|One of the many Gothic cathedrals we saw. This one in Vienna|
|The Parliament Building on the Pest side of Budapest on the Danube River in Hungary|
|The Wawel Castle and wall that dominates Krakow, Poland's skyline|
|Pierogies. I had too many of these!|
|Living quarters at Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland|
|Prague in Czech Republic is hard to beat, but overrun by tourists|
|Katie at what remains of the Berlin Wall in Germany|
|Looking down from tower at palace in Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic|
We didn't hike, although we saw nearly 2,000 miles of countryside and walked our legs off looking around. The Tatra Mountains separating Slovakia and Poland were the only high mountains we saw.
We flew in and out of Calgary rather than Great Falls, cutting our fares in half ($750 roundtrip!).
I'm very overwhelmed by what we saw and experienced and it will take some time to sort it out.
The big takeaway was the rich culture of the area despite its war-wracked history. In recent history cities like Warsaw, Dresden and Berlin were reduced to rubble during WWII, but have been beautifully restored.
Our trip was heavy acknowledging Jewish enclaves that had been destroyed by Nazis, and Soviet monuments attesting to Russian influence in Eastern Europe.
The local foods in these countries are simply horrible; heavy meat-based, creamy sauces, dumplings. The pastries, beers and wines sort of make up for the bad entrees.
We traveled in the off-season, but still found that most sites were overrun. I can't imagine what the traffic must be like during the summer height of the season.
Country-by-country here are some of my observations:
|Secular and sacred architecture in Vienna, Austria dominates the skyline|
This city is very easy to get around in, but watch out for aggressive drivers and don't expect to cross streets except at cross walks.
A major gap in my education emerged: that Austria had been liberated after WWII. In fact, it took until 1955 for the Soviets to let go. We visited a major Soviet monument to that occupation.
|Hungarian Parliament Building at night in Budapest|
|Cobblestone and ancient buildings in Medieval Krakow|
|Stalin's gift to Warsaw, the Palace of Culture|
|The "Black Madonna" at Czestochowa|
|The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany|
|Dresden, Germany Opera House rebuilt after Allies destroyed it in WWII|
|Infant of Prague Shrine in Prague, Czech Republic|
On the way of Cesky Krumlov in the Bohemian countryside, we stopped for a tour of the Budweiser beer plant in Budojvice, where Budvar beer, not to be confused with America's Budweiser is brewed. There are historic trademark cases being fought in international courts over which company has the rights to the name Budweiser. The Bohemian Budweiser is a Pilsner, although we drank a lager version on the tour. The Czech people are inveterate beer drinkers who believe in the health benefits of beer. Our young, athletic female tour guide, drank a beer with us while on the tour!
|Katie at Hluboká Castle where we stayed in Czech Republic|