I've been back from the trip since last monday evening, but it's been a lotto digest (and there's still a lot to think about). It was certainly aneventful trip in almost every sense of the word.
On the programming front,I got a lot of work done on the next version of POUND. It is now not farfrom having all the features that the current version has, the only differencebeing a lack of RSS, themes and custom CSS. It already does a lot of things theold version doesn't, and improves in general method over that version. Despiteit not being ready at all for third party use, needing a lot of cleanup andcosmetic work, I'll probably upgrade my current BLOG to it within a month orso. If any of you out there want it, I'll be happy to mail you a tarball.As a reminder, on your server you need mod_perl, apache2, and postgres. A lot ofthe new features are still under construction, but it now has a wiki-syntax forentries, has an attached wiki, supports entries from multiple users, and has alogin system that isn't horribly insecure.
On the athletics front,The snowboarding was pretty good. I'm not a great snowboarder, because I'm toocautious to go down the hill quickly, but I had a good time. The Alps werebeautiful, although they wern't as snowy as they might've been. I wore a bigsanta hat I have while out on the slopes, and the local kids would singchristmas songs in german or english as they passed me by (yes, I was goingslowly). I fell more often there, but part of that was the snow kept getting inmy eyes -- I couldn't wear an eyemask because I kept sweating onto it and it gotall foggy. One nice thing about boarding there was that the slopes were verylong, so on reaching the top, it took awhile to get down to one of the lifts.There were also lifts going every which way, some at the base level of themountains, and some partway up that took one up much higher. It had a niceexploratory feel to it.
On the internet front,I suffered a bit from withdrawl. I was hoping to BLOG while in europe, butthere wasn't much reliable internet. In the Paris hotel, I was able to get onthe net by climbing out onto a very narrow windowsill designed for flowers, toget on some random wireless network. It was too cramped to type much. InChelerina/Sankt Moritz, I was able to get on the net at an internet cafe, butit was expensive and about 45 minutes from the hotel. In Zurich, I paid for atemporary internet pass from swiss telecom, which runs wireless internet allover Europe, and charges obscene rates. It was, I think, the equivalent of$40 for 24 hours. In retrospect, that was a mistake. In Belgium, I found aPakistani internet cafe while walking one day that had very nice, affordableinternet -- one euro an hour ($1.30 an hour). Finally, in Amsterdam there weresome internet terminals that were about 3 euros an hour. Overall, it wasn'tas connected as I had hoped, and I assumed the internet mentioned in thehotel brochures was free. Sigh.
On the food front,It was quite a good trip. On the flights, I ordered Kosher meals as anexperiment, and it was quite good -- better than any of the normal meals.On the way there, it was prepared by a company called KoshAir, on the wayback a company called Hermopolis. Next time I'll try Halal or Hindu meals.Paris had really good croissants and other fine foods from street vendorsall over the place. Unfortunately, it's considered rude to walk around withfood in Paris. I'll miss Parisian Croissants a lot. I also got some fine mustardin a store there. On the way to our next destination, we had a nice meal inZurich which was an interesting mix of french and german style. Very tasty.Unfortuntely, because of misread train tickets, we were missing our trainonward, and had to make last-minute arrangements. In Sankt Moritz/Chelerina,we ate all our food in the hotel (Alter Brauerei, or the Old Brewery). It wascafeteria style, and fairly simple food in most cases, in large quantities.It wasn't bad, but wasn't special either. We spent the night in Zurich, and hada nice cheese plate and some wine in one place, and an overly alcoholicbut tasty fondue in another. In Belgium, .. I actually don't remember what weate. In Amsterdam, I found a nice pancake house, we ate at a Kurdistani place(never even heard of one of those before) and the last night we werethere, we also ate at a nice french-style restaurant. I also had some indianfood.
On the money front,the trip was a disaster. I didn't bring enough money, I didn't have enoughsaved, and so I skimped on food and other things for much of the time there.I need to be very careful with money and skimp to get to where I was beforethe trip. This was a source of considerable stress.
On the museum and sights front,The trip was wonderful. We saw a ton of museums, and almost saw a fewmore (i.e. visited but did not get in). There was a lot of art, a lot ofhistory, some ruins, a cat museum, some old houses, etc. The highlightswere the Joodsmuseum in Amsterdam (Jewish History museum), Anne Frank house,and the ruins of the old palace in Brussels.
On meeting people,the trip was interesting. In paris, I met some of Nicole's family, and alsomet a friend of mine who I've never met in person before. In Chelerina,we met a pair of Swiss, in their late 30s, and chatted with them in Frenchand German. There were some interesting storekeepers here and there, andthe Kurdistani restaurant owner had an interesting perspective on things.I also met with some socialist organizers, and had some interestingconversations with them. More on that in a coming entry, I think.
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The national cultures and impressions..were interestingly different, and it was in some ways disappointing to comeback. The Parisians were indeed snobby and status obsessed, and I would probablyfind it suffocating to live there, even though the food was so nice. Paris isa lot like New York City, except better-dressed and without that American senseof "anything goes". Switzerland had a very different feel to it -- the peoplewern't so two-facedly distant/polite, instead being open/honest, a bit cranky,and serious about vacationing. Brussels was like Paris, but less so, having abetter attitude and worse dress. Amsterdam was wonderful -- it was verylaid-back, friendly, and open. Europe in general is a lot more crowded andless distant than America, societywise.
Other impressions..The Euro is interestingly different. The bills differ in size as per theirvalue, and are beautifully done. They use coins instead of bills forvalues up to 2 Euro (about 2.6 US dollars). I like the way their currencyfeels. The Swiss coins are uninteresting, but their bills are also veryattractive, perhaps more so than the Euro. I picked up some Ome Henk CDsin Amsterdam, and now know a bit more about what the group is. Weird.It was a pain lugging snowboards all over europe. It would've been smarterto rent them there. I enjoyed walking in the woods in Switzerland. Amsterdamis probably the place where I could most imagine myself settling.
Ham/Pork..was everywhere. It was disgusting, and avoiding it was difficult. Europeanslike ham more than Americans do. I was effectively vegetarian in some places.
That's all for now. I'll retroactively add pictures to this entry within a dayor so.