Saturday, August 29, 2015

Getting my Jack-fix in the Land of Castles and Cathedrals

The last time Jack lived in the States for any length of time was in 2007. Since then he has attended university in Montreal, Canada, completed a Fulbright fellowship in Hagan, Germany, and taught history and literature in Shenzhen, China. I was secretly (or maybe not so secretly) hoping he would move somewhere closer after he finished teaching this past year; but alas, he decided to stay for another year. I can't say I blame him. He seems to have a nice life there and wants to continue studying Mandarin.

He is good about FaceTiming us weekly and keeping us filled in on his teaching, friends, sports, music, etc. And he is good about arranging his schedule to travel with us. We've been around Canada, Germany, France, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand with Jack– and now we can add the Czech Republic. 

When we realized that he wouldn't be coming home in August, we asked if we could join him for the last part of his summer travels in Europe. So, after watching Maggie ring the closing NASDAQ bell and briefly catching up with Mary in NYC, we flew to Prague. It's a beautiful city, located on both sides of the Vltava River, with its own castle, astronomical clock, magnificent cathedrals, large public squares and beer gardens. We explored the winding cobblestone streets for three days. I'd go back there in a heartbeat.

Traveling with Jack is always fun.
Dancing House (aka Fred and Ginger), Prague
Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague
Children's folk singers/dancers performing at the gardens of Prague Castle
On the fourth day, we picked up a rental car and set out for the Czech countryside. We headed east toward Moravia, stopping in Kutná Hora for lunch and a tour of St. Barbara Cathedral and Sedlec Ossuary (bone church) before driving to Olomouc, a university town whose students had not yet returned for fall classes. The streets were lovely, but lonely. In the relatively small town, there was a castle and six major churches.

St. Barbara Cathedral, Kutná Hora 
 Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora 
While there, we took a day trip to Šternberk where we toured -- you guessed it -- the castle and cathedral. We did the same in Česky Krumlov. Lots of churches/cathedrals and lots of castles. We offset our castle/church visits with lots of beer and lots of schnitzel.

Vltava River in Česky Krumlov 
Česky Krumlov Castle tower
Marian Plague Column in front of the Church of the Annunciation, Šternberk  
I took a break from my gluten-free diet and drank beer with my boys and ate schnitzel  three meals straight. Hard to find a good salad in the middle of Bohemia! We did, however, find a nice vineyard and some tasty Czech wine.

Alfresco dining at Kampa Park, beside the Charles Bridge, Prague
Visiting vineyards in southern Moravia
Unless you are enamored with bohemian crystal, there is very little to buy in the way of souvenirs. No outstanding art or craft objects caught my eye. I came home with two packets of smoked paprika. That's it. Two packets of spice. I wonder if the years under Communist rule so stifled the Czech people's folk culture and creativity, that it has yet to catch up with its Western European neighbors.

At the end of the trip we detoured into Germany to spend two nights  with our good friend Tilman and four of his six wonderful children. Guess what? They live in a castle with a beautiful church attached. Tilman and his family were warm and welcoming hosts. That's one castle/church that I could return to time and time again.

Hiking to lunch with friends
Boys being boys
It was fun being with Jack. He is a competent and laid back traveller. He picks up language easily and is happy to order meals for me, carry my suitcase up steep staircases, and offer his sweater when I am cold. He was a great front-seat navigator for Ed and always had a good playlist teed up for our road trips. I forget how much I miss his whistling.

Exploring Omolouc
Nine days is just not enough time for me to get my Jack-fix. But it is all I get right now. And it is certainly better than not seeing him at all. I'm thankful for our time with him and look forward to another reunion, hopefully sooner than later.

Early morning walk through the gardens of the Česky Krumlov Castle 
Jack: wishing you safe travels and a year full of wonderful adventures and all things good and kind. 

Jack, I'll be thinking of you every single day. xxx

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