|Norwegian Epic docked in Miami|
I reserved our stateroom last fall and got a killer deal on it, about $720 each for a balcony room for 11 days! That's about the price of a one-way plane ticket to Europe, but with 11 days of entertainment, awesome food, and much fun. Pro-tip: repositioning cruises are uber cheap. (It's in the Caribbean during the winter and Mediterranean during the Summer.)
|Norwegian Epic docked in Barcelona|
It was all kinds of fun exploring the ship, going to shows (Blue Man Group, improv comedy, some talented musicians, some not-so talented) and eating at any of the 20 restaurants. The hardest part of our day was deciding where to eat! We would catch an occasional movie on their huge LED screen in the middle of the ship or eat a nice lazy dinner under an awesome chandelier with a live pianist. It was fun.
|Really fun water slides, pools, and hot tubs on top of the Norwegian Epic|
|One of the fun towel animals our steward left for us|
Well here was our chance - we listened carefully to what the guy was saying and tried to relax like he said. Both of us actually wanted to be hypnotized! We really tried! Alas, I was kicked off stage after only a few minutes... not quite sure why. Jenna lasted a little longer, but she was eventually kicked off stage too. Apparently we're hypnosis-proof. Or hypnosis is fake!
|Jenna (3rd from the left) pretending to be hypnotized (it didn't work). The hypnotist had already kicked me off stage|
The Azores are a Portuguese territory settled in the 1400s. They have a very mild climate - not quite tropical, but sort of.
|The Norwegian Epic (right) docked in Ponta Delgada, Azores|
|Jenna, happy to be on land for the first time in 7 days|
I love waterfalls. So we rented a car and set out to find the place with only a rough idea of where it lay.
|Ponta Delgada, Azores|
Got lost a few times...
|Our rental car in the Azores|
But eventually made it to Lagoa das Fogo - the Lake of Fire. This is an ancient volcanic crater at the top of a windy and steep road. The views were fantastic even with all the cloud cover. I can only imagine what they would have been like were it clear!
|Lagoa das Fogo - Lake of Fire|
|Looking from the top of Lagoa das Fogo north towards the other side of the island|
|Caldeira Velha (Old Boiler)|
I noticed, though, that the cruise staff stealthily stashed barf bags all around the ship for woozy passengers. How funny.
Unfortunately, there was a Formula 1 race in Barcelona that week so all the accommodations were completely booked. Bah! So we bought a couple of surprisingly cheap plane tickets to Frankfurt and left that afternoon.
We eventually made it to the airport (exhausted and sweaty and missing our lovely stateroom and buffet dearly), flew to Palma de Mallorca, then to Frankfurt. (Mental note: Visit Mallorca and Barcelona for reals someday.)
We arrived in Frankfurt at around midnight, again with no accommodations. Luckily, though, the hostels in this city weren't all full and we made our way to one and crashed for the night. It was a very long day - Jenna didn't like it very much, but I thought it was an adventure.
Still without confirmed housing in Jena, we decided to spend a full day in Frankfurt before journeying to Jena. Apparently Germans and tourists don't think much of Frankfurt, but we rather liked it. We walked around for a few hours and had a jolly 'ole time.
We even found some cute ducklings swimming in the Main (the river running through Frankfurt). They were a subspecies we're not familiar with, so I took a picture. We like ducks.
|The Frankfurt skyline|
At one point they stopped the train and kicked everyone off, saying something about a bus coming to pick us up. But no sooner were we disembarked and lugging our crap down a gravel driveway than the train conductor excitedly ran up and happily (and unintelligibly) said something along the lines of the "the train is working again, hurry and get back on and we'll leave." So we did. But then, since everything was now delayed, we missed our connection and had to wing it for a bit. And, because everything was now running behind our last train was extremely crowded - standing room only. (Not as crowded as this train, though.)
|Jenna tries to figure out the train schedule in German|
The next day I went out and bought a phone and we finally were taken to our apartment. We like it! It's in a pretty little neighborhood on top of a hill overlooking the city. There are a whole bunch of "kindergartens" (preschools), lots of pretty greenness, and lovely cobblestone streets. The one thing we don't like: the bus stop and closest grocery store are at the bottom of the hill, about a 10 minute walk away. So we're working off our cruise fat.
|Our apartment building in Jena|
|View out of our bathroom window|
|View from the entrance|
|The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology|
|Jenna all ready for her first day of work!|
- They don't seem to mind graffiti - it's everywhere and rather unsightly. (And it's in English... go figure.)
- There are no drinking fountains, air conditioning, or bathrooms and it's quite warm outside. Conclusion: the people here retain water very well.
- They charge for everything: ketchup at McDonalds, water, and coffee at work.
- There are a disproportionate number of really ugly dudes. (No, seriously, they're really ugly.)
- It is very green.
- They like cobblestones.
- They're manic trash-sorters.
- They love their beer.
- They spend more time outdoors than typical Americans.
|Germans love to party...|
|Our house and neighborhood|
|The never ending stairs on the way to work...|
|More stairs coming down the hill|