Ich bin ein Berliner

July 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

Random ramblings … and some stuff on Berlin.

Taking bites out of encased stinky cheese, I’m not the only one who liked this spot.
To the right of me are old cigarette butts. The ants are crawling eagerly on my fresh bread rolls and two kinds of new cheeses that I just bought in the supermarket – Knirps wieinkase and St. Mang Romadur. I’m just hoping the nutella (or nudossi) and multivitamin juice jug won’t attract bees.

It took me two hours to find this spot but it’s worth it. Off the Prinzenstrasse Ubahn I am sitting over a canal with my feet dangling over the water, joggers and dogs in the background and old German houses across the canal. It’s so hot and humid that I took off my shirt and am just in a sports bra with my capris rolled as high as I can. I feel completely anonymous and happy and free.

Fresh bread and cheese! Anyone who knows me knows that I am happier right now than a pig in poo.

Freedom. That’s the word that popped into my head today as I stepped out into the streets of Berlin. Ironic yet appropriate is that word as I walk past the old remains of he Berlin wall.

I passed Humboldt University the place where Albert Einstein went to school and I thought – for as brilliant as the Germans are – smart people can do some really dumb things sometimes.

My thoughts seem disconnected but they are revolving. I know I think and therefore write in disjointed sentences or roundabout ways. But I’m not writing a book and don’t have to cross my t’s, I’m just expressing myself.

That’s how I feel today. Free. I am completely alone in Berlin, in a city that is so spread out, that gives off eery vibes from its ghosts of the past but offers a strong quirky underground friendly character. Unlike any city I have ever been in.

Everything is truly socialistic. Museums and Opera cost the same if you are 18 and a bum or if you are 70 and posh, you are accepted as you are. No guestlists, no private parties, come one come all.

The neighborhoods all have bars and cafes. There is not one real place to go for nightlife or for culture. Culture is all around. There is street art, graffiti, legal prostitution, independent coffee shops, stores, bookstores, and so on. Sure they have made checkpoint charlie a huge tourist attraction, but just walking around in Berlin you breathe in the history of the SS, Gestapo, Nazis, as you stumble through the maze of the Holocaust memorial or sit on the steps of the French Cathedral overlooking the square where Berliners drank the ‘Swedish Cocktail’ which halved their population, or Pariser Square where Victoria sits high on Brandenburg Gate glaring victoriously over the French. Right next to that is the hotel where Michael Jackson held his newborn son out the window – some pop culture at a very ironic time in history, just after the death of Michael Jackson.

Today my plan was to go to Einstein Kaffee to go online. But instead I decided to first take some time to enjoy my freedom.

No hostel guests, no being pulled in 20 different directions, no bogey web projects that turn out to be jokes, no dating, no traveling with 5 people, or even 1 other person, and having to please others. I don’t have to please anyone. I am free.

I have learned a lot of things about myself traveling and in general.

I made a long list today and it’s still growing. It’s a great time for me to unwind, reflect on things that have happened, how I reacted. Change happening so quickly is like a bullet – rapidly telling you what you need to / want to change inside yourself.

People say I think too much and to ‘stop thinking’, I say ‘stop just existing’. Traveling has made me realize that we all have a part, there are so so many people on the planet. We need to give balance to the earth, need to be here for a purpose, not just breathe air and use resources. I don’t know what that balance is yet for me, but I think it’s an important realization. Leave your mark on the earth, give back.

I am here in the park, no phone, no camera, a computer that barely runs but is allowing me to type this. Endless frustration with not finding internet, phone, etc but I feel even more free than I ever have in this moment. I had to re-learn how to communicate without a phone and texting at my fingertips. Life is quieter, less complicated, and more interesting as I am forced to look around, forced to figure things out and deal with what is around me and not beeping in my hand. I know I’ll
go back to it soon but I am enjoying the quiet just even for this moment.


Road Trippin Eastern Europe

July 17, 2009 at 11:12 am

I recently got back from a road trip around Eastern Europe for my birthday. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The freedom of driving, stopping at little towns here and there.

Slovenia was a hidden surprise. Places I have always wanted to go like Lake Bled. We rented a row boat and rowed out to the island with the church, had lunch, walked the neverending steps to the top. It was so amazing. Hung out with locals in Ljubljana, slept in parking lots, farm fields, hidden alleys or driveways, or even the middle of town!! The one shower I took that week was in somewhere Croatia. We had been dipping into the lakes, rivers, Adriatic Sea, whatever water was there.

Finally, furry and with slick hair, I busted out the shampoo, razor, and soap. After a dip in the sea, we headed to the showers (the ones where you’re supposed to wash off the salt water) and at 8 am when people were also taking a morning dip or eating breakfast, I had a shower, shampoo, shave and all right on the beach in front of everyone! If you pretend like no one is looking, they really aren’t right?

Leaving the Croatia coast was tough, I said goodbye to the sea a few times. Cliff jumping was unforgettable. We were told to go to the touristy spot and not the ‘dangerous, local, spot’ where there were pathways off the backside of St Peter’s church. But somehow as luck would have it we ended up there. 2 hours to warm up, plus another half hour each standing at the cliff edge looking over 20 meters down, not knowing what would happen if we jumped (we were the only ones lucky enough to be there), we finally did.

I wanted to scare the crap out of myself, and I did. I definitely did. Sweating, shaking, swearing, praying, chanting, throwing things – mix of emotions.

Just as I was warming up, a ship came by playing the song ‘Life is Life’ and then part of the song said ‘jump jump jump jump’. I figured it was a sign. After that passed some fisherman came by to throw nets. It was now or never.

I finally jumped. The birthday jump. I don’t even know how I did it, it just happened. Jessie did it. So could I. ‘FEET FIRST’ I said right before I plunged. Why didn’t I follow my own advice? I know – probably because falling from that high up is so unnatural and my body was scrambling to find ground or something to hold onto. I landed, hard. I had no idea that water could do that much damage. Jessie was ok, so should I be. But, I landed wrong. Bleeding and bruised, not able to sit
for still a couple weeks now comfortably and not being able to turn my neck, but, I did it!

The birthday jump.

Driving was tough but we met up with the others and we road tripped to Sarajevo, playing the game ‘Encore’ and losing track of time. It was all about the word ‘love’!

I left the group in Sarajevo. An interesting city, wish I had more time to go on the history tour, but just walking around and talking to locals in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia gave me a touch of the REAL history, what people really remember and not just from the tours. I also remembered some of the news from ‘91. The streets were crowded and crazy with cars, people, cafes, trams, cars parked on sidewalks, one ways – glad I made it out of there!

I had to pinch myself a couple of times. Here I was, driving in my littled rented Peuguot ‘Pooh’ through Bosnia… BOSNIA!

On the backroads. I had enough gas, but no cell phone. I knew how to change a tire – at least in the States. I didn’t speak slavic. My butt was cushioned with towels and sweatshirts as I was still recovering from the jump, and I stopped about once every hour or two to adjust. Bosnia is beautiful with large mountains and the road curves along the river. River one side, huge tree-covered rocks on the other.

I learned quickly one word, ‘obilaza’… construction. I tried to avoid it but it was construction season. I ended up taking several backroads, hitting some stop and go construction on gravel roads. But when there was no construction, I was cruising through now-flat countryside and windy roads through small cities. I felt like I was driving the backroads to my sister’s house in Wisconsin, only a different language and centuries of different history, different people.

What were they like? They had families too, they played in the yard, worked on the farm, had jobs, went to church, to the pub, to the dentist. What are they like? And here I am, an American in Pooh passing cars, farmers, tractors, not knowing where I am or much about the people or land. Again I had to pinch myself.

I popped in the Slumdog Millionaire sountrack as I cruised with Pooh through the backroads, feeling happy and peaceful, eating my cheese and crackers and my warm water, just doing my thing. In Bosnia!

After I played the soundtrack at least twice, I turned back to the radio. I loved listening to the radio stations that played the local music, it made me feel closer to the culture somehow. Then finally a great hip hop song came on, and I was jamming away.

Then, like the twilight zone or Brigadoon, I crossed a bridge and everything changed. The music station suddenly switched. The signs no longer had any slavic looking words. Everything was in Russian!

Where was I? What happened? These words aren’t on the map? What’s going on??

Finally I pulled over at a gas station. No English – all they spoke was German! Twilight zone. I could understand most of it and was back on track, but it made me really want to go back to German and Russian classes!

Again, pinching myself, here I was in former Yugoslavia, driving, the signs were in Russian, the people spoke German.

Times like these however make me happy to be alive. When does this stuff happen? I loved every second of it. It’s overcoming challenges or doing different things in life that give me energy and peace.

I was a little bummed but also relieved to be back in Hungary, where the roads are really nice and easy to drive on, a little hard to navigate around Budapest but it worked out just fine. It was somewhat surprisingly comforting hear some Hungarian words. Pooh was returned and all was well. Back on foot. Goodbye Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, thanks for the memories!

I’ll post pictures as soon as I can get them developed – from my disposable cameras!


July 17, 2009 at 10:41 am


So far I have seen three marketing campaigns.

Antwerp – ‘Belgaufra (belgian wafels). Probably the best since 1950’
Sarajevo – ‘Carlsberg. Probably the best beer in the world’
Berlin – ‘Ben and Jerry’s. Probably the best ice cream in the world’

What’s with the ‘probably’??

I get that it ‘probably’ has something to do with legalities, but to me it sounds funny, either it is or it isn’t. Or, it ‘probably’ is!

Truly an International Experience

June 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Hungary has a lot of visitors from Germany. I’ve spoken more German here than I think I have in my entire life including visits to Germany and German class.

I’m learning Hungarian words, and if we can’t speak in English, often times someone will speak German. My German is improving and I’m having a blast.

This week it’s been a mix of Spanish, German, English, Hungarian, and – Euskara (basque country language)! I pop out my iPhone and ask someone to write the word down in my notepad. Little by little I’m building my own Hungarian phrasebook! So many words here however to describe similar concepts. And, if you say ‘How do you say ___ in Hungarian’ nobody seems to understand. I have to say, for example ‘Spaghetti > English… ___ > Hungarian?’ and that seems to work, I must figure out how/why the first one doesn’t work.

Truly international, learning so much, and I enjoy every minute of it. Someday I hope to be like my grandfather and learn to speak several languages fluently. Getting to be here amidst the culture learning how it’s said in context and not just from a book and why people think/act how they do is so much more interesting than learning from afar.

sajtotharum szendvics kerek

June 14, 2009 at 11:27 am

sajtotharum szendvics kerek

You would think that if the package says ‘Three Cheese’ Sandwich, you would probably get a three cheese sandwich. Especially if you ask the lady behind the counter ‘three cheese?’ and she says ‘yes, three cheese’.

After a quick toast in the oven, she delvers a great tasting three cheese sandwich – with, of course, ham and onion. Why didn’t I see that coming?

Not eating meat has been tougher than I thought here in Hungary. At the market the other day, I pointed to and ordered ‘Stuffed Green Peppers’ (it was also in English), to which they gave me two huge meatballs and sauce. Hmm, maybe I got the inside of the stuffed green peppers?

They have so many great sausages, tons of pork and red meat, seafood is questionable, not as much chicken as central america, and I think I saw tofu once. Lots of falafel, however.

I got really sick for about 3 days, could barely eat. I wonder if, other than the Palinka (hungarian traditional liquor), it was my stomach adjusting to meat and uht milk, considering I had a mostly vegetarian soymilk diet before. I just can’t seem to avoid it here, so although I am trying, when in Rome…


May 22, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Buda pescht

Amazing city!  Not too many stories so far butI love it.  So beautiful, so much history, learned a few words in Hungarian so far. Helped an old lady step up on the sidewalk and learned the word ‘kussenem’ – thank you (might be spelling that wrong).

The food is full of carbs but loving the goulash, the pasta, the potatoes… bring it on.

Speaking of food…  I’m out the door.

Here are some very quick pics from my iphone, no camera yet.



Global Traveler Essential Packing List 1

April 6, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Note: This is an outdated this, check out the updated Global Traveler Essential Packing List 2

Trying to pack can be one of the hardest things to plan, especially if you’ll be gone for several months and through changing seasons!

But, I’ve found here are some of the basic necessities, below.  If you need anything else, make sure to bring some extra cash just in case (like if your luggage gets lost like mine did).  Or, just learn to be very very creative and rely on your instincts.

Here’s my list:


Passport ID Visa card Backup visa card (this came in very handy when my first card was cut off unexpectedly)

Cash – $120-$150
—— The above are a necessity —- with these you can get anywhere or do anything.  I would pack all these in a money pack, like Eagle Creek money belts from REI, so nothing is lost.
Tip:  I would also carry an extra set of clothes in your CARRY ON if you have room.  Even just something light, like underwear and a t-shirt.  Don’t forget toothbrush and deodorant too.


  1. Underwear – enough for 1-2 weeks
  2. Socks – 2 pair
  3. Flip flops – 1 pair (optional shower pair also)
  4. Tennies / walking shoes – 1 pair Dress shoes – 1 pair (optional)
  5. Jeans – 1 pair Pants – 1 pairShorts/Capris – 2 pair
  6. Tshirts – 2 Tanktop – 2 Long tops – 2 (best if these can go over the tanktops, good to pack layers to put on and undo)

Tip: Cut out anything you can.  Study the season(s) beforehand.  Is it cold at night?  How do they dress?  Will you be doing hiking? If you are in a very hot climate, shed shed shed.  If it is temperate during the day but chilly at night, pack smart layers.


1. Travel laptop > see blog for reviews, I carry an Acer Aspire One laptop.
Tip: If you’re working, I would recommend a travel laptop.  If you want to save weight/space and travel free of worry, I would rely on trusty, cheap internet cafes.

2. Pocket-sized camera + camera card

Tip:  Again, if you aren’t working on a photo or film project, why not just get the practical, cheap camera that you wouldn’t cry over losing.  I sold my two nice Canon cameras and bought a Canon SD-110.  I don’t have to worry if it’s lost or stolen and I back my pictures up regularly online.


  1. 1 bar soap in container
  2. Shampoo/conditioner combo in small bottle
  3. Toothbrush with cap, small toothpaste tube
  4. Cheap razor Makeup – only necessities Towel – lite dry – from REI

Remember: You can always buy more when you run out.  Travelers are also great at helping out if you are in a pinch.  It’s more fun to go to the store to find what you need and you’ll be happy you’re carrying less!

Working Remotely in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua with my Netbook

April 6, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Ever experience times when the wind blows or there’s a smell in the air and it instantly takes youWorking remotely San Juan del Sur Nicaragua 2008 back into time?

I recall this experience like it was last week.  There were light gusts of wind blowing dustings of sand on my netbook as I sat at the ‘El Globo’ restaurant in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.  Right on the beach, steps from the water, enjoying a lemon iced tea. I signed El Globo as well as a remote client, all before the ice melted in my tea.

This was one of the first times I felt accomplished from running Beer2Buds virtually, knowing that digital travel was becoming a reality and I was doing it.

Downsizing to 4 Boxes – An Experiment in Minimalism

March 26, 2009 at 12:00 am

I spent the past 10 years wanting to travel. I spent the last 10 years accumulating stuff. Finally, I drew a line in the sand. I was going no matter what. Not an easy decision and something in need of planning but well worth the effort.

I decided to reduce my life down to FOUR BOXES. I had two houses, a car, a cat, a relationship, tenants, a business, a job, a car, a social life, photos, cd’s, DVDs, furniture, paperwork – you name it!

What I decided to do was make a list of the things that were most important to me and what I couldn’t do without. Then, I decided to get rid of everything else. It’s unbelievable how much ‘stuff’ we can build up! After simplifying my life and liberating myself and reflecting, I really don’t know how or why we do it. Of course there’s the old “keeping up with the Jones’s” or simply adding more things for the space we have available. Either way, it’s not fulfilling and somewhat narrow minded. To release yourself of the ‘ties’ we have, whether real or imagined, is quite the freeing experience.

My list:

  • Picture albums (with a backup digital copy)
  • Legal paperwork for house / business / etc
  • Precious items that were gifts or could not be replaced

Really that was about it. I had two houses at the time and I made a plan to sell the first one. It took 3 and 1/2 months but finally after cleaning, prepping, and marketing it sold. Huge check off the list!

What next?

My job. My car was easy, I got in a small bumper crash and it decided no longer to run. So, I invested in the city bus. I had a heart to heart with myself. In another post I talk about the loathe I have for the corporate world, and although a great opportunity for me (there are many if you are a glass-half-full person), I released the chains and gave my notice.

Everything else was easy. Several trips to Goodwill, many posts on Craigslist, happy and willing friends to offload stuff onto, digitizing all music and movies, and online storage for everything that was important to me (with backup).

I’ll go through little by little what I use for tools to help me be mobile and work virtually.

I wasn’t able to sell my other house since, as we all know, the market went South. But it still feels good to have a place to call home and go back to. For several months I tried to find the right tenant to occupy my home. Giving them a few deposit slips and contacts in case something goes wrong or needs fixing and voila! Off to Central America to prove that living and working abroad can not only cost you less in stress and also in the dollars you spend.