Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hello again world!

So here I am, back in Asia again.

For those of you who don't know, my childhood friend Patrick and I decided to embark on a 14 week adventure to Asia. We've been friends since third grade, when I first moved to California, and have stayed friends ever since. He's really easygoing, and I'm getting a lot better at it, so I think we make a good travel team. Seriously, it's day 45 right now, and we've bickered maybe once or twice? And resolved in 5 seconds later?

Right now, I'm sitting in a hostel in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of Vietnam. We've just spent almost three weeks in this dichotomous country, and it is time to move on to Cambodia, lest we run out of time on this trip! It is amazing how time flies, and I can't believe we're almost halfway through this trip.

We've experienced the expat lifestyle of Hong Kong for 5 days, been treated wonderfully by [Patrick's] Taiwanese friends and family, relaxed in Filipino tropical paradise, and taken in sights, sounds, and emotions that make of the, for lack of better words, dichotomous country of Viet Nam.

So far, I have had an absolute blast, and have had virtually no homesickness (I thought this would be a recurring problem). I do miss my friends, but Facebook and iChat are quite helpful for keeping in touch halfway around the world.

I've learned quite a bit about myself this trip already, and am continuing to develop as a global citizen, and understanding how my brain works, and how I operate in a wide variety of circumstances. Needless to say I've already met quite a few cool people, and I'm really happy that I'm taking this trip with such a flexible, longtime friend - I really think knowing each other so well is quite helpful, and his go-with-the-flow attitude complements my efficiency-obsessed ethos. Especially as one of my 2013 goals is to be less efficient at life. Strange, but necessary, I think.

Anyway, without boring you too much more, I will get to the short-but-sweet point of this post:

Although I'm not blogging this trip officially, I am keeping a daily log of my travels, just some notes and a little commentary, so that I can better remember the details of this trip for the rest of my life! I have decided that I will post them here, as a brief blog of sorts. Do feel free to ask any questions you have, and of course, you can see my favorite pictures on Facebook (and if you want to see ALL of the pictures, as I only post my own personal favorites, we'll see what we can do...)

So until I next see you, peace and love from SE Asia, and if you're in Cambodia, Thailand, or Malaysia (or maybe Singapore, too), let's meet up!

<3 dacrON

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Postscript: Thoughts and Future Plans

Although this trip was spontaneously conceived and planned in a matter of days, I did have some defined goals in going on such an adventure.

I had placed myself in the “I only want to travel with friends” category, and I wanted to know if that was just me being shy, or whether I really felt that way. In going to Europe, I planned a solo trip, but buffered it with a Scrabble tournament, as well as a few days with a friend. I wanted to take trains and buses, to stay in hostels, and to try CouchSurfing.

Boy am I ever glad I took this trip!

Because I traveled alone, I had to cope with any difficulties that came my way on my own. Getting sick as soon as I arrived in Vienna made the transition difficult, and I even had to change my arrangements in Prague. The Sleazy-Jet scandal was also quick thinking – a situation in which I would have failed miserably even a year before. It was extremely encouraging to see that I could persevere and troubleshoot obstacles in my path – intimating that perhaps I’d be OK moving abroad somewhere in the future, too.

Hosteling and CouchSurfing, while completely different experiences, were both totally awesome in their own ways. Hosteling in a party city like Prague was great because the MadHouse was designed for young, solo travelers. It was like a little utopia, in a way. I know not all hostels are this amazing, but I’m lucky to have found this one this time around. And if the World Scrabble Championships are ever in Prague…awesome..

Through Couchsurfing, I really got to throw myself out there. I had to plan and organize my arrangements in both Vienna and Zurich. I want to say that I am lucky to have had such amazing hosts, but I think they are fairly representative of the kindness the community as a whole offers. I look forward to hosting travelers one day when I’m not house-sitting everyday already!

The bottom line is, I got to meet a lot of really cool people, and learn so much about myself, of what I really am capable of when I force myself to push my risk-aversive nature aside, and just live.

I did learn that while I do enjoy traveling solo, I don’t enjoy being by myself. By that, I mean visiting tourist attractions by myself, eating by myself, etc. I’m more than happy to travel solo and meet people to be touristy with, eat with, drink with. That’s all great, and I wanted to prove that true or false to myself this trip. And I think I proved it true, though when I do travel solo again, I will need to consider how much stuff I am willing to do on my own, because that did get tiring.

That said, if I had my choice, I’d prefer to travel with a friend or two. At the end of the day, my long-term close friends mean everything to me, and I love sharing experiences with people that I will be talking to a month down the road. I’m all for brief encounters with people around the world, but ultimately, my close friends are everything.

One other helpful nugget I picked up is that central Europe is not somewhere I will be living. While I greatly enjoyed every city I visited, I don’t think I’d thrive in the winter weather, and I prefer the, as Jesse Day calls it, the “making it up as I go along” ethos of Asia. It’s no wonder the only cty in the USA I really want to move to is Portland, which is the closest the US comes to that ethos. Good to know, though I won’t count Western Europe out without visiting it first (whenever that is…)
So, what’s next?

Well, it’s been a month since I got home, and my brain is churning. I still have a good chunk of money saved up, and no real desire to go out and get a full time job I don’t want when I can go out and see the world.

I have a couple of friends who seem very ready to hit the road. I would like to go back to Asia, next. I definitely didn’t get to see all of Southeast Asia by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe I could visit some other parts of Asia, too.

But this is all speculation, as I work out a couple of other life details, and see f my friends are ready to go all-in. Give me another month. Though I can hardly wait…

I have aspirations of maybe moving abroad later in 2013, or maybe traveling to South America in 2014 for the World Cup and another backpacking odyssey (Jesses, I’m looking at you). I’d lke to go to the World Scrabble Championships at the end of 2013, the Godswill African Championships in Nigeria one year not too far in the future, and to travel or even get a work visa in Australia/New Zealand.
But hey, there’s time, and I’ve got some money. If there’s anything this trip taught me, it’s that the world is out there, and I am determined to see as much of it as I can, especially before I have to get a day job.

But for now, it’s time for a mini-journey. I’m on a plane to New Orleans right now (yeah OK I didn't post this for a couple more weeks). Although I quashed my anxiety issues with my future in the last third of 2012, those anxiety demons are still getting the best of me in my Scrabble pursuits, and this is my chance to start exorcising them. That, plus amazing food and drink I got a taste of last year.

So yeah, time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight that is going to be 2013. Thanks for reading this blog, and I hope to share a travel experience with you one day – always feel free to ask if you have any questions, or any plans you want to share. Or if, you know, you wanna team up for an adventure. :)

Love always,


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Zurich, Switzerland: Above a Winter Wonderland

After a full night sleep, I woke to find a big spread of breads, cured meats, and cheese waiting for me on the kitchen table. So I may have completely pigged out on that. Did I mention how amazing my Zurich hosts were?

Andrea then even offered to do some laundry for me, which if you’ve been paying close attention will notice I never did laundry this trip until now, the very last day). Upon learning of my lack of gloves and hat (sorry Doug), Andrea insist we go up to her dad’s house (also her childhood home) to get some warmer stuff for me. It was cool to be in a true suburb of a European city. Definitely felt like a US suburb, except for the perfectly white snow covering everything, which I’m not used to in the Bay Area.

The swimming pool (or was it a pond?) in the backyard had frozen over to the point where I could walk around on it! How fun! Then, we drove back to the flat and then prepared to visit the city. Andrea’s flat is in a suburb about 15 minutes from the city itself, so it was a short train ride into town.
After arriving, we surveyed downtown for a Swiss-style lunch place. I have to have one crazy-expensive-regular-meal in Switzerland, right?

We decided on one and it was crazy busy for the lunch hour. We did, however, find a place to sit. After debating between lots of meat dishes, I ended up deciding on a meat-free dish – pasta with cheese, potatoes and grilled onions. Needed more onions, but it was a carbo-loading sure to keep me full for awhile. I also had another Swiss beer, although the name escapes me at the moment. I probably have a picture of it somewhere.

We next went to [chocolate place]. We’re talking the real deal fancy schamncy chocolate. Andrea’s advice was to go for the macaroons, and that’s exactly what we did. Champagne, caramel, raspberry, oh the list goes on. Here’s our catch:

We decided to save the macaroons for the mountain.

We had one more stop: Uetliberg. Uetliberg isn’t really much of a village, but rather just a mini-mountain near the city limits – in fact, it’s only accessible by the metro, as one of the line termini.
A quick note that the subway stations in Zurich are amazingly colorful!

Once arriving at the top of the hill, I saw easily my best view of the trip. A snow covered paradise, with small villages spread out below. The Alps stood proud in the background many miles beyond. I could’ve sat and stared for hours, but then I found out we weren’t actually at the top of the hill!

So we kept going up, and then the view got seriously panoramic. Now I could see the same view as before, plus the entire city of Zurich spread out before me, and miles of lakeside villages. I had access to what I’d estimate was a 225 degree view.

It brought me back to visiting the mountain in Hong Kong the year before, on the final day of my fall 2011 trip to SE Asia. Both experiences took place from small mountains near the city, yet both views completely different. One, a futuristic metropolis – the other, a winter wonderland. Maybe this whole “nice view on the last day” thing will become a tradition. Always gives me time to reflect.

Turned out we were a bit late for our dinner plans, but we just barely missed the train, so we had 30 minutes to kill. Enter: MACAROONS!

These were little bites of heaven. The flavors were all clear, and nothing was overpowering.
We took the train back into town, and met with Andrea’s mom for dinner. What’s for dinner? Well, actually, we were cooking dinner for the less fortunate! The menu…two types of risotto? Andrea are you crazy, or just an insanely badass chef to make two risottos from scratch? (I’ll give you a hint – she is a badass cook).

So I in fact got to learn how to make real risotto while in Zurich. You never really know what experiences you’re going to have when you CouchSurf in other countries. You really don’t.
One of the guys in for a meal helped cut onions. Dude could cut onions like a pro.

The old lady who helps with the coffee and tea, a crazy old well-meaning Swiss lady was as quirky as Andrea made her out to be, but was very complimentary of my pronunciation when I said thanks in German. Hey, I’ll take what I can get.

We served a good 40 portions of risotto each, and by the end of the evening I was feeling very good and very accomplished. Everyone who wanted seconds received seconds, and it was nothing short of a healthy, cooked-from-scratch delightful duo of risottos. Which reminds me, I need to practice making it again before I completely forget what to do – my dad likes risotto, and it’d be awesome to make him the real stuff, rather than the instant stuff he has!

Shockingly, I was still full from lunch (OK, I had a few tastes of the risotto, and a couple random dessert things), so Andrea and her mom took me to see some nice city views before heading home for the evening. There was not much of an opportunity for me to do much that evening due to my extremely early flight. I wanted to have some kind of rest…

The anticipation of heading home kept me up late, but I snuck in a few hours of sleep before waking up at 5AM to head to the airport. Andrea was so kind to bring me at this crack-of-dawn hour, and it really made all the difference for a smooth flight home. One stop (again in Duesseldorf), and to my luck, an older lady had sat in my aisle seat. But she was on the far left, with a lady sitting next to her, and her seat was in a completely empty row. Wanting the free space, and observing that she seemed nice and settled in (and seemed hesitant to move when I noticed she was in my seat), I offered to take the seat in the free row, and ended up having three seats to myself. Score!

All in all, an uneventful flight home. Except now I had 15 bars of chocolate with me!

OK, I’ll write a summary entry, in case anyone is actually reading these entries.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bern + Luzern + First Night in Zurich: Too Much for one day.

I packed and took the tram to the train station, and got on a morning train to the Swiss capital of Bern. I had a one day transportation pass in Switzerland, for only $50 US, so I planned to make good use of it.
The view of Lake Geneva was stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures because I was on the other side of the train (oops), and was pretty awestruck just staring at it on my own. Simply breathtaking.

My plan for Bern was to walk around the old town and then find a specific place that served rosti. I walked through a bit of old town, then tried to follow the signs to the bear garden, which was right next to the restaurant, but the signs pointed me in both directions. Finally I chose what I thought was the right direction, and had a pleasant stroll next to the Aare, and then found myself 35 minutes from the place, according to the sign. Frustrated, I crossed the river, and walked back. Unfortunately, this side was all iced over, and I had to walk slowly.

Walkway down the Aare:

Once I made it back to the starting point, I was concerned that there was lots of construction on the trail, and eventually just gave up. Instead,  I walked by the clock tower, and saw more of the old town. Frustrated, I decided to take the next train to Luzern, which I’d wanted to see more anyway, but not before I got a BrezelKoenig pretzel with raclette on it. It cured my annoyed mood, yum!
When I stepped out of the train in Luzern, all I could think was, “fuuuuuuck it is sooooooo cold.”
Luzern is a picturebook town on a namesake lake south of Zurich, I walked to the old town, and just had to sit on various benches and just enjoy the splendid scenery. There wasn’t really anything else I could do that would make me happier, so I figured, hey why not. It also meant sitting in the below-freezing cold, which was NOT helping. I eventually figured I’d be getting sick, so I walked inside for a bit, then over the covered bridges.

Lake Luzern:

Covered Bridge: 

But the wind chill signaling the impending evening was becoming too strong, and it was getting dark, so I decided it was time to head to Zurich. I'd love to come back to Luzern one day, maybe when I'm a bit older and just want somewhere to totally chill.

I hadn’t realized how close the two cities were, so the train had commuters, and it was just packed. I slept, mostly.

Upon reaching Zurich Hauptbahnhof, I found WiFi, and communicated my location to my CS host. Her name is Andrea, a psychology student who likes cooking. We finally found each other, and decided to cook dinner at home. We opted for rosti and pizza. I was Andrea’s first surfer, so I was in a sense, a test run (she lives with her super-cool mom).

Once I arrived home, we began cooking. Andrea is an awesome chef (wait for the next entry!), She helped me make rosti (think a gigantic potato pancake – crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside). I cooked it correctly, and it was super nommy. Then we made pizza with tomato sauce, tons of fresh buffalo mozzarella, eggplant, and fresh basil. I had some Swiss beer, as well as some really good sparkling apple juice. Then I was surprised with poached pears and ice cream for dessert, as well as a slice of traditional northern Swiss cake. I wasn’t sure what to think when I learned it had prunes in it, but like some American BBQ sauces that use prunes taste great, this pruned cake was actually pretty good! I also had homemade grappa with it, much better than the neon blue crap we found in the Piedmont house I live in now (don’t ask).


Had a good talk with Andrea and her mom about different things. They are both totally, totally cool, and were absolutely perfect hostesses.

Andrea and I with some post dinner grappa:

Extremely tired, and with only one day left in Europe, I headed to bed (I got my own room + pull out bed and everything!) so I could make the most of it.

Lying in bed, I reflected on this crazy long day. Prior to meeting up with Andrea, this day was pretty frustrating for me, and I think I learned a fair bit about what I [don’t] enjoy about traveling. I definitely had a great time traveling on my own, without having friends with me the whole time; that said, I found throughout the trip that when I did stuff by myself, it wasn’t much fun. Suffice to say that I won’t take on so much in one day ever again when I travel – just didn’t get enough out of it, and not enough time to enjoy the places.

But just the same, I was exhausted, and had one day left to do as much as I could, so, zzzzzzzzzz...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Geneva, Switzerland: Why I spent $10 on a Hot Chocolate at Starbucks

The last three entries wont be too long because they were all a day each.

Once I finally woke up, I went to the Swiss market, Migros, and bought 15 bars of chocolate for various people back home. Switzerland is insanely expensive, but the Migros brand of chocolate, which is much-loved by Swiss people, is extremely cheap – 15 bars set me back all of 35$ US!

After finding out that the Palais de Nations was closed until January, my plan was to visit Saint Peter’s Cathedral, and go up the towers for a few of the lake, then go to the Patek Phillippe watch museum. I found the cathedral, and in fact went up in both towers, and had a fantastic view of the lake!

But it was sooooooooooo cold. Even colder than usual, it felt, which I later realized was wind chill - everywhere else on the trip had very little wind! I decided to buy the three-in-one ticket to see the archeological site underneath the church (!), as well as the Reformation museum.
Ther archeological site was totally cool. They literally have a whole area underneath the cathedral where’ they’ve unearthed earlier incarnations of the church, all the way back to Roman times, including a 2 millenia old skeleton that perhaps inspired the building of the very first Roman church on the site(!) 

I spent way too much time here, and went through the reformation museum very quickly. To be honest, I didn’t really want another museum, and I’d more wanted to do the other two stops.

Then I hiked down out of the old town to find the watch museum. I had little time to spare, since everything in Geneva closes early, and of course I made a wrong turn. I never did get back on track, and frustrated, I walked around in random directions trying to find the place. I eventually realized I was getting unhealthily cold, and made the ridiculous decision to go to Starbucks, because I knew it’d have free WiFi. And yes, my venti caramel hot chocolate cost 10$ US. FML. It was an experience, though.
I got in touch with Felix via the free WiFi, and he recommended the Manor department store for a place to warm up nearby the train station, where we’d be meeting to go for FONDUE! It was a nice, albeit body-freezing walk through the city across the river, but I got to see the city lit up, and it was pretty. It had been a clear day, so there was no fog in the evening either, which made all the sites appear crystal clear.

Looking across the water: 

I hung out at the department store for a bit, fawned over 800$ bottles of wine and cured meats, then met up with Felix at the train station.

Fondue was my favorite meal of the trip. No doubt about it. This meal was everything I’d dreamed of since I was a little kid eating at Fondue Fred’s in Berkeley, and vowing I’d one day eat fondue in Switzerland. The food + drink:

Swiss white wine (very dry):

Cured beef (that's a medium size!!!):



Meringues with cream:

In fact, this is the traditional way to have a fondue dinner. This was a top 20 meal of my life, and not to be boastful, but I eat so many good meals, so this is pretty high praise.

Despite the temperature, we opted to walk home and burn a few calories. Felix had to wake up to teach the next morning, and I had my training-day ahead, so sleep was much needed. Besides, everything in Geneva closes early anyway.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Berlin, Germany: Brrlin or Beerlin?

We had two things on our mind as we got to Berlin. BEER and FOOD. But this was temporarily forgotten, as we stepped into our huge 15th floor suite, complete with two rooms and a deck. I was shocked that it was only 60 euro a night, but sure enough it was. Not a bad view of what I presume is the Mercedes building:

Felix was in Berlin last year, and there was a restaurant he’d wanted to try that served Berliner food, so we went there. How could a place with a menu like this possibly be bad?

We shared schnitzel and beef roulade, along with plenty of beer. The schnitzel was sooooooo delicious (but you know I like my salty food). I also had apple strudel for dessert. 

You know you want some!:

You’d think we’d go out and see the Berlin nightlife on a Saturday night, but we decided to be lame and get an early night sleep so that we’d have full rest for an “early” tour of the Parliament building the next morning (and by early, I mean it began at 10:30). And I got to take a nice warm shower, which was SO nice.

The Parliament building was quite something. It was fascinating because the border of East/West Berlin ran through the Parliament building. I learned that parliamentary elections don’t make any sense to me, as well as some good history about 20th century Germany, which made much more sense. The dome was neat, as well, but we couldn’t walk up it, which was lame. And the tour was free – thanks to Felix for booking this in advance.

We walked through the Brandenburg Gate, and had lunch at a place right next to the entrance. Was it ever cold outside, as I hope this picture illustrates:

The food was mostly average, except for very good braised ox cheek. The beer was one of my favorites for the trip, which is surprising because it tasted of bananas, and I don’t actually like bananas (unless they are deep fried):

Next I wanted to see the Berlin Wall. I was pretty disappointed, actually – I think I built it up in my head too much (I was born while the wall was coming down). Don’t get me wrong, the East Side Gallery is a cool concept, but I really just wanted to see a blank wall. I guess that’s completely unfeasible, though, as it looks like they have to paint over the graffiti every year.

Well here's one picture I liked: 

Felix sensed my disappointment though, and researched a museum where we could learn more. We in fact went to that museum. The guy standing outside freaked out at me for no apparent reason, and spoke not a word of English. Entertaining.

We watched a Koyannisqatsi-esque helicopter flyover movie of the Berlin Wall taken during, I assume, the 1980s. It was actually quite informative. At the subway station, there was an exhibit all about the ghost stations that showed up during the division of the city (look it up!) so we actually stayed at the subway stop for awhile, before heading to a big Christmas market for “snacks”.

I immediately got my standard pommes frites. If that wasn’t enough potato, Felix spotted potato pancakes (we got them with bacon in them!) Then I had some sort of beef stew, while Felix had potato stew (more spuds!) Of course this is all outside, so we were cold. Obvious solution is lots of gluhwein! The station was even better because there was a crazy good fiddle player giving a performance.

Random delicious beef stew:

So since snacks turned into dinner, we didn’t really need to eat much else. So we went back to the hotel in order to research a bar to go to. And another hot shower…simply heaven.

We found an area that appeared to have some good bars. We passed by one that looked good, so we went in. It was pretty much a San Francisco hipster bar, but it had a great vibe. We had beers, then I had a G&T. A guy from LA started talked to us, and we discussed subculture and North Korea (random). Then people started smoking, and it was getting pretty late, so we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning we had brunch at a place called Noah’s (Felix liked it last year, and well the name and all). I had the “Farmer’s Breakfast” which was some conglomeration of potatoes and bacon and eggs, and looked like something Noah would dream up. It was strange, but surprisingly tasty: 

There was a huge department store across the street, and we made this silly mistake of going to the crazy food/drink floor, that was out of this world. If I hadn’t just eaten, I’d have dropped 50-100 euro here.

Felix wanted to check out two museums – the museum with all the ancient stuff (I forget the name), as well as the DDR museum (no not that DDR). The ancient museum was cool because they had the gates of Istar that you could walk through. There was much very old stuff. Some of it was cool, but it began to blur together after awhile.

Gates of Istar:

Random ancient bird dude thing: 

The DDR museum was rushed, as we were running out of time. It is not a computerized dance museum, but rather, an interactive history of the GDR, and was pretty cool, to say the least. But we were running late, and then I made the fatal mistake of wanting to stop at a market for currywurst and frites…

I wish we had more time at the DDR museum longer - here's a Trabi (GDR car)!:

…And yeah you can read all about the shit that happened on my way out of Berlin…

Angry, used, and exhausted, my head hit the pillow in Felix’s flat in Geneva, and I was out…

A great time in Germany – I’ll return to Berlin one day for sure, as well as some other cities in the country of much beerage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hamburg, Germany: I Can haz Hamburg-er?

A late morning was necessary, as we both wanted to sleep in. I was impressed by how efficiently the space in the hotel room was used – it was a tiny room, but it felt normal. Yet somehow the bathroom was as big as the room itself. Remember this when I get to the Berlin hotel room.

We didn’t have any specific plans beyond what the guy had told us on the train the night before, so we decided to wander to downtown – usually a safe bet. When we seemed confused for a moment, a nice lady offered to show us how to get downtown. I really noticed that Hamburgers (that word never ever gets old) have a distinct pride about their city. It’s not in your face – they just love the place and want to make sure you enjoy it, too!

So after she bid us farewell, we walked towards the Rathaus, complete with obligatory Christmas Market. We were hungry, so we walked around for a bit, found nothing, and then ended up at a different Christmas market, where we enjoyed German pizza (the name escapes me – super flat crispy dough), sautéed mushrooms, garlic bread, pommes frites, and washed it down with warm drinks at a nearby café (and warmed up – I thought Prague was cold. Hah.)

Caramel white hot chocolate!!!: 

We walked off the calories with a stroll around the lake, and had a nice view of the town. Note the Christmas tree in the center of the lake:

 We then decided to take the ferry to nowhere in particular, as we were told we’d get nice views. The views were nice, saw some cool riverside mansions, but nothing especially memorable. We got off at a different stop to walk back to the hotel so we could research dinner and I could get an extra layer of clothing.

We decided to check out one seafood place, but it was the farthest restaurant away on a stretch of seafood restaurants, so we tried just about every place before it as well, due to the fact that was well below freezing. To our annoyance, almost every restaurant was closed for a private party. What the heck?! Totally not used to that in the states…

Cold and hungry, we’d almost forgotten about the original place. We decided it’d be our last shot. Sure enough, it was open, and we had a table within minutes. Our waiter was fun, and he recommended the Northern-German specialty of boiled haddock. I usually only eat raw fish, but I wanted to give cooked fish another try. It was cooked perfectly, though it was served with bones, which made it hard for a cooked-fish-n00b like me to eat. That said, the fish had nice flavor, and was juicy, and it had a nice mustard sauce with it. I’m not sure I’m completely sold on cooked seafood; that said, I’m going to try to start cooking a bit of it at home…

Hamburg has a festival called DOM 3 times a year – we knew in advance that Dom was going on while we were in town. It’s identical to a county fair. Gluhwein was essential, and it gave us some warmth to walk around a lot. During said walk, we saw some priceless stereotypes (I thought Americans stereotyped a lot, then I went to Germany):

People said to check out Reeperbahn, and DOM was right next to it, so we cruised through. Don’t see what the fuss is about, it’s just another “red light” district. But then again, I’m not much into strip clubs, and everything reeked of cigarette smoke. Seemed pretty generic, though. Shockingly, this is not a strip club:

We did want drinks though; conveniently, Felix had looked up a local hangout called the Red Lounge. In fact, the entire room was lit with red lights. Our waitress spazzed and served us pilsner instead of hefe, and Felix was slightly irked. I was a bit entertained as he tried to reason with the waitress, who spoke little English. Felix was obviously right, though, and we had new beers served. After, I had an “Absinthe Dream”, and Felix had a Long Island. I’m not a huge absinthe fan, per se, but it was used just right in this concoction, which had pineapple juice, and some other stuff (I can’t remember). I caught him up on the state of Scrabble, and we enjoyed a not-so-crazy late night. We wandered home around 2.

Our train the next day was not until 3:30, so we had some time to see more of Hamburg. Of course, we slept in again – go figure. Felix was craving a burger; I really wanted to have a burger in Hamburg just for shits and giggles. I’d spotted that Curry Papa had burgers the day before, so we had lunch there. French fries (pommes frites in Germany, lolz) are done so well in Germany, and they went great with my massive cheeseburger. Nom!

We walked through the town to Saint Michael’s Cathedral, which had one of the most epic organs I’ve ever seen.

On the way back was the bombed-out Saint Nicholas Cathedral. It’s a pretty chilling scene – a picture says 1000 words, here. They build a viewing platform in what remained of the tower, so we took the elevator up, and got a foggy, but nice view of Hamburg. It was interesting when the monument spoke about the history of the church, that it spent 75% of the time apologizing for Hitler…

The ruined cathedral: 

Then it was time to get the train back to Berlin, our next stop. We were only in Hamburg for less than two days, but honestly it didn’t feel like there was all that much to do. A nice place, though.