Monday, June 27, 2011

My first overseas trip: a year on- Mannheim

27/06/2010   Mannheim

Well, I escaped Milan. Many would cringe at this comment, see me as a traitor to my blood, but as my friend John rightly pointed out- Milan is full of business, ´want to be´ models and a high suicide rate. Don't get me worng, there are many beautiful buildings, the main train station for example is amazing and very grand. One thing I did notice was a lot of cigar smokers in Milan, what is with that?? Everyone knows they stink much worse than stinky cigarettes. So when someone smokes one, I wonder if it is a bit of a power thing- an ´I don´t care about you' kind of attitude. Anyway, if you have lots of money and like shopping come to Milan. I don´t have lots of money, but did buy a pair of shorts and 2 polo tops. The polo tops were purchased on a whim as I was shopping to buy a new biro/pen. Also, compliments of Milan I have one of this summer seasons MUST have items - a farmers tan.  One thing I did notice in my travels thus far is that when German's don't speak English, they have generally been apologetic about it..... which is odd... but feels nice... but the Italians, have generally just gotten annoyed, pulled faces and muttered away. Sometimes even just saying things loudly in front of you (some insult i am sure, based on the tone).

As much as I feel comfortable with the Italian language, and lifestyle, the Italians in Milan were impacting on me in a negative way. I started to pull faces and use my hands when people annoyed me... I think I even told a few people off !!! 

The train trip back through to Mannheim, was via Como, the alps, and Zurich, where I changed trains for Mannheim.. In total it was about a 7.5 hour trip and the sun shone all the way !!!!

I watched lovely lakes pass me, people on windsurfers, people swimming, people tending fields, shirts off ... It was a joyous scene. Randy Newman accompanied me out of Milan. His striped back vocals and piano ´the Randy Newman songbook Vol 1´ was the perfect antidote to Milan’s noisy clutter. His earthy vocals and sharp, witty and observational lyrics washed away the past few days. A selection of alternative/indie pop rock then played out over the sunshine washed views of the alps; Miike Snow´s ´animal´, Lisa Mitchells ´coin laundry´, Blue juice´s ´broken leg´, PHOENIX´s ´Liztomania´, all happy bright indie pop for this glorious day. I was left with the feeling that everything was ok in the world. The train took me past shimmering lakes, past houses that sat on almost vertical slopes and  small water falls  appeared and vanished and reappeared again. The town of Siskon appears, and it’s lake is so blue and so lovely that I had the urge to swim in it. Soon another lake at the town of Walchwil appears. Can these Swiss lakes be anymore beautiful? This trip through Switzerland,  with the changed weather shows me a much different aspect of this place and I love it. Soon though, I arrive at Zurich and Change trains for Mannheim.


Mannheim, ahh...I love it, I feel like I am at home... this town reminds me a bit of a cross between the relaxed atmosphere of a regional town back home like Ballarat, with the size of Melbourne. It lacks the skyscapers we have back home, but they have a famous water tower here and an 18th century palace! Obvioulsy I made sure I visited both places.

LIke everywhere else on my holiday, I have walked about a lot and of course gotten lost. Mannheim is such a beautiful and relaxed place. I had decided that on my return to the UK and before I headed off to the United States, I would go back to Portslade and stay with my mate D. I went to a phone and internet shop to organize the finer points with D and after the call I got to chatting with the man running the shop. I think he was from West Africa, but I cannot recall where exactly. He has been in Germany for 20 years now and sees the negative change in how migrants are viewed. Once supportive, but now not so much. After the Global Financial Crises it has been hard to find work in Germany, many people have said that the migrants should be returned back home and should not be in German jobs, while many Germans are unemployed. He said all of this to me in a low voice, so that others would not over hear us. He talked of the war in his country and the horror of it, his gratitude to be in Germany and to have a job (which he has worked very hard at). But there was a sadness in his voice. Even here in his new homeland of  twenty years he was being persecuted. He was still in a war zone of sorts, more psychological now- exclusion, whispers and intolerance. I reflected myself how this is not so different from back home, of how the Sudanese and Somalians are treated-- once it was the Greeks, Italians, Chinese, Vietnamese etc. I think about a Vietnamese girl I knew in high school who came over on a boat (yes, one of the ‘boat people’) and her story of pirates and rape.. such horror, and all as she tried to escape horror in her homeland. Upon arriving here she faces further horror through intolerance, hatred, violence and rejection etc. This man (who’s name I did not ask) talked about how too many people read the papers and watch the tv news without a critical eye, they just believe it all as ´fact´. He was such a nice man and has such sadness in his life. Despite the economic hardships, we all need to find inclusive outcomes and to think with open hearts. I wish him well and hope his situation changes. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to have met him and to have heard his story. I know that I am too western-focused at times and lives such as this man´s remind me of the ongoing horror and suffering we choose to be ignorant about. We hear about it, think how sad it is, and then we go off to the gym,
to meet a friend or loved one, to a cafe, to the new resturant that everyone is talking about and it is all quickly forgotten. 

Anyway, Mannheim… It has a large Turkish section. I noticed that both here and in Munich, there were some racist attitudes towards the Turkish by the Germans. I will say that I checked out the Turkish area in Mannheim and had really yum food! Oh, and it was very reasonably priced! But that was where it happened… what you ask? 
The drama of the teeth.

In Milan I had a tooth that was a bit sore from time to time, and seemed to be getting worse. Whilst eating my cheap and yum Turkish food a completely different tooth broke!!! So off I went to the dental emergency place, where for € 85 they did a temp’ fix.  The dentist told me it will last the 3 weeks till I return home to Australia. The dental nurse looked a bit concerned, took me aside and told me not to wait more than a week.
Well… the next morning(Sunday), one of the temp fillings came off !! So I went to a proper dentist. They put another temp measure in place and gave the tooth that was sore in Milan a proper look. It was infected, so they cleaned it up (I think she said something about the nerves/roots???), put some medicine in there and put a temp filling back. I paid about € 240 and had to go back in a week to have it re-looked at and a permanent filling put in place if it has healed...YIKES !!! anyway as I will be in the UK by then, so my mate D will book a dentist for me in Portslade. I did have a dental check merely days before I left home! Still, things could be much worse...anyway, I am off to catch a train to Paris in less than an hour!

Next: Paris!

The water Tower:

Part of the old palace, now used as a university.

Flowers out the front of the Palace:

Sign directing people to the university and something about us Victorians doing something and die??!!! (Geez and there I was, a Victorian and thinking what a friendly town...)

The world cup saw the Germans 'waving their flag, after so many years of shame' (quoted from a tour guide in Berlin). It was lovely knowing this and seeing many flags on display where ever I went in Germany.

'Hauptbanhof'- main train station. One great word to learn in German, especially if you are traveling around.

Police Headquarters:

Sign on a parking meter that made me smile:

All the cool band's play Mannheim:

All the cool fashions are on Mannheim:

At the Hauptbanhof  you don't need to speak German to know: Which section of the platform (sections A-G) your carriage will arrive at, Check to see if you are near the dining cart (coloured red), Confirm you are in First class (coloured yellow) and most importantly, know which direction the train is travelling.


  1. Your blog post is one year on. This link is but one day on from when I returned from an amazing six weeks in Georgia, Armenia, Romania, Turkey and London.

  2. Great blog and pics M!! I should hire you as my official photographer ;-)

  3. Milano is my least favorite Italian city by far. Plug ugly but with some great things in it: the Brera Museum, the Duomo, Last Supper.

  4. 'LOVE IS POSSIBLE'...what a beautiful sentiment