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finishing the unfinished…

so…back in the states for a couple of months now after my trip to europe.  figured i’d wait a bit to finish my travel blog to get a genuine perspective on the “transition” back to “reality.”  just hit the 32 mark of my life yesterday, and it feels pretty damn good.  it wasn’t my typical trip with the bests to las vegas’ hard rock hotel, but i had a fantastic day.  i’m getting settled back in with the necessities (i.e. job, apartment), not without a couple of hiccups, but nevertheless, i’m on my feet.  some pretty awesome things have been happening lately. if you were with me a few months back, i talked about how i was wanting to write a cartoon.  and a lot of that stems from the characters/voices that are constantly throwing parties in my head. well, i’ve made a commitment to follow that dream.  i’m gaining proper training in the animation voiceover field as we speak, and a demo will soon follow, and hopefully some experience soon thereafter.  once i get it all mapped out, i’m gonna be putting that cartoon together.  it’s gonna take a little time, so don’t hold your breath, but keep your eyes peeled.  it’s gonna be a reeeeeaaal barnburner, i tell ya.

as far as the music that brings you to my site/blog, i’m working with a couple of guitar players here in austin, trying to see who’s the best fit for now.  i’ve got some really cool songs that i can’t wait for you to hear.  i know i’ve said it before that the music would be ready by now, but hey, recording this stuff ain’t cheap.  i’ll have it dancing in your ears as soon as i can.  there’s been some recent interest by the higher-ups, but until one bites, gotta keep pluggin’ away independently.

since i’ve been back, i’ve looked at things a little differently.  first of all, traveling the world is fighting for the number one spot of priorities.  hopefully, music will take me to all the places i’d like to see, but i’ll get there regardless.  secondly, i was planning on a move to nashville before/during my trip.  something i learned on the trip is how much i’m supported and loved by the friends i have in austin, and how uprooting from that right now isn’t what i want to do.  this is a great city full of great people.  i’ve come to realize that most places all kinda have the same things to do, with a few things that tip the scale in either direction.  but the people that surround you are really what make a place special.  and i’m feeling good about staying here.  for now.

32 is gonna be a great year.  come along and ride on a fantastic voyage…slide, slide, slippity slide, you better be ready when the 5 rolls by.

rain with a side of UK

i hit liverpool running last week.  some friends from the states have come out and added some new twists to the mix, as being with other people will do after spending so much time traveling alone.  first thing i do when i land is head to the hotel.  immediately we’re welcomed to the liverpool life.  there’s an interesting wedding reception going on, full of all the 80s wedding songs you could want.  i think “never gonna give you up,” by rick astley was blaring on our way out after checking in, and the oldest guy (probably a grandpa of one of the wedding party) is standing alone catching a night smoke.  he’s got a metal cigarette holder and my friend comments how cool it was as we passed.  well this old guy let us know how hammered he was when he turned aggressively wanting a fight.  he yelled, “what are ya, some kinda psychiatrist?”  not sure what he meant by that exactly, so we kinda laughed and told him that we were just being kind.  that only enraged him more.  yelling obscenities at us as we walked to the car, we just knew it wouldn’t be the last of this guy. well we get the car and have to drive right past him to the exit, he’s got a cane-type thing wrapped around his arm and he’s using it assist his walking out to meet us as we pass.  he jabs it in the air in our direction, still yelling at us.  we get to the gate, of which we don’t have the code to exit.  great.  so we back up, and watch this guy as he’s literally rubbing his hands together, warming them up for us.  i’m pretty sure he wanted to punch a hole right thru the car and thru our heads.  we again drive past him and use the back entrance to avoid having to deal with this guy.  we get the code and head back towards the gate.  he’s still out there yelling and taunting, letting us know what would happen to us if we were to come at him.  his family, obviously having seen this before, escorts him inside and we finally get out of the complex.  we get out to a pub in a small town outside the city.  again with the 80′s wedding songs.  they love this stuff.  not far from what i had expected of the culture here.  hello, liverpool!!!

the intent of staying in liverpool was to see their football (soccer) game the next day vs tottenham.  it was a huge game as the season-end neared, so getting tickets was impossible…a very cool environment in the city though.  anyway, we chose a less popular game to go to…wigan vs. west ham.  my friend and i knew a little, at most, about these teams, but seeing an english premiere league game was on both of our bucket lists, so we headed towards the wigan stadium.  stood in the rain for about 20 minutes trying to scalp some tickets out in front of the stadium.  finally a really cool guy hooked us up with seats next to him on the west ham (visitor) side.  which actually turned out to be the best side to sit.  west ham fans are nuts.  they came four to five hours north from london to stand in the rain and watch their team who is the worst in the english premiere league.  and not only did they come, they came in full force and gave the other fans hell.  apparently that’s what all the singing and chanting is all about you hear at the games.  especially from west ham.  chants like, “we pay your benefits”…or…”we forgot that you were here”…or my favorite…”your support is f*ing sh@t!”  they chanted all the way to the end, even though their team lost, and was eventually relegated out of the premiere league.  on the way out of the stadium, as the wigan fans rushed the field, and the bobbies stood protecting the fans from altercation, we saw a wigan fan in the adjacent stands taunting the west ham fans.  we picked him out of the crowd somehow and it was just so ridiculous.  i mean the whole thing brings the most childish of acts out of grown men, but this guy took the cake.  he was doing things like wiping his cheeks with his fists in a crying motion, making “na na na na-na naaaah” sounds, then bending over, pointing at his arse, then pointing over to the west ham fans…and his final move was to point at them and then spit on his hand.  this was the cheekiest 50-something-yr old man i’d ever seen.  what an experience.

rain, rain, and some more rain fell.  we hung out in small town, northern england for a couple of days, then headed to scotland…glasgow to be exact.  glasgow is a cool town, but we were really just there to have a nice scottish meal and head to the highlands the next day.  if you ever get a chance to get to scotland, do it, it’s a beautiful country and the people are extremely friendly.  we really experienced that when we got to edinburgh.  couldn’t have met nicer people while we were there…whether it was when we were trying to golf in 80mph winds or checking out the haunted side of the city, everyone was very cool.  edinburgh is up there on the “i could live there” list.  extremely windy, and some spotty rain, but a great place.

just got to london.  i’m excited to be here, rain or shine.  16 days left.

krakow and such

so with prague being as wonderful as it is…krakow, poland had the challenge of maintaining pace for me as i enter the last month of my trip.  and it has done so, swimmingly.  with funds running low, i decided to go the couch surfing route.  much to my surprise and against my safe thinking, it has gone great.  my couch host is the perfect first go at this.  with the exception that she’s extremely busy with school, she has done everything to make me feel perfectly welcome and she is very proud of her city.  she’s a polish-american over here studying and creating art, so we have similar ideas on life.  hers a little more liberal than mine, but i’m not here to discuss politics…even when she has tried.  anyway, i have my own room to sleep in and she is always coming back from her long days of schooling/finals with traditional polish fare.  so i’m getting the culture even when i’m not out getting it on my own.  can’t thank her enough for the place to stay.  guess i’ll have to consider being a host sometime to “pay it forward.”

so…krakow.  first day i went to some crazy salt mines, as recommended by some fellow travelers along the way.  honestly, a bit underwhelming.  maybe if the tour had been a little bit shorter…or maybe if i hadn’t been a cheap ass and taken the english tour instead of the polish tour.  i was one of two people in a group of 30 that didn’t understand what was going on.  i tried to just stay out of the way of the tour guide as we winded down towards middle-earth, in hopes of not being spoken to.  the only other person that didn’t get it was a 3 yr old girl.  one time when the guide made a joke and the group softly laughed, the little girl gave a big pee-wee herman “ha ha,” and i thought it was hilarious.  she and i saw eye-to-eye…and we laughed together at the ridiculousness of this tour the rest of the time.  her mom didn’t like that.  a couple of highlights shone through.  seeing as though i didn’t understand what the guide was saying, all i could do was see what was to be seen, which was a lot of sculptures made completely of salt.  some not so great, some amazing…like an entire cathedral built of salt.  designs of all of the jesus’es.  “away in a manger” jesus, “praying” jesus, and “on the cross” jesus.  a design of pope john paul the second.  the altar and even the huge chandeliers were made of salt.  pretty cool.  on the way out of the cathedral, a polish guy looks over to me and mutters some things and i waited for some sort of out for me…and there it was, he started laughing without me saying anything…so i obliged and laughed back, followed quickly by one of those faces that looks surprised and kinda pointed with my eyes that i wanted to walk past him.  i tiptoed by without him knowing.  he probably saw my cowboy hat though…there’s no escaping that.

second day…a bit more difficult to take in.  i made the trip over to auschwitz-birkenau.  it’s kind of an emotional day for everyone that decides to make that trip.  a very gripping, detailed tour of how the nazis occupied the small town of oswiecim, poland and did what they did.  i really don’t need to go into detail and it’s very difficult to wrap your head around the inhumanity, especially when you’re standing on the grounds.  and the effort to make what they were doing to innocents more efficient and systematic is nauseating.  i recommend going if you make it over to poland, but be prepared.

now that i got all that out of the way, i have been able to see krakow for all its beauty.  like prague, it has castles and a river and beautiful churches.  but the one thing it has is probably the greatest market town center in the world.  this square is HUGE!  people everywhere!  i love.  gonna spend the rest of my time enjoying the wonderful weather and the scenery.  eastern europe…amazing.  can’t wait to come back.

next stop…UK.

ahhh, prague.

can’t say enough great things about this gem in the czech republic.  it was the first time on this trip i had taken a walking tour, and i’m glad i did.  there’s a ton of history in this medieval, gothic, and post war-themed wonderland.  a river divides the city in half, and the charles bridge that connects both sides has been around since 1357.  and the fact it’s still there and i got to cross it was pretty damn sweet.  anyway, i won’t get too history-involved here, but the czechs have a lot to be proud of…they’re good people.

starting with the bartender at the first bar regan and i went to.  not far from our americanized hostel, we strolled down the street, thru a scary alleyway and found this seedy little basement bar where everyone was smoking, a lot.  and the bartender, well this big guy was awesome.  we sorta got his name as it fell out of his mouth.  just as we sorta understood anything he said.  he was pretty sloshed and we were looking to get a taste of the local flavor, so that’s what he offered us.  we had several bohemian beers (which rival german beer for sure) and then between one of the several high-fives and handshakes (i think he was enjoying our american company), he reached up to the top shelf and pulled down a beautiful bottle of absinthe.  it didn’t look like the typical, over-commercialized bottle, and come to find out it wasn’t.  it was from a distillery of a good friend of his who had been making the poison for about 10 years now.  it was a little known premium brand and it was actually a bit better than most, not that absinthe is ever good.  anyhow, we pretended to understand anything the guy said til it was time to go.  smiled, high-fived, and headed out.  every night was a great drinking experience…and we capped it off with a stop off back here at our favorite prague bar.  we just had to.  received applause from the locals as we drunkenly sang michael jackson’s “man in the mirror” with some ohioans alongside some absinthe and gambrinus beer…god bless.

ate some local czech foods…like broiled beef in some sort of sweet brown gravy, served with bread and carlsberg dumplings, then topped off with whipped cream and cranberries.  what!?  it was pretty damn good too.  for as unhealthy as the food is over here in europe, they don’t seem to have the overweight issue that we have in the states.  but i think i’m gonna look like chet at the end of “weird science” when i get back.  it’ll be worth it.  every damn bite.

regan’s gone now…it was good seeing this part of europe with ya man.  see ya back in the states.

i’m off to poland.

ich bin ein berliner

after leaving amsterdam, my friend regan and i headed to berlin.  we stayed in a really cool apartment just north of the city center.  with only a couple of days there, we weren’t able to really grasp all that berlin has to offer.  which is kind of a shame, cause berlin is a pretty happenin’ city.  it’s THE big city in germany that has all the things characteristic of big cities.  and a little more.  for the sightseeing stuff, we saw everything from the place where hitler was inaugurated into power to the place where the berlin wall used to stand. unfortunately there was a small war a few years back that pretty much destroyed all things historical in this city, so it’s a lot of “this is where such-and-such” used to be.  but there are some wonderful parks and monuments throughout the metroplex.  one of the most interesting points-of-interest is the holocaust memorial.  check it out if you ever make it to berlin.

aside from the sightseeing, the nightlife was quite interesting.  not being the clubbing types, regan and i elected to see more of the eclectic underbelly of berlin’s social scene.  we made it to a dive bar called ‘white trash,’ a seedy, smoke-tank called ’8mm’ where they were playing “a clockwork orange” with english subtitles, and the most ridiculous of places being ‘mr.pong.’  ‘mr.pong’ didn’t have a sign out front. ‘mr.pong’ had clear-ish trash bags covering all of the windows. ‘mr.pong’ had a dj and a bar inside that i’m pretty sure is run by the residents that live in or above ‘mr.pong.’  ‘mr.pong’ most importantly had a ping pong table.  it’s THE reason anybody was there and everyone was playing.  about fifteen people, ranging from maybe 18 yrs old to maybe 50.  that one dude was def at least 50.  the dude who was sort of standing, leaning against the wall, swaying back and forth, in all black.  the german dude in the corner.  black stocking cap, black jacket, black shirt, black das boots.  only thing of color was his blond hair and his red, bloodshot eyes.  he’d stumble over to the game ever so often.  the game started when all the people got a paddle in their hand and ran in circles around the table…each person getting one chance to keep the ball alive across the net.  once you miss the table or put it in the net, you’re out.  the german dude never made it past the first shot.  regan and i barely ever made it past the second shot.  there were a lot of professional pongers in the room.  wasn’t fair really.  germany, you win this time.  combine this and throwing down some authentic german sausage, sauerkraut, potatoes, schnitzel, pork knuckle, and a lot of filling dark beer, i think we did the best we could with the time we had in berlin.

off to prague.

ciao (adios) italy…hello amsterdam

i spent all of last week in palermo, sicily.  what a relaxing relief from the chaos that is rome.  if you get a chance to make it to southern italy/sicily region, disregard the talks of it being dirty and unwelcoming.  yes, there is a lot of trash in the street for some reason, but i found it to be a lot better than rome.  especially at the beach.  it’s a semi-mountainous area, so you can imagine how the calm bay gave way to the soft, tan sand with rock cliffs in your panoramic view.  it really is a beautiful place.

i was taken in by another family on this trip.  friends i had made while i was in venice.  with a pretty strong language barrier, communication was limited…but true warmth and affection doesn’t require words.  they prepared home-cooked pasta, insisted i drink their wine, and made me feel very welcome in their home.  they even cleaned my laundry.  what an amazing family.  i hope to return the favor some day.

i pretty much saw the entire city by foot, even another catacombes.  i think i’m done with seeing the dead.  interesting, but this one was even more than just bones.  it was their whole bodies preserved in their clothing.  yeah, i’m def done with that.  i also witnessed a store robbery.  three teenagers were standing around conspicuously late at night in front of a store.  i rounded the corner to grab some food and quickly came back around the corner.  two of the kids were yelling under the throw-up, store-front door at their friend inside.  lots of banging around going on, and then the kid inside comes running out with the entire cash register in his arms.  leaving only a long trail of receipt paper behind them, they tore off down the street.  i figured this battle was one better left to the police, as i’m not a superhero and there probably wasn’t much money left in the register anyway…not enough for me to get “dealt with” over.  i mean, maybe they were just kids having fun, but, in my fantasy mind, they were probably in the low ranks of the italian mafia earning their merits.  i will not be sleeping with the fishes in sicily.

on my last night, i enjoyed some incredible seafood near the bay.  oysters, sea urchin (they are cut in half while still alive, and these spiky creatures are still wiggling their spikes as you soak up their insides with bread), and my favorite, zuppa di cozze (mussels).  a little white wine to boot, and i was feeling real nice as i prepared mentally for the next stop…amsterdam.

queen’s day:  the most amazing party i have ever experienced.  about 1.5 million people flood the streets of amsterdam.  every street corner or river canal bridge has a dj or a live band.  “coffee” shops everywhere.  some people just chilling and doing their thing, but mostly everyone was up and about, laughing, dancing, and moving from one incredible party to the next.  the girls in the red light district, surprisingly quite attractive, seemed to be in good spirits as i’m sure they bring in a ton of money during this event.  ugh.  i guess ya do what ya best at.

met some cool people there.  argentinians, new zealanders, canadians, australians, netherlanders, brits…it was a melting pot for sure.  and nothing seemed out of place, including the one guy on his bicycle yelling out random dutch phrases and yodeling a fierce tune, leaving an ‘s’-shaped gap in the group of people he rode through.  i will miss this place.  everyone is exactly who they are and when the city isn’t in full-on party mode, it’s a place to be marveled.  can’t wait to go back.

what day is it?

rome

it’s been a bit since my last post.  it’s been quite hectic since i left florence.  the fellow texan, jake, i met in venice and florence went with me to rome.  we were gonna stay a couple of nights and part ways.  it didn’t really turn out that way.  rome is a different kind of animal.

what to say about rome?  well i didn’t expect to be there as long as i was.  5 nights.  it was the most confusing leg of the trip so far.  jake and i started out in different hostels and we hit the first night pretty hard, meeting a group of austrian gals, some german gals, and a ton of american folk (started at the abbey theatre irish pub, then hit the streets and other bars in the campo dei fiori area).   we ended the night at around 6am with plans of meeting at 11am for a walking tour of rome.  well, since we were at diff hostels, this idea was ludicrous and surely enough we showed up at diff times to the meeting point and left with no way to contact each other.  so i head to the colloseum.  wow.  this place is pretty amazing.  and to imagine what it must have been like to gather and see people die here.  i snap some shots and move on.  now been wandering aimlessly thru the ridiculous crowds of people (for those wanting to see rome during easter week, be aware of this) for about 4 hours now.  not sure how i’m gonna meet up with my texas pal at this point in this huge city, i drag my tired, hungover feet to the metro and head back to the main station.  as i climb the last stairs from the metro, i hear a loud aussie gal chatting with an english speaking kid, and i turn to look.  and, wouldn’t ya know, jake.  what are the chances?  ah right…pretty good.  i guess texans think alike.  with all of the stops and turns and ups and downs and hours in between, ridiculous we ran into each other again.  the aussie (tara), jake and i are now together to experience the next four nights.

since everyone we met along the way likes to stay up late, the day times became less touristy you could say…so i’ll just summarize what i can remember:

moved to a campsite close to the beach (not close to the city, difficult to get to at night)

moved to another campsite and slept in a tent

slept in a boat on land

met kevin and his wonderful canadian family

got lost

never made it to bed earlier than 5 in the morning because i was lost every night

saw a lot of rome with no camera (charger is in germany)

asked for directions from two very sketchy dudes…thought i was gonna die…ugh, especially the one guy

spent too much money

laid out on the beach

walked 5 miles in the wrong direction, following the wrong signs

met a really chill chick from washington state

saw the vatican on easter sunday

stayed in a different place every night (don’t recommend this, makes the whole lost thing happen)

got bit by a bed bug.  bit the bed bug back.

danced.  sang karaoke.  danced.

played beer pong and lost

went to a seedy after hours bar

missed my flight.  slept in airport.

and now i’m in palermo, sicily.  resting.  it’s beautiful, even in the misty haze thats blanketing the city as i type.  a wonderful sicilian i met in venice is taking good care of me here til friday.  then it’s off to amsterdam for queen’s day to meet the good ol’ regan kline, a friend of mine from texas.  i’m tired just thinking about how next week is gonna be.

ciao (hello) italy

so i’ve been in italy for about a week now.  internet has kinda been spotty so i’ll just kinda recap what i can remember:

getting here was interesting.  it was my first experience with a night train.  from munich, i sat by myself in a four-person closed cabin with a see-thru glass door.  you know in demon-based horror films, when the main character starts to realize everything’s gone awry…and everyone he/she sees just has an off look to them.  like their head’ll be upside-down or their legs are twisted backwards as they scurry by.  well that’s kinda what it was like.  the shrill scream of the wheels and the lights punching in and out as another possessed traveler passed by my door were tell signs i was the main character in this movie.  i also had the italian police startle me awake a couple of times to check my passport and search my bags.  def like being in a movie.  but i like horror films, so i was at home.  i also had another great book to distract my mind: “let the great world spin,” by colum mccan.  i highly recommend this one as it only needed my attention for three days to be complete.  3 books down in a little over a month.  i may have found a new addiction.

i woke up as we rolled into venice in the very early morning.  from the train, you could see snow-capped mountains off in the distance and sprawling villages in the nearby.  stunning.

i had written down about a thousand rights and lefts with street names to get me to my hostel.  however, only about every third street was marked, so to hell with the notes.   venice is a neat little spot with it’s exceptionally tasty pastas and pizzas and its winding roads that often lead you to a dead end.  in some places the streets are only a little more than shoulder-width and it seems as if though the opposing walls get even closer, trying to hug towards the top.  cool and all, but not at night when you have no idea where you are and only speak english.  the best i could do was ask very slowly in my chinese english accent how to get back.  all but slept in the street one night.  met a girl who got so frustrated with the dead ends that she swam across one of the canals, which i’m sure was a wonderful treat.  the water in the canals looks like it’s filled with absynthe and cigarettes.  in my hostel, i saw a texas rangers hat on a bed across the room.  another texan,  sweet.  what are the chances?  oh right, pretty good.  we drank a bit, met some locals, took some shots of makers mark and the cowboy hats were on.  a good last night in venice.  in short, it’s a great place for a romantic getaway, on which i am not.  note taken.

a couple days in venice and then i set off for the cinque terre.  it’s a lesser known tourist spot in the northwest corner of italy, along the coast.  colorful houses built in the side of cliffs and the ocean here is clean, crisp and magnificent.  another place for lovers.  after i did what sight-seeing there is to do, i just made my way to the beach.  spent about 3 hours there my last day without a cloud in the sky.  in my new skin, i jumped on a train to pisa.  snapped a few photos of the leaning thing.  hopped back on a train, and now i’m in florence.  florence seems pretty cool.  a lot of americans here.  including the texan from venice.  what are the chances we’d be in the same hostel?  oh right, pretty good.  we went drinking again last night.  it seemed a bit weird to be in italy watching the NHL playoffs and listening to a bunch of early 20-something american girls screaming “don’t stop believin’.” standing outside chatting in a circle with some girls from new england, we met this guy, “steven.”  a portly english kid who was flat hammered.  he was from “lundgren” or london, and as he swayed back and forth, he insisted on attempting to speak in italian, regardless of how many times we told him we spoke english.  wasn’t much this guy claims he hasn’t done.  and his excitement literally spewed from this mouth.  every new idea he had started with  a fresh spray of spit flying in our direction.  i’m pretty sure the last idea i could stand was in slow motion.  everyone seemed to be watching in amazement as this spitwad tumbled end over end in my direction.  voices and noise slowed to a hum and like i was in a dream, i just couldn’t move fast enough to dodge it.  it took final resting place in my beard just below my bottom lip with such force that it knocked me back.  all i could say was, “wow man, that was a lot.”  and it was.  but i couldn’t be mad at the fella.  he was too happy.

but it got me wondering about if you could see your body as a tiny dot from above.  if you could see from your original birth day a red line that connected the dot for your every move.  there’d be way more little short lines, as you go about your day-to-day back-and-forths, and then the occasional long line for when you go on a trip.  and if you could hit fast forward and watch yourself like speedy gonzalez bouncing around your little world.  then take “steven,” and you can see his little blue line connecting the dots in his life.  he’s gotta lot of long lines considering he’s “done almost everything.”  who knows how many times our lines have crossed over each other without a dot.  but not this time.  this time there’s a dot.  this time the dot got covered in spit.

“i’m blue da ba de da ba di, and da ba de da ba di.”

my last night in munster was great…but in a different way.  there was still partying going down, but it was more like a party you would go to if you were german and you lived there.  it was a birthday party…again, but this time for a woman that is friends with my munster host family.  she turned 50 and there were about 150 ppl from the town there celebrating.  from old to young, everyone was having a jolly time.  the party was catered with a potluck of food and beverages from the guests, so i really got a taste of all kinds of german delicacies.

not many overly exciting stories to tell about this night, however, it was a really great opportunity to see how the german community operates.  and i love it.  i feel at home here.  and that’s because everyone is so damn nice and give forth their best effort to speak english when they obviously don’t have to.  they actually enjoy it because as one said, “we don’t get the opportunity to use english very often, so it’s nice.”  the only people i met that didn’t really speak english were the people that gave me a ride back to my host house.  we didn’t ever exchange names, but when they found out i was from texas, they coined me “whiskey.”  what!  BTW, i wasn’t even drinking whiskey and whiskey is a kentucky thing, not texas.  maybe i just look like i love whiskey.  which i do.  =)  they were in their 50s, jammin’ “blue (da ba dee)” by eiffel 65.  thanks for the ride.

so free food, free booze, free place to stay with a wonderful family with my own guest room.  added to my autobahn blog, this was a weekend i’ll never forget.  and i can’t wait to come back…i now have a soft place in my heart for germany.

danica patrick (julia from autobahn blog) beat her first time from the trip up…and now i’m back in ramstein…planning my next move.  italy…see you in 48hrs.

the autobahn…

…it’s not just one stretch of road like i previously thought.  it’s the system of freeways here in germany.  and i got a full taste of what it’s actually like yesterday.

i had plans to go to munster this weekend.  and not like the cheese.  they actually haven’t ever heard of it here.  maybe they just call it “cheese” or “käse”, like the chinese call their infamous interrogation method, just “water torture” or “水刑.”  i made some german friends while staying in barcelona that live in munster, so i figured i’d take a break from taking a break and go see their hometown.

well, the train ride is extremely expensive for some reason, so i was looking for other options.  one of my german friends suggested a website where people offer rides from wherever they are to wherever they’re going…like a carpool situation, where all i have to pay is a bit for fuel.  i’m a bit skeptical of this, but whatever, when in rome.  so i let anja set the whole ride up cause i don’t speak german.

11am:  sarah (house host) drives me up to mannheim (about an hour away) to meet “niklas.”  we pull into town just in time to meet this guy at the main train station.  so yeah, here we are on the freeway, and there’s the train station, and we have no clue where to exit or how to get over to it.  i call “niklas,” we are both extremely frustrated at the communication barrier, and he decides that this american is not worth his time.  he leaves.

1230pm:  sarah and i finally make it over to the elusive, yet extremely large, visible, and stationary train station.  we have now driven for an hour and a half, to be left in the cold by some impatient german weirdo (to be nice).  it’s not cold though…actually the weather here is quite perfect.  i recommend this time of year for anyone wanting to see germany.

1245pm:  anja rings and says it will be a long shot but she will try the website again.  i contemplate the expensive train ride since we have driven here already, when anja calls excitedly to tell me there’s another person leaving from the exact same spot in like 30 minutes.  (22 euro).  score.

130pm:  the white golf i’m supposed to meet out in front of the station pulls up.  a seemingly nice girl hops out and opens the hatch for my bag.  we shake hands and set off.  julia and i make small talk in broken english.  i feel like an ass by now for not at least trying to learn some german before spending an extensive amount of time here.  but she speaks well enough english to make it work.  and when she can’t come up with the right word, she just throws her hands up and says, “whatever, who cares?”  winding thru the populated city of mannheim, i learn she does this trip all the time with strangers.  she goes up on the weekends to meet her boyfriend (which she makes clear a few times, i got the hint), and she said this is the first weekend since september that she wasn’t going to have someone riding with her.  until anja called 30 minutes before she was gonna leave.  amazing timing…at least i didn’t have to make this trip with some stuffy weirdo (to be nice).  i also find out that we both have the exact same degree from college, a bachelors in corporate communication.  i didn’t think anybody else even knew what that meant, i sure as hell don’t.  anyway, the small talk slowly diminishes, and now it’s driving time…we’re approaching the freeway.  she flips her designer sunglasses from the top of her blonde head down over her eyes, kinda smiles in my direction (the kinda smile foreigners give each other because they don’t know what else to do), and there’s a small, sparkling stone (kinda diamond-ish) adorning her right lateral incisor (just looked that up).  i swear the prism from the sun hitting the stone illuminated the car for the split second that she downshifted, floored the pedal, and cranked up the volume to kesha’s “take it off.”  i’m def in germany.

(this trip is supposed to be a little under 4 hours, barring any traffic.  not for julia)

2pm:  we hit the autobahn full speed.  this little golf has some get-ups.  we’re going like 190km/hour, or like 120mph.  i’m nervously laughing on the inside as we take this winding freeway up to munster.  i bury my nose into my latest book (“bicycle diaries,” by david byrne…the lead singer of the talking heads chronicles his journey thru several major cities across the globe from the cyclist’s POV).

230pm:  julia hits the brakes, 120mph to 0mph in like 2 seconds.  i guess this is just how it’s gonna go.  so i nervously continue to pretend to read at a pace of about one page every 5 minutes.

515pm:  we pull into munster.  a little over 3 hours it took to get here.  and about an hour of that was snail-paced traffic.  unreal.  i peel my skin off of the seat, pat my hair down forward with my hand, snap a photo with danica patrick, and i’ve made it to munster in one piece.  she’s taking me back on sunday, when there will be no traffic.  sweet.

we end up going to a birthday party by way of bicycles.  everyone does that here in munster.  it’s pretty awesome, as this quaint, well-manicured town is beautiful and the weather is perfect.  a little cautious going in, as i just knew i’d be the only american there at what is usually kind of a private event.  i couldn’t have felt more welcome though.  vodka and “magic man” (like red bull) was my drink of choice.  german techno coursing thru my alcohol-infused veins and everyone being friendly…i’m feeling real nice.  the birthday girl steals me from a circle of girls interested in my travels to take me to the living room where i’m introduced to “gluff-gluff.”  a german drinking game that all of the guys at this party are determined i take with me to teach everyone “across the world.”  or i think they would be happy if i just got some fellow texans interested.  drink, drank, drunk and we leave this party at about 2am.  i think we’re going home, but nope, it’s clubbin’ time.  jesus europe, calm down.  bike home and sleep.

and now i feel as if though i had a day just like that.