Friday, August 27, 2010

For the Record...

Friday, August 20, 2010

European Tour Update

Helsinki -- Was a bust. A very expensive one-day excursion from Tallinn arriving June 26th and leaving June 27th. It was the first destination that we didn't get to ascend a tower/platform to view a city. The irony is that we stayed at a hostel inside the 1952 Olympic Stadium, famous for its 72-meter viewing tower, which is only closed like two days a year, one being Midsummer -- the day we went. We took this boat out to an island to see the bonfire, which was either cancelled or heavily delayed because of the rain. Back to Stockholm.

Amsterdam -- Flew to and spent four nights, July 15th thru 19th, having been invited by Zan and Hans to assist with the Ars Amorata Experience. The entire visit was consumed by this intense, immersive event (plus associated nightlight). While it was great to connect with the guys, we did not do a single touristic thing. Not one museum, monument, or tower. Not one step into the red-light district. The most interesting things I remember are the widespread use of bikes as transportation and the Febo automatiek restaurants selling deep-fried crap. Back to Stockholm.

Brussels -- Flew to and spent four nights, July 24th thru 27th, primarily training with Zan and Hans for the Way of Approaching tour plus conducting the first workshop under this partnership. Got to do some touristic stuff like seeing Mannekin Pis and going to the viewing platform inside the 102-meter Atomium built for the 1958 World's Fair. Culturally, what I remember most is the schizophrenia created by every single thing being written in both French and Dutch and the distinct lack of pretty girls (apparently they all went to the beach for the summer).

Cologne -- Took the train into Germany and had a one night stop, arriving July 28th and leaving the 29th. Went to the top of the Cologne Cathedral. This one is 157 meters tall with a viewing platform at 97 meters. Otherwise, all I remember is a hostel with a bar and that bar filled with smoke. I met a cool Russian girl there, so there was no reason to go out.

Berlin -- Seven days, July 29 through August 4th. Stayed with a cool Amorati guy. Talked at a lair meeting and held a workshop for four guys. It was a great success until we generously extended the workshop to include going to a club, and of course, we couldn't get into any of these trendy places as a group of six guys. :) Went to a park with a substantial remaining length of the Berlin Wall plus to the top of the Fernsehturm, the tallest structure in Germany. The total height is 368 meters and the viewing platform is at 203 meters. My girl from Stockholm arrived for the last four days in Berlin and I finally did an appropriate amount of tourism. Highlights were the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and a tour of the 1936 Olympic Stadium. We ate lots of Chinese food and of course tried the currywurst. Berlin strikes me as a "poor but sexy" kind of city with lots of residual tension because of its past. It is the kind of city that you'd really have to commit to living in if you want to know it's secrets. To learn anything more than what you'd read in a tourist guidebook, I think you'd really have to move there.

Kiev -- Flew in on August 5th. Spent ten days there. Favorite city so far besides Stockholm. Densely populated city, lots of pretty girls, lots of greenspace, plenty to do and see. And it's cheap. Took a one-hour boat tour on the Dnieper River for like $4. Explored several old churches including the belltower at St Sophia Cathedral and the Monastery of the Caves where you can see mummified bodies of saints that date back to the 11th century. Stayed right next to Independence Square, checked out the People's Friendship Arch and visited the Museum of the Great Patriotic War which features this badass 62-meter tall Motherland Statue. Also spent some time at the really popular sandy river beaches including Hidropark. There are really only two drawbacks that I found to Kiev. One is that people really don't know English at all, unlike most other European cites. And two is that the police like to stop you for silly arbitrary reasons and expect you to pay an "administration fee" (aka bribe). Kiev would have been a great place to have gotten an apartment and stayed for awhile.

Odessa -- Is a major seaport on the Black Sea. On August 13th, we took a nine hour train ride down, saw some statues and old buildings, and took a nine hour train ride right back to Kiev. Did not even spend the night. We mainly just wanted to say that we saw something on the Black Sea, as we did not have time to travel to the famous resort towns. We made it back in time for our Kiev workshops and I am glad we did as it was one of the best yet.

Currently we are in Bucharest. More to come.