Sunday, December 18, 2016

Europe Trip 2016 ~ Last week in Malyn & Athens + Carnival Dream

This blog is scattered because I've been trying to write it for over two months in bits and pieces. Sometimes my writing just falls off the train and can't seem to get back on again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The end has arrived to my amazing and adventurous trip to Europe. It didn't end at all the way I expected but then, my plans are merely suggestions where my life is concerned.

After the Carnival cruise, I flew back to Kiev and headed home to Malyn for what was originally going to be a couple of weeks. When I arrived I learned my Ukrainian sister had moved out and it was much colder than I was anticipating. I enjoyed the last few days with my adopted family there, trying desperately to stay warm, and then headed to Athens for a surprise and impromptu week vacation. When I checked the weather while I was in Kiev, it was almost 80 degrees, but when I got here, so did late fall/winter. Instead of the shorts and t shirts I was hoping to wear, I did laundry and went back to the jeans and sweaters. Still, I wasn't wearing two of everything and wishing for my winter coat, gloves, and scarf. Athens was lovely again. I spent days enjoying delicious food and getting a chance to relax. Then one day after dinner, I returned to the condo to check my email and discovered I had an urgent request from Carnival for another cruise. Luckily I had everything with me....except the music.

Life Story: Music Acquisition.

When I got the email from Carnival, I had 3 days before I had to fly to the ship. Neither Earle nor I expected a contract on such short notice so soon so we had mailed our duo music binders back to my home. No one was there when the package arrived obviously and no one was going to be. So there was a FedEx package sitting on the front porch that we desperately needed but couldn't get. I called FedEx and told them the situation and asked if the next day they could pick up the package and send it two day shipping to Earle in the States since he was leaving a day after me. I spent over five hours on the phone with them, setting up an account, figuring out the shipping issues, and confirming the situation in the notes. Finally it worked and I breathed a sigh of relief that even though I hadn't slept that night and wouldn't get to sleep much the next, at least I'd get to sleep the third night before boarding the ship. About 12 hours later I checked the tracking number of the package and it said it wasn't readable. So I called up FedEx to see what was happening. Oh, they replied, no one was home so the driver didn't pick up the package. I wanted to scream. After all the notes I'd written in the order and the representative had written in my account, the driver didn't pick up the order. Now it was too late for the driver to go back and get it and have it delivered to Earle in time. The little sleep I thought I'd get that night just flew out the window. I spent that night downloading all the music again and sorting it into printing folders. The next morning I finished packing my bags (realized I hadn't showered in two days and since it had been cloudy the previous day the hot water tanks weren't charged so I had no hot water to shower that morning either) and took off for the airport. I had paid an extra $100 upgrade to bulkhead for the international flight so I could put up my feet and therefore be able to walk off the plane. My brother Murphy came along for the flight though an for the first time in my life that I was denied the privilege of putting up my feet. Instead, they gave me two of the pull out trays from the push carts and I stacked my book bag on top of that for a foot rest. After I got to my final destination it was almost 10 p.m. and I was exhausted because I hadn't slept on the connecting flight either. Once I arrived in New Orleans, I connected to the airport wifi (as I still didn't have US phone service), called Earle to check in, and went to the hotel I was assigned. As expected (not really), the hotel did not have my reservations so I spent an hour on hold with off hour assistance trying to get that sorted. They were very helpful and I got a reservation in the hotel for the night. Now it was time to print the music I had downloaded. I dropped my stuff off in the room and went to the business center. I was very fortunate that the night desk clerk was kind and helpful and gave me a couple reams of paper and a three whole punch, lots of paper clips, and rubber bands. It was unfortunate that the printer did not print double sided so I had a huge pile of music by the time I had finished that wasn't going to fit in any binder we had. But, I did finish by the next morning when I returned to the room, showered (finally) and drug my luggage back downstairs to wait for the shuttle to the ship. Music acquired!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Weeks and weeks have gone by and I have started writing a sentence only to get distracted. Starting backwards, I'm writing quickly in the Miami airport waiting for my flight to Mahogany Bay, Jamaica where I'll board the Carnival Dream for a couple of weeks. I can't wait! Why?

Before this last week I spent an amazing three weeks aboard the Dream, performing, rehearsing, forming friendships, playing tourist, and living the usual no sleep life I live.

This last week I've been performing in the inaugural concert for the Arkansas Symphony. We played Mozart Symphony 35 (Haffner), Respighi Pines of Rome, Ruslan and Lyudmilla Overture, and my favorite, the Korngold violin concerto. The Sat. night concert was the best and the house was packed. It was wonderful to return and see my friends there and play in the new hall and be a part of something so big. Grateful I was able to participate!

I wasn't sure by playing in that ASO concert that I'd be able to return to the ship however. Of course I wanted to but it took a lot of work to make it happen. So thankful to say it did workout so I could return to the Dream.

The Dream is doing alternate 7 day routes including Cozumel, Jamaica, Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Belize. Lots of sunshine. Lots of new friends. Lots of music. Lots of happiness :)

I apologize for the lack of pictures in the post. Wifi has been either ship wifi or 30 minute limit like I'm on now in the airport so the luxury to peruse through google photos, edit, and upload has not been available. I'll see what I can do in the near future. Hopefully I'll keep much better notes while I'm cruising to be able to share the silly stories that are almost daily events.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After wifi and computer struggles of every shape and sort, I'm finally at a restaurant in NOLA finishing typing this entry so I can start on the next! Happy reading, happy traveling, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS :)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Carnival Cruise Week ~ Bermuda

What a crazy and amazing week it's been Oct. 1-8, 2016.  Note: I completely failed at taking pictures due to crazy business so pictures are fuzzy and copied from Google except for the towel animals :-p

In true cruise ship fashion, my cello/violin duo, Sound Harbor, got a contract offer for one week with only a week before embarking the ship. Long nights of overseas communication resulted in one week on the Carnival Sunshine. Flights were received the day before and on the way back Earle received his flight the day we left the ship while we were on the way to the airport thank to the help of our on board friends! Nothing like last minute....

Ship was complete with outdoor stadium theater lounge seating, three water slides, a ropes course, a mini golf course, basketball court, and more. 
Pre contract excited/exhausted selfie. I had just flown from Kiev and Earle didn't sleep the night before....not that you could tell lol!!

I flew from Kiev to Vienna to JFK and spent the night in a nice Raddisson hotel room. The next morning I joined the bus to the port an hour away and waited several hours for Earle's flight to arrive and for him to get to the port. I'm glad I did because there was no crew when he arrived other than me waiting for him and this was Earle's very first time on a ship ever!!  We went through the security and got on the ship. Last time I did this I didn't have a room until night time. This cruise it was better by a few hours lol. A lot better!!  I was given a nice guest passenger cabin for the entire week....even though I didn't actually get my room until early evening (last time it was almost midnight). Boy was that cabin nice :)  What a treat from the usual bunk bed shoe box I was expecting. Earle was also given his own passenger cabin although on a lower deck so not as nice. The stewards were fantastic and gave me towel animals and turn down service every day! My favorite towel "animal" was the very last night when they had made a heart for me <3<3<3

With Carnival Sunshine with LOVE

Puppy Cuteness <3

We sailed to Bermuda for two overnights! That was a first for me. I've never overnighted in a port more than one night. I was so excited since I had just been to Bermuda in May and remembered a little of my way around. Turned out I was so busy that the first evening was the only time I left the ship. That, and instead of docking in Hamilton, the ship docked at the furthermost point on the west/north tip of the island. Walked around the area for a couple of hours failing to find free wifi, but seeing the usual Diamond's International and tourist shops/bars. The next day Earle and I ended up practicing all day instead of going into Hamilton. The last day we were supposed to leave Bermuda at 5 pm but with the hurricane picking up velocity, we left at noon so we didn't get off the ship that day either. The ship was plenty big enough to keep us occupied however. Even after a week we didn't see all the music bands and only saw one and a half production shows and hadn't even walked to every deck area. We did walk and walk and walk though up and down the stairs with our instruments and our stands and chairs. Come to find out, Carnival Sunshine doesn't have stage hands so we (mostly Earle) had to haul all our stuff around from each location all day. Several days we played in three different places so we were always moving stuff and at the end of the night it had to be moved to our cabins so no one else would decide to use it.

This is the best picture I could find of the entirety of the Ocean Plaza. Standing from the pub in the corner looking across the Plaza to the Alchemy Bar on the far side. 

Carnival is very different from the other cruise lines I've worked for in the past. We didn't have a lounge and the first day we played in the atrium. I've played in atriums before but this one was a pillar of emptiness with a minuscule stage on the second level. No one could hear us and we couldn't hear ourselves. We did end up getting a microphone but to get the soft parts we played it was turned up so loud the feedback was extremely touchy and any other sound nearby was amplified within a 5 foot radius at least. We also played for tea time in the dining room twice. We enjoyed it the most even though there is no stage there so we just set up in a spot with a little extra space. The other venue we played in was called Ocean Plaza. It was an open venue with an enclosed pub at one corner and the "Alchemy Bar" at the other. The biggest difficulty was listening to the background music from the other bar while we were playing. It was still the best place for us as we could hear each other and people could sit and watch. We played all different times of day and for different hours. We even.....had a day off.... I say this whispering that it won't get taken away...   The second day off I've ever had in over 7 years of on and off cruising.

Fuzzy picture but the small outcropping on the right was our "stage". Our chairs stuck out into the stairway.

The people were great and the ship was very relaxed for the most part. A couple of times something surprising happened. The most outstanding for me was returning from land to the ship when security asked me to remove my nice sandal flats. The floor was disgusting so I didn't want to put my feet back in my shoes. I was and still am quite miffed about this regulation. Otherwise, I learned that my dress casual is Carnival formal wear. I learned we're not supposed to eat in the Lido for breakfast or lunch although I did anyway and no one said anything. I learned nobody pays much attention to your sets. I learned no one cares much about the email verification protocol to eat in the specialty restaurants. Speaking of specialty restaurants....there was a nice Steakhouse, a sushi bar, Asian and Italian restaurants as well as two dining rooms. Earle and I tried each and every one. Our favorite was the Asian restaurant so we went twice. Steakhouse was ok and the rest not worth the bother. We found the crew bar which was at the front of the ship so had bow access but they'd turned the bow into a mini smoking lounge so I was highly disappointed. I walked out and walked back inside as fast as I could. One nice thing is that the bar isn't segregated as on other ships. Any crew member can come drink, play pool and video games or chit chat. That was awesome! I took Earle every night but one and helped intoxicate him every night as every good band leader should :-)

Absolutely delicious pork belly with gorgonzola cheese and some sort of bean curd and sauce. Unbelievable!

Other big favorite was the short rib. Melt in your mouth tastiness :-O

Even though it was only for a week, we made some quick friends that we are sad to leave and hope to see again. We had a good chat with ship management about the possible future of classical music for Carnival. Time will tell what happens. Playing as a duo is fun but exhausting. The repertoire that is available is small and mostly either bad arrangements or difficult concert pieces. Would be great to get back to string quartets or even trios. These ideas are possible over the next couple of years as I continue to work and move forward with a guest entertainer show I hope to make my career in the future.

For now, it's back to Kyiv to see my Ukrainian momma and sister for a week. Lots and lots of practice to do together while we still have the chance! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Europe Trip 2016 ~ Ukraine (Kiev for 1 week), Greece (Athens for 1 week), Ukraine (Chernivtsi for 4 days)

This blog was originally going to be just the one week of Kiev but the three hours I'd scheduled to write the entry proved incapable to use for that purpose. The week I spent in Greece I barely slept, let alone had time to ponder my thoughts and travels in my blog. Upon returning from Greece my previous plans were pushed forward abruptly leaving me again without time to do anything but barely catch a ride to the next location.

NOW.... I finally have three hours, to myself, with wifi, and my computer, and a power outlet, and I'm half awake (which at this point is a bonus).

I'll do what I can to condense, yet not leave out exciting parts of what has been a crazy whirlwind of September.

Kiev first :)  My new friend, Melissa, whom I met in Prague when she accompanied a friend of mine from India to come dancing with me, flew to Kiev to visit! I absolutely love it when friends fly to me and I can play tour guide in a new city. Melissa is so much fun and full of life and verve it is a treat to dance and sing our way down the streets together. I invited other Ukrainian friends of mine to join us in Kiev and two of them got to come and experience the dynamic energy of Melissa and Ronda together!! lol

Before anyone joined us thought, Melissa and I visited a sculpture garden and tore the place apart with our laughter, enthusiasm, and creativity! Picking just a couple of pictures was really really hard!




That day was magical and fun beyond compare. We partied the whole night long and didn't even know it until it was daylight when we opened the door outside! Those are the best nights :)

One evening we went to the opera, The Barber of Seville. They sang it in Ukrainian without subtitles in English so even though I know the story, it wasn't really fun. Still, it was an absolute delight to go with all my friends!



Then we got to go sightseeing in the Motherland Statue. I'd been inside before but hadn't been all the way to the top! Turns out, you have to get in a harness and climb up crazy ladders and through tiny manholes and clip and unclip like you're rock climbing up a mountain! It was awesome!!!!

Obligatory Vibram picture :) before I climb down into the tunnel.

Literally got to stick my head entirely out of the top of the statue! At the top of KIEV!
We also spent a day goofing off around a mall, playing air hockey, ping pong, getting a Dr. Fish treatment, experiencing a bus ride local style, and the world's deepest subway station. It was all in a all a very very full week! One very memorable note that put a damper on the high spirits was while we waited to get on the bus. Melissa was sitting on my lap and we were looking away from the side my purse was on. Even though it was zipped, a young gypsy kid took my wallet and got on a bus. Now this story would have probably ended poorly almost any other time as everything about me, my money and my identity were in my wallet. However, a Ukrainian lady sitting on the bench just a pillar away watched the kid take the wallet and when we didn't do anything, she asked us to check. We saw my wallet was missing and my Ukrainian friend Anton stopped the bus, the lady identified the gypsy child and my wallet was returned with just a few dollars missing that had paid for the bus. What struck me about this was that the lady was so kind to first speak up to us, and then to become involved and get on the bus to help us identify the kid. Then how the packed bus wasn't upset at us for holding them up, especially since it was obvious Melissa and I were foreigners. Everyone was very helpful, kind and patient, bus driver included. Afterward I found out the locals had encouraged Anton to take the kid out and "teach him a lesson" even though he didn't. Outside of this one experience (and even as a part of this experience), I have had nothing but the best of times with the people in Ukraine. No matter the city, the occupation, the circumstances, the language barrier, I've had overwhelming love shown to me here and I am so grateful! <3<3<3

After Melissa left, Anton and I and another friend I hadn't met yet hung out in Kiev. I introduced Anton to bowling and for the first time in my life I can remember I actually won a game of bowling!!

We also went to see the symphony play Beethoven 9 and went zip lining across the Dneiper River!!


video


Kiev was truly a week of feeling alive, whether through joy, fear, agony, or inspiration. It flew by and I didn't hardly realize it as I boarded the plane to Greece, that it was over.

Athens was waiting for me though. Adding another country to my list :) I've now been to Athens. Plans were to go further abroad a bit but sickness ruled the household for most of the week unfortunately. Despite coughs, colds, and a bunch of kleenex, a good time was had. The food in Athens is incredible. Most of those who spend much time with me know I eat "like a bird". But I gorged myself in Athens. I couldn't believe how much I ate and drank. Wow!! The city fit me well that way. Also, because dinner time starts around 9. If you get to a restaurant at 9p.m. there's a good chance you'll be the first there and it will up as the night continues. Now that is a schedule I can thrive on for sure!

Trying all the different kinds of Baklava!!!!!  None of them were bad lol  ;-)

Calamari cooked to perfection.

Eating authentic gyros in Greece for the first time. YUM

Unbelievable meal and this picture doesn't even have all the food that was served. I ate enough in one week in Athens to last me for a month haha!!!
I did go sightseeing one day when it wasn't raining and had enough energy. Here are a few of the pictures of the Acropolis.

Panorama of Athens with the Acropolis on the right.

Posing at an entrance.

An amphitheater (Roman I'm told), just outside the Acropolis. Looks like there was going to be an all guitar rehearsal or concert but I didn't stay .

Athens seems like a dream. It flew by so fast I remember it but it almost doesn't seem real. So many wonderful days and nights despite being sick. I'll never ever forget my first trip to Greece (Yes, I'm assuming there will be more) !!!  <3<3<3

At the end of the week in Greece I learned I needed to go to Chernivtsi Ukraine faster than planned by a day. Lucky for me I have the most amazing Ukrainian sister :) and she packed a bag for me and brought my violin to me in Kiev. After spending the day trying to book me train tickets, bus tickets, blabla car rides, and every other form of transportation other than flying for me while I spent the day flying from Greece, I ended up being shown wonderful hospitality by another Ukrainian family because nothing was available. I still remember that night/day and I'll never forget it (drinks all night/morning)! Not sure if I should hope it to be once in a life time or not haha!!  Since I couldn't get to Chernivtsi the day I needed to I lost one recording day, but when I arrived, the people were kind and flexible and we easily recorded two demos in 8 hours and had a fabulous time doing so. My quick trip to Chernivtsi was so delightful and even though I only packed for 2 days and ended up staying four so I didn't have enough clothes and the weather is getting cold so they're not warm enough, I still had such fun. I didn't go sightseeing except for a couple of hours to the University that is an UNESCO site. The people made the trip! Recording, video editing, and just enjoying laughing over bad English and Russian was a good time to have for all :)

I planned to stay in Chernivtsi even longer so I could see the town a bit, but plans have changed again :) Finally, after a year hiatus, I've been offered a job on a cruise ship. It's only a one week contract (the shortest ever in my career), but I'll take it! A new company and a new agent and a new musical partner to start a new journey! Now I travel fast back to Kiev, Malyn, Kiev, and off to NYC to catch the ship. Afterwards I will try to write another entry of my time onboard :)  My plans now are to return to Ukraine after the cruise. Yes, it's almost like I enjoy it here ;-) But who knows what will actually happen so just keep reading and enjoy the adventure along with me! 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Europe Trip 2016 ~ Ukraine revisited (life in Malyn)

Now I'm back in Ukraine. I do like it here. Albeit, I'm staying in a tiny town called Malyn, about and hour and a half from the outskirts of Kiev. 


This welcome sign sums it up well. Welcome to the thriving metropolis that is Malyn.

Obviously not my photo, but the best I could find since I've failed to take a picture as such of the bustling main road through town. This photo looks toward the city center. It hasn't gotten any busier since 2008 either.

The city center...aka....town square.

Needless to say, I don't get to the Kiev much. But it is refreshing here. The forest is literally right out the door.

Looking out the kitchen window toward the woods.

And I work out to T25 in the forest 6 days a week! Killed the last double workout of month 1 today!

Pre workout selfie. Made sure to get a bit of my Vibrams in there :)

Panorama of my view while I'm trying to keep the sweat out of my eyes 8-/

My Workout Tree. Under this tree is a great shady place to workout during the day.
Looking up to the sky collapsed after my double workout!!
Now that I've worked out for and hour and stretched for an hour I'm back to happy and showing off the bottoms of my Vibrams again :)

There is also a nice lake and a dam just a ten minute walk down the road. You can watch beautiful sunsets while providing delicious dinner for mosquitoes.

Enjoy my filter happiness and love of my camera :)

Dynamic Art

Cross Process color

Expressive

The water was mesmerizing with hues of orange and pink and purple!

Really enjoying the cross process color filter on my camera that creates so many blues and pinks.

I get to practice every day and eat tasty home cooked food and study Russian and Ukrainian with lots of practice because my Ukrainian momma doesn't speak English.

That's right! I'm ready to scarf down this cake made from scratch right now!!

Fried zucchini with traditional cream. Love <3

Ukrainian specialty dish called Borsch. It's a beet root soup with carrots and chicken here. Oh was it super duper tasty. Ate it everyday for almost a week!!!

Those pastries on the right in the bowl, called Rogaliki, are my absolute favorite thing. I sometimes accidentally eat them for an entire meal or two.

It's idyllic in many ways. 

There are downsides as there always are in life. The other day the water randomly shut off with no warning. I was instantly transported back to India and my stomach turned into knots and my stress level skyrocketed. There was no one to call and no way to know when life could continue. This is semi normal here.

Another down side for me is the lack of activities. This is a tiny town so the biggest thing to do is go swimming in the lake in the evening. There's no music concerts to attend, no dances to go to, no movies to sit through, no impressive churches to tour, no sports activities to participate in, no social life whatsoever. For me, it's ok for a short time, but not long term such as my life is now.

There is still no job, no contract offer. I wait and pursue and wait some more. Phone calls, emails, internet searches for other people to contact are my daily life as time continues to pass and no jobs surface. 

Recorded two different demos here in Malyn. One with just a pianist, the wonderful Nataliia, and the other with a fellow violinist. Enjoy watching them!




I'm very thankful that while I'm reaching the very last cents in my bank account and soon will no longer have the luxury to keep waiting, I have a wonderful Ukraine family where I feel at home and loved. 


Friday, August 26, 2016

Europe Trip 2016 ~ Prague revisited

Last time I wrote I had traveled to Prague for an indefinite time. Through a friend and a website called HelpX, I worked for my room and board doing minor house construction, mostly involving painting, as that is my area of expertise as far as construction goes. It was high school the last time I lived through a construction zone. I'd forgotten how dirty and inconvenient and unhealthy and miserable and you get the idea, it is. Even though after the first few days I moved from the main construction floor to an upstairs attic loft, the dust was everywhere coating the food I ate, the clothes I wore, the bed I slept in and the air I breathed. My body noticed and started complaining. My sinuses seized up and I was tired all the time and my lungs complained when I would go to work and eat and bath in the main work zone. In the picture below, the one wall and ceiling used to be pink. All the paint had to be scraped off the concrete by hand.

The one selfie I took. Usually I didn't dare bring out my phone for the amount of dust and paint scrapings everywhere. You can see how clouded my safety goggles are and my hands even though I had been wearing gloves. My skin looked like the pictures of an elderly desert leader whose every wrinkle is pronounced and his skin looks drier than a reptiles.

But this was my view every night. I enjoyed it immensely. After work I would just stand at the window and gaze out over the house lights and if I was lucky, watch the sunset. 
And for my troubles, I have a little longer lasting memory...


Nasty fall. Not much blood but a lot of bruising and quite the scar.


Trying to heal.
This year in August in Prague might have well had been November. It rained 90%-95% of the days and was well below comfortable summer temperatures consistently. I was pulling out my fleece lined leggings, my warmest sweaters and using them for bed clothes under two layers of heavy blankets. With the rain and the cold, the aching body and lack of energy, and living a half hour outside the city, busking was a thing of the past in the beautiful Old Town Square.

Time went by and as I felt the desire to move on someplace else, an opportunity arrived in my mailbox. It was a potential job notice for an odd piano trio group. Usually a piano trio has a piano, violin, and cello. This email was asking for two violins and piano. I had just recorded with a pianist in Ukraine and I knew a violinist I'd also played with who was now in Ukraine awaiting future contracts. I called them up and we made plans. It was time for me to return to Kiev. I bought a ticket, packed my bags, and flew out withing a matter of a few days.

Before I left Prague, there was a highlight my last week. Besides the friendship in the house I was working, which truly was great and wonderful, my fellow dance teacher from India and a new friend I hadn't met yet, visit me just to go dancing! Unfortunately Prague is not a big blues dance scene and I'm not a Lindy hopper. So we ended up touring the city in the day and dancing with our host in our own private house party in the evenings and into the night. It was blissful. It was the respite I needed from the manual labor I'd been doing. By respite, I don't mean break, just difference of activities :)  Playing tour guide all day and dancer all night is no joke for the weary minded! I thoroughly loved it and Prague shown in it's glory for several beautiful sunny days so I could wax eloquent and share the gorgeous streets with my friends. I even got one last chance to busk under the night sky in the magical space of Old Town Square.

Thank you Melissa for the artsy photo and your support and appreciation of my music!

A surprisingly good Absinthe shot featuring rhubarb and wasabi (neither of which I am particularly fans of) and peppered cotton candy. The drink comes in a light bulb. Unique barely describes it.

By far and away the best mocha me and Melissa have ever had. Seriously, the bar is super way high now which means I've truly enjoyed a great mocha and also means I'll be mostly disappointed from here on out.

I think this store front sums it up well. Thanks Prague for telling it like it is.

The best restaurant I ate at in Prague, Lehka Hlava. It was a vegetarian restaurant and also had a menu for "breatharians". Had to google that one.

The two awesome friends who made my last week in Prague splendid and delightful, delicious and delovely above all wishings and wantings. I love you both so much!
Now I'm back in Ukraine. Living literally next to the forest, and a lake. Practicing every day, working out to Insanity and recovering from my Prague adventures. I'll share some stories and pictures of Ukraine again soon because then I'll have more adventures in more places to share :) It's a secret for now, so you'll just have to wait!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Europe Trip 2016 ~ Krakow

Well, I don't think I quite experienced Krakow the normal tourist way although I tried.

I stayed at a hostel just outside the "garden" square downtown where I could walk to everything. It was a lovely location. However, there was a world wide event the week I was there called World Youth Days and a person you may have heard of was coming to make a talk or something (I'm not sure what the purpose of the visit was), but yes, the Pope came to town. You could hardly walk the streets day or night. The grassy yards were covered in large and small groups of "kids" praying, waiting, learning from nuns or bishops, goofing off, etc. The restaurants were packed with tourists and groups from around the world and clergy alike. It was an experience for sure.

I still managed a few tourist things though :)

I love climbing towers. It's one of the few things I will spend money on as a tourist; to go as high in the sky as possible while still "connected" to the ground. I climbed two towers in Krakow. In the first, I enjoyed how small the stairways were. Well, I enjoyed their artistic value. My back didn't enjoy the size as much.

It took some creativity to figure out a good pose in such a small space!
Thank you to Richard Callicrate for this fabulous photo :)

Looking out over a main courtyard with a famous cathedral (this may be the one the Pope speaks from), bazaar and many many restaurants.

A beautiful rainbow on the wooden floor and a bit of advertising for Vibram of which I wish I was receiving renumeration....
The days were beautiful and the flowers were brightly colored. Enjoyed the weather immensely!



One of the highlights of Krakow is the Wawel Castle. I took the flower picture above in the inner courtyard before I descended into the Dragon's Den. Legend has it, "the frightening monster appeared during the reign of King Krakus (lat. Gracchus). The dragon required weekly offerings of cattle, if not, the humans would have been devoured instead. In the hope of killing the dragon, Krakus called on his two sons, Lech and Krakus II. They could not, however, defeat the creature by hand, so they came up with a trick. They fed him a calf skin stuffed with smoldering sulfur causing his fiery death. Then the brothers argued about who deserves the honor for slaying the dragon. The older brother killed the younger brother Grakch (Krakus), and told that the dragon killed him. When he became king, his secret was revealed, and he got expelled from the country. The city was named in recognition of the brave and innocent Krakus." Thank you Wikipedia.


Start of the Dragon's Den

Found the Dragon trying to devour the sun! But he FAILED. The sun withstood his angry temper and shone so all could see the ugliness of his true dragon self.

Krakow was lovely truly, and I enjoyed my time in the city and along the river although I was quite happy to leave the "masses" lol.

Catching a rest on the river in the sunshine.

video

There really were dancing nuns everywhere. It was a first for me to see nuns dancing in the hot summer heat in full garb and the audience joining in. Have to say it's one of the stranger things I have seen so far traveling Europe, and that's saying something!


The city was driving me mad from the crowds so I took to the countryside the last days of my stay. Enjoyed long walks along the river and through forested countryside and extremely diverse neighborhoods. Sometimes it felt I was walking through different shows on HGTV, but it felt weird to take pictures of peoples houses so you'll just have to imagine the stark contrasts of small village cottage homes across the street from modern marvels!! 

Stopped for some water and juice and there just happened to be a solo swing in the yard so I'm not sure if it was on private property, but I perched myself on the swing anyway and rested my feet :-)  

A bike/hike trail along the river.
I really did enjoy Poland, the small part I saw. I need to return, visit friends, see Auschwitz (which was closed for the festival surrounding the Pope), go to Warsaw, and find a time less crowded to sight see but not during winter :)  

Now I am back in Prague. Living and "working" here waiting my time to get a music gig. Putting all my painting and house construction expertise and experience to good use. Can't say it's a bad city to "squat" in for a time although I haven't been into the city much since returning as I've been fully occupied with working on the house and applying for gigs. In my spare time I've started working out again (trying for the umpteenth time), which has been great. So far my knee has held up, which has not been the case for the past year. I'm wearing a basic knee brace so I can push hard through T25 and I'm loving every minute! 

Here's hoping the next blog entry I write includes some memories of living in Prague and news of my next destination where I'll be working for money and not just room and board. Cheers everyone!