Sunday, February 16, 2014

Things that make me happy (of the week)

Fun fact of the day:  When drinking a Weissbier, you clink glasses from the bottom to make a toast. This is so the beer doesn't foam up at the top if you're being a little too raucous.  

It's always nice to look on the bright side of life, so here are some things that made me smile this week.

  • The US Will Have "Smart" Credit Cards by October 2015-  woo!  This is very exciting for someone who lives in Europe and can't use their credit card (despite having zero foreign transaction fees).  Basically, all European cards have a little chip in them that American cards don't.  This means, in short, a lot of Americans have a huge hassle when they want to pay for something by credit card in Europe, the machines simply can't read them.  Ever had the stress of buying a train ticket with hundreds of euros in cash because the machine won't accept your card? Yeah.  It sucks.

    EVEN BETTER:  This will make American cards way more secure.  "Half of the fraud occurs in the United States but only a quarter of the credit card use," Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.  We're clearly doing something wrong.  France has had this system since '92, and their fraud incidents went down 50% in '93, says the article.  Rad.
  • The US beat the Soviets Russians in Olympic Ice Hockey 3-2 on Saturday.  Enough said.
  • This gif is so good. 


  • THE END, have a great week :)

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    On Travel Tattoos

    Warning:  Potentially offensive towards people I actually know in real life.  Sorry.

    I'm pro-tattoos.  I'm pro-travel.  So why am I against travel themed-tattoos?  Well, to be fair, I'm only against a specific type.  The world map tattoo, colored in or otherwise marked, to indicate where the bearer has traveled.  At first, I thought this was a fantastic idea and I wanted it for myself, but now it has become a cliché (also, finally this awful French keyboard is coming in handy).

    Recently I read an article on Laughing Squid about the above man, and the story is pretty self evident.  It's a great idea for a world traveller, but just as the article mentions he got the idea from someone else.  It isn't the first time I've heard of this particular tattoo idea either, nor will it be the last.  I'm sure if I wandered into almost any hostel in the world, I could find someone with dreams (or real ink) of this, or a similar, idea.  This tattoo has unfortunately become the infinity symbol, dreamcatcher, or anchor of the travel world, by which I mean it's overly done, and the most common thing you'll find on someone's body, if tattooed.  And yes, I do realiwe this incriminates me as unoriginal as well, I have an anchor tattoo on my ankle.

    I'm interested to see how this trend plays out in my world travels.  I think it's very cool to show off where you've been and your life experiences through ink, but I also can't imagine how sad I would be if I started this tatto and then didn't get to fill it in as much as I would hope.  You'd have to be seriously committed to have the map you want, and I've only visited 8 countries.  The guy above has visited 40.

    I like other travel tattoos, but I prefer them to be uniquely tailored to the wearer's experience.  For example, I know someone who has the coordinates of a spot that changed her life, along with the constellation that often guided her wilderness experience group.  That I find to be remarkable.  It's something maybe only a few people in the whole world can relate to, and has special meaning.

    What are your views on travel tattoos? 

    Monday, February 3, 2014

    Bratislava for a Day

    NOTE:  This post was supposed to be posted about a month ago.  I tried to upload pictures, it didn't work, and I gave up on the post.  Sorry that it's late!

    Here's something you might not know about Vienna.  It's SUPER close to another European capital, Bratislava.  Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, (hey, not everyone knows this stuff!) and has a population of 460,000 according to Wikipedia.  Seriously, look how close these cities are:

    Literally, they are about an hour away from one another by train.  For just 15 euros you can travel from Vienna to Bratislava and back with included use of the Slovakian capital's public transportation system.  It's a great deal, especially because things in Bratislava can be so much cheaper than in Vienna.  An example:

    Ice skating in a public rink in Vienna (on a Saturday afternoon): 6 euros to skate, 6 euros to rent ice skates
    In Bratislava (any time of day, on an admittedly smaller rink but less crowded day): 1 euro to skate for an hour and a half, 3 euros to rent skates.

    I traveled with my good Au Pair friend Lucia, who is from East Slovakia.  Our ride was uneventful and the train was fairly empty in both directions.  I was lucky to have a native speaker, I don't know how I was going to get around the city otherwise!

    Soon after getting off the bus that brought us more or less to the town center, we climbed to the top of the city to the Bratislava Castle (pictured below).  From there we could see the whole town- admittedly small.  Bratislava is cute in that the streets are narrow and seemingly very old, the architecture is interesting, and most of all, quiet.  I was surprised to arrive in a city that purportedly has a "gypsy problem" to only see one crazy homeless-looking guy at the train station.  My interest in gypsies is quite extensive, but I'll write about that another time.

    We also saw St. Martin's Cathedral, which was nowhere near as impressive as those in Vienna.  I'm so spoiled by living here.

    What I was most excited for in Bratislava was to try Halušky (Ha-loosh-key).  It's a traditional Slovakian Dish, similar to Gnocci (Wikipedia calls them potato dough lumps, mmm), with a soft sheep's cheese.  My friend thought I would hate it and I was out of my mind to want to try it.  But I liked it!  It tasted like cream cheese that had been left out on the counter a little too long, but warm like the sun had been beating down on it.  I could've probably eaten quite a bit, but I don't think my stomach would've liked it.  It also has bacon cubes to top it off.  What could be better?

    Another typical Slovakian tradition, I'm told, is to drink tea with rum at lunch, or a shot of very strong liquor.  I don't necessarily believe that, as the waiter seem perplexed by our order, and I think we ended up having Jasmine tea with rum.  Mmm.  Not.

    Written February 3rd:  Well...that's what I've got for Bratislava.  Not a bad place to go and get out of Vienna for a day, especially since the shops are 1. cheaper and 2. open on Sundays.  I'd like to see the city in the spring because it would certainly be more beautiful and fun to explore.