Berlin: Outsider Art of the Anne Frank Zentrum and East Side Gallery

December 4, 2017. Berlin, Germany.

After the Panoptikum, I tried to head into the nearby Monsterkabinett for reasons that I feel should be self-evident. I’d later find out it was a little more Muppety than I’d have liked, but I still didn’t get the chance to investigate thoroughly since it’s open like 3 hours a day starting at 8pm and I wasn’t about to stand in the rain for six hours.

In order to get turned away from the Monsterkabinett entrance, you need to go down a sketchy alley full of hipsters and white dreadlocks, the walls themselves cacophonous with unrelated graffiti and half-finished or sabotaged murals. The centerpiece is a slightly cockeyed reimagining of Anne Frank.

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man, you can almost hear “Oh Comely”

She was flanked by a couple of anatomically correctish statues.

Nearby is a door that neatly encapsulates whatever the hell is going on here.

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An appreciable warning, considering.

They got sort of a thing for cyclopes.

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no idea what was going on here, but i instinctively hated it. “entfuhrt” means kidnapped. unhelpful

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here either, but i hated it less

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“keep the buttons open”

I took this sage advice from the terrible minion and faded out of the alley, into a sort of plywood tunnel that led past several different construction areas on the road to East Berlin. The inside was also decorated, though less imaginatively.

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it was here i discovered Guaranteed Value Flight of the Conchords. at the time and based on the posters i thought they were advertising for a community college, but it turns out they’re refugees fleeing a war. whoops

The delineation between West and East Berlin is just as clear now as it was before the fall of the wall. Stop on a corner and look around. Do you see any Indian restaurants? Do you see any restaurants or stores at all? If the answer to these questions are “no”, you’re in East Berlin, where the specter of communism is spanging at the stoplight because there are no businesses for it to hang out in front of.

The exception being a single depressing Subway restaurant built into the bottom of a brutalist office building. I tried to take a picture of it, but my camera started weeping.

After walking for entirely too goddamn long in the rain (as discussed, Berlin is impossibly huge and I really should’ve made more of an effort at figuring out public transit), I arrived at the crumbling remnants of the Berlin wall, alias the East Side Gallery.

There were tons of pieces along this ridiculously long wall, but most of them didn’t warrant documentation. I photographed the best ones whenever I could get the relentless selfie patrol out of my way. You’d think they would be dissuaded by the rain, the cold, the lack of available nutrition, and my low, guttural snarling, but they didn’t even care, man. They’re like the fuckin’ mail. Rain, sleet, or snow, their IG posts must go through.

I slipped through and checked out the other side as well. It was less ornate.

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haha gottem

Well, that was enough for me. I hadn’t eaten in a day or two, and it was starting to get to me. All this slightly hunched rainwalking was killing my back, too. I made my way back toward West Berlin.

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you and me both, bud

It was pretty easy to tell once I’d crossed back into West Berlin.

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even if your German’s not real strong you can noodle this one out

I didn’t get a Salat though. Instead, I found my way to what looked like a traditional German restaurant, named something like Grunstein’s Essen. I was cracking my spine in the warmth and relative dryness when the grinning Indian man behind the bar told me “anywhere you like, my friend.” Must’ve been Grunstein. He served me Leberkäse, which can be most accurately described as “spam loaf”. At the time, it was mana from heaven.

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I turned the corner from this sweet castle bridge and saw a mural that blew most of the approved pieces in the East Side Gallery clean out of the water.

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For all the surrealist nightmare art I’d come across in Berlin, nothing did more to my psyche than this terrifying poster.

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who are they even marketing to with this

I hobbled back to the hostel and spent my final night in a room full of obnoxiously snoring strangers. The next day would begin my long voyage home. And long it was. 48 combined hours between planes and airport layovers. But that’s a grim tale for another day.

Love,

The Bastard

Berlin: Ich Bin Ein

December 4, 2017. Berlin, Germany.

The first thing I learned was my normal strategy of walking everywhere is of no use here. Berlin is too big. It’s because there used to be too many Berlins, and once Reagan hulk-punched that wall down it became a single, titanic Berlin.

Hostels were in short supply, but I managed to get my hands on a nice $13 a night dealie right off of the Landwehr canal, called the Grand Hostel Berlin. Their delusions of grandeur didn’t stop at the name. They were under the mistaken impression they were a party hostel, and wanted this party to center around what they called the Gin Library.

Now, ordinarily, those would be great things better together, right? Peanut butter and jelly. Peanut butter and chocolate. Peanut butter and whatever arbitrary nutritional asceticism I’m inflicting on myself at present.

No such luck, beautiful reader. It was most assuredly a library a la Ron Burgundy, leatherbound books and rich mahogany, but it also had bar no one ever wanted to tend, obnoxious techno music that kind of disrupted the whole “library” mystique, and a fucking disco ball.

Do you know why most libraries don’t have disco balls? It’s because you need light to read.

When I entered the Gin Library, there were four people sitting around a coffee table, talking over the bad music in various accents about what their favorite types of alcohol are. Pretty standard cultured frat-boy hostel fare. The girls were middling attractive, the boys were “traveler chic” with whiteboy dreadlocks and dated facial piercings.

Laboring under the mistaken impression I could get some reading done in the library, I stood at the bar and tried to order a beer during happy hour. It didn’t work for a few minutes. I went to reception and said, “Hey, think I could get a beer?” The receptionist smiled, nodded, and shouted rapid German at no one in particular.

I went back to the bar and waited for another couple minutes, then decided the hell with it, I didn’t need one that bad, and started back to the corner seat to chip away at a reread of Stephen King’s It.

It wasn’t until then that one of the girls at the table, still squawking something about how Oh she LUVES tequila, deigned to stand up, approach the bar, and say, “Did you want a beer?”

“You work here?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Are you sure?”

She smiled, thinking I was flirting. I corrected this misconception by deliberately stiffing a service worker on a tip for the first time in my life.

Sorry baby. West Berlin’s always been a capitalism.

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I started at the Brandenburg gate, one of Germany’s most famous monuments despite its relative youth, at least by European standards. Berlin had been a defensible fort with a sequence of unpronounceable names since Germany was Prussia, but the Brandenburg gate didn’t show up until around 1790. For America, that’s all of relevant history, but for countries like Italy or England, that’s basically yesterday.

I hadn’t done a lot of Nazi-centric sightseeing because the weather is depressing enough and I like to have fun, but considering the Germanic bent my recent journeys have taken, it’s not avoidable. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe is about a block from the Brandenburg gate, rising from a concrete lot like a time-lapse cemetery. Catchy name too, huh? It’s got a beat and you can dance to it.

Concrete slabs of varying heights shoot haphazardly from the ground with no inscription, pattern, or real rhyme or reason. Some look like tombstones, some like coffins, some like tiny Brutalist skyscrapers. The architect, a dude named Eisenman, claims that the blocks are supposed to create a confusing atmosphere indicative of a highly ordered system gone wrong, then in the same breath says that the memorial has no symbolic significance. Sounds like your confusing atmosphere worked better than planned.

The designer’s contradictory Zen-koan babbling doesn’t stop visitors from their interpretations, though. Popular opinion is that entering the monument proper was isolating. The concrete absorbed the sounds of traffic and life coming from Berlin, leaving you in this cold, spooky hallway. The alienation, the echoes, and the imposing bleakness of the corridors reminded me of a slaughterhouse, but I’m not the best central tendency metric for this kind of thing.

Some people call that vague feeling of visceral unease the heebie-jeebies, or something comparably cute. I call it draggin’ ghosts, and I felt them like a physical weight on my shoulders as I walked out of that bleak little grid. At the same time, I was reining in an almost irresistible urge to jump from block to block. That was something I liked to do in graveyards when I was young, until someone saw me. Never met anyone who was thrilled about that.

I turned the corner and a giant brain-blimp shone down from a wall.

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“Oh, good,” I said aloud. Berlin’s got a reputation for art, and a lot of what I saw was pretty cool, but we’ll save that for its own post.

I turned another corner.

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agreed

I doubled back to the hostel and sat down for a while since I’d somehow managed to walk four or five miles, thanks to Berlin’s comical immensity. Der Hunger was setting in. I asked a spindly blonde receptionist where I could get some food, and she helpfully said she’d tell me in ten minutes.

She didn’t get the chance. A dude who sounded Ukrainian was scribbling a sort of city-overview to the stoner kid I mentioned yesterday and a middle-aged Japanese couple, and I eavesdropped on that until he circled the areas where “all the best restaurants are”. I leaned in, snapped a picture, and disappeared into Germany’s perpetual freezing rain.

What he meant by “all the best restaurants” was “places you could conceivably locate food”. This walk was only a mile, though, so that was… better? The street was called Bergmannstraße, it was itself about a mile long, and it had nothing but Asian food, one italian restaurant, one Mexican restaurant, and a kebab shop. I didn’t come to Germany for any of those things, but my choices rapidly became branch out or starve. I ate Indian two days in a row, from two different restaurants right next to each other. The first, called India, was bad. The second was incredible. I don’t remember the name.

There were a smattering of tourist shops along Bergmann, and one of them stopped me dead.

Now, my German is not what you would call spectacular. Any doubt about that, ask any of the Austrians or Germans I’ve befriended in my travels; they invariably mock my awful accent and I demand they answer for “feuerzeug“.

I delight in the German language because of the kindergarten way they just staple short, existing words into monstrous yet inexplicably precise Frankenwords.

You’re sick? Du bist krank. Welp, if you’re sick enough, we gotta get you to the hospital. That’s the krankhaus. How we gonna get you there? We’re gonna load you into the krankenwagen.

Absolute poetry.

In my Duolingings, I ran across the suffix –zeug, which essentially just means “stuff”. Your toy? That’s spieltzeug, literally play-stuff. How about a tool? Werkzeug. You can noodle that one out.

Then you got Fahrenzeug which means “driving stuff” and refers to a car. Uh, okay, I guess. But Feuerzeug is exactly what it sounds like, fire-stuff, and it means “a lighter”, and that makes me absolutely furious. You go TOO FAR.

German grammar is a disaster rivaled only by English grammar and their idioms are, as one would expect, deeply nonsensical and often sausage-themed. Every German I’ve encountered has argued they don’t have that many sausage-themed idioms, forcing me to point it out to them when they invariably use one within the following two hours.

These magnets, for those of you who didn’t quite catch up with the bus somehow, are word-for-word English translations of German turns of phrase. I reveled in them, grinning like an idiot in the rain for five minutes, then made the first and last legitimate souvenir purchase of my trip.

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I also encountered this gem.

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Trump halts maul. Well, it didn’t sound complimentary, but it did sound like home. The last I’d heard of the German opinion on Donnie was when the Morgenpost referred to him as… well, as thus:

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“please not the Horror-Clown!”

Well, I had to wait until I got back to the rad library party hostel to solve this particular mystery, but I giggled when I did.

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It reminded me of one’a my favorite twitter threads.

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Although, in fairness, the t-shirt’s not wrong.

That’s all I can do for today, if I type for too long WordPress’s busted-ass text editor starts flinching away from me every time I hit the enter key like a beaten puppy. Talk to you tomorrow, boys and girls.

Love,

The Bastard

Prague: Kafka, Communism, Torture, and the Horror Bar

November 23, 2017. Prague, Czech Republic.

In my dream-quest around unknown Kadath, I found so many museums that I had to pare the list down. The Beer Museum sounded good, but judging by the pictures and the greeter at the door, it was a gimmicky bar. The Sex Machines Museum wasn’t going to tell me anything that Erotic Museum hadn’t already.

I wound up going to the Kafka Museum, the Museum of Communism, and the Museum of Medieval Torture Devices. At a glance, these aren’t related, but I promise you once you’re in them you’d be hard pressed (sometimes literally) to ignore the theme.

First, Kafka. The documentaries and state-mandated tourism pamphlets are suspiciously clear that “the Prague of Kafka was only in his head, and you won’t find it here!” This is a lie. I’ve been here since I got off the bus. Nice place to visit, but much like the man himself, you wouldn’t want to live there.


this was in front of the museum. i don’t know why

The Kafka museum was all black corridors, file cabinets, and screaming. I read the Metamorphosis in high school like every other pseudo-intellectual ponce, but I just thought the guy was sad and weird. If you look at the tragedy of his life, you get a much more contextual picture of the dude who inspired the term kafkaesque.

He was neurotically high-strung. Today, it would probably be generalized anxiety disorder. He lived the whole of his life terrified of his father but unable to escape or relate to him, no matter what he tried.

In a particularly lucid moment, he breathed on a glass windowpane, drew a circle that encompassed the Old Town square and Charles Bridge. It enclosed his grade school, every home he had ever known, the university he went to as a young adult, and the office where he worked and got inspiration for most of his novels.

“Within this little circle, my whole life is contained.”

He would jaunt out to Berlin or his sister’s place in the country from time to time, but he never really got free of Prague. He had three long-distance relationships, deliberately chosen for buffer of safety the long-distance provided him. His writings explored exclusion, isolation, and the despair of being a lone individual against an overwhelming machine. When he contracted tuberculosis, it was almost as a moral victory. He had been struggling with something inside his entire life, and it had finally decided that they’d fought long enough.

Poor, haunted bastard. I’ve started reading The Castle since.

I also happened into the Museum of Communism. This could have gone either way. I knew that Czechia was east of the Iron Curtain, so I couldn’t imagine they had many warm and fuzzy feelings for the system that gave them their highest civilian fatality count since the Black Plague. But I also knew it was a very liberal, metropolitan area, and I was working from behind a notably American veil of ignorance. Leftist college students back home have a tendency to bank left so hard that, were they actually riding in a gulag train, it would overturn on the curve.

I’m certainly not here to proselytize about politics, there are so many more satisfying and provocative ways to piss people off. But here’s a picture dump of things I found either funny or horrifying, straight from the mouth of a city that survived it.

The currency reform especially staggered me. Imagine making $40,000 a year, then waking up one day to find, apropos of nothing, that you now make $8,000 a year because General Motors needed another bail out.

When I first entered the Commuseum, they gave me my ticket and a voucher for a free coffee. By the end of the exhibit, I could certainly have used to a sit-down, so I waited in the cafe line. I’m tryna kick coffee, though. When it was my turn, I gave the guy behind the counter my voucher and asked him for a tea.

He looks me dead in the eyes and says, “We’re out of tea.”

For a second I thought this was an elegantly planned joke, but he didn’t break. He was dead serious. I lost my shit, man. It was the hardest anyone has ever laughed in that grim museum. Dude must have thought I was having some kind of episode.

After that, I made my way to the Lennon Wall (distinct from the Lenin Wall, which was only slightly more communist). It’s a wall that students have been covering in John Lennon-inspired graffiti, Beatles lyrics, and bumper-sticker rhetoric since the 80s.

From Wikipedia:

In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as “Lennonism” and Czech authorities described these people variously as alcoholics, mentally deranged, sociopathic, and agents of Western capitalism.

Oops. They already made the Lenin joke. Welp, too late now.

Taking pictures of the wall proved to be difficult since everyone horrible in Prague was trying to pose for selfies in front of it.

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i’m afraid you’re misinformed

I brooded there for a little while, visions of cockroaches and bread lines still a-dance in my head, then made my way to the Medieval Torture Museum.

Let me just say this: Dark Ages Europe was kinky.

And that’s just for starters.

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the Gridiron. this was the prototype George Foreman grill. watch the fat slide right off!

the knee-breaker. honestly pretty self-explanatory

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no explanation needed, i’ve submitted my share of insanes 

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here we got a real Fifty Shades sort of thing going on, presumably to punish this thicc peasant woman for being, I don’t know, awake

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described as “The Vigil”, the inventor heralded it as a new breakthrough in torture technology. seems to me like a suspicious amount of work to put a pyramid up a dude’s butt, but w/e

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this is called “the Pear”. if you don’t know, google it, they don’t pay me enough to explain this to you. but I will say this: its versatility is surprising

The take home of my Prague museum experience was “fetishized hopelessness”. Well, that was about enough museums for one day. I went outside and bought an “authentic Czech hotdog” which tasted like a hot Slim Jim with mayonnaise on it. It was exactly as appetizing as it sounds.

Then, on the way back, it was starting to get dark. I had a train to catch at the crack of dawn tomorrow, so I opted to grab an evening beer at the celebrated Prague Nightmare Horror Bar.

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i expected him to be taller

The bartender was a manic pixie nightmare girl, talking a mile a minu- 1.60934 kilometers a minute, eyes darting and frantic. She served me the first good beer I’d had in Europe, a semi-imperial stout called Master’s, then got excited when I mentioned the Sedlac Ossuary and began gesturing with a menu in an effort to explain how to get there from the train.

I love when ADHD girls have English as a second language because it doesn’t slow their speech. They just make a more exciting array of faces when searching for the right words. It’s like watching an adorable kaleidoscope.

Next to me at the bar was a 70-year-old Scotsman who claimed to have fought in World War II. Not giving Common Core much credit there, laddie, but I can’t say I blame you. No one could understand what the hell he was saying.

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He was drunk, and old, and mumbling, and just so incredibly Scottish. It was a perfect storm of incomprehensibility, and he made no effort to correct it whatsoever. Instead, he’d repeat himself with the same tone and inflection, and watch you expectantly. The bartender folded her skinny, tattooed little arms and put her head down on the bar, then looked at me in desperation.

“You are American,” she said.

I shrugged. “But not Scottish.”

“Ye bent’a Scootlin?” he asked me, and I got most of that.

“Nope,” I said. “Just Ireland.”

“FOOK Irelin.”

I laughed. “Thought you might say something like that, yeah.”

“‘nth’ Germans. We nev’r liked ’em.”

“Really? In Scotland?”

“Aye,” he said, without nodding, which was really difficult for me to process each time he did it. “Nev’r liked ’em. Think’t deyshud own th’ worl’.”

“At least twice, they thought that, yeah.”

He laughed hoarsely and slapped me on the back.

“Do not take the bus tour,” the bartender said, jabbing at the map with a lacquered black fingernail. “It is a waste, they just want your money. Never take the bus if you can take the Metro. You know where the metro is? The, ahhh, tren? Train. Train! Take the train, every time. Much faster, much better.”

“I knew tren,” I said. “But yeah, the tour was supposed to be seven and a half hours, talking about a mining town? I’m not in for seven hours. I just want to see the bone church, here.”

“Bone Church is incredible,” she said, enthusiastically slapping everything in sight. “I spent two hours there, maybe three hours. It’s small but there’s so much to do in there, so much you can see. Part of it is always closed. Two rooms were closed when I was there but there were still the rest of the rooms and there was so much, it was incredible. But there’s nothing to do in the city. Not even a city. Like, two bars, one store, some houses.”

“That doesn’t sound like a city.”

“It’s a village.”

“It’s a VILLAGE?”

She made somewhere between eighteen and thirty-six different faces before saying, “Well, not a VILLAGE. Is a town. Small town. Nothing to do there! Mining, once. Not worth it. Save your money, go to the church from the Metro. Much more money for you to have, come back to Prague with it. Much more going on.”

“Yeah, I don’t care about mining. Plenty of that where I’m from.”

At that point, the Scotsman started to tell me about when his wife and dog died on the same day. Fergie, was the dog’s name. He didn’t mention the wife’s. I finished my second beer and bade my friends farewell.

“Worr y’gen?”

“I gotta head out,” I said. “Early day tomorrow.”

“Pah! Juslyk n’Amerc’n.”

I grinned and ghosted into the damp, oppressive streets of Kafka’s Prague.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I got some bone sculptures to peep.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

Athens: Tell Herb I Slowed Down

November 13, 2017. Athens, Greece.

What are we at now? Five days in Athens? Unheard of. We’ve found the upper limit boys and ghouls, and that is one work-week in a single spot before the wanderlust starts itching like a motivated scabie. I’m in the spooky coffee shop again, all the witches recognize me, smile at me. Standard procedure with witches in my life, true enough, but this feels different. I gotta skedaddle.

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Bastard Travel Kid’s Korner: can you spot the tiny Greek witch watching me from a distance?

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caught ya

Party City cobwebs are translucent, spookycakes. Get back to work before you get maleficarum’d.

Fortunately, I’ve already got my next jaunt picked out. This episode of Bastard Travel is real interactive, because I’m not going to tell you where, but fabulous emotional prizes will be awarded to anyone who can guess.

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So let me take a second to tell you about Greek food. So far, it’s my favorite in Europe. I’ve never deliberately ordered a salad before, but I went out of my way to do so here.

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look at that feta! filthy.

Now, you might be a little confused. You might be saying, “You Bastard, you miserable fucking animal, there’s no lettuce in there. How can you call this a salad and sleep at night?” to which I would say, first of all, a little bit more aggro than necessary, and secondly, the Greeks avoid lettuce if they can get around it. When they say “Greek salad”, what they mean is pizza toppings. Tomatoes, green peppers, olives, onions, olive oil, and way too much cheese. They slip cucumbers in there to keep you from making the connection.

The other night I consumed entirely too much of that sketchy moonshine ouzo I bought in that alley and the usual hostel crew faded back to their rooms pretty early. I had the remains of a weak beer with me, so I couldn’t leave the terrace yet, but nobody was speaking English, so I tried my luck with a trio of Greek girls sitting in the corner.

“Hey!” I said, blithe as is my idiom. “Where y’all from?”

They had a brief exchange in Greek, then decided I made the cut, and deigned to tell me they were native Athenians.

“I need to know something,” I said. “I’ve been hearing mixed opinions on this. Everywhere I go, people give me feta. No matter what I order, they find a way to give me feta. And olives, usually, but listen. Do you actually eat that much feta here, or is it for the tourists?”

“Absolutely, we do eat that much feta,” the tall one said. The other two nodded in immediate agreement.

“We buy it every time we go to the store,” said the little one. “No matter what we need to buy, we will also get half a kilo of feta.”

I did bad, drunk math. It’s like a pound. Okay.

“And then it just sits in the fridge, and whenever you at anything, you put some feta on it.”

“Olives, too,” I said. “I ordered bread, they gave me like three olives in a bowl with it.”

“Well, olives are delicious.”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s… we’re not arguing, here. I’m just saying, olives in a bowl are not, technically speaking, bread.”

We drank and they became increasingly candidon the state of the Greek economy. They had actual, profitable majors, which would be a rare occurrence if they were, say, three random college-aged girls at a bar in America. Computer science, mechanical engineering, and… math. They were all very glum about their chances of getting a job in Greece, and talked about wanting to escape.

“Computer science, though?” I asked the small one. “That’s money, back in the states. You’re like, guaranteed a decent job.”

“Not in Greece,” she said dourly. “If you get past the wait list, it is like 800 Euro a month.”

(That’s around $6 an hour.)

“Jesus,” I said. “Sorry I brought it up.”

“Do not be,” said the tall one, shaking her head. “It’s what we would have been talking about anyway. Just, in Greek.”

Wow, beautiful reader. I just digressed real bad there, huh. Let’s see if I can pull it back out of this depressive tailspin.

I went up the Plaka, which is the oldest village in Europe, overlooked by the Acropolis, trying to find some traditional Grecian grub. I was recommended spinach pies and meatballs. I’ve had three Spinach pies in the past two days, but all from bakeries, and all radically different. Some are like apple turnovers only instead of histamines (for me) it’s full of spinach and feta. Yesterday I had one that just looked like a normal slice of pie, but instead of filling, it contained a dense block of spinach with what tasted like pickling spices on it.

I ordered meatballs and a spinach pie, which I didn’t have the foresight to photograph. They brought me a plate full of discs of heavily spiced meat in a tomato-and-wine sauce, with peppers. I assumed they were meatballs. Then, they brought me another plate, this one full of things that were very obviously meatballs, in that they were made of meat, and shaped like balls. The medallion shape of the first course really should have given me a clue.

I ate the meatballs, staring in wonder at the empty plate that I had thought were non-balled meatballs. I’m not a gourmand, and I don’t pretend understanding of traditional Greek culture beyond a -encyclopedic knowledge of ancient mythology, but I was nearly 80% sure that contained neither spinach nor pie. But food is food, and I needed meat, and it was obviously too late to pull a “hey, this wasn’t what I ordered”. My native contact demanded I find the name. I did, but that was unhelpful, as I didn’t want to embarrass either of us with my attempt to spell it, but we concluded it was definitely sausage.

Later, I recounted this to Austria.

“It’s because you’re American,” he said. “They must have thought you were confused. ‘He ordered spinach, but I don’t think he knows what it is. Better to give him more meat.'”

“Well, I have been craving meat.”

“See? They were right.”

He left for Berlin. Getting gone seems like the thing to do. I’m going to try the Delphi day trip again tomorrow. With Athena’s consent, ideally.

Let’s wrap up with another graffiti picture dump.

See you tomorrow.

Love,

The Bastard

Athens: Greek Graffiti

November 12, 2017. Athens, Greece.

Bonus post! Here’s a picture dump of cool graffiti I found around the hostel. Greece has kind of a thing for demons.

All within a couple blocks of my room. But wait, there’s more!

 

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shhh i know baby i know

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you said it bro

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or love

It’s gorgeous and weird out there, even without paying to wander the remnants of a collapsed civilization. And rest assured, it’s infinitely better (though less omnipresent) than the tags in Madrid, which a rogue Catalonian encapsulated pretty succinctly:

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See you tomorrow.

Love,

The Bastard

Athens: Large Food, Graffiti, and the Handle Feud

November 9, 2017. Athens, Greece.

Here’s where I’m sitting right now, as I type this.

It’s a coffee shop next to my hostel that, as far as I can tell, is based on Neil Gaiman’s house after a recession. They’re pretending that 5 euros for a coffee is reasonable. I assume you’re paying for the… ambiance. Though the slightly out of tune violin-and-organ spooky halloween CD they have playing is a nice touch, what really emphasizes the element of danger is the old man on top of  latter outside the entrance, grinding away at the upper metal balcony and throwing a shower of sparks you have to time your way through like a Koopa Keep in Super Mario World.

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this airport doesn’t know how to party

The bus ride over was uneventful, but I stood up for an hour and it gave me time to come to terms with the fact that I really don’t understand Greek at all.

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i think this is how many points we get if the bus hits them

I got off into a monsoon, of course, but I have an umbrella now and it’s not like Zeus is gonna do me any dirtier than Jehova did in the Vatican. The first thing I saw was another protest.

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I didn’t know what it was about, and it was too early and soggy for me to ask. Is it me? Do they gravitate to where I go, like parents with screaming toddlers, or is all of Europe just presently in unrest? I forged ahead.

I crossed the street and found a large sign that advertised “George’s Breakfast”. George knows how to live; an omelette with bacon, toast, tomatoes and cucumbers, coffee with refills, and “free juice”. Juice is a big deal in Greece. I walked in and asked the lady at the counter how I can get the breakfast on the sign.

“Go upstairs and order!” she said. “Is nice!”

I went upstairs and tried to order. The waitress told me that sign was for another store, but they have omelettes here.

Grand.

I bitterly ordered an omelette and was pleasantly surprised to find it enormous.

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I ate this enormous egg pancake and the little scooch of balsamic salad and headed off to the hostel, where I passed out briefly before returning to wander the modern day Agora: a constant flea market that’s right outside.

I’d say I was walking through for about 5 minutes when I was ambushed by a lithe Greek girl in a pencil skirt with very red lips, thrusting a long-stemmed rose at me.

“Here!” she said. “A gift for you!”

“Thank you, but I’m okay,” I said, trying to push it away.

“Is free!”

“I really don’t have any place to put a rose right now, but I really do appreciate it,”

“Is a gift for you! There is festival right now, this is part of it!” she said. “Here, take!”

I was holding the rose now, uncertainly.

“Thank you, but-”

“Is a rose for you because you are very sexy,” she explained. “Very sexy boy, have rose. Here, have two.” And she thrust another rose at me.

“While I agree, I really can’t,” I said, trying to dodge away. “Thank you though.”

“Can I have something for roses?” she asked. “Just one Euro. So hungry.”

“Ah, there it is,” I said. I handed the rose back to her, having to physically close her hand around it. “Thank you. But I don’t want it. Best of luck.”

“Not even one Euro?” she said, outraged, and I was impressed by the range of emotion that played across her face. She was certainly the most convincing actress I’d encountered since the dude in Italy who asked for change and then stared at the side of my head in crestfallen disbelief for thirty seconds when I said I didn’t have any.

Bastardo!” she hissed as she sashayed away. I called, “Hey, how did you know?” after the unsubtle swaying of her hips, sort of like an angry pendulum, but I wasn’t the mark she was after and we were done conversing.

Roseless and exposed, I drifted like the dude from Firewater into a peynirli place. Pedi peynirli is Turkish (whoops) for “bread with cheese), but sweet Athena, it was so much more than that. I ordered the Bolognese because meat has been hard to come by for most of my stay in Europe, and they packed this huge pizza boat full of mincemeat, goat cheese, vegables and an over real-easy egg. Like, potentially raw easy. I was not ascared though, I’m of barbarian stock, I’ve permitted the masquerade of raw eggs in a glass as “breakfast” before.

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I finished and paid for the 6 euro monstrosity with a 20, and the shifty-eyed waitress gave me back 4, which allowed me to finally understand why her eyes had been so shifty. I rolled up to her at the counter and gently explained her “mistake”, too softly for her coworkers to hear, yet. She returned the 10 euros to the stupid, lone American tourist without making a scene.

Back to the hostel, a long-deserved shower and a quick nap. When I woke up I decided to go up to the roof bar for the daily Happy Hour, which I was, of course, an hour late for. A pint of local Greek lager was still only 4 Euros, and two of those were enough to get even my unreasonable Constitution modifier feeling pretty good.

I made friends with a Chilean medica, a student/soldier from South Korea, and a graffiti artist from Austria. We poisoned our bodies extensively and proceeded into the streets to find a dance club the little 25-year-old doctor had read about — or rather, read the tags about. We knew it played “alternative rock” and “electronica”, but everything else was in Greek.

The artist told us that a lot of the graffiti in Athens was really good, although Berlin was sort of the epicenter for the arts in Europe as of now. He pointed out a lot of pieces that I would’ve missed otherwise.

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His own were excellent, but I forgot to grab his details. We made plans to meet up again tonight, though, so I’ll try to get some samples of his work for you tomorrow.

In our bastard travels, we discovered the salvation of the Greek economy: Handle Row. Five consecutive stores down one particular alley, all showcasing the most beautiful doorknobs, sinks, and cupboard handles you had ever seen. Competition was alive and well in Handle Row, and at a glance, the economic Darwinism was evident. Truly a triumph of capitalism.

“There are the most incredible handles I have ever seen,” the artist said.

“We’re witnessing history right now,” I confirmed, nodding. “This is the new Renaissance.”

“I think I’m going to buy one tomorrow,” he said. “For a souvenir.”

“You’ll want to have proof. You’ll want to show your grandkids the artisan Greek handle one day, and tell them, ‘I was there’.”

“It’ll be worth thousands of Euros, one day.”

We slunk back to the hostel at 1 AM and went our separate ways.

All right, that’s enough chronicle for now. I’ve got to go see all these temples.

Love,

The Bastard