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Day Six: Hamburg

Posted on April 16th, 2012

Dave!And so I am in Hamburg now.

Though I have been to Germany many times, this is my first trip to the northern part of the country. I was actually supposed to go to Bremen, but there's not a shiny new Hard Rock Cafe in Bremen, so I decided on a detour. This ended up being quite a nice excursion, because Hamburg is a lovely city... if a bit hostile to the non-German-speaking traveler. Unlike Cologne, Berlin, Munich, there's not a lot of signage or help available in English. I'm guessing that this is due to Hamburg not being a big foreign tourist destination, but it's puzzling that the touristy advertisements and touristy spots don't have at least something in English.

As an example, here's a poster ad in one of the most touristed train station in the city (Landungsbrüken) for a very popular attraction: "The Hamburg Dungeon." ...

Hamburg Dungeon Poster... NO ENGLISH!

All that space, and they couldn't bother to put even a line of English to help a brother out? NEIN!

But I wasn't here to play tourist so, after my work was through at 11:00, I headed directly to the Hard Rock Cafe. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200...

Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg

For being one of the "new style" cafes, I was surprised to find that they actually did a decent job of packing in the memorabilia. Far from being the sparse rock museum wasteland we've been getting, there was a nice and varied assortment. This is not to say that there are not oddities, however. Marc warned me about the mirror-finish of the bathroom urinals, but it's not something you can truly appreciate until you have actually pissed in it...

Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg Urinal

Having an entire audience watching you pee from a photograph is borderline-traumatic. But, sure enough, my junk was clearly reflected for all of Hamburg to see. On a busy Saturday night, I can only guess that somebody walking into the urinal would be greeted by a giant wall of dicks. I'm not exactly shy, but THAT'S traumatic!

On my list of things to see was St. Michael's St. Nicholas' Cathedral... which has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, only to finally be destroyed for good during WWI and WWII. You can buy an elevator ticket to the top of the one remaining tower, but my fear of heights coupled with my FEAR OF BEING ON TOP OF A BOMBED OUT TOWER WHEN IT COLLAPSES meant that wasn't going to happen...

St. Nicholas' Bombed-Out Church

From there I walked to City Hall, which is a really beautiful building...

City Hall Building

I then went to a man-made lake area called "Aster." It has a really beautiful view but, as if that weren't enough, it also has an Apple Store...

Apple Store Hamburg

From there it was time to visit the ONE "must-see" attraction on my list... MINIATUR WUNDERLAND! It appeared on a Travel Chanel show a while back and really appealed to the model-train lover in me. Of course, the trains are only a small part of the experience. There a multiple dioramas created from famous places in the world that are painstakingly detailed...

Miniatur Wunderland Park

And the closer you get, the more details you see...

Miniatur Wunderland Camp Site

And the details are not just in the models. It seems that every scene is telling a story. You might see emergency vehicles lit up in one area... only to turn a corner and see that they're headed to a house fire or something...

Miniatur Wunderland Fire Trucks

Miniatur Wunderland House Fire!

They sneak in little jokes and pop culture references sometimes as well. As I was examining model cars involved in some kind of countryside race, I found Herbie the Love Bug in the lead, having to stop for some sheep...

Miniatur Wunderland's Herbie the Love Bug!

Another interesting bit is that all the dioramas cycle from daylight to dusk to night to dawn and back to daylight... with computer-controlled lights providing the appropriate sunlight simulation and the lighting in the buildings, cars, trucks, and such. Here's the airport, going from evening to dawn as I walked around it...

Miniatur Wunderland Night at the airport

Miniatur Wunderland Dawn at the Airport

As the airport is one of the newest additions to Miniatur Wunderland, it's fairly complex. The planes move around and everything. Even better, they give you an underground view to the U-Bahn (subway) station...

Miniatur Wunderland Subway Station

One of my favorite sections was the rock concert diorama, complete with performers, working video screens, and a massive audience...

Miniatur Wunderland Concert!

No detail is spared... right down to the portable toilets...

Miniatur Wunderland Porta-Potties!

The USA is represented, but it's been boiled down to Las Vegas and some kind of red rocks diorama that looks more like Disneyland than the American Southwest, but it's still pretty cool...

Miniatur Wunderland Las Vegas

Miniatur Wunderland American Southwest

Miniatur Wunderland is also kind of educational. In the diorama for Hamburg, the building where the new Hard Rock is now located was apparently home to a skating rink on the roof at one time...

Miniatur Wunderland Hard Rock Building Hamburg

From there I headed to the central part of the city so I could visit the famous Hamburger Kunsthalle Art Museum but, alas it was closed on Mondays. I can only guess that tourists in Hamburg don't go out on Mondays? Oh... no... when I was there I saw other tourists leaving in disappointment too. Not the smartest move on the museum's part, but it's their money to lose, I suppose.

And speaking of the Hard Rock...

When I mentioned a while back that I was sad I wouldn't be reaching my goal of 150 Hard Rock property visits this year, I got a comment from Katharina telling me I should come to her city of Hamburg where they have a new cafe.

Little did she know...

"I WILL BE THERE IN TWELVE DAYS!" I replied.

And she was kind enough to meet me for dinner tonight! Which is why I will have a hard time ever giving up Blogography no matter how passé blogging becomes. Because of blogging, I really have made friends all over the world. No matter where I end up, there's always somebody I can hang out with.

And now I'm back at my hotel packing my backpack for the journey back to the Netherlands tomorrow morning.

Good bye, Hamburg.

   

Day Six: Köln

Posted on February 1st, 2011

Dave!So very tired...

The weather in Cologne today was odd. It was dreary and cold, but not the kind of cold that lands on you... it was more a general cold around your immediate vicinity. Sure I could see my breath and needed a jacket, but wearing gloves was too much, and my hands were perfectly fine without them. I'm a real weenie when it comes to having cold hands, so this was kind of freaky. In a good way.

What was decidedly not freaky was that they finally replaced the chocolate chicken! Isn't she awesome?

Chocolate Chicken Lives!

   
As today was my last day in Cologne I had intended to try and wander around a bit, but I was just too exhausted and had entirely too much work to do. So instead of eating dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, I just bought some pins and a T-shirt while breezing through after work...

Hard Rock Cologne Bar

Hard Rock Cologne Wall

It's a fairly small property, but has all the classic Hard Rock fixin's so I really like it here.

Alas, I didn't have time to hang around, so dinner consisted of glorious Patatjes Met "Pommes Frites mit Mayo" with a delicious Spritzringe and a Coke back at my hotel room for dessert...

Pommes Frites mit Mayo

Spritzringe and a Coke

   
While I was walking to the tram stop so I could get "home" I noticed some interesting things:

   
ONE: HINDENBURG! After the movie Titanic made a gazillion dollars, I remember asking when somebody would get around to making a modern movie drama about the Hindenburg tragedy...

Apparently they now have, as I've seen the posters around Cologne...

Hindenburg: The Movie
"Ein Traum von Ruhm" - "A Dream of Glory"

   
TWO: MADONNA! I've lost count of the number of times I've walked through Neumarkt, but this is the first time I can ever recall seeing this Madonna & Child statue glued to one of the buildings on the Eastern loop. While I'm sure it must have been beautiful at one time, it's kind of creepy now that pieces have fallen off and it's been partially eroded by pollution and the elements...

Madonna and Child Statue

Madonna and Child Statue ZOOM

   
THREE: BANNED! I never take food or drinks onto the tram anyway, but I found it funny that fries and mayo are specifically banned on the signage (along with coffee and Kölsch/beer)...

NO PATATJES MET!
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

   
And now I suppose I should probably pack my suitcase. I've got a long, strange journey ahead of me tomorrow, and the last thing I want to have to do when I wake up is pack before rushing off to the airport.

   

Day Five: Köln

Posted on January 31st, 2011

Dave!One of the down-sides to working in a time zone eight hours from home is that you essentially put in two full work days. First there's eight hours on-site, then there's another eight hours as your original time zone gets to work and you're inundated with another round. Mondays, as you might imagine, are the worst. And so I do what I've been doing for years now, knock off work early on Mondays so I can decompress for an hour or two before starting in again. It may not cut down on the amount of work to be done, but at least it keeps me sane.

While at the candy show today, I dropped by to see if the chocolate chicken had been replaced but, alas, she hadn't. If anything, she's gotten much worse now that the beak and eyes have melted away. This is what I'd imagine a chicken with the ebola virus would look like...

Chocolate Chicken Ebola
I'm meltiiiiiiiiiinnnng!

   
Today was yet another busy day working, which was nice. The problem is that I am so exhausted by the end of it that there's really no time to see much of Cologne except the inside of my hotel room. It would be sacrilege to not pay a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe here, but I just don't have it in me. Tomorrow is my last day in the city, so I suppose I'll force myself to make the effort. In the meanwhile, I find a great deal of money can be saved on meal expenses by accepting kind offers of food samples from the vendors at the candy show. To avoid going into a sugar coma, I pass up the vast majority of opportunities, but how can you say no to a freshly-made Dutch poofenwafel? You can't...

Poofenwafel
A hot and delicious Stroopwafel fresh from the grill and filled with warm caramel goodness.

   
While wandering back from lunch, I happened across a vendor with this piece of awesomeness splashed across the outside of their show booth...

Die Wilden Kerle

It looked like some kind of sweet metal band cartoon for kids, which is exactly what the world has been missing.

Turns out it's an animated show based on a wildly successful film franchise and book series here called Die Wilden Kerle (which translates into "The Wild Soccer Bunch"). From what I could understand, it's basically a German version of the American Bad News Bears movie but with soccer instead of baseball. All I know is that I want one of those awesome one-eyed monster logo T-shirts. That's a level of badassness that cannot be denied.

   
Annnnnnd... time to try and get some sleep.

Hopefully.

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Bullet Sunday 217 (Day Four: Köln)

Posted on January 30th, 2011

Dave!I just realized that I blew past my 4-year anniversary of Bullet Sunday back in October. NO CAKE FOR YOU!

   
• I DO COCAINE! Today was not the best day. I'm still not sleeping properly, which has me wondering why I haven't collapsed from exhaustion. Must be all that cocaine Coke I'm doing drinking. It all started when I woke up at 4:30am (after falling asleep around 1:00am). On the way to the bathroom I smacked my foot into the cupboard closet. Getting into the shower tub, I smacked the other foot. After getting dressed, I walked hobbled the five nine minutes to the tram stop... where I just missed my tram. Since there's a limited schedule on Sunday, I had to wait 22 minutes for the next one. In the cold. And of course I didn't wear gloves or a coat over my sport jacket, so I froze. To get relief for my busted-ass feet, I sat down on the bench... which is metal. Cold metal. Worried that my ass might freeze to the seat, I decided standing was better no matter how painful. My troubles weren't over once I boarded the tram, however, because when we got to the next stop there was a delay. Which means I missed my connecting tram. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

   
• I TAKE PICTURES! Trying to take my mind off my frozen ass, aching feet, and the fact that I was now going to be ten minutes late to work instead of twenty minutes early, I took pictures of the frost that had accumulated on the tram stop glass. It's kind of strange... kind of beautiful...

Frost on Glass

Frost on Glass

Frost on Glass

   
• I MOURN CHOCOLATE CHICKENS! On my way back from work at the candy show yesterday, I spotted a very cool giant chocolate chicken that some company had put on display. I wanted to take a photo, but my iPhone was somewhere in my backpack and I was too lazy to retrieve it. Instead I made a mental note to go back today and snag a shot. Much to my horror, THIS is what awaited me...

Melted Chocolate Chicken!

"HOLY CRAP!" I shrieked like a five-year-old girl, "THE CHICKEN... SHE'S MELTED!" And then, realizing there were other people in the room, I looked at my feet and whispered "I will avenge you, my fallen chocolate comrade." Apparently, shining a nice hot bright light on a hollow chocolate chicken is paramount to disaster. Oh well, it's sadly comforting that somebody is having a worse day than I am.

   
• I WORK LIKE A DRUNKEN SAILOR! Though my day may have personally sucked ass from walking on two aching feet for the better part of 8 hours... from a work standpoint it was quite rewarding. I was busy all day long and the hours flew by. But then I stopped to grab a sandwich for lunch and the world came to a halt when a man and a woman sat down at the table opposite me.

They were the single most perplexing and rude eaters I have ever encountered.

I am not exaggerating when I saw hogs have better manners.

At first I was mortified. The display was so horrendous that I lost my apetite and could barely choke down my sandwich. But, after a while, my revulsion turned to fascination. How in the hell does something so anti-social and balls-nasty ever develop? Such filthy manners simply cannot occur in nature... it's as if they were trained to be this nasty. Despite myself, I used my iPhone "Voice Recorder" to capture the sheer horror of the sounds (I'd have recorded video, but I never want to re-live that terror). This is what I witnessed...

  • Shoveling. The spooning of food to their maws never stopped... even while chewing. This caused food to fall out of their mouths as they ate, which they would then shovel back into their mouths.
  • Smacking. They were incapable of chewing with their mouths closed, and smacked louder than anybody has ever smacked before. The sound was defening.
  • Snorting. The man would make a loud, gag-inducing snort after every fifth or sixth bite.
  • Blowing. Apparently the snorting wasn't working well enough, so he'd blow his nose (loudly) into his napkin every five minutes... while continuing to chew with his mouth open!
  • Spitting. This was the worst... the man would regularly spit things back onto his plate. His dessert was an apple, which he would slurp and smack for a dozen chews, then spit the mangled apple peel out! It was all I could do to keep from vomiting.
  • Coughing. Saving the best for last... during his shoveling, smacking, snorting, blowing, and spitting... the man would go into a coughing fit, blowing half-chewed food out of his mouth. It would land on the table...on the floor... even on people walking by! Of course he couldn't be bothered to cover his mouth... that would mean he'd have to stop shovelling!

Scarred for life, I eventually had to walk away. There's only so much of this you can take if you ever want to eat again.

   
• I CURSE LIKE A BEE! My iPhone has the ability to roam globally on the world's GSM network. AT&T partners with a number of different carriers in most places and offers (relatively) affordable data-roaming packages that work extremely well. EXCEPT IN GERMANY! As I blogged previously from Berlin, data and voice service on my iPhone with AT&T's roaming partner "E-Plus" sucks copious amounts of donkey schlong. When I got a call from Marc yesterday at the train station, the call quality was so bad that I couldn't make out what he was saying. Data is an absolute joke, because I've used up 75% of my megabytes and have nothing to show for it. Web pages don't load. Emails get stuck while downloading. 3G drops constantly and won't re-connect... I usually have to end up rebooting my phone two or three times just to make a Gowalla check-in, because a reboot is the only way I've found to get data back. And all the while you are struggling to get any kind of data connection, your expensive allotment of megs is running like water. I know that AT&T's is not responsible here (I have zero problems in every other country I've visited), but I still blame them. They shouldn't advertise that you can roam in Germany when, for all intents and purposes, you can't. I have screenshot after screenshot after screenshot showing the problems, so hopefully I can get my money back...

DATA ERROR!!!

   
• I EAT SOMETHING I CALL DINNER! Instead of making the long trek to my favorite fried-potatoes-and-mayo place (again) for dinner, I stopped at a nearby kebob shop for greasy potato goodness. Unfortunately, they tasted awful, and I had my fill half-way through. I thought I might go drop my stuff at the hotel then go back downtown for a proper dinner, but I was tired and the trams run infrequently on Sundays. Soooo... I ended up eating candy samples for dinner (since I'm not a buyer, I generally don't take any samples at the candy show, but some companies give them to you anyway). Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how much sleep I get while fighting this sugar-high and nightmares of food-smacking whores. Anything over two hours would be a gift.

   
And that's all she wrote.

Tomorrow. Cologne. I'll go to Cologne, and I'll think of some way to get my appetite back. After all, tomorrow is another day!

   

Day Three: Köln

Posted on January 29th, 2011

Dave!Work ended a senses-shattering three hours early, leaving me a little free time to goof around Cologne today. Having been to the city many times, I'm very much at home here, and so it's an entirely different experience than visiting a place you've never been before.

But before I get to that, I'd like to observe a moment of silence for my newly-dead Kenneth Cole dress shoes. Tonight I pulled out all my work clothes so I'd be ready to go in the morning. As I was shining my shoes, I noticed that one of them had somehow split in the back (I'm guessing my suitcase must have been crushed in transit? Or perhaps when the TSA opened my bag to inspect it, they really, really hated my shoes?). Anyway... all attempts to repair them were met with failure. So now I guess I'm going to attend work in sneakers. That'll look special.

On to my favorite things in Cologne!

   
KÖLNER DOM!...

Dom Cathedral
No matter how many times I see the massive Cologne Cathedral, it still takes my breath away.

   
SPRITZRINGE!...

Spritzringes!
The light, airy, doughy inside makes "doghnuts" taste like shit by comparison!

Dave's Uber Spritzringe
I could eat this delicious bits of deliciousness until I asploded!

   
PATATJES MET! POMMES FRITES!...

Pommes Frites with Mayo!
While not the same as the Dutch patatjes met, my favorite, they're still inanely delicious!

Pommes De Luxe
The line was crazy-long... it took me 8-10 minutes to get mah frites!!

   
KÖLSCH!...

DAVETOON: Bad Monkey and Lil' Dave drinking Koelsch
The delicious and refreshing regional beer... usually served in tiny glasses, not steins, so you have to order lots of them.

   
And, lastly, since you have to pay for all this shit...

GELDAUTOMAT!...

Man Using Geldautomat
My photo turned out blurry, so this is not me. I found a photo of Neil Patrick Harris using a Geldautomat at Wincor Nixdorf.

   

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've had my fill of doughnuts, fries, mayonnaise, and beer for the evening, so I'm going to go to bed and hopefully get some sleep this time. Last night I managed to nap a mere two hours after being up for 38 straight hours, so I'm thinking I kind of have to sleep or I'm going to turn go brain-dead. ZOMFG! Do you think that's what happened to Sarah Palin?

Previous adventures in Cologne...

   

Day Two: Köln-Essen

Posted on January 28th, 2011

Dave!As I type this, it is 12:30am Saturday, January 29th in Cologne, Germany.

Since I woke up at 3:30am Thursday, January 27th in the US Pacific time zone, this means I have been awake for 37 hours straight. And yet I am still not tired. I tried to sleep on the plane, but ended up watching The Social Network again (a little more boring that the first time, but still awesome), Salt again (liked it even more the second time around), and Scott Pilgrim Saves the World again (which sucked even more the second time around, because whiny, dorky Michael Cera is NOT lady-killer slacker hero Scott Pilgrim... AT ALL. This movie could have been sheer perfection if the lead role weren't so hideously miscast).

Anyway...

The flight from Seattle to Amsterdam via Delta Airlines was bliss. I wasn't upgraded, but the plane was so empty that I had almost an entire row to myself, which was super-sweet. Except for the not-being-able to sleep thing, it truly was a flawless experience. As was my connection at Schiphol, as usual. Looking out the plane-window at sunrise, it was looking like a glorious day in DutchyLand...

Schiphol Airport

Except... it was freezing cold. Even after the sun was out. Much like it would be when I finally ended up in Cologne. As I landed, I noticed that Gowalla had rolled out their new flight-tracker status updates, which is wickedly cool...

Gowalla Flights Update
Not shown is my flight from Wenatchee to Seattle... probably because Wenatchee hasn't been considered an airport yet?

Anyway... after checking in at my hotel and then getting some work done, it was time to head up to Essen for some dinner with friends. While waiting at the train station, I ran across an awesome poster... I just love good advertising! That's the hugely tall Cologne Cathedral buried in snow there...

Cologne Snow Day!
"Ihr Beitrag zum klima? Mehr Bus & Bahn fahren!"

Dinner was with my fellow Hard Rock Cafe fans, Marc & Mechthild... with vegetarian pizza hand-made by Mechthild herself, which was as beautiful to look at as it was delicious...

Pizzzzzzzza!!
Easily the best pizza you'll find in all of Germany. You may commence being jealous now.

But the truly unexpected surprise of the evening was the beautiful salad that was served. I still have no idea what kind of greens these were... or even if there's a US equivalent... as I had never seen them before. Marc & Mechthild called them "winter salad," as there doesn't seem to be an equivalent name for it in English (they looked!). The greens appear to be some kind of thick four-leaf clover type-thing, tasting buttery and sweet. There's absolutely no bitter notes in the flavor at all, which made the whole thing taste like frickin' candy when tossed up with a lovely vinaigrette. I shit you not, CANDY...

Mechthild's Winter Salad
If all salads tasted like this, I'd be eating a lot more fucking salads!

After-dinner conversation was all Hard Rock Cafes and world travel (two of my favorite subjects!). The time went flying by and suddenly it was 11:00 and time to take the train back to Cologne. The evening was loads of fun, despite the fact that I really should have been dead from lack of sleep. Praise be to the power of the internet for continuing to find me wonderful friends around the globe!

And now it's 12:56am here in Cologne, which means I've been awake for 37-and-a-half hours straight.

Still not tired.

I have no idea what my deal is, but I sure don't want to be around when this lack of sleep catches up to me!

Alas, I have no choice...

   

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