Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things as of now

This keeps getting more and more behind. And now that I'm home I'm not even sure I need a travel blog anymore! I'll keep trying and see if I can get this whole blogging thing right eventually. For the moment, a list of the things I've done since July, since I keep telling various people different combinations of events.

First, I finished my masters! After all the traveling this summer, I went back and actually finished everything while still managing to see friends and enjoy the last of my time in Sweden. I ended up with a project and result I was very excited about.

Our graduation was to be in Montpellier, so next it was off to France. But the cheapest place to fly to from Sweden was Nice. How horrible! After the crazy couple of months I'd had, two days on a beach with a good friend did wonders! And French food--there are almost no words for what French food tastes like after living in Sweden... We ate only cheese, fruit, bread, meat, and wine while we were there. I also realized how very much I had missed France while gone, sort of surprising myself. It was nice though to arrive and feel at home immediately. After two days of rest in Nice, Montpellier was a fun whirlwind of a week with entirely too little sleep and too much sweat. After a Swedish summer that topped out around 20C/68F, heading into a humid Montpellier late August at 35C/95F almost killed me. I'm not even exaggerating much. But it was fun to see everyone, and I graduated! Sorta. They forgot to print my certificate (ahh, the excellent organization of this program continues to amaze me), but close enough. After graduation, we were to head to Serbia, but again unfortunately, we had to fly from Paris. So we took a couple of days with a friend there and had more fun. I had been to Paris in January alone, and I must say being there in August with friends made a HUGE difference. Paris in January is unbelievably dreary and grey, and as I keep mentioning, I am one solar-powered woman.

In Serbia, I stayed with my friend and her family. Even after recuperating in France for a while, we were still dead, so a lot of the time in Serbia was spent sleeping an unholy amount, waking up to eat before flopping on the couch for crappy reality TV, getting up only to go back to the table or bed. It was sluggish. But we also had a lot of fun wandering around her town of Novi Sad and venturing into the countryside and Belgrade.

Next was Greece! We got an awesome deal on a 10 day trip to Parga on the northwest coast and jumped at it. You can probably guess, but there was more sluggishness during this trip. It was awesome. The town was nice--not resorty at all but a fishing village built on a hillside that had become a tourist place, so it was low-key with normal buildings in a beautiful setting.We had a choice of four beaches in or near town, each of which bordered the lovely warm and restorative Mediterranean.

After Greece and a few more days in Serbia I headed to Budapest. I had wanted to see both Budapest and Prague since before I even went to Europe, and I finally had the time and was in the right location. Budapest was a cheap 7 hour train ride from Novi Sad, so off I went. It was awesome. A nice mix of monumental and normal feeling, a lot of fun to wander around aimlessly, and the goulash is awesome.

As much as I liked Budapest, I loved Prague. It immediately grabbed me. The buildings are fun, all painted and with interesting details, and the setting is amazing. The castle is on a hill across the river, as is a large park, both of which are great to wander around. Prague is also really green, full of parks and gardens and islands in the river, which I liked. I realized that even in cities I am always drawn to the parks. Noted for future travel planning! But seriously, Prague. Go.

After Prague it was off to Munich to meet the parents for Oktoberfest. Pretty cool huh? I have done Oktoberfest before, but it was fun again.

Then I headed with the parents to Austria for a few days. We did Salzburg, St. Polten (a small town where they visit at the University), and Vienna. All very nice. Salzburg was much smaller than I expected, but very nice. It has a fortress on a huge rock above the city which gives an amazing view of the city and surrounding valley and is a nice place to have a beer! Vienna is huge. All the buildings you're supposed to see are monumentally enormous, it's kind of shocking. But again, a nice city. I also loved driving through the countryside, stopping at some of the small lakes scattered in the mountains and driving along a wine valley on the Danube.

Phew. That was an amazing run of travels, I am fully aware. It was so much fun. I saw so much, both things I never expected and things I had wanted to for a long time. It was a perfect way to cap off my  two years of an international master program, during which I made a real effort to travel a lot. 

Eventually though, I had to get back to real life and so went to Montpellier to fill out paperwork for a job I was supposed to have on Reunion Island. It's a beautiful tropical island beside Madagascar, where I was going to work on a project I was really excited about (so certainly not a bad real life, but work nonetheless). While in Montpellier it became obvious that the job would take a while to start, so I decided to head back to the US to wait. So now I'm here at home, getting a chance to see a lot of you lovely people and work on the many things I wanted to finish before starting the job. Unfortunately the job fell through last week. It was a complicated project with many partners and lots of politics, and I got caught in the crossfire. So now the plan is--no big deal--figure out what I want to do with my life and plan accordingly.  Onward!