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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Gotta stop being lazy 

Been back in Korea over a month now, and have been spending my time in a holding pattern: watching the American political scene lurch from petty diversion to petty diversion; trying to reconcile the effort I put in to teaching students who have no interest whatsoever in actually learning English with what I get out of it; drinking.

Good to see yamis back - I've been starved of engrossing sporting statistical diversions for too long now. Maybe he could find a reason why Liverpool can't seem to buy a win away from home this season, or how Taranaki went from table-toppers to bunnies in the space of two weeks.

His Paris story has inspired me to tap out a short ranking of the cities I visited while I was in Europe. There were 14 in all, and ranking is based solely on how much fun I had in the brief time I spent walking around aimlessly, overpaying for beer and snapping pictures like a madman.

14. ROTTERDAM

Not a terrible city, really, just not all that interesting. Could be any city, anywhere. Of course, this is hardly the fault of the local cultural scene, seeing as the city was totally decimated during WW2; only 2 (or is it 3?) buildings survived the siege. The best thing I saw were some apartments shaped like cubes standing on their points. Hence: last place.

13. BRUSSELS

Biggest disappointment; my travelling companion had her camera stolen within 5 minutes of being on the subway, which has obviously prejudiced me against Brussels somewhat. The parts I saw - which, admittedly, wasn't much - were quite dirty and run down, and it definitely FELT like the most dangerous, unfriendly place we visited. The center of the city was pleasant enough (a huge square where many young people just sat around, hanging out, was pretty cool) and I think my opinion would be higher the longer I stayed there, but as it is, I'm not hurrying to go back.

12. ANTWERP

My companion loved Antwerp, I was underwhelmed. Has a great selection of cafes and restaurants (to it's credit), but being an architectual junkie, it was a little bleh. It didn't help that we shared a hostel room with a terrible snorer - it was so loud, I kept on having dreams where a phone would start ringing and never stop. The owner of the hostel was cool though; a deep baritone voice and an attitude so laconic, you wondered if he knew where he was half the time.

11. SALZBURG

This is a city with a split personality. On the walk from the train station to the river, it looked almost exactly like Auckland, felt like Auckland. I did not go to Europe to visit Auckland. The other side of the river, though, is where all the good stuff is: a huge, forbidding fortress; dinky little streets and squares with huge chess boards marked out and families playing, a neat market with decently priced touristy crap, and many hostels to stay. Actually got to walk up a forested hill, which I was craving. You can go on a SOUND OF MUSIC guided tour, if you like. I didn't, because I still have self-respect.

10. BERLIN

Wasps. Wasps. Wasps. Wasps. I hate fucking wasps. They were EVERYWHERE, like houseflies. You could identify locals immediately; they were the ones allowing the wasps to clamber up their nostrils, swim in their coffee. The tourists were reacting like they were being strafed by rogue fighter planes. (Well, I did). As for the city itself: historically meaningful, sobering in many respects, and filled with a residual...I don't know, sadness. It's spread out for miles and miles, so it's no fun getting from place to place. I didn't get to sample the nightlife, which I'm reliably told would shoot my opinion of the city up quite a few notches.

9. VIENNA

Difficult to rank this. Most of the cities I visited had some sort of major restoration going on at at least one of the major arcitectural wonders; Vienna, it seemed to be occuring at every single one. All these lovely buildings, covered in scaffolding. It did contain the single best museum I visited in any city, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and the most impressive palace, the Schloss Schönbrunn. Even as I write this, I'm fearing that I'm underrating this city; it's relatively cheap, clean and I got to get a photo with the ferris wheel from THE THIRD MAN.

8. THE HAGUE

Sleepy, quiet, very clean and quite beautiful. Also: kinda boring. Got to see The Girl with The Pearl Earring (actually the museum where it is housed (Mauritshuis) has some fantastic paintings from the Dutch 'Golden Age', including said work by Vermeer and also some by Rembrandt) and there is an intriguing permanent outdoor display of statues and other off-the-wall art works. The girl I was shown around by insisted that a walk through the government buildings is something well worth doing; another friend, who's taste I'm more closely aligned with, called it dull. Guess what? Didn't go. [Interesting Side Note #1: the Dutch, in outward demeanor, are almost identical to the Germans. The only real difference is that they are in no way efficent at all. Interesting Side Note #2: Never point this out to someone Dutch. Interesting Note #3: Dutch overprice beer and serve it in ridiculously small glasses]

More to come soon....feel free to comment on the cities I have mentioned. Due to my short stays in each - sometimes only one day - I'm sure there is more you out there can add.



Comments:
Just one opinion; and it's from a few years ago now; I found Vienna the biggest let-down in Europe for me. Clean, soulless, way to teutonic. By contrast, Berin had a modernist edge to it that I loved. And you probably do need to sample the nightlife to judge.

Totally agree about Brussels
 

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