January 30, 2015

Prague, It's In The Details

One of my favorite traveling pastimes is to focus on the details - looking at the sculpted columns that support a cathedral ceiling; studying the details of embroidery on a carved statue; noticing the clock hanging above Burroughs Market above tables of fish.  Just as thousands of tiny dots and brush-strokes compile an impressionist painting, details compose the bigger picture of the world around us.  Here are a few details that fascinated me during our trip to Prague in August 2012:

The carved rosette windows of St. Vitus Cathedral.

The detailed sculpture above the main entrance to St. Vitus Cathedral.

Statue of King Sigismund on the Charles Bridge (left) and a knight's shield hanging in Prague Castle (right).

The archangel Michael slays Beelzebub in St Vitus Cathedral.

A cheeky cherub guards the tomb of St John of Nepomuk, patron saint of the Czech Republic, in St Vitus Cathedral (left), and the ornate organ pipes of the baroque St Nicholas Church in the Lesser Town Square (right) draw the eyes upward to God.

A bronze rooster crows atop a spire of St Vitus Cathedral while the Czech flag plays in the background.  St Vitus was martyred by the Romans in the 4th century for refusing to give thanks to the pagan gods. He was thrown into a pot of boiling oil along with a rooster.

Have you visited Prague?


January 29, 2015

The Bloody Lane

The Bloody Lane, or Sunken Road as it was known prior to the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), was the scene of the heaviest fighting between Union and Confederate troops, contributing to making this battle the bloodiest single-day combat of the American Civil War.  Roughly 5,500 of the 22,717 casualties of that battle on September 17, 1862, were killed on the mile-long stretch of the Bloody Lane.  We visited the battlefield on a cold day in January 2012 when it was nearly devoid of tourists; the deserted feel gave the place a haunted atmosphere and caused us to reflect heavily on the high human cost of the American Civil War.

Have you seen the Bloody Lane of Antietam Battlefield?

January 26, 2015

The Blue Ridge Parkway - Nelson County, VA

Sometimes, you've just got to take a drive.

Last weekend I decided to fight off the mid-winter, cabin-fever, is-spring-ever-gonna-come blues by hopping in the car and heading west.  With a friend sitting shotgun, a cheap Sheetz sandwich on the dash, and the aviator sunglasses on, we ignored the 18̊ thermometer reading and set out for a good old-fashioned, mini road-trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway of Nelson County, Virginia!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of breath-taking scenery and has been the most visited "national park" of the U.S. National Park system since its inception in 1936 (it's an unofficial national park, hence the quotation marks and why I wasn't able to get a stamp in my NPS passport).  The park's northernmost point is just west of Charlottesville, VA, where it connects with the Skyline Drive*, and it stretches south to Cherokee, NC, near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  While the dead of winter admittedly doesn't afford the best temperature for enjoying the scenic overlooks, it does guarantee less people and more open roads.  Plus the winter scenery was actually quite beautiful:

Frozen, anyone?

Sadly, we were not able to drive the entirety of the park (we'll save that for another day!).  Besides, we had a date with some breweries and cideries in the area, and a cold pint in hand was becoming infinitely preferable to a cold nose on the face.

"From the Blue Mountains we come,
From the mountains, ah, so far from here,
On the backs of our horses we ride round the earth,
From the Blue Mountains we come. ..."
(Translation of "Den Blauen Bergen" [a German folk song] by yours truly)


Have you visited the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Linking up with Bonnie Rose for #TravelTuesday!

* Although Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are similar, there is a charge to visit Skyline Drive (ranging between $10-15 per carload depending on the time of year), but the Blue Ridge Parkway is free!

January 24, 2015

Sisters Are Friends Who Can't Get Rid of You

In honor of National Middle Sibling's Day (which I totally made up about five seconds ago), I am posting these pictures of my sister and I, taken throughout the years.  My once little sister has grown from a blankie-hugging, tattle-tailing little tyke into a beautiful, talented, and accomplished young woman.  Today she is marrying her Prince Charming, and I am very happy for her, although somewhat bewildered that she could possibly be old enough to do this!  (Because if she's old enough to get married, that makes me, well, really old!)

Happy day of nuptials, Karrin Louise!  May your beloved's feet never stink, your toilets never overflow, may your wine cabinet never go empty, and may you one day learn how not to trip while going up the stairs.  Pax vobiscum.

My wedding in 2010 (left) and us sometime between 1993 and 1994 (right).

Hamming it up for the "paparazzi" in 2011.

Karrin has always exuded the thug life (2011)...

... yet is not afraid to express her snuggly side (2009).

We were doing duck face before it was cool (2008).

Beauty, brains, and blue eyes! (Left, 2011; Right, 2008)

Youngest, oldest, and the two beauts in between (2009).

Friends Forever... (like we have a choice! ;)

January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Dancing House (2012)

I can only describe this house as fun.  Designed and completed between 1992 and 1996, shortly after the fall of communism in the Czech Republic, the light-hearted architecture of the Dancing House stands in contrast to the art nouveau-style of neighboring buildings.  Some have nicknamed the building "Fred and Ginger" after the dancing legends Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.   Our hotel stood across the Vltava River from the Dancing House, bringing a quirky start to our time in Prague!

Have you seen the Dancing House or visited Prague?

January 20, 2015

The Meteor Crater of Nördlingen

It is the stuff of apocalyptic films: a large meteor is on a crash-course to strike the planet, threatening to kill all living life and altering the landscape of the earth forever.  However, such impacts have actually happened multiple times in the earth's history, leaving large, circular scars as a fascinating reminder that the universe is bigger than just our beloved planet.  One such crater exists in Germany's southern state of Bavaria and is known as the Nördlinger Ries.

While Meteor Crater in Arizona is possibly the best preserved and the recently-discovered impact in Greenland may be the oldest, the Nördlingen Ries is not as well-known to most or large, despite the fact that it is the most studied craters and even American astronauts studied there before taking trips to the moon.  The crater originally measured at 24 kilometers wide (15 miles) and may actually be the result of two nearly simultaneous impacts from meteors nearly 1km wide.

The crater is named for the town of Nördlingen, located 6 kilometers southwest of the impact center. As you drive to Nördlingen from any direction, you crest over the crater's ridge before descending into the bowl-like valley.  A climb of the Daniel tower in the town affords great views of the crater rim encircling the the region.  The tower itself was constructed in the 15th century from suevite impact breccia, a type of rock found only in the impact zones of a meteor.

The Rieskrater-Museum in Nördlingen is a well-organized exhibition of the crater's history and geology.  It is worth the 4.50€ admission to gain a better understanding of the crater from displays in both German and English.

The Daniel Tower of Nördlingen

Have you visited the Nördlinger Ries or the town of Nördlingen?

Linking up with Bonnie Rose & other travel bloggers for #TravelTuesday!

January 17, 2015

A Drive Through the Black Forest

Enchanted castles, trees with faces, and images of a red-caped little girl flash by the car windows as we wind our way up twisted mountain roads in the cloud of a summer storm.  Der Schwarzwald.  The Black Forest.  It is literally the stuff of legends, having fueled imaginations and fears for hundreds of years.  The fog veils the road, like the mists of malevolent magic, and I shiver with appreciation at my first encounter with this living legend.

Located just a short car ride west of Stuttgart in Germany's state of Baden-Württemberg, the Black Forest offers hundreds of well-maintained tracks and trails through the mountains it covers for an up-close look at these famous woods.  Heavy downpours and a biting breeze prevented us from exploring any trails that day, but we were not disappointed by our visit -- the gloomy weather accentuated the Forest's brooding reputation and stoked my own imagination.  I could almost hear the rancorous cackle of the witch as she prepared to cook Hansel and Gretel.

For more reflections about the Black Forest, check out Margo's visit on The Overseas Escape when the Forest wore quite a different mood!

Have you visited the Schwarzwald?

Linking up with Adelina of Pack Me To for the #SundayTraveler!

January 11, 2015

The "Crotch-Shot" Fiasco of Rome

Traveling can be a risky business.  Beyond the inconveniences of losing luggage, missing flights, or getting robbed, there's the even more perilous situations, like, stepping on a piece of gum as soon as you step out of the train station, or accidentally throwing your pizza all over the floor.  Do you know how much a slice will set you back in Italy?!  Didn't your mother ever tell you that euros don't grow on trees?

The struggle is real. Including the typo fail.

However, perhaps the most embarrassing moment of our 2014 Italy trip occurred on our first night in Rome.  We arrived later than expected, thanks to the punctual prowess of Italy's public transport, and eagerly took the restaurant recommendation of our hotel's concierge to placate our growling stomachs.  Tired from the hike up Mt Vesuvius that morning and the extended train ride from Naples to Rome, it would be fair to assess my nerves as a bit frazzled.

Danny and I were seated at Ristorante Babbo's outdoor tables, directly next to the main aisle across from the shelves of wine.  With a glass of the house white in hand and bruschetta to nibble on until our entrees arrived, I could feel the stress starting to melt away.  I fidgeted with my dress straps as we discussed the next day's itinerary.  And then, it happened.


As I adjusted my dress, elbows out, I gave a firm shot to the crotch of a passing waiter.  Only impeccable training and composure saved his tray from an untimely fall as he clutched himself in pain.

"Scusi, signora," he gasped, as I sank back into my chair in utter mortification, before he turned and walked away quickly, albeit gingerly.

"I need another glass of wine," I said to Danny as I downed mine.  "Only in Italy could you give an elbow shot to your waiter's crotch and he's the one to apologize to you."

The look on the waiter's face after my ill-timed elbow.

Have you ever embarrassed yourself while on vacation?  Please, spill the beans!

Linking up with other travel bloggers for #SundayTraveler!