Zagreb 2002-05-16


My first trip to the Former Yugoslavia…Zagreb is really pretty downtown…reminded me of what I thought Italy would be like, before I ever went. The ten-year olds on the street were impressed by my football (like, soccer, eh?) prowess, which tells you that the current Croatian team's success will not be replicated by the next generation…


The hostel was a dump, and a delightfully cheap one at that, which is exactly what I would expect from a country that was war-torn ten years ago…it was just that the rest of the city was quite idyllic.



Ljubljana 2002-05-17


By now I am fed up with changing countries. Yes, my soggy passport has a few more entries, but having to get new money and learning "please", "thank you", and "is that deep fried thing vegetarian?" in a different language each day can be a bit overwhelming. They'll all probably be spending the Euro the next time I am back this way, so I guess I should appreciate it more. Plus, I would do just fine if I only ever spoke in English, it is only that I feel a bit bad for not even making a decent attempt to speak the local language.



Vienna 2002-05-18


Ah-ha, Austria!- German speaking, Euro-Spending, it's carefree travelling now!


And ah, Vienna! Such a magical city! The stomping grounds of Mozart and Hitler, and given the vibrant aura, one can imagine how such extreme personalities developed. However, the beauty of the city leads one to hope that the Mozarts are most likely to develop here.


It is also such a relief to find a decent hostel. I highly recommend the Wombat for anyone heading out that way. It is in a slightly seedy part of town (character!) and gives you a coupon for a free beer at check in. Of course, like too many great hostels, it doesn't have a kitchen, but it is cheap enough…


Walking through Vienna I see a Starbucks. Does someone visiting a city famous for its dignified Kaffeehausen go to a Starbucks? Of course, because it is there, and it is only two corporate degrees away from Taco Bell, so it is almost a taste of home. So I buy a small cup of the coffee of the day (Viennese Blend naturally) and walk down the street.


As I approach the next intersection of the pedestrian zone a beautiful girl walks up to me and says: "Please, Please, tell me that you are Austrian!" At first I am a little disappointed, because as much as I'd like to give a beautiful girl whatever she wants, I think becoming Austrian was a little bit out of my range. But I do think to myself, "Wow, I'm even walking around with a stupid Starbucks cup, and can still pass myself of as a local." So I explain that I am, alas, a tourist of sorts, Canadian, but of course speaking flawless and utterly charming German (ha!) and it must have had some effect, because she reduced her demand to hoping desperately that I have an Austrian bank account.


So no, in case you were wondering, I haven't suddenly developed amazing studly powers, and yes she was doing a survey for the local banks and was forever meeting tourists, which explains the desperation on her part…but we had a nice chat, she took my photo with the Starbucks cup in Vienna, and I made a note to myself that some girls look for guys with local bank accounts…



Stuttgart 2002-05-24


Well Austrian Bank Accounts may do wonders, but a Bratislavan Bank Machine double billed me for a withdrawal. Grrrrrrr, withdrawing from my Canadian account is usually the easiest, safest and cheapest way of travelling, but not when your given the money once and charged two times. It is also a task to convince Scotia Bank that you didn't actually make two withdrawals (they could in fact be the culprit as well), so the best I could do was to have them initiate an investigation. Here's hoping…


Stuttgart 2002-05-28


Second to last day at Alcatel and I have very little to do. It is amazing how many documents and papers I kept, thinking that they might be important, and how they will all be dumped in the recycling bin (both literally and in MS-Windows) tomorrow in one fell swoop. It has been a good experience here, but I am not incredibly nostalgic. This isn't a job that I want for life, so I know I should move on, yet it was so close to real work that it doesn't have the carefree fun of, say Waldheim, or Student-orientated school board work. Unlike those jobs, if I were to stay at Alcatel, things would be exactly as they are now and I would never be too old (at least until 65), nor regretful of not having a real job. And thus this is the easiest job to leave, and in part, makes Germany easier to leave as well.


After Keele (how long ago does that feel?!), I wrote a loving rant about England. I would have thought my mind would be bursting about things to say about Germany, or Stuttgart or something. But nothing contingent comes to me, at least not about the country itself. Of course, little things have been noted by me, like some people's insistence on Kaffeetrinken every day, and the strength of clubs, Stammtische (Stammtisch: when a specific group gets together, once-weekly, -monthly to drink, and drink they do, especially for the new parents who a denied any other sense of going out) and School Reunions to ensure (or at least try to) that there is always a regular forum or event to keep in touch with people who once were more heavily involved in your life. That after fifty-plus years, someone who went to grade school with my dad can say "I know what happened to little Willie M, he moved to Canada, married a scot…and I even seem at the reunions every five years are so", which isn't to say that my dad makes all the gatherings…for most groups these things happen monthly, or at least bi-annually.



There isn't an Alcatel-Employees-treff, or at least not one that I would have interest in going to, but I could imagine other jobs I had or other experiences where it would be quite nice. The Keele experience really shows its contrasts here (I inevitably think of it as I prepare to move back from Europe once again). The people I met there were my life for a year, and indeed only one friend from Canada managed to visit (Thanks Meg!) So at Keele, friendships developed that may not have occurred if we were all in our normal situations (read: back home/home University), and when we all left, we were all faced with the same task, the same ambition of returning to, resuming, and rebuilding the friendships and relationships that had been postponed for the year abroad. Another challenge, a more difficult one, would be to balance old friendships with new and not miss a step. The Keele girls and I managed to meet two or three times over two semesters in Vancouver together, great times, but always a battle with the obligations of our regular lives (studying at UBC). A shame really, because as much as Keele is in the past, I have no wish to place the associated people there as well. I know that somewhere down the road, I'll want to know where or what Yola or Carol or Gill or Chico is doing, if I haven't managed to keep in touch. But a Stammtisch of some sort is not practical and a bit too regulated and demanding for the Canadian approach to friendship.


The difference now is that I am not leaving such a work/school-specific group of friends. Stuttgart existed in my life well before Alcatel and the unforgettable people, including of course my Family here, Volkmar, Jana, are all part of the fun of being in Germany, and will (hopefully) remain so, despite my reasons for coming here, Weddings, Waldheim, Alcatel, coming and going with time. I will be back, and this certainly makes it a lot easier to give up Alcatel and softens the sadness of moving out of Stuttgart.


Stuttgart 2002-05-31

My last day ‘living’ in Germany.  It was a Bruecketag at Alcatel, so I didn’t even go to work, but today was the day that my contract ran out.  I went down to Vaihingen Rathaus and officially moved out of my apartment.  The clerk asked me if I had done my military/duty.  I said no.  He gave me a look, and then he told me about a friend of his ho moved to Edmonton who absolutely loved it there. I hauled my very very large collection of empty wine bottles to the recycling dumpster. This was the only time I could do it, since it is forbidden to throw away glass outside of business hours.  I then said good bye to my little apartment and headed off to Fehn’s to watch France triumph over Senegal.  Well, at least that is what I and probably most of the world though would happen…A shocker.  A quick meeting with Volkmar and then an early night. Tomorrow it is off to the UK!


London 2002-06-01


The city was all abuzz with Jubilee preparations.  A couple massive stages were built outside Buckingham palace, and people were queuing for the garden party that was to be followed by a classical concert. I went to the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge in an effort to see new things.  Something I am not very good at when I go to London.  I headed back to Victoria to catch my bus via Westminster and the park.  The music filled Green Park and I saw the flags of the Commonwealth for the first time.  The lone acknowledgement of the Queens significance in Canada was a flag tucked away near the Arsenal.