Saturday, October 31, 2009

Don't Forget

Today is the final day to enter in my Thank You for Being My Follower Contest. If you haven’t yet entered the contest, check out this post for details. I will be announcing the winner on Monday.

Good luck and thanks again!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Saturday Escapes

This week’s Saturday Escape is the reason I am now incapable of watching movies at the theatre and why I have my computer within reaching distance whenever I watch television. IMDB is one of the single greatest websites on the Internet bar none. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a day or two at a time without looking something up on this site and marveling at incredible information to be found in this one place.

The Internet Movie Database is the answer to every question you have ever had about that guy who was run over in the opening sequence of your favourite movie or show. From, “Isn’t that the guy from Eight is Enough?” to, “This actress is really talented. I wonder what else she’s been in.” IMDB knows why the folks at Police Academy seem to be defending the city of Toronto when they claim to be in the States and that there are 43 churches in Sunnydale where Buffy Summers lives. Whoever came up with the idea for the Internet Movie Database needs a Nobel Prize or knighthood or something to acknowledge the brilliance of this time sucking website.

I took today’s photo in February of 2005 during a brief trip to Scotland. The Wallace Monument is at the top of a long and winding hill. This Mel Gibson, Braveheart eyesore statue sits at the base of that hill and isn’t very popular with the locals. To be fair, the torturous walk up that hill, fighting the brisk Scottish winds wasn’t very popular with me either.

IMDB is this week’s Saturday Escape.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I’m afraid that today’s post will take the form of a slight rant. You see, I just finished watching yet another sitcom where the main conflict between the main characters was someone forgetting a birthday or anniversary. That person then had to figure out why their Significant Other was mad, apologize, and then spend the rest of the program making up for their “mistake.” When I told my friend Adelpha how stupid I found this set up, she said I couldn’t possibly understand since Hubby had never done anything as lame brained as forget an important holiday.

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I don’t star in a situation comedy with lame recycled scripts because I have learned to nag with subtlety and unwavering persistence. My husband has never forgotten our anniversary because I start talking about it months before it rolls around. My birthday is a holiday worth celebrating in style so I give Hubby gift ideas dozens of weeks in advance. (He usually ignores these hints but that doesn’t stop me from sending links to important online shopping sites.) I also have a calendar with all of our important dates written in bright indelible ink, hung in a prominent place in our kitchen.

Men need reminders to go to the supermarket on the way home to pick up ingredients for dinner. They need to be nagged about putting the toilet seat down and replacing toilet paper on the roll. What made you think they would remember something as simple as the day their lives changed for the better? (That would be your wedding anniversary, for the singles out there.)

The lesson here is if our man forgets your special day, don’t get mad at him, yell at yourself! Why didn’t you remind him? Why didn’t you present him with a selection of restaurants to take you to celebrate your big day? He loves you but chances are he’s more concerned with football scores to worry about something as “unimportant” as the day his beloved came into this world. So nudge him! He’ll appreciate it later when he’s not the main character in next week’s episode of Lame Sitcom’s R Us.

Sorry for the rant, folks but it’s just my humble opinion.

It’s Almost Time

The contest with the longest name in the history of blogs is about to close. If you haven’t already entered the Thank You for Being My Follower Contest, go read this post and find out how you can win a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

Thanks for being awesome readers and good luck in the contest!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All Good Things

Here are a few photos of the weird and wacky things we saw in Europe during late June and early July of 2009.

In Vienna this guy was busy trying to feed his little robot family.

I knew that Ontario’s Highway 11 was the longest street in the world but I didn’t know it went all the way to Hungary!

Krakow: Can you imagine trying to buy a hat for this guy?

When I rule the world the guy who invented pirogues will be honored like a king!

Is it just me or does this “Man at Work” in Bratislava seem to be taking an awfully long break?

The Last Stop

By the time we arrived in Bratislava, the slight sniffle I developed on our way to Krakow had turned into a full-blown cold and desire to be in my own bed. Much of the inspiration for this vacation came from the movie Eurotrip, so despite a cough that had people thinking I was a crack addict, I was incredibly excited to visit Bratislava. I knew it wouldn’t really be like the punch line of a city in the movie but for us it would be the culmination of three weeks of movie quotes and jokes.

The drive there officially made Slovakia the most castle-rific country in Europe. I seriously lost count of the number of castles and castle ruins we spotted between the small town we stayed the previous night and Bratislava. I’d hate to be the only loser on the block in the olden days who couldn’t afford a castle in this country.

Bratislava naturally came equipped with its own castle situated near the pedestrian mall where we spent much of the little time we had in town. We wandered in and out of chemist shops in search of medicine to stop my cough and through touristy shops looking for cheesy fridge magnets.

As our time in Bratislava drew to a close, so too did our European adventure. We had had a fabulous time wandering the roads and cities and cultures of eight countries. I realize that we didn’t make more than a dent into truly discovering any of the places we visited. Nonetheless, in most places we tried to discover local haunts and try local delicacies, and made an effort to at least peripherally visit the cities in which we stayed.

Our European adventure definitely ranks as one of our best trips ever. Sure, we fought along the way, got lost along the way, and even probably should have received a traffic ticket or three along the way but we had a great time. When we returned the rental car to the airport in Vienna, we made an easy promise to one another: Map Girl and Clutch Boy will definitely be making a return trip to the rainy, castle filled, dream inspiring continent of Europe.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nagging Moment of the Day

Have you entered my brilliantly named Thank You for Being My Follower Contest? If not, don’t forget to read this post for all the details.

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Princess for a Day

The final country on our whirlwind tour of Europe was Slovakia. Getting there was no picnic thanks to the permanent state of construction on Polish roads. Once we hit Slovakia, however, it was smooth sailing. Despite being at least three hours behind schedule, we were thrilled to check into the Grand Castle.

This was our one splurge stay during the trip and we had been looking forward to our night in this restored castle for weeks. Even walking to our room for the night was a bit of a medieval trek. We walked through arched corridors, up the wooden stairs of an old tower, only to have to walk down a set of stone stairs a few minutes later. In the half-light of dusk, every detail of the castle appeared well preserved.

The room we booked turned out to be massive. The first room we entered was the kitchen we ended up eschewing in favour of the rather disappointing hotel restaurant. Through a large wooden door was a bedroom fit for a princess and her prince. All around us, the original stone of the castle’s tower surrounded us and seemed to echo the memories of the people who once dwelled within these walls.

Up a pair of stairs was a huge sitting room with a low domed ceiling. There were numerous low-set arched windows spilling the last rays of the day’s sun into the shabby chic room. Between the bed and all the seating in the living room, a group of 4-6 friends could easily have stayed there to share the cost of the sumptuous room.

The icing on the cake was the large bathroom situated down another few stairs from the sitting room. The only downside to the luxuriously appointed bathroom was the typical European-style claw tub, which had not been retrofitted for people who preferred showers. (Confession: I do prefer baths but we were on a time crunch.)

When we finally awoke the next day, we spent the better part of the day exploring the region surrounding this beautifully restored castle. We walked through a lovely park popular for its natural hot springs and past a ski lift that promised endless hours of winter fun. But we couldn’t tarry for long because we had a long-standing appointment with the city of Bratislava.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Auschwitz and Birkenau

I have written and rewritten this post dozens of times. I’m not sure words are sufficient to describe what a touching, soul wrenching, moving, and horrific an experience it is to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. Writing these words now fills my soul with the ache that was ever present during the time we spent there and for many hours afterward. I am aware that I am well known for my gift of hyperbole and exaggeration but this is not one of those posts.

Auschwitz is place filled with ghosts, malevolence, and evil. There were buildings I was physically unable to enter because of the feelings that overcame me. Overwhelmed me. Even though my husband does not believe in things like ghosts he too said he felt the lingering evil in that place.

This former concentration camp has been turned into a museum. Tour guides are available but we chose to purchase a written guide and go around by ourselves. You can walk through many of the buildings and learn about the people who lived here, those who worked here, those who died here, and even the rare few who lived. Photography was not allowed inside the buildings.

Inside one room was a smaller area captured behind glass, filled to the ceiling with the human hair that was shorn from people before they were killed. Other rooms were filled with 40 kilograms of eyeglasses, 12,000 pots and pans, innumerable suitcases, artificial limbs, and more. These items once belonged to the people who were murdered here.

One display held innumerable empty canisters of Zyklon B, the agent used to kill people in the gas chambers.

Outside on the walkways tall guard towers can be seen at regular intervals. Barbed wire fences separated the inmates from freedom.

There was a series of buildings that each held a memorial for the different nationalities and ethnicities of people who died here. We entered Block 27, the building honoring the Jewish inhabitants of Auschwitz first. Further along were national exhibitions for the French, Russians, Romany, Polish, Czech and others.

Everywhere throughout Auschwitz were the names and faces of women, men, and children who died here. Who died for no good reason other than evil and hatred.

A short drive from Auschwitz is Auschwitz II or Birkenau, as it is more commonly known. If Auschwitz was emotionally draining then Birkenau was the final punch of disturbing reality. As you drive up to Birkenau, it is impossible to ignore the devastatingly massive scale of the place. It is 175 hectares in size – the size of over 320 football fields.

It took us almost thirty minutes to walk in silence from the entrance gates to where the crematoriums used to be located. We walked along a path with train tracks that once carried prisoners to their deaths on one side and the women’s barracks on the other.

At the end of that long walk are the remains of the gas chambers where innocent people were killed. Near to these harsh reminders of evil lies the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial. In numerous languages surrounding the memorial can be found these words:
“Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered 1,500,000 men, women, and children, mainly Jews, from various countries of Europe.”

Visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau where the Nazis murdered an untold number of people affected me in ways I am literally unable to put into words. Evil was at work in these places and I felt it still lingering there all these decades later.

I know there are people who claim the Holocaust never occurred but those people cannot have ever been to this place where not even birds will sing. I hope I never again feel the aura (for lack of a better word) of hatred as I did that day. The atrocities that were perpetrated in these places must never be forgotten, denied, or ignored – they are a stain on the collective soul of the human race.

Happy Birthday BBA

On this day many, many, many years ago my middle brother, BBA, was born. Naturally his life would not be complete or worth remembering until his little sister (me) was born a few years later but it was still a momentous occasion. No one knew then that this annoying baby (him not me) would someday grow up to be the not so terrible, vaguely tolerable, and all around semi-decent human being that we all know today.

As older brothers go, BBA was as good a kid a sister could ask for. He beat me up on a semi-regular basis but stopped short of breaking bones or leaving obvious bruises. He let me cut up his treasured comic books when I was late on an assignment and needed visual aids and then chose not to notice that I wasn’t as grateful as I probably should have been. He didn’t throw me out of the car when I inadvertently ate his half of a Big Mac the time he picked me up from riding class. And best of all, when I called just to say hi because I felt homesick at university, his first thought was to offer me bail money.

For all the nice things you did growing up and all the nice things I’m sure you have yet to do:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday Escapes

I admit it: I love reading comics. My day is always slightly brighter when Dilbert says something funny or Garfield manages to trick Odie. Yet I’m hesitant to admit this too frequently lest someone mistake me for the 12-year-old girl Hubby often accuses me of being.

Perhaps that’s why I love the webcomic xkcd so much. Not only is it laugh out loud funny on a regular basis but the humor is smart and timely. Published three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, xkcd is never boring or predictable. Stop by and scroll through some of their hilarious past offerings. Don’t forget to mouse over each comic when you’re done for a final snippet of commentary. Then come back and tell me about your ROTFL moments.

Since today’s theme is laughter, I thought this photo of the Hotel Dumbier in Slovakia would fit the bill. We were spending the day with two Slovakians when I stopped to snap this picture and giggle inappropriately. While our hosts were busy assuring me that dumbier meant [something] significant in Slovakian, Hubby was busy pretending that he was above such things and hadn’t laughed at the same thing two minutes earlier.

xkcd is this week’s Saturday Escape!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bloggy Business

My intention for today’s post was to tell you about my latest addiction and how it has oddly improved my life and marriage. But then I took a look at my blog’s sidebar and noticed something important and momentous. No, it wasn’t the out of date links or the blogroll that needed to be updated, it was my Follower widget.

I have been blogging for several years now – in fact I marked my fourth blogoversary last month. For the first couple of years I had one Devoted Reader – my mother. According to my Followers Widget, I now have almost 100 Devoted Readers. Wow.

In lieu of a Sally Field-esque, “You like me! You really, really like me!” moment, I thought I would opt for a simple, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” Luckily, you can’t see the blog-shaped Oscar I’m clutching whilst bouncing up and down and squealing with joy. I wouldn’t want you to think this “follower” thing was going to my head or anything.

Normally this is where I would begin thinking of all the great things I could now accomplish with so many global followers. I could start that campaign for global dominance I’ve always talked about. Or I could officially announce my eponymous cult devoted to worshipping all things Typ0. Or I could announce my first ever Thank You for Being My Follower Contest.

I figured that option number three was the best way to go on this one.

The Thank You for Being My Follower Contest is easy to enter and comes with two awesome ways to win:
  1. Being my follower automatically enters you to win the cool prize. If you are not already a follower, this would probably be a good time sign up.
  2. Leave me a witty comment on this post and I’ll give you an extra entry.
That’s it: two ways to enter and win the fabulous and cool prize. Oh, did I forget to mention the fabulous and cool prize I’m giving away? Since I’m addicted to reading, I think everyone should be too, so I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate. I will email the winner their prize direct from

The Thank You for Being My Follower Contest will close on Saturday, October 31st. The winner will be determined using a random number generator and fancy magic tricks. I will announce the lucky winner’s name on Monday, November 2nd.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. You have no idea how much your visits, comments, and encouragement has meant to me over the past 4 years. You’re the best Devoted Readers a blogging girl could ask for. Thanks and good luck!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

They Are Building it Now

When we began our adventure back in Austria, Hubby and I marveled at the state of the roads in Europe. Between highways that could have been seamlessly transported to the States and well maintained country roads, we made great time on our odyssey and really had zero complaints other than the cost of petrol. Then we crossed the border into Poland.

During our time in Poland we found exactly one highway and unlike most countries that simply charged us a fee for a “toll sticker,” we were privileged enough to wait in a traffic jam for 45 minutes outside Krakow to pay our toll in cash. Of course, that was once we found the highway.

My Map Girl skills are not flawless but they are pretty darned good. Despite my best attempts to find a route into the city that wouldn’t take 10 hours, we found ourselves on horrible country roads for 95% of the time in Poland. Country roads that either needed construction crews to fix them or worse, country roads that were closed because they were being fixed. Single lanes of traffic were the bane of our existence for endless hours in Poland. And by single lanes I’m not talking about one lane each way – I’m talking about a single lane that each direction had to take turns using.

That sound you hear is me still banging my head against the dashboard.

The highlight of these endless driving tortures was the protest we found in a small village not too far from Krakow. The townspeople were angry about the narrow road in their village and wanted someone to widen the road and make traffic flow more quickly through their environs. So naturally they chose to block traffic for several hours to demonstrate their pique.

Of all the countries we drove through, Poland definitely had the worst roads. It also narrowly won the prize for worst signage. More than once, I had to redesign our route because either our map was out of date (January 2009) or someone had deliberately mislabeled roads in an effort to drive tourists mad. The Polish department in charge of road works will be happy to hear that they have at least two tourists who love their country and want to return but will never, ever try to drive there again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random in Prague

One of my favorite things about the city of Prague is that it is, quite simply, beautiful to look at. When we stood upon the ramparts of Prague Castle and looked out, there were beautiful old buildings in almost every direction. People who truly loved architecture obviously helped shape this city.

Of course, not everything can be perfect, even in Prague. The Dancing House was completed in 1996 and remains, in my opinion, a complete and utter eyesore. I realize that modern architecture has its place in the world and that the old must always make way for the new. Heck, before I saw it in its natural setting, I used to wonder why people complained about this rather cool looking building. The Dancing House simply doesn’t fit in with its neighbours and consequently sticks out like a sore thumb.

Shortly after we discovered the Michael Jackson memorial in the Old Town Square, we happened upon a famous Czech landmark: the Prague Astronomical Clock. The clock dates back to the 1400’s and has components that track everything from the time, the date, the position of the sun and moon, and it even provides its own floor show. The Swiss get a lot of credit for their watches but this clock is truly impressive.

We walked around and through Powder Tower in Old Town Prague both sober and drunk. In the 17th century it was used to store gunpowder, hence the name, and its darkened brick façade still looks like it was part of a recent fire.

We never got a close-up view of the dripstone wall known as “The Grotto.” The wall is made of artificial rock and is part of the gardens built by Albrecht of Wallenstein. Had we obtained a better view, we would have seen carvings of grotesque faces and animals like snakes and frogs. On second thought, maybe it’s just as well we never got any closer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The House on the Hill

Europe has a thing about castles. We saw them ruined, we saw them fixed up, close-up, far away, and we even got to walk through the grounds of some. Europeans may think it’s everyday and normal to live in the shadow of a castle but to those of us who grew up in boring old North America, it’s pretty darned cool.

Prague Castle was a tram ride and a long walk up a hill from our hotel. Much of the castle’s grounds were being renovated during our visit. The giant blue tarps did nothing to take away from the splendor though. From statues depicting people about to be killed in various gruesome ways to a fountain where women kept openly flirting with Hubby, there was something to see in literally every direction.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the biggest “ancient” castle in the world. Its history dates back to the first millennia AD and the buildings within its grounds reflect the various architectural styles of the intervening years.

One of my favorite parts of the castle complex was Saint Vitus's Cathedral. Even though I can’t tell Ionic columns from Doric, even I could slap the “gothic” label on this magnificent building. Although we had been planning on cheaping out on the paid tour of the cathedral, we were officially scared away by the literally mile long line of people waiting to get inside. Short of being given the Bohemian Coronation Jewels locked within the church, there was no way I was waiting in that line.

As we walked around the exterior of the Cathedral, I kept expecting it to start moving or groaning as it looked like a cross between the house from Rose Red and Hogwarts. Eerie gargoyles perched and hung off the sides of the religious edifice daring the devoted to enter its domain.

Franz Kafka once called a house along Golden Lane within the castle complex home. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was here that he wrote “The Castle.” They do say to write what you know, after all.

There were interesting things to look at and find around almost every corner. My favorite was definitely the mysterious calendar we found on the wall near the Vikarka Restaurant. I say “mysterious” because all of my subsequent attempts to find the same of this small find have resulted in a big goose egg. If you know what this photo is of, please tell me in the comments because it’s driving me crazy!

Hubby and I spent several pleasant hours exploring Prague Castle that day. We still had large portions of the city yet to explore but we couldn’t seem to tear ourselves away. The beautiful views of the city, the amazing moments hidden behind doorways, and the buzzing of tourists speaking dozens of languages all around me - there was something about Prague that made me want to call it home. Maybe someday…

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the Drunk Things Are

I will post about the many incredible castles, churches, and buildings we saw in the Czech Republic later, but it would be remiss of me to not start out this tour of our favorite European stop without talking about the drunken haze in which we wandered through this city. Our itinerary only allowed for one day in most of the cities we visited but since we arrived in Prague (or Praha as the locals call it) on the weekend and everything in Europe is closed on Sundays, we opted an extra day here.

We arrived at our fairly central hotel unexpectedly early thanks to my amazing Map Girl skills (and not at all thanks to blind luck) and immediately set out to find some of the bars we had heard so much about. I will admit here that we were not expecting to like (let alone love) Prague as we had heard so much prior good press and word of mouth that we assumed it was being over hyped. We. Were. Wrong.

We started our Drunken Haze Tour of Prague at a bar Hubby read about that boasted serving the strongest beer in the world. Ever willing to dive into a new mug beer, Hubby was keen to order the 11.8% alcohol content X-Beer at U Medvidku in Old Town Prague. Since I didn’t want to be left behind, I ordered the ice cream version of this surprisingly sweet beer. I’m not sure if I would run out and buy a case of either the beer or the ice cream but it was a fun way to start what would be a great evening.

We wandered around Old Town popping into shops and reading restaurant menus in search of food. I refuse to reveal the identity of the embarrassingly American restaurant we eventually ended up at but what followed is definitely worthy of blogging. While we were waiting for our meals to arrive, I finished one giant Margarita, during the meal I drank another, I think there was a pink thing somewhere in there, and then we decided to have shots.

I’m not a shot girl under the best of circumstances but when we were offered a taste of the local liqueur Becherovka we knew it be impolite to refuse. My first thought was, “This smells like Christmas!” With the gingerbread scent wafting around me, I leaned back and slammed the contents of the small glass. Tasty!

Our livers fared no better on Sunday than they did on Saturday. Between meals and tourist spots, we enjoyed a glass or two of wine and even an absinthe ice cream cone! (Yum!) The highlight of our drunken tour of Prague was Les Moules – a restaurant whose menu features a kilogram of mussels prepared just about any way you’d like. I would tell you how good the mussels were but yummy is too tame a word.

The reason this restaurant makes it to the drunken blog post is their highly impressive collection of beers on tap. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like beer. I do, however, adore cider. Since Les Moules didn’t have any cider (a mortal bar sin in my book) our waiter advised that I try their apple beer. “Beer?” I cringed. Hubby encouraged me to give it a chance and promised to drink it if I didn’t like it. I can’t recall if I had four or five pints but either way I think it’s safe to say that the beer was vaguely drinkable.

That night, the night before we had to hit the road for Poland, we stumbled back to our hotel on the subway. Hubby still remembers very little of this trip but I have vivid memories of our bedside clock reading 8:30 p.m. Yes, dearest Readers, we managed to get ridiculously sloshed and pass out before most families had even sat down for dinner. We’re talented that way!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Escapes

In keeping with yesterday’s book-themed post, I thought I would share one of my favourite book blogs today. It is no secret that I am a fan of “trashy” romances. Hubby even let’s me have a special bookshelf for my collection – in a room where our guests will never see them and accidentally mistake them for his. I’ve spent many hours with Lynn Kurland, Julia Quinn, JR Ward, and others over the years and re-reading their greatest hits never fails to lighten my spirit.

The website “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” personifies the new image of the romance reader: intelligent, educated women who understand that romance does not equal “chick porn” and that books authored by Kenyon, Moning, and Dodd are just as worthy of praise (and the occasional bit of derision) as the classics by Dumas, Brontë, or Austen. If you ever wanted to learn about why some heroines are TSTL (too stupid to live), why one in five books purchased every day are romances, or if you’re the only person who secretly wants to marry the Alpha male from your last book, then look no further than these Smart Bitches.

Given today’s subject matter I think the photo I took of this statue at Prague Castle is self-explanatory.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is this week’s Saturday Escape!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Literate Addiction

Several months ago, I blogged about my passing desire to own an Amazon Kindle. This e-reader would allow me to download books to a portable device no matter where I was in the world. It would, I was certain, not only save me money in the long run, but would also make me a happier, saner person. After all, I love books and this would allow me to purchase them in an economical fashion yet at a rate that would not exceed a generous book budget negotiated between Hubby and me.

This lightweight device can hold up to 1,500 books, which is no small matter when you move around as much as I do. Kindles also come with several really cool features like the built in dictionary for those times when you know you aren’t going to “look it up later” and the ability to change the font size of the book you’re reading, making it a great tool for semi-blind people like me and, conversely, those who prefer smaller text with fewer page turns.

Meet Betty, my beautiful Kindle whom I adore. She is a member of the family who requires a lot of personal attention and must be cared for, snuggled, and fed books on a regular basis. She doesn’t like it when I go too many days without purchasing new material or too many hours without reading a new tale with her. She’s my baby and I love her.

Hubby is under the mistaken impression that I have “an addiction.” Just because I spent more than 12 hours on the Kindle chat boards when she arrived doesn’t make me addicted. Buying her original cost in books in three short months doesn’t make me addicted either. Nor does reading 43 books in three months – more than three times my normal rate.

Best of all, Betty allows me to buy only those DTBs (dead tree books) that I truly love. Normally, every time we move I have an enormous stack of books to donate to local charities or libraries. Thanks to Betty, as I explained to Hubby, I could read the electronic version of the trash that I would normally donate and only purchase in hardcopy those books that had truly captured my imagination. When he pointed out this was effectively buying the same book twice, I told him he was being narrow-minded. Betty understands my love of books means that some reading experiences deserve the real thing.

I’m not addicted to Betty! I love her and she loves me. Why else would she bookmark the page where I fell asleep reading, or read aloud to me when I’m bored? I can stop reading e-books anytime I want to – I just don’t want to.

Now I have to sign off here because Betty says I have spent too much time on Blogger today and need to pay more attention to her. Isn’t it sweet of her to keep track of things like that for me?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Island of Neutrality

We left Vaduz with full stomachs and headed toward our next stop: Zurich. On our way, we saw innumerable picturesque farms and landscapes, and hills dotted with castles and ruins. Even the shacks and cottages seemed beautiful and perfectly situated. I wondered aloud more than once why anyone would leave this idyllic beauty to live in a soulless, grey city.

Of course, driving through the lovely Swiss countryside means driving through endless tunnels. The engineers of Switzerland have definitely perfected the art of the tunnel and like to practice every chance they can. We must have driven through no less than75 cumulative kilometers of tunnels just the first day. Of course, when you live in the middle of the Alps, I guess figuring out how to get around them or through them is a good skill to have.

At the end of our relaxing and tunnel-tastic drive was the city of Zurich. I can say without any hesitation that Zurich was a lovely city but definitely, and without a doubt, the most expensive city we visited during our two-week tour of Europe. That evening, I inadvertently ordered a $13 cocktail. Worse yet, I almost ordered a second before Hubby translated Swiss Francs into dollars for me. Don’t even get me started on how much I spent on the orgasmic chocolates and madelines I bought to eat in the car.

Hubby did manage to find one pastime that wasn’t too expensive – wandering around Zurich’s Red Light district and taking photos of the advertisements on the wall. Of course, when I wasn’t hiding behind posts and pretending not to be with him, I may or may not have been egging him on.

Gripes about the price of everything from a glass of wine with dinner to the to-die-for chocolate sorbet we had for dessert aside, Zurich was great. We wandered around the large pedestrian mall area (Why don’t more American cities have these?), stopped for a concert courtesy of the Salvation Army, practiced our French with puzzled locals in this German speaking city, and even found a then yet-to-be-released paperback by one of my favourite authors at a local bookshop.

The next stop on our whirlwind tour of central Europe was Munich, Germany. Sadly, we didn’t find Munich to be very interesting for the most part. Admittedly, due to the poor weather shortly after we arrived in Germany we arrived later than planned and didn’t get to do our normal walking tour of the city. (Hubby Edit: It was only the weather’s fault??) (Typ0 Edit: I know you’re not trying to malign my Map Girl skills! *glare*)

While a chance to explore this city in more depth would have been interesting, we did get an unexpected opportunity to visit one area of town.

Next time you’re in Munich and you’d like to know how to find the Red Light district, call me – I’m very familiar with it. As luck would have it, our hotel was a mere three blocks from the middle of the Munich’s “naughty area” and while the walk from our hotel to dinner was amusing, the walk back was an education I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.

Two Red Light districts in as many days, what more could a girl want from a European adventure?!

Not Quite the EU

One of the many themes of this vacation was less a theme and more of a weather condition: rain. It rained in almost every country we visited for almost our entire trip. Sure there were brief moments of dryness and blue skies but for the most part we wished we had packed – or even owned – umbrellas. The two notable exceptions to this rule were Liechtenstein and Switzerland. What do these two countries have in common that make them different from the rest of the European nations we stopped in? They aren’t part of the EU.

Before too many days had passed, I was fairly certain that joining the European Union required agreeing to have a weather machine filled with rain situated permanently above your nation. I was incredibly grateful, as you can imagine, to escape this European weather menace during our drive from Austria through Liechtenstein and into Switzerland.

Liechtenstein is a dot of a country that could have taken us less than an hour to drive through. Instead we opted to stop in Vaduz for some castle hunting and lunch. Vaduz Castle is perched atop a steep hill above the capital and can be seen from almost everywhere in town. Not bad digs if you happen to be local royalty in this monarchical country.

Our initial plans included having lunch at Restaurant Torkel overlooking the Prince’s own vineyards. Sadly, for reasons we couldn’t fathom, their last seating for lunch was at 1:00 p.m. and we were turned away at the door. They were, however, nice enough to give us a token so we could get out of their parking lot without any problems.

By now, we were frustrated and had low blood sugar to boot so we decided to dine in town at one of the many open-air restaurants that dotted the pedestrian mall. Given the array of food choices we saw there, I can only assume that Italian food (specifically pizza) is the traditional food of Liechtenstein. I shouldn’t complain, though, since it was a very tasty pepperoni pie.

Although there was definitely modern architecture present in Liechtenstein, the country seemed locked in an older, simpler time. Perhaps I’m romanticizing the place a little but it really did seem idyllic and peaceful. When Hubby and I become billionaires, I definitely foresee us purchasing one of our summer homes here. Maybe next door to the castle…