Europe 2010

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 Wien.

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 exhibit Children’s 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 ever after.

Praha, Friday, October 15, 2010

The chocolate store Viva Praha, since renamed Chocotopia, has a chocolate museum that is pretty decent. It includes a demonstration of how they make some chocolates.

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

There Carrousel 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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© Copyright 2012 by Eric Postpischil.