Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sure, George Clooney is a pretty good looking guy... But he's a little too old for me.

Last weekend, Ryan and I added another country to the count by visiting Monaco. Although we were required to spend time in France to accomplish this, it was a surprisingly good experience.

Just to put this entire weekend into reference, the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland blew up and all of Europe decided to shit a HUGE brick about it. And closed all airspace. All. Except Rome. Which is useless to absolutely anyone not living south of Milan. Which is everyone.

On Friday, the ash cloud of doom was still pretty far north. So I checked the flight status and everything was a go. So at lunch, we got on a train to Basel and flew. Later on, we learned that Swiss airspace had been completely shut down around 30minutes after we had taken off. We were also the only interns who managed to get to our planned destination that weekend.
Officially added to resume: Awesome at travelling

Arriving in Nice after a relatively pleasant EasyJet flight and once again confusing people by wearing flip flops everywhere, we took the bus to the hostel and set our stuff up. Then we went for a stroll to the beach. It was pleasant. Although not very warm because it was getting to be the evening.

This is where the George Clooney comment began. All over Europe, Geroge Clooney is the face behind Nescafe. And the ads are EVERYWHERE. Also in Como in the summer, all the locals liked to show off the George Clooney had a home there. So obviously, I believe that all Europeans adore George Clooney. It was also an ongoing joke between Ryan and I that we would see him as some point. Likely at the casino, where I would ask if we could have a picture together and if I could borrow 100€ to play roulette and would pay him back upon earning some $$. It is also an ongoing joke that I am obsessed with George Clooney. It's just a joke, so relax. Or is it? (Watch video here)

Fishing our wandering and realizing we had accidentally gone by 4 of the 8 landmarks of the city and thereby giving us nothing to do on Monday, we went to a restaurant for Chin-Din. It was delicious. Then we went to the store to pick up munchies for the following morning and beer for some predrinking action. We had 4 roomies in our hostel room. 3 were Canadians. What are the chances?

We predrank on the terrace with some fellow travellers who were either stranded or were about to be. Because there were no airplanes. Ugggh. Oh Belgium EuroControl. Why are you fear mongerers? Anyway, we went to some pub called Wayne's and had a few pints. Being that it was supposed to be a tame night and I hadn't recouped from being busy every weekend for the last 3 months, we headed back at a reasonable hour (I think?) and got to bed.

On Saturday, Ryan and I dressed to the nines (is that how you use the phrase? I've never used it before) and took a bus to Monaco.

But first, we helped an Australian woman (living in Switzerland) find a way home. Her flight had been cancelled and helped her get information on how to get back to Lausanne. For some reason, she wasn't a fan of Italian trains. BUT she knew Ryan and I live in Switzerland. And she also thought we were actually FROM Switzerland. Score one for Steve and Ryan. We made a local believe we were locals.

Officially added to the resume: Convincing at being a local.

The bus ride was pretty long, and was also quite expensive. Being that it went to Monaco and all. 1€. Hahaha.

It was quite questionable at the beginning of the day as to how far we would get before tiring out or getting sick of wearing dress cloths, but we just kinda went with it. We knew that we needed to dress classy to gain access to the Grand Casino...

It was kinda weird walking to the bus station in dress cloths. We were definitely out dressing the general population, which is a first for me in Europe. Once we got to Monaco though, it only felt right. Being surrounded by Europe's rich and famous, along with their high priced cars.

Monaco is a very small country, less than two square kilometers. It is also the most densely populated countries on earth (more information available via Wikipedia if required). It also hosts the Monaco F1 grand prix every year! We were visiting 4 weeks before the race, so they already had a whole bunch of protective walls up along the main streets that are also used for the races. They also have the starting lines painted on the road (all year round, presumably).

We walked around Monaco for quite some time, along the coast and the main roads. The views are quite stunning, as were the size of the yachts in the various ports. Seriously. Some of them are bigger than my residence back in Calgary. And it floats. I'd bet some of them are big enough to attempt an oceanic crossing.

Walking around, we came across a pretty cool place to pose. So I did. Can you guess where Monaco ends and France begins? I'll give you a clue: would the most densely populated country in the world have a whole lot of trees? Nein. If you look at the bottom right side of the picture, you'll see some of the grandstands for the F1 race (they're blue).

It is also somewhere around here that we were talking about George Clooney again. I swear it wasn't me who brought it up. It was Ryan. But I made the statement that "sure, George Clooney is a pretty good looking guy... But he's a little too old for me".

After doing quite some walking in shoes not designed for extensive walking use, seeing a ridiculous number of supercars, and getting quite hungry, we decided to stop at the nicest place we could find with outside seating and have some lunch.

What we found was quite nice and reasonably priced. This was somewhat detrimental to our goal, because we had set aside a budget of 50€ each for lunch. That is much more than I normally eat for. Much. Instead, we each got a 3 course meal for 22€. Score! The bottle of wine was almost as expensive as the food!

Something we had noticed here was that everyone is really friendly toward one another. Even strangers. I haven't encountered anything like this anywhere in Europe except Liechtenstein.

After eating our large meal and drinking our marvelous wine, we opted to go under the Casino tunnel. There was an actual racecar flying through there. As well as a Ferrari, Lambo, and a Wiesmann. I think that the local authorities turn a blind eye specifically to this tunnel.

After walking through the Casino tunnel, guess where the next stop was? The Grand Casino!

This is the entrance. It is a little unassuming and not overly spectacular. But still Ritzy. It was also surrounded by Ferraris and Bentleys. And a couple of Aston Martins.

The inside was quite golden. No cameras were allowed, so no pictures are available. But they did film two James Bond films in there (Goldeneye and something else), so I'd recommend watching Goldeneye right now. And pay close attention to the intro. If you don't understand why I say this, I also recommend you read about Swiss national day in my August blogs.

After not gambling because it's just not something I do when the odds are blatantly fixed against me, we left the casino.


In your face Mario. I've seen so many of these now... But the shock and amazement doesn't fade. There were also even more supercars parked outside than when we went in.

We took the bus back to Monaco and changed into normal cloths again. It was a little disappointing. I had enjoyed looking like the shit for the day.

The supercar count at the end of the day was 24 Ferraris, 6 Lamborghinis, 1 Lotus, 14 Aston Martins, 2 Audi R8s, 1 Marussia, 3 Wiesmann, and 1 Bugatti Veyron. 1 of the Ferraris was an Enzo. And for the sake of clarity, I tried my best to make sure that none of the cars in the count were counted twice. And they were all on the street, not in a showroom. One of the Ferraris WAS being driven by a 17 year old.

A short mention of the evening is also required. We met an Italian guy staying at the hostel. He was quite bombed and was also "busting our balls" as he liked to say. He was from Como. He brought up George Clooney. Ryan and I laughed really realllllly hard and I gave Giovanni a high five. Then he corrected me and taught me the Italian high five. Its the same as the non-classic high five back home. If you need a lesson, go to [couldn't find amusing YouTube video, so find me and I'll explain in person].

Sunday was planned to be a chill day. We slept in, then helped a nice Dutch woman look for details on her flight. All airspace was still closed. Oh and of course I forgot to mention that France likes going on strike. So the train network wasn't operating. Which kinda leaves people stranded...

We went to an old town called Eza. It was very similar to pretty much every old town I've ever been to except more of a maze and narrower streets. It was kinda cool, but definitely dull. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Romans for inventing properly perpendicular and straight roads, and buildings that fit between said roads.

Once we had our fill of old town, we ate sandwiches and I practiced my French. Lol. Man I wish we had been pushed more as kids to learn French. Every Canadian should be fluent in both languages.

Side note aside, we headed back on the bus back to Nice. We planned to take another bus to Cannes to check out the beach, but it was quite a distance away. So we opted for the rocky Nice beach instead.

This is not Nice, just a nice view from Eza.

At Nice beach, I napped. I enjoy naps a fair bit now. Maybe I'm getting old... I also have acquired a key skill of sleeping during all forms of motorized transportation.

Officially added to the resume: Able to sleep on all buses, trains, airplanes, and boats. Probably other stuff too.

Seeing as that pretty much sums up all we did that day, the blog ends here.

We actually took Monday off because we had a flight out of Nice that evening. But due to unforeseen ash domination of the European skies, the flight was cancelled. It was an adventure of its own. So therefore, it gets its own blog.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The most boring place in the known universe

Before I get into talking about Luxembourg, I would like to bring up the recent realization that I had as to why my blogging has been so delayed. It is that I am no longer motivated to write these things. My year in Switzerland is nearly at its end. It has been a long, long year of travelling and a very short year of living. Weekends run together, interrupted only by brief days in the office. Which brings me to the second reason why I am not motivated to write these. I spend entire weeks writing reports at work. Good Lord I never want to do that again. Reports are fine when you don't spend every minute of the work week writing them, but that is my situation. Although I do see the reasoning behind it. I need to pull a lot of shit together and finish things off in my last 4 days with Alstom. A LOT of shit...

So on to the terrible weekend.

Friday. Short day at work, as Ryan and I had to catch an afternoon flight from Zürich. Arriving in Lux, we took a bus to the hostel, dropped out stuff off, and went for a walk. We went to the tourist information center and got a map and crappy (but free) passport stamps, walked aimlessly and wound up at the train station, then walked to the north end of the city. Then back to the hostel. It took a couple of hours, but we managed to essentially walk from the east side of the city to the center, to the south side of the city, then to the north side and back to the east. Oh right, and the walk north was done on the west side. We literally saw the entire city by walking for a couple of hours. We had a kebab along the way. It wasn't bad.

The evening consisted of drinking skunky Erdinger and Lux beer. We spent quite some time discussing the previous weekends adventures and pooling our knowledge and memory to understand exactly what happened on Jäg night.

Saturday. After buying a weekend transit pass for unlimited travel anywhere in the country via public transit for 6€ split between the two of us, we hopped on a bus to go on a hike. We went to the eastern part of the country, around 30km from Lux City. The walk along the river was pretty serene.

The best part of the day? Crossing the river to go to Germany. Although we only went around 2 steps into the country before heading back.

I think we hiked around 10km before deciding enough was enough and to go to Diekirch for a beer (one of the national beers is Diekirch, which is brewed in - you guessed it! - Diekirch). Being that Lux is influenced by the French, nothing was open until 17:00 in the afternoon. So getting lunch is out of the question. Saying screw it, we headed to Vianden to check out a castle.

This is the Vianden castle. Moving on. We wasted time before heading back to Lux City by having coffee and a pie at a brasserie in town. It was delicious. Then we rode transit randomly to waste time and ate a couple of fast food burgers. They definitely had enough calories to make up for the minimalist lunch.

The evening was again spent having beer. Although my stomach wasn't so happy with the previous burger decision...

Sunday. We had to check out form the hostel at 10:00 or something. So we got up as late as possible and ate breakfast, then checked out as late as possible to minimize the amount of time we had to waste during the day. Then we walked around Lux City some more and took a train to the most northern area of Lux. Then we rode it back. Then we went to the airport and waited for our airplane to arrive.

It was late, so we arrived in Zürich late. Then we missed the express train by 4 minutes without even knowing it. Then we got a crappy connection in Örlikon. What a day.

In fact, what a weekend... One more country I will never see again. Luxembourg truly is the most boring place in the known universe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I've got a feeling. Wooo hooo.

This song will forever remind me of this weekend. And yes, I'm listening to it right now. It's only fitting.

This weekend was a long one thanks to the Friday before and Monday after Easter. And thanks to a vacation day on Thursday. It all started on Wednesday night.

Wednesday night. Getting on the night train on our way to Zagreb (Croatia), we come across fellow English-speakers in our compartment. They were talking amongst themselves and us among ourselves until I came back to the washroom and herd the B word dropped. Baden. At that point in time, I was 85% sure they worked at Alstom. We talked for a while until I was sure they worked at Baden. They knew that Ryan worked at ABB and assumed I did as well. After some train beers, I decided to unleash the sneaking suspicion. "So were you guys at the Gas/O&M party in December at Trafo?" Of course, the answer was yes. "Did you guys go to Time bar after the apero ended?" Uhhh... yah. "We've met before. I was the super drunk intern that Shane kept giving shots to." Laughter followed. Infamous Jeff then gave me a pleasant message for Andy. One that upset Andy until he figured out who the message was from. Then he just called Jeff a bastard and carried on with the day. Anyway, the Croatian girl asked if it was true that all Canadians were afraid of the dark. I evaded giving an answer. After some more beer, we decided it was time for sleepy. The moment the lights were turned off, I screamed. Of course all Canadians are afraid of the dark!

Thursday, we awoke on a moving train. We got to Zagreb and bid adieu to the fellow Alstomers and headed to our hostel of choice. We dropped our stuff off and headed out exploring.

We came across some cool stuff and bought oranges at a market. There was another market where I almost bought some delicious baked goods. But I restrained myself. They even have sk8 shops in Zagreb. Weird. Awesome, but weird. And just as a side note, for being a city of around 1 million, Zagreb feels much more homely and small. Anyway, back to the storey. For lunch, we went to "Cut of Duck Pizza". Seems like something was missing in the translation. That or it was intentionally a different name. Probably both. We ate pizza and drank a beer. It was refreshing and filling. And cheap. Then we went back to the hostel for a nap.

Waking up at 19:00 and realizing we had slept for 3 hours, we departed in search of supper. We ended up finding a nice place outside and had delicious calamari and beer. Then I got dessert. Normally, this would not be any sort of ordeal. But I ordered a "cake with nut cream". No, there weren’t any ordeals, apart from me trying to order it without laughing aloud. I don't know about the translation from Croatian to English, but this was definitely a direct translation from proper German. After supper (which cost a whopping 5€) we dawdled back to the hostel and stopped at the bar a few minutes away and had another beer. I didn't get a chance during the day to say the only Croatian I know. Just wait.

Friday was an eventful day, but it didn't start out that way. We got up early to catch an early train to Ljubljana. I burnt my remaining Kuna on baked good, which was a great decision. Jam-filled doughnuts and croissants are great. We got stopped at the border for passport control. Slovenian doesn't have "y" in its alphabet, so when they spelt Ryan's name over the radio they called it upsilon. No one but me is going to find that interesting, but whatever. By the way, upsilon is how you pronounce the letter "y" in German.

Arriving in Ljubljana, we must have spent at least 2 hours walking around looking for a hostel. It was ok, we saw some of the town. it was overcast, which was shitty. But that didn't stop me from sporting flip flops. Nothing stops me from sporting flip flops. - Oh, I forgot to mention! In Zagreb, the people don't appreciate you walking around in purple pants and flip flops. They will stare at you and look like they are physically disgusted with you. You've been warned. - After finding a hostel, we wandered to the nearest tourist office and got "Hot Horse" circled on the map. Then we went to Hot Horse. Hot Horse is a small "burger joint" in a park that only sells three things: horse burger, horse steak, and some horse dish that looks like horse kebab meat (shaved and such). It was delicious, and I should have had another.

After Hot Horse, we went to the castle to scope out the place. It was at this point that I realized that interns are like birds. We always flock to the highest point in the area. On our way up, Ksenija called! She was trying to figure out where we were and get us in touch with her friend in the city. She was worried that we would have a bad impression of the city if someone didn't show us around to all the good stuff. I reassured her that we had a good impression because we had Hot Horse.

She laughed and couldn't believe that we knew about Hot Horse. This is proof that Wikipedia coupled with WikiTravel works. End of discussion. So upon convincing her that we were doing ok, I got Momo's number and sent him an SMS. In the castle, Ryan walked on the grass. That is clearly a capital punishment crime in Slovenia. So I told Ryan that I'd inform Ksenija and that she'd kill him in his sleep. He was worried. Meanwhile, we checked out the courtyard and the ramparts, then went back to the hostel for another nap. This cycle was becoming problematic.

After a brief 15 minute power nap, we went to Triple Bridge to meet with Momo. Meeting up with Momo, we headed to a café for a Laško. Then we wandered the city a little more and Momo called Ksenija to convince her to come to Ljubljana to party with us. We tried, but to no avail [insert sad face here]. We picked up some groceries and booze, and headed back to Momo's for some pre-drinking and supper.

We caught a cab to the train station, where we met up with a fellow Canadian studying in Ljubljana. We walked to Metelkova, a really weird place surrounding Hostel Celica. Metelkova was once a military prison area that squatters took over. Now, its fully of metal-headed artsies. Quite possibly the coolest place I've been to yet. Although it was full of people you'd probably be afraid of normally, there was no discomfort or feeling of danger. Everyone else was there for a good time too! We had a few Laško both inside and outside and hung out for a while.

Once we decided to move on, we went to a shop for a burek. I wasn't hungry, but I got one anyway because it looked delicious. I couldn't finish it, but it was worth it. Then we headed to a club close by (although pretty much everything is close by in Ljubljana center). The top level was closed for a private party, but the lower - underground - level was open. We danced the night away to some sick tunes and some more Laško.

When the party was over for us, we said goodbye to Momo and the Canadian guy (still can't remember his name, and someone will end up mocking me for it at some point in time) and headed back to the hostel.

We slept briefly. We had a bus to catch at 09:00, so we had to be up to make sure we had time to walk to the train station and pick up some food. We had plenty of time. But we came across ZERO bakeries along the way. So we were forced to stop at McDonalds. Apparently there are less than 10 in all of Slovenia. This was 1/10. I will never forget this McDonalds. The chick behind the till hated me so much she gave me 0.10€ in 0.01€ coins. A bit of a piss-off to say the least. Ksenija later claimed that it's because I'm a nice guy. If that’s the case then WTH? Why? Lol... I still have those damned coins...

Getting on the bus, we pointed to the printout of the name of the town Ksenija lives in. Had I had a little confidence, I could have just said it. Pronunciation is not a serious issue. Except for Z-hat, which doesn't exist on my laptop keyboard with the Slovene setting. But now I know that one too. Dober dan to you too. We weren't sure if the bus driver was gonna stop and tell us to get out or not, but we were pretty sure he was because we only bought tickets to that town.

He did stop and tell us when to get off. So we did, and we waited at the corner of the highway for Ksenija to pick us up after getting groceries. While bored, I started a spontaneous rave with no music. Because that's what I do. Luckily, no one apart from Ryan saw me (as far as I know). When Ksenija came, I promptly stopped to minimize the embarrassment factor. She didn't notice I had been raving, which is probably a good thing.

We met Ksenija's brother Nate and headed back to the house. Nate speaks pretty good English, but didn't warm up to us quick enough to practice a whole lot. Instead, he was being slightly obnoxious, which was mildly amusing and reminded me of Mike not too long ago. As in last week.

Shortly after arriving, we headed out for a walk. We went to the top of a hill close by. This further validates my claim what interns are like birds (always going to the highest location). The hike was quite and warm. Not overcast like the day before. At the top, we had a couple Laško and caught up on the times. Afterward, we headed back to the house where we chilled until the evening, with Ksenija constantly trying to feed us. What a mother :P.

In the evening, we met up with Ksenija's friend Lučka and we hit up a whole bunch of bars around Šentvid pri something-something. In fact, we may or may not have gone to half of the bars within walking distance of Ksenija's house. I'm not entirely sure. But I was under the impression that her mother was shocked the following morning/afternoon when she found out where we had gone. Anyway, the first place we went to we sat outside and had a couple of drinks. Ksenija made sure Ryan and I had some local drink that apparently people usually make at home. One consisted of blueberries and the other consisted of honey. Both were pretty good and supposedly strong, although I didn't find it so. I also ordered a vodka-cola. Now back home, that's a normal drink right? Because when I ordered it, not only did the waitress not understand, but neither Ksenija nor Lučka understood either. Apparently I'm just weird. At least Ryan knew what I was talking about. Oh and I dropped "Jebisej" here. Thats the limit of my Croatian.

The second bar was full of drunk people, and was awesome. There wasn't any room at first for seats inside, so we chilled outside for a while. No more Laško though. Apparently that's a strange thing to do. People only order hard liquor when going out in Slovenia. So we did the same. After a few rounds and Ksenija convincing us to hit the dance floor, we headed off to the next place.

We were essentially the only people there. We hit the dance floor and pretty much just requested whatever songs we wanted. As we walked in, THE song was playing. To break up an evening of Eurotechno, I felt it would be a good idea to request something awesome and totally different from anything we had heard all night. Naturally, I opted for Teen Spirit. That when the unexpected hit. No one knew what I requested, but the DJ started it off merging it into the previous techno song and without the epic guitar intro. Ksenija actually recognized it before me because I was expecting something totally different. But take it was she comes. The DJ managed to blend Nirvana into an awesome techno remix. Nirvana. Daaaamn. At this point, the dance floor was completely clear and the DJ was setting up for the final song of the night. I couldn't tell you what song it was, because the Nirvana moment was too awesome.

From there, we headed back home for sleepy time. but prior to going to bed, I decided that it would be an absolutely amazing idea to watch night at the Roxbury. So we streamed it and watched the first 20 minutes. The stream was too slow to watch the whole thing. But the 20 minutes we did watch, were great.

Easter Sunday. Ryan and I slept until 13:00. No one bothered to wake us up, and we ended up holding everyone up on traditional Easter breakfast. Whoops... I said "good morning" to Nate and quickly corrected myself with "good afternoon". He found this amusing. After breakfast, which (as far as I can figure) was a more-or-less standard European breakfast (except with religious relevance and meaning for the food), Lučka and Beno came over. In the meantime, Ksenija taught me the best Slovenian pickup line, "U kaka bejba". I was way too embarrassed to say it in the house at first, especially because I still wasn't entirely sure what it meant. I'm still not. I was also mocked as Ksenija's mom asked if I knew how to say the name of the town. I had no idea and told them to write it out. Then I'd say it. Ksenija wrote it out, and I said it. She was impressed. That's just how I roll. Obviously I have no idea where the emphasis goes in Slovenian or the flow of the language, but I got the skillz anyway. Unless you put š and č together. Then I'm screwed. Nate tried to teach me, but I'm pretty sure I murdered it (and not in a positive manner either).

We drove to a small café where some of us had a Laško while others had coffee. One crazy person in particular (not naming any names, but you know who you are) had both. At the same time. Hahaha the waitress thought he/she was nuts too.

Then we went bowling! On the way to bowling, Beno passed on the right, which is a no-no in Europe. The cops saw him and pulled him over. They wanted everyone's ID. I didn't have my passport on me, but thankfully my Auslanderausweis was sufficient. At the bowling alley, we started off by playing a few games of pool. We were all awful. So we went to bowling instead. Bowling is a game that I occasionally excel at. All thanks to countless games with the Engg guys back home. It goes without saying that when bowling, beer is consumed. So that's precisely what we did.

We played three games, where I dominated with the smallest ball that fit my fingers. That is the ultimate strategy. Because then you can throw it as hard as you want and it still goes where you want. Midway through the second game, Ryan and I decided to see who could throw the ball the fastest because the lanes registered the ball speed. That quickly ended because the game stopped registering our speeds. I think the game heard us... After the bowling and splitting a couple of beer towers, we headed back in the direction of Ksenija's. I mean, who gets really drunk on Easter Sunday right? By the way, THE song played twice while bowling. And both times, Ryan and I were groaning. Again? Seriously? I also learnt some practical Slovenian, ,such as PETKA, troika, ne, and da. I already knew "dober dan", which was apparently impressive. And clearly, "u kaka bejba". The lady-killer of all phrases... Lol...

We wound up going to another local bar where Lučka's sister was chilling with some friends. Walking up to their table, I boldly went where no Canadian has ever gone before at that bar. I dropped "u kaka bejba". Hahaha... Without our knowledge, they apparently bet the TOWN than we were all getting really drunk that night. Ryan wasn't feeling so hot, so to the naked eye it would be an easy win for the town. Except for peer pressure. And the bet: an entire flat of Jägermeister. I ordered a Laško and sipped happily, not knowing the gongshow that was about to erupt. Meanwhile, Ksenija was talking to her mom on her cell. I had no idea who she was talking to, but she told me to yell "u kaka bejba" into the phone. So naturally, I did. It was funny. We laughed about it the following morning. Then the bottle came. And of course, I was more than happy to oblige with the opening drink. Chugging from the bottle. Classy as always, and you can never expect anything less than classy from yours truly. That was just the beginning. And after my chug, Ryan had to start drinking. Or risk looking bad in front of the ladies. And lets just say that wasn't about to happen. So after adamantly declaring that he wasn't drinking the night, he lasted 2 minutes before pounding 3 or 4 shots almost consecutively. Na zdravje! The first bottle was done in under 10 minutes, with Ryan and I drinking the majority of it.

After the first bottle, we grabbed a bottle to go and went for a ride out to the forest. That's the best description I could possibly give, seeing as I seriously have no clue where it was. Arriving in the forest, THE song was playing on the radio. Naturally, Ryan and I sang along as loud as we could because THE song was becoming more and more awesome. Not really, it was just being repeated so often it was no longer irritating. At the forest, we also opened the second bottle of Jäger. This one took a little longer to drink, and Ryan and I left most of it to the girls. There were lots of pictures, most of which were on the girls' cells. No access, tragically. At one point, I wandered over to a retaining wall and asked how far it was down because I couldn't actually see the bottom so well due to the darkness and possibly intoxication. But I could see the bottom about 10 feet away, so I knew it was about 1.5 meters down. Someone yelled at me not to jump down. So naturally, I did. At some point in the forest, we also posed for a picture when Ryan stumbled and took me out. It was funny until I woke up with the most awkward scrape ever. With the second bottle of Jäger finished, we dropped Lučka off at home and went to Ksenija's for another bottle of Jägermeister. Thankfully, this one was already cracked and only half of the bottle remained. Then we went to the local elementary school. I'm such a great role model for all the kids out there...

At the school, it was raining. In fact, it had been raining everywhere all night. So we were under shelter for most of the time. At one point, Ryan got it into his mind that he wanted to go running. So he did ~9 laps around the school (and zero falls apparently). In the mean time, I wandered off to find out where the hell I was. No luck, I still came back confused as to my surroundings. I also managed to turn my hoodie inside out and put it back on the right way and wore it like that for a while. I can't definitively say why I did that, but I think a good guess would be that the hoodie was making me wet. Therefore, turning it inside out would be the logical solution. Right? Apart from these moments, and clearly rolling around on the dirt based on the hell my hoodie looked like when we woke up the next day... After completing the 3rd and final bottle of Jäger, we got back into the car to drive by the gas station to honk the horn and prove that we won the bet. I don't remember this. In fact, I don't remember anything from the car ride back. What a night. I can safely say that I will never be that drunk on an Easter Sunday ever again.

We awoke the next day, once again at around 13:00. We were giving Ksenija's mom a bad impression I think. After such a heavy night of drinking, I was feeling quite fantastic. That can mean one thing and one thing only: success on missing the chundy express. All right! Monday was a chill day. We watched Junkyard Wars and CSI and watched amusing YouTube videos such as Ksenija wasn't sure if we'd understand this video because we weren't "cultured enough". She was tragically mistaken. That video is priceless. Peace on you too.

After chilling out for the afternoon, we sadly headed back to Ljubljana to go back to Switzerland. It was a depressing end to the best weekend in Europe, and possibly the best weekend ever. It was quite, with everyone going over the ridiculousness that defined the weekend. The sleep that night was terrible. i don't really need to say any more than that.

I woke up the following day bumbed out. The first time I've actually been bumbed out in Europe. I seriously didn't want to go back to Baden. Ugh. But there I was, at work at 10:30. Starting what was going to be a solid work week, cramming four days of work into a scheduled three. Again, ugh.

Oh and just for the record, this blog took over 8 hours to write. 90% of the time, I was listening to THE song. It will probably define this weekend for the rest of my life. The irony of it all is the lyrics... Hahaha. Thanks Special-K, for giving us the best weekend ever!

Snow exists at temperatures like this?

I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!

No, I'm just late on the blog. Again. Clearly Switzerland hasn't rubbed off on me very much. As for efficiency, lets see if I can write this blog faster than french fries cook in the oven. Aaaaaaaand.... GO.

So three weekends ago (yes, that's how behind I am), a large group of interns went to LAAX. It is a ski resort in Switzerland. It had a lot of snow. But I'll get to that later.

On Friday night, we caught a train at ~17:00 and took the glory that is Swiss public transit to a chalet about 5 minutes from one of the lifts to the hill. We proceeded to party machen. It was a really good time. I had an egg salad sandwich. Miller was not impressed. That was really funny. After party machen-ing until 01:00, we went to bed so we could ski the next day.

- That's one day done, looks like I might be able to beat these fries -

Saturday morning, we got up earlyish and quickly ate some food and put our gear on. We were going skiing! Wooooooo! We went to the ticket line and exchanged our Snow n' Rail ticket for a usable ticket. Miller was in front of me and spoke only English to the girl. I went and she only spoke German to me and I pretended to understand the words that were coming out of her mouth. I might just assume she was hitting on me. In fact, that's exactly what I'll do. Anyway, the next few Canadians went and she realized I was with them and asked if I spoke German. The Canadians said no. The girl behind the counter laughed profusely. And I was proud of myself for successfully passing off as a local, using nothing but "Grüzie".

Up the hill we went, and off the main runs we went. There was powder everywhere. It was glorious. It was also like 10°C outside. Ok, it wasn't actually, but it felt that warm. I couldn't even wear my jacket. I wore my hoodie all day instead. It got quite wet.

So yeah, powder. Glorious. Absolutely glorious. I've never boarded in such powder before, and I finally learnt how to do it properly. Even on my midget board. I think this short paragraph pretty much sums up the best day I've ever had boarding. Great snow, sunny, warm, and so much free space to roam (because Europeans don't generally like going off the main runs).

- The fries aren't done yet! It's gonna be close though... -

On the last run down the hill, I managed to break the toe binding on my front foot. It made it slightly awkward to make it down the mountain. But it all worked out. Just for the record, that is the second time I've managed to break a binding on the last run of the year. And consecutively. I hope this doesn't become a pattern of destruction.

At the end of the boarding day, we had some beer at the bottom of the hill then went home. Saturday night was a chill night because I was hoping to be feeling better for the following day. The Pharaoh's Curse Phase II was upon me. Nooooooooo...

Sunday. A pretty bad day. Overcast and I wasn't feeling great. Coupled with the busted binding I was trying to board without, the day on the hill was brief. 45 minutes brief. Including time up the hill via gondola. Oh well, that just meant getting back to Baden earlier (ie a reasonable hour) so I could make supper and chill out. Saturday easily made up for Sunday.

- I beat the fries -

The next blog will be a good one...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Canada Dry never die

Before I head off into this crazy trip, I should give a brief mention to the happenings a few days before I left for vacation. Quick summary: Imogen Heap and Geneva Motor Show. Imogen Heap was quite good, surprisingly with a lot of guys at the concert. Swiss people are a little different perhaps? Geneva Motor Show was a tad boring, and was definitely geared toward old people actually buying cars. This is a much different concept from the Frankfurt Auto Show, which was pretty much a whole bunch of Germans showing off what crazy things they've done to cars since the previous year's show.

The summary is done. On to Egypt.

Saturday was a long day of travelling, starting off with an early (~07:20) train to Geneva. Chris and I are pros with taking the train, so upon getting our tickets, we walked on the platform just as the train pulled up. Apparently we almost gave Olivia a heart attack for cutting it so close. Gotta love Swiss punctuality! In any other country, that would not happen. Expect maybe Germany.

From train to plane, we flew to Sharm El-Sheikh. easyJet being easyJet, we were late arriving and cut it assumingly close for transferring to a plane to Cairo. But not really. Being the first off the plane, we were also the first to buy the bogus entry visa from some bank teller right before customs. 15 USD and no questions asked. USD buys you anything in Egypt! Getting through customs, we went through two amusing security areas to get to the domestic departures gates. No liquid restrictions what so ever. In fact, I walked through the metal detector with change and it didn't even go off. Needless to say, we were off one flight and awaiting for the next one in the gate in about 15 minutes. Most of this time was spent waiting in a line through customs for a stamp on our bogus visa sticker.

Arriving in Cairo (~21:00), the guy from our hostel met us with a large van to drive our group of 15 to the hostel. Bianca was MIA at this point in time (which we later found out was because she fell asleep on her train to a French airport, not because the French air traffic control was on strike as always). Arriving in the hostel, we heard that Bianca had somehow made it to Cairo airport and that she was on her way. We didn’t want to wait, so we went out for supper.

That pretty much sums up the day. A whole lot of travel and not much of anything else. As a side note, I survived the entire day of travel on nothing more than a bag of biscuits and 750mL of water. Impressive? Indeed.

Sunday morning was an early one, as we had a daytrip to a whole bunch of pyramids planned, including the great pyramids of Giza. Upon arrival at the Giza area, we were swindled into renting camels. It was a cool experience, but quite expensive considering how cheap Egypt is. That being said, we did barter and paid a lot less than initially quoted. I'd imagine that being in such a large group gave us a lot of buying power. So yah, we rode camels at the great pyramids of Giza. There are a lot of pictures. We also saw the Sphinx. There are a lot of pictures.

Next stop was lunch, which I slept on the way to. Having the daytrip planned was great, because all I had to do was follow the herd and ride in a van, avoiding a lot of energy loss and exposure to the excessive Egyptian sun. And overall effort in planning, which I completely evaded for the entire week. Literally. So yah, lunch. It was forced upon us by our guide. So weird. Such a weird place. After lunch we drove near to a step pyramid. It was kinda cool. We stopped for 2 minutes for pictures then were off to another site.

At the next site, we went IN the pyramid. I assume it was an air ventilation shaft initially, there were small wooden planks put down so it was accessible to the average person. It went a long way down. The air in the bottom was very very thick and humid. There wasn't much to see down there. A fair few of us got cramps in the bottom, assumingly from the lack of oxygen in the air. The final site was a museum in Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt. There was a HUGE statue of Ramses the something-th. Around 14m when it was made, 10m now because it lost the lower legs.

After the trip, the group left exploring without us, to Andrew and I checked out the area and went shirt shopping. I got a ridiculous green shirt with a built in vest for 9CHF. We were supposed to go to an Islamic wedding, but the hostel guy never showed up, so those of us who were around and waiting to go went to a sandwich place and then a local market to be heckled by lots and lots of Egyptians trying to make a load of money off white people. At first, this made me a little uncomfortable because I wasn't sure what the appropriate response to people was, but by the end of the week I feel that I am a pro at ignoring people trying to sell me shit. Then we smoked some Shisha on the street.

Monday entailed a trip to a tourist market in the morning, which was essentially the same thing as the market we had gone to the night prior except less busy, less heckling (because it wasn’t as busy) and more touristy stuff to buy rather than knock-off clothing brand names such as Abidos and Poma. A few of us got sweet fried bread, which was awesome and only 1EGP, which is approximately 20 cents. Did I mention that Egypt is a dirt cheap country to visit?

Now would probably be a suitable time to explain the driving conditions of Cairo. Insanity. That pretty much sums it up. Pedestrians and vehicles have shared right of way as far as I can figure, which essentially means that people cross roads while avoiding cars and cars drive along the road avoiding pedestrians. Although lanes are painted on the roads, they are used as reference points rather than actual dividers. As much as everything seems like chaos, it is actually a quite efficient system. All spaces are taken up and traffic is always moving even though it would appear that there is eternal rush hour. After spending only a little more than one full day learning how to effectively cross the street, Dave, Steve and I became true locals. While crossing a busy section of the street, we wound up caught between two taxi's driving beside one another at the same speed. So we just waited for them to go by a matter of 3 inches from us on either side and continued on. Needless to say, I crunched my toes up to increase the distance from the front taxi's tires. The most frightening part of the experience was that it wasn't all that frightening...

On the way to the Cairo museum, the grand group split up so some of us could fill momentary desires of lunch. Walking down some random streets, we came across a sandwich place. The owner was more than happy to serve us, while another local helped some translations as to what sandwich we were ordering. Then we sat on the curb for 15 minutes to eat the previously purchased sandwiches. Unknown to me, we were being filmed. After we had finished eating, Dave pointed out to me that the owner had a portable camcorder out and had been recording out food consumption from the beginning. Naturally, I turned and waved. I am pretty sure that we were the largest group of white people to wander to his shop ever, possibly the only white people at all.

The museum was huge and full of a LOT of stuff. Most of which wasn't labeled or explained, which was a bit of a downer. But looking at everything was pretty cool. And if everything had written explanations in English, I doubt I'd have gotten through more than 40% of the museum before it closed anyway. "Stuff" includes mummies, sarcophaguses, statues, jewelry, etc. After the museum, we headed back to the hostel to pick up our stuff and get on a night train to Luxor. On the way, we stopped at a local market for fruit and picked up some kosheree for supper. Kosheree is essentially a mixture of dried onions, pasta, rice, chick peas, and tomato sauce. It is delicious and I hope to find it back home. We played hackie-sack at the train station, and a whole bunch of locals were staring at us. I take it hackie-sack hasn't caught on in Egypt yet.

Getting on the train, Chan and I played a few games of chess and ate oranges. I also changed from my shoes into flip flops. Such a small detail in the night couldn't possibly turn into something of importance could it?

Tuesday. Arriving in Luxor at 05:30 (ahead of schedule if you'd believe it) we didn't know it was Luxor. Then we found out and had to rush off before the train left. I left a small bag under my seat on the train. Such a small detail in the night couldn't possibly turn into something of importance could it? We walked to the hostel and check in. We were almost the only people in the hostel. We took a nap for a few hours.

Following the nap, we ate breakfast (~08:00) and got picked up in a van to begin out tour of the desert attractions of the Luxor-area. Before heading out, we sat on the side of the road in town. We are yet unsure of why, but in the end we saw a butcher work his magic on a couple of large sets of ribs. Outside. Dripping blood on the street. I'm pretty sure that what some of us had for supper at the restaurant. At least you know it's fresh :P.

The first stop was the Valley of the Kings. As you would expect, it is in a valley. The Valley of the Kings is where a whole bunch of Pharaohs were buried. There haven't been any tombs discovered in a while, so chances are there aren’t too many tombs that haven't been uncovered yet. Some of the tombs are ridiculously deep. Others aren’t so much. There were a lot of hieroglyphics on the walls. No mummies though. They were all taken to the Cairo museum (the mummies from the tombs we visited anyway). The second stop was Queen Hatshepsut's temple. It was big and made of stone. The third stop was the Valley of the Queens. This is where the rest of the royal family was buried, including the Pharaohs children and wife. The final stop was some random statues where I volunteered to take a picture for some American girls. After complaining about the picture and acting generally like what you'd expect from an American, I refused to take another picture for her on the premises that she was being ridiculous. She continued to further act like an American. Hahaha...

When the daytrip was finished, we went for supper and drank sugarcane juice then explored town a little bit. A bunch of the group started playing soccer, while a few of us went top check out an ancient temple. On the way to the temple, we wound up going into a mosque and got a tour from some guy. I'm pretty sure that I said something and am now a Muslim. Just playing. Walking back to the soccer game, we watched a fight break out and some Egyptian kid started attacking another with his belt. Some cool university students ushered us out of there. At this point, I decided to call it a night and head back to the hostel.

Wednesday began... No, it didn't. Well, the blogging sure didn't anyway. It is now 2 complete weeks late. Uggggh.

Wednesday began... oh right. We went to a rather large temple. It was rather large. I don't understand why people without modern machinery would put sooooo much effort into moving such large stones. Dedication doesn't even begin to describe it. After the temple visit, we ate lunch then took a Nile river cruise. We ate bananas on an island. I climbed a tree.

Then we went to the airport to fly to Luxor. Oh right, and at some point today, I went to change into shoes for walking comfort. At this point, I realized I left my shoes on the train. Oops...

Thursday was an early morning because we were heading out early for snorkeling in the Red Sea. We picked up gear at a local equipment shop, got driven up the coast, and got on camels for the rest of the journey (vehicles were unable to take the route). We wound up at a camp and got our gear on and headed out. The Red Sea is quite a phenomenon. Due to the very high concentration of salt in the water, the water is more dense. This results in a person floating on the water without putting any effort into staying afloat. It was awesome. There were lots of colorful fish. I even saw a lionfish!

Following the snorkeling, we ate lunch then went via camel back to the road. Alex killed his camel along the way. What a terrible person.

On Friday, a few of us opted to not do anything special, so we just rented bikes and went around town. We hit up a couple of beaches along the way.

Friday evening was the important ordeal. Everyone on the trip felt it necessary to climb Mt Sinai to watch the sunrise. To do this, we left the hostel at 23:00 and drove for two hours. At 01:00 Saturday morning, we began hiking up the mountain in complete darkness apart from the few headlamps people had brought. After some two hours, we reached the top and rented blankets and curled up to snooze until the joyous moment. When that moment came, I ceased to care and went back to sleep. But here is a photo stolen from the interGoogle.

Following waking up from the sunlight and the fact that I was still ridiculously cold. But the sunlight warmed the earth quickly. The walk down the mountain was much easier than the walk up, mainly because I could see where I was putting my feet. At the bottom, we checked out a church and a supposed shoot of the burning bush. I have some doubts, but I'll keep that to myself. Did I mention I did this all in flip flops? A German guy saw me on the way down and laughed aloud.

Once it was all over, we drove back to the hostel for a nap then had to fly back to Switzerland. That was an adventure in its own. Apparently the other vehicle got into a very minor car accident (no injuries) on the way to the airport. And we checked in late, so the easyJet guy was shitting a brick. Somehow, checking in 5 minutes late results in a 25 minute delay of the flight. That definitely didn't happen...

We got into Geneva at 22:15 and had to get through security and book it through the terminals to catch a 22:47 train. We easily made it. But that was just the beginning of a terrible night. The train got into Zurich at around 02:30 and had to wait until 03:00 for a night train to Baden. In the end, I got home around 04:00. At that point, I checked Facebook rather than go to bed because it didn't change the fact that I was going to bed at an ungodly hour.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next blitz blog that I need to write to cease being behind schedule.

Bis bald,

-Original draft date: 21.03.2010-

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My name is Donal! Say it like you know me!

Last weekend was the epic trip to Ireland. We flew out of Zurich on Friday afternoon and arrived in Dublin somewhere around supper time. There was no time for eats, as we rented 3 cars and began our journey across the island. We wound up in Galway in the late evening, after my navigator for us lost a couple of times (jab at Rachel, but jokes because it was quite an adventure). Surprisingly, driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road wasn't an issue what so ever.

In Galway, we found a place to park the cars and checked in at the hostel. We then got pizza, which was delicious. Then, we walked out the door and went to the closest pub, a respectable distance of 5 meters away. The pub had some DJ playing the biggest hits from the last 30 years all night. It was quite fun. We had a few beer. I also got myself a hooker.

Now before you get ahead of yourself in shock or disgust, I should inform you that Hooker is a type of Irish ale. it is quite light with a strong taste of hops but lacks the bitterness usually associated with hoppy beer. Guinness was also consumed that night, as one would expect to do while visiting Ireland. In fact, Bruce kept ordering 9 at a time. If you did that in Calgary, the bartender would probably get pissed off. These guys loved it and even brought out 9 shots of Sourpuss for Bruce and Co.

The following day, we headed off rather early to Doolin, the coolest place ever. On the way there, we drove a coastal road which was quite awesome. We stopped randomly at a castle, stopped at a pier, went to the ocean, and drove through The Burren.

<--- This is the convoy, stopped at some farmers field to take pictures on a stone wall.

Upon stopping in Doolin to check in at the hostel, we went to a pub for some lunch. They served food early just for us, but only offered a limited menu. Luckily, we were all more than happy to have fish and chips (except Luke, who just HAD to be different). Once again, Guinness was consumed. After lunch, we headed off to the Cliffs of Mohr. They are quite large.

<---A group of Canadians looking over the edge at the water some 320m below.

Bianca and I then decided to jump over a wall like most people do, so we could get a cool view of the cliffs.

<---This is what we came up with.

Once we had our fill of really tall cliffs, we drove back to Doolin and checked out a nearby abandoned church. Then I took a nap. Then I woke up and it was really, really cold. Then on to the pubs!

There are a total of three pubs in Doolin, probably because it's a town of only 500 people. On that particular weekend, there was a traditional music festival there. So the pubs had live music and were very, very busy. It was great. But they were too packed to get pub food for supper, so we opted for some Italian. That turned out to be a terrible mistake. But the beer at the pub made up for it. More Guinness!

We met some Irish guys who were quite drunk. This one guy (Bill) was getting married the following day, so his stag party was that night. He was having a good time to say the least, and his buddy Donal was talking to us for a while. We couldn't hear his name, so it took a few tries to get it right (this is where the title comes from, if you hadn't already guessed it).

All in all, the night was a tame one, and it ended fairly early considering the party atmosphere. It didn't end empty-handed though. I walked out with a half-pint of Guinness and made a bee-line to the hostel. No questions asked, and now I've got a pretty sick souvenir!

The following morning, we headed out early because we had a fair bit of driving ahead of us. The pub wasn't serving breakfast yet, so we opted to find something a little down the road. We ended up in some other random town at a Spar (which is essentially the European version of 7-11). Most of us guys got breakfast sandwiches, and man were they meaty and huge. Picture a foot-long sub with 2 sausages, 3 slabs of ham, an egg, 2 black puddings, and sauce. My arteries got clogged just looking at it. But it was SOOOOOOOO good.

Some time down the road, we arrived at our first official pit stop. Bunratty Castle. We got a tour from an Irishman. He was quite pleasant.

<--- Bunratty Castle.

After the pit stop, we blitzed for Dublin. We needed to return the cars by 17:00 or we'd be charged an additional day. We made it.

That evening in Dublin, the group split up a little bit. One group went with Luke to a restaurant, while those with out priorities straight went to a pub. The pub food was great as always, and super filling. I tried out a couple of other beer while there, naturally. Upon completion of our meal, we headed to Spar to get some beer. Then back to the hostel where we took over the main lounging room and watched the hockey game. I don't need to get into details at this point, because I fully expect everyone to have been watching this game. But I will say this: IN YOUR FACE USA.

Monday was the day of departure, but still had a little time to burn. We ate breakfast and strolled around town. Going through the park, the Cana-dar went off and we found Bianca (who had been staying with a friend in Dublin) by accident. We then went to a cafe where I had a mocha and a lemon-poppyseed muffin. Man those are good... I miss them. Then we flew off back to Switzerland.

Tuesday was Germany night to pick up an excessive amount of chicken nuggets for the chicken nugget party on Wednesday at Ziegelhau. Wednesday was the nugget party. Picture 17.5kg of chicken consumed in one evening. Thursday was chill and Friday I went to Schad to watch Moon. No space werewolves! WTH!

To end this post, I inform you all that I will be going to Egypt for a week starting next weekend. Seeing as I have nothing planned for this weekend, there probably won't be anything worth posting until I get back from Egypt. But that post will kick ass.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Italy, the land of Deutsch

Life in Switzerland is picking up again, with various social activities once again getting in the way of laundry and other various requirements around the flat.

Last weekend was the beginning of the Olympics, which I am pretty proud about having in Canada. We've won a few gold's and I am hoping we beat Germany in both medal count and number of gold's so I can rub it in Herr Gawlik's face. I've been sporting the various Olympics clothing my mom sent to Switzerland for me. I have yet to see a video of the opening ceremonies. I couldn't watch the whole thing because it was on during the miniscule 5 hours of sleep I got that night. But I did see the speechs right before the games were officially declared open. Man did that guy say "bienvenue" badly...

While I am being slightly negative, I just realized that I really do not want to write this blog right now... I'm not particularly sure why. But I'll write it anyway. If I don't, I'll forget everything that happened last weekend and this part week.

Anyway, the reason I was up early enough to watch the end of the opening ceremonies is that Ryan and I went to Rimini (Italy) last weekend. It takes 7 hours by train, so we had to get up early so we could arrive there at a reasonable time. I managed to overestimate the time required to get my stuff ready, which left some time to chill with Pat and watch the ceremonies.

Catching the train at 6:38 from Baden, we got to Rimini at around 14:00. I had arranged our stay with some students there through Couch Surfing, so one of the guys we were staying with picked us up at the train station. Ryan and I spent a few hours that afternoon checking out the old town. It was very typically Roman area including an outer wall (most of which is in ruins) and a large stone gate. We even came across a memorial to the Canadian forces who pushed back the German occupation of Italy in WWII. In the evening we were to a restaurant where the waiter didn't speak much English. So we spoke in German. In fact, I would say that I spoke more German at the restaurant than I've spoken in months elsewhere. The funny thing is that Italy teaches French as a second language, and he didn't even ask if we spoke French. The remainder of that night was very relaxed. We watched some of the Olympic events including Men's 5000m speed skating.

The following morning, Ryan and I walked to the train station and took a bus to San Marino, a very small country surrounded by Italy consisting of nothing more than a mountain and the surrounding valley. The cities within the surrounding valley feel like small Italian towns, while the capital city (San Marino) on the central mountain is very fortified and it definitely a medieval city. We walked along the outer walls on the very top of the mountain, looking over the entire country. It was pretty cool. We also bought euroshades, because there is no tax in San Marino. Stuff is cheaper, woohoo.

On Monday morning, we set off on a 6:00 train back to Baden. It was another long day of train travel, with a lot of intermittent napping to make up for the lack of sleep over the weekend. Upon arriving in Baden, I went to work for a half day. It was pretty awful.

Weeknights have been picking up lately, with plenty of things going down in the evenings. Ksenija was in town, which meant the weeknight partying was back on for a few days. Monday and Tuesday nights were spent watching the Olympics. Tuesday was a colder day than most, but I walked to Mirgos in shorts and flipflops anyway. The lady at the till thought I was insane and asked (in German) if I was cold. I told her no and that I'm from Canada. This seemed to be a sufficient explanation. On Wednesday, a bunch of people went to Nouba for some beer and shisha. Thursday was a night of Conan at Ziegelhau. Conan is much better than I expected, considering Andrew is the one who wanted to watch it (Andrew enjoys only terrible movies). Friday was a night of a few beers at Rachel's place. Considering it was just me and three girls, it turned out to be a pretty good night.

Saturday and today are days of being super lazy. Watching movies and taking naps are on the priority list. "Scotty doesn't know, Scotty doesn't know, Scotty doesn't know-ohh" and "Mike is a girl. Even I know that and I'm taking intro German. You asshole!". Hahaha Eurotrip is awesome. I'll also be staying up tonight to watch the Canada-USA game. I hope it is worth the murder of regular sleeping habits.

Next weekend, I am going to Ireland. I'll be the one of the three drivers there. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried, being that I haven't driven in quite some time and I haven't got the whole "driving on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car" thing down pat.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A story of the two-faced beer

I'm just sitting here enjoying a Paulaner and jamming to the new Armin van Buurin and Tiesto podcasts. I'm officially all caught up on House, the only TV show I've actually been following this year. I made some awesome tacos for supper, imported from the glorious homeland. I finished up with emailing my Couchsurfing hosts in Italy for next weekend, which is awesome. I'm pretty stoked for partying with some Italian students and checking out San Marino I also powered off an email to the Chemical Engineering department head about transferrable course credits and to the dean about a down website I need to read to apply for some funds. The purpose will be explained later. If I explained everything now, you wouldn't bother reading what happened last weekend (yah I'm on to you).

So last weekend, Brit, Caitlyn, Steve "Babyface" Lahoda, Ryan "Omnitool" Faught, Robyn, and I went to Belgium. Being a country who likes to proclaim a love for brewing many different types of beer, the first thing we did upon landing in Belgium and dropping our stuff off at the hostel was get fries. Obviously. And some douchebag drunk French kid decided to charge at us and knock our fries on the ground. I was ready to stab him with my pathetic plastic fork if he decided to come back. He didn't.

We wound up at some random building that was huge and looked like it was designed to house trams during the night hours. Apparently that wasn't the reason it was built, but it was worth a shot at guessing.

<--- As seen to the left, Ryan "Omnitool" Faught and I enjoyed a tower of beer.

And it truly was a tower. In fact, most people that walked by us stared quite a bit. Some went to the extent of giving a thumbs up. It was quite pleasing.

Some random couple sat down beside us and struck up some conversation. The guy was very random and awkward. Luckily, I've known Andrew for a few months which prepared me sufficiently for the encounter. To a point where when he asked if we liked sex (after sitting down less than one minute prior), I wasn't even phased and was only worried that the follow-up question would be an offer for a threesome. Lol. Oh Belgium...

The following day, we got up and ate waffles. This happened quite frequently over the course of the trip. In fact, I enjoyed 5 waffles in 2 days.

<--- Steve eating a waffle ferociously (and apparently with some anger, visible in the pointed eyebrows and slightly squinted eyes)

For the morning and most of the afternoon, we just wandered around the city in normal intern fashion. We soaked up the sights and smelt the unpleasant smells of French-esque society. And I do mean that. The random aroma of human waste is most certainly present in Brussels. The same smell experienced in Lyon, and the same smell I expect to experience in Nice. I hope Luxembourg doesn't have this issue.

After getting more waffles and frites (and trying something marvelous called the Bicky Burger, which is basically a normal burger with curry sauce) we went to one of the world last remaining traditional Lambic beer breweries. Lambic beer means that they use natural yeast from the air, and fermentation (and therefore the entire production cycle) takes much longer than normal. I don't know what the difference is supposed to be between the yeasts, but the stuff they produce tastes essentially like beerish vinegar. I'm not going to piddle around the statement. I did not very much enjoy it. This is probably primarily due to my becoming very accustomed to German beer, which is very very very different from this Lambic beer. It is actually like comparing a potato and a badger.

<--- One of the amusing things we came across in our wandering through the city was this little marvel, appropriately called the "Pissing Statue".

He gets dressed up every few days in various uniforms to show how international Brussels is. Here, he looks like a little Musolini.

After sampling some Lambic beer, we went to the Atomium. It was rather large. Most of us didn't go up because it was too expensive. Instead, we went to a movie: Men Who Stare at Goats. It is a really bad movie considering how awesome the cast is. It was just too out there for me, although there were some really funny moments.

On Sunday, we got more waffles and Ryan "Omnitool" Faught and I had some cherry beer with breakfast. It was the only time I could feel was acceptable to drink fruity beer without offending my manhood. So we went to Ghent for the day. It was overcast and felt ridiculously cold even though it was actually 8°C. Now before you all try to rip me a new one for saying 8°C is cold, remember that when humidity is at 97% no amount of clothing actually makes you feel warm.

<--- Steve "Babyface" Lahoda checking out the canal

Regardless of the cold, the architecture in Ghent was very nice and there was also no random bad smells. This could probably be attributed to the influence of the Dutch as opposed to the French. We went into a few churches and into a bar to waste time. We tried some delicious and different beers. Kwak is my favorite, partially because of the crazy glass it is served in.

Now would probably be a good time to explain this week's title. One of the recommended beers, Westmalle, is a two faced beer. The explanation is simple. As you drink it, the beer tastes pleasantly sweet. But the aftertaste is slightly bitter. This results in a complex beer that is both refreshing and confusing. It was awesome.

Upon returning to Brussels to get one more fries and waffle, we came across a giant pylon.

<--- Ryan "Omnitool" Faught catching me at a bad moment.

Haha I tricked you! This actually isn't what it looks like. It is just me posing because I knew it would be funny. But it does bring up a key point. In Brussels, you have to pay to use washrooms. Even if you are a customer at the movie theater, a bar, or McDonalds. Call me crazy, but maybe that is why the city smells like piss everywhere. There I go again, solving the worlds problems one at a time.

We returned to Baden Sunday night and had to resume the life of working again. Ugh.

Now a quick explanation of my need to contact the Dean and the Chemical Engineering department head. An opportunity has come up for me to study in Dortmund, Germany for June and July. The timing is perfect, seeing as Mike leaves on the 22nd of May. In the event that I can recieve credit for one of my technical electives required for my degree, I'm going. It is as simple as that. One more summer (well, almost a complete one) in Europe would be awesome, and my schedule would be a joke. 3 day weeks. Long days allbeit, but still only 3 days. And Sensation White in Amsterdam. Plus, if I can get 75% of the costs covered by scholarships then it'll only cost a few hundred dollars plus extra travel costs.

Leave a comment, lemme know what you think of my staying in Europa for another summer.



Until next week, take it easy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Needing to get back into the habit

So I realize that it has been nearly an entire month without blogging at all. And yes, I also realize that it is a pretty significant fail on my part when Mandy can write a blog nearly every day for a month.

So lets get to it. I will say that it is a summary of life over here (as always), but it won't end up being much of a summary (again, as always). It'll be more like a short story (as always).

So 4 weekends ago, we went skiing. We went to Engelberg, which is some 2 hours from Baden. The light was pretty flat and the snow was medeocer. I had no edge and the board was in dire need of waxing. So the day wasn't the best, but it was still pretty good. I set the bindings back a bit. Thr change was enjoyable. Somehow, Andrew and I got to a point where we were shirtless just outside the lodge and decided it would be hilarious to drop our snowpants to our ankles and have a race. So thats what we did. The video can be found on FB if you so desire to witness it. The Swiss people thought we were absolutely crazy and were staring. To be fair, it was only -4°C outside. For an Apres ski party, we went back to Ziegelhau and played Settlers and drank beer and glug. Needless to say, I think I got home at around 3:00. A little ridiculous after being up at 5:30 to go boarding.

During the week I got my board all tuned up. Edges were sharp and the board was waxed. And thank god for that, because the on the following Saturday we went to Lenzerheide. Easily the fastest snow I've ever had. For most of the day I felt boarderline out of control, and I probably was. Took some relatively big bails including falling upward not once but twice and tweaking my knee on the last run of the day. We also found a small patch of easily accessible powder that led directly on to the main track, which meant a nice change in pace with no major reprocussions (apart from finding the only damn rock in the whole area and scratching my nicely waxed board). Oh well, it was definitely worth it. Following the day of boarding, we relaxed in some chill chairs outside a bar with our shirts off again. This time, the locals (who again thought we were crazy) threw snow at us. Missed me though. Hahaha. Pictures on FB if desired.

The following weekend, my mom came. Yay! Only downside was having to get up early on the Saturday to get her from the airport. That wasn't cool. Oh well. We explored Zurich, explored Baden, went to Technorama (the Swiss version of the science center) and even partied at Rossini with some of the other interns. Alex holds hostilities to this day about it being the talk of the town.

On the Thursday, I took some of the afternoon off work and we went to Porto, Portugal. It was a pretty sweet city, and it was really nice to go somewhere and not be on an intern budget. I ate real food and slept in a real bed. It was quite out of the ordinary. Friday was spent wandering old town, while Saturday was spent enjoying port in the city of Gaia across the river Duoro Sunday was a day of bus tours. Meh to them, but oh well. It was also the 100th aniversary of the Republic of Portugal. So there were military marches right outside the hotel and they were playing with artillery in the streets. No joke. The airplane back to Basel was an hour late and we almost didn't get home last night. We caught the last IR back to Baden and got home at 1:30. Then work the next day. Ugh... Oh well, that makes 16.

Next weekend is Belgium, and the ridiculous travelling season is back on. Which means more frequent blogging. As in weekly. I hope.

To keep the die-hard readers tuned in (I like to believe there is one of you out there, although chances are...), here is a list of the trips planned in the coming months:

  • Belgium
  • Ireland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino (do you know where it is?)
  • Egypt
  • Luxembourg

Hopefully Amsterdam will be added to the list for the Dutch national holiday on April 30th and Vatican city sometime in May. As well as Poland. Making 25. Thats a lot of countries to visit in 13 months.

Bis bald,

Monday, January 4, 2010

And that makes 15

Christmas was a little over a week ago, and it was pretty laid back. No usual busy house and all that. It kinda sucked, and I didn't get into any sort of Christmas spirit until the following day. But that will be explained in due time.

Christmas evening was pretty good though. Pat, Celia, and I went to Kehl. Alex and Chan made turkey and stuffing, while Pat and Celia made eggnog and I provided mashed potatoes and some holiday cheer to accompany the eggnog. The turkey turned out extremely well, as did the eggnog. As for mashed potatoes, it is impossible to screw those up. We watched Inglorious Basterds afterward, which is always a great movie.

Following the movie, I skyped the family. It was really nice to talk to Sharon and John as well as Margo and Kent. Kent made some repairs on my car, which excites me because I'm fairly sure he replaced more than just the tail light. I'll have to wait until May to see for myself though. After talking to the family until 3am I tried calling my grandma in Vancouver but there was no answer. She must have already gone out for supper with John, Johanne and the kids.

On the 26th, I hopped on a flight to Oslo to experience the cold of the north. The cold yet to be experienced in good ol' Switzerland. I think the entire time I was there, the temperature was a consistent -15° which was rather uncomfortable when initially going outside considering I have yet to completely stop wearing my flip flops in Switzerland. Needless to say, I finally broke in my long johns and winter jacket this year. I have a feeling the only time I will be wearing either of those again will be snowboarding.

While in Norway, I stayed with a family that Ryan put me in touch with, the Nipens. They were extremely nice to let me stay with them for 4 nights when the house was already so busy. So to show them my appreciation, I brought a kilo of raclette (Swiss fondue cheese) with me. That led to questions with airport security when I brought it on carry-on as I do with all of my stuff. They requested to see my bag and found the raclette sitting right on top. The lady checking my bag openly grinned and showed the guy at the scanner and proceeded to tell me I was clear.

Since the flight was in the evening, the story begins the following day. Olav took me to see the statue park, where there is a very large statue made of solid granite with over 100 naked people built into it. There were also other naked statues and more naked statues. Why do North Americans all feel the need to live ridiculously sheltered lives? Naked statues aren't going to go crazy and rape you. But if someone decided to put a statue like that up in NA, someone would definitely shit a brick and cry aloud until is was taken down. Same goes for advertisements. Euro-ads are going to be one of the things I miss. Their tolerance and openness for such things is awesome. Wow, that was a slight tangent...

The following day, Anita, Matthias, and Thomas showed John and I around Oslo. We walked up the opera house shaped like an iceberg, went by the Royal Palace, the parliament building, and ate at McDonald's. Overall, the city wasn't super impressive and not the typical style you'd picture as Norwegian. We went to a bar to have a beer. If you've ever heard that Oslo is expensive, you'd be correct. A beer costs something like 12CHF. Ugh. Tastes very very similar to Canadian beer too.

On the 29th, I went on a day trip to Tonsberg. It is supposedly the oldest town in Norway. It didn't particularly look that old, but it did have a tower on the top of a hill. That has got to count for something. I was going to eat some fish at a restaurant until I realized I'd be spending 40CHF. I then opted for some sort of burger at some burger place. I don't know the details and it theoretically could have been ground dog meat for all I know. But it was pretty good. Tonsberg has some ruin areas where the base remains of buildings that once stood. But other than that, there isn't much around. There were a whole lot of stereotypical Norwegian wooden houses in the residential area, but I didn't walk through much of it.

That evening, I went with Matthias and Anita to a bar in Sandvika (the city that I stayed in, 14km west of Oslo) and met some cool Norwegians. They all spoke English very well and I get the feeling some of them enjoyed practising with a native English-speaker. There was a local band playing, which was pretty cool. When we left, Matthias and I tried to get some kebabs but the shop was closed. We admitted defeat and took a cab home. Where we made delicious sandwiches.

The 30th was my final day before I headed back to Zürich that evening. I got Matthias to teach me to cross-country ski. I feel that I did rather well considering I've never worn skis before. The only problems occurred when gravity became a factor. Going up hills was fine, but downhill was a pretty messy experience. I tried to pizza as I've seen 4 year olds doing at ski hills. No dice. Pocket full of snow instead. It was a good experience and it was very enjoyable.

It was really enjoyable to spend time with a family over the Christmas break. It was only when I arrived in their home that I felt anything related to Christmas

Upon arriving back in Baden, I walked back to my house in flip flops at midnight. The youth of Baden waiting for the bus probably thought I was a little crazy. I continue my trend of wearing flip flops outside for every month of the year in this country.

That being said, I am now sick. Before you feel the need to comment, this occurred long before I wore my flip flops home. I don't feel terrible, but I have a pretty bad sounding cough and occasional congestion issues. I missed the Davos ski day on Saturday because of it, and now I missed a day of work. I was capable of working and concentrating, but I opted to avoid getting an actual worker sick which costs the company far more than it costs them for me to watch House all day.

My mom is coming on the 23rd for a little over a week! Yay! I was asked to look for some reasonable flights to somewhere warm for a weekend. Anybody know if Albania is warm this time of year? I'm sure my mom would just LOVE to go there. That will be the next eventful thing to blog about I think. Apart from the skiing planned for next weekend and the weekend after that. Ironic or amusing things might come up there, so an update is likely.

As a parting message, I wish to remind you of the rant I made many months ago about how hot Italian women are. I need to include the comment that after being in Norway, GAWD. No such thing as ugly Norwegian girls (of Nordic descent). They simply don't exist.