arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 25th, 2009 10:45 pm)

I am in VENICE you guys. VENICE. And it is amazing. I took this picture:

I took a bunch of pictures, actually. I will have more up soon, and stories to go with them. But I am totally wiped out - I did not sleep well in Mantua on account of the bed was stuffed with scrap metal, and have clocked many travel hours and archive hours since Sunday. It shocks me how much Sunday was just three days ago.

Mantua was a good archive and had some interesting parts, but mostly it was just kind of fascinatingly decayed and falling apart. This is my favorite picture from Mantua:

More soon, probably Friday night or this weekend. My internet access is not awesome (more on that later too) but this weekend the weather is supposed to be dreadful, so tomorrow I plan to get as much out of Venice as possible. I am planning on getting up insanely early, which means going to bed Right Now! In my tiny bed in my tiny room, which is the tiniest and loveliest little nook. Wait til you see the shower! There isnt one! Just a shower head on the wall! The water just goes on the floor, which has a drain!


The day I arrived in Salzburg it was sunny and bright and on the warm side... Of course within a few hours it was dark and snowing, and stayed grey and wintry for the rest of the weekend, with the occasional ray of sunshine breaking through the otherwise thickly frosted sky. I went to the library on Thursday and Friday, with some time for sightseeing after the library closed in the evenings.

I'm always fascinated by graffiti like this, which is so raw and emotional and intimate. I love you. She loves her boyfriend.  A loves B who loves C who loves D. The linear futility of all this love facing the wrong direction was evidently too frustrating for the writer. Was it written in English in some giant black permanent marker by some anglophone tourist, or is an affectaton of an Austrian teen? Who knows. Hard to imagine when it might have been done, too - on such a busy touristic street. 

My first trip to the library was before I had a decent street map, so I just tried to keep myself traveling in the right direction - even if it meant sliding through buildings instead of going around them. But this is a street! An actual street! With street vendors.

Salzburg was founded by Ents! Or their first cousins.

NOOOOOOOOO. It's spreading! Appropriate use of apostrophes will soon have to be mandated in an amendment to the Geneva conventions.

Soup #1: a cream of potato and leek soup made with lots of pepper and dill seed, with two slices of fragrant rosemary beer bread and a crispy piece of pan-fried prosciutto. I have important news! Prosciutto fried like bacon is WAY yummier than bacon. I said it! I meant it! It's divine. It's like bacon that has been stripped of all its imperfections.

I found this confusing. Evidently God threw fireballs at Pegasus and the shoeless stableboy who stole the sword fell off and fell into a dragon's mouth while Mt. Vesuvius erupted all around them. The end. What?

This makes me nervous for the unicorn.

I picked up some toys for my niece's birthday (some Playmobil pieces to go with her dollhouse) and took a bus to a post office, but then walked back into the towncenter. This involved walking under a mountain that was in the way. There was a car tunnel and a pedestrian/bicycle tunnel. See that sign next to the tunnel? It says "This is a damn long tunnel. Pack a lunch!"

Snow snow snow snow.

And out to dinner that evening at the Italian place next door, where I had a really delicious bowl of creamy garlic soup. There was also some pasta, but the soup was the best part.

At the library the next day I noticed this matronly pidge and it reminded me of Virginia Woolf.

 I had a late lunch after finishing up at the library - the menu said "pumpkin soup" but it was so much more fun than that - in the States we would probably see it billed as a pumpkin cappucino, because it was a smooth pumpkin soup with a thick steamed foam of cream on top of it, then a drizzling of basil oil and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds. It was delicious.

After my soup, I walked around the corner to Furst, and bought a few truffles to take up to the top of Monchsberg with me from their amazing selection:

This mosaic is at the bottom - at the top, there was a beautiful view of the city:

And a view of Untersberg mountain. See how the clouds are just scudding over the tip of the mountain? Make a mental note.

In Vienna the carriages are very refined and the horses are too - in Salzburg the carriages are more like wagons, and the horses are sturdy little mountain ponies.

Wooden rocking horses motorcycles!

These shop signs advertise businesses on Salzburg's main shopping street.

Classiest McDo sign ever:

These boots? 500 Euros. UM. I do like the jeweled lizard, though.

Saturday I took the bus out to Unterberg, and the cable car that goes to the top of the mountain. When I got back to town I picked up some more toys for my niece, some groceries for dinner, and spent a kind of frustrating hour at the train station trying to sort out my ticket to Mantua for Tuesday. Frustration hinging on confusion surrounding Mantua/Mantova and some Viennese town called Mantovsomethingelse - sorted out in the end.

This sign tells you the weather up on the mountain. The ski pass is closed.

These are the cables that the car rides on! Um.

That doesn't look so bad, right? Even if you've got a little bit of the ol' fear of heights that your mom has in spades.

Then five minutes later, you're here:

And while the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, every time I thought of those little cables I felt a little frisson of terror. And I wasn't alone. Everyone was making a lot of noise, kind of like an audience at a horror movie. Nobody's genuinely scared per se, it just makes you feel a little better to get some of the tension out of your system.

See the ground down there? That's where the car started. Looking at this again now makes my heart do this weird slide all the way down my spine. In the states there are always safety fences and partitions and stuff like that between you and the vast, whistling chasm or abyss. Not here. One step and your days are done. I'm really not crazy about the margin of error.

Then we all piled off and climbed another few meters to the lodge area - a few people continued on to the closed ski pass (not sure what that was all about) but me and the Scot and Englishwoman I met on the cable car opted to just drink some hot mulled wine in the lodge - they'd planned on doing some hiking around, but...

A cloud popped itself on the top of the mountain and it got awfully foggy.

Mountain goat trophy on the wall of the lodge - in aviators:
When I left the lodge this is what I saw:

The difference between the ground and the sky and the howling abyss and everything else was pretty much 0. But then along came this boisterous group of leathery mountain Austrians, chain smoking and hiking boots spitting up snow as they churned along full-steam, so I just slip-streamed into their wake and that's how I got back to the cable car safe and sound and considerably less gibbering and on all fours than might have been the case otherwise.

I wanted to send this cute lamb cake at the grocery store home to my mother so she could give it a fresh coat of sugar fluff and hang a little bell around its neck on a silk ribbon and eat it all up with hot chocolate on Easter, but I'm pretty sure that it would have arrived in the form of a pile of crumbs with a lable announcing that it was once a delicious vanilla lamb cake.

Sunday: everything will be closed. My plan is to find the coin op laundromat near the train station, finish up on some preparatory work for the Italian archives, and take it easy. Monday I'm in Mantua. Venice from Wednesday to April 1st. Getting the Venice manuscripts sorted has been a little weird, and I'm no longer entirely certain how many manuscripts I'll actually have to work on there. At least three - unfortunately when I was trip planning I thought there would only be two. If there's more than three I'm going to be running into scheduling problems. We'll see.


arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2009 10:57 pm)
I’ve been travelling for a month and three days. Since I started the trip with three pairs of pants and three shirts, it’s probably to be expected that they’re starting to show the damage of being in heavy rotation. Yesterday I bought a new pair of jeans and threw out the black Dockers that were looking *really* bad (man, you’d think those could handle some travel) out. I also bought a couple of new shirts – unfortunately (or fortunately), they’re also black. I would have been more than happy to get some color working in my wardrobe at this point, but I couldn’t find anything I liked in any other color.

The only part of my today that was predictable was that the hotel alarm clock didn’t go off at 6 AM. Usually I use the alarm in my Europe cell, but since it was going to be so early when I was up and about I wanted absolutely everything packed before I went to bed, so there wouldn’t be any chance of sleepwalking away from something important. My bodyclock woke me up at 6:15, so it wasn’t so bad. I’m always amazed at how good the body is at knowing what time it is. I’ve never overslept and missed a plane, train, lecture, or important meeting – but I’m totally capable of oversleeping when I’ve got something less “you snooze you lose” in the morning. I was downstairs ready to check out by 7:30, so I was already running a little late, but it could have been worse. I took a tram. Then I took the subway. Then I took a bus. Then I was in Klosterneuberg. Some very nice ladies on the bus told me that there were two stops that were possible to take to the cloister, and suggested that the first would be better - a nicer and shorter walk. So I got off and started to hike. For half an hour. Straight up a mountain road. In winds that were gusting up to 70 kph. According to my pedometer I walked nearly 7000 steps, so I think I walked for about two miles? As it turns out, my sweet ladies were not particularly well-informed, as I discovered that the bus actually goes up the damn hill on the other side and drops you off more or less at the door. Oh well.

Look how close the clouds are once you get there:

And I had been told to find the porter to be given directions to the reading room. But before I found a porter I found a door that said it was the Stiftarchiv. Rock!

So I rang the bell. Once, twice, thrice. Finally a pissed off dude answered the door and gave me holy hell. I told him I had an appointment to see a manuscript and he calmed down. He told me to go find the porter to get directions, so I set off in search of the elusive porter. Again. A sardonic inner voice muttered that the whole experience of trying to get to this particular manuscript was kind of like The Da Vinci Code except that it sucked WORSE and was MORE BORING, which cracked me up, so then I was walking along cackling to myself. Not good. If he had actually been an albino monk when I found him I think I would have gone into absolute hysterics. I wandered aimlessly looking for the porter who really ought to be an albino monk, which mostly involved opening every door I passed and looking inside. So I saw some pretty things.

If I'd had some tape, a piece of paper, and a Sharpie, I would have made Saint Columanus an office hours sign for his door. It would have amused nobody but me, but it would have amused me A LOT.

I quite like a nice ceiling.

Wait, there's MORE!  )
You might remember that I openly mocked a Tripadvisor reviewer in a previous entry . The reviewer said:

“My wife and I stayed at Hotel Belmondo - Salzburg for 1 night in Sep, 2007. This is the worst hotel I have ever stayed so far. The staff there is very rude and not helpful. It was raining heavily outside when we arrived at the hotel. My wife and I each was carrying a big baggage and had to hold an umbrella, but the staff there just watched us open the door and got soaked without giving a hand. Also, when we asked for check-in, the 2 staff at the counter were talking to each other. They just told us to wait and we had to wait for more than 10 minutes.The room is small though it is clean. However, our room has a painting with a spooky woman. I was so scared that I would be frighted to death when I woke up at midnight. So, I took it off the wall. We already saw the sharings from others that this is not a good hotel. However, we did not expect that it is so bad. We DO NOT recommend this hotel to anyone."

OMG, you guys: GUESS WHICH ROOM I GOT, RIGHT? I did not even have to expose myself as a crazy nutjorb from the interwebs by asking about or for it! It came right to me! Which, yeah, if this was a movie of any sort – especially Japanese – would be very bad. In fact, I think that guy might have seen Ringu before staying here because actually? The painting is pretty deeply creepy.


In horror movies, the protagonist is almost ALWAYS shown openly mocking the silly, superstitious dread of the supporting cast about the specific subject of the horror movie in the first 15 minutes of the movie. There is no such thing as werewolves, videotapes that kill you, ghosts, cannibalistic hillbillies, or museums of wax made out of actual dead body parts! Of course, then that same protagonist will spend the next hour of your life screaming and being generally humbled out of their previous position of intellectual arrogance on that particular topic, and the very last 15 minutes either surviving (if it's an American horror movie), being killed anyway (if it's a Japanese horror movie), or discovering that it was all just personal psychosis (European horror movie).


Seriously I should stop looking at it. In the ambient lighting of the room at night it is registering about a 7 on the creepometer, with 1 being "weird shadows" and 10 being "shadows that are actually pretty definitely someone holding an ax."

I no longer have the heart to mock that guy from Tripadvisor because: yeah, not so funny anymore.
arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2009 11:37 pm)
Another cold, gray, rainy day - I slept as much as I wanted and then ate a brunch of this and that from yesterday's market. I reviled my hotel and indeed all the hotels I've stayed at so far for not providing at least a kettle. I understand they don't have coffeemakers in all the rooms here like we have at home, but no means to even make a cup of tea is just uncivilized.

I went outside. I realized my new scarf and my umbrella are matchy. I took a picture. It's blurry of my face because I thought someone was coming around the corner catching me doing Myspace-style self-portraiture and: embarrassing.

It would be the only picture I was able to take all day, because the Belvedere doesn't permit cameras. At all. Anywhere. Except in the garden. That immediately put me in a bad mood, and I'm still feeling pretty cranky because the pieces that I saw which made the most powerful impact on me aren't available digitally anywhere, at least not that I found (Shana will possibly prove me a liar on this and I'd be glad of it, she seems to find the most impossible things) - studies for paintings in the Mayor's House of the City of Prague that reprent Czech virtues using Czech historical figures in allegoretical settings. They were wonderful. I can tell you they were Justice, Maternal Wisdom, Strength of Purpose, Prepared for Battle, Creative Spirit, The Chosen, Constancy, and Independence. They were amazing. They inspired me with ideas for stories. I would really like some way of referring back to those images, but without my camera...

I was really unhappy. Really, really, really unhappy. I've never been forbidden to take any pictures at all in a museum - usually as long as you're not flashing, you're fine. I guess France and America are more liberal on that policy? The only exceptions I can think of are a few modern art exhibits I went to because the works were still under the artist's copyright. Perhaps it's the same thing with the Mucha, but in the WHOLE museum? Ugh. It turns out that banning photography in museums is becoming the norm. That's a real pity. A digital image can never take the place of the real object. It's not a bootleg! Refusing to allow people to take not-for-profit pictures of things they have seen, are seeing, it just feels wrong to me. I feel kind of bereft.

I did find a few online images of a few things that I saw, mostly thanks to the fabulous Museum Syndicate site:

Cycles Perfecta reminds me SO MUCH of [ profile] galligaskin . It's practically a portrait. 

Some day I am going to make a headdress like this one and wear it ALL THE TIME:

Byzantine Head, the Brunette

My mother had a tin with this on it and I loved looking at all the details. It was a treat to see it in person, in its original color and texture.


For the rest... Hopefully some day I'll see them again. In a book or something. I'm sad. I'll look harder for them later.

It being Sunday and everything in the world closed, I decided to finally check out the down at the heels pizzaria next door to my hotel. It's about what I expected, but it had its charms. For one, the older Italian owner gave me an absolutely GIANT pour of red Lambrusco. It was crazy. It was like two fingers over the half litre mark in the wine glass. I was feeling absolutely no pain by the time I finished it while I was waiting for my pizza (in one of my mental-health-break recursions to the familiar, I ordered the same kind of pizza I always order at home - pineapple and ham). Whle I was sitting there another elderly Italian gent came in - I was deeply, deeply charmed by the fact that he was wearing very fine tailoring of a certain vintage, I think the late 70s? And his umbrella was perfectly matched to his jacket, in an identical  red and blue houndstooth. I was so in love. The jacket was paired with a light blue shirt, a red paisley tie, and a striped waistcoat. I seriously love the Viennese men's clothing. They're adorable dandies - the clothes have so much panache and wit! Because I had been openly gawping at him of course I had to recover so I said "Gruss gott!" and he said "Guten abend!" and the owner said "Buona sera!" and gave him a glass of white Lambrusco, and the dapper gent raised his glass to me and said "Chin chin!" and I said "Cheers!" and we toasted each other and drank. Man, there are times when I really wish I spoke German. This was one of them. This is like the second time I have missed out on getting to talk to an awesome dapper older gentleman.  I probably could have had a go in Italian, but settled for giving him my best smile instead of giving him agita by butchering his mothertongue in his ears right before dinner. 

I do love a glass of Lambrusco. Really any kind of sparkling wine, especially red sparkling wine - which is cold, refreshing, relaxing, slightly sweet but mostly crisp - makes an excellent attitude adjuster at the end of a long, walky, rocky day. (It had a few bad moments - seeing the streetcar doors slam in the face of a 90+ year old woman who was trying to give on nearly gave me a heart attack and made me want to cry at the same time, it was awful - the museum was frankly kind of dreadful, the sort of place where the docents treat everyone like stinky vagrant vagabonds who are going to filch the good silver if you take your eyes off them for a second, and they stare with nasty suspicion and are just generally overbearing - nothing ruins a pleasant art buzz like having your gaze intercepted by someone who is sneering contemptuously at you, ugh - the museum cafe was run by a woman who was in such a foul mood that she was being horrible to everyone, I walked in and picked up a Herald Tribune and a sweet older English couple told me to run for my life!

But all the restaurants in the area were closed, so I had to sit down. She was rude, but I'd been expecting worse after talking to the Brits, so I wasn't put off too terribly by it. The goulash soup was just brilliant, easily some of the best beef soup I've ever had. The cubed beef had been marinated to perfection in just the right ratio of red wine and vinegar and was tender and flavorful, and the potatos were perfectly cooked, and the cubed red and green peppers still crisp, and the broth just of the right thickness and savor. It was heavenly. The coffee was divine. But it was not a good situation in that cafe. She was the only server, and the place was absolutely jammed with Sunday daytrippers, and if you were nice to her it just made her angry, which is probably the mistake the Brits made. The first time she hissed at me when I smiled at her I decided "cool polite" was better than "warm friendly" and after that we got on fine.  I left her a good tip anyway, on the grounds that if I'd been in her place I imagine I'd have made contact with my inner berserker several hours earlier, probably breaking every demitasse in the joint while gibbering incoherently about swarms of locusts and crumbs of torte and how the day of reckoning etc. etc. etc.. She was still valiantly fighting the fight, if not graciously.

Yikes - it's bedtime for Frances! Tschussle!

arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2009 12:10 am)
I slept in a little this morning, caught up on some email, and headed out for the Naschmarkt, which is Vienna's big outdoor food market. I knew it was going to be kind of insane on a Saturday, but that tends to work in the ogler's favor - because shopkeepers can't really hustle you through a transaction or away if there's no way to move any more quickly than a slow mosey.

Herbal and fruit cordials of every variety:

Shopkeepers were a little annoyed that I kept asking for small quantities of everything - usually 100 grams - but there was just so much that I wanted to taste! Even though I only bought a little of this and a little of that, I still ended up with so many bags.

My first stop was at this bakery stall, where I bought one of these almond and chocolate confections. It was so delicious - when I ordered it I had no way of knowing how good the chocolate was, and how thick - how delicious the toasted almonds held together with sticky sweetness and candied orange peels would be. If I'd known, I would have bought two!

I bought some babaganoush and asked for ein stuck of falafel and the woman said "EIN?!" and laughed and took one from the steaming hot bowl, dipped it into tomato hummus, and passed it to me - refusing payment! I thanked her and tucked the baba into my bag, and bit into the falafel croquette - it was easily the best falafel I've ever had. Definitely better than L'as du falafel - this was a thin crisp crust over a piping hot, creamy, mealy interior that was fragrant with herbs and spices. I held my face to the steam and inhaled it like it was incense, and relished every single bite. It was soooo good. Overall, I have to say that you really want to make sure that you shop from the Iranian-owned stalls in the Naschtmarket. They have a totally different cultural spirit of market-based commerce that involves giving stuff to people who buy stuff, and I am all in favor of it. The Austrians didn't do that at all, and they were way less sweet and funny.

I stopped in a cheese shop - you wouldn't believe the intensity of the smell, the olfactory confusion of it - ripe cheeses of every sort, sweet neufchatel with nuts, butter cheese topped with fig preserves, sharp peccorinos and romanos, and pungent blues of every variety, easily hundreds of varieties of cheese. I bought a slice of Saint Agur which was astonishingly good - it's a less salty, creamier Roquefort.

And at the last minute, I also asked for a little slice of Camembert with Calvados (the Camembert is dipped in apple brandy during the cheese-making process). The Camembert is so ripe that it's completely runny - when I unwrapped it it was melted like raclette, and I ate it the same way, scooping it out of the paper with hunks of Turkish bread. Also delicious! 

Next I stopped at an Iranian fruit and nut stall, and enjoyed a lovely chat with the proprietor, a little old Persian man in a huge ushanka hat who has lived in Vienna for 20 years. I bought a bag of raisins and a bag of pistachios, and then he made me a generous gift of a bag full of his best and most costly mixed fruits - huge dried cherries, strawberries, and plump golden raisins, and the most delicious wasabi peanuts and peas I've ever had. I was really touched by how sweet he was.  He handed me one of everything to taste to see if I liked it before putting a scoop in the bag - he was delighted by how delicious I thought they all were (in my family we don't feel at all shy about expressing our enjoyment of food!) and I was delighted by how generous he was - every time he moved to another wooden barrel and held out a new delicacy for me to taste I wanted to laugh and clap my hands like a child. So many flavors and textures, salty and spicy and sweet. That one was my favorite stall, and if I can find or make the time I think I will go back and see him again and buy some more of those delicious dried strawberries.

I also had a glass of very fresh pineapple juice for one Euro.

And I saw a spice seller engaged in a lively trade of spices already scooped into little cups.

There were a LOT of olives. I bought some stuffed with garlic, and some stuffed with almonds, and some stuffed with creamy cheese. They were delicious. It was hard to convince the woman to sell me just a few of each, because she felt pretty strongly that I should buy several kilos. But we worked it out.

The biggest capers I've ever seen in my life, and olives stuffed with *whole Szechuan red peppers*:

Incredibly fresh, barely brined olives.

Calamari stuffed with seafood, tiny sweet red peppers stuffed with tuna salad, various seafood salads, zucchini grilled with pine nuts, and sardines wrapped around fat olives:

Loads of people were buying armfuls of pussywillow branches to take home as a reminder that Spring is very nearly here (and everyone is SO ready for it)

When I got to the end of Naschmarkt, I discovered that there was a freaking flea market at the end of it!!! Oh, man. And my arms were laden with olives and dried fruits and nuts and Turkish bread and a pretty new scarf (5 Euro pashmina-silks? Or something) and a giant navel orange, and cheeses and eggplant and avocado dips and that was my left arm all done holding stuff - and I had my camera in my right hand. But I am not one to ignore a flea market. I am one who hopes she will find a cheap backpack in the fleamarket so she can carry on at leisure!

But it was not a fabulous fleamarket, and there was a very dark mood in much of it, because some authorities had come through checking permits and there had been a lot of gypsies with illegal tables and the tables had been taken away and all their stuff thrown on the ground and some were hauled off and people who were shopping just jumped into the piles of stuff and took what they wanted. It was pretty shocking. I watched the aftermath at one of the stalls and was confused, then I happened upon a gypsy woman standing and making loud lamentations over a pile of (hers? a friends?) stuff, and started to figure shit out. All of this antique and vintage stuff was thrown on the ground and getting trampled. I saved a pretty little handmade matchbox for a game table (a large square box covered with velvet and ribbon, with four little drawers holding with matches on each side). I think it is from the 1920s, maybe a little earlier. I took it right out of the dustbin of the beastly man in city coveralls who was shoveling everything into a dumpster while people squacked and scrabbled on the ground grabbing things up. Grrrrr. Horrible to throw such things away, and horrible to treat the gypsies trying to make a living so badly. Better they should have been fined on the spot than such a terrible fate. For pete's sake, go bother the beggars and fakers, not the people selling goods! I was a little steamed. Of course the non-gypsy sellers in the vicinity were pleased as punch. Gypsies get nothing but grief in this world. Gypsy culture isn't blameless in that, and I don't have any problem with saying so. It's when something is patently injust and counterproductive that I get vexed. /rant

I really liked this painting.

I acquired three things at the flea market for a total of 20 Euros, which is an astonishing bit of restraint on my part. First, the matchbox (free). Second, a single silver spoon with a pleasingly deep bowl and - I think - a depiction of Rotkäppchen - in German, "Little Red Cap" not Little Red Riding Hood - on the spoon handle (5 euros). I dug it out of a box full of mixed flatware and hoped for more - of course it was the only piece. The spoon is by Berndorf, an Austrian maker. It has a bit of tarnish, but nothing serious. There are also two ornate solid brass antique drawer pulls which to my eye are quintessentially Viennese. I haggled for them! In German! How far I've come. Both for 15 Euros. The fairytale spoon is a gift for my father, who I imagine putting it to use in his coffee-making nook as a stirrer. The drawer pulls are for my mother, who will put them to their proper use somewhere. And the matchbox is for me.

I was hoping to find something cute and Viennese and vintage or quirky for my niece's birthday, but nada. I have to find something soon, because the window for getting it mailed is getting smallish. I found some adorable sweaters at the market but they were new and of middling quality and the seller was absolutely insane. She wanted 30 Euros. 30! For a tiny child's sweater! For 20 more I could go buy one from a posh shop near St. Stephans that would be a zillion times cuter. I tried to haggle with her, but she was like "Oh, that is actually a larger size, that one is 35 Euros!" Forget it!

I was so tired and my hands and arms so full that I decided to scrap my original plan of goint out to the Zentral cemetery and picknicking on market fare there, and headed back to the hotel to drop things off, eat lunch in my room, and then go back out. It was the right thing to do. The train ride was really long out there. Like I thought maybe we were going to Salzburg long. And it was evidently going to or from Tackyvania, because seriously, this? Is nothing. I saw lots more that was even further over whatever:

I was really disappointed in the cemetery. No great shakes. A few neat things, like this fairy monument:

Big, but totally flat, and right in the middle of the Vienna airport's eastern and northern lines of descent. I was seeing a lot of airplane belly a lot closer up than I really like to see airplane belly.  Still, I think I am going to probably go back tomorrow if I get done with the Belvedere in time for a side trip back out, although I have now seen the graves of Strauss and Schubert and Beethoven and the memorial of Mozart (the cemetery lost his bones during a reorganization. Seriously. Though supposedly the gravedigger who dug up that plot to make room for a new grave saved back the skull and gave it to a museum).

The position of those naked buttcheeks and Brahms' body language makes me feel like he is thinking "I wish these whores would leave me alone so I could compose some shizzle for rizzle! Dayum. Leave B-Rams be, bitches!"

Strauss' grave is the prettiest.


Beethoven, Mozart, blah. I did not find and thus have not yet seen the gravesite of the composer and musician buried in those hollowed grounds who actually means the most to me. Those other guys are OK, and their monuments are OK. But I want:

Falco. Oh, man. How in love with Falco was I in 1986, 1987, and 1988? A LOT. We did not get MTV as part of standard cable for the first few years I was in high school, so I'd have to stay up so incredibly goddamn late to watch music videos on Friday Night Flight - anyone else remember that?

Oh, lord. It was still infinity times better than that "USA Up All Night" shit that replaced it. I was so glad that we finally got MTV soon after Night Flight went off the air so I could watch 120 Minutes with Downtown Julie Brown instead.

I feel so incredibly old right now. Because that, dear readers, was 20 years ago. Holy hell.

Still: I would like to pilgrimage to the grave of Falco. It makes sense. I might even take a flower. There will, however, be no ridiculousness involving writing poetry on clove cigarettes or weeping openly or whatever it is that people do on the graves of Rimbaud or whatever.

And finally: the best guerilla street art I've seen here. The first picture is of the original, the second includes the satire.

Looks like someone used superglue! And acrylic paper!

Tomorrow I am going to the Belvedere. And possibly back out to the cemetery for Falco, because I have done more internet searchifying on the subject of how to find the grave. There should also be laundry, but hey, guess what? According to Tripadvisor there are no longer any public laundromats in Vienna. I have no freaking idea what to say about that or how or why, but evidently some hotels have laundry rooms for guest use, and others charge out the wazoo for it, and guess which kind I am living in! Ugh. But again: handwashing jeans is a don't, so I may be stuck with the situation unless I want to take a train out to the po' folks suburb and try to find one there. Egads. So there's a downside to being someplace so prosperous. No laundromats. I guess.

This entry took forever to type, yikes. Bedtime!

arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 14th, 2009 09:33 am)
A window display of ties, scarves, and cravats. I like how Austrian men dress.

This spring, the well-heeled Viennese gentleman will accessorize with cheerful yellow and serene dove grey - in his cashmere scarf, umbrella, suspenders, ties, and bespoke suits (bolts of fabric pictures - I assume the yellow is for the waistcoat!

Tafelspitz: it's what I had for my late lunch! It was too dark in my little corner to get a decent picture, plus tafelspitz comes to table as a great many dishes - one chafing dish that has two slices of flank steak in a rich broth with root vegetables and a marrow bone. One dish with two little sauce pitchers containing applesauce in one, and a delicious creamy horseradish in the other. Then there is yet another little bowl containing creamed spinach. Also plated - a round of fried onions and potatos, chopped quite fine, like hashbrowns but smaller. Then you mix and match sauces with the meat and the vegetables, and it was amazingly delicious and satisfying. I have mostly been picnicking and ad-hoccing my meals, but today I had a tiresome and elating afternoon in the archive (funny how that works) and my lunch hotdog felt very far away, and I decided to try something typically Viennese. I will eventually also get some schnitzel. No pictures, sadly - it was too dark in my little corner of the cafe for any of them to come out properly.

Note: if you ask for a hot dog in Vienna, they chop it into bitesize pieces and give it to you on a plate with a big squoosh of ketchup or mustard, your choice, and then offer you a piece of black bread or white bread. That, in my opinion, is not street food. Especially on a windy day. I declined the piece of bread, ate up the pieces of bratwurst-like hot dog before they got blown off my plate, and got to the archive before the sky opened up and gave forth some storm. With lightning and thunder! Which was actually kind of a treat - sitting there with my manuscript on a dark and stormy afternoon. Drama!

The day had moments of true elation - for one, I managed (in one afternoon!) to accurately source, date, attribute, and describe a 15th century manuscript. Although the catalog description was pretty good and whoever wrote it found a couple of pieces of dating information, they did not find the scribal signatures tucked in a few sections. I did! And I was sure that there was a place name in them as well, but of course I don't know Austrian geographical history of the 15th century, and it didn't look familiar. I was pretty sure that it said "in Axpach" or "in Arunpach" or Arumpach if that x thing was actually Tironian and being used weirdly. The archivist who came over to have a look (I went up to ask if there was any kind of inventory that grouped shelfmarks by provenance, like they have at the BSB, which would have told me which monastery it came from and maybe clear the whole thing up instantly) was sure that it said "Marparch" and meant "Marburg". I was really, really, really sure that wasn't right. I mean, you can read the two minims of "in" as an M, but there was a whole letter space between them and the next part. and there was no way that was an R, it didn't look like an of the other Rs in the document, which I quickly pointed out. Plus this really didn't look like a German manuscript. The Lombard capitals were too pretty, with little Christmas balls on them. He was very gracious and said he would look into it, and came back a short time later with the information that there had been a: "“Kartause “marienpforte” in Aggsback” 1373-1782. North of Melk in lower Austria." Carthusian "marienpforte" (fort of Mary?!) in Aggsback = Axpach! Which went with the information I'd pulled out in transcription: "Explicit divinalis rhetoricem venerabilis dominum wilhelm episcopi parisiensis qui fuit tempore S[anctus] thom[us] lector parisius in theologia, per fratrem Jeronimum prespiterum monarchum professum domus porte beate marie" in one place and  "“Iste liber est domus portemarie in axpach ordinis carthusiensis circa melb" about a hundred folia later. Hello, Hieronymus of Aggsbach: I can see you!

Also, getting this nailed down means that I can use the similarities in construction to make at least the preliminary hypothesis that the other manuscript I looked at yesterday may have come from the same place, because the similarity between the illuminated capitals in each was uncanny. Binding was pretty different though. But binding can be changed! Illuminated capitals not so much. So that was fun. Less fun was trying to do transcription while someone did the best of Sammy Davis Jr. tapdancing routines on their goddamn laptop next to me.

A rant about loud typers, with anecdotal comeuppance. )


Because you can't make a decent grilled cheese sandwich without processed American cheese slices!

Watching these horses together was interesting. It was like watching an old married couple - the way they loved each other and pissed each other off. I stood there for a long time, just watching them be affectionate and cranky with each other. There is a way of being cranky which is a benefit of being in harness together - you know the other person is going to have to forgive you for it, because what are they going to do? Leave? Over crankiness? Not likely.

I've seen plenty of street musicians, but a piano in the middle of the road was a first.

I stopped at St. Stephen's to see the crypts but something was going on and it involved a bishop:

So I took a picture and a video and kept on walking. The above picture is blurry because I took it standing in the exact same place I took the bottom picture - my little fixed lens ultrazoom is awesome. I'd be surprised if a DSLR could do any better in low light conditions without a tripod or a gyro stabilized zoom lens.

I went to the tacky tourist concert and it was actually bad enough to be kind of depressing, though there was a pretty chandelier. Mostly what I saw was the tangle of unbrushed old lady hair belonging to the two chicks who kept turning around and giving me the stink eye when ever they heard the tiniest "tick" of me pressing a camera button (the sounds were turned off).


The music was beyond mediocre - the second violin was Chloe from the show 24! She sat there with the most unbelievably sour expression on her face the entire time, and you could barely hear her, and when you could? It was the violin equivalent of someone saying "Blah blah blah blah blah." The first violin was better but hammy, and the viola and cello were mneh. Piano was good. And they had a drunken soprano come in to do a pretty little aria, and she was quite good, though drunk. But seriously, you'd be drunk too. The room full of tourists in terrible tourist clothes, gawping at you, probably 80% of them having never seen live classical music and having no real appreciation for it. But she smiled brilliantly and was gracious and gave a lovely show. As opposed to lemonpuss Chloe-lookalike. I took pictures of her but can't bring myself to upload them to Flickr. They're too blurry from the low light to be any good, and uploading a shitty picture just to show you guys how ugly her expressions were feels too malicious. Here's a picture of the Albertina at night:

And here's the Hotel Sacher. Torte, anyone?

I had a nice nighttime walk, then came back to the hotel room and turned in early for the night. Too many vexations in my day, including my feckless, dunderheaded landlord writing me to claim that I didn't pay rent last August or this January and that I should pay up. What? I looked at my banking site and saw that the January check was present and had been cashed, I have a digital image of it. As was the check I gave him for this semester's rent for Feb,Mar,Apr, and May. I didn't have time to go back as far as last fall to dig around looking for those images and pulling up each one, but I expect it's also a case of the landlord being an idiot. He's just really unbelievable. I wrote back that I had a digital copy of the January rent check, paid in full, endorsed, and cashed. Also that the rent for the semester was paid up, and if there was a problem from LAST AUGUST that he was now bringing to my attention we'll deal with it when I get back and can go to the bank and have all the digital check images from the fall given to me on a CD-ROM. Whatever. I've also been having to argue with the hotel manager every day to get an internet pass - although the web site clearly states that the wireless internet access in the hotel is free, her argument is that there is a sign IN THE ROOM that says that is only for the first 24 hours. After that it's 15 Euros a day. Ridic. I booked the room under the impression there was free wireless, you can't tell me when I get here that's not actually quite true. So far I have been winning these arguments mostly because I stand there like a big stupid obstinate rock who doesn't understand her bizarre human logic, but that might not last much longer. I check out of here on Wednesday morning, so hopefully I can keep it going until Tuesday night!
arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 11th, 2009 10:10 pm)
I want to lead with my favorite photographic catch of the day. I took the hell out of this picture! This is the straight frame: uncut, untouched, unedited. I have to give mad props to the FZ-28, which caught it with iA - I didn't have any time to futz around with the settings because I took this picture in a tiny sliver of time - there was a steady stream of people into the church between me and this guy, and I had to take it when there was a blink of space.


Other things that start with C and are typically Viennese: chandeliers, chantilly cream, cherries, coffee, chocolate, candy (there are candy shops ALL OVER the place - I bought some orange vodka chocolates and some choconana sticks). My new favorite European country? Maybe yes!

Chandeliers: They are everywhere. Like... Everywhere. Shiny, sparkly, gleaming through cut crystal and glass, prisms and curves cupping the light and casting a cheerful glow. I am totally in favor of chandeliers in bedrooms now, and plan to have one myself some day. Hung a little higher. The bottom of the one in my hotel room occasionally grazes the top of my head when I'm walking under it.

Cafe Mozart, where I had lunch & coffee - and later, a nice cup of tea

Chantilly cream: on the cakes, on the coffee, on the hot cocoa, really on everything that isn't supposed to be salty. It feels like Versailles up in here with all this whipped cream!

Yoinked this picture of a piece of sachertorte at the Cafe Mozart from flickr. Believe me: I'm having one of these soon.

Cherries: in the chocolate, in the cakes, in the coffee, in the candy, the bread, the drinks. YUM. 

Coffee: PARADISE. Just absolute paradise. Coffeeshops all over the place, and a dizzying variety of types of coffee, and I wish I could try them all! The most common is called melange (and I wonder if Frank Herbert was a fan) - it is pretty much a cafe creme, close to a cappucino. There is also "einspanner" (one shot), which is kind of like an Americano except it is topped with whipped cream instead of frothed milk. There is the "fiaker" (coachman) which is espresso with a tot of rum and whipped cream. Iced coffee in Austria? Is iced not with cubes, but with ICE CREAM. And then whipped cream and a cherry on top. Cappucinos are made with whipped cream instead of frothed milk (ask for a melange to get a cappucino - this is kind of like the Bostonian shibboleths about "milkshake" and frappe", in which a chocolate milkshake is just chocolate milk, and a chocolate frappe is a milkshake).

They have a whole culture of coffee here, including conventions of coffee presentation that kind of remind me of Japanese tea ceremonies. The coffee always comes on a little silver tray with a glass of still mineral water and a little biscuit or chocolate. I didn't get a picture of my Mozart coffee (which had a shot of chocolate Mozart liqueur and some whipped cream, topped with blanched almond flakes) but I also ordered a tea over the course of my day, and this is how it came to the table:

It's beautiful here. Incredibly nice people (I have yet to meet a grump or a crankypants - and I've met quite a few angels, like the tall man who was like a Viennese version of my Uncle Jerry. He saw me sitting outside looking at my map when I got to Vienna, and came over, lit up his pipe, and explained the basics of the Viennese public transpo system to me in a laid-back American-accented drawl that even *sounded* like my Uncle Jerry), gorgeous clothes everywhere - especially on the men, who wear colorful woven jacquard and brocade scarves with their narrowly tailored suits and bright silk ties. The style of the women is a similarly pleasing combination of whimsy and elegance. It's more individualistic than Paris, where there are definitely seasonal "uniforms" for women and a dress code enforced by overt negative social feedback, but the women do have that self-conscious air of being in the public eye when they're out, and prepare accordingly, and with charm. Hopefully I'll be able to get some illustrative pictures - particularly of their hats!  

In the interim, as illustration I offer you this picture of the window of a posh, upscale umbrella shop:

Absolutely adorable! And very Austrian!

And tt just feels perfectly safe. I walked aimlessly last night in hopes of stumbling across a grocery store and it felt like walking around a little Midwestern town, except for the part where it's a huge European capital city. It just felt like there was no crime lurking around the corner. Everything feels prosperous and safe. I have an overactive spidey sense, especially when I'm travelling alone, and I feel very comfortable here. No safety-related stress. I was curious about that and found this comparative criminology site which told me what I already knew - this is a prosperous country with an extremely low crime rate. It's not as universally posh as Luxembourg, but it has the same kind of vibe. It's really nice.

As for work - I found my way to the library, with a brief detour into the church right beneath it to listen to someone practice the organ. 


When do you have to climb five flights of stairs to get to the second floor? When you are going to this building, and the floors are numbered 0, mezzanine, 1, 2. I don't even understand. I can't make my experience of the insides coincide in any way with this picture of the outsides.

Had the world's most awkward conversation with an archivist ever (I am getting the feeling that speaking regular German to an Austrian is like speaking French to a Flemish person). We established that I had bona fides and permission, and also that the dates of my arrival had not been communicated to the reading room (I don't know if I forgot them or if they got lost in the flurry of emails, but oh well) so my manuscripts weren't ready, and they can only be ordered at certain times of day. I thought that was all fine and good, because I was itching to walk around outside some more anyway. So I'll go back for them tomorrow morning. They're all from De fide, and look pretty straight-forward from the catalog descriptions but for one of them.

While I was poking around the side streets I discovered a little theater. I bought a ticket to see a Friday night concert in it. Mozart and Schubert, naturally. I suspect that the music will be lovely but not of earth-shattering quality - the posters advertising the concert have all the ladies in perfectly horrible dresses and I'm pretty sure it's mostly for tourists. But hey: affordable. And also, I haven't anything in my suitcase that would gain me access to any of the "real" concert halls in Vienna. I'm sure they have dress codes that don't include jeans or all-purpose black dresses worn with my all-purpose velvet and corduroy coat. I wouldn't want it any other way, really. Bloomington annoys me. Ballet, opera, concerts? Half the world is wearing jeans and their stinky old Birkenstocks. Freaking hippie enclave. I used to get all indignant about it, mostly because half the fun of going to stuff like that is that everyone looks beautiful and smell divine. In places that aren't Bloomington.

The sun came out for a little while:

I saw some overburdened mermen.

I like the eyes on these sculptures. I also like that what I assume is King Neptune is wearing something that looks very much like a Christmas pudding on his head.

I also have to do a day trip to Klosterneuberg to see a manuscript while I'm here. Where I will also see:

I get the feeling that "restraint" is not a core virtue in Austrian culture. What with the whipped cream and the rococo. I loves it!

I still have not heard back from Mantua and I'm kind of buggin' about it, because I wasn't able to find the manuscript shelfmarks given in the Ottman inventory in the Mantua catalogues. I guess I'll find out when I get there. I took the precaution of cancelling my hotel reservations in case my visit goes like this: "Hi, can I see [MSS shelfmarks]? I wrote ahead but didn't hear back." and then after 15-60 minutes of waiting someone will come back and say "Oh, those were destroyed in a fire in 1740" or similar, leaving me free to move on. 

While Germany was hard, it was pretty a pretty well-regimented march through the archives. Things are going to get a little loopier when I get into those little libraries in northern France and Italy, I think. Not to mention the fact that we're leaving the areas best served by and heading into unchartered hotel waters, in which I'll be runnng around with my suitcase, which I'm rebaptizing the Valentine because it makes me so happy and is so shiny and red, comparison price-shopping between the hoteliers of towns that aren't so much down with the internet yet. Or up with it. Or whatever.

Tschüssle! (Seriously, this seems to work just fine here, and it makes people smile).

arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 10th, 2009 08:38 pm)
Apologies to the people who asked for pictures under a cut - I did it, but the HTML got all wack again and only cut a wee part under the link/jump, and it's 11 PM and I'm going to bed. :-( I think there's a real limit to the number of tags you can put in a given entry or something.

Why didn't I buy more of these before leaving Germany? They are the best cherry candy I've ever had - they taste like the best sour cherry preserves ever, made into a hard candy with a chewy center. And I only have five left out of the roll I bought from the vending machine in the Bayerische Staadtbibliothek when I needed to break a 2 Euro coin to have a euro to feed the locker.
Granini kirsche frucht bonbons, I hardly knew ye!

As a girl who is passionately fond of cherries, I have to say that I did like all the cherry things in Germany. Cherry juice at breakfast. Cherry candies that taste like real cherries and not like a benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, anisaldehyde, and amyl butyrate cocktail. Cherry liqueur that tasted like fresh cherries also. I really liked that.

Here's a picture of the BSB. It's on the far right. I like the lampposts in Munich.

I took the train from Munich to Vienna today and I took a lot of pictures.

At the Munich train station. I took this picture to show to Adored Advisor, and then realized later that it also captured the sweetest Deutschebahn station lady ever. I'd never noticed them before, but these lassies run around in these adorable red berets and help the helpless and confused, keeping all in ordnung. There were an unusual number of Japanese tourists around on this particular day and I wondered if there was some big convention starting up or ending or something and hence the helping helpers? Because when I went into the station to get my ticket, I noticed that it was one of those deals where you have to get a number out of a machine and then know to look at this one monitor that shows the numbers and the desk open to serve that number, but of course there are no signs indicating any of this in anything other than German. I took my number and waited. I noticed two younger Japanese women standing there looking with great timorousness at the red pillar machine that spits out the numbers. They did not want to push the button. This is understandable: it is the wrong color. It is a giant glowing RED button, not a GREEN button, and everyone knows you should never push the giant glowing RED button. Basic semiotic fact. I nodded encouragingly at them and waved my number. They laughed and punched the button and got a number. I did this three more times as more Japanese ladies came in and went through the same thing. There was a lot of bowing to each other, which was fun but made me feel super dorky like I was trying to be Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid or something. One of them who spoke some English looked TOTALLY exasperated with life when I pointed at the red pillar, the paper number, the monitor, and the numbers on the ticket agent windows. She said "I wait 40 minutes not know!" I could totally relate to this and she looked like she was kind of melting down so I made her take my number and I took her number and after a polite argument about whether she would accept it I insisted and she looked cheered up. She met the other Japanese ladies and started talking to them and then they all started bowing at me again, so I guess she told them what had been going on with her. I bowed back, feeling silly but also like, actually honored.

That lady needed a little cheering up from a random act of humanity because from my observation, the DB ticket seller was a grumpy old man who did not find her nearly as charming as I had.

Anyway, this other DB lady, in this picture taken moments before we met, was hilarious. She looks like Renee Zellweger, yeah? She was such a Bridget Jonesalike. Kind of cute and spazzy and dear. I asked her where my quai was (the numbers dropped off at one end and I was confused - had to go out and around) and she did a little interpretive dance demonstrating its location. I assisted by demonstrating my pidgin German acknowledgements and repetitions. It was like futurist theater. As I walked to the Starbucks for my gigantor latte (that and a slice of 'za carried me all the way to dinner 7 hours later, but I really shouldn't do that) I thought about the word pidgin, and the word pigeon.

This is my train:

I had a whole car to myself for awhile:

Because I had the car all to myself for so long, I was able to take lots of pictures of myself in the train, which is something I'm too embarrassed to do when there are other people around.

This one is my favorite of the bunch but I think I'm going to need to photoshop that eyebrow, which looks like it's about three days from Wolverine wannabe.

More of ME ME ME

This is my seat. Note that I had to raise the headrest nearly to the top to accomodate my tallness. Europe seriously makes me feel like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson at a Little People convention. The wings on that headrest banged me in the collarbones.

There are more pictures down here! Of mutant pigeons and Viennese decor. And stuff. )

In what can only imagine was a forced eugenics project after the total defeat of the local pigeon population by a particularly robust strain of killer crow, these freaks of nature are EVERYWHERE and they are ENORMOUS. I mean HUGE. They're the size of very large crows, with this weird piebald pigeon coloring. They give me the wiggins. I will not be even a little surprised if they carry off my jar of pickles or the drinkable yogurt that I have stashed in my hotel-room pantry on my windowsill.

These dudes also gave me a slight case of the bewiggins:


I am going to show you two pictures. One is of the hotel lobby. The other is of the famous guests who have stayed in this hotel. From those two pictures you can totally deduce what my hotel room is going to look like:

And here is my own little corner of Vienna:

I LOVE IT!!! But I think it would give most people a migraine. There are five competing patters in this room, wich is about 9x9. It is TOO MUCH. It makes my own interior decorating style look tasteful and restrained.

Underneath this really unbelievable bedspread is a whole lot of feather duvet, feather pillows, and general plushiness:

It is burning my retinas with radiant elegance! It is like a hundred suns of sophistication all beaming on ONE BED.

Wait, that's not a hundred suns of sophistication! It's the giant chandelier which is hung so low that I can head-butt it like Pele by raising up on my toes. Figuring that I'm unlikely to find myself three inches from the bottom of a chandelier again any time soon, I took some pictures of it. Because: shiny.

Then I realized I was really hungry. Actually, then I checked my email, found a cryptic and wicked stressful message from my department administrator about my account which made my adrenaline zing-a-ling and then *that* made me realize I was super low blood sugar girl, so I wrote back to her (forwarding all my reservation confirmations and a polite whynow?) and went out to find something to eat. I came back with groceries (I was too anxious about her super cryptic message to even think that a nice leisurely restaurant dinner would be good) and discovered that she's pretty much just chipping her teeth over nothing. I had it all sorted out already, but she wanted to make sure that I remembered that the proper place of the departmental administrator is smack in the middle of my bidness. I kid. She has good intentions.

I'm here for a week - long enough to buy things in jars! The groceries: little pearl onions, gherkins, Spanish olives, a sweet red pepper, some Wasa bread (this tastes infinitely better here than it does in the states, where I think it's pretty much all stale and rancid), a little thing of weird but delicious egg salad (it, like my bedspread, is in the aesthetic of the late 50s/early 60s - it had an aspic coat!!! And vegetables all arty in it!), some creamy blue cheese, and a small "klosterkase" (cloister cheese) which I opened and promptly set out on the windowsill. RANK. I love stinky cheese, but I know the difference between stinky good and stinky bad. And that was BAD. I thought the look on the monk's face was suspicious, but have since upgraded it to "evil."

The breakfast here is 18 Euros. HA. I will be enjoying delicious chocolate strudel filled with almond paste and yogurt smoothie in bed! Suckas. You can have your smorgasbord of cold cuts and granola. Ew.

Seavas pfiati!

(I'm not kidding: that is how you say "Bye! See you later!" in Viennese German - no idea how the hell to pronounce it yet. So far I have stuck with Tschüssle! and that seems to be working fine.)
So I leave Germany tomorrow and head to Austria. YAY! One country down, five to go. I'm totally ready to go. I never want to see another sausage again for at least six months (I like sausage). The same goes for cold cuts of any kind. I had my bowl of cereal and cup of coffee this morning as usual, but skipped lunch so I could just power through my last manuscript, and I was really super hungry by 3:45 when I got to the station. All around me were the damn wurst sellers and their infernal sausagi. NO MORE. I passed a shop selling rotisserie chickens and I will not lie: I bought one. A WHOLE ONE. Just for me. I ate half of it for late lunch and will eat the other half for late dinner, and I was really damn happy to have it. Plain chicken: sometimes it's exactly what's wanted. In other weird "the body wants what it wants" nutritional TMI, I bought a whole red pepper at the supermarket the other day and ate it whole, just like an apple. And it was the best thing ever.

I did the right thing by buying train tickets as I went - saved about 50 euros over the cost of a rail pass (4 days of travel in a month).

Weirdly, though airfare to Vienna from Munich was cheaper than train fare according to, which is evil and lies like a lying liar who can't do any truth telling, the train from Munich to Vienna is cheaper than the train from Nuremberg to Munich.

Both on high-speed trains. The train ticket to Vienna, bought at the station, is 70 Euros. So: Sarah has to get from Munich to Vienna. She already has a $50 plane ticket, but will spend $15 on the shuttle to the airport and in all likelihood another $20 on baggage overlimit fees because Lufthansa is crazy and says carryons can't weigh more than 8 kg! So you can take your wheelie, and you can put one pair of shoes in it, and maybe some socks. But then you are done. So Sarah would have to check her bag, the idea of which gives her the connips, because that is seriously every stitch of clothing she has plus all of her civilizing products in bottles, and she doesn't want to pay to replace any or all of it should the bag wander off. Estimated cost for taking the flight tomorrow: $35. Estimated time involved: get to airport by 3:30 at latest for 5:15 flight with mandatory by-4:15 check in means leaving HBF at 2:30. Arrive in Vienna at 6:15. Collect baggage from carousel. Be done at airport at 7:00. Figure out mass transit or take taxi (probably the taxi option) be at hotel by 7:30, bringing total to $55 and 4 hours.

OR - tomorrow she can wander over to the train station tomorrow after a leisurely breakfast, and pay 70 Euros for an 11:26 train ticket and be in Vienna four hours later. The train station is a 15 minute walk to her hotel. Cost difference: about $35. 

I'm going to go ahead and consider that the penalty for being a dumbass and buying the plane ticket in the first place, take the train, and travel in the blissful certainty that my luggage is safe and sound and right above my head.

I also dumped my Easyjet ticket from Venice to Paris. Since I don't have to stop and pick up a visa for a trip to Moscow anymore, there's no point to the layover there, I should just head straight north, start at Brussels and do a little train circuit from there to Saint Omer, Cambrai, and Bruges. Again - cutting out the cost of travel from Paris to Lille will pay for the change. Unfortunately, the Venice to Brussels leg is just not train-able. It would take forever - almost 20 hours in trains - and cost a fortune in tickets. The cheapest I could find to do it *still* goes through Paris - $120 sleeper train overnight, then another $100 in tickets to Saint Omer and a full day's slog. So I really have to take the plane.

Aaaand it leaves at the asscrack of dawn. Unfortunately, to get the 12 Euro ticket from Venice to Brussels I have to fly out of Venice at 8 AM. The alternative is flying business class and paying $500, which isn't going to happen. So I'm up early as hell. Check in is mandatory by 7 AM, so I figure I'm going to have to leave the hotel by around 5 AM, because I'm going to have to get to the other side of the city to the train station to get the bus transfer to the airport. I might look into a hotel closer to the airport for the last night in Venice, and then just take a cab, but it's kind of a weird area. As far as I can tell there aren't any (at least I haven't found any) hotels that are right near the airport, they're all technically in some town north of Venice? I need to look into it a little more.

I'm flying Brussels Airlines. Hopefully they'll gatecheck bags, because I am going to be scampering up to the gate with my backpack in stealth mode. If I lurch a little while I walk, maybe they'll just think I'm a hunchback.

I think there's a pretty good chance that I'll also pitch the flight from Brussels to London in favor of the train to Hoek von Holland (6 Euros) cross the English channel on a ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich (36 pounds) again, just to avoid the hassle with luggage.

I might do the same thing going back to Paris from Oxford, and take the train to Portsmouth instead of London and the ferry to Le Havre (23 pounds) and the train to Paris (30 Euros).

With the increasingly draconian restrictions on cabin luggage, my plan to avoid checking bags is looking pretty much impossible. I'm still glad I'm only travelling with a carryon, just because of how many times I've had to sling the bag up flights of stairs and into overhead luggage racks, etc. Choosing ferries over flights also just strikes me as more fun and adventurous and less of a pain in the ass. Back when I thought I could use a carryon suitcase as a carryon, things were different. But... 8 kg? Really?

And I just have really low risk tolerance for losing my luggage on a trip of this length.

Anyway, that would eliminate all flights but the Venice-Brussels leg, and that one is on a regular carrier, so hopefully no problems (knock on wood). Plus I like ferries. I like the smell of seawater, and I don't get seasick.

I wish they still had hovercraft crossings over the channel. I would have liked to experience that.
arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 9th, 2009 09:01 am)

Woke up this morning, checked email, read post by a friend from Emory panicking over her student loans, felt onset of howling panic attack, decided not to think about it: nothing I can do about that today, or right now, or really ever, other than pay them off as quickly as I can when I'm in a position to do so. Icy cold hand of dread nevertheless still clutching the heart - honestly, as much as I dislike the private sector, I might throw my hat in the McKinsey ring. If I actually got hired, I could pay my student loans off in about 5 years if I was making six figures but still living as modestly as I do now. The big question, of course, is whether I could ever get a job in academia as a professor after working as a merc. Maybe, if I kept up with conferences and published. Maybe.

Anyway. Those are another day's problems, so I might as well not borrow them this day, which is a Monday, and involves more windy, blizzardy weather in Munich:

Hotel parking lot

At least I have clean clothes. Which is kind of a miracle given the instructions for the odd Germanic wascherei machine setup (it involves tokens and codes) and the fact that I had some difficulty figuring out how to get everything working because of course I left my dictionary in the hotel room.

I leave for Vienna tomorrow evening. I have two weeks left in German-speaking countries and "the hard part" should be behind me then. I expect to be fine in Italy and the rest, just in terms of simple daily life functioning, and I'm looking forward to it. It's ironic, in a way, but I was told by a guy at the bakery the other day (who was Arabic, and was helping me out to communicate with the baker by translating) that most Arab countries require children to learn English in school, so they're all pretty much bilingual. Additionally, I haven't had ANY problems with Arabic men behaving inappropriately or freaking me out (unlike some of the gross Germans and the expat Africans). I suppose that if you're a Muslim man who has certain ideals of womanhood, you wouldn't be interested at all in crazy white girls.  It would probably be easier to travel through Syria than Germany. Not that I'm planning on testing my theory.

Off for breakfast and to the archives - bis spater!

arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 8th, 2009 12:53 pm)
I took a tablet of melatonin last night when it was well past dark, and was jaw-crackingly sleepy within an hour. Even though my download of "Rock of Love" was almost done and I was looking forward to my first look at the trampscapades (my friend Daphne says this is the funniest show ever), I couldn't keep my eyes open any more. It was 8:30. I slept until 8 the next morning, when renovation workers woke me up with a racket of tools and metal and stone. I called down to the reception and they went away, and I slept another hour. And I only got up because it is Sunday, which means that breakfast is a Very Important Meal today - because everything in the world is closed. I felt like I was still dreaming - totally OBE. Too much sleep? Is that possible?

While waiting for the elevator (which always takes forever) I educated myself on firefighting tips via the plaque mounted above the fire extinguisher:

1. Fight fire with the wind!
2. When fighting fire, start with a corner piece.

As to the REST of the instructions... Honestly, if I was the copyeditor on this piece I would replace the whole thing with:

In case of fire in hotel, grab your stuff and RUN THE HELL AWAY.


This is going to be a pretty long entry because I haven't had internet access for awhile but I've been keeping a little offline notebook during the days at the archive.  I don't have many pictures, so hopefully my LJ-cut will work - often I have too many tags on too many cuts and embeds and the whole thing just spools out anyway, along with a lot of hanging </div> tags, so we'll see.

I spent entirely too much of my Friday afternoon mooning after the broad and besuited shoulders of my much-admired objet petit a, Dr. Wolfgang-Valentin Ikas, my number one archival trog crush of all time. OMG YOU GUYS: I found a picture of him online because I am a stalker and a psycho! Well, not really. I just wanted to show him to you. He's the one who looks like Colin Firth with German glasses and German hair. See how much I wasn't lying about that? Man, he is so cute. And you should see the way he walks. I bet you can totally imagine how he walks. I'm so in love.

Bis spater!
arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 2nd, 2009 08:38 pm)

This one was kind of a bad landing. Not the worst ever, but it was pretty rough. I barely made my train this morning after having to drag my hated suitcase over cobblestones for about a kilometer. Note: the train station is more than the reported 10 minute walk away if you are wearing a 20 pound backpack and lugging a 40 pound suitcase that has ineffectual little wheels over rough terrain. Then I ended up having to drag the thrice-damned thing the length of the train because it was one with reserved seating. The suitcase, which I am officially renaming The Albatross, doesn't steer straight any more and in any event could only ever be dragged behind me, not pushed in front or peacefully strolled alongside, so this involves going three feet, yanking it out from under someone's seat, repeat for 10 cars. If I could have carried The Albatross I would have, but with its weight and size that was really out of the question. I would have probably ended up smashing someone in the face with it by accident.

I am pretty sure that I'm going to have to replace the damn thing sooner or later and this is my solemn swear: if I happen upon one with omnidirectional wheels I'm just going to buy it. The end. Put a stop to this bitching and the aggravation which produces it.

I got to Munich and walked to the hotel - the advantage of arriving in daylight hours: I only had to dodge TWO of the hateful Cameroonian Lotharios. It was too early to be let into the room, but I checked in anyway. I said to the guy at the desk that I felt pretty sure he had me in the room right next to the elevator and that we could just go ahead and change that right now, please. And he looked at my room number and his map thing and said "OK, I'll change that for you now." !!!!!!! What the hell is up with every single goddamn hotel putting me next to the elevator engine room? What is that?  I think that while I am getting outstanding fares on some hotels that technically book for two or three times what I’m paying, the tradeoff is that I am being classed or coded as some kind of subprime guest who is to be stuck in the worst possible room and treated like doo. Other options include: being a solitary female traveler (just like one often gets considerably worse treatment at restaurants when one is eating alone and female – the conventional myth there is that single women don’t tip well, if at all). Or both. Or neither. I don't know.   All I know is that when I went up to the room it was directly next to the elevator. Evidently I'd been in the one directly in *front* of the elevator, which, while it totally sucks, is still way better than sharing a wall with the clonking machinery.

You know, I'm pretty sure it is the lower rate. I am going to resist the temptation to give in to gender paranoia. That way lies scary bitter future of being like Evil Former Advisor. I imagine that's how online booking functions with hotel economics. Offer a rate of $52 a night. Fill your crappy rooms with budget travelers motivated only by price and to some extent, location. Offer a rate of $72 a night. Fill your less crappy rooms with holiday seekers who are looking at midrange hotels because they want to have a good time. Offer a rate of $100 a night. Fill your regular rooms with the sorts of people who are willing to pay that much to stay someplace which is, nevertheless, not the Meridien or some  other actual higher end hotel that has rooms in the low hundreds. Granted, there those are probably the ones next to the elevator.

I went to the archive. To get there you go through a giant empty dark ballroom and a long hallway. I'm pretty sure that the trip I made today was one long metaphor for death.

If it was an accurate metaphor for death, I have some concern that this means the Mormons are right, and the rest of us are all really screwed.

Trying to get the hotel room all sorted after getting back from putting in five hours at the archive after nearly four hours of lugging luggage and schlepping stations and trains and to the hotel and then back to the train station to get the U-bahn - then putting in til close of archive, then running ragged trying to find a damn geldautomat and some dinner to bring back to the hotel - I came as close as I've come yet to having a meltdown when the desk chick started yelling that there were no other rooms but the smoking room (GROSS) in front of the elevator. Observation: yelling seems to be not so much the provenance of that first hotel desk clerk's crazytown as it is the standard German customer service strategy. Because I'm here to tell you that girl is a very sweet person by nature. That much was easy to see. I was very tired, and hungry, and thirsty. I was very tired. I held my hands up. I said "I am very tired, and just want to rest. Please, are you sure there are no other single rooms that are non-smoking?" And she found one. I am pretty sure that she could tell I was going to burst into tears in five,  four, three, two...

And if she'd been a sadist, that would have been bad news for me. But she is not, so instead there was a better outcome. According to my watch pedometer, today I walked: 10,650 steps. And it was accidentally turned off for part of the day. I think it probably came to about two miles with the luggage and a mile without. I'll be really glad when the hotel quiets down - the floor isn't carpeted so it really is quite noisy in front of my room. I haven't unpacked yet - whether or not I do depends on whether I get to sleep enough tonight that I'm not a mess in the morning. I'm now on my third night without good sleep. Pray for me. I get really weird when I'm sleep deprived.

This is my last week in Germany and it’s in Munich, which is a city that I really loved last time I was here, so I have high hopes for a nice week. Then I fly to Vienna for a week. Then I take the train to Salzburg (another week). Then to Italy, where I pass through Mantua and spend a little time in Venice (last week of March). And then I fly to Paris on Apr. 1, and take the train to Cambrai (2 days) and Saint Omer (2 days)  and then Bruges, where I spend most of Easter week in the archives and the weekend at the beguinage (yay!). Then it’s on to Brussels, where I look at a few manuscripts and then fly BMI from Brussels to Heathrow on April 17th, heading on to Cambridge the same day. I spend the last two weeks of April in Cambridge and Lincoln and Worcester, and practically all of May in Oxford. My mum is hoping to join me there for a week, and that would be nice.

I can fit the next three months of travel into a few simple declarative sentences and it's reassuring. It looks easy, right? And honestly, it probably will be once I get to countries in which I speak the languages. At least easier, if not easy.

Bis spater!

arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 1st, 2009 10:34 am)

Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes - with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That's not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating." --Mark Twain.

First, an older video clip I made by sticking my camera up against a train window:

Definitely one of my least favorite things about traveling in Germany in the off-season is that the train announcer will come on and say things, and I have NO idea what he's saying. I recognize the names of towns. He could be saying "DUE TO A ZOMBIE ATTACK IN MAGDEBURG WE ARE DIVERTING TO FRANKFURT" and I wouldn't know. More rationally, he could be saying that the train was be rerouted for mundane reasons, or that it's going to be hours late as a result, and again: I wouldn't have the slightest idea. It requires a certain amount of "Whatever. It's probably not important or people would be groaning/screaming/panicking." I look around. If nobody is reacting badly, I proceed to the assumption that the dude is just announcing the location of the restaurant car on the train, the weather, or other trivialities. So far so good.

There was a transportation strike in Nuremberg on Friday (and bless the sweet lady who told me that I was wasting my time waiting for the streetcar, as I had no idea), so I walked to the archive - about 2 miles in, and 2 miles back.

Even though it was cold and sleeting I enjoyed my walks both ways and felt good after, though I was narcoleptically tired around 11 this morning. It was the same way when I was going to the gym early in the morning back in Bloomington - asleep on my feet by noon, and feeling like a little kid who is too tired to take a nap for the rest of the day. Still, it was a productive enough day. One of my mss is not viewable because it's in bad condition and has also never been microfilmed. Bad news. I was unable to convince the archivist to allow me to take digital pictures without a flash. She asked someone in the library, and said they'd do it for me, at a cost of 5 Euro per snap, and would get one page on each. What?! That's 10 Euros per folio. Unbelievable. I protested. She agreed to at least get both pages in each snap. God only knows how good the quality will be. My camera is fantastic on this sort of thing. I feel really vexed by the attitude in some archives. If Richelieu will permit flashless photography, who the hell are you to refuse it? SERIOUSLY. Compare to the Amploniana, which only wanted 15 Euros per manuscript up to 50 ff, with .30 eurocents for each folio after. Very reasonable. Or Richelieu, which permits photography. Or Brunswick, which also permits photography. Grrr. Nuremberg is way too big for its tiny, stinky lesesaal britches.

This is the library entrance. The library was built in the 14th century:

Closer to the tower door:

I went to the grocery store to mail some postcards and discovered that they have Easter eggs ALL THE TIME. Technically they are for little kids. These are the eggs at the bakery, but they also come in regular egg boxes but with the kind of bright designs and fonts that appeal to small children. And me.

Germans like soft-boiled eggs in egg cups. The felt tulips you see here? Are egg warmers. They keep your soft-boiled egg warm until you crack it and take off the top and scoop the rest out with a teaspoon. A process I completely failed at the first time I tried. What a mess I made!

I bought some groceries and mailed some postcards. Blood-orange juice, wine, studentenfutter (trail mix = student food), whipped yogurt with tropical fruit, chocolate milk, raspberry yogurt with chocolate wheat puffs, beer. You know. Essentials.

This "Welcome to Nuremberg" sign was at the strassebahn stop that I stopped at this morning. And waited at. Until some extraordinarily kind woman fluent in English came out of a shop to tell me that there was a strike. My guess is that passing the time taking pictures of strassebahn stop posters gave me away as a tourist.

I see a Frenchman in a beret. I see a Sikh in a turban. I see a geisha and I see a European idea of a Mexican in a serape. I see a woman in a burkha. I see a Bavarian dude with a moustache. I see a shitload of albinos. And I see a fucking polar bear. What. Polar bear?

Also, that little old lady in the grey bun is wearing a pin with a face on it. And the face? That's pretty much Hitler. Looking surprised. WTF HITLER. Seriously. WHAT THE FUCK, HITLER FACE?! I was under the impression Germany wasn't exactly all about celebrating or venerating or repping that dude. Brrrr. Am I missing something? Is there some kind of widespread reconciliation of modern Germans with their Nazi past thing going on? Because this button isn't on a scary skinhead. It's on a sweet lace-collar ruffled silver bun wearing grammykins!

Did I ever tell you guys about the friend of mine in Lille who took me home to her village to show an American to her family and her grandmother turned out to be an anti-American Vichy? A Nazi sympathizer who was STILL BITTER that Hitler LOST and had a living room full of Nazi crap and also a full collection of John Wayne movies on VHS? Because she thought John Wayne was French on account of how he speaks French in her movies, which is because they are DUBBED but seriously: try explaining that to Nazi Grandma. I did. It didn't go well. That was one hell of a trip. Highlights included: everyone in the village coming out to gawp at me; seeing an adult man with Down's syndrome tied to a table like a dog "for his own good" (this was earnestly explained to me when I freaked out about it), and Mari's aunt's apartment. She collected porcelain masks. They covered almost every inch of her walls. It was absolutely terrifying. Also, having her father ask me for money, tell me I lived in a McDonald's, and putting on a big show of demonstrating a vacuum cleaner to me, as I'd never seen one on account of how rich I was. Horrifying people. Absolutely horrifying. Riding back to Lille in Mari's car listening to Richard Marx with the windows open, I was about as happy as I'd ever been in my life: just because I was leaving that place and knew I'd never be back.

At lunchtime on Friday I wandered around the corner to a place that served breakfast all day. I was deliriously happy with my milchkaffe (kind of like a latte) and orange juice and my copy of the Herald Tribune (ahhhhhh, something to read in English!) My mistake was thinking I'd ordered a fry-up with eggs and cheese and sausage and veg. of course what came out were cold cuts, a soft-boiled egg, a wedge of tomato, a few slices of cheese, and a wedge of red pepper and a basket of bread. Oh well. I ate some of it. Mostly the cheese and bread. I am sick to death of cold cuts. It's like the national food. There was also a delicious marmalade made with apple and ginger.

I spent the afternoon looking at a couple of 15th century first editions of William's work in incunabula. It confused me. I'm still confused. I should probably ignore the incunabula. Technically I don't suppose they're that important for my purposes, but I found aspects of one of them particularly weird and intriguing and curious vis-a-vis the manuscript tradition, such as my understanding of it is at this early date, and if I ever do a formal stemma (let me tell you how freaking unlikely this is) I guess I'll come back to it.

I left the old city out of a northern gate and walked west to get to Bucherstrasse, seeing about a kilometer of city wall in the process.

See that scaly grey stuff on the wall closest to the lens? Here's a macro shot of it:

Photo of the hotel I decided not to stay at. THANK GOD. For an extra $15, I got a *much* better deal.

Something about this made me feel vaguely sad.

My bad German read this as "I thank you for letting YOUR DOG shitting in YOUR [wahnzimmer - somethingroom... Outhouse? Bathroom?] Thank you!" How close did I get?

On Saturday I did laundry in the morning after a lie-in and packing up.

At least it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Why would it be four times more expensive in Paris?

Then I headed to my weekend hotel room in the altestaadt, which I got to by about 2:30. I took a wrong turn down the street parallel to the one my hotel is on and discovered the Nuremberg red light district, homeless shelter, and methadone clinic. Oops. Nobody bugged me, but I wasn't looking anyone in the eye, either. I should have checked wikitravel, not just wikipedia, which offers the useful tip: "Between Färbertor and Spittlertor (Plärrer) you should avoid the inner side of the wall, as it runs along Nuremberg's red light district." At least the room was pretty nice for $60 a night:

I find my ability to end up staying in or near to red light districts a source of frequent dismay. I know that it's the direct and inevitable result of only booking cheap hotel rooms, not some personal knack, but still. I'm sure they're not generally dangerous, they're just uncomfortable places to end up as a solitary female traveler. Walking out of it for dinner was a mess, and I ended up choosing a direction and loping without looking to either side until I was clear of the hood. At first I stopped in a takeout place that had frikadelle, but my attempts to communicate with the guy behind the counter weren't good, and then this gum-popping teenaged hooker came in yammering about ketchup and I got really light-headed from just the general weirdness of the whole situation. I apologized and bailed, eventually finding an organic grocery store up Farberstrasse, and picking up a few things for dinner.

Red wine. Bread. cheese. Some people food. That's what I think of the ubiquitous cans of vegan pate-a-tartiner/pasten/?spread? that you see in the organic grocery stores here. They come in cans just like cat food, and they come in kazillions of flavors. They remind me of Little Edie feeding Big Edie cat food and calling it pate in Grey Gardens. I've never actually bought any before, but my recent discovery of Braunschweiger emboldened me to give it a whirl. And you know what? Really not bad. Actually pretty good. I bought mushroom. I wish I hadn't fed the ingredients into Babelfish. "Moderate bread upstroke on yeast basis with mushrooms prima basic! Added: Water, vegetable fat, feeding yeast, mushrooms, (10%), potato flour, garlic, fennel, wheat germ, sea salt, spices, herbs, garlic." Gross. But seriously, it was pretty tasty. It didn't taste like yeast goo.

I watched the Franconian version of MTV. It involved a lot of traditional folk rolk songs, all of which had videos that featured the singer(s) frolicking in snow while wearing outerwear. I watched it for a long time. It was almost as hypnotizing as FashionTV. Which none of my hotel rooms have had so far.

I wasn't in much of a hurry to do anything on Sunday because it was grey and raining again. I took a shower and tidied the room and went downstairs for breakfast and was treated to a long, uncomfortable round of "Let's stare at the foreigner and talk about her and her country and that she doesn't speak any German." Since they don't know any English, they don't realize that it's a lot easier for me to understand them than it is to speak to them. It's not like Amerikanische and USA and Anglisch are all that hard to catch, and it was pretty clear from what I could catch involving familiar verbs like kannst and sprechen and how they were smirking and laughing what was going on - also, two of them became pretty pissed off when another American woman came into the breakfast room and we started speaking in English to each other, and that chick started yelling at us in German while her friends laughed. The bad news is that these? Were hotel employees. I don't expect everyone to speak English, but I do expect hotel workers to not be actively xenophobic! And you know what? Maybe they should know a little English in urban hotels. It is pretty much the international lingua franca at this point, not German. You can't expect glamorous world travelers to learn the language of every single country they're visiting. THREE times I've been asked by a German why I would come here without speaking the language. Provincial much? If the Allies hadn't pwned Germany in WWII maybe things would be different, but now they need to just suck it up.

Yes, I am getting cranky. The nice thing about this crazy archive tour is that I'm never anywhere annoying for very long. I leave for Munich in the morning. I'm staying at the "arthotel" there. I'm hoping to be in Munich by 10 or so, check in and drop off my luggage and get to the archive.

Does anyone know if Austria is more English-knowing than Germany is? Like Switzerland? Oh god please.

4 weeks left til I'm on the France/Belgium/UK leg of the trip.

I walked for two and a half hours this morning. I stopped for a few minutes a few times just to be still, but mostly I walked. And Nuremberg was like this:

I TOOK THIS PICTURE AT NOON. I felt like I was starring in a sequel of Night of the Comet.

I came around a corner and this thing was right in front of me, two feet off and larger than life, and I said: "Holy shit." Because I am very articulate when I'm surprised.

This is the "end" of a sculpture in the round, the title of which loosely translates to "Carousel of Marriage" - it depicts marriage as beginning with indolent young sensuality, graduating to the futile attempt of the married man to control his wife, the wife living large while he slowly dies of deprivation, the wife as mother feeding her children in a swan boat (the swan is plucking its own heart out with its beak), and finally, the skeletalized couple depicting old age, in which the elderly wife chokes her husband to death while her wrinkled dugs hang in his face.

I think it's probably the most misogynistic, ugly, pessimistic, disturbing piece of art I've ever seen. So I took a bunch of pictures of it.

The naked newlyweds are singing to each other:

The realization that the wife cannot be controlled, even if she's technically bound. She's depicted as pregnant, loud, and obnoxious, hands on hips, this pugnacious chin and mouth open in a willful rant you can practically HEAR while he's recoiling and yanking on her chain at the same time. He is still naked, but she has on a housedress.

Soon she has taken over everything, and is depicted as a voracious all-consumer and he a withered, starved shell:

Note that she is eating HIS piece of cake and drinking HIS coffee. Again, she is clothed and ornamented, and he's naked.

Detail of the above. This one freaks me out a little because I know a woman who has this EXACT SAME FACE. *Spooky.*

Contrasted with the self-sacrificing mother:

Different angle of same:

Old age:

Also seen:

This was on a church fountain. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. OR ELSE.

An outside observer of these public works of art visible to any and all passing children might conclude that Germans are seriously fucked up, that it is at least in part the fault of public art and that it's not exactly the biggest surprise in the world that psychology and psychoanalysis were basically born here, nor a surprise that they are all so crazy about brightly colored clown shoes and whimsical eggwarmers. Poor little liebchens. Whistling in the dark.

A couple of pretty pictures from the Lorenzkirche to wash away the horror:

It was so dark and cold in that church - much colder than it was outside. I watched my breath puffing out little clouds of vapor in the shadow light of the candles and thought about how much I hadn't cared for going to church at sunny, heated First Christian Church of Manhattan, Kansas. Wow. Try going here on Sundays, kid-I-was, and then show me your whine and cheese platter!

No idea what's for dinner tonight - since Nuremberg is evidently quite entirely closed for the day, I suspect that it is minibar peanuts and what's left of the vegan pate (I'm going to have to be pretty hungry before that tastes good again) and crackers. I may go out for a bit of a wander though. Am hoping that the hookers don't work on Sundays.

Bis spater!

I’m tired as hell at the end of a long day after a short night’s sleep, but I really like Nuremberg. I had no idea that it was so cool. It’s beautiful here, at least the parts I’ve seen in the altestaadt (old part of the city, most of which is 16th century buildings) and new buildings built into old frames that still show their original bone structure. Getting myself squared away with the strassebahn was kind of confusing and involved yet another conversation with a random German in which language wasn’t much help, but I found a very jolly little old man and he seemed pleased as punch to give me a hand, so that all worked out.


And this sundial worked! More or less. And there were colors.

The further south I go in Germany, the happier I get. Also – here in Nuremberg it seems that practically everyone does in fact speak really good English, which relieves a lot of stress. This is the first place I’ve landed that I’ve been really, really, really happy to be in. Braunschweig and Erfurt are not lovely or interesting at all, though Erfut had a few good pictures in it. And I just kind of blew through Paris and Berlin on my way to archives. But I like it here. I walked the two miles home and took a zillion pictures as I went, and I’m really happy with some of them! Until today I only had two pictures that I really liked so far and I was feeling a little discouraged about that. But it's gorgeous here, and sunny, and everything looks better with a little light and shadow. Especially metal and stone.




During my lunchtime wander, I happened on the hauptmarkt.

I admired the spring flowers, and bought a huge bunch of incredibly delicious grapes – I’ve never had red grapes so delicious. They’re large and oblong, crisp as possible, sweet, but no starchiness in the flesh or bitter tannins in the skin. They’re just incredible. I also bought a little paper cone of dried strawberies  and a couple of apples. I bought a small wedge of Fourme d’Alembert cheese and a wedge of some other, unknown cheese that is soft and chewy and has a stripe of ash down the middle and a slightly orange rind. It’s nummy. I ate fruit and cheese on a bench in front of the church for lunch and then found a Starbucks (grande latte FTW!) and walked back to the library. It’s open from 10-12:30 and 1:30-4:00. Terrible working hours, really, but I think I’m getting by. I don’t like having to work so fast.

When I said in a prior post that Nuremberg reminds me of Mont Saint Michel (and if you saw the old illustration of it I put in that post you’ll know why!) I wasn’t kidding. Not a lot of flat surfaces here – you’re always going uphill or downhill.

And the archive is in no way handicap accessible. It’s up a hill that makes you really feel like you're fighting gravity for every inch of ground, for one.

Then three flights of stairs, the up and then around a corner and up another little narrow flight and down a little hall and you start thinking: I must not have understood those signs. And then you open an unmarked door and find yourself finally in a tiny room with big windows. Nice at first, but the other occupants were two Euro men of the old school re: hygiene and by the end of the day it reeked. It’s not necessarily a BO smell, it’s really just a kind of sickeningly strong animal smell. Like ferrets. I felt a little lightheaded and icky for the last hour or so – you kind of get used to the horrible smell and tune it out consciously,  but on some other level I ended up with a sore throat from the constant struggle not to throw up in my mouth pretty much full time.  And felt really dizzy. Euro stank!  Hopefully less of that tomorrow!

Nuremberg loves me so much more than Erfurt or Braunschweig. Right on my hotel block - a grocery store AND a laundromat.

Why is it 4x more expensive to do laundry in Paris? This isn't bad at all. Friday night plans, hoo-raw!

More pictures of beautiful Nuremberg:

And even more on my photostream! With captions.

Bis spater!

arcanamundi: (Optimist's Dress)
( Feb. 25th, 2009 12:38 am)
I overslept a little because I was up too late packing after working on archive stuff til also too late. I dropped my camera but it is made of win. I took a test picture just to make sure. Authentic desk chaos! By the way: that prescription bottle? Is full of my favorite salt. Because I like salt. 

I had to kind of rocket through my morning routine and downstairs to check out this morning. The young man at the desk took my credit card. I said the bill looked like too much. He said it included the three meals I’d taken in the hotel. I was still dubious - they were very modest. He said that once I paid I’d see the complete breakdown on the hotel receipt. I paid; he printed the receipt; I looked at the receipt; I’d been overcharged 20 Euros a night for the five night stay. I politely noted the discrepancy; I produced my booking confirmation and the price that had been secured by credit card. He called over a manager. She immediately started screeching at me. Man, what is it with people who work in the travel industry? FIND YOUR MIDDLE.

So then I went to the library, and I did transcription, and the watermark pedagogue came out and *very* kindly showed me how to do it properly. I can’t imagine an archive in the world is going to let me do what she said was the very best thing: a rubbing. She uses a thin piece of plexiglass behind the page and, a piece of very soft, thin paper over it to pull up the watermark with a very soft lead. I know TWO people on this planet who could probably get archives to let them do that at will: 1) Arthur Field, the former amaneuensis of Kristeller and current editor of the new edition of the Iter Italicum, my former paleography prof and mayor of Nutbergia; 2) my mother, who has curly white hair and big blue eyes and glasses and a deep dimple. Nobody can say no to my mother. She looks all sweet and white-haired and like she would make you pie if you said yes.

So then you take your rubbing and you measure it in about a kazillion different ways (depending on the watermark) and plug the measurements into Piccard. Now, those of you who are hardcore with the history of the book are probably already all up in Piccard, but all I knew how to use until today was Briquet. Mostly because until now, all my base have been parchment. I don’t like paper. Paper is for vegans. I like parchment. Give me the skin of a stillborn baby goat polished to translucent smoothness with a pumice stone, and written upon with gall ink mixed with blood and wine. Accept no substitutes.

I liked hanging out with her. I liked that we both laughed at some of the watermarks as we flipped through the books. My favorites are the ox heads with the giant wobbly petaled flowers sticking out of their nogs. Like this one but with added whimsy:

I found my passages from De Universo b1p1 in one of my manuscripts at Erfurt (massive score – it can be such a trial to pinpoint content when there’s a high degree of variation in caput incipits and so on, and these are kind of huge texts – it felt like landing on Go in Monopoly). The archivist (ever the dollface wunderdamen) let me take pictures of it in the privacy of her office, because she said it was totally against the rules as reproduction is Amploniana’s primary revenue stream at this point but if all I wanted was three pictures, ok. I did make  arrangements to buy one reel of microfilm, the De legibus. If I need the whole part I of De universo in the future, I’ll order it then.

After wrapping things up in Erfurt (and can I just say that while the university is kind of depressingly awful, the Amploniana was to date the very best archive I’ve been in with respect to it being a real pleasure to interact with the people who worked there and their equipment being really top notch and the room being pleasant and comfortable to work in. We got off a little bit on the wrong foot because I hadn’t written ahead, but it all worked out in the end – I had three cheerful ladies all yammering and futzing around with the microfilm reader while trying to get it to print a clear page by the end. I felt loved and fussed over. Bunch of real sweethearts, those ladies. And like to laugh. Big laughers. I like Germans. Except Frau McScreamy.

I took the trolley back to the Altestaadt and walked back to the hotel, then had to drag my suitcase over about half a kilometer of uneven, gappy cobblestone back to said trolley. QUAINT and CHARMING were no longer words I was using for the cobblestones by the end, more colorful terms having come into play after about 100 meters.

Now I’m on the train. Supposedly I’ll have seven minutes to get from platform 4a to platform 11 in Wurzburg, but the train in was delayed so I’m guessing that at this point I’ll have three, four if I’m lucky. More likely, I’ll end up sitting around with plenty of time to take pictures of more sad donuts and delicious coffee while waiting for the next Wurzburg-Nurnberg train because of transfer FAIL. I was under the impression we were headed south but there is a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground here – it looks like two or three feet, and it’s piled up really comically in these giant snow fortresses at the train stations, and there are snow walls between the train tracks. I’m listening to Cocteau Twins and riding along looking out at the hills and the trees and the snow and transcribing manuscript images on my laptop and managing to waste time on the internet without even being ON the internet, which is saying something.

Update: When the train got in I made it from platforms 4 to 11 in about two minutes flat. Because I have tickets to the gun show. Seriously, I had pretty strong arms to begin with and I think that if I could figure out some (SANE AND REAONABLE) way to make my awful suitcase work my triceps I would be able to totally do away with the dreaded chalkboard swing.

Update: Ask me how cute I find the seven foot tall businessman sitting in the seats next to mine. Ask me how much I like his olive green corduroy suit and his dark blond crewcut and his big sweet Germanic face.

Update: Oops. Ask me how embarrassed I am that I just now noticed the wedding ring.

There is a French guy sitting on the other side of the table from me who is sticking his fingers in his ears to block out the sound of my typing and is glaring at me like I am asshole of the world while he reads his paper. And ladies and gentlemen, I am a fairly light typer. I mean seriously. I don’t like it (in fact I absolutely hate it) when people are typing in fairly quiet public places like they’re playing the fucking piano. They get an intense thought or maybe they’re ending a paragraph with a bullet and a bang, and you can tell because suddenly they are typing like they’re fucking Liberace playing to the cheap seats, BANG BANG BANGITY BANG BANG! And that might go on for five, ten minutes. And then the maestro sinks back in their seat, pleased as fucking punch, while the rest of us archival troglodytes are peeling our nerves off the ceiling. I actually once asked a girl sitting right next to me in the archive to chillax that shit one day, but my exact words were “S’il vous plait madame, peut-etre un peu moins Beethoven et un peu plus Chopin sur le clavier” and I said it with what I thought was just the right amount of haughty French bitchtasticalness. She knew she had been banging the shit out of that thing and stopped.

He got a lot cuter when a) he decided to flirt with me to distract me from the tickety-tack-typing and b) was actually a German reading a French paper. He is on his way to southern France to swim. He is tired of being cold. Awww. Cutie.

The Nuremberg train station is freaking scary and, I think, probably pretty dangerous at night unless you go right up top and out the main entrance. With all the shops closed, the walkways and shop areas below become an underground gathering place for a bunch of real unsavory types. Mostly gutterpunks with predatory eyes, but also hookers and pimps and the usual gross African dudes. This is not a snap on race, people. This is a snap on AFRICAN DUDES WHO FOLLOW CHICKS AROUND BUGGING THEM FOR SEX. There are too many of them in Europe. I walked the first length of the station with a girl I met on the train, but the second we parted ways I had an African dude glom onto me. I refused to look at or talk to him, so he stuck himself directly in my path. GO AWAY. I said. He insisted – the usual line of gross patter – and he was just way too close to me. Way too close. I was rapidly red-lining and really missing my mace, which I couldn't bring because: carry-on only. FUCK OFF, I said, giving him my most evil glare. Usually people understand that means: I am not a delicate flower, go pick another. Not this guy. I was by now at a streetcar station, but human beings suck and nobody was helping me out. They’re all like la la la. Where is a brutally violent, racist skinhead when you need one?! Seriously. I could have run back into the station and probably found one or twenty no problem, but of course skinheads and Palestinians are always calling me anti-Semitic names even though I'm not Jewish, so who knows. It could have backfired. I pulled out my phone and said I was calling the police, and he scrammed. I kept an eye on him though, and saw him meet up with a couple of other creepy African dudes, and they confabbed. They looked at me. And that was when I decided that I’d take a taxi after all. Hell yes. Also, I am *really* glad that I pull out of Nuremberg Saturday morning and not Friday night. Holy hell. That place was a pit. A real stinker.

Nuremberg itself, on the other hand, is shockingly beautiful. I had no idea. The center of town - die altestadt - is a late medieval walled city. The walls are intact. The moat/river etc. thing too. The buildings. The castle. It's as it was, but below it is a modern city. A little sea of lights. Flying by it in the cab, all I could think of was how it looked like an urban version of Mont St. Michel.

I don't know what to tell you - it is just insanely beautiful. Go to Flickr and type in Nuremberg. I was supposed to go to Fuessen to see Neuschwanstein Castle this weekend but you know what? It is really cold and snowy out there right now and maybe I will just skip the tiny pedestrian bridge from which the best view is had and that is a kazillion feet above ground which is probably closed because of ice anyway, and stay here if I can find someplace reasonably priced. And take some pictures. Because let's face it: I am not dressed for the Alps. At all. I have until tomorrow night to decide, then I have to cancel either the Fuessen hotel or the hotel I found in the old walled city that was only $10 more through the uni's deal with - plus hey: not having to spend hours on the train on Saturday and about 80 Euros for the ticket.

Pretty sure I'm staying in Nuremberg.

You know how in America when people are being funny about how big a space is you say “It’s big enough to hold the Nuremberg Rally in here!”? My hotel room in Nuremberg is big enough to hold the Nuremberg rallies in. For real. It’s a vast whistling chasm and it’s freaking freezing in here. Just to give you  a sense of scale, that's a king sized bed. I'm pretty sure this room is bigger than our living room and I don't in particular really like it. There's something very weird about how far away my suitcase is while still actually being in the room.

I ordered another one of those inexpensive German night time meat plates. It wasn’t as good as the last one – no Braunschweiger! also those eggs are against the Geneva Convention – but I made a sandwich for dinner and a sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.

I ran across the street to the c-store (the presence of which simples my life up big time – I bet none of the minibars in this hotel get much of a workout with the Esso open all night across the way.

I bought a big bottle of water after trying the tap and finding it really gross. Also some exotic potato chips. I am totally committed to my goal of trying as many weird international potato chip flavors as possible. So far (since October, and Paris) I’ve had Roast Chicken and Thyme, Ham, Paprika, Balsamic Vinegar, Bolognese (GROSS), an English chip that claimed “Strong Cheese and Onion” but totally failed to deliver. I suspect that I will be doing most of my weird chip tasting in England, where they will be crisps.

I turned on the television and had one of those swoony "Oh hell, I died and woke up in David Lynch's head" moments. Remember that statue that I thought was some kind of bubonic plague thing? This guy:

The second I snapped on the television I saw:

Seriously: I think I'm still awake because my inner child is still freaked out and I'm going to have nightmares.


Suspect it is German equivalent of Squarepanted Spongy cartoon thing.

I watched Paris Hilton’s My New Best Friend or whatever, and it sucked. Predictably. It is a really poor substitute for The Simple Life. I rearranged the bed linens, which were all weird. If my mother had been the sort who made kids make their beds I'm sure I would have done it like this at some point just to be a total smartass.

Then I watched some WWF because it was the only thing in English, but actually the only part that was in English was the preliminary exposition, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I’ve never had any kind of beef with WWF, at least not since I saw Beyond the Mat. I’m not sure I’d watch a whole lot of it. But I liked the fifteen minutes I saw. I felt genuine appreciation for the dramatic arts involved and I am totally not shitting you. Of course, as many of you know, I am a very big fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and have seen every single one of his movies and most of them more than once.

Bis spater!

I took the trolley out to the University of Erfurt and holy hell, was it ever depressing. I yoinked this picture from google. Imagine what it looks like when everything is dead and grey and cold and the wind is being cruel. I guess they built the whole thing about 15 years ago, and I have to say: not with any particular love for art and architecture. It looks like a freaking gulag. And it was windy - the kind of greedy wind that reaches down your throat with one cold and inexorable arm to rip your warm breath out of your lungs and flings daggers at you and is just generally a total bastard. So since it was ugly, of the sort that hardly shows up on camera at all (like most of Braunschweig) and since it was cold and windy and I was miserable, I just soldiered on to the library with my shoulder against the wind and didn't take any pictures at all. So all I have to offer you today is a picture I took of my favorite kind of store: a FLESHERY. 

There's me with Trusty Red Messenger bag in the right and an Elvis impersonator poster on the left. And meat in the middle, baby.

Here's a funny thing - my exhaustion last week made it seem like I had no jet lag at all, because I was ready to  fall asleep anytime, anywhere. But now that I'm a little more rested I'm feeling it, though in a really disembodied way. By which I mean that it's not like I don't get sleepy until 7 AM because I'm used to going to bed at midnight. If anything, I fall asleep by midnight or 1 without difficulty and am best in the mornings. But late afternoon - like right now, when it's about 4 o'clock here) - I'm a zombie. I can barely keep my head up and my butt in gear, and my craving for being horizontal is so huge that all flat surfaces look really comfortable and inviting. I'll have lunch (which I skipped because I really wanted to finish physical descriptions of manuscripts today as I have a metric assload of transcription to do tomorrow, and you would not believe the hand it was written in - generally speaking 15th c. German bookhands have generally struck me as being neat and decisive.The earlier they are, the prettier they are to my eye, more apt to indulge in an elegant line - but this one is small and angry.

In general Germans scribes have hands like chisels. In my MS, this is a TINY chisel making TINY words. So TINY. And highly abbreviated. I think I may have suffered a mild aneurysm transcribing cap incipits from the first manuscript this morning because my eyeball on the right side feels really weird. From giving the side-eye to the really old book while sitting in typical secretarial transcription mode with my laptop to the right and my manuscript to the left. I could do that because the letters were on the large side, a little more than half a centimeter tall. These are less than half a centimeter tall, and very little space between the lines, so the impression on the page is one of densed fixity. In the movies, people with handwriting like this turn out to be OCD serial killers.

I got yelled at a little for not writing ahead here in Erfurt (point taken, but every archive I've been to so far has been utterly indifferent to advance emails, sometimes even seem averse, as if the act of sending an advance email saying hello, visiting researcher, would like to see MSS X Y Z next week, thanks so much - is like ALLOW ME TO ALERT THE MEDIA OF MY IMMINENT ARRIVAL magnitude egotistical - and in the case of Richelieu, I got actively screamed at by one of the archivists for wasting her time when it's a public library, you show up, you show your creds to the office and get a reader's card, you fill out paperwork, you get your MSS, so STFU with the emails!

So I don't know. But I think I should probably be sending them. Herr Archiv nearly sent me packing today, but Frau Archiv took pity on me after asking me if I had credentials and I produced my dazzler. Which was the first time I've *ever* been asked for it - I stopped producing it in archives because I could practically feel people restraining themselves from patting me on the head and saying "That's nice, dear!" But here I was, and it actually DID ITS JOB. Which is to say, it dazzled. She didn't even read it before assenting: she took in the shiny gold seal and the ribbons and my name and said "Very well" and took it off to make a photocopy of it. It could have said "Sarah Smith is the Indiana University mudwrestling champion for 2008, let this document bear witness to her awesome half-nelson!" Probably tedious journaling of archive stuff with no pictures. )

Bis spater!

arcanamundi: (comfy bed)
( Feb. 21st, 2009 05:21 pm)
I left the hotel and wandered, hoping I'd find a laundromat and/or a grocery store. Status of mission: FAIL. Status of finding .07 pencil leads, a few postcards, some gummi bears, a small box of strawberry milk, and my very favorite and the best face powder in the whole world - which for some reason is 20 Euros cheaper in Germany than it is in France and the USA? WIN.

My hotel is right around the corner from a bridge that has things built on it, old-timey style.

I saw this graffiti on a bunch of abandoned/charred/boarded up/etc. buildings. I looked it up: NAZIS GET OUT. Not sure if the buildings became Nazi squats after being burned, or if they were burned because they were Nazi squats. Also: can we really credit a bunch of racial supremacist skinhead gutterpunks with the word "Nazi"? Because these skinheads can't find their way down a street without having to stop to scratch their ass and have a smoke every 50 meters or so. I speak from witnessing.

Taken from inside the church that is still standing on one side of the bridge.


Tea shop window.

Seriously, I have no goddamn idea, and I'm not sure the Germans did either. Everyone looked confused. From what I've read Erfurt has a lot of history tied up in the plague, and I am pretty goddamn sure this thing is supposed to be covered in buboes. It's next to the rathaus.

Coolest rain gutter ever - bless my ultrazoom for carrying my eye that far up:

International Headquarters of the Mystical Masonic Brotherhood of the Lollipop Guild:

I like the idea that a tourist who can't read German while it's whizzing by might think there was information on this streetcar and chase it down the street.

Not that you really need it. Everything you might want to see in Erfurt is glomped together and can be had within a half hour's walk.


This little one reminded me of my niece, who has a dollbaby stroller just like it:


I always kind of thought these two would end up dating:

Germans sure do love their CLOWN SHOES.

I saw a huge crowd of people around a little catering trailer that said "Brat." While of course one might first suspect the locals are indulging in a little traditional public humiliation slash deterrence, this is a meat trailer.

Of course. I forgot the words "Ich mochte ein bratwurst, bitte" in my slavering passion for a steaming, charred brat - but fortunately for me the bratman is an old hand with tourists and just laughed and handed me a bun. And I'm thinking dude, bun? And then he mimed how I should open my bun and stand and wait for my turn to get one. You hold out your little round bun and the other guy sets a foot long brat in your three inch bun. I know that sounds like a dirty joke, but it's totally true:

You might be thinking right now "I am going to introduce the hot dog bun to Germany and be revered as a life-changing innovator!" but actually, no. They would not thank you for that at all. Because as I observed after breaking my brat into parts that fit in the bun and eating it like a sammich, THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DO IT. The bun is just a handle for the brat, which you eat on either end. When you get to the middle, you might eat the few inches of brat left with your fingers, or sammich style, letting the bread kind of clean your mouth by giving the brat grease someplace to go. And it's really good bread - it looks like wheat bread but tastes slightly rye, and it was yum. Technically you then feed the rest to the fat, happy geese that live next to the bridge where the bratman parks the bratmobile, but screw that, I ate mine.

The goose is like OH NICHT DU DIDN'T!

Despite the fact that not two hours hence I'd devoured a bratwurst and a bun, after walking around for awhile I was hungry AGAIN so I thought I'd get a cup of soup. I walked into a restaurant that had a soup sign. People said things to me in German I didn't understand. I did my little Entschuldingun Sie, ich spreche nicht Deutsche und verstehe nicht, aber... [consults Langenscheidt dictionary] ich wolle die tomatesuppen, bitte. Magic! Until it turned out to be deeply evil soup.

The fog is on the lens and comes from being outside-inside  and me wanting to capture the presence of the Redi-Whip before it melted. Boy did it taste bad. If I was going to make it at home, my best guess would be:

Hypothesized Recipe für die German Tomaten Souppen!
2 small can-leins of tömatö pästen!
Ein (1) c. bälsämicliche vinegären!
Ein täblespöönen of Salten!
Die täblespöönies - sechs (6) die Sugären!

Directions: Mix and heäten-üppen! Garnish with giant splööch of Redi-Whip (I am totally serious, I licked a bit of it just to see if it was foamy sour cream or what, and it wasn't, it's Redi-Whip) and chopped chives!

Wow. Really super unbelievably gröss. I think it was the sweetest sourest reddest tasting thing I've ever tasted. I made it through about four spoons before my tummy announced imminent revolt and issued a cease and desist order. I would have liked a cold beer to placate it, but the bar wench was having a shrieking, hysterical nervous breakdown in front of some elderly chap, so I just quietly plonked down my three euros and scooted back to the hotel. I am so happy that tomorrow is Sunday. I am going to do NOTHING. I am going to LOLL ABOUT. I am going to be completely indolent. There may be some typing. I may do some typing, yes. BUT THAT IS ALL. And possibly some handwashing. The jeans are going in hotel laundry, though. I have learned from bitter experience that handwashing jeans is kind of a recipe for eventual expulsion from polite society.

Bis später!
arcanamundi: (I'm so adjective I verb nouns!)
( Feb. 21st, 2009 12:20 pm)

One down.

First, a shout-out to

[ profile] brokenmellcifer who wrote up a little German-for-travel survival guide that worked way better for me than the ones I found online (I do not need a paragraph on how to get a mietwagon!). I promise that when I grouched that everyone who knew German seemed too busy being clever about it in their comments to throw a girl whose phrasebook has been lost a rope, I didn't have the intention of passively aggressing for help, I was just being cranky! But I was awfully glad to have it. This morning I said "Darf ich haben meine ich...out there? [pointing at the lobby]" to a breakfast room attendent and I was very proud of myself. I'm sure it was still pidginy, but I'm getting better! And last night I said "Entschuldigung Sie, ich spreche keine Deutsche" to my taxi cab driver and then followed it up with "Ich VOLLEN sprechen Deutsche und ich lernen, aber..." and then I showed him the address of the hotel written in my book. He was duly charmed. And it beat the hell out of previous cab rides. And I think I'm going to be functional in basic walking-aroudn German by the end of the month for sure. SO THANK YOU GIRLHEART.

Finally, a picture of delicious German food! Too bad my white balance is so off, but it will give you some proof that my day ended well  last night– this is the “light” 7.50 Euro “evening plate”. What! My favorite thing was the Braunschweiger (which I actually recognized thanks to Daphne's comment on facebook - no clue on the name of the rest of them, I need a little visual guide to all the German meats, because there are like, hundreds thousands and so far they're all delish. I could live on frikadelle). Braunschweiger is like a liverwurst pate and it’s WAY better than it sounds. I didn’t manage to try out the other sausage pate looking thing that had the same spreadable texture as the Braunschweiger  but was bright red. Going to have to work my way up to it on account of being pretty sure that's mostly congealed blood and oats and I am scared that it's still red instead of black like most blood pudding. Implies a certain rawness. And there were a couple varieties of prosciutto-like ham, translucent and chewy and sticky – one smoked, the other not. There were also a bunch of different varieties of salami, sausage, ham, etc.  There was a wedge of soft blue, a wedge of a soft dill havarti, two slices of gouda, three or four slices of emmenthal, a few slices of another soft, mild sandwich cheese. Also a bunch of sweet grapes, and a little bowl of pickle salad, and a dish of butter and a basket of bread. It was SO MUCH MEAT. I ate some and put the rest in a Ziploc and stuck it in the minibar fridge to make a sammich tomorrow assuming I can find a bäckerei.

YesterdayI had my first (probably not the last, though let’s face it – three months is a long rope) misadventure. To wit: I got on the wrong train on my way out of Braunschweig. Oh yeah. Now, you may be thinking to yourself: oh, man, I thought she was smarter than that. At least I hope you are. But friends, here is the deal: I was supposed to get on a train that would go from Braunschweig to Magdeburg, then change and get on another train that goes to Erfurt. My train was supposed to leave at 3:10. I bought the ticket at 3:00. I busted over to the right platform (the numbers are huge) and it was about 3:05. A train was already there and waiting, and with five minutes before mine was to leave, I figured it had to be my baby. I got on and to be sure, asked the elderly chick and the young chick in the car: “Das ist für Magdeburg?” Jä, jä. OK then. I sat down for the 45 minute ride. But 45 minutes in, and there was no sign of Magdeburg. I didn’t get too worried because every time we passed a station the sign in the station said that the train was going to Magdeburg. Some day.

When I only had 10 minutes left to make my connection I asked the guy across the car from me (we were the only two on the train)  if I was on the right train by showing him my ticket and saying “Das ist?” Nein, nein, he laughed. Somethingsomethingsomething SCHNELL, something NICHT SCHNELL bahahahaa!” which is how I figured out that I’d jumped on a slow train that happened to be headed to the same destination as the wicked fast train that would show up more or less the instant the slow one choo-chooed off. I know the word schnell because my friend Kathryn in Boston called her giant ancient Oldsmobile "DAS ROADBOOT" and liked to say "Das Roadboot ist schnell! Das Roadboot ist schööööen." Awesome.

When we got to Magdeburg the first thing I did was check the departures timetable to find out if there was another train out to Erfurt. One. In two hours. So I stopped and got a coffee and a donut in the train station cafeteria.


I had to try to get my ticket reissued so I didn’t have to pay for another one, and nobody at the ticket office there spoke any English at all, so I got out my little Langenschein and strung together various words until the lady either understood me or just kind of figured it out while I was saying things like “I have mistake! I am not having fast train in Braunschweig and number two train is now not in here.”  while waving my ticket. But she did reissue it, which was nice of her. And then I had to wait an hour and a half for the train, which would be the last train out there from Magdeburg for a long time, and I made sure I was on it. I stood on the platform a long time. I took a bunch of pictures.

 The train was packed. An old dude came up and started talking to me in German and I said I didn’t understand and didn’t speak German and he looked exasperated but I made the help yourself gesture to the other seats and he had a seat and we spread our luggage out (which was easy, I had a backpack, messenger bag, and suitcase, and he had three bags also) and got comfy. I started typing and noticed that he seemed to be looking at my laptop an awful lot. I got out my dictionary and looked up a word and said: “Däs ist argerlich?” Is this annoying?  And he laughed and said something I didn’t understand at all (the big problem with venturing sentences in German? Is that then people answer you in German.) I erred on the side of caution and also laughed and just watched downloaded United States of Tara episodes instead of writing.  It is good to not annoy your seatmate. And later on when the train made a big lurch he dove after my water bottle for me. He accidentally grabbed some guy´s foot instead of the bottle on the first attempt, and this cracked him up big time, and for nearly an hour after he'd suddenly start giggling and I knew that he was laughing about it again. I do that too. Sweet!

My lack of German is making this whole traveling across Germany and Vienna thing kind of predictably difficult and a little stressful in places, but I kind of suspect it’ll get better as I move further south (I love Munich and didn’t have any problems there - as long as people are patient and not immediately going into I HATE FURRINERS mode it's all good) and after actually screwing something up yesterdaz and managing a couple of mission critical conversations without any English, I’m starting to think of my little Langenscheit dictionary as a trusty critter. Much better than having a phrase book, considering that most of my action isn’t really phrasebooky. Thanks to Mel's crash course in essential German for travel, I expect to be able to actually get lunch out of a cranky old German lunch lady by the end of the week (previous attempt: FAIL, also attempt to get something from a deli after the archive one night: FAIL. The Braunschweigers are not a patient lot, and I think they might not be real crazy about Americans. On account of how we tried to wipe their city off the map. Literally. On the 14th and 15th of October 1944. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sympathetic. Braunschweig was a Nazi capital. Munitions manufacturing, location of a camp called a  Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte in which thousands of children, 100,00-200,000  CHILDREN -- died. They were the imprisoned children of non-Aryan forced laborers. So you know what? I don't feel bad for Braunschweig, which was once a pretty evil place.

And now it is really, really, really ugly. It’s pretty much late 40s, early 50s architecture, but of a kind of bleak and blocky Eastern European variety.  It seems like it’s all about what’s been lost.  I wasn’t sad to get the hell out of there.  Fairly depressing. Bye Braunschweig! Sorry I’m not sorry my country bombed the hell out of you back in the day of the Nazi!

I arrived at the hotel and checked into this room:

I took some pictures, got the internet sorted, ordered that vesperplatte from room service for dinner (lunch having been an awfully long time ago), and then realized that the noise I’d identified as someone vacuuming (a weird action at 10 pm, but whatevs) was in fact the elevator engine. Oh HELL no. I called down to the desk and said: give me another room, this one is right next to the elevators. And they were like SURE! And then they put me in Murder Central. You know. What they call it on CSI. Last room on the hallway, closest to the fire exits. Also, it has no internet access, it’s too far from the wireless point. I imagine my crappy choice of rooms is the ancillary price I’m paying for booking the room for 40 Euros a night instead of the 100+ they usually go for. The hotel actually seems to be pretty full despite it being low season.  It’s very nice. I’m not that vexed by the WLAN non-access though – I have a ton of work to do, and I always get more done when it’s not *always* available – and I can access the internet from the bar, lobby, breakfast room, etc.

I’ll say this for murder central: it is QUIET.  I snuggled into the feather duvet and pillows and slept for 9 straight hours. I haven’t slept so well in weeks.

Got up and came downstairs for breakfast. Ate 3 (three!) bowls of fruit salad – my whole body was like GIMME MORE THAT.  Delicious coffee. Little plate of cholesterol and mystery meat protein sausage and eggs.  I’m planning on walking around for a few hours and then coming back to the hotel to catch up on work at the desk in my hotel.

Interesting room features:

Not just a bible. Also the teachings of Buddha!

These pillows in meine neue zimmer reminded me of fortune cookies and that whole “in bed” thing we used to suffix to the ends of the fortunes after we read them, when we were in high school. Does everyone do that, or was it just us?

In Braunschweig:

There is a giant shopping mall inside this. Big huge deluxy shopping mall. Weird.

Hello my pretty:

My favorite thing about getting a manuscript from a non-archival library is that the librarians are impressed you can read them.

The architectural equivalent of whimsical German footwear:



In German libraries you can get GAMES - my dad would love this. My dad's collection of German board games is even bigger!


And also you can be scared to death by Germanic ART in the magazine room on the way to the manuscripts:

Guess what it is. No really! Guess!

Forgot to post this before - it's the German equivalent of Judge Judy. Isn't she adorable? She has a dimple just like my mom. In fact, this is pretty much what my mom would look like if she dyed her hair bright red and had a rounder face and was willing to wear reading glasses. But my mom has very definite ideas about older women who dye their hair bright red. I think it can be summarized as OH PLEASE.

Bis später!