Archive | January, 2013

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel

16 Jan

The place really should have been a museum.  A dedication to the poetry, music, art, film, drugs and gonorrhea of New York in the 60’s and 70’s; yet here it sits, closed off from the people it matters most to and a mystery brick skeleton to those who came too late.

In 2010 Patti Smith spoke at Cooper Union and Vanishing New York covered it.  She is quoted as saying, “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie… New York City has been taken away from you… So my advice is: Find a new city.” And I’m pretty sure we should have listened.  In less than two years gone is the Mars Bar, Duffs when it was by the River and awesome, the original Coney Island Arcade, Shoot the Freak, Cha-cha’s, and Chelsea Hotel like CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, Coney Island High, etc. before them.

But ain’t that New York?  A town of wildly rich people towering above starving peasants across the moat in Brooklyn.  They take more and more land away for their ten dollar sandwich shops that fortify the walls of their castles in the sky.

I was lucky enough to spend a less than classy evening in the Hotel before it closed in 2011 with three of my girlfriends.  It ends as to be expected.



Lion Bridge at Night

16 Jan

Lion Bridge at Night

Lion Bridge, Budapest

Monument Monday- John Lennon Peace Wall

7 Jan

prague 801Prague was liberated from the Iron Curtain only in 1989.  It was never destroyed in any wars so along with an almost perfectly preserved town, you also have newer monuments to the suffering that the people endured being first under control of the Nazis, then under the Russians.

One such monument is called the John Lennon Peace prague 805Wall, although John Lennon never visited the site.  When John Lennon was murdered in 1980, he became a hero and a symbol for the youth in Prague.  They formed a movement referred to as “Lennonism” that paved the way for dissent and reformist attitudes that eventually lead to the Velvet Revolution and violent protests in 1989.

Since the 1980’s, people in Prague have been writing anti-fascist graffiti, Beatle’s lyrics, and painting portraits on the wall that is an ever-changing example of modern struggle.

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“We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds.” Kafka

5 Jan

Ask anyone who is the most recognizable author in Prague, and many will surely answer Franz Kafka.  Kafka, from a wealthy German-speaking Jewish Family, was raised in Prague; the city which he is quoted as saying, “Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.”

Prague made him, owned him, and one is never quite sure when walking through the streets if Kafka was the surrealist, or if it is just Prague.  I mean, Prague is Kafkaesque, but really, there is no Kafka without Prague.

I visited the Kafka museum in December and had very little expectations because how much can you do with a museum about an author, right?  I mean, people go see Hemingway’s home, but you’re really just paying to keep some six toed cats alive.  But this, this was something entirely different.  This museum is truly Art divided into two parts: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography and is heavy on audio-visual stimulation.

In Existential Space, you see what shapes young Kafka, and what in turn drives him into despair   You walk in and the first thing I heard was a loud cat meow. WTF?  Then what sounds like a car crash, a pop sound, and then somewhere louder in the distance, guiding you toward it is strange, what I can only describe as “absinthy,” music.  You follow and you are struck with a screen that morphs landscapes from the city around you as you look at pictures of the town, it’s people and Kafka’s relations.

prague 1050Keep following hypnotically on to a striking display of the women in Kafka’s life; their transparent images containing the last of their worldly possessions.  He never married.

You learn about him becoming a lawyer then having a successful, but miserable career in Insurance.  Slowly and physically, you begin to spiral into madness with him; all the while following the light and music.




prague 1055Next you are hit with the oppressive labyrinth of floor to ceiling filing cabinets.  Before it, a looped video of drawings Kafka made of a man at his desk; afflicted. And you begin to feel it too, because you know the sentiment.  Trapped in a cage, making money for some asshole.  Devastating.

We transition sometimes simultaneously into Imaginary Topography as landmarks in Prague melt away and become allegorical place.  He wrote, “We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds.  My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.”  He was tortured by writing and not writing all at once, and it is no different for many of us today.

The museum ends with an installation that starts with a bright white light and ends with a man trudging along.  It is so simply beautiful that I watched it several times.


Like the book you at first can’t put down, only to wait a month to read the last chapter; I never wanted it to end.


Eating Cheap at European Winter Markets

5 Jan

I’m a pretty annoying eater apparently.  I eat slowly, in really small amounts, and I can never finish my food unless it’s a fancy restaurant with tiny portions and weird sauces.  I am also pretty cheap so needless to say, especially when solo-traveling, I rarely eat ‘meals.’

Instead, I prefer to travel to Eastern Europe during the winter months for authentic, regional street food sold at Holiday markets.  For under three dollars a meal, you are guaranteed to get some portable, filling, and tasty fuel to keep you warm and on the go

Pro-tip:  Many markets close after New Year’s Day but Prague’s Christmas markets, for example, are open until January 13th.  Do your research so you won’t be disappointed.  

Below are my top six favorite things to eat (and drink) from European Holiday markets:

prague 8001.  Grilled or ‘fried’ cheese (Prague)- either Edam or Hermelin cheese that is lightly breaded, then either fried or grilled.  They put the salty, oozy cheese on a slice of rye bread and you can choose to top it with a dark berry marmalade.  WOA. BEST FOOD EVER.

2.  Liquid lunch (Europe)- All around the world, no matter the city, you will see vats of mulled wine (hot, spiced wine) that is sold for take-away so you can browse the Christmas markets.

Pro-tip: If you are in Budapest, you will notice there is very little plastic waste unlike the rest of Europe or in America.  At Holiday markets there, you buy hot wine and put a separate deposit down on the ceramic mug that they put your wine in.  You are free to either keep the mug and leave the deposit, or return the mug and get your deposit back.  

langos3.  Langos (Budapest)- Also referred to as Hungarian Pizza, this delectable treat is always fried potato dough, covered with sour cream and cheese, then up to you (or the region) as to what else you can add.  Try it with garlic sauce, onions and mushrooms.

Pro-Tip- for the BEST langos in Budapest, you don’t have to wait for winter.  You can get it all year round at the central market upstairs.  This is where you will get the freshest langos with more options for toppings than you can get at Christmas markets.  You will also see this in other countries throughout Europe, but it is authentically Hungarian (and better there).  

4.  Grilled Sausage (Europe)- Grilled sausage is just about the best lunch you can get.  It comes crackling off the grill and is placed on a large bun, where you can fill it with sauerkraut and mustard.  Seriously good, seriously cheap.

prague 7765.  ‘Chimney Cakes’ (Transylvanian Origin) – These are popular in Eastern Europe where the dough is rolled in cinnamon and sugar, wrapped around iron rods and placed over hot coals to cook.  They are a great breakfast snack; like a superior cinnamon toast.

6. Medovina (Central and Eastern Europe)- Medovina is mead, or fermented honey.  If you remember your Old English Epics, you will recall that Beowulf and his retinue drank heaps of mead at Herot.  It’s not great (it’s REALLY sweet), but it’s fun to drink and think about when men were warriors.

Warm wishes in the New Year

1 Jan

Thanks to everyone who is following or stopped by to check out my journeys this year.

More to come in 2013 but in the meantime, check out my other food blog for recipes to your health and wealth in the New Year here

Have a great one!

Monument Monday: Proudy

1 Jan

prague 1061Controversial Czech sculptor, David Černý’s bizarre presence can be felt all over Prague, but one piece is my favorite.  It is called simply ‘Proudy’ in Czech, or ‘currents’ in English, and features two men peeing in a fountain just outside of the Kafka Museum.

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If your geography is as good as every other Americans I know, you will not notice that they are peeing into a pool that is the shape of Czech Republic.  You will also not notice that they are ‘writing’ famous literary quotes of dissent but now you know!

Pro-Tip:  You too can be a part of such art by texting +420 724 370 770 and they will ‘write’ what you text.

Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D.

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