Wednesday, 17 May 2017

TUN to ORY to Cologne to SZG


Time to check out and find a taxi
I stumble into a taxi right in front of the hotel gate.  At first I didn’t recognize the yellow car as a taxi, but when I already look elsewhere, he shouts Taxi? And at the same time puts his taxi sign on the roof. 
Again,  we’re driving at a fixed rate, but at least it’s 25 Dinar this time (pre-negotiated) instead if 40. And I got scammed AGAIN, but they're just SO really GOOD at it, LOL.  Reality check: How far does a CAD$13 taxi ride get you in your neighbourhood?

At the airport I remember what I read in the internet: It is ILLEGAL to take Tunisian Dinars from the country and they do spot checks.  So that is why they have all those Foreign exchange booths here. Unfortunately only one of 15 is open.  You can imagine the line-up at the single open one ;-(
I want to exchange US$ 20 for more Dinar to be able to have some wine and a crepe before I go through security. When I have ALMOST reached the front of the line 15 minutes later, the young guy behind me informs me that on THIS FLOOR (Departures) they only exchange TND to foreign currencies.  To change my $20 to Dinar, I’ll have to go to the Arrivals level.   It’s NOT complicated, but it’s a steep learning curve, LOL.

After this ordeal I head outside for a smoke.  Tunisia also uses the Turkish approach of X-raying your luggage and sending you through a metal detector JUST to let you into the airport.  Proper Security (aka the suntan-lotion thieves) comes later!  When I get outside for my cigarette, I realize that the weather has turned into a ‘proper’ desert day.  Barely a cloud in the sky and the distant hills are hidden behind a haze from the sand and dust that a strong wind has stirred up.

After the smoke, my check-in counter is finally open. But progress is GLACIAL. Something about the papers of the first two people in line (Remember this is a flight from Africa to PARIS !)

While waiting uselessly in a line that is not moving, I have plenty of time to look around.   And I can't take my eyes off this man's OUTFIT.  I have no idea where he is from but I LOVE the outfit.  It took me a while to get a sneaky shot in.  His wife was dressed similarly but with more floating layers and warmer colours.

With all the formalities taken care of, it's time to eat:

I try to order a crepe and a small bottle of wine.  No SMALL bottles of wine left, only BIG bottles.  They have 4 different kinds of BIG Rose, so I order a cheap one for $5 (might as well leave the bottle behind for another infidel).  But then he rings it in at $15. WTF? The cheap BIG bottles are all out too, LOL.  I get a Becks beer.

The kitchen is mighty slow delivering my crepe. But when It arrives I finally realize why: OMG it’s pretty ;-)

Best Banana&Nutella crepe ever !  Although half an hour later I realize I simply ate too much ;-(


Now back to the Exchange booths to get rid of my left-over Dinars.   Now almost all the booths are open, so the line-up is short. He asks for my passport and the EXCHANGE receipt.  

Good thing I still have the one from earlier. 
If you draw money out of an ATM, make sure you keep the receipt, otherwise they won’t let you re-exchange your Tunisian Dinars !

Perfect Signage.  Who cares where the Washrooms are as long as I know where the smoking lounge is, LOL
 At exactly the boarding-time that is specified on my boarding pass my questioning of an airport official finally reveals that the airport has changed the boarding gate.   The REAL gate is at the OPPOSITE side of the airport. MERDE !  I run at first, but then walk and even stop for a last smoke at one of the MANY smoking lounges.   I board the plane in time and as I had anticipated, MANY other people noticed the gate change later than I did.  So we’re taking off 15 minutes late, waiting for the crowd that spent their time in Duty Free and panicked at the last moment.

The plane lands at Orly 20 minutes late.  Passport control is quick and I’m having my first smoke.  Now HOW do I get to my hotel?

Good thing my phone roams in France.  Google Maps shows me that I only have to change from the Orly Bus to the Metro and the latter will deliver me almost all the way to my hotel.
Of course, the Orly bus gets stuck in a nightmarish traffic jam on the highway.  NO bus lanes ;-(

NOT only do those selfish bastard car drivers waste their own time, but they ALSO affect people who choose NOT to plug the roads and take public transit. 
graffiti at a Highway overpass 
MERDE, will people EVER learn that the CAR is humanity’s worst scourge?

After the switch to Metro line 5 things move quickly.  
Unfortunately I get off at Gare du Nord, one station too early, so I have to walk a little bit further.   The more I walk North from Gare du Nord, the more I enter something like Vancouver’s Downtown East-side.   Poverty and hopelessness lead to drug use. Nothing new.  The only difference here is that the drug use is less visible and that the roles of White and Native down-and-outs is played by black and brown French people.   But the lack of hope visible in their eyes is EXACTLY the same.  Shame. 

And THIS is probably the spot to publicize this little tidbit:  Vancouver’s Downtown East-side is where the CHEAP Vancouverite goes to score a CHEAP date (read: hire a hooker for a quick BJ in the car). Later when they talk to their buddies, they talk about dirty Indians again, but apparently they’re good enough to provide the relief that the wife refuses to provide.    In Germany, in particularly big cities like Berlin, underage refugees, also talked of as SCUM by the general German population, give those same Euro 50 blow-jobs to those SAME upright proper Germans.  And just casually glancing around my present surroundings, I can see the same is going on here.  
So whenever you hear someone talking bad about a poorer visible minority in your city, you can almost bet that the same person uses that minority for cheap entertainment.     So there, I caught you with your pants down, YOU BASTARDS, LOL.

I check in, make an instant coffee with luke-warm tap water, and head back out to Brasserie something that I passed on the way here.
Let's have Coquillages avec Frites.  I don’t really know WHAT I’m ordering, except that it is has shells, but that’s OK.  When it arrives, I instantly recognize it as Moules Frites, only that it also contains clams in addition to the standard mussels.  The broth left over in the bowl is SO GOOD that I use ¼ of the brioche loaf I bought on the way here for 1 Euro to soak it all up.

During a smoke break, one of the obviously affected, but not unsympathetic local youth asks me whether I was looking for some Hashish or Marijuana.  I make sure to say No, MERCI !  Never be rude without reason.

Pink rises above the roofs of Paris.  Nice ;-)
Time to drink luke-warm instant coffee made with tap-water and munch on the Brioche fortuitously discovered yesterday.  
 7:15 time to leave !

 Gare du Nord is packed and features a HUGE line-up for MY train. Great, the beast will be packed.  Since they only allow people on the platform 20 minutes to departure and strangely every one of today's Thalys passengers has their luggage X-rayed and has to step through a metal detector, things are a bit slow.  But what REALLY delays the departure by 5 minutes is all those Fucking Suitcases !   Yes, every car has suitcase departments at the ends and the train has overhead luggage storage over the seats.  But people are taking TOO MUCH LUGGAGE with them. So it takes me 15 minutes from the door of the train to my seat.   WHAT is it with all those SUITCASES???  Are people carrying along a personal paddle boat and a fridge?   My itinerary is Germany-Paris-Tunisia-Salzburg-Istanbul-Germany and I still have room in my small backpack AND that backpack contains a laptop computer.  And I STILL haven't worn even half the clothes that I'm carrying around.  Go figure, LOL.

While boarding I hear a group of young men talking to each other in a foreign language.  But somehow the language sounds FAMILIAR, even though at first I can't put my finger on it.   Then it hits me.  It's FINNISH.  I've binge-watched the TV show Sorjonen (Bordertown) on Netflix about a week ago, and the intonations and speaking rhythms of my co-passengers are IDENTICAL to that in the show.  NOT bad, considering I don't even speak a SINGLE word of Finnish, LOL

While Thalys is barreling with 300 km/h through the slightly undulating landscape of the French countryside and I get this yearning to be OUT THERE on a bicycle. 

I fall asleep.  Trains are great that way.

I head to the Bistro Car just before the train reaches Brussels. Lucky coincidence really. That way I can traverse the 4 cars in between on the station platform with a cigarette and don't have to fight my way through a jumble of arms, legs, and even heads extending into the center aisle again.  I've never seen SO many people sleeping on a day train.  
The Atomium?  This must be Brussels ;-)


I'm back at Maredo right by Cologne Central Station.  Using the free Wifi on Thalys, I had already figured out that one of their weekly specials would be Schnitzel Wiener Art with Pommes Frites.  
How did I ever travel without the internet?????  Although this time, the benefit is marginal. The food at Maredo is German food as I remember it: Meat (breaded and fried), potatoes (deep-fried), ZERO vegetables.  If the saying that the food of a nation is a window to that nation's soul, then NOTHING surprises me anymore about Germany LOL. 

Speaking of which, Germans DID surprise me during the last month.  In consecutive elections in 3 Laender, they re-elected the party of Chancelloress Merkel (Yes, that's the woman with a Ph.D. in Physics who allowed ONE MILLION refugees into Germany and initiated a shut-down of Nuclear power in favour of Solar, Wind, and other renewable energy within 2 weeks after the Fukujima disaster.)  Many observers including me were afraid after violence and hate erupted against refugees all through the land, that she would have ZERO chance of being re-elected.  But Germans STILL vote for her party.  Also note that I would NEVER have voted for her party when I still lived here.  But this woman's decisions have been HUMANE AND LOGICAL.  Quite impressive actually for a politician, if you think about it, LOL.  Now, HOW MANY Syrian refugees does Canada take in again? And what's Trump's degree of education?  The one his dad probably bought for him, LOL.


After two hours here, I am convinced that the ancient city of Colonia was founded by the Romans for the sole purpose to drive every member of the Goths, the Vandals, and all other Germanic tribes, who were dumb enough to try to travel through the city, absolutely bonkers and thus unfit for battle.

It starts at the Train station.

I manage to operate the machine to be ready to sell me a ticket.  Pay!  It doesn't accept 20 Euro bills.
The automatic bill changers at the luggage center are Out of Order.
I have to buy some chewing gum to get the change to be able to buy a 2.80 Euro train ticket.   The ticketing machine tells me the exact time when my train will be leaving.  But unfortunately it does NOT tell me the train number OR the platform from which I will be boarding the train.  And HOW are you supposed to consult the posted schedules for the proper track if you don't even know the train number?  Hint:  by departure time, LOL.  Fortunately I remember the platform from last time I had to jump through these hoops.

The train ride to Cologne International Airport is only about  10 minutes.  And the hassle continues.

I get to security and they don't allow my sandwich bag as the bag that contains my liquids.  WHAT?  I even say "You're jesting, right?". NOPE.  He wants me to take ALL my luggage again, head to the back of the line (it's a VERY short one), and pay one Euro at a vending machine to get a PROPER plastic bag for my liquids.   Now hear this.  This particular sandwich bag, received for free from my receptionist in my North Vancouver hotel, has passed security scrutiny at the following airports:  Vancouver, Hong Kong, Phnom Penh, Seattle, Paris, Tunis, Dublin, San Francisco, Frankfurt.  But it's NOT good enough for Cologne.  I'm leaving my stuff in the crates where it is and pay 1 Euro for 2 tiny sandwich bags.

Then I get to the gate.  I'm flying Eurowings.  The official woman at the gate is on the phone.  "Just WHAT is going on with the plane?"  "So can we leave?" She leaves the gate area empty and even the flight announcement display goes blank.  She notices me looking at her but quickly looks away.  OK, so the flight will be LATE, but no one is willing to tell the customers yet.

There is ONE power outlet for ALL the seats at my gate AND it does NOT work.  Brilliant !

I am partly appeased by discovering a very nice Smoking Lounge at the airport ;-)

WOW, that is A LOT of Middle Fingers within a short time period !  I almost can't remember when that happened the last time.... Oh, hang on .....Right !   It was when I was travelling through Cologne the last time, LOL.

If you have a choice, DO NOT leave the train at Cologne Central AND avoid Cologne International Airport !!!!!


Boarding time has come and gone.  There is NO personnel at the gate desk and there is NO plane on the tarmac. I check both the Eurowings website AND the Cologne International Departures website.  Do you think ANY of them list a delayed flight?  NOPE. 
It gets worse:  The departures page of Cologne Airport says "First Boarding Call" 

The smoking lounge is separated from my boarding gate by only a glass wall. When I read the phrase "First boarding call" on the airport's website, I notice that ALL the roughly 100 passengers at my gate feverishly pick up their luggage and head out the door.  NOT the door to the plane, but the door towards the main terminal building.  WTF?   ANOTHER gate change???  Announced at the VERY last minute ???  Where is that middle-finger image?

Once I get to the other gate, the person at the desk is already shouting "Any other passengers to Salzburg?" and I'm one of the VERY last people to get onto that bus.   Good thing Grandma is not travelling with me.  She'd need another 10 minutes and would tell the staff exactly what her thoughts about such brilliant planning are.

 There is something new about the Eurowings (formerly Germanwings; remember the German pilot who committed suicide by flying a plane full of school kids into a peak in the French Alps?).  
I got the bargain basement price (CAD 105) so when the crew hands out water, drinks, and food, they just pass my seat without even asking. LOL.  Extra work for the crew this keeping track of who paid what.  It's a 1-hour flight, so I don't really care.

Finally !  
An airport that allows you to walk over the tarmac.  
Memories of Siem Reap and Saint Malo !

The local public bus arrives 20 minutes after I arrive at the station but it should take me RIGHT to my hotel ;-)

 Traffic snarls as it is forced through one of the major roads through central Salzburg.  Road construction.  Given that it is a central arterial road, you'd expect that they are working HARD to make it available at full capacity again, right.  Well, what I see leads me to suspect that Salzburg City Works is even more inefficient and glacial than Vancouver city employees. In the ENTIRE construction area, there is ONE man present and working.  He is about 60, VERY overweight. And he's using a pickaxe.    You MUST be kidding !

Welcome to Austria, LOL.

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