September 30, 2007

amour









I don't have a lot to report today. And that's a good thing. I pretty much just wandered around Paris yesterday. I don't know where my comfort level comes from here. Perhaps because of my basic knowledge of French from middle and high school (not good, but enough to generally get along and converse on a basic level), or maybe just because the city is so full of details and mixtures of life everywhere - and you can just walk in any direction and find things to see, or maybe because walking aimlessly like that seems to be safe in all directions at all times. I don't know how a city with so many alleys and little roads and so many people in such a small place manages to get along so safely and peacefully. Of course, I understand the same level of safety doesn't exist in the suburbs. Probably my smallest joy of the night was ordering a crepe of oeuf, jambon, et fromage in the shadow of the Centre Pompidou (one of my favorite buildings) at nearly 3am with the streets full of people. I find it hard not to love Paris.

September 29, 2007

alors








Well, I've done a lot of things wrong on this trip, but hopefully I've reached the end of them. I gave myself all of 15 minutes to take a quick walk around some of Bern - it looked very cool - again a mixture of age-old architecture still alive with current life. I had hoped that would be enough time to get to the Bernese bear pit, but no such luck. I turned back because I wanted to be sure to make the early train to Paris, I had tickets to the Rugby World Cup match that night. When I got to the ticket counter and asked for a reservation on the train to Paris (TGV requires a reservation even though my ticket is covered by my Eurail Pass), the agent made a face. Uh oh. The train was full, even first class. I had other trains I had looked up as second choices. Those were full too. Ugh. Finally he did find one route if I took a train to Basel and then to Strasbourg, but it got me to Paris after the match had already started. I took the reservation, but went to a different ticket office. Her options were different, but worse. Though it meant I could have a few more hours in Bern to explore, I decided to go ahead and take an earlier train to Basel, hoping I could work the system and find a way to Paris sooner. Basel wasn't much better. The agent there found different options yet, but hers got me to Paris at the same time. I now had bought two different reservations getting me to Paris later than the game started, but I figured that was the price for trying to work the system. I decided to go on to Strasbourg as there were a lot of trains to Paris from there. Again, no luck. All trains were booked before mine. I watched as multiple trains to Paris left as if to mock me. I wish I knew enough about how they work to know what would have happened if I had gotten on an earlier train with the wrong reservation in hand. There were many empty seats in my car, I can only imagine the same was true for the earlier trains. Regardless, it was 11 by the time I got to my hotel. The match was over. I was so bummed that I sat for a while trying to decide whether to go out or even bother at that point. My friend Darrin happened to be on email and told me to stay in and rest. I don't know if he said that knowing I'd do the opposite, but it got me out and I'm glad. Paris is so alive and amazing everywhere at all times. It was fun just to be out in the middle of it all. So, a bad few days are past. The meds are working and I'm feeling better. And forgive me if I sound like Carrie Bradshaw, but how can life be bad when you're in Paris?

September 27, 2007

in the clouds









Well today has been, appropriately enough, a little foggy, both inside and outside my head. I woke up after well over nine hours of sleep and still wasn't feeling better, so I knew it was time for a change of plans. I asked the hotel clerk if it was worth going to Jungfraujoch given the livecam shots that showed it all clouded in. She said not to bother, it would be a waste of time and money. She suggested another lower loop of cable cars and railways that would give me some heights and sights and a stroll through the hillside village of Murren, so I did that instead. I also asked her about the doctor I had noticed on the map. I recognized what I was now feeling as the strep throat I get every time I have a cold, so she set me up with an appointment at five. Until then, I rode a few cable car gondolas and railways and wandered through Murren. The clouds at times were thick and the village was quiet, which only added to that not quite earthly feeling of the day. The doctor visit surprised me a little. I expected some craggly old Andy Griffith type that had been here forever, but instead was met by a 20-something guy who looked like he came off of a calendar. He asked a lot of the usual questions, took some tests, and sure enough, I have Strep. But now, I also have three boxes of meds to fix it! After the doctors visit, I trained to Bern, which I have pretty much written off in favor of sleep. Tomorrow I head to Paris and am looking forward to feeling better there.

September 26, 2007

with a view










I woke up today thinking I had slept off my bug, but by the time I got to the train station, it was clear I was mistaken. But the highlight of today was the train ride - and luckily, when sitting down, I'm fairly comfortable! My sister had always raved about the scenic trains in Switzerland, and now I understand why. The train car had wraparound glass windows, which only added to the movie-like scenery. Unfortunately its so rainy and cloudy that the peaks were all hidden in clouds, but it hardly mattered. We climbed hills and wrapped around lakes and through countless picturesque villages til we got to my stop for the night in Lauterbrunnen. My breathing isn't exactly up to par, and being up in the Alps isn't helping much, but its still a beautiful place and I'm glad to be here. The only downside of the night is a huge group of loud "ugly" Americans in the hotel and restaurant who oddly enough, seem to be part of a Rick Steves Tour Group. (Why are we always so loud??!) I took a quick walk up to check out one of the huge - and I mean incredibly huge - waterfalls that dot this valley. It was lit up in the night and the hill was covered with grazing sheep. Just surreal. My throat couldn't take much more of the cold so I came back to have a dinner of Rosti - yum. Definitely unlike anything I had had before. Tomorrow I hope to explore a little more and probably try to tackle the Jungfraujoch: "the top of Europe" - its so cloudy that I won't have any sort of view, but I'm probably going to do it anyway - just to do it. That's kind of the point of the whole trip anyway, right?

September 25, 2007

ich ache. ick!









I suppose I had it coming to me. I woke up Monday feeling like dog poop. And it wasn't from the beer at Oktoberfest (maybe it could have been, but I doubt it). I had the achy shakys, cough, throat and sweats most the day, so figured I had come down with some kind of flu or cold. I actually had a bunch of work to do, so I spent most of the day in bed doing that. I missed meeting up with Richard and his friends and the biergarten in the afternoon, but they were down in my neighborhood later, so I walked around some with them as they caught the last of the nice weather. They weren't wrong either. Tuesday brought cold and rain, which made it easier to leave Munich, but didn't add to the joy of schlepping my bags to the train station. (Yes, I overpacked.) I must have been a sight because this bug had me sweating profusely. At least the train was few hours of rest while watching the scenery of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I made it to Luzern, found my hotel, and found an apothecary right before they closed. I came back, took my medicine, and zonked out. I woke up too late for dinner, but decided to go wander a little just in case I could find something open, plus I needed to find a bank to get some Swiss Francs, and I figured the added bonus would be getting to see a little of the town, though not exactly under ideal conditions. Luzern reminds me in some ways of Venice (Italy) - the aged buildings are still preserved and centered around the water, but instead of feeling like Disneyland as Venice does, Luzern has modern typical stores and businesses hidden inside these buildings, and the streets are alive with people working and living their daily lives. Of course, wandering at night gives yet another perspective as most everything is closed and quiet. Hopefully I'll get to wander a little more in the morning, but this is the first of three nights in different places, so its back to the train as well. Hopefully without the bug!

September 24, 2007

prost!











[note: Sundays events are separated into two posts, so you may want to read "prelude" below before reading this post]

Once inside the Braurosl tent at Oktoberfest, it was beyond what I could have imagined. Bands rotated throughout the day, playing a combination of toasts and Schlager-ized pop music which often brought the crowd to dancing on tables - from Hey Jude to Country Roads to the official song for 2007's Oktoberfest: Einen Stern (der Deinen Namen tragt) or 'there is a star with your name on it' - a typical german europop song that by the end of the night I had become attached to (link below). You have to imagine a huge crowd of people standing on tables with beers hoisted singing it together with a Schlager band's version of it. Everywhere, strangers were friendly, happy, and even affectionate. Last year, I said my tour of Europe was probably the best thing I had ever done. In the middle of the night, I realized I had already topped it. I truly am grateful to have gotten to experience this. I can't thank my friends Richard, Andy, Marcus, and Thomas enough for letting me tag along with them and bringing me into their group and guiding me through my first Braurosl experience. I hope to make it only the first!

  • YouTube: music video for Einen Stern
  • prelude






    8:30 came really early on Sunday morning. My friend Richard and his roommate Andy hosted brunch for myself and their friend Marcus - they made sure I had food in my stomach to start the Sunday Wies'n. The squares and subway were strangely calm and quiet that early, but by the time we were on the subway headed to the Wies'n grounds, the crowds had appeared. We made our way around the Oktoberfest parade to the Braurosl tent only to find that as we had feared, it was already full. We heard later they had closed the doors a little after 10. We stood in line for a little while, but realized it was going nowhere, so we managed to grab some seats at a table outside for our first Bas (mug of beer). After roasting in the sun a while, we decided to wander around some and take in a ride and some food. About an hour later we wandered by the tent again and noticed some lines were making progress, so we jumped in one. After a while, we made it in!