Solipsism Gradient

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Vienna again…

this was a bakery just around the corner from our hotel. The name is probably Czech, and so would be pronounced “TJRESH-nyeff-skee” (try to pronounce the J and R in the first syllable together icon_biggrin.gif).

The small poster says “My bread is 100 years old!” – no idea why there’s a sitting horse on it, though. They also had an ad on a nearby bus stop, saying “We make unpronounceably good bread!”

Also in Vienna we found this intriguing poster outside a theater:

this is written in Austrian dialect; a loose translation would be:

To all who can come


First you can’t get tickets/then you do/

then you arrive late/then a giant sits in front of you/

then you can’t hear anything/then you get angry/

then he gets angry/then the piece is over/then you clap

…sounds oddly familiar icon_wink.gif

On our trips, we often visit old cemeteries. There’s a wealth of information and curious facts to be found in cemeteries. For instance, did you know that in Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, on the Canadian east coast, 121 victims of the Titanic disaster were buried – and that one of those gravestones is of one “J.Dawson”? And that only this one gets fresh flowers and movie memorabilia laid on it every day? We visited that one in 2001… alas, I didn’t have a camera at the time.

Here’s a (slightly obfuscated) photo of a gravestone found in Vienna:

It’s very common in Austria (and to a lesser extent in other European countries) to engrave all of a deceased’s titles, condecorations and employments on the gravestone; this is by no means the longest we found. Even humble tradesmen were proud to put, for instance, “Master Plumber” on their gravestones – and in such cases, often the wife’s name also said “Master Plumber’s Widow”.


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I’ve been fascinated with typewriters since the age of 8 (to the lasting damage of my handwriting). Here are two interesting specimens I saw in Europe. This one used to belong to the German writer Hermann Hesse; it’s a “Smith Premier No.1”:

In a letter to a friend, Hesse explained that this typewriter’s best feature was that it had separate key banks for lower-case (in white) and upper-case (in black). Apparently Hesse thought that pressing the shift key distracted his thought processes.

This even older model was in a shop’s window in the alpine town of Füssen:

Apparently you had to select the appropriate character on the semicircular dial and then press the single large key in front to print it.

Here are some more pictures from our Europe trip. Here’s a “Dolce Vita” car from Prague:

(I think it’s a Morris, but I’m not sure.)

This pedal-driven Mercedes for kids was in a Mercedes store on Berlin’s famous Kurfürstendamm:

Despite its appearance, this is not a car:

but rather a tractor for pulling machines for agricultural and road-building work. Notice the lack of a number plate and the central steering wheel. I found this in Berlin’s Technology Museum; it’s from the early 20th century.

Waaay back in 1972, on my first vacation in Germany with my parents, we decided to buy a used Mercedes. If I recall correctly, it was a 1964 SE220 with automatic transmission, and it cost DM666. That’s about what it looked like:

We drove it for about 45 days and then resold it to my uncle for the same DM666, an excellent deal all around.

Anyway, for these 31 years I had vague plans of eventually buying a Mercedes for myself. For most of that time, it was impossible to import cars into Brazil, except for the odd luxury sedan brought in by diplomatic personnel and then resold. Then, in the early 90s, imports were allowed and several foreign companies started to build factories in Brazil, among them Mercedes. This rekindled the idea, and just before our recent Europe trip we finally bought one:

It’s an A-Class model, also with automatic transmission. here’s another view:

Apparently it’s not sold in the USA, but it’s quite common in Europe.

More about it later…

One thing I noticed about the many Smart cars I saw in Europe: nearly all of them had company logos. I suppose they’re the ideal company car; small, easy to park and with excellent mileage. By the way, they’re also the least expensive to rent. Here’s one I shot in Vienna:

Notice the company motorbike behind it? That’s a BMW C1, it has a rollbar and seatbelt. Here’s a better picture:

Those two were for rent in the small alpine town of Füssen.

Now, I’ve never learned to handle a motorbike (or even a normal bycicle, to the amazement of my German relatives), but this one looks like the right bike for me:

this is a “velotaxi”, you see them quite a lot in Berlin – two passengers fit in the back. At least I wouldn’t fall off this one… then again, Belo Horizonte, where I live, is hillier than San Francisco, so it really wouldn’t be useful.

More than any other countries I’ve visited, Germany and Austria reflected my own predilection for small cars. Though you see quite a number of vans and mid-sized luxury sedans, small is definitely in, mostly (I suppose) for practical reasons. In a small town at Lake Constance, the owner of this small delivery vehicle was quite puzzled why I wanted to take a picture of it:

while in München, we saw this lovingly maintained Morris Mini:

The absolute king of the small-car universe, however, seems to be the Mercedes/Swatch-built Smart two-seater. Here’s a nice one:

and of course, the XRay plates are very cool – wish I had one!

While the basic Smart can be found in Europe for 8500 Euros and up (US$9400), here in Brazil prices start at R$75000 (US$25000), because of taxes and import duties. Supposedly the Mercedes factory in Brazil will start to build Smarts in a couple of years; unfortunately, they’ll probably be the larger four-seat model. A pity, the two-seater is just 2.5m long and the ideal car for congested large cities…

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