Saturday, December 27, 2008

Weather Station

Kathy got us a weather station for Christmas. I've put a little weather gadget on the front page. Now you can see how extra crappy the weather here is in the winter time and be happy you are not there; however, we do get our vengeance in the summer time.
For some history you can look here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I am playing with Kathy's phone to see if I can blog with photos.

--looks like it worked

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick Escape to Winthrop, WA

Last Tuesday we cruised over to Winthrop, WA for a quick escape. We had to cross over the Cascades, which are already showing serious signs of winter.

In the summer months it is quick hop from Bellingham, but remarkably different. First the climate is more like North Park in Colorado than the normal green, wet climate we have here. The town itself is a bit hokey, having completely Disneyfied their exterior to look like an old West town. But the town is not really why you come here. Basically we are here for miles and miles of hiking and biking.
For this trip we picked up a nice little cabin on the river at the River's Edge Resort. It comes complete with a private hot tub, kitchen and two bedrooms. It was pretty nice to be able to sit outside under stars and stare at the river. I think I probably spent most of our quick trip in the hot tub.
From 2008_10_21 - Winthrop WA

For dinner we walked downtown (about a block!), to the Arrowleaf Bistro. We had dinner here last year and the food did not disappoint again. I practically devoured their salad. I think I am still craving vegetables after being in Eastern Europe last month!


More Photos

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Easyjet ... Not!

Our trip from Dresden to Budapest had been via train, a relatively painless and easy trip. The trip back was via a budget Euro airline called EasyJet. I can't really say there was anything particularly easy about the airline except the booking process. Basically, it works a bit like Southwest where you boarding time is based on what time you get to the airport or if you pay 30 Euro to board early or if you check in via internet. The internet was out and for 30 Euro I'll sit in the middle for an hour. This is complicated by the fact that there are almost no local agents at the Hungary airport and they also end up shuttling you to the airplane. We ended up getting there early enough to get one of the first boardings. Quickly we entered the gate and managed to get a seat. Slowly people started crowding the terminal. The crush for the gate started about an forty minutes before the flight was supposed to leave. We joined the crush and got to stand for an hour ... About as long as the flight itself. In the end we boarded the first bus and had no problem getting a seat. In retrospect, joining the crush was pointless. We just joined into the heard mentality. The flight itself was easy. We flew into an airport just south of Berlin (Schofled - sp?). Dave and Lisa had there car there and we had a quick drive back to Dresden. Total travel time about 7 hours. Only a couple of hours shorter than if we did the train.
Back in Dresden, Dave and I grabbed the bikes and went for another tour around the town. A great way to see a city. On the way we had a couple of "flat tires" and had to stop and fix them. Dinner that night was at a local tapas place. At the obligatory watering hole I ordered a small beer. A "kinder bier", I say. They give me strange looks because a normal beer is about a half a liter. They serve it up though. I am done with the beer at this point and the waitress, ask if a want another. No she says, not even a kinder bier. I suggest that is even to big, so as a joke she brings out a thimbleful of beer. Silly.

Budapest - Sunday

Yeah, the sun is back out again and we can do outdoorsey things. From our windows we can see people running the Budapest marathon. The lead runners are just hauling. The main plan for the day is to head up the furnicular to the castle. The castle is the most imposing feature on the Buda side of the river. There are museums, ruins, and the famous Mathius church. The whole hill top and most of Budapest was completely destroyed by the Russians at the end of WWII. The Germans held the castle for 100 days before they surrendered. Interestingly, the Russians rebuilt the destroyed hill but would not rebuild the cathedral in Dresden. They used that cathedral as an example of how horrible the Americans were. Propaganda is a funny thing.
As you stroll the area, you can see some of the original foundations that were incorporated into the imaginative restoration. The foundations are riddled with bullet holes and scares from shrapnel. Very sobering under the pretty facade. The most impressive site is the restored Mathius church. The interior was decorated for the millennium celebration and depicts the history of Hungary. Watch for the Raven with the cold ring. He shows up everywhere. All in all we stayed several hours on the hill and ended up having a nice stroll back down to town. Originally, I had planned on visiting monument park, but the logistics required about an hour and half to get there and back. In stead we headed back into town and checked out the National Museum. The main gallery we looked at had a collection of Hungarian clothing, coins, dishes, machine guns and general trappings from the early 20th century. That evening dinner consisted of a tapas crawl. The first stop was outside at a cafe overlooking the Danube. Lisa ended up getting this Hungarian pancake that tasted remarkably like a burito. The next stop was one of the boats docked on the river for an overpriced beer and more snacks. The final was an Italian place that was in our guidebooks that served up tasty, tasty Italian fare. Getting back to the hotel was a bit of a cluster as we just kept on missing our bus connections by a couple of minutes. We, of course, ended our trip at the Belgium pub.

Phrase of the day (for Rick): kosonom I pronounced roughly "kersernerm" - means hello.


Budapest - Saturday

We awoke to a grey rainy sky, the street and sidewalks glistened with a dull sheen amongst the gloom. Luckily for us we live in the gloom capitol of the US and were not about to be put of by a little drizzle. After eating a breakfast consisting of eggs cooked in lard (did you know that Hungarians eat 1 lb of lard a week?). Interestingly enough it was tasty. First on the tourist list was a visit to the great market. This only required a quick subway trip to the south end of Vatica Utca. The market is a huge late 19th century brick and glass building filled with dozens of stalls selling cheeses, meats, vegetables, and sweets. Just imagine the local farmers market on steroids. The upstairs consisted of food stalls selling interesting creations as well as tons of knick knack sellers. My favorite item had to be the gutted baby pig wearing sunglasses. The next stop was going to be the national Museum, a quick metro stop to the big city park, right next to the spas. When we got to the metro transfer station, the M1 line, it was closed for some reason. When we went street side to take a bus, we noticed that the Andrassy Utca was completely closed too, in fact there were police everywhere. Hmm, not a good sign when you are in the former Eastern block. Our friends from Dresden said it looked like it might be because of a demonstration. I thought it might be because they were closing down the street for the Budapest marathon that was the next day. In any case, we high tailed it out of there to find an alternative route to the Museum. A couple of blocks north we were able to exit the police blockade and were able to pick up a bus that went right to the museum. The museum was just off heroes plaza, and when we got there the scene was even more chaotic. The entire area was garrisoned off with tons of police in full riot gear and squads of K9s everywhere. WTF? The museum was blocked off, but I noticed people passing through a bit of a checkpoint. Being a student of third world checkpoints I wasted no time going up and seeing if we could get to the museum. No problem, we walked up to heroes square which was strangely deserted except for about a thousand cops, and entered the museum. The best thing about the museum was the building itself. It was built for their millennium celebration and was pretty grand indeed. The inner rooms where they displayed their paintings were painted in serious colors. After looking at painting for a couple of hours we headed back out. Holy crap, there are even more police and they are all sporting riot gear. In fact, none of the people that were milling about are around. Time to beat a hasty retreat. We head out of the plaza and actually have a bit of a time getting out. The plaza is ringed wall to wall with the policia and we are finally able to break our way free and find a bus out of the may em. Over the course of the next couple of days we realize that a big protest was planned. In fact, they had a huge riot on September 20th, complete with tear gas from a similar protest. It was the biggest civil disturbance since the iron curtain fell. Turns out a lot of people don't like their leader on account of him lying about the economy before he got re-elected. The protesters are calling for his resignation. Anyway, the government was expecting a big repeat of the events two weekends ago, hence the crack down. You just got to love it. Never a dull moment. The bus that we picked us tooks us within a block of our hotel. Since the weather was still on the cool side, we headed back to the hotel to mellow out from our ordeal.
For dinner, we wanted to go back to the Franz Liszt square area, but it was smack dab in the middle of the riot area. We had the hotel call and the riot was all cleared up. No problem. In fact when we took the metro back out there about an hour and a half after we were there before, there was not a sign that anything had happened. Friggin' weird.
The place we went to was called Karma and was hip and trendy. Afterward we sat in the plaza under the heat lamps and people watched. Kathy wanted to check out an Iirish pub that was close by, so we set off in the streets in search of this pub. Did I mention that it was dark? Did I mention that it was slightly raining? Somehow, after following the accurate, but not so good instructions from the previous place we found it. Of course the band had stopped playing and it was a smoke pit. Quickly we KO'd the place and decided to head back to our standby Belgium place.
Since all of the public transportation had closed down and most cabs are crooked, we decided to hoof it. This took a bit of time, but we were still able to make it the pub next to the hotel for one too many drinks. Note to readers: if someone offers you a Belgium beer called Kwak, just say no. It is extremely tasty, is served in a yard glass (think high class beer bong) and will eventually make you quack like a duck. Events after that are hazy, but the hotel was next store, so all was mostly good.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Budapest - Thursday to Friday

We arrived in Budapest around 3 PM, back at the west train station. The next trick was to find the Metro. It turns out that they are rebuilding the metro station at this train station and the entrance was hidden outside around the corner. In general, the Metro stations are not well marked anyway. It can sometimes be challenging finding them. The new metros were tunneled recently and are deep under the city. Long steep escalators take you down a couple of hundred feet underground. For the most part the metros are clean and easy to use. They all connect in one spot in the city so transfers are usually easy. From the train station it was an easy ride underneath the river and a short walk to our hotel. The hotel that Kathy picked out was right on the Danube, just below the big castle on the Buda side. All of the rooms had great views of Pest, the Parliament building, and the river.
First order of Business was coffee and food. This consisted of a little Coffee house near the Metro station.
We then hoped on the Metro and headed down Vacta Utca. The is the very touristy heart of Budapest. It is lined with over priced eateries and all manner of stores selling to the tourist. It is a very long street. From there we headed over to the river and watched the boats zip about. That night for dinner, we ate at a little French restaurant near the hotel followed by a beer at the Belgium pub next to the hotel.
We wake to a nice warmish sunny day.
The hotel had a pretty good Breakfast, so we loaded up our packs and headed out towards Budapest's version of central park. Along the way we wandered around Andressy Utca to check out the opera house and all of the art nueveau buildings along the way. At the end of this long boulevard stands heroes square. A huge outdoor plaza serving as the entrance to the park. It is surrounded by huge romanesqe/nueveau buildings and has a dozen huge statues of the Heroes of Hungary. Holy smokes. The space just blows the mind away. Kathy and I head to the Gelarty baths for another needed soak. The Gelarty baths are more for the locals, while the fancy ones by the river are more touristy. This bath had a greater variety of soaking options than the one in Eger. The entry procedure was truly confusing even with the instructions in the guidebook. I guess they have changed a bit since it was published last year. From a menu of a dozen different choices you pick what treatments you want. The treatments are typical European spa items: hot pools, massages, nasal douches (uhh, yuck), that type of thing. After you pay, they give you a plastic card with a bar code on it. You walk through a door and hand the card to an attendant. He then gives you a hanger with a bag attached to it (don't loose it). Next, he scans the card and shoves you through a turn style. You turn the corner and there are a row of wooden doors on the left side of the long narrow corridor. Each door has a little red or green symbol about knee high next to it. Someone tells us that the symbols tell you if the baths are empty. But don't forget to knock, because they might not be empty. When you enter the changing room, you have to flip a lever on the bench. This locks the doors and changes the symbol from red to green. When you are done changing, you flip the lever, and exit out a door opposite to the door you came in. In the next room, there are stacks of lockers. You put your stuff in a locker, insert the plastic key card in the door, remove the little key from the front of the door and away we go. Oops, except we needed to rent a towel. The towel lady was around the corner in yet another room. For about $4 they rent you the smallest towel in the world. Oh, and don't forget the towel deposit (requires me to go back to my locker for more cash). Now that we have the micro towel, I have to go back to the locker again to store the towel receipt. If I was going to do this again, I would head down the hall past the changing rooms and snag a towel or better yet buy a towel from one of the vendors in the park. Now it is time for some serious soaking. There are several pools of different temperatures ranging from a bone chilling 20 degrees to a sizzling 40 with some of the pools outside and some inside. The outside pools have a variety of jets and bubbles that you can use. The sun was out, we were relaxing and life was good. In one corner of the pool there were a bunch of old Hungarian guys playing chess. They hang out there all day, eating, drinking a little beer and playing chess. The final hurdle when you leave is your refund. If you stay less than three hours you get some money back. When you exit an attendant takes your bar code card swipes it. You then walk through a turn style and a change machine dumps some coins in a bucket. Whew. A lot of work for some relaxation.
Our friends from Dresden flew down for the weekend and had just arrived when we got out of the pool. We decided to meet at a little cafe for a late lunch. It was a nice balmy day in a quiet little plaza in a cafe that would have been at home in the 1900s. Since the weather was so nice we decided to do a boat trip on the Danube. We were able to sit outside in the sun on the upper deck. The commentary consisted of an explanation about how many rooms each of the fancy hotels on the river had. Okay, we did not spring for the better tour. But that boat did not have outdoor seating. Pretty funny really. As an added bonus there was a large group of Germans doing the stereotypical German thing which consisted of drinking. They made fun of our stereotypical photo taking behavior. Again, pretty funny. Towards the end of the tour, the audio got out of sync with the sites around us. Always nice to be on the water.
For dinner, we went to the very trendy Linze square, where we were able to eat outside and do some serious people watching. Of course we had to finish the evening at the local Irish pub.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Leaving Budapest

Currently we are standing with the rest of the sheep waiting to board Easyjet. The train is much more civilized. Stuff, hot, and my feet hurt.
The full Budapest will be posted later.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


We are definitely in budapest. First impression, not as Disney as Prague. But still not like as much on the edge like when my friends visited in 91.

Eger, Hungary

Tuesday - Sept 30th - my bday.
Our train arrived in Bedpost on time at 7am. The ride was uneventful, but bouncy. It was better than the last night train that we took in Italy years ago (but not as good as Amtrak - kathy). The local ticket counter was only a couple of steps from the platform and we quickly purchased a ticket to Eger. The train was supposed to leave at 9am. Bummer. We did not really feel like hanging around the train station for two hours. As we were walking towards the ATM, we noticed a train that was leaving for Eger at 7:05. Well it was 7:15 and that train looked like it was running late, so we took a chance and hoped aboard. Now it turns out there is basically a train an hour to Eger, but some require a transfer. We weren't sure if we needed to transfer or not. Both trains went through the same transfer point. After looking up the schedule on the web, I decided that this train probably went through. Worst case was we went a stop to far and had to turn around. Kathy wandered the train a bit and found a student sporting an Ipod and confirmed our thoughts. The train ride across the Hungarian plains reminds me a bit like Kansas after a good week of Tornados. The train stations that we passed were mostly dilapidated abandoned hulks. Obviously built 30 or more years ago to the highest communist standards of the time. Some train stops were literally in the middle of corn fields. The crops looked nice though, with fields of corn and sunflowers that went on for miles. At our potential transfer stop, the train turned to the north and started heading up into the hills. The foothills reminded me a bit like some of the rolling hills on the eastern part of Kansas, but larger and drier. We arrived at Eger about 9:30 to a gorgeous fall day. We decided to walk the short distance to our hotel. It was nice to stretch after being on the train. We walked through a really nice park following a small creek to the center of town and our hotel. After walking around the town a bit, we had lunch at our hotel. The goulash was really tasty. It was nice to be back in a country that actually used spices in their cooking. As it was a beautiful day, we hiked up to the castle and strolled around the grounds. From the top you get a great view of the surrounding country side. Dinner was at a small pub off the square. I ended up having veal with parpadella while kathy had some of the local beef that Hungarians are famous for. Afterwards we found a student pub and had a quick beer. The steps in this town roll up pretty early and we were in by 10:30.

This was a total relaxation day. We slept late and then wandered over to the local thermal baths. These consist of a sulfery hot spring pool as well as a larger pool for general hanging. Each of the pools has a variety of jets, fountains, bubbles and even a small river to mess around in. It took a bit to negotiate the high and low tech entrance procedures. Soon we were bubbling away with the rest of the locals. Hot pool, cool pool, river, jets ... Basically you just move around the pools to whatever water feature is active . A lot of people just hanging about. After a bit more hanging about town we decided to head to the "Valley of Beautiful Woman." This valley is about a 30 minute hike outside of town or you can take the taxi or the tourist train/tram. We opted for the train (really an old car with a train facade and pulling three open aired cars). Okay, no body told me that this dude drove like a maniac. Imagine Mr Toad's wild ride and you will get the idea. We did pass many of the sites at a breakneck speed and almost got t-boned by a car only once. Somehow we managed to make it up the valley with most of our bones intact after renaming the train "The Terror Train.". The valley consists of 50 or so caves carved directly into the rock walls of the canyon. Some of the caves contain winestubes, others are just storage for casks. In the midst of this there was a bevy of activity around the fall harvest. Tractors hauling grapes to be crushed, crushing, pressing ... Pretty interesting. Of course you can try the different wines and if you like them you can buy a bottle or a glass. This area makes a really nice sparkling wine and a blend called "Bulls Blood.". The later is a Bordeoux style blend with a couple of extra grapes thrown in that I had never heard of. Amazingly good. First decent red wine that we have had on this trip. Some of the caves had locals filling up plastic jugs of wine to take home, while others were a bit more touristy offering complete meals for tourbus loads of Germans. We picked a couple of good divey cellers to check out. At one of them we met an young American couple, Chad and Ashley, that had been traveling for the last couple of months or so all over Eastern Europe. They were getting ready to head off to teach English for a year in China. They said they hadn't really talked to anyone but each other for the last month. So we hung out together and tasted the local wine. For diner we went to a really nice place that just had outstanding food. I had this foie gras in a Tokay wine reduction that was amazing. I also had a small glass of Tokaj to go with it. Imagine Sauterne the color of Gold. My main entre was duck with a paprika cream sauce and for desert we had a big plate of chocolate deserts. One looked like and tasted like melted chocolate ice cream. I guess you can sell these American tourists anything. Again we headed in early to avoid the sidewalks as they rolled up.

In the morning we went to the local market. It was a multi-storied building with stalls of people selling everything imaginable. Pig's head? yep. Live carp? You betcha. They had the mushroom section and the cheese section and the flowers section and of course the pig butcher and the cow butcher. Upstairs they had a food court with a dizzying array of items. Sausages, fried bread, fried trout, and god knows what else.
Now we are back on the train to Budapest. This time I am sure it is the direct train.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Night Train to Budapest

After a slight mishap we are on the train to Budapest. When we took th train down from Dresden last week we got off at the Holstice station, so of course that is where we thought we had to get off this time. Oops, we were supposed to get off at the next stop at the main station. Luckily we had plenty of time and a little spare change. We just hoped on the metro and three stops later we were at the correct station. The main station is still in a transition phase between communist disrepair and art nouveau. As you walk into the station the ceiling is low, dark and dingy, then a temporary red ceiling facade to cover the blistering concrete. Every now and then an art nouveau feature would peak out of the rubble. The bathroom facilities are new, glistening in their dayglow lime green paint. Since we had about a two hour wait between trains, we started looking for a place to sit. The northern station has a lounge for first class passengers, however the lounge in the main station was "under construction". No doubt it was overrun by the new bathroom. We then followed a dubious looking sign up a flight of stairs to a cafe that was supposed to be open all night. The cafe was situated in a great domed area. it was very dim up there, but as my eyes adjusted I could tell that his had been the old ticketing area and we were surrounded by the trappings of Prague at its heyday. For a quick impression, think Bladerunner. There were hardly any people up there and a scattering of tables filled the balcony. We ordered a beer and wine and just watched the strange procession before us.
The train was right on time and now we are just hanging out getting our teeth rattled on the old Czech tracks.


Meissen Weinfest

Saturday evening
On any given weekend there are hundreds of festivals all over Germany. Some are huge, like Octoberfest, some are tiny like the festival we stumbled across in Regansburg and some are in between, like the 50,000 folks that show up for the Meissen Winefest (plus the other 50,000 or so that are at the neighboring towns winefest. All of these thing have a couple of things in common: a hook that involves eating and drinking and bands that play a couple of key songs. The most common song that they play is "Country Road" followed by "Sweet Home Alabama".
There were something like 50,000 people in the town with a dozen bands playing in the different squares. Each plaza also had food vendors as well as different wineries to taste. We bought a tasting glass and for 2€ we were able to taste dozens of wines. It looked like almost all of the towns inhabitants were out and about with the old and young alike out in droves.
Things got dangerous when Dave met a German couple that they had met there two years ago. Thomas owns some land that he grows grapes on, so we had to try his rose ... A couple of times. That's when bottles started getting purchased and consumed. We managed to see several bands and heard the same couple of songs played over and over again. Pretty funny after a while. We stayed until the last train out of town and rode it back to Dresden with some of the hordes. When we left at midnight, the festival was packed and most restaurants were still full.

After a slow start, Dave and I rode bikes from Dresden to Swiss-Saxony - a 40 kilometer ride. The route follows the Elba river along the same train line that goes to Prague. About half of Dresden was out for the gorgeously sunny day along the river. We passed by several castles while all manner of boats plied there way up and down the river. There were even some hardy souls that were actually sailing on the river. We ended up meeting Kathy and Lisa up in one of the small towns on the Elba. We had planned to take one of the river cruises back to town, but of course there was a festival going and all of the return boats were full. No problem, we decided to climb the 600 or so feet up to the surrounding country side to visit an old medieval castle that was built around the granite spires. A bit of a hike more and we found this luxury hotel on the cliffs, the sun was going down and the views were just incredible, so we stopped for a snack while the sun set. They had a player piano going and of course they played "Country Road". The hike down was tricky since it was crazy dark. The entire time we have been here, I have carried a headlamp with me because we are always getting locked in someplace dark. Of course tonight, since we road the bikes, I didn't have the headlamp. Dave did have a lamp for the bike and we managed to make it down without a mishap. As we were walking towards the river to pick up our bike, you could just hear one of the bands break into a nice rendition of "Country Road" To get across the river we ended up taking this ferry that had no motor. Instead it had a cable tied several hundred miles upstream of the ferry. The ferry would then just use the current to surf back and forth across the river. Amazingly simple and efficient. On the other side of the river, we took the train back into Dresden for dinner. Afterward Dave and I road our bike back home while Kathy and Lisa took the tram. Riding the bikes through the old town at night with all of the lit up castles and churches was pretty spectacular.

Today is a bit of a chill day. We are doing some Laundry and trying to dodge some weather. After some contemplation, we decide to take the night train to Budapest. There is one transfer in Prague and then we have a sleeper car. So that's where I am now, on the train (again) to Praha.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I have finally got the email on the Blackberry working again. I don't know why it quit working, but that it ever works is pretty darn amazing.
The last couple of days it was overcast and cool with occasional sprinkles. The good thing about living in Bellingham is that the grey weather really doesn't bother me that much. It is a great time to be indoors and look at museums and sit and drink pivo (beer) in small little cafes. The theme for this trip has been Mucha, in fact his pretense is everywhere if one takes a peak. On Wednesday, we visited the hotel Europa which was designed by Mucha. It is in Wenceslas Square where the velvet revolution occurred (the end of Communism). Of course we had to have some hot chocolate to warm us up from the rain. That evening we had to (literally) pork out on the traditional Bohemian meal of sausages, ham, duck, dumpings and cabbage. Tasty, but heavy on the arteries. Afterwards we found an ultra-trendy bar playing Brazilian music.
We continued the Mucha theme with a visit to the Mucha museum and lunch in The Obecni dum. Lunch was basic but the building was just fantastic, with every detail designed by Mucha and his cohorts. One thing I am reminded about when I am here is how much nice architecture and design really makes a place nicer to be in.
In the afternoon we visited the Jewish quarter. This section was razed in the late 1800s. A pricey $30 ticket allows you to visit the various sites. Interesting, but probably not the highlight of Prague. Now we are getting in the traveling gig. Next stop is an espresso, cake stop to rejuvenate our tired feet and minds. We head down to the main square to check out the tower and clock, damn, it is starting to rain again so we duck back into the hotel to figure out our dinner plans. There is a section just north of the old quarter that caters to a more Czech crowd. There are a ton of ethnic eateries around: Argentina, Italian, Ethiopian, Thai, French, Afghani, really whatever you want to eat. Since one can only eat so much sausages and beer, we pick an Italian place that is full of Italians having a good time. The wine is Italian and slightly cheaper than what we would pay at home. As usual, the Italian, even in here is better than what we get at home.
Another thing that is cool about Prauge is that it is a very safe city. You can wander all over the old city and be safe. You even see little old ladies out and about walking their dogs. So, of course, we had to do some evening walking. The goal, as always, was to find a cool pub to hang out in. Our walk took us out to the river with awesome views of the Prague castle all lit up at night. We also walked along the river to the famous Charles bridge, pleasantly devoid of the hordes of tourist that show up in the day. The pub that we picked was called O'Che's (named after Che himself, get it). A quick beer there and off to another spot. This was another Irish pub (in keeping with Kathy's Irish pub theme). After visiting so many sites, the deep philosophical discussion centered on the loss of the metaphor of religion, in favor of the dogma. Hmm, somehow it is now 1:30 in the morning.

Okay, we are moving slow this morning, but the sun is out and is just awesome. After breakfast at the hotel we head out for the local tram. The tram takes us to the very top of the hill where we arrive at the monastery, which, closes for lunch right when we arrive. No worries, like all true great abbeys they brew beer on the premises and we go ahead and order lunch. I have a nice yeasty dark beer with ... Sausages and Kathy goes for the wine and some chicken thing. Now for a little trip to the library and then head downhill to the castle. The castle and cathedral are amazing. I am glad that we waited for nice weather to tour the grounds. The most impressive is the Cathedral. With its multi-hued colors splashing against the columns and floor, it makes and impressive site. And don't forget the Mucha window. We wandered around the sites for a bit, then found a cafe perched over the vineyard (with a killer view), for the obligatory cake and espresso. The walk back took us back down to the water. We saw a wedding couple out with their photographer getting all of those picture perfect Prague wedding photos. Her dress was interesting with a white fur shawl and a plunging neck line. We cross over the Charles bridge, which was so packed with tourists that you could barely move. By this time we have been on our feet for about six hours and my feet are killing me. Time for a little relaxation before heading out again.
For dinner we pick a Belgium place that flies in mussels. The wait staff was pretty aggressive trying to push appetizers on us and directing us to the lobster plate. Good food though. Afterwards we went back to the main square and got a table outside by the clock under a heat and watched people for a couple of hours. Damn, it is 1 am again.
It is sunny outside again and I am up early to see the Castle and the bridge when the sun comes up. Sunrise is about 7:30 and the only people out are the street cleaners. There is a small army of people sweeping the streets and getting everything tidy for the day. The sun on the Castle is gorgeous and the Charles bridge is devoid of people, vendors, and pick pockets. I highly recommend this early morning trip. Next, back to the hotel, eat, pack and catch the train back to Dresden.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hanging in Prague

Email is a bit sketchy here. Amazing I get anything at all. Mostly rain today, but we are hanging out by the river watching the swans.

Greetings from the Czech Republic

We are on the train headibg to Prague. At the border we changed stewards, now all of the aanouncments are in Czech.

Phrase of the day: hello - ahoj - "ahoy". I didn't know these guys were pirats.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Imagine 200,000 of your closest friends out for a big binge on the town. Now throw in a couple of dozen roasted oxes, a half a million chickens, four million litres of beer, roller coasters fun houses and dozens of bands. Now you have a good idea what is happening right now in Munich.
Yesterday morning, we took the train from Regansburg (rainburg) to Munich where we met up with Dave and Lisa's German friends at the hotel. We then dumped our luggage and headed off to Octoberfest. We arrived around 2 pm after following the heard of people to the front gate.
From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

Octoberfest is really just a big fair where the beer tents really got out of control. People aren't partying outside, they are just doing the nornal fair things like playing silly carnival games and riding rollor coasters. The real fun happens in the twenty beer tents. Each tent is sponsered by a different brewery and holds almost ten thousand people.
The Germans in our group are on a mission to find the tent that serves the roasted ox. This tent is easy to find since it has a thirty foot ox on a spit over the front door.
From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

The tent is already packed, but we manage to quickly find a table.
From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

Beers are quickly produced and we order some of the ox. Pretty tasty.
From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

There is a band on a raised stage in the middle of the tent playing traditional German music. Many of the people in the tent are wearing traditional Bavarian outfits. My favorite being the nice blouses on the girls. There are also other costumes, mostly involving silly hats.
Kathy is not a beer drinker and they do not serve wine, so she tries this concoction that is half beer and wine. Yuck. There is a solution for Kathy's dilemma, there is a special wine tent. We decide to split from the group and head off to the wine garden. On the way we stop in a couple of other tents to check out the antics. The wine tent is at full swing when we arrive and we find a table on the upper balcony. From there we had a great overview of the entire tent.
From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

Kathy orders some proseco and I order weissbier. Six other people join us at the table. They are from Munich and have just popped over after work (I guess it is about 4 now). A couple more beers and wine and we are dancing and singing along with everyone to the rockin tunes of the Hot Frogs. About that time, Lisa texts me to join them at the Paulner tent - aisle 14. As I mentioned, these tents are huge so they have numbers on the posts so that you can find your seat. This comes in handy after a couple of beers.
Amazingly we find the rest of our group in the Paulner tent. More liters of beer are produced and then things just get crazy. Imagine ten thousand people singing and standing on the benches with raised mugs constantly toasting each other. The bands play everything. My favorite was "Sweet Home Alabama". This earned me lots of kisses from the Australian girls when I mentioned I was from Alabama.

They start closing down the tents at 10:30, which is good since I am seeing double at this time. Somehow we managed to make it back to our hotel and hit the pillows.
The next morning we are moving a bit slowly. We eat and then catch the train back to our car in Regansburg.
In Regansburg we walk downtown to the old city and have a late lunch on the cobblestones. We get a quick visit from the sun before it hides it face and turns to rain.
Tonight we go back to Dresden.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Very layeuc


On the train to Octoberfest

It is 11 am and we just left Reganburg on the morning train to Munich. About half the people on the train are on their way to Octoberfest and have been partying on the train for hours. The steward has come around and is seriously pushing beer on everyone. There are large groups dressed up in traditional costumes. This involves lots of leather britches and deep plunging neck lines. Crazy and we are not even at octoberfest yet.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


After a nice leisurely rather drab and grey morning at Dave and Lisa's we headed down to the river, stopping first at Schwarz Market Cafe for an espresso and coffee. Not much English spoken there, but we did manage to get Kathy's special sock water coffee order in without a hitch.
After that, as we wandered over the Elbe river to the Catholic baroque church, Hof kirche, the sun came out for a surprise visit. Quickly I stripped down to short sleeves so that I could enjoy the sun. -Inside the church is actually rather stark. Surprising for the baroque style.
After a quick visit we crossed over to the Zwinger. This houses several museums as well as some amazing fountains and a museum that houses a huge collection of porcelain.

Now we are sitting at a cafe around the plaza near the newly restored Church of Our Lady. I used to say that it took me a week to chill out from work during vacation. However, i feel like I am already relaxed after one day. There is something about sitting outside, sipping a glass of wine and watching the world go by that is very relaxing.
The people watching is always fascinating. Notice the clustering of the tourists.

From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

While we are here we decide to head across the plaza to check out the church. This baroque church was destroyed during WWII and completely rebuilt since the early 90s. The exterior is impressive. The only way you can tell that the church isn't hundreds of years old is that the stones are not covered with layers of black soot. At first glance the interior reminds you of a theater in the round, except instead of a stage there is a huge baroque alter piece dominating the naive. Very impressive indeed. The rest of the interior seems a bit forced with heavy doses of stucco and faux marble column. Was the original treatment faux marble? This does not seem consistent with other German Baroque churches that we have been too.

That evening we went to a Russian restaurant that had been there since commie days. Crazy place with dirt on the food, great food and an extensive vodka menu. Skhol.

Phrase of the day: die Rechnung, bitte - the check (reckoning) please.


From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

Czechs are pirates too.

Phrase of the day:
The casual form of hello/goodbye is Czech is "ahoj" and is pronounced ahoy!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

In the air

For our flight over we are flying on Luthansa Airline. One thing I really like about flying on some of these international carriers is that the level of food and service is a notch above US domestic carriers. The food taste better, the wine is better, and the service is better. After the staff served dinner they walked down the aisle with a bottle of red wine in one hand and a bottle of white in the other. "Rotwein. Weisswein," they would say.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We finally made it to the airport!

The past couple of days we have been getting up early so that we can get a leg up on the jet lag. I'm not sure that will help that much since our bodies are only on eastern time.

This morning our friend Rick dropped us off at the airport shuttle. For this kind of trip, that is a good way to go. It gave me time to think about the last time we flew anywhere for a vacation. If you scroll back in this blog, you will find it was in July of 2007. We went with friends down to Antigua. Luckily, our friends in Dresden have been bugging us to visit them.

So here I sit, waiting for the magic box that will whisk us away to another reality. Sounds fun.


From 2008_09_17 - Eastern Europe

Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting Ready to Leave - Bellingham

Kathy and I are busy packing and making last minute plans to head out for Eastern Europe (or really Central Europe) for the next three weeks. Part of this preparation has been working on this blog so that we can post messages on the fly from our mobile phones. We will have our old blog ( and then this temporary blog that allows me to do the email post ( After I get back we will transfer these comments back to our regular log along with photos and such. (We will see if we are able to do any photo posting).





Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gulf Islands

Kathy and I headed out for a two week trip to the Gulf Islands. I have not had a chance to write up anything, but I am including some photos.

Check em out at the link.

See ya,


Friday, August 08, 2008

BYC Youths at the Races

One of the thing I get to do is drive the safety boats for the kids taking the sailing camp. As the kids get better they start coming out on Tuesday night for the dingy race. Mostly I am pretty busy since the wind has been just crazy this summer, but today I was able to relax and get some photos.

A Great Backdrop for an Evening Sail

On your mark ...

Rounding the Downwind Mark.

And some more photos:

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Fun in the head

One of the best things about owning a boat is all of the fun projects that you get to do. Here is a quick photo of me unplugging the head:

From 2008_08_03 - Working on the Head

Cool, no?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Escape to Sucia

We have been having a big metaphysical discussion whether Blaine is a better jumping off point for Sailing than Bellingham. I say this is metaphysical, because there is no real answer. Mostly we are just trying to convince ourselves that maybe Blaine ain't so bad after all. To test out this theory we decided for just Kathy and me to head out for the weekend.

For the first trick, we decide to leave Friday so that we would have two nights there. For some silly reason, the wind decided to blow quite a bit on Wednesday and Thursday, so the South Straits of Georgia were extremely lumpy. My big plan was to sail over to Patos and see if any of the mooring buoys were available. So as we set out, the wind decided that it needed to be directly between us and Patos, and as an added bonus we had some nice big waves. Now, Bruno does not particularly like lumpy water, and, in fact, he makes this known by getting violently seasick. So much, that he literally foamed at the mouth for the entire ride over. This happened even though we bailed on going to Patos. Since the wind was out of the west, Patos would have been an extra crappy anchorage. So, we headed back to Sucia again. This time the bay was nice and smooth with none of the lumpiness from the previous week.

Since we were there a couple of days, we decided to a couple of big hikes around the Island.

View into Fossil Bay across Mud Bay

The South Side of Sucia

At some secret spot on the Island, we found tons of beach glass. I think we will start a dedicated jar just for Sucia Island glass.

Mount Baker Finally Showing Herself

Fortunately, the ride back was not as lumpy and we were extra, extra rested and relaxed. That night after we got back to Blaine, we were so much into vacation mode that we stayed the night on the boat and went to White Rock for dinner. A highly recommended weekend.

More Photos Here:

2008_06_14- Sucia wGlass

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fourth of July

Over the last several years it seems like we have always gone to a big 4th of July fireworks celebration somewhere. Since the 4th was on a Friday and we had a big three day weekend, we decided to go off for a little cruise. In addition, our friend Rick's birthday was on the 3rd so we decided to have a combo 4th celebration and birthday festival. Wayne and Trudy of Mahalo also joined us on the raft-up.

Munchin' on the South Shore - Rick you got cut out!

We ended up leaving early Friday morning and arrived in Sucia around 2pm. For a 4th of July there were hardly any boats in the harbor. Heck, there were even a couple of mooring balls opened up. A couple of hours later Mahalo showed up and we had a nice raft up with some extra yummy food.

That night we were able to watch the fireworks for Blaine, Point Roberts and Bellingham. We could also hear Orcas fireworks, but could not see them. Kind of cool to see all of the flashes on the western shores of Washington. The next day we went for a big hike and searched for more beach glass. Still not tellin' where the glass is.

On Sunday we had a great sail back to Bellingham (not Blaine!) and moored out a friend's slip. Hopefully we can be in Bellingham for the next several weeks. Did I mention, that Blaine is a paint in the arse?

Rick at the Helm

Mahalo Under Full Sail

In what I detect as a potential trend, there are more photos here:

2008_07_05 - Sucia-RickBday

Monday, June 23, 2008

Custom Spice Rack

Check out this cool spice rack that Wayne of Mahalo built for us. Very cool, and looks great!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Exiled to Blain

After a year and a half of shuffling around Bellingham harbor we finally had to move to Blaine. The last month was especially a bitch, we were in four different spots since we lost our sub-lease on May 1. The Kersey's on Navgar also got banished at about the same time, so we decided to head up to Blaine via sucia. We had great wind up with six knots all the way across Rosario.
Navgar Cruising Across Rosario
The weather in Bellingham was supposed to be all extra yucky, but Sucia came through yet again with nice blue skies and cool days. This is June remember, don't expect the temperature to get much above 60F.
Brr, even in the sun we have to bundle up a bit.
Internet Cafe on Sucia
BTW, you really don't want to moor in Echo bay if the wind is out of the SE. Kind of like the direction that it clocked around to Saturday night. It got pretty lumpy in the bay. I was about ready to move to the aft cabin.
On the way back we decided to take the scenic tour. Since it was an extra low tide, I wanted to see what it looked like at low tide even though I had visited it before and managed to end up in the mud. This time we just motored in and backed out once the depth sounder started reading a foot or so. This is just not the place to end up on a negative tide if your draft > 6'. After that we motored around to the south side of Sucia and squeezed in the pass between Little Sucia Island into Fox cove. Definitely some freaky squiggly water there. There are a couple of very cool mooring balls there. It is much more secluded than Fossil Bay on the other side of the small spit. From there we headed North West to check out Patos Island. There are a couple of mooring balls in Active cove on the SW corner of the island. It looks like a really cool place to Anchor.
The Light House on Patos
After that the weather just got nicer and nicer. We ended up having a really nice broad reach to Blain. The new slip was pretty easy to get into and after we got there, we had Geri and Steve over for a little cocktail. Kathy and I even decided to stay one more night.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Cats Attack Deer

My cats are really territorial. When this deer started chomping on the flowers in my backyard, Bellini and Bruno lost no time checking him out.

Bellini on the Attack

She actually sniffed the deer just after this was taken. I missed the shot though.

Bruno Getting on the Action

Looking for New Logs?

I am in the transition phase of moving my blog from citydesk to something else. However, this summer's postings can be seen at
I've also been looking at wordpress, but it needs quite a bit of work to get the template the way I want it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Spencer Spit

Wow, we really have been getting out a bunch here lately. The heater install has made these early season excursions downright nice.

We ended up leaving early Friday morning so that we could meet with BJ and Tricia. We hadn't seen them in a while and it was nice to hook up. We had a nice dinner and spent the evening playing games. The next day several folks from Bellingham showed up and they had a mini raft up. We decided to bail on the raftup since the wind was a bit stronger than I was liking.

On Saturday, my outboard really started pissing me off so I decided to completely rebuild the carburetor. These are the thing that we like to do in the wilderness. Luckily I had a can of carb cleaner and a bucket. I pulled the whole thing apart four time cleaning out the gunk. Each time I would put it back together, it would start working and quite. I would pull it apart and find more gunk in the jets. After pulling apart everything in the fuel system except for the fuel pump and reassembling everything, I finally gave in and pulled apart the fuel pump. Of course there was all kinds of little pieces of shellac in the pump. The source of the goo. After a final reassembly everything started working fine. Of course, that night I decided to motor ashore and the motor quit about half way there! This time I ran out of gas. Geez. What a bonehead I am sometimes. However, now the motor runs great and I can work on fixing some other things.

Not a bad place to hang for the weekend.

The Old Cabin at Spencer Spit

The obligatory Bruno photo

As always, more photos can be found by clicking on the link below:

2008_05_23 - Spencer Spit

Monday, May 19, 2008

Inati Bay Raftup

Whew! Spring finally arrived with temperatures in the high 70s to lower 80s. Even if we already had opening day, I don't think boating season really was up and moving yet. So to commemorate that yellow thing in the sky that we haven't seen in quite a while, we put together an impromptu raft up in Inati bay. Inati bay is only about an hour away from Bellingham, but mentally it seems much farther. Kathy and I sailed over on Friday night and were joined by Wayne and Trudy aboard Mahala. Trudy made a most excelent spaghetti dinner.
The next day we were invaded by many boats from the BYC. As you might guess, this involved some serious lounging about

From 2008_05_17 - ...

From 2008_05_17 - ...

That evening Steve Heyward and Monica of San Suci (A 50' steel Belgium canal boat) made a huge plate of Enchiladas and Margahrita. Yum.

From 2008_05_17 - ...

The evening was spent lounging on the beach by a fire doing the S'mores thing.

The next day, Kathy and I took Kalliope home on a nice beam reach with about 18 kts. We managed

7.5 kts across the entire bay. Yowser! Much fun. And this is only May!

More Photos


Saturday, May 10, 2008

BYC Junior Sea to Ski

This year Kathy and I helped out with BYC's junior regatta. It is held in combination with the Junior Ski to Sea event the next weekend and finally culimates in the big Ski to Sea event over Memorial Day.
The wind was super brisk and we had to rescue a couple of kids. In the afternoon things mellowed down a bit.

More pictures here.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

BYC Opening Day

This year we moved Kalliope down to the BYC quest dock so that we could be in the thick of things. As always we had quite the party. Things started off Friday night with a full crew on Kalliope and Navgar. Soon after this photo I put my camera on the binacle and promptly forgot about it.

That night is started raining as only it can out her in the Pacific Northwest. I awoke to Steve Kersey asking me, "Whose Camera is this hanging on my boat?" Uh oh! Well I pulled the batteries and memory stick out, heated up the over to 280 degress. Turned the oven off and put the camera in the oven and finally crossed my finger. Meanwhile we start motoring out for the parade. This years theme was Mardi Gras. We managed to get the boat decorated in the rain on the way to the parade line up. Photos you ask? Hmm, the camera was in the oven.

However, the oven trick worked and we got the camera back in action for the afternoon festivities.

Finaly the weather cleared up and we had about ten people in the boat for dinner.

Sunday was super nice, sunny and warm, so we just lounged around.

Check out this video from the weekend.

Asta Pasta