Monday, January 31, 2011

Images of Coptic Cairo

 The tour buses have already started to arrive outside the walls of Coptic Cairo. Coptic Cairo is a walled city with police presence outside, armed and there are also armored bomb squad vehicles parked outside. We arrived by taxi on our own, no bus tours for us.
This guy whom we visited lives in their family burial lot. There's a room above the ground where the coffins were buried and he lives with his father in squalor. He asked us to come into his hovel and we sat and chatted with him. I gave him some money when we left. If the regular Egyptians are bad off, what about the Coptic Christians. They are the 'Zabaleen', the trash pickers of Cairo. Their fate is so poignant. They will be worse off if Mubarak goes.


We were in Cairo 2 years ago. This was our first glimpse of the river Nile. We spent 5 days in Cairo, visiting the pyramids in Giza, Saqqara and Dashur. We went to the Coptic monasteries at Wadi Natrun. We saw Coptic Cairo. There were tourism police on guard outside these churches and Coptic Cairo. The bomb squad was there at all times. At this time of unrest my thoughts are with the Coptic Christians of Cairo. Mubarak has been instrumental in protecting the Coptic Christians. If he is deposed, what will happen to the Coptic Christians? The same fate will befall them as with all Christians living in Muslim countries, vulnerable and in danger. Mubarak is an ally of the USA but the Obama administration is throwing him under the bus. Egyptian Christians living in the USA are very concerned. They still have families in Egypt.

Rothenburg de Tauber, the remparts

We arrived by train, a small train that connects with the main train line. We still had our luggage which we stored in a locker before proceeding into the village. It was a busy day with all kinds of visitors milling around. This place is very popular with Japanese tourists, it is featured a lot in Japanese magazines. It was a short walk from the train station to the remparts of Rothenburg. One can climb the walls and walk around. This was early fall and the leaves are slowly changing colors. It was drizzling also but we had our umbrellas with us. Everything was so pretty...... and romantic..... It was chocolate box perfect and pretty. The delights are still inside the city walls which we shall soon see....

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Here we are, continuing our trip on Germany's Romantic Road, from Fussen we went to Augsburg. I had forgotten the name of this place and had to consult the guidebook. We went to so many places that I can't keep track of it. We stayed at another Youth hostel. Again we were lucky we were the only 2 people in the room. We weren't going to be lucky at the next place. All nine beds were occupied and I had to climb onto the top bunk. But at 25 euros a night with breakfast, we couldn't pass it up. Traveling is expensive, very very expensive. I have to dine on Ramen noodles almost everyday (not really) but I do without a lot of fashion and fashionable stuff. I've not been in a mall in years, I mend my socks and underwear (almost). I drive an old car which I was thinking of replacing with a newer one until I saw my insurance renewal bill...... at $326 per 6 months, why get a newer car and pay higher insurance premiums? I'll keep the old jalopy for a few more years. I don't have cable, I get my news and entertainment from Youtube. It's a little pathetic but I love it. I owe $27,000 on my mortgage.....that's the most amazing and the most thrilling. In 9 and 1/2 years I almost paid off $350,000! I worked my butt off, I saved, and saved and saved some more.I am so strong, I have a 'steel rod' running down my spine!
Life is tough and getting tougher. I had my boss come down on me twice the past few months for missing a very mnor matrix. It's not enough getting your sales numbers up, they have all kinds of matrix they measure and could get you in hot soup for missing the mark on it. We have people quit because they could stand the pressure. One needs to be really thick skinned, thin skin people will not survive the new work environment.
What's this got to do with traveling? It's all tied in. I can take the pressure at work because I need the money to travel. Sometimes when I feel like throwing in the towel, I ask myself, 'what about Greece?' And I stop myself and go back to work.
Anyway, back to Augsburg, it's pretty enough. But the French villages are prettier and are more charming. We needed to get back to Amsterdam and going through the Romantic Road seems like a fun thing to do. The next stop is Rothenburg de Tauber and that is really pretty.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Sophie wanted to see it, I didn't care. Since we were already in its back yard, we went. We took the bus back from Wieskirche and stopped here at Neuschwanstein. We paid for a ticket for a conducted tour, only conducted tours, it was a long climb up the hill to the castle but there is a shuttle where a long line was already forming. It is a very popular place and the lines are always long. We squeezed into the line for the shuttle and was at the castle gates, there, you wait your turn for the tour, your ticket will tell you when your tour is. When the time comes, you visit the castle, you'll be taken to see whatever they allow you to see. It was OK, I didn't care for it. Then we headed down the hill to catch our bus back to Fussen, it was crowded. In Europe you need to learn to squeeze into lines, it's mostly free for all. There's no such thing as 'a queue.' It was drizzling and it was cold. We arrived back in Fussen, claimed our luggage at the lockers and went in search of the youth hostel. Good thing they still have beds for us, we didn't book. There was even dinner (it was 8pm) even though it was only spaghetti and meat sauce. We had the room to ourselves, even though it was a 4 person room.
It was time for a shower because the last time we had one was in Goreme, Turkey. We flew to Istanbul, then to Venice, slept on the train from Venice to Munich, took the train to Fussen, did all that stuff (visit Wieskirche and Neuschwanstein) and now a night at a hostel in Fussen. Wow......

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Bavarian countryside

It's perfect, not a thing out of place. When we speak of Germany, we speak of its precision, not just of machinery but of architecture and of people, exact, precise and homogeneous. Everywhere along the Romantic Road, that was what we saw. It's fun to visit but I don't know about living under such conditions. The problem with such perfection, precision and homogeniety, is, the people's behavior is expected to be the same, the homogeniety of thought, everybody goose stepping to the same drum beat. Bernd lives just outside Cologne and constantly harps against that kind of control. In fact he tells a story of a few years ago, while leading a group through the hills of Cappadocia, they met 2 German girls who were totally lost and unprepared, they had no water or any other provisions, they were embarassed, saying that if the people back in Bielefeld should hear about it, about their lack of preparation, they'll probably be shot. (a metaphor). Bernd said, 'don't worry, I wouldn't tell anyone, I'm from there too.'
In most places we visited, the educated young would tell us that they would love to move to America, not that the USA is so great but it's the only place in this world where anybody from anywhere could make it big if they work very hard. It is the price we put on freedom, the freedom of thought, the freedom of prosperity, where money is not a dirty word, where making money is not a crooked scheme. The beautiful thing is, they, wherever they're from would fit right in. The whole world is represented here, we have Little Saigon, Little Tokyo, Korea town, Chinatown, it doesn't matter if you're Jewish, Greek, Armenian, Mexican, South American, Asian, European.....We can sell hamburgers and make it big, MacDonald's, we can sell a cup of jo and make it big, Starbucks, we can sell a can of soda and make it big, Coca Cola. We have 25 year old billionaire, Zuckerberg of Face book.
We do not have such orderly neighborhoods, such manicured fields, such cute little cottages. Ours is a mish mash of everything. Los Angeles, more than any other place in the USA is the most mish mash, it is where the world lives.