Eastern Europe...

Greg and I spent two weeks in 2001 exploring Eastern Europe.  We left the US 10 days after 9-11 so security was crazy at airports and borders crossings.
 We flew into Berlin then visited Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw and finished back in Berlin.  We both felt like we learned more about World War II then we ever learned in history books. 

The Brandenburg Gate is one of the major historical landmarks in Berlin.  The gate has played varying roles in Germany’s history.  In 1961 the Brandenburg Gate was closed when the Berlin Wall was built.  This is also the location Ronald Reagen said in a speech:  “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” 

Berlin Cathedral
This is the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall.  The Gallery has 105 paintings by artist from all over the world.
The larger cobble stone is where the wall once stood.

The Zeughaus, now a museum.  TV Tower in the distance.

Check Point Charlie is the crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin, and important area during the Cold War. We went to the museum that has artifacts from East and West Berlin.

The museum shows different ways people would attempt to flee East Berlin.  If you were successful, you were allowed to stay in West Berlin, which was safe.  I couldn't believe all of the different things people would do in order to leave.  Some tried to escape by balloon, submarine, ladders and as this picture shows hiding in small cars.
Berlin Souvenir
A small piece of history... Berlin Wall

We loved Prague!  We did get some rain and to see the city with misty nights made it even more magical.  Prague escaped the bombs of World War II so many of the buildings are original and didn't have damage that the other cities we visited had.
The Charles Bridge connects the Prague Castle and Old Town.

Charles Bridge

We watched the changing of the guard in front of the Prague Palace
The Basilica of Prague Palace
We had lunch at a cafe near the Prague Clock Tower.  The tight quarters around the square and cobblestone streets made it so charming. 

Prague Castle

Our Prague souvenirs:  Painting of the Prague Castle and a Marionette.

Prague is well known for it's amazing marionettes.  I took Greg to lots of marionette shops.  :) 

Many of the worlds best composers and musicians hung out here so while in Vienna we attended the Wiener Mozart Orchestra to better appreciate the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Parliament Building
We loved the Art History Museum

The cutest lady at the Farmers Market
Now that's a piece of Cheese!
Greg and a long line of horses
  On many pedestrian-only streets there are accomplished musicians, mini-orchestras and choral groups playing or singing for donations.   It was fun to hear these great performers.  

Johann Strauss Monument in Stadtpark
While visiting Vienna it became clear the connection Vienna has to music.  

Towers of St. Stephan Cathedral
If you're going to see one church in Vienna it should be this one.  It's a beautiful Romanesque Gothic Cathedral with a colored tile roof and amazing details.

Vienna Coaster

Szentendre, Hungary
We spent some time in Szentendre, a quaint riverside town near Budapest.  We did some shopping and had a traditional Hungarian dinner.
Our souvenirs from Hungary...

Traditional dress 
Greg cooking Goulash at Rab Raby

We took a night cruise on the Danube and had beautiful views of the Royal Palace.   Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen at night.

Lion and the Castle

Chain Bridge at night

The Chain Bridge crosses the Danube and seperates Buda and Pest
Matthias Church across the bridge in Buda
Bullet holes from World War II can still be seen.
The Castle in Buda
At the castle looking down at the Parliament Building
Parliment Building
Heroes Square

The Buda Castle Labyrinths under Castle Hill is miles of caves that were once used for shelter during World War II.  Today you can tour part of the cave and see interesting sculptures and cave paintings.  It was fun to go at night when they turn out the lights.  This was one of my favorite things we did in Budapest.

Me pretending to drink the wine your not suppose to drink :)
Relaxing at Margaret Island 

Love the old yellow car!

We stopped for lunch in a charming town called Banska Bystricain in Slovakia. 

Crossing the border from Slovakia into Poland.  They say the traffic was really bad because of 9-11.
We were in Eastern Europe in 2001.  It was a while ago but I remember feeling like we were in a time warp by the way people dressed and the cars still on the road but that made our experience all the more interesting.
How cute is this couple!

Poland is a beautiful country.  We loved learning about it's culture and history.  We appreciated it's architecture and thought the people were very friendly.  We stayed in a hotel in Krakow called the krack house.  The name seems to say it all.  :)  We had to change rooms several times since they hadn't been cleaned.  I finally asked for clean sheets and blankets.  They said they didn't have any... I slept with a t-shirt over my pillow.  So don't stay at the Krack House in Krakow. :) 
The Wawel Castle was home to Polish royals.  The cathedral on the grounds is where Pope John Paul II gave his first service as a young priest.

Main courtyard of the Wawel Castle

The Dragon Statue is down the hill from the Wawel Castle.  The legend is that the Wawel dragon lived in a nearby cave.

St. Mary's Church towers over Krakow's Main Market Square.

Statues in front of St. Peters Church

Main Market Square

Jewish Square

We enjoyed our visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines (also known as the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland) outside of Krakow.  It's one of the oldest salt mines in the world.  The miners carved statues and even a chapel out of rock salt.  It's amazing the amount of time that went into the sculptures.

Long way down...

Even the chandeliers were carved out of rock salt!

We visited many cities affected by Word War II and towards the end of our trip finished with a visit to Auschwitz.  It's a sad place to visit.  To see the large piles of shoes, human hair and to see the crematoriums and gas chambers is very unnerving.
The sign at the entrance above the Auschwitz gate reads:  "Work brings freedom"...  Which was there to deceive the Jews into thinking they would one day be free after working hard in the camp.
People were transported to Auschwitz from all over Natzi-occupied Europe by train.

View of camp #2 from the tower

Sleeping area

Can you imagine?  Rows and rows of toilets.
Used for a German leader

Guard gate and electric fence

The Monastery of Jasna Gorain in Czestochowa, Poland is the third-largest Catholic pilgrimage site in the world.

Pilgrims come to see the Lady of Czestochowa which is displayed in a altar in the Chapel of the Black Madonna. 

Warsaw is the capital and largest city in Poland.  Eighty percent of it's buildings were destroyed in World War II.

I loved the architecture in Stare Miasto (old town).  I couldn't stop myself from taking lots of pictures.  If you visited without knowing it's history you would believe you had stumbled upon well-preserved medieval buildings, but they were rebuilt building by building, and street by street. 

The Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Poland and has more than 3,000 rooms.  It's also called the Soviet Wedding Cake.  While in Warsaw, we were told that the building itself is pretty controversial with just about as many people wanting to have it demolished as those wanting to keep it standing.  It was built in 1952-55 as a gift from the Soviet people to Poland. 

The Church of the Holy Cross.  Interesting trivia... the church has an urn containing the heart of Fryderyk Chopin.
Souvenir from Poland 
I saw lots of Amber jewelry all over Poland.  Amber is found in the Southern part of the Baltic Sea which is why the price for Amber in Poland is much cheaper than other areas.


gramyflys said...

This looks like an amazing trip, Sherri. We are thinking of doing parts of it next Spring with the Taysoms. Wish you could be our tour guide!