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Posts in ‘Travel’

New Era in Life

Nov 20

IMG_0063

My life has been moving forward extremly fast lately, so that I couldn’t keep up with this blog. But I hope the time I can spend on it will get better.

After the Euro-Tour 2008, I was trying to visit most of my family and friends in Germany and of course stop by the original Oktoberfest in Munich. Meanwhile, I had to do some major rearrangements with all the stuff I owned. Sorting out, organizing and reducing were the key words. A big change in my life was about to take place, which made selling my long-lasting Mazda necessary.

I moved to Los Angeles for work and to live (again). After having already spent a year in LA in 2004/2005 to study at the University of Southern California and to work as an intern at the award-winning web agency Hello Design, I decided to come back again with Melody for a longer term.

With a new Era, comes a new Blog theme :-) I’m not done with the design yet. I actually don’t like the color defaults at all and am going to modify them over time. But the Layout is nice and I hope you enjoy it for now.

So, since I have been here, many events have happened that I will just give you a quick overview:

  • Visited the American version of the Oktoberfest in Torrance, CA.
    Accurate German band, but shitty beer.
  • Celebrated Halloween in West Hollywood as Kurt Cobain (Mel was Courtney) and participated in traditional American pumpkin carving with the Mayer family
  • As a citizen of the U.S., I voted for my president Barack Obama and hope he can use his excellence to majorly change the States as we know it today.
  • I saw DANZIG live in concert.
  • I saw Mudhoney live in concert
  • I am becoming a fan of the L.A. Lakers. They’re on fire this season! Watched almost every game.
  • I saw a SUV in the middle of a 6-line freeway missing a wheel?! What the…?
  • Been playing my Fender acoustic guitar, Gibson Les Paul electric guitar (thanks Erik) and Fender fretless bass (thanks Alan)
  • Oh yeah, I almost forgot. We were evacuated from the house, because the fires that you probably saw on the media was heading straight towards where I am living. We packed all our essential belongings and moved to a hotel for 3 days. Luckily the fire men could stop the fire less than a mile away from the house. It was scary watching the fire approach the house on the news from a helicopter camera. But as always, it was less dangerous as it sounded in the media.

IMG_0007 copy IMG_0028 IMG_0040 copy Fire Threat

Euro-Tour 2008 Overview

Oct 07

Eurotrip Map

The complete Euro-Tour 2008 of Melody and me was divided up into six separate tours. The map above shows all our completed tours, each in a different color. We started traveling as we moved away from Paris on May 10th 2008 and have been traveling until October 1st 2008. But not continuously. We had stops at the Cannes Film Festival, in Bavaria and set up our “headquarters” in Berlin. The latter gave us enough time to rest after a tour and prepare for the next. Additionally we could explore Berlin – East Berlin in particular, that I hadn’t discovered yet for myself and was very important to me.
Each tour was an amazing experience. We made so many new friends along the way and have numerous funny stories to tell. I will go into detail on each of the tours a little in following blog posts.

Our traveling methods included air planes, trains, cars, bicycles and tons of walking. Most of the time we were traveling via train because we purchased a Eurail Ticket. That allowed us to travel 10 times on a train, wherever we want to go. This is only valid for non-EU citizens though. EU citizens have to purchase a similar pass called InterRail. For our accommodations, we tried to avoid boring cultural damaging hotels and used the fantastic Couch Surfing platform many times, as well as local pensions (bed & breakfast) or hostels, if necessary.

Generally, we tried to experience as much as we could from each culture and tried to avoid the typical tourists traps. Important was for us to meet the people, talk to them and explore each country by what they tell us. Some things we saw were planned and some were spontaneous, based on the tips the locals gave us.

It all starts by leaving Paris…

European Tour Ending

Sep 23

Hi guys. I just want to say the soon there will be new blog entries coming again.
I was working hard during the Cannes Film Festival and have been on vacation since May. But I’ll share my stories as soon as I can sit down and write some stuff. I usually have been on the computer at internet cafés and was actually enjoying the vacation by avoiding the computer as much as possible. But I have experienced such much that I will have a hard time to write about everything. So check in soon again or subscribe to the rss-feed.

The Journey back to Stuttgart

Jun 10

This was quite an adventure. Here is the route.

Our original plans were to leave Cannes early, drive to Nice to check out the city for a few hours and continue driving to Switzerland to stay over night at a nice bed-n-breakfast in Central Switzerland. But of course, things didn’t work out that way…

Basically we only had problems the all the way to Germany.
It already started in Cannes, when I wanted to start my car. Well, my Fiat was standing all the time I was in Cannes, since it’s ridiculous to drive a car during the film festival. Traffic in the packed city is exhausting and parking impossible, unless you have a reserved parking space. So I stored my car at the Adobe house. But unfortunately the button for the hazard warning lights popped out at some point of time and had to be blinking until the battery went dead. So starting the engine was a small problem. Luckily the house was on a small hill and after help from Vassoula and Melody pushing the car out the car port, I tried to start the car during the roll down the hill. (I learned that from my VW Scirocco, I had about 10 years ago). But no success. The car refused to start…

We didn’t have jumper cables. Bummer. So I decided to call the German Automobile Club ADAC, that I had joined just before I left Germany. I thought something could happen during this journey with my car and didn’t want to take any risks. It was starting to pay off. So they came within an hour and the French mechanic could help me. Once again I noticed how bad my French is, because I could not explain what was wrong to him. But with basic English and many gestures, he actually knew what I was talking about (and I think he liked my Fiat a lot…).

Soon after that, we actually managed to leave Cannes. With my girl friend on my side, the car running smoothly and the convertibles top down, I was ready to take the challenge of the 900 Kilometers ahead of us. But the steady cruise ended just an hour later. Traffic jam – EXTREME traffic jam. Due to our delay leaving Cannes we joined the swarm of people also wanting to leave Cannes. But that wasn’t the main problem. After about an hour of stop and go traffic around Monaco we came to the cause of the problem: a huge fire on the hills around Monaco. We could watch 4 fire fighting aeroplanes refill their water tanks in the Mediterranean See, fly around us and drop their load on the fires. What a show!

Fire around Monaco

We didn’t have any popcorn that goes along with the show, but could have used some, because we started getting really hungry. Getting food in France isn’t always as easy as it sounds. They just love to close down their restaurants for hours in the middle of the day. After trying many different places we had no choice: We had to go to McDonald’s. It simply was the only place to get food at 5 pm in France! Just ridiculous.

Back on the road, we sill had a far way to go. So we basically drove straight through to Milan. It was night by now and had started to rain. It really isn’t fun driving in Italy at night without a navigation system. Their road sign system is indescribably bad. I was constantly confused and drove in the wrong direction. I started to get really pissed. And a bit worried, since one of the head lights kept going on and off. We some how made it the Italian-Swiss boarder and all went well so far, but it was late and we wanted to find a place for the night. Shortly after we agreed to charge our batteries somewhere, we actually found a hotel next to the high-way. Totally exhausted we were looking forward to just falling over on a mattress and sleep. We only had to check in quickly and get a key to a room. But we didn’t get key. The hotel was fully booked. We thought this is a joke. Unfortunately it wasn’t. We had to continue searching for a place to sleep.

Now this might sound not of a big deal, if you are an American reading this. We just take another hotel.
Well, we tried. We tried hard. We tried really hard. As beautiful as I mentioned how Central Switzerland is during the day, that’s how DEAD it is at night. NOTHING was open. Bed-and-breakfasts and hotels close as soon as it gets dark, I believe. After stopping several times and ringing numerous door bells we stopped at the police station to get some help. They weren’t a big help because they didn’t know a place for us to stay. So we had to keep on driving.
We were driving north through the 10 mile long St. Gotthard Tunnel in the middle of the night. Now I have driven through the alps several times before and trough many long tunnels before. Statistically seen, most accidents in tunnels happen through cars overheating and catching fire or head-on collisions by getting on the incoming lane. Tunnels like these are dangerous (some stats).
But these known dangers didn’t concern me, because it already had gotten very cold in the alps and the car was running fine. So the danger of over-heating was unlikely occur. But what about hitting incoming traffic? Now this is were it gets really weird: There wasn’t any.

During the whole 10 mile drive through this scary tunnel not a single car passed me and I could only see tail lights in the far distance in front of me – nobody behind me. When you know that this is one of the most busy alps-passes, where 20.000 cars drive through every day, you start to feel like Tom Cruise on Times Square in the movie Vanilla Sky. Driving overtired on this monotonous lane in this concrete tunnel where not a soul is in sight feels like Lucifer is awaiting you at the end. You start imagine those tail-lights in front are his red eyes.

Hell on Earth

At the end of the tunnel it actually almost was hell for us. Cold hell though. Snow everywhere and hard rain!! We are in a convertible with no heating system. It had to be detached, because coolant was leaking out of it. This is just fantastic. What else could go wrong?! How about that the only place open was a luxurious 5-star hotel directly at a lake. Nice – but very expensive. But also the only place open and it was too cold to sleep in the car. Sometimes I really do like credit cards. This was 2 hours after we saw the last hotel receptionist. It’s 4 am now and I’m not going to talk about what our tiny single bed room cost for the few hours of sleep we could get, before we had to check out again.

Seehotel

All refreshed, we had some first-class breakfast the next morning, before we continued the last part of the journey. That sure was a nice way to start the day.
The rest of the travel wasn’t so spectacular. Well, that would be a lie.

The Fiat started to cause problems. We have been noticing some light fumes in the car all the way. That’s normal for old cars and I knew that there used to be a problem with the oil pan, that my Dad and I fixed last summer. But the fumes got more intense, the closer we got to Germany. On a regular basis I stopped to look under the hood and check the oil. The car wasn’t really loosing oil in a dramatic way, but it definitely was loosing some. It seamed that it’s coming directly from the engine, which is not good (a side that repairs will cost a fortune for this). So some oil was dropping directly onto the muffler and caused all the fumes. I knew we’ll make it to Stuttgart though, but the problem was, that the toxic oil fumes really starting effecting us. So we had to take many breaks not to pass out, but that was fine. What was surprising was how cold it was in Germany. There was a 20 degree Celsius (68 degree in Fahrenheit) temperature drop from one day to the other. Of course, we got to Germany the second day. This kind of drop doesn’t happen very often and it was just determined to happen, while we are doing our only longer drive with my car for the summer.

Well, that’s it – long story. A lot always happens on road trips. That’s why I love them so much.

All in all, I think that this was something like a big test for me and Mel, how we would handle all these unusual nail-biting situations together and i think we did extremely well. We didn’t fight at all, even though being tired we were a bit grouchy at each other. But when it was most important, we were there for each other and give each other support. It really showed how well we get along and I give this test an A+ with a shooting-star!

Mel and Harry in Cannes 2007

Road Trip from Stuttgart to Cannes

May 17

So, I arrived at the French Riviera after a 900 km drive in a total of 12 hours, crossing the Alps, passing three country borders and experiencing various climate changes with no major problems.

Haven’t ever really been driving my Fiat, it was great that my journey started in Stuttgart, a location I’m very familiar with. It was also perfect getting used to the car by first traveling on the German Autobahn south to the German-Swiss border at Lake Constance (Bodensee), before entering a not so familiar country. During the journey, I saw some incredible things.
The Autobahn I used passes Rottweil, the oldest city in Baden-Württemberg, which was new to me, as well as the river Danube, that I know from my home town. But it was just a small creek there – weird for me to see. Some amazing ruins on hill tops from mid evil are near the border, which would have been worth visiting, if I had more time.

Passing the border was no big deal. The Swiss customs even let me in with a keg of original Bavarian beer from Weltenburg that I brought along for the Adobe crew. Officially you can only enter Switzerland with a max of 2 Liters alcohol. I entered with 10. Next on the route was passing Zurich (Zürich). Zurich is the only city on my trip that doesn’t have a by-pass for cars. So a lot of traffic goes through the city itself. I lost a little bit of time there, but at least my car got a lot of looks from the locals. So, basically I had to travel completely through Switzerland from north to south using the St. Gotthard tunnel as the pass through the Alps. But that was still a few hours away. Getting there I passed some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

After Zurich there is this really nice lake called Lake Zug and the cute town Arth directly at the south end of the lake. But really mind blowing is central Switzerland. The impressions around the Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstätter See) were just too surreal to be true. High mountains with snow peaks and cliffs directly hitting the surface of the crystal clear water and powerful south winds blasting through this steep valley creating perfect conditions for the wind surfers, who were out that day. According to the numerous and other bad ass cars I saw, like two 1960s Ford Mustangs and a AS Cobra, real estate prices must be really high in this area. The nature in this area was just too breathtaking to put into words. Soon after I arrived at the Gotthard Road Tunnel (St. Gotthard Tunnel), a 17 km long tunnel that records over 800 accidents in 20 years and 30 deaths. So knowing this, it’s a bit scary driving trough this tunnel with a car that could break down any minute. But all went well.
The crazy thing was that the side I entered had completely different whether conditions, than the other side of the tunnel. Driving into the tunnel it was nice sunny and going out there was rainfall and it was a bit cold. But it cleared up very fast and then more indescribable impressions waited for me: The rain created waterfalls dropping off mountain cliffs that every base jumper is dreaming of. From there on it went down hill.

Shortly after that, I hit the Swiss-Italian border. It was very crowded there and I had to wait a bit in traffic. With the car been running constantly well for hours, the strong sun and warm temperatures the wait was quite comfortable. Not so enjoyable was that the temperature of the coolant rapidly climbed from 190° F t0 250° F. I assumed that either a hose of the coolant broke and therefore the coolant didn’t cool the motor any more. But that wouldn’t have the effect of the fluid constantly getting hotter. So the coolant isn’t being cooled down anymore. The only reason for that is that since the car is standing now and not moving anymore, the air stream to cool down the coolant, produced by a forward movement, wasn’t existent any longer. So the best I could do is to shut off the motor as often as possible to stop creating more heat. That worked out fine and after the border the car was moving again and the temperature went back to normal. :-) Lucky me.

Driving through Italy wasn’t much of a blast. There’s basically just a lot of agriculture around Milan and south of that. But a lot of Italians recognized my car and I could see a lot of smiles on the Italian faces in the cars that past me. Especially the women in the 50s like it a lot. I guess I released some memories.
It felt kind of nice bringing a Fiat back home, which was build 1979 in Turin, which is just around the corner, and then directly exported to another continent and stayed there for 15 years.

The last part of the trip from Italy to Cannes was a bit exhausting. A lot of dried out vegetation and hills and not much to see. When you travel for hours, mostly on highways over mountains and hills, through numerous tunnels it is really weird to exit a tunnel and all of a sudden there is nothing in front of you. Because there is was: the Mediterranean See. All I had to do now is follow the cost of the Italian and French Riviera, past Nice to Cannes to finally arrivea at my destination. All went well the last part, but it really take a bit traveling the cost highway…

So I arrived in Cannes and all the preperations are running on full speed to make the 60th Cannes Film Fesitival one of the best ever. I really wish I had found my camera. That’s why I don’t have pics. But Mel has a camera here in Cannes so some pics are to come.

Ready for Cannes

May 12

The first big adventure I’m posting here, is my trip to the Cannes Film Festival starting tomorrow morning. I was invited by Adobe USA to help at the American Pavillion, where they are located, during the festival. Check out their web site made for this year’s festival. I especially like the movie “Cannes-o-Ramma: Tales from the French Riviera” from the privious year emerging director award winner Melody Mayer. You can find that in the section “At the Theater”.

Now the adventure will already begin by getting there. I’m neither flying nor taking the train. I’m actually driving down there with my car that just passed the strict German inspections and the time consuming registration process. It’s a 1979 Fiat Spider that I bought a few years ago on ebay.com. I had it shipped from L.A. to Germany and then did many repairs to it, to actually be able to drive it legally on German soil. I still couldn’t drive it today, if it weren’t for my friend Daniel Winter, with whom I had in exciting road trip getting the car at the harbour in Bremen, my brother Martin, who got the car after the gear box destroyed itself on the travel from Bremen to Baveria. And especially my Dad, who I have spent many hours with fixing the baby and he actually did a lot of extra hours to get repairs done, I didn’t have time for myself.

Eventhough I got new rims, this is basically the car I will be driving for about 10 hours through 4 countries (Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France) until I arrive in Cannes. What will happen there is yet to come…

FiatSpider1979