Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby You Must Be Irish...

cause my richard* is Dublin!

So what is a simple ex-pat to do when they are looking to get away for the weekend, to find a place where it is acceptable to act a fool a bit and not be an oddity in the crowd?  Why Dublin of course!  At least this is the idea that my good friend (Kapil) and I had back in January of 2012 (plus you can't beat a EUR 99 flight).  So it was settled two gents on the town for a weekend of drink and maybe some sightseeing along the way.  So Friday and time to jet, I meet up with Kapil to catch the train to the airport and as we got to the airport we were provided a little bit of foreshadowing as to what the weekend would have in store.  After throwing an elbow or two to disperse the crowd** we make our way to the escalator to the terminal.  So in front of us is a German guy and he must have heard us speaking English or something because out of nowhere this guy looks at us and exclaims, "George Bush is zee BEST! Fuck zee rest!"  Needless to say were a bit taken aback by this and quite frankly we both realized after the fact that it was massive fail on our part to not chase him down and get this on film...pretty sure we would have become YouTube millionaires or something.

Now in the planning phases of the trip our other friend (Mark) said that he was contemplating joining us but it would be a last minute add.  As he worked for the airline finding a last minute deal wouldn't be such the issue for him, but as we were entering the airport Mark hadn't contacted either of us to provide the thumbs up or down on if he would be joining, so a friendly bet of the first Guinness was waged and I am happy to say I won as we rounded the corner to the gate and saw Mark waiting for us.  So now it was three gents on the town for a weekend of drink and sightseeing...maybe.

So upon landing in Dublin and checking into the hostel (yes I said hostel, and yes I know I am 32) we were off to figure out what to do on a Friday night in Dublin.  Well it just so happens that the top 10 hostlels in Dublin (not sure what that criteria is, no bed herpes, maybe?) host a pub crawl on a nightly basis.  What better way to be immersed in the drinking culture of a city then by taking a guided tour of the local watering holes where they feed you free booze on the way into each place (ok...maybe not the best way, but don't knock it they are fun).  So the first few bars weren't that much to write home about, just the three of us having a few beverages and telling jokes, but the 3rd bar now that is were the night started to turn interesting because they had BEER PONG!  So Kapil and I were all in and secured a table and pitchers to play, all we needed were opponents.  So as we were about to try and recruit some opponents, a few American college students asked to join in the fun and it turns out neither of them had played before as they both attended a very religious college and could get kicked out for drinking (not BYU, but some joint in PA).  At any rate it turns out that these two young lasses were studying abroad in Dublin and were basically using their study abroad as an opportunity to rebel against their institution of higher learning (and maybe some other deep rooted issues, who knows).  So making it a fair match we both teamed up with one of the young bucks and played a few games of pong.  I should mention that my team won all three games played as I was supposedly sandbagging my skills per Kapil (seriously though I suck at beer pong and happened to catch fire this night).

Mark and his we need more drinks face at closing time
The next few bars on the tour weren't all that eventful either, just progressively aiding these students in their rebellious drinking.  Maybe a more reasonable person would have told them not to give in to the drink, but some of the greatest people were complete drunkards and possible even on a more nasty trip. Also, when in Rome.  Soon enough we were on to the final bar of the evening which was this dance club place (we got free admission, so no harm done).  Well after a while of being in the place and being quite intoxicated ourselves at this point Kapil, Mark and I decided it was time to leave.  So after retrieving our coats we tried to go out the way we came in only to be redirected by the door guy to some other form of an exit that was up by the main bar...whatever.  So in looking for this exit I see a green sign with the running dude to the exit and somehow deduce this must be the way out.  So down a long corridor and past the kitchen (I think) of the club (this probably should have been my first sign of a wrong turn) we came upon a closed door that was clearly an emergency exit...well not any longer, it was just the way out tonight.  So we fling the door open and an alarm starts blaring in our ears (as these things tend to do).  This immediately incites us all start running down the next corridor (of course this wasn't actually the door to the outside), up and down various flights of stairs, running, running, sprinting until finally the alarm became a distance door.  Now at this point I was fairly certain that there would be 4 or 5 of Dublin's finest waiting for us outside of this door as we clearly trigger the fire alarm by opening the first door, but no turning back now...only one way to go.  So through the door we went signaling another loud siren...but no cops...yet.  So another dead sprint up the loading dock and down the street, turning here, turning there, can't go there bouncers are sure to be waiting with forearm shivers, this way, down the clear.  Finally, far enough away, walk casual...nothing to see here...alarms at a the clear.

Now about 10-15 minutes after the fact when I had my wits back about me (and more so now, a few months after the fact) I realize how irrational my thinking was at the time.  Fire alarm?  Please, I know from my years in the restaurant and movie theatre business that these things just make a loud ass noise, no triggering of any alarms...because jackasses like me set them off all the damn time.  We were true fugitives...fugitives of our wild and drunken imaginations.  Alas, we started to head back to the hostel and figured a night cap was in order, so off to another bar...but only to be denied entrance as we had lost track of the time (or were just used to Germany's lax cut off) and it was past the bar hour of room at the inn for our livers.  Just then however there was a ray of hope...ah yes, a Ray's New York Pizza!  Just what the doctor ordered.  Now Ray's and I have a bit of a history, maybe someday I will recap other stories of my life, but this time it was just a friendly transaction.  No shenanigans, just a damn fine slice and a good way to end the evening.

At the St. James Gate
Day 2...ugg...head needs to stop pounding...yes, the all too familiar symptoms of the hangover.  Slow moving for sure, and this definitely put a dent in our ambitious goal to visit both the Guinness Storehouse and the Jamison Distillery in one day...had to cut it to one, so Guinness it was.  After the stroll through Dublin to the Guinness Storehouse we fell upon the glorious site of the St. James Gate...and respects were to be paid in the only way that seemed appropriate...Tebowing!  Ok I realize it was lame now, but it was at the height of the fad and I got carried I just love the stuff.  So the tour to the Guinness factory is pretty darn cool, even if you don't actually go into the factory and see the magical elixir being made.  It is more of a museum that walks you through the process of Guinness production with a lot of video and interactive type stuff to play with.  After the tour there are supposedly two options you have to cash in on your free pint.  You can either "pour your own" pint where they teach you the proper etiquette/process of pouring a Guinness or you can go up to the bar on the top floor.  However, rules are for bowling...not beer, and when you are traveling with a cheeky Englishman...well all bets are off.  So our cunning companion Mark realized that the credit card receipt they give you is printed on the same stock as the ticket (which is your pass to a free pint), so why not try to pass off the receipt as your ticket.  Well it worked!  While most of the suckers in the place only got one free pint, we were sneaky enough to get 2 (real criminal masterminds...I know)!  To pull this trick off, I think the way to go about it is to use the receipt for the bar upstairs as it was quite crowded and the bartenders were just trying to get everyone a beer and may not be quite as hawkish as the guy who monitored the pour your own line.

So after a quick stop back to the hostel to change, it was off for night 2 on the town...edition Temple Bar.  Now for those of you who haven't been to Dublin, Temple Bar is basically a street one block off of the river that is just a row of bars.  So our goal, start at the top and hop from bar to bar and make our way back down to the hostel and the other end of the road.  With ambition on our side we were off.  Now I can't say there was much going on that turned this into as an eventful of an evening as our Friday and quite frankly I think we all went all in with our chips on Friday.  Still a night was to be had, and as we progressed from bar to bar and beer to beer, we picked up some steam, chatted up a few locals, danced with some crazy Russians to Bruce Springsteen, and wound up right back where we started at the Temple Bar (not to be confused with the street, but this is an actual bar).  In Temple Bar, as I was coming back from the bathroom, I started chatting up a few guys who asked me where I was from, and when I said Ohio the one immediately started in with "Ohhhhh....we don't give a damn about the whole state of M*ch*g*n."  I had a new friend.  Apparently, this guy had spent some time in Ohio during his studies and thought the whole rivalry was fantastic.  I couldn't agree more, but after a few drinks I need to go an locate Mark and Kapil.  Once meeting back up, it was quickly bar time again and we were back on the street with our thirst and no place to go.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a bit more about my friend Mark at this point.  Now as I have stated, Mark is an Englishman who is easily one of the funniest people I have come across in my time here in Germany, and some of his one liners and stories were easily the highlight of this trip.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember how some of them came up, but a few of his gems were 1) describing how one girls outfit make her look like a bloody Christmas ham, 2) telling a tale about a man who was on the telly as the self proclaimed UK wanking champion, and 3) his brief oral history of Oscar Wilde.  

The students at Trinity practice safe sex
Sunday was our leaving day but there was time to kill prior to the flight and Kapil and I were hell bent on seeing the Jedi Library at Trinity College (ok, well just the library that Lucas used to model the Jedi library).  Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures inside so I could do any sweet lightsaber poses, and yes I had full intention of dorking out like that.  Also we got to see the Book of Kells (a very old text of the four gospels of the New Testament created by Celtic monks around 800, so basically one of the oldest books out there) which is also on display in the Jedi library.  After our trip to Trinity we took a walk around the city through St. Stephen's Green and the Merrion district (if you have seen any pictures of the "doors of Dublin" this is where they are).  Then back along the River Liffey for a moment to take in the city and contemplate on life and where I have been over the past 10 months and where my next adventures would take me.  Needless to say after a weekend in Dublin I truly felt like someone with American blood, but an Irish heart.

One last look upon Dublin
See you on the flip.

*wiener (sorry mom...just happen to find that joke hilarious)

** This is something I will not comprehend, but at every crowded train stop the people who are attempting to get on the train never provide a way for you to get off.  I mean it seems like simple logic that I have to leave the train before they can enter the train, but this seems to be a massive fail each and every time...confounding.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Rest of 2011 (way too late...sorry)

So let this mark the glorious return of your favorite European resident to the musings of the information age.  Ah the internet where anyone can dispense their random thoughts and maybe a few people will actually give them a I have missed you.  I do apologize once again for the 5 or 6 of you (my readership appears to be growing) who may enjoy the nuggets that I dispense from time to time.  Unfortunately, work (and The Wire...seriously, how did I miss this show) gets in the way and after a long day of US GAAP-ing it, sometimes I just don’t feel that creative.  My apologies...but alas here is a quick recap of things I haven’t wrote about from 2011.
Women’s World Cup Final - July 2011
So last July Frankfurt played host to the final game of the Women’s World Cup in soccer and wouldn’t ya know it, the American ladies were playing in this game.  If you go back to your Facebook / Twitter / MySpace (ha...MySpace) feeds from last July you may notice that the US was pretty wrapped up in this run by the ladies (or just the hotness of the moment that was Hope Solo and Alex Morgan as they were described as “fly” by more than one of my buddies).  So once the US Women beat Brazil in the quarterfinals I decided to try and find tickets and actually lucked into one when my friend Jeff bought two before realizing that his wife would be back in the US.  So for the fair price of buying beer for the night (actually I think Jeff may have won on that level) I had a ticket to the game.
We met up at an Irish pub (where all English speaking people gravitate to in all European cities) to have a few before heading out to the stadium.  Well the bar was completely packed full of Americans and Japanese folks heading to the game and the animosity of WW2 was sort of palpable amongst the American contingent there who were born 40 year after Pearl Harbor.  At least for a few hours any progress in relations with our foreign counterparts was set back by at least 30 years.  No reason to go into all that though.  After we got into the game it became very apparent that we were in hostile territory as all neutrals in the crowd (i.e. Germans) were predictably pulling for the Japanese.  Some said it was because of Fukushima, others because they were the new kids on the block, but I say once Axis always Axis.***
Hope Solo pumping up the crowd pre penalties
I won’t bore you with recapping the game (we lost in penalty kicks) but needless to say it was exciting and quite frankly the US blew it by squandering numerous chances in the first half against a Japanese squad that was hapless for the first 30 minutes of that game.  The more interesting development was that beer sales do not get cut off in Germany.  So needless to say after two overtimes and penalty kicks I was pretty kicked myself.  The most memorable part of the game to me came on the way out.  The weather was pretty crap that day in Frankfurt so I was rocking my Cleveland Indians pull over which led to a guy and his son (probably around a freshman in high school) from Ohio striking up a conversation with me (which I am sure they both regret now).  Sometime during the walk out of the stadium to the train the kid made the comment that the team did really well to make it to the final.  Well this comment didn’t sit so well with me and I decided to school this kid exclaiming “Second place!  Second place!  American’s don’t settle for second place!  Second place is the first loser and celebrating that is a load of dookie!  Do we cheer when Ohio State comes in second in the Big 10!  NO!  Was I happy that the Bucks just made the BCS National Championship game?  NO!  Rooting for second place is a losers attitude and we are not losers...we are AMERICAN!”  This is a very paraphrased account of this speech which went on for a long, long time and I am sure the kid wondered just what the hell kind of savage human being he was striking up a conversation with.  One thing I did notice, however, was that the father didn’t say anything and just nodded in agreement with me.  Maybe he appreciated the rantings and ravings of a mad can only hope.*

Mallorca - October 2011
In the middle of October I got to head to Mallorca for a weekend for some work meetings (tough life I know) and a bit of island life relaxing in the middle of the Mediterranean.  Not much of anything eventful happened on this trip other than going to some meetings that were run in German so I didn’t understand 98% of what was going on and really spending the majority of my time trying to finalize an 8-K that was going live the following Monday.  Still this was a very beautiful place and one I wish I was just there to enjoy some time for.  Also, many people refer to Mallorca as the 17th German state as many people flock there for their vacation and parts of Palma de Mallorca actually have German restaurants / bars / bier gartens.  So maybe there will be a return visit in my future.

Mallorca @ Night
Amsterdam - July & November 2011
So given the fact that I have some very good friends who live or were living in Amsterdam I have made two voyages to this fine city during 2011.  The first trip was to catch up with my good friends Matt and Kim and to take part in the hallowed gaming tradition of ex-patriot Amsterdamers better known as the Moronathon.  The Moronathon is just as it sounds, a day of field events of moronic proportions with the top point earner taking home the coveted Duck and the bragging rights that go along with this title.  I actually had a very important job leading up to the Moronathon as my predecessor in Germany, Steve, was the reigning two time champion of the Moronathon and had repatriated back to the US leaving the duck in my protection.  After a safe voyage on the ICE the Duck was back in the Netherlands and ready to be bestowed upon the next champion.

The Duck on his way back to the Dam
The events of the day are fairly simple, each person is tasked to bring at least 6 cans of beer with them (bringing more is highly encouraged) and their gaming spirit.  The events kicked off with the traditional Masterpunting where the object is to punt a football (American style) and then run to retrieve your own punt.  If you don’t get that play one words here, then you may be reading the wrong blog.  Other events included a crab walking challenge where you had to chug a beer for each lap (4 in total), the Dickmans challenge where place a Dickmans (basically a chocolate covered marshmallow thing) on one end of a plank and jump on the other end to catch this in your mouth, Longest Hanger where you hang from a tree as long as you can while the other competitors try to knock you off with those core ball things, and an egg toss that basically turns into people throwing eggs at one another as people are pretty much drizunk when this occurs.  The final event of the day is a foot race through the park that requires you to traverse a shallow canal in the Vondelpark (I think you may catch a form of herpes by just jumping in).  At the end of the day the fearless J-E captured his 3rd Moronathon (Steve is the only other champion) and relished the spoils of his victory.

Nothing much eventful happened the remainder of that trip as Matt and I were both wiped from the day’s events.  However, catching up with old friends is always an excuse to get out of town.  Which brings me to my second trip to the Dam in November when I went with my buddy Alex to visit our good friend Steffen who was working on a short term secondment to Amsterdam.  This also happened to be the same weekend that the Morons (basically all the guys in AMS) were saying farewell to one of our own.  So knowing that this would be an epic party I brought Alex and Steffen along for the ride.  So off we went into the night in Amsterdam...(Ed. note...this section has been removed for legal purposes)...however the crowning achievement of the night was seeing our departing Moron puking into a canal.  I can only hope that when I eventually leave Frankfurt that there are classy gents who will watch me lose my cookies in the Main.**
Visiting with Sneaky Pete and Sarah in Milan - Thanksgiving 2011
So as it would be cost prohibitive to travel home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I did the next best thing and took off to Milan for a weekend to spend the holiday with my very good friends Pete and Sarah.  Pete is a buddy from work in Atlanta who is doing the same thing as I am, but in Milan, and we are basically operating on the same tour schedule (Pete and Sarah left one month before I did).  So as we are displaced American’s abroad, they graciously offered to host me for the weekend and enjoy some delicious T’giving fare!  I arrived on Friday in Milan and after a quick lunch and beer we were off to see Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.  This was a truly amazing experience and something I would recommend doing anytime you may be in Milan.  Although you cannot take pictures of the fresco anymore, it is just something that is stunning to be experienced in person.  The rest of the day was spent with a quick wander through parts of the city and then to dinner to get some truly amazing pizza.  This stuff was really stinking good and I am very jealous that Pete and Sarah get this quality of food on a daily basis!  Also, we had a quick trip to the Tiki Bar which I have been told has since closed which is unfortunate as that was some fun times.
On top of the Duomo
Saturday was spent heading over to an open air market in Milan to pick up the essentials for the evening’s T’giving fest of roasted chicken (a whole turkey is incredibly hard to get in Europe), butternut squash & pumpkin soup, asparagus, & potatoes.  Sarah was the bomb for cooking this feast and it was really stinking good.  So after a quick bite for lunch after the market, Pete and I went for a visit to the Duomo and this is an impressive building.  We took the steps up to the roof which is worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Milan.  From there Pete took me through some other random neighborhoods in Milan before we went to head back for Thanksgiving dinner.  Sunday was my final day there and we spent most of the day wandering around the Castle area and through the park right by there.  Then for a final meal at a restaurant that Pete and Sarah affectionately called the cheese place (as they have this massive and amazing cheese app...crazy good mozzarella).  After the late lunch it was time to depart back to the real world in FFM.

Berlin - June 2011
So yeah there is no rhyme or reason to my ordering on this, so sue me.  I had a long weekend in June so I decided to take a road trip with two guys who worked for my main client (they have both subsequently returned home) to Berlin.  I probably should have granted Berlin a full posting of its own as it really is an impressive city with a ton of history around every corner.  Still nothing funny happened so I guess upon return it didn’t stick out to mind so much.  So here are a couple of quick highlights and things you could do in Berlin.
Olympic Stadion
  1. Fat Tire Bike Tours - I have had nothing but great experiences with this company.  I first went on one of their tours in Paris with my friend Emily in 2010 and it was great.  The Berlin tours were amazing too.  We ended up doing two of their tours in Berlin (general and WW2/Nazi tour) and while the WW2 repeated some things, it was still very interesting.  So basically this hits the highlights, Checkpoint Charlie, Jewish Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten (with bier garten stop!), Bebelplatz (where the Nazis like to burn books), etc.  Use them, love them...seriously great stuff.
  2. Berlin Dom - Very cool church in Berlin, worth while to climb up to the top and walk around the dome.
  3. Potsdam - Not exactly in “Berlin” but worth the trek out there (I think you can catch a train there) as everywhere you look is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the old palaces and gardens are quite cool.
  4. Museum Island - Berlin has a ton of great museums, we did the Neues Museum which housed a lot of ancient Egyptian artifacts as well as the Pergamon Museum which holds the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon as well as the Pergamon Alter (hence the name) from the ancient Greeks.
  5. Olympic Stadium - I saved this for last as this was my favorite thing I did.  Unfortunately the weekend I was there they were setting up for a concert inside the stadium so there were no tours offered, but just to be in the area where Jesse Owens did his thing in 1936 was unreal.  I just remember humming Carmine Ohio as I walked up the Olympischer Platz, calling Myers and Stabone as I knew they would appreciate it, and just soaking in everything about what the greatest Buckeye did there.
One thing we didn't do was go to the top of the Reichstag which I think would be something that would be really cool.  Basically you can walk to the top of this glass enclosure inside the German parliament and get a bird's eye view of the city.  It is supposed to be very impressive and something that I would do over given a second trip to Berlin.
Brandenburg Gate @ Night

Well that about sums up what else I did in 2011 in somewhere around 2,500 words.  The only other trips were my travels back home where I delivered an epic best man’s speech for Marty and Becky, attended Forever 29 where we tried to figure out if Tyler is a hipster or homeless, Sheldofest which was pretty epic, and just catching up with all of you fools back on the state side of it all.  
I do apologize for my lack of posting but I have a number of ideas so hopefully as I embark on year 2 of this journey in Europe (yeah I have been here over a year now) I will be able to back fill some of 2012 and keep the rest going on a relatively real time basis.  
See you on the flip.
*Author’s note...I believe I cleaned up my language here...let’s just say I am sure this was full of a more fiery vitriol as after the 10+ beers I had consumed the filter was definitely off.  Still the dad didn’t seem to mind.
** Just kidding Mom!

*** Late note: This is a joke, I hope people realize this without having to reference this.