Sunday, October 30, 2005

Checking out (of) Berlin

I´m in Berlin for what I am guessing is my last post until I arrive back home in the states. Oddly enough, I am in the only Internet cafe I could find near where I have been exploring -- Postdammer Platz. It´s upstairs as part of a Dunkin Donuts. I´m pretty conflicted about this. On one hand, take a look at the picture from Wikipedia. When I was in Berlin in 1985, we looked out over the barren Potsdamer Platz with the wall, the no-man´s land, barbed wire and lights. That it has been reclaimed is good in my eyes, but wow, what it´s been reclaimed with. I´m hoping I happen to have overlooked some small spot of charm and life and not something that seems to cater to either tourists or trying to convince Germans what the West is like.

The old German Democractic Republic tried to use Stalin Alle (now Karl-Marx-Allee) with it´s combined residential and commercial design and use as a way to introduce visitors to the socialist ideal. While the tune may have changed, someone still wants us to dance the same old steps.

Earlier today, as I was sitting under the giant TV tower near Alexander Platz, I heard an announcement come on repeating in German and English: "Dear Berlin Guests. The Police would like your attention. Do not gamble on or play the "Find the Lady" game. You cannot win." I giggled thinking that the old find the queen card shuffle had made it´s way to Germany. Then I crosses one of the many bridges of the Spree River. They weren´t kidding. On four corners of the bridge were four setups. What suprised me was that they were literally running a shell game. Wha-huh? Isn´t that the third oldest way to turn a trick?

So I watched for a bit because I knew that there was at least on shill who plays and wins, drawing in the victims. I spotted one right away. It seemed pretty obvious to me, but I watched at least two people get fleeced out of 50€ each in the space of a few minutes. When I pulled out my camera to take a picture the crowd closed in. I looked up and one man looked at me and said, "sorry". I smiled back at the second shill but I kept my camera aimed at the crowd. We kinda faced off and I put my camera away. He walked back to his look out position by a street light. A few minutes laters, I successfully snapped some pictures (but man, they just didn´t come out) and I heard "Kein fotografieren!" and I suddenly had two of the shills looking pretty pissed off at me. I then spotted a third shill and figured the odds weren´t looking so good. I backed off under the now very watchful eye of the lookout.

Another half a block and I come across a small crowd gathered around a couple of Berlin Police officers. they are running a shell game to in an effort to show people that it´s a scam and that they can´t win. I´m not sure how effective this is when there are four such scams running and pulling people in a strong stones throw away.

I just spent the rest of the time walking around and remembering that I can´t figure out what day it is. I told someone "no problem" and that I would meet them on Saturday in Berlin. Big problem -- today is Sunday. I´m such a putz.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Loving and Leaving Leipzig

While driving around Leipzig was more than a little bit of a chore, walking around without any real purpose has been a joy. Leipzig was originally recommended to me from one of the Conference Assocates during the last Game Developers Conference. She said it had a very strong youth culture. She was not wrong at all.

Leipzig calls itself the "Little Paris". I haven´t been to Paris so the best comparison I can make is to call it the "Big Berkeley". There is a range of hippies, street punks, hipsters, students and goths (called dark culture here) along with the business folks and blue collar workers when they aren´t building new streets, new streetcar stations and restoring whole buildings. There´s a lot fewer "fashionable" types and so people seem a little more down to earth than what I have had a chance to experince in Germany so far. I think the main reason is that, like Berkeley, it´s University in right in the city center.

Now all Berkeley needs is an Absinthe bar. Last night, I found my way to Sixtina where they have a lot of Absinthe. I didn´t count bottles, but I would guess over 40 varieties lined the top shelf of the bar. They had a handy chart of the top ten with or without anise and I ordered a Mr. Jekyll. After that I settled down with a beer and watched the regulars interact (I was clearly not part of the group so I was largely ignored). I had so much fun that I missed my last street car home and wound up hiking about 2 miles until 2AM. Walking, even drunk, even in the dark, is easier in Leipzig than driving.

Oh and my only picture of Leipzig. In Europe, there are a lot of things called "Mc" something. There are "McPaper" office supplies, "McNet" internet cafes. Let´s hear it for Europe not letting McDonald´s bully them around. The oddest "McSomething" I have seen yet is on the third floor of the Leipzig Main Train Station. The Station also houses a large shopping mall which my guide book called "a joy to shop in". Well, I guess they don´t have many malls in Europe so they don´t carry the same connotation. Plus, we don´t tend to build malls in 150 year old buildings. But back to the picture. Yup, the McClean are clean and safe toilets. Okay, to give them some due, they look very spa-like on the inside and you can nab a shower here for 7€. I´d have killed for something like this in Rome.

I know the city will hate me for representing them this way, but there was so much going one and so many layers of buildings, people and activity that pictures just could not do it any justice. And for that reason I love Leipzig even though I only just explored it (I rode street cars all day to the lake on the west side and the more funky south city). In less than 12 hours, I will be on my way to Berlin and in 36 hours, I will be taking my various flights toward home.

Is the fauxhawk Germany´s answer to the Mullet?

If I never see another grown man with a fauxhawk again, I will be ever so happy. I realize that the guy with the biggest beard in Germany shouldn´t come down on other people´s grooming choices, but please stop with the fauxhawk. It doesn´t look cool, sexy, hip or tough. It looks as though you can´t make an actual commitment to be edgy. It looks like you snuck out of the house with a normal doo and then did it up so mom never finds out. It should be left to five year old boys with a handful of shampoo in the tub.

And women of Germany, are you really finding this appealing?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Superstraße = Superscheiße

So a while back, I picked up a "Super Straße" which for those familiar with Thomas Guide, it´s a big old book of German roads. It´s been really helpful in keeping me fromm becoming utterly lost. However, it´s not really all that accurate, at least in terms fo the actual geography of the streets and as far as Leipzig goes, it´s been pretty much useless.

So, do not try to drive in Leipzig unless you have a eally good map and then it might not be worth it. This picture which I swiped off the interweb shows what is called a "Baustelle". That means "construction zone" and I can´t guess just how many of Leipzig´s streets are torn up for construction, but it´s a lot and definitely the most I have seen thus far. They are a host city for the World Cup in 2006 which explains much. With all the construction going on, the other word we get to learn is "Umleitung". This means "detour".

But the Leipzig tourist office was super helpful and tried really hard to find a cheap pension for me. They found a set of apartments about 7km outside of town. Cheap and it comes with private shower and kitchenette. I hit the Aldi and stocked up on food and coffee. No more 1,80€ a day habit! Still, getting out to the major autobahn is tricky. Luckily, I plan to spend Thursday and Friday using the street cars. There doesn´t seem to be any underground trains in the city so it´s very different with the large number of tracks all over the city.

I spent yesterday in Quedlinburg which is literally a city of half-timbered buildings. They have a museum that explains the building methods and different styles from the1300´s to the 1800´s and the museum itself is in a building built in 1310! (And let me tell you, I stuck my nose all over that building). I just came across Raymond Faure´s impressive photosite with over 570 pictures of Quedlinburg and this nice sheet of examples of half-timbered work from 1310 - 1576. Whew! That´s once less project I have to work on.

Today was Wittenberg which is where the film Luther takes place. No, there´s much more to the town, but I am about to get dinged another 1,50. I visited the Lucas Cranach (the Elder) house (where I learned that he ran a pharmacy and wine shop out of the lower floors) and the Luther House which has a really, really good presentation including many Cranach paintings and woodcuts from his workshop.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Quicky update

Sorry, no pictures today. I just happened to stumble on an internet cafe open on a Sunday in Mühlhausen. Mühlhausen is well know for it´s part in the Reformation and the Peasant´s War of 1524-26. Thomas Müntzer was said to provoke the peasants into fighting and the old East Germany considered him a hero. A docent at the Peasant War Museum revealed that their current exhibit is only two years old and that while the objects are the same, the context is very different than when the communist goverment ruled. So I got to see one of the five Mark notes that the wikipedia article mentions.

Today is Sunday. I spend Saturday driving from Lennep through Kassel to Mühlhausen. In Kassel, I visited the Museum fur Sepulkralkultür which is a museum of death culture -- funeral rites and mourning culture. Sadly, they had no good catalogs and their site doesn´t have good images, but took several including some beautiful rings.

I also spent the day recovering from my last night in Lennep. I stopped in at Bei Josef again and have about a pint. I expected to leave, eat and then return, but first an older man originally from Italy came and we started talking. Then a man originally from Turkey came in and we started talking. Suffice to say, I drank about 2 liters and spent the night drunkenly trying to get any point I might have across. I think I may be hosting some guest in the next year....

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Taking My Ease in Lennep

My goal for Monday was to just relax. I had a late breakfast and went up to my room to write postcards to almost everyone. When I left my room at noon, I expected to check out some shops and then grab a bite to eat. A stroll around town and I found that I was encountering something I hadn´t yet in the larger cities I had been in -- every shop was closed between noon and 3PM. So I made my way to a place on the market place called "Bei Josef".

Instead of finding food, I found a group of men gathered around one table talking it up. I took a seat at this table and they asked who I was. When I asked them to speak a little more slowly, they assumed I was from Holland. I introduced myself and ordered a Schlösser Alt. I haven´t had a Schlösser Alt in 20 years when I was in Hameln and it was as good as I remember.
Pretty soon another older man came in and asked who I was. When I introduced myself as from California, he switched to English and started to tell me about his trip to the US -- Los Angeles, Utah, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas (he saw Sigfried and Roy) and San Francisco. He really, really wanted to practice his English and I figured it would give me a chance to get in some local good graces.

And how. Pretty soon we reintroduced ourselves. Paul then introduced me to his best friend Hans-Conrad and I met Karola, the red-faced, red-haired, stout barmaid and her husband Uwe. It was Hans-Conrad´s birthday and he was buying rounds for everyone. That included me after a bit. Then Josef himself came in and I was introduced again. Luckily, Josef was hip on the idea that I wanted to practice *my* German and was willing to speak only German to me. Another round on Hans-Conrad and a further round on Josef and it was a good way to spend an windy Fall afternoon. This is what I had hoped to find at least a little of while I was here.

As Paul and Hans-Conrad packed up in a taxi, I made my way to some shops. In the bookstore, I found several books on the town of Lennep and the area including one written for young teens (just a little above my readign abiliy in German so it will be good practice). Then I dropped into what I thought was a toy store, but it turned out to be a second hand shop. Better still, they had a pair of jeans in my size.

Cheap jeans have been a small but important goal since I arrived in Germany. I didn´t bring any as I figured they would take too long to dry and weigh to much traveling. However, everyone in Germany is wearing jeans and I have been feelign like a sore thumb. Particularly in my black slacks which seems to draw assumptions that I am orthodox Jewish including at least one sing-song cat-call of "Juden! Juden" by some stupid little boys. Anyway, they are classic overdone European style jeans for a mere 2,50€! So I´ll see how many stares I draw wearing them in Köln.

How could it be better? Discovering the local Aldi for cheap ready to eat meals (did I mention these are like a German Trader Joe´s) and finding a Döner place open on Sunday. I´ll do a whole post about Döner-Kabap sometime.

Finding a place to call home

After my overnight in Schwäbisch Hall, I headed for Heidelberg and the German Museum of Pharmacy. They did not allow photographs and the only definitive pieces I was interested in were three morters and three wooden drug jars. Considering wooden drug jars are extremely rare, this was worth the trip. It clarified a number of Medieval and Renaissance paintings and woodcuts of apothecaries. However, the rest of Heidelberg was overrun with tourists from all over Europe - from overly polite British folks to very demanding Germans from other parts of the country.

After that, I found the A1 Autobahn and headed north as fast as either the Renault or traffic would allow. My goal was to get to a point on the map somewhere near Köln but not too close to the city where prices would be high and the pace of life fast. I took a chance on a road side "Rasthof" which turned out to be a fairly American-style hotel. A bit more than I expected but it was definite shelter for the night. A bonus was that it has a local yellow pages with maps of the area and listings for (hurrah!) hotels. This areal shot of the town of Lennep caught my eye and it turned out that half of the hotels listed were in that town. Actually, the town is a suburb of a larger town called Remscheid, which mostly lays on the west side of the A1 while Lennep lies on the east side.

The next morning (a Sunday morning when *nothing* is open), I parked on the edge of town and walked around the old city. It´s very quaint and was utterly dead. I saw maybe a dozen people and that was only because I walked by the train station and near the newer part of town. The only accomodations I could find were hotels which tend to be a bit pricer than I really wanted, but the town was growing on me. When they started to open up, I picked the "König von Preußen" and it seemed like a good price. I was led up to an upper story room overlooking the market square. I unloaded the car and drove up to Münster where I hoped to find the Leper Museum (open only on Sunday from 3PM to 5PM).

Trying to find it turned out to be a bust and I spent most of my time there sitting in front of a beer cellar enjoying the really fine Fall weather and some equally fine beer. I´ll need to remember to write about the planned community I did find at Kinderhaus. It was so planned and nearly desserted on a Sunday that it felt creepy.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Neuberg and Schwäbisch Hall (or why I went Germany and skipped out on Rothenberg)

When I was in Nürnberg, I picked up a flyer for an exhibition called "At the Kaiser´s Pleasure" (Von Kaisers Gnaden) -- feel free to dispute my transation. So I headed south to Neuburg on der Donau a town that happens to be celebrating it´s 500 anniversery this year. Which got me thinking that the next 10-20 years will be good times to visit Germany for those interested in the early 16thC Germany. There should be more general interest in the period which means more accessible information and relevant events. Book your tickets kids!

Neuberg itself was built during the years 1535-45 so it´s a good example of a Reniassance palacial home. It was added to over the years including some mosaic grottos during the mid-17thC.

However the exhibit was wonderful. I arrived just as it opened and while I had to swim through school group after scool group, I was allowed to take pictures (without flash, of course). So some of them are a bit fuzzy, but being able to zoom in on a painting of Kaiser Karl V´s camp and pick up details of camp life that both the art and military historians tend to overlook. Of course, I picked up the exhibition book for non-fuzzy images. In addition to the works they normally have at Neuberg, they borrowed excellent pieces from all over Germany. I was able to look at examples of books from the Munich State Library Archives and some weapons borrowed from the Germanisches National Museum where I had recently been.

The old city is up on a hill and the rest of the town lies below. This makes the old town very quite and easy paced. I had a picnic lunch in the square surrounded by Baroque facaded buildings. While I ate, I looked at my map. It would take me at least an hour and half to get back up to Rothenberg. What I really wanted to do was find the "bone room" of 4000 monks under the St. Micheals church in Schwäbisch Hall. Taking the back roads, I figured I could make Schwäbisch Hall by 4 in time to catch the church still open.

I made to Schwäbisch Hall easily enough, but finding the Altstadt was a bit tricker until I just started going forward, trusting there would be a sign pointing me there. Wow. What can I say about Schwäbisch Hall? It´s beautiful. If you are interested in the 16thC Germany, put this on your list of places to visit. The church was built in stages during the 1400´s and it contains beautiful sculptures and altars pieces.

When I arrived, some children were practicing for a play - Joeseph and his Brother. Imagine walking up a hundred (or so) steps to a great stone church with one seriously pissed off Archangel over the door and hearing a soprano voice echoing out the door. It simply added to the experience. I entered and bought a guide boom. I asked about a bone room under the church, but my German must still need work since I was told, this is it. I decided to make the best of it and looked around. That´s where I found, behind the altar, an iron railing surrounding a large piece of plexiglass on the floor. I had found my monks and some of them were gracious enough to smile for me.

Stepping out of the church and into the light of the western sun, I decided I would stay and walk around some more and explore what alleyways it had to offer. I found a not-so cheap place near the church and explored. I didn´t take many pictures because at one point, I got tired of carrying the camera. So I put it away and watch some students set up backlit sheets across the ruins of some old part of the city and walked the maze of streets until well after dark. In the morning, as the fog lifted from the surrounding river valley, I watched the Saturday morning market get underway in the plaza under the church steps.

Auf dem Autobahn

Yup! I got me a car and I´ve hit the road. Well, except it´s not much of a car. It´s a Renault and it´s like driveing a delivery truck. The seats are way too high and built like truck seats so I am not comfortable with how it handles curves any higher than 140 km/h (86mph). I´ve been driving on both regular raods and the autobahn and I can´t always say that the autobahn is faster. See, it´s a myth that the Germans are speed demons. If the speed limit is posted at 100, 80, 60, 40 km/h then they pretty much adhere to that limit. As soon as there is no limit or the magic 120 sign comes up, then they go for broke. It´s not hard driving here at all.

I spent my first day in the car driving far south to Mindelheim, the location of Mindelberg and the birth place of Georg von Frundsberg. The castle is closed, but I was able to get a good view of the town and walk off my typical German breakfast of bread, butter, cheese.

The drive home was an education in reading German road signs. My map has tiny numbers indicating the road number (and then there are hundreds of small towns and roads it doesn´t show). On road signs, there are typically 3-8 city names and sometimes an equally small number and color indicating what road takes you there. So if there are 15 towns between you and your destination, read quick! It´s not that bad. I missed only one turn taking the winding roads across Bavaria in the dark. (Oh yeah, no signs are lighted here, that´s one reason they are extra big.) But I made it home in one piece, found a free overnight parkign spot and in the morning, found my way out of Nürnberg and heading south....

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

We have pictures!

Today, I met with Dr. Johannis Willers, the curator in charge of the medical display at the Germanisches National Museum. He explained (very quickly and in German) that there are very few surgical tools left from the 16th C. He recommended that I check two surgical manuals from the period and I explained that I already had both. I was able to ask where the very cool surgical tool case was and he said it was being photographed. I will write to him latr and see if I can obtain detailed photographs.

Yesterday, I went to Ingolstadt. I got off late and so I had to cool my heels while waiting for them to reopen in the afternoon. I stopped in the Das Bayerische Armee-Museum. For my friends who know, this is the Museum that has the Turkish tent and the full Fähnlein of 500 tin soldiers all painted differently. Well, they also have a very nice display of guns and artillery.

Here´s a handmortar ("Kat´s Head) from the late 16thC. There´s appearantly been a discussion of drummers being armed so this one is for you.

The Armee Museum is seemingly endless. Just as I turn another corner, I was asked to follow a docent. I followed him out the door, through a courtyard, into another building and them up three flights of stairs. He gave me a courteous bow and turned on a light to another exhibition. I was in a room of photographs documenting the destruction of Ingolstadt by American bombers early 1945. This has been a sobering aspect of visiting Germany as an adult. To realize just how much we bombed, how much history was destroyed and then to walk the same streets and see how much was rebuilt and even restored.

Suddenly, the "US World Tour, Bombing a Country Near You" tee shirt that I picked up on a lark didn´t seem nearly as smarmy.

But I came here for a purpose. Not to have my concept of the world and my place in it altared (that´s a joke, son). Off to the Medical Museum! I had tried to write to the Museum before I left (and I have recieved an answer from all I contacted by now) so I took my chances on trying to meet someone. No luck. The nice woman behind the counter could not quite understand who I was seeking and since I didn´t have a name, it was a bit futile. So I resolved to look and if I had questions to press for information afterwards.

I asked if I could take pictures without a flash which has been allowed so far (I was allowed to take photos of Dürer and Cranach paintings!). Not this time -- no pictures at all. Crud. Luckily, the 16thC instruments were in a small case, laying flat which made it pretty easy to sketch and measure. Again, it´s less than a dozen instruments, so I sat down and got to work.

Until a woman came by and was photographing every thing in site -- with a flash! So I let her go through and the decided to just screw it. I´ll take as many notes and measurements as I need and then start snapping. If they throw me out, it´s more than I would have gotten. So, to the director and all the staff at the medical museum in Ingolstadt, I apologize. But it was worth it to
be able to get detailed close ups of construction like this.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Im Praxis

I got a taste of the German medical system on Monday. It seems Italy left me a parting gift in the form of a insect bite that became infected. I had a six inch red streak running from the bite down my chest. By coincidence, "Gift" in German means poison.

Here´s how it works here. Pharamcists (Apotheker) have the ability to make diagnoses and prescribe medications without the need for a doctors prescriptions (in some cases). Figuring this was the best triage I could have, I went to "Spital-Apothek" which takes it´s name from the Heilig-Geist-Spital a Mediveal Hospital built on the river that divides Nürnberg. There, they looked at my shoulder and decided to call a doctor upstairs. He was worried that it could be infected and wanted to take a look.

I went upstairs to a private practice (Praxis) and waited in a line. When I reached the desk, they sent for someone with good English skills. I thought I was doing pretty well, but in this case, they probably wanted to be sure. It was explained that this is a cash only system so I should probably cash up at the nearest bank. This got me worried that I might be paying US type of prices for a simple visit.

Back downstairs, I stopped by a cafe for a shot of espresso and was pleased to find it was a little Italian spot. As far as coffee goes, Italy consitently has better coffee than Germany. Then I went back up stairs to wait some more.

I didn´t have to wait long. Dr. Weiler, an energetic, but friendly man with a cherubic face, found me and brought me in for a look. Between his English and my German, he explained how it was likely some kind of wasp that got so hungry it decided I was a good dining spot. That infected the wound which I learned is called "Wundrosen" and then leads to further "Infection" (spelled the same). I was given a prescriptions for some powerful antibiotics and send along with out being charged.

I guess we both got a good story out of it.

Oh, and I spent an hour photographing a dozen medical instruments at the Germanisces National Museumand more time being blown away at the collection of Masterworks where they put the best of the 16th - 18thC in ust a few rooms.

Right now I have to catch my train to Ingolstadt for the Medical Museum there plus the worlds largest fresco.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Me and Rome aren´t on speaking terms

So far, any minute I have spent in Rome has been painful. I left Cortona early in the morning and Amie and Issa dropped me off at the station. By my guess, I would have nearly three hours in Rome to wander just a little, maybe catch one sight and then head out. It was not to be.

It took 45 minutes of waiting to get my bags checked. I still have no clue where the lockers are located. I guess it´s the best theft deterrent when the people with the bags can´t find it. Then I wanted to buy some stamps and mail four postcards. The tourist info desk said to buy them from a Tobacconist. The Tobaconnist I find says no and points me across the street to the Post Office.

Guess what? There´s no machine. The only way to buy stamps is to wait in line. For a week, I´ve been getting used to the "Italian Line" which isn´t so much a line as it is a mob with people constantly jocking to get up front. And all I want are four stamps -- quarto stampe. Instead, the Italian Post Office (at least this Roman one) has you take a number where you will be served by ONE window. This one window also seems to be where government forms, paychecks or anything involving a small stack of papers on the part of the patron and a whole bunch of typing on the part of the clerk.

So I have my number, 78 and I watch as we s-l-o-w-l-y count up. Occasionally, the numbers zip by and I realize that if I am not up and out of my seat within 10 seconds of my number coming up, I lose my spot. I watched the counter like a hawk.

Needless to say, all I have seen of Rome is the main train station, gypsies and police telling me I´m not allowed to sit on the ground and eat lunch. Well, I did get a chance to see the temple of Minerva from the train as I left the station. Maybe another time when I´m in the mood for the bustle of that big city, but until then, Roma, don´t bother calling.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A visit to La Specola

When I arrived in Camucia on Sunday, Amie mentioned that everyone was excited about going to La Specola to see the Wax Anatomical Models. Oh, won't poor Dr. Marta Poggesi be suprised when, instead of two people, there's a whole group. No problem, it should make our visit all the more memorable to her. *g*

The anatomy pieces are actually just a small part of the zoological display they have there. They have many, many preserved animals dating to the 17thC so there was a little of Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe to the museum. There was little or no effort to show the habitat of animals that is a popular form of display in american museums. That made the display all the more impressive with cases and cases of birds, fish, insects, large and small animals.

During our walk through, an older man who worked there asked us, "How did you learn about this? No one comes here!" Then came the real question, "Why?". Indeed, why would six loud Americans come to a part of Florence that most people just pass through. Why would they find their way through the parking garage and up three flights of stairs to visit a museum with 250 year old displays?

We came for the wax collection. Wow. While they allow photographing (sans flash) of the rest of the displays, they do not allow any photographing of the wax models. While I have a copy of the Taschen book of the models, there is nothing quite like being able to see the displays from a variety of angles and truely appreciate the meticulous detail and huge amount of effort that each piece required. The pieces showing the lymphatic system or the circulation were stunning, I found the one piece that showed a fetus in the womb with a translucent layer just as impressive. I have had a chance to see the Body World exhibit and I can honestly tell you that these models looked very, very close to the corpses Dr. Haagen displays.

After our walk through, we meet with Dr. Marta Poggesi who turned out to speak not much English so she called one of her students to come help. We got to hear a few additional stories such as how one of the displays of a torso was the winning entry of a competition seeking out new wax artists. Celmente Susini, who you can read about on the La Specola site, did that whole torso model himself. We also learned that the cases, including some of the glass, in which each set of models is displayed are the original cases. We thanked Dr. Pogessi and her student for their time and left to explore Florence our seprate ways.

Live from Cortona's Community Center

Unortunately, my plans for adding pictures to my blog as I go along isn't panning out. I keep forgetting to pack the memory card => USB dongle. So you will have to bear with my words.

Right now, I am in Cortona's Community Center. It's upstairs through some small doors (I just kept following signs that said "internet"). The first room is a dark bar which in Italy, supplies the hourly coffee, water, wine and occasionally liquor. The next room are for the pool tables. And the third large room is where a group of men are playing parcheesi. Four computers, a bookshelf of used books and a table with checkers is in a small room off that.

Oh, I'd just like to say that every guide book needs to be updated. Hey guys, it's not It's Thanks.

Oh and a note to all world travelers.... if you can't understand the language of the window that pops up when you enter your username and password, do not, I repeat, do not hit anything that looks like "yes". Firefox fans will know that this is the window asking to save your password information. Firefox fans will also know that there is an option to reveal these saved passwords. Yes, someone decided to connect to their Bank of London account and saved the password. I took a picture which I will granulate later to prove my point.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Quick Catch up

Let's see how fast I can do this. 19 Minutes left on my hour here in Florence. I haven't had a chance to get to a computer or post anything because there's no cell phone access along the hilss where our house is and I have found only one computer in Cortona that is available for connecting to the internet. It's in a travel agent/sweets/soda shop near one fo the main tourist entrances.

So, here's the quick update. I Hope to have more time to fill out the details of these stories:

- My flight into Europe was uneventful, but hitting Italy it all went out the door. My flight came in after the last train from Rome to Cortona came in, but I didn't realize this until I was at the Rome station. I was able to drop my bag off at a baggage claim, but was too tired to try wandering the streets hoping to find a hostel to stay in. So I stayed in the station on platform 1 with the rest of the homeless (some waiting for trains, some permanent residents of the station). I got on hour of sleep and it wasn't deep at all since I had someone scoping out my boots and jacket when I did finally laydown.

- Poor Amie and Issa (friends I am staying with) had their luggage misplaced in a transfer in Madrid so they spent 3 days alternatatly dealing, fuming annd calling the airport in Pisa.

- Sunday Market in Arezzo. It's flipping huge. I really should have taken pictures, but I was still running on one hour of train station sleep so sitting on the steps of the church and soaking up the sun seemed the best way to get back in tune with Italy. It must have worked because so far I have had two sets of old women start speaking to me as if I was Italian.

- Monday in Cortona. This place defines the term Tuscan Hill town. It's a Etruscan walled city with some main touristy thorough fares and lots of side streets. I was shopoed out of the Church of St. Marghareta (I'll deal with spelling later), by the nuns being called to mass. I randomly came across a very meaty lunch (rabbit, duck and chicken for 6€) that appearantly every other American knew about too. It rained off and on all day so between walking up hill and up more hill, I hide in covered alleys and watch umbrella-wielding tourista walk by. Then I walked down the hill to the large Cemetary and took some photos back up at the hill town.

- Tuesday in Florence. We all just got back from La Specola and everyone agreed that it was worth the 7AM train trip. We met with Dr. Marta Poggesi (spelling?) and one of her students who explained more about the collection. I dicovered that there is a museum of pathological anatomy (think Muetter Mueseum in the US). I'm not sure I will make it. I have four hours before we all meet up at the train station and head for home. I'm really thinking that me, lunch and several espressos just before siesta are more of a plan.

Just a few minutes to post. More hopefully tomorrow (if I can get on that one machine in Cortona).