Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Prague, Czech Republic

We spent 5 days in Prague, Czech Republic. An odd place for us to pick to go huh? Well we had 5 days and wanted to do something near Vienna as that is where we planned to end our 3 week excursion. We'd both been to Germany before and wanted to see something new. We spoke to several people who all told us that Prague is by far the most beautiful city in Europe. So we figured why not check it out. We were not disappointed. The architecture of the buildings in the city was gorgeous. They had six different architectural styles: baroque, gothic, cubism, renaissance, rococo and romanesque. It was so pretty to see the different styles. The food was pretty good - they love their meat there. We loved their goulash soup too. Ah and they love ice cream there. I swear there was an ice cream booth on every street corner. The people were very warm and friendly. Everyone spoke English and all the menu's were in English too. We took various tours while there. We picked tours with less walking so it was not as hard on Susan and she could rest up after our time in Switzerland. We thoroughly enjoyed it though.

Enjoy our pics:

Pic 1: St. Nicholas Church Old Town Square in Prague.

Pic 2: St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.

Pic 3: St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.

Pic 4: St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.

Pic 5: Panoramic view of Prague from Prague Castle.

Pic 6: Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square in Prague.

Pic 7: Entrance to Charles Bridge in Prague.

Pic 8: Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic Chapel located beneath the cemetery church of All Saints in Kutna Hora. The Ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, many of whom have had their bones artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.

Pic 9: Susan heard that if you hang out with skinny people it will accentuate your belly!

Pic 10: The most gruesome Coat of Arms in all of Czech Republic.

Pic 11: Beautiful wall decorations.

Pic 12: We think we'll redecorate our apartment in this style - what do you think?

Pic 13: St. Barbara's Church in Kutna Hora - UNESCO World Heritage Site - construction began in 1838 and did not finish until 1905. St. Barbara is the Patron Saint of Miner's and the town was a mining town.

Pic 14: Inside St. Barbara's Church. Last Supper over the altar.

Pic 15: Susan got all artsy fartsy with this photo and finally took a better picture than Joe! This is the ceiling of St. Barbara's Church.

Pic 16: St. Barbara's Church from the side.

Pic 17: The monument to the Black Death (the Plague) in Kutna Hora.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wengen & Interlaken, Switzerland

We then traveled with Mary and family to Wengen, Switzerland for 5 days. We flew into Geneva and then rented a car and had lunch with some of Tom's friends in Montreux. Then we drove through the mountains to Lauterbrunnen where we parked our car in a garage and boarded the cog train for Wengen. It was about a 20 minute train ride up the mountain to the small town of Wengen. We were hoping this would be the most relaxing part of the trip for Susan but due to her pregnant condition it was likely the roughest and most stressful part. Wengen was gorgeous and we do hope to go back one day when Susan is not pregnant. Wengen was super hilly and the hills were steep so this meant hoofing it up the hill anytime we wanted to leave the hotel. No cars are allowed in Wengen so everything was done on foot. We had hoped to take the cog train up to the Jungfrau which is a mountain peak that you can see from Wengen but the weather conditions were bad and the train up there was closed. We did take the cog train up a few more stops and had lunch and a closer look at the mountain top. The hotel we stayed in was nice but they were rustic accommodations - the rooms were small and very simple. They were fine but very hard on Susan as the bed was pretty low - it may as well have been a mattress on the floor. So it was hard to get up from the bed and Susan gets up at least 4x a night now to pee! Otherwise, the hotel would have been fine. One day we spent in Interlaken which is a larger town down the mountain from Wengen. Joe found what he thought was an easy hike to a cave - he actually didn't think it was a hike at all but more of a bus ride there and that the cave was right there for you to see. So we decided to go there - turns out he was wrong. We took an hour bus ride out to this cave, then hiked up a hill that was straight up and included many stairs. Got to the entrance of the cave and found you can only see it via a tour and it is 1km into the cave to include 297 stairs and then 1 km out of the cave, again to include 297 stairs. We thought Susan was going to give birth in that cave. She was fine going in but coming out was hard as it was very slippery and she almost slipped and fell a few times. She was toast the rest of the day - could barely move and was just really tired - we think she overdid it that day. The cave was nice and all but had she realized how strenuous it would be while pregnant, she probably would have skipped it.

My apologies if some of the pictures are a bit out of order - I am aware of that but it's a pain in the butt to move them around on this blog!

Enjoy the pics of the beautiful scenery around Wengen and our cave hike in Interlaken:

Pic 1: A town shot of Wengen.

Pic 2: Another shot of the town of Wengen.

Pic 3: Joe and Susan in Wengen with mountain top views behind us of the Jungfrau.

Pic 4: A waterfall that we had a good view of from Wengen.

Pic 5: The town of Wengen.

Pic 6: The town of Wengen.

Pic 7: The view from Wengen.

Pic 8: The town of Wengen taken from Kleine Scheidegg which was a couple stops on the cog train above Wengen.

Pic 9: A panoramic shot from Kleine Scheidegg.

Pic 10: Another panoramic shot taken from Kleine Scheidegg.

Pic 11: A close up of the mountain tops from Kleine Scheidegg.

Pic 12: A night shot in the town of Wengen.

Pic 13: A night shot of our hotel in Wengen.

Pic 14: Another night shot of Wengen.

Pic 15: Another night shot of the town of Wengen.

Pic 16: Panoramic shot from the train ride up to Kleine Scheidegg.

Pic 17: Panoramic shot of Wengen.

Pic 18: Another panoramic shot from Kleine Scheidegg.

Pic 19: Another shot from the cog train on our way back to Wengen. You can barely make out a small little town towards the hills on the right - that is Wengen.

Pic 20: Picture taken from a church in Wengen looking down into the valley below.

Pic 21: A close up shot of the mountain tops taken from Kleine Scheidegg.

Pic 22: Another close up of the mountain tops taken from Kleine Scheidegg.

Pic 23: The cave entrance to St. Beatus cave in Interlaken, Switzerland.

Pic 24: This was taken at about the half way point of our hike up the mountain.

Pic 25: Joe and Suz getting a pic on our way up the mountain to the cave.

Pic 26: Susan after the cave excursion with the view of Lake Thuner See in Interlaken in the background. No pics were allowed inside the cave unfortunately.

Amsterdam & Haarlem, Netherlands

After the family reunion, my sister and her family and Joe and I went to Amsterdam for 3 days together and stayed right downtown. We had a blast. In Amsterdam we took the canal tour, visited the Anne Frank House, walked thru the red light district, and did a walking tour of the Jordaan neighborhood. Chiara needed a break one day so Mary and Tom stayed in the city with her while Joe and I took Sam to Haarlem for the day to go on the tour of the Corrie Ten Boom house. This was one spot Sam really wanted to see as he has had to watch her movie (nearly ten hours) 3x for school and/or scout projects as well as read her book several times etc. We figured he has devoted well over 30 hours of his life to Corrie Ten Boom so it was worth a visit to her house. She is a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazi's during World War II. The Anne Frank House was interesting as it gave you a quick glimpse into WWII from the perspective of a teenagers eyes. The Red Light District was not at all what Susan expected and she was quite disappointed. Susan was expecting it to be similar to that of the red light districts in Bangkok but she thought the one in Amsterdam was pretty tame. You always hear of the nearly naked women in the windows, all the sex shops and prostitutes everywhere. You almost kind of had to go looking for them - which we weren't that interested in it so we didn't look too hard. In Bangkok, they are very aggressive and approach you in the streets offering their services - they don't stand in a window off a beaten path. They are all out in the open and hound you. We did see some sex shops and we saw two God awful ugly women in a window down a side allow dressed in some skimpy lingerie. You could smell pot everywhere though - all the coffee shops sell it and some even post their menu/prices on the door/window for you to see on the streets.

Anyhow, here are a few pictures from our time in Amsterdam and Haarlem:

Pic 1: Anne Frank House...

Pic 2: All the bicycles parked at the train station.

Pic 3: It's hard to see but the sign reads, "Homomonument!"

Pic 4: Sam hiding in the "Hiding Place" in the Corrie Ten Boom House.

Pic 5: Aunt Suzy and Sam sitting and waiting for the train in Haarlem to take us back to Amsterdam.

Den Haag, Delft and Haarlem, Netherlands

We spent 6 days in the Netherlands. It was great to see family and amazing that we could all meet up in Europe for a family reunion - everyone was there. My nephew Jonathan made his First Communion. My sister's daughter, Chiara, has been telling people about this trip for months as she was so excited to travel to Europe and play with her four cousins. Chiara is about to turn 4 and her brother is 14. The cousins she is referring to all live in den Haag and they are ages 10, 8, 6 and 4. All the kids were excited for the arrival of their new baby cousin this September. They all had a chance to feel Baby Bpuu kick/move - all but Chiara. He would not move for her! Partially because she did not have the patience to leave her hand there for more than a few seconds and partially because baby bpuu rocks it out at nighttime and usually Chiara is sleeping then! Poor thing kept asking over and over - "Aunt Suzy, is your baby knocking on your tummy?" She was very curious about the baby - wanted to know how I got him, when he was going to come out etc. Enjoy the pics!

Pic 1: Chiara having fun with her cousins...

Pic 2: Ethan showing off his spider man muscles...

Pic 3: A little cafe near where my brother works in den Haag - we had lunch there.

Pic 4: Escher Museum - we had intended to visit the next day but plans changed and we never got there :-(

Pic 5: Mary & Sam in front of Parliament in den Haag.

Pic 6: Susan & Sarah in front of Parliament in den Haag.

Pic 7: Susan & Joe in front of Parliament in den Haag.

Pic 8: Chiara chasing Unka Joe and showing off her mad running skills on the way to the First Communion.

Pic 9: Jonathan receiving his First Holy Communion.

Pic 10: Jonathan after receiving his First Holy Communion.

Pic 11: Chiara and Kayleigh having fun poking Unka Joe's nose after the First Holy Communion in the church.

Pic 12: Dave, Amy, Sarah, Jonathan, Kayleigh and Ethan.

Pic 13: The cousins all together L to R - Ethan, Jonathan, Kayleigh, Sarah, Chiara and Sam.

Pic 14: The whole family L to R - Tom Dad, Mary, Joe, Dave, Ethan, Amy, Jonathan, Sarah, Kayleigh, Mom, Chiara, Sam and Susan.

Pic 15: The original 5 - Dad, Mary, Dave, Mom and Suz.

Pic 16: King David Cafe Restaurant - thought this was funny and took a picture of it for my brother - who knew he had his own restaurant in the Netherlands?

Pic 17: Jonathan's First Communion cake made and decorated by their nanny Jana.

Pic 18: Jonathan cutting his cake with Sarah, Ethan, Kayleigh and Chiara watching in anticipation.

Pic 19: Something you'll never find in Bangkok - a cheese shop. Our mouths were watering!

Pic 20: Town square in Delft, Netherlands.

Pic 21: Some interesting rides in Delft, Netherlands.

Pic 22: We aren't sure what to say about these ladies - they were playing music as they raked the cobblestone.

Pic 23: A canal shot in Haarlem, Netherlands.

Pic 24: Another canal shot in Haarlem, Netherlands.

Pic 25: And yet another canal shot in Haarlem, Netherlands.

Pic 26: Took a trip out to see the windmills one day.

Pic 27: A close up of a pretty windmill.

Pic 28: More windmills.

Pic 29: Joe and Susan posing with the windmills.

Pic 30: Sam and Tom with the windmills.

Pic 31: Dave, Mom and Susan with the windmills.