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…


Sounds like a bit of a sticky wicket.

I particularly liked the politeness in London:




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


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.


Good to know.

Waiting for the bus to Oxford….



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

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


In Oxford you can buy…..


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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Oxford 2016 Revisited

One of the last things we did before leaving London was take a side trip to Oxford the low light of which was that the bus took longer than scheduled both ways and the second bus broke down. Still, had a good time.

Full disclosure, I usually tune out tour guides even when they’re my colleagues, sorry, but I’d much rather wander and see stuff.  Why is that relevant? Well, because I don’t exactly know what most of these photos are of, though I do know they were all taken in Oxford, England. So here are some things I saw worthy of being photographed:




Same, but diorama filter on camera


Thought it was pretty.


I call this, “Skeletor”







While in Oxford we stopped and wandered the market above, where I had this:


Yummy meat pie with mash; why aren’t these shops here?

I’ll wrap this up with some photos of the cemetery in the middle, sort of, of Oxford; creepy cool.

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London 2016 revisited

A week back seems a good time to revisit my trip, beginning with London. I kinda wish we had gone after the Brexit vote, London might have been cheaper. The trip began, as most do, with arrival:


Shortly after arrival we took Tube and hoofed it here:



Which was to be our residence for the next few days. It was a great place in a good location and even had pub cat, which I inadvertantly let upstairs. Hope they found it. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time that’d happened.

One of the first things we did, after a night of rest, was head here:


To witness the changing of the guard, the coolest part of which was the music plyed by the guards, particularly this:

Following the pomp and circumstance we wandered over here:



Where we foraged for food and saw lots of ineresting stuff like pumkinish tomatoes….


Tiny potatos….


Pretty flowers….


Great photo ops….


And Applebees….?


Other touristy things we did, besides eating fish and chips, was visit the Tower of London where I was determined to find the exit hole for the “bathrooms” in the tower. Which I did; can you?


There were also animals formed from chicken wire:

And great view of this….


We made time for the Eye:


Westminster Abbey:


(Love catching people taking pictures.)

And Trafalgar Square where I played with my cameras’ filters:


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Attempting to Divine Beauty From the Unthinkable 

Line 2 for Orlando et. al.

Grateful for this trip.

Grateful to be in a German hotel bar blogging.

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Of Walking, Walking, Walking 

Day 10 began with an

Late start, which was welcomed after the previous day’s bus ride. First stop today was Prague Castle where something was going on:

Involving this archbishop:

And likely some other muckity-mucks. There were also great views of the city

Someone’s armor 

A lovely nearby park

With a white peacock

As well as a regular one

And a faux cave wall with lovely foliage in front 

After the castle we spent the rest of the day wandering the old part of the city which had a market

The Astronomical clock

And many, many photo ops

Oh, and I had fried cheese for lunch

Though many miles were covered and I got a bit sunburned, ’twas a good day. Tomorrow, on to Munich!

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Of Long Ass Bus Rides and Too Much Jesus

Day 7: After breakfast we headed to a local public market which looked like this:
The downstairs had mostly food vendors and the upstairs had textiles, ceramics, tourist stuff and a restaurant or two and looked like this

After the market we boarded the bus and headed to Vienna where a few of us climed the 343ish stairs to the top of St. Stephens cathedral tower and were rewarded with sweet views of the city:

The quote of the day came from one of the students I passed on my way up. I asked her how making it to the top was and she responded, “There’s too much Jesus up there.”

“Odd; for a cathedral.” I added.

Our first day in Vienna wrapped up with some schnitzel then the Belgium vs Italy Euro Cup game and some beers at a cafe hotel.

Day 8

Today began with a tour of Schonbrunn Castle (story note; there should be an umlaut over the ‘o’ but I don’t know how to do that on my iPad.) First, the grounds of the castle are gorgeous.

Second, this is the first day I’ve really missed my dad on this trip. Knowing he had studied in Vienna I’ve been wondering which places I’m visiting that he visited also; he had to have been here, no way he’d pass up seeing the gardens.

Following the castle was a bus tour of the city then some free time which I used to visit the Albertina Museum:

Then we had dinner and walked to city hall to watch the Austria vs. Hungary match on the giant outdoor screen; but it was crowded.

So we found a bar instead 🍻⚽️.

Day 9 began with what would be about a six hour bus ride broken in half with a stop at the medieval Czech town of Cesky Krumlov (see previous story note regarding accents; the Czech language has a LOT.)

Lastly, we arrived in Prague:

Today = Prague tour!

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Of Travel and Poorly Drawn Penises

Day 1 began VERY early, before 4:00 am CA time for most of us, and ended VERY late, 8:00 p.m the following day, London time. I checked in to my hotel the evening before departure and received a room key with the number 13 on the fob and thought, “Huh, that’s interesting.” Interesting because I was wearing a German soccer jersey with the same number that I had purchase in my last trip. I bought it because our Fat Tire bike tour guide in Berlin was wearing the same jersey and explaine that he chose it because The player with that number had an average German name, Muller (like Smith in the United States), and was the teams most average player; which I found amusing. Wasn’t sure how arriving in London wearing that shirt would go over. (Story note: as I was listening to Albert King, “The Hunter” as I was writing and just as I wrote “London” he sang the same word!)
The next morning, we began our journey with a flight to JFK with a short layover then on to London. The flight was uneventful save for the terrifying turbulence coming in to JFK (one kid threw up) and another odd coincidence. I decided to watch a movie from the in flight choices and picked ‘Sisters’, which was not a wise choice. The only detail pertinent to this story from that movie is that at one point a giant penis was painted on a wall of a house.
After the movie I was looking around at what other people were watching and on a screen not too far from me was another large penis painted on a blue van; which I discovered was in the movie “Vacation”, which was also not a good choice. What are the odds?
Then we arrived in London:

And answered many questions that were surprisingly difficult to answer from customs officials, questions that seemed to have obvious answers yet the person I had clearly doubted my sincerity.

“Purpose of your visit?”

“Uh, leisure.”

“What are you going to do while you’re here?”

“Oh, tourist things, see the sights.”

(Rolls eyes) “What sights are you  going to see?”

“Um, Wesrminister Abbey, Trafalgar square….”

*sigh* “Are you travelling alone?”

“Nope, I’m with a group of students and teachers.”

“What kind of group is it?”

“Holy crap lady, let me in!”, I thought but did not say, but that is pretty much how it went, with MANY more questions.

Once we all ran the interrogation gauntlet we mosied to the Underground, walked several blocks and checked into our temporary residence, where we saw this:

Can’t come to England ant not get a photo of one of these. After about an hour though very tired, we hit the town. First stop was the Houses of Paliament:

Followed by Westminster Abbey:

…where this happened:

…and through us Californians for a loop! From here we headed to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery to round out our day:

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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 6: Landscape of the Dead

We had several hours to hang out in Paris following our visit to Normandy. We decided to spend that time meandering through Père Lachaise Cemetery.  Our goal was to first find the burial location of Jim Morrison but as we wandered I was both awed and amazed at the grave sites we were passing through. The cemetery felt a bit surreal which is  not unusual, but at some points it seemed we were passing through an abandoned city. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had seen the door to one of the tombs open and it’s occupant step out as if to pick up the morning paper.  This place definitely had conveyed the atmosphere of a Tim Burton movie. Many of the tombs/crypts showed extraordinary craftsmanship and artistry; they were truly amazing. We eventually found Morrison’s grave as well as Oscar Wilde’s and they had one thing in common, other than being burial places, barriers to keep the public away. The barriers are close to the sites so they are easily viewed but apparently people were endangering the sites with their attempts at showing appreciation/reverence. I can only guess what people were doing to Morrison’s grave, maybe leaving too many objects, maybe adding graffiti, the story for Oscar Wilde’s was more clear.  At some point for visitors to Oscar Wilde’s grave it became a tradition to kiss the headstone. (“Headstone” in this case is  a bit of a misnomer, as it is really a huge sculpture.) His descendants felt that the abundance of lipstick prints was both damaging and not entirely appropriate so they had the headstone cleaned and surrounded by a glass wall.  Intrepid fans have found ways to still smooch the stone however. This was definitely an unexpectedly pleasant and enriching experience.



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