Published: August 23rd 2010August 19th 2010
I've been putting off the travel blog for a while and I decided reently to get it going - to keep you informed and to keep me writing and sane. So here's a review of the going-ons in my life for the past month or so:
July 23rd-August 1st
After a journey filled with much confusion, worrying, and, most of all, luck, I made it from London to Dusseldorf airport. I then took a train to Oberhausen hbf. where I met up with Peter, Madhu, Ethan, and Brendan. After many hugs and much story-swapping, we went to our very chic hotel. We had chinese for dinner, found a 24-hour gas station, and celebrated like we only could in Europe. We went to bed early (well, early for eurotripping youth) in anticipation of the next day's event -- the Love Parade.
Right when we stepped onto the crowded train for Duisburg we could sense the vibe of the event. Everyone streamed off when the train arrived and we were greeted with booming techno, thousands of people, and a few helpless policemen -- and, not surprisingly, a totally ignored Jesus-junkie. After walking around for a while we realized a problem: We were poor and beer was insanely pricy. After much deliberating, we decided to get something less popular with the partying crowd and therefore much cheaper. Vodka in tow, we headed for the stage area after a large snack of fries with mayonnaise.
The crowd was gigantic. I mean, really enormously gigantic. There were at least a couple thousand of people already in line for the gate with a seemingly infinite stream of new-comers. We practiced the art of pushing through crowds and got to about the middle of it all. We wanted to see the parade, so instead of pushing through the increasingly dense crowd we opted for a higher elevation. Mimicking a few fellow party-goers, we climbed ontop of a nearby bus stop. We still couldn't see the parade -- I'm still unsure if there ever was an actual parade -- but we did have a pretty good time watching the tens of thousands of people waiting for the gate to the stage area to open.
After an hour or so, the police announced that we would be able to continue shortly. We pushed to relatively near the gate, waited a few minutes, and then were swept along by the powerful rapids of people. We had some difficulty not tripping on the bottle-carpeted street, but soon the crowd loosened up enough for us to run through the tunnel (the infamous tunnel you may have heard of) to the stage area. We weren't too far from the front of the surge so we were able to get right in front of the DJ's surpisingly easily.
The techno thumped and the people jumped along, hands in the air. We finished off our firewater and had a great time going all out with the music. But after a few hours we realized that all club music sounds the same (with the exception of the techno-junky Madhu) and we left to go back to our rooms.
Then came the tunnel. At some point during those few hours the tunnel had turned nightmarish. Police cruisers and ambulances were all over the place and there were a bunch of people sitting with paramedics and one or two even being brought into the ambulances. I'd read that a few people always got hurt at these things but to see it was another thing entirely. Everything returned to normal (as normal as the Love Parade can be) and we got to the train station without a hitch.
Believe it or not, the station was the most densely crowded area I'd been in yet. The police wouldn't let anyone onto the platforms until a train arrived, so we inched along for quite a while. People were beginning to get upset. A shoe was thrown at a policeman, and there was even a threat of riot as a group began countingdown. Thankfully, this never materialized and we got back safe and sound.
All in all, the Love Parade was incredible fun and I'll never forget it for as long as I live. I know many will remember as a tragedy, and while I feel terrible that so many people died I must say I see it as a spectacular success. The trouble occurred in one area at one specific time, and for the vast majority the event was great. There's a lot of the typical media half-truths that get published, so here's what actually happened.
When the stage area was filled to capacity, the police blocked it off. At the END of the tunnel. Some people wanted to push ahead past the barriers while others wanted to leave. This resulted in a mass chaos which probably wouldn't have been a problem if it weren't all trapped within the tunnel. You can imagine and read about the results.
On a lighter note, after the Love Parade we took a bus to Amsterdam. The bus was for long-distance travel between Budapest and Rotterdam (we just filled sits in between, thus the ride's cheapness), and I was happy to get off and away from the cigarrette-stinking Turk who had sat next to me. My aunt Elles and her husband Erwin had lent us their camper for the week, so we headed for the Gaasper campgrounds.
Most of the time we hung out at the campsite and adjacent park or walked around Amsterdam's center and just past it. I would've liked us to see more sites, but I suppose I'm not used to traveling in groups. We did see the "Heineken Experience," a great museum on the art of propoganda and brainwashing (Well, not really. But yah, pretty much). All in all, a good time spent hanging out with friends.
When the guys left (the morning of August 2nd), Erwin and my cousin Mike dropped by to pack up the tent and deliver me from Amsterdam. After dropping Mike off at home in Twisk and meeting briefly with the family, we continued to Elles and Erwin's house in Midwoud.
I can definitely say that the time I spent there will be some of the best of this trip. I got to hang out with two very nice people, eat great homecooking, and I didn't have to worry about catching the next train, finding my next meal, or how much money I'm spending. I did a lot of biking, probably more than twice the amount I've biked in my life, and it was completely worth it. The Dutch countryside consists of farmland punctuated by quaint towns and occasional windmills, and it was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. I went to Schoorl beach for a few days (35km one way, man was I sore), and the combination of forests, dunes, beaches, and dikes within a kilometer of eachother was pretty awesome.
I visited Hoorn three or four times and it's spectacular. It's a medium-sized city north of Amsterdam. The city has a nice feel to it; antiquated yet with a lively vibe. I went on a guided historic walk through the newer (1900's, which is new for a country that wasn't founded only in the 1700's) city with Elles and her friend Yolanda and it was actually mostly interesting. I was lucky to be in the area during the local festival time so Erwin, Elles, Erwin's friend Roger, my cousin Joyce, and I went to the carnival and fireworks show. It was fun hanging out with them, and the fireworks show was one of the most impressive I've ever seen.
Unfortunately, time flies and a guy's gotta move on. I left Elles and Erwin's home and headed for Amsterdam.