Amsterdam

day 33 (10/4)
wow, we’ve been away from home for quite a long time, haven’t we? 33 days with more than 10 remaining. we feel pretty out of it. while we watch the presidential and VP debates, we don’t really follow the day-2-day or other events in the USA. we have noticed that the various media in these countries cover American news often . . . but it’s not typically in English.

anyway, we drove into the Netherlands today and found a town with a postal service open. we shipped home most of our summer clothes as we’re not seeing temps above the 50s (or above about 13 Celsius) anymore. we also shipped home a bunch of souvenirs that we’ve bought in the last month. 4 boxes worth. i wonder if we’ll beat them home? afterwards we had lunch and then made our way to our hotel on the outskirts of Amsterdam. we found free parking in a neighborhood next to the hotel and that’s where the car will remain for the next 4 nights. we then made our way on the metro to the Central Station in the heart of Amsterdam and ventured out from there — after buying a 4-day ticket for all travel. i guess we headed out in the wrong direction as i noticed some things that perhaps kids shouldn’t be seeing. fortunately, our kids were not looking around much and missed things and they aren’t tall enough to see through the masses of people around us. heh. we then found a place to eat dinner and walked around some more getting oriented. the kids bought magazines to read and i looked for Street and Smith’s NCAA basketball preview, but it wasn’t available. shucks.

Amsterdam is quite different than other big cities we’ve visited as this place has more young people (e.g., early 20s) by far and we all noticed a complete bicycle culture. this place love bikes. they have bike lanes EVERYWHERE and bike riders do not like pedestrians in their paths, which we figured out in our first few minutes here. we are thinking of renting bikes, but our location is not really a bike ride away from the city center. we take a metro (bus or tram) and it’s a good 15 – 20 minutes all the way in. a bike ride would probably take us good 30 – 40 minutes and the kids are complaining about the cold as it is — there was a strong wind today. tomorrow has wind and rain so we’re hoping to do museums. stay tuned.

Germany

day 32 (10/3)
we set off towards Amsterdam today and made it to the far side of Germany. but as we were leaving the Czech Republic we hit a police road block and they signaled for me to pull over, which i did. they first told me to turn on my headlights only he didn’t know the English so he just did it for me. then they asked where my car sticker was that allows me to drive in the Czech Republic. i didn’t have one, but apparently i was supposed to buy one upon entering the country. oops. this was a 5,000 Crown fine, except that the police offers looked at me and said that i should get it next time and that i could go this time without penalty. whew! nice guys.

so we drove into Germany and eventually found lunch. we enjoyed chatting with a couple from Connecticut who were traveling Europe as well. they had set their alarms for 3:00 AM last night just like we did to watch the VP Debate live.

we eventually made it to Osnabruck, Germany in the northwest part of the country — about 2 hours from Amsterdam (and 6 hours from Prague). we found a hotel, but had to get two rooms as they didn’t have any family rooms. i set off down the street to do laundry while Paula and the kids had dinner and then worked on homework. laundry too a while as the dryers were horrible, so i didn’t finish up until about 8:30 and finally got around to dinner at 9:00. i went to the same place as Paula and the kids and walked in and ordered the special on Paula’s advice. i didn’t know what it’d be but it turned out to be a kabob of meats over a bed of wild rice and more. mmmm. a fairly uneventful day of driving.

Last full day in Praha (that’s Prague to you)

day 31 (10/2)
we tried to take our clothes to a drop-off laundry service today but we were unable to find the place. so i lugged a big bag of dirty clothes back on the tram to the apartment while Paula and the kids enjoyed a carousel and watching people in a busy part of town. we decided to head towards the old town part of Prague and walk around and maybe take a tour, but we ended up saving our money and making our own tour. we found a nice place to eat lunch and then ventured into the city center again where we bought some popular food treat that many vendors promote (sort of like a pretzel texture or a pretzel bread maybe and cinnamon and something good) and strolled around in the city center. interestingly enough, the International Bartender of the Year competition was going on. we didn’t stick around to help judge, but that was what people were gathering to do. we did head over to see a chocolate museum where the kids got to see a video and learn how chocolate is made, etc. they then saw a gallery with amazing paintings made from chocolate. incredible. dark, light, colored, and more. the kids were then allowed to paint with melted chocolate and they were able to carve into a chocolate wall (e.g., their name). they received a cocoa bean when they left.

we then decided to walk towards the Powder Tower and we saw a crowd forming so we pushed to the front and had front row seats to watch the caveman dude filming a commercial. i am sure most people have seen his commercials for GEICO . . . well, expect at least one more because it was being filmed on the streets of Prague today. the kids thought that was pretty neat to see.

we then came across a giant playground for kids. this had a big zip line and much more for the kids so we spent a good 45 minutes letting the kids run around. we then rode the tram back to our place and relaxed for a bit before heading out to dinner. we had dinner in the same place nearby and it was again very, very good. we have all decided that Prague is a city we’d like to come back to as we liked it quite a bit. too bad we leave tomorrow.

still in Praha

day 30 (10/1)
woke up leisurely and jumped on a tram to the city center. we practically had the whole place to ourselves. we grabbed some breakfast at Starbucks and sat in the big square by about 9:30 AM. very pleasant place with no people around. we watched some kids race around the city center in some official race and then walked to the famous Charles Bridge and enjoyed listening to a street band out on the middle as they were playing traditional Czech music. we then jumped on the subway and headed up to the Prague Castle, which is one of the biggest castles in the world (according to the Guinness book anyway). it was pretty awesome, but we did an audio tour for 2 hours and i think all of us got tired before it was over, plus we were hungry. so we jumped on the tram and then took it to the subway and jumped off next to the National Museum where we had a nice lunch.

after lunch, we walked around enjoying the town. we then took a subway to another subway and then shot across town to the stop just past our own where we found a shopping mall. the first we’d seen in Europe. we bought the kids warmer clothes and i bought a belt as my broke 2 days ago. Paula even managed to find some warmer clothes as well, so it was a good stop. the kids found a carousel and rode it. we were all tired and it was already 7:00 by this time so we jumped on a tram and went to our stop, which was next and unloaded. we ventured out into our neighborhood and found a neat pub for dinner, which was decorated very old fashioned like the dark ages as if the pub had been around since then (maybe it has???). this food was our best since leaving Italy, easily. a very nice find. were going to do the Prague ghost tour that started in the city center at 8:30, but we all just wanted to head home to bed. maybe tomorrow night.

i should also note that the kids are complaining about how sore their muscles are from hiking the Alps. i told them about how this means that their muscles are growing and that the more it hurts will mean that much stronger the muscles will be. i think this worked a bit, but it didn’t make their muscles feel any better so they were really troopers given how much walking we did today. great day for doing it though.