On the Final Tidbits from Eastern Europe

For the final post in this series, here’s a potpourri of images.

Look closely for the street performer.

 

Trdelniks are abundant in Prague. These hollow, toasted pastries can be lined with various creams, filled with fruits and whipped cream, and even stuffed with mac n cheese.

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Do you remember Fred and Ginger?

 

Nothing like a collection of torture devices to get one’s attention

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I recall many readers enjoyed the Ljubljana Dragon.

 

One never knows what one can see in the windows …

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…. or out a hotel window in Krakow …

 

…. even through the front window of the bus.

 

This is the last of the series about our travels to Eastern Europe with a Rick Steves tour. Not only was the tour company outstanding, this region of the world is definitely worth the visit. For more about this trip, click here for a collection of all the posts. Below the tour map is a beautiful song that is special to the Czech people.

 

On Tidbits from Stramberk

The over 5-hour drive from Prague to Krakow is through the rolling plains of the Czech Republic. For lunch, our guide took us off the main highway and into the Carpathian foothills of the Moravian-Silesia region bordering Poland and Slovakia.

Arriving in the quaint town square of Stramberk, I wondered about the availability of restaurants because I didn’t see any people. It turns out that our group of 28 ate in 3 or 4 different places.

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After lunch, my wife and I explored the small town by walking up to the castle above the town. One of the unexpected surprises we encountered were the beautiful old homes.

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Stramberk Castle (also called “Trúba”) sits above the town, and easily reachable by foot. The castle was closed, but the views of the town and the surrounding valley were beautiful.

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Stramberk Ears are an acclaimed snack of the town – and the comes from a 13th century attack by the Tatars that you can read about here and/or here. These soft gingerbread cones are exclusively produced in Stramberk – and are an EU registered trademark. Made from the right proportion of flour, honey, sugar, star anise, clove, cinnamon, and more, they are soft like bread (not hard as a cookies). https://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/the-bloody-story-of-the-stramberk-ears
http://www.discovermoravia.com/our_man_in_moravia/places-of-interest/places-of-interest-in-north-moravia/stramberk/

Some fill them with whipped cream, others add a variety of toppings to them, and others eat them plain. My packaged served as a snack on the bus over several days. Yum.

 

Stramberk was a pleasant surprise for a 2-3 hour respite. Lunch was good and we enjoyed walking around. The 2+ minute video below is from a drone. Enjoy!

On Tidbits of Stained Glass

When travelling, we enjoy going into churches – especially in Europe! The history, the design, the grandness, the paintings, the organ, and yes – the stained glass. This collection is from various churches in Prague, Krakow, and Budapest.

My favorites? There are two, but which are your favorites?

 

Stained Glass of St. Vitas, Prague

God the Father, Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Krakow

On Trip Tidbits: Liberty Square

Image from Budapest Tourism

Many visitors to Budapest encounter Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) – especially if they are avid walkers. After all, Liberty Square is on the way from city center to the magnificent Hungarian Parliament building.

Liberty Square is a public park. The trees are full, the border buildings are grand. Hungarian National Bank and the former Hungarian Stock Exchange flank one side as symbols to free capitalism. The US Embassy is located on the opposite side of the square.

To me, Liberty square was a place of contrast. A place of contradictions. A place that could be called the Square of Juxtaposition. Let me make my case.

Monument of German Occupation

 

Hungary initially was one of the pro-Hitler Axis Powers. Hungarian military invaded Yugoslavia and massacred many. In 1944, Germans moved to occupy Hungary because Hitler felt betrayed by Hungarian leaders. From that point, Hungarian Jews and Roma were sent to concentration camps. In front of the monument is a collection of small memorials to Hungarian Holocaust victims. Yet, no mention of the Hungarian involvement in the atrocities.

 

Harry Bandholtz Statue

Austria-Hungary and Germany were WW1 allies. Which means the Hungarians lost the war. Liberty Park has a statue to Harry Bandholtz, a US Army general (WW1). It seems a band of Romanians wanted to loot the Hungarian National Museum, but Bandholtz successfully protected the museum – therefore a statue in this honor.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Memorial to Fallen Soviet Soldiers

The Soviets erected a memorial the far end of Liberty Square to honor their role in liberating Hungary from the Nazis and in memorial to the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in the efforts. Of course, the Soviets decided to stay for over 40 years – and the US Embassy is nearby.

 

Ronald Reagan Statue

Very near to the Soviet Memorial stands a statue of Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, the current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is responsible for the statue. However, Orbán is far to the right, and is moving Hungary closer to Putin’s Russia – and I just don’t think Ronald Reagan would be endorsing Putin.

 

Imre Nagy Memorial

Imre Nagy (HM-reh nodge) was a communist, but he sought to ease Stalinist policies. As he rose in leadership, he withdrew Hungary from the Warsaw Pact with hopes of bridging Eastern Communism with Western Capitalism. This memorial has Nagy on the bridging facing the Parliament Building. Interestingly, Prime Minister Orbán had the statue removed in late December. Here’s a related read.

Image from Wikipedia

Yes, Budapest’s Liberty Square is interesting, complicated, and full of contradictions.

On Venice 2018

 

After our days in Trieste, we took a train to Venice, actually our departing airport. Because we’ve been to this beautiful city before (but I hadn’t posted about it), our one-night stay would be in Mestre – the mainland side of the city. Besides, the airport is on the mainland and Mestre hotels are much cheaper.

As the train was approaching the train station (Venezia Mestre), I noticed our hotel is directly across the street. Then I learn that a train goes to the islands (Venezia Santa Lucia Station) every 10 minutes for 2 euros. Plus, the airport shuttle is a very short walk from our hotel (Best Western Plus Hotel Bologna). Cheaper, close to rail and the airport bus are all good things!

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With the weather being wonderful, we had to go to Venice to just wander. Part of the fun of this glorious setting is trying to get lost – because you can’t! The historical city is wonderful – after all, Venice is Venice.

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Our trip has ended, and what a trip it was. All the stops in the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe tour were worthwhile and memorable. Then add-on stops to my birthplace and a touch of Venice was like extra ice cream and toppings on an already magnificent sundae.

 

Picking our favorite stop is not an easy task because the locations were so different. The three major cities were different from each other, then toss in the extremes of a natural wonder of a Plitvice (a Croatian National Park) to the horrors of Auschwitz, and a relaxing seaside locate as Rovinj, it was quite the tour.

Three important references for readers.

  1. I will probably do more posts about this trip with some tidbits. Time will tell.
  2. I didn’t realize that I posted very little about our Italy-Croatia cruise of how knows how many years ago. Maybe I’ll go back in time. Thoughts?
  3. Click here for all the posts about this tour.
  4. Although it’s also in the previous collection, click here for my review of Rick Steves’ Europe tours.

To see more of the island wonderland known as Venice, watch the 2+-minute video below. Thanks for coming along for my journey.

On Lake Bled (Slovenia)

About 34 miles (55 km) northwest of Ljubljana, Lake Bled is a lake at the edge of the Julian Alps. Surrounded by mountains and forests with a medieval castle on a rocky face high above the lake and a small island within the lake, this setting is very picturesque. The large lake, 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m) is without motor boats.

Water from multiple natural springs feed the lake. The bluish-green water is clear, tranquil, and smooth as glass. Lake Bled is large: 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m), and without motor boats.

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Our morning ride to Bled Island was on a plenta – a flat-bottomed wooden boat seating 20 passengers propelled and navigated by an oarsman. In 1740, Empress Maria Theresa granted 22 families exclusive rights to transport people to the island, and that tradition remains today.

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Bled Island is small, large enough for a church and several buildings. The church is a popular wedding site and has several traditions. It is good luck for the marriage if the groom carries his bride up the 99 steps before ringing the bell inside the church and making a wish. The wish will come to true if the bell rings three times on one pull of the rope.

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After returning from the island, we walked the 3-mile (5 km) paved path circling the lake. The walk provides beautiful views of the island, the castle, the town, hotels, and relaxing views across the calm water. Along the way we passed the Slovenian Olympic Rowing Training Facility. Lake Bled has hosted the World Rowing Championship 4 times.

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High on a cliff above the lake sits Bled Castle – a medieval castle that protected the people since 1004. Today, the castle houses exhibits, a museum, restaurant, wine cellar, chapel, banquet hall, and a printing shop – but it also provides outstanding views of the lake, the island, the town of Bled, and the surrounding countryside.

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Enjoy this very short video (17 seconds) of Bled Castle at night.

 

We were told that Lake Bled is very busy in the summer months. We were fortunate because our visit was in early October – the crowds were down and the weather was excellent. The boat ride, the walk around the lake, the hike to the castle, lunch at the castle, and a group meal was a delightful way to end our Rick Steves’ Europe tour – but, for us, our vacation was not over! Meanwhile, enjoy the 2-minute video about Lake Bled by Rick Steves.

Next Stop: Trieste

Click here for past posts of this tour.

On Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Ljubljana – pronounced lube-lyee-AH-nah

Ljubljana (population 2880,000) is the capital, cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative center of independent Slovenia (since 1991).

Ljubljana – Like much of the region, under Habsburg rule for 500 years until the end of WW1. Following WW2, Ljubljana became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, which was part of Yugoslavia.

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Ljubljana – the city center built around Ljubljana Castle, a medieval castle sitting atop Castle Hill. Due to time constraints, we didn’t visit the castle, but the top of the Ljubljana Skyscraper’s 13th floor is a great place for a wonderful view and a drink.

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Ljubljana – whose city symbol is the Ljubljana Dragon symbolizes power, courage, and greatness. The dragon is found on the Ljubljana Castle’s tower, the city’s coat of arms, and at the Dragon Bridge.

 

Ljubljana – with Prešeren Square serving as the city’s main square and a popular meeting spot. Look at the beauty around the square.

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Ljubljana – bisected by the Ljubljanica River with numerous bridges, including the famous Triple Bridge (not pictured).

 

Ljubljana – with many pedestrian streets (some cobblestone) flanked with shops, restaurants, and cafes. Toss in Riverside Market, Old Town comfort is at hand. Even saw my first outdoor vending machine selling fresh milk. While strolling, stop by the cathedral (Church of St. Nicholas) whose doors tell a story about Slovenes. Recognize anyone on the door?

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Ljubljana is not big enough to feel overwhelmed, but it’s large enough to be cosmopolitan. Besides, I love Old World ambiance. To me, urban relaxation is a fitting description. To learn more about this hidden gem, below is almost-6-minute video from Rick Steves.

Next Stop: Lake Bled

Click here for past posts of this tour.