Friday, June 29, 2007

Traumatic Chocolate Break

So, today was my last day of teaching. None of my students showed up (yea!), so I graded some tests and then finished out-processing. Cool.

Then, I walked to he Train Station and bought my ticket for Vienna this weekend (over 2000 Crowns--owch!). Then, back home (by tram this time) for some lunch.

And then...

Packing. Ugh, ugh, and ugh again. I can't pack everything today--I will have to finish up on Monday--but I feel soooo overwhelmed. I know I don't have to bring EVERYTHING back... and there are plenty of things I'm going to leave (which I planned on leaving when I packed for Prague in the first place), but still... I feel like I keep discovering things tucked away here and there... all over my room (and the kitchen and the bathroom).

So I finally had to take a break and consume massive quantities of chocolate (hot chocolate and part of a chocolate bar. I started the snack break with a nectarine and a glass of sparkling water but it was all downhill from there).

Anyway. Anyway. Anyway... I leave for Vienna tomorrow morning at 5am and get back Sunday at about 8 or 10 pm. Then, Monday I have to go and close my bank account, finish packing, and clean my room. There are also a couple of things that I want to buy before I go, but that will depend on how much space I have in my luggage (not much).

And! I'm gonna look a bit like a Polar Bear when I get on the plane. Pants, Tank top, regular top, sweater, and wool coat. Oh, and a scarf. I was considering adding a dress to the mix, but the dress doesn't take up too much space in my suitcase. I suppose I could add another top or two, but... well, it might be a little too warm for that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oh I forgot to post this!

This is for my Canadian friends. I saw this on the internet as a tee-shirt design. I find it funny--what do you guys think?

The Danube

I took so many pictures of the Danube I figured I should post them as their own group.

A fountain on Margaret Island. It seemed to be a favorite place to congregate.

Parliament across the Danube.

Bridges across the Danube, looking south from the Citadella.

Margaret Island, Margaret Bridge, and Parliament.

Parliament across the Danube, picture taken from the Citadella.

The Chain Bridge with St Stephan's Basilica behind.

So, those are the pictures. I also need to write about the trip. It was, as usual, a bit of an adventure. Things to write about:

Portuguese travel companions.
I discover that Portugal does indeed have a military.
Sleeping on a train.
The Squatter's Hostel (but at least I didn't have to pee in a bucket).
Intense Hungarian sun. Yes, it was bad.
Walking, walking, walking...
Breaded turkey breasts (I had to consult a dictionary to discover that it was turkey).
Swimsuit shopping without wanting to commit Hari-Kari (spelling?) afterwards.
Thermal baths.
Lots and lots of ice cream (Zmrzlina!)
Applications of SPF 60+ Sunblock every two hours. And I only got a little bit of a burn.
Insanely expensive public transport (Western Prices).


Here are some pictures from the Pest side of the Danube. Hope you enjoy!

Me looking hot after a ten hour train ride, a walk through the city, and several applications of 60+ SPF sunblock (which had my two travel companions--both Portuguese--laughing at me).

Side shot of St Stephan's Basilica.

The Great Synagogue. I had never thought of Budapest (and Hungary in general) as having a large Jewish population, but this Synagogue (dating from 1859) is the largest functioning synagogue in Europe (and the second largest in the world, I think).

The castle at City Park. I don't think it was ever a functioning castle... I would say Neo-Gothic.

Hero's Square at the end of Andrassy Utca.

Detail of the Opera House.

Front view of St Stephan's Basilica.

A street festival. This is the Pest side. The Chain Bridge was closed off to traffic and the festival stretched across the bridge to the Buda side.

I have no idea what this building is, but it was next to the Parliament Buildings and it looked cool so I took a picture of it.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Budapest is divided into two parts: Buda and Pest. Buda is the older part of town (on the left side of the Danube River). It contains the castle, the Citadella, Fisherman's Bastion, and a giant church (ugh, guess I should get my guidebook out to look this one up... Matthias Church).

Here is a picture of the Budapest Castle from the Pest side of the river.

Matthias Church and Fisherman Bastion from the Pest side of the river.

The Chain Bridge, looking over to the Buda side of the river. We stumbled onto a street festival.

Part of the Budapest Castle.

Fisherman's Bastion.

Statue of St Stephan, Hungary's first king.

Anyway, I managed to take a killer nap--I finally crawled out of bed at 8:30... pm. In my defense, I was not actually asleep most of the time. I was just lying there, thinking. Still, I don't think I'm gonna be getting much sleep tonight. But then, we will see. I have a lot of missed sleep time to make up for.

Back from Buda... and Pest

So, I arrived back from Budapest this morning at 6am. I dragged my sorry ass to the apartment, hopped in the shower, then got ready to go teach. After my class, I decided to go to my Czech class. I was the only person there, so the teacher and I just chatted for 90 minutes. In Czech. If I weren't so damned exhausted now, I'd be over the moon about being able to carry on a 90 minutes conversation in Czech (of course, most of the conversation was spent with my hmmming and hawing trying to find the right word/combination of words... but. But! After 4 months of studying a language, I think it is freakin' awesome (and I am freakin' amazing) that I was able to do that. ('Course, my head feels like it is going to explode right now, but... small price to pay).

Anyway, I'm gonna finish up some laundry and drink some mint tea and then collapse (and hopefull sleep. I am pretty much unable to sleep during the day here, but I kinda feel like today I might be able to do it).

Pics and stories of Budapest to come. Eventually.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Last Sunday I hopped on a bus for a three hour ride to the North-East corner of the Czech Republic (right next to Poland), where I met up with a former student and her boyfriend. We then hiked up Snezka, a mountain that begins in the Czech Republic and ends in Poland. The hike was great (even though I felt totally out of shape--especially considering that the folks I was with are both athletes--they go out and do exciting things like this every weekend--or just careen bikes down the sides of mountains). It was absolutely beautiful, though. When we reached the top of the mountain, some very dark ominous looking storm clouds starting making a bee-line for us so we had to head down right away. We had planned on taking the chair lift down, but it was so windy at the top that the chair lift was not running, so we had to book it down half the mountain to the next chair lift (which was working, thankfully). After we conquered Mt Snezka, we headed back to my student's Mom's house, where she had prepared a meal of... Svickova (!!) for us. After the meal, we sat in the garden and just digested for awhile. Then we had some strawberries. Then we digested a little more. Then we had some cake. Then we digested a little more. Then my student mentioned that there were cherry trees in the neighbor's yard. So, we grabbed a couple of bags, climbed over the fence, and picked about 400 pounds of cherries--one pound for our bellies, 300 pounds for me to take home with me. Then, we went back into the garden, where we are more strawberries. Then we had a glass of white wine and some peanut crackers. Then, my student's mom brought out a tray of sandwiches... but it ws time for us to go to the bus station, so we didn't eat any (which was probably for the best, as I was about to pop at that point). Anyway, it was an absolutely wonderful day, combining good company, good food, and beautiful scenery. And I got to practice my Czech (the 15 or 20 words I know. But actually, I was pretty proud of myself, all things considered).


So, last Saturday I went to Konopiste. (There are some accents missing from that word--it should be pronounced Ko-no-pish-tee-yea). Anyway, it was where Archduke Franz Ferdinand lived with his wife and family. I took a tour of the inside.... Ferdinand was an avid hunter, and there is a hallway that has hunting trophies on every space... a little creepy. The grounds were nice, though. Seems to be a very popular place for weddings--I stumbled across one wedding party while I was there and I overheard some tourists talking about some others they had seen. Anyway, enjoy the pics.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


What am I going to do with 300 pounds of cherries?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lara Croft

So, I raided my roommate's DVDs for something to watch (Friday evening movie ritual) and settled on Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. I grilled myself a brie and ham sandwich and settled in with my sparkling water to watch the DVD.

Movie starts with a fight scene between Lara and... a robot. No dialogue, no witty banter, no storyline--just some very odd shots of Lara Croft, calibrated to figure into male audience members' post-movie fantasies. When she finally speaks, we discover that it was all part of her training, and Lara runs off to... take a shower! Once in the shower she does the whole eyes closed, mouth open run her hands over her (not soapy) hair. No rinse lather and repeat here. Then, we are treated to a shot of her flipping her looong hair back. Who actually showers like this? Mouth open? Why has Lara not yet drowned? Why hasn't she pulled a muscle in her neck from that hair flipping move?

Anyway, out of the shower the butler attempts to hand Lara a dress to "turn her into a lady." Lara refuses, drops the towel which was wrapped around her, and walks away.

I actually am going to finish the movie. Well, I plan on finishing the movie. Why? Well, what else is there to do that is quite as brainless and yet oh so evilly amusing?

Okay, I think I can make it through the movie if I take frequent breaks (for food and snide comments on my 'blog). First of all, those are the most unnatural looking breasts I have ever seen. I know that she had to wear fake boobies for the movie and she looks like she is going to fall on her face. I mean, the things are laugh-worthy.

Secondly, delving back into the world of "how obvious can we make this for our viewers" we have Lara sitting at a desk, Lara complaining to Butler, Lara mentioning that the 15th is never a good day (regular menstrual cycle?), Lara looking at picture of old man (obviously father), Shot of a grave marker with May 15th written on it, Shot of Lara looking at gravestone with May 15th written on it, Lara looking at gravestone and saying, "I miss you Daddy." So, just in case you missed it, Lara's father died May 15th and she misses him terribly.

Oh, and the accent. Faux-Brit with a bedroom husk. In fact, Lara hasn't actually said a line, she has whispered sexily. I don't know if that is her version of a British accent (still better than Costner, by the way) or if it is intended to be part of the whole wet dream package.

Okay, back to the movie.

Oh wait, one more thing: the alignment of planets that happens once every 5000 years. Hello! Even more so than a full moon on Halloween, this is really gonna draw the freaks from out of their basements. I mean, if I were in a movie that had any kind of planetary alignment, I'd be freakin' out 'cause you just know someone somewhere is gonna be trying some voodoo.


Oooooo, let's destroy some cars now.

Okay, we're gonna take a break and make some rice pudding.


Aaaaaaaannnd... cue the Illuminati!

Meanwhile, made my rice pudding and now I'm just waiting for it to set. I think it is gonna be pretty good... I just hope that it actually sets a little more as it cools. Right now it is thick and creamy rice soup.

Okay, I'm back. Lara has to find and destroy both halfs of a triangle so the Illuminati don't get it and do verrryyyy baaaad things with it. I want to know what is wrong with just destroying one half of the triangle. I mean, it renders the second half useless and it makes the movie a bit shorter. A win-win situation, I think.

Have lost count of Indiana Jones moments... only, Indiana Jones is muccchhhh better. Smaller boobs.
Gasp! Lara Croft's father was in the Illuminati!

And my rice pudding is freakin' awesome... if a little soupy.
Now we're in Siberia... and I'm understanding a few words of Russian... scary.
Hey, isn't that twisty planet thing from The Dark Crystal?
Wow... glad that's over. Now I can go get Lara Croft 2 from my roommate...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I love the internet.

So, February 6 is World Nutella Day. Mark your calendars.

Yes, I now have way too much free time. I honestly have no idea what to do with myself.

Philosophical questions regarding airline security

Is peanut butter a solid or liquid?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Catching up...

So, the last two weeks have been pretty busy and now that I have some down time, I really should write a little bit about them (now that I have taken two naps--the second completely unintentional--and eaten half the kitchen).

June 1, Friday night, I went to a concert at the Rudolphinium. Heinz Holliger (famous oboist) was playing as part of the Prague Spring Music Festival and I splurged on tickets (200 crowns, fifth row). The concert was really good--I hadn't realized how small Holliger is--like a little Swiss elf! He played the first two pieces and conducted the last one (the concert was a little shorter than I was used to). At the end of the concert, though, I was really surprised that NO ONE stood up--I mean, here is a world-class oboist who has just performed (with some famous string ensemble, but we don't care about them) and people are applauding crazily but NOT STANDING UP. So I did what any well-bred individualist American would do--I stood up all by my lonesome. Just call me the non-conformist trail-blazer...

Anyway, it was warm and still pretty light after the concert so I decided to walk part of the way home. I hadn't even gone a block when I noticed there was some filming going on at one of the fancier hotels. I stayed for a bit to watch--it was an American crew--but I couldn't figure out the name of the film or anything, so after about ten minutes I went on my way.

Sunday, June 2, I went to see a Czech film, "I served the King of England." I still think that Czech film is really weird. This was a story about a guy who wanted to be a millionaire and own his own hotel. The movie goes through some major events in recent Czech history: the industrialist wealth, the Nazi invasion, WWII, the deportation of the Jews (which is summed up in one scene where you can see a boxcar of people in the background), and the communist take over. I don't think I can honestly say that I liked the movie, but I felt like a better person for having given Czech film yet another chance to impress (which it really didn't do, but I keep reminding myself that it is, after all, a very small country).

I went directly from the movie theatre to meet B&B at the airport. It was great seeing them again--I hadn't seen them since the Ontario Renaissance Festival in, ohhhh, what was it... 2002, I believe. Hard to believe it had been that long. Anyway, we dropped their stuff off at my apartment and I took them to the center of Prague. We saw the old Jewish Quarter, the Old Town Square with the Astrological Clock, Charles Bridge... and a drunk British tourist waving his penis in the air. Well, I can add that to my European penis tally (yes, I keep a tally).

Anyway, Bill and Brenda stayed until Wednesday morning (and kept me full of food during their entire visit--beginning with Belgian chocolates, Italian wine, and Canadian hot chocolate and ending with Klobasa and lots of ice cream... with plenty of Svickova, pork, and sauerkraut thrown in for good measure).

I didn't do a lot of teaching last week because three of my classes had ended the week before (I am going to make NOTHING this month... not happy about that, but there isn't much I can do), so by the time Friday rolled around my routine was completely shot and I went home and, for the first time in a long time, was not completely exhausted. I didn't really know what to do with myself, so I opted for following my routine of pizza, soda, and movie on the laptop... but it felt weird because I actually had the energy to do something a bit more demanding. But I will be prepared for this Friday... I actually think I will try to go see another Czech film... last one (well, I think after this one I will run out of Czech films to watch anyway).

Saturday, June 9 Zippy and I went to Praguestock with some of her friends (including her previous roommate, who was evicted by the landlord). I wasn't in a particularly social mood (I think I came off as a pathetic personality-less lump that Zippy dragged along out of pity, but oh well. Praguestock was... entertaining. It was 200 Crowns to get in--it was right next to the Vltava, the river that goes through Prague--and it was an expat event, so it was all in English. There were not a lot of people there--it was a lot smaller than I had expected.

I'm going to have to continue this later... I need to take a break from typing... and Praguestock deserves my full attention...


I can't believe it. I'm actually bored! I have NO IDEA what to do with myself right now! What a strange feeling being bored is... I mean, there is plenty I could do... Hmm, so maybe I'm not really bored. Maybe I'm just lazy.

Anyway, I think I am going to read a book and enjoy this feeling a little longer.

Pics of Bratislava

The outside of the Municipal Museum.
An interesting building.

St.Martin's Cathedral.

Bratislava castle.

The castle with ominous-looking clouds behind it.


Well, it has been a busy week. B&B, my friends from Canada, arrived the Saturday before last (June 2). They stayed with me and we did the "tourist thing." They paid for me to eat lots (and lots and lots) of Czech food... I love company--I always get at least one meal out of hosting! B&B didn't get to see the Castle, though, because Jelly was in town (okay, I know I need to walk you through this one--it is a little obscure. I like to use initials, so President Bush becomes PB... like peanut butter and jelly... hence, Jelly). Anyway, Jelly was in town so a lot of the tourist places were under lock down... Anyway, I told B&B that the castle itself isn't really worth seeing, but it is just one of those things that even when you trust the person who tells you something like that, you have to see it for yourself.

Which brings us to Bratislava (I actually want to write more about B&B's visit, but the transition was just too perfect for me to ignore... so I may get back to the visit later). Anyway, I had been told that there was NOTHING in Bratislava... but, you know me, I had to see it for myself. So on Sunday at 7am I hopped on a train for a four hour ride to Slovakia. The ride wasn't bad--the train was almost empty and I did some reading. On the way down we passed right by the most inviting pool of water I had ever seen. I wish I had been able to leave the train to get a picture because it was postcard perfect... but oh well. I shall just have to hold it in my mind. Anyway, we got to Bratislava about 15 minutes behind schedule... not too bad, I figured. I walked from the train station to the old part of town. Bratislava is very different from Prague. It is obviously the poorer cousin. The sidewalks were buckled concrete, there was grass growing up around the tram tracks, which had chunks of concrete missing from around them. The trams themselves were quite a bit older than the Prague trams. The old part of town was a lot smaller and was surrounded by obviously Soviet-era buildings (there are lots of Soviet-era buildings in Prague, but they are further out on the metro lines--and most tourists never see them). But there were some charming churches and, of course, a castle on a hill.

Anyway, I had no idea how much money to take out of the ATM, so I took out 1000 slovak Korun (about $40). I knew it was a bit too much, but my only other option was 500 Korun and I didn't think that would be enough. I probably should have just taken out 500, though, because I was not holding back on spending and I came back with over 500 Korun... I have no idea what I am going to do with it all... I may take it down to Hungary with me and get it changed into Hungarian florints (even though I know I will be completely ripped off if I do that). Oh well.

But anyway, back to the trip. I had about 4 hours in Bratislava--which turned out to be more than adequate (except for the whole money thing). The day started off sunny and really, really warm, but my last hour there some clouds started rolling in. I was on my way back to the train station when the heavens opened up with some of the largest rain drops I'd ever seen. I found a pasaz to stand under and right after I had installed myself it started to hail and the wind started to blow. The hail was slightly over pea-sized (maybe double or triple pea-sized?). I had to keep moving into the pasaz (and almost out the other end!) because the wind was blowing the rain in. As I was standing there, I watched a couple of Nuns walk past and take shelter under a different pasaz. The rain and hail stopped as abruptly as it started, and I resumed my walk to the train station.

Other surreal moments: I went into an armor museum/tower and started talking to one of the women working there. I told her I was studying Czech and she started to talk to me (in Slovak) about the differences between Czech and Slovak.

Oh, and the Germans seem to have invaded Slovakia. I kept running into massive tour groups of Germans (actually, my guidebook said that Austrians invade every weekend, so they probably weren't actually German). I also got pinned against the castle walls by a huge group of French-speaking tourists... I don't know if they were actually French, though, because they were a little, ummm, bigger than I remember the French being--I mean, they were able to pin me against a wall, so...).

The ride back to Prague was a bit of an adventure. I had bought my train tickets, but I hadn't paid extra to reserve a seat. I mean, for the ride down the train was almost empty. But the ride back... Well, for starters, the train was about 15 minutes late (but I was kind of expecting it to be late, considering that it was late getting to Bratislava). So I bought a pizza and had them put it in a box so I could take it on the train with me. I'm glad I did this because I think it saved my life. Anyway, there was a huge crown waiting on the platform. When the train finally arrived, I hopped on and expected to find a seat (heaven only knows why I thought I was actually going to find a seat given the size of that crowd. Sheer stupid optimism, I suppose). Anyway, there was no seats so I wound up standing in the small entrance way to one of the cars (right next to the toilet) with three other people: an older couple and a guy about my age. When the train started moving, the guy pulled out a small mat, rolled it out on the floor, and sat down. It looked like a good idea, so I offered him some pizza if he would share his mat with me. He accepted, and we sat on the floor of a moving train and shared a pizza.

A about a hour later, the train stopped, the older couple got off and were replaced by a younger couple. The train continued. About an hour after that, the younger couple left and were replaced by four Czech teenagers. At this point we had basically taken over the entire entrance-way to the train, and anyone wanting to go to the bathroom had to step around six people and various backpacks and bags. One of the guys who actually had a seat came out and started passing around a bottle of Irish Whiskey. The ticket collector came in and started joking and talking. Then, the train stopped. And stayed stopped. And stayed stopped a little longer. It started moving again, but stopped again soon after. And so it continued, the train stopping and starting and stopping again. Anyway, a journey that should have taken four hours wound up taking six and a half--the entire time spent sitting on my ass on a mat, my butt numb after the first hour. Truly an experience.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Krivokrat Hrad

These are just a few pictures from my trip to Krivokrat Castle a couple of weeks ago.