Monday, May 5, 2008

Last Day in Prague

This morning Bill asked everyone to vote on whether we would travel by bus to Carlsbad which would be several hours on the bus, or to stay in Prague and do a river cruise and do our own thing. We all voted to stay and relax and separate for the day.

We did a one hour river cruise on the Moldova river and it was relaxing. I took some video of it here. The river was dirtier than the Danube in Budapest. Before the cruise Cathi and I went running. There was a rat next to a dumpster which was next to the sidewalk. It was a pretty goodsize rat. When I first saw it I was running about 15 feet in front of Cathi. We just came right up on it. It didn't look dead at first, but when it didn't move when I ran near it, I knew it was dead. Once I passed it I said in my head, "One One thousand, Two - One thousand" and then I heard Cathi scream out as she jumped over it. We did that block several times (St Charles Bridge around to the hotel and back around) and I made sure to get video of Cathi approaching it again. Sorry about the poor video quality, but here it is. I ran 6 miles according to the GPS, but Cathi kept going and she ran 12 miles.

One thing we noticed is that Vonda waited for the boat to leave the dock before going back to her hotel. She is very professional and concerned about the safety and enjoyment of our party. Everyone is growing fond of her.

After the cruise Cathi and I went down the St. Charles Bridge, which we crossed several times earlier in the day on our run. But now it was crowded with vendors selling magnets, post cards, bracelets, art, and other 'junk'. Cathi bought a few more magnets. Then we agreed to rent a rowboat down the river towards the hotel. That was alot of fun! I wanted to work up a sweat rowing so we decided to rent it for an hour and go around the small island in the middle of the river. Here is some video of me rowing with Cathi providing some discussion. Here is some video of Cathi rowing with my own dialogue. During the row, Cathi was getting frisky. She was extra "randy" in Prague and we had quite the time reliving our honeymoon if you know what I mean. Very good memory. I had to keep pushing Cathi off me cause she was making a scene and people were watching!

We went back to the hotel and enjoyed each other for a couple of hours and took a nap before going to dinner. Since the group disbursed everyone was supposed to take care of their own lunch. Cathi and I just fasted since we would eat a nice dinner in the hotel that night. Before going down for dinner I did a timed session of pushups. I did 89 pushups in 1 minute. One day I would like to do 100 in a minue.

We met downstairs on the main floor of the hotel for dinner. The dinner was very fancy! It was fantastic. After dinner Cathi, Becky, Bill and I walked 4 blocks to the Tessco. I bought some candy bars for Sylaja, David and Trevor at work.

We came back to the hotel and went to bed. We leave tomorrow for the USA. We miss the kids terribly and are eager to see them.

We had a great vacation! So many things to see. Just like all vacations I've had, it went too fast!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Full Day touring Prague

No church today. Scott and Kris got the address but it was about 45 minutes to get there. Scott slept in and stayed in the hotel rather than join the rest of us to tour. We met “Katrina” who was our local Czech guide. We toured the Castle district, where the Defenestration of a couple of Hungarian policians were. We walked through some old building and my favorite was the Golden Lane. We were given 30 minutes to stroll and shop on our own. Cathi and I went into an armory which was fantastic. She quickly left me alone and went with the girls. I walked through this building which appeared to be an old castle. Inside was all sorts of armor and weapons that were simply amazing. You could buy some of it, but it was really expensive ($600 - $10,000) depending on what you were looking at). I could have stayed in there for hours, so much cool armor! But I had to hurry back to the meeting place. Check out the full photo album here.

At the meeting place off to the side was an old dungeon and execution place. There was a sculpture of a guy kneeling down with a huge skull on his back. We waited at the wall next to the sculpture for the women to finish their shopping. Katrina gave us the “30 minute limit” to enable us to better stay on schedule for the tour. However Cathi, Becky and Roceil were stuck browsing and buying "junk" as Bill would tease them with. They ran out of money and had to go convince Bill to hand over his American Express. He did reluctantly ( or playfully) while they spent an additional 15 minutes getting some manger scenes for everyone. Katrina was obviously annoyed at the delay.

We continued on and had lunch in a nice restaurant. They served all sorts of cheese and roles, with cole slaw. Bill Jr seems to constantly turn his nose up at nearly half the stuff placed in front of him. Bill Sr. offered Bill Jr $100 to eat a slice of bleu cheese. My heck how tough is that! He ended up doing it only after taking a tiny nibble and then taking a bite of a roll or drinking some water. That made me laugh. Michele was trying to get a similar deal for a picture which was for sale on the wall, but Bill ran out of cash.

When desert came around everyone gobbled it down, in fact Cathi ate mine as well as somebody else’s who was trying to watch the deserts. Vonda cracked me up when she pointed out to Bill, “Hungry enough to eat the whole desert though huh?” Busted!

We continued touring and saw many buildings along the Moldova river. One of the most spectacular buildings was the Cathedral. I took a ton of pictures of it. The details outside were unbelievable! You need to check out the full photo album of Prague here.

We stopped at the Old Town Square were there was an astronomical clock. We were there at 20 minutes to the hour and waiting until the clock chimed at the top of the hour. There were figurines of the 12 apostles walking past the windows which opened at the top of the clock. It was built clear back in 1410. (When I got back and talked to Glenn Brown about the trip he told me about the myth about how the clock maker was blinded after making it). Don't know if I believe that. No entry in snopes, but it is definitely not confirmed.)

We then were given about an hour to walk around and shop. I was tired of walking and Cathi was still mad at me for being grumpy. I was grumpy cause I had to use the bathroom, but was unable to find one. So I just walked behind her like and let her look around and shop. She bought some more magnets. On the way back I could take no more. I had to poo so bad! Again, no free bathrooms. So I went into a McDonalds and bought Cathi a McFreeze so I could use the bathroom, but then discovered that they even make customers pay to use the restroom! I was so ticked. I went and got change for a coin and paid. I sat down in the stall and tried to figure out how to use the lock on the stall door. It was different from what I was used to. Nobody else was in there so I decided to just let it go.

That was a mistake because within a minute an old guy with a scruffy beard came in and opened my stall and saw me and quickly shut it and took off. I had to laugh. I be that gave him a good scare. I held the door handle to prevent it from opening until I was done.

When I met up with Cathi we started making our way back to the statue at the old town square. We got lost a little. The signs had the names of things in czech, with a small drawing of the landmark next to it. I recognized the drawing of the astronomical clock and we found our way back just in time to hit the time we were supposed to be there. We walked several blocks to our bus where we met with Zoly. We went back to the hotel and crashed.

For dinner we went to a pub/restaurant called the U Fleku Restaurant. There was an old guy there playing the accordian that sure made the evening fun. Here is some video of that.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Biking along the river in Salzburg and heading to Prague

Got up at 0630 and rented a couple of bikes down by the river. These were definitely not fast bikes. They didn’t have gears, but came equipped with a very entertaining bell which we noticed is commonplace among bikers here. Yesterday when we were going down an alley, some biker came up behind us in our party and rang the bell so we could get out of the way. Here are a couple of videos of our bike ride -> video 1 and video 2

On the way north on the bikes, I almost ran over a huge snail! I stopped and took a video of it. The smell of the early morning air was misty, cool and the light was perfect. It was one of the best memories of the entire trip. We biked for 4 miles north and then Cathi had to take a pit stop. This was right under the West Autobahn. I took some video of her crouching in the midst of the bushes, but you can’t really see her in the video, she’s camouflaged really well. But she’s definitely in the video. She waved at the camera and smiled even.

We headed back and returned Cathi’s bike. It is free to use the bike for the first hour and then roughly a $1 per hour after that. She proceeded to run south while I biked ahead and turned around and came back to her. Here is some video of her running. I noticed that GPS is whacked! The links with the satellites must not be right because it said I was going 32 mph when I was going no faster than 10 mph. When we finished our bike ride/run which took us about 2 hours, it said we went 88 miles, which would have been great!

When we got back to the hotel we had breakfast in the hotel, which was a breakfast buffet. It was just as good, if not, better than at Peppers! Roceil came in and smiled at me and she obviously was showing me that she had lost one of her teeth. She was pretty humiliated over it. I felt bad for her. They called around to see if they could find a dentist to put it back in, but no luck.
After breakfast we got on the bus to head to Praque. We rode all day long. We talked some about Danny, his friends how have been influenced by him since his death. Some pretty miraculous things have happened to people since Danny died.

When we got to Prague, we stayed in the Riverside Hotel. It is more modern than the Bristol, but I think my favorite hotel so far even though I never thought I’d stay in a nicer place than the Bristol. The Riverside Hotel was about the same in luxury, but more to my style. Here is a video tour of the hotel. Prague seems much more dirty than Budapest and Salzburg. More vandalism, garbage, but more modern. There was a charming little park north of the hotel. We slept so good.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Leave Vienna for Salzburg

Trained 10 minutes on stationary bike hard and then lifted tris.

Rode to Salzburg and saw tons of “Sound of Music” places. Took lots of pictures.

We are staying at the Hotel Bristol. It is an old building and very nice. Its like staying in a museum. Each room is different and named after different famous people. Cathi and I are in room 240 which is the “Verdi Room” named after Giuseppe Verde (1813-1901). Here is a video tour. There were a couple of plaques on the wall showing what he did. It was in German but I originally thought based on the pictures that he was a playwright or something. Come to find out he is an Italian Opera composer.

The Bristol hotel is so nice! It’s a 5 star place and so far the best hotel. The Marriott’s are nice, but this hotel is so unique and you can feel the history around it. The elevator looks like it was put in at the beginning of the 20th century.

There isn’t a fitness facility or a pool. The Von Trapp kids stayed here in this hotel once. We went on a tour of Salzburg with this very smiley short Blonde girl, “Sabrina”. She took us to the Building where they filmed the dance at the end and Maria and the Captain are out on the balcony. It is the same place where they now store the Veranda. But they locked it so nobody can go inside the glass doors because a while ago some 80 year old lady stumbled and broke her ankle trying to jump from one bench over to the other. Steven said “Leave it to Senior citizens to spoil it for everyone!”

Then we went to the pond where they were in canoes and they tipped over. Next to the pond is the alley where the kids were hanging from trees. Cathi tried to get Steve to climb one of them, but they were very tall and wide. Too big to climb without a ladder. Here is a picture of Cathi trying to get help climbing one.

We walked into one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. I took some video here. I mentioned to Cathi that “This sure puts the [LDS] temples to shame”. The paintings and sculptures where simply awesome. I also realized why so many visitors are surprised when they aren’t allowed to go in the temple. That’s cause the Catholics let anybody go into their Basilicas and Cathedrals to take pictures and treat it like a landmark rather than a real place of worship.

We went to Mozart’s grave. It started to rain and we stopped there under some shelter for a minute. We noticed that there was some construction going on. These guys were putting up a finish line for a marathon which was to start on Sunday. Cathi and I were sure disappointed that we weren’t going to be in Salzburg on Sunday. That would have been fantastic! We took some pictures by a fountain that had horses spitting water out. We then proceeded on to a park where they had a life size chessboard. There was also a huge modern artpiece next to the chessboard of a huge golden ball with a boy on top. Here is some video of it. I had Cathi take a picture of me pretending to hold up the big golden ball.

We proceeded onto the Salzburg graveyard which had some really old graves (and new ones). It was next to a tall flat side of a mountain and there were what appeared to be crypts going into the mountain with gates protecting the crypts from people entering them.

For dinner, Cathi and I ate in the hotel restaurant with everyone else. We dressed up just a bit. I liked when we went on a cruise how there was a “formal night” and liked how you seem to appreciate the fancy stuff, when you dress the part rather than just go eat gourmet stuff in jeans and a t-shirt.

We both had corn and ham soup which was delicious and then for the main dish, some salmon. Went on a stroll through town and window shopped since it was 9pm and everything was closed. Man those boiled wool german jackets are so expensive! So there goes that possibility.

Found a place where Cathi and I could rent bicycles by the river so we will do that tomorrow morning instead of run. Just before going to bed I flipped through the channels and found a live table tennis match going on which appeared to be a major couple of players. I didn’t catch their names, but I recognized one of the main spectators. Not that I know his name though. I’m really not very good and knowing the world class players names/faces. It was fun to see this on TV, like you would see a basketball game in the US. Why can’t the US get with the table tennis program!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thursday - Vienna tours

This morning I woke up at 0530 and went with Cathi across the street from the Marriott to Stadt Park. We ran laps around the park several times. I took the GPS and went 5 miles running. With short .10m intervals of walking every mile ran. Then I went into the weight room in the Marriott and did:

Tricep Extensions: 4 x 15 @ 30kg
DB Nose Crushers: 4 x 15 @ 12.5kg
Standing Cable Tricep Extensions: 5 x 15 @ 70 lb
Seated Close Grip Cable Pulldowns: 5 x 15 @ 100 lb
Bike: 20 minutes hard
Ab Machine: 4 x 15 @ 50 kg
DB Lateral Raises: 4 x 15 @ 15 kg
Wide Grip Pulldowns: 4 x 15 @ 50 kg
DB Overhead Press: 2 x 15 @ 20 kg

Showered and then had a quick breakfast buffet and met the bus for tour of summer palace of Maria Theresa who was the "Mother in law of all Europe" according to Walter. When he said that Vonda smiled and nodded. Apparently she was "King" of Hungary for a while too. She had children married off to royalty in many other kingdoms. We toured Schönbrunn Palace which was very cool. The gardens were even more impressive to me. Here is some video of the garden with Walter explaining things in the background.

We walked through much of Vienna and saw many places where Mozart performed, lived and died. For lunch we went to a traditional Austrian restaurant. The director of the restaurant looked very local. Good looking guy with a well trimmed mustache and a brown felt-like coat (which is boiled wool and the jacket is a Bavarian Trachten jacket) that had a traditional Austrian look to it. I was thinking that if I could take home one nice souvenir a jacket like that would be it! We walked through many shops later and found that they cost hundreds of EU. Way too much. But here is an ebay link to a store for much cheaper!

Walter took us to all over the place! We went to a unique building which was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The building was designed to be very organic in nature. The roofs were made into gardens. Walter explained that the architect wanted to "rent space to the trees". Some people would ask, how can a tree pay rent? He would answer, the tree pays back in beauty and providing a home to the birds". He wanted the building to be beautiful and not to have any straight lines because the human body doesn't have any straight lines. Here is some video of the building.

We walked past the Vienna city hall. We also walked around a huge Cathedral. Here is some video of Walter explaining details about it.

We ate dinner at another buffet. Lots of meat. Ate no desert.

Swam one mile again and went to bed. We are off to Salzburg tomorrow.