When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Current location: Bruges

3 World Heritage sites in a day. This must be a new record!

Note to self: never again forget that "rode pepers" means not "red peppers" (rode papriken) but "red chilis".

Damn French keyboards (especially with faded keys). And this computer sucks (IE was screwed so I got FF°, another doesn´t work and a third was running out of disk space; 2nd and 3rd also had mismatched keyboards/keyboard settings - no wonder this place is so cheap.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Throwing away stuff is depressing. Especially when I think of how much future tenants would like things like pillows, duvets, bedsheets, pillowcases and couches.

I was helping a housemate to move into her new place and assemble some furniture, and while we were at lunch we saw the most pathetic busker ever. He'd set up large speakers and was blasting his music. That was bad enough, but I noticed that he wasn't even singing. My housemate added that he was not even playing his guitar, only pretending to strum it, while bouncing around and pretending. What a loser.

I paid €34 (+€2,65 for the box) to ship 5,2 kg of stuff at the post office. This even though it's by sea. For all I know it's cheaper to just exceed the weight allowance at the airport.

When I told the woman at the post office where I wanted to ship my parcel to, she took out the list and her finger hovered on 'Singapore' for a while. Then she asked me if it was in China. Gah. I wonder if Singaporean Malays, Indians or Others get the same reaction.

I saw a cock car painted in orange and with its roof down (its available as a convertible too?!)

Some Dutch magazine ("Consumentenbond") actually went around rating frites places for how healthy their fries were ("Gezondgids"). This place, "Bram ladage" won.

Dutch = English + German + Phlegm

I wanted to buy some useless Orange stuff for fun, but when I went to Blokker today most of it was gone, since they got defeated by Portugal. Damn. In the end I got a "fan".

I saw this poster which was an ad for something about Leiden (probably education-related). There was a Dutch guy and an East Asian girl sitting on a bench, and he was putting a jacket on her. Guess the Asian fetish exists here too.

It's good to walk here for the same reason it's good to cycle - the land is flat.

My parsley plant was not doing well. It was like the primary school experiment about overcrowding. Well actually only some stalks were dying and had yellow/brown leaves - the rest looked pretty healthy. I threw it away anyway.

I think the Dutch are the leanest people in Europe I've seen. It must be all the cycling. Of course, they're not SACSAL size (and they *are* the tallest in the world) and there are fat people also, but overall they're all trim-ish. Interestingly I have also seen no slimming ads in the media at all, so maybe it's a curve - if there're lots of anorexic people or lots of obese people, there'll be a lot of slimming ads but otherwise no.

I saw a TV ad where 3 naked women were in a sauna (with strategic positioning of body parts, of course), and they heard men shouting. The noise of the voices got closer, until 1 woman got up, grabbed the only towel, exited the sauna with it wrapped round herself and held the door open as a horde of naked men (seen from behind) streamed into the sauna. It was a hairdye commercial. I'm still trying to make sense of it. Presumably the woman who exited the sauna had a different hair colour.

There was another TV commercial on which looked like a rock concert, but keywords flashing onscreen let me know the truth. The German housemate who'd returned to do some admin asked if I knew what it was, and I answered in the affirmative. He said American christianity was invading Germany too.

I saw a man on a bicycle and a woman on a motorcycle. He was holding onto her shoulder and being dragged along. Bah.

I have a feeling that many people think that the Netherlands, being the land of pot, hookers and euthanasia is a seedy place. Some might even think it dangerous. In fact, as a barometer, outside of the Amsterdam red light district, pornography is less openly advertised than in other continental European countries (descriptions may be found in previous travelogues, often by searching for the line: "Gotta love these Europeans). An especially graphic example is the postcards of topless German women and the Pope. Amsterdam is slightly different in that even outside the red light district, they sell naughty postcards, T-shirts and other souvenirs. Yet these almost always depict stylised, cartoon nudity or naughtiness.

One local student was saying that although the Chinese here blend in quite well, they integrate rather than assimilate, remaining a distinct group. However, they don't "stand out" and "cause trouble". She singled out 2 groups which did - the Turks and Moroccans.

Bottles from all over Europe

Someone was saying her friend had a 3.9 GPA in University College Utrecht, but when this person went to Singapore his GPA plunged to 3.1 (I hope it was not CAP).

UCU, the honours college here, is less slack than the main university. They have small classes which are more seminar sized, and one student complained skipping 6 lectures would get you in trouble. But they all live on the same small campus anyway, so it's not so bad. And it's still not as anal as in some places.

Some of the PRCs asked the tutor to let them zap the answers to some tutorials. Unfortunately, although the questions were in English the answers were in Dutch.

Someone was saying pair work is the best because when you do it alone there's no one to consult and give feedback, and when it's too big there's the free-riding problem. I must add that in big groups there's co-ordination and monitoring costs, and that in pair work each can easily motivate (read: harass) the other to dothe work.

We got an evaluation form for one module asking us if:

- we have a sufficient command of english to follow lectures (there's a "NA" option, presumably for those who skipped all)
- what percentage of the lectures and tutorials we prepared well and attended (I was confused, since I didn't prepare well for some I attended, so I gave a partially weighted average)
- how many hours a week we spent on the course excluding lectures, tutorials and other gatherings (the maximum option is 99 since you shade a box each for the first and second digits. Wth)
- if the lecturer's english was 'sufficient to properly convey the course content' (this is a good one. We need this in NUS, which needs to ask this question more than Universiteit Utrecht)
- If the course co-ordinator was easy to contact
- If the course content fit the description in the catalogue ("What you learn in University: never believe course descriptions.")
- If there's a coherence between the different elements - lectures, tutorials, assignments, group work and individual study
- 'The required efforts of the course are useful" - ???
- If the examination was an appropriate test for command of the content
- If we expected to pass (note: not our expected grade)

This is real module feedback, since it's almost totally anonymous (they're not as bo liao as to track down who filled in what).

I don't like to bake - it doesn't give instant (or near-instant) gratification and it leaves horrible stains on the pan, but it gives such a lovely glaze to meats basted in sauces. I should try it more when I return.

Sauerkraut Fried Rice
I had sauerkraut leftover after making stamppot so I threw it in this. "Mild" sauerkraut is too mild for me - it wasn't sour enough.

Mutant pepper

Zacht en Luchtig Vla
I didn't realise this was special Vla until I tasted it - if you look closely you can see bubbles. It's been aerated so it's light and fluffy.

Jolide - Even Dutch snack bars have gone online, with delivery services. I saw the delivery man downstairs today.

There's this snack bar called "Cafeteria Smurf" which I sometimes patronise, due to its being near UCU. Usually I only see the man, who looks Indonesian-Chinese, but two or three times his female assistant (I assume his wife) has come out. Today I noticed her reading a Chinese novel, so I asked the man if they were from Indonesia. He said they were from China. Damn, and all this time I'd been attempting to communicate in broken Dutch (about the only English word I've heard him utter is "takeaway?", when I didn't cathc the Dutch equivalent).


[Student: Was it common for caravans to expand along the journey?] Baby camels.

carer'wairn (caravan)

[Tutor: Market failure is the main argument for government intervention.] That's chapter 10, not chapter 11.

[On Brandon-Spencer analysis and a subsidy for Airbus increasing EU welfare at the expense of the US] It's a clear beggar thy neighbor policy, but then again, who cares?

mail tea laterns (multilateral)

[On digesting articles in the reader] Just read the article, think about it, have a wine or a beer. [Student: I fall asleep]
July plan:

30 june Leave Utrecht, Sleep in Bruges (Train - €22,70)
1 jul - Bruges/Ypres (Train - €10,80 - weekend return), sleep in Bruges
2 jul - Ghent (?)/Antwerp, sleep in Antwerp (Train - €12,40)
Monday - 3 jul - Go to Eindhoven (Train - 1 hr 45 mins). Fly to Rome (14:30 flight)
3-4 jul - Alone in Rome. Sleep in Rome.
5-7 jul - In Rome with Andrew (Andrew comes)
8-9 jul - Naples/Pompeii/Herculaneum. Sleep in Naples. (Train, 1 1/2 hrs - ~€5)
Monday - 10-11 jul - Florence (Got a room in a camping site. No choice. One hostel in the city only has girl beds. He doesn't want to buy a wig. The rest are super expensive - the price of procrastination) (Train, 3 1/2-4 hrs - ~€21)
12 jul - Florence/Riomaggiore in Cinque Terra. Sleep in Riomaggiore. (Train, 2 3/4-3 hrs, ~€4 if not by ICPlus)
13 jul - Cinque Terra. Night train to Venice (Train, €31,50)
14 jul - Venice. Sleep in Venice.
15 jul - Venice (Andrew leaves). Sleep in Venice.
16 jul - Venice/Ravenna. Sleep in Ravenna. Dante Museum closes at 6pm. (Train, 3 hrs - €10,50)
Monday - 17 jul - Ravenna. Dante Museum closed (Tomb open). Sleep in Milan. (Train, 3 1/2 hrs - €13,80)
18 jul - Milan (Last Supper tickets sold out till 2 Aug. One day I'll go in April/May). Sleep in Milan.
19 jul - Marseilles (8-9/13 hrs from Milan; both Trenitalia and SNCF suck so I had to use Deutsche Bahn to find the schedules, but I've no prices). Sleep in Marseilles. (No cheap hostels online, 1 HI hostel fully booked, the other: booking online not possible. When I called - reception closed from 3-5pm. When I called again
they claim they don't accept reservations so I should show up on the day itself. Maybe I'll have to camp again.)
20 jul - Arles/Nimes. Sleep in Nimes (HI). (Train, 1 1/2-2 1/2 hrs - €16,10)
21 jul - Avignon. (Train, 1/2 hr - €5,80) Night train to Reims. (€70 excl couchette)
22 jul - Reims. Sleep in Bayeux. (Train, 5-6 hrs - €33,60. 2 trains; 10:21pm, 12:25pm) (They asked me to fax/send a letter. Reservations by phone/email not accepted. They claimed there'd be beds if I showed up on the day itself. If not I can always go camping again)
23 jul - D-Day Beaches/Bayeux. Sleep in Bayeux. (D-Day bus service - website down)
Monday - 24 jul - Bayeux. 5 hrs train to Brussels. Sleep in Brussels. (Train, 4 1/2-5 1/2 hrs - €60)
25 jul - Brussels. Sleep in Luxembourg. (Train, 3 hrs - unknown cost €0 due to a ticket xxoos gave me.)
26 jul - Luxembourg. Sleep in Vianden. (Train+Bus, unknown. If you believe them, the train to go to Vianden from luxembourg goes through Germany and involves 2 buses. Wth)
27 jul - Vianden. Sleep in Utrecht? Bunk with former housemate (till 29). (Train, 6-7 hrs. No fare information)
28 jul (Fri) - Utrecht. Close bank account.
29 jul - Finish up Utrecht. Bum. Get luggage from friend (or earlier).
30 jul - Fly at 12pm!

To do for July trip:

- Book night train

Damnit, the Gmail interface is horrible when you are forwarding multiple documents.

To do before leaving:

- Print itinerary
- Deposit luggage with friend
- Pack, repack
- Write, print and send Eurolines complaint letter
- Mail someone her card
- Change address, email address (can't find the field) in Osiris Online
- Return XS card
- UU/ESN shirt
- Look at De Rode Brug, other Utrecht stuff
- Close my bank account

- Buy new 15-strip strippenkart
- Ship stuff home
- Get orange souvenir
- Return library books
- Remove batteries from charger, pop in new set
- Finish, do a final read through and then submit book report, no thanks to someone
- Powder the straps of my bag
- Charge other set of batteries
- Study for hard open book exam (Sorta)
- Detach, return keys
- Final cleanup of room
- Throw away shit, including stuff in Kitchen
- Appelflappen (Partially)

- Eurail? Check prices
- Print out all that shit
- Finish blog backlog
- Backup files
- Final laundry
- Book Marseilles hostel

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I imagine that there're many patriots traveling on the Belgian rail network ("Reduction [on fares]: 'Patriotic reasons'"].

God, what have I done?!

(The stupid system doesn't understand that a 1/2 hr bus ride to Ettelbruck saves me 8 hours of travel. So much for the French front end to the Deutsche Bahn system [yes, I recognise the layout. Sneaky buggers.])
"Genoese-Ottoman relations were based very firmly on mutual interest. The Genoese were essentially pragmatic in their dealings with the Turks, something which was no doubt encouraged by the fact that Genoese Turkish policy was largely dictated by the Genoese on the spot in colonies such as Pera and Chios rather than directed from Genoa itself. Even during the siege of Constantinople, the Genoese of Pera managed to maintain their relations with the Turks, while, simultaneously, siding with the defenders of the city, sending letters urgently requesting help to Genoa, ambassadors to the Sultan in Erdine to renew treaty relations and express undying friendship, soldiers to Constantinople, oil for Turkish cannons to the sultan's camp and betraying Longo Giustiniano's scheme to set fire to the Turkish ships. Relations were such that when Turkish cannon sank a ship belonging to Genoese merchants of Pera, loaded with merchandise and ready to leave for Italy, the Perotes complained to the Turks. Explaining that they had not realised that the ship belonged to the Genoese of Pera, taking it rather as belonging to the enemy, the Turks assured them that, after the capture of the city, the merchants would be fully indemnified."

- European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State: The Merchants of Genoa and Turkey, Kate Fleet, p. 127-8


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An old sailor was out walking on the dock one day when he met a former ship mate of his. They had not seen each other for many years so they had much to talk about and many old memories to renew. After some time, one said to the other , "If you don't mind my saying so, you don't look very good, you must have experienced some bad luck". "Yes," the other one said, "I have. You see this peg leg? Well, one day I was out on deck and my leg become dangled up in a loose line and it was so badly mangled that they had to take it off at the knee." His friend agreed that was bad luck. The other one continued.

"You see I have a hook for a hand. One day I was out on deck when a shipmate of mine fell overboard. I leaned over as far as I could in a attempt to rescue him and as I extended my hand to him a shark took my hand off."

"My, you really did experience bad luck, the other responded, I see you have a patch over one eye, What happened to your eye?"

"Well, I was out on deck again one day and just as I looked up, a seagull that was flying over , unloaded, and got me right in the eye."

"My, My,(not real sailor talk) did that take your eye out?"

"No, that was the first day I had my hook."

Aachen (Part 2)

Aachen (17/6) (Part 2)

Passion altar, 1515/20. The piece from which the Master of Aachen Altars got his designation.

Book cover. From the Upper Rhine area, 1170/80. Ivory plates Byzantine, late 10th century

Pope Gregory's Mass, 1525
This myth involves a skeptic about the transubstantiation witnessing a miracle

Life of the Virgin, 1485. Master of Aachen Altars

3 small relics. The belt of the Virgin Mary and the belt and flagellation rope of Christ

I was feeling very tired in the Treasury. Though I'd got more or less sufficient sleep, the guide to the Treasury was very long and tiring to read. I also think I had travel fatigue. When I saw another €0,60 gelato place I went for it and was slightly more energetic after the burst of Zitrone flavour. I have no idea why people would pay €1,30 for a pre-packed Cornetto cone when they could get a better gelato at less than half the price.

I thought I'd never see these (Malaysian Mannikins) in Europe outside of places like Greece. This shop smelled of and sold Indian incense, but the salesgirl inside was a German brunette.

The WWF was promoting something in one square, and they had a stuffed panda on a seat.

I had been considering going for a soak in the famous hot springs (€9,50/2 hours), but I hadn't brought swimming trunks to Europe. Besides, it'd be boring and not fun going alone. So I then took a very overcrowded bus to Kornelimunster

Kornelimunster - before the square

As you can see, it is indeed a historic town

The fair was very crowded and there were lots of things.

There was a caravan with an insect circus. Oddly enough, everything was in English - it was probably hauled over from England.

The Peaple(s)

The Grand Finale. I'd never seen an insect/flea circus before. I suspect they're all like this, bah.

I wandered around the fair and discovered that it was huge, but it was mostly normal fair stuff - food, bric-a-brac, games and rides. Somehow from how it'd been billed ("Historischer jahrmarkt": "Roncalli’s Historical Fair... travelling entertainers, fortune-tellers and carousels to arts and crafts and precious antiques"), I was expecting jugglers, jesters and jousts. Then I saw this:

Mystic tent
This was what I'd come to see

Falcon woman. Yes. *This* was what I'd come to see.

Snake woman (yes, I touched it)

Falcon. At first I typed 'Eagle'

There was a fire truck at the scene, but the firemen were also doing business on the side by selling their stickers for €1 each.

At the fair they were selling frites in cones and eaten with forked sticks. The mayo looked like Dutch mayo also. Ah, the benefits of being close to the border. I was hungry so I ordered a portion of frites with curry. I got Dutch curry rather than the awful German stuff, but it was hot and so was awful and the taste was spoiled (they spooned it from a vat placed above a heat source beside another sauce, and it was used for the currywurst also). Also, the fries were the worst Dutch fries I'd ever had, being a bit stale - I saw they didn't have the pile of post-first fry fries, but poured frozen ones straight into the fryer. Tsk. Shortcuts don't work!

This must be the most expensive toilet in the world.
I saw this sign on the toilet wall and was suspicious, so I asked the man what "Schwänzchen" meant. He pointed to his unmentionables (Babelfish/some other site translate it is "tail"). I then remarked that it must be the most expensive toilet in the world (at least for big business), and he said "you can lie". I would've left €0,10 but had no change so I left €0,30 €0,20.

I saw a man at a stall with a turban and a beard. At first I thought it was part of the historical part of the fair, then I saw he was Indian, and there was a woman in a tudung beside him.

There was another trailer with a mouse town inside, so I paid €2 to have a look.

The smell was unbelievable.

It's a model Dutch town (supposed to be Amsterdam but it looks nothing like it) - they have a slagerij, patat shop and windmill. Perhaps it's a snide jibe. But they got sloppy - there's an "eis" stand. Tsk (it's "ijs").

The inhabitants of Mouse Town, "Alt-Amsterdam". There're 900 mice inside. I wonder what happens if they escape.

Dog in between a woman's legs

Dog in between a woman's legs. I like the tongue lapping.

Looking at this, I feel my food is poisoned.

Quiet spot before the fair

Backerei (Old-fashioned?)
The stuff looked really good so I had one for €3

On a sour dough base is laid sour cream, onions, bacon and cheese. Excellent.

[Addendum: This was Tarte flambée / Flammkuchen, an Alsatian speciality]

I hope this evil-looking doll isn't cursed.

Water was retailing at one place for the same price as a soft drink - €1,50 for 200ml. Wth.

I am reminded of the "artist" who put his chainsaw to styroform and cast bronze monstrosities to be placed along Orchard Road. At least this guy makes recognisable shapes.

Man skinning and selling fish.

Fortune teller
I didn't want to disturb her or she'd rub her ball and send wraiths at me

At the bus stop, I accidentally made a foot print on this lady's skirt. After finding out that I couldn't speak German, she said "When you're in Germany, you should speak German". Bah. I should put her in the Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece and tell her to speak all those country's languages.

When I got back to Aachen, there were these ecstatic blacks driving through the streets and waving flags (with many of them leaning out of the cars or sitting on the windows). They were shouting and blaring their horns. Meanwhile the white people on the sidewalk clapped for them. This can be called racial harmony, but in some countries, people would call this a racial riot.

If you look to the top left of the black streak on the window you'll see an orange smudge. A short while before this, it was hurtling through the sky, leaving a long tail in its wake. I'm not sure if it was a shooting star or some such, but it seemed to be moving too fast (and burning up) for a controlled re-entry. Then again, around the time of the photo it'd slowed down, explaining the much shorter tail.

Deutsche Bahn is so cute. On the LCD in the train there was a representation of the train line, with the stations marked out at intervals together with the expected arrival times listed beside the station. As the train approached the station, the icon representing the train on the LCD would likewise approach the station.

I was looking out the window, and have on previous occasions, trying to see if I could tell where the border between Germany and the Netherlands was. I couldn't tell - only the different flags or road signs glimpsed form the train afforded me a clue as to which country I was in. One day I want to try walking across the border, or any Schengen border.

On the way back I saw this guy on the train who was very cunning. He hid in the toilet when the conductor came to check, but when the train reached the station, the conductor had to exit the train to coordinate the leaving (making sure no one was getting up/off the train and blowing the whistle) and he came out and went past her. When the train moved off, she went down the aisle checking tickets again, passing the toilet. After she'd passed the toilet, the man came up from behind again and entered the toilet. These Europeans have fare evasion down to an art!
"There is an error in the ducat value of hyperpyra on page 50, and “lose” instead of “loss” on page 133."

This must be the most niao book review I've ever read.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale." - Arthur C. Clarke


Dealing with the Quarterlife Crisis

"Separate a job's meaning from its trappings

Forget about how much money a job will pay you, forget about societal prestige, and forget about what your parents and friends think about your job," says Robbins. "You have to figure out what's meaningful to you in your career, and what will warm your heart and make you want to jump out of bed each morning."

Robbins knows what she's talking about. Three weeks after she graduated from Yale University, she took the first job offer she got after being "completely seduced by the trappings. The pay was wonderful, I liked the people, I had my own office with a door, and my commute was only 15 minutes."

There was only one problem: "The work sucked," she deadpans.

She lasted for eight months but was miserable the whole time. Don't make the same mistake, she stresses."

This is not going to work in some parts.


They're talking our language - "A defining moment in the cultural imperialism of the US media giants occurred in 1983 when a nomadic, drought-plagued sub-Saharan tribe, the Tuareg, delayed its annual migration to fresh pasture by 10 days in order to catch the last episode of Dallas... English also has some impossible characteristics. ' Th' is famously difficult for foreigners. There are some rare and difficult vowels: the vowel-sound in 'bird' and 'nurse' occurs in virtually no other language. The 13 spellings for a sound like sh - shoe, sugar, issue, mansion, mission, nation, suspicion, ocean, conscious, chaperon, schist, fuschia and pshaw - are a source of weakness, not strength."

Welcome to MailOrderHusbands.net: The future of online dating for singles. - "Have you been "Clickin' for Love" in all the wrong places? Then look no further, We are the top spousal-order fulfillment service worldwide. Men have mail order brides - now women can do the choosing on the web. We are the first mail-order-spouse firm to market eligible bachelors! Welcome to the future of international personals for women. Don't Wait, Propose Today! "

VIDEO MASTER DATING - ELENA Video -"I used to have a job with this lame video dating service. They fired me 'cause they said I was accessing people's personal records, which is a lie. So I ripped off a bunch of the videos--here's one."

Supposing ... There's only one thing worth debating online - "In the debate sparked by my gibberish outpouring, it wasn't long before rival posters began speculating about the size of their opponent's dicks. It led me to wonder - has the world of science ever investigated a casual link between penis size and male political leaning?"

Arse or Elbow? - "Do you know your arse from your elbow? Look at each picture. Is it an arse or an elbow? Click the circles to choose."
8/14. I prefer the moobs/boobs quiz.

A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives - "Exposing the mind's deceptions and exploring how the mind defends and glorifies the ego, Dr. Cordelia Fine illustrates the brain's tendency to self-delusion. Whether it be hindsight bias, wishful thinking, unrealistic optimism, or moral excuse-making, each of us has a slew of inborn mind-bugs and ordinary prejudices that prevent us from seeing the truth about the world and ourselves. With fascinating studies to support her arguments, Dr. Fine takes us on an insightful, rip-roaringly funny tour through the brain you never knew you had."

Japan is proud home of Christ's tomb - "In A paddy-lined valley in the far north of Japan is a municipal signpost inscribed: “Tomb of Christ: next left.” Follow the winding path up into the forest and there, sure enough, is a simple mound with a large wooden cross labelled as the grave of Jesus. Nearby is a tomb commemorating Isukiri, Christ’s brother, adorned with a plastic poinsettia Christmas wreath."

Aachen (Part 1)

Aachen (17/6) (Part 1)

On Saturday 17/6, I went to Aachen. Originally I was going to go on Pinksteren Monday (the reason for choosing weekends or public holidays is I only get my 40% rail discount after 9am on weekdays, and the journey is 3 hours), but I read about the Roncalli’s Historical Fair in Kornelimünster and decided to go for that.

When I got to Heerlen (from which I'd take the train to Aachen) I had some time so I checked fares on the machine. I was quite upset to find that a return ticket from Utrecht to Aachen had cost me €36,60, but a return ticket from Utrecht to Heerlen would've cost me €21,40 and a return ticket from Heerlen to Aachen €9,50 - I'd have saved almost €6 buying 2 separate tickets (the reason being that international return tickets are valid for 2 months, but domestic returns for a day).

Travel in Europe must've a huge pain before Schengen. And I can't imagine how much they save by dismantling all these border controls.


Most cathedrals are situated in a square or otherwise have a lack of buildings around them, allowing them to stand out, rising from the ground. Aachen's cathedral, OTOH, has buildings clustered right next to it. Its unusual design, based around Charlemagne's palace chapel, probably also contributes to its diminished image. But then again it *is* smaller than other famous cathedrals, so.

Cathedral windows

I saw a gelato shop in Aachen near the cathedral selling scoops for €0,60, so I got one. I was amazed at how cheap it was, but maybe I'll find even lower prices in Italy.

Tourist dancing to music provided by buskers

Exterior carvings

Monument in the square

Model of the cathedral

Admission to Aachen cathedral was free, but there was a €2 photographing fee (honour system). They said tripods are disallowed, but said nothing about flash. Unfortunately I didn't have small change to drop this amount into one of the holes, but I had shelled out €0,50 for a guide booklet, so. I love their photo policy. The church with the worst policy is probably Westminster Abbey - 8 pounds admission and no photos.

When I arrived, there was a service going on. According to the timetable this wasn't supposed to be happening, but the service was special and so was taking longer than usual. After milling around outside for a while, I decided to go in and listen to the service, especially since the music sounded better than usual service music.

Inside, I found that the service was dedicated to the Malteser order ("Generalversammlung der Deutschen Assoziation des Souveränen Malteser-Ritterordens"), there were many people in Malteser polo shirts and uniforms and Malteser flags were being carried around. I also found out why the music sounded so good - it was mostly from Haydn's Missa Brevis in F, and there was a Mendelssohn psalm also.

'She-Wolf' (2nd century Roman female bear [Looks like the Dark Ages were really bad], now dated to Ancient Greece)

Lothringian Madonna with child, before 1400

The guide booklet said that Aachen pilgrimage was once equal to those of Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela. Unfortunately it didn't say why it wasn't equal to those any more.

Barbarossian Chandelier, 1160

I then realised that it was almost 11:30, and the Rathaus (town hall) would be closed at 12pm until 1 or 2pm, so I rushed down. Unfortunately, there was no entry that day due to the Malteser order. You win some, you lose some.

Restaurant mascot on the square

Charlemagne fountain


Rathaus, and details

I think the only reason this spice garden was behind the cathedral was because it was mentioned in Charlemagne's 812 Capitulare de villis.

Back of the cathedral

I was hungry, so I went to explore the area behind the cathedral where they'd set up TV screens (for football viewing), a beer garden and food stalls.

20 types of fries. They looked good. I know this because they were cooking the fries Dutch-style - with a pile of thick-cut fries after their first fry standing above the frier. I should open a kiosk like this one day!
German - Sour grill sauce
Mexican - Chilli sauce
American - Ketchip
Portuguese - Jäger sauce (this seems to be a German sauce though!)
Belgian - Special (Mayonnaise, Curry and chopped onions - my favourite)
Dutch - Peanut sauce (???)
Hungarian - Zigeuner (Gypsy) sauce
Belgian - Mayonnaise
Spanish - Garlic-Mayonnaise
American - American sauce
German - Curry
Greek - Tzatziki
French - Bernaise
Swiss - Kräuter (?)
Dutch - Hollandaise
French - Mushroom-Rum
French - Remoulade
Chinese - Asian (?)
English - Vinegar
Spanish - Garlic

For lunch, I had Speissbraten (grilled pork) with sauce and onions for €3,75. It was expensive (no doubt the World Cup premium), but I'd been screwed so much lately that I just lay back and thought of England. Besides, I was out of the Netherlands and so was on a holiday account. In any case, the speissbraten was very good and very tender, though the roll I got with it was tiny.

I then had a godawful slush - paying €2 was one thing, but the Waldmeister flavour sucked (I always like to try new things, but I wasn't sure if this sucked because it was artificially flavoured, if the flavouring was lousy or Waldmeister is a horrible flavour). In any case, the marketing should've turned me off - the mascot was a blob with a bedsheet thrown over him, and he was in a very Malaysian pose (showing a thumbsup sign with his land hand and holding the slushee in his right), and there were also the Malaysian reassurances ("Das original. Die nr. 1"). All in all, it was the dubious aura which was also shared by this "Perfect Fried Chicken" joint I saw in London (predictably, a KFC ripoff).

Back of the cathedral. Short of going by air, this is probably the best point to view the cathedral from.

Nice dogs. European dogs are nice. Perhaps it's true, what they say of mad dogs and the midday sun.

Mosaic before the cupola

Ceiling of the cupola

Gnadenbild (Miraculous image), 'Our dear lady of Aachen', 'Essentially 14th century'
The qualifier makes me suspicious

Altar (Pala d'Oro), 1020

Pulpit of Emperor Henry II, before 1014, decorated with ancient and medieval drinking bowls and Egyptian ivory reliefs from the 6th century AD

The altar and beyond were off-limits to normal visitors, but I saw some groups going in on guided tours. I decided not to pay €3, since the tours left only at intervals (so I would waste time waiting) and they were in German, and admired the sights from afar.

Shrine of St Mary

Restricted area - in the background is the shrine with Charlemagne's remains, above the double-sided radiant Madonna (Strahnlenkranzmadonna), 1024 and the right the Shrine of St Mary (1220-30) which contains their relics

When I found out that access to the gallery (where the Throne of Charlemagne was, so I wouldn't even see it from afar) was also only with a guided tour, I got pissed off and finally decided to pay €3 for the guided tour (I was now happy I had not paid the photography fee). I asked if English was available and the man said I had to order a week in advance. He gave me a free translation of the most important points though. I wasted about 15 minutes waiting for the tour to start, but didn't have that much to do in Aachen anyway - the UNESCO World Heritage Site (what their website modestly proclaims is "The most famous monument of western architecture") was what I'd come to see, and though the museums sounded nice, I'd learnt how to decipher museum-speak already - if they don't mention famous/important works in the collection, it has nothing exceptional and however much they gush about their collection, it's probably nothing really good.

Ceiling of the cupola. The light kept changing so my 2 previous shooting sessions were awful. This was great though.

2nd storey of the cupola, with 9th century Carolingian bronze railings and Classical pillars cribbed from Rome and Ravenna.

Mosaics just below the dome
Unfortunately they're all 19th century mosaics (1880-1913), made in the era of the Prussian Emperors.

The major relics stored in the Shrine of St Mary are the dress of the Virgin Mary, the nappies of the infant Jesus (wth?! It's already a stretch of the imagination conceiving of how relics get saved, but who would save this?! Maybe it was non-biodegradable and lay on a trash heap till someone found it), the loin cloth of Christ and the decapitation cloth of St John the Baptist. Uhh. I wonder if anyone has tried carbon dating all these relics. But then, we have demonic interference and Science is Godless (and incidentally, also seditious), so. Either that or according to the fundies, the Catholics are satanic idolaters anyway.

In the same spirit as the relics, Wikipedia informs us: "In 1000, Otto III had Charlemagne's vault opened. It is said that the body was found in a remarkable state of preservation, seated on a marble throne, dressed in his imperial robes, with his crown on his head, the Gospels lying open in his lap, and his sceptre in his hand. A large picture representing Otto and his nobles gazing on the dead Emperor was painted on the wall of the great room in the Town Hall." Oh, what a fine thing it would've been to live in the Age of Miracles. A pity such things don't happen nowadays. This must be because we live in such a Godless, Fallen and Sinful world.

Shrine of Charlemagne, with his remains. Front: him flanked by Pope LeoIII and Archbishop Turpin of Reims. Side: 8 medieval rulers (another 8 on the other side)

Unfortunately the stained glass was damn ugly.

What later artists drew as the symbol of Charlemagne - the German eagle with the French fleur-de-lis. It was thought to be his symbol but that's bull.

Weathered paintings on the wall of the restricted area

The other side of the double-sided Madonna. Usually I'm loth to pump up the ISO but otherwise it was impossible, and a grainy image is better than a blurry one. Actually on 200 it's still kind of tolerable. Maybe I should try it more in Italy.

Eagle's stand - Choristers' stand from the 15th century

Shrine of Virgin Mary. This holds the 4 main relics. This side shows Charlemagne with 6 of the disciples

Throne of Charlemagne. Used by 30 kings in their coronation ceremonies from 936-1531

Entrance to the Cathedral

Entrance to the Domschatzkammer (treasury)

Bust of Charlemagne, 1349
This contains his cranium. Gross.

Arm reliquary, 1481

Horn oliphant of Charlemagne, c. 1000
Below is the Hunting Knife of Charlemagne, 8th century. Sheath 10th-11th century.
The astute reader will note that all of these are not from the time of Charlemagne. This is what happens when customary names are proven to be misnomers.

Reliquary of Charlemagne, mid-14th century

Christ in his Majesty, 1180 AD

Head of a Cantor's Staff. Eagle - 1470. Hexagonal boss - 1420.

Cross of Lothair, c. 1000
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