“I could sleep wherever I lay my head”

7/16/10   –   0:34

I write to you from the southern nub of the country of the Netherlands [or as Gregg puts it: “its herniated colon.”] Gregg and his family have graciously opened up their house to me while I’m staying in the country and may I say that I’m having a great time already even though I’ve been here for just under 4 hours.

This morning, I made a lot of noise and probably pissed off my seven room-mates while checking out at 6:00 before catching the train from Munich to my destination for the day, Köln [or Cologne, so I don’t have to keep Alt-coding that ‘ö’] On the train ride over, which took just about 5 hours, I realized that Germany is enormous. Oh, I also had breakfast at the trainstation which consisted of awesome iced-coffee flavored milk and a schnecke [yes, sandra. It was delicious]

That said, my change in latitude and altitude was sufficient enough to bring glad tidings! It’s not hot at all in Cologne. In fact, it was pleasantly cool. [And so is the Netherlands, but more on that later]

The first thing you see when you step outside the central station, Cologne Hauptbanhof, is the cathedral of Cologne, called the Dom. Some would say that the cathedral greets visitors right out of the station. I would say that the term is more like the cathedral ASSAULTS you. It’s just so in-your-face and larger than life. It took 6 centuries to build and miraculously survived all the bombing from WWII. It also has an amusing sign at the entrance which has the standard admonitions: No smoking. Be quiet. Wear appropriate dress. It also has a warning saying no balloons, haha. Logical, I suppose, but when would anyone ever randomly bring balloons into a  cathedral?

The other sight that I was set to see in Cologne was the Imhoff-Stollwerck Schokoladenmuseum. It’s not quite Willy Wonka’s factory irl, but it’s close enough. You get to see chocolate being made, including all the machines. There’s a chocolate tasting with wafers dipped in a golden fountain coursing with molten chocolate. And there are several interesting exhibits documenting the history of chocolate advertising in Germany as well as the history of cacao in the Americas and Europe.

You get free entrance on your birthday [Wouldn’t that be a nice place to go?] but I decided against trying to fake my way in and paid the discounted 5 euro student price. I really enjoyed it. The smell was amazing for the first 20 minutes… until it reminded me of the seven million boxes of candy I had to sell for all those clubs in high school. Oh, my life. -_-;; The chocolate still tasted good, though. The Lindt company [they make those shiny foil-wrapped truffles] owns the museum so the chocolate was top-notch.

The gift shop at the end of the museum had all sorts of chocolate related items. All different brands and flavors of chocolate are to be expected. However, chocolate liqueur with chili flavoring? Orange chocolate liqueur? That just sounds amazing for desserts. I was tempted to get the hazelnut chocolate [I’m so predictable] but I decided to try something new and get the bar of chili-chocolate. Meh. I’m not a fan. I want my chocolate to be sweet, not burning.

I hung around the main shopping street in Cologne, bought some headphones, and ate more currywurst until my train came into the station around 19:00.

I fell asleep for the two hour ride to Gregg’s town. One minute I was being accosted by ads in German, and the next, the world turned on its side again and all the signs were in Dutch, which sounds sort of like German but is different enough to be distinct. This happened before when I switched from Spanish to Portuguese. Or Portuguese to Catalan.

I had to switch over in the town of Heerlen and in my first five minutes on Dutch ground, I catch a whiff of pot. Noice. Welcome to the Netherlands. I was also a little hungry so I went to this little kiosk that was sort of like a live vending machine. The workers put food in heated cabinets, you insert coins, and the cabinet opens. I got some food called a kipstick, which I think is like a very long chicken finger. Although the term kip makes me think of fish for some reason.

I was greeted in Schinnen by Gregg and his mother and we drove through the manicured lawns of the rural Netherlands until we got to their house. After getting settled, I went with him to the center of town to get some pommes frites [which are basically french fries topped with either Dutch ketchup–yes, it’s different than normal ketchup– and frite sauce –no. it’s not mayonnaise] Being awesome as usual, he paid for dinner and also for the beers. We got Alfa, which is locally produced and very enjoyable, I’d have to say. And we passed by a techno-beer-tent which happens all the time in summer, apparently.

Afterwards, we watched a bit of Con Air while his dog, Holly, sat there being the cutest and coolest dog ever. You can shoot her and she’ll die. Very realistically. And she can throw things in the air from her nose, shake, high-five, and everything. And her smell [which is one reason why I don’t particularly like animals in general] hovers between pleasant and non-existent. Awesome.

The next day, I spent in Amsterdam. Stay tuned, yo.

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