Monday, September 03, 2007

Right, So I Went to Europe

There’s no point in having a blog if you can’t talk at length about a trip to Europe, right? I mean, who doesn’t love reading about vacations in far-flung places that you’re not currently having?

The whole thing began not long after I returned from Saskatchewan. Good friend and former roommate Andrew had been traveling about and was in Italy or something at the time, and suggested that I join him for the rest of his trip. I reckoned that if I didn’t do it now, when else was it gonna happen?

I arrived in Munich a week later, excited to finally be on a different continent. It really is a weird little feeling, to be on the other side of the world while the surroundings are still so familiar. I met my parents at the airport who were also on vacation, and they ferried me up to Berlin to meet up with Andrew.

I must say it’s an odd feeling, walking around and talking in a language that nobody else is speaking. You know those weird families with weird skin colour who walk around and talk in their funny language, and you have no idea what they’re saying? Well, for a few brief moments, I was one of them. It’s empowering. It feels kinda what it must feel like to be invisible. No wonder they talk like that. Now, this is all tempered by the fact that 99% of Germans can probably at least understand English, but…

The drive from Munich to Berlin is about 600Km, and I’d like to think I’m a better, more rounded person for it. First, the Autobahn. Very orderly, very… efficient. All of the trucks and heavy vehicles stay in the right lane and always go the speed limit. I saw in my 8 hours perhaps one truck overtaking another (possibly an exaggeration). This makes a huge difference, and one wonders why they don’t have to do this here. There are definite rules to the road that everyone follows, and traffic progresses smoothly. Should things have to slow down due to construction, even the guy that was speeding along at 180 ten seconds ago will obey the signs to the letter. I used to think that the 401 and its drivers were the best in the world (which is naively small-minded). Ha! Any German driving in Canada must think he just showed up in downtown Calcutta or something.

Second, the countryside. Very odd. I was under the impression that Europe was one giant city, with people crowded together shoulder-to-shoulder. But damned if I passed a village more than 1000 people on the entire drive. The whole thing was rolling hills, fields of grass, farms, little towns and rows upon rows of wind generators. Quite where the Germans cram their 80 million citizens I do not know. It blows my mind. A detour had us off the freeway and driving through little villages scattered about. It was really quite nice.

On the way up to Berlin we stopped by Nuremberg for lunch. Well, while there, I mean… how could one pass up the chance to check out the stadium where the Nazis held the rallies (and where my grandpa himself had been some 65 years previously)? An example of Speer’s impressive Nazi architecture, the place looks like an ancient ruin now (that's it above). There’s something spooky about going up there, literally standing in Hitler's footsteps, but one feels compelled. I do have to admit that the Germans seem pretty reflective and honest about their past, as evidenced by an uncompromising installation on the site detailing the stadium’s history. During the immediate postwar period the Americans blew up a giant swastika that served as the sort of… centerpiece of the area from which various officials addressed the crowd. My mother made the observation that they should have just left the thing, as a friendly reminder.

With our trusty GPS unit in hand, we were able to drive right up to the doorway of the hostel in Berlin that Andrew had booked for us. Handshakes were made and goodbyes said as my parents departed, and Andrew and I began our trip proper.

What adventures await our intrepid duo? Turning down unwanted advances from the chap on the left, that's what.


Blogger Tara said...

its awesome that you went to germany! I'm going to korea with my partner brendan on sunday! ahhh! Its scary. I'm getting kind of moody lately..I think its because my emotions are running like crazy. Anyway. Check out our blog! I might send you an email with it again soon.

Keep in touch Mike!

11:53 am  

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