Okay. Enough of that. As for the actual act of the guest blogging, I am a list-maker by nature. It helps me feel less overwhelmed. Since so much has happened since I left the Seattle airport, and there is still so much to come, a list will help me report my current findings without feeling incredibly overwhelmed. let us begin!
1) Hostel Etiquette 101 - To Lock or Not to Lock?
In Berlin our hostel, which was ultra-hip and themed after Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in a miraculously non-cheesy way, seemed to have very few bathrooms for the amount of people who could potentially stay there. Our room was just around the corner from one set of dude/lady restrooms, and they each had one stall and one shower. The shower! The shower had no door, only a curtain. A curtain! And so, in a hostel that size, you want to lock the bathroom door so you aren't marched in on by god knows who whilst you are cleaning your birthday suit... but do you also feel guilty because you're locking a bazillion people out of one of the few toilets in the place? In the end, we said screw everybody else, and locked the door. Everyone else said screw us by being pretty noisy overnight. It's cool, we are invincible.
2) Soundtracking! Vacation to Europe 2008 is so far getting a pretty kickass musical score. My first full day in Germany we took an early train to Dresden and once the sun rose I was able to admire the gorgeous European countryside, stunningly complemented by Sigur Ros. Amazing! It was like watching their stunning DVD Heimal... pretty foreign landscapes and soothing music.
Next train we rolled from Dresden to Berlin, through Brandenburg, and we appropriately busted out "Brandenburg" by Beirut, an artist we are currently both a little obsessed with. (Although I am kind of a hater when it comes to wedding, and am not the kind of girl to plan a wedding when she is 100% single, I still think I want to play entirely Beirut at my reception and force all my guests to waltz. End of tangent.)
Finally, on the train back to Heidelberg, we asked Rufus Wainwright to help us commemorate Berlin by sharing one set of headphones and listening to "Tiergarten" (which we walked through) and "Sansoucci" (which we talked about but didn't see).
3) A Girl's Guide to Germany
When the airline "lost" my baggage (which is a very long story) the tried to make it up to me by giving me a "female overnight kit" to take care of my immediate needs until my baggage could be located. Among the things I need, according to Star Alliance Airlines: and XXL t-shirt and "whitening" deodorant... wtf?!
Regarding public restrooms... at one point I noticed the disposal bag for the "feminine products" had a handgun on it. A handgun? What? I grabbed one and took it with me so I could ask others about it, and nobody seemed to know what it was about. Later I discovered the NAME of the line of feminine product products (tee hee) was called "lady killer"... wtf.
4) Street Art
Holy crap, Germany! Your stencil grafitti artists are out of control! I've been developing an obsession with photographing street art and grafitti ever since I left my tiny college town and have been living in cities that actually HAVE grafitti. It became kind of full-on when I moved to Seattle, and Dresden and Berlin were totally overwhelming. I was a little worried I would have more photos of grafitti than, say, historic landmarks and famous sight-seeing locations. Lucky for me, the Berlin Wall can offer me both -- an onslaught of history PLUS a really long abandoned wall full of art!
In the main train station in Berlin I bought this book called Urban Illustration Berlin which covers some of the main/most prolific artists of I think the mid-to-late 90s, when the guy was doing the research/taking the pictures, and it includes short interviews with some of the artists - but more exciting is the large fold out MAP of Berlin that shows where all the pictures in the book were originally photographed. So you can follow the dots and see if the pieces are still there -- and if they aren't, you at least find yourself in a neighborhood that is ripe with other art. I didn't buy this guide until we were in the station ready to leave, but that doesn't mean I didn't get a lot of great pictures of what's currently out there. I'm biased toward stencil art, but I also really like cut-outs. In the cities the small stencil work is much more common, while on the train in between cities I saw some really, really great examples of good old fashioned tags - except they're all in the huge, colorful bubble-letter style. Everything struck me as so BRIGHT and COLORFUL, which makes me wonder if Seattle isn't rolling in colors like that. I hadn't noticed that the city was distinctly lacking in colors, but the fact that the colors here grabbed me so much must mean something. Unfortunately because I was speeding through on an ICE, it was impossible to get photos of that stuff.
5) Regional Anomalies
I'm not sure if "regional" is the right word, but here are some strange things we found:
-- In Dresden, a restaurant called "Ontario" which was (obviously) Canadian themed. The food didn't strike me as particularly Canadian, except for names like Mountie Meal or whatever (we only had dessert and coffee, but I browsed the menu). But everything had Canadian flags on it. It otherwise looked like an upscale place -- a strange combo of kitsch and class.
-- In Berlin, in the back of an ESPRIT store of all places, we found Chicago Coffee Company. My mind still has trouble wrapping itself around that one.
-- So much sausage! The weird thing about me (the pseudo-vegetarian) is that I think sausage tastes really good but looks really disgusting... so most of the time I don't eat it because I can't get past how gross it looks on the inside. I've eaten a lot so far in Germany (duh) and I can eat it fine as long as I don't look at it. Weird!
-- My only purchases thus far other than travel/accomodations/food has been: one museum admission (Pergamon), the grafitti book, and a crapload of postcards and stamps. But watch out, pocketbook! Paris is next!
7) In Conclusion
So far, obviously, I totally love Germany. I have noticed that people here pretty much look exactly like people in Seattle -- young people at least, all the women are wearing short skirts and tall boots, all the dudes are wearing jeans and suit jackets. Euro-metro-casual-fashionable-whatever, I guess. Some neighborhoods made me think of places in Seattle. But everything is much, much older, and everywhere you look there are towers and churches and buildings that have been around longer than you can really even comprehend. I was hoping to be assaulted by history-overload and that's worked out just fine. ;) But holy shit! You can just go to a cart on the street and buy a sandwich and a beer and WALK DOWN THE STREET DRINKING! Funny the things that blow your mind. If I were a drinker I'd be totally stoked. I'd be drinking all the time. All day long.
Thanks for reading, Heidelbergerin fans! I'll be back post-Paris for another Guest Blogger breakdown. Out!