Saturday, February 20, 2010

Forever I Love Praha

With the next travel season right around the corner, I thought I'd get out some thoughts of places from the last one. Prague, or Praha to the locals, the gritty fairy tale-esque central european capital (I mean just look at that skyline) was our first stop on the Eastern European itinerary. I was sold on the city before we even landed.

In Prague, its rich history, highly visible all over the city - gothic buildings, castles, the old Jewish Quarter, etc - is all set against a former-Communist backdrop. Newer (ie post WII, but not built yesterday) areas of the city consist of panilachs - huge Socialist housing blocks, big grey and austere. Outside the Stare Mesto - the old town, and home to 90% of the tourists - there's a lot of graffiti around, but not ugly graffiti, more like graffiti as a form of expression in the face of so much oppression. The tiled sidewalks are cracked and little plants grow through; plaster's chipped off the facades of buildings; it all feels a bit grimy in a way. Hence the "gritty fairy-tale city" moniker. I really loved it.

Melissa and Me, John Lennon Wall

And the people! Outside of the tourist scene, it's exactly what you would expect of a Central European Capital, in the endearing way. Old women wear wool in the summer, men play chess in the parks, everyone has a semi-mangy dog that isn't on a leash but just follows its owner around (even into stores!), ruddy old men have hearty laughs and will hit on you - but in an innocent, playful way, and everyone smokes.

The Charles Bridge

Prague has it all: quaint, windy cobble-stone streets and alleyways, history - new and old, with the infrastructure to prove it, cafes everywhere, quite the night life - they're home to the largest club in Central Europe, 5 stories!, and a certain fantastical feeling - like this city must be the setting for a Hans Christian Andersen story (a fairy-tale, but a bit chilling). Really you must go if you get the chance.

View From Prague Castle

So I'll leave you now with some pictures from the Czech Republic and a short exert from a journal I assiduously wrote in each and every day of our travels:

June 1, 2009
Another magical day in the fairy-tale city of Praha. The more I'm here, the more I'm swept away. Love, Love, Love. Today we spent a great deal of time in Josefov, the old Jewish quarter, amazing. The Old Jewish Cemetery, from the 14th century, is the oldest surviving in Europe, as apparently even fascist Nazi dictators are swept up by Prague. Hitler supposedly held a special place for Prague. He ordered many of the Jewish quarters in Europe's old cities destroyed but directed Praha's to remain, I'm told he wanted to make some sort of sick anti-Semitic museum from the area. Anyway, bodies from the 1300's on are buried 12 deep and headstones pile right up after one another. When the cemetery was full, they would bring in more dirt, cover the previous layer and bring the headstones up as they added another layer. Amazing.
While wandering Stare Mesto (Old Town), we happily ran into our friends from last night again. Sometime later we of course got swindled by some italian street peddler, who made profile cutouts of both Melissa and I and we felt obliged to pay his asking price - 200 kc! (about $10). Lesson Learned. Then we wandered...the beautiful Charles Bridge, the John Lennon memorial wall (which yes we added our own defacement), old synagogues and churches, winding streets, alleyways, cafes, the Dancing building, streetcars, bridges, gothic buildings, modern buildings...This city is endlessly wanderable. I'll be so sad to leave it.

Old Jewish Cemetery

Prague Castle

Random Americans (and Austrians) met along the way who become random friends while in Praha.

Old Jewish Cemetery

Me, John Lennon Memorial Wall


Banksy-esque graffiti

These pictures are from a small town outside of Prague a bit called Kutna Hora, there is this medieval Ossuary in the city, famous for displaying the bones of 80 to 200 thousand human skeletons...truly macabre. The town was infinitely charming and the country-side remarkably beautiful.

Kutna Hora

Me, new friends Frankie, Javier and Pete (long since gone), inside the Ossuary

Czech scenery

PS I write to you under semi-amusing circumstances right now. My boss is having a bit of trouble with his phone line, so the phone company made an appointment to come fix the mess today...anytime from 8am to 9pm. Meaning someone must be present when the tech people come, and yup you guessed it...that person is me, lol. But hey, I'm getting paid simply for being present, not too bad.

"Weighted Down By the River"

Hey guys, thought you might enjoy this:

Record Club: Skip Spence "Weighted Down" from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

It's Feist and Beck. Thanks for sharing Rob!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 2

Hey it's FRIDAY! I mentioned earlier I was considering participating in lent this year, and...I am. Well, week one is coming to an end (okay, it started Wednesday, so I'm actually only 2 days in, but hey...), I should probably put a countdown to Easter up somewhere on the blog, so we all can know exactly how long I have left. As you're all dying to know what I "gave up for lent," I'll tell you: for the next 38 days, I have given up not running. Does that make sense? I'm running everyday for lent. So far so good. I feel like Rocky running in my sweatpants, sweatshirt and headband.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Few Reasons to like Tuesday:

1. The Crossword:

Pretty much always do-able, no cheating required. Too bad I don't have a sinecure anymore, so this little guy has to get done on my own time.

2. Tuesday Lunch Special: Mehran Kabob Restaurant

Maybe you didn't know this about me, but I love Kabobs...all kinds. We ate them like everyday in Turkey, it's more of a twice a month thing now though, but I still looove them.

3. The fact that as my SAS computer programming class was the night before and I have a whole week before I must sit through another insanely dry and monotone 3 hour lecture again.
A side note here: SAS is not inherently boring to me, I actually quite like it and computer programming in general, I feel a sort of accomplishment knowing how to do these things. Buttttttt, the professor is quite dull and unfortunately, like many brilliant Math, Stat, Science people is for some reason unable to pass on his wisdom to people below a certain threshold of understanding, and of course there seem to be many students in the class who do not meet this level. It's really kind of funny, in a situational way, to have a student ask a teacher a question, showing the student does not grasp the base concept, and have the teacher stare blankly, apparently unable to comprehend how/why the student does not understand and then unable to explain the concept in any other way and resorting to just repeating himself. Though I should add, it's not entirely his fault for not being able to help some, as there are toooo many students in the class who really have no background in computers at all and don't understand the terminology used let alone how to implement it - they should probably require some sort of computer pre-req instead of just stat pre-reqs. Shortly, I'm pretty sure I could use the book/lecture notes and mess around on the computer and teach myself the material in half the time, but I think that's inherent to computer programming at this level.

All in all, Tuesdays generally make for a pretty good day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

So today 2010, the year of the Tiger, officially begins, according to the Chinese Zodiac at least. I've not really celebrated this event ever, but Chinatown in DC puts on a good show apparently...parades, dances, and lots of fireworks including one that's five-stories high! So needless to say, think I'm going to be celebrating this year. Five-story fire cracker! Plus I've really been craving some Chinese dumplings.

Then Monday is President's Day and what better city to appreciate American President's than DC. And of course, Tuesday is also Mardi Gras, I love this one. There are apparently some pretty fun events going on around the city to celebrate. I'm not Catholic, but I think come Ash Wednesday I'll give something up for lent.

So now starts a full week of holidays and celebrations! Yippee, hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

One Two Three...

Well I know you've all been worried sick, but I survived the storm. Just kidding. Though really, I've been stuck without internet since Friday, I currently write to you all from a conveniently located Starbucks. Anyway, I had a bit of time this weekend (being snowed in and all with nothing but books I've already read and an internet-free laptop), so since I've all but decided I will probably be attending an aforementioned music festival in California in a few months, I made a new blog header to celebrate (the picture's of the main stage).

If you want to see pictures of what the storm turned out like, I put a few on facebook, it was pretty wild (at least for a southern california native). Though, having school and work canceled for the third straight weekday is getting pretty old, but with a new storm heading in tonight who knows when everything will reopen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quick Weekend Update

Well I guess I was pretty cavalier in my request to Gaia, I don't really know the proper protocol when asking of the gods but it probably requires like a sacrifice or runestones or something, anyway they responded with a huge storm and the largest snow predictions ever for DC, 20-28 inches in like 30 hours. yeah.

It's kind of funny people's reactions here, they're going crazy, like the apocalypse is coming. The lines at the grocery store spanned front to back, shelves were literally empty, like no milk left, and of course businesses are closing for the weekend, classes have all been cancelled, even the 24/7 library on campus is closed. So I guess we're shut in for the weekend.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

First Timer

Hey Gaia, don't really want to step on any toes here, but I'd reaaallly appreciate it if you directed all the snow hammering DC this season to areas more suited for such inclement weather. See here in DC we're just not quite equipped for it, the metro stops running, businesses and libraries close hours and hours early, the street performers who play nice music downtown near the medical center I attend for classes stay home. So you can see it really isn't good for anybody. Okay, well thanks.

xo Kimberly

Well in all seriousness, I was not lead to believe while moving to DC there would be this much snow. It's crazy, but definitely beautiful, gives the city a nice glow, that is until later when the snow gets all the city grime on it and becomes very unpleasant.
You know, I learned this past summer while in Greece that Gaia is a Greek goddess, Earth personified, and wife to the heavens, aka Uranus. I had figured "mother gaia" was some sort Anglo-Saxon pagan thing, right there with the Druids and stonehenge business, cabals chanting in the woods by firelight. I like that she's Greek though, it does takes a bit of the mysticism away for me but Greek mythology is the zenith of folklore.