Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Europe Part III: Germany

We spent two nights in Germany. The first in a little town in the Rhine Valley called St. Goar, known for it's ice wine and beer steins... and also for having the worlds largest hanging cuckcoo clock!

It's amazing they can harvest the grapes from the vineyards on the steep slopes of the Rhine Valley. Some are as steep as 60 degrees, and they need to use special equipment to reach the grapes without sliding down the hill.

The next day we headed to Munich:

This is the Glockenspeil in the Marienplatz in Munich. Nice building, but the Glockenspeil itself is a bit overrated. Kinda long and boring... and the bells aren't even real anymore, they just play a CD!!

It was no accident we were in Munich during Oktoberfest. But I didn't realize it was the opening day! It was absolutely crazy. So many people! But everyone was amazingly friendly, and it was a great atmosphere. I always thought Oktoberfest was all about the beer, but turns out half the visitors are children! They come for the rides and games.

Most of the tents were closed due to overcrowding by the time we got there, so we waited for a while outside a tent we heard was most popular with the locals. All the beer steins hold exactly 1.1 litres of beer, and these things are heavy! I had to use both hands to drink mine. I admired the waitresses who could carry five steins in each hand!

We finally got inside with the help of a friendly local couple, and were amazed to see how many people were in each tent. This one held over 10,000! And there were 16 tents. Although, I should mention that "tent" doesn't quite describe these buildings. True, they are temporary structures, only erected for the three weeks of Oktoberfest, but these buildings were solid!

Overall, I think Germany wins the "friendliest people" award. Maybe Oktoberfest had something to do with it, but even away from the crowds everyone was super friendly and helpful. I hear that may be a trait of the Bavarians, which sets them apart from Germans in the north who have a reputation for being more stern and reserved.

Europe Part II:Amsterdam

Amsterdam was one of my favourite stops, but I have surprisingly few pictures to share. Probably because it's inappropriate or even illegal to take pictures in a lot of places, such as the Red Light District, or inside Anne Frank's house. But the city was beautiful!

I'm not lost, really:

This is our tour manager singing for us on our Canal Cruise. :)

I highly recommend visiting Amsterdam. It's a beautiful city with something for everyone. Lots of shopping, beautiful canals, fantastic nightlife, loads of history... and something called "Stroopwaffles", these delicious waffle cookies, which I recently discovered you can buy here at the Superstore!


I just can't get enough of the Scotland photos, so here are some more of Edinburgh.

Here's the castle lit up at night:
This spooky gothic monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott:

My dad suggested we check out Rose street, which was great. Lots of cool bars, like Dirty Dicks, the Bad Ass, and Filthy McNasty's! But things were a little slow on a Tuesday night:

This is a path to Calton Hill which reminded me of Labyrinth:

Curvy Street in the Old Town, with great shops:

This is the hostel where we stayed, "Budget Backpackers". I highly recommend it!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Coming Clean

I haven't found the time to go through the 1300+ photos taken on the Europe trip yet, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to come clean about the Ruby photo. In case there was any doubt, this was a joke. Although I did not conceive of the hoax, I was certainly an accomplice! :) It started out as a way of teaching some Photoshop techniques. Then we thought it would be a fun prank to pull on our workmates at Helix, after hearing all of the stories about the building we were in.

Being a skeptic myself, I did not think the hoax would be successful at all. I thought the truth would be revealed within the hour, and did not intend for it to continue for as long as it did. Keep in mind that unless you were at Helix, this photo was not even intended for you. But wow, did it spread fast, and get WAY out of hand! I hear at one point we even had somebody at Harvard verifying the authenticity of the photo!

As time went on, I actually ended up really enjoying all the conversations that were sparked by the photo. It got people thinking about what they believe... life after death, spirits, god. And it revealed a lot about the people who viewed it... who were skeptics and who were believers, who could take a joke and who couldn't! :) I just hope that you believe me now when I say that no malice was intended when this photo was created. All in good fun! :)


Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Urquhart Castle on Loch NessChris falls in a well.
Loch Ness Cruise

"Fightin' Around the World!"

Loch Ness... where's Nessie?

Europe Part I: Scotland

Thought I'd start sharing some photos and stories from our trip to Europe! We landed in London and went straight to Scotland for the first three days.

This is me heading to Hogwart's!
Scottish Highland Lake.

Piper in the Highlands.


Edinburgh Castle at night.

Highland Glen.