Thursday, December 13, 2007

St. Vitus Cathedral

While visiting the Prague Castle, we spent a good bit of time in the cathedral. St. Vitus is a Gothic church and was started in 1344 and was designed by the same architect as Notre Dame in Paris. You can definitely tell when looking at the back. Unfortunately, this architect died before the church was finished.

As with many other churches in Europe, there are many tombs and there is one very decorated one. I believe it is the tomb of a priest who was killed for not telling the king his wife's confession. Later, his tomb was opened and they discovered that his tongue had not disintegrated. The people took this as a divine act and made him a saint. Later, his tongue was analyzed and realized that it was actually his brain!

This church also has a stained glass window designed by the Czech artist, Alphonse Mucha, who started the art nouveau movement. There was also another important relic in the church but I don't recall its history. Maybe John will edit this post or put it in the comments.

After wandering around the church, we saw a place that you could climb up. There was a sign saying that it was about 200 steps but I thought I was going up to the second level of the church (I had seen people up there). Nope, there really was a lot of steps and we were in a tower to the top of the church. Once we got to the top, we were rewarded with amazing views of the city.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Praha Castle

If you are a regular reader, you know that we love castles. Well, I love castles and I think John really likes them, too. :) And Prague has a castle. A giant castle, one of the biggest in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, in fact. It measures 70 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide!

The history of the castle dates back to 870 AD! The Basilicas of St George and St. Vitus were founded in the first half of the 10th century. The first convent in Bohemia was founded in the castle, next to the church of St. George. A Romanesque palace was built there during the 12th century. In the 14th century, the royal palace was rebuilt in Gothic style. In the 1600s, the castle was abandoned and run down due to wars. In 1918, the castle became the seat of government and was renovated up to 1936.

Since we only had about 4 hours to spend at the castle before things closed, we opted for the shortened tour (supposed to take about 2 hours). I am glad that we chose the short tour because we barely had enough time to explore everything that we had access to! I guess I just take too many pictures and go at a slower pace than the average tourist. After returning home, I met a woman who had been to Prague the previous week as well. She saw the castle in an hour! I don't know how she did that.

Anyway, the cathedral was definitely the high point of the grounds (it will get its own post). We probably spent at least an hour and a half in it just reading about the history (which I promptly forget) and looking at all the different chapels. I also enjoyed St. George's Basilica. As with other older churches, important people are buried there, including Prince Vratislav and Boleslav II. A wooden tomb was also on display. The palace itself wasn't that impressive. But then, we didn't get to see much of it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Praha by night

Prague is a beautiful city. The architecture is wonderful to look at. The buildings are tall, but not too tall. There are a lot of red roofs. Some streets are narrow and windy. There are towers around town, cathedrals, and a castle. This is a city photography dream. Night time didn't let me down, either. The city is just magical at night.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas markets

Part of the reason that we went to Prague in December was to check out their Christmas market. We were disappointed with the quality of merchandise (and didn't buy much) but I loved the atmosphere of the markets. The merchandise looked mass produced (except for the black smiths). However, we still enjoyed wandering around drinking the mulled wine and eating the slozem, a sweet pastry made on a roll over an open flame.

The market also had a stage where people performed. Sometimes there were carolers, other times there were other performers. Most of the time they were entertaining. Some of the churches also had people singing and all around, the market had a really good "buzz" to it. The atmosphere was the best of the three markets that we've gone to.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On the road again

This past weekend, we were in Prague for the Christmas markets. As usual, we took loads of pictures. Mostly, we wandered into churches and around the markets drinking mulled wine. While wandering around Prague, I realized that I am getting a bit used to European architecture. A lot of it doesn't impress me as much as it used to. Instead, I find myself comparing cities.

As we walked down Wenceslas Square, we noticed that we could have been in just about any major city. Many cities seem to have this major "shopping street." It was a wide boulevard with major shops on either side of the street. I noticed many of the major European shops. There was Marks and Spencer, Tesco, and I believe a Debenhams! Then there were other chain stores whose names escape me at the moment. As we walked down the street, we were struck by the structural similarity of this "square" to Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the main street in Paris (the name escapes me), 5th Avenue in New York, the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Change the stores around a bit and we could have been walking down any of these streets.

Later, we wandered into a shopping mall. As we looked down on the glass escalators and open spaces from the top floor, we again realized that we could have been almost anywhere in the world. There was nothing really indicating that we were in Prague. Most signs were symbols rather than language. The shops were international. The restaurants had chain names or English names. The only hint we got that we weren't at "home" was that the menus on the restaurants were written in Czech.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Random tag

A while back, I got tagged and haven't played the game. Here are the "rules"

8 random things.
Rules are as follows:·
When tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you.·
Then post the rules before your list, and list eight random things about yourself.
At the end of the post you must tag and link to eight other people.

So, 8 random things about myself.

1. My favorite color is purple. Nice, dark, rich purple that is hard to tell if it black, blue, or purple.
2. I started out college pre-med and while I was trying to decide on a major, my brother-in-law suggested that I check out that speech pathology therapy thing since one unemployed college grad in the family was enough (he was joking about the unemployed part).
3. I had a Siamese cat names Smokey when I was a kid. I absolutely loved that cat.
4. I met John in an "Irish pub" in the U.S. where a mutual friend went weekly.
5. I have a brother and a sister.
6. One of my favorite books is "So long a letter" by Miriama Ba.
7. I like white cheddar better than red/orange cheddar.
8. My friends tell me that I make the best chocolate chip cookies ever!

So, I am supposed to tag others. I am only going to tag a couple others: Chick with Stix, Lien, and Lisa.


OK, Thanksgiving was over a week ago, but I am a bit slow on the posting lately. On Saturday, we had some people over to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was my second time cooking a turkey and like last time, it got done early. However, not believing that it could be done, I let it cook longer. It ended up a bit overcooked but it still tasted good.

To help John and me out, our friend N came over around noon. By this time, we had been up since 9:00 AM trying to get a bit of cleaning done and defrosting the turkey. This year, we had a cooler that the turkey fit in so we filled it with water and let it defrost. We changed the water every 30 minutes to try to keep it as sanitary as possible. While the turkey defrosted, we cleaned and did other meal prep. Shortly after N arrived, it was time to put the turkey in. However, the inside was still frozen! I ran lots of cold water on it until it thawed, rinsed it out, patted it dry and put it on the baking rack. It was then that I noticed an extra pack of "stuff" in the turkey. And this stuff was frozen in a plastic bag. That meant running the turkey under more cold water, rinsing it again, and drying it again before seasoning it. We eventually got it all thawed out, seasoned it and got it in the oven.

Around 4:00 PM, the other guests started showing up. We ate at 5:00. We had turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, green bean casserole, corn, jelly (jello) with pineapple, bread, pumpkin pie, apple crisp (I didn't have enough pie pans), and pecan pie. We all ate until we were stuffed an couldn't eat anymore. Then people just drank more. The last people left about 1:30AM! All in all, it was a good meal, good fun, and good people. (but I forgot to take pictures)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I once heard a quote that "perception is reality." To some extent, I think that this is true. If you look for the bad, you will find it and your personal reality will be colored by the negativity. However, if you look for positive things, your perception will be colored by this as well.

For a few months now, I have been a bit down about living in Dublin. Relying on public transit sometimes gets a bit tiring, especially when it is cold out and standing in the dark waiting for a bus. The medical system is SLOW here as it can take months for a referral. Currently, the Health Service is in an advertising freeze. No new posts can be created. Existing posts can't be advertised (and therefore filled). This affects the health service as well as any agency getting money from them. And there is no word on when the advertising freeze will be over. Meanwhile, people wait even longer for care. And meanwhile, Bertie got a big raise. Now, I understand that money may being mis-spent in the health service but it isn't good form to give the leader of the country a raise when people are being denied medical care. So recently, I have been affected by the stress levels of people around me and the politics and seeing the negative of living here.

Recently, that changed. I got two tokens of appreciation in one week (which really lifted my mood)! Since then, I have been trying to see how I make a difference. I have been actively looking for the positive things. Like today, I gave a friend a birthday present. She seemed so appreciative that I gave her a present and even more appreciative that I made it for her. :) I also listened to a couple people vent about things that the had encountered and they seemed to feel better afterwards. Recently, I saw a mate was stressed and gave her a quick shoulder/neck massage and she looked so much more relaxed after it. These were all little things that didn't take much time, but they made such a difference in my day and the day of those around me. It is these things that make life happy. Well, that and the pilates class really relaxed me so I am better able to deal with the stress of day to day life...

Friday, November 16, 2007

A day in the life

Today I woke up, got dressed, and went to work. I thought that I should look nice for work today since I had something during the day, but I thought about the clients that I would see before that and that I am sick and decided, nah, go for comfort. Anyway, I left the house and walked to the bus stop.

I waited at the bus stop for about 15 minutes, about 10 minutes longer than usual because there is a bus strike happening and some of the buses aren't running. This means fewer choices for me (but luckily still have choices and not a taxi or walking to/from work). So, I get on the bus and look out the window. One of the first things that I notice is a woman running down the street. And her dress was quite low cut and her breasts were bouncing. Oops, one fell out! We pass her and then I noticed the Jesus statue standing on a base that looks like the EU emblem (often notice this and wonder why it is in downtown Dublin and why it was created to begin with). The sculpture is under Plexiglas so it can't get wet or graffiti on it.

I get to work and get ready for my day. It was a good morning. I wasn't the recipient of any challenging behavior. Later in the day I was the recipient of a token of appreciation. That made me feel really special and appreciated. It was also quite unexpected.

Eventually, it was time for me to go home. Again, I waited for the bus. Of course it was full (they have been much more full with the bus strike) and a little boy gave me his seat! He stood near his mother and let me have the seat that he was sitting in. It was so sweet. He was an adorable little boy, too. I got off at my stop and started to walk home. I stopped at the grocery store to get a few things. On my walk to the apartment, I saw this big group of guys. They all had black t-shirts on and they also had some glow in the dark writing on the back. Each shirt said something different but it was obviously a stag party. The bachelor was wearing a white shirt and a little skirt thing. While walking behind them, one of the guys calls out something and they all start jumping on each other's backs for piggy back rides and then trying to race of some sort. It was quite the sight to see grown men jump on each other's backs (up to three of them) and then try to run!

Now I am safely home, looking forward to a nice quiet evening of being home snuggled under the blanket. Maybe I'll make some dinner, maybe I'll try to convince John to bring home dinner...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jerpoint Abbey

On our way to the Jerpoint glass studio, we found the Jerpoint Abbey. Of course we stopped. We also happened to be the first people there. This is yet another site run by the OPW and we looked around the reception area a bit before getting a guided tour.

The Jerpoint Abbey was founded in the second have of the 12th century by Cistercian order. It's "claim to fame" was that the monks didn't follow rules very well. The Cistercian order had very strict guidelines as to how a monk was supposed to live and what an abbey was supposed to look like. The walls of the abbey were supposed to be absent of adornment/decoration. However, this abbey is known because it has carvings/stonework in some of the walls and pillars. There even appears to be sculpture work of people who may have donated to help build the abbey.

The monks were supposed to spend a large percentage of their days praying but were also supposed to be self sufficient. However, due to the amount of time that they needed to spend in devotion to God, they had men who weren't connected enough to get into the abbey live there and grow the food and such. The monks were allowed a small amount of food and a good bit of (weak) beer during the day. They were only supposed to be near heat for a very short amount of the day.

The monks also engaged in "blood letting" where they let some of their blood out of their body (don't know what happened to it after it left the body). This was believed to cleanse their bodies of evil spirits or sickness. There were strict guidelines as to how often monks were supposed to let their blood and how much to let. However, these Irish monks supposedly let their blood more often because after you let blood, you got to spend time by the heat and got extra food!

Dunmore cave

While in Kilkenny, we toured the Dunmore cave. It is an underground cave and guided tours are provided to a very small percentage of the cave (which is still a decent sized area). The cave was the site of a massacre in the year 928 AD! The locals used to use the cave as a hiding place when they were attacked. They would hide in some of the chambers of the cave because most people were afraid to go into it because they thought it was the gateway to Hell.

The Vikings were raiding the area and weren't afraid of caves. So, when the women and children ran into the cave, the Vikings killed the men who were trying to defend it. The Vikings then ended, took any treasures, and set fires in the cave. Most of the people in is suffocated from smoke. During the massacre, the Vikings dropped coins (which they apparently adhered to their bodies with wax) and these were left in the cave. During later excavations, these coins were found! Human remains were also found and the excavation results corresponded with the local legends of the cave.

The cave itself is interesting. I have never been in one like it. There are many interesting rock/calcite formations. As usual, the OPW guide was excellent and very engaging.

Small world again

Today I had to take Darshin to the vet. He was sick earlier in the week and I had to take him back to get checked out again. Anyway, as soon as Darshin got into the vet's office, he started growling. He did this last time, too. We waited for a while and the dogs all went into the vet and later a couple with two cats came in.

The woman was wearing a brightly colored jumper/sweater and I thought that I recognized the colors of it. I looked at her a bit more and looked at the sweater and decided that it definitely looked hand knit. She was very outgoing and chatted a bit about our cats. She let one of her cats out and look around the waiting room. When the cat got back into the cage, she commented that the carrier was broken and she was using a knitting needle to hold it shut! I then asked her if she made her sweater and what yarn it was. It turned out that she got her yarn from This is Knit down in Blackrock which is also my local yarn shop. We chatted a bit more and then it was my turn to go in to the vet with Darshin. On my way in, she asked to exchange numbers. When I was done with the vet, the receptionist got the knitter and she gave me her number. It turns out that she sometimes goes to one of the knitting groups that I go to as well!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rock of Cashel

While in Kilkenny, we took a side trip to see the Rock of Cashel. The rock is an outcrop of limestone and their are ruins on top it. Cashel was the seat of the kings of Munster prior to the Norman invasion. The site has a round tower (these are unique to Ireland) built in the 1100s, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, Gothic cathedral built in the 1200s , and 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. There are two sarcophaguses in the ruins as well. There is also a cross on display that legend says if you can reach your arms around it, you won't have a toothache for the rest of your life.

We took a tour of the ruins of the site and as usual it was an excellent tour. I have to say, I am quite impressed with the quality of tours provided by the OPW. The tour guides seem to really know about the sites and be interested in Irish history.