Monday, October 23, 2017

Eurotrip final recap: five cities, six days, seven girls

So I have gotten you caught up on everything right through the marathon so let's continue on with my vacation recap. I want to wrap up my vacation so I can get back to posting about where my head is now, what I've been up to in the now month after the race, and all that jazz. However, I know that I love having these vacation recaps on the blog to look back at so want to finish up documenting this experience.

After the marathon and meeting up with the Atlanta Triathlon Club and ITL friends at the finish line, I started my way back to the hotel, hobbling along with some friends. I was chilly and looking forward to some food, a warm shower, and getting out of my race clothing. I also was already tracking down my friends at Chattanooga Ironman and getting updates on how they were doing at the race.

I won't keep mentioning that portion, but all throughout the day my friends in Chatt were on my mind. I loved getting the text message updates from Lauren's husband, refreshing my Facebook feed to see new photos, and seeing everyone move along the course through the Ironman app. My excitement for them was big and I loved cheering along from afar. I only hoped my good day translated over to them!

Back at the hotel, we showered and cleaned up and I responded to some text messages, then I swear, I don't even feel like I even sat down before we were out the door again (side note: most successful post-race shower I have ever had with barely any chafing!) The Marathon Tours group was holding an evening reception of drinks at one of the hotels we were all staying in and the girls and I had planned to meet up there. We were able to all toast, talk about our races, meet other marathonser, and believe it or not, even start to talk about what next. My feet and legs were definitely wishing that there were chairs around, but other than that it was great.

When my feet needed a rest I ducked over to the side and sat on the floor / windowsill and had a long conversation with Jerome on the phone, as well as went through some of the pictures from the day. I still needed time to process because everything that happened hadn't really sunk in. I think I was still in a bit of disbelief when I talked to Jerome.

We moved from the reception to a German biergarten to meet up with the rest of the Atlanta Triathlon community for a big group dinner which I loved. I have never had such a big group all celebrating the same accomplishment and thought it was such a cool thing to have these amazing athletes all around me.

My meal wasn't my usual post-race burger, but there was beer and good company! All of us were naturally pretty tired, so we returned back to our hotel room not too late, since we all planned to be up early in the morning. Unfortunately, I didn't sleep well that night, as I usually don't on the evening of a big race - my body doesn't seem to know that it is not under attack anymore and can never seem to shut down on rice night. But I was okay with that as it allowed me to watch the live feed of IM Chattanooga on my cell phone in the bathroom sobbing, like a totally normal person does.

Not a burger
Monday morning we drove to the next leg of our trip, which was to Munich. I felt pretty good moving about and although was tired, I was energized by the day before and the beginning of vacation with the race behind me. It felt a bit fast to be moving on from the marathon to beginning of the next part of the trip. I felt like I should be savoring the marathon more, but I had a 5ish hour car ride from Berlin to Munich that gave me lots of time to think about the day before and process.

The Monday after the marathon was very low key with lots of listening to music, chatting, stopping for gas or snacks along the road, and then settling in to our AirBnB in Munich. The home was really adorable and had a gorgeous rooftop deck. The only downfall was that the 2 flights of stairs we had to walk up continued to remind me that I had run a marathon the day before (as well as the stiffness in my legs any time I got in or out of the car.) We got some really funny looks from the AirBnB owners when they spotted us walking backwards down the stairs, which I have learned is a great technique to manage stairs when your legs are sore.

We visited a biergarten called Micheligarten in Ostpark that was right near where we stayed and it was a perfect afternoon of pretzels, sausage, beer, being outside, and lots of laughs from the ducks and geese who tried to attack our food.

The evening was low key as well with a random selection of snacks and foods and wines from the grocery store. We were all tired and had a busy day ahead of us.

Tuesday was Oktoberfest, which was everything I imagined it would be and just so much fun! We had been planning our outfits for months, purchasing things ahead of time over Amazon. I opted for the female version of the men's lederhosen and aside from them being a bit tighter than I would have liked, they were awesome and so much fun.

Oktoberfest is like a giant state fair type setup with tents from all the different beer companies. We had made a reservation in advance at the Hofbrau beer tent and after exploring a little of downtown Munich, we made our way over just as it started.

We had a view overlooking the rest of the tent space so we had prime viewing of the festivities as they got rowdier and rowdier as the afternoon went on. There was lots of singing, people standing on tables to chug beers, pretzel throwing and in our group - FaceTimeing. It all made for lots of laughter.

Lunch wasn't the greatest at the tent, but once our reservation was over and we wandered around the fair grounds, I made up for it with popcorn, nuts, cookies, and all the other junk food and snacks I could get my hands on apparently.

Following the end of our reservations at the tent, we walked around the rest of the Oktoberfest area a bit and popped into some of the other beer tents to see what they were like. I think we were all really happy with the tent that we had been in and the reservation we made. It had been a little confusing to plan, so I was glad it all worked out! We rode the Ferris Wheel before making our way back home after stopping off in downtown Munich near Marienplatz for dinner.

I spent two months in Munich in 2009 and for work and I loved being back in the city. It feels so special to me and I truly loved those two months I spent taking the train back and forth from Marienplatz and exploring the city. There is still so much more to see and do in Munich so I was glad to be back for a short period of time. Oktoberfest was a bucket list item for me and it was so enjoyable. Plus, I got to eat my delicious Kasebretze of a cheese covered pretzel again, so what's not to love?

We had another quick turnaround on Wednesday morning, heading out of the house early and driving to Vienna, with a stop along the way at Neushwanstein Castle. The castle was built by crazy King Ludwig and is nestled in a beautiful part of southern Germany. I had visited the castle once before a few years back on a trip to Munich but with this type of beauty, who wouldn't want to return?

It was a long day of driving, getting into Vienna around 10pm. It was another dinner of wine and cheese and meats and it hit the spot. I had arrived a bit cranky as I was tired and the blisters on my feet that had developed from the race were throbbing after a day of walking around and pressing down on the gas pedal. I didn't have the best night's sleep of my life, but it was at least good to day down!

I had packed blister bandaids and then next morning performed a bit of at home surgery on myself because Thursday was another jam packed day on my feet. According to my Garmin watch, we walked a little over 10 miles that day, which was the highest I had on the trip. Tuesday had 9.48, Wednesday had 7.75, and later in the week Friday was 8.5 and Saturday was 8.92. That's a lot of walking for the week after a marathon!

It was all worth it though and Vienna was gorgeous. We did a walking tour of the city and then did our own exploration a bit. There are so many palaces and gorgeous buildings and so many places I wanted to eat. The day just kept getting prettier and prettier the more we explored.

We had a schnitzel filled lunch where I realized I had met my quota of schnitzel on the trip, and I also ate one of the best ice cream cones of my life in Vienna.

This dark chocolate ice cream was the richest, chocolatey-est ice cream I have ever had and I enjoyed every single bite of it to the fullest. I could write an entire blog post alone on this chocolate ice cream. It was SO good. I am in love.

For dinner we ate at a vegetarian buffet style restaurant where you paid by the weight and it was fantastic. The restaurant was called Yamm and I really enjoyed being able to try lots of little bites of everything vs. sticking to one item on the menu. Vienna was the only city on the trip outside of Warsaw that was totally new to me and I found it so beautiful and charming. Our AirBnB, although it had the thinnest walls in the world, was adorable and really BIG!

Friday morning we packed up and back into our tiny cars for an early start to drive to Prague. I was excited to get to Prague and start exploring because it was a city I absolutely fell in love with a few years back when I visited for the first time. I was surprised when we arrived how little I remembered and I had no clue how to orient myself once we were there. I couldn't even tell you where I stayed the first time in relation to where I stayed the second time and only a few things seemed familiar to me! It was like a totally different trip and I loved it just as much the second time around.

We had lunch at a delicious Italian place right by our AirBnB that had different salad options you could get varieties of, and ate some amazing bread and olive oil. We wandered the streets and did a self guided walking tour courtesy of Rick Steves and Krystle's narration. We meandered across the Charles Bridge. Sipped champagne with lunch and then stopped for afternoon glasses of wine as the sun went down. We ate goulash and what was supposed to be dumplings but seemed more like pieces of white bread. We got beers at underground bars (and were kicked out of other bars we tried to go to.) We played games and we learned more about one another. We indulged and celebrated our last night in Europe with all 7 of us that had been traveling together for the last week. Friday was a really fun day in Prague.

The majority of us had really early flights on Sunday morning, so Saturday was really our last DAY in Europe. Everyone was flying out of Prague but me, as I had to get myself back to Warsaw before my long-as-heck return flights home with two layovers. In order to make the most of Saturday, a few of us set our alarms and got up early to return to the Charles Bridge for sunrise.

The day before it had been so crowded and the light was so bright that Krystle suggested we return in the morning to see it at dawn and it did not disappoint. I loved it.

Although it was our last day, it ended up being one of the more memorable ones. It started slow with coffee and breakfast, walking through the Jewish quarters to see the cemetery where tens of thousands of Jewish people have been buried over the years. We explored some of the churches of the town. Stopped at a bakery. And then made our way to the river.

One of the girls had been given the recommendation to do a river tour of Prague and we decided that what would be more fun would be to rent paddle boats. We made our way over after Googling a location and paid for an hour long paddle boat that fit 6 people. Half the time on the boat we spent having a photo shoot and observing how beautiful everything was around us. And the other half we spent trying to maneuver our way out of a little bit of a predicament we got ourselves in. We boated too close to shore, grounded ourselves, and despite the rescue attempt from some British men we flagged down, we couldn't get ourselves to budge. It wasn't until crowds developed along the shore staring at us and taking pictures that I finally said "Screw this!" and took off my boots, rolled up my pants and jumped in to push us off the sand. It was a rescue of legendary proportions.

The rescue mission was definitely a highlight and one of the funny points of the trip. I loved the paddle boat adventure and the stories and laughter that came out of it!

With that excitement passed, we grabbed lunch, a liiiiittle more ice cream at Creme de la Creme, and then I head out to make my way to Warsaw. I got a few hours of crummy sleep in the airport hotel in Warsaw on Saturday night before heading back home. It was a wonderful, whirlwind, fast, fun, tiring, energizing, memorable and adventurous vacation with a great group of smart and strong women who inspire me and make me laugh. I didn't know everyone super well going into the vacation but am so glad that I had the opportunity to get to know all of them through the trip.

Traveling is something I have always loved. It energizes and excites me and combining it with races has been a way to bring together lots of things I love over the years. We've already started a list of other races and adventures that we want to do and I can't wait to see what the next few years have in store. We lucked out with wonderful weather and easy, safe travels. Berlin Marathon and Eurotrip 2017 was everything I wanted it to be and I am so, so thankful.

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