29 June 2007

Day 2: Brussels–Munich–Starnberg

The "day" started with my brother Reed erroneously thinking it was 7:00 a.m. and getting up to shower, shave, and dress, only to find out it was really 3:15 a.m. I didn't say anything to him as he rummaged about and I lay there in bed, and I only looked at my watch after he left, wondering what the hell did he think he was doing. He came right back up after he realized his mistake, but it was had for me to get back to sleep after that. And the streets outside were filled with celebrants, probably French college students, until about 8:00 a.m. Around 5:00 a.m. they all spontaneously broke into a rendition of "Stand by Me." Why? Who knows. Belgian beer will do that to you.

When we got up for the morning for real, all still jet-lagged, we ate the continental breakfast in the hotel’s dining room, and then headed out via taxi to one of the wonders in Brussels I was most interested in seeing: The Atomium.

Built in 1958 and only supposed to last for six months for the World Expo, it has stood ever since on the fields of Heysel as a symbol of the city and a memoir of the Atomic Age. It stands 335 feet tall and is made up of nine spheres representing an iron molecule. We traveled through six of the spheres, connected by escaltors, with each sphere holding a different exhibit about the construction and history of the Atomium. It was recently refurbished and is more sleek and polished looking than ever. Reed got down on his back in order to take this shot of me at the base of the Atomium.

The Atomium commands a view of most of Brussels, as well the Stade du Heysel, the soccer arena infamous for a Livepool soccer match that ended in a riot and forty dead.

We returned to the hotel and lugged our bags (in the starting rain) to the train station to get back to Brussels airport. (And—hooray—my suitcase was waiting for me!) The flight to Munich only lasted an hour, but it was aggravating because the loudest screaming child I have ever heard started screeching for fifteen minutes straight before take-off. This wasn’t a normal child cry, either: it was a near-inhuman shriek that made me remark to my brother that "they shouldn’t allow pig slaughtering onboard civilian aircraft. It just isn’t safe." Once airborne, a four year-old girl started to run up and down the aisles for the remainder of the hour-long flight. That about drove us crazy.

We landed in Munich where my sister Colleen and her husband Armin met us at the airport. We didn’t enter Munich proper, but took the long train ride to the suburb of Starnberg where they live. The apartment is pleasant, if a bit too much on the modernist side for me, and they haven’t properly moved in yet. They also have recently purchased a dog, a puppy mix of Burnese Mountain dog and German Shepherd named Cuba (pronounced Coo-ba). Cuba is frantic and chews and tugs at everything, and Colleen just trying to take her for a walk is a desperate tug-of-war. They have to keep giving her “puppy time-outs” when she keeps pulling on people’s pants or biting at their hands by locking her in one of the bathrooms.

It’s a quiet night, which we all need. Colleen and Armin took us to the local biergarten and retaurant, Absofort, where we met some of the other teachers whom she works with at the International School. I left early when it got cold and am now sitting in the kitchen pounding out this new blog entry for your entertainment. Not sure what we’ve got on the schedule tomorrow. More to come...