Archive for the ‘Travels – I Has Them’ Category

Guatemala, Part 6.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Lake Atitlan. Get ready.

But first, Antigua’s main plaza! That I forgot to add to the Antigua posts earlier! I love how there’s old ruins and new ruins and everything all sort of mooshed together.

And I only made it to the main cathedral at night so all my pictures are blurry, but here’s the best of the bunch. A beautiful building, beautifully lit.

Okay, Lake Atitlan. We stayed at a hotel with THE MOST AMAZING GARDENS EVER. The owner started them several decades before and lovingly caressed and cuddled them and now they’re mind-blowing.

You would think I had never seen a plant before in my life the way I reacted to this garden. Right outside our room there were some screamy parrots that came out of their enclosure during the day to sit in the vines and shriek violently at the guests. One was a scarlet macaw. He was extra-screamy.

And there was one tree on the far edge of the property with the most interesting pattern in its bark. I felt like I was in a werewolf movie.

And here are the closeups I took of specific plants. Fun tidbit: while taking some of these photos, The Moomins had to protect me from getting attacked by an ornery goose that lives near a small koi pond on the property. I guess I got too close to the goose’s woman and he was disgruntled. It was worth almost dying at the hand (wing?) of waterfowl because these plants were something else, I tell ya.

We went out on a tour of the lake itself. I did not know that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, crash-landed in Guatemala and saw the mountain there that inspired him to write the “draw me a sheep” portion of the book. Specifically the elephant in the snake that is mistaken for a hat. <—- That sentence sounds like I had a stroke but if you’ve read the book it makes sense I promise.

Here’s an article about Saint-Exupéry and Guatemala.

https://globalvoices.org/2008/07/11/guatemala-was-antigua-the-inspiration-for-the-little-prince/

There was also a napping volcano. Shhhhh, Volcano, everything is fine. No make ‘splosions.

Aaaaaaaand that’s pretty much the highlights from my trip. However, one of the other people on the trip, Boris (who had THE BEST Russian accent in the world) had a far superior camera and took some unbelievable pictures of birds and other beasties. He was kind enough to share them with me, and now I will share them with you.

Guatemala, Post 5.

Friday, November 17th, 2017

More Antigua! But first, other things.

We drove past a funeral. It was quite sad. A police officer had been killed. I love how the whole neighborhood showed up and was walking with the family to show support. There was also a band playing mournful walking music and I think we as a nation need to get on that.

I saw a fountain and I liked how they planted flowers birds-of-paradise flowers the fountain. Plus there was a pigeon and I am on Team Pigeon 4 Lyfe. Extremely pro-pigeon. Not ashamed of it.

Okay, so Antigua. The buildings are very short and the roads are extremely wide because if an earthquake destroys a building and it pitches forward it doesn’t knock down the building on the opposite side.

There is a former nunnery in Antigua, Convent of las Capuchinas. It cost a lot of money to become a nun and that, combined with the constant battery of earthquakes, caused the nunnery to be shut down.

The grout that holds those brick walls together was a mixture of sand, gravel and egg whites. The city apparently ran out of eggs during the construction of this building.

The wine cellar for holy ceremonial wines was build like a doughnut with a big column in the middle which is how it survived all the earthquakes. It has great acoustics so the nuns used to go down there and sing and maybe sample the wines.

And there are gardens which are beautiful. It’s not too hard to have a gorgeous garden in Antigua, I saw many of them.

As we walked along the street during the sunset on the last night we found a rooftop bar in an old mansion-type home. The fancy older buildings reminded me of Spain. They tended to have huge scary exterior walls:

And gorgeous compound-like interiors with gardens. This was no exception.

When we went up to the roof you could really appreciate how the city is nestled in between the mountains.

• | • | • | INTERMISSION | • | • | •

Dia de los Muertos-type dolls! Same store as the decorated antlered skulls. I showed restraint and did not buy them.

• | • | • | INTERMISSION OVER | • | • | •

That’s all my photos on Antigua. I only have four photos for the town of Panajachel, a town on the edge of Lake Atitlan (more about Lake Atitlan in a bit) so let’s go through those.

CHARCH! In Panajachel we visited the church. I liked the architectural style

The inside of the church looked like and upside-down boat.

And there was a nice carved monster holding up the display board in the back.

Here was the biggest surprise for me in Panajachel. Stay with me here: There is a semi-famous artist from Vienna Austria named Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000). His artwork is extremely distinctive. It’s difficult to mistake it for someone else’s work. Here are some examples.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see a rather large mural featuring some of Hundertwasser’s work in this small village in Guatemala.

Whattup, Hundy? How you doin’?

Okay, coming up next: Lake Atitlan. Get ready for the most insane plants you have ever seen.

Guatemala, Part 4.

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Antigua! A city in Guatemala with, like, 30 churches! Some are still functioning, some are only facades. Everything is protected because the whole city is a UNESCO site. Here are some of the façades. You can see there ain’t nuthin’ back there.

 

A popular motif in Antiguan churches is St. James on a horse leaping over the three giant mountains that surround the city.

Antigua has been around for almost five centuries and our guide called the prominent architecture style “Spanish seismic baroque.” As in, oh the earthquake broke this chunk of the building off, we will replace it with little to no concern to whether it matches or not. In addition, when the church insisted that the indigenous people build these new houses of worship, the people incorporated elements of their existing religion in there. For example, here is one of the most famous Antigua churches, the Iglesia de la Merced.

In my photos it looks like it’s a muddy mustard but in real life it’s a festive banana pudding color. Now, one might assume that those are grape vines on the pillars around the front door, right? Nope! Corn! It’s corn! One of the most sacred things to the Mayans!

And that four-pointed motif in the archway, that must represent the cross, right? Nope! Symbol for Mayan sun worship! Sneakin’ it all in there!

Moving on to other churches: Here is the Catedral of Antigua. Many of the hands of the outdoor sculptures are missing because of the earthquakes. I guess that’s the first part to break off.

If this is their approach to Baroque, I like it. Baroque as a design system can be a little overwhelming, especially the end of the period, known as Rococco. Here, have some examples:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rococo#/media/File:BasilikaOttobeurenHauptschiff02.JPG

https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5012/5399173556_01eeb03ca5_b.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Amalienburg_Spiegelsaal-1.jpg/800px-Amalienburg_Spiegelsaal-1.jpg

http://www.macklowegallery.com/images/CMS/Glossary%20of%20Terms/Rococo.jpg

See what I mean? Lots of stuff on all the surfaces all the time. That’s why I prefer this atypical approach to Baroque. Enough stuff on some of the surfaces some of the time.

While staying in Antigua I went tot a walk down the street and came across the Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande. They have it lit beautifully at night.

Near the small side chapel door was a mosaic of a fish. I thought he looked friendly.

There was a cross sculpture in front. That’s not unusual in itself. What was unusual was the symbolism. Note the stop sign hand, the tunic, the gambling dice, and less easy to see are the ladder and blacksmithing instruments across the horizontal beam. Does anyone know why those specific things are there? If you do, let me know. I could not figure it out.

Other church-related things: The view out of the door of one of the churches.

The altar of one of the churches clearly done in Empire style, that’s Napoleon’s time (which was a rebirth of Greco-Roman style, errybody be stealin’ from errybody else):

This wall tableau of The Father, The Sun and The Holy Ghost. I loved that instead of a normal round halo, The Father has a triangle representing the all-seeing eye, the same one on our dollar bill. And please note Jesus’ halo which resembles a Mayan crown.

http://cropcircleconnector.com/images/stela1.JPG

We were there during a festival of some kind (Easter? Maybe Easter? Sure, let’s go with Easter) and the Guatemalans have a really cool way of decorating their church. They dye sawdust and using stencils they create beautiful temporary carpets on the floor.

This was a small one that SOMEONE SMUDGED UP THERE IN THE FRONT. I would be so angry if I had toiled on this carpet and someone let their dog or kid mess up my work. I wouldn’t kick a dog or a kid but I might kick the person responsible for that dog or kid.

In another church there was a far larger carpet surrounded by ripe fruit and vegetables. It smelled very, very good. Could have done without the angel lawn ornaments but it’s not my carpet or church.

Next entry: more Antigua.

Guatemala Part 3.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Coffee beans! But first, chicken buses.

Chicken buses are one of the primary ways people get around in Guatemala. It’s called a chicken bus because people would tie baskets of chickens to the roof with the rest of their luggage. They are school buses from America that we’re done with. Guatemala buys them, paints them in the jauntiest of colors, gives it a name like “Esmerelda,” slaps some chrome and maybe some lights on there and uses them as mass transit. Not surprisingly, I loved them.

Type in “Chicken Bus Guatemala” into Google Images and scroll through that. It’s a vibrantly-festooned good time.

Coffee beans! I went to a coffee plantation in Costa Rica and a lot of the information is the same concerning how the plant grows and how its harvested, etc. Here’s a link to that:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2012/02/28/costa-rica-2012-part-7/

Here is the enormous cement area where the coffee beans are spread out to dry.

Here are the beans dry before roasting.

These are coffee bean plants and a little pollinating bee. You go, bee! I’m proud of you.

 

Would you like to see the scariest roasting machine ever? Here ya go. If someone wheeled that into a room where I was being held captive I would immediately start spilling state secrets.

Teeniest church ever on the coffee plantation. Fits four parishioners max.

And gorgeous plants all over the property, especially the striped boo.

In the main house the owner had some coffee-oriented items. There was a collection of spoons.

And cups.

And a coffee advertisement from 1657. It looked like an olde versionne of a 1950s ad:  “Coffee puts pep in your step!”

There was a small museum on the coffee plantation. Similar to Mexico (which is not surprising since they share a big ole border) Guatemala uses those lovely paper-cut decorations on their ceilings.

And also, not surprisingly, there’s a whole bunch of spiritual non-Christian religious traditions that are still practiced. Here is a small costume worn in a ceremony. Common themes are mirrors and masks which you can see here.

There was a store in the city of Antigua (more on Antigua later) where they had a whole wall of these kinds of costumes and masks decorated with sequins and antlers. I wanted everything on that wall. It’s a good thing that place was closed most of the time because I would have laid my credit card down and asked them to fill up a truck.

While we’re here, let’s look at some random bits and pieces that relate to anything else specifically. First, geckos in light fixtures! I do love me some geckos in light fixtures.

A cemetery on a hillside. Vibrantly-painted mausoleums. I think that’s something we should adopt here, everyone should have their tomb painted the color they loved most. It tell you a little something about the deceased.

Every culture has a craft that they are excellent at. In Guatemala it’s thread-based. The embroidery / cross-stitch / loomwork / quilting / braiding is unreal in both its skill and diversity of styles. I bought some stunning bracelets using a popular pattern but different colors.

Here’s a Pinterest page that shows a pretty good sampling of the variety of threadwork. It’s pretty phenomenal.

https://www.pinterest.com/CasaAmarosa/guatemalan-embroidery/?lp=true

And here is something that made me laugh every time I saw it. In one of the hotels we stayed in there was a gift shop. No big whoop there. There was, however, a painted box on display. I assume the artist was trying to make a lovely tableau of Guatemalan items together, a themed still life. The only problem was there was an owl that looks like it had been sucker-punched in the back of the head while witnessing something profoundly traumatic. Every time I saw it I got the giggles.

Next entry: the town of Antigua.

Guatemala Part 2.

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Tikal! I saw jungle pyramids, everybody! Jungle. Pyramids.

Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about Tikal.

Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. … After the Berlin Academy of Sciences’ magazine republished the report in 1853, archeologists and treasure hunters began visiting the forest. Today, tourism to the site may help protect the rainforest. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. … Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, c. 200 to 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century AD. Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned. These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century.

No one from the modern era knew the pyramids were there. They were completely covered with dirt and trees. Some of them are still covered or partially covered, archeologists are still working on the site and it is massive. There was a 3d map in the main entrance center.

Also tall trees filled with air plants.

You basically wander around the rainforest on neatly organized trails past very very large stone structures. I imagine there’s some kind of system but because of the trees and unexcavated mounds it seems very higglety-pigglety.

You can tell the Mayan’s belief system was similar to the Aztecs because at Teotihuacan they considered the circle to be holy and used it a bunch on their art and refused to use wheels because they thought it would be disrespectful. On a building at Tikal I saw the wheels represented as well. So, I’m guessing overlap.

Some of the gargantuan temples you were allowed to climb. I didn’t, of course because any form of athletics are not my jam ever ESPECIALLY in a hot sweaty rainforest, but The Moomins did and I took a picture of her at the top. Very proud.

   

A lot of the buildings are still covered or in the process of being dug out of the centuries of soil that has accumulated on them.

There were beasties roaming the property. The most visible were the coatimundis. There were two right next to where we were sitting snuffling around in the dirt eating fruits that had fallen from the trees. Sorry there’s so many photos – they’re very cute animals and it was extremely difficult for me to cull the pile of pictures.

Coatimundis are in the raccoon family. These must have been males because the name means “forever alone.” The females and babies hang out in family units but the males are forced to forage by themselves. Further on the trail we saw a family unit. I think the pale ones are teenagers (this fact is based on precisely nothing, don’t get mad if it’s wildly untrue).

I saw a bird from the corvid family (crows, jays, ravens, magpies, etc.). I think it’s a jackdaw.

We saw a snekkie-snekk but he slithered off with great haste.

Small lizard friend.

We almost got peed on by a troupe of spider monkeys that were high in the treetops. And we glimpsed a toucanet betwixt the leaves.

However, I was exceptionally excited to see an ocellated turkey. They are the most beautiful ugly animals ever in the history of things. I once saw a taxidermied one for about two thousand dollars and I was sorely tempted to buy it because, c’mon, amazing. Better than peacocks. Like a turkey designed by Lisa Frank. See for yourself. These are all photos I found online.

See? GORGEOUS. Hideous and exquisite simultaneously. Even the female is dope and rainbow. Therefore I was so very excited to see one. I saw this sign and readied my body for the magical bird to appear.

Aaaaaaaand nothing. I know from safaris that you see what you see because nature can’t be controlled but … it’s a turkey! Not a jaguar! I feel like I was making a reasonable request to the heavens. I wanted to see the blue heads with what looks like little mandarin oranges stuck all over it. Sigh.

(If anyone is feeling real generous and wants to buy me a present, here’s the link to the taxidermied occelated turkey for sale.)

http://www.creelandgow.com/prod-pages/CaGa2880.html

Coming up: Coffee plantation.

Guatemala Part 1.

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

I’m back everybody! Back to blogging! I worked and worked and accomplished goals and I’m feelin’ good about it. Get ready to see a WHOLE BUNCH of art I made. But first, Guatemala. Back in March I went to Guatemala with my parents and now you’re going to learn things about it. I have completed the trinity of seeing the remains of all three major ancient cultures – The Mayans (Guatemala), The Aztecs (Mexico) and The Incas (Peru). Pre-Columbian fist pump to me. Let’s dive right in and see how much I remember from six months ago.

A good place to start would be the Popol Vuh which we visited on Day 1 or 2. Wikipedia gives a good definition of what that is.

Popol Vuh is a pre-conquest narrative dating to the Post Classic period, roughly CE 1000–1500. The actual written text, however, is a product of the Spanish colonial period. The title translates as “Book of the Community”, “Book of Counsel”, or more literally as “Book of the People”. Popol Vuh’s prominent features are its creation myth, its diluvian suggestion, its epic tales of the Hero Twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, and its genealogies. The myth begins with the exploits of anthropomorphic ancestors and concludes with a regnal genealogy, perhaps as an assertion of rule by divine right.

Just say “K’iche’ Bible,” it’s so much faster that way. K’iche’ is the language that was spoken in the area before Spanish became the lingua franca. It has a lot of gutteral stops which makes it a cool language to listen to (our guide spoke a little). Popol Vuh is also the name of the museum that houses most of the relics and archeological finds. If I had to sum up the art style I would quote our guide verbatim:

“The Mayans would mix toad venom with water lily essence, introduce it anally via an enema, and this allowed them to have visions and transcend different planes of existence.”

You know you could also… drink it. Does the tincture taste that bad? Maybe that’s a clue that you should not be ingesting it. Perhaps. Whatever. You do you. Anyway, the artwork really captures the aesthetic of drug-infused spiritual journeys. There were these baby-heads peering at me from the edge of a bowl:

This screaming pig (I’m unsure and picking pig as the animal represented but I could be wrong):

These jaguars with corn cobs growing out of their heads (corn is VERY big in the religion):

Men with mushrooms for heads:

Proto-Mickey Mouse chillin’ in a hot tub:

A man made of corn or cacao, I can’t remember which:

Small frogs and toad sculptures that I wanted to steal but didn’t because I have restraint and am afraid of prison:

Really Happy Jaguar Man with Leaf Hat:

This sculpture that I called Person With Runny Nose Riding Disgruntled Duck:

This guy who has the expression of someone who is holding two angry housecats that are going at each others’ throats and he’s like, “whoa, whoa, settle down guys:”

And my personal favorite, Spooky Bat:

In addition to that there were mumlettes! Mumlettes are what I call mummies that were placed in urns in the fetal position. I was first introduced to mumlettes in Peru.

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2015/09/01/south-american-2015-part-1/

The actual bodies are long gone but the urns are still around. Unsurprisingly, I loved them.

In the first two days we also visited the place where the “The Earth is going to end in 2012!!!!” came from. It’s called Quiriguá (pronounced Kih-ree-GWAH). It’s a collection of stelae (an upright stone slab or column typically bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design, often serving as a gravestone) hanging out in a field predicting the future. The front parts had portraits of the kings and the sides had hieroglyphics and dots and lines telling us what year it was made. This website, The Stelae of Quirigua, explains it far better.

The glyphs are read from left to right, starting from the top, with the pictures denoting the periods of time (i.e. years, months, days), and the dots (equaling 1 each) and vertical bars (equaling 5 each) providing the quantity of those periods. For example the top left is 9 B’ak’tun – approximately 3546 years, as each baktun roughly equals 394 years. This is followed by 18 Katuns – about 360 days, and so on. The full text provides a date of 9.18.15.0.0 3 Ahau 3 Yax, which equates to the July 22nd, 805.

That’s not even my favorite fact on the page. This is:

It is also interesting to note that monuments were defaced when the cities were abandoned, with particular attention being made on breaking the nose off – an action repeated across Meso-America. It is thought that this is symbolic of a belief that the statues were filled with the living power of the person they represented and that the soul of a living person resides in the nose – curiously, this belief was also held in Asia. Therefore, destroying the nose was effectively killing the monument.

Oh, and here’s a bit on the importance of corn:

On the side if Stela H is a wonderful depiction of Cauac Sky as the young God of Maize, emerging from the roots of “World Tree.” Corn was the main sustenance for the ancient Maya, and any ruler who could provide corn in abundance was considered to be an embodiment of the God of Maize and highly revered.

I remember something about their main god being made from four types of corn – white, yellow, red and black.

And concerning the end of the world happening in 2012, yes, the Mayan mention 2012 as the beginning of their new calendar. Nothing ends. It’s like when spring follows winter. Our guide said people camped out in front of the stelae and sang songs and anticipated the End of Days while the archaeologists and professors who knew what the stones meant and were probably hoarse from repeating themselves over and over rolled their eyes straight into the backs of their skulls.

Celestial events recur through time so using them to reference times in the past and the future was a very elegant solution – and one that appears to be built into the Mayan Calendar. … Curiously, the Mayan Calendar is not linear, but cyclical with a cycle length of 5,125 years, which perhaps confirms that it is based on a celestial event.

I think this is the text that caused all the hoohah.

And I took this picture for a reason but I’ve forgotten what it is. If anyone knows, let me know.

To protect the stelae from the elements they are under leaf roofs. They look like cute little chess pieces from a distance. In truth the stelae are huge, 12 feet tall and the like.

The trees are also insanely big. Here is The Moomins standing next to one.

And here is a wee orange butterfly that landed on one of the stelae and was photogenic.

Next entry: Tikal. BIG New World pyramids. Get psyched.

Acorn necklace.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Hi everyone, sorry about the delay. I went to Guatemala. Did I omit to mention that before I left? I think I did. My bad. Anyway, I’m back, I have pictures to sort, it’s a lot of work and we’ll get to it eventually. In the meantime, I made something and we should look at it.

Acorns! Who doesn’t like acorns? Communists and satanists, that’s who. Acorns are awesome. A few years back I was going to make something for my dad using beads and acorns but I never followed up on it.

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2013/03/18/the-elusive-beaded-acorn/

beaded-acorn4 beaded-acorn3

Well, recently I thought it would be nice to revisit the beaded acorn situation so I pulled them out of a drawer, unraveled the top part, incorporated gold beads and made it a pin for my sister.

acorn-necklace2

Aaaaaaand she hated it. She said it looked like two boobs. I said that’s what acorns look like and what the hell do you want me to do about it. She said make it less boob-like. I figured the only way to resolve that was to break it apart and add a third acorn. That way only people who were familiar with the three-boobed lady from Total Recall would make that connection.

acorn-necklace3

I ended up making what I thought was a lovely, non-boob-related necklace but she still didn’t like it. So guess who made herself a new necklace unintentionally? This gal! It’s a little bigger than I normally would like and it makes me feel like a prophet or soothsayer from a movie like The Fifth Element or Dune but whatever, I’ll wear it and make it work.

acorn-necklace1 acorn-necklace4

Iceland Part 9, Iceland and done.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

In addition to gawking over the landscape all the time I also ate Icelandic food. No, I did not try puffin or whale. Puffin was not in season and whale is supposed to be gross so it was not a difficult pass for me. I ended up making a reservation for Cricket and me at an extremely fancy restaurant called Dill. Dill serves cuisine using authentic local ingredients and you eat what they’re serving. Five courses or seven courses. That’s it. I liked the scariness of no control but I trusted them. I was right to do so.

dill1

Cricket and I ended up with the five-course meal because we were going to see the northern lights later and the seven-course took two and a half hours to serve (!). Here’s the menu.

dill2

We missed out on the dung-smoked trout (the table next to us had it and said it was fantastic, I felt epic FOMO) and the 99% Omnom (Icelandic brand of chocolate). The little appetizers that are listed as a clump at the top were okay, I did not care for the chicken skin with yeast but the shredded wolf-fish with brown butter was yummers.

dill3 dill4 dill5

Then there was the monkfish cheeks (known to be the softest part of the fish) cooked with artichokes and dulse which is red seaweed. I could have eaten a soup bowl full of that.

dill6

Followed by Cricket’s favorite: pickled tusk (a white fish similar to cod) served with seaweed, black garlic and a splash of yogurt. SO DELICIOUS. Pickling and fermentation plays a huge role in Icelandic cuisine since they only have fifteen minutes of daylight a year. In fact, Dill’s front window is made up of pickled items in jars.

dill14 dill7

Then my favorite: shredded fermented rutabaga, toasted rye bread crumbs and cod chunks. It had a faint vinegar flavor and in my photo some of it is missing because I forgot to take a photo first and immediately started snorfing it down.

dill8

The last savory dish we had was the pork belly with cracklins on top and parsnip with honey. It was okay. I mean, it was really good but the other dishes were kind of amazing so it was difficult to appreciate it.

dill9

And finally there was the dessert which was a fancy smore – cake made from rye, malted cream and prunes. I watched them make it (we were right next to the open kitchen) and the only concern I had was when the chef used the creme brulee torch on the cream. Please note the scorch marks on the wooden plates. Methinks maybe not wooden plates in the future, eh, chef?

dill10 dill11

This place was so Icelandic-themed they even gave us the check in a knitted pouch. Iceland is big on the knitting because of the sheepies.

dill13

The other place Cricket and I ate was magnificent, recommended by Snorth (thank you Snorth!). It was called Ostabudin and it’s kind of like a high-class delicatessen. We got the hot-smoked goose salad (may contain pellets) and the meat feast (also may contain pellets).

ostabudin1 ostabudin2

They were exquisite. And now I can say I have eaten horse! It tastes like bison. Red meat, very lean. If you’re down with cured meats (and I very much am) the meat feast was where it was at. You can also see they substituted the blue cheese for what they said translated literally to “ugly cheese” and they had built a little house of baguette slices over it to shield us from its ugliness (which I thought was overreacting, it looked like brie). I uncloaked the cheese for this photo.

ostabudin3

On our last night in Iceland, Cricket and I decided to go to a performance at the Harpa. The Harpa is the large music hall similar to Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. It was built to resemble the basalt columns and was covered in hexagons and lights. If you know me, you know my feelings about hexagons and lights (big big fan). So I adored the Harpa. I could not take an lame picture of it if I tried.

harpa12 harpa10 harpa6 harpa5 harpa4

It had a huge empty main space with several concert halls and theater spaces branching off from the primary area. There was a gift shop that sold your typical gift shop items, as well as some stranger choices. Like these books by the famous Icelandic cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson.

harpa8

And then there were some Christmas ornaments and they were also pretty typical except for one. Listen to this description: it clearly was made from a model of Finding Nemo‘s Squirt the Turtle but painted as if it was a drag queen with a foil rainbow Christmas tree impaled into its head. Because that’s what the world needed.

harpa13 harpa14

Anyway, the show we saw. The only thing being performed during our stay in Reykjavik was a electronic dance band called… The Vagina Boys. I wish I was kidding. I am not. There were signs all over town.

harpa1 harpa2 harpa3

So Cricket and I bought tickets and we went. It took place in an enormous black box theater and because we got there at 7:50 when the show was supposed to start at 8:00 (it didn’t start until 9:00, Cricket and I are extremely cool and “with it”) we got to claim a small patch of floor and camp out on it.

harpa11

We were waaaaay older than all the other people there. It was mostly high school kids. And I do love me some electronic dance music but this sounded like 21 Pilots sung in Icelandic. The Vagina Boys were predominantly mixing behind a musician named Kef Lavik. I found some of the music to give you a taste of the experience.

https://soundcloud.com/vaginaboys

Cricket and I lasted about an hour and then we were both like, “This is very nice mellow uninspiring music and we’re good.” The next day we packed up and headed back to the U.S. A few things in the airport I noticed:

In addition to the giant dragon’s egg sculpture there is also a sculpture of the end of the rainbow. I thought that was pretty cool.

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And two massive beautiful stained glass windows at either end of the interior space. Very Chagall / Picasso-esque.

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That’s my trip to Iceland. I would love to go back, possibly in the summer when the sun is out all the time and the wildflowers are blooming. We shall see if that comes to pass.

Iceland Part 8, More Reykjavik. NSFW.

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

You wanted to learn about a dick museum? Well, it’s your lucky day!

But first, a dick-free portion.

The Icelandic language looks like old, old, old, OLD English. Like Very First English. But you can see the similarities between the two languages.

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Look at this fun poster encouraging Icelanders to learn French! I took this mainly for the sheep’s face.

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Palate cleanser over. You prepared? Here we go.

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The Phallological Museum of Iceland is very small; It’s one room and it very clearly was started by one exceptionally creepy man who loved man junk and collected all the options. One day he said to himself, “Hey, Creepy Guy, I should make money by sharing this with the world,” and so he has. The first thought that comes to mind is “variety”. The second thought is “pickled naked mole rat” because dismembered genitals sitting in jars do not look their best. Let’s visit, shall we?

We got some horse dick:

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Elephant and whale dick:

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Big dicks, small dicks:

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Super teeny tiny dicks:

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Edible cured dick:

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Tired of side dick? How about straight-on dick?

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A goat head with no dicks in proximity and all the explanations were in Icelandic so no clue what’s going on here:

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Dicks as planters and scrotums as light fixtures because why should these dead animals have any dignity:

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Dick bones (most mammals have them):

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And then people stuff. The people stuff bothered me a bunch. It felt very, “Heheheh, people are gonna be looking at my twigs n’ berries, look at ’em, yeah.” I felt like I was an unwilling participant in someone’s fetish. Therefore I will spare you a picture of the 95-year-old-man to donated his genitals and they are on display. If you want to know what they looked like, think of whatever you think a 95-year-old man’s genitals would look like. There you go. I did like the metal casts of the entire Icelandic handball team.

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You get the gist. Are we good? Do we feel like I covered this? Excellent. Moving on.

The docks! Cricket and I went to the docks. Not surprisingly as Iceland is a seafaring nation. At the Maritime Museum we got to take a tour of a boat used in the Cod Wars. I did not mistype. The Cod Wars was about fishing rights around England and Iceland. No one died but many boats smashed into other boats and several people needed to be rescued. The boat we were on was a Coast Guard boat and only recently retired.

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The item I thought was the coolest on board was the mine. Everybody see Finding Nemo? Remember the scene with the sharks and the pokey metal balls on chains that blew up? I got to see one up close and in person. It was left over from WWII and one of this boat’s jobs was to sniff these guys out.

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The museum itself explained the history of fishing in Iceland and they had real dead desiccated fish in their display.

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A lot of dead fish.

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And this jaunty poem.

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To end this post on a classy note the primary reason Cricket and Mishi wanted to go to Iceland in the winter was the see the northern lights. We expected to see them all week but there were clouds. Finally, on the last night, there they were.

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I probably would have enjoyed them more if I hadn’t been sitting in the car yelling about the Communists and the Illuminati. Let me explain. We were sitting on a mountain and all of a sudden there was a faint green glow. We all asked each other, “Is that it? Do you think that’s it?” and five minutes later the green glow had built into a giant stripe across the sky and bits of the stripes were dancing, DANCING, I tell you. Look:

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Not right. Green lights dancing through the sky is un-right. Ergo me sitting in the car reacting like a flat-earth enthusiast. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, it’s just… I can understand why ancient civilizations might be freaked out.

Next post: Food. And Harpa. Then done.

Iceland, Part 7: Reykjavik.

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Reykjavik is the Major City of Iceland with 150,000 inhabitants, about half of the island’s entire population. It’s a very nice city – not too big, not too small. A great many buildings are made of stucco and a delightful element of Reykjavik is the amount of artists that are allowed to paint murals all over town. There are tons of murals. The first one I saw was of a jacked-up looking bird pooping out a giant wad of string which wasn’t the best thing ever but many others were not a bummer.

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Our apartment was pretty great. It was on the top floor of a house. I was not fond of taking several flights of stairs while hoisting luggage but the view was stunning and the door handle had a whimsical charm.

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A bunch of random things I saw walking around Reykjavik – first, a selection of buildings. Who knew that corrugated metal could be a tasteful and lovely house covering? I certainly didn’t until I came to Iceland. Thanks, Iceland.

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Sometimes the stores are tucked behind each other and in order to draw you in the store owners paint happy patterns on the sidewalk. I want to do that everywhere. It’s like the magical yellow brick road leading you places. Gets old never.

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There are no Starbucks so the Dunkin Donuts look like fancy coffee houses. Frank Sinatra and Norah Jones playing over the stereo and everything.

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It’s a pretty hippy-ish town. I passed several places that would have been totally appropriate in Brooklyn. Like the vegetarian restaurant right next to our apartment which had the weirdest choice written on the sign. “Ecstasy’s Heart-Garden.” They paid money to have that specific phrase, written in that specific way, put on their signs. I checked and it’s also on their menus. And their websites. As a design nerd this flummoxes and upsets me but if they’re okay with it I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.

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This was the other Williamsburgian place that caught my eye. It’s perfect.

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Many of the Christmas trees I saw were cleaved in twain. Like, split from top to bottom. I have a feeling that this is because Christmas trees are super-rare so if you split it and mount both halves to the front of your establishment you get twice as much tree for your buck.

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Cool shingles that look like dragon scales.

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Teeny-tiny adorable city garden.

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Iceland loves the English phrase “and stuff.” I noticed it all over and it delighted me every time.

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A painting of a lion on the side of a coffee shop.

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Tiny building that does… something. Cricket and I stared at it for a period of time trying to figure out what it’s for. We came to no conclusions.

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Window displays! Two dead giant taxidermied ravens. Not the only dead giant taxidermied ravens I saw as window dressing. They were not for sale. I was sad.

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Cool authentic Christmas lamps. Also not for sale. I was less sad than the ravens, but still a bit forlorn.

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Drawings made by children. The drawings, they were your standard kid drawings, whatevs, but two of the names caught my eye. Those are awesome names. I want to yell them out because they make me sound like a pirate. Try it. They have excellent mouth-feel.

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Dorky Norseman statue.

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Awesome painting on the front of a basement skateboard shop.

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And a neato sticker.

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I like this architect’s approach. “I want to put a window on the corner of this building but I don’t want to figure out – ah, screw it, I’ll make a flat bit and slap a window there, fine, good, time for lunch.”

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And this guy’s idea. “I love the basalt columns of our country. We should represent them in the city. Where’s the best place to put a basalt column-inspired sculptu– oooh, I know! In the middle of the road where it is guaranteed to get smashed into by vehicles who were not expecting freakin’ rocks to pop up out of the road like mushrooms. That is the best idea ever.”

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If you dig more than five inches into the ground in Iceland there is a chance you’re going to hit poisonous lava gases so this job site requires gas masks.

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Finally, there was an Icelandic dog. I loved this dog. I wanted to pet this dog for forever.

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Coming up next: NSFW museum and fancy fancy dinner.