Craig's Travel Log

I have wanted to go to backpack Europe ever since my dad began telling me stories of the trip he took when he was in college. I am taveling with my friends from high school and earlier: Ryan, Matt, Brett, Wes, and Scotty. I am so thankful and privileged to finally be on my way. What will I experience once I go? There's only one way to find out.

Location: Escondido, California, United States

Monday, October 16, 2006

LONDON- My last full day of the trip was spent in London before my flight. I was able to see "Antony and Cleopatra" at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and also "Les Miserables" at the Queens Theatre at London's West End. Both were amazing shows, but I enjoyed Les Mis more. The next day was about 32 hours long, with over 12 hours of flying time and the 8 hour time change, but my journey finally came to an end as my parents picked me up at LAX and took me home to sleep in my bed in Tustin. It was September 29th, 2006, making the total duration of my trip 12 weeks long.

SCOTLAND- Sorry for not posting this sooner, but I got home and crashed and kind of forgot to finish it. Scotland was amazing. I decided to try and see some of the highlands, and so I took a flight to Inverness. From there I took a bus past Loch Ness (no, I didn't see Nessie), and met up with Matt in a bunk house in Sligachan. The next day we headed to Portree and explored the Isle of Skye, seeing some beautiful scenery and the castle of the McLeod clan. The next day we took a fairy to Mallaig and then took a steam train (the one seen on the Harry Potter movies) to Fort William. Matt stayed there while I went to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a beautiful hilly city with gorgeous castles and a beautiful Royal Mile of shops restaurants and bars. I visited the main castle and also St Giles cathedral. I then took a trip out to St. Andrews. I saw the remains of an old cathedral there as well as an old castle. But the main show is the Old Course. It was a beautiful course and it is right on near the ocean. I headed back to Edinburgh to check out and take a night bus to London.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

GALWAY, THE CLIFFS OF MOHER, AND THE ROCK OF CASHEL- The next day I took off for Galway, a charming little town on the middle of the west coast of Ireland. I tried to find a place to wathc some Rydre Cup action but was relegated to just grabbing a bite to eat and making my way to the Cliffs of Moher, which were probably the coolest thing that I saw while in Ireland. They are a set of towering sea cliffs which drop off straight down to the ocean at their outermost edge.

I spent the night in Killarney before heading off to the Rock of Cashel. It is an old ruin of a castle and cathedral that sits high upon a hill overlooking a valley. It is also rumored to be where St. Patrick explained the Trinity using an Irish clover. After the Rock I had to return my car to Dublin and then take a bus to Belfast in order to catch my flight to Scotland the next day.

Friday, September 22, 2006

NORTHWEST IRELAND & BUNDORAN- We got up early and I gave him a ride to the docks for his ferry to Scotland. I went back to the hostel and met a nice Scottish-Canadian man named John who needed a ride to Donegal, since that is where I was heading I obliged and we agreed to split the cost to get there. There were some amazing coastal views all the way there which ended in the Slieve League cliffs, the highest sea cliffs in all of Europe. They were cool and even though the clouds were covering half of them you could still feel the sheer monstrosity that they held. After dropping John off at Donegal I reached Bonduran.

Bundoran is right on the coast, so as soon as I got up I raced down to the local surf shop and rented a board and wetsuit. I charged the waves, catching a few and realizing how out of shape I was, for it has been quite a while since I last paddled out. I hung out in town all day before taking in a pint with some nice fellows from Brighton that I met at the hostel.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

DUBLIN, BELFAST & THE GIANTS CAUSEWAY- I arrived on a flight from Dublin, and made my way to a wonderful tour of the Guiness Brewery where I enjoyed a complimentary pint while I took in views of the city from the 7th story sky bar. I walked around town a little bit to get the feel for the city, but I am tired of cities, and ready to see some lovely Irish countryside.

The next day I rented a car and headed north for the Giants Causeway. It is a one on a kind set of rock formations that are made up of thousands of prism shaped basalt columns surrounded by majestic cliffs. Then I headed down to Belfast where I met up with Matt again. We shared stories of our past travels and then hit the hay.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

OKTOBERFEST- I figured if I was anywhere in Europe near September 16, I had to try and make it to Oktoberfest. It was a crazy festival. It was contained in a giant fairgrounds area with everything an amusement park/ fair would have, including rollercoaster rides and all kinds of foods. The difference here was about the beer. There where probably anywhere from 10-20 beer tents on the premises as well. Only these tents were as big as a high school gymnasium, and they were overflowing with not only Germans in Leiderhosen but people from all over. I walked into a few of the tents but was unableto find a seat. I finally found one on a table just outside the tent and had a merry old time with the new friends I met. I ended up hanging out with them the rest of the night and we even all went to dinner. It was a great time and I am glad I stayed around for it.

The next day i took a train to Frankfurt and after that I am flying to Ireland!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

SALZBURG- Coming to Salzburg I really didn't know what I wanted to see. I ended up cruising around the old town area and ran into some city founder's celebration parade. I also tried to see a few of the places made popular by the Sound of Music. When I got back to the hostel that night, they were just starting the Sound of Music, so I stayed and watched. It was cool to see some of the places I had just been at in the movie. Salzburg is a beautiful city, and I'm glad I went there.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

THE VIENNA OPERA HOUSE- On my way back from Krakow I stopped in Vienna for the night because I wanted to see an opera. The Opera House was gorgeous, but the opera itself wasn't that great. Beautiful music and singing, just a bad story. It was still a great experience.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

KRAKOW- I wasn't sure what to expect when heading to Krakow. I ended up meeting some really cool travelers there, and hanging out with them, playing basketball, making dinner. It was a really fun and friendly environment at my hostel. Krakow is also really cheap, so I was able to do more things. The city itself is cool how it is set up. I has on of the biggest squares in all of Europe. The castle is pretty cool there too. The first morning I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the biggest Nazi death camp, where 1.5 million people were killed. It was unreal to actually be on those grounds, and a chilling experience I will never forget. I also went to Schindler's factory. I really liked Krakow and wished I could have stayed even longer than 3 nights.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

VENICE- The guys that I traveled with earlier decided that they didn´t want to go to Venice because they weren´t traveling with their girlfriend. Although it would have been optimal to be with your lady Venice, I still did not want to miss out one of the most unique cities in the world. It was truly remarkable to walk down the tiny streets and over the many canals. I had to take a waterbus every time I went to the hostel! St. Mark´s square is also a beautiful place. The next time I come, I´ll make sure to bring my wife, but for now, it was a worthwhile trip and I am sad to be having my last bit of Italian food and Gelato.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

LEICHTENSTEIN- The fourth smallest country in the world, I decided to visit Leichtenstein because I had some time to kill before my night train to Venice and no good reason not to go. I went to the country´s capitol, Vaduz. They have a castle where the King lives and beautiful mountains surrounding the whole country. I just walked around the town for a little while and then headed back towards Zurich. Now I can say I´ve been to Liechtenstein!

THE MATTERHORN- I figured if I had time, there was no way that I could go to Switzerland and not see the Matterhorn. Once you see it, you are drawn to it and can't help stare at it from wherever you are. Part of my fascination probably comes from growing up and seeing it when I went to Disneyland, or any time I drove north on the 5 Freeway. Zermatt is the little town underneath it that I stayed in. The second day I was there I did a beautiful hike up near the base of it, and had amazing views of not only the Matterhorn, but also the little town of Zermatt as well as the surrounding mountains, most of which had snow on them. I had a some good pizza the second night where I had a nice chat with the South African expats who owned it. Switerland is so amazing, and I am sad that I have to leave.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

GIMMELWALD- Switzerland is amazing. Earlier, when we were in Interlaken, it was overcast and rainy nearly the whole time, so we missed some of the beauty and the grandeur of the Alps. So I decided I would go back, hopefully with some good weather. Dan Combs, who went to Europe 2 summers ago, told me when I was in Switzerland I had to go to a little town on the edge of a mountain called Gimmelwald, and so I did. Thanks Dan. The town is about 2000 or so meters high, and you have to take a gondola to get their. It's really tiny and it gives you a front row seat of some of the most amazing snow covered mountains you've ever seen. The hostel there is extremely fun as well. The second day I was their I went on a hike to a few gorgeous waterfalls, and got up real close to some glaciers as well. The picture above is taken from just next to the hostel and it pretty much just speaks for itself.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

THE BODENSEE- Lake Konstanz is a beautiful lake that is situated at where Switzerland, Austria, and Germany collide. Stephanie Philp lives and works at a torchbearers Bible School called Bodenseehof that is located on the German shore of The Bodensee (What Germans call Lake Konstanz). I stayed at the Bible school with her and it was an awesome time to relax and not have to do much sightseeing for a bit. I turned 24 while i was there which was exciting but kind of strange to have your birthday in a different country. It is also strange to be in my mid 20s. Thanks to all of you who wished me a happy birthday through email or blog comments or whatever. On the third day there I went and saw the Neuschwanstein Castle, which is the one that Walt Disney modeled the Disneyland castle after. It was reall cool but it took too long to get there and back. I was bummed cause I didn't get to watch the SC football game but excited when I heard that they won. Next I am going back to Switzerland for a few days.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

THE RHINE & ROTHENBURG- After arriving in Cologne we took a train down to Koblenz and hopped on a ferry there to cruise down the Rhine River. IT was beautiful, with castles and small towns dotting the hills on either side of the river. We got off at Bacharach and took the train into Mainz, where I bid farewell to Brett and Scotty and embarked on my solo mission for the next month, eventually to arrive at home on September 29th. In Mainz it rained the rest of the day so I just stayed at my hostel. The next day as i was leaving for Rothenburg, I noticed a frisbee golf course and played a quick game before heading to the train station.

Rothenburg is a medieval city, complete with a wall all completely encircling it. Although pretty much everybody there is a tourist, it is beautiful and gives you real sense of what those old towns looked like. The wall had a little area on it where you could walk, so I walked around the whole town. I had a pretty good lachmajun (turkish pizza) for dinner and then hung out in the hostel because it was raining again. The next day I headed for Lake Konstanz to meet up with Stephanie Philp.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

DENMARK & SWEDEN- We arrived in Denmark in the late afternoon. Brett and scotty took a night train to Stockholm, but I stayed in Copenhagen overnight. I went to a summer fair/ Knott's Berry Farm sort of thing, which was pretty fun. After that I walked around town a bit and then headed off to bed. The next day I was going to try and see Jonathan Winder and Pepperdine play some volleyball in Odense, but it ended up not working out. I left for Stockholm and met up with the guys there as well as Matt again. The next morning, we gave ourselves a walking tour of the town before ending up in Sweden's version of the old Williamsburg town, except this one had a zoo and a smalltime production of Swedish Idol going on. It was a surprisingly cool place. We watched some Sweden league soccer before heading back to our hotel room to watch tv and go to bed. The next day Matt headed north for the Arctic circle, and we went to Copenhagen and then took a night train to Cologne, Germany.

Friday, August 25, 2006

BERLIN- I wasn't sure what to expect heading into Berlin. We stayed three nights there. The second day we took a bike tour and that gave us a good feel for the city. most of the stuff there had all been rebuilt from WWII. The Berlin wall and Checkpoint Charlie were probably some of the highlights because that was something that was happening in my own lifetime! The Reichstag (parliament) building was cool because it has this sweet glass dome that you can go up into and get great views of the city. We stayed in what was part of East Berlin. To eat we had mostly Kebabs, and I also had some Turkish pizza, which is basically the same as Armenian pizza. It was a fun city, but it is so huge it's hard to feel like you've seen it. We also saw where Hitler's bunker was, and also a really cool Holocaust memorial.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

AMSTERDAM- We arrived and Amsterdam near noontime and bumped into Wes and Ryan at a restaurant. We said our goodbyes and then Wes headed back to London, and soon, home. Matt had decided to go to the Rhine Valley instead and I fear we may not see him until his trip is over. After we checked in we headed for the Heineken Brewery. It was cool to be doing the same very thing that my Dad did over 30 years ago. We had dinner at a British sports pub of some sort, where we watched some English Football and a Red Sox-Yankees game. That night Brett, Scotty, and I headed to the Red Light district and straight back home to bed.

The next day was Sunday, and seeing how I hadn't been to a church service yet on this trip, I decided to get up early and go to Church. It was a Reformed church in English with a Scottish Pastor. After church, I met up with Ryan at the Anne frank Museum. It was a chilling but good exhibit. On our walk back we stopped for some Dutch pancakes. It had been raining pretty hard the whole morning, so after being repeatedly soaked we decided to just stay in the hostel for a while and watch tv. We did this until dinner, got food, and then came back and did it again until we went to bed.

The next morning we saw Ryan off and then I took a short train to Haarlem to see the "The Hiding Place". Of course it ended up being closed but I still had fun walking around the city. We had more rain, so we didn't do much the rest of the day. Brett had been sick during most of this time as well. The next day we took the train to Berlin.

Friday, August 18, 2006

PRAGUE- When you go into something that has been overhyped, it is often bound to let you down. Prague had been hyped up by so many people that when I got there I felt somewhat unimpressed. I had heard it was beautiful because it didn't really get touched by WWI & II, but every other city that did get bombed had been rebuilt to look like it was before. Instead of griping about it, I decided to remove all expectation and re-enter the city with a clean slate.

I took the bus from Vienna and arrived at night. I found the hostel, Brett, and Scotty, and headed to bed. The other guys were enjoying their last night in Prague and then headed for Berlin. Scotty and Brett were extremely tired from their excursion in Poland and decided that we should sleep in. With out a second thought, I complied. After waking up late, we ate at some local Czech fast food place where we pointed at what looked good. I had something like a schnitzel with potato salad. We then decided to take a stroll around town to no particular place at all. We covered most of the old town area on the east side of the river and then stopped for a beer at a lovely place with a commanding view of the famous Charles Bridge. We figured we'd sampled enough of the local cuisine at lunch and decided on Italian for dinner. We ended up having this great meal for only like 5 bucks. If you avoid the touristy places, Prague can be very cheap. There are MANY tourists however, and therefore many touristy places. Following dinner, we eventually made our way back to the hostel and then off to bed.

The hostel that we stayed in, Sir Toby's, has a German history professor who stays in the dorms there all summer and then gives tours of Prague during the day. He is very much the definition of an oddly humorous, eccentric professor. We decided to take his tour and ended up enjoying it very much. We learned a lot of history that we didn't know, and were able to sneak by most of the herds of touristsas we went. That night we tried to go out and experience Prague's nightlife, but ended up running into long lines, expensive covers, and disagreements about where we should go, and so ended up walking home earlier than we expected.

After checking out we left our bags at the hostel to go explore the castle as well as the cathedral inside its walls. The cathedral was huge and had a big tower that we climbed for great views of the city. The tower climb however was one of the worst experiences on the trip. It was a very narrow, circular staircase with hundreds of stairs to the top, with both the line going up and down at the same time. Needless to say it was a very hot and claustrophobic experience. After the descent, we decided we had seen enough of the city and went and saw Pirates of the Caribbean at the local theatre. It was in English of course, with Czech subtitles. It was a very nice theatre and a good way to get lost in something "American" for a little while. After the movie we grabbed our bags and headed for the station for a night train to Amsterdam.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

VIENNA- I went to Vienna alone but luckily met some nice Aussie girls who I ended up hanging out with that night as well as the next morning. We saw a lot of the famous buildings there, including Mozart's apartment and the Opera House, had a good meal of wiener schnitzel, and ended up going salsa dancing at night. The next day I went to the Schonnbrum Palace, which is their version of Versailles, and it was really beautiful. I really enjoyed Vienna more than I thought it would, and now am off on a bus to Prague to meet up with the other guys.