ginger: (my take on the world)
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Trip Recap Part 5 and final --

Munich, Salzburg and Rome!

MUNICH:

Friday 6/7 continued: The train finally arrived an hour late. I met Ari at the Hbf, and we went back to our hostel, checked in, dropped stuff off, and went out to a bar for some dinner.

Saturday 6/8: we got up, grabbed some breakfast, and went down to the Marienplatz for a free walking tour. We saw the Glockenspiel go off -- just as underwhelming as I remember -- and also Mariensäule, Frauenkirche, Theatinerkirche, the military memorial, a couple of smaller memorials to German resistance and Jewish owned businesses, Hofbräuhaus, and the old and new town halls. (The Neues Rathaus is actually older than the Altes Rathaus, go fig.) After the tour, we stopped for a snack (next to a lady who was quite gleefully inhaling a giant pile of raw ground beef, weird) and went to the Residenz Museum, then to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner (still 8) and Hofbräuhaus for drinks. I haven't tried to drink a full liter of beer out of a single glass since I was 16 - those things are heavy. After our beers, we headed back to the hostel.

Sunday 6/9: not a light day. We got up and grabbed breakfast, then met for a tour of Dachau concentration camp. The tour guide (same as for the free walking tour) was awesome, very knowledgeable and respectful of the topic. There was a guy with us who was being kind of a douchebag - his parents were Jewish soviet partisans and he was a year old at the end of the war, so he kept holding himself out as an expert on life during the Shoah, and he kept trying to butt in on the tour guide, except that everything he tried to say was (a) wrong and (b) trying to make the Shoah all about sex? "You can't look at the Holocaust without analyzing it from a sexual perspective." Bullshit. It's relevant, and there are reasons to do so, but to say you can't look at it any other way is just stupid. He tried to insist that the Nazis didn't persecute lesbians, just gay men, and he made really douchey comments to Ari along the lines of "it could have been us here," and really he just kind of sucked. Plus he kept trying to attach himself to groups of young women**. Anyway. After the tour, we ended up in conversation with an Aussie couple, so we all went to the Chinese Tower at the Englischer Gardens and found ourselves chatting over dinner and beers until like 8:30. The waiter was really odd too. When we ordered, I asked for a sausage plate with a side of French fries, and he got really confused, until I finally said forget the fries, just the sausage. Ari and the Aussies ordered sausages and pretzels. The waiter got really annoyed that we all ordered the same sausages, he wanted us to order different things so we could share them around. Our sausages showed up. Then he shows up with a giant vat of fries. Then he shows up with two of a different kind of sausage, but no pretzels. We tried again to order the pretzels, and the waiter finally made the connection between "pretzel" and "bretze" (we all thought they were close enough that he should have known what we meant, especially since we were all drawing pretzel shapes in the air or on the table with our fingers AND POINTING AT IT IN THE DAMN MENU) and brought them too. After dessert, we all went our ways and Ari and I went back to the hostel planning for an early night (9:30am train Monday) and ended up chatting with our roommates til almost 11:30.

**Editor's note: When we got back to Chicago, we googled up the douchebag to see if he was actually a Harvard professor like he'd kept holding himself out to be. Apparently he has been an associate professor in sociology-related disciplines at Harvard as well as several other Ivy League institutions, except he's left all of them after being accused of and suspended for sexual harassment and/or assault. His second wife's family also believes he murdered her, as she died within a few days of their wedding under apparently mysterious circumstances, but this has never been seriously investigated or proven. Creepy. Ugh. UGH.

Monday 6/10: we got up early, breakfasted and headed out to the Hbf to catch our 9:30am train to Salzburg. After a platform change and a ten minute delay, we got on the train and headed out. Once we got there, we took a tour bus around - I listened to the Sound of Music commentary - and then started going places. We went to Mirabell Gardens, the birthplace of Mozart, St Peter's Monastery, up the funicular to the fortress of Hohensalzburg, and the old Dom Cathedral. Then we grabbed some dinner and hopped the train back to Munich.

Tuesday 6/11: after breakfast, we went out to Schloss Nymphenburg. We toured the main palace, the Marstall Museum (carriages and sleighs) and the porcelain museum, and the four park palaces. Then we went back into the Marienplatz for another look inside the Frauenkirche. After that we headed back to the hostel for dinner at a nearby cafe, then called it an early night and zoned out with our respective kindles.

Wednesday 6/12: the Deutsches Museum. Only about half of it seems to be translated into English, but it's neat. So far (I'm typing while Ari is down in a mine) we've seen aviation history, engines, and the development of metalworking techniques. And that's one floor out of like five. (Time passes.) It was not at all what I expected. I figured that the German Museum would be primarily about, y'know, German history. As it turns out, it's actually a museum about technology - aviation, engines and machinery, metalworking, glass and ceramics, audio-video tech, computers and microtechnology, biotech, paper-making and book-binding, all kinds of stuff. That was pretty much the whole day. We went back to the hostel and I did a load of laundry, then we went out for dinner and postcard-processing. Got everything ready to head out and we went to bed.

Thursday 6/13: up early, a couple minutes of Internet and off to the airport. First leg of our flight went to ...

BERLIN (again):

Thursday 6/13 continued: We landed. They gave me a chocolate heart. We grabbed a sandwich, ran to the other terminal and through security and then the flight was delayed. But only by fifteen minutes. Then we got on the plane. I finished the non-beaded part of my Shipwreck Shawl, woo! I brought way more yarn than I needed. Dammit. Now it's just taking up suitcase space, but I can't just get rid of it because I'll need it once I get home. Soon we land in ...

ROME:

Thursday 6/13 continued more: we landed, got our stuff, no passport control or customs, and took a bus to the main train station, then found the hostel. After dropping our stuff off, we grabbed some dinner, then called it a night.

Friday 6/14: red tour bus ride, then we went to the Coliseum. Late lunch at Hard Rock Cafe (9 and done!) for their founder's day stuff. Back to the hostel to meet Jakie and then pretty much just hung out for the rest of the evening.

Saturday 6/15: Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, late lunch, impromptu booze tasting, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, gelato, a walk around the neighborhood, bed.

Sunday 6/16: Awful awful city bus ride - it was super super crowded, and people kept shoving into each other and stepping on toes. There were 40,000 Harley riders at St Peter's, the nice civil guard kept handing out free fizzy water, and then we got blessed by the Pope along with all the Harley riders! After that, we went and grabbed some lunch and went to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona We stopped for gelato, then we all went our own ways for the afternoon. I went to the Museum of Rome, which turned out to be an art museum, boo. We re-met for dinner at an Irish pub, then went on a Dark Rome tour with a tour guide from Detroit. The bus back to the hostel was far less awful, and bed was good.

Monday 6/17: we took the metro to the Vatican museums. It was so crowded that Ari did not fit into the train and had to take the next one. Then we got in line at the Vatican museums at 9:10am. There were ticket scammers and postcard sellers and scarf and hat sellers. People kept trying to sneak into the line. We chatted with the nice British couple behind us. A lady pushed through the line and about ripped a handful of my ribs out with her claw-like fingernails. Some tour guide threatened to call the police on us because she thought we had cut in line, and the nice British lady about threw down with her before the Australian dude in front of us yelled at the tour guide that no, we'd been behind them in line since they got there, so leave us alone. Then we got into the Vatican museums at 11:55am. The Raphael Rooms were amazing. The Sistine Chapel was almost a letdown afterwards, but not quite. (It got better the longer we looked at it.) We also saw sculptures and tapestries and Etruscan vases and stamps and coins and Popemobiles and a picture of John Paul II holding a koala bear. They did not plan the cafe options well - the cafe at the halfway point only had about 25 people worth of seating, so there were more than a few people who just gave up and ate their pastries standing. After we finished in the Vatican museums, we went around to go look in St. Peter's Basilica. The security line goes down the length of one side of the colonnade, formally, but there were only a few people in line, so we followed a bunch of nuns (one of whom had a Tinkerbell purse) in jumping over the fence marking the side of the line to get into line rather than walking all the way around. Yes, we scaled a gate into St. Peter's with a pack of nuns. The inside of the church is just amazing. Huge and beautiful and just so moving. Ari had missed part, so we sent him back in to finish while Jakie and I went out and ogled one of the Swiss guardsmen, who have truly ridiculous uniforms and truly impressive polearms. (Yes, I mean the halberds. :-P ) After finishing up with St. Peter's and the Swiss guard, we went out for Chinese. Then Ari went back to the hostel and Jakie and I walked down to the Coliseum to see it and the Forum at night. We got a little bit lost on the way back, but not too bad.

Tuesday 6/18: up early to go meet our tour - Ari and I had an Angels and Demons tour. A little cheesy, but lots of neat historical information and sights. Kept us busy visiting the main sites from the book most of the morning, ending at Castel Sant'Angelo. From there, Ari went his own way and I took myself out for lunch with my book, then went back to the hostel to do laundry and pack to go HOME. When Ari came back, we grabbed some dinner at a little cafe, then we finished up the packing and read for a bit before bed.

Wednesday 6/19: I got woken up by a dude doing some weird wigwag disco inferno flashlight dance at 4am. Then between the guy across the way snoring like a ripsaw and the guy above me ahem thrashing around like a bear in a hornet's nest (they were taking turns - one would stop, and I'd think I was going to be able to get back to sleep, and then the other one would start up), I stayed awake. Since 4am. We left at 7:30am to catch our shuttle bus to the airport. First we stood in line at the check-in desk from 8:50 to 9:45. Then we had to go through security and passport control. Finally we got to the gate for our 11:50am plane. Apparently at Rome, you don't go through a tunnel to get on the plane. You get on five buses, they drive you to the plane and then you walk up the stairs to get on. And then they decide that you can't be on the plane while they fuel it, so you all get back off the plane and onto the buses. Then you get back on the plane and they sit around for a while longer. Finally the plane leaves at 1:15. Our hour and forty-five minute layover in Dublin turned into OH GOD THE PLANE IS ALREADY BOARDING AND THEY HAVEN'T GIVEN ME A BOARDING PASS AND I HAVE TO GO THROUGH PASSPORT CONTROL AGAIN AND HOLY FRAGBALLS WHAT IS THIS SECURITY AGAIN, I SWEAR I HAVE NOT PICKED UP ANYTHING CONTRABAND SINCE THE GATE JUST NOW AND I HAVEN'T EVEN LEFT A SECURE AREA with lots of running and a side helping of I HOPE TO GOD ARI MAKES IT BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO EXPLAIN TO MAMA ROTH HOW I LEFT HER SON IN IRELAND. (I was in row 8 on the plane into Dublin, he was in 25, and every time I tried to stop to wait for him they were all GO GO GO YOU MUST GET TO THE GATE. Which was true, and I figured at 36 he can manage to get himself through a very clearly signed path, and he did.) The guy in the seat next to mine offered to trade with Ari so we could sit together. The douchewaffle in front of me spent the first two hours of the flight slamming his seat back as far as it would go and as hard as he could, after the first time when he banged it into my iPad and I asked him to please not bang it quite so hard, but he appears to have calmed down with that now. The cabin attendant spilled diet coke on my head and sweatshirt. Hopefully the luggage made the flight change and people are done being stupid now. We are somewhere just south of Greenland with about five hours to go, and someone (Ari thinks some combination of Mama Roth and/or the Doctor) is expected to pick us up at O'Hare, and I am not allowed to sleep until at least 10pm Chicago time. (This is my clever scheme to brute-force myself past jet lag.)

It was an amazing trip, I loved it, and I will remember it forever, but my GOD am I looking forward to being home with my people and my bed and my puppy and a shower that I don't feel the need to wear shoes in and big fluffy towels and non-public bathrooms and Arby's.

The super short analysis is that I liked Berlin best, hands down. I also really enjoyed Belfast, Dublin and Munich. London was amazing, but crazy expensive. I was largely indifferent to Brussels, Amsterdam and Glasgow/Edinburgh. I did not like Paris or Rome pretty much at all - they were both great in terms of history, but not enjoyable places to visit.
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December 2016

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