Monday, August 13, 2018

Weekend trip to Cesky Krumlov

July 2017's trip was to visit a close neighbor of Germany: Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. It took about 3.5 hours to get there from our house, so not too bad! Honestly, CZ was never even on my radar as a place to visit, but there are so many interesting places to see there! We had been told by some friends that Cesky Krumlov was like a smaller, better we decided to see for ourselves! It was a pretty cute place, but didn't quite live up to the hype we'd been told. We toured the castle (including seeing a live bear in the moat!), ate some delicious grilled meat, saw a really cool rotating outdoor theater, toured a graphite mine, and had some yummy crepes. Our hotel was not great...I wouldn't recommend staying there. But, it was cheap, had free parking for our car, and included breakfast. The room was hot, the bedding was incredibly scratchy, and the wifi didn't work well, though.

The rain won't stop us!

Don't feed the bears!

Looking at Cesky Krumlov from the castle

Rotating theater!

Pretty cool idea

Ready for whatever the mine will throw at me

Part of the castle wall

Too cute a picture not to take :)

Really yummy restaurant!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Road trip to Poland (Giles family visit)

Our trip in June 2017 was pretty special. Tyler's parents and his brother and family came to visit at the same time! It had been several years since everybody in the family was on the same continent. Jerry and Jeannie got to spend a few days with us by themselves, and then we picked up Marshal and Rachel and the boys at the airport, and left again almost immediately for another road trip. Our end goal was to see the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial, with some stops in the Czech Republic on the way there and back. Our first stop was Prague. We toured the castle complex and got to see a nice collection of old armor and weapons. 

Our next stop was also in CZ, at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora. It's in the basement of a church. During the Black Plague in the fourteenth century, many people were buried in the cemetery. It became too full, and, in 1511, a monk was hired to exhume the skeletons and stack the bones to make more room to bury more people. It was a really creepy place, yet oddly intriguing. To think that each of these bones belonged to a real person who lived and died over 500 years ago was strange. Some of the skulls had bullet or ax wounds and told a story about how that person met their demise. Some of the skulls were small from children who died too young. Sobering and a little disturbing.

After a few more hours driving, we arrived very late at night in Oswiecim, Poland. We slept a few hours, then woke up bright and early to tour Auschwitz and Birkenau camps. Again, a very sobering and eerie experience. I'd say it was much more haunting than Dachau because it left more to your imagination. Several of the buildings had exhibits, but a lot were left empty. Birkenau especially was basically just a big field with one or two buildings recreated to show the barracks and the gas chambers to show what that was like. 

After our visit to the concentration camps, we needed to add some levity to the trip. What better place than Karlovy Vary, CZ! This cute little town is known for its hot springs that flow through the pedestrian area. Fountains have been built to contain the water, and each of the springs has a different mineral composition. The vendors around town have tiny cups with sipping straws, and you can wander at your leisure to each spigot and try each special water. I think we tried all of them (maybe 15-20?) and none were super delicious. In fact, some were downright disgusting. :D They were all very sulfurous and salty and most were very, very hot! But it was a fun and interesting experience, and the town itself was adorable. We visited the Grandhotel Pupp where the James Bond movie "Casino Royale" was filmed.  We also got to take a ride up to the top of a mountain and got some great views of the town below.

Grandhotel Pupp

Funicular to the top of a mountain

Peacock wandering around

Albino peacock

Waiting for our turn at a fountain

Pretty church

We spent a few days around the house, and the girls and I went shopping. I tried my best to turn Rachel and Jeannie into true Germans, but they didn't take the bait. :) They sure looked adorable though.

We did a day trip to Rothenburg (Tyler was working and couldn't join). Super fun, cute town.

Family picture
After Jerry and Jeannie left, Marshal and Rachel and the boys and we went to Legoland. It also happened to be "Star Wars Day" while we were there. It was a fabulous day with fun abounding for everyone!

Happy after a fun day at the park

We had a wonderful time with the whole family and seeing new sights, both educational and entertaining.