Friday, August 31, 2012

More Glimpses of Europe : Vienna, Venice, and More

We passed through Wien (Vienna), Austria, where we visited and toured the beautiful Schoenbrunn Castle.  Again, photos were not allowed inside the tour, but even these mostly exterior photos hint at the grandeur of the castle :

We stayed three nights in Meste, just a short bus ride from Venezia (Venice), Italy.  Two days in Venezia was not nearly enough to see it all, but we got a pretty good flavour of the city, and visited many interesting shops too.  Here are some of the classic Venice views :

The highlight of Venezia for me was the San Marco Piazza.  It was crowded, noisy, the restaurant where we enjoyed sitting on the plaza was too expensive, but the architecture was gorgeous.  These samples don't come close to expressing the many wonderful views :

I really liked this image of Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden.  You can see the finger pointing so clearly.  "It wasn't my fault, it was the woman who gave it to me."  "It wasn't my fault, it was the serpent who deceived me."

Finally for today, another beautiful cathedral, the Saint Jacob's Church which we visited in Brno, Czech Republic :

Stay tuned for a few more photos when I next have the opportunity to organize and post.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Glimpses of Europe : Dragons, Cathedrals, Cobblestones and Castles

Our family had the wonderful privilege to take a 3 week vacation in Europe, returning this past weekend.  It was my first time, as it was for the kids.  We ended up visiting 6 countries, spending a good part of our time in the Czech Republic, where my husband comes from.  I amused myself by taking about 1400 photos during our trip, of which I hope to share a small sampling.

It's hard to know where to start, since there was so much to see.  We visited a number of beautiful cathedrals.  This one is Katedrala Svate Barbory (Cathedral of Saint Barbara) in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic (not far from Praha) :

This one is the Saint Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle :

I am fascinated by dragons, so was pleased to see a number of statues and images of dragons, many of them featuring Saint George slaying a dragon.  The dragon at top, who is dismayed that a pigeon is sitting on his nose, is from Klagenfurt, Austria :

I was also amused by the many buildings in the Czech Republic which appeared to be held up by statues, many of them with anguished or strained looks on their faces.  After all, it is heavy work to hold up a stone building :

The timing of the trip was fortunate for me, in that it was eight weeks after my nasty ankle sprain, so I was pretty much back to walking normally, navigating stairs, and mostly without pain.  None too soon, since the walking surfaces were quite challenging, with cobblestones featured in most of the roads and sidewalks in the Czech republic, and even in some of the other countries we visited.  Here is a sampling of some of the surfaces on which we trod :

In the Czech Republic, the castles were classified as either a Hrad (fortress), evoking scenes of great sieges and battles, or a Zamek (chateau), displaying elaborate exterior and interior decor, often with grand formal gardens and collections of unique and now ancient trees.  We visited a number of both types.  To my dismay, the zamek could only be visited by guided tour, and photos were not allowed, so I only have the images in my memory, which make my otherwise grand house seem rather plain in comparison.

The boys preferred the hrads, which usually involved some hiking to access. This is the Hrad Spilberk in Brno, CZ.  It was built in the 13th century, withstood a three month siege by the Swedish army in the 17th century, and has been modified and used as a prison at various stages of its history (for a more extensive historical description, see the Spilberk Castle website).  We walked through the dark, damp and very dreary dungeon which served as prison cells for large groups of prisoners :

I'll share more photos when I next have the opportunity.
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