Snap Judgments for the Undeserving

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Oh Canada...

Well, I went to visit the University of Toronto this past week to get ready for classes. I'm back home now for a couple of weeks before school starts, but I thought I would share some things I've noticed about Canada that make me happy to be moving there:

1. They really call all men "buddy".
2. As far as I can tell, I could probably get to the arctic circle on public transportation for about $2.50.
3. Everyone is really really unbelievably nice. As in, no-one can really be this nice, so they must all be secretly evil. And this only makes me respect them more...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Backstroke of the West...

Before she went on vacation, Melissa shared a little gem with us, via her blog:

If you've seen "Revenge of the Sith", or even if you haven't, you really desperately need to go here, and see what happens when a movie is translated into Chinese, and then directly back into English.

This is so funny, it made me cry ...
(keep in mind, I have a cold, so if this turns out not to be funny, I'm blaming the fever ... and Melissa)
There's even a pretty interesting comment section afterwards in which someone speculates about why these specific mistranslations took place ... if you are interested in lingustics :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Beach

Well, I survived the craziness that was getting back onto the correct continent, and now here I am, safely at the beach!
I look a bit confused, but happy, which pretty much sums me up...
It even looks like we'll have nice weather all week, miraculously evading all oncoming hurricanes ... although I probably shouldn't say that.

And I have to say, as much as I love it here, I can't wait to get back to see all of you that I left last spring in Wisconsin!

Friday, August 12, 2005

I love air travel...

About that beach vacation ... I lied.

Yep, that was me stranded overnight in Heathrow Airport because of the British Airways strike ... on the up side, I've just spent a lovely afternoon in Edinburgh, and maybe I'll even be on my way home tomorrow morning!

I get the feeling that this will be a really funny story as soon as I'm done living it :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My last night in Warsaw...

Tonight was my last night overseas ... tomorrow I head back to DC for a much-looked-forward-too beach vacation in North Carolina (let's hope there are no hurricanes!). I had a fabulous vacation this summer, and I'd especially like to thank Lissa, Dave, Bridget, Malaika, Amelia, Susanna and Katie, without whom
my vacation would have been a desolate experience!

I hope you've all enjoyed the crazy tales of my travels, and if not, never fear, my blog will return to its normal content format this fall!

Me, Katie and Lissa before we hosted a fondu party for some of Lissa's Foreign Service buddies:

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Central Europe, revisited...

Due to a camera malfunction, the pictures from my trip to Central Europe with Katie may never be forthcoming. Thus, I've assembled a few images to give you all an idea of what we've been up to. Of course, we'll never really be able to re-create those pictures of the two of us in the Czech prision ... but I'll get to that later.

Krakow, Poland
Our first stop was Krakow, quite a change from the numbing modernity of Warsaw. St. Mary's Church in the main square was very impressive, and completely over-decorated on the inside ... from this tower on the hour you can hear a bugle player sound the melody used to warn the town of Tartar attack in the 13th century.
They were really into brick in Poland...

We also got a glimpse of the interesting (and sad) Jewish heritage of the city. This is the "Old Synagoge" in Kazimierz, the part of town in which we stayed while in Krakow, that was origionally predominantly Jewish.
The oldest Jewish religious building in Poland:

We also ended up with an afternoon free before we headed out of town, and Katie brilliantly suggested that we take a trip to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines. These mines are 700 years old, and have been a tourist attraction since Victorian times. This actually goes a long way in explaining how weird they are.

As you walk down the miles of salt tunnels, you pass lots of "salt sculptures" like these Gnomes:

Budapest, Hungary
Budapest was fun, though a bit less exotic that I thought it would be. The city consists of the two united towns of Buda and Pest, we stayed in Buda, and I have to say I preferred Pest (which had been re-built in the late 1800's and reminds me a bit of Paris, actually).

I particuliarly enjoyed the thermal baths for which the city is famous. They were quite refreshing, especially in the 90 degree weather!

Our hotel turned out to be in the "Citadella", a fortress built by the Hapsburgs after the 1848 revolution, that now houses a hotel, a night club and (I'm not making this up) a WWII Wax Museum.

Despite the weirdness of our hotel, the view was superb. This shows the "Buda" side of the river:

Vienna, Austria
Vienna was a nice thouroughly Western European break from our trip. We spent our days touring the Hapsburg palaces, looking into expensive stores, and snacking at the Coffee Konditorei. There was also a bit of unexpected art to see in Vienna. For example, this is what happens when you ask Gustav Klimt to do a mural based on Beethoven's 9th ... not exactly what I would have envisioned:
This is only a bit of Klimt's homage to Beethoven and Poetry:

And, of course, no trip to Vienna would be complete without a visit to Demel's. Katie and I fought for a seat on the terrace, and then procceded to try the Sacher torte and Coffee. I also tried the "Anna Torte" because the name begged me to. It was covered in Hazelnut chocolate fondant (I have decided that I am a genius).
The cake window at Demel:

Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the most beaultiful and interesting cities I have ever seen! Two things that captivated me were the art nouveau everywhere, and also the astronomical clock (which I made Katie see twice, no joke)
I know I'm supposed to be an Art Snob, but I still love Alphonse Mucha. This is a window that he designed for the Cathedral in Prague Castle

This clock is amazing! The windows open and little wooden saints pop by, while all the time the figure of Death is ringing a bell and inverting his hourglass.
This display amuses simple minds like mine, I suppose.

And if you're still wondering about that Czech prision, Katie and I stayed in a Communist Prison that had been turned into a Youth hostel ... we figured it couldn't be more scary than the Wax Museum, and the location was fabulous. I actually recommend it if you are planning a visit.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Gdansk, Poland

After we visited the Teutonic castle, Lissa, Katie and I hopped on a short train and headed north to the coast! Gdansk was in the midst of a folk festival and craft fair when we got there. The first day we visited it was also very very damp.
Lissa and Katie avoid the throngs of people and the rain:

Also, my desire to climb up tall things was fulfilled by St. Mary's Church (thought to be the "largest old brick church in the world"). As you climb up the various twisting staircases to get to the tower, you actually have to walk over the interrior of the roof. It is actually really interesting to see the Gothic vaulting from the wrong side (if you are me) ...

Here's what's scary: standing on a tiny wet metal platform, perched on top of this roof...

The second day we visited Gdansk it was much nicer, although it was mobbed with even more festival-goers.
Katie and I admire the "Neptune Fountain" outside the town hall (which we couldn't even see yesterday through the drizzle)

Okay, I confess, here's what's really cool* about Gdansk:
Gdansk has one of the world's largest existant medieval cranes!

*yes yes, I'm aware that this probably doesn't qualify as "cool" ... but a girl can dream.

Strange Foreign Signs, part 8

On a train in Poland...

Malbork, Poland

This weekend, Katie, Lissa and I ventured north to explore a bit more of Poland. "Explore", of course, is a euphamism for "we found new places in Poland to shop", but I digress.

We stayed outside of Gdansk (Poland's major shipping town on the Baltic) in the town of Malbork, which owes is extistance to the crazy Teutonic knights. They built a really huge medieval castle, which they called the "Fortress of Mary", there and ruled with an iron hand until they were ousted in 1457

Really large red castle run by religous fanatics! Fun!!

We had some weather issues this weekend - I think this has been the only time in my 2-something months in Europe when it has really rained on me.
Katie and Lissa on the drawbridge in the schizophrenic weather

This is what happens when the three of us go on vacation, we get crazy.
Katie and I defend Marienburg from Lissa (taking the picture)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Central Europe!

Hi all!

This past week I've been to Krakow, Budapest, Vienna and Prague. I know this sounds a bit "insane" but I kid you not. Sadly, you'll just have to believe me about this, as Katie's camera won't currently communicate with the computer. I shall post pictures if we ever get it to work!

Now on to Gdansk! And I swear I shall return with photographic evidence :)