15. Dublin // Kilkenny // Howth // Ireland

A long long time ago, when we were back in Nam, Clinton and I came up with the idea (after a couple of drinks) of surprising our dear friend Stu on his world tour. We had discussed options of where this may occur on our travels, looked at the map numerous times and had finally come to the conclusion it would have to be in Ireland. Stu’s tour would be in Ireland in March which also coincided with St Paddy’s Day, my birthday and the big 3 – 0 for Clinton. This would also provide a long awaited reunion with our close Melbourne friends, Battye (now Mike) and Nicky (now Nacky.) We left Berlin on the 11th March and headed towards the land of Guinness.

Upon arriving in Ireland we were pleased to hear the english language again. We had high hopes of finally being able to communicate properly, without Clinton regularly having to play charades! However what we had forgotten about was the old Irish accent….never had the english language been so different! We made our way through customs and caught the green bus into the city centre. We were staying at a hostel the first few nights, as Mike and Nacky were in the process of moving houses again. After dumping our bags, we headed straight for the first Irish Pub we could see, which was about 50m from our hostel. The first Guinness of Ireland was ordered and the love affair began. After the first round, we thought we should also try some of the other local brands, so a Beamish and a Kilkenny round was also ordered. We also had our first taste of Irish cuisine, with a steak and Guiness pie…our initiation into Ireland complete.

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After a long day at work, Nacky was kind enough to meet us in Temple Bar whilst Mike was busy in London. We had a few guinness’ together at a local haunt and proceeded to make our way to a thai restaurant for dinner. Nacky and I promptly ordered a bottle of wine which was supposed to be a german reisling, and were absolutely delighted when the waiter bought out a bottle of Yalumba. (I hope you all can hear the sarcasm in my voice….) Horrible wine aside, it was great to chat with Nacky and share our travel stories. After a long day, we called it a night and walked back through the North to our hostel.

The next day saw us heading to our walking tour. Our guide was a born and bred Dubliner and had such passion for his home city as he walked us around Dublin for the next three hours. One thing that he did differently to some of the other walking tours we had previously participated in, was to encourage the crowd to speak with each other. Through various little games ie talk to a stranger on your left, we got to know the other 20 people on our tour and within an hour we were all chatting amongst ourselves and planning to go to the suggested pub crawl together that night. After the tour was over, most of the tour group accepted the guides invitation to have lunch at another irish pub. With our bellies full of Irish Stew, we made arrangements to meet our friends later in the evening for our pub crawl and headed off to take in some further sights of Dublin.

Now after my efforts with the Berlin Pub cawl, I was determined to make it to the Irish one. For 12 Euros we were promised 5 bars with a drink special at each. We met our friends at the 1st pub and began the night with an obligatory guinness. Needless to say the night started tamely and ended pretty wildly, not that I can remember much. I do remember Clinton participating in some Irish dancing, which at the time I thought was legendary, but in hindsight was probably pretty terrible. If the headache we both had the next morning is anything to go by, I would say we both had a pretty good time!!!

As we were approaching St Paddy’s day, the cost of our hostel seemed to triple, so we decided to leave the lights of Dublin behind us and escape to the country, Kilkenny. I was eager to see the countryside of Ireland, however without the cost of hiring a car, (and the fact that Clintons license had expired), we had no option other than to catch the bus. Kilkenny is a quaint country town though, and a car is not really neccessary. We arrived to our country hostel and were welcomed immediately. We had a 4 dorm room here, and so far no one else was in the room, hooray!!! This hostel was what I thought all hostels were meant to be. People sitting around a country table enjoying free tea and coffee and a basic breakfast whilst having a chat. There was also a lounge room with a fire, should we get cold later in the night. After a good hour talking to the locals, we decided to head out to the town. We made it to a recommended pub and spent some time feasting on homemade soup, stew and soda bread, all whilst having a guinness, or 3. I swear it does taste so much better over there! And after further investigation, it probably does taste different as its made differently over in Ireland compared to Australia. It also is not nearly as high in alcohol, so you can drink a lot more of it before getting drunk!!

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After finishing at the pub, we walked around the old town some more and visited the castle. Whilst walking around and taking some photos, my bladder started calling the shots and it was back to the bar for a restroom, and another guinness. The Guinness is just that good!!! We stumbled back to our hostel to enjoy our simple dinner and have a few drinks with some of the other guests. At this point, the hostel owner asked if we minded if he put another person in our dorm. This seemed extremely strange, as we were staying in a 4 person dorm, so of course we said it was alright. What was even stranger, was he came back 5 minutes later and told us not to worry, he would put this person in another room and make ours a private for the night! Score!!! But so nice. We also had been told by the hostel owner, that St Paddy’s day celebrations were starting early in Kilkenny and we should head into town to see this pretty cool band that was playing and was free. How could we not? The only problem was, the band was a four piece ensemble of 50 year olds belting out their own version of some form of Irish music. As I looked around, I realised we were one of the very few “young” people in the crowd, and mostly it was grandma’s. As great as this cultural highlight was, we decided to find yet another Irish pub and head inside for some warmth, and perhaps a guinness. We found a little pub off the beaten track, and thought we had hit the jackpot! The place was filling and a band looked like they were just getting set up…Unfortunately, as is the trend in Kilkenny this band also resembled the mid life crisis age and were simply not very good. At this point, with our bellies full of guinness we decided we’d had enough for the night and headed back to our dorm for a night of blissful no snoring sleep!

Back in Dublin, Mike and Nacky had moved into their new abode and were kind enough to allow us to crash with them for the remainder of our time in Ireland. Super nice of them, and we can never thank them enough! Even though they had just moved in, I went into instant nesting mode and basically demanded the use of their kitchen for the next three weeks. After having no kitchen for the best part of 2 months, I was in my element and really enjoyed cooking a few meals for everyone.

We were very lucky to be in Ireland for St Paddy’s day festivities, which seemed to last a week, and not just one day! We met some of Mike and Nacky’s friends at a beer and cider festival that promised boutique beers and ciders from 25 micro breweries. Clinton and I managed to get in without paying the 10 Euro cover charge, but were left a little underwhelmed with the beers on offer. We then spent a few hours tasting a few more beers at a local craft pub before playing “the dice” game and ending up with Vietnamese for dinner. Just a little tip, Guinness does not taste very nice with a shot of Hanoi vodka in it. Lesson Learnt. We then took a stroll through Temple Bar which is the main going out area for tourists, and it was just jam packed, so we called it a night and took our weary souls home. Actual St Paddy’s day was pretty quiet for us, as we were all nursing quite bad hangovers. We did manage to catch the end of the parade, a walk through temple bar (again) but it was so packed with tourists and shoulder to shoulder that in our old age, we just couldn’t handle round 2. (plus Mike and Nacky had to work the next day)

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Howth is a scenic sea side town just a train ride away from Dublin, so Clinton and I braved the windy cold weather and made our way out there. We would have been there sooner, if we rose from the platform when a train arrived, instead of just sitting there. With that minor setback, we arrived in Howth about an hour later than we had originally anticipated. That aside, we had a pleasant day admiring the cute seaside town and accompanying fishing village. We went on a bit of a cliff walk, but managed to go the wrong way to every other tourist, lucky for us though, this meant most of our journey was a descent walk, so it actually turned out alright for us!! We debated over having lunch out there, but prices were steep and the food looked below average, so we skipped this and headed back to Dublin, for a guinness….cause that totally counts as lunch right!!!

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By this stage we were about halfway through our time in Ireland, so rather than make this one long huge huge blog, I will throw back to Clinton who is most excited to write the next couple of weeks of our journey!

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14. Berlin // Germany

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived in Berlin. I knew a bar existed in Melbourne where you had to choose the East or West before entering and then drink cocktails inspired by that region. However, apart from it being Germany’s capital, I knew very little else. Over the five nights we spent there, it was like we were stripping back another layer of this culturally-rich city each and every day until, by the end, we were completely in love with it. Unfortunately, and with a 60 billion Euro debt, there is little work in the city other than in Tourism and Goverment. If it had career pathways on offer, Elisha and I both agreed it would fast become a first choice place to live.

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Due to it’s long history, through world wars and the aftermath, the city has bred a remarkable underbelly of art, culture and vivid surroundings. I’ve never really thought about it, but what happens to a city, the centrepiece in a world war, once it is conquered? It’s basically occupied. In Berlin’s instance, the war was claimed by both the Capitalist West (England/France etc) and the Communist East (Russia.) Whilst the rest of Germany was split down the middle into East and West Germany, Berlin was strategically sought after. Hence, both parties agreed to split this city as well, despite it lying almost completely to the East. This created a world within the city where half the city was under Communist rule and the other half was under Capitalist goverment. Needless to say, this caused a lot of headaches, mainly for the Communist East. As those living on the East viewed a more liberal lifestyle on the West, they made it their mission to cross over and live on this side. To prevent this exodus, the Communists’ one night built a fence around the entire West section of the city to stop people entering. Overtime, this was constructed further into the Berlin Wall. As we know, this remained standing until 1989. When the wall eventually came down, people joyously ran into the streets, embracing their new freedom. As a result of their many years of control, they latched onto this liberal lifestyle and began expressing themselves through¬†paintings, graffiti, street art and anything else where they could finally speak out. It is because of this recent history, and that it is layered on all its former history, that Berlin really grabbed us as a place we eventually found really difficult to leave.

After our 8 hour German speaking bus ride from Cologne, we were dropped about 8km out of the city. A little too far to walk. We instead made our way to the nearest train station and tried to navigate our way to our hostel. Unlike some systems where all train lines gravitate into a central station, Berlin impressed me with train lines that ran rings around the outer suburbs as well. On top of this, we found the trains ran frequently and were very easy to use. So then referring to ourselves as seasoned Berlin public-tranport users, we arrived mid afternoon at our hostel. Let’s go back a little bit. After our ordeal in Saigon where we stayed in three different locations for the week we were there, we smartened up and made sure we booked into the one location in Berlin. However, the evil backpacking god spoke up and said “Alas, life will not be easy for you,” and, somehow due to their completely woeful administration process, we still had to change rooms twice during the five nights we were there.

I’ve been using this app called Foursquare that is all the more better because I only have two friends whom use it, Nicky and Battye, and which allows you to check in to every place you go to and rewards you with points for the more you see. It’s a nice supplement to my gamerpoints I used to receive on the XBox. It’s other feature is it recommends locations and attractions as you arrive in a city. On the night we arrived in Berlin, it recommended a night market which we thought we would investigate. So we grabbed a roadie and walked the 3 or so kilometres to where it was located. For those who have been to Berlin, you’ll also be familiar with how pedantic Germans are with not jay-walking. They can be really loose about some things, such as drinking in public, and then completely strict with things like crossing the road. Despite there not being a single car on the road, they’d still looked bewilderedly at us as we’d cross the street when the little man was red. Oh another interesting thing regarding the lights. For all the lights that were in the former West section, these look as we know them in Australia. However, for all those in the former East, the man is wearing a little hat and has an animated step when it is green. An easy way to tell what side of the former wall you may be standing on.

Upon arriving at the night market, we were greeted with our first treat Berlin was to give us. Not too dissimilar to something we would frequent in Melbourne, the market showcased a diverse range of various cuisines and we found ourselves scuttling between the gourmet meat pie stand (was definately missing those) the asian noodle stand, the mexican tortilla stand and the korean stand. Whilst the room teemed with foodies alike, a 10 piece spanish band streamed through to provide us all with a radiant atmosphere. An event like this in Australia would be selling beers for $8-10. As such, we were really impressed that beer could be bought for $3 here and it raises questions over why Australia can’t support events like this without them turning into security-governed booze-ups and fist-fights. Regardless of how cheap these beers were however, we were still on a backpacker budget and as we’d blown most of it on meat pies and taco’s, we had to go to the nearest Aldi where we could buy some in plastic bottles for half the price. Oh and they were warm. “Delicious,” he says with no conviction at all. We were impressed enough by the fact that Berlin had embraced so many various cuisines to start with. We were impressed all the more with just how good the quality was from each of the stands. I do honestly think it left Melbourne second (prepares to get crucified.)

After this first tidbit whilst discovering Berlin, we tagged onto a free walking tour the next morning to learn a little more about the actual history of the city. Unfortunately, this coincided with the opening Broncos game of the season featuring our new signing, Ben Barba, so I was unable to listen to this on ABC Grandstand. Our host, who looked a lot like Passenger, explained a lot of history to us regarding the wall and where Berlin fit in with the war. Our first point of interest was a hotel where President Obama had recently stayed for 11,700 Euro’s per night! The hotel was also made famous when in 2002 Michael Jackson held a baby out from over the balcony. Next was Checkpoint Charlie. This, we were told, was just a massive tourist trap. After the wall came down, there was no longer need for the checkpoint so it was taken away. Years later, after realising people were coming to Berlin to see the history, they decided one should still be standing so they manufactured another one, hired some night-time male strippers to dress as US soldiers during the day and stand at the point so people can get photos with them. For those unaware, the checkpoint was one of the few areas you could travel through in order to get from the East and the West and a permit or Visa would be required to allow passage. We were also shown the Jewish Memorial. There is some criticism over it as it cost 27 million Euro’s to construct and there is no signage so most people walk past it without any knowledge as to what it actually is. We also viewed one of the few remaining Nazi buildings. The only reason this one was still standing was because the Communist’s needed buildings for offices in a hurry upon occupying the city. As most had been bombed, they appropriated this and, as such, it stands to this day (without the swastika’s of course.) Lastly, we were shown were Hitler’s last standing place was and where his bunker stood where he commited suicide. This has now been turned into a car park without any signage so as to discourage any legacy. A small children’s playground also stands on the spot. However, there weren’t any kids on it.

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These walking tours often cross-sell their available tours and two of these we thought we’d give consideration to were the pub crawl tour and the alternative tour. Berlin is renowned for some of it’s bars and nightlife and so we thought if we were going to do a pub crawl, this was the place to do it. We booked in for the alternative tour for the next afternoon and planned to do the pub crawl after it. Beforehand, Elisha had read up on another coffee roaster in town so we mapped out the directions, walked the four kilometres to the north of the city and began our day with a coffee that also rivalled some of Melbourne’s best. We probably also spent some time there writing our blog for Kuala Lumpur or something. Who knows but that was probably it considering how far behind we always are. Discovering good coffee in a city though for us immediately shoots it up the ladder of our favourite places and Berlin was rapidly climbing.

The graffiti scene in Melbourne was one of the many reasons I was originally drawn to move to Melbourne 7 years ago. When we embarked on the alternative tour, we began not too far from the area where we had found our coffee from that morning and were shown around the city street art. This was an important lesson. Find the coffee roasting area in a city and you’ve probably stumbled on the Brunswick or Fitzroy of the city. Our tour showed us many hidden pieces of art, as well as giant pieces that covered four-story high abandoned buildings. It’s massively respected in the city and gives an incredible ambience to it’s streets. The tour finished in Kreuzberg along the Berlin Wall Memorial. This is about a 1.5km stretch of remaining wall that is covered in graffiti. We spent the next 15 minutes walking along this and looking at all the cool little animated faces and trying to ascertain the hidden messages. As we had met quite a few people on the tour and heard a few of them planned to go on the pub crawl that night, we thought it was a fantastic opportunity to go and hang out with people we were already familiar with. We were a little pressed for time but having not been able to find a direct train route back home, we decided to walk the 4 kilometres back home so Elisha could freshen up before we had to head out again. We got home with about 30 minutes to spare so I raced out to grab some beers to start with whilst Elisha jumped in the shower. I came home with about 10 minutes to go only to find a sheepish Elisha awaiting for me in the room. “I think you’re going to hate me,” she said. “Oh, why is that?” “I’ve locked our keys in the locker.” “Oh, you mean the locker that has all our wallets, money, passports and cameras in it?” “Yes, that’s the one.” We had to wait an hour before someone was able to assist us by cutting through our padlock. Good bye padlock – the travels were fun. Needless to say, we were absent at the pubcrawl but I’m sure they all had fun regardless.

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But Berlin continued to dote on us despite our clumsiness at times. We found an incredible food market one morning whilst doing the tourist stroll past the Dom one sunny morning. We were able to fill the stomachs with more currywurst and some cheesecake that Elisha claims rivalled the best cheesecake Ken had bought Elisha for her tenth birthday. We must not forget that Berlin also has a strong Turkish community and with that comes amazing Turkish food. We really love Turkish food. I think the representation we have in Australia is quite poor and I, before Berlin, thought of it as quite greasy and something to eat at the end of a booze-night. However, the Turkish food we found here was incredibly fresh, full of herbs and flavours and left you feeling fresh and reinvigorated. On the last night we were in Berlin, we found a Turkish restaurant that blew my socks off as a favourite. We almost instantly regretted not flying into Istanbul after eating there. And we are still trying to plan a route that takes us through Turkey just for the food.

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I was in desperate need for some new reading material and Elisha was in desperate need to try yet another coffee roaster so we planned a trek to do both these things one morning. We initially walked two kilometres to find a market Nicky had recommended to us. However, without thorough planning, we were unable to find it. So we walked the two kilometres back to further research. Upon further reading however, it appeared it was no longer in place. Instead, we pinpointed one in Kreuzberg and walked three kilometres to it. Even though it was Sunday and the morning, we found stall keepers guzzling Jagermeister behind their stands and we thought we’d grab a cold Heineken and drink this too. Amongst all the ancient rubble (or beautiful antiques) I found a couple of John Grisham novels for 2 Euro and we left in search of this coffee joint. This was four kilometres away. Midway, we found a place called Burgermeister which was a cool hipster joint that had converted an old public toilet into a burger stand. I was angry that they had taken the last standing public toilet but excited that they sold such tasty burgers! It definately reminded us of something we’d find down the hidden laneways of Melbourne. After the four kilometre journey the rest of the way, we found that the coffee shop was closed! Not to worry. Elisha had another bar on the river that she said was worth finding. This too was another four kilometres away. So we went in search for it. Arriving to the dot on the map with lactic acid filling our legs, we too could not find this location. I was getting a little edgy at this point but was too tired to chase Elisha away. Thankfully, we did some walk-around-the-block investigating and found the place. So with a smile on our face, we sat on beach chairs with a 500ml beer and watched as the sun set over the river.

Berlin wasn’t all glitter and fireworks though. We dedicated one day to catching the train out to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. From memory, this was the administration centre for all concentration camps and became a training centre for SS officers. It really is chilling to be standing at the sight and to see the equipment and rooms people walked through before having their teeth inspected, and then for them to be told to enter a gas chamber. You don’t say too many words after being at a place like that.

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Lastly, it would be remiss of me if I kept it a secret that you can find Pork Knuckle in Berlin. And so, when we weren’t eating Turkish, Meat Pies and Cheesecake, we were of course digging into a hunk of pork and planning how we’d fit our experience of eating it into only 1000 words.

13. Cologne // Germany

After a rather expensive wakeup call to Western Europe travels, we decided to head East where we had been advised by former backpackers that you can travel for a lot cheaper. So we went to Germany, which apparently isn’t the East everyone was referring to, where we hoped everything would return to South East Asia prices but found they were only fractionally less than where we had come from. So confusing Germany for Romania and Russia, we booked two seats on a UK Megabus, which was the cheapest way we had found to get from Brussels to Cologne.

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Germany was again a whole new world to us and its first city spoilt us with a carnival, lashings of pork knuckle and friendly ‘guten morgen’s’ first thing each day.

(I am seriously struggling to remember what happened in Cologne as it was well over a month ago.) As we drove across the border, we entered the Autobahn. This is a well designed highway system where cars can travel up to 160km/hr if they wish, the corners are built to handle speeds of 130km/hr safely and you MUST stick to the right unless you are travelling faster than the car in front of you. We have since learnt one of the primary reasons this works is because it can cost up to 2000 Euro’s ($3000 AUD) to go through the mandatory driving lessons and get your license so those who are on the roads are extremely seasoned and trained. The roadsigns warning of kangaroo and wombat crossings in Australia were replaced with warnings of leaping deer in Germany and every now and then you would pass a sign reading “Ausfhart,” meaning exit I believe but sounding more like my national flatulence.

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Despite the high level of driving ability, accidents do still happen and we were met with an hour long delay as we neared Cologne to funnel past a crash. This was made more frustrating by the fact that, if I was a Sims character at that point, I’d have a noticeable green odour emenating from me. Hell, I don’t think I even needed to be a Sims character. I think I did literally have a visable odour arising from my seat. The clothes were needing a wash and we were stuck in a traffic jam.

An hour later than originally planned, we arrived in Cologne and walked the one kilometre from the eerily quiet street the bus dropped us off in to our Hotel. Thanks to some thrifty research from Elisha’s end, we had found a Hotel offering rooms for the same price as a hostel and of which provided breakfast. We also soon learnt from our reception that the reason most of the streets were so quiet was because the city was celebrating it’s annual carnival. Not to miss this, we headed straight back out the door, leaving with our green odour, and went searching for this mayhem. It’s not unusual to see someone drinking a beer in public in Germany and we thought it only prudent to disguise ourselves on the streets by doing the same. We picked up two roadies from the first supermarket we saw and walked across the long bridge towards the city centre where the carnival was said to be taking place.

It was mostly over by the time we arrived but we could see the messy remnants of the parade that had clearly taken place earlier. The streets were littered with colourful streamers and thousands of empty schnapp bottles that could almost have replaced the cobblestones. The most daring of the carnival goers were still out in force down in the streets with bars, wearing whatever crazy costume they could think of. We saw the cookie monster, Allan from the Hangover, Diaper wearing babies, Elmo and everything in between. We couldn’t tell who were the real Polizei (I know – what an effeminate name for an authority figure) and who was just dressed up as one. Better not to push into one anyway, just to be safe. We stood aback a little as we watched this heavily booze-fueled carnival goers dance their way into the night and finished our beer. Soon we noticed about 3 people with garbage bags starting to circle us like sharks, eager to snare our empty beer cans. I think because recycling is so prominent here, they could make quite a few euro’s by doing this. Too bad if I wanted to recycle it though. After being entertained by the 17 year old elmo grinding up against the 40 year old nurse in front of us, we threw our beer cans on the ground for the garbo’s to squabble over and thought the carnival was a great place to try our first Currywurst. After a long afternoon busride, we scoffed down these slices of german sausage smothered with ketchup and curry powder and polished it off with another beer.

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There’s only so much Sesame Street you can watch, however, and remembering our age, we thought maybe a proper sit down dinner was more in line with where we should take the evening. It was getting pretty late by now so we didn’t like our chances but, now that we were in Germany, we had to go and find this.

Let’s be honest. There was only one reason we were in Germany . . . and that was for the pork knuckle.

Tom and Cat have asked us to write a 1000 word blog solely on pork knuckle and I could easily do that with my eyes closed. However, as I’m over a month behind already with the blogging, I might just keep it as a simple mention in this one (but warning you, it may still end up as a 1000 words anyway.) My first ever experience of Pork Knuckle was in a little town in South Australia called Handorff, the township basically acting as a miniture replica of Germany. I distinctly remember being quite blown away by the pork knuckle on that one occassion. A year later, I was to again try it in a German restaurant in Bangkok and tried it 3 days straight when I was there. I was also fortunate enough to have Elisha home cook it for me once in the last year only to have my mouth water for the last time. But 5 pork knuckles just is not enough for one person in a lifetime and I made a vow I would devour as many pork knuckles as I could during my time throughout Germany and ensure that all the pigs who died during the making of Babe was not in vain.

Schweinshake (noun) knuckle. pork knuckle. knuckle of pork. German origin.

This is the only word you need to know whilst in Germany – I swear. We walked back over the bridge towards the area our Hotel was in. We knew there was a brauhaus (Brew House) somewhere nearby and we prayed silently it was still open. After turning several corners, we found it. There were still plenty of rowdy comics drinking at the front bar and we pushed our way through to the back where the seating area was. They were still pulling down metres and metres of streamers from the ceiling but a lone gentleman was sitting in the corner with his stein and his GIANT schweinshake. HOPE. We perched ourselves at a table and ordered two of the same, drinking from our own steins as we waited. After what seemed like an eternity (but trying to remain patient and respect the process that they would need time to prepare what was surely to be the meal of my life) two plates of the most incredible pork knuckle came out, each with a steak knife driven deep within it and both surrounded by a bed of sauerkraut and home made bread (who was going to make room for the bread though, I don’t know.)

If I was to ever end up on death row, which considering how annoyed Elisha and I get with each other on this trip could easily happen, this meal would definately be what I asked for as my last meal. You undig your knife, spread some side mustard on the plate and listen to the crackling split as you slice your way in. Underneath lies tender and slow-cooked pork just waiting to steal your heart away. You forget about life, about your world and just enjoy this one moment. Ecstasy. I’m sure if Toe-Knee could just have this one moment, he wouldn’t be such a careless arse back home for he would know that life can in fact be good.

If I still haven’t sold you on pork knuckle, please, let me continue. I’m still not 100% convinced there is a god but, if there was, I’m almost certain he would take the shape of a pork knuckle. Pork Knuckle is what sex would be with Keira Knightley. I think The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may have been magnificently better had, amongst all the incredible songs that were played, just one of those epic tracks were put alongside a montage of Walter ripping into an old fashioned Pork Knuckle. Adolf was a vegetarian. Could you imagine how different the world would have been had he just eaten pork knuckle once a week? Or just once? If I was to eat pork knuckle for the rest of my life, but this meant dying in a week’s time, I think I’d still have to do it. Any parent who doesn’t serve a kid pork knuckle after they’ve just completed the 40-hour famine should stand trial. Correct that. Any parent who doesn’t serve pork knuckle to their kid outright deserves to stand trial. I think pork knuckle could be an effective way to draw information during an interrogation. Forget about torture. Just bring a pork knuckle into the room and withhold it from them. Believe you me, they will speak. I would not be surprised to hear that if pigs ruled the world instead of humans, they too would still eat pork knuckle. And lastly, when they bring out your pork knuckle, they always say “enjoy.” Like seriously einstein, what the hell else am I supposed to do with this other than “enjoy”?

So there we have it – it may not quite be a thousand words Cat but hopefully it paints a picture and we all know pictures say a thousand words.

We awoke the next morning with a pain in our stomachs (still haven’t been able to pinpoint what that was from) and went downstairs to enjoy our buffet breakfast. Man, do Germans know how to do food. Along with some crummy carnival German tunes that were playing overhead, we feasted on homemade bread, boiled eggs, yoghurt, gherkins, cheese, salami, ham, muesli, fruit, coffee and juice. We ate as much of this as we could, and then some, as we needed to ensure we had as much energy as possible to climb the 509 steps to the top of the Kolner Dom.

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The Cologne cathedral is magnificent. The ground stone was laid in 1248 and construction finished in 1880. It’s twin spires reach 157 metres into the sky and for four years, it was the tallest building in the world. They didn’t have the internet back then so I’m not sure how that was confirmed. I guess they just based that on the fact they couldn’t see anything taller wherever they looked out to. The building is blackened from age and gothic in it’s architecture. I thought maybe I was no longer scared of heights but once you get to that sort of altitude, where you can look down and see pavement 100 metres below, I still found myself almost frozen, holding the railing ever so tightly and reciting Dory’s “just keep swimming” to motivate myself to continue forward.

Once at the top, the view was spectacular. You could see in every direction and be blown away by the vista. I would have liked a firepole or a waterslide to get me back down but alas, back to the 509 steps we marched and gave those quads and glutes an almighty workout.

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We visited another brauhaus during the daytime for a few sneaky beers. These brauhaus’ are pretty cool because they, would you believe it and I hope the name didn’t give it away, brew their own beer. You don’t need to read a menu. You just signal how many beers you would like and a chubby man dressed in leather shorts and overalls brings a tray over carrying your Kolsch beers. Before you’re almost finished, they ask if you would like another and, not understanding what you’ve just been asked in German, nod and hope two more beers arrive. Which they do!

We couldn’t leave Cologne having tried just the one pork knuckle. How were we to know if it was good or bad without having another to compare it to? Great question you ask there Clinton. Thanks. We found another place that night and please refer to the above for a full description on what eating this pork knuckle was like. It was dinner with Keira Knightley and Walter Mitty the vegetarian and some parents on death row. Or something like that. Mind muddle! It was again incredible!

We had to catch an early bus the next morning for Berlin. Elisha had again done her homework and booked us with a company that only spoke German in order to save us some pennies. That was fine except we needed help finding where to go to catch it and then, once on the bus, did not move as we didn’t want to get off at any of the stops to rest our legs in case we hadn’t understood and it left without us, even when it was stopped for a full 30 minutes at one time.

So we again filled our bellies with as much breakfast buffet as we could, stole some boiled eggs and bread rolls for later in the day and went to catch our German speaking bus with its German speaking driver and German speaking passengers. And as our clothes were still dirty, you can now go onto Google Maps and find the trail of green odour I left behind in order to find our travel route.

I think I’ve actually missed an entire day of our travels in Cologne as we definately spent 3 nights there and I’m sure I’ve just muddled everything that happened in to 2 nights.

In fact, I have. There’s a few things we did that I have just remembered. 1. Lego! We discovered a lego store where 4 year old (Ok 17 year old) Clinton immediately came to life. They had the Simpsons, a chess board and all the city lego you could play with. I bought a Michaelangelo Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for my keyring and built an arab legoman wielding an axe. 2. Elisha made us walk a 9km round trip to visit an amazing coffee shop. A German girl roasted coffee beans there with her Melbourne boyfriend and golly did they nail it! 3. Re the carnival, we were having a quiet night in our hotel one night when we heard an almighty commotion out on the street. We got up and looked out the window to see hundreds of these animatedly dressed carnival goers parading aimlessly down the street in the middle of the night! Crazy times. But I think that’s everything and I guess that’s the consequence of allowing blogs to run a month behind. But seriously, just go to Google Maps. You can follow a chronological trail of our proceedings there by following the green odour. Me? I’m off to have a shower.

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