The end of the affair

And by “affair” I mean the love affair with my vacation… The fun we had in the first half of our vacation, continued during the rest of our vacation as well. The most difficult part was the visit to Auschwitz, which my son doesn’t want to talk about any more, and we had some drama too.

The drama… we had a bit of an adventure with Cracow. As Cracow in Poland was quite far from our campsite in the Czech Republic we had rented a self catering apartment there for two nighs. The drive that was supposed to be 4 hours took 8 hours due to several traffic jams… so, no scenic stops on the way like we had originally planned. Then the next morning, my nice Canon EOS camera was stolen from our apartment, while we were inside having breakfast in another room! Who thinks to lock the front door when you’re all inside? That meant that instead of sightseeing we spent a few hours trying to get the camera reported stolen at the police station. First police station we went to no one spoke anything other than Polish. We got to speak to a translator on the phone who asked us to be at another police station two hours later. Once there, we had to wait another hour. This is the family at the police station making fun of having enough of waiting…

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Being interviewed and having the report made up took another hour but as the office was too small, the kids and I had to wait outside. So, nope, never saw an actual Polish police officer’s desk myself but the officers we met were very friendly. After finally being able to make that report (we need it so we can claim the loss from our insurance), we had some time left to walk through Cracow for sightseeing and in the evening after dinner we took a little carriage ride through the city. All’s well that ends well.

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The kids had a little more adventure than I did on our vacation (I’m not so much of an adventurer when it comes to this speed & climbing stuff): they went motor-karting and tobogganing, they went down fast waterslides at a waterpark and my daughter even perusaded my husband to go climbing with her.

What makes this vacation extra memorable are the beautiful mountains and the beautiful views they provide. We usually have very cultural vacations visiting cities, churches and castles. While we had done some of that as well, it mostly was a nature vacation this time around and it was great! We went hiking a few times; one time we hiked down a ski slope (but without the snow)…

Another time we went up the highest Czech mountian Snezka (1600 m) in a cable car. The views going up were beautiful…

… and the views from the top were awesome.

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We also hiked up to the spot where the river Elbe starts. Basically that spot is a few pools of water and one pool that is walled and marked officially as the start of the river.

Even nuns hike up to the source of the Elbe… 🙂 I have a bit of a soft spot for nuns, I like seeing them around, but these nuns didn’t stay long to admire God’s miracle of creating a river (10 seconds at most) and quickly continued on their hike.

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We also went back to Wroclaw again and on the way stopped at an old medieval church with beautiful murals and painted wooden ceilings.

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In Wroclaw cathedral we lit candles remembering my dad and for my mom.

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I had the best iced tea ever there as well!

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I was also pleased to run into this little grafitti image of one of my heroes, David Bowie, on a wall in Wroclaw!

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Oh, and popping bubbles was fun too.

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We also visited a cave with an underground lake…

… and I played around with my camera (we bought a replacement camera even though we’re still awaiting an insurance refund) capturing the reflection in my son’s sunglasses or my daughter jumping into a ballpool…

The most heartwarming part of the vacation is that our kids still like to occasionally hug us, even though they are (almost) teenagers and basically too cool for this world…

And so the sun sets on our vacation (left is a view from our campsite, right a view from the pizzeria we had dinner at during our stopover in Germany on our way home)…

Yesterday I took my daughter and her bff to the beach (while my husband stayed home and my son went to see his girlfriend)…

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… and next week it’s back to school for the kids, back to work for my husband and on with job searching for me (my contract to my last job ended this past Wednesay, just as I finished my accumulated vacation days).  As always, I love these weeks I get to spend with just my husband and the kids and it’s always also a little sad when it’s over… seems like I will have to turn to Richard Armitage news (there’s been lots around lately I gather!) to soften the blow. 😉

I love holidays!

We’re a good week into our family holiday and having a marvelous time! We’re trying to strike a balance between seeing lots of things but also ‘just hangin’… Today (well, technically yesterday!) has very much been a ‘just hangin’ day (I finished my 2nd book in a week!), which is why I can get around to typing all this…  and I can ogle the latest gorgeous Richard Armitage selfie! Thud!

However, I hardly have time to catch up with Armitage news (and there seems to be a lot of Berlin Station stuff now that I will only get around to reading/watching  when I get home again) as our holidays are taking up all of my attention!

We’re staying in the ski region in the north of the Czech Republic. We haven’t gone up to the highest mountain yet, but plan to do so probably next week. We have more than enough things to keep us happy in the meantime!

We first had a two day trip coming here… quite long in the car but everyone held up well…

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… we set up our campsite and for the first time my son has his own little tent which he loves…

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The first day here we just hung out…

Then, the next day, my husband and I had our 17th wedding anniversary (& exactly 24.5 years together)!

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The kids only reluctantly pose for me for pictures…

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… so I photograph them from behind a lot, like here when we hiked along awesome rock formations and had to wear emergency plastic raincoats that we bought as we hadn’t counted on the rain!

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One rock formation had an entrance that somehow reminded me of The Lord of he Rings : The Return of of the King when Aragorn has to enter the mountain to summon the dead spirits…

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I also melt at the beauty of wild flowers, like here in a field in front of a town castle not far from our campsite…

… and these yellow flowers look like a stock photo from somewhere but I swear I photographed this one myself!

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We’ve also been to Poland to see the villages where some of my ancestors lived in the 16th & 17th centuries before they emigrated to The Netherlands. We found the site of the old church & graveyard of the largest village where 2 generations of my ancestors were buried…

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… and although there are no old graves there anymore, there is a plaque that commemorates the people who lived, worked and prayed there and were buried there. That includes my ancestors!

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These villages lie in the valley of what my husband calls ‘the lonely mountain’ – lovely little Hobbit reference there. 🙂

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In a little graveyard we also found an alternative spelling of the name “Richard” (which coincidentally is also one of my son’s middle names)… it is spelled “Ryszard”.

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We went to Wroclaw, also in Poland, where my daughter splashed through water and once you left the central square there were enough old apartment buildings that reminded us of the communist era…

… and we came across these little gnomes throughout the city that are little statues made after grafitti drawings that used to be found painted on walls to protest the communist regime!

Oh, and we have also photographed our shadows and have had nicely shaped ice-cream…

Yes, I love holidays and hearing, seeing and experiencing new things and I especially love this quality family time!

Ack, it’s close to 2 am by now! I need to go to sleep…

Away we go…

I don’t expect to be blogging much (if at all) over the next few weeks: our yearly family summer vacation starts tomorrow!

To do list

  • Collect caravan from storage – CHECK
  • Get work done – CHECK  (albeit barely; had to work a lot from home today to get it all done but it’s all done now! And after the summer I need to search for a new job…)
  • Fill car up on gas – CHECK
  • New Birkenstock slippers to walk on all summer – CHECK
  • Get e-books and other books together – CHECK
  • Buy magazines and comics for kids in the car – CHECK
  • Get groceries for on the road – CHECK
  • Make yearly ‘Summer music cd’s’  for in the car – CHECK (kids choice of music, except for 3 vetoed numbers – I just can not stomach Chris Brown)
  • Find passports – CHECK
  • Pack up clothes, towels, toiletries, etc. –  ALMOST CHECK (kids and husband are done, I still need to get my act together)
  • Tidy house – ALMOST CHECK
  • Get instructions for cat-care to the neighbours – ALMOST CHECK (although they know what to do)

So, we’re almost all set. We’re heading to the Czech Republic again this year, close to the border with Poland (we’ll also be visiting Poland)…

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It will be a two day drive (about 1000 km) and we leave tomorrow morning! The kids are being… teenagers… so I have a feeling this vacation will be a bit different from other years. It will be interesting and I’m looking forward to it! I think… 😉

Babelsberg

It looks like Richard Armitage’s latest project, “Berlin Station” may be filmed in the Babelsberg filmstudio in Berlin (see this German article: Neue Agenten für Studio Babelsberg?).

The Babelsberg Studio has produced films since 1912 (according to Wikipedia) and before World War II it was known as the UFA Film Studio. After the war it was known as DEFA (East Germany made some films there) and after the fall of the Berlin Wall it became the Babelsberg Film Studio. “Metropolis” was made there in the 1920s and in the 1930s “The Blue Angel” (with Marlene Dietrich) was filmed there and Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of Will” about the Nazi Nuremberg Party Congress was produced there under UFA flag; the extremely anti-semitic Nazi propaganda film “Jud Süss” was also filmed there in 1940. In more recent years films such as “The Bourne Ultimatum”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “The Reader”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Hunger Games” were filmed there.

So much for general background; my personal angle to this whole Babelsberg thing is that 3 years ago my family and I visited Babelsberg Filmstudios during our summer holiday in East Germany. We only saw the theme park side of things and were allowed a little tour around the outdoor set of Germany’s soap opera “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten” (a show I have never actually watched).

So, I have been to Babelsberg in Berlin and now Richard Armitage may follow in my footsteps. 🙂

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Near the entrance of the park I was surprised to find the caravan used by Peter Lustig in his children’s show “Löwenzahn”. I loved “Löwenzahn” and was really stoked to see the caravan for real, a lovely reminder of my youth in Germany!

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We had all sorts of adventures… the kids sat on “Fuchur” from “The Neverending Story” (ah, how time flies – they look so small in these pictures!), we were scared by orks from “The Lord of the Rings”, we met King Kong and my son was ‘framed’ on a throne…

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We saw a spectacular stunt show (that we weren’t allowed to film or photograph)…

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… and my husband was picked to star in a “The Three Musketeers” show! Not his most flattering look and yet, he really is my hero! We have a DVD of the production so, yes, I am married to a (film)star already. 🙂

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Oh, and my kids were beheaded…

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… and we were inside a U-boat…

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Yes, it was a memorable visit! I hope Richard Armitage will have as much fun as we had!

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What I learned on holiday – part 2 (and happy birthday, Richard!)

I’m back home – have been for over a week! Had a Sunday to relax unpack and get organized before heading back to work again on Monday… for as long as it lasts as my hours will soon be cut drastically (I knew that would be happening so no dramatic feelings there)… Anyway, that’s a whole different kettle of fish…

The past week and a half have been busy outside work too, getting stuff running again here, organizing kids to get them ready for school, see family again, etc. Yet I still desperately try to hold on to the holiday feeling and uploading some pictures here helps with that. 🙂 So, here are a few more things I learned on holiday:

Human bones can be decorative

We visited Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora. The small church boats an interior that is decorated with the bones of 40.000 (!!) people!

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For more info see their website: http://www.ossuary.eu/index.php/en/ossuary

People wanted to be buried there because it was believed that the cemetery was sprinked with earth taken from Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. When the graveyard became too full, bones were dug up and used as decoration for this church. Yikes. It’s one of those places where you feel uneasy yet fascinated at the same time. Not unlike what RA has done with the character of Francis Dollarhyde…

Churches, especially old ones, remain fascinating to visit

Such beautiful things to be seen! The Kutna Hora Cistercian cathedral had beautiful 15th century art and murals, beautiful stained glass windows and a lovely winding staircase tucked away into the corner.

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Those 3 towers in the background of this stained glass window are the towers of Kutna Hora cathedral

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Judaism is dead in the Czech Republic

There are memorials to murdered Jews during WWII, there are old towns with Jewish quarters where there are no more Jews, there are synagogues turned into churches, there are Jewish graveyards, there is Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp… only in Prague have I seen signs of a living Jewish community, everywhere else it seems dead. Judaism is history and something to be displayed in a museum and it makes me feel so indescribably sad…

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Synagogue in Trebic that is now a museum

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In Terezin (Theresienstadt) – the place where the dead were prepared for cremation.

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Inscription on a Jewish tombstone in the Jewish cemetery in Trebic. This is something my mother always says and I love it. ~ “When you live remembering your loved ones, it means they aren’t dead, they are just far away. Only those who are forgotten are dead.”

My favourite Czech word so far is “pozor”

‘Pozor’ means ‘Beware’. You see ‘pozor’ on many traffic signs and all around you and it’s one of the few words of Czech I can make out when I hear Czech being spoken. I have taken a liking to it for some reason, I love the way it sounds and it’s easy to pronounce and throw out there whenever the mood arises. We even bought a sign with the word on it… (šelma means ‘predator’). Quite appropriate for a cat-loving family like us.

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I have developed a taste for vodka

vodkaWhen we holiday in France, we sample local wines. In the Czech republic local drinks seem to be beer and vodka. I’m not too much of a beer drinker (although I’ll drink one once in a while) but I did try the vodka. I didn’t think I’d like pure vodka very much (so far I have only had it mixed with something) but boy did I take to it! DH and I often drank a small glass before bedtime. One night we decided to stargaze and look out for the meteor showers that were passing by. The kids saw some of it, then crashed into their beds after a long day. DH and I then proceeded to sit there and sip vodka, gazing at the sky together. When I got up to walk to the bathroom… man, the world swayed! And I hadn’t been feeling like I was even tipsy or anything. I saw a few shooting stars go by then… 😉

I love sunset time!

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Prague just after sunset

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On our way ‘home’ to our campsite.

Whatever happend to penmanship over the centuries?

We saw 16th century grafitti (and more examples than this one!) on the walls of a castle we visited (Pernstejn) and the writing just looks far more decorative than writing generally does nowadays…

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Fountains are indispensable in summer!

Especially on hot days (and we had some) they make for welcome refreshment, especially for my daughter who sometimes had it tough in the heat. I regularly cooled her off with rubbing water in her face and neck but it was even better to come across a fountain. Or a working water pump.

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Our caravan/trailer can withstand a freak hailstorm

One moment we were sitting out in the sun, the next moment we had to rush inside when a downpour started followed by a hailstorm with quite large hailstones! It sounded terribly loud and we could hardly look through the windows, it was raining so hard. The hail lasted for a few minutes and then it poured for a while afterwards until the world was all cool again… and beautifully foggy.

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My kids can only take so much of having their picture taken…

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But luckily I can also take pictures without them knowing…

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I am a master wasp killer… 

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My breakfast table wasp trap and the staggering result of during-breakfast-wasp-trapping.

… and I look OK with a safety helmet on.

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I can read 6 books on a 3 week family holiday!

And it’s not like we just sat around doing nothing. We did loads of stuff and had many outings and saw many, many things. On Richard Armitage related books – I also read Edith Wharton’s “Summer” and I have got to say I can totally picture Richard in the role of Mr. Royall! I am already looking forward to seeing this!

I still have books left to read – I finally started on the Call the Midwife books, but reading tempo has alas drastically slowed down now that ‘real life’ has started again…

Finally: not something I learned, but something I wanted to say:

Happy belated birthday, Richard Armitage! I was thinking of you, honest! Just as I have done every year on August 22nd for the past 8 or 9 years…

RA SD Comic Con

“44? Who? Me?”