PART 1 — Around the world in 18 days

“Another work trip…”, Said no one….when we started putting this scheme together.

The Plan: Fly to Germany early for work, sneak in some touring and lots of beer the weekend before in Munich, one week ‘on the piss’ in Berlin during the 25th anniversary of The Wall coming down, weekend in Bangkok, be in Australia the next week for another work assignment.

RTW18days

Straight from the outset it became very apparent that this would not be a normal trip. The potential for play time was extremely high. The team traveling included great work friends that are easy travel/touring buddies. We collaborated to ensure our schedules were synced then hit the road on a Friday to make sure we were somewhat there for our Monday mid day show time.

I ended up being a fifth wheel on the first leg of the trip… “Hey wait wasn’t I leading this expedition?!” Team effort here…. no worries, I get adopted as the spare tire and we started with a beer at Phil’s BBQ in the San Diego United Terminal. Because of the dynamic that included two spouses and three old work buddies… we instantly started cracking jokes and carrying on. Vinnie and Evie, Tyson and Steph, and myself all crowed around a small tipsy table eating BBQ for breakfast ….with beer. Vinnie is a natural joker and noticed a gentleman at the next table over who literally had is pants pulled up to his nipples…the universe is making this too easy. So it begins. He scratches at his shoulder like a T-rex and says,”…let me get a quarter.”  We die laughing …it is just the start of the nonsense. This impersonation can still get a laugh today.

Because we are flying to Germany for work on Monday we determine that a weekend in Munich is required to ‘recover’ before work. Tyson, Steph, and I show up but not Vinnie and Evie. In a unfortunate turn of events their flight from Chicago (ORD) delayed/canceled and our flights from Dulles went off without a hitch. I have a well tested and proven dislike of traveling through Chicago due to this very kind of experience. After many years of pain, and slow learning, I have been programed to avoid ORD like the plague during all times of year.  Luggage or self will not make it to the destination in the proscribed manner.  We figure something must have happened to these two because of the Chicago factor and I introduce Tyson and Steph to a cute gal I met on the plane. She was an IT type that worked for Snow Summit (a local ski resort in Southern California) who sends her to Germany annually for training on the lift programs. For the time being she had saved me from third wheel status. She committed to joining us in our endeavor to stay awake till evening to ward off jet lag. Drop bags, rinse off, 15 minutes later we all meet in the lobby ready to find the ever elusive beers of Munich. *said in my best Crocodile Hunter voice*

Five whole, and excruciatingly long, minutes later we were seated in the sun, on a cobblestone patio, in front of a brewery…..with beers. Still in a haze we all stared aimlessly at the menu and sipped beer. As the beer settled into our gullets we became more cogent. It may have been too much to ask us to work out the menu in our disabled mental state. After a fourth try we sent in orders with the not so patient waiter.  Nothing could knock us off our delirious happy beer train… we talked, shared casual observations, and plotted the rest of the day till the food came out.

I really did expect bar food. In Australia it is common to have Chicken Parmesan and chips which comes out as just good old comfort bar food….I expected the same here but did not get the basic plate. Everything was done really well! Chicken cordon blue and beef cheek plates were fantastic!

Fortified with many beers, pretzels, and a real meal we committed to wander back over to Marienplatz to see the buildings and climb a church steeple.

Onward we wandered into the free church. Fantastic riches plundered and donated from the crusades forward have funded many wealthy churches in Europe. The business of religion is still very profitable. Still the history that has been preserved in these ‘souls for profit’ businesses is amazing!

Just a quick stop in the church as we passed through to the tower. The back of my brain was itching so we had to get out of there quickly.  There is a charge to climb the tower and you are taking your life into your own hands. Quivering masses of meat, people who are afraid of heights, can be found along the very narrow (even by European standards…you doughy American) staircase to the top. The stairs are cobbled together leftovers from construction sites which were hastily nailed together by kids. Well, ok, maybe not…but sketchy is a word that was used freely.

The climb to the top was fun. Along the way a very German voice rang out, “Scared-zin zee Heights-zin…” which got a laugh from all of us because we understood it… and it was Tyson who speaks no German.

The view ends up being pretty alright. The skyline of Munich was fairly tame compared to the big cities of the world. This kind of makes sense in retrospect. The city is known for beer and the skyscrapers of the modern world should have no place in a beer fueled economy. Certainly if you get into other areas of the city you will find modern buildings but most of the downtown area is just 3-5 story older style  buildings… or replicas thereof rebuilt after the war.

 

After this quick tour we had worked up a thirst and decided to once more hunt beers of Munich. Beers and sausage have formed a symbiotic relationship in Germany so we

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As hard as I tried…I could not eat all that sausage (That’s what she said!)

somehow ended up with lots of tube shaped meats as well. I was happy to learn that it came with a salad (on the bottom of the board) to balance out the five types of sausage. Here is something I don’t say everyday – As hard as I tried, I could not eat all that sausage. Three or four beers , and help from the rest of the table, later I had only made a dent in Der Sausage Plat.

As I started into shock and vital bodily functions started shutting down from the ‘over-meating’ some Middle Eastern women in Burkas unloaded from buses for a very civilized women’s rights protest. The restaurant/brewery shutdown their patio to accommodate the very organized event. With second thoughts about sharing my leftovers with them we made our way back to the hotel to finally crash. 9p.m. – Happy belly but in need of some serious fiber and possibly a real attempt at a salad. I reflected on the day(s) travel and exploration. The new and interesting people I met as well as the fun that still lay ahead.

It seemed like a longer night than it actually was. Meat sweats had taken hold and made for restless sleep as I kept being awoken by the sound of tearing fabric which were associated with hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans. These rude interruptions were offset by taking ten hours to attain a solid six hours sleep.

Again the plan was to meet in the lobby, quick breakie from the buffet style lobby dinning area, then march with the troops (to include Vinnie and Evie this time) over to a bus that would take us to the castles and small towns of Bavaria. Touristy… somewhat out of character but yes…you are damned right! With our crammed weekend it was a very necessary and worthwhile investment. The tour guide was a riot! He has wit like only a German can have but since he is ESL he adds a lot of very pronounced and long, “auhhhhhs” to the end of words and sentences. These are less like a pause to think and more like musical notes. We start counting and copying. “As you can see-uhhhhhhhhh, on dah righ-tahhhhhhh, there is a river-ahhhhhh. In this river-aahhhhhh, is where-aaahhhhh the brewery-uhhhh,  gets da water-ahhhh…” This is nearly as much fun as the entire tour! Our enjoyment of this goes way to far and on all day-auhhhhh.

The ride up into the mountains was beautiful  and reminiscent of Alaska. Snow-caped peaks and grassy meadows. My parents moved from Germany to Alaska before I was born. I could understand  so much about why they selected Alaska now. They are very very much alike if you swap sausage for salmon and bears for beers.

Linderhof-1.jpg

By Softeis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=161243

After a couple stops in small towns for ‘knick knacks and snacks’ we were headed to Linderhof Palace.  This is one of the homes of King Ludwig II (purportedly mad but not really…we’ll cover that later). Pictures on the outside of the building are permitted but inside they are very very anti-picture.  The picture above is not mine but much better than anything I took and attribution is rightfully given.

I included one of the pictures with the concrete post breaking down and moss growing in the cracks. More sites should allow this kind of aging. There is nothing wrong with a 200 year old site looking 200 years old. I am a fan of entropy so find myself snapping pictures like this. All things in  nature break down. Sometimes I like to help them along! Possibly it is why I like history and archeological sites. There is something right and just about seeing the old and decaying remnants of life, society, or culture reclaimed by Mom …as will happen to all of us someday. The rest of the house, inside and out, are meticulously kept and no detail or elbow grease was spared. This site is very similar to, though much smaller than, Hearst Castle.

We loaded back onto the bus like the good sheep we were that day and set off to the next castles. The  next stop is the primary point of the tour. Neuschwanstein. This is the castle that Walt Disney modeled his after and you can see why. Again,  using professional photos since I did not bring my helicopter and my pictures do not do the site justice.

CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia & By Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The castle is mounted atop a steep hill that you can climb easily in about 20-30 minutes. If you are aged, crippled, or of the more rotund, first-world in size or shape, you can also hire a team of horses and a cart to take you up the hill.

To warm up for the hike we opted for beer and schnitzel in the biergarten at the bottom of the hill under the watchful eye of der frau (the sturdy skeptical/suspicious German woman who served us) in the shadow of King Ludwig II’s childhood castle.

By the time we had lunch in this biergarten I had developed a taste for ‘The Dunkle’. A smooth, rich, and slightly darkened beer. Gulp!

Time waits for no man and neither does the tour bus! We were instructed by our singing tour host to be back at a certain time or risk arranging-ahhh our own transpor-taaahhhh back to town. Because we had so diligently prepped and stretched for this hill climb with beer and schnitzel…we set off. A short walk later we were there.  If you are a hiker you will find it very UN-challenging but a nice little stroll. It is beautiful as you wander up through the deciduous forest.

There is an extremely efficient German queuing system at the top. Find your group number on the ticket, look at the board, post at the gate at that time…I do recommend you arrive early at the top so you can wander behind the castle onto the overly crowed bridge that spans the river. The views are incredible if you can wade through the many people jockeying for the same shot. Recall that I also recommend the schnitzel at the bottom … so go extra extra early.

 

The tour of the castle is worth it. There is history, stories of deceit, mystery, and much to look at. Like the short book I just finished (and highly recommend!)…You Gotta Go To Know….

As promised, some history about the UN-mad King Ludwig II. He was disinterested in politics and the madness of crowds (another book I highly recommend for you free thinking types) I believe we call them con-gress in the US… He would not go to Munich to participate in the parliamentary meetings. Rather he was content to spend his personal fortunes (not public funds) to build an amazing place to live.

Ludwig_II_of_Bavaria_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16431
King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1882); Namesake of a delicious beer!

The politicians were put off by this so they tried to label him insane. They also ran a smear campaign about wasting money on these building and art projects. Naturally, they were able to somewhat sway the populous. King Ludwig II did have his own doctor and psychologist though so the medical claims of insanity never did stick. Then they found the mad king and his doctor(?) drowned in a lake. King Ludwig II was a very well known and accomplished swimmer. He was found supposedly drowned but with no water in his lungs and later there were stories about a gunshot. The water was only waist deep and they ruled it a suicide.

Had he lived and ruled the next 25 years; Would his focus on arts and culture have changed the direction of Germany in the years to come?

 

With pain and trepidation about shifting back into work mode we were off to Berlin the next day. Bavaria had been so good to us. Berlin could not possibly compete! Especially since we would be actually working from 9am – 9pm most days.

Berlin was a blur. We wandered each night,  ate in a Spanish restaurant, caught the beginnings of the Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary stuff, drank copious amounts of beer, meet with friends from around the world for a conference (one even brought me a rare English beer), then suddenly it all ended. What I do recall is from pictures. I recall shawarma being very good. I recall the distinct line you can still see today (at night) between East and West Germany. We had stayed in East Germany but at night from the bar you can see a line similar to that in between San Diego and Tijuana. The lights are different… development up to the former boarder is still evident as it stops right at the edge of the former East German side. The Western side of Berlin is an Urban hipsters dream with clubs, restaurants, and stores. The Eastern side still has an industrial cold war feel. All in all I liked it… and here are the pictures!

I would love to spend more time in Berlin on another trip. Unfortunately that part was mostly work so I only got some late night exploration time. Sure Berlin is urban and has all the issues of any large city in Europe but also has its own extremely unique history.

As I walked along where The Wall used to separate the different political systems (and families) I read the plaques identifying the remains of a house which was literally bricked up down the middle-inside of the house right along this imaginary line of demarcation.  The foundations still remain in the parks and memorials along the path of the wall. Late at night, alone, with no one else in the park I explored these bones of the cold war. I laughed and it echoed off the old brick buildings as I thought about people who might have never been to this park, living only blocks away, watching American Idol or Survivor at that very moment. This was a reminder to myself as well to continue exploring the secret history of my own neighborhood.

 

Part 2 will  come soon! It will include Bangkok and Australia… with some of that edited for public consumption. Vegas is child’s play compared to Bangkok. This was my third trip here so I had completed much of the touring years ago. This 30 hour layover was more about seeing friends and family.  Australia is another locale that I may be desensitized to… I’ll do my best to include some interesting stuff (even if I have to reach back to trips in the past) rather than just beers with friends…. Stay tuned!!!!

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