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the beautiful destruction

Sunday, September 25, 2005

WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE

GREETINGS FROM GERMANY
Pictured: A contemplative Mr. Newton, reflected in glass, relaxing on a train bound for Cologne, Germany.

It's mid-morning on Thursday the 15th of September and the sun has crested the mountains that shelter the Rhine Valley. Alongside the river, ancient castles sprout from the hillsides, spying on the valley below; small villages are arranged like rows of neatly planted crops along the banks of the river. The train is quiet and fast. The air is thick but still. It's hard to imagine the freedom of two weeks on vacation (um, holiday). The pressure to make the most of your time, and partake in something incredible or life-changing is somewhat daunting. However, I'm up to the challenge.

Michelle, my wife, is my co-pilot on this trip. I was going to say she's the navigator, but I've discovered I have an affinity for reading maps and have been taking charge of our walking routes.

We're bound for Cologne on the recommendation of a fellow passenger, a young and friendly German woman, who insisted we couldn't miss seeing Cologne during our travels. She mentioned that we "must" see The Dom--a massive medieval church built before the time of The Crusades.

The Dom in Cologne
Pictured: The Dom in Cologne, as seen from the front doors of the train station. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the whole building in one picture.

One of the most astounding things to me about Germany (and Europe for that matter)is its sense of history. American culture is still relatively wet-behind-the-ears, a mere 225 or so years old. The history is palpable inside a building like The Dom in Cologne. Statues of knights line the walls, ornate stained glass designs glisten in the sunlight, and intricate mosaic patterns are embedded in the hard concrete floors. The remains of bishops and medeivel clerics are kept here for safe keeping. Centuries of warfare have somehow left the building unscathed. But also, the strange cultural juxtaposition in a city like Cologne is sometimes just as interesting as the history itself.

Several blocks from The Dom, there are souvenir shops, McDonalds (of course), and a host of German fast food spots. And life goes on, rumbling in the foreground of a city that, upon a quick glance, looks no different than any American city on an average workday. Morning commuters tear past in tiny cars, and pedestrians file through the streets, rushing to their next destination. Oblivious mothers wreck their strollers into your shins; businessmen talk on cell phones while walking, smoking cigarettes, and talking with their hands. Life among the living can feel cold, wherever your coordinates may be on the global map.

But, just as at home, warmth can be found in like-minded individuals. After walking a handful of blocks into the city, Michelle and I stumbled across a small vegetarian restaurant--the first we've seen so far. The woman working the counter was kind, speaking with us at length about the different food available. I ate chick pea stew and drank a small bottle of Coca-Cola (how American of me). Michelle opted for water and a bowl of split pea soup. The resaurant was cozy, part Bohemian, part art deco design. I felt relaxed.

Friday, September 16, 2005

GREETINGS FROM DEUTSCHLAND

FREE GERMAN MUSTACHE RIDES
Pictured: German photojournalist I couldn't stop looking at... I know he has to have won contests with that crumb catcher of his... yikes.

Michelle and I survived the 8 hour plane flight stuffed in steerage (i.e. economy class), cruised through customs, and met up with an angry-as-fuck German cab driver once on the ground in Frankfurt. This motherfucker grumbled to himself, in German, the entire time we drove to the hotel. Very uncomfortable to say the least. The next several days consisted of work, work-related dinners, more work, a little bit more work, followed by some work, and topped off with a heaping helping of, err, work. Then the real adventure began.

We struck out on our own yesterday, leaving Frankfurt and the motor show behind. Frankfurt was nice, but somewhat drab. They've got a clusterfuck of addicts, whinos, and the like congregating around the train station. And the Red Light District, which was a block from our hotel, was sketchy at best. However, the motor show was incredible. The auto industry (worldwide) has far too much money to spend, and it shows in the cash they're willing to drop to wow journalists and consumers alike. Frankfurt did yield some good photography though. I stumbled across a stockpile of fantastic murals, graffiti, and street art (I'll post some pix as soon as possible).

The first stop on our journey was the city of Cologne--about two hours north of Frankfurt. Cologne was a sort of last-minute change of plans. A woman we met on the train said we HAD to see the city. So, luckily, we caved to peer pressure. As soon as you leave the train station in Cologne, you're greeted by the mammoth 12th century architecture of The Dom... basically, the largest church you'll ever see in your life. Its architecture is medievel, with tall spires reaching for the sky, dwarfing the rest of the souvenir shops, boutiques, and corporate offices that surround. We only stayed a few hours in the city, but managed to find a great vegetarian restaurant that served chick pea stew and some sort of pea soup thing that was awesome. And, I bought a Coke in a little tiny bottle--and it was actually cold (Germans don't care much for refrigeration, a lesson we've learned after drinking every liquid at room temperature since we arrived).

We're in Freiburg today, a city that requires me to post pictures for you to understand. Also, yestersay we were in Mainz and met several colorful characters. The old German desk clerk here has just asked that I stop using the computer so he can use it... he looks angry. I could probably take him in a fight, but don't want to cause an international incident.

More news from the road soon.

Matt & Michelle.

Friday, September 09, 2005

WISH YOU WERE HERE

BERLIN-FRIEDRICH
Pictured: Vintage postcard from Berlin.

Tomorrow at this time, I'll be en route to the Pittsburgh International Airport where I'll board a 747 bound for Frankfurt, Germany. Two weeks spent in the belly of the Deutschland, and ending in the hub (Amsterdam) of the Nederland... moo-ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.... sorry, it's hard to do a crazed and maniacal laugh without the aid of sound.

This trip really snuck up on me. Although Michelle and I have talked about and planned it for some time now, the past couple weeks have gone by at super sonic speed: Life has been busy, work has been intense, and freelance work has been even more intense. However, it's all been worth it. Sure, I've still got some work ahead of me--I'm writing articles like a man on borrowed time--but the spirit of adventure and the excitement of the unknown that lies ahead is wonderful.

I picked up a new journal the other day, and plan on documenting the trip in great detail. I'm actually doing an assignment for Vapors magazine while I'm in Berlin, checking out the Back Jumps festival. I'm hoping that I'll be able to post at least a couple entries here while I'm traveling. We'll see.

Once again, I apologize for my lack of entries these past couple weeks. Life has been way too hectic. I have several big projects in the oven right now (assignments that have really changed the way I look at things... okay, I'll spill it, I've become a Mormon... ha, just fuckin' jokin'... but really, I feel like I'm finally starting to do work that is actually important), so when I return, there will be lots to talk about. Not to mention, travel photos and travel stories.

Until we speak again, keep fightin' the good fight.


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