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Might as well...

From Schloss Nymphenburg - October 31, 2008; Paris - November 1, 2008

Today was just awful. Two bomb scares here at Charles de Gaulle, a canceled flight, a second flight missed because of the second bomb scare.... Blah. And it gets worse than that, but I'm so tired right now that I'm just going to go to sleep. I *should* hopefully be home tomorrow. But I thought, as long as I'm in Paris... (the Eiffel Tower was too far away from my train station and I would have missed the last train to the hotel had I gone - that's fine, it's the thing I'm least interested in here).

OH god

I just realized that my train transfer in the middle of the night is a total of 15 minutes. It shouldn't be a problem, but that freaks me out. :( 15 minutes to get my bags off one train, down two gates and on another train. *whimper*
Today was weird. But good. My spirits are lifted and even though I didn't see as much as I would have liked and my food is being messed with (it's pouring and the restaurants around here are packed - so it's room service or McD's because I'm starving), I feel good. Tomorrow is gonna be a looong day, or rather, two days without good sleep. So really, this is likely my last entry from Germany. Weird. Suddenly this post seems so much bigger. Eh, I'll leave a post trip summary for once I'm back. :)

This morning I got up early and took a series of trains into Dachau. It felt weird, planning to do this. The historian in me was in direct conflict with the person. I was curious, but my heart was breaking for all those people. So many people. So many types of people. I didn't realize, until I was there, just how many French were imprisoned. The Holocaust is one of end of history that I actually do believe in revisionist history for. Apologies need to be made. Also, modern day Germans cannot continue to bear the load of blame for what those before them did, many in an effort to protect their own families. I feel the same way about slavery in America. I felt so many emotions today as I rode into town. I kept looking around at all the shops and beauty parlors and got angry. Why didn't they burn this place to the ground and salt the earth?? Didn't people know what went on here? I found out inside that when Dachau was liberated, the Americans marched the citizens of Dachau through to look at the piles of dead bodies and the living arrangements to see just what they had either been ignoring or were honestly unaware of. I think the German citizens (not to be confused with those that did the deeds) have paid their dues. I broke down in the crematorium. All I could think as I passed through was, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry you had to endure this. I'm sorry your suffering was so great." It only rained (on me) today in Dachau. The rest of the time outside was lovely. But the sun was still shining there. It gave the impression that the place is so desolate, it never stops raining. And in a way, I don't think it ever does. It made me think, several times, of the childish idea that rain meant God was crying. I can't imagine that he wasn't. I took very few pictures because I felt like a ghoul even being there, but there were some very powerful images I needed to capture. I've never been in a more wasted and yet populated place. I'm also conflicted on the complaint I overheard from many Americans, that it wasn't kept up well enough. They were referring to weeds and buildings showing wear and tear but how do you maintain something that awful? Again, the historian in me made a donation as I left, but the person in me just wanted to see the years take it. I was proud of the Germans for their remarkably even handed portrayal of the events. They didn't spare anyone and they didn't needlessly blame people who weren't involved.

I also wanted to punch several German high schoolers in the back of the head while I was there. But that's not really here or there...

After that, I ventured back into Munich to see the Englischer Gartens and maybe some nudists. At the very least the Chinese Tower. I greatly underestimated that park. I have to go back tomorrow. No one could tell me which train stop to go to for the good stuff, so based on my subway map, I guessed and chose poorly. I'll be going back tomorrow. It's lovely, I just wanted something a little more than "pretty park" because Wisconsin has a lot of those.

I think that's it. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up Wi-Fi in Charles De Gaulle, but if not, I'll be writing you all from Madison next!!!

From Dachau, Munich, and the Englischer Garten - October 30, 2008

Munich City Blues

I am in a really bad funk today. I'm feeling a little under the weather and very lonely. I was supposed to at least hear from the Holzingers today to meet up with them but I haven't gotten any sort of response. I was woken up this morning by the maid breezing right past the "Do not disturb" sign on my door at 7:30. It was rainy and gray here and I just don't like Munich. The subway is smelly and the downtown has gone from dirty tourist city to dirty NY wannabe with soooo many label stores that made my per diem weigh a little heavier in my pocket. (I resisted the temptation of Jimmy Choo shoes. I win.) I actually had a hard time finding souvenir shops to buy German things in. There were a bunch, sure, but all of much lower quality than the last time I was there. I got lost just looking at buildings and photographing things, but I stumbled my way back to the glockenspiel twice, once just in time to hear it/see it go off!

Tomorrow morning is Dachau followed by the English Garden. It's supposed to be a little nicer so hopefully I'll shake whatever is settling into my chest and get up early, hit the bakery across the street and hop the U-bahn.

Anywho... here's Munich. I really don't like this city, but as it's THE city of my beloved Bavaria... well, here it is.
From Munich - October 29, 2008

Castle on a Cloud

There's not a lot I can say about today. That's not right. There is. But I don't know where to begin. Pour me a glass of wine sometime and we'll talk about nirvana and what it's like to face one of your greatest fears and see one of your life's most lasting dreams through on the same day. We'll talk about great, "mad" kings and the love of a good man who is waiting back at home for you and how real and lasting love can erase years' worth of loneliness and heartache. I can tell you about the pouring rain, the certainty of pneumonia and knowing that there comes a time when everything just falls in line and why Pat Benetar rocks especially as you warm up with a hot chocolate (with a wee bit of whiskey). You can tell me what it is that makes you drop your jaw and believe in God, magic, or both again.

You should know two things though: I crossed that bridge (twice!) and no one will ever take that away from me and the Bavarian people love Ludwig II. The way we love Abraham Lincoln.

From Hohenschwangau - October 28, 2008

Please - feedback on this one. A little bit of my soul is in each of these pictures - water droplets (grrrr) and all. I want to make excuses for a lot of the photographs, but I won't. Not for this one.

Hohenwhonow? (post dated)

I am sans internet. Weird. I remember how I whined and pouted about not having it the last time I was here. It doesn't seem so bad now except that I can't talk to Ben as easily. Or upload the pictures I just took. Or post this. Oh well.

German Pepsi, for the record, is weird. Weirder still? I prefer coke here.

I've made it to the ultimate destination for my trip. I'm glad I came here right away. I'm currently typing this on my balcony at a bed and breakfast in the tiny hamlet of Hohenschwangau (High Swan Region if I remember "gau" correctly...). The air is crisp and the night is clear and I am greatly amused by the sound of the next door neighbor's goats milling around their pasture (I can hear their dozens of copper bells :) ). But I didn't come here for the goats. I came here for the tiny bit of illuminated tower ahead of me in the night, or rather, what's attached to it. Neuschwanstein. THE Castle. I cried a little when I saw it. It's so beautiful in the night, illuminated against the ominous black silhouettes of the Alps. I feel so tiny looking up at them. I feel so tiny looking up at the dual castles each less than a half mile from where I sit. The other castle here is named for the village and is actually far more...foreboding? It looks like a fortress where as Neuschwanstein is what most people think of when they think "castle." It has a more orangey hue to it and is ironically far more inviting at night than Neuschwanstein. It's bold and closer to the ground. The ghostly pale of Neuschwanstein feels as chilly as tonight. It makes me a little sad looking up at it. It's so beautiful, but so cold. It reminds me of Rainbow Springs back home. Just so sad to invest so much into something only to never see it completed. Apparently you can go to the shallow pool Ludwig was found in. It's several meters below that horrifying bridge I'm tackling first thing in the morning. (Pray for me at like... 3am your time.) I'm really, very excited.

Riding the train down from Essen today was pretty wonderful, even if I got off to a rough start. I don't know if it was setting off on my own, or not having taken a foreign train before or what, but I was a nervous wreck. I was so afraid I'd end up in the wrong place or do something stupid. I did, but it was okay. I was in the wrong seat for a couple hours of the trip and my bag was waaaaaay too big for train travel. I'll either have to pray that the night train back to Dusseldorf is quieter and I won't have to heft my bag over my head again (more unwieldy than heavy, to be fair) or I'll have to ship board games back. Anyhow, I digress. (This is what you get when I have time and energy to write. Shannonspeak.) There is so much more of Germany I want to see now after seeing so much of it blurred past my window. There were some unsavory looking places, of course (you will have to drag me kicking and screaming to Koeln unless that's where the Milka factory is), but most of it was just beautiful. The rain created a mist around the foothills and Germany (further south) is in peak fall color so it was really remarkable. No pictures, sorry. 300 kmph trains aren't camera friendly. Steve and Ev? So many places to shoot you both. I even saw a burned out WWII era building on a hill near Frankfurt with hundreds of acres of fields and woods surrounding it. *drool* We went through the Black Forest a little bit and I am just so in love with Germany and train travel. I'm sad my next long train ride through Germany will be in the middle of the night.

My room here is hilariously tiny (see forthcoming pictures) which is fine for just me for just one night. What's freaking me out (besides the long spiral staircase I had to heft my bags up) is the bed situation. I have two twin beds. But they're pushed up next to each other like some 50s sitcom joke. And they have wood boxsprings, so there's wood running down the middle. So weird.

Because it's a bed and breakfast and I have nothing stupid to occupy my time with, I set out into the darkening city for food. I found a lovely little cafe that, like every other building in Bavaria, looks like a chalet and like every other building in Hohenschwangau, featured a woman in a dirndl. It was the first restaurant I came across and what was the first thing on the menu? KNODELN. MMMMMMMMMM. I have been waiting seven years for good knodeln again and I got it. With really tender roast pork. I took a picture. People probably thought I was nuts but I don't care. I was eating by myself (which I really hate doing - nothing feels lonelier to me) and was surrounded by stupid tourists. I was going to strike up conversation with some obviously American women a table over, but once I heard how unpleasant they were being (complaining about everything in Germany), I just kept up the German and talked to the waitress whenever she came by.

Okay, I'm running out of things to type and I actually have work to do, translating instructions for a really neat game I bought that only comes in German. I'm hoping if I translate it and get coworkers to like it, we can look at picking it up.

Up tomorrow at the crack of dawn to take pictures of the village and of the castles from the village and then on the first bus up to that bridge. *shudder* But I've conquered my fear of escalators on this trip and flying so let's tackle heights, no? (German subway escalators are terrifying. They go both ways. It just depends which end gets activated first. And they're everywhere. I got over my escalator thing.)


From Trip to and Arrival at Hohenschwangau - October 27, 2008

Goodbye Essen

I can't believe tonight is my last night here (til next year! (I hope)). It's gone so very quickly. Even with all those looong looong days at the con. ;)

Bob, Danny and I are spending our last waking hours here playing "Luggage Tetris" trying to fit all the board games in our suitcases. I just had a nice end of trip discussion with them too. :) I'm very excited for all that this trip has meant for our company. I am so excited for what I feel I can contribute now, too.

I needed another six days or so for this trip but eh. I still saw and played a TON of boardgames. Probably literally. Some CCG and mini games too, but wow. Board games. Today I wished I had bought more, but looking at my crammed suitcase.... I'll buy them online. Or, you know, at work.

I will almost certainly be unable to post tomorrow night so don't fret for me, Argentina, if you don't see something. Tomorrow I take an early train to Munich and another to Fussen after that and then taxi to Hohenschwangau just to get up early on Tuesday morning and hike around Neuschwanstein. EEEEE! Then train to Munich to meet up with the Holzingers. YAY! Then I should have internet with which to post a zillion and one pictures of that beautiful castle. YAY!!!

A couple parting thoughts before I leave you with pictures. This part of my trip has been wonderfully cinematic thanks to my iPod. I've been stuck in a Wes Anderson film. Like when I sauntered out of a subway car with dozens of gamers flooding out around me, The Envy Corps' "Rhinemaidens" started playing (you tube the song) and when I happily came bounding down the subway stairs after landing a good deal, "Almost Like Being in Love" by Frank Sinatra. Thanks iPod! And then, I heard a German take on one of my favorite... ideas? phrases? ideologies? today. "History always happens twice. The first time is a tragedy, the second is a farce." Food for thought.

From Essen - Oct. 26, 2008

See you folks in Munich!

Stayin' Alive

The title of this entry, "Pull My Finger," and "Hey! That's My Foot!" are all fictitious boardgames my bosses and I have come up with this weekend. I want to play them all. And I've been playing a lot of board games. I'm amazed at just how many bad board games are out there and how many of those I've played. Don't get me wrong, I've played some awesome games, but I've played some real losers too. A lot of them this evening.

I cannot believe tomorrow is the last day of the show. It feels like it's taken forever and yet I can't believe it's over. It's so big and even though I worked my tush off, I feel like I need another three days to see everything.

I was in meetings almost all day so no pictures, but there were dozens of larpers there and wow. What a bunch of freaks. (Non-gamer readers - LARP is Live Action Role Playing. That's the D&D the 1980s warned you about. Dressing up with elf ears and talking with a funny accent. "Casting spells." Weirdos.) I couldn't help but gape at the furry (I'm not explaining that one) dressed as a fox swordsman. *shudder*

I also can't believe I'll be home a week from right now. But that means I'll get to see Ben, and I won't lie, he is the one reason I'm coming back. Germany is awesome. Five story bookstores.

Good night!

So tired

I'm just so exhausted and we're only done with two days of this con. So much to do and see and the only break I took from the event today was spent wandering downtown taking pictures. My camera was awfully noisy today (in the image sense) but I think there are some winners.

Sorry... I just don't have it in me to write more. There's so much to tell about today. I was cursing most of your names earlier because of your time zone. I was so happy about how things were going (I'm still very happy about it) I wanted to call and tell someone, but it was 5am in Wisconsin. :( I found a five story bookstore. It's beautiful. The show is awesome. I have so many awesome things to show people and sell people and play with people, I can't wait.

But right now, I'm going to take a lap around the lobby to stay awake for the industry party we're going to this evening. All the Americans at the show are gathering. Should be fun. I wish I didn't feel like this though... *yawn*

These pictures should be loaded by 2pm your time. Hopefully this will sate Ev's need for pics and desire to see something more different from Wisconsin... :)

From Essen - Oct. 24, 2008

Check in!

Dead tired. Another night late in the bar playing board games.

Essen itself is amazing. The con, that is. So big. And everyone is here. EVERYONE. We've run into so many manufacturers and company friends here, it's remarkable. And they've been so helpful.

I've played a bunch of games and bought almost as many without playing them, just to get a feel for them. I'm excited to bring them home. Everything is so cheap here (board game wise)!!!

I discovered a jackpot of Essen tonight in finally finding the pedestrian zone and a lot of old buildings and statues. I know I promised pictures tonight, but it's 2:30 and I've got to be at breakfast in five hours, at the hall in six.

Pray for good weather for me next week! It's supposed to be rainy while I'm at my castle. I want sunshine while I cross that scary bridge!