Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Goes Through Your Mind The Day After You Get Back


Various thoughts from someone who’s still a little dazed and confused (okay, a little more dazed & confused than usual) and trying to adjust back to reality--

1.  Thanks for all the kind messages we received upon our return.  Many of those messages joked that we brought the cold weather with us, and if we did, please accept my sincerest apologies.  It was 90 degrees the last day we were in Europe; I’m thinking the warmth just missed one of the connecting flights to Marquette, probably the one in London, where it was raining.  So I hope the cold’s not our fault!

2.  When I woke up yesterday morning I went running, and it freaked me out that the first song that popped up on my iPod (which was set on “shuffle”) was a new tune by Simple Plan and Natasha Bedingfield called “Jet Lag”.  The reason it freaked me out was that it was stuck in my head the entire time we were flying back home Sunday.  I’m thinking the song popping up was a coincidence; if not, I’d like to know how my iPod can read my mind.  Is there something Steve Jobs forgot to tell us before he left Apple?

3.  We didn’t get a chance to listen to much radio over there, but when we did it was mostly the same old stuff you hear over here—Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Pink.  There is one thing I hafta mention, though.  On the drive from Salzburg to Munich Saturday we were listening to Antenne Bayern, a station that sounds very much like the one at which I work.  Announcing that afternoon was a woman who, when reading off song titles, did so in a perfect American accident.  Normally, when you hear Europeans speaking fluent English, it’s with a British accent, but not so this particular announcer.  It was just one of those moments that makes you sit up in the back seat of a car and do a double take, I guess.

4.  The chocolate made it home okay.  Want proof?

Sure, I know it looks like a lot, but consider two things.  The first is that it’s not all for me; some is for family and friends.  The other?

It’s chocolate from Europe!  Why wouldn’t I buy a lot????


5.  Finally, here’s a picture that, according to Loraine, is just too good to pass up--

It’s me and Tony the Tour Guide at the Albert Einstein plaque in his home town of Ulm, Germany.  In case you wonder WHY we’re doing this, there’s a very famous picture of Dr. Einstein with his tounge hanging out of his mouth.  Apparently, it’s a tradition for people to have their picture taken at the plaque with their tongues hanging out, and who are we to flaunt tradition, right?


Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Few Final Matters

SUNDAY, 9/4:

4:15 in the morning comes WAAAAAY too soon, especially when you stop to consider that you won’t get home for another 22 hours.

I guess that’s the downside of international travel; it’s not like this is “Star Trek” and you can beam yourself a quarter of the way around the globe.  Nope, you actually have to do some physical travel to get there, and that means getting up early, sitting in several different airports waiting for a few hours to connect flights, and then starting it all over again.  By the time we get back home, we’ll have been in three different countries, gone through security screening three different times, and have traveled through 7 different time zones.

Fun, huh?  But that’s the price you pay for chocolate fresh from the source, I guess.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting at Heathrow Airport in London.  Or, as I lovingly refer to it, the seething cacophony of humanity.  This place is PACKED with all different kinds of people; whoever said the U.S. is a melting pot has obviously never spent any time at Heathrow.  But that’s one of the great things about traveling outside of your own country—you get to see how other people from around the planet live their lives and go on about their daily business.  I truly think it’s something everyone should do.  If nothing else, it opens your eyes and lets you see the planet you live on from many different perspectives.

And it also allows you to eat their chocolate.

Speaking of which, you should feel how heavy my backpack is right now.  And for as heavy as it is, it’s quite scary that I have only about half of my chocolate in there; the rest of it is packed in a hard plastic container in my luggage.  I have all the soft and valuable stuff with me; I’m taking a chance with the hard bars and the rest of it.

Okay...let’s get away from food and onto a few last things regarding our journey this year.  The first of which is this—

I have a problem.  And I’ll pause here for a moment while those of you who know me say to yourself “Only ONE problem?”  Go ahead...I know you want to!

There.  Feels better, doesn’t it?

Anyway, my problem is this—the last five days of our trip was in German speaking territory.  I don’t speak any German.  So whenever anyone asked me anything in German, and I could kind of figure out what they were asking, I would answer them in my rudimentary French.  I don’t know why; I just did it.  They would then smile, and perhaps chuckle a bit under their breath, before asking me again in English, because if there’s one thing the German people like to do, it’s test out their English on someone who speaks French with an American accent.  Luckily, most of them are quite good at it.  But it’s a problem I must really address next time I’m in Germany—

Don’t answer a German question in French, you idiot!

We also need to send out a big round of thanks to the gentleman we’ve referred to throughout these blogs as Tony the Tour Guide.  Seriously, if you are EVER looking for someone to show you around Western Europe, WWII history or not, Tony is as good as they get.  His real name, by the way is Tony Cisneros, and you get check him out at www.alpventures.com.  We can’t recommend him enough.

Okay...I promised a few final pictures, and here they are.  One last animal picture—

(And as an aside, it’s a good thing I took this picture in Belgium.  If it was France, that snail may have been someone’s dinner!)

One last sign advertising an oom-pah band--

One last bizarre statue--

And one last Alpine beauty shot—

Now if you’re reading this, it means we’ve landed in Chicago okay and are just waiting for our flight back to Marquette.  That pretty much does it for this year; hope you’ll be with us next year if our plans work out and we head back to Normandy!


A Backpack Full Of "Danke"s


You know your life is taking a surreal turn when you find yourself walking down a dark Austrian alley, trying to find a hole in a wall where an American tank knocked out some bricks while its driver was trying to find a brothel.

In other words, it was a typical day in Europe!

Most of our day today was spent in Salzburg, Austria, where we wanted to visit Market Day (which we did) and find a brothel that Loraine had read about a couple of years ago.  There is indeed a story, perhaps apocryphal, about an American tank driver knocking out a wall in search of some female companionship.  And while we didn’t find a sign of the hole, we did find the brothel—

Don’t worry, Mom; this isn’t something we NORMALLY do on these trips.  What we normally do it see sights like this—

This is the pedestrian street of Old Salzburg, crawling with throngs of people on a typical 90 degree Saturday morning.  Because of the warmth, the market seemed even more hectic than usual, but we were still able to eat a fine and healthy lunch—

That’s Loraine with a cinnamon roll pretzel covered in chocolate.  And yes, it tasted as good as it sounds.

One of the reasons we like to go to Market Day in Salzburg is because you never know what you’re gonna see.  Here’s proof positive about that—

We checked out a wedding—

Searched for the Holy Grail (at least, search for the Holy Grail ala Monty Python)—

Listened to an oom-pah band—

And saw what we believe was a group of Scottish tourists on what appeared to be an early-morning “bier” tour—

At least, that’s the only way we could explain it.

After leaving Salzburg, we headed up here to the outskirts of Munich, where we currently are, but not before making one last stop, the site of the Dachau Concentration Camp—

It’s a pretty powerful place...let’s just leave it at that.

We’re now in the midst of packing to leave VERY early tomorrow.  We have to wake up at 10 Saturday night Marquette time; we’ll (hopefully) arrive back home around 8 Sunday night.  On the plane tomorrow, I’ll write one more blog, and put up a bunch of pictures we didn’t get around to posting yet.  And while I have the chance, I want to thank everyone for all the nice e-mails and comments we’ve received.  We’re glad you enjoyed heading around Europe with us!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Strange Souvenirs

FRIDAY, 9/2:

Last year, Loraine came home from France with airplane parts.  This year, she’s going home with parts of Adolph Hitler’s driveway.

We spent the day around the Berchtesgaden, Germany area, an area that Tony the Tour Guide knows like the back of his hand because he spent most of the 90s working here.  As a result, we were able to see all kinds of things off the beaten path, things most people aren’t even aware of, including the location of what basically amounted to Hitler’s second home.

That’s all that’s left of the place, which was bombed by the Allies during the last days of the war and then destroyed—except for this wall—by the German government in the early 1950s.  Because Tony’s spent so much time around here, he knew that the final blast blew brick and concrete down the hill on which the house sat, so we spent a few minutes walking around and looking for souvenirs, where Loraine found not only brick from the driveway but pieces of camouflage netting that had been placed over the house.

Now we just need someone to perform some kind of ceremony to remove whatever residual evil spirits may reside in the brick!

Otherwise, it was just a day of “ooh”-ing and “aah”-ing over some incredible scenery.  You know, scenery like this—

Here’s a picture that just, I‘m sure, does not do justice to the way it looked in real life—

It’s a meadow that sits between three sheer cliffs of rock, each reaching at least 2,000 feet in the air.  When we turned the corner to come in to the meadow, my jaw dropped and my camera came out.  Like I said, no picture could ever do it justice.  I’m just glad I got to see it in person

Here’s what we looked at while we ate lunch—

It’s a lake called Konigssee, which like the meadow also sits between sheer cliff walls.  It’s part of the German national park around Berchtesgaden, and it’s a lake ringed with hiking trails.  The place was packed, but with views like this, you can see why!

And speaking of Berchtesgaden, we got to see the city from an entirely different angle than most people—

Tony almost killed the rental car getting up the hill to see this view, but I’d say it’s worth a few stripped gears and some burning transmission fluid, right?

Okay...now onto today’s animal news.  First of all, they found the cow that had been missing down here for almost a month.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read the blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago (you'll find it under "August" on the right hand side of the page) called “Beware the Cow”.  As it turns out, Yvonne the Cow was found safe a hundred or so kilometers from here in a little town called Muehldorf.  It appears Germany’s long national nightmare is over.

Here’s a German dog (although not a German Shepard) who wants to say “hey” to everyone reading this—

And here are the rules German dog owners have to follow when they’re out with their pets!

On the whole, though, it seems the dogs over here are a lot mellower than American dogs.  They don’t bark as much, and they actually obey their masters when told to do something.

So...nice doggie!

Finally, I SO wish I had space in my suitcase for this—

It’s a 5 kilo container (over 10 pounds) of Nutella.  Or as I would call it, a good dinner.

Tomorrow, back to Austria for one last day of fun.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Das Ist Das Paradies, Ja?

THURSDAY, 9/1 (September already??):

This is the view out of our hotel balcony as I write this—

Welcome to Berchtesgaden, Germany, gateway to the Berchtesgaden National Park, and a place where a weather forecast of sunny & 80 actually means thunderstorms and 55.

Oh well, nothing’s perfect, right?


We actually just arrived in Berchtesgaden a little bit ago; we spent most of the day in the fifth country on our trip so far, Austria. We’ll actually be going back there Saturday to visit Market Day in Salzburg (and to find that brothel I wrote about a couple of weeks ago) but today we visited the resort area of Zell am See—

It’s a picturesque town located on a picturesque lake in the middle of the picturesque Alps, so you’d better believe it’s crawling with tourists, even on a less than ideal weather day like today. We were actually able to sneak in our visit just before the rains began, and therefore could see cute little things like these—

And eat cute little things like these—

That’s an apple strudel smothered in a vanilla cream sauce. I believe that by eating it, my cholesterol shot up 30 points, and just by looking at the picture of the strudel, it shot up another 10. But boy, was it GOOD!

We also crashed an Austrian funeral, as well. We didn’t actually plan on crashing an Austrian funeral, but we were in a church taking this picture—

When all of a sudden four guys carrying alpine horns and dressed in lederhosen walked into the church. We were kind of curious as to why they were there, but didn’t find out until we slowly backed out of the church, heard the horns start to play, and noticed a funeral procession wheeling a casket up the walk to the church entrance. We kind of stood there, heads bowed, until the line of mourners (quite a long one, or so it seemed) wrapped up, and then we high-tailed it out of there.

Guess we can cross THAT experience off of our bucket list.

Finally, we’ll wrap up today’s blog with three pictures you won’t see everywhere. The first is of a poster for an Alpine hoedown coming up soon—

The second is of a box of store brand of cereal from the Rewe chain here in Germany—

It’s funnier, I guess, if you know that “Ja!” is the German word for “yes”. So Loraine’s holding up a box of “Yes”! brand cereal.

Finally, it’s been noted that I haven’t posted a picture of me yet this trip, which is understandable because I’m the one taking most of the pictures that we’re posting. So Loraine took this one as we were walking back up a VERY long hill from the Rewe store to our hotel.

Berchtesgaden. It’s hard to take a bad picture here, even with a dork in it!