Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"The Temple of Baths"

We are staying in Mako, Hungary, and just around the corner from our apartment is an amazing Hungarian thermal bath house, Hagymatikum ("The Temple of Baths"), where we spent the day today. I am not usually a fan of swimming pools because 1.) I don't enjoy getting my head wet 2.) I cannot voluntarily subject myself to that kind of cold, regardless of the outside temperature and 3.) I don't love the smell of chlorine. But, what I learned today is that if you increase the temperature of the water to that of a bath, remove the chlorine smell, keep it all at or below chest level and plop the whole thing down in a beautiful and architecturally interesting building, I actually kind of like it.

The Temple of Baths

gazebo outside the bath house

inside the gazebo

such a restful place

loving the warm pools

There were three large pools inside. This is the view looking across one of them.

The kids enjoyed the cave, with all it's lights and spraying water and echoes.

This is the view from the upper balcony.
That round pool in the middle was turned into a whirlpool every half hour,
and the swimmers could swirl around in it.
It was, without a doubt, the kids' favorite feature. 

looking up

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wolkersdorf and Vienna

 We arrived in Austria last Tuesday (May 19), and though our home in Wolkersdorf (outside of Vienna) did not have Internet service, it was essentially perfect in every other way, and we were thankful to get to stay there for a whole week. It was a large three bedroom home, with plenty of room for us to spread out, including a lovely little yard for the kids to run around in. But the very best part was that our landlords and neighbors took us in as family, and we will not forget their many kindnesses to us. We truly felt at home during our stay here and were a little sad to say goodbye this morning, as we continued on to Hungary.

Our fabulous house in Wolkersdorf--the front on the left, the back on the right

On our first night, the craving for Mexican food finally became too much,
so we raided the local grocery store and were able to put together some decent soft tacos.

We visited a couple of heurigens (wine taverns), this large one in Vienna,
where we sampled a variety of local fare, including schnitzel, apple strudel, topfenstrudel,
and, of course, the wine. We also visited a much smaller one our neighbors took us to in a nearby village.

As an early birthday gift, we gave Ruth tickets to the morning exercises at the Spanish Riding School
in Vienna, where we saw the beautiful Liperzaner stallions strut their stuff.
Our tickets also included a tour of the amazing palatial facilities.
We all had fun, but Ruth declared it her "favorite birthday gift [she] has ever received!"

These ruins from the Roman Empire have been unearthed just outside the riding school,
in the heart of Vienna. They date back to the 6th century.

One night, we had a great party in our neighbor's wine cellar.
From the street, you go down a flight of stairs and enter into the room pictured on the right,
which houses an enormous wine press that the room was built around.
Another flight of stairs takes you down into the room pictured on the left,
and then another flight of stairs takes you further down beneath the earth.
It was a very cool (in every sense of the word!) space and a really fun time!

We had a nice visit to the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, though we didn't tour the inside.
We focused our attention on the gardens and labyrinths and playground.
We also indulged with some coffee and sachertorte in the cafe, and Clay was enamored with
the living statue of Mozart, though a bit too shy to get his picture made with it.

The weather was rainy and cold most of the week, but yesterday it was gorgeous,
so we went for a long walk with our neighbor through the country and then had a barbecue
with she and her family in the evening. We walked for a couple of hours, passing through
some beautiful farmland and a couple of neighboring villages, including "the village without chimneys,"
which is comprised almost entirely of wine cellars. We saw Regina's huge Shire horse and her friend's 14-day old colt, as well as a wide variety of other farm animals. The sweet white elderflowers scented the air, and we learned that they make a syrup from them that tastes like it smells. The vineyards and other flowers and crops were also lovely. 

 *You can click on the pictures and collages to see the pictures larger. Since I'm writing about the whole week in one post, I decided it made more sense to condense the pictures into something more manageable.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Czech Republic

We left Germany after breakfast yesterday morning and arrived in the Czech Republic in the early afternoon. After settling into our little apartment on the outskirts of Prague, we headed into the city to do some exploring. We eventually found ourselves at Petrin Hill, which is a beautiful, almost vertical park. Aside from just being gorgeous, it also contains a number of interesting diversions, like playgrounds, a hall of mirrors, and a smaller scale Eiffel Tower with observation decks overlooking this beautiful city. We very much enjoyed wandering around and seeing the sights, including more and more amazing views of Prague the higher we went. My FitBit tracker recorded 81 flights of stairs for me yesterday, if that gives you any indication of the nature of our wanderings.

We were back in the city today, to see Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle, both of which were beautiful and fascinating. The weather was perfect, and we so enjoyed strolling through Prague, having a picnic at a park, eating a local sweet treat (Trdelnik), and just taking in our lovely surroundings.

Pink house in Prague 

a peek at the city from our balcony

a family selfie on Petrin Hill

up and up and up

finally at the top of Petrin Hill

Petrin Tower 
Overlooking Prague, specifically Charles Bridge, from the tower's observation deck

my people are everywhere in the mirror maze

being silly in the Hall of Mirrors

tall and thin

playing around with silly faces in the silly mirrors

world traveling kids

The older kids were pretty scandalized that Clay wanted to pose,
not only with naked statues, but also with kissing naked statues.

There is no end to the statue hilarity

No idea what these yellow penguins are doing in the Vltava River

Charles Bridge

my people on the Charles Bridge

excited to try a trdelnik

This cathedral can be seen from everywhere and
rose up larger than life when we entered the castle grounds

Prague Castle

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Luckenwalde Tierpark

The town we are staying in is fairly small, but we discovered a nice little zoo to visit this afternoon, after a leisurely morning around our apartment. It was not dangerous, but safety standards here are certainly not what they are in the U.S. Let's just say we were able to get plenty close to the animals.


Weston's favorite animal was the white owl

burro buddy

proud peacock

This boy loves statues so much!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?

golden pheasant rooster--so beautiful!

Another colorful bird enjoying a snack

The boys loved the petting zoo area

A statue of O. California
(Clay's buffalo friend, who made the trip with us)

A face only a mother could love
(but not this mother!)


You can't beat an elephant slide!