Monday, May 21, 2007

Telling the tale...part three

Haven't been feeling much like tapping fingers on keyboard lately. But, in an effort to once again prove to myself that writer's block is nothing more than laziness, I'm going to wrap up my reader's digest version of my trip.

It wasn't all Danish countryside and bike rides to the shore. The main reason for my trip was to visit Steffi. We didn't have as much time as I would have liked, but we had fun anyway. It was nice to meet Rudiger and Steffi's little girl Lilly. We had a few walks and we all had some good times around the table with some nice food, wine and beer.

One of the best parts of the trip was having Lilly come in, jump on my bed and wake me up. She's a vivacious little girl and likes to play. We hit it off great and were instantly the bestest of pals. That picture of her up above is with her Mom...she's wearing a pair of my boxers that she dug out of my bag and decided would make an excellent dress. Who was I to argue?

At two and half, she speaks both German and English. It was adorable to hear her little, tiny voice pointing out flowers, birds and cows in both languages. It was a bit overwhelming to face that kind of energy when you're used to the quiet house of a single guy, but it was good to be taken out of my own selfish routines by the needed attentions of a little girl.

Oldenburg is a nice city. There's a cool old town area that's nice to walk around and where it's great to watch people. I spent a couple of hours in the city one evening when Steffi was teaching a Pilates class. I wandered, she taught, and later we met for a stroll to a cafe for a coffee.

I got to wander around again another night with Rudiger. We had a dinner in the cafe and a beer while we waited to meet Steffi. It was cool to get to talk to him a bit with no one else around. He's a really nice guy and it was nice to get to know him a bit. I really admire how Europeans seem to be able to shed the weird baggage that most Americans seem to carry around. I was friends with his wife - so, I was friends with him too. If there was any strangeness to it in Rudiger's mind, he never showed it. That's pretty rare.

One evening we all drove to a little beach area along a nearby river. It was a relaxing way to hang out. I was proud that I got one of the boat captains to give us a toot of his horn. There were several big boats heading up and down the river - to and from the harbor at the coast. Finally, after much effort, the last boat we saw as we were getting ready to go gave us a few blasts of his horn. The captain stepped out and gave us a wave and the crew joined in. Sometimes it takes a crazy American to get the Germans to step out of their routines - I think they secretly like us for it.

Also, got to spend a couple of nights in some big cities. Stayed overnight in Hamburg on the way back from Denmark. That was a night of debauchery - but, I'm single and have no one to explain myself to, I guess. Let's just say that a couple of gorgeous, young blondes may have ravaged me in a room above the Reeperbahn and the Prince cigarette afterward may have tasted outstanding in the tawdry glow of the neon lights streaming in the window. Or, maybe decide.

Met a cool bartender in Hamburg. She was from Poland. Her boyfriend works on large ships as a welder, but times are tight for shipbuilders and he was out of work. Met a couple of cool guys at the same seedy little bar by the harbor. It was fun to talk politics and hear their veiwpoints.

Hamburg is a party town, filled with party people. It was fun...but a bit too much for me.

The next day, I saw a May Day parade starting and wandered down among the crowds of socialists, workers, and communists. There were quite a few people out - probably a few thousand. Signs, music, and slogans were all about.

It was a beautiful day, but I couldn't help but remember that it was traditionally the day that American specialists would gain the intelligence about the Soviet Union that we based much of our policy on - simply put, they would analyze photos of the May Day parade in Moscow and see who was sitting in the prime spots to see who was in and out of favor. Scarey to think that nuclear war literally hung in the balance.

Went to a good museum in Hamburg. Saw some great artwork. But sometimes museums just don't get me excited. This was one of those times.

On my way to Frankfurt to catch my plane home, I stopped in Koln for the night. Koln is a party town too...but in a classy way. It was beautiful and the people there were really nice. Met a couple of older guys who told me some good places to go that night and one gave me his email and said to email him next time I was coming to Koln and he would arrange some sightseeing and a bit of beer drinking with some friends. Another example of how open a lot of Europeans are.

Had one of the best pizzas ever in Koln, by the way. Who would have guessed? It was awesome and got me many offers of comradery as I carried it back through the streets to my hotel. It's easy to make friends in Koln...just go out drinking or carry a pizza through the streets - or both.

Got up and looked at the Dom the next day. It's the gorgeous cathedral in the middle of town. Had some breakfast, took a shower and walked around a bit before catching the ICE to Frankfurt and my plane home. The ICE is fast and smooth and terribly cool. There's nothing like sitting in a first-class car in the front of the train, sipping a coffee from a real china cup and watching the country roll by. I love the trains in Europe.

The flight home was long...long...long...and I had to take a bus from Chicago to Milwaukee to avoid staying overnight...but I still managed to stop at my local pub when I got back. I'm nothing if not a trooper.


tshsmom said...

We've got tons of pictures of SME with underwear on her head. Maybe I should post some? ;)

What a great experience you had over there!! Too bad you lost so many of your pictures.

Shawn said...

It's sort of your responsibility to post humiliating photos of your kids!

I'm still upset that I lost so many cool pictures, but I keep reminding myself that I didn't go just to take photos. It was a good time and reminded me that being single and alone is a drag, but it's also thr blessing that allows me to be free to do things like travel.

tshsmom said...

That's very true. We're going to the Twin Cities for the weekend. We haven't been out of town for 3 YEARS! Being a responsible parent CAN be a drag sometimes. :(

Maybe I'll post those pics and tell SME it was YOUR idea. ;)

Shawn said...

Hope you have a good time and get some relaxing in.

And, I'll be glad to take the fall for you posting embarrassing SME pictures.

Miss Kate said...

I loved reading about your trip, Shawn. You do a great job of vividly describing everything!

Shawn said...

Thanks Kate...and I like how you make the Great North seem exotic and fun. Reading your blog is a bit like taking a trip up north.