And it begins ------------------------- ...

Trip Start Oct 02, 2001
Trip End Nov 01, 2001

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Sunday, September 30, 2001

And it begins...

Well, finally we are in Europe...

It seems like only yesterday we were back at our jobs and just trying to put the trip together...

Each of us started the trip in separate ways so we will type up a section each of us followed by a little combined word from all of us since meeting up in Munich for the much anticipated Oktoberfest. If you have no idea who Gerry, Luc or Chuck is, you may want to skip passed those sections :)

I flew to Copenhagen two weeks ago today but it feels like I've been here for much longer....

My flight from Atlanta to Paris was cancelled and I had to be rerouted through Britain. Unfortunately my luggage didn't make it till a day later :( but thanks to Christian I got the airline to give me a travel pack and $100 US.

Denmark was great, I had planned to meet Christian and Bodil at the airport so they could show me around. They met me at the airport and we got to see some of the sites Copenhagen has to offer. Then next day I went to Jutland (north western part of Denmark) with Christian and Bodil's parents to get a feel for authentic Danish life. We visited the coast where there were dozens of little fishing boats. Apparently this is also a popular spot for Germans to go for summer getaways. Bent also took me to a mussel factory. They bring in 500 tons of mussels per day! It's the largest wild mussel factory in the world.

I then went back to Copenhagen where Christian introduced me to some traditional Danish food. If you come here make sure to try the stegt flask mod persille sous. It's basically huge chunks of meat that taste like over cooked bacon, it's all you can eat and a sure way to get an instant heart attack!

I also got a chance to see Christiania during their 30 year anniversary. Christiania is a kind of commune of about 1000 people who have declared themselves to be 'naturalists'. They refuse to pay taxes, grow organic food and smoke/sell soft drugs openly. After a hard night of partying, I got on a bus hung over and head off to Berlin. It was great seeing the Dams again and hopefully I've convinced them to come visit us in Canada. For details on Berlin, check out Luc's entry, we were together the whole time.

It was a memorable flight to Berlin. Long, exhausting, boring... but memorable none the less. Climbing the stairs to the first class section of the 747 to Frankfurt from Toronto ( Thank you Air Miles ;) ), I suddenly knew why it was so expensive to fly first class overseas.

Although I had flown before in first class, going overseas in first class is something else. There are only about 12 seats in the first class section which is in the bubble at the top of the plane high abov the coach and Business class sections. These seats are reserved for people with money to waste or, like me, 160,000 air miles to waste :).

Champagne Sir?
Some wine with your steak?
Foot massage Sir?

It was nice being pampered for 7 hours straight ... ok maybe there weren't foot massages but all the rest is true...

Aside from the first class treatment in first class, the flights were pretty stale until my flight to Berlin from Munich.

As the plane was landing in Berlin, my slit opened eyes heavy from the fatigue, jetlag and martinis were fighting to stay open. It wasn't until I realized that I had no idea where the hotel was that I was meeting Gerry at that I started to panic.

"What if the airport is 2 hours from the hotel?" I though.
"...Shit, better check with someone"

A German looking bloke sitting next to me might know where the hotel is. So, I introduced myself and mustered enough energy to ask how to get to my hotel. It was my lucky day, my neighbor just happened to be a 28 year old talk show host in Germany. Peter Imhof from the Peter Imhof show... you know who I am talking about right? Well maybe not, it's a German talk show. Dropping Peter's nam later on in the trip came in handy too :)...

** Here are some Peter Imhof web sites, check it out:

The directions I got from Gerry, my travel mate who was meeting me at the hotel were a little to vague, apparently, there are 6 streets in Berlin with the same name. Peter saved my butt and split a cab with me promising to help us tour the city the following day.

What a score, the only person I spoke to in the 18 hours of air time and now we have ourselves a tour guide, and a celebrity one at that!

Peter was extreamly helpful and curtious. He showed us around the town all day Saturday and took us out clubbing at night. Berlin has changed alot since our last visit 6 years ago. Everything is new and the architecture is stunning. Although Berlin was nice to see and experience, it was good to spend a full day with Peter to get a German's view of current events, and to learn not only about Berlin's sites and history but about their people... we couldn't have paid for a better 2 days. ( Thanks Peter! )

Pete dropped us off at the airport and it was off to the Oktoberfest...

My journey started with a trip to the US Formula One Grand Prix.
I must admit that taking so many flights in or out of the US only days after the horrible acts of September 11th was a little nerve racking but after the first couple of flights I felt allot more comfortable.

The weekend started off a little cold but as brave canadians we wore shorts and t-shirts anyhow. As the weather got hotter so did the race action. By race day (Sunday) I already had a nice hangover and sunburn! What a race it was!
We met quit a few people at the race and the hotel from all over the world like always. Formula One is such an international sport that it attracts people from all over. Luckily, my friend Andy is from German heritage and thought me enough german words and expressions to use at Oktoberfest.
We had a great time visiting Indianapolis and it was hard leaving the guys and the weekend behind. I had to keep in mind that my trip had just begun and that a whole month of trekking through some of the roughest and nicest unexplored regions of europe was ahead of me.
So it's back to europe we go!!
I've been looking forward to this since my first trip in '97 so come back and read our entries as we explore this part of the world rich with culture backed by thousands of years of history.

Part One: The re-unification of the troops... Munich, Germany

Finally we meet up here, in Munich for the biggest and best beer festival in the world.

Welcome to the famous Oktoberfest!

With hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the city every day for this festival, vacancies in hotels were pretty low but Chuck managed to find this really cool hostel/hotel combo that had a triple room for the very good price of $200 CAD per night within walking distance of the festival! It is Oktoberfest after all so the price is very competitive.

Hostels are a perfect place to stay because you meet so many people. It is virtually impossible to get stuck traveling alone. Our room was perfect, with our own private shower (a big bonus when travelling on a budget in hostels) and it definitely helped getting over the jet lag although I think the beer may have also helped the jet lag too :).

We thought Canadians drank alot, Munich is just insanity. The steins at the Oktoberfest deserve some respect by themselves. We are not talking about little drinking glasses, the beer steins are 1L and thats the smallest glass you can get at the Festival.

Oktoberfest: You hear the stories and see the images but nothing can prepare you for the total chaos of Oktoberfest! Last year there was 6.5 million Litres of beer consumed at oktoberfest. There are dozens of beers tents on the festival grounds but we only had time to visit 4, which I think was probably enough. If you want to know why then just take a look at the video we uploaded.

Oktoberfest also has rides and other attractions and, of course, when at oktoberfest you have to buy a genuine oktoberfest sausage.

With all of the craziness we all ended up by splitting up the first night and none of us remember exactly how many steins we drank and how we got home the first night as we lost track after about 30L or so. Some nights were so blurry that we had to refer to Chuck's digital camera to piece everything together. We discovered some unexplained videos of him ordering McDonalds on his camera the next morning... not sure why and what some of those were but they make for funny stories...

A great way to discover cities in Europe is to take an organized tour. The best and most famous throughout europe is Mike's Bike Tours. They brought us all over the city on bikes with stops every 5-10 minutes at various attractions to explain the sites and take pictures. The english speaking guides are hilarious and have at least 2 years of experience for every tour. We just about busted a gut laughing at our guides jokes, although I think he may have poked a little too much fun at us Canadians and our Canadian flags on our packs ;)

One of these famous attractions is the Haufbrahaus which translates into the house of hops beer. This is where the spirit of Oktoberfest lives 365 days a year. It was built by the goverment and was only accessible by high ranking politicians and government officials. One day they decided to open the doors to the general public and they quickly noticed they had to expand! Today the place is like a big bar with hundreds of people drinking steins and dancing on tables. Definitely a place to see when in Munich, even if Oktoberfest is on. Old and young all standing on tables and smaking steins of beer together while yelling PROST! ( german for Cheers! )... the true spirit of Bavaria is within these walls.

We're off to Prague for a quick night of fun in the Czech bars and to meet the local folks. Just a quick stop in and then to Krakow...

We'll see you there!

3CC (the 3 crazy Canadians)

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