Chapter 12: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
Trip Start May 10, 2006
21Trip End Dec 17, 2006
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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,
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...).
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.
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. !!!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
how long must you wait for it?
how long must you pay for it?
how long must you wait 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.)