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Monday, December 31, 2007

Our arrival in Rome...

Our arrival in Rome did not go completely as planned. Our flight was two hours late leaving from Prague and this caused the van that we had hired to take us form the airport to our apartment to not be waiting - however the company replaced the van with 2 cars. I had hired the van because it was a lot cheaper than 2 cars, and you would think I would still get the lower van price because it wasn't our fault that the flight was late. But you would be wrong. The 2-car 30 minute ride from the airport to our apartment cost 120 Euros ($175). Ouch. That was about $75 more than I had planned.

Our apartment was in a four story building on a very narrow street (typical for Rome) about 4 blocks from the Colosseum in the oldest part of Rome. The owner of the apartment was supposed to be there to open the apartment and give us the keys - but no owner in sight. The two cars drove away leaving us on a back street in a strange city at night. We waited a few minutes before I called the company that we had booked the apartment through. He was supposed to be there, they said, but they would call him on his mobile phone and get back to us. 20 minutes later I called back and they said that they had left a message on the apartment owner's voicemail. I wasn't impressed with the progress, so I asked what Plan B was. They said they would start looking for another apartment to put us.

Another 15 minutes went by and I watched the luggage while Kathy, Danny and Noah went exploring the nearby streets. An Italian couple carrying shopping bags walked up to the main apartment door and opened it. I figured we looked strange waiting by the door with several suitcases so I said that we were waiting for the owner to let us into one of the apartments. They motioned us inside and it turned out that the man was the brother of the owner and he had the keys. Apparently the owner was out of town for Christmas. They were nice but there was no explanation as to why they showed up 2 1/2 hours after our scheduled arrival time. I was almost glad our flight had been late.

They showed us around the apartment, which was quite nice, and then left. A few minutes later the phone rang and it was the apartment company telling me they still hadn't heard from the owner and had arranged another apartment for us. I informed the company that we had been let in by someone else and it was news to them. It seemed that this is the Italian way of life - letting things happen as they happen.

We did some quick unpacking and then went to find dinner since it was now after 7 PM. There were many restaurants in the vicinity and we ended up picking one just down the street from the apartment. It had outdoor seating with space heaters - and since the temperature was about 50 to begin with we decided to eat outside. The service and food were both very good and by the time we finished we were tired from the travel and excitement of being in Rome so we went back to the apartment and got ready for the next day - Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Danny heads home...

We just got back from the airport after dropping Danny off. He flies to Munich and then connects to a flight to Chicago where his dad will pick him up and drive him back to Milwaukee, about an hour away.

It was a full and fun trip that included a wonderful 5 days in Rome. It was good to have a real family vacation. The last family vacation was to Colorado about 5 years ago.

For our last dinner we went to a place called Bar Fontana, which is near Dejvicka circle. So we drove to the circle and parked and then walked the three blocks to the restaurant. Kathy and I have been there twice before and both times the food and service were good. It is a small restaurant with only a half a dozen tables. It is in a cellar and is lit completely by candles. They specialize in grilled meats, which are cooked on an open grill within the dining room. It's not a place to go in warm weather but in the winter it is warm, cozy, relaxing and with ambiance that can't be beat.

Danny had a large skewer of mixed grilled meat (what else?) oh, and beer. Noah had marinated chicken and fries (what else?). The open grill can be seen in the background.

We have a final dinner together to celebrate Danny's visit.

The interior of Bar Fontana. It's like something out of the Middle Ages.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Colosseum in Rome...

We went to the Colosseum on Wednesday afternoon. We were a little concerned about getting in since it closes near sunset and by the time we got there - 3:00 or so - there wasn't much time left.

As we neared the ticket line we were approached by an American college-age kid asking if we were interested in a tour. We found out later that there are dozens of these people who round up tourists looking to get into the Colosseum and coax them into tours. The basic ticket price for entrance into the Colosseum is 11 Euros, or about $16. With just a general admission ticket you have to wait in line, which is normally about an hour and can be longer. Obviously, this was a problem for us since it was so late in the day.

The price of the tour is 10 Euros ($15) so that brings the total to over $30 each. We decided to go ahead and get the tour and realized only later what a good decision that was.

Tours bypass the general public waiting line and go straight into the Colosseum, so five minutes after paying for the tour we passed by the general public waiting line, went through Security and were inside the Colosseum. [Security was a bit of a joke as they pushed people through the x-ray machine very quickly, yet no one ever set off the alarm. I went through with my BlackBerry, belt, apartment keys and wallet with coins and the machine didn't make a peep].

The tour would have been worth the 40 Euros ($60) just for the time savings alone, but we were fortunate to have a guide who was interesting and knowledgeable. He was not a native English speaker, as most of the other guides seemed to be, but that wasn't a problem. The Colosseum requires hearing devices for groups of more than 8 and since our group was about 20 people we each received a small walkie-talkie on a lanyard that we hung from our necks. The guide spoke into the only transmitting walkie-talkie and the rest could hear fine, even if we were at the back of the group.

The Colosseum is just a shadow of its former greatness, but even in its dilapidated state it is amazing, and one can only imagine what it was like in its prime. The guide gave same amazing facts - that in the several hundred years it was used for entertainment it is estimated that one million people - prisoners of war and gladiators - died as part of the games conducted there.

Here we are as we approached the Colosseum. It is an impressive sight even from a distance. And very large.

Here is a view looking down from the upper level. At the far end they have reconstructed a section of the floor to show how it would have looked. The floor was all wood, covered with sawdust (to soak up the blood). Under the wood floor was a labyrinth of rooms and hallways used to get animals up to the floor using a complicated system of trap doors and pulleys. Wild animals, like lions and tigers, were kept in the dark for up to two weeks without food before being let up onto the floor to attack the unfortunate souls there, who were either unarmed or woefully underarmed. There was another level even under the one you can see under the floor.

Here we are at the floor level looking into the interior.

Another view of the remains of the lower level.

A nice picture showing the cross that has been added in the interior of the Colosseum. There was no religious significance to the Colosseum during its use. It's only afterwards when Rome became the seat of the Catholic Church that it did.

Something that was interesting to me that had not known was that in midieval times the plague (black death) claimed about half of Rome's 1 million inhabitants and when the empire collapsed the population of Rome dwindled to as few as 25,000.

From Wkipedia:
The Colosseum or Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre (Latin: Amphitheatrum Flavium, Italian Anfiteatro Flavio or Colosseo), is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.

Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started between 70 and 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian's reign (81–96).[1] The name "Amphitheatrum Flavium" derives from both Vespasian's and Titus' family name ("Flavius, from the gens Flavia).

Originally capable of seating around 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. It remained in use for nearly 500 years with the last recorded games being held there as late as the 6th century. As well as the traditional gladiatorial games, many other public spectacles were held there, such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building eventually ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such varied purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Back from Rome...

We had smooth traveling back from Rome to Prague today, but we are tired after five days of sightseeing and walking - lots and lots of walking. We never took the metro although there was a station a block from our apartment. I guess that we walked 20 miles or more oer the five day visit.

My overall impression of Rome is extremely positive. I had expected to like it, but was surprised when I loved it. Prague is a wonderful city with magnificent sites but anyone who thinks Prague is the most beautiful city in the world just hasn't visited Rome.

My post today will be brief but I will continue to post about Rome over the coming days.

Waiting in line in St. Peter's square on Christmas eve Noah was tired of standing in line so we let him sit by a fountain in the middle of the square. I snapped this picture because I loved the juxtaposition of Noah on his Nintendo and the nun on her cell phone.

Here are the four of us at dinner on the day after Christmas. The food throughout our stay was just wonderful.

Our tour of the Colosseum was one of the highlights of the trip - we all agreed on that. Here is Noah with the interior of the Colosseum in the background.

Here is St. Peter's square on Christmas eve. This ended up being our biggest disappointment of the trip but more on that - and the rest of the trip - over the next few days.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Radio Free Europe...

We are off to Rome, and we will be out of pocket until Friday the 28th. Not taking the laptop since there is no connection in the apartment we are renting (the building is from the 1700s). You can reach me via my work email if necessary since I will have my BlackBerry.

We want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 2008 promises to be another exciting year for the Tischler family, with some potential big changes.

A stroll on the Charles bridge...

After visiting the Old Town Christmas market we went to the new Palladium mall. Not surprisingly, it's much like every other mall in the world this time of year with lots of stoes selling the same stuff - although the Palladium is very upscale, so their stuff is pretty expensive. We stopped for coffee (hot chocolate for Noah) at a nice cafe inside the mall and then went for a late lunch at a restaurant on Bethlehem Namesti. Kathy had taken her family there when they visited this fall but I had never been there. After a leisurely lunch we headed home, and crossing the Charles Bridge on the way.

It was quite cold (but as a Minnesotan I am embarassed to say that I was cold even though the temperature was a balmly 20 degrees). Here is the Charles Bridge with the castle - actually St. Vitus Cathedral - in the background. The boat on the river is one of the many that offer dinner cruises. There is an open upper deck that can be used in better weather.

A view from the bridge.

One of the many statues that line both sides of the bridge. I don't know which saint this is (I probably should) but I like the gold cross with St. Vitus in the background.

Prague Christmas market...

Last Christmas we went back to Minnesota so we weren't in Prague just before Christmas. Yesterday we took Danny to the main Christmas market in Old Town Square.

Here is the view from an elevating viewing stand that is set up in the middle of the square. You climb stairs to get a nice setting for pictures.

I like this montage of momument, church and Christmas Tree.

Here is the official Olt Town Square Christmas tree. A few years ago wind blew the tree over and it landed on a Brit, seriously injuring him. He collected $20,000 related to the acccident a few months ago.

Christmas hams for sale.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hoar frost in Horomerice...

The last few days have been very pretty around our little hovel in Horomerice. The atmospheric conditions have been ideal for the formation of hoar frost, coating the tree branches in white and giving the town a definite winter and Chritmasy look and feel. Hoar frost occurs in Minnesota, but I wouldn't call it common, I suppose because it requires cold temps and high humidity to form. It's usually too dry in Minnesota.

From Wikipedia:Radiation frost (also called hoar frost or, sometimes, hoarfrost) refers to the white ice crystals, loosely deposited on the ground or exposed objects, that form when the air is moist, the wind is weak or absent and surfaces are cold. It is often seen on clear winter nights, especially in valleys and hollows. Hoar frost can form in these areas even when the reported temperature is above the freezing point of water.
One can distinguish between some types of hoar frost, depending on where it forms. For example, air hoar is a deposit of hoar frost on objects above the surface, such as tree branches, plant stems, wires; surface hoar is formed by fernlike ice crystals directly deposited on snow, ice or already frozen surfaces; crevasse hoar consists in crystals that form in glacial crevasses where water vapour can accumulate under calm weather conditions; depth hoar refers to cup shaped, faceted crystals formed within dry snow, beneath the surface.

I took this while driving Noah to the Inrtnational School on Friday morning. I know I probably shouldn't take pictures while driving.

I took this on the walk home from the bus stop in Horomerice.

This tree is the neighbor's yard across the street. I took this as we were getting in the car to pick up Danny at the airport on Friday evening.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Danny arrives in Prague...

Danny got in around 7:00 this evening, after a slight delay due to fog here in Prague. Luckily, we are only ten minutes from the airport, so we were home for dinner and a opening a few early Christmas gifts. We leave for Rome on the 23rd and don't want to carry presents with us.

We were surprised how excited Noah was about Danny's visit. They still bicker - they are brothers after all - but I think they will be close when they are older.

Noah got a UEFA soccer shirt.

Danny got a scarf, a necessity in Prague.

Christmas traditions in Prague...

Here is an article from today's Prague Daily Monitor that is written by Emily Prucha, an American who married a Czech (Radek) and now lives in Prague. By coincidence, we bought our 2003 Ford Mondeo wagon from Emily and Radek last year (it has been a fine car by the way). I just recently doscovered that she is a regular writer for the Monitor. In her article today she gives a primer on Christmas for locals here in Prague.

Christmas in Prague
By Emily Prucha / Prague Daily Monitor / Published 21 December 2007

This will be the second year we’ve celebrated Christmas in the Czech Republic, and it’s the first year Anna Lee is old enough to participate in the festive preparations. Since we alternate between spending Christmas here and in the States, Radek’s Czech traditions will take precedence this year including kapr (carp) for dinner and a bell after dinner on the 24th announcing that Ježišek (baby Jesus) has brought the presents.

During our first Czech Christmas, the carp was the gossip of the season. No one back in America could believe we had a real carp swimming in our bathtub on the afternoon of the 24th; admittedly, I found it hard to believe myself. Although I knew Radek would serve carp, I had no idea he would buy a live one and leave it in the bathtub. Incidentally, he waited until late Christmas morning to buy it because he knew I wouldn’t want to give up my morning shower to a fish. Having waited until the last minute, all the seasonal carp stands were already shut down, and he had to scour the supermarkets for a live one. Anna was just turning one, so she was thrilled that there was a fish swimming where she usually took a bath and still too young to understand that the live fish was to become dinner. Long after Christmas she would toddle to the bathroom to peer in the already empty tub.

Over the years, we’ve tried to “educate” both families about the respective Christmas traditions in the other country. The first Christmas we were in the US, Radek tried to fix fried carp and his grandfather’s traditional potato salad. After searching grocery stores without success for carp and the right kind of šunka (ham) for the salad, Radek ended up serving fried catfish and a slightly altered version of the potato salad. My parents enjoyed the meal, but thought the menu was more befitting a 4th of July fish-fry than a winter holiday. As for Radek’s family's reaction to my vegetable casserole, I’m afraid the comments Děda made are not fit for print. In the end, Děda conceded that the taste itself wasn’t bad, but the sight of all the food mixed together in the dish didn’t look like “food”.

Anna Lee’s birthday is also on the 24th and my parents will arrive on the 27th to spend New Year’s with us, so there is a mounting to-do list: a birthday cake to bake, presents to wrap, cleaning to do, and this year I've decided not fight about whether we have carp and potato salad or turkey and broccoli casserole.

To get ready for the holiday, we packed Anna up on Friday to spend the weekend with her grandmother Nada. Anna could help Nada bake Vánoční cukroví (Christmas sweets), and we used the few days without Anna to clean the house, shop for last minute presents and buy a tree. Anna was delighted. Not only would she get to have a lollipop after every meal and get her fingers and toes painted (treats/activities banned at home), she would also get to finish the gingerbread “boys” she’d started with Nada the previous weekend.

On Saturday morning, I woke up with a sore throat and raspy voice, which kept me home and left Radek to do the bulk of our last-minute shopping. He called me from the Zličín shopping center saying, sadly, he was stuck in a parking lot traffic jam. Six hours later, he returned home in a surprisingly good mood with a few things from IKEA and several bottles of liquor. Although he hadn’t found all the items he wanted, he ended up bringing home Jameson Irish whisky with a complementary flask (for our Austrian ski trip) and Baileys caramel crème (for coffee), enough to designate the trip a success. We already have homemade slivovice (the pear variety) from our neighbor and traditional plum slivovice from Radek’s work colleague, so along with svařák (hot mulled wine), and a few beers, we should have all alcohol-related drink requests covered. Not that alcohol is important to Czechs, right?

Although we’ll celebrate Christmas in Prague, Nada will join us, bringing at least part of the meal in her suitcase. Even if it wasn’t a holiday, Nada always comes laden with food (cooked and uncooked) despite our assurances that there are grocery stores in Prague also.

The first year, it was tough for me to step aside and leave all the cooking to Nada and Radek, especially since I like the holiday atmosphere in the kitchen. But fitting 3 adults in our tiny kitchen is a logistical challenge, so I’m happy to take my turn on kid duty this year.

Every holiday spent with immediate and extended families can be chaotic and stressful no matter how dear the kin is. Add two or more languages, food choices and the cultural differences that correspond, and the tension mounts. Although Radek and I try our best to respect the other’s holiday tradition, we invariably touch on sensitive topics wherever we are. While I can’t believe that Czechs don’t have stockings, Radek doesn’t understand why Americans tell children that Santa comes down the chimney. That’s why for us, it’s better to keep our traditions flexible, at least now, while our children are still young. A little more Czech this year, a little more American next year, either way, our children are getting the idea that holiday time is family time, and that is, by far, the most important point.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Christmas letter...

By now many of you will have received our Christmas letter. This is a pseudo-annual tradition that we have employed most of the years that we have been married. While we are living overseas it seems like a good thing to do since our lives aren't quite as boring as usual and there are actually things to write about.

Like everyone who sends out Christmas cards, the list of recipients changes from year to year as you weigh whether a friend has drifted so far away from your life that they are no longer worth the expenditure to cover a card and a stamp. Then you get a card from them and they are automatically returned to the list - that's the deal. You get a card and you have to send one to them. The caveat is that if you send one to them for three years without reciprocation, then off the list they go. Of course, new friends get added, but it seems that it is much harder to make new friends as you get older. It's easier with a child in school, and even easier still living as an expat where we all hunger for interaction with others from our own country (or failing that, at least others with a passing knowledge of English). Still, three Christmases after we leave Prague most will be dropped from the Christmas letter distribution.

James Lileks had some musings on the Christmas Letter the other day at his blog, The Bleat (which is also linked at the left side of this blog. I love the way he writes.

After I’d completed the letter, reread it, winced, and sighed the annual sigh, I had to fit it on one page and accommodate the non-specific Holiday Graphics on the paper. It worked, if I used six point type. My wife gave it a look-over, and indicated a spot where I should put a nice “Best Wishes” or “Happy Holidays from All of Us” closing line, whatever that’s called. The opposite of a salutation. She wrote “warm feelings” to indicate where I should put something that suggested warm feelings. I put “warm feelings.” This did not go over. I suppose she’s right, but who takes those remarks as anything but a placeholder that says “letter’s over, signature’s next”? I’ve read enough aggressive legal warnings that ended “Regards” or “Yours” or “Sincerely” to suspect that these are just pro forma phonemes. If the bulk of a letter teems with insincere sentiments, after all, the assertion of sincerity at the end only stands as a mocking rejoinder to the claptrap that preceded it. But make this argument to someone who’s just trying to get the dang letters out before Arbor Day and you get the Perry Mason Stare.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bowling party in Horomerice...

The RFE/RL parents' group had a bowling party at the lanes in Horomerice on Sunday. It's just a two block walk from our house to the bowling lanes so it was very convenient for us (and it meant that I could have a beer since no driving was involved).

There were probably 15-20 kids of RFE/RL parents and they all attend one of the several international schools in Prague. Most, like Noah, attend the International School of Prague (ISP) but others attend Riverside, a small Christian school, the English school or the Britich School of Prague. Many nationalities were present today, which adds to the fun.

There are just four lanes and we rented them all for three hours. It was a lot of fun and a good thing to do on a grey, dreary Sunday afternoon (but just about all Prague winter days are grey and dreary).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The rest of December...

I can't believe that December is more than half over, and Christmas is just 9 days away. Because we won't be back in the States this Christmas there is less Christmas shopping to do. And since we are heading to Rome over Christmas, that is our common Christmas present so we are only buying a few small things so we have presents to open on Christmas day.

Danny arrives on Friday evening (the 21st) and then we head to Rome next Sunday. We are staying in an apartment rather than a hotel because 1) it's cheaper than the two hotel rooms we would need and 2) with a kitchen we can make a few meals (mostly breakfast) there and save some money and 3) the apartment has a lot more character than a hotel. It's in a buiding from the 1700s and is just a block or two from the Colliseum.

The only firm plan is to attend midnight mass at St. Peters on Christmas eve, but we will do a tour or two - we just know which ones yet. We will be in Rome five nights, returning to Prague on the 28th. Danny stays another couple of days before heading back on the 30th. He wanted to be back in Milwaukee for New Year's Eve.

I will post a few time this week but I don't plan on bringing my laptop to Rome. So unless I find - and am motivated enough to use - an internet cafe while in Rome there will probably be no posting while we are gone.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of our apartment, called the the Declenziano Loft.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Noah at soccer...

Noah played soccer yesterday for the first time since having the "lucky cast" removed and it was the last soccer session before the 3-week holiday break that starts today.

He had another stellar outing, scoring 5 goals and again surprising his compatriots. Kathy told me that a couple of mothers commented to her how much better Noah is playing. So I guess it wasn't the cast.

The new Radio Free Europe building...

The building is still coming along nicely - and is still on schedule. There was a topping off ceremony two weeks ago, so the building is as high as it's going to get. At the construction site there was food, refreshments, a band and speeches.

We should be able to get into the building in March to install the network equipment. In June we should be able to install some studios and then in early August we should be able to start moving broadcasters. In the best case scenario everyone will be moved by the end of December. More likely, though, is everyone moved by the end of February 2009.

Time is going by very fast and my work on buying things needed in the new building is heating up. The network equipment I mentioned was ordered last week - at a cost of over $2M. New studio equipment will be ordered soon - for more than $1M. Studio furniture, racks for the computer equipment, an in-house monitoring system ,etc., etc. It's getting busy, but this is the fun part.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cast off today...

No, I don't mean in the maritime sense. Noah got the cast off his left arm this morning. The report from Kathy was that all went well and Noah is glad to be able to scratch his arm and looks forward to taking showers again.

Ironically, his performance in sports over the last week has been much higher than usual, even with his cast on. As I had posted earlier, at basketball last Saturday he had an exceptional day. Noah hasn't played much basketball so I would have expected him to be in the lower half of the kids as far as performance goes, and with his cast I was pretty sure he would be lucky to touch the rim with a shot. But he appeared to be one of the highest scorers, if not THE highest scorer on the court. Plus, he did a fair amount of passing the basketball as well, so it wasn't that he was a ball hog - he just made about 75% of his shots.

Yesterday we let him play soccer for the first time since he got the cast on. He wasn't allowed to play in goal, but everything else was fair game. Noah has taken to soccer, I suppose since it is very popular here, we get a lot if it on TV and his non-American friends don't know about baseball or American football. Noah started way behind his friends in ability since they had been playing soccer exclusively their whole lives. They even made fun of him earlier on for not making some plays that they felt were easy. Well, it turns out that yesterday he scored six goals- the most that he has ever scored - by far - and he lead the kids in scoring, just like in basketball on Saturday. From Noah's description, a couple of the goals seemed to have been accidental, having gone in on what he intended to be passes. So maybe it was just a lucky day for him. By the end of the game, though, his friends had decided the source of Noah's new sporting prowess - it was the "lucky cast".

With the cast now history we will see if his recent sporting success was 1) luck, 2) related to normal maturing and increased coordination or 3) the "lucky cast".

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Basketball for Noah started up at ISP last Saturday, but we were in Germany, so today was today was his initial session. He still has his cast, but we decided to let him play anyway. Sports are such a big part of his life that it's almost impossible to keep him from playing.

Considering he had his cast he did very well and probably led the 25 or so kids in scoring. He was quite pleased with himself. Anyway, I would guess that basketball will overtake hockey as Noah's winter sport (and that would be OK with me).

About half way through the hour practice the coach walked up to me and said something like "I coach high school kids who won't play because they have a jammed pinky, and here I have 9 year-old who won't let a cast stop him from playing".

Thursday, December 6, 2007

St. Mikulas Day...

December 5th is St. Mikulas Day, aka St, Nickolas Day, in the Czech Republic. A travel web site gives a brief description of the day. In most places it is December 6th - don't really know why it's a day earlier here. Probably just to be different. I remember when I was very young having shoes filled with candy on the 6th of December, but I don't think that is done much anymore in the States.

Feast of St. Mikulas (Nicolas), Dec. 6: On this day, St. Mikulas roams about with his consorts, an angel and a devil. He gives small presents and candy to children to reward them for their good behavior throughout the year, while the devil chastizes children for their wrongdoings over the course of the year and gives them coal (or sometimes spankings) as a punishment. Old Town Square in Prague is a great place to watch the festivities.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The city of Nurnberg...

Yesterday I posted on the Christmas market in Nurnberg, but today I want to address the city itself. Nurnberg has about 500,000 inhabitants and has two distinct parts - the old historic center of the city, and the modern metropolis outside the walls of the center.

The city outside of the center seems practical and efficient - very Germanic - but with unremarkable architecture. It could be any one of scores of medium sized European cities. Where Nurnberg shines is in the historic center. It is perhaps the most pedestrian friendly city in Europe. The entire center, perhaps 1/2 square mile, is pedestrian. Cobblestone streets with shops on both sides but no cars (or buses) allowed. A river runs through the center but it is not very wide - maybe 60 feet - and there are numerous bridges (pedestrian, of course) that span the river.

After Dresden, which was firebombed, Nurnberg was the next most damaged German city during WWII with approximately 90% of its building damaged or destroyed. They have done a good job in the rebuilding, mixing reconstructed buildings with newer. They even have a subway system (that we didn't have a need to use) which runs to the center. Bicycles are also extremely popular even though the temperature was in the low 40s.

By the way, here is a picture of the restaurant where we had dinner on Friday evening and where Kathy got food poisoning. It really was a nice place, apart from the food poisoning.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Back from Nurnberg...

We got back from Nurnberg by mid-afternoon, a couple of hours earlier than expected. Unfortunately, the reason we left Nurnberg earlier than planned was because Kathy got sick during the night. She felt fine when we went to bed but she woke up during the night feeling poorly with a headache and sour stomach and by morning she was throwing up at both ends.

I strongly suspect food poisoning. Although we sampled several things at the Christmas market, we had dinner at a well known place that is referenced in the guide book we have. It was actually just what we were looking for. Great ambience, cavernous and full of people, most of them Germans and I assume local. They make their own beer. The German waiter spoke excellent English and helped us with the German-only menu. Still, Kathy's symptoms are what one would expect with food poisoning, it came on quickly, and Noah and I are fine.

So this morning while Kathy stayed in bed Noah and I made another trip back to the Christmas market for sausage sandwiches (ah, the breakfast of champions). For dessert he had a Tootsie Roll from the American booth (they had a section where each stall was represented by a country) and I had waffle with powdered sugar from one of the locals.

We went back to the hotel to collect Kathy, loaded up the car and headed home. She got sick once on the way - being sick and travelling do not mix very well.

Noah and me on the big carousel. It was a lot of fun and Noah went on three times.

We cajoled Noah to have his picture taken with Father Christmas (we promised a big molassas cookie from the booth next door if he had his picture taken). The guy was very nice - he asked where we were froom and seem tickled that we were American.

Here is part of the center of Nurnberg, after the formal opening of the Christmas market.