Archive for the ‘vacation’ Category

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Prague 2019 part 2

August 2, 2019

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

During our last two weeks in Prague, BabyBird joined us. Our after school activities included Království železnic (Railway Kingdom) the largest model railroad display we ever seen, the LEGO Museum, Czech Repubrick, the Mirror Maze on Petrin Hill, the Karel Zeman museum, and the Banks of the Nile exhibit at Náprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures.

large model railroad display

Railway Kingdom

posing for a picture in a hall of mirrors

Mirror Maze

LEGO city layout display

LEGO Museum

LEGO model of Ještěd Hotel

Model of Ještěd Hotel at Czech Repubrick

mummified cats

Mummified cats at the Banks of the Nile exhibit

Our weekend day trip was to České Budéjovice.

town square

České Budéjovice town square

We got together with our language teacher and classmates from last year. It was a great night and conversation. We stayed until closing.
nine people at a pub table

Language class was tough this year. We had three different teachers. They insisted on instruction in Czech only. Immersion technique and intensive course do not go together well. I think we learned less and more slowly than we would have if some explanation would have been in English. It is very challenging to learn a language you do not know that is explained only in the language you do not know. We successfully passed the final exam and received our certificates, but it was not as fun and empowering this year. The immersion technique, inconsistency of teachers, and facilities that are not handicap accessible are reasons we are unlikely to do this again next year. We are more likely to invest the money in a personal tutor instead of the class setting.

Next up, a week of school free vacation in Plzen.

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Czech Republic 2019

July 14, 2019

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

We are 2/5 through our current “vacation” in Prague. We start each weekday by getting up and traveling across town via metro train to attend language school. We are in class from 9:00 to 1:45 each day. Hence the quotation marks around the word vacation.

This is our second summer in the intensive language course attempting to learn the Czech language. The first year we had a great teacher and it was very fun. This year we have had three teachers within the first two weeks. It is less fun and less effective, I think. There is an insistence on immersion – teacher refuses to speak English. Therefore, the teacher is explaining a language I do not understand in the language that I do not understand. It leads to a lack of understanding, as one might imagine. Students have taken to asking each other what something means during breaks because we are all trying to deduce what is going on. Immersion technique has value in a long term program, but not so much in a short term intensive program.

classroom

In the afternoons sometimes we go out and about, but we also sometimes just head back to the hotel to rest or do our homework for the next day.

Our plan was to get out of Prague on weekends to other cities or towns. This is a good plan, except that towns tend to “roll up the streets” on weekends. Businesses are closed, other than restaurants.

Travel is very easy and inexpensive. Our first weekend we took a train to Olomouc which is to the east.

Roman Catholic Baroque church

This is Our Lady of the Snows Church. Across the street is the history museum and it was open and free due to the holiday – Jan Hus Day. We had lunch in a charming beer restaurant – Svatováclavský pivovar.

restaurant

Then we toured the museum.

The woman’s costume includes an embroidered apron. Notice the back view. I am curious just how many yards of fabric make up the skirt.


These are targets. I am not sure it they were used with arrows or guns. I find it interesting that they took the time to paint beautiful scenes on something they were going to shoot.

This is Saint Vaclav Church and the Holy Trinity Column which is in the upper square. Olomouc is a university town, so being summer, a weekend, and a holiday meant that we very nearly had the town to ourselves.

During the week there are some after school activities offered for students. One involved a tour of a brewery, so of course DaddyBird wanted to go. I didn’t tour the brewery, but I did help taste beer afterwards.

The brewery had originally been a monastery, so we ducked into the church to take a peek.

inside of the church with vaulted painted ceiling

Along the sides of the sanctuary are huge paintings which also have large frames which are trompe-l’oiel paintings.

Another school organized activity was a boat tour on the Vltava River.

Charles bridge as seen from on the river

Our second weekend trip was to Liberec in the north. There was no direct train route, so we almost gave up the plan, but our teacher said there would be a direct bus trip that would only take an hour. That is what we did. We took the metro three stops to the Florenc stop which is also a bus depot.

cloudy view

Once we got to Liberec, it was quite cool and rainy. The major attraction is a mountain top hotel/restaurant/television tower. We took a taxi up to the top. However, the clouds were surrounding the top of the mountain, so we did not see the panorama below. We had a nice lunch in the restaurant. Then we took the cable car down. The base of the cable car ends in the woods. So, we had to walk through the woods to reach the nearest tram stop.

tree trunk and roots

In addition to the usual weekend lack of activity in smaller towns, the tram lines were under reconstruction, so our plan to just ride the trams around town to see the sites was a wash. We walked to the town hall.

neo-Renaissance building

 Behind the Town Hall is a bus stop designed by David Černý. Černý is a controversial artist. He wants his works to be provocative. Of his works that I have seen, this one makes the most sense. It is connected to Liberec history. The town was a center of the Nazi movement, therefore in 1938/39, Jews had to get out of town. The synagogue was burned. After WWII ended, the Germans had to get out of town.

bus stop shaped like a dinner table

So, this work is called the Feast of Giants. On the table are two beer steins – Czech and German – a venus flytrap, an overturned menorah, and the head of the German/Czech politician, Konrad Henlein, who was Hitler’s puppet.

This is what we have been up to so far. We have two more weeks in Prague and our last week will be spent in Plzen to the south.

Měj se hezky! Have a nice day!

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Random Sights

March 9, 2019

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

I’ve been seriously delinquent about posting. So, here is an attempt to play catch up. I will go through my pictures chronologically and choose the best to post.

Hiphop Gang dance studio

While shopping in a mall, I stopped to rest on a bench outside this hiphop dance studio. I watched the boys practicing their routine. It’s good to see kids getting significant exercise and enjoying it. It was all boys, no girls, although the instructor was female. Then …

girl looking into dance studio

this girl stopped to watch. I’m assuming she was thinking she would like to do that, too. I hope the studio has sessions for girls.

man relaxing on the bed of his three wheeled bicycle cart, looking at his smart phone

This is not an unusual sight. Both the flatbed tricycle and the relaxation pose. A great deal of stuff gets moved around the city via flatbed tricycle.

We spent all of July in Prague, Czech Republic.

Vltava River

The first third of each day was spent in language school getting our introduction to the Czech language.

student desk with texts

One of my favorite things to do is check out the window displays of antique shops. Who wouldn’t want a nude riding an ostrich?

enamel statue of a nude human riding an ostrich

Prague is beautiful and the longer we stay there, the more deeply we love it and feel at home.

Saint Vitus Cathedral

We took two weekend day trips. One to Tabor.

old town square of Tabor Czech Republic

The second was to Brno.

Brno old town square

We went on a bus tour. It only runs on the weekends and it is a small bus with a driver and a guide. We were the only paying passengers, so we got a personal tour. The tour route went by architecturally significant buildings and there were a few stops when we could get out and get a closer look. I accidentally took this artsy fartsy picture of the Löw-Beer Villa.

art nouveau home painted orange

We also saw this lovely country retreat home of an architect named Jurkovic.

folk art cottage
August brought us back to Shanghai and I was back at work. The first challenge was to swap out old metal shelving for new wooden, wheeled shelves.

library room with shelving in disarray

library wooden shelves arranged
And so began our fifth year here.

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Spring Break

April 8, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

white blossoming tree

Normally we travel during spring break. We had planned to stay in Shanghai and explore some more of the many historical sites here. However, there was a death in the family that necessitated DaddyBird taking a flight to the states. I would have gone, too, had it not been for the fact I was in the midst of food poisoning. I stayed home to recover and to cat-sit.

white cat and tabby cat

Cat sitting can involve the neighborhood strays, too.

a white cat and an orange tabby

This is Smudge and Zippy. I usually feed them on my way to work each morning.

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This is Scamp. I usually run into her on the way home. She doesn’t care much for being petted. Last time, she didn’t seem very hungry or interested in eating, but she rolled over to show me her tummy. However, she didn’t want it rubbed much. She is a tease.

a beige corgy mix dog

This is The Dog. I don’t know what it’s name is. It belongs to a member of the apartment staff. It runs around the compound unattended and is the bane of my existence. It wants to play with the stray cats, or chase them if they will run, but the cats are not too excited about that. I suppose it is cute, for a dog, but I have never been a dog person.

My big adventure this week was going to the US Consulate to renew my passport. The website has all the information and forms one needs and if one reads all the instructions and has everything prepared, it goes quickly and easily. It is a bit astonishing to witness people who did not read those instructions, whether it is the guy at the door that did not make an appointment and cannot get in or the guy who did not bring a photo or does not know his China address. He, of course, is in a big hurry and is stressed out.

I encountered this fun statue in a pleasant little park.

historical building combining Western and Chinese style

A quick photo taken out the rainy taxi window of the Chinese YMCA building, one of my favorites. It was built in 1934 and combines Western and Chinese style.

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Chinese New Year!

January 31, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Our experience of Chinese New Year in Shanghai (2015) involved an amazing amount of fireworks. It started about a week or so before the actual date and kept right on going for another week or so after. The actual eve of the New Year the fireworks sounded like a war zone and went on for at least an hour. Fireworks were invented in China, as you may know, and they are  integral to Chinese culture. Fireworks are used to celebrate everything, all year round. It is not like it is in the States where there are very limited types of fireworks that are available to the public and they are only sold for a limited time prior to the 4th of July. The fireworks sold to the Chinese public are big ones that shoot up into the air and make a great deal of noise.

Click here for video from 2015 (Be forewarned, it is loud.)

Unfortunately, during the Gregorian calendar New Year’s celebration 2016, many people were killed and injured in a crowd incident. As a result, fireworks are now banned in most of Shanghai, even for New Year. It has been a very quiet year. Therefore, this year we traveled up to Jaiding which is outside the banned zone to see some fireworks.

There is another tradition, a very long television show. I do not know exactly what time the show starts, but it runs right up to midnight. We watched several hours of it. It involves a variety of performances – singing, dancing, comedians, and skits. Some of the grander performances are done on location in various cities – Harbing, Shanghai, Beijing, etc. It was quite spectacular and interesting even though we do not understand a word.

The next morning we went into the center of old town Jaiding to the Daoist temple and Quixia ancient garden. We arrived in the afternoon. It appeared that we missed the crowds who had been there earlier to make prayers and offerings to start the year off right.

We spent a little time in the garden and checked on the kittens we had seen four months ago on our previous visit.

Not a lot has changed except size.

One of the greatest features of Chinese gardens, in my opinion, are the cave structures. I am very jealous of the kids who grew up in playing in these gardens and caves.

I made Daddybird watch my bag while I walked through. A young family with a little boy came along and debated whether to go through. The boy wanted to do it, but was unsure, so Daddybird encouraged them to go. Carpe diem! The boy came back by and said “thank you.”

We called it a day, took the bus to the metro station and then home.

To see all pictures, click here. To review our previous visit to the garden to compare foliage and cats, click here.

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Delhi Days

July 23, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

crowded street

After our time in Ladakh, Leh, India, we returned to Delhi and spent six days. However, it was a mostly unproductive six days. It was extremely hot and humid, so we didn’t really want to go outside. When we did go outside, we encountered some very pushy people trying to tell us where to go and what to do. They were really like gum stuck to the bottom of our shoes and wasted a great deal of our time and all of our patience. We learned to make a plan while coming down in the elevator. We agreed exactly what direction we were going to go and what we were going to do, because stepping out of the building and looking around just made us a target for these “helpers.” Once we reached the metro entrance we were home free, because it would cost them money to follow us that far.

National Museum of Natural History fire damaged building

Our usual style of travel didn’t work well in Delhi. We do not prepare an itinerary or have a detailed plan for what we will do each day. This strategy had us standing outside the natural history museum that had clearly burnt down recently, among other goose chases.

striped squirrel on the trunk of a potted tree

We did succeed in going to Shankar’s International Doll Museum which was very interesting. 1000’s of dolls from all over the world. We also succeeded in going to a Bollywood movie in the cinema near our hotel. The other highlight, if you will, would be the animals. The northern palm squirrels (more the size of a chipmunk than a squirrel) were highly entertaining. We also discovered that an eagle was nesting in the tree just outside the window of the hotel restaurant.

eagle and nest in tree outside a restaurant window

There are an astonishing number of eagles in the city. I had noticed significant numbers of large birds circling high up and wondered what they were.

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Eating for me was more misery than pleasure, but I knew that going in. It was quite a challenge to look over a menu to find something that might be free of chili. I would make my best guess and then suffer the consequences. Happily the chicken alfredo pizza was good, but the smoked chicken and apricot sandwich at the airport was fiery hot. It was a crap shoot.

To see all the pictures, click here. (via Facebook)

To see all the pictures, click here. (via Google photos, for those who don’t Facebook)

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Ladakh – Leh – India

July 13, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

hotel patio with view of the Himalaya mountains

We spent five days in Leh, India which is in the Himalaya mountain range at an altitude of over 11,500 feet. Our first day was spent sleeping and trying to get over the altitude sickness. We woke up around 2 pm, walked to the nearest cafe to have lunch and then right back to the hotel to sleep some more. We were mostly okay by the second day, but were not ready for anything strenuous.

Leh is both beautiful, as you can see above, and rustic.

rough mud brick buildings

We took it easy, ate lots of good food…

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… saw plenty of cows, dogs, and donkeys …

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Why did we go to Leh? You might ask. We were invited by a dear friend to join her and her family to celebrate her birthday. It was a pretty spectacular place for a birthday party. Aside from the altitude sickness and the unseasonable warm weather, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

You can see all the pictures here.