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Welcomed by the children

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 26, 2008 in Experiences

He liked the movement of the mouse cursor on my computer screen. So I pried his hands from the keys and opened up Microsoft Paint. With a few interruptions to change color and tool, a four-year-old who stumbled upon me in a park in Budapest, Hungary drew me a computer-generated painting.

Children don’t likely understand the concept of language. I certainly don’t remember when I learned of the six billion people in the world, most don’t speak like me. The little boy with the dirty sweatsuit, dirt on his brown-olive skin, and sand in his bushy, black hair spoke on to me, in a language I couldn’t understand.

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Free Europe Tours: is a free tour in Prague worth the cost?

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 25, 2008 in Travel Tips

Angela leads a tour for FreePragueTours.eu. The company operates elsewhere.

Angela leads a tour for FreePragueTours.eu. The company operates elsewhere.

Today, Sean and I took a nearly three hour tour of Prague. It was a free tour. But can you afford to take one yourself?

To begin the tour, our kindly guide - a beautiful young woman of German extract named Angela who has lived in Prague for 10 years - told us that it is custom tip, somewhere between 150 and 200 korunas. The money goes to her pay, promotion and distribution of the Free Prague Tours, she said.

Sean and I each tipped Angela 150 koruna, nearly $8.

These tours - free, aside from tip - are in Munich and Berlin, Germany and Amsterdam in the Netherlands - perhaps elsewhere too. It gives you the chance to walk around these cities with a (relative) local and (supposed) expert, for somewhat minimal cost. But I don’t know if this is always the best way to do things.

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Preconceived Notions: Prague, Czech Republic

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 24, 2008 in Preconceived Notions

It’s old, cramped and the most provincial international city in the world. That’s what how I imagine Prague - where we’ve arrived today.

I have heard the good word on the city from many travelers. It’s no business hub or modern metropolis, but an old destination along trading routes.

I expect a lot of cobblestone and winding roads where even the cracks of globalization - like what I expect to be the inevitable McDonalds or two - are forced to fit into an architectural mission.

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Checking the Phillies score, Game 2 of the World Series

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 24, 2008 in Experiences

Unless we can con some bar into staying upon until 6 a.m. it is very unlikely we will be able to watch the Phillies take on the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. Something awfully tough for me, as I’ve posted before.  We are resigned to something a little less exciting to check the score.  Below has become our morning routine ever since the Phillies made the NLCS.

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Eating Vienna

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 24, 2008 in Experiences

Sean and I devouring apple strudel in Vienna on Oct. 23, 2008. My photo.

Sean and I devouring apple strudel in Vienna on Oct. 23, 2008. My photo.

Look. I am here to eat. Screw the cathedrals. The languages. The cultures.

Tell me a city is known for something tasty and - damn it - give it to me. There’s a few in Vienna. So we indulged.

Yes, bring on the apple strudel. See some video of other goodies below.

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Notes on seeing Europe from a train

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 23, 2008 in Commentary

You take trains from big cities to other big cities. Lands, untold by tour books and unseen by sloppy tourists like yourself, unfold beneath your high carriage of jetsetting: two months, 10 cities 3,000 miles wide and two or three days deep.

You are riding great dividers of place and time, laughing at great empires of history. Slicing corridors of culture. Other trains pass with silent screams at 70 miles per hour. You mull issues of personal importance and navigate narrow bathrooms.

There’s the old story of the boy who took a train and came back a man. No great story of accomplishment or adventure, but stalking late-night cars and toeing empty rail yards. Sleeping with a bag in his lap until he wanted someone to know him again. Until he learned who is chasing whom.

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We say goodbye to Brian: America’s favorite middle child

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 23, 2008 in Plans

Although on the surface this may appear to be a two man operation, we have to confess we have a camera man.  And a producer.  And a critic.  And whatever else we need him for.

My brother Brian has been tagging along with us for the middle portion of the journey and has been a great resource for WDSTL. He is kind enough to help out when asked, and has waited patiently as we edit video before sight seeing.

But today, we split paths as he leaves to return home to the States.  We hope when he gets home you guys all make fun of the slight British speaking inflection he has acquired.  He has since been replaced by a tripod.

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Here he is getting serious in a night spot in Brussels, Belgium.

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Preconceived Notions: Vienna, Austria

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 22, 2008 in Preconceived Notions

We should be arriving in Vienna’s Westbahnhof (West train station) sometime soon.

For an American perspective on Austria, I remind myself of my preconceived notions before getting to Brussels, Belgium.

I only have the patience for so many stereotypes. So, the nations that are larger, more populous or with which the United States has more interaction develop images in your garden variety white, middle-class American 20-something.

I have clear stereotypes for the English, French, German, the Italians, Greeks, Russians, maybe the Spanish and a collection of Northern European traits.

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Why I’m not coming home until the Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 22, 2008 in Commentary

I was doomed from the start.

The byline of this post will read “Sean” but it almost wasn’t so. My mother, an ardent fan of all teams Philadelphia, nearly named me Reggie after a Flyers winger. She also considered naming me Seth after an Eagles defensive end. In the end, my father’s protests became too much and they settled with my current moniker. Although she lost the name game, my mother did make sure that I would bleed orange and black. Or midnight green. Or whatever Philadelphia team was in season. My first word was supposedly “hockey” as the Flyers were riding Ron Hextall all the way to losing to the Edmonton Oilers. Being a young sports fan, that was only one missed championship opportunity, surely there would be others, I would just have to wait.

So when Joe Carter hit a Mitch Williams pitch out of the park, I waited.

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Foreign Perspectives: Ian from New Zealand

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 21, 2008 in Foreign Perspectives

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If you compared Ian Fulguirinas’ trip to ours, it would look like we took the easy way.  Thats because this Kiwi has eschewed conventional transportation and lodging methods to rely solely on hitchhiking and the generosity of others.  In Brussels, my brother Brian was fortunate enough cross paths with Ian when he went Couch Surfing.

On the morning before we left for Paris, we talked to Ian about his thoughts on American politics and why he doesn’t like rugby.

Apologies for the background noise, the Brussels street repair crew decided 8 a.m. was perfect jackhammering time.

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