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It's been a Whirlwind!

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View Europe 2010 on Khandilee's travel map.

Wow...it's been a while since I posted and so much has happened. Jeni and Teresa both arrived without any issues just after I sent Trinity through Customs control at Frankfurt airport. It was a bit of a tearful goodbye. I just really didn't want to see her leave this time.

Since then...it's been non-stop! Work...travel....work...travel....work...and I think there might have been a bit of sleep in there somewhere!?! Jens back home now in sunny California and Teresa is recouperating and planning our Scotland trip while I am working the next few days.

We had a lovely pass-through and lunch trip through Karlov Vary in the Czech Republic then jaunted on toward Prague. We choose a lovely little bar for lunch and ended up with enough food to feed at least three families with only the three of us to eat it...needless to say, there was plenty left behind. It was delicious and the waitress was a kind and patient local woman who gave us much needed assistance with deciphering the menu. I got to have a Czech beer that I had been craving since my last trip and it didn't disappoint.

On our arrival, we followed the sounds of a band playing which led us to a bridge overpass near the river. There was a band playing under the overpass and we enjoyed listening for a few minutes...until they asked us to pay 'admission'. If I had been traveling alone, I might have paid and had a few beers and listened to the band but we were on a mission to find food and get to Prague so off we went.

Karlov Vary is a quaint town and would be a great place to return for a longer visit. Maybe even seek out the spas that it is so well know for.

Prague was just as inviting and beautiful as I had remembered. Teresa scored us a great place for the first two nights....a HUGE hotel room with separate sleeping room and a great location close to the Old Town. Aco was with us and had plenty of room to romp and play.

Two full days of walking around the city and we were all exhausted. Day one, we took the free Sandeman's tour and not having enough, on the second day we took another Sandeman's tour; a castle tour this time...it was great...however, I would NOT recommend two of these walking tours back to back. Our feet were on fire! Just a bit much for us in the 'older' crowd! haha Having been to Prague before, I was surprised that there was still so much that I didn't see during my first visit. It was lke seeing the city again for the first time....some things were familiar though; like the coffee shop that Switzer and I had fab desert and coffee to warm up on the cold winter day that we visited.

I still didn't get to the Black Light theater or the Marrionette theater but that just gives me an excuse to return!

Back home and a few more days of work for me; a few wine-tour drives for the girls (one of which they were actually able to find some wine) haha. Then we were off to Belgium....

We breezed through Brussels on our way to Bruge. The Flower Carpet was on the iteniary. It only happens once every two years and I wanted to see it. The girls obliged and it was a bit less than exciting. The flowers had already begun to wilt and the crowd was so crazy that you could barely see it without standing in line for hours to get on one of the balconey's above. You know how excited I am about lines, right? Well, needless to say; we didn't stand in line for the balcony and were content with the view from the ground.

Weaving through the crowds; we made our way to the Maniquen di Pis. Disappointment was clear on Jen's face as she muttered 'is that it?'. I think that is most everyone's opinion when they see it. We indulged in a waffel from one of the street side vendors and as always it was wonderful. We were soon back on the road headed to Brugge...

I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE I LOVE BRUGGE

Sorry, got a little over-excited; but really, I do love Brugge. It's such a wonderful place and I immediately felt stress-free on our arrival. The canals and bridges and cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings....it all makes me happy. Now, if I could transplant Prague's beer into Brugge it would be perfect. Yes, Belgian beer is actually quite good but I still think that the Czech beer is far superior!

There isn't anything that really stands out as something to write about from the trip to Brugge...I'll suffice it to say that we had a wonderful time wandering the streets, taking pictures, eating chocolate and drinking beer (well, I drank beer). Our last day, we decided to take a drive out to the North Sea. We were so close to the coast and I had never been and really wanted to see it....

The North Sea....was ANGRY! Really, the wind was crazy and nearly knocked us off our feet as we attempted to walk in the rain with umbrellas in hand (Teresa's got broken by the wind and I wish that I could have gotten it on camera...it was priceless). As we were being blown down the road on our arrival, we flew into a bike rental place and I asked to rent bikes (totally joking)...the boys behind the counter looked at me as if I were a crazy woman and asked 'today?'. I couldn't help but crack up...just couldn't keep up the rouse. We got a quick coffee at a local diner and watched the wind and rain outside and got back to the car and headed up the coast a bit further.

Our next stop had a peir out to the sea with a pot of mussels for Jen which we all shared (Teresa didn't indulge much). Back to the hotel we ended our day with an early dinner and bed....

I am now back to work for a few days then Teresa and I are headed to Scotland for one last jaunt before she leaves......

Click HERE for pictures!

Posted by Khandilee 17:27 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged women Comments (1)

Last Minute Weekend Trip to Cologne

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I was going to go to Stuttgart for the Spring Festival, alone. Switzer had a change in plans as her sister was unable to fly out due to the havoc that the Volcano in Iceland spilled out over all of Europe.

When I learned that Switzer was going to be around for the weekend, I asked her if she wanted to join me in Stuttgart....she wanted to get away for the weekend but wasn't super excited about going to Stuttgart so began the next three days of 'piss poor planning'.

We thought about going several places. Among them were Luxembourg (decided that we could do this on a day trip), Berlin (train was too long...12 hours), and multiple other places. Neither of us was real excited about staying in Germany but with a short weekend, it was really our only option.

It was decided on Friday night that we would go to Cologne for the weekend, leaving on Saturday morning and returning on Sunday evening...

What should have been a 2.5 hr drive, ended up taking (me) nearly 6 hours!! I started out headed for Switzers place around 0900. We decided that she would drive since her car is much more reliable than mine...we would regret this later. My crazy-ass GPS took me the longest and slowest way that it could to get to Switzer's. It took me nearly an hour to get to her house when it should have taken about 20 minutes!

After a quick bathroom stop, we hit the road. Switzer realized that she needed to load her gas card so that we could fuel up on the way....so.....we headed straight back toward my place!! I live right next to one of the bases and this is where we headed to charge up the gas card and stock up on snacks/drinks for the road. I forget that I (as a passenger) can drink on the road here...believe me, if I ever take another road trip, this tid-bit will NOT be forgotten! About three hours into the trip I certainly could have used a good drink or two....

Car filled up and gas card loaded, snacks and drinks in hand....off we went!

We ended up hitting 3 different traffic jam's all together lasting probably less than an hour...then....the big one! At first it wasn't any different than the rest of the jams that we encountered, but it just wouldn't end! Then come's the fun...Switzer's car begins to overheat!!! We are both urging the traffic in front of us to get moving and silently hoping that this jam will be over soon....it wasn't!

The car just kept getting hotter and hotter....we were in the 'red' now and both a nervous wreck! We had been trying for the past 1/2 hour to find a place to pull off and not block the traffic and still hadn't found one. Finally, we spotted a place just under an over-pass only a short 3 car-lengths in front of us....safety at last! We would just pull off and let the car cool down and everything would be fine....

But...the cars in front of us simply would not allow this, NO. They stopped. Dead stop. Not even inching at all. After little deliberation I decided to speak to the car in front of us and see if they would move forward just a bit so that we could pull off. Of course, they spoke no English...so with my wildly crazy game of charades, I finally got them to understand that I needed them to pull forward so that we could pull off the road.

WHEW!!

We had avoided a total breakdown and were happy about this. There was a motorcycle also pulled over in our spot and he told us that he was waiting for a friend and that they were going to take an alternate route through the field that was just down the ditch from the over-pass where we were parked. It was a bit of a decent but we thought we might be able to make it. Before long, the police walked past and again with wild charades, we explained that the car over-heated and we would be going as soon as it cooled down.
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Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I found my way to the bushes and took a toilet break! How many women do you know that can say they squatted alongside the Autobahn to pee?!? I couldn't help it...I
HAD to go.

The motorcyclist's friend arrived and after a few more charades, explaining our situation and ensuring him that we were really ok, off they went down the ditch and around the field...it looked so easy for them but they were on bikes and we were in a car. With the traffic around us still inching forward, we continued to contemplate our options and try to decide if we could make it down the embankment without any damage to the car's undercarriage.

Suddenly, a delivery van appeared and swerved around us and down the ditch and made it seamlessly through the field to the other side!! Success!! It was our turn.....

We made it down the ditch without any problems and soon were on our way. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing.

When we arrived in Cologne, we found ourselves in some sort of special 'Midnight Shopping' day....the central shopping area at Neumarket was teaming with people, music, and beer and food stands. We wandered around and shopped a little. I promise that I didn't spend too much money.
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We got free Coke, ate at the street stalls and sampled a beer or two. Then we decided that we really needed to get a place to stay for the night. Off we went in search of a hostel to stay at. We made a quick stop at the bookstore for a quick peek at the travel guide and got a couple of addresses and phone numbers! Why pay for a guide-book when you can just browse one? hahaha

The phone numbers were a dead end so off we drove to the first one. It was a bust, no room at the inn. They did give us the addresses and numbers for several other places. As Switzer drove, I was making phone calls. The first two that I called were full and I was losing hope quickly. The third one, which we were driving too, had one 2-twin room available! SCORE! By the time we got there, we were both exhausted and ready to call it a night....but we didn't.
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We freshened up and headed out. We headed back down where we had been shopping earlier (which was a short 10 min walk from our hostel). I looked for a spring jacket and was unable to find one that I liked (and could afford). From here, we grabbed some food and did a little bar-hopping taking the long way back to the hostel.

Sunday was a fresh new day. We checked out of the hotel and stored our bags in the car. With no real plans, we went exploring. It was a great day, full of sunshine and although I'm sure that we didn't see all of the 'tourist' sites, we were happy with what we saw.
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I got to spend a little time along the Rhine River sipping on a coffee and filling out my post-cards. It was very relaxing. On the way to the river, we passed (or rather they passed us) some sort of marathon...with a band and people cheering them along the way.
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The ride home was uneventful....thankfully ;o)

Posted by Khandilee 07:11 Archived in Germany Tagged women Comments (3)

Tri-City Poland

What is this 'Bison-Piss-Vodka' ?

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Four day weekends come but once a month for me. In my quest to visit one country a month, I went on a RyanAir search for a new country to visit during my 4-day weekend in April.

It came down to Pula Croatia or Gdansk Poland for the cheapest flights. Switzer was planning to join me so we both researched these places. We decided on Gdansk, due to the fact that we really want to visit Croatia when it's a bit warmer and possibly have a little more time in order to see Dubrovnik as well. At the last minute, Claire (one of the LT's at work) decided to join us.

Our RyanAir flight was uneventful and we arrived in Poland nearing 2100. Our hosts, The Happy Seven Hostel were right on time to pick us up at the airport.

After dropping our bags at the hostel, we inquired about a place close to find some grub. One of our hosts actually walked with us down the boardwalk to the central part of the Old Town, through the Green Gate and left us there to find something warm to fill our stomachs. Along the way we were given a bit of history on Gdansk and passed the Crane. The Crane is one of the symbols of Gdansk and was built in 1442. It's said to be the largest Medieval Port Crane in all of Europe. I had hoped to get to the other side of the river in order to get a good pic but it never happened.
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After one failed attempt at a restaurant (it was closed), we found a quaint place to warm up and eat, right next to the Monument to Neptune. The food was great and our waiter was certainly pleased with the ginormous tip that we left!

The next morning, Switzer was on top of her game at about 0745 and got myself and Claire motivated and moving. I really wanted to throw something at her in my morning grogginess with her chipper attitude. It was actually a good thing that one of us was motivated or I think I would have slept til noon. I am just not a morning person. We cleaned up and got ready for the day and enjoyed coffee and breakfast (for free) at the hostel. After a little deliberation, we headed out for the day.

We had all be impressed the night before with the quaint little city but even more impressed with the morning light. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy and none of us had really dressed for the cold weather. Switzer ended up buying a scarf and I wished later that I had gotten one too. Due to the cold, coffee with Bailey's became a theme for the trip and lots of coffee stops were made.

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The Monument of Neptune was one of my favorites. It sits in the Old Town area and it's considered the symbol of the city of Gdansk. It was created in 1615 and is a beautiful statue with the backdrop of old buildings sitting behind and all around.
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The Gothic-Renaissance Main City Hall is an imposing building in the old town area. Late in the afternoon, we climbed to the top and got a great panoramic view of the city. Switzer and I wandered into the museum (housed in the same building), while waiting for Claire and got verbally 'spanked' for taking pictures without paying for a ticket to the museum. With our non-existent Polish, we apologized and headed out of the museum.
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Dluga street (the main street in the old-town area), is a beautiful area to wander around and soak in the architecture of the area.
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The Executioner's House and Prison Tower was an interesting stop. It houses The Amber Museum and gives a good overview of the element that is an important part of the local economy. Amber can be found everywhere in Gdansk and the surrounding Tri-city area as the majority of the world's amber deposits lie along the Baltic Coast. What I found most interesting was the fact that Amber was used for everything from pheasants decorating their homes to elaborate clothing and jewelry, furniture, and even pharmacological uses.
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The displays in the Executioner's house were quite disturbing in the methods of torture that were used. But....as weird as I am, I enjoyed the information and took lots of pictures!
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We stopped in a candy shop (imagine that) and watched as they constructed flowers out of the softened candy. One of the workers presented the rose he was working on to Claire! I think he was flirting a bit....
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A great tragedy fell on Poland during our visit. The President as well as many other high ranking officials were killed in a plane crash. The news was all over....a very sad day for Poland. Over the remainder of the trip, this was an issue that we were reminded of with memorials set up like this one we came across in Sopot.
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The afternoon found us at the train station with intentions of heading to Gdynia. Looking like lost Americans. A group with the lead man being from Poland and the rest from Africa, UK, etc. were spotted and Switzer made the move to ask for assistance. The Polish guy was wonderful and guided us to the ticket machine and helped us figure out how to get tickets as well as which train to take. We arrived in Gdynia and due to the aforementioned tragedy....most things were closed. There would be no shopping for us today!

It was still cold and rainy and we ducked into the first bar that we found to warm up. The bartender was a stately older woman who didn't appear to be pleased with the American invasion to her bar. We were definitely the oddity as we walked in, I think everyone in the bar stopped what they were doing and stared us down. It turned out to be a great experience. The bartender/owner finally warmed up to us and even ended up grabbing my hand and dragging me into the street to show me a building that we should visit....she seemed very proud of this building.
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After warming up we headed to the port in order to at least say that we had seen the Baltic Sea! It was shrouded with fog when we arrived. The fishermen were still out and made a nice photo op. On our walk to the port, we found a Pirate Ship Bar that we vowed to come back to. The rest of our time in Gdynia was spent eating then a couple drinks at the Priate Ship Bar then a taxi back to the train station.
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We arrived back to the hostel in time for a couple of drinks at the bar downstairs.
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When we headed up to the hostel, we were greeted with Miron (one of our hosts) stating 'It is late....I was worried about you'. We all got quite a chuckle out of this. We ended the night enjoying some Polish and Danish Vodka with the hostel owners/hosts. It was mentioned that I needed to try the 'bison-piss-vodka' that I had heard about prior to arrival and one of the owners actually left (in the late hours of the night) and got some from somewhere and we toasted yet another shot of Polish vodka!! I can't tell you if it was good or not....too many previous shots were had!
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The last day we took a trip into the third of the Tri-Cities, Sopot. We enjoyed chocolate, a walk on pier, and the most amazing coffee shop ever! This blog has some great info and photos. I would love to return to this spot, it was very relaxing.
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An interesting treat was found on the boardwalk. Some sort of dumpling made with Oscypek, which is a sort of cheese made in Poland....divine in taste!!
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What an amazing full trip!! Thank you Claire and Switzer for joining me....

Posted by Khandilee 08:20 Archived in Poland Tagged women Comments (3)

Pulling out of a mindset of Sludge in Prague

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View Europe 2010 on Khandilee's travel map.

This is what I feel like I am trying to do. Trying to keep the gray sky from turning my mind and thoughts gray. If you read my last post, you'll know that I have been suffering from a bit of feeling 'down'. I had decided to put an end to it and get out to explore, regardless of the weather.

I talked another civilian RN into taking a spur of the moment trip with me. Where? How about Prague? It's only 5 hour drive away and we have a 3 day weekend to do it in. Now, this sounds like a lot of time but in reality it isn't. You will see below that 3 days (when working nights) is a horribly short time to travel and explore a city. I am still trying to convince the scheduler at work of this....

Lets run a quick time-line:

0730 We both get off work and head to my place to meet and drop off the extra car and pick up Aco.
0845 Coffee is had (couldn't start the day without it), clothes are changed, car is packed, Aco is rounded up and we are off to pick up the rental car.

0910 Arrive at car rental desk. Wait in line, pick up keys and receive instructions on return and obtaining a gas card. (Gas card 'must' be obtained in order to fuel the car ~ in Germany only ~ at the American base prices). This is extremely important due to the price of gas on the economy here. It's over $6/gallon here in Germany and I have no idea what the price might be in Czech Republic. Off we go...

1010 Arrive at Vogelweh base. This is the base that is closest to my apartment where we will drop the other car due to the fact that you CAN NOT park your car at the car rental place on Ramstein Base. Who has ever rented a car at a place that won't allow you to park your personal vehicle for the duration of the rental? Not me! Never....already frustrated that we have to drive back to my place to drop off the other car before we can hit the road toward Prague.
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So we are at Vogelweh, after dropping Switzer's car at my place. First stop is the ATM, yes...we both forgot to get some Euro and although we will be spending on the Czech currency, it's always good to have Euro. Especially since we are traveling through Germany to get there.

Now onto the gas station to get the Gas card. No coffee in the coffee machine at the station. Getting more aggravated. I'm getting tired! Woke up at 3pm yesterday and still have more errands then a 5 hour drive to an unfamiliar city and exploring to do....

Stand in line for said Gas card....

Teller informs me that I can't get card for rental. I have to go to the security office to get the card then I have to come back here to get it loaded with funds. Uggggghhhhh!!!
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Off to the security office. On arrival, the window has the blinds closed. Not certain if we are in the right place we stalk a passerby and ask. Yeah, right place...just pick up the phone on the wall. Oh, right! The phone (that I didn't see). Thanks. Phone picked up and I asked about getting a Gas card. The answer went something like this "yes, this is the right place....but we are closed now......on duty days we are open after 4pm.....on non duty days we are open at ???......but it's a duty day and we aren't open.....you have to go to Ramstien.....to the security bldg num.........." FUCK IT! I am SO DONE! Yes, that's exactly how I felt at this point. I had the piece of paper that told me that I could get this done at Vogelweh and that's why I came here because I hate trying to navigate the base at Ramstein and I had to come back this way to my house to drop off the car anyway. So I ranted and bitched for about 10 minutes to Switzer (who pleasantly listened), then we hit the road....nearly 11am now.
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As it turns out, you really don't need to get a card for a rental. Oh, yeah you probably 'should' get one but no one asks in the economy to see the registration and make certain that you are gassing the car that is on the card. Why should anyone care anyway? Gas is Gas. Does it matter what car you are gassing? Well, obviously someone thinks so. Let's just say that I know you can use your card but I can't discuss how I paid for MY gas on the economy!

It's pushing 6pm when we finally get to the hotel, checked in and to our room. It's been a long day and we are both exhausted. But...we are in a new city and don't want to totally waste the evening. We have no Krona on us so we head to the Metro station to use the cash machine. Finding it without difficulty about 10 min walk from the hotel. Very convenient. Next item on agenda? FOOD! I am starving....and I really want to try out the Czech Beer that I have read so much about.

Not really wanting to venture into the city we look around the local area and find a restaurant/bar about a block away from the Metro. It's a cute little place and we end up sharing the far end of a table with some locals. It looks like a local place. We are the only English speakers here. I think there might be others that are tourists, many languages are being spoken. The waiter brings Switzer a dark brew and myself a medium brew. I don't know the names but they are both WONDERFUL. I'm certainly not a beer connoisseur but these are the easiest drinking beer I have ever tasted (the dark was especially good).

After looking over the menu for quite some time, we finally decided on eats. I ordered 'Mother-in-laws Breath' or something like that. It was potato pancake's with some sort of white cheese in the middle and fried.....Wonderful tasting with the side of sauerkraut. Switzer got a steak that was unfortunately, a little on the tough side. The local couple at the other end of our table took great delight in watching my reaction to the food when It was delivered and tasted. They were smiling and giggling...weird? I didn't get any pics...didn't want to embarrass Switzer too much! A couple of beers were had then it was back to the hotel for an early turn in due to exhaustion. Man, I am getting old!

I think we slept for about 10 hours.....I don't remember anything except having to get up around 0200 to take Aco out to potty. (poor girl, I have got to find a sitter for her).

We started out early the next morning and spent the entire day exploring, mostly wandering around lost and gawking at the architecture. Street food was considered as there were multiple stands set up in the town square.
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But it was early and we resisted since we were still full from the hotel breakfast. Lunch was Nachos and quesadilla at a little bar alongside more Czech beer. Not very original for Czech food but it was good and filling and the beer a delight...again (although the service a bit poor).

I think we got to see most of the main tourist sites:

Prague Castle
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Of course with all this beauty, I felt that it wouldn't be complete without a statue of me and there was an open space for just such a statue:
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Charles Bridge: This was full of people and half of it was blocked with scaffolding. It was much prettier at night and I got a shot of the full moon as well. The street performer was fun to watch and I also have a video that's pretty cute. I have to get back for a Marionette show sometime.
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Old Town Square and Misc Buildings and views and such:

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I took my time picking out select postcards to mail out. If you didn't get one this time, maybe I'll get you next time. Make sure that you have given me your address though or you'll never get one! haha

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The Jewish Quarter: We saw the graveyard completly surrounded with fencing and were unable to figure out how to get into it. I got a couple of pics from the gated door, but nothing up close. It would have been fun/interesting to have been able to explore this a little more up close.
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I don't think that I can go anywhere with another person without them taking a picture of me with the map trying to find my way....
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The Powder Gate: This was one of the first sights that we came across and set the mood for the trip.
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The Horologe (Astronomical Clock): We took some great pics here but didn't see it hit the hour and get to experience the figures moving at the top of the hour.
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Now for the not-so-touristy type stuff. These were the sights that I will probably remember the most. There were the man-hole covers that were quite unique.

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Then we searched out the Graffiti Wall

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Just before we found the Graffiti wall, we ran across the Love locks. I think my favorite is the one with a yellow ribbon....

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There was an underground tour that we had hoped to get to but timing wasn't on our side. I'm sure that there are many more things that we could/should have seen but overall, it was a good trip. The weather (although still cool) was wonderful with the sun shining most of the time and we were greeted with a full moon after dark.

Another local bar was found for dinner/drinks and we enjoyed the gallivanting of a group of Englishmen out on the town for the weekend. They were put in their place when a couple of girls they were flirting with suddenly decided to start making out. We all got quite a laugh out of that....

Here is a pic of Switzer and I at the bridge....
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Self photos make me look like a dork, but we had a great time and can't wait for the next adventure!!

Posted by Khandilee 08:16 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged women Comments (5)

My German Home

I finally have some furniture and am starting to feel like it's my place. Thought I would share some before/after pics for everyone....

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And just for fun....here are some pics of the snow in my backyard about 2 days ago:

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Posted by Khandilee 01:11 Archived in Germany Tagged women Comments (5)

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