Monday, May 03, 2004

Noch ne Frage 

Würd mich mal interessieren: Wer ist eigentlich der Leser aus Horb am Neckar?

Oder allgemein: Lasst doch mal hören, wer so alles nach Asien mitgesurft ist!?! Mails an getzlaff@gmx.de - gern auch bei Fragen zu Transsib und Co.


Objects in the rearview mirror 

Home again.
After shave+shower that is the moment to enjoy a huge bowl of coffee and update the blog on this last part of the trip:

First of all, let´s go for the fear-factor. Travelbooks, Magazines and Webpages dedicated to travel adventure warn you about everything and actually brought some paranoia to us every once in a while. But after all (and apart from cardgames) we got easily away with every situation... And then I take my plane from Moscow to Munich and halfway back in Germany, the plane´s engine starts making weird noises, with a range from screaming loud to almost silent (!).
Silent is also a good description for all the passengers in that situation. Including me, who happened to be the lucky one to sit in 21F - the windowseat in the very last row, just next to the engine.
Sound, speed and allover appearance of the flight felt really unusual, and when the stewardess checked for the emergency exit for the 2nd time with frightened looks and sweat all over her face, that scared the sh++t outta me. We approached MUC with high speed and by the time of landing I had a pulse rate of at least 160 just by sitting there...
Well obviously we made it. There was a lot of tension in the room and that was for me surely the only time ever to applaud after a plane landing - back in Weisswurst-Country :-)

After leaving Beijing, Almaty/ Kazachstan was my transfer point towards Moscow. Got there in the morning, had to get a 25$ Transfer Visa though I didn´t want to leave the airport, then of course had to head for DOWNTOWN. Asked the woman at the info-counter about bus connections when she told me, there are only taxis ?!?
5 minutes later did I take one of the non-existing busses to town. Had to take all my luggage with me, since there also was no baggage storage.
Almaty is a sleepy 100000+ people city surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Pretty torn down but still with the eastern drive for funky, expensive cars. Actually, the first car I saw was a Hummer! Oilbarons, can´t live with them - pass the pivo, Sol :-)
Headed back to the airport soon, hung out all day in the sunshine in front of the brandnew building, in a siesta-resque atmosphere, with all the staff either sleeping or smoking because of lacking customers... And bumped into a guy from DED, a german developmental aid organization - a very nice german chat at the end of the world. That fueled my ideas about working in a job of the likes. Gotta do some research on that while enjoying wealthy western live in Bavaria.
After a 12h stay I left the end of the world heading on to Moscow.

Moscow. Arrival at 9pm local. Marina picks me up, gives me a quick tour around her place and family - just perfect when you lack sleep for about 20h... But things get better: We meet some of her friends in a park for schaschlik - The local version of a Barbecue-Cookout (für Saarländer: Schwenker) which seems to mainly consist in shooting oneself in outer space with whiskey and stuff that is supposed to be whiskey.
Finally it really gets better: We go to a dowtown club (@Sol: Close to Savoy Hotel) that is run by a guy from Cuba. Great location and sound bring even sleep-lacking YoursTruly back to fitness and we groove until 5am, then a "taxi" home - the guy easily goes 130km/h in the city. Pretty scary.
Sleep? Hmm... I leave for the Metro at 8am. Get the picture? Almost missed my station by sleeping in...

But the plane trip to Munich was still to come.
Feels good to be home again. Weird too. What´s next?

Don´t miss the sequel.

Take me home, country road, to the place, I belong... 

Alright, alright, alright, alright, alright...

So, tonight is my final night in B-town. Had a great day hanging with another one of Ben Brink's friends, "Chrystal". Not her porn name, but her self-selected American-ized name. Guess you can do that here.

We toured her campus, Peking University, which was stunningly beautiful. And they have this great "Unnamed Lake" which we walked around as we chatted. Had "all-you-can-eat" sushi for 48 Y($6!) at a student dive. Though when we tried to leave with some fish left on our plate, the Nazi waitress ordered us to finish it before she would pass along our bill. (We hid the fish in the cabbage salad bowl.)

Whenever I mentioned Peter, Chrystal would get upset, thinking she was missing something by him not being here. I assured her she was better of with me Sol-o. ;-)

Unfortunately, I haven't heard from Mr. Brink. I wrote down his hotel on a scratch of paper, which was tossed by the cleaning folks @ the hotel. Neither Chrystal nor Li has heard from him either. Li wasn't able to join me and Chrystal for drinks tonight, which was also a bummer (jealous/upset boyfriend). She and Chrystal were great, friendly, engaging contacts here in Beijing! Here's to new friends!

Now it's time to finish this can of Tsingtao Beer (with those nasty, sharp pull-tabs circa 1978) and sign off from the neighboring corner market Peter and I visited each night, which has everything! Oreos, Nestea, Snickers, bicycle rentals and Internet access. Go figure.

Perhaps a wrap up from Portland. And definitely pictures forthcoming...

Ciao for now,

PS Pete, how was Moscow???!!!

Sunday, May 02, 2004

May Day! May Day!! 

So, Pete is gone. Fucker left me last night to go party with some Russian chicks in Moscow. Seeing Peter go signals the ending of this trip.

I'm leaving on Tuesday morning for home. Hope to catch up on my sleep and hammer out my story on Sabonis before that. Speaking of The O, they're hiring for a staff photog, the first such opening in 4 years. So, I'll have some work to do on my portfolio when I return. Hopefully, there are a couple gems from this trip for consideration.

Yesterday, Peter and I walked around town and gathered with the masses to watch the Chinese flag come down at Tienemen Square in an official military May Day ceremony. But once down, that was it. Pretty boring. Within 5 minutes, the streets were no longer packed. What they do for excitement here in China!

Ben Brink, a colleague from The Oregonian, is arriving today from Portland for his holidays. Hope to hook up for dinner on Monday before I return home.

Well, that's about that for now. Peter, have fun with the ladies (but not too much fun). And let me know about your layover in Kazakstan...


Saturday, May 01, 2004

Time to hop on the bus, Gus - Make a new Plan, Stan 

There you are on a gorgeous trip, finally reached the location of your holidays after an amazing commute. And then, out of the blue, it is there: the last day of the trip.

After we found out, it was a little depressing for a minute. Then we agreed that it's about time to get away from the other one's bad infl- and flatulences...
We had another great evening yesterday, joining Li and her Boyfriend for a little bit of clubbing and some relaxed chit-chatting. Further keywords of the evening will remain "Ex-pats" and "Brazil" :-)
Today's filled with packing, checking out at the hotel and spending the rest of the day in town. The latter seems to be what whole China is doing as well, so we finally get a little bit of a hectic atmosphere... That will help dealing with Munich again.

@all the Muenchen folks: I saw the weather forecast - seems like the Biergaerten are THE place to be?!? I am looking forward to hook up with you again... and can't wait to go for our next mountain adventure.
Any news on the V40-front?

I'll hop on my plane tonight around midnight, heading for Almaty, Kasachstan and then Moscow. There I am going to meet with Marina, Katja and Elena again, some of you might actually know by now from the postcards :-)
Finally, Monday in the early afternoon, I'll be back with the bavarian longnoses again... There's some laundry to be done.

Captain P. logging off.
@Mueh: Weiterschaffen! :-)

Hitting the Wall, Flying Time & Listening to Propaganda 

Pete and I started Friday by visiting The Wall. We were warned by pretty much EVERYONE (in English and Chinese) that starting today, Monday May 1, Beijing (and it's nearby walls) would be over-taken by zillions of vacationing Chinese, since today is the beginning of their week-long (?) holiday.

Before we got to the bus area, we were side-swiped by another "tour agency" chick who swept us away to another locale. Another scam? We didn't spot any playing cards. Yes, she said the main stop of our "new" bus trip was The Wall, though she communicated by speaking in slower and slower Chinese that I was laughing pretty hard. Oh, the bus tickets with the stops were in Chinese, too, which she of course re-read to us several times in Manderin.

Anyway, we got to The Wall, and took this cart ride up, up, UP! to a wall enterance that OSHA would have a field day with! Insanely hazardous, though the old folks seemed to manage well. (The slide down was also nuts!) A gorgeous and hot day, the spot made for great pix. Especially of the really steep parts that took everyone's breath away... literally. Of course, there were vendors hawking "I climbed The Great Wall" t-shirts and hot dogs (??!!). Added a new sense of charm, Capitalism hits The Wall.

The rest of our mysterious bus trip involved random stops to buy shit (gems and dried fruit). We also made a stop at this "preserved" Old Town amusement (i.e. amusing) park. Buy your cheap souvenirs, shoot arrows or bb guns at targets and have your photo taken with Mao! (or his twin).

Did I mention that this bus was packed with Chinese tourists? So, we got the authenic Chinese tour. Though both Pete and me agreed that there was a reason why we never (seldom) join tour groups.

On the way back from our 9 hour tour, we realized that Peter was leaving a day earlier than we thought. Yes, they have calendars here, but we lost track of everything, especially after 3 weeks together. So, instead of him leaving Sunday at midnight, he leaves tonight. And I fly out on Tuesday, not Wednesday. I almost wish I hadn't brought that up, because it will be odd without having Peter here. But I'm also ready to get home and have some coffee, so it feels good that that's sooner than later.

We joined Li and her boyfriend last night at this trendy college bar, Propaganda. Tons of gringos, mixed with locals and Koreans (who knew?). The place was packed! On the train ride, I exposed Peter to Outkast. So when they placed "Hey Ya!", Peter went berzerk and attacked the dance floor.

We decided to split for a quieter environ and they took us to this Tawainese fast food chain, where we had pot stickers and some nasty, egg-tasting milk drink. The logo for the place is a total ripoff of Col. Sanders, though with distinctly Asian features. Funny.

So, that brings things to speed. We need to both pack. I'll be moving to a dorm room here at the hotel for the next few nights. And Peter and I need to figure out what we're doing on his last day here. The city should be crazy. And so will we!

Happy May Day!

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