Eastern Europe, part 1: Budapest

September 29th, 2014

Our tour of eastern Europe started in Budapest. We got there two days early, which turned out to be a good thing – the night before the first day of the tour, the weather turned wet, so most of my good photos come from the time before the tour started.

I took about 500 photos in Budapest, so there’s a lot that I won’t be showing or talking about in this post. For those pictures I include, clicking on them will get you a larger version.

Budapest was originally two cities, separated by the Danube, with Buda on the western side, and Pest on the eastern side. We heard a number of references to “the Buda side” and “the Pest side” during our stay. Our hotel was on the Pest side, and we crossed the Danube several times, both on foot and on tour buses. We never did get around to taking a Danube cruise, though.

There were a number of beautiful and historic buildings in Budapest, including St. Stephen’s, the Dohány Street Synagogue (near which I had some wonderful honey-elderflower ice cream), and the Parliament building. Buda Castle was pointed out on the city tour we took, which was somewhat amusing, because it was destroyed during World War II. Some of its ruins are still visible near the Presidential Palace, which is the white building on the hilltop to the right of center in the photo below. The yellow building on its right is, IIRC, a music school, and the large building to its left with the green copper rooftops is a museum. My understanding is that Buda Castle covered that entire area (roughly from the center of the photo almost to the spire on the far right).

Buda Castle

Some of the older buildings had interesting architectural details, such as these satyrs on a hotel exterior:

Satyrs

There were some whimsical decorative touches as well, like the entry to a teahouse near our hotel:

Teahouse

Also whimsical, or at least strange, is the astroturf topiary that we saw in a few places.

Astro-Topiary

And who can doubt the whimsy of a statue of “Anonymous?” The tip of the pen appears polished because a legend has grown up around it that states that holding the tip of the pen will make you a better writer.

Anonymous

We enjoyed our time in Budapest. We had several very nice meals – we liked one restaurant enough we went back again – and we could have spent significantly longer seeing more of the city. Once the tour started, though, we had one day in Budapest with the group before we took an overnight train to Sighisoara, Romania.

Autumn Colors

September 28th, 2014

We went up the Peak-to-Peak Highway to look at the aspen this afternoon. If this wasn’t the best weekend for it, then last weekend must have been, but probably not by all that much. We drove up Coal Creek Canyon to where it hits the Peak-to-Peak between Rawlinsville and Nederland. We should probably have gone through Boulder Canyon into Nederland, though – traffic into and through Nederland was horribly slow, but coming up through Boulder would have bypassed most of it.

People used to the wonderful autumn colors of the hardwood forests of the east won’t be terribly impressed, but aspen is what we have here, and it’s certainly pretty.

Aspen1

Aspen2

We stopped in Lyons for a late lunch. They’re still recovering from the flooding, but, as they say at the visitor’s center, “Any time or dime spent here helps the recovery.”

Travel photos to follow

September 16th, 2014

Well, I’m back. Been on a trip through eastern Europe for the last two weeks – started in Budpest, then through Romania and Bulgaria, finishing in Istanbul (not Constantinople).

It wasn’t the best trip I’ve been on, because I was ill for most of it. We’re blaming the Australians (two of the Australians in the tour group were ill at the start), but I don’t know for certain how I caught it. I just know that I got a nasty cough and congestion somewhere in Romania. I was satisfied to treat it with cough drops and skip some of the harder activities, but I woke up with my right eye bloodshot and gummed shut the first morning in Belogradchik, Bulgaria, and knew that I couldn’t get away without seeing a doctor at that point.

The group was scheduled to visit a cave and a hilltop fortress that day, so we had a local guide. The trip to the cave was delayed while the local guide took me to the hospital. Unfortunately, the doctor spoke no English, and the guide’s command of the language didn’t include medical topics. I did find out that I had elevated temperature, significantly elevated pulse and blood pressure, and was given prescriptions for the main infection and for my eye. We then went and found a pharmacist who filled the prescriptions, but she didn’t speak English, either.

I had to skip the trip to see the cave (and its paleolithic paintings) and the fortress, but I wasn’t feeling up to the effort, anyway. After a day or so, I could tell that the medicine was helping. Unfortunately, it wasn’t sufficient. I was only given a 3-day course of antibiotics, and when they’d run out, I relapsed. Sunday, our last day in Istanbul, I stopped eating, because I couldn’t handle it. Since then, I’ve had a small dish of vanilla ice cream on one of the flights, and some pancakes this morning.

I had other symptoms kick in on the trip back. I’m sure you don’t need details. In any event, the associated gas and cramping have made me unwilling to eat much, if anything. I bought some juice this evening, but it didn’t really taste as good as it usually does. At least I got new medicine to take with it – I managed to get an appointment at my doctor’s office on short notice today. With luck, I’ll be getting healthy again soon.

One thing – I lost about 10 pounds on the trip. I could certainly afford to lose that much (and more), but it’s not the best way of losing weight.

Musical Evenings

August 22nd, 2014

Last night was the second anniversary of the Adrift Tiki Bar‘s opening, and the Denver Ukulele Community was invited to perform. It wasn’t a bad evening, but it could have been better. We were out on the back patio, and it was crowded, in large part because it was small. It was also noisy – I’m not sure how well we were heard, particularly during the solos after the group performances.

I did two solos: Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World, and The Vogues’ Five O’Clock World. At least one person heard me, and came up afterward to tell me how much he enjoyed my performance of the Brooks and Dunn song. He must have been thinking of some other group that covered one of the songs (Five O’Clock World has been covered by a number of performers), because Brooks and Dunn haven’t done either of those.

Tonight, we’ll be seeing Manhattan Transfer at the Arvada Center. Should be a good evening if the rain holds off, which is not what the weather forecast is leading me to expect. We weren’t able to get seats in the covered area, so we’ll be on the lawn. Might be a damp (or wet) evening.

Tunesday

August 19th, 2014

Been a while since I’ve done one of these. Figured I’d do one to mark Ginger Baker’s 75th birthday. He’s been in a lot of groups – here are selections from a few of them.

No Capes!

Seen on this evening’s walk

August 14th, 2014

Three-Great-Horned

So long, Butch. I’ll hold down the fort.

August 7th, 2014

When I first met Butch, it was at a party hosted by Paul, the guy my friend Sarah was living with. She and her sister Penelope were entertaining the guests with their antics and by generally being cute. The next New Year’s Day, Sarah called and said, “I’m leaving Paul. Can I stay with you for a few days until Marsha can take me in?”

I told her of course she could. She showed up later that day with Orson, Butch, and Penelope in tow. A few days later, she and Orson moved in with Marsha, leaving Butch and Penelope with me. They were both about a year old at that time, and having two not-quite-kittens around was fun.

A week or so later, Sarah said Paul wanted one of the kittens, so Penelope left, because Sarah thought Penelope would be less likely to get into serious trouble there (Butch had a lot more … personality). A couple years later, when Butch sneaked into the dryer after I’d finished my last load and got trapped, I figured Sarah had been correct.

She used to sleep with me. We’d go to bed, and she’d wrap her hind legs around my upper arm and knead my neck for a while. She’s the only cat I’ve known that snored. After a few years, she started putting on a lot of weight, and I acquired Kiki to be a playmate for her. That didn’t work out, and I had to banish both cats from my bedroom at night.

There was never enough lap time for her, and she’d let you know if she thought you weren’t petting her properly. She was a very loud cat until recently, and was a shedding engine from the day I got her. I remember telling Sarah about a week after she left Butch with me, “I had no idea that I had such a cat hair deficiency in my life!” She loved to spend time in the garden, even though I didn’t let her out much or without supervision, since she was declawed before I got her. If I didn’t supervise her closely enough, she’d start exploring the neighborhood.

A couple of years ago, she started losing a lot of weight and her fur got ugly. The doctor prescribed thyroid medication, which stabilized her weight around 9 pounds (down from a 15-pound peak). The medicine helped a lot, bringing back her appetite, letting her put a little weight back on, getting her fur back in shape, and making her healthier overall.

It’s no longer enough, though. Her appetite’s been lessening for a few weeks, and now she’s pretty much stopped eating. She can still get onto her favorite furniture, but she’s not steady on her feet, and sometimes has to try twice or more to jump onto a lap. Last night, she stopped to lie down three times going from her chair in the living room to the food dishes in the kitchen. This morning, for the first time in years, she wasn’t outside my bedroom door to let me know that she was ready for breakfast. She was already in the kitchen, lying down on a rug near the food bowls. She did eat a little, but threw it up almost immediately.

At 9:00 this morning, we went into the vet’s office. Once we were in the examining room, I kept Butch on my lap and petted her until the vet asked for her weight. She was 6 pounds. She lay down on the counter and I continued to pet her until the end. The vet came back shortly with two hypodermics. We put her on a towel and he gave her a muscle relaxant. Less than a minute later, she looked almost as though she were asleep, but her eyes were still partly open. Her breathing was so slow and shallow that I thought she might not even need the second shot. Shortly thereafter, I said “Goodbye, Butch” as he gave her the euthanasia injection. Her breathing stopped almost immediately.

At 9:35, I left with a cat carrier full of about 17 years of memories.

UPDATE: I almost forgot – I wrote a poem for her several years ago.

Partners in Crime
An Ode to US Patent #5443036

A mighty huntress is my Butch, a cat both fast and agile.
I try to keep her occupied, and far from all things fragile.
She is a wild barbarian cat – can’t find a toy? She’ll make one.
If laundry isn’t put away, she’ll find the socks and take one.
But better far than sock of mine is spot of red from laser.
Although she never catches it, it doesn’t seem to faze her.
She’ll chase it ‘cross the floors and walls, and track it on the ceiling.
She chatters when it goes too high, her frustrations revealing.
We have fun; I think it helps to keep her lithe, not fattened.
Although, it seems that we’ve been violating someone’s patent.
Must I pay a license fee, else suffer time in jail?
I don’t think that appeals to me, and Butch won’t go my bail.
The patent office may proclaim they’re only following rules,
But when they granted this one, I think that they were fools.

Plumb and Plumber

July 28th, 2014

Saturday was a slightly worrisome day. I was trying a new bagel recipe, and the dough was stiff enough that my stand mixer (a 6-quart KitchenAid) quit while kneading. I called Marion to let her know that these would likely be the most expensive bagels she’d ever had. I then went online to look for troubleshooting and repair information.

Luckily, it was only a thermal cutout to prevent damage from overheating. Half an hour later, the mixer worked without problems.

The other problem was that one of my cats decided to start disassembling the toilet in the ground floor bathroom. Nothing serious, but whichever cat it was (and I have my suspicions) had removed one of the caps that cover the bolts that hold the toilet in place, and had been batting it around as a toy. Idiot beast.

I think I’ve mentioned that I like snarky movie reviews

July 16th, 2014

I caught most of Conan the Destroyer this evening. I find it enjoyable enough, but I preferred the first one. The sidekick in this one is very annoying, among other things. I really like the music during the scene when they’re reviving the god, though.

I do remember part of one review when the movie came out, referencing Wilt Chamberlain’s role as a warrior assigned to kill Conan: “The man can’t even defense Bill Russell, how’s he going to stop Arnold the Barbarian?”

Now, that is a comment that’s tough to refute.

Good, interesting, music

July 12th, 2014

I’ve been down for a few days with some sort of digestive system disorder, but Marion had tickets for Thursday’s performance of the Colorado Symphony at the Arvada Center, so we went. The weather was threatening, but never actually rained during the concert, which was nice.

There was music I’d heard before, and music I hadn’t. Two pieces, one of which was Habanera from Carmen, featured a soloist on musical saw. Definitely not what we were expecting, but quite interesting. Scott O’Neil, the conductor, was also very entertaining. He started doing high kicks during the performance of Can-Can, and had some amusing anecdotes about some of the pieces, including the problems with performing certain pieces at educational concerts (“The theme from Peter Gunn? Oh, no, Mr. Neil, we can’t have Peter Gunn performed!”)

The concert was in three sets, with two intermissions. The first two sets were mostly classical music, and the third set had all of the television and movie themes: Peter Gunn, the Pink Panther, Raiders March, and so on. The only way the third set could have been better for me would have been if it included Harlem Nocturne, which was used as the theme for the Mike Hammer TV show.