And so here I am, happy to be back in Köln (Cologne), Germany again. It's a city I have been to many times before... not just for work, but to visit good friends living near here... and I never tire of the city. Last time I finally mustered the courage to climb the cathedral, so I don't know what new thing I'm going to find to do this time. Or maybe I don't find something new. Maybe I go to the Chocolate Museum again? I could sure use a wafer dipped in melted chocolate!
Anyway, here's my day...
- Wake up at 3:30am yesterday so I can finish packing and get to the airport on time.
- Fly into Seattle where I have just enough time to eat a delicious Qdoba breakfast burrito before flying off to Newark, New Jersey.
- On the flight, I watch some movies I own on DVD that I've "backed up" onto my iPhone: EuroTrip (inexplicably one of my favorite films... "SCOTTY DOESN'T KNOW! SCOTTY DOESN'T KNOW!"), and Minority Report (which I hadn't seen since it was in theaters... "PRECRIME WORKS!").
- Realize I forgot my iPhone charging cable at home when I get to Newark Liberty Airport, so I end up spending an outrageous amount of money to buy a new cable. I then lament how I am so very close to New York City, and can't go into the city for a bagel.
- Pass directly over central London at exactly 7:00am on my way to Germany. The skies are so clear that I can make out streets I know and even a few monuments (it's the Tower Bridge!). A beautiful morning to be in London.
- The 7-hour flight to Köln arrives at the gate a half-hour early. Even better, my Continental flight had media centers for every seat, featuring on-demand movies, television shows, games, and more... which made the trip just fly by. Seriously, I have no idea where the time went, because I barely noticed the flight over. Watched Balls of Fury (WALKEN!!) and played games for hours.
- Breeze through passport control in under 60 seconds, then get embarrassed over the way that we treat our foreign visitors when they come to the USA. I figure it's only a matter of time before Homeland Security is requesting a DNA sample and an anal probe from anybody not holding a US passport (if they don't already). Oh well. I guess this is what you have to do when you're a country that's run by people who don't care about international relations, feels no obligation to consult with the international community before doing outrageously stupid shit that affects the entire planet, and likes to make enemies out of friends all over the globe because they think God tells them to.
- Arrive in Germany and marvel at how Köln-Bonn Airport is one of my most favorite in all the world. It's beautifully constructed, easy to navigate, sparkling clean, highly efficient, and makes travel here a joy.
- Go to the cash machine and weep openly as I see the pathetic exchange rate for the Euro vs. the US Dollar. Kneel down on the floor after getting my money so I can count out my cash to make sure that every precious Euro is accounted for. I pretty much have to since my €200 cost me $320 American. FUCK!! And yet, I'm sure we'll get some bullshit crammed down our throat about how strong the US economy is when President Bush gives his State of The Union address on Monday. Yay! I wonder if any German pubs will be playing it off the CNN feed? I think the only way I could bear to watch it would be totally drunk, so maybe I'll check into that.
- Catch a taxi and head downtown. As always, my driver travels at hellacious speeds with expert skill. He compliments me on my broken German, which is very kind, but complete crap... Deutsche is one of those languages I simply can't seem to wrap my head around. Probably because they like to smoosh multiple words together to make new words... YOU try to say "Gepäckaufbewahrungsschein" with a straight face! It means "baggage claim ticket" (or "baggageclaimticket") and I actually had to use it once when my luggage missed a connecting flight. Even if you know the individual words making up the word, it's still tough to get it all out. Fortunately, most people here speak English better than I do, and have no problem jumping in and rescuing me as I mangle their language. Still, I like to make an effort when I can.
- The quick 13km taxi trip takes €30 of my precious cash. I foresee lots of trips to the ATM (which is "Geldautomaten" in German, a word I love to say when asking locals for directions, because "Geldautomat" sounds wicked-cool in my faux-German accent for some reason).
- Check into my usual hotel in my happy little neighborhood where I know where everything is.
- Go to my room and turn on the television. Am pleasantly surprised that I don't find channel after channel of Germans laughing at we Americans because of the mess we've gotten ourselves into with our shitty economy, worthless dollar, and pending recession. Instead I find an assortment of German children's programming which is entertaining as always.
- Pick up the local newspaper and am pleasantly surprised to find no editorial cartoons of a Euro beating the shit out of a US Dollar because it has the approximate value of a paperclip here. NOT a jumbo paperclip, mind you... but one of those tiny little paperclips that can barely hold two pieces of paper together.
- Sorry to keep harping on the WORTHLESS PIECE OF FUCKING SHIT that is the US Dollar, but I really can't help myself. If our delusional government continues to ignore the problem (or thinks giving everybody $600 to spend on imported goods is going to solve a fucking thing), then I won't be able to afford much foreign travel this year. Of course, with a recession underway, even domestic travel is going to be a bitch.
- Write all the above in this blog entry while contemplating begging for Euros on the street so I can afford to eat dinner. When even a lowly candy bar costs the equivalent of $1.75, it helps to have skills that can pull-in the big money. I wish I knew how to juggle. Jugglers get all the best hand-outs.
- I usually avoid touristy Hohe Strausse (street) like the plague, because the crowds are insane. But two things that made me change my mind: 1) There are a half-dozen pizza stands I love (my favorite being Pizza König) and I want pizza for lunch... and 2) That's where the Lego store is, and I want quite badly to see the new Indiana Jones Lego in person (awww... so cute!).
- I remain amazed at the musical talent of European street performers. While window-shopping for stuff I can't afford at Jack Wolfskin (my second-favorite clothing store after Helly Hansen), I hear a hauntingly beautiful rendition of The Beatles "Yesterday" by a guy with a guitar across the street. Stunning. Later I hear a girl being accompanied by a guy with his guitar singing 4 Non Blondes "What's Going On" whose voice is as big as the world and fills the entire square south of The Dom (cathedral).
- Goof off in the Neumarkt neighborhood for a couple of hours.
- Decide to finish off the day by having dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. How can I not? The evening is great... a little cold, but not freezing like when I was here last time. All-in-all a good first day!
And now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to put away my blog and have dessert...
I usually hate clowns, but clowns dressed as pirates are okay.