It couldn’t last forever. Alas, our flight home loomed within our futures, and we were soon due to return to Canada. We had fit more into our weeks in Europe than we ever could have hope for, but as the remainder of our time there dwindled we felt determined to squeeze in one more party at the end of it all. Being set to return to Amsterdam for a brief stay before catching a plane from there we decided to find a rowdy concert in the city.
While still in London and a few days away from returning to Amsterdam, I visited the website of Paradiso, the long ago church turned music venue that over the years has hosted a range of talented and inspiring acts. There was only a handful of artists listed whose performances were not yet sold out and which corresponded with our timeline, so of those we picked one on a whim: Beans & Fatback. None of us was familiar with their name or a single song the band had written, but after sampling a couple of tracks we decided theirs was an energetic style that we would be happy to take part in live.
Anyone who knows much of anything about Brussels has likely heard of the Manneken Pis (or “Pissing Boy”), and those who have not would quickly become familiar with the fountain upon visiting the city. Its image is everywhere in gift shops there: printed on shirts, decorating steins, and in the form of miniature figurines each with a corkscrew for a penis. As for the full-scale, authentic statue, he is located near the Grand Place, perched high and urinating into a basin.
The Clash, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden − modern music might lack much of any edge if not for London, home to some of the biggest catalysts in the history of punk, rock and metal. As a fervent fan of these styles I had long looked forward to seeing the same streets that had birthed so many legendary acts. At last I was on my way to walk those streets myself.
We were feeling quite at home by the end of our stay in Germany, and therefore our leaving was with a degree of regret. This however was mixed with anticipatory delight as we looked forward to visiting another country hitherto unseen by any of our group. We were off to France. Continue reading
While we were in Germany, amidst all the family, food, music, beer, beer and more beer, we managed to find time to rent a car for a couple of long distance excursions. One of these was a planned day trip to Italy.
The drive to the Italian border was to take just over two hours via the Fern Pass through Austria, so by leaving in the morning we could make it to Italy with plenty of afternoon left for us to explore the country before having to drive back. In fact we seemed so unconstrained by time that we decided to make an early stop along the way to see the palaces of Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein, both of them former residences of King Ludvig II. Days later we would head on a separate drive northward through Germany and visit Heidelberger Schloss while spying several other such fortresses along the way, and cries of “Look at that castle!” would become gradually less enthusiastic with each consecutive sighting until waning down to compulsory acknowledgements of “Oh, look, another castle…” But those structures formerly of Ludvig’s were the first of their kind for us to witness, and so we took time to gaze at their exteriors and wander their vicinity. Perhaps if not in such awe of their majesty our visit might have been briefer, and our timing more propitious.
This was what we came here for.
After an overnight train from Amsterdam to Munich, followed by a breakfast of sausage, sauerkraut, and beer at the Hofbräuhaus, we caught a second locomotive to Memmingen and trekked with bulging hikers’ backpacks from the station to the bordering community of Memmingerberg. That is where we found the object of our quest. We knew its general location to be there, though we were unaware of its exact proximity. So it was truly serendipitous when we discovered it just two doors down from our apartment rental. There it stood upon a grassy hill, a simple wooden bench affixed with a plaque bearing words which brought moistness to the eyes of my wife and in-laws:
You would think a murder might have taken place.
Not that I don’t get along excellently with my wife’s parents and brother, but with any five family members spending three weeks on end together navigating foreign countries a breaking point is bound to occur. Thankfully with us that point was seldom reached, despite our dwelling as a group in mainly small apartments booked through Airbnb. And the first home we rented, in Amsterdam, was the smallest of them all.
But we immediately felt charmed by that apartment, and its neighbourhood, and the beautiful city they belong to where life is peaceful and things make sense and there is always something of interest just a short tram or bicycle ride away. Continue reading