Thoughts and Highlights from the Past Week+
(In bulleted format! Woo!)
+ I´m quite glad I got to see the Tour de France. It hit me that it´s just about the only completely free-to-watch competition that is the crowning challenge of a sport. Just about every other major sporting event is held in an arena or stadium and requires a ticket to enter. the only exceptions are maybe the Cambridge-Oxford boat races (and that´s not a big international competition), and the major marathons (Boston, New York, London, etc.), but there are several of those. The Tour de France is BIG. And our spot on the Champs Elysees to watch was prime.
+ Three days was definitely enough time for me in Paris. The weather was gray and drab, and as I stood at the top of Montmartre in front of Sacre Coeur that grayness and drabness seemed to be reflected in the very monochromatic city view.
+ This probablz also contributed greatly to my enjoyment of Amsterdam. I entered the city and it was lively and colorful and each building looked different from its neighbors. (That could have been partly because each building was leaning haphazardly into its neighbors.)
+ I did not actually partake in the local "delicacy" while in Amsterdam. Getting high by myself sounded to me more like a cry for help than a cultural experience, and most of the fellow travelers I met along the way were stoners there just to indulge. I´d rather be surrounded by like-minded friends than potheads if I´m going to test those waters.
+ Amsterdam was a very, very friendly city, but it´s the only city I´ve visited so far where I didn´t really make friends. I analyze this to be because most people head to Amsterdam with their little group of friends so they can all get high together rather than venture out on their own.
+ I was sitting in a cafe on the street in Amsterdam and a local guy came up trying to get me to come to some club party thing he was advertsing. He asked where I was from and I said Kansas, at which point he said, "Oh! You guys have a great football team, don´t you!" My first thought was, "Well, the Chiefs aren´t really that good, actually." But before I could say anything, he followed that with, "The Kansas State Wildcats, right?" I almost fell off my chair. I never knew anyone in Europe would have known anything about college football, but apparently this guy wanted to get away from Holland for a while and headed to California to play baseball for a small college, during which time he became a big college sports fan. I didn´t get the name of the school he attended because he was on to the next person he was trying to attract to his party.
+ After I met the Wildcat fan, I turned the street corner only to run into a Nike ad with a picture of Steve Nash! I nearly did a little dance right there in the street.
+ Bikes are awesome, although my butt the day after my bike tour was quite sore.
+ I´m now in Munich. This morning I went on a free walking tour of the city, and I´m headed in a few minutes to do another walking tour detailing the rise of the Third Reich in the city, then this evening I`m going to learn about "liquid bread" on a beer/brewery tour. Tomorrow I think I´m going to head out to the Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle Disneyland based the Cinderella castle on).
Not to Stereotype, But...Well, Yes, to Stereotype
I have found the following generalisations regarding cultural groups:
+ Americans can be easily spotted by our shoes, our baseball caps, and something about our faces. I can´t place it, but I have gotten pretty good at figuring out an American face. Maybe it´s the mish-mash of cultures that make our faces not have a distinct look and in that they become distinct. Woah, that´s getting a bit deep.
+ Germans speak very good English and when I´ve asked why, the common response is that they read books published in their original langage rather than translations. This has been the common answer I´ve received from several different Germans.
+ In playing a fun game I call "Name That Nationality" (whereby I have to try to pick the nationality of a passing tourist before I hear them speak) I have found an easy way to pick out North Africans, specifically Moroccans and Algerians: They´re the men who try to pick me up. My first week after leaving the UK I was approached by no less than 6 Algerians or Moroccans. No Frenchmen, no Dutch, and only one Belgian if you count Simon. :)
+ "Thank you" in the language of the country you´re visiting is the most important phrase to learn. "Dank ja wel" (sp?) was the only Dutch I learned and everytime I said it to a shopkeeper or restauranter, their face brightened and they looked at me with unbelief; like they were thinking, "Wow! She knows Dutch!"
+ Americans are not the only "ugly" tourists. We get a bad rap, and some tourists give good reason for that reputation, but I´ve seen just as many "ugly" tourists from all sorts of countries.
Pictures to come when I can find a place that actually lets me attache a USB cord and has software to let me view thumbnails. The console I´m currently on only lets me view the pictures full-size, and as I have nearly 2,000 pictures already, it would take my whole hour of Internet time to sort through and find a handful of good ones to share.