We had a stowaway on our trip to Europe– Tony the Tiger.   He was able to join us for some of the sights of Prague on our second day there.








We took the subway out of the city center for some Czech dining.  This Prague subway is unique in the depth at the station we used.  The escalator at Náměstí Míru station in Vinohrady is about 100 metres long and, according to its builder, is the longest escalator in Europe.  It takes about two and a half minutes to ascend or descend the escalator if you stand still.  We were already partially down when I took this picture.



After dinner we walked back to the city center.  We passed this tower with these unique sculptures attached.  They are identical to some in a park near the Charles Bridge (see below).


TDF2015.07.16EuropePragueCreepy3This guy is found near the Charles bridge.



The residence of the Czech Republic is in the Castle area of the city


TDF2015.07.16EuropePrague34Lots of narrow street in Old Town, New Town, and Lesser Town

TDF2015.07.16EuropePrague35Interesting faux rock wall in the gardens below the Castle.


Jul 162015



We had a long first day in Prague.  We got up early and hit the autobahn from Ansbach to Prague in the Czech Republic.  Typical autobahn driving with 100+ mph the standard… still not fast enough for some as occasionally we would be passed by a car going much faster.  The crossing into the Czech Republic was no different than crossing state lines in the U.S.  After getting to Prague we check into out hotel and then hit the streets.  We were going to meet a guide at the castle, so we had a couple mile hike through the city.

It was a beautiful sunny day.  We had a schedule to meet the guide, so we had to make decent time through the city.  So it was through the old city, across the river, and then a good climb up the hill to the castle.  The climb was a bit hot as the sun was pretty intense and the climb was up a path with a white wall on one side and pavement.  By the time we made the top we had worked up a little bit of a sweat.  We started working our way around the castle as Mike and Maura were trying to figure out the way to where we were to meet our guide.  Our two mile hike became a little longer as we completely circled the top of the hill where the castle resides, but we did make it in time.

We took a tour of the castle area with a group of people.  After that it was a private guided tour with Thomas.  Mike and Maura had met our tour guide on a previous visit.  They had really like him, so had scheduled a few hours of private tour of Prague.  Well, we ended up having dinner with Thomas after walking all through the central city.  He finally parted with us about 10pm.  By that time we had walked over 11 miles on our tour of the city.

TDF2015.07.16EuropePrague13The cathedral which is at the Castle.


The cathedral is a great example of Gothic architecture.


The exterior has many different creatures placed to protect the church from evil spirits.




Detailed tile work on one of the entrances to the Cathedral.


The inside of the cathedral is amazing.  Pictures do not do it justice.


Just one example of many stain glassed windows.  Very large and detailed.


The grounds keeper uses this hawk to keep the pigeons away.



View looking down towards Old Town from the Castle.


View of the Castle from a garden below the hill.


View towards Old Town from Castle side of river.


On the Charles Bridge with Mike and Maura.


The bridge is pedestrian only and has many sculptures flanking it.  This view from middle looking towards the old town where the entrance is guarded by one of the old gated into the city.  There still are a few of these in the city.


Just one example of the many sculptures.

TDF2015.07.16EuropePrague5View south from the Charles Bridge.


Another good example of the sculptures.


Entrance to Old Town from Charles Bridge.


Mike and Tanya as we make our way through Old Town on the narrow streets. This is a typical scene in this part of the city.  It is very pedestrian friendly.


World famous Astronomical clock.

TDF2015.07.16EuropePrague10Quite the crowd gathers at 7pm when the clock does its thing.


On the hour rather than sound bells, a parade of characters present themselves in the windows above the clock.


With our guide in front of the Astronomical clock.

TDF2015.07.16EuropePrague12Old Town square.  This was very busy during the day.

TDF2015.07.16EuropePrague23You see these sun clocks on the sides of some building.  Saw these in Germany as well as Prague.


I believe this is St. Nicholas church in Lesser Town, but I am not sure. Either way some beautiful artwork here.






New town in Prague


Boulevard near our hotel.


I was able to get a few decent night shots.  These were with the Nikon D80 without and tripod which makes for challenging photography in low light and longer exposure.  Given than I think these are not too bad.

TDF2015.07.16EuropePragueNight2View of the castle from park on east side of city.  It is light spectacularly and this picture does not do it justice.





TDF2015.07.16EuropePragueNight6This is the boulevard near our hotel.


We left our camera back in Ansbach so all these photos were taken with an iPhone 6. 

Bamberg is a popular tourist area due to the beauty of the city.  From the market area, the famous old city hall on the river, cathedral, Michaelsberg Abbey it is quite scenic. The Old Town of Bamberg is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, primarily because of its authentic medieval appearance.


In front of the old city hall.





View of the abbey from the city center.





The cathedral was completed in 1012 A.D.  The inside is amazing.




The artwork in the churches and cathedrals is amazing.  This piece is just one example.  These tell stories from the bible in the different images.  They can be closed up into a box so they can be transported.  It was common to take these to different churches and cathedrals.


This horseman is a local icon.


View of Bamberg from the hill below the abbey.



The city center is a market and pedestrian mall.  The buildings are all very distinctive and there is food for sale everywhere.


There are distinct statues like this throughout the city.



Beautiful sunset on the autobahn on the way back to Ansbach.  Took this going a 100 mph with the iPhone.


Jul 152015

Bamberg was the destination on this day, but a short detour to Lisberg was the first order of business. This is where Mike and Maura first moved to when they the big move to Germany.   We took the scenic route staying off the autobahn and driving on the country roads.  One of the striking things here in Bavaria is that all the houses and buildings are in the villages.  Unlike in the U.S. where you see houses scattered about here and there in the countryside here you have farmland and forests with no buildings.  The villages are all quite beautiful.  The houses typically have red tile roofs and the streets are clean.  Also, you don’t see billboards and signs everywhere.


Mike and Maura in front of their old home. They found this beautiful big home that had a castle and church next door.


Castle and courtyard next the house.


View of the farmland around this area.


Small church in Lisberg.


TDF2015.07.14EuropeWurzburg1Mike, Maura, and Tanya in Würburg

Our first stop was Würburg, since it is on the way to Ansbach from Frankfurt.  I scenic city in southern Germany.  We experienced our first taste of the Bavarian style town, churches, stonework, and statues.


The bridge here has quite a few statues with intricate stone work and gilding.



Also, the city center is bustling with activity and very pedestrian friendly which is quite common and much different than most U.S. cities.


The churches are quite old and have amazing stone work.  Some of it is scary in appearance as it was meant to keep evil spirits at bay.  Here’s a good example of that.


Inside the churches are very beautiful.  The detail and artwork is amazing and Würburg is a small sample of what there is to see.


TDF2015.07.14EuropeWurzburg9This is the “residence” at Würzburg.  This is a massive building that the lords and princes lived in back when they ruled these area.  They had to have large residences to show off that they were rich and powerful.



We finally arrived in Ansbach after a long two days… I had not slept since we got up to start the trip.  We did a walk through the city center — Alte Stadt.  It is all very pedestrian friendly with shops, cathedral, church, park, and Residence.  Mike and Maura have an apartment on one side of the Alte Stadt and we stayed at their friends apartment on the other side.  It was about a mile walk from one apartment to the other through the Alte Stadt.  All very nice.





We departed for Europe on a KLM 747, but that was not the plan.  We got up in the morning planning to fly Delta through JFK to Frankfurt out of O’hare.  We had a 3+ layover in JFK, so the thought was even if we get delayed out of O’hare we have a decent cushion to make connection.  Well, our flight out O’hare was delayed and delayed again, so they ended up putting us on a flight to Atlanta to Frankfurt.  That flight had a tight connection and I was definitely not feeling good about the new itinerary.  At this point we had got up early and were ready to roll, but these delays meant we were stuck sitting at home checking flight statuses. Not fun when you are stoked to head out on a new adventure and you are stuck waiting.

Well, the Atlanta flight ended up being  delayed.  Now, I had to call Delta to find a solution to get us to Germany, as the Delta options were gone and we really didn’t want to be delayed into another day.  After some time on the phone I was able to get us on a KLM flight out of O’hare through Amsterdam and into Frankfurt.  After all these changes much to my surprise we were still arriving in Frankfurt about the same time as originally planned.  One bonus out of it KLM has great in flight service and we ended up in comfort plus for the long flight to Europe.  The downside was that I don’t sleep well on planes.  With the frequent trips up and down the aisle by the flight attendants at best I dozed for a bit here and there.  By the time we got to Amsterdam I had not really slept.

We had a tight connection there and we were in our first foreign airport, so it was a mad dash all the way across the airport to catch our connection to Frankfurt.  I was pretty sure we were headed the right way, but the airport was actually fairly quiet and there wasn’t any clear help around to ask.    Also, I was worried about customs with the tight connection, but it turned out to be a breeze and we got to our gate with no issues.  One  interesting thing was the gate system with a bus delivering you from the gate to your specific plane.

By the time we arrived at Frankfurt with all the delays it had been a long day.   Now, we had to connect with Mike and Maura.  I had paid for international service with Verizon when I left, but the phone had issues getting “authorized” on the local mobile system.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to use it to contact them.  Eventually, it did connect and I was able to tell them we had arrived.

Then on our way to the baggage claim we made a wrong turn and ended up outside the security area in the wrong baggage claim.  We had to get someone to let us back through a security door where our bags were.  A little more of a challenge given a slight language barrier and the way things are done don’t quite match up with what we are use to in the U.S.  Eventually, we were able to get our bags and meet up with Mike and Maura– yay!

They had only been home a day from the U.S. themselves, so they were making the adjustment to the time zone change, but they made the drive up from Ansbach to Frankfurt.  It is not a short drive, so it was very nice of them both to come and get us when they were just getting back to Europe themselves.





Well, that was interesting. After a full day of preparing the barn for wedding we had the rehearsal. Once we finished the rehearsal we had dinner in the barn. As we started to get our food the rain arrived. As the meal progressed the storm got progressively worse. To the point the wind was blowing the rain into the barn. It continued getting worse with the wind shifting and blowing wind in all the openings to the barn. The wind started blowing down the curtains around the caterers makeshift kitchen.  Some people were trying to get that secured. It got so bad nobody was eating as everyone moved to corners… except Bill Burke who stoically continued to eat his prime rib.  I saw Taylor standing by herself on the other side of the barn, so I went over by her.  At this point it was storming good and Taylor was capturing on video.

Then the wind started blowing even stronger.  The dance floors started to fly up in pieces. Something flew up and almost hit Taylor.  At this point Sean starts waving his arms and yells to everybody to get to their cars. People are full on fleeing to their cars in a chaotic rush for cover.  I grabbed Alex and told her to get to my car. Rain was coming down in torrents and large hail is hitting us occasionally.  We made it to my Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Once we are in and out of the storm, Alex breaks down sobbing. I tried to comfort her as best I could, but really just needed to let her have a good cry as the evening became a disaster.

Now, we are in my car.  It is raining so hard and the windows are completely fogged, so we can’t see outside.  I had a full car, but did not know where my folks were, or anyone else except those in my car.  Once the windows cleared so I could see, I decided to take my passengers up to Alex and Ian’s house. About this time Dan Moen called. He had my parents in his car and was still in the field by the barn. He was wondering what to do. He decided to make the attempt to get out, so I watched from where I was at he house to make sure he didn’t get stuck. He made it. Eventually we had all of the Dschaak’s, Burkes, and Alex’s bridesmaids at the house where we had no power.  Most of us soaked to the bones.  Not long after the storm subsided.

My dad got hit by a couple of large chunk of hail when he was running from the barn to car. One that hit him on the top of the head left a decent bump. Other than that no one got hurt.  Next Ian had to get this generator going and then deal with water that had come into the laundry room of their house which they had been remodeling. After Jordan, the police deputy and groomsman, got the sit rep we found out the road was impassable towards town, but as far as he knew the route the other direction was one. People were just hanging at this point, but Dan & Robina wanted to go back to the hotel.  I took the Jeep, with Taylor and her friends to lead them out.

As we left we ran into people stopped where a tree almost completely blocked the road.  One car could barely slip past the downed trees. There were a number of cars going both directions, so it required a little maneuvering to get past.  We got through and then for the next mile proceeded to weave from one side of the road to the next dodging downed trees and limbs. The road was never completely blocked.  We made it out to I-77 and the hotel. The hotel had no power except emergency power.

Tanya called asking us to get pizza because most people did not get a chance to eat before the storm hit in force.  We (me and Taylor’s friends) went to Pizza Hut which was near the hotel. While they had some light on they were closed due to lack of power.  At this point we figured no pizza and headed back to Alex and Ian’s house.  On the way there we went through downtown Ripley, which had no power.  As we made our way to the house we saw Domino’s had their “open” sign on, so we stopped and got pizza. Yay!

The road was still closed from the I-77 dealership side, so I had to drive all the way around to farm.  This meant dodging trees and limbs, but some clean up had started so it wasn’t as bad as the drive out.  Once we got to the house, the pizza was quickly consumed by some very hungry poeple.  We hung around talking about the crazy experience that we had just had and did some post analysis.  No one was hurt in the storm.  There was just a huge mess of all the decorations (see picture) at the barn.  Also, the barn’s upper portion had a slight lean, so thankful nothing worse happened.  At the end of the day it was scary and made a mess of the barn, but no one was seriously hurt. The storm  cleared to allow preparation for the big day to continue which turned out to be great.

Link to storm coverage

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