I dropped off my luggage and out we went again to meet with Vicky and Lis and Caro for dinner (where I was living proof that there is no growing tired of pizza) and although due to a blocked nose the hearing on my right ear was severly compromised I enjoyed the talk and the laughter. It was delightful to finally meet Vicky and Lis whom I heard about so much already.
After dinner Vera and I joined some of her fellow students at a Mexican restaurant and the variety of different accents reminded me of Erasmus times. We later moved on to a pub and I ended up talking Obamacare, Tina Fey and etymology with Brianna and Jana which - as we admitted later - might not be suitable conversation topics for drinking out :). To put the balance right again we also discusses Mean Girls and kitschy movies. When we were asked to pay the bill, we decided to call it a night and missed the bus (which wasn't as easy as it sounds, because we left in time from the pub...), which effected on a leisurely walk home.
The following day we had strawberry breakfast (which was quite paradoxical to be honest, because belatedly Vera seems to have taken my stand on "strawberry time" to heart and thus those strawberries from Spain were the objectified evil. And I couldn't deny it :) ) and visited the park Schönbrunn. They were hosting an Easter fair there and we strolled around the stands. Notice: You can always sell Christmas decoration to tourists. Even on a socalled Easter Fair ;). After that we went to a lovely café (phil) for hot drinks and then it was time for meeting Vicky at the Ethnology Museum... actually, we might have been a tad bit late owing to our enthusiasm for finding ways ourselves XD. A museum with doors that won't open and confusing order (we managed to see exhibits in reverse more than once) but nevertheless we spent almost 3 hours there. So obviously we were starving when we got out and looked up a restaurant in my tourist guide (and this time we asked for directions right away, though we probably would have found it anyway - or Vera would, Vicky and I were mostly tagging along).
Somehow time had been flying and it was already evening when we got home again and I gathered my stuff to change from Vera's place to a hostel. But we agreed there's be time for another coffee before my departure the next day.
Alas, it didn't wort out that way... I spent the night [well, I had to give in to tiredness around 11pm] at a bar with my roommates from the hostel - some Austrian girls who were in town with a theatre workshop. On my final day of travel I rose early, checked out and roamed the city (and made some seat reservations for the train, because Vienna - Prague tends to be packed on the weekends) and hoped for Vera to rise early enough so we could still meet. But turns out her battery died and thus the last day of my journey was spent like my first: solitary save for my train encounters. Though, due to sad, sad books and some of the emotional turmoil that comes with travelling, I mostly bewildered the people in my compartment by spilling tears now and again before getting it together during a short walk around the train staion in Prague.
The rest of the journey was quite uneventful, apart from getting a real deal from a train conductor: I'd stayed on the train from Prague to Leipzig but still needed a ticket for the bit from Dresden to Leipzig. And I was pretty sure I could pay by card. Well, obviously I couldn't and I didn't have enough cash on me to pay for the ticket. The conductor told me to go through my luggage and see what money I could find and he would come back later. When he came back I had barely scraped up the money and he gave me some discount of 5€. Talk about people being nice.
I said in the beginning that I wasn't sure of the purpose of this journey. And still I am not sure what I had in mind when I set out. But on the train to Zurich something happened. Something I had been waiting for so anxiously I didn't dare to put it into my travel accounts right away too afraid it could slip away again. When I came up with the route for thus trip, Vienna didn't make the list. Even though I'd enjoyed the city a lot during my last visits and I wanted to see Vera again if there was a chance. It didn't make the list because I thought Vera would not want to see me and because I was still so angry. I was afraid I would inflict a shitstorm of hurt and pinpricking on her - because let's not kid ourselves, that is how we bitches in Passive-Agressiva handle social interactions. So when I left from Leipzig I wasn't even sure I would go vie Vienna, or even if I would, I wasn't sure if I was going to meet up with Vera. I left it open for the time being and pushed it from my thoughts as well as I could. And because the feeling of impending woe didn't fade, I gambled for a compromise which meant staying at hers for one night and then changing to a hostel (because even I cannot do that much damage in a few hours, right??). This looked wacky even to me, but it also meant I wouldn't have to think about it anymore and could continue my floating without worrying about potential future catastrophes. And then it happened. It was Tuesday, around noon and my arrival in Zurich was only a few hours away. I put down my book for a moment, looked out of the window and allowed myself to ponder the next few days of my trip. I was looking forward to seeing Laura again and be less of a stranger for once, and I realized that I was genuinely happy to go to Vienna and to see Vera and that somehow Austria would never be that kind of combat zone. I was at peace. And it had taken me so long. So if that was the only thing I gained from this journey, it was worth it.
The journey to Zurich was marvelous! All the mountains and the lakes and the cerulent sky along with the expectation of seeing Laura had me all excited and cheerful.
Apart from being outrageously expensive, Zurich is also nice to look at, especially from Uetliberg which we ascended right after my arrival so I could get at least some exercise XD. Then we went home to Laura and had delicious Indian food and watched a Swiss movie (Nachtlärm) before going to bed. [You never know how tiring sitting around all day can be! :-D ]
On Wednesday, we had to get up early to meet up with some of Laura's friends at the swimming pool. And after swimming for one hour we felt as if we could go right back to bed. But we didn't, of course! Rather we dropped off our swimming stuff at Laura's and went down to the lake for a cruise. Alas, when we arrived we realized that there was no morning cruise, so we decided to go see the museum (Chagall) first and make a cruise after lunch. Thanks to Laura being friends with someone who works at the museum, we got into the exhibition for free and could spend the money we saved there on the legendary vegetarian buffet (the cheesecake!).
Then finally it was time for the 1,5h cruise on Lake Zurich where we played card games and observed other passengers as well as the cityscape. And because my stay in Zurich was so shot we weren't done with sightseeing just then - Laura led me on a small tour through the city, pointing out this and that, making sure I had the full Zurich experience. When 5 o'clock drew near, I was totally exhausted and we rested at Laura's place for an hour before we had dinner.
Later that night we went out to a pub were we tried to figure out the rules for cricket (which was on TV that evening), but even after watching for almost two hours we had made only little progress.
Now, I'm on a train again to Austria.
I will write some cars now and then unpack and repack my rucksack for the journey and hopefully it is a bit drier outside later :).
When I finally figured out where the Fun Run started, I realized that it was a real mass event. I will have to look up at home how many ran the short distance today, but there were loads of people from all age groups and fitness levels. Many runner dads with their children, 50 people running for Altzheimer Uniti Italy and a group of ladies in their 60s in all-pink.
The run itself was rather short but did not disappoint for hills and slopes were equally distributed and I had half in mind to walk for a bit after the fourth long incline, but then I realized that the goal was in sight already and kept on running. Sadly I didn't have my camera on me, because I would've liked to show you some pictures.
After finishing ( and after I collected some water, milk and gatorade) I made my way back to the marathon course to cheer the runners on the best I could.
First I stood at kilimeter 12 (I guess) 'til it was time for thefirst marathoners to finish, then I went around to the Piazza de Vincenza (km 39/40) and when we were 2,5h into the race I had to a Panini and went up to the last kilometre where I stayed for 3 hours applauding every runner und occasionally shouting "Daje" or encouraging the English and German speaking runners. Especially after 4 hours it got quiet on the last kilometre and most of the time I was the only one cheering (my hands bright red and strangely numb by now) but I couldn't bring myself to leave. I clapped my hands for everyone and many times my smile was returned or I was myself applauded.
When we were 6h into the race I started my way home along the course of the race and applauded everyone that I saw. Indeed, I am pretty sure I saw the last runner at 6:12 at the Piazza Vincenza. He was obviously hurt but refused to give up his race and I am sure he finished before closing time (7h).
Now I'm home. More or less. My knees hurt, my feet hurt, but I am happy. Very much so. I am dead tired, yet I am considering makin friends here tonight... but, alas, maybe the time won't suffice. I will settle for small talk tonight and see who will turn up for breakfast tomorrow ;).
I am really tired, even though I'd originally planned to go out for a beer tonight... but I will leave that for tomorrow it seems. I'm really looking forward to the run and shall get up quite early so I can get in a few kilometres before it starts.
The weather today is splendid - all blue sky and sun and a gentle breeze.
Well, maybe walking across San Marco once would have been enough... alas, now I have damp socks and shoes. Still, I had a lovely day in Venice, although I couldn't get hold of any stamps and thus I shall send the postcards I bought from Rome. I am quite amazed how smoothly my stay in Venice went, considerin that I hadn't planned ahead a lot. Now I am on the train to Rome hoping the blue sky will come with me.
Also I am making my way through "The Lord of the Rings" and I am quite certain I will cover a few hundred pages today, for it is still more than six hours 'til I arrive in Venice.
Overall, this trip does feel like an adventure, like a quest even, though I am not sure of its purpose.
14/3/2013 [might I add that I discovered this purpose later on? I did.]
We've just passed through Verona. I've been travelling merel a few hours and already I had the pleasure of meeting some interesting people. A baseball player from Miami who is staying in Frankfurt at the moment, a Swiss lady who spent 40 years of her life in Peru and was great company as we crossed the German border and discussed Tyrol's charm. These two have already left the train, but much to my delight the Wlshman who has been telling his life story and giving a short cultural history of the British Isles will get off only in Venice, so I can listen to him some more.
As we were passing through Austria I realized that I do miss it in a way that has little to do with the love that I associate with it. Because while it may never have been home, it certainly was a surprisingly welcoming place.
Now it seems I have to choose a hostel and hope to get a bed there.
Found a hostel! And it didn't even take me that long! I'm sharing my room with two Australians who just finished high school and they seem nice enough :).
Alright. Venice definitely is the perfect place for wandering around without a map, just drifting through the city and getting lost. I've been to the city for 1,5h to get some fresh air after the long train ride and I enjoyed it tremendously - the bridges, narrow streets, the water, the surprising lack of tourists (according to Aidan and what's-his-name? that might be due to the time of day as they told me the city was flooded with Americans). Venice would be a great place for a treasure hunt: left, left, second right, cross bridge, third right, when you reach the Kebab you've gone too far... something like that ;)
I'm quite tired and decided to call in early with plans to get up early as well. So now I am sitting on my bed and noticing something for the first time since I checked in: The hostel sways! Surely, this is no place for people who get seasick easily! I think it is amplified because we are on the topgloor, but still to someone who expects houses to be standing firmly it can be quite disconcerting...
It is 6 o’ clock, I am in Leuchars, on a trail between the fields there’s a first runner with a dog and I’m waiting for the train to head back to the south. In the sunshine the landscape looks even more beautiful then when I saw it first and I would love to go walking here once. The air is crisp and clean and it’s already starting to warm up for the day.
18 h left on the ticket. I’m looking forward to a bed, a shower, Cambridge. This couldn’t possibly get any better.
Oh, but it can obviously. I’m on the train along the east coast just passing through Alnmouth and everything screams: “Build a house here, stay here, make me your home!”, and I want to. Even more so because it already looks like home, if it weren’t for the sea. I want to go home. In this very moment. Like home-home. To my grandmother’s village, to my best friend’s house, to the summers I loved so much I decided they should never end. And they didn’t. And so I decide that this should never end: The perception of every step as part of a journey, the eyes open wide for every station on the way, travelling only with hand-luggage. It shall never end.
First impressions of Cambridge: It ha definitely the weather on its side. It has the better postcards though the stunning architecture is not as concentrated as in Oxford. Generally it feels bigger and wider. I sit down on the first pasture I see and pretend to be a student here. It works. For me.
“You have to be home before midnight!” – I’m feeling a little like Cinderella here and I just now realize how far it is from Cambridge to Bangor. I decide not to go via London but via Birmingham, which will take slightly longer, but I feel it would be a bit of an overkill to go through London yet again. So I hope I get the changes right and be in Bangor around eleven.
For Cambridge: I had a wonderful afternoon here. And at least I got the impression that it’s vastly different from Oxford. That may be due to a lot of factors: Weather, being here on a weekday, the station being further away from the city center, today being my last day on the trip… lots of things. But I think that I might’ve liked Cambridge even more than my poetry city Oxford. It fits. It’s not as posh. But still posh. In a grumpy kinda way… I can’t explain it any better. So Cambridge wins. For now.
And now I am finally going to see it on my way home: Wolverhampton. The place that was only second choice on my Erasmus application. I’m going through it on my way to Crewe. It is nice to take a new route home, as it has been nice to see so many new places on this goodbye-tour. It leaves me hungry for more. I haven’t made it to some places, others I want to visit again – I brush my fingertips over golden landscapes and promise to come back. For Leeds and the South. And everything.
Wolverhampton. What I see from the train is sad, grey, industrial, dead. With potential though. Maybe it is like Dessau. Maybe underneath the vastness there’s the most colourful life, the most authentic music, the rawest experience ever made. Now I’m curious. I will come back to this one day. But for now it is: Straight on to the sea!
Home. I’m going home.
In the business of Monday morning Plymouth looks way more alive than last night and especially the old port area is really pretty. It is not hard to imagine that many historical discoveries started here. Even the sky is making an effort and turning bright blue again. The plan for today is vague. I decide to board a train in the direction of Glasgow and get off somewhere.
Happyhappyhappy. Last night on the tracks lies before me. Today I was in Birmingham, just wandering through Chinatown, sitting in the sun, looking at the cathedral and going online in Starbuck’s. I saw an amazing music store as well and was close to leaving a fortune there. But then I didn’t. My backpack is heavy enough as it is. As the Caledonian Sleeper seems to be the only night train offering seats as well as beds, I will take it again tonight, but only go to Leuchars and then back south to Cambridge. I would have liked to try the Rivera Sleeper from the South up to London but this one seems to offer beds only. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I have to be in Bangor by midnight and will crisscross through England before that – I’m thinking Cambridge, Leeds, York, maybe Nottingham – I will go somewhere.
Tonight everything is love from the sheep on the meadow to the boats on the sea. Everything is love. I’m at this point, this certain point you reach while travelling – last time it was in Dublin - : This is the life and I am lucky to be here.
As it cuts right down to the bone
My blood is my pride
I worship you and thank you
For conquering me like this
I’m your fool
And I’m not ashamed of it
Oxford. Though I’ve been told that Oxford would be posh, I somehow didn’t expect this. But it is a university city through and through – says I and can’t really explain what I mean by it. It reminded me of Münster. But it’s probably totally different. A stunning city – if at times snobbish – that does poetry. While the “city of learning” got soaked in rain today, the streets were filled with words of Carol Ann Duffy and Gwyneth Lewis and I bought more books than I should carry. I couldn’t resist though. Every word seemed to fit.
The buildings, streets, bikes, colleges – everything was secondary to this great relief: poetry!
I’m already excited about going to Cambridge and comparing it to Oxford. Maybe Cambridge is a little less tourist-y? We’ll see. I’m now on a train to Plymouth but will probably hop off in Exeter to take a look around there. I put the philosophy book aside for now and read Carol Ann Duffy’s “Rapture” – a work of poetry I can highly recommend and will read from cover to cover.
‘cause if you read this book and nod all the way through, if you love like this, it is right and it should be enough. Sometimes it isn’t though. But I hope you’ll find this. You’re cut out for it.
I just realized: I have less than 2 weeks left in the UK. It’s surreal. Even though almost all of the others are already home – it does feel strange to leave this country for good. It is my country now. I claim it. Its grassy hills, its stony coast, small cottages and lovely people now constitute my home as well.
After months spent in North Wales one things becomes more apparent with every mile I travel: I am falling for South England. It has me thinking of Denmark and summer holidays, back when I was young and silly (only silly now ;)). It makes me miss home. Home being Germany, not necessarily Saxony-Anhalt, more Brandenburg really, with its fields and small rivers and forests.
And the rain. The rain is our coat. It’s draped over our summer burns like a blanket and we lie on the ground staring up in disbelief, while faint music still proclaims what we can feel a little less now: We are flames. Burning.
Plymouth has the most pleasant rain ever. It is the heaviest drizzle I’ve ever seen and it soaks everything through and through. The hostel is occupied by Germans and Austrians – mostly older people who wander along the coast. I’m not really sure what Plymouth has to offer. On a rainy Sunday afternoon like this, it lies dead and tired on the coast. On big screens they show Formula 1, but nobody is watching, they are all busy with the rainy Sunday afternoon routine: staying in, lazing around, watching TV, making love.
I like it here. I like everything today.
Apart from that I travel with strange people: Grown women who suck their thumbs while staring out the window, business men reading the latest Spiderman comic and four generations of an Asian family in different states of distress.
I enjoy train hopping a lot and I am glad to have chosen this way of travelling.
Aberdeen is a little bland after Brighton and it is so far off that I stay there only for 3 hours before heading to York in order to make it to Oxford at some point tonight. Nevertheless, it was good to come here for the great landscape and the journey on the Caledonian Sleeper alone. I’d never have thought I would enjoy looking out of train windows so much.
Much of the train route runs along the coast and as we have wet weather today the view is somewhat alien: The sky is hanging low and very white, while the sea lies undisturbed and black beneath it. More than anything else I am observing and absorbing everything I come across.
Vera says I might be moving too fast. Only I am not. I’m just moving fast enough to not think. ‘cause this is somehow the main aim of this trip: To fight this losing battle alone, to look out the windows and at different cities and never back, because I might get sick; to cover as much ground as possible, so the days can feel like weeks, because I need weeks off. What I am undertaking here is no tourist trip, no sightseeing tour – it is an elaborate distraction, a huge white noise to drown out everything else.
I have the feeling I should take a closer look at Newcastle. Out of the train it looks like a disturbingly ugly hotchpotch of different architectural styles: really modern, really old, flashy, dirty, loads of glass, red brick buildings, little towers and arches, big H-Blocks, factories that are withering away and overgrown parks – could be a city for me.
One of the most fascinating things of travelling alone are the states of frustration and near-depression one goes through and how one doesn’t give in. In this very moment I only want to catch the next train to Bangor, fall into my bed and stay there until the world goes away. I don’t though. I convince myself that whatever comes next on the trip is the better alternative and I remain close to the east coast, so the distance to Bangor doesn’t get too small.
It’s not a new phenomenon, I felt like this before, not only on solitary trips. But it’s more intense then, because no one can push you but yourself. So I keep pushing, creating a dark and unwelcoming picture of Bangor in my head. Today is half-time and North Wales will have to wait until I’m done with what I try not to do: processing.
And then – finally – York! The sunshine is back and the city is just insane. The great limestone Minster, the city walls, the theatre – this is way better than lying in my bed in Bangor. While I am looking at a statue of Constantine a man plays “Don’t cry for me Argentina” on his Zither, people sing along, one couple starts dancing – I don’t know how they do it – being so amazing on a black day like this.
The time I have in York is not really plenty, but I don’t have to rush either and so I take my time to stroll through the Museum Gardens, buy Belgian Waffles on the market and listen to two guitar players for a while. This is so different to Aberdeen with its port and grey brick buildings. Around the ruins in the Museum Gardens grows Lavender and along the river stand willows – all is young and green and more spring-like than anything else. It’s good that I didn’t spontaneously hop off in Newcastle, ‘cause I think it wouldn’t have made me as happy as this. This being blue skies and squirrels and music. That’s what I meant when I talked about my fascination with the downtimes of travelling: You turn ‘round the corner and suddenly you don’t want to go home anymore. You want to walk on. And see more.
I’m on the train to Brighton now and will probably spend tonight on a train to Aberdeen.
Brighton is love! Due to some train problems I have only a few hours in Brighton, but its bright blue sky and the shiny, happy people there conquer my heart immediately. The beautiful architecture, the bohemian aura and the indie music even in the supermarkets convinces me. This is a place to fall in love with and this rush of euphoria saves me for today. May things on the continent be as the are – Brighton is love.
Now, now! I boarded the train in Brighton at 1849 and my train from London to Aberdeen should go at 2115 – plenty of time it seems, but little did I know that it virtually takes ages to get from London Victoria Station to London Euston! I was close to hysteria in the London Overground, then ran from one platform to another – now it’s 2132 and we’re still in Euston. But I found my seat – comfy – and had the dinner I bought in Brighton, tasting of sapphire skies. I am looking forward to this night on the train. Another adventure.
Funny dialogue in the kitchen this morning: “Yeah well, I’ve been up to Snowdon.” – “Wow, how many days did it take you?” – that’s the German thing: If you write “highest mountain”(in Wales) they expect an Everest-like expedition.
Today Bristol. I took First Great Western trains to get here and thought I must somehow ended up in the first class: TV! Internet! Comfy seats! I’ll try to go to Brighton with them as well.
I’m now sitting on the city promenade trying to figure out where to go to cover as much street art as possible. I’ve already seen a few graffitis and walked through pink paint. I think I really like Bristol – but that was to be expected: Hannover is its twin city!
Now Bath. I met up with Jesus, Chris and Laura for Lunch and then went to the Royal Crescent to have a look at a Georgian house from the inside. Bath itself is breathtakingly beautiful: Most of the buildings are made from Limestone which gives the city a very bright, posh look. It was a really nice day and it was great to meet the others again.
…At the moment I’m pretty annoyed with the WiFi here – I desperately want to look something up!
And suddenly these international minutes are good for something. Better than good. Really, really good.