Category Archives: Travel Journal

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!

Nach Österreich, Nach Wien!

I boarded the train at Budapest Keleti station at 15:10 bound for Vienna (Wien) WestBahnoff in Austria. I arrived at 18:00 after falling in and out of sleep along the way. I was able to see that the Austrians were greatly invested in renewable energies such as wind and solar. I wasn’t able to get too many clear shots because the train was traveling too fast, but I’ve included a shot of only of the many wind farms I saw along the Austrian countryside. I don’t remember if I was still stuck in sleep mode, but the subway station confused me. Perhaps I was to accustomed to the London model, where subway lines rarely, if at all, share the same track. But there was the green line and the brown line, both on the same track, in German.

Possibly helpful tip: Make sure you’re really awake before leaving a station :-)!
I stayed at the Wombat’s City Hostels Vienna At The Naschmarkt. It was a one of the nicest hostels on my entire trip, comparable to the MEININGER Hotel at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. It was set out more like a hotel than most of the other hostels I’d stayed at during my travels. With many floors, roomy elevators and large security doors dotted along the wide hallways, everything just seemed so much cleaner and happier (although I’m not quite sure how buildings can be happy, you’ll know what I mean when you’ve experienced it). Any additional cost in comparison to the other hostels in the area would’ve been completely justified, but the hostel was reasonably priced below most of any nearby competitor, outshining others in value and ratings. It’s really close to the Kettenbrückengasse rail station. Needless to say, that night I took advantage of the proximity and headed off to a nice shopping district nearby.

I also probably shouldn’t say, but this was another stop at which I committed the travel sin of eating at an American fast-food chain. This time it was McDonald’s and ordering my trusty Big Mac, I didn’t even bother looking for Austrian menu inclusions!

From the TOLB: Happy 150th Birthday London Underground: 30 reasons we love the tube

So, I was reading a piece by the The Time Out London blog in celebration of the London Underground’s 150 years of existence. Just thought to offer it for my readers to look at. I would agree with many of the points as to what makes the system so great such as convenience (#1) and the alternative the costs of car ownership (#3) or cab service (#26). I also love taking naps on the tube (tube is how Londoner’s refer to their subway system). I do also like their take on “extended bedroom,” (#19) where we can tidy up a bit more on our way to some important gig or catch up on some sleep (#14) than if we had to drive their ourselves.


One thing I would have to disagree with, however, is #27:


27. British queuing
There’s no greater example of British properness than witnessing a queue at a tube station. At the front of the queue during rush hour at Canary Wharf? No need to worry about being pushed out of the way, and if you are, there will be a volley of people speaking up for you.


I rarely see any acts of “British properness” when queueing in tube stations (queueing is how the British refer to “persons forming a line”). People are usually hell-bent on trying to board the next train, even if they only joined one of the small crowds swarming around the potential next stop of the upcoming train doors.


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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.