Saturday, July 29, 1995

Europe Trip - Dublin, Ireland

I am in Ireland now. The countryside was very beautiful as I took the train up the coastline to Dublin. We chugged alongside cliffs with great views of the Irish Sea. It was one of the most scenic train rides I have taken so far.

Irish Ferry
The ferry to get to Ireland took 20 hours. After boarding, I watched the movie "Circle of Friends" and ended up sleeping in a big chair that was pretty comfortable. My EuroRail pass covers only the ferry ride, not a cabin. I woke around 8:00am and spent the rest of the trip up on deck. It was a nice sunny day so I worked on my tan until I arrived in Rosslare at 3:00pm on Thursday and then hopped the train to Dublin.

Postcard I bought in Dublin
Dublin is very crowded so it took me awhile to find a hostel with an available bed when I arrived around twilight. The Irish people are very friendly. When I went to get some cash from an ATM I ended up chatting with an Irish guy and then going to get a bite to eat with him. I watched some MTV at the hostel and ended the night early so I could catch up on some sleep.

Horse snacking in Farmer's Market
Yesterday, I walked all over the city after having an Irish Breakfast. I went to Trinity College, the O'Connell Street & Bridge and ate some chips at Dublin's Castle. I also spent a lot of time hanging out at St. Stephen's Green. I saw "Batman Forever" in the evening at a giant theater. The movie sucked but the theater was interesting in that you get an assigned numbered seat on your ticket instead of first-come first-serve seating that I am used to in the US.

Christ Church in Dublin
Today, I am on the train to Tralee on the west coast of Ireland near the Dingle Peninsula. Traveling through the countryside, I now truly understand why the color green is so associated with Ireland.

p.s. All over the city all through the day, you can hear the cry of "Tobacco" as street vendors walk the streets selling their pouches of tobacco. I guess everyone rolls their own here.

Wednesday, July 26, 1995

Europe Trip - Brest, France

I just spent four days in Brest, France with Aude Letelier and her family. I arrived on Friday evening after stopping in Paris earlier in the day where I visited the Eiffel tower again with a Swede and a Scotsman I met on the train. We climbed up to the second level before I had to catch my next train.

Postcard I bought in Brest
On Saturday, Aude drove me out to Le Conquet to walk around Pointe St-Mathieu and the beach at Les Blanes Sablows. It was a long, white sandy beach and the best one I have been to in Europe so far. We also checked out the ruins of an old abbey on the point. Aude is still learning how to drive and she accidentally went the wrong-way down a narrow one-way street along a cliff edge. We got blocked by another car coming up the other way and she wasn't able to reverse the car back up the hill. I have always been good at reverse driving so I got to show off my skills as I took over and sped backwards up the windy road. Heh! After that little adventure, she took me to a bar to meet her friends.

Aude and her sister in Locronan Church
Sunday, I saw most of the Finistere Peninsula by car with Aude's whole family. We visited the old medieval town of Locronan that is used frequently as a location in films. We went out to Pointe du Raz, the rocky western tip that I had a fun time climbing and exploring. For lunch we had crepes, the specialty of the area.

Noah climbing rocks at Pointe Du Raz
On Monday I went sailing with Aude's friend, Irbe, in his Hobie Catamaran. It was a nice sunny day with no clouds but also very little wind. We caught some nice gusts but we also had to do a little paddling at times.

I went to the beach on Tuesday with Aude's brother, Charles, on my last day in Brest. It was a sunny day, but the water was very cold as we swam out to the raft anchored out in the ocean. We played some smashball and had a nice picnic lunch.

Aude's mother was a great cook. I ate the most amazing meals with lots of bread and cheese on the side. With each meal we had wine and home-made cider from the cellar that Aude's grandfather had made. The weather was perfect the whole time. Aude's family told me that this is unusual for Brest and that it is normally overcast and windy.

I almost missed my train to Paris this morning. I had to ride the Paris Metro this morning even though I was a little nervous after yesterday's bombing on one of the Metro trains. Now, I am on my way to La Havre, France to catch a ferry to Ireland.

p.s. Riding bicycles to the store with Charles to buy baguettes for dinner one afternoon was an unusual highlight of my stay in Brest.

Thursday, July 20, 1995

Europe Trip - Koblenz, Germany

I am back at the Rhein River. On my trip down from Sweden, I stopped at the beach in Klampenborg, Denmark. Too bad it rained again. I also visited the small enclave of Christiania inside the city of Copenhagen. It is a "Free Town" founded by hippies in 1971 that claims "self-rule" from Denmark and even has their own flag. I think it survives mostly on the sale of marijuana and hashish that is displayed openly in booths on the main street which is not allowed in Copenhagen. After checking the place out, I caught a night train to Germany.

Postcard I bought in Koblenz
I arrived yesterday morning in Koblenz to stay at Jurgen Zack's house for the night. I had met him in my home town of Encinitas where he spends part of the year training for his IronMan triathlons. Before going to his house I walked around Koblenz, visited a park along the river and went to the Deutsches Eck monument (Jurgen told me it had only been finished being rebuilt two years ago after being damaged in World War II) where the Rhein and the Mosel rivers meet.

View of Rhein River from Balcony in Koblenz
I had a little trouble finding Jurgen's house on a hill across the river from Koblenz, but a nice lady gave me a ride in her car to his address. I got there right when Jurgen was finishing up a meeting with a representative from a soft drink company who wanted him to endorse the product. I got to try one of them, it was called a Red Bull and it was pretty good. After checking out his place which had a great view of the river and the surrounding city, Jurgen took me out to eat and then to a bar to have a few beers. I had an interesting pizza that had a type of white sauce instead of the normal red. It was delicious.

View of Rhein River from Balcony in Koblenz
This morning, he lent me one of his mountain bikes to go cruising around Koblenz while he is out on one of his training rides. When I got back from my ride, we watched the IronMan Triathlon on TV that Jurgen had just won in Roth, Germany. I had never watched one before, it looks impossible. I was amazed by how many kilometers of biking and running and laps of swimming he told me he has to do every week to train.

It was very hot, so we went to the community pool complex where everybody hangs out. It was very crowded. I hung out in the pool, layed out for awhile on the grassy area, took a couple of dives off of the high dive and watched a few of Jurgen's training laps in the pool. He swam for a long, long time. Afterwards, I met a few of Jurgen's German friends. They were as nice as he was. They suggested I should visit Portugal later in my trip.

Now, I am on a night train to Paris. From there, I am then heading to Brest, France to meet up with Aude tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 1995

Europe Trip - Goteborg, Sweden

On the way here to Sweden with Roberto and Marcio, we stopped at a small beach at Hornbaek in Denmark. Too bad it was raining off and on, but it was very scenic anyway.

Noah waiting for ferry in Denmark
We had to take a ferry to cross over from Helsingor, Denmark to Helsingborg, Sweden. From there we hopped a train to Goteborg and arrived at 11:30pm. The days have been much longer here in Europe. It was still light out until after 1am last night here in this northern country. It is a big difference from San Diego where the daylight lasts until about 9pm at the latest.

Noah in Helsingborg, Sweden
Goteborg is a very clean city and you can see the signs and preparations for the Athletics World Championships here next month. Today we went to Nordstan, which is Sweden's largest shopping center and also down to the port to see the Barken Viking ship (a 20th century sailing ship) moored by the brightly colored Skanska House. We also went for a walk down the Avenyn, the city's main shopping street lined with restaurants and cafes. At the end is the statue of Poseidon standing in the Gotaplatsen square.

Noah in front of Skansa House on Barken ship
Roberto and Marcio left for Olso, Norway this afternoon. I wanted to go with them to see the fjords, but I have to get back to Germany to meet up with Jurgen Zack. Roberto and Marcio were great guys who are going to school to be doctors in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I also need to get back to Germany as well to get more cash. The ATMs here in Scandinavia don't accept my type of ATM card and to conserve cash I have been living on cheap candy bars. I got a bit lucky when I found a pile of Swedish Kroner coins when I was sitting in the park after visiting the Haga Nygata.

Church in Haga Nygata
Tonight, I found myself wandering in a cemetery near my hostel in the late night twilight. Tomorrow, I leave for Germany.

p.s. If I was blind, I would like to live in this city. All of the crosswalks "beep" and have Braille on them, but as a person with sight all the beeping started to drive me crazy.

Saturday, July 15, 1995

Europe Trip - Copenhagen, Denmark

I'm in Denmark now but I took a long roundabout way to get here. When I first arrived in Paris I tried calling Aude in Brest, France to visit her and her family. I got no answer after several tries so I decided, "What the Hell!" and jumped the next train. Brest is located far out the northern peninsula of France and it was quite a long train ride that took most of the day. Arriving in town, I called Aude from the station. Damn! She already had relatives staying and told me to come to Brest on the 21st and she would meet me at the station. I didn't tell her on the phone that I was already in town, I just hopped the night train back to Paris.

View of Brest Harbor
Back in Paris in the morning I decided to head to Denmark. On the train to Hamburg, Germany I started chatting with someone who I thought was an American. He turned out to be Roberto from Brazil but he had a very American accent from his time as an exchange student. It turned out he and his friend, Marcio, were going to Copenhagen as well. We decided to travel together after going to get pizza and beer in Hamburg while we were waiting for the night train. The night train was very crowded and we got very little sleep in the little compartment jammed with people. The only interesting part was when the train was loaded onto a ferry to cross into Denmark.

Noah at Nyhavn
We arrived in Copenhagen yesterday morning and met four more Brazilians. We all got a room together at the Jorgenson Hostel and then went walking around the city. There are lots of beautiful women here. We went and checked out the old port of Nyhavn with its colorful houses along the large canal full of boats. It was a fun place, crowded with people. When it got dark, we went to the Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park in center of the city next to the Town Hall Square. It is full of bright lights and fun carnival rides.

Noah with Little Mermaid Statue
Today we went to Kastellet, a old medieval fortification in the shape of a pentagram, and checked out the nearby statue of the Little Mermaid put there in 1913. We explored more of Copenhagen today. I think this is one of my favorite cities so far. There are a lot of entertainers working on the streets and are fun to watch. Denmark is famous for their Amber and there are tons of shops selling it here.

Roberto & Marcio at Kastellet
Tonight, I called Jurgen in Germany, we planned to meet up next Wednesday at his house in Koblenz. If it is sunny, I am going to the beach tomorrow.

Noah on busy street in Copenhagen
p.s. I was hoping to ride one of the free yellow bikes while here in Copenhagen. The city tried an experiment earlier this summer by placing yellow bikes in special racks that anyone can borrow. You put in a 20 kroner piece which you get back when the bike is returned but the racks were always empty whenever I checked. The locals told me they disappeared right away and are almost never returned.

Wednesday, July 12, 1995

Europe Trip - London, England

I just stayed three nights in England. After another night of little sleep on the ferry across the English Channel, we arrived in London around 8am on Sunday. We took a train out to stay at Teresa and Irbe's house in Wimbledon. Teresa is the sister of our good friend, Matt, who moved to London with her French husband.

Noah on bridge in London
We arrived in town at the same time as the end of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. We watched the finals on TV and it was cool to listen to the crowd cheer outside the window from the nearby stadium along with the action on the television set. Pete Sampras won. We were pretty shocked to learn that you have to pay taxes to own a TV in England. Later that night after a nice dinner of pasta and home-made pesto, we walked with Teresa and Irbe to a nearby pub for some beers.

Big Ben
On the 10th, Greg and I went all over London and saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Picadilly's Circus, Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We were quite surprised when we got charged by some attendant in Hyde Park for sitting in a couple of chairs for a moment to rest. It was really hot & humid today, especially in the London Underground. The Tube was like a sauna.

Noah in the Tube
Greg left yesterday morning to get back to his job in San Diego and now I am traveling by myself for another month. Since it was the first day of the trip by myself, I mostly relaxed and hung out at the parks and at the crowded Picadilly's Circus. To escape the heat, I went to the theater to see "A Perfect World". It was pretty good. I also visited a book store to buy a couple of books by Terry Pratchett to read on long train rides. I got my first haircut on this trip. I had been waiting to get to England so I could explain how I wanted it cut in English.

Noah straddling center of Tower Bridge
Right now I am on the 9:23am Eurostar train that goes under the English Channel through the Chunnel to Paris. I left early this morning from Teresa and Irbe's house. They were great hosts. It was nice to sleep in a normal bed for a change and catch up on my laundry. They also lent me a nice camera to use for the rest of my trip. Greg and I had been buying disposable cameras with no flash since ours was stolen in Spain.

p.s. The listed prices for everything seemed cheap here in the UK until we remembered to take the exchange rate into account.

Saturday, July 08, 1995

Europe Trip - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Greg and I had a nice breakfast at the castle hostel before we left. It was all you can eat. After arriving in Koblenz by boat, we took a train to Amsterdam where we arrived around 7pm last night and met up with Wendy and Carey at the station.

Postcard I bought in Amsterdam
Greg, Wendy and I decided the best way to see Amsterdam in the short time we had was to stay awake and walk the city all night. We put our luggage in a locker and took Carey to the hostel. She was really tired and wanted to get a good night's sleep before her and Wendy's flight home the next day.

Amsterdam is a very wild and raunchy city. Every few paces we would get propositioned for every type of drug imaginable. Lots of beggars as well. Our first stop was the Sex Museum. It was pretty entertaining and Greg and Wendy had a good laugh when I was unexpectedly goosed by special chair that I had sat down in. I jumped pretty high.

Noah in the doorway of the Grasshopper in Amsterdam
Our next stop was the "Grasshopper". It is right across the canal from Centraal Station. The first two floors of the building is a bar but in the basement is the dealer who sells pot. We bought a gram of majiuana and rolled ourselves some joints. It was pretty good and I got nicely high. We ended up chatting with a friendly group at the next table and sharing each others joints. It was Wendy's first time and she got a little sick but recovered nicely. The room was pretty low-lit and smoky. You could probably get high just sitting in there and breathing.

The rest of the night we spent wandering around the city and visiting the Red Light District. The girls in the lighted windows looked pretty haggard. I can't see anybody wanting to pay for that! We ended up in a gay bar for awhile by accident. Heh! The pink neon should have tipped us off but we were pretty tired and out of it.

Greg hanging from sign in front of Heineken Brewery
This morning after saying goodbye to Wendy and Carey at the train station, Greg and I walked down to visit the Heineken Brewery. Doh! It was closed but we did bump into the same beggar who had asked us for money twice before during our night-time walk. This time he started to ask for money, noticed that it was us, and said with disgust, "Oh, It's you again!" and walked away. We had a good laugh about that.

Noah on early morning Amsterdam street
We are about to catch a night ferry across the English Channel to London. We have been here in Oostende, Belgium for awhile now after catching a morning train from Amsterdam. Greg and I are exhausted after being awake for more than 36 hours so far but we walked around a little and had pasta for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Thursday, July 06, 1995

Europe Trip - Rhein River, Germany

Greg and I met a nice Swiss girl named Muriel Fiechter on the train to Germany. We talked for a long time and she asked for our addresses because she wants to write us when we get back home. (Update: We ended up writing back and forth for about two years. She was very cool and she sent me lots of Swiss Chocolate.)

Noah in front of Mainz column
We got into Mainz, Germany around 10pm last night, too late to change our money into Deutsche Marks so we hopped a night train to Nurnburg and back. In Nurnburg we made a quick call to our friend, Scott, back in California. I think we woke him up at a bad hour. He was pretty grumpy. Heh!

Greg waiting for riverboat departure
We arrived back in Mainz around 7:30 this morning. The German girl at the tourist information office was the prettiest girl I have seen on this entire trip so far. Whoa! At 10am we took a trip down the Rhein River on a boat. I was relaxing on the sundeck working on my tan and checking out the castle ruins on the way.

Our Castle Hostel in Bacharach
We got off at a small river-town called Bacharach where we are staying for the night. The hostel is in a small 12th century castle up on the hill, Burg Stahleck. Great view of the river, but it was a very tiring hike to get up to it with our heavy packs. We took a short nap to catch up on sleep because we didn't get much on the train last night.

Noah and Greg with view of Rhein River from castle hostel
We just went and explored the little town. It is pretty quaint, filled with small shops and surrounded by vineyards. We bought some pretzels and I smoked my very first cigarette. Bleah! Everywhere we have been in Europe, we frequently get asked if we have any cigarettes. I recently bought a pack of Marlboro's so I don't have to keep saying no. Now that I have them, no one has asked for any. Heh!

Noah smoking first cigarette
Tomorrow we take the boat further north up the river to Koblenz, where we get a train to Amsterdam.

Wednesday, July 05, 1995

Europe Trip - Interlaken, Switzerland

The train from Salzberg to Zurich was the most scenic train ride so far even though it was raining. High mountains on either sides with countless waterfalls streaming down the sides. We had to switch trains to reach Bern and then another to reach Interlaken, Switzerland on the afternoon of the 3rd. As you can probably tell from the name, it is a town that sits between two lakes at the base of the Jungfrau mountain region.

We stayed at Balmer's Herbage, a hostel which is a big hangout for Americans. The first night we had to stay in their large tent set up in a nearby field. I had my first big scare when I almost lost one of my contact lenses that night. Several helpful people where on their hands and knees helping me seach for it. I was so happy when a girl found it unharmed. Phew!

Yesterday, we took a train up into the high alps to the village of Grindelwald for a daytrip. It was a beautiful sunny day and the views of all the surounding mountain peaks was amazing. We took a long hike to reach the glacier that sits between the two mountains peaks of Shreckhorn and Wetterhorn. I felt like I was walking in a movie set as we passed farms, cottages, miniature forests and sparkling streams.

It was a long hike but we reached the long, steep wooden stairs that lead up the cliff face to the glacier. At the top, there was a great view of the valley we had just hiked up but the coolest part was inside the icecave of the glacier. The outside of the glacier almost blended in with the grey rock face around it but with a blueish tinge to it. Inside the cave it was like being in a beautiful blue crystal tunnel. The tunnel wound far back into the glacier to rooms filled with statues carved out of the glacier ice. This was the highlight of my trip so far.

Back in Interlaken that night, we stayed in the main hostel instead of the tent and I had Cheese Fondue for the first time for dinner. Since it was the Fourth of July, the hostel had a big bonfire in the woods nearby to celebrate. Lots of people.

This morning we took a ferry ride on Lake Brienzersee and saw a large waterfall. It was cold out on the lake. I am writing this on the train to Mainz, Germany which is alongside the Rhine River. Greg and I split up with Wendy and Carey after Interlaken but we will meet up with them again in Amsterdam.

p.s. Switzerland is very expensive. It costs 10 dollars for a Big Mac, fries and a Coke. Minimum wage in Switzerland is 12 francs/hr. = 11 dollars/hr.

Sunday, July 02, 1995

Europe Trip - Salzburg, Austria

I love the trains here in Europe. It is a great way to travel, in the little compartments with bench seats that face each other. It makes it very easy to meet new people and strike up interesting conversations. On our night train we were able to pull the seats together for a convenient bed and get some good sleep.

Postcard I bought in Salzburg
We have been in Salzburg for two days. Yesterday, we hiked up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress on the hill yesterday. You can see the entire city from the watchtower with great views of the surrounding countryside and mountains. We went on a nice tour of the castle and saw some pretty chilling torture instruments. It was ruled by archbishops in the past and has never been captured by enemy forces.

Greg with view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress
Our hostel was close by the base of the fortress. I played some volleyball with some French Canadians staying there as well. They sucked! Heh! The cute girl who invited me to play was very nice. Too bad, I don't speak French. After a huge dinner, Greg and I bought a bottle of wine and walked across the river with Wendy and hung out at a park, playing cards and on the playground equipment.

Greg and I drunk in Salzburg park
Today we went to see the Watergardens at Hellbrunn. We got pretty wet. They filmed the movie "Sound of Music" here in Hellbrunn and Salzburg but I have never seen it. Afterwards, Carey and I explored more of the city. We stopped and had this really delicious sausage with cheese in the center. It came with a tasty roll and some really hot mustard. I am going to have to get that again before we leave.

The gardens at Hellbrunn
I played some more volleyball tonight. It is my favorite sport to play.

p.s. This postcard cost 9 schillings which is about 1 dollar.