Tuesday, May 5, 2009

He blogs

Ed has been doing a little blogging of his own. He wrote up our visits with his classmates in Zurich and Paris on the SF08 blog.

Betty likes to supervise us while we're blogging.

A few weeks ago, we attended our final Sloan Fellows Orientation Dinner. The theme was "A Night at the Oscars." Ed got to wear his tux and I trotted out a dress Ed got for me in a consignment shop (Ultra Gal) in Noho shortly after we started dating in 2001. It's full-length with a crinoline, which made it a bit difficult to drive to the dinner. :) Here's Ed's account, along with some additional photos.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Prague - 3/26/09 and 3/27/09

We arrived at a very Eastern-bloc, run-down train station in Prague late at night. Here are some Czech treats at the hotel breakfast the next morning, Čokoládový (chocolate) yogurt and a Nutella knock-off called Finetti.

Strahovské nádvoří (Strahov Monastery). Sadly, we missed the brewery.

Ed with Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler on Keplerova Street.

View from Prague Castle.

Katedrála svatého Víta (St. Vitus Cathedral), near Prague Castle.

More St. Vitus.

Stained glass window by Alfons Mucha in St. Vitus Cathedral. The window was sponsored by Banka Slavie.

View from Prague Castle.

The astronomical clock in Old Town Square.

The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (Týnský Chrám), also in Old Town Square, with a tree decked out for Easter.

St. Wenceslas in Wenceslas Square. This is where the Velvet Revolution gained a lot of momentum.

We made a quick visit to the wonderful Mucha Museum before enjoying a Václav Klobása, the best sausage/sauerkraut/mustard combo EVER. Seriously, I salivate every time I see this photo.

On the Charles Bridge, with Prague Castle in the background.

Kozel beer and duck.

The next morning, we headed back out with our packs to squeeze in more touring on the way to the train station. Here I'm walking down the hill from our hotel on Nerudova Street.

We once again crossed the Charles Bridge.

First we went to the Museum of Communism. This is a truly wonderful, enjoyable museum, though it looked like it had been put together by an extremely talented class of 10th-graders.

Lastly, we toured Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. We saw several synagogues and some museums. Pinkas Synagogue was a very powerful experience -- on its walls are inscribed the names of the Jewish victims from Bohemia and Moravia, their personal data, and the names of the communities to which they belonged.

Unfortunately, our tour of the Jewish quarter was made particularly unpleasant by huge crowds of loud, smoking Italian teenagers.

This is the Spanish Syagogue.

This is sort of a Czech empanada -- a thin potato pancake wrapped around a meat mixture (Bram. Kapsa s Pikantni masavou smesi). Yum. Photo taken at Prague Holešovice, one of the train stations.

After that, we were back on the train. In Europe, the trains tend to leave on time -- to the minute -- but in this case ours was 30 minutes late. Fortunately we made it to Dresden in time to transfer to the next train to Frankfurt. This went without incident. Then the fun began.

Before we left for Zurich, I spent some time on the Rhine Valley transportation web site trying to figure out the best way to get from Frankfurt back to our friends' house in Nordenstadt. The site recommended a train from Frankfurt to Hofheim, then another train to Rheingauer Weg in Hofheim. I was pretty sure that Rheingauer Weg was a bus stop (having gone by it on Monday when we took the bus to the Hochheim train station -- Hochheim, not Hofheim, very confusing), so I double-checked the transportation web site when we were in Prague. It definitely showed a train icon next to "AST 404." So, we arrived in Hofheim at 11 p.m. and waited on the platform for the train. The electronic board showed the train arriving and departing, but we didn't see a train. I began to get agitated -- after all, I had gotten us all the way from Prague to Hofheim without incident, and we were less than 10 miles from our final destination.

We headed out to the street to see if AST 404 was actually a bus. We checked all the stops and maps, but there was no AST 404. A large group of German boys puked loudly across the street. A cabbie came up to us to see if we needed a ride. We were down to 9€, since we didn't want to bring Euros home with us, so we turned him down. But he helpfully told us that AST 404 was actually an UNMARKED BLUE VAN.

Then one of the puking teens crossed the street, walked up directly behind Ed (I didn't see him until the last second), then clapped him jovially on the shoulder, scaring the crap out of me. He said something, Ed said he didn't understand, he said something else, and they high-fived each other.

The unmarked blue van arrived, driven by a man who resembled Otto the bus driver on the Simpsons. He confirmed that he was driving AST 404 and, for 5€, tore off across Hofheim to deliver us to Rheingauer Weg. We asked if he could take us to the bus stop near our friends' place, to which he replied, "This is not a taxi. But for another 5€, I will do it." We laughingly declined and walked the last kilometer. It was a funny, random, and somehow very fitting end to our vacation.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Vienna - 3/24/09 and 3/25/09

I meant to post the two final trip entries many days ago, but this week really got away from me. And I'm leaving on Wednesday for another 2-1/2 week trip, so I definitely need to finish this up!

Some general notes on Vienna: gorgeous, very walkable, lots to do, museums are more expensive than Paris, restaurants are as expensive as Paris but the service is atrocious.

After a very uncomfortable night on the train to Vienna, we arrived at the station and began walking to our hotel. (One of the advantages of traveling light with medium-sized packs was that we could walk everywhere and see a lot.) We stopped at the first coffee house we saw. It was also an underwear store.

Once we dropped off our packs, we headed out to walk around town. I trust you are seeing the theme here with Ed and statue-posing. Be thankful I left out the one of (a fully clothed) Ed with a naked Greek in the Louvre. Here he is with Goethe.

We went past the opera house and then to Hotel Sacher, which was highly recommended by our Rick Steves guide (Best of Europe 2009). We greatly enjoyed the famous Sachertorte.

We are here at Hotel Sacher, where we've secretly replaced the fine coffee they usually serve with Folgers Crystals. Let's see if anyone can tell the difference.

We rushed off to St. Stephen's Cathedral so we could look around before the daily Mass started. Here's the incredible pulpit.

The roof was also amazing.

After St. Stephen's, we picked up some famous chocolate at Demel before touring the Hofburg Palace.

Next we toured the Vienna Opera.

These are the seats at the Vienna Opera. By waiting until 45 minutes after the opera started that night (a tip from Rick Steves), we were able to score some free (used) standing room tickets at the very top for the sold-out performance of Lucia di Lammermoor.

We spent the evening relaxing at our hotel, which was far, far nicer than we expected (Hotel Pension Corvinus). We had a huge jacuzzi tub, separate shower, and a kitchenette. There was a grocery store nearby, so we were able to eat a few meals very cheaply.

The next morning, we ride the tram around the Ring road. Unfortunately there was an error in our guidebook that had us on a tram that took us about an hour out of our way. We ended up at Friedrich EngelsPlatz, which, if you know me, is pretty much the last place I ever want to be. But we managed to get back on track. Here is Athena in front of the Parliament building.

Here I am outside the national library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), just before our visit to the excellent Kunsthistorisches Musem.

We ended our visit with coffee and a snack at Cafe Schwarzenberg. The food was great, but our waiter was awful (as usual for Vienna). At the end, he made a point of telling us that "service is not included" in the bill. After we left, I said to Ed, "I'll say service is not included!!"

Then we made our way to a different train station for the journey east to Prague.