Friday, September 28, 2012


I'm so proud of myself!  I've learned how to spell Reykjavik without looking!  It's a nice town, the people are friendly, and everyone wears hand-knitted sweaters, gloves, hats and mittens.  Al has had whale dinner two nights in a row and I'm deciding how much yarn will fit in the suitcase.

Iceland has a total population of 319,575 in 39,768 square miles, about the size of Kentucky.  203,594 of those Icelanders live in the greater Reykjavik area, with 118,814 in the city proper.  The names are listed in the phone book by first name first, including the Prime Minister.  Everyone speaks Icelandic, which is similar to Old Norse, but they also speak English and many other languages.  This year Icelandair turns 75 and will carry two million passengers!

I've been trying to read local as we travel.  James Joyce in Dublin, Anne Frank in Amsterdam and now loaded some Iceland Sagas, their tales of history.  How long will I remember any of it?  Don't ask me any questions, okay?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


We arrived here on Monday with enough time to visit the Rijks Museum and some of the best Dutch Masters on display.  We've mostly been walking up and down the streets, getting to know this beautiful city.  Population 780,000; bicycles 600,000; canals 165; bridges 1281; houseboats 2,500; diamond factories 24. Yet we managed to avoid the lure of the sparkle and just kept walking.  And walking.  Why didn't I bring a pedometer? It would probably would have spun itself crazy, numbers dropping on the street as we go.   The bicycles would have run right over them because they are everywhere and have the right of way over everybody else, apparently including red lights.  It makes my eyeballs spin, looking every direction before daring to take a step.  Ouch!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Words fail me

It's impossible to convey the excitement of this day.  We left the hotel with the plan to go to either the city museum or the national museum but instead got on a train and ventured to the edge of the city and Bauhaus, the local DIY warehouse.  Can you imagine the thrill of it?  Almost 2 hours of learning about their plumbing and paint, carpentry and commodes, lumber and lighting, doors and drawers, sinks and showers.  Across the street was another big mall with - are you ready - a gigantic market.  Another hour of looking at Czech groceries.  My patience was rewarded with cheesecake and new red sneakers.  Do you think somebody is waiting to do a reality TV show of our travels?

Check out these fascintaing products that we don't have at home - Bondic plastic repair and Pattex glues/repairs.  Also, Levi's 505 jeans are $120.

Friday, September 21, 2012


What a gorgeous city!  Prague is built on nine hills with a river running through it, and there wasn't much war damage here, so the buildings are original and beautiful.  There is so much to see and do.  We enjoyed a very sparse production of Swan Lake in a theater that used to be a bank, and a string quintet with trumpet thrown in the Spanish Synagogue.  It took two days to see everything at the Royal Castle, but was worth the time  - and we're kind of slow movers.  But the cobblestones have done in my sneakers.  Literally.  The sole and top have parted ways.  The cobblestones have done me in What luck that we are only a few steps from a retail area that appears bigger than Union Square.  Shopping!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back in Warsaw

I'm not sure why we're in Warsaw again.  Something about the flight schedules and the trains.  My travel Algent made all the arrangements online so I just follow along.

We really enjoyed Krakow.  Because the Germans set up headquarters there during the war they didn't destroy much, so there are gorgeous old buildings, castles, churches and lots of parks.  We saw most of them but don't know how long I'll remember it.  Saturday night we went to a string quartet concert at the Krakow Philharmonic to get a bit of culture and now we're on the way to a pipe organ concert in one of the old Warsaw churches.  Seems like most of them have big impressive organs but only a few are willing to share them during the week.  Oh, gee, too bad, all the museums are closed on Monday.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


We've all heard about working in the salt mines, but touring a salt mine is a completely different thing.  Today we took a bus to a town near Krakow where the Wieliczka Salt Mine      is open for tours.  Legend has it that salt has been mined there since 1290 when Princess Kinga of Hungary was betrothed to the King of Krakow.  She asked her father for a salt mine as her dowry, but tossed her wedding ring into the ground.  The people dug to find it and did - wrapped around a salt crystal.  The mine was operational until 1996 and is visited by a million people a year.  We didn't take the tablet so have no photos to post but if you search for "Wieliczka salt mine photos" you'll see how marvelous it is.

Al just gets better and better about finding the way on the bus system.  Today we only had to backtrack once.  In the rain.                

Wednesday, September 12, 2012



The train ride through the Polish countryside was uneventful - lots of agriculture and small towns, just like the rest of the world.  Al's sense of adventure is more developed than mine, but I followed along while he figured out how to take the tram from the train to the Kazimierz district of Krakow, which is the old Jewish neighborhood, which was quite dilapidated, but in recent years has been slowly restored (there is still a long way to go, but they are working on it).  We're in what was once an old tenement building but now is a bright and modern apartment.  With a kitchen, so you know who likes that part.

We've seen dozens of old and ornate churches here.  Isn't it surprising what church architects could do hundreds of years ago?  We've walked miles (Al suggested that he was my hero when he found his way on the map, but I told him that the only way to be a hero was to call a taxi) and seen how pretty this town is.  Yesterday's highlight was an hour at the Castorama, Poland's version of Home Depot.  One of us was thrilled to sit in the garden department for a while, the other was like a pig in mud with all the tools.

That wasn't really the highlight because the next stop was the Schindler Factory Museum, which is located in the administrative building of the real factory.  It's very well done, telling not only about the people who worked for Oskar Schindler, but what life was like in Krakow while the Germans were here.  We would still be there, but they locked the doors.

Today can't be described.  We visited Auschwitz and Birkenau but I just can't find the words to describe the atrocities there.  We've all seen the photos, read the books, watched the movies, but until you stand right in that road, it's just not imaginable.  The survivors insisted that it be preserved as a museum and it's pretty much as when they left it, but cleaner.  Most of the barracks are intact, the "shower room" is part of the tour, and the rubble of the crematoriums are just as they were when the Germans blew them up to destroy the evidence.  It's the most graphic reminder that could possible exist.

The tablet isn't cooperating well about posting pictures, but I'm going to try to put them up on another post.  You can go to to see more.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A bit of Warsaw

some of the horror

Our retirement plan - maybe they will let us park Homer in the back garden.  Or he would fit in any of the rooms.

Leaving Warsaw

What a busy week we have had here, visiting museums one after another, popping into dozens of churches, learning all about all the wars that have gone here, visiting many of the beautiful parks (25% of the city is green space), paying our respects to the statue of Ronald Regan, and walking for miles and miles.  But we have managed to find all the potato pancakes and pastry shops, so we're both fatter than when we arrived.
Tomorrow we take the train to Krakow for a week, so there will be more information to absorb.  I need chocolate to stimulate my tired little brain.  Lucky that we discovered a Polish brand that is delicious.
Al seems to have figured out how to get pictures posted, but only those taken from the tablet, so I'm leaving it to him to amuse you with photos.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wow! Warsaw!

Yesterday we had a quick flight from Copenhagen to Warsaw and I'm already impressed.  It's big and historical, clean and friendly.  The people have been through so very much, but just keep rebuilding and going on.  650,000 people died during the war and 85% of the city's infrastructure was destroyed, but much of it has been reconstructed as it was.  Everywhere you go is a reminder of something important.  Glass kiosks to tell about the history of a church (with a picture of how it looked then), posters with stories of historical significance about a person or building, black granite benches to describe Chopin's major events (And it plays his music at the touch of a button), and a statue of Copernicus in the middle of a plaza with the solar system set into the brick around him.  The food is good, the people are gracious, and the vodka is plentiful.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Al learned how to do photos

This is a whale of a meal! Yes, a whale meat steak mit potatoes and small salad - $30. The texure is between a filet and an Alfred's-perfectly-aged ribeye and actually tastes like beef.  We need to grow more whales!
Below is the view from our 'window' in the basement (deck 2) of the Brillance.
The room was comfortable and easy to get on and off the big boat.

Copenhagen again

Well, that was fun!  If only we had known that the Royal Caribbean Brillance was going to the Baltics, then cruising across the pond to Portland, ME, where it will do the Canada routine.  Wouldn't that have been nice to just stay with them?  But we would have missed Poland, which is coming our way (well, Poland will stay where it is, we'll go there) on Tuesday.  In Bergen we wandered into the Cathedral just in time for an organ recital.  Five of Norway's kings have been crowned there, but none of them seemed to be interested in the huge pipes on Thursday.  The Fishmarket was fascinating, with dozens of varieties of fish, including whale meat.  Uncooked it kind of looked like beef liver, but cooked it was more like steak.  Very tender and flavorful.  Not allowed in America, of course.

 We've been to the Carlsburg Brewery museum, spent a few hours in the National Museum (I was smart enough to take my Kindle - how much old stuff does a fella need to read about?), walked and walked, but also ate and ate.  We were looking for the St. Petri church when we happened upon the First St. Petri Hotel, where a gaggle of people were standing around.  I said that maybe it's Lady Gaga, who is in town for part of her world tour.  Sure enough.  So Al thought we should wait with the fans who didn't buy tickets, but wanted to see her for three seconds while she dashed to her limo, but after 20 minutes I whined for ice cream and we moved on the the church.  I still didn't get the ice cream.  Tomorrow is another day.