Saturday, January 20

GO PATRIOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last week, I had been in Frankfurt about 36 hours when the Patriots-Chargers game started, at 10:30PM local time. I was in the very nice Steigenberger Hotel that provided wireless internet in every room (not free, but not too expensive.) I was exhausted and jetlagged but listened to every minute of the game (until 2:30AM!) through my computer and NFLFieldPass, which I had purchased many months ago to catch the Patriots Regular Season games in Seattle.

Listening takes a bit more concentration than watching: I have to imagine how the players are arranged when the announcer says something like "on the near side hash, three receivers wide right, Brady out of a shotgun" without being able to see it. In a way, this makes it all the more rewarding, because I am so engrossed in the game, listening to every detail that I might miss were I at home.

The game tonight against Sissy Payton Manning and the Colts starts at 12:30AM! I will powernap beforehand to prepare, and then turn my apartment into a virtual sideline booth!

I know I have at least one Colts fan in my readership, so here's to a good game, few penalties, even fewer bad calls, and lots of high-pressure field-goal kicking!!!

Oh and my next dog will be named Bill Belichick, no doubt! (I lifted these nice pictures from the Official Patriots Website:

The Opel, Gouda, and John the Baptist

I know, you're thinking, "what can all those things possibly have in common?" right...

In between The Hague and Utrecht is nothing other than Gouda, home to famous cheese! So I stopped for lunch, wisely it turns out, it was an awesome little town.

Here's where I parked, can't afford any mistakes here or we'd get shipped to Rotterdam:

I read a bit in The Lonely Planet and it suggested I head towards Sint Janskerk for some stained glass followed by some lunch. The address for the law school in Utrecht is "Janskerkof", so I was curious who this famed person might be.

You got it, John the Baptist, silver platter and all:

I'm not much for the usual touristy activities, museums and such, but I do like a nice gothic cathedral and this, my first on the trip!, did not disappoint. The history of it is fascinating too, it was burned down roughly every 100 years for about a millenium, before finally living in peace. It is very well-known for the immensity of the stained glass works, and their vivid depictions of the life of Sint Janskerk:

Here's the church:

And a little canal outside of it:

The Hague and the North Sea

This was bound to happen: I was almost finished with a fabulous post when the internet crashed and lost it. I am too foiled to recreate such a masterpiece so what follows is the more terse version, apologies!

Today's adventures: not raining first thing so I went for a run and picked up the "new" bike. It'll do, but it weighs approx 200 lbs!

Drove to The Hague:

Saw this sign, parked car and got out:

Not sure exactly what happens here, but pretty sure it's important: Will find out soon when I make contact with the former King County Prosecutor who works for the UN at the ICTY.

When leaving, noticed that the North Sea was just right there, about 8km away: Cold, windy, lots of hotels, but very clean, nice sand that slopes gently into the water. Carrie is learning how to operate the camera so there will be pics of me soon too!

Back stories

Ok so I've been remiss in posting our adventures. This whole blogging/foreign correspondent thing is pretty new to me. I reach the end of a day and I'm so tired I decide to write "tomorrow" but then when the sun comes up the next day (FINALLY! It is 8AM here before it is even remotely light out) then I am so eager for more adventures that still nothing it written. Well no more.

So, the very first night at the new apartment in Bilthoven, outside of Utrecht, we met one of our neighbors. First let me describe the apt: there is an entrance to the stairwell fron outside; I go up one level, the apts are above a market that has a bunch of shops (bakery, pharmacy, veggies, meats, newspapers, cheese, basically everything I would need is right downstairs except the DVD-rental!). Ok, so then on the second floor it is an outdoor courtyard with all the entrances to the apts. I will take a picture soon I promise. The point is, the space is outdoor but confined. There are maybe 10 or 12 apts off the courtyard.

So Joe and Carrie and I went out for a nice walk after dark, this our first night here and we were doing some little exploring before conking out completely. Upon returning to the courtyard, we came across a black cat. This same cat had earlier hissed at us but nothing more. I figured it was scared, after all, Joe is pretty big and Carrie is All That. The courtyard is very dark, the cat is black, I am fumbling for the keys, and all of a sudden, WHAM, HISS, YELP, SCREAM (that last one was me), and we quickly wheeled around. But not quick enough, Carrie was hit the second time around, HISS, YEEELP (really a pitiful sound), more screaming by me (yup, first night moved in, I'm the American screaming in the courtyard in the middle of the night).

I shoveled the dogs into the apt, and briefly explained what had happened to the neighbors (human) who immediately appeared in the courtyard. Then checked out the guys who suffered no lasting scars, only bruises to the dignity. His holiness is pictured here:
Now, this story with the black devil-cat was a few days ago; yesterday I took the guys to a nearby wooded area for a hike. They call it a forest but is isn't very pretty, there is not a glimmer of hill, slope, or rolling anything anywhere, and the trees are young, brushy, and there is a lot of undergrowth as if from a fire or logging. But it was nice to be away from city life so I took the dogs off their leashes to let them get a bit of exercise.

Joe frolicked on the path and did his patented Happy Dance, Carrie and I ducked and enjoyed the scene. We continued walking until a forest ranger type person drove up (I had the dogs on their leashes again) and he stopped his car and got out. I knew this could not be good. He pointed at Joe and started talking in Dutch. I apologized and said I didn't understand. He repeated in English that Joe was a "Hunting dog" and was not allowed in the forest.

Jeepers! Joe isn't likely to hunt much besides the nearest sofa but I did not argue with the man. Nor did I mention his recent battering by the local cat. It seemed to be okay as long as we were on the path and Joe on his leash. And Carrie he couldn't have cared less about. I saw other big dogs off leash, so it was something about Joe being a sighthound I imagine.

Since I am supposed to be writing some useful tips for my dog-friendly-friends who might someday travel to Europe, here are some tips I've picked up:

Dogs can ride busses, subways, trains in Germany. They may also go into many restaurants in Germany, but NOT the grocery store.

In the Netherlands, dogs may also go on busses but they require their own ticket! (Carrie is exempted because she is a "lap dog" yeah right!) but dogs, bikes, and kids all need their own tickets. I'm not sure yet about trains in Netherlands, but I imagine its the same. I don't think dogs go into restaurants here, at least I haven't seen any and I don't plan on trying it.

Ok, now I can move on to current events in the next post!!

The Apartment

Joe and Carrie are settling in well to the new digs (and the weird, white, faux-leather, giant wrap-around couch!):

Here is the living room, with the fresh peach-colored roses on the coffee table:

and the TV to the right (I am joining the local DVD-rental place tomorrow):

Then turning around, the kitchen with counter & barstools (the stove is gas but I have to light it myself, no pilot ligher, but there's a handy lighter so I don't risk any fingers in the process!):

And here is the super-scary, narrow, steep spiral staircase that I already slid down once (the walls were very unforgiving):

Friday, January 19

Coming Soon...

More pictures coming soon! Check back in a day or so.

A bright new day

The sun has come out this morning and things are decidely looking up here in Bilthoven (the suburb near Utrecht where I am living.) The Friday morning market outside my front door provided me Pink Lady apples, soy milk, and bunches of miniature roses to brighten up the apartment. Also, I discovered an organic/natural food store in Bilthoven center that carries falafel, tofu, natural bath products, and other such luxuries! After a nice yoga practice at home this morning, we are off to locate a dog park.

Thursday, January 18

Nederland Facts

So, The Netherlands is a pretty odd place. Nobody takes a credit card; everything is really expensive; the landscape is totally flat (Mr. Marsden was quite right); public bathrooms in places like department stores and gas stations are super clean because there is a person standing there cleaning it and taking your 25 cents (Euros, so its worth about 5 dollars) and they give you a bad look if you don't understand this right away; there are a ton of people in a very small space (most dense country in Europe, I've read); and, today at least, lots of crazy wind, sideways rain, lightening, traffic, and all that fun stuff. Its been so windy that glass windows on apartment buildings are shattering (like in the stairwell in my apt building) and I thought my little car was going to blow off the highway. At least it is warm, in the mid-50's, and the sun crept out from behind the clouds for a few minutes this afternoon.

Also, everyone is really strict and formal about everything; I sort of "popped by" the veterinarian who does acupuncture for dogs locally; I just wanted to see the office and maybe chat with the staff -- only, there was no office and no staff, she runs the practice out of her house and I ran into her in her yard, and she was not too excited to have an unscheduled visitor. "Call first" is definitely recommended around here. Oh, and driving -- its true, nobody strays from the law, not one little bit. No rolling through a stop, certainly no right-on-red's. I have to watch for bicycles when crossing the street; there are so many bikes leaned up against every handrail, building, wall, road sign, really any space that doesn't involve ingress or egress from a building is taken up by a bicycle.

Joe and Carrie and I drove to Amsterdam today, just for a look, but the weather was so bad that we didn't stay long nor did we take any photos. Definitely a lot of character in that city so I'll go back and explore sometime on foot. On the highways coming home however, we did stay long, over 3 hours to go 33km. Gobs of traffic. Better than yesterday though, when I drove in circles forever, lost!

Utrecht is a beautiful city, and the area around the law school is great. So different from UW: very urban, VERY old, fancy shops, bike stores, churches, gothic, brick, cobblestones, narrow streets. I'll post some pictures in a few days. Tomorrow, we'll explore some dogpark possibilities near home.

Today's conclusion: I like this place but it is certainly foreign and it makes me miss the familiarities of what I'm used to in the US.

Tuesday, January 16

The road to Utrecht

German countryside

When the fog lifted!

A little stream we crossed in the car; narrow stone bridge

The hotel we happened upon that was actually open, much to my exhausted delight at the end of the day's journey (and where the artichoke dish may be found by any interested travelers!)

Dude, where’s my Porsche? Oh, here it is…

Escaping Frankfurt in my newly acquired rental car took some luck. Once on our way, I headed West toward Wiesbaden (where the cheese and butter breakfast was discovered). Not wanting to go through Köln, I continued to stay West, though I was stuck on a big highway and not able to see much countryside. Sometime before Koblenz, I took a chance on a road that turned out to be awesome. Road 248, through rolling hills, switchbacks, farms, small towns, all quintessential Europe.

We stopped for a walk along the Rhein in Koblenz but the air was chilly and the water warm so everything was encased in thick fog. Returning to the car and checking out the map, my eye chanced across a destination I had hoped to meet someday – The Nurburgring. Immediately filled with thoughts of BMW’s and fast curves, we headed for it. Getting closer, going up and down switchbacks, through the countryside, my little dumpy Opel Mitreva became a race car in my imagination. (I’m pretty sure Carrie did not appreciate this!) Finally, we arrived at the famed race track only to discover that the track itself is closed during the week in the winter. Not to worry, I went into the museum and swirled around Ferraris, Porches, BMW’s and Mercedes until I felt like one of them. (And since I was nearing the 7 hour mark since my last meal, imagining I was a car was par for the course.) I managed to escape with only two stickers, and not the multitude of retro racing posters that decorated the walls. But I promised my internal race car driver that we would return on a weekend and take the elusive spin around the world’s greatest track.

everybody asks for pictures of me, and not just the dogs, so here's the best I could do, into a mirror at the Nurburgring museum!

Here are some more pics of the cars!!

I really really like this one!

And here's as close as I got to the track:

Eating in Germany

I came to Germany for the first time in 1998. Though still many years from becoming a vegetarian, the eating was already a major challenge. Something about deep-fried, tough, fatty pork product smothered in unidentifiable sauce was just never appealing to me. Tonight, at a county hotel somewhere between Schleiden and Aachen, I ordered some things off the menu; the first, I understood to be some kind of artichoke bruschetta. What arrived was a bowl filled with some artichoke hearts from a jar, topped with something resembling sauerkraut, and it was COVERED in Thousand Island dressing (or maybe French dressing, who knows, both awful!) On the side were several pieces of bread, which is where they somehow concluded they had all the ingredients for bruschetta, I suppose.

Oh, but wait, the crucial ingredient to any salad-type appetizer—BUTTER, a nice slab of it. Because that’s what I want with my Thousand Island monstrosity right? Butter seems to be a condiment to lots of peculiar things in Germany, today at breakfast I’m pretty sure I had a butter and cheese sandwich. Not to worry, I added some raspberry jam to it!

Tonight, the artichoke disaster was the first real (?) meal of the day so I actually ate much of it. But I did manage to stockpile some muesli bars and Riesen candy at a drug store, and I’ve decided that beer definitely counts as “food” in Germany.

What’s in a name?

Well, if you are Carrie the fearless Dachshund/Chihuahua, quite a bit actually.… Carrie is carried onto the airplane in her Sherpa bag...then she is carried into the café in the hotel, again in the Sherpa bag, so that I can enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee on the first morning in Germany (Joe, always well-behaved, just stands next to me and looks adorable)…then Carrie gets carried onto a bus, then a train, then the Frankfurt underground (while Joe surfs throughout) until the coast is clear and she is let loose to strut the streets. Then again she is bagged while a beer and some pasta are enjoyed at a touristy restaurant. Always a bit of a challenge on the end of a leash, I have managed to conquer her by relegating her to a parcel whenever maneuvering through life is challenging. Nonetheless, after clamoring out of the bag when the zipper is unzipped, she suffers no embarrassment and regains her attitude immediately to take over any situation.

ok, we staged this photo since I haven't been taking any of her when she's really in the bag. but you get the idea!