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Da dieser Blog abgeschlossen ist, mein Leben jedoch weitergeht, verweise ich euch auf meinen neuen blog, der sich um das Studium in Los Angeles dreht:

http://www.tobiasdeml.com/wordpress


Tobias

After I rush back from Ice swimming, I run into my room. Nearly everything I accumulated over the time of a year disappears one by one in big, black suitcases. Big, black suitcases with red buttons and red leather covers, red plastic lines defining the shape.

Yesterday I fulfilled my dream of further customizing my things – coloring the camera was part of a bigger project; everything that I have should look a specific way. On the airport, you’re never sure which suitcase is yours, because about ten people have similar ones, and by default, all of them are black. So, I took the suitcases out in the street, put them in the snow and sprayed parts of them red.

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I run to the Second Cup on the backside of the library building. The feeling inside is similar to the Starbucks atmosphere, and I come here often since it is a five minute walk from my house. Under my arm, I have an Austrian Specialties cookbook and a Poker book. I borrowed the latter one from the son of my boss, Jeshia. The Austrian cookbook is for Naomi, so she can feel connected with our wonderful Austrian way to eat – no Maple Syrup but a lot of Germknoedel, Schnitzel and Kasnocken. We talk for a while over two coffees. Then I hug Naomi and say goodbye to her.
She gave me so many chances and opportunities, and I am really thankful for it.

When I come back, I find a beautiful drawing on my suitcase, together with a small note:

“See you somewhere in the world. Keep Creative!!! -Yukkunn”

I am really moved by this present. I had a great time with my roommates in Montreal, nearly seven months – and now everything is over. It is the end of my service. It is my last day in Canada, and it’s the last day of February. Tomorrow, everything will be different. Everything will be new. Tomorrow will be another world.

When Yukkunn is about to leave for his Ju Jistu practice,  we say goodbye. We give each other a hug, and it is a good hug. I think, hugging is an important part of saying goodbye to a friend for a long time, regardless if it is a man or a woman. Michka left in the morning, and I hugged him too. During my year abroad i grew much more mature about the question of touching others – especially because I got fired for touching children’s shoulders.

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My room as I left it for the future roommate Polin, a Quebecoir girl.

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My last roommate Clement helps me with the heavy suitcases – and I have never had that much luggage: Two heavy suitcases, of which the bigger one has no extendable handle (so I have to walk hunchbacked to drag it on its rolls), a backpack full of books on which a bag with a photo reflector and a heavy book is mounted. Three bags of shoes and an 18″ laptop under my arm, not to forget about the camera dangling from my neck. I have no idea how I will manage to get around with all that luggage in the tight New York public transport system. Clement says goodbye – the last hug to my French roommates – and that was it. Montreal is history, for me, for now.
Would I have been born 50 years earlier, chances are high that I would never meet my roommates again. Nowadays, through technology I am connected with them for as long as the internet exists.

On the bus, I meet a woman who lives in Montreal and travels a lot through the US. Upon the question how she manages the travelling and work, she tells me that she is a massage therapist. I like this. The journey to New York will last about seven hours, so I give her a book to read: The Great Gatsby. In the meantime, I start reading a book as well. Lorena gave it to me for Christmas. It is called…

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Tuesdays with Morrie

by Mitch Albom

Morrie is an old University Professor, diagnosed with the deadly disease ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis gradually shuts down those nerves that control muscles; starting from the feet, going up to the lungs and head. Morrie is a dying man, giving life advice. (see nightline story)

It is, simply said, the best book I have ever read.

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As I continue talking to the woman on the opposite side of the aisle, we hear the bus driver shouting “DON’T TALK SO LOUD!”. We lower our voices, but five minutes later, “WHY DON’T YOU JUST SIT DOWN NEXT TO HER?!”. The bus driver is not a humorous man, so we both continue reading.

The final moment comes – the Canadian-American border. When it is my turn, I am shakingly nervous on the inside but very relaxed on the outside.
“Hello Sir”, I say.
“Ah .. mmmh ok, you have a tourist visa. What is your status in Canada? What are you planning to do in the U.S.? For how long? Where, with whom, when?”

After minutes of hoping, staring at my calm fingers and wishing to bite these nails, I get a tourist visa for three more months in the United States. I plan to stay for two months in Los Angeles, mainly because of Lorena, hopefully to find a job that sponsors me a proper visa. Now, I have a tourist visa to stay for two months. The first step is done.
I am so happy.
So happy that I have to take a really big shit.

When I return from the border patrol toilet, the bus driver is about to leave and I hop in as the last passenger, just in time. He would have left without me, would I have taken longer to wipe my buttocks. He really doesn’t like me, I think. I am too loud, have too heavy luggage, take too long dumps. Something must be wrong with me, so I continue reading.
Then the station comes where the woman has to get off the bus. “Thank you very much for lending it to me, I came halfway through”, she says and returns The Great Gatsby. She smiles. I look at the book.
It is a Christmas present from Lorena.
“Actually, I would like to give it to you. I hope you will enjoy it.”, I respond and give her the book. She smiles and gets off the bus.

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He believes his coins are worth lots of dollars

Two hours before New York, there is a bus check, so we have to get off and wait inside a station. I meet a guy from France who shows me proudly two huge gold coins he bought on flea markets in Europe. He believes they are worth much more than the initial selling price. When he leaves, I sit next to a guy who looks like a drug addict.
” ‘sup man”, he says with half closed eyes. “Hi.”
I find out that he did not sleep for 48 hours and worked very long. While we talk, his eyes close and he drops his iPod. Bunk.
He picks it up again, looks at me, says two sentences and falls asleep again.
After a couple of wake-ups and fall-asleeps he manages to tell me that he plans to go to South America with friends and a Van. Bunk.
“Where do you come from”, he asks.
“Austria.”
“Wasn’t it something like Austria-Hungary?”
“Yeah, before the first world war.”
“Ah. Yeah, right.” Bunk.
He’s a good guy.

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Arriving in New York City, I manage my luggage. I open the thick snowboard jacket, put the huge laptop inside and zip the jacket. The backpack on the back, the reflector and book dangling, three bags hanging from my hand, hunchbacked to drag both suitcases and carry them up and down stairs. I feel like a cripple. Sometimes people offer me help. I guess my luggage weighted altogether 50kg.


The public transport terminal of JFK airport

After about one and a half hours later of walking through Times Square, riding subways and squeezing myself and the luggage through the narrow tunnels of NYC’s subway stations, I arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport. It is three in the morning. I am not tired, have no desire to sleep. All I think about revolves around the girl that I am going to meet in the next airport. The whole time I feel my body is getting closer and closer to where my heart was for the last months. It is not a good idea to move to a new city while wishing to be somewhere else.
I moved to Montreal but wished all the time I would be with Lorena in Los Angeles.
Long-Distance relationships in general suck and can be painful. The reward for waiting so long, namely seeing each other again, is incredibly intense and unforgettable.

I walk to the men’s bathroom, put down all my stuff and start to undress myself. I change my clothes to the black, classy pants I wore when working as a tourguide in the Museum of Tolerance, and the blue shirt that Lorena chose for me. A black tie to finish off. When I walk out of the bathroom, small birds fly by and pick bread crumbs from the floor of the food court.

I check in my luggage at 5AM. 25$ fee because I have two suitcases. I put all my hand luggage on a bar table and walk to a McDonalds that is inside the Airport. “One big coke!”, I say while watching my luggage from the corner of my eyes. I have to pay and lose the luggage out of sight for a moment. The girl behind the counter gives me the Coke and I walk back to my stuff. No laptop.
FUCK, where is the laptop! I go through all my things, throw my snowboard jacket tpo the floor – nothing. No laptop. I look around. A guy in a suit eats maccaroni next to me. Maybe he saw something. In the corner, there is a security guard, he holds a laptop under his arm. My laptop.

“Never leave your stuff somewhere, sir. You are in New York city now. Take care.”, he says with a grin while giving the laptop back to me. I was so close to shit my pants.

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This year of doing my Holocaust Memorial Service was without question the best year of my life. I lived together with a paranoid scizophrenic in a gorgeous apartment overlooking Los Angeles. I worked in the Museum of Tolerance and made hundreds of students and adults reconsider their acceptance towards others. I worked with people four times as old as me and learnt that old people are the best teachers when it comes to life experience. I went to auditions and performed in small student plays and student movies. I had a serious car crash that could have ended much worse than it did. I met hundreds of genuinly unique people. I got fired while being an unpaid intern.
I met a girl that I love more than anything I know. I moved to Canada and travelled all over it. I lived on a couch for two months. I accumulated a perverted French vocabulary. I am Louis the XIV. I saw places rarely seen by human eyes before. I held presentations in high schools and colleges and taught these students about Austrias role in the Holocaust.
I found meaning in everything I did. Apart from having an open relationship with Lorena and hurting her with it, I have no regrets. I grew mature and am proud of keeping my childishness. I opened myself towards others and through that had more experiences than I could have ever imagined. I became part of other people’s life, became part of societies far from what I knew before.

It was a year of learning. Learning about the most precious thing: Life.

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At 11AM, I arrive in Los Angeles. I walk with my big bunch of hand luggage through a long corridor, ending in the arrival area that is open to the public. I sit down on a bench, put all my stuff next to me, covering the laptop and camera with the snowboard jacket. I take off my black tie and wrap it around my head, blindfolding myself.
It was the best year of my life. I am sitting on LAX, blindfolded, not seeing, not knowing what is going to come.

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The only thing I know is that this end is a new beginning.
-THE END-

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P.S.: Thank you, Mama and Papa, for making all this possible.

Stefan and another friend from Montreal invited me to an ice swimming event in Montreal. It would be the last event I’d attend in Montreal. So, at 1PM on Saturday, a group of couchsurfers meet Stefan and me on the Island St. Helene. Only three of us brought bathing clothes, the other ten “just wanted to watch” .. what a disappointing number of wussies and pussies.

After a little walk we arrive at a frozen lake in the middle of the island. A crowd of people is gathered around a hole in the ice. Three tents accompany the group and seem to be there for medical reasons. We pass two abulance cars, ten paramedics, two policemen on horses and a squad of about 20 policemen next to the hole. There are four divers in wetsuits sitting on the border of the hole and swing their legs in the water. Huge mascots stand on ice blocks which were cut out to create the water pool – they are at least half a meter thick. Some guy is holding a metal torch to symbolize the Olympic background of this event – it is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics in Montreal.

Fundraiser. That’s the part that made us doubt if we would participate – officially, you have to “donate” 50$ to jump in the water. We negotiate with the organizers, but no chance. Either you pay 50$, or you can just watch. Three people over fourty are holding hands and finally jump in the water. Everyone is cheering. They climb out of the water to make space for a fat man in a Hawaii shirt and an ugly hat.

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We decide that there’s a better way than to pay 50$ just to be supervised by a supersized police corp and medical assistance. “This river, over there!”, suggests Yan, the only guy manly enough apart from Stefan and me who brought swimming equipment. We go to the river “over there”, but instead of a river, we find a cover of deep snow – hard to show off swimming skills in there. The last possibility is the St. Laurent river, a large masss of floating water and ice that surrounds Montreal island. We get to the shore but encounter a five meter wide ice platform – not a safe place to jump in the powerful current and get out quickly enough to not freeze – oustide temperatures of -10° C combined with a water that is around 0° C can be pretty lethal.

At this point, I knew I had to return to downtown with the subway to say goodbye to my boss Naomi and catch my bus to New York city. Stefan, this hardcore Gedenkdiener and Yan, the hardline couchsurfer tough, took the brave bath. They went to the other side of the island and found a decent spot that allowed them to get into the river and out again. I couldn’t witness it myself, but this photo looks real:

My service is coming to an end, so it is time to admit a couple of things:

  • Altough my dandyish presence at golfing, I am still only into girls.
  • To be more precise, I am only into one girl: Lorena.
  • I wear long underwear combined with karate pants and jeans to fight the cold weather. Everything warmer than -13°C is for pussies, to be honest.
  • After a long phase of denial, I have to admit my addiction to maple syrup. In the last week it grew so extreme that I had a bottle standing in my room, constantly sipping out of it when entering or exiting my living space.

This addiction drove me to the conclusion that to get the full Quebec experience, I have to visit a cabane d’ sucre, or in simple English, a sugar shack.

Peter, undoubtedly one of my favorite roatrip friends, offers his car. I bring Stefan, Chris and Manel. We drive about an hour far outside of the city and park in front of a huge one-story wooden cottage. Many expensive cars are parked around us. It wouldn’t be a different picture if we would have driven to a cocaine farm – both maple syrup and the white powder are simply powerful drugs.

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A great Band I met on the subway station – their violin-guitar sounds could be a movie soundtrack. Le Macadam Orkestra


The guy who runs the sugar farm. In the background long tables to get fat, colored in red-white. I am reminded of Austria.


Cooking the fat


Our 15$-each dinner… Vive la Canada!

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The food is fatty. Really fatty. There are dark brown fries that look like cookies (I believe their original color was bright yellow before they were soaked with grease), sausages, omlettes, bread (which itself is not fatty, but its being served with a mashed fat cream) … and all of that stuff, of course, is subject to be put on a plate and bathed in maple syrup by the Canadian consumer. To that, you drink milk. Free of charge. 15$ for the eating orgy.
As we think about health issues, a perfectly rounded man of about 250kg rolls through the rows of benches. He seems to be a regular customer.

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Back at home, we start the party. Peter gives me a package of Kangaroo Jerky as a goodbye present. If you know Beef jerky – well, Kangaroo looks a little lighter, has a similar consistence and tastes like beef. I am first disgusted by the thought of eating a Kangaroo, but my curiosity forces my appetite for those hopping animals, and many pieces of them hop down my throat. As the party gets started and people start rolling in, I take shelter in Michka’s room. It is one of these bonding moments where my roommates Yukkunn, Michka, his good friend Raphael and me end up talking about men stuff, listening and giving advice to each other. Amazing. Someone interrupts us, and as I look outside, the living room is filled with people. I return to the room, and when I come out half an hour later, everyone has their coats on and is leaving.
“What’s up?”, I ask.
“No alcohol left, we’re going to a bar.”
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Real Australian Kangaroo Jerky.

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No alcohol, no problem: I just come with them. I observe my colleague Chris giving women dating advice about men. “Men are so simple. They are like monkeys.” is my favorite. This man knows what he is talking about. At 4AM I fall asleep in a chaotic room, half packed, half empty. Only a couple of hours left.

Montreal is a city that wraps around a little mountain, and this mountain gives the city its name: Mont-Real. Pretty much right in front of downtown, on mid-height of the majestic skyscrapers you find a terrace offereing a stunning view. I’ve been up there once when I went nordic skiing with my roommate Michka, but this time I am there to take pictures.

It’s quite a sight; and Austrian with a bloodred lens on a semiprofessional camera limping like a retard up the mountain. You can choose to start at the Tam-Tam statue and work your way up a boring serpentine street covered in snow, or you take the little bolder approach and just walk straight to the stairs, which lead you directly up to the belvedere:

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Arriving on the snowy top of Montreal is one of the best feelings in the world: The city lies beyond you in an eternal stillness, and yet at the same time you hear distant noise, wind blowing through the streets, cars howling in the night. Little lights are dancing along pearl chains, and the power of this stillness is overwhelming. If you happen to be in Montreal, this should be one of the first things you want to see.

This book took me pretty long to read, for the same reasons The Business of Graphic Design was a tough one: Because of the large amount of compressed content that it pumped in my head. To both authors, Ed Gold and Gil Bettman, the same thing applies: They are both not very well known, but amazing teachers.

Since I have no experience with the job of a director itself but want to start at some point, I went to the Montreal library. Between numerous biographies of Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen Spielberg, I found a white book which was exactly explaining that what I wanted to know. On my last journey to Los Angeles I took it with me to read it – got caught up in more important things, namely people and adventures – and forgot the book at Lorenas house. For Valentines day, she sent it back to me, and here I am, with a 13$-fee for bringing a book back two months too late, and with a broad grin of happiness that I read it.

First Time Director

by Gil Bettman

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This book is pretty much the steak and broccoli for filmmaking: All you need to survive.
“First Time Director” is presented in a chronologic order, starting in the preproduction, going into the production and set management, and ending in postproduction and promotion. It covers just about anything you can imagine being necessary to know as a filmmaker. Since the book was written a while ago, the CGI part is reduced to a minimum, which could be a downside for someone who doesn’t know about compositing, rotoscoping, greenscreens and that kind of stuff. The rest of a directors life gets full coverage.

The social dynamics Gil describes with his first producer named Pedro are absolutely priceless: The written Spanish accent (“Eeeez miii money, eeeeezz miii movie!”) bears a lot of truths behind the comedic message: Don’t mess too much with the person who finances the movie – you can get fired at any point.
The relationship producer-director as well as director-cinematographer get so much attention that you could swear after a couple of pages this book would be a job psychology manual. When you read about actor management, you could swear the book is only about acting skills and performance improvement techniques; and that’s how you will feel with the rest of the content: Each subject is given meticulous attention on a very compressed space; more a factual listing than colloquial writing. Therefore, if you read Gil’s book slowly, you will definitely benefit more from it. At the end of each chapter, there is a comprehensible list with the most important points made.

The book covers these areas in great detail:
Relationships with the key players (producer, director of photography, editor, composer etc.), hiring the key people, dealing with studio bosses and financiers, camera movement, shot planning, actor handling/training, improvement and management of performances, soundediting, mixing, camera principles, editing, music and crew management.
All in all a good read that gives you an enormous insight into the world of a director and requires no prior knowledge (well, you should know how to read and what a movie is, but that’s about it). “First Time Director” is simple to understand, and still, the lessons you can learn from it are uncountable.

A beautiful plan: Stefan and me would get into a rideshare, drive down to Quebec City and do four hours of Paraskiing. Paraskiing is like kitesurfing, but instead of a kiteboard you have skis or a snowboard, and instead of water you have snow…:

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It’s about 80$ for four hours, so we figured that it was expensive but worth the price. An awesome site for ridesharing in Quebec (and partly down to the U.S.) is AmigoExpress. You pay six dollars to the site itself, and an little more than the gas expenses to the driver. That’s it.
So, instead of using a greyhound-like bus system and paying 50$ to get from Montreal to Quebec, you pay 18$.

So Stefan and me meet at 7AM at a gas station with our driver and begin the journey, really excited for the paraskiing. Stefan calls the organizers to confirm that we are coming. While I see majestic bridge pylons passing by outside, indicating that Quebec city is only a few minutes away, Stefans face shows concern instead of excitement.
“Cancelled? What? Why? … Is there a chance to do it any way? What, no, we are on our way, from Montreal! Yes … Is there anything … aha. Okay. Goodbye.”

Those lousy dudes at the paraskiing facility just decided that today was a snow storm and the paraskiing was cancelled. But we could come tomorrow. And they couldn’t inform us yesterday night or so.
I look outside again. Romantic little snowflakes dancing by in a nearly windless air. The pussiest snowstorm I’ve ever seen.
We get pretty mad and make up plans for redemption, which mainly include inappropriately dispensed body fluids, but soon figure out that this wouldnt make a lot of sense and decide otherwhise – to use the day as well as possible.
In Quebec City, you can go Snow Mobile driving, but it costs about a million dollars to rent them for an hour. A dog-pulled sled is even more expensive to rent. On our way to the tourist information in downtown, we encounter the beginning of an adventurous day: A 20m or so high hill made of snow.

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After climbing up, we decide that we are the kings of the world and therefore should slide down the tallest part of the hill. Stefan goes first:


Quite a slide

I let my backpack including my camera slide down on its own, Stefan catches it. “Ok Toby, go!”
And I jump. And its gonna be a wonderful day. Snow is spraying in my face, my feet rattling through the compressed snow of the hill, braking my increasing sped only a little. I feel so alive. Full of action. Fuck Paraskiing, we got something better here. If those paraskiing guys wouldn’t have just cancelled that event without prior notice, then we wouldnt have found this awesome hill.
I can’t see where the bottom of the hill is tough, too much snow thrown at me from my flabbery feet.
CHRRUUCHHH!

Thats what I would have heard if I would have sat inside the muscle that wraps the ankle of my right leg. I just fell with speed gained over a steeper-than-45-degrees slope over a 2m-cliff right on a concrete parking lot. “Are you okay? The securities are coming!”

I feel like puking. My foot feels like being amputated. Great.
The securities take down our names and advise us to leave campus, since last year someone did the same and broke his foot. I was pretty close to breaking it, I guess, but thanks to Parkour and acrobatics it was the muscles which compensated the impact, not the bones.
The rest of the day basically consisted in complaining over my pain, thinking about life, getting thrown out of a subway (Sir, you are here since four hours, you are not my customer any more. Could you please put on socks.), drinking expensive coffee, reading a book and limping through the brownish slimy half-melt snow of Quebec City.

Fuck Paraskiing, seriously.

Our last day in Ottawa was quite touristy to a certain degree. The visit at the Parliament when goping to Ottawa is as mandatory as seeing the Stephansdom and all the Japanese tourists around it when visiting Vienna. So we did that. Unfortunately, the great tours supported by amateur actors, sponsored by the government, were closed and just a general visit to the center block was allowed – the line too long, too Canadian, so we didn’t set our feet inside.
Seriously. In Canada there are lines everywhere. And usually, they are too long.

But there’s maple syrup to sweeten the waiting time, so its all half that bad.

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Our extremely comfy couches for 20$ per person at the Ottawa Backpackers Inn – again, this hostel is awesome.


A true Austrian without makeup. Stefan wants to remain anonymous.


The Canadian parliament. This is where Stephen Harper gave everybody a couple of weeks holidays to rescue his dictatorship.


Witch trials. Burn in hell, Austrians.


I took the bottom photo when I was in Ottawa during July 2008. I tried to get a similar perspective now during the winter… someone with a good eye may see the minor differences (hint: in the summer there are more clouds!)


Like blasphemy, but more about blasen (German for blowing)


Between the Center and the West block of the Ottawa Parliament, an old retiree, called the “cat man”, is feeding and caressing the cats that once protected the Parliament from the pest by eating mice and rats. A must-see for every starting adventurer.

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And now, ladies and gentlemen, comes the most fascinating, least known attraction in Ottawa. We literally saw less than 20 people apart from us in this venue: The currency museum housed inside the headquarters of the Bank of Canada. Location
This glass building wraps seamlessly around a concrete building, which houses the currency museum – and inside the humongeous glass building is nothing but a gigantic jungle with a pool and the probably biggest currency ever: a milestone, two meters in diameter, that was used as a payment option in some far-away island culture.
The currency museum is free – and not just that, no, you also get free cookies, free coffee, free tea, and during the summer even free ice cream. Did I mention the impressive architecture with more empty space than I could fill with my amazement?


Bank of Canada lobby


Whoever the architect is, I feel quite aroused by that kind of building.


Chris and Stefan in front of the currency museum… money money MONEY!


Free tea, coffee, cookies .. everything you need for an awesome museum.


That’s how the currency museum looks from the inside


Germany has a really strong currency. For those who can’t speak the beautiful German language, the amounts are as following:
10 DM (German Marks, now replaced by the Euro)
100.000 DM
200.000.000 DM
10.000.000.000 DM


Businesses that were going out of business or could not pay their suppliers often gave out an own currency whis stated “Good For (…)” and let you purchase a product of the business. Why the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association features a Davids star on their coins will remain a miracle for us.


Inbetween foolish children’s drawings my genius future Canadian currency

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I ask the lady at the front desk what the weirdest coin was she ever saw, and she meant it was one that said “Good for one shoe” – so unless you didnt do an adequate amount of work for this shoe manufacturer, they paid you with something that could buy you one shoe, not two…
Ottawa is basically a collection of foreign embassies, somewhere the Canadian Parliament and some other government buildings, some parking lots and … that’s it. So, on our way to the American fortress (embassy) we find this advertisement:


Some people didnt really like that campaign


If Canada would fall into a war, and there would be a nuclear attack to Ottawa, then the only thing surviving would be the cats on parliament hill (they have seven lives) and the American embassy, pictured above. That thing is seriously a copy of Fort Knox – and so welcoming… “Wanna come in to have a tea and we’ll ask you some questions?”


Next to the embassy, the Museum of Modern Art with its huge spider

The first and foremost reason we came to Ottawa is the free public ice skating rink that is installed every year on the Rideau Canal. Last evening some people in the TV room told us that the skating rink was closed due to thin ice, but chances were good it would be reopened.
So, today morning I look the official Ottawa page for the Rideau Canal up, and see this:

Perrrrfect! I borrowed Jeshia’s ice skates, Stefan borrowed those of his roommate, but Chris didn’t have any ice skates. Good that in our great backpackers inn hostel there was a cartboard box full of left over ice skates, that you can borrow for free. As we step in our rouge rental car, an I want to eat my breakfast, I realize that the Peaches were frozen. The water I washed them with the day before had accumulated to a thick ice coating. Good that we didn’t sleep in the car…


Already a running joke


The coke I left in the car was full of ice


Peaches on the rock

In the inner city we find a 5$-all-day-long parking construction and drive up to the rooftop. There seems to be no elevator, so in our foolishness we just run down 40.000 steps to reach street level. Ottawa is extremely walkable, so we make our way to the canal with the ice skates thrown over our shoulders. There is something weird about Canadian culture: People always make festivals and meet in large crowds. Maybe it is so weird because Canada has an amazingly low population density, or maybe because this gathering gene seems to not be influenced by temperature at all: Canadians always gather, regardless of ice or snow.


About a million steps


This is the weirdest way to protect pedestrians crossing the street: This van drives back and forth in his little fence to accompany the people across the street before stopping at the end and making space for cars to pass inbetween. Maybe it’s too cold for an ordinary traffic officer?


Addicted to gathering


A tower of plastic bottles – Canadians just know how it’s done.


Ice sculptor, sounding like a dentist while drilling a shape into this soon-to-be fire spitting dragon

And there we go: Compareable to the Vienna canal, a little river going somewhere from the far West Viennese suburbs of the 13th district into the inner city, the Rideau Canal goes all the way through Ottawa, too. As the winters get colder, it completely freezes and is open to the public. People even go to work with ice skates on this canal. Just another depiction of Canadian gathering culture, may some sarcastic minds say. Over the 4.5 mile long part that is open to public this time, I see about 10.000 people with ice skates, boots or sleds. There are tents, ovens, bars, restaurants and seating areas right on the ice. It is an amazing sight, and whoever goes to Ottawa during the winter, can’t miss that.

Again, adults are dragging their children behind in little plastic sleds, so be careful where to throw your ice skates when you “try to gain speed” – but you’ll lose the race against this five year old bastard with the helmet anyway.. it must be either because every Canadian child is taught how to ice skate before it is taught to walk, or because maple syrup contains steroids..


The Rideau Canal packed with all kinds of skating enthusiasts


With this nursing home device, children are learning to skate. Looking at my skating skills I should get one too… to the left, you can see a hole in the ice that was marked with spray paint.


Canadian military cooling its engines on the ice


Long cracks seem to bother nobody

After a 9 kilometer ride on ice skates, we are naturally exhausted and decide to watch a movie. “He’s just not that into you” is a very lovely love comedy movie that both men (without puking their intestines out as a reaction to too cheesy flirting scenes) and women (you’ll love it, darling) can watch. We feel a little awkward as a group of three chill dudes in the cinema, since everyone else in the theater is either a couple or a girl group.
Too bad we have to notice that the Emo culture got as far as Ottawa – little children in tight pants, heads gravitating towards the floor due to the heavy use of mascara .. ugh, and I thought, I could leave them behind in Europe – a misconception.


Very important to us Austrians: Getting drunk during the afternoon. Inside, we find Stiegl beer and some German classics. I am told not to take pictures inside, to protect the alcoholics or so.

When we try to get home by car, I discover the plastic bag that contained the peaches and the ice. I throw the ice out of the window, and when we stop at a red light, I want to throw the bag into a trash can on the street corner. I push open the door, just to see a bus approaching on the lane next to us and shutting it again.

On the second try I get out of the car, run around some cars and throw the bag gracefully into the trash.
“It’s half hanging outside”, Stefan notes upon my return. I run back, push the bag into the can, run back. Two red cars. Ours must be the latter one. I try to open the door, but it is locked. I look inside and see the outraged face of some 45-year old guy who obviously assumes that I tried to steal his car. I have to jump back as he jumps the car sharply into my direction, throws some hateful gestures towards me and takes off, leaving only some tyre rubber on the concrete.
My heart is getting a mental adrenaline injection, and I get into the right car. “What the fuck were you doing Toby?”, Stefan asks. I don’t know. Saving the environment?

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We try to navigate back to the hostel, and accidentally end up on a freeway towards Montreal. Isn’t that weird: When we park our car randomly, we unknowingly park it right in front of the hostel, and when we try to find the hostel, we find ourselves on a random freeway that leads to the city we came from.

I’ve been to Ottawa during the summer. Now, during the winter, the icy Canadian government has not stopped to promote its capital with creative ideas how to make cold weather into a heck load of fun. Chris, Stefan and me, Gedenkdieners in Montreal, rent a car at enterprise – which is roundabout the cheapest place in the hood when it comes to renting cars in Canada.

While we are driving towards Ottawa, someone asks innocently “Sooo… where are we going to sleep?”, and as usual, as in every teenage roadtrip, nobody wanted the responsibility to look for a hostel and gave this task to someone else. We had no place to stay.
When arriving in Ottawa three hours later – Chris drives like a girl -, we take some wrong exit and finally arrive in downtown. The best way to find internet are usually Starbuckses or Second Cups, but in Ottawa, the funny coffe meetups for nursing home inhabitants end too early.
After a while, we pass an inhabited cafe and park our car on some random street. Not any parking style … Chris style.

So, we merge with the few people who populate Ottawa during a Friday night in downtown and go to the hot spot: Not a club, not a bar, but a Second Cup cafe. We find free internet, find a hostel, get the maps, take a piss and still don’t know if there are any beds left for us. Stefan draws a crooked sketch of the way, and we get back in the car that is resting its right back foot on the sidewalk “to prevent varicose veins”. Stefan holds his map.
“Ok Chris… turn right.”
“And now, mh, turn right.”
“And right..”
“and again right!”

We find ourselves in the same street where we randomly parked our car – and the hostel was just across the street. It is a family house made of wood, very American indeed. The guy who runs the hostel explains that they are booked, but upon offering that we would sleep anywhere, even on the floor, he reveals that there are two beds and one couch available. I get the couch – but instead of leading me in that room where a bunch of people sits around and watches TV, he leads me to the house next door and shows me an amazing, huge, white couch. I am astounded.


The Backpackers Inn Ottawa reception


Lots of backpackers..

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It’s Friday night, and especially because politics in Canada are fueled with alcohol (who would suspend parliament just to reign a little longer?), we go out. Chris, Stefan and me end up in a really dirty rock bar, filled with loud little brats that are barely fourteen but somehow seduced the bouncer to let them pass. As Stefan drops a glass from the table, suddenly everyone around us starts applauding and jumps up. Seriously, how boring must Ottawa be, if there are thirty people applauding for a dropped glass?


Hot dog and poutine – that’s a little late night snack for us Canadians.