Geography

Vienna 2016 Revisited

One of the first things we did upon arriving in Vienna was head to Naschmarkt, yes, another public market, to find some food. While I apparently did not photograph the actual market I did take this where we ate:

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Which roughly, very roughly, translates to, “Why are we arguing? You are sausage, I am sausage… we’re both angry men (?) let’s eat well anyway!” (My German is marginal and my Austrian is even worse! Google Translate helped me make an educated guess.)

After lunch, satiated with wurst, we embarked on a short walking tour where we saw the ‘cabbage’, the opera house, and the Albertina museum. I did go into the museum and will touch on that in a bit.

During our tour a few things caught my attention including this:

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…this banana…

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…horses in pink hats…

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…and though I do know what the verb ‘fahren’ means I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this:

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Where’s Howard Stern when you need him?

(Story note: I started this several days ago, and have no idea where I was going with it, so I’ll pretend we went from here to….)

Schönbrunn was our next stop the grounds of which were beautiful and I played with some filters on my camera…

…ran to see this…(wasn’t sure I could make the walk to it in time and get back on the bus)…

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…got there and saw this…

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…snapped a few photos using filters again…

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…then headed back to the bus. Another quick note of interest before I move one is that we did get a tour of the palace and on that tour we received ear pieces to better hear our guide who was using a microphone. Awesome! Right? Well, yes, except when the Chinese tour guide and her group kept getting too close and her audio would interfere with ours. Our guide tried to rectify the situation but the Chinese guide either didn’t understand, or just didn’t care. We let them pass.

While in Vienna we ate good food…

…saw some sweet roman ruins…

…and some of us, for some crazy reason, decided to climb the 400 some-odd steps to the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral…

…ok, maybe it was for the view.

At some point during our visit a few of us went to the Albertina Museum and saw some great pieces…

…and afterward I took this from the observation deck(?)…

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…and wondered, “What’s with the giant green rabbit?” Never did find out; that’s ok, after-all isn’t it better just to wonder sometimes?

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Budapest 2016 Revisited

Of all the countries we visited this summer I was most excited to go to Hungary. I suppose my interest was because I’d never been to a country that had been behind the Iron Curtain. I had no idea what to expect, but Budapest turned out to be exactly what I had expected.

Before going people asked why I was so interested in going to Hungary I had some amorphous thoughts but couldn’t articulate them. After visiting Budapest and riding through the city seeing the grungy buildings with plaster falling off, crumbled buildings here and there, people going about their lives, I realized this is exactly what I expected. A former Soviet Bloc country rebuilding itself. Among the decaying and crumbling buildings were of course restored and maintained places of national pride as well as new construction.

One of the points of pride we visited was Buda Castle (I had no idea Budapest was formed by the union of two towns). Below are some shots of the street leading into Buda Castle.

It was difficult to get a shot of the whole castle given the small space and increasing number of people. Moments after we arrived at the castle two tour buses unloaded.

Couldn’t resist….

Of course after taking this I noticed my group and moved on, and I had no idea where.  Oops.

The view from the castle was awesome:

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From the castle we headed to the Pest side of Budapest and along the way passed this

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…which looked really awesome, but alas was  not one of our destinations. Instead we went to the city center for some lunch were I found this, and did that:

…but didn’t buy this:

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We also took a sweet river cruise:

We also went to a bath house which was awesomely relaxing:

The morning we departed Budapest we visited another of what would become a theme of our trip, a public market….

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…where we bought some snacks for the road and last minute souvenirs like this sweet fridge magnet:

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Wish I could read Hungarian 😦

And of course no trip for me would be complete with out at least one amusing sign…

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…and random photos from a rest stop on the way to our next destination:

 

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Eurotour 2016 Revisited-Signage

Being a Geographer with a bend toward the human/cultural branch I am always alert when abroad for signs, advertising, and graffiti. This has developed a penchant in me to periodically disappear from my tour group, then reappear with few people noticing; I’ve only gotten lost once. The risk of me losing my group is a small price to pay for my forays from the flock.

I tend to look for how different cultures do the same things, just differently.  For example…

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Sounds like a bit of a sticky wicket.

I particularly liked the politeness in London:

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Psychopath?

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Those were on the way to Buckingham Palace as was this one:

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In a post Brexit world I understand why this was only one of two indications there was going to be a vote, the other was to get out of the EU, so at the time I figured the odds were 50/50.

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Good to know.

Waiting for the bus to Oxford….

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I speak the same language, but what’s a food tin?

Favorite Graffiti from London; apropos given Brexit vote and carnivalesque Presidential race…

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In Oxford you can buy…..

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I like that a dentist is above White Stuff even more!Oxford.041Oxford.042

I’m a dog person.

Lastly, it wouldn’t have been a trip abroad without:

Bubba Gumps? Really?

 

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Day 8: Atrocities

This day started with a visit to a concentration camp. The camp is called Sachsenhausen and is located in Oranienburg, Germany about 22 miles north of Berlin. We had to walk from the train station to the camp and along the way I was struck by how ordinary the town was. Some of the houses we passed very near the camp looked like summer homes and all were very neatly kept. I also found it interesting that there were markers posted every so often with stories of the camp. I had wondered how Germans dealt with the legacy of the Nazi’s, I felt it would be under the rug somewhat but I was wrong. Entering the camp was a bit surreal and seeing the “Arbeit Mach Frei” on the gate was unsettling. Again, nothing makes history more tangible than travel. I have taught about the Holocaust, but to see the actual places where the plans were carried out is powerful. This camp was smaller than I had expected then I realized it was built in a populated area. We had a limited amount of time there so I walked faster than I wanted but covered a lot of ground.

After snapping some initial photos I walked over to one of the barracks that is now a museum. Of the many photos and artifacts that were in the museum I was most affected by the actual logs of people who had been sterilized; it was a stack of journals about 4 feet high.  The fact that the Nazi’s kept such meticulous records is disturbing; no, it’s more than disturbing, it’s shocking, offensive, and unfathomable. I go to the end of the barracks and panicked momentarily because I couldn’t find the exit, I had to get out. Luckily I found the exit relatively quickly.

Following the barracks I walked over to the pathology building and mortuary where medical experiments were conducted.  They actually had to design and construct a building for that purpose.  I then wandered the grounds first coming across mass graves and a wall with commemorative plaques from other countries, and finally toward the memorial erected in the center of the camp.  Upon exiting the camp I briefly stepped into the main museum and was met by an actual Nazi uniform which shook me a bit.  Overall a sobering experience.

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Day 7

It was a fittingly rainy day to visit the Wannsee House and Potsdam.  The Wannsee House is where the Nazi’s planned the final solution.  It is now a museum and educational site. What struck me the most was the beautiful setting of the house; a country retreat overlooking a beautiful lake.  The juxtaposition of the setting and what occurred inside the house is, well, bizarre. It was also very unsettling to see photos of Hitler in Germany.  I had several ‘shaken to the core’ moments, very similar to seeing the Vietnam memorial for the first time, or seeing the planes slam into the twin towers; a very visceral recognition, understanding, and acceptance that this was real, it actually happened.

It was apropos for us to visit the location of the Potsdam Conference after the Wannsee House.  The place in Potsdam where the conference was held was at least equal to the beauty of the Wannsee House.  I spent my limited time wandering the grounds rather than taking the tour of the building inside. It was moving to stand on the same patio where Churchill, Wilson, and Stalin sat following the war.

 

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Day 5: Normandy

Day 5 started with a very early bus ride to Normandy with a smarmy bus driver, I’ll save further descriptions of him for another post.  One of the reasons I took this trip was to be able to go to Normandy.  As with most memorials I have visited, nothing really prepares you and you’re surprised by what affects you and how you’re affected. There is nothing that can convey the shear number of casualties other than visiting Normandy.  As I walked among the marble crosses and stars of David I began to think of my uncle who survived D-Day.  He was a bomber pilot who volunteered for extra sorties beyond his assignment.  While reflecting on his bravery and contribution to the war effort I was reminded of my dad who passed in March. They both led long, charmed, amazing lives.  I walked, bringing them with me, feeling the weight of the place; couldn’t help but weep.

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Day 4: Karma of the Sun King

This day began with the obligatory bus tour of Paris; it’s a good way to see a lot of sites in a short amount of time. About halfway through we stopped at Les Invalides which is  a monument to France’s veterans.  The building was first commissioned by Louis XIV for injured and ill soldiers then evolved into the place it is now.  It currently does house some soldiers as well as the tomb of Napoleon:

Following the bus tour our group split into two groups. Some of us went to explore Versailles the rest went to do some shopping.  I went with the former group. Prior to arriving at Versailles the bus tour guide told us that tickets to the palace could be purchased on site or a sandwich shop near the train station. We were also told that anyone 18 and over needed to buy a ticket but those under 18 could go for free.

Upon arrival we found the shop that sold tickets and decided to purchase the entrance tickets there hoping to avoid lines at the actual palace.  The dude selling tickets said that people 18 and under did not have to buy tickets which contradicted the bus driver, but we went with it because it saved Euros money.  So myself and my partner chaperon forked over our 24 Euro and we headed off to the palace.

When we got to the palace we were greeted by a statue of the Sun King and discovered shortly that the dude who sold us tickets had, intentionally or not, lied; the 18 year olds in our group did in fact need tickets.  Shit.  I took the kids who needed tickets to the ticket line which appeared to be short…until I looked inside and saw that it snaked around through several rooms. Shit. Since we had limited time I decided to ignore the Eagle Scout in me, and I deftly jumped the line. It was surprisingly easy and I wound up about halfway through the line.

While waiting in my illegitimate spot hoping the line would move faster, I noticed some people stepping out of the line then exiting the building with tickets.  Turns out there were automated ticket machines, score! I jumped out of line, found my students and after some minor fumbling we had our tickets and were on our way.  I was proud of myself for solving the ticket issue relatively quickly, but felt bad for jumping the line (insert foreshadowing here).

As with many popular places in Europe, and the U.S., Versailles is amazing and crowded.

Following our tour of Versailles we were to head back to Paris and meet the rest of  the group for dinner. (Weird, as I’m typing this, “From Paris with Love” came on the TV). We got on the train at Versailles and proceeded to sit on it for half an hour before it left, which through us off our schedule. After several transfers on the Metro we finally met up with our group at which time I discovered I had been pickpocketed. I’m fairly certain it happened at Versailles or on one of the crowded trains we took returning from the palace. I suppose it was Karma for jumping the line.

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Day 3-Paris: Of People, Pickpockets, and Piss

(Editors note: WiFi was surprisingly hard to come by and not very reliable so the following posts are post trip.)

Paris has too many people and it smells like piss.  I had all kinds of romantic notions of what Paris would be like and was feeling excited upon arrival following a three hour train ride.  The train station was magnificent.  The iron work and architecture reminded me of the film ‘Hugo’.  I was beginning to imagine sitting at a cafe having bread and chocolate, then strolling along the Seine to the Eiffel tower; then I stepped outside.  The smell of urine was 1) unexpected, 2) surprisingly strong and 3) inexplicably persistent throughout the city.  So much for the hype.

As with most group tours the day was packed with activities with the added bonus of the Paris Metro (please refer to previous comment regarding too many people in Paris).  We were able to visit the Arch de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and take a boat tour.  Two things I did not know about the Arch de Triomphe were you can’t drive through it, and it has an eternal flame; disappointed to learn the former, interested by the latter.

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The roundabout encircling the Arch is very dangerous to try and cross so it may be accessed through an underground passage which, yes, smelled a little pissy.  If you happen to cross through the passage you may be talked into striking a silly pose:

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At some point after visiting the Arch de Triomphe (this is a post visit account remember) we took a cruise on the Seine where we saw things like this:

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and this:

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cool artwork:

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and a spontaneous dance party erupted on the upper deck where we were complete with people cheering from the banks of the river and a couple of asses mooning us from a bridge.

Following the cruise we visited the Eiffel Tower of which I have only one thought; it’s big, really, really big.

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Honestly,  I had no idea just how large it was.  We were too late to make it all the way to the top, but we were able to make it to the middle level.  (I took some photos, but it was night and they didn’t turn out).

I left out the visit to Notre Dame where the most interesting part to me was seeing this:

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which marks the starting point for all roads in France.  The cathedral is beautiful, but they’re not really my thing. Locating Quasimodo is more of my thing:

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While my introduction to France was a bit stinky, the sights we saw this day were truly amazing.  Next time: “Pickpocket Paradise”.

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Adventuring in California – Wandering Monterey

For the last, um, five years give or take a year I’ve come down to Monterey to run the Big Sur Half Marathon. After picking up my bib # I decided to wander around a bit. I headed over to browse an antique mall near Cannery Row in which I was intrigued and perplexed by this:

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The tag said it was plaster and hand painted; that didn’t make it less odd. What was it for? I pondered. Who’d make this and why? And do they think someone will buy it again? Man, that’s just too weird.
Then I saw this:

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Ok, this one I can kind of understand, I’ve seen masks like this before, it may actually be purchaseable (BTW I’m aware that isn’t a word). I averted my gaze from the monster mask only to be startled by this:

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What kind of antique mall is this?!
The kind that displays things like this:

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Really?
Yep:

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Sometimes they come in threes:

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And sometimes they come with a body:

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And other times with clothes:

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I dunno, maybe my browsing radar was just stuck on odd, no, no wait, here’s the cold hard truth; people like weird and creepy shit.

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See?

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Netherlands Post Visit – Fini

Alas I have run out of pictures to share from the Netherlands so this will be my last post until I venture abroad again; hopefully in the near future.  I will be continuing to post on my other blog http://geowoodward.wordpress.com/ which has photos from my adventures in California.  I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites from the Netherlands.

One of my favorite ventures was to the ‘Heineken Experience’, not just because 3 beers were included with the admission price, and there was a horse that shared my name, but because it was  a great place to people watch and I got to personalize an actual bottle of Heineken. The end of the factory tour is set up like a club, disco lights, loud music and table games so people are behaving as if they’re in a club.  One guy in particular caught my attention because he was having his wife circulate around the room collecting all the unfinished beers and pouring them into his glass.  Yep, he was getting hammered.  I happened to be leaving the factory at the same time they were and they were trying to collect their free gift, which could only be collected by visiting the factory store in a different part of town.  Heineken provides a boat from the factory to the store but the last boat of the day had just left; Mr. Hammered had difficulty understanding this, I felt bad for the employee that had to try and help him understand.

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