16 June 2010

Been a long time.

Sorry for that. I was in Europe for 6 weeks, and I didn't have much interest in updating. I have 3 book reviews, a manga review, and some exciting news about RetroSpec to post in the next few days. For now, I'll just post a wrap-up of my trip.

May 2-28: Berlin, Germany. I took a class at the Goethe Institute. Even after many years of disuse, my German is good enough to land me in the highest-level class, where we spent most of the time talking about stuff and going over finer points of German grammar and learning new idioms and the like. There were about a dozen of us.

I still love Berlin, and if it were possible or practical at all to move there, I would. Even if the weather was terrible the whole month.

May 29-June 5: Vienna, Austria. I've always wanted to visit Vienna, and now I have. I took an overnight train from Berlin, and Ben met me there. It was the start of our 10th anniversary trip. The weather was pretty bad then, too. Coldish and rainy.

Vienna is more elegant than Berlin, and a lot more expensive. It's also a more "finished" city, I guess you could say. It's got all these grand buildings, and it's home to tons of culture and art and music and the like. We could have seen a different Mozart concert every night, if we'd had the money. (We saw a performance of the Requiem in the Karlskirche, by a group using instruments from Mozart's time and balance and seating charts from the time. It was really cool.)

We took a day trip out to Carnuntum, which is the site of a Roman border fortress-town. They've rebuilt two villas and are working on the baths. One they rebuilt using Roman-era techniques and replica tools, including firing the bricks in an earthen kiln. That was sweet.

June 5-7: Bratislava, Slovakia. Bratislava is pretty cheap, and there's not much else going for it. They've got a big monument on a hill with a bunch of Soviet graves, dedicated to the soldiers who kept the Nazis out of Western Slovakia in 1944 or 45, which has a great view of the city. Bratislava Castle is uninspiring, but Devin Castle, a 20-minute city bus ride away, is really awesome. The hill has been inhabited since about 950, by Romans, Moravians, Slovaks, and even (briefly) the Habsburgs. There's a good bit of archaeology there, too.

June 7-13: Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is so inexpensive! We could eat a modestly expensive meal for $35 total. It's also a very pretty city, but less finished. That's probably the remnants of communism. There was a lot of reconstruction going on.

Szechenyi Baths are amazing. So, Budapest has a bathing/spa culture, which may be a remnant of its 140-year Ottoman occupation. They've also got hot springs, so they've got a good location. Szechenyi Baths have both thermal spas and swimming pools, and your admission fee covers both. (All-day admission to this palace of bathing costs 3100 forint, or about $13.50 at today's exchange.) It's rather literally a palace, with frescoes, marble columns, and statuary. Bath temperatures range from 20C to 40C. I spent most of my time in the 36, 38, or 40C baths, then we went outside to the swimming pool for a bit, which was also amazing. (The gallery shows mostly swimming pool photos, and none of the spas.)

My favorite thing was watching the USA/ENG world cup match on a giant screen in Szabadsag Ter with a thousand or so people. I haven't been ble to watch any more games since then, because I don't get ESPN, and ESPN360 is blocked on my ISP. But a friend told me that Univision is streaming all the games online, so I'm going to go switch computers and watch me some futbol. This one can't handle it.

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