And I thought the opening ceremonies were surreal….

Olympic grinch

The closing Olympic ceremonies had us wondering what drugs we had been slipped. I was cool with the giant pizza dough, and the three dancing decks of playing cards, and the Fellini-esque acrobats, and the skaters with the flaming helmets. YMCA? Why not. Ladies with villages on their skirts? Fabulous idea.

Olympic pizza dough

And I loved the flying snowboarder. And even though I was hoping for Eros Ramazzotti, I accepted Andrea Bocelli. And when the Canadians went with Avril Levine, I accepted that, too.

Olympic human playing cards


Halfway through the closing ceremony, the actors got bored and amused themselves with a rousing game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’.

The highlight, where they set a flying snowboarder on fire

But Ricky Martin?

He was just as surprised as we were to see him performing.

Fun in Bavaria

We spent last weekend in Landshut, Germany, a small town about 45 minutes northeast of Munich (like all Americans, I measure distance in hours and minutes). We went to see our friend and her new baby, who were visiting relatives there. I’m usually not all that enthralled with babies, but this one was particularly cute. Not like most babies.

As stipulated by Bavarian law, we consumed nothing but pretzels, cheese, and weissbier for the entire weekend (being a vegetarian, I was able to finagle my way out of the sausage requirement).

Landshut is awfully adorable for a town you’ve never heard of. It has a gorgeous cathedral, and a foreboding castle up on a hill overlooking the town. The houses along the main street look like they’ve been painted with birthday cake frosting. There is also a bakery on practically every corner, offering among other things a tempting assortment of melted-cheese-covered baked goods (mostly pretzels).

This was our second trip there, the first one being earlier this year for the Landshuter Hochzeit, a festival held every four years which involves the reenactment of wedding festivities from 1475, the year that marked the end of Landshut’s importance to anyone from anywhere but Landshut. There is jousting, parading, medieval flag-throwing, public drunkenness, and of course obscene amounts of sausage, cheese, pretzels and beer. In order to participate as a character in the reenactment, one must have been born in Landshut, which surely explains why black-market Landshut birth certificates command such ridiculous prices. You also have to stop cutting your hair years in advance to qualify, because apparently haircuts had not yet been invented in 1475. Plus, I hear it helps if you have lots of money, or have connections on the all-powerful Landshuter Hochziet board of directors. I learned this while drinking weissbier with my friend’s father, who seemed more than a little bitter that he had never been chosen to participate.

Mariachi bands may or may not be allowed on the tram

The powers that be recently got together and decided that the signs inside Zurich public transportation were unacceptably lacking in humor, stereotypes, and surrealism. Much to my delight, they fixed all three problems at once, making my daily tram rides a lot more entertaining.

Care to guess what the following diagrams are trying to tell us?

Before you go out and buy a sombrero and a hand saw to bring on your next trip to Zurich, It may help if I explain that in the German-speaking world, a red circle around something means “no”. Yes, it would be clearer if they went a step further and put the slash that the rest of the world understands to mean something is forbidden, but then it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to guess at the meanings of these things.

PS – People look at you funny when you take pictures of signs on a crowded tram.

[See updates to this story under the tag mariachis.]

Look, those are clouds down there

Yesterday we went skiing in Flumserberg, which is less than an hour away from home. With slopes that close to home, how can you not learn how to ski?

When we left Zurich in the morning, it was overcast. As we drove up the mountain, it got worse. I was dreading the thought of trying to ski in white-out conditions yet again… and then suddenly we burst through the top of the cloud, and it was a glorious, sunny day. And some excellent skiing.

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