Sometimes I wonder why I feel so overwhelmed, then I look at this last week wherein I visited three countries. Aha!
First was Salzburg, Austria, for a three-day weekend. After Venice I found the scale a little ... underwhelming. Sure the fortress on the hill was cool, and (after the thunderstorm that welcomed me had cleared) the weather was fabulous, but more churches? Sigh...
Viewing the castle from the Hostel below
Catacombs, Salzburg style
Ah, but then I discovered the people! Saturday there was a music festival with kids from different schools performing all sorts of things: jazz, classical, bagpipes, even a dance routine to ABBA (Mozart, where are you when we need you???) I wandered from performance to performance in the various squares taking it all in.
The Music Festival
My first night's dinner was in a quiet little pub. They were playing 'Hooked on Classics' Swing CD's. It had been so long, that even with a disco beat I closed my eyes and pictured myself spinning around the Century Ballroom. I got to talking with some older local gentlemen, received a free shot, and was invited to their table. That's when they started asking me about Seattle's Gay Pride Parade, and asking how accepting Seattle was. Well, that explains the free shot! Apparently they thought I knew it was a gay (or at least mixed) bar. Regardless of the confusion it was a pleasant, if at times odd, conversation.
The hostel has a copy of The Sound of Music. Having never seen it (yes, really), I joined a group and took it in. I don't think a comfortable chair would have made it seem any shorter. I hope never to be subjected to that movie again (and I know I'm going to alienate someone with my assessment!). The upside was that I met an Australian couple who will be in Seattle shortly after I return, so I can host them. (Hi guys, welcome to my emails)
I then spent a few days in Munich with Olaf, which is where I started this whole adventure. I mailed a nine kilo box home, and planned my attack for the second half of this trek. I developed all the pictures I've been taking, which was 25 rolls! I'm still digesting all of them. Don't worry: none are slides! Munich seemed very European to me, in contrast with my impressions from March. Perhaps I'm more perceptive when I'm not suffering from jet lag. It was nice to return 'home'
I had the opportunity to tour Dachau, which was sobering. There is an ex-prisoner who visits there every day, and I spoke with him (and translated a little German for the others in our group who were trying to talk to him).
That night, to completely change the mood, I went dancing with the folks I had danced with before. It was a hell of a lot of fun, though after not dancing for so long, my muscles are still tired! Once again, I had a drink bought for me and my partner by someone impressed by the Lindy Hop - and I was dancing with the same woman I was with when we had a drink bought on my first visit. I think I like dancing with her! By the way, for anyone going to Catalina: look out for Christine from Munich. I don't know what week she's going, but it's her first visit there. She's the teacher of the classes I've visited, and is very nice.
Still a prisoner?
I'm now in Zurich for more dancing. I'll go both Friday to a short dance and then Saturday to their big Swing Party (we'll see if I can last to the end at 4:00 AM...) Zurich itself is a 'real' town, not a tourist mecca. That is just what I need. I am reminded a bit of Frankfurt. This town is clean, but not in an obsessive 'Disneyland' way with people sweeping up right behind you. Rather, it is the kind of clean where you get the feeling people take care to not get it dirty in the first place.
Zurich has some beautiful parks to hang out in and plan my France excursion. I am overwhelmed by the options on where to visit, and need to pare it all down to one place in the country to visit on the way to Paris.
An example of the internet, and how great it is for traveling: I am planning to meet Ben (who is in Seattle) in London with Laura (who is already there). I'll also connect with Ben in Paris along with Leslie (also already there - Leslie is the American I met in Budapest). At some point Brie (who I think is in Italy now) will also meet me in London. I can't imagine organizing all of this without email. How did they do it back in the dark ages of the 80's?
Some images to leave you with:
1) Shy young girls in Bavarian dress singing a song in Salzburg so quietly, none of us could hear a word.
2) People under big umbrellas at sidewalk cafes in Munich unfazed by the huge electrical storm going on around them while they watched sports on TVs pointed out at them.
3) The Bavarian hills rolling past my train window, peppered with sheep and light brown cows. The pictures don't do it justice.