European Journal

Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 06:24:45 -0600

 

GREETINGS FROM LONDON! HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

 Needless to say, I arrived in the UK in one piece. Turkey day here really sucks. There's no turkey, dressing, or football to speak of. I met another American here, and our mission today is to find an American bar that might be serving such holiday fare. It'll probably lack a little something though. Namely, the opportunity to gorge yourself, then proceed to the living room where you plop down in the La-Z-Boy, unbutton the top button of your pants, watch football for ten minutes, then fall asleep. Oh well, at least there's Big Ben, eh?

London is cold and rainy today. Yesterday was nice. I ended up taking some bus tour, then checked out some shopping. At night, I hit a few pubs and a dance club. (Not that I'm one to talk, but... Note to self... English people = bad dancing)

 Well, I must run now. Gotta' go check out the tower of London, then off to Buckingham Palace to see if the Queen has a La-Z-Boy I can borrow for the afternoon.

-Scott

  

Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2000 12:13:19 -0600

 

Hola from Barcelona!

Allow me to apologize for the occasional typing errors, as the keyboards in Spain have loads of funny keys on ém that we donīt have there back in the good olīUS of A. 

Well, I arrived here about 1:00 after an overnight train trip. Sleeping cars are the way to go, even if you have a snoring Frenchman beside you. (Note to self... next time in Europe, bring earplugs).

 News from London... The "authentic US Thanksgiving Dinner" deal required 3 day advance notice. The good news is, my Minnesota buddy and I were able to sweet talk a waitress into giving us some pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. She had to swipe it from another tableīs reservations, but we tipped her handsomely. Never before have I paid 8 bucks for a piece of pie, but it was worth it.

 Beyond that, Iīve seen everything from the "scenic tours greatest hit list" in London and Paris. It has been lots of fun, but tiring. Iīm also running out of money, so send more, or Iīll have to come home! Paris was nice, but a little chilly. I found something out while there... I LOOK LIKE A FRENCH GUY!  I have never been approached so often by people asking for directions or "the time." Of course, they all asked in French, so I replied by pointing at myself and saying "no me frances." Which probably means "I am not a Frankfurter" when translated into English.

 The Parisians LOVE their dogs. They take them on the subway, on the champs-elysses, into McDonaldīs (no I didnīt go there to eat... just for the free restrooms), and also to the grocery store. The other interesting thing... no pooper-scooper laws, so there are landmines all over the place. I would like to say I was stealthy, but had I been a paratrooper, Iīd be gone from the scene quicker than the expendable crew member from Star Trek (that reference was for you, Pipal).  

Barcelona is a very cool place... great spirit here. Rather than doing the typical tourist thing here today, I just went and looked out on the water of the Mediterranean, picked up some rocks from the beach, and tried my best to skip ém. No luck, but i had fun anyhow.

 Then, I went to this hole in the wall bar that was definitely off the beaten path. I was THE ONLY NON-SPANIARD THERE! However, in broken Spanish I ordered what I thought were beef tapas, which turned out to be (when translated into English) slices of greasy, fatty sausage covered in a mysterious gelatenous-type red substance accompanied by a basket full of bread. I must not have ordered right. I would have turned the food away, but there was a group of locals in the bar playing dominoes who gave me a look when I entered the place. I didnīt want to upset them, so I woolfed it all down.

 Is there a Spanish version of Tums?

 Anyhow, I stuck around for a beer and the locals started to warm up to me. I spoke my very best broken Spanish, and they laughed a lot. But, I was welcomed into the fold. I think the owner (a guy named Ravi Lopez) hadnīt had much tourist traffic come through, so I was a bit of a novelty. After speaking to him in Spanish (I probably told him, "your establishment is very full of elephant skinĻ" or something) he gave me a free beer for my efforts. He even took a photo of me in his place on the way out. Itīll be one of my only pictures with me in it, as most of my sightseeing has been solo.

 Now itīs off for some shopping on the main strip here before doing some laundry tonight. Backpacking does have its drawbacks. 

Iīll be headed to Nice, France in a couple of days, then off to Italy. Sorry to say I donīt miss being there with you guys (is that a rotten tomato I just say fly past the window from the direction of Tulsa?), but I do wish you could all be here to see this cool stuff. 

BTW... Iīm out of room in my backpack, plus itīs way too heavy. So... for Christmas gifts, you will all receive a SHINY, WORTHLESS COIN from the country of your choice. They arenīt even worth exchanging.

 īTill the next installment... Happy Holidays!

Love,

Scott "Jack Kerouak" Dannemiller

  

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 15:18:33 -0600

 

Buonna Notte from Florence!

 Wine is VERY cheap here. For that reason, myself and a couple of new friends from Californa partook of a few liters over dinner, so I will apologize in advance if this message is unintelligible. 

Barcelona was lovely, with loads of color and wonderful people, but it cannot compare to Italy. Everyone is SOOOOO friendly, and the currency here has SOOOOO many zeros on it, that everyone feels like a millionaire. Oh! 250,000 lire for a hotel room? No problem! Let me just peel that off of my stack of 2 million lire! Too bad 250,000 lire is only about 100 bucks. Oh well... it's always nice to dream... and it's worth more than those WorldCom stock options (sorry folks, but the wine's talkin' now). 

Pisa was lovely. By the way, those of you who plan on visiting that leaning tower can FORGET IT!. While I was there, I used some good ol' American know-how to shore that mutha' up! Now it's straight as an arrow! The Italian people can thank me later. All it takes is a little duct tape and some McGyver tactics. (so... I did learn something as the son of a general contractor). 

Then... there's the gellato! Thank of it like ice cream laced with crack. (Not that I've tried crack... though I was offered some in the London underground night club... more on that on another European Scott distribution list... but I can imagine it's that addictive). 

But... here is the first negative admission of the trip. Scott is getting tired. Learning a new rail system, language, subway. culture, currency, and personality every two days wears on a guy. Not to mention that living out of a backpack gets to wearing on you.  Not that hostel life isn't grand, but the people staying there aren't like me. Many of them travel for a living, and live off of the free morning bread and coffee day in and day out. I'm starting to wonder whether or not I'll last the whole month here. Perhaps I'll regroup after Rome and Switzerland to see how I manage. 'Till then, I'll try my best to send back news from across the pond.

 By the way... do we have a President? You wouldn't BELIEVE how much CRAP I'm getting about that here. And... here's a revelation for you. Making fun of the USA is a pastime of ALL European countries, and this whole political situation isn't helping any. I told 'em all that I voted for Ricky Martin, and they leave me alone. 

EVERYONE LOVES RICKY!

 Chiao for now,

Scott

  

Monday, 12/4/200  2:47pm

 Bon Giorno from Rome!

 Italy is still VERY nifty! However, you would think I'd be writing to all of you as I sit and look out over some ancient ruins, or watch people gather in St. Peter's square to see the Pope.

 Nope... I'm sitting upstairs in some laundromat run by a comedian from Pakistan. I bring in my clothes, he makes fun of how bad they smell (in Italian AND English, so everyone in the place can laugh), then points me upstairs to the internet chat room. Gotta' love the irony in it all. This whole laundry deal is another one of the sore points about living in a hostel. Second is the heavy-set woman from Melbourne sleeping in the bunk beside me who snores like a bullfrog driving a Mack truck. Ahhhhhh... the romantic sounds of Rome.

 After Florence, I went with the California guys and drank lots of cheap wine in a small town called Siena. It's very beautiful, and VERY romantic. So... hanging out with two guys from the west coast who haven't shaved in three days was just the ticket. But seriously, it may well be my favorite place yet. Rome has all the sights. Siena has the charm.

 Rome is like New York with ancient ruins. Like any good tourist, I got screwed royally on my first day here. Walking by a tour operations place, I noticed the "papal blessing " tour departing at 9:15 AM. I thought, "Heck... I could use a blessing as good as the next guy, and perhaps a pardon for my sins after having an impure thought or two while watching that trashy Italian talk show last night" (Jerry Springer has NOTHING on the Italians!). So I asked, "Does the Pope really bless us on this tour?" The tour guide says "yes... we see a lot of ancient-a sites-a in the morning-a, then-a the Pope-a come out and bless-a you in the Piazza San Pietro."

 "Only 51,000 Lire! (25 bucks) Well sign me up then!"

 So, we see loads of cool sites in the morning, then at noon, we're headed toward the Vatican. I ask again, "So... are we going to get our blessing now?" The tour guide responds, "Sure-a. After we-a go to the gift-a shop-a, you go-a to the Piazza and watch-a the Pope-a blessing-a on the big screen-a"

 "Big screen?"

 That's right folks, on Sunday, yours truly was blessed by way of the "jumbo-tron." All that was missing was the guy going up and down through the sea of people shouting, "Cold beer! Get your IIIIIICE cold Bud here!"

 Seems the Pope-a was saying mass at another cathedral outside of the Vatican walls, so they had him piped in (sponsored by Phillips Magnavox... no joke-a). I don't know. The whole blessing loses something when they're not allowed to sprinkle holy water for fear of electrocution around all of the electronics. Needless to say, I don't recommend the "papal blessing" tour.

 However, I do have a seat for a true live papal blessing on Wednesday morning which is, ironically enough, free. I'll get there early and get a few extra God vibes for the rest of you sinners and pass 'em along to you over the info superhighway.

 I also pissed off a Roman today at the Colloseum. There were a couple of guys dressed up in Ceasar get-up, so I pointed my camera their way and snapped a shot. They came over to me and were very friendly. They said, "Here, we take picture with-a you!" I obliged. When they gave me my camera back, they asked for a donation. So... I pulled a couple thousand lire out of my pocket (in coins). The guy says, "No... we want-a bills! No coins!" I said, "Take the coins, that's all I've got for you."

 So, he takes the coins, and throws them over the fence into the ruins saying, "Stingy American! We want bills" and walked away.

 Sorry! Guess I won't become a diplomat.

 Otherwise, I have seen some great fountains, ruins, and St. Peter's BAsilica is the most amazing cathedral on Earth. Wish ya'll were here!

Gotta' run! They're closing here at the laundromat. More later!

-Scott

 

 Thursday, December 7 2000

 

Der-BRRRRRRRRRR-in schtillen from Switzerland!

 Loosely translated, that means,"Hello! I'm freezing my *&%į? off in Switzerland!

I'm in a little town called Interlaken. It's quaint, quiet, and the air is much cleaner than Rome. It'll do my sinus infection some good to be here. By the way... the alps are just about the prettiest pile o' rocks around. I walked into a Swiss pharmacy to buy some drugs for my ailment. They gave me some nose spray thingy that looks like a medieval torture device, and some HUGE pills that dissolve in water. I tried to explain my symptoms to the girl who was behind the counter, but she didn't speak much English. I faked a sneeze, acted lightheaded, grabbed my head to signal a headache, and waved my hand in front of my face to signal that I was hot. Translating my non-verbals, it probably looked like I was pregnant or having hot flashes.  She likely gave me some sort of prenatal vitamin just for grins. We'll see how things turn out. If I start gaining weight, I'll know something's up.

 Rome ended with a bang, folks! On Wednesday, I got to see the Pope. It was a madhouse! I showed up about two hours early and got a seat right next to the railing, so I'd be within spittin' distance of his Holiness when he came by in the Pope-mobile. I'll bet over 100,000 people were there in St. Peter's square to get the blessing. It was like Beatle-Mania "Jesus-Style." I kid you not... old people were standing on chairs, young kids were waving their hats & scarves in the air. And... the best thing of all... when the Pope finally rode past us on the Pope-Mobile, a group of nuns were waving their hands, standing on chairs, and sighing like pre-pubescent teens at an 'N-Sync concert.

 The blessing was very cool. The Pope said that it extended to my friends and family back home... so you guys should feel pretty invincible about now. I even had a few items "eternally blessed" (a couple of crosses, and a big thing I like to call the "Pope-Pop"... it's this HUGE sucker with a picture of the Pope's head on it. I know it's tacky as hell, but I had to get it. When I pulled it out of my bag to get it blessed, even the French lady sitting next to me laughed. She also said something in French, but I'm not quite sure what it was. Probably "Look at theez eediot weeth his beeg Pope sucker! And he makes fun of us for worshipping Jerry Lewis? Geev me a break!")

 He blessed the crowd in nine or ten different languages. I honestly lost count. It was very cool.

 Now for the big news. After Switzerland, I'm off to Munich on an overnight train tomorrow to get to Munich. From Munich, I'm headed home. You see... a funny thing happened over here. First off... I ran out of money faster than expected (I guess the 7 bucks I spent on the Pope-pop wasn't the wisest investment ever made, but it didn't necessarily break the bank.) Second, even though I have a new job when I get home and move to Austin, another company has offered to fly me home from here for an interview. Can't beat a free trip home! (Now... how to get reimbursed for my return fare). It sounds like a worthwhile gig that I should pursue. I've done quite a bit of soul-searching here (in between bouts of translating for gladiators in the Roman Colluseum) and I should explore every option before finalizing the rest of my life.

 So... enough heavy stuff. I'll do my best to give you one final installment from Germany. Likely, I'll be responsible for rebuilding the Berlin Wall, and then I'll never get out of there. But... if there is internet access in Munich, and I don't get too tossed at Der Bier Garten, expect a final excerpt from Germany. 

 

Sunday, December 10  2000

 

Howdy folks! Gutten Nacht from Munich!

 Thatīs right...Íīm leaving in about 7 hours, and I stopped just to send yáll a note. Maybe thatīs because I love you so much.. or maybe itīs because Iīve been at the Hoffbrau House for the last 7 hours drinking beers from steins the size of a five-gallon paint bucket. You take your pick and roll the dice.

Wow! What a strange trip this has been! Itīll be a freakinīmiracle if I make it to my plane at 7:45AM. Oh well... Germany would be fun for another day or so!

Switzerland was fabulous. I took a long hike through the mountains alone... found God... and a lot of cattle farms which produce an intersesting odor when the weather heats up a bit in the afternoon (those from Texas and Oklahoma will be able to relate).

 On the train to Munich, I had an awful connection, and had to awake at 4:00 am to make my train from Salzburg to Munich. Try as I might, I could not get the German speaking conductor to understand my intense body and sign language telling him that I needed to be awoken at 4:00 so I wouldnīt miss the connection. His response... He handed me a bottled water and a plastic cup. I guess he didnīt quite get the message. Oh well.. I was able to find an interpreter and got here in one piece.

 The Germans know how to do Christmas! I spent the morning at a market selling crafts, strussel, pretzels, brats, wine, and beer. I ate my way through the entire bazaar. It was fabulous!

 Next... I headed to Dachau to see the concentration camp memorial. Interesting thing about some Germans. If you ask them where the "concentration camp" is... theyīll say "There is no such thing." Hoewever... if you ask them where the Dachau museum is... they can point you right to it. Funny how history lingers.

I am glad I went to the memorial. I would suggest all members of the human race go. However, I would not go back in a million years. It is by far one of the most intense experiences of my life. To sum it up... I now know why it is important to keep tabs on what our government is up to. It moved me beyond words... so Iīll just stop there.    

I needed some relief from the heavy day, so I rounded out my Europe experience at the Hoffbrau House... a long-standing German bier garden tradition. For those from Tulsa... just imagine Oktoberfest, but with large German female waiters toting gallons of ale, and you have the Hoffbrau House. Basically, it consists of a lot of Munich locals watching a bunch of tourists get fat on brats and blitzed on "Bier"... (pronounced "beer" in English. Believe me... that is a MAJOR help after a couple of frothy mugs. I think that was an intentional language commonality built into the linguistics for those who got slightly tipsy).

So... I lost my four new friends (from Louisiana, New Zeland, and London) somewhere between Der Bier Garten and Der Inetrnet Cafe. Maybe Iīll find them on the walk home. Germany was fabulous. I just wish I had more time here.

So... this ends my European correspondence. The remainder of your replies I will receive comfortably back in the states, as I munch on Mac and Cheese and watch reruns of "Jerry Springer". Thanks for being a part of my experience. i hope you have enjoyed sharing it with me HALF as much as I have enjoyed writing about it. Pics to come. So... ītill I see you all again... PROST! And Iīm outtaīhere!

-Scott