“A Life Less Ordinary”: Glasgow, Scotland

View from the Glasgow Necropolis

I LOVE GLASGOW. This January we traveled to Scotland’s most populous city to fulfill our teenage dream of seeing Cake play a live show. Wintertime Scotland may sound intimidating, but so worth it.

Pro tip: If you’re cheap like me, traveling off-season is a great way to save money on transportation and accommodations (flights and apartments are usually a lot less expensive) meaning more funds for whiskey and postcards. We’re walkers–our favorite way to travel around a new city is on foot–so we definitely packed our winter-wear for this trip. For me, this meant double leg warmers and wearing something other than flats.

This is a really long post but Glasgow is too amazing to not discuss #allthethings. Get ready for a an extra intense history overview and too many cemetery pictures.

Why “a life less ordinary”? This quote was written on the floor of the entrance to Hillhead Bookclub, where we had dinner our last night in Glasgow. Is this also an excuse to reference Danny Boyle’s 1997 film starring Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, and Holly Hunter? Am I pressuring you to listen to the soundtrack that includes the best version of REM’s Leave? Yes to all those things.

Ewan McGregor is Scottish so I feel like this fits the overall theme.

Where are we?

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland and known for its industrial landscape. While the origin of the name is under debate, it is believed that Glasgow is derived from Middle Gaelic, meaning “green basin”. The city has the largest percentage of Gaelic speakers outside of the Highlands and Islands. Although the indigenous language is not recognized by the United Kingdom or European Union, Gaelic is an important part of Scottish culture and history.

Alexander’s School was built in 1858. I just love the building.

A great source of fishing, the River Clyde and the surrounding areas were settled by many different communities near Glasgow. In the 6th century, Christian missionary Saint Mungo (you know, THE St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries in Harry Potter) established a church where the current Glasgow Cathedral stands.

The Gallery of Modern Art building was previously the mansion of slave owner William Cunninghame. He owned 300 slaves.

Walking through the Merchant City area, I was surprised to see a sign for Virginia Street; ever the pochemuchka (the Russian word for the one who asks too many questions) I had to learn more about the connection between the American south and Glasgow.

Many of the streets and buildings still bear the names of the Tobacco Lords, the group of merchants that made the most profits from transatlantic trade (and some owned plantations in the New World too) although there have been calls to hang plaques to tell the full story.

Buchanan Street, one of Glasgow’s most famous areas, is named for Andrew Buchanan, a Tobacco Lord during the 1700s.

Glasgow became a central trading port following the Acts of Union in 1707–the treaty that combined the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland–and played a large role in transatlantic trade and slavery. A central part of the triangular route, much of Glasgow’s wealth was derived from slave labor:

“There are 19 recorded slave voyages which left from Glasgow’s satellite ports of Greenock and Port Glasgow over a sixty year period from 1706 and 1766 – with these direct voyages estimated to have carried around 2 to 3,000 people directly into slavery.

Yet Glasgow was far, far from being an innocent bystander in the slave trade.

The very reason the Tobacco Lords became successful – and why the city prospered as a result – was because they were able to monopolise the produce grown by slaves on the plantations of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, namely tobacco and sugar. So much so, in fact, that for 50 years from 1740 to 1790, Glasgow became the hub for the world’s tobacco – at times trading more than all the English ports put together.

A trade built almost exclusively on forced slave labour. ”

Williams, Craig. 2018. “The History of Glasgow and its Relationship with the Slave Trade.” Glasgow Live. Available here.
A store front in Merchant City, Glasgow. The “Tobacco Lords” built the area as a testament to their wealth.

While the city profited from slave labor in the New World, many Scots and the University of Glasgow played a large role in the abolitionist movement. Following American independence, Glasgow continued to grow during the Industrialized Revolution, which saw steel making, shipyards, and heavy industry further the development of the city. After WWII, economic decline led to de-industrialization of the city.

Glasgow is known for its architecture; there are a large number of historically and culturally important buildings throughout the city. During the Industrial Revolution, many of Glasgow’s red and blonde sandstone buildings were covered with a black layer of soot from industrial pollution and furnaces. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1956 and many of the city’s 1,800 buildings were restored to their original appearance.

In 2013 “People Make Glasgow” became the official motto for the city.

The Sites:

University of Glasgow:

Glasgow University Union. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world.
The University is taking steps to reconcile its connection to slavery. They published the Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow report in 2018.
It took me a while to find the Cloisters (we actually stumbled upon them after leaving the Hunterian Museum). University of Glasgow graduations are held here.
The Cloisters can be seen in a number of TV shows and movies including Outlander and Cloud Atlas. I actually just saw Cloud Atlas for the first time this summer–thanks Bri!

The People’s Palace:

I loved visiting the People’s Palace! The palace was opened in 1898 in an overly crowded part of the city with the intent of providing a cultural center its inhabitants. The site features a museum and gallery of the social history of Glasgow.
Smudge, the celebrity cat of the palace, was “employed” in 1979 by the museum to control the rat population. In the 1980s, following NALGO’s (National and Local Government Officers’ Association) denial of her admission as a blue collar worker, she was granted membership to the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Trade Union. She passed away in 2000, but lives on through the plaque dedicated to her services.

George Square:

George Square was named after King George III and developed around 1790.
Originally a pasture and unpaved road used to bring cattle for milking, the area grew rapidly during the 1750s from the influx of wealth from cotton, sugar, and tobacco from the New World. It is now the principle civic square for the city.

Glasgow Cathedral:

The Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis are absolute must-sees if you’re planning a trip to Glasgow.

The Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow.
The University of Glasgow held classes at the Cathedral before it was established in 1451.

Glasgow Necropolis:

I know its incredibly morbid but I love visiting cemeteries. The Glasgow Necropolis is one of the city’s most famous sites. Between 1831-1851 over 50,000 people were buried here.
The Victorian Glasgow Necropolis opened in 1833 as an interdenominational burial ground.
The first person buried here was Joseph Levi, a Jewish jeweler.
Me right before I slipped and fell 100% in the mud. Classic Ashlyn.
Architectural historian and architect James Stevens Curl described the Necropolis as “literally a city of the dead”.
In typical Victorian style, the layout of the Necropolis is similar to a park, with multiple paths and 3,500 statues and sculptures.
The view from the Necropolis includes the Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Ashton Lane:

Absolutely beautiful Ashton Lane! The street is lined with a number of great bars and restaurants including Brel, Innis & Gunn, and Ubiquitous Chip.

Glasgow Botanical Gardens:

One of my favorite places in Glasgow! The Botanical Gardens are over 200 years old and were established by Thomas Hopkirk, a Glasgow botanist.
Jurassic Park vibes.

More Beautiful Places:

Bath Street
Woodlands Methodist Church
View from Kelvingrove Park
St. George’s Place

Restaurants & Pubs:

Drygate Brewing:

Located right next to the Glasgow Necropolis, Drygate Brewing is a great spot for a beer after a day of exploring (or drying off if you fall in the mud and are covered in muck from head to toe like I was).
We had the Seven Peaks (IPA) and the Disco Forklift Truck (pale ale).

Innis and Gunn:

We loved Innis and Gunn! They had a great menu with a ton of vegetarian and meat options, plus good beer too. Chris ordered the burger (of course).
Halloumi fries with peanut sauce—so good! I love halloumi anything but this was the first time I had the option of this salty cheese in fry form (highly recommend). This is probably my second favorite Halloumi dish after I ordered a vegetarian kebab in Prague that included both halloumi AND falafel.
Thai fried cauliflower
Halloumi flatbread (you’re sensing a theme now right?).

Chinaski’s:

An amazing secret speakeasy in Glasgow, Chinaski’s is named for Charles Bukowski’s alter ego and the space is a small homage to the American writer. We LOVED this spot and had to order their truffle fries and macaroni and cheese along with our cocktails. Absolutely highly recommend!

Akbar’s Glasgow:

Akbar’s is a huge restaurant with an enormous menu. We stopped for dinner with the intention of heading out after but were so filled with good food (garlic and cheese naan bread?!) that we ended up calling it a night because nothing could top dinner. This (horrible) picture is their palak and paneer dish with a side of the amazing naan bread. SO GOOD.

Hillhead Bookclub:

The description for Hillhead Bookclub is one of the best you’ll find: a licensed land of milk & honey where the ping-pong is plentiful, the computer games are retro, the cocktails arrive in gramophones and the strawberry mojitos cost nought but 3 pounds. We went for dinner on our last night (sad face) and ordered sandwiches (amazing).
With double floors (including a top floor of just vintage games and pool), I really loved Hillhead Bookclub. I wish we could have tried their brunch but alas left before the weekend.

McCune Smith:

Named for James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn a medical degree (he graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1837), this small cafe was established by two brothers near the “old college” to showcase local and sustainably grown Scottish ingredients .
Chris and I ordered matching sandwiches: the Scottish take on a Reuben (mine veg and his with meat). So good! The ladies behind the counter were also arguing whether or not Merissa from the OC was a tragic figure and I almost just asked for a job application right then.
I just loved the atmosphere of this cafe. “A little history in every bite” is definitely a motto I can live by.

Artisan Roast:

Artisan Roast was our first coffee stop in Glasgow. The barista gave me a confused look when I ordered cold brew in January, but I wanted something cold after walking in my sweater+leg warmers+extra socks+boots. Their coffee was great and we loved the laid back vibe of the area too. They also plated “Cannonball” by the Breeders; a song I haven’t heard since roughly 1999.

Papercup Coffee Company:

Genuinely great coffee and an awesome brunch menu, we walked a solid mile and a half to Papercup because I read how they serve some of the best coffee in Glasgow. They were also playing the Juno soundtrack so extra bonus points for them! It’s a small space but totally worth the trek and waiting for a table.

++Special shout out to the Old Ship Bank pub in Glasgow too! We stopped by to use the bathroom and ended up hanging out with an older gentleman named James, a native of Glasgow, for hours. He told us about the history of the area, current politics, and his excitement for a date he had scheduled for the next day. The pub was awesome and just felt so Glasgow… that’s the only way I can explain the atmosphere. The entire space was filled with people who just returned from a funeral and, according to James, this is “typical” for natives of Glasgow.

Bookstores:

Voltaire and Rousseau:

Voltaire & Rousseau is located on the small street of Otago Lane, hidden behind old bicycles near the entrance. I. Love. This. Shop. While there may have been some kind organization when Voltaire & Rousseau originally opened, as owner David Yeats says, “things fall apart.” Virtually impossible to find a title you’re looking for, but I think the point of the shop is to feel like you’re actually swimming in a sea of books, an experience I can get behind.

I ❤ Glasgow

Moulin Rouge vibes

Don’t forget that you can download the MWA Map and have all of my food/pub/sites/bookstore recommendations with you whenever you travel.

Currently:
Reading: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxane Gay)
Watching: Big Little Lies Season 2 (HBO)
Listening: Burn it all Down

Oranges and Palaces: Seville, Spain

Royal Alcázar of Seville.

Our December adventure continued as we flew from Lisbon to Seville. Lonely Planet’s Top City of 2018, we wanted a warm, relaxing place to visit between the blizzards in Ohio (where we were prior to Portugal) and the cold weather in Hungary. This was my first trip to Spain and I LOVED so many things that Seville has to offer: beautiful architecture, good food, a ton of walkable green spaces, and the site for Game of Thrones‘s Dorne.

Get ready for all the GoT gifs.

Where are we?

Located in southern Spain, Seville (pronounced Suh-vee-yah) is known for its well preserved historical sites and streets lined with beautiful trees filled with bitter oranges. The city is over 2,200 years old (!!) and the landscape shows the impacts of the many cultures that have influenced the development of the city over time. The earliest signs of humans living in the area dates all the way back to 8th century BC when Seville was still an island (geology that I am not even going to try to explain #knowyourlimitations).

Las Setas (The Mushrooms) was constructed in 2004 and is the largest timber framed structure in the world.

Originally founded by the Romans (and named Hispalis) the area was renamed Ishbiliyya following the Muslim conquest in 712. Muslim rule ended in 1248 after the area was taken over by the Christian Kingdom of Castile under Ferdinand III. The transitions between cultures and religions can be seen in a number of buildings throughout the city.

In 1478, the first tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition took place in Seville. Following Columbus’s expedition to the New World, Spain became a political powerhouse. Due largely to its location on the Quadalquivir River, in 1503 Seville was the only city given the monopoly for trade with the Spanish colonies and taxation of goods (and people) through the port. This was the “Golden Age” for Seville as the economy grew due to the the imports from the Spanish colonies, particularly gold and silver. By the 16th century a number of factors ended Seville’s Golden Age: the Great Plague of Seville killed nearly half of the city’s now booming population, the New World port monopoly was broken when the city of Cadiz was also given access, and the loss of the Spanish colonies in America.

I wanted to share the lesser-known story of the people that were forcibly sent from America to Europe and sold into bondage. The first victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were brought from Cuba and sold in Seville: the indigenous Taíno were not only the first New World natives to meet Christopher Columbus, but also the first of the Caribbean indigenous groups sold as slaves in Seville. The colonization (and resulting genocide) of the New World was profitable for Spain (and Seville).

I know, I know, this is a pretty heavy history introduction. I promise this post has a lot of fun information too, but I also wanted to include these important historical stories as well. They’re important and they matter.

Unofficial fact: Sevillanos and I have the same color–mustard yellow.

Seville’s official motto is N08DO: “No me ha dejado“, which translates to “She (Seville) will not abandon me.” You can see the sentiment across the city.

The Sites:

Canal Walk Near Arsenal:

This beautiful day we walked alongside the canal near the Arsenal neighborhood.
Triana Bridge
Canal de Alfonso XIII
Love this beautiful place! Can you spot the mustard yellow??

Torre del Oro:

The Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) was built in 1200 by Abu Elda.

Parque de María Luisa:

Again, one of these places where photos simply can’t do enough justice for how gorgeous the landscape is in real life.
The park is Seville’s principal green area and is a short walk from the Guadalquivir River.
The grounds were donated by the Duchess of Montpensier in 1893.
Chris and Karl: “When is Super Smash Brothers being released in Spain? Is there a kebab stand in this park?”

Plaza de España:

I think Heather and I could have spent hours here. Absolutely breathtaking!
Located in Parque de María Louisa, the Plaza was built in 1928.
The Plaza is a mix of Art Deco, Spanish Renaissance Revival, Spanish Baroque Revival, and Neo-Mudéjar architecture.
The walls of the Plaza have tiled alcoves, each representative of different Spanish provinces. These alcoves also contain bookshelves with books on that particular region. Visitors are encouraged to take a book and leave one of their own, so these “free little libraries” continuously change!
The Plaza was also the site for Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
Forever one of the best gifs on the internet.

Seville Cathedral:

Seville Cathedral is the largest church in the world. Technically by size it is ranked third, but because the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida (Brazil) and St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City) are not seats of bishops, Seville Cathedral tops the list.
The cathedral was first built as a mosque prior to the Christian conquest of Seville. Construction on the grand mosque started by Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Ysuf in 1172 and was completed in 1198.
Ferdinand III converted Yaqub Yusuf’s mosque into the cathedral for the city.
In 1401, Christian leaders decided to build a bigger cathedral on the site: “Hagamos una Iglesia tan hermosa y tan grandiosa que los que la vieren labrada nos tengan por locos” (“Let us build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will take us for mad”).
Construction on the site was delayed until 1434 and finished in 1506.
The La Giralda (bell tower) was previously the main minaret for the mosque. It was converted to the cathedral in 1248 but still maintains many of its Moorish features.

Alcázar de Seville:

The term “Alcázarderives from the Arabic word al-qaṣr” meaning “the castle”. The palace is absolutely beautiful and you can spend hours walking the gardens.
Also the site for Dorne, one of the seven kingdoms of Westeros in HBO’s Game of Thrones. So excited to tour this beautiful site (and let’s be honest, an excuse to find the best Ellaria Sand gifs).
The Christian basilica of Saint Vincent was first built on the plot.
In 712, the Umayyad Caliphate took over Seville and destroyed the basilica to use the site for military work. During the 12th century, under Abbadid rule, the area became the site of Al-Muwarak, a large palace the doubled the size of the space.
Then, under the Almohads, new buildings were constructed on the space for the now residence of the Caliph and the court.
Pictures just don’t do this beautiful place justice.
Following the Castilian conquest of Seville, the Abbadid fortress was destroyed and the palace was for Christian king Peter of Castile built in its place.
The palace and gardens have Christian, Muslim, and Jewish influences.
Today Reales Alcázares de Sevilla is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe; the royal family still uses the top levels as their official residence.
One of my favorite locations I’ve experienced in Europe.
Okay last GoT reference, I promise.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Taqueria La Lupe:

Fresh jalapenos! What a treat after living in eastern Europe for so long.
Homemade tortillas, fresh ingredients, and a solid carnivore and vegetarian menu, Taqueria La Lupe is a great taco spot.

La Jeronima:

A spot for brunch, books, and craft beer! What else do you need in the world?
La Jeronima famously made the top three of my favorite brunches of 2018 list. Stuffed croissant for me and a ham toastie for Chris.

La Tradizionale Pizza:

Great for a late night slice of pizza or empanada, La Tradizionale is an awesome spot for a post dinner snack. Be warned, the lady at the counter will not be easy on your spotty Spanish skills.

Taberna del Dragón Verde:

A bar specializing in all things dragons and swords, we went to Taberna del Dragón Verde after dinner (based solely on the name, obviously) and had a lot of fun.

And, of course, ice cream:

A Heather and Ashlyn staple

Highly recommend Seville! We had so much fun wandering the city and snacking on churros (just don’t eat the oranges!).

That amazing mustard yellow though…

Currently:

Reading: Malawi’s Sisters (Melanie Hatter)

Watching: Game of Thrones (HBO)

Pastries All Day: Lisbon, Portugal

View of Lisbon from the castle.

Last winter we had the amazing opportunity to travel with our two favorite exploring friends, Heather and Karl, on our now annual European trip. Chris and I had just spent nearly a month in the US and were able to tack on (always the planner!) a short trip to Portugal and Spain before heading home. Our vacations together are very much walk around+drink wine +play cards+make fun of Philip Rivers and this was no exception.

Loved this weather after weeks in gray Ohio.

Lisbon is a beautiful city to just simply walk through. I like to think of myself as a constant wanderer with an eventual destination. Thankfully, Heather is also in a similar mindset (typical conversation: “what kind of succulents are these? Do you think there is gelato nearby? Wonder what kind of recycling streams they have here?”) much to the chagrin of Chris and Karl, who as Heather says, are always in a hurry to get nowhere.

Pastéis da nata! These pastries were developed in 1837 and remain a staple in Lisbon. For us (minus Chris) these pastries were consumed throughout the day: breakfast, after bus snack, post-dinner snack, random do-you-smell-that-bakery-snack.

Where are we?

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and archeological artifacts show that tribes from all the back to the Neolithic period inhabited the area. The history of the city is absolutely incredible. While Lisbon is recognized as the capital, this designation has never been confirmed officially; its simply the “de-facto” capital of Portugal as the designation was formed through constitutional convention, rather than written form (any other Poli Sci nerds out there fascinated by this? Just me?).

View from our apartment.

Located right at the mouth of the Tagus River, Lisbon is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country. During WWII, as Portugal remained neutral, the country’s dictator, António Salazar, allowed spies from both the Nazis and Allies in Lisbon. The connection supposedly inspired Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond series. The capital also houses the world’s smallest bookstore, although I missed that when I was there.

View of the city from the castle.

The Sites:

First Soccer Match:

Our first match ever! The hometown team Benefica scored four goals on Feirense for the win! The atmosphere was AMAZING and the crowd was awesome. We had great seats (thanks Karl!) and a rowdy group in front of us actually broke a few of the seats on accident. You can watch the highlights and look for us here!

Wandering this Beautiful City:

We stayed in the historic district of Alfama which is absolutely beautiful but also meant we were working those calves climbing up all the narrow streets (worth it!).
View from our street.
I love the holidays in Europe. Every street was decorated and bright.

The Waterfront:

Wandering aimlessly. I loved living near the coast for ten years and I really miss views like this now that I live in a landlocked country.
Tagus River.
Love these painted and stacked rocks.
Chris: “Where are they? When are we playing Borderlands?”

Praça do Comércio:

The Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is located on the river. On the right is the Statue of King José I that was finished in 1775.
Special holiday edition of the plaza.
A closeup of the Rua Augusta Arch that was completed in 1873.

Rua Nova do Carvalho:

Rua Nova do Carvalho (Pink Street) was previously the Red Light District in Lisbon. Now home to a ton of popular bars and shops, we walked along the Pink Street on our way from lunch.
Photo Credit: Heather

National Azulejo Museum:

National Azulejo Museum (National Tile Museum) was a beautiful stop and a great way to learn more about the tile that is used across the city landscape.
The museum is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus (1509) and became a national museum in 1980.
The museum includes exhibits from the 15th century to present-day.

Speaking of Tile:

The blue tile used across Lisbon is incredibly beautiful.

Castelo de S. Jorge:

Originally built as a citadel, the castle’s walls and towers can seen from the city below.
Archeologists have found evidence humans lived here in the second century BC and some type of fortification was built as far back as 48 BC.
Hi Lisbon, I love you.

Random Sites:

Stay mindful.
A reminder (graffiti at the LX Factory).

Restaurants:

Copenhagen Coffee Lab:

We were super lucky to have Copenhagen Coffee Lab up the street from our apartment and we stopped by for breakfast on our way to Spain. If you remember, this breakfast made my highly prestigious “Best Brunches of 2018” list.
Chris: “Seriously can I just eat my breakfast sandwich?” Karl literally ordered this for second breakfast after he saw how good it looked.
Heather and I both ordered this avocado toast + egg combination along with sweets for the flight because great minds and all that.

The Time Out Market:

The Time Out Market is a giant cafeteria-esque building that has over 40 restaurants to choose from for all of your lunch needs. Seafood, burgers, dessert, and wine were all represented. I was mostly focused on this gorgeous pudding and now realize I should have documented everyone’s Portuguese seafood dishes.

The Saj Bakery:

We stopped at the Saj Bakery on our way to lunch (#vacation) and grabbed a spicy wrap to go. I was really excited about this spot because I LOVE Lebanese food and I don’t often have the chance to eat a vegetarian wrap in Hungary. All the heart in eyes emojis.

The LX Factory:

Or as Karl referred to it, the FX Factory (which ended up sticking in my head even as I went through my pictures looking for this post. Blame it on Archer).
Located in the Alcântara neighborhood, the LX Factory is a converted 1846 fabric production plant that now has over 200 business–markets, restaurants and shops.
Hi, I’m here to buy all the meat, cheese, wine, and honey. We stocked up for our infamous card games. Sadly, I was caught attempting to smuggle the honey to Spain where my “But is honey truly a liquid?” argument was not met with amusement from the airport security staff.
Heather and I stopped at this adorable food truck for sangria.
How beautiful are these cabbages?

Primo Basilico:

This. Pizza. Though. Primo Basilico serves pizza “al taglio” (by the cut) and they have options for everyone. We stopped by after our day trip to Peniche and each ate about half a pizza. It was sooooo good.

Giallo:

In classic Heather and Ashlyn fashion, we had to find the best gelato in all of Lisbon. Giallo definitely meets the requirement. Located in the Alfama neighborhood, they had a variety of super cool and interesting flavors, plus breakfast! What else do you need in this world?
My apology for the shaky picture; I only had gelato on the brain. I ordered the pistachio and mascarpone/strawberry.

So happy to experience this amazing place with awesome friends.

Friendly Reminder: You can see all my favorite travel spots on the fully downloadable Middle World Adventures Map.

Cheers!

Currently–

Reading: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Isabel Wilkerson)

Watching: Game of Thrones Season 5 (HBO)

“And Here Sweet Wine Makes, Once Again, Sad Eyes and Hearts Recover”: Bled, Slovenia

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Last year Chris and I spent our 11th wedding anniversary in the absolutely breathtaking city of Bled, Slovenia. Once again, I never thought that Slovenia would be at the top of my list of travel destinations, but the country is so beautiful and fun that I would recommend planning a trip here ASAP. We randomly stayed in Bled the weekend of Bled Days, the most famous event for the city.

Where are we?

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History of Lake Bled: 

The city of Bled is located on Lake Bled, situated in the northwestern corner of Slovenia, 30 miles from the capital Ljubljana, and south of the Kawawanks mountains. The lake has a really interesting geological history (nerd alert) and was formed by both tectonic and glacial movements. During the Pleistocene Era (2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago), the Bohinj glacier developed the landscape around Bled, while the tectonic activity formed the valley for the location of the lake. Erosion caused the softer ground to be worn away, leaving behind the topsoil that now holds the lake’s island and castle.

 

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Earliest human activity near the lake can be traced back to the Bronze Age; Old-Slavic settlers arrived in 7th century. The first written mention of the town occurred in 1004 (!!) when the German King Henry II gave the land to the Bishop of Brixen for their assistance with the Church; Bled remained under the lordship for 800 years until the settlement fell under Austrian rule in 1808.

Passed back and forth between Brixen and the Austrians (and following the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918), the settlement and the castle were given to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Tito, the Yugoslav king (and later president) used the castle as his home. In 1919 the castle and lake were sold to hotel owner Ivan Kenda, which marked the first time the settlement was officially owned by a Slovenian. The Germans annexed this portion of Slovenia during WWII and following the war, Bled became an official town in 1960.

The Sights:

Bled Castle:

I’m pretty meh about castles (I know, I know) but Bled Castle was a beautiful sight to visit. Pro tip: Make a reservation with the castle restaurant (more on that later!) and you can tour the castle and museum for free. It’s a steep hike up to Bled Castle, so dress like you’re going on a hike, not like you are attending an anniversary dinner at a castle (me).

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The castle was first mentioned in 1011 and is the oldest castle in Slovenia.

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While the Bishop of Brixen technically owned the estate, they hardly ever inhabited the castle. Instead, Bled Castle was managed by a staff of people according to feudal order.

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The Bishops decided to lease the property and the first official inhabitant was Konrad von Kreigh, whose family occupied the castle for 200 years.

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Herbard Auersperg of Turjak then took over the lease of the castle and attempted to purchase the land, but was unsuccessful. Under Herbard Auersperg, the castle became a Protestant stronghold for the region and the leader of the Slovenian Protestant Movement (Primož Trubar) visited the castle in 1561.

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View from a castle window

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The Bled estate was nationalized in 1803 and even briefly the home of Napolean Bonaparte, before passing multiple hands and ownership over the next 150 years.

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Renovations on the castle took place in 1961 and the museum (a must see!) was completed in 2008.

 

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You can also swim at the base of the castle for a couple of Euros. Even me, who refuses to swim in any body of water, couldn’t pass this up.

Bled Days:

Bled Days includes handmade arts and crafts ( ❤ ), street food vendors ( ❤ ), music ( ❤ ), and a finale where they release over 15,000 candle eggs onto the lake ( ❤ ❤ not sure how that works waste-wise but it was beautiful to see). The event happens each year at the end of July and is definitely worth the extra cost and tourists! They also put in a lot of effort to make Bled Days a zero-waste event, which was really interesting and cool to see.

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A demonstration on how old-timey firefighters used the lake to put out flames.

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The finale which includes 15,000 candles released onto the lake and a beautiful firework display.

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Arts and crafts, drink and food vendors (Via Bled.Si). I wish I had taken more pictures but I was too excited about everything!

Church of the Assumption:

Originally a temple for the Slavic Goddess of Love Živa, the pagan population was forced to replace Živa with the Virgin Mary when the community inhabiting the Bled area converted to Christianity in 745. The Slavic temple was replaced, and in 1465, the Gothic Church and Tower were built on the tiny island.

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View of the Church from Bled Castle

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View of the Church from our Pletna boat.

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The Church also boasts a 99 step staircase. Tradition holds that the husband of the couple married in the church must carry his wife up all 99 steps.

The Bell Tower and the Ringing of the Bell hold a special legend for the Church:

Once upon a time there lived a young widow in the castle of Bled. Her husband was killed by robbers and his body was thrown into the lake. She was so inconsolable that she gathered all her gold and silver and cast a bell for the chapel on the island, in memory to her husband. But the bell didn’t arrive there. The bell, the boat and boatmen sank during a terrible storm. The desperate widow sold all her property after this accident. She offered the proceeds for the construction of a new church on the island. She left Bled and lived the rest of her life in Rome as a nun. After her death the Pope had heard of her misfortune and of her good deeds during her life as a nun, so in memory to her he decide to make a new bell. He said that anyone that rings the bell three times and believes in God, his or her wish would come true.

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The Bell Tower stands at 52 meters high.

Restaurants and Pubs:

Public Bar and Vegan Kitchen:

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Chris and I both agreed that this hummus was amazzzinnnnggg.

While I’m not vegan, when I saw this amazing menu from Public Bar and Vegan Kitchen, I knew I wanted to stop by for lunch. I don’t have a lot of vegetarian options here, so it’s nice to find a spot with a couple of veg menu items. Chris and I shared the house burger and it was too much to eat between the two of us.

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Bled Castle:

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I also discovered my love for Hugo cocktails (Prosecco+elderflower syrup+mint+lime+sparkling water), which were available everywhere in the summer heat.

Absolutely one of my favorite meals in Europe, Bled Castle has a great (and seasonal) menu with affordable prices. They also had an extensive variety of local wine and beer, not to mention a view that overlooks the entire lake.

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Slovenia is known for their white wines, which was a perfect choice for this particularly warm day.

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Poor kid has the sun in his eyes! Chris liked the HumanFish Slovenian IPA.

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Okarina:

We stumbled on Okarina our first night in Bled. They were nice enough to seat us less than an hour before closing (ugh I hate being that person) and we enjoyed our dinners. They have a diverse menu–so there is something for everyone–and a really nice atmosphere that was needed after walking the lake’s super-busy edge.

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Red n Black Bled:

Located right next to our Air BnB, we stopped by Red n Black Bled for a quick breakfast of coffee and toasties our first morning in the city and ended up coming back each morning! Our server was AMAZING. She was incredibly kind and their ridiculously simple menu of either make-your-own porridge or toasted bread with veggies or meat was totally fine with us.

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We ended up hanging out to watch the FINA Summer Games (ironically being held in Budapest). Sometimes you just need a good old pub in your life.

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Their “Kremsnita” (Bled Cream Cake) was all the heart-in-the-eyes-emojis delicious (picture via their Facebook because I was too excited to take a picture!)

Troha Pub Bled:

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(Via Trip Advisor)

We stopped at Troha Pub Bled after our Pletna tour of the island. The pub has a gorgeous view of the lake and the castle, along with reasonable prices. Their menu also includes an impressive 3-liter mojito, although we didn’t try it. Apparently, Troha is THE nightclub of Bled but it was a super chill spot when we stopped by in the afternoon.

Kult Klub:

 

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(via SlovenianHolidays.com)

 

Considering it was right next to the edge of the lake, Kult Klub was one of our first stops in Bled. They had a great selection of Slovenian craft beer and the outside seating was great as the sun was setting. We, unfortunately, weren’t there when they had live music, but we enjoyed hanging out listening to the crazy pop star Bled Days had performing that night.

Shops:

Trešpank:

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Trešpank is a super cool shop located near Red n Black. The owner repurposes bicycle parts into new things (including belts!) and sells a ton of different handmade products including postcards, pottery, clothing, and jewelry. I stocked up on a stack of crazy postcards before making the trek up to Bled Castle.

Galerija Mikame:

 

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(Via Trip Advisor)

Galerija Mikame is a super cute store on the edge of Lake Bled that boasts a ton of different art, jewelry, pottery, and postcards from Slovenian independent designers. The guy working in the shop was amazing and he told us a ton of fun facts about Slovenia.  I asked why he thought Ohio had the greatest population of Slovenians outside of the country and he responded: “I think it’s because we only like farming and working in factories, you know?” I picked up a reclaimed wooden ring from Brlogarka, a beautiful Bled painting by Ajda Primožič Lima, and a couple of hilarious CartsyFartsy greeting cards.

Ashlyn (2)

Currently watching: Big Little Lies (directed by Jean-Marc Vallée)

Currently reading: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Currently listening: Live in Detroit by The White Stripes

Amsterdam & The Hague

This spring Chris and I spent a couple of days visiting our lovely and amazing friend Kelsey in The Hague, Netherlands. We also traveled to Amsterdam to see one of our favorite bands, Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three. Chris had visited Eindhoven before, but this was my first trip; it was great seeing Kelsey for the first time since New Years!

Where are we?

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We flew from Budapest to Eindhoven, then took the train to The Hague. The public transportation was awesome; the trains and buses were super clean and organized. SO MANY BIKES EVERYWHERE. It was awesome to see infrastructure that promoted walking, biking, and public transport over driving.

The Cities

The Hague: The third largest city and the capital of South Holland, The Hague (Den Haag) is located near the coast. First mentioned in 1230, the city was heavily damaged during WWII and was largely rebuilt after the War. The Hague is also known as the “International City of Peace and Justice” due to the city’s hosting of multiple peace talks and conferences since the late 1800s.

Located north of The Hague, Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital and largest city. Originally a small fishing village established around a dam on the Amstel River in the 1100s, the city soon became one of the most important trading ports for the kingdom. Amsterdam has 165 canals (combined has a length of over sixty miles!) and 1,281 bridges throughout the city.

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The Hague: Walking to the beach

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The Hague: View from Kelsey’s townhouse

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The Hague: Mauritshuis Art Museum (established in 1822)

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The Hague: Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) was completed in the 1200s (!!).

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The Hague

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The Hague

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam: Royal Palace (1648)

 

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Amsterdam: Ann Frank’s House. The Secret Annex that hid her family before they were betrayed to the Nazis is located in the back of the building.

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam: Paradiso (1968) is a converted church that is now used as a music and arts venue

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam: Oude Kerk (Old Church) is the city’s oldest oldest building and church (1213!)

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Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three

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Our fourth time seeing the band. We’ve been to shows on the Ohio River, Cleveland OH, Asheville NC, and Atlanta GA.

Bonus video of Ryan Koening playing the hell out of the spoons.

Restaurants & Food

The Hague: Beachclub Indigo

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We had an amazing brunch at Beachclub Indigo. A gorgeous walk down the beach, the restaurant had a ton of burger options and seating right on the water. My first 2017 beach trip!

Amsterdam: Pancakes Amsterdam 

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Chris had ham and cheese while chose the goat cheese option.

After our train ride to Amsterdam all I wanted in my life was Dutch pancakes. We stopped at Pancakes Amsterdam before wandering around the city and loved it. They had a variety of sweet and savory options, as well as a cute atmosphere to escape the rain (because of course it was raining).

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Mint tea: My new favorite

Kelsey introduced me to mint tea and I am officially a fan. Rather than using a tea bag, you place a ton of fresh mint leaves into a glass of hot water and let them steep for a couple of minutes. So good.

The Hague: Kelsey’s House

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Our all time best meal in the Netherlands was hosted by Kelsey’s roommate. Raising money for a non-profit (she was in this super cool non-profit certification program) her roommate hosted a home-cooked five course (TWO DESSERTS) meal for a dozen people in their apartment. WOW. It was absolutely amazing. Lovely wine, out-of-control cooking, and wonderful people–what else can you ask for? I wish I had taken pictures of the food but I was too busy being the emoji-with-hearts-for-eyes brought to life.

Breweries & Pubs

Amsterdam: Cafe ‘t Smalle

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Our lovely friend in Pápa, who spent a summer in Amsterdam a few years ago, recommended Cafe ‘t Smalle as a place to stop right on the water for a quick drink and snack. She mentioned that she had always wanted to visit the small cafe but never had the chance during the summer she was abroad. Thankfully we were able to visit while in Amsterdam! It was so lovely and right on the canal.

Amsterdam: De Prael Brewery

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Having a friend who works at a brewery definitely has its perks, among them being great recommendations for craft beer in the Netherlands. We LOVED De Prael and ended up trying a couple of their beers while in Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam: The Beer Temple

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Whoa, the Beer Temple was such a great place to stop on our way to the show. Their selection is enormous, with beer even from South Carolina! We overheard a group talking about beer from Mt. Pleasant, SC and were both thinking “wait, whaaa?” before realizing they also carried Westbrook as well. I don’t even know the last time I had their Gosa, so it was an unexpected surprise.

The Hague: Kompaan

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I can not say enough amazing things about Kompaan. They have great beer, amazing food, and an awesome atmosphere. This was probably the best beer we’ve had since moving abroad and it was really special to share this with Kelsey. The atmosphere reminded us both so much of Holy City Brewing, which made me a little homesick, but so cool to see what other countries are doing in terms of developing new beer. From the clever names, to the genuineness of the staff, and the quality of the food and beer, Kompaan is a must.

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I love all the things.

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Solid advice

The Hague: Huppel de Pub

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Huppel de Pub was a solid post-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2 viewing stop. They had a ton of great options (including Kompaan) and a really comfortable atmosphere.

Honorable Mentions:

The Hague: Instock

Sadly we weren’t able to eat at Instock while visiting, but I wanted to mention the super cool work they’re doing in the area of food waste. Their chefs use food surpluses that would otherwise be taken to the landfill and make amazing meals from them. They source mostly from grocery stores that don’t sell their “ugly” produce, which is fruit and veg that is perfectly fine but not the prettiest of the bunch (think tomatoes that aren’t cute enough for a BLT but just fine for sauce or a banana too bruised for purchasing but perfect for banana bread). Their  menu changes with what’s available and they serve breakfast, lunch, and (four course) dinners. When one third of food is wasted, operations like these help break this linear cycle. SUPERMARKT_en-603x180@2x.pngThe Hague: Zaal 3

We visited Zaal 3 for a super cool event they were hosting that combined local beer and used records. I scored Buddy Holly and Elvis records (I finally have Suspicious Minds! My favorite as a kid!) while enjoying beer sourced from the area.

-Ashlyn

Ashlyn (2)

Watching: The Next Food Network Star Season 12

Listening: It’s Blitz! by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

 

Prague: Malá Strana & the Left Bank of the Vltava

This March we spent a few days in Prague, Czech Republic and we had such a great time (read: I took too many pictures) that I thought it might be best to split this adventure up into two separate posts. We spent our first day in Malá Strana and wandering around the left side of the Vltava River.

Where are we?

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The capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, Prague is about a four and a half hour drive for us. Having been in existence for over a thousand years, the city is known for its many historical and cultural sites, as well as an expanding food and beer scene. Germanic tribes replaced the Celtics living in modern-day Prague around 100 BC. In 400 AD the fall of the Roman Empire caused most of these Germanic peoples to move west to Germany; Slavic tribes from Russia and Asia replaced them by the end of the sixth century.

Prague was officially founded by Princess Libuše, an ancestor of the Přemyslid dynasty and the Czech people. The youngest and wisest of three sisters, she became queen after their father died. She held the gift of foreseeing the future, legend states that upon seeing the Vltava River from a cliff, Libuše prophesied:

“I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.”

She then ordered the castle to be built overlooking the river. Construction started in the late 8th century and you can still read some of the masonry under the castle dating back to 885. Another fun Libuše legend I wanted to share: When the male leaders of her tribe were unhappy with a woman ruling, they demanded she marry. Libuše, already in love with a plowman named Přemysl, claimed to have a vision of a farmer with one broken sandal plowing a field. The councilmen found Přemysl in nearby Stadice just as she said; the two were married and had three sons.

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“I just might be the next ruler in the making.” #slay

The city is divided by the Vlata River. This first post I’ll just concentrate on our time in Malá Strana and the left bank of the river.

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The Sights:

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Kostel svateho Josefa built by the Carmelite sisters in 1686-1686.

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View from the Castle

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Entrance to the castle. The compound is the largest ancient castle in the world.

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Prague Castle

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The compound (larger than seven football fields) includes the St. Vitus Cathedral.

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Mala Strana District

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Mala Strana District

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Church of Saint Nicholas was built between 1704-1755 on the same site where a 13th century church stood before plans to rebuild the church began.

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Prague Castle at night.

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St. Charles Bridge

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Czech scuplter David Cerny is known for his “tongue and cheek” pieces including this one called “Piss.” We saw more of his work in Old Town.

 

Restaurants:

Malostranská Pivnice:

After wandering around Malá Strana looking for a couple of bars that were only open in the summer (damn seasonality!) we found Malostranská Pivnice on our way back to the apartment. Apparently the pub is located on a former hangman’s house built in 1664 and was opened as a bar in 2002.

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Too cute not to snap a picture

I wish I had taken more photos but I was wayyyyy too distracted by the amazing accordion player who was taking folk requests from a group of Russians in the pub. I uploaded these amazing jams here and here.

Cafe Lounge:

Cafe Lounge had an amazing breakfast and coffee menu. The restaurant had a really cool art-deco Great Gatsby vibe that was super cute.

I was overenthusiastic about sitting outside (in March) and the barista kindly reminded us that no normal person wants to enjoy their brunch outdoors during this time of the year. Inside it is!

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The Farm Letna: Urban Kitchen & Coffee:

Breakfast all day, changing menu each week, and bike rentals, what else do you need in life? We had lunch at Farm Letna our last morning in Prague.

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The restaurant concentrates on using locally sourced produce, meat, and coffee. Shockingly, I chose lunch over breakfast (I know!) because that day they had a soup special that sounded great.

I had the best beet-based veggie burger of my life and Chris had the club sandwich, which was a perfect opportunity to state all of the Lion King “cub” sandwich puns from the elephant graveyard scene.

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Random:

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View from the Airbnb

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Obligatory Prague Castle Selfie

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My favorite house

 

Up Next: Prague Part 2 including Old Town, Beer Museums, and the quest for Jurassic Park arcade games.

Currently:

Ashlyn (2)

Watching: Master of None Season 2

Listening: Team Fortress 2 Fight Songs Soundtrack

Reading: Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

Mood:

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❤ Ashlyn

Shot Put, Javelin, Hammer Throw: Wandering Around Zagreb, Croatia

Last month we met up with an old friend in Croatia’s capital and largest city, Zagreb. We’ve known Meagen since high school (middle school?) days so it was amazing to see her before she moves out of Europe.

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Where is Zagreb?

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About a three hour drive from Pápa, we drove through a very rural portion of Hungary, which was beautiful, albeit bumpy AF, before crossing into Croatia:

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Zagreb is officially my new favorite city. The Roman town of Andautonia (1st-5th century AD) was the first settlement near the now developed city; the first mention of Zagreb dates all the way back to 1094 AD. Here’s the legend behind Zabreb’s name:

Somewhere in the early eleventh century, a young lad decided to leave his home and become a wandering knight. He spent many years on adventures throughout the area, doing good deeds with his wit and sword. Once he was going through a dark forest in the vicinity of Bear Mountain. As it came to be, he lost his way and became mortally thirsty.

There was no stream or pond to save him, and he sat in the dirt hoping for rain. Then, all of the sudden, a beautiful maiden came out of nowhere. At that moment, he was so thirsty he could barely speak, but the girl couldn’t help him as she wasn’t carrying any water. However, she advised the knight to dig on the place of his respite.

“Zagrebite!” said the girl. Or, in English if you wish, “Scratch it!” she yelled, pointing at the dirt below the knight’s feet. The young man scratched the ground to soon find water pouring from the shallow hole he dug.

The adventurer thought young girl was of elven kind, but she introduced herself as a poor human orphan, without anybody of her own. Her name was Mandusa. The young lad smiled, named the stream Mandusevac , and asked for her hand in marriage, with promises of building a huge city in which they would dwell. As she accepted, rays of sunlight engulfed the pair, and through some kind of enchantment, showed them the size and fame of the town in the future.

Therefore, Zagreb literally means “The place which is scratched,” while its heart, Mandusevac fountain on Jelacic square, is the place it was founded.

All the hearts emojis.

Back to our visit:

Tourist Spots: 

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View from our Airbnb

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Main city square

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Statue of Ban Josip Jelacic

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Statue of the Virgin Mary

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Zagreb Cathedral (1217)

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Museum of Torture:

We visited the Museum of Torture, a last minute decision that I’m glad we were able to fit into our weekend. The museum was small but scary; it’s insane to me how much time and effort humans go through to inflict pain on each other.

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They also had a friendly version of the Chokey from Matilda–which if you haven’t seen you need to reassess your life–but I’ll provide an illustration for you:

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Shot put, javelin, hammer throw

Museum of Broken Relationships:

The Museum of Broken Relationships was one of my favorite spots in Zagreb. I love using stories as a narrative to share experiences (historical, cultural, etc) to connect people to others. While this museum might sound depressing–in some ways it was–I really enjoyed reading these stories. The exhibits encouraged a lot of reflection and discussion around identities, family, love, and justice.

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This donation was one of the most powerful on display:

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British Square Market:

I wish I would have taken more pictures of the market but I was so overwhelmed and surprised by the sheer number of people selling old things! Of course I was in heaven and wanted to buy everything. We randomly ran into our market on the way to breakfast and there were so many amazing treasures to see.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to buy any Croatian treasures (and Chris was getting crabby because he wanted to eat) but now I have an excuse to go back.

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Saint Cyril And Methodius (1681)

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Church of St. Marks (12th Century)

Restaurants/Bars:

Chris loved the fact that you could smoke basically anywhere in Zagreb. We went to a number of awesome places to eat and have a drink.

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We grabbed coffee near our apartment both here and the Treehouse Cafe. The Irish coffee at Treehouse was delicious.

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Kava Tava:

A majority of the food (and mimosas) we enjoyed were between the two Kava Tava locations in Zagreb. The first, near our apartment, played the best smooth jazz versions of 2000s pop songs, which Meg and I happily sang while devouring this banana and chocolate dessert.

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Vegetable panini, egg sandwich, and banana/chocolate tower

While enjoying breakfast at the first Kava Tava we noticed they had a second “airplane themed” location near the British Square. We found our way (after the great market distraction of 2017) and once inside Meagen basically yells at the hostess: “YES IS THIS THE AIRPLANE RESTAURANT?!”

When she asked if we wanted to sit in their repurposed airline rows, of course we enthusiastically nodded.

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Chris: “Where is my food? Why is everyone so giggly?”

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Oh man this brunch.

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Otto & Frank:

We had a couple of dinners at nearby  Otto & Frank. A cute restaurant with great coffee, Chris and Meagen had wings one night while I enjoyed this flatbread:

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Tommy’s Street Burgers: (Tkalciceva Street)

If I didn’t have a photo to prove its existence, I would have thought this burger was all a dream. While wandering down Tkalciceva Street we came across a small street vendor selling diner-esque burgers and fries. A super tiny spot, we came back later that night to order and alas they were closed. Heartbroken, the next day we made sure we were there in time to order. Honestly, the absolute best seitan burger. Homemade and with fries, it was my favorite meal of Zagreb. Tommy’s isn’t listed anywhere except this list of best burgers, but I promise it exists.

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The Cookie Factory:

Located on Tkalciceva, the Cookie Factory was the cutest dessert shop we stopped at.

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PC trying to get fresh with my carrot cake

Bars:

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We stopped at so many places on Tkalciceva and Radiceva that I can’t list them all but a few of our favorites included Destino Valhalla Metal Bar (Croatian metal bands yaaasssss), and basically any bar on Tkalciceva.

Random:

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Typical Meagen and Ashlyn: Our obsession with the OJ Made in America documentary remains a constant. I promise it was encouraged to scratch our initials into the table!

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I can’t wait to go back.

It is absolutely insane to me that 15 years ago Meagen and I were part of the JV Cheerleading squad in a small town in Ohio, and now we are wandering around Croatia. Crazy.

Ashlyn (2)

It’s been a long February. Power through my friends. It’s almost March.

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Budapest Part Deux

A part 2 of my favorite spots in Budapest/an excuse to research Hot Shots Part Deux gifs.

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One of my favorite movies as a kid.

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I can’t promise there isn’t more later.

Places:

Cake & Beer

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Via Facebook

A relatively new pub (they opened in November 2016) the name says it all. Cake & beer (and also card games). The beer was great–we tried the Ubik Eklektik Herbál IPA, Budapest–and it was really great, one of the best beers I’ve had since we moved. They also have sandwiches and coffee for the morning visitors too. We didn’t get a chance to try the coffee, but it sounded great. We also played a solid two hours of Uno and Rummy while enjoying our beers.

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Cat playing cards!

Blue Bird Cafe

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Via Facebook

Such great breakfast and lunch we had to go twice (in one weekend). Blue Bird is a cafe by day and insane karaoke by night. The cutest restaurant with amazing food, house roasted coffee, and homemade cheesecake, Blue Bird is my new favorite spot.

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I’m dying of cuteness.

I ordered the vegetarian eggs Benedict both days and Chris had Philly cheesesteak and pulled pork bagel.

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And I also ordered cheesecake….

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Via Facebook. I ordered blueberry.

Fat Mama’s

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Via Facebook

We had Christmas lunch at Fat Mama’s and it was delicious. Chris ordered a BBQ burger (shredded beef neck) and I ordered the veg burger because we were both craving fries.

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But I really want to visit again to try this adorable/amazing breakfast menu:

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Azteca Tex Mex:

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We stopped by Azteca because it was close to our Airbnb and we were craving burritos. Really extensive menu, fast service, solid food! Plus they deliver.

Manufaktor

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Via Facebook

An adorable shop near Blue Bird, they hand make and sell art prints, toys, puppets, and cards around the theatre theme. The art studio is home to work of Garami Richard and Ötvös; you can also buy their work online via their Etsy shop.

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Via Facebook

Budapest State Opera House:

This January we went to see Pushkin’s Evgeny Onegin performed by the Hungarian ballet at the Budapest Opera House. It was a beautiful building and great performances.

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Incapable of taking “nice” pictures.

Random Sites:

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Ashlyn inspired outdoor seating if I ever saw it.

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Calling my name.

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Old Man Status 😦

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Ashlyn (2)

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Stinky Cheese & Climbing Mountains: Lake Como, Italy

Last month we were able to meet up with a couple of friends from Charleston visiting Italy on vacation. This was our first first trip outside of Hungary!

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Unfortunately Chris’s mission was delayed so we could only spend one full day there (luckily we got there super early the day before and left really late the day after). It was awesome to see Heather and Karl. Its weird to go from living across the street to living across an ocean.

We took a super cheap flight from Budapest to Milan, then a train to Lake Como, and a bus into Malpensa. Or as I like to say, an excuse to reference Planes, Trains, and Automobiles all day.

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THOSE AREN’T PILLOWS!!

We met at a super cute cafe/bar and I hugged Heather in the middle of the street, but luckily we weren’t hit by any passing cars. Spoiler alert but Il Baretto will show up later in the blogpost.

Their air b&b was AMAZING but literally at the top of a mountain (okay maybe not a mountain, but a super tall hill) that was the steepest incline ever–even more than the Heidelberg Castle we climbed on New Years–but the view from the house made the sweaty, swearing, trip up the stone steps totally worth it.

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We were greeted by their Keanu list (absent is Chris’s personal favorite, Johnny Mnemonic so we’ll need an updated list in the next few months).

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Before climbing the big hike to the house, we stopped at a little store in town and bought some local super stinky cheese, bread, and wine, then spent the day playing games before going to dinner.

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This dinner was out. of. control. The restaurant didn’t give us menus but just brought their specials for the day. Definitely in my top five favorite meals of all time and #1 in Europe so far. I forgot to take pictures because I was too busy dying (remember in the first post I said how bad I was at taking food photos?) but it was an amazing combination of bread/cheese/vegetables/sauces/pasta (and meat, but I can’t attest to how great that was). We also had an awesome dessert of sorbet and tiramisu.

Sunday we went to Lake Como by ferry, wandered around, and discussed fantasy football (Chris and I were playing each other this week!)

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Breakfast

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Chris talking shit.

Making the long ass trek down to the water.

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Reunited and it feels so good. Sorry for the shit quality but I was taking pictures secret-style.

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Waiting for the ferry.

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Lake Como (PIZZZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA)

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After pizza and gelato we took a cab back to Maltrasio where we stopped at Il Baretto for drinks. We watched soccer, talked about football, and had shots on the house (“this one is for Keanu!”). While a good idea at the time, this made the 400-ish ft vertical walk up to the house both difficult and hilarious.

We also met the Italian HCB Mr. Meowgi. Poor guy had an eye infection 😦 He was so sweet and joined us on the porch our last morning in Italy.

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Luckily we were able to take a late flight back to Hungary so we were able to hang out most of the day. More pizza, more foosball tournaments (“LEGS UP!”), and Heather and I delivered a thank you letter (in Italian!) to our favorite people at Il Baretto.

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Bye Italy, It’s been real.

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Who needs a selfie stick when you have a friend like Kombat Karl?

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Ashlyn (2)

A Tourist in my New City.

Last week I went on a walking tour of my new home, Pápa. The experience was great because I not only learned a ton about the city, but was also able to meet a lot of awesome people too! One of my favorite things about my new community is getting to know people from different backgrounds and nationalities who now live here too.

I’ll start this off with a little bit of background on the area and then specifically the awesome places I was able to visit.

Where Are We?

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In this case, not the red-dot. That’s the capital. We’re in Veszprém County. The green area on the left almost the color of my bathroom in Charleston. One of the best parts of Pápa is that it sits at the foothills of the Bakony Mountains. After ten years in the flat Lowcountry, its nice to see some elevation!

Pápa and Hungary are old AF

First mentioned in 1061 (literally close to 1000 years ago), Pápa was named after a Bavarian knight who became the head of the first royal manor in Veszprém County. He earned this title after helping King Stephen I (the first King of Hungary, who also established the country) fight off his relative Koppány to keep the crown.

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King Stephen I looking dashing

During the Middle Ages Pápa was an important center for Protestantism; it was also an area for Jewish settlements as well. Hungary’s location between Europe and Russia has caused the country years of loss and hardship, particularly during the two world wars. The Hungarians first sided with the Germans during WWI and then again during most of WWII. As a country, Hungary tried to switch over to join Allied forces toward the end of the war, causing the Germans to invade after previous years of Soviet fighting. The population of the Jewish community in Pápa suffered greatly as a result, first by the Soviets and then the Germans.

I’m totally a nerd for Soviet history, particularly its effect on nationalism on occupied countries. I think I’ll have to do a separate post on all of the years between WWI-1989 because its super interesting and has a had a ton of impact on culture and society within Hungary, but I’ll spare you that for now.

After WWII, the Soviets occupied the country until its dissolution in 1989.

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The Hoff is really the symbol of the fall of the Soviet Union.

In 1999 Hungary joined NATO and in 2004, the EU. In 2007, the Pápa Air Base was selected by NATO as the Main Operating Base for the Heavy Airlift Wing, which is how Chris and I ended up here.

Pápa looks a lot like it did in the late 1700’s because it was given protective status during that time. The city has a couple of really beautiful and historic landmarks that I was able to visit and learn more about during my walking tour. Let’s get to them!

The Sights

The Great Church

img_1844Located in the center of town, the Great Church was built around 1776 and survived numerous hardships including Soviet occupation, lightening strikes, and my personal favorite: when a couple of schoolchildren attempted to burn it down at the turn of the 20th century.

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Our tour was led by the most amazing retired Hungarian Art History teacher in red suspenders of all time. One of the best parts of this tour was the fact that we got to listen to everything in Hungarian, then translated to English by our awesome translator.

The church is also the home to this guy. Definitely one of the oddest moments of my life: walking into a room and casually being introduced to a long-gone Roman martyr.

img_1846Our Hungarian host noted that it was a good thing the Soviets didn’t find him or else they would have stolen all of his jewels.

You can climb to the top of the church, which I attempted before saying fuck it at the last set of stairs. My fear of heights is only reinforced by 3 sets of wooden open-back steps that open up to the multiple floors you just climbed via a teeny-tiny stone spiral stairwell. Sorry I don’t have pictures of the city from the top of the church, but you get the idea.

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Here’s me, safely on the ground.

Pápa Water Tower

Our second stop on the tour was the city’s water tower, which honestly I was most excited to see up close. Being the sustainability nerd I am, I’m really interested in seeing how the groundwater is used and cleaned for all 30,000 inhabitants of the area.

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Again, here I am safely with my feet firmly planted in soil.

Alas, I again had to sit this climb out due to the height and stairs. I can’t concentrate on water filtering processes while having a panic attack.

Blue Dye Museum

Pápa is home to the only blue dye museum in Central Europe. Again, our tour was led by our wonderful translator who actually worked for a couple of years at the museum before becoming a translator on base.

The Blue Dye Factory was built in 1784 on the banks of the Tapolca River. The German Kluge family operated the factory until it was taken over by the communists in the 1950s. Since then its been turned into a beautiful museum.

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Blurry, but I’m working with a crappy iphone.

I’m going to quote the blue dying process (and its importance) from the website here:

In the second half of the 18th century, countries west of Hungary suffered from an overabundance of skilled laborers in the textile and dyeing industry. For this reason, individuals and entire families migrated to Hungary, thereby increasing the numbers of masters in the textile profession. Thus the ancestors of the Kluge family came to Hungary from Sorau in Saxony (Zary, Poland) bringing the new technology of textile printing with them, which was the reserve style cold indigo vat dyeing. Up until the middle of the 19th century, this kind of textile dyeing was called “Schön- und Schwarzfärber”. This also means that while the “Schönfärber” was doing “Beauty-dyeing”, cloth and linen dyeing, the “Schwarzfärber” was usually practising black dyeing.

The Eastern indigo reserve style was also appearing in the above mentioned areas at the beginning of the 18th century featuring the dyeing material, the indigo, which was providing the blue colour. Printing paste was applied to the printing which was protecting the basic white colour of the textile from turning blue. After several dips in the dye vats (küpa) and then after aeration due to the oxidation the reduced indigo began graduating the cotton and the linen clothes into blue. After dyeing the printing paste was taken off by a bath of hydrochloride-vitriolic acid and the basic white colour appeared. This blue and white colour was typical of the Eastern porcelains; therefore this new technology was called “Porcellandruck” by the dyers with the phrase “drucken auf Porcellan Art”.

So freaking gorgeous.

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Anyone else think the middle pattern on the left could be the inspiration for the killer star guys in the Metropolis level of Sonic the Hedgehog 2?

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You know what I’m talking about. The star guy on the top right about to take out Sonic and Tails.

Personal Updates: We officially moved into our house last week!

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Ashlyn (2)