My European (mis)Adventures

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

My Stockholm Syndrome December 30, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 1:55 pm

I think that my first exposure to Sweden must have those classic 90’s Bud-lite beer commercials featuring the Swedish Bikini Team and then again when they made an appearance at the end of the movie “Dumb and Dumber”. As the time for my departure to Stockholm came nearer, I began to wonder just how accurate these portrayals were.  On my flight up there, I ended up sitting next to my friend Mitch who I know from the University here and who is also from Stockholm, his departing words to me were, “Yes, the women are really that beautiful.”  Needless to say I was really excited to experience this whole “northern culture” seeing how I have always wanted to travel to Scandinavia and in true Josh fashion, I didn’t do that much research before hand and decided to just roll with the punches and see what happened.  This is what I did know about Sweden before going.

1. It is the home of absolute Vodka

2. Tiger Woods’ wife is from Stockholm

3. it’s expensive to buy stuff there,

4. They don’t use the Euro,

5. They still have a constitutional monarchy. 

I thought I had all the bases covered you know? I mean what else was there to learn.  Upon checking into my room at the hostel, I met a fellow traveler passing through on his way to Croatia for New Years. Turns out he was from Encinitas and also attended SDSU as well as knowing some of the same people I do. What are the chances right?  Well the next day we ran into a girl at a coffee shop and it turns out that she was originally from Stockholm but had just returned home from living in Encinitas for 10 years. Finally it made sense to me, all the beautiful women in SoCal aren’t native Californians, they are all Swedish transplants! Mystery Solved.

Stockholm is an entire city made up of many islands; Stockholm actually has more water running through it than the entire city of Venice.  In addition to all the canals, there is an outer archipelagos’ ring where a lot of people have summer vacation homes, and according to Mitch, if it was summer time then we would defiantly be spending some time at his family’s vacation home. (Note to self: go back in the summer time)  The Swedes themselves are a very friendly people and they all speak really good English,( at least the ones I met)  the reason for this is because apparently, unlike Germany where all American shows are dubbed into German, the Swedes run the original programs in English but subtitle them into Swedish. That’s not to say that they don’t have any Swedish shows, because they do, but they also have a lot of English shows. 

Stockholm is a beautiful city in the dead of winter, still very alive and vibrant even though all the trees are dormant and the canals are frozen over.  They also have many beautiful museums.  Of the two Museums that we went to, the Vassa Museum must have been my favorite.  The Vassa was a Gunship that sunk in the Stockholm Harbor in the 1600’s and wasn’t rediscovered until the 1950’s.  It was salvaged and resorted and now sits in a museum on one of the many islands as a tribute to the Swedish Naval Prowess in the 1600’s.  The second museum that we went to was the Nobel Museum.  Truth be told, I had high hopes for this one because of the grandiose size of the building, but once I entered, I was severely disappointed, it had only 4 rooms downstairs and not many exhibits. There was a small exhibit featuring the current winners from 2007 and yes when I walked by the Al Gore part, I shook my head in disgust.  Then they had two rooms where they showed bio-docs on past winners and an additional small room that housed a brief history of Alfred Nobel. Very anti climatic and not very impressive considering all of the good that man kind has reaped as a result of the works of the winners.  Although, they did have all the winners on banners and what they won for on a rail system that would move across the ceiling but the only problem with that was that after 10 minutes of looking up my neck got a cramp in it.

Johnny and I had just about all of the tourist things taken care of except for the Absolute Ice Bar.  The bar is constructed entirely out of ice, even to go as far as have all the cups for the cocktails made out of ice, a totally cool concept. Seeing how the bar is kept at a constant 23 degrees, we were outfitted with shiny blue parkas with furry hoods and gloves (I sort of felt like Luke Skywalker wearing mine in Empire) and were only allotted 45 minutes in the deep freeze.  So my buddy and I being bartenders decided that we would ask the bartender (do I really need to say how beautiful she was) if we could have pictures made with her but we needed to do it in such a way that it wouldn’t come off as creepy. So I decided to tell her that we were bartenders/students back home just like she was (truth) and we traveled a lot together (lie) and every bar we went to in a new country, we would take pictures of us with the bar staff (truth) and put them up in the bar back home (an almost truth)  I am not sure if it was the thought of having her picture up in a bar back in SD appealed to her, or that I looked like Han Solo in my parka, but she obliged and well she will now have a place with the Waitress from Prague and the Go Go dancers from Budapest on my screen saver. 

So in a nutshell that was Stockholm, and I keep on coming back to two thoughts, 1. The most beautiful women in the world live there and it is a consolation prize for living in such a cold place in the winter and 2. The city has captivated me and I can’t wait to go back in the summer.

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Himmel auf die Welt (Heaven on Earth) December 18, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 9:56 pm

I didn’t know what to quite expect seeing how as usaul we were not given alot of information about our destination; just a meeting place and time with minimum gear requirements. All I knew was that I was going to Switzerland to go snowboarding and that’s all that mattered to me after a stressful week of classes. Seeing how Switzerland is not part of the E.U. were asked to bring our passports and well, they didn’t check them (that’s right, I am a boarder jumper, let the jokes begin) We made it to the resort just in the nick of time because like good German Students, we all bought beers at the rest area to help us enjoy the ride. But here is the funny thing about Germany in the Winter, the buses don’t have working bathrooms. Something about freezing or something. What ever….

 

 

As we wound our way through the little city, I began to wonder if our hostel would be close to the slopes or on the outskirts of town where we would have to take a bus for 20 minutes to get to the snow. Luckily we pulled up into the parking lot close to the high speed gondola and started loading the gondolas for the assent to mid mountain where out lodge was located. Somehow and I don’t known how, I ended up in a gondola full of gear and all by myself. It wouldn’t have been so bad but it was 10pm dark and windy. That was just about the longest 10 minutes of my life. We found our rooms and tried to settle in except that the beds were bunk style with 7 across the top and 7 across the bottom. In my infinite wisdom I thought that I would choose the top bed because it would have more head room. Umm that’s a negative Ghost Rider, I couldn’t even sit straight up in bed, and to top it off, the first night I slept with my head barely hanging over the edge and lost two pillows while my feet kept slamming into the wall, the second night, I though I would change my position but I kept hitting my head on the wall and my feet fell asleep and then there is the Canadian bear, or more bluntly, the guy that snored and kept everyone up, I though my buddy Marcello was bad but this dude was way worse. But then I looked out the window and was truely awestruck. After a breakfast of cereal, and what I assumed was Swiss cheese without the holes, I ventured outside and strapped my snowboard on to head towards the lift. The weather could not have been better, it was sunny,-5 and clear out side. It had just snowed three days prior and it was opening day of the lifts so we were treated to Virgin snow. I can’t begin to explain what it was like being up there, it felt as if I could touch the heavens. As all lifts rides tend to be, it was absolutely quiet and serene to the top of the mountain. The day that ensued was one of total comedy, between me not boarding for over 4 years and a lot of my friends just learning it seemed like there were “yard sales” at every corner and some poor soul running into someone else. The lowlight of my day had to be after 5 hours of non stop boarding, I was cruising down one of the easy slopes, caught an edge and fell backwards hitting my head on the ice which sent my hat and goggles fling about 20 feet from me. As I am laying there, trying to laugh but not very successfully because I had the wind knocked out of me, I hear this old guy next to me speaking in something other than German, at that moment it could have been the African Clicking Language because I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, partly because it was Swiss Deutsch and partly because my head was still ringing but all I can remember saying was “Alle ist Klar” over and over which pretty much means “It’s all good”

The next day after popping 2 advils, I attempted to do a few runs but I was so sore I could barely move, so I decided to do a few sledding runs. These sled were so fast and the only way to steer was to use your feet, needless to say, I ran off the edge a few times into chest high powder and even managed to run into a few safety nets. After my last run I decided to call it a day and bask in the sun on the sun deck trying to relax my aching body. It has always been a dream of mine to go boarding in the Swiss Alps and they took more than they gave, and if I could figure out a way to live there for ever, I just might do it. It was just that awesome!

 

Czech me out December 10, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 7:52 pm

Prague, Praha, call it what you will, all I know is that I love it. People often describe some cities as “having something for everyone” believe me, Prague really does. You can just about do anything you want there, you just have to ask someone to figure out if it is feasible and then do it. In a city where anything goes and debauchery lies around every corner, there is also a very sophisticated and cultured side to Prague, it just happens to be on opposite corners of the aforementioned debauchery. Here you can watch classical music concerts in lavish baroque palaces and even trace the steps of Kafka, Prague’s favorite son.

Being my second time in Prague I thought that I had a good grasp of the city, but apparently the last time I was there we had just scratched the surface. I would like to say that the trip there was uneventful but that was not the case. My friends and I had gathered on Wednesday to talk about our upcoming trip, the conversation soon became an early apology for the prospect of farting on the plane on Thursday. To which I responded, “What are you talking about we are leaving Friday”? You could hear a pin drop; they all looked at me and in unison said “I thought we all had the same flight, what are you talking about”? The conversation loosely followed like this:

Me: What do you mean?
Them:
Bro we are leaving Thursday!
Me:
Quit screwing around, I had planned to study all day tomorrow before we left.
Them:
(Laughing) Lets check and you can study on the flight.
Me:
(5 minutes Later) My bad guys. If this is how the trip is going to start, one of us might  not be coming home, good thing we have repatriation insurance

We arrive at our hotel after a 45 minute flight (about the same amount of time it takes to fly to Las Vegas from San Diego) and are met by our driver who takes us to our hotel. The room we got was more like a two bedroom apartment with a huge proper shower and a bidet (more on this later) after dibs were called on the beds we went out for round one of sight seeing. Our hotel was about a 15 minute walk to city center in afternoons and late at night it sure felt like 1 hour, which I am pretty sure it was a couple of times. Anyways after the first day of getting acclimated to the city we decided to grab something to eat before we went out for the evening. We figured that we would eat close to our hotel since it would be a little cheaper than down in the city center. We picked this place to eat that was running a deal of soup (it was ridiculously good) goulash (rabbit, duck, or beef) a salad, and a beer for 110 Kroner. For reference, 17.48 Kroner equal one dollar and 25 Kroner equates to 1€. Super cheap and super good. We stop by the grocery store to pick up a case of beer to take to our room. The lady behind the counter tried to explain to us that there was a deposit of 100 Krowns on the crate, except when she did it, she tried to enlist the help of this lady behind us thinking that her English was better but it wasn’t so after 2 minutes of hand motions and broken English mixed with Czech. We responded in German that we understood and left. They looked super confused and didn’t know what to say and it was almost as awkward as the night receptionist gave us as we went walking past her desk with a crate of beer. We were supposed to have a refrigerator in our room but dammed if we could find it to being the bright college students we took matters into our own hands and in a stroke of genius that MacGyver would have been proud of we lined out entire case of beer between our double pained windows. I’ve pretty much decided that I want double pained windows in my next house. Later that evening we ventured out into the night and I surprised my self by being able to find my favorite bars with out much trouble (we referred to this as ‘Beer Fest’ syndrome) some 6 hours later, we returned home and wouldn’t you know it, I broke my bed while sitting on it eating a snack, but I didn’t drop my cookie, that would have totally ruined my night.

The next night we went to a caveman dinner show. That’s right, I said it, caveman. Basically it was like Medieval times except everyone was dressed like cavemen so was the décor, no silverware, and we drank our beers out of stone bowls. Our waitress? When speaking to us, would pretty much grunt while mixing some Czech. Into it. The dinner show included a drum circle, the sacrifice of a virgin (although we all doubt she really was) and the chief peeing on someone. Bizarre and highly amusing one of the highlights of the trip although my description here does not do it justice. After dinner we all decided to a lounge and Czech it out.( I am actually bummed I didn’t buy the T-shirt that said “Czech me out”) The lounge was beautiful, full of beautiful people and good music that is until someone decided to play half of the Greece soundtrack back to back. The Girls there didn’t speak English so it made it difficult to try to talk to them and ummm “network” after about an hour of hearing this, my buddy and I adopted the unofficial slogan “What would you do for an American Visa”? So the rest of the weekend was filled with more pictures, more inappropriate comments (mostly directed at each other) and 1€ beer. But the most lasting memory I will have has to me the moment I conquered my fear of the bidet. Believe me they are pretty scary and if you don’t get the water temperature just right, you are in for a rude awakening.

So what’s up next? School sponsored ski trip to Switzerland, Stockholm from the 20-23rd, Budapest for Christmas, and new years in Munich!

 

Florence Again…. December 5, 2007

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

So two weeks ago I had the chance to go back to Florence and hang out with some friends of mine that I go to school with at State who are studying there.  Although I only spent a few days there, and I love Germany, I didn’t want to come back but that is only because of the great weather. It was like 13 degrees centigrade there while when I left Germany it was 4 a huge difference let me tell you.  My adventure started when I got to the airport at Stuttgart two hours early ( I had a safety margin built in because we had our SIB winter ball the night before)  just be on the safe side, I now know what German for “your plane has been canceled mean” However, Air Italia was nice enough to already have me rebooked on a Lufthansa except there is one problem, I have to fly to München first, about a 45 min flight, get delayed there for an hour and then fly straight to Florence, another 45 minute flight. So pretty much I traveled for 4 hours all hung over to flight direct for 45mins. I know it was 45 mins. Direct because I had a direct flight back on Sunday (not hung over). 

           The first night there, since it was so late at night by the time I arrived; we went and grabbed an awesome supper. Here is the thing about eating the whole weekend, my friends meal plan through the university he is at includes local restaurants so I pretty much at for free all for the cost of a few bottles of wine. (I think in Germany, Beer would have been included)  We walked around the city ended up in all places a bar owned by Argentineans’ that serves nothing but Pauliner German beer.  I never realized how expensive Florence was the last time I was there but the same glass of beer in Germany would have cost 2.50 3.00€ and not the 5.50€ in Florence.  The other thing I noticed this time around was how Americans were in Florence. It was pretty noticeable for me because I know just about all 20 Americans that are at my University here in Germany. Apparently, Florence is the number one study abroad destination for American students, something like 6000 a semester go there.  The second night I was there we were like Asian tourists, the only thing missing was our flowered shirts and camera cases around our necks. Then again it was colder and I don’t think that that would have been prudent. Although the thought did cross my mind to throw on my sandals.  One of the best things about this trip was how I managed to take pictures that I didn’t get two springs ago, well maybe they were of the same building but from different angles and by my account that makes them different photo’s (It just took me 2 minutes to figure out how to spell photo in English because I kept typing it as the German word) By the end of our grand sightseeing adventure, we were holed up in a bar coming up with our next great business plan. We laid out elaborate plans to go back and open up a Lounge. I mean why wouldn’t we? Some one needs to cater to those 6000 American Students.  I woke up the next morning and begrudgingly walked the quite Florentine streets to the bus for the airport. The one thought that kept going through my mind was “gee, I wonder how cold it is in Germany” when I got home it was 4 degrees and raining. I began to wonder if it was too late to go back, but I grabbed a 2.10€ beer out of the fridge and never thought about it again

Next up Prague part two (it already happened, I’m just alittle slow posting)