27 June 2011


I'm way behind and posting out of order, but I feel so bad about being a bit behind, so here are a bunch of pictures.  I didn't particularly enjoy Brussels and Leuven was small, but I'd really like to go back to Antwerp sometime.  It excited me to be in a country that hasn't had a standing government for so long -- there were still police and everything functioned, including the trains, so this is maybe a lesson for us to learn??

Because it's Belgium, some mention of Tin Tin is required.

 Before everyone gets their bees in a bonnet, this are not my tasting glasses from the Delirium Brewery, I swear they belonged to the guy next to me.  However, please note the unnaturally-colored green beer (pear flavored, apparently very sweet and sour) on the right - I enjoyed my Delirium straight from the source, but it was horribly touristy in there and I couldn't wait to get out.
Tasting beers at Delirium Pub in Brussels.
 Antwerp was really lovely.  Unfortunately I didn't get to the riverside, but I had an incredible visit to the house of Peter Paul Reubens -- his luxurious, Baroque home and studio.  Some of it is original (leather walls) and other parts are furniture and stuff from the time.
The interior courtyard of the Rubenshuis.

A really wild reliquary in the Jesuit church in Antwerp.
I did get to have some Stella in Antwerp, and the surroundings of these main squares are like lace or something, very delicate beautiful buildings that are at the same time obviously solid. 

Lamb guľáš at Salaš Krajinka

Last week, outside of Ružomberok, I ate in a delightful guľáš a member of a previous generation or two of these cute sheepies:

As the sun was setting over Liptov, the spirits come out of the trees:

23 June 2011

While my being here is of course very pleasant, this is not a vacation.

22 June 2011

A Review of the Last 12 Days of My Life

At the moment I'm exhausted and beyond crabby, but I've been feeling horrible about not blogging more, but after this it will become apparent why:

11 June: Rode train from Prague to Prešov, serendipitously meeting a couple who are studying at the summer language institute Studium Carpatho-Ruthenorum.  Transferred to penzion and translated.

12 June: Finished a translation job and went to the SNM-Museum of Rusyn Culture to work on the exhibit text and clean up the Slovak version so it could be translated into Rusyn.  Went to the opening of the Studium Carpatho-Ruthenorum for a few minutes and arrived to the apartment I'm living in.

13 June: More work on the text and headaches about the design of the panels and translation of the text into Rusyn.

14 June: More of the same.  Studium came to the museum, so I met people there, and finally met with the printer.

15 June: Got proofs from the printer and sent everything there.  Rode to Bratislava via Stará Ľubovňa and a great koliba outside of Ružomberok.  Arrived to Bratislava and wound down from the long drive.

16 June: Went to the signing of the cooperation agreement between the SNM-Museum of Rusyn Culture and the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, and thence to lunch overlooking the Danube.  Rode from Bratislava to the village of Piliszentkereszt/Mlynky, 32km outside of Budapest - learning Hungarian phrases and lots of laughing on the way.  Socialized with Rusyn colleagues in a very Rusyn way upon arrival.

17 June: Opening session of the World Council of Rusyns in the morning, World Forum of Rusyn Youth in the afternoon. Highlight of the day was the cultural program in the evening, videos coming soon.  More Rusyn-style socialization after until about 3am.

18 June: Up at 7:30 for the last day of the World Congress of Rusyns, which was colorful to say the least.  Taxi from Piliszentkereszt/Mlynky to Budapest, then taxi from Budapest to Prešov - enjoying picking apart everything we all experienced the last few days.  Arrived to Prešov around 11PM and wound down.

19 June: Got groceries early so that there was some breakfast. Prepared audio for Rusyn radio program. Walked around town with a friend and had lunch, then hung out doing my Sunday NYTimes reading ritual and organized calling in to the Rusyn radio program.  Postmortem afterwards.

20 June: Kept hitting the snooze button, causing a bit of a rush to get everyone organized and then to the museum to drop something off and see the kids visiting from the Rusyn schools in Radvan nad Laborcom and Čabiny - hopeful for the future.  Went to the discussion period of a lecture, then to lunch and back to the center to meet with some friends, then to the museum to await the arrival of the printer, my latest hero.  Then a quick run to the train station to meet a friend, and immediately back to the museum.  Then a walk over to the new university dorms and to meet some more friends.  Finally, dinner and more meetings with new and old friends.  The running around ran me ragged, but it was fun.

21 June: Morning meetings in the center, home to nap, then to the museum for the opening, which was a resounding success.  Came home and agitated amongst young Rusyns from villages.

22 June: slept in, finally.  Lunch with two young Rusyn activists.  Tonight, Rusyn theatre.

03 June 2011

Hadrian's Wall Path: Day 6, continued

It's been really hard to figure out distances along the way.  It was between 17 and 20 miles on bikes from Heddon-on-the-Wall to Tynemouth.  In full sun, unusual for England, of course, and 25°C/77°F hot -- had it been like that the whole time I don't think the trip would've been as pleasant as it was.  Mom's knees were bothering her, and to be honest I started to get really frustrated because I knew we weren't covering enough distance in enough time, so after grabbing a sandwich, she took a cab to Tynemouth.  Apparently it's a common occurrence -- and I just took the front wheel off the bike and we stuck it all in the cab.

This is pretty much the only photo I took on the east side of Newcastle while on the cycleway

We had agreed to meet at Segedunum, but once I got there, I called the B&B in Tynemouth to tell them to ask her not to come, because by that point I realized how far I still had to go, but the room was locked and she wasn't answering the door but they didn't think she'd left.  Turns out, she did get to Segedunum, Wallsend and I wasn't hearing my phone, because after refilling my water bottle and snarfing down some ice cream, I continued on to Tynemouth, which was another 5+ miles away.  Finally we straightened everything out and she got back to Tynemouth and we had some divine fish and chips.

As I was biking along near the former shipyards along the River Tyne, almost every signpost said Tynemouth, 5 miles.  So some of them were wrong, and it was getting nutty.  Once I got up the last hill in Tynemouth, I should've been overwhelmed with English Heritage and the Tynemouth Priory, but I just wanted to take a shower.  By that point, I was questioning the English ability to accurately measure distances, and I couldn't get the shower on -- turns out, I had to flip a switch outside the bathroom in order to get the water heater to even release the water in the shower.  Who knew.  If I didn't know better, I'd think they were slightly backward with all of the switches everywhere here.

So mom and I were happily reunited, had fish and chips, and walked around Tynemouth.

This was seriously great fish and chips

Hadrian's Wall Path: Day 5

While we were staying at Greencarts Farm, we shared the bunkhouse with a mother and her two daughters from Cornwall (originally from Birmingham) who were walking the Hadrian's Wall Path for charity, the Birmingham Children's Hospital, specifically. Because they had trouble finding accommodation along the way, they had to squeeze it in to 5 days, and they were doing it for charity so they felt really motivated to finish it.  These were seriously three of the sweetest people I've met in a long time, and while I would've probably been horribly whiny after doing 20 mile days, and getting in at 9PM or after dark, and eating toast for dinner, these girls were smiling and sweet and good and lovely.  I passed them on Quayside in Newcastle on Day 6, and had snacks in my pannier for them, and then mom saw them again at Segedunum.  Seriously excellent people.

Leaving Greencarts Farm
We left Greencarts farm, and walked down the hill to Chesters Fort - Cilurnum - apparently the best preserved calvary fort in Britain.  There's lots of superlatives involved in the Hadrian's Wall Path - the longest, largest UNESCO World Heritage site, best preserved this and that, etc...  While we originally went just to stamp our passports, it was well worth it for the baths preserved there.  Absolutely amazing that you can walk through the baths more or less as the Roman soldiers did, and see the heating structures and sophisticated drainage systems under the floors.  Then, they rebuilt it at Segedunum, so it's easy to overlay the excavation in your head with the actual building you can walk through at Wallsend.
Latrines in the baths with flowing water system from the nearby River North Tyne

While we were visiting Chesters Fort, parts of the excavations were actually closed off because there were nesting oystercatchers in the ruins, and they're a protected species:
Oystercatcher in the ruins at Chesters Fort

From there, we took the AD122 bus to Hexham, poked around there a bit, and then took the train to Wylam, where we would walk to our B&B, Houghton North Farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall.  Near Wylam, we passed George Stephenson's Cottage on the footpath, which is critically important and notable to English history and Industrial Revolution history because George Stephenson invented the steam engine.  The path from Wylam to Heddon, and the shortcut we took, was a bit disorienting.

That night, we ordered in delivery carryout, and had so many french fries left over I traded them with some Aussies for a beer - and it was really cool to talk to them.  They'd been camping along the way as we'd been B&Bing.

02 June 2011

Hadrian's Wall Path: Day 6

Today totally kicked my ass. More later.

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