Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vienna is calling!

Being forced to take the rest of my annual leave from last year before the end of March I asked my friend Hasan, who lives in Vienna, if I could visit him. He was busy, but said it was ok. So, off I was for Vienna on Easter! Yay! :)



Vienna Vienna Vienna

Kursalon Vienna

Vienna Vienna

Vienna Hochstrahlbrunnen

Vienna Vienna


Vienna Vienna/Karlskirche Vienna

The Karlskirche is supposed to be the most beautiful baroque church in Vienna, but that is not the reason why I liked it so much and feel the need to tell you about it. No, the reason why it excites me is the panorama lift that takes you to vertiginous heights to give you a really great view of the fresco paintings on the ceiling (also over the city, but with all the security wire netting occluding and limiting the view it was not really worth it). Usually, a normal visitor will never have the opportunity to see these paintings at such a close distance, but here the scaffolds that had been used for previous restoration works had been preserved to take visitors upstairs (not sure how long they will stay though, seems like they have been around for a while though).


Karlskirche Karlskirche
The lift takes you to a platform, from there you have to take stairs (they look the same as the stairs in the first picture ) to reach the top. Let me just tell you, if you're not a fan of heights and standing on a scaffold that surely was stable more or less, but well, not as stable as a nice stone staircase, you would also get the butterflies...

"Running and jumping is dangerous! Shouting is uncool!" Yeah, totally uncool. :D The sign also says that only a maximum of 10 persons is allowed. It also said something about "only under supervision," which everybody seemed to happily ignore. I'll be honest - I was scared shitless at this height. Crazy tourists who happily in their ignorance walked up and down the stairs to the top! Nobody here who cared about the maximum of 10 person! And where was this supervision guy?? In the end I decided to be a sheep and just go with the others, peer pressure you know, didn't want to stick out as the hysterical tourist, and I mean, who has ever heard of a scaffold breaking down under an overload of tourists in an Austrian church, right? Anyway, on my way to the top I was rewarded with a really nice view of the ceiling. If the pictures are blurry, it's because I didn't use a flasha and because my hands were shaking more than usual due whenever someone walked by and caused the scaffold to shake (I was DYING every time inside, I kid you not. :D). There were two information points where you could listen to your audio guide, but I simply didn't feel calm enough to take up any information. I only wanted to get to the top and then downstairs to solid ground as soon as possible. I listened to the information when I was downstairs and I regretted that I missed some interesting tidbits, but it was ok.


A short video that I made with my digital camera, the quality is therefore not that great.



She has this mischievious look on her face. I found the expressions on many faces to be quite interesting, you rarely get to see them with all the details.




Under the top. If I'm not mistaken painting the Holy Spirit in the middle of the ceiling is not uncommon in churches.

Ok, I'll say it (false modesty is so boring), I felt damn proud that I had continued to the top. :D

Kunsthistorisches Museum:
Kunsthistorisches Museum

Exhibition Arcimboldo
Exhibition of works of Arcimboldo at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

"The artist was born in Milan where he started his career by working on designs for windows for the city’s cathedral. He worked in his hometown, specialising mainly in religious paintings, before being called to Vienna in 1562 by Maximilian, the eldest son of the Emperor Ferdinand I. For the next twenty-five years he served as court painter to the Emperor Maximilian II and his son, the Emperor Rudolf II, both in Vienna and in Prague, before returning to Milan in 1587."

The exhibition was interesting. I still felt captivated by Arcimboldo's works and skills although the vegetable and fruit composite heads are so known. He painted the flowers, plants, animals that compose the heads with a scientific accuracy that is praiseworthy in itself, but to put them together in such imaginative ways to create faces is ingenious. Get an audio guide (which is not for free, but nevertheless makes the whole tour through the museum more interesting and enlightening).

The museum also exhibited some photos of Bernard Pras, who created his own version of composite heads. He uses 3-dimensional objects located in space to create faces, which can be comprehended best when captured in a 2-dimensional form such as a photo. Take a look at his website,, I assure you, it's worth it.

Donau City:
Home of apartments, offices, and various UNO institutions in the Vienna International Centre (UNO City). The United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), one of the four main headquarters of the UN worldwide (the others can be found in New York (that I have already visited with my mom years ago, we took a guided tour there), Geneva and Nairobi), is also located in UNO City.

Donau City

Donau City

Passing the Mexikokirche on our way to Donau City.

View over Donauinsel

Sightseeing in Vienna:
Vienna is surrounded by a main street called "der Ring", which is seamed by many of the interesting buildings and tourist attractions that you will find in Vienna such as the Karlskirche, the Museumsquartier with the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum, Leopoldmuseum, Burgtheater, City Hall, Staatsoper, etc.

I haven't been able to visit all of them from within. These are snapshots that I took from outside.



Gothic cathedral in the center of Vienna.

City Hall
City Hall City Hall

Österreichische Staatsoper (Austrian State Opera)
Österreichische Staatsoper

At the Opernring in front of the Hotel Sacher. End of Kärnter Straße, close to the Naschmarkt.

Located in the center:

"Hofburg Imperial Palace is a palace in Vienna, Austria, which has housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It currently serves as the official residence of the President of Austria. It was the Habsburg's principal winter residence, while Schönbrunn Palace was their preferred summer residence."

A bit outside:
Schloss Schönbrunn
Schloss Schönbrunn

Schloss Schönbrunn

"Schönbrunn Palace (German: Schloss Schönbrunn [ʃøːnˈbʁʊn]) in Vienna is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and since the 1860s has also been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs."

I had a talk yesterday with a friend of mine who is French and she said Schloss Schönbrunn is so great inside. The French castle are all empty inside - many thanks to the French revolution - and she loved that here most was still intact. I also assume that many of the older buildings in Vienna are so well preserved as it didn't get bombed as much as German cities during WW2. If you visit Bamberg you can see how different German cities actually might look like.


Accoding to my friend Hasan it's only tourists who visit this house, everybody else in Vienna thinks it's ugly.

Him: "Don't visit this."
Me: "But I want to! How can I not visit this when I am in Vienna and it's not even far from here?"
Him: "It's ugly. Don't visit it."
Me: "But, I want to."
Him: "It's ugly. Don't."

Of course, I went. :D

Gasometer Gasometer
"A gasometer, or gas-holder, is a large container where natural gas or town gas is stored near atmospheric pressure at ambient temperatures.

The Gasometers in Vienna now house offices, shopping malls and apartments.

Me: "There's a shopping mall inside, right?"
Him: "Yes, but it's not worth it to visit inside, but you're not going to listen to me anyway..."

That's right, :D but I didn't have the time to see it from inside.

Hasan and me

Hasan and I met a couple of years ago in Egypt, lost contact for a while and about two years (?) ago picked up contact again. In the meantime he had started a business with imported juices from Egypt - I like the idea that he sells fresh juices that are made without any kind of additives or preservatives. Oh, and they taste really good, too! My roommates really loved it. He also recently started a business corporation with Sekem, an organisation founded by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish that is based on the anthroposophic teachings of Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf schools, biodynamic agriculture, does that ring something to you?). I'm skeptical of the anthroposophical teachings (I remember a friend, who was an intern at a biodynamic farm, telling me about stirring fertilizer at moonlight clockwise, then anticlockwise, the clockwise again, something like that...), but I like the holistic approach to sustainable human development and farming.

I learned how to play poker (but not how to win...), I smoked (cigarettes and other stuff passively, ewww) more than ever before, I learned that guys supposedly don't like nice women, I found out that you can meet someone again after five years and it really just seems like no time has passed. And that someone can be quite grumpy but surprisingly still be your friend (he thinks knitting is extremely uncool, he hates being nice, he hates other car drivers, he hates posed photos, hence a fake one with us together, HA :D). He's a moody bitch, but I still like him. He's a doll. :D

Wiener Kaffeehaustradition:
Of course, I had to visit a couple of cafés and see what it's all about the Wiener Kaffeehaustradition.

Café Central: Very elegant with live piano music, but it was full and I didn't feel like waiting, so I moved on to the next café.

Café Hawelka: I ate their famous Buchteln, they are made of yeast dough, usually filled with plum butter, but mine came with poppy seed, which I'm not really that fond of, so dry and the seeds always get stuck between your teeth. The waiter was arrogant, but I was assured by various people that it's their job to be arrogant, that's also why they wear suits, so don't take offense. The café was full with people and the air was thick with smoke. Somehow I think Leonhard Cohen would have loved it here. I had not been aware that this café had such an interesting history of visitors (Friedensreich Hundertwasser, André Heller, Elias Canetti, Henry Miller, Arthur Miller und Andy Warhol, came for a visit whenever they were in Vienna), I just knew it was famous, but had no clue why. It also seems that the walls are decorated with many works of the visitors, which I also didn't notice or maybe they have changed the decoration. My tourist guide obviously failed me here, but you can find more information about the café on their website, albeit only in German

Café Prückel: A café with a long history at the "Ring".The waiters here were nicer. I had Apfelstrudel and Palatschinken (very thin pancakes). My friend Hasan said it was Jugendstil, but I thought it had a 60ies touch. I struck up a conversation with a guy, Patrick, from there and he told me that people do indeed spend lots and lots of time in cafés to drink their coffee and read the newspapers (they even had German ones here) or work (like him), which means if you are a single tourist in Vienna, go to a café and just bother an innocent Viennese guest with your questions, because they will have a lot of time for you and nothing better to do anyway. :D Ok, try to to find someone who is not working. :D

At the Café Prückel.

I had also already entered the Café Demel (they're the ones who had a quarrel with the Café Sacher about the correct preparation of the Sachertorte and the use of the term "Original". They lost and now are only allowed to sell "Sachertorte" like any other café, but not "Original Sachertorte".) to eat Sachertorte, but I had eaten so much before and didn't want to stuff myself with cake just for the sake of eating it, I also wanted to take pictures of the pastry cooks working behind the scenes and as the batteries of my cameras needed to be recharged I decided to go back later, but I didn't find the time to do so. Next time. :)

Couldn't find any restaurant/café that had Marillenknödel. :(

Conclusion:Vienna is worth a visit. The city is beautiful and there is a lot to see and to discover, I still haven't seen everything, not a single castle from inside. And the cafés are good places to meet people.

Tourist guide: "Wien" by Doris Mair (Merian). I recommend this book. It has a lot of information on everything - museums, castles, restaurants, bars, shops, cafés, public swimming pools, cinemas, theaters, etc. and lots and lots of background information.It also has a foldable map that shows all the interesting tourist spots and six tour cards with different themes (bar tour, coffeehouse tour, composer tour, etc.). I got told by a German couple that this one is better than the one from Baedeker, which they had, as it contains information about bars, public swimming pools, etc. (I actually wanted to go to a swimming pool, but I forgot my swimsuit. I got told that Vienna has some beautiful swimming pools.)

I got home with the "Mitfahrzentrale" - It's a website that organizes car sharing between strangers. It's a pretty cost efficient and more ecological way of traveling as you share your car and the costs for gas with others, a win-win situation for everybody involved. I was able to get back from Vienna for 19 €! Awesome. Much cheaper than with the train (would have cost 72 € with an Austrian ticket and a bit less with a German ticket). I definitely need to try this out more often.

That was a really long post. I think I can take a break now until next year. :D

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stories from Absurdistan: Creeps and idiots

Once upon a time I went to our local swimming pool. This country is famous for its "Freikörperkultur" (my statement that the French were more explicit and open about their bodies encountered an indignant "But you Germans have FKK!" from a French student to the amusement of the other people in the train. I may also add that I only made this claim after he told me that he liked running around naked at home and that his mom and sister were not really fond about this. :D), but guess what, when you go to a normal public swimming pool the changing rooms for men and women are still separated. But obviously some people have difficulties grasping this fact, I kid you not.

A couple of weeks ago I came out from the shower, wrapped in a towel and what do I see, I see a man lingering around. Exactly one week before I had caught two guys hanging out there and let me tell I was not pleased. I understand that you might get lost in new places and the signs might be a bit misleading, but the moment I see a woman coming out from the shower I as a guy must have some doubts if I'm at the right place, right? I as a woman would if I saw a guy with a towel wrapped around him, but these guys just kept lingering around after I told them very clearly that they were in the changing area for women and that the changing rooms for men was further down the hallway. Not much action from them and an apology was also far away. I know how a mistake looks like and they looked like assholes. People in this situation usually act differently, they look surprised, they apologize, they try to leave as quickly as possible. These guys here? None of these. So, one week later it's the same situation again. I come out from the shower and I find another guy here. He was around 70 with someone whom I later assumed to be his wife. My first reaction was to get pissed off. I know what sexual harrassment means; it's something that really makes me angry and I have no qualms showing it. I told him that this was the changing area for women and that he had to leave. He kept standing in this changing booth, talking with his wife what to do next. Now that infuriated me even more. Normal people with some manners would have gotten outside and discussed further procedures there, but he kept on lingering there, while his wife started to look nervous, trying to get rid of him, but he just didn't move. I started to get really loud. I didn't call him names or anything, but I was very clear that I wanted him to get out as soon as possible. Another woman who was standing there told me that I could say it nicer, but well, I'm not nice to creeps (and lady, if I had kids as you have I would be a bit more careful about strangers who trespass boundaries...). By the way, have you kept track of the number of women who were present? It was me, his wife and this other woman, maybe even more women, but I don't remember exactly. And he is supposedly too stupid not to understand that this is obviously not the changing room for men??? Anyway, he wasn't thrilled about the way I told him to leave and told me, "If you don't stop shouting, we can go outside and settle it there." HUH??? He was 70 and at least 1,80 m. I'm a woman, pretty small and at that moment was only wearing a towel and this idiot suggests that we go outside and deal with it like real men do??? Someone go and light a candle for his wife, please.

He's lucky I didn't take the challenge and show him what real men can do *spits on the floor - pffft* :D instead I went home and sent an email to the municipalities (gaawd, how civilized...). I got a nice answer back telling me that the signs might be a bit misleading, but that these guys were certainly not there by mistake and to inform the pool guards if it happened again. I interpret this as, "Next time you see another creep, just scream for the pool guards." - No problem! :D

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Final update on Medical Hypotheses article

As promised ( :o ) a final update on this Asians & Down Syndrome story. I had decided that this article was crap and that Mr Bruce Charlton's answer was absolutely not sufficient, so off I went and did a Google search for all the editors listed on the editorial board.

I did not get an answer from:
Peter Andras
Roy Calne
Arvid Carlsson
David L Hull
J Lee Kavanau
Mehar Manku
V.S. Ramachandran
Jack Scannell
Gavin Spickett

I did get an answer from:
David Healy
David Pearce
William Bains
Antonio R Damasio
Jonathan Rees
Andrew Miles

Not available:
Mark A Notturno (email account was full)
James Willis (didn't find his email address)

I was a bit surprised that I did not receive more reactions, but that might be because people thought that I should have taken the usual way, meaning entering a rebuttal via the official way (Mr Bains, Mr Miles (absolute meanie if I may say. He went from calling me oversensitive to hysterical to arrogant and he cc-ed all his emails and forwarded mine to Mr Charlton *rolleyes*. He also insinuated that anybody who took offense at the article was oversensitive, because he as a redhead was also the victim of jokes, but he didn't make such a fuss about it. - Sure, his experiences as redhead are as bad as the racism that minorities face.) and Mr Rees recommended me to take this step). In my opinion this would not have been enough though. My argument is that this article was racist and in no way scientific and should never have been published in an academic journal in the first place, therefore it would have been the responsibility of the editors of this magazine to react and to take appropriate steps, for example, withdrawing the article and clarifying their position on this issue; just printing a rebuttal from a reader does not strike me as sufficient. By not distancing themselves from the content of this article they were supporting it.

The only two who did respond positively to my complaint and took it seriously were Mr Healy (a very very nice and understanding person) and Mr Pearce (I couldn't help noticing that out of only two positive responses one of the writers has a picture on his website posing as a bunny. I bet he is fun :D). Mr Healy was so kind to contact Mr Charlton various times to discuss this matter with him, but it became clear that resolving the issue of having bad article slip through can not be that easily resolved as the amount of articles is enormous coming in from very different fields and the editors are not paid, meaning the responsibility for selecting the quality stuff depends on the lead editor and there is no real possibility that someone else can check on him. In his opinion what should be encouraged is that anybody who takes offense with an article should be free to publish his view, thus including the readers into the peer review process. It also seems Medical Hypotheses does publish all replies, which according to him is much better than with other peer reviewed journals. I had to agree that it made sense what he said and he also told me that he appreciated that his awareness about this issue had been raised. He made his point to Mr Charlton and I am hopeful that his effort will be rewarded with a bit more attention among the editors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Good night socks

I've told that I don't seem to update my blog anymore... That's because - *looking frantically for believable excuses* - I got abducted by terrorists from Absurdistan. Yep, many attempts were made to break and brainwash me, but I resisted and escaped. I escaped to bring you local stories from this wonderful place (I got told that this is what people want to read - aha...). I will also do any pending updates - I swear and promise. :D But not now I need to go to bed. But in order to have a reason to fill this post with a little more content here are pics from one of my current projects:



These are going to be my good night socks. See how nice they look with my pajama? You may notice that they are knit quit tightly (maybe even a bit too much), that's because for socks I like a snug fit. Pattern my own. More details when I have finished them, which is going to be sohooon! :D

P.S. "But in order to have a reason to fill this post with a little more content here are pics from one of my current projects:"
Ugh, this sentence doesn't make any sense at all. It was late, you know. :o


Italian knitting group on Ravelry

French knitting group on Ravelry

Mystery Stole 3 KAL

Rockin Guy Blogger Award

dangerous intersection blog