Category Archives: Gardens

gardens I’ve enjoyed

The Marvelous Mena House

TRAVEL THERE: AN AMAZING HOTEL

I was predisposed to love the Mena House.  I’d been hearing about it for years and it sounded like my kind of place.  It had historical significance and it was a luxury hotel Bill’s place of birth would make affordable.  Let me tell you about it.

Arriving in Style

 I will admit there is something posh about being delivered to your hotel by a private driver and car.  We pulled up to the security gate to be sniffed by dogs, checked by metal detectors and generally gone over with a fine tooth comb, but our driver handled it all while Bill and I marveled at the Pyramids looming over us.  I thought we’d have a view of them.  I didn’t realize we’d be next door.

The lobby was opulent and we were treated like dignitaries.  Being treated like dignitaries takes a little longer than just being tourists, but it was kind of fun.  We were whisked to our room on a golf cart by a servile employee of the hotel and escorted around our new digs as if they rooms of the old palace, instead of the very comfortable modern room we’d reserved.

A Delicious Meal

Our next stop was lunch.  We wandered across the grounds and found a nice patio restaurant which served food all day long.  The prices were reasonable, the service was attentive and the food was amazing.  The travel gods were shining on us.

A Free Historical Tour

As we lazed about enjoying the view our nephew Steven and his friend John arrived.  They’d fallen for the 8:30 sight-seeing tour I’d rejected.  While they regretted waking up early, they were very happy with their day.  We decided to meet up again soon and see the free historical tour of the hotel I’d seen advertised in the lobby.  The parade of celebrities who have stayed at the Mena House is pretty interesting, but not anything compared to the amount of history that has occurred since it was built in the 1800’s as a lodge for royalty.

The Rest of the Stay

The only problem we had with our stay at the Mena House is that it was too short.  We loved hanging out in our room and enjoying the patio with the great view of the pyramids.  We loved wandering around the hotel and grounds, photographing all the beauty both natural and man-planned.  The service was amazing.  The food was great – whether we were enjoying the free breakfast buffet, having lunch with a view or enjoying a Middle Eastern feast at the Khan il Khalili restaurant (named after the famous Cairo bazaar).

I have a fantasy of returning to Giza some day to see the wonderful museum being built to replace the Cairo Museum and the Mena House would be the perfect place to stay – but I doubt I could ever get Mr. Bill back to Egypt.  The place he has fond memories of growing up in doesn’t exist anymore.

If you’re still hungry for more about the Mena House, watch this video.  If you want to know about visiting the Pyramids, then come back next week.

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Bouncing Around North Texas

Zennias at DABS

TRAVEL HERE: THE METROPLEX AND POINTS BEYOND

Memorial Day Weekend is the official beginning of summer and I kicked off my summer with a vengeance.  I abandoned my computer and headed into the streets for some fun.  Come along with me.

Why Not Start Early!

My little sister, Susan, was having a birthday on the Friday before Memorial Day.  There are five years between us and we are very different, so our lives don’t naturally intersect.  However, that’s no reason to miss out on an opportunity to celebrate.  My mother turned every event into a celebration and while Christmas got top billing, birthdays played an important supporting role throughout the year, with cameo appearances by every other event to which she could attach a gift or meal.

Mom loved the Dallas Arboretum, almost as much as she loved creating celebrations, so it was only natural for Susan and I to make a visit there for her birthday lunch.  It was a perfect picture of what draws us together and how different we are.  We both wanted to make the visit.  We both ordered the salad trio with a glass of Pinot Grigio and we shared a piece of chocolate cake.  However, while Susan was happy to sit inside and benefit from the a/c, I was longingly gazing out towards the patio, wishing I was out there.   I would have also loved to spend a couple of hours wandering the gardens, but walking in the heat was not high on Susan’s list, especially when she was limping from a recent tumble.  So we stopped in at the gift shop and headed towards other adventures.

Susan’s hard to fit, so I dare not buy her any clothes without her being there.  To to find her birthday present, I took her to the Galleria and checked out the petite departments at Belk’s and Talbot’s.  A new handbag, a pair of shorts and two tops later, she was a happy birthday girl.

Bestie at the Festie

Lavender Ridge Farms

My bestie usually has dance lessons on Saturdays, so I have to find other ways to entertain myself.  However, her dance teachers (Yes, she has two and a personal trainer.  She’s very serious about it.) were out of town, so we were able to plan a play date.  Some of her office buddies were going to a Lavender Festival in Gainesville and I was invited along.  We were on the road shortly after 8 and made it to the festival by 9:30.  Good thing, because there was already a crowd.

Quaint is the word I would use for this festival.  While it was the event’s ninth year and wildly popular, it was overly quaint for me.  I think I would have loved visiting on a Saturday afternoon sans the festival, but the festival sort of gummed up the works in a higgledy piggledy sort of way.

The event was enriched by antiques, artisans and wine tastings, but the various booths seemed to have been set up without any discernible pattern.  Regular readers know I’m a little on the OCD side (OK a lot) but trying to figure out an orderly way to visit all the booths was beyond my keen.   There was a lavender garden, but forget pictures of Provence with lavender in bloom.  Deb admitted the lavender plant in her yard had a more spectacular look to it than the whole Lavender Ridge garden.

There was a gift shop, but it was so overwhelmed by festival goers you had to wait in line to enter and once in you saw the store by waiting in the line that snaked around between the displays.  There was a cafe, also overwhelmed by patrons.  The only place we found that wasn’t overwhelmed was a small zoo, but I can’t tell you what animals they had, because there were no signs.

By 10:30 AM we were festivaled out and weren’t quite ready for wine tasting, which was supposed to be the next stop on the tour.  We opted for the Half-Off Sale at the Cabi Outlet in Allen.  That’s when the higgledy piggledy really kicked in.  Deb dropped me off at the potty stop on the way in, so I hadn’t seen the parking lot.  Random is the only way I can describe their parking system.  They could have doubled their capacity (and this is about to become important) if they’d just been a little more organized in the way they parked cars.  As we picked our way through the resulting maze of higgledy piggledy cars, I realized there was a huge petting farm with sheep, goats and chickens that we had missed completely, because it was on the other side of the parking lot from everything else.

I’m telling you, visit this place any time except their festival.  We made our way out of the property and headed back to Dallas. Two roads fed into the entrance and there were cars lined up as far as we could see in both directions.  I can’t tell you how far back one of the lines went, but we had to drive past the other on our return and it was at least two miles long and more cars were arriving.  I’m thinking some of those people sat in line for hours and who knows if they ever made it to the entrance.

Come back next week and have more fun with us girls.

 

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And She’s Back

In the Fairmont Heliopolis

TRAVEL THERE: AN EXTRAORDINARY EGYPTIAN ADVENTURE

I just got back from Egypt and I want you to visit this amazing country.  You’re not going to believe some of the exciting adventures I had while I was there.  I hope that as you read my blog in the coming months, you’ll start planning your own trip in your head.  As much as I want you to go, I have always been totally honest with you – sharing the good and the bad.  So it is only fair that I start this series by warning you that Egypt is not an easy country to visit.  You have to overlook a lot to see what is valuable, but there is great value.  In the coming weeks I will rave about spectacular hotels and jaw-dropping sites, but I have to start here, with the not-so-pleasant reality of Egypt today.

Apartment Buildings

Then and Now

This was my second trip to Egypt.  The first was in 1996 when terrorism was an occasional, rather than a daily, thing and the only terror incident associated with Egypt was an attack on a busload of tourists in 1990.  The world has changed a lot since then.  Days before I was scheduled to leave for this trip, bombs went off in two different Coptic Churches.  It didn’t stop us from going, but it did give us pause.  It shouldn’t stop you from going either, but you need to know what you’re getting into.

The imminent threat of violence was the most obvious difference between this trip and the one we enjoyed twenty years ago.  Security was a pervasive presence, everywhere we went – whether we were visiting a museum, an airport or a church.  Every time we entered our hotel we had to put all our belongings through a scanner and ourselves through a metal detector.  I was glad for the security, but saddened by the need for it.

It was the same thing pretty much everywhere we went and you just got tired of it.  Take a romantic walk on the beach and come back to the hotel for a thorough search.  By the time you prove you have a right to be there and you don’t have any WMD’s, the romance has dissipated.  This adds to the stress of travel and distracts from your ability to really relax.

One evening we accompanied a niece and her husband to a hotel where they stayed on their honeymoon.  They wanted to take a walk down memory lane.  Our taxi went through one inspection at the gate to the property and we were put through a thorough search at the front door.  Then as we headed out to the pool to look around, we were stopped because we were not actually guests at the hotel.  We had to go to the front desk, explain ourselves, show them our room keys to a sister property in town and give them a passport to hold before we were allowed into the pool area.  By the time we actually made it down there, we had more thoughts about the intrusion of security than we did Maggie and Shady’s honeymoon.

Forget Lowe’s or Home Depot, Shop for Home Improvements Streetside

Related Changes

The threat of terrorism has devastated the country.  Tourism has been at the center of Egypt’s economy for a very long time, but  they have nothing to take its place and little with which to woo the tourists who actually show up.  Yes, they have some of the most splendid sights in the world, like The Pyramids, Luxor Temple, The Valley of the Kings and such, but the hassle associated with visiting them is challenging.

I thought Egypt was the dirtiest place I had ever visited the last time I went.  Well, now it is beyond dirty.  It’s down right filthy and much of it has been abandoned.  Whole blocks of Cairo and Alexandria’s city centers are just empty graffiti-covered buildings, surrounded by piles of trash.  Everywhere we went, unfinished new construction showed signs of being abandoned years ago, when their hope of an Arab Spring turned into a nightmare.  Don’t plan on wearing the same clothes over and over.  A day of touring will render you and everything you are wearing disgusting.  You either need to pack more or plan on a budget for laundry.

An Egyptian Family on a Motorcycle

And Then There’s the People

Egyptians, as a whole, are wonderful.  They are happy people who want to get to know you and they love pleasing you.  They want you to love their country the way they do, but right now they are a little embarrassed – as if you caught them between working in the yard and getting a shower.  They’ll point you towards the freshly planted flowers, hoping you won’t notice how dirty and sweaty they are.

However, they are also frustrated and tired.  At almost every hotel we observed someone having a meltdown in the lobby and it was usually an Egyptian guest.  Life is hard.  The economy is impossible.  Traffic is horrendous.  Everything is harder to do than it should be and after a ten minute walk your white shirt just isn’t white anymore.  Still, given the chance, most of them will bend over backwards to accommodate you and try to create a smile.

At the same time, we noticed there is also a trend that distances the female population from visitors.  There was a greater number of women completely covered from head to toe.  During our last visit, most women dressed very conservatively and the majority covered their heads, often with a bright colorful scarf.  Many would be sharply dressed, while sporting a more conservative hijab.  There were some who wore the more old-fashioned gallabeya  and hijab, but only a rare woman was covered and veiled in black.

This time gallabeyas and hijabs were the norm.  Young women wore leggings or jeans with a tunic, but the hijabs were everywhere and they were not brightly colored scarves, but solid blocks of neutral colors.  However, women covered from head to toe in black were no longer rare and I noticed most of them also wore black gloves.  They were moving shadows with just a sliver of their eyes showing – distant, aloof, unapproachable.

In the Cairo Museum we saw a young couple taking a selfie.  The woman was completely covered in black.  We wondered at the incongruity of hiding yourself and then taking a selfie.  The young man’s outfit was standard casual fare, but she was covered in plain black without even a bit of embroidery.  A lot of mixed messages there.

So I will tell you the story of our trip.  I’ll remind you of the difficulties from time to time, but I’ll leave it to you to remember that everything was dirty, inconvenient and noisy, whether I mention it or not.  Come back next week and we’ll hit the road.

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Egypt Here We Come

TRAVEL THERE: CAIRO, SHARM & ALEX

In less than a month we’ll be winging our way to Egypt for a family wedding.  While it’s primarily a family trip, you can rest assured that Museum Girl will be taking in the sights.  The itinerary is firming up and I thought I’d share a few highlights.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

As excited as I am about the rest of the trip, the reason we’re going is to participate in Bassem and Mariam’s wedding.  We’re all agog with excitement.  Bill and I will arrive in Cairo late in the evening on a Saturday night and be whisked away to the Fairmont in Heliopolis.  On Sunday afternoon we’ll attend a luncheon for all the families at an “oriental” restaurant.  When I wondered why we were having Chinese food, I learned Egyptians call Middle Eastern food “oriental.”  I learn something new every day.

Monday is the day of the wedding, and it is also a national holiday, so I’m told I will see the residents of Cairo enjoying themselves in parks and other areas of leisure.  I’ll spend the day getting all gussied up for the wedding.  Egyptians know how to party and they expect guests, especially the couple’s families, to get all decked out.  I’ll be wearing a long formal gown bedazzled with crystal beads.  For the church ceremony I’ll wear a sheer over-blouse cinched by a jeweled belt, which will cover the spaghetti-strapped straight bodice of the full-skirted gown. Pictures to follow.

Let the Sightseeing Begin

On the day after the wedding we’ll be transported to the elegant Mena House Hotel, in the shadows of the pyramids.  Some folks tried to convince me to hire a guide for sightseeing for the day, but 8:30 AM was entirely too early to start a day of touring, especially after partying late into the night in the ballroom of the gorgeous Fairmont.

So instead, we’ve arranged to be transported mid-day and ease into the sightseeing.  We’ll enjoy the gardens of the Mena House, walk around with our mouths agape at the splendid architecture of the place, dine around the pool and then watch the Sound & Lightshow at the Pyramids from our room’s balcony. Who knows, there might even be time for a dip in the pool.  Personally, I plan to have at least one picture of me taken in the pool with the Pyramids behind me.

Then we’ll do the Pyramids.  Since we’ve already done the Giza Plateau, I plan to go further afield and check out the Step Pyramid at Saqqara and the Red Pyramid at Dahshour.  I’m also interested in the Meidum Pyramid, but I’ve been told it is too far out – drat.  Instead we’ll go back to Giza and see the Solar Boat Museum, something that’s been added since our last visit.

A Family Reunion Extraordinaire

After our second night at Mena House, we’ll head to the airport and make the short hop to Sharm el Sheikh.  Some of the family lives in the beautiful city by the Red Sea and others will have gone there when we headed to Giza.  We’ll have a family reunion of sorts for about five days along one of the most spectacular beaches in the world.

The diving and snorkeling are supposed to be awesome, but I’m not much of a guppy.  You’ll find me at the  Marriott Naama Bay Resort pool with an exotic cocktail of my choice somewhere near the waterfall.  Yes, the beach is beautiful, but no way am I going to smear sunscreen all over and then sit in the sand all day.  Not this girl’s idea of a good time.  I’ve been promised activities like a star-gazing visit to the desert, some shopping opportunities and other attractions.

In the evening, look for me along the boardwalk.  It’s one of my favorite memories of our last journey to Egypt.  Every evening the tourists come out in all their sunburned glory to stroll along and enjoy the wide variety of entertainment available on every side. On our last visit the Macarena was all the rage.  I  wonder what earworm will bite me this time.

On to Alex!

We’ll fly back to Cairo and then have a driver take us to Alexandria where we’ll be in the center of the action at the Cecil Hotel.  This elegant old dame gives a nod to Alexandria’s heyday with plenty of modern updates.  What’s more, I’m supposed to be within walking distance of many of the sites I want to see – that is if I can ever cross the street.  I remember the traffic being deadly in Cairo and Alexandria is supposed to be more of the same.  Pedestrians don’t have the right of way and stoplights are merely suggestions.  I’ll be right across the street from the beach, but may never actually get to the sand!

My wish list for Alexandria is long and includes a visit to a Coptic monastery on the way back to Cairo.  Once back to Cairo, we’ll visit Old Cairo and seeing the famous churches there, something I never got to during our other visit.  I think we’ll spend our final nights at the Fairmont.  We have to be to the airport bright and early for our return.  Then it’s back to the grindstone!

That’s it so far for Egypt.  Keep dropping by.  I’m not sure what I’ll be up to in the weeks to come, but I promise not to disappear.

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Vulcan Park Tower, Birmingham AL

Birmingham from the Tower

Birmingham from the Tower

TRAVEL THERE: A STEEL CITY LANDMARK

So my boss had just arrived back in the States from someplace else that I can’t tell you about to join us at the thing I can’t tell you about.  At the end of the second day after a meal provided by the thing I can’t tell you about, there was supposed to be a worship and praise service, but the boss needed a change of scenery.  One more large meeting room filled with people and he was a goner, so we escaped.

Hannah Beth Helps Us Play Hooky

Since the meal we’d been provided was lukewarm hot dogs and stale potato chips (no offense intended, but that’s what it was), we wished we’d decided to play hooky about 30 minute previous to our boss’ confession of meeting room fatigue.  A nice dinner would have been a treat. Still, we weren’t going to waste an opportunity for some team building activities outside the meeting room.  So Hannah Beth took us on a tour.

Now I know young folks to things differently than I do, so this is not meant as criticism, but merely an observation.  While Hannah Beth has been to Birmingham several times and has the inside scoop on what to do, she depends on GPS for directions.  Her modus operandi is to take off in the direction which she thinks something is and then use voice commands to tell her phone to find the way.    This means she has one hand fully on the wheel, while she holds both the wheel and the phone in the other – all the while chatting up everyone in the car.

Yep, I’m a Nervous Nellie, so the entire time we were driving in Birmingham, I’m in the backseat praying we actually get to the place we’re headed.  Since I’m here to tell the tale, you know my prayers were answered in the affirmative, but while we were playing hooky from a praise and worship ceremony, I felt a little guilty about praying for protection.  Proves God listens all the time, I guess.

Vulcan Tower on Red Mountain

Vulcan Tower via http://birminghamal.org

Vulcan Tower via http://birminghamal.org

According to the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau:

“Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world and Birmingham’s unofficial city symbol. Standing high atop Red Mountain, the 56-foot-high statue has an observation balcony on its pedestal for a panoramic view of the city. Vulcan is patterned after the mythical Roman god of the forge, a nod to the city’s powerful position in the iron and steel industry in the first part of the 20th century. The statue was created as Birmingham’s exhibit in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and won the exposition’s grand prize. The museum at Vulcan has interactive exhibits and displays that portray the region’s history and progress. Museum open Monday- Saturday, 10am- 6pm; Sunday, 1pm- 6pm. Observation balcony open Monday- Saturday, 10am- 10pm; Sunday, 1pm- 10pm. Admission.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, but you can learn more on the actual Vulcan Park website.

Our boss covered the entrance fee which was just a dollar or two and we climbed the stairs to the top of the hill.  Someone who will remain nameless desperately needed to visit the rest room.  Even though the sign said the museum was open, it wasn’t and that’s where the restroom was.  In desperation, the drain in an unlocked utility room sufficed as a toilet.  That’s all I’m going to say about it, but as tired as we were, that was just the crowning glory of the day and we got a serious fit of the giggles.

Above It All

Though the tower is lovely and the park is very nice, the real draw to visiting the Vulcan Tower is that you can climb up in it.  So we did, still giggling like fools.  Now yours truly is has a slight case of acrophobia.  OK, so maybe a large case, but as we took the elevator up I was distracted by the giggling.  We walked across a steel grate which was a bridge to the steel grate which was the balcony around the tower.  There was also a fence, but all the ground around us was visible from our vantage point.

At first I just looked out toward the horizon and enjoyed the scenery (see picture from previous post).  Then I looked down.  MISTAKE.  I tried to be cool.  I tried standing away from the rail and looking toward the tower.  Didn’t work.  I started getting lightheaded and broke out in a cold sweat.  It was time to go.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store, to get some necessities.  That list might have included individual bottles of screw top wine, but if it did, I’m not telling.  As much fun as this adventure was, the best is yet to come, so make you way back here next week.

 

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Pretty Little Passau

5p-ooo-6TRAVEL THERE: THE FINAL SHORE EXCURSION

Waking up in Passau was bittersweet.  During the night we’d passed from Austria into Germany and docked at Passau, but my research had not mined up any nuggets for my “must-see” list, in this town at the confluence of three rivers.  The overwhelming emotion was regret.  I was going to have to leave this cozy boat where they took me from destination to destination, fulfilling my every need and desire along the way. 

The Morning Rush Hour

In Viking River Cruise land, mornings were busy.  We had to get up and get breakfast before the tour started.  There were no lazy days at sea. It might have been nice to intersperse all these activities with some down time, but Mr. Bill is not a two week vacation kind of guy and on an 8 day river cruise you are engaged every single day, all day long.

Passau was no different.  The walking tour began at nine.  After a delicious breakfast we disembarked and found our guide.  We did not get the pick of the litter.

The Walking Torture

So what date do you think this is?

So what date do you think this is?

He was a Frenchman, resettled into Germany and I’ll just say it, he was rude.  He was quite knowledgeable, but so unpleasant.  He was obviously unaware that we were on a walking tour, not taking an oral exam for a PhD.  He’d pepper us with questions and then ridicule our answers.  If we dared ask him a question, he’d belittle us.  I’m not exactly ignorant of history, but the one question I asked him about a date painted on a castle, resulted in my most uncomfortable moment of the cruise.

We  put up with him for a while, but it was finally so unpleasant that we wandered off and found our own way back to the boat.  However, Passau is a lovely little town, in spite of the rude guide, so I’ll show you some of it.

Pretty Little Passau

If you’ve been following me along on this cruise, then you know the operative word for the predominant architectural style along the Danube is Baroque.  We got a taste of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Cesky Krumlov, but pretty much everything else has been Baroque-on-steroids.  Passau was no different.  The architectural highlights are the Prelate’s Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, but the whole town is lovely.  For some reason, the Rathaus has murals painted all over it which are reminiscent of the Middle Ages, but they are merely modern interpretations of that era.  Architecture aside, the three rivers are the real stars of the show.

Enjoy this gallery of shots from our walking torture.  I can’t tell you much more about them, because the only way I was able to avoid killing my guide was to ignore him.  We finally abandoned him and made our own way back to the boat.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about the rest of the day, which was a lot more fun.

 

 

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A Quick Stroll through Cesky Krumlov Castle

Castle Courtyard

Castle Courtyard

TRAVEL THERE: TAKE MORE TIME HERE THAN WE DID

Cesky Krumlov Castle is a treasure trove of history, architecture and decorative arts.  Let’s start with the history.

The Medieval Lords of Krumlov

There’s not much left from the Middle Ages, but this has been a castle since the 13th century.  The one remaining tidbit is the castle tower, left over from the days when the castle’s first job was defense.  According to Rick Steves, if you go up its 162 steps you’ll get a find view of the Czech countryside, but I wouldn’t know.

Moving on to the Renaissance

4ck-castle-30While the tower is Medieval, it’s decoration is not.  That’s all Renaissance, so let’s move up a few years.  When the Krumlovs died out, their cousins, the Rozmberks, moved in.  (Rozmberk is often rendered as Rosenberg, but let’s be Czech about this.)

The Krumlovs had been your basic local gentry, but their cousins were a whole different animal.  The Rosmberks went on a serious building campaign, but don’t let the pictures fool you.  Those walls in the courtyard are just plaster.  All the fancy stonework is merely painted on.  They weren’t being cheap, it was just the style.  In fact, they probably could have gotten the stonework cheaper than the painting, but they were all about the show.

Everything had to look modern and up-to-date for the Rozmberks.  They turned that practical, defensive tower into a folly of astrological signs and symbols.  I’m not sure who came up with the idea of a pastel yellow and baby pink as an acceptable color combination, but I would like to complain about it.  Pink and beige were often used together throughout this region, too.  Both color themes make me a little nauseous, but they were all the rage apparently, based on the frequency of their use.

While I didn’t approve of their color schemes, I have to admit they did do a great job out in the gardens.  The glorious Renaissance gardens in the French style, with a magnificent central fountain, were something to see.  It was a little early in the season for floral displays.

They symbol of the Rosenberg family can be found all over the castle.

They symbol of the Rozmberk family can be found all over the castle.

Visions of Grandeur

It wasn’t enough for the Rozmberks to have the best castle around, they wanted to climb even higher on the social ladder. So they decided they wanted to be kin to the the Orsinis, who were ruling the roost over in Italy.

Now there are a number of stories about their claim to Orsinism.  Some say they just added a fake limb to their family tree and were powerful enough to pull it off with aplomb.  Others claim they actually did have a legitimate claim.  My favorite story is they expressed their desire to be Orsinis to that family and for X amount of money, the Orsini’s adopted them.  That sounds about right from what I know of the Orsinis.

The Crest of the Orsini-Rosenbergs

The Crest of the Orsini-Rozmberks

Whichever story is true, the Rozmberks celebrated their promotion in a couple of ways.  They altered their family crest and added a bear to their moat, because as we all know, Orsini comes from the Italian word for bear.

When I titled this post as “a quick stroll” I’m referring to the way I saw the castle – almost at a dead run!  We were in and out of the castle environs almost before I could get out the camera for a few photos.  (Confession, we did not take the bear picture.  It’s off the Viking memory stick we purchased.  The bear hid from us during our quick stroll.)

cesky-krumlov-58What’s more, the tour was only outside and we didn’t get so much as a peek inside.  Museum Girl was about to have a fit.  Here she had a well-furnished Czech palace to check out and we’re ripping through the courtyards at a fast pace.  One of the reasons the castle is well-furnished is because once a Hapsburg-related family gained control of the place it fell out of favor and became a sort of over-sized attic.

Another reason you can enjoy the castle in its former furnished glory is because Czech curators share better than Americans.  They actually try to get the various bits and pieces they find to the appropriate castles.  Because Cesky Krumlov Castle spent so many years as a warehouse of out-of-fashion and damaged furnishings, there are still huge areas of the castle that are still cleaned out and cataloged.  When they find a piece that seems to belong to another castle, they send it along with their regards and curators at other castles do the same.  American curators seem to share a penchant for hoarding.  The bowels of their institutions hold tons of items the public never gets to see, because the museums hold on to every bit they get for dear life.  I liked the Czechs even better for this little tid-bit.

4ck-castle-24Once we’d checked out the bear pits we had a choice to make.  We could either head to the ticket office and go on one of the interior castle tours or we could head out to the picturesque town. The town is charming and I had a wonderful time with our cruise buddies, but Museum Girl was about to go into melt-down.

I’ll share a treat with you.  While I didn’t go through the castle, someone on the Viking crew did and they got some marvelous pictures, which I’ll include at the end along with more of my pictures of the exterior, but there’s one more bit of history you need to know about Cesky Krumlov.

The Baroque Theater

I chose to get a degree in Performance instead of Literature and I’m glad, because to get the degree you have to have a smattering of all the arts, including the performance arts.  One of my classes was the history of theater and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  (The professor was somewhat of a kook, but welcome to the university!)

We studied all the old playwrights and reviewed the various venues.  I reveled in the Renaissance era when cathedrals used to fly children through the air on wires as cherubs.  (No child labor laws to contend with.)  However, the Baroque period was also something.  Every castle worth its appellation had its own theater and each theater proprietor tried to outdo the other on special effects – only there was no digital CGI.  They used actual flames and fireworks to get their effects.  And that’s exactly why there are only two of them left in the world.  Cesky Krumlov is one of them!

It killed me to forego the pleasure of touring the theater.  If I ever get back to the Czech Republic, wild horses won’t keep me away from taking every tour offered in Cesky Krumlov.  Now enjoy the pictures and come back next week for a tour of the town.

 

 

 

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