June 21, 2017No Comments

It’s all about the waffles

If you ever have the opportunity to go to Brussels, do it.

Thanks to the most amazing youth exchange officer that I am forever grateful for and can never thank enough I got to spend a day in Brussels, Belgium. My morning started with my alarm saying "no Kaeleigh, you deserve to sleep in today because you had a long day yesterday and well, you just deserve it." Which then led to my response of, "thanks for your consideration Mr. Alarm clock but you just screwed me over and now I have 5 minutes to get ready." Either way I made it out the door lookin decent with Nutellabrot to go courtesy of my lovely host mother.

We drove for about two hours most of which I slept through and finally arrived in the city of sprouts. Get it cuz like brussel sprouts? HA. Okay, I apologize for that joke. It was really bad and I'm done now. In the city we walked to where we would be getting onto our "on and off" bus. These busses are kind of ingenious. You can see the city from the double-decker, open top bus and then get off at stops that interest you and walk around a bit before waiting for the next bus to show up for another picturesque rest break.

The first stop we got off at was the Atomium which is that big shiny metal ball thing you may have heard of? Beneath this incredible history lesson I'm about to give you I've included some super fancy photos of it incase you don't know what I'm talking about.

The Atomium was originally built to be the attraction for the World's Fair held in Brussels in 1958. It symbolized faith in prosperity and progress but quickly became a national symbol. The Atomium attracts 600,000 visitors per year.

In 1954 Belgian civil engineer and architect André Waterkeyn came up with the idea of taking a basic iron crystal with nine atoms and enlarging it 165 billion times. The spectacular structure brought upon a new era: the atomic age.

The structure was built from aluminum leading to it's name which combined 'atom' and 'aluminum' to create Atomium. It took 19 months to build and was renovated between 2004-2007; the faded aluminum pieces replaced by stainless steel for lasting shine.

The Atomium is now also a museum which we took the time to go through (and how I got all the previous information). There were elevators and sets of escalators/stairs that took you between the multiple spheres. It was absolutely worth the time and money.

After the Atomium we took the bus to the city center where we got off and stopped for some famous Belgian fries eaten with special mayo that tastes totally different from what we have in the US. We walked around for awhile and I took pictures of things like cute chocolate stores and this beautiful market square (actually called Grand Place). We went into some chocolate stores one of which we bought ice cream from which turned out not to be ice cream but chocolate mousse. Chocolate mousse is delicious but I don't think I will need to order a bowl of it ever again.

Another cool place that we visited and took a tour through was the European Parliament. It was towards the end of our day and the tiredness was hitting us all so I can't tell you much about it but I do remember getting a new pin for my blazer there!

Now for all those photos I was talking about. It was so beautiful in Brussels, especially with the nice weather we were blessed with.

Before leaving for the evening we stopped for dinner which for me was a waffle because you can't leave Belgium without eating one. It breaks violation, the mayor told me himself ***see bottom for note.***

I think we all really enjoyed our day trip to Brussels. It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday and I'm so glad I could go as my days on exchange are numbered. Before you know it I'll be blogging about reverse culture shock. I'm not ready for that but I am ready to see all my people back home. Summer is waiting!

***I didn't actually meet the mayor of Brussels but he seems like a cool dude. Shoutout to my man Yvan Mayeur you're (probably) a real homie***

That's it, until next time.


April 24, 2017No Comments

Europa Tour – Week 1

This isn't an easy post to write. First off because it was a three week long adventure which is a lot to cover and second because since it only ended two days ago, it hurts to remember it's over.

This was my second and last tour on exchange. My first was in October. Two weeks traveling by bus around Germany with my oldies. My second was three weeks on a bus with my newbies. And now, no more. I still have one more weekend to see everyone all together but then us oldies go home. 80 days people, 80 days and I'll be flying home.

Now onto that tour, it started in Duisburg at 11pm. I pulled up with my suitcase which I promptly dropped unceremoniously on the ground and started showering everyone who was already there with hugs of excitement.  I've always had this sort of happy energy that I get randomly when I'm in a good mood but on tour this energy went on basically the whole time probably making everyone think I'm psychotic in real life (I am).

Anyways, people kept showing up and I kept making a show of being really excited to see them. The bus finally showed up, late I might add which would continue to be a trend throughout the entire tour. Everyone got on as quick as possible, me in my excitement totally forgetting to tell my drivers goodbye...oops and we were on our way.


Fact: Prague is the capitol of the Czech Republic and home to approximately 1.2 million people.

Opinion: I found the architecture to be somewhat similar to Bruges which was a city I visited in Belgium and really loved.

Historical landmarks: Prague Castle, astronomical clock, Jewish Quarter, Old Town Square - all of which I visited in my two days there.

Short History Lesson: the Prague astronomical clock was first installed in 1410. It is the third oldest in the world but the oldest still in use. It has three components; the astronomical dial, "The Walk of the Apostles," and a calendar dial. The astronomical dial represents the position of the sun and moon. "The Walk of the Apostles" is an hourly clock which shows the Apostles and other moving sculptures striking the time every hour. The calendar dial represents the months passing.



Old Town Square






Astronomical Clock


My friends getting ready to try our traditional Prague dessert


Dessert from Prague called Trdelník - cooked and rolled cinnamon dough with ice cream


me eating the dessert lookin cute, okay maybe not


View of Prague from the Prague Castle


John Lennon Wall



Fact: Budapest is among the top 100 GDP performing cities in the world and attracts 4.4 million international tourists per year making it the 25th most popular city in the world and 6th in Europe.

Opinion: it was so much bigger than I anticipated. In most cities we leave the hostel and walk around the city doing our tours and occasionally using public transport. In Budapest we spent a long time on the bus just trying to get to the place to start our tour. I think we crossed over about 6 different bridges each at least two times in the span of three days. Part of this could have been the bus driver being lost, it's kind of hard to tell from the back row.

Historical landmarks: St. Stephen's Basilica, Chain Bridge, Parliament, Fisherman's Bastion, and the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath

Short History Lesson: the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest of its kind in Europe. Its water comes from two thermal springs of 74C (165F). The water contains sulphate, calcium, magnesium, biocarbonate, and fluoride/metaboric acid. The baths are thought to help degenerative joint illnesses, chronic and sub-acute joint inflammations, and orthopaedic and traumatological post-treatments.






Thanks to whoever threw the Lipton tea bottle into my photo, it's artistic flair I swear



Chain Bridge


St. Stephen's Basilica


View from St. Stephen's


View pt2


Széchenyi Medicinal Bath



The ladies




Fact: Vienna is the capitol of Austria and has a population of about 1.8 million. It also has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin.

Opinion: I found Vienna to be a very beautiful city and not all that similar to Germany. I for some reason had the impression that because the two countries share a language they'd be similar but listening to the difference between Austrian German and German German should be enough to tell you they're not very similar at all.

Historical landmarks: Hotel Sacher, Pestsäule, Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna State Opera House, Austrian Parliament Building, Karlskirche, and the Hundertwasserhaus

Short History Lesson: Vienna was greatly impaired by the Great Plague of Vienna in 1679 with a loss of 76,000 people. It was a major trading city because of its location on the Danube River so Vienna frequently suffered outbreaks of the plague. The Pestsäule is a Holy Trinity column (sometimes also referred to as a mercy column) that was put in place after the plague to celebrate the end of the plague and commemorate the lives lost. The column was put in place in 1693 and depicts the triumph of faith over disease.



Schönbrunn Palace







Vienna city center


The Pestsäule





Hotel Sacher




St. Stephen's Cathedral, under construction like every church in Europe it seems


Meeting exchange friends from back home in Vienna!

This here concludes week one of my tour through Europe. Look for week two soon...


January 9, 2017No Comments

I met James Bond

Okay I admit that title is a total lie but I had to get you to start reading. What really happened was I went skiing in a place where James Bond, Spectre was filmed. Almost the same thing right?


Remember this from the movie? Yeah that's in Sölden, Austria. 

I got to Frankfurt hbf Friday night. I saw Lena waiting for me through the train window, jumped down the steps and hugged her for a solid five minutes almost in tears. Here would begin one of the best weeks ever.

Little back story...who is Lena? Well depending on your connection to me as a human being you may already know. But if not then you should know she is a 16 year old girl from Frankfurt who lived in Portland last year. My family and I hosted her in our house for three months so we're really close. You could even say we're sisters.

Now anyways, I went home with Lena and we stayed up really late talking and packing for skiing the next day. If you have to get up at 3:30 in the morning to drive to Austria why not stay up until 1!? The nonexistent sleep was no problem because we slept the six hours to Sölden. Oh and it was New Years! We rented our skis and got our passes for the next day and then rested for the long night ahead. Lena and I were going clubbinggg. Which is legal in Europe by the way. We watched fireworks in the streets and had an all together fun night in our little snow town.

The next morning we slept in and got onto the slopes around noon. We had no new snow so I discovered how not fun skiing on ice is. We got new snow on the third ski day and after that all was good. After six days of skiing I can say I improved a ton. I had a lot of fun skiing. We were always doing different runs so everything was always new.

We ate lunch every day in a new hut we found on the many slopes. I tried so much typical German/Austrian food! For example leberknödelsuppe, apfelstrudel, wiener schnitzel, kaiserschmarrn, and zwetschgenknödel. The first one literally translates to"liver dumpling soup." Sounds really delicious right? Haha okay maybe not but it really did taste good. To really explain what it was like it was a large meatball in a chicken broth with parsley on top. You break the meatball apart and eat it with the broth. It's good I promise.

The next one is more of a dessert but when you're skiing normal health rules do not apply. If you want to eat an apple pastry for lunch then do it. The apple strudel was very similar to an apple pie but it's served with a hot vanilla sauce over it. I found the sauce a little weird but the pastry itself was good.

Wiener Schnitzel is breaded veal (fried) served with lemon juice on top and usually accompanied by potatoes in some form. For me that form was fries. Like I said skiing food is healthy.

Kaiserschmarrn is a shredded pancake that you eat with apple sauce or a fruit compote like plum or lingonberry. German pancakes are the thickness between a crepe and an American pancake but these were like American pancakes, thick and fluffy and sooooo incredible. I didn't have my maple syrup but apple sauce and powdered sugar were almost as good.

I was not a big fan of zwetschgenknödel. It's another dessert that consists of a potato dumpling (knödel) with a plum filling served with hot vanilla sauce over. The dumpling itself was okay but I didn't like the plum filling. When I first saw it I thought it was a chocolate filling so I got really excited and ended up being unpleasantly surprised.

I hope you're hungry now. Head on over to Sölden, Austria and experience some killer skiing, meet James Bond, and eat some awesome food. Below I included a map of the many trails plus the awesome pictures I took throughout the week. I couldn't have asked for a better trip with my best friend/sister and I can't wait to spend more time with her.













my host parents for a week <3


after skiing hair is the best hair




where our little apartment was


p.s. Europeans who read this if I got any of the food names wrong don't judge me, thanks

p.s.s. before taking the train home I went to the one Chipotle in all of Germany and died of happiness, it was worth any amount of money

much love, kale salad

January 1, 2017No Comments

Four countries, three days

The thing that you can't help but love and admire about Europe is how close everything is. In the US I would never be able to say I was in four different countries in three days but here in Europe I just did it.

I started off in Germany (obviously) and drove three hours to Nieuwvelt in the Netherlands. To get there we drove through Belgium but I'm not counting that since we didn't stop. My host family and I and our family friends were renting a beach house on the coast for four days. I took about 100 beach pictures so prepare yourself for those. I loved the beach because it reminded me of the Oregon coast. We were supposed to have sun but ended up having fog every day (sound familiar?). We took walks on the beach bundled up in scarves and coats even though it was almost below freezing. I loved every minute of it. Okay maybe not every minute because I lost feeling in my fingers a few times.





my host parents  <3


Our one visible sunset









Our little house in the fog


Daily icy beach walks weren't the only thing we did in these four days. We also took a day trip to Brugge, Belgium. QUESTION TIME: Why can't names of places be the same in all languages? It would make life so much simpler. Brugge is called Bruges in English so now you American folk can understand because obviously your mouths are unable to say Brugge... Alright now back on track, Brugge was incredible. I've visited a lot of cities in the four months I've been in Europe and this is absolutely in the top three. It was so beautiful especially decorated for Christmas. Now for another stream of photos.


oh you know, just a house from 1480 #average













Belgium is a really interesting place because about half of the country speaks Dutch and the other half French. How that border was distinguished and how well it works I could not tell you. It's not like French and Dutch are very similar languages. I heard Dutch for the first time on this trip and man is that a weird sounding language. Another "first" of this trip was discovering the authentic magic of Belgian waffles. I didn't know you could die and be reborn again after a single bite of something but you can. Needless to say it was mindbogglingly (<-- that word looks really weird right? Is it real or did I make it up?) delicious and I will be going back for more.

The next day we took one more trip to the beach hoping for sun and got lucky. For 5 minutes. After successfully collecting some shells and getting water in my shoe it was time to head home. I was back home for a whole two hours before hopping back into the car with a new suitcase off to Düsseldorf hbf to catch a train to my bestest friend and sister, Lena. Which leads to my next adventure (which will be blogged about soon) and next country. Austria! A week of skiing in a place that has weird sounding German and lots of mountains.

To be continued...


November 30, 2016No Comments

Nothing better than chocolate and Weihnachtsmärkte

When you think Germany what comes to mind? Beer, bratwurst, weird German outfits that you forget how to spell but you think they involve Oktoberfest?, and Christmas markets. I can now officially say I have experienced all of those things. And many more of course. Germany does have more to offer than that if you can believe it. If you don't believe me then obviously you haven't read this blog thoroughly enough. #educateyoself

Since Germany doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving (this was devastating for me, still accepting turkey and cranberry sauce in the mail) Christmas starts mid November. Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets auf Deutsch) began right around that time too. So far I've gone to three. One in Krefeld, Münster, and the best in Aachen.

I went to Aachen with my hparents and oldest hsister on Monday nach Schule. Wow Kaeleigh we're really doing some Denglish here that's awesome. Looks like you guys are going to be learning a bit of Deutsch as a special bonus for reading my blog. Double win.

Anyways, we went to Aachen because my younger host sister, Elena wohnt da. It was her birthday last week so we did a little birthday celebration. We got Lebanese food (bless this), went to FREAKING LINDT WAREHOUSE, and then to the Weihnachtsmarkt.

As you can tell by my previous use of unnecessary capitalization I was very excited about the Lindt chocolate. Walking up to the building there was the cursive blue shining Lindt sign welcoming me inside it's gloriousness. When I entered my heart stopped. An entire building filled with rows upon rows of chocolate Santas, chocolate bars, Advent calendars, and those round Lindor chocolates with the shiny red packaging that make you feel classy af. I'm sorry to say I was too busy frantically filling ten shopping carts with chocolate to take any photos inside but I did get one outside.


After our trip to Lindt we went to get dinner at the Lebanese restaurant and all was good in the world. Weird thing about Germany is they eat fries with everything. Greek food? Add some fries! Bento? How about some fries with that? Shawarma? Fries mix perfectly. I don't blame them for this who doesn't like fries but it's still something I find rather funny.

Once we were warm and full we made our way out of the restaurant and into the cold night air. Before coming I thought the weather was going to be almost identical to mine in Portland. I've come to the conclusion that Portland has more rain but that Nordrhein-Westfalen (my state) gets a bit colder. It gets to be about 25 degrees Fahrenheit in the evenings and mornings and lakes are starting to freeze which I'm not used to.

The Weihnachtsmarkt was a short walk from the restaurant and so beautiful. Tons of lights and each cart that was set up was made out of wood. Almost like a detailed moving log cabin. Typical things to see at a Weihnachtsmarkt are Printen (a type of cookie specific to Aachen, it tastes similar to gingerbread), Christmas decorations, Glühwein (hot mulled red wine), Eierpunsch (I didn't try this but I believe it is similar to eggnog), lighted nativity scenes, bratwurst (natürlich), roasted sugar coated nuts, and other typical German foods that I don't know the names of. We walked through the market which was in the center of Aachen for about an hour and stopped at the end for Glühwein. You absolutely cannot go to a Weihnachtsmarkt without trying Glühwein. It was my second time trying it and I still wasn't very impressed. It just tasted like red wine that had been heated up. Nothing too spectacular but that was just my opinion. I think I was more excited about the cute boot mug the wine came in than the actual wine but don't tell anyone I told you that.

Now for the photos that accompanied the market...

And here concludes my evening in Aachen, more Christmas coming your way soon.

November 4, 2016No Comments

St. Martin’s Day

Happy November!

I hope everyone had a spectacular Halloween and back home you're all enjoying your "No-school-vember." *Glares because we don't have this in Germany.*

I'm just going to be blunt here...Germans don't know how to celebrate Halloween. Back in the US we have Halloween movies, costumes, pumpkin carving, and trick or treating. Halloween here in Germany is just an excuse to throw a party and egg someones house. I'm not really upset about this fact because Germans have other holidays. I definitely missed my normal traditions but today I learned about a new holiday that is much more important here in Germany. St. Martin's Day!

The official St. Martin's Day is on November 11th but for some reason we're celebrating it now here in Schiefbahn. This religious holiday originated from a story about you guessed it, Saint Martin. The legend goes that Saint Martin was going on horseback through a snowstorm when he came upon a beggar. He cut his cloak in half to share it with the beggar so he wouldn't die from the cold. That night he dreamt that Jesus was wearing the half cloak and had blessed him for his generosity.

Historically St. Martin's Day was a day of feasting. It celebrates the end of the agrarian year and the beginning of harvesting. In the 6th century, local councils required fasting on all week days from Saint Martin's Day to Epiphany (the feast of baptism on January 6th). This period of time was similar to the fast of Lent and was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin's Lent). This long period of fasting was later shortened and renamed "Advent" by the church.

Today, St. Martin's Day is celebrated in a different way. A bonfire is lit on the night of the holiday to symbolize the light that holiness brings to the darkness just as St. Martin brought hope to the beggar that night in the snowstorm. Children walk in processions carrying lanterns which also symbolize that light. The children walk usually from church to the public square and a man on horseback dressed like St. Martin accompanies them. Here in Schiefbahn the children walk house to house and sing Martin songs and often get candy in return (similar to Halloween). After the procession everyone meets in the city center for the bonfire and eats Weckmänner (a sweet bread shaped like St. Martin).

I enjoyed researching the history of this holiday and of course experiencing it as well. Discovering these little differences is one of my favorite parts of exchange. The United States has Halloween and Germany has St. Martin's Day and that's just fine.

September 21, 2016No Comments

Have you tried the fries in the Netherlands?

Betcha can't guess what I did today...

Thomas, my host dad came home from work and told me we were going for a ride on his motorcycle. RIDING A MOTORCYCLE THROUGH GERMANY HECK YEAH IM IN! As you can imagine I was very excited.

Susanne took me downstairs to get into the motorcycle gear which included padded leather jacket and pants, leather gloves, and a helmet. It was a struggle to walk up the stairs with all that gear on.

Once I got on the bike Thomas told me we were going across the border into the Netherlands. Incase you didn't already know Willich is about 30-40 minutes away from the Netherlands so it's easy for anyone to take a day trip there. Which is exactly what Thomas and I did.

The ride was awesome. We went on the country roads rather than the Autobahn so it was a really nice drive. We passed a lot of horses, cows and of course corn fields. I counted the corn fields (because why not) and came up with 43. Man those Germans and their corn (except I haven't even seen corn in stores???). We drove for about 40 minutes into a city right across the border called Venlo. Not much was different there. The city was bigger than Willich but the architecture was somewhat similar. I do think there were more bikes. Every street had designated bike paths or only allowed bikes. Plus there were areas where bikes had right of way so you had to pay extra attention.

Another thing I learned about on this adventure was Plattdeutsch. This is the dialect that used to be spoken in Northern Germany and Eastern parts of the Netherlands. Unfortunately this dialect has died out quite a bit and only the older generation knows how to speak it. It would've been so cool to learn because I might've been able to understand a bit of Dutch.

Betcha didn't know: What's the difference between Holland and the Netherlands?

I discovered that the proper term to use (in most cases) is the Netherlands and not Holland. This is because Holland refers to two of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands; North and South Holland. This is where most of the well known cities in the Netherlands are located (Amsterdam) so for a lot of people it is acceptable to say that you've been to Holland. But in my case I should say the Netherlands because the province I went into was Limburg, not one of the two Hollands. All in all, if you ever find yourself in the Netherlands. Play it safe and use the right term, wouldn't want to upset any locals;)

Now onto what I actually did in Venlo. Thomas and I were only there for about an hour. We went into a grocery store called "Die Zwei Brüder von Venlo" to buy licorice for Susanne. The name of the store is in German and translates to "the two brothers from Venlo." The fact that the name is in German just shows how much of a German influence there is in the Netherlands. When we went to checkout at the grocery store the woman said hello in a way I didn't recognize but when Thomas said "hallo" she immediately began speaking in German. It's incredible how people learn languages here, nothing like the US.

After the grocery store we walked around the city for a bit and then stopped for fries along the Meuse river. The fries were really good. The typical way to prepare fries here is a basket of cut potato goodness with a pile of mayonnaise and ketchup on top. Basically someone with OCD's worse nightmare. These fries were special (literally, we ordered the special fry). They had mayo, diced onions, and a red sauce on top. The red sauce wasn't ketchup it had some sort of spices in it. I'm not sure exactly what it was but it tasted good and that's all that matters.



On the ride home I got to watch the sun set behind us. Great end to a great day.






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