Tag Archive: expat


Julian Alps, October 2012

Julian Alps, October 2012

We went to Slovenia for our midterm break last October. Many outside of Europe may ask, “where is Slovenia?!”  Slovenia is the northern part of what used to be Yugoslavia. We did five day trips from the capital city, Ljubljana, and on this particular day we drove through the Julian Alps.   It was stunning!  You can see more photos more  here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/06/08/slovenia-one-of-our-all-time-favorite-european-countries/

I have been blessed to call this spectacular city my "home" since July 2011!

I have been blessed to call this spectacular city my “home” since July 2011!

I still have to pinch myself to believe that I live in Prague!  Can you see St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle in the top right of the photograph?  I see that out of our bedroom windows every day, from the other direction! Ordinary errands, like going to the dentist yesterday, are surreal.  I picked Nate up from school, took a bus to the metro, went by metro to Staromestka in the Old Town, then hopped a tram which took us along the Vltava River with stunning views of the castle as we passed by Charles Bridge. We got off at our stop along the river, and walked five minutes to the dentist’s office, past a beautiful 400+ year old church in a neighborhood with incredible architecture. It was an evening appointment, so after the check up we took a tram home through the city as all the lights were coming on. Prague is truly lovely…you really must put it on your bucket list!

Istanbul, Turkey: February 2013

Istanbul, Turkey: February 2013

We went to an outdoor cafe on the Bosphorus to drink Turkish tea with our dear friends Feza and Kazim.  You can see the bridge which connects Asia and Europe. This was the stunning sunset we saw!

Lying 60km to the south of Lake Geneva, ANNECY is one of the most beautiful and popular resort towns of the French Alps. The delights of the town nowadays lie not just in its historical monuments, like the imposing Chateâu on the hill or the fort of the Palais d'Île closer to the lake, but also in the stunning scenery which can be admired from various points around the town. Surrounded by spectacular mountains and located on the banks of a sparkling turquoise lake, Annecy is about as close to a fairy-tale city as it is possible to get except in a children's story.

Annecy

Annecy  is one of the most beautiful historic and popular resort towns of the French Alps.  The scenery around Annecy is  stunning!  It is surrounded by spectacular mountains, located on the banks of a sparkling turquoise lake.  We spent a lovely day here in July 2013.

The Arena of Verona

My crazy boys in front of the Arena:)

Experiencing an opera at the Arena di Verona is a must-do.  The Arena is 2000 years old, and still in use!  I know from our visit to Lake Garda that 166 Cathars were captured in Sirmione, taken to the Arena di Verona, and burned at the stake in 1276…I’m glad to experience a performance at the Arena for a happier occasion!! We were advised by our Italian host to buy our tickets months in advance, so we purchased tickets to see Verdi’s opera Aida.

Sets for the opera.

Sets for the opera.

These photos were taken on our first day in Verona (Saturday).

Gulp!

Gulp!

The Arena is in Piazza Bra, inside the main gate as you enter Verona’s historic district. Next to the Arena is the neoclassical Palazzo Municipale.
Creeping on someone's wedding!

Sneaking a photo of someone’s wedding!

Boys just wanna have fun...

Boys just wanna have fun…

There’s a park in the middle of the piazza.

An eight year old's idea of a funny pose:)

An eight year old’s idea of a funny pose:)

We came back the next day (Sunday) to see the opera Aida.  We came a little early to see more of this lovely city.

Castelvechio Bridge

Castelvecchio Bridge

View from the bridge.

View from the bridge.

Castelvecchio  Castle was built in the 14th century.  It was both a residence and a fortress, including the brick bridge you see above.

The castle is now a museum, apparently with a good art collection. We just peeked in.

Castelvecchio Castle is now a museum, apparently with a good art collection. We just peeked in.

The clock tower.

The clock tower.

We continued wandering down the street, and came across this lovely little church.

We came across this lovely church called Chiesa San Giovanni in Foro.

Chiesa San Giovanni in Foro.

It was so quiet and peaceful...we were the only people there.

It was so quiet and peaceful…we were the only people there.

We continued to wander through the city.  See more photos of Verona here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/07/20/verona-so-much-more-than-juliets-balcony/

At last it was time to go and claim our seats up in the nosebleed section of the arena.

At last it was time to go find seats up in the nosebleed section of the arena!  We rented cushions for 3 Euros apiece.  Advice: bring your own cushions!

We rented cushions for 3 euros apiece. Advice: bring your own cushions!

The performance started at 9:15pm.

The performance started at 9:15pm.

Verdi's 1871 opera set in Egypt...a love triangle.

Verdi’s 1871 opera…a love triangle set in ancient Egypt.

Aida is a captured Ethiopian princess who is in love with Radames, who struggles to choose between his love for Aida and his duty as the Pharaoh's celebrated military commander.

Aida is a captured Ethiopian princess who is in love with Radames.

Radames struggles to choose between his love for Aida and his duty as the Pharaoh’s celebrated military commander. The story gets even more complicated because the Pharaoh’s daughter loves Radames and is promised to marry him…but Radames loves Aida.

The story gets even more complicated because the Pharaoh's daughter loves Radames and is promised to marry him...but Radames loves Aida.

Let’s just say it has a tragic but spectacular ending!

Nate didn't make it all the way through, but the rented cushion came in handy.  The performance ended around 12:30 am...we were surprised it finished so late!

Nate didn’t make it all the way through, but the rented cushions came in handy.

The performance ended around 12:30 am…we were surprised it finished so late. It was well worth it.  Nate was a real trooper and walked sleepily back to our car. Another great day!

Stay tuned for posts about our day in Venice, staying in a beautiful restored farmhouse in the French countryside, and having an AMAZING day yesterday seeing Mont Blanc in the French Alps!

Vicenza!

Vicenza! Look for the close up in the next photo.

Most people skip this beautiful town as they race around to northern Italy’s bigger attractions such as Venice and Verona.  But we were so glad that we didn’t! There were stunning architectural masterpieces scattered throughout the city…as you can see in the photos below.

Amazing detail!

Amazing detail!

The photos above, and the next seven that follow, were taken at Pizza dei Signori, which is the big central square of Vicenza.  It was the center of social and political life since the Roman Era!

Vicenza!

Can you find Nate and me at the base of the monuments? Look for the close ups in the next three photos.

Vicenza was founded by the ancient Venetos, then it passed to the Romans.

Goofing around:)

It was invaded by Barbarians (the real ones, not small children like this one who frequently forget their table manners) in late Roman times!

Posing.

It became a Dukedom under the Lombards, and later a County under the Franks.

Playing steal the hat and run!

Playing steal the hat and run!

It became a Free City-State in the 12th century.

More goofing around...

More goofing around…check out the close up in the next photo.

The tower is 230ft high. The basement was built in the 12th century, whereas the upper part of the tower was added in the 14th century.

Every self respecting European town seems to have a picturesque clock tower....although Prague's is the best of all!

Every self-respecting European town seems to have a picturesque clock tower….although Prague’s clock tower is the best of all!

Vicenza voluntarily came under the dominion of the  Republic of Venice in the early 15th century, and then enjoyed a long period of prosperity.

The architecture around the city was stunning!

The architecture around the city was stunning!

In the 16th century the architect Andrea Palladio turned Vicenza into a treasure of Renaissance architecture. His name is everywhere in the city!

You can see the Venetian influence.

You can see the Venetian influence.

So picturesque!

In the late 18th century Vicenza passed under Napoleanic rule.

This window box made my A list:)

Later, Vicenza passed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Nikolas delighted this street performer by insisting that we give him a coin!

Nate delighted this street performer by insisting that we give him a coin!

In the 19th century Vicenza joined the Kingdom of Italy.

There were pallazos (palacial mansions belonging to the nobility) scattered throughout the city...this is one of them.

There were pallazos (palacial mansions belonging to the nobility) scattered throughout the city…this is one of them.

I hope this post will inspire anyone traveling in this area to make time to see this beautiful city…I’m glad we did!

The town of Sirmione, Lake Garda.

Scaliger Castle in the town of Sirmione, Lake Garda.

Friends in Prague highly recommended that we visit Lake Garda, and now I know why! It has a very Mediterranean vibe to it, even though it is in northern Italy.

We are very laid back travelers…we like sleeping late, having brunch and pottering around the flat.  We rarely get out before noon; and our host recommended that we get out in the mornings and evenings to avoid the midday heat. So we’ve been setting out mid-afternoon and coming home late…it suits our family of night owls!

First, we stopped for an evening picnic...it was about 5:30pm.

First, we stopped for an evening picnic.

No picnic is complete in Italy without wine! Classy coffee cups:)

No picnic is complete in Italy without wine! Although I doubt Italians would use coffee cups:)

After our picnic we went on to the old city area.

After our picnic we went on to the old city area.

This is what you see as you are walking up to the historic town on a peninsula.

This is what you see as you are walking up to the historic town on the end of the peninsula.

Lake Garda, including what is now Sirmione, was a favourite resort area for rich families from Verona since the 1st century BC! At that time Verona (where we are now staying) was the main Roman city in north-eastern Italy.

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This lovely spot was the scene of several invasions following the fall of the Roman Empire.

Entering the old town.

Entering the old town: Scaliger Castle…built in the 13th century.

The noble family of the Scaliger, also know as Scaligeri, were the rulers of Verona in the 13th and 14th centuries.

You can read about their turbulent family history here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaliger

Look for the close up in the next photo.

Look for the close up in the next photo.

Everything was so colorful!

Everything was so colorful! Notice that the pizzeria is named for the Scaligeri family.

It was fun walking through the streets... mostly all pedestrian area.

It was fun walking through the streets… mostly all pedestrian areas.

The lake is lovely in the evening.

The lake is lovely in the evening.

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Scaliger Castle was part of a defensive network surrounding Verona.

I learned that Sirmione has had a very turbulent history because of its strategic location in northern Italy. The town has witnessed the struggles in the Middle Ages between the Ghibellines (emperor supporters) and Guelphs (Pope supporters). You can learn more about it here:

http://carneycastle.com/Sirmione/index.htm

Ok, I'm exercising extreme self control to limit the number of photos in this post!

This picturesque town has seen some gruesome things take place in its history.

Cathars (considered heretics by the Catholic Church) took refuge here in the mid-1200’s. However, the last 166 Cathars were captured in 1276 and taken to the Arena of Verona and burned at the stake. You can read about their story here:

http://grantouritaly.blogspot.it/2012/09/sirmione-sanctuary-for-heretics.html

Nice place to share a bottle of wine...

Nice place to share a bottle of wine…

I'm displaying my weakness for taking photos of cute balconies:)

I’m displaying my weakness for taking photos of cute balconies:)

Nate hates posing for photos so we bribed him with ice cream!

Nate hates posing for photos so we bribed him with ice cream!

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It’s amazing the smiles that can be obtained with the incentive of ice cream!

Now he was suggesting photo ops...

Now he was suggesting photo ops…

No day is complete without a visit to the gelateria!

No day is complete without a visit to the gelateria!

Enjoying the sunset and the aftermath of a sugar high from the ice cream)

Enjoying the sunset and the aftermath of a sugar high from the ice cream)

The sun sets on a perfect day on Lake Garda!

The sun sets on a perfect day at Lake Garda!

We loved Lake Garda and would love to go back to explore other places around the lake! For anyone who has been there, are there any other locations on Lake Garda that you’d like to recommend?

The Austrian Alps!

The Austrian Alps!

We have often found that the best and most memorable part of a holiday isn’t the places you see, but the people you meet. On Wednesday morning we packed up and said our good-byes to our Airbnb hosts.  It was our first time to use Airbnb, and we had a wonderful experience.  Out of respect for our hosts’ privacy I won’t post photos or use their  names.  However, I want to describe our experience with them, because staying in their home made our time in Bavaria exceptional!

When we arrived Monday evening after getting lost on the Romantic Road, they greeted us like friends.  They have a lovely home in a quiet, picturesque Bavarian village.  We had our own private bedroom and bathroom. Every morning our host provided us with a breakfast feast that would rival anything you’d find in a four star hotel! Our hosts are an expat family living in Bavaria.  They have three boys around Nate’s age.  When we arrived home after our day trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle, Nate ran off with the boys to play in the backyard…on the trampoline and in the woods surrounding the house. We had a great time getting to know this wonderful family, and greatly appreciate their fantastic hospitality!

We left late on Wednesday morning for our next destination….Verona, Italy! We passed through the stunning Austrian Alps.

We stopped here to snap a few quick photos.  Notice the camping photos at the

We stopped here to snap a few quick photos. Notice the camping photos at the bottom of the sign.

I want to camp here!

I want to camp here!

I call dibs on these chairs!

I call dibs on these chairs!

Not a bad way to get a little exercise before returning to the chairs.

Not a bad way to get a little exercise before returning to the chairs.

See what you would miss if you just speed by in your car?

See what you would miss if you just speed by in your car?

You could stop here for a bite to eat...but we didn't.

You could stop here for a bite to eat…but we didn’t.

Photos couldn't capture the beauty of the Alps!

Photos couldn’t capture the beauty of the Alps!

We drove past Innsbruck, Austria into the Piccole Dolomites…the mountain range located between the provinces of Trentino, Verona and Vicenza, in Northern Italy.  They were beautiful; different from the Austrian Alps because there were many terraced vineyards. We didn’t stop for photos as we were ready to get to Verona.

So, now I’m writing from the roof top terrace of our flat on the outskirts of Verona, complete with a view of the river.  Life is good!

Hi, I’m Nate.  This is the end of my second year of living in Prague.  It’s been another very fun year of adventures!

In September I celebrated my birthday with my friends from school.

Cake, friends, presents...what can be better?

Cake, friends, presents…what can be better?

In October we went for a week to Slovenia.  That’s part of the old Yugoslavia. It’s next to Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Italy.

This is the view from the castle on the cliffs above Lake Bled.

This is the view from the castle on the cliffs above Lake Bled.

See the little island near the end of the lake with the church spire?

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Dad rowed us to the island.

We rang the church bell!

We rang the church bell!

Another day Dad drove us through the Julian Alps.

Look at THAT!  Pretty cool place for a picnic!

Look at THAT! Pretty cool place for a picnic!

We climbed around a five hundred year old castle built into a cliff. Read about the robber baron who got shot by a cannonball while sitting on the toilet:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/06/08/slovenia-one-of-our-all-time-favorite-european-countries/

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Doesn’t it look like a place from Lord of the Rings?

In December we celebrated Christmas TWICE!! Once in California and once in Milwaukee!

At my Auntie Robin's house on Christmas morning!

At my Auntie Robin’s house on a sunny California Christmas morning!

In Milwaukee I got to see my sister, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. I got to meet my new twin cousins!

I got to hang out with my big sister, Sam.

I got to hang out with my big sister, Sam.

In February we visited our Turkish friends.  We had a blast!  We ate tons of great home cooked food. We went to a cafe on the Bosphorus.

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See the cat behind us?

We went on a cruise on the Bosphorus with friends from Prague.  It was a VERY rainy day!

Hanging out with the Myers.

Later that day we tried dessert with chicken in it!!

The red one is the Turkish flag.

The red one is the Turkish flag.

After Istanbul we went to visit our other Turkish friends in Ankara.  It was so fun!

Istanbul is amazing!

Istanbul is cool!

In April we went to Seville, Spain for our Easter Break.  Our friend Ana Maria and her family showed us the Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions.

Mom says this tradition is hundreds of years old!

Mom says this tradition is hundreds of years old!

You can read about our adventures in Seville here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/04/07/celebrating-semana-santa-in-seville/

This is the procession in front of the float,

This is the procession in front of the float.

Next, we went to Granada at the end of March into the first week of April.

The Alhambra!

The Alhambra!

Mom and Dad slept late every day.  They let me watch lots of Spanish cartoons on TV. I love Cosmic Cat! You can see more photos of Granada here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/05/11/the-alhambra-a-photo-essay/

It was fun exploring the Alhambra, but we got drenched at the end!

It was fun exploring the Alhambra, but we got drenched at the end!

One day we went for a day trip to Cordoba to see the Mezquita.

It was a mosque built in the 900's.

It is a mosque built in the 900’s on the ruins of a Visigothic church from the 600’s.

See, it looks like a mosque, right?

See, it looks like a mosque, right?

But there's a big cathedral that pops out of the middle of the mosque!

But there’s a big cathedral that pops out of the middle of the mosque!

The cathedral was built in the 1200’s after the Spanish kicked out the Moors.

You can read about more Spain adventures here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/05/19/renting-a-car-in-europe-six-lessons-learned/

In May we went to Herrnhut, Germany for a weekend retreat with our friends from church.

The view from the prayer tower.

The view from the prayer tower.

Just being silly!

Just being silly!

June was a CRAZY month! Prague got flooded and my school was shut down.  I went to school in a hotel for a week! Then we had visitors from India.  Next, Sydney and her family come to stay with us and we took them to the Summer Fayre.  It was a blast!

i got launched in the air!

I got launched in the air!

Walking home with Sydney after Summer Fayre.

Walking home with Sydney after Summer Fayre.

Sydney and her family are traveling around the world for two years!  You can read about their adventures here:

http://travel-junkies.com/

It’s been a really fun school year.  I’m excited for summer vacation.  On Monday we leave on a road trip to Germany, Italy and France. Then we’ll come home for five days, and after that we’ll go to Israel.  It’s going to be fun!

What? Bones in a church??

What? Bones in a church??

Last September we visited the “Bone Church” in Kutna Hora with my friend, Elsa.  It was such a strange, creepy place!

Ahhh, another quaint European church...not!!

Ahhh, another quaint European church…not!!

Looks can be deceiving. It looks picturesque and peaceful from the outside.  But on the inside it is no ordinary church.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

It looks as if the Adams Family decorated the church! All of the decorations inside the church are made from human bones. Seriously??  Seriously!!

The next logical question is: Where did the bones come from?

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The chandelier contains every bone in the human body!

The bones come from the victims of plague in the 14th century, and from victims of the Hussite wars in the 15th century. Thousands were killed in these events; apparently they were buried in mass graves on the church property.

This is the coat of arms of the Swarzenburger family.

This is the coat of arms of the Schwarzenburg family, who used to own the church.

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Close up of the coat of arms above: worthy of Pirates of the Caribbean!

Why so many bones in one place, you ask??

The legend goes that the abbot of Sedlec monastery, known as Jindrich, brought back a handful of soil from his travels to Palestine, and sprinkled it on the cemetery. This made it a popular burial site for the nobility of Central Europe.

Creepy!

Creepy!

The number of burials outgrew the available space during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. So they began to dig up the older remains and stored the bones in the chapel.

The decorations came from the bones of 40,000 people.

It is estimated that the chapel contains the bones of 40,000 people!

There’s an urban legend  that a monk went crazy and made things from the bones. Another legend is that the bones were first piled in geometric shapes by partially blind monks who were taking care of the chapel. Sounds like an answer my nephew Aaron would make up while playing the game Balderdash (a game where you make up crazy answers to questions and try to get the other players to believe you)!!

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The Schwarzenberg family bought the monastery in 1870, and they commissioned a local carver, František Rint,  to  get creative with the bones…as “a reminder of the importance of human life and inescapable death.”

Am I really posing next to a chandelier of human bones? Odd!!

Smile for the camera while we pose next to a chalice made of bones surrounded by skulls: STRANGE!!

You can find out how to get to Kutna Hora from Prague here:

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/prague/0063020751.html

A big thank you to my friend Elsa, for these photos. My camera battery had died on the way.

After you leave the church, shake off the creepy feeling, and walk on to the picturesque town of Kutna Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I’ll write another post to show the “lovely side” of Kutna Hora!

While doing research for this post, I found this awesome quote by Greg, writer of  Outside Prague, a great website about the lesser known towns and cities of the Czech Republic.

http://www.outsideprague.com/kutna_hora/kutna_hora_daytrip.html

Greg writes:

“Visitors to the bone church often describe it as macabre, eerie or creepy and I once asked the lady at the desk if she ever felt bothered to be working there. She flipped her hand in a dismissive way and said “Pfft! They’re only bones, they won’t hurt you; it’s the living who scare me”.

Good point.”