Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hvar Town Part 3

This was our favorite restaurant in Hvar Town - high praise in a place that is absolutely crowded with places to eat. Our little restaurant has only four tables and maximum seating for 24. Each table has a candle in a wax covered bottle and old wine-making equipment is scattered around. There are only two entrees: fish or meat. We had fish the first night and it was delicious! The best part were the fried minnows. You cannot believe how good they were. The second night we had the meat dish and it was great, too. However, the best part were the minnows I requested as a special appetizer. No wonder those little guys make such good bait.

On another afternoon, we took a short boat ride to the island of Sveti Jerolim. The only kind of beach to be found in this part of the world is rocky and the only kind of water they have is crystal clear. The boat in the upper right hand corner was one of several we saw of this style. This was the best of several pictures I took. They were always too far away to get much detail, but they have a great shape.
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Hvar Town Part 2

The Franciscan Monastery and church was one of the most peaceful places we visited. I could have looked at the Last Supper painting for hours.

St. Stephen's Cathedral towers over the square. Located less than a block from our apartment, the cathedral was an impressive feature in our stay in Hvar. We woke up with the bells and they continued to mark the passage of time all day long. We heard the organ every time we passed the church. There seemed to be a large group of people practicing. From time to time, we would slip in and listen for a few minutes. We were never disappointed.

One afternoon, we walked to the other side of town and watched a soccer game. We saw soccer fields everywhere we went. The gentleman on the left is an aspiring author. We had leisurely lunch with him in a tiny seaside restaurant. He is an Irishman who currently lives in Germany and follows the sun as much as possible. He shared some very interesting observations regarding the end (?) of communism in Croatia. His thought was that labels are much easier to change than people.
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Hvar Town Part I

Hvar, is an island just off the Croatian coast from Split -completely surrounded by the clear, clean, sparkling Adriatic Sea. With that much ocean, you just know there are going to be boats!
Little boats, big boats, fishing boats, cruising boats, tall ships, ferries, ocean liners . . .

And big research vessels like this one - I would love to know what they were researching and how to get one of those jobs.

One day, we walked up the hill behind the town to visit the Citadel still commonly known as Spanjola. On the way, there were lots of stairs - in fact there were stairs everywhere we went - and a charming small-volume fermentation in process.
Spanjola is one of the many places we visited that seemingly has no beginning. Every wall, every structure seems to be built on or around something even older. What we see today was built by the Venetians in the 1550's.
From the the outer walls, you can see what a fine defense this would have been. Any enemy ship would have been an easy target.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lunch in an Olive Grove

After visiting the second winery, we climbed to an even higher elevation and turned down the most primitive road we had traveled that day. Grape vines gave way to a scattering of olive trees and then to a huge grove. We pulled off the road, walked up about 200 feet and around a final corner. Hidden among the trees and several small gardens of tomatoes, eggplant, and various herbs, we saw our lunch spot like something out of a fairy tale book. It was an elaborate roadside picnic park complete with a fairy godfather who had arranged everything, set the table with the real stuff (no paper plates here), cooked the meal and served it beautifully. We sat facing the sea with a postcard village off to our left and still more grapevines scrambling up the mountain behind us. Fresh anchovies, cheese, olives, chicken, olive paste, steak, vegetables, olive oil and bread. Oh . . . how could I forget? Wine. The fairy godfather's mother appeared with dessert. Grapes and pomegranates she had just picked and a small bowl of candied almonds. A picture perfect romantic lunch.

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Hvar Wine Tour

I saw the same scene from many different angles with different grape varieties, various elevations, here the sky a bit bluer and around the corner the sea crashing a bit more or less violently against the rocky beach. No variation had a greater impact than the first.
The moment I realized our single track gravel road was almost exactly half way up the mountain and we were completely surrounded by grape vines - that's a moment I will remember for a long time!

Looking up, the vines streamed down from the sky. Looking down, the vines fell into the sea.
We saw very little trellising. Almost all the vines were growing as unsupported vertical cordons. They were baking in sunshine reflected once off the water and again off the white limestone rocks covering the surface.
The island may never again have as many vines as it did before phylloxera wiped them out, but the vines that are still there have an unbelievably beautiful setting.

We visited two wineries, both wonderful. They have taken the wine tasting experience to a whole new level complete with table service, food samples, and lit candles. I was not expecting to be overwhelmed with high quality, but I was pleasantly surprised!
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Sunday, September 26, 2010


Knowing we would only be in Split for a few hours, I was ready to write it off as a pass-through, but by the time we got on the boat to leave, I was already planning a return trip for a more leisurely look around. The town is as old as dirt. As soon as the archeologists think they have found the original structures, they find something else even older.
More pictures and more text about this town later.

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Public Transportation

One of things we enjoyed most about our trip was the availability of safe, dependable, affordable public transportation. Our only use of private vehicles were the wine tours and trips to and from the Budapest Airport. We used it all: train, buses, trolleys, underground metros, and the extensive ferry system. It was a real pleasure to leave the driving to someone else. Stanley got to look at the scenery and neither one of us was stressed!
This pictures was taken on the train from Budapest to Zagreb. Even though we traveled second class, we had this whole car to ourselves. The train from Zagreb to Split had no class distinctions. Everyone had the same kind of accommodation. Called The Tilting Train, this high speed train did actually tilt as we went around curves. It was seemingly unaffected by mountains. We zoomed up and down with little change in speed. Amazing!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

City Park

We spent all day Saturday at the City Park. Not your every-day city park; this one is the home of the Szechenyi Baths, a circus, a zoo, an amusement park, a seasonal ice rink, and also includes the Vajdahunyad Castle which houses a fantastic museum. On this day, great parts of the museum had been transformed into a wonderland of hands-on activities for children - focusing on the ancient Magyar crafts.

A favorite with local wedding couples, we saw two brides rushing along to be in time for their photo ops. Three steps later, this one even lost a shoe!
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The Parliament Building, like so much of modern Budapest, was built for the 1896 celebration. It's neo-Gothic style, fountains and statuary, and riverfront location were inspired by its counterpart in London. The enormous size was appropriate for the multinational Hapsburg Empire that was to be ruled from its halls and chambers.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Budapest Opera House

Of all the beautiful buildings in Budapest, this one is my personal favorite. Built in 1884, it was outstanding in terms of both design and function. However, Communism did nothing for the artistic side of Hungary. Work is being done as I write to replace some of the "improvements" made during the Communist reign and to bring the house back to its former splendor.

No matter. It is still a marvel to me!

We saw "Carmen" there and it was three hours of pleasure -
center stage, 2nd row, worth every penny!

St. Stephen's Basilica

Of all the churches we saw on the trip - and there were alot!

this was one of the most memorable! Simple, understated, gleaming in the sunlight!

The basicilia was built to honor Hungary's first Christian king. St. Stephen tamed the pagan Magyars, established strict laws, introduced the concept of private property, and made his people Christian.
The pope crowned St. Stephen in the year 1000.

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Margaret Island

Posted by PicasaStanding in the middle of the River Danube on Margaret Island was a favorite moment.

After the long walk from the apartment through the busy city, the island was exactly the kind of green relief we needed.


The overnight trip from Washington DC to London
wasn't too bad.
The trip from London to Budapest was a bit overkill.
It was almost 24 hours between the time we checked in at Dulles Airport until we were alone in our Budapest apartment.
The next morning we hit the sidewalks with camera in hand.

The architecture is stunning! Much of Budapest was constructed for the 1896 celebration of Hungary's 1000th birthday.
Actually, the Magyars arrived in Hugary in 895,
but many of the construction projects could not meet
the 1895 deadline so the celebration was pushed forward to
In spite of their tardiness, the celebratory committee
created a city of enduring elegance and equisite detail.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back to the National Mall

The National Museum of Natural History

Special Exhibit: Hall of Human Origins

National Gallery of Art

Special Exhibit: The Work of Arcimboldo

United States Botanical Garden

Special Exhibit: Orchids - Lots of Orchids

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Saturday, September 18, 2010


Posted by PicasaJames, Stanley's oldest son, enjoyed the visit to Cremona with us. At the end of the day, he took us back to the motel. Thanks for spending the time with us, James! We enjoyed it!

A Day at Cremona

Long ago, while a student at the University of Maryland, Stanley formed one of those rare friendships that last a life-time with one of his professors, Walter Deshler.

Walter introduced Stanley to friend of his, Norton Dodge, owner of Cremona, a beautiful estate on the Patauxent River.

Everyone in the group loved wine and everyone was interested in growing grapes. Norton provided the land and Walter and Stanley provided the know-how and the muscle.

Walter has been caring for the vineyard and making wine ever since. The cast of characters who come to help with the harvest and wine-making changes every year as children and grandchildren explore the world and create their own adventures, returning eventurally either alone, or with new spouses and children of their own, or with a gaggle of friends on a sort of educational field trip.

For the past several years, Stanley and I have made the annual trek back to Cremona. Picking grapes with Walter is one of the most pleasant ways I know to spend a morning.

The mid-day picnic is always a delight: A time to visit with old friends and make new ones. Norton and his wife, Nancy were there this year And a special treat: one of the returning prodigals was Emily, Walter's granddaughter. Meeting a published author is always a pleasure.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

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Dinner with Walter and Ila:
Always a treat!
Dear, dear friends!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crossing the Mississippi

We drove from San Antonio to Houston and spent the night with Ken and Ivy.
At least, we spent part of the night with them.

The train was to depart at 6:00AM so we had to be up early! Very early! With Ken's help, we determined exactly how much time we would need to make the trip to the train station and still have time for a cup of coffee before we left.

We planned for every possibility except one: when the taxi arrived, the driver didn't have a clue where the train station was or how to get there.

He plugged in his GPS and followed directions. However, that GPS must have had some issue with freeways because we found ourselves going over speed bumps on narrow neighborhood streets, through wooded parks, and then found the train station in the middle of a construction site with a mind-boggling series of detours. We made our train, but we were already rolling down the track before we got our suitcase stashed.

We arrived in New Orleans on schedule and walked to the hotel; had a salad at a nondescript bar; and danced at Mulates, our favorite place in New Orleans. Next morning, we were at the station in plenty of time to relax before boarding the train for Washington DC. No more "just in the nick of time" arrivals for us!
Arriving in DC the next morning, we did our usual metro run to our usual College Park motel. It was almost like coming home.

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