Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bus Meister: Public Transport Priority Best Practices wiki

I have started developing the Public Transport Priority Best Practices wiki as part of my Bus Meister project. The wiki is being developed on wikispaces and here's a link to the page that describes how the Bus Meister game will calculate how long it takes passengers to board a public transport vehicle, and therefore how long the vehicle will need to stop at a station.

The page has links to the other pages too. Since it's a wiki please feel free to edit it ... it's quite easy really, but I may need to invite you, so just let me know if you want to help!

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Creating City-Scale Collaboration with Games

Jane McGonigal has developed this slideshow about using games for city scale collaboration. It's something I am working on as part of my Bus Meister project ( It looks like we are going to get a small amount of seed funding from the city of Vienna to develop a game and start the social network and best practices wiki database. More later, but McGonigal's work is extremely interesting and well worth seeing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Copenhagen Recommendations

copenhagen harbor tour june08-56
Last month I attended the CIVITAS Forum 2010 conference in Malmo Sweden. I arrived early and spent Monday walking around Copenhagen.

The region is very interesting because since the Oresund bridge was built the Copenhagen and southern Sweden area have essentially become a single region including Malmo and Lund in Sweden with Copenhagen. The regional train (S-train), Oresundstag, runs every twenty minutes between Copenhagen, Copenhagen Kastrup airport, Malmo and Lund. It's easy, convenient and fast.

Copenhagen Central Station 27sept10-6
I started my Copenhagen walk at the central train station and then headed to the neighborhood north of Tivioli and the main pedestrian street (Frederiksbergg). It's pretty cool with lots of cafes, hip stores and young businesses.

I walked to the Norreport metro/S-train station, it's a fairly typical urban station, the regional trains are underground - they travel underground through the center of Copenhagen. The station has lots of bike parking, but not enough for Copenhagen's seemingly limitless demand. At the Civitas Forum we saw a great photo of bikers in the winter - they were covered with snow and ice but biking!

Gryberg Copenhagen - 27sept10-3
From Norreport I walked to the King's Garden park through the center of town. I walked around a little in the neighborhood just to the west of the park, and wandered down a small street called Lille Strandstrædet until I reached number 24, the location of a wonderful bakery/chocolate producer called Gryberg. I had a coffee and they treated me to one of their dark chocolate-passion fruit (two of my very favorite things) truffle with the coffee.

Gryberg Copenhagen - 27sept10-4
The person working there told me this truffle had just won first prize as best in Denmark, and I could easily understand why. The store is located right near where the canal boat tours leave (Nyhavn). By the way, I took one of these boat tours in 2008 and it was lots of fun (see my flickr Copenhagen photo set).

Copenhagen Changing of the guard 27sept10-04
After my coffee I walked over to the Amalienborg Slot (Royal Palace) and quite unexpectedly I arrived just in time for the changing of the guard (actually I did not even know that they did this in Copenhagen!). The palace square is shaped in an octagon, and the west side opens towards the harbour.

Copenhagen Kastellet 27sept10-4
After viewing the changing of the guard, I walked over to the harbour and walked north to the Kasteliet, a fort with earthen walls and a moat that's still used as a military headquarters (although people are free to walk around and enjoy the views from the walls). Then on to the Little Mermaid statue ...

Copenhagen Little Mermaid is gone 27sept10-2
But, the statue was gone - visiting Shanghai for the worlds fair! I saw it on my 2008 boat tour, but still, it's funny to think that a city would give away its most famous tourist attraction for six months. There must have been some debate about that!

Trains at Copenhagen Osterport Station 27sept10-1
Then on to a pedestrian bridge crossing over the railway tracks north of the Osterport railway station. The main railway tracks go right through Copenhagen from the main station to Norreport station and on to Osterport station.

Through railway service is very convenient and makes railway service much more efficient for operators. I have written about Zurich's S-Bahn through service (Zurich is building another through line now), Malmo is also building a through tunnel and Vienna is building a new central through station to replace the old South and East railway terminals ... to name just three current through railway projects under construction.

Copenhagen Livable Street 27sept10-3
I walked through the Holmens cemetery to Oster Farimagsgade street. There I found a whole series of one block long streets with very simple and small houses but all these streets were woonerf streets. I have never seen such good examples of the woonerf concept. I love this photo of the playhouse and picnic bench in the middle of the block. Sorry it was a school day and too early for children to be outside, that would have made a good photo.

Copenhagen Aamanns take away 27sept10-2
By now it was time for lunch, so I stopped at Aamanns take away smorrebrod ... it's an informal place, with a couple large tables so you can eat there or take away. I had three of their open face sandwiches ... the Fish: Pickled herring with compote of plus, fresh plums and a dice of cabbage ... the Beef: Fried loin of beef with remoulade, crispy onions and horseradish,

Copenhagen Aamanns take away 27sept10-6

and ... Vegetables: New Danish leeks with fried potatoes, wood sorrel, carrot/celeriac emulsion and "fedtegrever" ... all washed down with a local draft beer from a brewery called Hersler Bryghus. It was a yummy lunch in very pleasant surroundings. The restaurant, next door, also looked fine. My lunch cost about 200 Danish Kroner, which is about 28 Euros.

Then it was time to walk back to the main train station for my train back to Malmo, the conference was about to begin and I didn't want to be late.

All my photos - from my harbour tour in 2008 and this trip are available on my flickr Copenhagen photo set.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Berlin Recommendations

Kollwitzplatz Berlin 22sept10-3

I was in Berlin last week for the Innotrans conference. Berlin's one of my favorite cities, it's a very special place - especially when the weather cooperates as it did on this trip.

One of the reasons I like Berlin is that I really have learned my way around - 3 one-month long German courses at the Goethe Institute helps a lot. I think I have walked through all the city neighborhoods and the Goethe Institute's culture program introduced me to the museums and the city's history.

Berlin S-Bahn sept10-10

Riding the S-Bahn above the city from Charlottenburg to Ostkreutz is probably the best urban rail experience in the world. You pass all the main Berlin sights including the Reichstag (with its transparent dome), the new government buildings, the fantastic new main train station (Hauptbahnhof), the historic art museums on Museum Insel and of course the Spree River. Many of the stations are works of art in and of themselves: Freidrichstrasse, Hackescher Markt, Alexanderplatz ... I could ride this line all day long ... but alas, I had work to do at Innotrans.

Innotrans is a huge exhibition for all types of public transportation. All the major manufacturers of buses, railway vehicles and equipment, vehicle components, software systems, consulting firms, ticket machine vendors, ... you name it, they are there. It's almost too much, even for a public transport guy like me. The main reason I attended was to help the Rail Technology Cluster Austria (RTCA) with a couple projects.

On my trip I returned to several old favorite restaurants and tried two restaurants recently reviewed in the Financial Times - all were great and were a wonderful antidote to public transport overload. I had an appetizer of cold smoked trout served on potato salad with bacon the first night. I enjoyed a really fresh draft Augustiner (Munich) beer with it. The kitchen and bar at Alte Europa (in Mitte) is quite creative and the food is always great.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-3

On Tuesday I went to Kurpfalz-Weinstuben (photo above). The restaurant has a limited menu because one person, Rainer Schultz (the owner), cooks. I spent a long time discussing the menu with my waitress and finally selected the 'wild' soup (wild is meat that traditionally is hunted: deer, boar, etc. and is generally available in the fall). My soup was made with boar and wild mushrooms. It was delightful.

Did I mention the wines? The restaurant is justifiably famous for its wines - they offer probably 50 wines by the glass. I asked my waitress to make recommendations for me, and she did a great job. A very dry Riesling with the wild soup.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-2

My main course was a kabob of pork fillet and pieces of apple wrapped in bacon (actually Tyrolean dried ham). The meat had been marinated and was as tender as could be. It was served with a potato salad made with apple cubes and tiny diced pickles. I don't like heavy potato salads, but this was incredibly light - Chef Schultz told me he made it with creme frache instead of mayonnaise. I was bad and asked if I could taste the sauerkraut (a side dish that accompanied one of the other main courses). My waitress brought me a large bowl full and it was wonderful: very light and fresh tasting, not at all sour, again, home made. That's Herrn Schultz in the photo below.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-5

I ended the meal with honey parfait which was the perfect compliment for all the food and wine I enjoyed. Kurpfalz-Weinstuben is a wonderful place. My meal with wine was about 45 Euros without tip.

Berlin Schwartzwaldstuben 22sept10-3

On Wednesday I returned to a place in Mitte called Schwarzwaldstuben. I actually lived on the third floor of this building on my last Goethe Institute course, so I had eaten here several times. They specialize in cooking from the Black Forest (in German: Schwarzwald) and also have Rothaus Beer from the region. I had the lunch special shown in the photo above, Wild Goulash - goulash made from deer meat - that was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It came with green Spätzle - perfect for soaking up the wonderful goulash sauce.

That evening I went to another restaurant recommended in the FT: Weinstein. It's located in Prenzlauerburg and is also a wine lover's paradise. One of the nice things about this restaurant is that if you order three courses they give you free mineral water and coffee, so I ordered three courses!

I started with celery soup: bright green with little bits of sausage in it. It went perfectly with the Pfaz wine recommended by my waiter.

Berlin Weinstein 22sept10-4

My main course was deer fillet served on top of a bed of green beans (which were cooked with bacon and onion) surrounded by four oven roasted cherry tomatoes (at the corners). The meat was so tender you could cut it with your fork and the vegetables were cooked well enough to stand up to the meat. Incredibly, the recommended wine was a Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel ... my favorite California Zin from my ZAP days in San Francisco ... served by the glass! You know what I drank.

Berlin Weinstein 22sept10-6

Dessert was mini quark cakes in a compote of plums marinated in cinnamon. The quark cakes were little balls, light as a feather, served warm in the bowl full of compote. Yum. The recommended wine was a sweet German Riesling from the Mosel region, and while I am not normally a sweet wine drinker, the waiter said it was really worth trying, and he was right. While sweet, it also had a touch of mineral taste that gave it more depth than many sweet wines I have drunk. My meal cost about 52 Euros without tip.

Weinstein also has a tasting menu on Monday to Wednesday that lets you try small portions of their seasonal menu, perhaps I should have done that since everything I ate was superb. The price for the tasting was 36 Euros (without wine and tip).

ZRH Airport 23sept10-1

I needed to fly through Zürich on my way back to Vienna, and our flight was quite delayed leaving Berlin. But, I just caught my flight from Zürich to Vienna (I was one of those guys running through the airport and they closed the door right after I walked on - thanks Swiss!) and arrived at home to ask Christa when we can go to Berlin for a holiday.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Liz Castro: Corollary to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

Here's a great post from Liz Castro's blog "Pigs Gourds and Wikis": Corollary to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle:

Yesterday in the metro on the way to pick up the kids from school, it occurred to me that there should be a corollary to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. My extremely basic memory from seventh grade of that principle is that you can't observe a particle with absolute accuracy because the very act of observing it affects the particle and makes it do things it wouldn't have otherwise.

But what I'm realizing is that observing not only affects the particle in question, but these days as I drown in tweets, it affects the observer (me). I need to keep track of what's going on, but if I keep completely up-to-date, I don't have any time to create. If I only create, I don't have any time to keep up to date on what's going on outside my office.

Thus, the Corollary: I can neither keep completely up-to-date, nor only create. The trick, as ever, is to find the balance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Waterfront Planning in Buffalo NY

Here's a fine article "Our Waterfront, Ourselves" by Bruce Fisher about what to do when a large big box retailer pulls out of a waterfront development project. This has been a shock to Buffalo's planning and development community - providing for lots of discussion and questions (be sure to read the comments).

An excellent feature is that Fisher starts from the - should be obvious - point that the Buffalo area is shrinking and therefore whatever is done needs to be quite different from what's done in growing regions. Hmmm... why don't we ever think this way in planning school?

Too many cities chase the chimeras de jour - festival marketplaces, downtown ball parks, convention centers, casinos, ... all big plans that capture the imagination but fail to spur city economies.

In this context Fisher's suggestion that funds be spent to clean up the water, increase public access and encourage local initiatives rather than subsidizing big box retail and parking make lots of sense.

Fisher's article is refreshing as both planning theory and in Buffalo's public debate over this important issue.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world | Video on

Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world | Video on

I just watched this TEDx video. It's really a great analysis of how games can be used to help make social change and how they are, in fact, being used. Priebatsch's discussion of dynamics of games will be helpful in developing Bus Meister (

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thanks for the votes!

I've been traveling, but the big news is that my Singfrancisco music video won one of the runner-up prizes in the Swiss International Airlines contest promoting their new service to San Francisco. I won two round trip tickets for a flight in Europe ... cool! You can still see the video on my YouTube channel.

By the way, as I was catching up with my reading I checked James Fallows' blog and he had a post recommending Pamplamoose (links to their cover of Lady Gaga Telephone on YouTube). They are really fantastic and show how good a modern music video can be ... highly recommended!

More when I recover from my jet lag.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

But, what about the beer?

Munich Victualmarkt Feb08-08
Beer from wooden keg, der Pshorr, Munich, from my flickr Munich photos.

Monocle recently ranked Munich the world's most livable city. I love Munich and I think that the Monocle video presents a very nice view of the city.

I was particularly struck by the comments from BMW's head of design, Adrian van Hooydonk. In the video he says Munich doesn't take energy from you (the way living in many cities does) but gives you energy (about 3 minutes into the video). I remember thinking something similar when I first visited in the 1980s ... waiting for the U-Bahn, which was clean, fast and reliable as clockwork, I thought how nice it must be not to have to worry about public transport ... a real difference from most big cities. This frees up energy for creativity.

My only complaint about the Monocle video is that it did not mention beer, and, for me at least, the beer in Munich tastes better than anywhere in the world. My posts and recommendations for Munich.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Watching Scorpio in Vienna

Scorpio Vienna Kino unter Sternen Karlsplatz 10july10-16
Scorpio: Chase scene through Vienna Karlsplatz U-Bahn station.

On Saturday I went to the Kino unter Sternen (movies under the stars) on Vienna's Karlsplatz. The program is being held at Karlsplatz this year (in addition to the regular Kino unter Sternen at the Augarten) because the Wien Museum has a great exhibition called Wien im Film on right now.

The Kino unter Sternen is showing a whole series of films made (at least partially) in Vienna. Scorpio was particularly good because the big chase scene was filmed at the Karlsplatz U-Bahn station when it was under construction during the 1970s. Sorry the photo is out of focus. More photos on my flickr photos tagged Scorpio Vienna Kino untern Sternen. More photos are available from the flickr user Kino unter Sternen including one of the Wiener Beschwerdechor (Vienna Complaining Choir) singing before the July 3 movie - see if you can find me!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Swiss International Air Lines: Minding the network (SFO 1)

JFK Landing Jun07 - 11

Swiss Airlines just started a blog about flying and their operations. The first post was Swiss International Air Lines: Minding the network (SFO 1) is about scheduling flights. It was quite fascinating.

Another great source of information on flying is Patrick Smith's Salon column "Ask the Pilot". Patrick even answered one of my questions (about how flights are controlled over areas where there is no radar coverage, e.g. over the Atlantic Ocean). His explanations are clear and I really enjoy the fact that he says exactly what is on his mind (see some of his columns on security!).

The second Swiss Blog was on preparations for starting service in San Francisco. Of course I asked if they were making any special arrangements for "cows who come to San Francisco with flowers in their horns" but no response yet!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cali Columbia's Bus Rapid Transit System Film

Here's a film from current TV on Cali Columbia's new bus rapid transit system which is called MIO. It's a nice film illustrating many of the benefits of BRT. At one point a user complains that she likes the older minibuses better - because the new system is too crowded! Not sure if that's really a negative ... a few more buses might solve the problem.

For a slightly less serious look at South American BRT systems check out my music video parody: The Bus From Curitiba on YouTube.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Urban Track Final Conference 2010

 Czech Pendolino train in Prague main station.

I went to the Urban Track Project final conference in Prague because I am helping the Wiener Linien (Vienna’s public transport operator) on a research project intended to better understand the motivation for implementing good maintenance procedures. The conference presented results of the four year research project on how to design and build better urban rail (streetcars, metro, subway, etc.) track work. Several of the presentations were about how to design slab track to reduce noise and vibration.

Since I am more of a planner than engineer a couple of the less track-engineering presentations were more interesting for me. These were on: green track, rehabilitation processes and socio-economic impacts of rehabilitation projects.

Brussels Public Transport 25apr10-06

Green Tram Tracks on Avenue Louise in Brussels (from my flickr photos)

The Green Tram Tracks, The Advantages of Implementing Vegetation Systems in Tram Tracks presentation was by Henrikje Schreiter from the Institute of Agricultural and Urban Ecological Projects (IASP) in Berlin. She described her phd dissertation on the benefits of using a specific plant species (Sedum, which is a succulant plant) for green tracks. In summary, there are a lot of benefits including water retention, reducing noise (small, but something), reducing airborne particles and just creating a nice visual environment. She discussed lots of the practical reasons why Sedum is a good choice (e.g no need for mowing) and how you actually build these systems (e.g. building them so that emergency vehicles can drive over them).

The IASP is holding a seminar on the subject of green tracks (German) – who knew that Berlin has been using green tracks since the early 1900s? – on 20 September 2010 (before the Innotrans Exhibition). The seminar is in German, but I may try to go and can do some translation of interesting presentations.

Several speakers talked about rehabilitation of tram tracks. As visitors to my website and YouTube channel know, tram track rehabilitation is a subject close to my heart! Speakers described a replacement project in Bremen where the tram service was only stopped for a weekend (although roadway traffic on the adjoining lanes was stopped for four weeks) for a traditional tram track replacement project, and one in Karlsruhe, where the city took about three weeks to install pre-fabricated track slabs in a historic district.

The contrast between the two projects was quite interesting. In Bremen the goal was to minimize service disruption and in Karlsruhe the goal was to install historic-looking track as efficiently as possible. In the project area Karlsruhe’s track is set in cobble stone pavement, so the prefabricated sections had a cobble stone surface. Also interesting was the fact that the work was done under the catenary lines – which made it difficult to maneuver cranes and lifting equipment. Both projects were partly funded by the Urban Track project and lots of practical lessons were learned.

The final presentation I will talk about was by Marjolein de Jong from Hasselt University in Belgium. The presentation was on evaluating the socio-economic impacts of tram track rehabilitation projects. What I found so interesting about her research was how systematically she identified the potential impacts and her findings regarding various potential staging strategies. When I talked to her later she said, well it’s just impact analysis 101, but I think it’s important because it starts to develop an organized framework for thinking about some of the problems planners face when considering rehabilitation programs.

More information about the UrbanTrack project is available at the UITP website.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tour de France - Brussels

I was in Brussels on Monday for a meeting of the High Speed Regions group. As it happened the Tour de France was traveling through Brussels - a block from our meeting location - on Monday too, so I had time to watch the racers go by.

Unfortunately it was right at the start of the day's race, so the riders were going quite slowly and were all in a pack. Well actually mostly team packs. It was funny because the streets were blocked for hours but the race took about 30 seconds to go by (and, they were going slowly!). Also odd is that there were probably more cars, trucks, motorcycles etc. going by than bikes. More photos on my flickr photos Tour de France Brussels.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Die Prinzen: Mein Fahrrad - My Bike

I just heard the song "Mein Farrad" (My Bicycle) by Die Prinzen on the radio. It's a very catchy tune and the words are lots of fun. I thought I would translate it for my English speaking bicycle friends, so here goes:

The other day I was going 120 (kph)
Riding round town on my bike
And as usual I could only hope
The police wouldn't catch-up to me
Because they'd give me a ticket
And take me to the station
And my poor little bike
Would be left all alone out front
Oh how I love my bike
Although I really don't know why
To her I'll always be faithful
In contrast to my wife
Never will I leave her
Never will I give her away
Because we fly together on the clouds
And understand each other perfectly

Every grandpa drives his Opel
Every monkey drives his Ford
Every idiot drives his Porsche
Every asshole drives his Audi Sport
Every crazy man drives his Manta
Every complete idiot his Jaguar
Only connoisseurs are cycling
And they're always faster there

My bike is surely not purple
That's not my color at all
And it's certainly not brown
Because I can't stand brown
No, mine is painted blue
From head to toe that shade
Blue's the perfect color for me
Because sometimes I'm blue too

Every grandpa drives his Opel
Every monkey drives his Ford
Every idiot drives his Porsche
Every asshole drives his Audi Sport
Every crazy man drives his Manta
Every complete idiot his Jaguar
Only connoisseurs are cycling
And they're always faster there!

I took a few liberties with the lyrics, but I hope it does justice to the great song! Feel free to add improvements to the comments.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Two Vienna Musical Stars

Last fall IKEA set up a truck with their catalog cover furniture minus people at the MuseumsQuartier. Passers-by could have their photo taken in the scene. Thinking quickly I went downstairs into the U-Bahn station and asked to borrow the Mozart Kugel (a type of candy) man. Back upstairs to the photo shoot and now, here it is, two of Vienna's musical geniuses together on the same stage!

Don't forget to vote for my latest music video: Flowers in your Horns!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Prague Arcades

Lucerna Arcade Prague

I've always been fascinated by arcades, those ‘shopping mall precursors’ in cities where a set of shops runs in a corridor through the middle of a building. Paris and Brussels have a couple of great old ones, I even like the modern Funf Hofe in Munich, but for some reason I never noticed Prague’s arcades on previous trips. This week, while walking around aimlessly looking for a good place to eat (one of my favorite activities), I found myself in a really cool one, the Lucerna, which made me notice many more.

Adria Arcade Prague

Like most of Prague all the arcades I visited are showing their age. Most of the shops, restaurants and cafes located in them are not flashy or the latest trends (in contrast to Munich!) but seem to cater to the normal needs of locals.

The Lucerna, like many of the arcades, was actually a series of arcades connected together so they differed stylistically and in terms of tenants and state of repair. Only one of the arcades is actually the Lucerna, the others were called Rokoko and Dum u Novaku (sorry for not using the Czech spelling, no keyboard). These were particularly interesting since the connected arcades were in very different styles.

Kino Cafe in Lucerna Arcade, Prague

The Lucerna arcade is built around a movie theater with several places to eat and a music/beer club. The architecture features lots of marble and a huge hanging sculpture of a knight riding a horse, but the horse is upside down (feet up) and the knight is riding on the horse’s stomach (see top photo). I had a coffee in the coffeehouse with windows over looking the sculpture. The coffeehouse was great, it was clear that it was used for performances (there was a grand piano), there were some children playing in a corner with the parents having a coffee and chat. The cafe probably gets lots of visitors after shows.

The Adria arcade was located on Jungmannova Street near my hotel. There I was most impressed with the old art deco architecture and decorations. The mosaic caught my eye with two railway scenes. There was a very nice old sign for a record producer around the doorway of a former tenant. As I left I noticed that the building seemed to have originally been built for one of those old transport insurance agencies (there was a sculpture with a powerful figure seeming to protect a ship in heavy seas).

Not really an arcade, but opening on to one, was the Franciscan Cloister garden. This is a truly beautiful urban open space. Located in the middle of a block, it’s a quiet oasis (except for the sound of children playing) in the center of the city. It’s well maintained with beautiful flowers and lots of benches (many of which are full). There’s a great fountain sculpture of a naked child playing with water … the children around all loved it.


Finally, I discovered the Trznice arcade on Rytirska Street. I was drawn in by a beautiful painting of a market scene over the interior doorway (photo). As I walked though I found that the arcade had been remodeled with a grocery store, drug store and a couple other 1980s style shops. The space itself had been given one of those dropped ceilings (it was still quite high) but there was a skylight through which you could see the original metal and glass roof (photo). It’s too bad there is not enough money to rehabilitate all these beautiful structures.

All my Prague arcade photos are here.

Prague - June 2010

I visited Prague last week for a conference on urban railway track construction best practices (more on the Urban Track conference in a future post).

Prague is a fantastic city: you can walk from one highlight to the next. One of my favorite neighborhoods is the old Jewish Quarter. I have visited the historic sights before and so now I just like to walk around the neighborhood, being gently reminded of the Holocaust.

Many buildings in this neighborhood were built at the turn of the 19th Century and are Jugendstyle (Art Nouveau) – perhaps my favorite building style.
I skipped breakfast in my hotel both days and walked to a really fine bakery-cafe called Bake Shop for espresso and pain au chocolat … a real treat (some Prague Bake Shop photos here).

The weather was beautiful and I could sit out doors and enjoy my breakfast. One of the things I love about Prague is that it is so quiet on the streets (at least in the center) and so you can really enjoy sitting outside eating.

As I was leaving I noticed how the roof lines were making nice patterns against the clouds and started taking photos of rooflines meeting the skyline. Many of the photos are buildings from Parizska street and the Jewish Quarter. I couldn’t help but notice that today’s contribution to how buildings meet the skyline is generally cellular telephone antennas or satellite television disks.

Another really cool thing I noticed about Prague is the very large number of arcades running through buildings between streets. I talk about Prague’s arcades in future post.

After the first day of the conference we had a reception at the Prague Tram Museum (website lists all Prague museums, scroll down to tram museum info). The museum is really great, many old vehicles all very well restored. It is an old tram barn, naturally, and it has been very nicely cleaned up. The descriptive texts are in the Czech language, but there is a brief guide for the museum in English. It’s one of the better tram museums I have visited. (Some photos of the Prague Tram Museum are here.) Here's a link to information about historic trams in Prague.

The reception was very nice, good food and local beer/wine. They served a very nice Goulash made with lots of cumin and also green beans. As a real Goulash fan I enjoyed it very much. Another nice touch was a six-piece jazz band. They did lots of standards including Girl from Ipanema … of course after hearing that I talked to the band leader and “casually” mentioned that I had written new words for the song (The Bus From Curitiba) thinking he might suggest that I sing it, but alias that was not to be, so the YouTube version will need to be it for now, but they were really good and what a wonderful place to perform the song. I’ll keep looking for more opportunities.

After the reception we took a night walk through the city, first stopping at the main square where live outdoor viewing of the world cup was going on, then through the old city to the Charles Bridge, it was dark by then, but everything is well lighted. Over the bridge and then up to the castle where there were only a few people, but again, everything well lighted. Then back down the hill to the hotel where I had to wake up early to make it to the Bake Shop before the conference started.

I’m writing from the train on my way back to Vienna. The fast trains between Prague and Vienna seem quite crowded (especially 1st class – many tourists). On the way to Prague there was only one 1st class wagon – with several children playing video games (with the sound turned on) and two infants crying … so it was really not relaxing. Today the air conditioning is not working very well - in the second 1st class wagon it's not working at all! The railways really need to do a better job!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Truman Show - Vienna

One of my favorite movies was The Truman Show, I thought that the plot was quite good, but also enjoyed seeing the new urbanist city Seaside Florida, the movie setting.

Anyway Oliver Hangl, the artistic director of the Vienna Complaining Choir among many other artistic projects, is doing a project this week called Kino im Kopf: Die Truman Show where the audience rides through Vienna on a streetcar (they have headphones for the soundtrack) and people on the street act out scenes from The Truman Show movie. Oliver needed extras so, along with many members of the Complaining Choir helped out. We worked at Lancaster Square (actually the Josefstadterstrasse U-Bahn - Tram stop).

Here's a photo of the people on the tram enjoying our performance. Our job was to bend down and hold our ears for the 15-seconds while the tram went by. (I had the camera balanced on my leg and just shot, so it's out of focus). More photos are on my flickr site tagged Truman Show Vienna.

EXTRA: We helped out throughout the week and on Saturday we were in the audience on the tram. The show was great and I took more photos which are also on the flickr site.

It's going on until Saturday 26 June 2010, highly recommended if you are in Vienna!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tre Porcellini in Macelleria Falaschi - San Miniato

I helped with the Slow Food Terra Madre in Vienna last fall. My job was to help make the group of vendors from Italy feel at home (I know, tough work, but someone's got to do it!).

I spent a lot of time talking and eating with Andrea Falaschi from the Falaschi butcher shop in San Miniato. They host an annual "Jazz at the Macelleria" party at the butcher shop (macelleria means butcher shop in Italian) and this week I received this invitation for a puppet show from them ... unfortunately I can't attend but wish I could, their sausage and prosciutto are fantastic! The photo on the right is Andrea making a point, note the knife in his left hand ...


The Sergio Falaschi's Butcher, this year at the international exhibition of street theater "La Luna è Azzurra" in San Miniato, has decided to offer a show of puppetry, inspired by the Group " Teatro a Dondolo" from Pisa, based oa reinterpretation of the Three Little Pigs story, inspired by the three figures of pigs raised in the wild state, the ones rised in the semi-wild state and the pink pig raised in stable. The show will be accompanied by a live musical performance, conceived for the occasion by "Bill Gorazde".
During the the show, entitled " I TRE PORCELLINI IN MACELLERIA" (The Three Little Pigs in Butcher), a tasting of three different types of salami will be offered to the pubblic: The Cinta Senese Dop (from pork raised in the wild), the Grey (from pork raised semi-wild state) and classic Tuscan salame with wine (from pink pig raised in stable). The salami tasting will be all accompanied by "Annick" and "Nicole" wines by Cosimo Maria Masini.
.......We kindly requires adults accompanied by childrens.............

The evening event will be held on Thursday, June 24.
The performances will start at 21:15 and 22:15.

We are waiting for you!