Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Day 46: I left my [camera's functionality] in Zagreb

Hi readers! Sorry for the delay on this post--but it's a big one, I promise, since so much happened since my last update! I actually think it'll make sense to go day by day for this one, so here we go!
Sitting on a Jenny Holzer piece at the MAK. Yes, I was allowed to! And no, it was not comfortable at all since it was made of aluminum...

Monday, October 24: 

Started off with a morning of teaching at the Graphische, then conducted another interview for my research project: I talked with Dr. Werner Michael Schwarz, a curator at the Wien Museum who worked on the Romane Thana show. The interview was conducted in both German and English--us going back and forth--and it was just great to meet another person so interested in my project and receptive to working with me. We talked for about forty minutes, and he sent me some contact information for more relevant artists as well as the floor plan of what the actual show looked like when it was on display. It was pretty interesting to hear from someone with a history background about how the curators of the show balanced the sociology/political aspect of contemporary Roma life with the historical as well as the artistic in order to reach as many people as possible.

Tuesday, October 25:

More teaching throughout the day--okay, sorry, not quite that interesting yet. Later in the evening I went over to a fellow Fulbrighter's house to relax and drink tea, and also, strangely enough, watch a little Bones and Pretty Little Liars on her television, dubbed into German for my listening pleasure. It's always funny to hear media I at least know a bit about dubbed into a foreign language, because how does the local studio decide what "kind" of German/French/Spanish voice actor fits a certain character? How does that casting work? It's also weirder seeing live-action dubs as opposed to anime dubs, which I'm more used to, because the mouth movements and sounds don't look quite right in live action, whereas in anime you don't have to account so much for cheek motions and lip tension (I would think).

Wednesday, October 26:

It was a day off! Namely, it was Austria Day, when Austria celebrates its formal declaration of neutrality after the Second World War. Naturally, since I didn't have school, I decided to go to a museum. Well, actually, two museums--one in the early afternoon and one a bit later on. The first museum I went to was the MAK, or Museum für angewandte Kunst (moo-say-um fyur ahn-ge-vand-te koonst)--essentially the design, craft, and applied arts museum in the city. In word: incredible. The building is lovely and old, and admission was free on the day I went, which never hurts. Off the main atrium are installations about the following: 1800s Japanese and Chinese design, the interaction of Middle Eastern carpets and European trade, Art Nouveau chair styles, and Baroque furniture. But in the basement of the museum is the MAK Design Lab, which was really the most incredible part--a series of interconnected rooms focusing on different aspects of contemporary and modern design. One room focused on the idea of the kitchen, for example, and discussed feminism and feminist art's interaction with the kitchen as the woman's domain in the household. Some of the other rooms in the lab contained rhetorical questions as food for thought with regards to design and objects--for example, does being consumers make us happy? It was just a great showcase of how the museum is connecting past concepts of design and craft with future questions about what we will need and want as a society, and I don't think my description here does it justice, so if you're in Vienna, the MAK design lab is a must-see. There was also a really spectacular poster show, which made me wish I'd learned more about graphic design, because some of these images were really dynamic, creative, and powerful.
Three of the great posters at the MAK. Such skillful, much talented.
A question for the audience in the MAK Design Lab. I love how they were so focused on soliciting feedback all throughout the lab.

After the MAK I walked through the city to get to the 21erhaus (pronounced ein-und-zwan-zig-er haus), which is the contemporary art venue at the Belvedere Palace, which includes a fair few other museums. I went to go see a show called Both White by Anna Jermolaewa, a Russian artist who works primarily in multimedia installation. My review of that show will be published later, so I won't go into a lot of detail, but the 21erhaus is definitely somewhere to go if you like contemporary art. They also had an Ai Weiwei installation, but he's often hit-or-miss for me, so I didn't see that exhibition. The museum also has a pretty great store, but so does the MAK--none of this boring printed scarves and posters business from most major museums. The MAK had some truly eclectically cool designs of lamps, furniture, jewelry, etc., while the 21erhaus had a ton of great art books and zines. They were more like the MCA Chicago store--which is the best museum store I've ever been in, hands-down, in that they weren't merely souvenir-oriented.
No photos allowed inside, so here's a shot of the outside!

Thursday, October 27:

Thursday was, unfortunately, not quite as exciting as Wednesday. Teaching in the morning, then I hung out in the public library until it was time to head to my university course. The course was on the legend of Billy the Kid, so it was pretty cool to learn the myths behind that famous name. We ended class by watching a few clips from the many, many, many Billy the Kid movies, but as an American, I took silent objection to the visiting professor (and Austrian university students') harsh condemnation of Paul Newman, who was a national treasure and made delicious lemonade and okay-ish Oreo rip-offs.

Friday, October 28:

Fun weekend began in the afternoon--my first international travel while on this grant! Following my morning teaching, I schlepped my backpack and purse from the school to the train station and hopped onto a bus to Zagreb, Croatia, with four other lovely Fulbrighters. We'd decided to do this trip a few weeks prior because this coming week is a school vacation week, so we could spend Saturday and Sunday exploring Zagreb and then come back on Monday.
I really liked the street art I saw on the way from the bus station to where we caught our tram!

The bus ride to Zagreb from Vienna was about six hours--an hour or so slower than anticipated because of traffic. When we got to Zagreb, it was dark outside, and we carefully made our way to the tram stop to get to our hostel. Our hostel deserves its own set of photos, because it's pretty cool--it's called Hostel Mali Mrak, and is basically the most Berkeley living situation to exist outside of Berkeley, California. The people who own it are all young and very hip, and when we arrived they were cooking at the outdoor kitchen in the backyard next to the garage, which had been turned into a lounge. But the inside of the hostel was the best part, because every inch of the walls is painted in cool colors and designs, with funny posters and random photographs hung everywhere. Here are some photos I took of the hostel:
Bathroom replete with comic book pages!
Illusionistic mural in our bedroom...
I just liked the lighting in this shot.
The common room leading to where my friends and I slept--our door is cut off in this shot, all the way on the right.
The backyard--outdoor kitchen on the right, with the garage/lounge in the middle.
Mural of one of the two lovely dogs that lives at the hostel!

It was my second time ever staying in a hostel after the USTA orientation in St. Pölten, so it was cool to compare both experiences. Hostel Mali Mrak was supper hippie-ish and laid back, so it obviously differed from the Catholic hostel we stayed in for that orientation. But it was just such a cool house, and very inexpensive--I think I paid a little over 30 euro for three nights' stay. And since the euro is stronger than the Croatian currency, we were able to eat and shop very well for not that much.

Saturday, October 29:

Jam-packed with sight-seeing! Unfortunately, my excitement was dampened a little by the completely arbitrary move of my camera breaking for no good reason. Hence the title of this post. I'm not really sure what happened, but my camera is pretty old--I've been using it for almost ten years, since it was a Bat Mitzvah gift, so I figure it's had a good life. And now that I have an iPhone, I'm usually pretty good at being able to get decent photos. If worst comes to worst, I live about five minutes walk from what seems to be the "camera shopping district" of Vienna near Westlicht. So hopefully it won't be a problem.

After taking the tram to the heart of the city, we had a delicious breakfast and walked around, using Rick Steves' guidebook for tips on what not to miss. I personally had never even heard of Rick Steves before I got to Vienna, but apparently my roommates and the Fulbrighters I was traveling with really like him. I normally don't like using guidebooks for cities, but in this case he had some great suggestions, since we only had two and a half days to explore the whole of Zagreb! We first went to the oldest tie shop in the world--apparently Croatia is home of the cravat! Each scarf and tie on sale in the shop was super high-quality, and had designs on them with specific Croatian significance--for example, Dalmatian spots, since Dalmatians come from an area that is part of Croatia! I splurged a bit on a silk scarf--now I just need to get myself to more fancy places in order to justify wearing it. But I did resist wearing it out of the store, and got to watch as the shopkeepers wrapped it up in a really elaborate way.
The main square in Zagreb! I love the colors on those buildings.
The door handle to the tie shop was in the shape of a tie. Naturally I needed a photo.

We then took the Zagreb Funicular to the Upper Town, which is the older part of the city. When I saw this little steep tram, I immediately thought of Angel's Flight in downtown Los Angeles. Also I love the word Funicular, which I didn't know was a legitimate word for that trolley/tram, and have always assumed it was some kind of carnival ride. Learning new things every day! When we got to the top, the view was breathtaking and panoramic, and the path along the wall was so picturesque that I got that same feeling of artificiality--that this was, much like Vienna, some kind of Disney installation rather than real life.
Little bit of home in Zagreb!


This kind of view makes me want to sing, but then I remember I'm in public.
See? It just seemed too lovely to be real.

Once in Upper Town, we walked around a bit until we found the Museum of Broken Relationships. I'd heard of this museum before, but honestly thought it would be more kitschy than it turned out to be. Apparently there is also one in Los Angeles, and I dimly remember reading about it opening, but I hadn't visited that one. This museum has a continually rotating and traveling collection of artifacts from failed relationships, either romantic or otherwise (but mainly romantic), along with anecdotes and explanations of their particular significance from the people who donated the object--things as universal as plushies and CDs, but also really personal mementos like letters and drawings. It was quite an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. The museum also continually solicits visitors and everyone else, really, to donate their old keepsakes with their stories, so if anyone has a gift from a partner where it didn't work out, this museum is rather a better way to dispose of it rather than burning it.
The intro text to the museum's collection.

After the Museum of Broken Relationships and a delicious lunch at a brewery, we split up--I and another Fulbrighter went to the small but entertaining Museum of Illusions (not tricks, Michael!), where we basically played with optical illusions for forty minutes. Ultimately it wasn't really worth the entry fee unless you're with small children, and in hindsight I would have rather gone to an art museum. Once done with the Museum of Illusions, we went back to the hostel for a nap, because I wouldn't be Deborah Krieger if I didn't squeeze in an afternoon nap somewhere.
I just really liked this giant painted egg. I don't know what its significance is.

We went back into the center of the city later in the evening to a really cool bar called Bacchus. It's known for its jazz music, but there weren't any musicians playing that night. The five of us enjoyed some drinks and took in the ambiance of the place, which is such a typical European "hidden treasure" that, despite being kind of underground, isn't really "hidden". As in Vienna, people were smoking quite a bit, and I actually had to go outside in the fresh air for a few minutes after a while because the smoke was getting to me, and there weren't really any windows. That capped off the night for me--it was nearly midnight when we got back to our lovely hostel.
So very classic. 

Sunday, October 30:

More sightseeing! Our first stop was to the botanical garden, where I was reminded that while you can graduate from Swarthmore, you can never leave: all of the plants were, of course, labeled for my learning pleasure. I'm not at all knowledgeable about plants, but they sure were pretty in fall, with lots of colors and suchlike.
This tree also made me miss Swarthmore. But it's not purple like the similar one at school is.
"I've never been to the footbridge with a man in my life!"

After the botanical gardens we went back to the central square and took a ride up to the Zagreb 360 observation deck. There was a slinky coffee and drinks lounge at the top, and after I had my minute-long fill of looking down at the city from way too high, I had some tea and watched the music videos on MTV playing on the large television, feeling old. The last time I had watched music videos on MTV was in 2006, when "I Love My Chick" (the clean version of the song, which I literally just looked up now) by Busta Rhymes and "Bossy" by Kelis were what was playing nonstop. The view of the city was great, but since I don't do heights, I couldn't make myself stay out on the deck for a long time, even though there were very secure-looking bars to prevent me from falling.
The view of the main town square. Yikes!

Next it was time to get a bit morbid and spooooookyyyyyy. The day before Halloween was a perfect time to visit the city's cemetery. I'm not really a cemetery person, but some of the grave decorations and headstones were architecturally intriguing, and the red leaves on the church in contrast with that bright blue sky made for great photos.
Look at that contrast. It was almost too brilliant to take in...

"I see dead people..."

We walked from the cemetery back into the heart of the city, which was a fairly good walk involving way too many stairs. Our next stop was Tolkien's House, a Lord of the Rings-themed bar, naturally. I was a little disappointed that it had no actual connection to Tolkien, because it was otherwise just a bit random to have this kind of place sitting around without, say, being a place where Tolkien lived if he ever lived in Zagreb. But the drinks were tasty!
I know almost nothing about Lord of the Rings, but the decorations were kind of cute.

Monday, October 31:

Saying goodbye to Zagreb! After having delicious Cremeschnitte (krem-shnit-tuh), a custard-y cake eaten throughout central and eastern Europe, we walked around the city one last time, checking out the stalls at the markets and picking up last-minute souvenirs. Yes, we did have cake for breakfast, because adulthood means you can do that and no one is allowed to judge you. It doesn't make up for another less-fun things about being an adult, but eating cake for breakfast is still a nice perk.
Spur-of-the-moment half-hearted Carmen Sandiego costume because I saw this hat and wanted to try it on. Except I forgot that her outfit is red...

We walked through a few more public parks (and had lunch with the slowest waiter ever) before we dragged our bags to the Zagreb bus station for our 3pm bus back to Vienna; I was back in my apartment safe and sound before 9pm.

So that was my week! Very busy and exciting, unlike last week's slower pace. Of course it can't always be like that, but I definitely want to travel more when I get the chance to--maybe go to Budapest or Prague or Berlin... it definitely made me feel confident and independent to be able to just take a bus to another country, stay in a hostel, and then go back two days later. I guess this is what people experience when they backpack through Europe, but for me, it was really different from how I'd traveled abroad before: I'd usually done hotels or house exchanges with my family, so the hostel life was a big step. But now that I know how it all works, I absolutely want to travel again--of course, I'll try to see more art museums in the next place I visit!

Stray thoughts, Zagreb Edition(tm):
  • I've noticed that no matter where I've traveled, all graffiti is basically the same font, even in different languages, including in Zagreb. I don't know why this is, but it just seemed funny, like some Graffiti Council got together and decided on a style guide?
  • Things are actually open on Sundays and after eight pm in Zagreb. Hallejulah! Vienna, take note, because 8pm is still really early to close your grocery stores!
  • Zagreb is much smaller than Vienna--it's almost quaint. But of course the contemporary art museum is way out of the way... next time, Zagreb. Next time.
  • Nearly all of the souvenir shops in Zagreb had lots of unique lacework, which is quite a big tradition in Croatia! I did not know this, but honestly, I didn't know anything about Croatia a month ago...
  • The Zagreb streetcars are so cute and blue! Much cuter than Vienna's trams, which are red, white, and gray, and less cheerful-looking.

This week is also a week off from teaching, so I'll probably visit more museums and do some more exploring in Vienna. Of course, I actually need to start making serious lesson plans for my classes, since this past month has been me introducing myself to all the students in the school. I'm planning on teaching them about accents in different regions of the United States, the film industry in Hollywood, and, of course, once the election happens there will be plenty of fodder for lessons. Until next time!

(As always, if you want to express your love for me with material goods, my Amazon wishlist is here, my main site is here, and if you want to see many, many photographs of me and of Vienna, my Instagram is here.)

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