In 80 days around the world?

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Nazar Değmesin!, originally uploaded by demirole.

Just a short note: We went to Turkey for two weeks in August and I finally managed to upload my pictures. We spent four days in Cappadocia, visiting historical sites, hiking through striking valleys, and riding up in hot air balloons! It is a very nice place to visit…

La Tour Eiffel, originally uploaded by zutalegh.

Ah, Paris! How did I manage to resist your charm for so long? Dispraise you by visiting all these other cities, all these other places? Can you ever forgive me?

Within the context of living up to our self declared status of being the very center of Europe, we took another 3 hour and something train journey to… Paris. Lovely Paris. With that charming bouquet in your Metro at summer time! Where dog poo might obscure your gentle cobble stones! Where a waiter might hit you because you ordered your meat medium instead of rare!

Four days long we walked the little streets and crossed large squares. We climbed up the Eiffel Tower (well, only the first bit) and the Dome at Sacre Coeur. We crossed the Tuileries and the Jardin des Plantes. We had café in tiny little, well, cafés. And we made the big mistake of trying to see the Palace at Versailles with about a million other tourists. But that was all forgotten once we arrived back in… Paris!

akropoli, originally uploaded by zutalegh.

Be honest: What was the first image that came to mind? Masses rioting in the streets of Athens, setting alight anything in their path? Well, then your first impression set you on the wrong path! When I was in Athens in June, burning only had one possible meaning: a boiling thermometer! While on arrival the scale was resting lazily around a cozy 33 centigrade, it quickly climbed up to a less pleasing 38! Lucky us, the heat lessened a bit towards the end of our stay to a Solomonian 35…

So, what do you do when the air outside feels like sticking your head into an oven? The choices weren’t quite that obvious since I was there on a conference, so at least part of the day I spent in an air-conditioned lecture hall sous terrain. The rest of the time, however, we embraced the heat and enjoyed the many many historical sites that Athens has to offer.

Of course we climbed up to the Acropolis and enjoyed the fantastic view of the city. We also visited several other historical sites like the temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s library, the Roman and the Ancient Agora. Panathinaiko Stadium was especially nice since it did not offer the least bit of shade on probably the hottest day of our stay.

But don’t get me wrong! Athens is a fantastic city and I really enjoyed our stay there! More than the historical sites and the interesting conference it was the food that made the stay exceptionally entertaining! Regardless where we ate and what we ordered, it was very good to unbelievably decent prices.

Certainly, the current political situation did not go unnoticed: the metro did strike for three days, on one day no public transportation was available at all. The city seemed not very crowded, though I don’t think that June to August is really visiting season for Athens, it is just too hot. We traveled to one of the closer islands, Hydra, which wasn’t awfully busy, either, but I had already that the bookings have been down quite drastically from last years numbers. It is a pity, since all I have seen just made we want to go back and stay a bit longer!

In summary, a great one week get away, half work, half pleasure, in a truly fascinating city! Hit the link here and here for some pictures.

marseille_vieux_port, originally uploaded by zutalegh.

Or Marseille, as it is known today. Unlike Asterix and Obelix, however, Bouillabaisse wasn’t the reason for our visit to the 3rd largest city in France. Nor was it the wish to watch Olympique, which is struggling to secure a spot for next year’s Euro League. Nope, we were visiting friends, taking advantage of the very nice TGV connection from Geneva (only 3.5h, no changing). Of course, this winter causing chaos and craziness throughout Europe’s train network, our journey ended up being about twice as long as expected… Oh well, what can you do besides stay at home?
I have never been to the Mediterranean in winter, and even though temperatures were slightly warmer than home, the mix of sea smell and atmosphere with wintery chill was curious… What made the chill turn into a full-blown freeze was the Mistral, which brings icy cold air from the North throughout the whole year. I had actually thought that the Mistral is more of a hot summer wind, but boy, was I mistaken (that hot summer wind is called Sirocco and is less frequent). Especially on higher ground the chill factor was harsh. On our way up to the Notre Dame de la Garde, a basilica that overlooks the whole city from about 150m altitude, a local laughed at us for being so foolish. I admit that it was very painful holding my camera without gloves up there, but the view was magnificient.
Marseille’s old town and harbor are charming and I had a great time there, Mistral or not. We even had some fish stew, and though I do not know if it qualified as a authentic Bouillabaisse, it was very delicious (as was the Profiterol afterwards… :)). Check out my pics on flickr!

… might strike one not as that funny, but delivered with a proper British accent, it sounds hilarious! I was in London two weekends ago and it is the Piccadilly line that is for the place with that, let’s say, unfortunate name…
I like London, but it always astonishes me how long it takes to get in, out, or through it. Additionally, winters seem to get harsher recently, and that creates chaos in the UK’s already stretched public transport system. But I was lucky and made it there and back again with only manageable delays. In comparison, Eurostar travelers went through hell and then some.
This brings me to my point: traveling around Xmas/Year’s end is always close to a nightmare. First, there are a lot of people with the same idea. Second, the weather is bad and interferes greatly not only with getting in time to your destination, but also with the safety of one’s journey. Third, home is a really, really nice place when it is cold and dark outside.
The first time in years, I am at home for Xmas. Sure, we did go to London the weekend before, and we visited friends in Zürich during the holidays. But Xmas eve I was sitting in my couch with a stomach full of Lasagne. And I must say, I enjoyed that profoundly!
However, whatever point I was trying to make is actually going to be moot since we are soon going to New York for 10 days or so… Considering the rubbish weather and the new security measures that are in effect since yesterday, that trip is going to be a treat!
Hmmm, it seems I do not have a point after all. I very much would like to spend next year Xmas/New Year’s at home and avoid the whole travel craziness. But I somehow have a feeling that it won’t happen…

The Milan Cathedral is not only an impressive building, it is also completely out of this world. Shimmering white it looks like an alien apparition waiting to return to its home at the end of space and time…

Milan is about three hours and 10 minutes from Lausanne by train. Ideal for a weekend getaway you say? You betcha! So we packed our little rucksacks and off we went on a little journey. Now, obviously there were some catch 22 along the way: since summer there is a new train on Geneva-Milan connection and since that train has a car less then the old one, the booking system would need an update to avoid reservations for a non-existing car… Guess what happened? Wasn’t that tragic, though, there was still enough room for everybody. And even the annoying guy across the aisle discussing genocide and abortion with his neighbor, who happened to be a bishop from South Africa, could be drowned out by the mp3 player…

Now, I certainly associate endless museums and monuments with any Italian city. Sure, no place is like Rome, I guess, but I was expecting still quite a lot of ancient stones and the like. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that Milan isn’t like that at all. Sure, there are several very interesting art galleries and museums, Leonardo’s last supper (requires booking tickets quite a bit in advance, though), the Castello Sforzesco, and, of course, the Milan Cathedral (and many many other historical places). But ultimately I didn’t really feel like missing out when we decided to take it easy and just enjoy a few warm sunny days walking about.

Of course, walking means getting tired and that usually leads to sitting down and enjoying some little snacks and treats here and there. It was on our way to Santa Maria delle Gracie that we stumbled over chocolat, a cafe that serves one of the best ice creams I have ever had! While there flavor selection is huge, the three times we visited I stuck to trying out there five or six chocolate flavors… Oh boy, that gelateria alone is a good reason just to jump into the train and go for a ride…

While we are talking about food: I enjoyed all my lunches and dinners, ranging from a sandwich or a pizza to the steak in wine sauce. And the desserts, unbelievable! It is good that we stayed only for a weekend, I don’t think that my clothes would have fit me after a week. Even when you just go out for some drinks you will get served something to eat along with it. And I am not only saying some peanuts or crisps, oh no, we are talking about tapas like stuff!

So, all in all we had a wonderful weekend in Milan. And it is so close, why wouldn’t we wanna go back soon? But then there are so many other places just a train ride away….

Or how do you actually call the years from 00 to 09? Nineties, Eighties, those are all simple and easy ways to refer to a decade, but what shall we call the first ten years of the 21st century?

So, anyway, here we are, another year has passed. Was an interesting year, but personally I prefer the odd years. Somehow the are more fun as the even ones… Intersting, huh? Think about it…

The last few weeks of ’08 were filled with a somwhat crazy travel schedule. It included a five day trip to India (turned out to be six since I was made to miss a flight), a bit of England here and there and good ol’ Hamburg.

India was a very interesting and intriguing experience. I was there for a workshop, so it was a business trip, but I had a very good time down there. I even made in into the news , can you guess where they refer to me? Now I feel like I have reached the peak of my career and I should retire before my star starts fading again…

So much or this brief hello, I will be back soon to write a bit more about my India visit.

Somehow I managed to get away for two weeks, I am still not sure how I pulled that one off! Anyway, the planing of this trip began months and months ago and resulted in the following which I would like to present you as “Plan A”:

  • Fly to Istanbul
  • Take the train to Damascus
  • Spent a few days there and maybe in Aleppo
  • Return to Turkey and stay with my mom in Aydincik
  • Return (somehow) to Istanbul, spent a few days there
  • Fly home

Now, our plans had to be adjusted and modified a bit as the trip came closer. For one thing, we had decided to travel during the last days of Ramadan, so some of our transfers fell right into the holidays. That made getting flights or train tickets a bit difficult. Then, when the time had come to leave (I had just returned from a week of collaboration meeting in Utrecht), I didn’t have a passport to go to Syria.

What had happened? Well, I had sent my stuff to the Syrian embassy, but unfortunately forgotten to include a return envelope marked as registered mail. Now, probably everybody here will say “Sure, that’s how you handle sending around passports”. To my defense, the US embassy had not required this the two times I applied for my J1! Anyhow, they kept my passport, but did not notify me! Even though they had all the phone numbers they needed to let me know that I had to send them a new return envelope. So when I came back from Utrecht (Friday night), there was nothing I could do about the whole thing. and the Syria trip got cancelled…

Otherwise, the vacation was great. Sure, we did not have so much luck with the weather, which, btw, seems to be a recurring theme, but that didn’t bother me that much. The week at my mum’s place was very relaxing and quite, we spent the whole time at the beach sleeping and reading. The train journey’s back and forth to her place were kinda exciting. It also made me reconsider the term “delay”… see, in Switzerland a train is “late” when it has more than 2-3minutes (!) “delay”. None of the five trains we took in Turkey arrived within two hours of their schedule. At first it made a bit nervous, especially when missing a connecting train was at stake, but once you gotten over that occidental schedule fanatism, a certain calmness start spreading through your body. It is the feeling that everything will be all right, regardless what. Therefore, I am looking forward to that train trip to Syria, hopefully next year!

The fin de voyage was in Istanbul, whre we spent three days sight seeing. Thanks to my aunt, we had a lovely little hotel right in the center of the old city. Everything was just a five minute walk away: the Blue mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, the Basilica cystern, the Topkapi palace… It was brilliant! The evenings we went to Istiklal caddesi, a big shopping street with lots of restaurants and cafes, where we had very nice food. All in all, visiting Istanbul was great fun. I don’t know, though, if I would want to live there, too…

So, that was my vacation for this year. Was fun, entertaining, relaxing, and also a bit educational. If you wanna have a look at the pix I made, click here.

Yeah, Easter was fun this year: Cold wind, storms bringing snow and hail: Europe had a glorious time on its four day weekend! While places in Switzerland were completely snowed-in, in some cases even bringing the traffic to a halt, I was in south east England. Snow and hail we did not get, but boy, the wind was not only storm strength, it was bitter cold!

Which is pity, since the tip of the British isle called Cornwall is very pretty! But due to the weather we mostly stayed indoors or in the car… Which turned out to be not too bad since we visited the Eden project. Situated in an old clay mine, the Eden project transformed the once barren and wated land into a botanical garden. Under two Domes, called Biomes, tropical and mediterranean climates are emulated. The exhibitions center not only around plants and their origin, but also about the ecological, economical, and politcal impacts of mankinds exploitation of nature.

The Biomes are complemented with an outdoor display which we decided to skip in favor of the warm and cosy domes! The educational display were interesting yet sometimes not detailed enough for an educated audience. In general, most information displayed doesn’t come as eye opening if one is just generally interested in fair trade, organic farming, and so on.

Beyond the educational mission, the project is also trying to lead by example. Eden is trying to become waste neutral, invests in the local communities, minimize its own impact on the environment, and lots of things more. Their webpage contains a lot of information so if you got curious go check them out!

there are no news.
no new pictures.
no fancy stories.
no funny anecdotes….

But hey, after all, I am living in Switzerland now, don’t I? :-)

No seriously, the past few weeks have been quite stressful. Shortly after finally settling in my apartment, I had to leave for the IceCube collaboration meeting in Gent… So there was the stress of putting a talk together again, plus the whole travel planning. Well, after that I had barely two weeks to put together another talk, this one for the colleagues in LPHE1, my new lab/institute. That done (gave the talk last Friday), I am finally facing the routine of work life, at least till the end of the year. Thank goodness!

Meanwhile, my exploration genes are fast asleep. I did not do any traveling around here so far, though I did visit Allaman, because our favorite “swedish” home store has his local outpost there. Otherwise, most of Lausanne and surounding communities is more like a terra incognita. And that might not change in the near future, I am afraid…

Anyway, this was just a quick update. Besides, I wanted to make sure that I do have a post in October….

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