The Best of 2013

I LOVE a good year end wrap up. I live for the music mash-ups, the youtube year end review, and the dozens of pop culture lists that sprout up just before year end. So of course I was not going to let this opportunity pass without writing our own year end review. We had an amazing year! Yes it had its trying moments and stressful times, but looking back those times pale in comparison to the wonderful memories we made on the road.

We were lucky enough to spend time in 8 major cities in 6 different countries between the 2 of us. We thought we would wrap up this crazy year with the best of the best, and some of the worst from around the world. Here are our winners!

Experiencing The Christmas Markets

Rows and rows of Christmas goodies 
Christmas time is huge here in Western Europe. A nice change of pace after spending last Christmas in Japan. It's nice to drive around and see Christmas lights, Santa Claus decorations in the windows, hear Christmas music, and all the familiar things that remind you of the holidays back home. The Europeans, however, have a unique tradition that we don't have in the states (at least not to this extent): Christmas Markets. I feel so lucky to be over here in the month of December, when these extravagant festivals take place.

My First Hostel Experience

Last week we set out for Cologne, Germany. To make the most out of Nathan's one day off a week we made a last minute decision to drive up on Tuesday night and sleep in a hostel so we could wake up in Germany, feeling rested and ready to go instead of driving in on Wednesday morning. So many of our friends who have traveled Europe did so via hostels, so we were really led to believe they couldn't be that bad. Nathan made the arrangements so he was the only one who had even an inkling of what to expect. We were 3 Americans who, prior to this, had never seen the inside of a hostel, and with the exception of Nathan we had not even seen the website to know what we were getting ourselves into. 

Upon check in we were told we have beds "4, 5, and 6" for Devin, (Nathan's teammate) Nathan, and myself. I thought, "hmmm, that's an interesting way of telling us where to go," but I remained calm. I realized that we were not staying at the Hilton, and I realized that some hostels have shared facilities. However, it was a Tuesday night in December, so I expected the hostel to be pretty vacant and for us to have some privacy. 

We made our way past the lobby and to the stairs, which smelt like someone had a recently failed attempt at making spaghettios. We found our room number and flung open the a set of feet at the end of a bed, and the sound of snoring. Shoot. We looked closer and noticed 3 sets of feet in a dark room with 6 twin beds. One of the men sleeping rolled over and glared at us as we stood in the doorway with the hallway light behind us. This is the moment when my panic set in. Nathan, being the most adventurous by far, had not hesitated to go on in, pick out a bed, and start making himself at home. While Devin and I stood in the doorway, jaws on the floor, just starting into disbelief for what felt like an eternity. There was no way I was going to enter that hot, muggy room with 3 strange men in it whose faces I had never even seen and listen to them snore while I guarded my bags all night. Devin said he would take the car back to Luxembourg (2 hours) and drive to meet us in the morning. Nathan was just chillen in the dark with his new friends wondering what the hold up was for the rest of us. 

After a little hesitation and some extra euros I convinced the less then thrilled front desk worker to upgrade us to a private room. To get to our new room we walked down the 2nd floor hallway which had such an unbearable smell that I was considering driving back to Lux with Devin. We finally took a turn down a different hallway and arrived at our (semi) normal smelling room with 3 twin beds. The bathroom was down the hall and we were sharing it with whoever else was asleep behind the doors we were passing. 

With not much to do in the room, we went down the lobby to grab a couple beers. The guys saw a roach, which they pretended was a roach to keep me from completely losing it until they later told me it was actually a mouse. There were a few other weirdos in and out and using the wifi in the lobby at 3 AM, which I imagine holds true at every hostel. We went back to the room, slept with the lights on, touched as little as possible, and left first thing in the morning. 

Now I am not saying that I will never stay in another hostel again. Nathan has already informed me that we will give it another shot and we will, at least once, sleep in a communal room. (He is really about the "experience.") I just hope the next one is a little less weird, a little less smelly, and a little more rodent free!

The only photo I snapped in between running from mice, and trying not to touch anything.