Scenes from Our Neighborhood

October 22nd, 2010 by carolyn

So we have spent this week exploring the neighborhood in between doing fun stuff like getting phones, getting a new drivers license and organizing our stuff.  It has been beautiful autumn weather here and its been nice getting out and exploring our new (old) home.

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The lake, art, funky buildings and what American neighborhood would be complete without 7-11 and McDonalds?  So for those of you still reading, a poll……..

Is anyone interested in hearing a bit about our observations as we move back to Chicago?  Is it interesting or just annoying?  When this whole blog started out 3+ years ago, Matt was writing a lot of “wow, this is really interesting about London stuff”.  Is it time to do a bit of this in reverse?  Let us know what you think.

A Safe Passage to America

October 18th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’re back! So far, all is smooth, we are getting a lot done and beginning a jetlagged adjustment. On a happy happy note, Chewy behaved like a professional traveling cat and arrived this afternoon at O’Hare. After about 30 minutes of curious, spooked poking around, he’s finding his old hangouts in his old home and following me around like he hadn’t spent 16 hours in a box. Way to go Chewy! Here he is having his first US meal:

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Lots to do and next week, I start work again! Sweet! 🙂

Goodbye London

October 17th, 2010 by matt

Our stuff is on a boat, we’ve moved out of our flat, our finances are sorted, a myriad of goodbyes have been said and all the other little things required have been dealt with (we hope). It’s time to head home again.

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In a few hours, we lug ourselves to Heathrow for one last flight and say goodbye to our home for these past 3+ years. Chewy will join us the next day on his second trans-Atlantic flight. It’s been a wonderful experience and we’ll miss it, but a new adventure calls.

Goodbye London.

End of the road where are we now

October 12th, 2010 by matt

For those of you still reading, it’s wrap up time for our grand tour. Let’s finish in a suitably grand style. Can you guess where we are right at this moment?

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This is Heroes Square, a memorial from around 1900 as a tribute to this country’s history. It’s big and grand, so it’s also been a scene to various large protests and celebrations as well.

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This city is also known for it’s thermal baths. This is the largest of them and it’s quite grand indeed. Both pools on the ends are naturally heated between about 90 and 100, which is quite soothing on a cold October day after you’ve been walking your feet off around Eastern Europe. Much more about this at a later time. 🙂

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This large church took a couple of hundred years to build and complete since this country has been through quite a few wars and changes in government. Inside is kind of a guilded neo-baroque style which fits this city very well.

OK, those were the harder ones. Let’s try this one.

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This is the parliament building. It’s the largest building in Hungary and the largest Parliament building in Europe. It’s in a neo-gothic style and is situated on the famous river that runs through this city.

OK, one more. Then I’m done.

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Here you can see the parliament building as situated on a river made famous by a waltz by Strauss. Think the movie 2001 when the space ship is docking. It also divides the city in two. In fact, until the 1800s, this city was actually two cities and finally merged into the name we know so well.

It’s Budapest! Yes, our trip has ended in Hungary. Budapest is an impressive city. Everything from the metro to random buildings all over town are impressively grand. Seems like a nice way to end our trip. Actually, as I hit post on this, we are going to shut down our trusty laptop (so happy we brought it) and head to the airport cause this trip is now over! Hope this was fun to read.

Back to city where are we now

October 11th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’ve left the mountains and nearing the end of our adventure. Soon, moving and readjusting to life in the US starts again. Here we go.

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The entire old center of this city is a UNESCO world heritage site. The step-like slopes are very common in it. This is just a cool looking building with a little over-street bridge.

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This is one of the famous rivers I’d heard of but never actually seen. It runs along the southern end of the Old Town section of town.

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So I’ve mentioned the Old Town section of town. If you’ve been here, this picture should help. It’s St Mary’s Basilica and it’s the big church that is part of the largest medieval squares in Europe. It’s always busy and full of life. There’s still a flower market but a lot of it has been handed over to tourists.

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Well, Prague has a castle. So does this city (sensing a theme?). Give up? It’s Krakow. The Old Town is truly a lovely place to visit. Within such a compact site, there are wall-to-wall things to see. The main square is truly one of those perfectly well-laid out places. You could sit there for hours and just soak it in. It would be nice if the US still had the concept of a town or city square. On the outskirts is a 600 year old salt mine you can tour which was quite cool as well. We’re nearing the end of our trip (only one more of these left), but it’s been a great time. Reality beckons once again very soon. We’re sad to finish traveling, but excited for the changes already in progress.

A Mini Where Are we

October 10th, 2010 by matt

Well, we had to leave the Tatras at some point, but we didn’t really leave immediately. Time to guess where we went from there.

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The architecture of this town originally was dominated by lovely wood buildings like this style. In recent years it’s become a popular spot for the natives of this country, so more modern stuff has appeared. But there is still plenty of really nice homes like this all over the place, especially as you leave town and head into the mountains.

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We took a walk into the mountains and, unlike where we were the previous couple of days, this section had some non-alpine type trees, giving us a nice taste of fall.

Confused? Well, then this probably won’t help.

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This is the view from our hotel overlooking the valley and the mountains surrounding it. Give up? It’s Zacopane, the primary holiday destination for the Polish side of the Tatras. We simply woke up one morning, found a bus and found ourselves in a new country an hour or so later. While it’s obviously a bit on the touristy side, when you leave the main bits of it, there’s some really beautiful and interesting aspects to it. One particular road seems to have a whole lot of those nice wooden buildings with rooms to rent for your stay while others have set up ad hoc restaurants and pubs. This being the off-season and us being there for only one night, we failed to really explore that deeper. Only so much time for travel, alas. And the walk we took was through a really nice valley carved out into the mountains.

Where in nature are we now?

October 7th, 2010 by matt

Well, if you’ve been keeping up with my posts, then you know we’re in Slovakia now. The big question is, where in Slovakia are we? These pictures would be a big hint, since there’s obviously a lot of mountains.

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Here’s the view from our hotel room.

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Well, we’ve managed to climb most of the way up and too tired to smile for a photo. OK, there’s a cable car up to about 5800 feet that we took up. Then we hiked along at that elevation and made our way down to see this:

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The spot we took this picture in used to be a pine forest. But a wind storm in 2004 managed to clear cut a lot of the forests around the area. Loggers seem to be helping it along a bit. But it did give us this nice field to view the mountains from. I doubt any of this is helping if you’re trying to guess. I just love some of these pictures. Here’s that last “hint”.

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Not too bad a mirror image. That triangle looking thing is actually for ski jumping.

Give up? We’re in the Tatra Mountains. They are on the Slovak/Polish border. It’s an alpine climate, so it almost feels like the Alps, but the beer is $1.50 and it’s really Eastern Europe. It was really nice to get out of the cities a bit and enjoy some crisp mountain air for a spell.

Our bonus picture for the day is, once again, a train station. But it’s a bit different this time. In the Tatras on the Slovak side, there are a series of mountain towns/resorts. They are connected by a little electric railway so, if you time it right, you can get from one end of the area to the other in an hour. Here is one of the stations. I think it’s a bit of a change from the Plzen station.

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The lake pictures came from the next station down the line, Strebske Pleso. Our hotel was in Tatranska Lomnica on the opposite end of the valley. The monster peak from our hotel window is Lomnický štít which is 8600 feet tall and you can get up to the top of in a Gondola (we decided to take a hike that day instead of going to the summit). Lovely stuff.

Slovakia at 6am on a Sunday

October 6th, 2010 by matt

So after fending off bands of Gypsies on our overnight train (the first thing the porter told us after looking at our tickets when we got on the train was “beware of gypsies”), we left the Czech Republic (a hint for the next ‘where are we now’ series) and entered Slovakia. We arrived in a medium-sized town shortly before 6am. Our plan was to find anything that was open that had coffee, drink some of it (and eat some food) and then figure out how to get to our final destination. Traveling means not really keeping track of the days of the week and we forgot that this was Sunday. Well, this would be the town we arrived in at about 6:30am:

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That would be the high street. Dead, dead dead. And most of the cafes are closed all day on Sunday. Ooops. A little lack of foresight on our part. On a positive note, we managed to get to our final destination easily enough, get into our hotel and get some food and activities without a problem. I doubt many places in the world are awake at that hour on a Sunday. I just found this scene to be amusing 🙂

PS – no one tried to steal our stuff and, if they tried, the couchette we sprung for had a bolt lock and a chain lock, so breaking in would have been impressive.

South Moravian Where Are We Now

October 4th, 2010 by matt

So the title will give you a hint. We’re still in the Czech Republic, but we’ve moved into the lands of Moravia, which is different from Bohemia. Here we go.

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This town is an UNESCO heritage site for it’s amazingly preserved town center. Literally it’s stuck in time in the 16th century. It’s surrounded on three sides by ponds which acted as defense, fishing and water supply for the town.

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The crown jewel of this town are these well preserved Renaissance facades in the town square. We spent many an hour enjoying them. The town square was really quite nice and the town is now ringed by parks. It was a great way to spend a couple of days.

Give up? It’s Telc. Nice hotel, nice people, the chateau was really interesting and the size made it quite accessible. And in early October, it’s very very quiet. I hear in the summer it’s a bit of a mob scene. Oh yeah! The sun came out again! 🙂

And this is a bonus picture for Lisa who has been asking where the Matt/Food/Beer pictures. Here you go!

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A Where are we two-fer

October 2nd, 2010 by matt

So we passed through a couple of places, all beer themed. Time to place your bets.

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This is the tallest church spire in the Czech Republic.

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This should make it easier if you at least look things up. This is the famous brewery in town. From the train station, the smell of malt was quite strong (yum!). We took an excellent tour of it and sampled some of their famous beer brewed the old skool way.

Give up? One last hint. It’s the home of Pilsner. Yep, it’s Plzen. Great smaller city with a nice lively vibe. And the home of Pilsner Urquell.

Next up, we continue on the beer trail.

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This lovely town square is one of the largest in Europe. The town hall in the photo has some really cool gargoyles on it too.

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This is a former smokehouse that is now a restaurant tied to the brewery that makes this place famous. If you look close, you can make out the beer.

No, it’s not St Louis. Budweiser is actually a Czech beer. Anheuser-busch bought some sort of rights to the recipe and created a bastardized version of it. This is České_Budějovice, the original home of Budweiser.

As a bonus photo, I like train stations and here’s the Plzen Train Station. Pretty cool building.

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Off for more travels! 🙂