Friday, April 29, 2011

Change For You

I'm going to attempt to do the impossible here.  I'm going to try and sum up my most recent backpacking adventure; Easter in Eastern-Central Europe.

The outskirts of Dresden, Germany.
My adventure began in Germany.  I have been through Germany several times now, and I can honestly say it is my favourite country that I've visited. The highlights of my passage through Germany include my single-serving friends Paula and John and hitch-hiking along the gorge from Dresden to Deciv (Czech Republic).

Hiking along in Deciv
A rarely seen view of Prague
After my epic adventure, I eventually arrived in Prague.  I adored this city because of its incredible views and sights.  I felt very welcomed by the Czech people, even though I can't say a bloody thing in their language, and I received smiles everywhere I went.  The currency currently used in the Czech Republic, the Czech Crown, is 1/26th of a Euro, and I didn't make a single purchase that was more than 100 Kc.  Not to mention that some really excellent beers have come out of this country, and that they are sold in a grocery store for 15-20 Kc per bottle (which is a half-litre).  Absolutely fantastic!
I next headed to Slovakia.  When I told people I was going there, most of them just asked "why??", and I started to regret the idea of going there.  But Bratislava was awesome! 

Bratislava -- the view from the top
I met some of the coolest people there, enjoyed the small-town feel (imagine finding that in a capital city!), and found myself partying with locals instead of with other tourists.
The city and the Danube
Rémi and I atop the mountain in Budapest
After Slovakia, I took a train into Hungary's nearby capital, Budapest, on the advice of a classmate, Christina.  Besides being constantly confused by the exchange rate, I loved Budapest through and through.  I met up with Rémi (a travel buddy from Bratislava) again, and we took it slowly in this city.  We enjoyed long breakfasts, taking our time in cafés, reading Baudelaire in the parks and seeing the many lovely buildings on both sides of this geographically-divided city.   On my last night in the city, we met up with an American girl, Kara, who was on vacation from her studies in Spain.  Together we went out on the town, stumbled across a karaoke bar, and spent the evening singing every ridiculous song we could in both English and Hungarian.

The famous Chain Bridge sparkling at night

Aidan, Liam and I in Vienna
My last stop this time around was Austria.  I was pretty worn out and not looking forward to the awkward process of making friends again, but I really lucked out in Vienna.  I met some of the most interesting and unique people possible, two of whom are officially my favourite single-serving friends to date.  If you ever have the chance to travel with these boys do it.  Together we took on the city of Vienna, seeing the "sights", frightening tourists, officiating a marriage ceremony and generally causing a ruckus.
One of Vienna's many "sights"

After an uneventful train ride back to Paris, I've fallen back into my normal routine of coffee-thesis-coffee-thesis.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Seminary Soul

True Confession #5: I think Jean-Jacques Rousseau was uninformed, sexist and stupid.  I think his writings were useless and I hate when he is idealized as some sort of "politician" or "philosopher" or "curriculum developer".

It feels good to have that out there.  I really really dislike him.

In recent news:  I am almost at the end of my backpacking adventure.  I don't think there is enough money left to leave Paris again, and since I return to Canada in just over a month, I may just stay in France.  We'll see.  Reflections on this ridiculously awesome trip and travel tips coming soon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Beer for Breakfast

I am, in fact, Canadian, and therefore have a love affair with beer. Last summer there was little that I enjoyed more than sitting on Adrian's porch late into the summer evening, fighting off the mosquitoes and polishing off the last of a two-four. Or celebrating with Amber after a long week of pruning and weed-whacking. Or bringing case after case out of the cars upon our arrival for camping.

In Canada, it is not hard for me to list my favourite beer; it has been the same one since high school and likely won't change.

Mill Street Organic. Locally brewed, in Toronto, and the smoothest, most refreshing summer taste known to man. And, in the words of best-friend-Jess: “You would drink an organic beer”.

However, my time in Europe has convinced me that there are even more awesome beers out there. And whether you're a close friend of mine awaiting our trip down to Chester's to find these beers, or a stranger heading out on a trip around Europe, these are the beers you should check out, the ten best of my Euro-trip:
  1. Kronenberg – France. I will truly miss this beer when I return. It's very similar to Mill Street Organic in taste, and smooth enough that my friends who don't like beer also enjoyed it! Santé!
  2. Grolsch – Netherlands. You will note that Heineken didn't make the list. I don't like Heineken. I did, however, really enjoy Grolsch. It has a fresher taste than Heineken, and I saw more Dutch people drinking it and less tourists. Best kept secret perhaps? Gezondheid!
  3. Beck's – Germany. I enjoyed this beer so much that I raced to write it down. It was introduced to me by the two Australian boys I met in Berlin, who had purchased a case the night before. It's a crisp-tasting and mellow pilsner, and would be best consumed in the middle of the summer. Prost!
  4. Struis – Netherlands. The darkest beer to appear on my list, this is a 9% brew that I tried in Amsterdam. Although I usually prefer lighter beers, I would drink this one over and over again. As hearty as a dish of stamppot, and as dark as I take my coffee.  And it's not pronounced the way you're thinking, I assure you, so good luck ordering it! Proost!
  5. Krušovice – Czech Republic. There's no surprise that a Czech beer made my list, since they are the biggest beer consumers in the world. Most tourists head to Prague and seek out a Pilsner Urquell, but I really recommend this one instead. It's a 5% beer with a pretty dry taste and only feels mildly carbonated. Na zdraví!
  6. Krombacher – Germany. I don't think I'm alone in proclaiming the greatness of this beer. I had it on my hitch-hiking adventure from Dresden to Dečiv (Czech), offered to me by a fellow traveler out of his backpack. For me, this beer will always taste like mountains, rivers, adventures and fun, but if you want something more specific, I would say it's quite bitter and spicy with a very dry taste and an aftertaste that lasts forever. Prost!
  7. Grottenbier – Belgium. I tried this beer on second time passing through Brussels. It tastes like Springtime. At 7%, it's lighter-tasting than you would expect. The taste is hard to describe, besides employing the word 'unique'. I'll try: the taste is fairly dry, but there are unexpected flavours of dark fruits and herbs and the aftertaste is very sweet. Op uw gezondheid!
  8. Mahou – Spain. Purchased for me at a nightclub, I tasted this little guy and immediately called it an atrocidad. But then I went to a tiny Casa de Tapas and tried it there, and I want to formally defend the reputation of this poor beer. It's light, it's soft, it's sweet and it has no aftertaste. Sounds horrible? Try it with food instead of at a nightclub. The best complimenting beer I've ever tasted! Salud!
  9. Zlatý Bažant – Slovakia. My number one tip here is to not try to keep up with the Slovaks, who drink like they don't want to live. But if you have the chance to go to Bratislava, go out on a Friday and drink as many pints of this beer as you can handle. I was told by one Slovak that the beer was 5%, and by another that it was 12%. Judging by the taste, I'd guess 5%, but judging by our Friday night in Bratislava, I'd guess 12%. It has a pretty full taste, no bitterness to mention (but no fruitiness either) and no real aftertaste. Na zdravie!
  10. Brauhaus Nussdorf – Austria. A local brew, and I'm told it's found only at certain bars. My advice is to seek it out! It's quite pure tasting, and had very little aftertaste. It wasn't bitter, but it wasn't sweet either. It was a crsip, clean “beer” taste all the way through. Zum Wohl!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It’s Times Like These You Learn to Live Again

Writing is liberating.  Writing is informative.  Writing is creative.  Writing is beautiful.

I love to write.  Not just on my blog; I promise you I have deeper thoughts than the value of celery.  I love to write poems, awful though they may be.  I love to write in my journal, not simply by recounting the events of the day, but also by wrestling through my deepest thoughts and worries. 

"Writing is a form of personal freedom.  It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us."
-Don Delillo

Without my journal, I would never remember the discoveries I have made this year.  Without my journal, I would probably never be able to keep calm on the outside when I'm really terrified, nervous, anxious or upset.  My journal allows me to set goals and track their progress, to confess my errors and to confront my darkness.  I call it my "confession to no one", and write it in all of my languages to ensure that it remains forever my own. 

There is no gift I've enjoyed receiving more than my various journals.  I think there is something so poignant about the gift of a set of thick papers, bound with a carefully planned design to set apart this journal from any other.  The pages are blank and are begging to be filled.

Travling Bratislava, I met a young man named Rémi.  We talked about the beauty of a journal.  He recalled the very first journal he ever received, and says that to this day he can picture it where it was sitting, waiting to be opened. 

Why is it so powerful of a gift?  To me, the blank pages waiting to be filled are a metaphor for life.  Each one is waiting to be filled and only you can do so.  And later, when you look back on those pages, only you will remember the feelings, just like reminiscing about your history. 

True Confession #4:  I honestly just think Cézanne sucked at painting, not that he was a creative pioneer.

PS:  This is my 100th blog post!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Please leave a light on for me.

True confession #3:  I have Siderodromophobia...

Ok, not so much the cartoon ones.

...but I'm working on it!
On the way to the Czech Republic.

Friday, April 8, 2011

La Vie Boheme

True Confession #2:  I actually really like seagulls and pigeons.