Monday, August 31, 2009

Morning sun

The morning sun shines on the table full of goodies for breakfast. By my plate there is a glass of delicious milk, straight from the cow! It actually tastes like cream! Next to it there is farmer's cheese, which I am having trouble getting my hands on outside of Poland! But it sure is present on my plate for every meal while visiting!

Dad's Garden

A walk with Nero

Mom, pops, Jeffrey and I took Nero for a much needed walk. He sure enjoyed it! Nero is known fr picking up huge sticks and carrying them around. Occasionally he tries to sneak them into the house, but these attempts end up in leaving them in the yard...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Krakow, my favorite city

Here's the Wawel castle.

Looking at the Wisla river.

Old foundation, the first King of Poland lived here, even before Poland became Christian.

Piece of Minnesota in Poland

Strolling down the Town Square of Krakow you may encounter city tour vehicles with multilingual tour guides. We visit the city frequently and know it pretty well, so there is no need for such tours, but imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon Minnesota plates on one of the vehicles! Staring at it, we were quickly approached by one of the guides, who turned out to be from Chicago and studying business abroad. He said next year he was going to study in Spain!

Krakow Jewish Cemetery

I don't think cemeteries are creepy at all! I think they hold a very important part of our history and are worth visiting.
When in Crocow, or Krakow, Poland, we went to see the famous Jewish cemetery, which was developed in 1800 but it was destroyed partially during WWII. There are tombs of some very important people, for example the director of the Krakow Orchestra in the 1960's. We could not enter the cemetery, however, as the warning on the gates stated that males needed to wear a hat and J did not have one at the time.
Instead, we went to the famous during the communistic times so called Milk Bars, which are not bars at all, but cheap lunch places, where you can get traditional meals for literally pennies! They are meant to exist for college students and lower class, but I make sure I eat there at least once during my every stay in Poland, as they serve delicious pierogi, kopytka and all kinds of goodies!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Schindler's Factory

While in Krakow, we visited the factory of Oscar Schindler, where thousands of Jewish people survived the war. Schindler employed them in his enamelware factory.

The gate leading to the factory.

Buildings in the factory.

Jeffrey sitting on the staircase that was featured in the famous Spielberg's movie "The Schindler's List".


Definitely my favorite food in the world is grilled sheep cheese, called "oscypki" (try prenouncing that!). Tatra mountains natives in Poland have made these since the 15th century. Mmmm...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pierogi Festival

What is better than fried sheep cheese? One thing, pierogi. The stuffed dumplings are the trademark of Poland and other Easter European countries and they vary from country to country. While in the US we may see potato and sour cream stuffed pierogi in the frozen section of your grocery store, you will not be able to see those in Poland and may even meet with an angry glance if you ask for them. Stuffing used traditionally in Poland includes mushrooms with meat, cottage cheese or sauerkrout, but the fillings change as you cross the border - spinach in Germany, potatoes and onions in Russia.
While in Krakow, we could not miss the 7th Annual Pierogi Festival, where the oldest Polish cooking tradition is celebrated... and tasted! Various stuffing mixes are used by the cooks trying to win the competition; from mushrooms, meat, cheese to even barley. Some are boiled, as they traditionally should be, some are fried or baked. All are delicious!

The best food!

After looking at some paintings we decided to go to the Rynek, or the townsquare.

We saw this monk on the Rynek, I don't know why it was so funny at the time; a monk with a backpack...

Finally we got to our favorite Polish restaurant, the Chlopskie Jadlo, which means the peasant's food. We enjoyed large plates filled with bigos, dumplings and pierogi! As you may notice one of the plates contains salads only, made of fresh or pickled cabbage.

After the meal. Ah, if we only could do it again, right now!

Grocery Shopping has never been this exciting!

Finally, I get to eat the stuff I cannot get in the US, at least not where I live right now. Among favorites: bread, of course, Milka chocolate, farmer's cheese and real polish sausage!

Train ride from hell...

Time to leave Prague and continue our trip to Krakow, my favorite city! The 6 hour train ride turned out to be quite joyful; with no seat assignments, without working bathroom and with people constantly trying to pass by you. Not easy when you're carrying a huge backpack!
Train station in Prague.

A photo of a very unhappy traveler. You would be too if you had to stand for 6 hours!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ludmila of Bohemia

September 16th is the feast day of St Ludmila, celebrated in the Czech Republic. J and I had a chance to see her tomb located in the St. George Basilica while visiting Prague. We are still trying to figure out if the bones in the photo are real!
St Ludmila and her husband the duke were baptized and converted to Christianity in the 9th century, however, they were not welcome in their home land for some time because of it. She was later murdered by her dead son's wife Drahomira, due to the impact Ludmila had on Drahomira's young son, who was a ruler at that time. Old story says that Ludmila was strangled with her own veil! Very convoluted story!
St George's Basilica, where St Ludmila's remains are, was built in 920 and clearly re-done a few times. Now the exterior is kept in the Baroque style.

A walk in the Prague Jewish Quarter

Beautifully preserved part of town where Jewish communities lived since the Middle Ages caught our attention while visiting Prague this summer. I have read about this part of town in my wonderful Prague Guide book that never left my hands, which had descriptions of the history of Jewish population since their oppression in the 16th century to naming of the Jewish quarters "Josefov" after Josef II in the 18th century.
This part of town is very well known, as the Old Jewish Cemetery has been their burial grounds since 14oo's and is a popular tourist spot. As this was the only burial site permitted for Jews, they had to bury their loved ones on top of each other from the lack of space; there are over 12,000 gravestones in the cemetery, some 12 layers deep! Last burial was sometime in the 1800's. The cemetery is a very popular site for visits; people purchase tickets and walk through it admiring decorative gravestones and tombs. The cemetery was my number 2 site to visit in Prague, after the Cathedral, but unfortunately the lines were so long that after waiting for 30 min we decided that we will walk through the Quarters and skip the cemetery. Not visiting it was a great disappointment for me but I don't think I would get much out of it with all those people in there! Tourists... ;)
We had a wonderful time admiring the architecture of the Jewish Quarters, including the Old-New Synagogue standing there for over 700 years.

Coffee Break

Favorite pass time - espresso on the Prague Town square and people watching. In the background a Baroque St Nicholas Church where classical music concerns are often held in the late afternoon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Grand Hotel

Since we wanted to stay one more day in Prague, we also had to switch hotels, as the post-communistic hotel we were staying at was so cheap, it actually had no vacancy! Oh, will I miss the cooked hotdogs and grumpy service at breakfast...

After a hike and a tram ride we finally got here!Time to rest a get on with the rest of our day!

The view from the window was amazing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

St Vitus

This is why I travel. The construction of the breathtaking St Vitus Cathedral by the Prague Castle begun before the 1000 year, but it wasn't until 1300's when the Gothic cathedral was actually built. Now it is a popular tourist site.

Czech Cuisine

Pork knee and goulash with noodles were fantastic, especially as we ate them near the Town Square of Prague. What a treat!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


While in Prague, we encountered a guitar player/singer by the river Vltava. He was playing while people were eating dinner and drinking Czech beer. His English was so perfect I imagined he was a college professor somewhere and this is what he did during his summers off.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Praha: getting in!

Czech Republic from the air! Tired, but excited to finally be here.

Prague Airport

We had to figure out how to get from our hotel to the center of the Prague. Traveling by trams turned out to be the cheapest, fastest option! So, after a short nap and a much needed shower we got on our way!