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Middle Earth to Essen - 2012

In October 2012, my wife and I are travelling halfway around the world to play games. This is our story.

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Essen Day One

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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This is still going to be brief, as I am writing from my phone. Gave up on my phone and found a PC, but it is after midnight so this will still be pretty rough.

THURSDAY
Hardly slept on Wednesday night, woke up basically every hour. We had breakfast and left the Ibis about 8:30, as I wanted to be there for the doors opening. We were let into the foyer and starting queueing with hundreds of other people - it was extremely hot in there and we were probably queueing for 45 minutes or so. About 9:50 the shutters on the doors were rolled up, so we got our first glimpse into the halls. Then finally the doors opened and we were swept into Hall 12 with the rest of the crowd. That was pretty cool.
Our first task was to pick up all the preorders. Seeing as I had gone a little Kickstarter-crazy, we needed to pick up all of those first to be able to estimate how much space we had left.
The Hall maps I had printed off were extremely useful, as we were able to go directly to each stall we needed. When we picked up Ground Floor, I started to worry. The box was twice as big as I had expected, and 3 times as heavy. By the time we had picked up all the preorders, we had 3 bags full of stuff and I was thinking 'what have I gotten myself into?!'. We decided the best course of action was to go back to the hotel (only a ten minute journey) and do some weighing. We had been at the Spiel for less than one hour!
Back to the Ibis, and weighed everything. Wow. Pushing 15kg already. These things add up fast! So we started opening games and seeing what parts we could punch to discard the waste cardboard. I can tell you that is definitely worth it! I'll tell you later how much stuff like this we are leaving behind!
Back to Spiel again, but thinking we will have to pass on some of the bigger (heavier) games on our wishlist.
Phase two of the plan was to do a systematic walk through all the Halls using the maps I had printed, so we could say we had at least seen every booth, no matter how briefly. We managed to get that done (picking up even more games on the way) and were finished about 4pm. By then we had both had enough of walking around, so we decided to call it a day. I think my wife was shocked that I suggested leaving before closing, but we've still got three days left!
The few extra games from this afternoon (after punching) brought the total suitcase weight (containg only games) up to about 20kg (with almost 5 being the case itself). We packed as light as possible leaving NZ, with just over 20kg between the two of us. We have of course acquired more souvineirs etc on our way, so we have a little more than that now. We bought a suitcase a week or so ago (we left NZ with two packs), but we are limited to 20kg each going home, plus potentially 7kgh hand luggage. That makes 54kg the absolute maximum.
So that is how we ended day one. Closed to maxed out already, with a plan not to buy any more large games. We had made a list of a few smaller games to look more closely at for Friday.
Overall it was an incredible day - the sheer volume of stuff to see is mind-boggling. Of course a lot of the games are in German, but there are still plenty of English or language-independent games.
It is so exciting to see the stack of games in our room - all these KS games we ordered months ago.
Now we just need to figure out how to get things home!
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Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:23 pm
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Stupid Technology

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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I just wrote a lengthy post about day one at Essen, and the Wi-Fi died as I submitted it and now it is gone.

Short version: Essen is awesome and I have bought way too many games.
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Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:30 am
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3 Hours To Go!

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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I am not going to catch up on these blogs until I get home I guess, but I thought this deserved a quick post.

Essen Spiel starts in only three hours! We arrived in Essen last night and made our way to the Ibis. Got our stuff unpacked and then I managed to use a PC here to print out my hall maps and game list using Kempeth's awesome Geek Tool.
Once those essentials were sorted, I headed down to the restaurant to address what was going on. There were at least 10 games underway, including games on my "very interested" list such as Suburbia and Terra Mystica.

Trying to sleep last night was challenging. I seemed to wake up every hour to look art the time!

Anyway, must get out of bed and get ready... The games await!
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Thu Oct 18, 2012 6:05 am
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Day 21 - Half Way!

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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Sunday
Hard to believe that this is the halfway point of our holiday.
Yet another early start and another walk to the station to catch our bus back to Germany (3.5 hours). Luckily it was a nice modern comfortable bus, although at some points it felt more like we were on the prow of a boat, cresting over waves. One of the passengers had to ask for a sick bag before we'd even made it out of Prague!
We arrived in Nürnberg and dropped all our gear off at the museum before heading out. We only had the afternoon in Nürnberg, as we were picking up our hire car the following morning to start our drive through Bavaria. The main thing we wanted to acheive in Nürnberg was the Speilzeug (Toy) museum. This was really interesting - four floors of exhibits covering the history of toys (and the large industry in Germany making them) right up to the modern day. Pride of place in the 1990's section was of course Die Siedler von Catan.
We also managed to do some more ecploring through the city and have authentic Nürnberger Bratwurst for dinner, so a successful day all round!
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Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:26 pm
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Day 19 & 20 - Czech Republic!

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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I have realised that I need to cut these blogs right down, or I am never going to catch up! So I'm just planning on putting the bare bones in here now, and hopefully I will have time later (maybe even once I'm home again) to fill them out a bit and add photos...

Friday
We left our friends behind in DFresden and boarded an early morning train bound for Prague.
The day started cloudy in Dresden, but we did pass through some sunny patches on the train. We decided to walk from the station to our accommodation in the Old Town - which was harder than it sounds. Unlike 'modern' cities like Chicago and New York, old cities like Prague did not have the benefit of a city planner - the town grew organically over time - so roads point in all directions. We made it there eventually however.
After unloading our stuff, we went out to do a spot of exploring around the city, including climbing a tower as the sun was setting for some beautiful photos.

Saturday

The main reason we actually came to the Czech Republic was not to see Prague (although of course there is a huge amout to see there!) but to go to a small town outside of Prague called Kutna Hora. We saw Kutna Hora on the TV show The Amazing Race last year, and thought it looked really interesting - so planned it into our intinerary!
We caught another early morning train to get there (1 hour) and then set off exploring.
We saw the Bone Church, an old church where the insides are 'decorated' with the bones of about 40,000 people! Amazing, but kind of creepy too.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_Church
We also got taken on a tour of an old silver mine six storeys under the town. Some of the passageways down there were tiny - not a place for the claustrophobic!
Back to Prague again in the evening, to pack everything back into our packs for what feels like the five millionth time for our trip back to Germany.
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Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:17 pm
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Day 17 & 18 - Dresden, Part Two

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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Two days off special significance for this post!

Wednesday
Today was Reunification Day in Germany, a holiday celebrating the reunification of East and West Germany. Our local tour guides took us (via the Autobahn, reaching 191km/h at one stage!) to Spreewald, an area where the river Spree fans out into many channels. We hired kayaks and spent the day paddling around and exploring.

In the evening we headed back into Dresden, and I got my first chance to drive on the Autobahn! Driving with no speed restrictions is not actually as scary as I had expected , as the roads are very good (unlike America!) and everyone else is driving day as well, so traffic flows smoothly. I didn't get anywhere near the speed Stefan did (although he only went that fast as a demonstration), but I was cruising at around 140kmph. Driving in Dresden itself was far more scary, with all the tiny narrow streets!

In the evening we headed out to the Luisenhof, a very fancy restaurant, for dinner. Stefan choose this place due to the views of Dresden available from the terrace, and there was a fireworks display in the city as well!
One thing that is odd to me here is the number of people with dogs, and they take them everywhere. On the train, even to restaurants. This was probably one of the fanciest restaurants that I have ever been to, and when we got there there was a massive dog lying on the floor next to our table. It was just really weird to me!

Thursday
Our next special day, Thursday was Stefan's birthday.
We spent the morning touring some of the old buildings and museums. Stefan then took me to a vodafone store, where they said they would be able to fix my smashed phone in only 2 hours! Expensive, of course - but still less than a new phone, and worth it to get it fixed so quickly. Plus, the phone is my main link to BGG! I was a bit worried about picking it up once it was fixed, I'm paranoid I'm going to break it again!
In the evening Stefan had some friends over for his birthday. It was a really fun night, but our German lessons certainly did not allow us to pick up much of the conversation!
Things have been going well with the Deutsch really, we have been able to order food and ask for directions etc, and understand a fair bit - we just have a problem with deciphering the fast pace of a native speaker.

Tomorrow we leave Germany for the Czech Republic!
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Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:03 pm
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Day 15 & 16 - Dresden, Part One

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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Still running behind on these blogs, it's day 22 as I write this...

Monday
A very early start Monday morning, as we had to be packed and ready to leave our accommodation by 7am. On our way to the train station - DISASTER! My shiny new(ish) phone wriggled out of my pocket to the unforgiving pavement and the screen smashed. Badly. It still worked (luckily), but I was getting glass shards in my fingers using it!

So a bit dejected we made our way to the train station and boarded our train for Dresden. The scene at the station was utter madness. People loading from both ends of the carriage with giant luggage (too big for the small aisle in the train) - and half the people were seemingly in the wrong carriage anyway! We were still on the platform when the whistle blew! But we managed to get on in the end.

We were due to stay with friends Stefan and Elli in Dresden, who had previously stayed with us in New Zealand. This was a welcome change after the rushing around in Chicago, New York and Berlin - here we could relax and let our friends guide us around town!

Once we had arrived and dropped our stuff off at their home, they took us on a walking tour of the town. We saw the Alte Stadt and the Neue Stadt, the River Elbe and climbed to the top of the Fraeunkirche.

As you may or may not know, Dresden was pretty much destroyed by bombs in the last weeks of WWII. What is really amazing is that these beautiful buildings that wer destroyed were then left as rubble for DECADES afterwards, during the time of DDR (East Germany).

Here is what was left of the Frauenkirche after the War (this photo from 1958, already 13 years after the war)...

(copy and paste these to your address bar, the photo links aren't working...)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-60015-0002,_Dresden,_Denkmal_Martin_Luther,_Frauenkirche,_Ruine.jpg

And here is the Frauenkirche now. Note the darker wall seen here is one of the two left standing after the bombing. Reconstruction only started in 1993 - 48 years after its destruction!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FraunkircheSouth.jpg

Tuesday
After an amazing home-made breakfast, we headed out to Sächsische Schweiz (Switzerland in Saxony, called so by the Swiss who visited) for a walk up some sandstone mountain formations. A lot of stairs and ladders to climb, but well worth it for the views!

After a quick clean-up at home we headed out for dinner at Stefan's parents. We traveled in style - picked up in a Trabant - a 'car' (in inverted commas) built in communist East Germany. It has a 2 stroke engine, and less power than your average chainsaw!

We had a great eveing with Stefan's family, and even managed to get a game of Carcassonne in... our first boardgame of the holiday!
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Sun Oct 7, 2012 7:58 pm
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Day 13, 14 & 15 - Ich bin ein Berliner!

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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Still way behind on these, maybe I'll catch up before Essen!

Trouble adding photos at the moment, will try to add later...


Friday
Somehow we have managed to time our visit to Berlin to coincide with the Berlin marathon. So seeing as the streets would be teeming with people this weekend we decided to change our plans a little and do the city sights today. We headed first to the Brandenburg gate, then queued for tickets to see the Reichstag Dome. There was about a three hour wait for an open slot, but just as we got to the front of the queue another group cancelled, and so we were able to go in without any delay.

Next we saw the Holocaust memorial and museum, which was extrememly interesting.

Next, some lunch (wurst of course), and then we visited thé Bode Museum, which has an impressive numismatic collection, with coins dating back to the 6th century BC!

Back to the Tiergarten for an evening stroll, and happened upon the Siegessäule (victory column) which we discovered you can climb up for some impressive sunset views of Berlin.

Saturday
This morning we caught the S-Bahn out of the city (and away from the crazy marathon-runners) to Potsdam, specifically Sanssouci - a group of palaces and associated buildings dating back to the 18th century.

Back in Berlin again in the evening, we walked to Niederkirchner Straße, to where a section of The Wall is still standing, accompanied by a fanstic museum called The Topography of Terror

Sunday
Sunday morning greeted us with a beautiful blue sky, so we decided to head for the Fernsehturm (TV tower) for view of Berlin from 203m.

From there we went to the Pergamon museum and saw some amazing artifacts, including the Pergamon Altar - built in the 2nd Century and discovered in Turky in the late 1800s... where the locals were burning chunks of it for limestone! shake We also saw the Istar Gate of Babylon - built under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. The scale and age of these things is amazing.

After dinner we headed out to the Checkpoint Charlie museum, with incredible stories about the ways that people came up with to sneak people out of East Berlin. The museum was fantastic - although as it has obviously been extended several times it was a bit of a rabbit warren - you could definitely get lost in there!

And that was it for our time in Berlin. Back home with very tired feet to pack things up for our early departure tomorrow.
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Sun Oct 7, 2012 7:27 pm
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Day 11 & 12 - On The Road Again

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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Still behind on these blog posts - our internet access is limited here in Berlin, but I'll try not to get too far behind!

Wednesday was our last day in New York. Before heading for the airport, we managed to fit in one more thing off Juliet's 'to do' list... the High Line - a former elevated rail line that has been converted into a very unique park.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Line_(New_York_City)

Then it was off to the airport. I had soemthing I was trying to achieve while in the USA - to complete mz collection of US State Quarters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_State_Quarters

Somehow I had managed to acquire 28 of 50 of these without ever going to America (through friends etc) - but that left me with 22 still to get. So I was sorting through my change everýwhere we went. We went to the Laundromat in New York, and I discovered a machine that I could put notes in and get a massive pile of Quarters out. It was like Christmas! I ended up going back to that Laundromat twice more, even without any washing to do! But as we were leaving NY I still had 5 to get. Then, at the subway, I realised that I could feed mz quarters into the ticket machine, then cancel the purchase - and it gave me back different quarters! I spent about 5 minutes feeding money into the machine and getting it to spit more out, until finally I had onlz one missing - Idaho. I had to admit defeat at that point and leave for the airport - but I have posted here on BGGand hopefully will be able to find a helpful American in Essen with the one I am missing.

We flew to Berlin with airBerlin - and in contrast with Day 1 of this holiday we had a verz short night! We only had 8 hours between 6pm and 8am. And we didn't manage to sleep much of that! We spent what we had of that day sleeping, or trying to find a laudromat or internet cafe. I have been spoilt for WiFi access in America, and here in Berlin I am needing to find the internet cafes. Luckily there are a lot of them, and thez are super cheap.

We had planned to see one or two museums this first evening in Berlin, but we were both way too tired, so an early night was required.

We start our Berlin explorations tomorrow!

PS: I have also gone back and added some pics to the previous posts...

PPS: Can't get my URL links to work tonight - must be too late for me!
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Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:28 pm
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Day 9 & 10 - I'm On A Boat

Jason Clague
New Zealand
Hamilton
Waikato
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(I'm a bit behind in posting these, I have not had as much internet access in the last few days, and we've been flat out busy. Right now I'm actually in Berlin writing this, so please excuse the odd Y and Z swapped around, as this kezboard is doing mz head in.

I'll try and get back to this internet cafe tomorrow to upload some pictures, and do another post.)


Well, actually - it was an aircraft carrier.

The last two days we have been seeing New York.
On Tuesday we went to the American Museum of Natural History, which was really intersting. We kept an eye out for the guys from the [urlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_at_the_Museum]Night at the Museum movies[/url], bit didn't see too many. Their collection of animal fossils and skeletons was amazing, with really good information linking all the various species together and how they branched from each other.

After that went to the BODIES exhibition. That was fantastic. Real bodies, donated to science and preserved in resin at various stages of disection. It is really quite alarming how much we just look like a lump of meat!

After dark we went back to the 9-11 memorial to see it lit up.

On Wednesday, we went to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. In the space of one day we had been -
* On a aircraft carrier (the whole museum is a decommissioned carrier)
* On a tour of a cold war submarine (that prowled Russia's coast with 4 nuclear warheads)
* On a Concorde (we actually got to take a tour and sit in the seats, and even in the cockpit!)
... and we even got to see a real Space Shuttle up close and personal!
Just an absouletly amazing place!

And to top it all off, in the evening we went to see the Spiderman musical on Broadway.

We've had a fantastic time in America - tomorrow we're off to Germany, and closer to Essen!

EDIT: Here is the USS intrepid...


... and the Concorde (remember we got to go inside and sit in the cockpit!


...and the Enterprise!
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Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:31 pm
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