Saturday, August 30, 2014

Prague: Street Performers

Everywhere! Magic tricks, giant bubble makers, singers of all kinds, acrobatics and bizarre and disturbing acts like the guy who could dislocate his shoulders and get an empty tennis racket over his head all the way to his waist. I can't imagine they make enough to live on, but who knows?
God only knows what this guy was doing. He was out there every day and spoke in this squeaky annoying voice. Can't imagine he pulls in much cash.
These guys were cool. I saw them when they first unveiled and watched as the crowd slowly grew. Hung around for about 10 minutes waiting to see them come out of it, but they didn't so I moved on. Saw two more couples with the same trick a few days later. And unfortunately within a block of one another. This first pair was amazing to me, but after I saw two more, wasn't as impressed.
This guy built his own one man band. Too bad he's a terrible musician! :)
These guys were great! They played rock and were quite good. Stairway to Heaven was our favorite.

There were many more, but photographing them encourages bad behavior. :) One thing I don't get are those who simply paint themselves silver or gold and just stand there. Really? That's a talent? Maybe I've just seen it too many times to be impressed any longer.

Lots and lots of singers and some were even good. The problem is they all seemed to play the same songs. And since they were right out our apartment window in Old Town Square, the whole thing started to lose its luster. If I hear Alleluia one more time . . .

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prague: Folklore Days Festival

After unpacking, Brian settled in for a snooze and I went exploring. There was so much racket coming from the square below, I had to find out what was going on. Here's what I found:
Mmmmmm, roasting ham - must come back for slab of that good stuff!
What's this massive crowd of people looking at?
 And what's with all the funny costumes? Is this how the people of Prague dress every weekend?
Hmm, this looks like some kind of parade.
And a strange one at that!
I figured out after I got home and googled that I stepped into the middle of the Prague Folklore Days Festival. Dance and music groups from around Europe gather and there is a competition. This was the parade after most of the competitions and the last day of the festival. 

 Some of the groups stopped and put on a little performance for the crowd.

And some really took their folklore seriously - all the way down to the funny socks and wooden clogs. I particularly like the guy next to him wearing Birkenstocks!
This Swiss group actually played the horns, but I was too far away for a video.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting to Prague

After a fabulous week in Budapest, it was off to Prague to continue our adventures. We again had standby tickets, but this time were lucky and got on the flight. It was a tiny turbo prop with Czech Airways and about an hour long flight.

We arrived, got our bags, got an overpriced taxi from the airport and off we went to find our home for the week. We rented another apartment through Airbnb (check it out if you've never used it - really great option and so much cheaper than a hotel and much more comfortable) and were staying right in Old Town Square. 
Here's the living room. The apartment was small if you were to live there full time, but plenty big for a week's stay and so much more comfortable than any hotel we could have found. The only downsides were: 3 flights of stairs, no air conditioning and right on the square meant a lot of street noise and smells in the apartment.

Below are the views from that living room window, however, which quickly made up for those downsides.
This is the Church of Our Lady of Tyn. More of that in later posts.
And to our left was St Nicholas church.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hungary: Szentendre

Our last stop on our day tour was Szentendre, a cute little town on the Danube that is home to many artisans. Actually, I think it might only be 'open' during the day for tourists. It was cute, but really just a cobbled stone street of shop after shop selling the same cheap souvenirs. We did have a nice beer overlooking the river, though, and tried the Hungarian liquor called Unicum. Unicum is a nasty, bitter herbal liquor that'll make your eyes water. When Brian ordered it, the nearby table of Brits had a look and laughed when they saw Brian's face after he tried it. Turns out they had tried it the day before and had the same reaction. Suffice to say we didn't bring any home with us!

Sad about the graffiti. Such a cute little alley.
Our guide said the houses here don't have basements so storage is in the attic. This was a shop so all their inventory was stored in the roof area so they made them really high to increase their storage.

One of the 'attractions' in Szentendre is the Marzipan museum. Yes, that's right. Mickey is made completely of Marzipan. Why? . . .  ya got me. We opted NOT to pay the fee to see the rest of the museum so missed the life-sized marzipan Michael Jackson. I know, we're already regretting it! :)

The blue metal arch you see in the center there is a mister. It was a hot day so the town had installed two of these misters - one at each end of the main street. We walked through a few times to cool off.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hungary: Lunch with a View in Visegrad

After our visit to Esztergom and our little side jaunt to Slovakia, it was off to lunch in Visegrad which is another town along the Danube. We had lunch at a hotel for hunters (you'll see the theme as you look at the photos!) The view was amazing, the food? not so much, but we were expecting that from an organized tour.
We tried to soak up as much green as possible to take back to our sand pit.
And this place had plenty of green to spare!
A view from the restaurant patio (see below as well)

Look at that sky! It's just never that blue or that clear back in UAE.
Brian was diggin' the wall art.
More gorgeous views of the Danube river.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hungary: A scenic side trip into Slovakia

Just across the river from Esztergom is Slovakia so why not take a step over the border?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hungary: Esztergom Basilica

Although we were very much enjoying Budapest, we decided on a day trip to see some of the countryside and the Danube Bend. Our first stop was the town of Esztergom to visit the biggest building in Hungary and 18th biggest church in the world, the Esztergom Basilica.
Another gorgeous day to visit the countryside.
There was a piper dressed in costume serenading the visitors. He was playing "Oh When the Saints"
There was some kind of rehearsal going on in the church - confirmation maybe?
The altarpiece (13.5 × 6.6 metres, depicting the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Girolamo Michelangelo Grigoletti) is the largest painting in the world painted on a single piece of canvas. It's hard to get a sense of the size from the photo - trust me, it's huge!
This view of the altar may give you a bit more perspective.
 This is the organ. We didn't get to hear it, but I'm sure it would be beautiful.

A little history thank to Wikipedia:
The building of the present church took place on the foundation of several earlier churches. The first was built by Stephen I of Hungary between 1001–1010 (as the original Saint Adalbert church), the first cathedral in Hungary, which was burned down at the end of the 12th century. It was rebuilt, and even survived the Mongol invasion of Hungary. However, in 1304, Wenceslaus III, a probable candidate for the Hungarian throne, sacked the castle and the church. It was repaired in the following years. The archbishops of the 14th and 15th century made the church more ornate and added a huge library, the second most significant one in the country. It was ruined again under Turkish rule, in 1543. In 1820, the Archdiocese was restored and archbishop S├índor Rudnay decided to restore Esztergom's status as mother church of the country. The church maintains the relics of Catholic martyr and saint Marko Krizin.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Budapest: Night tour

You've seen most of this already (as had we when we took the night tour) but now you get to see them at night. Let's see if you remember them. :)

St. Stephan's Basilica
Ferris wheel in Deak Ferenc square. No, we didn't take a ride as there were so many other more interesting ways to get a bird's eye view of the city.
Jewish Synagog. We had hoped to tour this as neither of us has ever been in a synagog, but ran out of time unfortunately. 
 Fisherman's Bastion
 St. Stephan's Basilica again - this time from the Buda side of the river.
 Hungarian Parliament building