It's been a long week, that's for sure. For starters, I left last Friday morning and did not arrive home until just today, spending time in four countries and at least five cities. It's been fun, but exhausting, exasperating, and even a bit obnoxious at times.
In an effort to conserve my energies--and my stories--I will not depict everything I have done in the past week, for if I were to attempt that, it might take my entire night and the following day. So I beg forgiveness in a brief summary of the week (with certain moments dissected for your enlightenment).
Friday was spent traveling from Geneva to Brussels. It was a long ride since we were unable to secure seats on the high speed train running through Paris. Instead, we took my roundabout way and in a short 10 hours found ourself in Brussels. I will leave the city by saying that Brussels is a city for three things. First and foremost, Beer. Secondly, fries. Thirdly, mussels. To officially close the short description, I will end with a quote--after all, my english teachers always told me to open and close with a hook (usually a quote). "First God invented Brussels...then beer."
From there, we took an overnight train to Hamburg, DE. The train was hot and uncomfortable. I slept almost naked, with no covers, on a bed that was maybe large enough for my five year old brother. And when I said slept, I meant to say tossed restlessly all night. But that is not the point. The point is I ended up in Hamburg, hopping on the next train to Copenhagen. I will not delve into the details about Scandinavia. Leave it to knowing that the women really are blond, and the cities are picturesque...similar to the rest of Europe.
The part of this journey that I find most attractive or appealing is not the what, but the why. As we sat around planning the weekend--anticipating a full 3 days in Brussels--Ginn came around and said, and I quote, "Do ya'll wanna stop by Copenhagen? It's only like a 2 hour train ride from Brussels." As all her ducks lined up, she made the final kill-shot with a "Please..." and a southern accent. How could anyone resist? We were in.
As we rested our dogs after a long day in Copenhagen, we pondered how to spend our evening. It was predetermined that we would throw a fete in our hotel room, but that was for later. Once again, Ginnie pulled through for us. "Ya'll wanna head to Sweden for the night? It's only a 5 minute boat ride or so." (Again, I vow to tell my stories as my mind remembers them, for my keys are incapable of creating such falsifications.) Again, we all lined up and she delivered a perfect shot.
The next few days were spent in Berlin doing the things that normal jelly donuts do--you know, memorials for WWI, WWII, GDR, what-have-you. We saw prisons, torture chambers, concentration camps, and all sorts of exciting sites in Berlin. East Berlin is definitely the more beautiful side of the two--who would've thought? But in all honesty, it amazes me that one single solitary country (well, for a while, two) could commit so many atrocities in such short time. I am no historian, so I will not attempt to depict them to you, but suffice it to say they did. Besides the multiple nights of hanging in the hostel playing card games, I will highlight a few minor points of the trip.
First off, we visited the check point Charlie museum. This was the major check point between East and West Berlin. My tour guide happened to be a West Berliner that risked life and limb over 120 times to evacuate Easterners. Eventually he was captured and jailed in a Secret jail for 9 years. Quite a compelling story.
Secondly, I find it ironic that for the 4 days I spent in Berlin, I was able to pass freely through the Brandenburg gate at will. Each morning I would run through it (my hostel was in East Berlin) with my arm raised celebrating the downfall of communism and the victory of western democracy.
Thirdly, I spent about an hour trouncing through the holocaust memorial downtown. At first glance, it looks to be a large park in the middle of Berlin. It is a full block square with hundreds, if not thousands, of coffin sized blocks raising from the ground at varying heights in very straight lines. The ground was more disorienting than the varying size of the blocks; the ground twisted and turned with each step--at some points it would drop 4 feet in about two steps. As I walked through it I could not help but to think to myself that the ultimate movie ending to a cold war thriller would be a cat and mouse espionage game through this memorial. That notwithstanding, the most interesting thing about the memorial is that the architect does not discourage people from playing on the memorial since in all honesty, it does seem to be more a park than a memorial. Out of respect, however, I abstained and we ventured off.
Dresden, for a brief history, was a city fire-bombed by the Allied Air Forces at the end of WWII. There is a lot of heavy criticism for the bombings--they killed nearly 40,000 civilians. Many say that it was vindication for the Battle of Britain, or even D-Day. At any rate, a majority of the cultural sites were hit, many of which are still damaged today. As I sat across from the city on the bank of the Elbe while my lady friends sunned themselves in the 70 degree weather, I took in the irony that the old city across from me was actually more recent than the new city directly behind me. And off to my left was a 40 year old german man--and when I say german I mean it--in a Sean Connery-esque square cut speedo copying my friends. The city was beautiful and fun. It was nice to have good weather for a change--even if it did mean Molly fried out in the sun.
We chose to skip out on this weekend in Prague. I'm not sure why, but I was not up for more traveling. So in its stead, we hopped on a train for home and 10 hours later, we arrived. Overall, it was an excellent, contemplative week.
Post Script: I have added two new albums of photos to the left hand side. They are labeled Amsterdam and Lisbon. I will add the ones from this last week sometime soon.