Category Archives: Photos

In Vienna …And Some Long German Words

en2I set out early my first day in the Austrian capital. It was bright and sunny so I felt really excited about exploring. I was able to test out the train system, which I quickly realised depended a lot on trust. There were no turnstiles, I didn’t notice any guards, and many of the stations I visited were unmanned. I visited downtown Vienna for a few hours where I was able to buy a few souvenirs. Although I visited Berlin, I didn’t stay long enough to really take in much German. Even in cologne I was able to find an English version sign pointing to whatever I needed. But in Vienna, I noticed one of the most interesting things about German first hand. Like some English words, German likes compounded larger words from simpler words. But, the practice is on a whole other level in comparison. It’s done even to the point where a word can be over 21 letters long. Like the sign on a building near my hostel read bedienungstankstelle, which translates to “easy gas station.” I only knew that after using Google Translate haha! Umweltverschmutzung refers to pollution. Rindfleischetikettierung-süberwachungsaufgaben-übertragungsgesetz (translation: Rind (cattle) Fleisch (meat) Etikettierung(s) (labelling) Überwachung (supervision) Aufgaben (duties) Übertragun (assignment) Gesetz (law)) refers to the German-state law related to the labelling of beef and cattle. Sometimes graphics help, but other times they don’t. I noticed a sign on the train (pictured below) saying bitte nur mit beißkorb und leine meaning, “please only with muzzle and leash.” When I saw the graphic, I thought at the time that it meant dogs start dissolving on the train! I don’t know how I thought that made any sense at all!
es2El primer día en la capital austriaca, me fui temprano. Era un día brillante y soleado! Me sentí muy entusiasmado por explorar. Usé el sistema del tren, y vi que se basaba en una confianza fuerte en la gente. En muchas estaciónes, no había seguridad: no guardias, no barreras, y sin trabajadores. Fui al centro de la ciudad por unas horas y compré algunos recuerdos. Aunque yo visité Berlin, no me quedé mucho tiempo para oír realmente el alemán.
 Aún en Cologne me encontré señales en íngles en todos lugares. Pero, en Vienna, me encontré una de las cosas más interesantes sobre la lengua alemana con mis propios  oídos. Como unas palabras en íngles, Alemán es muy famoso para su palabras compuestos. Unas palabras son componen de muchas palabras pequeñas  y pueden tener hasta vientiún letras. Había un señal cerca de mi albergue que tenía “bedienungstankstelle.” En español, es iqual a “fácil gasolinera.” Y sólo sé por usando Google Translate :)! Umweltverschmutzung significa “polución.” Rindfleischetikettierung-süberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (traducido: Rind (vacas) Fleisch (carne) Etikettierung(s) (etiquetado) Überwachung (control) Aufgaben (obligaciónes) Übertragun (asignación) Gesetz (ley)) se refiere a la ley alemana que regula el etiquetado de la carne y el ganado. A veces, los gráficos son útiles, pero otras veces no es así. Vi un señal en el tren (en la foto de abajo) con la frase “bitte nur mit beißkorb und leine.” Significa “please only with muzzle and leash.” Me pareció que dijo algo acerca de la disolución de perros :D!

Christmas Interlude: Malta (III) To Gozo!

I spoke before about the way religion permeates the country’s life. In the U.S. for example, there are always court cases during the Christmas season with people suing for the removal of religious symbolism or the inclusion of as many major symbols of other faiths as possible. This issue didn’t seem to exist in Malta as there were nativity scenes in almost every public or government building. The airport, the hotels, sidewalks, and church and public squares were all bedecked with a manger, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The elaborate detail included in some was simply astounding. There was one in a hotel that had an entire village with walled buildings and several floors with running water and tens of inhabitants. Almost all the harbour-side streets were draped in Christmas lighting as well.

To Gozo

Malta is actually made up of two islands in addition to that of Malta: Gozo and Comino. I was lucky to visit Gozo with a very adventurous friend who decided to climb cliffs and go diving off of them. I would have too! but it was too cold for my Caribbean taste :D! Below are a few of the places I visited while in Gozo. You should be able to spot the sites in the labelled photo gallery below.

MĠARR – This is Gozo’s main harbour with its many fishing boats, yachts and ferry boats.

RAMLA BAY – Its golden-reddish sand makes this beach different from all others in Gozo and Malta. Its real Maltese name is Ir-Ramla il-Ħamra – the RedSandy Beach.

SAVINA CREATIVITY CENTRE – Cool place where local creative products are created, packaged, and sold.  such as taffy, sea salt, and olive oil.

MARSALFORN – A popular seaside resort. Reputed spot where St. Paul was shipwrecked on the way to Rome from Malta.

TA’ PINU SANCTUARY  – Basilica of Ta’ Pinu.

DWEJRA – With its famous Azure window. This is where my adventurous friend decided to jump off a cliff into the treacherous waters below to climb a big rock amidst the waves.

VICTORIA (known locally as Rabat)- Visited the Citadel, which one of the highest points on the island.

XEWKIJA –  A church dedicated to St. John The Baptist and is the Seat of the Knights of the Order of St. John.

Christmas Interlude: Malta (II)

Being a small country, Malta has served as a neutral territory for meetings between the Cold War rivals George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Upon Independence the country retained the British Monarch as head of state, but eventually became a Republic, although remaining in the Commonwealth to the present. Interestingly, the Knights Hospitaller when expelled by the Napoleonic forces asserted their claims to sovereignty and under international law is one of the few sovereign entities not to possess one of the traditional perquisites of statehood: land (much like the Holy See before the establishment of the Vatican City State). Today it is a permanent observer at the United Nations.

The rules for alcohol consumption were also less struck than they are in the US. I was never asked for ID and even the tour boats and buses sold beers on while in transit. Food was simply splendid! It ranged from very expensive fresh seafood to cafes and daily-baked pastry goods.

It was really cool to have a colleague from university who’s Maltese, spoke Maltese, and was home for the break with us. She was able to arrange a tour with some really important people from the Maltese Parliament. The tour provided me with much information about politics and culture in Malta. Quite interesting was the possible extinction of the Maltese language or culture due to the ever-encroaching dominance of languages like English and increasing globalisation. Part of the history of Malta revolves around it’s involvement with the Allied forces during WWII. When visiting the city of Mosta, I was able to view the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady where a German Luftwaffe bomb dropped though its dome but fell to the floor amidst Mass with 300 worshipers unexploded. The church’s dome is the third largest in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Local legend attributes the miracle to intercession of the Virgin and a replica of the bomb is held on display within the church’s sacristy and its entry spot in the dome is painted a faint yellow against the otherwise white ceiling. The church, like many others in Malta was simply inspiring in composition and decoration. I’ve always enjoyed deciphering latin inscriptions and biblical paintings hidden within the ubiquitous iconography.

Christmas Interlude: Malta I

I haven’t written anything in quite a while! I’ve been extremely busy with my vacation-turned-Masters-degree trip to Europe 😦 :D.

Well, I’ve finally got a break for Christmas and enjoyed it with a few good friends in the Mediterranean on the island of Malta. At less than £90 round trip, the flight there was a really good price. I used Thompson airlines, which offered a holiday service to the island and was allowed one checked bag and one carryon. Some of us stayed at a really cheap hotel that checked in at about 115 Euro for the full 7 days. The weather was beautiful and sunny: a wonderful >10 degrees more than London’s frigid 8-10°C. My hotel, nor the other hotel used by others in my group provided complimentary wi-fi, but free wifi was easy to find at numerous cafes and food stands along the coast where we stayed in Sliema. In the first few days, I was able to visit other cities (really little communities more than distinct cities) of Valleta, San Giljan (St. Julian), and Gzira. In Malta, the official languages are Maltese and English. Many of the signs were written in English to my simultaneous relief and chagrin. I learned the word for “street” in Maltese is “Triq,” which prefixes streets’ proper name (Triq Tas-Sliema = Sliema Street).  In Malta, tourism is a big source of GDP. There were lots of hotels, tours, and cheap easy transportation to and from the airport.

The Island’s history is filled with conquest and occupation including that of the Spanish, the Knights Hospitaller, French, and the British. Many of the things to which I have grown accustomed in the UK were present in Malta such driving on the left, and the chunky three-prong wall socket. There were traces of Arab and European (mainly Italian) influences in the language and family names. Being a 98% Roman Catholic country, the people proudly referred to themselves in a cultural and national way as “Catholic” and crucifixes visibly graced their shops and public buildings. Churches dominated the landscape, with domes and bell towers on almost every horizon and their monuments regularly consisted of crosses and hagiography, with almost every other site bearing a name related to Christ or the saints.

On Christmas day at noon, the entire country it seemed was awash with the sounds of bells in celebration of the Christian high feast. It was a really beautiful experience, that really filled me, as a student of political science, with awe at a modern Western democracy so actively claiming a visible religious identity. Even when we went to watch a movie, the theatre featured a Christmas choir with the most melodic voices! -> I’ve attached a short vid!

In the short while I was there I learned so much about Malta’s history and elements it shared with other countries. Many older Maltese churches had two bell towers with a clock on each, one with the right time and the other with the wrong time, historically, to fool the devil about what time the mass was to be held. You should be able to see this architectural phenomenon in some of the photos I’ve uploaded.

One of the coolest things about visiting places with such a rich and ancient history as Malta is its ability to recall its past through preservation and awareness, while at the same time introducing modern conveniences into the process. For example, you’ll see shiny metal elevators running on electricity alongside ancient limestone fortresses or a gargantuan oil rig sitting for repairs in the middle of a centuries-old harbour.

Food Series Post: London

Doner kebab

One of the first things I noticed in the part of London where I frequent, is the ubiquity of the doner kebab shop. Not sure what that is? Well, I wasn’t either until I saw the servers cutting the meat from the vertical spit. It’s basically any seasoned meat that’s shaped into an upside down cone and slowly spins while cooking on a vertical spit. Pieces of the meat is then carved off in thin slices and served in various dishes. This beef or lamb dish finds its origins in Turkish gastronomy. You may hear similar words for the type of meat, such as doner, gyros, shawarma which all relate to the rotation or “turning” of the meat in Turkish, Greek, and Arabic respectively. Slight differences include the seasonings used such as Tzatziki sauce in gyros or the type of bread or accompanying sides (e.g. pita, flat-bread, tomatoes, onions).

Above the delicious taste, there’s the added benefit of reasonably low prices!