Saturday, May 31, 2008

In which Motu (nearly) causes an international incident by breaking into the German embassy

(SB, will you talk to me now? Please.)

Prague. Across from the lovely Grand Hotel Europa building on Vaclavske Sq.

"We have to go in here"

"Its a shopping mall"

"I know"

"We are shopping?"

"Not as far as I know"

"So what are we doing in a shopping arcade?"

"The guidebook says there's some cool stuff in there"

"Wow, you actually read the guidebook?"

"I am not that useless"

"Yeah right"

"Shh. Here, look"

"Hmm..what is this supposed to mean?"

"David Černý. He doesn't really explain. This particular one is supposed to the current Vaclav dude on an upside-down horse. As opposed to the original Vaclav on his proper horse outside"


"Yeah. There's more stuff by this chap. Like crawling babies on TV tower. And there is one inside the German embassy"

"Inside the German embassy?"

"Yeah. In the gardens. Its a Trabant on four legs signifying the East Germans who took refuge in the embassy in 1989"

"Can we see this thing?"

"I guess we can go there and find out"

"I guess. How far is it?"

"Mala Strana. Far. But walkable"

"Lets go"

Obviously, we got sidetracked. A hidden garden and a cubist lampost just off the Sq which no one was interested in, a Japanese restaurant tucked away in a side street, alleys with teeny views of the buildings of Old Town Sq, the very crowded and touristy Old Town Square, the very very crowded Charles Bridge, a quiet cafe with breathtaking views of the bridge and the Castle not to mention the friendly Czech at our adjacent table who gave us restaurant recommendations in Jewish town, the water-wheel, the Lennon wall all happened before we found ourselves climbing up this quiet, hilly road in Mala Strana.

"You sure its here?"

"Yeah, see all the flags. We are in the diplomatic quarter"

"If you say so"

"There, the German flag"

"Huge building"


"How do we get to the garden?"

"How do I know?"

"Dude, we are here to see this Trabant"

"I know but wait...hang on. I think we keep climbing"

"But the embassy is here"

"Yeah but the garden is right behind up the hill. Here, see the map. So if we climb up and look down we should be able to see it"

"You sure about this?"

"Do you have a better idea?"

A few minutes later we cross the embassy building and find ourselves next to a childrens' park. We double back through the park to the the hedges that go around the embassy building.

"There, there it is"

"Hang on, let me take a picture"

"You can't take a picture"

"Of course I can"

I drop my backpack, put the camera around my neck and start climbing.

"What are you doing?"

"Trying to take a picture"

"These are hedges. They can't hold your weight and anyway there is no grip"

"You know what? I am short and you are Bong. Unless you can drink up some magic portion and get to what the world considers normal height, this is my best bet. So give me a hand and shut up"

"Whatever you say darling"

"It is working. I got two decent pictures"


"Dude, there's a woman walking towards us"


"She is waving and saying something"

"What is she saying?"

"You are the one who knows German, not me. I think she means no photos"

"Get down now"

"She might just be saying hello"

"She is German for God's sake. How many friendly Germans have you met in your life?"

"Okay I am coming down"

Scramble down. Pick up backpack. Run for five minutes. In rush, forget that we actually have to go downhill and run uphill instead. Which ended up being just as well as we got the most picture perfect view of the city on a hill that we (mostly) had all to ourselves. End of story.

Coming up in this series: Chotu Motu go to see Mayor of Adrspach

The Lying, the bitch and the wadrobe

Anthony Lane turns hard-line Marxist, thanks to Sex and the City. Don't you love the guy?

And while we are on the topic, amusing stuff from moi's workplace. So sometime last week we all got very pink e-mails from the the people responsible for the office's social calendar (i.e. the four women in Operations) inviting us all for dinner and movie night next Tuesday. Needless to say, I ignored it until one of the four women caught me at the water-cooler on Thursday.

"You haven't signed up for the movie night yet?"

"No, I can't actually. I have people visiting from out of town" Obviously I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

"That's a shame"


"Maybe you can just come for dinner"

"That's not a bad idea"

"We were just going to send out an e-mail asking for people to sign-up just for dinner. Almost all the men are complaining that they don't want to see the movie but they would like to come for dinner. You know how men hate Sex and the City?"

"Hmm. Have they all signed up though?"

"Yes, most of them have. But it is only because they didn't have a choice about the movie. We are going to send out an e-mail now, so I reckon the numbers for the movie would come down"

"I doubt it"


"Yeah, I am up for dinner. Do sign me up for that. And let me know how many men switch to just dinner"

I talked to her again last night at the pub. Number of men who changed their minds: Zero. Now they are saying that they are going to watch the movie so that they can make fun of the women watching the movie. Go figure.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rooster stories from Malmo (1 of X)

There are way too many stories from last month that needs to get on to the blog that I have no idea where to start. Chronological order. No, too proper for me. Reverse maybe. Or maybe I should do the London ones first. In some order, I got to do posts on the following: Chotu Motu in Adrspach, Plzen (Cat: you are not a beer drinker, are you?), Budapest, Eger, Copenhagen, TR in London[1], Rooster stories in Malmo - the list is never-ending. I should just pick one? Okey, I shall do Malmo just to make the birthday boy happy.

So the story is that the Rooster boy (aka Emil who makes regular appearances on this blog under the Sweden, Bamse labels) turned 30 a week ago and decided that he wanted a party to celebrate the occasion. In the interests of diversity not to mention illegal immigrant labor to clean up after the party, Bill, moi and an Egyptian-American friend (M) were duly invited. When I mentioned that I won't be able to take off work as I was already taking most of May off, our man threatened the small island that if they did not give me days off, the Vikings (with horns) would come flying on SAS and pillage whatever's around. So it was all settled and Bill and I were to fly to Copenhagen and take the train across the Oresund to Malmo, the most continental of all Swedish cities.

The whole trip, needless to say, was entertaining from beginning to end as it is with most things the Rooster is involved in, and since I am not good at copious trip accounts, I am just going to do conversation snippets. The first one here:

The Present

Ten minutes before we were to leave for the airport.

Bill: Shoot. I forgot something.

Moi: What now?

Bill: His sister asked to write something for the scrapbook they are making. I haven't sent anything.

Moi: Write now

Bill: Ya ok. Can you pack my stuff?

Moi: Beg your pardon?

Bill: How will I write and pack my stuff in 10 minutes?

Moi: If you don't, you can come on the next flight

Bill: Yeah? Whose money will be lost then?

Moi: Okay write. I will pack. Hey.

Bill: What?

Moi: We haven't bought anything for him

Bill: Oh no. I forgot about that

Moi: What are we going to do now? What shall we get him?

Bill: Some Bamse stuff?

Moi: Yeah I thought about that. We could get him a Skallman time machine or something. But you can't get it here.

Bill: Yeah.

Moi: What else can you think of?

Bill: Let me think. What do you get a geek who is obsessed with graphs, trees, Bamse, saving the world and well, penises?

Moi: Do NOT go there. We are not getting any of the stuff that's swirling around in your head right now. I know what to get. Book.

Bill: Well, what book?

Moi: Geek. Double major CS and music. Likes graphs, trees and well, design. What book will you get him?

Bill: When you put it that way, yeah. Why didn't I think of it before?

Moi: Because you are useless. Lets go. Finish writing now.

Obviously it all worked out fine and the Rooster boy was in love with the Gödel, Escher, Bach. Except that he was a little too excited that he began to treat it like a picture book. He walked around with it showing everyone pages of theorems, and graphs and notes and claiming how its all too cool. Bill's pretentiousness rubbing off. Not a good thing.

Coming up next:
1. The Swedish obession with God's (or as they like to call it, Bamse's) own country
2. Real Swedish men wear Bjorn Borg underwear

[1] Yeah, a very entertaining time was had. Details when I get around to it. Man does people watching like no one else I know. And the only thing that I am certain of now is that tpb does not exist in real life. First, she wasn't coming, then she had to go to Oxford, and no, she is not going to Scotland with him, I mean, how many excuses can one come up with? He is most definitely making her up so that people would think he has this cool and interesting wife and since he has an interesting wife, he must have an interesting life etc. etc.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Back and not off again for a long, long time

Yep, moi's back from last holiday of the month and unfortunately no plans to go anywhere else in the near future but before that, wait, first things first. It has been brought to my attention that certain high-brow bloggers we are all so fond of have been behaving as if their visit to London consisted of jumping from one art museum to another and that a reality check is due. And so, without further ado, I give you:

Falsie in London - The Bottlecount

(And that's just from half day Sunday the weekend before last. He was in town for a week so you do the Math)

Now that that's out of the way, here are a couple of shots from the last weekend. All people present were in agreeance that there were worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than sipping coffee in front of the apartment with a view, or well, more than one view. Lots of entertaining details on this trip coming up soon.

Anyone care to guess where these pictures were taken? You shall be rewarded with pictures of more cool structures. (Clue: The cable stayed thingie connects two countries, and is the longest border crossing bridge in the world, I am told)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shatranj Ke Khilari

One of the many unexpected delights in Prague was stepping down to Prague Castle grounds after an overwhelming hour around the castle buildings to discover a set of about a dozen photograph installations which were part of a Jiri Vsetecka retro called Prague Walker. All the photographs on display were brilliant and this one shot during May Day Parade, 1962 particularly so.

Any online pointers to this chap's pictures would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Oh, bonus. While we are sort of on the topic, check this one out. (Might have to click and enlarge to read)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back and not off again (for now)

Yep, back. The trip was great. Ten sunny days and got back to find that sun's been visiting this part of the world too. Miracle alright! Was supposed to be off to Chicago today for firm meeting but client intervened so shall spend the rest of the week in London. Can't complain as I need some time to recover from vacation though Dan Ariely talk (and needless to mention, Chicago in spring) would have been fun. But anyway, the news is I am back. And not going anywhere for another week.

Quick notes from travels:

1. Czech R was great. Hungary was nice. Prague was beautiful and crowded. Budapest was pretty and crowded. Fell in love with the Bohemian countryside both North and South. The Hungarian countryside reminded me of the plains of India.

2. Prague is beautiful. Its hyped and crowded and touristy but it is beautiful. Did I say it is beautiful? I have not seen a more beautiful city. (Only Berlin comes close but that's a different kind of beauty, the Chicago type)

3. All of you who informed me that Prague is super touristy, yep, you were right. If you stick to the three most popular destinations in Prague. If you could not take the time to veer off the tourist trail and lets admit it, all you had to do was to walk three minutes in any direction from the crowd, you deserve the tourists and everything that comes with . Obviously this is true of most cities and it bugs me everytime people go on an on about how touristy cities are while all they have done is jump on a tour bus or train from one square to another. What do you expect anyway? And its not like its difficult - any halfway decent guidebook would give you enough options and if you don't like them, just take the road that has the least number of people. In most cities, it works. It worked beautifully in Prague.

4. People are damn friendly in both Czech R and Hungary, especially in the former. For some reason, we weren't expecting them to be and were pleasantly surprised. Especially when you make an effort to say something in their language. Or the language of their neighboring lands. Even if the neighbour in question invaded said country all the time.

5. When they said that Hungarian is different from the Indo-European languages, they were right. It is not like once you know what it means, you can get back to its root. You can't. So do not try.

6. When you actually understand what they are saying, do not jump up and down with joy. You do not understand Magyar. They were speaking in German so that you could understand. (You can already see a long Chotu - Motu post, no?)

7. In hindsight, a car might have helped in both countries. I mean when was the last time you visited national parks without own transportation? Also, we overestimated the frequency of buses / trains, so had to make some compromises such as skip Bratislava and the Sedlec ossuary at Kutna Hora. On the other hand, there is that thing about public transportation - of seeing trains and engines in foreign lands; of figuring out the differences between CD (Czech R), OBB (Austria) and the one-and-only Deutsche Bahn all within the span of a day; of meeting people who don't have a thing in common with you and trying to speak to them; of waking up at half past five to stroll around the town and thus having the picture-perfect tourist haven of Český Krumlov all to yourself because it is Liberation Day and the only bus out of town leaves at 8 am; and last but not least, an unexpected, stolen couple of hours in a cafe outside Wien Westbahnhof exactly six years after you first fell in love with the city[1][2] that makes the prospect of public transportation a little too alluring for some of us.

8. If there was one recurring theme on this trip, it was alcohol. We missed trains and buses because of Pilsner Urquell in Plzen, Pallinka in Budapest and Bull's Blood in Eger. Your alcohol correspondent will furnish details sometime.

9. Oh, something from Bill. A special note from one bong to another: TR, go to place called Horgasztanya near the Buda embankment and have one of their special fish soups.

10. BM, MR, I missed you. Really. I absolutely hate being the one taking photographs. It is one of the things I hate in trips. For me, everytime I pick up the camera, it takes away from the experience of the place. I hate it. And yet, in this trip, I was compelled to as Bill wouldn't come anywhere near the camera and someone had to take pictures. It sucks. Yeah, the pictures were okay but that is NOT the point.

11. Bill and I managed to spend a whooping six days with each other all the time for the first time since we have known each other. After that, we did a fair bit of seeing cities alone and meeting up here and there but we survived.

12. If you have to be anyone in Czech R, you have to be called Vaclav. If you have to be anyone in Hungary, you have to be called István.

13. Lastly, what is the point of new places if it does not remind you of familiar things or people? So here are a few for those of you in the blog world:

Picture A: Post office at Budapest. I couldn't go to the central one where all of Space Bar's letters to István Gaál went to but every time I passed a post office in the city, I could only think of SB and István.

Picture B: SB, no, it has California in it so it had to be BM, no?

Picture C: Tough one as I know there are a few people who will be pissed off if I do not mention them but I will take my chances. For SB, BM, Ludwig and KM.

Picture D: Bad picture. But still, need I say anything? Really?

[1] Yeah Anoop, yeah BM, same place. And before you correct me, I know its not exactly six years but just a week off no? Please to excuse.

[2] Yeah yeah, if we had missed the train to Budapest, that would have meant we would have had to spend the night walking the streets of Vienna. Maybe six years ago this might have been not a very bad option but with current company, especially when you can play the entire night ka conversation in your head without saying a word, we both preferred to catch the train and get a good night' sleep in Budapest.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

From Baker Street to Bohemia

In search of Irene Adler obviously. So no need to plan Bill says. She will miraculously just appear to him, I guess.

Anyway, yes, off again. Nope, not just Bohemia. Some Slovakia and a decent bit of Hungary thrown in too. See you in a few days.

Count, we found her!

Or the street that had Bill jumping up and down with joy.

Because the woman apparently is our man's second ever fictional crush. Where is the first, you ask? Come on now, you skipped the post above this, didn't you?

Chotu Motu in Barcelona - Part 2

Long overdue. This been sitting in draft for a few days but no time right now, so sort of half baked.

"What in the world is that contraption?"

"Sagrada Familia. Church of Sacred Family"

"I have never seen a church like this one"

"Yeah, its the most visited attraction in this city apparently"

"I wouldn't call it an attraction but yes, I can see why people want to see this"

"You reckon this guy must have been a little off?"

"A little? Way off man"

"Wonder how they let him get away with it"

"Anything in the name of the Lord I guess. Though to be fair to them, they did get him killed by pushing him under a tram or something so that he wouldn't build the thing"

"Didn't quite work no? They are still building it"

"Where were the anarchists? Weren't they supposed to be against this sort of nonsense?"

"Good point. No idea why they didn't strip this"

"They probably did and Franco put it all back. Who knows?"

"Dude, what's that green thingy at the top?"

"What green..yeah, I see it"

"You don't want to know. Guidebook claims its a cypress tree. Look at it!"


"And all those things hanging all over the place - they are all supposed to be trees and leaves"

"No. You know what this looks like with all stuff coming out here and there? You remember those Bactrian camels in Lincoln Park Zoo? When they in the process of shed their skin or whatever"



"I know. I wonder what all these people are admiring. They all seem entranced"

"Nonsense. They are all thinking the same thing just can't voice it in front of their guides"

"Could be"

"Guidebook says the other side is cleaner"

"This thing could do with some cleaning alright. Lets go check it out"

Chotu Motu start walking around to the other side.

"Coach tour territory"

"Coach in Barcelona. These Americans are crazy"

"Well, those people look very Gujju to me"

"Same thing"

"No its not"

"It is only. Dude, check this out!"

"Wow, I like this"

"I know. Is this the same structure?"

"Yes but Gaudy man had nothing to with it apparently. New chap still building stuff. Controversial design, they say"

"I can see why. But I love it"

"It is quite cool. I love the Giant Robot Jesus"

"Of course! Giant Robot. That's what it is"


"But I like the soldiers better. Look at them! Too cool, no?"

"Obviously a certain Mr Lucas thought so too"

"I guess"

"Hey, listen. That guide is talking in Hindi!"

"Not surprising, is it?"

"No, shh. I want to listen"

"I don't actually"

"We know why. Because you will think its Spanish. Shut up now"

Chotu walks with the Gujju-looking Amru group while Motu walks up and down shooting pictures. A few minutes later.

"Ah, you are back. I was beginning to think they are going to adopt you or something"

"Enough. You have no idea what that chap is saying"

"What chap?"

"The guide"

"What is he saying?"

"Well, its not his fault. Poor chap. All aunties asking him why the things on this facade is so different from the other one"


"Chap tells them its because nobody knows how this new facade is getting built. Apparently apna hero died under the tram without finishing it. So he comes back from the dead when no is around and carves up these things"

"Stop making things up. That's my job"

"I am not making things up"

"You don't know Hindi or I don't know Hindi?"

"I am telling you that's what he said. Not lying. You come and listen to him"

"And that would help because?"

"What can I do if you don't know the language?"

"For one, you can stop talking nonsense"

"If you say so. But its true"

Oh, before you go, bonus: the original Gaudi where the helmet people first appeared. You will have a look a little hard to find them but they are there alright