Monday, September 29, 2014

And off she went.

Today is a sad day. 
It's also a happy day. 
Most of all, it's going to be a very long day. 

I can't actually complain, I only had to get up this morning. I didn't have to steer three car that took me to the airport, I won't have to operate the flight to Frankfurt or fly the next one to Tobago or the next one to Piarco. 

I just have to shuffle from one vehicle to the next, sit still for some hours and not forget my luggage anywhere (again). 

I just left home. 
I'm going home. 
This is confusing. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

En garde!

Europe is a dangerous place. 
Okay, no, it isn't. 
But it used to be. 

And back then we had to be on guard (title pun!) so everyone could be safe. More or less. Or something like that...

When the Second World War raged all over the place, towers were built in Vienna - as well as other places - to better defend the city. They are called Flaktürme (the singular noun being Flakturm) and they still stand. You can find the one from the picture below close to the shopping mile Mariahilfer Straße and today it houses the Haus des Meeres, our aquarium. 

The towers are all of different heights, because of their different locations in the city. But all of their topmost platforms are at the exact same altitude above sea level.

On a related but less cruel note, there's yet another - very interesting - kind of tower in Vienna. On the university's campus grounds in Altes AKH, which used to be the general hospital before a new more modern one was built and thew put students instead of patients into the former one, you'll find the so-called Narrenturm. The fools' tower. 

It was built in the year 1784 as an asylum for, well, mentally extraordinary people. You get my drift, right? Thus, it was first of its kind in the whole world. 

Oh yeah, we can definitely be proud of that one... 

Idea: Unnützes WienWissen

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Grätzl Dinner

A short while ago, we - meaning a bunch of CS oldies - made an interesting discovery: a lot of us live in the Ten. Now, when I say in the Ten, what I mean is in the tenth of Vienna's 23 districts, Favoriten.

And by we I mean Stefan Hug, Stephanie Wo and Xtine (plus Fynn!). And because we're not mean and elitist, we also had Josef and Marcus over, at least some of the times, because both of them were otherwise engaged for two of our food nights.

To take full advantage of this awesome coincidence, we started a series of dinner parties in our Grätzl. Grätzl is a Viennese word describing a small area in an urban environment, like part of a district but not a whole one. In Spanish we'd probably call it a barrio. If I try to find you an English example, maybe the closest would be something like the Upper East Side..? An area comprising a few streets, a few blocks; it can be tiny or relatively big, but it's not a full district, always just part of one. Anyhow, because four of us currently live within walking distance from each other, we organized half-regular get-togethers over the last few weeks. 

The first dinner was at Stefan Hug's place; he lives around the corner from me in the same building as my dad. He made nachos with cheese and guacamole and veggie enchiladas, all of which was delicious. I decided to go along with his food theme and made an Aztec chocolate cake. That means I made a chocolate cake and then it chili flakes into it, because as far as I know, both chocolate and chili come originally from that post of the so-called new world. 

This even says hot chocolate in Nahuatl!

The next dinner was at Stephanie's place, who lives the furthest from me - a full ten minutes walking! Whoa!! At her place we cooked together, making a yummy pumpkin risotto. Then she made delicious Wuchteln (Buchteln in "Hochdeutsch") with vanilla sauce door dessert. Actually, Marcus made the sauce.

Dinner number three happened at Christine's place: also around the corner from me, but some three houses up the road. Still ridiculously close, though. She prepared veggie pasta and we all just brought juice and wine. You can see how the collective effort gradually goes down with every passing meal...

There will be more dinner parties, but without me. I'm leaving on Monday. I might get to swing by via Skype and thus repeat the Christmas experience. 

For now: Bon appetite, guys.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A night with Harry Potter.

A tradition was born last year, when Iris (the beautiful bride) and I started a Harry Potter marathon during my annual visit to Austria. Unfortunately, we didn't finish all eight movies so we had to continue this year. I'm calling it a tradition now because we (I) decided that this is going to happen every year from now on. And not just Harry Potter either, we're also going to repeat our Star Wars marathon and add The Lord Of The Rings and maybe even Pirates Of The Caribbean. 

Funny sidenote: I'm writing this on my phone and autocorrect had a great movie idea - Pirates Of The Vatican! Hollywood, please make that happen asap. 

Now, you've been through this with us before, I think, so you're aware of a very important detail: it's not a real movie marathon without themed food. In the past we've had a Whomping Willow Cake, and for the Star Wars night I brought Ewok Cupcakes and we made an amazing Yoda Pizza. This time, I made Gryffindor Spell Cupcakes and a Quiddiche (patent pending). 

The cupcakes are simple enough, I just made my go-to easy chocolate muffins and then used marzipan and icing from the wedding preparation to turn then into magical instead of normal desserts. 

The Quiddiche was a little trickier. But so much fun! 

For those who haven't caught on yet, a Quiddiche is a Quidditch-themed quiche. Oh yeah, we're at that kind of high intellect level right now. This specific one was autumn flavoured - meaning zucchini and pumpkin and pumpkin seeds and cheese - because the colder season had already started. This is a story from the beginning of September, but it was already almost as cold outside as it is at the moment. 

Here's my Quiddiche: 

Harry would have loved it!!! 

And, Harry, we love you.
See you again next year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Frozen Traditions

It was my dad's birthday this past week and he said he wanted to celebrate by having ice cream at a place that, much more than just an ice cream parlour, is a true institution in Vienna.

What could this mean if not Let's go to Tichy? That's right, nothing. So to Tichy we went. 

An eternity ago (1955) a man named Kurt Tichy opened this ice cream place on the corner of Rotenhofgasse and Reumannplatz and business took off immediately. Theirs used to be my favourite ice cream in all of Austria, especially the hazelnut flavoured one. Oh boy, just remembering it makes me want to go back in time and get a big huge portion! 

Why go back in time? Did it close down? No, it's still right where it's always been. Is it not good anymore? Nope, it's still so delicious that select restaurants and cafes all over the country but their ice cream in bulk so they can offer their patrons a special treat. It's still so delicious that when I'm in the airport ore a train station I regularly hear the words: "The first thing I'm going to do now that I'm back in the country is get an ice cream from Tichy!" No kidding. But then what's changed? My tastes and preferences, unfortunately. I just don't like that creamy and thick kind of ice cream anymore. Otherwise, I would have been making daily trips to that corner of our district! 

You should definitely do that if you're visiting Vienna. If you live here, then I guess I don't have to tell you, because you know exactly what I'm talking about and your inner child is flashing everyone its sweet-tooth in a huge grin that says Oh Yesss! 

If that wasn't enough to convince you, then check this out: a ground-breaking invention was made here in the late sixties. 

In 1967, Kurt Tichy invented the Eismarillenknödel - a sweet apricot dumpling made of ice cream, apricot sorbet and ground hazelnuts. He got the patent for his sweet treat after a short while and since then has added other kinds of Eisknödel to his assortment. 

This, fortunately, is something I still like. No, love! My tastes haven't changed that much. That's why I ordered the four-Knödel-special when dad and I went there on Thursday. 

Wait, isa, you had four of these things?! No, duh, of course I didn't. I said I ordered that. Dad was the one who ate it. But that's what dads are for, isn't it? 

Even though he had his own ice cream cup as well! That's what I call a hero. 

Now, you've been given an important piece of advice: Go to Tichy! 


More about last week.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


The time since coming back from Rome has been action filled to a point where I can't even keep up with my own plans anymore. I just want to go back to bed and stay there for the rest of today. That's what Sundays are for anyway, isn't it?

But let me tell you what happened this eventful week: I got shot in the face with a laser - twice; it was my dad's birthday and we celebrated it the old-school way; I went to Mexico with some of my Favorite friends (this one's bursting with puns); Harry Potter came for a visit; school started. I know, it's crazy!

Let's start at the beginning: getting shot in the face with lasers. The day after I came back from Italy I had a life-altering appointment with my dermatologist. Un-un-un-un-unfortunately it was time to get rid of something that has defined my appearance for the last twenty years or so. Possibly more. I'm talking about the birthmark on my nose. The truth is that I have no memory of myself without that mark, I've only seen pictures from before I got it. But those don't count as part of one's memory bank. So, as far as my history of myself is concerned, I've always had this. 

This is the last picture of my face the way it used to look: 

I look absolutely terrible in this photo because of how nervous I was. Not because of the procedure, because you get injected with anaesthetic so you don't feel the laser burning of bits of your face. Not because of the injection, because I hadn't thought of that - but I should have been, because that thing hurt like a bitch! No, I was nervous because I was and still am scared that once the birthmark was gone I'd be a different person. Looks-wise, maybe even on the inside. Just not myself anymore.

Still, alas, it was time. 

The injection hurt so much I can't even describe the amount of pain I felt. I tried when somebody asked me about it and the closest I've gotten is saying that it hurt like seven bees stinging my nose in the very same spot and even trying to burrow into my face with their entire bodies, stinger-first. But that's wrong. First, it would have had to be wasps, not bees, because bees are not that mean. Second, it hurt more than that. 

The procedure itself didn't hurt at all, I just felt pressure when the doc wiped over the spot with disinfectant and I smelled said disinfectant as well as that terrible odor of charred skin and flesh - because that's what was happening: I got shot in the face with a laser that burnt of part of my skin. Helluva weird story. 

I can't show you an after-picture, because it's not over yet. My nose is healing and until it's fully recovered I won't see any difference; I look almost the same right now. 

Here's my reaction to taking off the bandaid: 

Apprehension, then shock, then SHOCK.

Now, I'm trying to be patient and just wait for the little scab to come off on its own so I don't hurt myself even more. When that happens, we'll know what I look like now.

The new isaontheway..?

Keep reading about this crazy week. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rome from Alpha to Omega

Because there are so many posts from Rome and it's easy to lose track of what you have and haven't looked at, here's a little clickable list of all the Italy and Vatican City -related entries:

Day 1:
Modo Roma ::ON::

Day 2:
From A to B, via history!
Art supplies, Warhol and the Pantheon.

Day 3:
A good start.
Castel Sant'Angelo has a poltergeist!!!
San Pietro - the square.
San Pietro - the basilica.
DeSpar - DeLiciousness
Fontana di Trevi? Not really.

Day 4:
My secret superpower!!!
Interactive Leonardo!!
Piazza trumps Pizza

Day 5:
Old things.
Cimiteri are awesome!
Piazza Navona Notturna

Day 6:
Black Bag Magic

I hope you'll have or already had a lot of fun visiting Rome with me!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Black Bag Magic

Let me be honest. I did go shopping this morning, as I'd said I would. I got the coffeemaker I've been dreaming about constantly since I saw it a few days ago. I got something for my mom. I got something for my dad. I didn't get anything for my grandma, because I already got her something in the Vatican on Saturday. I didn't get anything for anybody else. Let me tell you why so your opinion of me doesn't get worse than it already is.

I don't believe in cheesy souvenirs. Unless that's what a person wants and they explicitly ask for it. The thing I don't enjoy doing is giving a gift purely for the sake of giving something. That's superficial and devoid of real meaning and I don't like it. I always have trouble giving presents for special occasions, for the same reason. I'd rather not give you anything for Christmas instead of getting you something random that's not from the heart just because I had to and was put under pressure by social conventions. I'm the person who meets you for a coffee and brings you a piece of cake or a book or a necklace or whatever, just because. No real reason. I saw it and thought of you and that's all. That's how I like giving things.

And that's why 99% of my friends and family won't get any gifts from Rome. I could get everyone a key chain or a mass produced plastic ashtray that says "I LOVE ROMA - MADE IN CHINA," but I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for that.

I would have to spend a day scouring the city, getting the perfect thing for every single person - and, believe me, I have a mental list with what exactly I would get everyone - but I'm not made of money. And I'd need a lot of that, because those people are special to me. And when I say everyone, well then I mean everyone. Ask me what anyone would get, of you're curious. But please do understand.

That said, yes, I did buy a few things. But definitely nowhere near enough to cause my baggage to double. And that's in visible bulk, in volume! If we were talking about weight, we'd be dealing with triple of not quadruple figures.

How?!, I wonder.

Witches and black magic!, I tell you.

Anyway, I managed to pack everything up and am now sitting in the nice but ridiculously overpriced Caffè Tre Scalini, enjoying a cappuccino doppio, a glass of water, the fan + finely sprayed water outdoor cooling system, and the view of locals and tourists and musicians and artists and street vendors and probably a few pickpockets around my favourite fountain. You know which one I'm talking about.

I'm going to go ahead and say it's been a good visit. I got everything I wanted to get, I ate everything I wanted to eat, I saw everything I wanted to see. Despite initial stumbles I had great accommodation, my feet could have been even worse than they currently are, and the weather was brilliantly beautiful the whole time, even though the forecast had predicted thunderstorm after thunderstorm. I even learned a few words in Italian.

Also, before I forget again, his name is Salvatore.

See you in Wien!

Piazza Navona Notturna

My last evening in Rome was very nice, as I didn't spend it in bed. Not that spending the evening in bed - especially with a book - isn't nice, don't get me wrong. But I'm told that when you're in a new city you should at least pretend you're interested on the local nightlife. I'm definitely not, I'd much rather read and/or knit all evening, but I made an exception yesterday. 

My friend Bernadette is a sweetheart and got me in touch with her friend Giorgio, a local, a Romano! We met up in the evening and went to explore - bars and restaurants instead of ruins and museums. Unfortunately, it did involve food to which I didn't know how to say no, which is why I'm telling you this now and not after I came home (like you even care), but at least Giorgio knew where to find the real deal and the good stuff, so said food was authentically Roman and very well prepared. Not too bad, in the end. 


Also, I've now tried everything I was supposed to try: pizza, pasta, gelato and antipasti! 

After the extraordinarily late dinner came what was the evening's highlight for me: Piazza Navona at night. 

I insisted on going there again so I could see the square and especially the Fontana Quattro Fiumi all pretty and illuminated and, of course, to take pictures of it all. 

I wish I'd had my tripod, but thanks to light posts, intricate fences and benches, the photos are not too blurry. 

[PN at night] 

Now I have to go pack, which usually wouldn't take much time at all, especially now that I'm travelling über-lightly, but I need to make the maximum space in my bag because my last stop before the airport today is at that store I told you about in the beginning. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Cimiteri are awesome!

A cimitero is a cemetery. Specifically, the awesome one I'm talking about is the cimitero acattolico here in Rome. The non-catholic cemetery.

I like visiting cemeteries in general, whenever I'm in a new city or country. It's always interesting to look at how a people keep their graves, because it tells you so many different things. Do they have big tombs and mausoleums or the opposite, stone drawers in a wall? Are there flowers; live or cut or plastic? Are the graves well taken care of, or are they broken and dirty and overgrown? Are names and dates on the graves, or whole epitaphs, or nothing? Again, I just really think you can learn a lot there, aside from preferred architectural and artistic styles. It may not be living and breathing history and culture, but it nevertheless is pretty cool.

The non-catholic cemetery is especially interesting, because it's where all the foreigners who lived in Rome were/are buried - and a crazy amount of them were or still are famous!

John Keats!

There are also some of the most famous gravesite statues, like the gorgeous and much-copied Weeping Angel.

Many, many other graves there are simply beautiful, even though the people buried in them were not famous. Or at least not famous enough for a dummy like me to know them.

Pictures with creepy filter.

But, actually, it wasn't creepy at all. It was beautiful.

The cimitero acattolico is like a different place inside of Rome, because the noise and smell of the traffic outside doesn't penetrate the graveyard's walls and it's almost like its own microclimate in there. Especially because of all the green: trees and bushes and grass everywhere. And the gravel crunching under your feet as you walk around. As far as that's possible for a cemetery, this one's right out of a fairytale. 

And there's even a pyramid! 

There was one grave there, though, that I should have visited but didn't. I could kick myself for that, but I can't actually kick myself. I'll ask someone to kick me later...

Antonio Gramsci, the master who managed to get me to understand cultural hegemony, was laid to rest in this cemetery.

And I forgot to visit his grave!


I am definitely getting someone to kick me later, this is just terribleterribleterrible.

In my defense (like such a thing could ever be excused...), by then my feet were hurting so bad I alternated between sitting down - whoever invented the bench, I love you - and tiptoeing instead of walking (hobbling). On the way to the part of the cemetery where he lies, I came past the main gate and upon seeing that, my brain shut down from thirst and pain. I forgot everything and left. On the way home I bought six drinks (3x juice, 3x fizzie stuff) and then sat down at a tram stop with the intention of - for the first time while in Rome - not walking but taking public transport. I drank a litre of red orange juice with water, but the tram never came, so I had to walk back after all.

I took the short way, though, not like earlier.

But, gosh, I guess the truth is I deserved to have to walk, because of my worst of actions. Antonio, I'm sorry.

Old things.

Just like on my second day here in Rome, my wanderings today took me past the most famous of ruins. Well, they wouldn't have, but I took a detour so they would. It's already blasphemy (I'm told) that I didn't and won't take an inside tour of the Colosseum and the Foro Romano and the Colle Palatino. To make up for that I decided to walk past them again and have another look:

Sorry, but I just don't want to go in there. I've seen tons of ruins in my life - especially Roman ones - and while I know they all can't really be compared, it's still enough for me. When I spend money and, more importantly, time on a museum of any kind, it has to be something that's truly interesting to me, personally. Like Warhol and da Vinci.

As always: deal with it!

Piazza trumps Pizza

My wee little bit of exploring yesterday took me, after the museum I already mentioned, to Piazza del Popolo and then to Piazza Navona. Many people might say I should drop the "a" and go stuff my face with pizza instead, but I already did that the day I arrived and I'm good for now. Therefore, Piazza wins over pizza and here come some photos:

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza Navona

Today, I'm probably going to try to make it back to Piazza Navona a little later in the evening, to hang out with a friend's friend. Why "try," you ask? Because of my feet.

I'm going to tell you what's going on with my feet now, so if you want to avoid reading this terribly gross and cringe-inducing information, skip it by scrolling down to the picture of the adorable kitten showing you its tiny blister-free paw.

Okay, you've been warned.

I re-bandaged my toes this morning and then the only thing not yet taken care of were the two giganto-blisters on the soles of my feet. So I put my flippy-floppies back on and hobbled to a pharmacy in order to buy special bandaids. I got them, I put them on right there in the pharmacy, I immediately felt better and walked more easily. Yes, walked. No more hobbling.

About a block and a half from the pharmacy, a thing happened that is indubitably and inarguably one of the most frightening and at the same time disgusting things that have ever happened to me. Ever!

I'm cringing just thinking about it... brrr.

The blister on my right foot burst. I madea step forward, you know, as you do when you're walking, and it just burst. I can't have, not really, but I swear I heard it. I definitely felt it and that would have been bad enough, but I'm really convinced I heard it, too, and whether that's just in my head or not, it makes it worse.

The kitten is right there, you're not less of a man/woman/undisclosed if you skip ahead.

I heard/felt a "plop" and then I felt wetness. Immediately, everywhere. By everywhere I mean all the way up to my ankle. My fricking ankle! How the hell does that even happen, you ask? Because the thing burst towards the side of my foot and in stepping on the ground, the blister-liquid was pushed upwards. I was going to call it blister-juice, but the mere thought made me gag. Oh great, now I did it. Urgh...

I told you this would be horrible, eh, you can still scroll down to the kitten!

I got out a tissue and dried my foot and my jeans (yeah, I know) and my flip flop and then kept on walking. Because, I told you, it's what I do. I was back to half hobbling, though. Not because of pain, because it actually hurt a little less then, but because from that moment on everything I did was overshadowed and permeated and also tinted with the fear of the same thing happening on the other, the left, foot.

Which it did, half an hour later.

Seriously, this sucks.

But I'm done now. So here's the kitten:

I'm going back to Vienna tomorrow so I really only have another day and a half to make it through before I'm back in a place where I've seen most things of interest and won't have any reason to walk around all day every day - rest for my feet.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Interactive Leonardo!!

I came across the coolest museum today after taking a wrong turn on my way to Piazza del Popolo. Eh, it being a straight line doesn't make it a simple trip. It was a good thing, though, getting lost. It's how I got to visit the interactive exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions!

I knew the man had been a genius, but I had no idea of the extent of his influence on the lives we lead today!

Go read, I'll show you some pictures - as soon as I can upload them off the camera. You know the drill. 

Great man and great inventor, wasn't he?
And what a beard!