Jul 29, 2006

What did I like best about Vienna and Budapest?

As you probably already know, I visited Vienna and Budapest last week, both for the first time. I'm used to European cities, having been to a number of them. Crooked streets, often narrow; old buildings, often many large, ornate ones; domed churches and tall cathedrals; long, continuous histories, with much drama and changing of hands and governments; royalty, revolts, rebuilding. So why did I like Vienna and Budapest?

Why Budapest is the easiest to answer: The river. The Danube (Duna in Hungarian, Donau in German/Norwegian). A dramatic hilly west bank (Buda) meets the flat Hungarian plains on the east bank (Pest), and the ribbon of water passing under many bridges past large, elaborate buildings (like the Whitehall-inspired parliament) creates a gorgeous and exotic scene:

Why I like Vienna is harder to nail down. Perhaps it's the city's combination of being both old, charming and Austrian. Or its more compact city center and narrow streets, some mere passageways, like in Bergen.

Budapest had much wider streets, longer blocks, and so didn't have that compact city center that many western European cities have, and which I am used to. The Hungarians love space and the flatness of the plains make it easy to build wide boulevards and large town squares, which is characteristic of the Pest side of Budapest. All the space in the picture below is just the entrance to a Metro station.

Also, the walk from our hotel in Budapest to the river/shopping district was typically city (Budapest is a bit larger than Vienna, too). The walk in Vienna from our hotel to the downtown area was partly along the U-bahn and now channeled Wien river (which reminded me of Los Angeles' river) and Naschmarkt (open air market), so walking in Vienna had a different feel.

I felt very comfortable navigating Vienna by myself, and less so in Budapest. Being baffled by Hungarian probably played a part. However, I do want to see both cities again, and one way that I think would be great is to travel by boat on the Donau between them, like in the old days. I wouldn't mind starting in the port town of Passau, in Germany, just across the Austrian border:

So what captured my fancy? Buildings. Buildings, buildings, buildings. Like this one, two blocks from our hotel. It is the Eastern train station and where the Orient Express stops.

Even though I live in an old European city, Norway has had a poor past, which shows in our buildings. Many buildings in Vienna and Budapest are huge, elaborate, no-expense-spared memorials to a glorious, powerful and rich past - a joint past until World War I, illustrated by this street scene in Vienna:

Sightseeing also means looking up. From atop what I believe is the winter palace in Vienna:

Walking back from shopping in Budapest, I happened to look up at these looking down on me:

And to answer Alice: Oh, yes, Hundertwasserhaus was wonderful! I enjoyed the whole area and took lots of pictures. Here's one of the building; the glass, trees and terrace are all part of it:

Jul 28, 2006

I'm back and it was great!

Sorry, dear reader, for not specifying when I would leave on my trip and that there would be no blogging. I don't believe in telling the whole free world stuff like that.

I got home a little after 8 pm my time today, after 13 days of bussing and walking and humidity and 35C/95F in the shade, with a record-breaking 40C/104F in Budapest one day. However, we had a comfortable bus, a good driver and an experienced guide. The youngest in our group of about 30 was 19 (travelling with his brother of 25) and the eldest was 87 (travelling with his wife of 75). We were a good bunch, with folks from many parts of southern Norway, making conversation sometimes difficult due to dialects, but we eventually got used to each other.

And I definitely enjoyed both Vienna and Budapest! I want to go back. I took about 900 pictures (my new camera is great!) so it'll take me a bit to go through everything. I'll be making some photo albums and a permanent page of the trip. I'll let you know when that's online.

So after much delicious food and extreme heat, I am now enjoying a cheap frozen pizza and 20C/75F, TV, my music, my computer and even some flowering nasturtiums on my balcony. Yes, they managed without water for two weeks. I am very happy about that because they are, according to feng shui, in my home's friendship area. And I did exchange e-mail addresses with a couple of my fellow travellers.

PS: Alice, I got to see Hundertwasser Haus!

Jul 15, 2006

Packed suitcase

I'm out of practice when it comes to travelling. Part of it is that it's been a while since I travelled, really, without easy access to shopping in case I need anything and I'm older and have other needs. So I'm trying to organize and plan and get everything together, and I usually am good about these things, but this time I truly annoyed myself. Still, I managed to finish packing. All nice and neat and even left plenty of room for souveniers. And after this trip, I'll know better.

A meme - an ology meme

Paula made me do it. And I'm trying to cool down after a lovely walk in the sun after having been to the post office and then deciding to walk around the pond on my way home, stopping to look at black coots feeding their young, a magpie taking a bath, and crows looking at me quite leerily, and then stopping off at the store for almonds (good if you get gas) and Nestea Peach - the sugar content be damned, it's nice and cold and tasty! Uh, right, so here I sit. May as well meme. (Then I have to go finish packing.)

What is your salad dressing of choice? Olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or blue cheese.
What is your favorite fast food restaurant? McDonald's. It's the only one where I live.
What is your favorite sit down restaurant? Any of the Chinese ones.
On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant? Norway doesn't do tipping, but if I'm extra pleased, I'll leave up to 10%.
What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of? Cold cereal. I do that already.
Name three foods you detest above all others. Whisky (it is too so a food!), string beans, jello.
What is your favorite dish to order in a Chinese restaurant? Chicken cashew.
What are your pizza toppings of choice? All of them!
What do you like to put on your toast? Butter and jam.
What is your favorite type of gum? Cinnamon.

Number of contacts in your cell phone? Hardly any. I don't use my cell that much.
Number of contacts in your email address book? Several dozen.
What is your wallpaper on your computer? At work: A ladybug (came with the Mac). At home: See photo; took it myself.
What is your screensaver on your computer? A slideshow I made of National Geographic pictures.
Are there naked pictures saved on your computer? No. I'm so disappointed.
How many land line phones do you have in your house? One.
How many televisions are in your house? One.
What kitchen appliance do you use the least? The egg cooker.
What is the format of the radio station you listen to the most? This question is irrelevant to Norway, where commercial radio stations play only top 40 stuff, and the non-commercial do all-purpose programming.
How many sex toys do you own that require batteries? None.

What do you consider to be your best physical attribute? Eyes.
Are you right handed or left handed? Right.
Do you like your smile? Yes, more and more!
Have you ever had anything removed from your body? Wisdom teeth. All four.
Would you like to? If I ever get a mole on my face, yes.
Do you prefer to read when you go to the bathroom? Sometimes.
Which of your five senses do you think is keenest? Vision.
When was the last time you had a cavity? A few decades ago.
What is the heaviest item you lift regularly? The shopping. And then the trash.
Have you ever been knocked unconscious? No.

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? Not without knowing why I was being told.
If you could change your first name, what would you change it to? To Keera. I like my first name.
How do you express your artistic side? Blogging, photography and my work (graphics designer).
What color do you think you look best in? Cerise.
How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison? I'd probably be sent to isolation pretty quickly (after losing every fight). And that I'd probably enjoy.
Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake? No, only on purpose.
If we weren't bound by society's conventions, do you have a relative you would make a pass at? I think society's conventions are a good thing. Unless we're talking second cousins.
How often do you go to church? Never in this country unless it's a funeral.
Have you ever saved someone's life? Maybe. If so, it's weird to think about.
Has someone ever saved yours? Once I was about to grab a live wire, but was stopped in time. Y'know, it doesn't have the impact it should.

For this last section, if you would do it for less or more money, indicate how much. [This'll be a waste of time. Money isn't much of a motivator for me.]
Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000? No.
Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100? Dang. I could've gotten paid?
Would you have sex with a member of the same sex for $10,000? Y'mean I could get paid to do that?
Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000? Absolutely not. I need 'em for typing blogs.
Would you never blog again for $50,000? Yes, but I'd be lying.
Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000? If I could be persuaded to do it for free, I'd do it for money. I'm not sure you could pursuade me.
Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000? No.
Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000? No.
Would you shave your head and get your entire body waxed for $5,000? No, that's too expensive. I can get that done for 1/100 the price... Oh, you mean I would get the $5000.
Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000? Ooh, toughy. Uhm, could I? Would I? Is the money worth never turning the TV on for anything, like even the news? One could do a lot with $25,000 (which is about what I earn a year). What if it were $1 million? [thinking] No. The answer is no. I don't know what I'd do with the money, so I can't see giving up some favorite shows and good movies for it. Though we are talking only a year. No. The answer is still no. OK, I'm done. It's "no".

Jul 13, 2006

Empty suitcase

I haven't blogged much lately. I've been doing laundry, trying on (old) clothes (and donating unwanteds to the Salvation Army), buying some new ones, sorting into "take/do not take", all in order to find what I want to put in this for a two-week trip involving humid Budapest and possibly rainy Vienna:

More later, like after I've actually put something in my suitcase.

Jul 9, 2006

Rows and floes of angel hair

We don't get the midnight sun where I live, but we do get a perpetual sunset-segwaying-into-sunrise, moving from the northwest to north to the northeast. The rosy glow above was captured after 11 pm last night. In the southwest was an odd but beautiful performance by other clouds.

PS: The title of this post is from Joni Mitchell's song "Both Sides Now".

The amazing changing landscape

Thursday night (July 7), the view out my bedroom window was what you see above.

Contrast that with what I saw the next night:

Jul 8, 2006

Truth in advertising?

I don't know if this juxtaposition between ad and Speed Bump cartoon was deliberate, but I did notice it.

Jul 7, 2006

And back again (bye-bye, Haloscan)

I lost my existing comments and didn't like that, nor could I find how to restore them/have Haloscan show them, so I put everything back the way I found it. The Haloscan interface isn't much different from Blogger's javascript-driven one, so no loss there.

So much for that experiment in the blogging world. :-)

Trying out Haloscan for comments

...and maybe I've screwed up my blog. C'mon, Blogger, repost the entire thing! How big is a large blog, anyway?

UPDATE: Entire blog is published - and all old comments are gone. :-( Must do some exploring this weekend.

Jul 6, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

UPDATE: ...And removed.

Jul 2, 2006

July last year and now

I rotate folders I keep for conversations with an e-mail group of friends. As I get to the new month, I clear out the previous year's messages and start storing the new ones. So I was clearing out July's and there were my messages about Grandma's death.

I was wondering how July of this year would be. I have missed her for a year, and with her passing, I also began to grieve again for Grandpa. I find myself still angry, not angry at anyone or anything specifically, just angry. My prime emotion when something happens that I don't like is anger. So I feel that and then I feel the abandonment, of being left alone.

It's been up and down this past year. Moments of complete peace and even forgetting, and then moments of intense, aching longing for them. If I go to their grave, I am consumed by loss, anger and a feeling of injustice, as well as enjoying talking to them, seeing them before me, hearing them answer me, as if they are still here and we are still all together.

And it so pisses me off that we are not. I want them back. I want them here, alive, still a part of my life. I want my heart to stop feeling so empty and feeling so much.