Prague-Longest Day Of The Year

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Our day started at 9:30 am with breakfast at our hotel, for the next 10 hours we walked, walked, breaked, walked, walked, dined, walked, walked and fell into bed around 9:30 pm. By the way we would highly recommend Hotel AbsolutIMG_2464 our room was spacious and clean as was the bathroom. Included in the cost was breakfast lots of bread,cheese, cold cuts, fruit, cereal and most importantly coffee. Location is great has it is only a four minute walk from the transit system which meant we were in the inner city in no time.

As our stay in Prague was short we decided to take a tour, picking a tour was not easy. It seems all the tour companies meet in the same area on mass. We arrived in The Old Town Square where about 15-20 sign waving, umbrella or bottle swinging as well as theatrical tour guides were trying to get the attention of the tourists. To say it was chaotic is an understatement it, took us about 15 minute to find a tour group we were aloud to join.

Unfortunately my son Derek did not talk to us for a few days as we informed him we took the Sandmann’s FREE tour (guides ask for tips later), which is the competition for the other tour companies around Europe where you pay for your tour. The free tour company was started by a young man who has an extremely rich father that financed all his tour companies. The idea being you have a free tour and then tip the guide whatever you want.

How does Sandmann make money you ask the tour guide has to pay the company 3 Euros per tourist that was in their group so you can imagine the guides want some big tips otherwise they could be left with making know money that day. Hence with the other companies guides get paid regularly and are not desperately begging for tips. Lesson when it is free there is always someone who has to pay.

Hoping before we leave we will be out of the dog house with Derek. (more…)

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Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Guitar Hero and Gaudi Inspired

For the young music lovers of Vienna there is a spectacular event that happens in summer, Die Donau Insel Fest or The Danube Island (Open Air) Festival. It is a 3 day all day music event where bands from all over Austria, as well as some international ones perform live. With 21 stages there is music for everyone, heavy metal, folk, country, jazz, old rock, new rock, indy and my favourite blues band Wiener Linien Blues Band.IMG_2311

Now you may ask how do I come to have a favourite band from Austria? I am a bit bias as my (3rd) cousin plays for this band, he is their lead guitarist. Boy can he play and the band makes sure he does a few solos this would get everybody moving. They did play one of my favourites Mustang Sally  which made it a great night for me.IMG_2327

Steve and I did listen to another band a female string quartet, were they different. They would play traditional folk songs with a bit rock, jazz and other music genres mixed in. Their music style was something we had never heard before,  enjoyed it so much  that we bought their CD.

The amazing thing about all of this is that this great muscial entertainment is for free and they do this every summer. Steve and will be checking our calendar to make sure the next time we come to Vienna we are here for the Donau Insel Fest.IMG_2330

Now from music to architecture, a few times the name  Friedensreich Hundertwasser  was mentioned to us as one of Austria’s famous architects. (more…)

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 9:04 am  Comments (1)  

A Wonderful Surprise

IMG_2395Before I write about the surprise let me tell you about Schloss Schönbrunn. It is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria. Built as as a palace and summer residence for the Hapsburg family, construction started 1696 and completed 1749 with the final touches coming from Empress Maria Tersia. During her reign it was considered to be Austria’s “golden era”. The grounds holds an extensive park and a zoo that is the oldest of its kind in the world.

It was constructed in 1751 by order of Kaiser (Emperor) Franz I Maria Tersia’s husband. At the time it consisted of 12 enclosures inhabited by the appropriate sized animal.

About 20 years ago Steve and I along with our two little ones visited the zoo. We walked away feeling very sad for the animals especially the elephants (were chained). This experience left me wondering why the city of Vienna had not closed down the Zoo.

Fast forward 20 years Steve and I enjoy the surprise of our life. We had over the years heard that tremendous changes had occurred at the zoo and we should go see it. But our past memories kept haunting us, this time there was a hook. Artists had come into the zoo and constructed environmental messages within some of the enclosures.

(notice Canada tattoos on shoulder on ankle)

IMG_2396 Naturally we had to see what this was all about, we walked through the gates with apprehension only to receive a wonderful surprise especially when we saw the enclosure for the elephants.

OUTSIDE ( Hut with snow on message Should There Be Snow in Winter?)

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(Indoor enclosure for elephants it also as an viewing gallery from above, what a change!)

I recently checked the world ranking for the zoo, many sights have ranked it number one and not too far behind is the Berlin zoo ranked number 3. Looks like we maybe checking out another zoo.IMG_2401

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Lions, tigers and bears oh my.IMG_2445

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Shy Pandas, photo the right is of the little baby panda that was born two years ago at the zoo, the mother is on the left.

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Steve’s favourite animal Rhino with it’s armor on.IMG_2457

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Going to the zoo, zoo how about you, you, you!

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Discovering The New In The Old

I am letting the pictures do the talking as I am taking a new look at the buildings and monuments of Vienna.

I realized so often we take pictures on a broader scale as oppose to a small one the little details many times are missed.

Mozart MemorialIMG_2283

(more…)

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just When You Thought You Have Seen Everything

Vienna is a wealth of leisure activities, my favourite are the coffee houses and Eis salons, there are many other activities but one of the most famous is the Vienna Prater. Unlike our CNE which is only open for 3 weeks, the Prater is open at least 6 months out of the year 7 days a week.

I could also go on about the less working hours for all concerned eg. hard to find stores open beyond 6:00 pm and the longer paid holidays. One could say leisure is more important than working 24/7 (so why can’t North America adopt this lifestyle?). Hence the reason why Steve and I are always seeing full coffee houses, restaurants and wine bars everytime we go into the city. Most of the people filling these places are the people of Vienna themselves.

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Back to the Prater, the land where it stands was once hunting grounds in 1560 for Emperor Maximilian. In 1766, Emperor Joseph II donated the area to the Viennese as a public leisure center (even back then leisure was important). Where upon the emperor also allowed the establishment of restaurants and snack bars, thus began the birth of the Prater. The “better” class of people came here in horse-drawn carriages, Waltz King Johann Strauss performed here much to the delight of the Viennese people.

Now I wrote about this to tell you about a lesser known Prater. Around 1900 one quarter of the originally inhabitants of 10 district (Favoriten) in Vienna had come mainly from Bohemia and Moravia (now part of Czech Republic). Not only did they live in the 10 district the also worked for the largest local employer, the Wienerberg brick factory . Thus when a smaller version of the Vienna Prater came to be in the Laaer Woods about a 150 years ago it would be known as Böhmischer Prater (Bohemian Prater). (more…)

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

It Is A Long Way Down August 1, 2008

All I can say, I was glad I was the one taking pictures and not driving. However when I think about it being on the passenger side going up the mountains was no picnic. Everytime I stopped taking pictures and looked over the side realized it would not take much for our car to flip off the mountain. When a tour bus came down my heart jumped as we had to move over slightly to give it room. As far as I was concerned there was no room, however with Steve being on the mountain side he felt he had lots of room. Hence I decided to take pictures non stop till we go to the top. I did not even notice if Katrina was nervous or not I was so focused being the photographer.

By now you are wondering where in Spain are these scary mountains, Manresa.IMG_1848

Manresa is in the interior of the province of Barcelona and it is here where we did the heart attack drive up the mountains of Montserrat in order to see the Monastery that sits up in these mountains. Lets just say after that drive everybody had a queasy stomach and we were quite happy to get out of the car.IMG_1858

The basilica was built in 1592. It had to be reconstructed after the Napoleonic invasion then again in the 19th century and in 1939. Beginning of the 20th century several chapels were built in the mountains as well. IMG_1869

There is also a musem, as well as a luxury hotel and hostel. And if you were lucky you could also eat with the monks. Well not actually seat with them but sit in the same eating area as them. Do expect to have any conversation with them as they kept a vow of silence. After I flew home Katrina and Steve spent a couple a nights at the hostel and hiked in the mountains which was breath taking. As you will notice from the pictures these are very unusually formed mountains.

Just to let you know the car ride down was much easier maybe because I was on the mountain side. It was hard for me to believe that my trip was coming to an end as we drove down.

However I knew there would be some new adventure waiting for me next summer.IMG_1859

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Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Hot, Hot July 25-30, 2008

We rented a car and drove to the coast, staying in the town of Cadaqués (fishing village) . It is a small town north of Barcelona just south of the French border it was a favourite holiday place of Salvador Dali. We were told there would not be too many tourists here, I think someone forgot to tell the tourists that, however it was still very enjoyable on the Mediterranean coast. Germans and French out numbered the English tourists, it really seemed out of place to speak English yet there must been alot coming from England as the menus were offered in all four languages.

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Steve enjoyed the coastal life style sitting on the front veranda of the Hostel where we were staying while doing his work.Katrina and I loved the much warmer climate especially during our walks to the coast line and finding our own personal swimming spot.We did manage to find a nice one and we unplugged Steve from his computor and spent a couple hours there enjoying the sun, water and sea life.

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Our next costal vacation was at Palafrugel was it ever beautiful there and hot. This place was packed with tourists, however we managed to find a very nice place Hotel Bo. The management went out of their way to accomodate our short stay.

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You could not lie on the white sandy beach for too long, before having to jump into the water. You were a roasting duck without a beach umbrella.

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Alas we could only stay for two days as we needed to head back to Barcelona in order for me to catch my flight home. We did make a stop along the way before we reached the city of Barcelona and that was a hair raising drive. Catch the full story on the next posting.

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 7:07 am  Leave a Comment