Showing posts from March, 2009

White Russians & Chili Peppers In Dresden

Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God. —Kurt Vonnegut It was snowing when I came into Dresden, but the city was nice. The Altdstadt on the south side of the Elbe has all the pre-war fire-blazed buildings, and the Neustadt is a mishmash of ugly modern, ugly Soviet, and cool old buildings, 200 of which are bars, most of which have awesome themes. Play has old 8-tracks and tape decks wedged like bricks into the bar and the tables. The Living Room is all couches and coffee tables and dim lighting. Lebowski has a mural of the Dude and the Stranger painted on the wall in front of bowling lanes, and I got a White Russian there. Every once in a while I like to make a big meal myself. Since the hostel kitchens aren't much, this is usually pasta. I found a market hall in Dresden with a nice grocery store, a butcher, a baker, and all that and got some pasta, sauce, mushrooms, and onions, and found some spicy sausage and four red chili peppers. German stuff can't possibly be a

Berlin's Somber Zeitgeist

One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind. —Charles Dickens German people are kind of fascists. They have so many rules and are dead serious about every one. "Wear your bag on the front." "You can't bring that bottle in here." "That bag is too big." "You can't carry your coat in here. Put it back on." "You have to ask before you use that sink." "You can't lean against that wall." "You can't drink that beer in my Millennium Bar ." They yell at you, and then if they ever catch sight of you again, they glare at you. And this is in Berlin. To be fair, it's really only the security guards and bartenders that are part-time Gestapo. Everyone else is really nice, although they will not ever cross the street until the light says it's okay, no matter how empty the street is. One of my professors once told me, "Before they protest, the Germans ask the police if it's not to

Two Days In Cologne

Each day I go outside and sniff the air and say, 'That way smells bad,' and that's where I go. —Some firefighter from Canada I have free access to a computer in Cologne, so I thought I'd write more specifically about what I'm doing for once. I took a train from Amsterdam to Cologne and got in late Thursday afternoon. At the station they told me there was a backpacker's hostel right around the corner, and it was. I could see the trains come in from my room on the fourth floor, and the wind carried German announcements form the station floor. The hostel has a sign next to the window that says not to throw things at the restaurateurs below, and they set up a net like the one at a driving range just in case people forget. After I checked in I found a donor kebab restaurant and ate there. I went back to the bar at the hostel and talked to some people from Japan who spoke a little English and something that no one could mistake for German. You meet strange people in h

Red Lights of Amsterdam

Say what is that? An iPod. Does it just do music? Yeah, I'm old fashioned. I don't need a phone or video or anything like on the iPhone. Oh wow. I'll have to swipe me one of those later. Hee hee hee. —Man on the Amsterdam tram In Europe I've talked to more homeless people than I ever thought I would. Eating street food alone on a bench or a wall is the best way to draw them out. It also helps to appear poor with a hint of dishevelment. If you can manage all that, so many homeless people will try to talk to you that you'll wish you brought your tin foil hat. They come up and candidly tell you things you never wanted to know ever and never asked about, and they help you with things you did not need help with until you feel like you're pals, and then they spring the question -- "Do you have any change" -- and you feel bad if you don't and taken advantage of if you do, like if a girl shows you a good time and then asks for a check, only the girl is a m

Other Things I Saw On the Way

Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers. —George Carlin I forgot to mention a few things: Between Paris and Brussels I stopped to visit a friend in Lille , right on the border of Belgium and France. There are cannonballs stuck in the walls of the Flemish apartments, and the city boasts that its museum's collection is the largest in France after the Louvre (though I don't think anyone knows how many facts are bent to make that claim). My friend's parents showered me with Italian hospitality, even though their English was rusty and he had to translate both ways. I tried to learn a few words like "Grazie" to help out. They opened two bottles of wine to accompany a big Italian dinner, then invited me to help start a resort in their hometown of Acquapendente in Latium, Italy, which must be the nicest place in the world. My last day in Paris was also very gratifying. I walked up to the top of Montmarte, a nice neighborhood and the

In Bruges

Travel is glamorous only in retrospect. —Paul Theroux Brussels, Belgium , is a turd with a candy center. The web of narrow avenues around the Grote Markt are very nice -- beer halls, skinny Flemish buildings, and cafes with heat lamps -- and outside of that are the gleaming mirror-faced buildings of new office parks. If you walk past that, though, you find dirty streets, abandoned construction projects, and filthy Soviet bloc-style tenements with prostitutes under blacklights in the first floor windows. You can see the Rue d'Aerschot, the main drag for less than reputable window shopping in Brussels, when you come in by train to the north station. The ladies of the night pull back the blinds in mid-afternoon and pose smiling in bikinis like its a beauty pagent, or sit on stools and text on their phones. From what I could tell, shoppers are either swaggering Belgian locals who chat up the girls or nervous-looking businessman who can't fully conceal their bespectacled heads in th

Paris Fried Chicken

I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades For ever and for ever when I move. —Alfred Lord Tennyson, "Ulysses" So I thought a technical devil destroyed all the photos I took between London and Paris—all of them except the last one I would have chosen to keep: However, the missing photos (500 of them) were miraculously uncovered on one of the hostel computers in Paris after I left. It will probably take a month or two for me to unveil them. In the meantime, here are some pictures of Lille in France and of Brussels and Bruges in Belgium .