Sunday, September 28, 2008

That's just different...


...and that's all that could really be said about my 2nd stop on my blur through Europe.

Whether you call it "Holland" or "The Netherlands" or "The Land of the Dutch" - there is one place that everybody in the world knows where you are talking about...


After a night of rather intermittent sleep, I watched the sun rise from black to dark-blue to light-blue from the train window. It finally settled somewhere between light-blue and windy.

...not to mention cold.

But honestly, I had no guesses as to what a city would be like where the usual Western taboos don't apply: marijuana is legal in "coffee shops" and completely legal prostitution is just one block to the east.

Though on the mighty bright side, there were things there like really awesome cars...

...and canals that you just about won't see anywhere else in this part of Europe.

Also, many don't realize that Amsterdam was the city of Anne Frank - and now the massive lines waiting (almost 3hrs) at 8:30am to see it.


I didn't have that kind of time...

You will, however, see millions of bicycles on little tiny streets.

Not enough bicycles for you? Have a thirst for the two-wheeled?

Whoa. That's what I said, too.

The guidebook I had at the time said, "We have traveled a lot of places to put together this book, but this by far takes the cake."

Click on the image to see... there must be tens of thousands of bicycles in this little area here.

What a mess...

Okay, enough of that.

Over at Dam Square, things are getting a little crowded as a carnival starts to take the floor space.

Nearby there is a museum with a bit of profundity...

...then again...

I consider language a part of the culture of a place. Ironically, I was in the Netherlands and this sign on a major public building was written in English. Maybe I'm thinking a bit too deep...


I like sparks.

They're pretty.

So, I had met up with my friends, Melissa and Bethany, and we headed back to the train station for a quick journey back down to Munich - from whence I had just come.

Of course you must understand that I am compressing time quite a bit in these blog posts...

...although this time, we were on an ICE hi-speed train instead of the slowness of the CNL (City Night Line) train that I had been on just a few hours prior.

Still, even at 300km/h it took almost 6.5 hours and one train change in Köln to reach Munich.

Here I introduce Melissa. Beginning in Amsterdam, she and Bethany and I were the core group that traveled together. While Mandy and Sarabeth would meet up with us a few times during the trip, the three of us did much of the trip - even through a few rocky times - together.

Here, also, I explain how we organized our travels:
We made major arrangements (mainly flights) before ever leaving Athens. That left hostels, trains, and the schedule of each day... mostly to chance. We would typically reserve hostels (at MOST) approximately 24hrs in advance and the schedule of the sites we would visit were usually planned on the spot.

Sometimes this was a frustration: "What do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?"

But this is how we rolled.

Traveling on trains like this would have been completely impossible if not for a little piece of heaven called the Eurail Global Pass. We spent about US$400 for a 15-day pass that allowed for us (almost) free rail travel through (almost) all of Europe. Most of the time we would simply board the train - no ticket needed. Sometimes we would have to buy a seat reservation on the busier trains (like the ICE or Thalys or TGV). I think the most I paid for a normal seat on a train was 7Euro, though.

So, that's how that worked. This ICE train from Amsterdam had no reservation and we sat in a mighty nice private booth and had a food car just one car down. I smile...

Upon our return to Bavaria, we were met by a mighty balmy Munich where musicians from the local orchestra were out on the streets selling their newest CD... and playing extremely impressive quartet arrangements of classical masterworks.

Munich at night is a beautiful thing.

This is the Rathaus you saw earlier in the daylight. It is far more dramatic at night!

And so ended that day... we stayed in the rather-rowdy Wombat City Hostel near the train station.

Awaking the next day somewhere around dawn Bethany, Melissa, and I headed around the corner to the train station to meet up with Mandy and Sarabeth who had just been train-hopping all night from Zurich.

The next destination on this gross, rainy morning?

Füssen, Germany: the home of Neuschwanstein Castle.

What is that you may ask?

Use a little imagination - they did - and you'll see the Disney Fantasyland Castle. Yes, my friends, here is the real-life inspiration for the DisneyWorld castle.

It was one of those ridiculous things to see.

As it so happens, the builder of this castle was truly a bit on the crazy side. He was egocentric to the extreme... to the insane extreme.

And though some of you may want to see more photos from this spot... alas, it was pouring down rain. My camera had been through a lot already and I still had many miles to go...

Que the Alps:

"The hills are alive with the sound of music..."

Yep. Putting Germany behind us (and leaving Sarabeth and Mandy in Füssen) for a little while and heading southwest into Switzerland.

That's another ICE hi-speed...

...and a few more random shots of people out the windows at tiny stations.

And as we passed into the greater Alps, the weather cleared off and actually got quite beautiful.

Zürich we passed through just for a little while waiting for a train to Lucerne for the night.

Get used to photos taken in train stations, my friends. They will come frequently - because that's how they came to us...

...very frequently.

Nevertheless, we arrived in Lucerne by 8:00pm... strangely enough to some sort of demonstration that called for riot cops in full gear. We never saw any sign of the demonstration... just the cops running around.

No photo for that... nothing happened! They just ran around. Must have been training... in a train station.


Lucerne was gag-me-with-a-spoon picturesque...

...yes, EVEN with swans...

...and, of course...

...the Alps.

That was two more days. You've seen Munich, Amsterdam, Munich #2, Füssen, and finishing off in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Day or two at a time.

What will I see tomorrow? This was Saturday. The next day was Sunday. But could I have told you what day it was at any given time during the trip?

Not at all...


Stay tuned, my friends. It has just begun...
~Noah D.

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