July 31, 2012

Eurotrip - Brussels, July 31

The thought had actually crossed my mind while we were leaving Munich that I may never sleep well again for the rest of my life. That's how sleep deprived I was. Our room here though was way better than Munich and I slept really well. This hostel is interesting. It's much more catered toward young adults rather than lonely travelers and school groups like the last place. The "we're a cool place for young people" vibe kind of wears on me but the facilities are nice, the bed was nice, the view from our room was great and I slept really well, so basically it's all good in the hood.

Brussels is a nice town in the daylight. It's very compact, so you can walk basically anywhere but if you want there is a metro system. There are museums absolutely everywhere as well as lots of little shops and cafes. Actually, this town caters really well to hipsters. There are lots of knick-knack stores with antiques and neat old crap piled across many rooms. There are also tons of record stores for the hipster vinyl collector interested in buying the star trek soundtrack in Belgium.

We started the day with a stop in the Brussels museum of fine art (beaux-arts for those keeping score at home) which keeps paintings from the 15th century through modern times. It wasn't the best museum we've been to but it also wasn't the worst. Most of their best collection was in religious artwork from the 17th and 18th century.

We saw a lot of paintings of Jesus, lots of freaky surreal religious imagery and of course a couple representations of my buddy, the arrow-filled Saint Sebastian!

The modern art collections were dreary and didn't inspire a lot. They also were attempting a collection of art around the theme of "Art and Finances", which was pretty bad.

A nice surprise was the Margritte museum which contained artwork by the famous creator of "this is not a pipe" and all those paintings with the guy and the apple in front of his face. You know, that guy. Art historian I am not. This museum also contained a biography of the artist alongside a lot of his artwork.

We spent a lot of time just walking around Brussels so I didn't take very many pictures. The city is a fun place to just absorb what's around you without needing to necessarily stop at museums or stores. We saw the statue if the kid peeing, which had a lot of people taking pictures, and eventually sat down for some insane French fry lunch. We were just going to get a basket of fries, but they make these insane state-fair type foods of burger sandwiches with salad, onions and fries on top. This is all drenched in some sort of lightly spicy sauce that was sort of like the frisco melt sauce from steak and shake. Don't judge. It tasted amazing, and sat in my gut for the rest of our afternoon.

Brussels is one of the seats of the European Union so they have a cool visitor center that we stopped in. I was expecting a small shop with pamphlets (Justin expected a tri-fold history day project) but we got an hour long walkthrough of the history of the EU complete with little handheld touch screen guides and games. It was pretty impressive. But just like history classes in high-school I will probably forget everything I learned.

The hostel gave us some great maps (hipster maps no joke) that have waking tours just outside the inner city. We took the "East Tour" through some nice parks, and also through one of the poorer neighborhoods. The latter area has a large outdoor market area that's blocked off from traffic, that was nice to wander up. At the top of the hill were some cool cars colored like taxis that had been filled in with dirt and left to grow plants.

The little car planter installation is kind of indicative of what make Brussels a neat and comfortable town. The city is not as esthetically pleasing as Zurich or Paris, but there are things like these cars, or a large orange overhead snake-thing that we saw this morning that give the town some vitality and personality.

Language here has been interesting. They officially speak both French and Dutch here, but everyone also speaks English. This means that signs can often be in all of these languages, or depending on which neighborhood you're in, only one of them. The Dutch is a nice way to get used to Amsterdam though, where we go tomorrow!

We didn't end up doing too much tonight. I mean we walked probably 3 or 4 miles, but I didn't take any pictures and we didn't go in anywhere. We took a trip to a wealthier part of town that our map suggested we check out (it was a tip from a local guy whose occupation is actually listed as "hipster") and look at the nice buildings, expensive stores and fancy restaurants. There was an antique store that also looked cool but by the time we got there it was closed. Actually pretty much everything was closed by the time we got up there. That's okay though, the walk was nice and it was interesting to see things outside of the inner Brussels area. Brussels used to be surrounded by a giant wall (like a really really long time ago) and the "inner city" part is what used to exist inside the walls. So even though I said earlier that the city is easily walkable, that's really only this inner area. Outside of the city there are tons of neighborhoods, sort of like Paris. We arrived in a poor red-light neighborhood last night and tonight visited an old-money neighborhood. The problem with this plan though was that we arrived too late to go into shops, and the dining was all out of our price range. After wandering until our feet hurt we settled on an "irish pub" which served American pub food. No matter! It was food, and we didn't have to eat it standing up. Speaking of food, I haven't eaten waffles or chocolate yet. Only French-fry uber-sandwiches.

We decided to turn in earlier tonight, and leave a bit earlier for Amsterdam. Adieu Belgium!

P.s. I didn't see anyone I'm related to.

July 30, 2012

Eurotrip - Munich to Brussels, July 30

I think I actually slept worse last night than I did the first night here. I got maybe 3 hours of sleep. At least it got me up early again so we could go out exploring some more. Also I discovered that we get into Brussels at 9:30, not 11:30 so today's journey shouldn't be too bad. We take a train back from Munich to Stuttgart and then on to Siegburg before transferring to a Brussels line. In short, we have 7 hours of train time in which to catch up on sleep.

We visited the former Olympic park in Munich from the '72 games. It's kind of a sad place. They're doing a decent job of keeping some of the buildings active still, but a lot of the land is sitting unused.

We stopped into the swimming building and climbed a really big weird looking hill which was covered in school-children.

 I'd love to see a photo collection of the current states of former Olympic villages. Do they all have abandoned carnivals?

I forgot to mention the last thing that pissed me off about the music instrument collection at the Deutches Museum yesterday. Their example of a modern grand piano was a Steinway and Sons concert grand. This is a problem with lots of the music stores we've been to. The piano selections are mostly Steinways and Bostons and Yamahas. Europe used to be the piano making center of the world, and still makes a lot of fine instruments. Why in the world did the museum not choose a Bosendorfer, the German flagship piano maker? Alright, this interests no one but me. But now i'll be able to read about it in perpetuity!

We also saw the glockenspiel performance in the Marienplatz this morning. I took a video of people taking videos and this picture if Justin watching it.

We were tired and grumpy, but luckily our European Coca-cola lifted spirits. The glockenspiel thing was basically 19th century animatronic dancing a-la chuck-e-cheez. If we had been more awake it might have been more appealing, but as it was we spent more time giggling at the gawkers than truly appreciating the show.

As promised it has been an overwhelmingly dull day. It's fascinating how something as breathtaking as zipping across countries in a high-speed train can become commonplace. When you settle in for an entire day of travel though, you tend to space out a lot of the time.

I'm looking forward to Brussels. A large portion of my family's heritage is Belgian, but none of us has actually been back the homeland. I really have no idea what to expect from it. For some reason in my head it looks like Poland or Russia but I know it looks more like France or the other cities we've been to. It was weird to hear French being spoken again the train today as well, just when I was starting to get used to German. I think we do better with French anyway. C'est Bon!

Cologne, like the cologne
The train passed through a bunch of cities that are all musically historically significant but I'd be hard pressed to name why. Cities like Bonn, Cologne (I took a picture of that church over the water from a bridge), Stuttgart again, and of course Mannheim. I remember why Mannheim is important. There was an orchestra there in 1700's (pre-Classical times) under a conductor/composer named Johann Stamitz which was famous for several orchestral techniques including bowing together and a big crescendo which became known as the Mannheim walzer. In English this translates to the Mannheim steamroller. So next time you're hanging out with your friends at Christmas listening to everyone's second favorite electronic easy listening band (after Trans-Siberian orchestra), you can share my favorite anecdote about music history.

It's kind of weird how both of my premonitions about Brussels came true. Our station, Brussels Nord, was what appeared in the dark to be the sketchier of the two main train stations. It was dirty, sparsely occupied save some people who didn't seem to have anywhere to go, and it was surrounded by sex stores. We of course had no idea where we were going so we wandered around the outside and inside of the station before figuring out what the hell we were doing. Once we found it route we walked up a dim street with the scary buildings on our left and the giant office buildings on our right. I haven't walked this fast with my backpack on since we tried to outrun a sandstorm in Utah with Odyssey in high school.

In short the walk was terrifying, not because of any real danger, but because it's late, we're basically guessing our way around, and who knows what kind of evil lurks in the heart of Belgians?*

On a positive note, the hostel here is way better than the one in Munich. There are fewer kids running around, they seem to offer more, and we have our own shower. Still, the Hilton in Amsterdam is looking reeeally good.

Also, I saw one of the greatest graffitis of all time in a dark and terrifying tunnel that we had to cross through, and I posted it for your enjoyment. Sleep ahoy!

Currently listening to: the streets of Brussels

*The shadow knows.

July 29, 2012

Eurotrip - Munich, July 29

Hostels. They are a cheap place to not sleep. The only real refuge in the hostel is the shower which is (thank god) a single stall. And the breakfast was decent, and everything was okay except for the actual sleeping. But we made it through our first night, squeeking out maybe 3 hours of sleep alongside the four other sweaty, hairy dudes in the building. I can't quite put my finger in what kept me awake, maybe it was the horrible pillow, the lack of ventilation, or the kids who played Alicia Keys' "New York" about 9 times on max volume. Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot of times, but it adds up, especially when you're trying to sleep. Anyway, I actually feel pretty great today, despite the rain.

Things we've seen today so far:
A mural on the first floor of the hostel depicting a nudist beach (I have selected my favorite detail for eternal digital memory),

we saw this clocktower (glockenspiel),

and a brush made out of genuine badger fur!

The clocks ring for a very long time here. They were going when we entered the Marienplatz and then went again from 9:30 to 10 while we hid from the unholy downpour. I drank a coke in the Marienplatz. I know I don't usually drink caffeine but my god it tasted good this morning. We woke up at 7:00 because of the poor sleeping conditions so we're going to have a nice full day today. Stuff doesn't really open until 9 or 10 though so we had time to kill. It is Sunday though so places will close by 5 or 6.

Next up: the Royal Residenz.
Also, I haven't seen any sporthocking yet.

Currently listening to: inoffensive Starbucks music.

No one jaywalks in Munich.

We took a tram to the Duetsches Museum which bills itself as the biggest science and technology museum in Europe and as the most popular museum in Germany. While both of these thing may be true, they can't hide the fact that this museum is pretty outdated and boring. Now, I previously labeled museums as boring because they weren't in English, so I couldn't read any of the information. This museum had signage in both German and English but that didn't save it from being over encumbered with text and too devoid of interactivity. The size of the place was impressive, i'll give it that. It's six floors, and the ground floors are like airplane hangars, but the information is packed in too densely, and everything is static and lifeless.

I was a little excited to see that they have an instrument room but once we walked in I braced for disappointment. They had an impressive collection of keyboard instruments, from early virginals to clavichords and all the way up to modern concert grands. There was no explanatory literature on how they worked, what made them different, or what kind of music was played on them. It gave the impression that these instruments were just a natural progression of pianos, not the individual keyboard instruments that they are.

Additionally they seemed to be poorly maintained apart from humidity control (the place was tropical). There was dust collecting on the outside and inside of the instruments and I saw at least one big soundboard crack on a harpsichord. The keys were all covered by plastic cases (although I did see one kid just pull it off) so the keys weren't collecting dust but it did deprive the room of any sound, which was my biggest problem with the exhibit.

This collection treated musical instruments like pieces of furniture, to be moved around and displayed rather than used to make art. I understand that instruments themselves can be works of art, but they should he enjoyed for the sounds they make, not just for how they look. The fact that these rooms (there was another room of all the non-keyboard instruments as well) were so devoid of sound was frustrating. This combined with the lack of reverence for keyboard history in a music rich city like Munich made for a endcap to a truly disappointing museum trip. Well at least we got to talk in hushed tones about how superior the Minnesota science museum is. AND we got a nice view of Munich.

We're sitting in a Starbucks for the second time today avoiding the rain outside. I skipped over our trip to the Royal Residenz this morning. The Residenz was the former palace for German royal families. From what I understood it's best known for housing King Maximillian, or at least they mentioned him a lot on the audio guide. That's right, we used audio guides. They were really fun for a while until we figured out that it would take 5 days to listen to everything. Anyway, the palace was filled with all sorts of neat royalty stuffs plus some original rooms and reconstructions. Much of the place was destroyed in WWII, but they saved almost all of the artwork and furniture. Some of my favorite things are below:

A fountain depicting the defeat of Medusa. I loved it because water flowed out of her decapitated head and the neck on the body. That's really grisly stuff. Plus mixed with the rain this morning it looked specially dramatic.

The great dining hall just for its sheer size. The thing was huge and had beautiful artwork on the ceilings and walls as well as built into the architecture. They ate dinner here.

We found more of those pieces of saints that we saw in Dijon. I guess the royalty liked to collect them and had not only scraps of clothed but also skulls, femurs (see picture), hands, and entire child corpses. Great job!

What a long day. Starting off at 7:30 in the morning really makes you feel like you're getting every little bit out of the it. We basically started before the local Munich citizens were awake and ended after they had gone home. The restaurant wasn't even very crowded. Oh yeah, we ate at the same place that we did last night.

The rain today cooled everything off considerably, so hopefully the room tonight will be a bit more bearable. It's actually cool enough to wear pants now! Imagine that!

Our last action before dinner tonight was to walk a few miles in the Nymphenburg palace's gardens. I think this palace was the summer home for the Bavarian ruling elite, and as part of the grounds they have extensive English-style gardens with a beautiful stream and pond that runs its length. It was a nice way to end the day. I've posted a lot of pictures throughout the day, but what are a couple more?

Tomorrow we leave for Brussels and we'll be on the train basically all day long, getting in to Brussels very late at night. If I do make an entry it's likely to he pretty short, but we are planning on seeing the glockenspiel in Marianplatz before we leave.

Oh yeah, we also decided to stay in a hotel in Amsterdam instead of the hostel. We've given up on that front.

July 28, 2012

Eurotrip - Zurich to Munich, July 28

Well we're on our way to a new city again already. Munich treated me very well and got me pretty excited for the rest of the trip. We're at the halfway point right now with 6 more nights, now entirely in hostels. These should be interesting, at least our hostel in Brussels is just a double for the two of us.

I shaved last night for the first time since we arrived here. My face was extremely displeased, but it will thank me for the next couple of days without itching. We'll see if I get to it again over the final week of the trip.

We stayed up pretty late last night watching the Olympic opening ceremony. It was nice watching it on the BBC. If you have the ability to watch it off of network television I recommend it. There were no commercial breaks at all and the announcers mostly stayed out of Tue way. Because it went so late though (I think we watched it on delay and we're an hour ahead of England) we woke up pretty late this morning. After checking out and catching the train back into Zurich, we only had an hour until we had to go catch our train to Stuttgard. So we just walked down to the river and passed the time reading and people watching. It was a very pleasant way to start a travel day. The picture below of the boats was our morning. Oh and I didn't mention before, that canal has swans in it all the time. As if Zurich wasn't idyllic enough.

I never told the story of our entrance onto Zurich. Our train from Dijon left there around 8:15 so we didn't get into Zurich until like 10:30. Being in a brand new station, with a new language, and a new currency (which we didn't have) it took us some time to figure out what we were doing. Finally we figured out which train we needed, figured out how to buy a pass (the ticket and information windows were all closed for the night so we had to use the computer terminals) and then set out trying to find our damn train. After running around the city like idiots, chasing down trams and trolleys, we discovered that the train we wanted left from the station. Smart. We stayed in the Zurich airport Hilton, which is northwest of the city in Kloten, so the train dropped us off at the Kloten station and we ventured off into the great dark suburban landscape to find our hotel. It only turned out to be like a 15 minute walk down the road (they have sidewalks everywhere here) until we found the driveway to the hotel, but every minute in the dark late hours of a foreign country feels pretty long.

Zurich was awesome though. I pretty much summed that up with yesterdays entry I think.
Todays train ride to Munich is in two parts, first to Stuttgard (which I know has a musical significance but can't put my finger on it right now) then to Munich. This train ride has been incredible. Now I know why people but those goofy videos of train routes.

We've passed mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and castles. A castle built on a waterfall. It's really stunning. And these trains work really well. They're always right on time, comfortable, and don't have too many stops. Let's learn from this okay? I tried taking some photos but it seems like everytime I look up there's something new I want to capture, and unfortunately I rarely get it. So I'll put some up to give an idea but it's really the kind of thing that needs to be experienced.

Currently listening to: Beethoven Piano Concerto #1

I wrote a longer post that seems to have been devoured by my phone but in summary:

  • Stuttgart was bad news bears (see above video of our arrival)
  • Kids in the Munich suburbs wear black metal t-shirts just like US kids did in 2003.
  • I ate Jaegerschnitzle for dinner and it was awesome.

  • Basically we didn't do a whole lot today but travel, but now I'm excited for tomorrow 
  • the end!

July 27, 2012

Eurotrip - Zurich, July 27

We did a great deal of things today. I kind of want to move to Zurich now. It's incredible. I know it doesn't take place here, but of you want to live in all the happy parts of the Sound of Music, I'd recommend a long trip to Switzerland.

We rented a car this morning and drove out to Lake Aergi which is a mountain lake a couple of miles south of Zurich. If you can't tell from the pictures below, it was breathtaking. There's absolutely no way to properly capture the scenery. Just imagine combining a lake, several small villages, farmland, craggy mountains and rolling green hills, then cover it all with some light low-hanging clouds. That's what we saw from the tops of these hills.

After walking around the small town of Oberargi (not to be confused with Unterargi) we discovered a gondola that goes up to the top of one of the larger hills in the area. We knew this little journey would be worth it when we started off by seeing a kid in a hamster wheel outside the gondola station.

You know what was waiting for us at the top? If you looked at the pictures already, you know already. A BOUNCY CASTLE! I guess when you can't ski down a mountain you'd better put a damn bouncy castle and inflatable fish slide up there.

The top of the hill had a whole bunch of hiking trails leading off of it which, at some other point in my life, would he fun to take, but we opted for the short route of trecking across the terrifying metal suspension bridge across a valley and then walking back up on the other side. The bridge was maybe a 1000 meters across (i actually have no clue how far 1000 meters is) and it was only attached to the ground on each side of the valley, so it swayed a lot as we walked across it. I wanted to take a video but I was afraid I'd drop my phone into the valley. The other side going back was much less exciting. It was hot, we were thirsty, and an old man passed me as we walked back to the gondola top.

After some more wandering around the small towns (lunches don't get served until 2:00?) we drove back to Zurich the long way around Lake Zurich via a bridge that bisects it to the south-west of the city. I'm not ashamed to say that I feel asleep during the ride.

Zurich is the perfect town for me. It's a pretty small city, especially compared to the other places we're visiting this trip. The population is only about 360,000 but the city is very cosmopolitan feeling. The city's layout reflects the lake very well and the heart of the city life (apart from the shopping area) is right along the water and there are bridges connecting the two sides to eachother.

Zurich is well known for it's shopping area, the Bonhaffestrasse, which is basically like a grown up, extremely rich version of the Nicollet Mall. We didn't shop here but did stop into the Musikhaus, where I played some pianos (mostly Yamahas and Steinways, come on!) and bought a little Satie score for myself. We also stopped into a large English language bookstore, where I looked unsuccessfully for a bathroom. Thought I should share that.

We had some time to kill before dinner and decided to hunt town the Kunsthaus Zurich, a museum for non-swiss artists. This museum blew my mind. Really it did. I loved it so much. In some of the must creative curating that I've ever seen, the museum posts artwork based on their content rather than the era or artists. It has some standard collections like "old masters" with tons of paintings of saints and Jesus, as well as a superb collection of Monet and the impressionists and a modern collection of Kandinsky etc. but the special collections were where the museum really shined.
In one area the museum collected portraits and different versions of still life from various eras. There were renaissance portraits paired with modern photography. Still life with flower photos. Giant oils with small drawings. It was so refreshing to see art collected this way, by subject, instead of how we traditionally group them.

The best part of the museum's exhibits though was the collection named "Riotous Baroque" in which the curators aimed to extricate the term baroque from it's usual meaning of pomp and frivolity and focus on life's relationship with disorder and pain. The exhibit contained a number of 17th and 18th century paintings of terrifying murders, battle scenes, and opium-induced nightmare visions. It was great to see these paintings, which I think often get hidden in favor of religious paintings from the time. Next to these works were pieces by modern artists who also worked around themes of sex, death, and the realness of life. It was also awesome to see Robert Crumb displayed in a museum. Going on about this won't do it much justice. I was inspired, entertained, and I wanted more.

Some other notes about the museum:
We got chased around by a lady who wanted to kick is out of every exhibit claiming we didn't have the right tickets. We both avoided her and saw it all. Bite me!

I keep seeing these paintings of saint sebastian, who I'd never heard of before. Apparently he's been left out of my education, yet ironically really popular in old paintings for the same reason. This guy died by being shot full of arrows. And old artists friggin loved painting it over and over again. I've seen probably 6 representions of it so far and at least one at each museum. Anyway, the reason I mentioned it finally was because I saw my favorite one so far and took a picture to share. In this one, saint Sebastian is a baby, and in the panel on the right, a dude is just hanging out waiting for Seb to grow up so he can shoot arrows into him. Can't this guy get known for anything else?

That's enough about the Kunsthaus. We made our way back down to the water and ate at a pasta restaurant, trying to spend some more of our Swiss francs before we go back to Euro land.
Wait, I have to say something about the Swiss franc. They don't use the Euro, which kind of sucks. But they do have their own badass currency called the Swiss Franc. The paper currency goes down to 10s and the coins go up to 5. They also have a 1/2 coin. The coinage kind of stinks because they're all about the same size (except the 5, it's huge) and they're all the same material. The paper currency is really cool though. It's in sweet colors AND they have neat portraits on them. I swear I'm going to find a giant 20 bill poster and put it on my wall.

Okay, dinner was great, our server talked to us a bunch and swore which felt great, and the food was food. Enough said. After dinner we drove up to a park, the name of which escapes me but couldn't quite find our way in. We did drive past FIFA headquarters though before finding a crazy underground parking garage that looked like a re-fitted missile silo and echoed in crazy ways (video when I get back). It was actually a parking lot for a hotel so we didn't stay long, just enough to pop above ground and take in the view from high above Zurich close to sunset. AND WE FOUND A CAT. That cute little cat followed us around and scared Justin by popping out of some bushes before we took off.

After a confusing and long return of the car back to the airport we got in the hotel shuttle, ran past the new arrival of Asian tourists and got up to the hotel room in time for the Olympic opening ceremony.

We're heading to Munich tomorrow and a week straight of hostels until I get home so I'm not sure when I'll get to update again. Hopefully these places have WiFi but I'm not counting on it. I'll keep writing though and upload them when I can!

Eurotrip - Zurich, July 27 It'll have to wait

Olympics what? I'm writing this while watching the opening ceremonies so I might be totally distracted. Hey it's the queen!

Actually, i'll write this post tomorrow (sorry!) because the day was absolutely massive and I won't be able to do it justice. So here are some pictures and i'll update when I get to the next space with WiFi!

July 26, 2012

Eurotrip - July 26, Dijon

I'm not going to say that I didn't like Dijon, but I am going to say that if you want to take a multi-day vacation to France, I wouldn't plan on spending more than an afternoon here. For sure it has charm, and we ate some of our better meals of the trip so far while there, but it just doesn't offer the multitude of opportunities and locales that other cities do. I think what got to me was the lack of an ability to escape the city streets (or escape the sun). We wandered a lot but never seemed to find whatever it was we were seeking.

We visited three museums today, including a very nice collection at the so called "Fine Art Museum" (fine art means paintings), a church which housed some local and collected religious artifacts, and a museum which contained a history of Dijon and the Bourgeone region.

The fine art museum had a great collection of religious artwork and portraits from the 14th through 19th centuries. It was especially interesting after spending an afternoon at the Pompidou yesterday to look at the realism and emotion of these pieces. The day was not without some lightness though, as I spotted a painting with some seriously derpy horses (see below) and other crazy moments of old-timey poor taste.

 Of course by poor taste I mean excellent taste. The derpy painting also had a mermaid, and the reason I loved it so much was not even the derps or the giant monkey, but the surrealism of it, both in content and style. It was painted with the bold un-nuanced solid colors of the surrealists that came so much later. Across from this painting that apparently changed my life was Justin's favorite, a storyboard of a saint who would not renounce her faith even after bribery, being eaten by Satan (in the form of a dragon who she burrowed out of with a cross), flogging, her friends being decapitated, and her own decapitation. Of course it would have hard to renounce Christ after her own decapitation. Also there was a painting of a Saint in "ecstasy" which I'm pretty sure means she was having an orgasm. I'M JUST SAYING IT HOW I SEE IT PEOPLE!

The second museum contained various chalices, shrines, crowns, and other religous icons that the Lutherans swore off ages ago. There was even a chalice made out of bullets. Catholics keeping it real on the streets. There was a rad wunderkammern of bits of clothing and other things (hair? teeth?) supposedly from saints all wrapped up in tissue paper with their prior owners written on the outside.

Cabinet...of WONDERS

 Being a non-french speaker little of this made much sense to me but I think that's what was going on. Oh and I also saw a diorama that makes my childhood shoebox displays look pretty amateur.

Dioramas yo
After a really long lunch break (we were trying to stretch time and these places all close from 11:30 to 1:30. We went to this Bourginone museum. In case you didn't catch before I have no clue how to spell Bourgongone, so i'll just keep guessing. Anyway, this museum was all in French so we had no idea what any of it was about. There was a special exhibition about a guy with a ridiculous mustache who seemed to be a composer, artist, architect, and overall French god. There was also a video of him singing on French television. I'll just assume he's the most important man to ever step foot into France. The rest of the museum contained replicas of how life would have been back in like 1875, which while cool, would have been cooler had they gone back like 200 years. Also the museum staff watched us the entire time.

All of these museums were free though so it didn't matter that we were confused and, by the end, bored. Actually lots of stuffs was free in Dijon. Unlike Paris we didn't pay for museums, WiFi in our room, or water and bathrooms. Did you know that in Paris you generally have to pay to pee? Oh the humanity. We had the option of two more museums but I couldn't take any more of them so we just sat in a park for the afternoon reading while the local youth (and slightly older than youth) jumped and swam in the fountain.

Oh, and we ate crepes finally, which turned out to be the tastiest meal I've had so far! I ordered the cheapest one on the menu but luckily the waiter misunderstood me and gave me one with tuna, what I think was asparagus, and some sort of bechamel suace over the top. Tres bien! I don't even know if that's what people say!

We're on our way to Switzerland now and I'm not sure what to listen to. I've been trying to listen to composers of the countries I'm in but I can't think of any Swiss composers right now so I'm just listening to a piece by Liszt that I think is about a place in Switzerland. I really can't he sure though.
Time to swap out our silly French accents for silly German ones!

Currently listening to: George Bolet playing "Valle de Obermann" by Franz Liszt.

July 25, 2012

Eurotrip - Paris and Dijon July 25

The day isn't over yet but our time in Paris is. We got on our train about 40 minutes ago for the mustard-town of Dijon. The French countryside looks remarkably like rural Wisconsin. I mean, if I wasn't surrounded by French speaking passengers, and on a high speed train, and hadn't seen a pro-life or strip club billboard anywhere I'd swear I was on my way to Wasau.

I kind of love keeping time on the 24 hour clock. I mean, I won't do it when I get home, but there are certain psychological appeals to it. First of all, once it gets past about 4:00 pm, I can't instantly tell what time it is, so I kind of don't care what time it is. Also 23:00 doesn't feel late to me. This, however may have had something to do with jet lag finally kicking my ass last night. But it really didn't feel late. 0:00 however felt extremely late, mostly because my brain can't conceptually grasp what 0:00 means. Now that I think about it though, 0:00 makes a lot of sense. Let's adopt that please. It's like time just started over! And you don't have to worry about when the new day starts. The clock just resets itself. Bien!

Like I said, jet-lag was kind of a jerk to us so we slept in until 10:30 today and dragged ourselves to the Pompidou (sp?) for some modern art. I really can't think of a US president deciding to build a modern art museum. But if your name also has an insane hair-style that goes with it, I guess you know what to expect.

I loved the museum and could have spent a longer time there. I have basically no art history in my memory banks, but looking at the art that coincided with the lifetimes of some of my favorite composers really shed some light on their styles. I could hear the Prokofiev in a lot of the modernist painters and there was a whole room of painters who were essentially attempting to do what Schoenberg was trying to do in his music, by removing the artist from the art. I also just really liked the Picassos, Dali, and....some other people that I can't remember. I also liked this giant coral thing that you can sort of crawl under, so I took a picture from under it.

I also snapped a blurry photo of this crazy looking horse guy by artist Judit Reigl, who I never heard of before but I really liked all of the work of hers they had in the museum.

We're a little over halfway through our journey to Dijon right now and when we get there we'll probably just get into the hotel and find someplace nice to eat outside. Have I mentioned how much I love eating outside here? The food so far to be totally honest has not blown me out of the water but that's probably because we're eating cheaply.

Oh look! Suburbs!

Currently listening to: Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.

Here's how I was going to start this post: "if Paris was perfectly captured by Woody Allen, then Dijon is perfectly captured by Chocolat." But that would not be entirely accurate. Because you see, Dijon doesn't really have a character. It's slower than Paris that's for sure, but not really the small-town experience that you might hope for when taking a train out of the city.

We got in right around dinner hour and checked into the "hotel de Paris" (picture below) which I promise is much nicer on the inside than it looks like on the outside. It even has free WiFi! We walked the town for awhile, but things seemed to be wrapping up for the night with many people lining up to take buses back into the city for the evening.

The city's older center district is quite charming as you can see below.

The streets are narrow and cobblestoned, and there are many open restaurants....which is basically like a tiny version of one neighborhood in Paris. We ate at a place called LO (i think that's what it was called) and then walked around the less quaint residential part of Dijon. We stumbled across a bigger fountain where from what I could observe in the residents, relationships go to begin, continue, and either die or reach a cold bitterness. The fountain was really nice though.

July 24, 2012

Eurotrip - Paris July 24 23:45

Who wants to wait in lines today? Me me me! If you want to go the Eiffel tower, and you don't want to take the stairs, plan on spending the entire day in line. That being said, we took the stairs. There's not much to say about the Eiffel Tower except that it is tall, pretty awesome, and it confirmed previous observations of the large size of Paris.

I think I took at least one boring picture.

Oh, and I managed to snag one of Justin.

You're required to take an elevator for the last part,which is where I shot the following video on the way back down:

The Eiffel trip took a long time so we retired for some lunch on the street (where we always eat) before hunting down the Musee Rodin where I spotted that cute little bust of Gustav Mahler amongst other, more well known pieces.

The plan was to go see some catacombs but they closed early and the line was 2 hours long. BUMMER! So we're relaxing at the hotel for bit before heading back out for some more tonight.
Oh, and the best meal I've eaten so far this trip was a chocolate croissant this morning.

UPDATED: We went out for the best night (of two) so far. A trip to the Latin Quarter and the Sorbonne showed me my favorite part of Paris that I've seen. We were also met with an interesting dillema. It seems that most restaurants open at 7:00ish, but museums and buildings close at 6. So we arrive in Le Latin Quartere around 6 but the restaurant we wanted to eat at was LE CLOSED. So we tooled around the Sorbonne unable to actually enter any buildings, visited little bookstore with some expensive antique or otherwise imported books, and walked around a garden/zoo/archeological museum.

This bookstore was odd. They had some antique postcards, oldish French books and some strange American imports all for a high price. I could have paid 20 euro for a Muppets Take Manhattan book but I thought that was a bit exorbitant. Also I wanted to eat dinner.

We ate a bit nicer Italian meal tonight with some ravioli (abourgine? No, spinach) and bruschetta. The bathroom was on the second floor. Yesterday's restaurant had it in the basement. And at both places the manager laughed and pointed me toward the bathroom without me even asking. HOW DO THEY KNOW? Also, these managers all look like the same man.

Can you tell I've been writing these on my phone? It explains the poor grammar and even worse overall quality of my writing. Short sentences because it takes me three hours to write each one.
This zoo we saw was pretty excellent, it was mostly closed but they just had a little yard with wallaby hopping around (see picture below) and some deer and two ostriches which we saw from outside the park. The deer looked pretty bummed out but probably only because the wallaby were having a great time and the deer were jealous.

After our fine Italian dinner we got some authentic Haagen-Dasz ice cream (brownie EXPLOSION!) and watched an illusionist street performer and some guy playing guitar and singing. Paris is awesome right at dusk. People start to dress up for nighttime partying, it gets cool, and there are tons of street performers. But it was getting late and we have more to do tomorrow. Plus we take off for our second city tomorrow, and then Ze Switzerland!

Things I learned today: if you don't want to pay for your water, ask for tap water, not just water.
Other things I learned: Step Up 4 in Paris is called Sexy Dance 4.