Berlin and Amsterdam

28 09 2005
Havent updated in a while..
After the drunken escapades of Oktoberfest i went the opposite way in Berlin. Spent 4 days there learning as much as i could about the history of this city, mainly because so much has happened here. I cant think of a city with more interesting modern history. So spent a few days learning about german history prior to world ww1, during ww1, the rise of hitler and the natzi’s, and Berlin after ww2 and into the cold war. I went on a heap of walking tours as well, this is a great way to see the sights and learn about them too, and it adds a real appreciation to the city. Also its easier to learn this way, ive read on the rise of the natzi’s before but when its not just abstract history dates but stuff that happened where i am standing at the time its memorable. It makes the history seem more real as well. Doing so many different walking tours meant i saw quite a number of sights in berlin. Also went to another concentration camp – again a depressing, sobering and very worthwhile experience. Its sad to think that humanity can stoop to such a trajic merciless low. And its very sobering to think that those capacities lie in most of us – we personally probably would have been complicit if we had been brought up in the circumstances surrounding the third reich.
 
After Berlin ive traveled to amsterdam – the city of my birth.
Its a very cool city. Amsterdam is like a big kid’s playground. Caught up with Alex and Owen and have been spending time chilling with them. Went to see the sights but there are suprisingly few in amsterdam. So today ive been for a bike ride through the countryside which was cool. Now i knew that holland was going to be flat, but i didnt expect there to be so much water aroudn. In the villages i went through on my bike today 90% of the houses has a canal adjacent to their property. A personal little canal where they could keep their boat and access the rest of the canal system. The houses were quaint too. Its weird – the houses in amsterdam are the most cramped and tiny ive ever seen – and the people are so big! – the netherlands has the tallest population in the world. Seriously – i dont stand out  here… Im surrounded by tall blondes.
 
I went to see where i lived for the first few years of my life. ‘The Ark’ was a huge houseboat that seved as a christian community drug rehabilitation centre my dad was running when i was born. I spent the first two years of my life there. I went to where it was.. or should i say used to be. The place where the ark used to be is now occupied by a big tugboat with a large crane – the area is now a construction site/ferry terminal.
 
I tried to go to the hospital i was born at but that has been torn down as well.
Also doesnt look like ill be able to get dutch citizenship even though i was born here. It was disapointing to find that any visible ties i had to the area have been destroyed, but i suppose time keeps moving and things, people and places keep changing.
 
So much has happened in the last few months traveling. Its been exceptional and ive packed heaps into this time. Im now feeling like its time to settle down for a while and base  myself somewhere. That somewhere is england and im trying to decide between settling in London (like every other aussie/kiwi/saffa under the sun) or heading north to Manchester, leeds or hedingley. At the moment Manchester is looking pretty good. I’ll probably end up there fairly soon. Like within the next week. But who knows? Things are always changing – and that includes my plans…




Munich and Oktoberfest

20 09 2005
Oh yes Oktoberfest  – the biggest beer festival in the wooorld!!  Thats right people the big one for all the boys.
Munichs population 1.3 million has over 7 million visitors throughout the oktoberfest – thats just insane.
Rock up to Munich Central Station with no place to stay. I already know before i arrive that all accomadation has been booked out for the last 6 months, campsites are reported to be packed already. So what do i do? – call the first place in the lonely planet and get a bed straight away! – couldnt believe it.
 
Anyway caught up with tristan and the boys and tristan took us on the tour he was running, was a bloody good tour and munich is an interesting place. AFter seeing the sites with tritta it was time to indulge in the reason we were all there – BEER.
 
Given its the worlds biggest beer festival  – getting a beer is actually quite hard, and expensive. Firstly to get into a beer tent is a feat in itself. Owen and alex were in line for 3 hours on the first day, and when we went on the secound day we had to negotiate with a  big beer bellied burly bastard of a bavarian bouncer (im sorry. no more alliteration –  i promise) who was not letting anyone in. Finally get in and have to have a table to order a beer – but the tables are packed so have to ask someone sitting at a table to order beer for you – each stein was  7euro (about $11 aussie)and because its so packed u need to to tip big for each drink so that the waiters actually come back the next time!
 
That said it way a fantastic time.
The atmosphere was awesome, the beer is the best ive tasted,  and it was was awesome to catch up with my mates again for one MASSIVE pissup – those steins hold a litre of beer per glass so after the first couple we were all well on our way. Lots of germans in funny outfit and merriment had by all. Lots of aussies acting very badly but i wont pay them out because i too was a drunken oktoberfest tourist. Many antics and adventures both at the oktoberfest and one particular nights long trip  – yes it was alot of fun. what was not fun the biggest – now ive had some pretty spectacular falls in my time but this one takes the cake – involuntarily taking a dive and somersaulting head over heels the whole way down a MASSIVE escalator was not the most pleasant experience! Actually i cant believe i didnt end up in hospital and was able to get up and walk away with only a few scratches a sore knee and a bruise.
 
Besides Oktoberfest, munich is a gorgeous city – plenty to see and do here. I can see why tristan decided to live here – clean, friendly people, beautiful parks, great nightlife, great beer –  just a great place.




Chew on this…

16 09 2005
I read this book at the start of my trip called "Growth Fetish"  by Clive Hamilton and alot of my thinking has been influenced by it. My last entry was taking his ideas further and applying them to my personal situation and what i have seen.  As luck would have it i dont have to because chapters from his book are freely available on the web! This is one of the best books ive ever read so take the time to have a look. Íf u really dont have long at least check out the 2nd and 3rd chapters. Do it!  
 
Check out Clive Hamiltons website http://www.growthfetish.com/
 
Or else go straight to the chapters:
 
2nd Chapter – Growth and Wellbeing
3rd Chapter  – Identity
 
 
 
 




Keszthely

15 09 2005
Well im in a small town in hugary called kesythely – off the backpacker trail coz i just wanted some time out. Ive been overstimulated with gorgeous sights and activities for over two months now and i was starting to get desensitized to some of what i was seeing in Hungary. Have spent the last few days in an apartment i rented just thinking and writing alot in my journal. Wont bore you with most of it, as theres alot of it but ive changed my attitudes to a lot of things. Been a personally eventful time not doing much in Keszthely . Heres one example from my journal.
 
I went to Heviz today because its supposed to have really relaxing thermal lake to swim in. When i got there it was like an old person tourist resort! Becasue apparently the water had "curative powers" – so hundreds of old folk pay to go and spend time at Heviz.
That is to say they enjoy their old age doing nothing but wearing floaties in this lake hoping that the water will cure their old bones.. What a great life. (NOT!)
These people lie around all day in floatation devices that look like they are made for infants doing nothing but focus on their pain and hoping they will feel better. They kid themselves that they are living the good life, doing nothing but sit around lying in the sun and the water and geting fancy "medical/curative" treatments such as massages and mud baths.
Underneath this illusion the place is no more than a glorified retierement home. Day after day slowly witnessing themselves and their friends gradual slide towards infirmity and death. No way in hell do i ever want to be that inactive that all i have left to do in life is focus on my aches and pains, trying in vain to relieve the pain in my old bones whilst waiting for death. That is the trap of idleness. Once many people retire they have nothing left to do and so they indulge in this "luxury" – "living the good life". I never want to be this idle!
The crazy thing is that in their own eyes and the eyes of many these people have "made it". They have been able to retire and laze around all day. This seems to be the goal of lots of people ive talked to. In fact alot of people are willing to subjugate themselves to a lifetime of boring work just so as to ensure they can retire as quickly as possible.
 
I used to be confused by my dads apparent wish to never retire – but now i see that if you choose well with your work it brings meaning and a productive life, it also keeps ones mind sharp – "use it or lose it" as the cliche goes. Often when people retire they have nothing left to do as their meaning often came directly or indirectly through their work (eg. sucessful business man, bread winner, home maker). Into this meaning vacum they have nothing better to do than sit around waiting for death.
Stats show that the average man dies within 5 years of retirement! I think now i see why. I dont think now that i will ever stop working – or rather i will die working… This is a massive paradigm shift for someone who has until recently made an art for of doing as little as possible.
 
An example of this has been my own approach to work.
I have often been proud of how little work i actually do "working smart, not hard" i used to say. I used to boast that i got paid to go bowling, swimming, go-karting etc. That i wasn’t really working. Then i perfected this further geting a job where i was paid to sleep. I then minimized my work further by doing alot of my study for uni whilst i was at paid work. Again i was proud of being able to minimize the amount of work i do into as small a time as possible.
No more.This pride in avoiding and minimising work seems immature now and i have found a new appreciation for work on this trip. Work is not a "necesary evil" which must be endured.  That is to say the old way of "trying to find a balance" between work and life is over. Instead a good life is now achieved through living fully through ones work. 
This is just  a transcript from my journal – Alot of the premises and lead up  for the above are in other parts of my journal, I might try and get them up at some stage. 
 




Austria

8 09 2005
Caught the night train to Vienna from Milan got in dumped mz bags and hit the town. Dedicated most of the first daz to freud – went to the freud museum which is in his old house. Wasnt that impressive and would have been a dead bore or about 3 minutes worth of stuff to see if you wernt into freud in a big way. Still i found some of it interesting. Then i went to have a coffee at the cafe freud used to go to and sat in the seat he used to sit in. Oh one small detail along the way – i got my head shaved. I have a few reasons for doing  that. Im aware im not writing as much on the meaning side of the trip in the blog recently – thats because it sounds wanky and alot of it is deeply personal and I  also dont have the time or internet resources to write it twice. Ive resigned myself to the age old inefficient art of handwriting (even though its slow, messy and inefficient), and have been writing a journal for a little while now. Anyway then wentwalking arodn the city just observing buildings and people. Before heading back and going out for dinner with Rick and Jason.
 
Today i started by heading out to the funky museum quarter. Where a heap of bohemians and artists just hang out between all these art galleries and museums. Went to the Leopold museum and was seriously impressed. Klimt is a very good artist and Egon Schiel is amazing – by far my favorite artist – his stuff is awesome and actually does look better in real life (included some pics of his). Damn shame he died at 28. Anyway then seriously considered starting lomography because id heard about it and it souds really cool but its hard to get the cameras for it, but the shop is in vienna. Decided that even though its cheaper to get the cameras in vienna its still too expensive to get into at the moment, and will save my pennies.  Then  checked out a heap of architectural tourist attractions (St. Stephensdome, Parliament, Burgentheatre etc. and a number of important looking buildings i have no idea what theyre called.) then jumped on a tram to see the rest of vienna. The architecture in vienna although pretty, is quite monotenous. Its like traveling through one giant wedding cake.
 Went to a coffee house and had sachretorte and coffee then briefly checked out the hofburg and wrote in my journal and read a book in the volks-garden (ironically enough im reading Karl Marx at the moment). 
That will do me for austria and tomorrow im going somewhere new. Im not sure where im going yet – but budapest sounds interesting, will decide some time tonight :).




Cinque terre

6 09 2005
Im now in milan, which is far too cool for my liking – everyone is wearing sunnies that cover their whole face – INSIDE the train station. And its easier to buy zara accesories than cheap food. ive just come by train from the cinque terre which has been the most wonderful time. I spent my time with Vinci one of the most ineteresting girls ive met, who was actually from sydney. We stayed in cinqe terre exploring the gorgeous coastline from above and below sea level – hiking through the villages, going swiming and also checking out the caves and marine life snorkeling. So much for the prison diet in italy…  would wake up and have a choclate croisant and coffee for breakfast,would be eating gelati most days and going out for excellent local sea food and then to a nice bar overlooking the sea for cocktails. Amazing how fast four days can go doing this! Was a truly wonderful time. Now Vinci and i are parting ways as she goes to barcelona and i head on to Austria.




Naples Pompei and Herculean

6 09 2005
Well Ive been having an awesome few days.
I spent another day in Rome and went on an really good walking tour – saw the circus maximus, mouth of truth, palantine hill, pantheon, jewish quarter, colloseum, place where julius caesar was killed,piazza venecia (where all roads in italy lead) and the worlds first shopping mall (which had a brothel where men could go for a quickie whilst their wives  were shopping for shoes – seriously! and was taken over by nuns- of course inevitable that a bunch of women would take over a shopping mall). Saw all of that on a walking tour which was great to get the historical and mythical background and humerous stories for all of these sites. Tour guide was really good and learned heaps of interesting random facts about ancient and modern rome. For example did you know that stray cats are protected in rome and that if you find a cat on your car/seat it is illegal to shoo the cat off – but by law one must gently verbally ask the cat to move! Emperor Nero first castrated a man and married him, then married another man at the same time, then got rid of both of them and married a horse! Then tried to get the horse made a roman citizin and to sit in on senate hearings. Emperors were getting up to all kinds of hillarious shinanigins. Anyway the tour was excellent and Rome is just amazing.
 
I came to Naples yesterday and its a different city alltogether, their is trash and crime everywhere you look. When going out at night, the owner of the hostel gave us a lecture on leaving all our valuables at home and how to protect the girls from getting their bags snatched. Also im not wearing my watch out here as it gets too much attention. That said the people in the south are more relaxed and warm than their northern cousins. And the food ischeap and  DELICIOUS!!! Last night i went to the pizzeria that invented the calizone back in 1936 and is a contender for the best pizzeria in the world, at the advice of a local working at my hostel. Packed out with locals.The calizone filled with buffallo cheese, tomato and ham was just so so so bloody good.. mmm.. i can still taste it. Ate another fritta pizza at a restaurant again recomeded by a local and again amazing.
Today i went out to pompei – a city where everyone was killed by a volcanic eruption from nearby Mt. Vesuvius – this happened 2000 years ago but the volcanic ash preserved the buildings so you can still walk through the ruins. Also went to Herculeneum which is not as large as pompei – just a small village but the buildings are much better preserved and was able to walk through the intact buildings rather than ruins, really amazing place.