The Scruffman in Europe

Old Nov 30th, 2009, 09:21 PM
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At last!

<b>The Scruffman weathers Scandinavia</b>

In retrospect, the Scruffman thought Copenhagen was just all right, although his opinion might be colored by the fact that he was sick for most of his stay. Mom had sent him there on a mission to see Christiania, a former military base that has been occupied by counterculture squatters since the 70s and now has the legal status of a sort of independent commune, including exemption from Copenhagen zoning laws. Until recently, soft drugs were grown, produced, and sold openly in Christiania, but when the police cracked down, the drug trade was taken over by street gangs who are supplied by large trafficking entities. This has really soured the community and brought in violent crime and hard drugs. The Scruffman expressed sadness that Christiania’s glory days are now behind it and fading fast.

His 10-day sojourn in Göteborg was the result of following up with the pretty Swedish girl from the Shpongle concert in London. I believe he stayed with her the whole time, but his comment was that <i>”things became complicated and it made for a very strange week.”</i> I will probably hear that story some day, but it sounds rather too “complicated” for an e-mail. However, one day he met some Israeli fellows and helped them sell paintings on the street. The Scruffman has plentiful experience in selling things on the street, although usually it’s social change rather than something concrete. The Israelis proposed going to Oslo for the weekend to sell paintings, and Greg decided to go along. However, the weather forecast wasn’t favorable, so in the end his Israeli friends decided to bag it. The Scruffman decided to stick with the plan and went anyway and stayed three days.

In the end, the Scruffman didn’t find Scandinavia very hospitable. It was overcast or raining or snowing the entire time (nearly three weeks) except for his last day in Oslo, when he finally saw the sun. He found it very draining, and felt that the locals got ground down by it as well. The main activity he described was <i> “having to adapt and improvise around weather conditions, conserving funds in a VERY expensive place, and dodging fares for public transportation.”</i> I hate to think what that last bit meant, but apparently he got very good at it. Nonetheless, it wasn’t an ideal travel experience by anyone's standard.

Before leaving for Oslo, the Scruffman requested his maternal travel agent’s assistance in locating cheap transport from Oslo to Berlin, and Mom found a great $50 flight. But the Scruffman deferred his decision until the fare had risen, so after his three days in Oslo, he bought an overnight bus ticket to Berlin.

And as an afterthought, remembering the start of the Scruffman’s travels, Mom wrote:

</i>“I hope redundant by now, but if you're taking the bus, I believe you have to change in Malmö - do check when you get on the bus, OK?”</i>

And got back:

<i>”Hehe, yup, learned my lesson on that one when I woke up in Reno instead of Portland!"</i>
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 06:04 AM
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<b>The Scruffman finds a bastion of Hippiedom in Berlin, lies in the Museum of Lies, and has one of those “small-world” experiences</b>

<i>“Holy f***ing damn,”</i> the Scruffman exclaimed, <i>“am I glad to be out of Scandinavia!”</i> The gloom of the north proved taxing to the Scruffman’s sunny nature, and even on first acquaintance Berlin was more to his liking.

He likes all the cool graffiti, which undoubtedly some feel is urban blight, but which he sees as urban delight. For another thing, his money is going farther. A liter of beer is one euro! A huge plate of pasta for less than three euros! He can eat again!!! This is the kind of thing I care about, as the Scruffman has never been overweight in the slightest, he got thinner when he moved out on his own, and thinner still when he became a vegetarian. I am glad he feels he can afford to eat!

He is staying with a group of students who are squatting in a university theater in protest of some academic policy or another. Apparently hygiene is at a minimum, and most of his hosts are, like the Scruffman, engaged in growing dreadlocks. The main occupations are drinking and skateboarding, biking, and rollerblading through the empty corridors of the theater. Knowing the Scruffman, I imagine he rather enjoys the anarchic underpinnings of such activities.

The Scruffman took a train out to Potsdam one day to visit some castles and hike in the forest. While hitchhiking between Potsdam and the forest, he was given a ride by a woman who invited him to a party at a place called The Museum of Lies in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. The Scruffman described the museum as “one of the craziest places I have ever seen,” with all the art made out of trash, most of it psychedelic in theme, and most pieces moved and made weird sounds as well. The party included a free buffet and bar, fire-dancing (strangely enough, the Scruffman does a bit of this), and a terrific band. He even joined in the jam session. And after all that, they let him sleep in a bed upstairs for the night!

So at the moment he’s preparing to hitchhike to Amsterdam – well, more specifically Leiden. He’s going to be staying with some people he met at a thrift store in our hometown about three years ago, right after Burning Man (see US thread). These folks had given him their contact information, which he had of course lost shortly thereafter. But while in Berlin, he was talking to a girl at a party about looking for a place to stay in Amsterdam, and she gave him the contact information for the Burning Man people – whom he immediately realized he knew! OK, so it is <i>really</i> a small world! These people are squatting somewhere in Leiden. They are also the first people to tell the Scruffman about couchsurfing, so it seems only appropriate to surf their couch.

The girl also told him about a community outside of Brugge, Belgium, that is living in treehouses, so the Scruffman is considering that for his next stop after the Netherlands.

One issue that has arisen is that he can’t visit his friend in Florence before about the 5th of January, as the friend is going to have finals and then non-stop visitors until that time. So the Scruffman is casting about for ideas about what to do between about mid-December and early January, which of course includes the holidays. I suspect this will be a difficult time to couchsurf. I’ve been seeking suggestions on another thread, and so far Morocco and Tunisia have come up, but if anyone here has ideas, please speak up!
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 09:52 AM
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Sorry that Scandinavia was not a great experience, but it really is expensive and late autumn is not the best time to visit -- as long as he files away this information for some time in the future of his life, that is already good.

Berlin was a great place for him to go. I'm surprised that he did not settle in there longer. The Netherlands is always an interesting experience, so that should go quite well...

The weather in northern Europe is getting really wintery at the moment, but the Christmas season is a great time to be here, at least visually.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 10:02 AM
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My DD can also attest to the fact that it is expensive in Scandanvia. They only spent a couple of days there when on their cruise ship band gig, and found Copenhagen was very expensive, compared to France, Spain, and other countries they visited. They did have nice weather though.

I am really enjoying reading Scruffman's adventures, although winter is not really the best time to travel I would have thought. Hope he manages to find some great things to do over the holiday period.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 10:03 AM
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If he can get there easily enough, I also think that he may like southern Turkey (sapphire coast) over Christmas. I loved Turkey; The people are among the friendliest and its not too expensive. I didn't go to that part of Turkey (wish I had more time) but when I was researching (3 years ago) it looked like a place Greg would like and find suitable to his likes and needs.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 01:43 PM
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I have to admit, kerouac, that I also thought a week in Berlin was rather short, especially as it sounds like he was having a spectacular time there. Perhaps the crazy theater community was wearing thin, or he has a reason for wanting to get to Leiden sooner rather than later.

I wish I had more access to his thoughts on his travels, but I have to keep in mind that I intentionally gave him a lot of space once he reached adulthood, and typically we only talked on the phone about once a week unless there was "business" to take care of, even though he only lived a couple miles away. I figure if you don't pursue, they don't have to run away. I should be grateful that I hear from him as often as I do!

Berlin was on the list of places I gave him that I thought he would particularly like, given its reputation for youth culture and great nightlife. He certainly managed to tap right into a congenial group and scene!
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 02:01 PM
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Oh my, to be young and so relaxed about sleeping arrangements and so forth although I admit artsnletters I was never that "young", lol. I am so enjoying your thread and I sure hope scuffman figures out somewhere to go that is on the warm side, inexpensive and fun over the holiday season.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 03:22 PM
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Teehee, LI, me neither. Although it is quite different for young women - there are things women just can't do safely. I think I would be worrying a whole lot more if it were my daughter traveling this way. As I said somewhere on one of these threads, I envy both my son's desire and his ability to travel in such a spontaneous, carefree way. Then again, I admit that I like at least a modicum of creature comforts, which you can't have if you need to be prepared to bunk down in a snowy park or an abandoned theater. So this is totally a vicarious thrill for me!
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 03:24 PM
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Just noticed on the Scruffman's couchsurfing page that he logged in an hour ago in Amsterdam. Since he was hitchhiking, he made <i>excellent</i> time - I believe he left this morning from Berlin!
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 08:34 PM
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Isn't it great how you can track where your kids are!!! The power of the internet.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 10:14 PM
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I need to stick a GPS tracker on him, LOL!
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 10:38 PM
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I got my son a SPOT GPS tracker when he was sailing down the coast of Mexico, and camping on the beach. It is a tiny little device that sends a signal to a satellite, and which you can track online. Hooks to Google Earth, so you can see exactly where your young'un is each day. Costs about $100.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...ctions_opinion

I was able to see where he was, and he could even send me brief messages on his progress.

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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 11:38 PM
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Clearly your son has an excellent ability to connect with people. It's great he's using this gift.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 12:50 PM
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I'm sure glad that tracking devices weren't available in the 60's when I was younger ... it would have worried my parents even more, and would have hindered my developing self reliance.

It's great that Scruffman is making his way so well ... and its great he and his mom are so connected when necessary.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 01:25 PM
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I am SO enjoying this, artnletters! I am the ultra-proud Mum of an only recently-past-tense Scruffwoman...no, SHE is not past tense, just the Scruff part. Dreadlocks, armpits and legs that never met a razor, nothing new ever went on her tiny body, (including soap for a rather grim period!)...but, gosh, she was and is a very interesting young person.

When she graduated from high school (in Italy)in 2000, she took off on the adventure of a lifetime. Her father and I held our mutual breath as she emailed and phoned in her latest tale of risk, education and merriment. No fear, an incredible optimism and street smarts took her all over for months on end.

Those traveling days are on hold now: Scruffwoman came home at last, went to university, graduated at 26 as valedictorian of her class. She worked for various youth groups, learned to cook locavore and gluten-free (Scruffwoman is celiac)fostered a dog and was married last summer to an equally special young man. She now spends her time running a youth violence intervention programme. When I walked down the inner-city streets with her a couple of weeks ago, these really scarey looking dudes come out of the alleyways to give my 5' 2" redhead a big hug and tell her how well they are doing.

I will be enjoying every minute of Scruffman's adventures with a mixture of relief and regret for times past...now I have to wait for another generation of adventurer!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 02:56 PM
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LJ, your Scruffwoman sounds like an amazing young woman. Her adventures have helped her relate to those young peoplewho are still searching. Thanks for sharing!

And artsnletters, your Scruffman is having a wonderful adventure which I thank you for sharing with us!

elbegewa, I second your gratitude that there were no tracking devices in the days of my adventures. In fact, I would not appreciate the invasion of my privacy these days, though I suppose that if someone has nothing better to do with their time than to track an old maid school teacher as she goes about her business in town, they should go for it. The punishment (pure boredom) would fit the crime!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 07:37 PM
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I think in nukesafe's case, his son was in an area which could potentially be quite dangerous (the coast of Mexico), and I got the sense that the GPS was welcomed by both parties. Sort of like taking emergency contact technology with you when you are climbing a mountain. So it would be different than a young person going through Europe.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2009, 01:16 PM
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nukesafe, Greg would have absolutely refused to take one. I would have had to find a way to hide it in his luggage (and what is the battery life?)! And in a strange way, I'd hate to intrude that much. I would feel like a snoop.

WillTravel, I think my son's interpersonal gifts are extraordinary, on the level of having perfect pitch or a photographic memory. His unusual ability to read people's emotions was evident by the time he was 10. By the time he hit high school, he had more friends than he could handle - he wasn't "popular" in the usual sense, as in being a status symbol or running with the "in" crowd, but lots and lots and lots of people liked hanging with him. Since he went to a very diverse high school and his friends ran the gamut of race, religion, sexuality, and ethnicity, that's saying something.

LJ, your Scruffdaughter is clearly a woman after my Scruffson's heart. He would appreciate her principles, her independence, and her adventurous spirit, so like his own. You must feel you did something right in raising such a spirited, original, compassionate woman. So much nicer than creating another cookie-cutter corporate lawyer from Harvard, don't you think? (My apologies to any corporate lawyers reading this.) I also appreciate these young people who are putting together such interesting life experiences. I didn't get anywhere near as much out of my early adulthood.

irishface, my life would likewise be a similar bore. She went to work, went home. She went to work, went to the grocery store, went home. She went to work, went to a movie, went home. Zzzzzzzz!
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Old Dec 4th, 2009, 08:58 AM
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I can see why your son might feel carrying a SPOT GPS thingy might be too intrusive, but they are still neat for those who wander away from civilization, IMO.

To answer your question about battery life, here is what the manufacturer says:

"The battery life of SPOT under normal usage includes approximately one year if it is powered on and unused. When tracking or SPOTcasting the unit battery life is approximately 14 days. In this mode a message is sent every 10 minutes. When the 911 mode is active batteries should last up to 7 consecutive days. There is a message sent every 5 minutes in 911 mode. SPOT should be able to send up to 1900 OK messages with the lithium batteries. We recommend always having a back up in case of emergency."

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Old Dec 4th, 2009, 10:11 PM
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Thanks for taking us along on your son's adventure!
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