Austria - Vienna

by Kimp 28. April 2012 03:13

Photo Blog

Vienna is the quintessential outdoors place. The city itself has wide streets and many, many beautiful parks, plus there are several beautiful natural parks outside of the city. This gives Vienna a very laid back, slow and easy feeling even though there are hoards of people there. Vienna is the only place where there are wine gardens. The king allowed wine in Vienna from the locals newest vintage to be sold without tax. This made it the peoples alcohol of choice and the beer gardens started converting to wine gardens. Which are still here today.

Its architectural footprint is very wide. Much of it was built during the classicism era. The street that surrounds the old town was widened which created a blank canvas, where buildings in Neo Classical, Neo Baroque, and Neo Renaissance were built. Form follows function in Vienna. For instance city hall is mid evil looking, even though it is much newer. It honors the people who ran the city, like mid evil people would have. Parliament is neo classical to honor Greek democracy, artistic buildings are neo renaissance in honor of learning, and theaters are neo Baroque in honor of the great theatrical era.

As a young man, Hitler spent 7 years in Vienna pursuing an art career, then gave up and moved to Germany. It would have been nice if he started some dark art movement instead.

50% of Vienna was destroyed during WWII, and some bombed out buildings in the old town were replaced with these architectural styles, as well as art neuvo and modern art, which are part of the later youth movements.

Vienna is the only place in Europe that has wine gardens. Several hundred local families opened charming wine-garden eateries clustered around the edge of town after the Habsburg Emperor allowed Vienna's vineyards sell their own new wine tax free. This made local wine the drink of choice.

I overcame one of my few fears in Vienna. The fear of getting on a bus with a German speaking bus driver. I had a bad experience with a bus driver in Germany and ever since that, I've just stay away from buses. I got on a bus in Vienna, and had a bad experience with the driver here too. But now, I learned to just accept that they are not going to like me, and I don't even care what the reason is. So now I am fine with buses.




Germany - Tradition - The Waltz and the Richtfest

by Kimp 26. February 2012 06:43

Jason and I were sitting in a German bar enjoying a few beers last Friday. A young well built dude in a black corduroy suit (kind of like an old turn of the century double breasted tux) with a fancy top hat (like Abe Lincoln) and an awesome handmade cane walks in. He also had an awesome handmade traveling sack with a nice leather shoulder strap.

He speaks with the bartender, knocks his cane loudly on the floor several times to get every-ones attention, then recites a poem. Afterwards most people in the bar were coming up to him and giving him money.

Jason and I were looking at each other like, man that is a nice gig for a few minutes work. We asked one of the women there and she said that he was a carpenter, just learning the trade and if you touch him, it is supposed to be good luck. Although the way the women were swooning over this well dress young man, I think they just wanted to touch him regardless of weather or not it brought them luck.

Curious, I had to look up that tradition.


Since the Middle Ages, when crafts where organized in guilds, traveling has been an integral part of the education of any craftsman. Before one can become a Meister (master craftsman), one has to be a Lehrling (apprentice) with a Meister for usually three years. Upon completion of the Lehre (apprenticeship) one becomes a Geselle. The guilds for most crafts, in particular the ones for carpenters, masons etc., mandated that every Geselle had to travel for a certain number of years without returning to their hometown, except in case of family emergencies. During these years, Gesellen would travel from town to town seeking temporary employment with various Meister.
These travels are called Walz and are to be done in traditional dresses, which for carpenters and masons consists of a black corduroy suit, their traditional work clothes, a top hat or a bowler, depending on the trade, a bandana, used to wrap and carry all belongings on the road, and often a fancy walking stick. Traditionally, the Walz had to last three years and one day, during which time the journeyman walked from town to town. The perks of these journeys included one free meal at the local restaurant and sometimes a close encounter with the current employers wife, the Frau Meisterin.
In modern times, the Walz is no more a requirement for becoming a Meister, since we now have more effective ways of disseminating the skills and knowledge for a particular trade. In recent years, it has become more and more popular again with Gesellen in the traditional trades, and the people bothering you in your favorite bar are most likely legit and on the Walz (those corduroy suits aren't exactly cheap).
Apart from the now optional Walz other bits of the medieval guilds that have survived the centuries are the requirement that you have to be a Meister to be allowed to have your own shop and take apprentices, the Meisterstück (master piece), a piece of work of high quality and demand that you have to produce in order to become a Meister and the Richtfest.


The Richtfest (topping out) is a traditional part of any building construction in Germany. As soon as the Rohbau, the shell of the house including the roof structure, is finished, it is decorated with a fir wreath or fir tree and everybody involved with the building gets together for a celebration with drinks (beer, not cocktails) and some food.
This tradition goes back to the traveling Gesellen on the Walz: for the traveling carpenters the Richtfest was the time to move on, their work on this building had been done and they were supposed to go and find work somewhere else. So apart from celebrating a milestone in the construction of the building, it was also a goodbye party for some of the people working on it.



Italy - Rome - Travestre

by Kimp 18. February 2012 03:05

Travestre is one of my favorite places in Rome. It's one of the first places where Christianity was practiced. The early Greeks who fled to Rome with St Paul, had settled in this neighborhood.

Before 200 AD, Romans would go to the chariot races and at half time, they would drink some wine, break some bread and thoroughly enjoy the halftime entertainment, which usually consisted of several Christian crucifixions.

Christians practiced in secret, usually inside a wealthy persons home (they called it a Tutilli), but on occasion they would dare to cross the river and go to the race track where St. Peter had been crucified in 69 A.D. (now St. Peters Basicilica) and worship there, in the open, above his grave.

Back then, Travestere was a largely working class neighborhood. The guys who strapped on the hard hats, carried their lunches pails into work, and busted ass. To me, it kind of feels like Cleveland Ohio. To the Roman Citizens, it was the other side of the river (wrong side of the tracks), it was full of rowdy dissidents, and a favorite place to hunt for Christians.

Around 300 A.D. when Christianity was widely accepted in Rome, some of the Tutilli homes where converted into the first christian churches. Some of those still exist today.

Today, it's a kind of upscale neighborhood, yet it still has that down home feel to it.




Italy - Rome - St Peters Bassillica

by Kimp 18. February 2012 02:54
I said some off beat things in the attached photo captions. It is intended to be kind humor and I hope nobody is offended by any of them. Personally I have a lot of respect for the Catholic religion and I enjoy Catholic Masses.
Simon Peter was a fisherman who was chosen by Christ to catch sinners instead. Simon Peter once tried to walk on water, but sank instead. That's when Jesus gave him the nickname of Rock (Petrus in Latin).

After Jesus was crucified, the apostle Simon Peter came to Rome to spread the word of Christs love. Peter baptized people in the Tiber river that runs through Rome and became the first pope.

At that time Nero was emperor, and Rome worshiped pagan gods. Christians were crucified on a cross during a break in the chariot race action. Nero's administration was offended by Simon Peter's teachings, and so Nero crucified him.

After Simon Peter was crucified, some of his followers would sneak to his grave and worship there.

Around 300 A.D., the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Then being a christian was legalized, and Constantine, built the first St Peters basilica directly over the grave.

In the 1500's the pope asked Michelangelo, to rebuilt St Peters into the grandest church in the world. The pope didn't know it at that time, but ironically that decision was going to fuel the protestant reformation several years later.

The Catholic church needed lots of funds for this project, so they asked the best salesman that they had, for assistance. A German preacher by the name of Johann Tetzel. Johann devised a system of selling indulgences. An indulgence is something that cancels out a sin that was committed by the purchaser. The worse the sin, the higher the price. This was a big hit and brought in lots of money. The pope was very happy. Johann's boss was the archbishop over all land north of the alps, and he lived in Germany. His boss had borrowed funds to buy that title from the pope, and later he asked the pope if it was OK to sell indulgences to pay off his huge loan. The pope granted that on the condition that half of the proceeds were diverted to the papacy. This in part was one of the reasons that a German Monk named Martin Luther, wrote the "Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" and presented it to Johann. Luther stood his ground, he was excommunicated by the pope, and condemned as an outlaw by the Emperor. That in part, started the protestant reformation, and gave it plenty of fuel to grow on.

Today's pope is Bebedict XVI. His birth name is Joseph Ratzinger. Joseph was born in Germany, he was a member of the Hitler Youth, and an anti-aircraft flak gunner during WWII. He observed Jews being sent to death camps, and at the end of the war, he deserted his post. Later he became a Catholic priest, as a very outspoken Liberal Catholic. Around 1968 when students revolted, he decided that strict traditional catholic rules were needed to offset the world's chaos. That's a position that he still maintains.




Italy - Rome

by Kimp 18. February 2012 02:35
One of the nicest qualities of Rome is the quality of service. They love to wait on people. I went into a small sandwich and coffee stop, that's normally a take out place. I was asked if i was eating it here. I said yes, the owner asked me to go sit down and he would graciously serve it to me. They then brought over a linen table cloth and made up the table that i was sitting at. Served me, then keep an eye on me. If I wanted anything else, they were right there to serve me. This happened a few times during my visit.

Taxi's in Rome are very inexpensive. It is an easy city to just wander around aimlessly, because if you get lost, it is easy and cheap to grab a cab to regain your bearings. I also found that most people are very friendly to Americans in Rome.

The best meal that I ever had
I was exhausted from a long day of quick travel. I was coming from the Borguese gallery and got lost trying to find the subway. I ended up near the old Rome wall and saw a place named "Harry's Bar".  So I stopped at the outdoor terrace to take a load off my feet, get my bearings and have a drink. A short time later, a waiter comes out in a suit, smiles and asks what I would like to drink. I asked for a half liter of house wine. His reply "Sir we don't have house wine here. But we do have 1/2 bottles.". Right away I figured out that Harry's isn't the neighborhood bar that I thought it was, but was really an upscale restaurant. I look around and realize that I'm way under dressed. I asked him to please pick me out a 1/2 bottle of dry white wine with a smile and politely asked "Do you have any fresh food here?".  He brings me a menu and after looking at the high prices I pretty much decided I was just going to ask for my bottle to go and leave.
A minute or so later, the chef comes ou,t and was talking to the waiter. Later I figured out that he was probably saying something like "Who's the dumb ass that was asking if he have fresh food?". The chef comes over to me and says "Sir, I assure you all of our food is fresh. My wife picked the cherry tomatoes at siesta today and my cousin Guiseppe just got back from the fish market. I said to him "That sounds great, how about some of the freshest fish with some fresh vegetables !!!". That meal was the undisputed best I've ever had. The cost of the meal for one, plus desert and wine was about $150 (110 Euros), which is more then I would ever consciously pay. And the experience was absolutely priceless.
In ancient times, the Romans where expert engineers. They were a thousand years ahead of any other culture. They conquered, brought in their engineering team, and created many structures that still fascinate engineers today. Somewhere along the course of history, all of those engineers disappeared, and when I look around at Rome today, I wonder what happened to all of them. With all that it had going for it at one time, why isn't today's Rome the engineering capital of the world?




Italy - Rome Jewish Ghetto

by Kimp 11. February 2012 02:53

There are only about 35,000 Jewish people in Italy, and half of them live in Rome. Some of the Jewish people living in Rome, can trace their family linage, back to before Christ.

The first Jewish people migrated to Rome from Eretz Judaea (Israel) in 160 B.C.  A Syrian King had been tough on the Palestine Jews, and several traveled to Rome to ask for protection. They ended up staying, because they were treated like foreign dignitaries, and it was very easy for them to establish business ties.

The Romans eventually conquered Judaea (Isreal) in the first century A.D., and brought many Jewish slaves back with them. The free Jews in Rome, then gathered together, and paid a ransom to free their brethren.

In 1500, the Pope decided that Jews and Christians should not live together. so he segregated them, and forced the Jews, into a walled 4 block area. The land that he gave them was very cheap, because it was in a flood plain. They were forbidden to work with Christians, and the only job they were allowed to have, was selling rages. Jews were required to wear yellow scarves and hats, and they had a curfew, to be back in their walled area by. For fun, the Romans would put Jews inside of barrels, and roll them down the Spanish steps. During the Carnival, "Roman Mardi Gra", Jew's were forced to march down the streets, so the crowd could insult them.

That walled section is now called the Jewish Ghetto, and it 's easy to find the borders, because there's a Christian church at each corner. The churches main mission was to convert Jews into Christians. What happened instead, was that since they were forced to be in such a small area, they banded together and formed a very tight community, where people helped each other through those very difficult times. They were not willing to give up their religion for a better life.
In 1870 when that papal states combined and the country of Italy was created. The ghetto walls where removed the the Ghetto was torn down and completely rebuilt, into what it is today.

In WWII, during the Nazi rule, the Nazi's deported 2000 Jews from the Jewish Ghetto, to a concentration camp. Only 16 returned.

Today this section is the most expensive and highly coveted place to live. It's also considered to have the best food. The outside of the buildings are kept very rustic for the ambiance, but the apartments on the inside are very lavish. For the Jews who toughed it out, the Real Estate has increased so much that many have sold out now, and moved into the city. Many own clothing shops. It is easy, to determine how many clothing stores are owned by Jews. On Yum Kipur, when they are fasting for the whole day, you had better not need to buy any clothes, because all of the clothing stores are going to be closed.

Even though many have moved into the city, and there are tourists in this area, you will still see several old Jewish women out in the street. I call it the Jewish girls club. They bring their folding chairs and baked Jewish goods with them, back into this area. Then they sit around, eating sun flowers seeds and talking all day long. If they give you a taste and you tell them it tastes great, they usually respond with, "that recipe goes back 300 years". One of their favorite hobbies is plotting how they are going to find a good husband for an unmarried Jewish girl. At the end of the day, they fold up their chairs and head back home into the city.

There is a great Jewish Pizza here. It has a lot of flavor and is kind of like a very sweet fruit cake.

This Jewish Ghetto was attacked by terrorists in 1982. After that, Pope John Paul II was invited to the Jewish Synagogue here. He was the first pope ever to enter a synagogue. In 2000, he shattered the chain of 2,000 years of painful history between Catholics and Jews, when he officially visited and recognize the State of Israel, and formally engaged in an act of repentance for the Catholic Church’s historical treatment of Jewish people.



Czech Republic - Prague

by Kimp 27. January 2012 02:43

Photo Blog

Prague was once the capitol of the Holy Roman Empire.  Founded in Gothic times, however much of its building, was done during the Renaissance.

Prague was once a very important trade route between western and eastern Europe, and it  played a major role in Protestant Reformation.

Many Americans have told me that Prague was a very beautiful place. When I was there, it was about 30 F (0 C) with a strong wind. I thought it was very nice, but at that temperature, it's difficult to get that beautiful feeling.  

These days, Prague should probably be anexed by the US. I saw so many American franchises, that I completely forgot I was in Europe. On the music side, they seem to favor the Blues, so that gives them a lot of extra points in my scoring system.

The pollution on the limestone buildings here, is the worst that I have seen too.

What they do excel in, is Cuisine. I love Czech food. They use a lot of fresh spices (basil, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, etc) in everything. Their gravies and soup are the best I have ever tasted, and there are a lot of different varieties. Another specialty is dumplings. A person from there probably finds most foreign food to be bland.

They're famous for beer, but I found their hot wine to be second to none, because of the spices in it. I was drinking a lot of that outside. To me it's impossible to top German beer.



Ireland - Dublin

by Kimp 13. January 2012 02:27
The leprechaun, the shamrock, the Claddagh, and the Celtic Cross. Irish symbols and folk music that speak of a creative and delightful people. This was a fun and inexpensive place to visit.

However it goes both ways, as Irish people also express their emotion in anger and deep discontent. They have what I call, a very wide emotional spectrum. Jason and I were poking fun at how silly and ridiculous an Irishman, whom we thought was a thief, and we got on his bad side. He ended up hurling lots of expletives at us, that ended in him describing me as a female genitalia, that he was extremely frustrated with. At least that was my abstract interpretation, so we just quietly walked away and he quickly disappeared.

Hurling (I know where that name came from) is an outdoor team game, of ancient Gaelic origin, and is very popular in Ireland. It's kind of a combination of baseball, lacross, and soccer.

In 841 the Vikings had a camp in Dublin. It was kind of like their winter housing, so they didn't have to return to Scandinavia in the winter. Dublin's weather is much milder.

Dublin was largely Catholic until 1539 when Henry the 8th was refused marriage to Anne Boleyn. He removed the Catholic Arch Bishop and formed the Church of Ireland appointing himself as the ArchBishop of Ireland. Thus protestant reformation was started and both Christs Church Cathedral and St Patricks Cathetral were converted to the Church of Ireland. To this day, there's a riff between the two beliefs here. Today, Christs Church Cathedral is really the seat of both the Catholic Arch Bishop to Ireland, and the Arch Bishop of the Church of Ireland, but the Catholic ArchBishop adopted St Mary's as his pro-cathedral.

At one time, most Irish citizens were not allowed to own land. They made a decent living as farmers, but their rent was so high about all they had to eat was potatoes. They managed to survive on Potatoes until a potato blight wiped out the crop. That's when many emigrated to the US. They learned to work hard, live simply and party hardy, which is a trait that still exists in today's Ireland.

I visited several pubs and listened to a lot of folk music. While they cater mostly to the large numbers of American tourists, that are always here, it still had a nice feel, even if it wasn't so authentic.



Switzerland - Bern

by Kimp 31. December 2011 17:52
Bern is the capital of Switzerland, it is very laid back and jazz musician friendly.

On the World quality of life scale, Bern is in the top 10 (not the top 10 percent but the top 10). Since Switzerland maintained neutrality during both World War I and World War II, it wasn't bombed, and most of the old city is intact. It's now, one the UNESCO world sites.

The local Language is German, but the business language in Switzerland is English, and as such, most people speak English quite well.

Einstein lived in Bern in his late teens and early twenties, and is where he theorized relativity. An entire floor of the Natural History museum is dedicated as a permanent Einestien museum that outlines his entire life. It was only meant to be an exhibit, but was so popular the first year, that they decided to keep it.

Bern was named after a Bear, and therefore, the most prevalent theme in this city, is the Bear. There are bears everywhere: fluttering in the breeze on flags; staring menacingly from coats of arms on public buildings; crouching on pillars before the historical museum; walking in bushes at the head of Kirchenfeld Bridge; standing high over a fountain in the Kramgasse; and looking out from a chocolate box behind a candy-store window.

Bern has many colorful and playfully theme oriented Renaissance Era fountains that were built in the 1500's and 1600's.

Most people from Switzerland are well traveled. Their economy is so strong that any place outside of Switzerland is very inexpensive, which enhances the travel experience.

Another theme throughout all of Switzerland is the Dance of Death. The first Dance of Death images originated during the Black Death of the 1340s and remained popular during the 14th and 15th Century. The Dance of Death served to remind the viewer that death will happen to everyone regardless of station or wealth.

One of the smartest things the Swiss did, was to allow anyone to give them money without asking any questions, and without divulging whom gave it to them, to any foreign nationals. They charge a premium, to both convert foreign currency into Swiss and to convert it back to another currency. That way they profit off of all of the crooks who use it as a safe haven for their money. They'll never adopt the EURO as local currency, because it would cost them too much revenue.



Switzerland - Wengen and Lauterbrunnen

by Kimp 29. December 2011 17:43
Wengen is about 1 mile high and is in a very popular skiing area. With only about 1500 residents, but usually 3500 tourist in the summer and 8500 in the winter. It's about 1/2 way to the top of many popular ski areas, so it's a stopping off point for resting and a place were some people stay. One of the sled runs here is 8 miles long, which I believe is the longest sled run in the world.

Lauterbrunnen is kind of like a base camp for several very popular skiing trails in the nearby mountains.  It is the last stop on the normal train line and the starting location of the cog wheel trains that climb the mountains in the snow. Most people are just passing through for that reason. Nestled between the two Interlaken lakes, the scenery is beautiful here. I stayed in Lauterbrunnen because it was much cheaper.

I also took a train through central/southern Switzerland. I
t was kind of a rain/snow mix that day in the lower elevations, so several of the pictures taken from the train, have water drops from the train windows.