We're still heading north through Europe. After screaming south from London to Venice in four days, it felt good to rest for a few days. Venice was nice, but at the same time it felt as though it was one step away from being Disneyland. People funnel into the city in the morning and then they funnel right out at night.
I can't say that I really got a feel for the Italian people or to be more precise the Venetians. I can partly understand their mixed feelings about the tourists. On a daily basis they have to deal with hordes of tourists invading their city who take away their privacy, but they can't stop them from coming because they need them to support their fragile economy.
The Doge's Palace was certainly worth my time. Now I need to read more about what they did when they were in power. Everything came to an end in 1797 when Napoleon took over the city.
The next time that I go to Italy I want to stay in Verona to see how much of a contrast it is to Venice.
Last night in Munich we did the traditional tourist attraction by going to the famous beer garden where there is a band playing German music and the staff walk around with six giant mugs of beer at one time. I guess that it was smaller than I had imagined it to be and it was certainly more well lit than I had expected. None of this stopped people from dancing in the aisles as they downed their beer.
For me the highlight of the night was when the band played Country Road by John Denver. There I was with a giant mug in hand trying to talk with some Asian girl and singing along at the same time. It all seemed so funny to me.
After the girl and her friends left, they were replaced by two Korean businessmen, one of whom kept doing lewd gestures. At one point he was standing up with the fly of his pants open pretending that the tip of his thumb was his penis. Although I have no idea what his real penis looks like, his trick was convincing enough.
The other Korean said that he was a journalist who read five German newspapers a day, translated certain articles and then faxed them back to Korea. I had no idea that there was such strong a business connection between Germany and Korea. He gave me some statistics on it, but I can't remember them now.
Other people at our table included a young couple from Montana and another couple from California. The woman from California kept getting hit on by men the whole time that she was there, but neither her or her boyfriend seemed to mind.
My brother had the foresight to order some food while we drank our beer. We opted for bratwurst and sauerkraut and it tasted exactly like it does back home. Milwaukee really does have German food. Now if the Germans toned the food down for foreign tastes, I don't know. What I can say is that it was good and I recommend it when drinking two or three giant mugs of beer.
At first the atmosphere there completely turned me off and I wanted to leave. We had been walking around Munich for nearly an hour and I was tired and hungry. The last thing that I wanted was to be surrounded by drunk morons. After my first mug I started to calm down. In the middle of my second mug I was singing along with Country Road. By the time that I was working my way through my third mug, I could have been anywhere on the planet and not have cared. Everyone was my friend at that point in time.
Soon we were back on the U-Bahn with a very drunk Canadian and some British backpackers. Our new Canadian companion serenaded the people in our car. At the time it seemed pretty funny, but it might not have been for the locals.
Despite not having drunk any beer in months, I didn't feel that awful in the morning. In fact it was the first morning of the trip where I actually heard the alarm on my brother's watch.
While waiting for the bus to arrive, I talked some more with the girl from Queensland that I had first met in Venice. At the time she had asked me if I had anything in English to read. All that I had was guidebooks and those get rather dry after a while. It wasn't until this morning that I finally asked her name. She said that her name was Haley and it seemed to fit her.
Haley was friendly and told some great stories. She was also the first person that I have ever met that had first hand experience with vegemite. Apparently she loves the stuff and was missing it. She had been traveling for almost a month and was heading back to London where she could spend some time with her brother before she went back to Australia. Besides my brother she was the person that I spoke the most with so far on this trip.