We are a married couple who adopted our little Russky, Nikita {aka Nicky, Nicky noodle, little man, Nikoli, the Nickster, crazy dude, goofball, puppy love, etc...you get the picture!} from St Petersburg, Russia four years ago. Join us as we stumble through the joys and perils of parenthood, while our son teaches us a few things along the road...


7 Things Learned Traveling in Eastern Europe

1.  4 Star (as in hotel, etc) is all relative...
Sure it's pretty and in the center of everything you want to see, but the only real perks (I noticed or cared about) were free internet in the lobby and wi-fi in the rooms; hot items at the included breakfast (but do I REALLY need to eat heaping portions of fluffy, yummy eggs for breakfast?); and a doorman.  Walking a little further to the sites can provide perks as well (as in walking off all the eggs I consumed at the other hotel!).

2.  The queue is merely a suggestion in most of Europe...
I've traveled enough that I should not be bothered, nor surprised by this fact.  However, it still gets my goat every time.  I can't decide which is my favorite.  When they jump the queue, knowing they're doing it and just look at you like they know you'll let them in.  Or when they look at you like you're the crazy one, then say "Oh.  Is this the line for...?"  Nope.  I'm just standing here behind 100 other idiots for no reason whatsoever!
*picture taken from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald*

3.  Sometimes ABC ("another bloody church") can be awe inspiring...

...or a tad bit creepy, yet cool...

4.  Don't assume a ticket booth at the Metro is closed just because the shades are drawn, the lights are off, and it appears no one is home...
You will undoubtedly find yourself faced with these guys if you decide to head down to the trains to seek alternate methods of payment.

*these aren't the actual ones that demanded our "papers" then threatened to throw us in jail, but I found a pic on the internet!*

5.  If you have an unpleasant experience with one American Airlines travel arranger, call back in an hour and you will receive the complete opposite...
I realize they were under a lot of stress due to the situation, however, I was keeping my cool with the fact that my trip home was completely up in the air and was in a foreign country for who knows how long.  Is it too much to ask that the professionals act, well, um, professional?!

6.  A glass of wine or a cup of coffee, along with good company, is just as enlightening as viewing any historic site...

7.  And finally...go with the flo, yo...
Not everything can be controlled, and sometimes having your cheese moved can be a good thing.  Wandering alone aimlessly will often find you right where you should be, and will always add to the experience.  I vow to make this my new mantra in (most) everything I do.  I'll let ya know how that works out for me!

What Sounds Like an X-Rated Film Title is Actually a Charming Little Village

Upon learning we had another day in the Golden City, we decided to take a day trip to Kutná Hora.  Don't ask me the proper way of saying this quaint town - I thought butchering it with my best Texan accent was much funner! 

The town's main draw is the Cathedral of St Barbara, or St Bab's as I like to call her, and she didn't let us down.  The frescoes and woodwork are quite impressive, as are the gothic arches and spires on the outside.

Here's yet another church in the town...I've seen and toured countless numbers of them in my lifetime, especially having grown up in Europe, I can't decide if I'm getting tired of them or want to see more.

*Church of St. James (Kostel sv. Jakuba)*

We had hoped to visit the Czech Museum of Silver, however, there were two groups of what appeared to be school kids (man I'm old - they were teenagers and I'm calling them "kids" like they're 10 or something!) on a field trip in the town the same day, and apparently adding two extra bodies to the tour was way too much to ask.  (can you tell I'm still a little miffed about that?)

After a bite to eat, we headed to the Kostnice (aka Sedlac Ossuary).  It looks unassuming from the outside...

...but eeks!  Once you enter, you realize you're not in any ordinary church...

Yep - them's bones!

It was absolutely worth the trip to this little town.  Not only did we see some interesting things, but we did some cousin bonding on the train ride to and from.

Czechin' Out Praha

After a long, overnight bus ride from Budapest to Prague, we Czeched into our hotel, had a bite to eat, rested and cleaned up a bit then hit the town running...er - biking.  My cousin is going to be a bike tour guide for the summer in Paris - ah, the charmed life. 

Anyway, she decided to Czech (tee hee hee...never gets old!) out the competition, and possibly pick up some pointers from a seasoned guide.  Unfortunately, our guide left a lot to be desired.  He had only lived in the city for a year or so, didn't have much of a sense of humor, wasn't the greatest of story tellers, didn't have a lot of information in general and we stumped him on a few easy questions.  Where's Samantha Brown to guide you when you need her? 

Oh well...I learned that I can still ride a bike (yes, there was some major doubt to the age ol' saying "it's just like riding a bike" - the last time I rode one was when I was 19 and I crashed into a bush and got stuck), and we got to cover a lot of the city in a short period of time.

Views around the Vlatava...

Mala Strana...

*Yep.  Pissing Men. (outside the Kafka Museum)  Apparently you can text a number and tell it what you want them to write out with their, um, pee.*

Day 2 in Praha was spent in and around the Castle and meandering through Old Town. 

We crossed the Charles Bridge...

*Making a wish on St John of Nepomuk*

...then climbed up to the Strahov Monestary where we were afforded amazing views...

Oops...how did that get in there?!  I meant views of the city!

We headed back to the castle to explore a bit, only to find that the one church I actually wanted to tour, St Vitus, was not only mostly covered in scaffolding, but it was also closed.  Figures.

Apparently a tourist must in Prague is viewing the Astronomical Clock located in Old Town (Staré Město) as it chimes the hour.  I know the clock is old, and is some great marvel, but I was left feeling a bit "eh, ok.  let's move on.".  It was cool to experience nonetheless (and scratch it off my must-see list), and the surrounding square is quite charming.

*Hotel Rott - our home in Praha*

My last day in Prague was rather chilly, so I didn't venture too far from St Wenceslas Square.  My cousin had flown to Amsterdam that morning, so I was left to my own devices.  I wandered in and out of shops in Old Town and had yummy glühwein to keep me warm. 

Growing up in Germany as an Air Force brat, I had always wanted to travel to Prague.  Of course, at the time it was a city in a communist state under the USSR, so my parents wouldn't allow it.  I'm so thankful I was given the opportunity to travel there now, and love my husband even more for "playing Momma" while I was gone!  The Golden City is definitely somewhere I would like to return with Kris someday - there were, afterall, lots of shops I didn't make it into!

Magyar Mayhem - A Pictorial Post

Two weeks ago, I joined my cousin Stefani on a trip to the former Eastern Block countries of Hungary and the Czech Republic.  First on the agenda was Budapest.  It's a very beautiful and cosmopolitan city that's been through many a war in its day, and has been through a lot of rebuilding.  Most of the downtown area looks as if it's from the late 1800s/early 1900s and the ornate detailing adorning the buildings reminded me a lot of Paris.  Instead of a lengthly blow-by-blow of what we did, here's a pictorial of our short stay in the city.

Walking across the Danube via the famous Chain Bridge, which was the first permanent bridge to cross the river, thus joining the cities of Buda and Pest.

Wandering around the Castle District, taking in the lovely view afforded of the Pest side of the city (where we were staying). 

The Royal Palace...

Ambling through the surrounding castle grounds we found ourselves outside a little wine cellar offering tastings.  Check the watch - 10 minutes 'til noon.  Yep.  Time to imbibe... 

Fisherman's Bastion...

Matthias Church...(most was covered in scaffolding, so I tried to be creative with my shots)...

We tooled around the Central Market Hall and nosed around in the shops along Váci utca (the street on which our hotel resided). 

Dinner at Fatal - when you're hungry in Hungary, not only is the food delish, but the meals should fill you up...if not, there's something seriously wrong with you! 

Our neighboring tables both ordered the Farmer's Plate (or something like that).  It had Hungarian noodles, veggies, some kind of breaded meat, a "tee-pee" of fried fish, and yes, that is a sausage on top...because why wouldn't there be?! 

St Stephen's Budapest Basilica...

There were a few other sites to see in the city, however our time was limited, and even though Eyjafjallajökull provided us with a few extra hours, we unfortunately spent the time trying to figure out how to get to our next destination.  We did however, manage to squeeze in another meal and a few cocktails to better tolerate our overnight bus ride to Prague.

Random Nicky

*This story is my version of what Kris told me.  For some reason, he can't be bothered to do the post, so, if there is some embellishment on my part, so be it!*

I did my best to explain to Nicky that I was going on a trip for a few days with cousin Stefani.  He was excited that I was going to get to fly on an airplane, so that was more important than the thought that I would be away.  Each day Nicky asked Daddy "where momma?  momma come home soon?"  As we soon learned my trip home was kinda up in the air, Kris had the following discussion with Nicky:

Nicky:  momma come home today?
Daddy:  No, Nicky.  Momma will be gone a few more days.
Nicky:  but i want momma!  (frowning and becoming whiney)
Daddy:  See that volcano on tv?  That's why Momma can't come home.  (might've wanted to explain a little bit more, Daddy...)
Nicky:  oh no!!!  momma in der?!  no daddy!  (said while starting to cry)(hence the need for more of an explanation on the front-end...live and learn tho!)
Daddy:  It's ok, Nicky.  Momma's not in da volcano, she's just by it and can't get home.
Nicky:  is momma ok?  she not in volcano?  (still completely confused and crying)
Daddy:  She's ok.  She's not in it.  (giving him lots of hugs and kisses)

Poor little buddy!

Two days later Nicky was really missing his Momma and kept asking where I was and when I was coming home and had another mini-meltdown (as did Momma on the other side of the pond).  Again, Daddy provided lots of love and assured him Momma was by the volcano, not in the volcano.

When I finally arrived home, I received the biggest hug and lots of kisses and couldn't shake the little fella - he was not letting me out of his sight.

As I held him tight, he leaned back, held my face with both hands, and said
"momma.  you not in da volcano, right.  you just by it."  Right - just by it.

Then I explained that volcanoes have smoke that comes out of them and that my airplane couldn't fly home to see him because the airplane can't fly through the smoke.  Who knows what he was telling his friends and teachers at school while I was gone!  They may now think I'm some kind of mad scientest volcanologist or something. 

Nah...being an Executive Assistant is much more fascinating!

Pain in the Ash

Anyone traveling abroad during the middle of April 2010 will have their own "war story".  This is mine...

Landing in Paris, 2 1/2 hours late, on the morning of 15 April, our flight attendant announced that during the night we had been diverted south due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland.  At the time I merely thought, "huh.  interesting."  Two days later, however, I thought "what an effing pain in the ash!!!" 

My connecting flight from Paris to Budapest, Hungary, was uninterrupted.  I arrived on-time, but sans luggage.  They assured me it would meet me at my hotel later that night - which it did thankfully because I really didn't feel like wearing sweatpants for the whole trip! Over the next day and a half, we toured the city without giving another thought to Eyjafjallajökull; (try saying that 3 times fast...or even once for that matter!) even checked to ensure our respective flights to Prague were still on schedule (I was leaving around 2pm; Stefani around 5pm), which they were.  We split up on the day of our departure from beautiful Budapest, only for me to quickly learn that the airport was closed.

*me sitting alone in an empty airport - that's a cafe behind me that was bustling with activity the day I arrived*

Okaaaay...now what?

I spoke with the ticket agents at the airport, and they stated the airport was hoping to open around 2pm, thus the reason behind the fact that neither of our flights had been cancelled.  Of course my cell phone was not working for some reason, and I had no way of getting hold of my cousin to give her the heads up, so I had to make a call to Kris...on a pay phone...in Eastern Europe. 

Who uses pay phones anymore?!  Um...after this one...not me...EVER again.  It was $42.86...for less than 5 minutes!!!  WTF?!  GRRRR!  Anyhoo...I was able to contact Stef and met up with her in town and we decided to take an overnight bus, since they were not sure when the airport would re-open.  (sidebar - I can now check the country of Slovakia off my list of countries visited since I actually got off the bus and took a potty break there!) 

We arrived in Prague early the next morning, groggy and in need of coffee, so we checked into our hotel, had a bite to eat, then rested up for a bit.  Note to self:  when a European hotel states that it has "satellite tv", what it means is it has possibly 4 channels (tops) in English, and 3 of them will be news stations (i.e. BBC, CNN...).  Good thing in this case, because had I been watching old episodes of Veronica Mars, I would not have known that everyone in Europe trying to get home (whether to the UK or the US, etc.) was flocking to Spain (because they never closed their airports) and I may have ended up in that crazy mix.  Instead, my plight was to extend my stay in Prague 2 days, where I was afforded a clean and warm bed and a shower to clean the city stank off after a day touring...coulda been much worse.  From there, I had an overnight stay in Brussels, Belgium, then a flight home through Chicago where I almost missed my connection to Dallas!  I would've really been ticked if I had gotten that far only to be stranded yet again!

The ambiguousness of the situation is what really killed me.  You see, I'm not one who likes to have my cheese moved.  I enjoy life most when it goes as planned - or rather - as I have planned it.  This trip ended up being a continual process of calling the airlines daily (or twice daily) to see if a better flight home had opened up.  

Not all was bad, though.  I had a great time with my cousin, we saw three beautiful cities, and I learned traveling alone really isn't all that bad.  My cousin is right - there is something to be said for being lost in your own thoughts and learning from self-reliance.  Most importantly, always remember, when life hands you lemons, add alcohol and stir!
*Note:  that is a personal size pizza which cost $6.60 and a take-away bottle containing a 1/2 liter of wine which cost $2.39.  Priceless!*
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...