Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vienna - Archaeological Park Carnuntum

Recently we visited the Archaeological Park Carnuntum (very nice website). It is a museum of the Roman Empire sites along the Danube River east of Vienna. Carnuntum was a big city on an important border. There was a civilian city, a military outpost, an amphitheater and other facilities.

You can visit the open air museum in Petronell-Carnuntum, the amphitheater in Petronell and an indoor museum in Bad Deutschaltenburg. Here's a photo of a grave stone along a walkway in Bad Deutschaltenburg.

We took the train from Vienna Mitte (Landstrasse) station. We got off at Petronell-Carnuntum and there was a shuttle bus waiting to take us to the open air museum.

We spent about an hour exploring the museum which is the partly excavated ruins of the civil city. Most interesting for me were the sewers, as the descriptions said, Romans were very interested in good sanitary facilities! It was cool to see the main sewer (about 1800 years old) still in place (though not in use). Also the streets. They have re-built a villa, which was quite interesting.

Then we got on the shuttle bus for a ride to the amphitheater. It's a (much) smaller version of the Colosseum in Rome. It did not take much time and the very nice thing was that the shuttle drive had re-organized his schedule so that he waited there 15-minutes - enough time for a quick look - and then drove on to the indoor museum in Bad Deutschaltenburg. I mention his 15-minute stop because that is his idea, the schedule is for the bus to arrive every hour. So he leaves the open air museum a little early and arrives at the indoor museum a little late. A nice compromise. So, on your way from the train station to the open air museum, be sure to ask your driver when he leaves for the amphitheater.

The indoor museum is really great. There are lots of exhibits with statues and articles from daily life. It has many descriptions in English and you get a good idea of what it must have been like to live in Roman times at the edge of the Empire.

You buy one ticket for all three museums (including the shuttle!). It was 8 Euros for adults. We walked to the railway station in Bad Deutschaltenburg (about 15-minutes) and took the train directly back to Vienna from there.

There is a great restaurant in Bad Deutschaltenburg called Wirtshaus an der Donau (Restaurant on the Danube). Walk towards the Danube from the museum, bear to the left and you can't miss it. We ate outdoors on a nice patio overlooking the river. The restaurant features some Slovakian dishes that were fantastic. We both had Oravska-Placka as a main course. This is pork cooked in a tomato sauce with majoriam and a bit of pepper served inside a potato pancake with sour cream and grated cheese on top.

On a second visit we tried a pirogi-like dish that was also very fine. I had a very nice poppy-seed/sour cherry strudel (Mohn-Weichsel Strudel) and we drank draft Krusovice beer from the Czech Republic (one of my favorite beers). The meal cost about 25 Euros, highly recommended.

, which consists of an open-air museum in the for

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Alpenlachs - Vienna

We recently visited an Alpenlachs fish farm with Slow Food Vienna. The farm raises salmon (lachs is salmon in German) in the mountains, which as one of our hosts said, is strictly not correct since they don't spend any time in the ocean, but they are a very closely related species.

We started the day with a tour of the hatchery facilities. Outside Markus described the overall process (left photo) and the breeding of the "Alpenlachs" variety of salmon. Inside the hatchery Salmut described the process of raising fish from eggs to full-grown fish.

Next Salmut (right photo) showed us the fish ponds where the salmon spend about three years. The Alpenlachs people have developed a fish feeding system that helps the fish increase their omega oil production. It's based on feeding the fish only a small amount of food every few minutes throughout the day. This forces the fish to swim more and builds up their muscles.

Next we learned how to filet fish. Here's a photo of Christa in the process.

Finally, we learned how to cook the fish, here's another photo of Christa. We had a marvelous lunch featuring Alpenlachs prepared by the traveling cooks with fine Slovenian and Austrian wine. It was a wonderful way to spend a spring Saturday! You can get the Alpenlachs at the Karmelitermarkt in Vienna (Fridays and Saturdays).

Carfree Times #50

Carfree Times is a great source of inspiration for transport planners, full of beautiful photos, interesting articles, reviews and links. Issue #50 contains an interview with Professor Knoflacher from the Institute for Transport Planning and Traffic Engineering at the Vienna University of Technology. Professor Knoflacher is asked a question about automobiles and here's part of his response:

If I as a pedestrian would spray cancerous substances from a can that would be against the law. Motorists are doing just that, unresisted every day, shortening our life span on average by 12 months.

You can subscribe to Car Free Times and receive an e-mail as each issue is posted.

WIRED: Inconvenient Truths

There's an interesting article in WIRED this month on re-thinking environmental ideas including nuclear power and carbon credits as a way of reducing global warming. The article and ten points are illuminating - in that compact fluorescent type of way.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Amsterdam Tulip Museum - Retail Entertainment

A couple years ago the idea of "retail entertainment" was quite popular. The idea is that people want to be entertained as part of the shopping experience. The first example I remember was NikeTown but there are lots of others. Most of them are very large stores.

When we visited Amsterdam I was quite surprised to see the retail entertainment concept used in a store that was about as big as our bedroom: the Amsterdam Tulip Museum.

Upstairs was the store, selling flowering bulbs (the manager explained to us that tulip bulbs were out of season in March so they would not sell them) and lots of household goods with a tulip theme (dishtowels, mugs, books, etc.). Downstairs (2 Euros for adults, but they cards in many hotels offering a 1 Euro discount), was the museum.

The museum is very nice, photos and text, plus videos that explain the origin of tulips, the process of harvesting bulbs and my personal favorite a history of the tulip boom in the 1600s. It takes about 15 minutes to go through the museum and it's a very pleasant space.

I was skeptical of visiting the museum but really enjoyed it, the manager was really enthusistic and friendly, and it was quite cool to see how they translated the concept of retail entertainment into a more personal experience than the big corporate shopping centers.

The museum is located quite near the Anne Frank house in the Jordaan section of Amsterdam.
If you go there's a great cafe on a canal just behind the museum. It's called Cafe 't Smalle. The two photos below are from the cafe.

Fareed Zakaria: The Post-American World

I've read at least three reviews of this book so far but today's review in the NY Times Book Review by Josef Joffe author of “Ɯberpower: The Imperial Temptation of America” was one of the best. Here's the last line from his review:
America will be in trouble only when China becomes home to tomorrow’s hungry masses yearning to be free — and to make it.
But, read the whole review!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Driving and Coffee

Here's some interesting research from Centre for Automotive Safety Research at the University of Adelaide (Australia) on the impact of coffee in keeping you awake when driving. It reminds me of my Physchology professor at RPI, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, he told us all to take coffee breaks as we drove home. Here's the research abstract:

Caffeine is a widely available mild stimulant thought to promote alertness. It has been suggested that the
consumption of caffeine could be promoted at designated ‘coffee stops’ by the side of the road in rest areas.
However, there is some concern that coffee stops might encourage driving when a driver should be resting.
Although such roadside initiatives have been operating in Australia and overseas for many years, there are few
quantitative evaluations examining the road safety benefits of such programs. Based on empirical research
evidence, there is some support for the provision of coffee at roadside rest stops to temporarily alleviate fatigue
when driving. However, the combination of drinking caffeine (approximately two cups of coffee) and napping (i.e.,
15 minutes) during a break appears to be more beneficial than caffeine alone. Therefore, to enhance the beneficial
effects of coffee stops, drivers feeling fatigued should be encouraged to take a 10 to 15 minute nap and to
consume coffee. However, even though caffeine has a beneficial effect in alleviating fatigue, these effects are only
temporary, lasting for about two hours. Consequently, caffeine alone should not be promoted as a substitute for

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Christa's Vienna Garden

Christa has created a garden on our terrace. I helped by carrying a seemingly infinite number of bags of dirt, pots, plants and miscellaneous other necessities up stairs (actually Christa did this too). Here are some photos. More coming as the garden grows.

Spinach and White Beans

Yesterday I went to the Naschmarkt in Vienna, a great outdoor market. I had only planned to have lunch, but the produce looked so good I had to buy something, so I settled on spinach, white beans and garlic. Tonight I cooked them, here are the photos and my recipe.

As with most of my recipes this one is conceptual, I get the basic ingredients and then improvise with what we have at home (although, generally we have a lot at home!).

First, I made garlic bread. In this case I used a round Turkish bread from the Naschmarkt. It's spongy but dense.

Whenever I make garlic bread I start with the pan I will be using later to cook the main dish. I do this to season the pan and because I don't want to waste any of the garlic! Fill the pan with a good amount of olive oil.

Grate about 6-8 or more, cloves of garlic into the olive oil. You can also use a press. Heat the olive oil-garlic mixture stirring a bit. Take it off the heat once you can smell it. Dip the bread into the mixture and place on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the oven on broil and watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Here's a photo of the garlic bread.

Next, I cooked the spinach and white beans mixture. I used dry white beans (soak them overnight, then cook them until they are done a couple hours before you begin the rest of the cooking (to make sure that they are finished in time). Here are the ingredients (but be flexible):

  • 10 - 12 cloves garlic (or more!)
  • 4 - 6 medium onions
  • 150 grams speck (strongly smoked bacon minced)
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 1/2 pound (dry weight) white beans (cooked)
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Here are the instructions:

  1. Finely mince about half the garlic, chop the onions and place into a large Dutch oven (that you used to make the garlic bread, see above) with a good amount of olive oil and the speck. Cook until onions are almost done.
  2. Add the white beans, stirring. Add more olive oil if needed and the rest of the garlic (chopped, but in relatively large pieces). Add some salt and pepper. Cook with top on pan, stirring every couple of minutes.
  3. Wash the spinach, cut it so it's more manageable.
  4. After the white bean - garlic mixture has cooked several minutes, add the spinach and replace the top. You will probably need to cook the spinach in batches, after the first batch has cooked a couple minutes, simply stir the mixture and throw in the second batch.
  5. After the spinach has cooked down, stir the mixture, you may want to add more garlic at this point, but do add salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cook lightly for a couple more minutes with the top on, then take it off the heat. It's ready to serve.

I served it on top of the garlic bread, but it would also be fine alone or as a sauce for pasta. You could even eat it cold the next day.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Urban Design Compendium

The website Urban Design Compendium contains some great information about urban design principles and case studies. I was particularly impressed by the transport information in the urban design principles section.