Saturday, July 14, 2018


As all of my photos are on unresponsive drives, you're going to have to settle for this link to flickr.

I'm pulling most of this information from my travel notebook. Check out how big my handwriting used to be!

My huge writing! Key for scale.
Same key, same book, written seven years later.
My notebook starts on 22 May, 2011, though I'm not sure that's actually when I started my trip. To give you a little history, I had met my friend Mike while helping to paint a mural over the summer of 2010. He decided that he wanted to explore more of the world (or something like that) and moved to Berlin. I'd finally saved up some money (I had had a second steady job since around October 2010) and decided I should visit him - why not!

You can tell from that first writing sample that I fell in love with the city pretty much right away - I write "the best part so far was the overwhelming calm throughout the city" - I know now that Berlin just makes me feel at home and at ease.

My first day(s) in Berlin Mike and I wandered around - I have a picture of me at the Rosa Luxemburg monument. We didn't go into the zoo (or, indeed, anyplace really), but rather wandered through parks and met up with friends. I suspect I wrote the rather sparse journal entry on the train to Prague on May 22.

I have more vivid memories of the train trip from Berlin to Prague than a lot of other things on the trip. For a start, Mike, his girlfriend at the time Sabine, and I went to the train station to pick up a ticket with an assigned seat (in hindsight, probably unnecessary). There was a woman with a giant teacup on her head handing out free newspapers, which I was able to read on the train (which also reminds me how much of the German language I've since lost!). A picture, some goodbyes, and a whistle and I was on the train... where I had to fight a woman for my assigned seat! I spoke broken German, she didn't speak English, and the other people in the compartment were Asian tourists. In the end, I got the seat. Had I not had the assigned seat, I would have just skipped over the cabin (and perhaps gotten a seat in an air-conditioned car!). As it was, I tried to make due on the journey.

There was a couple sitting across from me who kept speaking almost-German. It took me the whole ride to figure out that they were Austrian. The guy was a drummer in a band. I don't remember much else except that, as we neared Prague, the temperature started to rise and we noticed the lack of air conditioning. At some point it got so bad I just left the car and stood in the aisle of another car that had a/c. This is how I arrived in Prague.

I complain in the journal that I was stuck buying a map of Prague at random (I was using a "burner" brick phone with a German SIM) because the train arrived just before a book store closed. I complain further that the hostel at which I was staying was right on an all-night tram line which was loud and squeaky.

I met up with a friend, Teddi, and we wandered around and saw museums in Prague. We saw a Dali museum, a Mucha museum, and the Kafka museum. I write that I was disappointed by them, but the Mucha museum still influences my taste in art to this day. We also saw the old town and all the tourist shit one might expect (e.g. the castle, the astrological clock) and I came away from the experience feeling that Prague was some offshoot of Disney World - everyone spoke English and it seemed everything was a bit too on-the-nose. I should go back and get really, really lost.

My next stop was Munich, where I arrived quite late at night. The first half of my journey was made on some rickety soviet-era train which wasn't allowed to enter Germany, so we changed trains in Pilsen (the home of the pilsner!). After we changed to a German train, I made my way to my very expensive hostel (where I was to be charged for sheets and towels and such - I think I slept on a towel so I didn't have to pay for two things). Early in the morning I went back to the train station to get some info (e.g. buy a map) and buy a train ticket for Berlin. I remember asking the ticketing agent where one might get breakfast in Munich and he goes "We Germans are not a breakfast culture." Sure, fine, but in Munich they have a specialty sausage that's specifically supposed to be eaten in the morning (weisswurst) which means they had to have a place where I can eat the fucking thing for my morning meal - you know, breakfast.

I made the trip to Munich to go visit Rashid Sunyaev, who I met at the Philosophical Society. This falls under "I probably shouldn't have done this, but was dumb and cocky". In any case, we had a great time chatting and I saw his university's campus.

Later on I got lost in Munich and wandered around the English Garden. Maybe exactly 24 hours after arriving, I left on an overnight train to Berlin, which arrived at 8:30am. That was certainly a different experience - we'll see if I do better at sleeping on future overnight trains.

My journal gets very sparse here, so I was probably sleeping, doing laundry, and a little wandering. I mention going to a little "French" cafe that I vividly recall - the owner was almost a mime with how she had done her makeup and outfit. I stumbled over some words and drank some tea. I wrote the most I would write on this trip in that cafe - a full page and a half (in that giant script I pointed out at the beginning of the story).

The last few days are noteworthy, but can be boiled down to a few sentences. First, an anecdote from a kebab shop - I went in and asked for a "doener kebap" and did my usual German screw up - instead of asking for "ohne" (without / no) tomatoes, I asked for "nur" (only) tomatoes. I mean, you can see my confusion ("ohne" sounds like "only", "nur" reminds me of "not"). As the guy reached for the tomatoes, I realized my mistake and was able to correct it in time - though this turned into a broken conversation about cucumbers (as there was an e-coli outbreak at the time). Finally, the shop owner asked if I was Italian, due to my accent. I suppose that was a decent ego boost (not sounding American) to go along with a tasty sandwich.

Sometime after that, a group of us went to an art show / music thing and I just felt very lonely (I wrote a couple poems about this that are now on my fiction blog - interestingly, the original copy of one of the poems was discarded as part of a performance Annie Wilson put on many years later).

The next day I saw the Pergamon museum... I think. I know Mike and I wandered around Templehof air field (when it was a park) and I know we did some shopping (indeed, trying to find a "Greek fisherman's cap" like I saw a bunch of folks wearing, to no avail - I'd find one a full year later in a store across the street from my apartment in Philly). I'm not sure what else to mention as the whole adventure was seven years ago and my notes are pretty bad.

I have no cost information to share, though I know I spent too much due to last-minute travel. The only reason I know how many days I spent overseas is due to my airline receipt - I left America at 19:00 on May 20 and returned at 16:10 on May 30.

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