Nooks and crannies in the rain….Bruges and Leuven, Belgium

My flight karma struck again on our 48 hour trip to Belgium for the Gaelic Games Europe convention.  We spent 40 minutes standing on a crowded bus on the tarmac in Zurich waiting for our plane to be fixed.  It couldn’t be fixed and they switched us to the next plane, but this caused us to miss our connection in Munich and arrive much later in Belgium.  Thank you Swiss Air.

But we eventually arrived in Brussels and immediately took a train to Bruges, where we were met with a ceaseless downpour of rain.  Being prepared, as we usually are, we donned our rain jackets, rain covers and boots.  Off we went, with the umbrella strictly for the camera’s use.  Hence, some of the dreary pictures to follow.

Why did we go to Belgium?  Good question.  Riki has become an officer in a Gaelic sport, hurling, which he has never even played a full game in.  We went for the convention in Leuven, but with Bruges only an hour and a half away, I had to tag along.  Bruges has also been on my list for awhile.  Have you seen the movie, In Bruges?  You should, very funny, and a bit dark.  It was also our first date almost 9 years ago.

Anyway, Bruges is a fairy tale town, what with the canals and such.  And the nooks and crannies.  Despite the rain, which tapered off just in time for sunset, we wandered the Medieval streets and Riki was still able to get some good shots.

We stopped for a drink at De Garre, which is down a small alley in the middle of the old part.  If you go to Bruges, you must go to this place.  They make a beer here that is probably the best I’ve ever tasted.  It’s 11% alcohol but it is so smooth.  There is a limit of three per person, so you don’t have to worry about having too many.  I had two.

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Just pouring

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Stopped raining
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Bruges Town Hall

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Bruges Belfry – we didn’t go up because we are fat Americans, and it was cloudy
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Where the swans sleep

Back across the country later that night, we arrived in Leuven, the site of the convention.  Its a small town but also has a really ornate Gothic Town Hall.  I took a few photos while Riki was in the meeting.  Later that night, we met up with all the Irish people from the convention at an Italian place and had pizza and carafes of wine.

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 Then it was back to Zurich early Sunday morning, in time for Riki to make it to work.

Short trip, but worth it.

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Long weekend, long time coming….Prague, Czechia

Don’t let the name Czechia confuse you.  It is the new official English name of the country we all know as Czech Republic.  But nobody uses it, yet.

We booked this flight 4 months in advance, which is a long time ahead, especially for us.  Swiss Air was having a crazy sale and we couldn’t pass it up.  So we had 4 months to plan, well Riki did, as this was my birthday present from last year, which included all the planning. Therefore, the itinerary consisted mainly of viewpoints, amazing Czech beer and hearty food.  Luckily, I am down for all of those things.

We arrived in the evening and proceeded to wander a bit to find food, and you guessed it, beer.  Prague is full of old cellars, as the city frequently flooded and they decided just to raise the street level and use the upper floor as the ground floor.  We found these cool basements all over town.

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First night beer
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Cellar under the bar with a photography exhibit
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Old Town Square
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Door leading to a surprisingly nice place, in a cellar

We spent five days just wandering, searching for viewpoints, good beer and heavy food.  Besides a tour of the Strahov Monastery library and the Town Hall, we were walking the neighborhoods and checking out the sights the whole time.  Luckily, the weather cooperated.

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Cathedral and castle from across the Vltava River
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Boats on the Vltava

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Tram, type 1
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Powder Tower – one of the old city gates.  Used to store gunpowder, hence the name.

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Jewish cemetery – the largest in Europe
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Tram, type 2
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Giant metronome in Letna Park, where a huge statue of Stalin used to stand
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View of Charles Bridge from Metronome
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Lots of bridges
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Mala Strana metro station

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Monastery side yard where we had more excellent beer
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Cathedral and castle at night

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Sgraffito at the Schwarzenberg Palace

 

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Changing of the guard
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Too many camera phones 😦
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Lennon Wall
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This chick had her photo taken in every pose imaginable

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Charles Bridge from below
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Piss Sculpture – two gyrating men peeing on a map of Czechia
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Prague’s narrowest street has a traffic light for alternating directions

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Giant bronze babies
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Cruising in the river
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Tram, type 1 again and the National Theater
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Riverfront
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Question mark dock
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Dancing House by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry

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At the entrance to the Dancing House
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Cathedral and palace from the top of the Dancing House

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An excellent dark beer complete with accordion music

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The Hanging Man by David Cerny
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View of Church of Our Lady Before Tyn and Old Town Square

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Elevator to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower
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Prague is full of indoor walkways
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The Dead Horse, also by David Cerny

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Rotating 42 layer sculpture of Franz Kafka, also by David Cerny

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I think Riki got as many pictures of these two as the guy they hired
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Astronomical Clock
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See? Here they are again across town.

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Just wandered into a park where there happened to be peacocks, lots of them.

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Albino peacock
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The Original
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More good beer from a Monastery
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Inside the Strahov Library
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Petrified Dodo bird.  And other “Curiosities”

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Cathedral at the top of the hill

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Golden Lane inside the castle walls where the marksmen initially lived.

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Kafka apparently wrote here for two years.

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Charles Bridge
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Astronomical Clock
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Another peacock
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Apostles from the inside of the Astronomical Clock, who we watched do their dance at noon.
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Amazing stained glass in the Old Town Hall
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Cellar under the Old Town Hall
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Another section of the Old Town Hall Cellar

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Fireworks preceding Wenceslas Day from Old Town Bridge Tower

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 Our last day was Wenceslas Day, which commemorates his death in 935.  He was the patron saint of Bohemia, so it is a national holiday in Prague, but besides the fireworks, we didn’t see much going on.

Prague has been on the top of my list for a long time and it did not disappoint.  Were I one to take photos of my food, those would be included here too.  We ate goulash and dumplings and bread and cheese, and not a lot of green stuff.  It was great.