Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Language Barriers and Gaps In Civility

Europe can be an expensive place to travel. This is especially true if you end up spending twice the time you anticipated...and neglected to bring your fake student ID (everything here is 30 - 50% off if you can prove you're a student...even food). Having generous family rent a car for 2 weeks to drive your around though, is substantially more economical. Here follows a road trip.

The drive there...and other places...and back:
Don't remember alot of it...as I slept through all the driving bit.

The locations!
Brugges, Belgium:
The first stop on a multi-day tour of the surrounding environ, Brugges proved to be the most beautiful location of the bunch (at least until we hit Bouillon on the way back from Paris...but I'll get to that).

We arrived just as the sun was gaining over the sea of red tile rooftops and made a direct line for the belfry of the nearest chapel. From our new vantage we watched the fog burn away and the beautifully preserved European heritage of Brugges slowly emerge. Behind us we appreciated the complex machinery that drove the massive clock and array of some 50 bells. The thought then struck us that, perhaps, the belfry wasn't the best place to "hang out" when said bells started to ring...we realised this at about noon, perhaps a little late; and so Brugges was enjoyed through a Cochlea shattering static for the remainder of the day.

Sometime after the static cleared (about when the sun started to set) we headed out for the infamous Brugges ice festival. I was feeling a bit skeptical about the event, since I assumed it was a just kiddie amusement park of carved ice monsters. Though this notion was quickly confirmed I finally came to realise that I'm just a kid at heart anyway. I honestly loved the Ice Festival, especially so when I discovered that the ice slide ended at the bar.

Aachen, Germany:
It was foretold that Aachen had the "most famous Christmas market in Germany" and so we packed ourselves into our tiny BMW with pockets anxiously bulging with Euros to spend. Unfortunately, thought it may have been the best in Germany, it fell well short of our expectations after having spent some evenings in Brussles market.

After a run through a museum that apparently boasted some clothes that Christ wore and stuff we headed off to find some wieners. Germany is famous for wieners, in case you didn't know. Anyway, we got to this wiener stand and ordered a Bratwurst (Brat Wiener) and asked if we could have some saurkraut (cabbage stuff to put on wieners) on our wieners. This upset the WienerMan and the following dialogue ensued:

Kaare&Marty: Um...do you have Saurkraut?
WienerMan: ...NO!
Kaare&Marty: Oh, um, like, we''ll pay extra for it...we just want some on our Bratwurst.
WienerMan(Nazi): No can have Saurkraut! Too cold! Maybe summer have HotDog Saurkrauten. Nein Saurkrauten!!!! *shakes wet hotdog from chaffing dish at us.
Kaare&Marty: *retreat.

Maybe we just went to the wrong wiener stand though. There's a good chance that we would have had more success at this one:

(wiener suit man)

Paris, France: So, embarrassing confession, it actually took the Eiffel Tower to really drive home that I was away from home. I had been trying so hard not to be a tourist that it really took the might of that ever-present tourism symbol to bring out the spirit of European romance for me. Of course, being on top of the tower looking down on the foggy city at night with no-one to romantically appreciate it with also made clear my distance from home. I guess I miss some people... We were fortunate enough to have an apartment from which we could drink wine, smoke French cigarettes and see the tower all night though, as it slowly desensitised us to "all that romance."

Paris though... Paris is.... Paris is WOW. That's the best I can do to describe it. Even in the dregs of winter it proved beautiful; and thanks to a recent campaign by the government, friendly as well. How could it not be though? The excesses that royalty took with this country promise that it will be breathtaking to even the most desensitised of backpackers and aristocrats. Versailles is big enough to house the entire population of Canada, the Louvre is big enough to house several Versailles, and the Parisian ego is big enough to swallow it all.

I love Paris.

Eventually though (and by that I mean last minute, Christmas Eve), we had to head back for Belgium. This wasn't particularly a sad thing, as we've all come to love Brussels, but it was a bit something to leave the City of Romance. At least our feet were appreciative of the break from all the walking.

On the way back though, Marty took us on a detour to Boullion, Belgium.

Boullion, Belgium:
Boullion stands on the border of France and Belgium, in the axis of three intersecting valleys. It was originally started as something of a military stronghold since all maurading parties would have to push through this basin to get past. In true medieval fashion, they built a big badass castle in the middle to maintain their position. This castle was so well built that it's still standing there today...relatively unscathed, even after being used as headquarters during WWII.

There wasn't alot in the way of adventure worthy activities here, especially considering that everything was shutting down for Christmas. The castle was still open though so we did get an opportunity to properly explore it. After a thorough tour I feel confident saying that "living in a castle would really, really suck" It's cold, it leaks, and if you screw around with the boss, there's a legit dungeon in the basement carved out of bedrock with only one way in, an 8m drop. Sucks to living in a castle.


Anyway, Christmas was great. Everyone who missed out on a European Christmas...well, I'm sure that yours was at least adequate.


Lana said...

The romance of Paris has seduced my senses, even though I've never been and there is a country and an entire ocean separating me from it. I think it's the healthcare actually.

I'm glad to hear it's as incredible as I have always imagined it.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you saw a wiener man. Europe is clearly ahead of it's time.
Miss you much K-town.

Madelia said...

You write very well.

kaare.iverson said...

Thanks random reader!