Serbia

Do any of you have awesome friends? The ones who are the family we choose, who we don’t have to speak with everyday to pick up exactly where we left off. When I lived in Denmark, there were ten volunteers at the school, including myself, and we quickly became family. Two of them are from Serbia, Tatjana and Nash. A few days after I bought my plane ticket, Nash put on our Facebook group that he was getting married in Serbia on July 24. My ticket was for July 11 and I excitedly Nash that I’d be there for his wedding. I got to Novi Sad a day or so before the wedding to explore the area. The wedding was beautiful and although I hadn’t seen Nash or Tatjana in four years, it was as if I had seen them only days before. A day or so after the wedding, I took a bus up north to Kikinda where Tatjana is from and spent a day with her before continuing my trip.

Copenhagen

Over the summer, I spent two months traveling through Europe. My first stop was Copenhagen. Denmark has a special place in my heart after I spent ten months volunteering at a school in Vejle and that made Copenhagen a great place to start. Between seeing several old friends, a trip up to Malmö, Sweden for an afternoon, and fond memories, it was a gorgeous beginning.

Miles from Budapest…

It’s the beginning of another travel day for me and a week since I flew out of Boston. I’ve already been to two cities and I’m currently headed a third and the first country I’ve not been to. So far, the biggest thing I’ve had to remember how to do is speak simple English. English is becoming a common traveling language but for so many people, it’s a second language. Which means I get to use simpler words while speaking more slowly.

The other day I was looking at the hostels I’m staying in along the way and realized that one of them is listed as “Property no longer available” on Hostelworld (the site I’ve been using to find/book all of my hostels). I googled it and did find the property but not having it Hostelworld bothered me. So I had a decision to make. I sent out a quick email to address provided me and hoped that they’d get back to me within the day. They didn’t so I decided to make some changes. Yesterday morning I spent reworking my itinerary so that it would work well and fit with my calendar and Eurail pass. And I made it work! Somehow. There were some moments where panic was slowly reaching its way up my throat, threatening to constrict me. It really had to do with having to change so much and the worry that I’ll make a mistake. Which brought up the concern that maybe I’ve bitten off way to much by taking four months and maybe I should have taken several shorter trips. All in good time, some frantic writing to try and get the panic out of my fingers, and I became more calm and reassured about the trip.

Copenhagen: I had a good trip across the Atlantic and easily got through customs to find my bag and an avocado sandwich from Joe & the Juice (so good!). I took the metro from the airport to the center of Copenhagen then walked towards my hostel. The nice thing about having a phone that still works here is having maps which makes finding my way much easier. In the evening, I met with a friend from when I was at Vejlefjordskolen and we walked around Copenhagen. I ended up getting a blister or two but it was good to catch up. The next day, I headed to Malmö, Sweden to meet with another friend from my grade school days. She came to Sweden to go to school and is currently still living there, trying to learn Swedish. She was kind enough to invite me to her apartment where her boyfriend cooked dinner and showed me pictures from their recent trip up to Northern Sweden to hike. After dinner, we drove over to Lund, where the university they both attended is located and we walked around for a bit. The next day, I spent walking around Copenhagen. I stopped by the Little Mermaid, walked by the palace, to where some river boat tours leave that I had seen on my last trip to Copenhagen. I wandered into one of the center squares, got another sandwich from Joe & the Juice and people watched. I worked my way to the Copenhagen Central station to activate my Eurail pass and make reservations for the next mornings trains and timed myself getting to my hostel. I left early the next morning and made it just in time to the train. I met several people on the train and we had some good conversations about traveling and where we were headed next.

Prague: Ah, Prague. In high school on bell tour, we went to Prague so my first day, I walked towards the St. Charles Bridge because I remember wanting to spend time on the other side of it, close to the castle. I had forgotten how hilly Prague is! So many hills! I walked up towards the Prague Palace to get a fabulous view of the city and to get a breeze. After finding food, I walked towards the older part of town and got this treat that is basically a breaded cone with filling. I got chocolate and ice cream in mine and it was so good!! Once I got back to my hostel, I worked on writing about the previous few days and started talking with some of the people around me. Eventually one of the guys I met, Jonah, came upstairs with a couple other guys and they started playing a card game and after a bit, I joined in and had so much fun! The next morning, I reworked my itinerary and eventually walked down into the city to get lunch, salad with goat cheese (it was fantastic!) then cake and coffee from a small café I had found the day before. I spent the evening packing up my area and making sure I was ready for leaving today.

Now I’m on a train to Budapest…Wahoo!

New York: Heroes and Villains Fan Fest

It didn’t make sense. At all.  “Why is he declaring a state of emergency? It’s not even snowing!” “Being from California, this doesn’t make sense, even for me. Look, Stephen Amell is saying it’s not snowing.” “I’m going to check Facebook…” “You do that.”  Amber and I sat in our hotel room, patiently waiting for the leaders of Heroes and Villains Fan Fest to post something, anything, about the first day of con being cancelled.  Finally, they did.

It is said that “Every bad situation will have something positive.  Even a stopped clock shows correct time twice a day.” The weekend of Storm Winter Jonas was no different.  For a few months, my college friend Amber and I had been planning to attend a small comic con called Heroes and Villians Fan Fest in New Jersey, just across the river from New York City. We decided to get to the city the day before the con started to explore and see the sites.  As the weekend approached, we watched, apprehensively, as weather reports started appearing about a blizzard that was supposed to hit the east coast. A few days before we left, I got a text from Amber. “So my dad thinks we should get a hotel closer to the convention center because of the weather.”  “That’s not a bad idea,” I texted back. After researching, we choose a hotel, La Quinta, that was less than a mile away from the convention center.  Feeling more confident, we began traveling, Amber on Thursday evening and I, Friday morning. We met at Grand Central Station.

“Amber, they posted something.” “What, what did they say?” “They cancelled the con for tomorrow.” “Man!!! Ok.  What should we do?”  “Well there’s this event on Facebook that some girl named Alyssa created. It’s for those of us who are already here and need something to do.  Maybe something with them?  It looks like a bunch of people are staying over in the Hyatt or Embassy suites.” “Ok.” “Hey! This means we can sleep in!” “Yeah it does!”

Walking into the main waiting area of Grand Central Station, I had a case of what I can only describe as the repeated “Oh my goodness.”  “Oh my goodness” and “wow” played like a broken record infused with a short strain of Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” in my head.  After finding Amber, we stood in the middle and both stared.  Both feeling a bit peckish, we discovered a Chipotle close by, got food and talked. Several hours passed and we decided to walk to Central Park.  We meandered by the ice skating rink and outcroppings of rocks. “You know in the movies, how there’s that fountain thing with that building?” I asked Amber.  “Yeah!” “I’d like to see it. Do you happen to know what it’s called?” “I have no idea.  Google it.” A few taps later, we discovered we were thinking of the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, where it was, and started walking towards it.

At 9am, the annoying music of my alarm started to play beside my head.  Rolling out of bed, I glanced out the window and say that it was actually snowing.  “Hey, look.  It’s actually snowing!” We shuffled around, putting on appropriate clothes and shoes and headed to breakfast. The TV in the dining room was on the news channel and the news anchor was talking about winter storm Jonas.  “So what should we do?” we asked ourselves as we rode the elevator to our floor.  “Well, I’d like to go over to the other hotel and although I’m not overly fond of walking, I’ll do it,” I said.  “Agreed,” said Amber. “Plus that’s where most of everyone else is.” I could sense an air of hesitation shared between us.  I glanced at Facebook.  “Hey! Alyssa, creator of the event, said she asked about a shuttle from our hotel to the convention center! It looks like she’s staying at this hotel too.  The front desk thought maybe a hour or so for the shuttle to get plowed out.”  “Ohh! Let’s get ready and go then!”

After taking an adequate number of photos and being adequately chilled, Amber and I made our way towards Times Square, by way of the closest Starbucks.  The sun had set by the time we reached Times Square which, we agreed, was most fortunate because we had wanted to see the square after dark anyway.  Lights shown bright as ad’s flashed across huge screens, soundless.  We stood in awe, slowly turning in a vain attempt to see everything.  The staircase at one end, glowing red, beckoned and we answered, climbing to the top.

“I hope they haven’t left yet,” I thought as Amber and I made our way to the hotel lobby.  Upon turning the corner, we saw three people, two guys and a girl who I assumed was Alyssa, standing next to the front desk.  “Are you going to the Hyatt?” I asked, directing my question primarily towards the girl, having recognized her from the Facebook event.  “We’re trying.  We tried walking but we only got so far because the wind was blowing the snow in our face.” “What about the shuttle?” “They said they can’t get a plow truck to come help get it out.  We were thinking of getting a Lyft. If we do, do you want to join?” I glanced at Amber, who nodded.  “Yeah, sure!”

“Lisa is annoyed that the only place we’ve eaten at so far in New York has been Chipotle.  She want’s to live vicariously through us and said we need to get pizza.” We stood on the side walk, pressed up against a building in an attempt to get out of the way while we tried to determine how to get to the bus station.  “Ok,” I mumbled to Amber, while looking on google maps. “Well, the bus takes us right to the convention center so maybe if we start walking that way to the station, we’ll find something that isn’t sit down and we can just get a slice.” “Sounds good,” she replied. We soon discovered that the bus station had a pizza shop in it and both got a slice after purchasing our bus tickets.  After trudging up a staircase to our gate, standing in line, and getting on the bus, we bit into our pizza, savoring the mix of sauce, cheese, and crust. Eventually we got to the convention center and picked up Amber’s pass at will call. After consulting google maps for the thousandth time, we navigated across the freeway to our hotel, La Quinta.

“Hey look! Someone responded to my Lyft request named Amaan!” declared Alyssa “I better tell him not to come into the parking lot or he’ll get stuck.”  While we waited for Amaan to arrive, we introduced ourselves, Travis and Chris stood on either side of Alyssa, and discussed our excitement about being in New Jersey for the con.  Eventually Amaan got to the hotel and, against our suggestion, pulled into the parking lot.  After piling into his car, he drove around and proceeded to get stuck. “We can help push,” Alyssa suggested mildly.  A minute or so later, we shoved out of the car, in search of shovels. Upon discovering two, Travis and Chris began to clear a path in front of the car, with eventual success. When we arrived at the Hyatt, we discovered a long line for Lord Mesa, an artist who was one of the featured guests at the con.  “Well, we could stay here but it looks like there are more people over at the Embassy Suites. And they’re saying something about Stephen Amell maybe staying at that hotel.”  A few moments passed and the decision was made to go to the Embassy.  The hotel had a more open lobby than the Hyatt with many more people, including some who had dressed up as different characters from TV shows and movies. After spending about 30 minutes at the Embassy, hunger began to make itself more and more known.  “Is anyone else hungry?” asked Chris.  “I want a drink and I’m annoyed they haven’t opened the bar,” stated Travis. The dilemma then became what to do about getting food.  Rumors were circulating about Stephen Amell wasn’t actually staying at the Embassy but was making his way to where we were.  We bounced around a few ideas, including going to Chipotle or Houlians. Eventually someone noticed a group of people eating pizza and discovered the pizza was from Carrabbas.  “Let’s just get pizza from Carrabbas.  We can bring it back here, if we want, in case some one shows up.” Travis pointed out that on one of the maps of the area there was a phone number and Alyssa called ahead and ordered two cheese pizzas. On the walk over, we bumped into two of Alyssa’s friends, Ramon and Ashley and they decided to join us.  Upon entering Carrabba’s we made an interesting discovery.

The rest of Friday evening, Amber and I spent watching Facebook and Twitter, trying to discover anything we could about the fate of the con.  At some point, Governor Chris Christie called a state of emergency for the area and then it was a matter of time for the people in charge of the con to cancel the first day.  About an hour of Christie announced a state of emergency, a tweet appeared on Twitter, letting us know that the first day of con was cancelled.  Disheartened, we climbed into bed with the intention to sleep in a bit.

“Guys,” whispered Amber.  “That’s Stephen Amell, that’s Stephen Amell!!!” Seated in the bar area of Carrabbas at a rectangular table sat a group of people, most of whom we didn’t recognize.  When we had walked in one of the heads facing away from us turned and we realized who it was.  Seated next to Amell was Teddy Sears and Robbie Amell.  Having already ordered our pizza, we figured it would be ok for us to sit at one of the tables in the bar area and wait. Towards the beginning of the time we spent at Carrabba’s we decided not to post anything on social media about the actors being at the table next to us.  “Let’s try to respect their privacy,” we agreed.  Eventually, because Carrabbas was one of the few places open close to the convention center, it became crowded.  Stephen Amell got up at one point and started taking pictures with people and we all got up and got photos with him.  Some time passed and all of a sudden we realized that John Barrowman and Katrina Law had walked in to join the crowd. Almost as soon as Katrina Law walked in, Chris started to blush and said, “Guys, she’s so cool!”  As she walked past our table, I turned and tapped her on the shoulder.  Pointing to Chris, I told her, “He’s, like, in love with you.” “Well I love you too,” she said to Chris.

Eventually, I had to leave because I was volunteering at the Nocking Point event that was happening.  As I walked out the door, I noticed Katrina Law standing with several other people, arms out stretched.  “Come make snow angels with us!” she exclaimed.  It took a second to register what she was saying but as soon as it did, I bounded over and got into line.  One the count of three, we fell back and made snow angels.  At the Nocking Point event, hosted by Stephen Amell and his business partner Drew, some of the other volunteers and I helped load boxes onto dollies and took them to the panel area of the convention center.  Once done and having received our volunteer shirts, two other girls and I were walking when Stephen Amell passed us and said “Hi.” “Hey,” I replied and kept walking.  A few steps later, I slowed, the other girls caught up and hissed, “You just got a casual hi from Stephen Amell!!!” “I know!!” I managed.

For the first part of the evening I helped other volunteers direct attendees into lines depending on what type of ticket they had.  Once we finished, one of the girls, Rory, and I headed into the party area to mingle with others.  The entertainment for the evening was John Barrowman and Stephen Amell singing.  After they were done, music played and people danced.  Eventually the night ended and Amber and I began our walk back to our hotel, thankful that when we got to the bridge, Ramon drove past and offered us a ride.  Over the course of the day, Amber and I had discovered that our transportation home on Sunday had been delayed or cancelled and once we reached the hotel, we extended our stay one more night.

Sunday morning came with Amber muttering, “It’s 7am.”  “Ahh man,” I moaned, bummed that I hadn’t gotten up when my alarm went off and hopeful that, although I was supposed to be at the convention center at that same moment, they would still let me volunteer. After throwing on my clothes, I went downstairs, hoping against all hope that I would be able to find a ride.  I passed Chris on my way out.  “Aren’t you supposed to be there by now?” He asked. “Yeah, I woke up late,” I mumbled.  Thankfully there were a few cars out front and I approached one and knocked on the window.  “Are you guys headed to the convention center?” I asked.  “Yeah we are,” replied the girl in the front seat.  “Do you mind at all if I ride with you?” “Sure!”

After arriving at the convention center, I made my way to the panel area and checked in.  We were all handed two different wristbands, one for when we were volunteering and one when we weren’t.  We were also given a food/meal ticket and two autograph vouchers.  I had been assigned security as my post for the con.  The first few hours I spent directing people to lines where they could wait to be let in. I thought it was quite cool when Stephen and Robbie Amell walked by and we exchanged “Hi’s” and “How’s it going.” Then one of the other volunteers and I were stationed at the entrance to direct people towards the exit in an effort to alleviate traffic jams. Several actors walked past us including Erin Richards (who had on really cool pants which I noticed before I realized who it was), Robbie Kay, and Robin Lord Taylor.  After my six hour shift ended, the Arrow panel was about to begin and I found a seat in the back to sit and rest my feet and listen. The cast discussed different aspects of the show and answered questions.

When the panel finished, I meandered through the vendors, looking at what they had to sell and eventually running into Amber, who had spent most of the morning with Chris. With hurting feet, we found a spot to sit next to Robbie Kay’s booth where Ashely was volunteering.  When Amber went to her photo ops, I walked around a bit more and tried to decide who to have sign my shirt.  The volunteers swapped suggestions, saying who was signing shirts and not taking the autograph vouchers vs who was taking them.  Karen Gillan wasn’t signing shirts but just as she was about to leave, I went up and said hi.  I ended up having Robbie Amell, Erin Richards (who didn’t take my autograph voucher), and Sean Pertwee.

I met back up with Amber and Chris around five and we decided to go eat before going to our respective places of rest.  We decided to go to Carrabbas again and saw Robbie Amell for the second time and joked that none of us would ever be able to go to Carrabbas again without thinking of New York or expecting to see someone famous.  We decided to get dessert for Chris’ birthday and spent time talking and laughing. Once Amber and I got to our hotel, I asked about different transportation for the morning, and we watched some TV.

Monday morning came bright and early and I was at the bus stop waiting for the bus at 7am.  My rescheduled train for the morning was delayed for about 20 minutes and being already early, I decided to go over a few blocks to get coffee and an everything bagel.  It was one of the best bagels I’ve ever had.  Once I reached Boston, I spent some time eating and writing at Quincy Market before catching a bus to Dover.