Sunday, 2 December 2007

Smoke in the air, Women in windows and... SNOW! More debauched tales from the world of Team Travel

For Pauk, whose comments make me giggle and for who the banality of work may hopefully be tempered if only briefly by this post...

Me again... Did promise to update slightly sooner than this (because I know the masses have been holding their collective breath) but, well we've been moving around quite a lot in the last few weeks. So Munich.. Narrowly avoided the phenomena that is Oktöberfest. Slightly glad about that to be honest. The city certainly wasn't suffering a lack of fluid by the time we arrived. Actually, to clarify who "we" is at this point; myself and Tristan had met up again with Liam and JP with Rory passing us in the hostel doorway on his way meet German mates of his in Berlin.
First night in Munich saw us venture to the world famous Hofbraü Haüs. Basically it's the biggest beer hall in Germany and has seen the likes of Adolf himself pass through it's doors. Spent most of the evening there mulling over litre pints of quality brew with a couple of Americans, one Canadian and a particularly rambunctious Costa Rican who I was later to run foul of.

Us, a month ago at the Haüs...

Anyway, the following day with somewhat bleary eyes we headed down for a free walking tour of the city. Almost identical in design to the one in Edinburgh, we were once again extremely pleased with what we'd stumbled across and it proved to be an excellently informative way to see the city. A couple of bratwursts later and Tristan, Liam and I headed for Dachau, the site of one of the Nazi regime's most oppresive concetration camps. In truth, it is hard to put in to words how a place like that affects you. Though often quite confronting, it certainly was a moving and rewarding experience. Glad I went.
Remaining nights in Munich were for the most part spent in the massive hostel bar where, despite making a host of new friends (mainly Aussie), we also managed to get on the wrong side of several members of the Australian Defence Force. A tip for any future travellers: don't discuss politics abroad. Apparently Howard remains rather popular with those serving in the army. Who'd a thunk it?

Hmm so with Liam and Tristan making for Legoland I said a very.. err .. blokey goodbye to JP (though hopefully not forever) and made for Berlin to meet up with Roz. Staying in a midget attic in an apartment block that houses one of his friends families actually worked out quite well for us (as did the €8 a night total charge).
In truth I did have relatively high hopes for Berlin which, due to one reason or another, were not entirely fulfilled. Perhaps it was the fact that for really the first time we were subjected to extended periods of lousy weather. I dunno.
Anyway, visits to the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gates, Checkpoint Charlie and of course the wall proved interesting more so for the obvious significance rather than being overly impressive visually. Got the chance to have a game of football with Rory´s friend Karl (the guy who organised the sweet digs) and his mates. That itself was fun but the the way home saw us become entangled in a reasnobly large scale riot of Turkish suppoters inflicting a certain level of aggression against the local Kurdish community and police following Turkey´s decision to move into Iraq. Whilst we´ve managed to predominately avoid trouble in our time away, this did get kind of hairy as weapons were surfacing and bottles pelted randomly around. In the end we were able to extricate ourselves just as a third wave if rioters were joining in. Close call.
With the cash flow a little slow at this point of our travels we made use of the cheap accomodation for a little longer than we otherwise might of but to compensate, we treated ourselves to a Bundesliga match between locals Herta Berlina and Bochum. 2-o the final score and another good arvo spent watching the worlds greatest sport.
With the four us now reuninted, we left the hospitality of Karl and his folks Tina and Tommy and made for Hamburg afgter a strong recommendation from our hosts. Two nights later however and we left the city largely underwhelmed. Perhaps Hamburg is just one of those places that's better to live in but it really didn't do a whole lot for any of us. Now Cologne, there we throughouly enjoyed.
Though we only really spent a little over 24hrs there, it really is a vastly impressive city. Housing an immense gothic "Dom," instantly apparent from the moment you leave the station, the whole towns beauty is striking and proved very accessible for those with short time frame. From there we pushed on to Den Haag, home to Dutch parliment and Tristans Aunt, Uncle and Cousin. Yet another story of generosity as we were once again housed and fed as well as shown around town by Rommert-Jan (cousin) and through several national parks and o

ne particularly interesting countryside art gallery comprising a very respectable Van Gogh collection by Tjiet (Uncle). That proved a good way to relax and recouperate but the smoke and sleaze of the nations capital awaited. Given this would be where Liam was to spend his last days before heading home and the fact we'd picked up Ben, one of our best mates from back home, Amsterdam always loomed to be quite the party. Add to this the fact we'd met up again with Campbell (from Edinburgh) and well, that a certain herb happens to be legal round the town.. hmm yeah it was never going to be a quiet few days. On reflection the whole drugs thing; well you've kinda gotta do it. The absolute saturation of Coffeeshops across the city is slightly staggering but it really is as normal over there as buying a beer. So first night we may have had a quiet smoke and a cheeky bit of space cake before meeting up with Camblo, hitting a few bars then back across town to catch New York hip-hopper Pharoahe Monch take over a local club. Without being his biggest fan, a good show is a good show and he certainly tore up the stage. As usual we were front and ventre, meaning me and Liam were fortunate enough to score and handshakes and a quick word with Pharoahe and his entourage. Pretty cool.
This evening (dulled down a little for the wider reading audience) left yours truly feeling a little seedy for a few days though it could not hamper us from checking out other slightly more credible facets of the city with the Rijksmuseum and an Ajax (Amsterdam) match proving my favourite day time activities for the week. For the record, Ajax knocked off Roda JC 4-2 with a missed penalty to make up what was the the most entertaining game we've seen so far.
To touch quickly on that red-light district thing thats rather popular there as well ('specially with the British; did you know they make up 40% of the clientel), well one pretty quick drive-by on the way home from the supermarket was enough for this blogger. Probably the site of a street full of tourists ogeling and bartering with these somewhat depressing ladys of the night was what really confirmed in my mind that perhaps engaging with prostitutes isn't totally my cup of tea.
Even though seeing Cambo again, inducting Ben into Team Traveland saying bye to Liam all brought good times to fruition, Amsterdam on the whole did not particularly grab me and I can imagine for the non-pot smoker, could be pretty alienating.
With Liam back in Melbourne, Campbell staying in Haarlem looking for a job and a place the new line-up headed to Prague, a place I'd been looking forward to for some time. It did not dissapoint. Utterly compatible with our wandering style, the city of a 1000 spires proved just as beautiful as others had suggested. Good for a photo too. Other than alll its granduer, Prague will remain in the memory personally for two reasons. First, it was the site of the first snowball fight of the season. Too much fun for words. Second, well Prague happened to be the town where, one fateful evening, certain salacious advances were made on yours truly by a local lady who I'm sure found herself on the wrong side of 50. As dodge as that was, it certainly wasn't helped by my dear pals who intimated none to subtly that I possessed a "Maximo Bicicletta Chollo," translating roughly from Italian to massice bicycle penis. Well creepy and so not cool.
Prague from a hill...
There's probably more I could say about Prague but this post is getting a little out of hand length-wise so I'll try and keep things brief.
Err yeah so to Vienna, a place I possess a shameful lack of knowledge about. The first night we were unable to get the hostel we wanted but thankfully there was some silver lining attached to this with our out of town abode being comprehensively blanketed in snow. Seriously, piles and piles of powdery goodness. More snowball fights were to ensue. Trust me, the novelty- not looking like it'll wear off anytime soon.
Once we made it into town to take up lodging at Wombats (the world's cleanest hostel, in the top ten in Europe) we made for the Viennese Parliment, Art History museum and the Hofburg palace; three buildings remarkably stunning and still seemingly in their original condition. Bratwursts and a cup of java at the Central Cafe where Beethoven, Freud, Lenin and Trotters all sipped babycinos in the past. Fairly swank place and a nice change for us weary Team Travellers.
So back to the hostel and to one of the prime reasons for its high rating; the Wombar. Relatively cheap drinks, great atmosphere and some pretty amusing folk milling around. It also may or may not have been the place where I was coaxed by the bairmaid and others into getting onto the bar, dancing and or stripping off my jacket and shirt in front of a full house. The loss of dignity aside, that particular act was met with the handsome reward of several shots of (unknown but delicious) spirits being free poured into my mouth (and somewhat down my shirt). Quite an enjoyable evening of carousing that I did in truth find neccessary to once again clean up as some of the activities of my good friends were not of an entirely savoury nature. That's all I'll say.
The ensuing days saw us visit the Schlob Belvedere which in years past served as a summer residence for the Prince. The palace itself could be likened to that of Versailles but the gardens, covered entirely in snow, were simply breathtaking. Given their enormity it was really wonderful to spend several hours justd walking through the various avenues and paths- incidents of snow violence occuring only intermittently.

With a slight twinge of reluctance we left Viena and made for the uncharted and largely unknown (to us) city of Budapest. The slight air of poverty and discontent amongst locals did not altogether detract from what is still a fascinating and fairly modern part of Hungary. Whilst there we continued what seems to be a quest to visit every single castle in Europe and generally tried to get a sense for the town. One of my favourite aspects of Budapest culture (though this may be only for the wealthy) is their enjoyment of enormous thermal baths. It may sound a little odd but me and Tristan headed to the largest of the bath complexes, built originally in the 1500's, and were delighted to find a largely social atmosphere washing over the three fantastic heated spas. Each one varies in temperature and though there did seem to be a spot of indecent behaviour occuring on the part of some of the baths couples, most restrained themselves (there were after all over 100 private baths where god knows what sort of filth was going on... err anyway). Perhaps another place better enjoyed with a loved one but, well we had to make do with each other. Still, an exceptionally relaxing experience only partially ruined by a subsequent run in with Budapest's facist Metro inspectors. Quite a long story which I won't fully go into, only to say that whilst we had a legitimate ticket, we hadn't known to pick up another one after changing lines. Going back up the escalators to to buy another: not an option and soon the police were called after we weren't able to pay the fine. On waiting for them to arrive, I continued to complain and question just how long it would all take. Says bastardely ticket-prick, "If you if hurry, you can go straight to jail" *chuckles to friend goon*. Guess that's an example of the delicious European sense of humour currently sweeping the world. Hmm... In the end the guy settled to take all the money we had (admittidely not much) before letting us go. Fun way to spend a Friday night. The only other evening event of note was a truly enjoyable night spent with a number of people from the hostel at Hamburg's biggest club to see on of modern hip-hop's finest; Mos Def. Certainly a personal favourite of mine, the mighty Mos put on a hell of a show the lasted some time. An unexpected (and unbelievably cheap) surprise which really made my time in Budapest.

Mr Def himself.. Flash made it look like he was on stage at a scout hall but I promise the club was really cool...

Okay almost finished. By this stage of my blog I've seriously run out of adjectives and am constantly cringing at how much I find myself repeating identical sentences. Ergh... Anyway next was Salzburg- a place some of you will known as the home of the Sound of Music. Well it's just as wonderful as the movie indicates and I'm now most certainly an Austrian convert. Another castle and a nice walk through some beautiful countryside took up most of our full day there. As beer o'clock came round, we made for the Augustiner Braustubl Mulln, a quaint brewery where monks had previously home brewed fine ales since 1621.Unfortunately everything went wrong when we went to Innsbruck: pretty much everything mentioned in my last short post happened there. I won't go into it. I will however quickly bring you all up to date with our movements.

After days of progressively getting worse and worse, not being able to speak or eat- Tristan finally decided to head to his Uncles in Den Haag to see out his last week.
Ben has, through a lack of organisation, stayed with us but is still hoping to make it to Switzerland for skiing, working and much frivolity.
Rory is "fucking stella." Forever my beacon of hope.
I remain sick and honestly don't feel like I'm getting much better. Eating, sleeping and enjoying new places is becoming increasingly difficult. My iPod screen is completely broken. Dropped by a (nameless) member of Team Travel. I will however be coming home slightly earlier (the 20th of December) which is exciting for me hopefully good for all you to. London will be home for a fortnight before it's all out though.
In Brugges at the moment. Antwerp tommorrow.
Sorry this has been so long in the making and is, well so long.
Hopefully see you all soon.

Love J xoxo


Liam said...

After reading all that my only question is: Did Mos Def play with his band or not?

Pauk said...

Did I mention I'm in the t-shirt biz now? Anyway... I had a moment of inspiration while reading the 'bicycle penis' section - and you may find your christmas present is one you can wear... and one with the word penis on it.

I'm not surprised that Howard is popular with some army type folks... they are, after all, the kind of people that like to SHOOT OTHER PEOPLE. Howard would have kept them in dem guns for decades if he'd had his way.

Sucks about America. Oh well.

Daniel said...

I felt much the same about Berlin. I was there the longest on a trip that included London, Florence and Krakow, so it was understandably drab and uneventful compared to those two. I think the city is only any good if you are really into clubbing and listening to Euro-techno music. The touristy things, while interesting, don't have the immediate amazing-factor that a lot of other European cities do. Still, the Reichstag is pretty amazing.

I really loved Koln when I was there (admittedly, this was when I was 8, so my memory isn't too clear now). I also can completely empathise with you on Dachau: when we were in Berlin we had a chance to go to Bergen-Belsen, but having just been to Krakow, and of course, Auschwitz, I couldn't bring myself to go. I had so many conflicting feelings about even being there, and was basically silent the whole day because I didn't want to say anything as stupid as some of the American tourists there (one of whom made a very off joke at an execution site). But the whole feeling is almost impossible to put into words.

Aaanyway, sorry to hear (again) that you aren't well and that your iPod died, especially after all the work you did to save it after it died the first time. Maybe it was just it's time to move on to iPod heaven...

Looking forward to seeing you soon!


Liza said...

People should read this.

Jeremy said...

Thank you Liza. Hopefully one or two people have over the last year. How did you stumble across my page?