Saturday, July 22, 2006

test

Sunday, March 12, 2006

FINALLY some PICTURES

Ok, I KNOW that it's been a long time. Some of you Talia and/or I have talked to, some not. The basic gist of things is: we're back at Oberlin, we're settled into our classes, we love our apartment, we're generally happy people, ...that's pretty much it.

Two things conspired to let me bring these pictures. 1) I built a new computer just recently that is loads of fun to use with Photoshop and 2) I'm not really that busy...so I have time.

So here are some of the pictures:















Athens. This city is HUGE. way larger than I would have expected (though I'm not sure where that notion came from). There are 2 large things that stick up out of the city. One is this - Lycabettus Hill. The other is, unsurprisingly, the Acropolis. This picture was taken from the Agorra, which is at the base of the Acropolis.


Here she is, folks. The Parthenon. Not to be confused with the Pantheon in Rome, this structure is a gigantic doric temple sitting on top of a huge outcropping of rock right in the center of downtown athens. The entire mountain is a site, with various theaters, statues, ruins, and then you wind your way up to the top and find this. To be honest the temple is not in the best of shape. The main reason for this is, as we learned, Acid Rain. Apparently pollution is literally eating away the marble and stone that make up the structures. Greece is trying desperately to come up with some kind of coating they can put on the buildings to preserve them. The temple is also not the best preserved of all Greek temples. The ones we saw at Paestum rival it in terms of form, but certainly not in terms of importance. This temple was the center of life in ancient Athens. Specifically it housed one of the ancient wonders of the world - the Chryselephantine Statue of Athena. This statue, created by a dude called Pheidias in 438BCE stood around 40 FEET TALL!! It was a hollow creation entirely sheathed in gold and ivory. Incredible. We saw a mini roman copy of the statue in the Greek Archaeological Museum. Unfortunately the statue no longer exists today, it was moved during the crusades to Constantinople where it was lost to history - no one is exactly sure what happened. Perhaps it was destroyed, perhaps not...if you can find it I imagine it would make a mighty nice lawn ornament.



Another temple on the Acropolis - this one famous for the pillars that support the awning, made of marble shaped like women.

A view of Athens at night. What you see is the Acropolis in the foreground and the Lycabettus hill in the background. To get this picture Talia and I, at night, climbed a hill nearby the acropolis (and our hostel) that wound up through lots of trees and pathways and peaked at a strange statue with a section of bare rock that provided this marvelous view. It was a bit scary since the thought of walking through a wooded park at night in most cities in America is laughable...but we asked around and everyone wondered why we were even worried - and so we went. It was incredible...


The one thing that made it odd was the guardian. Yes, the statue at the top of the hill had a guardian - a small white poodle with red eyes. A demon poodle, you might say. It constantly circled the statue and kept a careful eye on us the whole time.


Just lying around, the temple of Zeus Olympiad in downtown Athens, literally 30 seconds from our Hostel. I should mention this. We stayed at a hostel called Athens Backpackers. Perhaps one of the most amusing hostels we stayed at, this place was certainly fun and full-featured, but the staff was about as Greek as Kangaroos. Yup, Aussies. A veritable commune of Aussie ex-pats that all just stayed in the hostel all day getting wasted and giving you odd looks when you asked about this opening time or that bus route. But it had a kitchen and it was clean, so two thumbs up there. The best thing about it, though, was its location. It rested in the shadow of the Acropolis, in the best district of Athens for exploring.


This is the fabled Mask of Agamemnon (at least that's what the archaeologist thought it was when he found it). It was part of a huuuge dig done around Mycenae that uncovered tons of stuff from around 1600BCE.

Which brings us to one of the very best things about Greece - if you are a student in the European Union you get into any museum, park, archaeological site, etc. for absolutely FREE. We didn't pay for ANYTHING we saw in Greece except for one monostary in Meteora. Crazy.



After Athens we went North using the very convenient if slightly uncomfertable Greek Bus System. We arrived in Kalambaka, a large town at the foot of one of Greece's most amazing natural phenomena = Meteroa. Meteora is a name that describes a series of rock pinnacles that jut out from the ground to hundreds of feet in height. Even more amazing is what tops these impressive monoliths. On top of many of them lie monostaries, some hundreds of years old. There is a path, about 10k that you can hike and see many of the places.

We stayed in an adorable bed and breakfast directly under the cliffs. It was run by a mother and son. The mother was the type that made sure all our clothes were dry (which became very important later on) and constantly shoved food in front of us. The bedrooms were connected to a very large wooden-beamed room where a huge fireplace served as both a source of heat and a place to cook all our food. They made some of the best souvlaki I had in Greece. And I had alot of souvlaki, let me tell you.

It just occured to me I might be repeating info from previous postings, I totally forgot I'd written stuff before, woops :) Well I'll move on to the pictures I guess.



Metora in the Fog.



The top of one of the rises on the hike up to the peaks. We looked out at what we had just climbed and...well, you can see for yourself.



The path we walked in on. I'm not sure we can go back the way we came...


Amazingly amid all this rock and mist there was color and life.


From Meteora we went on back down to Nafplio in the peloponese. This place is a very cute sleep town that is home to a large fortress which stands over the town and provides some really amazing views of the bay that surrounds the place.



The stairs that led up to the fortress are steep and plentiful. 999 steps or so the locals say.


Aint she perty? I'm rather fond of this picture. If your monitor is too contrasty you may not be able to see her face - lower the contrast and she won't be just a sillouhette.




So that's Greece in photo-form. Next to come is Prague.

Now that I'm all set up again I promise the photo updates will start rolling out.

Hope everyone is well,
Cheers,
Jaimie

Monday, March 06, 2006

just for a test

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Just a few

Things have been very busy here, what with moving into our new apartment, starting classes, seeing people, yada yada. Generally things are good - the apartment is wonderful and Talia and I are slowly getting to a point where our classes are stable and we feel more settled. We're not quite there - but we're moving in the right direction.

I'm starting to go through the thousands of photos I have from Europe, and its a slow process to be sure, but here are just a very few photos from Venice and Burano (a wonderful island off the coast of venice where they make lace and are famous for their colorful houses).





Saturday, February 04, 2006

Back to Oberlin

Hi everyone, it's Talia. I know I don't write on this very often, but I just thought I'd let everyone know that we made it back to Oberlin safely. We are now knee-deep in unpacking. Fortunately our apartment seems to be the perfect size for us, so we are excited about that. Jaimie is in his element unpacking, rearranging, and plotting decorations. Personally, I'm not really a fan of unpacking, but it's fun to think about the final product.
Our time in Barcelona and Europe was truly incredible. We learned so much about ourselves, each other, Spanish, different culture, histories, politics, etc.. Jaimie turned out to be the perfect travel companion, which made me very happy.
It's crazy to be back. Sometimes it feels crazy soley because... well, it's not as wierd as I expected it to be. Does that make sense? Oberlin looks the same, and that feels odd. But at other times the reverse culture shock is strange too. But it's great to be here. And having Jaimie and other study away folks to debrief with is very special.
Anyway, we're happy and safe. Hope you are too.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Talia and I are greatly enjoying our relaxation time - movies, lots of food, quality time with my dog, etc. etc.

haven't gotten around to photos yet, that'll happen soon though.

Looks like we'll be heading back to Oberlin this Friday. Packing up will be interesting, and then we get to move into our 2nd apartment of the year. First in Barcelona, Spain, and the second in Firelands Oberlin :) Thanks to Mike for tipping us off about the availability - we're very excited to have our own apartment....again. I'm not sure what I would have done if I'd been put in a dorm room after having my own place. How quickly we get spoiled with independence.

My room is an absolute pit, strewn with bits of various countries and the refuse of weeks of dirty laundry. We're slowly getting the loads done. My poor parent's washing machine, it never saw us coming.

Its proving quite difficult to re-enter the world of every-day worries and stresses. I'm getting re-acquainted with my computer and the leprechauns that have come back out to play just on schedule (for those who don't know, any electronic device I touch becomes very quickly infested with leprechauns, which wreak havoc on the innards of said electronic device, and quickly render it inoperable. Being an RCC [computer consultant] this can be quite inconvenient). Not to mention having to worry about my car again, and the insurance, driving, yada yada. a week ago I was worrying about how to fit the Alhambra and the Alcazar into the same day, as well as whether or not Talia and I would even be able to find our hostel in a city we had been walking in for maybe 10 minutes. Now classes start in 7 days and I find myself needing to adjust back very quickly. I'll probably switch back on habit and then let it all sink in slowly and subconsciously - that seems the safest route to me, I'm not sure what might happen if I confronted it all head on.

One good thing at least is my seeming immunity to East-West jet lag. I've had no trouble switching back to this time zone. Talia on the other hand...well let's say she goes to sleep hours before me and I often wake up to her poking me asking if I'm awake yet because she's bored.

ok, jet lag or no, I'm tired. goodnight.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

We're home! We're tired! Goodnight.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Switzerland into Germany

Helllloooooo. Long time no type. Sorry for the long delay - when we left Prague and entered switzerland we also left behind affordable internet, and as Switzerland is incrediblz expensive already, I chose to wait until Germany to recount our adventures.

So yes, we are now in Munich, at a wonderful hostel in the heart of the city. But I will start when we left Prague...

From Prague we took a plane to Geneva. This was the flight we were most worried about in our trip in terms of legitimacy, as the name of the company was "Flybaboo.com". Our fears were reinforced just a bit when we took our shuttle bus out the airplane (with the 12 other people on the flight) and discovered that not only was this small group on a small DC-Boston type jet, but our plane had PROPELLERS. I'm sure my dad is laughing at my incredulity, but the fact of the matter is I have not flown in a propeller plane since I was 5 and my dad took me up in the Cesna 150 he owned with a friend (is that the right model, dad?). I was a little worried, but the trip went smoothlz (take off and landing were actually much smoother, I thought, than with a jet engine plane).

Anyway, we landed in Geneva in the evening, and crashed at our very efficient city run hostel. The next day we spent looking around Geneva, noticing the 300 watch shops per block. In what we soon discovered to be typical Swiss fashion, nothing was open - ever. The swiss seem, in the winter at least, to pride themselves on being closed as much as possible (or so it seemed to us at least). Geneva was OK - pretty lake and a cool clock made out of a flower garden. We were anxious to move on, however, as our next stop took us into the heart of Oberland and the central Swiss Alps. We took a train from Geneva to Bern, and from there to Interlaken, where we changed for the last time and arrived in Lauterbrunnen. The train ride itself was a treat, as the Swiss trains are by far the nicest we have ever encountered. They move almost silently, with none of the track noise or rattle you find on most trains. Additionally, the seats are comfertable, there are often bench seats with big tables, big windows to take in the spectacular view as you pass through the mountains, etc. However, as with everything else in Switzerland, you pay for it. The tickets were obnoxiously expensive. We learned here one of the value-centers for Eurail passes. Anyway, we arrived in Lauterbrunnen as the sun was just beginning to set. This town, which is primarily a base for skiiers or hikers, depending on the season, is located in a gorge cut through the alps by a glacier who knows how long ago. On either side of the basin sheer cliffs rise up, many of the walls coated with frozen waterfalls that spill outward in great arcs, now giant icicles.

Our room was great. We were staying at a camp site that has a number of cabins. We had reserved a double room, to take a break from the 10 bed-dorm rooms we usually have, and when we opened our door we realized that the room had 6 beds in it - but it was all for us. so we had a plethora of space, and it was all comfy and warm. The campsite also had its own grocery store, atm, resteraunt, etc. All appropriately overpriced (by that I mean the Switzerland surcharge and the mark up for the microcosmic community).

the next day we embarked on what turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of our entire trip (at least I think so). We took a furnicular from Lauterbrunnen up those sheer cliff walls I mentioned earlier, to a town called Murren. It rests on a cliff on the side of a huge mountain, overlooking Lauterbrunnen by a few hundred feet. From Murren we took a few cable cars to the top of the peak known as the Schilthorn. The top of this peak is more than 10,000 feet up, in the center of an incredible vista of other peaks. From the top, which is comprised of an observation deck and a resteraunt known as the Piz Gloria (it has all glass walls and rotates very slowlz so as you eat you get a full panorama of the view), we could see into the Black forest of Germany, as well as the mountains of Italy and France. We were so high, in fact, that along one stretch of the view that had few mountains, we could actually see the curve of the earth. It was incredible - we were surrounded by snow covered mountains, far above the tree line, in bitingly cold air, stairing down on hawks and other birds, as well as the tracks of Ibex's (a kind of mountaing goat in Switzerland). We went up to the mountain in the companz of mostlz skiiers, and while we stopped to admire the view, they mostlz just hopped the rails and jumped off the edge of cliff our deck was constructed on. Some less insane people took the actual ski path, but not without a bit of shame I imagine. Crazy skiers. You may know this resteraunt and peak actually, if you've seen the James Bond movie "In Her Majesties Secret Service", about 15 minutes were filmed at the site.

There's not much more I can saz about this place without pictures, so I'll let it rest for now, though, if I have any luck in my aging process, this will go down as one of those truly unforgettable experiences.

The next day we layed low in Lauterbrunnen, as I had gotten a nasty cold. We went for walks and suffered horribly in our seclusion. Yeah right. And I'm almost all better now, so one day's rest was exactly what I needed.

From Lauterbrunnen we went to Lucern, where we spent a night and a daz, wandering around the city, which is quite beautiful, with its old covered wooden bridges, gothic spires, lake and river, etc. The dying Lion of Lucern, a statue cut into a solid rock wall to commemorate some Swiss soldiers that died in a French war, was particularly stunning.

From there we went to Zurich, and from there to Munich where we are now. Our first night we checked into our room, and met 3 other travellers about our age, who invited us out to a Beer garden with them. After grabbing some dinner and wandering around the city center a bit (wow, the town hall here certainly beats the one from Amherst, New Hampshire) we met up with them at the HofbrÀuhaus. Its a brewery and beer hall, I think a fairly touristy one, as im not sure I saw any actual germans inside or not. But it had an oompah band that was great, and beer mugs the size of your face. Not really liking beer very much, I shared one with Talia that was a lemonade-beer mixture thing. It actually wasn't half bad.

Then today we went to Dachau. It was as solemn as you might expect, stark and cold. We wandered around, visiting the museum with its strangely old but not innapropriate documentary. Most of the camp has been left intact, except for most of the dormitories, of which only the foundations remain. It was a very sobering day. Much of this trip has been spent wandering around history - the Colloseum, the Parthenon, the streets of old Prague, even the near-by townhall in Munich. Dachau, with its intense sense of nearness, was a whole new experience. I can walk the streets of Pompeii, or the fields of Marathon, and I can know all about the tragedies that took place in each spot, the lives that were lost for whatever reason - but its distance in history seperates it in some way from my own emotional reaction. Dachau bridged that gap, and it was a very intense experience.

Tomorrow I think Talia and I are going to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, a fairy-tale style castle built by Ludwig II.

Then we catch a SUPER early flight from Munich airport to Sevilla (like 7am, which results in having to get up by about 3am), spend three nights in Sevilla and Granada, then back to Barcelona for a night and then, magically, HOME. Travelling has been amazing, and while I wish to do loads more of it in my life, at the moment, I am very ready to go home.

So thats what we've been up to, under a week to go, but with all the travelling we'll be doing in that time it feels like a month.

More later,
cheers,
jaimie

Thursday, January 12, 2006

and the mist

Oh ya, one other thing. Prague is bathed in this very ethereal mist. I can't get my finger on what it is - its not like Fog, and its not like pollution either...its just...like the distance doesn't show up as well here for some reason.

The only way I can think to explain it is in terms of video games. When you have a 3d game there is a point where the game stops rendering the landscape and the view ahead of you and it turns into a gray mist. This is called the clipping plane. It seems to me that Prague has a very short clipping plane. Anyone know anything about this?

Prague

We've been here two days now. It's a beautiful city - definitely lives up to all the hype we've heard from various people.

Yesterday we wandered around Stare Mesto (old town) and the area around Prague Castle known as Hradcany and Mala Strana. All beautiful, full of a range of archiecture, from Baroque churches to soaring gothic spires to much more modern stuff. Astronomical clocks, giant ramparts, vaulted celings, ancient libraries, and mroe cobblestones than I could count if I tried.

Today we took to Josefov, the old Jewish quarter of the city, seeing a number of Synagogues and Jewish exhibits (including a synagogue whose interior walls were completely filled with names of Czech jews killed during the Holocaust, as well as a collection of children's drawings from a near-by concentration camp). The jewish cemetary here was very moving, thousands of hebrew-laden gravestones all crowded together, falling over, crumbled, etc. With the snow lightly falling around us coating the ground it couldn't have been more serene.

Unfortunately, while it was a bit warmer today due to the cloud cover, it also got darker much sooner. Its about 4:30 here right now and almost dark. Yay europe in the winter!! :) But one thing I will say - the lack of tourists we've experienced on our travels is marvelous.

Tomorrow brings more Prague and the day after we leave for Switzerland!

Cheers,
Jaimie

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Greece to Prague

so, last we met Talia and I were in Meteora, enjoying some great organic wine brewed by the owner of an adorable hostel where they made our dinner over the fire in the common room where we all warmed ourselves at night. We met a wonderful Aussie named Sam with whom we became fast friends. I feel certain we'll see Sam again at some point, should we ever make it out to Australia. Another trip I guess.

From Meteora we went to Nafplio, which is in the south of Greece in the Peloponese. It is an adorable town, very sleepy at this time of year, and nothing opens until at least noon. My kind of place.

Nafplio taught us alot about Greek food. The amount of Souvlaki I had was dangerous. This is bascially just cubes of various meat grilled with spices and served with lemon juice. its delicious. I also tried some Mousaka, which is a minced meat thing with egg plant and some other things I can't quite place. I didnt care for it much. Rabbit stifado was very good (sorry thumper), as was some fish I had. Talia grew very fond of the Dolmas from a particular resteraunt (a very particularly spiced rice wrapped in wine leaves). Minus the wine leaves I liked it as well.

But there is one food that surpasses them all.

I have tasted Truth, and it tastes like Baklava.

Now, the place I grew up was small, and we certainly had no large number of greek/middle eastern/jewish bakeries, so my experience with Baklava is limited and probably unfair, but Talia has had much more than I and was equally awed by what we tasted in Nafplio. We got the baklava from a bakery that served things made exclusively of philo-dough. The baklava was flaky, many-layered, fiiillllleeeeddd with a pistachio nut mixture, and then absolutely soaked in honey. sweet sweet greek honey. It was unbeatable.

Also the greek yogurt was amazing. This aint your diet yogurt. it was really yogurt-flavored cream, served drizzled with honey.

So I guess I'm just wild about Greek honey. Mmmmm....


After nafplio we went to Athens for a night and then had an easy travel day to Prague, where we are now. we saw a bit tonight, the main bridge and such, but we got in a bit late, and so now its bed time, and we need to bundle up a bit more tomorrow, as it is absolutely FREEZING here. frightfully cold. So out come the long-johns.

The trip continues - how are you all doing!?? Comment and tell us you're all well and healthy and all that.

cheers,
jaimie