Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lausanne, the beautiful

Ok, so the "modern" music was just weird. There was constant drumming in a schizophrenic manner, a guy randomly playing the sax every now and then, and a very loud and obnoxious vocal recording on loop. And when I say vocal recording, I don't mean to imply that there was lyricism or a melody of any kind. I mean just noises that were vocally produced.

Today though, was pretty awesome. We started off in search of some alleged Roman ruins. We found them, and well, ruins are not that exciting. See for yourself. (Candide actually is in this picture, if you look above the right post.)

But then, we walked all along Lake Geneva, across which lie the French Alps, and it is gorgeous. See for yourself.

Also, there are swans.

Then we ate at this restaurant:

I had perch, which is locally abundant, but I didn't find it particularly flavorful. After lunch, David and Janet split off since they have real non-tourist lives to lead, and I walked around the town. There's not all that much to do here, but there's a church sort of in the middle, which is surrounded by a small Christmas market. I tried baked chestnuts for the first time, and I must say they are quite delicious. Then I went uphill forever to see the cathedral, which was cool, but honestly, the view was better than the cathedral itself, especially after you've seen other cathedrals. They all start looking the same.

Tonight we are going to a tango ball. It should be fun.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What is "Modern Art" exactly?

This journey marks my first experience on trains in Europe. It's pretty much the same. There are, however little logos for where your cell phone can be happy and awake.

I'm staying here with David and Janet, whom I know from the ballroom team back at NYU. They've got a nice little apartment that is overwhelmingly furnished by IKEA, of which I approve entirely. Too many prepositional phrases. Anyway, my first impressions are that Lausanne is very hilly and very small.

David has cooked us a very good meatball and pasta dish for dinner, and Janet's prepared a very nice salad, and I am just mooching and hoping that washing dishes is somewhat equivalent. Later tonight we're going to Les Docks to see a performance that's part of a whole week of free modern art exhibitions. This one is music, so it should be... interesting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Farewell, Prague

Roman had class again, and since I can't get back into the dorm without him, I could only leave once, and I had to take my luggage with me. I decided I wanted to finish up the Jewish Museum though, so I did just that, and the ticket checkers were nice enough to let me leave my suitcase with them at each of the sites. For lunch I had a potato cake with sausage at one of the stands in the Christmas market. It was good, but not put-hot-dogs-to-shame good. Maybe put hot-dog-buns-to-shame good.

Then, since I had nothing left to do and I had my suitcase, I left for the airport. This time, I got there 35 minutes before check-in started, so I was well in the clear. Thus ends my trip to Prague.

After getting on the plane, they play some weird yoga/spa-inspired music, and then this really creepy guy says, "Welcome aboard. Take a breath. Relax. Enjoy your flight." I'm not sure if he's trying to soothe me or lull me in a false sense of security so he can rape my children.

Upon leaving, my general impressions are as follows:

Prague is really small. If you're in a touristy area, you can walk to any other touristy area.

Tip: Don't bother buying the day pass for the metro, just buy single rides.

Prague is really low. When I got back and my train passed the Eiffel Tower, I was like, "Holy crap, that thing is tall."

Prague can also be kind of creepy. Like many cities, there is a TV tower. Like many post-Communist cities, it was constructed by the Communists. In order to de-Communize it, they added sculptures and tacked them on the sides. You might ask, "What are these sculptures of?" You probably wouldn't expect the answer to be, "Babies. Crawling vertically up and down the tower. With TVs for heads." I'm not kidding; I swear.

Besides being creepy though, Prague is really beautiful. It's a small but sprawling city of orange roofs and pretty old churches and synagogues, and come on, it has a history of defenestration. History doesn't get funnier than throwing people out of windows as part of a revolution.

Also, this is exceedingly specific, but the NYU Osadni dorm is really, really nice. The space is huge (everything - kitchen/dining room, living room, bedroom, bathroom), the kitchen is well-stocked (pots and pans, appliances, silverware, dishes, you name it), and I think there's even some kind of cleaning service. Ridiculous.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Czech me out!

That's not just me being lame; it's on a lot of T-shirts and shot glasses.

Since Roman had class, I was on my own today, but honestly, I actually prefer it that way. I find that when I follow someone around their city, I don't actually get to know it because I don't pay attention to where I'm going. Plus, I have a lot more freedom to do exactly what I want when I want at the pace I want. It's really the best way for me, personally, though I know others prefer to travel with company.

I started off at the Christmas markets for lunch, since they have some presumably traditional Czech finger foods there. First I had langoše, which is like a slice of plain cheese pizza, except it's really crispy dough, with ketchup (instead of tomato sauce) and lots of grated cheese. It was really good. Then I had klobasa, which puts American hot dogs to shame. After eating, I made my way over to the Charles Bridge, which I crossed to go see the Lennon Wall, which is incidentally across from the French Embassy. I wandered around the area for a bit, then made my way back to the Christmas market, where I got some baked apples, which is baked apple slices (obviously) with sugar and cinnamon arranged in a circle around raisins covered in rum. I then decided to stop at the Franz Kafka Cafe, where I had the "Franz Kafka" coffee, which is espresso, peppermint liquer, and whipped cream. It was good, but not as mind-blowing as the Kahlua caramocha at Coffee Heaven.

Then I checked out the Jewish Museum, since it is highly recommended by Rick Steves. When I got out of the Maisel Synagogue (the first stop), I noticed the sun was setting, so I rushed over to the Vltava (the river) and snapped some photos, before heading over to the Spanish Synagogue. I did not, however, realize that the synagogues closed at 4:30pm in the off-season, so I was unpleasantly surprised to be ushered out of the Spanish Synagogue (which is gorgeous) at that time. Alas.

I killed the rest of my time wandering around until 6pm, at which point I headed over to a bar to see NYU students perform jazz. It was actually a lot better than I expected it to be, and the lounge had a great atmosphere, so I'm very glad I went. Then the Andy from Catholic mass, some of his friends, and I went to dinner at a traditional Czech restaurant/beer hall, where I had a "Devil's Wheel" (potato cake with pork) and a cut of pork with cabbage and "dumplings" (which are really just bread-ish things). I also ordered a dark Budweiser Budvar, which was really good.

We then headed over to a karaoke bar, but there was some kind of group politics going on, so we left, and I went home.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Oh, Good Lord

Megan and I started the day off way too early, since we had to go to Catholic mass to hear our friend Andy sing. (This is a different Andy than before, not that it matters to your comprehension of the post.) This is the first time I've ever been to church, if you don't count the evensong service I attended at St. Paul's in London. Holy Mother of God, mass is long. I fell asleep. Several times. That's how long it is. Andy sang towards the end, during communion, and it was good. Afterwards, Megan and I were starving, so we went to a mall at Flora to get some food. I went to the Chinese food stand, and since I don't know any Czech, I asked the cashier in Chinese what the menu said. She stared at me and then shrugged. Luckily though, one of the chefs was actually Chinese, so he helped me out.

At this same mall, I got a Kahlua Caramocha (I think there's alcohol in everything in Prague) at Coffee Heaven, which I'm told is the Czech equivalent of Starbucks. This might actually approach the best coffee drink I've ever had. Then we parted ways, and I went to meet up with Roman again. This time, he took me on an excessively long walk to the world's largest equestrian statue (from which there is also a good view, but perhaps not worth the trouble). We then walked excessively much to get back to Old Town, where I looked around the Christmas market and took a trek through the Jewish Quarter. We also stopped at Bohemia Bagel again for some mulled wine, and I got a slice of Bailey's Double-Chocolate Cheesecake. At the Christmas market, I also had trdelnik, which is like a hollow cuff-looking thing of dough covered in sugar and cinnamon. Excellent.

Then we went home because Roman had some work to do, and I also had to begin/write/finish my art history paper, which was due the next morning. I procrastinate internationally.