Wednesday, August 18, 2010
After a few rough weeks (midterms, Paris blunder, illness in Düsseldorf, and Dublin blunder) I was hoping for a fun weekend. Sam and I planned to venture to Brugges, Belgium, which came highly recommended by both Rick Steves and (arguably more accredited and knowledgeable) Brother Dave. It is only a short five-hour train ride from Maastricht and we headed there on Friday morning. Brugges is INCREDIBLE! It has a more homey feel because there aren't a ton of "sites". It is just a neat town with awesome people. It is about 20 miles from the coast so it isn't all that crowded because a lot of tourists and locals prefer the beach town of Ostende. Brugges is filled with cool architecture, chocolate shops, French fry stands, waffle stands and restaurants, and beer connoisseurs. It is medieval city that has been completely preserved and nearly every building there was built before 1800. There is giant bell tower that overlooks the whole city and off to the coast.
I always try my best not to listen to what people say about people or things or to hold on to first impressions, but the stereotypes are true, Belgians make the best chocolate! We walked in and out of at least a dozen different chocolate shops sampling all the different truffles and chocolate covered fruit and chocolate with fillings and chocolate without fillings and chocolate fountains and anything you can imagine.
It was like heaven. Another true stereotype is that the French fries are the best in Belgium. With tons of different sauces to try they are served in a large paper cone hot out of the fryer. Had I been wearing socks they would have been knocked off. Finally, people always assume that Belgian waffles would be better in Belgium, well they are. They have sugar and syrup melted in and are topped with ice cream, or whipped cream, or chocolate, or caramel, or strawberries, or bananas, or powdered sugar or™all of the above. They are delicious.
We sort of wandered around for our two days there. There is a movie called "In Brugges" starring Colin Farrell that is all filmed in Brugges there and we watched it™while in Brugges. It was awesome!On our last night there, there was a music festival in one of the parks and we sat just outside the park and listened to one of Sam's favorite artists Elvis Costello. We almost got to meet him, but we arrived 2 minutes too late (again it is that blasted unlucky Tymchyshyn blood diluting my lucky Irish blood).
One neat thing we did was that we went to a church aptly named "Church of Christ's Blood" because it boasts a vile that is supposed to carry some of the actually blood of Christ. It was brought from Jerusalem to Brugges during the crusades and the church was built to house it. Each year thousands of people come from all over the world to see and touch this holy relic. While I still do not know exactly what I think about the Catholic tradition of relics, it is amazing how many people come to honor the Lord Jesus Christ by touching this vile. Whether it is real cannot be determined, but the fact that it inspires faith is what matters. It is inspiring to see so many that care about their faith enough to travel such long distances to pay tribute and honor to the King.
It was an amazing trip and unfortunately I have to agree with Dave that Brugges really is an awesome place.
Friday, August 6, 2010
After a crazy six days, where I was in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France, spent two nights on the floor of a train station and one night on the floor of a Comfort Inn and Suites, and spent more than 30 hours on trains and planes, I began to feel a little exhausted. That compounded with the fact that I had skipped several meals and had only drank one glass of water on my 30-hour excursion, and I began to feel a bit ill.
Luckily, that coming weekend Lauren, Sam and I were going to spend a low-key weekend in Düsseldorf, Germany at the house of Sam's family friends, Isabel and Armin and their twin twelve-year old boys Nicolas and Morits.
Düsseldorf is not a big tourist destination, but we were looking forward to relaxing and bumming around for a few days.
We left on Thursday morning and were warmly greeted by Isabel at the train station. She took us to their home, which was incredible. It was a narrow townhouse tightly packed down a traditional European street. It was four stories high and us travelers had the whole fourth floor to ourselves complete with ping-pong table, wii, and about a zillion legos. The whole family was so welcoming and treated all of us like they had known us our whole lives. They got us pastries for breakfast (a weird but wonderful tradition in Germany) and took us out to dinner at night. We did a little shopping and walking around town, but mostly we just did a whole lot of nothing, eeeexxxeeeellleeennnttt!
However, the weekend was a bit tainted because despite the rest I was able to catch up on I still felt like garbage. I had no energy, no appetite (you know I must be sick) and had to rush to the WC every hour (at least). I tried my best to get plenty of fruit in me thinking it would help, but my father (who is an expert in BM's) informed me that that was likely contributing to my problems. Moreover, when I was feeling better on Saturday night, I got ambitious and decided to order adventurously at a Laotic (the food from Laos) restaurant. The waiter warned me that "sharf means sharf" or "spicy means spicy" but I went for it and paid the price as I sweat through the spiciest food I have ever eaten (I also paid the price later that night
The weekend not necessarily a pleasant one, but if I had to suffer somewhere I was so happy to be in such a nice home with an incredible family that helped me feel loved and cared for. I came to a huge conclusion that weekend. While this crazy, fast-paced, go-go-go lifestyle of a college student and world traveler is appealing and fun, settling down and having a loving family and home is also amazing and awesome and something to really look forward to.
For now though I am looking forward to my trip to Dublin next weekend!
Friday, July 30, 2010
Vienna & Budapest
Fresh off a great trip to Munich, I was eager for another adventure, so a small group of us decided to do a blind booking. In a blind booking you select a set of places and they choose a destination for you. Thrilled at the spontaneity and uncertainty of the blind booking, our group grew to 10 people, so we wound up splitting up into two groups of five to make the booking. The other group booked first and wound up getting sent to Leipzig, Germany, their equivalent of Cleveland, Ohio. Afraid to suffer the same fate, we paid and extra 10 Euros to NOT wind up in Leipzig. Instead, Sam, Bonnie, Jean, Traci, and I got sent to Vienna, Austria!
While I had made a brief stop to Austria during our group trip (see entry #8), I was excited to see its capital city. We didn't have class on Thursday, so Wednesday evening we headed to the small city of K"ln, Germany to spend the night before our 7 am flight. However, we thought, we're young, we're crazy, we're on budgets, why don't we just spend the night in the train station? Good idea™not a good idea. We had to move four times in the night before finding somewhere that was open 24 hours and when we finally did, it was nearly impossible to fall asleep. We only got a few hours of sleep before we had to get going to the airport. We arrived in Vienna and checked into our hostel around noon and in a matter of minutes we all collapsed on our beds.
After a nap we all went out to explore the city.
We saw the St. Stevens Cathedral, which is the center of the city and all the neat buildings that surround it. We walked around for a few hours until we decided to get dinner. Sam's dad had been to Vienna so he recommended a great restaurant that was a bit off the beaten path. It was great Viennese food and we were all stuffed. We decided to turn in early because we had big plans for the next day.
We woke up early the next day and made our way to the Hofburg Palace, the winter home of the Hapsburg royal family. In the palace we begin by seeing the royal dishes. I have never seen so many plates and flatware in my life (nor do I ever care to again). I can understand having a couple nice sets of plates and forks and spoons for when dukes and earls stop buy for dinner, but it was out of hand. Next we saw the royal apartments. The rooms were decked out from top to bottom with paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. They were filled with expensive looking couches and chairs that looked terribly uncomfortable. Finally we saw the Sisi Museum, which tells the story of the much misunderstood and romanticized empress Elizabeth. She hated the court and its traditions and after the death of her son fell deep into depression. While I can understand getting frustrated with all the pomp and circumstance of the court and having to sit in all that uncomfortable furniture probably didn't help, but to me she seemed like a big whiner. She was living in a beautiful palace with a great family while other people were suffering from a wheat famine, quit complaining.
After wandering in the palace for far too long we found somewhere to watch the USA play Slovenia in soccer. Thankfully the USA scored two in the second half to escape with a tie. After having dinner at a Mexican food place (the Texans were suffering from withdrawal) we explored the nightlife of the city briefly before heading in.
We all agreed that Vienna was very nice and elegant and put together, but that just didn't seem to fit our (my) style. We thought that a trip into Budapest would be much more exciting. I loved everything about Budapest. The currency was a bit funky (250 forints = 1 Euro!), but everything was really cheap. In Budapest I really felt like I could feel that the city was alive and growing. People were out; there was what seemed like healthy construction going on. The tourism industry is growing, but it is not yet overly visited.
I know nothing about Hungary, but I wish I did because there were all sorts of statues of people that looked important. For whatever reason we felt really at home. We were in the video for a wedding that had just taken place in the main cathedral of Budapest, we met some really nice people studying there from Xavier University, and even found an outdoor gospel festival. We had a delicious dinner at a small stand and had Gelato outside the palace that was on a hill overlooking the rest of the city.
We found an underground club that was full of strange avant-garde artwork and had the national drink of Hungary, Unicüm (which tasted like pure gasoline). Then we finished our night in one of the natural baths that had different temperature pools that range from 50° to 114°. We closed the place down at 4am!
Sadly the next day we had to start our trek back home.
We went back to Vienna and made it to the airport, but our flight was unfortunately delayed by 15 minutes. This is not that much time, but time was not a luxury we had. We landed in K"ln late and missed the last train home by only 10 minutes. All the hotels near the train station were really expensive so we spent another night in the K"ln train station before catching an early morning train to Maastricht. Exhaustedly we made it back just in time for breakfast.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
After the long and tiring group trip, the consensus was to use the next weekend to rest. NO WAY! Sam, Colin and I decided to go to Munich for the weekend. We arrived in Munich in the afternoon and hit the ground running. We headed straight for the Hoffbrau Haus to watch the opening game of the World Cup. The Hoffbrau Haus is possibly the best-known site in Munich. It is a giant beer hall complete with long tables, locals who have their own reserved tables, a live um-pah band, and all the waiters in traditional Bavarian dress. The beer only comes in liters and the pretzels only come enormous. We sat outside with a few hundred Germans and celebrated as South Africa scored the opening goal of the World Cup.
After the game we set out exploring the city. After a long walk we wound up in a small local restaurant with no English menus (that is how you know it is good). Unfortunately, my adventuresome ordering got the best of me when I would up with a liver sausage patty with sauerkraut™yum yum.
The next day started bright and early with Colin and I taking a real tour of the city. Sam unfortunately was unable to join us due to some extenuating circumstances (he slept in). The tour we took was fantastic! The guide told us about the long and interesting history of Munich and the Bavaria region. I never could have guessed that so much of a region's 852-year history could revolve around beer! But on top of that, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic in presenting the history of the early years of the Nazi party in Munich, most notably in the Beer Hall Putsch and Kristalnacht. It is so hard to imagine that such a friendly and fun-loving town and people played a vital role in the Nazi party and their atrocities during World War II. However, our tour guide made a great point. He said that while that dark time in German history attracts the most attention, there are over 8 centuries of German history that is rich and full of life that is worth studying and understanding.
We met up with Sam in the afternoon and spent the day enjoying the festivities of the 852 anniversary of the founding of Munich. We listened to an Elvis impersonator and saw tons of people walking around decked out in their best lederhosen.
That night we went to the third largest beer garden in the world called the Augustanier Beer Garden were we watched the US's opening soccer match against England. With pretzels twice the size of my head we cheered alongside a mixed German, British, and American crowd.
The time in Munich was awesome. The food, the beer, the people, the atmosphere was unlike any other town I have been in and I can't wait to explore it again with Kevin and Kyle when they come.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Early the next day we drove south into Liechtenstein. We all got out, took pictures in front of the Liechtenstein Tourist Information center, and then all got back on the bus. That is about all there is to do in Liechtenstein.
From there we went into Switzerland. This was the best part of the whole trip. Switzerland is the most beautiful place I have ever been. We had a group lunch on top of a small mountain in the Alps with a spectacular view of green wooded mountains, snow-capped mountains in the distance, and a crystal clear blue lake at the bottom. At a summit there was a cross standing alone overlooking this incredible panorama. It was a great reminder of where all this beauty comes from.
That night we stayed in Montreux, Switzerland on Lake Geneva. Our hotel room was on the 18th floor overlooking lake with the sun setting. It was so awesome. Much to the shock (and maybe horror) of our professor, some of us decided to take a little twilight dip in the clear, cold lake. It was warmer than Lake Michigan in December (MANS WEEKEND!) but much colder than anything my mom would have gotten into.
We started the next day by going to Chillon Castle or Chataeu de Chillon. This was the first functional castle I have seen and it was really cool. It was completely walled in with large feasting halls and even a large dungeon, complete with gallows. We climbed up the inside of the walls where soldiers and lookouts would have awaited for impending attacks. There were slits in the walls where I can only imagine soldiers would have shot out arrows. I felt like Legolas from Lord of the Rings.
After Chillon, we headed back into Germany. We stopped briefly at the Rhine River falls before spending the night in Freiburg, Germany. We were on the home stretch and made our way into France. We stopped in a town called Verdun, where one of the most gruesome and seemingly pointless battles of World War I was fought. The French and German armies were both trying to gain possession of the small French town and just outside the city they began the 10-month long fight that saw the death of over 300,000 soldiers without any advance by either army. Driving through the battle field we could see foxholes and trenches and places where vegetation still will not grow because of the chemical warfare and heavy artillery used in the battle. The memorial has over 50,000 marked graves and the remains of countless more unnamed soldiers housed in the memorial.
From here we headed north into Belgium to visit Bastogne, the site of the famous Battle of the Bulge during World War II. There is a small museum on the battle site where we learned the story of the battle and about the stand of the 101st airborne division that single handedly defended the small town from the Nazi army that surrounded them. It was cool to see real footage of the battle and the town that I had read about and seen in the series "Band of Brothers". The large memorial, commemorating the American troops from 48 states, led me to hum (or sing at the top of my lungs) the Star-Spangled Banner.
We arrived back in Maastricht in the evening and while it had been a great trip. I was happy to be off the bus after spending nearly 36 hours on it in 4 days!
The first week of classes went by very fast and it was soon time for our group trip. The group trip was awesome and jam packed, so instead of making a super long post, I am going to break it up for your reading pleasure. We hit the road early on Thursday morning on a charter bus into Germany. We drove through 8 countries in 5 days, making brief stops along the way. Our first stop was at a particularly ugly memorial commemorating the unification of Germany. A few miles down the road however we boarded a cruise boat and took a three-hour tour (a three-hour tour) along the Rhine River. It was very relaxing to sit out in the sun with a nice Schnitzel and Coke-light. We passed a bunch of small villages with medieval castles built into the hills. It was almost like an architecture boat tour back home.
We then hopped on the bus and headed to Rothenberg, which is a very small walled city that is full of tiny souvenir shops and old thyme stores selling homemade good. At one point I was actually looking at three shops in a row that were a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker™I felt like I would run into an old lady living in a shoe. Unlike the rest of the group, a few others and me left the city walls for dinner and had a meal at a real local spot where no one spoke English. It was an adventure and I had a real German delicacy, Currywürst. There is nothing like a foot long sausage smothered in curry sauce with curry powder sprinkled on top, yum yum.
We spent the night in a hotel that was built in 1380 and woke up early to go to the Criminal Museum, also known as the torture museum.
The highlights were a wide variety of shame masks, and some neck violins that quarrelsome women were locked into so that their faces were only inches away from each other, but their arms were locked in so they could "peacefully" talk out their problems. There were also several pictures of teachers disciplining their students that closely resemble the (some what questionable) stories my dad used to tell about the tactics used by the sisters at St. Anne's elementary school.Our next stop was Neuschwanstein castle in southern Germany that was built by "Mad" King Ludwig in the 19th century that served absolutely no purpose (years later it finally fulfilled a purpose when Disneyworld modeled their famous castle after it).
We then proceeded to Bregenz, Austria for the night. While Bregenz may not, scratch that, will not show up in a best of Europe book, as a matter of chance the night we were there happened to be Jazz Fest (pronounced yazz vest by most Austrians). There were tons of people out and after a great oxtail stew outside along Lake Constance we joined the party. With little craft stalls and a lively band from New Orleans
By this time we had been to Holland (where we started), Germany, and Austria and the trip was not even half was over. While all the driving was already getting exhausting, the best still lay ahead.
Ich Bin Berliner
After Prague we headed north to Berlin. We arrived in great Mike fashion with no plans and no leads for places to stay. Since I had been the main voice deterring the group from booking ahead, I was delegated to find us somewhere to stay. After about 45 minutes of working with the information desk lady, she was able to get in touch with a friend of hers who would give us a good deal at his hostel. On the way there I asked the taxi driver if our hostel was in a good neighborhood and he responded with "No, it is not terrible unsafe, but it is not a good neighborhood". As you can imagine that made us (especially those I was with) squirm a bit. In the neighborhood every building had graffiti and looked a bit "alternative". Our hostel was not even close to the luxury that we had in Prague, but it was clean and cheap so we decided to take it and it was a great decision.
We were the only ones staying there, but you would never have known it because the people that work there are awesome. They told us all about the more alternative/multi-ethnic parts of Berlin. We were in the heart of that area where the city is buzzing with people of all races. There were different ethnic restaurants everywhere, from India and Chinese, to Lebanese and even Somalian. They told us a million places that we should go to and tried to get us away from just the touristy side of Berlin. They taught us the term "Schiki Miki" that means flashy and showy (trying to impress others) and encouraged us to avoid that part of Berlin. We took their advice, but hello?! We are in Berlin! We had to see the sites. It was awesome to see the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the site of the burning of the books, and the wall. We took a great tour of the city and then did some exploring of our own. We walked/stood for over 8 hours with only a 30 minute break for lunch. By the time we reached the restaurant for dinner I felt like I was seven and had just been at the zoo all day with the Zieglers and Ziehms. The restaurant we ate at was called the Bird and the wait was an hour and half. But we just put our names down and had drinks and sat because we could not move. We had dinner from 10:00-1:30 and then headed home. I have never seen so many people walking, biking and taking the trams at 1:30 in the morning! Not only that, they were all going back out!
Berlin is a banging city and while we were able to see most of the "sites" I would love to go back and see the other side of Berlin that Achmed and Rgangna told us to visit (although I am not sure if my travel mates are as keen on that as I am). It was really awesome to see the incredible history that is so well recognized and memorialized in Berlin, but accompanied by a thriving and unique subculture that give life to a city that has seem so much devastation. Now we are heading back to Maastricht to rest up for classes start™ugh.
"Czech this out"
From Amsterdam the five of us took the overnight train to Prague. The overnight journey felt like the Hogwarts Express and in the car next to us we met a couple from the University of Tennessee (go Rocky Top). The quarters were not luxury, but we all got some sleep and made it there safely. We arrived in Prague with some apprehension. We had heard that Prague is full of pickpockets and scam artists. However once we got into the city we realized how awesome it was. The town is filled with beautiful old buildings, churches and bridges that surround large town squares that are filled with restaurants, bars and cafés.
The most notable things that we saw were the Charles Bridge (14th century), the Prague castle, and the anatomical clock. The food we ate was so good. It was right up my alley. Essentially the cuisine is different types of meats smothered in different sauces that are surrounded by dumplings to clean up your plate at the end. Various parts of the pig are slow roasted and pig legs and knuckles are on most menus. The best thing I had was the Heineken beef goulash. It was a great stew that rivaled my Aunt Maureen's. We stayed in the heart of the city, which felt a bit touristy, but it was really fun and full of life. There were people there from not only the United States, but all over Europe and Asia, which shows me that it is really a great place to go. I learned more about Czech saints than I ever care to know (or knew existed) and have no idea how much money I spent with the hyper-inflated Czech Koruna where roughly 26=1 Euro. But, it was fantastic and I could have spent a month there. But, we are off the Berlin.
Ok, Amsterdam is the first city to explore. We woke up early and went to the Van Gogh Museum, which was really great. Very cultural, but still great. Then we headed to an open air market, called the Singel Flower Market. Every stand sold more types of flowers than I knew existed (including some that are not necessarily legal back home). However, on the other side of the market there are other shops that sell more fun things. There is so much great touristy stuff there™mom get excited. There is a Christmas in Holland store that excitedly announces that there are only 215 days until Christmas. The highlight of the market though was the cheese shop. The best smoked goat cheese you could ever imagine.
We made our way to the Anne Frank House, which was interesting and cool to see how small it was. They had a porcelain toilet though™that was eye opening. Then to our last site was the Red Light District, just to see what it was all about. ™yep™it is just like they say.
We ate at a nice small dirty pub where glasses of water had a tangy, hopsy, Heineken after taste. Their specials are their meatball sandwiches (better than Portillo's dad™for real) and their Croquets, which are Twinkie-sized, fried mush balls with some sort of mystery meat.
Around 7 pm we (without Leah and Tracy) boarded the overnight train that will take us to Prague, Czech Republic. Yeah, we booked it in advance (aren't you impressed mom?). We are pumped for Prague. Why you might ask™.duh, great shopping!
Walking in Maastricht
I slept like a rock my first night in Maastricht and woke up ready to explore the city more thoroughly. We had a nice brunch as a group and then went for a long walk through the city. On Saturdays, and especially on holidays (Pentecost), the streets of Maastricht are packed with people shopping, eating, and enjoying the high 70s that we brought from Texas. We walked through town to the Maas River, which has bridges the Romans built when they arrived there in the 2nd century. That is nuts!
We saw the train station and where we would be having class (mom, dad, I am having class). After resting for a while me and some others from the program went to get a Kebap (which is like a gyro) and then went to watch the Champions League Finals (like the Super Bowl of soccer). It was a blast watching the game with people screaming as the German team lost, much to the dismay of many people there. It was great.
We Finally Arrive
I am finally here in Maastricht!!!!!!!! It was a long journey but I am so happy to be here. We landed in Amsterdam around 9am Euro time and took a three-hour bus ride south to Maastricht. The ride was filled with the beautiful Dutch countryside full of windmills, compact cars, random old churches in the middle of nowhere, McDonalds and Burger King everywhere (even the Colonel made it out here), and more tulips that I have ever seen.
Maastricht is a cool little town with about 125,000 people and is the oldest city in the Netherlands (at least they say they are). We took a nice walk to the mall to get some food and then just relaxed and tried to get through the jetlag.
However, years of living and vacationing with my dad have rubbed off on me because while most people were napping or decorating their rooms I went for a jog around the city to "get my bearings". It was actually a great jog down cobble stone streets with tons of people out on Town Square. The quaint town has narrow streets with only enough room for one car and one bike. While I hate to admit that my dad has had the right idea all these years, the run did really get me acquainted to the city and I was able to help others to the town square later that night.
I am so happy to finally be here and I can't wait to let you in on some more of my adventures.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Hello friends and family. This is to keep you all updated on my adventures this summer. I am going to try and keep it interesting...
My journey began on Sunday May 16 in Champaign, Illinois. I slept in until 5:30 am to board the 7:20 flight to Dallas, TX. From there I met up with about half of the people from the program and headed to Houston. Everyone met in Houston and departed around 3:30 pm. We were are strapped in and excited for the 9-hour flight to Amsterdam. We were dispersed among 285 passengers on a fully booked flight. I quickly fell asleep, but after five hours or so I could no longer sleep through my excitement. So I began switching back and forth between Ratatouille and the screen indicating where our plane was. Seven hours or so into the voyage we were half way across the Atlantic when I noticed that the little plane indicating our position had turned around. The plane was heading back to the United States. A few other people noticed, but the only information the flight attendants would reveal was that we were turning around and to wait for the pilot's official announcement. After a few hours we were approaching New Jersey and the pilot came on the PA. He told us that when we were only two hours away from Amsterdam, a cloud of volcanic ash for the eruption in Iceland two weeks ago had moved over Western Europe and made it unsafe to land in Amsterdam. Instead of being diverted we were turned around and sent back to Newark, New Jersey to refuel to fly back to Houston. Whomp Whomp.
After an hour plus of refueling where no one was allowed to leave the plane, we flew back to Houston. We arrived in Houston at 5:00 where we had to sit with our luggage while we made arrangements with the travel agent and airlines (us and the other 250+ on the plane). We were given hotel vouchers for the "night" that was already over and we moved to the shuttle area where we waited for over an hour to get transported to the airport. By about 6:45 we all made it to the airport to find out that there were no clean rooms available and we had to wait yet again. Tired, cranky, anxious, and frustrated we filled the hotel lobby with luggage and spread out on any couch, chair or open ground space we could. By about 8:00 we were given rooms, but after only an hour, we reconvened in the lobby to discuss our situation. There we heard the worst news since we turned around™we would not be able get another flight until THURSDAY!!!!! We had our hotel rooms only until 1:00pm and then we had to find somewhere to stay for the next few days. Holy smokes™what a bummer.
However, this is where the story finally takes a turn for the better. Lauren immediately contacted her roommate (and more importantly her mom) to tell her our sad story. Ms Cindy immediately responded by sending a summer intern with a company car to pick us up. That was just the beginning. The Marions treated us to a wonderful couple days in Houston. Anyway, I am excited for my adventures to start on Thursday™