Archive for Category ‘Go‘

Travel Tip: Herbal Tea

I grow weary of drinking tap water when staying in hotels, though buying bottled water is inconvenient and environmentally uncouth. A single herbal tea bag placed in room temperate tap water is enough to knock the yuck off of half a litre.

My tea flavors of choice: plum spice and orange-mango-cinnamon.

Castle Quest

After some weeks of being sequestered indoors in front of my laptop, and Marcela at the UN, we rented a Škoda Fabia and drove along the highways of western Bohemia toward Plzen.

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It was very cold and snowed all weekend.

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The roads that connect sleepy Czech villages were empty.

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Except for this red car.

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But that was it.

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Be very very quiet: the village is sleeping.

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After an hour of driving, we came upon this castle: Křivoklát.

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No one was home, except maybe some ghosts.

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And a feline tour guide.

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Friend to all animals

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And snowmen

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But not swans; this swan was mean. He hissed at me. I hide behind a fence and defended myself with snow. Which in retrospect seems cruel, but I was under attack by a magical creature and I have little recourse against such magic.

The swan was clearly enraged.

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Possibly because we ate his friend, the duck. Which was delicious.
And I ate two pheasants. Which might have also have been friends to the angry swan; I’m not sure.

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And then there was Točník on the hill, nearby the ruins at Žebrák.

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How do we get up there?

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This road looks pretty, but trust me: it sucks.

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Hmmm, maybe I should have turned right at the fork.

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I’m getting nervous.

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Marcela: Unfazed.

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This is a road? Perhaps we should turn back before the ogre finishes his lunch of Yankee stew and returns to guarding his hunting grounds.

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This is better.

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Hey look! The monastery at Kladruby.

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We stopped in Horšovský Týn to buy some pastel house paint…

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…and see the castle…

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…which was closed for the Winter.

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Plzeň, the birthplace of lager-style beer, home to Pilsner Urquell.

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I feel so…civilized.

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And insignificant.

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Some time later we arrived at Švihov, a castle on a pond

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Wait? What? Locked?! This can’t be…Let me in! You bozos! I’ll eat yer guts!

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You know what, though? That’s fine. We don’t need your pond castle.

There are a hundred castles within fifty miles of here.

And we just found…

a really big lake!

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That somebody put next to this super majestic castle at Orlik.

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And…the castle is closed for the Winter.

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You know I’m tired all of a sudden and I just realized that it’s cold out here.

Czech castles may be shut and locked for the Winter, but once you get inside they lose their charm. That is probably how it has always felt for outsiders.

From the gates, a castle is captivating and evokes the adventures of knights. Inside the walls, a castle feels like a opulent cocoon that protects thieves from the oppressed.

Take, for example, this relic that we discovered at Křivoklát.

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This is where our weekend adventure ends. It is time to make the drive back home to Prague. Thanks for coming along. We’ll leave you today at this lone dilapidated shack at the forest’s edge. You should be able to take refuge from the weather there with the bats and mice until you can make some travel arrangements.

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A Night on the Town

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The streets of Vienna were awash with footsteps and cosmopolitan echos. We entered a wine store – make that a wine bar. Hoighty-Toighty. Blazers and ascots. Connoisseurs in their realm.

Blair handed me a bottle of red for five euro off the shelf. I approached the counter.

“Can you open this?” I handed the bottle to the clerk.

“Yes. Will you be drinking it here?”

Hmmm. That sounds more expensive.

“No, we will drink it outside.”

“At the tables in front?”

“Um, no…At the park.”

“Very well, sir.”

Obviously we are out of our element here. Look just open the fucking wine, okay? After all, this IS Europe. We are civilized, not European, but entirely Europesque.

Grace and Austria

Swiftly now, gracefully we slide upon rails of iron and rust. The train trembles lightly and Blair shakes his postcard, coaxing the ink to dry. Massive windmills twist softly, perched upon the undulating grasslands. Songs from the past and fields of umber and raw sienna are smeared across a hundred kilometers. The stalks of crops are brittle and my throat is dry. A pile of cleared brush burns silently by the railway berm as a hunched figure stokes the flame. The train floats by.

The City Vienna

The City…my God! With towers as grand and boulevards as wide as the majestic Danube River. The City sings! Glory!

Each footstep, every glance, each revealing frames like sonnets. The garden of Austria. The garden of the civilized.

I saw Schiele and Klimt, and Christian Schad with volume and vibrant clashing hues and the feast continued…and before that (I can still recall) sitting on the plaza with espresso doppio, and babies breast-feeding and the tranquility of pages turning. I sipped on this scene while reclined upon a fucshia lima-bean bench like a feline contented upon a window ledge. Nearby, an old woman was made young under the sun and the soft light of contentment.

Look there! There, my friends! There is a marketplace! Between the boulevards. Under this brilliant sky, drenched in this rich air. There is a marketplace for you to find everything fresh that you seek. The freshness of life itself. Or have you forgotten? Like I once did. Go to the market for the bounty of fruit, the regal spread of olives, hot falafel, nuts, wine, dreams and silks will surely rehabilitate your soul.

Carry your bounty in a satchel, over your shoulder or under your arm, to the place where the pavement ends. Feast, for you are alive, and breath in the air, and drink deeply from your bottle and pass it to your companion. And say to him “my friend, today were are alive”. He will surely grin and slap you on the back and throw his head back to laugh heartily toward the stars.

Auf Wiedersehen

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I washed my clothes and hung them on the line to dry above the bathtub. I neatly folded my t-shirts using the method I learned on the internet last Wednesday.

Then I carefully added items to my suitcase, a small plaid number with rollers and a compass in the handle that I purchased at the flea market for fifteen dollars from a Vietnamese peddler in a Tommy Hilfiger shirt.

I packed my linen pants – I have always wanted a pair of off-white linen pants for the summer months. When the cool breeze graces my unmentionables in sweltering July, I am deeply satisfied with this purchase. Someday I may even compose an article about the virtues of linen. It occurred to me that what I now desire is a linen skirt. Though I am likely not bold enough to don such feminine attire: I don’t have the physique. I am not barrel-chested and hairy like the burly Scots that recently descended upon Prague for a football match: drunken, shirtless, raging tattooed lunatics running a muck in knee-high plaid, most certainly regimental under the heavy folds of navy and emerald wool.

Dreams and digressions aside, I also neatly folded the jeans I bought from Zara last May. I hate to shop for jeans – pulling them on and off, dirty socks on the changing room floor, trying pair after pair in vain- it is a tedious process. But alas my old pair of jeans became too big, or I became too thin. I had to scinch them to my waist with my leather belt, which just ended up looking ridiculous from most any angle. Although I view myself in the mirror more frequently than others, it took me a surprising long time to notice.

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One constant through my years of travel is that I bring shirts that never get worn. I feel like an abundance of shirts gives me options in the morning on how I choose to look that day, and options are proven to be beneficial – in moderation. I think you and I can agree, that when compared to washing socks, laundering shirts in a hotel sink is a hassle.

Tomorrow morning when I awake, I will cook an English breakfast (eggs, bacon, beans, stewed tomatoes), take the rubbish downstairs to the rubbish heap, walk to the train station, and board a southbound train.

Death is Recognized as a Friend

After Käthe Kollwitz.

A sketch that I rendered at the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Berlin. The museum of her work is perhaps the most marvelous institution in a city of marvels.

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Mechanical Pencil on Moleskin paper

Return

Has it been a month already since my last post? Excuse me; I’ve been away from my desk. I am back from a short summer tour of Germany and Poland. In a couple days I hope to have some thoughtful updates and photos to share.

Venezia

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Venice appears to float atop an impossibly vast lagoon, drenched in salty air and gelato. The city is a maze of cobblestone corridors and foot bridges, utterly unnavigable in the late evening after the crowds have returned to their hotel rooms and the storefronts are secured with heavy metal shutters.

On the banks of the canal Rio dei Mendicanti, opposite the Scuola Grande di San Marco (today the city’s hospital), English and Spanish speakers sit on the dark steps of the canal crossing beneath a public telephone sign. The voice of an American jazz singer from my Grandmother’s youth lifts above the soft chatter and into the warm night air. Golden light from the wine bar spills from an open doorway where the barmaid pours house red into deciliter glasses for a half Euro.

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Venice does not really exist. Not as a city; not the kind of city that I have lived in or visited in former travels. Venice is a romantic memory of the past preserved in brick and brown stucco: a flotilla of opulence that emerged in layers from the salty backwash of the Adriatic Sea as ancient Italians sought refuge from marauding hordes. Centuries passed before she would rule the waters from Croatia to Crete, lining temples in marble and the pillaged relics of the orient, enriched through conquest and control of the lucrative trade route to India.

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Time and Empire have an acrimonious relationship, and eventually the city fell – again and again – finally to Napoleon’s army, ever so keen to violently spread the ideals of the French Revolution, they banished the Doges from their palace above Piazza San Marco.

san_marco_night.jpgModern travelers to Venice find a museum without markers. A city without industry. Unlike Europe’s other treasures, Venice was spared from the bombs of the Second War due to functional irrelevance. As I pass through the mass of sunburnt spectators and marvel at the exquisite work of Renaissance artists and Baroque architects, I try and brush aside the nagging sensation that I am in a sort of Disneyland for refined adults. The facade of Venice is preserved (after the last devastating flood by a gift from the United Nations) but the soul of the city departed with the last Doge.

Vienna Graffiti

The Donaukanal channels some of the waters of the Danube River south and through the center of Vienna. The banks of the wide canal offer a pleasant walk along a boardwalk several meters below the bustle of the city. Many residents walk their dogs or ride bicycles along this route. A few creative entrepreneurs have opened beached themed bars atop the boardwalk, complete with imported sand, Mexican beer, and sun chairs.

Though most of old Vienna is free from graffiti, the city apparently allows urban artists free reign on the walls flanking the canal.

Below are some examples.
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