Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Postcard for anyone who guesses which country we're visiting today! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Acropolis crazy

Any place that, despite being packed with thousands of annoying tourists, can manage to steal your undivided attention for several hours is something special. The Acropolis is one of these places. Somehow we found it easy to ignore the throngs of people scrambling around on the rocks, falling on the rocks, taking identical pictures, and following tour guides eagerly, bored, and/or zombie-like. For me, the constant flow of visitors snapping photos only added to the the hill's timelessness. Our presence was but a fleeting moment in its history. The temples still manage to assert themselves, crumbling and tilting as they may be – even the scaffolding and bracing and reconstruction do not detract much from their elegance.

Of course like everyone else we took dozens of photos that do no justice to the place. I am no artist; I'm not really sure why I take photos at all. It's a ritual I haven't really figured out just yet. I can't imagine myself stopping, though, even recognizing how shallow an endeavor it can be. 

My high school photo teacher once allowed one of my friends to develop photographs she'd taken of a magazine cover for her final project; I was annoyed and perplexed by this. I think he may understand something I still do not, really. In any case, at least, when I am 83 and losing my memory, I will know I saw the Parthenon once.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

A Corfu band celebrating the unification of the Ionian islands with the rest of Greece

Friday, May 15, 2009

Quick Greek lesson for Swiss Mr.

Excuse me – signomi
I don't speak Greek – dhen milao elinika
Thank you – efharisto

We are off to Greece, where I am looking forward to practicing the little I know of what seems to be the most fun language ever and to stuffing myself like a grape leaf. Yia sas!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"starwars nuovo"

This is in some dialect (Livornese, I think) that is hard for me to understand, and also contains offensive language and slang, but I still think it is endlessly funny, particularly the part when the Sith guy calls Yoda "acciuga" (anchovy).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rest stop

There can't be many things more conducive to sleep than sitting in a warm car on a softly rocking train for 20 minutes through a dark tunnel. I think they should covert all highways into trains. Someone get that in the transportation bill. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Münster (CH)

On our way home from mountain-gaping in the Valais, we drove through the Goms. The Goms is neither a toothless old lady nor a paramilitary police force from the future, but a hilly region of the upper Rhone valley east of Brig – basically a string of tiny villages gathered along a ridge. (The Walsers, for which the canton Valais (Wallis in German) is named, settled in these high mountainous areas when the Romansch down below weren't looking and started to farm and raise cows.)

We paused in Münster in honor of our Munster (IN) buddies. We immediately loved this sweet little gathering of wooden houses and churches. Like the wood itself, it seemed settled in, undisturbed, contented with age.

We were perplexed by the purpose of the houses perched on stones – but it turns out these are actually "high Alpine barns."  This style of barn was developed by the Walsers, based on the structure of medieval granary storehouses.  The lower section, called a "gable forebay," was designed to increase hay storage and protect the door opening below from snow during long alpine winters. Raising the barn on stone pillars also helped prevent critters from accessing food stores. 

More on these clever Walsers here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Meet this year's Mr. Switzerland (not to be confused with Swiss Mr.), a friendly, fun, and perky carpenter from Glarus:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canzone per mio marito

Parigi è una bella città
dove si beve e l'amore si fa.

Hai incontrato mio marito? [Si!]
Di che colore era vestito? [Rosso!]

Rosso è un bel colore,
vuoi uscire per favore?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Embassy sweetness

After having spent so much time in the embassy district in Bern lately, I find Lugano to be somewhat lame by comparison. Where are the security cameras and the machine guns and my police escort? I kind of miss the suspicious stares and the pat downs. And that taco stand. I miss the taco stand. All we've got in Lugano is racial profiling and graffiti. And, if I must be fair, an overpriced Mexican cantina.

I'm not sure why no one has decided to gather up all these little consular offices into one big old building. I, for one, though the ambassador who has to answer his doorbell twenty times a day to tell confused tourists that the consular office is around the block would likely disagree, am glad the have not done this. Probably Vatican City is also happy - no need to admit they require a cubicle rather than a golden mansion to run their consular services branch. Anyway, it is nice that a few things in this world have remained quaint, if only for the sad, pragmatic reason that it makes bombing more difficult. (Not sure, but I don't think diplomatic missions actually have extraterritoriality.) Who doesn't love flag-identification, house-gawking, and potentially famous people? I am so glad I got to walk two hours to the Belarussian embassy. 

The black Mercedes seems to be the vehicle of choice for most diplomats. Except, of course, for the Italians. 

The quality of this photo may have been compromised by my realization that taking a photo of a guarded embassy might actually be a bad idea and subsequent desire to have my arm back outside the high iron gate with the rest of me immediately. I'm sorry that the true festive nature of this FIAT does not come through. In this setting it really did shout viva l'Italia!

Friday, May 1, 2009


Since Seidl Confiserie did such a nice job with the banana leaves and everything, I won't even bother with my own shot.

PS: In honor of Swiss Labor Day, I'm taking the rest of the day off. Happy May Day!