Saturday, June 28, 2008

Falling way behind in Posts

So much has happened to us since our last post. We have left Krakow and had a wonderful day trip to Berlin and a nice family stay outside of Berlin. We are now in Amsterdam. We have tons and tons of good pics and posts to add to our blog, but we do not have any estimate on when this will happen.

We will do what we can. :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another Pittsburgish Post

Pierogies are special in Poland. They are stuffed with Meat, Meat and Cheese, Meat and Cabbage, Meat, Cheese and Cabbage, etc, etc.

We ate Pierogies our first night in Krakow until we dropped.

Heinz really has 57 varieties (at least in the Czech Republic)

Heinz is everywhere.

See for yourself:

(Note: If you are bewildered that I would take a picture of Heinz ketchup then I am guessing you are not from Pittsburgh) :)

Beer and Grub: A Day with a Local

We contacted a friend of ours that we met in Spain in December. Marian works in Prague for a software company. When he is not working, he is a world traveler for months at a time. I envy his free spirit "just do it" nature.

Marian graciously showed us around and took us to a few local haunts for greaaattt Pivo (beer). On top of that, we did the tourist stuff and also saw an open air concert with a great flamenco band.

Here we are with one kilo of Meat

The Czechs go a bit crazy with the mass quantity of Meat. In fact, Marian had to request that they tone it down for us or else we may have gotten two kilos of meat.

Here is Joe contemplating how much meat he ate:

3 (1/2 Liter beers), 1 Kilo of Meat, 2 baskets of breads and an awesome Czech Cheese appetizer = 25 USA Dollars.

I am not sure you can beat that.

We love Prague

Dont forget, Czech was Communist at one point

We have learned quite a bit about communism. Some of it was good and much of it was very troubling. Prague is for the Velvet Revolution (uprising at the main square) in the late 80's.

The people who protested communism put their lives on the line because the secret police were not too kind to them.

Here are some funny pics at the communism museum.

Boy.... did they hate us during the cold war. This makes sense since we were not too fond of Communist either.

I think Joe would portray a good Stalin in a major motion picture. Dont you think?

We are in Beer Country now

Arrived in Prague and went strait to the bar to try the famous Czech Beer.

Over the course of the next few days, we explored many types of Beer and many different pubs thanks to our friend Marian. Beer is cheap too at a euro a glass.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I feel like I only get pictures of us eating or seeing sites. I never get any pictures of us doing the daily grind while on travels.

Here is one in the U-Bahn (Vienna's Subway) trying to get to the train station.

Sorry, its another picture of Joe and not me. I have been listening to your comments that there are not enough pics of me. The problem is that I seem to be the one snapping all the pictures at the right time. :)

Vienna - EuroCup Madness

Every shape and size has descended into Vienna for EuroCup madness. Unfortunately the day we were there, the games were not too exciting (3 games in 1st round) and there was no match in Vienna.

However, like the Olympics, the city dresses itself up to welcome fans from all over europe.

Budapest - Architecture

Just a pic.

Kitty in Hungary

While our Kittie (as reported by our wonderful pet sitter) does not miss us at all, we continue to visit the Kitty's of Europe.

Thank you to Tomas and Panna.

Budapest- what a suprise

As I mentioned in my ealier postings, we just loved Budapest.

Look how happy we are:

A funny ongoing joke that Joe and I have been sharing since Ljubljana is that every city looks a tad like Pittsburgh. We mention the river, how green everything is, hilly (sometimes), etc.

You can imagine that our joke got a new level when we saw this in Budapest:

Yes... that is an incline to the left.

More Grub Food

I would say, this is less of a wow and more of a "Why did I not think of this"

This is pure greesy goodness. A burek.

This is a pastry stuffed with meat and cheese from Croatia.

Mucho cheap (about 2 -3 dollars), filling and damn good.

Wow Foods

I have dubbed a particular type of eating experience Wow Eating. It goes like this:

"Wow, I can't believe they put into "
"Wow, I can't believe you do to "

When we were in Venice we had a wow food: Fish in Lasagna.
In France it was a wow to putting coffee in a bowl
In Hungary is was warming up wine.

Here is a good wow food for you.

Wow, I cant believe they put 2 eggs and a hotdog on a pizza in Croatia.

I would have to put this down in my book as the ultimate grub food.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flashback: Zagreb (party all night)

After the big match, the Croatians sang and danced all night.

After the big win, Joe and I walked about quite a few blocks away from the main square to grab a bite to eat. We took our time and before we know it, the game had been over 2 hours.

However, the streets were still rocking and keep in mind that this was a bit away from the main party zone.

(Note: You really need the sound on to appreciate this video.)

After we returned to our hostel, we had a few shots with a very happy Croatian and went to bed.

The party went on and on and on and on and on.

You want photos, right?

Yes, I know, you are waiting for photos. Not quite yet. You will have to wait till I get to my next destination.

We have 3 full days of free flowing internet to post away.

Prepare yourself for a flurry of posts.

To keep you up to date, we are in Vienna.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ballet at the Hungarian Opera House

Last night, we treated ourselves to a Ballet. At 400 HUF a piece (roughly $2.50), I wouldnt call it much of a splurge.

Our seats were all the way up at the very top and to the side so we could really only see one side of the stage.

For our first ballet (except the Nutcracker), we understood what was going on and enjoyed the dancing. I would go again, but I think I would pay a little more for better seats. :)

A day at the baths

Hungary has the neatest turkish baths. They are quite old, but the buildings have beautiful architecture.

We decided to try out these baths to see how relaxed we can really get.

After changing in our suits, (hungarian baths wear suits, germany baths suits are optional) we went on our way.

First up, the indoor traditional thermal baths. The traditional baths contain multiple pools. Some are big and some are small. All are of different temperatures. Cleansing yourself and relaxing your body requires you to go in and out of the different baths. (Hot, Cold, Warm, Cold, Hot).

The first bath was somewhere around 40 celcius. The next 32. The next 38 and the next 32. Before jumping into another bath, we steamed and showered and cleaned our feet. We then got into the cold plunge pool (a cold 20 degree celcius, yikes). Plunging in without screaming was a true art.

Outside there were more large pools. One was for swimming and the other was for relaxing. The relaxing pool had waterfalls to stick your head under, fountains, bubbles coming from the floor and the side, and a little area that has a current that goes in a circle.

To make the day even more enjoyable, the bath costs us about 10 Euro (4800 HUF's).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Buda Pest

We arrived in Hungary two days ago and all I can say is Wow. I didnt expect much of Hungary because no one ever tells me that they are going to visit. Italy...yes. France...yes. Hungary is always an itinerary adder. It is a country where you have a few spare days to spare and decide to make a detour from Vienna.

Hungary was on our list because we dont know many Hungarians and we heard lots of positives about Budapest. Also, the food is in a class of its own. European food after a while is bland and boring. However, Hungary loves Spice (paprika, paprika, paprika).

Our host family rolled out the red carpet for us with food, food and more food. Wow, can Panna cook and she taught me a thing or two on how to make her dishes. To make things even better half of the food comes from the garden that Tamas (prounounced Thomash) tends. They have raspberries, strawberries, and cherries all growing in their yard. At their insistence, we picked cherries until we fell over. We walked with them when they walked their dog and they let Joe pet their two kitties (I have the pic in my camera)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Croatia wins 2-1

We watched the game in the main square where a big screen tv sat on a stage. We were packed in by the hundreds and Joe and I were terribly out of place. We were the only ones not in checkered shirts and we did not know any of the words to the chants or the songs.

Goooooaaaalll... by Croatia. Items go flying into the air. Firecracker light up and everyone is jumping in the air.

Gooooaaaaaallll.. by Croatia. Same antics at the first goal.

When the game is over, we were soaked with beer and god knows what and we grabbed pizza.

It is now 4 hours since the game has ended and people are still honking horns and screaming outside.

What a game. What a team. What a country.

Zadar: Thoughts

After a tough bus ride, we arrived in Zadar and walked to the booking agent to get another room. Once again, a random person picked us up to take us back to his house. The Croatian are not nearly as good at English as Slovenia. The fellow that picked us up was soooo disappointed that we were not German (since he speaks German). This guy ( I will name him James for this story) was an interesting fellow. He spoke a little english but not much at all and we had a 10 minute drive to Jame's house.

Small talk is common in car rides like this.


This time we understood him the first time.

"No, American, Californian"

He immediately became embarrassed.

"California, Ocean, Beautiful. Croatia, hmmmm"

I disagreed out of politeness.

"President Obama... Yeah"

In Spain, we found that people were very confused with our election and were assuming that the election was between Obama and Hillary. We tried to correct him.

"Obama..... or McCain"

He didn't understand. At least I tried. James continued to press his point.

" like"

I wasn't going to diss my country so my response was.. "Yes... we need a change."

He wanted to tell us that he disliked the war. He shaped his fingers to formed a gun and made sounds that sounded like shooting with his mouth.

"No Like Iraq. Croatia 15 years of bad. Many people....uhhhh... lost minds"

He was right. During our two days in Zadar, we saw quite a few people that were not quite right. A couple stopped us and talked us in Croatian with a lunatic voice. We also had one guy waves his arms in the air and yell at us.

I can respect James's opinion. He has seen 15 years of war. I checked the history in Zadar. They had a 60% loss when the Allies bombed them during World War II. In addition, they were pummeled during the 90's. Some of the houses we passed by were pockmarked and we just knew that the people suffered here immensely. When Yugoslavia dropped missiles on the town of zadar, the townspeople were held hostage in their houses for months without much food or water.

I can understand, why they disagree with the war. They know what an air rade feels like first hand. All in all James was a nice guy and I am guessing he would vote for Obama if he could.

Mission Accomplished: Kitties in Croatia

Zadar - swimming in the Adriatic

Zadar was a nice town that is slowly growing. Croatia does not have sandy beaches. They have shelves and docks to jump off of. The water is so clear. What clearly looks like 3 feet deep is truly 6 feet.

Joe's new favorite pastime

EuroCup is on and all of Europe is excited. Watching the games is so easy here. They have two games each night. One at 6pm and the next about 45 minutes following the previous. All the bars have flatscreens and the place is lively. Beer is cheap (about 2 - 3 dollars for a pint) here.

Tonight Croatia and Germany play and we are in Zagreb, Croatia's capital. They have a big screen set up in the square and everyone is wearing red and white checkered. If we win, we probably wont sleep. If we lose, we will have to best sleep in a big city so far.

Look out Eeyore

At a Croatian rest stop half way between Zagreb and Zadar.

MMMMMM....... Donkey

Small Note: The Croatians don't actually eat donkey. This is clearly a misprint that is worth a good laugh. Oslic is actually hake. (fish)

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Map - Thanks Cheri

I received an email from a friend (first) and coworker (second) asking me if I had worked with google maps.

I had, but I was way too impatient working with it. Cheri has graciously made me a map based on my blog postings that I hope to keep up. I have embedded the map on my blog side bar.

I have marked my current location with a green push pin.

Thanks Cheri. You have saved me hours of work.

If you like the map please give her thanks.

Bled in Pictures

For the folks that actually went and looked up Slovenia, I am sure you are wondering now what is in Slovenia to do and why we love it so much.

I hope I can summarize my answer with just these pictures and a few words.





Minus the tourists

Ljubljana - dragons and vino

Ljubljana is really into dragons. They believe the dragons of the town protect the town.

Dont believe me?

Slovenia is a hidden gem when it comes to Vino.

No one ever takes pictures in the train.

I decided to break the trend.

Here we are leaving Venice toward Austria (eventually to change trains and head to Slovenia)

Kittie in Slovenia (the correct Kittie)

I made a mistake on a previous post, but I have changed it. The previous kittie was Italian and belonged to my host family.

We did get a kittie in Slovenia, but just barely. Apparently, the Slovenian kitties are just not fond of Joe.

You see that black spot?

Here he is:

Chilling in Zagreb, Croatia

We arrived in Zagreb this afternoon. Zagreb is an ok town that has a big city feel. We head to Zadar tomorrow by Bus.

I will try to get some pics of Slovenia up tonight.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

We love S(love)nia

Picture posts sure take alot of time to post. As a result, I have spent most of my internet time in Slovenia trying to get Italy posted for you. As a result, my blog looks like I am in Venice. Well.... that was 3 days ago and we have been in Slovenia since Friday.

We love Slovenia. The capital, Ljubljana (pronounced: Luby - awna) is small enough to wrap you hands around but big enough to know its a city. Joe is absolutely in love with Ljubljana and has moved the city into the #2 slot of his favorite city list. (#1 Pittsburgh).

On top of all the fun of experiencing a non touristed capital, the EuroCup has started. Watching the games at the bar with a glass of wine for me and beer for Joe has consumed most of our evenings. (Note: Slovenia prides itself on great wines AND great beers)

After Ljubljana, we went to the tiny town of Bled which sits on a lake. The town is heavily visited by Germans. We heard a few American accents, but not many.

At the tourist office, the women behind the counter took a look at our passports and excitedly told us that our Presidente was in Ljubljana. Surprised, I said "Huh?".

"Your president, Buuuusssshhh. Visiting Ljubljana"

This was the first time, I heard excitement in someone's voice over Bush. However, I doubt that Slovenians actually like Bush.

In Eastern Europe, accommodations are not always in place to handle tourists. As a result, you just stop at the Tourist office and ask them for a room. The office then calls, Frank, Cindy, John or Mike to see if they have room in their house. Then Frank, Cindy, John or Mike come in their car to pick you up and take you back to their house.

Our host is an old couple. I would guess they are around 80 and the husband does not speak much english at all. He probably speaks either Italian or German and of course his native language: Slovene.


Of course, we didnt understand that he said England in a heavy accent.


Oh... he wants to know where we are from.

"United States"




I wish I could have tape recorded his voice. He sounded so awwed and impressed. We both felt like a million bucks. My hunch is that Americans usually stick to the hotels and hostels and shy away from the "Sobe" rooms.

Joe and I conquered Bled. We rented a little wooded row boat and we rowed around the lake. Joe rowed, I sat. All I needed was a little frilly umbrella and we could have time warped into the 1800's.

After that, we walked around the lake. I'll post some pictures up when I get a chance.

Today we pick up the train and head to our next destination.

Please keep those comments rolling in. They are so special to Joe and I.

Kittie in Italy

Thank you Martina for letting Joe pose with your Kitty.


We thought Venice was beautiful.

We passed on the whole Gondola experience. The going rate was 80 euro for a half thanks.

San Giovanni with our host family

We spent some time with an italian family. They live in a small town outside of Bologna. Bologna reminds me of Minneapolis. You hit farms until you are practically in the center of the city. San Giovanni as a result was a small town where every one knows everyone else.

Simonetta and Leonardo spoke very good english. Martina was learning in school and Daniele had just a little exposure. After a scoop of Gilato at the local Gilataria with the family we went to a small museum which featured stamps the had the different Disney characters. I rate mickey mouse up there with CocaCola and McDonadls on total world wide understanding. We had a blast going through all the disney characters. They had different names for many of the characters. They just could not believe that someone would name the three ducks Hooey, Dooey and Louie.

That evening, Daniele was to sing in the chorus for a presentation of Mozart's "The Magic Flute". School events are the same everywhere. Every child was waving at mom and dad.

It felt like the whole town showed up to the concert. We sat in the fourth row and felt like we were part of the family cheering on Daniele.

Overall, we had an absolute blast with the family. Simonetta and Leonardo were wonderful hosts.

I also got a chance to help Martina with her English homework while Joe played a strange game with Daniele which involved special cards and action figures. I still do not understand how Joe figured out how to play.

I guess no matter how little you can communicate with someone, you can still figure out how to play games with children with patience and understanding.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Look what I found!!!

I accidently stumbled across the Malaga Cove Neptune statue's twin brother.

For the folks that live near Palos Verdes, I am sure you will be amused.

The Malaga Cove statue of Neptune in Palos Verdes Est is a replica of the Neptune statue in Bologna.

Money please?

It's only fitting that beggars bow down in a praying position when asking for money near the Vatican.

In France, they held their hands out. In Siena, they kneeled on the knees as put their hands out like they were trying to receive Eucharist. Then in Rome, we got the complete bow.

I am a big fat scrooge. They got nothing from me.

The Vatican on Republican Day

June 2 is the day that Italy declared itself a republic. So, all the police and milatary jumped into their fancy uniforms and paraded around Rome.

I was really impressed by how neat and unique each branch of the military's and law enforcement's uniforms were.

way more snazzy then the british (red coats) in my opinion:

These guys had really big guns earlier in the day. I guess the afternoon mellowed them out and they exchanged their guns for flags on long poles.

On to the Vatican:

The Vatican museum is a way to show off the church's loot. So you can imagine how many roman lawn ornaments they had lying around.

I look at this picture and I think star wars. I don't know why, but I do:

Michaelangelo only painted the chapel. Raphael painted a whole series of rooms, but no one ever says they want to go to the vatican to see his stuff. Poor guy.

Swiss Guard. They look like pansies, dont they? These were the colored guard, but the swiss guard in the museum didn't take to me kindly when they found my pocket knife in my back pack. Unlike the TSA, they held on to it for me until my visit was complete.

Finally...St. Peter's Bassilica. I had the opportunity to tour the church during a mass. The music and chanting echoed around the church. The experience was amazing, but I couldn't help but be a little bothered to see tourist talking loudly and sitting on the kneeler's in the chapel.

I unfortunately did not get any pics of Pope John Paul's tomb, but I did visit. I was deeply humbled.

Joe goes to the museam

When you dig around Rome, you are bound to find some cool stuff. Statues seem to be the big item. These were mostly lawn ornaments (think Pink Flamingo).

So on a hot day in Rome, we spent the afternoon looking at real real real old lawn ornaments.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rome: Food

Here are some quick pictures of Food in Rome:

To my godson. Dont forget that your name is Italian too. In fact, there is an entire museum dedicated to you in Florence.

Thank god for Gilato. We have not stopped eating Gilato since we arrived in Italy.

The ultimate rip off beer. We learned our lesson on this one. Always ask for size and price before ordering items in a high tourist area.

If not you get this for 11 Euros:

We were not gonna walk away waisting 11 Euros.