Sunday, December 28, 2008

Paris - Dec 28

A total WOW day. I really enjoyed the Notre Dame in the daylight today; more than on Christmas. The sun was hitting the windows just right and the light was incredible. We walked around outside as well and got the full beneift of the architecture. But the first real WOW moment came when we walked into Saint Chappele which is floor to ceiling stained glass windows, We walked up the stairs and into the chapel and it took my breath away. This was built to house Jesus' crown of thorns.

My second WOW moment came when we walked into the gallery with some of Monet's water lily paintings. I had no idea they were so huge. Beautiful. Much more moving than looking at the Mona Lisa! Went on to the D'Orsay Museum and saw van Goghs, more Monets, Manets, and on and on. Great day.

Spell check isn't working and this is a difficult keyboard, so hope this is readable.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Paris - Saturday Dec 27 - COLD

We started out at the Louvre today and even though we were very selective and only saw a bit of two wings, it still took us around three hours. Sunny and cold outside, so we were glad to be inside. Also saw Napoleans Tomb and went up in the Eiffel Tour. It was a two hour wait to get up there, and by the time we made it we were so cold, we really couldn't stay long at all. Beautiful view though. Tomorrow we will slow down a bit and make sure we stay warm.

Haven't really gotten into the food aspect yet, although I have had a baguette sandwhich and quiche. Hope the next few days to hit a few cafes and talk Tara into a dinner out! Bribing her really doesn't work, so will have to find something else!

Although we've been in Vienna and Munich, you can really see the difference in style here. Lots of fur (which we saw in Vienna and Munich too), but somehow it is more stylish here. Even the kids winter coats are styled and cute.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Paris December 26 - * updated Jan 1

Clear cold day with wind. Versailles was beautiful and cold. Walked and walked. We didn't get up early as planned, as our room is next to two dorm rooms, and they were very loud last night. (We were supposed to be in a dorm room as well, but somehow ended up in a room by ourselves!) Then, others were very loud this morning. AND, I didn't close the window tight last night and it came open and was banging. I woke up because the room was so cold, but thought all the noise was from the dorm room! When I finally work up enough to realize it was the window, it was pretty darn cold. Anyway, we ended up sleeping in and didn't get to Versailles until 11am. It was still plenty of time to see all we wanted to see -- if it had been summer I know that we wouldn't have made it through everything. Amazing how busy everything is now (same as when we were in Prague) and I just can't imagine these places in the summer!

*The rooms in the palace at Versailles reminded me much of the rooms in other palaces I have been in: every last detail of the room very opulent - from the wallpaper and lighting to the furniture and floor covering. However, there was one huge difference. For some reason, there is an installation of Jeff Koonz artwork throughout the palace. There was an explanation, but nothing could justify his garish sculputures placed in the middle of these classic rooms. For those unfamiliar with this artist's work, here is what Wikepedia has about this particular art show:

"Considered as his first retrospective in France, the 2008 exhibition of seventeen Koons sculptures at the Chateau de Versailles also marked the first ambitious display of a contemporary American artist organized by the chateau. The New York Times reported that “several dozen people demonstrated outside the palace gates” in a protest arranged by a little-known, right-wing group dedicated to French artistic purity."

We stopped at the Eiffel Tower on our way back, but decided not to go up because it was soooo cold and windy. Will do that over the next few days. We took a local bus to see different neighborhoods - which we did in slow-motion as we hit traffic time. So many distinct neighborhoods with their own stores, cafes, veterinarians(!), etc.

Ok, a bit more about this hostel. It is on the Montmarte hill; we enter at the upper street level, and the hostel goes down at least three floors, running along the hill. Out of all the hostels I have stayed in this is the most questionable in terms of cleanliness, but at least we have our own room. We had a hard time finding a place for the seven nights within our price range. We are paying 25 eu per night each, and it includes breakfast. This is kind of at the high end for us. (I am appalled at how the Hungarian forint has fallen: let's just say my salary wouldn't even start to pay rent at home). We also have free internet, but the keyboard I am using right now is the only one that is an American keyboard. One is the same as we have in Hungary, and the others are French -- so the keys are all different, making it very difficult to type much. I am in the small lobby right now, with people waiting all over the place to use this. The desk clerk is new - he was being trained when we checked in - and just a bit ago, the front door of the hotel somehow locked and people couldn't get in! He was having a heck of a time trying to get it unlocked, and more and more people were waiting outside. He finally went downstairs to do something, and one of the guys in the lobby got up and used a credit card and opened the door! Why he didn't help before, I don't know....

Must go and plan the day tomorrow and take some aleve to ease these sore muscles....

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day Paris - updated January 1

Notre Dame on Christmas Eve.

We hung our Christmas tree decorations above our beds last night and pulled our miniture crackers for a little toy and had German gingerbread for a treat.

Today we walked around the Mountmarte area and saw the places many famous artists lived while getting their start as artists. Saw the Moulin Rouge: I tried to watch the movie before we came; but I couldn't stand it, but it is one of Tara's favorite movies.

One of the travel podcasts I listened to about Paris warned of looking up too much and not looking down enough to avoid the dog poop on the sidewalk. Was glad to have had the warning, as Parisians definately do not clean up after their dogs.

Basically a laid back day == will do laundry this evening:

MERRY CHRISTMAS or on this keyboard ?erry Christ,qs1

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Just got back from Notre Dame -- went to the 10pm mass. Very full, great choir: Sang Gloria in Notre Dame!!!

Cold and crisp out: french keyboqrd is ,qking this too hqrd to zrite: Love to qll:

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Only one word for Salzburg:  WET.  We arrived here this morning and went to the Market.  Loved it.  But, couldn't stay out long because it was so wet.  Global warming for sure.  Saw a few people in traditional wool Austrian coats/hats/capes, but everyone needed umbrellas.  Found an Irish pub again!  (Thanks Kyle!)   Cheap irish coffee, beer and pizza.  Backpacker's budget!    Back to the hostel by 3 and into bed for a nap while our clothes dripped.  

One of our roommates is a girl from Renton who has been in Spain for a semester.  Good listening to her stories....

Hopefully less rain in Munich, but word is it's raining there too.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday, December 20, Vienna

I ended up leaving Kisvarda at 9:45am on Firday, skipping all of my classes with the approval of the assistant Headmaster. Due to the strike and the slowdown on the trains, this looked like it might be the only train out of Kisvarda on Friday. We had a 8:10pm train reserved from Budapest to Vienna, so really wanted to make it. Had to get of in Szolnok and stand around and wait for a train to be announced to Bduapest. We were there maybe a half hour and in that time, only two trains came and went. Our train took us to a suburb of Budapest where we had to switch to a city bus to a metro exchange where we caught the metro to the train station! Pouring rain and dark. Our train from Budapest was not going but there was a bus going in half an hour, so we took off at 6:00pm from Bduapest and got into Vienna around 10pm. Easily found our Hostel and room and hunkered in for the night.

Today, still rainy and very windy. We were out and exploring before 9am. Went to the Albertina Museum of Art --- Klee's, Picaso's, Monet's, etc, etc. Off to the first of 3 or 4 Christmas markets. Stopped and had lunch in an Irish Pub (it was available and we were hungry), and then off to the remaining markets. Had a great time looking at all the booths, toys, trinkets, decorations, and food in the pouring pouring rain!

We leave early tomorrow for Salzburg for the day. We will overnight and leave on Monday morning for Munich.

Oh, when we walked into the hostel in Vienna, in the lobby was one of the other CETP teachers that went on the Transylvania trip with us! Scott will be in Munich, at the same hostel, as us on Monday night! Nice to see him. He is traveling a bit and then is heading home....he decided to just stay for one semester.

Also, today we were leaving our hostel and I saw a sign with an arrow that said "Einbahn" and I kind of made note, in case I needed some landmark to find our way back. (Tara does all the map reading and I am pretty much just following her lead, but every once in a while I think I'd better have some idea where I am!) So, whatever the "Einbahn" was, I now knew it was close to our hostel. A little further down the road, I saw another sign for the "Eihnbahn", pointing in the same direction. Later in the day, when we were in a completely different part of the city I see a sign again for the "Einbahn" with an arrow. It struck me as funny so I looked around, and there was ANOTHER one of these signs pointing in a different direction......oh, I am slow. Einbahn must mean, one way street!!! Now you know why Tara does all the map reading!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More holiday celebrations...

Wow, busy week and I am loving it.

Last night was a wonderful performance by many students of the music school. Extremely talented kids. They take learning an instrument, or singing, as seriously as they take their studies. I was confused about who we were visiting. One of Mike's colleagues, Zeta, at the other high school has twin boys who played their instruments in the performance. We then went to their house in Ajak (ayak) for dinner. WHEREVER you go, you are always given a glass of palinka first! I have learned: if you empty the glass, they will refill it, so you must leave a little in the bottom unless you are up for a wild night!!! Zeta's husband is a Doctor in Ajak and they have a daughter in college in Budapest. It was a very pleasant evening just visiting.

This morning I got to talk to all my bookclub friends - it's great to be able to keep in touch this way. Only problem is they are going to Tenakee without me for a bookclub! Hmm, I think I will choose the next book and have the gathering here!

I made it through my scheduled six classes, and luckily did not have any extras. Edit called the train station for me, and they told her to call back tomorrow. Each day there are some trains that run, but they don't know until that day. So, fingers crossed, there will be some train out of here tomorrow. All the teachers are helping me, and Istvan has been asking his students if their parents will by driving to Budapest in the next day or two. One way or another, it is going to work!

I was quite happy to hear that Molly has made it to Anchorage and then will be in Juneau for Christmas. Just a big relief to me.

Tonight was a charity performance at the theatre across the street. It was organized by the 12C class and it turned out very nice. I was given a free ticket by the "form teacher" for the class, but still made a donation when I left. As soon as I was at my door, David came running out of the dorm, asking me to come to a party. I have not had the dorm classes all week, and have missed dinner the last three nights too. So I went over and took some of the peanut butter with me and the kids all tried it. The snack du jour was dinosaur cheese puffs, skewered by pretzel sticks and hot dog and bun shaped and flavored cheese puffs!!! Are these kind of snacks coming out at home too? We had good rap music and a strobe light going --- I felt pretty cool!

Going to pack, get my notes in order for classes, and be ready to leave on the train whenever there is one! Classes are short and there is no 5, 6 or 7th period as there is another performance and then a special lunch...don't know now if I will get to participate or not.....just depends on the trains....

Will try to post during my trip.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Busy Holidays no matter where you are...

Yesterday, Tuesday was quite a busy day for me, although I was only scheduled for two classes. First, I had an extra class because a teacher was out. Then, at 2pm there was a Christmas concert in the chapel put on my the students from the music school here in Kisvarda. Immediately following that, I met Mike, the other CETP teacher for coffee and a visit. I met two of his students and had fun visiting with them as they practiced their English - both were quite good. He invited me to join him tonight, for a concert at the music school in which one of his students will participate, and then we are invited by the student's mother, Zeta, to their house for dinner! So, he walked me down to the music school to make sure I knew where it is, so I can find my way there on my own. We stopped at the store, and I bought a bottle of wine to take with me to Marianne and Tibor's house, where I was going for dinner. (She is one of the English teachers here at St. Laszlo.)

We had a great dinner. Their teenage daughter, and her 22 year old boyfriend were there. The boyfriend, Zsolt, had many questions for me and we enjoyed visiting. Also, they received a call from a friend who was stuck in Kisvarda for a few hours due to the train strike, so Tibor, went and got him, and he joined us for dinner as well. He is a professor at one of the Universities in Debrecen, and knew Marianne and Tibor in the Ukraine. We had Ukrainian vodka, home made palinka from cherries and another fruit, champagne and the Tokaj wine I brought! Oh yea, we had cavier for an appetizer, a delicious chicken dish with mashed potatoes and salad, and tiramisu for dessert. I was there quite late, visiting with them.

Today in the teacher's room I served the two sockeye smoked salmon fillets that I brought with me and told the teachers thank you for helping me with everything. It disappeared very quickly and everyone loved it.

I'm off now to the teacher's English class to hear them present on what they have learned, and then off to the concert and I said, busy time of year, no matter where you are....

Oh, and I had two extra classes today -- I really hate that!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Great day

Am going to try to post more often with my daily activities and thoughts and discoveries....we'll see! (Yea, just like I am going to exercise every day.)

I made it out the door this morning to walk -- that's three days in a row. Am thinking of how much walking we did in Prague and how much lies before me with Austria and Paris, so thought I'd best keep it up. I should have gone earlier, or taken a different route though, cause on my way back, the streets were BUSY with kids and parents and others heading to school and work. Two kids stopped me and asked if I had been running - yea, right - and then one of the students in 9E said she saw me from the bus. Tomorrow, a bit earlier.

There are two owls in the trees in the courtyard between my building and the school canteen! They have been there the last few weeks, and I got a photo today! Kind of cool!

Had three classes today and only one was affected (e or a?) by the railroad strike, with 4 students absent. Kind of funny - no teachers even mentioned it to me. It wouldn't cross Edit's mind, Istvan was preoccupied, and actually when talking to Marianna about students and work, she did mention one kid was out because of the strike. Two of the classes had homework assignments to turn in, and neither of them did it. Had them work on writing and then speaking in class, and then marked them down one mark for not having done it as homework. Haven't really gotten any guidance on marking down students, but seems reasonable. In the 9E beginners, some of the kids have still been out of control. I had to talk to them sternly at the end of class - - kind of funny trying to do it in simple, single words, as these kids are in their first year -- 4th month - of learning English. This is the last chance - next I will go to their homeroom teacher. Still had a good class though - I really like this age group.

One day I will tell you about the Naplo", the teacher's grade book. I think I am finally figuring it out, but will wait to explain until I know I have it figured out...what a pain.

I signed up to go to My Fair Lady in Nyiregyhaza with the other teachers via bus after school on January 12. Should be fun!

Oh, one of the teachers told me that I should hurry down to the office and place my order for sausages -- they would be a good thing for me to take on my trip! Apparently, the teachers are combining an order to get a discount! I didn't run anywhere.....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where does the time go?

Sunday evening, one more week until Christmas break - and yes, for this school it is Christmas break, not the pc Holiday break. There are advent wreaths in every classroom, often lit by the students between the classes. The trees in the courtyard by the St. Lazslo statue have lights on them. There was a Christmas vigil held in the Chapel on Thursday night with the Hostel kids (and I attended the first part with the singing). The students are asking to sing Christmas songs in every class (I know, they just want to get out of school work), and they know a number of songs in English.

Yesterday morning I went into Nyiregyhaza and met Tara who came in from Mariapoc and we discussed our Christmas trip - and many other things! We are both quite excited to see the Christmas Markets in Austria and Munich before we head to Paris. However, today we were notified there is a train workers strike -- mostly just in the Eastern part of Hungary - where we are. Now this afternoon I got word that the strike might spread across the whole country and could very well last through the week! We are supposed to leave from our towns on Friday afternoon to catch our international train from Budapest at 8:30pm. At this point, I can't worry about it, and will just continue planning and getting ready! Apparently many of the airport workers in Budapest are on strike also. Should be interesting to see how this plays out so close to Christmas.

I've meant to talk about the sausages! A few weeks ago I was instructed to be in the teacher's room between certain classes, as a representative from one of the meat packaging plants would be at the school with samples of sausages for us to try. Well, it was the day I was leaving for Prague and didn't make it in there, but Edit brought me a plate full of different sausages just before I left. There was one that was black with rice in it that I tried and didn't care for at all. There was another that was pretty good, but awfully greasy. Don't remember much about the others. I took off on my trip, and didn't think about it again.

Well this past week one morning I went into the canteen for breakfast and the students had a single sausage on their plates, no bread (!) and nothing else and this was breakfast. I slowly backed away and made my own breakfast. Then, two nights later, dinner was mashed potatoes and sausages: the two kinds I just described. I ate the one, but the black one I just couldn't handle. I looked around at the student's plates and saw they were all eating the black one and leaving the other on their plates.

Then, on Thursday, there was a "name day" (more on that below) celebration in the teacher's room for all the teacher's with name days in December. I helped set out the plates, napkins, etc., and there were pastries and cakes. After the next class one of the teachers instructed me to go back over to teacher's room because the good stuff was now there: puddings, sausages, bread and pickles! So off I went, and lo and behold, there are the same sausages again! Obviously, the sales rep had been successful not only selling the sausages for use in the cafeteria, but also for the teachers! There was no pudding though.

Those of you in the know, realize that the black sausage is also called blood pudding, or black pudding and is a sausage made with blood, grains and other ground up meat parts. And that was the "pudding" the teacher mentioned. I'm glad I didn't know what it was before I tried it, and legitimately didn't care for the taste, and not just because of the name and what it is made from.

I'm just waiting to see when they will be served next!

Name days are the Saint's day that someone is named after. Some names actually have two saints days! This day is celebrated by the holder of the names in the same manner we celebrate birthdays. They don't celebrate, or recognize birthdays at the same level we do, instead it is on their Name Day that they get recognition, good wishes and gifts.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Szent Miklos Day and Christmas

St. Nicholas Day on December 6, is celebrated here with visits from St. Nicholas -- a Santa figure. He brings gifts of toys to young children and gifts of candy, fruit and other goodies to everyone. Kids at school exchanged gift bags with each other and teachers gave students chocolate Santa Clauses - like our chocolate Easter bunnies - on Friday December 5. Since I was not quite myself still (from the night outside the train station), I forgot to take pictures! And, since no one told me, I didn't have chocolate for the kids -- although most of the exchanging was done in their homeroom classes of which I don't have one.

One teacher kept coming into the the teacher's room with wine gift bags --- he had 4 of the bags lined up! Then he came in with empty hands and I asked him what the problem was --- didn't he have another bag of wine to bring in?

In the teacher's room, we were all gifted with a very nice box of chocolate truffles. Earlier this week, one of the English teachers came and got me and took me to the office, where we both received gift certificates for 6900 forints (around $30) which can be redeemed at most of the grocery stores.

On Christmas, the families will exchange gifts again, this time from the baby Jesus. Santa does not play into the picture on Christmas....he's done and gone at this point!

I asked the kids about their gift giving/receiving today. They celebrate their name day, their birthday, St. Miklos Day and Christmas with gift giving. The also give gifts on Valentines Day and women get gifts on Woman's day and men get gifts on Easter from the women. Lot's of opportunities to make a sale for the enterprising!

The trip home: Prague to Kisva'rda

Well, our flight was late leaving Prague, which meant instead of having just a little over an hour to catch our train, we had less than a half hour. I should have known the trip wouldn't be smooth when we got on the plane, and the ticket agent had given me the middle seat, even though I asked for an aisle. I got kind of pissy and told Tara that I don't sit in middle seats, all pompous like now that I look back. As soon as I could catch the flight attendant's attention, I asked if I could move to one of the 10 empty rows behind us, and thankfully, she said yes.

I had carefully planned the trip --- I had a plan A, but no plan B --- so, guess I didn't really plan it carefully! I didn't have a schedule of other trains - just the times and transfers for my train under plan A. Although I had a ticket for the train, I didn't have a seat reservation that was also required. I was hoping I could get that at the station at the airport. Tara didn't have a return ticket for the train, as she was getting paid while we were traveling and needed to wait until she got paid to buy the ticket. We came into Terminal A, but the train stops at Terminal B. And, there is no actual station there! No place to buy tickets. At least Tara knew this in advance.... so, as I was waiting for my bag, Tara was on the phone to another one of the CETP teachers, asking her to check the train schedule for other possibilities. At this point we realized pretty much our only option was to bust butt and take a cab to the next station closer into Budapest where we could get the seat reservation and the ticket, and hopefully make the train. 4000 forints and a made dash up stairs and through an overpass, we are in front of the ticket office, and the cashier tells us the train has already left - we didn't make it in time.

Tara is on the phone again, trying to figure out the next train when the reality is becoming clearer and clearer to us: there is no next train all the way to Nyiregyhaza, let alone on past it to Kisvarda, where Tara was going to spend the night with me, and then catch the bus to her village in the morning. We both had classes to teach in the morning, with mine being at 7:45am. So, a lot of broken Hungarian, English, talking into the cell phone, arguing with the ticket clerk, etc., it is decided that we will take the train as far was we can get that night, sleep for a few hours in the station and then take the first train from there in the morning - gettin me into Kisvarda at 7:20am. It was already 7pm, and the train now wouldn't leave until around 9pm and we would get into the station around 1am and our departure was around 5am.

The station we were going to was Puspokladany and yes, it was open at night, 'cause Briggi (the CETP teacher who Tara was talking to on the phone) got kicked off the train and had to spend the night there last time she was here. As we waited for the train, it struck me that I might have misunderstood this about Briggi staying there before. So I asked Tara if she meant Briggi had to overnight there last time she came from Budapest recently, or did she mean when Briggi was in Hungary two years ago! Well, it was 2 years ago, and yes, my suspicions were right on. We arrived at the train station, and all lights were out; except those on in the WC building right next to the train station which is where I desperately needed to go anyway. So, we headed directly to the WC for me to use the toilet, and low and behold, someone (a man) had already staked claim to the bathroom floor for the night! He moved enough to make room for me to get in the door and into the stall (although the stall door wouldn't close)!

The sign on the station said it was closed until 3am. We looked at each other and realized there wasn't much we could do. There were a number of trains stopped for the night, and there were workers around cleaning the trains. There was one other passenger who stayed on our train until he was kicked off by the cleaners, and then he reentered one car after another, right after/before the cleaners. He obviously had experience at this, and we probably should have followed his example. It was around freezing and we had our clothes piled on and we spent two hours walking and pacing on the platform to keep warm. As soon as the doors opened, we were inside, and I staked out a bench. Tara sat and watched a movie on her ipod, unable to sleep.

I reached the train station in Kisvarda at 7:20. There were no cabs, so I tried to call one, unsuccessfully in my broken Hungarian. I had just approached a young gal in the station to ask if she could ask for the cab on my cell phone for me, when one arrived. I made it to my flat at 7:30, ripped off my dirty clothes, changed into clean clothes, and ran out the door with my book bag to my class that started at 7:45!!! I couldn't believe I made it.

Prague Day 4

Thought I'd best keep this in order. We started the day on Tuesday early in Prague with a list of all the places we wanted to see, and a mapped out route, thanks to Tara. We needed to be at the airport by 3:30 and we figured it would be about 45 minutes to get there. So off we went to see the sights on our list: the inside of both St. Nicholas churches, the Lady before Tyn church, to walk past the "dancing building" also known as the Fred and Ginger building because of it's unique architecture, and past the national theatre. This walk entailed crossing the river, going up a hill and then following the river for about a mile before we crossed back and headed back to the old town square. As we walked, we past the oddest group of sculptures of babies!
Also along the river was the John Lennon wall:
The walk was beautiful, with the sun breaking through the winter clouds for a few minutes. We hit one area where there were Art Neavou style buildings, one after another. Took a lot of pictures of balconies, while we discussed which flat we wanted to live in.

We headed to the airport earlier than we needed to, but didn't mind as I would just rather not have the hassles of running late. However, we didn't really need to worry about running late at this point. See the next entry about our trip home!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Prague - Day Three

What happened to day two? Didn't get to a computer, so will come back to that day later.

Today we got out of the hostel around 9:30 and made our way to the Jewish Ghetto. We toured three different synagogues: the Spanish Synagogue, the Old-New Synagogue and another that I don't have the name of it front of me right now. The Jewish quarter in Prague was not destroyed by the Nazi's as Hitler planned to make the area into a museum of an extinct race! The people from the ghetto, all 188,000+ were sent to Terezine and then most of them onto death camps. Terezine was a "model" Jewish Quarter where many Jews were housed and was used by Hitler to show the red cross and others that the Jews were not being sent to their deaths. In the one synagogue, the walls are covered with the names of all the Jewish citizens who were moved out of the ghetto. In the upstairs is art work from the children who lived in Terezine. Quite moving and difficult place to view. Upon exiting this Synagogue, we went through the Jewish Cemetery. It was in use for 2-300 years and the grave stones are literally on top of each other. The graves are 12 deep. The Spanish Synagogue is patterned after the Alhambra in Spain and is absolutely gorgeous. The old-new synagogue was a typical synagogue from the time when it was built. I will verify my facts when I get back to Kisvarda and will update this at that time.

From there we crossed the river and went back to the castle, as the tickets were good for two days and we were unable to see everything the first day. This time we approached from a different side and walked through a very nice park and came in a side entrance. We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard - it's an hourly event and not of the same scales as at Buckingham Palace - at this side entrance and were the only ones there to view it! At the castle today we went through the Abby which holds an art collection, the royal residence which is mainly bare, and the Basilica behind St Vitus' church.

We walked back into the old town square area, through it into another square and hunted down dinner. Using one of the guide books we found the restaurant we were looking for on the 5th floor of a department store! Good Czech cafeteria food: fried cheese with potatoes, served with tarter sauce!!!! This was listed as one of the traditional foods and they just happened to have it on the menu today. It was great to take a break off of our feet after walking for hours. No public transit for us!

One of the best things about Prague is that every time you turn a corner, another steeple or tour or art nuveau building comes into sight and takes your breath away. The day was not as cod as yesterday, but still overcast for most of the day. The views from castle hill were typical of pictures of winter in Prague that I have seen, although there is no snow.

Tonight we watched a marionette show! It was Don Giovanni in Italian, so although we could not understand the words, there was a storyline synopsis that allowed us to follow. The working of the marionette puppets was incredible to see. There was a team of 6-8 puppeteers who were quite skillful.

Now off to bed, so we can get up early to cram in the last few things before we head to the airport around 2:00.

(Day two: 9am - 4pm at Castle, back to hostel for rest and grocery store dinner, back out to blues club and through the closed Christmas market at midnight.)