Archive for August 2011

A Day in Prague: Castles, Piss, Supermodels, and Peppermint Beer

August 18, 2011 - 11:31 pm No Comments

Another long, hot day. My feet are crying for mercy. I’ve got a sweet crisscross tan on the top of my feet, but Chaco sandals are not the shoes to wear for 12-hour urban hikes.

We started the day with a free, guided walking tour around central Prague. The city’s got an interesting mix of unique architecture, people, and Russian street names. Like the rest of central Europe, the Romans, and then the Germans, and then the Russians shaped the history and people of this country.

It’s easy to get lost – streets intersect almost randomly. If you’re hoping to get somewhere by walking in a straight line, you’re out of luck.

Matryoshka Dolls (more…)

To Prague

August 17, 2011 - 2:20 pm No Comments

Another very early morning. I hopped across the street to get a pretzel-bagel thing, and the lady working the stall taught me (JENK-oo-yeh), which means “thank you.” Then a brisk walk to the station to catch our train.

Train through the Polish Countryside (more…)


August 17, 2011 - 12:15 am 2 Comments

Everyone in the group knew that today was going to be heavy. Visiting the concentration camp was something all of us were looking forward to but a little scared of at the same time.

We hopped onto an early morning shuttle from Krakow, sharing the cramped van with locals heading to the suburbs. Frank, who spent some time in the fruit trade, told me that the giant green grapes I was eating were “Waltham Cross” grapes.

As we passed through small towns, street signs displayed town names, but some of them had a red slash through them as if they used to be there but no longer existed. I remarked to Frank that the red slashes must signify towns that were destroyed in WWII and no longer exist. The truth is much less dramatic. A red slash through a town name means that you are leaving that town.

The Road to Oświęcim (more…)

The Old Man at Wawel Castle

August 15, 2011 - 11:02 pm No Comments

Woke up sweating and sore. Out the window, a beautiful sunrise over the Polish countryside.

Good Morning, Poland! (more…)

The Train to Poland

August 15, 2011 - 12:42 am No Comments

Alex and I visited Tacheles, a recommendation from my friend Chris. The historical and partially demolished building is now a haven for artists. It’s filled with paintings and graffiti and sculptures. It smells like paint and mold and piss.

Stairs of Tacheles (more…)

Meeting the Group

August 14, 2011 - 9:01 am No Comments

Kirtan and I started off by visiting the East Side Gallery, the longest continuous segment of Berlin Wall left standing and now decorated by local artists.

Me at the East Side Gallery (more…)

Berlin in a Day

August 13, 2011 - 1:21 pm No Comments

Just as day started to break on the left side of the plane, the orangey glows of small Normandy towns became visible in the blackness on the right.

What followed was an unbelievably long, borderline criminal walk from the farthest gate in Terminal 2C to the farthest gate in Terminal 2D. Sweating profusely, I got to the gate just in time.

Flying into Berlin, the first things I saw through the hazy gray clouds were the famous TV tower and white apartment buildings of identical design all over the place.

On the bus from the plane to the terminal, I studied the mostly German passengers I had just flown with. They have a look, but it’s hard to pin down. Their most common features are skinny frames and thin lips, but there is a lot of variation. None of the women wear make-up, and many have short hair, making them look a bit masculine. In a juvenile and probably offensive way, I wondered how many of them had fathers or grandfathers who were Nazis. Does that make me an asshole? Or is that a valid stigma German people will battle for generations to come?

Strangely, there was no customs or passport stamp upon entering Germany. Is that because I had just come from Paris, where they did briefly glance at my passport? Once you’re in the EU, you’re in the EU?

The helpful girl at the information desk gave me a map and precise instructions to use the bus and train to get to my hotel.

I was introduced to Berlin through the bus window. Every street sign had a platz or a straße on it (that ß is kind of cool-looking). As instructed, I got off at the Alexanderplatz train station.

Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz (more…)

On the Way to Berlin

August 11, 2011 - 6:46 pm No Comments

I’m sitting on Air France flight #39. My seat in 15L is next to a window about 30 feet from an enormous engine. Out the window is the featureless blue-gray swath of the Atlantic Ocean. It stretches to the horizon, where bubbly cumulus clouds and layers of white stratus are having a party. This will be the seventh time I have crossed the Atlantic.

Atlantic Blue (more…)

New Year’s in Mexico

August 6, 2011 - 4:23 pm No Comments

Eight months ago, I took a last-minute trip to Mexico with my buddy Anthony for New Year’s. We had a pretty good time down there, but it was also a good opportunity to get away from home and sort out personal issues we were both dealing with at the time. Travel therapy. I didn’t keep a formal blog, but I thought it might be fun to remember some of the highlights.

I met Anthony at the Cancún airport late at night. I was waiting for him outside, where the air was thick with humidity and tourists were hustling and bustling for taxis and vans and shuttles. We had read in our guidebooks to be careful not to get ripped off by one of these people, so we carefully explored our options. An hour and a half later, after all the other, more sensible tourists had gone to their hotels, we were part of a small group of people waiting for the last shuttle of the night to pick us up.

Anthony and I spent a couple of days exploring the beaches and sneaking through some pretty impressive all-inclusive resorts. Some of them were cool with us hanging around, but others were quite exclusive, refusing to let us walk through their property without the requisite bracelets.

Beach in Cancun (more…)