Monday, November 29, 2010

Krakow! Long Drive, Beautiful City!

Driving to Poland seemed like a good idea at the time. Leaving after school on Friday maybe was a mistake, but we didn't have any choice; Kent had to work. It gets dark really early, so even though we weren't driving at midnight, it sure felt like it. Add to it the fact that every time you cross a border on the highway, you have to stop at the next rest stop and buy a highway pass, and it slows you down even further. Add that to the fact that we kept forgetting to stop, which increased our stress level considerably- we were sure we'd be pulled over and interrogated and fined. Add to it a vindictive GPS who added an additional country to the route and- well, it was kind of the trip from hell. Then we crossed the Czech-Polish border, and it STUNK- and then it seemed like the trip TO hell. It was the kind of smell that you're sure is giving you cancer. Round about hour 6, Jack fell apart. He was in the "way back" seat, and hadn't been able to see for 6 hours and then, as I mentioned, it stunk, and he started keening that he wanted to die.  Can't blame him. Before the wailing it had been just the usual 6 year old behavior, throwing his dirty socks over the seat onto my head, singing annoying songs that get stuck in your head and rattle around, that sort of thing.  I pretty much wanted to die too.

But then, we arrived in Krakow, and got settled in, and all was forgotten.  We stayed at an apartment right outside the Wawel Castle. The building was 100 years old, but the apartment was clean and well kept. And the price and location couldn't be beat.  We could walk to the Market Square and the Christmas Market. It was snowing and the whole city looked magical.

 Most of my pictures didn't come out; the memory card on my camera say there's no data, and won't import the pictures. Here are a few I salvaged. 

We went to the Wieliczka Salt Mines- what a very cool place. 

Walking down into the mine.  We were down 130 meters below ground, and mine went down over 300 meters. 

When the salt is exposed to water, the impurities wash out, and the crystals formed are white. You can see some of them on the ceiling above, and on one of the examples of the old pumps they used to remove water from the mine. (below)

The chandeliers crystals are all made of salt crystals.

The Chapel of Saint Kinga is huge; the walls are covered in rock salt carved bas-reliefs. The floors look like tile but are all salt, polished by the footsteps of the visitors to the mine. All along the walls there are scenes from the Bible, and the crucifix is also carved from rock salt. 

We had a lot of fun in Krakow but wished we could have stayed a few more days.  (And I wish my camera would have worked.) Once we got over the smell and the long ride, the only thing bugging Nate was his underwear. Somehow he believes this underwear is too small.  I have no idea where he would get that idea.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

These are a few of our Favorite Things

I think when you're in Austria, you have to quote from the "Sound of Music" soundtrack, and should preferably sing a few lines from this song.

We went looking for a place to eat breakfast. Here's what we found. Great place!

 No Smoking!! Our favorite sign!

The Local Candy shop is decked out for Christmas and St. Nicholas Day (Dec 5th or the 6th- can't remember) when children get candy in their shoes

I really wanted to buy one of these, but didn't.

I loved the Bishops and the Devils, all made of cookies and candy, I wanted to buy these, too.

These were pretty, but I didn't want to buy them.

I'm not sure about all the bishops. I should have asked someone. Someone who spoke English.

And we took a carriage ride.

It's a recurring theme, but Jack would not pose for the picture. He was in between Anna and Kent, hiding under the covers. Just for the record-- we did NOT lose him at the Christmas Market.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ted and Anna Arrive in Vienna

Ted and Ana arrived on Saturday!!  We went to Vienna Airport to pick them up, and spent Saturday and part of Sunday with them. Jack fell apart when he learned that we were not, in fact, on vacation, but that he and Nate and Kent all had school Monday. Just because someone else is on vacation, doesn't mean that we are, unfortunately.  He recovered nicely, and we had a great couple of days. Here are some of the highlights:

Here's the scene at the Vienna Rathaus- the City Hall.  There were all these booths with crafts and ornaments, and other booths with Gluhwein (mulled wine) and Beeren Punsch- mulled Beer, which sounded horrible, but was our favorite.  There were red currants soaked in something lovely in the beer punch, and really, it didn't taste anything like hot beer. Can't describe it, but yummy.  Everyone was walking around with  real coffee mugs and I thought how clever the Austrians were, and how "green" they were to bring their own mugs. But then I realized that the mugs all looked pretty much the same. Different colors, but the same design. Turns out that the booths all had mugs and you paid 2 euro extra for your drink for the mug. When you brought it back, you got your 2 euro back. Or you could keep it as a souvenir. No paper cups-- seriously-- Amazing Concept, right?  

The trees around the city hall were lit with different lights- here are some hearts.

 We all think it's funny that things are called "Wiener" here. Apparently the Viennese don't think it's as funny as we do to be at the Weiner Christkindlmarkt, but I thought it was a hoot. I guess seventh grade humor just never gets old with some people.

Nate and Jack really needed light up Santa hats.  Jack, as you can see, was enjoying the Christmas Market.  I wish I had a picture of his outfit. Kent thought I brought his coat, and I thought Kent brought his coat, and so as a result, he had no coat. He had on several shirts, including my fleece, and a large scarf which made him look slightly Arab.  With the Santa hat, he looked a bit like a deranged elf. At one point he decided he didn't want to be part of our family anymore, and so he stopped in front of a bus stop and refused to move. We walked away, thinking that it was dark and he was in a strange city packed with people where he didn't speak the language and that Certainly he would follow. But, no. He parked it right there. All these gluhwein-filled, Christmas shopping Austrians walked by him looking concerned for the lost child.  Several of them stopped to see if his family was nearby, but of course we were watching him from further up the street, hoping to win the contest of wills.  I intervened when it looked like someone might actually try and talk to him about where he lived and try to find his parents. 

This is probably the same "made in China" stuff they sell in the US. It just looked pretty in the stalls in the night. Or maybe it was just the beer punch....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nate's Football Triumph!

Well, Okay-- so it's soccer to us.

Nate played in the CEESA Tournament last weekend-  Central and Eastern European Sports Association Tournament, while I was making burgers for the Volunteer Squad, being told that it was not permissible to speak. His team ended up winning the entire tournament and was a great end to the soccer season for Nate. He worked hard to get on the A team, and was rewarded for his hard work! You go, Nate!!

Here are some pics from the day.

Nate is wearing red socks, and he's not in every picture, because sometimes I just liked the light in the photo, or the background, or the way the other players looked.

Clear the ball out of there, Nate!


Nate was the "Sweeper"- the last defender before the goalie.  Not much chance to score a goal, but he has an important job to do.

The village of Remeteszőlős in the background.

The Goalie kicks it away.

That's a happy kid!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Ghouls

After All Saint's Day and the solemn and moving visit to the cemetery, we went back to Andrea's house and the kids got silly.  Here's some of the highlights of this crew's makeup extravaganza~!!


More Zombies

Fanni and Nate- very scary!!


Jack is pleased with his makeup

Cute Ghoul

Another Cute ghoul

I hate it when that happens....

Scary Children

Geri is tired.