18 June 2008

Alway red, white and blue

Again this is my column...but I took the time to write it and felt it was exactly what I wanted to say again so...let me know if you enjoy it..

As another time in Europe steadily comes a close, I find myself in a contradiction, unwilling to give up my Euro life but eager to readjust myself as a Yankee. Standing in Zagreb’s Ban Jelačić Square, I was back donning red, white and blue but it was nothing like my familiar stars and stripes.

Americans are born to be 24-hour patriots, ever since kicking some red coat butt in a little thing called the Revolutionary War. Old faithful is flown at every chance we get. However, for many Europeans, it’s unlikely to get misty when ever time they hear their national anthem but that all changes when soccer or aka football is involved especially when it’s on an international stage. With the European Championships in full swing qualified countries are blanketed in national pride.

Explosion of red, white and blue, similar to that of 4th of July fireworks, hit the square in the 24th minute of the match. Croatian midfielder Danijel Pranjić worked the ball down the left side of the field then crossing to Darijo Srna who blasted in the momentum boosting goal edging Croatia up 1-0 against Euro Championships favorites, Germany. Donning the home country’s red and white checkers the end of a ten-day excursion through Italy and Croatia couldn’t have been any sweeter.

In the blur of Ožujskos and a Croatian flag draped over my shoulders, the cool down brought me to reflection of what I have all seen since landing in “rustic’ Naples, Italy Jamming to Michael Jackson on top of volcano Mt. Vesuvius, only then to witness its wrath on Pompeii in 80 A.D. and bathe in the infectious mezzogiorno sun.

Leaving Naples, my British travel partner, David Clunie and I found that all roads led to Rome. The Italian capital is a cosmopolitan Archeological dig in progress. The intimidating Colosseum overshadows ancient ruins still waiting to be discovered.

“A common misconception is that Rome was a white, pristine marble city but actually it was very colorful kind of like Sesame Street but rated-R,” said Vatican city tour guide, Kristin Marie Ellis.

After visiting the Vatican City and we had to rip ourselves away from the most stunning piece of art known to mankind, the Sistine Chapel and the idealistic ancient Rome to find ourselves homeless and enduring third-degree sunburn on the Dalmatian coastal city of Split, Croatia.

While I have been in Germany for ten months now, the Mediterranean air has intoxicating effects after only ten days. I had a bittersweet joy watching the Germans crumble when the speed of Croatia’s striker Ivica Olić outshined German player Lukas Podolski and tapped in the winning goal for a 2-1 win to Croatia. The underdog’s victorious win led only for a national celebration and new hope for the upcoming Croatian showdowns.

As 9/11 illustrated sometimes it takes a national tragedy to fuel a nation’s patriotism but other times it only takes a small black and white ball to connect people whether they are natively Croatian, or just a British and American traveler learning for the first time what it meant to fly a different red, white and blue. I had traded the stars and stripes for checks but I guess I will always be red, white and blue at heart no matter what country is representing the colors.

So When in Germany...you don't necessaryily have to cheer on the Germans in any sporting event, I kinda like seeing them crumble a bit...sorry guys, Gold, Red and Black just feel weird to be, alway red, white and blue....

17 June 2008

Verreisen

I will get this out of the way first...I apologize for being MIA...again! but after you read this post you will most likely know why.

Verreisen (v.) to go away on a trip or on a journey... and for me it's been with planes, trains and automobiles.

With English Conversation coming slowly to a sad end, I found myself with free time so in the beginning of May I hit the road. First trip out of the comforts of Wolfenbuettel, the Malayasian tour. My roommate Albert had lived in Germany for almost three years now and never has left Braunschweig, even to my horror to see Berlin!! WHAT!! So over a uni break we rented a car and headed south to visit all his Malaysian friends. I have learned something....never trust Asian drivers....we were lost before leaving BS, I saw my Munich Asia Roadtrip flash before my eyes and almost asked to be left on the side of the road. No it all turned out ok. But I love Malaysians and all those associated with Malaysians. Roadtrip was a thriving successful, saw Malaysians in Heilbronn, Ulm, Kontstanz with the most beautiful lake ever (think Okoboji without crazy water skiers and in the shadow of the Swiss Alps.) Saw the Swiss border but was wondering around town with a girl from Peru and couldn't leave the EU so we had to stay in Germany.

Our last stop was the "famous university town" of Heidelberg. My Let's Go Europe book says "even mass tourism can't spoil the experience of Heidelberg's beautiful hillside setting, of Germany's oldest university or of the city's enviable nightlife." Vermillion with a castle??? The city had a deja vu feeling for me...like I had been here before. Yes the city was pretty but not stunning, after 45 minutes I had enough of little America. I don't travel 3000 miles to hang out in a college town with a bunch of Americans, I was disappointed, so advice skip Heidelberg and go to Eisnach.

One week after returning from the South with my Asian friends, I was back on the move. This time in train and heading to the east. Marco's Parents, Berndt and Rosi wanted to show me around the city of Potsdam. Unable to make it due to some medicial issues, Rosi had to stay behind leaving Berndt as my official tour guide and I must add one hell of a film maker! Many say that if you are disappointed in the "unroyal demeanor of Berlin, you can satisfy your cravings for imperial splendor in nearby Potsdam." So true. The city central attraction is the Park Sanssouci. You know when you see movies about royal gardens with marble statues, perfectly trimmed hedges and foundations, that's Park Sanssouci. The park is centralized around the brightly yellow Palace, which was a 'vacation home' for Friedrich. Its nothing like a small cabin on the lake...let me tell you. After touring the HUGE park. We headed to the Potsdam's many lakes for a boat tour around the city. Berndt, Mario (a family friend...well cousin's bf, too complicated to explain) and I saw the castles around Potsdam. Seemed like a million of them and all beautiful in there own right. Also a highlight for me was a bridge that used to connect East Germany to West Berlin. Serious history stuff... love it. After our tour, Mario invited us over to his house for a dinner party. I was excited got to practice my German and used it as a common language between Germans, a Canadian, and a French girl.

Leaving the royal parks and lakes of Potsdam, I settled back in my Asian flat in Wolfenbüttel for one whole week until restless soon hit agin. This time I was hearing the engines of Porsche and Daimler-Benz. Well, actually the cars didnt bring me to Stuttgart, but I was able to meet up with an old friend I used to study with in Wales, Chris Staiger. The day ended up being rainy but had the chance to see an overview of Stuttgart from the TV tower. Chris and I spent most of the day drinking coffee and chatting about the past. He hadn't changed a bit and it was like we had only seen each two weeks ago instead of two years. It was an emotional goodbye for me and Wolfenbüttel felt a bit lonely for the next week.

My mini-'verreisen' had been awesome, but I was not feeding my travel hunger. It seemed like the appetizer and I desperately need the main course. So with a little planning...basically destinations and flights, I headed out for a 10 day excursion through home of pizza, pasta and Versace.

My blog above will highlight gladiating in Rome, almost being run over in Naples, clouds in my face on Mt. Vesuvius while jamming to MJ, homeless and sunburned in Croatia and the one of the best displays of sport I have ever witnessesd so...

When in Germany, verreisen or in English to make a journey...when you have Europe at your fingertips so why not!