Day 1

Kassel Travel Blog

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The trip over was gratefully uneventful. Dropped off hours and hours early at the airport, I was able to breeze through security without blowing in a tube from any orifice; without giving up, voluntarily or otherwise, any samples of body fluid; without having my belongings thrown unceremoniously and unabashedly around the security checkpoint; and generally without trouble. The TSA did, however, find it necessary to separate an 8 year old girl from her parents, pat her down, and go through every piece of clothing in her carry-on luggage. Thanks for protecting our country from little girls, you merciless bastards, and for probably scarring that poor child into not ever wanting to travel again.

Once in the terminal and at the gate, I realized how little i actually had with me to do.
For hours I practiced staring down little kids with an evil eye and making them feel guilty and unwelcome -- I'm thinking about becoming an airport security agent. People trickled into the gate, tossing their belongings unceremoniously on the seats around them and dropping into a chair. I went through two more chapters in a marketing textbook and didn't pass the time idly chatting with my fellow passengers. I thought about it, though. Instead, however, every time it looked like someone might start up a conversation with me, i'd snap my textbook closed, grab up my backpack and sweep out into the walkway -- all unintentional, of course; these are just my perfected social communication skills at work.

Boarding was uneventful, and i was seated next to a girl who, coincidentally, also lived in Kassel -- She was coming back from a foreign exchange program in Kentucky.
We passed the time by scowling at the food (which i thankfully didn't have to eat -- i'd smuggled $40 in Clif bars onto the plane), scowling at the cramped seats, and scowling at the movie selection of the plane's entertainment system. I was able to find a cache of classical masterpieces and, hey, James Brown.
The ride itself didn't consist of much. I limited my walking around the cabin due to being in a window seat and not wanting to bother the girl between the aisle and myself, so i spent much of the time catching up on literature. Fortunately there were no excitements during the journey, and the majority of the passengers spent the few hours between dusk and dawn (flying east, we left an evening and entered a morning less than 5 hours later) sleeping. A young woman in the row in front of me had brought her little girl, around 2 years old, on the trip.
She was entertained by my faces over the headrests, but broke into a loud wail as soon as i stopped. Despite my best efforts, she wouldn't quit crying, and i buried my nose in my book as her poor mother was roused out of a nap to soothe her. Wasn't me. For the rest of the ride (this was maybe 5 hours into the 7.5 hour flight), the girl would wail for 10 minutes, pause and rest for 2, wail for 10 minutes... I couldn't help feeling a bit responsible, but fortunately the rest of the cabin didn't know that. They just gritted their teeth as they could no longer sleep away the flight, and glared at the poor mother as they 'happened to' walk by. One woman even stopped and suggested the mother try something or other to get the girl to stop crying. I was even embarassed. I felt like i should do something -- pat a sympathetic hand on the mother's shoulder, pick up the girl, and go flush her down the airplane toilet.
Those things will swallow anything.
No longer interested in marketing procedures, not that i could concentrate on it anyway, I found a biography of Thomas Jefferson in my bag and spent the rest of the flight in the late 18th century.
When the James Brown ran out, i broke out my music selection and set it to shuffle. Entering into the final leg into Frankfurt, as the plane descended through the ceiling (at 7,000 feet, if you were wondering) and my ears began to pop from the change in pressure, Van Morrison's "Starting a new life" shuffled onto the playlist, the little girl in front of me began crying again, and i smiled.
When the folks picked me up from the airport, i was greeted by the long lost mutt. A few other dogs were waiting here and there in the airport as well. She was able to go with us to the airport, on the tram, running errands...
Humans are almost as welcome in most places as dogs are.
We drove back to the house where i went through a whole series of events resulting from my mistaken belief that it was 5 or 6pm when it was in fact about 1030am.  I unpacked and asked if there were a pants-press or steamer in the house.  "What kind of clothes did you bring?" i was asked accusingly.  Apparently my fashion is slightly more formal than it need be.  Following a shower and a pipe out on the terrace , the pops and i sat out and talked about traveling. He mentioned that he had some German friends who had recently gone to the US and were appalled by the indignity there. Never before had they been subjected to such an intolerable chain of security-justified and humiliating events. I don't think they plan on returning to the US.
We ate a small meal and left with a rough itinerary.  On the tram i was humbled to discover that the dog rode much more smoothly than i did.  I forgot to hold on several times and trod on several toes of unamused passengers.
We visited The Cascades: Water is let out over a tower way off in the distance, and, over the following hour,cascades from pond to bluff to steppes to rapids... It ends up in a fountain closer to where we were willing to walk, and we posed for several pictures before heading back to a tram (which we missed) to make it back to the house and then on to a festival.
We hopped on another tram following dropping off the dog and grabbing some refreshments.  Walking across a fairgrounds and past a ferris wheel with several themes (e.g. dinner had been served the evening prior; the folks had eaten there), we meandered eventually to the festival grounds.  What was the festival for? What, you need a reason to drink beer and eat brats now?

We were just surrounded by booths of food and drink and music, people everywhere. Beer is served in glass and food is served on actual plates -- Deposits are put down with the vendor for the dinnerware, then returned when the dishes are. No paper prodcuts, we received just one plastic cup -- i think we were able to return even that.  I could be very comfortable here with this mentality.
We ambled with glasses of beer and wine, stopping here and there to check out the foods and attractions.  Heart attacks and cholesterol waited behind the counter of every booth, and we discussed the eating and drinking habits of most Germans.  I took off to find a restroom, and followed several pointing fingers after asking in jilted German for them.  I found a small booth and identified a man walking out of one door, so i headed for that one.  As soon as i got in the door i turned around and walked back out.  There was someone in the restroom already.  I waited my turn, then went inside following a strange sidelong glance from him.  I realized my mistake as i walked in the door -- from the size of the room, i had assumed it was a single bathroom.  Indeed, it was only about 2 meters square, but three urinals, a toilet and a sink were mounted to the walls inside.  While washing his hands, a man would be literally back to back with another at a urinal.  I made a mental note to make these visits as infrequent as possible.
Following a short meal (which consisted of three more wheat beers for me), we took turns waiting in a line for the musical attraction of the evening, waiting to save a few seats.  Whatever description i was given of the music beforehand, I wasn't prepared for what we actually saw -- any description wouldn't nearly do it justice, and, in retrospect, the surprise made it that much better. About a half hour and several more wheat beers later, we made it into the tent and settled down.
As the lights dimmed out and the group took their places, i watched the crowd.  Mostly young adults, mid-twenties or earlier, crowded standing around the stage.  Many wore T-shirts with phrases i didn't understand but with connotations that didn't require transliteration. Older individuals straggled through the crowd, mostly as couples, and ended up in the stands on the benches.  The young people apparently had too much energy for that and bristled and bumped into one another on the floor.  As the lead of the group started speaking in German, i turned my attention to the stage instead. 
The music: Think Fogging Molly-style hard punk action (people stomping and jumping up and down -- basically a big mosh pit), but to -- wait for it -- the most hard-core, electronic polka I've ever heard. I just cracked up every few minutes at the thought of the whole scene. Don't get me wrong, the music was great (albeiit loud -- again, this was the equivalent of a club scene... but to polka); I just found the scene entertainingly droll.  If i could polka, i would have been right up next to the stage going crazy with it.  The music was that catching, but fortunately, while i had enough beer in me to really get into the tunes, i didn't have quite enough to get up and show everyone how i really couldn't polka at all. Not that this crowd would have cared in the least.
Dozens of young kids out on the floor, clapping and stomping and jumping around. Up on the stands were the old fogeys. A few in the stands sat still and just passively observed, but the rest of us, despite not actually getting up to groove out on the floor, couldn't help but clap and stamp our feet in time to the music.
I finally ran out of beer and couldn't avoid a trip to the restrooms any longer, so i set out across the floor in search for a way out.  I stuck my arms out in front of me, closed my eyes, and ran straight through the crowd to the other side.  I made it through, but unfortunately missed the door and ran into the side of the tent.  A sympathetic woman grabbed my shoulders and directed me to the actual exit -- apparently i wasn't the first one to do this.
I made it outside and was surprised that it was still light out. Nothing made it into that tent, but that certainly didn't work the other way around -- I could hear little besides the music just a few feet away from the door, and i staggered down the walkway, disoriented and deafened.
I ran into Kelly just a few yards from the tent and accepted a new beer from her.  She said something, but i couldn't hear a word of it.  Following another escapade in the restroom, i found the folks and stood around with them.  What we did could be called conversing, but due to us all being half-deaf, we leaned closely to hear each other, and responded with raised voices, unaware we were doing so.  We met up with the others with whom we'd gone into the tent, milled about, and eventually found a car and headed for home.
After three days with a grand total of 8 hours of sleep between them, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow, lights still blazing and music still on.
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111 km (69 miles) traveled
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photo by: Ils1976