Thursday, June 26, 2008

Germany: Weissenhauser Strand

Our German adventure started in the resort of Weissenhauser Strand on the Baltic coast. In the nearby town of Oldenburg Jeremy's good mate from uni, Tim Gifford, was getting married to the beautiful Mareille. We were among a contingent of Aussies who had come across for their big day. To get a little more acquainted with Tim's mates prior to the wedding, we took a day trip to a place called Kiel where we would make a very unfortunate discovery.
Gigantic pork bbqs...
Half meter pork sausages...
Oh, something not made from pork...sweets!
Thankfully, Germany does have something else to entice its pork-fearing visitors, beer. So, what happens if you dont drink beer? Well as TZ can testify, you are booed off stage. Below you can see TZ's over-sized lemonade being toasted (and simultaneously outcast) against the other beers. 
Here's something the JeTZ could enjoy together - Mojitos! We had not had a decent one since our time in Prague but Germans seem to have their culinary skills down to a fine art. We began to accept that from this moment forth, our diets would have to be put on hold until further notice.
Before leaving the festival, we came across this interesting Elvis impersonator. His voice was so deep it was if it came from his recesses of his bowels. Oddly though by the time that voice reached his mouth and our ears, it did sound an awful lot like Elvis.  In fact if it weren't for the fact that his side burns were tattooed onto his face, we might have claimed a legitimate Elvis sighting.
On the day of the wedding, the JeTZ scrubbed up very well wearing their Sunday best. Despite the beautiful wedding ceremony, in the church Jez appeared distracted. He could smell an odour most foul. Something akin to dog was in fact dog poo. And it was hanging for dear life to one of the brand new heels that TZ was wearing. Lets just say that it's not as easy as you think to go from backpacker to fit-for-human-society in so short period of time.
Tim and Mareille on the other hand looked like a beautiful and highly-civilized couple. When the Australian contingent degenerated in the wee hours of the morning they were like a rose amongst thorns.
When the happy couple first met, Tim did not know a word of German. But with some one-on-one tuition from Mareille , his tongue quickly learnt its way around the uber-sized, multi-syllabic German diction. (Hey if the Germans can make up their own words, so can we!) At the wedding, poor Tim had to give his speech twice. Once in English and once in German. So we would know which language he was speaking, he wore his German flag wig when he was speaking German and his cork hat when speaking 'stralian.
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And when Tim was drinking, he wore his lay.
When the Aussie crew were drinking, we did it German style - red bull and Jagermeister shots.  Although as you can see, not all of us could wait for the photo to be taken...
Things started to get a little unusual when Tim was dressed up as a baby, shaved, fed and had has his teeth brushed by his new wife.
Meanwhile, back at our tables, we sat with our arms linked singing a crazy German song in which we had to chant 'die sau, die sau' - the pig the pig...turn it into sausage (or something unkosher to that effect).
The frivolity continued and at 2AM a gigantic cheese platter was brought out signaling that we must continue to eat and be merry. Sheets of white material were laid out for us to write our good wishes. At around 2:30AM a select few sheets were fashioned into the hot air balloon you see below and launched into the starry night.
Stranger still, when we left the party shortly after 3AM, the sun was just rising. 
Only hours later, we decided to take a walk to the beach. We were only moments from the Baltic Sea and we would be damned if we did not at least see what all the fuss was about. As Jez can testify the water is freezing. Fuss over.
However, if you are keen to hang out at the beach despite the hideous cold, you can cosy up in one of these little shelters. Not quite like lounging around on the beaches of Brazil, but ten out of ten for quirkiness!
We left Tim and Mareille the following day and visited the town of L├╝beck to ingest a healthy dose of marzipan. We landed up in Hamburg a little unsure of where we were to go next. It wasnt until a rather unpleasant bar room brawl occurred involving Jez, a rambunctious Turkish woman and a 250 Euro bottle of Moet that we bolted for the countryside. We must press on but if you do wish to hear the story, Jez will be making a cameo appearance in Perth for a few days from 17 October and can fill you in on the gory details.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Farewell London...

A tribute to our friends and family who made us feel at home in London.
After seven months of travelling around South America we briefly returned to London to say a few farewells...
Goodbye beautiful Hampstead Heath. How we loved walking around you and setting off fireworks at Halloween. Sorry about the holes we left in your grass.
Goodbye underground. We wont miss the sweaty armpits we had to press up against in peak hour, the incessant delays, the extortionate fees we had to pay or even the trashy tabloids we got for free. But nothing made us feel more English than having a good old whinge about it!
Goodbye grey skies and drizzle. We will miss how moaning about the bad weather bonded us to any given Londoner.
Goodbye Brick Lane. Here Jez has one last sampling of his favourite Ethiopian food. We will also miss seeing the array of stolen items (mainly bicycles) and crappy goods for sale on the streets. It would not be uncommon to see someone selling, for example, one pair of electric blue high heeled shoes, an Australian plug, three used cotton buds and a bent fork. 
There were some places we had to revisit just to say good riddance. Like the infamous Mr Wu's all-you-can-eat buffet for just £4.95 which should have come with a free all-you-can-vomit bag.
We still maintain that you don't need to go much further than London to sample some of the best pastries in the world...
Hand modelling done by TZ. Nail colour: Suzie says Dah by OPI care of Mrs Helen Murphy.
Goodbye crazy Camden Town. How fondly we recall the markets and the weird people. We will even miss the stupid low riding, underwear- showing pants fashion commonly seen there.
Hello new piercing. Dont get excited. It was only a normal ear piercing that needed to be redone. Doesn't this scary looking tattoo and piercing artist look a little like Amy Winehouse from behind? Her chest was a metal-detectors dream come true. We raised our eyebrows in unison as she demonstrated just how two piercings were actually joined by a bolt under her thin chest skin. And we winced in pain as she pointed out that a nearby stud was actually imbedded - the scar tissue around the piercing was there to prove it!
Not too longer after we had recovered from seeing the insane piercings, TZ found herself in the hot seat again with a public eyebrow threading experience. It's like waxing but with cotton thread and it's a lot more painful!
Not to be outdone, Jez decided to get in on the action too. He assured everyone that he wont be making a habit out of maintaining his eyebrows as he does no believe in the separation of powers.
Goodbye Prime Meridian. How important we felt having the rest of the world's times revolve around ours!
Goodbye Memo. You may remember we visited Memo and his family in Mexico a while back. Who knows when our paths will cross again? Memo, bring your parents and come visit your family in Australia soon!
Bye bye Kibbutznicks, Nadia, Mel and Sam. We will miss laughing until we cried with you.  
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At least Jez and Mel would later see each other in Israel!
Thank you to Baz and Helen for your hospitality and looking after our big box of rubbish while we were gone. Baz, a million thank yous for taking care of business while we were out of the country.
A very special thank you to our family in London: Mel, Barbara, Lily and Jazzy who made us feel like we were at home from the minute we arrived. We still day dream about your amazing Friday night dinners, the walks around your beautiful garden and the sharing of outstanding red wine.
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To Rachael and Andrew, thankfully we wont have to miss you guys now that you are back in Perth. We are delighted that you have multiplied the BernSousa family. Rachael, we want to know if little Oscar inherited mummy's fangs?
To the Harris' - Frank, Laraine, Daniel and Jeremy. Thank you for your kindness and ensuring we always had a place to go for the high holidays.
And finally, to our ex house mate Ron, where ever you are. No hard feelings about the whole flat sharing thing not working out...
Next stop: Germany.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New York

"Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it - new York, new York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it - New York, New York" - Frank Sinatra

Before we arrived in New York, Jez emailed his old Kibbutz friend Josh to tell him of our impending visit. Although very welcoming, he regarded us with suspicion. The idea of hosting two smelly backpackers possibly carrying any number of South American borne diseases was indeed cause for concern. Of course we couldn't see the consternation on Josh's face over email but he kept that look until the day we showed up at his bachelor pad in Brooklyn.
Josh had just graduated from Law school but he still had to sit the bar exam. So our arrival was a little untimely. We assured him we would be no trouble and that we would entertain ourselves.
There was just one problem...we did not have our bible on us. A Lonely Planet to tell us where to go, what to do, how to think. So we picked up the next best thing...
Just kidding, we didn't buy that book. We've seen plenty of movies so we know what there is to do in New York. Who doesn't? We've all seen those romantic comedies where lovers land up kissing on top of the Empire State Building...
You may recall the restaurant from "When Harry met Sally" in which a customer says she will have what Sally is having. It is a real restaurant and it's called Katz.  No fake orgasms were played out on the day we went. Jez had a real one when he bit into his tasty corn beef sandwich.
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It is always important to understand the root cause of a problem. So we went to research the kinds of foods that are making Americans obese. Dunkin Donuts was the obvious starting point.
This was then followed by German beer gardens. Here Jez made an important religious discovery. The holy trinity - pretzel, mustard and beer.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me..." - The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
That described us perfectly! We were tired and homeless and tempest-tossed. Would the Statue of Liberty take us in?
She was surprisingly hospitable. Despite the fact that we had not bought a special ticket to enter her base we were allowed in. Inside was a museum and a life-size replica of her face and foot. Also inside was a step by step instruction set on how to make your own statue of liberty should the occasion arise. Lady Liberty is made from copper sheets which are assembled on a grid framework made of iron. Although she is not really that nice copper colour anymore, over time she has turned a little green.
She was actually a gift from France to celebrate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.  She was built in France and then disassembled into 250 parts, packed into 2114 crates and shipped across to New York. She was then reassembled on Bedloe's island (now called Liberty Island) in 1885.
And now for a test: which famous Frenchman designed her internal structure? Hint: 13 years later he would construct a very famous icon in Paris.
We also knew that we could not leave New York without sampling kosher hot dogs or seeing a baseball game. Jez went the whole 9 yards with his hot dog sampling and taking his lead from Josh, washed it down with Budweiser.
Unfortunately, the weather had its own plans. It rained. In buckets. It was unrelenting. After waiting for an hour, the game was finally cancelled. Ludicrous! Looking around it became clear that the Yanks were indeed lightweights. Enlarge the photo to your right for further evidence of lightweightness...
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The Mets decided to show us that if it were up to them, they would be on the field playing baseball. Click below to restore your faith in mankind.
After the game, we decided to go for a drink at the very posh Waldorf Astoria. You may be wondering how they let us into their bar area looking like drowned backpackers. We think it was Jez's t-shirt. The one that says "hoja de coca no es droga" - The coca leaf is not a drug. 
Shisha isn't a drug either...not an illegal one anyway. Here Jez makes a tribute to another of his Kibbutz friends, Michel, who you may remember from our time in Sao Paulo. We also made another tribute to Michel. A video which will be screened at our welcome home party. Extra points will be awarded to anyone who yells out "you got the cinnamon" before the movies starts...
And so we farewelled young Josh and wished him well for his bar exam. Next stop, home...or at least our old home.