Friday, June 29, 2007


"Here's to Prague and to being married almost two months." This was the toast Jon and I shared while at a wonderful dinner in Prague last weekend overlooking the Vlatava River and the Charles Bridge. I realize we have been quite behind on updating the blog the past couple weeks, but we appreciate you bearing with us and continuing to check for new updates.
Our Prague adventure began last Friday when, at 10:30 p.m., we boarded a night train headed for Prague. Despite our tiny "apartment," they called it, it was great to have our own space and to go to sleep in Germany and wake up early on Saturday morning to the beautiful landscape of the Czech Republic.
After arriving in Prague at 9:00 a.m., we headed to our hotel that was located on Kampa Island, adjacent to the bustling Charles Bridge. Although we were only 100 meters away from the middle of the action, the island was very quiet and right next to the popular Kampa Park. We had a great view through neighboring buildings to the river and Charles Bridge. The best part about our hotel was the enormous room and bathroom we had, which is quite rare for Europe.

After dropping our bags at our hotel, we headed up the long hill to the top of Prague Castle. Halfway up, we stopped to take a picture of the beautiful view below with all the red-tiled roofs and the river and the Old Town in the distance.

When we entered the guarded gates of the castle, which is still in use and houses the offices of the current President of the Czech Republic, we entered three courtyards to the interior of the castle, which housed the beautiful St. Vitus' Cathedral. This stunning Gothic church is still used today and has gorgeous stained glass windows, and stairs that lead to the top of the bell tower.

We climbed the 10 kabillion stairs to the top and had an excellent view of the city below.

We also toured St. George's Basilica, the Old Royal Palace, the national gallery, which housed many famous Czech paintings, and the golden lane, which was lined with some of Prague's oldest houses, including the house where Franz Kafka lived and wrote most of his works.

Admission into the castle came with a mandatory 1 hour conscription in the Czech army, utilizing the latest in advanced Eastern-European weaponry-castle storming all around! Arrrgh!

After our castle adventure, we decided to make plans to meet with Mike Long, a Baylor professor friend of mine who happened to be in Prague this month. It was great to see a familiar face and get a personal tour of Prague from a Czech language and culture expert. After meeting up at our hotel, we walked across the Charles Bridge to Old Town, but had to stop to take a pic of the beautiful rainbow that appeared after the typical afternoon shower.

We headed to the Old Town where I posed with both Mike and Jon in front of the square and colorful buildings.

After hearing the history of the square, we walked over to the edge where there was a tall,
decorative clock tower.

Every hour, the clock comes to life and all the characters play a part in the musical performance. Our favorite was the skeleton on the far right that rings his bell and tips an hour glass upside-down. After dinner at a fabulous traditional Czech restaurant, where we were served by the owner who is a duke, our walking tour continued to Prague castle where we got to experience the splendor of this place at night. Walking around the vacant castle at nightfall and hearing about the historical events that took place here... it was a night I will always remember.
After parting ways with Mike, Jon and I decided to experience some Prague nightlife. We headed to a club recommended in our guidebook, however the book failed to mention that most of the clientele would be from the age of 13-18. We felt a little old, to say the least, but it was pretty entertaining to see all the kiddos get wild and crazy, but also a little disturbing. Needless to say, we didn't stay here too long before deciding to call it a night.

On Sunday, Jon and I decided to explore the famous Jewish quarter, but first found the Lennon Wall near our hotel. This colorful, graffiti-filled wall became a monument after the death of John Lennon in 1980 when he became a hero of freedom, pacifism and counterculture throughout Eastern Europe.
We made our way to the Jewish quarter, where we visited the Jewish community center, synagogue and cemetery, which makes Prague one of Europe's greatest historic Jewish cities. The Old Jewish cemetery is truly fascinating and is actually Europe's oldest Jewish burial ground, where the oldest graves date to 1439. Because the local government of the time didn't allow Jews to bury their dead elsewhere, as many as 12 bodies were placed vertically, with each new tombstone placed in front of the last. Hence, the crowded little cemetery contains more than 20,000 graves.

After touring the Jewish quarter, we headed to the river where we rented a row boat and gained new perspectives of the city. Lucky for me, Jon did all the rowing and I just got to sit back, sip our bottle of wine and relax. I realized how lucky I was, when I noticed all the other couples "rowing around" were taking equal turns. I married such a chivalrous stud!

We enjoyed our hour on the river immensely and it was great to see all the sights from the river including the castle, Charles Bridge, and once again, it was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the serenity of the water.

After our hour on the river, we headed to our romantic dinner for two along the river, which started this summary of events. On Monday, we spent the morning souvenir shopping and strolling the never-ending cobblestone streets of the city. We caught our train back to Weisbaden, which lasted a total of eight, grueling hours, and have spent the week recovering from exhaustion. Prague was definitely worth it, though. The city was filled with historical sights, a reunion with an old friend, and another adventure for Jon and I to always remember. Here's to you, Prague!

Monday, June 18, 2007


"Check this out baby-alumni can't resist the claw," I said to Cat as we crept up on the Baylor alumni gathered for Dia Del Oso-Germany.

Popped the claw and howled a, "HEYYYYYYYYYYYYY(then joined by all assembled)YYYYYYYYY-SIC 'EM BEARS!"

Getting ahead of myself though, we discovered escape was plausible just the night before when I was let off the hook to be a chauffeur(or colorful word of choice), for a visiting 3 star general. Awaking way early, which doesn't matter because the sun comes up here at 3 AM, we lit out for the Hauptbanhof for some last minute tickets to the capitol of the fatherland-Berlin.

A real, "Trans Europe Express," four hours of crossing German countryside only interrupted by some smelly German kids (yeah, they stank), who had reserved the seats we were sitting in. We got bumped-lesson learned. Ha-I gave a slang lesson to the kids too.

After establishing ourselves in the hotel, (oh yeah check out these beds, the register read, "Mr and Mrs. Clough but it may have well been Lucy and Ricky Ricardo), we hit the metro.

That city's public transportation is rad, very easy to get around and everything you want to see is completely within a 15-20 min ride max. Very efficient indeed...the Kaiser keeps the trains on time. On to the beer garden whence the alumni gathered.

There was a medium group with all ages represented and we even watched some cheese-fest of Baylor faculty wishing us a happy Dia Del Oso-2006 (not a typo). There was swag though, BU cups, stickers, mints-yes! The folks were all amicable, despite our boisterous introduction.

The next activity was the bike ride around the city, via Fat Tire Bicycles, (not associated w/ the beer, Click). This excellent introduction to the city was a great way to see everything and plan out the sights you want to see for the rest of the trip. We had a sarcastic ex-pat Aussie who was hilarious as a guide. We started off winging around the TV tower with a metallic ball skewered like an olive on a martini toothpick. Those wacky East Germans, (Commie, atheist types), wanted to prove their technological superiority over the West by erecting this thing only to be kicked in the teeth when the sun would shine and create a cross in the olive portion.

Pedaled to a square with a view of the roof top where WW I was declared, and later the first outspoken communist had his say to the masses. Riding on, we hit the very square where in 1939, Indiana Jones had the grail diary signed by the biggest douche bag in history while his legion of butt-monkeys were burning thousands of books they disapproved of. This site is in front of the university where Einstein, the Brothers Grimm and other notable Germans studied.

Clipped over to the former border next, Checkpoint Charlie, where in 1921 Charlie Chaplin was said to have declared anyone else in history that anyone stealing his sweet 'stache style, "would be a douche bag." As you can see in the picture, they let anyone over these days, even the senior citizens in the background that wouldn't move. But dig the Hummer entering from the Western side and the public bus leaving from the Eastern. YES, not only did we win over communism but also winning the war on global warming-in your face!

This is an excellent place to really discover the polarization of the cold war; whether through the myriad signs posted about the history of the area or the museum adjacent(warning: it resembles a collage of 6th grade social studies projects up on the walls with an eclectic and disorganized array of escape devices, but somehow worth seeing so bring your attention-span).

Another excellent site nearby is an authentic Schlotzky's Deli, yeah you laugh now, but just wait 'till you go without free refills for 6 months.

"We must be in East Berlin."

'' Why?"

"It sinks." Absolutely-the next stop was the wall, deteriorating superstar of the city! Coolest thing learned about it? Check out the rounded top, they're actually split sewage pipes that were donated from the West. Instead of using sewage pipes for something like, oh maybe sewage, they were split and placed on the tops of the walls in this section. No alibi for the little twerp and his sign there, but I think it has more to do with satan than UT.

Rode past the, "Chick on the stick,"(name given to pictured historic statue by American GIs', but when the guide said it, I couldn't remember anything else I was laughing so hard). Around the city you could see bullet holes in all the older buildings and walls, reminders of the belligerent past of the fair city.

The city park, known as the Tiergarten, is actually pretty big. There is enough space for the Berliners to have a small area to relax apiece, even the nudists as Cat discovered. Although she couldn't tell if the naked German was chick or dude, she almost wrecked her bike averting her gaze.

Dia del Oso culminated with a Heavenly quest to the divine-real Mexican Food! Indeed we found a salsa worthy, not just ketchup with peppers, but fantastic. So excellent, here is our picture of the chips. Caption reads, "Crazy Delicious."

Sunday was all about going to the places already mentioned except on foot. We started off with the Pergamon museum, which was chock full of ancient Greek statues, friezies and a rebuilt massive temple with a giant-sized depiction of the Olympian Gods dueling it out with the giants of the earth for the heavy weight title of the world. Top notch and totally recommended, they even have some of the gates of Babylon inside this monolithic museum. I am actually holding these pillars together in the picture, centuries of flash photography have reduced them to ruins. YES-illegal photography! I bought an old Russian web-belt outside the museum.

"Baby, this is what the future looks like."

Mid-day we ran along the river Spree for a good 5 mile loop from our hotel to Chick on a stick and back. The route goes through some seriously modern buildings, so efficient, so cold, so German. The buildings are governmental and include the prime minister's house, dubbed the, "washing machine," for its aesthetic.

Sunday night had to be special, something we could only do in the capitol of Germany, we went to the movies. They had ridiculous size drinks, like 500oz or something. They also served delicious beer, standard here, in the theater. After the Pepsi IV and the cool beer injection, nature called and I disappeared into what I thought was the exit. Instead it was a surreal labyrinth of white walls, like Hoth Station.

After a journey, I emerged to the surface almost beneath a lifesize giraffe made out of legos and the roof of the plaza was undulating colors. Yeah-I know how that sounds, but really.

After the flick we had drinks under the light show and lit out for a little Berlin night life.

Holy nuts! The coffee bars and clubs we went into were totally underground-literally. Its like to have an uber-cool bar it has to have a tunnel or a staircase leading down to an uncertain conclusion. But that conclusion is actually rock and it is awesome to discover. One insanely cavernous club compelled us into a frenzied, full hour of Robot(Cat's favorite dance). An ancient German dance based on ordered movements and precise timing, symbolic of the industriousness of the people and they're desire to express.

Monday we rocked out a few more major sights including the Reichstag(actually didn't go up in it due to a garagatuan line), Brandenburg Gate, the Jewish Monument and the Berlin Jewish museum. Napoleon stole the statue on top of the gate at one time, even though it weighs 5 tons. On this very site the greatest party of liberation the German universe has ever known took place. Hasslehof preformed to a crowd of thousands. So Frau Clough and I march through and proceeded on.

The Jewish monument was eerily humbling, seeming passive on the outside, once you enter the uneven surfaces throw you equilibrium all wack. This was the idea, it represents the distortion of concentration camp existence.

The Jewish museum was less holocaust and more a history of the people in Germany. The design is so modern it's confusing at times, but a necessary stop. The basement had this unique exhibit entitled, "Fallen Leaves." A thousand of these metal faces lay on the concrete floor of the cold rough construction, isolation chamber.

As we departed, it was imperative to reflect on the amazing effect that learning the history and seeing the awesome monuments had on us. In celebration of a rich history and a bright future we continue to this day to do the Robot for you Berlin, and for all the German peoples.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wilhemstrasse Fest

Germany - the land of festivals and plentiful excuses to party! The latest festival was last weekend over yet another German holiday (I feel they have at least two each month), called Wilhelmstrasse Fest, which takes place on the main street in Wiesbaden. They closed off the street and lined each side with tons of beer, wine, prosecco, Thai food, sausage, nut stands, crepe and candy tents. The food and drink options were endless and there was also great entertainment with four different stages with music. The Fest kicked off on Thursday and ran through Sunday, and being the good community-goers we are, we attended every day.

One of the main attractions was a giant swing set that twirled round and round. I rode this once, but Jon felt the need to ride in at least 3 times in a row....., 6 times total. Although a swing ride sounds kiddie, their were actually just as many adults who rode this as kids. They also had a carousel, but I couldn't exactly coax him to do this.

On Saturday, we met up with some of Jon's friends from work, the Grades and two kids they were baby-sitting. We ended up at the Robby Williams tribute stage and danced the night away to his British tunes. I think the kids saw how much Jon and I were itching to dance, and allowed us to dance with them around the fountains in front of the casino.

On Sunday, Jon and I went back to the Fest to watch the opera Rigoletto, which was being performed in the Theatre, but they broadcast it on a big screen for all us commoners to watch on the grassy casino park. Despite the off and on rain, it was a great finale to the weekend and Festival.

Sunday was also a very special day because we managed to find a decent (at least by German standards) Mexican food restaurant. We had heard about a place in nearby Mainz that had good Tex-Mex, but of course we were skeptical of its quality until we could check it out ourselves. The owner claims to be Mexican from San Antonio, therefore the bar was already set pretty high. I was prepared to walk in there and give him the smack-down if the food was as pathetic as the other "Mexican" food restaurants we'd been to. You don't claim you're from Texas and then serve a tiny burrito with no kick! It turns out the food was actually delicious, despite the heated up Velveeta cheese for "queso." The restaurant was decked out in vibrant colors and Mexican wall-hangings, and they played some grade-A mariachi music. So, we have succeeded in finding a place that will serve us comfort food for when we're really down and out (although it's no Trujillo's, LG!).

Somehow it's already Wednesday, and this morning I braved the open-air market. It was actually not as scary as I thought it would be and people were very patient with my slaughtered German. I got some brie cheese, salami with pepper, cherries, strawberries, bananas and a beautiful arrangement of fresh flowers. It really got me in the mood to be Betty Homemaker (not including the cooking), so I better take advantage of the mood and do some cleaning before it leaves me in a matter of minutes.

Thanks for every one's comments thus far. I really appreciate hearing from you!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Adventures in Cooking

I have officially cooked three meals in my married life. This is almost as many meals as I have cooked in my entire college and post-college life. The first was an oldie but a goodie in the Catlin family, chicken and dumplings last week. Then another favorite last weekend, sausage and rice, and just two nights ago I tried a brand new recipe from scratch from my new favorite cookbook (Cooking for Blondes); Shepard's pie. This is one of Jon's favorite meals so I felt the pressure to do it justice, and I must say it was quite a success.

For those of you who know me well, you know that cooking is not exactly my forte nor one of my favorite hobbies. But, it's amazing how much satisfaction you can get from cooking when someone appreciates the effort so much. You wouldn't believe how incredibly happy Jon was to see me try and he was so complimentary of everything (okay, the three things) I made, although I'm sure he was also simply wanting me to feel encouraged to do it again and again.

From what little experience I've had handling food in the U.S., I feel that the maintenance and preparation of food in Germany is somewhat more challenging for the following reasons;
- the refrigerators are small and for some reason the food goes bad very quickly so stocking up for a few weeks (or even several days) is not an option
- on the occasion I do have to go to the German grocery store, they are minuscule in comparison with the U.S. groceries with tiny lanes and no carts or bags for your things. So, the only option is to BUY a plastic bag at the check-out, or come prepared with a back-pack or basket. Once again, stocking up is a no go.
- the one benefit is that because you can only buy a little at a time, you have to visit the market with more frequency and therefore the food is always fresher, even if it does mean wasting some here and there (I'll get my portions down eventually)
So, even though there may not be an elaborate (or any) dish on the table every evening, I'm really going to try my hand at this whole cooking thing again and again, because you never know, maybe someday I'll actually enjoy it!