A runner with an appetite for adventure!

Eastern Europe: Bite by Bite October 20, 2011

Filed under: Contiki,Dining Out,Europe,Food,Travel — Kelocity @ 6:24 am
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Oh Europe, why do you make such amazing food. As if your chocolate wasn’t delectable enough, you have to have things like strudel, schnitzel and french fries (why, WHY are the fries so darn good in Europe?!) I admit, I’m not much of a foodie. I don’t venture out to try strange foods, taste the art of famous chefs or pick restaurants based on reviews. Maybe someday my palate will be more refined, but that’s not to say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy my culinary experiences while on our recent trip.

Here is my recap of all things food from our 17 days over seas, grouped by category.

We dined at so many different restaurants. 15 full days x 3 meals a day = 45 places to eat. Here’s a few of our favorites! I think the winner goes to Zapieck in Krakow for their award winning pierogies.

Some highlights included Borsht in Warsaw, Paprika Soup in Budapest and French Onion Soup in Vienna.

I ordered mainly vegetarian meals every night (with the exception of a few chicken dishes) so I really enjoyed the European salads. The goat cheese is creamy like in Greece, and totally melts in your mouth. And all of the veggies were fresh from the earth. And the tomatoes! Oh, they were fantastic.

Skewered on kabobs, deep fried, swimming in sauce and paired with rice or fries. Nothing special, but all delicious.

I admit, I am not a huge fan of brats, but my husband LOVES them. I think there were some that went photographed, because there were a lot of brats on this trip. His favorite were the boiled ones from the Hofbrauhaus.

Breakfast was included each day of our tour. Some hotels had better choices than others. My favorite (by far) was the IBIS in prague because they had fresh watermelon both days they were there.

Irving ate just about everything, but I opted for mostly vegetarian. Contiki definitely does a great job accomodating and I felt satisfied after each meal. Here’s just a sample of the good (carb loaded) food that we ate.
Main Course

There are no words. We thought the chicken was better than the pork and our favorite was served at the Summer Palace in Vienna. Austria sure does love this dish. There is even a fast food chain called Wienerwald dedicated to serving schnitzel.

I’ve already declared my love for Pierogies in my post about Poland, but here they are again so we can honor their amazing-ness.

It’s Europe. Pizza costs about $4 for a whole pie. There was lots of pizza for on-the-go lunches and quick snacks. And you don’t have to share. You’re expected to eat the whole thing. Love.

Yes. European Fries get their own collage. They are SO GOOD. And they go with juuuust about everything.

We aren’t huge drinkers to begin with, but we did indulge when appropriate (ie. German Beer Halls).

It goes with beer. Enough said. (I always try to buy mine without salt though.)

I’m pretty sure I had dessert every night we were there. The hands down favorite was the Hotel Sacher chocolates from Vienna. Coming in a close second would be my nutella crepe from Slovakia. My least favorite? The Rum Raisin custard from Krakow.
Dessert and Snacks


Eastern Europe by the Numbers October 9, 2011

Filed under: Contiki,Europe — Kelocity @ 4:19 pm
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On our most recent trip to Europe… there were:

3,203 Pictures Taken

139.86 Miles Walked (Highest Milage day: 16.44… average per day: 8.74)

17 Days Traveling

11 Major Cities Visited

9 Plates of Pierogies Ordered

6 Countries Visited

5 Cities I got to visit for the second time around (Munich,  Salzburg, Vienna, Prague and Budapest)

4 Times traveled with Contiki

Eastern FOOD

(Full Food Post coming soon!)


Eastern Europe–What I Wore

Filed under: Contiki,Europe,Travel — Kelocity @ 6:06 am
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When I left, my suitcase looked like this:

So how does that translate into travel outfits? Here it is day by day.

DAY 1 – LAX to BERLIN (Travel Day)
We had a total of 18 hours in airports and airplanes, so comfort was key!


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DAY 5 – VIENNA Classical Music Concert
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Yep. I rewore a shirt. I had a few to rewear during this trip and here is the 1st. Don’t judge. Chalk it up to good packing. IMG_9014  IMG_9019

DAY 10 – Krakow to Warsaw
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DAY 11 – Warsaw
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DAY 11 – Warsaw by Night

Day 12 – Warsaw to Berlin
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Day 13 – Munich
Yep. Same shirt as day 3.
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Day 14 – Fussen and Salzburg
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Their clothes, not mine. LOL
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Which outfit was your favorite? Would you be caught dead in sneakers in Europe?  For me there isn’t an option. We walk way too much for strappy sandals. ha!


Munich: Stadiums and Arenas September 26, 2011

Filed under: Contiki,Europe,Germany,Travel — Kelocity @ 7:00 am
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We woke up in Warsaw and prepared for our all-day drive back to Berlin. This wasn’t part of the tour, but they offered a free shuttle back to Germany if you wanted (they had to get the bus back there anyways). We extended our trip to explore Munich and Salzburg on our own after Contiki was done, so the bus back was perfect.

But first. Breakfast! We had a great breakfast spread at the Marriott that had way more options than our previous hotels. They even had a few American-style items (pancakes and omlettes) that was a nice change from the usual rolls with jam and cheese we’d had prior.


Then it was right on the bus to hit the road as early as possible. Special thanks to our tour guide on our trip, Meitek. He was from Poland and was entirely entertaining.


Only half of our original group opted to take the bus back to Berlin, so everyone had an entire bus row to themselves. SCORE! I lounged out and read The Hunger Games. (Don’t spoil the end for me though, I’m still reading the rest of the series!) A few hours later, we stopped for lunch at a rest area. I was surprised to actually see a decent looking salad there. It was really good!

See! I really did tried to sneak in some healthy stuff when I could… although I did balance it out with this.

But tried to burn them off quickly by jumping up and down numerous times to get a good bus shot.

We love Contiki, what can we say? I am so sad this is the last bus day.

We got into Berlin around dinnertime and headed straight for the train station. We booked an overnight train to Munich from there.


Soon enough, our train arrived. Right on schedule. I love the European rail system.



We booked this train months ago through Distant Lands in LA (a store that we highly recommend, by the way). We would be sleeping in a 6-bunk couchette and we were praying we wouldn’t have to share the room with wierdos or scary people.

We each had the top two bunks and it was crazy hoisting all of our stuff up there with barely any headroom. We were laughing so hard.

Turns out the other four beds were filled with some elderly Germans who thought it was just the funniest thing. They were laughing and talking in German to tell us to turn the light on, turn the light off, lock the door, unlock the door. I had no idea what they were saying but they were very impressed that we brought our own travel sheets. Either that or they were making fun of me for doing so. Don’t laugh. I have no regrets! (Although sleeping in your jeans really stinks. But I still slept through the night, hooray!

When we woke up, we were just pulling into Munich. We packed our things and found our way to our hotel nearby and checked our bags. Then, map in hand, we found our way to our first stop of the day. The BMW Welt.

Here they have one of the BMW factories and also an extensive collection of their finest cars. I sat down and let Irving do his man thing (aka look at cars).

His favorite was this car commissioned by Steinway pianos.

Next we made our way in the rain around the corner to the Munich Olympic Park.

Munich was the home of the 1972 Summer Olympic games. The design was extremely modern for the times (and still looks impressive now).

In order to get the most out of the park, we opted to do an audio tour of the grounds (well worth it too).
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The aquatic arena was exciting because this was the place that Mark Spitz won all of his medals. He was the guy that Michael Phelps was aiming to beat in Beijing.

If you look close, you can see his name below in a few places:

Also in the park is the big television tower that was renamed the Olympic Tower. We didn’t go inside, but we’re told it had impressive views from the top.

When the park was built, they had long term plans in mind for making it accessible to the public. It’s really pretty now and they use it for all kids of events.




These Olympic games were really unique because it was the first time that Germany was hosting them since WWII. The games had been in Berlin in 1936 when the Nazis were in power, and Munich was ready to show the world that this was a different Germany now.

However the games quickly turned tragic when the Israeli Olympic team was taken hostage and then killed by a radical Palestinian group. It was a very sad event and was a great loss to the world.

This was the apartment that the Israeli team was staying in when the kidnappers broke in.  I always think of the Olympic games as a reason for the world to come together, this tragedy is so unfortunate and I was glad we got the opportunity to pay tribute to those athletes.

After our audio tour, we had lunch inside the commissary. Schnitzel for Irving (of course, right?!)…

And some pasta for me.

And then we jumped on the metro to head to our next sight: Allianz Arena. But first, a little fun in the train station!

There was a mirror on the ceiling that we used to take some pictures!

Someone nearby thought we looked funny and offered to take a picture of us looking at the ceiling. LOL

Then we arrived at the stadium, just in time for the last English tour of the day.

This is where two of Germany’s biggest soccer teams play: FC Bayern Munich and TSV Munich. It was also the site of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. As you can imagine, Irving was in heaven.

The tour was great and we got to learn a bit about the stadium and the teams.




After our tour, we headed back into Munich for another (!!) tour of the city. Stay tuned!


Warsaw: Peacocks, Pierogies and the Pope September 25, 2011

Filed under: Contiki,Europe,Poland,Travel — Kelocity @ 5:45 pm
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I have to admit, Warsaw feels like a bit of a blur to me now. It was the last official city on our tour and I think my brain was reaching it’s capacity for absorbing historical information by that point.

Our day started out with a great tour by a local guide who pointed out some sights around the city and giving us some background information. Warsaw is the largest city in Poland, and one of the largest in Europe.  During WWII, Germany blew up 80% of the city and the population was forced to leave.
old_town_warsaw_waf-2012-1501-311945 [source]

Soon after, the Soviets came in and took over the city and aided in the rebuilding of the city… but under communist rule. They rebuilt the city so fast – and so well – that UNESCO added it to the World Heritage List.

The piles of rubble were sorted and original blue prints were used to rebuild the town exactly as it was, using lots of the original materials.

Warsaw is also the birthplace of Chopin and there are monuments to him throughout the city. Our tour brought us to this one on the edge of the city’s biggest park.

If you look at it from one side, it looks like a willow tree, but from the other side, it looks like fingers playing a piano.
The Germans blew it up in 1940, but the original mold survived the war and was used to recast it in 1958.

Around the city, they have these “Chopin Benches” that you can sit on. And there’s a button that will play you some of his music while you sit. Isn’t that fun?

We also saw the “white house” of Poland. Where the President lives. Just steps away from the Old Town.

One of the most significant events in Warsaw happened in 1944 when the Poles tried to revolt against the Nazi German army. It was called the Warsaw Uprising. They had hoped the approaching Soviet army would help back them up, but their army just stayed on the river banks and watched as they were badly defeated. As a result 200,000 Polish citizens died. After the Germans regained control, that’s when the orders came down to level the city to the ground.


This is the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising monument. The people in the Warsaw ghetto knew what the Nazis had planned for them and in 1943, they rebelled marking the largest single revolt by Jews during the Holocaust.


The rest of the day in Warsaw was spent on our own, and we just decided to walk around aimlessly.




This is a statue of a young boy with a war helmet that doesn’t quite fit on his head. It is dedicated to all of the children that also fought in the Warsaw Uprising.




After a bit of walking, we were hungry for lunch and stopped at a bistro along the main street.

Beet soup with Dumplings.

And guess what else? Pierogies! (We are still in Poland remember!)


Yep. Just as delicious as we expected. (If it’s ok to eat Pasta everyday in Italy, it’s definitely ok to eat your weight in Pierogies when in Poland!)

After we ate, we were overwhelmed with historical information so we decided to take an afternoon stroll through the gardens and leave the sites behind us.

As we walked, we passed an art installation that was shaped to look like a palm tree. I mean, we have cell towers shaped like palm trees all over Los Angeles and they blend in somewhat… but a palm tree in Warsaw? It was designed to blend a bit of Israel into Poland.IMG_7811

Once we arrived into Lazienki Park and wandered around until we got lost, it was awesome. The shady trees also gave us a reprieve from the sun.

No tourists, no kiosks, just us, and a gorgeous park in Poland.


How adorable is this? A boy and his grandfather feeding the birds. Precious!

We had to watch out for those wild peacocks though! They were everywhere!



In the middle of the park is a picturesque summer palace. So pretty!


Then we realized if we wanted to catch the bus back (which we did!) we had to hustle back to the main square. With time ticking away, and us being totally lost in the woods, we barely made it in time. I felt like I was in amazing race sprinting through the streets to find Phil our tour guide.

Back on the bus, we saw a few more sights on the drive. This was a building built by the Russians and designed to look like a birthday cake for Stalin. Of course the Soviets invaded and took over their country, so it was a cruel reminder to the Poles of who was ruling them.
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Check out this architecture too!  I think it was a shopping mall.

Since it was the last night of the tour, we changed and headed out to our farewell dinner. (Sad!)

Plate of veggies… get in my belly!


What a great tour, we enjoyed every minute of it. The history, the people, all of it!

Thanks to our tourguide, Joe, who did an amazing job keeping it all together and making sure we had the best trip possible. I’m sure it’s not an easy job. We had a great time.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be on the bus for 10 hours as we head back to Berlin.


Life on a Bus–Arriving into Warsaw

Filed under: Contiki,Europe,Poland,Travel — Kelocity @ 7:00 am
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After a quiet and difficult morning at Auschwitz, we began our drive north towards Warsaw.

We knew we’d have a long bus day ahead without an official stop for lunch so we stocked up on some food the night before. Be aware that Contiki often skips lunches in order to pack in more sightseeing. We had some crackers, water, chips and chocolate.

Along the way, we stopped briefly in Czestochowa to see the Black Madonna,  inside the Jasna Gora Monastery. There was an actual mass going on when we got there so the church was packed. I didn’t really see it, but Irving said he did. It looks like this, and apparently it’s pretty famous?

Then we kept on truckin’ bussin’ towards Warsaw.

In Europe (and I’m sure in the states) there are rules about how many hours the coach drivers can go at one time. There are mandatory rest breaks that we had to account for and the engine has to be turned off for a bit in between. Because of all of the construction on those small Polish roads, we got set back a bit and had to stop for dinner before we got into Warsaw. We pulled into a giant shopping mall with a food court and grabbed some food.

This is why I love Contiki. Everyone is in the same boat bus and you roll with the punches. We laughed about it and had a great meal with our new friends.

Not a bad salad for mall food! After having… um… CHIPS for lunch, veggies were welcomed!

Irving’s plate:

We weren’t far from our hotel at that point and checked in right when we arrived. It was the best hotel of the tour for sure! A Marriott! SCORE! We loved it and were happy to spend two nights there! We were impressed.

Warsaw was technically the last stop of the Contiki tour and many people flew out when we were done there… which was convenient for them since the hotel was literally across the street from the airport!  I was glad we weren’t leaving Europe just yet, but it was nice for those who were!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! We still have to explore Warsaw and then finish another 5 days in Germany and Austria before we have to go back to the states!

Stay tuned for Warsaw!


Poland: Can you have too many Pierogies? September 22, 2011

Filed under: Contiki,Europe,Food,Poland,Travel — Kelocity @ 9:43 pm
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If you don’t know what a Pierogi is, please go google it, and then come back. Because this post is alllllll about Pierogies. And for good reason too. Poland is known for them! After eating lots of Schnitzel in Austria and Germany, we were ready to eat our weight in Pierogies once we got here. And boy, was it delicious.

After a morning heavy with history in Krakow, we headed back into Old Town on a mission to find some good Pierogies. A few people had recommended a place nearby called “Domowe Przysmaki”. Sure it was pretty much in the heart of all the tourists, but we gave it a try anyways.

The menu was in Polish, but we were able to successfully order two three amazing dishes.

Irving had been dreaming of this moment for months prior to our trip. We were very excited for some authentic Polish dumplings!

The first dish was the traditional boiled version. Filled with cheese and topped with grilled onions. I was hoping for some sour cream on the side, that’s how we always at them growing up. But that must be another one of those “Americans ruin everything” tricks, because they definitely didn’t have sour cream there. And honestly? Didn’t even miss it. It was awesome even without it.

The second dish was the same thing, but fried. It was like a crab rangoon or crispy wonton or something. Love.  We split both dishes halfsies.

I have to say it was a tie. They were both amazing-melt-in-your-mouth Polish deliciousness.

Then we went back up to the counter and ordered another item off their awesome ‘hung by clothespins’ menu.  This was “Dumpling with Fruit”.  Yum! Not exactly what we were expecting, but it was also tasty and satisfying.

So what are you supposed to do after eating three plates of Pierogies? Walk. Walk. WALK! So walk we did. All over Krakow.

We didn’t have too much free time, but we had just enough to get explore old town and it’s surroundings. Wikipedia told me that ‘entire medieval old town is among the first sights chosen for the UNESCO’s World Heritage List’. It used to be a walled city and a few of its original towers and moats are still standing.




Krakow has one of the largest public squares in Europe.

I just noticed those people behind me… what are they wearing?!


Soon enough, it was time to board the bus again. We chose to do the Wieliczka Salt Mines, which was an optional Contiki excursion and we heard they were pretty cool anyways. It wasn’t too far away, but long enough to squeeze in just one ‘sleeping-on-the-bus’ picture. (We’ve got one from every trip!)

Soon enough, we arrived at the mines. It is one of the oldest mines in the world and had been consistently mined from the 13th century until 2007.

The mine was also on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

The tour started with a 64-flight descent down an old mine shaft. It now has stairs and you have to walk all the way down. (wasn’t as bad as you’d think, they were short flights!)


As soon as reached the bottom, we realized how commercialized and touristy this site had become. Some of the displays were impressive, but they tried to add light and sound shows that made it a little bit hokey. (Although they project laser beams on the Egyptian Pyramids, so maybe that’s just the way of the world nowadays).

Even though we were a quarter mile below the surface, surprisingly our guide’s cell phone still had enough reception to ring… strange, no?


Each of the caverns inside the mine used to be salt that had been chipped away and sold. And all of the tunnels were rock that had been blasted out of the way to find more salt.

When the miners were down there, many of them used to carve statues out of the salt. They were beautiful and impressive. I raised my hand and asked “weren’t they supposed to be working?” but the guide didn’t answer me.

At one point, we were just walking along and then the guide mentioned “oh, and now you have to pay for your photos”. We were confused since we had been taking pictures the whole time. But apparently what she meant was that you had to pay for the right to photograph the “big salt ballroom”. We declined, so I have no pictures of it, but lucky for you, the internet had lots to share.

This entire room used to be salt that was mined and hauled away. Now it’s a cavernous space with carved salt murals, statues and art work. Supposedly, the chandeliers are solid crystal from a nearby mine.
wieliczka-salt-mine.14239.large_slideshow [source]


There was also a big brine lake with a higher salt concentration than the dead sea.

In the middle and end of the tour, we were greeted by souvenir stands and snack bars. It did feel a little strange to be inside a 800 year old mine and be faced with bags of Doritos and espresso machines. Took the charm away I thought.

The worst is that you were victim to the trap and they made you stay there for 20 minutes with the hopes you’ll cave and end up buying something. That doesn’t sit well with me, so we just walked around. We were very entertained my this sign near the snackbar, haha:

Anyways, all in all, the mine itself is worth seeing. It’s crazy that human hands carved away at it for eight centuries. But I think they ruined it by trying to rip people off left and right once you’re in there.

Thankfully at the end, they don’t make you walk back up to the top, there’s a cool old-fashioned mining elevator that shoots you up to the top in just 30 seconds.

The bus then dropped us back off into Krakow’s Old Town and we did what any decent tourist would do. Hunt for MORE Pierogies! Seriously!

Didn’t take long to find one. This time we tried Zapiecek (which we later found out was a popular chain).


I decided I needed some vegetables and tried to order a root soup (sold out)… beet soup (sold out)… side salad? (got a quick ‘no’)… Ok then. Just a plate of Pierogies then. And add some broccoli (and a single kernal of corn?). Done.

Once again it was great.

We really loved Krakow. The people were fantastic, the food was great and the history and sights will literally take your breath away. For a country that has been torn apart so many times and ravaged by war, they have done a tremendous job rebuilding their country and their spirits.


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