happy solstice; also, the moon

it’s the shortest day of the year, i did my orange peel ritual already and i’m gearing up for a long day of double-shifts, followed by a last day on earth party with my coworkers.

and now i’ll share desert memories with you.

above canyon sin nombre, california. december 2006

above the same canyon, april 2012

tunesday: sigur ros

how have i gone without sigur ros for so long? i’ve loved them for years, ever since i got ( ) as a birthday gift at 19 and nearly wore out the cd, but over the past few years they’ve shifted out of heavy rotation.  they’ve recently started cycling back into things and it’s time.


“the best thing god has created is a new day”

yeah, i think today is going to feature me watching heima and feeling mopey that i’m not in iceland.  i thought going there once would be fine–i’d be satisfied–but i was wrong.  it’s calling me back! like, HEY ARINN come ride horses and look at mountains and marvel at the lack of trees.  uh, yeah, okay, that sounds delightful, where do i sign up?

travelogue: ljubljana

well, it’s been a while since i’ve felt like keeping up on this travelogue–so now let’s pick up where we left off: ljubljana, slovenia.

tour de slovene. castle in the background

caught the afternoon train from zagrab–the train was a couple hours long and wound through the loveliest scenery!  all mountainous with rivers and trees and slanting late afternoon sunlight.  we sat with a friendly swedish couple who flattered me by asking if i was swedish (1/16, which is not enough to count…) and it was very pleasant to pass the time chatting with them and drinking warm cans of ožujsko beer, which was all the train canteen offered.

mosaic above a church door

by the time we were checked into our hostel, it was fully dark.  we walked a couple blocks to the closest restaurant, which served incredible italian food, and i am not easily impressed by italian cusine…!  we caught the end of a euro cup game while eating on the patio, surrounded by the sounds of the surprisingly italian-sounding slovenian language.  the night was warm and it was a really pleasant way to wind down the day.

feeling maudlin, i took this photo. while i was riding my bike. and oh yeah i did not crash. WIN

the next day, i woke up early and rented a bike from the youth hostel.  we stayed quite far from the city centre, but it was a wonderful bike ride in.  biking without a helmet felt strange and gross, but there were bike paths along the sidewalk and i never went fast enough to feel stressed.  i explored the downtown, seeking out a tiny cemetery, stopping in the old town for gelato and a latte, snapping photos of the walls covered in graffiti, the curlicued buildings, the dragons protecting bridges, the green ljubljanica wandering through town.  the ruins of a roman wall (!!!!!) which i had to run my hands over reverently.  it was built in 14-15 ad, was the oldest thing i’d ever laid hands on, and i had to touch it and try to imagine all the time and hands between it being built, and me standing there with my heart leaping.

ljubljanica, the calm green river

having a moment with this old wall

ljubljana is one of those cities where the old town is beautiful, like prague, and you’re stumbling on beautiful views every way you turn.  i started up a winding road called ‘students way’ and soon found myself snaking up castle hill, under arches made of trees, shading me from the 30C+ heat.

up to the castle

i biked around and around and around, until i met my traveling companion for supper, and then we had a terrible supper.  after that, we stood around and watched the river run, watched the people walk by, as the light got more golden.  then i biked back to the hostel, feeling my heart huge with happiness.  an evening bike ride with a colourful sky and warm air around me and a skirt fluttering around my legs and mind full of so much beauty…! well, you may be able to understand why i felt a bit swoony and lovedrunk.

the next day rose with crazy heat again, so we spent the morning being lazy in the hotel and eating popsicles before venturing out into the city.  we went to a vegetarian restaurant (!), and after lunch checked out the natural history museum.  to my extreme delight, the museum is one of those rare old-school museums which showcases taxidermy specimens in dioramas, ranging from accurate to cases stuffed with birds.  it’s so old-fashioned but i adore that style of display.  i also saw the divje babe flute, which is the oldest musical instrument known, made of a cave bear bone by neanderthals.

divje bane flute

after that, more slow meandering, another annoying restaurant experience, and finally, a lovely evening watching the euro cup (a horrific loss for the ukranians!) at the same italian restaurant as the first night.  the night closed around us all soft and warm, the light pink and blue over the fields around the youth hostel.  sunrise and sunset sometimes put out lights that just break one’s heart.

daily self portrait, museum style

and then, sleeping and waking and taking a train to vienna

read about the rest of my trip: reykjavik pt 1pt 2, oslo, stockholm, copenhagen, berlin, prague, krakow budapest zagreb

read about the rest of my trip: reykjavik pt 1pt 2, oslo, stockholm, copenhagen, berlin, prague, krakow budapest

travelogue: zagreb

zagreb!  hilariously, cruised into croatia riding in an accidental upgrade to first class.   we shared the train compartment with a ukranian familiy, and the first ticket-checkers didn’t notice that both of our groups should have been in second class.  it wasn’t until the ride was almost over, at the croatia border, that one of the stewards informed us of our mistake.  oops. croatian border guards were kind of funny, too, because they checked our passports like three times as we came into the country, and twice as we left! so many superfluous stamps in my passport!

we arrived in zagreb to find a sea of excitement.  croatia had just won a euro cup match, and the streets were full of happy drunks.  we had a delicious dinner, watched the next game, and wandered back to the apartment we rented.

this is exactly what you’d thing. a museum of broken relationships. it was in turns sad, hilarious, poignant.

spent the next day wandering around in the heat. having a mini-breakdown, i ducked impulsively into the museum of broken relationships. i cried and laughed and felt better when i left. it has objects symbolising failed relationships, with a small write-up from the donor. some were really metaphorical, some very straightforward. there were dildos and teddy bears and a little reindeer made of twigs. there was a giant papier-mache nude femals torso, with large breasts and arm straps so it could be worn on the front of one’s body. the write-up said the woman’s husband bought this for her, and made her wear it during sex, because her breasts were not large enough. eventually she left him for this, but evidently not soon enough, because there were spots on the torso where the paint had rubbed away from repeated contact. ewwwww.

because it was so hot while i was in zagreb, i spent lots of time sitting at cafes in the shade, drinking beer or lemonade or espresso. and one day while i was watching soccer, i saw this woman walking her cat. BEST.

maybe it’s just me, but the number of babes in zagreb really knocked me on my ass. and then i was like, why are there so many cute gay girls? and then i was like, OH SHIT THERE IS A PRIDE PARADE AND HOW DID I MISS IT I WAS PROBABLY AT A GRAVEYARD

yeah, that happened. hanging out with dead motherfuckers instead of checking out croation babes.

so, i just spent a couple days wandering around the old town, shopping a bit, eating pastries, drinking coffee, writing in my journal, and lurking in the shade. all in all a really nice little visit! BUT i should tell you about how strange the supermarket was! i took my basket of produce to the checkout, and the cashier sent it all back with a security guard. i was mystified, until the security guard came back with the fruit, which had been weighed/barcoded by a machine. now that is progress (although it completely slowed down the checkout line but i bet that happens fifty times a day so whatever).

catholics are awesomely creepy for keeping around relics and mummies of important folks!

gay pride banners + euro cup celebration = party in the square

i bought so much lavender at this market. sooo much. it was almost ridiculous. BUT for the rest of the trip, my bag smelled heavenly

police lined up before the pride parade. such an important reminder that it is not always safe to be out/show support. i feel very lucky to live in vancouver.

read about the rest of my trip: reykjavik pt 1pt 2, oslo, stockholm, copenhagen, berlin, prague, krakow budapest

travelogue: budapest

ohhhh budapest.  you deserved so much more of my time instead of a scant 28 hours! if only i hadn’t done some bookings while half-asleep, if only i hadn’t gotten lost and wandered around the city for a couple hours, if only i hadn’t had to hang out in my suite and do laundry–we would have become so much better-acquainted!   but, the suite i got to stay in was really cool and communist-looking.  maybe that doesn’t even make sense.  it had the world’s least comfortable couch (seat was 2.5 feet wide, back was maybe 6-8 inches high…), dark carpeting, wallpapers, 12 ft ceilings, and a set of incredibly beautiful 12ft tall doors!

not the building i stayed in, but nearby

budapest was different than the other former-communist places i’d been.  for one, there were sex shops everywhere.  bars open at 8 am, with people drinking.  slightly dingy buildings, not restored like prague and krakow (and some with bullet holes still!).   three train stations, instead of just one, which gave us the opportunity to pretend we were in the amazing race, when we went to buy tickets to zagreb at the wrong station, 25 minutes before departure.  we rushed down to the underground–budapest’s was the first in europe, in 1906–to ride the shakiest, oldest subway car i’ve ever seen, and made our other train by five minutes.  what a rush!


anyway, i digress.  budapest was full of stately old buildings, intriguing narrow streets, the second-largest synagogue in the world, the museum of terror, a giant opera house, bath houses left over from the 16th c. turkish invasion.   by this point, my travel partner and i were really into the euro cup, which happens every four years and had started while we were into poland.  we wandered the alleys near our hostel-apartment until we found a suitable place with a big screen and a seat for us.   wandering the narrow streets that evening, i felt so sad–this city deserved more than such a quick run-through!

budapest opera house

budapest synagogue

alas, my poor planning led to not enough time in an interesting place full of history, beautiful little nooks, interesting pubs and really great food.  one tourist brochure claimed that certain kinds of sausage were “hot enough to blow your ring piece out”.  if there is a visual i do not want to connect with eating, it’s having my asshole fall out after, but i digress.

st stephen’s basilica

sorry budapest.  next time i’ll give you more of a chance.

it’s totally worth paying for the upgrade from 6-person sleeper to 2-person. for real.

read about the rest of my trip: reykjavik pt 1pt 2, oslo, stockholm, copenhagen, berlin, prague, krakow.

travelogue: krakow

sweeping east on a night train from prague, in which we shared a compartment with a sweet ukranian-american family and their cute baby, i discovered that waking up in a new country is magical.  it also felt kind of special to travel to poland because i have family history there– i have one ancestor from sweden, but a larger part of my family tree originates in poland/ukraine.

krakow is a city full of intense emotional leftovers.   near six million poles were killed during the war, approximately 16% of the population.    not only was auschwitz located in poland, but the nazis implemented practices to eradicate the polish culture and people.  krakow was where schindler’s list took place.  auschwitz is only 50km away from krakow.  the city was heavily bombed during the war, including some of the impressive buildings in the city’s main square, but so much of it has been rebuilt it was hard to tell that anything had ever been destroyed.

the pain of the people was so large–it was hard to walk through the jewish quarter, to visit auschwitz, to see people my grandparents’ age and think about all the suffering.  visiting auschwitz itself was so terrible.  i didn’t even want to go.  i wanted to be a coward and not face its horror.  i was nauseous the entire time i was at the camp.  being there was such a horrible feeling.  it was the worst place on earth, so haunted it was just hollow.  i felt like an animal being led into places it does not want to go.  i wanted to dig in my heels and retreat and not walk through buildings housing crematoria, torture chambers and hair shorn from the one million people who died in the camps. it was overwhelming and terrible. growing up in canada, i really had no concept of how many people suffered in the world wars. traveling around europe, seeing bullet holes in buildings, memorials, etc, really hit it home to me.

the first synagogue i’d ever been inside. so beautifully decorated! still being restored from the damage it sustained during wwii when nazis used it as a stable

inside a jewish cemetery, looking at the old jewish quarter

memory stones (i think) on headstones. this particular cemetery was the only place i saw this custom.

the cemetery wall, made up of reclaimed headstones. the nazis smashed them and used them for paving, sidewalks, etc.

i just cannot fathom the depth of this tragedy.

but krakow was not all pain, it was happy people celebrating the euro 2012 soccer match, people sitting in squares and cafes and visiting farmer’s markets and playing the trumpet. it was 24hr perogy restaurants, the largest square in medieval europe, intense thunderstorms, matryoshka dolls, beautiful amber jewelery, greying plaster buildings, crazy traffic that was only rarely constrained by stoplights.  malls and museums and pastry shops full of things i wanted to eat.  we ate at a swanky hotel which used to be exclusively for communist bigwigs, drank polish beer, cheered for soccer teams like the locals.

a communist-built car, before they started eschewing styles like fins

inside wawel castle grounds

accordions, market square

a latte while i was hiding from a thunderstorm that blew up suddenly

was attempting a long-exposure of the rain, and caught a lightning-strike as well.

planty (park ringing the old city) at night

wheelchair basketball in the main square

from there, we headed deeper into the former ussr.

check out the other parts of my trip: reykjavik pt 1pt 2, oslo, stockholm, copenhagen, berlin, prague .

travelogue: prague

HELLO PRAGUE (or prag, or praha, depending on the language you speak).  an astonishing city, full to the brim with hordes of tourists.  this is a city that leaves you with the impression that with every corner you turn, you’ll find something beautiful.  my time in prague was spent eating delicious food, wandering around the wonderfully preserved old town, visiting the castle at night, checking out cathedrals.  i bought a beautiful amber ring.  tried becherovka, this horrible czech digestif made of herbs and who knows what else.  walked across bridges and more bridges and ate raspberry tarts.

can you believe this was built in 1410? holy crow.

yeasty dough, rolled around a spit and baked over a charcoal fire. sooo good.

on the last day in prague, i went on a tour to kutna hora, a small town about an hour outside prague. we took a train, and the czech countryside was super pretty. first, we stopped at a church that was started in the 11th century. it was simple & lovely.

just the bones of some martyrs, whatever

from there, it was just a few steps to the famous sedlec ossuary. what happened was that in the early middle ages, someone brought back a basket of dirt from golgotha and spread it over the churchyard. people believed that by being interred in this space had the same effect on one’s soul as being buried in ‘the holy land’ and because of plagues, wars, etc, came in droves. their bodies were interred for a very short time, only three days, because the space was needed for new bodies, and it was believed that all spiritual benefits were conferred in those three days and that the body would completely rot in that time. after a few hundred years, there were a lot of fucking bones, and eventually someone was commissioned to tidy up the space, and this is how he solved the massive problem if sorting & storing 40,000+ bodies.

schwarzenburg family crest

after the bone chapel, we headed into kutna hora proper to check out the old town centre & st barbara’s cathedral. as our (small) tour walked past an old man, he smiled and pointed: ‘barbara’. he know what we were there to see.

next up: krakow, poland.

check out the other parts of my trip: reykjavik pt 1pt 2, oslo, stockholm, copenhagen, berlin.

travelogue: berlin

cycling home from boxing, we stopped to pose at brandenburg gate

HOLY CATS.  my two weeks in berlin are in the running for the happiest i’ve ever been in my life, ever.  staying with rose was just the best thing.  we were roommates back when (2003-2004 in edmonton), but most of our friendship has been long distance.  visiting rose was one of the main reasons i decided to take a trip to europe, actually, because i really missed her.

so, holy shit. epic whirlwind of fun ensued!  two blissful weeks of laughing ourselves to sleep (in a tree fort, no less!), watching qi and videos of slugs having sex, cooking together, emasculating men, punching things, and generally having all the fun one could expect to have with their platonic life partner.  if only she was gay!! i swear, i would treat her SO GOOD (that is for you, rose, cause i know you will read this)!

we went to schlachtensee, walked around a few lakes, ate ice cream, fed house sparrows from our hands, and then i rowed her around a lake while yelling out lyrics from rifle burs.  then we made a delicious supper together.  best date ever, right?

we played videogames in a double-decker bus that’s also a bar.  we tried to get into spreepark.   we ate metric tonnes of stracciatella yogurt with fruit and wheels of brie.    we stayed out till 4 am, listening to musicians in the ubahn station.  we climbed up to the roof of her building, through the attic, which looked like the set for a horror movie.  we dressed like bombshells.  we cuddled up on the couch and were internet nerds together.  we laid in bed reading together.  rose gave me incredible tours, like taking me to see her favourite statue, and a tree she loves.

rose’s favourite statue. so powerful!!

we had the perfect berlin sunday, which involves a giant brunch, fleamarkets in fredrichshaim and mauerpark, getting lost and asking a goth couple in their 50s for directions, walking through a dust cloud of chicken feathers and glitter, pho for supper, having dudes yell ‘SUP!, drinking caprinhas, then snuggling up on the couch together and being internet nerds.

last summer, when rose and i had a brief meet-up here in vancouver, we talked about happiness.  we were both coming out of really long and unhappy relationships and needed something more.  i’m paraphrasing, of course, but rose said something that really stuck with me:  for even a month of complete bliss, wouldn’t all the shit be worth it?  meaning, all the shit, the sadness and loneliness that can sometimes come with being single when all your friends are in/chasing after relationships.

berlin was a great city.  so bike friendly, full of great food and beautiful murals and really interesting things to do.  and, i should be fair.  i didn’t only spend time with rose: i enoyed the company of others, too.  i met my flickr friend christian, reconnected with my vancouver friend molly, and met a bunch of other wonderful folks!  but god damn,  the overwhelming feeling of bliss was the absolute best part.

catching some rays with christian and rose