Saturday, September 30, 2017

Snippets from Prague

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Rolling out of Vienna on the road to Praha (Prague), the morning fog lingers.  
A mist covers a country estate.

Today is a Czech Republic holiday, so traffic is heavier than usual for a weekday. Even with three driving lanes, the heavy lorries must stay in the far right lane.

Spotted a Russian Ural sidecar rig on the motorway.  

On the way to Praha, we'll make a detour to visit Českÿ Krumlov. 
This Czech village was not bombed during World War II so the castle, monastery, houses and churches are not post-war reproductions. Thus making it a favorite place for locals and foreigners to visit.

Fifteen years ago, all of the buildings here were in the some state of disrepair. Under Soviet rule, nobody could own land or buildings. Everything belonged to the State. Owners were forcibly ejected, sent to re-education camps (concentration camps, gulags). Those remaining felt no responsibility to take care of anything. 

Once out from under the Soviet rule, little by little each piece of property has been reclaimed by the original owner/families and restored to a livable condition... except for this house.  There might be a problem with the title or a question of ownership.

Through out history, Communists and Socialists clamor for equality but have only succeeded in making everybody equally poor... except for the leaders. Their family and friends enjoy a much higher standard of equality. As they say here, some are more equal than others.

Peeking through the autumn leaves, St. Vitus church in Českÿ Krumlov

From the town square we walk up through the old castle that sits 
high on a cliff overlooking the small village.

From on high, one has a great view of the town, the river and surrounding countryside.

There are many statues here, but this one I immediately thought must be in honor of
 the wine cellar frair or the beer brewery monk.

as I walk in front of it, I realized it is only a bag of grain over his shoulder 
that gives one the wrong image... though my first impression still makes me smile. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

An early morning fog hangs over Praha, though the locals say it is smog. We set out for a walk through the Castle district then to the Old Market Square.

 To capture a photo showing most of Prague castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, it must be taken from a far distance as the wall and buildings surrounding the church are too close to allow a complete view.

Buildings are very close to the base of church... 

...looking up, the camera can only capture pieces of the historic structure. 
They are trying to pressure wash the church to remove the years of black grimy pollution but the soft sandstone does not take well to pressure washing. 

We walk on to Old Market Square to see the famous Astronomical Clock. It now only chimes on the hour from 9 AM to 9 PM.  Crowds gather to witness the hourly opening of two small windows above the clock, hoping to catch a glimpse of the crowing cock and hear the ringing of the bell.

Personally I did not like the large crowd in the Square, only to learn that this crowd was considered small! In the summer the Square is packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists, vendors and pickpockets.

We slipped off the Square on to a side street looking for a quiet cafe to sit, 
sip a drink and people watch. 

Saturday, September 30, 217

Today I added a new two wheel mode of travel to my repertoire... Segway!
Booked a three hour tour of the west bank of Prague. After five minutes of instructions with Ivan on how to safely operate the Segway (in other words:  Okay, kill yourself if you want but do not wreck our beautiful expensive machine... LOL). 

First lesson, there is no throttle on a Segway!

Second lesson, there is no brake on a Segway! 

Third lesson, Please try not to hit anything expensive!

Joking aside, Ivan had me ready to go after five minutes of practice. 

I signed up for a group tour, but since it was quite chilly this morning, I was the only foolhardy one to appear.  So a private tour with Ivan it was.  We had a great conversation about politics at the refreshment (beer) stop and again over lunch.

Our biggest obstacle was many roads and sidewalks they normally use for the tour were closed off for a bicycle race.  We had to make many detours on little used paths and trails. My kind of improvising.  

Fall has arrived in Praha, there is a morning nip in the air, leaves are falling. In a few months
 these trails will be used by cross country skiers.

Tonight Amparo and I dined with our friends from Insight in a small cafe overlooking the city.

As night settles over the city, the palace lights come on, illuminating St Vitus Cathedral,
letting everyone in Praha know that God is watching over them tonight.

This wraps up the Prague chapter of our trip. 

Tomorrow...  on to Germany.

Sleep well my friends,

p.s. We walked down to the historic Charles Bridge today... that was easy...

...then back up to our hotel room in the monastery that overlooks Praha.

Am very proud of Tita for walking the 3.5 miles down and back up the hillside. 

We're both exhausted by the time we got to the top.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Snippets from Vienna

Monday September 25, 2017

Today we leave for Vienna, but first a stop in Szentendre, Hungary.

Szentendre (aka St Andrews) first attracted artists to this small village near Budapest as it was affordable and yet close to the capital. Is on the Danube River, has clean air and a pleasant climate. Nowdays the town has became so popular that now it is no longer affordable for artists unless they are already famous and sell their works in galleries.

In most small country villages, life revolves around a church on or near the city centre. Szentendre is no exception. In fact for a small town, several old churches were seen near the centre.

Amparo found a statue of Pope John Paul the II, her favorite Pope.

Inside, the nave was quite simple yet very clean and respectful. So very different from the highly decorated naves we saw in the Mathias Church in Budapest.

Cobblestone pavers and outdoor cafes still survive in the center plaza. Being here in the fall is nice, cooler temps, fewer tourists and children are in school.

A unique use of lampshades over the outdoor cafe.
Recycle and reuse everything. Waste not, want not.

Back when most people were illiterate, shopkeepers hung signs above their entrance that indicated their trade or profession.  Here an innkeeper's metal sign showing a bed to let the weary travelers know this is an inn.

A sight we have seen in many of parts of the old country, a matronly lady who would not think of leaving of her home if not properly dressed.  If only going for their daily mass or to the corner market. 

The young ladies here seem to think pre-torn jeans are the mode-de-rigour.

We love to walk and explore these small quaint villages. 
Whenever I see a lane like this, my only thought is.... Hmm, I wonder where this goes?

By the time we arrived at Hotel am Konzerthaus in Vienna, it was late afternoon. 
After checking in, we walked to a nearby restaurant as dusk settled over the city.  

Vienna feels very much like a short New York city, same chaotic traffic - bustling vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians - noisy congestions - colorful graffiti - loud urban conversations... 
with a building height limit of sixteen stories. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Today we make an early visit to the Schloss Schönbrunn, the summer palace of the imperial Habsburg family. You know it is early by the lack of tourists in the photo. In two hours this plaza will be so crammed with visitors from all over the world that making a photo like this would be impossible.

Like every European palace, it must have its roman marble statues... 
particularly since the Romans conquered Vienna in 15 BC. 

Vienna became the centre of the Holy Roman Empire in 1273 with the crowning of Rudolf I. 

... and its lush colorful gardens.

No photos were allowed to be taken inside the palace, sorry!

Tonight we attended a Vienna concert of classical music, ballet and opera. Once again no photos allowed inside of the artists, so instead an art photo of their instruments.

Afterwards Amparo agreed to be my model for a post-concert photo near the Liberation Monument fountain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2017

Today we take a side trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, home of the UFO...

the UFO Bridge as the locals refer to it. A Soviet designed bridge with a rotating restaurant atop the center pillions. Ironic considering the 17th century architecture of the old town at its feet.

Narrow cobblestone streets leading to a square with a church.

In the square a fountain topped with a statue.

... a baroque concert hall.

What sets Bratislava apart from the rest of the continent is its sense of humor.
Scattered through out the old town are statues, big and small, in honor of... 
hmmmm not sure what you would call it. 
Like this one...

Some say he is a worker resting, others say he is watching the ladies walk by. 
Maybe the city fathers thought, well, nothing important happened here but we have a sculpture grant that we must either use or lose. So lets have some fun.

The Schloss Schönbrunn (summer palace) has their classical roman two faced statues...

Bratislava has its statue of a dapper citizen who was always dressed to the nines. So elegant was he that people invited him to dine with them to impress their friends. It is said that he never had to pay for a meal in his life. 

In their own way, Bratislavans(?) continue a time honored tradition of not taking themselves too seriously.  

A century or two earlier, another Bratislava citizen was immortalized when a small statue of him was built into a city wall. The story is this citizen was so excited when he heard shouts of the King walking by, that he rushed from the toilet to take a peek, forgetting to pull up his pants.

We return to the cosmopolitan city of Vienna for one more night.

Sleep well, my friends, tomorrow we continue on to Prague.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Snippets from Budapest

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Amparo and I arrived late afternoon in Budapest. By the time we were settled in the hotel, night had fallen.

The rainy drizzling cold weather emptied the streets rather quickly tonight. 
An umbrellaed inhabitant scurries to a warm home.

By 9 pm the electric commuter trains were largely empty.

In spite of the wet cold, the Parliament building across the Danube River, 
as seen from our hotel balcony, was brightly illuminated until midnight.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Beautiful sunny day, great for walking... exploring. Parliament Building is as impressive in the daytime as at night. It resides on the "Pest" side of the Danube. We are staying on the Buda side. 
We were sternly informed that it is pronounced "PEHST", not PEST.

The second largest Parliament building in Europe fronts the Danube River. The building was originally build with two equal sides for the upper and lower chambers. Now with just one party in control of the government, only one side is used, the other half is open as a museum.

Completed in 1849, the Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge between Pest and Buda and only the second permanent bridge on the full length of Danube.  Like the Eiffel Tower for Paris, this bridge has become the international symbol for Budapest. 

It is the most photographed of the seven bridges in the Hungarian capital.

Guarding the entrance to the Chain Bridge.

 Modern transit in "Buda-Pesht" are the trains. buses and subway which cover most all of the peoples needs to get around.  However if one wishes to travel under their own power,
bicycle paths are found on most every street.

By accident, we encountered the son of Popeye and Olive Oyl...
working as a dishwasher at the Sailor's Inn on a side street in Buda.

Taking a mid-day siesta, even panhandling can be exhausting...

Pizza parlor table decorations

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Today we went to visit the Castle Hill area of Buda. High on the list was the Mathias Church that sits on the highest point of the ridge overlooking the Danube near the Fisherman's Bastion.

Each of the city's medieval guilds had a section or bastion of the fortress wall to defend against invaders. Today the only preserved bastion is the Fsherman's nearest the church, which happens to offer the best views overlooking the Hungarian capital.

(This poor photo was shot thru the bus window).

Inside the Mathias Church, the walls are dark and muted to recreate the original architecture and finish which was destroyed in World War II.

Except for three houses, this entire area was destroyed during WW II. First by the Germans, then the Americans and finally the Russians.

The next forty years after 1945,  Hungary was under Soviet communist rule.

During reconstruction, every stick, stone and tile was replaced to
restore the buildings to their original look and style.

Many new "old classic" churches dot the neighborhood near our hotel on the Buda side.

In the evening we took a dinner/sightseeing river cruise on the Danube.

The city is well lite at night. Below is the french designed and constructed steel bridge said to be designed by Eiffel. Each of the seven bridges are different, thus used by the locals as landmarks to reference a location on either side, e.i. 'that store is only two blocks south of the Chain bridge in Pesht'.

My favorite photo of the night taken from the middle of the Danube: 
Chain Bridge with the illuminated Mathias Church on the hilltop behind.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Today we were invited to the oldest and first strudel house in Budapest, Elsö Pesti, to learn how and why only the best Hungarian strudel is hand made. Never with machinery that the Austrians use.....
so says our Hungarian host.

First, one starts with a clean table....

Stretching the dough to a transparent thinness requires practice and deft hands. Stretched so thin that you can read a newspaper through it.  Custom dictates that a young lady is not ready for marriage until she can spread the high gluten dough without tearing it. 

Next add the apple cinnamon mixture. Semolina flour is added to the apple mix to reduce the moisture content so the strudel is not runny or soggy.

Caprish? Piece of cake...........

Okay, now you do it!

Oh.... well, the carnage and destruction that happened after this photo is not suitable viewing by grown adults or small children as they might never, ever, eat strudel again! 
My stretched dough more resembled a fish net than parchment paper.

Finally from the oven comes this warm delicious Hungarian treat...

Stuffed with warm strudel and Kaffe, we walked it off by going to the Basilica of St. Stephens on the Pehst side of town.

On the way we found the brass policeman statue, where tradition says you must first rub his tummy...

then give a twist to his moustache...

while making your wish. 

Must work!  As you can see, the tummy is very well polished.

Professional musicians never retire, they just move to an open air concert hall...

Tomorrow we go to Vienna.  More photos to follow.

Ciao chicos