So if you think planning a one-day surprise birthday fest is pretty impressive, consider this: For my upcoming 32nd birthday, Dan told me "Don't make any plans between September 28 and October 5." That's right, I had been asked to block off EIGHT DAYS to celebrate my birthday. I had no idea what he was planning, but Dan assured me it would be the best birthday ever. Better than his birthday was. Because it's a competition.
Tuesday at 7 in the morning (some people just can't wait), I was presented with a handmade book called "Yvonne's "New Eur-k City" Travel Guide: How to See Europe in Eight Days, without Leaving New York."
On the cover is a picture of me, taken three years ago, in Budapest. Inside, I found my travel itinerary which is basically a Polish Ham redux. For the next eight days, we will be "traveling" to Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Belgium, all within the confines of New York City. The last day of our trip is my birthday.
The guide has a page for each day, which includes the country we're going to, a meeting place/time and snippets from the Polish Ham blog that offered hints of what was to come. Dan was right, this WAS going to be the best birthday ever.
Here's how the trip is going so far:
Day 1: Germany
The guide told me to meet Dan downtown in Soho to "learn more about how the Germans live." We ended up going to a lecture at the Goethe Institut featuring journalist Hendrik Hertzberg and author Thomas Geoghegan discussing his book "Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?" which makes a case on why America should borrow the German government/economic model to run our country. It was some pretty intellectual stuff, which felt very German to me.
Afterwards, we headed to Zum Schneider, a German bar and restaurant, where they were celebrating Oktober Fest. It was a festive and rowdy scene, so we thought to call up Adam and Nell who live in the neighborhood, and they stopped by for a drink. We listened to German folk music (which included some of the worst public yodeling I have ever heard), raised our glasses to German toasts and ate some delectable German fare (My meal--a bratwurst sandwich and potato pancakes--was divine). Of course, I sipped my German wine while everyone else downed their beers.
Being smart. German smart.
The band rocks.
Day 2, Germany and Austria
We started the evening at a small gallery to see the EYE'EM photo exhibit, which originated in Berlin, showcasing photographs taken by iPhones. It's very impressive how gorgeous and professional some of these pictures looked. For dinner, we went to Austria AKA the Lower East Side to a very quaint cafe called Cafe Katja. The hip and design-savvy neighborhood did remind me of Vienna. The restaurant was small, dark and charming, and the waitresses were legit Euros. We split the most delicious pretzel I ever had in New York City, and I had beef goulash and spatzle, while Dan had a sausage stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. Apple cake happily ended the night.
Getting some photo inspiration.
One of my new favorite NYC restaurants.
Day 3, Vienna
The guide book told me: "You have been traveling a lot - and you have a lot left. Tonight, take it easy at home." As a clue, the page showed a giant picture of Manner chocolates, an Austrian specialty.
So that is what we did. We took it easy at home. I cooked a vegetarian dinner, and we ate Manner chocolates for dessert (yes, you can get anything in NYC). I told Dan it was like a quiet night at the hostel. A night to rest and catch up on the Ham.