I am sitting here in Brick Alley Cafe, right in the heart of Temple Bar, sipping a cappuccino on this sleepy Friday. Elvis has been dancing around the room for the last hour or so while the Dubliners buzzing around me reflect on the afternoon and butter a scone. The two women across from me are stirring their sipping chocolates and smiling as they squeeze the strawberry flavored marshmallows nestling at the base of their teacups.

Brick Alley Cafe

Over the past two months, Dublin has been carving this little space in my heart. The space is a careful one. Careful and deep. Perhaps carving is the wrong word, for it is taking nothing away from anything already settled there. Instead, it simply seems to add a bit here, a piece here, a triangle smile there everyday I walk past Trinity’s zealous buildings in bloom.

It’s been awhile since my last post and I have decided to make a list of some of the things that have been occupying my spirits lately:

a) Jameson Dublin International Film Festival – I saw two films; Chloe starring Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfriend, and Liam Neeson; a really seductively unstable thriller and an Irish film called One Hundred Mornings; not my favorite, but an interesting look at a domestic apocalyptic demise nonetheless.

Chloe

b) My first Irish History (1500-1800) essay on Irish highwaymen/rapparees and the manipulation of folklore to inspire the hysteria revolving around the fictitious Popish Plot of the late 17th century.

c) Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. I read the most beautifully written chapter I’ve ever encountered yesterday. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone from the bottom of my heart. Read it. You won’t be sorry. By the way, Jonathan Safran Foer sat in on one of my Creative Writing classes once…he’s brilliant.

Everything is Illuminated

And most importantly…

d) My week-long trip to Frankfurt, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin!!

In the final week of February, during Trinity’s “Reading Week” (FYI – Trinity students actually do stay and read during this week…we of course, took the week off as a free week to travel), Caroline, Lauren, and I embarked on our unplanned and therefore, very spontaneous adventure. We left Thursday morning, unsure of where the week would actually take us. The afternoon before, after procrastinating booking our train tickets and hostels, we had a minor flip-out wondering if this trip was even possible!

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, we were descending slowly into Frankfurt, Germany. Our lifesaver came in the form of Lauren’s family’s travel-agent’s travel-agent (yes, really) who directed us to the Flughafen (Airport) Train-station where we were able to purchase 3 Eurorail passes to carry us around Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic (usually, you have to purchase these and have them mailed to an American address…so, yeah, lucky.)

Our adventure began. 3 countries. 6 cities. 7 days. Most of my savings account evaporated (Farewell, Pottery Barn Kids’ paychecks! Who am I kidding…those were gone a long time ago.) – Oh, and for the record, whoever keeps spreading the rumor that travel within Continental Europe is cheap…please stop. You’re a liar. Your nose is growing. Just. Not true.

Anyways,

It’s hard to elucidate the freedom and beauty I experienced on this trip. It boils down to three women, some breathtaking landscapes, a lovely family, several euphoric train rides, and a bottomless smile blinking in the sunlight in the corner of a window.

Now, instead of boring you to death and making you insanely jealous with a graphically lengthy account of every excruciating detail of the city we traipsed through, I’ve decided to list the top highlights and laughters seen, felt, smelled, heard, and thought in each place.

Let’s start from the beginning…

Frankfurt, Germany:

Hangover. Flughafen. Taking ten years to buy a metro ticket because the ticket machines are all in German. Expensive ginger ale. A much needed nap. Creamy potato noodles. Apple wine. Home of the Euro. Rainstorm. Tacky Euro sign. Fantastic hostel breakfast.

Obviously German architecture, yes?

Innsbruck, Austria:

A visit to Caroline’s childhood au pair, Marion. Beautiful family. Bundled baby. Missing front teeth. Austrian pastries. Did I mention the Austrian pastries? Funny faces. Dress-up dancing! Peek-a-boo. Communicating via facial expressions. Ska band vibrations. Head banging. Gute nacht! Guten morgan! Family breakfast. Hot shower. Austrian Alps. Aesthetic arrest. “Meg, if I had gloves on, I’d throw snowballs at you.” Lauren sliding down the snowy mountain.

Austrian Alps - Girls on Top of the World

Salzburg, Austria:

2 hour walk through. Sound of Music painted cow. Mozart Candies. Mini Mozart Candies. Faberge egg store. Remind me to get a bag with a shoulder strap next time. Sprinting to catch our train. German beauty magazines. Assigning a persona to each city we have encountered. Accidentally buying two bottles of wine. Tipsy, warm arrival into Vienna.

Polishing off Mozart candies

Vienna, Austria:

Wien. The photobooth ate our money. Wombat hostel. Bartender Thomas’ welcoming (and free) shots of Jager. Come visit me in Dresden – Anton. Reminiscing about New York. Getting lost on the night bus and hailing a cab in the middle of nowhere. Smoky, beyond smoky bars. Unimpressive breakfast. No, you can’t exchange your orange juice for coffee. No, we don’t have a stove to make a scrambled egg. Museumsquartier. Deranged woman on the tram screaming in German – something about “Obama” and “internationals” – probably something racist. Kunst Haus. Apple strudel. Street vender falafel. Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” Longhaired dachshund spotting #985. Here is the bathroom for men, here’s the bathroom for “people wearing cloaks.” Long, winding Italian dinner. Lauren getting carded for her Prosecco lemon sorbet dessert. Drinking age in Austria? 16.

Kunsthaus, Vienna

Reenacting "The Kiss"

Prague, Czech Republic:

Enchantment. Fairy tale world. Charles Bridge. Cinnamon-sugar pretzel bracelets. Hot wine. Fingertips brushing corners of postcards. Babooshka overload. Bluelight cityscape. Pilsner. 7 story twisting nightclub – U Sudu. Cafe Sudicka, ordering Raclette, skillet, melting cheese. Meandering curving alleyways. Vegetable pancakes. Plum brandy. A missing earring. Warmth.

Charles Bridge, Prague

Berlin, Germany:

6:30 am train ride. Drooling on the seat beside me. Jumping off a moving train at the wrong stop in Berlin. Indecipherable German yelling train conductor. Stomach aching laughter. 5 hour walking tour. Captivation. Fire. Energy. Sadness. Fear. Continual Renewal. That’s so Benjamin – our very attractive, history buff NYU-grad tour guide. Is it seriously snowing right now? Potato dumplings. Damn, we drink a lot of beer. Let’s drink it on the street, yo. A twinkling Berlin from the top of the Reichstag.

Breathing renewal beside Berlin.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Captivation, Berlin

I hope my words fashion some sort of flavor of each city for you. It is always difficult to describe trips like these. A city is a dynamic and ever-changing entity and every person takes something unique away from their visit, depending on their individual history, their current amount of sadness, their current level of love, the extent of their exhaustion, the color of the light reflecting on the shoulders of a statue at just the right angle.

An experience is as variable as the weather on the particular day you find yourself with your finger on a map and a hope that you just started walking in the correct direction. I will tell you, the cities that are already calling me back are Prague and Berlin. Prague, for it’s fairy tale lips and Berlin, for its tumultuous history and its Mad Hatter dance clubs.

Now, I am nestled back in Dublin. The streets are beginning to hum with the pre-St. Patrick’s Day festivities. At this very moment, despite the fact that it is only 5:30 pm, men with way too much Guinness running through their veins are stumbling around outside this very cafe, where I sit, singing Irish ballads and shouting the occasional misplaced obscenity.

Ah, have I mentioned this to you? This year, on March 17th, I will be here. In Dublin, Ireland. On St. Patrick’s Day 2010. Be jealous, be very jealous. Let the celebrations begin!

That is all for now.

Missing my friends and family and sending a special love letter to you tonight, New York City,

Meg

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