Wednesday, December 13, 2017

BUDAPEST, THE PARIS OF EASTERN EUROPE...




I was nervous about visiting Budapest, Hungary.  I had read some things on TripAdvisor that were negative and then friends we asked gave us mixed reviews.  I knew the language would be even harder than German to decipher and that we would need to get yet another currency and figure that out.  BUT I knew they had a Christmas Market opening in mid-November and that it was only 2.5 hours from Vienna.  So we went for it!

All our expectations were exceeded in a good way!  It really was the favorite place we visited on our whole trip (5 different cities)!  One reason I think we loved it was that we stayed in a luxury hotel on rewards points The Hubs racked up with his business travel.  The hotel faced the Danube River and was the best location.  We were given a corner room with a balcony and so many windows to see the gorgeous views of everything lit up at night.  We loved waking up to an amazing view and enjoyed stepping out on the balcony to try to identify all the lit up buildings.  No wonder they call this the Paris of Eastern Europe!

Another reason we loved it was the Christmas Market at Vorosmarty Square.  It was only 2 blocks from our hotel.  We actually went both nights and I stopped by once more before we left the third day.  It was filled with delicious foods, cute decorations, and hand-made things to buy.  I bought most of my souvenirs there. We also unexpectedly LOVED a church we visited - Matthias Church.  It was one of the few we had to pay for to see, but so worth it.  The main reason we did go in there was to get out of the cold wind.  :)  It has to be the most unusual of all the ones we've seen on previous trips.  Most of the inside was hand-painted.  Like, every inch was hand-painted.  Really crazy-then add to that the amazing stained glass windows!

Here's some favorite shots from our time in Budapest:
From our hotel balcony

 Funnicular ride

Fisherman's bastion - some say this inspired Walt Disney to model Sleeping Beauty's castle after it!


Another view from our hotel with the pretty church and statue

Interior of Matthias church - every square inch is covered!


Christmas market

Chain bridge - first link of the cities of Buda and Pest


We walked across Elizabeth bridge

Shoes on the Danube Memorial - we watched "Walking with the Enemy" that has a scene about this sad time in Jewish history.

I thought the subway was interesting - some were newer and some were older - this one had leather straps to hold onto which I thought was neat.


Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park

BUDAPEST


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

THREE DAYS IN VIENNA, AUSTRIA...

What do Mark Twain, Adolf Hitler, and Mozart have in common?  Vienna, Austria!  Vienna is an amazing city with some great history.  When I knew we were going to get to visit, I quickly found some reading material to give me a little background on it.  What I found out was around the turn of the century - 1900 - there were many influential people all there at the same time.  As I read about Gustav Klimt and his famous painting, "The Lady in Gold,"  I found out about the Jewish population in Vienna, their education and wealth, and how it was taken from them abruptly in the war.  I found out that Adolf Hitler went to Vienna to pursue art and was rejected and became the sad person that he turned out to be.  Mark Twain lived in Vienna after the death of his daughter.  He had writer's block and had the need to get away.  He was nicknamed "Vienna's famous guest." I learned about Emperor Franz Joseph, the workaholic, and his beautiful wife Sisi, who had a heart for the people.  Mozart lived there some of his life, about 100 years earlier.  This city's history is truly amazing!

What impressed me about the physical city was the amount of old, large, box-like buildings.  Today they sit alongside modern art and graffiti.  It's an interesting mix of old and new.  There are lots of interesting buildings and palaces and museums.  I knew that The Hubs and I like variety, and didn't want to spend all our time inside a museum.  So here's a glimpse of our three days:

 First glimpse - lots of graffiti on the walls of the canal.
The Hubs enjoyed window shopping all the watches!  Rolex is his favorite!
 Belvedere Palace and Art Museum
 One of many Klimt portraits we saw at Belvedere.
 Even though the gardens aren't in bloom, it's still lovely!
 Off the beaten path - walking the trail on Kahlenberg Mountain with St. Joseph's church behind us.
Stephansdom all lit up in the heart of Vienna!

 We went up in the bell tower of Stephansdom and got to see a close up of the amazing tile roof!

 Me at Schonbrunn Palace - the royal palace of Franz Joseph and Sisi.
Making fun of our friend's Wienerschnitzel at Landtmann's.  
 Museums Quartier lights for the Christmas Market.  It was killing me that all these decorations were going up for the Christmas Market but we would be leaving before they would actually open!
Church on Sunday

This was never on my radar as a place to go, but we loved it!  Loved learning more about Jewish history here, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, seeing some amazing things and getting more connected with the missionaries from our church!

Resources we found to learn about Vienna:  The Lady in Gold, by Anne Marie O'Connor, the movie, "Woman in Gold,"  Other older movies with ties to Vienna:  "The Third Man" and "Sissi."

Monday, November 27, 2017

EUROPE IN NOVEMBER...

We just got back from a 13 day visit to several cities in Austria, Hungary and Germany!  It was exhilarating and exhausting.  I mean, you gotta take full advantage of the time while you're there, right?  It was chilly and overcast most days.  We went as representatives of our church to visit our missionaries in Vienna and also to join them at a retreat for Americans in Europe.  We also did some travel on our own!  It was all great and any fears or negative thoughts I've had about Europe the past several years were dispelled.  We found friendly helpful people almost everywhere we went!

Going to share a few favorites and then focus on each place in future posts:

 Vienna, Austria
Belvedere Palace in Vienna



Chain Bridge in Budapest
Christmas Market in Budapest

Castle museum in Budapest

                     
Salzburg Fortress
Christmas Market in Salzburg



Lake Konigsee near Berchtesgaden
                                                      

Rothenburg ob de Tauber Town Square
                                                   
 Rothenburg from the Town Hall tower
Frankfurt skyline from our hotel
                                        


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

SUPPORT FOR YOUR HEART AND HOME...

Our kitchen has been under construction since late August (Grrr...)  Actually they started it then wasn't sure which way to repair it so started on the facade repair on the front, then did some repairs on our back patio overhang and now are finally back around to the kitchen.  We had noticed over the years that our ceiling was cracking in the middle and after some consultation and measurements, it was discovered that the ceiling in the middle was 1.5" lower than the outsides of the room.  We definitely had a support problem!  You could even tell with the floor in the bedroom above the kitchen.

Sometimes our lives are the same way.  We may look all right on the outside, but slowly, without proper support, things unravel and without some repair, things could come crashing down all around us.  How do we ensure that we stay strong and keep it together?  I'm no counselor, but I feel like I've learned a lot through my life experiences (aka my age!).

MAINTENANCE - check yourself occasionally.  Take a walk, a mental health break, meditate.  Think about what Matthew 7:5 says, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." It's a humbling experience.  I think daily rituals for this are the key.  Pray, read scripture, just find the time that works best for you meet with the Father and examine yourself.

RESTORE - call in a professional if you need to - sometimes we need help! I appreciate the passage in Acts 9 that recalls Saul's conversion.  He was blind for three days afterward and did not eat or drink.  Then Ananias was sent to him.  What do you those three days were like for Saul?  His soul needed repair, and God blessed him through Ananias.  Sometimes it's hard to reach out for help but restoring mental/spiritual health will take your stress away.  God provides peace during rebuilding.  

All of this re-construction going on in our 39 year old house just reminds me that nothing here on this earth was meant to last.  It's all temporary!  I'm so looking forward to that heavenly home God is preparing for his children!






Wednesday, November 1, 2017

FRESH LOOK AT DALLAS...

Dallas is just in our "backyard" and is really nothing special to most Oklahomans.  I went recently to get Global Entry at the airport and The Hubs had a golf date.  So I had a day free after my airport appointment and went to a museum in downtown Dallas I had never been to before, The Sixth Floor Museum.


The Sixth Floor Museum at the Texas Book Depository is the scene of the assassination of JKF about 54 years ago.   The museum is not only about the assassination and the aftermath, but about half of it is about the 1960s culture and politics.  It reminded me of some of the presidential libraries I've visited.  I really enjoyed learning more about all of that since I was born in 1964, about 6 months after the assassination.  There's never really been a presidency like the Kennedy one since then, a wildly popular, young family that many Americans idolized.  The museum was good and you get a headset to guide you through the displays.

There's a few other things downtown that are worth a second look:


Just across the street is a beautiful red courthouse, over 100 years old, that is now a museum.  On our way to dinner (we walked) we also passed the John Bryan cabin, a monument to JFK, and also a strange giant eyeball!!!

The story on the eyeball is that the owner of the lot wanted to build a parking garage but downtown wouldn't let him, they said it "would be an eyesore."  He asked if he could put a sculpture on the grounds and they agreed.  So, now there's an EYEBALL, instead of the EYESORE.  :)




Reunion Tower is a tower you can go up in to get a great view of the city.  We went up in it years ago so we didn't this time.  But, this time it was all lit up at night like a Jack-o-lantern.


Just kind of goes to show you that you shouldn't overlook places you think you know...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

JUST ALONG FOR THE RIDE, PART TWO...

We left Zion National Park at about 11 a.m., and a good thing, too.  I have never seen a park so busy! The lines to get on the shuttle bus looked like Disney World!  The key here, as we learned from our shuttle bus driver is to get in early, do a hike, then get out!  We traveled through a 1.1 mile tunnel through a mountain as we made our way out of Zion.  Pretty neat!  Then on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 2 more hours.  The North Rim is pretty different from the South Rim!  I liked the smaller atmosphere - just one lodge and small cabins.  There were also some rock peninsulas that jutted out into the canyon you could walk out onto.  We ate a good dinner in the restaurant there, overlooking the canyon, and caught the sunset.



The Grand Canyon hikers got up at 3:00 a.m. for a 4:00 start.  No need for me to get up yet, although I really couldn't sleep!  The rest of us left at 6:00 a.m. to see the sun rise.  We dropped off The Runner at the trail head, then each found a solitary place to watch the sun rise, and I took advantage of the time to take communion.  It was beautiful and not too cold!
One of my favorite shots right before sunrise!




We met back up in the Lodge to eat breakfast, and got a text from one of the climbers.  She had felt sick and fainted, and she and her husband were coming back up to the trailhead.  We would pick them up.  She was okay, just disappointed.  

We now were a group of five driving around to the South Rim.  We started off, and enjoyed the Vermillion Cliffs for miles!  We also stopped at the Navajo bridges, and walked the bridge.  As we got into the National Park, we took a break at the Desert Tower.  


We had gotten a call that The Runner had finished!  He had beat us over to the South Rim!  WHAT. Pretty amazing!  It took him 5.5 hours.  He needed ice for an ice bath, so that was our next chore.  We  found some bags at the General Store in the park and found him waiting outside Bright Angel Lodge on the sidewalk.  Only one of our rooms was ready to check into, so we got him in there to recover.

The rest of us enjoyed the rim while we waited.  Some wanted to hike down Bright Angel Trail to try to meet up with the group, but my legs were so sore, I did not!  I wanted to see Hermit's Rest, so I rode the free shuttle bus to the west end and enjoyed the stops. I did that for 2 hours, then got back to the BA trail head at 4 p.m.  I got a text that they were 1.5 miles away, so I went on to explore Kolb Studio and The Lookout.  Both are historic buildings on the rim that now have various functions.  Kolb is an art gallery and bookstore with views of the canyon.  I went in there and in talking with one of the workers, found out that the record for running the canyon was 5 hours, 13 minutes.  The Runner barely missed the record!  He's a humble guy who doesn't really even care about that stuff.

So the group came up at 5:00 p.m., 13 hours after starting.  The trek ended up being 26 miles(they weren't exactly sure how much it was, opinions vary).  The Hubs had a bloody big toe but other than that they were doing well.


We celebrated after a quick clean up with a yummy dinner in the Bright Angel Dining Room!
 Someone may have drunk an entire pitcher of Dr. Pepper!  He earned it, I think.