The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

The Aardvark Speaks : the land of Potz

This page contains the last 50 stories posted to this category, sorted in chronological order (earliest first). For earlier stories, you need to check out the monthly archives.



Guess the language. Then guess what it could mean. Big prizes wait for the winner(s)! (Use the comments for your contributions.)

I wanted to make this a language quiz, but then I checked with Google and found the answer within thirty seconds. Google really takes all the fun out of these things. So no big prizes for you. Tough luck.

If you still feel like guessing the language and the meaning without checking it in Google first, go ahead and post in the comments.

Update: If you find out where this sign is, you'll also know where I was on August 6th. The Potz was one of the "technical reasons" for my absence.

Posted by Horst on August 13, 2004 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from the Land of Potz (1)

aa aa zaa Qaa öaa Jaa jaaWaaa aa SaaÄF

It seems that public transport customer information in the Land of Potz is no more reliable than in Austria, even though their problems look somewhat more poetic than ours.

Posted by Horst on August 16, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from the Land of Potz (2)

Marc Chostakoff : Horizon 32, Sanary-sur-Mer

Fantastic: Marc Chostakoff. Some of his work is currently on exhibition in the capital of the Land of Potz.

Posted by Horst on August 17, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from the Land of Potz (3)

Athlete's Foot

Yes, it's a shoe shop. And they're either super self-ironic or blissfully ignorant because this is just not a good name for a shoe shop. Not sure if it affects business in any way though — I don't know how many people in the Land of Potz speak English so well that they'd notice the problem.

Update: Sheesh, it's apparently an American company. However, in the US they seem to be using the word "the", which does change things somewhat.

Posted by Horst on August 18, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (1)

GWO sightings between August 5th and 11th: Thursday 3; Friday 3; Saturday 1; Sunday 4; Monday 4; Tuesday 5; Wednesday 3.

That's more in one week in France (including the Land of Potz) than in the entire last year in Austria. Sigh.

Posted by Horst on August 19, 2004 | # | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (2)

Pharmacie normale

I wonder what exactly they are selling at abnormal pharmacies.

Posted by Horst on August 23, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (3)

One of the weirder things where France differs substantially from Austria is the "beggars vs. waiters" dichotomy.

In Austria, the beggars don't seem to care if you don't give them any money, but the waiters react in a very irritated, sometimes even angry way if you don't tip them.

In France, the waiters don't seem to care at all if you don't tip them, but the beggars can get really angry and even aggressive if you don't give them anything.

Posted by Horst on August 24, 2004 | # | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (4)

If there's one thing I truly hate about Vienna it's the fact that way too many people own dogs, and not only is it next to impossible to go for a quiet walk in a park without being barked at by some malicious four-legged beast, the city is also inundated in dog dirt. It's quite impossible to actually take in your surroundings because you have to keep your eyes fixated on the pavement in front of your feet at all times to avoid stepping into dog dirt.

I hadn't thought it would be possible, but I have now found a city with an even worse dog dirt problem: Montpellier, France.

Mind you, it's a pretty city, in some aspects even prettier than Vienna, with a very agreeable Mediterranean climate and everything, but the amount of dog dirt on the streets is breathtaking. Literally. The stench of the dog dirt on a hot summer Sunday was unbearable. There were a couple of nice terraces in front of some nice cafés where I would have loved to sit down, but I just couldn't stand the smell.

Oddly enough, there was all this dog dirt, but I didn't see a single dog all day. Like, in Vienna you know where all the dirt is coming from, but in Montpellier it remained a mystery. Unless they have a new breed of invisible dog.

Posted by Horst on August 25, 2004 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (5)

I think France is one of the few European countries that doesn't have to worry about dying out. I've never spent so much time stumbling over prams or trying to avoid being run over by a pram than during the time I spent there. And one other thing struck me as peculiar: in Austria, you can't sit on a train without hearing a mobile phone going off every couple of minutes. In France, you can't sit on a train without hearing a child going off every couple of minutes.

Posted by Horst on August 27, 2004 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)

Impressions from France (6)

Lewis Trondheim and people in the metro
from Lewis Trondheim, Approximativement. Paris: Cornélius, 2001.

I reckon that the Paris Métro must be something like the world's largest concert hall — or at least the world's largest concert hall of bad music. In addition to musically inept buskers in the stations, you have also a rather remarkable number of buskers on the trains. I don't dare to guess just exactly how many mobile buskers there are, but on one day I enjoyed no less than five performances, although two of them were by the same old man and his accordion on line 2. He wasn't even bad, but his performance didn't really make up for what I had had to endure before, a heartrending performance of "Besame mucho" and "O sole mio" smattered into a portable amplifier by a guy with a Casio keyboard, too much brillantine in his hair and no singing talent whatsoever.

With so many buskers on the network, I wonder whether there are any rules among them as to who can be where, and what happens if two of them want to board the same train at the same time.

And as on the many occasions when a busker entered a train I never — never — saw anyone give any of them any money, I also wonder why they even bother.

Cut to Vienna: Yesterday, I saw the ultimate picture of futility: two street musicians, most likely from some Eastern European country, one of them strumming a guitar with broken strings, the other making weird atonal sounds with a violin. They had set themselves up in a street adjoining the university, where there are absolutely no students at this time of the year, no tourists at any time of the year, and pretty much nobody else the rest of the time. How they expected to get money for the scratching noises they produced was strange enough (well, the pity factor might work), but how they expected to get any money in this particular place is shrouded in mystery.

Posted by Horst on August 30, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (7)

One thing I noticed in France is how important streets in French cities always seem to be named after the same people and the same historical events, no matter where they are. And they seem to have a much stronger historical slant than street names here in Austria, so that they turn visits to French cities almost into a history lesson.

Jean Jaurès, République, Foch, Wagram, Gabriel Péri, Gambetta, Stalingrad, Bir Hakeim, Victor Hugo, Alésia, 8 Mai 1945.
Posted by Horst on September 02, 2004 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


Jean Jaures

Speaking of which: the man with probably the most French streets and schools named after him, the philosopher, social reformer and founding father of French socialism Jean Jaurès, would be celebrating his 145th birthday today, had he not been murdered by a fanatical nationalist 90 years ago because he had opposed World War I.

"Le capitalisme porte en lui la guerre comme la nuée porte l'orage." —J.J.

Posted by Horst on September 03, 2004 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (8)

Jazz at the Lyon Opera
Jazz in the peristyle of the Lyon opera: M'Bisha Trio, 10 August 2004

I wish they did cool things like this in the Vienna opera during the summer.

Posted by Horst on September 06, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Impressions from France (9)

Mur des Canuts
Lyon, Mur des Canuts, August 2004.

Trompe l'œuil. This is just a painted wall. The only thing that's real are some of the tiny little dark windows (it's a bit more obvious on this previous version of the wall with Guignol characters on it).

There are many buildings like this in Lyon. Here's a link to a website with pictures of some of them.

Posted by Horst on September 16, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Moose spa panoramas (1)

As promised, here are the first pictures from the moose spa... and as a special treat, I'm offering you two QuickTime VR panoramas. Click on the link below to see them, but beware, this requires QuickTime, and they may take some time to load (2 MB total).

A nice lake. With geese, pedal boats and tourists.

Nineteen friendly lions with a serious salivation problem.

Hold the mouse button and drag the picture to view it. Press Shift to zoom in, Ctrl to zoom out.
N.B.: Please notice that the plug-in interface in Mozilla and Firefox for Mac OS is buggy, and funny things may happen.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson on September 21, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Verry good

Verry good Greek kittchen
Kournas Lake, Crete, September 2004.

There are some things you just can't eat, even if they prepare them in a verry good Greek kittchen... well, that is, unless you're verry hungry.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson on September 21, 2004 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Moose spa panoramas (2)

Here are two more QuickTime VR panoramas from my holidays at the moose spa. Click on the link below to see them. Again, I have to advise you that this requires QuickTime, and that they may take some time to load (1.6 MB total).

A gorgeous view from one of the local mountains.

A gorgeous view from another mountain.

Hold the mouse button and drag the picture to view it. Press Shift to zoom in, Ctrl to zoom out.
N.B.: Please notice that the plug-in interface in Mozilla and Firefox for Mac OS is buggy, and funny things may happen.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson on September 23, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Plakias, Crete, September 2004.

Drivers of vehicles heavier than 2.5 tons need to know Greek or be trapped here forever.

Posted by Horst on September 24, 2004 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Holiday pictures!!

Plakias at sunset

Finally! A selection of pictures from my holidays is now available online. Enjoy!

More moose content in weblogs!

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson on September 26, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Predators of the Greek country roads (1)

The Cement Mixer

Cement mixer in Greek landscape
Click picture to enlarge center section

By far the most dangerous predator on Greek country roads is the Cement Mixer (mixator cæmentarius). This creature is fairly easy to identify, as it has a fairly unique shape; minor variations in the species are only distinguished by stripes of varying colour on the rotating tank. Typically, the Cement Mixer is a 6-wheeled creature, although 4- and 8-wheeled varieties have also been sighted.

While perfectly harmless when stationary, the Cement Mixer has the tendency to surprise unsuspecting car drivers by appearing out of nowhere with no advance warning whatsoever, especially on extremely bendy and narrow mountain roads and at extremely high speeds. In fact, the picture above is a true rarity, as it is one of the very few documented examples of a Cement Mixer that is actually visible from a greater distance.

Cement Mixers can be found all over the country in large quantities, but especially in deserted stretches of uninhabited land where you wouldn't expect them. You can often drive for miles without seeing any other rolling creature, but as soon as you approach that blind summit or concealed curve, a Cement Mixer is almost certain to emerge from it.

As head-on encounters between small Japanese rental vehicles and Cement Mixers invariably result in the complete destruction of the small Japanese rental vehicle and the victory of the Cement Mixer, it is advisable to approach blind summits and concealed curves with great caution.

Posted by Horst on October 04, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Monument at Agia Galini
Agia Galini, Greece, September 2004

I have no idea what this monument is, but it looked cool. Actually, it looked better in real life, but you can't have everything. Lots of work here, so there are no new articles today, but yesterday's stuff was updated here and there, and to maintain that Greek holiday feeling, The Aardvark Cooks has a new Beef stifado recipe (and I hope there's no second one like it in any copyrighted cookbook).

Posted by Horst on October 06, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sign at a hotel in Rome

In order to avoid
disagreeable disadvantages,
we advise our customers
not to leave any
unattended baggages


Posted by Horst on October 19, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Predators of the Greek country roads (2)

The Japanese Pickup

Japanese Pickup in Greek landscape
Picture: Two Japanese Pickups quietly grazing at the side of the road.

Previous episode in this series: The Cement Mixer

The Japanese Pickup is slightly less dangerous than the Cement Mixer, as most of the time it merely rolls along at speeds below 20kph, blocking the way of the typical tourist in his small rental car, especially on narrow roads where overtaking is impossible, making them a nuisance rather than a danger.

However, they should not be underestimated: Some Japanese Pickups would obviously like to be Cement Mixers, and in obvious imitation of their larger idols, some of them do unexpectedly appear in narrow curves and behind blind summits. Also, as some areas of Greece like Crete are something like Japanese Pickup Retreats, many very very old pickups — some thirty years old and older — populate the country roads in various states of disrepair. It is vital that you keep a safe distance from these creatures in case they suddenly fall apart.

Some Japanese Pickups have been known to co-operate with Cement Mixers: they will putter along a road at a nervewreckingly low speed, and when the tourist finally attempts to overtake them, a Cement Mixer will appear out of nowhere and attempt to run into the tourist's rental car. So the Japanese Pickup should always be watched with care; they are harmless only when parked at the side of the road as in the picture above.

Posted by Horst on October 22, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Predators of the Greek country roads (3)

The Hole

The Hole
A typical Hole.

Previous episodes in this series: The Cement Mixer | The Japanese Pickup

The Hole is perhaps the strangest of all the predators of the Greek country roads. Contrary to the other predators, the Hole is completely stationary — or so it appears, because they still seem to appear in the most unexpected places, and the more you try to steer your car around them, the more you will end up right in the middle of it.

Still, stories about moving Holes are probably myth. Typically, Holes just sit in the country road, patiently waiting for victims that will drive into them. They are particularly dangerous at night, because of their near invisibility.

Holes vary greatly in depth and width, and they are known to grow over time. Some are so small that you can safely ignore them, some are so big and deep that your car will sustain heavy damage if you don't manage to avoid them, and the bad thing about Hole-inflicted damage to your rental car is that the full-risk insurance contracts on Greek rental cars always contain a clause that they will not be liable for damage (a) to the underside of the car, or (b) if no second car is involved in the accident; in other words, Hole attacks are explicitly excluded.

This means that if your rental car is damaged by the attack of a Hole, you should try to convince the driver of a second car to crash into yours so that you don't have to pay for the damage. Or you could park the car in a convenient position so that it becomes the prey of another predator such as a Cement Mixer. This, however, may involve a lot of red tape, so it's better to stay alert and constantly watch out for Holes as you drive on the Greek country roads.

Posted by Horst on November 03, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Um, can anybody give me a reason why I should spend a long weekend in Berlin? I've been leafing through a couple of travel guides for a few days now, but I'm still not too convinced...

Posted by Horst on March 24, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


Souvenirs from the 50 Foot Wave concert

Above: Setlist and ticket (signed by the band) from the 50 Foot Wave concert in Brussels on Friday, plus my copy of their album Golden Ocean, also signed by the band that night (left to right: Bernard Georges, Rob Ahlers, Kristin Hersh).
Below: A selection of the comic books I acquired in Brussels during the weekend.

Souvenirs from Brussels

Posted by Horst on April 26, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Facts about Berlin

  • Berlin is a building contractor's wet dream.
  • Currywurst is seriously overrated.
  • At least from the outside there is next to no discernible difference between western and ex-GDR council housing estates from the 1970s.
  • There are significantly fewer döner kebab places than you'd expect. Fewer than in Vienna actually.
  • The buildings on Potsdamer Platz are nothing more than reflections of the egoes of the corporations that had them built.
  • There are more jars on the 6th floor of the KaDeWe than on the entire planet Zork.
  • In Berlin, football fans sing. All of them, all the time.
  • There are places with frightening names such as The bizarre world of Dr Mueller.
  • There are also truly bizarre things, which I won't talk about here.
Posted by Horst on June 02, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Where the water comes from

Lake Geneva, as seen from Lausanne-Ouchy

Lake Geneva, as seen from Lausanne-Ouchy. On the other side, which you can't really see because of the mist and humidity, is Evian-les-Bains, where the mineral water comes from.

Posted by Horst on August 15, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


bus to the desert Switzerland

Another one of the photos I took in Lausanne. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to hop on and check whether global warming has become really bad, or the Swiss landscape is merely much more varied than I thought.

Posted by Horst on August 18, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Okay, so I suppose I should post something to humour my last remaining few readers. Therefore, here are some QuickTime VR panoramas from my holidays in Greece three weeks ago. Enjoy.

Chania, Venetian harbour.

Kommos beach in southern Crete.

Hold the mouse button and drag the picture to view it. Press Shift to zoom in, Ctrl to zoom out.

Posted by Horst on October 02, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Car brand names

After watching the UK snooker championship on Eurosport, where Ronnie O'Sullivan lost against Mark King, I got stuck on that other sports channel again and they had yet another one of those stupid quizzes going on, which mainly consist of getting people to call and spend €0.49 (Germans) or €0.70 (Austrians) per call in the hopes of winning a fairly unreachable €40,000 prize.

They had a grid filled with letters this time, and the task was to find four car brand names that were hidden in there vertically or horizontally. The obvious thing was that the grid contained a lot of misspelled car brand names, such as "Tojota", "Nisan", "Matzda" "Renaut" or "Lanzia", and a few car model names such as "Golf" or "Twingo", but the only correctly spelt car brand name that I could spot was "Fiat".

Well. After about 50 people had called, repeating "Tojota", "Nisan" and "Matzda" over and over again, it was finally revealed that the four correct car brand names were in fact "Fiat" (ah!), "UAR" (huh?), "ASD" (huh?!) and "AIL" (huh?!?).

As I have been quite unable to find any information about any of the latter three car brands, I'd be interested if any of you, my dear readers, have ever heard of them.

Posted by Horst on December 12, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


If you went to a restaurant that had "Blütwurst" on the menu and you felt like eating some, would you pronounce it that way when ordering it or would you pronounce it correctly?

I somehow have the feeling that it says a lot about a person whether s/he chooses to say "Blütwurst" or "Blutwurst", though I'm not sure exactly what it says. Probably something about their sense of humour and how they are enjoying themselves. Probably that those who say "Blütwurst" are fun-loving individuals, whereas those who say "Blutwurst" only prove that they are

  • unimaginative
  • boring
  • normal
  • pedantic
  • pernickety
  • anal-retentive
  • teachers

or all of the above.

I couldn't bring myself to say "Blütwurst" today, no matter how much I tried and how much I wanted to. I am pathetic.

Posted by Horst on February 21, 2006 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Happy New Year

Usually it's the Chinese who excel at hilarious translations. However, a box of German-made fortune cookies recently proved that the Germans are pretty good at them, too:

Fortune Cookies

Unfortunately, all I found inside the cookie was the slip of paper promised by the German text. The fortune would have been nice, though.

Posted by Horst on January 02, 2008 | # | Comments (3)

It is exactly what it appears to be


Posted by Horst on July 29, 2008 | # | Comments (4)

No more Carte Orange

Carte Orange

RATP, the Paris public transport authority, is abolishing the "Carte Orange" on August 4th. Which is good for me, as I can thus finally get rid of one of the more dubious photographs that exist of me.

The Carte Orange, the cheapest way to get around Paris if you are staying 3 days or longer, and one of the more famous public transport tickets in the world, thus meets its untimely end 33 years after its introduction. It is replaced by the RFID-based "Passe Navigo". Paris visitors without a fixed address in the Île de France area should ask for a "Passe Navigo Découverte".

Posted by Horst on July 31, 2008 | # | Comments (2)


Music in Basancon

The man visible in this picture apparently has the habit of playing music in his apartment at such a volume that it can be heard on the entire square in front of Besançon railway station, and also on the platforms of said railway station. He was playing music every time I passed by, so I assume it's some kind of regular feature. The music he is playing may require some getting used to, but contrary to other music that you often hear from stereos from other apartments or cars (rule of thumb: the louder it is played, the worse said person's taste in music), it was actually not all that bad. He mostly seems to play old rock'n'roll tracks and French chansons from the 1950s.

The interesting thing was that he was constantly moving back and forth betweeen his record player and the window -- putting on a record, then looking out the window, then, when the song had barely finished, or even while it was still playing, back to the record player and a new song. He was like a hectic DJ trying to pay as many songs to an imaginary audience as possible. Not that he had a large audience. Nobody who happened to pass by actually stopped to listen, and I only listened to his playlist because I was sitting on the railway station's platform, waiting for my train. When my train arrived, he had been going on for at least 30 minutes, and it did not appear as if he had any intention to stop anytime soon.

Posted by Horst on August 01, 2008 | # | Comments (5)



Posted by Horst on August 02, 2008 | # | Comments (1)

La muette

WegweiserIf you are ever in the French town of Arles and follow the ubiquitous signposts that direct you to the hotel "La Muette", you will, in the following two hours, get to know pretty much the entire town, without ever arriving at said hotel. You will also experience a few disorienting moments, such as being confronted with a signpost that points into the direction from which you just came, which will happen repeatedly during your walk.

Fortunately I didn't have to find the hotel myself, I merely followed the signs out of curiosity because, as I said, they were everywhere, and I wanted to know what a hotel looks like that has invested so much money into signposts. However, I never found the hotel, and I started wondering if it even exists. The deeper I ventured into the mediaeval city center, the more it seemed that the signposts were some form of Rosicrucian conspiracy, or maybe "La muette" is simply a code for a city tour, or maybe the person who mounted the signs was just totally incompetent.

Google claims that the hotel exists. After having extensively perused the signposts, I cannot vouch for the validity of this information.

Posted by Horst on August 03, 2008 | # | Comments (1)

Follow the animal

Follow the animal

Some cities employ animals to lead tourists around and show them the sights. One of the towns that I visited recently (predictably) used an owl, another town (unexpectedly, but in retrospect quite logically) used a porcupine. Both were rather cute.

Posted by Horst on August 05, 2008 | # | Comments (2)


It's something of a strange experience if you're in a relatively small town somewhere in France, reading a comic book that you bought in a different city a few days before, and you suddenly realize that the comic takes place in the very same city where you are at the moment.

Posted by Horst on August 07, 2008 | # | Comments (2)

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