Monday, August 07, 2006

Upon my return

There is so much to cover it is hard to understand where I should begin. Last I left, I was headed for Stockholm, Sweden. It was breathtaking. I don't even know how to describe the place, but whats more strange is that leaving the port was more beautiful than actually being in town.

Helsinki, Finland: drifted through the market square, so many mothers sighing. (thank you David Bowie)

St. Peterberg, Russia: for two days we were blocked by very large, very well armed Military Men from travelling on roads that we had to travel on (for no apparent reason other than they would be holding the G8 Summit within the next two weeks), bought bootleg James Brown concert DVDs, and saw some of the largest natural fountains in the world. Oh yea, I also touched a Statue carved from marble by Michelangelo (the Russians seem to have no idea of how valuable some of the artifacts they possess are). We saw bear cubs tied to trees, and I had a shot of Vodka that made me sweat upon tasting.

Talinn, Estonia: Walked amongst the ancient castle walls and viewed art from actual artists. The people of Estonia are by far the nicest people I met in the two months I was in Europe. They don't impress what they are selling upon you, they merely sit back and let you look, verifying their artwork's authenticity through silence.

A few days at sea, and we were back in London, ready to come home. For my family it was 2 weeks, for me, it was exactly 2 months.

I don't know how to sum up the trip in words. Maybe it's writer's block. Let's try this...

The trip needed to be taken. I didn't know why at first. Maybe I wanted to have something to look forward to, maybe I needed to get away from something. Maybe I had an innate urge to leave comfortable surroundings and find my own way. Someone asked me if I found myself in the two months I was gone, I said yes at the time, but looking back at the trip now, 3 weeks later, I don't think I found myself, I think I found the world.

I know it's an incredibly cheesey thing to talk about, but its not the only thing that I realized on this trip. I took the trip for many reasons. Some actually are listed above. I did need something to look forward to, I did need to leave comfortable surroundings. I definitely had to get away from Texas, from people I knew, from people I love, and loved. I needed to see the world without the blinders of Romance and Innocence. I needed to find out what the world is like on my own. I have a good idea now, but I am still unsure. There will be more travel days in the future. My travel companion Pat and I are planning a tentative trip to Egypt in the coming years. Maybe this blog will pick back up when we leave, but for now it is done. If you did actually read this, then I hope you have enjoyed it. It was put up for friends of mine that wanted to keep up with what I was doing, what I was seeing. I would love to say that it turned into a Global Phenomenon, but who am I kidding? My insights aren't worth the paper I've written them on. So if you've enjoyed it, then I am happy. I hope some of these ramblings make sense. Feel free to email me if you wish further elaboration on anything that happened, trust me, a lot more went on that what I've written. Farewell.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Baltic Excursions

Let me rephrase that:

That was Amsterdam?

I’ve had a little time now to piece together some words on the long day that was my weekend in Amsterdam, and they can best be summed up by this passage found scribbled on a receipt in my wallet:

22 June,
The Carousel spins with about as much control as the mind will allow in this circus. Walking atop the breathing streets, the mismatched bricks offer sanctuary to the wanderer, the drifter, the vagabond. In the neon glow of the midday sun, I find myself questioning reality (what is true, what is right) in a space that is occupied by creators (Rembrandt) and carnival performers (midgets joining chorus with side street guitarists). Wandering, I can do nothing but ask, Is that me? Am I who is? Does that make sense? Who knows…who cares?

…So, if you can decipher that then you can get to the core of my experience. Now –
* * *
Breakfast on the ship:

Oh, catch-up, catch-up, catch-up, catch-up, catch-up, catch-up, catch-up, catch-up… ketchup?

…mmm, hash browns taste much better now.

So we left Amsterdam to return to London (where we didn’t get the chance to enjoy all the city had to offer the first go round). There we got caught back up in World Cup Fever, watching the games with religious fervor (the tears flowed forth as I watched England crash out of the brackets in a blaze of red carded glory). We also cleaned up our acts, Pat and I both deciding to cut most of our hair off to look more like respectable gentlemen (I would post a picture at this point, but I have neither the time nor the patience to figure out the upload process of this foreign machine I sit in front of).

With a final supper I parted ways with my two traveling companions and met my parents and siblings. Oh, the excitement in their eyes (or was it just the terrible smog in the air?). With them I would soon set sail across the Baltic. I would embrace the tourist mentality.

Two days later I made my third visit to the beautiful city of Harwich, England. Our ship was to depart.

* * *

It is a massive beast of a vessel. 160,000 tons of soft serve ice-cream, gambling tables, all-day buffets, Broadway Musicals (complete with C-team performers), and enough geriatrics to triple the population of Southern Florida. Four days onboard the ship already feels like forty pounds later, and the sheer amount of alcohol consumed at night is made only more bizarre by the age of the children I am drinking with. I mean-

Ok, we get it, but it feels like you’re drifting off into the negative here. We all know you’re having fun, it’s a cruise, let’s here about it.

Right, sorry. Exhaustion.
So we occupied Oslo two days ago. A museum of Viking ships and a breathtaking Olympic Ski Jump were quite the sights to take in (mostly because I am fairly certain the jump was used in The Spy Who Loved Me).

The Fourth of July was celebrated leaving Copenhagen, Denmark. There is nothing in this world that has made me more proud to come from where I do than to celebrate the birth of my nation in the middle of the Baltic Sea. I watched the sun set last night completely alone on the bow of the ship, the wind causing nothing but static in my ears. The sun cast a cascade of colors across the evening sky, and the latitude of our course allowed the magic hour to last nearly all night. Add then the twanging songs of America’s birth and you have one of the best Fourth of July celebrations I have had in recent years. The feeling was so inspiring that my sister and I placed second in the evening’s 50s and 60s Twist Competition (the commemorative key chains and shirts are sure to be passed down for generations).

We are now to be at sea for today, then it’s Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; somewhere in Estonia.

Excitement billows. But I must say that I am nearly ready to be home. I echo my friend Anton’s sentiments, I miss my friends, I miss home. 2 months without those comforts is starting to take its toll. Through all of the travels, all of the different nations and experiences, there hasn’t been one day I haven’t thought of all of them (some more than others, they’re my favorites [sorry others]). I can’t wait to see them soon.

In travels,
Kyle write your life story next time Rother

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Fear and Loathing

Contents of my pockets as of morning, 23rd June:

1 half used Amsterdam City Tram Ticket
1 Canon Powershot SD500 digital camera
2 Business cards: McKorman Clothing Store, When Nature Calls Smart Shop
1 Third generation 15G Apple iPod
1 Instruction Pamphlet: Ins & Outs of safe Magic Mushrooms
1 Welcome Pamphlet: "Welcome to the Flying Pig Hostel"
4 £'s (pounds)
2 Movie tickets: X-Men 3:The Last Stand; The Da Vinci Code
2 Receipts: Mando Steakhouse in Malmo, SWE for 199,000 K; Norrebro Apotek for antihystamene 170,000 K
0.89€ (Euro)
1 Danish Subway ticket: good for 2 zones
1 Keycard: Flying Pig Hostel (must go with the welcome pamphlet)
1 United States Passport (open it, phew, it's mine)
1 email address:
1 pair of sunglasses
2 used Kleenex's

That was Amsterdam.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sleeping Arrangements

I am the only hope for the group. Without me, they are lost. I am the link that holds the chain together. If I break, the slack will become unbearable.

Ooo, that's uncomfortable. Maybe if I twist my head just so...there we go, a natural pillow.

I am the cornerstone. In my absence the tunnel will collapse. The rubble will be epic, the death toll staggering. I am the cornerstone.

Ah, legs are a bit cramped now, let's see I can just about stretch them under the seat - ah, there.

I am the foundation. The weight of the journey rests upon my surface - relies on my solidarity. One crack and the whole building begins to shift.

It's a little cold in here, better put on that hoodie. Mmm, nice and warm, nuzzle up with my book. Maybe I'll finish it before we get there. Keep me up.

I am Atlas. Upon my shoulders rests the World. Doomed and Blessed am I to carry this burden. If my legs falter, the world as we know it will end.

My are eyes are now strained, dry. I'll just close them for a second, relief is due. It's not like I'll fall asleep. I'm not even tired.


"Shit. Guys, we're here."

And with that we make our train with 6 minutes to spare.


We've left Prague, and we visited a small town in the south of the Czech Republic called Drnholec. This was the small village that my Great Grandfather apparently used to live in.

The train there and back was great, you could actually hang half of your body out of the train car's window (which Pat and I experimented with quite a bit). The Czech countryside is actually very familiar looking in a strange way. It sort of reminds me of both East Texas, the Northeast USA, and Frontierland all at the same time.

We arrived exhausted and slept early and long, and the second day there, our only full day, we rented road bikes and rode a total of 34.42 km to a nearby lake and back. It's mostly farm and wine country down there, and I kid you not, it looks prettier than Italy's Tuscan region.

At the lake, Pat and I rowed, Frost and Calley windsurfed. The water was somewhat to mostly nastier than I had expected so Pat and I didn't get in (the four floating dead fish later supported our decision). This may or may not have led to my feeling a bit sick after rowing. The feeling quickly subsided (only to return later) once we got back on the bikes.

The ride back into town was an interesting one. My blistering pace allowed me some time to stop on the side of the road and take some photos. It was enjoyable having the time to myself to reflect upon the land in which my relatives may or may not have lived.

Since my pace set me so far ahead of Pat, he slowly caught up with me while I took an extended water break.

As he pulled up to me (panting from exhaustion):

"I thought you wanted to take it easy?"
"I'm sorry, but I can't seem to contain my superhuman strength and stamina."

I kept rehydrating and snapping some more photos when Pat surprisingly caught his breath and asserted,

"So it looks like we have some marijuana."

Huh? I thought.

He hopped off his bike and walked to the edge of the road, near the end of the cropline and bent over to pick a couple buds of what appeared to be little marijuana plants.

Strange. I thought.
"Strange." I said (I tend to speak my mind).

As it turns out, the people of the small towns in the Czech Republic just grow their own weed. And it's totally fine. As we continued back into town, the tiny plants seemed to guide us back to the hotel.


In the end, I never found my Great Grandfather's house. It's sad I suppose. Maybe it was never in that town. Sorry Joseph.

So Denmark, or more specifically Copenhagen, for the next couple of days.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Origin story.

We have arrived in the land of eternal sunshine and beauty. The Czech Republic. The moment we crossed the border I was instantly refreshed with new vitality, eagerly expectant of the adventures that await t.O.E.S. in their journeys through this land.

We left Germany on a sad note. Don't get me wrong, it was a very great place to be, Munich is beautiful, and Berlin is one happening place, especially during World Cup festivities. And suprisingly, getting peed on in my Hostel bed only put me in a strange funk for just one day. I'll tell that story to whoever wants to know. The sad note that we left on was a visit to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. To walk around in what used to be a complex of suffering and death was the most sobering experiences of my life. I touched a mound of human remains. I layed a hand on many a people's death bed. I nearly cried sitting out in the fields, with the guard towers in the distance, thinking about who could have died right there, right were I was sitting. But it remains there, as a reminder. We cannot let this happen again. the Oceanographique Exploratory Society will make sure of this, until the end of time.

So now, as I said, we are in Cesky Republiky. And I am officially in love. Nearly every woman here is the most beautiful I have ever seen, and on top of this...they all know how to stew up a delicious pot of Goulash - one of the greatest soups known to man.

So now, as an irritated wantobe internet user glares from the corner of my eye, I will leave you...wanting more. Until then;

Ernst Winterburry
Species Cartographer
the Oceanographique Exploratory Society
"Looking forward and out."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

That low down and dirty feeling

"Oh, how pleasant," you´re thinking. "He´s now posted two days in a row."

Well you shouldn´t be. Today´s story is only the result of the ready accessibility of computers at my hostel, and the terrible sleeping patterns of the good Doctor and Captain of t.O.E.S.´s crew.

So I must reiterate, Munich is an absolutely beautiful city.

Waking up early in the morning to the sound of the multitude of American Sorority girls oozing over their Brit-accented new friends is always an excellent way to start your day. I recommend seeking out these people, as they tend to have better effect in waking you than an actual fire alarm.

Yesterday was a Bank Holiday here in Munich so next to nothing was open. We managed to find, totally by accident the Deutches Museum. Wow. To preface the exposition on the exhibits, let´s just say that this Museum is easily one of the coolest places I have ever visited. It´s interior exhibits technological, artistic, and scientific breakthoughs from the past thousand years or more -- all German, but not discriminating against American, British, or other significant breakthroughs. Full sized full masted ships filled the main halls, a replica of the interior of a space shuttle, an airliner fuselage, all sorts of scientific experiments including, but not limited to: pendulums, full explanations on the building of fiber optics and holograms, and my personal favorite, various musical instrumentation findings like the keyed guitar, and many fonosynthetic synthesizers (mostly from the German Krautrock breakthrough era [check out Kraftwerk, Michael Rother]).

Not only these, but, being that the museum is an interactive one, there were different things to try out to help you further understand the significance. One of the coolest being: a replication of various shapes your vocal chords make when speaking, through which air is pumped and sound is made. All the vowel sounds were there, then by using a sort of governing flap, you could almost form actual words. Hours of entertainment. We are headed back today to visit the planetarium and observatory.

After our minds were blown, we feasted again on sausages and one of the best plates of potato salad I have ever tasted (sorry Grandma). I don´t see how a Vegan could survive in this country. Then it was off to our hostel (housing the only bar open on this holiday) to drink away the pain in our stomachs. Which, interestingly enough, doesn´t actually end any sort of pain. Oh what a day, what a night. I like Germany.

Now, with all that said, here is my journal entry for today:

Dear Diary,
Last night someone urinated on me in my sleep. Needless to say,
I woke up.
More tomorrow,

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Adventures of Baron Von Winterburry...

We´ve arrived. Germany is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. Munich has only been one night, and I am already in love with it. Schnitzels, German women, the World Cup preparations, and 0.5 litre beers seem to strike a chord within the Oceanographique Exploratory Society. The only thing we´ve encountered on our journeys here is amazingly stereotypical American girls waking us up way too early.

Last we left, t.O.E.S. was headed inland, renting a car, driving through the Tuscan countryside. This mission was accomplished, and we ended up getting lost in the mountainous regions just outside of Milan. After a few hours of driving through winding roads and getting hassled by small town Cameriari, we managed a very enjoyable excursion through the streets of Sienna, with a stop in the outskirts of Badesse.

I accomplished another lifelong dream in visiting film locations when I touched ground in Venice, listening to only John Williams´Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade soundtrack. t.O.E.S. then travelled the waters of Lake Como, studying its water habitat, and even finding a new species; named after the only reader of this blog....Seim´s Fish (as we´ve come to call it) is an endophile Fern Fish. Cartographs of the new species will be noted and published next quarter.

So now we will leave the Captain´s log and journey through the streets of Munich. Berlin next then the Czech Republic. Auf Wetersein...

Ernst Winterburry
Species Cartographer
the Oceanographique Exploratory Society