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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Trip with Jiekai - Part 13
Day 7 - Vienna (6/4)

Vienna on the 6th was as cold as when I’d just landed in Utrecht 2 months ago. Wth.

Jiekai had to go get his Eurail pass corrected due to his earlier screwup, so I left him to visit Stephansdom, the cathedral in Vienna.

I took a tour of the crypt, divided into the old crypt (from the 14th century) and the new crypt (from the 18th). Ironically, the old crypt was cleaner and looked newer than the new crypt, because it’d been restored in the 20th century. Ironically also, the old crypt was still in use, unlike the new crypt. In the old crypt, the internal organs of the Hapsburgs were kept. So their bodies, hearts and internal organs were all kept in different places. How dreadful.

After descending to the depths of the cathedral, I ascended 343 steps (67m) to its heights, only to find, at the top of the tower, a gift shop (I pity the people who work there) and a horde of noisy primary school children, as well as €1 telescopes to view the city with. The worst bit was that there was no balcony to walk around and admire the view from. Maybe I should’ve gone up the other tower with the elevator instead.

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View from the top of one tower of the Stephansdom

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There wasn’t nice stained glass in the cathedral [Addendum: I'm informed it was removed in the 19th century], and its roof was ugly, but I liked the fluting of the pillars and the sculptures mounted on them.

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Exiting the cathedral, I realized that it looked just as black as 8 years ago, and that it looked much better covered in snow (if nothing else, the silly multi-coloured mosaic with the eagle and "1831" would be covered). It was also still covered with scaffolding (makes you wonder why it's still so black), which seems to be a permanent feature of old cathedrals - they probably leave it up to spoil your shots and only remove it when the postcard photographer comes along.

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I then met up with Jiekai and we made our way to the Freud museum - his old house.

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Fountain in Neuermarkt

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Karl Vondal - Die Vier Frauen mit keize, 2003.
How appropriate to have this in a Freud museum.

The museum was very odd. For one it was had to find - there were no prominent signs on the front of the building. Furthermore, the floor where the museum was was hardly marked, and the door was closed - it was easy to walk past the place as Jiekai did (and refusing to ask for directions), assuming that a locked, unmarked door meant that wasn't the museum. In the end, I was the one who realised that you had to press the doorbell (duh). Somehow all this oddness was very appropriate for a Freud museum.

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Sometimes, a cigar...

There was a painting by a Oswald Tschitner who "developed psychiatric problems", then became an artist. How fitting.

Among the things I found out at the museum was that Freud tested cocaine, and it didn't turn him into a raving lunatic criminal (though some would argue it made him bonkers in another way). He said he didn't get addicted and it made him "strong as a lion, gay and cheerful".

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Waiting room

Unfortunately only the waiting room of the place had been restored. His study and consulting room were almost bare (no couch, even!), but for walls of photographs, facimiles of documents, books and some artefacts.

Freud on book burning in 1933 Germany: "What progress we are making. In the middle ages they would have burnt me; nowadays they are content with burning my books".

In the bookshop there were books on psychoanalysis applied to Die Zauberflote, Cosi Fan Tutte and Marilyn Monroe - all in German. Uhh. There was also a book by Karen Horney on "Feminine Psychology" with chapters on frigidity, female masochism and "the neurotic need for love".

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For lunch we had Schnitzel at what Jiekai's guidebook called a "Vienese institution" with "famously grumpy waiters". Personally I think the one at Baden-Baden in Holland Village was better - thinner and crispier, with a bigger crumb (of course, Jiekai insisted that this schnitzel must be the schnitzel from which all other schnitzel is benchmarked, but he's fooled by locational mystique everywhere instead of judging food by culinary merit). Perhaps we didn't know what to order - the family beside us got schnitzel which looked crispier, and a touristy-looking couple who came in later got what we did (and were given ketchup, as we were - maybe tourists get the hour-old stuff). Definitely we got the wrong sides - we both had fries, and after a while we began to wish we'd changed one of those to a salad. The place was also like a Chinese restaurant - only the boss could accept payment. She also had this cute money belt with slots from which she could take coins.

After lunch Jiekai wanted to see some funny modern art, so we parted ways once again. I wanted to see Montezuma's fan at the Museum of Ethnology but it was closed till Spring 2007, so I went to the combined Ephesus Museum, Museum of Historical Musical Instruments and Collection of Arms and Armour.

The Ephesus museum had findings from Ephesus (especially the temple - I can't remember if it was *that* temple, but I doubt it or the audioguide would've crowed) and Samokrace.

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Hercules and the Centaur - 2nd century BC

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Parthian monument, battle scene

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Octagon side

The Museum of Historical Musical Instruments had one of the only surviving records of the Johann Strauss Orchestra.

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Kristallquerflote, 1877

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Clavichord, 1820

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Cembalo, 1745

The museum had a glass harmonica, but unfortunately the cover of the keyboard was closed so I couldn't see what it looked like; from the outside it just looked like a normal keyboard instrument.

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Barytons, 1656, 1782

They also had a 1993 copy of a Spinettino (keyboard instrument which worked by plucking strings a la the cembalo) which visitors could play. It was quite fun. Now I also know what playing a harp feels like - there's a unique resistance when you depress the keys.

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Passau song table
This has drinking songs on it, and one of the inscriptions condemns drinking. Hah!

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Lira da Bravvin, 1511

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Jew's Harps
There was a recording of a concerto for Jew's Harp. Its sound was extremely weird, reminding me of the croaking of frogs.

Finally, there was the arms and armour collection. Of course, I'd overdosed on armour in Paris already, but there were still some fun things.

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Quaint kids' armour and polearms

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Costume armour, 1526
This was for a wedding and reflected contemporary fashion.

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This must be the largest crossbow I've ever seen.

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Osterreichischer soldier, ~1490
Looking at too much knights' armour gets tiring

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14th century (ceremonial?) helm

After the museum closed I met up with Jiekai again, and we went to the Hotel Sacher for Sacher torte (chocolate cake). At the last minute, I decided to have apple strudel instead, which was a wise decision; the sacher torte was not as bitter as I expected, but I can't appreciate expensive chocolate (I'm such a pleb). Jiekai proclaimed it the perfect chocolate cake: bitter but not too bitter, chocolatey without being too creamy and free from "rubbish margarine". He claimed his life had changed because of this chocolate cake against which all other chocolate cakes were to be measured; unfortunately it didn't change his life for the better by making him less of a cock. My strudel itself was not very sweet - it was made from very fresh ingredients, especially the filling (most apple strudel has processed-tasting filling - this tasted raw and fresh) and had a very fresh and flaky crust. It was the best-made Austrian studel I've ever had, but personally I prefer Australian strudel, since it is sweeter and has cream inside. Maybe I should've tried the cheese strudel instead. Ah well.

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Opera toilet
This, in the Opera house metro station, must be one of the most stupid ideas ever. For €0,60 you oculd use this toilet, inside of which the Blue Danube was playing. From the outside you could hear the sounds of water dripping.

To fulfill Jiekai's need to be pretentious, we then went to a coffee house.

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Coffee house

The place was a "living cliche", decorated as it was with late 19th century decor. People smoking provided the clouds of smoke in the air, medium-volume conversation was in the air, the waiter was wearing a bow tie with a black vest and pants and there was a man reading a pretentious newspaper printed on yellowed/browned paper - "Der Standard". Coffee gives me negative utility, so I had a hot chocolate, which actually came unsweetened. After using all 3 cubes of sugar, it was damn good chocolate - both sweet and bitter.

Throughout the trip, people sometimes came on board metro trains to busk. If someone did that on an MRT train he’d be hauled away.

Jiekai recommends I set up a "the best of fattening food from around Europe" stall in Singapore. For starters I can sell schnitzel and Dutch fries. He wasn't very helpful in coming up with more foods, instead coming up with an elaborate business plan. But then, in this era you need a business plan before actually thinking of what to sell - you don't sell a product, you sell a solution/experience.

Jiekai says his inspiration is Louis XV - Madame Pompadour slept with him for 5 years; after that he slept with other women but still used her as his confidante and she had great influence at court. It fits in with his "every man needs a girlfriend, a wife and a mistress" philosophy.

We wondered why there was at least one Starbucks in Vienna. Obviously Vienese coffee doesn't fulfill every need. But then there're McDonalds in France also, and it's not like the Evil Cultural Imperialists are shoving these joints down people's throats - if the natives want it, I don't see why self-righteous foreigners should complain that their sensitivities are being affected.

[XXX] Magazine seen at a newsstand: "60 up". Uhh. Gotta...

Even the handkerchief in my jeans' pocket smelled of smoke. Gah.

Cock files, or things for which I would've pelted Jiekai with the Biggest Snowball In The World, Part Deux, if there'd been snow:

- He didn’t understand why trains running at night were shorter in length than those running at peak hour
- "There's just something about Vienna: everything looks so Vienese" (this on top of the comment about Paris being Parisian)
- With the tram stop obviously on his right, he claimed it wasn't a tram stop
- At the schnitzel place he asked to doggie bag the fries. The server at first dumped them, not understanding him, then gave him a fresh serving after Jiekai looked up his phrase book. There are few things more revolting than cold, soggy, stale fries. Vile fries with vile juice and vile piss (beer) for a cock person - how appropriate.
- At the Vienese coffee house, "Cafe Sperl", he stuck his tongue out
I come back and before me:

1) I've 18 days of unpublished travel blog entries

2) A flame war has erupted on the post about the law landscapes paper

3) I've an assignment due on Monday (in Week 2 of the term - they don't celebrate May Day here) on a topic I (as yet) know nothing about

4) I'm still tired since Athens airport sucks for sleeping and the flight wasn't that long or comfortable

5) It's Queen's Day (Koninginnedag)! It's usually on the 30th of April but since that day's a Sunday this year it's been shifted up

6) I've tons of email to plough through and process, even after the first few swings of the scythe

7) Some other stuff I've forgotten

I've deal with them all in due time, but first I'm going to see the Dutch cavort in silly orange hats.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Another cool website:


Seth, diagnosed with Spondyloarthropathy at the age of 13, is now 24, and reaches out to people with arthritis on an emotional, educational and humorous level. While other start-ups try to make a million dollars, Seth hopes to one day throw a going-out-of-business party when a cure for arthritis is found.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bill watterson should have won a pulitzer. His works are essential to understand the spirit of the 90's.

Presenting an extract from The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes:
(oh dear, quoting lowbrow poetry on Balderdash, whatever will aga say??!!!)


From: The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes
I made a big decision a little while ago.
I don't remember what it was, which prob'ly goes to show
That many times a simple choice can prove to be essential
Even though it often might appear inconsequential.

I must have been distracted when I left my home because
Left or right I'm sure I went. (I wonder which it was!)
Anyway, I never veered: I walked in that direction
Utterly absorbed, it seems, in quiet introspection.

For no reason I can think of, I've wandered far astray.
And that is how I got to where I find myself today.
What is this recent cupcake madness around the world??? Been trawling the net for recipes and all i can find are cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes!!! At least someone agrees with me. Or not.
Check out this website!!! Isn't it cool!!!!

Cute Overload

Take pictures of your favourite pets and contribute!!!

hahaha.... aga's gonna put the obedience collar on me for this.

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