Michael's Europe 2000 Tour - Week 2


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    Mon, 7-Aug-2000

Oh dear, woke up at 12:00 again. Holidays are definately making me very lazy. Candace had left a note that she was taking her car in to get serviced, so I took the time to have a shower and write some postcards which I had bought yesterday.

When Candace got back we had breakfast, and then headed out to Uni so we could check our emails and I could update my diary, which is what I'm doing right now. Later on today we're planning on catching up with her sister for something, not sure what yet. Until then...

We ended up going to Bonnie's place and hanging out there for a while, and then headed to this great all-you-can-eat japanese food place. The food was pretty good and we all stuffed ourselves to the seams. They had quite a variety of stuff there, including sushi, yum-o.

After dinner we headed back to Bonnie's place, and a friend of their's, David, was there showing off pictures from his holiday in Europe. He was quite a character, pretty fun, but I guess you can only take so much of him at a time.

Back home, and to bed, tomorrow we're off to Niagara Falls, so a fairly early start..

    Tue, 8-Aug-2000

Woke up early, even beating Candace for once! I must be getting used to this jetlag stuff at long last. We had decided to leave later for Niagara Falls to avoid the rush-hour traffic, and so we had plenty of time to bum around having breakfast and watching cartoons..

On the way, we picked up Connie, who slept for most of the way to the Falls. Once there, we parked the car and started wandering around. I was keen to get to the Falls and take a look as I had seen glimpses while we were driving, but we checked out a couple of things first, taking the scenic walk through, what can best be described as a permanent carnival. There are fun-houses and entertainments of all sorts along the main street of the town, very very commercialised and touristy.

Apart from collecting some brochures about what there was around to do and buying a stack of postcards, we just gawked, and finally headed down to the Falls themselves.

The Falls themselves are absolutely awesome, pictures and words can't really describe them, although there will be lots of pictures here at some time! I took a whole roll of film worth, so hopefully a couple will have turned out. Apart from just standing at the roadside and looking over the gorge at the Falls Connie and I also went up Skylone Tower (not nearly as high as the CN Tower in Toronto, but rather similar in structure) to get a view from up top.

All three of us also went on the 'Lady of the Mist' boat cruise, which takes tourists right next to the falls. Despite little raincoat thingies which made us look like Smurfs (they were clear blue plastic ponchos) we got quite drenched from the spray from the Falls, but it was definately worth it!

I also wanted to go on a walk behind the Falls, but it had gotten quite late by this stage, and the line up was still enormous, so I skipped that, and instead we stopped briefly at the Botanical Gardens nearby and the Flower Clock before heading back home again.

After dropping Connie off at home Candace and I went out to The Keg for a pretty nice dinner of prime rib with pepper sauce, yum-o. Just as we were leaving we ran into a couple of friends of Candaces, so stayed and chatted for a little while.

Home, pack (I'm leaving tomorrow :(), and sleep - it'll be an early morning because Candace needs to go to work again.

    Wed, 9-Aug-2000

Yep, definately getting into the swing of this timezone - managed to get up before 8 o'clock again without needing to be woken up. Last minute packing and breakfast, quickly walk the dog, and we're off to Uni, so Candace can get her work done, and I can catch up on my diary and email and stuff.

There won't be much on the cards this afternoon except for getting to the airport in time for my 19:45 flight to Duesseldorf.

Toronto is a very nice place, the people seem to be pretty friendly, and there's just tons to do - I'll have to come back for a bit longer sometime!

Nothing much else happened today - I went outside to warm up in the sunshine while I waited for Candace to finish working. Peeking into the lab was quite interesting, you know, boxes of dog brains stacked on the shelves, with Candace in typical mad-scientist-garb beavering away.

She drove me to the airport with plenty of time to spare - got there at about 3pm, and the flight wasn't due to leave until 7:45pm. I must have been one of the first to check in, but that was ok. I lounged around reading my book, and got quite into it. As it turned out, the plane had a 2 hour delay, due to bad weather. Even once we got onto the taxiway, we were in a line-up of planes waiting to use the runway. Apparently we were 24th in line, with each plane on average taking 2 minutes to start.

But eventually we did get into the air, had a snack, and by midnight made the scheduled stop at Halifax. It was only a very brief stop, and so everybody who kept going to Düsseldorf had to stay on the plane.

Not long after we're winging our way over the ocean, having dinner, and attempting to get some sleep...

    Thu, 10-Aug-2000

After quite an unrestful attempt at sleeping I pulled out my book again and kept reading on the way - nothing to see out the window except for pretty much unbroken cloud cover.

Eventually we're on the final descent to Duesseldorf, and breaking through the clouds I finally get my first glimpses of Germany. What struck me most of all was the fact that most houses were 4 or more stories, hardly any one-family homes were to be seen.

Soon after it's touchdown, and here's another surprise: apart from a quick passport check there's nothing, no baggage checks or anything, I just walk straight out. Finding Iris wasn't too big a problem either, and soon we're on the way back to her place. Yayy, it's shower-time! Funny how that always seems to outweigh everything else after a flight.

Soon after I feel sortof human again, and we sit down and chat until dinnertime. More chatting follows, but soon my head starts drooping, and so I find myself heading to bed before it's even dark outside! Ah well, tomorrow is another day...

    Fri, 11-Aug-2000

I woke up early (1am!), but kept dozing until 6am, at which point I got up to have breakfast with Iris before she has to head off to work. Then it's getting ready for the day - shower, check email, update diary, that sort of guff. My plan for the day is to head into Koeln (Cologne) to check out stuff, sort out a way to get over to England next week, and do a spot of sight-seeing.

I wonder how public-transport here compares with Toronto...

Expensive! That's what... well, comparatively. To get into the centre of Koeln cost me 5,40DM, one-way, and that was again a combination bus and train ticket. There didn't seem to be much in the way of checks or anything as to whether or not you actually had a valid ticket, except for on the bus.

The main station for Koeln is right next to the Koelner Dom, a large well-known cathedral. I saw glimpses from the station already, but was more interested in finding out about tickets and whatnot first. I found a map showing the nearest Tourist Info booth, and headed that way. There I picked up a map of the inner city, as well as locations of a couple of travel agencies.

The way took me past the Dom, and while it is very impressive I was quite disappointed at how dirty and run-down it appears from the outside. Also, there were a couple of construction gantries on it, and I found out later that those are for cleaning and restoration, and are present pretty much all the time. They don't appear to be accomplishing much though..

The first travel agency couldn't really help me, so I headed in the direction of the next one. This took me through Hohe Strasse (High Street), which is the main shopping area of Koeln. On the way I peeked into a couple of shops and checked out the local area. This also lead me to get a local telephone number, as that is considerably cheaper than using my Australian number. For those of you wanting to contact me while I'm in Europe, it's +49 171 160 5817.

I finally headed to the next travel agency, and they sorted out a train ticket for me, so Richy doesn't have to worry about me getting to London anymore. Train is much nicer than bus IMHO.

Now it's time to grab a bite to eat, a sandwhich roll in a cafe, and then it's on to try and find a travel adaptor for my phone charger. This turned out to be more difficult than I had thought - in fact, impossible. I walked several blocks, heading to bigger and better electronics specialists when other stores had failed me, and they all said the same thing, that they had never seen a travel adaptor from other countries to the German system, although they all sold the other kind, adapting German plugs to foreign systems. I finally bought a power cable with attached plug and some insulation tape, figuring I could build my own..

Back to the station I go, clutching my hard-won goodies. At the station I attempted to get more information about tickets, as I had heard about unrestricted travel tickets good for a month or so, but the attendants were less than helpful, giving me a couple of fairly useless pamphlets. Then it's on the train back home.

The bus-connection on the way back was rather poor, and I had to wait over half an hour before I could get the rest of the way home. By this time it's already quite late in the day, and Iris was already there. I had gotten in contact with Helmut and Barbara, uncle and aunt, and they had invited me over to their place. Since there was also a local celebration there this weekend I wanted to go, and Iris offered to drive me over as it was fairly close to where she lives. So bags packed, and off we go.

We got there just in time for dinner, but Iris couldn't stay due to having already made a date with friends, so she chuffed off shortly after. After dinner, we headed off to borrow a bicycle for me, and not long after that we headed up a hill overlooking Koeln to where the Fest was. This turned out to mostly be beer-drinking and chatting while listening to music in a large tent, filled with smoke, so it wasn't quite my cup of tea.

We got home after midnight I think it was, and everybody headed straigth to bed. Unfortunately I found a comic book in the room I was staying, Akira, and got hooked on it.. 2 hours later I finally put the finished book down, and snuggle into the blankets.

    Sat, 12-Aug-2000

Today was one of the lazier days of my holiday so far, with me not waking up till midday. I wander downstairs to have breakfast, reading the paper, and by the time I'm finishing, other people wander in as well, so I have a second breakfast.

After breakfast, I grab my book, 'Eye of the World' and get through a few more chapters outside in the sunshine. Then Helmut and I take their dog for a walk through a nearby forest, which was very nice. On the way we discussed quite a few things.

By the time we get back we have to get ready for a Polterabend - that is a German party before a couple get married. Every guest brings along old crockery and smashes it, and the engaged couple has to sweep up all the pieces. I think it's to avert bad luck.

The Polterabend was pretty good, they had inside and outside areas set up, and a disc jockey playing quite a good mixture of music, both German and English, new and old. We stayed till near the end, staggering down the middle of the road (I had gotten introduced to quite a nice drink called Hermaenche).

Once we got home we all headed into the backyard as a meteor shower had been forecast between 2-4am. I stayed up until nearly 3am, but only saw a handful, quite disappointing as that is what one would normally expect anyways.

    Sun, 13-Aug-2000

Couldn't sleep tonight - I was already stirring near 6am, and since it was already starting to get light as well, it wasn't long before I picked up my book... and 4 hours later it was finished too.. time to get up, have a shower, get dressed, and continue typing up my diary from where I left off 2 days ago.. and that's where I am now. Time to go downstairs and have some breakfast methinks, it's already past midday now!

Had a good breakfast, followed by chatting to Helmut for a while before we decided to grab the bikes and go for a ride through the local forest to an icecream shop. The ride was very beautiful, with the bonus of a spaghetti ice at the end.

After we got back home we had dinner, and then I packed because Iris was going to pick me up early the next morning to take me to Nuernberg (Nuremberg I think it is in English), one of the older cities in Germany where she has some friends. I also rang up some uncles to find out what's happening and what's planned, and found out that there's not going to be a party for Rheinhardt's 50th until later, which is kinda lucky because it gives dad time to get here. He should've been in Germany by now, but hassles with some jobs have kept him. Ah well.
Time for bed now anyways, early start in the morning..

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Last updated: 13-Aug-2000