Thursday, May 26, 2011


We arrived home at midnight greeted with a light mist in our face from the Humboldt fog and the smell of the ocean in our noses. Home once again. We had mixed feelings about coming home. On one hand it was nice to be where our bed was but on the other hand we didn't want this trip to be over. There were so many wonderful adventures and even places that I wanted to call home (St. Georgen, Austria). Are we ready for the humdrum life to start again? Do we want that mist in our faces again? I have to keep telling myself this is not the end but part of a lifelong journey. An adventure that never stops but continues on and on in different directions.

I am so grateful to all the people that we met. Everyone truly enriched our lives and touched us in a special way. To all of our host families, our friends, and our family that we have met I want to thank you for all the love, generosity, and kindness that you have shown to Regina and myself.

We will never forget our European Adventure.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Going Home

Our last day in Europe consisted of helping Fr. Francis out with his garden and hauling wood pellet bags into a closet in his house. We also spent some time petting and feeding the dogs that befriended Fr. Francis. Whenever they see his car coming up the very narrow road to his house, they run ahead of the car and greet us when we get out with adorable faces and muddy paws. Fr. Francis also took us around the area to see the churches he has worked in. The landscape of this area is beautiful!

We have a full travel day tomorrow. As the night closes in here, we are packing and silently giving Europe a farewell. We have seen many things and grown as people. We have been blessed and are ready for returning.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Isernia, Where is That?

Happy Octave of Easter!

After being crushed by the Papal Easter Vigil lines (it was like going to a popular rock concert and standing by the stage), we decided to celebrate Easter Sunday Mass at the Pontifical North American Seminary with our friend Fr. Joseph. It was probably the smallest Easter Sunday Mass we have celebrated in our lives (except, perhaps, the Easter Sunday Masses I attended in Mad River as a child, although this may have been smaller than those). It was a very quiet Mass in the crypt chapel with maybe 20 people in attendance including the 9 priests who celebrated the Mass. The people attending were mostly the seminarians that had not gone home for Easter break.

After the short Mass, we went outside and could hear the singing from the Mass at St. Peter’s. We waited a bit and then trekked down for the Urbi et Orbi blessing. The pope said, “Happy Easter” in many different languages. He then blessed the people in attendance and all the people they brought with them in their hearts, giving them a plenary indulgence of divine mercy. We then shared a delicious Easter lunch with the seminarians and said farewell to Fr. Joseph.

On the way back to the apartment we were staying in, we took the scenic route through the park with beautiful views of the city of Rome. We walked through eerie or perhaps comical part of the park which consisted of a large number of white busts of semi-recent influential Italian political figures. Surveying the busts, we found none other than Mr. Jim Lennon!!! Well, it was supposedly someone else but you can judge whether it was a bust of Jim Lennon or not. I had to get my photo taken with it.

For our last days in Europe, we decided to visit Fr. Francis Tiso, a priest friend of ours whom we have not seen in about 10 years. He lives near a small ancient town that even many Italians have not heard of. Isernia has ancient ruins and buildings that go back even to the third century BC.

Fr. Francis showed us his garden and shared his plans with the trees and herbs that grew in it. If the weather was better, we would help around the garden but it is lightly raining currently. We ate delicious food while we talked and reflected on the state of Christian ministry in many locales of the world. Fr. Francis showed us around the town and pointed out historical points of interest, some of which would be easily missed by the untrained eye. One I found to be particularly of interest was of the ancient laws for bringing cattle into the town. It had two bovine heads carved into stone with words beneath it on a wall.

We will be traveling back to Eureka in a few days. What an epic trip! It was in many ways, a rite of passage for Bernie and me. We have had so many great experiences and have incorporated new people into the fabric of our lives along with revisiting old friendships!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Christ Has Risen!

Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter) everyone! It is 3 in the morning and Regi and I got back a little bit ago from the Easter Vigil mass in the Basilica. I am so filled with joy that I just had to say Happy Easter to everyone. Regi and I went this morning under the basilica to see the tombs of the popes and saints and we realized that today traditionally in the very early church the Christians would go into the crypts symbolizing the time Jesus was laying in the tomb.

The photo I added is a photo of the pope baptizing new Catholics into the church. It was very emotional.

It has been a joyful day and there are so many stories that we want to add to this blog when we get a chance. I think tomorrow we might get a chance to write more. But for now we wish everyone a very happy Easter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Days in Rome

Regi and I just got back from the Good Friday service in Rome. It's 1 in the morning but I wanted to share a little of our experiences with everyone. We attended the Chrism mass yesterday and afterwards I went off to photograph the surrounding area. St. Peter's Basilica was amazing at night and most of the churches were open for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the repose alter (a side alter - it represents Jesus being laid in the tomb). There were lots of people out going from one church to another all evening.

Today Regi and I went to the Vatican Museum and saw all kinds of stunning art. It's unbelievable how much art there is. Actually, the Vatican has the largest collection of art in the world. Afterwards, we attended the Good Friday Service which was very solemn and reverent. We tried making it to the Coliseum for the Station of the Cross but the Metro line was not running so we saw it on the live big screens that they had up.

We are very exhausted but our spirits are high. Tomorrow is another packed day from sunrise to sunset so I better get some sleep.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Caput Mundi

Ubi caritas
This MP3 was found at Dilandau MP3

Regi and I left our new friends this morning in the little town of Montemolino and made it to Roma (Rome)!! To add to the excitement we were able to get in contact with the priest that married us. After Fr. Joe married us he was transferred to Rome and became the dean at the Pontifical North American College and Seminary. Later on in the week, we will be meeting up with him. He was able to get us tickets to all of the masses of Holy Week! We will be going to the Chrism mass, the Passion of the Lord, the Way of the Cross, Easter Vigil, and Easter Mass. This has truly been a prayer answered. We were instructed by the very joyful and cheerful nuns to show up at least 2 to 3 hours early for each event and for Easter Vigil we should get in line 7 hours early!

We found an interesting bed and breakfast to stay at just 15 minutes away from St. Peter’s Basilica. A lady originally from Texas lets people stay in one of her rooms in her house. She does volunteer work in India with the Tibetan monks and lets them stay at her house once a year. They are the ones that convinced her to run a bed and breakfast. She seems very welcoming and kind to all living beings. We look forward to stay with her.

Unfortunately, I was not able to go were we wanted to go for my birthday. We really wanted to go to the island of Sardinia but it would have meant going over budget, sleeping on the deck of a ferry over night, and we were happy staying in Montemolino. It’s o.k. We are on this wonderful trip and if we ever do return we will make sure to visit the beautiful island of Sardinia. As for now, we are pilgrims in the “Capital of the World”- Caput Mundi!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cafe...No tea...No cafe...No tea.....Ahhhhhhhh!!!!! Latte? Con Latte? No, Solo Latte.

Holy Week started off this Sunday with “Palm Sunday” here in Montemolino, Italy. It was a bit different though. Instead of palm branches we used olive branches. It was a little local flavor. Regi and I went to confession today. I didn’t understand the absolution because the priest said it in Italian but I still felt the weight of sin lifting off of me just the same as if it was said in English. It is truly a peaceful feeling.

Afterwards, we stepped outside to walk home and Anunciata, a lady that lives in the rectory next to the church saw us and asked in Italian if we would like “café”? We tried to say, “No, but can we have tea instead?” It didn’t translate very well. After quite the verbose conversation, or lack there of, we convinced her to let us have milk. We had so much fun talking with her even though we barely knew what each other were saying. Her name was Anunciata which translates to “the annunciation” or “to announce” and it fit her perfectly. Claudia, the lady that we are staying with us was saying that if you need to know something just ask Anunciata. She knows all the gossip of the town. It was great spending some time with her.

Yesterday, Claudia took us to two local towns; Todi and Monte Castello. Most of the old towns in this area were built on top of hills.

In Todi, many young people were running around. Claudia bought some gelato for us. Bernie chose two Mediterranean flavors: pine nut and walnut & fig. The pine nut was weird but the walnut and fig was delicious. I chose mixed berry and a deep chocolate (fondata ?). We sat outside at a table next to a table with four rowdy teenage boys. I noticed the ruckus and moved to a seat where I could at least see if something was going to fly at me. They noticed my move and left, smiling and waving at me as they went. They made a mess with their cups and I was very proud of them when they came back and picked them up.

From the vineyard on the hillside, one can see the town of Monte Castello, a walled medieval town that sits on top of the next hill. Every day, Bernie would look up at it and say we were going to walk there and explore. After our adventure in Todi, I told Claudia that Bernie really wanted to see Monte Castello. It was dark and Bernie offered to walk home. He was in all black and the road is narrow and windy so she said no. She planned on driving him up the hillside as a surprise and scolded me for telling him that was where she was taking us. The three of us wandered around the town taking night pictures. It was very beautiful. In this town, there is the smallest full-sized theater in the world. It has 99 seats and is like a dollhouse theater with the special box seats for the people who want to pay more.

Today is Bernie’s birthday and we continued to work in the vineyard. Bernie requested the Sweet Potato Queen’s Chocolate Stuff (it is delicious, look it up on Google) for a birthday treat. It is sitting upstairs right now and we will go to eat it.

Regi and Bernie

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get Your Tickets Here!

Regi and I started lining out our itinerary for our visit to Rome during Holy Week and Easter. I was able to secure free tickets for the “Way of the Cross” in the Colosseum and Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. The other events were sold out at the U.S. office so I am trying to get those tickets through the Vatican. There are going to be so many people there but I think it will be an unforgettable experience.

Regi was able to get a hold of Fr. Francis (an old friend) through Facebook. Facebook has been amazing to find old friends, family and new friends. We just happened to have a few days free after Holy Week to visit him. It will be an enjoyable little trip south of Rome.

Here in Montemolino the rows of grapes are slowly getting cleared of weeds. It is a great opportunity for us to work on our tans before heading back to foggy Eureka. I must say Regi has now a nice off white color. :-)

Regi has been treating our hosts to different types of American treats. We first made chocolate chip cookies that the young son seemed to love, then the other night we made chocolate brownies that came out nice and gooey in the center (perfect). Today Regi made oatmeal cookies. However, it seems that Italy doesn’t have oats so we used a Muesli cereal that I think tastes even better than normal oats.

The first clouds since we arrived over a week ago have formed over us today. The grandmother said that she can feel the rain coming in her foot. We will see if her foot is correct.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring is in the Air

Spring has definitely arrived in Italy. All the trees have fresh green buds. The wildflowers are coloring the fields with bright yellows, reds, whites, and others. Everywhere you look, life is energized, young, and excited to see the warm sun again.

Yesterday we took a day off and traveled to Assisi, the town where St. Francis and St. Clare lived and died. We first arrived in Santa Maria degli Angeli. It is a small town on the valley floor below Assisi. It was here that St. Francis built his church. The original church still stands and a second larger church was built over the top of it. It was a little overwhelming to actually touch the church that St. Francis built with his own hands. We also got to see the rope that he wore around his waist. You could even see the blood on it from his stigmata. It was breath taking. After Santa Maria degli Angeli we boarded the bus again and headed up a steep mountain to the town of Assisi. Stepping off the bus, we felt like we had stepped back in time to when St. Francis walked the same streets. All the buildings, all the streets, everything seemed like they had never changed. The streets were extremely narrow and everything was made of stone. There were several churches. Regi and I stepped into the first one and we found that it was the church that St. Francis and St. Clare where baptized in.

As we continued on we found ourselves at the top of the mountain at which the castle was that protected the little village. From that point we had a stunning view of the village. We started our way down and ran across the strangest fence. At first we thought that it was a fence that someone had put beads on but on closer inspection we found that people started putting their gum on the fence. As we followed the fence the amount of gum increased to a point that there was no wire left exposed. It was very strange but yet artistic. Following the signs, we made our way to the Basilica of St. Francis. In this church there are the remains of the saint. The church was very impressive with frescos covering all the interior walls depicting the life of the saint. It was sad having to leave that holy village.

The other night I noticed some great cloud formations so Regi and I climbed the mountain by our house to watch the sun set. It was so peaceful and romantic. As we returned to the house I noticed the light on the house and the streaks of clouds in the bluish black sky. A couple of long exposures later I had a stunning image.

The grandmother arrived here the other day for a visit and is making some great authentic Italian meals for us. I can’t wait for tomorrow when see plans to make a tiramisu.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Living in the land of St. Francis

The April 1 train and bus strike had a planned beginning time and a planned ending time. This seemed a little strange to us but we are not complaining. The strike ended at 9PM on that Friday so busses and trains were running as usual in Italy on April 2. The lines were a little longer since many were rescheduling their trips but overall, things ran smoothly for our travel day.

Once we were in Perugia, we found few people knew English but a young lady helped us (through pictures and hand gestures) find our way to the little local train to Todi, the largest town near the village of Montemolino where we are staying.

The house we are staying in is at least 600 years old. It looks like a small castle. Walking around the hillside property among the vineyard, olive trees, flowers, and other fruit trees, I feel like St. Francis praising the Lord for His creation. The property runs down to the Tiber River where fishermen and herons like to rest. The buds on the trees are waking up to the warm sunshine in the spring air. The songs of many birds and the rushing of the river is our music.

Our gracious hostess took us on a beautiful hike through the wooded hill up to the church along a path where people regularly gather wild asparagus. The church is placed on top of the hill is as if the hill itself was reaching up in prayer to God. The church community was very welcoming and eagerly spoke to us in Italian.

Our work started Monday. The newest vines needed to have the weeds removed around them so they will not get choked out. We started in the cool morning and worked until the early afternoon sun took over. (Our hostess is letting me borrow a sun hat) There are many rows to be worked on so this might be the majority of our work. What we don’t finish in the vineyard the son will have to finish during his Easter break so he is encouraging us strongly to get it all done.

While working on the weeds in the vineyard Bernie paused. “We are working on a vineyard in Italy.” The realization was a moment of deep appreciation. The vineyard is up on the hillside and the lush hillsides around are scattered with other gracefully aged stone buildings. The river continued on its way below us as we paused. The chorus of birds lifted our souls upward from the dirt and roots of the weeds our attention had been so wrapped up in. Working so near to where St. Francis lived and died we could feel his spiritual power drawing us ever closer to Heaven and the love of Christ.

Today we are traveling to Perugia where the family just inherited an agriturisimo hotel (a bed and breakfast on a farm). A group of people are looking to stay this week so we are off to clean it up a bit.



Friday, April 1, 2011

Different Translations

It is very interesting what information gets understood when we can’t speak much German and my cousins can’t speak much English. When we told Oscar, my second cousin, that we were leaving on the 30th he was very sad and said that he thought we were leaving on the 1st of April. He said, “Time visiting was too short.” So we decided to stay one more night. It gave us a chance to visit with Oscar’s son Günter and his daughters some more. He was very kind and took me to see Vienna at night so I could shoot some night time photos. It was a wonderful night and Günter had an amazing knowledge of all the architects that built the buildings and the dates they were built.

Regi and I decided to stop over again in Venice on our way to the Assisi area in Italy. We planned to stay just one night but in the morning we discovered that the train and bus personnel decided to go on strike for a day so we couldn’t continue on our journey. The people at Hotel Bernardino were very generous. They gave us a larger room for the night and the evening front desk lady (literally) ran to the local market for us and bought a phone card that we needed. How is that for service?

That evening I shouldered my camera and headed out again for a few twilight photos of a little church near our hotel and my favorite water way. They came out amazing. I really love the feel and quality of twilight photos.

We look forward to be on the vineyard tomorrow if all goes well…

Where in the world is Bernie’s birthday party? (Insert Carmen San Diego theme song)

Continuing with the clues to where we are going for Bernie’s birthday, here is the next clue;

1.) This place has been inhabited since prehistoric time. Over 6,500 dwellings have been identified.
2.) This place is home to a colony of miniature albino donkeys.
3.) The language is based on Latin but still bears the influence of the ancient languages of the Nuraghic period (such as the word Nuraghe itself) as well as smatterings of Catalan, Corsican, Arabic, Phonecian and Genoese... legacies left by the many invaders.
4.) They have a toxic local herb which causes convulsive laughter in its victims. There is an English phrase that comes from this herb.
5.) Inhabitants here have the highest percentage of people over the age of 100 in the world (135 people per million)... maybe due to the fantastic diet and unpolluted air?

Two people so far have guessed correctly! Congratulations to Martha Fosnaugh and Irene Cleenewerck (Fosnaugh). Sorry it is not Germany, Lombardy, or Estonia.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back to Vienna

Where in the world is Bernie’s birthday party? (Insert Carmen San Diego theme song)

Continuing with the clues to where we are going for Bernie’s birthday, here is the next clue;

1.) This place has been inhabited since prehistoric time. Over 6,500 dwellings have been identified.
2.) This place is home to a colony of miniature albino donkeys.
3.) The language is based on Latin but still bears the influence of the ancient languages of the Nuraghic period (such as the word Nuraghe itself) as well as smatterings of Catalan, Corsican, Arabic, Phonecian and Genoese... legacies left by the many invaders.
4.) They have a toxic local herb which causes convulsive laughter in its victims. There is an English phrase that comes from this herb.

Two people so far has guessed correctly! Congratulations to Martha Fosnaugh and Irene Cleenewerck (Fosnaugh). Sorry it is not Germany, Lombardy, or Estonia.

We returned to Vienna on our way back from Prague to explore the city and visit a few more of my relatives. We were graciously invited to stay with Oscar and Rosie (my second cousins). On our first day we visited my grandparents and great grandparent’s grave as well as Oscar’s family grave.

Afterwards Regi and I headed out on the town and saw Stephansdom (St. Stephan’s Cathedral). It was a very gothic style cathedral with huge towers. During World War II the roof collapsed in one of the bombings and my mother bought one of the bricks that replaced the roof after the war. The knowledge of that was special to me.

After Stephansdom, we headed to the Haus der Musik. It was an interactive museum where we could explore all the different aspects of sound and how we react to it. In one room they recreated the sounds of being in the womb. The heart beat of the mother was quite loud and there was a gentle whooshing sound of liquid all around us. It was quite comforting actually. On another floor they had different rooms for the major composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Handle. We saw the actual spectacles that Schubert wore and the door to Beethoven’s house. A modern fung shui expert also assessed why Beethoven moved approximately every six months. She concluded that he was an earth sign with an imbalanced masculine to feminine side and for some reason that didn’t jibe with the apartments he lived in.

Today we decided to get away from the crowds and take a walk along the Danube River. It was a bright warm day out just perfect for a walk. I was excited to see a man on a high wheeled bike. Regi wanted to go for a swim. She said the water was almost just right.

Tonight I plan to photograph the city at night. It is truly my favorite way to photograph cities. They always seem to look better at night.

Tomorrow we are off again to Innsbruck were we might do a little cross-country skiing before we start our work on an Italian vineyard.

Chouse (bye)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Visiting my mother's birth place - Urspitz, Czech Republic

We met Karel (a friend of a friend of my mother) in front of the Ve Cafe where we stayed the night. He had asked the front desk man/waiter if we were there. I think he asked for a Schutz. He did not know our names. Regardless, we still met up. He was very concerned with our travels to Vienna and wanted to help us out. It was very difficult to explain to him that we bought a train pass (the Eurail Pass). He kept saying what I think was that the train was more expensive than the bus. He drove us to his house in his car that is a lot like my old Geo Metro. We met his Frau (wife) who was very nice. We tried very hard to communicate in German. It seemed like there was not a single person in the whole town who spoke any English. Not everyone spoke German and we definitely do not know Czech.

Finally, they found a college student off of the street who helped us explain to them that we do have a train ticket. He explained to us that Karel would drive us to Brno. Unfortunately, he was impatient to go somewhere and ran out the door.

We walked to the river and said, "Dobry den" to the fishermen. We went back to the house for a delicious lunch of pork meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and canned bell peppers. I showed some pictures of my family and they showed us some of their pictures.

He then drove us to the cemetery and we looked for a Schutz grave. There were a lot of new stones and a few unreadable old stones. Unfortunately, we did not find my uncle Reinfried Schutz’s grave.

We went to mass in the church that my mother attended when she was young. It was a wonderful feeling being there. We met the priest and were able to communicate to him that my mother was from here and that we were from California. He was very kind and happy to meet us.

After mass we walked over to the house that my mother was born in. The lady was very happy to show us the house and let me take photos for Mama. The house changed a bit but we found out that the kitchen where my mother was born was now the dining room. I was most touched when I saw the old well in the back yard. I could see Mama drawing water from it as a little girl.

Tomorrow we are off to Vienna to visit my second cousin and explore the city.

Dobry den.

Where in the world is Bernie’s birthday party? (Insert Carmen San Diego theme song)

Continuing with the clues to were we are going for Bernie’s birthday, here is the next clue;

1.) This place has been inhabited since prehistoric time. Over 6,500 dwellings have been identified.
2.) This place is home to a colony of miniature albino donkeys.
3.) The language is based on Latin but still bears the influence of the ancient languages of the Nuraghic period (such as the word Nuraghe itself) as well as smatterings of Catalan, Corsican, Arabic, Phonecian and Genoese... legacies left by the many invaders.

One person so far has guessed correctly! Congratulations to Martha Fosnaugh.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Village in Moravia or southern Czech Republic

Where in the world is Bernie’s birthday party? (Insert Carmen San Diego theme song)

Continuing with the clues to were we are going for Bernie’s birthday, here is the next clue;

1.) This place has been inhabited since prehistoric time. Over 6,500 dwellings have been identified.
2.) This place is home to a colony of miniature albino donkeys.

Today we traveled to my mother’s birth place- Urspitz, Czechoslovakia. During World War II my family was forced out and they moved to Vienna. Czechoslovakians call it Cvrcovice.

This morning we said goodbye to our wonderful hostess and friend, Katie. She bought us a Czech Kombucha for the trip.

We caught the train from Praha to Brno just in time. At some point I (Regina), decided to use the toilet. Upon flushing it, I looked down into the toilet and saw the tracks racing beneath it. My guess is that is not standard hygienic practice on American rail lines. Bernie found that even the toilet at the tail end of the last rail car had a similarly designed septic system. So, the train could be going by and people could witness feces flying out of the back of it. We will think twice about crossing the tracks in the Czech Republic and we feel sorry for the people that have to work on the underside of the train.

In Brno, we had to do a little hike to the bus station. We saw the beautiful cathedral on top of a hill. In fact, the 10 Czech Crown coin has a picture of the cathedral imprinted on it. At the bus station, we found our platform and was shocked to see a huge line of young people (20 somethings) to go to the little town of Pohorelice. We didn’t think the small town would even hold this many people. We wondered what the big event would be. Playfully, we decided it was going to be a huge reggae concert in the country. In the back of my head, I thought about how Katie said most people either visit their “chatas” in the woods (small vacation houses) or the college students visit their families on the weekends. Luckily, we made it on the bus but we were packed in like sardines. Needless to say, most people did not get off in Pohorelice but continued south on the bus.

We found the Ve Café/Hotel and were checked in by a man who spoke to us with an English and German mix. I was very happy he knew the English he did. Of the places we visited, the Czech Republic seems to have the least amount of English speakers. Plus, the language is so much different from English or Spanish that it is hard to figure out. Unfortunately, I did not even bring a Czech dictionary. I hope the people we meet tomorrow speak to us in German. We can pick out words and sentences that way.

Our nice room has two single beds on either sides of the room which we found to be humorous.
We were hungry and decided to play Shopping Roulette. At least in France we could read labels and kind of figure out what we were buying. Here, we just guess by looking at pictures on the labels and the occasional word that is in English or a cognate of it. We faired pretty well. Bernie accidentally picked out a juice concentrate/syrup instead of juice. It was an intense drinking experience.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Where is Bernie Going For His Birthday?

Dobry den! Regi and I have decided on a location to visit for my 35th birthday (April 18)! I am not going to reveal the location until we get there but I am going to leave one clue about the location every time I write a new blog. Everyone can comment and leave their guesses.

So for the first clue about the location we are going to visit for my birthday is…
1. This place has been inhabited since prehistoric time. Over 6,500 dwellings have been identified.

Our time so far in Prague has been wonderful. Katie has shown us so many beautiful places. After we visited the castle the other evening, I took off on my own to photograph the city at night. Charles Bridge was the most interesting to me. It had the palace (aka the castle) and the St. Vitus church in the background and stunning statues that lined the bridge. The sky was perfect as well with deep blue sky and light broken up clouds the glowed pink with the city lights. Another interesting structure that I photographed was the T.V. towers. In former Communist times the towers were used to block signals from the west from getting into their country. There is a local artist that created huge faceless babies that are crawling up and down the towers to represent the Jewish cemetery that the Russians destroyed to build the tower.

We had a long hike today through Czesky Raj or Czech Paradise which was just that. It had beautiful rock formations and overlooks. The weather was great. We visited two beautiful castles.

Na shledanou!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Walk Around Prague Downtown

Yesterday Bernie had the chance to photograph Maxik. He is a Prague Ratter. Similar to a Chihuahua, he is only 4lbs. and maybe 6 inches tall. He is so cute and the photo shoot produced some very humorous photos.

This morning we had crepes made from the most extravagant recipe we had ever experience. They were very delicious. It was a great brunch with toppings of orange crème, strawberries, bananas, Nutella, and spinach and cheese. Yum!

After our brunch, we headed out on the town. We walked through the park with our back to the Communist radio wave blocking tower with sculptures of black faceless babies to downtown. We were on a quest to find the Communist museum. We found a Starbucks instead. Bernie was very excited about the blue lit urinal. It was so good, Bernie used it twice. Meanwhile, I happily ate a toasted bagel with cream cheese and watched the people going by. It was a Saturday so there were many more tourists out than when we had been through downtown before.

We did successfully find the Alfonso Mucha museum. He was a Czech artist that made beautiful lithographs and paintings. He designed practical items (like chairs) and even did all the interior and exterior design on some buildings. He even made the designs for the Czech money.

We went on a journey to find St. Thomas, the church that had an English Mass. We took tourist pedestrian highway through the shops. One man standing outside of the restaurant with a menu greeted us. “Hello, my good friends. I have been waiting for you. Where were you last night?” We were completely weirded out and did not know how to respond so we avoided eye contact and kept walking. He continued, “You are missing out on your great happiness!”

So we left our best friend that we had never met and came to the Stare Mesto. There were lots of food booths and things for Bernie to photograph. We bought a delicious and large sausage in a baguette then listened to the clock and crowd celebrate that it was 5 o’clock. The trumpet player played a ditty on all four sides of the tower and waved his long red and gold belled sleeves to clapping and cheering.

Then we walked across the Charles Bridge which is lined with statues of Jesus, Mary and saints on both sides. There was a memorial to St. Nepomuk (where he was thrown over the bridge for not revealing what a person had confessed in the sacrament of confession) that people would prayerfully touch. His statue was also popular to touch and photograph.

We made it to an excellent and filled Mass in the chapel of St. Thomas. It was actually a part of a monastery. The priest was excellent and applied the challenge of Lent to people’s lives. He also offered to be very available for confession all week.

On the way back, we saw an incredibly large full moon hanging low around the beautiful towers and buildings of Prague. Tomorrow, we plan on going back and taking night time photos of the city. Hopefully the moon is as impressive and the weather as good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Our world travels has brought us to Praha, or Prague as the U.S. knows it. The train trip was interesting getting here. You could definitely tell when Austria ended and the Czech Republic started. All of a sudden you just could tell that you were in a (what used to be) soviet occupied country. The main structures in the small villages changed from a church to a power plant and all the buildings changed from nicely painted houses to a stone cold structure. There is definitely a different feel here.

Katie, my friend from high school, has been a wonderful host. She took us on a lovely walk of the city today to give us an idea of were things are and what we can see. There are many wonderful sculptures that are in the soviet style and even some great modern sculptures of some very interesting subjects. I’m sure I will post some of these later on.

We went shopping this evening to make a lasagna. It is really weird having a 523 koruna bill at the supermarket and a 237 koruna bill at the cheese shop. I must say the cheese shop was amazing. You could taste any of their cheese and they were really friendly. I would like to go there every day and try a new cheese.

Tomorrow should be filled with more exciting adventures around Prague. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Home away from Home

The instant I arrived in Austria I felt like it was my home away from home. Everything seemed familiar to me. The way the houses looked, the snow covered mountains, the way people talked to each other, everything seemed well-known to me. It was if I had grown up living in Austria.

The last couple of days have been packed with visiting my family, seeing the town of Eisenstadt and St. Georgen (the villages that my mother spent many summers), and eating amazing food. I haven’t had much time to write in the blog.

I found out that my grandfather lived in a house just a few houses down the street from Mitzy my cousin (where Regi and I have graciously been invited to stay). I saw the wine cellar that all of my family had worked in for so many generations. I felt an overwhelming feeling of connection and family ties. I so much want to work the vineyards, smell the fermenting grapes, feel the wood of the old wine barrels on my fingertips, taste the ice wine. I almost want to cry when I hear that many of the young children do not have an interest in continuing the family vineyard. It makes me want to scream “I will do it! I will continue the tradition!” I don’t want to see all of this lost because the world says “move away from home and do what you want.” We are losing so much of our “family” and who we are. Our identity is being scattered, thinned down, and lost forever. It is so frustrating.

Tonight is our last night here. My relatives decided to go out to a stodl (which is like a small wine tasting and dinner restaurant). We all walked up to the front doors and I looked up at the name of the restaurant and I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I read it a couple of times to make sure. The name of the restaurant was “Pachinger Stodl”. My mother’s last name was Pachinger. This restaurant was my family’s restaurant. It was so beautiful. Everything was built with pride in their craftsmanship. There was intricately carved wood, solid chairs, crystal clear wine glasses, and even local art hanging on the walls (dear to my heart of course). I even found out that the young waiter was a distant cousin of mine. Sitting there in that restaurant I really felt like I could live here forever. I felt like I belonged here.

It’s 2:30 in the morning. I am sitting on the floor in my room writing this and wondering if this was were my mother slept. I know I have to leave tomorrow but I don’t want to. How can I leave so much of my history behind? I feel like if I leave this will fade away like a dream. I don’t want it to end. I don’t want Hanz to be the last of his family to make wine. I don’t want to see my mother’s wine field plowed under and houses built on top. I want to be able to open the wine cellar doors that my grandfather made and say “Welcome! I am Bernard Fosnaugh Pachinger Swester Hoffer (and on and on and on) and this is our vineyard.”

Only God can say what will happen. I just know that I have to leave when the sun rises. How can I express to these people what I feel? How can I say goodbye?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Austrian Hospitality

We found Venice to be more enjoyable at night, when the people walking were still many but not overwhelming. The lights cast on the buildings brought out a sense of ancient regality. The boats are docked and rock peacefully in the canals.

Wandering in the night, we came across a kebab/pizza shop (there must be hundreds in Venice) with the news on their television. We were shocked to see the devastation in Japan and said many prayers. We also heard about some of the effects in our area. Our prayers go out to everyone.

We took the bus and then the train into Vienna. We found the southern Limestone Alps to be gorgeous. We also found that the Eurail Pass is most easily used in Austria so far: no reservation fees or having to go to a ticket counter to get an additional ticket. That is what we thought the Eurail Pass was about.

We found the people in Austria to go out of their way to be friendly and helpful when we needed some information and help. We feel very welcome.

It is great to visit with Bernie's family. They are about to take us around Eisenstadt.

Guten Tag!