Page 5 of tfsnews Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Lithuania July 28th 2013

Geo: 54.9, 23.9We began the morning with one of the best breakfast spreads we've experienced in Europe. Our past tradition had been to maximize breakfast in order to minimize daily eating. Two plates later, we were ready for a tour.Outside the hotel, we met Rokas and Saulas and a Mercedes-Benz minivan thinking we were bound for a tour. The tour took us straight to Alvydas and Irena's house, where there was—guess— a spread of food. A huge spread of food. And a birthday cake for Barb! It never really stopped from that point forward.We then, with our interpreter, Jurgita's aunt, set out for Kaunas Castle. It had been reconstructed, but like all castles, met us with a spiral staircase of many steps. We took a nice picture with all of Barb's relatives with the castle in ... read more
Kaunas Castle
St. George of the Martyr
Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Kaunas

Europe » Lithuania July 27th 2013

Geo: 54.9, 23.9After a limo ride to O'Hare, we departed for Frankfurt and arrived at the time they thought was breakfast but felt like bedtime to us. Jake, as usual, got pulled from the security line, this time to have his hands swabbed to check for bomb-material residue. It must have been the beard or the NHS t-shirt that had the letters shown in sign language. (Maybe they thought gang signs?) Upon arriving at Frankfurt, we were confused about when to drink our beers and when to take our pills. So, we did them both. For a German breakfast of hot Italian sandwiches and radler.Following a slightly longer than expected layover, we were off to Vilnius. On the plane, Barb met a lady from South Carolina who had, literally, traveled the world and shared her thoughts ... read more
Old Town Kaunas
Old Town Kaunas
Jesuit Gymnasium (School)

Europe » Poland August 10th 2011

Geo: 52.2449, 21.0119Our last day...We began with breakfast this morning with Pawel, our B&B host, gathered around a table set for 10. Over locally grown food, he talked with various guests from Ukraine and France as well as us, making sure to engage with everyone. Next, we boarded our third Mercedes van for a tour of Poland's capital city. Even though our guide was difficult to understand, we were able to learn a great deal about Warsaw. A highlight of the morning was a stop in Warsaw's palace gardens. This was a nice, green space in the middle of a large city with a number of palaces, peacocks, a Greek amphitheater, a monument to Chopin in the middle of a rose garden, and many well kept hedges.We also toured Old Town and had many things explained ... read more
Uprising Memorial
Symbol of Polish Uprising
Church wall kamikaze-tanked by Germans

Europe » Poland August 9th 2011

Geo: 52.2449, 21.0119Today we traveled to Warsaw. Our day started off with an uneventful ride to the train station, helped a great deal by our driver who showed us where to go, to the point of taking us directly to the platform. We thought we had it made.When our train pulled into the station, we boarded what we thought would be our car. It was full of people, many of whom were not thrilled to see us block their paths with our big bags. RailEurope sold us tickets that had no specific seat assignments. So, we were in a first class car but without assigned seats. Everytime we tried to take a seat we were pushed out by someone with a numbered ticket. We sought help from the snack car girls, then separated to get out ... read more
The Girls and Flowers
Nun and Toi Toi

Europe » Poland August 8th 2011

Geo: 51.7292, 18.516This is tough.We spent pretty much the entire day at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the major concentration camp of the Nazi "final solution." The 1-1/2 hour ride back to Krakow was pretty much silent.No words can describe what we saw, nor could ever do justice to our experience. It is something that one can only witness and process over time. I don't think it has really set in with us yet.Barb shares that the one thing that made her feel hopeful was the large number of people from all over the world who come to this site of atrocity to honor the lives of the 1.5 million who were murdered here.Jeannette was completely moved by a group of Israeli students who were gathered along the side of the railroad tracks near the "point of decision," a place ... read more
Electrified Barbed Wire
Guard Station
Rail Entrance to Birkenau

Europe » Poland August 7th 2011

Geo: 51.7292, 18.516Hello again.Yesterday was a day of travel. We boarded a flight from Vilnius to Warsaw, and another from Warsaw to Krakow. Flight #2 was on a prop plane, which was interesting and small. It provided its own stairs for boarding (part of the door). It was not a confidence-inspiring aircraft. They have good candy bars on LOT Polish airlines.We arrived at Globtrotter and knew right away this was going to be a nice place to stay. Right off the main square and yet surrounding a garden courtyard behind the street, Globtrotter is like a private estate hidden away from plain sight. We were graciously welcomed by the desk attendant, Marek. He had pre-marked a map for us of good places to eat. A walk to the town's market square put a smile on all ... read more
Wawel Cathedral
Koszcuisco Statue

Europe » Lithuania August 5th 2011

Geo: 54.6892, 25.2798When we met Jolita this morning, she actually thanked us for yesterday, sharing that it reminded her of her own family. The experience definitely created a bond with her that transcended tour guide and passengers and set the stage for today's tour.We boarded the same 18 passenger bus and visited areas surrounding Old Town. There is an island outside the old city wall named Uzupis that is something like an artist's colony. Each year, on April 1, they pull a stunt such as declaring their independence, issuing passports, writing a constitution, etc. (April Fool's Day). These are the free thinkers of the city, who once erected a Frank Zappa statue to see just how far freedom would go in the newly independent Lithuania of the 1990s. We traveled along the Neris river. At one ... read more
Sts. Peter and Paul, Vilnius
Dome over Sts. Peter and Paul
Great Plague meets Vilnius

Europe » Lithuania » Kaunas August 4th 2011

Geo: 54.8969, 23.8924Whoa. This morning, our guide and driver showed up in an 18 person mini bus for the four of us. She and the driver had no idea about what was in store, expecting they would be taking us on a normal tour of Kaunas, Lithuania. Later, we were glad it was a bus... more on that soon.First, we had to explain to the guide that we had an appointment to meet Barb's relatives and that we needed her to be an interpreter. She said, "This is your day, I will be your interpreter." And that she was. She explained the situation to the bus driver and made a few phone calls, and about an hour later, we found ourselves at the home of Barb's second cousin, Irena. She gave us a tour of the ... read more
Looking out over the river
Nijole's Spread
More family reunion

Europe » Lithuania » Vilnius August 3rd 2011

Geo: 54.6896, 25.2799Today was the first day we traveled between two countries by car. We left Riga this morning with our ultimate destination being Vilnius, Lithuania. On the way, along with our new driver and new guide, Olga, we made two stops. The first was at Rundale Palace. Though we had already tired of palace hopping, it was a nice rest stop, and relaxing nevertheless due to the lack of crowds and pleasant weather. Olga also paced our tour well, not dwelling too long on any one portrait or table setting. On one chimney, a stork had built quite a large nest. This stork flies home to Egypt during the winters. The stork is actually the national bird of Lithuania, though we hadn't gotten there yet. Swallows seemed to be overtaking the front of the palace, ... read more
Rundale Palace
Palace Gardens
Rundale Palace

Europe » Latvia » Riga Region » Jurmala August 2nd 2011

Geo: 56.9682, 23.7705We started off the day today with a trip to the resort city, Jurmala, on the Baltic Sea. Jurmala is a summer resort city for "poor Russian millionaires" (the rich ones go to Nice, France). After a stroll down the sandy beach, we took a few moments to dip our feet in the cool waters of the Baltic. None of us would have ever imagined when we left home that we would find ourselves on a sandy beach in Latvia listening to Bob Marley's “One Love.” Latvia is a land of many pleasant surprises. Latvia has been particularly hard hit by the world financial crisis that began in 2008. Here, like elsewhere, part of the problem was overspeculation. We were not pleased to encounter several GE Money Banks advertising mortgages. Instead of paying taxes ... read more
GE Money Bank.  Grr.
Jurmala pedestrian mall
View from nearby Stalin "wedding cake" building

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