Joe Colletti

Joined April 2017
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  • Day43

    Last day in Europe

    September 24, 2019 in Czech Republic ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Yesterday I explored the Castle side of the river. Today I'd cross it explore Old Town and other areas.

    I started with a morning walk across the Charles Bridge. It's everything folks have said about it-- lovely, beautiful views, flanked by statues, and packed with tourists and vendors. It took about 20 minutes to stroll across, as I stopped frequently to check out the views, or listen to jazz musicians playing on the bridge.

    Once across, I took a subway out to one of Prague's suburbs. This let me get beyond the tourist-packed center, and see a bit of what locals see every day. After exiting the subway, it took about 15 minutes to stroll to a spot I wanted to see-- the Žižkov Television Tower. It wasn't as tall as the one in Berlin, but it's futuristic design-- and the statues of babies crawling up the side-- made it a unique sight.

    The observatory was closed for a private party, so I settled for a couple drinks in the cafe near the base. One was beer, the other was Kofola-- an alternative soft drink from communist times, when Coca Cola wasn't available. Glad I tried it, but wasn't a big fan (powerful licorice and herbal flavors)

    From there I walked back toward the center of town. WhenI got to Wenceslas Square, I started a Rick Steves audio tour I'd downloaded, and let him steer me for the next couple hours. It was a great call-- I got excellent background on the sights I was seeing, and was even pointed to a few out of the way places I'd have missed on my own.

    The tour ended in Prague's Old Town, near the Charles Bridge I'd crossed earlier. Dusk was falling, the bridge was calmer-- though far from abandoned-- and the setting sun painted the castle and rooftops across the way. I strolled across it again, admiring the statues and the river below, and found myself feeling melancholy as I contemplated this trip I'd been on.

    The past weeks *had* been an accomplishment and adventure like I'd hoped, filled with many experiences-- most good, some less so. I'd seen cities I wanted to see-- Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Dresden. I rode along the Rhine and Danube, two rivers I've wondered about for a long time, I spent time with really cool people, Marliese and Wolfgang, Joey and her family.

    But I also confronted feelings of loneliness, of physical frailty, of feeling no longer young. I spent much of it with parts of myself I'd hoped to move beyond-- the Joe who overeats, who seeks approval too much, who spends hours playing games and editing pictures.

    I know I expressed parts of myself I do like-- curiosity, warmth, resourcefulness. I know in time I'll have a more balanced view of this chapter. But right now I'm feeling tired, a bit blue, and very ready to go home. I have things to do there. And maybe that is my next adventure.
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  • Day42

    Exploring Prague- West side of river

    September 23, 2019 in Czech Republic ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    I decided to explore my side of the river today.

    My first stop was the Petřín Lookout Tower. It's a 1/5 scale version of the Eiffel Tower, and it sits high on a hill overlooking Prague. I rode the funicular up the hill, and an elevator to the observation deck of the tower. The views were amazing, even on this hazy day, and I see all of Prague stretched out below.

    After walking down to the ground-- about 250 steps to tower's base-- I continued heading downhill towards the castle. Along the way I passed through an old neighborhood, enjoyed a beer brewed by monks, and snapped a few pictures.
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  • Day32

    Potsdamer Platz

    September 13, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    I didn't want to leave Berlin without a visit to Potsdamer Platz. Today it's just another huge city intersection-- but the history!

    By the 1920's and 30's Potsdamer Platz was the busiest traffic center in all of Europe. The first electric street lights in Germany had been installed here in 1882, and in 1924 came Germany's first traffic lights.

    Imagine a complex with the world's largest restaurant – the 2,500-seat Café Piccadilly – plus a 1,200-seat theatre, and eight themed restaurants with cuisine from around the world. All were served from a central kitchen containing the largest gas-fueled cooking plant in Europe

    How about a store with a granite and plate glass facade longer than a football field-- with 83 elevators and 1,000 telephones, a summer, winter, and roof garden, an enormous restaurant, its own laundry, theatre and concert booking office, a bank, and a large fleet of private delivery vehicles.

    You'd have found those, along with huge hotels, and dozens of nightclubs (hello Sally Bowles) right here.

    The square was mostly destroyed in WWII, and after it straddled Western and Soviet controlled Berlin. Eventually, in 1961, the Berlin Wall was built right through it-- and you can see a bit of what remains in the photo.

    If you're interested, there's a ton more info online. Just the little bit I read makes me wish I had a time machine, so I could see it at it's peak.
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  • Day30

    Berlin highlights

    September 11, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    When I made the connection between 9/11 and Berlin's history, I was looking at the US embassy while standing in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

    This memorial was just one of many stops in the Rick Steves Audio Tour I followed this afternoon-- and thankfully, none of the others were this heavy.Read more

  • Day30

    9/11 in Berlin

    September 11, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    I've spent 9/11 many places since 2001. Walking through Berlin today has been especially moving and thought provoking.

    Hundreds, thousands of kids lost their parents that Tuesday morning. This really hits home for me-- I lost my own dad when I was 10 . It mustn't happen again. We deserve to feel safe, and I'm thankful for my friends focused on security-- especially those willing to risk their own lives to protect us.

    And yet...you can't walk through this city without constant "in your face" reminders of what can happen when the desire for security gets out of balance.

    Memorials to the millions of people-- Jews, Romani and others-- killed by the Nazis. Pictures of a bombed out city, and stories of thousands of civilians who died. The history of the Berlin Wall, and those killed trying to cross it.

    None of us ever wants another day like 9/11, and we do what we must to prevent that. But at the same time, let's never make the same mistakes our German cousins made-- letting our fears drive us until our own country is destroyed, and our own hands stained with blood.

    It turns out there is hope in this number too. One other interesting thing I realized today. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, on November 9. And in the European way of marking dates-- first the day, then the month-- that's 9/11 too.
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  • Day25

    Gratitude

    September 6, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    It's 1AM, and I'm in a friend's Vienna apartment, feeling gratitude for their friendship, and for the way things unfolded and led me here safely.

    The last bike spot on my train. A wild 30-minute ride through city traffic. An Austrian dinner of meat and young wine. The rain held off all day. Now I get to fall asleep listening to it through an open window.Read more

  • Day24

    Afternoon, Krems

    September 5, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    My boat ride ended at Krems an der Donau, a town of about 24,000 people. Located where the Krems river meets the Danube, it's lso known as The Gateway to the Wachau Valley..

    After checking into my hotel, I decided to do two things-- conquer my hunger, and explore the town. My three-mile walk led me through the Steiner Tor-- an old town entrance-- into the old city. I walked down the Landstrasse-- the pedestrian-friendly main street-- past old buildings and new stores, tourists and street museums.

    I found a great Doner place at the end, ate a delicious wrap, said thank you to the workers in three languages, and then returned down Landstrasse. A detour took me to a film shoot going on in the middle of town. Don't know whether it was a film, TV show or commercial they were shooting, but there were a few dozen people hard at work, and it was fun watching them.

    After this, I found and walked to the Bahnhof (train station) The following morning I'd be leaving for Vienna, possibly in the rain. Best to know how far the station was from the hotel, and be sure about train times, and getting my bike onboard.

    I walked the 5 blocks back to the hotel, hung out for a bit, posting pics from the morning's boat ride. After dark, I felt cooped up and hungry again, so I headed back downtown. The Landstrasse was quiet and empty, completely different from the scene I'd walked through that afternoon.

    Following my ears, I went back through the Steiner Tor and listed to a handful of musicians wowing a coffee-shop crowd with jazzy tunes. A beer garden across the street was still very much open. There I found a yummy bowl of goulash, and a cold beer, plus a few minutes to people watch, and continue enjoying the group's music.

    I returned to the hotel thankful for a full day-- being off the bike left me plenty of energy to experience the sights and sounds around me. Tomorrow, friends and Vienna!
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  • Day24

    What do these have in common?

    September 5, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Both have ties to the area I floated through today, Austria's Wachau Valley.

    The Venus of Willendorf-- one of the oldest statues ever found (~25,000 years!) was discovered here in 1908. Scientists still debate what it represented, and whether it suggests a matriarchal society.

    King Richard was held prisoner in the castle above Dürenstein, a Wachau Valley town, for a couple years following the 3rd Crusade. Legend has it he was found and set free after "the King’s faithful minnesinger travelled from castle to castle until he found him in Dürnstein by singing a refrain, which the prisoner sang back."

    For more info...

    https://www.khanacademy.org/.../pal.../a/venus-of-willendorf
    https://www.duernstein.at/.../the-ruin-of-duernstein.html
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  • Day24

    Morning on the Danube

    September 5, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    After 125 miles and three straight days of riding, I decided to give my legs a break and let a boat be my bike. So this morning I floated from Melk to Krems-- two hours and 25ish miles  through Austria's Wachau Valley, and area known for it's wine and apricots (Marille)

    It was a relaxing time, and....well, why don't I show you?  Since FindPenguins limits videos to just one minute, just click here to see it:   https://youtu.be/fNSxM0BICo4Read more

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