Sunday, January 29, 2012


So - this post ends my series of my winter European travels. Yet, this post picks up
at the beginning. It's my first destination.

After getting off the airplane in Frankfurt, I make my way to the train station downstairs. I'm taking the train from Frankfurt Airport to Goettingen. At the main train station in Frankfurt, I notice I have two hours to wait.

I buy some food. They have all kinds of food stalls - coffee, pretzels, German sausages, and crepes. When you're in Europe, chose the Crepes. I get a Cheese crepe. In line, I ask the girl how do you say change in German.

She replies, "Wechsegeld."

I said, "Wechesegeld."

She smiles and says, "Gut."

But later in my conversation I say to someone, "Haben sie Wichsegeld?" instead of "Wechsegeld." I meant to say, "Do you have some change?" But instead, I said, "Do you have some masturbation money?"

When the person tried to correct me, I laughed and said, "Ich wisse." I said, "I know," before he went on to embarrass me.

Two and a half years ago, Volker took me to Hamburg. Down the streets of Hamburg, two big white German guys walk with me, the small asian guy down the street. A portly, over-make-uped Madame screams out in the street, "Komst hier, mein kleine vixe Maus." Translation: "Come here, my small masturbating mouse."

The two Germans at the time ignored it and then couldn't help it. They reacted by laughing. And I said, "What the hell is she saying?"

Volker said, "You don't want to know."

"Yes, yes I do want to know. What did she just call me?"

And he said, "Come here, my small masturbating mouse."

I believe that was my third day in Germany. Germans are great people! In that incident, I had learned several things. I had learned that useless line. I had also wondered, why did she single ME out instead of the other two German guys. This is a theme that happens - over and over again to me in Germany.

So, when I made the faux pas I completely understood what I had sad. I blushed and said in Germany, "I'm sorry. Do you have any change?"

I cut the crepe in half with a plastic knife. A homeless man begged me for money. I gave him the other half of the crepe. He touched my hand and thanked me. I smiled and said, "Bitte." (You're welcome.)

I was in the bookstore. Along this line of conversation, I watched the African guy peruse through the playboy magazines. It's Christmas. He's perusing through naughty magazines. Haha.

I then waited at the same platform that I waited two and a half years ago. Deja vu. I get inside the train. It's midnight. I go inside to the kitchen compartment. I remember last time, the first train I took in Germany was full of drunk people in the morning. Now, I'm here at night and there are not that many people in the carts.

I order a bier. I talk to the kitchen attendant. I ask him if he speaks English. He smiles and says, "Yes." I ask him if he can begin teaching me German. He does.

When I get to my seat and enter a cart full of people, I notice the people are staring again. Yes, I'm the only asian in the cart. And I stand out like a sore thumb, but at least their more curious than resentful.

I can see, even through the nightfall, the fields of corn and wheat. It's the same train ride I took two and a half years ago.

When I get off the platform, there is Volker. He is wearing the same leather jacket. Just like last time he picked you up - I thought. My re-visit to Germany is almost exactly like the first time I came, except I think I can communicate with the natives in their language now.

Volker is happy to see me, and I him. We catch up about everything.

* * * *

One theme that happened quite continually was people testing me. Test the American you can say. Volker's friends were surprised I came back. Some of them and I took a 100km trek across Germany last time I was here. It took three days, and we crossed forest, mountains, and Germany waterfalls and creeks.

One of them says, "Hey Paul? Do you want to go running?"

I said, "Sure."

"We'll be here tomorrow at 1pm."

1pm tomorrow, they're there on the dot. They were in running clothes. I was in t-shirt and shorts. I have to show them how strong an American is, even in the freezing German winter.

One asks, "Will you be ok?

I nod, "I'll be gut."

I hear Volker say in German, "Take him to the Castle."

We start our run, in the start is hard because its on a high uphill incline. My heart races faster. My breath is shorter. And I think to myself, Damn it. You better finish whatever they got up their sleeves. Otherwise, they'll tell Volker you're a weak, lazy American. They will you know. And they'll say it over and over again. The thought presses me forward. My body - as I knew it would - begins to adjust to the pace.

We reach the Castle. It's a nice Castle. We explore it a little. But then we run back. In total, I believe we ran about 10 miles. I can't say I was the best. I was the worst of the three, but I finished.

I email my Bavarian friend Ben and wrote, "Ben, you'll be happy to hear I was not the best." Ben hates hearing me brag, so I had to tell him about this incident. "We ran 10 miles to a castle, and I was struggling."

Ben writes back, "Hahaha. What were you thinking? Germans train since kids to run to castles." Stupid Ben. GRRR...

Volker's friends ask if we want to go running again tomorrow. They ask what time, i said, "11am." They're again there on the dot that day.

This time they take me a mountain forest, where it's hailing, sleeting, snowing, and raining all at once. I'm bloody freezing in this 8 mile run. My hands go numb, but I finish this trek too. They took me to some snow forest.

When I place my hands in hot water, it's an interesting experience. At first, I feel nothing. Then I feel pain and more pain. My hands are throbbing and the hot water makes my hands feel like it's on fire. They ache. Then, slowly the pain subsides and it feels normal again.

I just imagine Ben telling me, "We train to run in the snow since kids too." Anyways, I'm from Los Angeles, born and raised. We don't have snow! In any event, Americans are strong people because they can just go to other countries and acclimate to the local condition.

I come out of the shower and say, "I don't feel BRRRR" anymore." There was mud on my shoes. Mud on my ankles and knees. Snow in my hair. It was all washed away clean.

* * * *

One of the days, Volker takes me to a Christmas market. A Christmas Market is like a little County Fair with a whole bunch of traditionally looking German stalls. People go and drink mulled wine and chit chat and eat food. It's a rather good at community building. You can hear friends and family coming together and laughing and catching up. That's what Volker and I did.

When we came back, his friends and us talked. Mulled hot wine is nice in the winter. IT's better with hot food. And it's best with good friends.

* * * *

And then - there was the night club. Volker took me to a nightclub. There several things happened to me. One, a girl who looked very butchy grabbed me. SHe was stocky, muscly, had a mowhawk and piercings everywhere. I was sitting down when she approached me. Smiled. Spoke German I couldn't understand. Then placed her hand on my back and kissed me on the cheek. There we go again with being targeted.

THen I was standing there and a German youth around 20 asks me where I'm from. When I say America, he starts chatting me up. He presses his hand against the center of my back, and Volker sees me and says, "Paul." I leave with Volker.

After awhile of having one drink too many - some of you have been there and tell yourself this when you've done it - we want to go home. I go look for Volker, and he's chatting up a woman, who gives off a desperate vibe. I said, "Come on Volker - we need to go."

* * * *

The Sauna.

Volker and his sister take me to the German sauana. You know - they're naked there. Everybody. Guys and girls. Don't you think it's weird a brother and sister would see each other naked? Oh well - Deutschland.

Volker's gained weight. I tell him. He says, "Shut up, Paul."

I take off my clothes and show him my toned body and say, "See, not nice like this."

He goes, "Yucky!"

I went to the gym with Volker at a different point in time. My outfit is a UCLA Law shirt. He says, "You are such a show off, Paul. A show off!" This moment reminded me of that comment.

In the main hall of the sauana, on the hour, an employee comes and does something special for you. You sit naked with all these other naked people, mostly older people who don't care about how they look anymore. The attendant brings you either honey or kosher sea salt. You rub it on your skin. I think to myself - they're going to turn me into Korean BBQ. Sometimes, the attendant uses a large towel and creates an air vortex with it. She then fans a gust of hot air in your direction. It blows and washes against your skin and makes you feel like you're going to die of heat.

After, they bbq me, there's an ice lake outside. I jump in. I freeze. I then scream, "AHHHH!!!!" The Germans laugh at the little asian boy and say,

"Kalt, ja?" (Cold, yes?)

I shake the water off of my hair like a cat shakes water off its fur. I hope the few drops of water sprays the laughing Germans.

* * * *

I stay with Volker for New Years. We had an interesting German New Years. I told him I think this year will be a good year for me. The Koreans say what you do on the New Years is what happens for the rest of the year. So does that mean, traveling will be coming up again for me? Who knows?

On New Years day, Volker takes me to my new ride to Munich. He hugs me. He says he'll see me soon in America. Time to go to Munich.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Bavarian

After my Lux-host drops me off at my next ride. He's driving 220km on the autobahn to meet my ride in his Audi A8.

The next guy who picks me up is a college student in Munich. I think he resents me being dropped off out of a luxury car.

And no wonder. His car only goes 140km on the autobahn. It is slow and wearing down. But, I'm still grateful he gives me a ride. Unlike other ride sharers, he talks to me little. His other passenger, a female German journalist, talks to me often. We talk often of travel.

Five hours later, I arrive in Munich. Munich, on a Sunday. Nothing is open. I go to a pay phone and call the Bavarian.

"Ben," I say, "I'm here."

After chatting through interrupted phone connections, Ben decides he'll take a two and half hour train ride to see me. He knows he'll see me for only two hours.

So, here's my comment on Ben the Bavarian. Everybody, and I mean Everybody, needs to have an international (or domestic) friend like Ben. He's going out of his way to pay for a train ticket, to take a two hour ride, just to see me for two hours.

Here's my detour on my writing. The most commonly asked question I seem to be getting asked, is "Paul, where do you meet these people?"

I never really thought about it. I just meet them - I said. But sometimes, I'm more specific. I think I know a lot of Germans because I travel a lot, and they travel a lot. So, you put the two together and that's why I meet a lot of international friends. But then again, that doesn't explain how people invite me - and I get to stay over and eat with them.

I met Ben in Belize. I keep in touch with three people I met in Belize. Two are from Holland, and the other is Ben from Bavaria. Many people would think this is a lot of people, but it's actually not. As I told Ben, I think I must have met 200 people or more in my week in Belize. I only keep in touch with three of them. That's 1.5%. I guess when you travel enough, meet enough people, you know who you want to stay in touch with and who you don't want to stay in touch with. You kind of become good at who you have chemistry with and you also know who will be good to you. And I think you give off the same vibes. So, I met Volker and Tobi in New Zealand. Ben in Belize. Dutch girls in Belize. And a Luxemburger in France. So: there we go. Now back to the story.

I see Ben in the distance. I go and hug him. We're happy to see each other. It's time to eat dinner together at 9pm and see Ben's friends. We eat a bad pizza at a divey bar. I want to complain about the food, but why? It's Europe. You never complain. His friends come. We converse for an hour and a half.

I tell them all the new German words I learned. I learned, "Party!!! Party!!!" And "Sex Relationship." And "Can I kiss you, please?" and "Let's go." And "Hurry Up!" All of these sound much more emphatic in German. Ben said, "It sounds like you learned all the important things."

The girls say, "Just from what you told us you learned, I think you had a good time in Europe."

During the conversation, I tell Ben, "You know what I've been wanting in Germany? I want a German license plate. I have a German car at home, and I need to put a German license plate on it. I've been on the hunt for one ever since I've been here."

When we leave the bar, we walk on the streets. Ben says, "Paul!!!!" He holds an abandoned Munich license plate for me. Now what are the odds?!!! Yes, I think. Awesome.

We leave his friends, both of who are girls. I tell them in German, please to meet you. Ben and I take a ride to the main train station. It's 0 C outside. He says good bye to me. I hear in German, "Last call for Regensberg." He walks into the train. I look at the large metal compartments. The train starts up. Chug - chug - chug.

I can run faster than the train at this moment. I don't know the exact direction it's leaving, but I know this: it's moving away from me. I look at the different windows to see if Ben is there. I can't find him. He's sitting down already. He's in there somewhere. And I just watch, as the train keeps driving away from me further into the darkness. It's somewhere out there. It's midnight now.

He's gone. So, I wait for the next train to come in. I ask a person, "Do you have a Bavarian pass?"

He says, "Ja. 10 euro."

"No, five."

I give him five. He gives me the pass. I can take it to the airport now. An airport ride typically costs 11 euro. So, I save more than 50%. I decide not to get a hotel. I check in at 5 am. It's already midnight. A hotel isn't worth 4 hours. It'll take me one hour to get to the airport.

I take the S-Bahn to the airport. Two months ago, I was taking the same line from Munich to the Airport. Everything looks so different in the night view than it did with the day view. Two months ago, I took the day view. I get lost easily in Los Angeles, with streets I'm familiar with during the day but not night. At 1 am, one hour exactly, I am at Munich Airport.

The intercom says, "Munchen Flughafen." I leave to London soon enough. And from London - Los Angeles.

At the Munich airport, I go to MacDonalds. I get a One Euro cheeseburger. It doesn't taste as good as my Austrian one in the cliffside. I down a bier as well. And I fall alseep on airport chairs for four hours.

I then check in groggy for my flight to London. I arrive into London. I fall asleep at the airport for two hours. And the check in game begins; I'm going home.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Luxembourg Nights

I woke up at 4:30am in the bloody morning. Outside, it was as dark as midnight. My Bavarian host dad and I walk to the car. There’s a snowstorm outside. He drives me with the high beams on through the windy road. I’m tired. I haven’t slept the whole night. I overslept on the last night of our ski trip. It keeps me from sleeping.
He drops me off at the train station. I am in the Allgau. The equivalent of the Allgau (sounds like “all” “g-oye” ) in America would be the deep South. The two most common questions I get asked in the Allgau are two. One, where are you from? Two, why are you in the Allgau? They ask it in shock, like what would a German person be doing in Alabama. Hey, but it happens. Asian-Americans can enter deep Bavaria too.

After my host Bavarian father drops me off at the train station, I give him a farewell hug and say “Danke schoen fuer alles.” (Thank you for everything.) I walk into the train station. There are literally a handful of people there, including two drunk youths. They were screaming “Yah! Yah! Yah!”

I look at the times at the train station. I’m looking to head back into the Bavarian capital of Munich. The electronic timetable says that the train is leaving at 5:25am. I ask a German lady, “Sprechen sie English?” (Do you speak English?) She responds, “Ja.”

“What time is the train leaving to Munich?”

“Five twenty five, I think.” She looks at the electronic board to confirm and says, “Ja. That is right.”


I walk to the ticketing machine. I’m about to buy the Bavarian Pass, which costs about $30. It’s an all day pass in the Southern State of Germany. I’m hoping that after I get to Munich, I can sell it to someone for a cheaper price. But before I purchase the ticket, a woman taps me on the shoulder. Oh, it’s the German lady who I asked about the time.

She says, “Can I help you?”

I said, “I’m just trying to buy a Bavarian pass.”

She says, “Don’t worry about it. I have one. It will work for you and me. You don’t need to buy it.”

“I’ll split the fee with you.”

We sit back down together. She asks me where I’m from. I say I am American. Then we get into it all. She then asks, “Why are you in the Allgau?” And I explain I have this host Bavarian family – and you know the stories if you have been reading my blog postings.

We board the train together. It’s snowing outside. It still looks like midnight outside. She tells me that she’s divorced. That her ex-husband cheated on her and that brought her back to the Allgau. She has two children. Both girls. They are already learning English and are fluent in German and Italian. I said there’s a Chinese proverb and it goes like this: “Falling leaves return to its roots.” It means that those who leave abroad always come back home. I found this to be true to my life.

We talked the whole way to the train station. At the end, I offered her 10 Euros for the ride. She refused. She wished me a good travel.

It was bloody cold outside. The cold air swooshed against my face. BRRR. I walk to the entrance to the underground, where I come across a small deli. I ordered a cappuccino. Hot. It tastes creamy. I walk underneath to take the subway line downstairs.

There, I rode the S-Bahn line to my exit. It was like I was in the middle of the most deserted place in Munich. Dead trees all around. Snow falling and blanketing everything. White. And more White, everywhere. I can’t believe my ride chose this place.

I see a guy standing outside. Concerned I might not be in the right place, I talk to him in German.

“Is this Berg am Laim?”


“Can you make a phone call for me? I need to catch a ride.”


He looks at the number. Hands me the phone. I speak to my ride in English, “Ok, so you’ll be here in 30 minutes. By the bike rack, right?”

I hand the phone back. He says, “You speak English! I thought you’re from Asia.”

“Well, my parents are.”

“I need to practice mein English.”

“Ok. Thank you for helping me. I’m catching a ride to Trier.”

“Ah – to Trier. That is far away.”

“Yes, I think it’s five to six hours North.”

We continue to talk in English, until his train comes. Once in awhile, we speak in German as well. My ride is here.

I signed up for a ride on a carpooling website. Because petrol and trains are too expensive, you can ride with complete strangers from destination to destination. It’s called Mitfahrgelegenheit.

Out of the car, comes two obese people. A man and a woman. They’re in their early 20’s, but they are so obese, they look much older. He’s wearing a shirt and board shorts. Let me remind you, this is icy winter. He’s crazy. He says, “Get in. I’m sorry I’m late.” They have three iPhones on the dashboard. Strange. I point it out.

I ask him, “Where is your final destination?”

He says, “Luxembourg.”

I said, “Please take me there instead. I’m going to Luxembourg too.”

He says, “Sure.”

I take out a piece of paper and I say, “Please call my Luxembourger friend. Please tell him to pick me up at your location.”

And then, it’s over. I can sleep. I’m so tired from not having slept for almost 24 hours. I pass out, even with his funky, house music playing. Sleep. I sleep for three hours and twenty minutes. The sun is finally coming out. It’s around 10am. The guy is going 190 kms (120 mph). He’s averaging that and enjoying it, like it’s some go-cart game.

We arrive in Luxembourg in only 4 hours! It was faster than the total time it would take to check in for an airplane. He shows me the river that marks the boundary between Lux and Germany.

He parks. In a few minutes, my Luxembourger host picks me up in his father’s A8 Audi. Nice car. He helps me load his bags. We enter the car. And I said, “See, look at them. They’re from Lux. And they’re huge and obese. So don’t tell me it’s only Americans. I thought all of you were going to look that way.” He starts chuckling. Mark is with him. He’s one of the French law students I had breakfast with him after my lecture in France.

The Lux guy and I catch up and chat about the world. I tell him I haven’t slept. We first enter Lux City.

I now see four other French law students come out of their Audi. They pull up. The girls smell like French cigarettes and perfume. There, we go to a cafĂ© and eat Lux food. I have two Lux beirs. I told him, it’ll help me sleep faster. My body is going through so many time zones.

After lunch, we head to my host’s house. They make my bed. I meet my host’s mother. She carries herself with European class. We greet each other in English, though I am having a habit of speaking German after my time in Deutschland. They place me in the attic. It seems to be the European theme and me. Put Paul in the European attic. I appreciate the sense of seclusion and peace though.

I need my sleep now. In less than five minutes, my body and mind collapse. The last thing I remember is the light outside. Sweet sleep.

Three and a half hours, 6:00pm, it looks like midnight outside again. The daylight hours are so short in Europe in the winter. I go to the restroom to freshen up. I wash my face with cold water. I rush downstairs, where I hear the French law students. There, I meet my host’s father. I bow to him in my Korean style. He has a good nature to him, but underneath you can sense that he thinks a lot about important business matters. I join them both at the dinner table.

My host asks if I’d like a per aperitiff. I request, champagne. He opens a nice French bottle. It makes that nice, crisp pop that I love to hear. He pours it in a flute. I drink. I enjoy. The tastes are light, sweet, and refreshing. The host’s brother talks of his time training as a chef in Paris. I listen.

After awhile, I make my way to the living room where the French students are. They are chit chatting in a nice language I cannot understand. Yet, in time, the host’s parents follow. It’s time for me to make chit chat. I ask the host’s father, “So, where did you meet your wife?”

“Well,” he says, “it was a little outside of the city.”

“Oh,” I said, “But who liked who first?”

He grinned, like a Cheshire cat and said, “Me.” His wife nodded. She blushed a little. This was an older couple, that was being reminded of their youth. You could see the memory re-flood into their faces.

The host’s mother continues the conversation, “Well – my sister knew his brother. And, so, he came with his brother, and we met.” She crossed her legs and held in her a hand a crystal glass filled with colored alcohol. The liquid glowed like green fireflies.

I turned to the host’s father and asked him, “Did you write her letters?”

He blushed a little and said, “Oh, yes. But she wrote more!” The French students and I smiled and laughed. The host’s mother just sat quiet after he said that.
Then she said, “I still have them all. But what must I do with them?” She trailed off in French to tell the host and the French students her plans with these letters.
My host tells me later, “Paul, Europeans never ask these kind of questions.”

“Oh,” I said. “Is it bad?”

“No. No. But we just don’t ask these questions. It was great just watching you have a conversation with them.”

“Did you know your mother wrote more letters than your father did?”

He said, “No.” He smiled too now.

After the conversation and champagne, the host drove us in the Audi A8 through town. The Lux skyline is beautiful. It looks like a city inside a canyon and ancient castles on the mountain. You can imagine Prince Charming and the princess taking a walk through a city like this at night.

After taking us to dinner at a Lux restaurant, our host takes us to a Bar. I’m still feeling tired from the lack of sleep. For some reason two-three hour sessions of interrupted sleep isn’t really the equivalent of six hours. The night will be long too. So, I ask one of the French students for a Cuban cigar. I know that the nicotine will help give me a kick.

I sit in a rather relaxed position in the bar. I flare up the cigar with a long match and take the smoke in. Ah – it’s a nice, smooth, mild kind. Yes, I know cigars should be strong, but I think strong cigars give me too much of a head ache. After awhile, I get a kick from it. My host says, “It’s great to see a little asian guy smoking a cigar.” Hmmmm…

It’s time to leave to the next bar. Yet, when I get my jacket, I notice someone has taken my scarf. =( Damn it, I loved that scarf. It’s not a nice brand, but the pattern was good and sent to me from my auntie in Korea.

At our next location, we try to enter a bar. But the bouncer hear the girls speak French.

He says, “You can’t come in then.” This was all done in French, so I have to ask for a translation. The French law students believe it’s racism.

I want to test if this is true. So, I ask my host, “Let’s you and try to go in. If they let us in, we know it’s racism.”

The bouncer knows my host is from Luxembourg. He asks where I’m from, I say, “Los Angeles.” He lets us in. We drink two cokes. And when we come out, the girls are furious. They say in English with a French accent, “They are so racist!”

I ask my host, “Is this true?” He says, “Who knows? Maybe they don’t like their style. Maybe they don’t like the French, who often start fights here. Or maybe they think that these students won’t spend a lot.” Questionable. But I think for the French girls, it’s an unpleasant lesson to learn.

The first time I was treated with such disgust was in New Zealand. Although I have known many wonderful people in Wellington, I will never forget when a Maori guy on meth tried to spit at me. He shouted, for all of Cuba Street to hear, "You f)*&)(*& chink! Chinky! Chinky! Get out of here." It's such an ugly feeling. But I suppose that this man, had to believe that as screwed up as his life was, he was better than all the billions of Asians out there. Because of the way we were born. I think everyone should experience this once, to know how ugly it feels. Just a side note.

Lux nights reminded me of a country that was like Beverly Hills. It was a whole country like Beverly Hills. People look nice and have money. And the place has money.

We end our night by going to a night club at 3am. We dance until 5:30am. We go home at around 6am. I walk up to the attic. I again feel the powerful feeling of exhaustion take over. There’s no fighting it. No, you just let it overcome you – like when your head nods continuously during a boring lecture. I pass into a deep sleep.

I, along with all of us, wake up at around 1pm. This is why I have a problem with clubbing. I always feel like you waste so much of a productive day. You lose half of your Saturday or more for sure. After having a brunch/lunch, my host and I go shopping. The rest stay behind to study law. I just like hanging out with my host – so anytime with him is good.

We go to the supermarket. I have to prepare a menu for the night. I promised to cook for them. I wanted to make them American ribs or Korean bbq. But none of the meats are available. Instead, I change course and think of a new meal to make.
For dinner, everyone is involved in the cooking. Ironically, the meal is rather French or French influenced. I was a bit nervous. I mean, here are French law students. The French love to criticize. But with that said, if you are able to win them over, you really have their trust. Like now, my lecture earned me their trust. But this was no law lecture. No, this was a meal. Together we prepare a six course meal paired with three sets of wines:

1. Scallops with homemade pesto
2. New Orleans Sausage Gumbo – if you know anything about Louisiana, the French influence is really heavy in this region – even in the cooking.
3. Southern Greens
4. French mashed potatoes
5. Porterhouse Steak
6. Poaches Pears

And for the wines we had:
1. Napa Valley Red Wine
2. Greek Red Wine
3. German Dessert Wine

We started with the scallops and soup paired with the Napa Valley Wine. It’s been a long time since I had a hearty gumbo, but it was so good that all of it was gone. Ok, I have secrets in cooking. Even though I'm Korean-American, I know how to make a good Southern gumbo - although it has French flavors. First, you have to make a good roux. I like my roux made from flour, butter, and delicious rich olive oil. Brown the roux until it looks like toasty bacon grits. Add it into the broth. I love reduction of chicken stock and red wine. I think it should be the basis for most soups. Finally, I sear the meats, such as the prawns and fish, first in a pan to lock in the flavor before adding it to the soup. I think humans have a natural affinity for liking seared meats with tender insides.

And the French girl helps me cook.

I had promised the host’s father that I would save him some. But nope – the American South cuisine was all eaten up by the French.

We waited some time. Then we served the Greek wine with the mashed potatoes, steak, and greens. This too was good, but of course the mains are never as good as the starters and dessert. Finally, we ended with poached pears that looked like rubies. They were served with beautiful, creamy, Swiss ice cream. The stark contrast between red and white told a pretty story. After dessert, our host poured us the most amazing dessert wine. He confided in me that it cost somewhere in the 3 digits.
What the French law students said, even though not everything was French, they could taste the French in them. Of course, the world is more blessed with French cooking. How can you cook Western food without knowing the French basics?

I ate at Beverly Hills Spagghos. This meal, although traditional and not incredibly complex was much better. Furthermore, the slow eating of 4-5 hours, felt meaningful. We had slow talk. We had slow food. It felt communal. I was impressed how even though dinner started late, and the meal took awhile to make, the French law students were patient. They knew a good meal takes time. They weren’t so boarish, like an American would be. I just imagine an American saying: “Where’s my dinner?!” Instead of being patient and really understanding that slow cooking is the way to go. We finished the meal close to 1 am.

Again, I slept in the attic. When I awoke, my host took me to my next destination. Trier. Apparently, it’s a 2,000 year old city in Germany. My final ride back to Munich was waiting for me there. It felt strange that each host transfers me to an intermediary. This intermediary transfers me to the next host. My final friend I would be seeing is in Bavaria again. He’s the fourth person in the itinerary to see. I will see Benedikt soon, and there, it will be not Lux nights but a Munich night.

I’m proud of my position as a traveler. How many Americans can boast they have so many European friends that treat them with overwhelming hospitality? I’ve been in Europe now for 14 days. I never needed to stay in a hotel or hostel for even one night. Lux left its impression on me – for sure.

And look, even Lux has McDonalds!!! The American Fast Food Empire extends everywhere!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bavaria Then Italy

So this story begins a little bit in a different order. It's in a different order in the sense that we are skipping my lazy and relaxing time in Goettingen.

We move onward to Bavaria.

Bavaria is the south of Germany. When I arrived at my destination, I am in the train tunnel. From behind, as I am walking, I hear a familiar voice say, "Paul!" I look behind, and it's my host brother Tobi. He looks somewhat older. He hugs me. We immediately start catching up on things.

It's a picture of Tobi and me after a few beers. I think you could tell.

Back at the Bavarian home, I meet Tobi's mom and give her a hug. I present her with some nice gifts. We catch up a bit, and Tobi outfits me for our ski trip to Northern Italy.

We go and pick up one of Tobi's best friend's Mattias. Here's a picture of his fantastic dog.

Matthew and Tobi.

We get in the Audi Station wagon and head towards Northern Italy. On our stop for petrol in Austria, I finally see the white snow blanketing and layering it all. I jump out to take a picture and fall into three feet of snow. Swoosh.

When we enter Austria, the Bavarians open up four liters of beer for each of us to drink in the car. I asked, "Isn't this illegal?" And they said, "Not in Austria." We clanged glasses and said, "Cheers" and drank on our road trip to Italy.

For lunch, we stopped off at a McDonalds. It was the most amazing McDonalds ever, carved into the Austrian Alps. I had a cheeseburger. It cost one euro. It tasted exactly the same as one in America.

We finally arrived into Northern Italy, at the skiing village. It looked exactly like Bavaria. I thought the Germans should just retake this area again.

Tobi's father lead us to our sleeping quarters, which was his trailer actually.

Biers from the trailer.

Here are some pictures of the village we were in.

So, we did a lot. Ski. Eat. Drink. Drink. Sing. Sing. Drink. Eat. Ski. That was it really. But, I guess there was so much more that happened. This is a story of teaching and learning as well.

Some of the food we ate, was freshly baked Italian pizza.

Tobi, who is younger than me, excels in skiing. I suck. So on day two, he took me to the kiddy slope. There were so many kids there. It was quite cute to see 10 three year olds, who could barely walk ski.

Tobi went before me and gave me each lesson one by one. "Not bad," Paul he would say. I would follow his ques. "You'll do a curve now. Shift your weight to the side of the curve." And so the lessons continued.

"You're doing good, Paul. You haven't fell once."

Tobi was telling the truth. As you can hear the sincerity in his voice. I gauged him as a teacher. He was the encouraging type. I wouldn't teach this way. We just have different personalities. I think I'm the type that just pushes you until you can't go any further. My way is not as pleasant as Tobi's.

Other times, I would talk with Tobi's Dad.

He spoke broken English. I spoke broken German. Between the two languages, we communicated. I would describe the word in German, when I had a difficult English word. For instance, I was talking about borrowing money. In German I would say, "It's when a person needs to go to the bank and ask to get money. Then he pays the bank back more." He would say, "AH, yes that word is blah blah blah" in German. In doing such, I was learning new German words. I was getting better and better at the language, so the gap between him and me could get closer.

What struck me most about Tobi's Dad is how much he enjoyed being a dad. He enjoyed watching Tobi teach me to ski, as he taught Tobi to ski. He liked us all shouting when we drank too much and laughing. He would help me put on my ski boots and found pleasure in me having a good time. He would even empty the waste compartment of the trailer, as dutiful as any good soldier. It was quite nice to see a father like this.

We ended up talking about Angela Merkel, Tobi, and much much more.

We also drank a lot each night. One night, I was struggling to stay awake at the bar. The other three had a hang over, but the nights would start over and over again.

This is what resulted!

This vacation is ending now. It's went way too fast, and it was too short.

But before it ends, tomorrow, I head off to the small state of Luxembourg.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Rough Beginning on a Familiar Journey

How many of my readers ever had a car breakdown on them on their way to the airport? By my count, this was the second time it happened to me.

After having Christmas Eve lunch with my brother, his finance, and my mom, we all ate at the Korean restaurant. I was attempting to leave early to the airport. With my luck, as some of you know, I was going to make sure this time that I had no problems. Half way between getting to the airport and my childhood home in East LA, the car started rumbling. I thought hmmmm... My mom says, "What's that?"

I said, "Seems like a loose motor mount."

At that moment, the passenger rear tire explodes. The car is now driving on its rim. My mom pulled over to the center divide. Bad idea.

I said, "Mom, weren't you supposed to have those tires replaced?"

She said, "I forgot."

"How could you?! Aye. Did you think that tires just magically become new again?"

We were in a dangerous place. In retrospect, we should've pulled over to the right hand most shoulder. But now, you could feel the cars zooming past us. My only thought was that I was going to make it to the airport. The flight was purchased with miles. Thus, I knew they would be unforgiving about letting me catch another flight.

I called triple A first. I called my younger brother second. I have only one hour to make it to the airport. It'll take about 25 minutes to get there. It'll take my younger brother another 30 minutes to catch up to us.

There I was, in the car frustrated with my mom stuck in the middle of the road. After 15 minutes, I called my younger brother.

"Where are you?"

"I haven't left the house yet."

Damn it! I thought. I'm never going to make it now to the airport. I went outside and try to hitch hike with the speeding cars. My mom said, "Get back in here. You'll die out there."

I'm mad inside of the car again. None of this would have happened if my mom just got her tires fixed. I refrain from taking my frustration out on her. I have to stay calm. I have to stay cool. I have to figure out how to get to the bloody airport before I'm stuck in LA and my air ticket goes to waste.

15 minutes later the AAA guy comes. He says, "Hey, it's Christmas Eve. I don't know if I could find a shop to repair your tire. Not at this time." It's already 5pm.

I keep calling my younger brother every five minutes. He finally makes it, but only gives us 10 minutes to make it to the airport. He says, "Hey! Don't ever pull your car over into the divider. You know how many people I know that I died in there."

I just nod. I keep looking at the time. I'm not going to make it. I'm not going to make it I keep thinking. He gets me to the airport with only 45 minutes to catch my international flight. Will they let me check in my luggage? The supervisor says, "You're lucky. You only had 2 minutes left."

They do! I go out. Thank my younger brother. I make my flight. I have a full row of seats to myself. I'm off to London.

The flight is 11 hours long. I take a few sleeping pills knock out. It's an empty flight. Next thing I know, I'm in London. It's been 10 and a half years since I stepped foot in this airport.

I eat some food. I down a bier. I fall asleep. I have to catch my flight to Frankfurt.

From Frankfurt, I do what I did two and half years ago. I catch a train to my host brother's city of Goettingen.

I arrive at Goettingen, late at 11pm. I lost a Christmas somewhere. But I made it, I made it safely to Germany with 20 hours of travelling.

I stayed one week in Goettingen. More on that later.

When leaving, I think took a car ride from Goettingen to Munich. This car ride is call share a ride. Because petrol is so expensive in Germany, you can go on the internet and look for a ride with someone else sharing your same origin and destination. I found a ride to Munich, for the New Years with a German couple. He was a big red haired guy that was 6' tall. He definitely made me feel like a dwarf.

And from Munich to West Bavaria, the countryside, I took the train. I found a Bavarian from Kempten to keep me company on the train as we spoke together in English.

My little host brother Tobi picked me up from the Kempten train station. I was back where I was again two and a half years ago.

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to Northern Italy.