The fun of travelling

I always loved travelling, the planning the expectation of things that I will experience, the joy of discovering new things have always been a delight for me. I also like to plan it ahead, to know where will I go, how will I get there, where I will stay and even worth visiting. Sometimes though things get a bit messed up … like it happen t me in my last trip.

We decided, together with my daughter, to spend together a weekend in Hamburg so as usual I made my planning, bought the train tickets, found a place to stay … and here we go.

We’re waking up take our bikes and cycle to the train station. I don’t really like to wait so we try to get there just in time (that is 10-15 minutes before the train leaves). Of course, things are not that simple: since it was pretty cold our bicycle are frozen so we spend 10 minutes cleaning them …(but we should be still fine). We finally leave and, obviously we catch all possible the red lights but we do arrive a few minutes before the train should arrive but as German train are always keeping their precise schedule … the train is delayed with 30 minutes. Great, I have no excuse so we have to go through the shops … which for a father travelling alone with his daughter is a pretty scary experience because the last thing that you want in the beginning of a trip is to add extra luggage. With a mixture of skill pleading and a solemn promise that we’ll buy those things at the return (yeah, right) I manage to dodge the  “extras” so we get to the track.

Finally the train arrives, we find our seats and I relax: we have a direct connection no changes we are on vacation. I take out the cards and we start playing. Time flies and the we are close to our destination. The station is announced so we collect our things and get off the train: we are there !!! I watch the people hurry to get on/off while we slowly walk away. I notice a mother and her daughter running to get the same train we just get out of but the doors close just in front of them … I see there frustration and I distinctly remember thinking to myself: “Poor them,now they will have to wait for the next one ” … but  there is nothing what I can do.

As we walk toward the main entrance I slowly start to have a feeling that something is awfully wrong but can’t just point out what is it. Then it struck me: this station is familiar to me … but wait it cannot be since I was never in Hamburg before … so I look around and then realize it: we are in Hanover we just got out one station before 🙂 just great.

After we return from our trip (since we finally managed to get to Hamburg) I am kind of embarrassed to tell it to my friends but I do it anyway: so they laugh and then they share their “adventures”:

“Well I never get off from the train at a wrong station but I did managed once to get to the wrong airport: I went to Hamburg Airport and there I found out that my flight was actually from Hamburg Lübeck 😦 so to make sure I catch the plane I took a Taxi which was pretty expensive (about 100 Eur) and still missed my flight”

Another one says:”I also messed up my travelling plans pretty bad once: I was supposed to go to Hawaii for a conference (I was flying from Frankfurt) so I arrive there by train but at the counter the lady tells me: “Sorry but your flight is for tomorrow”. I think should I spend the night here or should I go back tomorrow ? so I choose to go back home but when I try to book my train for the next day I realize that some trains are cancelled and there is no way for me to get back to Frankfurt in the morning … so I miss my only chance to see Hawaii”

But my favourite: “I also mixed trains once. I was partying all night so my friends took me directly to that train station (I was supposed to meet some friends in Italy and go hiking. My friends take me to the right track and put me into the train without realizing that sine my train was delayed another train is stooped at the same track. Being a night train after a night of party I just find a free seat and fell asleep. No one checks my tickets or my passport so I only woke up in the morning and realize that I am in Paris” 🙂

After all these I realize that my little adventure in really insignificant compared to what other went through …

Did something like this ever happen to you too ?

Travel safe !

DK

The Parisian Wedding

A Parisian friend of mine from the research institute I work for invited me a few month ago to her wedding. Why do I say Parisian ? well this is pretty simple to explain: just ask any French and you will be told that in France there are two separate nations: French and Parisians. This exist about everywhere in between city people and countryside people but in France if you are not living in Paris you are a provincial no matter how big is you city.

Knowing all this and even though I’ve been told the it will be just a small wedding I was already imagining myself dancing in (one of the smaller) palace of Versailles, walking in beautifully maintained gardens and greeting annoying tourists with their point-and-shoot cameras with my perfect “Bonjour”. After an accepted the wedding invitation the couple added even more to my grandeur dreams: they asked me if I do not want to be their grooms-men. Since I am their friend but not that “close” friend I asked a bit suspicious “but whyyyy ?” so I found out that the bride has a few very close friends that HAVE TO BE bridesmaids and since I was coming alone to the wedding … I was a perfect filler :). Thinking about Versailles, I accepted so I asked about the dressing code (if any) but I was told there is none so anything is acceptable.

I started thinking about what to wear so the first option was my “old” suit. It looks decent but had two major flaws: a) my mother likes it so much that she asked me to wear it a her funeral and b) I lost about 15 kg since I last wear it so it looks on me like I would have inherited from the dead fat uncle. I ruled it out so decided to buy something new. Jeans +  jacket was the second option but thinking of Versailles I ruled out this option too so … a new suit it is. I would never even dream of doing something like this on my own so I asked for some professional help (you know … some woman opinion). I got a promise they will join me for some “live feedback” but since buying for other is less fun  than buying for yourself these promises never materialized.  Since I was running out of time I told myself: come on you are an adult, you can do it alone so I took my credit card and went hunting accompanied by the only women representative that agreed to join me: my 6-year-old daughter (not before I bribed her that I will also buy something for her).

After eliminating one by one the stores we finally reach to something ok: S. Oliver had a nice dark blue suit that I kind of liked so I asked for some advice from the sales woman. Her first question was: “But what will your partner wear ?” “I have no idea” I answer … She lifts hew eyebrow and says … “Ok” and helps me find the right size for the suit as well as a nice shirt and a matching tie. After paying she tells me: “You know … you can bring back the suit in 15 days for free … in case you have to …”. I thank her politely, happy that it is over and leaving I  am thinking “what she meant” …

Three happy weeks pass and about two weeks before the wedding the bride and one of her bridesmaid talk about their gorgeous dresses etc., you know … the boring things that all men try to avoid but at some moment the lightning strikes: “By the way, how what is the colour of your suit and tie ?” … After a loooooong pause I answer fearfully: “Dark blue !?”, “Oh no” they both answer together but we agreed that we’ll use autumn colours for the wedding. I answer slowly “No, you did not …” feeling how my fear becomes first anger and moves slowly towards rage. “Yes we did !” “WHO DID ?” I ask undecided whether should I strangulate them both together or separately while in my mind just like in near death situations I already calculated “the 2 weeks have passed so no chance to replace the suit which means an investment lost: 1 suite, 1 shirt, 1 tie … and counting).  “I told you” says the bridesmaid  (probably compelled by the maid word from her title bridesmaid). “And when did you do that since in the last 2 weeks I was away and in the next 2 you were in vacation and we never met ?” … silence … Just before exploding I leave not before leaving a couple of f. words behind but luckily before any blood is spilled.

A few hours later the bride comes with the white flag raised: “Look, sorry we forgot to tell you, but is ok, really, you only need to change you shirt and tie and it will be ok …” seeing that I am not convinced she continues: “… look, I’ll come with you and we can choose something together to match your suit and the dress of my friend.”

After another afternoon lost I end up with another shirt and tie and a happy bride so Versailles here I come …

All is set only travel arrangements to be done … so I get the location and I try to find the best way to get there. Plane or train ? Well considering that Charles de Gaulle airport happens to be in the exact opposite side of the city (so I will have to cross Paris during rush hour) … I kind of lean towards train (also cheaper). On the other hand every time when I had to arrive in Paris by train the working lover French railway workers were in strike and  almost every time I  lost my connections. So which should I chose ? The answer comes from another Parisian colleague of mine who was also coming to the wedding: “Let’s travel together … by TRAIN !”. “Ok, Ok I agree.” I answer secretly happy that I will have a “personal guide” since once I arrive in Paris I have no clue how to actually get to the hotel where we’re supposed to sleep. I could have done some research but … what’s the point ? After all I am just a foreigner and she is local so my only job is to hold her hand and not let go 😉

We search for tickets and when we are about to buy them we notice that there are some “strikes” scheduled !!! for the local B2 line (exactly the one we need). So that was my luck, I think,  but after some more investigation (from the “locals”) it turns out that by the time we arrive everything should work pretty smooth again. Smooooth, in Paris, Fraaaance … right, but without prof how can I complain ? I don’t but instead keep my mouth shut and follow the lead. The schedule is simple: leave from work to the train station, take the ICE change to TGV (we have about 30 min so should be fine), arrive about 10:00 PM in Paris take the B1 and around 11:00 we’re in bed getting some rest for the wedding next day.

The traveling day arrives, all luggage present just as their owners take the bus to the train station arriving even earlier (better safe than sorry), get to the platform and we see 2 trains scheduled to arrive both to the same direction: an IC (slower train) and our ICE (fast as the German arrow). The first arrive the IC: “Should we take it ?” “No, no our tickets are for the ICE and besides there is no point the ICE will arrive anyway earlier” “Ok”. And so the IC left together with our luck. We wait and wait and wait, the arrival time passes and a short 10 min delay is announced. The 10 min become 20 then 30 (I start to check and recheck the connection … “We’re going to lose it” I say, “No we won’t” I’m reassured, “the next train is TGV and they are always late”. After about 40-ish minutes the ICE finally arrives and the loooong trip … just starts. The ICE is decent enough to catch up so we arrive exactly when the TGV is supposed to leave, actually we see it … 3 platforms away ready to leave (this time On Time !!!). Since we already know where to go we start the “400 metres hurdles” race. Luckily we are not the only runners and since many of the are French in a German train station we arrive among the first not before seeing people literary falling over their luggage’s in the attempt to catch it.

Get into the train and to our surprise the train doesn’t move for the next 10-15 minutes to give everyone the chance to get it. The train starts to move and immediately you notice the difference between the ICE (newer, fancier) and TGV (80’s like fashion). At stability and speed though it is exactly the opposite: TGV is faster, way more stable: you can easily walk with your coffee cup without fear of spilling it everywhere. I dare anyone to do that in the ICE !

We arrive in Paris with only a few minutes delay (TGV rules !!!) and we run to the B2 line. We are not in huge hurry because we have 2 more trains on that direction so my friend finds her way pretty fast and there we are at the platform. Some people are already there, others arrive the train is displayed … but no train arrives. people start to ask each other: “is this the B2 line to Etamp ?” “yes, yes” My friend is not satisfied: “let’s ask an employee” … here things start to be spooky because as we look around there is nobody !!! Ok, maybe at the tickets counter ? … it’s closed !!! we finally find a cleaner who clarifies it for us: “There is no train, the track is closed for repairs !” I burst into laughter as I see the blood pressure rising on my co-suffering partner. We walk around for a few more minutes to actually find a reliable source and the only one we find is a guy wearing a semi uniform outfit standing in front of a table but having the toilette door just behind him. I look at him, I look into the toilette behind him and I constantly asking myself “Is he for real ? is there a hidden camera somewhere ?”. Unfortunately I was not lucky and there was no hidden camera: he was sincere and he explained us what the cleaner has just told us 😦 but adding an essential piece of information: “there are though some buses to replace the train …” “Really where ?” “Just in front of the train station” (I swear there was non when we arrived).

We check the stairs we have to climb with the luggage … (obviously the escalators were not functioning anymore … after all there was no more train running) so we start the climb. while doing this I hear my Parisian companion: “As soon as I step into a train station I instantly remember why I left Paris, I miss Germany, let’s just go back !”. We get out and … waves of people buses arriving, leaving people in uniforms with walkies-talkie giving explanations … I am totally confused. We jump on one of these guys and we ask “Hey we want to get to …” “Yes Yes take a bus” “Ok but which one” “Any” !? !? !? we go to the first one (why did we have to choose that one ???) and we ask again “Are you going to …” but before receiving an answer a uniform guy answers “Yes, Yes he stops anywhere” ?! ?! I started imagining taking the tour of Paris by night with the bus (so romantic) … with luggage and 50 other angry passengers that want to get home asap for a ride that will take us at least 1.5h (not so romantic).

After about 15 min of waiting the bus leaves and I can’t stop smiling at the face of my Parisian companion who just grime at me. There are 2 other buses in front and people giving instructions at every major cross-road so all seems fine and smooth. People start to get off and the stations to be less frequent. After about one hour the windows of the houses from outside start to have metal bars and I start to have the feeling that we are in the ghetto. “No No this is a pretty safe neighborhood” I am reassured.

The driver starts to be a bit nervous and he uses the station to ask for directions and then we realize that he has no GPS and he is a bit lost. But he gets pretty good directions from the bus in front: “the intersection with the blue advertisement take right” “at the pizza place … go left” and so on. 3 or 4 stations the bus stops but nobody get in or out and people start to smile and so we drive into complete darkness. No light on the street (sometimes I feel that even the street is missing) so some people suggest to maybe just stop in the stations where people get off since at this time (about 1:00AM) nobody needs a bus. Reluctantly the driver asks “Ok, in the next station … is anyone getting off ?” no answer so he say “Ok I will pass it” and so he does but after about 30 minutes he reaches exactly to the same station that he previously passed and this time stops. Everybody starts to be angry except for myself, I have the time of my life fighting against my urge to laugh.

Probably because I had this compassionate face the driver feels the need to explain himself to me (the only person in that bus who is not French and who does not speak French): “I am driver of a different line, I’ve never been on this line, they just gave me the bus and told me to go … but I don’t know this road”. Trying to make up the people he even asked them for directions but nobody could or was willing to help out so the romantic travel in the French Parisian country side continued.

Around 2AM someone took the initiative: “I am going to … does anyone need to get of before ?” “I am also going there” “Me too” so it turned out that everyone basically goes to the last station 🙂 “Look”  says the organizer “this way we are going to get in another 3h, everyone goes to … please just go on the national road and we can be there in 30 minutes.” Further convincing was of course necessary but in the end the crowd won and here we slide on the French national road. Here I see light again (I mean other than the one from the stars) and signs: Marseilles then a sign for right towards Marseilles and we go right 🙂 I already imagine myself arriving in Marseilles instead of Paris (a small detour). Around 3:00AM the bus passes in front oh the hotel where we’re supposed to check in but since we didn’t knew (at that time) we get off at the proper station which happens to be on the other side of that very small village. Doesn’t matter we are out from the bus of hell and we are happy so we start to go towards the hotel with out wheeled luggage. The problem is that all the streets are paved with cubic stones so try to imagine the sound of the people with wheeled luggage on empty narrow roads. It feels like the church bell rings every 5 steps you make. At 3:00AM while you sleep this may be a bit annoying.

At 3:30 AM with only 3h and 30 min later than we were supposed do we entered our rooms and got to bed since after all the party is just starting !!!

 

 

 

A travel story

I was flying back to Germany with a Lufthansa flight and for some unknown reason they changed my sit that I initially choose with another one on the first row from the economy class. Having no one in front of me just a come curtains that separates the Economy from the Business class I felt how I imagine an odalisque felt like in her Harem. Having nothing to do I started peeking into the business class: I saw no different between the 2 classes (no bigger space, no fancy chairs) so I started wondering how is Business class different ? do they get an extra chocolate or what ? While looking a very cute, blond hair girl came and sat in front at my right side (obviously in the Business class). Some other person came and tried to sit on the same row (which had 3 chair) but she said: no please do not sit next to me I need more space so the gentleman said sure and sat at aisle leaving an empty chair in between them. Content with her she took out a magazine and started reading. Having just enough place in between the chairs in front of me I started peeking into her magazine expecting so “sensitive” information like financial reports, unpublished articles etc. what did I see ? I would like tell you but I’ll have to kill you afterwards 🙂 : a scandal magazine describing who dates with whom, who sleeps with whom, you know the normal “sensitive” information that you can only get from some “special” magazines.

Pretty unhappy by my boring discovery I started checking the other side (the 3 seats from the left side): at the window there was a gentleman (I would say 60ish) pretty quiet but soon a woman (great body, slim, tall, very tight jeans 😉 ) and sat at the aisle at some After arranging her luggage/purse and finished checking each of her 2 phone for at least 5 times (all having, of course only FB running) she started chatting with the man next to her. Since there was an empty place in between she had to turn pretty much so her pants started moving down giving me a great view of her very sexy black underwear. I know how it  sounds but really, it was just there in front of me, how could I not notice ? At some point she turned back so I had a quick look at her face too and I noticed that she was not as young as I thought initially (she was in her late 40th) so my respect for her body increased even more 🙂 She continued the sporadic conversation  with her neighbour but at some point she put her head down on the empty sit next to the gentleman and continued talking. I was pretty amused and curious: what the hell was she doing ? Were they together ? Did they know each other ? No idea. This continued for some while but the woman seemed not very content with her place (feet on the ground and her upper body at 90 degrees on 2 chairs) so the gentlemen (which put his jacket on his knees to make more space for the poor tired woman offered her with a kind gesture his lap. The woman didn’t ignore this act of kindness and moved a bit towards him, put her head on his lap lying now on all 3 chairs. Being pretty tall she couldn’t lie properly so she had to keep her knees bend (but this time on the chair) to allow the flight attendant to pass by. At some point though she stood up a bit just like you wake up from a nightmare so I also looked to see what happen: the problem was that the Gucci label from her boots were no longer visible so she quickly arranged the boot so the label should be easily readable by all the people who pass by and then she put her head down again on the lap of her kind gentleman this time even more happy: now everyone will see her great violet Gucci boots!

From now on I will always travel on the same place … Does that make me a voyeur ?

Have a great 2015 😉

DK

Globalization of human habits

I’ve travelled a bit in my life and more than that in my current place (Germany) I have the chance to get in touch with many foreigners from so many countries that I think my conclusions are if not correct then at least representative for a big part of the Western society. My origins are in a country from the former Eastern bloc and I had the chance to see the Communism in its real shape just before falling and the changes that followed. The human society before the WR II was pretty well established in the sense that people knew their origin and usually followed the family tradition: peasants had their land and their children inherited it continuing to work it from a generation to another, wealthy people usually remained wealthy the army as well as the church was respected and feared. Communism came and took away all this social order by taking the land from the peasants and the factories from the bourgeois and in the 50 years that followed the new generation was brainwashed to revere The Party just as in US people were brainwashed (and still are) to revere the “American dream”, the “freedom”, the “nation” and other big words that actually mean bullshit. All this made people to lose their sense in the society and this is why I think today respect for the others is so uncommon.

If you do not believe me know that in my country (and I am convinced that in other countries too) when peasants went to work on their fields they always left the door from their houses open and food on the table and clean covers on the bed just in case some traveller happens to pass by to have some fresh food and a bed to rest. Do you think this is still happening anywhere today ? I doubt it.

People used to stand up for their beliefs, for their rights; how often does this happen today ? last week I went to the university gym to play volleyball with the students. There were there students, PhD students, post docs about 20-25 people in total from about 15 countries. 3 of them were friends and were in average a bit better than the rest of us so they formed a team with 3 other players (I was one of them) and started playing. They took all the balls, they only passed between themselves so I basically just watching them play. At the end of one of the games I went to one of them and asked him loudly so everyone can hear: “Tell me please is this volleyball training for everybody or is just for you guys to train ?” of course they did not agree with my question but I wanted to see who else shares my opinion: no one, not even “my friends” I went with. Everyone just turned their back or acted like not hearing me … Next day though I do receive an email from one of these “friends” telling me that she talked with some other people who were present and everyone agreed with my point of view and she apologize for not saying anything. I found this pretty lame and even coward.

There is also this madness with the political correctness taken many times to extremes. For instance touching someone’s arm, back or shoulder can get you in many companies in troubles. But if you think this is an American invention you are very wrong. My girlfriend is Iranian so very far from the “evil American customs” 🙂 and I had countless problems and fights with her when I happened to touch a shoulder or an arm of another girl during a party or even when we had friends coming over.

I feel like the western society is heading towards what Jew author (call me racist now)  Isaac Asimov described in his book “Naked Sun” a civilization where people to not meet each other and only talk using electronic devices (sound a lot like Facebook & Skype to me at least) and only meet to procreate.

Welcome to Solaris,

DK

Happy New Year

“What is with the funny title ? Didn’t you notice that the New Year started about 3 month ago ?” I think this is what most of the people should think when they read my post title and  they are obviously right. However today is somehow a special day since exactly today 20th of March (only for this year) it is the Nowruz or the Persian New Year. If you do not believe me you can check out this site too: Nowruz.com and I am sure the fireworks will convince you. Seriously speaking it really is today the Iranian new year and for this celebration most of the Iranian families are preparing a special table with some special items: the so called Haft Seen which are 7 different items; all of this items start with the same sound “seen” and each has a different meaning which you can better see on the Wikipedia page.

Coming back to my post however since in the last few months (around our New Year) I didn’t really made any new posts on my blog I was thinking that maybe this is a good moment to come back “with renewed strengths”.

The truth is that in this period many things and most of the not very happy happened to me so even though writing on my blog forces me to think about my problems, understand them and most importantly accept them I really had no strength for all this. I think though that I passed that stage and I am back now so be ready to take out your SPAM filters from your closet because you will need them !!! 🙂

Happy New Year to all our Iranian friends and see you soon.

Blowin’ in the wind

Today’s post will not be an original one but an approximate (bad) translation of a very funny Romanian post written by Julius Constantinescu that I read on www.dailycotcodac.ro. I know that is not nice to simply take some other people’s work but the truth of this post convinced me that this worth to be shared with the entire world 🙂

The author tries (successfully I would say but I might be biased) to analyse our (men) reactions and behaviours towards our “significant others”.

Have you ever really tried in the most honest way to understand your wife, girlfriend etc. ? Yes ? If so then please go with the mouse on the small red cross from the upper right (for Unix users make it left) corner of the window  and click on the X: this post is not for idiots !!!

OK, and now that we are alone let’s be honest, why should we even try to understand the women in our life ? They have (just like God does) a logic of their own than no human mind could ever understand. And even if by some miracle we could understand it in the next 5 minutes everything we learned about them would be outdated so why should we even try. The best we can do is how to learn to avoid them and their traps.

Once we know and understand these simple things we can go on and give some simple (and probably useless too) advice to all those that are at the beginning of a relationship.

1) “At least put it in the sink if you are not going to wash it” (with some variants for clothes and/or shoes)

A less experienced man would jump to wash the plate thinking that this was the message that she intended to send.Well, you are WRONG, she is just pissed and whatever you do she will continue to be pissed the entire evening so don’t bother washing the plate, it is not useful so don’t waste your time.

2) “What are those socks next to the chair ?”

This is a rhetoric question that requires no answer what so ever. Just take the sock, making sure that she sees you when you roll you eyes in disgust; this will help to annoy her enough not to give any other answer.

3) “A fiend of mine went to theatre with his boyfriend”

Just like Anna Karenina, bro ! Of course this friend does not exist or if she does her boyfriend does not or if they both exist they never went to theatre. Here you can lie a bit by vague promises that you will go with her too but be careful not to mention any specific date.In no case you should answer with an arrogant “So what ?”; if you would have wanted a life with dignity you should have think about this before getting married !!!

4) “You could have not put this, there ?”

If you are in the bathroom do not get out; after all you do not wish to find out what “this” actually is. If however you are in the same room, bad luck: you will find out.

No matter what “this” is you should be astonished and surprised: how could you leave that there ? You have to be so pathetic to … you got my point.

5) “If I would have know that you’ll complain so much I would have not taken you with me!”

A lost evening, there is no way of fixing it. However a wise man treats it as an investment: the worst the evening will be the better are the chances that next time she will not take you with her (to her boring friend, parents, shopping, theatre etc.)

Now let’s have a quick summary: what did we learn today ? First of all we, men cannot understand women and we should not ever try to. Second: all we can do is to try to avoid the troubles as much as possible; and if you can read between the line also a third thing: if a woman wants to tell you something, let HER do it, you will never guess what she wants.

 

All the best

DK

P.S. As I said in the beginning all the acknowledgements should go to the original author.

Barcelona a place of fun and bad luck

Before anything else I guess I should try to explain the title of my post. Me and a few of my close friends have some mixed type of memories about this wonderful city. I think the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when they hear Barcelona, except the football team (soccer for our over the ocean friends 😉 ) of course, is  Gaudi and his architectural masterpieces. However I remember Barcelona for a few different reasons too and I will tell you a few of them: being a very popular tourist destination it also attracts many street performers, beggars and obviously pocket thieves. The latter are the ones that gave some of us a lot of problems.

One of my friends went with his wife to Barcelona for a vacation and the first day after their arrival someone in a bus managed to steal his wallet. They obviously went to the police to declare the theft but the worst part was that the second day after the incident they got hit again but this time even worse: the thief stolen all their ID’s, passports etc. so they remained without any money or credit cards in a foreign country being non EU citizens without any proof that have a EU visa and without any possibility to come back to Germany. They had to go to the embassy to ask for a passport renewal but the embassy is in Madrid more than 600 km away from Barcelona so to get there without any money is … difficult. They went again to the police that “helped” them by filling a new form and let them know they will “investigate”, the usual useless encouragement that actually tells you: “you are on your on sucker”. By an extraordinary chance they met at the police station a couple that they also met the previous day and they offered their help and finally even paid two tickets for them to go to the embassy in Madrid where they managed to get some temporary ID to get back to Germany.

My personal memories about Barcelona are related to the a new year that me and some of my friends decided to organize there. We were around 12 people in total and since it was soon after Christmas we all came from different directions (from home) so we arranged to meet in Barcelona flying in from several countries. One of my friends came flew from Poland and brought his laptop with him and the both keys from his car (for some reason he forgot the spare key in his backpack when he left home for Christmas). Luckily he always keeps his wallet in his pocket …
Somewhere waiting in a queue someone tapped him on his shoulder telling him “Look, you are dirty on you jacket, someone spilled coffee on you.” He tried to look back but since he didn’t see anything he took of his backpack, put it down and took off his jacket. In that moment the man who tapped him started shouting like he would fight while someone from the crowed jumped grabbed the backpack of my friend from the floor and started running on one direction while the other man started running on another direction. My friend needed a few sec to realize what happened but by the time he did both men were out of sight.

When we arrived he already checked in and was waiting for us with his “good news”. The adventures however did not stop here. Since we were many (as I said around twelve people) mostly students we decided to get the cheapest option available that will still keep us in the centre so we just rented for a few days a three room apartment somewhere in the centre. In the advertisement there were pictures of the apartment and the full list of features among which “Wireless Access Point” was one. As the internet geeks we are we absolutely need internet even for New Years Eve so the first thing we did when we arrived was to check our emails but the internet obviously did not work.

We tried to call the landlord he told us a non reassuring “It should work” followed by a brief explanation that it is new year’s eve, so he is not in Barcelona and he will try to pass by after the New Year. All this was obviously un acceptable Since we had many computer people in our group we thought about using some older techniques like reset the access point as we usually do in our work place. We started searching for the Access Point but there was nothing in the apartment. We thought: “Hey it might be in the staircase” so someone went searching for it on the lower and then on the upper floors. Unfortunately we had no luck and the only thing we found was the electricity power switch of the stair case. F. one of our friends told us then: on guys I will reset the switch, and she left … A few minutes later she switched off the power for all the apartments from every floor on our stair case (about 4 or 5 apartments at each of the 4 floors) from the switch we earlier found. I don’t even want to think how many curses we got from all the neighbours that thought it is a power shut down. At least they didn’t knew that this was only to reset a switch 🙂 Amazingly the trick worked and the Wireless Network started to work properly afterwards.

The conclusion here is the following: if you are ever in a situation where Internet doesn’t work do not worry and just turn off the power of your entire neighbourhood for a few seconds. You have great chances to solve your problem (or contrary to create even more problems)  in this way 🙂

All the best,

DK

Baking stories – part 2

This is a continuation of my baking adventures with my daughter. The first part you can read here.

The custom here is that the next working day after the birthday of the child you take some sweets (candies, cakes etc.)  to the kindergarten so the child gets a second celebration with all his/her friends.  Since this year the celebration happen to be on a Saturday it was pretty nice since we had the next Sunday to prepare for the kindergarten celebration. At D’s request (also helped by the fact that I just learned how to make cupcakes 😉 ) she wanted to take cupcakes to the kindergarten, but not any kind they must be chocolate cupcakes. We kind of agreed even though we knew there are 20 kinds in her class. Since I made them more or less without D’s hawk-eye supervision, I cheated a bit using Nutella instead of chocolate and I managed to make these:

cupcakes

In order to better fit the cream on top I cut the tip of every muffin and kept these remains for later use. The next day with D’s help I decided to use muffin remains and to make what we usually call potatoes. The receipt is pretty simple: add a bit a butter and a bit of Nutella or a spoon of cognac or rum for better taste and mix them all together with a spoon. When everything has the consistency of a thick homogeneous paste comes the fun part: I asked D. to go ans wash her hands then put her on a tall chair put a plate in front of her and spilled some coconut in the plate; then with a spoon I took small portions from the paste and put them to her palm and ask her to make round balls and then roll them through the coconut. This was the most fun for both her and myself: seeing her how serious she is trying to make them perfect. The result was not too bad (of course I have to brag a bit) 🙂 :

potatoes

We put them to the fridge for a few hours and then … we ate them all 🙂 Unfortunately my apartment mate come home right in the moment we were doing this last phase and seeing D. how she handles the paste he wasn’t too impressed (maybe I would have had the same reaction if it would be another child, I don’t know), in any case, later when I offered him a ball to taste he refused politely and his reaction also reminded me of another baking story that my grandmother told me one many years ago. Although I am not sure that you would like this one too I will still tell it so I apologize in advance.

When my grandmother was young (around WR II times) she had an old woman neighbor that used to bake really good cakes and she was always nice enough to bring to my grandmother too.  It was all great until one time when my grandmother happened to be at this woman when she was making a cake with walnuts. Since the receipt required ground nuts the woman measured the nuts, put them into a bowl took another empty bowl and she started to grind them in a very … unique way: she took one by wan every piece of nut in her mouth, she chewed it and then she spit back in the empty bowl the grounded nut. This was, by my grandmother’s words:  “the last time when I ever tasted anything that my neighbour ever brought me.” She always thanked her a lot for the cakes but as soon as she left the cakes went straight to the garbage bin 🙂

Bon Apetit,

DK

Baking stories – part 1

One of my private hobbies is to make (or should I better say bake) cakes. I love to prepare sweets, especially when I have someone to make them for. I do like to sweets too but I always find making sweets only for yourself a bit sad and even useless. What point is there to prepare them if there is no one to share with the result, if you cannot see the expression on the faces of others when they taste for the first time a new receipt that you tried.

To better understand what I actually mean I will tell you a story that my grandma used to tell me: there was one a man who went to a famous pastry and made an order of a horse made of marzipan in 1:1 scale for the second day. The chief confectioner obviously though this will be served at a big event or party so he did it as good as he could. The second day the man came again to see the result, he examined it and said: “Yes, it is nice, but I would like the right front leg to be a bit higher …”, the confectioner took note of all the observations and asked the buyer to come again the second day so he can fix the horse. The third day the man came again, inspected the horse and said satisfied: “Yes, now it is perfect!”. Very content and proud of his work the confectioner asked: “Ok, sir, and how would you like it wrapped ?” to which the buyer replied: “Aaaa, no, no there is no need to wrap it. I will just eat it here.”

In many ways I am the same: I like to make all my cakes look as nice as possible even if they will be eaten in the next 5 seconds but at least for those 5 seconds they look perfect. As a matter a fact last weekend I did exactly like this 🙂 My daughter turned 5 so she asked for a cake but not any cake: one made of chocolate and that has a drawing of o princess on it. The negotiation process for choosing the perfect princess that fulfills everyone’s requirements:

1) The author of the story made her a princess: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Jasmine etc

2) D.’s requirements (the toughest ones): she must have long hair, a nice dress, a prince should be in the picture too (we managed to avoid this). Not to mention that she changed her mind about the character to be used almost every day.

3) Parents requirements: it should be relatively easy to draw ( on the cake !!! )

was pretty long and painful but equally amusing. I used all my negotiations and conflict management skills and finally we remained with just a few contenders: Jasmin, Cinderella and Ariel.

Jasmin was disqualified since she doesn’t really wear a dress, Ariel was disqualified since she “appeared” last year on the birthday cake so … the winner is : Cinderella 🙂

Great, but how to make it ? We applied the last year procedure: we printed Cinderella at the same size at the cake and with a scissor I cut out the lines with a width of about 1.5 mm large enough to make some marks on the cake with some sugar paint. Then we removed the paper and completed the lines with colors and this is how this cake was born:

crop_tort

I know the face is not quite right but … this is the best I was able to. On the other hand the red shiny thing from the cake is NOT ketchup OK ? 🙂

My point however is that the life of this cake was really short; we finished it, put the candles on and soon after D. blew the candles she asked: “Can I please have the head ?” 🙂 Poor Cinderella …

Laughing one of my friends that was present at the “event” immediately  told us: “You guys should have a serious discussion with this child … ” 🙂

Be sweet but don’t eat too much sweet 😉

DK

Challenges of an epileptic father

As I may have mentioned before I am an epileptic. My condition is not too bad since with the medication I can more or less keep my seizures under control but every few months (around 6) it happens that I do have another seizure. I don’t have epilepsy since childhood and I didn’t get it after a head trauma (as is the most common) it just happened that about 6 years ago I started having seizures. I am somehow still in the process of both psychologically accommodating with my condition as well as trying to find the best drug combination that would make me seizure free. Even if this is not a very bad illness and in most of the cases it can be kept under control it did have some very unpleasant effects in my personal life. It was one of the major reason that lead to my divorce and it changed any relationship I had later. But the most unpleasant effect was the way that my relationship with my child was affected. I have a daughter of 5 years old that is now living with my ex-wife and even though we are both living in the same city and we have an extremely decent relationship, visiting each other and contributing as much as we both can to the education of our child, my fear of seizures dramatically changed my behaviour towards her.

I do not dare to take her overnight at my place because I might have a seizure and she might get scared so to avoid this I moved in a shared flat with a work colleague (that is obviously aware of my epileptic background) and I only bring my daughter over when he is also at home. My entire schedule of bringing my child to my place is now fully dependent on my colleague: if he is or not sleeping home.

Both me and my ex-wife taught D that if she notice that daddy is not responding or he is suddenly “felling asleep and doesn’t wake up” to go to the other room and knock on the door or my apartment mate and ask for help. Luckily this never happened and I hope it never will. I did have one a seizure when D was with me but she was sleeping and I regained consciousness without any incidents.

This week however my friend is away in a business trip and unfortunately it is also the birthday of D and these kind of weird coincidences reminds me of my condition and contribute even more to my already existing frustrations …

Another thing that my epilepsy induced is some kind of micro-seizures (this is the medical term) that are basically very short seizures of only a few seconds long in which I freeze in a certain position before regaining consciousness. This is not as bad as the others because I do not fall it just looks like for a few seconds I do not pay attention to the person I am talking with but instead thinking (or watching) something else.  Obviously D have noticed these so her mother and then me too just told her this is OK I am just “stuck” and she has to wait to until it passes while talking and caressing me to regain my attention.

Since I do not notice these moments or even remember the time during the seizures I was never too sure how much a 4 year old child can understand until one time last summer when I went with her to visit my mother, and while we were sitting together and I was cutting some fruits for her I had one of this micro seizures. Little D. (this is what my mother told me later) started calling me: “Daddy, daddy …”.  My mother who was in the kitchen at that time heard her and rushed to the room and asked her: “D, what is wrong, what happened with daddy, why are you calling him ?” and then she continued towards me: “Are you OK ?”

Upset D. told her: “No, don’t talk to daddy now, he is sick, let him recover !” all this while she was caressing my hand … I did recover a few moments later soon enough to notice some tears in my mothers eyes.

However D didn’t simply accept the explanations and one evening when I took her to bed she asked me: “Daddy, but why do you get stuck sometimes ?”, I was speechless, how can I answer when I don’t even know myself … so I just said “Well you see this is how daddy’s illness is.”, “Ok, she said, but why ?”

I have to agree with my little angel: “But why ?”

DK