Entrepreneurial spirit, too little too late & spilled beer

I just returned from the village store. I took a few cold beers from their fridge, the coldest beers around. I like that. It’s summer. Three beers. Having a store in the village rocks. It is convenient for me, only a … Continue reading

Midieval Fantasy, Pirates, a Druid and Pagan Folk Music

Once upon a time …well yesterday actually. In a land somewhere …  as in Germany.

Celebrating 21 years of going way way back in time, the MPS14 or ‘Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum‘  or in English ‘Mediaeval Fantasy Spectacular’  put on the annual traveling show with this and that for everyone and this is what I saw …

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Ye Banished Privateers, and pirates too … the lot o’ them

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Skater Privateer

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the eyes have it

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family fun

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friends and family and large dog

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spices and herbs or herbs and spices

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scottish warrior from behind

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scottish warrior from the front

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drinking horn and knife on belt

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shopping old timey style

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dress fit for m’lady

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m’lady with headdress

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please don’t touch! much thanks! In Germanic

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knives for sale

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man in kilt

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faerly  floating above it all

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bottle of themed drink

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seated with large sword

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enjoying a brew

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or two’s company

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drawn together by interest

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fantastic fantasy

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dreaded and jeweled

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checking out the wares as well as the wearers

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reindeer furs for sale

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Celtic Druid

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Saor Patrol piper Charlie Allan

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good music and dancing

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On guitar, Steve Legget of Saor Patrol

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Mark Monaghan of Saor Patrol beats the drum

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wee lad on air percussion rocking out to Saor Patrol

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appreciative audience

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dancing foot… really

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jester waiting for an audience

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staffs and other stuff for sale in many festival booths

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other stuff for sale

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black dog and man in black

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craftsman making his wares

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Steve “Sic” Evans van der Harten (left) and Jennifer “Jenny” Evans van der Harten (right) Omnia warming up to share their neoceltic pagan folk tunes with their fans

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Daphyd “Crow” Sens of Omnia scans the crowd while holding his slideridoo, a modern sliding didgeridoo

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Omnia in concert

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Ominous clouds opened up on the audience during the Omnia concert and the hardcore danced on in the hail

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knight with shiny shoulder

Yes, this event was certainly a spectacle to behold.

Three Days in Budapest & riding the retro metro

It was wet, grey, tiring and dingy in places. Not at all the way I’d imagined a January. I imagined it colder, much colder. However that is the kind of weather that awaited my wife and I on a recent short city holiday into Hungary. Budapest to be exact.

A cheapo Easy Jet flight three nights including breakfast at a reasonable price in a well situated and well appointed Hotel in the midst of that large city was just the thing.

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Not that the weather where we live on the German side of the Swiss/French border was any better as we were herded through the airport gate like so much documented cattle. It could have been worse, much worse. The city could have been held in the frosty clutches of mean old man Winter. But it was not. And so a little bit of wet weather didn’t seem all that depressing when we stepped out into the Hungarian rain for the first time.

We arrived mid afternoon and  it being a Sunday and us not having planned anything touristically urgent as far as activities go, we located our hotel via our helpful little and later much used city/map book and my suddenly in demand sense of direction (albeit a bit confused with having to read/decipher a new language neither one of us was face with before). Then we set off and rather embarrassingly our very first jaunt  took us to a pretty big mall. Say no more, say no more.

January darkness fell more rapidly than we had anticipated and as the rain had let up a bit, we took advantage to look at the city lights from Margit Hid bridge over the dark Danube at the southern tip of Margaret Island. Nice.

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Very glad to have a guidebook/map along for this trip. Knowing and figuring out exactly where we were or exactly where we wanted to be/go wasn’t all that much fun all the time but it certainly made getting around easier. The locals we approached were very helpful when asked for assistance in either German or English. Thanks kindly you friendly Budapestians.

tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

Tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

There were tips on good eats in the guide booklet at several, actually two indoor market halls where various delectables from all over could be sampled and I had set my mind and stomach for an afternoon stroll of deliciousness in silly proportions/portions. I was really looking forward to the culinary experience and the usual list of local eats such as goulash and … well, goulash was the only culinary dish I knew of. But we were open to new things too. After wandering down a canyon of tourist shops lining the Vaci Utca;

One of the lesser shopping display along the Vaci Utca

One of the lesser shopping displays along the Vaci Utca

…pretty much all of them selling pretty much the same wares. Hmmm. At the end of that Utca we suddenly came upon the Nagycsarnok or Central Market Hall. Halleluja I thought; well maybe not thought so much as I felt something akin to that expression as we pushed our way through the heavy dirty darkish green woolen curtain flaps that separated the winterish outside from the warmish interior. Let the fun begin.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

One stall sold fresh and colorful vegetables, the next sold honey, various sized bags of Paprika both sweet and hot along with different alcoholic souvenir bottles along with nuts, dried fruits and trinket sized wooden scoop spoons. Along the lines of ‘Souvenir’ accoutrement. Noted. The next stall sold meat: poultry, pork, beef, various cuts and meats in differing states of deconstruction depending on what the butcher was doing. These stalls also stocked huge supplies of the ‘Pick’ salami that I also was keen on purchasing to take back and sample in the comforts of home. These salamis came in different sizes and the different stalls appeared to apply differing prices for these same wares, depending on where they were located in the hall. The wife made note of that fact. Nevertheless we bought some. In a nutshell, a large market hall with many stalls but all stalls basically selling the same things. And upstairs arranged around the outer walls, more stalls with traditional embroidery and more tourist trickery. Bummer. The whole thing could have been condensed into four shops based on goods sold. Nothing for my belly other than a couple of excellent spicy dried snack sausages. We did not go into the basement for further my disappointment.

National Spice of Hungary is Paprika ... ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

National spice of Hungary is Paprika … ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

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Nope … didn’t eat here. Why not? Well, the name implied certain culinary danger. No matter that the hustler out on the street touted the menu to be “just like your mother home food”.

We did however stumble across the ‘Strudelhaus‘ on October 6 Utca. Wow, who knew Strudel could be so good. This restaurant also offers other traditional Hungarian fare but we spoiled our appetites with mouthwatering late afternoon goodness. Absolutely recommend this establishment for a delightful and very tasty visit.

Below is a sample of the sights and personal impressions:

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Parliament building besieged by constructionism

Solitary tower view point overlooking Budapest

One of the towers of the Fishermans Bastion overlooking Budapest

Bronze Aged Police

Bronze Aged Police on Zrinyi Utca/Oktober 6 Utca. Budapest

Wooden restaurant facade

Wooden restaurant facade on Vaci Utca

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Post christmas blues in the city

from there to here (camera viewpoint)

Rokford restaurant on the corner of Honved St and Szalay St. Didn’t eat there either.

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Seriously guarding the Hungarian Presidentat Sandor Palota

Looking across the Danube river  (beside the 'Chain Bridge')

Looking across the Danube river beside the Széchenyi lánchíd or Chain Bridge

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Detail of historical graphic context

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The unintended monumental asphyxiation of statues in an unnamed square somewhere in downtown Budapest

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Two tram cars as seen from Vemezo Way

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Yup Unicum … tastes exactly like ZWACK

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Still in rail service to the nation at Nayugati Railway Terminal

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Lonely morning street with retro VW bug

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Cool colors and wheels

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Dekagrams of decadent goodness

We can imagine how Budapest might look like in spring time.

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tired tourist feet

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Good’bye’ Budapest. Thank you kindly for the hospitality.

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wrong-way adventures on the M3 Blue Line to get to the airport

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Captain, please start this engine for takeoff

Things to Get Used to or The Agonizing Process of Getting Used to New Things

Ok, so I’ve moved to an entirely new place and away from the old familiar surroundings. Germany is the new place, Canada was the old.

While I am settling into the new reality and feel quite comfortable adjusting there are a few things that don’t come quite so easy even if they are rather normal things like … oh, say coffee for instance. I can’t find a cup to my liking anywhere and am beginning to wonder what it is that I’m wanting.

Here is a freeform list of things I find interesting to get used to:

Garbage: The Germans take their Garbage seriously as they do most things and it is sorted at home. Plastics and metal cans in one clear yellow bag, regular kitchen waste in a green bag or a blue bag. If your garbage can is full up before pickup day you can purchase an expensive garbage bag at the local city hall for 3.90 Euros making those some of the most expensive plastic bags I’ve ever come across. Paper is also handled separately and you can either sign up and pay for a paper only garbage can that is emptied regularly or you can take your own paper waste to a recycling depot somewhere in a village near you. Glass is also dealt with by the customer either by returning bottles to the store and inserting them into a vending machine that accepts the bottles and then prints up a little ticket with your refund which you can use against new purchases at the store. I like the way plastic bottles are dealt with in some of these vending machines, in goes the bottle, it is scanned for acceptability and then when it is conveyed into the bowels of the machine you hear a crunching, shredding sound et voila … no space robbing storage issues.

Coffee: Seems most of the roasts available here are either light and mild or dark espresso with crema. No French roast, Verona, Komodo, or other roasts that I’ve been accustomed to in the coffee nerd centers of the North American west coast regions. To be fair, I have not yet succumbed to the lure of the lone single Starbucks I know of in the larger city of Basel to the south of me or in Freiburg to my right (wen I face west). I have also noted that much of the coffee making is done by machines with humans pushing buttons and using ‘pads’ instead of the drip method which I prefer. Ok, that is how I like my cafeine/water combination.

Store hours: Difficult when one is in a hurry. Most notable when in a rush around mid day when lots of shops close for an hour or more. Damn you 24 hour lifestyle of the North American continent. That said it goes without saying that pretty much everything (except restaurants) is closed up tight on Sundays. That also means that shopping on Saturday can be a mean feat what with everyone needing to stock up for the weekend.

Alcohol: Pleasant change in attitudes, cheaper prices, larger selection and well … it’s mind boggling at times.

Baked goods: Also pleasant and the selections are also dangerously appealing.

Cheese: Lets just say ‘cheeses’ … way too many to list, try or wrap my head living here were Germany, Switzerland and France touch each other. And Europe being so … small other selections from other countries round out the selection nightmare. I stick to my favorites and try the unknown from time to time.

Meats: Expensive pleasure when indulged if you like your big chunks of red protein for the grill. Sausages abound in nearly endless varieties and game is abundant as well, which is something I’ll try in the near future.

Vegetables: Come from local producers or from Spain instead of Mexico as I have been used to, haha. Much is to be said of the ‘Bio/organic’ movement afoot although it can be suspect in how much organic produce etc can be produced. The area I live in is rural patterned by farm fields and villages and vineyards and this or that organic farm with produce for sale. It is a food lovers paradise to be sure.

Village shop: Yes this village has one, just one. It is not always open but has a selection from magazines to cheese to alcoholic distractions to tide you over until you can get into the next town to do some real shopping.

Hair cutting: Don’t go to the cut and go place, even if you have no other choice. Unless you like having your hair barbered by what appears to be a 12  year old girl who thinks it normal when your hair looks weird after she’s done her thing. I’ve been wearing a hat for a week now and am saving up new hair for a decent cut. I need to find an established Italian or Turkish barber shop or go for the near bald look again.

Bird song:  Yup, different birds around these parts too. Ok so the sparrows and swallows and crows are familiar, as are the robins. But the Hawks, buzzards, storks and cranes/herons and pheasants, cookoos and other feathered flying fowl are new and pleasant discoveries.

Driving: Again, another serious engagement. Drive like you mean it. Accelerate rapidly and brake late. And don’t forget, right before left (someone arriving at an indicated intersection from the right always has the right of way, unless you are on a main thoroughfare. It’s ok if you don’t understand because I’m told that the Swiss and the French who frequent these roadways don’t get it either. Hence the ‘brake late and brake hard’ maneuver. Oh, and ATV’s are ok on the road … WTF?!

Look serious: It seems it’s the accepted mean around here. I try to turn that into a smile whenever I can, even if it means the person I smiled at turns after I’ve walked by with a WTF expression on their face, priceless.

Sunday: Is a quiet day, ‘Ruhe Tag’. Today is such a day and I won’t be drilling holes into the wall to hand stuff up. But I’m not sure that I’ve not broken some tabu by cranking up the dishwasher and washing machine before eight this morning …

Summary. When you visit a place everything is new and quaint and interesting and strange and eye opening. When you move to that place it takes a while to slip into the new reality and adapt ones manners to those of the prevailing social norms.

Einen guten Tag noch 🙂