Monday, September 17, 2012

Sept 17 2012 - Diocletian's territory from Trieste to Split

Cute progressive port-o-potty in Trieste
The drive from Trieste Italy through Slovenia to Split Croatia is a very scenic one. The highway was two-lanes in each direction, with us doing about 85 mph and getting passed by people doing well over 100 mph through winding and windy cliffside passages. We must've gone through 30 or so tunnels through the Balkan and Alp mountain ranges. At times, the view rivaled that of the Pacific Coast Highway in California. It's a simple yet efficient highway system.

At lunchtime we were passing by the town of Opatija in Croatia and decided to pop by for a bite. Olga and I ended up having frutti di mare pizza (this whole region of Croatia and Slovenia serves mainly Italian food - at least in the restaurants where we find ourselves) in the house where the inventor of Valium grew up. Super random! Leonid ordered in Russian and the waiter seemed (to me) to reply in kind. I asked Leonid how he knew the waiter could speak Russian. He explained that Russian and Croatian are similar enough that people should be able to speak in their native tongue and make an educated guess as to each others' meaning. It seemed to work well as the waiter replied in Croatian and the correct food arrived :)

Lunch turned into a discussion comparing Russian and American humor. We ran through a few jokes that are similar in both countries. In many cases, the American ones starts from a point of reality and ends in something absurd - while the Russian joke starts with an absurd premise and gets even weirder. In other cases, the jokes are nearly identical, but the Russian version punchline is more pessimistic. For example, consider this American joke:

Do you want to hear a dirty joke? A man fell in the mud.

Now here's the Russian equivalent:

Woman: "Tell me something hot"
Man: "Shit."

Here's another comparison:

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's electronic navigation and communication equipment.  Due to the clouds and haze the pilot could not determine his position or course to steer to the airport.  The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign and held it in the helicopter's window.  The sign said "WHERE AM I ?" in large letters.

People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window.  Their sign said, "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER."  The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map and determine the course to steer to SEATAC airport and landed safely.

After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER" sign helped determine their position.  The pilot responded, "I knew that had to be the MICROSOFT building because they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer."
Randomly-selected photo from the drive through Croatia

Now consider the Russian version:

The physicist and the engineer are in a hot-air balloon. Soon, they find themselves lost in a canyon somewhere. They yell out for help: "Helllloooooo! Where are we?"
15 minutes later, they hear an echoing voice: "Helllloooooo! You're in a hot-air balloon!!"
The physicist says, "That must have been a mathematician."
The engineer asks, "Why do you say that?"

The physicist replied: "The answer was absolutely correct, and it was utterly useless." 

The view of a sliver of Pjaca Square from our bathroom at 2:50am!
The jokes are exactly the same, the only difference is that the American uses the knowledge to successfully land the helicopter, while we are left to believe the helpless Russian balloonists are still floating about somewhere.

Dinner in Split was spent discussing Emperor Diocletian, Constantin, and the fall of the Roman Empire. There certainly is no shortage of topics when traveling throughout the ancient world!

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