Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Last Hurrah

I am now in Frankfurt, Germany, which I can assure you, is the hottest city in Europe. Seriously, it is hot as Hoden (feel free to use this free German to English translator if you'd like to know the meaning of that word if you cannot figure it out) right now. I am going to smell none to pleasant upon my return to the United States. I currently don't have anything to interesting to blog about. I suppose I could fill you in on the entire motorcycle trip yesterday, but that would best be covered once I am able to post pictures again tomorrow night or Friday.

I will point out that Germany is the only place where NegativeMode is automatically translated into German (not that it would be translated to German in France, but it would be translated into French, were such things done as they are done here, here being Germany, but they are not). By that, I don't mean what I post, but everything else, i.e., when I read your comments, intead of seeing "Brownbear said...", I see "Brownbear hat gesagt..." It makes your comments all the more enjoyable, but also makes posting much more difficult. I know you don't really care though.

My next posting will come from the good ole' U.S. of A., complete with all the exciting pictures you've been waiting to see. Until then, I'll leave you with this simple thought and lovely picture - PostiveMode bought lederhosen. Here is a picture of him trying them on. . . .

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

And What´s The Deal With Count Chocula?

I mean are we supposed to be afraid of this guy?

I arrived moments ago at the easyinternet cafe and found Matt furiously working on a new blog Post, and offered him some words of affirmation regarding a few spelling questions [update, I just offered actual spelling advice, not just affirmance]. Then I told him I could beat him to the ´post´, as it were. Hopefully I just did (although if I win this battle, the close proximity of the posts sadly assures that his will appear above mine in Blog Order. Oh, the woes of internet publishing protocol).

[Pre-post Update: NegativeMode got his post up first. A triumph, at least, for the primacy of my post on the Blog]

Things I did not expect to learn today: (1) a BMW 1150R is fully capable of supporting the weight of two adult American males; (2) I am capable of driving a vehicle under such conditions; (3) NegativeMode is capable of not wilting in terror under these circumstances, and I at least know that if any screaming did occur, the wind noise at such speeds is capable of drowning it out, as I did not hear any.

Sehr Gut Auf München

I am now in Munich (as our basterdized American tounges would pronounce it). The trainride from Prague was lovely. It really was a nice train ride except for one minor incident Mia had with an angry German woman over the openness of our window. Luckily for us, we had no clue what she was saying, so we ignored her. Anywho. . . .

The first night in Munich was fairly uneventful. We walked around a little and then went to have an authentic German dinner. We thought we were going to a huge beer hall, but it turned out to be a tiny German restaurant with no English-speaking staff or menu. However, PositiveMode and I were able to use our pre-kindergarden knowledge of German to skillfully intergrate ourselves into German society. Dinner was quite good, but unfortuantely, I have absolutely no idea what I ate. It was called Putinsteak (I think that's spelled correctly) and I was expecting cow. Instead, it looked like chicken/pork/turkey. The best way I can describe it is that it looked like my mother's turkey steaks from when I was little, but I guess that's of no help for those of you who aren't in my immediate family. Anyway, whatever the meat was, it was actually excellent. The beer is also very good and big.

The next day FianceMode returned to America, and PositiveMode and I wandered around Munich. The only notable event was our lunch at the Kartoffelhaus (literally, "pototo house"). Those of you who know me know that there is ablsolutely nothing I'd rather eat than anything concocted out of potatoes. It's some sort of disease. I ordered what amounted to be potatos au gratin with spinach, and I'd have to say that it was probably the best meal I've had while in Europe. Later that night we went to the Haufbrauhaus for dinner. Very enjoyable. For those that don't know it is a massive beer hall in Munich that serves liter beers while an oompah band plays loud German music. There, I had the "meatloaf" which I can best describe as a fresh hotdog (not a beef hotdog, a real hotdog, i.e., mix of chicken, beef, pork, etc.). It was also really good, but I have an unnatural liking for hotdogs. In summation, I love German food. Meat, potatos, beer. Three of my favorite things.

Today, PostiveMode and I went on an adventure. We have to go eat dinner now, so I can only give you the abbreviated story (which unfortuantely leaves out the funniest/gayest part) but I promise to give the full story in the next day or two. Short version -- we rented motorcycles, rode south of Munich to the "fairytale" castle (looks like a real version of the DisneyWorld castle) then headed south into the Austrian Alps. Rode through the Alps, back into the German Alps, and then back to Munich. All in all, it was about an eight hour loop through the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was a beautiful day and the roads were wonderful on a motorcycle. I'll post some great pictures of the trip later.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get some hotdog meatloaf, potatos, and beer. Tschus!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Mizzore Prizzogue Biznatches

I have clearly run out of interesting titles for my posts, but oh well, you aren't here for the titles. I am still in Prizzogue (that's what the locals call it. Actually, this leads me to an interesting side note, so I'll just add it here: It is really funny to me to see European "thugs". By that, I mean guys who want to emulate 50-Cent, Eminem, etc., you know, thugs. It's funny though, because they are all these skinny Swedes or Czechs or Danes and they would clearly get their asses kicked in the United States. I enjoy it though. Anyway....).

Yesterday was beautiful. About 75 and not a cloud in the sky. After getting our train tickets for Munichen we took the trolley across the river to the big park on the hill (no idea what the big park on the hill is actually called). We hiked to the top of the hill (not really a small hill, more like a really big hill/small mountain). At this point I stopped to rest because I thought I was going to die from hiking up (there was a funicular railway, but Mia thought it would be better to hike, which was right. Also, I like to say and type funicular). Then we climed to the top of the mini Effiel Tower they have at the top. Of course, no elevator, so we climed the 300 steps. If I had to guess, I'd say I've climed roughly 2,364,864 steps this trip so far. My ass will look superior. It was worth it though, as they views were beautiful. You could see 20 miles in each direction (cardinal directions of course).

After that we wandered through the city towards the hostel, getting some gifts along the way (Don't worry Mom, I got you the heavest thing in all of Europe just like you like. Too bad Dad isn't here to cart it around for you.) After a lovely Italian dinner and some wine we went to the biggest club in Central Europe (I've been trying to figure out what "Central Europe" consists of. Maybe Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia?, in which case it isn't too impressive a claim.) The club was quite large and fun though, although not nearly as nice as Dream (for you DC residents). Beer was only a dollar though, and you can't beat that. Then we went to bed.

Also yesterday, I saw a woman wearing what amounts to "boy-cut" underwear but wearing them as shorts. It was astounding, like she forgot to put pants on before going out and sightseeing. She was with her husband and son too, and there was her ass, hanging out for all to see. I just thought I'd mention that, as it was really quite shocking.

Today we have no plans other than eat at this magical vegetarian restaurant for dinner and possibly go to the Communism Museum (I have been compared with Stalin on this very website, so I figure I'd czech it out (poor joke, sorry)).

Tomorrow, off to Munich. See you there. . . .

Friday, August 26, 2005

Czech Mate

I am currently waiting for my Philly cheesesteak to be ready (it is a Prague speciality) so I will fill you in on what I've been up to.

When I last wrote, I said I was going to the Vegetarian restaruant recommended by my sister. We ended up not going there, but going to a traditional Pragian restaurant instead. It was good. I had goulash (my wiener goulash is much better though). Also, they made their own beer, so we tried a sample of each. They had banana, cranberry, cherry, nettle (no idea what that is, tasted like pepper), coffee, and wheat. I didn't like any of them that much, but did like their regular pilsner. Did you know that pilsner was invented in the Czech Republic? It was, and they like it here. So do I.

After dinner, we went and drank cheap beer at a bar called Atmosphere. We both got Hoegaardens that were as big as Mia´s head (she has a small head, but they were big beers). Then we had some beers with some nice Brits we met. Lovely.

Yesterday we spent most of the day in the Jewish Quarter at the "Jewish Museum". The museum actually consists of 6 synagogues that were constructed anywhere from 400-100 years ago. It was very good, very informative, and nice to finally see some synagogues after all the damn churches I've been in. Then we wandered around the streets shopping and looking at crap. The wandering around the streets is actually one of the best things to do in Prague. There are so many little alleys and twisting streets that contain great buildings, shops, restaurants, etc. You find some of the best things just wandering.

Last night we had dinner at Red Hot and Blues (which we do not think is affiliated with the Virginia restaurants of the same name, but may possibly be) where there was live jazz. They guy playing guitar was very good, but what really set him apart was his stirring, jazz rendition of Hit Me Baby One More Time. Good stuff. After that we drank for a few hours and then went to bed.

Today we're going to check out the "New Town" Square and possibly go to the Eiffel Tower looking structure on a big hill that looks over the entire city. It's so nice out today, it should be a good time to go up there.

I can't post any Prauge pictures right now, nor do I have any more viking Bill pictures (they seem to be the most popular), but I'll try and get some up soon. Later.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

World's Largest Dollar Store

Sweden: Our second day in Stockholm we got up late and spent the day wondering around some of the pedestrian shopping areas. Very nice city and hot girls (did I mention that before?). Then we headed over to Old Stockholm which is on an island to itself. Had a lovely lunch there. Mia had some wine (she seems to have a lot of wine when she is with me (whine too). I think it helps her deal with me, but that's for another time and place).

We then headed over to the Royal Palace. As luck would have it, we walked up as they were starting the changing of the guard. It was cool to watch, but after the ceremony was over, the band marched down the street and continued playing. We followed them and listened for a while. What did the royal band play? Abba of course. Mia and I watched as they ended their performance with a resounding rendition of Momma Mia! I guess I should have expected it, the English Royal Band played the Beatles, it's only natural that the Swedes would play Abba.

Side Note: Everything in Sweden appears to be manufactured by Abba, not by Ikea as one would expect. The lockers were Abba lockers. The tomato sauce was Abba tomato sauce. You would be amazed at how much in the grocery store is an "Abba" product. I was expecting it all to be Ikea, but they threw me a curve with the Abba whatnot. I don't think it has anything to do with the actual band, but maybe it does. Anyway. . . .

We hung out in Stockholm for the rest of the afternoon and then headed to:

Prague: We got in late last night, around 11, and went and had a few drinks. Beer costs $1 everywhere, and that's not for a small beer, that's for a half liter. Not bad. And the beer is very good beer. You can't beat it. For the record, I've now paid $10 for a beer in Iceland and $1 for a beer in Prague. I'll take the Prague prices.

Today we got up and headed to the castle. Very cool. Very huge. Great views of the city. Afterwards, we had a beer and wandered across the Charles Bridge (the famous one that connects both sides of the city). After crossing the bridge, we stopped at a riverside bar to have a beer. I was very upset to see that it cost a full $2. Can you belive the audacity of them to charge $2 for a beer?!? Anyway, now is dinner time so we're gonna head to the vegetarian place my sister recommended (I swear Ali, if it sucks, I'm wrapping up the leftovers, bringing them home, and making you eat them!).

So, my thoughts on Prague, it's the best city I've been in yet. It's cheap, fun, beautiful. Everyone says how amazing it is, and they aren't wrong. Mia and I are actually considering cancelling the stop in Vienna and staying here for an extra two nights just to hang out. Great city.

Okay, I'm hungry, and that's enough typing for now. Hope all is well wherever everyone is. . . .

Monday, August 22, 2005

Big News

Ok, I realize that I am being quite prolific today, but that is because we have free internet and I can finally post pictures. Plus, Mia and I are using the time in Sweden to relax and recharge a bit before Prague. Anyway, on to the "Big News".

Three days ago, on August 19th, 2005, in Tivoli Park in Copenhagen, Denmark, I asked Mia to marry me, and she said yes (not before asking if I was joking of course). So, we are officially engaged to be married. Scary, no doubt, but after almost four years, I know that she's the one for me.

I asked in Tivoli Park, which is the oldest amusement park in Europe. We were by a lake in the park at night. The trees, lake, and fountains were all awash with beautiful lights and a concert was going on in the background. It was beautiful. I asked under one of the trees next to the lake. It was wonderful.

I'm sorry that I can't tell every one of you in person, or at least by email (although not those of you that I don't know, as I have no idea who reads this), but all of my email addresses are saved on my computer at home.

So, now I continue the trip not with my girlfriend, but with my fiancee (weird to type that). Anyway, here's a picture of the happy couple. You'll notice that after 4 years we're already starting to look like eachother. . . .

The park/lake where I asked (I know it's dark, but it's the best I can do right now):

The Rest of the Pictures

Now, I know the "viking" from the earlier pictures will be upset, but this may be my only chance to post pictures for a while, so I'm striking while the proverbial iron is hot. Enjoy the lastest:

View from the canal boat ride in Brugges:
One of the bars in the Heiniken Brewery in Amsterdam. They have lots of bottles there:
Mia and I (sorry, my face and most of my body was cut out of the picture, but I got the important parts):
Mia after she fell into the North Sea (or Baltic Sea or possibly Atlantic Ocean, I need to check a map) while trying to get to Ariel in Copenhagen:
My castle, i.e., Castle Rosenborg in Copenhagen:
Mia on a bridge in Stockholm today:
Proof that a Brown Bear in Sweden is called "Bjorn" (See earlier post, especially you BrownBear, or should I say, Bjorn):

Because You Can't Get Enough

This is the first true viking I encountered in Iceland. He was actually born over 4000 years ago, frozen in a glacier and unthawed. Now he's a lawyer. Some would call him an unfrozen, caveman, lawyer. I call him PositiveMode. National Park in Iceland. Probably the most beautiful place I've seen on the trip thus far from a nature standpoint (Swedish women are a close second).

A Jew in control of Glasgow Cathedral. You could actually see the Holy Water boiling. This picture will win me a prize once I lighten it up in Photoshop. Random German highlander I ran into in Glasgow contemplating his beer over candlelight. Simply chilling.
The German Highlander's identical twin brother who I happened to run into right by the Tower Bridge in London. That crazy German sure loves his icecream. Almost as much as he loves men.
Inspection of the Guard (ceremony immediately prior to the changing of the Guard at Buckingham, except much cooler. Thanks Rick Steves!) Did I mention before that in this picture they are actually playing Beatles tunes?
Some tower in Paris. I forget the name. I do know one thing though, that thing must be 20,000 leagues tall! Mia workin' it in front of the Arc de Triumph. I don't think she wants me to post this, but she's napping, so that's what she gets.
Sun setting over a houseboat in Brugges. I'll try to see if I can get the post-Brugges pictures posted soon. Later.

Meatballs, Volvos, Ikea, oh my!

Let me start off by saying that Sweden has, by far, the best looking women I've seen on my travels anywhere. Period. I wasn't sure at first if that was going to hold true, but looking around today, all I can say is wow. There is no need to do any sightseeing here in Stockholm, all you have to do is stand on a random corner and watch women go by and you'll be happy. Good stuff. The conventional 1 through 10 rating system just doesn't work here, because every woman is between a 6 and 10 (of course there are outliers), with the average around an 8. I'd encourage any single guys out there to move to Sweden immediately, find a lady (or two or three) and love life.

As for the guys, I haven't been checking them out so much (sorry, maybe Mia can fill you in) but I did notice a strange phenomenon - they seem to travel in threes. This wouldn't be strange in itself, but many of them have long, blond hair, so it looks like there are leagues of Hanson's roaming around the city. Very disconcerting.

Anyway, today we got up late and did a little tour of the city. Went to the oldest open-air museum in the world. I would describe it as a mix between colonial Williamsburg (I've never been but I'm guessing, and of course, it isn't colonial American, but rather 19th century Swedish) and a zoo. (Note to BrownBear if you're still reading this thing - we saw some brownbears at the zoo. They are called BrunBjorn, so I think now I will call you Bjorn. That amuses me, and probably upsets you, which, in turn, amuses me. Okay, sorry for the tangent.)

Then we walked around some more and saw more of the city. It's actually built upon one of the worlds largest archipelagos for all you geography buffs out there, and for the rest of you, it's a lot of islands. That's it for now. We're here in Stockholm for most of tomorrow and then off to Prague, the land of cheap, good beer. I'm looking forward to that.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Update and Things I forgot

Amsterdam: I forgot to mentino the Anne Frank house. It was very good. Very moving and sad, but nice to see in person. Also, Amsterdam was incredibly dirty, which we at first thought was just normal. However, we found out the second day that the city was actually experiencing a garbage collectors' strike. Not that it mattered at all. Finally, they have a place called Teasers, which is like Hooters, except all the waitresses are hot and they are wearing almost thongs. I stood outside for a while oogling until Mia made me leave. I suggest to anyone going to Amsterdam to eat there and then send me pictures.

Oh, there was an attempt by Mia, PositiveMode, and myself to find the Red Light district, but we were only able to find the nasty ass section of it. We saw some "ladies of the night", but not one was under 50, under 180 pounds, happy, or remotely attractive. There are tons of really hot prostitutes, but we didn't find them. Just an observation.

Copenhagen: Yesterday, after I posted we mainly wondered around the city and had some beers. Then we went out for a nice dinner on the water. It was a beautiful dinner, with beautiful company, and dinner was excellent. Very nice, clean, fun city.

Today: Today we took the world's longest bus ride from Copenhagen to Stockholm (10 hours). It was fine though. Cheaper than the train and a better option with our travel plan. The ride was very nice too. The Swedish countryside is beautiful. We passed several Ikea farms, where they grow rows and rows of modern chairs, desks, lamps, and rugs. Right now, I think it is ottoman harvesting season, so we hope to get a glimpse of a fresh Ikea ottoman in its natural state. Very exciting. Okay, I'm off to eat some meatballs. Wurd.

Some More Pictures (Mostly of Me)

Here are some more pictures of the trip in reverse order starting in Brugges. I may be able to post some more recent ones later today or tomorrow, not sure yet. For now, enjoy these (if you can. My face is featured prominenately in many of them!)(Also, for those of you who aren't that internet saavy, clicking on the pictures will get you a MUCH larger version). Enjoy.

Tasting beer at Straffe Henrick in Brugges
Me, Arc de Triumph
Mia & I, guess where
Me, Notre Dame
Me, British Museum
Me at Trafalgar Square
Me at the Tower of London
Edinburgh castle at night (for the Military Tattoo we saw)
Edinburgh castle (view from our hostel)
Empty Glaswegian beer (seriously, that is what something/one from Glasgow is called):
Glasgow Cathedral
Iceland: One last picture for now:

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I am Rosenbørg

This is going to be a quick post because this computer blows and looking at the screen is making me ill.

Amsterdam was good. We didn't really do too much after I last posted. Had a nice dinner, hung out in the squares. That's about it.

Yesterday we flew to Copenhagen which is abolutely beautiful. We walked all around the city and just took in the sights last night, i.e., Little Mermaid statute (Mia fell in the water while trying to get to it, very funny), pedestrian streets, parks, etc. The weather is very beautiful and so is the city. Restaurants on canals and the water. Very nice.

Today we got up late and went to tour Rosenborg castle. It's nice to see a castle named after you (if you were a part human, part robot, part Jewish cyborg). Anyway, very beautiful castle. Then we walked down the main pedestrian street to the train station, where we were informed that the earliest train to Stockholm tomorrow is the overnight train. That sucks, especially since we already have a hostel booked in Stockholm and that gives us an extra day here which we don't really need. Oh well, that's travelling I guess.

Now were going to head over to Christiania, a hippy, commune village on the other side of the canal. It's supposed to be pretty interesting. Ok, I'd love to post more, but staring at this screen is making me sick. I'll post more pictures tomorrow. A lot. That's a promise....

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Well, I came in here with the intention of posting more pictures, but, of course, I can't from this internet cafe, so sorry. I'll try again later. Glad everyone enjoyed the few pictures that I did have time to post.

On to the travels. Brugge was lovely, and we did go on the boat canal tour after I finished posting. It was very pretty and lovely and all that crap. Nice though. Then we headed to the train station for Amsterdam. We knew we had to change trains in Antwerp, and that it should take about 3 hours, but that was it. Well, 4 trains and 5 hours later, we arrived in Amsterdam. Actually, the delay and ridiculous amount of transferring was not our fault. Apparently, a train had derailed the day or night before and some of the tracks into the city were closed, so we had to take different trains than normally, thus the delay. After the 5 hours of travelling, we went to check in at the hostel, where they promptly informed me that they cancelled our reservation because we were not there by 4 pm and my credit card was invalid. That sucked (credit card is fine by the way for all those concerned). However, they recommended another hostel that we went to, and it actually worked out for the best, as we ended up with a double room with our own bathroom for only about 8 Euro more per night. So, after a frustrating travel day, it all worked out in the end.

The first night we didn't really do much other than hang out and explore the city. The squares are pretty nice places to sit and have a drink (or whatever). Yesterday morning we did laundry, and then met up with PositiveMode and headed for the Heiniken Brewery tour (proof below).
Gotta say, that was excellent. Better than I could have possibly imagined. It was like some sort of bar/mad house mixed into one. Plus, you get three beers thoughout the tour and a glass at the end. Well worth it a great time. Then we rested in the park for a while before heading to the Van Gogh museum. Great museum, especially if you like Van Gogh. They have well over 200 Van Goghs, and it was very interesting to see them all. Pretty cool.

After dinner at Maoz (very, very good falafal stand (thank you Ali, this was my second one!)) we went to see Boom Chicago, an improve show put on by some Americans each night here in Amsterdam. Overall, I'd say it was good. Some things were very funny, some things weren't that great. The improve was very good though. Then we walked around the red light district before going to bed. I must say, the prostitutes that I did see were foul. I mean, fat, old, NOT worth a single euro. Positivemode can back me up on that.

Today we went to the Sex Museum which was funny, and now off to the Anne Frank house. Hopefully I can post more pictures later. Toodles. . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Some Iceland Pics....

Finally, some pictures for you. These are from Iceland. Me at a crater. A church in the middle of Iceland. Me at a waterfall. PositiveMode at Geysir. More later. I promise. . . .

I Know You've Missed Me

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I've been busy. I am in Europe you know.

Last we spoke I was in London. Now I'm in Brugge and headed to Amsterdam in an hour. Paris was in the middle. So, the chunnel ride to Paris was uneventful. The actual crossing of the channel is nothing more than 20 minutes of darkness. Not very exciting. Personally, I'm not a big fan of tunnels, especially those under water, so I was glad to get out of there. The train does go really fast though. Neat huh?

The arrival in Paris actually sucked. I couldn't find a cash machine, and when I finally found one, I couldn't get change to get a metro ticket. My first impression of Paris was definately not a good one, but that quickly changed once I actually saw the city. My hotel was great, and compared to the hostels I've been staying at, it was like the Ritz (albeit a tiny Ritz).

My first evening in Paris was spent walking around and just admiring a beautiful city. Went to St. Chapelle (amazingly beautiful inside, I don't think it is possible to make a more beautiful building), Notre Dame (also an amazing building, but I still hate the Fighting Irish. I'd prefer the Paterno Cathedral, but you take what you can get), and the Latin Quarter.

That night, after baguettes and cheese in the room, we (me and my lady-friend) headed out to the Effiel Tower. Of course, I followed the advice of my good buddy Rick Steves, and got off the metro across the river and walked over to the tower. He was right as always, what a great wy to see the tower for the first time. When you first see it, it doesn't look that big, but as you get closer and closer it just gets bigger and bigger. Very impressive and very beautiful. It's amazing to see these famous sights from all over the world that you see in movies, books, tv, etc in person. We waited in line and went to the second landing of the tower. It was worth the 7 euro for the views of Paris at night. Cest Bon.

The next day we got up and headed to Versailles. Took the train out, and when we got there, saw the longest line I have ever seen in my life (that includes the line in the San Juan airport in March for those of you that were there). Also, it started to pour, and I was wearing shorts and a tshirt like a jackass. So, we hid under part of the palace for about 10 minutes, said enough of this and took the train back to the city. I'm not too worried about it though, because now I just have one more reason to get back to Paris. So, next trip to Paris, Versailles.

After returning to Paris, we went to the room and changed into smarter clothes and headed out to the Champs Elysee. We walked up to the Arc de Triumph and went under the circle to under the Arc (very easy to find by the way (I'm looking in your direction Ali)). Once under the Arc, it started to rain, so we hung out until it passed. I also ran into my good friend PositiveMode under the Arc. He made it to Paris in one piece (or should I say Mode).

The afternoon was spent walking down the Champs towards the Louvre. We got to the Louvre after it closed, but that was fine by us. Checked out the pyramid and under the pryamid, and headed back to the hotel for nap time. Later, we went for dinner and drinks in the Latin Quarter which was just lovely. After that we went to what may or may not have been a gay bar (I actually don't think it was, but it was very gay if that makes sense), but that was okay, as I was with my woman!

Yesterday we took the train to Brugge at 11 and got in around 3. What a beautiful town. It is like walking around in a fairy tale. It really looks like Cinderella is about to step out of any chruch or random building. We took a tour of the Strong Henry brewery, which was great, and of course, sampled the fantastic beer. I must say, the beer here is very good. The difference between here and home is not that you can't get the same beer, it is what constitutes a "regular" beer, e.g., at home, Bud or Miller Lite is the cheap beer, whereas here it is Hoegaarden or Leffe. That's a big difference. Anyway, that's another post for another time.

After the tour, we walked around the city, taking our time and enjoying the sights. For dinner we had a lovely, romantic candlelit meal. It was great. Now its about 11:30 and our train leaves in a few hours. I think we'll try and take a boat tour of Brugge by canal if we have time.

Sorry I didn't have more details, but I'll try and fill them an later. Amsterdam should be fun, and hopefully, I can see straight enough to type. Tschus!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Some Random Things....

These are a few random things that I forgot to post before, and I'm sure I'll leave somethings out, but I shall do my best.

- On my last night in Scotland, I had a minor run-in with the Scottish Police. It was actually pretty amusing. I was outside of the hostel using a phone booth, when all of a sudden, a police car came flying up, and an officer ran up to the booth and knocked on the door. I opened it up, and he frantically asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine, as I was perfectly fine. He then informed me that someone had called the police from that phone booth about 20 minutes earlier. I told him that it wasn't me, and again, that I was fine, to which he responed that he was very busy. I'm not sure whether he meant that he was busy, and so was sorry that it took 20 minutes, or that he was busy, and someone should not be calling policemen from telephones if there is no need to. I guess we'll never know. Anyway, that was my first run-in with foreign police, and hopefully, my last.

- There are in incredible amount of motorcycles in London, mostly sportbikes. The reason, obvioulsy, is traffic, and the high price of owning a car in the city. Still, it is ridiculous how many there are. Sometimes, when the light changes from red to green, it looks (and sounds) like the start of a motorcycle race, as anywhere from 1 to 10 bikes go screaming from the light. I must say, I am impressed, as about 85% of the riders are in full leathers.

- The hottest women thus far are in London. Of course, I've only been in 4 cities so far, but London is in the lead by a long shot. Unfortunately, none of them have seemed to notice my presence in their city. I'm sure they're just being coy.

- The chunnel is expensive, £99 (about $180) to Paris from London. Would have been almost half that if I was born 1.5 weeks later. Couldn't you have held on a few weeks Mom, it would have saved me 90 bucks. Also, the cheapest ticket was actually for me to get a round-trip, as opposed to one-way ticket. That means I have a return ticket from Paris on September 9th (random date selected by the travel agent). Unfortunately, my name is on the ticket, so I can't scalp it. If anyone knows someone with the same name as me who will be in Paris on September 9th, and is in need of a chunnel ticket to London, let me know.

- I've had two Big Macs in London. Does that make me an unadventurist traveller? I don't think so, just cheap. And you can only eat so much fish and chips.

- See you from Paris!

A More Relaxed Day

First, let me finish yesterday's recount. After the Tate I went to Chinatown and Soho and walked around there a bit. Then I posted on NegativeMode, and then I went to a pub to relax and wait for PositiveMode and his friend to get back. After that we had a few beers, went to another pub for dinner and a few more beers, and then headed back to the hostel. We were all pretty tired from a busy day. Plus, we're getting old.

I will take this opportunity to correct earlier comment about not all pubs/bars being open late. There is actually a specific law that requires all pubs to close at 11pm. Bars and clubs, however, may stay open as late as 3 am. So, if you're looking for late night partying/drinking, you have to go to a bar or club. As for the difference between a bar and a pub, you can't really describe it, you just know it's a pub and not a bar (use the duck test - if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and smells like a duck. . . .).

Anyway, today was much more relaxing than yesterday. Got up late, around 10 and headed out of the hostel around 11. P-Mode and I headed up to the two main sights I didn't hit on my whirlwind tour yesterday - the British Museum and the British Library.

The British Museum is very good, although there isn't much British about it. The main attractions are definately the Egypt exhibits (mummys and all) and the Greek/Parthenon exhibits. Both very good. The building itself is also very beautiful, especially the newely opened (12/2000) Queen Elizabeth II square in the center. It is actually the largest enclosed square in Europe. Nice for those cold, rainy London days (it is sunny again today).

We stopped at a pub for P-Mode to have a beer (he needs alcohol every 4 hours or so to function properly) and then headed to the British Library. The Library houses what are best described as the most amazing literary collection of historical documents around, including: the Magna Carta, original, hand written works of Beethoven, Mozart, Shakespeare, Lewis Carrol, Leonardo Da Vinci, etc., etc., etc. There is also a Gutenberg Bible and other extrememly old, famous writings. I thought it was very cool to see such important historical documents in person. Neato.

After that I strolled around Hyde Park for a while, checked out Speaker's Corner (not much speaking going on) and promenaded (I have no idea how to properly promenade, but I'm working on it) down Oxford Street to the internet cafe in which I currently find myself located. The rest of the night will be pretty low key, dinner and a few pints and then off to bed.

Tomorrow I take the quite expensive Chunnel to Paris fairly early in the morning. I'm sure it will be an absolutely scintillating train ride. . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dear G-d Did I Walk a Lot Today

Today was my first full day in London after arriving yesterday afternoon. I only have two full days here, and as you probably know, London is massive, and probably takes a week to see everything, and even then you need to come back. So with only two days, I decided to try and see as much as I could today. PositiveMode and his friend decided to go to Bath and Stonehenge for the day, so I was on my own (I could have gone with them, but it cost something like $140, and, as I already said, I only have 2 days to see London, I didn't want to make that 1 day).

I made the plan last night to see as much as I could today, and set the alarm for 8 am. Let me tell you, I think I came damn close to seeing as much as possible. I suppose I could be out seeing more now, but I think my feet may start gushing blood at any point, so I thought it advisible to rest for a while in an air conditioned space (it's pretty warm here). I'll try to give you a rundown of my day without being too long winded, but that won't be easy. And, as always, I can't post pictures. This time, the computer won't read my camera when I plug it in. I swear, they're coming. . . .

8:30 - Out of the hostel to the Tube.

9:00 - The middle of Westminster Bridge in the shadow of Big Ben. I had just enough time to take a few pictures and then hear Big Ben chime 9 am. Walked over to Parliment building to check it out. Took a few pictures but didn't want to go in for the £12 and 75 minute tour. I had things to do and better places to see! Plus, they weren't in session.

9:15 - Westminster Abbey - They don't open until 9:30, so I had a cup of tea in the park. Jolly good I must say. Paid my student rate and I was in (I am still a student in my mind damnit!). I could probably type a few pages about that place, but suffice to say, it was truly amazing. To see that many Kings, Queens, poets, writers, scientists burried in the same place was remarkable. Not to mention how beautiful the inside of the building is. This was either my favorite or second favorite stop of the day (see 3:15 entry). Pictures weren't allowed, and I couldn't post them if they were, but check out this website for panoramic views of the inside of the Abbey. Really an amazing place. I was in awe.

10:30 - Left the Abbey and walked through St. James park towards Buckingham Palace for the 11:30 changing of the guards. Rick Steves recommends watching the inspection of the guard ceremony which takes place at the Wellington Barracks about 500 yards from the Palace if you actually want to see anything, so I took his advice. He was spot on! I stood right next to the fence and watched as the guards were inspected (senior officers giving the junior officers shit for their uniforms and how they were standing - funny). Then the band started playing while the guards marched around and stomped and did other funny British things. The band was the best though. As opposed to the solomn and serious music they play at the Palace, the band was playing Beetles music while the guards marched around (the band composed of guards too in the same giant fuzzy hats). It was great watching the ceremony, and then I headed over to the Palace. (Side note - the guards that you watch being inspected and the band are the same ones who march to the Palace for the changing, i.e., the ones I just watched being inspected were the guards taking over. Also, I always thought it was two guards or something, but it is about 30.)

11:30 - Changing of the guards. Unless you get there at 9 am or are Manute Bol, you don't have a shot of seeing a thing (my sister can back me up on that). I saw some of it over people's head, but it is actually more interesting to watch the crowd. I swear, every tourist within 100 miles must be there. I watched for a while and then headed up to Trafalgar Square. I didn't really care about seeing the ceremony, because I had already seen the inspection of the guards, which is a better ceremony and I was a couple feet away. Right on Rick Steves!

12:00 - Went to Trafalgar Square, London's biggest, busiest square to grab some lunch. Stopped at 10 Downing Street (Prime Minister's house) on the way, but that was a non-sight, because you can't get within a block of it like the White House, and when it's a row home, that can create sight problems. Oh well, at least I was there. I had lunch in the park and then headed to the National Gallery.

12:30 - The National Gallery is huge and full of great, famous art. I took the abbreviated tour, with the help of their own map and Rick Steves of course. To sum it up, I saw: Da Vinci, Raphael, Michaelangelo (I was missing Donatello Ninga Turtle fans), Vermeer, Rembrandt, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Cezanne to name a few. Not bad company.

1:30 - Walked about 1.5 miles on the banks of the Themes River to St. Paul's cathedral, stopping at a few spots to take pictures and make sure my feet were still attached to my legs. I made one detour to the Old Baily, which used to be London's old criminal court and where all the hangings took place. Now it's just the criminal court. I was going to go in, but not many cases are heard in August.

2:00 - St. Paul's Cathedral. Massive cathedral with I think the second largest dome in the world. Pretty impressive and beautiful inside, but not as cool as Westminster Abbey. However, you can climb the 600 steps to the top of the dome to see spectacular views of London. I decided this was a good idea. About 400 steps into it, I decided it was a bad idea, and at 599 steps, I decided it was a horrible idea. However, the 600th step was worth it, as the views were amazing. You can see for 20 miles in every direction and it was amazing to see how big London truly is. Of course, I got some great pictures from up there that I can't post! Walking down wasn't fun, but not as bad as walking up (Link to diagram of the dome).

3:00 - 3:15 - Tried to catch my breath, stop sweating so much, and cool off.

3:15 - Crossed the Thames (by foot of course on the Millennium Bridge) to the Tate Modern, London's brand new modern art museum. The museum contains works by Warhol, Dali, Van Gogh, etc., not to mention all kinds of modern art and sculptures. My sister had told me how good this was, and she was right. I think this may have been my favorite thing today. The art inside was absolutely amazing. I loved it and I think I could go back there 10 more times and not get sick of it. I've you've been to London in the past, but not since the Tate Modern has been open, please go back and see it, you won't be dissapointed (if you're a close-minded dolt, you may be, but there's nothing I can do about that). Was there til about 5 pm.

Running out of time, will continue later, but that's all the important stuff. . . .

Scotland Wrap-Up

The second day in Edinburgh was just as great as the first. After my long post, but before the bar, we went to see a show called Plucked (link here). The best way I could describe it would be Tenacious D but a string trio instead of rock. It was excellent. Hilarious, and I would recommend to anyone to see it, but I don't know if they come to the states or not.

After the show, we went out to a bar and had a few drinks. That's where I typed the last post from the metal keyboard. Then it was bedtime, as we had to catch a train to London in the morning.

The train ride to London was nice. Uneventful but very pretty. It was a good way to see the country side. We arrived in London around 4 and got to the hostel not too long after. At the hostel we met up with one of PositiveMode's friends who I had not before met. He (P-Mode's friend) had already booked tickets for a Jack the Ripper tour of London at 7:30 or so, so we went on that. It met up by the London Bridge which was so cool to see in person as I'm sure you can imagine.

Then we went on the tour. It's not worth describing, because it sucked, and didn't really offer a chance to see anything other than some back alleys in London where Jack may or may not have committed a crime. I don't recommend it, unless you are a simpleton, and don't care what you do with your time.

That ended around 9:30 pm and we headed back to the hostel to change and go get dinner. I had suggested take-away Chinese, but that was declined by my two travelling partners, and so we instead walked around for an hour and a half looking for somewhere to eat. Most pubs in London (not all mind you, but the ones near where we are staying) close fairly early, i.e., 11ish, so finding food was more challenging than we thought. An hour and a half later, we ended up eating the chinese food that I had originally suggested. I suppose had I asserted my will earlier, I could have saved a lot of walking and complaining, but it was amusing none the less.

I will now attempt to fit all of today in one post. . . .

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

From A Bar

I'm at a bar now that has free internet at every tabke. Pretty cool, but almost impossible to type. No, not because I'm drunk, but because the key board is made of steel. Very difficult. Oh well, your loss. See you in London tomorrow!


Today is our second day in Edinburgh, Scotland (the capital of the country). Yesterday morning we took a train from Glasgow to get here. It's only a 40 mile or so ride, so we were here within an hour by 1pm. As soon as we arrived we bought our train tickets to London for tomorrow. Not cheap, £69 I believe. Oh well, what are you gonna do?

So, Edinburgh is possibly the most amazing and beautiful city I've ever seen. The main "tourist" street is called the Royal Mile (actually longer than a mile) and starts at the bottom of a hill and works its way up to the Edinburgh castle. The street is lined with buildings none of which is less than 400 years old give or take a year or two. They contain various shops, pubs, and other stores with chuches mixed in. I'm pretty sure the top 3 or so floors of each building contains apartments. At the top of the hill is this massive medieval castle which towers over the entire city. It's perched precariously on a huge bluff and is an amazing sight to behold.

About an hour or so after arriving, we went up to the castle for a tour. £10 to get in, but well worth it. You cross the moat and go through the gate which is guarded by two huge statutes of William Wallace (Braveheart) and Robert the Bruce (won Scottish freedom from the English). The castle itself isn't one building, but rather a compound of several buildings, the oldest of which was built in the 1130. That's old. We toured the castle for about 2 or so hours. The crown jewels are located there. Nice looking headwear, I must say, and the oldest crown jewels in the world. The views from the castle were also amazing. It was about 70 and sunny, and you could see for miles all over the entire city and out to the Firth of Forth.

Okay, before I go further, let me back up a little. When we left Baltimore last week, PositiveMode had a conversation with some Scot at a bar in the airport that this month is the annual Edinburgh Festival, and that the week we would be here would be the Military Tattoo. The Edinburgh Festival consists of performers from all over the world, actors, jugglers, comedians, singers, etc., etc., etc., performing at some 40 venues throughout the city at all hours of the day. I think there is literally some performance starting any minute if you wanted to see it. In addition to the actual scheduled performances, the Royal Mile is jam packed with street performs of all types, not to mention the population of Edinburgh more than doubles during the Festival.

The highlight of the Festival is the Military Tattoo. Set in front of the castle are bleachers for about 12,000 people, creating an arena of sorts with the Castle as the backdrop. Each night at 9 the Military Tattoo takes place. What is a Military Tattoo (I had no idea . . . thought it was something to do with skin art)? The Military Tattoo is an amassing of the military bands from throughout the British Empire, led of course, by the Scottish drummers and pipers. They perform under the lights and the castle each night for a month. Tickets go on sale in December for this month, and are very difficult to come by. However, we heard that if you went to the office and someone had happened to return tickets within the last few minutes, you may be lucky and score some seats. We decided that it would be an awesome thing to see, so tried to get tickets. Wouldn't you know it, two people had just returned tickets, and we were able to snag two pretty good seats for last night's show.

After touring the castle and dinner, we headed back to the hostel at about 7 pm. It was amazing, there was a line that stretched about half a mile of people waiting to get in to the Tattoo and it didn't start for two hours. I'm not really sure why there was a line, because there were assigned seats, and we were able to walk in after only a 10 minute or so delay at 8:30. The show started right at nine and was amazing. The Scottish pipers and drummers were first. It was quite a sight to see about 75 pipers and 75 drummers in full kilted regalia marching and playing. The show contained horns, rifle twirling, full bands, dancers, motorcycle stunts, even a staged seige of the castle by the Scottish Marines. As it got darker they castle became more lit up in every color of the rainbow. The finale was the Scottish Tattoo and the rest of the British Tattoo playing together. There must have been 350-400 men playing all at once, pipes blaring, drums pounding, all with the massive castle lit up in reds and blues in the background. Cannons were going off, fireworks were going off. It was a sight to see and I am so thankful that we were lucky enough to get tickets (£18 and worth every penny). I have tons of pictures, but I can't post them from this computer. I think I'll be able to do it later in the day though. Until then, check out this link to the official site, which has tons of pictures of what we saw.

So, that was yesterday. What a great day in a great city. I'm not sure what the plan is for today. PositiveMode is still in bed last I saw. We'll probably just wander around some more, watch more performers and see more sights. Until we meet again. . . .

Random Thoughts:
- There is a bagpipe player on every corner here in Edinburgh. I love it, but if you don't like bagpipes, this may not be the place for you.

- People in Iceland cannot seem to park. The attempts at parallel parking are laughable. There were cars on sidewalks, half in the street, parked on the corner between two streets. I probably shouldn't categorize an entire nation, but something was up with the parking.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Glasgow Today

I have past a sauce all over my shirt. It is because someone, i.e., me, threw a packet of ketchup at the wall. Fair enough, things happen. Negativemode and I are now in Glasgow, Scoltand. It is, like everything else that we have seen, very nice. Today we saw the Catholic cathedral, they decided that I was allowed to view even though I was a Jew. All good. Then we went to a pub for the next 10 hours. As such, it makes it slightly difficult for me to type. Also as such, I need to go to bed. I am very tired, and have not slept for a while.

We get up nice tomorrow to take the train to Edinburgh. Sweet. I swear, pictures will be here soon. Cheers, as they say....

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Last Day in Reykjavik

I didn´t post this before, but it deserves mentioning, because it´s funny, and of course things would work out like this. The 4th through the 7th is the Gay Pride Festival in Iceland. What days are Positivemode and myself in Iceland, the 4th through the 7th of course. Figures that the time we are here is the Gay Pride festival. I think that there is actually a parade today too. Oh well, it´s funny. Back to the trip.

Yesterday we got up at 7 am and went on the "Golden Tour" which went around the south-west of Iceland. It was a nine hour tour and was absolutely worth the userous price (only $100!). First stop was a green house village where they grow all the plants, fruits, etc. in Iceland. It was more of a tourist trap than anything. Not particularly interesting. Next was a giant crater that was created sometime long ago. It was about 55 meters deep and filled with water at the bottom. Neato. After the crater was a church that was the religious center of Iceland. All of Iceland´s bishops are centered there since 1000 or so. I took some nice pictures and that was that. I couldn´t find the synagogue.

Next were the highlights of the trip: a beautiful waterfall, Geysir, and Þingvallir (national park). The waterfall was very beautiful and you could walk right up next to it. Sweet. At Geysir, there was all kinds of geothermal activity and, of course, a geyser. The word geyser actually comes from the name of the Icelandic place. There was a geyser there that went off every 5 minutes or so. You could stand about 4 feet away from that too which was pretty cool to watch. Good times. Finally we stopped at the Þingvallir, the national park (pronounced thingvallir). That was absolutely beautiful. Huge cliffs, streams, and lakes. It sits right on the break-line between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, so you can actually see where the earth is splitting apart creating fissures. Usually, you can´t see that kind of thing as it is under the sea. Also very cool and beautiful. The only snag in the trip was an old German man getting lost, but I wasn´t too concerned with that (neither was his wife which was funny), and it all worked out in the end.

Luckily for us, the weather was gorgeous (55 and sunny) and everything was absolutely beautiful looking. I´ve never seen anything like it. Of course, I took hundreds of pictures, but I don´t have the cord to upload them on this computer. I promise, they´re coming!

Last night was the great Icelandic pub crawl, where everyone in the entire town goes out to the bars from 11pm until 3-5 am. We made it out from about 11 until 3. It´s amazing to see that many people out, and it´s never completely dark out as I said before. Very good times. Of course, we had to drink at the hostel before we went out or we would have ended up spending $800 each. As I said before, this is the most expensive place I´ve ever been. A pint of beer was $10!!! Are you kidding? And, they actually raised the price at 1 am. I have no idea how people afford to live here. If any one is expecting any Icelandic souveniers, you can forget about it. I can´t afford it!

Anyway, today is our last day here. We´re gonna try and see a few more sights, then go to bed. Our flight tomorrow to Scotland leaves at 7-something am, which means that the bus to the airport is getting us at 5 am. Of course, we didn´t even get up today until noon because of the late night.

So, that´s it, my last post from the top of the world. I´d recommend to anyone to come here. It is such a beautiful country and a great city. Of course, you´ll have to be a millionaire to afford anything, but it really is beautiful. I promise, I´ll try and get some pictures up here soon.

See you from Scotland, now off to celebrate Gay Pride!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Reykjavik Day 2

It´s almost 8 pm Iceland time on our second day here. The weather has been beautiful so far, blue skys and about 55 degrees. Today was actually colder than yesterday.

Yesterday we walked all over the city and then went to the thermal pool. The city has these outdoor pools all over that are keep heated all the time from the heat that rises from the ground. It was great. Even though its cold out, the pool is like a hot tub. They even have water slides going into the pool. After the pool, we made some dinner.

You´ll notice that I said made dinner. We bought some food at the grocery store and cooked it at the hostel. Why? Because Reykjavik is the most expensive place ever. That is not an exaggeration. I´ve been to NYC and Tokyo, both of which are expensive, but this place puts them to shame. We were just looking for somewhere to eat dinner, and the average meal is between 2000 and 3000 Kroner, or roughly 35-50 dollars! Even a can of Coke is about $3. It´s ridiculous. A "good deal" for beer in a bar is $8. Thankfully, we were thinking ahead and pre-gamed with the 100 proof vodka we had in nalgene bottles. Good times.

The sun. It´s light out now and its 8 pm. It was light out last night until about 12:15 am which was very cool. Even when we left the bar at around 2 am, it wasn´t completely dark. The sky was pretty dark, but the sun was not completely down and you could still see some light. Weird and cool.

Today we got up around noon and went into town. Hung out for a little while and then headed to a beach. Of course, it´s 55 degrees out, but they have hot tubs everywhere just like the at the pools. Very refreshing. Anyway, now we´re gonna try and find something to eat for less than $20 which may be challenging. No going out tonight, as tomorrow we´re getting up early to go on an excursion out to a national park, Geysir (a geyser surprisingly) and a huge waterfall. Hopefully, the weather will stay nice and sunny!

Ok, I´m off to spend more money. Hopefully I can upload some pictures soon. It will depend both on my remembering the cord and the abilities of the computer I´m at.

Two parting thoughts:
1) Everyone here looks like Björk
2) The keyboard has funky keys for the crazy Icelandic words, e.g., Þingholtsstæti (ö ð þ æ Ð)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reykjavik Ahoy

While wandering around downtown Reykjavik waiting for things to open Bill and I wandered into a bank. They have free internet, so I figured I´d make my first posting. Our flight arrived here at 6:45 am and it is cold. Iceland is icy.

Also, it seems that nothing opens downtown until 10 or 11 am. Very late by American standards, so we´ve just been wandering around checking out the scenery. Cool little city. Literally. Everything is also VERY expensive, although we have no idea what the exact exchange rate is, so it´s hard to tell excactly how expensive things are.

Anyway, I´ve only been in Iceland for four hours, but so far, so good. I think this afternoon we´ll go swimming. There are outdoor pools all over that are heated by thermal whatnot. Good stuff.

Time to leave the bank. Hopefully later I can get some pictures up. Until later. . . .