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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Radio Free Europe on PBS...

The PBS show Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg is focusing on RFE/RL in a broadcast that airs in some locations this weekend. I wasn't able to find it on the TPT channels in the Twin Cities, so you might have to wait until later to catch it. I hear that we will get DVDs of the broadcast and if we do I will report on the show after I see it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The hanging man in Prague...

During Styopa's visit we were in Old Town looking for the Sparta fan shop so he could buy a jersey. He happened to look up and asked, "What's that?". He pointed skyward and this is what we saw.

According to the internets, This sculpture, more often referred to as the Hanging man was first exhibited at the exhibition “Respekt 97” at the Villa Richter in the Prague’s Lesser Town. Later installed at the Czech Cultural Center in Berlin; Moderna Muset in Stockholm; National Theatre in London; and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in London. Dimensions: 233 x 60 x 45 cm, 1996.

Somehow it ended up at rooftop level in Stare Mesto. When there is a breeze the man sways back and forth, so he's not hard welded to the horizontal poll. Of course, that could be an accident waiting to happen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First day of school 2007...

Tuesday was the first day of school at the International School of Prague (ISP). They start school earlier here than back home, but they get more time of during the school year. There's a week in October, three weeks at Christmas, a week in February and a week in April. All of these breaks give families the opportunity to go back home - wherever that it.

Here is Noah in his new 4th grade classroom. He has Ms. Light as a teacher. We hear that she is a bit of a disciplinarian, but that is OK with us. Noah needs structure to do well. He reported at the end of the day that he liked her so far, but he had heard that she was always nice the first day, and then got mean. I guess we'll find out today.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tischler Geneaology - Part II...

I signed up to ancestry.com again on Saturday. I had been a member a few years ago, but I eventually lapsed because it was fairly expensive, about $100 per year, and I only worked on genealogy in fits and spurts so I felt like I was paying for something I wasn't using most of the time.

I have been working with my cousin Rick on Tischler and Sattler (my dad's mom's line) lineage. Rick went to Calvary cemetery on Front Street a couple of days ago and found the grave markers for my gr-grandmother (Anna) and gr-grandfather (Martin) Sattler as well as our grandparents (Tischler). I had found them back in 2000 and still had the locations on maps that I scanned and sent to Rick. He took and sent nice digital photos of the markers. My dad's grandpa Frank Tischler doesn't even have a grave marker so we might look into getting one.

With this flurry of genealogy work I decided that it would be good to have the resources of ancestry.com available to us. I went to the web site to sign up and was amazed that now a year subscription to their service is $299!. I can't afford that, so I just bought a month for $29, and we'll see how far we get.

But here's the thing. In the few years that I have been away from ancestry.com they have greatly enhanced their services. They have a great search function, and they show documents like copies of census records and passenger logs of ships that came over from Europe in the 1800s as part of the result of a name search. They also search all of the family trees that are listed in the ancestry.com web site to see if someone has already done the leg work on researching your family.

That isn't always the case. On my Tischler line I have been stumped for years on Frank, my dad's grandfather. My dad had said that he only remembers seeing his grandfather a few times even though Frank lived in St. Paul for most of his life. The last time my dad saw him was about the time my dad went into the service. I have Frank's death certificate and it shows he died on February 13, 1946. It also says that he died of "cancer of the rectum" - I really hope THAT'S not hereditary! Anyway, we are still trying to find the one piece of information that will break us out past Frank to the rest of our Tischler lineage.

However, on some of my other lines - on my mother's side - in 48 hours I have found relatives back to the 900s - more than 1200 years ago! I find this to be simply amazing. I was lucky enough to find relatives back far enough to where I then tied into very distant relatives who have already researched our common line. I can go back farthest with the Thomas line. Thomas is my mom's maiden name, and her parents were divorced when she was very young and she only got to know her father when he was elderly. So it is ironic that it is this line that I can take back the farthest - 27 generations. It goes like this - me, my mom, her dad (Roy Thomas), James Monroe Thomas, Elija Thomas, Henry Thomas, Daniel Thomas, Simon Thomas, Tristram Thomas, Tristram Thomas, Christopher Thomas, Tristam Thomas, Edmond Thomas and as Yule Brenner would say, "et cetera, et cetera, et cetera".

Anyway, the picture here is a Minnesota census record of my gr-gr-grandfather, Martin Sattler, and his wife, Magdelina.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another castle visit - Vysehrad...

The upcoming family visits has been an incentive for us to see some of the local sites that we haven't gotten around to seeing before. Last week was Karlstejn castle and yesterday it was Vysehrad. Vysehrad is a castle within the city, and it's only two metro stops from my office on Wenceslas Square. I didn't know that or I would have recommended it to Styopa while he was here.

Part of the cemetery. It contains over 600 graves of the more famous and influencial Czechs.

Here is some information from Wikipedia:

Vyšehrad is a castle located in the Czech Republic, built in the 10th century, on a hill over the Vltava River. Situated within the castle is the Cathedral of Saint Paul and Peter, as well as the Vyšehrad cemetery, containing the remains of many famous people from Czech history.

Vyšehrad and the area around it became part of the capital city, Prague, in 1883. The area is one of the cadastral districts of the city.

When the Přemyslid dynasty settled on the current site of Prague Castle, the two castles maintained opposing spheres of influence for approximately two centuries. When Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV began to build the Prague Castle in its current dimensions (in the early 14th century), Vyšehrad was abandoned as a royal home.

At the beginning of the Hussite Wars, it was captured by the Hussites.

It underwent a renovation in the 17th century, when the Habsburg Monarchy took over the Czech lands after the Thirty Years' War and became a training center for the Austrian Army. It was also incorporated into the Baroque era city walls around Prague.

We had a good time, especially because it is so close to home. Kathy liked it better than Karlstejn (although I prefer Karlstejn). Still, it definitely worth a visit. Also, since entrance to the grounds is free, it is a cheap way to spend a few hours. The cost to get into the beautiful church is just 30 crowns (about $1.50).

One of the beautiful mosaic doors on the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Also, a view from the rampart looking south (upstream) on the Vlatava River.

Prague Hotels

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tischler Genealogy - Part 1...

I started working on my family genealogy back in the 1970's not long after the Roots TV mini-series came out. I remember spending hours in the main St. Paul library and visiting city hall looking for records associated with my dad's side of the family - which were certainly more numerous than my mom's side. My mom was an only child and her mom moved around a lot.

Back in the days before internet - or even the computer - research was time consuming and you really had to know what you were doing to make any significant progress. Which is why I didn't make any significant progress, and put genealogy aside for a couple of decades.

About 10 years ago I started looking again. With the internet you could take advantage of the research of others quickly and easily. There were some good premium web sites (that are still around) like ancestry.com, and I even joined one or two of them for a time. There were also great free resources like the Mormon (Latter Day Saints) genealogy web site. Mormons believe that if someone converts to Mormonism they can save their ancestors, so the Mormons are very big into genealogy. As it turns out, my mom's great-great grandmother (Phillipa Andersen) came over from Denmark as a convert to Mormonism and took a wagon train to Utah, eventually setttling in Nevada. I know all this thanks to the LDS web site.

So although back in the 1970s I had expected my dad's side (Tischler and Sattler) to be easy to research and my mom's side (Thomas and Roth) to be very hard to research, the reality was quite different.

I received some Sattler documents several years ago, I think from my Aunt Eleanor. They were documents in German with English translations and showed two generations of Martin Sattler (father and son) both born in an area called Burgenland in very eastern Austria.

Now for the most recent developments. My cousin Rick Tischler sent an email last week asking if I could send him some of the Sattler information I had, so I went about trying to find my genealogy box that we had moved from Minnesota, but I hadn't looked at since being here. I was lucky and found the box quickly and brought the documents Rick wanted to work to scan and email to him.

It had been a while since I had looked at them so I saw again that the Sattlers were from Austria. Since we had just visited Vienna a couple of months ago I was curious where Burgenland was. As I have said before, Google is a wonderful thing, and in a minute I had thousands of web sites at my disposal with information on Burgenland.

Then I tried the combination of "burgenland, sattler, genealogy" and had scores of web sites to look at. One of them was a site run by a group called the Burgenland Bunch that specializes in researching the genealogy of families from the Burgenland area. And, to my surprise, one of the people from Burgenland who helps with research is Martin Sattler. It's hard to tell yet if he is a relation, but I am hopeful.

The Burgenland in about an hour east of Vienna, so it is 5 hours by car. We may make a visit there while we live overseas since it is so easy compared to if we lived in the US.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rollerblading in Horomerice...

Noah strapped on Kathy's rollerblades yesterday - yes, they fit - and zoomed several times around the block. Then after supper he did it again while Kathy and I stolled leisurely around the block behind him. It was a beautiful evening after a few days of rain, so the walk was nice. Perfect temperature, around 70 degrees, and the sun low on the horizon.

We discovered that a new family had moved into the neighborhood in one of the several empty homes that are for lease. We could hear from across the fence as we walked by that they are British (or at least the mom yelling at her kids in the pool is). At the same time, one of Noah's friends, Uval, is moving to Israel with his family so that will create another opening in the neighborhood. There's always change - families coming and going. A year ago it was us, now we are "old hands".

Monday, August 13, 2007

August 13th - One year anniversary of move to Prague...

The three of us arrived in Prague one year ago today. It has been an interesting adventure so far with many great experiences tempered with the frustrations that come with living overseas.

On the plus side, we have got to know Prague and some of the other beautiful sites elsewhere in the Czech Republic. In addition, we have been fortunate enough to have spent time in Geneva, Berlin and Vienna.

Noah has had a great experience at the International School of Prague and now has friends from countries from all corners of the globe.

Kathy has been able to not work and spend her time with Noah and volunterring at Noah's school.

I have enjoyed working for Radio Free Europe and the challenge of our new building project (a web cam may be in place next week to show the ongoing construction).

On the flip side, my father passed away six months after we arrived here. This was my biggest concern about moving so far away and I was barely able to get home to spend a few hours with him before he passed.

While most people think about the good things about living in an exotic location, there are also frustrations. The language barrier makes even mundane tasks like grocery shopping an exercise in futility.

We have to keep a separate stash of money in our glove compartment to pay the "fines" levied by the police when they pull you over for some minor infraction. Everyone knows they keep most or all of what is collected. Fortunately, it has only happened to us once so far.

Kathy had an unexpected need for medical services in February, and although it wasn't life threatening it required us to navigate a foreign medical system.

The dollar continues to slide, raising our costs (our lease is in Euros) and leaving less for saving and fun things.

All in all, it has been a good experience. I especially think it will serve Noah well as he gets older. How much longer will we stay? That's hard to say. At least one more year, and maybe two. But time will tell.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Karlstejn Castle...

We took a little excursion to Karlstejn Castle on Saturday despite a spot of rain. We had not yet been to Karlstejn and figured it was high time to make the short journey - it's only about 25 minutes from our house. The numerous castles in the Czech Republic close over the winter and since we arrived in August we didn't visit Karlstejn Castle before they closed.

From Wikipedia:

Karlštejn (German: Karlstein) is a large Gothic castle founded in the 14th century by Charles IV. The castle served as a place for safekeeping the Empire coronation jewels, holy relics and other royal treasures. Located about 20 km southwest of Prague in the Karlštejn village, it is one of the most famous and heavily visited castles in the Czech Republic.

The castle was founded in 1348 by the Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV who personally supervised the construction works and the decoration of interiors. The construction was finished nearly twenty years later when the "heart" of the treasury – the Chapel of the Holy Cross situated in the Great tower – was consecrated in 1365. With the outbreak of the Hussite Wars, the Czech coronation jewels were moved to the castle and were kept there for almost two centuries, with some short-time breaks.

The castle underwent several reconstructions: in late Gothic style after 1480, in Renaissance style in the last quarter of the 16th century and finally a neo-Gothic reconstruction between 1887 and 1899 carried out by Josef Mocker that gave the castle the present look.

Here is a view of the castle from the village of Karlstejn.

This shows some of the elevation change on the way to the top of the castle.

Looking back at the village below.

Kathy and Noah stop dodging the raindrops long enough to pose for a picture.

Noah liked the swords and other weapons that were a common souvenir for sale in the tourist shops.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Front page of the International Herald Tribune...

One of the benefits of my position and working for a broadcasting company is that I get free subscriptions of three newspapers - the Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune and the Prague Post (published weekly), plus the magazine The Economist. Every day one of the admin assistants brings them to my office. Almost always I put them away to take home and look at later. I look at the Wall Street Journal on the bus ride home, but read the International Herald Tribune less frequently. Kathy, though, likes the Herald Tribune and will at least glance through them when she has a minute.

Kathy and Noah just got back to Prague last Sunday, and I had a week or two worth of newspapers that I hadn't recycled yet, thinking Kathy would want to look at them. When she did she pointed out that the International Herald Tribune from Friday, August 3rd, had a big photo of Sandy and Dan's SUV on the bridge. What a surprise!

Friday, August 10, 2007

More bridge pictures (I can't help it)...

My friend Steve sent me an email with 15 photos of the bridge that included the SUV of my sister and brother-in-law. Thanks to him - and please check out his blog using the link on the left side of the page. Here are the best of 15 pictures that he sent me. The last one shows their vehicle in the background of President Bush's helicopter.
I am more thankful for their safety every time I see these pictures

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Noah's summer in Minnesota...

Here are a couple of pictures from Noah's summer back in MN. One is his baseball team - he did very well with some improved fielding and power hitting. Being one of the bigger kids he has always batted well - you can see from the picture that he is almost a head taller than the other kids. He had a home run in the last game before coming home to Prague. The second picture is of Noah with his friend Jack. It was great that he was able to re-connect with friends over the summer. Perhaps the connection will stay until we return - that would make things easier.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

AC Sparta v Arsenal

Premiership top-tier Aresnal will be playing a "friendly" match next Wednesday against AC Sparta, one of the Czech premier league teams. I am attempting to get tickets, but it could be tough since the stadium only holds 25,000 and there is likely to be high interest in the match from the locals.

AC Sparta doesn't really stand a chance, though, unless Arsenal rests some of its better players (and the rest are made to hop on one leg for the entire match). I will update when I find out if I can secure tickets.

Here is a bit on Arsenal from Wikipedia:

Arsenal Football Club (also known as Arsenal, The Arsenal or The Gunners) are an English professional football club based in Holloway, north London. They play in the Premier League and are one of the most successful clubs in English football. Arsenal have won thirteen First Division and Premier League titles, ten FA Cups and in 2005–06 became the first London club to reach the UEFA Champions League final. Arsenal are also members of the G-14 group of leading European football clubs.

Arsenal were founded in 1886, in Woolwich, south-east London, but in 1913 they moved north across the city to Arsenal Stadium, Highbury. In May 2006 they left Highbury, moving to their current home, the Emirates Stadium in nearby Ashburton Grove, Holloway. Arsenal have a long-standing and fierce rivalry with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur, located four miles away in Tottenham, with whom they have contested the North London derby almost every season since 1913.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Email from daughter's high school friends's mom...

There was a Tischler family reunion on Saturday that I, alas, was not able to attend. Neither were Kathy and Noah since they were on a plane traveling back to Prague. If I get some pictures I will post on it.

My sister Sandy and her husband, Dan, are still absorbing the effects of their experience on the 35W bridge. As my sister relayed in an email:

We've gotten calls from everyone we known, or ever known. We had sixteen messages on our recorder when we got home from work on Friday. It's quite unbelievable. This morning I got an email from one of Tina's high school friend's mom. (got that??) She heard it from the sister of one of my high school friends. At work, people I have never talked to before have come up to hug me. It's so remarkable! We are without a scratch. We feel so totally blessed at our good fortune.

Even friends in Prague that we know are just flabergasted when the subject comes up (since just about everyone knows that we are from Minnesota) and they discover that my sister was actually on the bridge. If Sandy was here they would hug her too.

The picture shows the entire bridge collapse and has a small circle around my sister's vehicle in the lower right hand corner of the picture. There were heading south, towards the bridge. If the collapse had happened and couple of seconds later who knows what might have happened.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Back to normal...

As I write this, Kathy and NOah are over the Atlantic on their way back to Prague. We have been apart for over three weeks, which is a record by more than two weeks. I had a few international business trips of a week or so, but this is the longest we have been apart. It will be great to have them back abd have things get back to "normal".

Friday, August 3, 2007

Close call on the bridge - one more picture...

Here is another picture of (I believe) my sister and brother-in-law's SUV on the I-35 bridge after the accident. This one is courtesy of the Minnesota Daily newspaper (Univ. of Minnesota).

Close call on the bridge - more pictures...

I found more pictures of what I believe is my sister's SUV on a Russian web site (via an email to Kathy from one of her friends). I will verify, but based on the location, vehicle type and the fact that my sister said she left her passenger-side door open, this would appear to be their vehicle. It's the black SUV on the left, not the blue van on the right. It is basically on the section of bridge that is right over the train that ran along the riverbank.

And an email from my mom captures a few more details:

Sandy and Dan were on their way to the Twins game and were on the bridge when it collapsed. They had just enter the bridge when suddenly they felt a tremor and felt themselves sliding downwards, as cars around them slide entirely off of the bridge. All of the sudden their car came tp a jarring stop throwing them both forward. Dan screamed to Sandy, "Lets get out of here!"

They bolted from the car and began crawly up the cement incline. They couldn't get through, so Dan told Sandy to stay put and he went around the broken barriers and found another clear area. He signaled Sandy to follow him and they were able to climb over an side bridge railing on to safe ground. They looked down and saw their car hanging there.

After helping two women over the railing, and seeing no other signs of movement round their car, they walked a ways down to a cafe to sit for a moment and process what had just happened ........

The pictures of the bridge clearly show their car in a downward angle with the passenger side door swung open. Sandy said she forgot to close her door.

I had lunch with them today and delighted in being able to hug them each tightly .... Sandu has an ache all over stiffness and Dan has a bruised, sore chest from being thrown forward when the car came to that miraculous stop. Other wise they are fine, and so grateful to be alive ....... I am grateful along with them!.

A very close call. I like to think Al was watching over them, as he always did.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Update - Close call on the bridge...

I finally talked to my sister and got a first hand account of their experience last night. As I mentioned before, they were driving to the Twins game and got to the bridge just as the collapse was happening. She said there was bumper to bumper traffic as they started onto the bridge when the section that they were on broke and tilted down, towards the river, at a fairly steep angle. The vehicle they were in started rolling towards the edge, but stopped about 20 feet short. She doesn't know how many vehicles went over, but thought it was many. There's was the last vehicle on that section that didn't go over. When the SUV stopped moving my brother-in-law yelled for them to hop out, which they did.

They climbed over a wall and jumped a three foot gap to the north bound side since they were concerned the section they were on would fall further. At first, they didn't immediately grasp the extent of the bridge failure because the section of bridge in front of them broke the other way, with the front facing up, which obstructed their view of the rest of the bridge. Once they realized that the entire bridge was down they realized that their situation wasn't serious enough to get attention any time soon, so they walked to Jimmy John's (sandwich place) in Dinky Town, next to the University of Minnesota campus. There they had a drink and tried to settle down. The cell phone circuits were overloaded by this time so they used the land line at Jimmy John's to call their daughter to come and pick them up.

My sister said that she will email me some pictures that shows their car, and when I get them I might post them.

Both are off of work today and the emotional impact is just being felt. Yesterday was fueled by adrenaline and today you get to ponder what might have happened but didn't and try to explain what is unexplainable. Our story has a happy ending. Unfortunately there are many that did not.

This isn't a great picture but I think this picture shows their SUV which is on the section of bridge tilting downward. I will try to verify this. I had seen a picture from much closer but it was in Adobe and I didn't know how to save it.

Close call on the bridge...

First of all, my heart goes out to all of the folks who lost someone in the collapse of the 35W bridge, or still has friends or family missing. Kathy called me at 5:45 am this morning (Prague time), which was about 4 hours after the collapse, to tell me about the tragedy and to let me know that all of our loved ones were safe.

However, it sounds like my oldest sister, Sandy, and her husband, Dan, were on their way to the Twins game and arrived at the river just as the bridge was collapsing and saw cars disappearing. I have tried several times today to get a hold of either one of them without success. I am sure they are OK, although probably shaken up, but I want to get their first hand account of what happened to them. I'll find out when I can and report later.

Here is a video of the collapse. The link was provided by Styopa, and I went there and then uploaded the video to YouTube (the first time I have ever done that). It doesn't show a great deal, but is still interesting.

The last time I received a wake up call early in the morning about a tragedy was on November 13th, 1995, when a friend called me and said "Turn on CNN" - I did and saw the truck-bombed building that I had worked in while in Saudi. In many ways that was worse, because they had reported several dead and I knew that most of the dead would be my friends, only I didn't know which ones.