Wednesday, July 3, 2013

If we had blogs in 1997: Zoo Station

The student goes to Berlin and sees a city recovering from the Cold War. The city is hopeful, alive, full of possibility, and the cranes, victory towers in their own right, represent something beautiful. She only begins to see the amazement, for the trivialities of being a twenty year old pervade her view. But she senses it, that thing for which the world strives, progress, some call it.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, why were you so bored with everything? You were supposed to stay a year but you hated everything and left after a semester. 

As usual, spelling, grammatical, and factual errors have been preserved.

5 Oct 1997

On the train going home from Berlin now. It's been a long ride, but I don't feel that tired. I'm sure I'll go home and sleep. Berlin was awesome. At least I didn't say cool. I can see how it inspired Bono and the boys to come up with Achtung baby. Yeah, the U2 stuff is starting to annoy me, too, but the Berlin stuff is important. Achtung Baby was inspired by reunification. I got off the train station listening to the album that had a profound effect on my awareness of the world. We never even learned about the USSR and Eastern Europe in elementary school - I guess they were the bad guys and not worth learning about. I have often written about remembering the sledge hammers atop the wall in October 1989 - the images I saw on cable news left a strong impression on me.  I'm just disappointed because I saw none of West Berlin. But I'm definately going back. My spelling was, for whatever reason, appalling back then. East Berlin is incredible. The buildings are still war damaged. I was pissed because we got to the city at 1pm, and all Mary wanted to do was sit around. Why did she come? But I'll talk about Berlin in a minute.

The day in Leiden was a waste. We went on a learn nothing walking tour and then saw a museum that was about sheep. I don't remember this museum, but the thought about a museum about sheep is hilarious. Then we left for Utrecht, where we listened to another lecture that I slept through. Then we went on another walking tour, saw more churches, and spent no daylight on our own. That night I went to an Indian restaurant with Steve & Jared and then to a No Drug bar, probably the only one in the city. We talked a lot about Seinfeld episodes. I felt like an intruder, but April, Valerie, and the others obviously tried to get rid of me, so I had not a lot of choice. I wish I had gone with Erika & Matt & Brad. I just felt like an intruder. Steve and Jared especially are cool. I wonder if they're gay. Jared went hiking this weekend. Steve went to Berlin. Anyway, that night Erika, Matt, and Mary and I were talking for a long time in the hostel room while everyone else either walked to the beach or was in the bar. Bird and Dusty stole beer before the bartender came. I was going to get something but then decided not to. That was in Leiden actually - Utrecht was the separate boy and girl buildings. I went right to sleep as soon as we got to the hostel in Utrecht.

That morning we had a five hour bus ride to Gottingen, Germany. I barely slept. We went through the beautiful countrysides of Holland and Germany. Holland is amazing. It is supposed to be ocean. When climate change steals the world's coastal areas, The Netherlands is going to be the richest country in the world because they know how to make land out of oceans! There are many canals - Leiden et Utrecht were beautiful - and there are also many windmills dotting the countryside. There were two in Leiden. And Germany is beautiful as well - especially the towns. Each town has a church as the central point. The only part of the  bus ride I slept through was crossing the border. It never ceases to amaze me how you can get through borders like you're going from Ohio to Kentucky. We got to Gottingen and went straight to the hotel. I shared a room with Jennifer S. We were late to a lecture, the best lecture so far because it was brief. Then Tony took us on a pointless walking tour. The city of Gottingen is cool. It's exactly how I pictured a German town. We ate an awesome dinner at the Ratskeller restaurant underneath the Rathaus building. I drank three beers there. Then we went back to the hotel. Well, first I followed April & Kate & Valerie to a McDonald's (ugh). I experimented as much as I could by ordering a beer from McDonald's. It was piss water beer. Why again I didn't go with Erika, Matt, and Brads, I don't know.

But the bus ride back was fun. All the bus rides were cool except the one time Dusty & Grant sat up there in the front. The bus was awesome. It was a double decker pink bus with a crazy driver named Felipe. The choice of music wasn't the best all the time, but it was ok. Anyway, even Matt O was drunk. He kept calling for the "blue mood lights." Then we got to the hotel and headed for the bar. It was a great time. Erika, Matt, Brad M and O sometimes were sitting at a table. We played Euchere and talked and watched Matt H and Mary drink Bailey's after Bailey's. Mary is really anal about everything - but Matt H is friends with her. I puked in the bar bathroom but didn't tell anyone. And now I'm telling the whole world. Matt O kept buying people drinks. I went upstairs and took a shower and then slept for three hours before I had to get up again to go to Woffenbuttel to go to some library of old books. Some library? It was opened in 1572 and includes among its 900,000 books 350,000 that were printed from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Something I would love to visit today! I felt sick and took a long time in the bathroom of the library and was very embarrassed when I saw the long line complaining about the smell. Lovely. We drank far too much beer on this study tour.

Then we took the bus to the Braunschweig train station. Erika invited me to go with them to Berlin, so I did. Her and Brad had to buy tickets, so we missed the 12:57 and left at 2:08, which arrived in Berlin 50 minutes late. So we missed all the festivities - Oct. 3 is the day of German reunification - 8 or 9 years ago. We ate at an Italian place then went to find our hotel. It was an hour away and quite a walk from the last bus stop. I thought we would never find it. But it was nice. We played two games of Euchere then crashed. I got up after 8am & took a shower in the bathroom. There was no curtain or wall to stop the water from getting all over the bathroom floor. It was very entertaining. Then we had breakfast. We had to steal some for Brad because we only paid for four beds. Then I got pissed. Matt & Mary were laying around and wouldn't leave. We ended up getting out of the Zoo Station after 1pm. We took the U2 (train line) from the Zoo Station to East Berlin. We barely walked anywhere before stopping at an open air market. Matt & Mary again sat down. Then the four of them went to TGI Fridays. I bought a brat (the sausage, not the child who lives above me) and walked around for an hour. It didn't take long to learn disdain for American chain restaurants. Sadly, many of the students did not. This time I would not give in. I found a great open air market and bought a 98 U2 (band) calendar and a little soccer player made out of computer chips that I will probably give to Sandy (my sister) for Christmas.

I met them back at Fridays then we split up again and i went to some more booths. I bought a DDR button from a coat. I almost bought a Soviet hat. I wanted to buy a hat but they were all expensive. But the stupid U2 calendar was ok to buy? Really? Something I could get in America? A man tried to sell me a commorative coin of the fall of the Berlin wall, but it was too expensive. I walked through the streets of East Berlin. It was depressing but cool and beautiful at the same time. This part of the city had never been allowed to become modern. There was graffiti on every building.

When we met up again we went to the Brandeburg Tor, then to Checkpoint Charlie, the last big part of the wall still standing, and to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. We got our passports stamped with a DDR entry stamp for 1DM. Mary & Brad didn't go into the museum (but did Mary want to do anything?) We finally started to head west about 8pm. I needed to go to Hard Rock. We went and saw the Victory Tower where the Stay video was filmed (more important to me than the victory in the Franco-Prussian War or the fact that the Nazis moved it to ignite German nationalism.) Rolls eyes. Mary kept complaining that she had to go to the bathroom, but was picky about them. We walked forever (a port a john every 10 metres left from the parade the day before that we watched on tv from the train station.)

After the Victory Tower we finally caught a bus to the Europa Center and walked to Hard Rock, which had a ton of U2 stuff, including one of the ZooTV cars and Larry's cymbal.  I took a picture but don't know if it will come out. I bought my Berlin pin. Guitar pin. Bought one from all the Hard Rocks back then. Ok, so I have one from Beirut, too. Shh, don't tell anyone. Then we went to KFC for dinner. Succumbed. Fail. Then to Zoo Station to await our 11:23 departure. We ran into the others in Berlin, unfortunately. Me & Erika had a compartment to ourselves and managed to get some sleep. We changed at Frankfurt, which is a big city with real skyscrapers, as opposed to fake ones then went to Koblenz along the Rhine River. It was the most beautiful train ride. The leaves were changing colors, the sun was out, the fog was dancing on the water, the buildings were awesome, and there were many incredible castles. Now, though, I want to sleep. Forgot to mention Hard Rock Cafe in Antwerp and Big Boy. Planet Hard Rock and no Big Boy is the truth. Not a Hard Rock Cafe, just used an awning with the logo and they had a statue of Big Boy outside. It was the funniest thing; I couldn't stop laughing at it. No one else thought it quite as funny as I did. It still makes me laugh.

Separating from the group and touring around on my own gave me a sense of freedom and allowed me to see more than I would with them. It was something I'd come to enjoy. Others saw wandering as pointless; they wanted itineraries and schedules and reservations. But you don't get to know a place by following guidebooks. You have to wander. You have stumble upon the places locals go. My best travel experiences have been these discoveries: a local bar, a strange store, an odd house. So many  wonders go undiscovered simply because people are afraid to stray from the beaten path. You also get to meet people this way, people who can show you and teach you things you'd never get from a guidebook. If you're lucky, you get new friends out of it, too.

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