Copenhagen

So I showed up to Copenhagen last night, and my host (this British guy Rob I met through airbnb.com) had a huge, delicious dinner and beers waiting for me.  We stayed up drinking and watching “The Pianist”.  This guy is a trip and probably the greatest host alive – the dinner and beers from last night alone were more than worth the $30 or so I’m paying per night to stay there. Very good life decision on my part.

A side note: it doesn’t get completely dark until about 11pm, and it starts getting light out again around 3am.  I forgot that was a thing in Scandinavia. Other interesting tidbits: they are not on the Euro here, they use the Danish krone – which seems to have been a good decision because everything here is super expensive. I might take the train into Malmo, Sweden, today (only 20 minutes) – apparently the bridge is pretty cool and I can check another country off my list (sort of).  Unfortunately, Sweden uses a different currency.

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A Brief Slovak Adventure

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Bratislava to walk around the town and see Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet at the Slovak National Theater.  When I arrived at the train station, I was starting to wonder what I’d gotten myself in to.  The train station was a pretty sketchy place (though there was free wifi) and I was approached by four different destitute Slovaks on my way to the bus, asking for money in broken English and trying to help me figure out how to buy my bus ticket.  Once the bus got me to the city center, it was a different story.  Very beautiful city.  While waiting for the ballet, I walked to the parapet of Bratislava Castle, and there was a great view of the city.

The ballet was fine.  I had to duck out before the 3rd and final act because I was afraid of missing the last train back to Vienna, but the ending was pretty predictable.  I guess ballet is not for me.  Granted, I don’t have a lot of experience with ballet, but from my limited exposure to it, I find the form, while aesthetically pleasing and impressive, to be rather limiting.

Going back in time …

So, I have utterly failed at getting a memory card for my camera.  In the meantime, here are some more photos from Ordu (the parade and pre- and post-performance).  Enjoy!Image

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ImageThe guy in the middle is the vice-mayor of Ordu.  We thought he was the mayor for a long time, but then we found out the real mayor was gone during the festival on some sort of official business.

Some Observations

I’m waiting for my train to Bratislava at the moment … hoping to catch “Romeo and Juliet” (the ballet) at the Slovak National Theater tonight before coming back to Vienna.

I wandered around Vienna yesterday.  Didn’t really spend any money on museums, but took a personal walking tour (the city center itself is basically a museum) and got to see the Vienna Boy’s Choir rehearse in the big cathedral here (they had a concert last night with the World Doctors Orchestra, or something like that).  I would have gone to that … but I already had tickets for Swamp Club.

Swamp Club was performed in a theater at a big museum complex.  The show was conceived by a French theater company, but it was about 75% in English (there was also some French, some German, and some other languages, maybe Dutch?), so I easily understood what was going on.  That said, it was more of a living art installation than a linear show, so it probably would have been equally enjoyable without understanding the limited dialogue. It was relatively long (1h40m without intermission) and very deliberately paced, so a few audience members couldn’t take it and left part-way through, which was certainly understandable, but I loved it.  Very creative, surreal, and mesmerizing.  One of those shows where time seems to be manipulated and 30 minutes can pass without you realizing it.  It was a fantasy piece about a strange arts commune, of sorts, located in the middle of a swamp.  Kind of hard to describe beyond that.  The design was like nothing I’d seen before – most of the action took place in a closed unit with clear walls, which created an interesting sense of observing creatures in a zoo.

Maybe if I actually lived here or had a better sense of day-to-day life I would change my tune, but it seems like there are a lot of things that the US could learn from Europe.  Every time I’ve come to Europe, I notice the same things.  Public services here, in general, are amazing: public transit is affordable, efficient, and convenient, public bathrooms are plentiful and generally clean, and there’s free wifi everywhere, just to name a few things.  Also, of particular relevance to me, art is affordable, of high quality, and well-attended.  New York has a lot to offer in terms of world-class art and performance, but here you can see shows of comparable quality for $4-10.  I only spend money on a show in the US if I have a compelling reason to go (friend in the show, great reviews, etc), but here you are more likely to sample new things and take risks, since the cost is so low.

First Night in Vienna

I am going to get a memory card for my camera tomorrow so I can start taking pictures.  This city is incredible.  The whole city center is like a giant palace with grand parks and beautiful neoclassical architecture. I’m staying with a girl I met on airbnb.com called Pari (who, coincidentally, is from Turkey) and the place is only about a 20-30 minute walk from all the museums and such.  There’s even a piano in the room.

I went to see “Romeo und Julia” at the Burgtheater tonight.  Our course, knowing no German, I can only guess … but it seemed like a pretty contemporary translation of Shakespeare to me.  Lots of cuts and the language, for the most part, seemed pretty conversational, though that could have just been the delivery. The visuals were striking, I wish I could have taken photos.  There was a big, shallow pool of water in the middle of the stage surrounded by metallic, industrial pillars, and there was a glass box that went up and down center-stage and served as Juliet’s bedroom/balcony and, later, her tomb. Spectacular stage combat (including a couple sword fight in the water) and the actors were great – particularly the guy playing Mercutio had a great physical presence.

The Burgtheater is incredible.  I’ve never seen a theater like it, certainly not in the US.  The lobby is palatial, not to mention the house.  I had a seat in the boxes, which was awesome – there was a special door that led to my box, and the each box had a little ante-chamber with a couch and a mirror.  And the ticket was only 5 Euros!  The refreshment prices weren’t too bad either … I got a beer before the performance for 3 Euros.  If only America cared about theater!

Back at the Airport

Well, here I am again at the Istanbul airport.  I got totally ripped off getting here, spent nearly $100 on a taxi because I got super confused by the public transit system and was running out of time. Score one for Turkey.

Istanbul is an amazing place.  I wish I could have had more time here.  Pictures coming as soon as my friends upload photos.

I have to get my camera set up for the rest of my trip.  Unfortunately, all the instructions are in Turkish (though it is an American camera, Olympus, I believe) so that could be a difficult task.

I didn’t get a first-hand look, for obvious reasons, but it looks like, from the news, the protests are continuing and growing here.  Not so much in Istanbul as in Ankara and elsewhere.  I wish my Turkish theater friends, many of whom are out there protesting, the best.

First Day in Istanbul

The first day in Istanbul isn’t over quite yet, but we accomplished a lot today: we can check the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Basilica Cistern, and the Spice Market off our list.  Pictures to come eventually … I need to wait for my travel buddies to post them so I can steal them.  It’s been a pretty stark contrast to go from Ordu, where we were the only Americans in town and nobody spoke English, to Istanbul (especially where we are staying) where there are nothing but tourists and everybody speaks English.

Interesting tidbit … last night, while we were eating dinner, there were more protests in Taksim square.  We are a good distance away, but, because we were downwind of the protests, some of the tear gas wafted our way, and our respiratory systems started to burn a little bit.  Very minor, but enough that it was noticeable.  Interesting time to be here …