Click on the icons below to access photo albums. You will get a feel for our charming property and get a closer look the Big Red Barn & Creekside Cottage. Also, check out Dave & Catherine’s extensive international travel- get a head start on your next vacation planning via their tips, or live vicariously through their grand adventures!
While Catherine and I had planned on the annual three weeks in South Africa (RSA), starting in April 2019, on our return we wanted to vacation in some new (to us) countries. We have done four other African nations in the last few years, so Central/Eastern Europe beckoned. Visiting three new countries in that area would get us halfway back to the US, but not having to deal with jet lag while on holiday, as Turkey, Hungary, and Czech Republic are almost due North of RSA.
We began our journey in Istanbul (aka Turkish İstanbul, formerly Constantinople, and also ancient Byzantium) which is the largest city and principal seaport of Turkey. It was the capital of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
The old walled city of Istanbul stands on a triangular peninsula between Europe and Asia. Sometimes as a bridge, sometimes as a barrier, Istanbul for more than 2,500 years has stood between conflicting surges of religion, culture, and imperial power. For most of those years it was one of the most coveted cities in the world.
Istanbul is a large, sprawling city on both sides of the Bosporus. With only three days on our schedule, we spent almost the entire time on the West (European) side of the river in the old, scenic part of town. This is the view from our hotel restaurant (with very good food) looking toward the East (Asian) side. BTW, we did not rent a car and that was a good decision. The cabs we used were challenged to find our hotel more than once; the old city streets are a major challenge, even for those who live there.
This is Ava Sophia (means Church of the Holy Wisdom) formerly the Hagia Sophia, built in 536 by the Catholic Emperor Justinian. It is said that Justinian made a grand sweeping statement regarding the world of wealth and the technical abilities of his Empire. Once a church, then a mosque, and now a museum, it displays Byzantine mosaics.
Dave and Catherine in front of the same Mosque, during the day. Every one of these historic places is open all day for tourists from everywhere in the world. They are always the major draws to the former Constantinople (founded by Emperor Constantine in 330 AD).
The remarkable blue Mosque, built by Sultan Ahmet, built between 1609 and 1616. Though an architectural wonder, the Mosque caused a furor throughout the Muslim world as it had 6 Minarets (the same number as the great Mosque of Mecca). A 7th Minaret was eventually gifted to Mecca to stem the dissent. This Mosque is today considered an example of the finest achievement of Ottoman architecture.
Evening Shot... Istanbul by darkness is one of the most magical places in the world! Some of the oldest buildings in the world are all lit up at night and are in close proximity to each other. It is an astounding site to behold.
Here the men are placing out the newly made Turkish pastries; that's pistachio baklava in the foreground. Tekin, our guide, suggested we stop in their small dining room and each have one of these pastries with Turkish coffee. Best we've ever had!!!
Everybody had heard about Turkish candy and probably tasted some, but we were taken to where it is actually made! After you walk in, they ply you with samples that simply don't end. Each one is tastier than the last. FYI, Turkish Candy (AKA Turkish Delight) are little cubed confections made from starch and sugar. They are often flavored with Rose Water, Bergamot orange, or lemon. They are the least yummy of any of the candies in Turkey. For instance, Baklava and Halva with smashed pistachios and honey are better any day of the week. The rolls are called Pasha Lokum.
Doesn't this look great? Catherine purchased a great deal of this candy and had it sent back to Kenwood. It was not inexpensive, so we are rationing it out to our visitors and ourselves. We have it vacuum sealed in canning jars in a cool, dark place.
Dikilitas (the Obelisk of Theodosius) transplanted from Egypt www.tarihiistanbul.com/dikilitas-nam-i-diger-obelisk/
The serpent column is an ancient bronze column at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Originally part of an ancient sacrificial column, the top had three snake heads. Originally from Delphi, Greece, and relocated by Constantine the Great in 324 AD.
Four beautiful young Muslim women, probably either Turkish or Kurdish Turks. We learned from our Kurdish guide that all the Kurds in Turkey more strongly identify themselves with their culture than the nation of Turkey.
Valens Aqueduct is a Roman Aqueduct which was the major water-providing system of the Eastern Roman capital of Constantinople (modern Istanbul). Completed by Roman Emperor Valens, in the late 4th Century AD, it was maintained and used by the Byzantines and later the Ottomans, and remains one of the most important landmarks in the city.
The Basicila Cistern, an underground water system, is one of Istanbul's most surprising tourist attractions. The huge, palace-like underground hall is supported by 336 columns in 12 rows. It once stored the imperial water supply for the Byzantine Emperors. The project was begun by Constantine the Great but finished by Emperor Justinian in the 6th Century.
Many of the columns used in construction were recycled from earlier classical structures and feature their original carvings. The most famous of these are the column bases known as the Medusa stones in the Northwest corners.
When we visited the Cistern, there was low, amber lighting with water all around trickling and dripping... it was really quite other-worldly.
Mosaics in stained glass dome in Tomb of Sultans, Hagia Sophia Cemetary (and inside cemetery).
Tomb of the Sultans- Ceiling
Another holy man at his bookcase...
Tekin, our Kurdish guide, in Istanbul. His English was exceptional and he introduced us to many sites we would have otherwise missed. If you are headed that way, and need a good guide, we suggest you call him in advance: +90 545.439.65.77 (WhatsApp)
Takim's uncle owned the local Kurdish Rug Shop. Here three of them are showing us one of hundreds we were to choose from.
Having seen the award-winning 2016 documentary movie Kedi, Catherine was thrilled to see the subjects of the movie everywhere in Istanbul. Thousands of stray cats live all over the city and are fed by people who live among them.
This is one of three photos of a new 10 room hotel called Seven Hills Palace (www.sevenhillspalace.com ) developed and owned by the Celik family. Before it opened, Dave toured the Sultanahmet property with Mahmut Celik because we had stayed at a far more modest Seven Hills hotel the family has owned for years. The Palace is a radical renovation and transformation of about three existing buildings on the ideal location, just across from the Bosporus.
The Seven Hills Palace may well be the best hotel in Istanbul, and is definitely where we will stay upon on return. Among other attractions, the major historic sites that are just a few minutes walking distance from it include Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque), Topkapi Palace, Dikilitas (the obelisk), Basilica cistern, Grand Bazaar, Egyptian Bazaar, Istanbul Archaeology Museum, and German Fountain.
Seven Hills Palace hotel HAS ODA restaurant, seating 80 people.
The drive to the new Istanbul airport takes about an hour. We were astounded, when we arrived, at its size and beauty. We subsequently learned that it will become the world's largest international airport, built in a record breaking 3.5 years. It spans an area of 18,780 acres, exceeding the size of Manhattan by 4,302 acres!
Budapest, Hungary's capital, is bisected by the river Danube. Its 19th century chain bridge, among others, connects the hilly Buda district with the flat Pest. Natives pronounce the city's name as "budapescht".
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary and a notable landmark. Sitting on the banks of the Danube, it is a glorious site, day and night (previous picture is a nighttime shot).
This is the Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park. Close to the center of Budapest, it was originally a 302 acre swamp drained by Hungarian Kings between the 13th and 16th centuries. In the 18th and 19th century, trees were planted and the Emperor established the National Gardens. The 1896 Millennium Celebrations brought massive developments to the park.
The Agricultural Museum is part of the Castle Park.
Jaki Chapel is in the Vajdahunyad Castle Courtyard. The small Romanesque chapel has an intricate facade decorated with geometric and religious statues.
Located next to the Vajdahunyad Castle, the Chapel has stunning and intricate stonework on its facade.
The Portal is impressive, copied from the 13th Century Jaki Church in Western Hungary. It was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Celebration.
Looking north up the Danube, one can see the Parliament building on the right side of a bridge. Further north, the bridge to the left is called the Margaret Bridge and connects both sides of the city to the city's Margaret (Margrit) Island. The bridge in the foreground is the famous Chain Bridge.
The Szechenyi Chain Bridg, is a chain bridge that spans the Danube between Buda and Pest. This first permanent bridge opened in 1849. At the time of its construction, it was regarded as one of the modern world's engineering wonders, much as the Brooklyn Bridge was in New York.
The Chain Bridge's decorations are made of cast iron with architectural elements that have made this bridge one of the most popular and photographed bridges in Europe. Every evening as we strolled bridge, we saw hundreds of people taking selfies and other photos for their Facebook posts.
A view of the Danube from the castle looking south shows first the Elizabeth Bridge and beyond it the beautiful Puente de la Libertad Bridge, or "Liberty Bridge", which is a beautiful girder bridge built between 1894-1896.
Buda Castle at night... The castle now includes wonderful art galleries.
On Castle Hill, this part of the building is a museum of historic medieval history. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Rainstorm on the Plain, 1861, by Karoly Lotz.
The Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle, commonly known as the Matthian Church, is in the heart of the Buda District. It was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015. The current building was constructed in the florid late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th Century.
For $5, you can have your photo taken with this troubadour and his pet falcon.
A Statue of Pope Innocent XI 1574-1655.
These Spring Pansy beds within the lawns are so striking and creative.
Built in 1854, this is the largest Synagogue in Europe.
The Tree of Life Sculpture, built in 1996, (thanks to the donation by Estee Lauder), is an incredible monument dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust by the Nazis and fascist Hungarians. It is located in the backyard of the synagogue.
Here is a memorial stained glass art piece in Raoul Wallenberg Park in the courtyard of the Dohany Street Synagogue. It is a memorial to Hungarian Jewish martyrs- at least 400,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
This intriguingly contemporary office building was designed by Eric van Egeraat, who received the "For Budapest Award 2006" for his architectural masterpiece. This building does not let you just walk by; the visual depth of its rumbustious (unruly) shape, sophistication of the contours, and the dynamic leaning walls are fascinating.
Catherine in her new Budapest baseball hat...
"Ego Sum Via, Veritas Et Vita- I am the way, the truth, and the light!" Saint Steven's Basilica is a significant Hungarian tourist attraction.
St. Steven's Basilica Interior
St. Steven's Basilica Interior
St. Steven's Basilica Stained Glass
From Budapest, we flew next into Prague which is the capital of the Czech Republic. Lying at the heart of Europe, it is one of the continent’s finest cities and the major Czech economic and cultural center.
In Prague, we stayed at the very skinny Clementin Hotel. Due to its small size and steep stairs, we considered moving out the next day but we didn't.
Note how close these pretty buildings are to each other. The streets are very tight and were very crowded, even in early May.
This is the Prague Astronomical Clock Tower. It was first installed in 1410 making it the 3rd oldest Astronomical Clock in the world and the oldest still operating today.
Due to the city's popularity, the Charles Bridge is always overcrowded.
The entrance to the Charles Bridge with the castle in the background...
Catherine took this photo from the Charles Bridge looking back into the city. In the next slide, you will see a painting we purchased of this particular view. No doubt, this view has been photographed and painted through the centuries.
Later in the day, walking the hundreds of stairs to the castle, we came upon this painting in an art gallery. We were so charmed that we purchased it and brought it home.
Catherine arose before dawn to take this photo to avoid crowds.
The Charles Bridge is an historic bridge that crosses the Vltava River. Construction started in 1357, under King Charles IV. The avenue of 30 mostly baroque statues on the balustrade forms a unique connection of artistic styles with the underlying Gothic bridge. Most sculptures were erected between 1683 to 1714.
The statues depict various saints during 1683-1714.
Holy Crucifix and Cavalry Statue
The guard at entrance of the Prague Castle complex...
St. Vitus' Cathedral, located within the Prague castle complex, is a prominent example of Gothic Architecture, and is the largest and most important church in the country.
Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral interior...
The Crown of St. Wenceslas made in 1347 for the 11th King of Bohemia, Charles IV.
Interior of St. Vitus' Church
Church interior sculptures...
We noticed that many shops carried marionettes of various quality, these being very nice, hand-carved and hand painted. These puppets have been popular for many centuries.
Prague's Starbucks Coffee overlooking Veltava River.
It must be fun riding the streets drinking Czech beer on the Prague Beer Bike. Naturally they are all young men who must peddle while the bartender steers. (Here the bike is stopped so the bartender can pour.) The 2-hour beer bike ride accommodates 16 and serves unlimited premium beer all for just 350 euros!
It's a modern Asian custom for couples to have their photos taken in advance at foreign landmarks- usually iconic and historic locations around the world. They are usually taken at dawn.
Here are some of many bridge performers. This two-violin street band called "Electroshock" was playing wonderful music; so charming in fact, that we purchased their double CD. (www.electroshock.cz) They play violin, cello, drums, and cajon, and play all their own arrangements. We can see one guy playing the cajon, a box shaped instrument, at rear center.
Prague Street Performers in Old Town Square.
Bohemian beer is part of the Czech tradition, but this clever advertisement takes the cake!
University students opposed to animal testing and natural hair color...
The little bronze statues of the snake and the gecko are certainly a nice touch for this industrial use.
Czechia was established on January 1, 1993, out of the former Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (commonly known as Czechoslovakia) which ceased to exist as of December 31, 1992. After 3 days in Prague, we picked up a rental car and started our journey to South Moravia.
Driving into Mirovice... we have now started Catherine's odyssey to find her Bohemian roots. This is a cute little village, as was Tchorozice. The names of people she was looking for were Jirinec, Franek, Vokorky, or Vokorkova- the name of the grands, the greats, and the great-greats.
Catherine's great grandfather, John Drab, 1862-1917, emigrated from this tiny village of Vrbno.
You will see Catherine's great grandfather's brother, Josef Drab noted on this memorial to the boys from the village who died during WWI. Memorials to the fallen of The Great War are found all over Europe.
This is the Grand Plaza in Ceske Budejovice. It is the largest and the capital city of South Bohemia.
Ceske Budejovice is world renowned for its beer. The Grand Premysl Otakar Square is surrounded by arcaded houses, elegant townhouses gathered around one of the largest squares in Europe. The pretty grey building with the three towers in the background is the city's town hall.
The Square is home to the baroque Samson's Fountain. It once served as Cskebudejozice's main water supply. This grandiose baroque work was built as part of the city renovation after the 30 Years War, in 1720-1727.
Here is a close up of Samson's Fountain framed by the night sky, in the plaza.
Bohemian King Tremyslotakar II chose the confluence of the large south Bohemian rivers Vltava and Malse in 1265 to found the city of Ceske Budejovice to strengthen his position of power in South Bohemia.
Off to our next stop...Cesky Krumlov... The arcaded bridge linking Krumlov Castle to its theater... this is how we entered the castle complex.
Cesky Krumlov is an astonishingly beautiful well preserved small medieval town. It is one of the most visited in the Czech Republic, founded in the 13th century. It belonged to the Rozembk Dynasty from 1302 to 1602. The Eggenbergs held sway for a hundred years then the Schwarvenbergs took over from 1719 to 1947. In 1992 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The castle of Cesky Krumlov stands on a steep and rocky headland along the banks of the Vltava, on the left in this picture.
Latran, the old quarter, was once a village inhabited by craftsmen and merchants who provided services for the castle. It is linked to the inner town by a bridge over the Vltava.
Another view of Cesky Krumlov
Cesky Krumlov castle garden fountain...
These two scenes are ubiquitous throughout the Czech country. The yellow plants are Rapeseed, a bright yellow flower, Brassicaceae family, that of cabbage and mustard. This plant which looks very much like mustard, is grown for its seeds to make Canola Oil. It appeared to us that at least 40% of Czech farmland was planted to Rapeseed.
More Rapeseed for Canola Oil.... This is a type of European Rapeseed that was developed by Canadians using traditional plant breeding into a crop providing healthier human food use. The name Canola is derived from the phrase "Canadian Oil Low Acid."
We stayed a few days in Brno, Czechia, a few hours east of Prague. It has a population of 380,000. We found it as charming and historic as Prague but with very few tourists. In the background you will see the Grandiso Hotel where we stayed. We were on the top floor on the left corner with the balcony. That Farmers' Market you see is there every day of the week. Each day we would buy the biggest, most delicious blueberries and raspberries for breakfast and snacks.
A magnificent medieval painting from the gallery in Hradec, South Bohemia.
This is Alena who we met in Lesotho. She was there with her husband Danny and Daniel who you will see in the following picture, and his wife, Renatta.
Daniel Oralek and Alena are long-distance runners AKA "ultra runners". On the eve of this picture being taken, he drove 2+ hours to Prague, ran a marathon, and drove back 2+ hours to meet us for drinks.
The Rotary Club of Brno banner exchange.
The Mutenic sign shows all the many wine cellars in this village. Many of the wine cellars are simply little houses.
This is the beginning of the village of Mutenice which was our next stop on the trip. Notice the beautiful South Moravian friezes.
These Moravian motifs are painted free hand- none are alike.
Here is another example of these painted decorations.
This ancient looking door led us into one of those wine storage passageways.
Daniel Orelek sent us to Mutenic to meet up with his friend, seen here, who is a 4th generation winemaker. Notice how he is pouring Catherine a glass of wine- we are in one of his many underground wine storage places.
Here are ancient steps down into the wine cellar.
Next we visited Lednice Palace. You cannot see this castle on the approach from the road. You have to park and start walking towards where you think it is. As you come around a giant tree, it rises in front of you out of nowhere with spires and arches and intricate filigree; it's so gorgeous it seems to be ripped from the pages of your favorite fairy tale.
Lednice is a village in South Moravia in the Czech Republic. In 1996 it was inscribed on the World ENESCO heritage list as "an exceptional example of the designed landscape that evolved in the enlightenment under the care of a single family". It contains a palace and the largest park in the country which covers 77 square miles.
Since Lenice first passed into the hands of the House of Liechenstein, in the mid 13th century, its fortunes have been tied inseparably to those of that noble family.
The Palace of Lenice began its life as a Renaissance villa; in the 17th century, it became a summer house for the ruling princes of Liechtenstein.
These were the castle stables.
The surrounding park of Lenice Palace is laid out in an English Garden style.
Catherine on the Palace park grounds. This beautiful tree must be hundreds of years old.
There is a carefully landscaped network of gardens, lanes, vineyards, lakes and streams here on the Lenice Palace grounds. It is the most beautifully created landscape that seems a cross between an arboretum and the way it might have looked a thousand years ago.
Here is another romantic castle landscape... this carefully constructed landscape of scrubs, trees and waterways is meant to look as natural as possible. They have added a Romanesque column in the foreground similar in nature to the follies that are found in other parts of the gardens. A folly is a small building usually constructed strictly for aesthetic pleasure.
This magnificent Greenhouse or "hot-house" is made of cast iron, steel and glass; it is 300' in length. It's home to a glorious collection of tropical and subtropical plants... you feel as though you are transported to a tropical rain forest.
It was such a pleasure wandering through these grounds.
The attractive Jan Palach Elementary School, located across the street from St. Barbara’s Cathedral, high above the Vrchlice River, is in Kutna Hora. We learned it was built in 1899, after translating the Roman numerals (on front gable) to Arabic numbers.
View from hillside of town of Kutna Hora with Church of St. James at center. Kutna Hora was Bohemia's political and economic center between the 14th and 15th centuries during which time it was one of the richest cities in the country. The city sat on high deposits of silver ore and was a successful mining town. St. Barbara's cathedral was founded by Kutna Hora's rich mine owners in 1388.
Here is St. Barbara's Cathedral, dedicated to the patron saint of miners. St. Barbara's Cathedral is one of Europe's most spectacular churches. Both interior and exterior are richly ornamented, and the huge windows ensure it is filled with light. Many of the frescoes depict miners at work and men striking coins reflecting the town's wealth.
Saint Barbara's Cathedral Interior... note the fresco at center of this richly carved piece... all the beautifully carved, intricate characters are amazing.
Saint Barbara's Cathedral
The interior is huge and very open with towering ceilings. The ceiling murals show many of the miner's coats of arms. Catherine regretted not bringing her binoculars to see the details.
We knew we were just sampling these three countries on our two-week trip. Our travels through Turkey, Hungary & Czechia were amazing. The time just flew by; we must return before we are old people.