Thursday, July 31, 2008


Travel days can be tough. Let me explain why.

When lisa did the original planning, Sky Europe, a European discount airline, offered a flight from Krakow, Poland to Dubrovnik, Croatia. That,s on of the reasons that Croatia became part of the itinerary. Sky Europe then moves their operations out of Poland. Oops!!! This was six months or more ago. lisa then finds the closest (reasonable) flight to Dubrovnik which turns out to be out of Prague. No big deal because the flight to Dubrovnik is only ninety minutes long. Alright, she plans a train from Krakow to Prague. Done deal!!! Just wait!!

It's late the night before we leave for Prague. Our landlord has not been the best at replying to our e-mails so we aren't sure whether his mother-in-law will show up at 5:40 AM as planned. See, we need to catch the 5:57 AM tram across the city to meet the 7:00 train. I thought scheduling time would be essentially over when I retired. No way!! Mom-in-law did show up as promised, lisa handed her the key and we were off. Our train compartment was shared with two very nice Jesuit priests from California, Farthers Jim and Bill. We spent seven hours with them reading, journaling, swapping stories, etc. We also had a nice tablecloth breakfast in the dining car which seems SO luxurious. And it wasn't expensive. We arrived in Prague at 2:00 PM to find very few signs directing us to where the taxis were stationed. I eventually found the tourist information booth and they pointed us to the taxi waiting area. "Fair Taxi" was the tourist info lady's choice for a reputable company and informed us we shouldn't have to pay more than 400 Krona (about $30.00 US) to get to our hotel near the airport. When we rounded the corner we found no "Fair Taxi" and only two cabs. I like to envision them both saying "We got some suckers now". The first quoted 800 kn and the next 1000 kn. You see, Prague taxis are notorious for ripping off tourists and their countrymen alike. It's said even the Czechs hate them! One said to lisa as she walked away "What do you want to pay?", like this was a marketplace. lisa said 400 kn and he said forget it. My frustration level, already running high, helps direct me down the stairs to the metro area. Oh, by the way, "down the stairs" literally means down the stairs, no ramps, escalators, or elevators here. So I end up schlepping four heavy suitcases from one level to another. I go back to the same nice woman in the tourist information kiosk to find out that we can go three stops on the metro then take tram 22 to near our spot. She approximates on the map where our hotel is. We metro three stops then spend a lot of time finding out where the trams are, shuttling luggage and making sure the kids aren't left alone. I make sure we are on the right side of the street (remember trams go both can end up on the other side of town if you take it east vs. west). Finally, we get on tram 22. We discover, after leaving the tram that we got off several stops too early. I walked into a manicure salon and asked where we were. The receptionist gives me a quizzical look and says in perfect Czech "§˘4€ŠĆ...etc, etc.", (no clue). I ask an older lady at the tram stop, who I have zero faith in knowing any English and she instructs us which stop to get off at. She knows where the hotel is. Go figure. We finally arrive, frazzled but okay. The girls have been troopers. Though some arguing has occurred, they have been great. Avocet and Siena would often just lay down and use their suitcases as pillows and rest while we tried to figure out what we were going to do.

The next morning the front desk clerk bangs on our door at 3:00 AM. We need to be at the airport no,later than 4:00 AM to be on the 6:00 flight. We got on the plane and had an uneventful flight until the landing which was the worst I have ever experienced. Dubrovnik's airport is between the mountains and the sea and the very high winds that day made it especially bad. After doing a one wheeled landing, everyone cheered!! After collecting our luggage, we asked a policeman if the bus into the city was less expensive than a taxi. If you haven't guessed we are getting leary of taxis. He said..."WAY MORE EXPENSIVE". We took a bus into the city only to find that very few street signs exist in Dubrovnik. I had to walk up to a business and see what the address is and compare that to the map we printed off supplied by our future landlord. Our map was not detailed and only had the large streets. We were lost! We lugged the four suitcases up the streets looking for a landmark, or something. Finally, lisa goes off on her own, finds a gentleman who says its up the street we are already on and to the right. After another ten minutes of walking and thinking we are getting nowhere, we arrive at our place, exhausted but home.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


We surveyed the four participants of the One World-One Trip team for their Top 10 (Plus Two) of Poland and the results are in:

12. Cloth Hall (Handicraft Market)
11. Our Apartments
10. Auschwitz
9. Biking on the Wisla
8. Wielezcka (The Salt Mine)
7. The E. Wedel Chocolate Shop
6. Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter) and The Jewish Festival
5. Pierogi Ruskie and Potato Pancakes
4. Carriage Ride (and our Guide)
3. The International Street Theater Festival
2. Rynek Glowny (Main Square), it's Cafes, and Climbing on the Statue


1. Zakopane and Our Overnight


Monday, July 21, 2008


As we are getting ready to leave Poland, many miscellaneous thoughts are running through my head regarding Krakow that I would like to share. These thoughts are in no specific order and bear no relationship to one another.

The main square here in Old Town is called Rynek Glowny (pronounced nothing like it is spelled). It is the largest central square in Europe. There is a church that sits on the square, Bazylica Mariacka, that has a bell tower which rings every hour. In addition to the bells, there is a live person who plays a short refrain on a trumpet from the top of the bell tower. The trumpeter plays every hour, on the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have been assured that it is not the same person playing all the time. The square is surrounded by over 300 restaurants and cafes.

It costs money to use a restroom in Poland. It doesn't matter whether you are in a restaurant, at the bus station, on the street (i.e. public restroom) or in the shopping mall. It will typically cost between 1 to 2 Zloty which amounts to $.50-$1.00.

Drinks are fabulously expensive here. You can get a whole plate of pierogi (polish dumplings) for 8 Zloty, about the same price for a cup of coffee. We can treat ourselves to double scoops of gelato (all four of us) for the same price as a cup of hot chocolate, a 6 oz. Coca -Cola is the same price as 3 loaves of bread. You get my point. The exception is beer. Beer is pretty cheap.

They have traffic lights on some streets but not many. If you want to cross a street that doesn't have a traffic light, you go to a cross walk and just cross. If a car comes along, they are obligated to stop. As Americans your tendency is to wait until the street is "mostly" clear before starting to cross. The Poles will just step into the cross walk, regardless of how busy the street is, and expect the cars to stop. They always do, except when they don't. Pretty tricky.

Krakow is over 1,000 years old. At one time, this was a walled city. The only remnants of the wall are the Florianska Gate and the 100 meters of wall attached to it. In lieu of where the wall once stood, there is the Planty. The Planty is a greenspace that encircles the entire Old Town where you can walk or even bike. It is quite lovely. It is perpetually filled with people enjoying the outdoors.

There is really no such thing here as breakfast food. The gelato shop next to our apartment is open first thing in the morning and it is not uncommon to see people walking around eating ice cream at 8:30 AM. The same thing is true for the places that sell kebabs, hamburgers etc.

People in the city are quite fashionable. Body piercing and tatoos however, do not seem to have caught on. At least not yet.

There is at least one hair salon on each block of the city.

People here smoke much more than they do in the United States and only an occasional place is a non-smoking establishment.

There is at least one Piekarnia (bread bakery) on each block of the city.

There is at least one Cukiernia (sweets bakery) every two blocks in the city.

Riding the buses and trams in Krakow is on the honor system. You buy a ticket at a kiosk which is a general ticket good for anytime. When you get on your bus or tram, you enter a side door and then you are expected to stamp the ticket and render it invalid for future use. If you get caught without a validated ticket you can be fined. After 3 weeks in the city, we have never had anyone check. (We did however, always buy them).

There are lots of kiosks on the street that sell the most interesting collection of things. They sell cigaretts, magazines, breath mints, candy, shampoo, washing machine detergent, and small toys.

It appears that people here live off of processed meats, mostly kielbasa of some sort. It is very difficult to find fresh meat and when you do find it, no one is buying it. Instead the line is 20 deep for the processed meat counter. There must be about 15-20 types of sausage in the case (no idea what the difference is) along with another 20 types of deli meats.

If you want to get food from a restaurant as a carry out, it is called "Take Away" and you pay a premium for it in order to cover the expense of the paper products that they had to use to package them in.

Unlike most places that seem to abhor pigeons, Poland seems to love their pigeons. People are constantly feeding them, even the restauranteurs. You will see children and adults alike holding cups of food in their hands so that the pigeons perch on their arms and eat out of the cups. No one seems to be concerned about the sanitary aspects of the birds. Siena has decided to become Polish as she too is in love with the pigeons.

Obesity does not seem to be a problem here in Poland. While you will see an occasional heavy person, the majority of people are of normal weight.

The Polish language would be great for a high scoring game of Scrabble - I have never seen so many z's in my life. It is a very difficult language and nothing is pronounced as it looks. Here are a few things that we learned. If you see a "w" it is pronounced as a "v". If you see an l that has a line through it, then it is prounced as a "w". If the l doesn't have a line through it, then it is pronounced as an l. A "z" at the beginning of a word sounds like a "j" in french and if it is somewhere else in the word, I'm helpless. After three weeks we can recognize many words in Polish but still can only say please and thank you (if you only know 2 words, they're not bad ones to know).

People are always walking, walking, walking and it's not just the tourists. They are walking down by the river, on the Planty, through the streets of the city. Maybe this is why there is no weight problem (it's sure not because of the high carb food)!

Pierogis are a polish dumpling. When I grew up in a Jewish household, they were called verenichas (spelling ?) and they were filled with potatoes. You can get pierogis here filled with just about anything: potato and cheese, spinach, meat, fruit, red beans, rice and chilis... If you can think of a combination, it has been stuffed into a pierogi. Avocet has become our pierogi ruskie expert (potato and cheese). She has eaten this delicious dumpling in over 6 restaurants not to mention twice at home.

If you are planning a trip to Poland in the near future, I wouldn't use this Primer as your sole resource -- but it will be a helpful start.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Auschwitz - the name alone instills horror. That is because today, we know of the heinous crimes that were committed here almost seventy years ago. In Nazi occupied Europe, some may have know everything that was going on here. Many did not. One thing was certain - this place aroused fear and terror among all and people knew that nothing good was happening in this place. While Auschwitz is a venue of tragedy, it is also a place of respect. Respect for the 1.5 million souls who were brutally murdered here.

Physically the place is sterile, cleaned up. Each of the buildings (or blocks as they are referred to) is restored and from the outside look somewhat nice. This is until your memory recalls what occurred here. For awhile I thought I wouldn't be moved. That was until I entered one block where all of the hallways were lined with photos of prisoners. The eyes of all the people in these photos pierced my spirit. These were regular people who died because of the religion they practiced or where they lived. Men's photos on one side, women on the other. Some young, mostly middle aged, but NO pictures of anyone my age (53). People my age never made it far enough for identification.

I am a Jew. "We" weren't identified by photo or ID card. "We" were taken directly from the railroad cars and, if still alive, to the gas chambers. The gas chambers were so scary. We didn't allow Av and Si to go in any of the buildings, so I went in alone as did lisa. This is not unlike a Jewish person in 1943; going to the gas chambers in masses yet all alone. Today the gas chambers and crematorium also have that air of sterility, unlike the killing machines they were not so long ago.

I have visited the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. They both left their mark on me. Auschwitz did too. It actually happened here.


Thursday, July 17, 2008


Well, where are we?? The answer I would give is: "anywhere!". I am sure that is the answer you would give too if you did not know our trip itinerary. We are actually in Krakow, Poland but no one would know by looking at the picture!!! The Galeria Krakowska is just like Cincinnati's Kenwood Towne Centre - literally!!! When we went in we were amazed to find: Ecco, Esprit, Subway, Swatch, McDONALDS, Sephora and many other places that could've been anywhere in the world!!! I was (I'm not sure about Mom, Dad, and Avocet) surprised to find that it was very crowded and popular. I didn't think that anyone would be very excited about it! I hope it doesn't take over the neighborhood stores. I have nothing against the Galeria except that you can also buy whatever you need in local stores. Why not go to the second hand store where my Mom and Dad bought great clothes, or take a walk down Sienna Street(yes, I know I don't spell my name with two N's but that is how the street name is spelled)?? I don't understand why you need the Galeria when you can buy clothes, shoes, etc. in local stores, probably get them for a better price, and get the feeling that you are actually in Krakow. Not in America.

In the Food Court of the Galeria, which of these seven restaurants do you think had the longest line?
1. Pizza Pronto-Italian cuisine
2. Marhaba-Middle Eastern cuisine
3.McDONALDS-American cuisine
4.Fatih Servet-Turkish cuisine
5.Polskie Smaki-Polish cuisine
6.Subway-American cuisine
7.KFC-American cuisine

When you think you have the answer, please post your answer in the comments section. The winner and answer will be posted on my next blog.
Enjoy the pics!!!

The E. Wedel Chocolate Restaurant

The E. Wedel Chocolate Restaurant is on Rynek Glowny (the main square) in Krakow. At first glance, it appeares to be just another restaurant on the square, but after further investigation, it is a Chocolate restaurant with three tables overlooking the lively square that never sleeps. When you enter the restaurant, you see a very pretty two floor dining area with a large overhead glass window that allows for a great view of the weather. The menu is Chocolate, from it's brown cover to the Chocolate contents within; the whole building seems like it's made out of Chocolate! The menu has many wonderful Chocolate (and non-chocolate) items ranging from Drinking Chocolates and Chocolate Magic to Children's Chocolateland and Chocolate Icecreams.

We made 2 trips there. The first was when we had just finished watching a street theatre preformance and we wanted gelato. Siena and I had been wanting gelato since that afternoon and we couldn't find anything but soft-serve. When the show was over, Mom told us about the Chocolate Restaurant she had found earlier that afternoon and we sat down to enjoy a dessert while overlooking the festive square. When we got our menus, there were lots of catagories to choose from, and only one of them was labeled Desserts. We enjoyed our first visit and HAD to come back for another one.

The second visit was made just two days ago, (July 16th) when we decided that we should take Bubie (grandma) there. This time, we ate on the inside since here in Krakow it was a cloudy, rainy, gloomy afternoon. We debated on whether to sit in the front part of the building, the back part first floor or the back part second floor. We finally decided on a table in the back part on the first floor. Then, we got our menus and had to make the decision of what to get. Finally, we made our decisions. Mom got a Nutty Duo, Dad a Drinking Chocolate (like hot chocolate but thicker) with Chili in it, Siena ordered a Vanilla Iceberg and Bubie and I each got the Wedel Chocolate Icecream. Dad's and Siena's came out first, then Mom's, Bubie's and mine came out. They were huge!!! Mine was bigger than my head!!! They were all pretty big actually. Siena couldn't even finish hers and I almost finished mine. There was only a little bit left... anyway, the point is, Dad had to finish it off for me.

E. Wedel isn't JUST a restaurant. If you walk into a little convenience store, you will see Chocolate bars and one brand among those chocolate bars is:
E. Wedel

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


When we originally set up the blog, it was so our family and friends could follow us around the world and share our adventures, trials and tribulations. We are now discovering that others, people who we have never met or people who we have just met, are now reading our blog as well. One person even specifically asked for a "background blog" so that she could learn a little more about us as she follows us on our odyssey. So, Samantha and others who don't know us (and for those who think they know us but really don't) this blog's for you.

In my "previous life" I was a financial planner. Our firm had a client who wanted to take a year off from their "regular life." In the early 1990s they bought a sailboat and with their nine year old daughter sailed for a year. Being one who gets seasick, the boat part had zero appeal to me, but the year off was very enticing. I said to myself, "One day, I too will take a year off and travel". (Thank you Rick, Marnie and Kelzie for the inspiration). When I met Marty (my husband to be) and told him of this dream, he bought into the idea hook, line and sinker. We put the idea forth into the universe and then let go.

About 2 1/2 years ago, we decided that a trip of a lifetime doesn't just happen, you have to make it happen. We decided to start planning the trip with a departure date of June 2008, fully recognizing that the trip may or may not happen. Marty was already fifty years old and I wasn't too far behind and we started seeing people our age get sick or die. Why put off till tomorrow what you can do today? Also, we had two seven year old twins. Nine to ten seemed like a good age for travelling - old enough to be somewhat independent, able to remember things and not yet in the teen years where travel can be challenging.

It really did take the 2 1/2 years to put it all together. We needed to research where we wanted to go, how we were going to get there, what we were going to do once we got there, what to bring, what we were going to do with our home and then prepare it for rental, what to do about schooling, what to do about employment, health care, etc. The list went on and on. I was beginning to wonder what I did with all my time BTP (before trip planning). I guess it goes to show you that you can always find the time for what you really want to do.

Decisions made: Employment - Marty would need to quit his job as he worked for a small company and a one year leave of absence would not be possible. Some form of re-employment would have to occur once we returned. I only worked very part time and since it was on a contract basis, told them that I would not be available until June 2009. Education - Why let school get in the way of a good education? We had no doubt in our minds that our children would learn much more in a year of exploring the world than what they would learn in the classroom. They are avid readers, they are keeping a journal and they are contributing to the blog. We brought along a math computer program and some math books and will "'homeschool" them throughout the year in math so that they will stay current for their grade level. Home - Rent it out for a year so that the income can be used to help offset our mortgage and hope that we have no reason that we need to return early. Itinerary - Marty and I each made a list of places that we would really like to go. Places that didn't show up on both lists were eliminated unless someone had a burning desire to go there and wouldn't let it go. From that point forward, the research began. Sometimes we would research a place that we really wanted to go and would feel uninspired and then drop that location. Other times we would turn the page in the guide book and read about a place that wasn't on our list and suddenly that place was added to the "A" list. It was important that the itinerary had a "flow" to it. If it was too challenging to get from one location to another then that city/country got dumped. We also felt that we wanted to stay in each location for a good length of time. We wanted to be able to get a sense of the culture of that area, shop in their markets, cook the foods of that locality - this can't be done if you, for example make a three day stop in Krakow. We also knew that it would get exhausting if we were on the move all the time. All of these factors were taken into consideration when we were setting up our itinerary -- "Is this a location where we would want to be for two to three weeks?" Our itinerary became a living document that would change over time. In the end, there were some places that we really wanted to go that we're not going to (like Turkey) and places that we had never even considered that are now a future destination (Laos). Weather was also an important factor. If we were hitting a country time wise during the rainy season, we reconsidered whether we really wanted to go there. We also had to consider that we were only taking one suitcase each so keeping to a mild climate where we wouldn't have to carry clothes for cold weather was a necessity. Finally, safety was an overiding factor on our location choices. If we wanted to go somewhere (like Nepal) but there was too much instability, we opted to leave that location for some future point in time. While we had all the flexibility in the world in setting up our itinerary, we choose to give up that flexibilty in exchange for security when we booked flights and accomodations in advance.

We are not travel agents and when something goes wrong, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Since we weren't booking packaged trips, a travel agent really wouldn't have any reason to work with us anyway as they make their money through commissions. Besides, the truth is, it really wouldn't have been the same had we let someone else do all the research and work -- that was part of the process from our viewpoint.

We are not rich but we did save for a long time in order to afford this trip. We did so by not spending money on things that other people feel are important in their lives. We all pick and choose what to spend our money on and for us, it was this trip. The other reality is that a trip like this is not nearly as expensive as many people think. For instance, we are staying in apartments which are much cheaper than hotels (and much more spacious as well). This affords us the ability to cook meals which is much cheaper than eating out. When we do eat out, it is either street food or inexpensive restaurants - no fine dining here. We try to take advantage of free entertainment and free museum days. When you're in a new and different city, just walking around can be an adventure. We use public transportation and are only renting a car on rare occasions. We splurge when it's something that is important to us (a scheduled safari in Tanzania) but then act conservatively at other times.

We wanted to experience the world! To see how others live and to explore sights beyond our own country. We wanted to live in other cultures and see what makes their lives rich. In the end, we hope to bring home the best of everywhere we have been and combine it with the best of what we already have.


Thursday, July 10th we moved apartments. If you remember from my blog of Diaster and Destruction, we were in a five floor walk up in Kazimierz with my Mother (Bubie) due to arrive on July 11th. True to their word, Jacek and Natasha met us at our old apartment at 10:00 and moved us to our new apartment 1/2 way between Old Town and Kazimierz. It's a beautiful apartment and a great location. It is located on a main street so it is a lot noiser than before but we have markets, bakeries, a butcher and a gelato shop all within a block. Most importantly, it is only one flight up! (Thank you again Jacek and Natasha for your help in our crisis). We spent the rest of the afternoon settling in and exploring our new neighborhood.

Friday morning we took the train out to the airport to meet Bubie who's arrival we anxiously awaited. It was a successful meeting but with a sad result. Avocet left her new purse that she had purchased in Zakopane in the bathroom and by the time she realized it, it was gone. There were lots of tears for the loss of a well loved purchase. Hopefully the lesson that came with it will help her hold on to future purchases.

After a day of rest on Saturday (it was the Sabbath after all) we headed to Kazimierz. Kazimierz is the old Jewish Quarter of Krakow and is now a lively area with restaurants, shops, cafes and of course, a lot of Jewish History. When you arrive in the Szeroka Plaza area, you are greeted by cobblestone streets, lovely trees and some of the many cafes and restaurants. In the middle of the Plaza is a memorial to the 65,000 Krakow Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust - a very sobering monument in the midst of such a pretty Plaza. While there are numerous synagogues to see, we choose to see only two, Remuh, the smallest synagogue and the only one still actually used and Isaac's Synagogue which was Krakow's largest.

The Remuh Synagogue was established in 1553 with one of the best preserved Renaissance Jewish cemeteries anywhere in Europe. The synagogue is simple but very stylized. For me, the most moving part of the synagogue were the plaques that you could see in the courtyard. Donations were made to the synagogue in memory of loved ones, many who perished in the Holocaust, and in reading them, you could feel the loss of these individuals as well as of this city.

Isaac's Synagogue is no longer used as a synagogue but instead, is strictly a museum. This synagogue is new in comparison to Remuh having been established in 1640. It is huge compared to the Remuh Synagogue. At the time we were visiting the Isaac's Synagogue, there was an Israeli Art Exhibit going on with many moving photographs of the early days of Israel (Palestine).

Food and drink were in order at this point so we stopped in a nearby outdoor cafe. We all had Italian food except for Avocet, our "picky eater" who went Polish and had a plate of Pierogi Ruskie (a potato filled dumpling).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Zakopane- A Great "Daytrip"

On Tuesday the 8th of July, we visited Zakopane, a mountain resort 2 1/2 hours south of Krakow by bus. Our plans were to spend the day there hiking and enjoying the town and then pop back on the bus that evening. We weren't counting on the bus maneuvering its way through small Polish towns and around the side of hills. Except for me everyone had queasy stomachs. On a less yucky note, we are now starting to arrive at cheaper transportation costs after experiencing the Netherlands. Our one way to Zakopane was only 40 zl ( $19.00 US ). Half an hour on the train to Den Haag in Holland costed almost $30.00 ( for four ). When the bus got to the station we really had to use the bathroom because the bus wasn't equipped with one. Much to our surprise an older woman was sitting outside the bathroom taking in two zl per person. Go figure. If I'm going to open a business in Poland, it will be a public bathroom in Zakopane. Oh poopers, lets go on.

Written by Marty

When we arrived in Zakopane, we met up with the same man that we had randomly started talking to on the way back from Wieliczka(see last post). We talked to him about the mountain range, the Tatras mountains, and he told us that with kids, the alpine slide would be a good activity. This took us by suprise as mom had never mentioned an alpine slide in her research of Poland. We had also done the same thing at a ski resort in Wyoming 2 or 3 years before. We went to the foot of the mountain and browsed through the market place where numerous stands were set up with Zakopane souvies. We walked on until we reached a funicular and then took it up the side of the mountain rather than walk. When we reached the top, we looked around a little and then went to the alpine slide. Siena and I each went down twice, mommy and daddy only once. It was extremly fun, you controlled which speed you wanted and you couldn't stop because then people would run into each other. After the two times, Siena and I were begging mom and dad to let us do it again. Obiously, it didn't work. Then, we noticed people eating HUGE ice cream cones, they were humongous! We convinced mom and dad to let us get one (and a large sized one at that!) We sat down to draw the mountains a little later after we had finished consuming the delicious ice cream. Then, we took a ski lift down (it IS a ski resort you know,) and ended up in the middle of nowhere. We walked back to the main market to decide what to do next.

Written by Avocet

What to do? We were tired after the long walk. It was almost five o'clock. Why don't we do something spontaneous? (for us at least ) Let's try to find a place for the night. After being told either "sorry, no rooms at the inn" or "the price would be discounted to 500 zl/night" ( $240 US ), we found a room at the Hotel Gromada. It was clean, had starched linens and individual fold out couches for the girls. After resting and washing up a bit we further explored this lovely but touristy town. Its a combination of Alpine hotels, shops, restaurants and Gatlinburg kitsch. The girls rode on a mechanical bull and stayed on pretty long. lisa and I wanted to keep our almost one month record of not seeing a doctor intact and chose not to partake. We had a fun time, had good kebabs and deserts, and headed back to the hotel. No one was awake at 22:00 because we were pooped. We woke up the next morning and I took a shower only to have the Soviet era plumbing fail and have an inch of yucky water fill the bathroom floor. The lady at the front desk was nice enough to give us another room to spritz our faces. Off to the markets.

Written by Marty

The markets are large and have lots of neat things. From leather purses to highlander shoes, you can't go wrong. They had lots of leather merchandise and sheep figures as they have lots of sheep and cows. After we had browsed around and then made our final purchases, we headed back to the dreaded bus station, dreaded as we all knew we would get sick.

Written by Avocet

And that was our trip to the wonderful mountain town of Zakopane!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wieliczka- The Salty City

Here in Wieliczka, there is no need to ask for extra salt on your french fries, you just rub them against the wall! You see, Wieliczka is really a salt mine, except that it has been mined out completely and is now a major attraction in Poland. In the old days, people mined for salt down there and hollowed it out to about 9 different floors of "emptiness". There are hundreds of carvings all around, almost entirely made out of salt. The miners stayed down there a lot so they built churches so they could have Mass while they would be underground and be able to get back to work immediately. Then, other people kept adding to the collection so now it is made up of original carvings done by the miners and artisans that came after. While there are 9 floors total, you're only allowed to visit the first 3. The other ones are like way too deep or something. So anyway, the first floor is devoted to sculptures of famous people and scenes of what mining was like. The second floor has more sculptures, a chapel, and a break area from the tour with some snack stands and souvie shops. Suprising, huh? Things keep getting better. On the third floor, there are some lakes, (salt water of course!), the Grand St. Kingas Church, and another rest stop. At the end of the tour, you get to the tallest chamber, the room of the first underground balloon flight,(and 36 meters high at that!) On your way to the exit, you pass a restaurant, a post office, and a banquet hall and more souvie shops. Naturally, after all that walking, you head towards the exit and go up on a double decker elevator! I wonder who thought up that idea! It was very fun; you were allowed to lick the walls, but not allowed to touch the works (in fear of deterioration), and absolutely not allowed to eat over 5 pounds of salt! The food at the restaraunt was pretty good. I think the main idea of the restaurant was just to say,"I ate french fries 136 meters beneath the Earth's surface! Naturally, the food was very salty and the lady at the kasa (cash register), insisted that we take extra packets of salt. It was fun, but eventually we had to go back up, after all, every trip to a salt mine MUST end with a pinch of salt!


For thousands of years Poland was home to many Jews. They were contributing members of society both in terms of economics and culture. In the ghettos (or Jewish Quarters) they built their synagogues, lived their daily lives according to Jewish Law, celebrated their life cycle rituals, and buried their dead. And then came World War II and the Holocaust and the Jews of Poland were no more. It is this piece of history that makes the Annual Jewish Festival here in Krakow the haunting and moving experience that it is.

For 18 years now, Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, Poland, has been the host of Europe's largest Jewish Festival. Jews and Non-Jews, Poles, other Europeans and Americans gather here for a week of culture, study and celebration. There are lectures, workshops and concerts for the general public to attend, some free and some for the price of a ticket. We arrived in Krakow on the last several days of this festival and while we did not take part in any of the smaller events, we did attend the big street concert held on Saturday night. The event was to begin at 6:00 and when we went to leave our home around 6:30 to walk down, it began to pour! It poured for about 1 1/2 hours and then cleared up. We decided to take our chances and walk over to see if and what was going on. Either the rain hadn't dampened anyone's spirit (no pun intended) or no one wasted any time arriving after the rains stopped, but by the time we arrived (only a 10 minute walk from our home), there were thousands of people filling the streets. After navigating the crowds with the girls on our shoulders, we discovered some smaller streets to cut down and found some breathing room. There was a big stage with musicians playing Jewish music, stalls selling food and people dancing in the streets. Avocet and Siena found some Polish candy to try while Marty and I tried these potatoes that smelled out of this world (and tasted pretty good too). Then it was back to the masses. We listened to the music for a little and then soon the girls began to dance with each other. It didn't take to much convincing to get them to join us as we joined the masses of people holding hands and dancing in big circles in the street.

They were young and old, women and men, people from anywhere and everywhere celebrating the music and culture of the Jewish people who not so long ago lived on these very streets and perished at the hands of other human beings. It was joyous, it was sad, it was moving and it was filled with hope. It is a memory that I will hold close to my heart forever.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Even though the exchange rate makes us Americans suffer,it doesn't stop Europe from being the universe of good, QUALITY food. I, being a kid, cannot understand the,"Oh, sorry too expensive" when there are Gelato shops to be explored! Goodies are a main part of my diet, and seeing how my Mom cooks-I don't want those yucky store bought cakes from America! I'd rather drink liqour! WARNING! Liquor can be found in many fancy desserts, so ask before buying them!

Lets take a break from Goodies and go to FRUIT!! OK, here is an example of a fruit - a strawberry. Now, if you look at an American strawberry it looks big and red and juicy! Tempting! The problem is that when you cut an American strawberry open it's all pale and has no flavor whatsoever! Now, look at a European strawberry. On the outside it's red, small and juicy! When you cut into it it's still red, still juicy, and much more tasty than an American strawberry. Why? Because a European strawberry is what all strawberries are supposed to look and taste like all around the world! They put chemicals on American strawberries to make them look tasty, juicy, and big but they are not! LESSON: America may use chemicals on their food products to make it look tasty- don't be fooled!!

Onto our next category, small dishes! As you can see most Americans eat a lot and Europeans do not! Example: a couple of days ago my Mum ordered this Auberigene (eggplant) pasta dish and it took a long time to make. When they finally brought it out, it was in this small little dish about 8 inches wide. It was not very filling as Mum said. LESSON: When you come to Europe, you are allowed to order extra large!(except on Pizza). Do it!

I think I have covered some of what the cuisine is like in Europe and said my offenses to America's large and sometimes disgusting food.

Bon Apetit!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


On Wednesday, July 2nd, 22:30 (that's 10:30 PM in US language) we arrived in Krakow, Poland with our luggage. While that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, we certainly considered it to be one. Our airline was CentralWings, one of the low budget airlines of Europe. Like many airlines these days, it is on the brink of bankruptcy. Even before we left we had heard of their cancelling many of their flights without any rescheduling. We had no idea if we were going to be in Krakow that night or on the benches of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. We had also heard that these low budget airlines are notorious for losing luggage! Now you see why we felt victorious as we walked out of John Paul II Airport in Krakow, Poland.

But how quickly the sweet taste of victory can turn sour. We arrived at our apartment at 23:30 where our Natasja graciously met us at that late hour to give us the key. It was at this time that we discovered that our apartment was on the 5th floor with no lift! As inconvenient as it might be, understand that we can handle a five story walkup several times a day. The problem is that my mother, who is 77 years old is coming to visit with us for a week while we are here in Krakow! Five stories is pretty much an impossibility. I didn't sleep at all that night as I tried to figure out our alternatives. What a disaster!

Early the next morning found me on the computer frantically searching for a new apartment that might be available at the last minute in the height of tourist season in one of the most popular tourist destinations of Poland. I found one! Not available immediately, but at least before my mother arrived. I also contacted our landlord to see if they might have anything else available for us. After much negotiation, our landloard agreed to move us to another apartment which is on the first floor (and just happens to have been our second choice when we were first looking) the day before my mother arrives. At this point it is about letting go and trusting that they will keep their word. In the meantime, we are enjoying our five story walk up with a wonderful garden terrace and a view of the Wisla River. At least for the next five days we can eat whatever we want as we work it off several times a day doing our five flights of stairs.

Our penthouse apartment comes complete with a computer and internet access -- terribly convenient! We did however, want to use our laptop to manage our photos. Trying to use the laptop under these circumstances lead to the destruction of our computer's hard drive. In simple words, our wonderful computer and link to the outside world has crashed! And if you know anything about Marty and I, you know that we are not computer literate. Marty spent three - four hours on the apartment's computer e-mailing my brother-in-law trying to repair the hard drive(Thank you Nathan), but no luck. Since this occurred on Friday night and any place that could possibly repair this thing is closed on Saturday and Sunday, it's time to let go of it for now. Marty has stayed very calm, which if you know Marty and the fits he can throw when things don't work out, is a HUGE accomplishment! (Thank you Marty, I love you dearly). We feel grateful that this occurred when we have easy access to another computer and when we are at the beginning of a stay in a country so that we have time to hopefully take care of this before having to move on. Having a computer has been wonderful but it does come with it's drawbacks.

If you think that life on the road is going to eliminate your problems and reduce your stress, guess again! You just have different problems and different stressors and this time, they are all in Polish!


Yes, I know, we have been in Krakow, Poland for three days now but we are just getting around to finishing up The Netherlands. We surveyed the four participants of the One World-One Trip team for their Top 10 (Plus Two) of The Netherlands and the results are in:

12. Pozenboot (House boat for homeless cats)
11. Soccer Mania
10. Alkmaar and the Cheese Market
9. Going inside a working windmill
8. Linneaushof (Europe's Largest Playground)
7. Amsterdam and the IAmsterdam sign
6. Madurodam (The Netherlands in miniature)
5. The M.C. Escher Museum
4. Zandvoort and The bike trail
3. Haarlem: it's ambiance, it's architecture, our friends
2. Our House (Thank you Tamara)


1. Our Bikes (Thank you Eelco)


I had an idea that in our first three weeks we would not meet "life-long" friends. That bore out to be true. This does not mean that we didn't meet people who were very nice and made our stay more enjoyable. All of the people I will describe in this post were very warm and genuine. Here goes:

Eelco Fetter: Eelco is the owner of Fietsco, where we "bought and sold back our bikes". He always had a smile on his face, and in the beginning worked to put bikes under our butts. He got on our blog early and even asked that his website be included (see lisa's earlier blog on bikes for his website). When the terrible day arrived that we had to return our bikes, he wanted to know first how we had liked Haarlem and even prepared "bread with butter and sprinkles on it" for all of us. He took pictures of us at the end and helped make our experience with the bikes that much better.

Kaziban Tepeyurt: Kaziban is the young lady who sold us our "daily bread" from Kartal Turkish Bakery in Boter Markt ( Butter Market ). She is on the right in the picture. We bought good bread there almost every day and when we just dropped in for a snack, she was there with a smiling face and "How much longer will you be here"? We didn't tell her about our "Round the world" plans until the last day. She was so nice on our last day she insisted upon giving us bread and baklavah, which we really enjoyed. A truly nice person.

Loekie and Nancy of Samson Cheese Market. We met them early on and they were very nice and asked us each time we came in what we had done so far and what we were going to do next. Loekie, the young lady on the left, kept insisting we should bike to Spaarndam, her home town, just twenty-five minutes away by bike. Sorry we never got there. I'll bet it is nice. And Nancy told us how much we will enjoy Krakow, our next stop. It was up-lifting to go in there and chat. I believe Loekie had better English than anyone I met. She could kid around with you in English where as most people could understand simply that you needed directions or wanted to buy things.

Dick Van Dansik: When I went into the local butcher shop the first day, you could tell that Dick was a cut-up. He had the poster of the Dutch football (soccer) team with his face posted over where the head coach's face was. He carried on a banter every time I went in, which was often. We enjoyed his horse meat wrapped in bacon for several nights and our cholesterol level will take months to go down as a result. Fun.

The Dutch Football Team: We don't know the players. We just know that their play in the 2008 Euro Cup had this small nation SOOOOOOO enthused. Why else would I stay up with Av and Si to watch the matches. None of us know anything about this sport. But the fervor overtakes you. Kind of like UK Wildcats fans during March Madness".

lisa and I talked to a lady in the park about Haarlem for about forty five minutes while the girls played with her dog Sheba. The "bridgewatcher" lady who controls the drawbridge over the Spaarn River let the girls operate the controls, only to not be able to get the bridge back to where it was supposed to be. And the nearly deaf lady who gave me a ride to the bus stop after I took a wrong path out of Linneaushof, the large playground. She didn't have to give me a ride but she offered and I took her up on it. When was the last time we as Americans offered someone who looked lost a ride?

Haarlem was great. For Eelco, Kaziban and Loeke who have our blog address, thank you for your kindness. As for the others who don't know about the blog, you will never know how much your unsuspecting niceness made us feel welcome.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008


You don't have to be in Europe long to realize that everything is smaller. Not people's world views or their politics or even their physical appearance, but their material positions, creature comforts and even food.

Cars are anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 the size of American cars. Obviously this saves substantially on the use of gas which at least here in Holland is around $6.43 (US) per gallon (less than what we expected). They also use up a lot less space parking on the smaller European streets. The dishwasher in our house here is 1/2 the size of the one we have in our home in Cincinnati. This is not because this is a rental apartment as we are renting someone's house here -- it's just that the size of dishwashers here are smaller. Probably to fit into the smaller homes that people have here. While there are some single family homes, most homes are either apartments or attached homes (what we called row houses when I was growing up). The washer and dryer are also about 1/2 the size of what we have at home. Even the trash cans that we have in each of our rooms here looks like they came out of a Barbie house.

Whether you pick up food in the market or order in a restaurant, most of the food sizes are smaller. As for the food from the market, I'm guessing that quantities have to be smaller in order to fit into the smaller refrigerator that everyone has. No 2 liter botttles in those babies! But it's also true of food that you order to eat out and have no intention of bringing home to your small refrigerator. If you order a drink out, it comes in a bottle that is approximately 6 oz. If it is a drink in a glass, it's the skinniest glass that I have ever seen and again can't hold more than 6 oz. - and no free refills here!!!! Just about all drinks cost 2E each or the equivalent of $3.14 with our lousy exchange rate. Portion sizes of food in restaurants can vary just like in the US but actually I haven't noticed them to be too much smaller (Marty might disagree).

While some of these size differences are inconvenient at first you eventually become accoustomed to it and eventually start to see the advantages and practicalities of it. You don't shop at Kroger once a week and come home with 10 bags of groceries to last until you return again next week. You go to the market more frequently assuring that the food you eat is fresher as you buy it much more frequently. Laundry is done more often in the low energy, low water front loading washing machine but then you find that you are always doing a "full" load and not a partial load in order to get to that one item that you really need for the next day. Since many people often run their dishwasher every evening, isn't it nice that when you do run it every day regardless, it happens to be a full load and not just a partial load. Eating less and drinking less (except for water)is certainly not a bad idea. With obseity an American epidemic, we certainly could do with 6 oz. Coca Colas and no free refills!

Things that are not smaller here in Holland: Pancakes (about 15 inches in diameter, people (it appears that the average Dutch woman is 5'8" and average Dutch man is 6'2") and something that they call "American Muffins."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Communication styles on the road

In three weeks I have discovered that the four different ways we have of communicating with people have their own intent, different processes and vastly different feelings. Here's why:

Skype: I have used it briefly in talking to Bubie in Florida and our friends outside the United States. It is the most intimate since you are talking voice to voice, but it is by far the most difficult. The time factor must be considered, especially when your friends are six hours behind you. The girls love to talk to Amy and Andrea in Chile. lisa uses it to talk to family. I'm not excited about it yet, but I was never much of a phone talker in the States, even with good friends. I like sit-downs with a cup of coffee or a beer.

Blogging: This process exposes to the outside world what we are doing. It isn't intimate. People can and do respond, but not like a long e-mail. It also has added pressure because I don't want my subject matter to be weak. Also, since this is a family blog, we have to pick our subjects and possibly Av, Si or lisa will pick the topic out from under me. Family meetings to divide up possible blog topics, whats this world coming to!! Blogging has little expectations other than we would like to know that people are looking at it. In the future the blog could easily serve as a source for a family "coffee table book". I also have the added pressure of having to use proper grammer and catch those spelling errors, so lisa and I proof each others and the kids blog posts. LISA DID NOT PROOF THIS ONE..ITS ALL MARTY'S BAD GRAMMER AND BAD TYPING!!! We still haven't figured how to use spell check so that's my excuse. Otherwise you would think me an literary blob ( not blog...pun intended )

E-mail: This is the method to use for one-on-one contact with friends to touch base or directives to non-friends on what that person should do. It can be very personal or short and to the point. E-mail is not intended to be a travelogue. It's a reach out...a request for a response. It's not as intimate since you don't have immediate responses as Skype, but it's convenient, there in the middle of the night when you can't sleep. It's also a quick way to say hi!, how are you? It is also something to anticipate, like a girlfriend's letter you wanted in your mailbox years ago when you got home from work. So in this way, e-mail can be uplifting or frustrating. I also feel free to use bad grammer because it is the point that counts, not necessaily sentence structure.

Journalling: These are notes to myself. They are the most intimate because they are shared with myself and no other. This is the method we all go to when we want to vent or express to ourselves how a day went in a way that a photo cannot express. This is where I would share what I really feel about Haarlem, or Amsterdam, or the beach. It's also where I can say things about getting along with the others, about how our idiosyncracies rub each other wrong. I am in the mood to talk with Marty ( me )when I journal.

I like them all, just at different times and for different reasons. Till later.