I was too busy to write about my 2010 trip to Europe at the time, but here are
a few notes. I have photographs from the trip but have not organized them for
presentation on the web.
Wien, Saturday, October 9, 2010
Continuing a pattern, I was asked for directions less than 40 minutes after I
arrived in the country, even before leaving the airport grounds.
My German was sufficient to check in and respond to a maid in the hallway
without resorting to English. I am nowhere near proficient, but I can get by,
and I am recognizing more words automatically. I heard “Aufsteigen
links” and looked left before thinking of the English word “left.”
I photographed some buildings where my father, grandfather, and
great-grandparents lived or had stores.
Wien, Sunday, October 10, 2010
I visited the Prater, rode the Wiener Riesenrad, and took a walking tour of
In the evening, I met Stefan and Martin Postpischil. My brother had located
them and wondered whether they were relatives. When I met them, Martin
(Stefan’s father) told me his grandmother, Hermine, had two brothers who were
killed in World War II, but he did not know their names. We knew our
grandfather Emmerich and his brother Maximilian were killed in World War II and
had a sister, but we did not know her name. So there is a fit, but no
documentation. (Months later, a genealogist found records confirming that
Hermine, Emmerich, and Maximilian were siblings.)
Wien, Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I visited Martin. He lives in the remaining tower of a castle destroyed by the
Turkish army in 1683. The castle ruins are in the back yard, with the empty
moat in the front. Nearby is a tunnel about seven kilometers through the
mountain to the next castle.
Praha, Wednesday, October 13, 2010
To get to Praha (Prague), I had to change trains in Breclav. There, the printed
chart showed the train to Praha on one track. The electronic display showed the
train on another track. And the audio announcement gave a third choice.
Fortunately, I saw an actual physical train labeled with my train number and
“Praha hl.n.”, so I got on that.
I lucked out with a large hotel room. I think it must serve as a dormitory at
times, because it had four small beds.
Many people in Praha speak English, and very well. It is more common and better
than other officially non-English-speaking cities I have been too. (As I
discovered over the next few days, Praha is very tourist oriented.)
Praha, Thursday, October 14, 2010
In the morning, I went to the Pinkas Synagogue for the
Drawings from Terezín. These are drawings made by children, many around
11-13 years old, who were held in Terezín
during World War II. Various drawings show where the children lived previously,
where they were living then, armed guards, where the children wanted to be, and
visions of returning home. Many of the drawings are labeled with the artist’s
dates of birth, transport to an extermination camp, and death.
I had lunch at Country Life, which is
a vegetarian buffet-style cafeteria priced by weight, very much like
Country Life in Keene, New
Hampshire. I was also surprised to see a branch of my former bank, Landesbank
Baden-Württemberg, in Praha. That is a bit like seeing the Bank of New
Hampshire in Paris.
I took a walking tour of the city. On the Charles Bridge, the tour guide talked
about two plaques accompanying one of the statues. One of the plaques shows a
priest who was tortured and thrown into the river for refusing to tell the king
what the queen had confessed to the priest. The priest is shiny because people
rub the plaque, either to keep a secret from coming out or to benefit from the
priest’s endurance. The other plaque depicts a soldier and a dog, and the dog
is shiny. According to the tour guide, the dog is shiny because college
students came out one night and polished it, resulting in tourists rubbing it
Praha, Friday, October 15, 2010
The chocolate store Viva
Praha has a
that is pretty decent. It includes a demonstration of how they make some
I took another walking tour, this one entitled Underground Prague. It
starts under city hall, where there are old houses and paths. During the tour,
I learned that Praha’s “New Town” was built around 1400.
Stalls were set up in a public square and were selling food. I tried a
lángos, a Hungarian fried dough. I thought the menu offered ketchup or
cheese or garlic, but it was ketchup and cheese and garlic.
Ulm, Monday, October 18, 2010
I visisted my former German teacher, who spoke German to me for three hours,
straining my ability. She and her husband invited me to use “du”, so now I have
to brush up my tenses and declensions.
There have been a few changes in Ulm. A few sparrow sculptures disappeared or
moved, and one was repainted. Some stores closed, but there is now an Apple
reseller in town, and two more US companies opened stores in the mall (Game
Stop and Foot Locker). The place at the mall that had Schupfnudeln is
gone. That is not a great loss, since it was not the best, but now the only
places I know of to get Schupfnudeln are carnivals and Legoland.
Essen, Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Arko, a chocolate store, opened in Essen. I think I am seeing more chocolates
stores in Germany than before. Is Germany coming around, chocolate-wise? If the
trend continues, I will call it the Cacao Renaissance.
Essen, Thursday, October 21, 2010
Although I planned to meet an acquaintance on Friday, I had traveled to Europe
alone. So, when I was surveying the booths just after Essen Spiel Tage opened,
I was surprised to hear somebody call my name. It was Brett, a gamer from
Silicon Valley, who was there with a vendor, Ted.
Essen is crowded this year, even on Thursday.
Essen, Friday, October 22, 2010
I met Holger, whom I know from Apple business, and his friends Gunther,
Andreas, Mirko, and Kristin. We were able to see everything we wanted at Essen
Spiel Tage but had limited opportunities to play, due to the crowding. I think
going to future Essen Spiel Tage will require more planning. Perhaps going with
a group, buying a pool of sample games, and playing somewhere else, like our
hotel. Then people who like the games can go back to buy their own copies.
Essen, Saturday, October 23, 2010
I took a tour of the mine in Essen. Twelve of the fourteen people in the tour
group were native German speakers apparently taking the tour in English for
practice. The tour discussed the history of the mine and how coal was
processed, in the above-ground buildings. There was no discussion of the actual
mining and no visit underground. The tour of the salt mine in Wieliczka, near
Kraków, was better.
Paris, Monday, October 26, 2010
du Louvre is very fancy. The Apple Store offers the MacBook Pro in “13
pouces” and “15 pouces” versions. The McDonald’s is quite elegant.
And you should visit the restroom, Point WC, to see the artistically arranged
colored toilet paper, and the wide variety of colored and decorated toilet
papers for purchase.
Rats, posters in the Metro are advertising
Salon du Chocolat, starting just
after my flight home.
In Paris, I happened across the Choco-Story museum. It is the same museum as
the one in Praha! It has the same signs, the same film about harvesting cacao,
and the same chocolate-making demonstration. Apparently the Van Belle family
opened three. (The first is in Bruges.)
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