Day 20 - Vidin, Bulgaria

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:00 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

This morning we are still in Bulgaria. As we dock in Vidin, we see a small chapel-like building which turns out to be a memorial to those who died under Communist oppression. We board our tour buses for the long drive up into the mountains, over 90 minutes each way, to see the dramatic rock formations of Belogradchik, which were once used partly as a fortress for the town.

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However, we had already signed up for the afternoon cooking lesson group, so after lunch out we went again. The cooking lesson was a group of a dozen or so of us, and hosted in a local home with a woman named Ramona. Ramona had lived in the US for many years, and noted that her house at this point probably resembled an American style home more than a typical Bulgarian home. However, she seemed to really enjoy welcoming us in and giving the cooking lesson. Her Auntie Rosa did not speak English as easily, but assisted by preparing measured ingredients and whisking extra dishes out of the way. We immediately determined that everybody ought to have an Auntie Rosa.


Above left: Ramona's house, with Auntie Rosa and her friend Pavel on the porch. Above right: Ramona and Auntie Rosa demonstrate the banitsa mixture.

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Day 19 -- Iron Gates

Jun. 19th, 2017 09:50 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

Today was a sailing day, with no actual stops to explore towns - just a day of relaxing and admiring the scenery. In the broadest sense of the name, the Iron Gates is the gorge lying between Serbia and Romania, which contains the Danube River. It is a national park on both sides. I will not waste too many words on the basic info you can read in Wikipedia except as it relates to various photos. (Feel free to click the various links for more info.)

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Jul. 14th, 2017 07:49 pm
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[personal profile] dchenes
Oof. I went through Standard 2 again today based on a meeting I had yesterday that required updating most of the tables. That was all good, but then I went on to another document that wanted all the parts of Standard 2 that applied to every individual course. The way I did that was to search Standard 2 for every instance of every course name.

In the process, I discovered that consistency would be good, but it wasn't happening: one course was going by three different titles (I looked at the results I was getting and said "That can't be all of them", and it wasn't, because when you search for Treatment of Child and Adolescent, you don't get Treatment of the Child and Adolescent or Treatment of Child & Adolescents). Besides that, four or five subsections of 2-23 either had courses listed in the table that weren't in the narrative (uh-oh) or courses listed in the narrative that weren't in the table (easy fix: insert row, copy and paste). So I fixed all that stuff, and now it all says Treatment of Child and Adolescent (which is what the syllabus says) and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Rotation (ampersands don't belong in formal writing that way), and everything in a table is also in the text, and everything in the text is also in a table. And my brain hurts and my shoulder is killing me.

Several hours later...

I got a head start on the sore shoulder last night, on account of it being chilly out and I being curled up pretty tight because I was also chilly. I probably should have put a quilt on the bed, but it's July. It being chilly out does mean there's a cat in my lap, though. That hasn't happened much lately, on account of it being humid enough for a tropical rain forest. My laptop doesn't like the humidity either. I don't know for sure if that's why the fan runs on high speed whenever the machine is awake, but it's been doing that since Tuesday. The internet said to restart the SMC, but that didn't work. I think I'll let the Computer Loft at it on Monday.

Going to bed at 8:30 would be a waste of a perfectly good Friday night, but I'm about half inclined to anyway.
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[personal profile] skreeky

After lunch and not expecting very much, we reboarded a bus and headed back into town for the add-on tour of the Opera House, or as it is officially known, the National Theater. Our guide this afternoon was a very upbeat young woman, obviously completely in love with the theater, the opera, and perhaps even her city. This was definitely a welcome and refreshing alternative view.

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Ah, Serbia. The only country on our agenda not a member of the E.U. We awoke to a view of a rusty corrugated iron wall and a warehouse with graffiti and several broken windows. (right) I joked about how nice it was that we had the finest docking spot in all of Belgrade. It turned out I was not joking. It was pretty much the best docking spot in Belgrade.

A momentary interlude about passport checks. For the first two weeks of the trip, we were entirely within the Schengen travel region and thus no border checks were required. Read more... )

And now, an even briefer interlude about Josip Broz Tito. Read more... )

Our guide for the morning... I spent the first hour or so of the morning tour trying to figure out if he was clinically depressed, or if Belgrade is really that bad. After awhile I decided that Belgrade is really that bad, and after awhile longer I decided it was both. He was absolutely dripping with sarcasm, which is somewhat amusing and some people thought he was a hilarious joker. In this case though, I got the feeling that is was the kidding-not-kidding sort of sarcasm that is just as depressing in the end. Read more... )

Day 17 -- Osijik, Croatia

Jun. 17th, 2017 04:09 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

Some days the Eastern Bloc is blockier than others.

We awoke to this lovely view off the balcony, a stained cement apartment complex in Vukovar. Over the next few days we would be repeatedly assured that most buildings like this in the former Yugoslavia are much, much nicer on the inside than the outside, it's just nearly impossible to get the unit owners to cooperate and trust each other enough to fix up the common areas and exteriors. So much for communism. To their credit though, upon closer viewing, some of the balconies are indeed fixed up prettily with flowers and sitting areas.

Believe it or not, this building is in pretty good shape for Vukovar. It took a real brunt of the violence and destruction during the 90s, being the largest Croatian town actually on the river, on the border of Serbia, and so was directly shelled from across the river for a long time before being occupied. Almost 90% of the homes in town were destroyed. Even now, over half the town was never rebuilt and is abandoned, the roofless smoke-stained stone exoskeletons interspersed with perfectly ordinary looking homes only a few meters away. Read more... )

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Jul. 11th, 2017 11:40 am
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[personal profile] dchenes
I would like something this week to be easy. So far the only easy thing is sitting around at home eating whatever's handy because it's handy.

Everybody at work is stressed out for CODA reasons. On top of that, the oral surgery director is in the hospital (thankfully with something that should be fixable), which means he isn't here this week to see patients. I found this out yesterday afternoon, when of course the person who would usually handle this sort of thing was out, and promptly asked who I should tell about it and then did so. But apparently the clinic management didn't find out until today and now they're yelling at me for not telling them because they found out from somebody else this morning. Apparently lack of actual procedure for telling people things like this, and ignorance of what procedure there is, isn't an excuse.

I know I've got the authoritative version of Standard 2. People keep asking me about all the other ones, and they won't take "I don't know, I only have the version I was sent last week, and the person who sent it isn't the one working on it" as an answer. I'm afraid this is going to turn into a massive concordance project among several versions on Friday, because SOMEBODY has to know whether the Student Handbook should be labeled A1-1a or A1-1b, and I'm afraid it's going to have to be me. I've already done massive concordance projects on Standard 2 and the Summative Assessment Guidebook (300 and 150 pages, respectively) and my brain hurts. The fact that the longest of the other five standards is a mere 40 pages does not make a three-version concordance easier.

I was looking at a restaurant menu online yesterday and it had "bone-in skate wing" as an entree. Skates don't have bones. I wonder if the menu writer has ever seen a skate, or at least seen the dish they wrote about?

Day 16 — Kalocsa, Hungary

Jun. 16th, 2017 01:28 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

We pulled in this morning to a completely unremarkable private dock near a small building and not much else. But this was simply to catch our buses to the Puszta Farm Show out in the country past Kalocsa.


Now, I am going to take just a moment to explain the difference between the first two weeks in Western Europe, and the last week in Eastern Europe. Read more... )


So anyway, there we are taking the bus out into the country for a show by the Famous Horsemen of Kalocsa! As we pulled onto the side road to the farm, one of the costumed performers began galloping alongside the bus to escort us in, which is kind of fun.Read more... )

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As soon as we woke up and finished breakfast this next morning, we headed for the famous thermal baths before the day had a chance to get too hot. Viking had a tour the previous afternoon which took a group to the Széchenyi baths located in the city park of Pest, which is quite large and busy. When we told Michal that we intended to go the next morning when it was cooler out, he immediately referred us to the Gellert baths on the Buda side of the river instead, which is a bit smaller and prettier, attached to a boutique hotel so it is quieter, and somewhat closer to the ship. The front desk attendants there would reliably speak English, which is not always the case. He said that Gellert was actually his second-favorite bath house, but his personal favorite was Rudas which has separate bathing areas for men and women and is clothing optional. Jon and I did want to spend the morning together, so we opted for Gellert.

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We headed back to our bus for a lift down to the ship for lunch, running into Michal on the way (for those reading out of order, our ship's program director). Budapest is his hometown and he was obviously enjoying showing it off. I noted that I had just been pointing out a walking path along the back of the hill to Jon, which I thought led the Hospital in the Rock, built in the years leading up to WW2 in the vast network of caverns underneath the hill on which we stood. Michal looked surprised, "Yes, the hot springs make the caverns and there was hospital down there. *confused* Why you know this?" I sighed and replied, "Oh, believe me, I read way too much."

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Above left: the entrance to the underground hospital. Above right: a panel from the photo commentary which lines the lobby, once the ambulance arrival area.

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Day 14, part 1 - Budapest (city tour)

Jun. 14th, 2017 12:56 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

When I woke up this morning we were a little behind schedule again and not quite in Budapest, even after I finished breakfast and gathered my things for the morning tour. I headed out to the sun deck with many fellow passengers for the first glimpse of the iconic Hungarian parliament, which in time appeared in the distance, past the busy bridges and bustling river docks.


Left: Hungarian Parliament in Pest. Right: the old palace in Buda.

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Day 13 - Vienna (dancing and dining)

Jun. 13th, 2017 05:38 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

The second day in Vienna, Viking had offered a number of add-on options, one of which was a full day of activities centering around an excursion out to Schonbraun, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. The add-on was pricey, and we didn't really want to spend one of our days outside of town with so much to see right in the city center. I did, however, want to take the Viennese Waltz dance lesson which would have been included in the package. I can't go to Vienna and NOT waltz! I even packed my dance shoes!

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A few things from the morning tour now come back with added significance. The first is the sheer size of the imperial palace of the Hofburgs, which appears to take up most of the First District. The palace complex contains entire museums, churches, several office complexes and residences for government officials, theaters, and even the Spanish Riding School and its stables. I kept asking, "this is still part of the palace??"

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Day 12, part 1 - Vienna (city tour)

Jun. 12th, 2017 12:13 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

Awoke this morning to NO VIEW AT ALL! Vienna is one of those ports where the ships dock in tandem to save space, so when you open your curtains you are a few inches from someone else's window. They do warn you about this, and yet some people are always nevertheless surprised and upset. In Vienna it doesn't matter that much though, as the riverbanks are not the exciting and famous parts of town, and even from the sun decks you can see only a few unremarkable modern skyscrapers and a church that is very pretty but not particularly old or important. Note though that in Europe, "not very old" means a few hundred years.

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Day 11 - Melk and Krems

Jun. 11th, 2017 11:20 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

I joked early on in the day that if we spent the morning in Melk and the afternoon in Krems, that made it half-and-half. Now that we have the pun out of the way...

The main attraction of Melk, Austria, is the 300 year old baroque style Benedictine abbey, so we boarded our buses at the riverbank for a lift up the hill. It is a fully operational monastery and private school, not simply a building of historical interest. As with many of the sites we visited in Europe, the desire to preserve the past must be balanced with updates that reflect the present and the sensibilities of its current users, occasionally causing a clash of styles from different periods.

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