Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Beautiful Day in Der Neighborhood

We all know I love Germany. It's lovely.

This time I happened to be in town for Oktoberfest. A celebration of beer, traditional garb, weird hats and unique food items.

Upon arrival at the hotel, my pillow was adorned with one of these.

I ate it before I realized it was jewelery.

And generally not intended for consumption.

I can't say it tasted good, but I had been on an airplane for 12 hours so my judgement was impaired. Besides, I like the crunchy sort of stale tasting frosting.

I took the train from Freising, purchased a map and was given directions to Oktoberfest in one direction and and the Englischer Garten in the other. I like to walk when I travel - especially after consuming gigantic non-edible cookies - so I started my day with Oktoberfest, and planned to end my day at the "garten."

I'm not sure what I was expecting of Oktoberfest....

It was essentially a giant carnival ....

With games
And gigantic food

And King Mr. Potatohead

And the Lowenbrau Lion

(He moves, by the way. Lifts the stein to his mouth ... then he cracks a joke. ) {I'm assuming it was a joke, because he said something and all the Germans around me laughed. I didn't get it. He probably said something like, "Check out the American. I bet we can get her to pay 12EURO (about $94.00 US) for an Oktoberfest hat."}

(Self Portrait)

And rides

And Bavaria

Isn't she pretty?

But alas, I was eager to get to the gartens. Visions of Cornwall blues and Canterbury pinks were running through my head, and all good things must come an end. Besides, as you know in Bavaria ... One day you are in, and the next

"You are out."

Buh Bye Oktoberfest ... Hello different part of Munich that I can't pronounce or spell, but can point to on the map.

Let's call it Central Munich. Central Munich was pretty.

And it had a Beate Uhse.

You can't really see it, unless you look carefully, but Beate Uhse is a porn store.

How would you pronounce that if you didn't know better?

I thought it was Beat House, and thus aptly named.

I was marginally disappointed to learn that it's a person's name - "Bette" somebody. Whatever. It will always be the Beat House to me.

As I had a whole day to kill, and nothing on the agenda except for the Englischer Garten, I decided to pay 2 EURO (approximately $262.00 USD) to go to the top of this thing.

I was up there approximately 12 seconds. (There's nothing to do up there except take a photo.)

I signed the guest book just to make sure I got my money's worth.

OOoohhh ... Ahhhh ..... Lovely - Get me to the Gartens.

I arrived at the Gartens about 3 hours after arriving in Munich, during which time I had been walking the whole time.

The relaxing picturesque gartens were the perfect way to end my day.

Ahhh ... Children climbing trees. How nostalgic.

But alas - I'm off to see the Gartens, and besides, their parents might think it's creepy that I'm standing here snapping photos of them. They might put Dexter Morgan on to me.

I walk ... and I see a river, which looks more like a drain. And incongruously ...

I see a surfer, waiting to catch a wave.

Which he does.

But I still don't see any flowers, though I discover that water sports are big here on the North end of Munich in 50 degree weather

Whether verboten or not

(Doesn't verboten seem so much more strict than plain old forbidden?)

I walk more and more ... And everything is very .... green. I'm starting to wonder if they are named the English Gardens because they are the size of England? And I'm still wondering if there are any freakin' flowers in this garden.

Where are my Cornwall Blues and Canterbury Pinks?

More importantly ... WHERE AM I?

Lost. Off the map lost. (At least that's what the lady at the Hilton told me when I asked her to point to where I was when I stopped there to pee.)

But I have in fact confirmed that I am in the English Gardens, and not in fact in Narnia as I had come to fear. Especially since I felt like I was being watched the whole time.

Assured that I had found and seen my destination, as misnomered as it might have been, I decided to head back to Freising. I'd been walking for 4 hours and I was pooped!

Goodbye Englischer Garten.

90 minutes and 5 "ask for directions" later, I had to stop for a rest and some sustenance.

So I got a pretzel the size of the new BMW 1 series.

And kept trudging ...

And I trudged past the artists rendering of the Rezidenz Museum.

Which looks a lot more realistic in this photo than it did in person.

And I trudged until I found a train station. It was the wrong one, but it worked. And finally, after 6 hours of walking, I sat down.

And drew my route map.

When I got back to my hotel that night the first thing (after looking for a second cookie necklace, which they hadn't left me) was Google the Englischer Garten.

Turns out it's not a misnomer. I just don't know what an English Garden is. Had I known, my day would have ended 3 hours earlier.

"The name refers to the style of gardening; the term English garden is used outside of the English speaking world to refer to the style of informal landscape gardening which was popular in the United Kingdom from the mid 18th century to the early 19th century."

Yeah, informal landscape gardening: NOT what I had in mind.

But I did learn these statistics:

Total length of paths and walkways: roughly 75 km (26 km roads, 36 km footpaths, 13 km bridlepaths)
Length of streams: 8.5 km
Bridges: over 100

Which made me feel a lot better about how lost I got!

Until next time, I remain ...

The Sardonic Traveler

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kuala Lumpur: She has a really good personality.

I hate to say this, because Kuala Lumpur is lovely in many ways, but it isn't pretty. It's kind of Tijuanaesque, in fact.

The skies are gray (owing to either an impending torrential downpour, or the smoke from forest fires in Borneo, I was never quite sure, but you kind of have to be entranced by a place whose smoke comes from Borneo), and while there are lush landscapes and beautiful modern buildings (such as the Petronas Towers),

just around the corner will be a burned out building that has been sitting there rotting for decades. (And I'm sorry - but I didn't really get a lot of shots of the ugly parts, so you'll have to take my word for it.)

No, KL couldn't be called pretty ..... But the people are warm, hospitable and multi-cultural. More so than any place I've ever been.

(These women looked exactly the same from the front.)

To me they were like ghosts wandering the streets. Holding hands with their husbands, or shopping at the Chanel cosmetics counter. (I guess when the only thing that shows is your eyelashes, you're willing to spend a bit more on Mascara.)

Everywhere you went there were extremes. Abayah clad Middle Eastern women intermingled with Japanese youths in mini-skirts, and Western women in tanks and short shorts.

The food was as diverse as the people.

And with the exception of this "Sausage and Vegetable" thing, was quite appealing. Malay food is much like Thai. But they also had a lot of Chinese and Indian, which I love. Plus, everything had coconut. I wallowed in a carb, peanut butter and dairy frenzy, all of which I've forsaken on American soil. (But seriously, could I pass up Peanut Butter broth for dessert? No.)

One stand at the mall sold "Pizza, Lasagna, Shepard's Pie, and Waffles." Because, you know, nothing says dessert after Pizza like a Waffle.

My "free" day in Malaysia I woke at 4:00AM, so I got an early start. This is the Petronas Towers at dawn.

I went to Batu Caves which is basically an ancient limestone cave which is home to the World's Largest Murugan (never heard of him before this) and Hindu temple.

I have to tell you, this thing is spectacular. The photo doesn't do it justice. There was something really powerful about it when standing there in front of it. I guess I can't always be sardonic, because I was moved by my whole experience here.

I climbed the steps.

A lot of them

And saw some very cool things

This picture gives a great perspective of KL. Natural beauty and a beautiful structure, surrounded by the gray skies and ugly buildings.

This one reminds me of my sister.

After the main cave, I happened upon another temple. (After I was chased by a big scary dog.) (OK, I wasn't chased, it ran up to me and wagged its tail.) (And it was the size of a chihuahua, but I was still scared. It totally could have been feral.)

It was 8:00AM and apparently time for a morning ceremony. Which for the first 15 minutes was nothing but a drum and some kind of blowy instrument. I stood back, trying to be discreet as I waited for something to happen, not wanting to intrude, but not wanting to miss a once in a lifetime experience.

I snuck a quick photo and and stepped further back, and almost ran into this guy.

There were monkeys everywhere! I guess I was lucky he didn't grab my camera, because I later heard stories about Monkey's taking things right out of people's hands.

Is that a Pineapple in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

Anybody who's seen my ass knows I love butterflies, so after the Caves, I hit the Butterfly Park.

And here's what I learned ....

Live butterflies scare the shit out of me. (See above: Chihuahua ) Every time one got anywhere near me, I jumped, quiet screamed and then laughed at myself. Which probably made my fellow tourists a bit discomfited.

My fellow tourists. Abayah courtesy of Islamic oppression, shoes by Nike.

And now, a Public Service Announcement:

SERIOUSLY. No raping. No raping PERIOD. But, if you have to rape, please, rape the wall, not the children.

The Petronas Towers at night.

In closing, I felt it important to explain Malaysia butt washing. There is no "bidet" in Malaysia. Toilets come equipped with a hose which I assume shoots water and washes your butt. Public restrooms in Malaysia have these hoses, many of them in lieu of toilet paper, so always travel with tissues. Also, don't be alarmed by the soaking wet floors. It's very likely just the water from a recently used butt washer.

I was unable to determine how a recently washed butt dries.

The complete photo album can be seen here (I know, but there really are more, and some of them are really cool.) Hit "view all pictures" and watch in Slide Show mode for your best enjoyment.