Monday, September 22, 2008

World Tour: Europe

I'm on my way to India, the next stop on my world tour. In Germany, I went to Munich to pick up my new O-1 visa, and to Berlin for some sightseeing. Then, to Switzerland to hold a talk and see friends from ETH Zurich. I spent the last few days in Rome, where I checked out the sights. With this many stops, this part of the trip wasn't quite as relaxing as I thought it would be.

Some random observations from the last few days:

German infrastructure: There's something very pleasing about how well-maintained German roads are. On the entire autobahn from Munich to Berlin, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single pothole or even faded lane markers. The same applies to much of the rest of the country: Clean streets, freshly painted houses, and many modern glass-and-steel buildings. I guess growing up there probably formed my tastes: My love for Bauhaus-style modernity, my worrying about maintainability before even starting a software project, or all the little checklists I write for myself. More self-reflection is in order.

Outdoor dining: In the summer, Europe has tons of outdoor dining, and some restaurants double or even triple the number of available seating. I wonder why San Francisco doesn't have this, although this might be a consequence of cold summer evenings.

Rome: So much history in one place! I only wish I'd been able to go see the Sistine chapel, but for reasons that are beyond me, the Vatican museum is closed during Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Aren't those the times when visitors would most expect it to be open? The rest of the city was a blast, though. Loved the food! I recommend standing and snacking at the crowded Caffe Greco by the Spanish Steps, where amusingly pretentious waiters in suits serve you possibly the best pistachio cake in the world.

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