During our recent Europe trip, I read the book Hyperion and really enjoyed it.

The first in a series of 4 books (the others being The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion), Hyperion is a science fiction novel set in the far future. The Earth had been destroyed centuries earlier and mankind lives in a federation of many planets called the Web (note that this book is from 1989; I bet if he wrote the book a few years later, he would’ve chosen a different nomenclature to avoid confusion). The Web consists of many planets linked together by farcasters (teleportation devices) and is ruled by a government called The Hegemony of Man, or The Hegemony for short (which is not as dictatorial and repressive as it sounds). Hyperion is a colonial world that is the center of much activity. There is much folklore about the mysterious Time Tombs and a nightmarish metallic thorned creature called The Shrike, worshipped by some and feared by all. At the same time, the spaceships of a barbarian horde called The Ousters are descending on the Hyperion system and a war is brewing between The Hegemony and The Ousters. A third party, a huge artificial intelligence called The TechnoCore also seems to be interested in Hyperion for unknown reasons. With war on the horizon, The Hegemony sends out a group of pilgrims to go to the Time Tombs on Hyperion and visit The Shrike. Why The Hegemony is sponsoring this pilgrimage is unclear, but each of the pilgrims has their own reasons for wanting to confront The Shrike. As they travel together, a Catholic priest, a soldier, a Jewish scholar and his child, a poet, a private detective, a diplomat, and a ship captain tell each other their stories of how they came to be on this dangerous mission. With all these travelers telling tales, it is reminiscent of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and that is not the only reference to English literature. Hyperion is also the title of an unfinished epic poem by 19th-century English Romantic poet John Keats and the book has many other overt references to Keats.

It’s a fascinating book and very hard to put down, once you get started.

Day 5: Amsterdam/Hague/Delft

The Hague for the most part is a modern city and is not super interesting from a touristy point of view. We spent most of our time at a place called Madurodam which is a park with lots of impressively realistic miniature models of various places in the Netherlands.


My day was spoiled a bit when some bird decided to take a poop on my head.

After walking around a bit more in the Hague, we took a train to the nearby town of Delft, where we met up with my friend Lieven, who is an associate professor of quantum mechanics.


Day 4: Amsterdam/Haarlem

Day 4 in Amsterdam and we made a day trip to the nearby town of Haarlem. Haarlem is a very laid back and relaxing place, especially when compared to the crowds in Amsterdam for Queen’s Day.

Highlights included a canal cruise, a church, more Flemish fries, and visiting a “coffee shop” called “High Times”.


Unfortunately, something went screwy with either our camera or our SDHC card and a bunch of the pictures that we took somehow got corrupted. Lame.

For dinner, we went to an Indonesian place called Puri Mas and had the traditional rijsttafel (Indonesian “rice table”). Most of the dishes were excellent, although there were a couple of lamb dishes and we’re not huge fans of lamb. Some of the dishes were spicy but nothing overly so for me.


Day 3: Amsterdam

The third day of our Europe trip and our third day in Amsterdam. We spent most of the day in Keukenhof – a place that could best be described as a “flower park”.

We took the tram to the Amsterdam Centraal station and then took a train to Leiden and from there a bus to Keukenhof. At the Leiden train station, I noticed a particularly impressive number of parked bicycles.


It was a very flower-filled day.