BootsnAll Travel Network

Our trip is a failure.

April 24th, 2006

So we are officially (maybe unofficially) back now.  Some stats on our trip:

Countries kicked out of: 0

National monuments desecrated: 0

European Countesses seduced: 0

European Duchesses seduced: 0

European Commoners seduced: 0

Fistfights with soccer hooligans: 0

Vampires defeated: 1.25 (the second was a half vampire and I only got credit for half the kill)

Werewolves defeated:0

Werewolves seduced: 0

Hasselhoff sightings: 0

ERA: 3.88

All in all we have to write this off as a learning experience.


The Great Fire of London burns in my pants.

April 24th, 2006

We got to London in the early afternoon. We went to our hotel to drop off our bags. We mostly stank of seawater and various venereal diseases but we wanted to get as much seen in London in the next two days as possible so there was no time for showering.

The Tube system in London is obscene. There are branches of branches of routes and colors (colours) for lines that range from green to forest to lime. We managed to find our way to the lower west side of the Thames to see the Parliament building, Big Ben, and a statue of Wilt Chamberlain that makes him look like Kingpin from the Marvel Comic Universe.

We went into Westminster Abbey to see the grand cathedral. The inside is very impressive and grand, but there are so many memorials and statues to the departed that it looks like they were thrown there by a violent behemoth working on a short deadline. That being said, holy crap there are some rich people in England.  We then journeyed to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. We did this mainly so I could mock him and his supposed accomplishments, but the theater is actually cool to see. We then went to Wimbledon but were too late to see anything.

The next day we got up early and set off for the Tower of London. It is an impressive sight but there is almost too much to see. The armories are really neat even if you don’t like guns. My favorite moment was when I asked one of the beefeaters if they had bear baiting there and he immediately started laughing. He also guessed that we wanted directions to the dungeon area two seconds into our conversation. I guess Jay just has that look about him.

After the Tower, we still had time to kill so we tried to make our way to the Saatchi Gallery on recommendation from Florida. He neglected to mention that it was closed, as in gone. Neat trick, buddy. It turned out to be okay because they had Dali Universe on the other side of the buidling and it was open. We went in and took in the sights. There weren’t many paintings, mainly etchings and drawings, but they did have Spellbound which is incredible. The whole experience was very surreal. /rimshot

We then made our way to Matt’s place in Oxford. It turned out here landlady’s nephew was in town at the same time as us (with family) so we would be sleeping on Matt’s floor instead of the common room couches. Jay shows remarkable adaptability in situations like this and suffered without complaint. I am basically a masochist at heart.

We went out for a few pints the first night and turned in. The following day, we did the awesomely unthinkable and rented a car in England. Yours truly got to drive in England since I am over 25 and Jay is not. Matt had to work so we took the entire day and went to see Stonehenge and the Avebury rock formation. Stonehenge is very clean and roped off, but it is still pretty impressive to see. You get fairly close to get a good perspective on what it was like and how impressive building it must have been. The Avebury rock circle isn’t as impressive, but it isn’t roped off, you don’t have to pay to see it, and there is also Silbury hill close by. The rocks are in the middle of sheep pastures so the only trick is avoiding their leavings.  There is also a burial mound close by but we ran out of time and had to get the car back to Oxford.

A word about driving in England, the only real trick is shifting with your left hand.  And I don’t drive manual normally so it took a while for me to get the feel down again.  I left a significant portion of the tires in the Stonehenge parking lot.  Also, I drove on the right side for a portion of the trip.  It was an empty road with no lines painted.  I would argue that it was entrapment.

We returned to Oxford for dinner and a few drinks with Matt and Andrea.  The following day Matt showed us around Oxford.  The University is composed of a loose alliance between 36 different colleges.  Many of these are significantly old and have a lot of history to them.  It is pretty neat to see all of the old chapels and such.  Matt’s friend Heather also took us up one of the towers to get a cool view of the campus.  Overall it was pretty cool.

It was our last night of our trip so we went out for a traditional English meal (bangers and mash, actually better than it sounds) and then got tanked.  Matt, Jay, and I stumbled back to Matt’s place in a drunken stupor.  Jay called Valerie on the street and we proceeded to have the conversation every group of friends has with their buddy’s girlfriend.  At some point along the route home Jay got in the quote of the night:

Old English Slags: Where are you guys from?

Caleb: Chicago.

Old English Slags: We love your accent.

Jay: First of all, we don’t have an accent, you do.

Good times.


…the beaches at Normandy…

April 22nd, 2006

The overnight express put us in Paris with no time to sightsee.  We figured we were better off anyway since I haven’t spoken French regularly in more than ten years.  Eventually, we made our way to Bayeux.  Once there, we worked our way to tourist information to find a guest house to stay at.  We were able to locate one at a reasonable price, but the operators did not speak English.  I managed to struggle through our conversations with them.

 We arrived a little to late to get out to anything so we spent the first day seeing what there was to see in Bayeux.  This included the Bayeux tapestry, which is a 70 meter long cloth detailing a story of the Norman conquest of England.  It’s actually kind of neat to see, but they force you to listen to the story three times through.  I guess in France they do their best to focus on the rare victory.

That night we ate food and turned in early.  The following day would have been more full but we had to book our ferry trip to England.  This meant missing the morning buses to the beaches since the agency didn’t open until 0900.  The afternoon would have to be packed full.  We signed up for a tour and made it out around 1pm.  We got to see most of there is to see at Omaha Beach.  It is pretty impressive and interesting.  You can’t help but contemplate and pontificate while there.  Also, it makes you want to use big words.

One of the interesting sites is the German cemetary, which is huge but rarely visited.  It is understandable, but tragic at the same time.

We saw the beach itself, some bunkers, old mine fields, a museum, and the American cemetary.  It is amazing how many foreigners are there to visit these sites and not just Americans, Canadians, and British tourists.

After returning to Bayeux, we made our way to Caen for our night ferry ride across the English Channel.  This ferry ride was even less comfortable than previous rides.  The only note of significance is that I did huck my second disc into the English Channel off the back of the ferry.  I went to sleep knowing that I would wake up in the land of tea, monarchs, and [insert insensitive British stereotype].


It’s Mainz, not yours

April 22nd, 2006

I know I’m behind on this.  Hopefully I can get caught up in the next day and a half. 

After a very brief train ride, we were in Mainz, a medium sized German city.  Kyle is studying there at the Max Plank Institute.  He kindly sent his twin brother James Van Der Beek to pick us up from the train station. 

After getting acquanted and acclimated to Kyle’s newly IKEA furnished apartment, we set out to buy food, beer, and lunch.  It should be noted at this time that I neglected to mention that Jay ate gyros as much as possible in Greece.  I believe the official count was seven gyros in the course of five days.  In Mainz, he was determined to soak his body in as much donor as possible because he wouldn’t be able to get one again for a long time.  The final count seven donors in four days.  I enjoyed not quite as many, but reveled in the experience of watching Jay do this to himself.

Our first night there we went out to buy a case of beer for the weekend.  We mixed and matched with a variety of German beers at the grocery store.  The cashier had fun ringing it up.  That night, we went to a bar in Mainz called Sausolitos.  Why you would ever go to another bar in Mainz is beyond me.  It is a Mexican restaurant but all the waitresses are gorgeous and most of patrons are attractive German women.  I would guess that the women outnumber the men in this bar 3:1.  For some reason, we left this bar and went to a German disco.  They played 80’s pop music which was funny, but it was way crowded and annoying.

Now would be a good time to make a generalization about German people.  German people are friendly, happy, and enjoy a good time.  I really enjoyed the people there.  The women are attractive and nice.  If I could speak the language and learned to stop crying all the time I’m sure things would have been more amicable.

 The next day we left early to go to the German wine country on the Rhein.  We sampled many wines and Kyle enjoyed Jay’s fine food.  Wine sampling is a great past time.  You can get drunk for free here if you want.  Combined we purchased nine bottles of wine.  When we got back, we went to a cookout at Kyle’s friend’s place.  Neal is a nice guy and most of the people seemed friendly, but we were very tired and all were German.  We turned in when they went out to the pubs.

Our last day was spent seeing the sights in Mainz.  Most could be ignored, but the cathedral in Mainz is incredible.  The place is enormous and filled with statues.  I was really impressed with the whole asthetic.  That night, we returned to Sausolitos to generate new sins the day before Easter. 

The next day was spent mostly packing, getting a shipment of wine and beer ready to be sent home, and figuring out our plans for Normandy.  Kyle saw us off to the train station and we were on our way on an overnight train to Paris, the City of Brotherly Apple.


Vaihingen cannot be pronounced.

April 15th, 2006

Eight years ago Jay participated in a foreign-exchange program with a school in Germany.  The student he was paired with was named Sabine and she is a fun, little German girl who is nice enough to let Jay stay with her whenever he visits.  More specifically, we stayed at her parents’ house as she has moved into her own apartment now.  They live in the town of Vaihingen in southern Germany near Stutgart.

We arrived pseudounannounced at her parents’ doorstep much to the suprise of Sabine’s mom.  Jay had called Sabine but she had not had the time to call her mother and let her know we were arriving.  So it was a pleasant surprise and she immediately greeted us and got us accommodated.  You may appreciate how polite that is if you read the previous post and recall that we had been traveling for two days straight and most likely smelled of sweat and misery. 

Sabine’s parents do not speak English.  They do not even speak the German that Jay learned in high school.  They speak Swabian, a dialect of southern Germany.  This made communication amusing and challenging at times.  Her mother made the effort to communicate as best as possible. 

The first night we showered, ate, and slept.  We were too exhausted to do much else.  Sabine came over and we got acquainted/reacquainted.  Mrs. Grau made us shnitzel.  All was good.

The next day we traveled a bit around Vaihingen to see the sights and run some errands.  I got my postcard mailed and we went to the candy store to buy gummies for people back home.  Mrs. Grau showed us around town and the surrounding area.  The German countryside is very nice and the architecture is interesting.  It’s hard to imagine that there are buildings in this area that are older than our entire country.  Some day I will ask my brother what life was like back then.

 We then met Sabine in downtown Stutgart for some shopping/sightseeing.  We browsed around and bought some things.  Jay had to buy Birkenstocks because a)he finds them comfortable, b)they are much cheaper here than in the U.S., and c)he hates me and wants me to suffer as much as possible.  We then returned home to enjoy a wonderful meal of spätsle (a traditional Swabian dish).  Very good.  We then had a few local beers and watched the end of the soccer game. 

Our final full day in Vaihingen was the most hectic.  We woke up in the morning early so that Sabine and Jay could visit the old school they attended while Jay was here eight years ago.  After a bit of socializing and making Caleb feel awkward for being the only one in the room who doesn’t speak German, we traveled around much of the Stutgart area looking for a golf course.  We knew one was there, it was the location that took effort to find.  I needed to buy a hat for my dad.  The second course we went to had one.

Then Sabine had to go to work so Jay and I went to the Porsche museum.  We were hoping to kill a lot of time but it is very small (one room, about ten cars) and we were done a lot sooner than expected.  We looked in the guide book and discovered that the art museum (Staats Gallerie) was free on Wednesdays.  Today was a Wednesday!  Woopie!  We went and viewed some wonderful paintings, mostly from German artists.  We then headed back to meet Sabine for more shoe shopping (another Woopie! except sarcasm) and a goodbye drink.  We said our long goodbyes at the train station.  We then returned to Vaihingen for a last meal from Mrs. Grau.

The night before she had said she was making bratwurst.  I was excited as this would remind me of home in Wisconsin.  She seemed happy that I was excited and asked what I eat with my bratwurst.  I said sauerkraut.  The Germans do not do this the way we do in Wisconsin.  When I said sauerkraut, they thought I meant as a side dish.  They do not put sauerkraut on the wurst like we do.  They seemed intrigued when I explained this to them, but her mother went and got a sauerkraut recipe book.  While paging through, I found a recipe for pasta rolled with sauerkraut and bacon.  Upon seeing my reaction, her mother decided to make this for us.  Mrs. Grau is now my second favorite mom in the world.  Again after dinner beers were enjoyed during the soccer game.  Bayern-Munchen won.  Boo.

The next morning we packed up and had a little time to go see the palace in Vaihingen before heading to the train station for the trip to Mainz to see Kyle.  We said our goodbyes to Mrs. Grau and waited an extra half hour for our delayed train.

I am at Kyle’s right now.  I will detail our adventures in Mainz when we are ready to leave to ensure it is all encompassing.


A Journey with no Steve Perry

April 14th, 2006

Saturday we packed up early and headed for the train station to catch a train from Athens to the western coast of Greece. From there we were to board an overnight ferry to Italy. The day started with bad karma as I forgot my passport at the hostel and had to run back and get it in eight minutes or we would miss the train. I’m just glad I was in shape from frisbee and was able to do so with time to spare. I just wish I knew a way to make me less stupid so I wouldn’t do this sort of thing in the first place.

We boarded the train and settled in for the long ride across the country. Greece looks a lot like the rest of the planet. We slept or read for most of the trip. We had to switch trains once, which I hate and refuse to do from here on out. The European rail system will have to bend to my will. I’m sick of conformity.

We got on the ferry and were ready for a nightime voyage across the sea. We met a guy from Iowa named Beau who was on his way to Rome. He was cool and agreed that drinking at night would make the trip more bearable. Ferry rides are dull in general and this one was especially cold so little to no time would be spent above deck.

The ferry was airplane style seating. We took up the back row to the right and the rest of the front rows were taken up by a large group of Italian high school girls. The Italians are attractive people, but I would like to add for the record that the legal age of consent in the country you are currently in does not make it right. (Luckily we were in international waters)

We slept through most of the afternoon and when we woke up we were ready to start drinking. Jay was slow and sluggish so we left him to get started and figured he would catch up eventually. While he was alone and still half asleep, one Italian girl came over to him and woke him by talking to him in a language he did not understand, most likely Italian. Jay responded by staring at her while her friends laughed. Jay is convinced she was hitting on him. I am convinced she was complaining about the smell.

We finished a bottle of rum and then some between the three of us while playing cards. We then made the easy transition to sleeping until we got to Bari, a port city in Southern Italy. Unfortunately, we arrived without pirates boarding our ship. If this had happened, I would have signed up and lived out the rest of my days raiding merchant vessels and drinking rum on the high seas. The best laid plans of mice and men…

We boarded a train bound for Milan and settled in for the long trip up the Italian coast.  This train was ridiculously crowded and generally uncomfortable.  We hoped to stop at some point and get a nice dinner but timing would be important to catch the night train to Basel.  We got off the train in Bologna and hoped to head to Florence, then get on said night train (not the wine) and make it Germany early the next day.  Unfortunately, no one in the Bologna train station spoke English (with the exception of two Dutch Marissa Coopers who were as frustrated as we were) and near as we can figure it, the attendant told us we could not get on the night train.  We decided to try to get a hotel room and get some food.  After an hour of walking around Bologna and trying to find a open hotel room we called it quits and decided to get as far North as possible.  It was very hot in Bologna and we had our packs while doing this so it should be understood that we were both tired and weighed less when we got on a train bound for Milan. 

Before I forget, Bologna is sketchy.

We got to Milan after all the trains were done running.  We had resigned ourselves to sleeping in the train station.  We saw a group of girls with packs in a similar situation as we were so we introduced ourselves.  They turned out to be Spanish but they spoke good English and were very cordial.  We all got as comfortable as possible in the train staiton wating room on the wooden benches with dividers spaced about every five feet.  Everyone got some sleep with the exception of yours truly who stayed awake to keep guard.  I was tired but had enough energy to fight off the vampire who tried to get one of the Spanish girls.  Then I was named Earl of Tuscany.  I may have been hallucinating at some point.

We got on a train to Basel (Switzerland) in the morning.  A merciful God allowed this train to be not crowded and comfortable so I could catch some much needed rest.  I awoke in the snowy Swiss countryside, which is as gorgeous as any movie you have ever seen makes it seem.  I didn’t meet enough Swiss people to make an unfair generalization about their appearance, so I am going to start a new rumor for fun.  One out of every nine Swiss people has lupus.

A small bit of jogging around with trains and we were finally in Germany and shortly in Vaihingen at Sabine’s parents.  Our exploits in the land of chocolate will be detailed next.



April 13th, 2006

Just a few pictures from Athens. Not in the mood to update right now. Check back later.

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No man is a Mykonos

April 11th, 2006


The next updates are going to be in series so I don’t have to do this all at once.  So eventually this will be up to date but for now I am limiting the discussion of this entry to our last days in Greece.

We decided to go to the island of Mykonos.  We decided this in the bar at the hostel in Athens while drinking and talking Champions league with John and Kelly.  This is a slapstick reenactment of my conversation with Jay asking him about Mykonos.

“So is Mykonos a party island?”

“Sort of.  It’s the gay party island.”

“Okay, cool…WHA-WHA-HUH????!!!!!”

 That’s not bigotted.  Mykonos is the gay friendly island.  During the tourist season there are gay clubs and gay beaches.  That’s not to say that it’s a gay-only island.  There are plenty of normal bars and normal beaches.  That, and it wasn’t tourist season yet anyway so the island would be mostly empty. 

Mykonos was fun.  It isn’t quite the tourist season so a lot of things were closed.  We had a beach to ourselves.  Swimming in the Mediterranean was a masochistic ordeal but it was necessary to consider the trip successful.  Everything was cheap though.  We rented a car (E 30) and drove around the whole island, which required some offroading on Jay’s part despite the fact that the car was a Fiat. 

 We returned to Athens for a night and got drunk with Kelly and John again.  This time though, our quiet little watering hole was crowded.  Kelly had a hell of a night but she was sweet enough to wake up and cook us breakfast.  We said our goodbyes and went to the ferry.  Matt had taken off earlier to catch his plane but we will catch back up with him in Oxford.

 Kelly, the bacon needs to be cooked longer.  It should be all brown.

 John, good luck fending off the American ladies.

We had a blast at the Hostel and hope to stay in touch.

Up next I will detail our journey from Athens to Germany.


Athens in Ruins

April 4th, 2006

We have now walked Athens North to South pretty much in its entirety.  My feet are sore and I need a nap but the sites here are pretty cool.  For those interested, the National Archeology Museum is incredible.

 Athens is a maze.  The street names are all printed in Greek and in English but the English spelling varies from the signs and the maps so it makes things more difficult.  Phonetic pronunciation is required to navigate the streets.  It is a dirty city in general and the neighborhoods we walked down would appear sketchy in any other city.  There are stray dogs everywhere that just lie around.  Most would be attractive animals with a little upkeep.  I don’t like them very much because they are lazy and there are too many pigeons.  The dogs should be able to take care of this problem.

 The Greeks as a people are not attractive.  The very attractive ones are very few and there seem to be many who have been convinced by themselves or others that they are attractive when an objective bystander (me) could tell them otherwise.  For what it’s worth, the Greek women tend to put a lot of emphasis on their good qualities (whatever they may be) but I tend to require a complete package.  I will end the discussion there.

 The weather has been kind to us.  Temperatures range in the 60s and we only had a little rain Monday afternoon and night.  This makes it ideal for walking around.  I credit this to a sacrificial ritual we perfomed in honor of Poseidon upon our arrival here.  Me and Poseidon are homies-4-life now.  We have seen the Acropolis and Hadrian’s Wall among other things.  These are very cool to see but are kept far back behind ropes preventing a intimate feel that would immerse one in ancient culture.  I find this sad, but understand their reasons for doing so.

 At night we have gone out to a restaraunt and drank a little before returning to the hostel to socialize in the bar area.  The workers here have been very kind, especially during a power outage last night.  Three Australians and a Brazilian entertained and informed us while waiting for power to be restored.  Free shots of Ouzo after the lights came back on made for an easy night’s rest.

 Tomorrow we head to Mykonos.  I don’t know what internet access will be like there so this may be the last entry until we get to Germany.  From Mykonos we go to a port in West Greece, take a ferry to Italy, and take a train to Germany to stay with Jay’s host family.  We hope to stop in Bologna to take in fine foods. 

We are having problems getting pictures uploaded so bear with us.  Trust me when I say I’m nothing special to look at anyway.




F***** Hostel

April 2nd, 2006

Writing this in Athens at our Hostel. It’s alright. Hostels are hostels. Athens is a maze. I’m just glad to be off a plane and sleeping in a bed.

Our room stinks like Jay.

No pics yet. Maybe after today.