Wednesday, May 16, 2007


A few weeks ago we went to Plzen for their Liberation Festival. Actually we went there to see people from Dan's mission, and used the Liberation Festival as an excuse to actually get there. Jan and Katka Houlobovi invited us to stay at their house, so off we went. First thing we did when we got there was go to the branch Family Home Evening. They have a pretty old branch and Vinson was a little out of place. But they definitely thought he was cute and entertaining! The highlight was being able to talk to Sestra Markova. She was baptized before communism and is pretty amazing. After talking to her for only a few minutes she asked me to tykat her (friend language). Almost everyone spoke English really well (How do all of these old people speak English?). Unfortunately, like we always end up doing, we forgot to bring enough diapers so I left with Jan and Katka a little early to get some diapers and milk. Then we went to the Holubs' house. It was really cute! We chatted for a while, it was fun. Then they had us sleep in their bed. I can't believe how nice they are!
In the morning Katka assembled a traditional Czech breakfast: bread, ham or pepperoni and cheese. She also had some cereal and milk. It was pretty funny cause she wasn't sure how cereal and milk work together. They eat it with their yogurt. "So you eat this in a bowl? With a spoon? Milk?" Very cute. When things opened we headed out to see Plzen starting with the Underground.

In the 1500's Plzen dug a huge network of tunnels and wells now known as the underground. Aparently because of the water in Plzen, Pilsner beer is so good. The tour guide told us this at least 3 times. Her tour was in English and obviously memorized. I had a feeling she wasn't comfortable with English cause she kept speeding up the tour and seemed to try to avoid questions. But she was really nice and let us take pictures.
After we climbed up a really high church tower in Plzen. It's the highest tower in the Czech republic and the stairs wind. To top it off Vinson wouldn't let anyone but me hold him, so I used that as my excuse to take breaks and rest. I felt so out of shape. The veiw from the top is pretty amazing! Going down is even worse than going up cause they don't have hand holds on both sides so I had to keep switching arms I was carrying Vinson and could see how far he would fall if I dropped him. I made it down fine, though.
Then we wanted to see the Jewish Synogogue. It's huge and amazingly enough, wasn't ruined during WWII. So then we were at a loss for what to do next. We had some time to kill before lunch. We decided to go to Hell! (Peklo) It's a part of town in Plzen named "hell" in czech. One of my favorite sights was of a guy wearing an American flag over his shoulders like a cape and carrying a big beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. That's where they were doing festivities for the Liberation festival. We walked through a field that they had dug trenches in and "set camps" in like it would have looked for WWII. It weirded me out to see the men in American uniforms move. It's totally something you would expect to see with manequins or something.
Then we went out to eat. The Holubs know a really cute little restaurant with great food and good prices! It was fun to chat and entertain Vinson. He's actually pretty good at restaurants as long as he can walk on the benches or have some freedom and attention. Unfortunately Dan had a big project due the next monday so we had to cut the trip short. So much fun to see Katka and Jan, though! We'll totally have to go again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Cesky Krumlov part 2...

Castle tour #1 was a lot of fun. We went on the Czech language tour, because, as usual, it was cheaper. I felt bad for Val, though, because I had to fill her in on a lot of the details as we walked between rooms and during other breaks when the guide wasn't talking. The castle was founded sometime in the 1100's and it changed hands among four noble families until 1947 when the state took possession of it. Tour highlights included a gold (plated) carriage that was used to deliver some presents to a Pope during the 17th (?) century. It was pretty impressive. Val's and my favorite room was a large ballroom with amazingly detailed paintings on the walls. They depicted people looking out on the ballroom from balconies; some were stepping out of the balconies and one boy was even looking into a mirror on which was painted his face looking back. The master bedroom was really cool with a little oriental sitting room adjacent to it. There was fancy furniture and tapestries all over with several bearskin rugs made from the ancestors of the bears in our pictures. (see previous installment!) Part of the tour was hearing exciting and possibly true stories of these bears tragic deaths. One of them had a heart-attack, fell out of a tree into a pond, and drowned. Another became very angry while being tormented by some drunk soldiers and committed suicide in a frenzy. And the third... he died of natural causes at a ripe, old age.

After the castle tour, we walked through the castle gardens--very beautiful--checked out the large Catholic cathedral, and spent some more time walking through town. We were inspired by a swimming race in the river and decided to have our own competition. We did our best to stay on course in the direction we were walking and tried to see how many tourists we could force to seperate slightly from their tour groups. Tour groups have this annoying habit of being oblivious to the fact that there ARE other people walking through town. They are also extremely worried that they will somehow become hopelessly lost if their brightly-colored-umbrella-holding guide gets more than 3 meters away from them. We started referring to these tourist groupies as bowling pins that we were trying to "knock" off course. (If we sound rude and inconsiderate, imagine living in a tourist destination city for a few months.)
Perhaps, you're wondering about the third member of our family and what he was up to? Vinson did pretty well, while we were gone, with maybe a little more than his usual ups and downs. At least that is what the Crains told us; we have our suspicions. We are so grateful to Matt and Karey for watching Vince and we're even happier that they are still our friends.