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UNSW Exchange…here I come! January 2, 2014

Posted by karamstrasser in Travel Log.
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Hey everyone!!

So, in light of going on a new exchange, I figured it was time to kick back up the old blog to keep you all around the world in tune with what I’m up to. Starting mid-February, I will be heading down under for four and a half months of learning, changes, and adventure. Y’all…I’m freaking excited!!! I will be taking classes at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Kensington (just a bit outside of downtown Sydney) and living on the north side of campus in a six bedroom apartment along side other exchange students. I’m SO excited to be taking an exchange semester all on my own — it’s like a clean slate. Nothing will be tying me down aside from my school work and I can hardly imagine the heaps of exploring and adventuring I will do. Here’s spending hours on end outside (can you say beach?), making some incredible new friends, and having a new shot at figuring out who Kara is! Hope you can stick with me for the ride.

February 13th (spending Valentine’s day on a plane…my one true love) – July 2nd.

From now until my departure, I’ll be documenting my month in Atlanta. I’ll be heading back down south in a few days (sorry mom!) to spend a bit more time with my friends until I leave. My time will be spent working in my scholarship office, trying out this whole yoga thing (hey Bryce), running a TON (hey Olivia, Marnie, and Audrey), bumming off of my friends’ couches (hey everybody), living out of my car, and getting some quality time in with my little (hey Missy), and hopefully exploring some of Atlanta’s best restaurants.

Scandinavia! September 7, 2013

Posted by karamstrasser in Travel Log.
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Day 2: Saturday, June 1st

Holy moly can you believe that it is June?! It feels like just yesterday that it was New Year’s Day and I was preparing to return to Atlanta to start my internship. And NOW…I’m in Europe! Crazy thing to think about…but I’m definitely grateful for the change and happy thrilled to be here.

After getting of the train (ravenous, of course), we made our way to the hostel in downtown Copenhagen – just a short walk from the central station. We were greeted by a friendly staff and a hostel full of young travelers lounging on bean bags out front. Everything about this hostel was great. Clean, cheap (for Scandinavian standards…), full of young, fun, and happy travelers, and a fantastic atmosphere. We threw our backpacks in the luggage room, and headed out for a day of exploring!

A view of the reception and bar. Such a great atmosphere!

A view of the reception and bar. Such a great atmosphere!

But first…a sandwich 😀

It was a life saver.

It was a life saver.

Seriously. So good.

Seriously. So good.

Can you say best sandwich ever?

Can you say best sandwich ever?

Fueled up and ready to go, we headed for the Nyhavn – the 17th century harbor. This waterfront district is full of restaurants, entertainment, boat tours, and townhouses. Absolutely beautiful too! We did like the locals (picked up a drink and ice cream) and sat along the water to soak in the BEAUTIFUL day and watch the people and ships.

Missy and I along the canal. You can see the beautifully bright colored buildings along the water.

Missy and I along the canal. You can see the beautifully bright colored buildings along the water.

From here, we walked throughout the city stopping at a few sites along the way. We could not have asked for a more perfect day in Denmark. Everyone was so welcoming, full of smiles, and happy to be here!

The open square of Amalienborg Palace

The open square of Amalienborg Palace

The famous Little Mermaid statue that is represented in Hans Christian Andersen's stories.

The famous Little Mermaid statue that is represented in Hans Christian Andersen’s stories.

An old windmill in the Citadel

An old windmill in the Citadel

A view down one of the aisles of King's Garden - so green!

A view down one of the aisles of King’s Garden – so green!

After a long day of walking through the city, we made our way back to the hostel. A good friend of mine, Savannah, is working in Helsingborg, Sweden (just an hour train ride from Copenhagen). Her and her mom were in Copenhagen for the day so we met up for dinner! We returned the Nyhavn for a nice dinner aside local Danish people. It was so good to see her and relax for a bit!

So good to see you Savannah!

Evan, Missy, Savannah, and I along the Nyhavn after dinner!

Evan, Missy, and I said our adieus to Savannah and thanked her mom for a great dinner. We returned to our hostel just in time for happy hour where we hung out with a few fellow travelers from Sweden. After many hours of sharing cultural stories/differences, it was time for bed – a long day awaited us tomorrow!

España! July 28, 2013

Posted by karamstrasser in Travel Log.
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Well, sorry y’all for the lack of posts lately. School has been CRAZY (it’s finals time around here) and I haven’t had a chance to post about some of my recent travels! But, here’s a little insight into my trip to Spain 🙂

1. Airbnb hooked us up with an AWESOME apartment about 2 kilometers from the beach and about 500 meters from La Rambla in Barcelona. La Rambla is a huge street full of vendors, shops, and restaurants and runs all the way to the beach. Couldn’t have found a better spot! Cambre, Alison, and I were more than pleased.

2. Mojitos….my absolute favorite. And they’re everywhere here! Can’t complain 🙂 I’m going to miss being able to get these legally in Europe!

Mojitos and Caipirinhas and Chupitos – oh my!

3. PAMPLONA! My mom likes to tell me that this was 36 hours of me being homeless. And, well, she was just about right. I left our flat in Barcelona at 10:00 AM on Saturday with the dress I was wearing and a small purse containing a phone, camera, debit card, and some cash. I took some trains (made some friends on the way) and landed myself in Pamplona to meet up with the rest of the crew for running of the bulls!!! The city was PACKED with people (3 million…and it usually holds 300,000) and everyone was dressed in white and red head-to-toe. That evening, I took a bus to San Sebastian with some AIESEC friends to get away from the mahem and see the beach a bit 🙂 In the morning, I returned to Pamplona, saw some bull runs, ran into more friends, saw some parades, then relaxed in the park before taking my train ride back to Barcelona.

Yvonne, Malvi, myself, and Rick before the Cathedral in San Fermin

Reasons why I was homeless:

  1. One set of clothes
  2. Ran out of money on the train ride home…couldn’t even buy some water 😦
  3. Took a nap in a bar
  4. Slept on a bus
  5. Slept in a park
  6. Desperately needed a shower
  7. Phone stopped functioning
  8. Picked up friends along every stage of the trip.

Here’s a video that my little, Missy, made to sum up the weekend…


4. Sagrada Familia and Park Guell 🙂 I love love LOVE Gaudi and the influence in the city of Barcelona

Cambre and I inside La Sagrada Familia

Katie, Cambre, myself, and Alison overlooking Barcelona at Park Guell

5. BEACH!

Absolutely gorgeous and lively beach 🙂

6. Tapas and good friends 🙂

Cerveceria Catalana….yummmm 🙂

I don’t need to EVER leave this country!!!

Switzerland and a Broken Foot July 16, 2013

Posted by karamstrasser in Travel Log.
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Turns out all the running and number of insanity workouts I had been doing over the past few months have been a bit fatal. A couple of days before our five day weekend, I was feeling some serious pain in my foot. I’ve struggled with foot problems for the past few years, so I didn’t think too terribly much of it. But, after some insane amounts of walking, I managed to turn a stress fracture into a broken foot. How convenient.

I spent the majority of time back from Eastern Europe going from doctor to doctor and what had felt like every pharmacy in all of Metz. The most frustrating part? I couldn’t find a walking boot ANYWHERE. In order to get one, we had to have one ordered…which would take approximately a week. Fortunately for prevalence of Americans breaking their feet and the great speed of international shipping…my mom came in for the rescue! She shipped me a boot to be there for me when I returned from the weekend.

Mom's gotta protect her cub

Switzerland was a weekend trip that I was REALLY looking forward to. I love to hike and be outside when I’m at home. It was really a bummer having to sit around for a day and half while everyone else went out and had a great time. Fortunately, I had a good book and it was nice to see everyone returning from their adventures sporting huge grins and crazy stories.

It was a bit rainy and overcast all weekend, but after the sun came out Sunday morning, the views were absolutely breathtaking. The water in the lakes in Interlaken all comes from glacial melt and is incredibly blue. The mountains completely surround you and everything…EVERYTHING is green. Although things are a bit expensive in this country, I know that I cannot wait to come back and have another shot at all the adventure!

Buda and Pest: City of Water! July 10, 2013

Posted by karamstrasser in Travel Log.
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Have you ever slept in a stifling 85 degree stagnant room? Most likely not. But, if you have, welcome to the club of feeling absolutely disgusting. After a much needed COLD shower and quick breakfast, we were on our way to see Budapest. There were great reviews for the free walking tour, so we headed towards the meeting point.

Typically none of us are into the “tour” side of traveling. We’d rather discover things on our own. But, seeing this was a brand new city and we had very limited time, we figured why not. On our way to the meeting point, we were given free bags of water 🙂

Bags of water? Sure
Bags of water? Sure

We met our tour guide and began the tour! After a brief history lesson on the city, we walked towards the Danube River. The tour started to get a bit boring and kitschy, so, we diverged from the group and decided to see the city on our own.

Tram 2: Named one of the most scenic tram rides in the world!
Tram 2: Named one of the most scenic tram rides in the world!

I honestly think that you can learn more about a city by wandering it on your own. The more you get lost or try to find your way, the more likely you are to partake in a unique cultural experience and have a more memorable trip. Luckily the rest of my group felt the same  🙂

We rubbed the knees of the little princess statue for good luck:

DSC_0043

We placed pebbles in the Jewish memorial shoes as a sign of respect:

dem shoes

We saw the under-construction Parliament (when this is completed…it is going to be AMAZING):

one of the most EPIC parliaments i've seen so far this summer...unfortunately, there was an absurd amount of construction through the square

Ate lunch at a small pizza place near the Szabadság tér (a park with an incredible view of Parliament):

she's my nug and will forever be my nug

Walked across the chain bridge:

chain bridge and royal palace

Hiked up a ‘mountain’ to reach the top of the ‘Buda’ side of Budapest:

In 95 degree heat...this was no easy task!
In 95 degree heat…this was no easy task!

And finally, made it to the Royal Palace for some breathtaking views of Budapest:

DSC_0142

This truly is a beautiful city! The culture and architecture is so different than anything that we have in the United States.

crew over buda

After touring the city…we hit up the Széchnenyi Baths 🙂

bath

There are a few outdoor baths along with many indoor baths. They vary in temperature and minerals to provide different healing! Such a nice way to end the day of traveling

Missy and I after a few hours of relaxing
Missy and I after a few hours of relaxing

After dinner we continued to walk around the city trying to find the local hangouts…and I think we found it! This place was PACKED with people of all ages sitting down for a drink, enjoying the ferris wheel, or skateboarding in the park.

nightlife

A long long day…but a good one! Cannot wait to come back to this culture rich city

Rotterdam: Holland’s Modern Cultural Haven June 17, 2013

Posted by karamstrasser in Travel Log.
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We (slowly) woke up and enjoyed a late breakfast of coffee, juice, eggs, bread, and outstanding strawberries while watching Scrubs.

[Fun fact: In Holland, they watch nearly all American television with Dutch subtitles. Holland is too small of a country to do voice overs on every show/movie or to have enough stations of all Dutch broadcasting.]

Then, we headed out to see Rotterdam. Rotterdam has quite some interesting history to it. After being bombed by Germany years back, much of the historical and traditional European style buildings have been destroyed. There are a few remaining districts where things are still old-fashioned looking and quaint, but for the most part, the city is quite modern. Rotterdam is home to the largest port in Europe and also some of the larger buildings as well. Many of these are brand new and are popping up all over the city! Some extremely interesting architecture, too. We walked over to the South side of the city, crossed the ever so famous Rotterdam bridge, saw the tallest and the largest buildings in Holland, and sat down for a bite to eat along the port. Our Dutch accompaniments ordered Bitterballen – a combination of beef/veal, flour, and spices, breaded and fried and served with mustard. I’m still unsure as to if I actually enjoyed this…but we tried in nonetheless.

Continuing our tour of the city, we walked through an outdoor market and stopped at a food truck for some fresh, homemade, stroopwafel! Man I could eat stroopwafel all day. Imagine 2 thin, warm, crispy waffle type crepes with a vanilla-y carmel in between…mmmmmm 😀 I had tried stroopwafel when I was in Panama but the real and fresh version was a million times better!

hollandxx

We finished our walking tour of Rotterdam through the new and lively outdoor shopping complex and then back towards the apartment. Along the way we saw some entirely strange outdoor art that even the people of Rotterdam cannot explain. But hey! It adds some color and culture to the city. After a little siesta at the apartment, Missy and I headed out to walk a bit more and grab a bite to eat a Sijf (our hosts had prior dinner plans that evening).

Three generations ago, Holland brought many Turkish and Moroccan citizens into the country as slave labor. Although liberated many years ago, to this day there there still is a very big influence of the Turkish and Moroccan culture in Holland. Missy and I enjoyed a nice meal with lots of olives, curry, hearty foods, and finished with mint tea and…..stroopwafel! Ah 🙂

We returned to the apartment, made some new Dutch friends, hung out for a while, then headed to another “typical Dutch bar.” Cafe Fout (translated: Cafe Mistake) was again…interesting. Songs played for 30 seconds at a time and I felt as if I was listening to music from 7th grade. The bar was beyond packed and the music was blaring, but hey, we were experiencing something! We stayed at Cafe Fout until around 5:00 AM (I think I began yawning at about 2:30) and then went to the Rotterdam version of McDonalds/Waffle House for the “traditional Dutch fourth-meal food” which they call Kapsalon (translated: hair dresser). Kapsalon was named after a hair dresser who whipped up this concoction years back and the name stuck. It’s a combination of fries, lettuce, onions, gyro meat, a garlic dressing, cheese, and a spicy sauce. I know, I know, it sounds terrible. But surprisingly, it was pretty darn good. Upon leaving the  restaurant, we saw the sun rising. At 5:45 AM! Being so far north, Rotterdam currently has a very late sunset and a very early sunrise. Really quite something! We bid adieu to a few friends and returned to the apartment…beyond ready for some sleep.