(C)amping with Karsten
One year since my last post and I honestly don’t even know where to begin.
So, ya know, hi. If you’re reading this and you know me, then you know this is a travel blog and ya girl hasn’t been on the travel game recently what with the casual global pandemic ruining everyone’s lives (except for mother Earth, she is THRIVING and we love to see it). I guess a general and all-encompassing update is in order, no? Very long story very short, it’s been one hell of a year. I was back in Greece this summer when we had a Corona-lull here in Europe (bc unlike in America people actually behave like we’re experiencing a global pandemic JUST SAYIN’) and it was incredible bc essentially it was Santorini with none of the tourists or the insane prices and boy oh boy am I lucky to have gone. What else? I got a new job. I’m a PR Manager at a nonprofit university here in Germany which is an impressive title considering it implies I might be able to manage anything other than myself (as if) and basically means I get paid to write a bunch of words about whatever topic I’m told seems significant and then translate those words into German and send them off into the world in the form of a press release or online article or casual tweet (idk) andddddd it’s pretty awesome. I haven’t felt this adulty since ever, folx. I live in Koblenz for now, which is a smaller city sitting right on top of the crossroads between the Mosel and Rhein rivers known for its hiking trails and wineries, so clearly I was destined to spend at least some part of my life here. I have 3 roommates who make sure to keep my life exciting, and I spend most of my time settling into the new job and the new home and my general new life seeing as how I’ve only been here three weeks so far. My lease here is only for six months and then I’ll be on the hunt for my own place, but I’ll save that for another post bc otherwise I’ll never shut up, as is my way. At this stage I feel like I’ve been running a marathon trying my best to keep up with my life and all the changes whether they be in my private or work life and now everything is settling down, but no one has told my brain yet and it refuses to accept that everything is fine and there are (currently) no new fires to put out. I’m working on it. But we know me, sitting still is a foreign concept to me and as much as I love my new job, I’m already thinking about the next move, the next (big) trip (so far 2022 is looking like a week in Egypt diving in the Red Sea and maybe a few months backpacking Central America, if you’re interested), or whatever else. I am simply incapable of chilling tf out.
Speaking of which, I spent my one single, beautiful week of vacation (the last week of January between quitting my hellish hotel job and starting my awesome new PR job) in a camper van with no heating in 12*F weather. Why? Bc I hate myself, idk. So for those of you who don’t know of Dani’s existence in my life, we met about 9 years ago in the same high school language exchange program that brought me the joy that is Saskia and the distinctly less joy that is constantly learning new rules of the German language. We fell out of contact for the better part of the last decade, but both landed in Cologne this past year and reconnected and here we are bc life is cool like that.
So anyway, Dani and I decided to go camping. In the middle of winter. In Germany. Did I mention Karsten (the camper had a name, obviously) didn’t have a heater? Or a toilet? Yup. Do with that information what you will. We woke up the next morning at some ridiculous hour before the sun was up bc we needed to pack Karsten and head out to see whatever wonders we might stumble upon. We headed out in a general Northeast direction (according to Dani, idk, what are Cardinal directions??) and made our way, relatively slowly mind you bc Karsten is huge and we were in no rush, to the Externsteine, a super cool rock formation close to Paderborn.We then headed to Aldi bc we had everything for sandwiches except mayonnaise and mustard and I refused to eat a dry sandwich bc I’m picky like that, so we parked in the back of the Aldi parking lot and chef’d it up in the back of Karsten while I attempted to field all of the delightfully sweet birthday posts and calls and whatever else that come with incredibly close-knit family and friends and Facebook’s worst feature of sharing your birthday with all of your “Friends” as a general notification.
We then made our way to some sort of national park situation whose name my brain refuses to remember or pronounce and somehow ended up driving through the forest in the snow in the dark while Dani stayed calm as we basically drove onto the set of a gruesome murder mystery movie and I did my best to keep my freakout at a casual simmer as I thought of all the super fun ways we might get this van stuck in the middle of the fckn forest and DIE until we finally decided to turn around and find a campsite closer to civilization. We did no such thing. All of them were closed bc of Corona, which like, I understand, but also, how you gonna deprive me of heating in this metal box in the middle of winter? We set up camp in some random national park parking lot and I enjoyed a happy birthday skype session with the fam, including my grandma, who upon hearing my complaints about the cold and our lack of heating, shared flippantly that she and my grandfather used to have a heated mattress in their camper when they used to camp in Colorado and Alaska, AS IF THAT WAS THE KIND OF THING I NEEDED TO HEAR IN THAT MOMENT. Dani made dinner while mom and I skyped and she essentially shared with Dani all the reasons he should stop hanging out with me (it didn’t work, we still hang out) before we enjoyed some apple cake for dessert and I somehow lost at Phase 10 while drinking way too much wine bc we had to make up for the lack of an external heater with a more improvised internal version.
Waking up was a slow process considering we first had to thaw out and get the camper ready to move again (basically pack all the things that might fall over or spill, so we had to drink up any open wine at 11am bc god forbid it spill, you know, and buckle the rest of the unopened wine into its car seat bc precious cargo). Dani suggested we stop in Marburg on our way to the Geierlay hanging bridge which was a fantastic life choice as it resulted in the purchasing of falafel döner and several coffees in a super cute new city before we stopped at the world’s smallest gas station in the world’s largest camper van and spent several minutes looking for the tank-opening-thingy so that we could actually put the gas INTO THE CAR before a nice man with a similar vehicle came over and pointed to what we’d basically been blatantly looking right past for way too long and walked away laughing at us under his mask, which like… fair. By then the sun was already going down bc winter does that, but we’d planned to see Burg Eltz that day, which is this gorgeous castle I took my sisters and Becks and Chrissy to see when they visited me back in the day when people were allowed to visit people, but Dani had never seen it. So we went to check it out, despite the creepy darkness in the middle of the forest late at night, which meant I essentially spent the 20 minute footpath stretch explaining to Dani all the ways someone could kill us right now and no one would hear our screams, until we turned a corner and out popped the world’s most picturesque little castle, beautifully lit despite the late hour and the fact that it probably hadn’t seen many visitors lately due to Corona. It was gorgeous. Photos were captured. Moments were taken in. Joy was experienced. 10/10 would recommend.
We then headed to a camping site which, according to online reviews that were semi-recent, seemed to be open, in the hopes that we might have heating for the night. We did not. It was closed. That review was posted the last day we were open. Fab. So we drove back towards Burg Eltz bc we’d planned to go to the very closely located hanging bridge the next morning and there was no point in being far away from it when we could just not bc Dani had the ridiculous idea that we should see the bridge at sunrise. We parked overnight in a grocery store parking garage bc the tiny town we were in had signs posted like every 3 meters that prohibited non-residents from parking anywhere ever (bc the bridge is a pretty popular destination when it isn’t freaking freezing outside). Soup was on the menu for dinner bc it required the least effort and ass-kicking was for dessert as I wiped the floor with Dani in several rounds of SkipBo while we enjoyed some wine which would ensure that we decidedly did not wake up with the sun.
The next morning we made our way to the closest parking lot to the bridge (which was in the middle of the woods) and my feet were numb before we stepped out of the van bc ya girl really needs to invest in some hiking shoes bc these 5yr old Nikes with holes in the soles are really not going to cut it. We did make it to the bridge and back without a. my feet falling off and b. Dani losing his mind (he has a serious fear of heights). Once my feet defrosted, we made our way back to Cologne to unpack and clean Karsten and get ready for my life to turn itself upside down again, this time in the way of a new job and a new city and the ability to take a breath (still working on that) for the first time in a long time.
So this is where I leave you for now, beautiful people. The coming year is still so up in the air for so many reasons and my dream is to see Becks and Saskia (both living in the UK where no one is allowed anywhere rn), go to Chrissy’s wedding in August in Virginia, maybe hit a few new Baltic countries sometime (Latvia always looked like a good idea), and then head home for Christmas. Will any of this happen? Not a damn clue. However, I will do my best to keep you much more effectively updated than I did this year, deal?
Until next time, folx
PS. Today’s post title comes from dad referencing the type of camping we were doing as “amping” bc it wasn’t quite “glamping” seeing as how there were no toilets or heating, but it also wasn’t regular camping bc we weren’t stuck in tents, so he coined the term “amping” or “average-camping” to describe our situation, and I’m running with it.
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Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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