Archives for the month of: July, 2013

The last couple of weeks of my 374-day trip have sped by. The play-it-by-ear motto of my travels so far has gone out the window. For my final stint in Europe, every train was booked, dinner dates set up, and hours of arrival confirmed with friends weeks in advance.

My trip is no longer about sightseeing. It has morphed into a slow transition period of a sort of normalcy where my tan fades, I meet up with friends I already know and evade the touristy.

I didn’t see anything in The Hague except for the tower of treats for high tea. Rotterdam, for me, is a train station and an Indonesian restaurant. Days were spent cycling on pristine bike paths.

I didn’t even take a photo of the windmills we passed.

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Picnic along the bike path with Yvonne (first met in New Zealand, then Bali, and now at her place in The Netherlands). This was before I ran my bike into a pole and fell over with a big clang.

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The king and queen, Rotterdam.

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Doing nothing after a day at the beach in The Netherlands.

Yvonne drove me to the Amsterdam airport on the Thursday night, and my old friend Gerry was waiting for me with pizza and ice cream in Edinburgh.

Bad timing, being a theatre-person, what with the Festival (with a capital F) starting next week. But I was relieved- it can be an overwhelming place to be, Edinburgh in August. So I was glad to meet Gerry’s family and play with train sets, watch TV, walk in the forest, and go to the pub. And not worry about the obligations I’d have to see show after show (if you are in Edinburgh for the festival, please go see Die Roten Punkte and Oh My Irma)

We went strawberry-picking (which also involves go-carts and trampolines!). It was sunny and 27 degrees. In Scotland.  Every single day I was there.

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Scottish strawberries may be huge, but they’re sweet and delicious.

My weekend in Edinburgh went by in a flash and by Sunday night I was already in Sheffield to see Elena, a friend from elementary school.

Sheffield feels like England with its quick-changing weather, brick houses, and lovely gardens. Sheffield has nice pubs and cafes and parks. It also has a paternoster (the largest in the world). Riding a paternoster around wasn’t quite the thrill of the swing in New Zealand, but it came close.

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Flower in a park, Sheffield.

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The paternoster.

Huge thanks to Yvonne, Gerry and Emma, and Elena and Matt for your generous hospitality and for distracting me from the fact that the travels are ending (for now) very very soon.

Germans travel. That means that throughout my own travels, I met a lot of really lovely German travellers. So it was a natural decision to go visit everyone once I got to Europe.

Unfortunately, with time ticking too quickly and train fares being a lot less affordable than I remembered, I only made it to a few cities to see a few people.

I took the train from Copenhagen to Hamburg. This is noteworthy because the train went on a ferry. The whole train! On a boat!

Also worth mentioning: German trains and railway services are not actually as efficient as the rest of the world assumes. For instance, when a train from Berlin to Kassel gets cancelled, any sign of it vanishes (they don’t include it on those departure screens- you have to figure it out). Luckily, when your replacement train is late and you think you’ll miss your connection (because now you have to connect in Hannover, seeing as your original train was cancelled), your connecting train is also late, so you end up having time for a pastry at the station before heading off again.

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Student demonstrations in Hamburg include old folk singers and sofas.

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Berlin is artsy. But the galleries are closed on the day you want to visit (in this case, Tuesdays).

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Germany is all about breakfasts. Bread and breakfasts. And Nutella, juice, coffee, deli meats, cheeses of all kinds, and fruit. Now that I look at this picture again, I realise that this is dinner, not breakfast. Dinners are good too.

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Cologne has a very famous cathedral, but they aren’t afraid to build big new buildings.

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When Michele told me about the bridge with all the padlocks on it, I was blasée and all like “yeah, I’ve seen that.” But this bridge had a LOT of padlocks. The tradition apparently started in Florence. When students would graduate, they’d put their locker locks on the bridge and throw the key into the river. Somehow this has morphed into lovers locking the padlock to the bridge to represent everlasting being locked together.

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There are many statues of many guys on many horses throughout Europe. This one is in Cologne (here with tram lines in the foreground).

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Wild flowers in Kassel. I don’t think there are many things I love more than wild flowers. In Croatia, there were a couple of small raggedy donkeys in a padlock full of poppies. I loved that the most. But these are pretty stunning.

Many thanks to Soren, Larissa, Eric, Shelley, Art, Patrick, Amy, Sabrina, Johanna, Leo, and Michele for making my German adventures so comfy and fun.

Munich and Heidelberg, I’ll visit next time, promise!

After two weeks at a writing residency on the outskirts of a small town in a sunny Danish building that I later (thankfully later) found out was once an asylum (and now haunted) with a high-security prison for dangerous murderers around the corner (which I passed every day on my forest-walk), I went to Copenhagen to meet up with my Canadian friend Amy who was on her way to swing dance camp in Sweden (I have friends who rock-step their way through the world).

We quickly realised that we could not afford this town, so we spent our days walking and window shopping and wisely spent our budget on coffee in the morning and baguette and strawberries for dinner.

Good thing Copenhagen is beautiful, cool, and very easy to navigate on foot (and by that I mean that it’s a walkable city, not that we didn’t get lost every time we tried to get somewhere specific). I fell in love with every café we passed and decorated my imaginary apartment several times over.

We went on a canal tour (our wonderful AirBnB host was a theatre director with a summer job as a tour guide so we got the must-do cruise for free!) and spent the rest of the time gawking at the beautiful people that exist in Copenhagen (shorthand required as follows). Copenhagen is notable for its high density of H.D.s (Hot Dane), H.D.s with B.s (Hot Dane with Baby), P.D.s on B. (Pregnant Dane on Bike), and C.D.s (Cute Dane (reserved for little kids)).

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There’s something about Danish design. Every café. Every one. Gorgeous.

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Selling peas in pods like fast food in the town square.

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Copenhagen’s weather was predictable only in that it was unpredictable.

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A little boat tour to see Copenhagen by sea.

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Lots of people go look at a little statue of a little mermaid.

It’s a city you immediately feel you could live in were it not for the cost of things and assuming you could cultivate the cool, simple, laid-back attitude, get knocked-up, and acquire a sturdy bicycle and MacBook Air.