October 29, 2007
So Paris was both my first and last stop in Europe. i couldn’t believe how much i had already experienced…it felt weird to be back at the starting point. and while i found Paris beautiful and a splendid place to walk around i was a bit overwhelmed by it’s never ending lines of buildings and streetways. and tons of people!
i constantly wondered…doesn’t anyone work around here??! i mean…i just want some walking space. of course i did enjoy the incredible food…and i didn’t even go for the fancy stuff! but of man…every time i walked past a bakery i was drawn in by the glorious smells of fresh bread and pastries…mmmm. i was pretty much like a cartoon character swept off my feet drifting in on the delicious scent waves…which is much like a sound wave but much better if you’re in paris with even a slight inclination for food. and it’s a backpackers delight! i had one sandwich that had enough brie to make another sandwich with…yuuuummm. i also tested out the crepes…they pass. chocolate and banana definitely wins the favorite. also tried the equivalent of a french quasadilla…enough cheese to feed a family of five…for a week. hmmm…definitely go for the sweet variety! well…i suppose it seems right that in a blog on Paris half of it relates to food.
So…Paris was a beautiful place of course, but so much of it just seems a bit cliche. but don’t get me wrong…i did really enjoy myself…just think that maybe it would be better with a travel buddy…the city is just so massive….nice to have some company. luckily i did end up meeting a cool guy while sitting on a bench near the Eiffel Tower. a fellow traveler, we spent the next couple of days seeing some sights and a must in pairs, art museums….impressive of course.
i also went on an amazing bike tour…Paris by night. it is an incredible city when all lit up…we rode all around the streets and sites at night and ended up on a cruise boat with wine that tasted much better after the first glass. the tour definitely made the trip there worth it. all the cafe bars were lovely as well. i felt a sudden need to read, write and watch…to sit in a cafe for hours and all the while sip casually on coffee. oh how Parisian.
as for the rude/aloof stereotype…almost all people i came in contact with were quite friendly and helpful…as long as you make an attempt people were nice as anyone you’d find in the service industry. and i’m sure it’s gets annoying dealing with the thousands of tourists who blatantly have no respect for another language and culture (especially in a place that takes it so seriously!…they have a group of people in their government dedicated to preserving the french language!! so ya…it’s a big deal). one woman even approached my friend and i to offer help when we looked slightly confused as to where we were going. the stereotype threat will kill ya…please try to look beyond it and you’ll find a much richer, dynamic and positive experience….same for any new place you visit!
the city obviously has so much to offer…but it just didn’t have quite the right vibe for my punk style. i definitely could appreciate it…but unlike many other people i’ve met, i didn’t have a burning desire to run home to learn french…and i mean “those french have a different word for everything…” so that’d be a whole task in itself…au revoir for now!
Well…Stuttgart wasn’t my favorite of places although i did enjoy a nice time catching up on sleep, having my own room (amazing!) and going for some nice walks and runs around the city. Though mostly industrial Stuttgart does have a nice little downtown area that was even outfitted with a little skating rink for the winter months! Also spent a good deal of time sitting in a beautiful park…and later that evening sitting on a bench right in the middle of the shopping area (which pretty much makes up the downtown) just watching people. So basically my time in Stuttgart consisted of sleeping in, walking all over the place with no particular destination or activities in mind, and then just sitting around observing all the people around me. It may not be a place i’d return to…but it sure was a great place to rest up and not feel pressured to get out of bed early and make something of every minute!
When i told a friend from Munich i was heading to Stuttgart she plainly inquired “whyyy??” haha. she said “alright…bye! and i’ll see you later tonight”…thinking i’ll surely get there and turn right around. well…funny enough i almost didn’t make it to Stuttgart in the first place! ahhh…the adventures of travel. the bus left Munich at 8am from a different hostel about a 15 minute walk away. i knew it would be painful waking up early and had scheduled it out perfectly…just the right amount of time to make it to the bus leaving a bit of time to spare…just to be safe…although i thought…what’s the need of the safety time?? i’ve done the walk a million times and know exactly where i’m going. none the less…i did play it safe…leaving a half hour to get there. but ya know how sometimes one’s mind isn’t exactly functioning correctly at 7am…yeeeeeah mine is not in the “sometimes” category…it’s in the “always”. there are two streets that come off of the main intersection near my hostel…and for some reason i was convinced that the wrong one was the right one! ooops. so i’ve got about 30 pounds on my back, 10 on my front, and about 5 in my food hand bag as well….can’t leave the food behind…no way. haha…i’m trekking along at a very good pace and think…damn…this walk seems a lot further with all this extra weight. keep walking. wow…ya…a lot further. jeez. how long have i been walking for? hey…where’s that one store i always pass by?? ohhh shit. it hit me right when i hit the END of that street!
Like i said…mind does not work at early hours. and these streets are NOT parralell! of course…being in this state of mind…i thought…well they are kinda parallel…if i just head this direciton surely i’ll run into the street i need! i have plenty of time! good thing i prepared for such a muck up! so i quickly start plodding down this street…now i feel like i’m hiking a mountain…sweat is pouring…my legs are starting to feel the extra poundage. 10 minutes later…oh man…where am i…i don’t even know where that street is from here..i’m totally turned around! it’s about 5 minutes till 8 at this point…and i know these busses leave on time….oh my gosh…i’m not going to make it! %#$@!!! ok ok…relax…just look at the map. feel for my pocket…next pocket…next pocket…oh no! i forgot that i’d thrown it away the night before (what do i need this for?? i know my way!) ohhhh…haha…the irony of it. so now i’m just desperately looking around for a familiar landmark…a friendly person…anything! helllp!! haha. so i start down another street on a whim…thinking…there is no way i’m going to make it. i ask a person if the train station is near by…remembering that the hostel is across the street. yes? it is! this way??! great! 3 minutes till 8am. i take off running. please try to imagine this…i must have looked so frantic..and toting things hanging from all parts of my body.
I was like the entire “Home Alone” family melded into one person. about a minute later i realize that it is actually impossible to run with this stuff…haha. my legs were starting to crumble beneath me. oh there is no way i’m going to make it…i still don’t really know where i am. 1 minute to 8. i can’t believe it…how embarassing! i start trying to run again…suddenly! there it is! the right street!! i turn my head…and there it is…the big blue bus! i’d never seen such a happier sight. i had just barely made it…and luckily the bus left about 5 minutes late that day…whew. what a sight i was climbing on that bus, panting and dripping sweat…stripping off all the layers i could (you always where the biggest sweatshirt of course…so it doesn’t take up bag space…perfect for creating a personal sauna). the cereal i had eatten that morning was still running around in my stomach as a tried desperately to cool off. i slept quite well on that bus trip.
October 22, 2007
Ok…so München (aka Munich) may not be pronounced “munchin”…as in i’m muchin on this delicious pretzel, but how could i resist?? And if you’re curious as to the actual pronunciation i’m not sure that i’m even qualified to try say it properly. but i shall try to explain anyway…it goes something like this: “mew-hehn”…as in, start saying “music”, stop halfway and pretend like you have a little something caught in your throat…then end with “en”. nicely done. now wipe off the computer screen and continue reading. So yes! Munchen…Bavaria! land of all German stereotypes…giant pretzels, giant beers, giant beer halls and of course amazing outfits…i.e. liederhosen…love it. In fact so much so that i found a vintage store and had too much fun trying things on…was so tempted to buy a pair.
Stereotypes that involve large jugs of beer and massive pretzels are fantastic, let me tell you…i have had at least 1 pretzel everyday…i am addicted. they are incredible. not to mention that you just can’t get a good pretzel at home anymore… i’ve been craving a good pretzel…came to the right place. i believe (hope?) that all my city walking will keep away the inevitable weight gain from the large quantities of beer and pretzels i have happily consumed. and a thing about the beer here…obviously it is top quality…they even have the beer purity law in germany that all beer must only be made of water, hops, yeast, and either wheat or barley…it’s all natural! this law was passed in the 1500s mind you. the monks were first responsible for brewing the beer here. munchen actually means the land of monks. very interesting.
more interesting though is the vast amount of beer consumed by these monks! it was a problem…so much so that they stated a rule that you could only consume 5 litres of beer a day. haha…only 5! and if you didn’t drink them all in one day your beer count would roll over to the next day. the beer was also very strong…at least 12%. yes, they had severe health problems. but they were holy men..they had nothing to worry about in the end! (as in the end.) and they do serve beer by the litre. yes…you read that correctly…the LITRE. you actually have to place your hand through the handle and pick it up with your palm…full one-handed grip required…second supporting hand optional. this is in the famous beer halls of course. other places they serve by the half-litre…but don’t kid yourself…this is still a fair amount of alcoholic liquid. one night i had 3 of the half-litres. i thought…3 beers…that’s nothing! but when you think about it….haha. i did the next morning. the beer halls are great though…people just hang out, eat hearty food and listen to the oom-pah-pah music band. these places open at 10am mind you. and you may be thinking…wait…you were in munich during october?? Oktober Fest!!! but in fact i was not…it ends the 6th of october….weather conditions have forced them to move it mostly into september. i’ll just have to come back! any takers??!
While in Munich i stayed at the Easy Palace hostel…still trying to decipher that name…easy palace?? hahaha. i’ve never thought of a palace and a hostel being on the same level in title or descriptive terms…although it was a nice hostel…and “easy” i suppose?? i didn’t have to strip the sheets off the bed..sooo…who knows. weirdly enough every person that came into my room was into metal music! the last two girls who i hung out with were here for a vegan convention!! no way! they were also into metal/punk…we hung out on my last night chatting about music and veggie stuff of course. hopefully we’ll do some sort of german/u.s. exchange in the future. i also met some cool people that worked at easy palace and on my way in…what timing…i ran into a band that was packing their instruments into a van…i immediately stopped and inquired. “you guys a band??” i’m very smooth. haha. turns out they are some old school, been around for 20 years, psychobilly band…which i did guess from their style of dress…ha…been around punk too long. ahh yes…and for those not in the know…psychobilly is a combination of punk and rockabilly…it’s awesome!
So my second night i of course headed for this show…small little club…liked the vibe right away. got my beer and enjoyed people watching. show started with a local band…they were pretty good, nice little warm up to The Quakes. in between i met up with a worker from the hostel who i had told about the show…and she said she always trys to see the bands staying at the hostel. was nice to have someone to talk with. The Quakes, who are actually from the U.S., were amazing! it was so much fun…nice to get some punk dancing in…little slam-dance is good for ya. Psycho!! after the show Ingrid (hostel girl) and I started chatting with the drummer, Chris, who turned out to be the coolest, nicest guy.
Chris was showing me his drum kit…and on his travel case i managed to spot a U.S.A. Ice Hockey sticker! turns out he lives in upstate new york, plays and coaches ice hockey as well as playing in multiple psycholbilly bands…awesome! i told him i would surely pick up some Quakes cds upon my return home. so then he runs to the merch table and just grabs us each 3 cds and a t-shirt! but…don’t tell his guitar player…haha. then their tour manager/bus driver and chris were trying with all their might to convince me to join them for the rest of the tour around europe…it was so tempting! why do i have a schedule! damn. next time i travel i think i’ll just leave everything open…just in case an adventure unexpectedly appears.
So perhaps i should actually talk a bit about the city itself? once again…another place in Germany that is just covered in dark history. much of Munich was destroyed during WWII by the allies but has been rebuilt in the original style so the city is a sight to see. although there are still buildings that were untouched…it is crazy to look up and around and think what happened here. in the Hofbräuhaus, the most famous beer hall built in the 16th century, housed a political “rally” for hitler, where he gathered communists from all over europe (he lied about his political views…). after these communists quickly realized his nationalistic intentions they got a bit rowdy…hitler then ordered his S.A. to brutally beat them up, sending a nice message to his political oppenents about the power of the nazi party. this all right in one of the biggest, most popular beer halls that now calls unto tourists and locals galore. apparently the paintings on the ceilings are covering swastikas. yikes.
Not to mention that the modern art museum i went to, The Haus der Kunst, was once home to artwork by various aritst of all different backgrounds until Hitler decided these were disgusting works (obviously because of their maker) either threw the art out, burned it, or put it in a special exhibit labeled ‘revolting’. he replaced all this art with propagandist artwork. Today it houses revolutionary modern artwork…everything hitler and his regime would have despised. The exhibit i saw was by Robin Rhode…check him out…his stuff is awesome! plays with action and movement in photography and painting/chalk drawings….very cool and clever.
I also took a day to visit Dachau…one of the first concentration camps in Germany. it’s obviously not fun to talk about…it hurt to even contemplate it all while i was standing on the grounds where so many were killed and tortured. the museum there was incredibly moving. the experience pains and numbs at the same time…if that makes sense. but it is good to go and see such a place…it reminds you that yes, this did happen…and just as the monument says “never again” will we see such an atrocity.
To leave you on a better note… like Berlin, Munich does not hide it’s history, nor sulk around with overbearing guilt. the city now holds a fun vibrancy full of music, art and a laid-back atmosphere. no one forgets the history, but Munich would seem just like any other modern place in the world…and it’s great place to visit! how could anyone be too uptight with that much beer??
October 18, 2007
Would you rather the sounds of silence or the sounds of music? Well…in Salzburg you really don’t have a choice…there are two distinctive sounds of music…one is just that: THE Sound of Music…ahh yes…the classic (partially/very modified) story of the Von Trapp family, made memorable across the world by Hollywood (with help from Rogers and Hammerstein’s catchy tunes and lyricism). who doesn’t like that movie??! well…simple answer…Austrians…especially from Salzburg (and probably a slew of others who find musicals cheesy, unrealistic and annoying…whaaa??!).
The other sound of music is the sound of good ol’ Mozart and all of the hoopla surrounding his birthtown, the story of his entire family’s musical history and their extensive touring travels. But before i get too into any of that can i just mention the amazing scenery that backdrops Salzburg?? the Austrain alps…need i say more. so incredible. and while i was there it began to snow! completely abnomral and unexpected for this time of year but wow was it beautiful. unfortunately the cloud cover slowly began to move in and block the views of the mountians but the snow atop the cityscape made me stop about every 20 steps, sacrifice any sort of hand warmth and take a picture…multiple pictures. couldn’t help it! Though mozart felt stifled by this city (and i guess how i could see being a 17 year old music genius in such a small place might cause frustration) but i was completely captured and memorized by the views and artsy vibes i was getting from all around. those views alone were enough to spark a song or dance or some sort of performance in me. i may have gone skipping through a park at one point.
because salzburg does oddly market it’s two tourist trades quite well i figured i should just dive right in. i went to both of the mozart residences in the city and loved it (of course!)…i think i stood in front of mozart’s orginal piano for longer than is normal…the guard lady was probably getting suspicious. and seeing that it is so frigid my holed jeans have gone to the bottom of my bag and my patched, zippered, plaid punk pants have given me warmth but also about 200 more stares a day). And of couse i took full adventage of the Sound of Music tour! i grew up on this movie and the whole thing was filmed right in salzburg!! the tour was well worth the money…we went all over the place to visit sights from the film and were also treated to a drive further out into the incredible snowy mountains while listening to the sound track…how surreal. i embraced the nerdy musical fan inside and let those sounds of music fill me! (i also probably annoyed my neighboring busriders as i filled their ears with my own sounds of music…i had to sing! and honestly was a little dissappionted with the lack of participation…who are these people?…they take a sound of music tour…the most toursity, kitschy tour and don’t sing? not cool.
Well i loved it and it really was great to see all the places that already felt so familiar right in person! it was like living a childhood dream! everytime i had to walk across town i purposely would walk through the Mirabell Gardens where they filmed most of the Do Re Mi song…haha…i caught a few people singing/whistling/humming as well…i had to laugh. the hostel actually plays the movie about 3 times a day so you can’t get away from it! i got sucked into watching more than is healthy and by the end of my stay i started to twitch every time one of those songs came into my head (which as you could guess was about every 5 minutes…). while in salzburg i also saw the premeir of a ballet about Scott Joplin’s life…awesome dancing…some bizarre choices though (i can never stop analyzing when i watch theatre now…this is what college does to you) but i had an amazing seat, sat next to a supporter of the theatre who bought me wine at intermission and introduced me to the director! (i was still wearing my punk pants mind you).
I also made it to another Mozart concert and this time it was all piano concertos and i was happy to hear songs that i wasn’t familiar with…it was so crazy to sit there listening to the music and think about mozart writing this music right in this very place. i was just so giddy to be there! i’ll have to return just to hear more concerts, see more theatre, and come during a season where i can hike up to that familiar mountain and run around with my arms out…truly as happy as julie andrews looked to be in that opening shot. the hills will always be alive for me in salzburg …