Posts Tagged With: plans

Enjoyable Echternach

Tuesday July 28I hadn’t set an alarm because I wanted to sleep in and enjoy waking up on my tent. The morning sun didn’t quite hit me as I hoped but it was close. It was pretty chilly so it was a little stretch to get up and out. I boiled up some hot water for my oatmeal to go and took my time getting ready. The tourist office didn’t open until 10 anyway. I went down to reception and went ahead and paid for two nights. I headed to the city center just past 10 and found it much easier to navigate when I wasn’t frustrated and hungry. The office lady gave me a small map of the town and paths but only pointed out one 12km loop trail. She said it was the best day hike in the region. I wandered into the cathedral next door before setting out to find the beginning of this trail. 

The beginning of this trail was also the beginning of many other paths, including a camino with the yellow shell marker. I started up the trail and immediately climbed straight up for half an hour. I stopped and looked back and there was quite a view! I could look out over the town and the surrounding hillsides because I’d climbed up so quickly. I spotted a wooden structure at the very top and hiked just a few more minutes. It was a large gazebo, complete with benches inside. I’d only been hiking for maybe 45minutes but it was around noon/lunchtime and this place just demanded a break. I pulled out a granola bar and began munching away as more people hiked up. No one seemed as interested in the gazebo as I was. I hiked on after eating a bit and wandered through amazingly beautiful forests. There were cliffs next to me and the trees were just perfectly placed all around. I rounded the corner and started descending very steeply into a gorge with high rock faces on either side. I came to an intersection where the trail went straight but it looked like there were trails up to lookouts on either side. I took the one to the left first, climbing many uneven slippery rock stairs before reaching the top. I could look down into the gorge and out across the surrounding areas. There were benches and many worn areas where it looked like people had camped. There was a mother and father chasing their two little boys around on the top. They climbed up here for lunch and the kids looked like they were having a blast. The cliffs were well fenced in all along the top. I could walk on top the cliff looking down at the trail I came in on. I clambered slowly back down the steep stairs I came up and climbed the stairs going to the right. This lookout was much smaller but had a bridge to another cliff island that was pretty cool. There was a troop of young adults that passed by, all grumbling and not very happy, each carrying large heavy packs. None of them stopped to look at either view, just bypassing it without even a picture from the center of the gorge. I was sad they didn’t stop. It really was quite fantastic up here and nothing is meant to be hiked through fast without looking around. I continued on a few minutes after they had passed, walking through some amazing rock formations, all covered in ferns and hanging vines. The rocks had been worn by the wind and rain and had pretty neat textures. It looked like a magical place with the ferns and vines combining to create an incredible aura. I stopped every so often just to stand still, in awe of my surroundings, slowly spinning around in circle. Everywhere my eyes landed was God’s perfect beauty. I passed a picnic shelter with a group of older people. They were all laughing and having a great time. I figured they’d get up and walk on but they all walked to the bus that was parked within eyesight. Well at least they were enjoying nature somewhat. I hiked on, not coming upon anyone for quite awhile. Then I could hear voices and laughter. I couldn’t see them but I could see where they would be. There was a giant rock face looming out over the trail and below it was a cave. This cave had a piece of rock all the way to the ground so you could walk under and around it. The group was sitting in the cave, their now joyful voices mingling and echoing throughout. I felt like this whole area was an incredible secret that Luxembourg kept for the special few. I came upon a sign to go to Berdorf or to continue on my trail. I’d heard that Berdorf was a cute little Swiss town with many shops and restaurants. I could go for an ice cream and it was only 2km there. I headed that way, making sure I remembered which way my correct path went. Soon I left the forest and started walking through fields of wheat and corn, with the occasional colorful poppy. I entered the town and was still able to follow the trail signs but I saw no shops or restaurants, just houses. I kept going but the houses got fewer and fewer. There’d been a turn off but I could easily see that was a highway through more fields. There was a gazebo where the young adult group was gathering. I saw a bar/pub but it only served drinks. Aha! I spotted an ice cream cone on that gate. My pace quickened and soon I was at the door, thinking about what flavors they would be. I pulled and pushed the door but it was locked. It was 2pm on a Tuesday and they were closed. Wow, I’d had such high hopes for this town and the picture of the smiley happy ice cream cone. I sighed and started walking back through the baking hot corn fields, back into the woods. I found my sign and began the way back. This wasn’t through the cliffs or gorge but at least it was beautiful forest with a gently sloping dirt path. 

I got back to town and still wanted a small something to eat so I found a bakery an ordered a cream filled glazed donut. Or what I thought was a cream filled donut. I sat down to eat and was given a fork and knife so I cut into it and took a bite. Mm yummy. I could just barely see the custard now so I cut into that and took another bite. Bleck!! What was that?! It tasted like hard boiled egg. I cut into the donut and tasted more. Yepp, that was egg filling my donut. I stared at it in wonder and disgust. It was glazed with a pretty chocolate drizzle on top. Fluffy. Round. Donut looking. But it was not a donut. I ate the outside, the sweet bread that had glaze but no egg with it. I walked away wanting more, completely unsatisfied with my little (mis)treat. I remembered seeing an ice cream shop but had trouble finding it so I went back to the tourism office to ask. They pointed me in the right direction, probably wondering how anybody could get lost in a town that had maybe 5 roads. Finally, I held in my hand an ice cream cone with hazelnut and caramel flavors. I sat on the steps in the square to polish off my cold deliciousness and just sat there watching people.

I meandered back to my campsite, this time looking in all the shops. I entered one an I thought it was just purses and magnets but at the back I spotted shelves and shelves of puzzles. It started with 100 piece puzzles and went all the way up to 5000! They were all Ravensburger brand. I picked one up and it said authentically made in Ravensburg, Germany. Oh wow, I must go research where that is! I would love to go to the home of the worlds best puzzles! I’d happened upon the Black Forest in Germany as being the home of the cuckoo clock. 

I got back to my tent, set my stuff down and began researching this puzzle city. Turns out it is directly between the Black Forest and Munich. Hmm, my mind started to race ahead of me. I’d like to go but I don’t know if I could fit it in. I’d had to sign up for a specific date to start the European Peace Walk from Vienna and then made reservations for two nights in the hostel in Vienna beginning August 2. It was the first time I’d had a set deadline for time and I was struggling with it. My moms friends friend in the Black Forest area was proving hard to get in contact with. I’d emailed my moms friend and received the contact info for the lady but wasn’t able to call, text, or email. The wifi at the campground was spotty so I tried using my data but that didn’t work. I should’ve been able to make a phone call or text by that wasn’t working either. I tried for several hours, getting more frustrated each minute. I was hoping to leave Echternach on the early bus out to Luxembourg city then down to the Black Forest. From Lux I could go either to Strasbourg, France then across to Freiburg which took pretty much all day or to a city in Germany north of Freiburg but that was way more expensive. I didn’t want to spend the whole day on a train/bus but also didn’t want to shell out big bucks to move a few hundred kilometers. And if course this all depended on if I was able to get in touch with the lady and stay with her or not. I wanted to hike a day and go to Triberg, home of the cuckoo clocks and this lady was right in the middle. I went back up to my tent and started to make dinner. I just wanted to see just a few things while I was in Germany because I only had a couple days to spend. I ate my pasta and thought hard but came up with nothing. I hunkered down in the lounge room as it got cold out and continued to plan. Nothing was coming together and my phone service I’d bought wasn’t working. I couldn’t leave the wifi with no plans if my service didn’t work. I starting shaking, partly from the cold, partly from the anxiety. I was trying not to fret, knowing that it would all come together but this was maddening. I just needed three more days then I’d be in Vienna and on my way down a long distance trail. I finally got the email out but it was past 9pm asking if I could stay there the next day so it probably wouldn’t work out. I wasn’t able to see a whole lot of timetables for trains and buses so I didn’t know how to from here to there. Eventually I went out into the cold and got into my sleeping bag just before midnight, not having a clue as to what I was doing the next day. 

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Bus to Bruges

Wed July 22I got up early and had a slice of toast before saying my goodbyes and having David drive me to the station. He helped make sure I was on the right train and I was off! A huge thank you to them for hosting me for a few days, even as I’d only been able to give them a coupe days notice of my arrival and as we hadn’t really kept in contact much since attending the same church years prior. I know I didn’t really do or say much but resting and being in just one place was vital to being able continue on in my travels. 

The 7am train ride into London was packed full of people, so much so that people could hardly get on. I was a little worried about being able to make it off on time with my larger pack but I successfully switched lines and made it all the way to the correct bus station. I stood in line for an hour to check in for my international destination and got my ticket. It was only 20more minutes until we all boarded the bus. It was a mad dash to put luggage under the bus and get in line to board. When I handed my ticket to the driver he said no and told me I had to check in. I assured him I’d just stood in line for an hour and that’s what I was handed. He told me I needed a boarding pass with a w. I processed what he was saying and raced out of the bus, shoving my way back through the line with a quick “Scuse me!” not really caring if I accidentally pushed people, running through the station back to the check in desk. There were two people in front of me but I got the attention of another clerk and breathlessly told him the bus driver wouldn’t accept my ticket without a w. He pointed me to the other guy who was now finished with his customer. He looked at my ticket and told me it was his fault, he’d printed the wrong thing. I didn’t care who was at fault as long as I was able to get back on that bus. He printed me a boarding pass with a w and I raced back to my bus, snagging the last seat right behind the driver. 

The driver counted us but then looked confused. He eventually told us he couldn’t leave because he counted 53 people but had 52 tickets listed on his sheet. He said Customs would get involved, thinking he was smuggling humans and fine or arrest him and search all of us and our stuff in a very lengthy process. He talked to his boss and they tried to sort stuff out. A guy had opened the door after everyone had boarded and said one last goodbye to his girlfriend which upset the driver and staff. The boyfriend got a bit riled up saying they were profiling him, which was kind of true. The dad, daughter and boyfriend were Arab in traditional dress. The entire bus was watching as this played out in English at the front of the bus before the staff took it away from our eyes and ears. 

Finally the driver boarded the bus looking exasperated and drove out of the station 30 minutes past the scheduled time. 

He informed us we may have to wait a bit for the next ferry because we’d probably miss ours. He called his company to see if he could go through the tunnel or catch a different ferry company. After several minutes of frustrating sounding phone calls, he let us know we would be delayed 3 hours because the next ferry wouldn’t be until 3pm. My 5 hour bus ride had just turned into 8. I had planned on eating a few snacks on board and getting lunch/dinner in town after checking into my hostel but now I wouldn’t get in until 6pm. We weaved our way through London traffic and got in line for the ferry. The French border control called out the 5 of us traveling with non-European passports and quickly checked us through. But then all of us had to disembark and go through a border check again. The bus driver got a little fussy, questioning why we had to go again. We finally got back in line only to park and wait for the next available ferry. We were allowed to get off the bus and go to the stores. There was a Burger King, Starbucks type store and a general mart. I should probably get a big lunch so I waited in line at Burger King but the line wasn’t moving and I had to be back on the bus real soon so I grabbed a sandwich to go, with chips and a drink from the mart. I boarded the bus again and chowed down on my pulled pork BBQ sandwich. It started dripping down my hands and I realized maybe this type wasn’t the best idea for a meal to go. My hands were sticky but at least I got to eat. We started up again and pulled onto the ferry. Everyone had to leave the car port and go upstairs to the pedestrian access. There was a food court, bar, lounge, family & kids area, shops, pool hall and just general seating. My pen had died so I thought about buying a pen from the shops but it was just too expensive. I wandered around, searching for a seat next to an outlet so I could journal in my phone. Eventually I found one and settled down for the next hour, pulling out my M&M blanket because it was chilly. 

We all got back on the bus and drove out on the correct side of the road into Calais, France. I got to say hello to France briefly before entering into Belgium. The bus pulled into Bruges and only 4 of us got out, got our stuff and watched the bus pull away. They all wandered off and I just stood there. I couldn’t read any of the signs at all and had no data plan for my phone. I’d looked at where the hostel was but I wasn’t too sure where I was, which direction I was facing. I figured the train tracks were behind me so I’d head to the right. I crossed over a tall bridge, looking out over a slow flowing river lined with trees. Belgium was already pretty. I guessed at the next street and after maybe 15minutes, arrived at the hostel. I checked in and paid 21euros which included breakfast. I grabbed 2sheets and a pillowcase and found my room. The only bunk available was on the top so I went ahead and made my bed. The mattresses were covered in a rubbery casing which I hoped wouldn’t interfere with a good nights rest. I used the wifi in the lounge to communicate with family that I’d made it to Belgium and then I made plans. Around 8pm my stomach screamed at me so I headed to town. I was just going to grab a quick bite to eat and maybe walk a block or two before coming back. I walked straight into the city center and went into the first cafe shop I saw. I couldn’t understand any of the menu except for cheeseburger so that’s what I ordered. I wanted to try local foods but would have to look that up before accidentally ordering something strange. I ate my burger as I continued walking through the town. I made sure to stay in a perfect square so I wouldn’t get lost. 

There were lovely gorgeous canals running through the town. The bridges over them were perfectly romantic with flowering vines cascading down the sides of the buildings. Apparently this was one of the most romantic cities with little kissing spots throughout the center, marked with hearts. A lot of Europe that I’ve seen is fairly romantic which normally wouldn’t bother me but for some reason this trip has made me more aware of my singleness. This everywhere romance is the primary reason I changed plans from seeing the Eiffel Tower and exploring Paris. Besides, what else could be better than a whole country famous for chocolate and waffles?! 

The tower starting playing lovely tunes every 5minutes or so for a few minutes. It was wonderful strolling through the cobbled streets, over little bridges and through alleyways, accompanied by the powerful chimes. As the notes would come in and out as I walked, I heard faint music elsewhere. I got closer and closer and instantly recognized the song. What else would I hear strolling through the streets of Bruge than,” Country roads, take me home to the place I belong…?” I’m sure my smile stretched all the way across my face as I shouldered my way through the growing crowd to get closer to the front. I stopped before the beer station with a small view toward the band. I joined the crowd in belting out the chorus. Belgium sure was making a good impression. The next song the band played was Wild Colonial Boy, an old Irish song. I’ve listened to Celtic music since I was little so I knew the words by heart. The next song I didn’t know but a lot of the crowd still sang along so I turned my attention to people watching. There was a beer station selling a cup of beer for 2 euro. Many in the crowd seemed to have had plenty to drink. In front of me several rows was a guy dancing with his dog. I wanted to jut in but didn’t want to push past the thicker rows of people. That was the last song the band played so people dissipated pretty quickly. It was nearing sunset so I headed back to the hostel. I made a tentative schedule for tomorrow, of what to see and do and what opened when. It was very stuffy in my room so it took me awhile to actually fall asleep. 

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Making Plans

I woke up later and just stayed in bed as long as I could before getting up and cooking eggs. I had two but realized I was still hungry so I had a third. Tom came and really helped me make a plan for the next week, showing me where to go, where to camp or hostel at and how to see the beautiful Ireland without getting caught in super touristy places. He used to be a tour guide so his info was quite handy. The general plan we came up with looked good to me so I was all set to go explore Waterford some more. I checked the bus schedule and decided to leave 30minutes beforehand to get to the bus stop. I was told it was about a 15-20minute walk. After 30minutes had passed and I was still walking, nowhere near the landmarks, I wondered if I’d even come the right way. I checked my phone and it said yes, I was still headed the correct direction. I asked a gas station clerk where the bus stop was and she answered a 5minute walk the direction I was going. After 15minutes I finally got there. It’d taken me 50minutes to get there and at a pretty fast pace too. Oh well, I’d missed that bus but another would come in 45minutes.  I checked out the church across the street, mostly just to use the bathroom. I had my 1L water bladder with me as well as a few other things. I was going to buy a daypack so I could leave my heavy pack behind when I was just going out for the day. Finally the bus came, 15minutes late. It was 5.50 euro for the 15minute ride back into town. Urgh,  I texted Tom to see if he’d pick up at the station again at 5:30 because I was not going to pay that much for a bus. He replied yes but that meant I now only had just under 2 hours. I found a neon pink daypack at Shaws, a department store. I wanted a smaller one but this one had good straps and back support. It was 35euro. I shouldered it and went on to the touristy gift shop and bought a few trinkets, knowing I’d have to carry them or spend a lot to send them home. I found a Supervalu on the opposite end of town to get a few more grocery items. I still couldn’t find protein bars anywhere! The checkout counters had organic fruit or nut bars but with only 4g of protein and if I was to be hiking, I needed more. I guess I needed to go to a sporting goods store but it was time to go. I checked out as fast as i could, running back to the station, hoping I wouldn’t be too late. It was 5;35 but I practically ran into Sonya, his wife. She’d be driving back to the hostel today. I bought an apple charger in town so I wouldn’t have to use/rent the hostels or ask someone else. My charger hadn’t been working on my iPhone but had on my camera. The girls were really trying to dye the blond ones hair blue but it was only tingeing it. They’d also bought flour and a few other things so they were baking cookies and cupcakes trying to use it all. I ordered a pizza for delivery to the hostel, counting on it to be my lunch and dinner the next day of traveling and touring Blarney Castle. It finally came and it tasted okay, not a whole lot of pepperoni. I got ready to take a shower, slipping my shower coin into the machine and it began counting down! Oh no! I thought it didn’t start til I turned the water on. I wished the time was in the bathroom because I had no way of knowing how much time was left. The water turned off midway through getting clean so I ended up using the sink, which made a little mess. I didn’t feel like hikertrash at all, rinsing my hair in the tiny sink and shaving my legs using the sink. I also washed my stovepot and spoon, making sure everything was food free. I’d burnt a noodle or two the day before. I went to bed early after getting my stuff kind of together because I’d be going with Tom and the other 2 girls into Waterford at 9am.

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Windy Wicklow Way

I didn’t sleep well at all; maybe it was the wind, maybe it was the first night being in a tent in awhile. The wind was howling all night. I felt like if I wasn’t in my tent, it’d blow away! If I curled up with my feet close to me away from the bottom of the tent, the back of the tent would lift up, pulling against the stakes. The sides of the rainfly billowed out making it look like a sailing ship in the 5am light. I stayed in my bag til 8:30, got up and packed up my tent as fast as I could, stepping on pieces so they wouldn’t blow away. I knew I couldn’t cook here with all the wind so I figured I’d cook when I reach the trees/protection from the wind. As I started hiking up, the wind was so fierce it knocked my feet sideways. I gazed ahead and realized the trail continued up bald pastures so I just crouched behind a piece of the old crumbled rock wall and cookedmy breakfast of oatmeal. I choked it down, still unable to eat much, packed up and kept going because it was cold! I wasn’t hiking fast enough to stay warm. I saw lots of sheep and had to step carefully to avoid their droppings. Right after lunch I crested a hill and voila, there was a lake! It was incredibly gorgeous. By that point, I was hot and sweaty so I wanted to go jump in the lake. But alas, it was too far away. I hiked on, passing moe sheep and cows, hiking on roads, gravel roads and fire roads through mountains that were currently being logged. I strolled past he Wicklow lodge, not even going in because it looked way fancy. The roadwalk was super long and in the hot sun. Two fellows passed me going the other way, expressing surprise that I was on my own. They told me there were 2 guys from TX just ahead of me, as well as free water from a farmers shed just up the way. I drank a few drops straight from the hose and soon found myself catching up to the 2 TX dudes. They hiked a tiny bit faster but stopped to take a lot of pictures so it was about my pace. We were all going to Glendalough Hostel (pronounced glendaluck.) we arrived at Glendalough hotel which looked fancy and we thought this can’t be it. We were pointed on down the road, past the tiny church and graves to the hostel. I checked in and found myself on a bottom bunk bed of about 10bunks of all girls. I went out to the common room, the only place where thee was wifi, to try to plan the next few days. The TX guys came out as well and we met Hannah. She was doing like I was, solo backpacking around Europe. She started in Stockholm, Sweden and had planned on having a partner but the girl dropped out. She was on day 11 and advised me it gets easier. The first week she was all over the place, similar to how I was, but then she started making plans 5-7 days out instead of 1-3 and she said that was way less stressful. She and the TX guys went to dinner at a place that had appetizers that started at 16euro. Nope, not the place for me. I showered in the teensy tiny shower that had a push button for every 5 seconds. Now that was annoying! I tried to lean against it without touching the wall but that didn’t work. I tried pushing it with my elbow but that didn’t work either. I thought maybe the hot water would be good for my sore back, sore hips, sore feet…road walking really got me hurting! I got out, having pushed that button what felt like a million times and grabbed a pasta side to cook. The self serve kitchen was still crowded at 8pm so I had to use a large pot just to boil a cup and a half of water. I watched it boil so of course it took forever but eventually I ended up with creamy tuna alfredo. Hopefully the protein will do good to my muscles. Robert and Eric (the 2 TX guys) and Hannah came back fat and happy from the restaurant and we all sat around the common room with our phones, trying to make plans but just swapping stories instead which was a-ok with me. The guys would be hiking to glenmalure tomorrow (my halfway point for tomorrow) and Hannah would be meeting up with a lady who was taking her to go ride a horse alll day through the Irish mountains! She’d been riding horses since she could walk so this was her dream come true. It was now almost midnight and I had no idea where I would spend the next night but I was sleepy so I fell into my comfy bunk bed.

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