Monday, March 31, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 9

Monday, March 31 - Train to Dresden, Rental Car to Ingolstadt, Sleep in Ingolstadt

I had been fighting off a cough since the start of this trip, and Monday morning it kept me awake from 4am to 6am. I'd set my alarm for 7:30, but I fell back asleep until 8am. There was a train bound for Dresden due to leave the Holesovice station at 8:36 am, so I rushed to pack up the last of my stuff. I made it to the train in time and had to find an open seat since my ticket was a generic one with no seat assignment. Since this train was going back to Berlin, there were the same awesome views all the way to Dresden.

Once we got to Dresden, I knew I needed to disembark at Neustadt station to get on the S-Bahn route S2 to the airport. But I was anxious to get off the stuffy, crowded train and assumed there was plenty of transit between Haubtbahnof and Neustadt. There probably is, but I couldn't figure it out after I left the train at Haubtbahnof. I couldn't find any stops for the S2, nor could I find any routes at the station that said they went to Neustadt. I asked a few people but they didn't understand or didn't know where the S2 stopped.

Finally I walked around a tiny mall and found a stop for the S3. I got on it going the wrong direction first, but finally made it to Neustadt and got on an S2 to the airport.  The S3 had been a beautiful ride with views of museums that crossed over a river. The S2 went past some junkyards and lots of wooded areas. Once I made it to the airport, I rented a black VW Passat from Budget with automatic transmission. It didn't have a standard key, but instead you put a large fob into an ignition bay on the dashboard. No turning required, just push it in to start the engine.

After familiarizing myself with the car, it was time to drive on the German Autobahn! I exited the airport and got on the 4 to Chemnitz. Well, first I got on the 4 going the wrong direction and had to turn around to get to Chemnitz. Then I took the 72 and stopped at rest stop outside of Plaven. You have to pay 50 cents to use the bathroom, but you get it back if you buy something at the store there. The 9 then took me past Nuremburg and on to Ingolstadt, where I was staying for the night. The hotel was two quick turns off the Autobahn and I discovered that the Audi headquarters are in Ingolstadt. I ate dinner in the hotel's Italian restaurant: spaghetti with olive oil and garlic and then salmon.

Day Ten

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 8

Sunday, March 30 - Prague Day 2

March 30th was the start of Central European Summer Time (daylight saving here to us Americans) which pushes the clock ahead by an hour. Between that, my sleeping in and not hurrying much, I didn't leave my hostel until noon. I had already done most of the things I wanted to do in Prague in the previous day and a half! At Holesovice, I bought a generic ticket to Dresden for 525 kc (around $34) and then took the metro to Petrin Hill.
I planned to take the funicular up to the Petrin lookout tower, but the funicular was closed. Later I found out I could have taken a tram up to the top of the hill. Instead I walked up Karamelitska to the Charles Bridge again. This time I went across the bridge, came back over and went around to the Lennon Wall. Then I took the Metro up to the Malostranske namesti stop again. I crossed the river on Manesuv Most and walked past namesti Jana Palacha, named for Jan Palach. I got back on the Metro and headed to Palác Flora, a mall over the Flora Metro station. There I had some gelato, pondered seeing another movie and got some groceries. I decided against another movie and just went back to my hostel to surf the web for a bit.

Day Nine

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 7

Saturday, March 29 - Prague Day 1

I woke up at 8 am and took the Metro to Mala Strana and then the #22 tram up to the Prague Castle, the biggest castle complex in the world. When entering from the tram stop, you walk on a bridge over Deer Moat and past the riding school. I bought a 250 kc short ticket and a 50 kc photo permit. The short tour includes the Old Royal Palace, an exhibition "The Story of Prague Castle", St. George's Basilica, and Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower. St Vitus' Cathedral is free and holds the Bohemian Coronation Jewels. It reminded me of Westminster Abbey, just a bit less crowded. Next I went into the Old Royal Palace, a building where Czech kings have been crowned and presidents elected. Vladislav Hall is the large hall in the center of the palace with a vaulted ceiling in a rose petal pattern. It was a cold and windy day, and I noticed that most of the buildings were cold as well. Just off the hall is the Louis Tract, where the Thirty Years´ War began and where I was asked to show my photo permit. I continued on through St George's Basilica and then followed the crowd down the hill and into the Golden Lane. The Golden Lane is a collection of small houses within the castle grounds, also famous for housing Franz Kafka for a year.

The lane is full of gift shops, and as you descend the hill towards the castle exit, you pass more gift shops. Ignore those shops and take in the city views you see while passing Daliborka Tower. After a brief stop to snack and consult my guidebook, I took the 22/23 tram to Tesco, which sounded like a supermarket. It ended up being more like a department store with a small food section. I then walked north to Old Town Square to see the Astronomical Clock that has parts dating back to 1410. It is beautiful, entertaining and rather complicated. It was still cold, so I bought a Trdelnik, which is like a strip of dough wrapped around a metal stick and grilled with sugar and vanilla. As I sat and ate it, I made conversation with a British girl. She told me about how she and her boyfriend had missed their original flight to Prague and had to buy new tickets and drive several hours to a different airport. I told her about my passport ordeal last year.

After warming up a bit, I headed towards Josefov and the Old New Synagogue, but there was marathon being held that blocked my way. I got back on the Metro and went to Mala Strana, Lesser Town. Just outside the Malostranske namesti stop is a little park area with very nice views looking back at Old Town over the Charles River. I then took the Metro over to Wenceslas Square. I was mostly wandering at this point, with no real destination in mind. I sat in the square, read and gazed up at the National Museum. A group of demonstrators passed through the square and a woman started to hand me a pamphlet. She saw my book and said, "Oh, no Czech, no Czech," and walked away. I wandered a bit and then saw a sign for the Lucerna Passage. The name struck me as familiar, so I went inside. It is basically a mall, but then I saw this statue hanging inside and realized why the name stuck out.

There were two movie theaters (Kino) in the mall and There Will Be Blood was playing in English with Czech subtitles. I kept up my tradition by seeing it (100 kc for a ticket). It was too violent of course, but I did like the storyline. After the movie, I went back to the McDonalds near my hostel for dinner and then hit the sack.

Day Eight

Friday, March 28, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 6

Friday, March 28 - Train from Berlin to Prague, Sleep in Prague

I woke up at 8:30, packed and went downstairs to check out. I had purchased a train ticket from Deutsche Bahn on the Internet, but I was not sure if it gave me a car number and seat, so I asked at the front desk. It took them a few minutes and they had to ask several people, but they finally figured out that my car number was 260 and my seat was 56. I took the U-bahn to the Zoo station and got on the S-bahn to Berlin's Hauptbahnof, which is the largest crossing station in Europe. There I got snacks for the trip and went down to the lowest platform to wait for my train. It had started in Hamburg and was going all the way to Budapest, but I was only going to Prague. It was 2 and a half hours to Dresden and most of the scenery looked like very typical Midwestern American farmland.

From Dresden to Bad Schandau there were awesome views of the Elbe river and the bluffs and towns along its banks. The train was pretty empty until the first stop after the Czech border, in Decin Piper. There were lots of places along the tracks where there were houses built close to the tracks, but with a garden or cemetery between them. Once in the Czech republic, we continued along the river and the bluffs grew into mountains and there were more farms and vineyards.

Once we reached Prague, I got off at the first station, Holesovice and looked in vain for an ATM. I walked to my hostel and checked in, only to find I had a shared room and not a private one. I left my things there and went back to the train station. This time I found an ATM and took out a thousand crowns, or around 65 dollars. I got change at the McDonald's and was happy that they had curry sauce for my chicken nuggets, but it smelled too much like ketchup. I took the metro up to the Charles Bridge and walked across it, taking at least one picture of each statue as I went across. The sun slowly set as I walked across, so the pictures at the beginning show a much brighter sky then those towards the end. There are perfect views of both the Castle and Petrin hill from the bridge as well.

Day Seven

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate
Originally uploaded by soelo

Built in 1788. Napoleon had a victory parade through this when he conquered Berlin. This was part of the Berlin Wall and where it was first opened in 1989.

Germany and Prague - Day 5

Thursday, March 27 - Berlin Day 2

Today I went on the Discover Berlin tour from Berlin Walks, which I highly recommend for an overview of the city. Our tour guide was Jacob and we met outside the Zoo Tiergarten station. We took the S-Bahn a few stops and then saw the TV tower from far away. We went past the Berliner Dom, saw the roof of the Synagogue, and then hit Museum Island. There Jacob pointed out the bullet holes in some decorative columns, and explained how they were made during the Battle of Berlin. I think he said the Soviets made them.
Seeing the Gedachtniskirche's bombed out remains and now being in front of these bullet holes had a sobering effect on me. WWII had played out on the very ground beneath my feet. Many of the buildings and roads around me had been destroyed and rebuilt. It's one thing to learn or read about war, or even to watch it in a movie. It is quite another thing to have physical remains of a war in front of you.
We continued over the island and stood in the Lustgarten while he told us about the Altes Museum (Old Museum) and then the Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace). We then continued down Unter den Linden ("under the lime trees") past tons of buildings of historical importance and took a break in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Consruction on The Gate began in 1788, and since then it has become the ultimate symbol of Berlin's history of rule by the Prussians, Napoleon, the Nazis, the Soviets and now it's reunification. It was part of the Berlin Wall and witnessed Reagan's speech where he implored, "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
After walking through the gate, we could see the dome over the Reichstag building off to the right, but turned left towards the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The Memorial is a non-square city block covered in 2,711 large concrete slabs called stele (plural: stelea or steles). They vary in height from 8 inches to almost 16 feet, and the ground slopes down toward the center. The overall effect is chaos and order coexisting. The architect stated he wanted to show a supposedly ordered system that had gone awry. It was pretty somber walking through, even though the optical effects were interesting when I was near the center. One of the pictures I took there is now the wallpaper on my Blackberry.
After we all met up on the other side of the Memorial, we walked over to the parking lot of an apartment building and Jacob told us the story of Hitler's last days. We were standing right above the bunker where he killed himself, and Jacob explained how it was all just a pile of concrete rubble now. We walked past the former Luftwaffe headquarters and over to a section of the Berlin Wall that still remains on Niederkirchnerstrasse. Here he told us the story of the Wall coming down. We headed over to Checkpoint Charlie and then up to Gendarmenmarkt where the tour ended. I was surprised to see an Obama bumper sticker stuck to the sidewalk near Checkpoint Charlie.
I took the U-Bahn to Friedrichstrasse station to get batteries for my camera. The charger was not charging them in the camera, so I had been using my Blackberry for pictures during the whole walking tour. I then walked over to the Pergamon Museum. Inside I saw the Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Market gate of Miletus. I climbed to the top of the Pergamon Altar and then saw a scale model of the site of the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.
After that, I bought some food at a grocery store and headed back to my hotel. Tomorrow I take the train to Prague.

Day Six

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 4

Wednesday March 26 - Berlin Day 1

I got up and headed back to Kurfürstendamm. I bought the transit half of the Berlin Welcome card and then headed over to KaDeWe, a big department store. I was looking for an adapter and some food, so I went up several escalators to the electronics department. There were no adapters in sight, but I did find a wall charger (with a Euro plug) for mini USB devices. Both my Blackberry and digital cameras are mini USB, so I grabbed it. I went up one floor to the food department. Wow! I got to see the hundreds of varieties of cheeses with my own eyes. I grabbed various things and went up to a register, but the woman said I had to go to register by the soda, since she couldn't ring up beverages. Okay, I guess. The guy ringing me up by the sodas gets annoyed that I have something electronic in my basket and tells me I have to buy that down on the electronics floor. Hmm, this is less like a store than a mall. Anyway, I head back to my hotel and have some lunch.

The Welcome card is both a 48 hour transit pass and a discount book, but I have to go to a Berlin infostore to get the discount book. I stop at the one in Neues Kranzler Eck to pick it up before heading over to the Zoo. It gets me 3 Euros off the 12 Euro admission.

Inside the Berlin Zoo, I wandered around looking at the outside animals, like elephants, goats, water bucks and giraffes and then went into the Primate house. Monkeys and Apes can be fun to watch, but I always like the lemurs the best. I can see the Gedächtniskirche from the southern end of the zoo, and get a few more pictures. I finally come to the Giant Panda, named Boa-Boa. This was my initial reason for coming to Berlin, to see a Giant Panda, and nearly every vacation I take involves a visit to a zoo or aquarium. Boa-Boa was pretty underwhelming since he was sleeping. Who can blame him? Being that cute must be exhausting. The enclosure can be viewed from 3 sides so while my first few pictures just look like a pile of fur, the ones from the other sides show a definite Panda shape. There is a picture of Boa-Boa wide awake here.

The Panda exhibit was attached to the Predator building. Inside there were wolverines, mongooses, meerkats, lions and my favorite, jaguarinos. I can't seem to find the English name for them, but they look like domestic cats that can tear you apart. I went through a bird building, past the sea lions and then out to see the Polar Bears. No, Knut wasn't out. I finished off with the rhinos, tapirs and hippos. Here are lots of other people's pictures of animals at the Berlin Zoo and here is my picture of a hippo. The oddest thing about the zoo was the number of adults I saw feeding or trying to feed the animals. One man was feeding the birds some seed and a woman was trying to get the tapirs to eat hay out of her hand.

Day Five

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 3

Tuesday, March 25 - Day in Munich, Afternoon Flight to Berlin, Sleep in Berlin

I woke up and had the awesome breakfast with the pretzels again. After checking out, I walked to the Haubtbahnof in the snow and left my bag in a locker that cost 3 Euros. I went looking for a department store called Hertie's, but I couldn't find it. Instead, I went into a store called Mueller, which was like a CVS/Walgreens. I got some cough drops and Kinder Eggs, and then went back to the Hb. I got a Tagskarte(day ticket) and took the S-Bahn to the Isartor stop. I got pictures and then walked back towards Marienplatz, since it was 11:30 and the Glockenspiel goes off at noon. This time I went inside the Neues Ratshaus and took some pictures. It started snowing pretty hard and so I took refuge in an alcove in front of a men's clothing shop along with many other tourists. The Fischbrunnen fountain was right in front of me and I could see icicles forming on some of the figures, and I took a picture.

The snow stopped just before noon, as if it was giving us a break or something. I stood and watched the Glockenspiel with all the other tourists, getting pictures and video. I heard a few people speaking in Russian around the column of St Mary. After the show was done, I headed back to get my bag and then hopped on an S-8 to the Munich Flughafen (airport). I assumed the airport was the last stop on the route, but at some point I began to get paranoid that I'd missed the airport stop because I was reading and didn't see the current stops on the map I had. So, I left the train to check the map. It turned out that I was still 2 stops from the airport, which meant I shivered in the snow for another 15 minutes waiting for the next train.

I checked in and killed time reading and eating cough drops until the flight. We all had to walk down stairs and board a bus that brought us out to the plane. It reminded me of my RyanAir flight last year, but this was Lufthansa. At least we all had assigned seats. Anyway, the flight was pretty turbulent, so thankfully it was short. I got my luggage and got into the terminal, but I had no idea where to catch the bus into town. Berlin Tegel is a round airport, so I just walked one direction (counterclockwise) and finally saw a sign directing me to the bus stop. I got on an X9 and took it to the Zoo/Tiergarten station. On the way, we crossed a river twice and I started to see lots of Communist era buildings. My hotel was very close to the Zoo station, so I started walking the 3 blocks. At a busy intersection, I looked left and saw the very top of Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche. It is a church built in the 1890s that was bombed in 1943. The ruins have been preserved and a new building built around it, but it's still breathtaking.

I got to my hotel and watched some Simpsons in German. After a while I got hungry, so I set out to find some food. I walked east on Kurfürstendamm and saw the church again. I went through a passage, which is like a skyway on the ground, and came out near the Aquarium entrance. It looked very Asian. I kept walking and found the Europa Center, which had signs promising food, even if it was just KFC. I ended up eating at an Irish pub, grilled cheese and Weissherbst wine. On the walk back to the hotel, I passed the Gedachtniskirche again, and this time the newer buildings were lit up. They have lots of blue glass in their walls, so they have pleasant glow at night. I got a lot more close ups of the church, even some where you can see the inside.

Day 4

Monday, March 24, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 2

Monday, March 24 - Arrive in Munich, Sleep in Munich

Once on the plane, I watched Dan in Real Life, Juno and some of Enchanted. I had already seen all 3 of them. I got some sleep, but I am not sure how much. I turned on my Blackberry at about 1:30 am Minneapolis time. All the networks were turned off, I was just using it to listen to music.

We landed in Munich and I got through Passport Control in no time. It was about 9am in Munich, 3 am back home. At the airport, I got a one day transit pass and boarded the 9:20 S8 to Haubtbahnof (the main train station). At the Daglfing stop, the train just sat for 10 minutes. There was some kind of announcement in German, and then when we reached Ostbahnof (East train station), the marquee said "Nicht er..." and everyone got off. I got on the next train, an S7 which was also going to the Haubtbahnof.

Once we got to the Hb, I had to walk a few blocks to the hotel past some sex shops, casinos and a place called "Sarah Supermaket". I was too early to check in, so they had me leave my bag at the front and go up and have breakfast. This was where I discovered the joy of Bavarian breakfast. They had big pretzels hanging there, so I had two with cream cheese, as well as some cereal and juice. I started to lose the tired feeling I had from the crappy night sleep. I went down after breakfast and got my room.

I got into my room about 11:30am and ended up sleeping until 4:30pm. I woke up and watched some tv before leaving for the Hb again. I took the S-Bahn to Marienplatz and heard lots of church bells as soon as I came up from the station. On Marienplatz is both the New and Old town halls (Ratshaus), as well as the Frauenkirche, Peterskirche and a Glockenspiel. There were lots of tourists and shoppers wandering around, and many of them had dogs along. I wandered around and found the Hofbrauhaus, traditional home to the Oktoberfest. I took some pictures of it, but didn't go inside. Instead, I got some pizza and hopped on the S-Bahn back to the Hb. As I was watching a bit more CNN, I find out it is supposed to snow tomorrow and there could be delays at the Munich airport. Great.

Day 3

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 1

Sunday, March 23 - Flight to Chicago and Flight to Munich

I woke up at 7:30 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. I got up and packed a few very last minute items. I had brunch with my boyfriend and family. My mother had just gotten back from Paris on Friday, so she had lots of postcards and stories. She also gave me a green Pashmina scarf that I was glad to have along.

My boyfriend drove me to the airport at about 1:45, since my flight was at 3:20. I found out it was delayed until about 4:05, which put us in Chicago at 5:15 or so. My connection was leaving at 5:57pm, but the gates were very close. For the short flight, I had the whole back row to myself, and I got some sleep. I also watched some 30 Rock. When we landed in Chicago, I had just enough time to check for my next gate and be one of the last people on the plane.

Thankfully I had carried my bag on the plane, since I doubt my luggage would have made it.

Day 2


Originally uploaded by soelo

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Wisdom of the music from Juno

Barry Louis Polisar - All I Want Is You - If you were the wood, I'd be the fire. If you were the love, I'd be the desire.

Kimya Dawson - My Rollercoaster - If home is really where the heart is then we're the smartest kids I know, because wherever we are in this great big world we'll never be more than a few hours from home, and that's important because I need to travel.

Kimya Dawson - Tire Swing - Cuz I like to be gone most of the time and you like to be home most of the time, if I stay in one place I lose my mind. I’m a pretty impossible lady to be with ...I’ve got one hand on the steering wheel, one waving out the window.

Belle & Sebastian - Piazza, New York Catcher - I will be your Ferdinand and you my wayward girl ... You’d settle for an epitaph like “Walk Away, Renee”

Kimya Dawson - Loose Lips - Broken hearts hurt but they make us strong … while we strive to figure out a way we can survive these trying times without losing our minds … and ask you what you think because your thoughts and words are powerful

Sonic Youth - Superstar - Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear, but you're not really there, it's just the radio

Kimya Dawson - So Nice So Smart - You're so nice and you're so smart, you're such a good friend I have to break your heart, tell you that I love you then I'll tear your world apart, just pretend I didn't tear your world apart.

Velvet Underground - I'm Sticking With You - When we swing, we hang past right or wrong.

The Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else But You - I'm in love with how you feel.

Sixteen Hours

... or so until takeoff. I still have to pack a few last minute items, but that's it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama on Race

In today's speech, he speaks about race and some recent controversial moments in the election.

A Dream DVR

I often recap my dreams here, if I can remember them clearly enough. What I really would like is a way to record and watch them when I wake up. Even if it was just the video portion with no audio.

Well, that could theoretically happen. Scientists are working on a way to use MRI scans to guess what your brain is seeing. You have to retrain the software for each person, but that is still quite cool. They can't do video yet, only still images, but I'm sure they'll get there.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Silhouette against evening sky

Silhouette against evening sky
Originally uploaded by lizjones112

Six days until I fly to Munich, 7 days until I get to Berlin, and 10 days until Prague...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don't need no friends
As long as I gaze on waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunsets fine

Terry meets Julie, waterloo station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don't want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze on waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunsets fine

Millions of people swarming like flies round waterloo underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And the don't need no friends
As long as they gaze on waterloo sunset
They are in paradise

Waterloo sunsets fine


I am completely obsessed with this song right now. I brings me back to my brief time in London and makes me want to go there again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Travel Plans

My mother is going to Paris in two days, and I leave for Germany in 11 days. So many people that I know have gone on trips lately:
My boss went to Ireland and will be going to Mexico in like two weeks
Le Van is in Mexico right now
My aunt and uncle just got back from Mexico
My cousins went to Vermont
Aaron and Ian went to Vegas and
Gee and Drew went to Amsterdam.
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

101 things Update - One Year to go

I made a list of 101 things that I wanted to do in 1001 days. On that page, red means done and green means in progress.
I only have a year left, since my end date is 3/8/09
Right now I have 29 things done and 8 in progress, so I am not on pace to complete them all.

Things I know I won't do:
Buy a condo or a house
Go to a live KOL meeting
Take 3 additional classes (at most I'll get 2 others)

Things I probably will:
Get contact lenses and wear them
Make an asian noodle dish in my wok
Journalize my time from age 18 to 28
Make a scrapbook of all my travels - I will at least start this one
Go Snow Tubing somewhere official, with tube rental and lift
See a live play
See some petroglyphs

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Stress Dreams

This morning I dreamt I was at the airport before my trip. I was in a small office with a guy who had to fill out some form for me. I got my boarding pass and had to run around trying to find my gate on all the little TV screens. Finally I just looked on my boarding pass and found I had to be in Terminal C.

I was concerned that I would be late, but I had to make a stop first. I went into a room that looked like a dentist's office and don't remember anything until I woke up. Apparently I'd had gastric bypass surgery right before getting on the plane. I was annoyed that I wouldn't be able to eat much in Europe. But somehow it was okay that I'd just had abdominal surgery and was going to get on a plane and then run around Germany and Prague! I was concerned I had not booked my last night in a hotel, though. As I got dressed, I checked out the scar, which was just a faint red line that ran from my throat to my stomach.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Car as seen on Google Street View


I was in some sort of classroom situation but I had these worms on a tray. They started out normal worm color but then started swelling up and turning lime green. I had a way of getting rid of them, but some started to escape around the room, so I had to chase them. One turned into a Grimace shaped guy before dying.
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