The Rewards Of Going Shoeshopping With Your Wife

If you expect, based on the headline, some juicy stuff – STOP right here, you’ll be disappointed. Remember, I was a good sport – strike that. I was an exemplary sport, strike that, too. I was every wife’s dream husband, naw still not descriptive enough. I could feel the silent gasp of deep admiration of my friends from Minneapolis? Jon, for example had teas in his eyes when he read of my shoe shopping with my wife for my wife. My father-in-law was shouting three “Huzzahs” and a “Der Junge” from the top of his lungs and the top of his house. And the two girls who rejected me painfully when I was 15, cried bitter tears of regret over that immature rejection oh so many years ago – “Ladies, suck on it. Oh no, wait, you can’t do that anymore either. Whoops too bad.”
Anyway, we want to talk about the rewards of being a patient, understanding and supporting husband on a shoe shopping expedition. And this reward I got today in form a the toppest top shelf Spanish Hot Chocolate And Churros. So, enjoy living vicariously through this image.
20130926-230650.jpg And for good measure a close up of that unbelievable thick and good hot chocolate. That we enjoyed at the Chocolateria San Ginés in Madrid, Spain.
20130926-230803.jpg And with that:”Stay sharp and good night.”

Yours Markus \m/

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Thoughts On Spain

Wie are in Madrid now. This is our forth city in Spain on my first trip ever to Spain – well, with the exception of two spring training camps on Mallorca twenty years ago.
Spain has been a great surprise, primarily because I had no idea what to expect. The architecture, the history, the people, the language, the food and what appears to be the way of life. And that way of life is exactly what is occupying me currently. On one hand Spain reminds me so much of Califormia, but with real old stuff and history, but on the other hand Spain is in fiscal dire straits. Spain has been one of the big losers of the 2008 financial meltdown. Probably not quite as bad as Greece, but likely worse than Italy. The symptoms are not right in your face but when you look and pay attention you can spot them. Here is a list of things I noticed:
– lots of liquidation sales.
– lots of for sale signs of small and medium sized commercial property, even is good locations.
– department stores offering zero down, zero interest, long term financing on consumer goods (this has been pretty common in the US for decades, but rather new in Europe)
– fewer people flashing expensive Apple products (iPhones, iPads, etc.)
– lots of convenience stores and 1€ Stores, interestingly all run by Chinese proprietors – no Spaniards running these stores. I wonder why, is this a matter of pride, opportunity or is Spain not doing quite as bad as we’re supposed to believe.
– a noticeably large amount of people sitting on the street with signs explaining their bad fortunes and asking for donations.
– quite a few street musicians that should rather practice a bit more – I know this sounds very mean, but the spread between the really good street musicians who make money and the ones not making a lot of money is very big. We have seen three bands in Granada, that we’re excellent all filling their hats. But in Sevilla and here in Madrid in particular that is a very different scene.
– lots of apartments and houses for rent and sale (some at attractive prices)
– lots of cheap, Chinese made clothing stores (obviously that does not help the Spain economy either)
– private education institutions that advertise that they will accept any applicant – what will that do to the quality of education

All indicators that not all is well in the empire. I wonder what the future will hold in store for Spain. Obviously, youth needs to have perspectives and opportunities to work and make a living – a source to develop self esteem, something to be proud of – as youth unemployment is particularly high in Spain. The country has a deep history in good craftsman. The climate is such that Spain should be a hot bed for alternative energy development – maybe that is where Spain looks to California to adjust its economic policies to attract start-ups in those areas.

Regardless, appears to be happening just like in Germany, the US and Italy for example is a big redistribution of wealth, which results in an increasing lower class, a decreasing middle class and an emerging class of super rich.
One observation, that I am not able to fit into context, yet, is that the is a very large number of very expensive motorcycles, such as BMWs, Ducatis, Aprilias, MV Agustas and a few Harleys all properly north of 10000€. Interestingly, not many flashy cars – in Morocco we saw a couple of Bentleys, Rolls Royce, BMW 7 Series and Benz S-class, not so in Spain….at least we didn’t see any.
Either way, I would also rather spend money on a motorbike than on afar, if I lived in Spain or Andalucia specifically.

Hm, so this is it. I’ll take the iPad with me tonight to take a few pictures of Madrid for your viewing pleasure.

Until then, stay sharp and hasta luego muchachos….

Yours Markus

Cathedral

We went to see the Cathedral in Sevilla – not to be confused with listening to the Cathedral by Van Halen, since seeing it would be impossible, due to Eddie’s insane finger speed. Just as a side note.
On the way to the cathedral, after name women’s show stores, we saw a street artist whose art was pretending that he had a twin magically floating above him.
20130924-193810.jpg If you look closely you can see that there was actually a vertical pole held by the artist (bottom) to the faux twin (top) – I know you would have never noticed this subtle aid.
Anyway is the word we are looking for. The Cathedral is simply put overwhelming. As the Spanish had a pretty good line on gold back in the day, their church decorators became a bit unimaginative or just too flamboyant (which can happen with into or decorators), because the lived by “If in doubt gild it.” I don’t want to be a party popper, especially knowing how people Re totally in awe of old churches, because of all the wealth. But I remind myself all the time, that all this flash was usually ill-gotten (by today’s standards), uneducated people were lied to, people were enslaved and riches were stolen in the name of the “good lord”. Basically all the stuff, that upset Martin Luther more than 400 years, too.
Here are a few images I ink you will not find in travel guides. There is a head (a plaster version, the stench would be unbearable plus the would have to be daily moisturizing sessions on the poor guy) of San Juan Bautista – naturally decapitated.
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The was also a small room with a quite beautiful fountain whose happy splitting made you want to run to a restroom. Best of al, there was a man in the corner fighting with the wondrous Ghost Of The Machine that dispenses refreshments in exchange for coins.
20130924-195218.jpg My personal favorite is Christopher Columbus’ coffin…OK, it’s more like sarcophagus. Apparently, being Italian ( from Genua, known for its Pesto) he requested NOT to be buried in Spanish soil, so they suspended him carried by four guards.
20130924-195435.jpg And apparently, because the Catholic Church had a thing for extravagance (or Mr. Magoo’s Imaginarium), they chose to apply the same suspension treatment to a crocodile.
20130924-195558.jpg So, this concludes our little trip through the Cathedral. More to come when we are back home and I have gone through the camera images.

Sayonara dudes and stay sharp.

Markus \m/

Exhausted In Sevilla

I’ll let you know right away. I am exhausted. It has taken me three whole weeks (3!!) to fully realize Barbara’s grand scheme – to wear me down. And not the one where you have a smile on your face at the end. No, I have been out on a steady diet of culture, history, sun exposure, old buildings and history. As a treat the occasional old painting, old mosaic or old ruin. Yesterday, after I mentioned that I really thought this vacation was missing activities that involve physical exhaustion and adrenaline as experienced during biking, running or other physical activities, Barbara adjusted the day’s schedule for Sevilla – enter shoe shopping for women, whoohoo, yeah…… Logically, I am collapsing onto my bed in the eventing and into a coma like state.
But let’s get on with it. Sevilla is a great city with a most charming old town (oh my god I turn into a chick). Seriously, the old town is pretty cool and I would definitely appreciate it even more, hadn’t I seen old town for the last 3 weeks – in Morrocco, they call old towns Medinas. Sevilla plays host to Europe’s second most emptiest house. The emptiest standing somewhere in Greece. The house is so empty that the people who work there must take horse drawn carts to work, because they can’t even afford gasoline, probably not to mention cars.
20130924-155700.jpg The building that got my full attention is the Metropol Parasol, simply because it is so cool. It’s raw engineering with the nuts and bolt visible, paired with flowing aesthetics?
20130924-155924.jpg Or this abstract view.
20130924-160113.jpg And who wouldn’t want to see this.
20130924-160151.jpg I could go on like this, but I will spare you. But this is a great installation. I don’t want to call it a building – because it has a leaky roof and obviously it serves absolutely no purpose other than just being there to be looked at and for a small fee to be ascended on to – for a better view of the city. I really like it a lot.
Then today, we immersed ourselves even deeper into Sevilla’s rich history and architecture and surprisingly huge variety of women’s shoe outlets (see above why I know that). From the river where we walked a bit, we reached the bull fighting arena. I am not a big fan and I simply don’t get it. It’s four of five dudes dressed in really really skin fit pants (some people say, most toreros can sing until they late forties in boys choirs), where one taunts the beast while the others hide in nooks created by the arena and a small shelter wall, too tight for the bull to enter. And if that isn’t enough, they bring a dude on a horse in as well to further aggravate the bull. I think we can be a little more manly than that if you need to fight an animal at all.
Anyway, what I did see to my greatest surprise was a picture of the US president Barack Obama on one of the posters – tell me that he does not look like him!
20130924-161315.jpg I will now take a nap and then possibly – my exhausted condition permitting – post another entry of the wonders held in Sevilla, Spain.

Stay sharp – sharper than I did anyway.

Yours exhaustedly Markus \m/

Travel Transitions

We have been in transition since Thursday. Now, we are steady for a few more days in Cordóba, Spain. This city is very laid back. But I’ll start with two more images from Chefchaouen, the city that impressed us a lot.
20130921-155334.jpg Yes another study in shades of blue. Followed by one of the many fountains we have seen throughout Morocco.
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Next the transfer. By boat from Tanger to Algeciras, Spain. 20130921-160546.jpg Then by train to Cordóba. It was actually a pretty boring train red, so I started to experiment around with the reflections in the windows and proximity of the camera to the window. And this is what you see now – somewhere between Algeciras and Cordóba. 20130921-160817.jpg
Now on to Cordóba. And we’ll start with a love letter from Spain to America, yes you good old United States. Spain loves you so much they name streets after you -so, all must be well in the Empire.
20130921-155715.jpg Modest as you are, you could say that Spain isn’t referring to you but to it’s former colonies. But I say “Bullshit, man! Sit up straight, eat your veggies and man up!” This is you, because unlike the Central and South American cousins, you were the one that got away. This naming a street after you is a desperate lover’s call:” Maria, I can change, take me back, please!” Enough already of this nonsense. On to more serious things, like our lunch.
Spain is a major Olive and Olive Oil producer, which means if that’s what floats your boat you are in for a treat.
20130921-160426.jpg And I am going to close with a picture I saw painted on a shutter of a cafe in Cordóba. Clearly, two dudes can ride a horse like Ace and Gary when they wear a 100 pounds each in metal protective gear that prevents any hanky panky. Think of the outcry if this image would depict two dudes in board shorts on that same horse…..”OMG, will somebody think of the children!”, I can hear the religious conservatives already cry out.
20130921-161445.jpg

So long and stay sharp or as people say in Spain:”Hasta luego y mantenerse en forma!”

Yours Markus \m/

Live In Technicolor…..From All Blue Chefchaouen, Morrocco

Some people say, that Chefchaouen is all blue and white washed – and they are very close to being completely right, but they are not.
When one walks the alleys of the Medina attentively the wide eyed tourist will find them the small plastic bags and the big sacks filled with fine powders of immensely strong colour.
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This is live in TechnocolorSuperSaturated. Even though, I love black and white, this is the time and place for color.
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This means that the citizens of Chefchaouen have a choice regarding the color of their hours and alleys. They choose to go blue and white washed, thus adhering the old saying:”keep it simple.”

But what do the Chefchaouenis do with the ample array of available color, if it isn’t going specifically to wash the walls? They make art.
20130918-171754.jpg Such as this original replica of the DaVinci’s Mona Lisa on a background of Andalusian Mosaic, which is also painted, although it looks deceptively real.
I will leave you now to contemplate your own color choices and art you could copy on your own house walls while I hope you stay sharp during said contemplation.

Yours Markus \m/

Into The Blue

Just for you my dear readers, I lugged my iPad around Chefchaouen and took images to immerse you in this blue and white washed city. I mentioned yesterday, I think, that Chefchaouen is busy, yet it has a tranquil vibe. I figured it out why that it. I have the same feeling when I am swimming in an outdoor pool in the sun. The blue makes you feel like you are in one big pool laid out like a city. So jump in.
20130918-164252.jpg Passing through this door might get you to a family with a surprised look on their face since you just entered or it might get you deeper into the neighborhood.
20130918-164525.jpg You will climb many stairs in the Medina, but they are all worth it.
20130918-164628.jpg Because you pass many side alleys with more blue washed walls and doors ajar. It’s a bit like Alice in Wonderland…if Wonderland were all blue and Alice had a penis.
20130918-164759.jpg Some doors look like they were made for Hobbits.
20130918-164935.jpg Others are just simple and tastefully decorated.
20130918-165133.jpg Then again you walk through more passage ways as you look forward to get lost deeper in this maze of the Medina.
20130918-165306.jpg Of all the places we have seen in Morocco, Chefchaouen is probably my favorite city, simply because the blue environment has such a calming, cooling and homely effect on me.
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And this image above brings us to the end of our little stroll through Chefchaouen Old Town. Stay sharp and why not paint something in washed blue?

Yours Markus \m/