Amsterdam: Day 1 and 2 and Happy Birthday to me!

I arrived in Amsterdam last night, and I have to say I feel pretty enchanted by this city. After getting settled into my airbnb (a birthday splurge), I went out to meet my friend Adam (Canadian, met in Poland) to celebrate my birthday early.

It was a pretty epic night of many things, which included lots of wandering around the city until 2 AM. Some time around 1, we ended up at this park close to where I am staying. As our eyes adjusted, we realized it was a secret bunny island.







Today (my birthday!) I woke up around noon and spent much of the day recovering from last night’s festivities.

Photos of people on bikes. Oh my god, the bike culture here is astounding. So far I’ve seen people riding one handed holding an umbrella with the other hand, someone riding with their dog on the bike with them, lots of people with their infants seemingly propped in the front near the handle bars, and all sorts of people clinging onto the backs of bikes propelled by their friends.







Despite being really wiped out, I did managed to eat eggs benedict, go to Foam, which is an amazing photography museum, and take myself out to a delicious Italian dinner. And eat this cake, of course:


Belgium: Bruges and Gent

I arrived in Bruges, Belgium on Wednesday, the 20th- After a 13.5 hour bus ride, a 1 hour train ride, and a 20 minute walk. Needless to say, I was exhausted. I went to a place called Bocca, where you get a giant take out container of pasta for 5 euros. I filled myself up with pasta, stopped and sampled some Belgium chocolate, and went to a place called De Garre where I drank a delicious sour beer. ( I can’t express enough how much I love sour beer. It is the best and strangest beer there is).

My hostel room. My hostel ended up being fairly nice this time around, and I genuinely enjoyed staying there. I could have done without the 3 male roommates, 2 of which insisted on coming in loudly at 3 am each morning and turning the room into a dungeon of stale bed farts. But oh well.


After all of that excitement, I was in bed by 6 PM. The next day I woke up fairly early and had breakfast at a cafe called Juliette’s. Then I rented a bike because I was determined to see a coastline. I took a 30 mile bike ride to Knokke-Heist and back. It was honestly one of the most beautiful bike rides I’ve ever taken- there is a vast network of numbered bike paths and most of them are separated from the road and surrounded by trees, canals, and beautiful nature. (And corn!)







I made it!











Back in Bruges.

The view from my hostel window.


After my long ride, I decided to eat more pasta and then go to a beer tasting event.
We tasted:
Tripel Karmeliet


I made some friends from the Netherlands and Ukraine.


After the beer tasting, I had to return my bicycle- biking through the dark streets while intoxicated is especially thrilling.




I decided I needed one more Lambic- style sour beer, so I went to Brugse Beertje.


After that I was pretty done, so I went back to the hostel and slept. Overall, this day was one of the best I’ve had on my travels- biking and beer make me sublimely happy.

The next day I took a train to Gent to hang out with my friend Lien, who I met in Poland. Lien was kind enough to invite me to stay with her!

The graffiti street in Gent


Marjan and Lien





Lien lives in this incredible 5(?) story house with 4 other girls. After exploring the city and having coffee we went back to their house and Lien made dinner, a traditional Belgium dish called Waterzooi. It was delicious.



Then there was an impromptu marriage ceremony, of course.



The following morning, Lien and I went on a nice bike ride, ate french fries, and said goodbye. I’m so happy I met her.

Then I went to the station to catch my bus to Amsterdam.

Prague day 3, 4, 5

I have gotten very behind on blogging!

After my day of rest on Saturday (Aug. 16), I spent Sunday exploring the city. I took another free walking tour that took us around the Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter. I mostly learned that like a lot of Eastern Europe, Prague has spent a long time being occupied by other countries. Also, Czech people like to throw people out of windows when they are angry (at least according to my guide- there has been lots of waring between Catholics and Protestants.)

The Prague astronomical clock, first installed in 1410.


Some people on the tour act out a saintly miracle.

Kafka statue from a story I haven’t read.

This square was constantly full of people.
After the walking tour, I had some dinner (Thai food- for some reason a lot of the time I spent in Budapest and Prague was spent trying to satiate my insatiable appetite for Asian food.)

Then I made my way to the Spanish Synagogue for another stringed instrument concert where I got to hear Bolero, which was very exciting for me.









I started Monday with a nice long walk around the east side of the city. I walked from my airbnb to Riegrovy sady, which was a park with a view of the city. Then I made my way to the tv tower and saw a sculpture/installation by the artist David Cerny.

Shit? Happens


Giant babies by David Cerny.





I had to go to the Sex Machines museum, which was mostly creepy and contained machines, devices, and garments from different historical eras.


Creepy sex shrouds.


After the sex machines, I took the second half of the 3 hour walking tour from the day before, where we explored the other side of the river.

“Venice of the North.”







I made a friend, Michely, on the walking tour and we decided to have a traditional Czech dinner together.









I started Tuesday with a lengthly ritual of cleaning out my suitcase and backpack, doing laundry, charging all of my electronics, and feeling organized for the first time in weeks.

Then I had breakfast at a cafe close to “home” and then went to see an exhibition at the Leica Gallery. It was an exhibition of street photography by Felix Lupa.




Then I took another really long, meandering walk around the city.



View from one of the islands in the middle of the river. This one had a “beach” which was basically a very small strip of sand on one edge.



The Memorial to the victims of Communism

Who are these people? Seriously.

I ended my walk back in the Jewish District, where I got probably one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had.

After that I went back to my airbnb, said goodbye to my host Pauline, grabbed some Vietnamese food to go, and caught my 10:30 PM overnight bus to Belgium.

Prague, Day 1 and 2

I arrived in Prague late-ish on Thursday night, and navigated my way to my airbnb. It’s always exciting how every city is different and you never know what you are going to get in terms of getting yourself around. I arrive with no local money and have to find the metro and learn the idiosyncrasies of each particular system. Luckily in Prague there was an ATM right outside the bus station. When I went down into the metro tunnel though, I learned that their ticket machines only take cash- and they only take coins- and they only take CERTAIN coins. HA! I managed to get change though, and the rest was easy.

I “splurged” on an airbnb in Prague, because I am finding myself very weary with hostels. I’m not in my 20s anymore, people. Who am I kidding? Living in a dorm was hard for me even when I was 18. Anyway, this place was really affordable, and my host- Pauline- is really sweet and accommodating. We had tea and she gave me some solid advice about where to go/what to do in Prague. I’m staying in the southeast part of town, which is a 20-25 minute walk from the city center.

When I woke up in the morning, this was my view:


My own room! A door that closes! Privacy! Sunshine! Quiet! And a washer/dryer, a fully functioning kitchen, an adorable cat, a shower with a tub- I almost lost my mind with how happy and comfortable I was.

I walked  to the Old Town Square to meet my Toronto/Ponderosa friend Vic and her lovely mom for lunch.






After lunch we walked up to a viewing tower on the east side of the Charles Bridge- through narrow winding streets and a park area.





On the way down from these hills, I meandered in and out of cute shops full of handmade pottery and other things- I have to be careful, because this seems to be a city that makes me want to spend money. It’s a lot more touristy than Budapest, which on one hand makes it easier, and on the other hand makes it a little harder to have a more unique experience.

That’s an orchard at the bottom part of this photo- so beautiful!




Other tourists on the Charles Bridge:




At night, Vic and I decided we wanted to go out- which is so against my nature, seeing as how I’m a grandmother and all. But I wanted the experience anyway. We went to a place that Pauline suggested, Vzorkovna- it was a dive bar with multiple rooms filled with couches and comfortable places to sit/relax. There were arcade games and foosball tables in the back, and in the room where we were sitting- a stage where people would randomly go up and play music.

It was incredibly dark in there, but I did try to do some longer exposures:



People dancing:

We drank a lot of beer and met some very interesting locals- and spent the night talking and dancing and being silly until we eventually left the bar sometime between 3 and 3:30 AM. I had the best time! Vic is amazing, and I’m so happy I got to spend more time with her on this journey.




Today, I am mildly exhausted. Pauline is gone for the weekend, and the Chinese students who are renting the other bedroom in the apartment have been gone sightseeing all day, so me and Zoe the cat have pretty much had the place to ourselves. I decided to take the day off- like a real Saturday! I woke up around 11 AM and put pants on and walked down to the closest little market to get some things to actually make myself breakfast at home.

I got organic eggs, vine tomatoes, a bell pepper, an onion, brie, and a latte- for under $10.00. So good.







I’m coming down with a little bit of a throat thing- I have a very swollen lymph node on my neck/jaw area, but only on the right hand side. I’m hoping the restful day will kill whatever plague I am now currently incubating. I think I may head down and get Vietnamese food at a place nearby for dinner and then spend the evening watching bad tv and booking some hostels for the last 3 weeks (!!) of my trip.

Budapest, day 3, 4, 5

On Tuesday I woke up feeling pretty off and grumpy, though I’m not sure why. I spent the morning being frustrated on the computer trying to book accommodations and transportation for the last part of my trip- sadly, forgetting how astronomically expensive Western Europe is compared to Eastern Europe (especially Amsterdam- I don’t know how anyone even lives there when crappy hostels are $70.00 a night). Anyway, I’ll figure it all out hopefully today before I catch the bus to Prague.

Tuesday afternoon I walked to the Rudas Baths, a less touristy spot than the Széchenyi baths, located on the Buda side of the river. Their outdoor pool area was under construction, but the rest of the thermal area was open. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to take photos in there (it was women’s day, and people were allowed to bathe nude), but it was quiet and nice- all of the pools were in a circle gradually increasing in temperature surrounding a larger warm pool in the center.

After my soak, I walked around for awhile, taking photos:

Buda hills



Look at these bike lanes!



Erzsebet Bridge



I had dinner by myself on Kazinczy Street, at a Thai restaurant. It was delicious! Afterwards, I walked back to the hostel to rest for a few hours. Later, I went out for some Rose wine with my roommate, Eve. We went back to Szimpla Pub, which was a total mess of people but managed to find some seats and stay till midnight.



My lovely friend Krisztina loaned me her bike, so yesterday I took a roughly 12 mile round trip bike ride up to Római part, which translates to “Roman Beach.” It’s basically an area north of the city on the Buda side where there is access to the river and there’s a strip of outdoor eateries and ice cream shops. It was pretty sparse, I think with everyone at the Sziget festival, but I was more than happy to have some space from large crowds and some relaxation time. Basically, it was the best. I am so in awe at how being on a bicycle seems to be my go to happy place on this trip.



Don’t mind me, I’m just the creeper taking photos of the back of your neck!





On the way back down I accidentally ran into the Sziget festival (a giant outdoor music/art festival on an island). I considered going, but then I remembered that after years of going to Coachella, I never need to go to another outdoor music festival again. Ever.


Parliament, on my way back to the city.



After my bike ride I took a free walking tour on Communism, which ended up going for 3.5 hours and was really amazing and full of interesting information.


In a nutshell, we learned that there were several phases of Communism-

From 1947-1956, it was basically the worst, with a Stalin-istic government whose motto was, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” It was pretty much a totalitarian police kind of state, and lots of dissenters were sent to forced labor camps, not unlike in WWII. It sounds like people’s basic needs were not being met, with food being collected and then redistributed, with not enough for everyone. Also during this time, people were asked to write reports on their friends, neighbors, and family- so you never quite knew who to trust. It’s like the flip side of McCarthyism! Awesome all around.

In 1956, there was a revolution and on October 23 several hundred peaceful protesters were killed, and then 200,000 people were forced to flee the country. A lot more people were killed, some things happened, and then the next period of communism started.

From 1956-1988 was “Happy Communism,” during which there was a considerable increase in the quality of life. The motto became, “Those who are not against us are with us.” This was also called “Goulash Communism.” Taken from wikipedia:

The name is a semi-humorous metaphor derived from “goulash”, a popular Hungarian dish. As goulash is made with an assortment of unlike ingredients, it represents how Hungarian communism was a mixed ideology and no longer strictly adhering to Marxist interpretations as in the past. Sometimes described as “the happiest barrack in the socialist camp,” Hungary in this particular period enjoyed many amenities not available in the rest of Eastern Europe.

And then in 1989, Communism ended- which our tour guide described as a peaceful transition because the system had weakened so much. She also says that the reporting done on your friends/neighbors is still a really sore subject with Hungarians and that they need a few more generations to forgive each other.

Our tour guide described this building as one of the “nice” Communist era housing complexes.



Nothing to do with Communism, just some happy bubbles:


Another WWII memorial, around which there is constant protest.





This was a Communist bunker that was build completely in secret- the hired workers were told they were working on a new subway line. On the outside, it was surrounded by a box with fake electricity sounds coming out of it, with warnings about staying away from the high voltage. In 2000 (!!) they looked at a citywide electrical map, and discovered that there weren’t actually any lines running through this area, and uncovered this bunker. Crazy!



Communications and media were pretty strictly controlled during Communism, but people would often alter their radios to get western channels. We learned that news from within the country was only reported on if it was happy, but news coming from the west was only reported upon if it was bad- poverty, violence, etc. We also learned that maps of the United States only had a few cities on them- New York, San Francisco, etc- to portray the US and some sort of desolate, non-populated place.



This is the last remaining Soviet memorial that was not removed from the city center after the political change.



Around the corner, the Americans responded by…erecting a statue of Ronald Reagan. Who had nothing whatsoever to do with Hungary in any way.  Wow.



The Communist kiss, which was a display of dominance (in theory), instead of a display of hot gay love.



Instant bar, another ruin pub.









And, that’s all for now- time to go catch my bus.

Budapest! Night 1, Day 1 and 2

On Saturday night I took a bus from Krakow to Budapest- about an 8 to 9 hour journey. The route was comically slow and winding- in fact, this was the first time I saw anything resembling hills or mountains since Iceland. At one point we were rerouted around a traffic accident on the main road and the bus had to meander through these tiny village streets in southern Poland- the people who were out in the streets were crowding to the sides of the road, pointing, laughing, and waving at the bus.

We drove through Slovakia around dusk. It looks like a beautiful country! I’ll have to add it to the list of places I’m not going to make it to this time. The “super moon” was out, and it was stunning watching out the window. This cell phone shot does not begin to do it justice:


I decided to spend my first morning in Budapest sleeping in until my body decided it didn’t need any more sleep. I have barely done that on this trip, always feeling pressure to get up and see/do things. But I’m hitting another travel weary wall, and the extra sleep was so nice. I got up probably around 10:30 AM and had breakfast at the coffee shop next door to my hostel.

Oh, hostels. This place sounded great on paper and there are some good things about it. Everything in the building is handmade by local people and/or the people who run/own the hostel. Some things are shabby, but most things are really beautiful and interesting. I’m staying in the bottom floor apartment in a 4 person room. It has a separate door and separate bathroom, which really does make it feel like you are staying in some strange eclectic apartment instead of a hostel. My bed is on a platform and it’s almost a full sized mattress- a rarity in hostel living.

However, I get the sense that they think that their crafty interesting decor excuses them from being functional. For example, my roommate got a bunch of bites in the middle of the night- and they changed her linen but didn’t seem too interested or alarmed by what might be biting her. Last night I asked about laundry, and the guy told me that they do it for you for 3 euros. Perfect! He said it would be done by 10 AM this morning. Perfect! I wake up this morning and at 10 AM, I find my dirty laundry still sitting untouched in a bag near the kitchen. This means that today I am wearing dirty underwear and had to wash a bunch of my things in the sink. Which I would have just done last night had I KNOWN they were basically flaccid when it comes to actually doing what they say they are going to do.

Because the lay out of the hostel is so meander-y, there’s not a great common/hangout area, which has made it a lot harder to meet people from the hostel. There’s also not a great sense of organization or help when it comes to finding things to do or getting advice. It’s that sense that when you ask questions, they find you annoying and just want to go back to drinking or sleeping or whatever they were doing before you rudely interrupted them.

Anyway, I’m realizing that I don’t actually need things to be beautiful or interesting at all when it comes to where I lay my head at night- I just need things to be functional. If I can wash myself and my clothes, connect to the internet and get work done, have my few practical questions answered by someone who isn’t rude to me, and sleep without being assaulted by constant noise- I am happy. Lessons learned.


Sunday afternoon I decided to do one of the free walking tours- this time, the general Budapest one. Our tour guide was amazing, and she led us around for hours.

Apparently this statue was of someone’s young daughter dressed up like a princess- I can’t remember the name of the person, but its significance was that it was the first public statue erected after communism ended. It was refreshing because it wasn’t a powerful figure or leader, or propaganda- they just made it because it was nice. I rubbed her knees for good luck.



Crossing the chain bridge. Budapest is situated on the Danube river, and the river divides the city into the Pest side and the Buda side. In general, the Pest side is more city-like, the Buda side more residential. The Pest side is flat, the Buda side is full of hills. The Pest side is a good place to get cheap food, the Buda side is more expensive.




Looking towards Pest, from Buda. That building on the left is parliament.



Buda. In some weird way, this reminded me of Queen Anne hill.





Another WWII memorial. This is a site where Jewish people were ordered to take off their shoes before they were shot and their bodies fell in the river. Pretty uplifting stuff.




After the tour, I hung out with a lovely girl from Toronto who was also on the tour- Kelsee. We had dinner at a place where for 4 euros, you have all you can eat food for 2 hours. I drank some wine (apparently Hungary is amazing for wine, yet they do a bad job of advertising this fact. So if you visit, drink the wine- it is cheap and delicious), and sampled some delicious Hungarian cakes- one with apricot filling, another with some sort of clove spice.


Yesterday I ventured out and took a 45 minute walk up to the northeast part of the city to the Széchenyi thermal baths. This place was MASSIVE- and very confusing at first. When I walked in the door, a woman with a clipboard tried to get me to pay double for a bunch of things I didn’t need- VIP access, a robe, hot tea, a tour of the facility- I guess that’s what I get for going to the most touristy bathhouse. I paid the regular cheap rate, but in retrospect the tour would have been really helpful- I couldn’t find the lockers, I couldn’t figure out how to use the lockers, I couldn’t find the thermal baths- and a guy yelled at me for hesitating to follow him when I couldn’t read any of the signs and wasn’t sure where I was going. (And I wasn’t the only one- people kept coming up to me in the locker room looking lost and speaking to me in all sorts of languages- luckily, I was able to help a few people and feel better in that way).

In the end though, once I figured it all out it was stunningly beautiful. I ended up getting a massage (probably overpriced for the area, but still much less expensive than Seattle) and the massage was very Thai influenced with lots of stretching and contorting. It was much needed and I feel much better physically today.





In the farther pool in this photo, they were doing water aerobics with weights. It was quite comical.




After the baths, I met up with my Hungarian friend from Ponderosa, Krisztina. She toured me around the city, pointing out things along the way.

Heros Square. Here I am posing with one of the original 7 “founders” of Hungary.







I’m not sure what was going on here, but I liked this girl’s sour face.





This was at one of the more famous “ruin pubs”- Szimpla Pub.








Krisztina was kind enough to loan me her bike, so I think today I’m going to go on a bike ride and also check out another thermal bath- the less touristy Rudas Bath.



Krakow, day 3, 4, 5

On Thursday morning I went to MOCAK, which is the museum of contemporary art in Krakow. I saw 3 exhibitions- Crime in Art, I Am a Drop in the Ocean: Art of the Ukrainian Revolution, and some art from the MOCAK collection. This museum was actually one of my most favorite and well curated that I’ve been to on this trip.

Crime in Art
Hubert Czerepok, Redrum, 2014


Danny Devos, Norman Bates Loves Arts, 1989



Danny Devos, Serial Killer Flags, 1987






MOCAK collection

Katarzyna Gorna, Fuck Me, Fuck You, Peace, 2000


Geza Perneczky, ,,,art”, 1972



I Am a Drop in the Ocean: Art of the Ukrainian Revolution

Vasily Tsagolov, Ballet Dancer, 2013



Banner showing the performance of Markiyan Matsekh and Oleg Matsekh, Imagine, 2013



After the museum, I decided I needed to indulge in some touristy food and drink. I had pierogies at this tiny place:




And then I sampled some vodka. I had crabapple vodka and hazelnut vodka.






After stumbling back to my hostel drunk and having a rest, I went out adventuring with a nice Canadian, Adam.  First we went on the “Macabre” night walking tour.






Then we went to a bar to see this Israeli band perform- these guys were also staying in our hostel. I can’t remember the name of the band, but they described themselves as “hard electronic.” I really enjoyed them and I really enjoyed dancing around like a fool.


Sweat on the windows from all the dancing.



Adam dancing.





On Friday I went to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. I actually felt pretty disturbed about the idea of taking pictures there, so I mostly just stayed in the experience and didn’t even take out my “good” camera. I took this cell phone shot of one of the piles of belongings that was stolen from the Jewish prisoners:


I actually felt pretty physically ill after seeing the camps, and almost vomited on the bus ride back. I’m not sure if it was purely psychological or not, but I definitely had a reaction. I feel like the camps were something I needed to see for the sake of history, but it was definitely not an enjoyable experience by any means.


After arriving back at the hostel, I was greeted with a lovely barbecue and party hosted by the hostel owners. We had free food, good music- I had lots of conversations with really lovely interesting people and demonstrated some “contact improv” dancing with another woman from Santa Fe.






Overall, it was a much better end to the day than I had planned- meaning, I had planned to hibernate in my bed and feel emotionally devastated by the awfulness of humanity. But food, beer, and company were happily received instead.


Saturday was my last day in Krakow- I had to catch a 3 PM bus, so in the morning I decided to rent a bicycle and bike to this lake that a local person told me about- Lake Zakrzówek. I’m still totally confused by this lake though, because when I got there I was told it is a private lake and you can only get in if you are a diver. The internet also has conflicting information about whether or not you can actually swim/lounge/hang out there. Apparently it was an old stone quarry that got filled in with water so it has really high cliffs and a depth that makes it suitable for diving lessons. In any case, I got to view it from just inside a fence, so that was fun. At least I still had a really beautiful bike ride!



A lot of my ride was along the Vistula River.




The courtyard at my hostel. I’m really going to miss this place.



I caught my bus Saturday (yesterday) afternoon, and arrived in Budapest just after 10 PM. My hostel is a little bit insane- like something created by someone’s reclusive grandmother who locked herself in an old building trying to ride out communism in secret. I’ll post photos and more about Budapest later- right now I’m taking some time to acclimate and get my bearings in yet another new city and country.

Krakow day 1 and 2

On Tuesday afternoon I took a 8-9 hour bus ride from Berlin to Krakow, Poland. I sat in the back back back of the bus, next to a group of travelers from Holland. They handed out free chocolate a few hours into the journey, which of course delighted me:




One of the girls sitting next to me. Her group of friends have known each other since primary school, and have plans to travel together every year until forever.



I arrived in Krakow around 9 PM, and figured out that my hostel was a 30 minute walk in the dark from the bus station. Luckily, Krakow feels really safe and lively at night. When I arrived, I opted to crash instead of trying to be adventurous and go out.




My hostel is AMAZING. It’s immaculately clean and feels a lot more like staying in someone’s house than staying in a hostel. I’m in a 4 person dorm room, and it’s quiet and nice. All of the rooms are different countries, so I’m staying in the “India” room. In the morning, there’s free breakfast provided, and you sit at a dining room table with the other guests. It’s fruit, toast, meat, cheese, fresh coffee, and also a different hot breakfast each day. Yesterday, it was fruit crepes- today, apple pancakes. YES. This is also one of the least expensive places I’ve stayed. In general, money goes much farther in Poland than anywhere else I’ve traveled thusfar.

Wednesday morning I decided to start the day by taking a free walking tour of Old Town. We met at St. Mary’s Basilica and ran into a pilgrimage march- I think they said these people were marching approximately 200 kilometers from one holy site to another.




Our tour guide lovingly referred to this place as the “Boner Palace.”






The “Pope’s Window,” of the Bishop’s Palace where Pope John Paul II used to address his followers. Wow, Poland is VERY Catholic. It was like being in middle school all over again.


Wawel Castle. My guide said, “Why do you think this castle is so ugly? Because they just kept building onto it during different architectural periods. There’s Baroque, Medieval, Renaissance, etc. It’s ugly!”




On the tour, I mostly learned that Krakow’s “Golden Age” was in the end of the 15th century. Since then, it got invaded a lot, and of course through the 20th century Poland saw WWI and WWII, and then communist occupation. There’s also apparently a rivalry between Warsaw and Krakow, and we were taught how to say, “I don’t like Warsaw” in Polish.

After my Old Town tour, I had lunch with Alex, a girl I met on the tour. These two plates of food plus the beer were about 7 dollars!












After lunch, Alex and I made our way to another free city tour, this time of Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter.







“Lover’s Bridge.” This river separated the main Jewish Quarter from where the Jewish ghetto was located during WWII. Apparently Steven Spielberg filmed a lot of the ghetto scenes in the main Jewish Quarter, which is more scenic but historically inaccurate.







The old wall to the Jewish ghetto during WWII.



On the tour I also learned that Oskar Schindler wasn’t all that great, and was actually just kind of an opportunist who also happened to save people. Instead, Irena Sendlerowa is the real hero, who saved 2500 people at no gain to herself. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, but lost to Al Gore.


After the second walking tour, I had dinner with some amazing girls, Elien and Liem, from Belgium. It’s so nice to be able to slide in and out of having company and having alone time.

After dinner, I went to see a concert at Kościół Świętych Apostołów Piotra i Pawła, a church in Old Town. It was a string quintet, and they played a lot of classical “hits”- Mozart, Bach, Saint Saens, Tchaikovsky- and rounded everything out with an encore of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. it was very beautiful and magical.






So far, I am really LOVING Krakow. It’s friendly, and I am finding my way in and out of experiences easily. I think Ponderosa really revived and refreshed me in a way where I’m ready to tackle new experiences with more joy and ease.

Ponderosa! A week dancing in Gut-Stolzenhagen

Where do I even begin! This past week has been an amazing, challenging, fun, wonderful, exhausting experience. The idea of actually writing about it all is kind of overwhelming- but I’m going to do my best.

My anxiety about actually getting to Ponderosa turned out to be kind of unfounded. I found my train easily and the calling taxi (Ruf-bus) was right there waiting for me when I arrived. He didn’t speak English, but we worked it out.


The days were structured like this:

-Wake up
-Breakfast (all of the meals were cooked for you so you just had to show up- basically my dream)
-Option to take one of the morning classes offered (Kundalini yoga, technique class, dance aerobics)
-Big break in the afternoon- most of this time I spent bicycling around the countryside to this pond with a diving board for swimming, or swimming in the canal
-Afternoon workshops from 4-8 PM
-Evening performances, activities, hanging out
-Sleep if you are lucky!

Zoey (from Bellingham!)

Krisztina (from Hungary)





Vic (from Toronto)

Maya (from Israel)



I ended up taking a couple of technique classes (from Jen Polins and Kathleen Hermesdorf) and a Kundalini yoga class.

The workshop I took (Thank Goodness for Our Bodies) was based in BMC, or Body Mind Centering techniques. I’ve been sitting here trying to explain what went on and am coming up at a bit of a loss. From the outside, I imagine the practice looking like a big pile of crazy people lying on top of each other and making animal noises. Or a bunch of hippies who must be on drugs lying on the floor in a haze of confusion. Or some sort of slow motion, non-sexual orgy. I’m not sure, but the outside viewpoint doesn’t really matter.

“You don’t move me, I move me.”

I went into the workshop looking for a way to integrate body injuries and trauma in a more functional way- coming from both a dance perspective and a massage/bodywork perspective. I guess I was looking to have a more singular experience with myself and my injuries. What I came away with was something much more emotional and social, and it was entirely created by the people who were there and the relationships that were formed.

I’m realizing that social connections and bonds- intimacy- has become harder for me in recent years. I’ve put up a lot of defense mechanisms to avoid pain and trauma, and to avoid the general exhaustion that being around people causes me most of the time. This creates an exhaustive push/pull dance of desperately wanting connection and then running away when the connection feels too overwhelming, or disappoints me in some way (as will inevitably happen).

There’s something interesting about the way engaging in a physical practice with others- dancing, bodywork, creating- meets some very basic primal needs for touch and connection. It’s like the moment there is physical contact, a big sigh of relief happens and there is a measurable physiological change. Why is this not just a regular part of life, daily ritual, therapy? If everyone just got smushed in the fetal position for 10 minutes by 5 of their closest friends every day, I think we would all be much happier.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve just bumped up against the edge of this technique, and I hope to study more later. For now, I was happy to spend 4 hours every day with some amazing people- talking about childhood development, organs, connective tissue- and how these things can be addressed through these different techniques.

I think the second day of the workshop, it was decided that it was important to have an elaborate break with sweet treats, coffee, and tea- I took some photos of our break on Wednesday.


Toma, Maya

Eliza, Aga, Benjamin

Maya, Joel





Maya, Benjamin, Aurore

Before our class on Thursday, some of us ended up making a short dance film on the bridge over the canal. Afterwards, we all jumped into the canal to go swimming. I can’t tell you how liberating the German/European morays around nudity are- in fact, it was sort of an all over relaxation about everything. You forget your towel after your shower- whatever. You leave your phone somewhere, and you will be able to retrieve it later. You are out on the countryside, so locking up valuables is sort of a moot point. You have your space, and people are constantly in it, but respect it. After nearly 2 months of traveling and spending so much of that time being on guard about things- locking things into lockers, having my life folded neatly into 2 bags I can carry, looking over my shoulder on the street by myself, trying to not be that naive tourist idiot- it was so nice to just sink into a place that was absolutely safe and comfortable.





Hunger strike causes.





Thursday night performances. This was a sort of fair environment where you got to go to different “stations” and have different experiences. In some you made wishes, in others- like the pleasure disco- two masked people hummed and sang songs while drumming on your back. There was even a “tick check” station where people made sure you didn’t have any ticks on your body.


Kristianne (from San Diego!)






Friday morning, I got up early to take some photos and go on a bike ride with Toma (from Germany).





The last evening.

Mona, Aurore





The last night we had a marathon performance from around 9 PM till around 3 AM. We were scheduled to perform dead last. I took a few photos in the beginning of the evening, and then forgot about the camera and sank into the experience. Around midnight I passed out in a corner of the studio, but woke up again in time to perform at the end. Afterwards, we celebrated with Tiramisu and a party in the kitchen area below the dorms. Luckily, I was so tired I was able to pass out anyway despite the noise.



And the last day. I decided to take a photo of my bed as I was leaving it.


Goodbye dorm living.


Goodbye friends!




My traveling companions back to Berlin!


There’s so much more I could say, especially about the lovely people I met. I could write essays about each one of them. I fear that if I did that though, I’d never finish this post. Luckily, there’s facebook to stalk (connect) with people, so hopefully I will not lose touch.

Now I’m back in Berlin for a few days, decompressing and preparing for the last month of my journey.