dancing to beck and daft punk and reel big fish!! and uh... the rest of the bad 90s songs we wish we didnt remember... but needless to say, i have met many amazing people here in prague and want to come back some day with my brothers-- itd be cozumel X 10000! and i mean that not only in the sense that being in a different city with people you love means drinking good brews and dancing, but way, way more than that. this is a city for sharing sites with important people in your life. for switching around plates to try everyones goulash or pizza with a raw egg in the middle or kaffe ice cream. for climbing to the top of brutal staircase after staircase and looking behind to see an amazing and well-worth-the-trek view of the red rooftops of prague. to delve deeper within yourself to find your history amongst all the history-dripping-walls colored in mango and fern and salmon. to discover, mostly. everything here is worth discovering.

christinas twenty first birthday is tomorrow... lets just say its going to be mayhem. she had my back our first night, so i have hers on our last. we so badly want to go to budapest but havent found a good (and cheap) way to get there... but prague has been over-the-top good to us and id stay here for another week if not for class in firenze. god, i cant wait to see my friends in the SMN train station. annnd.... order un etto di formaggio gorganzola. annnndddd... bathe in the italian sun, like the grapes do for chianti. tschus, loves! 



the beer in munchen is incredible, guys. lammsbrau is the fave. we found this restaurant, the ratskeller, that stretches under the city by the famous clock tower in the marienplatz, and jess, christina and i brought fresh cherries from the street and had some hefeweisens at our candlelit table. sorry dad, but miller got nothing on the munchen bier!

 i dont have any pics to post since im taking all film, but heres a little something something to tide you over... (click on the link, mama)


getting lost in deutschland

after a night of jumping electric fences and petting longhorns and drunkenly running through the country as 2 of the happiest girls, we were given our asses to us. we barely made the train to minden, and once to hannover we couldnt find our platform so we missed the train to munich that jess and candice were going to pick us up at. without cell phones, you have to get pretty creative. we paid 8 euro for an email to jess and to find the hostel they were staying at just in case we needed to meet them there. once on our hour-later train, we got off at the wrong stop in munchen, and had to get back on another train for the central station. then we couldnt find the right exit of the station to get to the hostel, but somehow by gods power we found the street (to this day we havent taken a cab) and went in the wrong hostel, couldnt open the door to the right hostel, went up the fire exit stairway, then finally... with this relief i have never quite felt as strongly until yesterday, i saw jessica coming out of her room as we went in the hallway. it was one of the best moments of this trip.

we all took a train to salzburg, austria (mozart's hometown, yall!) and had this incredible day of just walking around in this beautiful city with mountain air circulating our lungs. salzburg, in parts, reminded me of roma, with those skinny alley ways and the electricity in the sky. we walked around gardens, ate a fresh dinner of seafood salad, and took this weird gondola-like train up to the top of the city by a castle. my god, every city here is incredibly picturesque. 

more later, today is a day in biergartens of munich! love to all


tschus, steyerberg!

this morning, the rain stopped in steyerberg. as a photographer, if i am outside taking pictures (especially black and white), i look for good clouds. and let me tell you, today was just the perfect day.

i think i said last that i didnt understand a word anyone is saying here. not today. today, i am getting more and more words out of verenas deustche slang, and there are less and less times where i ask, "vas es das?" if christina and i stayed here for a month, we's defintitely be able to tell oma other things than "guten morgen!"

i woke up late the first day we slept in. but i woke up to loud, repeating sirens that sounded like something serious going on outside. i turned to christina and said, "dude, where i come from, that means TORNADO." and we rushed downstairs to see verena and oma sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette casually, and verena laughed and told oma in german "tornado?" they are only for training!

today was a very impacting day, especially for christina. verena drove us around the countryside and found us a natural well you can drink fresh spring water into your cupped hands. we hiked up hills in these incredible forests with skinny trees that look like theyve been holding hands for decades. off the side of the road and into a trail, christina sat on her knees and spread some of her ashes of her grandmother, who just recently passed away in texas but always wanted to come home. you are home, nana. vilkommen back. i of course being the sappy-ass girl who loves a good cry, got really emotional. the family ties here in germany are incredible. steyerberg, the town we are staying at, looks like a dream to raise your kids. we then rode bikes in the most perfect weather i could have asked for, and nana was spread over some fields in this incredibly german tableau. that, i think, was the most moving thing i have ever photographed. dont get me wrong, my favorite before i left were definitely the pregnant nudes i took of two of the most beautiful women i know-- this to me isnt even about a photograph. its about a story about to be started. and today, a story with an ending, gave new life in the fields and air. the trees with lungs, filling with air...

the TRADITIONS here, my god! simone, christinas cousin's fiance, turned 25 a few weeks ago, and their house is decorated with cigarette boxes strung all over their yard like streamers-- verena says this is the tradition for unmarried girls on their 25th birthday. and we noticed today that there is a skinny, chopped down tree leaning at a 45 by the entrance of basti and nadines front door (who live in a loft above verena... basti is verenas other son)... this tree is cut down by all the boys in the town and placed by the front door of unmarried girls every first of may. and today... whoo nelly... today we celebrated the schwick's neighbors 25th anniversary. on the silver anniversary, the neighborhood men gather a spruce and chop it into pieces to make a decorated archway to the front door of the couple. the women buy yellow flowers and silver ribbon and each make a flower to put on the evergreen. all day, the teenage boys bring around becks beer with lemon (your standard german miller chill) and this other pilsner (the fave) that i cant remember for the life of me... and SHOTS, always taking shots. vodka with a toothpicked-cherry in it (that you eat before you drink, not after like we thought), a "plum kind, yes?," the greek one that tastes like licorice, the green one that is divine. and always reinhardt, verenas husband who only knows "yes maam!" in english, turning to christina and i and saying... "barcardi?" germans drink well, my friends. but its a different kind of drinking... its this celebration, this tradition... "celebrate, we will, cause life is short but sweet for a certain" (made you proud there justin, i know).

needless to say, i am an insomniac tonight... after drinking all that and the excitement im getting to meet up with my best friend in munchen tomorrow, i am just... well... i cannot sleep. and today... today talking to the neighbors and feeling like perhaps i DO know german (not really though, just their hand gestures haha)... i just... felt... happy.


barcadi for breakfast?

so im here! germany... where the "y"s and the "z"s are switched on the deutschland keyboard... where now i really know why german is considered a romance language-- it sounds DIVINE over here!!... where it seems like a familiar city ive been to before (i keep referring back to chicago) but i dont understand a word anyone is saying... where the beer flows like wine... hahah

im not going to lie... i was as nervous as ive ever been in my life getting off our plane from jfk to berlin-tegel (ps we got buisness class-- let me just say... starting off with mimosas and ending with a hot towel to the face is non ce male, amici!) and let me assure you-- I AM NOT A NERVOUS PERSON. not in the least. i guess since this was the first time a) backpacking in foreign countries, b) traveling through germany, a place i know how to say only "bier" and "Guten tag!" and ...."das es gut, ja?" ja ja.. a scarlett johansen in tokyo, to describe it best... and, well c) this is my first journey alone, without any tour guides or group leader or parents directing where we are going to next... it was uncomfortable as SHIZA... but...

you have to accept this stepping out of ones comfort zone. or else, you will never truly see a city. and... in my opinion, a life lived feeling only comfort is pretty much halfway living...

christina and i were 2 obviously-american young girls lugging around 50 lb backpacks through reischstag and the berliner dom and the zoo (which, by the way, i was surprised on how many people asked me questions in german... i guess i thought i was a dead giveaway of an american backpacker in foreign land... i fool berlin, i fool you all!) . berlin is incredible. it is a garden enveloped within a city. throughout all the history breathing on every street and sidewalk and edifice, there are still signs of life of plants, trees, nude parks (yeah girls, eat your heart out on german weinershnitzels... did i just say that??!), old people to buisnessmen biking on the sidewalks, teenagers picnicking in front of amazing historic churches and buildings like their everyday hangout, U-bahn riders reading neitzche in between their stop... life is bustling like the 1920s in this city

we stayed in a strangers flat found by couchsurfing.com (i highly highly recommend this site)-- we were welcomed by someone who just wanted to take us in and let our jet-lagged asses sleep on his floor (after speaking about culture and life and learning of course). hendrik, our host, felt like a mix between my older brothers, justin and clayton, so immediately i felt at home. and now, we are visiting christinas family in a small town an hour and a half from any big city. let me tell you, when you hear that germans drink and they drink well, THIS IS NOT A LIE. verena, christinas aunt, cooked us a delicious meal akin to exteremlz (there goes the "z" and the "y" key!) nice picnic food (sausage, potato salad, stuffed mushrooms, chicken kabobs... tons more), and after we all got together to eat, we DRINK. family, neighbors, i soon do not even care that i do not know a thing they are saying (okay, okay... thats a lie, i am picking some german up... BITTE!) i feel at home... especially after 5 or 6 shots not gonna lie. but germany means family, it means neighbor, it means home. and i feel priveleged to be a part of something not so touristy, not possible to find in my top-10-berlin book... the smells are wonderful here (verenas pantry and her bubble bath she provided are the fave), the trees are indescribable, everyone recycles and rides bikes, everyone makes an effort to say "guten morgen!!" even to strangers... i dont know... i mean, what can i say, das Leben ist schön!

ill write next when i meet up with my best friend in munchen. that, mis amigos, is going to be KILLER

and note to self: i want to know about, hmm, 6 more languages... fluently. a pui tardi!


Guten tag!



auf wiedersehen dfw!

hyped up on coffee in dfw airport
(man those firenze espressos are going to GET me)
ready for a beer in munich
im not going to lie, 
this is the most excited ive been in a long, 

i actually started this blog thing for this reason-- to write about my travels on my europe backpacking / study abroad trip of 08. i dont really know how updating is going to be, but we'll feel it out, at least for today.

talk to you soon, invisible readers
this is like a funky, funky, freaky dream