Tuesday, April 20, 2010


That's how you spell this Icelandic Volcano, right?

Like I said last week, my mom has been planning to visit me.  She was scheduled to come in today...but with the volcanic mess, we thought we'd have to reschedule.  Or worse...cancel.  But by the skin of our teeth, my mom is hovering somewhere over German skies right now.  Here's how close it was.

As of Monday, my mom's flight was canceled.  As she was trying to get a hold of Lufthansa to change the date, I found out that the flight was still on!  Lufthansa got clearance to bring in 50 international flights back to Germany.  This was mostly done for bringing Germans back home.  Luckily, my mom got to keep her reservation and was off on her first trans-Atlantic journey as scheduled.  When I booked her flight 3 weeks ago, I chose this flight because it was the last Chicago-Germany flight of the day...good thing I did.  No other Chicago flight flew to Germany yesterday.

But as Lee Corso would say...not so fast my friends!  She still needed a flight to get from Frankfurt to Geneva.  All of these flights are canceled!  So my mom, a recent cancer survivor, a mom of three, a true-Hoosier, will have to navigate the German rails without a cell phone or any knowledge of the German language (except for Schlueter).

If all goes to plan, she'll arrive sometime tonight in Geneva.  Let's all keep hoping that our incredible luck continues!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Favorite Cities: #1

Paris, France

Is anyone surprised by this pick?  With how much I loved the smaller, cheaper, less-renown cities, Paris has its cake and eats it, too.  The reason why I loved Prague, Budapest, Oslo, and Krakow was because I couldn't compare them to Paris.  If a city could be compared to Paris, it will always lose.  Paris is the city of "more" and "better."  Paris has more and better museums, it has more opulance, it has more and better monuments, it has more choices for great food, and the list could go on and on.  This city is the epitome of a tourism city.  It was born to be a host to a kid from Valparaiso, IN with limited French skills.
But then there is a side of Paris which goes beyond the superficial, albeit amazing, layer.  There is a joie de vivre that does not exist in many cities.  Tourist, and even locals, look like they are genuinely having a good time.  Go to Montmatre and try not to smile.  I will always remember just how much fun I had walking down a boring old street.  I never felt that anywhere else.  It's much like that peaceful sublime that I felt in Oslo, except this was a heart-filling joy.  Paris makes you glad to be alive.

History: 5
All the French history I've ever studied is on fabulous display here.  Everything from Versailles, to the Louvre, to the Eiffel Tower...history is around every corner.
Grandeur: 5
The grandest of the grand.
Cuisine: 5
Features most of the "bests" of French cooking...and they are some of the bests in the world.  http://noahschlueter.blogspot.com/2010/03/best-cuisine-2.html
Weather: 3
Not bad, not great.
"It" Factor: 5
It's Paris.
Museums: 5
Even though I only put one of its museums in the top 5, it had the 6th and 7th rated (Pompidou, Orsay, Louvre).  There were many more in addition to this.
Specialness: 3
I think everyone has a special moment in Paris.  Mine came while looking down a Parisian garden at the Louvre.  It was my first "I'm in France" moment.  It nearly brought me to tears...honestly.  But then again, who doesn't have a special moment in Paris.  That fact makes Paris not all that special.
Return Factor: 3
This might not be fair because I went twice.  But there's nothing more that I NEED to see.  But of course, I'd love to return.
Cliche Factor: 1
It's Paris.
Public Transport: 4
Really, pretty good.
Ease: 5
Paris was made to get around as a tourist.
Tourism Industry: 5 
It's like Paris invented tourism.

Size: 1
BIG...but not as big as you'd think.
Bang for the Buck: 4
Surprisingly, you can do quite a bit as a student.  Lots of free entrances to museums.  And most of what makes Paris, Paris, is free.

Total: 54

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Favorite Cities: #2

Krakow, Poland

This is another surprise on the list.  This is the kind of city that doesn't stick out in your head, but really, it's a great city.  This city is like your friend who isn't very good looking, but has a great personality with great stories to tell.  Frankly, I don't care much about Polish history...but the history of this city is second to none.  The reason for this...WWII.  Auschwitz and Oscar Schindler...does actual history that you can see get better than this?  That many cities that I visited can give an experience like Krakow- start the day with a affordable meal at McDonald's, then a heart-wrenching experience in Auschwitz, followed by a light-hearted tour of an old, historic salt mine, then stuff your gut with hearty Polish food, and finally some very good beer in one of the best bars I've ever seen.  All for about 50 euros?!  That's 2 tours with transportation and a ton of great food.  I'm all about having experiences, and Krakow is full of them.
And that's not even mentioning the fantastic people in Poland.  Nowhere did I feel more welcome.  If you get a chance to hang out with some Poles...do it.  They are down-to-earth and willing to have some fun.  They are just very good and interesting people.

History: 5
WWII, Holocaust, and Communism!  Did I just put an exclamation mark after those 3 words?
Grandeur: 2
Not overly ornate.  But still nice.
Cuisine: 5
3rd on my best cuisine list: http://noahschlueter.blogspot.com/2010/03/best-cuisine-3.html
Weather: 2
Central Europe...what do you expect?
"It" Factor: 4
After seeing Schindler's List, this was a must-see for me.
Museums: 4
I'm including Auschwitz and the Salt Mine.  Other than this, I don't know if they have much to offer.  But those 2 are great.

Specialness: 4
Auschwitz= Special
Return Factor: 4
There was a Communism Tour and the Oscar Schindler tour which I'd love to see.  I'd also just love to spend more time here.
Cliche Factor: 4
It's not one of those grand European cities.
Public Transport: 2
Ease: 2
Tough to navigate.  Not everything is written in English.
Tourism Industry: 4
Size: 4
Small city.  Day tours make it huge.
Bang for the Buck: 5
Just like all the Central/Eastern European cities.

Total: 51

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Favorite Cities: #3

Oslo, Norway

This is a surprise.  However, this city will always hold a special place in my heart.  I really think that I ranked this city so high because of how cute it is, the timing I was there, and a few special experiences.  I never really posted my story of Oslo, so I'll briefly describe what made Oslo special:

Timing: December 24-27.  Christmas.
Special Experiences:
  1. Christmas Eve.  I was walking around, exploring the city.  I was alone.  I ended up in the middle of nowhere.  All I could see was 2 feet of pristine snow, a setting sun (at 4PM), beautiful Norwegian Pines, and a few private manors.  It was me and nature...in a city.  I can almost guarantee that this wouldn't have happened in any other capital city.  It was so peaceful and beautiful.
  2. After that experience, I bumped into a fellow traveler from Belgium (she was doing a farmstay in Norway).  Not only did we have a Christmas dinner at a Kebab place, but we visited a few museums, got lost, and went to Christmas Mass at a great Catholic (English) church.  I got lucky by finding her.  Great experience.
  3. While looking for a cheap beer, a man told us (my friend and I) about a great bar that he goes to.  He promised to take us there because, like him, I was an American.  After walking some back streets with this shady character (with my hand on my wallet the whole time and keeping an eye on my cute little friend), we made it to the hole-in-the-wall bar.  You know how that can be a complement about an establishment?  I'm not complementing it.  Once we found out that this guy (with a huge British accent) wasn't American and how he wants to be a rapper, we bought him a beer and got the hell out of there.
  4. My last day (alone, again), I wandered into a hot chocolate cafe.  Sound normal?  In Europe, this is not normal.  It was the first and only time that I've found an authentic American-style cafe.  Everyone talks about French and Italian cafes...they suck.  You sit at a table with folding chairs.  This place in Oslo...big comfy, leather couches, magazines to look through, a TV, etc.  You actually feel comfortable!  And the baristas!  Wonderful (Norwegian and Swedish) girls.  They gave me almost free hot coco because I was a poor American!  I just loved it.

Vikings are cool.  And I've always been curious about Scandinavia.
Grandeur: 3
Nice, not great.
Cuisine: 2
Bad food.  However, I had one of the best Cheeseburgers I've ever had.

Weather: 5
Did I mention the 2 feet of snow on Christmas?  After being soaked for 4 days, it got old.  But that's not what I'll remember.
"It" Factor: 2
How many of you knew this city exists before I went there?
Museums: 4
Surprisingly good museums.  None of them were great, but there were several very good ones.
Specialness: 5
In addition to the earlier stories, the people there were amazing!  So helpful and GREAT (American) English.
Return Factor: 4
Because of the snow, I didn't really see much of the city.  And because of Christmas, I couldn't do a lot of the things I wanted to.
Cliche Factor: 5
I might be the only person to rank this as my 3rd favorite city in Europe.
Public Transport: 4
It would have gotten a 5 (punctual, easy to "steal" rides), but I got stranded on Christmas Eve.
side note: This also led to a "fun" story of me running through the suburbs of Oslo for an hour.  As Forrest would say, I was running.  But on a sprained ankle.  It wasn't fun.
Ease: 3
I got lost more in this city than any other.
Tourism Industry: 4
Size: 5
Smallest city I visited, however, it's pretty spread out.
Bang for the Buck: 1
The most expensive city in Europe.  That sucked.  If it was Prague-cheap, this might be my favorite city.

Total: 50
This explains my trip...Wet, cold, lost, but loving every minute with my Christmas friend from Belgium.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Favorite Cities: #4

Budapest, Hungary

A trend is starting.  Eastern/Central Europe did very well for itself in this list.  Budapest, maybe more so than the others, exemplifies the traits that I loved so much...blue-collar attitude, cheapness, you can actually do things (tours, trips, shows, etc), a fascination with Americans, a tumultuous (recent) past, great food and beer, helpful locals, and on and on.  For some reason, I really felt at home in Budapest.  I can't really say this about other cities.  I felt comfortable.  Maybe it was the familiar cuisine (my grandmother is mostly Hungarian), or maybe it was because I felt like I was driving through Whiting, IN to get from the airport to the city...I don't know.  Whatever it was, I loved the way I felt in Budapest.

History: 1
Really don't care much about their history.
Grandeur: 3
Nice, not great.
Cuisine: 5
Scored the highest on my Best Cuisine list. http://noahschlueter.blogspot.com/2010/04/best-cuisine-1.html
Weather: 1
Really not nice.
"It" Factor: 4
This city has always been high on my list to visit.
Museums: 4
Had the best museum I've been to...but not much else. http://noahschlueter.blogspot.com/2010/03/top-museums-1.html
Specialness: 5
Getting a rub-down by a 300 lbs Hungarian guy while I was naked will always hold a special spot in my heart.
Return Factor: 5
Didn't see everything I wanted.  And I would love another massage from my Hungarian masseuse.
Cliche Factor: 4
I don't hear much about this city from other people.
Public Transport: 1
Didn't use it...REALLY didn't want to.
Ease: 3
Tough to navigate.
Tourism Industry: 4
Size: 3
Bigger than Prague.  Smaller than Madrid and Paris.
Bang for the Buck: 5
CHEAP.  GREAT ballet for only 4 Euros!!!

Total: 48

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Favorite Cities: #5

Prague, Czech Republic
Looking at these scores, I think they exemplify what Prague is all about for me: Well-Rounded.  I only gave it one 5.  To me, Prague wasn't GREAT at anything...but it was really good at many things.  Sometimes, that's a formula for disaster.  But for Prague, no.  Prague doesn't try to be anything that it's not.  Prague is proud of who she is.  Prague knows how to kick back and relax, but put on a tuxedo for an evening out.  Prague was one of the most inviting cities that I visited.  While I am rating these cities from my own experiences and tastes, I feel that Prague is a city nearly anyone can embrace.  I highly recommend it.

History: 3
What kept me from giving it a 1 is the Communist history of the country.
Grandeur: 4
Grand cafes, grand buildings...but no Paris.
Cuisine: 4
Great at what they do. Little variety.
"It" Factor: 4
Beer brings this number up.
Museums: 3
Specialness: 2
Beer brings this number up.
Return Factor: 3
Even though I was only there for 2 days, there wasn't anything I really missed.  However, I would love to hang out in this city again.
Cliche Factor: 1
9 out of 10 people I ask say that this is their favorite city.  I don't want to follow their lead.
Public Transport: 3
Never used it.  Didn't need to.  Didn't want to.
Ease: 4
Easy to get around and not get lost.
Tourism Industry: 4
Size: 4
I'm giving higher scores to smaller cities.  Prague was smaller than I thought it was going to be.
Bang for the Buck: 5

Total: 47

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Fell In Love With...

I knew I would fall in love out here.  I figured that, more than likely, I would fall in love with France and/or Europe.  In addition to that, I thought I had the possibility of falling for a European babe.  Who knows?  But after a year, neither of these things happened.  Something else did.

I always had a fascination for all things French.  The language, the food, the history, the clothing, the colors...everything.  Quickly, though, I realized that this is not me.  I am not French.  I can not live in this country.  Sure, having a market every Sunday with fresh foods is wonderful.  Getting fresh baguettes at the bakery everyday is magical.  Driving past Voltaire's Chateau every week is surreal.  But soon, these pleasures wear thin.  Having NOTHING open on Sundays is frustrating.  Driving around tight roads surrounded 100 year old walls is annoying.  Having no variety at the grocery store is downright boring (minus the variety of yogurt, cheeses, and chocolate).

These are just a few of the many reasons why I just don't like living here.  Simply, I didn't fall in love with France.  While the traveling was slendid, living here made me miss the USA more than I thought I would.  If anything, I fell more in love with America.

Without getting in details, I did not fall in love with a European babe.  That's all I'll say about that.

Despite falling short in these areas, I did fall in love.  I fell in love with 2 people, Macsen and Aiden.  Even though I'm yelling at these boys more often than not, I really do love them.  I can now understand what it's like to be a parent.  I'm trying to think of how to describe this love, but it's really difficult.  I'm sure all the parents out there understand my feelings.  Just believe me that I love them.

And really, I'd love to share with all of you the things they do to warrant this love, but it's something that can't be shared.  This is something that will live with me, and only me.  You'll just have to take my word for it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Open Letter To People from the UK

My apologizes.  But I don't like the way you speak.  I have nothing against you as a person.  In fact, there have been many of you who have made my stay in French very welcoming.  Some of the nicest people I've met have been from England, Ireland, and whatever other "-lands" there are.  And in addition to that, in no way am I saying that I (and most Americans...well, Midwesterners) speak perfectly.  But I've gotten to the point where hearing you speak is like nails on a chalkboard.

This all began a year ago when it was the first time I heard "hoover."  Hoover is a (minor) brand of a vacuum cleaner.  Yet, to you, not only is it a proper noun (as it should be), but it's a regular noun and a verb (Go hoover the living room).  WHAT?!?  Then it was the first time my kids asked me for a "rubber."  Seeing as how Macsen was only 6, I thought this was hugely inappropriate.  I was not going to give him a condom.  But in fact, he was asking for an eraser.  That's because instead of "erase", you say "rub"?  So when Tony Saprano "rubs someone out", he's just fixing his mistake?

I could go on and on with these words.  Actually, I've made a list of British/English equivalents (I didn't post it because it's boring to post a list).  These nouns or words are my main gripe.  I have other qualms...

Units.  A team is a SINGLE unit.  The team IS winning.  You say, "The team are losing."  That makes no sense at all.  We do say the Chicago Bulls are winning.  But the team is made up of several individual Bulls.  It's kind of like saying Tim and Tom ARE going to the store.  Does this make sense?  It really bothers me.

Finally, the accent.  For the most part, I have no problem with accents.  It's only the really strong ones that get me (I'm talking to you Irish people).  However, my kids' accents bother me.  To them, ball=bull.  There is no difference in pronunciation.  All=Ull, Call=Cull, etc.  This gets Macsen into big problems when he phonetically spells these words.  Then when I tell him that he says it wrongly, we get into fights.

I'm sure I'll probably get myself into trouble writing this letter.  I really mean no ill-will.  I know I don't live in a glass house, so I shouldn't be casting the first stone.  But I'm just tired of living out here.  I can't wait to return to Indiana where I can listen to my own, wonderful, accent.  I guess that, like my father, I'm not good with change.

You say po-tay-to, I say po-tot-to...let's call the whole thing off.  I can't wait to.

P.S. OH!  Fork and Knife!  Why do you need to push EVERYTHING onto your fork with your knife?  Why can't you just scoop it up with your fork?  I understand that for some things, this makes sense.  But for everything?  This just seems like overkill.  It's rather strange to an American like me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

I lied to everyone.  I said that during my last month here, I would post something everyday.  I was way off.  But I have a few excuses!

Excuse #1: Butler.  I am a Butler Bulldog through and through.  I bleed Blue (II).  When I went to school, I was first in line to give a tour of our wonderful university just so I could gush about it.  I recruited my younger brother to the wonderful campus, I extended my stay an extra half year, and I even worked as an intern in the admissions department (my dream is to get a real job there).  So, when the Bulldogs made the Final Four...espn.com, indystar.com, facebook.com, etc., became my frequent stops when I had free time.  That took up a LOT of time.  The blog took a backseat.
(I'm also really sad that I wasn't in Indy for this event.  Honestly, I would trade this whole year just to have been there).

Excuse #2: My mom.  Through an EXTREMELY generous, anonymous, donor, my mom is coming to visit me!  She's coming April 20 and staying to go home with me on the 28th.  We'll spend 6 days down on the French Riviera.  With all of this happening all of a sudden, I've dedicated my other efforts towards planning her trip (booking flights, hotels, etc.).  For a normal person, this wouldn't take too long.  But I over-analyze things, so I spend hours finding the best deals.  Therefore, the blog took a backseat.
(I'm REALLY excited about this.)

Excuse #3: The baseball season started last Monday.  I LOVE the White Sox.  They take a lot of my time.  The blog's been taking a backseat.

There you have it.  My 3 loves in life: My family, Butler, and sports (in that order).  My blog doesn't even crack the top 50.

Back to it.  I'll try to write some more.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Best Cuisine: #1

#1: Budapest

Variety: 4
Goulash, Stuffed Peppers, great desserts, Strudels, German-influence, and GREAT food at their Christmas markets
Price: 4
Beverages: 4
Decent beer, decent wine
Fullness: 5
Eastern Europe...they know how to eat
Fancyness: 4
Can be nice, can be eclectic
Casual Dining Experience: 4
Really nice cafes and great market
Venues: 4
"It": 5
This was a big deal for my Hungarian heritage.
Total: 34