Tol, Medium & Smol Take Europe
Hello and welcome back to the blog of the least consistent blogger on the planet! Before we get started, let me go ahead and clarify a few things for those of you who haven't had a recent life update:
Apropo: my sisters are here. For the very few of you who don't already know, I have two little sisters (Sam, 20 & Jess, 18) who - in addition to my mama, obviously - are my very best friends. Sami is a junior at San Jose State University kicking ass at graphic design, and Jess will be an incoming freshman this year at Humboldt State studying Environmental Studies and saving the world. The three of us couldn't be more different, but our weirdness works well together and we sure are entertaining for anyone in earshot. As it was, I was supposed to fly into Manchester, England on the 7th to meet up with my friend Saskia (who lives there) and the girls were to fly in on the 8th to meet me. Instead, Saskia had to fly home for a family emergency so she wasn't there (while we stayed in her apartment), and my phone decided to update in the middle of the night so I missed my 4am wake up call and thus my flight, so I experienced the joy of buying an entirely new ticket to get me into England early the next morning just in time to meet Sam (who was flying in a few hours before Jess bc they got different tickets bc they booked a few months apart). Mind you, my new ticket involved me heading into an airport farther away in the middle of the night and camping out there bc there were no trains at the right time for me to get there at a reasonable hour and I was terrified to miss another flight so I was up for 30h for a trip that should have taken me like 4h total. Sometimes life is hard.
Sami (aka Smol) met me just outside of customs at the airport bc our flights landed within 20 minutes of each other and we headed back to Saskia's apartment, where we met up with one of her roommates - Joe - who gave us her keys before heading to work and left us to pass out for a 4h nap bc neither of us had gotten any sleep in way too many hours. We picked up Jess after our much needed nap and somehow it was just like we were back at home taking a walk through town and chatting about life, but now in a totally new country (for them at least). It was such a wonderful feeling to have my girls by my side (despite the sling that was also attached to my side). We headed to Pie & Ale to share a few classic British meat pies and beers for lunch (where we got one for only a pound bc it was the deal of the day and it was awesome bc we are poor) before heading to check out the focal points of Manchester like the John Ryland Library and then wandering into the more modern and hip part of town (the Northern Quarter) to hit up some thrift shops and record stores for Jess. We enjoyed a relaxed evening with wine and a homemade meal while we scared the crap out of Joe with the way we interact after not having seen each other in months and missed the hell out of Sassy.
I couldn't get the girls to wake up for anything the next morning bc the jet lag was beating them up a bit, so I decided to make breakfast (one-handed, mind you) instead, until the smell of eggs woke Sam up and we finally convinced Jesse to get her butt out of bed. We headed into town once again and Jess somehow managed to trip on every single surface in Manchester, including her own two feet, and accidentally hit my broken shoulder about 100x. I have a slight concern that I'll get back to my doctor and she'll ask me how my shoulder is somehow more broken than before, and I'll have to point her in Jesse's direction. We wandered over to Castlefield, a gorgeous canal-adorned area of Manchester, when the sky opened up and we decided that instead of swimming through the city, we'd stop at The Wharf for a coffee and to enjoy the caramel-chocolate-shortbread cookies native only to England. After waiting out the worst of the rain (bc despite bringing along rain jackets to England, none of our dumbasses had worn them out that day) we stopped at a fish and chips shop that's been around longer than our home country has existed before heading to the Manchester Art Gallery where we left Sam to wander the art we knew she'd love while Jess and I looked for some interactive kids exhibits that were more our speed. Showing the girls around Manchester would have been much tougher had I not been there so many times to visit Saskia this year, but I did realize how dependent I am on her to get us where we're going when we're there bc I had to pull out my GoogleMaps a little more frequently than I'd like to admit. We enjoyed a salad dinner at home where the girls complained about my (in their absolutely incorrect opinion) excessive dressing use - Joe liked it so I prefer his opinion but whatever - before heading out for drinks with Joe and Rhys, where Jess got to order our drinks and feel a little badass (a feeling Sam and I both experienced on our first trips to Europe). We headed home fairly early as we had to be up at 5.30 the next morning for our flight back to Bonn and I had some serious trouble sleeping considering my recent early morning flight experiences, but we woke up without any issues until I asked the girls to double check for their passports... which Sam could not find. Anywhere. Not in her backpack, her duffel bag, the bedroom, nowhere. I could have killed her, considering I had asked her to check for it the night before just to be safe and she had clearly super not done that, and it was all I could do as we scrambled to find the damn thing at 6am not to start forming contingency plans for if we couldn't find it and missed our flights and had to go to the embassy and get an emergency passport and... my brain works a little too quick for its own good sometimes, bc we eventually found the stupid passport and - after missing the train we'd booked to get us to the airport - caught the next one and made it no problem back to my place by the early afternoon.
After some much needed showers, we headed to the local market to grab some delicious Greek food (shoutout to Stijn for finding the food truck) and wandered over to the Rhein with beer in hand (Jesse's fav part about Germany is that you can walk around with your alcohol) to enjoy the view. Wiebke, as the sweetest roommate ever, brought us some delicious German breads for breakfast, including but not limited to a mouthwatering chocolate croissant which Sam melted in the microwave bc she didn't realize how much chocolate there was inside (she's not so great with food prep but we love her a whole bunch). I headed to physical therapy and my orthopedic doctor the next day to find out I DIDN'T HAVE TO WEAR MY SLING DURING THE DAY ANYMORE which was potentially the best news anyone has ever given me bc it is hot as hell in Germany and that sling was the most irritating thing on the face of the planet and I literally could have kissed my doctor (but I restrained bc she probs wouldn't be into that). It was a rainy day so we headed to a beer garden close by to celebrate with some traditional German delicacies before picking up our bags and walking back to the train station (for the second time in 36h) to board a train for Utrecht to visit the boys (and by the boys I mean Joël and the rest of the crew who I've known since they studied for a semester abroad in California over three years ago + Stijn who is new for me but not new to the boys bc they've known him forever and now he lives with Joël). Jess was - understandably - amazed that we didn't need passports to go to another country (for those of you who don't know, most countries within the EU share free movement of people across borders) and that all it took was a 3.5h train ride to get there, and I am loving watching someone experience Europe for the first time all over again.
Stijn and Joël picked us up at the train station and we grabbed some beer on the way home to enjoy on the roof before heading to bed bc everyone but us had to be what apparently is called an "adult" and go to work in the morning?? I don't get it but I guess it's a thing. The rest of us (and our German friend Luke who came to stay the same weekend so we could all have a reunion) headed to a delicious Dutch pancake joint on one of the many canals of Utrecht (where by the way I would recommend 100% over going to Amsterdam - it's way more beautiful and way less touristy, what more could you want?). It was raining so hard by the time we were done eating that we thought we may have to move in and start paying rent there by the time the rain would let up, but eventually it did just that and we decided to go on a free (bc of Stijn's job where he somehow gets tons of random perks bc his company works in conjunction with a bunch of other Dutch companies) tour of the massive and historic bell tower in the middle of Utrecht. To put it simply, this whole climb-the-bell-tower idea was a good one in theory, but in practice... maybe less so? 465 steps up the steepest, narrowest, most winding staircase later, I was losing my will to live and hoping against all hope that I wouldn't slip on the steps, re-break my shoulder, and take a whole bunch of tourists down in the process. We made it out alive, but our legs were decidedly unhappy with us by the end of the afternoon. We spent the night nursing our pride and cooking a family dinner (aka Stijn and Jess and I cooked bc Joël was happy to hold down the couch, Sam is essentially useless in the kitchen - but she's cute so we keep her - and Luke made sure he diced some veggies so he could be considered a helper and wouldn't have to clean up later (smart man).
We took our chance to sleep in the next day before Thijs and Leon came over and we all headed to Amsterdam for the day so that Jess could see the sights and eat the foods and do the things. The boys were great about making sure the girls got to see everything they were there to see, even going so far as to walk with us all the way across town to visit the Van Gogh Museum for Sami (which we later realized she had already been to and also that she couldn't get in bc she didn't have an appointment - oops). We eventually made our way home and headed out to hit like the only club we ever go to when we're together in Utrecht (which is conveniently 5 minutes away from the boys' place). I'll admit I was worried about going clubbing with my sisters in Europe in terms of just keeping them safe, but then I had 8 Dutch men that I've known for 3 years watching over them like they were their own sisters, so I guess it really does take a village and the girls have never been safer.
We woke up particularly late the next day (some of us later than others) and decided we needed food. We set out to get pizza, but couldn't find anything affordable. We walked all over town mind you, and somehow ended up half an hour later at a Vietnamese restaurant right next to the boys' apartment which had - you guessed it - a pizza place right across the street. We were not exactly running on all cylinders, leave us alone.
Traveling home the next day was... well, it didn't go according to plan. Our journey home should have taken about 3h45min from Utrecht to Bonn. Instead, we enjoyed a 7.5h journey filled with several cancelled trains and delays and whatever else you can think of bc the German train system is everything Germans are not known to be: untimely and ineffective. Many long hours and expletives later, we arrived at home and grabbed döner from my favorite döner place in town (which conveniently just opened a new shop right under my apartment bc the universe doesn't want me to ever be a skinny person) and watched our favorite movie (Mulan, obviously) before rolling into bed.
The next few days were spent enjoying gelato in town, grabbing tapas at my favorite Spanish restaurant with the crew (aka the Study Buddies aka my group of friends from my masters program), hiking up a mountain to a castle (which btw you should not do in converse) and enjoying more train delays on the way back home from said hike bc that's how life works when you travel with me. Our last night together was spent in Cologne, a neighboring city with much more tourism and a whole lot more going on (which is why I prefer Bonn but I guess I'm just not a big city girl). We enjoyed some sightseeing before grabbing dinner at a super traditional German place where they refill your beers without asking if you want another one bc they just assume that if you're still sitting there and you haven't passed out yet, you want more beer. We sat on the steps next to the Rhine and had chats over wine and ice cream about everything from life to ducks until we made our way to a glow in the dark mini golf joint nearby (once again thanks to Stijn for the discovery). I played better with a broken shoulder than I did with two fully functioning ones last month against Stijn - when I still won the game anyway - and I'm pretty sure I've peaked.
The next morning we woke up ridiculously early to get Smol to the bus station so that she could hang out at several airports for way too many hours bc her flights were delayed heading home bc she apparently spent too much time with yours truly and now all forms of transportation know that they should simply not function correctly for her either. My bad, kid. So now it's just the two tol Janecek idiots left to take on Germany and Croatia together. We miss our sweet Sami already - she's such an incredible human - but we know we'll see her soon and in the meantime I'll be calling and texting her so often she'll want to change phone numbers (but she won't bc I'm her sister and it's in the rule book that I'm allowed to annoy her until she wants to throw things at me). We had an incredible 11 days together and I wouldn't trade a single moment of it for the world - I sure do love these humans.
So for now this is where I leave you - my brain hurts and my shoulder hurts and I think it's time for lunch (it's important to keep Jess fed regularly so she doesn't beat you up).
Until next time folx - I promise not to make you wait so long this time around.
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About the Author
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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