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Moving Day

No, not moving to Hungary (yet.)  I’ve moved my blog to its own URL, whereisnikki.org.

From now on, this address is defunct.  It will no longer be updated. So move your bookmarks and RSS feeds to http://whereisnikki.org/

I’ll see you at the new site.


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Has been having technical difficulties. WordPress apparently feels it is no longer necessary to upload my photographs.

And Fabulous Friday Photos without photos is rather more challenging, as you may be able to imagine.

Fabulous Friday Photos is on hiatus until I can figure out an alternative to this rather problematic issue.

It could be my computer, it could be my admittedly shitty internet connection, or it could be WordPress.  Since nothing on my end of the line has changed, I’m going to blame it on WordPress.

Free servers anyways, what are they thinking, not working correctly?


In the meantime I suggest you read An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser; we shall reconvene soon to discuss this fine piece of literature, and until then I bid thee a fond adieu.

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Jim Morrison, lead singer of the sixties rock band The Doors (if you haven’t heard of them I don’t know where you’ve been living but your existence is flat and empty) once said,

“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”

So what is he talking about and how does it relate to traveling, life, or karate?  Let me explain…

I brought this up specifically because of a post I saw on Facebook the other day.  A friend is doing quite well and moving up in the state/national karate championships.  He’s up to nationals now.  And his aunt posted on his status with words to the effect of “Congratulations, but we love you so don’t go too far because we want you to be around here.”

I know she was well-meaning and everything, but the basic message she was sending there was, “You should sacrifice what you want so that you can stay here with your family and make us happy, even at the expense of your own happiness.” (There’s my karate reference.)

And this kind of situation happens all the time.  Family and friends aren’t trying to be malicious, but by being thoughtless and putting their own wants in front of your own, they can be very effective at sabotaging your dreams. (Jim Morrison quote.) It’s the famous guilt trip of the mother on a huge, subtle scale.  It’s your family, thinking they’re doing what’s best for you when really they’re trying to do what’s best for them–all they’re doing is holding you back, making you doubt yourself, making you fear, keeping you from achieving what you have the potential to achieve. And because this “advice” is coming from people you care about, you naturally respect and value their opinions, making it even harder to look at them dispassionately to see the truth behind the words.

And to go further into this, what is an appropriate sacrifice to make for the people you care about?  Would they be willing to make the same sacrifice for you?  Say, for example, that you wanted to move to New Zealand, about as far away as you can get from the United States and still be on Earth.  It would be pretty common for your family and friends to try to talk you out of it, or at least try to get you to come back and visit them as often as possible.

But is anyone offering to go visit you in New Zealand?  Or, if they’re the ones trying to talk you out of moving, would they be willing to move as well?  To go with you?  Because what they are, in essence, suggesting is that you should sacrifice what you want (to move to NZ) in order that they should have what they want (for you to stay close to them.)

And if they’re not willing to go the distance for you, but expect you to do for them what they would not for you, then perhaps you should re-evaluate your relationship.

And when people give you advice about a big change you’re considering in your life, examine their motives behind the words, even (especially) if it’s your own mother speaking. In the end, you have to listen to yourself, do what you want to do, and not be swayed by people trying to change your mind.  (The reference to life.)

In my not lengthy life so far, the majority of the people I’ve talked to have or have had some kind of dream to go on a big trip.  But almost none of them think of this as a realistic dream–they immediately come up with excuses: work, family, commitment, money, etc etc.  And these people regret not achieving their dream.  (My travel reference. Title is accurate!)

So are you going to be the person who listened to everybody’s advice and stayed home and is now regretting the choices they made for other people, or are you going to be the person who takes personal responsibility for what they do and lives a rich and fulfilling life because they’ve properly recognized and made the appropriate choices to achieve their goals and dreams?

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Eating out in Europe is almost never cheap and generally not in a backpacker’s budget.  Of course, there are those times when you really just want to try the local cuisine, and that’s important, but you can eat cheaply and conveniently without going out every meal, saving your money for that one splurge at a nice place.  Here are some tips for eating well on a budget in Europe.

Carpe Noctem and an American Thanksgiving in Buuuudapesht

1.) Stay at hostels. Don’t be afraid.  Hostels are almost always clean, safe, and fun places to meet other travelers like yourself–and best of all, they usually have a fully-equipped kitchen.  Buy food at the supermarket, and cook it in the kitchen.  There’s generally a fridge as well where you can store your (labeled and dated) food for consumption the next day.  Sometimes, hostels will even have a free food shelf.  People  tend to leave behind pasta and other non-perishables that they don’t want to carry with them, and you may be able to snag this for free!

Protip: Stealing other people’s food is a jerk move and will instantly give you bad traveler karma.  DON’T do it.  DO get together with other travelers and plan a big group meal if the opportunity/group is right.  It can be a lot of fun, it’s cheaper than buying food just for yourself, and have everyone cook their local specialty so that you get to taste food from all over the world.  Mmm.

2.) Street food. Namely kebabs.  And, in the British isles, fish-and-chip shops.  There usually isn’t room to sit–they’re take-out hole in the wall establishments.  But you can get a filling, greasy kebab–which is strips of chicken, beef, or lamb, cut off an enormous hunk turning on a spit, and put in either a pita or rolled burrito-type of deal, along with lettuce, tomato, onion, and yogurt sauce–for two or three euros.  If you’re in a hurry, your hostel doesn’t have a kitchen, or you’re just in the mood for some greasy street food, kebabs are the way to go.  You’ll find them all over Europe.  Germany and Spain have the best kebabs, although for the real deal they originated in Turkey.  I haven’t been there so I cant judge the quality of Turkish kebabs–yet.

Protip: Kebabs are really good drunk food, and best of all, most kebab shops stay open late.

3.) If you want to eat out, ask your hostel to recommend a place. Guide books are out of date by the time they’re published.  In Spain, we spent hours looking for a bar recommended in the Lonely Planet, only to discover that even the building it was in had been torn down.  Restaurants can change ownership and quality quickly.  The hostel employees will know the cheapest and best local places to eat.  In Rome, I ate a four-course meal with a carafe of wine at a nice Chinese restaurant for 6 euros.  Not a bad deal for enough food to keep me filled for the rest of the day.

4.) Go to an outdoor market and pick up picnic supplies. This is probably my favorite option.  Many European cities have a central farmers market on certain days of the week, or sometimes big, permanent open-air markets.  Budapest has a colossal two-floor structure; Barcelona has an open-air market filled with every type of seafood you can imagine and some you can’t, along with fresh fruit, cheeses, sausages, Iberian hams, baked goods, coffee, wine, and confectionary.  Fresh, authentic food sold by locals, often lower prices than in the supermarket–what’s not to love?

delicious Iberian Ham. Don't be put off by its appearance on the leg, so to speak.

Protip: Pick up a friend or two at your hostel, grab a bottle of wine, some chorizo, a loaf of crusty bread, and some cheese and go to a public park to enjoy your fresh purchases together.  A toast to traveling!

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I uploaded a few photos onto Flickr today, from Amsterdam, Scotland, and Berlin. Tomorrow I might upload a few more but it takes a long time and I get bored.
Still haven’t done any touristy things in Prague. I’ve walked around and gone out every night, but I’m staying pretty chilled out. I want to be prepared for Croatia, which I am going to at the end of the week (I think.)
Prague is really fantastic. I don’t know what to say about it. I might take a walking tour tomorrow to find out more about the history and culture, but for now I’m enjoying just walking around and seeing all the beautiful buildings and the liveliness of the city. It kind of reminds me of Amsterdam, in a way.
Oh, and we got into the absinthe last night…that is good stuff! It§s not the real absinthe, though, with wormwood in it…at least we didnt have any hallucinations, but it is very strong alcohol. And it is quite tasty. You take a shot and you can feel it all the way down into your fingers. Mmm, Prague.
Anyways, I am spending two more nights in Prague and then heading off for a few days in Česky Krumlov, another city in the Czech Republic. And after that I think Croatia. Im excited.


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Can’t Stop

I was thinking about when I go home.  I’m going to die.  My life has never been so interesting or fulfilling as the past few weeks.  Everything else seems so bland and sedentary.  I don’t know how I’m going to handle going back to stationary life.  Die, probably.  Or start planning my next trip. 

I know for a fact that I cannot live in the United States.  I’m moving permanently out as soon as possible.  I’ve been saying this for years but this has jsut cemented it.  There are so many other amazing places I can’t see living in a country that you were born in just because you were born there.  There’s nothign particularly special about it.  It’s not the only or the best way of life and we have some pretty shit things, honestly, that many other countries tend to lack.  Not that I dislike the US, it’s just not my favorite.  And besides, I kind of see the US going through some enormous and possibly not that great changes.  As the world power, we’ve already fallen off that pedastal and I feel like we are teetering on the brink of huge change.  Not Obama-style change, but really negative change. 

Well, beyond that happy topic, I’m in Berlin!  I haven’t actually seen it yet since i arrives after dark, but from what I#ve heard Berlin is great for the atmosphere, not the architecture, since it got rather destroyed during the war and then East Berlin went a little crazy with the poured concrete.  So we have an ugly city with about as much history as you can find outside of Rome, but in a completely different way.  Tomorrow I’m going to a concentration camp.

And I am yet again out of time.  Later, mein kinderen.  (?)

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Yes, I’m in Germany, home of leiderhosen, yodeling, beer by the liter, and the Third Reich.

I got into Cologne (Köln in German) yesterday afternoon, but due to several long hours on a crowded train the day after an entertaining night of Belgian beer tasting (more on that in a minute) combined with the fact that I walked around for a few hours looking for a hostel, made me pretty unmotivated by the time I found an acceptable place and took a shower.  I ended up doing nothing last night but chilling out at the hostel.

That’s ok though, because the hostel I stayed at was nicer than some hotels I’ve been in.  I was in a four bed dorm with a bathroom in the room!, and only one other girl ever showed up, so I basically had the place to myself.  It felt kind of weird, actually.  And then she left at about five this morning for the airport on her way to Paris, so this morning I was completely by myself.  You don’t understand how exciting this is until you’ve been living in twelve bed dorms for almost a month.  Same with the excitement about a bathroom actually in the room, rather than down the hall.  And it was really nice.  I could og on and on about how there was a heated towel rack\room heater in the enormous shower room, but I won’t, and I won’t mention how the mattress didn’t look like they pulled it out of the dump, and I won’t even mention how each bed had its own reading light, or how there was a huge breakfast buffet included, because that’s not important.  What is important is the first piece of German food I ate:

As I FINALLY get off the uber crowded train–I mean I had a seat, but all the people in the aisle were really crowding in right at ass-level and it was a bit awkward, plus a suitcase was taking up the space where my legs rightfully belonged.  Anyways, I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning and I was absolutely famished.  In the train station the first thing I see are numerous shops displaying beautiful, I mean gorgeous sandwiches, pretzels, baked goods, etc etc and so I decide to get a sandwich.  I clearly pointed to the ham sandwiches in the case but the sandwiches in the back must have been different–the sneaky bastards–because what I got when I opened the bag was most definitely not ham.  In fact I was about halfway through it before I figured out what it was, and the realization brought peace to my troubled taste buds but also quite a bit of amusement.

IN place of ham was a patty of some kind of white, dense meat, but with layers or lines in it like fish.  It tasted like no fish that I’d ever heard of, but I couldnät figure out what kind of land animal would have lines in it like that.  Not only that, but I was further thrown off by the fact that in place of mayonnaise it had something resembling tartar sauce, adn the slab of meat itself was breaded in some unnatural looking coating and then fried.

The taste was not really that great, but not awful, and i was hungry, so I continued to eat the mystery sandwich until about halfway through I realized that no, the Germans don’t eat dog, this is clearly pork. A breaded, fried porkchop sandwich.

I was jsut relieved that I wasn’t eating dog or horse or perhaps haggis (did you know that the haggis is a real creature, similar to a hedgehog, and it is endangered, which is why haggis is now made out of bits of sheep?)

And that was my first Germany experience.  My second was when I walked out of the train station and in front of me loomed an absolutely massive Gothic cathedral like something out of a horror movie.  I half expected vampires to be flying around its age-blackened towers.  There are literally thousands of pointy bits.  The thing just keeps going and going and going and going.  I’ve seen a few cathedrals in my time and for pointy bits and crenellation and recessed statues of saints and tower upon pointy tower, this one takes the cake.  It’s not so great inside, though.  Still impressive for its size–the pillars are as big around as a Mini Cooper, and soar into the depths of the shadowy ceiling, hundreds of meters above–but not really awe inspiring.  What was cool was that they were having a service when I went in (we were only allowed in the back) and i got to hear the pipe organ playing.  In that massive space it was pretty impressive.

I realized later that the Dom, as it is called, is Köln’s most famous attraction, its claim to fame.  I didn’t realize it existed and it is right in front of the train station.  It’s the first thing you see when you walk out.

Today I went to a modern art museum and saw some really really awesome art.  They had a great collection of Andy Warhol among other pop art greats, and several rooms devoted to Pablo Picasso.  There was an enormous Salvadore Dali painting that I loved.  There was so much art it was overwhelming.  I spent three hours there and saw maybe half of it, but at the end I was skipping by Picasso paintings.  It was just too much ot handle at one time.

After that I went to the old Gestapo headquarters in Köln which has been converted into a small museum as well as an information center to look up family and so on lost in the war.  There weren’t really any artifacts, just the cells in the basement that people were locked up and tortured in for months on end before being killed or sent on to concentration camps.  The walls were covered in writing and drawings of the prisoners, and many had been translated and displayed along with information of what became of that person.

It was sick and disturbing as I knew it would be, although this is something I don’t want ot just ignore.

I am out of time.  Goodbye until next time!

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