Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 25: Fin

So, it's early AM. We're at the Munich Airport (the best airport in Europe 3 years running!) and sitting around. People are getting a little antsy. A little pushy. Everyone thought that they wouldn't get on the plan if they weren't the first person on the plane I guess. When we were sitting down, some lady was bossing her son-in-law around and making him put stuff in different compartments. He knocked some lady's stuff out that was travelling with her 2 year old daughter and didn't help her and she got pissed and yelled at him. I am committing myself to always be an altruistic, awesome, and courteous American.

We got to Chicago, and true to form, the American Airline industry did what it does best. They jerked everyone around and then treated them all horribly while doing it. It is downright comical now, really. We switched gates FOUR times waiting for our connecting flight. Which was late by 2 hours.

But the important part . . . we made it home. It feels good to be here. To be in our room. To drink cold water that isn't mineral water. To have a big bed. We're spoiled. I'll be the first to admit it: we are stinkin blessed. I'm grateful we had the opportunity. I'm happy we saw some incredible things. That we had so much fun. That it rained so much, so that the sunny days were all the more amazing. That we met the best people. When people ask, "How was the trip?" I don't really know what I'll say. People who say, "I loved every second" are doing others a disservice. I don't think that's real or possible. We had lows and highs and a few boring moments and a few insanse moments. But I wouldn't trade the last 25 days for any other day or days. And that's what's most important, I think. It was an adventure in every sense of the word. Through and through. I love Jo more now than I did when we left. Not that I wasn't head over heels then, but I'm even more now. And I'm more proud to be from America. And more grateful to live here and to have the material possessions, the jobs, the friends, the family, and the cat that we have. And I'm happier with myself. And I think that's better than saying "I loved every second of it." And I think I'll leave it at that.

Well, dear readers, thanks for sticking with it. And thanks, Jo, for letting me hijack your blog for a little bit. I yield the floor.

huh. doesn't look like that much when you see it like this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 24: Save the Best

It's difficult to pick out the mosts and the bests of this trip because our experiences have been so varied, so alien when compared to each other. But today: the most beautiful day in Europe, and the most beautiful day I've had/experienced in recent memory. In a beautiful place.

As much time as I spent planning our trip (with tons of help from my sister Jen), I'll admit that I kind of took a break when it came to the details of Munich. We decided to do Dachau the minute before we did it. Salzburg the morning of. We knew we would do Fussen and the castles, just not when. Or how. Or where. It's been wild trying to find places pretty much everywhere we've been. Most of the time I've just figured it all out on the train right before we've gotten to wherever we were going. I'd probably make a seasoned traveller laugh, but it's been fun to take the challenge of making sure we get to where we've needed to get to.

Today we needed to get to Fussen. And then Schwangau. And then Tegelberg. And then back to Fussen and a bunch of different train stops and changes and then back to Munich. Not too bad . . . I had no idea how to do any of this at the beginning of the day. But it all worked out.

We got to Fussen and rented bikes. Yup, bikes. We biked up to the Neuschwanstein Castle ticket center, parked them, and hiked up to the Marien Brucke for an amazing view of the castle and landscape. It was a serious hike, and only fitting that after all the stairs and walking and spiral staircases, we ended the trip with the most demanding physical day.

After spending some time on and around the bridge, we hiked down to Neuschwanstein, got some food at a little stand, and took our tour. We hiked back down to our bikes and instead of calling it a day and hiking back to Fussen and leaving like almost all tourists there do, we headed to the Tegelberg luge. The ride down the dirt path next to a river and under a canopy of green trees was absolutely idyllic. It felt more than more times on our trip, like Jo and I were really carefree and on vacation. Really enjoying everything about our time and the world around us.

We got to Tegelberg luge, were the only Americans there, and found out it was the day after the World Hangliding Championships. It was packed, but we arrived at the perfect time. Parachuters and hangliders sailed over head and we stood in a relatively short line in between large German tour groups. We bought two tickets a piece and rode back to back times. It was a blast. The most kid-like fun I've had since Quidditch on Suzie's birthday.

We biked back to Fussen, literally fought against the crowds to get on a bus to the train station, trained back to Munich - where people were still in red and white and drowning in the sorrows from yesterday's loss. We went back to our hotel and laid there with the surreal thought that Paris seems like a lifetime ago, and it feels even longer since we've been home.

It was one of our best days today. It was great. We loved it. I'm anxious about the trip home, because I always get a little crazy before flying and itineraries and layovers and checking in and turbulence and etc. I'm sure we'll be fine. We'll be fine and 6000 miles away with 6000 new memories to learn from and recall with smiles.
jo on her bike and our next car back behind her

view from the bridge into Schwangau

the bridge and the clean-ish green blue water

biking under the treen canopy

view from the ticket center. one long hike away.

view of Hohenschwangau, the other and lesser visited castle

view from the hike

view from the bridge

Schwangau and Fussen

the long look down under the bridge

pretty

half pretty

that bridge was crowded and it swayed and it's insane

another good one

front of the castle keep. extravagance dot com.

view from the food stand lookout thing



see! it's a death trap.

the winding metal luge track


josephine. she caught up to me. she is an incredibly fast luger and i am not.

the only semblance of control

i'm about to start. she'll catch me in about 15 seconds.

a rock being eaten alove by a gnarly German tree


video
whoa. it kind of sounds like a i drop the F bomb right before i fall out. i promise i was just going "WHOA!" but i did fall out. and it was awesome.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 23: The Salt of the Earth

We slept in a little bit. Haven't really done that at all on our vacation yet. We got a Bayern ticket in the Munich Hauptbahnhof and decided to go to Salzburg despite the forecasted rain and fog. Tell you what . . . I am going to sue the weather channel people for causing unnecessary stress. They suck at forecasting European weather. It was gorgeous outside all day. Just gorgeous.

We had no plans, so we went to the TI, grabbed a map, and headed downtown. We decided to head to the river (as we both almost always gravitate toward water) and we found a large Austrian farmer's market lining the path down the river all the way to the city center.

We took it slow. Jo had to pet all of the 100s of dogs along the way.That's alright, though, because Salzburg really is a picturesque place. The town center is entirely pedestrianm with quaint Austrian shops, cafes, fountains, art galleries, horse-drawn carriages, people playing Mozart and chess, and a tram up to the town's fortress. The fortress, HohenSalzburg, stands on hill at the southeast edge of town. We took the tram up the hill and a short tour once we got there. The views were phenomenal. Beauty in every direction. And extremely clean.

We hung out around the fortress, got gelato - which was more like plain old ice cream - and then took the tram back down to enjoy the beautiful day. We ate at a giant, Trevi-esque fountain behind the street vendors and fed ducks. We walked back to the Farmer's market on the river and to the train station. We walked nonchalantly up the ramp and stairs just in time to see the train to Munich close its doors and leave. Suck. Typical Jo and Doug travel luck. Turns out I read the info wrong, so my fault.

We sat by two very vamped up 50+ women who looked and acted like they were straight out of the real housewives of wherever. But they were nice. And married to dentists. Dentists who didn't floss! They told us so.

We finally made it back to Munich. The FC Bayern v. Inter-Milan championship game was happening, so Munich was just a sea of red and white-striped drunk Germans. It was super loud and the energy in the city was electric.

We made it through the crowds safely and back to Hotel Atlas City and used the internet to plan tomorrow. We bought another Fanta (#4), and watched most of the soccer match. And it was boring. And everyone on the field flopped around like they were going to die when someone bumped into them. And then a water boy would come out and the injured person would hop right up. Which is why soccer will never, ever overtake American sports. It's . . . lame. Anywho, we're going to hit the German hay.

austrian wedding in a cool garden with the fortress in the background
she's all mine, lederhosen boys

weird statue of golden ball boy and fortress in background

trevi-like fountain of ducks and far less people

feeding ducks and probably drinking my sprite. punk.

view from the top of the keep in the fortress

the small grayish dot on that hill is actually another palace type place

the hills are alive with the sound of . . . austrian people?

on top of the keep's top tower

the caretakers of the fortress actually live in the fortress. rad. what do they tell relatives? yes, please write to me at "The Impenetrable and Awesome Fortress with mediocre gelato"?

headshot

another fountain, another cool church, another beautiful view = Austria


bypassing traffic on the way back to the train station

listening to jams, enjoying the sun, and sneaking a picture of our boogers. i am a multi-tasker.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 22: Arbeit Macht Frei

We went to get some groceries first thing this morning so we can stop bleeding Euros on crappy breakfasts. Took them back to our hotel and then headed for the train station to meet for the Dachau tour. We followed a Canadian girl to the Marienplatz to meet up with more people for the tour. Munich, like almost all of the European cities we've been to, is really quite nice when you get to the residential/pedestrian center.

I like that we've ridden trains everywhere. I like that we've seen the seedy underbellies of the places we've been. I feel like we've seen Europe's true colors and we can judge her accordingly. Without guilt or generalizations. We've seen the gritty details. The overwhelming want and need for jobs and economy. The dirt. The forgotten corners of towns.

Today we went to a forgotten memorial: Dachau. To give it any kind of description would likely be insufficient, a naieve slight to 206,206 people that died there. So I'll leave it at that: I don't know what to say or feel about it. I was just there and it was just there too. What happened there, happened. And compared to Birkenau and Auschwitz and the other extermination camps, Dachau was kind of tame. And that is disgusting. But large groups of prisoners were actually released from Dachau. I didn't know that.

It had innumerable tales of terror and torture and horrible experiments. And a crematorium. I did know that. I don't think I was ready to walk through the gas chamber and crematorium but we did anyway. I usually scoff when people say "You can't imagine such and such," because the human mind can imagine the most far out concepts and fiction (just look at movies, books, etc.). But I really think that you can't imagine the terror those people went through. How incomparably scared they must have been. And then how grateful they must have felt for the release of death.

Our tour was student run and organized and our tour guide, Lisa, had lots of "Um, ok, let's go over there now" moments. She was interesting. Her father was born in Germany in the 30s and her mother was born in Nagasaki in 39. She was there for the bomb. It was probably Lisa's destiny to be a WWII tour guide. She did a good job.

The most interesting part of the tour came as we stood in front of one of the many memorials inside the camp. It was a wall, behind a stone box full of ashes, that said (in five languages), "Never Again." Lisa the tour guide pointed out the obvious irony - that it has happened several times since. Think Cambodia under Pol Pot. The Kurds under Saddam. Rwanda. Darfur. Many Muslims' desire to wipe out America and Israel. It has happened again and again.

As we walked out, we stopped at the gate to the camp with the infamous phrase on the iron gates: Arbeit Macht Frei. I couldn't help but think of perspectives. Everyone's perspective oh that phrase: Work will make you free. The nazis must have thought hard work would bring them the Lebensraum Hitler wanted and that they'd be free to live where they chose. The prisoners of the camps must have thought work would either fee them back into the world or free them from horror by bringing death to their extremely malnourished and weak systems. I think Europeans believe today that work will let them be free to be left alone, that it will free them from concerns and enable them to live easy, low-key lives content in the circle of their friends. Americans believe hard work will free them up financially to follow whatever pursuit they have. A place in the mountains, 4x4s in the summer with friends, home rennovations, etc.

I think of the the subtle implication in that phrase; that while you're working, you're not free. I think most people see it that way. That we've slaves from 9-5, and stuck in a world of routine and familiar. I see it that way at times. And when I do, I despise work. But in my better moments, I feel grateful for the opportunity to try my hand at something. At the chance of success. For the ability to work and think and make income and reach for the next level of life.

I'm rambling. But I don't know. I guess I'm just grateful for those people who have fought or suffered in the battles that have protected my freedom to work.

church right outside our hotel room window

you stay classy, Munich

the big church downtown in the Marienplatz, note the black and white picture a few down with nazi flags all over it.

the gate to Dachau

replica of one of the barracks and the foundations for the old barracks














nice. the germans do it right. check the store in the background.


the hotel atlas city. with its blue stripe of luxury.