March 07, 2005

Back in Iraq

Well, I arrived in Kuwait last night after an amazing two weeks vacation. I get off the plane, meet up with my boss, and he says "Pack your bags...we're going to Iraq in a few hours."

So now I'm in Iraq, just north of Baghdad, and I've got a lot of catching up to do. Here's a few photos from my trip to Europe.

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Snowboarding in Austria. You can see the town of Innsbruck in the distance.

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Innsbruck at night...

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The northern Italian town of Bolzano (Bozen).

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The southern German town of Münich (München).

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A salt (Salz) mine that we explored in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

I also went to Salzburg, Kaiserslautern, Ainring, Switzerland (on accident!), and Val Gardena for some more snowboarding. I'll update the site with more photos from my vacation soon.

Cheers.

Posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Comments (3)

March 13, 2005

My name is mud

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I caught a flight from Kuwait to Iraq in one of these, a C130 Hercules.

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I'm up at LSA Anaconda now, and this is my new neighborhood. Housing here is pretty nice, especially compared to tents and other places I've slept.

I am staying in northern Iraq, near a town called Balad. The camp itself is called LSA Anaconda (Logistics Support Area), and Anaconda is the main supply hub in theater.

For those who want to know, "logistics" is defined as the science of managing and controlling the flow of goods, energy and information. The term was originally military, but it is now used worldwide to describe supply and trucking companies. Since the coalition's focus is on rebuilding the country, logistics management plays an important role. Essentially, you have to figure out how much stuff you need, and where it needs to go, on a global scale.

Back to the photos...

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This used to be a parking lot. Things are great now, but it rained nonstop for the past three days.

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These contractors were stuck in the mud, trying to get their bus out.

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This is one of our training centers. As you can see, we now have a small moat. This is to keep the bad guys out!

I'll be here in Anaconda for the next few weeks, then I'm off to Taji, also north of Baghdad. I heard it's worse there, because they don't have as many paved roads.

Also, I'll post about my vacation soon, but you know how it goes. I'll try in a few days...

Posted by Dan at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2005

Camp Taji (formerly Camp Cooke)

To comply with security concerns, I will now mark any posts involving military photography at the top of each article. My site has had some revealing photos of camps and equipment, but I have always exercised caution when posting, and nothing I put up here can ever be used to harm a troop or civilian.

That said, on with the show...

//UNCLASSIFIED//
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If it 'aint hot out, it's raining. Welcome to winter in Iraq. Good thing it's almost over.

I am now at Taji, a military base about 5 minutes north of Baghdad. I flew down here about a week ago, but I'm back. This is where I'll be hanging out for a while.

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Yesterday my flight to Taji was by Blackhawk, but last week it was a Chinook. Chinooks are those goofy looking helicopters in the photo with two rotors. They were introduced in 1959, and because of their durability and strength, they are still in use today. Their twin rotors are ideal for transporting heavy supplies and personnel.

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This is my neighborhood (for now). The sandbags are getting a little worn, but still provide protection from incoming mortars and rockets...not that we've had any problems lately.

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These tanks belonged to Saddam before the war. We gained control of Iraq's military and seized this arsenal. They are no longer usable, so they sit here broken as reminders of war.

Yeah, so this post is a little short. I'm trying to keep up with everything that has been happening lately at work. I have no idea when I'll be headed back down to Kuwait, but at this point I'm starting to like being up here again.

Oh, and I promise I'll post the pictures from my vacation next time. I've been working on that one for a while now, and it will be worth the wait.

Posted by Dan at 11:32 PM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2005

Euro Trip

Click to zoom in
Click on the map to zoom in. This map shows all the places I visited. I included the capitals but didn't get the chance to see them.

As promised, here are more pictures from my amazing trip to Europe last month. I was gone for two weeks, so I tried to make the most of my time. On my trip, I went to Germany, Austria, and Italy, with one accidental stop in Switzerland.

G E R M A N Y

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Driving down the Autobahn 6, on the way to Kaiserslautern (K-Town), Germany. I stopped off there to visit some friends who live in K-Town. I wanted to just relax and check out the town.

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This is Spinnrädl (thanks to Sarah in Germany for the correction!), one of the oldest restaurants still around in K-Town - I think about 500-years-old. After a few days, I headed for Bavaria (southern Germany). I must've been goofing off, because I didn't notice the exit and I drove straight into Switzerland. A few hours later, I was back on track, headed towards Munich on the Autobahn 8.

This is where I met with a few other friends, including a soldier from Kuwait. We stayed in Ainring, but drove across the border into Austria to visit Salzburg.

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Ah, Salzburg. Across the Salzach River, you can see the Salzburg Fortress. In German, Salz means "salt" and burg (or berg) can mean anything from "mountain" to "castle" to "town." In this case, it might be all three.

Salzburg was a thriving city in old times, because the salt industry was a booming business. Salzburg is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I learned his full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. No wonder we just call him Mozart!

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Drinking some bier in Austria. This is Marichelle and Albert, and myself in the middle (the person taking the picture and also holding a bier is Jeff).

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Just going for a walk...

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We went back to Germany to hang out for a few days, to enjoy the sights, the food, and the beer. I saw this video store, where you choose a movie and it pops out through a little slot, just like an ATM. Weird, eh?

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We also went sledding at Hochschwarzeck, a small mountain resort in southern Germany.

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I don't even need to tell you how beautiful it was.

A U S T R I A

Next we headed down to Innsbruck, Austria (Österreich), to do some snowboarding.

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Shhh. I'm lost in thought.

The skies above Innsbruck, Austria, at a snow resort known as Nord Park. The view was incredible, like we we're standing in the clouds...

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My friend, Albert, wondering how are we going to get down this thing! We also snowboarded in Kühtai, Austria. Nord Park in Innsbruck was more difficult, but Kühtai had better snow.

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At night, we checked out the town on foot. Even on a Friday, it seemed so quiet, like nothing was going on.

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Eventually, we found a place to get some dinner and have a few drinks.

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This Triumphal Arch was just a few blocks from our hotel. Structures like this can be found all over Europe, because they were frequently commissioned as a popular means of honoring an event or a person. This side mourns the death of the Holy Roman Emperor, while the other side celebrates the wedding of Archduke Leopold to Spanish Princess Maria Ludovica.

Here's a good web page with more info about the Arch in Austria.

I T A L Y

Next was Northern Italy, in what is known as South Tyrol.

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Driving through Val Gardena (a skier's paradise). In the distance you can see the famous Dolomites Mountains.

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This region of the Alps is known for great snow conditions, but man it was freezing!

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We only spent a few days there. I wish I had more time. Maybe next vacation I'll go south to Venice or Rome.

I regret not taking any pictures of Brenner Pass. The view is just unreal. Driving from Austria into Italy, you take the A13/A22 through the Pass. Most of this drive is several hundred meters above the ground, on a tall bridge, or through tunnels that dig into the side of the mountains. I love scenery like this, and will definitely have to visit again.

G E R M A N Y

Next we drove back to Germany...because we had more drinking and exploring to do!

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In the old Bavarian town of Berchtesgaden, there is a large underground salt mine. To tour the mine, you have to wear protective clothing (mostly just for presentation). Hey, lookin' sharp there, buddy.

The tour started on a modified mine rail, taking us deep into the caves, where we stepped off and walked to these wooden chutes.

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Believe it or not, the miners used to slide down these chutes to get to the bottom faster. We got to slide down the wooden rails, running in length of about 33 meters. That was fun!

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Going deeper. The salz (salt) mine is still in use today, producing the majority of Germany's commercial salt goods.

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This is an underground lake, used to dissolve the salt in the earth. The blue light reflects off the low ceiling. We traveled across the lake in a small boat before continuing with the tour. The sign in the distance means something like "Good Luck," and is an old miner's expression.

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To leave, we had to get back on the mine rail.

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This is where the rail car dropped us off.

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Ah, Munich. This place was cool! Aside from all the great beer, this southern city has a lot to offer historically, and I really dig the gothic architecture.

Many people think that Germans invented beer (and I can understand why, with all the great breweries in Germany). The truth is, the drink has been around since the beginning of civilization. That's right, the Sumerians discovered beer about 6000 years ago.

Just think about that. The birthplace of beer is somewhere within the region of what is now Iraq. Isn't that strange? I wonder what Sumerian brew tasted like.

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The City Center (Zentrum). I had my first experience with soccer hooligans here. The Bayern München Football Team just won a game that day, and there were dozens of fans walking around shouting and singing and knocking stuff over. It's pretty funny to see a stereotype in all its glory.

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The City Hall (Rat Haus). It has now been surrounded by small restaurants and stores. I don't know how I feel about taking something historic and turning it into a coffeeshop/mobile phone store/etc.

Enough cynicism...

I ate lots of great German food, like wurst and schnitzel with pommes frites (fries). And I don't know how this happened, but the Germans like to put curry on their "hotdogs" (they call it curry wurst).

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I also discovered a drink called Radler. You take a light beer, like a Helles, and you add carbonated lemonade (see picture). It's great after a long day of snowboarding, or a long night of drinking. hehe.

I had a great time in Europe, and I know I'll be going back. I made some new friends, tried some new food, and learned a little about history. I look forward to seeing what these places look like in the summer, when the trees are full of color (and also when it's not -16C!!).

Now it's back to work...in the Middle East. But what can I complain about? In three months, I'm going to Ukraine! hahaha.

Until next post...

Posted by Dan at 08:08 PM | Comments (3)