Saturday, February 20, 2010

Italy, the land of Deutsch

Life in Switzerland is picking up again, with various social activities once again getting in the way of laundry and other various requirements around the flat.

Last weekend was the beginning of the Olympics, which I am pretty proud about having in Canada. We've won a few gold's and I am hoping we beat Germany in both medal count and number of gold's so I can rub it in Herr Gawlik's face. I've been sporting the various Olympics clothing my mom sent to Switzerland for me. I have yet to see a video of the opening ceremonies. I couldn't watch the whole thing because it was on during the miniscule 5 hours of sleep I got that night. But I did see the speechs right before the games were officially declared open. Man did that guy say "bienvenue" badly...

While I am being slightly negative, I just realized that I really do not want to write this blog right now... I'm not particularly sure why. But I'll write it anyway. If I don't, I'll forget everything that happened last weekend and this part week.

Anyway, the reason I was up early enough to watch the end of the opening ceremonies is that Ryan and I went to Rimini (Italy) last weekend. It takes 7 hours by train, so we had to get up early so we could arrive there at a reasonable time. I managed to overestimate the time required to get my stuff ready, which left some time to chill with Pat and watch the ceremonies.

Catching the train at 6:38 from Baden, we got to Rimini at around 14:00. I had arranged our stay with some students there through Couch Surfing, so one of the guys we were staying with picked us up at the train station. Ryan and I spent a few hours that afternoon checking out the old town. It was very typically Roman area including an outer wall (most of which is in ruins) and a large stone gate. We even came across a memorial to the Canadian forces who pushed back the German occupation of Italy in WWII. In the evening we were to a restaurant where the waiter didn't speak much English. So we spoke in German. In fact, I would say that I spoke more German at the restaurant than I've spoken in months elsewhere. The funny thing is that Italy teaches French as a second language, and he didn't even ask if we spoke French. The remainder of that night was very relaxed. We watched some of the Olympic events including Men's 5000m speed skating.

The following morning, Ryan and I walked to the train station and took a bus to San Marino, a very small country surrounded by Italy consisting of nothing more than a mountain and the surrounding valley. The cities within the surrounding valley feel like small Italian towns, while the capital city (San Marino) on the central mountain is very fortified and it definitely a medieval city. We walked along the outer walls on the very top of the mountain, looking over the entire country. It was pretty cool. We also bought euroshades, because there is no tax in San Marino. Stuff is cheaper, woohoo.

On Monday morning, we set off on a 6:00 train back to Baden. It was another long day of train travel, with a lot of intermittent napping to make up for the lack of sleep over the weekend. Upon arriving in Baden, I went to work for a half day. It was pretty awful.

Weeknights have been picking up lately, with plenty of things going down in the evenings. Ksenija was in town, which meant the weeknight partying was back on for a few days. Monday and Tuesday nights were spent watching the Olympics. Tuesday was a colder day than most, but I walked to Mirgos in shorts and flipflops anyway. The lady at the till thought I was insane and asked (in German) if I was cold. I told her no and that I'm from Canada. This seemed to be a sufficient explanation. On Wednesday, a bunch of people went to Nouba for some beer and shisha. Thursday was a night of Conan at Ziegelhau. Conan is much better than I expected, considering Andrew is the one who wanted to watch it (Andrew enjoys only terrible movies). Friday was a night of a few beers at Rachel's place. Considering it was just me and three girls, it turned out to be a pretty good night.

Saturday and today are days of being super lazy. Watching movies and taking naps are on the priority list. "Scotty doesn't know, Scotty doesn't know, Scotty doesn't know-ohh" and "Mike is a girl. Even I know that and I'm taking intro German. You asshole!". Hahaha Eurotrip is awesome. I'll also be staying up tonight to watch the Canada-USA game. I hope it is worth the murder of regular sleeping habits.

Next weekend, I am going to Ireland. I'll be the one of the three drivers there. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried, being that I haven't driven in quite some time and I haven't got the whole "driving on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car" thing down pat.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A story of the two-faced beer

I'm just sitting here enjoying a Paulaner and jamming to the new Armin van Buurin and Tiesto podcasts. I'm officially all caught up on House, the only TV show I've actually been following this year. I made some awesome tacos for supper, imported from the glorious homeland. I finished up with emailing my Couchsurfing hosts in Italy for next weekend, which is awesome. I'm pretty stoked for partying with some Italian students and checking out San Marino I also powered off an email to the Chemical Engineering department head about transferrable course credits and to the dean about a down website I need to read to apply for some funds. The purpose will be explained later. If I explained everything now, you wouldn't bother reading what happened last weekend (yah I'm on to you).

So last weekend, Brit, Caitlyn, Steve "Babyface" Lahoda, Ryan "Omnitool" Faught, Robyn, and I went to Belgium. Being a country who likes to proclaim a love for brewing many different types of beer, the first thing we did upon landing in Belgium and dropping our stuff off at the hostel was get fries. Obviously. And some douchebag drunk French kid decided to charge at us and knock our fries on the ground. I was ready to stab him with my pathetic plastic fork if he decided to come back. He didn't.

We wound up at some random building that was huge and looked like it was designed to house trams during the night hours. Apparently that wasn't the reason it was built, but it was worth a shot at guessing.

<--- As seen to the left, Ryan "Omnitool" Faught and I enjoyed a tower of beer.

And it truly was a tower. In fact, most people that walked by us stared quite a bit. Some went to the extent of giving a thumbs up. It was quite pleasing.

Some random couple sat down beside us and struck up some conversation. The guy was very random and awkward. Luckily, I've known Andrew for a few months which prepared me sufficiently for the encounter. To a point where when he asked if we liked sex (after sitting down less than one minute prior), I wasn't even phased and was only worried that the follow-up question would be an offer for a threesome. Lol. Oh Belgium...

The following day, we got up and ate waffles. This happened quite frequently over the course of the trip. In fact, I enjoyed 5 waffles in 2 days.

<--- Steve eating a waffle ferociously (and apparently with some anger, visible in the pointed eyebrows and slightly squinted eyes)

For the morning and most of the afternoon, we just wandered around the city in normal intern fashion. We soaked up the sights and smelt the unpleasant smells of French-esque society. And I do mean that. The random aroma of human waste is most certainly present in Brussels. The same smell experienced in Lyon, and the same smell I expect to experience in Nice. I hope Luxembourg doesn't have this issue.

After getting more waffles and frites (and trying something marvelous called the Bicky Burger, which is basically a normal burger with curry sauce) we went to one of the world last remaining traditional Lambic beer breweries. Lambic beer means that they use natural yeast from the air, and fermentation (and therefore the entire production cycle) takes much longer than normal. I don't know what the difference is supposed to be between the yeasts, but the stuff they produce tastes essentially like beerish vinegar. I'm not going to piddle around the statement. I did not very much enjoy it. This is probably primarily due to my becoming very accustomed to German beer, which is very very very different from this Lambic beer. It is actually like comparing a potato and a badger.

<--- One of the amusing things we came across in our wandering through the city was this little marvel, appropriately called the "Pissing Statue".

He gets dressed up every few days in various uniforms to show how international Brussels is. Here, he looks like a little Musolini.

After sampling some Lambic beer, we went to the Atomium. It was rather large. Most of us didn't go up because it was too expensive. Instead, we went to a movie: Men Who Stare at Goats. It is a really bad movie considering how awesome the cast is. It was just too out there for me, although there were some really funny moments.

On Sunday, we got more waffles and Ryan "Omnitool" Faught and I had some cherry beer with breakfast. It was the only time I could feel was acceptable to drink fruity beer without offending my manhood. So we went to Ghent for the day. It was overcast and felt ridiculously cold even though it was actually 8°C. Now before you all try to rip me a new one for saying 8°C is cold, remember that when humidity is at 97% no amount of clothing actually makes you feel warm.

<--- Steve "Babyface" Lahoda checking out the canal

Regardless of the cold, the architecture in Ghent was very nice and there was also no random bad smells. This could probably be attributed to the influence of the Dutch as opposed to the French. We went into a few churches and into a bar to waste time. We tried some delicious and different beers. Kwak is my favorite, partially because of the crazy glass it is served in.

Now would probably be a good time to explain this week's title. One of the recommended beers, Westmalle, is a two faced beer. The explanation is simple. As you drink it, the beer tastes pleasantly sweet. But the aftertaste is slightly bitter. This results in a complex beer that is both refreshing and confusing. It was awesome.

Upon returning to Brussels to get one more fries and waffle, we came across a giant pylon.

<--- Ryan "Omnitool" Faught catching me at a bad moment.

Haha I tricked you! This actually isn't what it looks like. It is just me posing because I knew it would be funny. But it does bring up a key point. In Brussels, you have to pay to use washrooms. Even if you are a customer at the movie theater, a bar, or McDonalds. Call me crazy, but maybe that is why the city smells like piss everywhere. There I go again, solving the worlds problems one at a time.

We returned to Baden Sunday night and had to resume the life of working again. Ugh.

Now a quick explanation of my need to contact the Dean and the Chemical Engineering department head. An opportunity has come up for me to study in Dortmund, Germany for June and July. The timing is perfect, seeing as Mike leaves on the 22nd of May. In the event that I can recieve credit for one of my technical electives required for my degree, I'm going. It is as simple as that. One more summer (well, almost a complete one) in Europe would be awesome, and my schedule would be a joke. 3 day weeks. Long days allbeit, but still only 3 days. And Sensation White in Amsterdam. Plus, if I can get 75% of the costs covered by scholarships then it'll only cost a few hundred dollars plus extra travel costs.

Leave a comment, lemme know what you think of my staying in Europa for another summer.



Until next week, take it easy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Needing to get back into the habit

So I realize that it has been nearly an entire month without blogging at all. And yes, I also realize that it is a pretty significant fail on my part when Mandy can write a blog nearly every day for a month.

So lets get to it. I will say that it is a summary of life over here (as always), but it won't end up being much of a summary (again, as always). It'll be more like a short story (as always).

So 4 weekends ago, we went skiing. We went to Engelberg, which is some 2 hours from Baden. The light was pretty flat and the snow was medeocer. I had no edge and the board was in dire need of waxing. So the day wasn't the best, but it was still pretty good. I set the bindings back a bit. Thr change was enjoyable. Somehow, Andrew and I got to a point where we were shirtless just outside the lodge and decided it would be hilarious to drop our snowpants to our ankles and have a race. So thats what we did. The video can be found on FB if you so desire to witness it. The Swiss people thought we were absolutely crazy and were staring. To be fair, it was only -4°C outside. For an Apres ski party, we went back to Ziegelhau and played Settlers and drank beer and glug. Needless to say, I think I got home at around 3:00. A little ridiculous after being up at 5:30 to go boarding.

During the week I got my board all tuned up. Edges were sharp and the board was waxed. And thank god for that, because the on the following Saturday we went to Lenzerheide. Easily the fastest snow I've ever had. For most of the day I felt boarderline out of control, and I probably was. Took some relatively big bails including falling upward not once but twice and tweaking my knee on the last run of the day. We also found a small patch of easily accessible powder that led directly on to the main track, which meant a nice change in pace with no major reprocussions (apart from finding the only damn rock in the whole area and scratching my nicely waxed board). Oh well, it was definitely worth it. Following the day of boarding, we relaxed in some chill chairs outside a bar with our shirts off again. This time, the locals (who again thought we were crazy) threw snow at us. Missed me though. Hahaha. Pictures on FB if desired.

The following weekend, my mom came. Yay! Only downside was having to get up early on the Saturday to get her from the airport. That wasn't cool. Oh well. We explored Zurich, explored Baden, went to Technorama (the Swiss version of the science center) and even partied at Rossini with some of the other interns. Alex holds hostilities to this day about it being the talk of the town.

On the Thursday, I took some of the afternoon off work and we went to Porto, Portugal. It was a pretty sweet city, and it was really nice to go somewhere and not be on an intern budget. I ate real food and slept in a real bed. It was quite out of the ordinary. Friday was spent wandering old town, while Saturday was spent enjoying port in the city of Gaia across the river Duoro Sunday was a day of bus tours. Meh to them, but oh well. It was also the 100th aniversary of the Republic of Portugal. So there were military marches right outside the hotel and they were playing with artillery in the streets. No joke. The airplane back to Basel was an hour late and we almost didn't get home last night. We caught the last IR back to Baden and got home at 1:30. Then work the next day. Ugh... Oh well, that makes 16.

Next weekend is Belgium, and the ridiculous travelling season is back on. Which means more frequent blogging. As in weekly. I hope.

To keep the die-hard readers tuned in (I like to believe there is one of you out there, although chances are...), here is a list of the trips planned in the coming months:

  • Belgium
  • Ireland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino (do you know where it is?)
  • Egypt
  • Luxembourg

Hopefully Amsterdam will be added to the list for the Dutch national holiday on April 30th and Vatican city sometime in May. As well as Poland. Making 25. Thats a lot of countries to visit in 13 months.

Bis bald,