My European (mis)Adventures

One Flash Light, A Passport, and Two Credit Cards, How much trouble can I get into?

My Last Entry from Munich August 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 10:24 am

358 days, that is how long I have been away from home, 358 days in a perpetual haze (sure a self inflicted hops haze but a haze no less), 358 days of new cultural experiences, 358 days of the excitement of not knowing what the next day will bring. These 358 days might take another 358 for me to truly understand what I have gone through and to sift through the life lessons that I have learned but that is OK with me. In some ways, that is what my latest Stockholm adventure was about, taking me out of my daily routine and letting me to begin to decompress. My friend Robin, who is going through a life altering experience down in Argentina, asked me if I had mixed emotions about leaving Germany and returning to the States. The answer to that is of course but I think that the key word in the question he poses is “mixed emotions.” A lot of the people I know here and have met wonder only if I am going to be sad and miss Europe. I always answer these questions with a yes, naturally I am going to miss it; how could you not miss the experiences of walking down the D-Day beaches of Normandie, The Oktoberfest, Weiß Wurst and a Hefeweizen for breakfast, driving on the Autobahn, caving in Budapest, clubbing in Prague, singing karaoke in an Irish bar in a little town in Germany, thanksgiving in Florence, and all the other debacles (experiences) that I have undertaken. I will always carry these memories with me, but I have come to realize that I am not meant to be in Germany any more.

So if I am not supposed to be in Germany any more, then where am I supposed be? That my friends I can not answer but this one thought keeps jumping into my head: Before you can figure out where you are supposed to be, to finally be comfortable where you are at if you will, you must first figure out who you are because how can you expect to find where you belong if you don’t know who you are? That’s the crux of my situation, often you hear about people who take off to exotic destinations to find themselves as if suddenly one day the clouds will part and a voice will call down in some sort of divine voice, “This is who you are, go forth and don’t forget to tithe 10%”. (Knowing myself, I would think it was a dream and wonder if I had mistakenly rolled over onto the remote for the television and Pat Robertson was screwing me with). I believe that it is all of our life’s little experiences that contribute to our sense of who we are and we take these new experiences for what they are worth and incorporate them into ourselves. I am fortunate enough to have parents that recognize that I have wandering feet and support me in my journey of finding where I belong ( I get my hippie ways from my mother). I know it can be frustrating for them at times wondering if I will ever settle down but I know I will, eventually.

I think I have a good sense of who am I, but who is that? Am I the guy who can drink 5 maßes, and still have enough sense about me to drop one liners (albeit never politically correct ones) at 3am in the morning? Am I the easy going, fun loving, crazy American intern who was given the name “Joshy Bear” by the French interns? Perhaps I am “Josh Clooney” as dubbed by the karaoke guys at the Irish Bar (because of the slight resemblance, come one; tell me you haven’t ever noticed it). Maybe I am the “thumb” ninja (long story) who won’t hesitate to use them with sound effects and all if you step out of line. This is how my friends here see me, what they don’t see is the part of me that has drive and determination to be successful (I’ve been hiding it under my laid back SoCal persona). The importance I place on family, my ingrained sense of patriotism (I hate talking politics with Europeans) and justice. I think you get the point, and those of you that know me best could I am sure, come up with a few more. I understand that it takes time to cultivate new relationships and I value all of the friendships that I have started in these 358 days but I am excited to go home to the people who know me best. Excited to get to know them again and to see how they have grown and for them to see how I have grown (for better or worse).

I guess what my 358 days come down to is this:

  1. Don’t be afraid of wandering feet or the “Bohemian Lifestyle” (I stole this from Mike Cando, thanks my brother).
  2. Travel somewhere out of your comfort zone, it doesn’t have to be an exotic location, it could be Ohio, but do so with an open mind and reflect on what you have learned.
  3. If you feel the need for a change, don’t shy away from it, embrace it, through adversity we truly come to know ourselves.
  4. Most importantly, do not zealously look for where you are “supposed to be” because you can forget to enjoy where you are at.

So go forth my friends and let us seek new counsel in this wonderful mysterious world we live. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson,

No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.”


Stockholm Redux August 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 8:10 am

As I write this new blog, I find myself back in Stockholm. I never really thought I would return here after the adventures that ensued over the holiday break. Actually, truth be told, I didn’t think that they would let me back in to the country (slightly kidding but not really) after a particular Friday night debacle the last time I was here. I told myself after leaving last time, that I would like to come back in the summer and lo and behold here I am. How I came to return is a bit of a weird story in itself and harkens to the ending of the film “Good Will Hunting” (shout out to Red in Argentina on this one) but what I have taken away is so much more. Prior to my arrivial in Stockholm they had been enjoying fabulous weather, when I left Munich it had been raining like a son of a bitch and wouldn’t you know it, it followed me here to Stockholm and has been raining off and on all week with no end in sight so I guess I pretty much have the power to change weather patterns.

The day that I arrived happened to be the Stockholm Pride parade which was also the Euro Pride 2008, where everyone came to Stockholm for a “Big Gay parade” Maybe because of the rain, a lot of people stayed away and the entire atmosphere was somewhat more low key than that of the Hillcrest Pride Parade. So it just appeared to be abunch of people in ass-less leather pants with red asses dancing to techno music. However the interesting part to me was the representation in the parades by various groups for example, The gay Doctor, Dentists, and Nurses Federation (insert Gaylord Focker jokes here) Gay Police Officers, Fire Fighters and Army People Federation. Later in the evening we ended up at a friends of my friends house where we pre flighted before we went out to the clubs. Its common practice to drink a lot at home before you go out because it is so expensive to go out and buy drinks at the bars, hell it is even expensive to buy bottles of alchohol in the state ran stores, they are, I believe, subject to something like a 75% tax. Gotta love these socialist governments, if they deem it bad for you, then they will tax the shit out of it in hopes you wont do it. From what I can tell, it is not really working, Swedes love to drink and party. So anyway, we end up at this pretty cool bar and they had a retractable roof, so when it got to hot inside, they would retract the roof and let a little breeze and light rain in. I think it would have been an amazing thing if it would have been a clear night but never the less it was a great time had by all. Since then, I have had a pretty “domesticated” vacation; this is because my friend Bodil, whom I am staying with is working 8-5 so we don’t really go out and party it up too much. My days have consisted with her getting up for work, me sleeping in until 10 or so, then going out to see some sights, coming back home, cooking dinner, drinking tea, chatting, and then bed time. Pretty mundane stuff, but its nice to be able to relax. We even went to yoga together a few days ago. That was an experience let me tell you. First of all, I haven’t done yoga for over a year, and even when I was doing it, it wasn’t with any sort of consistency. Secondly, the instructions were all in Swedish, but that didn’t deter me because not only was the instructor a little hottie, but the way she spoke was so soothing and hypnotic like, I started to believe that I could actually speak Swedish! (Hmm all I need now is a Swedish Massage in Sweden to complete the tri-fecta.) As part of my domestication, I venture out to the grocery store and do pretty well for myself partly because, as I mentioned in my original Stockholm post, everyone here speaks some English, or well that’s what I thought until this old Swedish Granny jumped out of the bushes like a “grass ninja” and started yammering on at me. From what I can figure is that she was interested in the flowers that I had bought. How do I know this? It’s because she kept pointing to the flowers I had bought in my bag and if you listen closely enough you can hear some similarities to German(something about girlfriend I think). This grass ninja totally freaked me out and even if I could have gotten a word in, I am pretty sure she would not have understood me anyways. You might be asking yourself why I bought flowers? I thought they were pretty, why else? (Ragsdale, that’s right, I said I thought they were pretty)

Today I ventured out to the Island of Birka, on this island is the remains of one of the original Viking settlements in Sweden which dates back to appx. 700 A.D. I have to admit, I was expecting some sort of grandiose Viking reenactment there but the museem was small, and the majority of the artifacts that they have found are located in the Stockholm Natural History Museem. On the island you can still find burial mounds and sheep (not of sheep). They have a few huts to mimic one of the sections of the original settlement where they demonstrated boat building, hand made leather crafts and Blacksmith working all using the traditional methods. The blacksmith, who is actually a blacksmith by trade, travels to the island every three weeks and lives on the island for one week while doing the demonstrations. One of the coolest things he was doing when we were there, was that he was showing us how to make steel the ancient way. Pretty Cool I must say.

The most interesting part of the trip to the island was meeting this Australian girl who was on a 6 month global adventure. Apparently she works for a consultanting company in Perth and is able to take 6 months off to travel without it being an issue. Why is this important you may be asking yourself? Last week I had read that Australia was seriously in need of skilled labor, not only blue collar but also in the White Collar sectors; I asked her about this and her response was , “ They defiantly are, why do you think I can take off for 6 months and get my job back when I return? They know that there are other companies that need my skill set so my employers don’t complain.” So I would now like to announce (sorry mom for you not being the first one to hear it) that I will be actively searching for a job in the magical land of OZ upon graduation. But I guess what this really means, is that the longer and harder I think about where I really want to be, I am no closer to the answer. However, I do know, without a shadow of a doubt I will entertain all possibilities no matter how absurd or outlandish they may seem. Jerry Garcia said it best “ sometimes it takes time to find a place to be, so keep truckin’’


Cruising 220 With My Hair on Fire July 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 10:49 am

This past weekend, my buddies and I embarked on our second road trip (with a car) of the year. The last one saw us drive from western Germany to France, this one had us driving from Western Germany to northern Germany so to date, I have driven the total length of Germany both north, south, east, and west. I figured since we had so much trouble with our last rental that this time would go off with out a hitch. Needless to say that it’s a safe bet to assume that every road trip we take together will always start with a debacle at the rental place. This time, we got some excuse about GPS compatibility and renting a class of car instead of reserving the actual car. The car issue got fixed and we come to find out that we have to put 5 full grown men and luggage into a Ford Fusion, not too bad except it was rocking a powerful 1.4L 80 Hp engine; not exactly ideal for the Autobahn when 3 of the 5 passengers are weighing in excess of 200 lbs (yes that’s me included). To make matters worse, I was 2 hours late getting picked up because of the weather, so we didn’t get to Stuttgart to pick up the other passengers until nearly 1030. After a short coffee break in Stuttgart we continue traveling north; suddenly our GPS tells us to get off the Autobahn. We start to follow these back roads for about an hour. I don’t think I have to tell you that we all had a puzzled look on our face when we were told to do this. I was lucky enough have printed out the Google directions just incase something went wacky with the GPS, but these instructions were following the GPS. So after being lost in the backwoods of Germany we finally make it back to the Autobahn; one hour later we find our selves off the Autobahn again and this time not only dodging deer that are crossing mountain roads but at one time, we actually made a left turn directed by Helen (we named the GPS) and ended up going down a mountain road that was nothing but gravel and no wider than our Fusion. We pull over to the side of the road and decide to reset the GPS and see what happens. I would put the time at about 2am in the morning, as I am resetting Helen, Francesco our Italian friend suggests we go knock on the door of the house next to the road because the lights were still on and ask for directions. We all looked at him and in a friendly manner verbally abuse him  as only friends can for even suggesting this. I think we all could see us getting shot by a crazy German for trespassing. We finally get Helen figured out and back on the road. I know you are wondering why we are calling our GPS Helen. I don’t really know but at some point someone in the car yelled out “F’n Helen” when we got bad directions and I think it was because he had an ex-girlfriend named Helen who would give crappy directions. We finally arrive in Rheine at about 4am after 7 hours of driving; 3 more hours than it should have been.

The next morning we had to return our car and pick up our new one, the car rental place  was inside a Mercedes Dealership so things were not looking that bad. Lucky for me I drug my ass out of bed so I could be listed as a car driver because waiting for us was a year old Mercedes E class Kompressor. So we took the car home loaded it up and headed to Amsterdam, needless to say that the people who didn’t drag their asses out of bed were jealous that I would be driving the Mercedes later that day. We arrived in Amsterdam with no problems thanks to Heidi (the new name of our new GPS) and checked into our Hotel. We were staying in a hotel that was run by students as part of their curriculum. Apparently, Amsterdam has the number 5 ranked school for Hospitality Management in the world and is a partner university of Cornell (which has the top in the US and of Lucerne). We were able to get hooked up because our Dutch friend Rogier has some child hood friends who are in the program. Not only that, but they were to be our tour guides of the city while we were there. Before we met up with them, I saw a two story bicycle parking garage, the largest in Europe. Got my picture taken in a wooden shoe, and did a little grocery shopping where I was able to pick up some amazing cheese and horse meat. Before you get too freaked out, the Dutch eat horse because it is super cheap and I am sure that the one horse I did see pulling a carriage (the only one I saw) was thankful that he had a job! We met up with Pimm and Jan later in the evening and they showed us around the glorious city. With all the canals, it is really a vibrant beautiful city. He took us on a tour of coffee shops and pointed out the most famous and historically significant ones, we took a walk down to Vongel park and relaxed in the sun for a few hours and then we ate at this little hole in the wall that we would have never found if it wasn’t for them and feasted on croquettes. Basically horse meat and some sort of mashed potato deep friend; I finally know where Rogier gets his love for fried food, its basically in his genes. After walking around the city for what I thought was at least 5 hours we make it back to our hotel and rest up for the evening festivities. We got a late start, somewhere around midnight and met up down in the red light district where we proceeded to be guided by Pimm down the various ally ways and sex shows. Growing board of the red light district we bellied up to a bar in the district and begin to drink. To help pass the time we count the number of time Brits and or Americans freshly graduated from high school or college go passing by us and take bets on the finishing time of those seeking company across the street. Letting the time slip by, we try to find some bars to go into, but it is too late and they wont let us in. However we are convinced that these are Dutch only bars and they don’t want any American tourist in them even though Pimm and Rogier tell us that is not the case. We reluctantly go home at 5am and prepare for the ride home.

On our way home, we make a stop in Haarlem (sound familiar, it should there is one in NYC) and visit Rogier’s mom and boyfriend for a few hours. After the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam this was a perfect way to relax, sitting on the canal drinking coffee and visiting. Prior to going back to the house we make a quick stop in the farmers market where we are able to pick up some amazing cheese at half of the price. I’m here to tell you that the Dutch cheese is amazing and I picked up quite a bit of the aged gouda, nothing like an old Dutch man wearing wooden shoes, wielding a machete ( ok so I exaggerated, it was one of those crazy cheese cutters that look like a ninja weapon) cutting cheese directly from the wheel. I take the obligatory B&W photo that has become an obsession of mine and we head back to the house for some cheese, herring, and horse. (Sounds like a bad joke doesn’t it?) We all pretty much decided that we would like to retire to Haarlem, or at least abandon Germany and move to the Netherlands. I think it is for various reasons, the women were absolutely beautiful, (Amazonian without being so Amazonian if that makes any sense) generally happy and always smiling (because they were stoned perhaps?) and the vibe was something that is hard to describe just really positive and friendly unlike Germany. We head back to Rheine and on the way pick up some Belgium beer which is a welcomed change from the German beer and cook dinner. After a wild and ridiculous night at a club just out side if Rheine (it has the largest ice bar in Europe and I believe why there is no Air conditioning in this country, it all goes to keeping that place freaking cold) You would actually never imagine a really nice nite club being here, you would expect something out of the movie “Road House or Porky’s”.

We find our selves sitting on the balcony the next morning enjoying the sun eating breakfast in our boxers. Come to think of it, all of the meals we ate in Rheine involved the balcony and no pants. I can only imagine what the neighbors thought. The moment I had been dreading finally arrived and it is my turn to dive us back to Germany. Let me just say that it had been over a year since I had driven and I was feeling nervous since it was the fabled “Autobahn”. With Heidi programmed, we set off for the return trip.

Here is the down and dirty on the Autobahn, yes it is true, there are no speed limits, however there are sections where there are speed limits which range from an average of 120K/hr to 80 depending on the construction and what not. People really don’t obey the speed limits or so I found and always kept it at a constant 130 unless there were signs posted for the speed cameras. There are parts that have no speed limits, but most of the cars, like our Ford of earlier, are not designed for such high speeds. On the Autobahn, you only drive in the left hand lane if you are passing a slower car, the way it should be. The only problem is that you have to keep on out for a truck that thinks he can pass and then jumps into your lane, more times than not you have to slow down and you may never regain speed (especially if you are in a Ford Fusion). I would estimate that the most of the time, we were cruising at about 140 Km/hr which is a good speed and quite comfortable in the Mercedes since it is designed to be a cruiser. I decide that since this the only time I will actually be driving on the autobahn and in a Mercedes no less I will push it and take it up to 210 and give myself an early birthday present. To quote Meg Ryan in To Gun, “You won’t be happy unless you are going Mach 2 with your hair on fire”. Let me tell you, cruising at that speed you begin to wonder if it is such a bright idea. Especially when there is a big sticker in the car that says do not go faster than 240. There is no bigger “Oh shit” moment in your life (unless you count getting a girl pregnant as number one) than when you look in your rear view mirror and see nothing behind you only to have a Porsche suddenly appear out of nowhere going about 250 275. Needless to say I quickly got over, took it back down to a reasonable speed and began to wonder if I could ever afford a Mercedes like the one I was driving in the future.

Looking back on our little adventure and trying to sum it up is difficult but a general consensus was met during one of our many pantless meals on the patio, “Fellas, we did not go on an adventure this weekend, we went on a vision quest.” This quote looking back is a truism that will hold up for some time. It was a weekend of many firsts, but it will also be remembered as the last time the “dirty half dozen” sat around on the patio, wind blowing through our undercarriages, drinking beer and telling fart and dick jokes.


The Football Gods Must Be Crazy July 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 10:37 am

Eurocup 2008 ended with a whimper, what should have been an instant classic in the making had all the drama of a 5th grade production of “The Gettysburg Address. After a thriller against Turkey three days before by Germany and a systematic dismantling of Russia by Spain, the stage was set for an epic match up between a youthful and creative Spanish team that played with the fluidity of an ebbing tide and the old German guard who had blitzkrieged through the tournament leaving a path of carnage and destruction in its wake. So what happened? I feel the Germans got complacent and expected to win, they took it for granted that they were playing Spain and were more concerned about the post celebration than the game its self. It pains me to say this because I would have enjoyed experiencing the win by Germany and the atmosphere would have been 1000 times more electric than the feeling in the Olympic Stadium where we watched the Turkey match. However the Football Gods deemed Michael Ballak and supporting cast unworthy. For such a talented player playing on a talented team, he is relegated to now embodying the spirit of the Buffalo Bills of the 1990s. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride. I myself watched the game with a bunch of Spanish people from the office or to be more precise 9 crazy Spanish broads. Why? Do I really have to answer that, it’s me we are talking about…

We watched in a Spanish café sipping Sangria and eating tapas. It was funny because the owners of this place kept playing the unofficial Spanish National anthem which from what I understand is outlawed (sort of like the German National anthem from the 1940s) because it makes references to Franco and his fascist government. I would have never known except that the girls I was with seemed taken aback by it. After getting the explanation, I can understand why although I still find it funny that the Irish can play their rebel Irish IRA music in pubs and what not and people find it adorable. I mean who doesn’t love a song with a chorus of “Go on home British Soldiers, Go on Home. Fuck off home!? (The adorable drunk Irish, we love ‘em no matter what.)

Suddenly the place erupts when Torres juked Lahm out of his jock and shoots the ball while hurdling Lehman attempting to block the goal. Everyone jumps up and starts hugging each other and jumping around, a Spanish guy appears out of the crowd with a guitar and starts to lead a chorus line (where the heck did he get the guitar?). Everyone is in a state of euphoria and that’s when I spot this little German boy with his head in his hands crying because his team is losing. What was he doing there you might ask? Well what I can figure out was that his Mom is German and his Dad is Spanish. I am convinced that being raised in a mixed Football household has got to be worse than growing up with parents who are either Yankees or Red Sox fans. I felt so bad for him except then I thought “you should be at home watching the match and not in a bar with the grown ups”. But that’s just me. There isn’t much left to say about EuroCup 2008 except that it is 2 years until the World Cup and that means two Champions League seasons and two Premiership seasons that Ballak can still loose. Can the Germans win 2010, it is still too early to tell, that would be pretty amazing even though I probably will not be living in Germany. I see a more unlikely story unfolding for the world cup: The Dutch win the World Cup in South Africa, their former colony. How ridiculous would that be??

One last small note, the road trip to Amsterdam commences on Thursday night to celebrate 4 birthdays and the 4th of July its going to be Legend….wait for it…….ary!


EuroCup2008 June 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 5:35 am

It has been a while since I have updated my blog, I guess you can say that ever since I have returned from the trip that was “The Normandy Invasion II”, I have been in a funk of sorts. The weather for the last month has absolutely been horrific. OK it hasn’t been that bad, but more along the lines of very unpredictable. We went for 2 solid weeks of San Diegoesque weather and then suddenly it started to rain everyday and, nothing like getting up and trudging to work in the rain and then trudging home especially when you are in Summer mode, you just do not want to do anything. It is just as easy to some home and go straight to bed and not go out and do anything. However, this week the weather has finally gotten better, humid as hell but at least sundresses and mini skirts have reappeared on the streets of Munich. So needless to say that I am in a bit better disposition. It is amazing how the weather can do that to a person.

As I write this we are in the middle of Eurocup2008 (the European Cup Football Championship) since I work in a very internationally diverse office, it seems like every day for the last few weeks, I have been out watching football with the other interns. I am not the biggest fan of football (soccer) but it is hard not to get into it when totally surrounded by fans who’s national pride is at stake. It is a very hard thing to explain, it would be like if your local sports team were to play in the Super Bowl or World Series multiplied by 10,000. That is the level of intensity that these people have for EVERY match. To help put this in perspective, let us imagine that the Padres were in the World Series, let us also assume that all of the approximately 1.2 million residence of San Diego were emotionally invested in the team. Let us also assume that the entire state of California is emotionally invested in the Padres, not because they are all baseball fans but because for arguments sake, the entire Padre team is from California. Now substitute the Padres and baseball for the German National Team and soccer. Imagine 80 million people captivated by every minute of every game, not because they are necessarily fans of the sport, but because of National Pride. As my Itaian friend Pepe always tells me when we watch the Italian team play “Josh, I wish I could be you and actually enjoy watching the matches because you have nothing emotionally invested in it!” It is sort of funny to think of it this way, but the battle fields of Waterloo and the Arden forests have been replaced by the soccer pitch. For instance tomorrow, Germany plays Turkey, and this game has all sorts of social ramification to the outcome. Those of you that have read some of my previous posts might recall the political and social tensions between the Germans and the Turkish immigrants. In my opinion, this match reminds me of the classic 70’s movie “Grid Iron Gang” where with a little imagination, you can imagine the Germans in the role of the police and the Turks in the role as the prisoners. I am not saying that by winning this game, the “Auslander” will gain over night respect or that the Germans must win the game to assert their authority, all I am saying is that I can see the parallels between the movie and tomorrows match. Germany is favored to win because they have a fully healthy team, whereas Turkey only has 15 players available for the match. If Turkey does win, and Russia beats Italy, an interesting question arises. Can you really call the final match the European Championship when both countries that are playing are not considered to be part of Europe politically, geographically, and economically?


Blitzkrieg France! June 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 4:49 pm

Who else but crazy Americans would come up with the bright idea to take a road trip? It seems like since I have been here a European road trip consists of going somewhere on the train and calling that a road trip. No, we are Americans, and come hell or high water we were going to do it American style: 1 car, cooler full of snacks, CD’s and a crate of beer in the back for when we finally get to our destination ( we are in Germany after all). We were supposed to get an Audi, so I wasn’t too disappointed when they fellas rolled up in a Mercedes. We were hoping to also get a diesel to save on gas money, but the unleaded Mercedes would have to do; let me tell you, this thing looked like a 4 cylinder Ford Escort with a Mercedes symbol on the front and it performed like it was missing a cylinder when we were pulling the hills. (This has something to do with the fact that when you rent a car here, the power of the car is directly dependent on the age of the driver, since I didn’t rent it, I would have to suffer but at least it had good head room). Road Trip route

Let the Blitzkrieg commence, 4 Americans in a German made car going to France. The first leg of the GPS was programmed to take us all the way to the boarder, but then we had a problem. “Did it just say to insert disk 5?” “Yes”. “Well where the fuck is disk 5?” Yep, THERE WAS NO DISK 5!! Apparently in our Mercedes Escort, we were supposed to ask for disk 5, you would think that all of Western Europe, or at least the countries directly bordering Germany would come loaded on to our GPS. Still seething that we didn’t have disk 5 we wondered if we actually had unlimited miles, because if not, this was about to be a short trip. After a quick reassuring look at the contract we proceeded to head into Western France. Luckily for us we decided to print out the directions on where we were going. In France, if you drive on the good roads, they charge you a toll, so the directions we printed out told us how to get around the tolls using the back roads and where to expect the radar stations. Sweet! So we were saving money right? Well, the distances listed on the maps were not accurate and neither were the names of the roads because they tended to be called two different names and merge without any signage. However, on the directions, signs were listed so as long as we stayed on what we thought was the right road; all we had to do was follow the signs. Not the best idea, but screw it, we were on a road trip!

The first stop of the day was the city of Reims which is in the heart of Champagne country. No, we were not going to any of the colossal Champagne manors that lined the streets hiding millions of gallons of champagne bellow them; we were there to see the cathedral. This cathedral is supposed to have the best acoustics of any of the cathedrals in France. Sort of hard to tell when it was completely silent in there because it was a CATHEDRAL. Too bad we didn’t have time to go to any of the Manors for tastings but from what I understand it was super expensive and you know, “there is no sex in the champagne room”. Leaving Reims, wouldn’t you know it, we get lost, spend 15 minutes trying to find our way out of town towards Paris; we decide to just go towards Paris at the first sign we see. No problem, except we start to hit the toll roads and it cost us approximately 10 Euro to go about 25 Km, and when you are driving at excess of 150 Km/h that comes up pretty quick. Our first night in Paris finds us staying at the apartment of the girlfriend of one of the guys that was with us. So it ended up being the 4 of us, the 4 of them and then 4 of their other friends who were visiting for the weekend. Pretty cozy, to say the least. We take it pretty easy that night because we are planning on driving to Cannes. Ok, so I thought we were going to Cannes and I was getting really excited because of the film festival, ummm NO! We were going to Caen; I swear to god all of the names sound the same when the French say them! If we had disk 5 I could have looked and seen exactly where we were and saved me some embarrassment. On our way to Caen, we stopped at a market to get more meat and cheese and stuff for snacks and wouldn’t you know it, we got lost trying to get back on track. After driving around this little town for 20 minutes our friend’s girl friend who speaks French, convinces us to stop and ask for directions. She goes in, gets the directions and we attempt to find our way out. Now I know why men don’t stop for directions: It is because the people giving directions don’t know what the hell they are talking about and we would rather be lost then deal with the humiliation of being accused of not being able to follow directions that are crap to begin with!

We were actually not going to Caen; we had set our sight on the beaches of Normandy: Omaha and Utah. At this time, the sky was grey and a slight drizzle began to come down. Appropriate I think since those were the conditions on June 6th 1944 when D-Day commenced. For me personally, it was a rather eerie feeling taking my shoes off and walking down Omaha Beach feeling the sand between my toes and the waves lapping at my ankles. It was hard to believe the events of over 60 years ago with all the peace and tranquility that surrounded me. The cemetery and memorial that are at Omaha Beach are actually U.S. soil granted to us in perpetuity by the French government. This brought up the question among us, if these memorials under American care would actually last in perpetuity as American soil? Military cemeteries always make me feel sort of “funny” almost like I am having a religious experience like I can hear those that have been laid to rest saying “ I did good didn’t I?” Maybe it is because of my own personal experiences or a connection through family and friends that make me feel this way. What ever the reason is, the answer to their question is always “Yes and thank you”. An interesting side note, when we left, we began to see signs for Brest, I wanted to get a picture of the sign because it would add to my collection of wacky sign pictures that I have taken so far. So I am trying to remember why the name Brest sounds familiar (go ahead and say that I always have breasts on my mind) but that’s not the reason why. I remember reading that my Great Grandfather disembarked at the port of Brest after his Trans Atlantic Voyage almost 90 years ago to fight in WWI. So here I am 90 years later traveling the same roads (albeit paved) that my Great Grandfather traveled. Thinking about it makes the hair on my arms stand up, I wish I could have gotten that picture now and who knows, maybe one day I’ll make it up to the Arden Forrest.

We left Omaha Beach and headed to our Hostel for the night so that we could get an early start to Mont St. Michel. Wouldn’t you know it, on our way to our hostel we get lost again? Let me tell you that after getting lost so many times we finally figured out the genius behind the traffic rotary. The first time you go around, it is to get a good look at all the signs, the second time you go around, everyone in the car discuses which direction to go (by discusses I really mean argue heatedly, it’s the only time it is acceptable to be a back seat driver), the third go around is the one where the driver, tired of all the “discussion” yells at everyone to be quite and they pick the direction to go. We finally make it to our “youth hostel” and find that all of the mattresses have a rubber liner over them. Tired and amused at this discovery, we try to come up with all of the reasons why the mattress have rubber coverings. At breakfast the next morning it all made sense, in the entire breakfast hall, we were the only 4 people under the age of 60! So much for it being a “Youth Hostel”. As we were eating breakfast the observation was made, “Does anyone else find it ironic that the route we took here is close to the same route that the Germans took when they invaded and the route we are taking home loosely follows the route the Americans took to liberate France?” “Dude, don’t say that too loud, “we don’t want to give any of these old people a heart attack by bringing up the Blitzkrieg!” As we departed for Mont St. Michel the receptionist mentioned that there was a marathon ending there. We expected that we would have problems getting there because of all of the people in the Marathon, but as we got closer and closer we didn’t see anyone running by us which lead to numerous French jokes (somehow I think they had to do with “no battle going on so why bother running”) Mont St. Michel is perhaps one of the most famous Cathedrals in France because when the tide comes up, it covers the road to the cathedral and it looks like it is on its own island. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to contend with a high tide because it was so early. The views from the cathedral were absolutely breath taking and I believe that it is one of the most amazing that I have seen since I have been here. Believe me when I say once you have seen one cathedral they all pretty much look the same, just the scenery changes. After touring the cathedral which had an art exhibit of photographs of sacred mountains around the world and walking through the small walled town, we ate crapes and drank cider which are both specialties of the region.

We start to head back to Paris and we are making good time, or so we thought. We had been driving for about an hour and we began to see signs for Mont St Michel. “Why do the signs say we are 100 km from Mont St. Michel?” “What are you talking about; the directions say we should be about 3 hours from Paris!” “I’m just saying, these signs are saying we are getting close to the turn off for the cathedral.” “SON OF A BITCH!!” and like a chorus of drunken sailors, “Fuckin’ disk 5!!!” echoed in our Mercedes Escort. Somehow with the excellent printed directions we had, we managed to go 100 Km south of where we started.

Rolling into Paris, we decide to take a driving tour of the city. That was cool with me because I really only wanted to take a few pictures of the Eifel Tower and I knew the next morning, we probably wouldn’t be in any condition to go site seeing. So we decide to drive the around the Arc Di Triumph, the worlds largest rotary. Picking out the perfect music (it would have been classic to have some Benny Hill) we start our journey only to be halted 50 meters later because of a parade. Minor setback right? We start over again and to the left I see the Eifel Tower, by the time I get a picture of it, there is a van in front of it spoiling the view so we decide to go around once more seeing if I can get an unobstructed view. No dice, I get the same van in the picture. “What the HELL!!” I yell (I’m slightly cranky from being in the car for 7 hours). It turns out that the van in question was a police van that the cops came in to stop traffic for the stupid parade!! So my only picture of the Eifel Tower has a freaking police van in it. It takes us 5 more turns around the round about before we finally get out of it. Hooking a right at the next round about, in the span of 5 minutes we: almost get t-boned from running a red light (who the hell puts a stop light in the middle of a round about?) have a scooter rear end us (if you are going to pretend to own the road at least drive a hummer) and almost get sideswiped by a bus (fair enough, we were driving in the bus lane). That night we went to a house party that was thrown by a bunch of Americans whom the girls we were staying with all knew. I knew it was going to be a wild night when we had to hail our bus. No seriously, we hailed our bus down after it had passed the stop by about 200 meters and we were still on the opposite side of the road! During the party, I was offended by a Canadian, (apparently I was a typical American for wanting to go back to the States and make money instead of staying in Europe and getting taxed 50 percent), we saw some “ass antlers” (the literal German translation for a tattoo across the small of the back), an old French man throwing eggs at the door to get us to be quiet, and a friend of mine running off into the night like Quasi Motto not to be seen until 10am the next morning. The next morning we woke up and went to the “American Diner” near the Sorbonne it was started by an American who was tired of not being able to get an American breakfast, it even had all the diner kitsch as decorations. I had the steak and eggs, let me tell you, after not having a steak for almost a year because it is very expensive to buy in Germany; I almost went into food coma ( I think being hung over didn’t help either). From there we saw the out side of Notre Dame (remember what I said about cathedrals?) the pyramid by the Louvre and then we went home to pack and begin our return to der Vaterland.

It’s really hard for me to sum up my opinions of France and Paris in particular. It is nice, but it is not quite the “magical and mystical” place that everyone makes it out to be. I think maybe it might be because I am used to European culture and it doesn’t seem so foreign to me anymore or maybe because France looks a lot like Middle American and it seemed like we were driving through Kentucky. But this is what I do know:

1. We drove about 2300 Km or about the distance from San Diego to Toronto.

2. In France, we gave as good as we got; don’t worry, France still didn’t win.

3. The threat of, “I’m totally going to blog about this when we get back” will not stop anyone from questionable behavior.

4. Four days of dick and fart jokes brings people closer together. Period. I said PERIOD!


5. ALWAYS ask for disk FREAKN’ 5!


A rally of the worst kind May 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 6:09 pm

I experienced my first Neo Nazi rally a few days ago. I didn’t specifically search it out, I more like stumbled up on it by accident. Actually it was really hard to miss it. I was on my way to a bar to see a friend of mine’s band play, as I walked out of the subway at MarienPlatz , the city center, there it was. There were about 12 people surrounded by police with banners and shouting hate messages in German. I couldn’t really tell if there were a lot of supporters in the crowd or not, but I did see a large Jewish crowed waving banners with the Star of David and numerous other people shouting obscenities (in German) back at them. I had wondered what the occasion was and then I remembered it was May 8th, Victory in Europe Day. Incidentally, the French have this day off as a national holiday and it is no big surprise that the Germans don’t celebrate it. Nazism is something that I do not associate with Munich even though it is considered the birth place of the movement. The first thing that I thought of when I surveyed the scene was that these people are bunch of retards. The second thought I had was of how young they were. If I had to put it at an estimate I would say they were in their 20’s. I could almost understand some senile old bastard who was drinking buddies with Adolf still thinking this way……… Almost.

To think about this objectively, there is no conceivable reason as to why their cause should make a comeback or even how they think that it could. I mean it is not 1936 with unemployment and inflation at an all time high. The German economy grew by 2.2 % last year and it is projected to grow at about the same rate for the next 5 years. Southern Germany, Bavaria particularly has one of the lowest unemployment rates and coupled with Baden Wurttemberg their exports count for almost half of all exports for the country. Germany is also one of the leading exporters in the EU. So what is the deal? There is a prevailing thought that with the influx of foreigners they are losing their Germanness. Honestly I don’t even know if this is a word but there is no other way to describe it. I can sort of see it from their perspective because every country in Europe is trying to hold on to its national identity and there has always been strong feelings of nationalism in Europe. Case in point, Great Britain, holding out of the EU because they are fearful of losing control over their affairs. Fair play my friend, fair play.

The immigration issues here run parallel to those of the United States and Mexico but as far as I know, San Diego has never been referred to the 3rd largest city in Mexico where as Berlin is referred to as the 3rd largest city in Turkey behind Istanbul and Ankara. Maybe it seems that these numbers are so large because we are dealing with a total population of about 80 million and not 230 million. However, news reports and articles written about the influx of younger criminals from the east and from foreign lands does not really do anything to curb these sentiments. Another reality is that you have two types of immigrants, the ones that come and learn the language and try to integrate into German society and those who come and don’t make an effort. Again you can see the symmetry with that of the U.S. immigration problem. It is hard to help solve the problem when both sides do not seem to want to compromise. Maybe this problem will all be solved when Turkey is finally admitted into the EU but that is still awhile away if not never going to happen because I feel like they (the Turkish government) do not have any interest in the EU besides the economic advantages.

About a month ago the train drivers called for a strike because they thought their current contracts were not good enough for them. Their over all complaint was that the economy is doing so well that they wanted their piece of it. Holy Crap! Are you serious, last time I checked Germany resembled a capitalist country and was not into wealth distribution for the masses. Keep pushing for that and the government is going to keep it all, sort of sounds like 1939 right? But I have to give it to the Germans, when they strike they warn you about it, have a half day warning strike, negotiate a deal, and then strike for just one day. German Efficiency, gotta love it. I know this is sort of a round about way from where I first started but I am coming to the end. So what is the solution for Germany and the rest of Europe that are wrestling with these very problems. The way I see it, they can abolish the EU and go back to the way it used to be looking out for their best interests politically and socially, maybe just keep the Euro because it makes sense for them economically right now. At the moment I sort of hate the Euro so maybe they should just get rid of it. The second option is to quit your snivel’n, look in the mirror, find some intestinal fortitude, make some compromises, man up and go get yours. But then again what do I know? In most of these Euros eyes I am related to G.W.