Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Remembering after we arrived home

We did so many things.  We saw places we never expected to see -- like the Black Sea

We had many cappuccinos.  

We ate great meals everywhere.  
We took naps.

We observed cultural differences, such as the bikes all over Amsterdam.  And, most noticeably, the shades of red hair --  everywhere from Romania thru to Hungary we saw red haired women.  Mind you, this hair was not natural, not ever.  The 'fashion' trend crossed all ages.  The reds included wine, burgundy, fire-engine, carrot, orange -- pick a word you might use for a color on the red spectrum and we saw hair that color.  Fuchsia?  Yup.

And here is the most dramatic example, a woman in Vukovar, Croatia.

Two Hungarian red headed beauties

YA get the picture yet, all the same Henna!!!

We sweated in the humidity and heat.  The temperatures were always above 85 and the humidity just below the rain level, perhaps 98%.

Just by look at the two pictures below you will notice that even the statuary is perspiring!!!Yes, it has been HOT! with a large bit of humidity thrown in for good measure!

Roses are everywhere in the Balkans.  Bulgaria uses the rose and its derivative products as hallmarks.  They sell massive amounts of rose oil and petals to France for perfumes.  In Bulgaria you can buy small carved and painted wooden carriers for a vial of rose perfume.  Everywhere the plants are well tended and profuse. 
Here is a fabulous one we saw during a visit to a village outside Vukovar, Croatia.

We saw wonderful flowers everywhere -- hydrangeas and roses and astilbes and lavender.  We saw Hollyhocks in Amsterdam.

River cruising was wonderful. Many mornings we awoke to a stirring sunset. Interestingly in reflection on the trip, we loved our 5 star hotels, we loved our suite on the river trip...we slept well in all our wonderful beds, we ate and ate and ate, all the food being delicious and too much, but still we indulged. The weather of unbelievable heat and humidity haunted our days, the nights on the river were refreshing and cool; we slept with sliding doors open every night.

MS Treasures, "Our" ship on the Danube.

It was a long journey for two darling girls through a winding path that brought excitement, adventure and new experiences.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

All Good Things Must Come To A Close

And So It Does.........

July 4, 2016

As we prepare to head to USA, Becky and I travel on our Day of Independence. And based upon all that has happened in the month we have been gone, we look forward to being safely home. As we traveled through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic and finally the Netherlands, we saw people going about their business and enjoying their daily life. 

We saw no refugees. No one spoke of the refugees nor of problems being caused by them moving through the traveled countries.

The International News, Sky News, CNN International, BBC and Bloomberg followed every step of the BREXIT, the bombings in Istanbul, Dhaka, Israel, Baghdad and possibly Egypt Air. In fact we were thrilled that Iceland and Wales have surpassed all expectations and will be soon taking over the news.... We hope those in the US were also kept fully informed!


Friday, July 1, 2016

Amsterdam Cools Us Off

Amsterdam Here We Are!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Up at dawn to say good bye to Prague and to head to the airport for the one and a half hour flight over to Amsterdam which we think will be about 20 degrees cooler than the very hot weather we have had in the Balkans and Prague.  

As we arrived in Amsterdam, the sun parted as the weather warmed a bit. Our hotel was not ready so we jumped a tram and headed toward the train station to  do a city tour by boat. As we were recently here we were looking for things we have not done and found that the Rijksmuseum has a special Rembrandt exhibit. 

In 1632 Rembrandt painted the standing full body portrait of Marten Soolmans and his wife Oopjen Coppit (the only full bodied portraits he ever painted). These two paintings have never been shown together. The last time they were seen even separately was in 1956. In October the paintings will be removed for restoration.

We stood in line for over an hour winding with a mass crowd to have the opportunity see the two paintings. Marvelous.

The rain came in buckets, the sliding windows of the boat did not work. We kept our tickets and plan to redo without getting wet. Amsterdam continues to be a rowdy busy place full of youth and folly. The bicycle lanes caused us often to jump out of the way, the motorbikes and bicycles have their own lanes and pay no attention to walkers...they just bob around them...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

City Tour by bus with narration in three languages.  We enjoyed seeing the countryside, though the guide said we were still in the 'city.'  Of course we saw a windmill and heard again how the entire place is reclaimed from the sea.

More of the Historical Past of Prague

A day to remind us that unless we remember history we are doomed to repeat it.

We visited the historic Jewish quarter of Prague.  Miraculously, it is preserved despite the horrors of war's destruction. Hitler intended the Jewish quarter to be a "museum of an extinct people."

We visited several synagogues, a ceremonial hall, and the Jewish cemetery.

 Several of the synagogues are museums.  The most notable is the Pinska Synagogue.  On each wall, in upper and lower levels, are inscribed the names of each person from the Prague 'ghetto' and nearby areas who were deported and later exterminated in one of the many concentration camps.  This exhibit stops your heart -- rows and rows and columns and columns of names and dates.  Just that -- nothing more and nothing less.

One of the synagogue/museums shows the art work of the children.  A wondrous woman, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, applied her art skills to work with the children in the Terezin/Theresienstadt ghetto/camp.  She encouraged them to draw memories of the better times and also to represent the horror of their daily life.  Read more here.

We saw silver Torah adornments, silk Torah covers and panels, silver alms trays and chalices.  We learned more about how the cemetery began -- in mid 1300's -- and buried its citizens (with the help of the Burial Society) until the mid 1700's.

We climbed the stairs to the women's landing on three sides of the rectangle worship space with the Torah and 'altar' facing east.  THe Spanish synagogue was the most elaborate, with each square inch covered with elaborate painted patterns and a magnificent dome.

We left humbled, saddened, sober, aware -- appreciating life and sunshine and the prospect of our own free walk to a free and filling lunch.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Deeper into Prague .... Now the Prague Palace!!!

Prague Palace

We had the joy of breakfasting at the Buddha Bar Hotel this morning. They were so welcoming....and this marks the second Buddha Bar, the other at Budapest.

From the Buddha Bar to the Prague opposite to another!
Beautiful morning and we beat the madding crowds to the Palace.  Also we beat the crowds to the hop on/hop off and so greatly enjoyed the ride and the narration.  We had just enough time remaining on the 24-hour ride card to get us to the Prague Palace.

St Vitas Cathedral on Palace grounds

St Wenceslas Chapel

Good King Wenceslas on his horse.  Wenceslas Square from bus tour.

 We had full opportunity to visit St Vitus's Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace
Basilica of St George, the Golden Lane and the marvelous Lobkowicz Palace where we had a marvelous luncheon.


Today was a splendid day -- we walked on new cobbles and retraced steps over stones we'd trod yesterday.  We enjoyed a quiet breakfast and a less quiet afternoon coffee at the Irish Times bar.  At the suggestion of several friends we sought out the Lobkowicz Palace and lunched there on a shaded terrace.  We walked well over our daily goal of 10,000 steps, including 150+ steps down from the palace hill to the 'real people live here' places. We are learning our way but are still getting lost every day as we try and find our way back to the Marriott.

The views from the Palace were outstanding....

Tonight we will hear a Mozart and Dvorak concert and return to the Marriott for our private buffet en suite:  cheese, sausage, paté, and a pastry from the market.  

In between we watch the Brexit events.  We will always remember being on this trip during the days approaching and following the historic vote.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Delving into Prague and all its Mysteries

Today is Becky's first day for finding out why we all love Prague so very much. Our Marriott is within easy walking to the Old Town and we plan to have a grand time exploring.

About 9 am a stroll to the nearby market square in search of the hop-on/hop-off bus kiosk.  The vendors were already busy:  we bot pastries and handmade tater chips.  At the kiosk we got our ticket cards plus suggestions for a nearby coffee place:  the elegant, Municipal Building Coffee Cafe.  Found a table in the shade that looked out at the square and had a cappuccino each and shared an "old bohemian omelet' -- 3 eggs, plus bacon and potatoes.

People watching is fun no matter the locale.  Prague People Watching (PPW) is especially interesting.  There was the loud, intrusive Chinese tour guide in front of the coffee shop; there were the 'dressed up' couples and families carrying flowers and definitely going to some special occasion; there were the dogs, both big and small, strutting their stuff at the end of the leash; the smartly dressed and those with that 'just got out of bed' look.

Hop on!  Crowded mini van with tiny transmitters on the seat back in front of you.  Plug in the buds and choose the channel for your language.  "On the left side…."  "On the right side…."  We started at stop #2.  Had to decide to exit by #14 after a quick ride around the famous Prague Castle.  At least 75% of the streets are cobbled. 

Such a bumpy ride our brains were unable to process -- nothing at all seemed to make sense when we exited at the Old Town Square.  

Barely missed the noon ringing of the astronomical clock so we did a circle around the square, ducking into a church when we heard some chamber music.  

Then back to Cafe Mozart and a table right across from the Clock in time for the 1 pm ringing and display.  Beer and cappuccino.

We couldn't bear the idea of returning to the rattly bumpy mini van so plotted a route across the King Charles Bridge to "small town."  Lots of great artisans on the bridge; a "bridge band"; tour groups; lots of people.  Dirty black statues line the bridge -- very much in need of a deep cleaning.  River Vlatava is popular for small craft and larger tour cruises of the daily lunch or dinner type. The swans also have a home there.

Found the Infant of Prague -- small revered statue of Jesus, with the reputation of having saved many during one of the plagues.  This was a quiet few moments before we set our sights on a late lunch and a return to the Marriott.

Stopped in at least 6 cafes looking for sausages -- we didn't want pizza or burgers or McDonald's; we wanted the 'real' thing.  Found it and sat outside enjoying two kinds of sausage, incredible fresh horse radish mixed with two different kinds of mustard, and sweet 'sour' kraut.  Beer, of course.

Here's what we ate and the name of the lovely beer.

Wandered 'home' and Beth found a deli so we got cheese, olives, and a sausage to add to our pastries and paté for an in-room dinner.

Got lost, got found, got home, got showers, got ice (finally), got vodka.

Happy gals.

Pinch me, please…..