Date: Tue Apr 23 2002
Subject: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (OK, really Planes, Motorcycle, and Rope)

It's been a while since the last update.  We've been so busy that we
haven't written lately, but we wanted to let you know what's been going on
with us.  When last you heard from us it was just after New Years. Since
then, Meredith and I have been traveling a lot (in an out of Croatia),
doing a little motorcycling, keeping busy with work, going rock climbing,
and the biggest news of all, Meredith has tenure-track appointment at
Whitman College in Walla Walla Washington beginning with the 2002-2003
academic year.

There are many more photos, and details of some of our adventures,
on my web site:
Check there often, since we update the photos and text more often than
sending out these trip reports.

Now for the long details!

Vienna, December 20-23
    It was quite cold, with sporadic rain, sun, and snow throughout our
    visit. Unfortunately, we were there during the shortest days of the
    year as well, but that just gave us more excuses to sample Vienna's
    famous desserts at many cafes. I still don't understand why Vienna
    even needs a Starbucks franchise, or why it was actually crowded! It
    is a shame that it was really too dark and cold and wet to take many

    It was nice to see streets clogged with hundreds of people sharing a
    evening drink of hot cider or wine and sharing the frigid temperature
    at the many outdoor markets.  Vienna is a nice, orderly city. Having
    visited Budapest and Ljubljana, and now living in Zagreb, it's been
    really interesting to explore places on foot and see the architectural
    heritage of the Austria-Hungarian Empire in various cities.

    We visited the Jewish Museum. The collection of articles is very
    extensive, with a very good interactive display. The exhibit on
    Austrian Jewry during World War II combined moving personal stories
    and artifacts with an interactive, holographic, non-structured layout
    that unfortunately didn't work well for me.

    We also went to Freud's apartment. It's an unusual museum. All of
    Freud's furnishings and personal effects are in his home in Hampstead,
    London, kept as they were when he lived there. That home is filled
    with three-dimensional objects, but it is like a still photograph,
    preserving a single moment. The apartment in Vienna retains the
    original layout, but the rooms are empty. The walls are covered
    with photographs of each room as it was furnished. Display cases
    on the walls contain excerpts from his documents, personal photos,
    and details of his youth and life in Austria. The apartment in
    Vienna seems to give a living history to Freud's life, presenting
    the motion picture that precedes the home in London, yet the rooms
    themselves are quite bare.

    We enjoyed the Leopold Museum (20th Century Austrian) very much,
    and the whole Museum Quarter is a beautifully laid out complex.
    Vienna has many other museums that we'd like to visit again--when
    it's warmer and brighter!

Meredith MLA, December 27-30
    Spent most of December getting ready for interviews at MLA, the annual
    conference for professors and graduate students in English and foreign
    languages. I was happy to learn that the Fulbright really helped-I
    got six interviews, more than I had ever gotten before. Better still,
    they were at a range of institutions, from elite universities to
    small liberal arts colleges to state colleges. As with the Oscars,
    I'm happy just to be nominated; it was wonderful to have this nod of
    support for my teaching and research. It also validated my accepting
    the Fulbright, which I feared would make my job search even tougher
    despite the prestige (departments generally don't like to pay for
    candidates coming from abroad). My trip to the conference, in New
    Orleans, was only four days long and structured almost entirely
    by jet lag-waking up at odd hours to prep for interviews. It was
    particularly odd having been in Vienna three days before leaving
    for New Orleans. New Orleans seemed particularly loud, large, and
    aggressive compared with Vienna's note of reserve. One nice note: I
    got to see some great old friends from New York, whom I miss greatly
    (Michael, Juan, and Jackie).

Meredith Job Talks (Jan 23-Feb 7)
    Luckily, the six interviews I had at MLA yielded two campus visits. I
    was quite excited about both of them, as they were both at small
    liberal arts colleges, just the kind of school where I wanted to
    teach. So I went to the States for two weeks, and interviewed first
    at St. Norbert College, a small Catholic college in Wisconsin, then
    visited my sister in Berkeley, and ended my trip at Whitman College
    in Washington State. Again, my visit was structured almost entirely
    by jetlag-I spent late nights and many early mornings in Wisconsin in
    the hotel's 24-hour business center. MLA interviews are a strange
    breed, and the on-campus interviews are even stranger. They're
    like a four-day long first date, in which all parties are trying
    to make the best possible impression, engaging in a mutual dance of
    flattery and seduction, and simultaneously wondering, "What's wrong
    with this person?" I thought my first visit went very successfully,
    and left buoyed by the warm feelings of everyone I had met. After
    Wisconsin,	I spent my week at Berkeley with my sister and her
    boyfriend (Hi Eileen and Scott!), soaking in the Bay Area atmosphere,
    photocopying in the library, and eating nearly every kind of food
    imaginable. Then I flew up to Whitman College. Whitman is in Walla
    Walla, a small town on the east side of the Cascades, surrounded by
    wheatfields and greenery. I was highly impressed by the students,
    the potential colleagues, and the facilities. And best of all, it's
    surrounded by wineries. I returned to Croatia, seemingly dozens of
    interviews and three completely different presentations later, on
    February 6, after a very rocky flight from Walla Walla to Seattle
    (the plane dropped about ten feet and a cat threw up, among other
    things). Needless to say, I didn't find this an auspicious end to
    the trip. (More on this later.)

Paklenica Rock Climbing I. [Mark]
    On the weekend of February 2-3 I went down to Paklenica for the
    first time. I went with Marc Tasovac, an American with Croatian
    parents, who's also living here for about a year. Saturday was warm
    (over 15C in the sun), there was no wind, no other climbers, and
    it was beautiful. I couldn't believe it was February! We had our
    choice of every route .  It was quite, calm, and really pretty. Now
    I'm beginning to understand why people talk about it being such
    a special place. Not only is there a huge amount of climbing (with
    potential for 2~3x more routes), but the whole location is a dramatic,
    beautiful landscape.

    Of course, I found out how out of shape I was, and my partner and I
    got well and truly spanked on one route (Slovenski/PIPS). It's way
    too early in the season for me to be attempting off-width/stemming 5c+
    limestone water grooves. People at the club here in Zagreb suggested
    that the route is underrated. I'd like to take solace in that, but
    the rating feels "right" (from a Seneca/Gunks underrate-everything
    sandbag-the-tourists perspective).

    It was a beautiful, warm February 9th. After weeks--months--of
    not riding the motorcycle, we were eager to get out, but cautious
    about being out of practice and aware that the daylight hours were
    few. I had been seeing TV coverage of carnivals around Croatia for
    the last couple of weeks.  We checked around on the web and in our
    Croatia guidebooks, and found that Samobor, a small town about 25KM
    from Zagreb, known for restaurants and it's nicely restored town
    square, was having their Fasnik (Carnival) celebration.  We had a
    pleasant ride out to the town, and found a nice crowd, with things
    just starting to get busy by mid-afternoon.

    Samobor is a charming small town.  The town layout looks like a
    a medieval alpine town with narrow, zig-zag cobblestone streets,
    parallel to a stream, meeting at one plaza.

    Fasnik was a nice, family-friendly scene. The overall theme seemed to
    be a sense of bawdy playfullness, not the kind of excess associated
    with Mardi Gras in New Orleans, for example. There were carnival
    rides & games for kids, a performance-art fund raiser space for the
    local art/theater collective, and a large stage in the center of town.

    Almost everyone was in costume--and having a portion (or two) of
    the famous Samoborske kremsnite (cream custard).  It's not just the
    people who were in costume for Fasnik...the buildings around the
    main square in Samobor were decorated as well. There were posters
    and banners satirizing politicians, the EU, and each town business.
    Take a look at:­bin/index.cgi?album=Samobor-Fasnic&mode=view

    As the evening went on, people gathered in the town square, in
    front of the stage. There was a succession of skits, each presented
    by a different club from around Croatia. These were funny, bawdy,
    spoofs with a lot of cross-dressing and play with traditional themes
    (marriage, death, etc.). Much of the humor was broad enough that we
    got a good laugh from the skits even without being able to follow
    the Croatian.

    A couple of figures were on stage during each skit. One was a
    normal MC, the other was a woman in a large raven suit. The bird,
    a traditional Fasnik symbol, was sort of an anti-MC, helping to run
    the skits and poking fun at everything that was going on.

Meredith job (February 10th, 6:30am!)
    Despite the incredibly positive, warm impression I received at my
    interview in Wisconsin, I didn't get the job. The Dean informed me
    while I was in Berkeley (and he too seemed genuinely surprised), the
    day before I moved on to my next job interview. I tried to suppress
    my disappointment during my next interview, but for a variety of
    reasons, came away convinced that I didn't get the job at Whitman
    either. So I returned to Europe, where I had been told that my
    Fulbright could be renewed, and went to Fasnik where we thoroughly
    enjoyed ourselves. Needless to say it was quite a surprise when the
    Dean of Whitman College called at 6:30 a.m. (he got the time change
    wrong) to offer me the position! I had been back in Croatia for all
    of 3 days, so the department had conferred quickly; in fact, the Dean
    told me their decision was unanimous. I considered it for a few days,
    but that's really all it took; I accepted Whitman's offer and will
    begin as a tenure-track assistant professor in American literature
    in the fall of 2002.

Croatian class
    [Mark] On February 20 I began taking Croatian class two nights a week.
    Not only does this mean that I must leave work at a reasonable time
    those nights, but I end up right in the center of Zagreb, at the
    "Flower Square," after class. Croatian is a difficult language,
    especially for me. There's new vocabulary to learn, pronunciation
    that's difficult for a native English speaker, and a complicated
    grammar. As hard as it is for me, I'm also enjoying the feeling of
    "stretching a mental muscle" and doing something difficult.

    [Meredith] Having taken intensive Croatian last semester at my faculty
    (thanks to the generosity of my department), I sympathize with what
    Mark is going through. Languages come easily for me, but Croatian
    was and is tough: seven cases (which you actually have to get right
    to make any sense) and lots of letters and combos that don't exist
    in English. Even though I'm not taking Croatian this semester,
    I'm happy about how much I learned and still retain. However, with
    the influx of tourists in the past few weeks, I'm usually tagged as
    American before I open my mouth.

    Meredith and I went to Berlin from March 7-10 to visit a colleague of
    hers who is on a Fulbright there, and to see the city.  During any
    60 minute period over the 4 days, you could have your choice of
    sunny skies with strong winds, rain, snow, hail, and dramatic clouds!

    We did our usual "city exploration" of wandering around a lot, and
    walking for many kilometers. It was interesting to see the shiny new,
    sterile sky scrapers and tourist zones at Potsdammer Platz, in what
    had been the edge of East Berlin, and then see the differences in
    architecture and lack of renovation just a few blocks further into
    the former East Berlin side.

    I had spent a considerable amount of time in college studying
    Germany, in the context of US foreign policy from WWI through the
    Reagan era. It was fascinating for me to be walking through areas of
    a city that were walled off so recently, areas where a particular
    professor loudly proclaimed would never be reunited (I wonder if
    he's still employed?).

    The society seems quite diverse (multi-cultural, visible presence
    of gay-friendly establishments, etc.). On the whole, Berlin reminded
    us more of NYC than any European city we've been to, except possibly
    London.  That sense came from more than just the people or the fact
    that it is a large city. There was something about the architecture,
    the scale of the city, and the relationship between pedestrians,
    sidewalks, buildings, and businesses that somehow "felt" like
    New York.

    We spent a long time in the Jewish Museum. The building is a stunning
    example of what happens, for good or bad, when an architect is given
    great latitude on a historic project. The exhibits, while quite good,
    sort of felt like "museum lite" to us. A large part of that was the
    layout (prescribed by the architecture) and an overly enthusiastic
    but misdirected attempt to put multi-media and interactivity into
    the exhibits.

    One of the real strengths of the museum was the sense that it gave,
    to Meredith and I at least, of the loss to the larger community and
    society because of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was an central part
    of the museum, but it really did attempt to cover the history of
    Jews in Germany from about the late Roman Empire to today. That
    duration was both a weakness of the exhibits as a whole, and a
    tremendous, and rarely stated, reminder of the place of Jews in a
    larger German historic context. That's what left me with a feeling
    of the senselessness of the Holocaust.

    The other museum we visited was the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.
    This is a fascinating, and boring, account of the history of
    divided Berlin, with a section devoted to other "people's uprisings"
    (carefully chosen, and interesting in the omissions of groups like
    the anti-apartheid movement, the Green party and the anti-nuclear
    movements, the The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, etc.). The museum
    is built upon an obsessive cataloging of what seems like each and
    every escape attempt. The collection of materials is fascinating,
    but the layout and descriptions and anti-Communist bias, and lack
    of context are extremely irritating.

Digital camera [Mark]
    In March I bought a digital camera. It only took me 3 1/2 or 4 years
    of "window shopping", but I'm quite happy. After years of being a
    serious amateur photographer, I find myself taking more "snapshots"
    with the digital. My aims were to have a camera that was small enough
    to carry with me all the time, reasonably sturdy, and with reasonable
    quality, particularly for web publishing and the odd TV monitor slide
    show. The instant gratification is really nice, and I'm certainly
    shooting more.  Take a look on my web site for some of the results.

Meredith PCA Conference [Meredith]
    I went to a conference in Toronto from March 12-16, the Popular
    Culture Association of America. Toronto was extremely cold and as
    usual, I was very jet-lagged and spent many waking hours in the middle
    of the night. (do you see a pattern here?). I'd never attended PCA
    before, and appreciated the eclecticism and friendliness of the
    participants and the mixture of fandom and critical perspectives
    they brought to their subject matter. I gave my first film paper,
    and got some good responses. I'm currently revising this paper for
    publication in a film journal here in Zagreb, edited by a colleague. A
    few high points of the trip: Toronto's extraordinary multiculturalism,
    a dinner with my parents in one of the city's finest restaurants,
    Scaramouche, and the very fast trip from Toronto to Amsterdam (6 ˝
    hours) with excellent Indian veggie food on the plane!

Paklenica Rock Climbing II. [Mark]
    On March 15-17 I went with the Velebit climbing club
    ( for a weekend trip to Paklenica. I
    knew a couple of people on the bus, and knew a couple of
    other people who'd be there that weekend from my climbing club
    ( We left Zagreb at midnight,
    in a light rain. The weather forecast wasn't great, but I was still
    looking forward to being outside.

    When we arrived at the park, at about 5:30, dawn was just breaking
    and it looked like a nice day already. I spent most of the day
    doing short sport routes or lying around in the sun, then did a 4
    pitch sport route, "Spit Bull" (5 pitches, 6A) at the end of the day
    (finishing up too late!).

    The next day, Klatsko and I did "Tinkara" a new, 6-pitch trad route
    on the Veliki Cuk formation. While the route feels a bit overrated,
    the crux section that I lead was certainly a challenge. The weather
    remained beautiful, and it was very nice to have a view of the
    Adriatic from the top of the climb. The descent, downclimbing and
    then descending the scree field in the Anika Cuk gulley, made me
    appreciate the Seneca Rocks "Stairmaster", but it brings you to the
    stream and to wonderful views up the valley.

    I've got plenty of photos of the approach to the park, and some
    shots from the top of Tinkara here:­bin/index.cgi?album=Paklenica&mode=view

    We got back to Zagreb at about midnight, and it was great to get a
    lift home from one of the other climbers. A weekend's climbing had
    left me tired, sore, and very happy.

    We went to Prague from March 21-24. We had the usual smorgasbord
    of weather--with daily doses of rain, sun, hail, snow, winds, and
    clouds (beginning to see the trend?).  Yes, we seem to be doing
    the Austria-Hungarian Memorial City Tour with Budapest, Zagreb,
    Ljubljana, Vienna, and now Prague.

    It's a beautiful city, and it's nice to be in an old city that
    is in good shape and hasn't been completely rebuilt to look older
    (Budapest suffers from that phenomena, but it does pretty well). We
    spent most of our time just wandering around, getting a feel for
    the city.  We visited a number of buildings in the old Jewish Ghetto,
    and went on a walking tour of "Kafka's Prague" in terrible weather.
    You can see some photos here:­bin/index.cgi?album=Prague&mode=view

    Even though we were there in the rain and snow flurries, very
    much off-season, the tourist density was almost more than I could
    bear. It's a charming, old city, but it's hard to see much in the
    historic city center that isn't connected to tourism. Prices, service,
    and attitudes further out are noticeably improved.

    I'd enjoy spending more time in Prague. I'm sure it's beautiful in
    the spring or summer, and I'd love to see more of Mala Strana and
    the castle, but I like to explore a place, trying to find or do
    things that are "off the beaten track" (such as the flea market we
    found in the industrial outskirts of Budapest, or having dinner at
    the home of Meredith's colleague in Berlin). It's somewhat hard to
    imagine such unique experiences as a short-time visitor to Prague,
    when the city center so strongly classifies you as a tourist.

    On March 31 (Easter Sunday), we got on the bike, vaguely intending to
    go to Kumrovec, the restored village that was Tito's birthplace. After
    circling around a bit, enjoying some hairpins and other twisties,
    we accidentally met up with the Black Ghosts motorcycle club in
    the village of Marija Bistrica as they were about to depart for a
    ride. We joined them on a leisurely ride to Ludbrg, a popular riding
    destination about 20KM from the Hungarian border. We were very amused
    to see sign proclaiming Ludbreg to be the "Centar Svjieta". This small
    town--not a great deal more than a couple of shops, cafes and a restraunt
    or two at an intersection--was proclaiming itself the "Center of the
    World". By the way, the town seems to be aptly literally
    translates as "Crazy Hill"!

    The ride took us on some fun roads--some tight hairpins then more
    open curves as we headed west into the Slavonian farmland. There was
    some "interesting" riding going on--riders passing lit cigarettes
    from one bike to another, one rider putting on helmet while riding,
    another putting on gloves while riding--but overall a sensible pacing
    and behavior around other vehicles. It was a nice group of people,
    with the high level of English that we've become used to in Croatia.

    April 14
    After 6 days of steady rain I was beginning to feel moss
    growing between my toes, so when Sunday was actually sunny, we decided
    to go out for a ride. Our destination was Lonjsko poljo, a series
    of fields, marshes, and floodplains that's now a park.  The region
    flood every spring as all the tributaries of the Sava River (itself
    a tributary of the Danube) overflow.  The area is famous for it's
    wildlife, particularly the storks, and the wooden houses.
    It was a decent ride--my typical route plan of doing the two long
    sides of the triangle to get there (including about 20 miles of
    dirt & mud). The interesting part came when the gas reserve light
    went on as we just got into the park region. I decided to risk it,
    and went "exactly 10 miles more" (OK, 11.4) to one of the renowned
    stork sites. We hung out there, saw many storks, then rode--very
    slowly--back to the closest large town, where we searched for an
    open gas station. After lots of riding around, including literally
    circling the oil refinery, we found a station. About 35 miles with
    the reserve light on.

    We managed to do about 95 miles to get out to this place (with much
    wandering around in the town of Sisak, trying to find the road to the
    park). The ride back, on the short side of the triangle, was 35 miles!
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Mark Bergman                                    Meredith Goldmsith-Bergman
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