This helps in pub trivia

I never really appreciated history, as a general concept. I think it had something to do with the fact that there is just so much of it, and I didn't really know how to go about getting my head around it. Where do you start? Yesterday? The beginning of time? What do you do with all those really dull bits that happened while we were crawling out of the sea? It feels a bit wrong to wipe out several billion years of history like that as I'm sure something interesting must have happened in that time period. Things like alien landings. The alien landings only muddy the waters though, as you need to find a place for all the histories of all those other planets out there. I just keep getting the feeling that I'm learning about a English Premiere League highlights package version of history. Even if you only pick up the important bits, you still have far too much history for any one person to comprehend.

Travelling seems to have made me change my opinion on history. My earlier attempts at travelling and broadening the mind just really involved rocking up into a country, woefully under-prepared, and seeing just exactly what is going to surprise you. While that method is really good for discovering things, and managing expectations (If you don't expect anything from a place, you can't be disappointed by it - notably excepted by Karlsruhe), you really miss out on an important aspect about actually visiting the place, which is actually being at the place. If you spend a few weeks reading about a place, and then finally actually get there, and see the place - smell the air, touch the buildings, walk the streets, it takes it from an abstract idea and makes it real. Since I have not learnt a thing, and still don't do any preparation for my trips, I usually make up for it by browsing the Wikipedia pages for the places I have visited and hoping that I haven't missed anything significant.

Coupled with my proximity to many old things, my reading of the Baroque cycle by Neal Stephenson has really made me interested in history and genealogy. One of the things I like the most about the books are the locales in which they're set, and how they seem strangely relevant to me with significant mention made of places I have personal connections to - London, Heidelberg and Ahmedabad. The characters in the book basically travel all over the world, happening to show up at significant points in history, interacting with the royalty and the savants of the time (Newton, Leibniz etc). Although the events in the book are largely fictionalised, it still drives you to read more about the events, and the machinations of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a very interesting time, from the development of natural sciences and chemistry, to waging wars and political wrangling (the rise of the nation state during the age of enlightenment), and even the establishment of the modern systems of commerce that we still see in place today.

On Thursday night, I joined up with some Bulgarians and went to watch a Bulgarian film about the establishment of homeland for the Bulgarian people. It was quite an interesting story, although it was a bit hard to follow the dubbed English. The Bulgars (of Turkic ethnicity) were basically getting hammered in battles with other tribes, and had to leave their homeland - splitting up their nation into three tribes who spread out over continental Europe. The highlight in the film would have to be the massive battle scene where they hired 50,000 extras as soldiers. The wikipedia page on the history of Bulgaria probably does a better job at describing the history than I will ever be able to paraphrase. The coolest thing I found out about Bulgaria though (apart from the fact that the Bulgars were awesome equestrians - think of a skill level like pansy-boy Legolas jumping on to a moving horse whilst felling orcs with a volley of arrows and washing his hair) is that their capital is called Sofia, which means wisdom. I keep seeing that name popping up all over the place (I had never noticed that philosophy literally means "Love of wisdom/knowledge"), and I wonder what prompted the ruler (still a Khan at that time?) of Bulgaria to name his main city in such a way.

Update 24/01/06 We finally won at the pub trivia. 25 out of a total of 29 (Tennesse Williams did NOT write "Death of a Salesman")! Prize pool of €40, which we blew on drinks immediately.


Anonymous *

I find it more interesting to discuss the relationship between the Bulgars and every Australian's favourite word, 'bugger'. Dirty monkeys!!!

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