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Friday, July 20, 2001

I hear that some people use these weblogs to post personal stories. Well, I'm having some work done at my house today, so I won't have power for about six hours. That means no computer. I'm ok with that. I guess I'll catch up on some reading.

In the mean time, I'd like to share with you some thoughts from my recent trip to Belgium and Germany.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
Good thing I took French in high school otherwise I would have thought that they were trying to poison me when I ordered the local specialty: Waterzooi en Poison.

BRUGGE
We took a train ride out to Brugge. They have a nice boat ride down the canals that wind through the city. It would have been better with animatronic puppets and a soundtrack. Disney does it better. Ha.

Waffles with ice cream on top are amazing in Belgium. You haven't had a real waffle until you've gone up to a little store and gotten one of these! I think I'll go get some ice cream for breakfast before the power goes out. I don't want it to melt and go to waste!

Traveling in Germany was a new and different experience for my wife and me. With limited exposure to the German language, we had fun trying to do everyday things we don't even think about in America.

Our first stop was Cologne.

RENTAL CAR
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When we picked up our rental car, the agent told me that the car was Diesel. The conversation went something like this:

Agent: Diesel
Me: Diesel?
Agent: Diesel
Me: Diesel

Next I asked for directions to our hotel. The rental agent told us that he was new to Cologne and we'd have to go to a gas station for directions.

Hmmm. I think I was newer to Cologne than he was, having just arrived 10 minutes ago, and I DON'T KNOW THE LANGUAGE!

We jumped in the car and found our way to the hotel by using a map. It's amazing how the little lines on a map directly relate to the local roadways.

I could tell you all about seeing the largest Cathedral in Cologne and looking at the Rhine River, but you could find that info on the web. We did find a couple of nice areas to sit outside, have a drink and something to eat and people watch. The local beer here is Kolsh.

REST ROOM
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The next interesting thing we encountered was trying to determine which public restroom to go in. One sign said, "DAMEN" and the other said "HERREN".

My Wife: Oh look, the "MEN" part of the "DAMEN" sign is lit up, that must mean it's the men's room.
Me: If I remember correctly, on the train, the announcer was saying, "Damen and Herren... Ladies and Gentlemen", so I think it follows that Damen stands for Women.

So I went into the entrance to the "DAMEN" room to pay the entrance fee for my wife. The restroom attendant started yelling at me and motioning that I should use the "HERREN" room. My wife took a step forward and we showed him that I was just paying for her. Under his breath he was probably saying, "Stupid tourists."

EUROPEAN HOTELS
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We asked for a KING bed and went to the room.

What we saw when we got there was what looked like two twin beds pushed together with a king-size bedspread on top. When we removed the bedspread we found two twin size feather beds side by side on top of the king sized mattress.

It's funny that they use the feather bed as a comforter all year long, even through the summer.

THE WEATHER
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We were looking at the weather in the newspaper and my wife asked me if I thought it was chilly in South America. I told her that it was always Chile in South America.

AUTOBAHN
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Driving, or should I say speeding, on the roads over there was fun. After I got used to it. Sometimes the speed limit is 80, sometimes 120, and sometimes there is no speed limit.

That's all in Kilometers.

Everyone follows the speed limit when there is one. That's because they have cameras on the highways - watching everything you do.

I got it up to 150 which is around 95 mph. Any more and my rental car would have split into a million tiny pieces.

I stopped to get gas and opened up the little door to the fuel tank. It said UNLEADED GAS ONLY. Hmmm, that car rental guy told me, "DIESEL". This doesn't make sense.

I went over to a German police office that had a bunch of German Shepherd's in his truck... the dogs, not the flock herders.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Do you speak English?
Officer: A little
Me: Can You help me?
Officer: A little
Me: Is this car Diesel
Officer: A little
Me: Can you show me which pump to use?
Officer: A little

We finally figured out that the car was indeed unleaded, they call it bipheeynolsimething or other. Anyway, I put the gas into the car and it didn't die.

MUNICH
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The English Garden is the largest city owned park in the world. It's three times the size of Central Park in New York. It's really popular for walking and drinking beer. Yes, there are two beer gardens inside the main garden.

Here you can sit by the water at long table and drink beers from glasses that look like they could hold a gallon of beer. I guess it's a good way to work on your arm strength.



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