Saturday, May 30, 2009

Some things you need to see

The Matrix Ping Pong Video
Brought to you by Juliana Peterson. 

Cirque du Soleil's new show: Kooza, the "Wheel of Death"
Brought to you by Judy Baker.

And finally, check out this incredible video from Britain's newest talent show, if you haven't already. Susan Boyle has become so famous so fast, that Youtube is not allowing outsiders to embed the video in their website. So just click on the link and then hit play if you want to see this singing sensation...
Brought to you be Brett. 

Barcelona: The Complete Tour of La Sagrada Familia

Photos of sections of the cathedral in an exhibition outside the inner construction

Artists at work on pieces of the cathedral

One of Gaudi's sculptures on the Nativity Facade

An Exterior View

One of the doors inside the sanctuary, sculpted in many languages

Inside the main area, where Gaudi designed columns to represent the forrest canopy

Only two major stained glass window areas are done, the rest are just covered in clear glass right now. I can't imagine how incredible the light inside will be when they are all paneled in geometrical color shapes.

The cubist Crucifixion Scene on the exterior was designed after Gaudi died

Architects, carpenters, designers, plasterers, sculptors, masons, and visionaries have been constructing Gaudi's vision of La Sagrada Familia for 127 years. 

The Eiffel tower took 2 years. The Great Pyramid of Giza took 20 years. The Statue of Liberty took 9 years.

And La Sagrada Familia is only half finished.

Imagine the details on a monarch butterfly's wing, inside an orchid, running through an agate. Gaudi's vision is of a church which glorifies God with details this fine in every tiny element. 

As Juliana mentioned to me as we walked through the sanctuary with a couple of hundred other visitors, what a pleasant feeling of job security the artists and workers engaged on the project must have...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Barcelona: Fiesta de Canciones

The morning after the Fiesta de Fuego we were off on one of our usual city wanders, when we discovered a procession gathering at a church near our favorite bakery. Women of all ages were dressed in bright and varied Flamenco costumes, a giant cart carrying a colorful model of The Sagrada Familia cathedral stood in the street, and two enormous oxen were making their way down the street toward the cart. Soon the costumed women, joined by costumed men, were singing a rhythmic song and the whole crowd was clapping along. 

What were they singing? What were they celebrating? Where did the oxen take the miniature Sagrada Familia? We may never know, but it was all part of the fun of being in Barcelona during a big Fiesta. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barcelona: Una Fiesta de Fuego

Back in the olden days, my high school team mates and I referred to a tennis player in the zone as "en fuego" - on fire. But on Saturday night in Barcelona, Juliana, Brett, and I discovered the true meaning of the phrase.

We were walking home, stuffed, from an all-you-can-eat Japanese buffet (yes, I'm aware of the irony of eating Japanese in Spain, but you have no idea how good this buffet is), when suddenly we heard loud crackling snaps and saw arcs of sparks down the street. Ignoring the stir fry protesting in my stomach, I sprinted down the empty avenue separating us from the action, only to discover one of the strangest sights of this year of travel: a pack of men dressed in red suits, some wearing horns, spraying the streets with sparklers and firecrackers as their audience looked on with admiring excitement and a bit of fear. 

I stepped out of the audience to get a better angle on the scene with my camera, only to be shooed away from the empty space of sidewalk by a huge horned and caped man. A few minutes later, the man and his partner touched their lit sparklers to the area where I had just been standing, which turned out to be thickly covered by fire crackers. How could I have missed that? The entire street seemed to explode, amping up many of the onlookers' bit of fear to barely contained terror. 

Afterwards, I asked a nearby man with his ears covered who was slowly shaking his head what was going on. 

"The Fiestas" he responded. His wife agreed.

"The Fiestas" she told me.

 Ah yes, those two little words that can explain every kind of fabulous  craziness in Spain. Every city has its Fiestas, and they rival any party I've seen elsewhere in the world. 

I still haven't been able to ascertain what exactly Barcelona was celebrating last weekend, but it was definitely something. This exploding street corner wouldn't be our last encounter with "The Fiestas." 

More to come...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reading through the World

I find that travel makes me want to read books about other people traveling. I also find that not traveling makes me want to read books about other people traveling. Go figure. Perhaps I just enjoy the genre, so here is a list for all of you out there who enjoy it too.

Betsy's Top 10 Highly Varied Travel Reads
  1. Eat, Love, Pray (Elizabeth Gilbert) - Italy, India, Bali
  2. Notes from a Small Island (Bill Bryson) - Britain
  3. Almost French (Sarah Turnbull) - France
  4. Betsy and The Great World (Maud Hart Lovelace) - Germany, Italy
  5. The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway) - France, Spain
  6. Postcards from Europe (Rick Steves) -
  7. On The Road (Jack Kerouac) - United States
  8. Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer) - United States
  9. Dave Barry Does Japan (Dave Barry) - Japan
  10. Walden (Henry David Thoreau) - United States
Check out World Hum's top thirty travel books and Brave New Traveler's top fifty for more ideas.

Brave New Traveler includes quite a few I wouldn't have thought of as travel literature (like Life of Pi, A Little Prince, Letters to a Young Poet), but I like how they are interpreting the genre.

Brett Betsy Juliana Barcelona (not produced by Woody Allen)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Juliana's Guest Post: Plovdiv

Plovdiv, a historic city located a small walk and two bus jaunts from Sofia.  

Easily reachable even by those unfamiliar with the Cyrillic alphabet.

Though my incredible hosts would have liked to accompany me, schedule-wise it worked best, if I went on my own while they were at school…so my hostesses with the mostesses described where I could walk to see the highlights, led me to the nearest bus stop, told me how to recognize the word Bus Station in Cyrillic, wrote down the numbers of buses that would lead me there, wrote down the identifiers for reliable taxis, gave me bus tickets and described the little orange box in which you validate your ticket, left me with their travel guide and a Cyrillic-to-Roman alphabet translation sheet so I could match things up to the Roman maps…I was set up to succeed.  

And for those of you in the Betsy and Brett fan club, I just want to say how thoroughly and wonderfully they will welcome you.  You might even get chocolate cake after they pick you up from the airport...

Observations from a hapless wander…

A luscious park fragrant with wild daisies where stylish new moms push their babies in strollers with attached sun umbrellas.  

A man in a white t shirt with a red  hammer and sickle enter the central fountain plaza and join one of several animated groups of men cheering on chess games (I didn’t even know that was possible).  BYO-Digital-Chess-Timer.  

Puffed up pigeons trying to impress a potential mate.

A velvety field of royal red tulips or poppies.

A cherry tree heavy with fruit.

Winding cobblestone avenues. Church towers, domes and columns.  An ancient bath house.  

Gypsies (or, to be pc, Roma people) doing the thankless dirty work...groundskeeping, toilet duty, garbage picking.  Clear segregation.  

High school kids dressed and primped to the peak of fashion joking and flirting after school.  

A man resignedly or even angrily doing a simple puppet show on the pedestrian walkway.  


The ruins of a coliseum, where workers were laying and mopping marley for a dance concert.

Chewy breads akin to pretzels but in circle form with sesame seeds.  



Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Great Balkanski Circus: Coming to an empty lot near you

She is standing on a pole that he is balancing on his forehead (I just thought you should know). 

The Great Balkanski circus arrived in Mladost this week, just about the same time as Juliana. So, OBVIOUSLY, we went to see it together and enjoy its astounding acrobatic acts, its absurd magic show, and its very odd clowning. We had a fabulous time, and strongly recommend that if the Balkanski ever arrives in your neighborhood - setting up on an empty lot just two blocks away from your house, as it did here in Mladost - you GO! 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

For those among us...

...who like to see faces:

Colleen and Ryan come to Bulgaria!

We ate pitka and kavarma, bought lilies and lilies of the valley, met a very large frog on Mount Vitosha, played lots of Oh Crap, wandered through Nevsky Cathedral and down Graf Ignatiev street, went to Star Trek XI to stave off the jet lag-induced afternoon sleep of death, ate pizza on the roof of the boulevard mall while watching the sunset, and just generally enjoyed a weekend together here in Sofia...

Thanks for coming Colleen and Ryan! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yoghurt: Greece stirs up the competition...

So Bulgarian yoghurt is famous. There are festivals. It's on all the dessert menus, combined with jam or honey. On the other hand, in Greece, it's on the breakfast menus, combined with honey AND fruit AND walnuts. It's oh so good, and oh so pretty... and it comes with the cutest little shovel-shaped spoon. 

Which yoghurt is best? Really, people, why do you have to make everything a competition?!  I say, let's just appreciate ALL the yoghurt. 

Flower Wreaths

I used to make dandelion crowns as a kid, but the people of Oia have taken the concept to new heights. Wreaths stuffed with soft bold color hung from shops, hotels, and houses alike. I made a little flower chain for my own doorway, though it wasn't so very impressive as the others...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009