Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My last few days in Switzerland

I can't do a blog of my adventures and not show pictures of the Alp, where my Grandpa has his cabin (below)

I was back for August 1st, which is Swiss Independence day. There were fireworks everywhere.

Switzerland is also a great place to catch up with family. My cousins (below) and I hitched to a lake party and got there quickly with 2 out of 3 total cars giving us a ride. The ride home took considerably longer, but did give us a ride to their door. It was great hanging out with them.

I was also able to go on an adventure with my old friend Hanspeter. We used to hang out when I visited Summers, and now he is a daddy. Below is a picture of a cliff, with the circled portion indicating where we came out of a cave, for a tremendous view.In order to get into the cave, you have to crawl through this crack, and then abseil into the pitch black hole. It was real adventure. Especially since only a handful of people have ever been inside. Not even my Grandpa knew about it. It was discovered a long time ago by a shepherd, who eventually went into the hole, and discovered a full bear skeleton, which is not in a museum.

Here we are, Hanspeter, me, and his dad. We all managed to squeeze our way to the hole. Then we enjoyed some cheese, salami, and bread. I think we also managed to finish off a bottle of wine.

Getting out of the cave was much tougher, because it inolved pulling yourself up the rope. That, among other things, showed me I am really not in very good shape.

The little red circle should be on this picture, though you may need to click to zoom. one is the entrance, the other the opening in the cliff.

I love the Swiss Mountains. If anyone has a job for me over there, please let me know.

Here is Hanspeter on another short adventure of ours, a different trip, which involved us on a little boat, swimming in the rain, on the lake near his house. We went to a small restaurant and had some fish. It was fun.

Slovakia with Sami

Sami and I went to Slovakia, since he had vacation, and nothing much to do. We had a good time, as usual, with no plans at all before leaving. It was great to run into some old, very motivational friends.
For instance, Ivo Novak, an accomplished Physicist who runs a Pension and is a jack of all trades (above) let us try his home made schnapps. He also rented us some bikes and gave us a good deal on a room. He even took us to Bratislava where we stayed at his place there, had a few drinks, and a good night out.

We just headed off on the bikes, and many roads led to fields, where we made our lunch. It was a great day, but we got pretty dirty.

In the end, since I had sandals and shorts, I was elected to wash the bikes in the river, just outside town.

Ivo took us to his land, which had his fruit trees, his workshop, and his homemade house which conveniently is exactly the volume you can build without a permit. It is an excellent design, with very efficient use of space.

Here we are back in Bratislava, out at a bar where they played AC/DC and other classic hard rock, Sami's kind of music. We watched one guy make the slightest defiant gesture to the a-hole bouncer and get thrown out of there in no elegant fashion. We also had a rough time finding our little apartment, as it was in a big building that all looked the same.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Amsterdam, then Sailing in Sweden

My good friend Thomas Janelid from Sweden invited me to go sailing with him in the Archipelago off the east coast of Sweden. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. In order to get there, I had to train it to Amsterdam and catch and early morning flight. That meant hanging out at the bar below until it was very late.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, with the canals, and art museums (yes, I did go to them for a change)

Upon arriving in Sweden, Thomas and his dad and I went directly to the boat, where Thomas swiftly insisted we needed more beer. I noticed a little tension between him and his father. It turned out to be a typical situation of a father not realizing when his son is grown, and continuing to impart his wisdom, and son doing things a little differently.

The father had recently purchased this beautiful sailboat, and Thomas wanted to use it with some friends. I didn't realize that as a condition of using the boat on his own, Thomas had to sail with his dad for a week.

This was probably the first time they had sailed together since Thomas was a boy, and Thomas later confessed part of my invitation was to act as barrier between him and his father, so that they wouldn't kill each other. He didn't quite phrase it like that, but Thomas and I are good friends and think very similar, and I knew what he meant.

We were able to get away and row to a little island to relax. The trip as great, as I learned a lot about sailing, and got to experience one of the most unique places to sail in the world. The archipelago is not very tidal, despite being on the ocean, and it has thousands of islands you can just sail up to and anchor at, thanks to the great Swedish land use laws.

For instance, our little boat adventure to an island led to wonderful contact with nature.

And an encounter with a rare poisonous snake.

We headed back to the boat in the evening, for some whisky. I learned to sort of appreciate sipping a good whisky while on board the boat after an excellent meal. Every meal, on the boat was great. I think it was the combination of the sea, and the outdoors style cooking that just made it a great experience. In the end, I became a sort of son of Thomas's dad as well. I made me think, for my dad to be a part of this trip would have been great, as the fathers had a lot in common.

Here I am piloting out little craft out to a multi million dollar sailboat. Thomas wanted to see the inside of it, and since we had helped them off the rocks the day before, we figured we had the right to stop by unannounced. We were sailing by and noticed they were crooked and still. The guy came to pick me up, and I helped him while his wife panicked. We tried to tow the boat of the rocks using the anchor, then the rescue boats came, and a camera crew to record for a show similar to COPS, but for ocean rescue. It turns out Thomas's dad called them in.

We did quite a bit of fast sailing as well, when the wind was up. As you can see below, the boat is tilted quite a lot as evidenced by my dangling feet.

That sort of sailing also caused us to rip a sail, which meant Thomas had to get hoisted up to get it down, and I spent a good deal of time sewing it up. That wasn't quite as much fun.

It was a great trip. I have been truly blessed by the great experiences I have had.

Glastonbury Music Festival and Couleur Cafe

After the Camino, I met Jana in London and we went to the Glastonbury Music Festival. It was incredible the exhibits and things being shown before the music even started. Unfortunately, as you can see by the pictures, we only had very few hours of dry weather.
The first day was without music, but also the nicest weather. It was great walking around the grounds, looking at the random tents and art. there were people teaching crafts, and I even sort of learned how to play the didgeridoo.

It soon changed to almost nonstop rain, but there was also really good big bottles of cider to drink.

This festival also had great food everywhere, but getting around was quite a project, as it was on a huge farm.

The consistency of the mud was impressive. It could hardly be described. I was robbed during one of the concerts, finding my backpack open and jacket gone. See, if only it had been raining the WHOLE time, i would have been wearing it.

The atmosphere was amazing, with some amazing bands. The Killers, Modest Mouse, and many other British bands, too many to name. It was hard to decide what to see.

The festival really did a great job of providing an experience, not just music.

I was pretty much the only person without boots. to get into Glastonbury requires and act of God, and I was very lucky that my girlfriend Jana was able to get tickets. It was a shame we fought quite a lot during the weekend, which may be why we are no longer together. We did not, however, fight like the people below.
This was the Kaiser Chiefs show.

Couleur Cafe - June 29 and July 1.

Once back in Belgium, my cousin Markus came to visit for another music festival, with some interesting bands, Couleur Cafe.

At this show we saw live from Buena vista, Kelis (my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard), and Gotan Project, which is a fun tango group which was impressive.

In the picture below, the following day, is when Markus came to visit, I was interviewed for some dutch tv program. I won't explain the poem I recited, as it would probably embarrass my mom.

My cousin and Markus helped out a couple of kids see the show. That night we saw Johnny Clegg, the Roots, and Sean Paul. It was a lot of fun.

Another advantage of the festival was the food was from all over the world, with tents and spontaneous shows of drummers or dancers in the circus like atmosphere.

The festival was in an old revived warehouse area. Even the old warehouses had great architecture.