Friends, More Friends, New Countries, and The End… (Soon)

First off- apologies. While most of you are probably glad I haven’t posted in awhile, I know that by taking such large breaks I am letting a handful of people down. I am so behind on this dang blog. With the way my memory works, if I don’t get this started now, I’ll forget all the good stuff (and then I’ll kick myself later). So in advance I’m very sorry that this is such a long post- I tried not to ramble too much 🙂

I have to go all the way back to January for this one guys- #tbt status. Early in January, I was extremely lucky, and my friend Courtney came all the way from Minnesota to visit me and go on an adventure! She flew in on January 4th, and we returned to Bolzano for the first couple days. I showed her the city, including the best cappuccino in Bolzano, at the Temple Bar. Yes, best cappuccino can be found at the Irish bar. The Christmas market was still on, and we spent an evening there, drinking Gluewein, and seeing all of the delicious treats and pretty gifts for sale. Courtney got to see a practice (how exciting!) and got lost in the rink. We ordered a pizza from my favorite pizza place, and basically explored the city. It was fun to see it through new eyes with a friend.

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Bolzano Christmas Markets

On our way to Munich, we had a couple hours layover in Innsbruck, Austria. I took Court up the nordkettenbahn, which I had done with Mac and her family a few weeks earlier. Since then, it had snowed in the mountains, and Court and I were rewarded with the most incredible snowy sunset view of the city possible.

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After descending, we caught our bus to Munich and checked into our hostel. We made friends while taking free walking tours of the city and hanging out in the hostel bar, and explored the city along with them. One thing you’ll notice when travelling in Europe, no matter where you go or what hostel you stay in, you’re guaranteed to meet at least one Australian. It’s odd at first, but once you notice you won’t be able to ignore it. So, we toured the city with a couple of Australians and a couple of people from the US. We went to Haufbrauhaus, the famous beer hall, and tried to sing along to the live band playing. We went with the same group to dinner where we tried pork knuckle, and walked around the open air market. It was an awesome couple of days in the city.

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One of our days was spent taking a tour of Dachau, the concentration camp. It’s difficult to describe this experience. I’ve read so many books about the Holocaust, and as a kid I was morbidly fascinated with the history of World War II, but the horror of the event didn’t set in until I walked those grounds. I don’t claim to speak for everyone, as you’ll probably experience it differently if you visit, or even each time you visit. We were lucky to have a guide to teach us about the site, and to tell us stories. The audio guides are very good, but can overwhelm you with information. Seeing the site with a human guide is something I recommend. Visiting Dachau was a somber, humbling, and horrifying experience. It’s something I think is very important, and people should try to do someday. It’s not fun, I wouldn’t put it on your bucket list, but rather consider it something you owe to the people that died there. In my opinion, it’s our job as human beings to learn about the horrors, so we don’t stand by if we see them being repeated.

Dachau was obviously a deeply depressing experience, but a necessary one. After that, Court and I spent the rest of our time trying to explore Munich to the best of our abilities. We actually got to go to the Redbull Crashed Ice even in the city with Mac and Kayla, and had a couple more amazing nights out in the city. We drank good beer (even though she’s allergic to gluten…. oops) and ate good food and had an awesome time. It was sad to see her go back home, but it was awesome to show someone from home where I’ve been spending the last months. I’m sure we’ll continue the adventures this summer, and I cant wait.

After spending some time with Court, and getting my dose of home for the holidays, I returned to the “real” world of hockey and studying. In January, the Eagles returned to the regular season, and played Salzburg once, and Neuberg three times. We unfortunately lost to Salzburg 3-1, but the team showed that they were ready to play later in the month, and we beat Neuberg by a total of 26-1 in three games. The rest of January was spent in practice or studying. After a condensed time of so much travel and constant movement, it was nice to settle back into a routine. I spent my days reading, watching lectures, and going into the city to walk around or grab a coffee.

February started much the same way, but now the team was playing to keep our playoff dreams alive. We needed to win the next three games in order to assure ourselves a playoff spot. We succeeded on the 4th, beating the Aisulu team from Kazakhstan 5-3. In the next game, however, we failed to get enough points on the board, and despite a hard fought game we lost 3-1. These were some of the roughest hockey games I’ve ever played in, and the Italian refs were slightly unprepared to deal with the women’s team playing that way. There were a lot of penalties, and some serious hits being thrown around. Luckily, we pulled through with no injuries, and won the final game 4-1. Unfortunately, because we won only two of the three games, our playoff hopes were resting on another team- Vienna- to win in their game versus Budapest. Vienna did not end up winning, and so the Eagles’ EWHL season ended there. Vienna ended up winning the cup, and I know a lot of the Eagles’ players were disappointed that we didn’t make it to playoffs. The older girls on the team, myself included, made sure to mention that this season was a building year. New players, not having Chelsea for half the season, and other unforeseen circumstances all contributed to a bit of a wobbly year. Next year I’m sure the Eagles will come back better than ever, and I’m excited to see where the team goes from here.

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Outside of hockey, February was much the same as January as far as studying and spending my time in Bolzano. Valentine’s weekend was the exception, and I went on a long weekend trip with several other imports to London! I landed Thursday the 11th at noon, and left late Monday afternoon. It was an amazing trip, and with 6 girls we got to take an entire hostel room to ourselves with no weird strangers, win! Thursday most of the girls got in in the early afternoon. We took a walk to the Tower Bridge, took a bunch of pictures, and tried to get used to the underground transport system in the city. After we had the whole group together, we went back to the area around the hostel, got a pizza for dinner (because I don’t have enough of that in Italy, right?) and got some drinks to plan our couple days.

Friday morning started with a walking tour of the city. If you ever travel through Europe, I can’t recommend these tours enough. They’re an awesome (and cheap) way to learn about the city while actually seeing the places you’re learning about. After seeing everything from the TRUE city of London (which is only about a square mile) to an original Banksy, to Buckingham Palace, and learning about how much the Queen owns in the city, we ended the tour at a pub, and got some lunch while planning our next move. We asked the tour guide what he would recommend doing, and he gave us some great ideas for theatre performances to attend. Later that night, we got cheap tickets to a play called In The Heights, and it was actually pretty good! It was a small stage, with seats on both sides, so you were essentially on top of the set, and actors and dancers rushed past you all night. It was a great way to end the night for sure.

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Saturday, Mac, Kayla, and a girl named Sarah and I all went on a bus tour to Stonehenge. It was a couple hours outside of the city, so we spent our time on the bus listening to music or sleeping (as usual). It was absolutely bizarre to see Stonehenge pop up alongside a busy road, and it was no less weird to see it in person. For such an old, unexplained landmark, it’s not nearly as isolated as I had always imagined. We spent a bit of time taking pictures and reading about the landmark, and spent some time warming up because it was so cold, and hopped back on the bus to head back to London. It was definitely something I had always wanted to see, but I should warn any of you that imagine going that it’s a very long trip for what you get to experience- if you’re short on time I would stay inside the city limits and explore there.

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After returning from Stonehenge, we met back up with the other girls and continued to explore London. We attempted to go out to bars several nights, but failed to find anywhere that wasn’t far away or smokey and sketchy, which was probably for the best. We played card games back in the hostel bar, laughed way too hard at stupid games, and got stared at by people who didn’t speak english. Not a bad evening.

Sunday morning, we went out to explore the markets in London. We found an awesome part of the city with food stands, antique stores, music, clothes, jewelry, and art, and spent the entire morning wandering through the stores there. Mac and Kayla had to catch a flight back to Munich, and left early, but the rest of the imports continued to wander around the city and find new views to take pictures of.

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Later in the night we found ourselves back in the market square we had started our original tour from. There was a man playing live music, so we took a seat and listened, resting our feet for a moment. After his set was finished, a man performing a comedy routine (like a clown but not creepy) came out to perform. Our momentary rest turned into an hour or so, laughing hysterically at this great performer. Following his act, we wandered out of the building to see loads of limos and black cars lined up, and people exiting in evening gowns and tuxedos. Little did we know we had come across the exit for the BAFTA awards. We saw famous people like Cate Blancett, Eddie Redmayne, Matt Smith, Sascha Cohen and Stanley Tucci leaving. Matt Smith even waved at me! (…after I yelled “Doctor Who!,” unable to remember his actual name.) After everyone had left, we found ourselves in Chinatown, where the Chinese New Year was being celebrated, and asked some policemen for a good place to eat. We grabbed dinner, and wandered back to the hostel after a long day. It was a great way to end the night! Monday morning, everyone else had flights to catch, and left veeeery early to get to the airport. I was up as well, but my flight wasn’t until 8pm, and I had a day to kill by myself in London. I said goodbye to the girls as they left, and figured out what to do by myself for a day.

One of the stops I made that day by myself was actually pretty spontaneous. I was walking to where Shakespeare’s Globe theater is located, when I came across a museum. I had so much time to kill, I figured I might as well go exploring, and inside I found original works by Dali and Picasso! It was another great accidental find, and I spent an hour or so looking at all of the artwork and seeing the installations. One of the guards on duty told me that Guernica, Picasso’s famous piece on the bombing of, well, Guernica, had recently hung in that building (not sure if it was true, but very cool to hear). I was bummed I missed it, but so excited I had happened upon this incredible art by accident. (The museum’s name is Tate Modern, in London).

Following the museum stop, I managed to find my way to Shakespeare’s globe. As a book lover, and general word-nerd, I loved reading Shakespeare’s works in school. I knew a little bit about his history outside of the plays, and knew the Globe Theater was where he mostly performed, but to see the building (reconstructed) was definitely a fun experience. I took a guided tour, and saw the stage and the theater seats. The Globe continues to put on performances, and the season was just beginning, but unfortunately I had a plane to catch and couldn’t stay for a performance. I know that if I go back to London that will definitely be on my list of must-do things in the city.

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Following the Globe, I made my way to Harrods. Walking around the famous department store, I felt a little conscious about my clearly living-out-of-a-bag/hostel appearance, and didn’t bother to try on any Valentino or Balmain dresses. It was fun to visit the store because my mom had actually been there once, back when she and my dad were first married. I picked out a little bag tag for my luggage with the Harrods name on it, and got out of there before I spent too much money. Someday, when I become a millionaire, I’ll definitely return. After Harrods, I didn’t have much left of my day, so I grabbed a quick lunch (I caved on my “cultural” foods rule and got a pulled pork sandwich) and wandered back to the hostel to pick up my things. I took public transport to the airport, and made my flight to Munich successfully. I spent the night at Mac and Kayla’s, and went back to Bolzano the next day. It was a very successful weekend trip, and I was glad to see London, as well as the other imports 🙂

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12733439_10208640395670278_1360828796543259527_nHarrods and selfies, flying solo in London

The rest of February was spent studying and spending time in the city. It was a little colder, but nothing compared to a Minnesota/Connecticut winter, and I was grateful to have such mild weather as I’m without a car. Bolzano is beautiful, and if you’re ever in the region, it’s a great spot to relax in the Italian alps before hitting Austria or Germany 🙂

In early March, I was lucky enough to have another friend from home, Jillian, make her way to Europe to visit. When I asked her where she’d like to go, she mentioned Germany and Hungary, to see where both sides of her family had come from. I set a path, made hostel reservations, and on March 3rd set off to Munich to pick her up the next day. I spent the night at Mac and Kayla’s (again), and made it to the airport with no problems, picked up Jillian, and we made our way back to Bolzano that day. I had practice that night, and Jillian was jet-lagged, so she stayed in bed while I went to hockey. The next day we spent touring Bolzano and spending time in the city. I showed her all of my favorite spots, but it was actually raining and snowing in the city, which I hadn’t seen in a very long time! I’m convinced Jillian was jinxed. Despite the snow, the day was a good one, and I was happy to show another person why I love Bolzano.

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The next day, Jillian came with to an Eagles Italian Championship game. It was totally what she wanted to do, taking a bus a couple hours there and back, after such a long flight. She was an awesome sport, and we won the game, and got back to Bolzano around 11pm. Jillian and I spent the night packing and watching Netflix. The next day, we caught a bus to Munich, and checked into the hostel around noon. We met Mac and Kayla for lunch, before making our way into the city and exploring. I showed Jilly some of my favorite spots, and we hung out in the hostel bar that night, with the people I had met there in earlier stays.

**Edit: I was informed by my friends (Tom and Mariana) at the Wombat’s hostel in Munich that they didn’t get the shoutout they deserved. I agree, and apologize. I’ve stayed at the Wombat twice now, and these two have been amazing hosts/bartenders/friends both times. I’m sincerely sorry for my oversight, and hope that this solves the problem. PS: if you’re ever in Munich, the Wombat is the best hostel ever. End Edit**

The next day, after a beer too many, we had another lazy day of exploring the city and getting good food. We met back up with Mac and Kayla at Augustiner Keller, a famous beer hall. The restaurant is known for its outdoor beer garden in the summer, but in the winter it’s not generally advisable to try to eat outside. We were packed into a small cabin, with the heat on high, and got a great meal of typical Bavarian food. Afterwards, Mac and Kayla went back to their apartment, and Jillian and I went back to our hostel to close the night. It was fun to introduce friends from home and friends/teammates from college. It’s rare that those worlds cross for me!

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The next day saw Jillian and I leave for Salzburg. There, once we’d dropped our stuff at the hostel, we went into the city to meet some of the imports playing there for lunch. Julie and Hillary, both MN hockey players, took us to a mountaintop bar for lunch, with a great view of the city. We were lucky, and Salzburg had the clearest skies I’ve seen. We spent the afternoon hiking to the fort that overlooks the city, and the evening we spent walking through the quiet streets and talking. We got dinner in another bavarian restaurant, and ate far too much good food. (Side note- if anyone at home knows of any good bavarian places in MN, please let me know. I’m getting increasingly worried that I’ll have to attempt to cook this stuff on my own.)

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Unfortunately, our stay in beautiful Salzburg was a quick one, and the next day we boarded a train to Budapest. Budapest is different from the previous cities we’d been to, as it’s relatively young. Hungary as a country is younger than I am, “born” in 1994 from the remains of the cold war. It’s got a great mix of old and new, and is famous for its Turkish bath culture. Our days in Budapest were spent exploring, taking another guided tour (can’t recommend these enough) and walking around the giant city. The mixture of communist-era and neoclassical buildings is difficult to explain until you see it for yourself! Through the tour we went to the highest spots in Budapest, and seeing the true expanse of the city was fascinating. Our tour guide told us about the turbulent history of Hungary, and it was very interesting to learn so much about a country I didn’t know much about to start. Jillian spent time finding gifts for her family, and we visited the riverfront and the cathedral in the city. The inside of the church was all red marble and gold, and it may have been one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen in Europe (a big feat). My mom would’ve loved the colors 🙂 Our last afternoon, we decided to check out the bathhouses, and to see if they’re all they’re cracked up to be. Simple answer- yes, and sooooo much more. The bathhouse we went to was called the Szechenyi Bath. It had 18 hot pools, both indoor and outdoor, saunas and steam rooms, massage rooms, spa treatments, and locker rooms there for you to change. We immediately regretted not spending more time there. I have never wanted to stay somewhere so badly- it was a great way to end a long trip!

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hungarian breakfast

My trip with Jillian was awesome. We hit 4 countries in 9 days, and got enough souvenirs for every single member of her friends and family. It was fun to travel with someone I’ve known for so long, and I can imagine continuing the trend with friends and family in the future. Jillian caught her flight from Budapest back home, and I caught another train back to Munich to infringe on Mac and Kayla’s hospitality yet again. I had one last stop on this journey of craziness-Berlin.

Mac, Kayla and I took a flixbus in the morning to Berlin. I’ve gotten very, very good at long commutes, and this one flew by. The city of Berlin is (obviously) another that is steeped in history almost everywhere you look. The recentness of the events in Berlin is striking, and the tour we took on Tuesday was an amazing look into the city’s trials and more recent work to overcome a history of division and pain. Before learning about the history of the city, however, we went to a concert in the incredible Mercedes-Benz Arena. We went to see Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who put on a great show. For 60 euros, we were front row (on the side of the stage by the bass, but hey, front row) and got to see all of his throwbacks performed live. For having 0 expectations going in, it was an awesome performance.

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macklemore

The next day was our day to see Berlin. After the tour (seriously people- free tours, take them) where we learned all about East and West Berlin from a girl who was 2 years old when the wall fell, we went on our own to see a preserved portion of the wall. The graffiti and artwork covering the wall is striking. It’s an incredible city, and I am very glad that Mac Kay and I made it north before we left. We took a late train that night back to Munich, and I left the next morning for Bolzano again.

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One foot in East Berlin, one foot in West Berlin

All told, in about 12-13ish days of travel, I had spent something like 54 hours on trains, buses, and public transportation. Needless to say, I was tapped. I made it back to my bed, passed out, and have spent this week getting back into the groove of life here. It’s been an amazing trip, but I am very very glad to be back to “normal.” Tomorrow (the 19th) we have another Italian Championship game, and next weekend is the finals. I still have no flight date home yet, but I should be back in Minnesota the first week of April. Basically, I’m on my last three weeks here in Europe. What the heck!? I have no idea where this time went, and I’m kicking myself from the first two weeks, when I couldn’t wait to be home again.

My time here in Europe has been invaluable. I’ll write more about that in my next post, a sort of “finale” if you will. All I’ll say for now is that between the places, people, cultures, teams, foods, and experiences I’ve had/met/eaten here, I would never trade these six months for anything. Yes, it could have been more perfect, and yes, I struggled at times. But life is never perfect. There’s no such thing as a fairytale experience here in the real world, you have to write your own story. And with this blog and my time here, despite corny lines like that and horribly delayed blog posts, that’s what I’ve tried to do. So thank you again for continuing to read, or text, or send letters, or board a flight for the unknown to visit.

The last few months have been CRAZY. Wrapping up my travels, absorbing as much as I can, making connections here and from everywhere, and taking friends around the continent… all while attempting to finish this online class, play hockey and maintain sanity. It’s nice to be back in Bolzano. In that same time, my little sister won a gold medal, went to the state tournament, and generally just kicked ass (captain clutch is her nickname… it would be completely douchey if it wasn’t true). My little brother has continued to rock the Junior hockey world, playing far too much hockey in such a short time. I mean he’s stuck in Iowa.. there’s only so much trouble he can get into right? My mom and dad tried to get to everything, but unfortunately Italy is a bit longer of a roadtrip than Iowa or the Xcel Energy center, and they didn’t make it out here this year. I haven’t seen my family in 6 months, which is the longest I’ve ever gone without those losers. Needless to say I’m just a little excited to get home to them. If you see a Snodgrass lurking around Eagan or Apple Valley, give them a hug for me. Even better if they have no idea who you are 😉

Talk to you all soon! I promise I’ll be a little better on the next post, as it will likely be my last one about Europe. I love and miss you all back home and around the world. I’ll see you soon.

Love and hugs,
Snoodles

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