Monday, November 21, 2005

Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Oct. 2003

My trip in Europe in 2003, posted in some of my egroups...

October 18, 2003:

Here now in The Hague, Netherlands. Arrived here this morning after a 16 hours bus trip from Malmo, (south) Sweden viaDenmark and north Germany. Our training program on "Sustainable Agriculture" officially ended yesterday(Oct. 17). Was very sad bidding goodbye to my classmates (we're 21 from 15 countries) and Swedish course administrators who've been with me for 7 weeks. But some good things never really last, and we knew it would end.

I took Eurolines (bus line) because it is a lot cheaper than taking the train or plane, though travel time obviously is longer and less comfortable. From Malmo, the bus crossed the Oresund(?) bridge to Copenhagen; then we transferred to another bus, the Copenhagen-The Hague trip. Most of my co-passengers in this trip were non-white people and young Danish students. First major stop was Bremen.

This morning, around 3am, I don't know if we were still in Germany or in Netherlands territory already, a police car stopped our bus for random immigration check. Two police officers boarded our bus, checked everyone's passport. They netted one guy, a young, black man (must have a questionable passport or visa), escorted him down the bus, arrested and handcuffed him, hauled him into the police car while our bus went on.

Denmark has plenty of wind mills (or wind turbines, wind power stations, whatever they're called). Generally flat and has wide agricultural land, though smaller land area compared to the 3 other Nordic countries (Sweden, Finland and Norway).

My first and last visit to Europe before my Sweden training was in 1987. My recollection of Netherlands that time is a bit hazy now. But I can spot new changes in The Hague -- new, tall buildings, skyways. My host here, the couple Bart & Wads Wijnberg, are as friendly and accommodating as before. Bart brought me (again) and his Canadian friend to a naturist (nudist)swimming pool. Stayed 2 days and 1 night in The Hague (including a day trip to Amsterdam and back), then rode again a Eurolines bus on my way to Munich, Germany.

October 23, 2003:

From The Hague, Netherlands, took a 13 hours bus ride to Munich (Oct. 18). My German friend, Christian Beil, and his Filipino wife, Astrid, met me at the bus station in Munich. I stayed in their place in Miesbach for 4 days. Miesbach is about 50 kms. south of Munich and around 700 meters above sea level elevation, at the foot of the mountains of Bavaria. Christian brought me to a ski resort further south, near the border with Austria, hiked and climbed a 1,560 meters high Bavarian mountain (about the same height as Mt. Arayat in Pampanga) under frozen rain droplets and around -1 or -2 celsius temperature. After which we went to a lake-side resort, entered a 90+ celsius sauna, then jumped into around 5 deg. celsius pool, then entered another sauna at 60+ celsius temperature, to a jacuzzi, to another pool, etc. It was the most extreme roller-coaster temperature I’ve ever experienced and I enjoyed it.

Some notes here:

(1) Amsterdam, Netherlands. Plenty of people last Sunday (oct. 19), very few trams running. The reason – the Amsterdam marathon which attracted 7,000+ runners from many countries.
(2) Germany’s authobahn (highway). Theoretically, anyone can do a Schumacher orMontoya driving here, but it’s difficult to drive more than 200 kph as there are so many cars on the highway now. Christian accelerated his 18-years old, 292,700+ kms. mileage Benz at the Munich-Salzburg autobahn; at 185 kph, he has to slow down after a few seconds because of many other cars ahead. Nevertheless, that was the fastest ride I’ve experienced (my old Mitsubishi pickup can only manage a 130 kph maximum).

(3) Whining in Germany. Christian noted that so many Germans nowadays complain about many things. High unemployment (around 10% of labor force), weak business activities, declining pension benefits, etc. Well, when you’re (economically) high up there, it’s difficult to grow fast, unlike poorer economies like Afghanistan and Cambodia which can grow fast, but will take many years before overall economic conditions can really improve.

(4) Pinoys in Europe, in the rest of the world. When I needed a public toilet in Amsterdam, 2 Pinays (working as domestic helpers) I met on the streets gladly pointed to me the direction. A Dutch lawyer (Bart) and his Pinay wife(Wads) hosted me in The Hague. A German lawyer (Christian) and his Pinay wife(Astrid) hosted me in Miesbach. A Pinay engaged to an Austrian engineer-boyfriend for a year now chatted with me at the Munich airport. ThePinoys are everywhere and they can help you find your direction, give you warm house to stay and good food to eat, good local beer to drink, etc.

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