Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turkey Teaser Trailer

And we totally took all of these pictures

We just picked up the keys to Aquahaus this morning, I still have lessons to plan for the week, Paul is trying to figure out electric and internet contracts, and we are going a little crazy over here getting ready to move during these next couple days.

I don't know when we will be able to really have reliable internet, but I didn't want to leave anyone hanging (or maybe I kind of want to leave you hanging a little bit) so I thought I'd post a couple pictures to keep you interested.

A couple of our adventures in the land of sheep intestine sandwiches and ancient history (clockwise from top left)--Basilica Cistern, Spice Bazaar, Blue Mosque at night, Topkapi Palace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

We're going to Turkey.  This Thanksgiving you get to have turkey in you, and we get to be in Turkey.  And yes, this trip is entirely meant to give us a story that we will tell every single year and people will be able to mouth the words behind our backs while performing excessive eye rolls.

So...see you later.  I'm going to go to Turkey now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dead Rudolph

I went for a walk today to check out the preparations for the end-all-and-be-all Christmas festival of the world--the Weinachtsmarkt.  America has already been soundly put to holiday-celebrating shame, and the Rostock festival hasn't even started yet.

I saw this booth from the Finnish Tourism Agency and thought it was both disturbing and hilarious.   Ruuuudolph?  Is that youuu?  No, no, it can't be!  Is it...is...it...Nooooooo!

Also, that reindeer is seriously only about four feet tall.  Did you know reindeer were so small?  I think all those Christmas movies from my past totally thought elk were the same as reindeer.  They. are. not.  A bit of ethnocentrism going on there.

Finnland now has two "n"s just so you know.

And did I tell you that I'm working at the Max Planck Institute now?  I have my own office and I'm working on a project about FinNland, no less!  So, here's to you FinNland, dead Rudolph, and the Christmas Market that starts on Thursday.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Uni-Rostock Mensa

I have a friend named Elizabeth.  She's from Medellin, Colombia, and we have lunch together twice a week because that's part of our Tandem agreement.

In Germany, there's an idea that everyone understands called "Tandem."  Think of it like two-way bartering.  One person has something the other one wants, and so does the other person.  So, you trade.  In our case, I know how to speak English and Elizabeth knows Spanish.  She needs to practice English and I need to practice Spanish.  And so a Tandem was born.

We went to the Mensa today, which is a university cafeteria.  We had mashed potatoes (pude de papas/Kartoffelpüree), pork (carne de cerdo, Schweinefleisch), and vegetables (verduras/Gemüse).  We talked about food and vacations and weather, todo auf Spanisch.

Tandem is totally messing up my head.  I can't help but throw in German words between Spanish words.   Ich habe una problema.  The most repeated offenses today went something like, "Ja! Yes! Sí!"  or "aberrrrr...I mean pero!"

Elizabeth gets it though.  And we can generally understand each other no matter what.  Understanding is always way easier than speaking. So we get weird looks when we walk down the street, her speaking Spanish and me answering in English. And then we laugh and say, "Alles gut!"

And did you know that Elizabeth's boyfriend is on a championship Water Rugby team?!  Did you even know that was a thing?!

It is!!!

You can break your leg and drown at the same time!  Fun!  I'll have to ask her at our next Tandem about how you can spectate that sort of thing.  And how do the refs ref?  Are there underwater sonar whistles (Unterwasser-Pfeifen/silbatos bajo de agua)?!  Do you know?!  I need to know.

Also, this is the biggest cookie sheet I can find here!  Das ist a problema también!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Déjà vu

I fell asleep last night at an hour I'm not even going to mention because it would be obscene. There's not really any good reason except the fact that I was determined to prove I could stay up that late on my own.  And I did.  Win.

And I woke up this morning with my leg and arm stuck in the black crack of calcutta to the sound of the bells, bells, bells of the Borwinstrasse church ringing for fifteen minutes straight.

And I thought, "Why in the freak is half my body stuck in between two mattresses?"

And then I thought, "Those bells...are pretty awesome. And I'm going to eat chocolate today."

Just like I did that first morning in the garret.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stealth Emotional Attack

The view I had back toward Washington on the ferry to Canada a couple months ago.

Tonight we went to a concert of Handel's "Messiah" at the old Church of the Holy Spirit down the street here on nice, comfortable Borwinstrasse.  It was a beautiful, foggy evening with hazy streetlamps and slick cobblestone streets.  The tickets were cheap.  The place was packed.  The concert was amazing.

Then, right smack dab in the middle of the Hallelujah chorus--the part where the sopranos keep singing "King of Kiiiiiiings" higher and higher and higher-- I burst into an uncontrolled sob-fest.

I was barely keeping it together and barely keeping things to sniffle-level sound.  I didn't recover until halfway through the third movement.  Heck, I'm crying now just thinking about it!

And the strange thing was that it came out of nowhere--smack in the face with no warning at all!  I realized right then that the only reason I was crying so hard was because I finally knew how much I have been missing "the recognizable."

I recognized the words and the music and I knew exactly what was going to come next.  I knew the Hallelujah chorus--it was familiar--and I realized how deeply I've missed feeling like I knew exactly what was happening.

I realized how much effort I've been consciously and subconsciously putting into making my being here in Germany feel like "everything I freaking ever could have dreamed of dag nabbit and I'm gol darned grateful for every last bit of it and there will never ever be any reason to be sad about anything ever hey look now I'm on a train hey look now I'm eating pastries hey look chocolate!"

And I realized that I've been trying so, so very hard to be brave and happy and cheerful and funny every single minute of every single day (because everyone is thinking "Oh, I wish we lived in Europe" so I can't ever complain)--and I never let myself acknowledge the things I really do miss, or the days that I really do just feel "blah" or even sad.

So, I guess this is my first declaration of homesickness tonight:  I miss America.  I miss my family.  I miss being well-spoken in public (or spoken at all).  I miss being able to call the bank/phone company/rental manager and do things for myself instead of needing Paul to do everything (it feels so wrong to me, deeply wrong).  I miss Ranch Dressing and canned black beans.

Okay, so, there it is, world!  I'm acknowledging my feelings!  Now, I'm going to go get ready for bed and use my good-old American toothbrush, get in my American pajamas, sleep next to my American husband, and I'll wake up tomorrow in Germany.

Sometimes that might make me feel super sad--but usually I'm going to be alright or even awesome.  Life is the same that way, no matter what continent you live on.

But, I swear, I might have a breakdown right now if any of you start commenting with lyrics from "God Bless the USA"...

The Hunns Go Shopping

The best way to spell "Fish."  They just throw in
c's wherever they wisch, it seems.
I was thinking the other day about how this blog isn't exactly representative of what usually goes on here in the Rostocker* garret we call home.  If you scroll back a little it sort of looks like all we do is train-off to exotic locations and do things like eat wild boar and walk a lot.  I mean, we do that.  Just, not all the time.  I forget that the things we do that are "everyday" here, are actually pretty exotic in their own right.

So, I'm turning a new leaf here.  And I'm gonna tell you all sorts of crazy things about, wait for it, grocery shopping.

First off, you need to bring bags.  Or a really big purse.  Or a backpack.  Because they aren't going to be giving you paper or plastic or pity when you get through the checkout with a giant pile of canned tomatoes and a panicked look on your face.  I learned this way back in May when I bought 23 chocolate bars for presents and had to carry them out in teetering towers after I stood expectantly at the end of the register waiting for some sort of sack for what felt like 30 years.    So, let this be a lesson.  You buy it, you pack it out.

Second, you have to "pay" to use a cart.  I think this idea is brilliant.  You need a euro coin which, when you put it into a little slot on the cart,  releases it from its cage ("release the wild caaaaaart!" I say in my best circus ringmaster voice).  Then, when you're done shopping, you take your cart back to the cage and if you nest it correctly into the cart in front your euro pops out.  Yes!  Germany: Incentives for Keeping Everything "Just So."

Or maybe, "Germany: An OCD Paradise."

[I assume it was quite the sight to see me trying to calmly, yet confidently** pry/yank/shake a cart loose the first time though.  It's not like there are clear instructions in English posted about that sort of thing, you know.  It's kind of at a "Well, duh!" status here, I think, so of course they wouldn't.]

Third, let's talk about the food.  I'm just going to use a few examples from our most recent excursion today since I could never remember all the "huh, interesting"s I've had over the past month and a half (it feels like I've been here so much longer!)

You know, I never knew how dependent our diet was on Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing till we moved here.     Ranch dressing...kind of non-existent.    We were actually really excited to find Thousand Islands dressing today because we've been missing Reubens, though.

One other thing, nothing really comes in plastic containers here except for some drinks.  Food is always in glass, cans, or waxy cardboard (sometimes in unexpected packaging--like alfredo sauce in a box).  I like the heft of pulling out my big, glass salad dressing bottle from the fridge--it's like when you'd go to old-school diners that actually still had glass ketchup bottles.  It's homey--vintagey.

The heft of carrying it all the way home along with my big, glass bottles of sauerkraut, mayo, jam, and applesauce isn't as nice though.  But, it's making me super buff, so we've made peace.  (Plus, throwing glass away here is kind of fun--but I'm saving that for the "taking out your garbage in Germany" post).

Moving on.  I included our new interesting food: knödel.  Imagine mashed potatoes, but more dumplingy and rounded into big ol' balls (sorry Dani).  Then put a piece of toast (you heard me. toast.) in the middle.  There you go.  They're totally weird, but great with gravy.  Like pretty much everything in the world.

And finally, I want to introduce you to my favorite brand here: Milka.  They make aaaaaaall sorts of chocolate bars--air-pocket filled bars, cream filled, hazelnut, unidentified-German-berry, etc.  I bought this one because it was on sale and made me laugh.  The "flavor" is called "Cow Spots."  ::love::  I think I've averaged about one of these bars every other day.  I'm developing a dependency but I don't care leavemealone!

Wait, Wait, I'm almost finished!  And there's a big surprise at the end!

I don't think I need to go into how big preserved meats are in Germany.  Let's just say that, you know how there's a section in American stores for chicken?   Yeah, imagine something about that size, but just for salami.  Like, tens, nay, hundreds of kinds of salami.

We bought this kind today to try out.  It's a variety called "French Baguette."  We think it's because it's all oblong-shaped.  I just got it because it was the weirdest looking one of the bunch.  Looks good, doesn't it?

And for our finale!

We also visited the cheese quarter of the store.  Yes, quarter.  I have seen cheeses Dr. Seuss could not even imagine.  Someday I'm going to get the guts to try the neon pink and neon green cheeses.  But, for today, the cheese I wanted to try the most was:

Heidi Alp Cheese!  From Switzerland, no less.
My Very Own Cheese! (I hope its edible!)

There's a lot more I could tell you about--like how cheap bread is, or how there's 15 million varieties of this spreadable cheese stuff that we eat on toast, or how the Fisch and Fleisch (Meat) section is preeeeeeety amazing looking (care for some liver bits and carrot floating around in some aspic?).  But I think this is way long enough already.

Also, I can't really top cheese that's named after myself.


*Rostocker.  Not Rostockian or Rostockish.  I've asked the student experts.

** "Calm, yet confident" is the phrase I repeat to myself whenever I have to go do anything that might end up with a German speaking German to me.  Especially when a German might suddenly and unexpectedly speak German to me--like, at a grocery store, for example.  That fa-reaks me out sometimes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Potsdam and Pictures

We've been holed up again at Chez Hunn this week, mostly trying to figure out what in the heck almighty this country is doing to our immune systems.  The absolutely fantastic news, however, is we returned from our Berlin sojourn to a heated and hot watered apartment.  (weak cheers)

Also, we get a partial refund for our rent this month. (stronger yet still slightly weak cheers)  Germans are efficiently honest about such things, apparently.  Blessings of sauerkraut and other pickled things to them and their posterity.

So anyway, back to Berlin.  We went to Berlin/Potsdam this past Sunday.  It's about a 2.5 hour train ride each way to the central station, so we were up and walking by 6am and didn't get home till around 9:30pm...so, yes, it was rather...prolonged.  But totally worth it.

We met the infamous, world-traveling Sara and Tyler Meldrum, previously of Berkeley and currently of Aachen, who we had only known of before through a mutual friend.  We also got to tag along with their friend, Leif, who was a native-German expert in all things Berlin.  (Also, he had access to a car which is pretty much the most extravagant thing I could imagine for transportation).

Also, he collects historic menus.  What? Awesome.

Anyway, Leif took us to this crazy good breakfast buffet and then dragged my wide-eyed American self all around Berlin (Did you know that people tried to escape from East Germany by clinging to the bottom of trains?! for example).  Then he drove us all the way to Potsdam.  Then he gave us tours of many of the palaces there.  And all the while Paul and I got to bask in the beautiful day and the super-cool company that were Sara and Tyler and Leif.  Booya!

Potsdam was lovely, as you can see.  My hands-down favorite was Sansscoucci Palace (meaning "Without a Care" in French). And it was fantastic to learn so much more about Frederick the Great, who we decided is kiiiind of like George Washington's non-existent but way fancier, older, flautist brother...but for Germany.

Seeing Cecilienhof, where the Potsdam Conference was held, and a beautiful Marble Palace just rounded out a fantastic day.  We'll forever be sending good vibes in the direction of Leif and the Meldrums for giving us such a great opportunity to hang around them all of Sunday!  Blessings of sauerkraut and other pickled things on your heads.


As an addendum, my most recent convalescence has brought me into the magical world of Picnik.  The blog will never be the same again.  Check it:
Look what I can do...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Adventures in Survival

At this moment on a Saturday morning, I'm be-hoodied and be-blanketed, sitting on our double-mattressed bed with a hot cup of pfeffermintz tea (I'll never be able to say "peppermint" again).  You may be wondering why I'm sitting here still rather than up and about the house doing Saturday things like, perhaps, watching my new favorite, "My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic" (German edition), on television?*

Well, it's mostly because our bedroom still has remnants of body heat and I'm conserving every bit of it while I can.

Because our heater and our hot water have stopped working.  Actually, it's been spotty for a month now, but this week has been the first time both have been off simultaneously.

Previously, our maintenance requests looked like, "Ohhhh...our heater hasn't been working for three weeks, but it's been okay so far.  Whenever you have a chance to look at it, let us knowwww.  Hugs and kisses.  Don't hate us."

But, after the hot water disappeared a couple days ago, we upped it to something really confrontational (for us), which looks more like, "Um.  No hot water?  No heat?  Please help us.  We die.  You should know that if this lasts for longer than two days we might start disliking you strongly."

There was actually even a day when the heater, the hot water, and the internet weren't working, but that is a dark time no one speaks about.

So, thank you to the Meldrums, for giving us an excuse to vacate our little weekend icebox and go to Berlin tomorrow.  A person can only spend so much time hunkered down in a bedroom before they start going a little crazy...

*  I'm only being weakly sarcastic about this.  I've actually gotten really tired of the only English television (24-hour CNN or BBC news), and any television for German adults is just too confusing, fast, and they, like, assume you understand words?  So, when I get bored enough for television, I go looking for kid's shows.  I highly recommend this if you want to learn a language from scratch.

In fact, I'll even give you a mini-review!  So, here are the best shows to watch if you actually want to try and learn some words:

Dora the Explorer
Sesame Street (Sesamstrasse, hah!  I love that.)

Here are the best shows to watch because you understand what the story is even if you can't understand all the words:

My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic (I realize I could just say "My Little Ponies"...but the full title makes me laugh every time)
Spongebob Squarepants
Phineas and Ferb

Also, I'm just going to write a whole new post about German television watching now that I think about it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Plague (Plahg) Brog: Heidi's Top 5

So, let's say you want to go to Prague, but you only have one day to do "not the usual tourist thing"?

I'm the kind of person that goes to the "big sights" just to say I've been there, but I really get my traveling kicks doing "normal" things around town.  I like feeling like I live somewhere, not so much like I'm just paying to stare at [granted, I know that I'm staring at really cool] things.  So, if your touristy style is sort of like mine, then you might think about checking these things out.

#5:  Walk around the Castle District and Malá Strana

Loreta Church
You don't get completely out of the tourist zone in the Castle District, but since it's up a pretty steep hill past the already steep Castle hill, there just aren't as many people up there.  I liked walking up to the Strahov Monastery with its bell towers and bright, white walls.  The roads near the monastery and down to the castle are all pretty quiet and residential, with little old churches and gardens around every corner, it seems.

Along Nový Svět
My favorite road in the Castle District was this little lane called Nový Svět that began behind a few hidden turns near the Loreta church.  The Loreta has a replica of what is believed to be the house St. Mary lived in during the Annunciation.  I would have loved to see it, but we were there after it closed.   Nový Svět ends at the gates of Prague Castle, which is convenient for reorienting yourself at the end of your walk.  I loved the windy streets, flower boxes, colorful walls, teeeeny houses, and intricate doors, lanterns, and doorknobs along this street.

Zámecké schody
To get down from the hill and back into the lower neighborhood of Malá Strana, take the stairs that run along the south of the Castle complex.  We came across the stairs by accident after using the more obvious, sloped roadway to the castle on our way up.  But, the stairs give you a totally better view and take you past some small, not-as-touristy souvenir and Trdelník pastry shops.  We bought our single souvenir along those stairs--a blown egg, dyed blue and etched with a traditional flower design.  It was love at first sight--I just hope I can keep it in one piece.

One last sales pitch-- the stairway is called "Zámecké schody" which just... makes me happy.

Churchill and I
Then, of course, there's Malá Strana, running along the river across from the older, more touristy part of the city.  We stayed over there, so we got to see it a bit.  I really liked seeing old German street names still painted on some walls from when Prague was under the Hapsburgs.  Plus, it's where a lot of the embassies are based, so we walked by our legal homeland for a bit and noticed that Great Britain had installed a Churchill sculpture on their block.

Then, of course, there is The Bambino.  It's a wax doll of the baby Jesus that is enshrined in a church in the neighborhood.  Apparently it has quite a cult following and you can easily find its church from all the Bambino souvenier shops across the street.  We saw the Bambino.  We were duly reverent about it.  We saw the photo on the wall showing when the Pope saw the Bambino.  The Pope!  So, you might want to see the Bambino--if only so you can keep saying "Bambino" as you walk to it.

Of course, one of the best things about >Malá Strana is its most beloved Cafe Savoy.  It was around the corner from our hotel, which I took to mean it was fate that we were meant to be together.

#4 Eat at Cafe Savoy and/or Cafe Imperial
Do it.  

I. Love. Good. Food.   And this is where you find it.

And when you go downstairs to the
restrooms, you can look through this
window into the kitchen!
Their gift to the Top Chef
fans of the world.
We just had soup for a meal at the Cafe Savoy and it was one of the most blissful culinary experiences I've had in my life.  SOUP!    Cream of Pea soup!  Of all the soups!  When I get an empty bowl with this pureed potato and crouton sculpture in the middle and then a waiter comes up and slowly pours my [unbelievably good] soup into the bowl in an arty, refined way?   Well, yes, I will love you forever.

I liked the Cafe Savoy because our waiter didn't speak a lick of English.  That can be scary...but it's also a good sign.  You know what else is a good sign?  The fact that this place is perpetually busy.  So, might think about making a reservation.  (Totally Worth It).

The apple strudel there was amazing too.  After struggling through trying to order our soup in really, really bad Czech to our poor confused waiter, there was absolutely no language barrier when we just pointed to the apple strudel display.  He looked at us with a huuuge smile and a knowing nod that said, "You really are intelligent beings, aren't you?"

We went there a few times.  For the strudel.  We were really annoying about the strudel, actually.   It was Hunn crack.

Cafe Imperial, after a late-night meal
I will pay for another train ticket
just to go get more of these eggs.
Then, there's the Cafe Imperial.  It's a little less expensive than the Cafe Savoy (neither one actually being expensive in comparison to American or other European prices), and I had some pretty great food there too.  It's located closer to the main tourist center, a couple blocks away from the famous "Powder Tower."  I'll always love the Cafe Imperial because they let me order Eggs Benedict and Boar with Dumplings at the same time, at 9:30pm, without giving me too much of a "you're weird" eye roll about it.  It was my first try at eggs benedict, and all other egg dishes are now ruined for me.  It was that good.  I could have eaten their eggs benedict all day long till the end of time.  

I'm drooling as I type.  It's very embarrassing.

#3:  Compare Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque religious architecture

One of the cooler things I thought about our Prague trip was that I got to see fantastic examples of a Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque church in the same day.  For anyone who has taken and actually remember a bit from Humanities 201 and 202, that's sort of the architectural order big European churches went in history (And I know I'm excluding others like Rococo, Renaissance, Neo-gothic, and all that).   I loved my Humanities degree, and so I still remember a lot about the way arches and vaulting changed through the middle ages and through the renaissance into the modern age.  But, it was so amazing to see all those lectures played out in real life in a 12 hour period!

We went to a birthday concert for Paul at St. George's
Basilica, building began in 920 A.D

Had a tour of St. Vitus Cathedral, building
began in 1344 AD

And we wandered (overwhelmed) through
St. Nicholas Cathedral, building
began in 1702 AD
It's getting physically painful for me to refrain from launching into a very spirited regurgitation of four years of humanities lectures in reference to these three pictures, so I'm just going to move on.  Quickly.

#2:  Walk through the Old Market Square and across Charles Bridge at 10pm (or later)

And it helps to have a handsome
companion on these romantic
I understand that touristy places begin to be touristy for a reason--usually because they're really cool.  So, here's my thing.  You totally need to see the area around the  Old Market Square and walk across the Charles Bridge when you go to Prague.  Totally.  They are really beautiful, amazing places.  But, my favorite time to go through these main attractions was definitely late at night.  Everything is lit up beautifully, you can stroll across the river without a crowd.  You can stop and listen to that dude play Mozart melodies with water-filled crystal goblets or watch the puppeteer putting away his marionette show.  You can climb the astronomical clock tower and see a beautiful view, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and it's all just very romantic .  I loved it.  It was my favorite time to be out and in the city.

#1:  Petřín and the Funicular

All time favorite thing.  It was so incredibly not-touristy to ride that funicular to the top of Petřín hill that I could hardly contain my glee.  Plus, if anyone has watched more than one season of The Amazing Race, you know that there is usually some kind of funicular that someone is going to have to ride at some point, and this was my Amazing Race funicular.    It made me incredibly happy.  Plus, only crazies would hike all the way to the top of that hill without some transportation help.  

Once we were at the top, I decided that Petřín was my favorite place in Prague.  See the rose garden, the observatory, the mirror maze, the mini-eiffel tower observatory, and hike around in all those miles and miles of trails through the trees and across the apple orchard meadow.  It didn't hurt that we were there right when all the leaves were changing colors.  It was so beautiful.  It was actually the only place we deliberately went to see twice.  I think you might end up doing the same thing when you go to Prague.

You might find me there.  Right on that second bench on the right, looking out over the meadow toward the city, eating my Trdelnik.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Plague (Plahg) Brog, The Great Strudel Adventure

We had a handful of "missions" we decided were essential during our trip to Prague.  They ranged from "Ride Funicular" to "Eat game in elegant setting" to "See Wenceslas' tomb" to "Find THE STRUDEL."

Way, way back, five months ago, we checked out a series of travel documentaries from our little public library.  One was a thirty-minute episode on Prague and though it included a variety of very interesting facts and places (the cafe where you can pay to throw stale donuts at anyone you like, for example), we kind of fixated on the little, one-room, orange-painted, neighborhood Strudel bakery that was located somewhere in the mysterious outer limits of municipal Prague, or, as the ever-positive hostess of the show said, it's "a little off the beaten path."

I mean, look at the SIZE of that thing!
It was clearly the kind of place that no normal tourist would ever know about (+5 points).  It was clearly a "real" experience since the one guy who ran the store obviously understood absolutely no English (+2 points).  And finally, you got what was some of the best apple strudel in the world for around $2...and it was, like, the size of your leg (+1000 points).

We were going to find this place.  We were going to find it and buy a strudel and eat it all right there on the road curb in front.  It was going to be glorious.

We spent nearly an hour online looking for the address of this mysterious strudel bakery, and we found it: confirmed by a picture of the orange paint and the gigantic pastries.  Also confirmed that this place, with no other name than "Strudl" had no phone number or website.  We knew it was a risk to trek into the boondocks without knowing if it even still existed, but we decided to take it (plus there was a review from August 2011, so ...that was good right?).

The day of the Strudel Search was Paul's birthday and that was his dream birthday cake.  And, like, what bakery isn't open on a Saturday morning?  And what dream bakery isn't open on the exact day is has to be open to fulfill a good man's pastry dreams?  I ask you!

I'm sure you've all guessed by now that after walking three and a half miles up and down hills, along freeways, under overpasses, and past sketchy nightclubs with names like "Go Go Go," we found our Strudel Place.  Still painted orange.  Still with its three-item chalk menu (apple, poppy seed, or cheese strudel).  Still with its $2 prices.  Still squeezed in on the first half-floor of a large, communist-style apartment building.

Still...closed since the day before for a vacation.  Not to open again till ten minutes before our train from Prague left the station.

It was so. so. so. sad.

We solemnly vowed, right then and there, that we would someday return and claim our arm-sized strudels! It's going to happen, people.  It's going to happen.

Since it wasn't going to happen that exact weekend however, we "settled" for the jablkovy zavin (apple strudel) of the Cafe Savoy.  A slice only the size of your entire hand for $2, granted.  But, man, if this orange-painted strudel place is supposed to be "The Best Strudel in the World" then I'm at a loss as to how it can be any better than what we ended up "settling" for.  It might, in fact, defy the laws of the universe.

I guess we'll see...

But as for the Cafe Savoy, well, we might have gone back twice within a three hour period to get apple strudel.  The waiter might have rolled his eyes just a leeeeeettle bit at us.  But he can't get perturbed.  He's the one peddling the addiction.  But the cafes are a totally different story, one I'll tell later.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Plague (Plahg) Brog, Day 1

When your husband has a slip of the tongue and says "What should we write about first in our Plague brogs?" as you stand in the middle of a beautiful, old town square...you remember it.


It took eight hours to get to Prague from our little city station way up here on the coast.  Which, if you think about it, isn't so bad.  That's like a trip to Seattle from Coos Bay.  The trains, however, are a little hit and miss. Our first train was fast and had down-filled seats and a soothing voice that said, "Meinen damen und herren..." every time we approached a major stop.  Our second train made everything below our eyeballs fall asleep.

So it goes.

The major upside was that the trip between Dresden and Prague was gorgeous, as we stayed in a river canyon for most of the way, surrounded by beautiful fall colors on the trees and little villages clustered along the cliffs.  Everyone should go somewhere beautiful in October.  Everyone should go see fall colored trees.

When we arrived in Prague, we were a little skittish.  That happens when you spend five hours on a train reading guidebooks that say things like, "Pickpockets abound!"  (Besides, who even uses the word "abound" anymore?)   So, we shuffled off the train with our bag wrapped around our arms, giving shifty looks at everyone until it took us about fifteen seconds to realize that Prague was just a regular city and we didn't have to walk around with our backpack zippers twisty-tied.  Wallets went into inside coat pockets or deep layered, zipper pockets in our bag, and that was about all we had to do.  We didn't see any pickpockets abounding, at least.  But, maybe that's just a summer thing.

We pulled 3000 koruna from the atm (nothing makes you feel richer than countries with a 25 to 1 exchange rate).  And set off to find our hotel.

Mala Strana, the best place to stay in Prague.  AND  I want you to know that I totally took this picture.
We got lost.

And then we found our hotel.

Then we went on an adventure to find something diverting and hopefully involving classical music.

We got lost.

And then we found out that, in Prague, there are about 1599345 different classical concerts happening every night.  We chose an oboe-featuring quartet that was playing Smetana and Dvorak.  It was in the basement of a palace and was heated--or so it prominently told me on the flyer.  'Bout had an oboe-beauty-induced heart attack there, but I recovered and we went to go find something to eat.

We got lost.

Wound up at the Grand Cafe Orient around 9pm which was magical.  It's an old flapper-era cafe with 1920's music playing in the background and at the top of an almost surrealist, wavy, oblong spiral staircase.  What better place to have pancakes and duck?  No better place I tell you.

Came to find out later that it's in a building called the "House of the Black Madonna" which is a famous example of cubist/art deco architecture.  Huh.  The things you accidentally find when you get lost in Prague.  Go for the style, not necessarily for the food, though the hot chocolate was very good.  There are other cafes that are so, so very much better if you want a culinary experience, and I'll tell you about them later.

We wandered back over the Charles Bridge around 10pm toward Mala Strana, slowly taking in the beautiful old square, old town, riverfront, and the castle on the hill.

Getting some good luck from St. Jan of Nepomuk
on Charles Bridge at night, castle in the
Old Town Square at Night

Then we got lost.

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