Chapter 12: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Trip Start May 10, 2006
Trip End Dec 17, 2006

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

After traveling around Eastern Europe I wanted to pop around [Western] Europe and visit some friends since I don't know when I'll be back again. This is the first time in a while that I don't have a ticket taking me back to London (and Europe). Since I've seen so much now I will probably be more inclined to visit other places in the future. But I do REALLY like Europe.

I flew out of Dubrovnik, Croatia, to Stuttgart, Germany, because it was the closest spot to Zurich I could find at a cheap price. Unfortunately, the friend I was going to visit in Zurich (Heike) had her plans change 'cuz her university dissertation date was changed, so she was out of town.
I caught the train from Stuttgart to Zurich and from there to Bern, where Esther works. I had a little bit of time to wander town before meeting up with Esther for dinner. (Esther and I met on the Egypt tour a couple years ago.) She took me to a restaurant where we had something similar to pizza. We just talked and time went far too quickly (I only set aside an hour and a half 'cuz she had said she was busy and I needed to get to Lausanne before it got too late). I wish I had more time to visit because she's a sweet and lovely young woman.
Train to Lausanne (the trains are ridiculously expensive in Switzerland) and Carmen was there to meet me at the station. (Carmen is from Brazil and we met in the Greek Islands. She's studying French in Lausanne.) We had a drink at a nearby bar then went to the house she was staying at. She's staying with friends of the family whose house is amongst all the vineyards overlooking the lake. It's a beautiful location. The next day we went to her university to meet up with her friends there (wow, there are a lot of attractive ladies at this university...). Carmen and I went for a walk along the lake and later met up with the friends for a bbq. Most all of them were from South America so spoke Spanish. They were also speaking French (since they were taking a French course) so it was hard for me to follow along with the conversations. We hung out there about 4 hours then a few of us went back to Humberto's for more wine and food. I was really tired so crashed on the floor there. Carmen and I left the apartment early in the morning to get my stuff from her place then I caught the train out of Switzerland. These first two goodbyes didn't go quite as I expected. I thought knowing that I probably won't see them again, it would be sad, but no one wants a sad goodbye so you say things like "I'm sure we'll see each other again sometime". Just cover up the truth to make it easier.

I can't really put a price on getting to see friends, but realistically I don't think I could afford what I paid to visit Switzerland. The flight to Germany plus train travel cost $467 (train travel was about $250)! I should've checked train prices online first and then looked at my bank account to know I just don't have the money to visit everyone I'd like to.

From Switzerland I travelled back north into Germany to Frankfurt. Caught the S-bahn out to Bad Homburg and Diana was there to meet me. (Diana and I used to work together at Nike. She married and moved over to Germany. I visited her a couple times on the last trip.) Diana is always good about giving me a place that feels like home with a little slice of America. Had a few days of home-cooked meals, DVD movies and some i-net time. She made a new necklace for Spanky while I was there too (it has a skull so he looks bad ass).

I flew out of Frankfurt Hahn airport, which is a bit of misnomer as it's 1.5 hours from Frankfurt. Diana was nice enough to drive me there. Flew from there to Gothenburg, Sweden. The airport there was tiny and looked like it was still under construction. There was no ATM or currency exchange. Lucky for me the bus took credit cards. So I got the bus to central station where Penny was supposed to meet me but she had spent the last hour in the shower. I followed her directions to get to the area where she lives and had to keep calling for further directions as she was getting ready so couldn't meet me. Finally made it to her apartment about 7pm. She spent the next couple hours drying her hair and doing make-up. !!! Alex got back from work about 9pm. (I met Penny & Alex in Budva.) That night we took the tram out to an area with some bars. Had dinner at a place with people singing really bad karaoke (this is some of the worst I've ever heard. maybe it was the swedish accent). We went to a bar next door for drinks and some of Penny's friends were there. The bar closed at 1am, Alex and I were tired and ready to go back but Penny insisted on continuing on (so we had to follow). Walk a ways to another bar for dancing, only no one is actually dancing. End up sitting there for an hour before heading home.
I was kept up most the night by their new kitten who is a terror. Penny and Alex woke up late then we had breakfast. Penny had already missed one of her university classes. At 2pm we took the tram to her uni to catch the end of her chemistry class. From what I saw, there's no point in her going. She doesn't pay attention and just distracts the people around her. That or she sleeps. She told me she's already learned what's being covered. After class, we did some errands with her friend, Rony. Penny and I went to the harbor to catch a ferry to her parents. Along the way I wanted to stop for a snack but she was like "NO! follow me!". She really does like being in control. No ferry so we caught a bus out to her parents. We went to pick up her mentally handicapped younger sister to take her out with us. You would think this is a nice thing to do, but Penny does it to get better service and more attention from the waiters. We went back to the same bar we were at the night before for a free buffet they offered (good deal - buy a beer and get free food). Rony joined us there with her son. Rony is cool and was fun to talk to. At one point Penny was telling some story and Rony was talking to her son. Penny stops and tells Rony, "Hey! Listen to me!". Everything always had to be about her. Took the tram back to Penny's about 8pm and met up with Alex there. Penny cut my hair while I watched "V for Vengeance". Ya, it took 2 hours. Looked alright when it was done though.

Had breakfast with Penny and Alex then I trammed to the city center to catch the bus to the airport. Flew from Gothenburg to Stockholm. On the way down there was a lightning storm with bolts right outside the window. Oy! Petra's dad, Leif, met me at the baggage claim and gave me a ride back to Stockholm (since the airport is quite a bit to the south). We picked up Petra from work along the way. (Petra was an exchange student in Portland.) It was good to see her again as I didn't get to see her last time I was back in Portland. He dropped us off at Petra's flat. Had a little bit of time to hang out there then we went for a walk to an area with some shopping and found a bar for a drink. Met up with Leif and Svetlana for dinner at a Greek restaurant. It was expensive so it was very generous of Petra's dad to pay. Just a quiet evening in after that.
Petra had to work on Thursday so I had the day to do whatever. I went into the city center and followed the IKEA bus to its stop, hopped on and rode out to the first and biggest IKEA store. Had some Swedish meatballs for lunch (they were ok). Bus back to the city. I wandered around by the city hall and old town. Back at the flat, Petra and I made some pasta for dinner and just watched a movie. She's being good about not drinking.
Petra had Friday off work so we toured around the city a little. Saw old town, the National Museum and Modern Art Museum. Just another quiet evening in for dinner and a movie. I was expecting more nights out with Petra, though I really don't mind staying in. She's grown up more since those crazy nights out in Portland.
Leif gave us a ride south to the town of Nykoping in the morning where we met up with Petra's friend, Karen. Karen drove us out to the Baltic Sea but it was raining real hard so wasn't so nice. We checked out the town and had lunch before they dropped me off at the airport. Again the goodbye wasn't as sad as I was expecting since we say we'll see each other in the future. ...but there are going to be some hard goodbyes coming up.

My flight was a half-hour late leaving Stockholm, which worried me 'cuz I was already going to be arriving into Glasgow late. I raced through immigration and baggage claim to make it for the train from the airport to Glasgow Central. That took about an hour then I had to follow the signs through town to Queen St Station. There had been a Scottish football (soccer) match that evening so all the fans were out. The train for Edinburgh was absolutely packed with them. I was lucky to even get on the train, even luckier to get a seat. Another hour to Edinburgh then walked to the bar where Claire and her friends were at celebrating a birthday. (I met Claire on the Africa tour. She was always good fun to hang out with.) It was a little awkward walking into a bar with a big backpack on. Met Claire's friends and boyfriend, and had a drink. Soon off to another bar for a couple drinks. We left there about 1:30am and I had to stop for some cheesey chips (fries) since I hadn't had dinner. Those were good.
Claire made us breakfast in the morning then we went out for a wander in Edinburgh. Claire and John had me try a deep-fried Mars bar. The Scottish know how to make something that's bad for you even worse. It tasted kind of weird with the coating...think it would be better in original form. Claire made us dinner then we just watched a movie.
The next morning I went to the train station and met up with Euna. She came down from Stonehaven for the day to visit. (Euna will be off to Africa in November to volunteer at an orphanage then to India for more volunteering. In May I brought a big bag of stuff donated by folks at Nike for her to take with her to the orphanages. Hope she can carry it as it's heavy.) She and I went around town taking care of some of her errands. After lunch it was up Carlton Hill for views of the city (I go up there each time I'm in Edinburgh. Euna had never been up there). We also went by Holyrood Palace and to the Castle. Before she had to catch her train, we stopped by an old man's pub for a drink. And then it was time to say goodbye. We didn't really do anything exciting, but it was great just to hang out with her again. Time goes by too quickly sometimes. I hope it's not the last time I see that girl... I went back to Claire's for dinner and a movie. Claire has settled down since those days traveling. Not that it's a bad thing. Maybe I'm the one not growing up...

I said goodbye to Claire in the morning. She's fun to hang out with even if it's a quiet evening in. I caught the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, walked to the bus station and rode the bus four hours to Manchester. Jayne picked me up there and we went back to her house. (I met Jayne in New Zealand in 1999.) Her husband, Paul, was home and we entertained her son, Frank. Jayne made us dinner, we had some beers and watched a little tv.
Woke up to a rainy day. Jayne made us breakfast. Later we went into the city and took Frank to a toy store. There's a little cafe in the basement where we had lunch. Lots of moms with their screaming kids there. We also checked out the Urbis Museum. Back to the house and Jayne's sister, Emma, and her girlfriend came over to babysit Frank so the rest of us could have a night out. Jayne and I taxi'd into the city and had dinner in Chinatown. Paul met up with us after dinner and we went to a couple bars. My belly was too full to drink much though.

Thursday morning I took the train to Southampton. Laura picked me up from the train station and took me back to her flat. She had to start cooking up stuff for tomorrow night's quiz night. I went into town for lunch and looking around. Back to Laura's and Becky soon came back from work so I chatted with them for a little while before going over to Jon's place. (I met Jon, Becky and Laura in SE Asia.) We got some Indian takeaway and the girls came over for dinner. Jon and I just watched a movie that night.
All the others were at work so I just went into town and wasted time. In the afternoon, I helped Laura and others setup for their quiz night benefit. Back to Jon's and we hung out having a couple beers before the girls' quiz night started. The quiz night was a benefit for cancer research. I spent the first part hanging out by the buffet then went and sat with Jon and some of his friends. I wasn't very good at the quiz though 'cuz most of the questions were British oriented. Hung out with Becky's team too (so maybe I was cheating a little). There was a raffle after the quiz, but I didn't win anything. I helped them clean up afterwards. To bed after that.

Said goodbyes to the gang and caught a morning bus to London. Once there, I took the tube out to Tooting and Charley met up with me at the station. (Charlotte and I met in Split just recently.) We went back to her flat for a little bit of chat. Into the city to check out the tube slides at the Tate Modern. Unfortunately, the tube slides were packed full of people. We looked around at some of the "art" though. (Both Charley and I are of agreement that one colored line painted on a backdrop of another color doesn't constitute art.) Had a walk along the Thames to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery for some real art - The Modern Masters, a collection of paintings by the impressionists. It was jam packed full of people though so wasn't too fun. Enough culture for one day. Stopped by a basement wine bar to enjoy the dark ambience and a glass of wine. Along the Thames again this time to see Big Ben. We took the tube out to Wimbledon and met up with Jodie for dinner. We had fancy burgers and chips with some strong garlic sauce. Paid a visit to the Walkabout, an Aussie pub. The clientele and scene left a lot to be desired. We just had one drink there before deciding we'd had enough of the place. Didn't know where else to go so said goodbye to Jodie. Charley and I took the bus back to her flat.
In the morning we went to a nearby cafe for breakfast (or brunch since it was near noon). A bit later I took the train out to Dulwich and met up with Emily. (Emily and I met in Chile.) We just went for a walk in the park and talked. I headed back into central London and met up with Charley and her friend, Mike, outside of the Astoria to see the NME Tour concert (I bought a ticket from a scalper). The opening bands were alright. The headliners, The Fratelli's, are Charley's current favorite. The show was over about 10pm and we caught the tube back to Tooting for bed.
I had to be up early to be at the airport on time. Charley saw me off and left me wishing I'd spent more time in London (or not left at all). Not easy to say goodbye.

"it's the luck of the draw
how you wound up with me
i don't know how at all
but i beg you to stay
run around on this earth
but the world's still small"

So I'm left again thinking I'd like to be able to live somewhere and have all my friends there with me. It disappoints me that that simply cannot be. I didn't go on this trip to find the meaning of life, but if I had, I'd only be left with more questions. One part of me wants to be somewhere else in the world to enjoy the richness of the country's culture and people, and another part would be happy to be back home in Portland. I guess it's a conflict between my head and my heart. My brain tells me the sensible thing would be to go back home and advance in a career, buy a house and settle down. Europe has captured my heart though. I love the architecture, history, culture and ideal that enjoying life is more important than work. And perhaps it's not the place that's special, but who you're there with. Even then, I'd still be torn. I think I need to visit a freaky weird scientist to split me into two people/personalities so one can stay in Portland and the other can go live in Europe. Maybe the question I have to ask myself is where I'd be more happy. (I don't know... wish I had some way to look into the future and see which would be best for me.)

"in my place, in my place
were lines that I couldn't change
I was lost, oh yeah
I was lost, I was lost
crossed lines I shouldn't have crossed
I was lost, oh yeah
and yeah
how long must you wait for it?
how long must you pay for it?
how long must you wait for it?
for it"

--- "In My Place", Coldplay

(In total I spent nearly $800 in transportation expenses to get around Europe to see friends. I hope it was appreciated.)
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