Monday, August 12, 2013

Germany, M'era Luna & other dispatches from abroad

I don't know where to start. I really don't.

Right now I am writing in an effort at trying to stay awake. We are on an ICE train currently on its way from Hannover back to Berlin, and the ICE train, I now know, is the mortal enemy of my conscious life. The second I sit down on one of these trains, I fall fast asleep! I want to be awake right now, really badly, so here I am ... trying to write my way to an awake arrival in Berlin.

There comes a time when it's been so long since you've written about your life, or you've experienced so much, that it seems far too "Cliff Notes" to write a blog post and dress it up with Instagrams and put it on the internet. It seems half hearted somehow. Of course it's hard for a blog post to describe something like travel very well, unless you're a travel blogger or are one of those elusive "perfect people" I keep hearing about. Life moves on, and by the time you get around to writing about it, the moment is gone. It feels like posts, and writing, like that is there because it ought to be, not because it deserves to exist, or be highlighted.

I never finished my Oregon posts because life got way too overwhelming in the last few weeks. Work, stressful times at home, my best friend's bachelorette weekend in Las Vegas, and a surprise bout of summer bronchitis the week before we left for Europe allowed keeping up absolutely impossible. It wasn't that I managed my time badly -- usually that IS the reason -- but that I couldn't find the time to focus. And now it seems silly to write about a trip that was two entire trips ago. Ugh. Why do I care so much about this? It seems like overthinking. Maybe blogging is a silly enterprise, after all.

I don't know why I am writing about this. It seems like a digression of a tangent in and of itself.

Right now: we are in Germany. We have been here, on this trip that has been months in the making and never felt real until we got here, since Tuesday, August 6th. I cannot believe it's been nearly a week already. I have seen and experienced so much that it's tough to write about already, as words seem so insignificant, so unable to express how I feel. I remember a time when words were my best friend and never let me down -- but even then, to write about travel always seemed a bit futile. Perhaps because I am so stubborn, I will try anyway.

Right now, when I look out the train window, I see woodland, marsh, rivers with cattails on their banks, and seemingly endless grassy farmland punctuated with cornfields. Perfectly round bales of hay occasionally appear. Everything is very green here -- did you know that Germany's rainy season is during the summer? Ahem. I think I may have known this in theory before we arrived, but events have led me to know it firsthand now (more on that later - lets just say, your geography lesson of the day is that it rains a LOT here in August!). I find this landscape and climate so different from the bay area, and even Oregon, and I love that -- the novelty of it. I also saw a swan floating in a river in Berlin, you know, just chilling in the wild, because it LIVES THERE and didn't have to be trucked in or anything. Swans are the Aston Martin of ducks, as we all know, so it's cool to see one just living its life in a river somewhere, all elegant and huge and stuff. Wait, did I just compare a swan to a car?

DIGRESSIONS.

There are so many things I love about Germany that discussing them all would take far longer than I have to write about them (these trains go really fast -- right now it's going 162km/hr, but I've seen one go 230km/hr, which is about 150mph for you metrically-challenged Americans). At the same time, making lists like these always seems like a cop-out. Where to compromise? Oh well.

-- The train system is incredible. You can get anywhere, seriously anywhere, by the myriad transit systems that seem to all work together, are incredibly well-funded, and put US transit to absolute shame. The high speed rail (ICE) trains are really luxe (ac, reclining seats, bar car, totally quiet inside and that's just 2nd class seats). The trains are generally on time and using each system has so far been way easier than anticipated.

-- The German people have blown me away with their kindness. I never thought Germans wouldn't be kind, but they are really, really awesome beyond expectations, and I have a new appreciation for them, and what it means to be German, and what it means to be a part of a culture, and to be human. A lot of this has to do with the endless feelings and experiences I just had at the M'era Luna music festival this past weekend -- more on that later, since I don't want to forget a thing.

-- The rebuilding of East Berlin has resulted in a very funky, ethnically diverse and arts/culture-heavy atmosphere. By chance, we have ended up staying in the east Berlin neighborhood of Kreutzberg, and I am so glad -- it's inspiring. The East Side Gallery, which is a 1.3km remaining part of the Berlin Wall that's been turned into a mural, was a block from our first hostel, and I will say this much: we both cried while looking at it. East Berlin has transformed much since 1989, but everywhere there are little reminders of the past, Soviet-style buildings, the endless graffiti, words on walls and a history that cannot be ignored or painted or built over. It's so meaningful. Also: cheap Turkish food is eveywhere, and I've never seen so many Turkish people in my life, so that is another cool added bonus (a huge number of Turks immigrate to Germany).

-- This is not necessarily a good thing, but basically everyone here speaks English. I've never experienced anything like this before (not even in England ... ha ha ha, just kidding) and certainly did not expect it. My culture shock, as it is, that I experience when I visit a new country, has been SO much less this time. I've been trying to figure out why that is: is it because of the decreased language barrier, or is there an element of cultural kinship I feel here that I did not feel in a place like Rome? Note that I absolutely love Rome, and I'm not dissing it -- it just has far more of a "foreign" feel than anywhere I've been in Germany so far. Then again, I felt far more comfortable speaking Italian, or attempting to speak Italian, because I'm more familiar with the language; speaking German has been really hard for me so far (like, embarrassingly hard: after a week here, I can now say good morning, thank you, please/you're welcome, and the numbers 1,2 and 4 -- that's it). If Germans didn't speak such good English, I'd be in a world of trouble, and Germany would certainly have more of that "foreign" feeling I felt so strongly in Rome (again: that's not a bad thing). Anyway -- cultural kinship: I do feel that German culture and American culture have some similiarities that say, the Latin European countries do not, and this is the first time I've really gotten to immerse myself in that, and I really really love it. Deep thoughts on this pending.

-- Beer. Bier! Biergartens! Need I say more? This country loves its beer and takes the drinking of it very seriously. Not in the same way that the west coast takes microbrews seriously, though - it's steeped in history, not a quest in "how hoppy can I possibly make this beer before it becomes undrinkable?" (sorry, I am biased). There may not be 250 different options on tap, but if there's one beer on tap at a hole-in-the-wall bar, chances are: it's great.

-- Oh my goodness, M'era Luna. I am in full festival afterglow at the moment, so it's hard to write about -- but it was AMAZING, something I'll treasure forever, an incredible weekend and something that started in our minds last winter as a "hey, let's just decide to DO THIS" kind of adventure. We made it happen. It was one of those weekends that I'll never forget, where every single moment was magical. I will write more. For now I really want to share some of the Instagram photos I took over the weekend, since I was unable to post them. It was one of the best weekends of my life. I can't wait to edit the photos I took this weekend (I had a photo pass and am covering the festival for local media -- I made this happen entirely with my own effort). Gah. It was just SO GOOD. There is no way I can do it justice ... but I will try. For now, these:

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Sunset over Hildesheim Airport, Friday <3

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In the medieval market (SO COOL YOU GUYS) -- sack wrestling!

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Lasers were a constant. These lasers, in fact.

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I don't know why I found this tent so funny, but I found it really funny.

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Our little campsite -- tent and chairs were rented by us & set up/taken down by the company. How awesome is that? It wasn't cheap but it made a huge difference for us.

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This was me after taking the most frozen shower in the world during the most frozen morning in the world after less than three hours of sleep. I was definitely miserable, but it was all part of the experience. Scott thinks this picture is really funny :P

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