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Travel Not Tour - by Liv Hambrett

Travel Not Tour - April 2008

Just two days after getting home from Munich, we left for Berlin. At 5am. Christian and Tommy, who were sharing the four hour drive (flight) down the autobahn, predicted traffic and so as the sun rose on Michaelweg, we were peeling out of it, packed tightly in the comfort of fine German vehicular machinary. After a Bathroom and Bad Coffee Stop, and four hours of some serious singing, we arrived in Berlin at 11am, found our hostel and then sought out the most important thing, a kebab. Christian's promise of Berlin having the best kebabs came good.

Leni met us at the hostel, on the same morning, for the first of what has become several European jaunts. Tradition dictates we christen a new city by eating immediately (done) drinking immediately and sussing out the city centre (read: shops) and so, I am embarrassed to say, we spent out first day in the history HOTSPOT that is Berlin, drinking Mojitos and window shopping at Ka De We. We attempted to make up for it the following day, by scheduling a full day of sightseeing, only to be completely waylaid by pouring rain and a gay pride parade, en route to our planned Museum binge. And so it came to be that instead of prancing around an art gallery, I was pranced around by super smooth gay men on leashes. We managed one museum on museum island that day, and it had absolutely nothing to do with Berlin. I was happy as larry, however, because it had everything to do with Greek and Roman history.

A rather large night followed that saw all plans to leave the hostel nixed, and a group of Texans join us in the hostel bar for some raucus fun. So raucus, in fact, that Tommy managed to get shushed by security. He was later heard trumpeting 'I am the German spider man'.

As is becoming custom, our last day in the city was the best. The sun actually shone, so we didnt need to gad about in leftover ponchos from the World Cup with 'Deutschland' emblazoned across the back, and we, finally, did an activity that acknowledges Berlin for the historical HOTSPOT that it is. We did a walking tour that ended with a passionate monologue on the steps of the ault art museum from the guide and welling eyes from us. Berlin is like a foster child that has been passed from dysfunctional family to dysfunctional family, through one of the most volatile periods of history. And yet it retains its beauty and its strength as a city, and you really get a sense of that, walking past and through buildings that have been desecrated and rebuilt, some several times.

We did a bit of our own walking tour afterwards, led by Christian to whom Berlin is what New York is to me. I will not blame his impeccable guide skills on what happened next. The consumption of the worst food in the history of food consumption, most memorably a cheese platter ordered by Satie. Never has Brie resulted in such a stunning, enmasse gag reflex. Buoyed by a goblet of red wine, I may have shrieked 'this is the shit of Satan', as Satie slumped, wordlessly by her platter.

The day after our triumphant return from Berlin, Mama, Papa and Christian took us to a seasonal fair that is held on the lawns of a castle in Munster (as fairs often are). We foolishly downed chips and mayo and a crepe, before enthusiastically hopping on board one of Christian's 'favourite childhood rides' which involved frantic whipping about of capsules at a steadily increasing pace. Satie and I partnered up, narrowly avoided strapping ourselves into an actual capsule of vomit (the man found our horror at this near miss amusing) and then proceeded to yell such gems as 'ARE WE GATHERING PACE?´'I AM GOING TO VOMIT ... WELL IF YOU VOMIT, ANGLE YOUR HEAD THAT WAY SO THE BACKLASH DOESN'T GET ME ...' I didn't vomit, but I did pinch a nerve. How embarrassing. Am I eighty?

A few days after that we did a day trip to Koln (Cologne) and climbed all 500 (alleged, I am going to go out on a limb and say it was 1000) steps to the top of the Koln Cathedral. It was enthralling ... once we got to the top. Which involved snaking around panting poms who took inappropriately timed breathers when the winding steps were at their most narrow. This day trip marked our 15th city and 2 month trip anniversary. We cheersed to it with red wine in the plaza. We also cheersed to the news the boys' apartment was officially (or unofficially, depends on how much furniture makes living quarters official) ready and it was time to leave Michaelweg and our parents and strike out on our own.

Our final hours spent with Mama Rita were spent cycling around the town of Munster. Yes, cycling. There are more bikes than people in Munster, cars actually give way to cyclists on the road (instead of try and run them down, like me) and the majority of Munster's crime is tied up in bike thievery. So you can just imagine the three of us straddling giant hire bikes and taking off around the city, none of us having cycled since the age of 10; one loses their cycling legs after a while. Dee rear ended Rita within five minutes of taking off and Satie, in a stunning display of athletiscism, narrowly averted falling off her bike and into the river. By day´s end, so smug in our capabilities were we, that we cycled home to Michaelweg from Graelstrausse at 1am ... even after a celebratory Liquor 43 or two. If anything, we were celebrating getting Tommy's waterbed up the stairs, as much as we were the apartment being completed.

We officially moved in the following day, and, following our final dinner at Michaelweg, we hosted another round of celebratory drinks, on a larger scale than the previous evening. Leni jetted in for the weekend, we drank champagne, and it all culminated in a wildly interpretative dance to Atomic Kitten in the living room, newly minted as The Girls' Bedroom. It was a headachey foursome who made the trip to the Netherlands the following day, and it was a very calm Saturday night spent watching White Chicks and eating Doppelkeks.

Our final days in Munster sped to a close far, far too quickly. So quickly, in fact, that we will most probably be returning some time in September to recapture the Graelstrausse magic. We spent our days eating pizza (might have had something to do with an attractive pizza maker, not so much the delicious ruccola pizza he made) and ice cream sundaes comprising of 60 scoops, drinking cheap Spanish red wine on the cluttered balcony (and spilling it all over said balcony ... Satie) reading law papers and trying to prep Lennart for his exams (which goes to show how dire his preparation was considering my help was the best option going) shopping, watching Boston Legal (apparently an effective study method for budding lawyers) inhaling the healthy combination of chips & mayo and doppelkeks and extending our three word German vocab to an impressive 15 .

And the final night suddenly rolled around. We had our Last Supper at a lovely restaurant nearby, then returned to Graelstrausse to disturb the neighbours for a couple of hours (and close the door in their face, politely, when they appear for the second time, be-robed and with arms folded). Eventually, we removed ourselves from the building and took ourselves off to the Tracks of Munster. Really. I have said it before, but this was the actual Tracks of Munster. The crew were all there - Tommy, Anke, Basti, Jacob, Nicole - and shots abounded, namely because tequila was the best thing to get with the free drink tab.

I cannot describe the pain of the following day. Our train left for Frankfurt at 6am. We rolled in through the door, bloated with the heady mix of kebabs, pizza and tequila, at 4.45am. I crawled into bed until 4.50am, when Satie whipped the covers off, demanding to know why I had gotten into bed with the alarm due to go off in ten minutes. Half an hour of frenzied packing ensued, what were emotional goodbyes were delivered with drunken nonchalance, and we set off for the station in outfits borne of being on the floor at the time, and not stuffed into suitcases.

And so we made it to Frankfurt and onto our plane to Paris in the exact manner in which we arrived in Frankfurt from New York. Hungover as all hell, grumpy, grubby and in desperate need of sleep. For me, Frankfurt will forever spell headache.

Things always go full circle.


Becoming German

April 14th 2008 07:53
Perhaps the best place to start is the flight to Germany. It was nearly as epic as our month long stay in, what my father calls, The Motherland. Epic, not in length (we are Australians, flying internationally is always a long haul) but in frequency of chaos and embarrassing moments. I will type now, directly, from my journal;

Disaster has struck - loose of limb and of tongue, our 3 seats have become a vessel of delirium and embarrassment. Began when flight attendant, identified as gay not only through occupation but through overt mincing down aisles, rolled over Satie´s foot with drink cart. Led to an unfair amount of laughter from me, but couldnt help it. Breakfast soon served and, in peeling back my yoghurt foil, it spurted out, volcano style, splattering over my face and clavicle. Similar occurence with sugar sachets for tea. In moment of jest, said carelessly to girls, 'next I will pour tea on my crotch...' Lo and behold, moments later, backhanded full cup of tea all over Dee and I, soaking the groin area of our travel pants. Once this was sufficiently mopped, turbulence struck and Dee, in a moment of Herculean bravery, hoisted the nearly empty tea cup into the air, to avoid similar type of spill ... only to spill remaining tea on my head. Pants are now drying stiff and blueberry yoghurt spots my new Gap hoodie. Forty minutes to go

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Uptown Girls

April 6th 2008 00:35
When our cab pulled up in front of number 850 West End Ave, Upper West Side, New York City, we all sat for a little while, silent with disbelief. It was reminiscent of a similar silence, one that occurred exactly six days prior as we surveyed the ghetto over which Irwin presided. I prodded Dee and told her to go in and double check this was actually our hostel, as the umbrella stretching out over the wide, tree lined path, with '850 West End Ave' scrawled elegantly along the side painted a picture far too pretty for our hostel expectations. Not to worry, however, the inside of it was the very image of the lowest of hostel expectations ... our room was so small we nearly ran out of oxygen on several occasions and there were moments when we even missed Irwin's and our indoor rockery.

This blog is going to be, primarily, about food. This is because, somewhere along the way, this trip became less about seeing the world and more about eating it. We may have missed a few major monuments along the way, but give me a city and I will give you the best place to get a hamburger, a bagel, a coffee, a short stack or a sangria. Surely that is all there is to life

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