Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Day 4

Eliza’s alarm roused me at 5:30am, and I hastily shut it off, hoping everyone was still in dreamland.  I began dressing, tiptoeing about the room, and gathering my camera bag into my arms.  Having successfully crept from the room, I walked downstairs, nodded to the sleepy receptionist and emerged onto the streets of Prague under a deep blue sky.  What crazy idea was it that caused me to clop down the streets like a solitary horse wandering from home?  I wanted to photograph the sunrise in Prague, and by my calculations, the Charles Bridge was my best bet.  That meant I had to wake up at 5:30 to give myself enough time to reach the bridge before sunrise.  We were leaving this day, and it was my only chance for these photographs.

After completing my photo shoot, I went back to the hostel with stiff fingers from the morning chill, but with a proud smile on my face.  At the hostel I flopped down to snag a few more hours of sleep.  We left Prague at 11:17am, slept for most of the train ride, and woke at 6:30pm in Budapest.

The trip to Prague was incredible, and I am hoping I’ll have the chance to see this city again.  If you would like to read from the beginning of our Prague journey, please click here.  Or go to my “Trips” category.

March 18, 2012

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Day 3 (Afternoon-Night)

After depositing our coats at the hostel, we set out again, this time in search of lunch.  We walked across the Charles Bridge and eventually wound up at a pizzeria located across from the Hotel U Zlateho Stromu restaurant.  I got a spinach and cheese pizza.  The crust was similar to foccacia bread, with light sauce and chunks of spinach and cheese.

After eating, we went to check on prices for boat tours and ended up purchasing tickets.  While waiting in line, Al turned to us asking, “Do any of you girls get seasick?”  We all glanced at each other, each of us turning back to say, “No, why?”  “Well, I do,” he replied.  We found this quite amusing, although we worried that us going on a boat ride might cause him problems.  He said he’d be fine, and soon we were ushered onto a boat.  We were the last few people to get on the boat.  Each bench held two people, so BreAnna and Eliza sat together on one bench.  Al and I sat upon another bench across the aisle, facing the opposite direction.  It was a 45 minute boat tour with drinks and ice cream or bread.  The tour guide gave us historical information, told tales of the river freezing, and talked about the Charles Bridge.  At one point during the ride we passed near a small metal bridge covered in locks.  Lovers carve their names on a lock, attach the lock to a bridge or metal gate, and then throw away the key, signifying love forever.  I mentioned seeing a similar lock-filled gate in Paige.  The guide smiled and asked if Al and I had a lock up on the gate.  I laughed and told the guide we’d only just met a day earlier.

When we finished the boat tour we walked back to our hostel.  We sat and talked for a bit, then BreAnna, Eliza and I headed out for the night.  We invited Al to join us, but he had a previous engagement.  Eliza wanted to see a building called “The Dancing House.”  No, the building is not a huge 24-hour party building.  The name comes from the unusual architecture of the building, giving rhythm to the building.

After snapping night photos, we found a restaurant that our boat guide had indicated as a good inexpensive place for dinner.  The restaurant was a boat sitting on the water, and even though we didn’t get seats near the window, we still enjoyed the food.  When we got back to the hostel, we met our new bunk mates.  They weren’t sure of the sights, so I gave them our itinerary and a map.  I loved chatting with the girls, but they needed sleep and I needed sleep.  I hope they enjoyed their Prague trip as much as we did.

March 17, 2012

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Day 3 (Morning-Afternoon)

Saturday morning, we invited Al to join our touristy explorations, and he accepted.  Our band of four set out, cameras flashing, and bags jostling.  However, before our adventures could begin, we had to investigate the local cafes for breakfast.  The outdoor seating at the cafe we chose was divided, by a metal fence, from the outdoor chairs and tables of the neighboring cafe.  While sitting and enjoying the breeze, we were graced with the jarring clash of two separate radio stations thanks to the competing cafes.  At first, hip hop notes slamming around the classical tunes was amusing, but after about 5 minutes the music styles grating against each other made us wince.  Eventually our cafe conceded to its competitor, and we were blessed with music emitting from a single radio station.  Letting the classical music fall into the background we turned our attention to breakfast.  Deciding against the sweet crepe options, I chose a panini sandwich made from homemade bread, lettuce, tomato, pepper, cheese, and pesto.  It was excellent!

Once our stomachs ceased snarling, we started looking for Petřín hill (an “Off the beaten Path,” suggestion).  Instead of being smart and looking at the provided directions on the website of our 3-day itinerary, I Googled the directions, landing us at a different point than the itinerary suggested.  However, there was still a path to ascend, and we began hiking upwards, smiling at all the families flopped at various heights on the hill.  (I would like to commend Eliza on completing the entire hike, in fact surviving all 3 days, in heels).

At first we concluded our goal would be to reach the castle-like wall running parallel to our hike.  We took a left fork in the path and as we got closer, I decided a photo had to be taken.  Al volunteered, and I broke into a run, followed by dancing over the last few feet to the giant wall.  BreAnna and Eliza kept the normal-walking pace, so I probably looked a bit ridiculous running a race against myself, and performing a victory dance.

Photo by: Al

Once Al caught up, we wandered along the wall.  Unexpectedly, we located a passage through the wall, instantly transforming us into brave explorers.  Through the short passage was a small enclosure.

After dashing about the grassy area, like kids, and peering through slits in the wall, we exited on the other side to find a viewing platform.

I would have been content with staying there all afternoon.  The spring sun, slight breeze, and lazy attitudes conspired to keep us on Petřín hill.  The devious scheme was a success, and we stayed on the platform for an hour or so.

Then we spotted the wasp, a yellow jacket who was amused by our ducking and flailing.  No matter how miniscule a wasp may be, it’s a huge motivation for evacuating an area.  We graciously vacated our spots to the yellow jacket and sped down the hill.  I wanted to avoid appearing as though I was a statue for yellow jackets to sit upon and fan their wings.

We wound down the path to the bottom of the hill.  Relying upon Eliza’s phone for direction, we headed towards the John Lennon Wall.  Upon locating the wall, we added our names to the mesh of colors, peace signs, drawings, lyrics, and names.

After taking photos of this totally cool wall, we felt the sun was sending us rays of love.  So we headed back to our hostel to drop off our coats.

March 17, 2012

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Hey all friends, family, bloggers, readers, creepers (Yes Meg + Bri, I know you’re reading this).

I’m currently playing catch-up with my blog posts.  After my trip to Prague I had midterms week, then a week to clean house before leaving on a school trip to Venice and Vienna.  It is now currently spring break, and my enthusiasm to write ran outside to enjoy the weather.  BreAnna and I went on a free walking tour of Budapest today, and that story is stuck in a crowded room of unwritten posts.

While I’m trying to pound these posts (French-style) into proper grammatical form with a dash of chemistry, I’m going to let my Inner Writer rest and release my Fanatic Photographer Persona.

Photo for Today (currently un-edited):

On our first trip to Margit Island we walked off the bridge, a few feet down the pathway, spotted this festive tree, and decided we were done walking.

Photo Taken: March 23, 2012

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Day 2 (Morning – Afternoon)

Touring Prague

I woke up on Friday and let my brain process the fact that it was morning.  I wondered if perhaps the alarm set for 9am had failed, and it was now 11am.  Not that it particularly mattered since we weren’t running on a set schedule, but I didn’t want to start out so late that our explorations would be rushed due to shortening daylight.  A quick glance at Eliza’s phone averted my worries: it was 7:15am.  After midterm week with stress and early hours, my body alarm was set to before-school-time.  The bright sunlight filtering through the curtains may also have triggered my awakening.  First Eliza then BreAnna stirred, and I watches as their eyes perused the room.  Answering the morning’s bright bugle seemed like too much effort, and they rolled back over in their comfy beds.  I considered bounding from the room in search of photo opportunities, but instead, I tried to study.  I soon found myself dosing on my notes so I rolled myself into my bed sheets for more sleep.

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, the song from “Inception,” pulled me from my dreams, to observe Eliza stretching to switch off her phone’s alarm.  9am seemed suspiciously similar to 7am; our room was still bright, we were still blinking at each other, and the room was filled with us and quiet.  Wait a second!  Where was everyone else?  Around 7, the glance around the room revealed at least one other bed lump, and there was shifting in the other section of the dorm.  They were gone.  Of course, it’s not like we were expecting them to wake us up.  I had no idea what they looked like, and doubted they were concerned about our sleep habits.  We figured they had probably gone to breakfast.

Breakfast in the hostel was offered for a small charge, however, we wanted to explore the food options around Prague. So, we paraded onto our street and returned to our usual clattering and chattering as we clomped off to locate a meal.  We quickly located the Caffeteria (review coming soon, I hope), a Ferrari-loving shop filled with photos of cars.

After breakfast, we began to follow directions from a suggested 3-day itinerary that BreAnna located online.  We modified the order in which we saw various buildings and areas to fit our preferences.

Our first stop was the Prague castle complex.  From our hostel, we hiked up the cobblestone-lined hill, took a sharp right and continued hauling ourselves upwards.  The view of Prague below us was wonderful, although, personally, I preferred the view from the Clock Tower.

We walked through the castle walls, past the guards, and into a courtyard.  After a few minutes of locating our position on a map, we headed into a tunnel, in the direction of St. Vitus Cathedral.  Blocked by a group of stunned tourists at the end of the tunnel, we started to squeeze through the crowd.  Then we glanced up, and instantly halted, caught in the crowd of gaping mouths.

St. Vitus Cathedral’s Gothic spires loomed overhead.  The Cathedral’s entrance was planted so close to the tunnel that capturing the entire church in a photograph was impossible.  A photograph capturing both bottom and top of the church required circling to the right, where there was a greater amount of space.  After several minutes of fighting crowds and struggling to take photos, we headed inside the church.  Our necks craned backwards as we tried to take in the details.  Intricate stained glass windows filtered light into the church, and arched columns swept above our heads.  We weren’t willing to pay to circle around the church, all three of us deciding food was more important than a closer look.  So, instead, we tumbled outside to explore more of the castle complex.  We saw the old castle, a pale pink building stretching around the courtyard.  Then, we located the St. George Basilica, a ruddy red building with white trimming and white towers.  After learning that the Golden Lane required payment to enter, we wandered about the complex for a bit then exited through the palace walls.

We then went in search of a monastery, and while we found a religious building, I think we located a random church instead of the intended monastery.  However, we were content with this, as it gave us the chance to examine the statues that lined the front of the church and take photos of the church from an elevated parking lot.  By this point, hunger was bothering our stomachs, so we began tromping along streets in search of a meal.  Down some steps, we were drawn to a restaurant with outside seating called Mystic Café (review hopefully on its way).  While enjoying lunch, we noticed the sneaky antics of a pair of pigeons intent upon a bellyful of chips.  There were chips upon each table, and the birds repeatedly fluttered down to the walkway and performed a Pink Panther skip/jump to the one empty table at the restaurant.  The waitresses continuously chased the birds away ts-king at them, but after a few minutes, they fluttered down from their perch on the wall to make another attempt.  One even crept inside to attempt a raid of the indoor premises but was quickly chased out.  Finally, the pigeons seized a waitress-free chance and swept directly onto the table.  They hurriedly pecked at potato chips, gaining only a few bites before a waitress discovered their pilfering and shooed them away.

After lunch we headed across the Charles Bridge and began an exploration of the Jewish Quarter.  The exact synagogues that we visited are listed on Day 1 of our itinerary.  Having no knowledge of the synagogues’ histories, but still in need of entertainment, I adopted the role of tour guide.  “Welcome, thank you for coming along on this tour, I’m very new at this, and I hope we’ll get to where we need to be.”  I started making jokes about my “tour group,” intentionally picking on BreAnna (she started this by saying I wasn’t very good), and proceeded to mangle the names of the streets and synagogues.  At each synagogue, I announced our arrival, and we all took photos.  Then I commented on my extensive lack of knowledge on the building’s history and directed us to the next synagogue.

Whenever our brief time at each synagogue ended, I moved everyone along with the words, “Shall we?”  Before the Prague trip, it fit quietly into my speech pattern, but as a tour guide, I threw weight onto these two words, adding to my role as an incompetent, terrible tourguide to keep my group of two amused.  Now, these words are stuck as cues in my language for BreAnna and Eliza, and whenever I say this phrase, I’m assaulted by rolling eyes and sarcastic grins.

As our tour ended, we decided to head to Old Town Square for some water and rest, and once again, I shuffled us forward with my characteristic, “Shall we?”  The water and shaded park benches gave us an escape from the sun, which I’m near positive was responsible for half of my crazed tour guide antics.  Noticing a candy stand, the three of us grabbed bags and selected multiple candies for delectable consumption.  While sampling a few of our newly-purchased treats, we walked past the Church of our Lady Before Tyn, and wound our way to the Powder Tower, the historical entrance to Old Town.

We then set our eyes on the trek back to our hostel.

March 16, 2012

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Day 1 (Noonish-Bedtime)

“Guys?  We’re in Prague!”

Commence squealing and high fives. The 7 hour train ride was over, and we were officially in the capital of the Czech Republic.  Goal #1: Reaching our Hostel.  We used our expert skills of observation and followed the massive crowd of people away from the platform, towards the station’s main doors.  I have no idea what the train station looks like outside because we were focused on reaching our hostel.  So, we stayed inside, examining the map of metro lines.  We knew the name of our metro stop, it just took a bit of map reading skills to discover what metro trains we would need to board.  Then we weren’t sure what to do about getting to the metro.  It was obvious we had to walk down the stairs located beneath the huge Metro sign, but we weren’t sure if we needed someone to check our tickets.  We had the stamp “PID” on our tickets which would allow us on most transportation around Prague, but we weren’t sure if we needed that stamped signed or punched or whatever.  We tried to get assistance, but the man at the ticket stand indicated that he didn’t speak English.  After discussing the issue together, and then discussing it with two other travelers, we determined that it would be fine to head down and board the metro.  In Budapest, people simply board most modes of transportation without needing to show their passes to the driver, so we figured it was probably the same here.

When we reached the platform for the metro train, our guess about the passes was confirmed when a transportation controller walked over and asked us for our tickets.  We showed him the stamp on our train tickets and he nodded then wandered away.  I guess we looked clueless enough that he targeted us for potentially not having passes/tickets.

After the metro ride, we began walking towards our hostel.  The streets were cobblestone, and I wanted to take pictures, but we had to make sure we checked in first.  We followed Eliza’s directions and soon found ourselves hiking up a road, our suitcases weighing down as though the cobblestones had jumped from the street into our bags.  Then we spotted our destination, Little Quarter Hostel. I’m going to keep descriptions of the Hostel confined to My Review of Little Quarter Hostel (Post Coming Soon).  After storing our luggage and resting for a bit, we set out to locate the Charles Bridge, and ultimately, some food.

We clattered along the cobblestones, quickly reached the Charles Bridge, a 700 year-old, pedestrian-only bridge, and started across.  The weather was beautiful and a breeze flowing down the Vltava river slid through the crowd to tease hair into my mouth.  We drifted past street musicians, peddlers, and artists.  Atop the castle-like arches that funnel tourists from the town onto the bridge, trumpeters stood, their melodies flowing across the river, signaling the hour.  Statues of Saints lined the bridge, and people posed for photos before the statue depicting the crucifixion of Christ.

After crossing the bridge we crossed the street and decided to eat at a restaurant connected with Hotel U Zlateho Stromu.  (I will have a separate post for all restaurants/food soon).  After eating, we stepped back into the flow of pedestrians and followed the steps of the crowd to Old Town Square.  The first building we noticed was the enormous Astronomical Clock Tower.

We drifted around the square, admiring architecture, watching children chase pigeons, and listening to the street bands.  Amongst the hundreds of other tourists, we fit in perfectly, photographing every detail, gaping at buildings like nothing else was quite so beautiful and squishing through the crowd accumulating at the base of the clock tower.  After several minutes of fanatical photographing everything in site, we fixed upon climbing the clock tower.  We did reach the top, although instead of hauling ourselves up impossible staircases, we simply stepped into the elevator.  Even with the ridiculous crowd (no longer clogging the pathway since the clock stopped ringing), there weren’t may tourists who ventured into the tower.  In summer, attempting to reach the tower’s summit would have been an hour long wait, but since it was March, we were standing above Prague within a few minutes of purchasing our tickets.

Standing in the middle of Prague, at the top of the astronomical clock tower was like discovering a secret passage from which you emerge into an exquisite clearing in the forest.  I almost expected fairies to drift through the afternoon light and dance across the rooftops.  I could have stayed on the clock tower balcony until sunset.  It was difficult to remove myself from the magic and return to inside the tower for our descent.  This time, Eliza and I took the stairs while BreAnna went down in the elevator.

As the day stepped into evening, we began drifting into stores and working our way back towards our hostel.  We paused for gelatos, and switched into window-shopping-mode.  Later that night, we traveled back along the Charles Bridge for night pictures.

As we crossed the bridge, BreAnna threatened to throw me into the river (can’t imagine what could have provoked this declaration).  I figured my being thrown over the wall into the Vltava river was begging for the creation of a song.  You can sing the following lines to the tune of “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

Over the wall and through the air

Into the river she goes!

She’s swimming around, maybe she’ll drown

Thanks to Lucretia’s throw-o!

Lucretia is BreAnna’s evil twin, so it wasn’t really BreAnna who threatened to toss me into the river, it was Lucretia!  Eliza continued to walk along the cobblestones in her high-heeled shoes, while BreAnna and I played a game of Lucretia and her target.  Throughout our entire Prague adventure, Eliza strode along in her heels across cobblestone, conquering stairs and even climbing….. well, I’ll save that tale for another post.

After crossing the Charles Bridge, we decided to walk along the river and take photographs.  We entered a tunnel that lead us beneath Karlovy Lázně, the biggest club in Central Europe (5 stories high).  In the tunnel was a sign that read “Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments.”  We paused for a minute when all of a sudden Eliza suggested we try purchasing the torture devices.  Ensue silliness and jokes along the lines of adopting such devices for use in the bedroom.

Our night walk along the river involved pictures, laughter, and many more inappropriate jokes.

March 15, 2012

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Out of all the people I’ve had to leave at home, my puppy dog was one of the most difficult.  My dog Angel is a border collie, and I miss her terribly.  When I came home from college this past December for winter break with all of my stuff, I could tell she was confused.  Believe me, she’s a smart puppy, and knows very well that the boxes of supplies and college tools leave in fall and don’t return until spring.  As I began to pack my suitcase for the flight in January (I pack way ahead of time), she was inconsolable.  Usually she lazily trots behind me, or relaxes while watching me race around the house.  When I pulled my suitcase out and began washing clothes her nose magically glued itself to my heels.  I couldn’t turn around without tripping over her.  My puppy shadow turned into a puppy can’t-leave-me-behind.  I felt terrible, and I wasn’t leaving for another 3 weeks.

I completed most of my packing ahead of time, adding a few items as the days passed, and Angel settled a little.  Only a little, mind you, because any time I headed out the door she frantically glanced to ensure my suitcase wasn’t with me.  The final week at home was day after day of incessantly packing items that I’d been waiting upon, stressing over baggage limits, and judging what to take and what was unnecessary.  Angel was once again stuck as close to me as possible without actually standing on me.

During the school year, I return home at least one weekend each month.  There’s also school breaks and minor opportunities to see my Angel.  However, with a 4 month stretch ahead of us, I didn’t know how to promise her I would return again.  I figured it would be good for her to have a safety-blanket of sorts.  She’s been with me for 9 years, and knows I come home, however I’ve never left her completely for more than a few weeks.  My parents discouraged stuffed animals as puppy toys (they didn’t want the dogs chewing on our actual stuffed animals), but I wasn’t sure she’d like a blanket.  Besides, I didn’t want to BUY her a toy that smelled like a store and not me.  I knew she needed something with my scent.

I decided to sew her a pillow.  I’ve had some experience sewing pillows, although the design I wanted to create was a bit different, and it didn’t turn out perfect.  It doesn’t matter that the heart design is overly lopsided, what matters is that it was functional and that she saw me making it.  Being stuck to my leg, she was there as I picked out the material from my vast collection, cut out the patterns, pinned the pieces, and sewed everything together.  Finally, I stuffed the pillow and presented to her.  Initially, she wasn’t overly interested in it, but since I’ve been gone, she’s been sleeping with it most nights.  I’m incredibly happy, but also terribly sad because I miss her a ton.

It’s especially difficult here in Budapest where many people own dogs.  I pass a variety of dogs each day, and for the most part they ignore me.  A lot of dogs are walked off-leash in Budapest, and the dogs are well trained; they’re within their owner’s sight, and generally ignore other people and dogs.  It’s also difficult because I can’t walk up to someone and say, “Can I pet your dog?” because there’s a 50% chance they won’t understand me and a 99% chance I’ll feel that I’m being a bother.

So, when my friend Clare announced that she had two dogs, I was thrilled to indulge in some doggie interactions, aka puppy love.

I truly believe that happiness is found in a warm puppy, and I found happiness with Judae and Buddy.

Clare’s dogs, Judae and Buddy provided plenty of comfort and attention.  Even though seeing them made me miss Angel even more, it also helped a great deal.  I hope to have many opportunities to visit Clare, Judae and Buddy.  BreAnna and I already had some puppy healing time (cuddle time), and puppy play time at the park.  Here are some photos:

Feb 23-26, 2012

BreAnna and Judae


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