Friday, April 29, 2005

Bumper stickers and license plates

A few days ago (back before my vacation), I was driving along in my car and I spotted a ktru bumper sticker. My brain filed it as a kexp bumper sticker for a half-second before realizing that the two radio stations, while similar, are in two very different cities. And then I noticed that the car had Texas plates. It was all so familiar, and yet completely out of place. Everything makes sense for a while, but then you realize that you're not in Houston, you're in Seattle, and the person in that car has driven quite a ways just to throw you for a loop.

But not as far as this person did:

NY invades Dubrovnik

What are they thinking, driving all the way to Croatia, just to make me do a double-take? An F-150 is almost too big for Europe, anyway. Silly people.

Mariner 7 Day

Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the spacecraft Mariner 7's closest approach to Mars. Congratulations, Mariner 7! And to think that it's still able to comment on my blog after all this time and distance. Solar power really must be great.

Oh, and by the way, that's nineteen Martian years, not Earth years.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fruit Flies Like a Banana

Do you believe that "global warming" is going to destroy the world? Or do you believe that species "evolve"?

Here's what fruit flies have to say about it.

And yes, that was an either-or question.

Just in case you cared...

Saddam in good spirits: lawyer

Today is Saddam Hussein's 68th birthday. You can send him gifts via the U.S. military.

My legs

I got plenty of exercise while on vacation, but it was all just walking. I could (and did) eat and drink anything I felt like and I didn't gain any weight (didn't lose any, either). My last night in Venice, I had for dinner: a large slice of pizza, a can of coke, a one-scoop ice cream cone, a plate of 4-cheese gnocci, a steak, three glasses of wine, and a two-scoop ice cream cone.

But I went for a run last night (4 miles plus three times down & up a 110' flight of stairs) and oh man did I feel out of shape. Back in March (February?) I could do that route no problem (well, okay, I've never *run* up the stairs three times successfully. If I did that, I'd've gone back down for a fourth time.), but a month without running and my legs are jelly. Ugh. Not a good feeling, having to walk on some flat bits coming home.

I'll try again tonight.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Hey! I've been there!

For those of you who watched The Amazing Race last night, you probably noticed that they went to Istanbul. For those of you who didn't watch it, they went to Istanbul. It all looked very familiar to me. The walk between the airport and the metro, the metro ride itself (although they did edit-out a transfer where you have to cross a street without a stoplight), and a lot of their setup "here's Istanbul" shots.

I didn't go out to that island (had never heard of it) and I didn't see it in any of my photos of the Bosporus, so it must be a ways away from the heart of town.

But their next stop, the Galata Tower, I did visit. I didn't see a cluebox out front (-; so I went up to the top. Here's a shot of the elevator panel that Gretchen had so much trouble with. Count the buttons.

Galata Tower Elevator

Somehow she didn't realize that the way to get to the top of the tower was to press the top button. You know, the one circled in red?

But actually, the elevator doesn't go to the top. You have to climb an irregularly-shaped spiral staircase the last bit. And just to prove that I have a thing for staircases...

Galata Tower Stairs

There's a great view of the city from up top, from a very narrow balcony. I was surprised by how fast Ron&Kelly went by the other people up there. If I was one of the other visitors, I'd be afraid that they'd knock me over the edge with those huge backpacks! My little one was plenty of trouble on that balcony.

Here's somewhere that none of the teams probably visited. The restroom atop the Galata Tower:

Galata Tower Toilets

Next, one of their options was to go Yeni Cami's square to weigh people. Yeni Cami (which translates as "New Mosque" -- it's only 400 years old) is easily visible from the top of the tower, and vice versa.

Galata Bridge

I walked from Yeni Cami to Galata Tower and back, and it surely seemed a short distance compared to all the other walking I did that day. Between the two is the Galata Bridge. The top level is a major street with fishermen on the sidewalks and the bottom level is a bunch of restaurants and shops that no one was going to. There's a public restroom (50 cents) at either end.

This shot is from the middle of the bridge:

Yeni Cami

The square is a big open area of lots of concrete, full of people hurrying and pigeons milling. There were also plenty of people trying to sell things. The road off the bridge cuts the square in half (there's a pedestrian underpass), which might help explain why Gretchen and Meredith had so much trouble finding the guy with the scales. But perhaps I'm being too generous, since they were searching the market instead of the square... While I was there, no one tried to weigh me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fabergé Omelette

It's just too nice outside. Do I really have to be here at work? Can't I just hang out at a coffeeshop or something?



Pretty please?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Europe, April 2005

Day 1 - Seattle
Day 2 - Amsterdam
Day 2 - İstanbul
Day 3 - İstanbul
Day 3 - İstanbul
Day 4 - İstanbul
Day 5 - Kuşadası
Day 8 - Skala (Patmos)
Day 9 - Athina/Athens
Day 10 - Athina/Athens
Day 11 - Athina/Athens
Day 12 - Kalambaka
Day 13 - Ioannina
Day 14 - Ioannina
Day 14 - Igoumenitsa
Day 15 - Ancona
Day 16 - Split
Day 17 - Dubrovnik
Day 18 - Dubrovnik
Day 19 - Dubrovnik
Day 20 - Trieste
Day 20 - Ljubljana
Day 21 - Ljubljana
Day 22 - Venezia/Venice
Day 23 - Venezia/Venice
Day 24 - Amsterdam
Day 24 - Seattle/Siatl
Day . . . um, wait a minute. . .
Hey! I've been there!


I haven't been following baseball for the past few weeks, for reasons I'm sure you all might know. I just took a look at the standings. The M's are in last place, of course. But the Royals are really in last place. They're ten games back after only nineteen games. That's just sad.

Day ... um, wait a minute...

Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing?

I didn't go to bed until 9:30 last night, over 27 hours after getting up. But I didn't sleep soundly. Maybe my bed was too soft. I woke up several times during the night. Looked out the window and wondered why there were parked cars in Venice. Got out of bed and wondered why there was carpet on the floor (the hotels and hostels all had hard floors). What time is it? When should I get up? Very confusing last night.

But now I'm at work and it all feels like I took a long weekend.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Day 24 - Seattle/Siatl

(The second spelling is the transliteration of the Greek version, of course.)

Well, I'm home. Next vacation, I might just have to go somewhere with fewer people. I seemed to enjoy those bits of this one more. Maybe Patagonia? Next January? Where are those guide books....

Since it has now been almost 23 hours since I got out of bed this morning, I think I'll quote a few passages from my journal rather than rephrase anything.

On the ramp down to the plane in Amsterdam:

I don't know if it was because I'm travelling alone or if they didn't like me checking in only 45 minutes before the flight leaves, but they really gave me the third degree. Wanted to see my itinerary, photos. Why'd you go to Istanbul? There are no old buildings on the Greek islands, so why'd you want to go there? Business card? Where'd you graduate from? What does an architect do? Did you take any photos in Istanbul? Where did you pack your bag? What does your company specialize in? Probably the only answer he really liked was that I had no checked luggage. Why are you travelling alone? Don't you have any friends? You've worked there almost five years now and you couldn't find anybody to go with you? Loser!! Well, okay, the "loser" part he didn't say, but the rest he did. Almost to the plane now.

And from 9:30 PDT this morning, on the plane:

The guy sitting in the seat in front of me has rarely sat in his seat. He's been standing up reading the paper the whole flight, it seems. So I should've known better. After the movie ended, I walked up to the lavatory. Three men stood in the alcove, one of them our Mr. Newspaper. The guy who looked to be first in line left, I suppose to find a quicker toilet or ? So then Mr. Newspaper looked to be first in line. I noticed that the lavatory door was unlocked, but that these two guys would know if someone was in there. Othe people showed up. A middle-aged woman, a mother and child, another man. And then a ten-year-old boy. The kid walks right by all of us and opens the door, peers in, goes in, locks the door. The woman and I look at each other flabbergasted. "Aren't you guys standing in line?" I ask. The one man mutters a "yeah," but Mr. Newspaper shrugs and shakes his head No, goes back to his paper. Should've known better. Should've known better.

Last view of Venice, 3:45:

Grand Canal at Night

Me being bored on the plane:


Welcome back to Washington:


Day 24 - Amsterdam

And from that post title, those of you who've been following from the beginning will realize that I'm finally on my way home. I paid for this internet connection half with euros and half with dollars. Ooh! American money!

I got up at 3:00, left the hotel at 3:45. The first bus from Venice to the airport leaves at 4:40, arrives a bit after 5. I had a 6:15 flight and didn't want to cut it that close, so I took a cab. 35 euros, 150 kph. The check-in desks were all closed. The security gates were all closed. But I was the first one through both, darn it. Better safe than sorry. Venice has a rather small airport. Like Spokane. I could still see the front door from my gate, 100 yards away.

Slept for about a half hour on the flight. They served sandwiches for breakfast. Is that a Dutch thing? (-; It was still yesterday in Seattle at that time.

I've only taken a few photos since my last post and there's no USB port on this computer anyway.

Amsterdam has a huge airport. Venice to Amsterdam was a domestic flight. Passport-check wait in line to get to the international terminals.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Day 23 - Venezia/Venice

This morning, I decided to get out of town. Took the vaporetto (after a walk to the right dock) out to the island of Torcello. Back in the middle ages, it was a competitor of Venice and had a population around 20,000. But then plagues and Venice proved too much for the island so it declined after AD 1300 or so. Now there's only 80 locals there. A nice quiet place, if you can ignore the occasional clumps of tour groups.

Torcello bridge

The trip there stopped at the islands of Murano and Burano, homes of famous glass and lace, respectively. I had to change boats at Burano, so I got a chance to walk around for a few seconds. The houses there are quite vividly colored, unlike anything else on my trip so far.


Torcello has a nice cathedral (or at least it used to be a cathedral) with gold mosaics and "no photos." I bought two postcards. One of the Virgin and Bambino from the apse and one of the Hell portion of the Last Judgement on the back wall. The church has a campanile, too, so I climbed up the long ramp (accompanied by a few steps now and then) to the top. Here's another dizzying shot for you, this time looking up.

Torcello Campanile

The view of Venice in the distant distance was a hazy blue.

Here's a shot inside the vaporetto station on Burano. I think the ad in the background is selling clothing, oddly enough.

Burano vaporetto station

A vaporetto ride back to Venice, a walk to San Marco, and another vaporetto ride to the island of San Giorgio, and I was at a famous church designed by Palladio, San Giorgio Maggiore. Compared to the mosaics in the other churches of Venice, this church is quite austere. No wonder his contemporaries didn't like it.

San Giorgio Maggiore

I completely forgot that a certain painting I knew was at this church. Anybody recognize this one?

Last Supper

If you said Tintoretto's "Last Supper," you are spot on. It's a huge painting and a good example of chiaroscuro. (-:

And here are the ones that Flickr deleted after I uploaded them yesterday:

sotoportego in San Polo

rio in San Polo

San Marco

I woke up this morning with a mosquito bite on the bottom of my foot. If you ever visit Venice, remember to never open your hotel room's window, no matter how badly your shoes smell. This may look like a city, but it's a swamp! (-:

Friday, April 22, 2005

Day 22 - Venezia/Venice

Frustration is running high. This internet cafe has international phones and the guy right behind me is yelling in a language I don't know. I bet the person on the other end of the call is liking it even less. And Flickr just lost three pictures I uploaded and I don't feel like rescaling them and trying again if it's just gonna crash again and I'm paying 8 euros per hour for this thing.

Took the afternoon train from Ljubljana yesterday, got to my hotel at 21:00 or so. This is the only time I had a hotel room reserved. 45 euros for a toilet and shower down the hall. No tv either.

Trieste's got nothing. *Here* is what a real Grand Canal is supposed to look like:

Grand Canal

I spent the entire morning wandering town. This is a big city full of extremely narrow streets (foot traffic only). You can have a traffic jam for a hundred yards if there's one elderly person window shopping.

I have discovered that the best way to navigate is to pay attention to the sun and then stick to the "streets" that the locals use. Just keep going generally in the right direction... There are signs pointing to San Marco and such, but they often point both directions! It doesn't really matter. You'll get there in the end. Just watch out for those dead-ends onto the canals! When you see stairs, you know you found the bridge.

Many churches, none of which is as spectacular inside or out as expectations might be (after all the mosques and churches I've visited). Piazza San Marco didn't disappoint, however.

San Marco

The cathedral demands to be photographed. Notice the lack of crowds or pigeons in the photograph. I got there early. No cameras were allowed inside, which made the whole thing seem kinda pointless for me to be there. Tons (literally, no doubt!) of gold mosaics on the dome ceilings and upper walls. When they turned off the spotlights, the mosaics turned brown.


50 cents for a short gondola ride, straight across the canal. Traghettos, they're called. They're always on the far side when you get there (if they're running -- one route closed at 14:00!), but it's either wait or try to find the way to the bridge.

I bought myself a Venentian city flag (the one on the right in the photo of S Marco -- gold lion on red) and a papier-mache carnivale mask (the real thing, not a cheap knock-off). They included shipping in the cost, so I hope to see it again! But no, they seemed respectable. More style in their masks than the other shops (even the other papier-mache shops, like the one that did the masks for _Eyes Wide Shut_ (mentioned in their window)). A lot of cheap masks on the kiosks.

Took a ride on the vaporetto up the Grand Canal back to my hotel. The vaporetto works like a subway, but they're boats. Crowded just like the rest of the city.

Maybe it's the narrow streets, but Venice feels much more crowded than Istanbul or Athens. Busy day, lots of walking. My feet hurt once more. But at least there are no clouds in the sky...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Day 21 - Ljubljana

Slept in till 7 this morning. My roommate was already gone. The college kids didn't keep me up. They were partying two thick floors down. Started wandering the city. Had breakfast at a cafe that claims to be the oldest house in town (1528). The prices didn't seem too marked-up for that privlidge. They had music videos playing on the tv (silently), but different music playing on the radio. All music in English. I no longer have random songs going through my head like I did earlier in the trip when I wasn't hearing songs I knew. It mostly stopped raining during breakfast.

Dragon Bridge & St Nicholas Cathedral

The Ljubljana city flag has a dragon perched atop a castle. This is the Dragon Bridge, with two dragons guarding either end. We'll get to the castle later. That dome in the background is the cathedral. Here's the front door. There was a service in progress.

Cathedral of St Nicholas

Down (up?) the river a ways is the Triple Bridge, which was originally a single bridge and then two smaller bridges were built along either side. It connects into a large circular square (-: with another church. Lots of churches. But this one's pink.

Church of the Annunciation & Triple Bridge

The city's medieval section isn't as tight as Dubrovnik's, but it still has nice curvy streets. Lots of clothing shops. I think the only things they sell in this town are food and clothes. Between the Dragon Bridge and the Triple Bridge is a long building housing a bunch of butchers, a bunch of cheese shops, a bunch of wine shops, a bunch of bakeries, and so on, all grouped with their competitors. But here's a photo of an apartment building with a church steeple in the background.


I then climbed the hill to the Ljubljana Castle. There's layers and layers of old and new, retrofits and museum-type raised platforms. Metal stairs, wood floors, bare slabs of rock, crumbling stone walls, locked glass doors. A whole maze underneath the main square that most visitors didn't even go down into. But I eventually laid down my tolarjev and climbed the stairs of the tall tower to see the view.

tower stairs

Ljubljana Castle

Walking down the hill through the forest, the smell of wet soil, the sounds of birds chirping, and then the growing roar of cars coming through the tunnel under the castle hill, back into the city. I do believe my stomach thinks it's time for lunch. What'll it be? Pizza or a burger? (-;

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Day 20 - Ljubljana

You guys only comment if I post pictures, eh? Well, fine. I'll post some pictures.

Here's the short and straight "Canal Grande" of Trieste. Note the gray weather.

Canal Grande

That blue dome down on the right is the local Orthodox church. Here's the inside of that dome:

Chiesa di Santo Spiridione

I took the daily bus from Trieste to Ljubljana since the bus schedule actually worked in my favor this time instead of against, as had been the norm.) If I tzpe anz words odd, itćs because the y and the z are swapped, as well as some other kezs. Ićm trzing, though.=

Slovenia is rolling hills of forests and farmlands. The houses have much crisper edges than those of points south. The closer to Ljubljana we got, the more German and less Mediterranean everything seemed. Darker colors on the buildings, for one.

Still drizzly in the Slovenian capital. Everywhere so far takes credit cards, which is completely unusual for my trip. I did get $50-worth of Tolarjev out of an ATM when I finallz found one, though. What with the Seattle-like weather and the use of credit cards, I decided to stay in familiar territory and thus went to dinner at the best Mexican restaurant in town. No burritos or enchiladas on the menu.

Here's the hallway at my hostel. It's converted from a prison, apparently, but you can't really tell anymore.

Celicia Hostel

The hostel has free internet, but that involves a Linux computer that nobody had any idea of how to see the files on my camera (or any idea of where the camera was in the computer's directory, or any idea how to find the computer's directory. DIR didn't help none.)

It's still raining and there's a bunch of college kids back at the hostel. I feel old.

Day 20 - Trieste

I took the overnight bus up the coast last night. Crossed through Bosnia and Croatia and Slovenia and arrived in Italy with my passport only receiving a cursory glance. When getting into Italy, some passengers' passports were taken back to the guard station for a closer look, but not mine.

Thunderstorm last night. It finally stopped raining at 9:30, two hours after I started walking around this town. Gray skies. Too much like Seattle is said to be.

Expensive internet, slow computer. Talk to you later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Day 19 - Dubrovnik

I stayed in bed till 9 this morning. Nothing planned for the day. Wandered into the old town for breakfast. . . well, brunch. I had meat lasagne with mushrooms. The waiter repeated it back as "lasagne with meat mushrooms." On the whole, their English is excellent, but there's always little things that just ain't right. Here are three pictures taken from my seat during my meal.


Gundulićeva Poljana


More wanderings through the back streets, up many staircases which are the streets. The city was originally founded on an island, and it was called Ragusa after the rocks. Eventually, a city sprang up on the mainland, just across the channel, and it was called Dubrovnik after the trees. The channel was then filled in and paved over to become the main street in the city, and the city walls go up and around both hill towns. In the 1800's, the city was the independent Republic of Ragusa and was pretty much Venice's only trade competition in the eastern Mediterranean. But a combination of an earthquake, Ottomans, and other trade routes to the east finally brought the city under the rule of the Turks. But they didn't convert to Islam, like some of their neighbors further inland.

Hm... I wonder what I'll do this afternoon.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Day 18 - Dubrovnik

Last night, after my chicken curry at the local Chinese restaurant, I went to a pseudo-semi-Irish pub with Christina and Anne. Three times thirty is not 120. I must remember this. They had a live band playing, with different guys taking turns through the night. Piano, acoustic guitar, upright bass, drums. A Croatian version of jazz, but they called it Mediterrean pop-something. Whatever. It was good music. Apparently they play there every night. I hope they enjoy it. The hostel's curfew (the front door is locked) is at 2 a.m., so I cut out a bit ahead of the lasses (they have a hotel). On the mile-long walk back, the night was filled with lightning and thunder, but no rain. It started dumping an hour later, or so I hear.

This morning, after laundry and breakfast (yes, in that order), I toured the walls of the old town.


The slightly-lighter tiles are new ones from after the shelling during the Homeland War.

City walls

There's not really any more words that I can add that isn't summed up by those two pictures, so we'll move right along. Here are some more pictures from wandering through town. First, the cathedral as viewed from the portico of the rector's palace.

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin

And now the clock tower. Note the time is shown twice, analog and digital.

Clock Tower

And 12:40 just happens to be when I was walking past the tower to catch the 13:00 boat to the island of Lokrum, which is just offshore Dubrovnik. There's a monastery there. There's always a monastery. Besides the monastery are botanical gardens with all sorts of exotic plants that the island's owner imported in the 1800's and let grow wild.

Botanical Gardens

Lokrum has several "beaches," too, but their definition of "beach" is very loose indeed. Craggy rocks and boulders with just a few flat spots where you could lie down and not really any place where you'd want to enter the water. The nude beach was uninhabited.

Lokrum beach

I had considered leaving Dubrovnik on an 11:00 bus this morning, but I'm glad I changed my mind. This city just needed more time.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Day 17 - Dubrovnik

I took the midday bus down from Split yesterday and boy are my glasses dirty... Sorry, where was I? There's a large cable-stayed bridge outside of town on the highway in. Or rather, the highway is on the bridge. I walked back this morning to take a picture.

Dubrovnik bridge

I checked in at the hostel and then headed for the starigrad (old town). Cruise ship tour buses swarming all over outside the gate. I quite like being solo around large groups. It makes me feel superior to them, almost, like I'm a wolf and they're just sheep. Baaaa! The city walls are quite high and impressive.

Minceta Tower

The terrain around town is quite impressive too. All the way down the coast, actually, tall rocky mountains plummeted down the ocean with cliffs and crashing surf and all that good stuff. Even in the city (but outside the old town) there's a lot of cliffs and trees.


You can see the old town in the distance there, that rectangular brown blob just below the horizon. I walked there once, but have taken the bus since. Buses are quite nice when your feet hurt.

Ah, but back to the old town. Quite a bit like Diocletian's Palace in Split, Dubrovnik's old town is mostly a maze of narrow back streets (see photo) with the occasional plaza. But Dubrovnik is cleaner. In both, though, people are still living their normal lives, just like they've been doing for centuries, hanging their underwear out to dry in the street.

Dubrovnik alley

This morning, I took the ferry to the island of Mljet, to the town of Polače. From there, I took a minibus to the national park (which covers a third of the island). Some tourists (French) on the ferry didn't want to pay the 90 kuna entrance fee which included the bus ride and a boat ride to the island in the lake in the island. I think they just walked and entered the park and didn't pay anything. A couple rented bicycles. I don't think they paid the entrance fee either. But I paid without complaining, as did two Irish women. We ended up being the only three going to the little island (little: walk around it completely in ten minutes, five if you hurry). On the little island, there's a monastery (of course!).

Mljet monastery

After a half hour, the three of us hailed the boat driver from where he was hanging out by the dock and he took us across the lake to the point where it joined a smaller lake. Both lakes are saltwater, since the bigger lake is actually a bay with a narrow strait to the sea. The smaller lake is only connected to the big lake. The connection between the two is only ten feet wide, though, and the water was flowing fairly strongly from the big lake into the small lake, which seemed entirely backwards. Maybe a high tide was flowing into the big lake, which then spills over into the small lake? Dunno.

The two women and I walked around the small lake, varyingly together and separate. One of them kept staring into the water. She spotted many fish and some sea cucumbers! Other animals spotted were lizards, butterflies, and birds big and small.

Swimming Hole

It was a bit cloudy out (but still bright - thin clouds), but I deemed it was warm enough to go swimming, so I did. I dove off the white rocks into the clear blue water and scared all the fishies away. The water wasn't too cold. I could still breathe normally. But Christina and Anne didn't join me. It wasn't sunny enough for them.

We continued along, stopped for a beer at a small town, then caught the minibus back to the dock. The last bus left at four (they were waiting for us to show up, since we were the only ones, so I don't know if they'd've actually left without us) and the ferry left at five, so that meant another hour in Polače. So we had dinner. I had wild boar (apparently Mljet has about 2,000 of them critters running about) and the lasses had tuna salad. The boar was succulent, tender, juicy, and tasted more like beef than pork. Served with dumplings. More beer. The sun came out.

Wild Boar

The most difficult thing today was finding an open internet cafe! There's one right near the hostel which is open 8-17 (I got back at 18:15). There's another by the gate to the old town which was closed with no hours posted. There's one listed in Lonely Planet just a little bit up from the old town gate which says it's open 8-21, every day. It was dark and locked at 19:00. I guess today wasn't an everyday day. So I went back to the hostel and was about to give up for the day when I asked the concierge and she had info for a fourth, in the old town, which is where I am. Whew.

Last night, I went to bed at 21:30, I was so tired from my boat rides. Tonight, perhaps, I'll go out. Maybe. (And here I promised myself I wouldn't talk about the future on this journal!)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Day 16 - Split

Zdravo, Croatia!

Croatian Flag

I took the overnight ferry across the Adriatic from Ancona. But here are a couple more pictures from that Italian town:

Piazza del Plebiscito

Ancona Harbor

On the boat, a couple tables of Croatians were singing ALL NIGHT LONG which means I didn't sleep well at all. But this city is quite nice. There are maze-like streets and Roman ruins (still in use - see photo) and Italianate plazas and Americana restaurants.

Diocletian's Palace