Rainy Dresden: The trip that almost didn’t happen

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Dresden, Germany. December 2018.

We made it! And yes, that excitement was exactly how I felt as we drove into Dresden.

Why? Well, this was a trip that honestly almost didn’t happen. I had a scratchy throat a few days before but it wasn’t terrible so I still was pushing to go – we really hadn’t done anything all of November so I was restless. But the morning of I was very scratchy, I felt like I had really deep tonsil nodes, and my throat had a very particular Strep look.

Yep. We went to the med center and after hours of waiting, my doctor said it was a minor infection and I was at the tail end of it. I was told to keep drinking some warm water and honey, rest when I can and avoid staying outside for longer than three or four hours at a time if it was cold. But then he said the magic words: “but if you can handle that, there is no reason you shouldn’t go. that isn’t that far away.”

Best. Doctor. Ever. I almost cried I was so happy. Yes, we left well after noon and would have to skip one of the quick day trips I’d planned on taking onto Dresden, but I had doctor’s approval to go.


I’ll be honest, Dresden doesn’t really make most people’s ‘must see’ lists when touring Germany, and it really doesn’t make most peoples lists for the wider European vacation. With all the history found in Germany, this bombed-out city just doesn’t have the same draw — literally ‘new town’ is older than ‘old town’ because of how completely decimated the city was during World War II.

Because this was the first German excursion for Ryan and me – really our first adventure as a married couple since we both moved here separately – we chose Dresden because of an inside joke started in high school. We had a marriage project and our fake son was named Dresdyn (yes, I know it’s spelled differently; it’s a family thing). Almost a decade later and now married, how were we ever supposed to resist?

We road tripped north to Dresden and the weather was already starting to act up – we are pretty sure we ended up driving through the literal eye of the storm – you know, like the eye of a tornado, clear in the center but all around us was ugly gray and fog. That should have been our warning: It rained pretty much the whole time we were there but seeing as it was the end of December and therefore, winter, this shouldn’t have been disappointing or unforeseen.

Still, I made us get up early and head out…. apparently so early that nothing was open for hours after stepping out in the wet and cold. While this made Ryan confused and laugh, I loved being out that early.

I loved walking around Dresden and looking at all the architecture – nice since, again, we couldn’t go in anywhere for a little while. Just wandering around was my favorite thing to do and means it’s what we did pretty much our whole visit. I am not sure I relaxed or stayed inside as much as my doctor had wanted, however, I did go inside more than I would have normally so I think I did a fair job of following orders!

As I said, ‘new town’ was technically built before ‘old town,’ but looking at the architecture you wouldn’t know it. Like a lot of Germany, the Baroque style is very clear but I always forget the slightly older, almost gothic-looking style of the buildings that get worked into the style.

One of the places we did choose to pay for was the Frauenkirche and the Climb to the Dome – a platform that gives you amazing views of the city around you. This is a bit of a climb with a small elevator ride, a few staircases, but mostly a steep but steadily sloping circular walkway that leads up to the 67-meter high platform. It’s a tough climb (Children under 6 years old are apparently not allowed because it is too difficult), but I loved that you are circling the dome and getting views out of the building as well as the frescos and seating within the church. We were well timed and on our way down we watched a procession heading down the center aisle as an event was in progress.

We also managed to time this – surprisingly – with the end of one of Dresden’s Christmas Markets. Now, this was not our first Christmas Markets; I think we’d been to 4 or 5 in 2018 alone, so we more or less knew what we were getting into. The adventure is always getting one of the mugs that have the correct year to add to our growing collection.

I just love Christmas Markets and honestly can’t wait for the Easter Markets to start. German Markets feel much less ‘produced’ than those I found in London. That isn’t to say that you don’t have to watch your spending – especially a few drinks in! – after all, they are markets, but they really feel much more like local markets rather than tiny carnivals that are more flash than substance.

The last things we did was cross the river to try to find some of the cool street art that I have seen in posts about new time. Unfortunately, this is when it really started to rain more and the wind picked up. Ryan was also a little skeptical about the look on that side of the river – it was much more urban and with no clear path where to go to see what I wanted. In the end, we walked along the river and then crossed back into old town with nothing much gained.

Still, I really did love Dresden and it was amazing learning how differently Ryan and I travel when we haven’t planned things out very specifically. I’d love to go back and see everything when it isn’t all gray and gloomy, but that may be the Californian in me!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

 

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Rainy Dresden: The trip that almost didn’t happen

Cause and Effect: ‘Visas’ for US Citizens Abroad

Anyone remember when I wrote about the EU votes over Visas for Americans a little over two years ago? If not, don’t worry. I think we have all been distracted by other EU craziness…. I mean, come on, Brexit! what are you doing now? Anyway, is it bad to start out a post saying I told you so? Probably. But it is true, and timely since I just came off a year-long hiatus!

Now, I am not naive – with much bigger venues talking about this issue you most likely have heard all about this upcoming addition to your travel planning with US citizens needing to get “visas” – or more accurately ETIAS or, in layman’s terms, official permission to visit 22 European countries which are set to begin in 2021.

Honestly, I can’t shed new light on this subject, but people seem to be skirting around the cause and effect surrounding this issue – or what I have to assume is the cause and effect here.


To start, I am not going to rehash everything I talked about in 2017 – that post exists so if you want it, check the link in the first paragraph; However, I can give you a quick overview:

Basically, the US broke visa and entry requirement agreements and in 2014, was given a deadline to adhere to the original policies or face repercussions. The US did not get into alignment so the EU chose to vote on what those consequences should be.

This is where we find ourselves currently. Of course, this agreement has some back-peddling on earlier discussions (which stated that the time limit ended the time for negotiation) because this ‘visa isn’t a visa, it’s just official and application approved permission’ is contingent on – again – the US coming back into alignment with equitable policies and ending certain visa requirements that are still standing.

Did you miss that? It is generally buried at the end of things, usually after the point that you have clicked on the more official informational links.

Why does this matter?

Well, it has me wondering what might happen if the US doesn’t come into compliance, after all, we’ve had years to do so before this seeming half-step.

I also wonder why the idea of it increasing international security is being pushed more than the requirements of the current deal.

I can’t lie, a part of me kind of hopes these changes mean traveling within Europe will get more passport stamps than it currently does. Of course, due to the clause about needing only one ‘permission form’ (For lack of a better term here!) to enter these countries, I doubt it. At the same time, however, we don’t really have many details on what this will change, especially considering the locations of countries who are not requiring this kind of permission.

Could this mean slower traffic and more checks moving from excluded countries to those you’d now need permission to enter? If not, I am dumbfounded on how this helps with ‘international security’. Also, it means American’s will have to be very aware if they are visiting places like Croatia (which does not need an ETIAS), not to cross into other countries surrounding it without having done the extra paperwork!


The nice thing about these not being Visas – a major sticking point when I wrote on this topic two years ago – is that you don’t necessarily have to plan out every single thing on your European tour because getting the paperwork and permission done is kind of like an all-access pass to the newly added countries. If you suddenly want a day trip to a country not on your itinerary you are covered!

Why does this difference matter? If the EU decided to require Visas instead, each country would most likely require their own, meaning tracking many more tourists across their travels and having no wiggle-room in your trips – Visas are much more limiting and have more requirements (again, I talk about this more in the old post linked at the top!).

And with that said, again (I know, I keep looping around) what will happen if the US doesn’t change its policy as this current arrangement dictates?

The biggest thing to note since this change is still a few years out is that we don’t really know what the requirements for getting an ETIAS are going to be. We know they can be rejected and that you can appeal; that you have to have a valid email and a passport that must stay valid up to 3 months after the end of your travel; that you can pay and apply online; and that this is similar to the same program for EU citizens entering the US which is seen as a ‘pre-screening procedure.’

However, as of yet, we don’t know the price; how quickly the turn around will be (though I suspect the beginning of this period will be slow as many people will be looking to apply immediately); what this will do to travel time in airports and moving across Europe; and, of course, the unanswered – and often unasked – question (at least in what I have seen): what will happen to this program if the US fails to comply with the finer print of the deal?

But that’s all for me; just some food for thought…

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

PS. a major source and reason for this post was the Business Insider article that I saw flicker across my social media a lot in the past few weeks. I really loved some of their clarification on the matter and links to the official information, but I also (with my past history with the topic) feel like their brief but informative post left out the really interesting parts of the story.

Cause and Effect: ‘Visas’ for US Citizens Abroad

Another Move into Another Life.

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I’ve been sitting here for much of the week trying to figure out how to start in on the last 6 or so months… I moved to Germany; I ran around it a little; I spent a long weekend in the Czech Republic; I’m planning more trips to come and scheduling them around a wedding and Ryan heading to school Stateside while friends and family have plans to visit us (or me) here.

Yes, this is a different kind of life…

But I figure I should start at the beginning.

Moving to Germany had never been the plan – I was meant to live apart from my new husband, visiting as often as humanly possible, for about two and a half years so I could go to school, finish my teacher’s credential, and we could save while paying off student loans.

That fantasy lasted a grand total of (I think) 2 and a half months – enough time for me to sign up for the CSETs*, start school applications, and make it through (barely) my first year of solo teaching. Once summer started with minimal work and distractions, we both quickly realized that nothing was really worth everything that the distance was putting us through.

This is where the new world of my life and travel starts:

I have moved multiple times in and out of the United States, but never without giving up claim to the storage and room in my parent’s house. I had moved for school, which did include working with government agencies in order to get my visa and all my paperwork in order, however, now I had a 3 or 4 month deadline** to get everything in order and move.

To say this process was quick or without hiccups, would be an absolute lie.

There is a whole list of things you need to do in order to move abroad to join a spouse in the military, but if you are interested in that, you should check out the real lists out there – henceforth are just bits of my experience:

First things first, I needed to get checked out by a military doctor so that everyone could be sure that I wouldn’t have needs that couldn’t be met here in Germany. Unfortunately, I was given a doctor who was unreachable – and just to be clear, I do mean unreachable: I spent weeks calling nearly a dozen different numbers (4 of which the military gave me) – none of which reached the doctor (let me be clear, I did not do this without a few mental breakdowns – yes, I can admit that). Finally, with a  lot of work, I was able to make an appointment with an actual (and awesome) human being. A month or so after our initial start, I was able to send my half of the paperwork to Germany.

To cut down on time, let’s just say it took about two more months or so for us to get the okay to move. Paperwork bounced and stalled from place to place, desk to desk, sat on desks, everything you can imagine as security was checked and signatures were collected from people who were always in and out of the office and country.

In that time, we were told to just move forward and do our best. This was the point where we were told that the November deadline wasn’t cut and dry (since Ry had started the paperwork with enough time to move, but the system was slow, we would probably be okay), but knowing it would be a total of 6 and a half months since seeing each other, we had a personal November deadline.

In the end, I had three weeks notice to pack up my stuff, have the shipping company pick up my crate of belongings, and get on a plane to my new life.

No big deal.


Luckily, I knew I’d have to do the one thing I had never had to do before: Give up my storage and room at my parents’ and actually pack up my life for real.

So that’s how for two months I went through my possessions, sorting into donations, trash, suitcase, storage, and ship. It’s too bad Tidying Up with Marie Kondo wasn’t a thing yet – I would have been binging that while deciding what gave me joy and what counted as an actual necessity!

I spent so much time and money getting boxes and tape and more bubble wrap than I could ever imagine – I had a serious amount of mugs and glassware; more than I ever expected and, of course, I wanted them all with me – buying everything in bulk to save a few bucks where I could. And then I used every single bit of it.

Technically, moving as part of the military, I was supposed to let the movers do all the packing, but between having a bit of a Type A personality and packing random parts of a family home (plus sorting), Ryan’s house, and his storage unit, I just did it all myself – yes, with a constant google sheet log tracking it all; every box labeled and categorized.

Apparently, I did very well. The movers had to inspect my boxes and added packing paper to any boxes that had shifting objects, but overall I was congratulated on a job well done. And when I got my stuff back two and a half months after I arrived in Germany with nothing broken and my checklists checked and double-checked, I had to congratulate myself as well.

A short week of trying to fit in all my goodbyes later, I was on a plane (we went with the non-military flight option but that’s a lot longer story). And with one 7-hour layover (which got extended) and another that was shortened thanks to delays, I landed in Germany.

And now I am here, 4 and a half months later; a few more adventures under my belt and so many more stories to share. Hopefully, they’ll be shorter. So if you made it this far, thank you and until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

*I did end up taking the CSETs – I don’t know if it added to my stress or distracted me from the lack of information I was getting about the move. I passed all 4 English tests on the first try and sitting them all in a row – 6 or 7 hours of English exams staring at a computer screen. It was a good day.

**November deadline: we had been told that we needed to make a decision on me moving before Ryan’s first year abroad was over. More specifically, it was explained to him that I would need to be in Germany before a November deadline or I wouldn’t be allowed to move, at least not with government support which meant 4 months at a time (Germany’s maximum visitor time), not living in housing and therefore, without Ryan who would have had to stay in the barracks, and paying my way every time. As shown above, this was a little exaggerated…

Another Move into Another Life.

Back in it: My Life in Travel, One Year On.

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It has been a year (yes, a whole year – to the day!) since I last wrote here if you don’t count the hiatus post — which I do not. In that year, my situation has changed in a million ways:  I got married; I moved to Germany (after months of seriously hard long distance relationship); I became a military spouse abroad; I made my first home here, knowing I will have to pack it all up in two years time.

Some of these are things are new to me (being married has a serious learning curve!), but others are an interesting rerun – though that doesn’t seem to be the right way of wording it.

This is not the first time I lived abroad but the circumstances are so drastically different that nothing feels the same. For those of you who followed me through my master’s program of small day trips around London and the UK or my weeklong love affair with cities in France, I still truly love Europe. Nothing has changed there.

Now, however, my means are very different. I don’t have loan money coming in making me wary of my budget but with enough freedom to handle it; instead, I am living as half of a team, on a single income, in a foreign country which gives me a whole new set of really, really grown up rules. But more on that down the line.


If you’ve been reading, you know that I have traveled a lot throughout my life (if you haven’t you can always go back to these three posts for more information 1, 2, 3 ) and I wish I could say that living abroad this time around has let me explore a million new place; it’s been just over 4 months, so not quite yet.

I have explored new parts of Germany and spent a long weekend learning a whole lot in the Czech Republic. But there are so many places on my bucket list and they are within my grasp — even if I will have to learn to tighten our budget… after all, I’ve got an amazing built-in travel partner I can’t wait to really introduce you all too.

So let’s do this. After all:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Back in it: My Life in Travel, One Year On.