Thursday, July 18, 2013

One of Those Days

It's the middle of summer. My project is doing it's best impersonation of a inanimate object. Did I mention it was summer? So I went in search of cheerier things. Like good books. And froyo. (For the English slang challenged: froyo --> frozen yogurt) One of the two was easy to find. The other, was not.

Guesses? Probably to no surprise, I found books easily. The whole liking reading things, means I would be basically happy with any book I laid a hand on. Which is a bit troublesome, because I end up trying to figure out which book I like the most out of the many good selections possible.

Conveniently the book stores in Germany have set traps for people like me. They have all this comfortable, inviting seating in their bookstores making it "ok" to take rather extensive.. previews.. of the books. Which of course just makes you want to buy them more- cause you'd feel really guilty if you just sat there and read the entire book in the store, right? Well that's how it worked for me. (I escaped, for those worried, without becoming too much of a sucker- though now I am quite a bit more on guard. At least I hope I am.)

Finding froyo was much more difficult. Like any American, I went to the grocery store, since you don't have to pay nearly as much. And the selection is supposedly better. From my brief encounter with the frozen desert section of German grocery stores, I would say this is sadly not the case. I was hard pressed to find ANY sort of ice cream/gelato/sorbet not to mention froyo. All I did find was one tiny pack of popsicles. Which is completely bonkers since people here must eat ice cream sometime.. right? Maybe not. And in the long run, it was probably better that I was unsuccessful. But I have this really bad craving for lemon sorbet right now... Hopefully my new book will be distracting enough to make me forget all about it. :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

One Fish, Two Fish...

The Hamburg fish market has come to Stuttgart. It is absolutely nothing like I was expecting it to be.

While it did have the same contents: stands selling fish products (cooked into meals or raw) as well as other vendors (like drinks and ice cream) it was presented in a completely unique way. I'm really glad I took some pictures, since there isn't really anyway to describe this and give it justice. Let's just say, they take their fish really seriously. (but not themselves) And it shows. Dinner tonight was delicious.

These weren't your simple stands. They had full kitchens
Super fancy, fish themed stands lined the square
Clearly, they won. I mean, they have a PIRATE ship
The goal: Out decorate all your neighbors
Which basically means I have no idea what I just ate. But it was really good
I cleverly ordered by pointing at something that looked tasty

How Fresh is Your Fruit?

I had always thought 'fresh fruit' was sort of standard. I mean, how different could fruit that was just grown really be? I have to say though, I have never before had a package of strawberries start juicing themselves simply by being against the side of my shopping bag.

Although the pink stain does kind of stand out on a blue bag, at least my whole room now smells like strawberries. I don't think that's a bad trade off at all. (They taste really good too, in case you're wondering)

Appreciating Life

Not all water is created equal. For example, water in London was really, really terrible. I actually think I may have ended up thirstier after drinking their tap water. A rather impressive feat. Needless to say, I was relieved to be back in Germany where the tap water was actually drinkable.

My body also seemed to finally let go, as I sat down to write some posts and woke up 6 hours later. I guess I was maaaaybe a little tired.

It is wayyyy to early if you see the sun rise. In summer.
I definitely was appreciating my early morning flight

I've Just Seen a Face, I Can't Forget the Time or Place...

As the not having luggage problem was reaching beyond the point of mild annoyance, we redoubled our efforts to find the wayward baggage by going alllll the way back out to the airport. Turns out, they did have our bags. On the other side of customs. Which meant going back through security. Whopee. (Luckily, we did find the bags amidst the sea of other 'lost' luggage)

With baggage safely secured, we resumed our more normal touristy activities. Today being a little colder, we decided we were up for the outdoors. After taking a brief walk through Harrods, (I mean, who wouldn't?) we wound our way through Hyde park toward Buckingham Palace. The guards do really stomp around quite impressively. They also scratch their noses. We were convinced it was a form of secret code. What they could be discussing though, eluded us.

I wasn't able to ask if they'd sell me an elephant though, unfortunately
These are GIANT meringues
Not shown: wide horse path. Surprisingly not fully of people
There were a lot of flowers in Hyde Park
I may or may not be in love
The clock tower is really impressive
After taking in the royal presence, we went to St. Paul's Cathedral to feel divine presence. (It is Sunday) We may have also been going to an organ concert. And that cathedral had wonderful acoustics. The organ sounded... I don't even know. I normally will just sit and listen to organ music regardless of location, but I almost felt transported to somewhere else as I sat under the dome for the concert.
It's also been rebuilt. The original was even larger. I'm not quite sure it's possible.
This cathedral is so large it doesn't fit in my picture
Since we were "in the area" we poked our heads over towards the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. (There is some bridge in London somewhere, super specific- I know, that used to put heads of criminals and enemies on spikes to warn off people. But I totally don't remember where anymore. I had thought it was Tower Bridge, but that bridge wasn't built til like the 1840s) We timed our visit perfectly since we even got to see the bridge open!

Now used as cricket feilds of all things
The moat doesn't seem to be kept up as a useful defense anymore
I think it's supposed to be lucky to see it go up? I could use the luck
It looks heavy. I'm glad they no longer have to hand crank it
As a final goodbye to London, we went up in the London eye just as the sun began to set. It was beautiful watching the sky grow purple and see all the lights turn on. Especially the lights for Big Ben.
It never stops moving, and it still takes 30 min to go all the way around.
The giant bicycle wheel.. er Behold! The London Eye!
This was the clearest photo, and it's still blurry. ><
I particularly like seeing Big Ben at night

To Find Luggage or Not To Find Luggage

I'm in London! Which is really exciting, since I've wanted to visit London since... forever. It's totally cliche, and overdone everywhere in literature and TV/Movies, but I don't care at all. I actually can't really explain it either. Strange.

As a nice welcome to London, the flight was delayed by 2 hours. Now I know it's not really the airport's fault that a plane had to catch on fire (no one was on board, luckily) but it is really, really inconvenient when you're trying not to miss your midnight tickets to A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe.

It's even more annoying when you go to pick up your luggage and after waiting for an hour or so, they finally tell everyone waiting around that the baggage return system has shut down, and will not be resuming. Basically, a whole bunch of people aren't going to get their stuff til.. well no one really knows when.

I wonder if the bags feel just as lonely being seperated from their owners
Every person in this picture is missing their bags

Momentarily putting aside the baggage woes, we went off to see what we could of the play. (I mean, what else were you going to do.. and it's Shakespeare. So really, a no-brainer) Thanks to a really awesome cabby, we got from the airport to the theatre in record time, just making it in before intermission. The performance and atmosphere were absolutely amazing, so if you ever have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it.

Also.. Shakespeare is DEFINITELY about all the stage cues that aren't written explicitly
You felt like you were watching the play with a huge literary family
 When we woke up in the morning (taking a bit of a late start after the midnight showing of the play) the bags were.. still no where to be found. On top of that everyone was doing the same thing and crashing their systems (both web and phone) so we just gave up and went out to see the city.

Our initial plans to walk around outside were overwritten when we discovered that we were in the middle of a heat wave. Improvising a little, we ended up at the British Museum, notable for it's crazy foyer architecture and housing the Rosetta Stone. I had never really gotten what was so great about some stone, but looking at the 3 different languages carved into it basically right next to each other, I came to a bit of an understanding of how useful it would be to help decipher something that honestly didn't even resemble any known written language.

It was like.... heaven? Felt like it in the heat ;P
It was like being outside, but without wind, sun or litter

Walking back from the museum, we passed through Covent Garden, a place that used to be the center of flower selling, but is now both a shopping mall and open market. Continuing our meandering walking tour, we wound our way down toward the Thames and walked along the river front enjoying live music from a swing dance group.

Seriously though, they're so weird!
As a tourist, I am obligated to take this photo
To top off our enjoyable evening out, we went to our second theatrical performance: (quite a bit different from the first) Spamalot. It's a musical. It's based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's got SPAM. It's got improv funny enough to crack up the actors. I'm not sure anything else really needs to be said.

The view was also really pretty, but the pictures I took the next day are better :)
London has many weird looking pedestrian bridges

Learning to Drive

Today we went on a tour of the super computing lab. I could tell from the beginning that I was going to like this tour. I mean, it has 'computing' in the name of the lab. How could you possibly go wrong?

To start off, we got to look at the actual machines. Which, according to the engineers, aren't really the interesting part. I mean it's just a whole bunch of computers connected on a special network placed in really close proximity in a fairly freezing room. That has lots of locked doors. While I agree that what you can do with super computers is probably a lot more exciting, it's still pretty cool to see it all set up. :D

Looks a bit ominous I guess, but it was actually just really cool (pun maybe intended)
There's a whole building next door just for cooling these down
Actually though, they were pretty well labeled. you can even see the tape
I would hate to try to find the one misplaced wire..
After seeing the machines we got to experience some of their computing power in the CAVE, a virtual environment that used 3D projections on 5 walls of a cube combined with 3D glasses equipped with markers to track position and orientation to give you an interactive experience. We only got a liiitle dizzy.

There were many different simulations. We started with more static models, like a car in a wind tunnel, but looked at the space station, a coal furnace, and a water plant before getting to possibly the most interesting, a driving simulator.

I don't have a driver's license. I mean, I took driver's ed, and even had a permit until it expired, but I've only driven a car twice. And basically all of it was in parking lots. So me + a driving simulator was destined for failure. Luckily, even if you crashed, the chair didn't throw you into the steering wheel.