Well it’s been a while since I have written but for the most part, it was for good reason. As the semester came to a break, plans for Christmas and New Year’s – might as well mention my 23rd birthday – were in full force. Break began with one last game for Poynton before we were off for 5 weeks in which we played a fantastic, all-around team game for the win to propel us into the New Year. From there, I had two things to do before the fun began: finish a paper and pack –neither of which I enjoy. As you can guess, I got both done “just in time” because what kid doesn’t want to travel the world.
Finally, time for our version of EuroTrip. Started off the excursion flying to Brussels, Belgium with Blake and Jeff (two American LDO’s) and got to our hostel. Let me just set the record straight, for those of you who have never stayed in a hostel as this was the case with me, you have no idea what you are missing out on. They blew away every one of my pre-conceived thoughts and then some. We arrived late and decided to just stroll the city and find a bite to eat which was harder than expected but managed to find a small joint and make friends with the owners who didn’t speak a word of English. The next day we took a free guided tour, ate Belgium waffles which are delicious and then somehow, after enjoying some nightlife, ended up back at our friends restaurant really late – they were closed but turned on the ovens just for us.
On to Berlin, Germany where we were supposed to meet one friend but he missed his flight out. That wasn’t the only problem we had. I had gotten off the plane and left my wallet in the seatback but fortunately realized this as I stepped off so it wasn’t a big deal, could have been much worse. The next morning Drew and Dalton made in to Berlin and the hostel just in time to check out the city. We toured on our own, checked out one of the Christmas markets and went out. We had plans to take a free tour the next day and it was very interesting as we got to see much of the city and its famous spots. Checkpoint Charlie was turned into a tourist attraction which was actually really funny but the Berlin Wall, or what is left of it was a little disappointing to me. It may have just been the section we saw, and I hope to see a new part of it when I head back in June for the Berlin Open Lacrosse Tournament with Lacrosse The Pond, but it seemed small and not that intimidating. But never the less, the story behind it and its meaning are still really great to see in history. Many of the buildings and places we saw had to be re-built due to WWII but the presence were amazing. One of the most interesting things I learned was a simple trick to tell when you are in East or West Berlin – the pedestrian crossing light symbol is a little man who wears a hat when on an East Berlin street which has great significance and history. Goodbye Berlin, See ya in June for the Berlin Open.
Hello, Prague – via train. Although the train ride was long, it was great to just spend a little time relaxing and recuperating as we still had a long journey ahead of us. We checked into our hostel – which was subpar – with the ones we stayed in in the past. This changed my mood drastically and I was not a happy camper for the first evening in Prague. We had met up with a few other LDO’s at their hostel and were shocked at how nice theirs was, for basically the same price as ours. Blake and I decided immediately to talk to the new hostel and see if there was availability for the next 4 days for us. Luckily there was, so after a night’s sleep in the crap hostel and some negotiation tactics by Blake and me, we packed back up and trekked down the road to what would be our “home” for Christmas. Prague is a beautiful city with so much history and much to see. We again took a free walking tour and learned that we could see much more on our own. The guide had mentioned a place at the top of a hill, beyond the castle, called “Hell” which was the basement of a monastery with supposedly the best made beer in the world. Of course we had to try this and it panned out to be one of the best all of us had ever had. Being away for the holidays is something I have never done before especially not having my family around but we all were in the same boat and made the most of this. We went out Christmas Eve with people we had met while touring the castle and at the hostel bars and had a blast. After sleeping in, we found a restaurant which was open and didn’t need reservations which was fantastic for us as we dined like kings and indulged in the local cuisine. Having spent the most amounts of days in Prague, we really got a feel for the city and what it was all like. Another train ride away was our next arrival.
Budapest – or as we learned Buda and Pest depending on which side of the river you are on which we had no idea about. Our hostel here was more of an apartment style room. With only three of us left for this leg and after a long train ride, we grabbed some food and went to the bar right across the street. The next day we explored on our own, went out at night with people we had met and at the stroke of midnight, I was now 23. It was exciting to be in a new country and with new friends for my birthday. Budapest seemed to go by in a flash because then it was time to head back to Manchester, but the journey was not over. One full day in Manchester to recoup and swap out laundry, then up to our New Year’s Eve celebrations.
In total, we had close to 20 people, mostly American’s, who were parts of our excursion in Edinburgh. This made for a wild night of brining in the New Year at a street festival similar to what I imagine New York City is like on NYE. With 5 stages of different types of music, we picked one called Hot Dub Time Machine – a collaboration of the best and most popular songs for the last 60 years. They started in 1955 with classics and worked towards present day which brought back many memories and songs that we all knew but only in clips of 45 seconds or so. This was amazing as we never got bored and the music was constantly changing and keeping the party very much alive. The following day we relaxed and made sure we caught up on the American Football games for the 1st ever College Football Playoff semi-final games. Unfortunately we were unable to watch the Winter Classic – NHL Game – because none of the pubs would play it over cricket or soccer. With most of the cast departed, the few remaining souls braved out on a self-guided tour of Arthur’s Seat, a massive hill with some spectacular views of the surrounding area. It was quite a hike but well worth it when we arrived at the top.
Finally, back to Manchester and my travels of Christmas break have ended. After sleeping for what seemed like 2 days straight, I began to study for the two weeks of finals I had ahead of me. Since finals, my second semester of Graduate schools has begun and things are back into full swing both academically and on the lacrosse fields. I would not trade in the experiences I have had over the last month or so and would do them all over again in a heartbeat; this time around I would like to have my family and friends along. For now it’s just school and lacrosse, but spring break plans have been set as now I have more travel to look forward to. Hope all is well with everyone reading as I know this was long but well worth the read. Until next time, stay classy San Diego (Anchorman reference).