Tails From the Vienna Woods


Asia and The Middle East

Our Middle Eastern Mezze: Postcards

Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al Thani, the late Qatari Emir (succeeded by his son, Sheikh Thamim bin al Thani) needed a place to display his 15.000 or so trinkets, so he constructed a massive fortress museum in the desert, about an hour outside of Doha. On Saturday our driver happily took us to visit.

Our Middle Eastern Mezze: The Food (Poisoning)

Our epicurean adventure into the Middle East ended as spectacularly as it began, but not at all in a good way. (No, the Golden Arch Steak House was not the culprit–we did not eat there.)

Our Middle Eastern Mezze: Scenes from the Souk

The Souq Waqif dates back several hundred years, and was the place for trade for Bedouin tribes. In 2006 the Qatari government launched a massive restoration effort, and the results are spectacular. The former princely palaces surrounding the market were also renovated to become a collection of boutique hotels, one of which we stayed at during our time in Doha.

Our Middle Eastern Mezze: Dinner in Amman, Jordan

The countdown to Qatar for Anna Grace was finally over on Monday, when she and her strings director departed for the honor orchestra festival being hosted by ASDoha. By Tuesday afternoon they were enjoying a desert safari (the trip couldn’t be all rehearsal, all the time, right?)

Postcards from Tehran

Just a few snaps Tony was able to take in his limited free time. I will be traveling with him on his next trip to Iran’s capital city, so fret not, for there will be more photos to share soon.
Tehran is a sprawling city at the base of the Alborz Mountains, and home to around 10 million people.
The city’s main bazaar is an understandably crowded place, with narrow lanes begging to be explored…

 …pop-up vendors adding color to the sandstone…

 …and air-conditioning units precariously secured overhead.

 And in the midst, a tranquil park.

He could be smiling, sure, but I don’t think Tony stands out at all, do you?


Although Tony was on travel this past week to a warm destination,  I was unable to accompany him. It was not because I was not in the mood for a security detail while I shopped or went sightseeing; rather, Anna Grace’s winter recital was this week (she performed beautifully), and it was imperative that I procured kolbasa for our Christmas dinner. Provocative, photogenic, and security-dense destinations can wait for another time.
Tony did snap a couple of photos, though, of a few places he visited.

 (Yes, that’s an AK-47 the security dude is wearing.)

 As a consolation, Tony returned with a most beautiful emerald bracelet for me.

I am consoled. 

Guest Post: Hanoi Part III of III: Ho Chi Minh’s Hanoi

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Long queues of people to visit; no photos permitted inside.
One of Ho Chi Minh’s houses, part of the original French-Colonial Governor’s complex. This was his study. Note the photos on the wall. 
The armored car provided by the Soviet Union to Ho Chi Minh, one of three cars he owned.

The lake house was built for Hi Chi Minh to resemble the “highlands housing” he lived in during the revolution.

Ho Chi Minh’s private lake.

 Speaking of lakes. Truc Bach Lake, the site where John McCain landed and was captured in October 1967.

 The monument at the site of McCain’s capture.

Guest Post: Hanoi Part II of III: History and Culture

The Hanoi Presidential Palace, built to house the French Governor-General of Indochine.
The One Pillar Pagoda. 

Ho Chi Minh Buddha.

The inner courtyard of Van Mieu.
Legend has it that the sapling that became this tree comes from the temple in India and the monk who became the first Buddha.
Tran Quoc Pagoda. “Tran” is the second most common Vietnamese surname, but trails “Nguyen” by quite a bit.  
Hanoi’s Museum of Ethnology displayed the environments of many of its 54 officially recognized ethnic groups.  

Long Houses are from a matriarchal village; the more daughters a family had, the wealthier they were, and the longer their house was.  
Another sign of a wealthy family, large and numerous wine vessels.
In this Homg culture, the only item of sacred value was the staircase. If the family moved, the staircase was moved with them.
The three-pronged stove. I won’t spoil your enjoyment of researching the legend behind this stove. 😉
In this culture, homes were of mud, and had few, if any windows.
Gate leading to the Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature. 
Thang Long water puppetry in Hanoi. A tradition dating back to the 11th century, as a resourceful (and entertaining) way to make use of flooded rice fields.

I am so jealous I did not brave the soupy steam of Hanoi to join Tony.  I shan’t make a mistake like this again.

Guest Post: Hanoi Part I of III: Life in Hanoi

Tony spent a week in Hanoi recently for work; I was smart enough to take a pass on 7 days of hot, sticky, and humid weather to join him and so traveled to Vietnam vicariously through his iPhone photos.

Traffic was indescribable. More like a moving swarm.  One of Tony’s Hanoi colleagues said, “When crossing a street, make sure you’re visible and predictable and the traffic will move around you.”

Texting while scootering.
Look closely at the photo. Do you see what we see?

I wonder if the chicken became part of Tony’s noodle dish?  Tony reported that the meals he enjoyed tasted as authentic as the Vietnamese food we enjoy in Eden Center (Little Asia) in our neighborhood in the U.S.  Nice to know we’ve been experiencing real food all this time!

Market Life in Hanoi. These photos made me a little jealous; I could have pretended to be Andrew Zimmern had I braved Vietnam in July.  Perhaps next time.

 Hanoi Fishmonger.

 Poultry, fresh or roasted.  Any guesses what might be hanging in the case on the right?

 Typical market butcher.

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