August 25, 2008

travel report 6: sailing out of Trieste along Istrien

As you know I have been on a sailing trip out of Triest for about a week. I arrived back in Vienna on Saturday, fresh of the boat, and happy to be back at my parent's place. I guess it is about time that I come to some sort of conclusion, mentally, about my impressions of this four week long road trip, but first of all lets make fun of puking, Croats, sail boat captains and myself. I cant make any fun of ze Germans, because they are awesome. Awesome for inviting me, awesome for being easy, awesome for squeezing themselves into a 30x7 space with a black Austrian and a thirsty skipper who honest to your choice of god lives in Schiffmanns Straße.

the crew

black Austrian, Schumi, Philipp, Thomas, Hermi, Anne

Yes, I made it back to Vienna in one piece, and also managed to not throw up all over myself and all over the boat for the last week. I dont know if you all know this about me, but I am the king of motionsickness. I realize this does not gel with my plan to be Austria's representative on Mars, what with space travel being rather nausea inducing. But how unamerican of me would it be to let a little puking get in the way of my dream? "About as unamerican as universal health coverage", says Billy O'Reilly. Therefore, I give you the Austrian Comet of Vomit.

this is what you get when you make fun of flexible pete

I did warn them about letting me drive that baby!

For this reason the crew of Taika managed to scrape together anti-motionsickness medicines from all corners of the world - Mostly thru our underworld connections to the drug industry, Ms Treuheit. Chewing gums, patches, 130 % proof alcohol (honestly, I didnt know it was for cleaning). I was told to only use the patch if my heart can viably beat at 5 beats per minute. I decided to wait to use it until I had taken that Online Fakir course, which should enable me to lie on beds of nails, survive naked in subzero temperatures, have a girlfriend and most importantly survive 5 heart beats per minute. Some might say that all of these things are one and the same, but who am I to judge? Luckily for us, the Mediterranean played nice and was flat as a pancake for the week. As opposed to me, who has been gaining weight steadily since I have been eating and drinking and eating and drinking and sitting on my ass in my Volvo and on the Taika a lot. What can I say, I never thought I would put on weight, but it seems to be mostly a function of who is serving me what kind of food.

Philipp Treuheit left front, responsible for wuzeln, cooking and Mussels - QED for my newfound fatness!

3 kilos of mussels for 4 euros bought of fishing boat, a lot of crunching, very little talking, happiness lies in plans well laid. "Dont eat the ones that dont open!"

Once again, I have to give a shoutout to my incredibly democratic teutonic friends. Nothing on this sailing trip existed that was not agreed upon unanimously. Every packet of noodles, can of beer, packet of Kippen (german for smokes or tschick), dinner, breakfast, cheese, ham and plan was discussed, taken apart, examined from all angles, put together again, and finally agreed to. Which is why the bloody German machines gel so well, I might add. I am not generally a patient person, goes hand in hand with being Austria's Comet of Vomit, but I must say this was lovely to behold. Not only did I enjoy our indepth analysis of each and every point, but it also made complete sense to have everyone's view count. We did ignore the skipper every once in a while, mostly when he said "Do I really have to die of thirst here?" But only because he wasnt talking about a sip of water. But otherwise this lead to a rather harmonious experience on a ship the size of a post stamp.

Most of you know that I lived in Japan for a couple of years a long time ago. I can honestly say that at least 3 out of 6 Japanese would have committed Sepuko on this excuse for a ship after three days. Of course they would have left notes explaining that they did themselves in for the greater g(f)ood for the survivors, but we all know that's BS. Their sissy little polite facades couldn't take what teutonic democrats easily discuss and debate into complete and utter submission. It is similar to the way we cook meats and vegetabls until they are hard as rock and gooey as marshmallows, respectively. If you dont believe me, try sleeping with Treuheit in a cabin for which I lack appropriate size metaphors because its just too short, too croocked, too right above the waterpump. Maybe that 130 % proof alcohol was for not remembering the nights, but in all honesty I can say, even the sleeping arrangement worked like a charm.

You are forgiven, if you read the above and forever more refuse to step on a sailing boat smaller than the Queen Elizabeth II. However, you would be missing out on an amazing experience with friends that will only become closer - much closer - as you learn to work as a team throwing Halsen and Wenden and People over Board (for training purposes, I think at least).

Now if only we could have figured out how to learn a maneuver which would ensure a modicom of politeness from our Croat hosts in the various marinas. But short of a sawed-off pump action gun, I cant think of anything that would have achieved that. The only difference between a Croat and a Frenchman is that the Croat screams "Nema" at you at the top of his lung, while the Frenchman just ignores you. Z, you were absolutely right. Croats do want our money, they just dont like us to come down there to give it to them. They would much rather we just transfer it over in zeros and ones. That little Mario actually tried to run a racket on me that a Phillipino would have been proud of. Alas he did not reckon with the teutonic anger of Captain Werner from Schiffmans Straße who, and this is best said in German, las ihm die Leviten like only a man of the sea is capable of doing. I tell you it is fun to behold a Croat and a German going at each other - them's a couple of funny angry accents.

"NEMA! Je bemti matre, yu wil nema coom he again! I waant mei funf Eeuro"
"HAH, I veel sspeeck wiz urr bosss rrrigt nau, and ve veel ze hoo haz ze lazt worrrd een zes matter!"

Does it get any better than this? I need to move back here, just to be able to make fun of other people's accents instead of my own for a change.

Finally I do need to impress upon you, that if Austria would have run the world instead of Rome, Britain or the USA it probably would not be a more just place, and surely not more efficient. But it would certainly be one hell of a pretty place. History buffs that you all are, of course you know that this part of the world used to part of Austria. And strange as it is to see Austrian Herrenhäuser on the seashore, it is pleasing to even my jaded Austrian eye. Might be my own sensibility but it takes a certain level of arrogance to go and take over place, just so that you can build this:

for your little Sissy - Austrian Empress, embodied by Romy Schneider in useless if sweet Austrian movie "Sissy", who is a sort of old school Jacky Kennedy. Just so you dont think America invented the hot stylish first lady. Austria made a bloody living at that, although I still dont understand how they got around them Habsburg noses. No matter how, "Tu felix Austria nube" remains one of my favorite quotes. I also need to get me one of those Franzl uniforms.

I leave you with my thought of Austrian Imperialism:

And if anyone wants to send the open letter right before this post to my foreign minister, here is her address:

offener brief an österreichs aussenministerin

Sehr geehrte Repräsentantin Österreichs internationaler Interessen,

Ich schreibe in Bezug auf ein Anliegen welches allen freiheitsliebenden Menschen die an der Bewahrung ihrer Grundrechte interessiert sind wichtig ist. Ich wende mich an Sie, als meine von meinen Mitbürgern gewählte Vertretung Österreichs im Ausland, da es sich um die schwierige Situation in Tibet handelt.

Die heute zu Ende gegangen Olympischen Spiele sind und waren eine Chance eine zukünftige Großmacht wie China in die Staatengemeinschaft rechtsgläubiger Nationen willkommen zu heißen. Dieses Willkommen muss aber, um seriös zu sein, auch beinhalten, dass China bestimmten Menschenrechten folgt und es seinen Bürgern erlaubt in Freiheit zu leben. Diese Freiheit besteht nicht darin einen auf westliche Prinzipien aufgebauten Rechtsstaat einzurichten, aber diese Freiheit besteht auch nicht darin souveräne Staaten zu besetzen und deren Kultur und Menschen auszurotten. Davon gibt es leider schon viel zu viele Beispiele in den letzten sechs Jahren (Irak) und vier Wochen (Georgien), welche gegen schärfsten Protest der internationalen Staatengemeinschaft von statten gingen.

Sie wissen natürlich wesentlich mehr über die politische Geschichte Österreichs als viele unserer Mitbürger. Ich bin mir sicher, dass sie mehr Ereignisse in unserer langen Geschichte vergessen haben, als ich jemals erfahren werde. Trotzdem möchte ich zwei Spezifische erwähnen die in unmittelbarer Vergangenheit stattfanden, welche, so meine ich, persönliche Verantwortung durch persönliche Erfahrung mit sich bringen. Das Erste ist die Annektion Südtirols durch Italien 1918. Diese widersprach Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Punkten der Selbstbestimmung. Das zweite Ereignis ist der Anschluss 1938.

Ich muss nicht erwähnen, dass ein internationaler Protest, zusätzlich zu Mexikos einzelgängerischer Courage 1938, in beiden Instanzen willkommen und möglicherweise wirkungsvoll gewesen wäre, um die Grundrechte Österreichs zu verteidigen. Leider versagte die internationale Staatengemeinschaft beide Male kläglich. Die Konsequenzen sprechen für sich. Als Österreicher einer Generation der die horrenden Ereignisse des letzten Jahrhunderts erspart blieben fühle ich dennoch eine gewisse Verantwortung, dass geschichtlich bewiesene Fehler nicht ad absurdum wiederholt werden. Weder von uns selbst, noch von anderen. Werden wir in fünfzig Jahren zurückblicken und es bereuen, dass wir hier nicht handelten da dann die Konsequenzen unserer Schüchternheit endlich nicht mehr ignorierbar sind?

Sie hatten vor kurzem die Möglichkeit zu einem Meeting mit den führenden Repräsentanten Tibets in Österreich. Zum Anlass der Olympischen Spiele wollten diese darauf hinweisen, dass ihre Landsleute unter wesentlich schlimmeren Umständen leiden als Südtiroler oder Österreicher, mit Ausnahme der Opfer des Holocausts, je mussten. Diese Repräsentanten Tibets fordern von ihnen nicht, dass Sie einen persönlichen oder staatlich gesponserten Kreuzzug für die Menschenrechte und gegen China führen. Sie fordern auch nicht, dass Sie eine Dalai Lama Briefmarke herstellen. Im Gegenteil, sie wollen nur, dass Sie ihnen zuhören. Dass Sie diesen verzweifelten Menschen nur für 30 Minuten Ihre Aufmerksamkeit schenken, um aus erster Hand zu erfahren was mit ihren Brüdern, Müttern und Kindern in Tibet tatsächlich passiert.

Sie waren zu beschäftigt. Wichtige internationale Meetings hielten sie davon ab einen Termin nach Ihrem Belieben festzusetzen. Denn diese Tibeter würden sich nie herausnehmen Ihnen etwas vorzuschreiben. Dafür sind sie viel zu verzweifelt. Sie wissen, dass sie Bettler der internationalen Staatengemeinschaft sind. So wie Österreich 1918 und 1938.

Es ist wahrlich ein schamvoller Augenblick, dies hören zu müssen. Ein Land wie unseres sollte besser sein. Sollte moralischer sein. Sollte sich an sein eigenes Leiden mit Wehmut erinnern und stolz die Fahne der Gerechtigkeit so hoch halten, dass sie nicht ignoriert werden kann. Nicht im Namen der Realpolitik und sicherlich nicht im Namen billiger Rohstoffe oder unseres eigenen Lebensstandards kann dies unterlassen werden.

Aus diesem Grund ersuche ich Sie, Ihre Entscheidung rückgängig zu machen. Schicken Sie nicht Ihren Lakaien zu diesem Meeting mit den Tibetern. Machen Sie Platz in Ihrem sicherlich sehr vollen Terminkalender. Hören Sie sich das Leiden unsere Mitmenschen an. Wenn nicht, um tatsächlich größere Gerechtigkeit von China einzufordern, dann zumindest, um sich Ihre eigene Menschlichkeit zu bewahren, um Österreichs moralisches Ansehen zu erhalten, und last but certainly not least, um diesen armen Staatenlosen das Gefühl zu vermitteln, dass ihnen zumindest ein Ohr und ein Herz geschenkt wird.

Verbleibend, als besorgter Bürger der Weltgemeinschaft,


August 14, 2008

travel report 5 Carcassonne to Barcelona

Honestly, it was about time that I did some bitching for my last post. I have been so happy with my cruise around EU land, that it was down right un-natural. I was in a veritable wonderland filled with wine and whatnot. Cheese, provence, lavender fields, cassis, and now Carcassonne, Pyrenees, Andorra, Barcelona. It just dont end. Cousin Philipp thought that EU is amazing because there is so much nice stuff bunched together. I am just glad it was a European who told me that, not an Auslaender. I agree with him, I have somewhat of a spinning head from it. I feel like them tourists that sleep in a bus, like chickens in a box, while they are beeing carted to the next european city. 20:20 or something like that. I talk french to catalunians, spanish to french, catalan to italians, and i say s'cusi, pardon, tschuldigung, excuse me, excuse moi a lot. A very large amount! I get asked about my american accent a lot. Which only leads to more s'cusi, pardon, tschuldigung, excuse me, excuse moi on my behalf. Sometimes I wish I would talk MORE like Aahnold - operative word here being of course more. Maybe then I wouldnt have to make sure that I justify my existence. I think I need a canadian flag.

So after my lovely day driving towards the Pyrenees, via Bézier, the Canal du Midi and my favorite viaduct, I ran around this huge bastion of a burg. Without fail I arrived at the appointed time of just pre sunset. Which you must surely be able to tell from my amazing previous pictures of sunsets at prime evening camping locations. Right? If you dont believe me check this one out before I arived in Aix en Provence.

Bettah b'live me nau! Do you know how hard it was to calculate the exact moment, on the exact day that the sun would set in exactly that spot when I drove my car through this tunnel at 120 KM/hr while holding the camera out the window to take a completely random picture? Me neither, it was just luck.

Anyways, I thought we had Burgs in Austria, of good size and imposing nature. Sadly I must report that my sweet little Kreuzenstein fits into the servants toilet of this baby. However not sadly because their Burg is bigger than my Burg. Burg, Schmurg, I always say. But sadly because I do not like my education to be this chauvinistic. We all know that our respective countries transport a certain message of patriotism and why our leetle home is the bestest leetle home in the whole wide world. Mine was that we presented the world with Mozart and Sexdreams of phallic symbols. Yours might be flowers or punctuality. Or eating dogs, whatever. Leave my Burgs out of it. Just let me know that my Burgs in Austria are not the mightiest of the mightiest of bad guy vanquishers. Then I dont suffer shock and awe on sight of the real thing.

I know its from a distance, but only way it all fits in one pic. I notice I am really starting to love perspectives. Its more a rediscovery, I used to draw these geometric views of the transamerica pyramid in SF, when I was 14. I guess school was good for something.

Sinnister Zinnen Perspektiven

I told you its huge

She didnt care though

So I got outa there, too

That night I camped out high in the Pyrenees. Found myself a little nook and put my friend Wolfgang's Tent up - grazie Wolfang and Romana. Yes, it's really German name. Sigh. Fresh and crusty I drove on in the morning to get across the Pyrenees and Andorra into Spain and to Barcelona. On the road up those anthills I saw this guy standing by the side of the road. Of course, being the gentle soul that I am, I gave him a lift. He was a clown from Quebec hitch-hiking his way to Barcelona after a summer of tomfoolery in the south of France. I give you Louis-David, the cowboy:

He is not wearing his custome there. What can I say, a couple of kindred travelling souls, although I must admit his international style of travel is a little too hard core for me. Props to his endeavor though. We spent a cool day driving to Barcelona and checking it out quickly, before retiring to our on personal Penthouse high above the oceans of El Mansou. But european into the wild is not an episode I wanted to be part of. Too much of a chicken in my middle aged days.

Luckily my first couch surfing host provided me with hearth and home on the next day, and since I was a couch surfing virgin I could not be happier at the way my CS cherry was popped. He and his Girlfriend fed me the most amazing ham, served me the nicest local wines and I enjoy me a can of Catalunian beer any day of the week. I know most of you think that this is typical Peter to sleep on random couches, and you are of course right. However, and this is a huge HOWEVER. I promise you that you will never get to see a city the same way as when you couch surf.

And in case you didnt know: Parma Ham is a copy of Catalunian ham, Cheese in France is crap, French soccer is the worst, and if you got any more questions go to the Dali Museum. If too lazy this will also do:

This is Gaudi Park up on the hill. Come early, no touristas and great shadows. I finally bothered to use the Selbstausloeser. You know, the thingamajic that makes you look like a fool when you put your camera on a rickety perch, sprint into a possibly advantageous position and try to seem to be completely relaxed in the ensuing picture perfect moment.

Amazing, isnt it :D

I spare you the rest of my perspective mania.

And leave you with a nice Jack Johnson song line from What You Thought You Need:

August 12, 2008

ye old tree

Nic, I know you like trees, this one is older than Austria!

necessary patriotic dose

Good to know that not only Americains supply their consumers with a good dose of patriotism. Really rather pathetically full of pathos, isn't it?

travel report 4 - St Tropez to Cassis

Sodala, Ich muesste ja fast diesen Teil des Berichtes auf Deutsch schreiben, nur der Fairniss wegen. Ich nehme an, dass ca ein Viertel meiner Leut lieber Deutsch als Englisch plaudern tun, nachdem dies der vierte Bericht ist... Das einzige Problem ist dann halt nur noch mein Deutsch :)

I did promise you Cassis. Seems like some of my faithful
(this is really quite validating, thank you) readers thought that this was a woman. A woman seemingly more out of 1001 Arabian nights than stories. Alas, with great sadness I must report that what I lazily refer to as Cassis are Lime Cliffs, also known as Meditarrenean Fjords, or Calanques at the little town of Cassis, just east of Marseille. Of course my pix are way better than whatever the professional photographer dude can put up on Wiki just so that everybody goes to look at his site. Wannabe web content producer! Is all I am saying. In any case, Cassis was exactly what I needed after St. Tropez.

A first taste of the cliffs right before sunset. I have been lucky in hitting these grea
t spots right around sunset time. Makes weird pictures like this one easy. Please tell me that you know clicking on these will make them nice and large. Otherwise you will now have to go back to all my other reports and read them again - yikes - and look at all the pictures again - yikes yikes - and comment on ALL of my other superbly written blog entries - yikes yikes yikes.

But first we must deal with St Tropez, and I mean that roughly the same way a Russian "interpreter" would have applied it to one of his "customers" in the Lubyanka. Generally, I have had the same image of St Tropez that you all have. A glitzy, swanky place, full of hot punany and downright decadent in its indecency (yup, all known adjectives used up). You can imagine my Vorfreude: Coming down out of the hills of Verdon, looking and smelling like a cave man. I was going to find the most glamorous beach and chase some honeys with my musty yet manly stench. My hair standing on end, like that Young Einstein dude after learning the effects of plugging his fingers in a socket (some genius), my fingers crusty from running around in a dumb canyon when I could have been downright decadent, etc. Even my car embodied the post pubescent cesspool that Volvo always wanted in order to finally project an image of young urban hippness. Imagine a smelly, crusty veritable volvo marketing nightmare befalling the Cote d'Azur like so many Vikings, raping and pillaging my way up and down the coast of Gaul.

Well that was me, but only in my thoughtless Vorfreude. As we know kommt es erstens anders, und zweitens als man denkt (sorry, this is untranslateble while remaining funny, but I want you all to try anyway, I will send you a cookie for the best go at it => comment :) Reality was completely different than image. I guess that's what images are all about. And this strange reality dysfunction reminded me of another one of those images that are so full of hoaxyness they make you want to puke. American Dream? Disney World? Any takers? Your don't see it? Well let me help you with that: First of all you traffic jam your way along the blue coast for however long you can take it. There was literally a jam along the entire coast from Monaco to St Tropez. If this doesnt sound like going to the beach or to Disney Land in LA, I dont know what does. I tried to avoid this silliness, by going to a beach wherever it was that I got sick of thinking that St Tropez would be just around the next corner. Well, of course this was a kiddy beach, and not that I am a typical american male, but I havent seen topless girls on a beach in a long time, and the ones that interest me are generally not underaged anymore.

Of course those were not to be found on the beach that I found myself on. So I split pretty quickly. Seriously, if you think I left cuz of the missing toplessnesses, you should read someone else's blog. Then a flash of brilliance (returning blood to brain maybe) hit me, and I went inland and passed by about 2 hours worth of jamming in what is certainly not the lords name.

Finally I arrived in St Tropez, jammed my way godlessly to a parking structure, and walked into town. Hahaha, you St. Tropez-Knowers laugh happily, he wanted to walk in town, Hahahaha. Well its not that funny. See the problem is, there are too many people there to walk anywhere. You can only fight your way to wherever you want to go like Triathletes will kick each other in the cojones to get away from each other in the water. Presumably they all had the same image as I did of St. Tropez. The hot punany, the glitz, the yachts, all the shit that I am not supposed to care about anyway. Well it ain't there. What is there is a replacement drug for our poor mislead souls. The glitz is what the dealer gets you with, and once he has you, he aint never letting go. You will ride the pink dragon till your commercialized kingdom comes. You can shop till you drop. And if you are a stupid little punany you can walk along the port, trying to look sexy so that maybe you can finagle your way onto one of those yachts. But you will still have to pay in one form or another. And if you dont mind the plaster, or dont know the difference between it and real stone you may admire the cute, tiny streets. And if you dont mind that the stores sell you the same shit as the ones on Melrose, and Akihabara and The Bund you can buy all that crap, ship it back home and tell yourself that you have lived the dream of St Tropez. Except that you bought from just east of Hong Kong, when it comes right down to it.

This is why I do not have
any pictures for you from St Tropez. It's a place with no soul, in which european criticism of american consumerism is at the Mount Everest of both its disingenuousness and silliness. One image suffices to tell its entire story of a Potemkin Village, built not for the purpose of fooling one's queen, but rather to fool us into thinking that this travesty matters one iota. Just take some Soma if that is what you are after.

If Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East, St Tropez is the whore of the Mediterranean. It is the undressed puppet in a dirty, bursting at the seems market that only exists because our thirst for buying crap demands more shopping square footage than this disneyfied monstrosity offers. Look at these perfectly shaped curves, the images that we long to possess for ourselves. Check the measurements that every starved and hunger diseased super model would/will die for. See, the puppet has no head! Air in the space between the ears where the brain should be. Does this call anything to mind? Those breasts god could not have made more perfect. And don't even ask for primary genitalia. If I am drawing comparisons between human and puppet headlessness, what, pray tell, do I think of, well... pussylessness? This poor replica, this image of our own empty replacement desires is propped up on a stilt, connecting ass to street in order to remind us who is being cavity searched for their last penny by this Scylla of Mammon. Today the hordes have left this particular whore hanging high and dry. But tomorrow she will be stronger and greedier than ever.

Of course I could have just told you not to go to St. Tropez, but that would be just awefully boring. You still want some pix from Cassis? Peaceful, not crowded, clear aired, threateningly impressive Cassis? The untamed mare of the Mediterranean that will throw you off like dandruff if you do not respect her. At least now you know why it was a breath of fresh air for me.

dont try this at home


scary cave man on scary cliff to send you a note

Une photo silteple (for you purists that is phonetics)

August 11, 2008

travel report 3 - Aix en Provence to Carcassone

ola compadres,

As my spanish is completely none existent I will spare you any worse than that. Especially sin
ce people here (Barcelona) do not really speak Spanish. Yes I am by now in Barcelona, but I have so many things to tell, that more on this city will have to wait for a better later day.

Simon, remember how you said I sho
uld go to the Lavender fields. Well, I tried, but somehow my route took my away from where you said I should go.

I did hit Lake Monteynard, although I came at it from the east. You cant really go to the lake from there, as you drive up at the cliff. At the end of it you can hit it. But the view from there is amazing!! So when you go back to Provence take D529.

So when I came out from there I headed roughly south in the direction of the Gorge de Verdon. Which took me across this Plateau de Valensole towards Riez. And suddenly I see Lavendel Fields as far as the eye can see.

And I must tell you, they were in full bloom. By accident I stumbled across exactly what you told me I should see. Funny, how that works. In any case, if you ever need travel tips in the South of France, I recommend to chat to Simon the Source.

You already know all about my joy at the Gorge de Verdon, unfortunately I did not do any hikes there. Somehow I was pulled to go on. to Aix enn Provence, specifically. Must have been pretty Caroline and her pretty mother and sister. Oh, yes, I, Peter Illetschko, stayed in a lovely cottage in the Provence, with three lovely ladies. What can I say, happens to me all the time. When I arrived in Aix i fell in total love with the city, and dicided that I was finally and completely learn French. To my own surprise I enjoyed trying out French phrases. Other than my family you dont know that I hated French in school, bad timing, all I am going to say. But on my second day, I walked the city for the afternoon, and was disapointed. Its not the fault of the place. I am too much of a city kid to be comfortable with seeing several people in a town several times over the course of an afternoon.

But I did enjoy my stay at the Thomas place that I stayed 4 nights. I went to Marseille, and even though I had heard that it was dirty and not very nice, I liked it a lot. In typical Illetschkok fashion - that is, if we dont go on a hike its not a vacation -

I hiked up to the Basiliisque Notre Dame de la Garda, then across town to the Longchamp Fountain thingy, and back to the Gare de Route to take the Bus back to Pertuis, where I was staying with Caroline.

So after four days of luxuriating in provencial but never provincial cuisine, I tore myself from the Provence, I felt like a middle aged divorcee already, and drove on to the Pont du Gard. Which of couse was another tip, from Kata this time. Sometimes it seems to me if I would not have friendly spirits telling cool stuff to see I would run around like Pan in a labyrinth. Now the Pont du Gard was pretty cool. But you cant go on it, unless it is a guided tour. But it is amazing to see this huge edifice built way back when.

After that I drove down the freeway towards Spain. I was warned that Saturday is the travel day for french holidayers. You ask me if I was scared of a bunch of smelly loud freedom fries eating french people on the freeway? Heck yeah I was, I figured they would make me eat froglegs or snails. Just to entertain themselves with an unsuspecting Austrian. You can imagine my relief and joy to see that the traffic jam was going north that day, instead of south. I can even imagine how it is stand in traffic from the border to Nimes. Hot I imagine. I turned towards Carcassone because the castle there is supposed to put the various Burgs in Austria to shame.

On the way I hit Brezier, which is this very pretty very old town, populated with very old people, who all sit around the local rambla and chill. Or wait for something important, I dont know. I took a picture of the castle above the city, just to have at least one picture of one of these french towns with a castle above them.

Its lovely, of course then I drove on and saw this huge construction site to the side of the road. I went down some side streets because I wanted to see if I was right. And it was indeed a jail, that was being built right outside of Breziers. Are those southern french going to use those inmates as bulls in their arena? I know european jails are supposed to be a sort of Med Club, but this one still looked scary. I think the better rooms would be the ones with the view of the castle above Brezier in the distance. At least one could be glad not to be rotting in a medieval dungeon.

Click on these two images and I promise you can see salvation just like the future inmates.

The Canal the Midi connects Toulouse from the west with Brezier and the Mediteranian. It winds its way east across this lovely landscape of vinyards. The canal is shaded with these huge Plantains. Big leavey trees that shade the canal. I decide that I will come back here and canu this baby one day.
As I drive I see this mirage of a long low viaduct a little bit of the road. Its only one level, not hugely impressive like the Pont du Gard, however it sits right there. I think I might be able to get up on it, and walk across it. I go back to it, and have to drive on a road between two vinyards to the viaduct. I make may way over to one side of it, and see that it is easy to get up.

I am also rewarded by a huge bush of Raspberrys. I feel rewarded for my entriped spirit of discovery. I climb up on the viaduct and you will not believe this, but it is stll working. I know that in Europe it is completely normal to use somethings thats at least a few hundred years old, like, you know, 1500, but my unfortunately americanized soul it seems awesome. And how american is that?!?!?

So I run around on top of it for a long time, taking
all these amazing pictures that I will force on you here. Before I take off I make sure I get the juiciest berries and a nice bunch of dark grapes for dinner. The earth provides and as we all know we create our own environment. I could not have this created better if I read in a book somewhere.

On to Carcassone and medieval castles of silly proportions. Which will, alas, have to wait for the next Report. Oh, and Cassis, I forgot Cassis... Ahhh, Cassis...

your faithfull friend on the road,

As usual please forward to interested parties that slipped thru the cyber cracks.

travel report 2 Gorge de Verdon

Speaking of the Gorge the Verdon...
At one end of the Gorge there is lovely town up on a rather sheer rock cliff, at which center stands a small but amazing leetle church. It is a typical provencial village in as much as architecture except that it is perched right in the middle of this cliff, with a slippery slope leading you right to church. The way up is ok, if steep and requiring of you the necessary pennance or at least some stamina and an interest in taking pictures from the top. But on the way down, you soon realize that you had better have said a prayer up at the chapel as the stony steps are worn smooth of the eons of pilgrimage. You will slip and you will tumble and somewhere high above you someone will say "Man, I told this bloody americain to wear proper footwear. What are they all thinking coming up here in flip-flops?"

The Chapel's name is Notre-Dame de Beauvoir and sits high above Moustiers Sainte Marie (I dont believe this can be translated to Musty Saint Mary, although one never knows in this country, i.e. smelly cheeses once again).

I saw two amazing things on my way up and down this by the summer heat baked dead mountain: The birds that were playing in the up draft. I tried to take a picture of them, as they hung motionless in the air, scant meters (yaya, its metric system bitches) above me. But every time I would try, as if on clue the bird would launch himself on another round about tour of the cliff, leaving me to take a wobbly picture of the sky. So unfortunately my seemingly japanese need to take pic after pic did not work and you will have to take my word for it, and I the memories.

The other thing were the windows of the chapel. My nerdy dork knowledge contains useless facts of all proportions. For example most of the churches of Europe have been destroyed at one point or another. At those points what remained of the churches were their supporting walls. If you would like to check on that, please google image "St Stephens Cathedral Vienna WW2". Of course all of these were rebuild, which could be kind of annoying considering that we could have built a library or a parking lot (danke Herr Hrubos:) or something. However the one thing that could never be rebuilt properly were the windows of these churches. Somewhere during the history of devastation of europe the church lost the secret ingridient to make those wonderfully strong colors you can find only in churches that had not been destroyed. Whenever you look at a church like the St Stephens Cathedral in Vienna, you will see that the colors are pale compared to the originals. Sometimes you can even see where individual window panes were patched around the original and clearly note the difference between the old and the new. This little church on the cliffs of the Gorge de Verdon has escaped our periodic madness and therefore retains its original brilliance. Of course my silly digicam doesnt do it justice, but it was indeed lovely to behold.

As a stray thought: isnt it weird that I seek out a church up on a hill and bore you to tears with my nerdy dork knowledge, when I am a declared born-again atheist?

After this lovely excursion I finally entered the Gorge de Verdon proper, and was amazed. I had no idea that Europe had such a big hole in the ground. Granted it would fit into the Grand Canyon many times over, but that is only a proper size relations between EU and USA anyway. Completely forgetting that I should be looking for a place to sleep other than the backseat of the Volvo, I drove further and further into it, enjoying the setting sun as it played of these weirdly SoCal like hills. Lo and behold there is a camp site right smack in the center of it. And careful investigation (handsignals with locals) proved that a man would come by who I could pay for the one night stay. Sometimes I wonder how things just fall into place. I spent the night camped out next to a nice dutch couple, who did invite me for a cup of coffee late at night, but who drinks coffee before going to sleep, and who can accept that when they have nothing to offer in return?

Early the next morning I drove on down the gorge, and came out the other side. Some of the most amazing vistas arose out of the morning mist. I know this writing style sounds incredible cheesy, but it only reflects the cheesiness of the landscape. And cheesy is only in the eye of the beholder and proof of something that all consider to be truly lovely anyway. So extraordinary as to become clichee.

Hope you are all enjoying your lives, cubes travels as I do this trip.

travel report 1 - Vienna to Philipps Wedding

Bonjour Mes Amis,

I am now in a small village north of Aix en Provence, called Pertuis.
I am staying with my friend Caroline and her sister and her mother.
I know you have been anxiously (right) awaiting a report of my
amazing travels or at least a blog entry every once in a while.
Alas, I am completely de-technologized, have no lap top and
no phone and no nothing. I tell it is rather strange not to
be able to JFGI everything that I need to know exactly at the time
that I want to know it. Now, most people will extol the virtues of
disconnection from the web sphere, as they call it in this silly Sci Fi
book I am currently reading, however I think that's a bunch of BS.
I don't see what the value is in not being able to find out about a
particular church that I happen to come across by accident. Or for
example not being informed that the aircondition in your house just
went out (sorry, Assar, you might get a call). In any case, that is
the case, and I try to make my way across the EU in this fashion.
My only consolation is that humanity used to be able to exist without
these little tech helpers for a long time, so I should be able to as

chez mon parents

As you all know I started my trip out in Vienna. As it was the first time
that I did not feel stressed out for having to see everybody in a very
short amount of time I really enjoyed myself. Vienna in the summer
remains a nice place, and when I was there it wasn't too hot either.
After a w
eek of eating lovely sausages and sleeping whenever the
jetlag felled me, I made my way to Munich to pick pick up some
people that were going to my cousins wedding with me, which was to
take place in Grenoble.

Cuz Philipp and I

Of course that was lovely as well,
especially the castle they had their celebration in after the short
but sweet Standesamt wedding. It was a castle in La Sone, as usual
they used to guard a river, blablabla, same as in all other places
and castles and rivers in EU. Well at least the Danube is like that.
But those were robber barons that used to rip of people travelling
down the river. Who ever said that the Austrians only like to marry
of their pretty large nosed daughters in order to improve their lot?!?!

Yes, I did wear
a suit to the
wedding. This is
me and my new
13 best friends.

Yes there were
many more
French relatives
of the bride
than German
ones. Yes, they
stayed true to
form and spoke
no languages
except their
own.Some people
mightsay that
that would be a good thing. I beg to differ. The strangest thing
is that my French is coming back. I think one day I will move to
the Provence, collect Lavender, learn pottery, read books about
Eating and Praying and learn French. For reals this time. Maybe
that way I can actually talk to all these Mediterranean Beauties
and find out why the cheese tastes so good when it smells so bad.
Oh, le fromage. Il est magnifique.Il est superb. It is as good as
my French is bad. During the wedding I stayed dans une Gite
(loosely pronounced *SHIT*, mais bien sur, les Francaise sont
crazy), with 13 of Philipps (my "throwing way his freedom cousin").

We bought cart loads of cheese, wine, and whatever else our starved
for good food minds could think of and had an absolutely marvelous
time. Seldom have I been welcomed by a group of strangers with open
arms such as they. It was down right un-german of them. Hung out for
three days around celebrating my cousin's wedding. It was so French
the whole experience, that the only thing that could top it would be
a trip across the Provence with a recent divorcee. Which is of course
the next thing that I did, except the recent divorcee I could not
recruit in time to make the cliché truly typical. The Gorge de Verdon
is indeed a nice canyon of good size. I had the incredible luck to run
across a camp site right in the canyon, and that's where I stayed the

Astute students of geography that you all are, you of course know
that in my story parts are missing between the Gorge de Verdon and
Aix en Provence. That is for next time to tell.

Alors, a la prochaine!

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