If you are in the Tri-Cities area, make sure to stop by the Gallery at the Park for "Gallery Aglow." The Gallery is run by the Allied Arts Association which allows artists, like me, an opportunity to sell their work. They also offer workshops and community art. The gallery has many talented artists and you can find gifts for everyone on your list. It's a great opportunity to support a local business and local artists. The Gallery at the Park (89 Lee Boulevard in Richland) is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
Decorating the house is such fun this time of year, I wish I lived in a castle or old farmhouse but I have to settle for my 1940’s little house. However I do my best to evoke the haunted halls of someplace much older. One trick I’ve come up with this year is adding a little something extra to my many old mirrors in the house. Perhaps a ghost?
You can buy some very cheesy portraits and mirrors with ghosts in them in the stores but it screams Halloween decoration. I prefer using something I have up everyday and adding something that makes you look twice. It adds a lot more creepiness factor in my opinion.
This is a very easy project that anyone can put together for under a $1 each.
- Old black and white photo
- Photo editing software
- Acetate (transparency film)
- Exact-o blade with mat or scissors
I’m treating this entry as one long day instead of two. You’ll find out why soon.
Last day in Budapest and I decided to try the local tradition of public baths. Hungarians are mad about the public baths and there are many to choose from in Budapest. It’s not surprising given there are over 100 hot springs in Budapest alone. There are the old school Turkish baths that are still segregated by gender and a massage borderlines on a beating. Then there are the ones that have a water park feel with lots of wave and swimming pools. I chose the Gellert baths for two reasons, it’s in an old Art Nouveau hotel and it’s an easy walk across the river from my hostel.
The Gellert hotel is a beauty inside and out. Mosaics on the floor and walls, stained glass, sculptures and that’s just the lobby. It’s an interesting entrance system. You go to the counter and pick out what you want from a huge price list on the wall. I was hoping to get a massage and I thought getting there at 8 am on a weekday it would be no problem. Nope, booked for the day, apparently I should have gotten there at 6 am when they open. So I just paid for the use of the baths, which set me back about 5100 HUF, about $18. They give you a plastic bracelet that you cannot lose! You use it to go through the entrance turnstile and to open your locker. You can pick any locker and when you put the bracelet against the lock, it clicks and won’t open again until you put your bracelet back against it again. Pretty simple.
There is an indoor and outdoor swimming pool. Most of the thermal baths are inside and they range in temp from 36 - 40 degrees C. The baths are constantly drained and fed by the springs so there is no chlorination. Inside the baths, more detail tile work an ornate fountains crusted over with mineral formations. I wish I could have taken photos inside but way too hot and humid. Outside there are plenty of lounge chairs to stretch out and a cafe. They overlook another thermal pool and swimming pool. At one end of the outdoor thermal pool there are shower heads that poured water on you for about 10 minutes. I noticed when the fountains weren’t running these older women were crowding that end. I grabbed an open spot and realized why. The most powerful water jets known to man were positioned perfectly to massage your neck and back. I stayed until I couldn’t feel my back anymore and realized it totally made up for not getting a massage. The outdoor pool is also a wave pool which looked like fun. But as I was climbing down the ladder, being pummeled by waves and smashed against the metal ladder, I decided I didn’t want to drown and climbed back up. I realized the only people in the pool were about a foot taller than me and weighed twice as much. I do believe the waves were at least 5 foot tall. Not your kiddie wave pool.
So after 3 hours of soaking and becoming a total prune, I stopped by the Great Market Hall for some souvenirs. Paprika anyone? I then packed up and headed over to the train station for a long trip down to Zagreb, Croatia. I would get into Zagreb about 9 pm and then catch an overnight train from there to Split. I ran into another American on the platform and we got on the train together, helping each other out with our bags. We settled into one of the compartments where we ran into a third American. I think we were the only three on the whole train and we ended up in the same compartment. We proceeded to talk the majority of the trip.
Garrett is a barista and brewmaster from San Diego. Chris had no permanent address and was on the road for 8 months of the year. Between the two we talked a lot about food and travel. As for sights along the way, it seemed to there were a lot more villages in ruin and derelict factories. The countryside feels poorer and some villages looked like they hadn’t changed in a hundred years, complete with horse and wagon. I was also surprised when the train stopped and two sets of police, one Hungarian and the other Croatian, came through to check out passports. I saw for the first time an actual border complete with a new chain link fence and razor wire. Apparently Hungary had just built it to close the border and keep the Syrian refugees out. Compared to the EU countries where no one bothers to check passports, it was a shock.
A few stops before Zagreb, a young Croatian women entered our compartment and joins the conversation. She works for booking.com so her English was perfect. She was kind enough to help us learn a few Croatian phrases. She kept making fun of Chris’s American accent but I got high praise on mine. I never hear that when speaking a foreign language but there are a lot of similarities with Russian/Ukrainian so I think that helped. When we arrive at Zagreb, Chris departed for his hotel and our new friend parked Garrett and I at an outdoor bar right outside the station. We had about 2 hours to kill before the train and she promised to swing by after some work errand. It was a lovely warm spring evening. The city was lit up beautifully and everyone was out and about. Garrett tried some beers and gave me his critique. I stuck to the local cherry brandy. Garrett was nice enough to buy me a drink because I had no Croatian currency yet.
Our friend never made it back and it was time to catch the train. I had a bought a bed for an extra 10 euros and encouraged Garrett to do the same. We went into the train station and Garrett looks at the departure board. “Hmm, I’m pretty sure that says bus, not train.”
What? So we enquire and the disinterested ticket sellers look at us like we are from Mars. Yeah, of course it’s a bus, why wouldn’t it be? They had no idea why the Hungarian train station had sold us train tickets. No time to argue, a quick pit stop at the bathroom and we find the bus. The ticket taker actually said, “Aw, you bought a bed” in the same tone you would say, “Aw, how cute.”
We got on the bus and thankfully it wasn’t full so everyone got the full two seats to themselves. Unfortunately, it was still too short (even for me) and narrow to stretch out on. You were comfortable for about five minutes then you had to change position. I actually ended up with a bruise on my hip from the seat belts. The bus driver insisted on keeping a radio on with the most bizarre Croatian songs, a mix of pop and folk. And, of course, the bathroom was broken. I didn’t sleep at all and it was a surreal experience with the music and driving in the middle of the night. Pitch dark countryside and small empty villages on an empty road felt like we were driving through a landscape devoid of people. Only these empty houses and cars remained. The road got increasingly worse, I swear part of it was gravel. I do know we climbed for a while and went through tunnel that lasted at least 5 minutes, then we flew down the other side. It had to be steep as there were many switchbacks. The bus driver drove like a speed demon. Several times brakes screeched and the back up beep sounded as we missed a turn. It’s probably good I couldn’t see.
A sort of delirium sets in from lack of sleep and you become resigned to the circumstances. It made me appreciate the sunrise as I never had before. We eventually came to the town of Split and the Adriatic Sea. The bus, train and ferry station are all on the waterfront in town. We got off the bus and said goodbye. Garrett was staying in Split, I was taking a ferry out to the island of Brach. I walked into the train station and proceeded to argue with them about getting a refund for the 10 euros for my non-existent bed. I prevailed but the lady wasn’t happy about it. It was the principle more than the money at that point. I was exhausted but the smell of the salt water and the sound of the water made my heart sing. I had been in big cities and away from the sea for too long.
I had planned to just show up on the island and find a room. But after that lovely night I just couldn’t deal with that much uncertainty. I found a hotel on booking.com, a room all to myself, while I had a quick coffee and breakfast. The ferry to the island was really nice, much newer than the ones in Seattle. The weather was overcast and rainy and I was worried that it would be like that the whole time I was on the island. The ferry to Brach takes about an hour and drops you off in the biggest town, Supetar. I was staying at Hotel Lipa in the next village over of Postira. Luckily the bus was just leaving so I was there by 11 am. They were nice enough to let me check in then and there (maybe they just saw the look on my face and took pity).
The hotel room was fantastic. It had a huge and comfortable king size bed. A big bathtub, fridge and breakfast. And the cherry on top, a terrace with a wonderful view of the harbor. All for $63 a night, pricey by Croatian standards, but so worth it. Now I should have just fallen asleep then but the sun had come back up and I was wired and full of energy. It’s always strange that feeling after staying up all night, like you could just keep going and never sleep again. So I just walked to one end of town, look around, come back a rest for a bit. Then go to the other end of town, repeat. Oh, I did manage to find some local wildlife. As I was walking down the sidewalk, absorbed in the scenery, something was squishy and writhing beneath my foot. I jumped back and a very tiny snake slithered off into the bushes. We both survived the encounter.
The town is small, just a few restaurants and two other hotels. The season wasn’t starting for a few weeks, so a lot of shops and restaurants were closed, busily trying to finish up construction. It feels like a sleepy fishing village. At the harbor you can watch the fisherman come in or mend their nets. The claim to fame for this island is the marble that creates these stunningly stark white beaches. The White House is made from this same marble. There is a strong stone carving culture here. Yes, I did take a few pieces home. The water is amazingly clear with varying shades of aqua and turquoise. The water is still on the cold side, you could keep the feet in for a few minutes before it goes numb.
There are a whopping three restaurants open right now. One is outrageously expensive, the other is a pizza place, so I picked a little tavern called Bracera. It was decorated with fishing buoys and the like. I was the only one there, my only company the seventies rock music playing. I tried the pear brandy, very tasty. I ordered mussels and fries, anticipating something caught that day. The mussels came without their shells in a butter sauce and I’m pretty sure they were frozen. The fries were much better. So I wandered over to the little supermarket behind my hotel and bought my new addiction, paprika potato chips, and a little bottle of wine. I spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and watching the boats come in and out of the harbor. It was lovely.
First full day in Budapest, I’m staying at the Hipster Hostel which looked a bit sketchy from the outside last night. Lot’s of peeling paint and one of those coffin elevators, the words “deathtrap” kept rolling through my head as I went up to the 3rd floor. It seems most hostels I’ve been staying at were apartment that were recently renovated and has an amazing amount of beds crammed into it. This was no exception. The staff are also really great. I had some nice conversations with them late into the evening. Though the beds and pillow were are thin as ever. It seems they are all buying them from the same source, crappy mattresses ‘r’ us.
No matter, the best part of the hostels are the people you meet. Last night I met a guy from Singapore and we had a nice conversation. He suggested we team up and climb Gellert Hill in the afternoon. It would be nice to have some company so why not? This morning I made breakfast then picked a direction and started walking. The architecture here also has a lot of Art Nouveau like Prague but with a little twist. It feels a little more Eastern. One example is colorful tile roofs everywhere in geometric patterns, the Decorative Arts Museum is a great example. It’s interesting to see the ornamentation in something that is usually utilitarian.
I ran into a really lovely garden behind a very communist era apartment building. As I was admiring and listening to the birds sing, an elderly woman came up and started talking a mile a minute. I understood nothing and must have had a puzzle look on my face so switched to German, still no good. So she patted my arm, smiled, laughed and went on her way. On my way back I found a gluten, dairy, sugar, and xanthan gum free bakery. And it still tastes good. It’s my new favorite spot and my favorite is this traditional pastry that’s filled with this plum jam that’s been cooked down for 12 hours.
Met up with my new travel buddy by the Central Market and crossed the Danube from Pest into Buda. Our goal was to walk up Gellert Hill then over to the castle. We walked just a little ways up and checked out the Church in the Rock. It’s literally a cave dug out of the hill with a church inside. I thought it was really old but turns out it was only built in 1924 inspired by Lourdes. It’s worth a quick peek. Then back up the hill, it is very steep. My heart was pounding so loud I thought it just might burst but I made it. We enjoyed the view and a picnic lunch. We noticed some soldiers in dress uniform goofing off and playing with their swords. Then they marched in front of the Liberty statue and did a saber arch. One of the soldiers walked through and motioned to a woman in the crowd to come over. When she did, he got down on one knee and proposed. She said yes, thankfully, and the crowds applauded.
We walked back down the hill than back up Castle Hill. We wandered around the castle complex but everything was closing soon so we didn’t go in. The area is huge, with a palace at the bottom that was built after being destroyed in WWII. We headed to the top where Matthias Church looms over. We wandered around a bit more and called it a day.
Seen on the train from Prague to Budapest:
My goal was to have a nice lunch at one of the many beautiful Art Nouveau cafes in Prague. I realized that one, Cafe Louvre, was just around the corner from my hostel. Apparently all of the bigwigs ate here back in the day, even Einstein. It still retains a lot of charm and is actually decently priced. Of course, I had to try the strudel and it was one of the best I’ve had so far. I love they way they serve your coffee, on a little silver tray, with a glass of water. It was raining like crazy and my next stop was the Convent of St Agnes with no close tram nearby. So I was pretty drenched by the time I made it to this interesting museum. It’s a gothic church built by St. Agnes, very plain with echoes of frescoes remaining. You can walk down to the foundation where Roman baths can be seen, always building on top of something else.
The rest of the museum is dedicated to medieval religious art from all over the country. The sheer volume of work is impressive but almost too much. It was interesting to see the progressions of styles, moving from very blocky iconic people to more naturalistic forms. Also, there was some really bizarre imagery in these paintings. People with no skin, huge face masks that were bigger than the people holding them, and some landscapes that looked Cubist in inspiration. I love looking at the reliquaries as well, these hugely elaborate structures are built to house some body part of a saint. Set in gold, silver and jewels, they seem more impressive than what it’s holding.
For something completely different, I headed to the other end of Prague to the Meet Factory . This was advertised as the contemporary art space in Prague. It took 2 trams to get to the south end of town where train tracks and industrial warehouses line the streets. It reminded me a lot of the Georgetown neighborhood near me. The building itself is an old warehouse and is hard to miss with two full size cars hanging off the front. The building contains artist studios, a theater space, cafe and small gallery. You can’t go into the studios and there was nothing happening at the theater. That left the gallery and cafe space that was open to the public. It’s a cool space but it’s probably more interesting when an actual event is happening.
Some of the work I found interesting:
I didn’t stick around long because the sheer amount of cigarette smoke in that place made it tough to breathe. Did I mention everyone smokes here? And everywhere? I guess I’m just not used to it anymore. I actually had more fun taking photos of the junkyards surrounding the place. Lot’s of rusting train cars and gutted buses. Very cool patinas.
So yesterday when I was taking the tram up Castle Hill I noticed a really unusual house along the way. The whole building was curved with a large porch that had very distinctive columns that I swear looked like corn? As I was trying to sort out what to see today I leafed through the tourist info at the hostel and they recommended the home and studio of a local sculptor named František Bílek. I looked him up on the old internet and the mystery house from yesterday appeared! It must be fate so that was my first stop of the day. I hopped on the tram and rode back up Castle Hill. The neighborhood surrounding the castle is affluent with mansions housing embassies and other government agencies. This house was built in 1911 and I’m curious if it was the same back then or just a regular neighborhood.
The house really does have columns that look like corn sheaves. And I learned the curve of the house was supposed to resemble a scythe. This was built by the artist for his family home and a studio as well. The first floor has two rooms as they would have looked when Bílek lived here. It is all Art Nouveau style with a bit of cottage feel thrown in. It’s very cozy and welcoming. I was ready to move in. I wish I had photos to show but they made me lock up the camera before I could go in. Some of the details that stood out were lanterns carved into stone columns, including a gorgeous curved staircase. Bronze door handles shaped like leaves with ladybugs on them. Keyhole covers shaped like bees. Light wood furniture with dark wood inlay. Wonderful, whimsical detail everywhere. The studio and upper floors contain his sculpture and drawings. There was a high school group there getting the tour so he must still be relevant in Prague’s art history. His sculpture is strong and well done. His concepts are heavy on Christian theology so they didn’t appeal to me as much. It’s a small unique museum and I’m glad to have stumbled upon it.
From there I wandered around the neighborhood for a bit and then walked through the large gardens surrounding the palace. It was a beautiful sunny day and a very pleasant stroll. I checked out the Lobkowicz Palace Musuem. This is a family home from the 1500’s and what was really interesting was that the audio guide was done by the family. All of these old portraits of people are more interesting when it’s someone’s distant ancestor and the ring worn in the portrait is still worn by his mother. Or the love letters and family legends surrounding the items. It makes it come alive. It’s also interesting that the family has had all their possessions and land taken away twice. First by the Nazis, then the communists. They were able to reclaim them when communism fell in 2002. It’s an interesting position to be in, they have these items but now they need the cash to restore and preserve them. Probably why they opened the museum.
A quick stop to the post office and I wandered around the Jewish quarter for a bit. Sat on a bench near the Old New Synagogue, built in 1270, and admired the view. Great Art Nouveau buildings surround it with intricate gold mosaics. It was next to a very odd park. It was a green patch of tall lilac bushes that were all in bloom and smelled lovely. But it was fenced all around so you can’t actually go in. I guess you’re just supposed to admire from afar.
On the tram ride home I stopped by the “Dancing House”, a really modern house that looks like it’s going to dance itself down the street. It was designed by local architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Frank Gehry. It’s a nice break from the traditional Art Nouveau.
Today was a full day. Started out early and I got tickets for a concert and train ticket to Budapest. Visited the municipal building again and check out the Art Nouveau exhibit. It's funny the style still feels very relevant. I could see having a house today filled with it, it's very classic. Maybe because it's based on natural forms it's always lovely and familiar. I think I'm enamored with the era. Bohemian artist lifestyle, where women were becoming independent, so many changes. I always wondered if it feels like magic at the time and only as nostalgic hindsight?
Next up was Castle Hill, took the train up the hill and started at the Stranhov monastery. I was very hungry so stopped off at the Kladtrtoni Pivovar brewery for lunch. This is where the the monks used to brew beer, it's still a brewery but no more monks.
Then I got to see the libraries. These libraries hold books that are hundreds of years old. I was a bit disappointed that you can't actually go inside, you can only look from the doorway. Just as well, I don't think I could have helped myself from touching the books. They are just as beautiful as I imagined,such history and knowledge, I just want to soak it all in. Plus I wanted to check out the banned books held under lock and key, all the good heretics. The hallways hold cabinets of curiosities, my favorite were boxes made of tree bark, the inside held seeds, leaves and cross-sections to match the other binding. Beautiful and clever.
Then on to St. Vitnus cathedral. I don't know if it's the modern stained glass but this has a real sense of personality and energy. Other Cathedrals feel stuffy, this just felt alive. The church has been an ongoing construction site for hundreds of years with it finally finished in 1928. There's a Mucha stained glass window. A carved wooden relief showing Prague in three 1600s. Very Gothic on the outside with lots of buttresses. St. George's Basilica a little ways down the hill is a strong contrast. One of the oldest churches in Prague, it's solid with a beautiful flat wooden ceiling. Thick walls have faint traces of frescoes all over. I think I prefer these older churches. They are calm and peaceful, more like a zen temple.
Then to cap the evening off I went to a concert at the church down the street from the hostel. St. Giles Church, apparently famous because it was in the movie Amadeus, I guess I'll have to watch it again when I get home. Super over the top Baroque decoration. Great concert of a string quartet and the church organ, not at the same time though. Wonderful acoustics.
It's funny, I was the first to go to bed at 1 am and there was only one other person in my room. I woke up to find 6 more had stumbled in. They were all asleep when i left for the day at 10am. This seems to be popular with tourists who want to party. Booze is cheap and there are lot of clubs. I was amazed at the 18 year olds (though they looked a lot younger to me but I'm just getting old) guzzling 40's in the common room playing rowdy chess.
But I digress, started out chatting with one of the staff who is from Seattle, Green Lake in fact. She's over here teaching English, a pretty common thing I found. Today is just about wandering around Prague and getting my bearings. First I was struck by the architecture, it's about 90% art nouveau. I didn't realize Prague escaped most of the bombing of World War II. As a result there is a harmony that is hard to find elsewhere. It's also a bit overwhelming as I want to take a photo of everything. I could spend a year just on the doors.
I wandered up to the old town square and was struck by the sheer volume of tourists. I'm here in shoulder season, I would hate to see this place in June. Did a quick tour of the town square and Tyn church. Then headed over to the municipal building which is an art nouveau masterpiece. You can walk around for free or pay for a guided tour. I sprung for the exhibit of decorative objects which was amazing, took a lot of pictures. Parts of the building reminded me of the movie "The Grand Budapest hotel" movie se. Particulary this immense cloakroom that was empty except for lone coat and coat check lady.
Saw another protest, maybe related to May Day which is pretty big in Europe, lots of police but peaceful. Walked up to Charles Bridge with a billion other tourist. Beautiful bridge with statues about every 10 feet. Great views of the river and city. Wandered to Kampa island where I found a museum not in any guide book. The Kampa museum is all contemporary art. There was some intriguing art in the courtyard so I went in. I discovered some new artists:
Karel Malich, minimalist sculpture that's playful.
Karel Trinkewitz, word play with collage and calligraphy.
David Czerny, cute penguins and creepy babies
Hi! My name is Katrina and I'm a graphic designer, artist, and gardener. This is where I share things I find beautiful and useful. Enjoy!