30 August 2007

Some people would bitch but...

I look at the annoyance of desperately slow internet as a sign that maybe I'm getting back in the mindset of home...
HOME...where I can see my friends' smiling faces and talk to my boys, my mom and my brother freely...
And of course to see my cats, although I know they will punish me in their own little ways for weeks to come.

Don't mean to sound negative...I'm just salty because I can't post all of the great photos I have right now. I've been trying to all night, but the internet here is SHIT!
Just checking in from Nurnberg or Nurenberg or however the hell they spell it. It's always different!

Anyway, hopefully I will have access to a reliable internet connection before I get back home so I can post these photos and such. Pull for me brothers and sisters!

I really am starting to miss you all badly...

29 August 2007

Day Six: August 24th Schloss Nörvenich, Germany for starters...

Yes...I took pictures of everything. Everything!! ;)

Definitely a highlight of my trip. I got up and out the door by 8:30am. I had very little trouble finding my way there. It was a beautiful day. The sculptures far exceeded my expectations. The castle was stunning. I took a shitload of pictures. Too many, one might say. But not me.

I couldn't go inside the castle (museum) because they're only open on the weekends, but honestly that didn't really bother me. I was absorbed in whole vibe in general as well as the amazing sculptures and garden. Not to mention the fact that a couple of my favorite albums were recorded there.

The town was really cute, too. Although, not unlike a hundred other towns I've driven through. I swear, I have driven through at least 300 villages. And I am not exaggerating. Every time I drive through one, I sing the Dead Milkmen song "This is a tiny toooowwwwn....and we don't want you comin' 'rooooooound" in my head. Ha ha. In short, I've been taking the long way through Germany. Sometimes by choice...sometimes not...

So because I made such good time getting to the castle, I took the long road to meet Michael in Karlsruhe. The long, long, long road. Let's just say, I was fine until Trier, Germany and then next thing you know I'm in Luxembourg. That wasn't on the itinerary! Ha ha ha.
Anyway, it was a disaster. I got completely disoriented after a morning of error-free driving. I guess I was over-confident. I'd planned to meet Michael around 3pm and I didn't get there until midnight. :(
Bless his heart, he was so nice about it. I, of course, kept in touch with him, but I felt really, really bad nonetheless! Then when I finally arrive, he even had ice cold beer waiting for me! AND...AND he made me dinner! Wasn't that sweet? And it was delicious, despite the fact that I was a little worried that I wouldn't like it because I had no idea what it was. (I admitted that to him as well.)
He was really the best host. I couldn't ask for better. I had a great time! And it was nice to be able to drink a few beers and be a little off-guard without fear for the first time since I was in Europe. (while outdoors that is...) You know...usually, I have to be sharp so I don't get lost or worse.

28 August 2007

Day Five: August 23 Elsdorf, Germany

I'm just up the road from Schloss Nörvenich (Castle Nörvenich) in a very cheap, but very nice hotel. I drove all over Köln today. Shit, I drove all over Germany it felt like! I picked up a car because I got tired of dealing with the RV people. I'll deal with them when I get home. I'm pretty happy I did. After driving for at least 5 hours today in the country and the city and on the Autobahn. Yes, the Autobahn. I went as fast as 160 kpm. Not sure how fast that is in mph but it felt fast!
I feel pretty comfortable driving here. Sure, I made a few small mistakes, but nothing too dangerous. (don't worry, Mom!) After all of this practice, I think I could probably handle an RV, but I'll tell ya, it's been really fun zipping around in this little VW with stick shift! Couldn't do that in no RV! The only bummer is that I didn't get to take any pictures today. And I wanted to really badly! Köln is very beautiful. Very...commanding. I don't know what other way to put it. The cathedrals are huge! It seems like I'd have to be a couple of miles away to even frame them right! And a few of the coolest ones I saw were on the banks of the Rhine and I can't really take pictures while driving over a huge bridge. If I have some time tomorrow, I may drive back there but I doubt it. I got lost many, many, many times today. (even with a little help from a friend ;)) Plus, it's difficult to read the maps and follow the streets with all of these turnarounds in the middle of them. I'm on vacation, so I don't really care about getting lost much. But I really could use a compass so I don't waste too much time. Although, I think I'll be fine tomorrow. I'm starting to understand how to plan my route a little better. Today was like practice.

I will post some photos tomorrow (most likely)

Day Four: August 22nd Mülheim, Germany

(I'm a little behind on posting of course...)

Yep, I'm still here, but that's fine. I expect to leave for the Cologne tomorrow morning. I'm still sorting stuff out.
And it's still raining! It hasn't stopped since I got here.

I just came back from the store a little while ago. Can you believe they were playing Latin music? I felt like I was back in the barrio!

Anyway, I swear, everything I've eaten or drank since I got here has been outstanding! I bought some chips, chocolate, cookies and of course beer. I only bought stuff I've never seen in America, of course. Only thing is, when you shop at the local market, people start talking to you in German because they assume you're a local. I passed this old guy on the street and he smiled and made a little joke about the rain (I think!) and I laughed even though I didn't understand it. I thought it was cute.

I do feel pretty uncomfortable regarding communicating because I don't know any German. I got by in Belgium and Amsterdam, but here it's a little tough. But everyone has been very nice, so I should be fine. I just worry about people mocking/making fun of me without me knowing it. It's a little hang up of mine.
Actually, when I was in Amsterdam, I asked for directions from this guy and he looked at me like I was crazy when I said something. And it was in English! I don't remember what it was. One of my goofy little quips or whatever. I was embarrassed for a split second, but then I laughed and thought to myself, "Shit, people in my country think I'm crazy, too!"

Here are some more/better photos:

25 August 2007

Checking In From Karlsruhe

Hey everybody,

(EDITED: DON'T know what that link was to...crazy German keyboard!)

I continue to have a superb time here in Germany. I am hanging out with our good friend Michael and having a great time! He is an excellent host!

No time to write now. I plan to give you guys a full update with photos tomorrow!

I miss you all terribly!

22 August 2007

Day Three: August 21st Mülheim, Germany

Well, things didn't go as planned today, but that's perfectly fine. I'm still having a great time. That's the great thing about having an open agenda. Just sucks because I paid for a day on the RV that I'm not using. Oh well. Long story short, they wanted an additional deposit of 1,000€. I don't have it. But a friend of mine from the states is going to help me out until I get back. No problem.

OK, let me go back to the beginning. It was hard to leave Amsterdam this morning, but I did. I got on the train and I sat back and watched the countryside roll by with my headphones on. Then I hear a yelp. I look down the aisle of the near-empty train car and see a dog and think to myself, "That's odd. They let dogs on the--OH SHIT!" My blood ran cold. I pictured myself in a German prison. I tried to think of what I could do, but I couldn't do anything because everything was stuffed in the middle of my suitcase up above. So I sat quietly and nervously while they searched this other guys luggage. Then the cop walked up to me with the dog. I slowly turned as the dog gave me the once over.

Then the dog turned to the cop and yelped.

He said, "The dog smells drugs. Do you have any drugs on you?" and I said, "No. I mean...I went to the coffee shops and smoked a lot while I was there, but no...I didn't bring any away with me."
He sat on the armrest of the chair across the aisle and leaned in and said, "If you have anything you should tell me now. Because if we find something, there will be big trouble." I said, "No, I don't have anything with me."

The cops searched my carry-on bag and purse (which like I said, reeked of it) and didn't find anything. I was very cooperative and cool as a cucumber, so they took mercy on me and let me go. But inside I was scared. OH SO scared!!

I get to Duisburg, outside of Mülheim (which is where I was supposed to pick up the RV.) On the ride there, the taxi driver pointed to the building where the mafia killed all those guys! I said, "Wow! I heard all about that story!" (Michael!) Isn't that funny?

After the problem with the RV, I decided to spend a night here and relax while I plan for tomorrow. I'm on vacation. No need to be stressed out. I got a hotel. This hotel is the nicest and cheapest of all! It has four big windows that open out to the main street. It's called Handelshof Hotel und Restaurant. I really like it. It's been raining all day long, too. So I don't mind spending a night here; I have time.

And I had the best dinner tonight! It was the kind of meal that makes you mumble to yourself while you're eating. Excellent. I had pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce and (potato) croquettes. I mention that they were "potato" because croquettes usually have ham & cheese in them in my neighborhood.

Day Two: August 20th Amsterdam, Netherlands

I Swear It's Not Because I'm High...

This is one stellar town. I don't know if everyone has a contact high or what, but the people here are so nice. No smirks or sneers or attitude. And I love that Amsterdam is dominated by bicycles. You really have to see it to believe it. There are bicycles everywhere I tell ya! Everywhere!! I felt like I was in Pee Wee's Big Adventure when I first started walking around today.
The sights are outstanding as well. I walked around for hours today shooting photographs. It was then that I realized that captioning my photos is not really feasible because I simply don't have the time to find out what it is I'm shooting most of the time. Sorry if that takes some of the pleasure out of seeing the shots. When I was in Brussels I didn't take that many photos because I didn't want to make it obvious that I was a tourist for fear of being victimized. It was that kind of town. It made me very uneasy.

I didn't want to condemn Brussels outright yesterday. I still won't. I was only there for a day and I only saw a small part of it so I can't judge. But from what I experienced, it was like the ghetto compared to Amsterdam. I got the impression there's a lot of crime there. There were so many businesses with their windows smashed, lots of run down homes and what looked to be like projects...Euro-style. It had an "icky" vibe to be honest. Shady.

Anyway, I walked around for a few hours today before I finally stopped into one of the *ahem* coffee shops. It was a very small place called Extase. I tried finding a couple of places that friends recommended, but after hours of walking/looking I just gave up. Or rather gave in.
I sat down at the counter and indulged. It was very nice, indeed, but I'm pretty spoiled so it wasn't really mind-blowing. But right on time, that's for sure. I was bullshitting with a couple of guys who worked there. They were very cool and friendly.
There were like 20 different kinds of both MJ and hash on the menu. I asked the guy if I could see the "Jamaican" variety and he said, "Yeah, sure..." as he reluctantly pulled it out of the drawer "...they compact it. It's...it's..."
"Oh yeah. I know what this is. It's what we call 'brick weed'." And we both had a good laugh. I didn't think they had brick weed in Amsterdam. I mean, what's the point? It's like going to Italy and eating at McDonald's.

Somehow I found my way back to the hotel. That made me happy because it was a long walk back. At least 40 minutes. I was amazed that I managed it. On the way back, I stopped off at the grocery store, which I always love doing in foreign cities. Picked up some wine and something called "metworst" (which was very tasty). Come to think of it, that's all I ate so far today (plus some olives), and it's nearly 11pm. Oopsie! Kinda shocking...considering. Tee hee hee...

I saw a something really cute today. There was this couple riding their bikes up this little incline and the guy had his hand on the small of her back to help her get up the hill. That was so adorable. I know, I'm a dork.

I got back to my hotel and opened my purse. It was like being punched in the face with a stinky fist. (the good kind of stinky) It's raining outside now, and that's fine because I'd like to get an early start tomorrow. I want to see more of this lovely city before I set off to Mülheim (just outside of Düsseldorf) to pick up the RV. Plus, this hotel room is like a womb compared to last night's. Four-star my ass! It was more like a twisted psychological experiment!
For one thing, the windows opened out to the lobby (one story up), so I couldn't really have them open. I felt like I was sealed up in a box. And I really, really hate that. That's why I always opt for old school hotels; because you can open the windows! So that sucked. The sound of the toilet filling was loud enough to wake me up...like Niagara Falls in my lavatory. Plus, every door in the joint slammed loudly, I could hear the bell at the front desk because it was outside of my window, and the heat...my god the heat! The a/c was all the way up but it was so warm that I left the mini-fridge open to cool the room. It was a real bummer. But that's behind me.

Honestly, the only people who bugged me were the stupid Americans. Seriously, I could always spot them. Boorish American fuckers lumbering down the streets talking about "massages" and getting stoned. Man, Amsterdam is so much more than coffee shops and prostitutes. I only wish I had more time to experience it all for myself. There's always next time. And believe me, I will be back!

Sorry, I'm a day or two behind posting the of my journal. But the weather is crappy today so I'll have plenty of time to fill you in on the past couple of days. I'm uploading the photos now.