HRH Ashjolina, Ruler of Ashford

HRH Ashjolina, Ruler of Ashford
God Dust the Queen!!! by Mark Otero/POPGUN Design SF/USA

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Travel Adventures of others stuck Under the Ash Cloud

Here's a new adventure on the blog...
Adventures of others that are stuck...and the first entry is from a fellow co-worker who made a fatal error and broke off from the other team members, and did not take the last flight out of Cologne back to London.  He decided to stay back and see a few more sites, and now calls Cologne home for the past week!  haha.  We have tried to get him to get over to London, but as the closures continue, train travel has become harder.  Here's his little take on the travel adventure...

Stuff it turns out I really like about Germany 

On my vacashion (get it? vac-ash-ion?), I was stranded in Germany. Not just any part of Germany, but perhaps the happiest, strangest, most unexpected place in Germany – Phantasia Land. When I think Germany, I think industry, engineering, beer, well-built cars, WWII and knockwurst. I had never considered the idea of a roller coaster called The Black Mamba, or fuzzy costumed animals wanting to hug me as I walk through a hotel lobby. I’m not kidding. Check this out… <> Turns out, Phantasia Land is pretty great, a well-decorated, extra clean theme park about 30% of the size of Disneyland, but also with very short lines during off season. There are three rides worth riding twice, and I rode them all. The Black Mamba I road four times, which is at least once too many.
(What’s fun about the Black Mamba is the endless accidental double entendres it generates from otherwise innocent people. My co-workers had a fairly long discussion about whether or not it was better to ride the Black Mamba in the back, or if it was more fun to ride it up front. I laughed and laughed, because I’m very silly.)
After two days of meetings and theme park fun, I was ready to go home. And then Iceland blew up and the ash hit the air stream. Suddenly, the fact that a roller coaster filled with screaming people was right outside my window was no longer cute. It was time to leave Phantasialand.
I’ve spent the last three days exploring Bruhl and Cologne, walking and eating and walking and eating, and I have to say, this has been way, way better than trying to hitch a ride to Milan, getting there 8 hours later only to realize that the airport is shut down and having to sleep on the floor near a puddle of urine. This actually happened to some folks who work for my company. It sounded unpleasant and I pondered their fate as I dined on surprisingly good pizza in a German cafĂ©.
If you are American and ever have a chance to spend time in Germany, here are some things I really like about Germany…
     Just about everyone, especially people who work in restaurants and stores, speak enough English to serve you food or sell you stuff. English is taught for a couple years in high school, so you won’t go long before you find someone who speaks English well enough to help you out.

And I’m not talking about touristy areas. I spent a decent amount of time in a cool little neighborhood called South Cologne, which is kind of a college town meets Greenwich Village meets The Haight (in San Francisco) meets South Street (in Philly). You know the place. It’s where the cool college kids hang out, drink in bars, buy bongs in head shops, eat good yet inexpensive food and figure out ways to look laid back and cool. I think every big city in the world has one of these neighborhoods. In Cologne, its South Cologne, or if you are on the train and decoding the German, it’s Koln Sud.
2.      Germans love their dogs. True, we love our dogs in the U.S. as well. But in Germany, they seem to be treated as a slightly lower level of person. You see them on the trains. You see them in restaurants. You see them in stores. And these are the most polite well-trained dogs I’ve ever seen. They just sit there with their family and look around, waiting for someone to give a little something to nibble. My dog would not be into that. He would be a little more insistent when near a table covered in sausages and deep fried pork.

3.      The street musicians in Cologne are the best in the world. I’ve been to a lot of big cities and listened to a lot of amateurs singing and playing songs for a few coins. New York, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, Chicago, Los Angeles, London – I get around. And I love music, and I will linger around good tunes played live and even throw some money into the guitar case.

But Cologne, wow, every corner in the busy shopping district seemed to have a world class musician. A violinist playing Mozart and Beethoven as well as I’ve ever heard. And he was backed up by two sullen accordion players, a tuba player and a guy playing a bass violin made from the tip of a row boat. They looked like a band from a Dr. Suess book.

Around the corner there was a duo of acoustic jazz guitarists who filled the air with the same music you might hear in a Woody Allen movie. I kept expecting Scarlett Johansen to show up. Then there were a couple acoustic rockers, one guy with a froggy, scratchy voice so full of soul and pain and sorrow it broke my heart. I would have paid money to hear any one of these acts, and yet here they were playing for free.

4.       The town of Bruhn, a suburb of Cologne, is a little gem of a town so cute you could tweak its chubby little German cheeks. The main attraction there (other than the commuter train station) is the Schloss Augustusburg (or the Augustusburg Palace), a massive mansion built in 1725 by a very, shall we say, extravagant archbishop named Clemens Augustus. It was his summer home and featured things like a dining room decked out in blue and white tiles so it would be cool in summer, gold dipped statues, gold etched wall paper, and ceiling paintings so extravagant they would make Michael Angelo say, “Really? Isn’t that just a bit much?” The palace tour also passes by an electric toilet Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both, in theory, sat on. I’m not kidding. They both went to parties there, and well, you drink a lot of punch, one thing leads to another…
You can see a little of the castle here… <> But you really need to see it in person for the full effect. Clemens was like the P. Diddy of his day. He was very into throwing extravagant costume parties and creating spectacles with fireworks and tournaments. He also wore blue tights and high heels. I know this because there is one portrait of him (and there are about 100 of them in the house) where he’s lifting his skirt and showing a lot of thigh…and grinning a little. Archbishops were a little different back then.
5.      The pizza in Germany is surprisingly good. That’s because it’s probably made by actual Italians who make it very thin in the Roman style. You can’t get pepperoni pizza here. I don’t know why. It’s a sausage and there are a million kinds of sausages here. But not pepperoni. You can get salami on your pizza, and it’s not half bad.
And yes the beer is very, very good. And its spelled bier, which makes it easy to find.
Thanks for everything Germany! It’s been fun. I’d like to leave now. Would that be okay? Please?


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