European Football Tournaments.

Yesterday I posted about the World Cup.  Today I am posting excerpts of two letters on European tournaments.  I watched Euro 98 games Austria and Egypt.   During Euro 96 we lived in Tirana.  I’ll start with Euro 2008. A cartoon in one of the local Cairo papers shows two Egyptians looking at the European football tournament, Euro 2008, on TV.  One says to the other “The difference is, with us, football is just a game.”  It is a madness that takes over Europe every fourth June. The roof of the Cairo Marriott is turned into a big screen outdoor football … Continue reading European Football Tournaments.

Railjet, Austria’s High Speed Train.

Railjet is Austria’s high speed train.  While not as fast as Germany’s ICE (Suzi’s train from Brussels to Munich topped out at 275) or France’s TGV, we clocked a respectable 232 km per hour  (144 MPH) on the route between Munich and Vienna.  The train is comfortable with wi-fi (I took a picture when the speedometer tipped 200 and sent it out on FaceBook), a dining car, a cart that brings food to you and nice seats.  Taking pictures out of the windows at the alpine meadows at that speed was a challenge for my camera.  You don’t really feel … Continue reading Railjet, Austria’s High Speed Train.

Salt Pope, Krakow, Poland

I’m not sure of the theological meaning, but Pope John Paul II has been turned into a pillar of salt.  In Genesis it was Lot’s wife who became a saline pillar.  Her sin was looking back at Sodom, the home from which she was being evacuated by angels before its destruction. The Wieliczka mines in Krakow Poland are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We took a bus to the salt mines and went on the tour.  We went down about 438 feet, although the mines go down much further than that, and walked for about three kilometers underground.  The wondrous … Continue reading Salt Pope, Krakow, Poland

Warsaw, Poland, March, 2013

A week ago we woke up on a Saturday morning in Warsaw.  It was 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) with a minus 15 F wind chill.  It was time to get ready for our Warsaw tour, which included a walking tour of the old town.  It was cold but we went. We arrived on Friday on the Berlin-Warsaw express.  Warsaw Central station does not have well marked exits, so instead of getting out onto the street we ended up exiting into a large and modern shopping mall with an undulating glass roof.  I finally found my way out of the … Continue reading Warsaw, Poland, March, 2013

Telc, Moravia, Czech Republic

We have been to Telc several times.  It has a nice outlet store for Bohemian crystal, even though it is in Moravia.  Each time it was overshadowed, in the letter, by other places or, in one case, by a traffic accident.  A Lada hit me while I was stopped an intersection, no one hurt.  So the pictures will have to tell the story.  The first time we were there in 1990 it was rundown but you could see the beauty under the dust and in spite of the faded paint.  The last time we visited in 2002 it was gloriously … Continue reading Telc, Moravia, Czech Republic

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

April 27, 2002 Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic Dear Friends, We’re spending the night in Ceske Krumlov on a drive between Bratislava and Zagreb.  Ceske Krumlov is nowhere near the direct route from Bratislava to Zagreb.  Suzi and I have not often taken direct routes and we are the richer for it.  Ceske Krumlov is a fortified city protected by a meander in the Vlatava (Moldau) River.  We were last here in spring 1990 during the election that legitimized the Velvet Revolution.  The city was not yet a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  That came in 1992 along with some restoration funds.  In … Continue reading Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

1000 years of Hungary

August 20, 2000 Budapest, Hungary Dear Friends, One thousand years ago today Hungary was established when King Stephen was granted the crown by Pope Sylvester.  Today there’s a party going on.  One week ago Suzi and I were sitting on the beach at Milocar in Montenegro, with no idea we would be here.  Since then I’ve been in Bosnia, Croatia, and Italy.  Today Suzi goes back to Podgorica while tomorrow I go to Bosnia, Austria and Romania.  Don’t ask. At the end of the week I was feeling pretty punk.  When I got back from a meeting with an ambassador … Continue reading 1000 years of Hungary

Szabor (Statue) Park, Budapest

These are paragraphs from a 2003 letter: In Hungary the Internationale is best represented in Szabor (or Statue) park, a collection of Socialist Realism artifacts outside Budapest.  While the park is not difficult to get to it’s sometimes difficult to find.  I asked the Concierge to mark it on a map.  She couldn’t find it and wondered why it was not in the center of town.  I said; “Well, I don’t suppose you would put it in the middle of Hero’s Square,” which is where some of the original work really did sit.  She laughed.  Finding the road is not … Continue reading Szabor (Statue) Park, Budapest

Budapest

This is an excerpt from a 2003 letter. Budapest has always been a “comfort city.”  The first place hit after our first sojourn in Albania was Budapest and it seemed like Disneyland, even though it was only four years out of Communism itself.  We had water, we had heat.  We put them together and had long hot showers.  During Milosevic it is the place we went to for refuge when things got too hot in Montenegro.  We maintained a flat here for four months, and that was a comfort.  But the food was the real part of the comfort.  The … Continue reading Budapest

Hungary

Suzi and I had a flat in Budapest for, perhaps, 100 days in 2000.  We had a flat there because that is where USAID was coordinating aid to Serbian independent media and civil society during the election that unseated Milosevic.  I spent only 22 nights in that flat, Suzi a few more.  During that time I was using Budapest airport to travel between Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, Bosnia and who knows where else.  Suzi was traveling too.  At several points one of us arranged to get to the airport early because that was the best way for us to see each … Continue reading Hungary

Wooden Churches in Eastern Slovakia

This is from a letter written in October 1998: Eastern Slovakia is an area crossed in trade and fought over by Tartars, Lithuanians, Poles, Hungarians, Germans, Russians and Slovaks.  It’s where cultures meet.  Kosice boasts the eastern-most gothic cathedral in Europe, and while it is VERY gothic, the clock tower has a very un-gothic gilded dome.  This region is a borderland, a krajina in Slavic languages.  We drove “along the borderland,” U krajina, the origin of the name Ukraine, which sits just a few kilometers to the east. More than a dozen wooden churches, built between the fifteen and seventeen … Continue reading Wooden Churches in Eastern Slovakia

Andy Warhol’s Nowhere, Medzilaborce, Slovakia

This is from a letter in the early 2000s Friday afternoon we drove to Medzilaborce on the border with Poland and the Ukraine.  Medzilaborce is the ancestral home of the Warhol family (as in pop artist Andy.)  It’s easy to identify the town when driving through because of two huge Campbell’s Soup Cans that sit in front of the “Dom Kultura.”  The Andy Warhol Foundation donated 14 works to the town, including “Red Lenin” and the town has set up the Warhol Museum of Modern Art.  Warhol is probably one of the two best-known Slovak Americans.  The other is Jesse … Continue reading Andy Warhol’s Nowhere, Medzilaborce, Slovakia

Vlkolinec, Slovakia

Vlkolinec, is a Carpathian mountain village.  It is a UN world heritage site. It has remained authentic, I think, because it is accessible only by a one lane serpentine road up a mountain with turnouts for cars to pass.  The only stone buildings are the church, its “parish hall” which is now an art gallery, and the public restrooms.  It is a working village, and while tourists have to park outside the town and walk a very little way up the mountain, residents can bring their cars in.  The buildings are squared logs painted in pastel colors or white and … Continue reading Vlkolinec, Slovakia

The High Tatras, Slovakia

The High Tatras pop out of the plains, flat land and then alpine peaks that catch weather and delight travelers, if you look north.  If you look south you may see rolling hills leading to the low Tatras.  We found the Tatra’s a good place to spend the New Year holiday.  There are narrow gauge rail lines, skiing, and little inns.  These pictures are from the road around Poprad. Continue reading The High Tatras, Slovakia