Ian's European extended conference travel blog


Hi All

It is really hard to fit in these daily updates with all of the activity around me and optional trips that often take up the night. We ended last night in Zilo’s Grill in Berlin city where we got a taste of Germans really letting their hair down. The food waiter came to our table and asked if I ordered soup and when I said YES I found it was a booby trapped fake that fell towards me and scared the living daylights out of me. He had picked me immediately as one who doesn’t mind being the butt of a joke. But it got better. One fellow was walking around with a piano accordion and he was tirelessly for some time. Then to our amazement, he placed the instrument on the table to go to the washroom and the harpsichord kept playing on its own. And I think of all the money that I have spent on music lessons when it would have been so easy to switch to the piano accordion .

So we started the day departing Hamburg and on reflection, I really only saw the harbor on our night tour and it was so technically based I just shot hundreds of photographs that I will never print. Some are dramatic in their composition so I might play with those some more. But it did bring out several issues of these tours. Firstly you can’t cover a large area of a country the size of Germany and examine in sufficient detail its culture and history in 10 days, Secondly up until today we have had a Czech Tour Director who is sitting at the front of the coach Googling information to regurgitate back to us on approach. She was so busy issuing handsets during the trip that we arrived in Lubeck before she could get on line. On arrival, I just happened to be talking to my Bellingen friend Hilary on Skype video and showing her the wonderful St Mary’s church in Lubeck when she informed me that she had already found a reference on line. She proceeded like any good academic (and she is very good) to outline more to me than I was able to absorb in a 30 minute tour of the church. And it cost me 5 euros. So gentle readers, don’t despair as you sit in front of Neighbours and wish for a life that may never be. Mr Google is here to make your life meaningful. Grasp it in both hands and save the airfare and accommodation costs. And you won’t be inflicted with the clashing values and beliefs of fellow passengers on annoying bus trips through computer generated generic tours. Or if you aren’t computer literate, just turn on your digital TV for Getaway on Sunday night at 8PM.

So I have mentioned Lubeck and gave you the Google reference. We then headed to Berlin (after a delayed start). An old couple (older than me) had a brain snap over lunch and forgot that they were actually on a bus tour and therefore there was no actual bus to return to, The Tour Director (this is her third trip) went to find them on an intuition and having found them and reintroduced herself took decisive action. Rather than disturb their already disturbed mental state she ushered them into a café and ordered for them a nice warm cup of tea and a warm bun. So what is a three hour lunch break really matter to the rest of the group when you have so much more to learn about a country? Look after the oldies I say as I move past 65 and into the great unknown.

But there are also many positives that come out of drama and today was no exception. There is a father/ daughter combination from West Virginia (yes we sang the John Denver song at Zilo’s last night).Turns out that she met a German guy on the Internet dating site some time back and had arranged to meet him in Hamburg when she next travelled to Germany (as you do). So the previous night she lined him up for a hot date under the supervision of his parents. Would that work or is it an oxymoron? So unknown to those of us sitting restlessly on the bus she and he had returned to Lubeck to allow her to rejoin the bus tour (with an apparent Mona Lisa smile on her face). It didn’t help to the few of us who are single and had to watch the forlorn look on their faces as they separated for one last time. I thought it most inappropriate. The thought of Internet dating is really tasteless to me but when I finish I will interrogate her over breakfast about RSVP Germany or perhaps in my case, Senior Dating. Oh dear where did those names come from? And the bottom line was that the young loves had several more precious moments together while the older couple and the Tour Director worked on memory games in the quietness of the nearby Madonna café.

So finally, the absence of any descriptions of the trip today was not accidental. It seemed more of a transportation day to get us into Berlin and today is a day of promise to see some historical places that we can all relate to after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. And the reformation of the German nation into a new force (perhaps if only from the East German perspective).

I am often thinking of you guys (not a lot though) and wondering how you are going (not really) especially all of my family and friends in Australia. It is summer over here and the maximum temperature is no higher than you are experiencing through Winter. Mikki, I know that my three cats are being spoilt rotten by you and trust that you are enjoying the warmth and madness from the Bellingen community. Thank you so much for your kindness in caring for my house.

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