Islands, a volcano, and pizza by Mark Ziegler

Naples is lovely and historic. Just don’t drive here. Please, don’t drive. I wonder if Napolitanos are better drivers than we’re used to because they have to deal with crazy people driving. I think this is common in Italy. I’ve seen some crazy driving cities, but this one – so far – takes first place. The others, in my experience, off the top of my head:

1. Naples
2. Caracas, Venezuela. Here, again, you might die. It might be the traffic but just as likely it will be kidnapping. We arrived in the middle of the night and were told to keep the lights off inside the bus as we drove on what I later found out was one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Yeah: the world. So, not exactly traffic-related issues, but still …
3. Brazil. All of it. Many people think Corcovado is a statue of Jesus, but it’s really a famous traffic cop urging people to slow down.
4. South Africa. Maybe it was not being used to driving (riding, really) on the left. Maybe it was driving in an old school bus careening around the coastal mountains (while getting used to the left lane). Maybe it was the monkeys on the road that caused a traffic stand still. Cutest traffic jam ever.
5. Any place where scooters/motorcycles outnumber cars and make their own rules. Wait, this is almost everywhere that isn’t the US. This just takes getting used to. It’s kind of a wonderful literal work-around for car traffic. Just look both ways. At all times. I know, that’s impossible. But do your best without going whatever the opposite of cross eyed is.

While we’re making lists, here’s the list of the best cities for pizza, based on value:
1. Naples. Hands down some of the best pizza I’ve had and you can get it anywhere. The average is still incredible and the ingredients are incredible. I want to bathe in the tomatoes. But, the value is really where it’s at. Most pizzas are in the 5-7 Euro range. I know, right?!?!
2. Other places. I don’t even care any more. There’s no contest. I love pizza. New York style, Chicago style, whatever the style I make at home. But, I think I’ll get a little sad the next time I’m paying 28 bucks for my favorite NYC pizza. Di Fara’s is amazing, mind you. (For you New Yorkers, I just showed my allegiance in the great pizza debate.) It will just make me a little sad for my wonderfully cheap pizza binging days in Italy. Then again, I’ll be able to eat it free of motorcycle fumes and get home with a considerably lower risk of bodily harm from a taxi hitting me on the sidewalk while trying to make the light.

On the road (and boat, train, plane, and bus) again by Mark Ziegler


Back on the road with West Side Story. Ok, I've been back since June. I've had the fortunate problem of being busy playing shows and exploring some wonderful places. I'm finally catching up with tons of photos and thoughts that I'll be sharing with you soon and, hopefully, more regularly. I've been struggling with how best - and most efficiently - to share photos in an easy to use format with a good interface. As I was weighing my options with Wordpress, Flickr stepped up their game, and after some research I've decided to use that as the main avenue to check out my photos. I'll be linking things as they come up and posting a few things here, but head on over to my flickr page and explore if you feel like it.

It's time to go play a matinee in Dresden. We head to London next week, so there will be lots on the horizon.

Thanks for reading!


Paris Part 1 by Mark Ziegler


I'm looking out my window as the trees still hang on to a few last leaves: the tipsy friends who don't realize the party ended hours ago. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay green. I feel as though I've been in a perpetual fall for several months. I couldn't be happier about it. Okay, maybe if it rained a little less. Even so, it's a great season and never hurts to get a little more of a good thing. Speaking of ... here's the first round of photos from Paris. Eiffel's tower, Montmartre, Sacre Cour ... enjoy! (slideshow for mobile)  

Midnight Turkey in Paris by Mark Ziegler

I was once in Bogota, Colombia on Thanksgiving. It wasn't my first Thanksgiving away from home, but it was my first out of the country (and the warmest Thanksgiving I've ever had). Our group was thankful, although a little skeptical, when the hotel offered to cook us a Thanksgiving meal. It turned out to be a very special and unique meal. Colombians don't have much contact with cranberries, pumpkin pie, and probably turkey. But that didn't phase them. Sure, there were omissions that would count as blasphemy at a typical turkey day dinner, but the things they came up with just from reading recipes and talking to people was pretty amazing. I love that they didn't try to copy everything exactly - how could they without access to certain ingredients? - but by applying their skills to some new parameters they were able to create something memorable. I've been thinking about that in art and music as well. Sounding like yourself no matter what, while still honoring the style. And being thankful for all those different styles, people, and gifts that we are able to share with each other. This year, we'll be eating post-show in Paris. What will they come up with? Turkey gras? Pumkpin au vin? Cranberry brûlée? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out. Let us give thanks.



Fall, Slowly by Mark Ziegler


It's been a lovely time to be back in Europe. We're a few weeks into November in Paris, and some of the trees over here have just turned: hanging onto their leaves as long as possible. As I try to make sense of the ever expanding Paris photo library, here's a little teaser from Essen in October. I made a photo outing to Villa Hugel, an estate of the Krupp family on the outskirts of Essen. I didn't get a photo of the theater to do it justice, but it is a converted Krupp factory that had once evolved into big supplier to the German war efforts. It's amazing to me just how intertwined these countries are, and how close I am to so much of that history.

(Here are some photos for those of you who want to skip the rest of the rant that follows ...)

(slideshow for mobile)

As Americans, we talk a lot about the impact of the wars - especially WWII - on our parents and grandparents. We do so not without justification; it was a tragedy beyond my comprehension and the impact was and still is huge. But can we even imagine what it was like to have the war (or any modern war) fought on our own soil? The direct and immediate impact that would stem from every win, or every loss, is hard for me to consider.

This is all fresh in my mind after a visit to the sobering Musee L'Armee and I'm not going to be able to say anything new about war that hasn't been said before. But it's strange to go from one city - playing in a building that used to make tanks and "Big Bertha" artillery (named after Krupp's daughter) - to a palatial theater in the French city that was the target of such weapons. And now: decades later? I'm not sure Germany and France really think about it (beyond typical nationalist posturing), and compared to other parts of the globe they could pass as good friends. After all, these wars weren't my wars or the wars of my ancestors. These were wars of aggression and as such can only "belong" to the aggressors themselves (in a unique situation of possessing unparalleled power). Those aggressors are long gone. The memory of the last century, even as it fades from first-hand to second and further along, has paved the way for some real dialogue. Some real perspective. Maybe, even, some real peace.

Two historical tidbits:

1. As a war museum, the Musee L'Armee is essentially a museum warning of and highlighting the horrors of war. So, it was an ironic moment when the Nazis raided the museum in the 1940.

2. When the German army was leaving Paris in 1944, Otto von Stülpnagel was ordered to burn the city down. He refused. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall. Maybe he just loved the food. (Comparing German and French cuisine is hardly fair. Don't get me wrong; German food is good. It's just not quite French.) One thing is certain; he had gained some perspective.

essen (und trinken) by Mark Ziegler


Well, it was a lovely vacation/break but it's back to work and back to Germany. How did I cram all of that into 5 weeks? I have no idea. The list is almost absurd, but I will add two plays to the list from my previous post: Peter and the Starcatcher: seriously, go see it if you can.

August, Osage County (White Plains): I'm probably biased towards this one but it just so happens to be very good. Go see it. But only if you can handle brutally funny and brutally ... well, brutal family dramas. Eat the fish.

The gigs went well and I even did an audition. (It's good to be reminded to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. Sometimes, step way out.) There was also a great trip home, a new (to me) monthly trivia night, a weirdo party, a dance concert, run-ins with my improv friends, a new addiction (thanks, Downton Abbey), guitar practicing (!) and even cello practicing (!!).

Two weeks in Essen, then it's on to Paris for the rest of the year. Yes, my life is pretty rad right now. Rad enough that I can write "rad" (three times, now!) in a post and feel pretty good about it. So, happy end of 2012, USA! I hope you survive the election, and a few dozen new holiday albums, and the Mayan calendar stuff, and that movie with Zac Ephron. Jeez, that's a lot now that I think about it. I'll be thinking about you. Just remember that lucky '13 is right around the bend - and I'll be hot on its' heels.

Fisch and Ships by Mark Ziegler


It's hard to rank the cities so far, but Hamburg might be pulling ahead as my favorite. I'm not really sure why this is. There's a good chance it's based on the fact that it's been better weather the last few weeks than the other cities. Having only a week in Leipzig also made it hard to really enjoy, so it's an unfair system all around. Let's put up some stats to try to quantify this. Some Hamburg highlights and lowlights:

High: Nice view from my room.

Low: Germany doesn't know about "sheets", only "comforters". So, when the sun comes up, I am baking well before I'm conscious enough to do something about it.

High: Lots of bikes! And for decent prices!

Low: Lots of bike thieves who wanted my new (used) ride more than they wanted to not be total jerks.

High: The fischmarkt is really cool. A place to start a Sunday or end a long Saturday of hanging out at the ...

Low: Reeperbahn. Pretty gross. But somehow still worth seeing, even if only in daylight. Night seems to intensify the grossness. Is it a far cry from when the Beatles were here? Probably. How far a cry, I do not know. Perhaps it's not a cry at all, but a guitar gently weeping. But that sound is most likely just some crappy DJ a few blocks down.

High: The parks and harbor. Excellent places to walk/run/have my daily ice cream cone. (Seriously, why do we not have hazelnut ice cream? It's the best! C'mon America!) Even if some parts of the park are manufactured beauty (similar to Central Park), it's really nice. Little waterfalls, rose gardens, fountains, kids-playing-with-water areas, multiple ice cream stands. They even have these cool wooden lounging chairs which, in New York, would be stolen in minutes even though they probably weigh a ton and would be incredibly conspicuous and awkward to steal. All I know is, they wouldn't last. Not so here. (Unless that chair is actually a bike seat.) What else ... did I mention the ice cream?

Low: Still mad about my bike getting ripped off and the "California/Mexican" place is only so-so, but since one of those is a repeat and I can't really think of another major con it looks like more points in the High column. Congrats Hamburg: you got yourself a statistical win.

Even though it's summer, when lots of things are not-at-all open or barely open, we've found some good music. With that search also comes bad music, but that can be repressed. Also, there's a movie theater that has showings in English and serves beer and only costs 7.50 Euro with student ID (shhh! don't tell!) so the points just keep racking up for this place.

I'm off to enjoy the day. Another busy weekend and then only one more week before it's back to NY and Ohio for a month, where I'll get to reunite with excellent people, great musicians, hoppy beers, favorite foods, and un-stolen bikes.

(slideshow for mobile)

Ice cream/Köln by Mark Ziegler

koln night

Ah, Köln. Another fun German city. With a huge old cathedral, great biking on the Rhine, and plenty of outdoor restaurants and beer gardens. Definitely the highest concentration of sunshine that I've seen in a few months. I learned what sneaky sunshine can do when riding around for hours in a convertible. Not that I'm complaining. I'm a big fan of the ice cream prevalence in Germany. So are the kids, business men and women, tourists and most everyone with a stomach for dairy. I happen to be extremely lactose tolerant.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here's, like, 200,000 words. More real words later. Enjoy!

(slidesow for mobile)

week 2 in review by Mark Ziegler


Rain or shine, I was determined to get out as much as I could last week. As you’ll see from some photos, the rain made sure to punish me for that choice. Once I got used to the always possible drizzle or downpour, I just made sure I was prepared. I don’t mind rain, and with the US getting pummeled with heat, rain, and fire, I’ll be happy with what we’ve got over here this summer. I use that word liberally. Like a guy named Marco said: “Here we have renamed the seasons. Winter, Spring, Fall, and … this.”  He didn’t actually say “this”, but rather a word with those same letter rearranged.

The Brandenburg gate has been an interesting sight, since it was the prime location for watching Euro 2012 games and thus surrounded by scaffolding,advertisements, and security.

The Bauhaus museum was really great: I didn’t realize how many great artists – not just architects – were involved with that school. Klee, Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy, van Der Rohe … and the institute hired them to teach what and how they wanted; not from some prescribed academic dogma. I’m not sure we’ll ever see anything quite like it. I’m still working out a joke involving the words “Bauhaus Movement.”

Prenzlauerberg is a cool place to see in the former East. There are glimpses of the old, but there’s a lot of activity: street fairs, families, tons of shops. It’s kind of the Park Slope of Berlin, with fewer baby yoga classes.

And then … the “Jazz Fest” – another term I use liberally. Out of the 4 things my friend Dan and I saw, one might constitute as jazz, one other was a salsa-ish mish-mosh of afro-carribean styles (and pretty good), one was in a church where an organist was playing trying-not-to-be-too-square arrangements of Beatles tunes … and then … well, I can’t even bring myself to upload it right now. Stay tuned for, erm, something else.

(mobile devices, try clicking here for some Berlin photos.)

I’m finally getting through last weeks photos and getting some up here. Most of the fun of changing websites is logistical, and now that I’ve finally made some executive decisions, it should be easy to get on to the fun stuff. Due to the way WordPress is set up, I’ll be using the WordPress/Flickr double-whammy for photo integration and all that. I’ll be posting a variety of things on the blog posts, but you’ll also be able to check out galleries and photo streams from the Images link. If you want to see all of the stuff on Flickr (which should be growing steadily), go here for the all-photo slideshow. (And if anyone knows of a better way to be doing this – let me know!)

game of groans by Mark Ziegler

I may be bad luck for German soccer. I was here in 2002 when they lost to Brazil in the World Cup Finals. I'm here again, and they play a very strange game against Italy to get knocked out in the Semis of the Euro Cup. I knew things would get crazy if they won last night, but I didn't know the streets would be packed with Italy supporters in the case of a loss. Even a party bus of Italian fans made its' way down Kurfürstendam around midnight. Either way, it was fun to take in the game with the locals.

A friend made an interesting observation: it seems like (in Berlin, at least) the age range at many of these places is pretty varied. Lot's of fußball supporters young and old out last night, and in the same restaurants and bars. During my afternoon exploration of Prenzlauer where were families everywhere it was a similar situation. Tons of kids; little street fairs; fruit stands; playgrounds ... almost puts Park Slope to shame. Maybe it's just an urban thing in general, but it seems to be especially present here. Then again, maybe everything only seems different when you're in a less familiar place. I could just be constructing these differences in my head.

There is one thing I'm pretty sure of. Sunday night Italy or Spain will win, and either way we'll be serenaded by car horns - celebrating; rubbing it in - well into the night.

the rain in spain falls mainly on berlin. by Mark Ziegler

A great first week out here. the show is going really well and was well received in our first preview last night. Official opening is tomorrow and then, thanks to Germany's Euro cup match on thursday, two days off! I'm taking advantage of a rainy day to put some finishing (hopefully) touches on this new website, and will then be able to enjoy the out-of-doors when the weather gets amazingly nice on wednesday. Right, weather? I took two years of German in High School. That was a little while ago, so I'm definitely out of practice (and wasn't much good to begin with). The textbooks that we used had some funny sayings in them, and I brought those with me when I came to visit friend in 2002. On a rainy day that June (not much changes in ten years), I exclaimed to my friends - hoping for recognition of my super understanding of German slang - "das ist hundewetter!" which literally means "this is dog weather". The look I got was not one of a "this guy knows his stuff" or even "nice phrase pickup", but rather the furrowed brow look that transcends language. You know the one. The "what the heck are you talking about?" look.

My question, naturally, is this: who is writing these textbooks? Some joker at McGraw-Hill that wants us to be laughed at (even more) when in a foreign country? Somebody trying to force their way into a country's vernacular from within a sleeper-cell foreign language class several thousand miles away? It's more likely that this writer is from a place here that is like many parts of the south; somewhere in Germany where the Deutscher Dr. Phil and his head-scratching anectodes would have had to originate; somewhere that "hundewetter" is not even used, but common enough to be considered for a textbook. I need to find this place. I need to learn from them. And I need to teach the rest of this country how to make their language even crazier than it already is. I mean, this: "ß" is pronounced with an "s" sound. And "Bezirksschornsteinfegermeister" is a REAL WORD. You're really laughing at me? C'mon guys. Get it together.