Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Praha - How Could I Forget?

And I didn't forget! No, I could not, would, not, and will not ever forget Prague! I am a wee-bit late on this blog but I just was speechless when it came to Prague until now (or at least that is my excuse. I went to Prague oh about, let's say, 4 months ago?! So it is definitely time that I share the beautiful, classical, unique village of Praha.

Now for all who may not be geography-buffs Prague is in the Czech Republic. Our trip started at 3:07 pm and we were to arrive around 10 pm in Prague. Trip started out nice and to cross the German-Czech border we had to switch to a very small, "antique" locomotive. My heart did skip a beat as my mind wondered if this little machine could do the job. The locomotive was not our only concern, we have just crossed into a new country, spoke no Czech, and to say it plainly the people were a little scary and rough looking on the outside. "You're no longer in Germany Stephanie!" It also became evident that not as many people in the 'country' spoke English like they do in Germany. But back to our locomotive. We were traveling along in the dark, cold country when the lights started to slicker. Little unnerving but we were still chugging along. Few minutes later the lights slicker again when we stopped at a train station. At this time the conductor and other engineers started pulling up the floor so they could look at the train. At this time I was thinking of writing a sequel to the little engine series titled "The Little Engine That Couldn't." We were not going to make our connecting train in Pzln. This was the first time I felt a little panic in a foreign country because there was know one I could communicate with and we had a problem on our hands. Eventually someone on the train did speak a little English so they were gracious enough to assist. About 30 minutes later a 'big' train started to pull us to our connecting stop. At the connecting stop anxiety was still on the rise because we still had know idea what was going on and we just following everyone on our train but the train could have come soon because I almost witness a fatal accident as drunk dudes played on the track. -- The Czech Republic was not making a good first impression.

Jess and I did make it to Prague. Once there we were in search of an money exchange or ATM at the station. It took us another 20 minutes to do that but we had to have money because we were NOT going to walk the streets of Prague at midnight (plus we had no map yet) so we needed money for a cab. With pretty much all the money we did withdraw we paid for the cab, he dropped us off on a side street with our luggage and left. Considering it cost about $40 for the cab it was probably 7 minutes from the time we got in the car till our luggage was on the street again. We stood in the middle of the street with blank looks as our cab raced away because we had know idea where our hostel was. Another 15 minutes or so and we found it (and it was right where our cab dropped us off) and we walked into HEAVEN!! Our hostel ended up being an hotel for about $12/night each. Not bad considering the luxury we had. Definitely beats Super 8...After all our adventures so far, we went to bad listening to Czech tv, anxiously awaiting tomorrow.

After a nice rest in a comfy bed and down comforter we set out for the streets of Prague. Now for the not so history buffs - Prague is said to be the most conserved city in Europe because it was never really bombed in the World Wars. If you want to know what Europe was before the 1900's go to Prague. Building after building you see beautiful, unique architecture - no repeats. I was in awe the whole time. I was beginning to love Czech.

We really had only 36 hours left in Prague so we knew we had to make the best of it. To get a feel for the city and know a little bit about it's history we went on a free walking tour (you just tip at the end of the tour - and you can do these in most cities in Europe). Our tour guide was very animated and did great with her English. We did the west side of Prague in the morning and the East side in the afternoon. Each tour about 2+ hours and definitely worth it. In one day we were able to see the whole city with time to shop! Few pics of the city...

Jewish Quarters -
funny story...Jess was so into the tour guides speech that she did not notice that a dog was 'taking a break' on her shoe. But everyone else in the group noticed. I guess that is what she gets for standing my a pole. (Sorry Jess, had to share).

My favorite building in Prague -
I want this architect to design my home.

Astronomical Clock in Prague's townsquare
Tells you everything you need to know about time.
To scientific to even try to tell you about it...

In between tours we thought we would treat ourselves to some delicious food so we went to KolKovna (suggested by the tour guide). Mmm, mmm good! Besides the smoking in the restaurant I do have to say the food was amazing. I had "Moravian Sparrow": roast beef, dumplings, and sauerkraut. I especially liked the purple cabbage sauerkraut. It is a little sweeter and not so tangy as the white. Yum!

The afternoon tour we went to Prague Castle. Warning to the future traveler: it is quite the hike to the castle and you have to get to it by foot. You definitely build up a little sweat. At this time of the tour we definitely were carrying our scarves and coats. But the hike was worth every step because the castle was breathe taking. From the hilltop you are able to also look out over all of Prague, see the 'mini eiffel tower' that was actually inspiration of Paris' grand icon. Just outside the castle gates I did get to see a little campaigning for some politician. Of course I didn't understand anything but it was something to see. And I didn't get to Buckingham palace in my travels but I can say that I tried to get a castle guard to smile. It's cheesy but what tourist doesn't pose for a pic with a guard?!

Don't look so serious dude!

The courtyard to the castle was exquisite in everything. (Pics on the smilebox below). Attached to the castle is one of the biggest churches I have ever seen. It is so big the courtyard was not big enough to get a picture of the whole thing. The church was of a gothic style so it really did not fit in with the rest of the palace but it sure was beautiful and contributed to the feel of the castle. Our tour ended just outside the courtyard and it started to rain. To hide from the rain we headed into a little cafe where I experienced the most amazing hot chocolate! It was probably pure creme but oh my goodness was it worth every calorie and gram of fat. (I am salivating as I write this.) By this time our feet were screaming for a break so we thought we would take it easy and find our way back to the side of the river.

Click to play this Smilebox postcard: PrahaCreate your own postcard - Powered by SmileboxMake a Smilebox postcardalign="justify">

Since we had a big day Jess and I wanted to 'treat' ourselves to something unique. We definitely got what we wished for! It was a splurge but we went to a medieval dinner. Wow! No production of Robin Hood has come close to filming the authenticity of this time period as this restaurant did. It is a hidden gem of Prague. But before our AWESOME dinner we practically walked the whole city again. Our dinner package came with a tour of the city. I thought we would be going in a van but nope we walked and walked and walked and walked. I was so feriated because my feet, calves, shins, where in so much pain! And the tour guide was speed walking and talking so fast it wasn't even worth the extra tour. But in the end it was made up by the delicious food, music, and, environment of dinner. In short dinner entailed wooden benches with wool for comfort, gypsy dancers, bagpipes, drums, pirate shoot out, snakes, lizards, and peasants.

To end, I must say that even though the trip started out with anxiety and worry, I can only say that Prague is the one place I am dying to go back to. I would go back there tomorrow if I could. The city was beautiful, clean, and enchanting. And I know that there are several places I would like to go and/or go back and see. So much to see, so little time.

27 white crosses in front of the old town hall to remember the fallen.

What a view! It doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Non-Stop fun

I definitely felt right at home the last few days as I got to play with my nephews and niece. It was like the good ol' days chancing little ones in the yard, playing Wii, and being tired at the end of the day. I loved it! The fun started early Friday morning with some pulling kids around the block in the radio flyer to football to fishing.

Not only did we go fishing Friday but once we woke up on Saturday it was off to the head of the creek. We caught 5 fish Friday night but Saturday - nothing, nada, zilch. The wind was blowing and the fish were not biting at all. But it was still fun. The kids tried to lure the fish in by chanting, "Here fishy fishy fishy. Anybody who's everybody is in the bucket. Here fishy fishy fishy." Of course it didn't work but it was worth the laughs. Another timeless moment was when Devrin would say, "Hey fishy, don't eat my d-orn!"

Cierra helped Grandpa reel in this beauty

...Baitin' those hooks...

Braiden's beauty that he baited and reeled in all by himself!
It took a little bit of encouragement for him to touch the fish but someone had to do it (and Aunt Hanie wasn't going to touch it!) He didn't want it to "flap on him."

... Downtime while fishing...
(Devrin and me)

After fishing and before we headed to Show Low pool we had some extra time so why not make cookies? Cierra was the cook. I do have to say I was impressed that she cracked to eggs and no shells ended up in the ingredients.

Now what do we do on Monday?...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

It's official. I am back on Taylor ground trying not to be blown away. I am excited but at the same time sad that my adventure is over. And then on top of it a little stressed due to the job market for teachers. Amazing to think that when I started college there was a shortage of 2500 teachers in AZ. I'm just a little bit mad about it but life is life. I'll work through this...

I am adjusting to being back in AZ especially when it comes to the heat and landscape. Just to give you an idea here is a comparison...

Hmm, do I really have to tell you what pic is where? - "I love my Arizona" and its so 'unique' from other places, especially Germany or any European land. Gotta love it.

I do have to express my relief of once I landed at least in Atlanta it was nice to know I was back on U.S. soil. Nothing like knowing you are back in your home country. I was able to read all the signs, listen to conversations, flirt with the customs guy - just great! Oh and if I needed to order something, I knew exactly how to say it and I didn't get a "uh what did you say?" look from the server. Oh and to have my car back!!!!! To go where I want to go is one of the best feelings in the world. My only problem is that I guess I forgot how to get to my brother's house because I had to take a little detour. Good thing my sister was right behind me. And I also had trouble getting gas yesterday. "Select payment, put the nozzle in the tank first, press grade and then pump." Was a hard concept for me yesterday but I was really tired okay?!

Well, I am back and moving on to hopefully better things like a job!! BRING IT ON!