Monthly Archives: July 2015

Choo choo chooing our way across borders

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Catching the train to Munich was easy.  We even got to sit in our own little train room to watch one farming village after another blur on by.  So far it’s been a pretty stress-free trip.

But, wait, there was a bit of stress thanks to a lil Swiss, retired history lecturer our guide to Neuschwanstein Castle.

He demanded that we ask questions. After a few folks got shot down with long, harsh responses.  Ericka pipes up with an easy “Where do you come from?”

“Not your concern.  It’s not important.  I don’t ask you personal questions, you don’t ask me.”  Insert Colonel Clink voice and you’ve got a good impression of our man. (although through our sleuthing abilities we learned where he was from and what he did for a living — ha! we won the tour bet that he was a history teacher)

On the two-hour train ride to the castle, we (along with the other passengers who were not part of the tour) learn that we will be eating at an “Ala Fast” place not “Ala Carte,” which he explained rather harshly is a restaurant and it would take too long, so wurst only for the poor souls who paid the price of this tour (although it was very good wurst).  After getting verbally abused (use your brain, so you think Ludwig had a wife? I’m not going to do all the telling for you) we learn that crazy King Ludwig had 18 “men lovers,” that he was not truly a king because his alleged father had syphillis and an Italian had to step in to impregnate the queen (while I shit you not Sheffano thrust his fist into the air for emphasis) “twice!”

“You vill not hear ding, dong fairly tale stories from me.  I vill tell you the truth and you vill not like it!”

Best of all is he really didn’t tell us much — other than exactly how many minutes we had to walk each section, or else!  My favorite is when we came upon a musician, and our guide asked him to sing a folk song about Ludwig’s death.  “I will translate for you.”  Song over, and our guide gets up, after enjoying the serenade, and says okay, we go to entrance now, never telling us the story.  Priceless.

DSC_0412 DSC_0418 DSC_0420 so you see the sun hat with the sun visor on top of it, below our bard, that’s the head of our guide…

Luckily, the castle and its town were beautiful, as was everything else in Munich.  I absolutely loved the park where you can sit at a small canal and dip your toes into frigid water, walk a bit more and you can jump into the water and float rapidly to your next spot, or bring your surfboard and ride the wake under a bridge.  OR, you can just watch it all and be entertained by others fighting the current.

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There’s also plenty of beer and carbs to put some more poundage on my ever-sagging frame, but my tastebuds are loving every bit of it.

Today, we spent most of the day hopping trains to get to our adorable lil place in an old, walled town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  We just got here, and I’m antsy to get out there and walk its cobblestones, so time for me to sign off, but I’ll try to post this and pics before going to bed tonight.  Auf Wiedersehen!

Time for our big train trip…

escalator In just a few hours we’ll find our way to the main train station, so that we can find our way to Germany.  Wish us luck that we end up on the right train, and not headed toward Siberia. Although, public transportation here has been great.  The trams and subways are easy to find, although some of the escalators are quite steep.  People lean forward or backward to prevent dizziness.  It’s comical (to me anyway). We took it easy yesterday just strolling the alleyways, stopping at shops, and eating and drinking.  A highlight was escaping the rain by sipping Aberol spritzers and cider under a canopy in an Italian cafe while others crowded under ancient archways or their umbrellas. Later on in Old Town Square we were treated to a Jazz fest.  Since I have to pack up and get ready for our next journey I don’t have a whole lot of time to write.  So, here are a few pics to do the telling for me.

DSC07689 DSC07687 DSC07680 DSC07676DSC07700 DSC07715   DSC07744 DSC07761 DSC07734As you can see Prague is magical at night.

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it’s enchanting during the day as well.

DSC07665 a meal at a famous tavern.  Of course I don’t remember the name.  All I know is men came around dropping off frothy mugs of beer (made at the tavern and the only brand they serve), shots of honey something or other (“it’s healthy!”) and heavy plates of Czech food.  Shannan tried the beef and cream, which comes with berries and a dollop of whipped cream.  It’s an odd dish.  We were also entertained by a gnomish accordion player who was a sweetheart. And that, my friends, is it for now.  Tomorrow the rest of our group arrives … heaven help Munich!

Pretty in Praha!

Oh where to begin!  We’ve been busy loving Prague.  So far we’ve done an e-bike (sooooo love these ingenious inventions, may have to buy one) tour, a segway tour, a sex museum tour. a rickshaw ride back to our hotel room, our own version of a pub crawl, etc. etc.   Basically, we’ve burned some miles discovering this amazing city where beer is allegedly cheaper than water — or so we’ve been told.

We’ve also inhaled some calories with ghoulish, ham (oh heavenly ham), hot dogs, and other yummy dishes (an almost orgasmic pork dish with roquefort sauce amongst one of them) to name just a few.

Oh, and while working our way toward Charles Bridge we did shots and danced (all within a 20 minute time frame) with random strangers at our first Ice Pub.  Trust me 20 minutes is all I could handle, and it’s the quickest club experience ever.

We’re in our hotel room now resting for a bit, but not like we rested yesterday.  You see we didn’t get back to our room until 10 p.m. and the plan was to take a nap so we could go back to the streets to experience weekend nightlife (establishments don’t close until 4 a.m.).  Um, I woke up from the nap 7:30 this morning.  That’s okay because tonight is another night. Just maybe we’ll get to see it tonight.

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Looks cold, right?  Yes this is a tourist trap, but we loved it, so that’s all that matters.  Where else do you drink from actual ice cubes?

thumb_DSC07483_1024 thumb_DSC07478_1024 thumb_DSC_0449_1024And I’m happy to say we’re not the only ones making asses out of ourselves.  It’s actually an art form here.  Although a note on the baby sculptures, they’re pretty awesome.  They are also placed crawling up “the ugliest tower,” (ours were in a park near the river) which is the old t.v. tower for communist broadcasts.  The babies have barcodes for faces symbolizing that thanks to media we are all products of some sorts.  Or faceless babies, but I think I prefer products, but then again neither is good is it?

DSC07648More artwork for you to ponder.  So these two guys pissing onto a map of Czech Republic symbolize politicians.  Of course there’s more to it than that, but check out that child checking out the moving penises (they’re like turtles going in an out — a lil shy at times) while Shannan and I solve world problems, or, more likely, chat about where we’ll eat our next hot dog.

DSC_0385 which, of course, we did (but to be honest that was before the Segway tour).

DSC07602 sometimes the angels pee too…

thumb_DSC_0385_1024 There’s also lots of other lovely art.  SO MUCH ART.  I love this place.  One would never get bored of looking here.

thumb_DSC_0470_1024 thumb_DSC_0413_1024 thumb_DSC_0438_1024 thumb_DSC_0342_1024 thumb_DSC07499_1024 See what I mean.  The cross that looks like a lizard is on the sidewalk next to the National Museum in Wenceslas Square.  It is a memorial to Jan Palach.  Basically this young man (a student) burned himself in 1968 as a protest to the demoralization of the Czech people during the Soviet invasion.  Again, there is more to the story, and the memorial is meant to be subtle. I like that it shows how sacrifice melds with the earth.  I am always reminded that as a species we can create the most beautiful, amazing things while also tearing at each other’s souls.  We are such an odd species.

DSC07656 Of course the Beatles captured this dichotomy well, and there’s a John Lennon wall where people can freely paint their graffiti messages.  It’s a constantly changing wall, and we were warned to not lean against it because the paint might still be wet.  John Lennon never got a chance to visit or sing here since it was under Communist rule when he was alive, and his music was banned from the public — which, of course, didn’t stop the people from finding a way to hear.  Legend, however, has it you just might find Beatle signatures if you look.

thumb_DSC_0440_1024 DSC07654 DSC07653 Love is also celebrated here with their own lock wall where men can lock their hearts after a proposal.  Strolling through the parks and near the riverbeds you see all sorts of couples enjoying each other’s company.  It’s quite the city to be in love in.

DSC07545 Um, it also has a collection of carnal artifacts.  I’ll spare you the not-for-kids photos that show off centuries of odd adult toys and practices.  This one is an ancient Greek prostitute’s shoe.  Apparently, the words at the bottom of her shoe imprinted follow me in the sand.  Or something like that.  We also saw a silent film that we so wish we hadn’t.  Trust me when I type photoshop is a good thing. Although it was funny doing so with a group of strangers from around the world  — awkward sex translates every where.

thumb_DSC_0343_1024But today’s adults have lots of G-rated fun in public.  Nothing more entertaining than watching folk try to walk on water.

DSC07644 DSC07638 DSC07635 DSC07622 DSC07608 Sorry folks I’m getting lazy on you now.  Here’s some of our tour shots.  I prefer e-bikes to segways.  I feel more in control on the bike (although someone get my nether regions an icepack after cycling on all that cobblestone), and for some reason my feet really hurt on the segway.  I’m sure it was because my toes were clenching.  They look so innocent, but when you’re going through traffic and crowds all you can think of is holy shit I’m gonna kill someone (or myself) with this thing, but luckily we didn’t!  BUT, I’m glad we did both.

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and, well, don’t we look cute!

DSC07576 DSC07574 DSC07570 We also sampled some Absinthe — and won’t be doing it again.

And, that’s all that I have for you for now.  I better hurry and fit in my nap, so we can get out there and do some more.

Auf Wiedersehen…

Tomorrow is my last day of work, and then we’re off to Dubai for a night.  Friday afternoon I’ll be walking the streets of Prague. A few days later we’ll be on a train headed for Munich.  Cannot believe this time is finally here. Meanwhile, some of the new hires are getting their tickets to arrive early August.  I got giddy all over again seeing their frenzy of “I got my ticket” posts.  Oh what a wonderful opportunity this is, and I’m so grateful I’ve had this chance.

I’ll try to post pics and blog updates while on vacation, but who knows when I’ll have time and wifi access.  We shall see.  If not, I’ll definitely write more while in Phoenix.  To my Arizona peeps, I’ll be in town beginning July 31 (well July 30, but I’ll need that day to hug and kiss my family to death).  Joe and I will be taking a vacation as well, but I do hope to get to see you guys before I head back to Al Ain on August 20.

Just popping in here to let everyone know whoop!  whoop!  I’ve finished off my first year, and it was fabulous.  Time for having a whole lot of time for a whole lot of fun.

Hope to see some of you soon!

It’s the final countdown…

well, until we go on summer break that is.  ONE MORE WEEK OF WORK.  Woo hoo!  Not that work has been hard these past few weeks, but still we are all ready to end this thing and begin our summer travels. Thursday night my neighbors and I threw an Independence Day hallway party.  Basically, we cleared out our kitchens, made up whatever stuff we could with it, pulled our tables into the hallway, and celebrated with our friends.  So, in one shot we took care of Canada Day, 4th of July, and End of School Year.  A good time was had by all.

DSC07372DSC07380 DSC07376DSC07382some party pics … love our munchie spread in the hallway.  The hallway got a little crowded, but that’s okay because we had different things going on in each of our apartments.  I was too busy socializing to take pics of all the fun going on in our living rooms (um, this is pretty much all I took— must remember to capture more next time around!), and I’m so pleased that all of our circles of friends really seemed to enjoy each other.  A big thank you to everyone who came and gave me another night to remember. I love the people I meet here.

I think my last end-of-year celebration (there have been quite a few of them these past few weeks) is Tuesday, and then it’s all about closing down the apartment for the summer and packing for vacation.

As for Ramadan, I’m surprised how easy it was for me to adapt to it.  During the month of Ramadan everything slows down because Muslims are fasting, but it picks right back up again at night.  Basically, from around 4 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. there is no drinking (including water), eating (including chewing gum), cursing, immoral behavior of any sort in public (or private for that matter if you’re Muslim).  It’s a time of charity, reflection, and connecting with God by realizing what it’s like to not have what we’re used to having when we want.  Of course there’s a lot more to it, but this is just my quick summary.  What we westerners need to remember is it’s a sacred, spiritual time for the people who’ve invited us to live and work in their communities.  At night it’s also a festive time to celebrate the joys of living — which,of course, includes lots of food and family.  I was touched to have one of my students call to invite me to her family’s Iftar (the dinner where fast is broken) Thursday night.  I couldn’t go because of our little hallway shin dig.

The country does not shut down like I expected.  People still work (although at reduced or altered hours), and modifications are made for those of us who aren’t fasting.  Some restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are open during the day.  In Al Ain some restaurants will deliver food during certain pre-Iftar hours.  There might be some that are open, but I don’t know of them, and that’s okay because I’m good with waiting until Iftar.  I’m allowed to eat and drink in my apartment, or even in the English room at work (although I try to reserve it for home).

While there is no loud music, the lounges I like to frequent open at night, and, most surprising of all, our special Spinneys is still open for business during daylight hours — just in case anyone needs a pick-me-up.

There’s also Iftar restaurant specials everywhere that range from a burger with soup and salad to extravagant spreads.  We’ve tried quite a few already.

2015-06-28 19.44.48 A wide variety of teas and juices are offered during Iftar buffets.  A popular one is Jallab, date juice infused with rose water and pine nuts.  It tastes like you have a garden in your mouth (without bugs, dirt and fertilizer).  There’s also this syrupy thing that’s sold by the caseload in supermarkets.  Freshly-squeezed watermelon juice is my favorite though (and that you can get any time of the year).2015-06-28 19.47.51   my plate of Arabic goodness doesn’t look appetizing, but everything on there (fish, beef, chicken, rice, veggies) was delicious.  I will go through garlic paste and curry withdrawal this summer.

2015-06-28 19.58.25 me eating said goodness while mascots showed up to entertain the kiddies.  Not pictured is us puffing our shisha while rubbing our full bellies and enjoying each other’s conversation.

While I don’t understand why our work year is so long, I do appreciate this time I have to relax with my friends and colleagues while learning more about UAE culture.  I’m also getting really excited about my upcoming vacation, which begins in just 5 days — holy insert word of choice (it’s Ramadan people).  Shannan and I have booked our last night at a hotel in Dubai, where we plan on swimming, eating and shishaing until (okay there will be sleep too) boarding our early morning flight to Prague.  Europe here we come!  And oh my goodness it’s almost officially the end of my first year here!

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