September 25, 2006

In the rain no less...

Last night I finally took the opportunity to drive in Rio de Janeiro traffic. Now, if you think this is a small thing, it's not. I'm used to big city traffic and it's random drivers, but traffic here is on a whole different level. Motorbike delivery guys weave in and out of traffic with little regard for their personal safety. A hole now is fair game since it might be closed in a blink of an eye. Buses and cars drive down the road with little notice of the lane dividers. Simply squeezing in to the lane with the widest aperture. (Or lanes if that is more appropriate.)

Not only did I drive into this traffic, I did it driving a car I've never driven, a manual stick, at night and in the RAIN. WooHoo to me. Passengers and cargo delivered safely to their destination. This despite the fact that unlike the US, there are all manner of cars with extremely dim or even no headlights, manpowered carts moving against traffic, and even a bus coming at me in my lane. Wowsa, gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. Wanna go for a ride?

Half a million words?

OK, I finally got time to figure out how to put the links to the pix here. Click on the picture or click here to see the galleries. There are 4 different galleries comprised of nearly 500 images. Many are not typical travel photos, but I'm not your typical traveler either. Feel free to post comments on individual images or leave a comment here.

September 22, 2006

3 Days

In the last three days, I've hit three continents. Basically, that means I've covered almost half the known world. (As if we are still in the wooden ship explorer days. lol) Actually, we know very little about 3/4 of the earth because it's covered with water. But, that's a story for another day.

So, when last we spoke, I was in Prague. I'll try to post the pix links to my photos tomorrow. In the meantime, just a quick post.

In the world in which we live, we can hop on a plane and in a night, we can be in another continent. As I alluded above, in the last three days, I've done that twice. I've hopped from Europe to North America to South America.

For the first time ever, I had an airline lose my luggage. Normally, this would just be an annoyance, however, with the new travel restrictions on toiletries, I'm caught out with nothing to groom with. Not good. Not good at all.

When I logged into Blogger to type this post, everything showed up in Portuguese. Gotta love technology. I can fly halfway around the world and still post here, but it's funny to me that the computer interprets not for the user, but for the place the user is.

I define vacations two ways. There are trips where you go and do and see things and there are vacations where you rest and recuperate. This time, I've combined the two. I tripped for two weeks in the Habsburg Empire and seen and experienced things I couldn't imagine and now I'm taking time to rest. The beaches of Rio and Buzios await.

I may post periodically, but don't expect daily tales of the sand.

September 18, 2006

Random thoughts

I just saw an apparent homeless man digging in a trash bin in the square for something worth taking. Shaking his head in in disgust, he turned to walk away. My eye was drawn to the logo on his pants. Amani. The best dressed homeless man ever? lol I doubt the guy has seen a shower in a month or a razor in 3. I wondered where he acquired Armani pants.


I can physically feel the caffiene leech into my body. Two weeks of constant travel, strange foods and the stresses that go with them have taken their toll on my body. I've lost weight as per usual when I travel. The veins in my hands stick out like a root at the base of an old tree, bringing life to my cells and transporting away all the garbage my cells no longer require. My hip joints ache from the non-stop walking; cold starts after meals. I'm constantly hitching up my pants as they slide down my hips as I walk. I long for familiar things. I also foresee more changes in my future. I can't be satisfied by resting on the status quo. Perhaps I should reread 'Who Moved My Cheese?'.


It was very hard to leave the hotel today. Once outside, a smile rose and I was happy to be outside in the sun. Moving, doing, seeing. The visual stimuli almost overwhelming my processor.

September 17, 2006

A time revisited

I tried very hard to get off the beaten tourist routes (not that you can really get away it seems) and see a bit of Prague outside the crowds and excitement. This led me to Strana park. Picture a park set on the side of a really steep hill. South of the castle district, you can see the grassy area below the point of the tower that looks like a mini eiffel tower, but shaped a little different. I didn't climb to the tower through the park my legs and feet were simply too tired and too sore to attempt the journey.

I have to say that venturing away from the tourist areas isn't exactly bleak, but you are quickly lost in an array of signage that is niether appealing or understandable. Gone are the english translations on the windows and increasing feelings of tresspassing are probably not just part of my imagination here. I do not feel welcome in many of the places I walked.

One highlight of the day had to be going into a puppet shop and having a woman teach me how to manipulate a marionette. This is something I've never attempted before and I left with a cheesy grin on my face. The two I liked were very expensive though. $200 and $450. I didn't try to haggle. Somehow it would have lessened my experience. I thanked her for her time and made my exit. I'd love to buy one of these to put in my office, but i don't know where I'd put it, nor is it really me to by handmade craft type items. Give me chic, shiney and new, and I'm a little more apt to buy in to the concept. But, it was nice to feel that childlike delight even if for a few brief moments.

September 16, 2006

Ride 'em cowboy

I've never seen so many tourists in my life. Even in Paris there are not this many tourists. Perhaps Venice could rival for total number, but I doubt it.

As I watched the sun set behind the castle tonight, I agonized that the sun would never set on Prague. It's a Monet scene for certain. The Sky is partly cloudy and the light from behind the clouds mankes many shades of gray and blue that blend in fantastic harmony. While I waited, I opted to retrace my steps to a wine bar that I saw. Entering, I have to wonder. I'm the only client. "Are you open?" "Yes," comes the reply. He advertises over a 150 wines available by the glass and i s reluctant to open a new bottle, but reasserts several times that he will. We settle on a bordeaux from the St. Emillion region. A glass of that and a bottle of water and he leaves me to my thoughts about the day.

I'm waiting for total darkness to fall so I can shoot some pictures of Prague by night. Soft music plays in the background, a counterpoint to the wild racing of my mind as I relive the 10 hours of walking I've done today. Up the hills to the castle and down. My muscles stiffen as I rest. I've never seen so much in one day in any of my travels. I feel as though I haven't covered but one percent of this city of two million people. I enjoy the respite of being the only customer in this little wine bar.

The mix of architecture here is really amazing. From the 'castle' to the gothic churches and other styles I can only guess at the names for. There is at least as much crystal for sale here as there is glass in Vencie, probably more.

I road the tram service earlier today but was leery of making changes and trying to get on the right metro train. However, I managed the feat and managed to get myself dropped directly in front of my hotel about an hour before metro service ends. The streets are quiet and I have immense satisfaction of an adventure completed. Well, at least for today. Tomorrow is a whole 'nother day.

September 14, 2006


As the train rolls through the Czech Republic countryside, I'm reminded of home. The fields and streams we pass by could be nearly anywhere in the US. THe only difference is the stark architecture and lack of upkeep on buildings we pass. It's as though once built, no one ever took any initiative to keep them in like new condition. Ohe huge exception is the train station and buildings that surround it in Hohenau. There is no graffiti here whatsoever. NONE. I haven't seen a train station in Europe that isn't virtually tagged over in multi color riots of civil disobedience. The walls don't appear to be freshly painted, but rather that the residents of Honehau take great pride in their city and it's first impression.

Earlier, I saw forests of tall thin evergreen style trees with only green at the very top. Bordering the edge of the forest were giant Birch trees. A beautiful contrast of white and black over brown and green. I wanted to go walking in them and hear the birds chirp and the rustle of other creatures in the underbrush. And then I was gone at a 160 KPH.

As we pull into the station at Prague, I'm one of the last off the train. A mistake. It's past 8 pm and dark. The smell of gunpowder and it's smoke fill the air. THe gray mist of smoke lingers over the silent concrete. The few passengers remaining hurry towards the stairwells leading to the exits. A dirty man with thin creepy eyes watches me hurry past. Into the lower level, I follow the signs to the exit where I hope there will be a taxi.

There is and I hire the driver to take me to the hotel. He shows me on paper how much and I know I'm being gouged already. Price agreed, my bag goes in the boot and we are off careening into the cityscape. Gone are the Mercedes taxies and smooth driving of the Vienna cabs. I wonder if I'd insult the driver by putting on a seatbelt.

He jabbers into the phone in an incomprehensible language into a cell phone and for the first time in a very long time, I experience a surge of fear. We are outside the normal looking city and we cruise by a video store hawking sex videos. The denizens of this area look very capable of slitting my throat and leaving me on the side of the road as they stroll off with my bit of luggage.

I ease the lock on my side of the car into the down position should one of them desire to try at me. I wonder not so nicely if the driver is going to abandon me in the middle of nowhere with a set of thugs to strip of my cash and credit cards.

Eventually, the buildings appear a little nicer and I see two women crossing a street together. Evidently a better neighborhood. I breath a huge sigh of relief when I see the neon lights shining the name of my hotel. A tiny grail found.

September 12, 2006


Watching a young man juggle in a square, I'm reminded that we can teach ourselves anything with determination and practice. I recall as a young teenager teaching myself to use nun-chucks. FOr what reason I forget, probably one too many ninja and Bruce Lee movies. I recall the many varied colors of purle, black and blue marks my long sessions with the wood and chains left behind on my skin. I also recall the sharp pains that accompanied each contact with wood and flesh. I remember the exhuberation I experienced when I could swing the chucks freely around my body and limbs without holding them securely and they didn't fly intot he air, but stayed on the intended path for another revolution or transfer to my other hand. I also mastered the long chain variety with short wooden handles. The mastery was a game. You learn each trick and slowly add more and more nuance to the effort.

Ease is accomplished through practice. Mastery of no thing comes immediately. I eventually moved on from martial arts to more socially acceptable forms of physical showmanship. Hacky sack. Even after practicing for hours, I never truely mastered that tiny leather ball, but I still have it. Every once in awhile, I come across it in a box. Invariably, I pick it up and the texture on my skin transports me back to one of my memories of hacking (this was pre internet you know). Then I'll toss it back into the box with a variety of other small things I've collected over the years that have little use other than to make me think of the past and how far I've traveled. As I watch the young man strive to keep 7 balls in the air at one time, I smile as I consider where he'll be in 10 years.

September 11, 2006

A managerie

More sophisticated than I imagined. At first appearance, the city is unkept and shabby. Hard to make generalizations about a place when I've been here for less than six hours. I had two children come up to me begging for money in the street. Dirty little urchins. While I feel for them and whatever circumstance leads to them asking for money on the street, I remember that pickpockets often use small children to distract the mark while the pickpocket plies his trade. I waved away one only to be pursued by the other, I waved him off to the laughter of the other boy. Obviously, there is some sport involved on their part. I always wonder if panhandlers achieve any kind of satisfaction from their 'work'. I hope never to be in that position. I think I show too much drive for to end up that way, but nothing is beyond imagination. 'Pride goes before a fall.' It's an old saying and it's in the back of my mind always.


What causes memory? Dramatic moments? Some chemical that ocurred deep inside our brain? Often times smell or even sound can trigger memories from our past. For some, these memories can be horrific. Other times, we get pleasant sensations that go with a particular smell. I'm pretty sure I've written about this before, but can't recall where it went or why.


I've often said I'd love to hook a recording device to my brain for two hours. 'I'd never have to work again.' I could spend the rest of my life selling the visions I have in those two hours. I wonder how they would differ if the scent in the room changed every minute? In reality, I would spend the rest of my life selling bits and piecesof those two hours to artisans and craftsmen and engineers to create my dreams. Perhaps this is what Philip Starck does. He sells his visions in near real time. He claims to hate everything he's created. Perhaps if he actually created his products with his own hands that thought would change. Then again. I doubt it would. He loaths his own work- how important is it to control that which you create?

Many famous photographers are known to rely on assistants to create the final prints from what the film captured. Does the assistant who did the production or the original visionary own the final product? I'm not talking about copyright or license, but in real terms, whose work is it? Many times, these assistants create superior prints to the original creator, but I got A's in photography in college for my eye, not my technical ability in a dark room. A friend of mine got C's and his prints were technically perfect. I always felt sorry that he didn't have the eye to take the right photos. I'm not bragging. It's not like I turned out to be a famous photographer or anything.

September 10, 2006

Ugly American part deux

Funniest thing I heard this morning as I was perusing the cereal/grain selections at breakfast (a buffet style affair). Husband to wife: Is the milk skim? Wife: No. (pause for effect) Disgusting.

I almost laughed out loud. Just another example of the Ugly American in action. Heaven forbid they don't have 2% AND skim milk in a foriegn country. Before you cry 'those who live in glass houses shall not cast stones' let me say that before I heard her say that, I was feeling a bit of it myself. The scrambled eggs were kind of greenish gray yellow and full of some kind of oil. The bacon however was perfect. I'll take a pound. lol No, I didn't, but I thought about it. Basically, if you've never eaten breakfast in Europe, most serve a mix of continental and american buffet. Yogurt, fruit, mixed breads/tarts, hard boiled eggs, cereal that doesn't look like anything but health food, cheese, and cold meats. (Yes, I'd LOVE to have a sandwich for breakfast!)

I was delighted yesterday to get my laundry back. Last time I traveled, I had a batch of clothes ruined at a hotel. This time, not are the clothes nice and clean, but soooooft. Oh, and did I mention they came back encased in plastic bags. Like clothes are when they are new before they get put on the shelf. Little envelope bags. Awwww... how thoughtful of the hotel. Now, I know which clothes are clean without the smell test. Awesome.

September 09, 2006

I'll take at least two

Wandering the castle district/tourist haven. Of course I couldn't come to Budapest without visiting here. Lots of tourists, but so far I've not seen any from the US. My tiny caffiene addiction is screaming for it's fix. Hopefully, I am feeling it in time to squelch this headache early. The cokes here are super tiny. .2L I have to give Coke huge props for all the old style glass bottles. I guess I'm dating myself, but I have great nostalgic memories of Coke in hour glass shaped bottles that were really glass.

I'm sorely tempted to take pictures of the tourists taking pictures. Not sure why, but for some reason this strikes me as funny. (btw - as I type this it's not, so no need to chuckle or smile on that one. Save yourself for later.)

The Rain has finally stopped (note - in more than 12 weeks of travel in the last few years, this is the first time I've been rained on.) but it is very wet in the air. I can can even see a spot of blue in the sky. Perhaps the day is improving. I look at the most expensive umbrella I've ever owned and have to chuckle because I'm sure the cost is higher today simply because it's raining. Who would know, have you ever bought an umbrella on a sunny day? Didn't think so.


I feel like I walk all the way to Timbuktu today. I know I didn't, but the walking I did was significant. My calves ached earlier and I suspect they will ache later. Small price to pay for the sites I saw today. It's hard to describe the scale of the castle district. Especially when seen from the river level when you just came down from the top. How builders managed to create the structures they did centuries ago in the locations they did? The size and speed of the Danube makes me wonder how it was ever bridged. Something to read about when I get home.

Design here varies from over designed elegant pieces to nearly hand drawn. Script and serif faces make up a good portion of the logos I've seen. I am surprised by the quality of design I see here. Much better than a lot of the design I've seen in Europe. I think Amsterdam tops the list, but I love some of what I see here. The san serif logos and layouts are bau haus influenced without being cheap copies of the movement.

Hungarian goulash soup... Where has this been all my life? OMG. Think of a beef stew without the heavy beef taste and thickness. Add the spicy paprika (fresh ground and moist) "Be careful," the waitress said. "A little goes a long way." I think I used about a tiny sugar spoonful. This isn't cayenne pepper, but my nose is on the verge of running. The delightful warmth and flavor of the spice in my mouth is spectacular. This is a spice I could easily over indulge in without thinking.

September 08, 2006

I notice

Once again, the lack of tourists pleases me. I realize that I'm one myself. But, for some reason I don't like to be reminded of it. Also, I see so many rude tourists in my travels. I don't understand their attitudes of the mindsets that go with them. It's also the fact that I love being off the beaten path.

Younger, attractive Budapest women have developed an art form for diplaying the lace and color of their lingerie. Also, for exposing bits of skin that at home I would find tacky or skanky. Here, it's sexy and womanly. I'd say sensual, but that is not what it is. More of an open statement of sexuality without being sexual. I wish I could have taken a picture of one woman I saw today in a white dress. Semi-transparent cotton around the waist and upper hip area, her white thong and upper cheeks were clearly discernable from a few feet away. Again, more sexy than trashy as it would have looked at home.

Today, I spent some time on Margaret Island. A vast park in the middle of the fast flowing Danube. Complete with roads, trails, amphitheaters, and places to grab a quick bit, a refreshing drink or even a bottle of wine. Bikes, quad bikes and even golf carts are available to rent if your feet and legs are unable to carry you all the way to the far edge of the park/island. A fountain synced to music was an interesting feature of the near edge of the park. Not quite the fountain at the Belagio in Vegas, but not nearly so ostentatious either.

September 07, 2006

A night out

Last night, I stumbled upon a wonderful street for open air cafes and a meandering park in between where you would expect the actual street. Despite not knowing the language at all, I managed just fine. To my surprise, every third person was not a tourist. In fact, I don't think I saw one all evening. I've noted before that regardless of language, crowds of people all create a similar symphony of sound. The weather was near perfect for sitting outside. Just the lightest of breezes blowing to keep the air fresh.

Couples and small groups of friends walk the paths. THe fashion here is distinctly different than other places I've been, yet not so differenet to make it stand out. Overall, I'd call it functional. Comfortable, not utilitarian. Few bright colors, but not depressingly drab either. Any preconditioned notions I had about Budapest or it's people have been formed over.

The city is clean if a bit old and crumbling in spots. The people appear to have a zest for life that shows through with constant smiles. People are friendly and like other Euro countries, they are active physically. Jewelry is not common overall. Most of what I've seen is simple and not precious metal or jewels. While I don't see much obesity, neither are the people Prada thin overall. Think solid genetics rather than the thin waif look so prevelant in Italy and even Paris.

September 05, 2006

People watching

As I sit in the airport waiting to board, I don't contemplate the TSA requirements or the lines that I neatly bypassed. Or the long walk to the terminal I'm sitting in. I contemplate the passengers around me. SO many fashion choices that are unfamiliar and accents I don't recognize. I love looking at people at the airport. Such a better hodgepodge than anywhere else you can go.

The man across from me is wearing cap toe brown shoes that have rubber soles, jeans of some kind and a white/ecru T-shirt that probably cost around $50. He has an expensive thin watch, wedding band rimless glasses I'm used to seeing at board tables. His bag is a leather Samsonite. (Why does that name project images of 70's ads of chimpanzees jumping up and down on cheap looking luggage?)He's reading Captial magazine (even though his shoes point out that he has none.)

I'm not bragging, I'm not very well dressed. I'm dressed incredibly comfortable though. Cargo pants, cheap black T, and Sketchers. I don't even have a current Nano-Pod like the old hipster across the way that has his manual out and is deserately trying to figure out how to listen to his Wayne Newton download.

Perhaps you've guessed it. Yes, I'm about to embark on another adventure. I'm calm, relaxed and more than a little excited at the prospect of new things to see and places to go. The next 10-12 hours will be the worst part of the trip. The flight. I wish I could sleep on a plane. I've tried staying up for 72 hours before flying. Getting a load of liqour in my system, sleeping pills, etc... nothing works. Even if I do manage a short sleep, I awake with a fried nervous system. Jittery and prone to internal rages that would make a sailor weep with the nasty verbiage. lol

I feel calm for the first time in a very long while right now. I don't know what is about to happen and I am not trying to project it. I'm just going to let it happen as it does. I will not stress, I will not worry, I will just enjoy. Welcome to the adventure. Hang on, it's going to be a lovely ride.

September 03, 2006

Sunday dinner