Zagreb, Croatia

I really like Zagreb. It’s got charm and an easy feeling. It’s not as touristy as Prague, nor as beautiful. It’s not as run down as Budapest. Nor as big. It’s also one of the greenest, meaning lots of trees, cities. In addition, it’s the smallest capital city. It’s a great place to wander and to allow it to reveal itself. Thinking this could be a great home base. We had some sunny weather today – warmest since we’ve been in central Europe. Such a glorious day that we meandered and entered nary a museum. Photos forthwith… I don’t often post food pics, but this cup and this meal were so artistic I must.

Cornmeal crusted softboiled eggs on a bed of lettuce with a cottage cheese, sour cream, horseradish base on toast, with a garnish of spring onions. Oh my!
All this is just around the corner! And where we had that breakfast.
Morning market just outside our apartment building.
The aftermath
Cleaned up for the next time. They were setting up last night about this time. Not tonight. Maybe it’s a weekday affair?

The assortment of fruits, veggies, honey, cheese was dizzying. I so wanted to buy and cook and sample and try. As it was I bought a half kilo of tiny grapes from an old woman who was selling her lonely stash on a lonely table corner. They were jewels – and so sticky sweet! I munched on them all morning.

Yesterday we happened upon the oldest pub in Zagreb and met the young (to us) owner. Here is a post on Tripadvisor :

The oldest pub in Zagreb – Pod Starim Krovovima

Place of old more than 100 years, has always been a gathering place of artists and various artists. In the pub was filmed cult film TKO PJEVA ZLO NE MISLI

We returned tonight for a musician, singer with the national theatre. In the video everyone is singing along with a favorite Croatian song about the city of Zagreb. Everyone there, save us, was a local. It was a packed house. Croatian wine is really good too. Did I mention how much I like Hungarian wine? In fact, I’m having some right now. Our hotel in Budapest is owned in part by a Hungarian winery – Juhasz. We partook on a few occasions, and received as a parting gift, a bottle of their Merlot Rosé. Yum! We loved that hotel – comfortable, great location, ample breakfast – including their light and lovely Muscat – and very friendly staff. I was about ready to move in.

So, I’ve morphed from Zagreb to Budapest. S’okay. I now have an enduring love of Central Europe. Tomorrow we leave for the Dalmatia Coast on the Adriatic sea. So excited to shed some clothes!

Snapshots of Zagreb

I’ve decided that pictures really are worth a lot more words than my words usually convert, so here is my discounted essay about a day in Zagreb, Croatia.

At the Zagreb Assembly building Tesla is remembered for offering to build a alternating current power plant for the city in 1892.
And of course Tesla is remembered fondly, though perhaps not by all.
The view from our apartment on a rainy, overcast morning.
This market happens every day, including two stories underground. Incredible variety of fresh produce. And meats. And cheeses. And breads. And did I say sausages?
Advertised as the shortest funicular in the world. 5 Kuna for a one way trip (about USD 0.60).
Paula always chases the clouds away.
Lotrscak Tower dates from the 13th century.
A view from the top. The church, by the way, has the loudest bells at 6 in the morning.
Out apartment is in the building on the left where we can view the Dolac market and it’s aftermath.
This is the Greek co-Cathedral of St. Cyrus and Methodius. Built in 1830, rebuilt after the 188p earthquake and now being repaired after the 2020 earthquake.

I’ve contacted a contractor to install this roof on our home. It would be a great addition to the neighborhood.
Another of those darn medieval structures closed for repairs. Many of the older structures were damaged in the 2020 earthquake.


I don’t like to start off on a negative slant, but that is how Budapest presented upon arrival at the train station. No signage. Dark. Dirty. Raining. Walking from the train station to our hotel was utterly lacking in charm. Poor Budapest has an old forlorn decay about it. Buildings have some architectural interest, but minimally, and are worn, peeling, and tired. That being said we have enjoyed our time here. Ed\Charlie is masterful at figuring out the transit system and lazy me is happy for it.

Three days is never enough. Here are some highlights from Monday:

These photos show Parliament. This is the building you see on PBS Viking River Cruise ads. The last photo for Monday will show it at night in all it’s illuminated glory. We opted not to tour it so I’ve no idea of the inside.
The Danube from Fisherman’s Bastion.
Part of Fisherman’s Bastion. Great views from here. Also, it’s not as medieval as it looks, but rather a 19th century construction built to commemorate the 100th year of the Hungarian state. It is built atop previously existing battlement walls from the 1600s, hence the style from that period. It’s named for Fisherman’s Town lying beneath and for the fishermen who often rose in defense
St. Matthias Church
St. Matthias Church roof from the church tower – 197 steps!
Interior St. Matthias
Our Lady of Loretto – Virgin Queen and patroness of Hungary
The lamb, water springing from it’s feet and signifying rebirth and purity
Detail -looks Celtic
This interior had so many interesting styles!
Coat of Arms
More amazingly beautiful and strategically useful door hardware

After Parliament we happened upon a riverside shrine to the Jews and the Holocaust. It’ll always make me cry. I had not heard of te Arrow Cross Party before.

Doesn’t it look like these aholes took the coat of arms of Matthias and used it for their nefarious purposes? The cross is different and the cross and stripes have switched sides. The bastards.
The Labyrinth
Victims of Vlad the impaler, otherwise known as Dracula.

After a refreshing break of cake and a cortado (for me) and beer (for Ed) we descended into the underground world of the labyrinths.

The labyrinths lay under the Buda Castle complex (14th century) and extend for several miles in all directions. Initially, naturally formed by rushing thermal waters, they were used as shelter and for food storage and as a water source. Nowadays you can wander them looking for buried Turkish treasure (supposedly) or hoping for an otherworldly experience. While most is dimly lit, there is a section that is completely, I mean completely, dark. You feel your way by fingertips. Crazy spooky fun.

A bit of Budapest at sun down:

Oh yeah! Just imagine you’re on that Viking Cruise Line.

Okay, last thought for the night: lots of people here are wearing heavy winter coats. Fur collars and cuffs. Wool. Mega heavy sweaters. I wonder. What the hell are they wearing when winter actually descends?!

Prague Museum of Communism

While I was in Prague thirty years ago, newspapers were publishing the names of people who had been coerced into signing contracts with the authorities to provide information regarding matters of which the state had some interest.  Jiri, my host, would show me the list in the morning, highlighting who were his neighbors and colleagues, and who were his cell mates when he was in prison for his crimes against the state.  It was an interesting time to be in Prague as the nation was coming to acknowledge what Jiri called the “deformation” caused by fifty years of totalitarian rule.

I was attending the international conference of the Institute of Cultural Affairs, which is an NGO focused on organization and empowerment of communities.  I would travel each day on the Metro, forty five minutes each way with two train changes, to reach the conference facility.  I watched the fellow passengers sit in stone silence, eyes straight to the front, refusing eye contact and not speaking for the duration of the trip.  I could sense the utter alienation of the citizens one from the another.

Many details of the conference are lost in the haze of an aged memory.  Among those surviving is a reference made by the keynote speaker of the “parenthetical phrase” that started in 1917 and was now coming to its close.  Our trip to the Museum of Communism makes me question whether the “close parenthesis” has yet been typed onto that page of history.   The conditions described at the museum reverberate through time and many of the vibrations echo in the present and in my own country. As the statement mis-attributed to Mark Twain reminds us, history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

The exhibit starts with a presentation on the origin of the Czechoslovakian state from the Austrian-Hungarian empire at the close of World War I, the birth of the Czech Communist Party and its growth in response to the post war poverty and. the Great Depression.  Then there was the “great betrayal” of the Munich Agreement when other European powers ceded the Czech border lands and ultimately the entire nation to the Nazi regime. In this part of the exhibit, I remembered Jiri showing me the various informal monuments where the bullet holes still remained in the walls where partisans had been executed.   And I recalled that earlier in the day I came across one of those monuments. 

The Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia was clearly harsh and brutal yet the suppression of the mind and spirit that was achieved in the next phase of totalitarian rule was complete and comprehensive.  As I read the text and saw the images of the communist periodI knew that I had not really understood what Jiri had called the “deformation.”

The exhibit showed how in nearly every aspect of life, from the family, the church, the civic organizations, and the entire industrial enterprise had become a tool of oppression.  What is called “oppression” in the West today is a mere shadow of the oppression experienced by the Czechoslovakian people (as well as the other nations and cultures on “that side” of the iron curtain.

Fathers of Communism
Timeline of totalitarianism
Heroes of Socialism

Know your place

Among the actions taken to implement the regime, as outlined in the exhibition, were:

  • Adoption of emergency powers by the State;
  • Exclusion of opposition political parties and implementation of one-party rule;
  • Monopolization of news and distribution of information;
  • Suppression of dissenting views through censorship, harassment, and the use of raw state power;
  • Currency reforms directed at degrading the economic position of the citizens;
  • Centralization of economic and social planning;
  • Elimination of small businesses and entrepreneurs;
  • Elimination of private ownership of farmland and centralized control over food distribution;
  • Use of the legal system and judiciary to persecute;
  • Ideological indoctrination of children and instruction in a revised history to sever links to the past;
  • Politicization and weaponization of police and military and using it against the population;
  • Systematic surveillance of the population using technology and networks of informants and secret police; and
  • Compelled obedience to the State through economic, social and physical coercion.

Do any of these measures seem familiar?

The exhibit concluded with the fall of communism in Europe.  Among the last panels we found the statement that “the fall of communism took ten years in Poland, ten months in Hungary, ten weeks in Germany, and ten days in Czechoslovakia.” That assertion addresses only the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 and its aftermath. Earlier, the exhibition includes a long history of resistance and disobedience.  There was the “Prague Spring” of 1968, the annual self-immolation of protestors, and the various examples of cultural insurrection through art, poetry, and literature, distributed through the underground.

Names and dates of the martyrs for liberation

The last item in the exhibition is a video of the street demonstrations and the State’s response during the Velvet Revolution.  The heroism of the demonstrators who stood against the unconstrained violence of the State was astounding.  As for the closing of the parenthesis, it is an open question whether the citizens of the West have the clarity of mind and the courage to act as the totalitarian forces in our society solidify their control.

Beginning of the End
Velvet Revolution

Prague – last bits and Most Important Bit

On our first day in Prague I received an email from a friend I had not seen since 2016 or 2017, the last time she was in Albuquerque. Catherine Carr reached out wondering if I truly was in Prague as she was also! Wow. Her friend Ronnie, living in Stuttgart was also here visiting her. We arranged to meet at the Prague castle on Friday morning. After touring the castle complex (largest IN THE WORLD) we had lunch at the oldest pub in Prague. The dark lower environ seen below.

Me, Catherine, Ronnie, Charlie\Ed

We spent hours at the castle viewing it, St. Vitus Cathedral, and Golden Row, this last a row of tiny living spaces where workers of the day would have lived: seamstress, goldsmith… Basically they were two small rooms with the basics. Quite cozy looking actually. The largest and most resplendent belonged to Mathilde…a prominent seer of the day. Amazing she was revered and not killed as a witch.

Along this row also was a museum of torture and knights’ armor and weapons. Being up close and being able to guage the weight of a lead, spiked ball and the size of a spear really brings home the reality of hand-to-hand combat

A few photos of St. Vitus Cathedral

A beautiful and very effective stove – in use this day!
Ronnie and I were beyond enamored of the door hardware – so elaborate.

Catherine, Ronnie and the two of us met again Friday night to bid adieu to Prague and one another at the Hemingway bar.

I can’t begin to extoll the beauty and charm of Prague. I started with that and I end with that.


First, a correction: autocorrect changed the name of the river in Prague. It is Vltava, not Vitals!

This may be the most beautiful city I’ve ever experienced. I do wonder though if I’ve said that before and about which city. Still, there’s something about Prague. It would take me a thousand words times a thousand. So I’ll allow photos to do the telling. In addition, we’ve been on the go go go and there’s just too much to recount. Captions will capture the essence.

River views

Working waterwheel on a tributary

Rooftop views

Old Town Square from the clock tower in the Old Town Hall
Old Town Square

Architectural Details from Old Clock Tower, 14th Century, below

Salvaged from Old Clock Tower after German tank battle WWII

The Customs House is a gorgeous building housing two concert venues and is home to the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Part of it has designs by Alphonse Mucha, progéniture of the Arte Nouveau movement. We were fortunate that an exhibition of the largest collection of his original posters was there. The exhibition included the animation of some of his works. It was extensive; he was a master with technical skill as well as creative skill. He’s one of my favorites. You can see how the wild posters of the 60s grew out of Mucha’s musings and designs.

In case you didn’t know, tap on the photo to expand it for a better view.

Mucha’s posters

Mucha and Sarah Bernhardt had a many year collaboration. His first poster for her marked the beginning of his fame, which continued throughput his life and beyond.
JOB rolling papers
Commemoration of Queen Victoria, 3 phases of life

A little bit of info about Mucha

A little bit more

This part of the exhibit was enlarged on 3 walls, accompanied by music in a smaller version, similar to immersive shows happening in the Sawmill area.

Art Nouveau in the Sts. Peter and Paul Basilica – I just love the colors.

A divergent note as I get into bed…so far at the three hotels we’ve been in – Berlin Prague Budapest – the bed covers are the same: a white quilted blanket, enclosed in a white duvet, folded in four and laid upon the bed. It’s lightweight yet warm. And so much easier for housekeeping!

Speaking of hotels…a favorite aspect of traveling is the surprise of the hotel. Despite photos on the website, you’re never quite sure what you’re in for. In Berlin the room was tiny – and a model of exacting use of space. It had a modern-esque Bauhaus vibe. It worked. Especially for just one night. Plus two bottles of water gratis.

Prague was a roomy room on a quiet side street. Toilet in a separate room from the sink and tub. Windows that open! This is an old world hotel resplendent with burnished wood and a homey feel.

Here in Budapest we are in a Smart Hotel. Thoroughly modern with a light system that is too smart for us. A wall panel controls the lights and the heat. Only problem is, we can’t figure out how to turn off the motion sensor for the bathroom light. The room is larger than Berlin and smaller than Prague, using the cool colors of grey, white, and subdued turquoise.

All in all they always work. Except when they don’t, like that time in Oaxaca by the beach which was absolutely gross and we had to find a new place.

Anyway, moving on. Maybe we’d both like a break. I hope you enjoyed the photos. There’s more to come!

Along the Elbe

Traveling from Berlin to Prague on train 379 today. The ride is smooth and quiet. We are paralleling the Elbe which sits in a basin, land rising on either side of us, especially to the north\northeast. Homes hug the bit of property by the river and some climb the hillside. Old world buildings, or maybe just European style make them seem old world, jostle for position in limited space.

And just like that, the terrain changes. Cliffs are gone, hillsides not as steep remain. Now there is more room for grassy areas. This occured right around the time we left Germany and entered the Czech Republic. Geography is curious that way. Or maybe it just makes sense borderwise.

Have you ever been so tired that your phone fell out of your hand while you were researching something? Last night we discovered that the train from Budapest to Split, Croatia that we planned to take had disappeared from the schedule. Alternatives had to be arranged. But not right then. Or maybe we did decide. I’m all ferklumtenfugen after two overnight flights and wandering NYC after no sleep at all on that leg. 

A delicious local lager

As I had no photos from the train, I proffer this, a beer we shared on the train.

The four and a half hour train ride was soothing, relaxing, and passed by quickly. Prague is the most beautiful city I’ve been in ever. There’s a reason both Stalin and Hitler never gave orders to bomb it. If that doesn’t give you some sense of humanity in all the madness of the world, nothing will.

Here are some Prague photos:

Looking toward old town, late afternoon on the Vitals River.
Old Town
Prague Castle seen from Old Town. Founded in the year 870 by the Premyslid family,  the ruling dynasty for centuries until the failure to produce an heir in the early 1300s.
Craft Beer Spot – near our hotel and a hopping place with great beer and better food. Seriously – sous vide pork loin with creamed celeriac and roasted cauliflower? For $12.00? Yes, please. We’ll be back.
Foreground : cherry beer. Such a delicious dessert! Kasteel means castle; note the castle at the base of the stem. In the background – Lollihop, a west coast IPA – very good.

And thus ends my first post of this trip. Unlike Charlie, I’m able to sleep, and looking forward to it right now.

Our Next Great Adventure (an introduction)

Our plane landed in Berlin under heavy clouds and hard rain.  I had hoped the forecasts would be mistaken as they had been so often when we’ve been able to compare real life conditions to media representations.  Weather forecasts tend to have the same bias towards sensational reporting as other so-called news.  As we approached Berlin, I was pleased to watch the ground below illuminated by bright sun in cloudless sky, but my once again I was not disappointed by my disappointment when we suddenly were descending into thick clouds onto rain drenched runway with haze and fog obscuring the terminal and peripherals.

In my mind, there are probably a few more cities more depressing than Berlin under clouds but I haven’t been to one yet.  My last trip to Berlin was thirty years ago as winter approached, and my expectations for today’s visit have been shaped considerably by that experience.  It was barely after the fall of the wall when the neglect and deterioration of the city from the communist deformation was evident.  It seemed the environment, particularly in the eastern zone, created its own overcast.  Of course, times have changed, and Germany has (or soon to have had) the strongest economy of the European Union, so I expect the malaise I detected thirty years ago has been overcome and that even the clouds and rain may become something else to appreciate.

Before leaving the airport Paula and I took some time for coffee and to steel ourselves to plunge into the Our Next Great Adventure.  By the time we left the airport, the sun was shining in a dark blue sky.  My skepticism has not necessarily served me well, but it has at least been a trustworthy companion.  We plunged into the city, confident or our ability to steer ourselves through an area where we have little understanding of the language and considerable ignorance of societal dynamics.  After a short break at our hotel we decided we should take a long walk in the city to delay the inevitable encounter with jet lag.  We immediately somehow locked ourselves out of the hotel, on a roof-top terrace in midst of a gigantic downpour.

How does that statement end? You know the one that starts “Past performance. . . . . ” Fortunately, we had both an umbrella and a cell phone so were able, after several calls to the front desk, were eventually liberated by a young woman who lectured us sternly, in the way only a German can lecture, and advised us not to engage in any further misbehavior.

There will be no photographs in this post.  It is only a teaser, an introduction to our new next adventure, about which we will describe in upcoming posts.  We will write about our sixteen-hour layover in New York City, and the two overnight flights we completed.  We will catch you up on our day in Manhattan and the joys of experiencing the city as a couple of “out of towners” (intentional reference to the movie).  We will also fill you in on how we happen to be where we are and where we intend to be next.

I am also uploading this post as an advisory for those of you who would think a good drenching is an acceptable substitute for abundant sunlight to stave off jet lag.  It’s nearly two o’clock in the morning and I’m in the lobby typing away.  Club music is playing over the speakers and young folks, in well lubricated good humor, are streaming in towards the elevator as I wonder how it is Tuesday night is a party night in Berlin.

Another bit of warning.  This blog will be over-taken by events.  By the next time one of us posts again we will be somewhere else.  Our hotel has a nightly rate slightly more than a round trip flight to JFK, so tomorrow we will be on a southbound train for a destinationabout which we will discuss later.

Fare thee well, for now.