Friday, June 29, 2007

Another day in Prague

After a casual start on Friday viewing another park at the base of the hill, the 7 of us headed by tram to the Castle and Cathedral complex. The structures there are amazing. I believe I read in one of our guide books that you can count 600 spires as you look out over the city from this vantage point. I'm not sure you can accurately count them all in the picture I've attached, but go ahead and try. To say the views from here are awesome would be the greatest understatement since Noah said it was going to rain.

It was a hot and steamy day in the bright sun, so after watching the changing of the Czech guard at the castle, we meandered over to an adjacent cafe and yes, we had some more pivo with our lunch. We also toured the cathedral within the complex and like most of the churches and religious buildings, truly amazing.

We opted for a long walk down what are called the gardens and took in views of the city as we did. There's a nice picture of St. Joan, our travel Mother and all around good trophy bride for your viewing pleasure.

One thing that seemed to be a common theme was the lack of toilet paper. Now normally this is not an issue over here, but in Eastern Europe, it always seems to be. If you are a woman and plan to travel to that area, make sure you either pack your own preferred brand or buy some upon entry. And don't forget to take it with you when you leave your hotel. And men, if you are travelling with a woman, you will need replacement tissues also. So be aware.

One member of our travel group seemed to always be in need of tissue and therefore whenever she used the bathroom there was none left for the rest. Her complaint was that she needed a lot of tissue for her "po po". In fact, there was mention of a rash because she had to use glossy advertising paper at one point. The Czech remedy calls for a fruit flavored yogurt as a cure all. We do not believe she tried it though since the toilet paper vanished wherever she visited.

Our group again played pinochle into the night and as they say in the local paper, a good time was had by all. On tap for Saturday was a trip by our group of 7 to the brewery in Pilsen and a trip to Klenci, the land of our Bohemian ancestors.

First day of trip

Well, as promised, I am going to start the trip report with the first couple of days and a few of the stories, observations, sights and sounds and whatever for your viewing pleasure. Keep in mind I have over 400 pictures to identify so it may take some time. And, I need to remind you these are my recollections and any editorials are mine as well. If those along for the trip disagree they are free to start their own blog.

Tuesday June 12, we took wing on Northwest Airlines to Amsterdam. The flight was relatively uneventful and the food was even quite good. When we arrived the next morning we popped over to a pub at the airport and had a few to get us through the next flight on Czech Airlines. That flight took off relatively on time and we arrived a little after 9:30 that morning.

Much to our delight we were greeted by Nancy Hugg. For those of you that don't know Nancy, she is a former Lancasterite who most recently held a prestigious position at the U of M in the now defunct General College. While determining what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, she took off for Prague and has been teaching English since Last November. She is coming back mid July, destination in the U.S. (or wherever) unknown. But, for our purposes, she was a great guide.

Like I said, she met us at the airport with tickets in hand for the bus/tram/metro system. She herded us on to the 119 bus, then on the tram to the street where Hanna's bed and breakfast was located. It was a couple of blocks off Devijka, a street name we learned to pronouce well as the days went along. The first picture is fo the B&B which was located about 2 miles from what I would call the heart of the city, or near the Charles Bridge.

The place was really great for our purposes, since we had 4 rooms and essentially control of the place on the first 2 levels. The room we had our morning buffet at was next to the kitchen and substituted as my room. The only downside was that Hanna thought I was a pig based on all the debris that was left around the table each morning and after evening pinochle games.

One of the pictures attached shows Sheila and Jim Hartmann and me sipping coffee at the community table in my room. A little more about Jim, the former tenured Minnesota school teacher. A very intelligent guy as we would find out. But, by the end of day 2 we had all agreed that he reminded us quite a bit of a TV character by the name of Cliff Clavin. Toward the end of our trip, I started thinking about any question that was running through my mind and whether or not I dared verbalize. The information was good mind you, but I had to weigh the consequences and time.

Another picture is of our tour Guide Nancy, along with Jim and Sheila and Sue. We went out early on the 14th without Joan and Frank to a little park near where we connected with Nancy. Well, this was the second time we just about got arrested. You know us gomers, go to a park, walk on the grass. No can do in the Czech Republic. We returned to the safety of the cement and the officer you can see in the background of the picture continued his rounds.

I guess that whole authority thing is a little of a holdover from the days of Communism. But, it was pretty evident in daily life. People still are very careful not to step out of line or talk out of turn. Quite anal when you think of it, but then given what they endured for many decades, I guess it's no wonder.

One thing we did master while in Prague was the Metro. Oh, this is where I almost got arrested for the second time when I crossed a red velvet rope to take a picture of the long-ass escalators they have there. My name from that escapade was "Buddy", and I was told in no uncertain terms to get my behind, behind the rope. Anyway, the escalators keep getting longer and longer as you approach the conversion point of the 3 lines. The one pictured is not the longest one, which I believe is very close to being a city block long. My travelling companions will definitely back me up on this one.

After much sight seeing and bumping into Joan and Frank on the other end of the Charles Bridge, we decided it was time for Pivo. Yes, beer is called Pivo over there, so watch out when you say you have to Pee. You may get more "input" than "output". I've included another picture of the crew on an enclosed patio.

As we were imbibing, there was a lot of activity to the rear of the group. Some cranes and other stuff going on. I looked over and saw whate appeared to be a young child on a ledge. Well, after taking the picture I saw it was a statue about 20 feet up on the wall. Don't know what it was there for, but I convinced the group of Pivo drinkers that the crane crew was there to rescue the child from the ledge. They caught on pretty quickly....well most did.

Our last stop of the day was near one of our Metro connection at Wenseclaus Square. It's a really busy place with a ton of shops and much activity.

With that we ended our day by taking a ride home and playing pinochle till all hours.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The descendants return

It's just before 6am on Wednesday here and the majority of us have been up for hours in preparation for our 9:35am flight to Amsterdam. There we catch a plane back to Minneapolis and arrive about 4pm if memory serves me.

We did connect with Nancy Hugg and friends yesterday for lunch and Pivo. A little more shopping and pinochle at the hotel. Only one small incident where I crashed into a small barricade of Pilsnew Urell glasses that Susan had erected in my path. There was no charge for the breakage.

Susan and Frank continued their ongoing banter about the trip. Susan about how comfortable she was in terms of temperatures all along, how the table we played cards on was nice and slippery, the way she liked it, and of course the weather and life in general. Tough to beat travelling companions like that. (talk to me in person for the details on this line of crap).

Our trip matriarch continues to look after us at every turn. I could pass along a few humorous and somewhat embarrassing moments, but then again given all she has endured on this trip from the 3 of us, why bother?

All in all, another great trip. Susan and I have been discussing a 2 person rate at Hazeltine and Weight Watchers. I'll let you know how that works out upon our return.

Catch you back in the land of cottage cheese and Ry-Krisp soon.


Tuesday morning

Well, here we are counting the hours until our departure. It's just before 10am here and we are heading out on the 119 bus from the airport to downtown again. No plan, but I'm sure it will include another round of food and beverage. Yes, there may be shopping also.

This time tomorrow we should be in Schipol, Netherlands.

Until then.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Praha again

Well, it's just after 11pm here in Prague, or Praha as they call it here. It was another day of travel from Posnan to Berlin and then on to Prague. Our friend Maria Wielepski came to the hotel and of course saw us off once again. In case I didn't mention it, her favorite color is pink. Hence the pink room we got in Posnan. And, she also carries around a hot pink purse entitled "Mrs. Timberlake". I have the picture.

It was a little hectic getting on the train today. Maria told us to go back and since the train was crowded, we just stood there like dummies. A kind hearted, and English speaking gentleman, helped us out and told us our seats were 4 cars back. Another fairly uneventful trip once we found our assigned seats.

The Berlin train station is beyond words. It has 5 or 6 levels and trains on each of them. Not to mention all of the shops. Quite incredible. Again, it was a crowded train and this time out we had no reservations. Eventually we moved to a spot at the end of the car where a kindly youngster beckoned us in. His cube mate however was a little grumpy. A large man that didn't really care for Susan, but seemed to be more amenable to us sharing the cubicle, finally asked us in. He and the kid got off in Dresdan, so we played pinochle all the way to Prague. If you must, I will tell you we played 2 games as we rode along the Volta River Valley. There was no repeat of that belly bumping crap we had last night. Need I say more?

It was rainy when we got into the main station a little after 8pm. We navigated the metro, tram and bus like the pros and power travelers we are. Arriving at our hotel here at the airport about 9:30pm. Susan finally pryed loose the purse strings and bought our dinner. Excellent beyond belief!!!!

Tomorrow we are uncertain of our plans. But we may sneak into the old part of town again and have an early night and perhaps some pinochle. Then back on Wednesday.

When I return I will be in better position to share with you all of the escapades from the parapeligic fan in Krakow, to the window shade episode in Posnan. And then there is the "popo" and toilet paper, for which the local remedy calls for a fruit colored yogurt. Go figure.

Now, some fellow travelers may dispute the accounts and my recollections, but I have the pictures and of course this is my blog. Stay tuned for all the gritty details as the days and weeks pass.

Live from Prague

Going to Berlin


Well, yesterday was tiring and to speak. That is if you count all the graveyards and markers we saw.

We rented a limo and driver and the 4 of us, along with Maria and her grandson Dominic went out for a drive. Our first stop was great grandmad Januzik's birthplace. The town is called Kostow, or something like that. We found the church and the graveyard. We were lucky enough to get some pictures and we did find a half dozen Januziks buried there. One most certainly was a sister to Antonia. We were very pleased.

As we headed for a bathroom, we noticed a sign for Glesno. Since this one comes up often in our research, we made a sidetrip there also. The church was locked up but we did the cemetary tour. No Januziks or Wilebskis to be found.

The next stop was Szubin. Another very very large cemetary. No Wilebskis or Januziks. Several more towns where the Soberaski family was from, but no additional grave markers with family. so, our success was mixed.

On the way to Maria's daughter's place in the country, we drove through the oldest forest in Poland. They claim there are oak trees there that are a thousand years old. Could be true, or just more Polish pride showing through.

Another meal with the family and we made it back to the Pension just after 8pm. So, another very long day. No mishaps to speak of and we did get the grand tour of our homeland.

In this part of Poland, it is not quite as easy to get our English across. So, it's been a little challengin.

We head for Berlin this morning, in about another hour. We packed a picnic lunch, based on the leftovers they fed us for breakfast. HUGE breakfasts here and delicious and filling. Today is was polish sausage wrapped in bacon. Along with cold sausages, cheese. A vegetable salad and many breads. Oy Vay!

Susan wishes to do more shopping in Berlin, so if our next post is without her in the group, you'll know what happened. FYI, Frank and I gave Susan and the trophy bride a couple of mercy wins at pinochle last night. Needless to say, people that aren't accustomed to winning are definitely not gracious about winning. Frank and I have decided to never let it happen again.

And there you go. Hope to talk to you again from Prague. We are really starting to tire and are all looking forward to our return.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Evening in Poznan

Wow, where has the time went? Here is is Saturday evening and we are still planning a few more stops.

We got into Poznan a little after 4pm yesterday and our distant relatives, Maria and her 2 grandchildren Marta and Dominic met us at the station. We then hopped in a cab to the Penione and proceeded to her house for an evening meal fit for many Polish kings. It was great and too much.

Today we spent the majority of the day touring Poznan, and eventually settling down for some Pivo (beer for you people on the other side) and Kulski and Perogi. EXCELLENT!!!! As close to a Wilebski family reunion as you may want to get. Of course, this is the area that the Wilebski and Janucek ancestors are from, so it does make sense.

I left Susan back at the hotel to wash out her unmentionables. Joan and Frank are with Marie and the family along with a cute blonde interpreter. The plan right now is to rent a limo and the crew head out to the 2 towns Kostwo and Szubin tomorrow. We should be back in the evening, but since it is 3hours one way, it may be all day and we may not get to both towns. Who knows what if anything we will find. But, God willing we will have pictures.

Susan and Frank continue to generate stories by the hour. But, I hate to share all of the fun with you before you see the pictures.

Wish us luck on our journey in search of the ancestors tomorrow. Oh, Kathy, we have seen a lot of Pope John Paul stuff along the route, especially in Krakow. Where he went to the seminary, his apartment beneath the castle for 20 years, etc. So, you will probably want the entire travel CD. I'll work on that some time this summer.

Hope all is well and if I don't get back to a terminal in the short term or before our departure early Wednesday, we'll catch you on the mainland....ours that is.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

On to Poznan


Well, it's been another few hectic days. Hot and sticky here, but he Tyskie beer is helpful. Other than Sue's "popo" issues and her destroying the fan in our room, all seems to be going well. We have this great restaurant across from our B&B where we seem to eat each nite. Great food and the prices are incredible...yes, coming from me you know it is cheap.

Yesterday we did a tour of the Salt mines and stopped at the Oscar Schindler factory on the way back. Both good choices, although we opted out of the Black Madonna and the Dachau tour.

Today it was out in the country side to see where Frank's Grandmother Gorka came from. We toured the church and cemetary.

Tomorrow morning we head out of Krakow early and are on our way to Poznan. There we plan to meet up with what we believe to be distant cousins. A gal named Maria Wielepski and her family. We have 3 days there. I'll let you know how it plays out if we can find the internet terminals.

As far as pictures, I have a bunch, but they may have to wait until I return.

All is well here and we continue to "power" travel.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It it's Tuesday this must be Krakow???

June 19, 2007

Afternoon from Krakow. So much to tell, so little time. Many stories and of course the one you will probably be hearing about for years to come will be Susan's "popo" and ongoing toilet paper issue. Frank will be able to explain it upon our return.

Alas, I have hundreds of pictures, but at this particular shop, they don't have the apparatus to pop in my card from the camera. And that's another story.

Let's start with Prague. A gorgeous city to say the least. Very old and historic. Our crew made it out to Klenci (the ancestral village of the Robels) on Saturday. What a great place. We have a few pictures, but the memories of the scenery will probably stick in our minds.

We've been winding up most nights with pinochle. I think Sue finally one a mercy game on Sunday evening before we left. Thank God or we would still be in the room playing cards.

Our visit to Prague was really wonderful since Nancy Hugg is there for a couple more weeks and she brought us to everything. Just can't thank her enough. again, many pictures to share.

We took the train on Monday morning and arrived here in Krakow just before 6pm. We were pretty bushed and went across the street for dinner an a drink. Bedtime was soon thereafter.

Today we just walked around the city center and clicked off more pictures. We did make it to Pope John Paul's apartment here along with where he always waved to the crowds at the seminary where he got his education.

The beer is great, as if you had to guess.

The birding has been a little bit of a bust, but then again we have been in the city primarily. Although we did tour the largest cemetary in Prague on Sunday also. There I was able to pick up a couple of life listers. One we ID'd for sure was a Jay. And that is what they call it, but it sure doesn't look like any we have across the pond.

We all seem to be in good shape, except for the patriarch. He keeps having to have his little naps. Maybe this is close to the end of his travelling days. Who knows. Susan is enjoying the trip as here eyes are always looking up and around. In fact, she must be amazed since this is the quietest I have ever seen her.

Joan is her usual cordial self....nothing more to that story.

Jim and Sheila are a treat. Jim has actually done a lot of research on both locales and we have another resident guide as we tour all the places. Guess all that money we paid him paid off.

Personally I have gain approximately 10 pounds with another few days to go. I will have to dig out those fat clothes I have packed away somewhere. We are not starving by the way in case I did not mention it.

We plan to take a side trip out to the country where Frank's Mother's family is from. Then in another 3 days we are heading to Poznan. There we will meet up with a Wilebski relative. At that point our trip is somewhat free form, since we need to be back in Prague on Tuesday to catch the plane out on Wednesday morning.

I will try and pass along more info. as English internet terminals are available. Thanks for Joey and Peggy and Lon for passing along the blog link.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The journey begins

Well, the day has arrived. Susan, Frank, Joan and I are meeting at the Chili's on the main concourse at MSP around noon. We depart a little after 3pm today and should arrive about 11am on Wednesday morning in Prague. We also have a couple travelling with us that go by the name of Jim and Sheila. FYI, Jim was formerly a Minnesota tenured teacher.

In talking to Sue, I don't think she slept at all last night. She even arrived early at the Partriach's residence. Early enough to catch Frank almost in his birthday suit. So, I'm sure it will take years of therapy to get over that shock. Then again, there's always alcohol.

Talk to you again from Prague, or the next available computer.