Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Athens...what's to come....

We've been busy. If only blogger and the hotel internet would allow me to upload pictures. Here's what you can expect (and more) in the coming days.

  • Poseidon in Cape Sounion
  • Acropolis and the Parthenon
  • Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • The red line, blue line and green line
  • Riots, rioters, riot gear and tourists
  • Stray dogs

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Glædelig Jul fra Danmark (Merry Christmas from Denmark)!

Christmas Markets (and tourist stuff) in Dresden, Germany

At the recommendation of a friend, we decided to go to Dresden, Germany for the weekend. We had never been to a Christmas Market, so the one in Dresden would be our first encounter with masses of bratwurst-eating, mulled wine-drinking, all around happy Germans.

We ate, drank, shopped, wondered, toured…and Lincoln was the only one to get a present from Dresden. One of the stands was filled with all these 2” letters on wheels (I should have taken a pic), so I pieced together a L-I-N-C-O-L-N train. Now, the task of figuring out how to mail it to the US.
We also did the normal tourist stuff. Here are the highlights and the slideshow:

  • Church of our Lady (Frauenkirche) - The Church was destroyed by the allied fire bombing during WWII. With the use of private funding the Church was rebuilt ($200 million) and dedicated in 2005. It's a pretty impressive structure with various levels of balconies (we assume for concerts). We rode the elevator/climbed the stairs to the cuppola and had a wonderful view of the city.
  • Zwinger - The complex was built in the early 1700s in the baroque style. Even in the light drizzle it was a pretty neat place. I'm sure it's gorgeous during the summer months when the courtyard is filled with flowers; however the green sculpted lawn was still a sight for mid-December!
  • Christmas Market - We went to two smaller markets in early December and this was our first experience at a larger market. At night, we were shoulder to shoulder walking up and down the aisles, but a return trip during the day was perfect to do a little shopping.

Next stop....Athens, Greece.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Water Bridge near Magdeburg, Germany

On the return drive from Dresden, Germany we decided to find the Magdeburg Water Bridge. I printed out the directions using Google, but they were from the north and not the south and I didn't have a map handy so I couldn't easily figure out how to get there. I did have street names, so I used Garmin to plug in the street name in Magdeburg. Well, we ended up on the correct street near the Elbe River in downtown Magdeburg. Hmmm, not right. Over an hour later and using Garmin as a map, scrolling around to find a place where rivers intersect and we finally arrive at the Water Bridge, which is actually in the small village of Hohenwarth.

The water bridge connects two shipping canals (bridging east and west) over the Elbe River, which runs north and south. Here are the stats and the slideshow.

  • Over a half billion Euro: The cost
  • 918 meters: The overall length (690m over land and 228 m over water)
  • 34 meters: The trough width
  • 4.25 meters: The depth of the water
  • 68,000 cubic meters: The amount of concrete used
  • 24,000 metric tons: The amount of steel used
Unfortunately, the tourist area isn't completed so we were unable to take an aerial picture. I'm assuming the tourist area will include some sort of lookout tower. Here's a 'borrowed' picture from the internet.
Pretty cool. So the email chains that went around with the engineering marvel are True!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Flensburg, Germany

I headed south of the border to Cancun, Mexico last week. This week, we went south of the border to Flensburg, Germany.

I know, there is a stark difference between the two countries. We stayed at the Tulip Inn just off the pedestrian street. While it wasn't the best hotel we have ever stayed at, it was basic, acceptable and served the purpose.

We spent a few hours at the art museum and natural history musem. The art museum had some nice pieces by Max Liebermann and also some great pieces of furniture from the 1800s. The pedestrian area had stands where you could buy candy, gifts, roasted nuts, and the ever famous hot spiced wine, glogg, hot buttered rum, and I think I saw some hot chocolate.

We also took a quick trip to a little series of shops near Aabenraa in Denmark with some friends. It was an interesting trip there. I kept thinking about the song, "over the river and through the woods to grandma's house we go." The road was wide enough for a car and a quarter and at sometimes just one car. I wondered what would happen if we met another car. Does one car take the muddy ditch and hope they can get out? Do both cars slow and vere off the road a bit? Does one car back up (just kidding)?

Pictures are posted. They aren't the greatest...Chuck had the camera!

Up next: Dresden, Germany & Athens, Greece (yes, I know there are riots going on)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Long weekend in Cancun, Mexico

My sister Kasey and I headed south of the border for an extended weekend in sunny and warm Cancun, Mexico. I was in the US for about 2 weeks and decided to end my 16 day stay in the US with an additional 6 days in Cancun. It wasn't my usual vacation taking in the sights and touring the area. Rather, it was all about rest and relaxation and we all know that Kasey deserved a little time away!

We didn't go to the ancient Maya ruins of Chichen Itza or Tulum (we did that in 2000). We didn't go to ecoparks Xel-ha or Xcaret in the Riviera Maya (we did that in 2000). We didn't take the ferry over to Cozumel and Isla Mujeres (we did that in 2000). BTW, Kasey and I were in Cancun for 4 weeks in 2000 while I did research for a project.

In 2008, we weren't the usual tourists. We went for morning and evening walks, went shopping, took in some sun, read books, learned sign language, had margaritas and sea breezes, and relaxed.

Yes, you read that right, we learned (a little) sign language. It's been shown as an effective way to communicate with young children, so we're learning sign language. Even though I'm 4000 miles away from Lincoln, I now know about 80 new signs.

We also people-watched and this time around we had so much fun people-watching. Really, there were some pretty interesting folks roaming around Cancun! We saw...

  • a baseball player get married (still trying to figure out his name)
  • a 12 year old hit on an adorable little 10 year old named Clemintine
  • three old ladies (in their 80s/90s) don plastic shower caps as they lounged by the pool
  • way too many men (and women) in teeny tiny swimsuits; some people just shouldn't be allowed to wear speedos and thongs...lordy, lordy

Pictures of the beach will be posted soon.

Trip to the US

I just returned from a 3+ week trip to the other side of the pond. I spent the first few days visiting friends around Chicago and then just over a week hanging out with my nephew Lincoln, my sister and parents, and ended the trip with 6 days in Cancun with my sister. What fun!

Poor Chuck was back in Denmark working while I was taking on the role of Professional Traveler. There should really be such a job and I think I'd be fabulous at it!

Snow, snow and more snow. I definitely do not miss snow and on my trip to the US, I did get to experience several snowy days and the crazy midwest drivers. Why is it that even though they've been driving in snowy weather their whole lives, they still completely forget what it means to drive in the snow? People, people, people.

In 16 days, I...

  • drove over 2000 miles on the rental car
  • went to 11 cities in 3 states
  • shopped and shopped some more
  • bought gifts for me and Chuck
  • purchased things for people back in DK
  • saw lots of friends and family
  • took over 150 pictures of little Lincoln
  • was on 7 different flights (yuck!)
Now I'm back in Denmark and I must admit, the darkness was a bit shocking this morning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Western Denmark

This past weekend, we decided to spend a few days in western Denmark. We left home early Saturday and drove to Ribe, Denmark. The slideshow is posted.

The highlights:

  • Ribe (Ripen in German) is the oldest surviving city in Denmark
  • Great cobblestone pedestrian area lined with boutique shops and restaurants
  • Viking center is a quaint museum that tells the story of how Ribe was founded in the 700s and then the progress the city has made in the past 1300 years.
  • Ribe Kunst Art Museum includes Danish art from 1750-1950.
  • Ribe Domkirke (cathedral) is prominently located in the center of town. It dates back to the late 1100/early 1200s and has a turet that you can climb to get an aerial view of the town and the surrounding area
  • Walked around the old site of the King's castle; property surrounded by moat, but castle is long gone.
  • Stayed at Hotel Dagmar, which is the oldest hotel in the oldest city in Denmark

On Sunday morning we drove to the island of Rømø. Family and friends know that I refer to visits to the in-laws as a visit to the Romo Ranch, so when Chuck and I were on the island of Rømø and we happened to see this sign, I almost died of laughter.

I'm sure Rømø is fabulous in the summer time when it is packed with tourists. We were lucky enough to have almost the whole beach area to ourselves. We drove on the packed sand beach, dodging the standing water, then parked and walked along the beach.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tagged

I've been tagged by my friend Michelle, whom I met several years ago when we worked together. The rules are to post the 4th picture from the 4th folder. In my Pictures folder, I have folders for: Alkmaar, Amsterdam, Baby Lincoln, Berlin.... Here's the 4th picture in Berlin.


In May 2008, Chuck and I were walking down Unter den Linden in Berlin on our way to catch the canal tour. I was ready to take a break from all that walking and as usual my (undiagnosed) attention deficit disorder was getting the best of me as I started to people watch and look at everything except the sidewalk in front of me.

Here was this cute little old man, his music box, and stuffed monkey. I probably should have wandered over and gave him a few Euros for taking his picture, but we were trying to catch the 1:30 tour, so I'll have to catch him next time.

I'm tagging...Emily, Deanna, Erin and Kelli.

Monday, October 27, 2008

(travel) On Deck

  • a trip to western Denmark (November)
  • a trip home to the Midwest, USA (November)
  • a girls long weekend in Cancun, Mexico (December)
  • ringing in the New Year in Athens, Greece (January)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

European Summer Vacation 2008 – By the numbers

I don’t have any excuses. I could make up some big elaborate story about how busy I’ve been for the past few months working two jobs and volunteering, but well…that just wouldn’t be all that accurate.

So, here’s the recap of our 3 week European Tour in July 2008.

5 – the number of countries visited (Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland)

18 – the number of nights in hotels

16 – the number of billy goats we saw on Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland

208 – the number of steps climbed to get to the Prague Castle

509 - the number of gross, stinky, unbearable steps up the south tower at the Cologne Cathedral

12 – the number of cities visited (Prague, Oswiecim, Vienna, Hallstatt, Salzburg, Munich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Baden-Baden, Mainz, Trier, Cologne)

4230 – the number of kilometers driven

0 – the number of kilometers Holly drove :)

$609 USD – the amount spent on diesel

1074 – the number of digital photos taken

400 – the number of pictures worth keeping

Chuck's favorites

  • Lunch at La Bastille in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Karl Marx museum in Trier, Germany
  • Munich's walking tour on their 850th birthday
  • The guided tour at Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland
  • My co-pilot (awe, as Holly types this...)
Holly's favorites

  • Feeding the swans in Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Lunch at La Bastille in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Driving the superwide highway on the way to Vienna, Austria
  • The summer toboggan run on Mt. Pilatus
  • Listening to the ding dong of the bells on the swiss cows

Finally. Done.

The last few slideshows from our summer tour are finally posted. Here's a short summary.

Day 8-9 - Munich, Germany
Munich (Munchen) was probably our favorite city to visit on our summer holiday. We were fortunate to be there for Munich’s 850th birthday celebration. I imagine it was similar or a lower-key Oktoberfest. Munich sure knows how to throw a party!

The slideshow is pretty self explanatory. Many of the pictures are from the ‘free tour’ of Munich, which is really a college student giving an organized tour and working for tips. Munich is a city rich in history and we would definitely go back in a heartbeat. You could easily spend a week in Munich and visit some of the nearby sites that are within an hour or so drive.

Day 15 - Black Forest and Baden-Baden, Germany
I don’t think we really ever found the Black Forest because we just saw regular old forests, but you can be the judge with the pictures in the slideshow.

Baden-Baden is gorgeous. It was a rainy and overcast day, so the pictures just don’t do it justice. As we drove out of Baden-Baden, Chuck said, “This is a city that you’d want to live in, not just visit.”

Day 16-17- Trier, Mosel River Valley and Mainz, Germany
Trier was a cute little town with a nice pedestrian walkway through the old town. It doesn't appear to be a big tourist location, but nontheless, we had a nice time. And, Chuck was able to visit Karl Marx's home.

There are vineyards for miles and miles along the Mosel River Valley. The route along the Mosel River takes you through quaint towns all with summer wine festivals.

The Rhine river runs through Mainz, Germany and is a great tourist spot for cruising the river. We spent a quick 24 hours in Mainz walking through the pedestrian area and staying at the Hyatt. Our stay was toward the end of our trip and I must say, the bed at the Hyatt was the most comfortable bed of the whole trip!

Day 17-18 - Cologne, Germany
The last days of our European Summer tour in 2008 were spent in Cologne. It's a huge, huge, huge city and it's probably the dirtiest of all the cities we visited. However, the Cologne Cathedral makes up for it. That is one impressive structure. Look at the scale in the slideshow. We couldn't even get a picture that included the whole building. It's HUGE!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The price of gas (diesel) is falling!

Wow. Diesel is down to 8.42dkk per liter. So, a mere $5.61USD per gallon. This is by far the cheapest we have ever paid since arriving in March.

I think the most we paid was in Switzerland. Don't ask. It's depressing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

So.cute.

In Brussels this weekend, we stumbled upon this craft fair in a square just off the main Grote Markt (Market Square). My very best friend and her husband had twin girls in May, just after I left for Denmark. Honestly, cute kids...and what's even cuter is that one looks like her and one looks like her husband. Too cute.

So, I picked up these little dolls for the girls. A middle aged woman and her husband had about 30 of these hand made dolls in their little booth. They told me that the woman hand made the dolls and that the clothes were machine washable in cold water.

However, after a little google search (don't you love google?)...the bag says Pomme Pidou, which is apparently a Belgium company that makes these little dolls, so maybe I didn't quite understand the translation. Pomme is french for apple, but I'm not sure what pidou means.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Driving the Autobahn

We’ve spent the past several months commenting how much we enjoy driving in Germany. The concrete autobahn is smooth, with ample driving space, nice shoulders, and the drivers are some of the best we’ve encountered. They stay in the right lane unless they are going to pass, which they quickly do and then move back over to the right. It’s truly a pleasure.

Until.this.weekend!

Wow. The drive to Brussels was excruciating. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, given that I didn’t even drive! Honestly, the roadway was packed with drivers and so many semis that the efficient passing method didn’t work very well. It added an extra hour to our already long drive to Brussels.

The return trip on Sunday was, once again, a pleasure. We must have hit crazy Friday traffic. The kind of Friday traffic in Chicago that makes you rethink your whole vacation so you can either beat the traffic by leaving early or wait it out and leave late at night.

Up next...pictures from Brussels. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Upcoming Travel

We have a few trips planned for the remainder of 2008 and into 2009. Chuck jokes that I always seem to have two trips planned and another 'in the works.' At this point, the first 4 are completely planned and the last three and 'in the works.'

If anyone has suggestions on things to do, please drop me a line.

  1. Brussels, Belgium (October)
  2. Midwest, USA (November/December)
  3. Cancun, Mexico (December)
  4. Athens, Greece (December/January)
  5. Norway and Sweden (April)
  6. Amsterdam and surrounding area, Netherlands (April)
  7. Italy (July/August)

To do list

Maybe if I make an official "to do list" I'll finally finish posting from our summer holiday. So, here's the list:

  1. Post slideshow for Munich
  2. Post slideshow for Black Forest, Trier, Mosel River Valley, Mainz
  3. Post slideshow for Cologne
  4. Post "by the numbers" recap

Friday, August 8, 2008

European Vacation 2008 - Map

On the right hand side under Travel Maps, you will find a map of our European Summer Vacation and the route we took or click here. We started in Denmark, but our first stop was Prague (Praha), Czech Republic. Our last stop was Cologne (Koln), Germany. You can click on a bubble and read the short summary or click on the link, which will take you to the blog entry and/or the slideshow.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Searching for food in Lucerne, Switzerland

NB: This was my first attempt at using the video feature on my relatively basic camera and putting it on the blog. Hopefully it will play correctly.

The swans are typically fed tons of bread by tourists, so it surprised us to see swans that weren't so lucky actually searching for food. Here's one Swan's adventure.

video


Here's what happens when you feed the swans...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mmmm....beer

Cheers! Skål ! Salud! Prost! Na zdraví!

Here's Chuck's attempt at soaking up..err drinking up...some local culture while on our 18-day whirlwind tour of Europe.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that. Can’t you read the signs?

Did you just sing the song by Five Man Electrical Band and/or the remake by Tesla?

Signs in Europe make us laugh hysterically…and scratch our heads wondering what they mean. (click on a tri-picture below to make it bigger)

Cars merging in both lanes…or…someone is playing with matchbox cars
Caution road work ahead…or…crazy Europeans shoveling piles of dirt
Caution steep grade ahead…or…attention truck drivers, don’t run into each other

Caution windy, slow down…or…conditions ideal for windsocks and kites
Exit…or...Ausfahrt is not a city in Germany
Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up (located in the shower)

Music festival…or…really cold water in Lake Lucerne
Special reserved motorcycle parking...does this replace handicapped parking?

Too bad you can't walk on the grass or play in this park!
Not picking up after your pooch could cost you 36E or $54USD!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Auschwitz Birkenau slideshow - more info

Chuck and I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC a few years ago. It’s one thing to read about the Holocaust in a book and another thing to face pictures, diagrams, and artifacts. We both left the Holocaust museum feeling a greater sense of responsibility for our own actions and the actions of others. In particular the DC museum went out of its way to tie the social actions of WWII to the present with a large information center on Darfur . It would have been easier to dismiss events of cultures past and foreign to us, but as Darfur is STILL happening today, the overall museum has a greater impact.

Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) camps in Oscwiecm, Poland gave us the same feeling of responsibility through their sheer magnitude. Auschwitz I is in town and could be thought of as a true labor camp (although many human rights violations occurred there as well). Auschwitz I is what the Nazi’s showed the Red Cross when questions arose. The first few slides are from Auschwitz I and show barrack style sleeping quarters in brick buildings, streets, streetscaping including trees and there was even a swimming pool.

Auschwitz II (Birkenau) is several kilometers outside of town in a wide open field, and it is one of the sights we refer to when we talk of the genocide. Its size and openness hides what we all know. The pictures in the slideshow probably won’t convey our feelings of amazement and shame. It is important to understand that the gas chambers of Birkenau were fully operational for only 2 months and in that time >400,000 Hungarian Jews were exterminated. As with the DC museum, it would be easy to dismiss the large scale industrialization of “The Final Solution” as a foreign problem, something that would never happen in America … but the field of chimneys was a ghostly reminder of the Allied saturation bombings in Europe, and the atrocities of Fat Man and Little Boy (the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Approximately 6 million European Jews were murdered as a result of Hitler's planned extermination (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust). The genocide in Darfur has claimed 400,000 lives (source: http://www.darfurscores.org/darfur).

European Vacation - Slideshows are being uploaded...

The slideshows of our trip are being uploaded and are located on the right hand side. A few things:

  • They are displayed by day in the trip, i.e. Prague, Czech Republic (Day 1-2).

  • If you want to view the show SLOWER, hover over the lower white space of the slide show. You will see back, stop, forward buttons on the bottom. Click the square (stop button). Now you can click the forward button when you want to advance to slide.

  • Some slideshows deserve more background info (i.e. Auschwitz), so there will be a separate post with more information.

  • We took hundreds of photos (actually 1016) and I only selected a few for the slideshow. If you want to see something specific let me know.
  • Chuck often tells me that he sees slides 1,2,3 then 1,2,3,4,5 then 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Apparently his computer is much slower than mine in uploading pictures. So, it may take a bit to get all the pictures.

A Non-smokers guide to European Travel

Have you figured out that those little cancer sticks drive me nuts? Honestly, I have no tolerance for it. It's one thing to choose to poison your body, but it's another thing to subject me to your secondhand smoke and thus poisoning me. I have a sensitive nose, so I can smell it from across the room, if someone in the car ahead of me is smoking (windows up or down), on your breath and your clothes.

I knew the whole smoking issue would be problematic for me in Europe. Some cities were better than others. Here's the skinny.

Czech Republic (Prague) - not too bad. There are separate designated smoking sections in restaurants. Smoking is everywhere on the streets.

Austria (Vienna and Salzburg) - terrible. You can smoke everywhere. There are no designated non-smoking sections in restaurants. You'll have to fend for yourself. Vienna was probably the worst city in terms of smoke in restaurants, on the pedestrian walkways and overall attitude. I think non-smokers are in the minority in Vienna. Cig butts everywhere!

Germany (Munich) - not too bad. The Germans were a little more respectful when it came to smoking, unlike Vienna. You cannot smoke indoors at restaurants, so that's where we sat. It would have been nice to sit outside with the breeze, but I didn't order a side of ashtray with my meal. I saw more people walking, jogging, biking than I did smoking.

Germany (Berlin) - not too bad. No smoking indoor at restaurants. It was very pleasant. I didn't notice many people smoking near the tourist areas.

Switzerland (Lucerne) - could have been better. Several restaurants did not allow smoking indoors, but allowed it on the outdoor patios. Other restaurants allowed smoking indoors and outdoors (we did not eat at those places). Most of the indoor seating was opened up to the outdoors, so if the wind was blowing the right way, you got smoked out anyway.

Germany (Trier and Mainz) -not too bad. Although, we were walking around early in the morning and on the road traveling in the afternoon, so I can't give a truly accurate assessment.

Germany (Cologne) - yuck. Not only was Cologne dirty, there were tons of smokers on the pedestrian areas....and the air quality in our hotel room was poor, so we could smell cig smoke coming from somewhere within the bowels of the hotel or outside near the 'fresh' air intake!

Netherlands (Amsterdam) - could have been better. You can smoke everywhere. Some restaurants have a designated non smoking area, but it's not mandated by law, so it's hit or miss.
Here's a link to the country summary.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back to Denmark

We're back in Denmark. We cut our trip short by 1 day. We were supposed to spend 2 nights in Cologne, but after the first night, I decided it was time to get back on the road.

We've been working to get the laundry done, replenish the refridgerator, and get back into a daily routine. Chuck still has a few more days off for his summer holiday, so he can relax a bit...not too much though...I'm sick and need some attention!

European Vacation - Day 17/18 (Cologne)

Cologne is...in a word...dirty.

We decided to go to Cologne because of their huge Cathedral, which is amazing architecture and took over 600 years to build!

We stayed at the Sofitel, which typically is a very nice hotel to stay at; however not in Cologne. It was marginal, at best. The air quality was sub-par and in the end I now have a sore throat and sinus issues. One bad day out of 18 isn't the end of the world.

We walked the pedestrian streets and shopped a bit. There is a chocolate museum in Cologne, so we walked along the river and stopped in for a tour and chocolate sample.

Chuck and I went into the huge Cathedral and he climbed the 509 steps up about 90 meter or 3/4 of the way up one of the towers. I sat in one of the pews and waited for him. He came down drenched and the first thing he said was it reminded him of the movie Shawshank Redemption. You know the line at the end of the movie when Morgan Freeman says of Tim Robbin's character (Andy Dufresne) "Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit-smelling foulness I can't even imagine. Or maybe I just don't want to. Five hundred yards. That's the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile."

Apparently, the air was pretty foul in the stairwell. 509 steps of nasty smelling bodies...I can't even imagine.

European Vacation - Day 16/17 (Mainz)

After our drive up the Mosel River Valley, we cut across to Mainz, our next hotel pit stop. I booked the Hyatt Regency, over looking the Rhein River. The hotel was very nice and I had my best night sleep of the whole trip. The bed and pillows were perfect.

Mainz has a nice downtown area with several pedestrian walkways and a beautiful area along the river to walk, read, bike, and play.

Chuck had some difficulty with the name of the town. Or he was just being humorous on our drive....

Chuck: So, Maine is our next stop?
Holly: Mainz
Chuck: What hotel are we staying at in Maine?
Holly: zzzz
Chuck: Maine
Holly: zzzz

You get where this is going.

European Vacation - Day 16 (Mosel River Valley)

After leaving Trier, we decided to drive up the winding road that follows the Mosel River. There are acres and acres of grapevines lining both sides of the valley. Every few kilometers there is another cute little town, packed with people, shops, and eateries featuring...local wine.

As we drove through, I said to Chuck, "This could be so much fun, if we spoke German." There are so many small towns and given the high number of campers and camping grounds along the river, it seemed like this is more of a local attraction than an international tourist location. So, the odds of English being spoken or even understood were slim to none. And, no...I'm not learning another language.

My DK Eyewitness Europe guidebook, which we refer to quite a bit, recommended a stop at Burg Eltz, a castle between Trier and Koblenz. It failed to mention that there were two entrances and somehow we end up at the hiking entrance. This translated to a walk down a steep hill for 1.8 kilometers (just over a mile) for 30 minutes just to get to the entrance....and then the return was strait up the rocky trail for about 50 minutes. Phew. I'm really going to be a billy goat if we keep up all this climbing! The alternative entrance was a parking lot with a shuttle train to the entrance. Below is a picture of Burg Eltz from halfway down the hiking trail.

It was a hot and muggy day, so we were both exhausted by the time we reached the car. We were planning on continuing up the Mosel to Koblenz and then taking the highway over to Mainz. However, we decided to take a short cut and go over one of the mountains and head straight to Mainz.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

European Vacation - Day 15/16 (Trier)

After Baden-Baden, we continued on our way to Trier, Germany, which is located near the Luxembourg / France border. We stayed downtown at the Park Plaza hotel, a nice moderate hotel.

We knew that Trier didn't have much to do; however it was a good resting stop before our Mosel River Valley drive. Trier is a cute town located on the Mosel River. The old town area has classic cobblestone streets and court yards and quaint little cafes. We visited Porta Nigra which is a large Roman gate and Karl Marx's home, then the visitor's center to get our wine valley drive situated and then we were off for a morning drive.

Here's Chuck outside Karl Marx's home (now a museum). He's reading Karl Popper's book, Open Society and Its Enemies.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

European Vacation - Day 15 (Baden Baden)

Our next stop on the trip was Trier, Germany; however our driving route was up to Basel, Switzerland, then along the Black Forest (Germany), through Baden-Baden and then on to Trier. Before we left Denmark, I went to Baden-Baden's website to see what we could do there for a half-day. Yes, I know; I'm a planner.

The website said: Baden Baden is so nice, you have to name it twice (Bill Clinton). Well, it has to be nice, right?

We got a late start, so we were a little behind schedule and by the time we arrived in Baden Baden, we were only going to have about 4 hours in town. It was 2pm and we were both hungry. After going to the casino, which is supposed to be the most beautiful in the world, we wandered down an alley off the pedestrian mall. Chuck spots the following sign and proclaims, "It's the Kranz Bar. It has to be good."

Eating at the Kranz Bar and Bistro was very familiar. Even though it wasn't apple smoked pulled pork, our meals were the best of our trip, thus far! I had veggies and chicken in a curry and tomato sauce with rice and Chuck had mediterranean penne pasta with chicken, tomatoes and olives in a balsamic sauce. Yum.

European Vacation - Day 14 (Mt. Pilatus)

When I planned our summer holiday several months ago, I stumbled upon a site that featured hotels on top of Mt. Pilatus (elevation 7000 feet). Cool, right? Absolutely.

We drove to Alpnachstad and took the steepest cogwheel train up the side of the mountain. As I posted before, I've suddenly realized that I have a (slight) fear of heights. My palms were sweating the whole way up the mountain. Once we arrived, it was breathtaking. Pictures just don't do it justice, but enjoy the ones I picked out below (out of the 100+!).

There are several trails of varying levels that you can take. I liked the one that was clearly on firm ground, a huge sturdy railing between me and falling to my death. However, I did agree to a walk on a trail that appeared safe. I made it about 15 minutes and then stopped, sat on a bench and waited for Chuck to go around several more bends. His comment, "I bet they don't have too many emergency situations here," was the icing on the cake. I was envisioning walking on a 4-lane highway (while hugging the mountain wall on the 2' path) and then he says that! I immediate thought, hmmm, he's right. There wouldn't be any emergencies; you'd just fall to your death. Ok. That was enough hiking for me. I waited and kept imagining my 4-lane highway.

We took the aerial gondola half-way down the other side of the mountain and got off to ride "Switzerland's longest summer tobaggan run." Honestly....sooooo much fun! For 8 Swiss Francs, you ride on a sled down a metal runway, curving through the meadows and surrounded by Swiss cows with those HUGE bells around their necks dinging and donging. When your run is over, you get hooked up for a 'backward' ride up to the starting point. The picture below is of one person heading down the track and another person being pulled up backwards.

We stayed at the Hotel Bellevue. Where it lacks in plush amenities, it surely makes up for it in the shear beauty of the surroundings. It's quite a feeling to have all the tourists leave the mountain at 6pm and then you have the whole place to yourself (plus about 20-30 other guests) until the next day at 8:30am. There was a welcome on the main deck with drinks and snacks and then we all headed into dinner. What a great way to end our short stint in Switzerland!




Thursday, July 24, 2008

European Vacation - Days 12 & 13 (Lucerne)

Lucerne (Luzern), Switzerland has been our location to relax a bit on our whirlwind tour of Europe. We both read several books, walked around town, saw a few of the sites and shopped. I bought some pretty cool Christmas gifts to bring back to the US.


Here are a few photos. The first one is Chuck reading his latest book while sitting in the shade (our balcony still had some sunshine). The second one is of a second covered pedestrian bridge. You can see how clear the water is in the last picture. There are swans all over the place in Lucerne. Even though the swan is the national bird in Denmark, I've seen more swans here!




Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When will I ever use Math when I grow up?

Obviously, this is a joke. In our professions, I think Chuck and I know our way around math, equations, calc...etc.

But the purpose of the post was all the currency conversions. Here are the rough conversions we’ve been using…

1 Danish Kroner = $ .20 USD
1 Euro = $1.50 USD
1 Swiss Franc = $1 USD (an easy one)
1 Czech Koruny = $ .07 USD
1 Polish Zlotych = $ .50 USD

I sure hope the Dollar starts to bounce back. It would be nice to have the Dollar equal the Euro. But, that’s wishful thinking.

European Vacation - Day 11 (Lucerne)

When I planned the 3 week trip around Europe several months ago, I thought we might need a break from walking and sightseeing, so I planned on spending about a week in Lucerne, Switzerland. We are staying at the Grand Hotel National in a junior suite overlooking the Lake for 4 nights and then 1 night on top of Mt. Pilatus.


Today we took a quick 1 hour drive to Interlaken, which was the first place opened up to tourism in Switzerland. They are working on constructing a tunnel so I'm sure the drive will be much smoother and little less stressful in the future. We were pretty high up in some mountains with very little earth on the passenger side of the car. Good thing I took my Dramamine!


Interlaken is very pretty. It's a little tourist town located between two lakes. The view is beautiful with mountains and even one snow covered. We shopped a bit and then drove back to Lucerne, stopping a few times along the way to eat a late lunch and take pictures.


Here are a few pictures. The first one is of the mountains surrounding Interlaken. The second one is one of the lakes near Interlaken. The water is so turquoisy blue.


European Vacation - Day 10 (Lucerne)

This morning we drove from Munich down to Lucerne (Luzern), Switzerland. It was just over 4 hours and the roads were quite good. The highways or expressways in Europe are well kept and smooth. For the summer season, I expected a lot of construction and we only saw a little bit of it. And, the construction work doesn’t back up traffic for miles and miles like in the Midwest.

We needed to buy a vignette or highway toll sticker for the car when we entered Switzerland. We also had to buy one when we entered the Czech Republic and Austria; although, in Austria we stopped to buy one (obviously at the wrong spot) and were told we didn’t need one. So when we arrived in Vienna, we asked the concierge and quickly got one affixed to the windshield.

The drive into Switzerland is beautiful. We were winding around a few mountains, but also went under many in some pretty long tunnels. So far, the longest tunnel we’ve been in has been 6.6 km (4 miles). That tunnel kept on going. Imagine what would happen if you got stuck under there!

We arrived in Lucerne just after noon. I could probably live here forever…if I was independently wealthy, but that’s a minor detail. As a reference a grilled chicken breast (with no side dishes is $24USD / 24 Swiss Francs and a diet coke is $6USD / 6 Swiss Francs). I like the conversion factor in Switzerland. It seems like I’ve been doing non-stop math for the past 4 months!

Below is the famous walking bridge and tower in Lucerne.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

European Vacation - Day 9 (Munich)

Today was more of a leisure day. We spent the morning walking through the English Garden. It took us just over an hour to walk to the halfway point, Lake Kleinhesseloher (or Kleinhesseloher See in German).

We stopped along the way at the Chinese tower and watched part of the big party. Munich is very efficient at throwing parties! We were at the Chinese tower / HB beer garden at 10:10am and based upon the amount of empty beer glasses and dirt/mud on people’s shoes, my guess is they had been there all night. We tried to get some pictures of the traditional dress without drawing any additional attention to the foreigners (we were basically the only ones not in traditional dress). The shorts that the men wear are called Leiderhosen. There are two buttons on a flap near the waist. Apparently, they are not only stylish but functional. When you need to use the facilities, flap down the leider and pull out the hosen. Below is the party at 10am!

European Vacation - Day 8 (Munich)

I think we did everything that Salzburg had to offer, so we were up early and on the road by 7:30am. It was only a little over an hour to Munich and luckily we were able to check in early. The weekend we were there, Munich celebrated its 850 year anniversary, so it was over-run by people and the roads were closed to our hotel. We were able to pass through 3 checkpoints and get to our hotel.

We joined the ‘free tour’ which is quite common in larger European cities. College students run tours on a tips only basis. There’s no need to sign up in advance and you can pay as much or as little as you want for the ‘free tour.’ The only downfall of the ‘free tour’ is a few shameless plugs for paying tours and a restaurant here and there. Our tour guide, Patrick, did a great job, was quite the ham, and got a generous 'tip'.

Highlights:

  • We saw the current Pope's original Church. The Bavarians are quite proud that the Pope hails from Munich!
  • The new Jewish synagoge, which started its construction on November 9, 2003 and completed construction on November 9, 2006. Unfortunately, the monument to the 4,000 Munich Jews that lost their lives is below ground. There's a hallway between the Jewish community center and the synagogue. Originally the plans were to have it above ground, but still today there are threats and armed guards are necessary.
  • The tower where Hitler 'hatched' his plan for the Night of Broken Glass, which was the first organized SS effort in plain clothes to persecute the Jews.
  • Marianplatz with the huge 'New town hall', which looks more like a big gothic church and tons of beautiful flowers and a show in the clocktower at 11am and 5pm. It's quite the crowd pleaser!

Pictures to follow. Stay tuned.

European Vacation - Day 7 (Salzburg)

Salzburg was a little soggy in the morning, so we decided to head up to the Fortress, which overlooks the city and then walk along a ridge over to the Art Museum. The Fortress was basically and old pile of concrete and Chuck and I kept thinking about all the adaptive reuses of the complex. Just imagine what you could do with an old walled city?!!? Unfortunately the Art Museum was closed due to a new exhibit that was scheduled to debut the next day...however, we'd be on to Munich, so we couldn't go.

When the going gets tough, we go shopping. We walked along the coblestone streets of Salzburg and did some shopping. It was pretty uneventful. Salzburg would be a good day trip from Munich (about 1.5 hour drive). However spending a full week here or even more than a day or so, would be too long. There's not much action or even sightseeing options.

Tomorrow we're off to Munich.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pretzels with salt...in Salzburg

Chuck and I don't exactly like taking pictures of each other. Here's my attempt at taking his picture as he eats a huge pretzel in Salzburg.

European Vacation - Day 6 (Hallstatt and Salzburg)

Today's journey was the scenic route between Vienna and Salzburg. In our guidebook, it recommends Hallstatt, a beautiful mountain town of 1000 nestled among the Austrian Alps on a clear lake. Well, based upon that description and the fact that it has the oldest Salt Mine in the world, we had to go.

The drive was a little unnerving. Winding roads and steep drop offs, but the view was spectacular. It was raining, so our raincoats came in handy yet again. We parked the car and headed to the Salt Mine and the tram that took you straight up the side of the mountain...and it was a pretty steep mountain!

The tour was about 3 hours long and included a walk through the mountain, sliding down a wooden rain about 35' and then a second rail about 65'. Chuck had the fasted slide time at 33.6 km/hr on the second slide. It was a little scary for me. I think I said Holy Crap about half way down the 65' drop. Ahhh, adventures. The Salt Mine was actually quite cool and I'll blog about that one in more detail later.

Later in the afternoon, we arrived in Salzburg. We stayed at the Hotel Sacher, which is a great hotel, complete with chocolates on our arrival. The Hotel Sacher is known for the Sacher Torte in Austria. We even received mini tortes as part of the turndown service. Yum.
Pictures will be posted soon.

European Vacation - Day 5 (Vienna)

That nasty little blister from the day before is hampering my style today. However, with thinner socks in my tennis shoes, I was ready to hit the pavement...errr...cobblestones.

We started the day with a walk through the Hofburg complex which is located in the center of Vienna. There's a beautiful garden, several museums and some great exhibits. I think my favorite exhibit was the National Library which dated from 1722-1735. It was amazing.

We walked through the Butterfly garden, but unfortunately there weren't many butterflies. We saw more butterflies at the Butterfly garden in Seattle in the first 10 steps than we did during the whole Vienna exhibit.

Vienna is a beautiful city. The architecture is amazing. I can't wait to go through the photos and post a slideshow of Belvedere, the Opera House, Hofburg Palace, and the Museum Quarter. If only there was a little less smoke, Vienna would be perfect.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

European Vacation - Day 4 (Vienna)

Vienna is a beautiful town and quite large at 1.6 million residents; however many of the tourist sites are compacted into a central area within walking distance. We were up early and off to the Stephansdom, which is a pretty large Church in town. One of the employees asked if we were Americans. Yes, why? Well, Americans are always up early. They don't know how to sleep in Europe. Apparently, the employee had met with 3 other American couples, all before 9am. Europe doesn't even think about waking up until at least 10am!

We spent most of the day on foot. We walked to Belvedere (Upper and Lower), the Stadt park and several museums. By the end of the day, I had one little blister on my poor little pinkie toe. Belvedere is HUGE. We walked down the wrong street and ended up walking all the way around the complex before we could enter. It took us 45 minutes to walk around the complex...and we were walking at a pretty good pace, too.

Here's a picture of Upper Belvedere.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Holy smokes! That's all they do in Vienna. I was surprised at how many people were smoking in Vienna...and how young everyone looks. I swear there were 12 year olds smoking!

Our first night in Vienna we were hungry and tired...after about 10 hours of driving and 5 hours at Auschwitz. We checked into the hotel and then headed out for dinner. We stopped at several restaurants and asked for a non-smoking section. Sorry. It's all smoking. Are you kidding me? The whole place is smoking. Yep, inside and outside. Lovely. We moved on to several restaurants and settled on Restaurant Levante. Their non-smoking section was way in the back...next to a garbage can...and hundreds of little black bugs swarmed around us. So our choice was smoke or bugs. And, to top if off, the food was lousy.

To Queue or not to queue

Are you wondering what a queue is? You know, the LINE you form when you are waiting for something. This concept seems to be foreign to Europeans. We routinely notice in Denmark that the Danes don’t like queues. Chuck was the first one at the kommune, arriving at 9:45am, 15 minutes before they opened. He took a seat and waited. About 20 Danes arrived just before 10:00am. The door opened, Chuck stood up, assuming that because he was the first to arrive, he’d be the first to enter the door. Nope. Not the case, the Danes swarmed the door and he was the last one to enter!

We are also accustomed to a little personal space. I like to leave about 1 foot of space between me and the next person, as does Chuck. This one foot personal space cushion, to Europeans, is a welcomed invite that they may occupy that space, thus making us take one step backwards. Before we know it, everyone has made their way to the front of the ‘mob’ as we gently move backwards.

Interestingly enough, in one of my guidebooks on Vienna, it says that "it is every person for themselves." Queues are unfamiliar in Vienna!!

European Vacation - Day 3 (Auschwitz)

We were up early and left Prague around 4am. Our drive to Oswiecim, Poland, where Auschwitz is located was supposed to take 6 hours, but we made it in about 5 hours.

We decided to take the organized tour that started at 10am and lasted until 2pm. We saw a short film and then walked the Auschwitz complex and the Birkenau complex. We hear so much about Auschwitz and very little about Birkenau. When you see the photos, you'll be surprised at how very different the two complexes are and how much worse the conditions were at Birkenau.

I'll post slideshows soon.

After Auschwitz and Birkenau, we drove 5 hours to Vienna, Austria. We arrived by 7pm and were ready for bed. It was a very long day.

European Vacation - Day 2 (Prague)

Another day of rain. But that didn't stop us. We each had our raincoats (a must have for Denmark) and a huge golf umbrella. We were up early and headed through old town and over the Charles Bridge, then up a few rather steep and winding streets...then 208 steps of pure misery up to the Prague Castle. We had a choice, we could either take the steep winding streets or the steps. We opted for the steps. Ugh. The castle was gorgeous as was the Church.

We took a funicular up a hill to a look out point and then decided to walk down the winding road, in the rain. I'm a bit of a klutz, and luckily (knock on wood) I didn't fall down the hill! We stopped at La Bastille for a late lunch, which was amazing.

After all that walking and climbing, I convinced Chuck to splurge and pay the 15E for a 30 minute Thai massage on my feet and calves. It was kind of a reflexology thing. I was really looking forward to a massage on my tootsies. Well, I think the woman thought to herself, "I wonder how much pain this American will put up with?" It was ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. So much so that I have finger mark bruises on my legs. Chuck says...and you paid for this!?!?

Unfortunately my internet connection is kind of slow, so I'll post slideshows once I get a better connection. Until then, enjoy the one or two in the posting.

Here's Prague Castle.

European Vacation - Day 1 (Prague)

You know how when you were little and you couldn't sleep the night before a big event or trip. Well, Chuck and I must be big kids because we couldn't sleep the night before our whirlwind trip around Europe. We were up at 3am and on the road by 3:30am. Our 8 hour drive to Prague went really quickly and we actually arrived ahead of schedule.

It rained for most of the drive and then rained once we arrived in Prague. We stayed at the Modra Ruze hotel, which was in a great location and we had a very nice Deluxe room. I would definitely recommend the hotel.

We spent the first day walking on the pedestrian street and in the National History Museum. The only thing in English was the following. Everything else was in Czech.
In the evening we went to Old Town and saw the Astronomical Clock. There were hundreds of tourists there for the 'on the hour' event. It stinks being short. There's always one bugger that stands in front of me.

On the Road

We're officially on the road traveling Europe. It's been tough getting online. Chuck and I had a little miscommunication. I thought his laptop had ethernet connection and he assumed I didn't want to get online. So, we only have wireless and that's not quite as easy to find as I had thought it would be. I'm online for the first time in about a week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Queen's Summer Home

We recently visited the Queen's summer home in Grasten, Denmark. Her main residence is in Copenhagen and she doesn't use this home as often as her mother did. The Queen wasn't in residence, so the grounds are open for visitors (and free of charge); however the actual residence is not open to the public.

The grounds are beautifully manicured and there is a pristine hedge toward the entrance to the residence. Chuck took a pretty cool picture from inside one hedge and a picture of the other hedge. The slideshow is to the right.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Legos everywhere

Did you know that Legos were invented in Denmark? And, there is a huge amusement park dedicated to the Lego? It just happens to be called LEGOLAND and is located in Billund, Denmark.

We spent a few hours there yesterday with several of Chuck's coworkers that are also non-Danes. The slideshow is under photoalbums to the right.

It's a great place for children ages 4-10. There's lots of rides geared toward little kids and a nice interactive water area, complete with high powered walk in dryers (I wish I would have snapped a pix). There are a few things for adults to do, but definitely not worth the $50 per person entrance fee...unless you're bringing kids along ($44 per kid) and even then you may have to take out a second mortgage to go!

We spent most of the day touring the miniature area. They've recreated miniature world monuments like the Statue of Liberty, Acropolis, White House, Taj Mahal, and pyramid facade in Egypt. There's also a cute section where they created miniature cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and many of the Queen's residences...all with legos.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

We're on the move

After a few weeks of staying put, we're gearing up to be on the move for the 4 weeks or so.

Here's what you can look forward to...

  • Legoland in Billund, Denmark
  • Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Munich, Germany
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Auschwitz, Poland
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Black Forest, Germany
  • Mosel and Rhine River Valleys, Germany
  • Zurich, Switzerland

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Life as an Expat in Denmark blog

My travel blog was getting a bit cluttered, so I’m starting a Life as an Expat in Denmark blog. I’m going to blog about the interesting things in Denmark, challenges, and just living in a foreign country. Because my life has a local government focus, there will also be references to services provided by the kommune (community) and the level of services for the amount of taxes paid. Here’s a link and enjoy.

No travel plans until July, so there won't be much updating on this blog. However, you can read about our Expat experiences on the Life as an Expat in Denmark blog.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Jesse

Chum, Jesse, baby boy, the youngest turned 29. This should have been posted on May 30, so it's a little late. Sorry about that. Hope you had a great day. I'll bring presents this fall. It will be a birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas extravaganza!

Pictures are from St. John, USVI; St. Thomas, USVI; and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Sunday, June 1, 2008

...and the winner is....

...not Chuck! Chuck's employer has an international club, which meets once a month. The May (Maj) event was go cart racing. I've never seen go cart racing quite like this. You get all dressed up in a jumpsuit, headscarf, and helmet. They were running about 21 seconds per lap. Good thing I was the photographer; they would have killed me...or left me in the dust.

The track had several rules and I think among the members of the group (all engineers) they broke every single one!

  • No running into other go carts
  • No driving over the barriers
  • No sliding up the barriers
  • No using both the gas and brake at the same time
  • No driving when the yellow lights are flashing
  • Just about everyone got at least one yellow card (warning)
  • One person got a red card (a time out penalty)
  • One person got ejected
  • One person got a blue card (move over; someone wants to pass you)

In Heat B, Chuck came in 3rd, but only because Torben (on the right) had a penalty late in the heat. Hmmm, I think Chuck could be Danish...or at least he and Torben could be related!

Here's a link to more pictures.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Random thoughts on upcoming travels

We're heading to Kolding on Saturday to tour a castle and do some go-carting with the International Club at Chuck's office. I hear this is fast paced true go-carting, nothing like the slow go-carts at Wisconsin Dells! I rocked those go-carts. I think I'll be the photographer tomorrow. No sense injuring myself and experiencing Danish hospitals!

I spent the week (and I'm still not done) planning my trip the US this fall. I'm debating about fitting in 5 days of beach time in the caribbean or Mexico before I head back to 'gloomy' DK in December. I also need to find a place to rent in Paris for Christmas and New Years and then find a place to rent in Tuscany for 3 weeks next summer. Rental homes go quickly during peak seasons and it's turning out to be a tad bit more difficult to find nice places. Our Christmas plans change each day. I started out looking for a place in the Canary Islands, then Thailand, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, nothing. I take that back, I found a great place in the Seychelles for a mere $7,000 a person. I couldn't get Chuck to bite on that one! It looks like I have to plan ahead for Christmas 2009. I'll start that task in January.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A trip to the doctor

Well, I successfully navigated the health system in Denmark.

I woke up this morning with an inkling I had a bladder infection. Given the last bout that landed me in a hospital for 3 very long days, I decided to assume it was an infection and make my way to the doctor's office. Denmark has socialized medicine, so when we arrived here we got a CPR (social security number) and assigned a doctor in our town. This morning (between 8-9), I called the number on my medical card, talked to the doctor, and got an appointment for the 11:30 slot. A quick 5 minute walk to the doctor's office, swipe my card, and then a 5 minute wait. I didn't have to fill out 10 forms or confirm billing addresses, pay copays, mother's maiden name...nothing.

I was in the doctor's office at 11:35 when he pulled out his chemistry set and tested my specimen (which I had to bring with me) on the counter, matched the dip stick to a color coding and confirmed my suspicion. Then, because of the last kidney infection, he pulled out a needle and drew some blood. Another quick test with his chemistry set and luckily it hadn't progressed to a blood infection. My prescription was emailed to the pharmacy (apotek) and by 12:15 I was well on my way to feeling better.

Not bad for my first encounter with the Danish Health System.

Going waaaay back

In 1991, I traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico with about 15 others from my high school Spanish class. Along with students from two other schools, there were about 50 teens and enough chaperones to make a good attempt at keeping us out of trouble and out of the bars. Mmmm, ice cream with kaluha at Pablo's Backyard Patio on Cozumel brings back some memories. We were in Merida, went to the ancient Maya ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal, and then Cozumel for some beach time. This one trip, my first time out of the US, is what started the traveling bug and my love of history and ancient cultures. Y ademas, puedo hablar un poquito de Espanol (And I can also speak a little bit of Spanish). Here are two of my favorite pictures from Chichen Itza.

The colorful columns are located inside the Temple of the Warriors. We were on the top level of the structure and I laid on my stomach to take a 'blind' photo into a window. I had no idea what I was going to get. Pretty cool. You can no longer climb the Temple of the Warriors.

Kukalcan, "El Castillo" or the castle. What a beauty. 91 steps on each of the 4 sides with the top level counted as a step is 365 steps. Can you say modern calendar? The ancient Maya was a very intelligent and advanced civilization...and a bit barbaric given the types and methods of human sacrificing. During the Vernal Equinox the sun casts a shadow of a serpent writhing down the steps of the pyramid, which is quite cool. I don't think you can climb El Castillo anymore.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Greenhouse - Before and After

Our house has a cute little greenhouse in the backyard. We spent the past two weekends cleaning out the dead plants, washing the windows and giving life to the tired little greenhouse. Here's the before and after.

We planted:

  • Several varieties of tomoatoes...mmm...vine ripened tomates are my favorite, especially cherry tomatoes
  • Basil, a staple in our house
  • Peppers, so I can make Dad's (and Carmen's) amazing salsa
  • Strawberries
  • Flowers
And, now I wait.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A-Z except on Sundays

Today we decided to go to A-Z (a to zet) a mini wal-mart with just about everything under one roof (no food) and prices a bit higher than wal-mart. Most stores are closed on Sundays in Denmark, so I pulled out the sales ad and checked the hours. Yep, Sondag 9-17 (Sunday from 9-5). So we're off. We pick up some flowers outside and then go inside to "pick up a few things." Hmmm, there's yellow and black caution tape all over the store. I've seen grocery stores that block off liquor sections on Sundays, but come on...blocking off everything in the store except the plants, pots, and dirt. Goodness. Why bother opening the store! So, A-Z is M-F and just PPD on S.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Royal Wedding

No...I'm not referring to my wedding....and no, we weren't invited!

Denmark's Prince Joachim and Marie Cavallier of France got married on Saturday. Talk about a HUGE deal. It's been all about the Royals and their weddings for the past week. The wedding was in Moegeltoender, a small town about an hour from our house. Queen Margrethe's rather large sailing vessel was 'parked' in the harbor near our house and the Queen stayed at her Summer residence about 15 minutes from our house. Here are some pictures of the Queen's boat.

Friday, May 23, 2008

To Bake...or...not to bake


I’m getting used to changing how I cook and bake…or not bake. Last night, I made a lemon cake with lemon glaze. I modified the recipe a bit and made it in a bundt pan rather than a round cake. It was quite tasty – lost of lemony flavor and tart! I used the smallest bundt pan I could find, just in case it is a flop. Although, Chuck will eat just about anything, so it doesn't go to waste. What a good husband...supporting even my bad baking!

I’m getting used to baking from scratch. It takes a bit more work than ‘doctoring a box cake mix’ but it is quite rewarding. I was once told by someone that my baking was fabulous and I ‘missed my calling’. Kind of a compliment, but also an insult because I was working hard to be a great department head and future city manager...and I thought I was doing a good job as a supervisor!

I used to bake at least once a week and it was usually something chocolate. I haven’t been able to find chocolate chips here and the brown sugar is much sweeter and has a molasses taste to it, so that alters flavors a bit. They do, however, have some great chocolate bars, so I think I’m going to try and just chop the chocolate.

In the scheme of things, such a trivial problem…chocolate chips!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Feliz Cumpleanos!

Happy Birthday Dad! Hope you have a wonderful birthday! Here are some pictures I could find on my laptop. I didn't get a chance to finish scanning in a lot of my older pictures, so here's something a little more recent.

St. Thomas - Kasey's Wedding - Dominican Republic

Monday, May 19, 2008

Our road trip is planned...despite rising gas prices

Gas prices continue to rise. I just read that two states already hit $4 a gallon. Well, we're paying just under $9 a gallon for diesel and gasoline is about the same price. It's a good thing our new (2005) Hyndai Elanta gets about 38 miles to the gallon. Cars are very expensive in DK. There's a 180% luxury tax on top of the car price. So, we opted for an inexpensive car while we're here. Inexpensive is a relative term. Our lease for a very basic car and insurance is about $1,000 a month.

Despite the price of gas, we're still going on our 19 day driving tour of Europe later this summer. We were going to do a combo plane/train, but after doing the calcs, driving gives us more flexibility and is about 1/2 the price than the plane/train option. Some of the sites on my list (yeah, you all know I'm a list-maker) are Auschwitz, Mt. Pilatus, Neuschwanstein Castle, Interlaken, and the Cologne Cathedral. I'll post pictures and stories when we return.

...more yard work

We were busy this weekend trimming, picking weeds, and hauling away debris. ...And now...we are both sore. Why is it that every year when you do yard work or walk for the first time on an icy sidewalk, your legs ache for a few days? I wonder if there is an exercise to keep those muscles in shape all year 'round. So, I digress.

Here's a link to some before and after shots of our 8 hour marathon of yard work. There's still more to do, but here's what we've accomplished so far. Doing landscaping brought back memories of our house in the midwest. We would spend days trimming, pruning, raking, and spreading 20 yards of bark. Oh, what fun...I really loved that house. Had I not been 'gently forced' to move, we'd still be there and probably not in our new little town in Denmark.

A working weekend.

...for Chuck, that is. I had my first real day of manual labor in awhile! We spent about 8 hours working in the yard on Sunday and have quite a bit left to do. I've been snapping pictures of before and after to post. Here's the first few to post. There is a beautiful upside down tree in the back yard. The branches had grown all the way down to the concrete patio and it looked more like a bush than a tree.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Conscious Choice

When Chuck and I traveled to Seattle last year for Memorial Day weekend, we picked up a copy of the Conscious Choice and then had it delivered to our house. Conscious Choice is “an enlightened urban lifestyle magazine focusing on social, green, health, food and spiritual consciousness.” We enjoy the magazine and it is available online, if you’re interested. Those that know me well, know that one of my biggest irritants is the inequities between women and men. It’s 2008 and there is still a glass ceiling (and what can really get me going is acknowledgement of the glass ceiling then paying lip service to attempts to change it). So, I digress. Here are some interesting facts presented in the article What Counts? in the January issue of Conscious Choice. Read the other facts on the website.

  • 67 - Percentage of the world’s work that is done by women
  • 10 - Percentage of the world’s income that is earned by women
  • 1 - Percentage of the world’s property that is owned by women
  • 76 Million - Number of girls in the world who have never received a single day of schooling
  • 50 Percent reduced rate of HIV infection among young women in developing countries who attend at least six years of school
  • 3 - Number of additional children unschooled women are likely to bear, as compared to their educated counterparts
  • $35 Cost of sending an Afghani girl to school for one year
  • $10 Billion - Amount it would cost each year to send all the world’s children to school by 2015 (less than the annual amount the world spends on ice cream)

So, why is this on my mind? The Copenhagen Post had a little blurb called Gender Gap. Danish women earn 3% more than their male counterparts in the public sector, according to the newly released 2008 Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum.

Sources: Potentia Foundation, International Women’s Health Coalition.

UPDATE: I could only find the 2007 Gender Gap Report, so perhaps it was a typo in the Copenhagen Post and the most recent report is 2007.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May is National Bike Month

The League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike-to-Work Week from May 12-16 and Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 16.

Keep on riding, Chuck!

Danish Lessons

I will start off by saying that I can spell a lot of Danish words. And I can read a lot of Danish words. I cannot; however pronounce any of them correctly. Hanne, our tutor, visits with us on Mondays and Thursdays. Which reminds me, I have a homework assignment to finish for tonight. The lessons are going well and we concentrate on pronunciation, which is a good thing because it’s the area that I’m having a hard time grasping. I find myself looking at the Danish word, saying it in English, then translating it to Spanish, then hmmm, do I know the French word or Italian word, it must be similar…and then finally I try to pronounce it in Danish. Ha. It is quite humorous (silent h, just as Ray Romano says it)!

Another bit of humor is watching and listening to Chuck attempt Danish. It’s kind of cute, actually. Being the great engineer that he is, he uses equations to remember vowel sounds. I write things out phonetically and he writes out equations. Humorous to see us as a team.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Team building

Chuck returned from his 2 day team building exercise with the guys from work. Paintball was on the agenda and Chuck was rewarded with 19 welts on his arms, back and legs. Huh, I wonder what everyone else looks like!?!?!

Long weekend in Berlin

Monday was Ascention Day in Denmark, so Chuck was off. We decided to drive 4.5 hours to Berlin and spend a long weekend taking in a history lesson or two. The pictures are posted and here's the recap.

Saturday - We stayed at the Berlin Hilton hotel, located on the Gendarmenmarkt, which is a central plaza in Berlin. An early morning of driving, meant we arrived in Berlin by 8:45am. We spent the morning at the 'toothpick' or 'tv tower' and had lunch in the revolving restaurant. Off for a quick boat tour on the canal, passing by museums covered in scaffolding and cranes. It looks like the whole city is in the midst of a major facelift. We spent the afternoon walking through the Tiergarten, which is a huge lush park filled with locals having cookouts. No invitations to join them, so we kept walking. We waited in line to enter the Reischstag or government building. We took an elevator up to the top floor and then walked on spiral ramps in the glass and mirrored dome. Then, we were off to the Brandenburger Tor or Brandenburger Gate, which is the entrance to the Tiergarten.

Sunday - We had coffee (tea for me) at a cute little bageri (bakery) off Gendarmenmarkt, then walked to the Jewish History museum and Checkpoint Charlie. Chuck decided that he had to get his passport stamped with all the stamps from the timeperiod. Sometimes he's like a kid in a candystore. It was cute. We hopped on the tourist 'hop on hop off' double decker open air bus and toured the city for 2 hours. It was a welcomed rest for our weary feet! At the end of the bus tour we went to Potsdammer Potz and saw the Berlin Wall, then a short walk to the Holocaust Memorial and a visit to the museum.

Monday - We were up early primarily because we were going to stop at Ikea and CITTI on the way home and had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of us. Well, apparently all stores are closed on Ascention Day, so no shopping for me. We did; however, stop at Schloss Charlottenburg, which is a beautiful palace just outside of Berlin in what appeared to be a suburb. We walked the gardens and enjoyed spending the morning in a very beautiful and peaceful park-like garden.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I know. I know.

I've been experimenting with the header and it still looks a bit goofy, but at least I was able to get it to span the whole blog and not just part of it. It's getting late, so I'll head off to bed and play with the header and code in the morning.

Long weekend in Berlin

We drove. We walked. We saw. We learned. We asked. We bussed it. We boated. We toured. We laughed. We had fun.


Details and pictures will be posted soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Habla Danish?

I wish Danish was as easy as Spanish...and I think Chuck wishes the same thing. On our drive back from Berlin, we were doing a Danish lesson. I was reading words in Danish and trying to get Chuck to come up with the English translation. Here's how it went:

Holly: et hus
Chuck: a dog?
Holly: nope, a house; en hund is a dog; en bard?
Chuck: a boat?
Holly: nope, a child; a boat is et bad (with a circle above the a)
Chuck: ask me quiz, really ask me what quiz is, come on ask me what quiz is.
Holly: quiz?
Chuck: quiz!

Yep, the joy of some Danish words being the same as English words: yo-yo, yoga, computer, quiz. Poor Chuck.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Flowers from around the globe

San Antonio, Texas - Janesville, Wisconsin - Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - Amsterdam, Netherlands - St. Croix, USVI

Thursday, May 8, 2008

tweet.tweet

Well, it's 4:30am. It's just starting to get light out this morning and the darn birds were tweeting away outside my window. So, rather than listen to the constant tweets, I decided to start my day a little earlier than usual. Here's a picture of some HUGE morning dove like birds. They are about the size of chickens and sit outside our office window and whooo like owls. I'm too lazy to find and take a pic of the crazy birds that so kindly decided to tweet their way into my morning.

Good morning. Early bird gets the worm!