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.

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!