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Christmas Concert and Tears…

10th December 2011

Warning travel emotions may be present in the following blog

Feeling Lost

I think my subconscious was trying to tell me something this whole time. I woke up feeling really emotional and stressed. A big part of it is the end of the trip, the return to the dreaded Real Life, and trying to understand what where who… the straw that broke the camel’s back was this little thing called a boyfriend. Sometimes I wish you could just wake up and have everything seem sorted and your life planned out… but then again where’s the adventure in that? So you just keep plodding along.

I tried to focus on my blog while Cathleen was at band practice. Since I was leaving soon I worked on repacking and discovered I couldn’t find my Nepali Christmas Ornament and in my fragile state…it felt like an ominous sign.

I had tried to call the elusive Buddha but it just rang, apparently a sign that the signal was not going through. A mutual friend was online and he said he had just called and spoken with Buddha, so I quickly gave it another try, but it was no good. Logically I knew I was being ridiculous but emotions tend to reach a boiling point in me.

Christmas Concert and Hallelujah

I made it through to the evening when I had to walk to the church where Cathleen and her band were playing. I put on my MP3 and listened to some music that made me feel stronger and less likely to fall apart at the drop of the hat. I was feeling pretty confident and together and was thoroughly enjoying the concert. And then the band did something that was so unfair, so ruthless, so dangerous to someone in the fragile state I was trying to avoid… they played HALLELUJAH!

This song makes me emotional on the best of days and right now I couldn’t stop the tears. Luckily I wasn’t sobbing like a baby but I was close. Cathleen could see me from her place and afterwards came up and asked “Was it that good or that bad, that you cried??”. She still had to finish up in the back and clean, we decided I would just head home. I must have looked like a crazy person as I was talking to myself all the way home. I made it home and luckily my good friend/shrink, Roger, was online, he calmed me down and ordered to find a cure, preferably in the form of alcohol. I walked out of the room and Cathleen’s roommates took one look at me handed me a glass of wine and said “boys?”. Funny how girls always seem to know.

Dinner Out

The roommates got me talking about my travels and that always works to take my mind off things. We looked at pics and talked about adventures until Cathleen got home. She convinced me to go out to meet her band friends and have some good German food. Food and friends are always a cure for when you are feeling down. I am fairly certain one guy was even hitting on me, later Cathleen said he actually hits on anything that even looks vaguely female… oh well still going to count it.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Discovering Dresden!

9th December 2011

Explanations…

As you might remember from my previous post, I was quite upset that the promised skype date with Buddha didn’t happen. But at 5.45am I got a text explaining that right as the power and internet came on a fire caused it to go out again. I was so relieved to think he hadn’t stood me up. Its only now I think, “well why didn’t he just text me last night to say that??”. Often when you are hoping that new feelings are being discovered you fail to notice the start of red dots that ultimately come together to be a giant red flag…

Train to Dresden

Cathleen and I had a big day planned, we were heading to the old city of Dresden, reputed to be one of the prettiest in the area. Through the rideshare site, Cathleen had managed to join a girl with a “group” ticket on the train. Normally it would cost 20+ euros for a ticket one way to Dresden, crazy expensive. But the group ticket allows 5 people to go for the cost of 25euros (5 euros each). The other 2 were twins both studying law.

Dresden

Dresden lived up to everything I was told about it, absolutely stunning with tons of old buildings and wonderful Christmas markets and when the sun came out, stunning weather too.

Christmas Markets


Beautiful Buildings


Stunning Statues

We stopped in at the Tourist Information center, picked up a map and were off exploring. A truly great day, but even though the sun was out it was still pretty cold.

Cathleen and I

For lunch we stopped at one of the markets and got our usual bratwurst. Berlin is still top of the list as far as taste, but this one was delicious regardless. Just when we thought our fingers were numb from the cold we found a cute little coffee house and got some tea and hot chocolate. The best part was that the sun came streaming in the window and warmed us up along with the hot drinks. We enjoyed our time with Cathleen reading a book and me working on my diary, content in each others company.

Gluwein!!!

Heading out to continue our explorations we went through yet another market and found the gluwein stand. Of course we had to visit almost every stand before I decided on a mug. The first stand had a mug in the shape of a boot that was my first choice but then trying to clean it would have been a chore, so I opted for a nice blue one.

Health Museum

IT turned out that Dresden had a “Health Museum”, it sounded interesting and well, the selling factor was that it was free today. As we walked towards it we walked over some dropped fruit, as we took our first steps I noticed the leaves and as the reek of the squashed fruit reached my nose I realised it was gingko fruit. It might be good for the brain but it smells horrendous. This was followed by quick side stepping and trying to rinse shoes in puddles.

The museum turned out to be super interesting, with lots of interactive displays all about the human body. The most amusing part to go through was the Human Sexuality section, which seemed to be getting a lot of repeat visitors from the boys of the high school group just ahead of us. Unfortunately, it was mostly in German and I was feeling to tired that I zipped through it and went to go sit and relax.

In excellent fashion, Cathleen had found us a rideshare home for 5 euros. On the way back Cathleen introduced me to the Doner Kebab shop, famous for its huge sandwiches. It was amazing, but impossible to finish, at least on my part.

A great end to another great set of explorations!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Meeting Up With Friends

8th December 2011

Christmas Market round 2

Since Cathleen had class all day I went to meet Carolin, a girl I had met in Coral Bay, Australia. Turns out she timed her visit home perfectly and was in town seeing her sister. It had been about 4mths since I had seen her, but it felt like just yesterday. We had coffee and caught up with each other, telling stories of each of our new beaus.

Then it was time to explore the Medieval Market, a part of the Christmas Market that has food and drinks from an earlier time period. It was fantastic, and I got to try a version of Gluwein called feuerzangowle. Delicious and apparently more alcoholic. But with the cold rainy weather it was just what the doctor ordered.

Carolin and I

Other than the yummy taste, the mug was the best part. Earthenware and the perfect size to warm your hands round, it is now one of my favorites.

Since the rain was getting heavier we headed to Carolin’s sister’s apartment that was right in the center of town and enormous. It was brilliant and had some beautiful old features. We tried to call Buddha so that Carolin could meet him but couldn’t get through. Later we tried again and he answered, he was super cute and said he was away from his computer and we could skype at 7pm, midnight his time. I was really excited to speak to him.

We did get to skype Carolin’s boyfriend back in Australia though. Much to her disbelief he and I were soon discussing the Rugby world cup, she just rolled her yes at us.

Carolin needed me to fix her bracelet I had made her back in Aus and so we headed back to Cathleen’s house to get my strings. I was able to manipulate the bracelet with some repairs and then it was time to say goodbye to my good friend. I hope to see her again soon.

Christmas Cookies

Cathleen had invited a friend over to make German Christmas Cookies. It was great fun, even if I was a bit distracted waiting for him to come on skype. We made sputniks, zimt sterre and vanilla kipferl. Yummy!!!!


It was great fun and the only thing to mar it was the fact that Buddha never came online and I wasn’t able to reach him on the phone. For some reason I felt devastated, I think perhaps some part of my intuition was trying to warn me, but when the heart wants, it often pushes aside the intuition. Cathleen made the point that it was something out of my control and there was nothing I could do to change it. She was right but emotions can be intense sometimes, especially when other factors like ending a year long adventure are factored into the mix.

Tomorrow is exploring the town of Dresden!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Leipzig’s Christmas Market…

7th December 2011

Emotions

As the time for the end of my trip draws nearer I find my emotions wanting to spill over and overwhelm me. Add to that a new relationship and you have someone on the verge of tears for a lot of the time. I have always been someone ruled by emotions with logic constantly trying to control them. I had fears of ending up back at the beginning without having gained anything from my trip as far as decisions on what to do with my life (that would be the logic telling me to settle and find a permanent job). Now with this amazing guy telling me how much he missed me but having communication issues as far as contacting me, I was barely above wreck status.

Of course I would discover those “communication issues” he claimed to have were the fact that he was living with another girl for the month of December and she did not approve of him sweet talking another girl…

But I am lucky enough to have great friends who are always there to console and council me. A fellow travel writer, Roger, who secretly doubles as my shrink, was extra supportive and I am afraid to see the beer bill I owe him at the end of all this!

Market Time!

Pulling myself together to focus on enjoying Germany, which easy when there are so many goodies to eat, Cathleen and I headed for my 3rd Christmas Market. Bring on the bratwurst and gluwein.

It Just Feels Like Christmas

We explored the city center of Leipzig and I was amazed at the beautiful buildings and monuments and fountains.

Cathleen has a route planned out, unfortunately she was dealing with someone who has the attention span of a gnat and is very very easily distracted. My friends don’t call me Doug the Dog, from the movie UP, for nothing! But eventually she got me somewhat on track and we visited some stunning things. The church of St. Nikolaus was stunning. It has an important place in history for East/West Germany as it was one of the few churches tolerated by the East’s GDR government and became and important location for students to gather and protest. the only thing that was strange was the habit of painting the inside in pastel colors.

We explored the GDR museum that had an excellent series of life in the East. It really opened your eyes to how oppressed the people were. A lot of it was in German though, so I got through it faster than Cathleen.

Finally we completed all the required stops of exploration and headed for the market that had been distracting me for so long. I tried some apple gluwein this time, gaining my 3rd mug and had bratwurst for lunch.

It started raining a little heavier but I managed to find my christmas ornament (I collect them from every country I go to), a nifty little incense burner that looks like an old farmer smoking when you burn the incense and then delight of delight a fresh hot waffle with half nutella and half vanilla cream.

Heaven!

We headed home through the rain and then Cathleen had to go to band practice. I managed to get through to Buddha on the phone and we chatted a bit, it looks like the “connection” issues were getting worse. I later discovered this was most likely the time he was having dinner with friends (who knew me) and his latest girlfriend and he put me on speaker and lied about there being a blackout. A real piece of work. But at the time it made me feel loved to hear him and so I focus on the good things, its really all you can do. Good things and waffles make life worth living 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Loping to Leipzig

4th December 2011

Exhausted from our long walk yesterday and since our rideshare to Cathleen’s home town was only that evening we had a good sleep in. Breakfast was 5 euros all you can eat and it was amazing, with hot and cold options. We also made up some sandwiches for later. The 3 Pigs Hostel in Berlin really knew how to put on a good spread:
Tea/Coffee/Juice (2 kinds)
Cereal (3 kinds)
yoghurt (2 kinds)
Jam (2 kinds)
Chocolate spread
Bread and rolls
Cheese
Cold meat (3 kinds)
Scrambled eggs (very popular)

Walking Tour Part 2

Walking past The Wall again we headed for Checkpoint Charlie. Originally termed Checkpoint C, it was nicknamed Charlie by the Western Allied forces, it is the most famous, or perhaps infamous, of the crossing points between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

Taking full advantage of the tourist spot it has become, there were guys dressed in original WWII uniforms offering visa stamps (1 euro for 1) and in true entrepreneurial fashion one guy was offering 1st class Facebook pictures, just 2 Euros each. It was rather amusing to watch.

Visa Stamp Soldier


Since I didn’t get an entry stamp into Germany, this one will count


Facebook Photo Soldier

We wandered all over and looked into a few museums but most of them were outrageously expensive. However we did find a cool tourist shop with a great photo op.

Famous style of German car during the Cald War Era


Stunning Architecture

It might not be stunning but it comes with Gluwein!

We walked across a park and held hands with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Karl and Friedrich

Then headed into the Nikolai Quarter, Nikolaiviertal, where Berlin was founded in the 13th Century. It has beautiful cobbled lanes and old shops and a a stunning old gothic church (also with an entry fee), but we at least got a glance. I would have loved to sit and have a cuppa and watch the world go by but it was so cold we decided to get going.

Our final exploration was in and around the Scheunviertal (Berlin’s Historic Jewish Quarter). Here is where I found some of the most poignant reminders and memorials to those who lost their lives to the Nazis hysteria that swept the country. Outside apartment buildings you would find at the entry, “Tripping Stones”. Their purpose was to do just that to make you stop and notice, to read and remember. The stones showed the names of the Jews who had disappeared from that building, the dates and when known, what had happened to them. It was heartbreaking on occasion.


Please Take A Moment to Remember…

Moving on and still tripping over the stones hear and there, we found the Hackesche Hofe, a series of beautifully restored courtyards, filled with shops and cafes and apartments and a maze that requires a GPS to find your way out. Eventually finding our way out we continued our search for a Synagogue that Cathleen had visited a few years ago. Just as the the rain started again we found it, and the entry fee. So sad how things cost so much money these days. I think if we had gone into everywhere we had hoped for we could have easily spent over 100 euros each.

After 4hrs of walking and with the rain and cold creeping in we caught a train back to the hostel where we enjoyed some coffee and dry clothes. Cathleen was certainly making sure I was walking off the bratwurst I was eating. Finally it was time to head to our rideshare and less that 2hrs later we had arrived in Cathleen’s hometown of Leipzig. Another train ride, 10minute walk and 3 flights of stairs, we both collapsed into a pile.

Tomorrow we shall begin domination of Leipzig… but right now sleep is in order!

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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To Berlin We Go….

3rd December 2011

Soppy Moment Warning: Once we had finally figured out how to get my SIM card active, I sent Buddha a message to let him know my number in Germany. He replied around 1am Germany time, I saw it but was too tired to reply. About 5min later he sent another checking if I got the first. By now the jet lag and effectively kicked my butt and I was in no condition to reply. In all he sent 3 texts and tried to call me twice. It was kind of sweet that he wanted to reach me so badly.

Berlin Bound

To get to Berlin we were taking the subway to a meeting spot where we were meeting up with a rideshare. It makes traveling in Germany so much easier and cheaper using the rideshare website. As we waited for the train I sent Buddha a quick text saying I got his. He called me almost immediately and it was so good to talk to him, and he sounded thrilled to have reached me, but unfortunately the train pulled up at that moment…

Taking the train to the city center we found our rideshare. Cathleen had warned the lady that I was at the end of a world tour and had 2 big bags, she had assured Cathleen that there was space and she might not offer the 3rd seat just in case. Well turns out she had a tiny car that was already pretty chocka-block full and she had offered the 3rd seat. After much shifting and squeezing we managed to fit ourselves and the bags in and set off. The guy sitting in the back with me kept spreading out and eventually I was almost sitting on the door handle, all the time with my backpack in my lap. At the same time, our rather… eccentric (that seems like a safe word), used this down time of driving 2 hours to catch up on all her phone calls, without a headset.

I don’t think Cathleen and I have been happier to fold out of a car as we were when we reached our destination. It was just crazy, but makes for a funny story in hindsight and it only cost us 14 euro each, about a third of the price if we had taken the train all the way.

3 Little Pigs Hostel

We had been dropped off at the train station and it was just a short ride to our exit for the hostel. The train exit was at the beautiful old ruin, originally the station during WW2 I believe.

As we emerged two wizened old men asked us if we were going to “The Church”. We said no and looked a little confused. When we reached the hostel we realised it had been converted from an old convent and it still had the church up and running. Hahahahah it was rather amusing after we had stood and disagreed with the old fellas just moments before. 3 Little Pigs Hostel was rather impressive, but it was barely 11am and check in was only at 3pm. So after stowing our gear we headed out for the first half of the walking tour that Cathleen had chosen. Of course as we stepped outside it started raining.

Berlin had Bear statues everywhere. Reminded of the pigs we had all over Seattle, Washington in the states. I couldn’t resist getting a photo with at least one of them.

Heading for the Platz

Just down the way from the hostel was the new up and coming trendy area called Potsdamer Platz. With tons of restaurants and stores to choose from, it was also the site of the next Christmas Market. We decided to save that for later though.

Walking the Wall

I remember hearing about the Berlin Wall growing up, studying it in history class and watching on TV when it was finally torn down. I never thought I would be standing in the shadow of its remnants. It just made you wonder why, why and how politics so often destroys lives.

Started in 1961, the wall was built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and completely cut off West Berlin from East Germany and East Berlin. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German Reunification. The wall was torn down for the most part in 1990. During those almost 30yrs the wall tore apart families, friends and an entire country.

Part of the Wall Left as a Reminder

At this section of wall there was also a museum that gave full accounts of life during Nazi Germany, the camps and Hitler. It was a rather poignant reminder of that time and I was impressed that even though it was a time of shame in so many ways, there was no attempt to hide it.

Holocaust Memorial

As we followed the Walking Tour we came across one of the largest memorials I have ever seen, The Holocaust Memorial. Covering 4.6 acres it is covered with large stone stelae (slabs) numbering 2711. The stelae are of varying heights and arranged on a sloping field. According to Eisenman’s (the architect) project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. And it certainly does just that. Within the midsts of the stelae, especially on the grey cloudy day, the feeling is hauntingly eerie.

Gates

Continuing the walking tour we followed the East / West line towards the Brandenburge Gates, the ultimate symbol of German reunification.

We spent the next 2 hours gawking at spectacular architecture and looking for either a Christmas Market or coffee shop as it was raining and freezing!! The only market we found you had to pay to enter but just down the street was a coffee shop. So we huddled in there to get warm. Cathleen had hoped we would get more of the walking tour done but, after 11months of travel, sitting in a coffee shop and watching people go by seemed like a much better plan to me.

Hostel Room

Finally the time rolled round when we could check into the hostel and we hurried in that direction. Walking into our room was like walking into what a backpacker might consider 5 star. The room was huge with only 6 beds. The beds were large and comfy and clean and had HUGE pillows. After 4 hours of walking in the rain and being soaked almost to our skivvies, there was only one thing to do…NAP.

Potsdamer Platz Revisited

Around 6pm, with much difficulty, we rolled out of bed, rebundled against rain and cold and decided to head back to the Platz for the Christmas Market. I had my first bratwurst here and think I could have had 10. It was divine, especially with my mug of gluwein. My second gluwein mug is also one of my favorites, tall and slim with frosted glass.

Mug 2

Back at the hostel and in bed around 10pm, I fear I literally passed out and have no recollection of anything, only waking at 7am, as 2 male roommates returned after a rather successful night out… by the smell of them anyway.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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