Sunday, August 14, 2011

Awesome crash

Wait for it at the end!
video

Relaxing

So, after our whirlwind series of trips things have calmed down a bit. Yea right. Sara flew back to Tennessee to go to Rachel's wedding and my brother (Aaron) came to visit The Hague. I will let Sara post about her excursions in Knoxville, but I certainly had a busy week walking around Holland. We went to Amsterdam on the day he got here, got breakfast outside and had a great day walking around and relaxing in the different squares. Unfortunately, I did not feel so well, to say the least, after deciding that it would be a good idea to stay up all night hanging out with some friends so that I would be just as tired as my brother when he landed! I went out with Chaz and Ethan and the most interesting of things to happen was after locking the keys inside the apartment I had to climb over a neighbor's wall, up on to our back patio, over the roof and in through the front window.

Back to my brother's visit, we wound up renting longboards the second day I think. It just so happened that Bram, who works at the shop was going with some friends to the Zwarte pad (a parking lot on the dunes by the beach) to downhill and invited us to go with. I will post a video soon. That may have been the highlight of the trip! We wound up making day trips to Delft and Utrecht, as well as playing some soccer with the guys I usually play with on Saturdays. In Delft, the old walled city where the royal family originally resided, we visited the historical walking tour, which turned out to be quite mysterious. In Utrecht, we went and found an old castle outside of town. It had been reconstructed in the 19th Century by a wealthy family, and may have been the most opulent place I have ever been to. We separated ourselves from the tour and saw some of the depths of the castle before visiting the hedge maze in the gardens. The family donated the grounds, but reserved the right to use it every September for their parties. A couple trips to the beach and a lot of frisbee in the parks around The Hague and Scheveningen, and his trip came to an end. It was a great week and we were able to really experience Holland.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Berlin

Berlin was the final weekend trip in a thrilling yet tiring series of trips. Each was beautiful and fun in its own right, but we left Berlin with a certainty that it was the most important historical city of the 20th century. We took a free walking tour, which lasted 4 hours, that included the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (within a block from the confirmed bunker in which Adolph Hitler shot himself, which is now a parking lot where all the Berliners let their dogs relieve themselves) and Checkpoint Charlie (where the US and USSR faced off at the height of the Cold War). The scars of the Berlin wall were special to me, as I remembered in awe the decision of my parents to bring their young kids to this amazing and controversial place, right after the Wall was torn down.

Needless to say we had a serious history lesson, which included a picnic and wine in the Tempelhofer Airport’s Tarmac. This is a converted park from the airport that was the site of the Berlin Airlift, potentially the most important airlift of recent generations. Certainly the most important for Berliners. With all roads and rails cutoff by the Soviets to West Berlin, the US and other Allies landed a cargo jet here every 3 minutes for a year to supply the city until the Soviets lifted the blockade. Now there are people rollerblading down the runways and landing their remote control planes, with this massive structure in the distance. It was at one time the largest building in the world by square feet, and went down far underground (we were told 20 stories down before the Soviets flooded it). The Nazis built their planes at this location underground and lifted them to the surface to take off, so they had less risk of loss. The airport is immense and the whole place feels post-apocalyptic.

On our last day we went to visit a concentration camp outside of the city. We figured this was relevant given our work at the tribunal, and it was moving. The camp, Sachsenhausen, was the administrative HQ of all concentration camps and was supposed to be the model camp of the 15,000 camps that were spread across Europe. We met a couple from Australia as we exited the tram and walked with them the 2km to the camp. It turns out that they were from Germany originally, and Ian's grandfather, Arthur, had died at Sachsenhausen during the World War II. His father was rescued by the Allies at 18 after the war and moved to Australia.

After the camp we had to hurry back across Berlin to catch our flight, but not before one last Kebap (Gyro). We stayed at the Metropol Hostel, with an amazing street vendor just out front and a good bar upstairs. We spent our nights in the neighborhood fell in love with the Kebabs (they had separate grilled veggies for Sara). So we waited in line for 45 minutes to get that last one while we watched time tick away before our flight. We had to run down to the subway, then catch a bus, made it through security in 10 minutes and barely made our flight back. It was an exciting trip through and through, and a nice weekend for Sara and I to enjoy alone. Next week Sara is off to Tennessee to Rachel's wedding (which I unfortunately could not attend) and my brother comes here to visit! A much needed taste of home for both.

Hope everyone else out there is having a good summer and staying cool! We come to the beach for the summer and The Hague has the coldest, rainiest July in history. Miss you all, be back stateside in a little over a month...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Malta



Day 1:
We spent four beautiful days in exotic Malta, and now all that remains are memories, pictures, and a peeling tan. We left early Saturday morning to take the train to Eindhoven, Netherlands, where our airport is located. One of “our crew” (Consisting of Girls: Jordan, Sara, Yaira, Boys: Arthur and Liam) missed the train and only barely caught the plane. Yet, alas! We all arrived at 3pm on the beautiful and hot island of Malta. There, Arthur, had been clever enough to procure us a “Gypsy” SUV-type car, stick shift, with no power steering. All the readers here probably know that Arthur loves a challenge (evidenced by his choice in girlfriend) and so he was extremely happy to contend with driving this animal of a machine on the left side of the road. He even successfully navigated the dozen or so roundabouts.

The first day we checked in at our adorable hostel (Splendid Hotel) at the end of the island in the city of Mellieha. It lived up to its name, with a very sweet and accommodating staff, and blessed air conditioning at only 6 euro per night. We immediately set off in the Gypsy to buy groceries for a picnic and find a remote, secluded beach area. While we were delighted when our trip down the side of the cliff resulted in a charming little secluded beach find, the couple we discovered at said secluded beach were slightly less delighted. Nonetheless, we settled our loud, American selves in and made sandwiches from a giant bag of blessedly cheap groceries.

That night we headed to the coast again (literally unavoidable on an island) and has a nice dinner overlooking the sea. Afterwards we walked back yawning after several of the weakest tequila shots ever seen.

Day 2:
We woke up and headed to a not-so secluded beach. We repeated the picnic experience from the day before but purchased both iced coffees and pitchers of Tequila Sunrises (which they called Riviera Sunsets). We swam and read for hours. That night we went back to the hotel, got dressed, and headed to Valletta where we searched, in vain, for a restaurant. First we decided to climb these beautiful cliff-side historic looking buildings (which turned out to be the Police Headquarters…) While walking around looking for something to eat, we were surprised by the firing of a canon. Yes, a real canon. To our dismay, this was followed by more canon fire, and what sounded like artillery fire. Turns out, this is an island way of celebrating, because before we knew it the Cathedral we were passing was swarmed by cheering locals as clergy carried around a statue of the local saint. Apparently, we accidentally took part in an annual religious holiday. Afterwards we found a restaurant which we chose based on its cleanliness. It turned out to be the first day the restaurant was open (hence the cleanliness), so the food was either amazing, or really bad depending on your meal.










Afterwards, we went to a beautiful park above the city where they were hosting a wine festival. The park was covered in vineyard-type vines draped in twinkling lights framing the twilight on a cliff by the ocean. Plus, there was amazing and somewhat eerie music wafting through the festival. Interestingly, there were even hookahs inside of tents where patrons lounged on silk pillows smoking flavoured Turkish tobacco. For ten euro we purchased a crystal wine glass and got a series of coupons that could be redeemed for lots of tastings, several glasses, or a couple of bottles. We all started with tastings, but there were way too many coupons for one person to use, so each of us took back a bottle of amazing Maltese wine. We returned to our hotel and went on the roof patio to drink wine under the Mediterranean stars.





Day 3
Having (clearly) had enough of the beach, we took a cruise to the Blue Lagoon (a real place) where we swam around with goggles, snorkelling through the caves. The boat was a ton of fun, with cheap drinks and food available the whole time. The entire ship ride our party of five rode at the bow of the boat, enjoying the wind, drinking Malibu and coke, and listening to the on-board DJ sing hoarsely and off-tune over outdated songs.

That evening we returned to the town of Mellieha and had a really lovely meal consisting of an entire pizza per person. Then we returned to try to finish our wine from the wine festival on the roof of the hotel (we sadly had to leave some behind).

The next morning we left the hotel at 5a.m., took the Gypsy across the island at sunrise, boarded the plane, arrived in Eindhoven, took the 1 ½ hour train back to The Hague, and returned to work sun-kissed and exhausted.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cadets, Islands, and Germans.. oh my!



(Antwerp)
(You know it's a nice city when their train station is gold plated)

Hello again! Having too much fun to update enough. Work is incredible every day as usual. I cannot describe the rush that overcomes me every morning as I show my badge and walk through the metal detectors, it really makes me think of the importance of the Tribunal first thing everyday. For Sara, that also includes getting a second check with the wand, since apparently every one of her shoes has metal in them. We ride our bikes the 2km through rain or shine (always 70 degrees) in our dress clothes, along with everyone else here in The Hague in the finest suits I have ever seen. It is an interesting place.

If I did not mention before, the cadets are here visiting the court from Westpoint and the Air Force Academy, they gave us presentations about their schools today and tonight is their last night so we are going out to give them a proper farewell. Brian, Matt, Dave, Jenny and Chad will be missed! We were able to go to Antwerpe and Brugge with them last weekend. The train station in Antwerpe is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen. We parkoured all over the city at three in the morning, drank in a castle by the river, danced with some old ladies, signed a gay bachelor's chest, walked through a few dark alleys and an interesting park, and wound up on the 5th floor roof of our hostel on covert ops. Needless to say we were hurting during our trip through Brugge the next day, although it was beautiful.

Relja, another of the interns from Serbia, leaves in the next few days as well. There are coming and going parties here every week, but that does not make it any easier to say goodbye. What does make it a little easier is that we leave for Malta on Saturday morning!!! There will be a guy in the lounge in the airport waiting for us with a sign that reads "Mr. Loyd" with our glorified suzuki samuri waiting outside. It is a small island where they drive on the left-hand side of the road, and the car is a stick. It should be a great time, as long as I don't hurt any of the others that are coming with us (or anyone else for that matter). Looking forward to it Liam, Yaira, Jordan, and Sara! From what I can tell it has the climate of the virgin islands with several hundred years more history.

Oh, also I get to participate in a mock trial inside a war crimes tribunal courtroom, and it will be recorded for us to review... that is pretty exciting to me. Have a great weekend all, miss everyone back home and those who have left here.

And don't forget to check out our new pictures on Picassa. More from our island adventure in Malta coming soon!

(Main square in Antwerpe)



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Work.

Sara and I have been working hard this week! I have (or will after tomorrow) been in court three days this week. I had protected witness measures "training" today in the courtroom and continue to work on written assignments as they come in. Sara's seem to be never-ending. She has three letters due out in the morning, given to her late today and very important, and has to go in early to get them finished.

On another note, we are still enjoying our time as much as ever. The US Cadets (from Westpoint and the Air Force Academy) are here visiting the Tribunal for the same program that we were involved in last year. Also, today is some sort of shopping holiday, almost as bad as Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving. All the stores are open until midnight and the discounts get bigger as the night goes on. It was a party in the streets essentially, and I started to think people were only choosing stores by the music they were playing. It was pretty fun, but as I said, I will have to be on the ball tomorrow morning in the Karadzic trial and Sara has to get her letters out.

Today we opened our first international bank accounts! Tomorrow our friend and neighbor Nenad is having his going away/birthday party, and Saturday I have some "football" to play. Hope everyone out there has a great weekend!