Day 4, Vienna
We spent the evening at the Neue Galerie, a small museum devoted to German and Austrian art, located right in our neighborhood. We saw one of the best exhibits I've seen in ages: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt's "Character Heads." Basically, the exhibit consisted of a bunch of head sculptures making all these facial expressions, such as yawning or grimacing. According to the museum's web site: "To produce these works, the artist would look into the mirror, pinching his body and contorting his face. He then rendered, with great precision, his distorted expressions." They were awesome. Some of them had funny names like "Afflicted with constipation." For dinner, we had kebab at this quaint Middle Eastern restaurant. After all, you can always find great kebab in Eastern Europe.
Day 5, New York, Czech Republic and back to New York
So the guide book said we'd be going to the Czech Republic, but the travels fell at the same time as The New Yorker Festival, AKA Dan's favorite event of the year, so we did some back and forth.
Dan in his element
First, we went to see New Yorker writer James Surowiecki talk about Talent and Luck. Even though I had gotten enough sleep the night before, I was totally falling asleep during the lecture! Dan and Jason loved it, but it was not for me. We also went to see Tales out of School, where New Yorker writers such as Susan Orlean, Jeffrey Toobin, Calvin Trillin and David Gran, and Jane Mayer, reminisced their personal experiences working at the magazine. It was very funny and interesting which made up for the last one.
In between lectures, we headed uptown to a Czech Republic street fair. The fair consisted of only one city block, but it was filled with tons of people listening to live Czech rock music and eating Czech food. Just like my experiences in the country, the people were a bit chilly and the dessert was lousy, but otherwise it was a good time and a nice break from the festival.
Kayleen's brother Jarrett and friend Chad were in town, so at the end of the night, we met up with them and some friends to catch up and have a drink.
My plate of Czech food
Day 6, Slovakia and Poland
We had a big day ahead of us: not one, but TWO countries. But long ago, before this trip was planned, Dan and I signed up for a 5k cross-country race in Van Cortlandt Park. For those who don't know, that's in the Bronx, about an hour from our apartment! I had run the race before back in 2003, and it's very fun because it is a race like no other in NYC. It's small and it feels like you are back in high school in gym class. You first run across a field of grass and then through a curvy and hilly trail in the woods. It's hard, but in a good way.
After the race, we headed back home to shower and refuel and then we made our way to Long Island City, Queens, for a quick stop at Slovakia:
We picked up some treats at this tiny store and walked across the Pulaski Bridge into Greenpoint, Brooklyn to hang out in NYC's biggest Polish neighborhood.
Some of you might be surprised to learn that I don't know Greenpoint very well. My half-sister Jola used to live there with her family, so I visited there a few times growing up. But since moving to New York City, I have only been there once or twice. It's just not all that convenient, that's all. But I like it there. After all, you definitely feel like you are in Little Poland.
Here, you can find delis packed with the finest Polish hams and kielbasi. The cashiers greet you in Polish.
Dan, convinced he can read Polish, checks out the deals.
Here's one of the many apple cakes we've had this week.
Since it was a Sunday, many stores in the neighborhood were closed but the streets were festive because it had been the Pulaski Day Parade in Manhattan that day. Many people were walking around wearing their red and white and honking their horns as they drove their flag covered cars down the road. We bumped into this group of Polish officers and what looked like to be two Miss Polonia beauty queens. Dan was obsessed with the guy with the mustache. After walking up and down Manhattan Avenue, we had an authentic Polish meal at Karczma, but it didn't taste half as good as any of the Polish food my mom makes.
You think we'd go all the way to Europe without hitting a record store?
Walking back across the Pulaski Bridge, we were tired but content with our travels. We had covered 4 NYC boroughs in 1 day!
Day 7, Hungary
For our visit to Hungary, we ate at Andre's Cafe, one of our favorite Hungarian restaurants right up the street. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, our neighborhood was home to many Czech, German and Hungarian working class people. Unfortunately, most of the ethnic places and people have disappeared and have been replaced by big box stores and generic restaurants and well, people like us. If you look hard enough, there are still some authentic good food to be found here. Andre's is one of them. It was the perfect, cozy place to have a meal as the cold rain misted outside. They have wonderful cake though unfortunately tonight they were out of the Sacher Tort, which Dan had been craving all week. We somehow managed.
Desserts for miles!
Just one more day of our trip left!