Barcelona … small pics of a big city

My wife and I went to Barcelona last week. We did a lot of walking and looked around. The sunnier and warmer than home weather was nice. And the coffee … I miss that already.

Check out what I saw.

In my next blog post I’m going to try and capture my new found like for that famously tasty and just a bit addicting Spanish ‘jamon’. You may have heard about it 😉

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 🙂

Canadiana 107

Canadians will often and seemingly out of the blue apologize for something. It is nothing. Nothing serious at all, really. Not even worth mentioning, nothing that really requires a real and/or actual apology. It is often something that would not even induce in peoples of different cultures or nations even the slightest feeling akin to the need to apologize for some perceived act, gesture or omission that one did or did not do, that might need a verbal atonement to make things right again.

Would we apologize at the drop of a hat? Sorry, don’t know the answer to that one. But if it was my toque and you saw it happen, then perhaps.

You see? Its nothing really. Sorry ’bout that.

Canadiana 106

Canada is home to thousands of bears. From the black bear (Ursus americanus) so named after it’s black fur, the smallest of the bear family, the Grizzly/brown bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) which is frikkin’ huge large by any standard when up close or within sight, the Kermode or ‘White Spirit Bear’ (Ursus americanus kermodei) which makes its home in the temperate rain forest of the pacific coast and the Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) know for it’s white fur and love of cold arctic conditions.

Black bears are known to eat flora like  wild berries, grasses and herbs,  wild and orchard fruits, honey, nuts and various seeds. They also have a thing for other animals flavors, like fish both fresh and dead, stinky carrion, insects, small mammals and they find human garbage irresistible. Sometimes the best place to see black bears are the garbage dumps in most northern towns. They are very difficult to spot in low light conditions. If you should come across a cute little black bear cub, don’t try to rub its belly because its mom is probably close by and can’t stand it when that happens. As cute as the situation might seem, you are in danger of serious injury.

Black Bear Ursus Americanus

Black Bear Ursus Americanus - image from

The Kermode or Spirit bear is not often seen by people other than wild life photographers who live to bring back lovely images, loggers and fishing types and other locals where that bear is known to hang out.

Grizzlies or brown bears are bad ass. Their enormous size alone grants them special status and no one messes with them, except for humans with high powered guns. Hair color ranges from light browns to darker shades of brown to near black with silvery hair tips on some specimens. It is difficult to look away when you spot/see one of these beasts. Seeing them from a safe distance/area is much more fun than suddenly running into one of these giants on a quiet, suddenly much too remote trail or in a patch of densely wooded area.

Grizzly Bear Open Mouth

Pissed off Grizzly Bear - photo curtesy of animalscamp

The Polar bear inhabits frozen north. An excellent Canadian example is the area around the town of Churchill, Manitoba, acknowledged Polar Bear Capital of the World where they brazenly check out tourists and townspeople alike. That town even has a jail for these large white hairy ghosts and round the clock lookout for any sign of bears entering or in town. This bear will actually hunt humans if super hungry and/or seals prove to be scarce.

Sleeping Polar Bear

Sleepy Polar Bear - image curtesy

Bears are not like cute cuddly stuffed Teddy Bears or the kind you see in Saturday morning cartoons or depicted in other popular children’s entertainment scenarios. But I bet you they would eat your porridge, hot, warm or cold.
Don’t jump up into a tree for safety if a black bear is after you. They are excellent tree climbers.
Know that a Grizzly has knives on his paws, long ones 10-13cm long. Those and a huge mouth can mess you up right quickly and you’ll likely suffer broken bones too.
Polar bears … try to avoid being stalked by them but be ready for trouble when in their backyard.
All bears are much faster than you imagined. Really.

The experts advise that you should play dead when confronted with an angry, pissed off and aggressive grizzly bear. Do you know why? My guess is that you might well soon be dead and perhaps this kind of prepares you for that. Kissing your ass good bye is also a good idea unless you are aggressive yourself and don’t want to go down without a good fight. Fighting a black bear might get you out of that particular tight spot, you might get lucky, you might not be so lucky. Pick your battle carefully. Sure, read up on what to do when in bear country, make noise, lots of noise, make yourself appear taller than you actually are, don’t turn and run and pack your trail bell or legal side arm/shotgun and/or bear spray, if it makes you feel better. Rumor has it that bears love spicy food.

Not proven if you can slowly move away from a Kermode bear by telling it just how cute it looks.

If you don’t want to play dead, have any means of defending yourself, have a dog along you might offer up as substitute sacrifice or forgot your can of bear spray and are hiking with friends, and still think you can get home in time to watch the hockey game, you can try running, you just have to be faster than the slowest member of your group. (Disclaimer – the last sentence is not to be taken as any kind of rational advice, or life saving suggestion, implied or otherwise)

Be safe, have fun out there and please don’t temp the bears with bacon smells, or maple frosted donoughts.

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Soggy Colors of Spring

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Translucent Beauty, soaked west coast Daffodils