Friday, April 21, 2017

It was a COLD Easter

I haven't really minded the cold weather honestly.  But then we were teased with warm weather and flowers, flowers everywhere!!  Our yard has erupted with daffodils and tulips and a bright yellow forsythia in the corner.  I love forsythia.  And then there was this.

Of course the kids were so excited that we got SNOW again although it was disappointing that we didn't have any school delays.  It didn't stay around too long but it has continued to be cold and I don't like it -- not after thinking that warmth was on the way!!!

Surprisingly things seemed to survive the cold pretty well, but this morning there was frost and most of my tulips are now droopy and sad.  

Easter ended up being pretty low key.  We didn't even do an egg hunt and the kids are still asking for one.  I might have to this weekend just because.  I've collected quite a few painted eggs and even a few that are glass and porcelain.  I love them so much!  Eggs hanging from branches and trees is my new favorite German tradition and one I intend to continue when we move back to the states eventually.

We did of course dye hard boiled eggs for ourselves.  They NEVER get eaten but this year I left breakfast the next morning unsupervised and William made a really good dent in destroying, sorry eating, all those hard boiled eggs.  I can't say that I'm sorry.  And then I feel guilty for such a blatant waste of food!!

This was a delightful sponge cake with homemade whipped cream frosting and berries.  So good and perfect for Easter!

My girls didn't want new dresses for Easter Sunday -- they never do.  And William refuses to wear a tie or a vest so what's the point?  Instead, Abby and I were dirndl twins.  I finally made myself a dirndl blouse that doesn't show cleavage or shoulders (because seriously, they all do) and I think we turned out to be quite the pretty pair!

I'm trying to shop more at German stores -- the commissary on base is expensive but they do carry things that I use in my cooking that the German stores don't have.  Inevitably when I come home I've also brought wonderful bread.  But I have to watch out for William - he loves it at much as I do.

I think I neglected to post this picture from Prague - Abby making a wish on St. what's his name.  The tradition is that if you touch his plaque and make a wish it will come true.  After Abby made her wish, we walked away and said "it didn't come true.  My wishes never come true!"  When I asked her, she said she wished the world was made out of candy.  So we had a talk about wishes and how they're really not real and also about how the world will probably never be made out of candy . . . poor girl.

I'm very excited because in about a month my parents will be here!!!  My dad is coming for a little over a week and my mom will be here for 3.  That first week is packed full of adventures including a trip back to Prague and one out to the Rhine river!!  We're all looking forward to it!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Two Days in Prague

Chopper has wanted to visit Prague since a mission companion raved about it years and years ago.  I found out that they have an Easter Market and sell painted eggs so I wanted to go too!  It's only a little over 2 hours away from us so Chopper took one day off and we did an overnight in Prague.  What a beautiful city!!!  I think that we'll visit there a few times in our years here, although there are other cities in Czech that we have in mind as well.

Our first day we drove in, found our hotel, and then spent the afternoon and evening exploring the Lesser Quarter and Castle Quarter.  Prague is divided into sections that were different cities but pulled together years ago.  It's split down the middle by the Vltava River.  Our hotel was right in the Lesser Quarter and it was gorgeous!  The day was cold and rainy and guess what?  I forgot our umbrellas!  At least I didn't forget out passports!  But we explored anyway and had a great time and there weren't as many people out!  Bonus!

Our first stop was actually this gingerbread shop!  We walked by it on our way up the hill to the castle and since the kids are always hungry, we stopped inside.

We let them each choose one and I got an inedible one for the Christmas tree made from original molds.  They were impeccably decorated and delicious too!  It helped tide the kids over while we went up to the castle.

William's is a motorcycle but he wanted to pretend like he was eating it for the picture.

There was a whole line of gorgeous dresses!!  Sorry it's sideways!

Prague is a very hilly city and we walked everywhere.  About 5 miles the first day and 6 the second!  But you are rewarded with stunning views everywhere because of the hills.  Even with the clouds and rain it was beautiful.

Prague Castle is more of a palace complex rather than a turreted castle.  These spires are St. Vitus Cathedral poking up behind one of the castle walls.

St. Vitus Cathedral is the first place we stopped once inside.

I suppose that one of the benefits of visiting a cathedral in the rain is that you get to see the gargoyles/rain spouts in action!  The kids thought it was great that this guy was spitting or throwing up on us.

The inside isn't as ornate as some we've seen, but the soaring ceilings and stained glass windows are amazing.  The stained glass really is probably some of the best I've seen.  Each piece is broken into smaller pieces and the colors blend and gradate beautifully.

I cannot even imagine who many tiny pieces are in each pane!

I think this one was my favorite window but we didn't really see the medallion windows because they were covered for cleaning or restoration or something.

The views!!!!

Next were the government buildings so to speak.  The throne room, this ball room?  We don't really take guided tours because it's boring for the kids but then we don't always know what we're looking at!!

The throne.  The girls wanted to know where the Queen's throne was!

Lots of crests!

They labeled the books that they recorded their discussions and decisions in so that they could easily find what they needed.  I don't know if these are real but they look pretty cool!

The small Easter market in the palace courtyard.

Our next stop was St. George's Bascilica.  This is a much older church that hasn't been redone on the inside in Romantic or Gothic or Baroque architecture.  We loved that is so original and it felt very much like were in an Indiana Jones movie!!!!

We wandered around some more, down Golden Lane -- a street where the palace merchants kept their shops and where there are still shops today.  We also saw their torture dungeon - our education at Rothenburg meant that we knew what all that stuff was!!  

Oh and then we stopped for more snacks.  Because you know, it had been an hour.  In reality, I love the proliferation of street food and snacks in Europe.  It makes it really easy to feed the kids without going through the ordeal of a restaurant.  These are trdelnik - dough rolled on a stick and cooked over a fire and then sprinkled with sugar and sometimes filled with ice cream or other fillings.  We got just plain ones but they were still good.  Interestingly, William didn't want one.  He wanted another hot dog.  The kids loves sausage and bratwurst of all kinds!!

See that look of disdain for pastry!!

When we left the palace complex we discovered about a thousand steps leading back into the city.  We're very glad that we took the incline up and the steps down.

The rain decided to let up for a moment so we took advantage and kept walking onto the Charles bridge and I'm so glad we did!  There was hardly anyone on it!  When we crossed it again on Saturday it was wall to wall people, we made the kids hold hands, and we didn't get to enjoy the statues or street artists and musicians nearly as much as the first time through.  This bridge is THE bridge in Prague.  Pedestrians only, it connects the Lesser Quarter with the Old Town and has statues down the length of both sides that have some interesting stories to tell.

Vltava River

Chopper likes to pose with statues.  I suppose that's where Abby gets it from.  Here he's mimicking one of the "infidels".

The towers on either end are pretty cool and you can go inside although we didn't get a chance.

I don't really get the whole locks of love thing -- Prague isn't the only European city to have people put padlocks on fences.  The kids think it's cool.  Chopper and I don't need a lock to prove our love!!!

But another American overheard us speaking English and took a great family photo!

Abby's face

This was the view from one of our hotel rooms that night.

Day 2 -- can you believe all of that was day 1?  Yeah I might be picture crazy.  We went first to the Old Town to see the Astronomical clock and the Easter market and although the day was much nicer, it was also so much more packed with people and that's not nearly as nice!

This is the astronomical clock.  It was installed in 1410 and is the 3rd oldest in the world, the oldest that STILL WORKS.  It does it's thing on the hour and a crowd gathers to watch each time.  The skeleton on the right side rings the bell for the hour, a chicken (or some other kind of bird) then crows and at the top the windows open and the 12 apostles rotate through.  Short but interesting.

Our lady of Tyn across the square.  We couldn't figure out how to get in!  It's completely surrounded by shops right at the base walls.

We climbed the tower that houses the clock though.  William freaked out about the height half-way up and Chopper took him down.  At the top, Megan didn't like it much either so I only took a few pictures.  Great view although we also got great views for free with no waiting so I wouldn't do it again and probably should have thought more about the first time!

The other thing I wish we had done with the Town Hall is take the historical and underground tour.  That seemed to be less crowded and I think we would have enjoyed it.  This room we did go in doesn't seem super special until you look closely and see that all of this decoration is mosaic pieces and they are tiny!

The town square was decorated for Easter!  Czech is known for the tradition of painted eggs and they are also hung on trees or branches like the OsterEierbaum in Germany although it seems more prolific here.  I bought eggs of course -- not a lot -- since they're empty egg shells Chopper is worried about how long they'll survive but I just love them and can't help myself!!  I should take a picture of our Ostereierbaum!

After eating at the market (the theme of our European lives), we walked over to the Jewish Quarter.  There's a lot of history here and some beautiful places but we just got a peek.  It was all closed for the Sabbath day!  I can totally respect that but we'll have to go back.  

A peek through the gates at the Jewish cemetary

Chopper always likes the little weird details about a city.  He particularly liked these ads.
Based on the posters, this might be an interesting museum to tour!

Then we wandered around as we slowly made our way back to the car.  When we got back into the Old Town square there were these street performers.  We gave the kids money to put in their box and they reacted fabulously.  The red one kissed Abby's hand and gave William a fist bump - universal thank you!

We stopped into the church here briefly.  It was small but with a HUGE chandelier but inside there was a high school orchestra from Australia performing and not only where they really good, the acoustics of the church were fabulous.  The strings ensemble was incredible and we could definitely have stayed longer but the kids were fading.
The only frog we saw in Prague

Our second day we parked by recommendation at the Palladium mall -- the first mall we've been too in probably a year.  And I don't miss them.  But the parking was good and the Vytopna restaurant was recommended for kids because it's train themed and they even deliver your drinks by train to our table.  It really was fun (the food was ok).

This is random -- sometimes we run into things that obviously don't mean what they mean in English.  Our favorite so far has been the bus that had "spies" written across the front and we still want to go back and explore the town of Giggling but this one made us both laugh too.