Germany: Day Twelve

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
Absolutely authentic (delicious) Gorgonzola Penne.
Absolutely authentic (delicious) Gorgonzola Penne.

Day 12: Raining this morning in Nuremberg. Quick breakfast and then we checkout to hit the road for the 400km/240 mile drive to Berlin. Once outside town the rain clears up, but it’s still dreary and overcast. As we enter Berlin, it starts to rain. We arrive at the hotel at 4 pm and are pleasantly surprised to find a swimming pool (very rare), and a two room apartment with a kitchen and a washer and dryer. Once we get settled (and throw a load of laundry in) we head out to the surrounding neighborhood. We’re in central Berlin just a few blocks from the notorious “Checkpoint Charlie.” After dinner (penne with gorgonzola sauce), we stroll a few blocks to check it out. Although now it is largely a tourist attraction, it remains a symbol of the Cold War. It’s a popular spot for American tourists (like us). We’ll head back in the morning to take in the museum. For tonight it’s off to the pool, more laundry and off to bed.

Germany: Day Six

Nymphenburg Palace, Munich
Nymphenburg Palace, Munich

Monday, August, 29, 2011 Day 6: Slept too late and missed breakfast. Back on the tram to find some eats in the city center. Breakfast in subway plaza. Sent Jeff off to BMW factory. More shopping with the girls. Spent the last two days looking for women’s tennis shoes. Realized that women don’t wear tennis shoes except for exercising. Also noticed that no one wears shorts. I must stand out like a sore thumb. Bought “sporty” women’s shoes so at least my feet fit in… Lunch of currywurst (cut up hot dog with curry ketchup that you eat with a tiny wooden fork) and pomme frites (french fries, also eaten with fork and mayonnaise or other sauce). Tram back to hotel for some iPad/iTouch game time. Short walk to Nymphenburg Palace for a walk through gardens. Picked rocks out of shoes. Met up with Jeff at tram station for transit fiasco that finally got us where we were going. Death march to the Englischer Garten (English Garden) for dinner in the biergarten by the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). Bratwurst, beer, pretzel, hendl (half a rotisserie chicken), chicken wings with spicy sauce and more pommes frites. Contemplated stealing mugs from biergarten, but returned them for 1 euro deposit instead. Death march (in reverse) back to underground train on dirty trail through the dark while dodging speeding bicycles (some with headlights some without). Train, tram and walk back to hotel. Pass out from exhaustion.

A days worth of eats!
A days worth of eats!

Germany: Day One

cropped-img_0355.jpgSince I started Fool of the World back in January, it has always been my goal to revisit my archives and share some of the other trips that I have documented.  However, when I went back to review what I had written I realized that my writing style had evolved over time as I became aware that people actually enjoyed hearing about my exploits.  These posts just didn’t seem polished enough.

I have mulled over many times the re-writing of these first “primitive” accounts and I have decided that for the sake of authenticity, I would re-post my journal entries in their original form. Enjoy!

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Off for adventure!
Off for adventure!

Vacation Breakdown Day 1:  Three hour flight delay causing our flight to be rerouted through Norway (via Iceland) adding 7 hours to our flight time. Arrival in Munich. One hour spent in parking garage trying to get the GPS to English. Leave Airport at 9:30 pm to drive 100 miles to Fuessen. GPS wild goose chase leading us to a closed road. Drove around three road blocks to determine that the road really was closed. Near mental breakdown.  Turned around (after trying for several minutes to put the car in reverse). Drove through several small towns before the GPS rerouted us to Fuessen. Arrived at hotel at midnight just as the clerk was closing up for the night. *sigh*

The Dormant Traveler Awakes: Shanghai

It was just about three years ago when my friend, Lucie told me that her husband was going to take a position in China and her family was going to move to Shanghai.

Shanghai?!  How exciting!  Despite the fact that I had never traveled outside of North America, I knew that I had to visit her there.

It was to be my first trip “abroad” and it was going to be to China!

We're going to China!
We’re going to China!

Lucie and her family were moving to China quite hastily and it was uncertain how long they were going to stay, so my husband and I had to act fast.  Another couple was going to join us on the journey, so we quickly coordinated our schedules and picked the dates.  Plane tickets were bought.  Visas obtained.  I put a big red circle on the calendar.  We were going to China!!  But wait…what exactly do you do in China?  What is there to see?  Of course we wanted to visit with our hosts, but I wanted to get out and see the sights, too.

It was in the few weeks preceding this trip that I met a dormant personality that was living inside myself.  It was like there was someone deep down inside of me that I didn’t even know.  I had experienced an awakening from within and the person that emerged wanted to venture out to see the vast world that was swirling all around me. The first stop was set to be Shanghai (with many thanks to Todd and Lucie).

Lucie, Todd and their daughter Veronica had left for China and were settling in to their new environment.  I figured out how to Skype  and had a few sessions with Lucie.  I quizzed her about what it was like and what types of things there were to do and see.  She hadn’t been there long and was still discovering the environment for herself.  I went to the library and checked out piles of books.  I became intimately acquainted with TripAdvisor.  I spent many nights researching activities, consulting with my travel mates, creating a spreadsheet that was brimming with ideas and filling the calendar with destinations.  This deep-seated personality absolutely thrived on making plans. Finally, the red circled day had arrived…

We're somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
We are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

After a quick flight from Seattle to Vancouver, we got settled into our 12 hour Air Canada flight to Shanghai. Rarely, if ever, am able to sleep on a plane.  It’s a curse, really.  Luckily, on international flights you can choose from an assortment of movies that you never really wanted to see.  I watched three or four of said movies and put the finishing touches on our itinerary.  There were only four more hours to go…

Ahh... Cup O' Noodles... Welcome to China.
Ahh… Cup O’ Noodles…
Welcome to China.

When I didn’t think I could possibly stand it even one second more second, a familiar smell washed over me.  Not the outhouse smell that had been wafting out of the well-used toilet, but something a little more welcoming.  What could that be?  Was it… Cup O’ Noodles?  Why, yes it was.  The once scarce flight attendants were now flooding the aisles to deliver our “Welcome to China” treats.  We were about to arrive!  I slurped up my noodles with more enthusiasm than I thought was possible after 12 sleepless hours on a plane.  I couldn’t believe it… We were there!

Iceland: Day Five

November 8, 2013

Friday:

We had a great time in Akureyri, but it was time to head back south to Reykjavik. We boarded an early morning flight with our tour mates, who had now become our comrades.

Jeff's view from plane
Jeff’s view from plane

The view from the plane as the sun rose over the surrounding fjords and glaciers was heavenly. Literally. It looked like how heaven is depicted in every painting that I’ve ever seen.  It was over quickly though. As soon as we reached cruising altitude, we started making our descent.  Jeff didn’t enjoy his view too much, because it involved the back of my head.

Tjörnin Pond, Reykajvik
Tjörnin Pond, Reykajvik

When we arrived back to our hotel in Reykjavik, our room was not ready so we stored our luggage and hit the pavement. Again, literally. The hotel is near the domestic airport but not exactly convenient to the downtown area.  The bonus to walking was that as we wandered through the cold, we came upon the city pond, Tjörnin. It was frozen over and dotted with swans, geese, seagulls and ducks. We happened upon a young girl and her father feeding the birds. It was super cute and made me miss my girls. One of the guidebooks called it “the world’s biggest bowl of bread soup.”  As we watched, one of the city’s many stray cats stalked the birds but was never brave enough to go in for the attack. Those swans were easily five times the size of your average cat!  Adjacent to Tjörnin was city hall.  Ráðhús Reykjavíkur was a concrete moss-covered love-it or hate-it structure built in 1994. Before that, Reykjavik had no Ráðhús. Can you believe it?  It looked like a big block of frozen moldy cheese.

Next, we visited The Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871+/-2, an interesting museum that gets its name from the year that it is believed the Vikings settled in Reykjavik. The museum is situated around an actual 10th century Viking long house that was excavated by archeologists. They built a building right on top of it and created a museum around it. Super cool. The museum had interactive displays about the the Viking settlements in Iceland ranging from 871+/-2 through about the year 1000.  I learned lots of cool Viking facts for upcoming party conversations. There was also an active excavation site across the street, but we skipped it and headed to Icelandic Fish and Chips for lunch.

Icelandic Fish & Skyronnaise
Icelandic Fish & Skyronnaise

In Iceland they are absolutely giddy about this yogurt type cultured dairy product, “Skyr.”  It has been part of Icelandic cuisine for over 1,000 years. The restaurant had a half dozen “gourmet” skyr based sauces. We tried mango (my favorite), basil garlic (too heavy on basil, not enough garlic) and tartar (yawn- needed relish). Jeff had wolf fish and I had cod. No fries though. We had quartered “crispy potatoes” and greasy onion rings. Swanky, but it should have been called “Icelandic Fish and Skyronnaise” because there were no “chips.”

From lunch, we headed to Volcano House, a theater that shows two short documentaries. One about the 1973 eruption on the Westman Islands and another about the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in South Iceland.

The 1973 eruption occurred in the town of Heimaey when a fissure in the volcanic island burst open unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Really! 5,000 people, the entire population of the island, were evacuated immediately using the island’s fleet of fishing vessels- which were miraculously in the harbor due to high winds the previous day. The eruption grew into the volcanic cone coined Eldfell. It spewed ash and lava for several months before, in an effort to save the harbor, which was close to being buried by the lava flow, islanders came up with the genius plan of dousing the angry volcano with sea water. They pumped it from the sea firefighter-style. The plan worked and the flow cooled and stopped before the harbor was destroyed.  The residents returned, dug out their town and went back to fishing. Awesome.

Eyjafjallajökull is most well known for its ashy eruption in April 2010. The glassy airplane-engine-unfriendly ash shut down European air traffic for six days at a cost of $200 million per day. Frankly, I was tired and slept through most of this film. It was no where near as devastating as Mt. St Helens and I don’t care about air traffic unless I have a flight scheduled. Presently, the eruption makes a good tourism gimmick for selling t-shirts and magnets throughout Iceland. Win for Iceland.

Feeling refreshed after what Jeff calls “our $40 nap,” we headed for the main drag in Reykjavik. Jeff found a bar for what I call his “$10 beer” and I cruised the shops. Things began to close up around 6 pm so we met back up and took a frigid walk back to the hotel for an overpriced dinner in the hotel restaurant. Once we were back in the room, we stuffed everything into our suitcases and, because we couldn’t figure out how to turn the TV on, went to sleep.

Good night, Reykjavik.