Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some random notes I can write while killing time on a twenty-two and a half hour train journey.

No wifi on these trains. Even Greyhound has wifi in the States. Frankly, I expected better from these Europeans, and as an American I expect instant gratification.

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One can eat cheaply in Firenze. Yesterday I had a delicious sandwich and a cup of cappuccino for a mere €3.20. What a deal. I hope I can find similar deals in Amsterdam, for I'll need to be able to live on a tight budget until I get settled.

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I don't recall paying any VAT in Italy. I don't know if it was always included in the price, or if most businesses just avoid it. I do know that most hostels only take cash, so I suspect that a lot of taxes are avoided.

That is Greece's problem. They don't need austerity measures. They need to get people, especially the rich, to actually pay the taxes that they owe. That would solve their problems.

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I did see art while on the cruise. I swear, it wasn't a museum. I often heard announcements for the daily Free Champagne Art Auction. I always ignored them, because a free glass of champagne isn't worth subjecting myself to art.  But, I went once out of boredom and for a free glass of champagne. Well, what do you know, the champagne was unlimited. I had six or seven glasses, and got quite happily drunk. I went back again the next day and did the same. Sadly, that was the final day at sea, and my last opportunity. To think, I could have been taking advantage of this the whole damn cruise. Bummer.

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While watching TV on the cruise, I kept coming across a reality show about some pretentious artist with hideously pretentious hair. It was all about how difficult it was to get taken seriously as an artist, and how hard it was, and yadda, yadda, yadda. It bored me, but his art did seem kind of cool. He airbrushes on steel plates. He does good work. But, he was on this one channel all day, everyday. Him and his pretentious hair.

At the auction, they had a number of his pieces available. One even sold. I guess that was why he was on TV everyday. Just a commercial for Royal Caribbean.

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Firenze has been unbearably hot the last few days, so on leaving, I wrote shorts and candles like I've been since I got off the damn boat. Northern Italy is rainy and cold, and I began to get the chills. I had to change in the train's restroom. It wasn't as small as an airplane's, but it was tight enough. I feel comfortable now.

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Damn, another hour twenty before we get to a stop long enough for me to hop off and grab a smoke. I have some nicotine gum in my suitcase, and I'm kicking myself for not putting it in my pocket. I suppose I could rummage through my suitcase again, but it's somewhere near the bottom. I don't want to unpack entirely.

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We are in Austria now. I just hoped off the train for a smoke. I consider that enough to say that I've visited Austria. Before the cruise, I had been three countries on two continents -US, Canada, and Japan. As of now, I've visited nine countries on four continents. By the time I get to Amsterdam, I'll be up to eleven countries. Yay.

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In Munich now for a four hour plus layover. I wandered a bit and ate at McDonald's for dinner. I'm enjoying McDonald's in different countries. In Cittivecchio I had a NYCrispy. It had bacon bits baked into the crust of the bun. Now that's a sandwich. I wonder why I can't find one in NYC. Do Citvivechians go to NYC expecting to find their favorite burger? I hope not.

Today I had a Big Tasty Bacon. That was the name. It was huge and tasty and it had bacon, so I guess the name is apt, if lame. I had fries with that.

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I checked for wifi in the train station. I clicked an open network and was shunted to their website. I had to register. They said it would be free and easy. It was. Then I was sent to the next page which said that I had to pay money to get online. It was only free to register. Assholes.

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My next train is the overnight to Amsterdam. My ticket says that I'm in Car 184, Bed 104. I'm curious to see what the beds look like. It's a second class ticket, so it can't be too fancy. I'm guessing something like those business class airplane seats that folds flat and a pretty blonde stewardess will fetch me a pillow just like the commercials.

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Drinking in public is legal in Italy. How's that for civilized? In NYC, you'll get a ticket or, if you're black, arrested for doing something so outrageous.

Last night I bought two 66cl bottles of beer for €2.80. I got quite happily buzzed for less that three bucks. And I drank them sitting on a park bench and people watching.

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I'm sitting in the Munich Station ticket area. They don't have lines. People take a number and sit on a comfy, upholstered bench. Civilized.

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During my brief stroll through Munich, I happened across a group of people trying out circus equipment. Some were trying the stilts, some were playing with, and dropping, devil sticks, some were balancing on a board on a piece of pipe, and some were attempting a little right rope setup. All of these people were random pedestrians, who happened across this scene, just like I. I saw two folks in blue coveralls standing next to a blue cart with some happy looking German writing on the side. I figured they brought the stuff.

I saw one guy make it across the tight rope setup. Everybody else fell.

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David found his garlic bread. We went to an Indian restaurant in Firenze. He ordered garlic nan. It was tasty. I had the lamb tikka. It was delicious.

Leaving, I noticed a wooden box full of bidis, little Indian cigarettes made out of a leaf of tobacco rolled tight and tied with a string. I asked how much and the proprietor said they were complimentary. I hadn't  smoked one since college, back when a classmate used to bring them from home.

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Just got kicked out of the ticket office; they were closing. I wandered around the station and found a waiting area, and, damn, they have free wifi, compliments of T-Mobile. Now I can check up on Facebook.

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I found an awesome head shop in Messina. The shop was tiny, but the variety was huge. Most American shops that I have seen, have the same basic types of pipes in dozens of slight variations. This shop had dozens of different type of pipes, some I have never seen before. The prices were also rock bottom. I didn't buy any; I'll wait until Amsterdam.

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The train is here, and I've found my car and my bed. This really sucks. It is a small cabin with six bunks, three on a side. They are incredibly uncomfortable. I'd much rather be sitting in a regular train seat. It's softer and I can sleep sitting up. I don't sleep well on buses, planes, trains anyways, so I'd rather be sitting. I asked a conductor if I could switch  to a sitzwagen, but he said the train is almost full and that I should take my bed. If I ever travel on a night train again, I'll request a sitzwagen.

I don't even see a pretty blonde stewardess offering pillows.
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Awake. They have alarms to wake people at the stops, or one of my cabin mates had her own alarm. I don't know which. We stopped at Dusseldorf for two minutes, and were off again. A little under three hours before Amsterdam. I've found a window seat on the sitzwagen. I have a view of the  Dusseldorfian suburbs now.

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Here, at the hostel. The place is relatively clean, but nothing to brag about. Five bunk beds in my room. They are even more uncomfortable than the train. But, they are clean.

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The train was about a half an hour late. I'm not impressed. I expected better from the Germans. My morning stroll thru the Red Light District was pleasant. The streets are narrow, as are the canals. Every building has a stout iron hook jutting out from the top. They are for housing up furniture on moving day. These houses apparently have narrow staircases. I did see two men, construction workers, using one to hoist lumber, so they are still in use. I also saw a small tugboat, only term or twelve feet in length, pushing another boat.

Even at 9:30, some coffee shops were open, and the smell of marijuana was evident. I didn't stop in; I should find a job before I start smoking weed before noon. A few of the window ladies were also open. Again, I didn't partake. If I could afford to hire one, I wouldn't be stating in a hostel.

Now, time to try and find a job.

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I did finally find a spectacular view. On the fifth floor terrace of our hotel, I spotted a number of hills in the distance. I headed for one, and after a couple of hours of walking, I found a spot to take a photo.


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