Last Day in Prague

I made the best of my last day in Prague by hanging out around the Town Square. I got up early and walked up to the St. Charles Bridge so I could enjoy the bridge all to myself, I was surprised to find people out there already, they were mostly photographers trying to capture the sunrise.

The St. Charles Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV and finished at the beginning of the 15th century.
The avenue of 30 mostly baroque statues and statuaries situated on the rails forms a unique connection of artistic styles with the underlying gothic bridge. Most sculptures were erected between 1683 and 1714. They depict various saints and patron saints venerated at that time. Beginning in 1965, all of the statues have been systematically replaced by replicas, and the originals have been exhibited in the Lapidarium of the National Museum.
View of the Vltava River. It is the longest river within the Czech Republic, running southeast along the Bohemian Forest and then north across Bohemia, through Český Krumlov, České Budějovice and Prague, and finally merging with the Elbe at Mělník. It is commonly referred to as the “Bohemian sea” and the “Czech national river”.
I always see brides getting their wedding photos taken all over Prague early in the morning when there aren’t any people out in the square or the bridge. Today I saw 3 brides in the Town Square. I also always see couples taking their engagement photos as well.
After getting ready, I had another Trdelník ice cream cone. This was the “Chimney King” with vanilla ice cream, nuts, a brownie, chocolate sauce, and salted caramel.

The production of trdelník has a long tradition in the Slovak town of Skalica near the borders with Czech Republic. The original recipe was brought to Skalica at the end of the 18th century by the Transylvanian cook József Gvadányi, a retired Hungarian general. Check out this clip, I took it inside the Good Food Bakery shop.

 

After having my ice cream, I crossed the St. Charles Bridge again to visit the post office where I mailed off my watercolored postcard to a friend in the United States.
On the way back I stopped at the John Lennon wall. Once a normal wall, since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs. It is located in a small secluded square across from the French Embassy, the wall received its first such decoration following the 1980 assassination of John Lennon when an unknown artist painted a single image of the singer-songwriter and some lyrics.

After my visit to the wall, I crossed back to the Town Square for lunch. I had “Old Prague Ham”. Old Prague Ham is a type of brine-cured, stewed, and mildly beechwood-smoked originally from Prague in Bohemia (Czech Republic). Check out this short clip of the cooking process.

Old Prague Ham is traditionally served in restaurants and from street vendors with a side of boiled potatoes and often accompanied by Czech beer. This is how I had it. It was delicious.
Before leaving Prague, I had to have one more Trdelník chimney cone! This was a pistachio cone with orange prosecco ice cream. I ate this by the bridge, you can see the lovers’ locks on the gate in the background.
Goodbye Prague, I had a lovely time here. Now it’s time to board the train for our next destination.

Prague, Czech Republic

We arrived in Prague today around 8 AM. We took the metro to the Old Prague Town Square to check into our Airbnb apartment and then had the best time ever in Prague.

Old Town Square is a historic square in the Old Town quarter of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. It is located between Wenceslas Square and Charles Bridge. Our Airbnb apartment was located in this square.
The Astronomical Clock in the middle of Town Square. The oldest part of the clock and astronomical dial dates back to 1410 when it was made by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel, then later a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Charles University. The first recorded mention of the clock was on October 9, 1410. Later, presumably around 1490, the calendar dial was added and the clock facade was decorated with gothic sculptures.
This was our Airbnb apartment.
This is the view out of our apartment windows. We are very close to the Astronomical Clock.
The first thing I did in Prague was to visit the Alphonse Mucha Museum.
Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech painter, illustrator, and graphic artist, living in Paris during the Art Nouveau period, best known for his stylized and decorative theatrical posters of Sarah Bernhardt. He produced paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs which became among the best-known images of the period.
Moët & Chandon Crémant Impérial, 1899.
The Mucha Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to the life and work of the world-acclaimed Czech ART NOUVEAU artist Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939). You can see many of his drawings and posters here.
On the left: Fruits. On the right: Flower. Both are from 1897.
The first Absintherie that I visited today.
I had distilled Absinthe and a “Merry Berry” which was made with fresh blueberries, blueberry jam, sage, lime juice, and sugar.

Here’s a short video of the absinthe, it was beautiful. I didn’t really like it but I already knew I wouldn’t and that’s why I also ordered the Merry Berry.

After the Absintherie, I walked down to get a “Chimney Devil”. It was an activated charcoal ice cream with coconut inside a trdelnik cone.
Banknote designed by Mucha: 500 crowns. Mucha was keen to do whatever he could to help the creation of the new state and readily agreed to design the first Czechoslovak stamps and banknotes. The first banknote came out in 1919 and many others followed in later years. Besides banknotes and stamps, Mucha designed all kinds of paraphernalia for the state, from the national emblem to police uniforms.
After eating ice cream, I took a walk across the St. Charles Bridge. It was amazing.
Here I am with the medievil Astronomical Clock.
After walking around the St. Charles Bridge, I went with my cousins for an absinthe shot at another Absintherie.
It had beautiful murals painted all over the bar.
Here I am with my cousin Caro, looking for the green fairy.
Another beautiful mural.
This time I had the “beetle” shot (Bohemian style) and a “Raspberry Bramble” which had Absinthe, lemon juice, fresh raspberries, and raspberry syrup.

The Bohemian-style absinthe is poured into a glass, and a sugar cube on a slotted spoon is placed over the glass. The sugar cube is then soaked with absinth and is set on fire. The cube is then dropped into the absinthe, setting it ablaze. Then water is poured over the flame until it goes out. Check out the bartender preparing it in the video clip below.

Last Day in Budapest, Hungary

Enjoyed my last day in Budapest, I spent my day at the thermal baths, the Frida Kahlo exhibit, and walked around the Castle District.

I walked across the Liberty Bridge this morning on my way to the Gellért Thermal Baths (You can see the building on the left side of the bridge on the other end). The bridge is beautiful, it has two eagles at the top. The Liberty Bridge is the shortest bridge in Budapest’s center. Initially built as part of the Millennium World Exhibition at the end of the 19th century, the bridge features art nouveau design, mythological sculptures and the country’s coat of arms adorned on its side.
Part of the famous Hotel Gellért in Buda, the Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool is a bath complex in Budapest, Hungary.
The bath complex was built between 1912 and 1918 in the (Secession) Art Nouveau style. It was damaged during World War II, but then rebuilt. The “magical healing spring” was used by the Turkish during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Gellért Baths include thermal baths, which are small pools containing water from Gellért hill’s mineral hot springs. The water contains calcium, magnesium, hydrocarbonate, alkalis, chloride, sulfate and fluoride. Medical indications of the water include degenerative joint illnesses, spine problems, chronic and sub-acute joint inflammations, vertebral disk problems, neuralgia, vasoconstriction, and circulatory disturbances; inhalation problems for the treatment of asthma and chronic bronchitis problems. The thermal baths are decorated beautifully with mosaic tiles.
After swimming in the baths, I enjoyed an iced coffee in the main hall, built in Art-Nouveau style.
Crossing the Liberty Bridge back, you can see Gellért Hill overlooking the Danube River. Gellért Hill was named after Saint Gerard who was thrown to death from the hill. The famous Hotel Gellért and the Gellért Baths can be found in Gellért Square at the foot of the hill. At the top of the hill is the Citadella (Citadel), from which a view is available down both directions of the Danube. (If you click on my blog post of Budapest from 2015, you can see pictures of the time I was up at the Citadel from my first trip to Budapest).
The entrance to the Hungarian National Gallery. The gate has a statue of a Turul bird, it presumably originated as the clan symbol used in the 9th and 10th centuries by the ruling House of Arpad.
The Frida Kahlo exhibit. Thanks to the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, and several other Mexican art collections, more than thirty paintings and graphics of the artist was on display.
My ticket was 3200 Hufs, but don’t worry because that only comes out to about $12.00. What a deal!
The entrance to the exhibit.
Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944.
Frida Kahlo, Without Hope, 1945.
Frida Kahlo, The Abortion, 1932.
Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait with Small Monkey, 1945.
Frida Kahlo, The Deceased Dimas, 1937.
Frida Kahlo, Still Life with Parrot And Fruit, 1951.
Walking around the National Gallery grounds.
The Holy Trinity Statue can be found in the middle of Trinity Square. The column commemorates the people of Buda who died from two outbreaks of the Black Plague.
Waling around Fisherman’s Bastion at daytime.
Walking around Matthias Church at daytime.
Fisherman’s Bastion during the daytime, today this place is known for its beautiful views over the city.
Mailing off my watercolored postcard to the Chain Bridge to a friend in the United States.
Before leaving Budapest, I had to have a Trdelník or “chimney cake”, which is prepared with dough that is wrapped around a stick, before being baked on an open fire. The chimney cake is topped with a mixture of sugar and walnut, or cinnamon sugar and filled with ice cream.

Budapest, Hungary

Arrived in Budapest on the train. The train station is so beautiful, it looks like a museum.

The building was constructed between 1881 and 1884 as one of the most modern railway stations of Europe. Inside the station are frescos by Karoly Lotz.
The Hungarian Forint is the currency of Hungary, by the way, all of these only totals to approx. $100.
The first thing I noticed when arriving at our Airbnb was a Frida Kahlo banner way up high on the other side of the river. I knew I had to go up there and check it out.
Our apartment in Budapest, which is located steps away from the famous Chain Bridge.
The Central Market Hall is Budapest’s largest and most expansive indoor market, built in the neo-Gothic style, offers a variety of food stalls, from fresh vegetables, fowl and meat to wine and liquor shops.
Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, dairy products, and cheeses.
For lunch, I had my all-time favorite Hungarian Goulash. It is a stew of meat, seasoned with paprika and other spices. Originating from medieval Hungary, goulash is a popular meal predominantly eaten in Central Europe but also in other parts of Europe.
Walking across the Chain Bridge, a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary. It was opened in 1849.
View from the top of the lift or “Budapest Castle Hill Funicular”, which is a funicular railway. It links the Chain Bridge at river level to Buda Castle above. The line was opened on March 2, 1870, and has been in municipal ownership since 1920. Check out my video at the end of this blog post to see what it’s coming back down the hill.
The Hungarian National Gallery, located at the top of the hill. I made it up to find an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, on loan from Mexico City’s Museo Dolores Olmedo. I will return tomorrow to see this show before I leave Budapest.
Matthias Church, a Roman Catholic church located in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion at the heart of Buda’s Castle District.
View of the Hungarian Parliament building across the river from the top of the hill.
Fisherman’s Bastion is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style situated on the Buda bank of the Danube, on the Castle hill, around Matthias Church.
The Buda side castle wall was protected by the fishermen’s guild and this is the reason why it was called fishermen’s Bastion. The guild of fishermen was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages. It is a viewing terrace, with many stairs and walking paths.
Crossing the Chain Bridge back to our Airbnb apartment. Two stone lion statues guard both bridgeheads. I love the lion statues, they are beautiful.

Check out the video I took, riding the lift down the hill.

 

 

Last Day in Munich, Germany

I spent my last day in Munich inside the Alte Pinakothek Museum. I love renaissance art, and this place had many of my favorite works.

The Alte Pinakothek houses much of the city’s most famous artwork, this museum’s collection includes renowned international works from the 14th through the 18th centuries.
Got my ticket and a locker to store my stuff.
The day that I was here, the museum was featuring Woman In Blue, a painting by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It’s part of the collection of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and on loan to Munich for 3 months.
The Raphael’s are amazing. On the left is “The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John”,1506. On the right is the “Madonna Tempi”, 1508.
Peter Paul Rubens “The apocalyptic woman”, between 1623 and 1624.
Lots of Peter Paul Rubens.
Johannes Vermeer “Woman in Blue”, 1663–1664.
El Greco “The Disrobing of Christ”, between 1580 and 1595.
Rembrandt “Self Portrait”, 1629.
One of my favorite painters, Parmigianino “Mary with Child”, 1503-1540. This work is so beautiful. I could stare at it all day long.
Raphael “Madonna della tenda”, 1514.
After the museum, I had lunch at Cafe Katzentempel. This kitty’s name is Baloo.
I didn’t catch this kitty’s name…
One more walk through the Marienplatz downtown before getting on my train.
I picked up these cute Oktoberfest souvenirs. I will cherish my time in Munich forever.

Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Castles

Our second day in Germany was reserved for the “Royal Castles” tour of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof castles.

The sight-seeing tour that we took.
One of the stops on our castle tour was in the town of Oberammergau. We stopped here for an hour. I had never heard of this little German town tucked away in the hills of the Bavarian region about an hour south of Munich. It was a little mountainside town that had frescoes painted on the town’s homes and buildings.
Some houses had fairy tales painted on them and some had religious paintings. It was so amazing to spend an hour walking through these little streets.
Today I wore my “Where’s Waldo” outfit that my friend Kelly got me. She said I needed it because I travel so much. I took this picture and posted it on my social media with the caption “Where in the World is Waldo?”
The gardens of the Linderhof castle.
At the entrance of Linderhof castle, waiting for the tour to begin.
Hohenschwangau Castle or “Schloss Hohenschwangau” (Upper Swan County Palace) is a 19th-century palace in southern Germany. It was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. It is located in the German village of Hohenschwangau.
Neuschwanstein Castle (New Swanstone Castle) is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The castle was intended as a home for the king until he died in 1886. It was open to the public shortly after his death.
The castle sits up high in the mountain and there is a bus that brings you up, but it drops you off here and it is still quite a hike to get to the entrance.
Inside the Throne Hall, pictures were not allowed but I was able to sneak this one of the details of the frescoes painted on the walls.
View from the castle of the town below of Füssen (where we had lunch earlier) and behind it; the core of Schwangau in front of the Forggensee reservoir.
A postcard of Oktoberfest that I watercolored for one of my friends in the United States.
Another postcard of Oktoberfest that I watercolored for one of my friends in the United States.
A postcard that I watercolored of Neuschwanstein Castle for my friend Kelly in the United States who got me my “Where’s Waldo?” outfit.

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Today we went to Oktoberfest in Munich! It was wonderful.

The Marienplatz (St. Mary, Our Lady’s Square) is a central square in the city center of Munich, Germany. It has been the city’s main square since 1158. This is a view of the city hall.
View of the Neues Rathaus and Frauenkirche looking west.
View of the Mariensäule, a Marian column located on the Marienplatz in Munich, Germany. Mary is revered here as Patrona Bavariae (Protector of Bavaria). The column is topped by a golden statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon as the Queen of Heaven, created in 1590. The Mariensäule in Munich was the first column of this type built north of the Alps and inspired erecting other Marian columns in this part of Europe.
The entrance to Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, which begins in Munich, Germany, on September 22. A celebration of Bavarian folk traditions, the event is attended yearly by more than 6.2 million tourists from around the world.
There are about 80 rides on the Oktoberfest run by carny families, most of who have been working for the Oktoberfest since the beginning of the 20th century.
Celebrating Oktoberfest with gingerbread hearts. These whimsical hearts are known as “Lebkuchenherz” (German for “gingerbread heart”). A gingerbread heart is a customary accessory for women who wear traditional dirndl dresses to Oktoberfest.
This was our beer tent for Oktoberfest. The Schottenhamel Spatenbrau is one of the most important tents of the Wiesn, as everything starts inside this tent. On the opening day of the Wiesn, at 12 pm on the dot, the mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter will tap the first keg and call out “O’zapft is!” confirming that the tapping was successful. It is only after this that all other tents may begin to serve beer. The Schottenhamel tent, which in 1867 was just a small beer booth with 50 seats, has become the largest Wiesn tent with 10,000 seats.
Our tickets to enter the tent reservation.
The appetizers at Oktoberfest, every table gets one. We had 2 tables.
Can’t go wrong with a beer and a pretzel. The pretzels are huge.
All beer served at the Oktoberfest tents must be from one of Munich’s six breweries—Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu. The beer must also follow the Reinheitsgebot. The dinner also comes with roasted chicken and potatoes.
View from the top of the Ferris wheel at Oktoberfest. Each of the tents holds around 10,000 people.
Inside the Paulanergarten tent.
Inside the Hacker-Festzelt tent.
Inside the Hofbrau Festzelt tent.

Last Day in Romania

Spent my last day in Romania walking around the city of Bucharest.

The Capitoline Wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus, the famous twin founders of Rome being fed by the wolf that allegedly raised them. The statue was favored by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who donated copies of the statues to various places around the world
One last walk through the streets of Bucharest to send off my postcards to the United States.
The Saint Spyridon the New Church (Romanian: Sfântul Spiridon Nou) is a Romanian Orthodox church in Bucharest, originally built with gothic influences in 1860.
The entrance to the church.
The altar of the church.
Sending off the watercolored postcards that I created in Romania for my friends back in the United States.

 

Transylvania, Romania

The next day we took a private tour of Transylvania, we wanted to visit both Poenari Fortress and Castle Bran.

Deep in the heart of Transylvania, lies Poenari Fortress. A ruined castle in Romania, which was home to Vlad the Impaler, aka, “Dracula”.
The fortress lies high on top of the Carpathian mountains. It was constructed around the beginning of the 13th century by Wallachians. In the 15th century, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock, Vlad III the Impaler repaired the structure, making it one of his main fortresses. Although the castle was used for many years after Vlad’s death in 1476, it eventually was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century. A landslide caused by an earthquake brought down parts of the castle which crashed into the river far below. It was slightly repaired and the walls and its towers still stand today.
Access to the citadel is made by climbing the 1,480 concrete stairs. (My legs hurt for a whole week after this climb).
It is said that one day Vlad Țepeș was hunting along the banks of the river and had noticed the ruins of an old castle on top of a cliff on Mount Albina, a cliff surrounded by the Argiș river, and inhabited only by vultures and other birds of prey. He decided that it would be the perfect place for a defensive fortress, so he conceived the design to restore it to its former glory.
Entering the castle ruins, you can wander at will, scrambling over original stones that have held up well over the centuries. Here I am by the door that leads to the “dungeon”.
The views from the top of Poenari are amazing! I shot video footage with my GoPro, as soon as I am able, I will post the footage.
This is Transylvania in Romania. Full of life and everything was so green.
Our tour guide even stopped so that we could buy homemade jam from a Romanian local.
After leaving Poenari Fortress, we made our way to Bran Castle, a national monument and landmark in Romania. The fortress is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” (although it is one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend, including Poenari Castle and Hunyadi Castle), it is often erroneously referred to as the home of the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There is, however, no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle, which has very little associations with Vlad the Impaler, voivode of Wallachia, the putative inspiration for Dracula.
Here I am in a room dedicated to the one and only, Vlad the Impaler.
The castle is so beautiful! It belonged to the Hungarian Kings but due to the failure of King Vladislas II (r. 1471–1516) to repay loans, the city of Brașov regained possession of the fortress in 1533.
Of course, I had to “sneak” in a glass of red wine, like a real vampiress.

Bucharest, Romania

Today we flew out to Bucharest, Romania. We missed our plane so we had to board another flight and were only behind schedule by about 2 hours.

The currency used here is the Romanian Leu. What I noticed was that it was printed on really pretty paper.
Walking through the streets of Bucharest.
Our little quaint hotel, the “Old City Bucharest NF Hotel” right in the heart of a city full of life.
The Rembrandt Hotel on the right, with the Grand Cafe Van Gogh adjacent.
One of the menu designs of the Van Gogh Cafe, of course you know we had to eat here!
The inside of the restaurant is so beautiful.
Van Gogh Cafe.
I ordered a raspberry daiquiri.
This town has tons of Dracula souvenirs and memorabilia.
Here I am with my cousins, walking around checking out the rest of Old Town Bucharest.