Prague: The story of the Parents & their patron Saint Ludwila.

Tuesday, Sept 17th

YAY! Mom & Dad's plane arrives in Vienna at 9am this morning! I'm super excited!!! Natasja and I took a spin around Praha since it would take them 3.5 hours to get to here.

On our walk we took note of the very pious beggars on the Charles Bridge, saw a lady getting a fishy pedicure and watched chilly newlyweds make a video in the Old Town Square (they held hands & twirled).

Then we started back to Miss Sophie's to wait for the call to go meet my parents at their hotel. And we waited… and waited… and then when I couldn't wait any more I called.

They were lost. 😦 Super lost. For at least an hour. I waited another hour and when I called back they were stress-driving through Prague (did I mention they HATE big city driving?). Mom was trying to read the street signs (in Czech) and I'm trying to find them on my map-app on my ipad and tell them where to turn. Meanwhile, Natasja and I are standing on a streetcorner in the 14th largest city in Europe hoping to spot them as they drive by! We… we needed some help.

Nameste Miru

Then help appeared~ in the form of St. Ludmila! (The Gothic church at Nameste Miru!) Mom says- “I can see two black steeples!” We could see them too! There was lots of excited squealing, then dad pulled off the side of the road and Natasja & I hopped in! SUCCESS!!! Finally reunited!!! It was 5pm. Mom had optimistically predicted a 1pm arrival. Whew. We directed Dad to a parking spot and decide to grab some dinner while we evaluated the (super-jetlagged) situation. Finally! They were done with 26+ hours of traveling! Yawn!

Over Beuf Bourguignon, soup and Mushroom Risotto Mom & Dad decided they were just too tired to try and find their hotel. They were going to stay at Miss Sophie's too! After checking, in we parked the car in a ramp across the street and walked down to Wenceslas Square to give the parents a little taste of the city.

Good King Wenseslas was raised by his Grandmother, Saint Ludmila (the double steepled church was named for her) and became the Duke of Bohemia. Wenseslas was known for caring for the poor and was so beloved by the Czech people that he was crowned King, after his death in 935.

We managed to keep Mom & Dad up until 8pm- then after tucking them into their bunk beds (yes… they were both on top bunks) Natasja and I went out for a Czech beer. Dang, those monks really make great beer! Tomorrow we'd get to play Prague tour guides. For now we rest.


Wednesday, Sept 18

9am we decided to take the 'rents out to breakfast at Zanzibar, (the restaurant by the fantastical monster fountain) and had great omelets and ginger tea.

Then, we tried our hand at the public transit system… That was a bit of a debacle! We bought tickets and got on a bus… headed the wrong way. So we got off and caught the bus going back but decided it wouldn't take us to old town, so we got on a tram.


A nice younger woman on the tram overheard us being confused and told us the correct tram to find! (This woman is nice for giving us directions but super nice for not swearing at the 80 yr old woman who patted her 'baby belly' and offered her the seat! She was NOT pregnant. Awkward.). We switched one last time and arrived at our destination- Malo Strana, just west of the Charles Bridge.


One of the smaller bridges, covered in 'Love Locks'. The Charles Bridge is below with Powder Tower on the right.

We made our way down to the riverbank to find some swans to feed- we had saved them a piece baguette from breakfast because Mom read about it on a website. We found 2 swans, but mostly just some ducks. So we headed across the bridge to check out the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square.

The photo on the left is me, on the Charles Bridge, approaching the Powder Tower. The center is the clock with all the hype. Gorgeous clock, but the hourly 'performance' is lackluster. The sign in Czech, Karluv Most means Charles Bridge.
Trdlnik is a yummy treat! It's bread, curled around a wide, wooden dowel, rolled in cinnamon sugar and slowly rotated over hot coals. Delish! (Photos with Adrienne in them were taken by her mom! Trdlnik by Natasja)

Natasja & I led our 'tour' through the square (there were some loud banging noises coming from inside the statue!) and to the Municipal House.

The restaurant was full, so we had warm beverages in the Ameriky Bar. Mom found it entertaining that the waiter spoke zero English but had a US flag on his uniform. The waiter didn't find it as funny… Then it was time for Natasja to head to the airport. :-/ We hugged goodbye, then she headed off to catch the Metro. We ended up heading back to the hostel 5 min. later to refresh & drop Dad off for a nap. But didn't see Natasja on the train. Bye!

At 3pm, Mom and I headed out onto the rainy city streets to explore Prague castle. Dad slept until we woke him up for dinner. You'd assume it was the jet-lag, but he considers a 'good nap' to be 6 hours.

Next time, Prague castle, Czech dinner & how we got the rental car out of accidental impound. Oops.

 

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Amsterdam: The Never-ending Day & Bitterballen Day

Natasja & I are a good pair – we always have to be 'doing something'. Therefore, I haven't sat down to write this post because… we just don't sit down! ( See ironic photo of us sitting & being photobombed, below)

Natasja has done 3 fantastic things to prepare for my arrival:

1- She bought me a Tram pass. 2- She borrowed her friend's museum pass that gets me in free! 3- She RENOVATED the attic/ laundry room into a bedroom!!! (Ok- that wasn't JUST for me.) She also has a kitty who reminds me of my kitty, Sula! That is Nina in the basket. What a sweetheart!

I arrived Friday & Natasja met me @ the airport! It's so nice to see a familiar face @ baggage claim! Then she whisked me home (via tram) and let me get settled & freshened up after my flight. (I'd swear that the seats get smaller every hour!). Then we had a 8 minute walk to the Museumplein where there are 3+ spectacular museums & a concert hall. The Rijks museum has been in constant renovation for 10 yrs but opened earlier this year. The 'I AMsterdam' artwork out front is a crowd pleaser, those huge tinfoil sculptures… Not so much.

We decided to head to the Modern Art Museum – which ALSO had just finished a renovation (which looks like a huge bathtub.) The photos below; Natasja heading into the Stedelijk- the bottom of the 'bath tub is in the top left corner. I'm pleased that we don't look like the walking dead since I had 2 hrs sleep on the plane the night before & Natasja had finished her shift @ the ER at 8am that morning, the picked me up @ the airport! It was the never-ending day.

(On lower-right: Mondrian). After the museum we headed home to make dinner, from the ingredients we had purchased @ Albert Heijn (a grocery store with hamsters on their ads who 'gather the savings' for you! Adorable!). Natasja made STAMPPOT- which is mashed potatoes with stuff stirred in, arugula/Parmesan cheese/nutmeg. We ate it with little fake meat pieces b/c Natasja has been a vegetarian since her trip to the Ashram in India. Om.) Then, we slept like rocks until morning.

Each day ended up having a theme that just arose organically from our daily adventures. Day 1= The day we can't go to sleep, Day 2= Bitterballen Day, Day of the Drag Queens, Buttocks Day… Etc. We were just calling it like we saw it.

The next Am, we went to yoga class, taught by an adorable American named, Susan. She played the harmonium, chanted for us, gave us Celestial Seasoning tea AND complimented my tri-pod headstand. Plus she gave great hugs, so I knew we'd get along famously. We stopped back home to change & grab lunch. Natasja let me try her 'dessert' sandwich – JIF peanut butter with chocolate sprinkles. She assured me it was very Dutch & very tasty. For snack she promised to find me a Bitterballen, a fried ball of beef & mushrooms that is crunchy on the outside and gooey in the middle- a real Dutch food! But first, off to THE PALACE!

The palace is huge & spectacular- with a free audio tour, all for $13US. Napolean's brother was in charge for a while & lived in the palace. All the Royals after France left were introduced from the balcony, Which have mostly been Queens with interesting names.. Willamina, Beatrix and now King Alexander-Willhelm. The sculptures inside were detailed & intense- especially in the justice-related rooms with lots of serpents & skulls. Every inch was covered with carvings- the floor is inlaid with a huge world map. Let me tell you, all that Michigan coastline really threw off the royal topographer!

From 'The Dam Square' (the river used to to through the center of town to transport goods) we hopped a $12US canal tour. There was only a Cap't, 50 tourists and a recording, repeated in multiple languages. Next time I'll spring for the tour with a real guide telling you stories about the 7 bridges & cool churches (see above). Afterwards we popped over to 'De Waag' or weigh house. It was finished in 1665' is the oldest building in Amsterdam. It lies on the square of the New Market area – a huge center for goods to be purchased. We wanted to purchase some Bitterballen! We had struck out at the fast food shop where there are tiny heated cupboards that you open and pull your snack out. They are like old school vending machines that cover a wall.

Here is a postcard I bought that shows them full of 'Delfts blauw'- the distinct blue- glazed pottery the Netherlands is famous for.

 

In De Waag there is a restaurant where we finally found the most Dutch foods! On the plate above,you'll see a soft cheese, bright yellow pickled onions (Amsterdamse uitjes), spicy mustard, fried cheese sticks, and BITTERBALLEN! Next to them is liver bologna, which tasted lovely with the mustard. Finally! I ate like a Dutchie! De Waag is not just famous for its Bitterbollen – it is also a place where REMBRANT PAINTED! It is fairly amazing to have had snacks in the same building where a super famous artist hung out and painted!

That night we had gelato- my favorite flavor had been Straciatella. But that night I discovered Arianna… Which is Straciatella with nougat! Love! Then, I proceeded to drip it all over myself and Natasja said, “I can't be going with you, anywhere!” Which is the Dutch version of ” I can't take you anywhere!” It's just a small world, right?

The next day we go to see VAN GOGH! But we'll save that for the next post.

 

 

 

Perceval Cobblepot the Third (aka. Percy the Penguin)

Percy is an adventurous penguin who was adopted from a road-side market in January 2013. As you can see, he loves road trips and my new water cup that Mom got me for my birthday! “HYDRATE!!”, insists Percy.

Percy also is very helpful when we stop for gas. He looks upset in this photo because gas cost $4.19

Percy's friends came up with some clever nicknames for him.

Here are the top 6!

6- Skamanica

5- Mr. Sparkles

4- Meathead

3- Oberon

2- Oswald Cobblepot

1- Percy

Thanks for your votes! More adventures tomorrow !

 

Meeting Nate Nothman: Holocost survivor

Nate Nothman was speaking to a school group and they were late. I had just arrived at the Holocost museum & while I was getting my bearings, he introduced himself. We were standing near a wall that was inscribed with the number of dead in each country: Poland=3 million, USSR=1.5 million… 6 million in total. Nate turns to me & says, “How can anyone deny that the Holocost happened? Send them to me & I will tell them my story & then they will believe!” Then he insisted that I sit in with the class and hear his story.

Nate grew up in Krakow, Poland & lived there with his family. He was 14 in 1937 when the Nazis surrounded his town with electrified fencing and it became a ghetto. Able bodied people were used for labor and every few days, trains would come by to take the less able to the camps.

He was eventually separated from his parents & brother and sent to a work camp. When Berlin was bombed, he was part of a work crew that dug through the rubble to locate Germans who had survived. On the train back to the work camp, he made his escape.

Nate had concealed a small hammer that he used to break the lock on the door of the cattle car. Then, he stuck his arm out and lifted up the lever to open the door. He & 4 other young men leapt from the train- 1 man dashed his head on a rock & died. The rest spent the entire winter in the forests of Czechoslovakia, hiding.

Nearly 6 months later, Nate happened upon a group of American soldiers who offered him a job as a translator. Nate speaks 5 languages. After the war, he was able to come to the United States. There was 1 last hurdle to overcome; the plane had an engine catch fire and forced an emergency landing in Iceland! There was nothing to be done- so they continued to NYC, where they were greeted on the runway be the fire department, who extinguished the flames with a soapy spray. Nate was relieved that God didn't bring him safely through the Holocost just to have him die in a fiery plane crash!

Nate was cracking jokes and teasing the students throughout his talk. He cherishes his family & told everyone to make sure to hug their parents every chance you get! I sure will! He was a delight! This July, Nate turns 90 years young! He was quite pleased that we guessed he was 82! Thanks for a BIG dose of inspiration, Nate!

 

And some shall be revealed!

10 days from now will be my last day working at the Deli. Initially, I was nervous about turning in my notice and spent too long worrying that people would be upset. Realistically, pre-summer is the #1 time people leave the Deli and no one is surprised that I'd rather be outside. So would they! Now, here's the plan!

May 15th: Last Day at the Deli

May 16th: Birthday!

May 17th: Move out of Pontiac Trail House

May 18-22:TBD

May 23rd: CROSS COUNTRY ROADTRIP WITH MY DAD!!!

Here's the HAPS~ When I found out that my landlord was selling my house I (half-heartedly) looked for another room to rent nearby. What I found is that the housing market has really picked up and so has the rent. $$$ I am currently not making enough money to move into a more expensive room so I started to widen my search. And by widen… I mean that I decided I should find a way to get outside for the summer!

Lucky for me~ my dear college friend, Erica had a spare room… IN PORTLAND (not the one near Lansing, Mi and not the one in Maine) OREGON! Wahooo! Erica's finishing up her nursing degree with a residency at a pediatric ER and studying for her board exam. She's also got chickens (how Portland of her!) and a garden and a dog; all at a little cottage in SE Portland.

Once I had my sights set on Portland, people came out of the woodwork! My Camp Jewell friends, Mindy, DeAnna, Melissa (who works at a Jewish Deli!) and Becca (in Seattle)! My Gordonwood friends, Julia Tillinghast and Sarah Walters, who just moved to SE Portland. Also, my sister's best couple friends, 'Shellson' AND my brother's ex-housemate, Matt and his lady! They are all super fun! The list just keeps getting longer! Can't wait to catch up with everyone and take hikes and explore this awesome city!

And YES- I WILL COME BACK TO MICHIGAN! I PROMISE!

I have already purchased a plane ticket to Amsterdam from Detroit, the 1st week of September… so I gotta come back. But more on all that later…

 

And so it begins!!!

My landlord/housemate Cliff is getting married to an awesome girl, Amanda! Hooray! Buuut, that means he is selling the lovely house with the wrap-around porch where we live! So, last week I took Sula to her foster home and this week I turned in my notice @ Zingerman’s! I’ll be there until mid-May, so swing by and say hi any Thurs-Sunday for the next 2 weeks.

Photo: Vito Palmisano