Monday, June 18, 2012

Day-to-Day Life in Chicagoland

06/11, Monday
We went car shopping at Enterprise. Our choice there is a 2010 Honda Civic LX 4-door sedan, silver. Nice clean car...37,000 miles, still in warranty from Honda, plus 1-year power train from Enterprise.

Should we register in Illinois or New Hampshire? Chicago IL: sales tax is 9.75%, about $1520 one time cost; NH, $0, no sales tax. Insurance: IL, $76/month; NH, $46/month. License: IL, $65/year; NH $85/year. Registration: IL, $99/year; NH, $185/year. The annual savings of registering in NH is $330, plus the one-time tax savings. No-brainer, if we can figure out a way to do it! How to drive an unregistered, unlicensed car from IL to NH?

06/12, Tuesday
It's golf day with Zach at the Village Links. We couldn't ask for better weather...clear, in the 70s, with some breeze. Lunch before heading out at 12:45 for 9 holes. We finish at 3:00 and head for ice-cream at Oberweiss...loser buys...that's me, Dick...Zach, 56; Mom, 66; Dad, 72.

We watched Zach swim several events for the Gators, the Glen Ellyn team that Paige coaches. The team won, and Zach did well in his events. Paige swam one event, too, and won...she needs to get two times to qualify for finals.

06/13, Wednesday
We need to make a car decision today. We bought the Honda, drove about 5 miles and the TRMS light came on...something about the Tire Management System. Mom took it back to Enterprise immediately and had to haggle with them to get it fixed. Did we make a mistake buying from them?

I had an eye examination in Glen Ellyn...Sue's doctor. He is very high-tech and thorough. I have the initial phase of a cataract in my left eye. I wondered why things were so hazy-fuzzy. And, I need new lenses.

Dinner out with all except Paige (working) at the local sushi place.

06/15, Friday
Our Enterprise sale man, Chris, called to say the car needs a new sensor part. (Is this a not-so-subtle way to get us to buy an extended care repair policy? If so, we might as well have bought a brand new Honda for $500 more.)

Chris delivered Lily (our Honda) at 11:00, all repaired and ready to go.

I'm repairing the Lupori mail box which has rotted out over the years, replacing rotten wood. It's not a pretty result, but it will serve a few more months.

06/16, Saturday
Today I have a dentist appointment in Chicago to repair a tooth that broke in Italy. Requires removing a 1950s filling and build out a new one.

Then, meet Matt & Lizzy at Wilde for lunch. Matt has had a tennis lesson at 6:30, and a business dedication on the south side earlier today.

Matt is a director of Timeline Theater, a few blocks away from their home. He gave us tickets to the 4:00 production of "My Kind of Town", a world premier about torture used by Chicago's police department, Unit Two, to get confessions. It is a challenging portrayal of how we, as a community, ignore abuse of our public servants.

Lizzy and Matt invited us for dinner and overnight stay. Their friends Barbara and Peter are dinner guests, too.

06/17, Sunday...Father's Day
Brunch with Matt and Lizzy and Sandy at Erwin on Halsted. Plenty of good food. Erwin will close on July 1 this year after many years of operation.

Matt figured out how to get some of our travel pictures printed so we can show them to Lala.

Maddie is off to Minneapolis with OSP high schoolers to serve inner city families. We returned to Sue and Vince's where we watched the end of the U. S. Open golf tournament. Vince finished the mailbox with a new post and paint. We played Hand and Foot (Sue and I won).

06/18, Monday
Everyone in the household is back in their weekly routine. Zach is off with three friends for swimming. It's going to be 97 degrees today, and hot for most of the week.

We're headed out to visit Lala and Brad for the day. They are out back on their deck reading when we arrive. Catching up on family and travels. Out for pizza and home for a movie.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Re-Entry to the USA

06/07, Thursday
Sue stayed home from work to help us adjust to home. This is a day to sort out dirty clothes, relax, leisurely breakfast, take care of a few financial items, walk and pet Nellie, and generally enjoy being home with our family.

06/08, Friday
I had a doctor appointment in Chicago. Sue took us to the train and we walked across town, stopping at the Secretary of State office to renew our drivers licenses. What I thought was going to be gruesome task, turned out to be mechanical, easy, and fast. Mom was right...let's just see what happens! All GOOD.

Dr. Hiotis took care of all my medical questions, wrote new prescriptions, and referred me to Dr. Ho, a neurologist, to review my neuropathy condition. I'll see him next Monday.

We stopped in the Walgreens Store across from our condo to pick up a few items we needed. Mom had her hair cut at Super Cuts. Then, we stopped in the condo to retrieve a few items we need for the summer in NH.

We got a lot done today. We're tired and thirsty. We caught the 5:09 to Glen Ellyn and Vince met us there to bring us home.

06/09, Saturday
Zach played in a semi-final lacrosse game against Naperville. Poor coaching cost Glen Ellyn the game, 8-5. Matt came out to see us and stayed over night. Sue and Vince made hanger steak and mashed potatoes for dinner. Very tasty and filling.

Paige took SATs in the morning and went to a concert at Wrigley Field with friends. Maddie practiced tennis for several hours with some of her team mates.

06/10, Sunday
Slept until 10:00. Sue, Vince and Maddie are at OSP for blessing of group of kids traveling to service projects.

Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast and Flips for lunch. Watched some of the French Open Mens finals (Nadal v. Jokavic) until it was called for rain and darkness. Played Rummy Cube.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Heading Home...The Final Lap

06/05, TuesdayIt's a very nice weather day. The clouds are high in the mountains and there is blue sky. Breakfast is filling and it's time to check-out. We are missing our last bobble (out of four we started with 8 months ago). Time to go home ! We take a last walk through the old town, viewing the magnificent mountains and check where we had dinner for the bobble.

We're on the train to Verona where we transfer to Milan, our last stop before catching a plane home tomorrow. By the look of signs outside the train, we have just passed into names are in both German and Italian. We have seen some beautiful country through train and bus windows.

We must be tired and anxious to get home. When we arrived in Milan (not our favorite place, remember the stolen wallet episode here on our arrival in October?) today, our first challenge was to find the shuttle bus to the Malpensa airport. Not that we needed to catch a plane, but in order to catch another shuttle bus to our hotel which is near the airport.

All told, today we handled our luggage 15 times...pulling and lifting onto trains, taxis, buses, elevators, escalators. That leaves 5 more pulls-lifts for tomorrow. Can you tell we are ready to see our family and Chicagoland?

It has been a grand adventure though and we sure have many, many wonderful memories. Travel is a great learning experience. We have seen lots, done lots, but the thing that stands out the most are all the fun, wonderful people we came in contact with and the time spent with them.

Being with Yuko, John, Emma and Nicky was certainly special and our trip together to Thailand holds lots of memories.

06/06, Wednesday...flying home
We made our check-out early to avoid the long lines later and then enjoyed a very nice breakfast that was included in our room charge.

Earlier the shower head fell off while I was showering making enough noise to wake Mom. She thought I had fallen out of the tub and came running into the bathroom, very scared.

We have a couple of hours until the first leg of our return Copenhagen, Sweden...on SAS. It's a perfect time to watch a downloaded movie, "Frida", about Frida Kahlo with Salma Hychek and Albert Molina and Antonio Banderas. This is a follow-up to the "Frida" dance program we saw in Innsbruck.

We have a two hour lay over in Copenhagen, but don' think we will see much of Sweden. Tempting though and it is our twelfth country! Instead, we'll finish the movie while waiting.

Sue was right there waiting when we got out of customs looking great. She took the El out to the airport and then Vince picked us all up, which was so nice. First hug when we got to their place was from Maddie, no more braces, several inches taller and beautiful. Paige arrived from work and greeted us with her wonderful smile and is a such a nice poised young woman. Zach got home from LaCrosse practice and he also grew quite a bit and is now a big middle school student. We literally fell into bed since our bodies thought it was 4:30 am. We are home !

Monday, June 4, 2012

Riding Around Innsbruck

06/04, Monday
Breakfast at our hotel gets us off to a great start for the day...too bad it's drizzling and the clouds are caught in the mountains. Kind of pretty, although in a wet way.

The young woman at the front hotel desk, Stephanie, is very helpful, too, with a suggestion to walk into town along a different street lined with beautiful homes and mansions. (Stephanie is a student at Innsbruck University studying International Economics, Banking Innovation.)

Innsbruck is a large city, about 150,000 people. It hosted two winter Olympics, 1964 and 1972. There are reminders of the events, such as a ski jump visible in the distance from the main street.

We are not deterred very long, but our plans have changed...from riding to the top of the mountain on the cable car to going to the Tyrolean Museum of Arts and Crafts...a learning experience instead of a visual high!

We take the mansion walk ending up at the Inn River, then into town to the Arts and Crafts Museum. Lots of wood carving, tools, furniture, church items, sleighs, and masks. The theme seems to be based on and sounds and mannequin that greets us.

Time for a quick bite to eat. The weather has cleared a little, enough to rent bikes for a 2-hour, 10 mile ride along the river. Mostly parks and homes on the way out; parks and industry on the return, other side of the river. Clouds are still covering the very tops of the mountains, but you see the majestic mountains, some snow and it makes a very nice bike ride along the rushing river.

We decide to have a "light" Austrian dinner...fried egg, potatoes, and beef and beer...before heading back to the hotel. Sandy has a taste for gelato for dessert. Then our final night stroll back to our cute pension.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

We're Headed for Our Last Stop, Innsbruck

06/03, SundayToday we catch our train to Innsbruck at 12:10. This will be our last stop before heading back to Milan to catch the plane to Chicago. We have counted the number of times until we finally can stop hauling our two big bags in Glen Ellyn...out & into hotels, trains, air terminals, cabs...I came up with 20 times. Next time we will travel light.

Our JetRail train whisks us to Innsbruck in 1-3/4 hours through pretty countryside spotted here and there with villages, church steeples, cows in the pasture, and rivers with rushing water off the mountains. This is a beautiful country, lots of green and trees like New Hampshire or Vermont.

The ever present mountains, several with snow, are really pretty. People here in Austria seem to have an excellent life style. Far more emphasis on quality leisure time rather than work and making money.

We had just checked-in at the front desk of our hotel, The Alt Pradl. While checking our email, we got a Skype message that Yuko and John were going to video call us. What a great surprise and fun! It is Sunday night there. Nicky and Emma had just finished brushing their teeth and Yuko is showering...she came on a little later. The girls have a day off on Monday, so everyone is going to the zoo.

We ventured into the old Innsbruck getting off the track twice even though it is only a 15 minute walk. One of the big features, The Golden Roof, is covered over for repairs. Ferdinand I used to sit beneath the roof on his balcony to watch the crowds in the square (platz). It's not really gold...just bronze.

Our trails lead us into the Imperial Garden, a very nice park, that let's out on the Inn Brüche (Brook or River). The current is fast and strong in this narrow river (100 feet wide). There's a guy on a surf board tethered to the bridge riding the current...maybe a new extreme sport!

We hear some music and come upon a street fair and sit and watch. Lots of dancing and fun people watching. We take part in a dance and a beer before crossing over the bridge to find the restaurant the people at our hotel told us about. Mountains literally surround Innsbruck and a rushing river goes through the town.

We share a dinner of three different kinds of dumplings and three kinds of sausage at the Stiftskeller with local beers, of course, and a chocolate cake for dessert. It's still early...about we start walking back to our hotel.

We noticed a theater across the street advertising a production of Frida Kahlo. So we stopped in to see what was going on. A local dance company, TanzCompany or Martha Graham Company, is performing an original production "Frida Kahlo - Passion for Life".

The box office says it is sold out, only one seat available. But we wait around until 7:30 hoping there will be a no-show or two. Just at the last call, the theater director tells us we can have the one seat and he gives us a free second seat. Can you believe our luck...right place, right time. The dancing was marvelous and it was just for one evening. Certainly was a nice welcome to Innsbruck. Frida Kahlo had a very troubled, rather complex life and the dance depiction was great. We had seen an exhibit of her paintings in Chicago, so knew quite a bit about her.
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Zell am See

06/02, Saturday
Breakfast at the pension without eggs, today. Then, a walk to the station to catch the train to Zell am See (Zell is a town on a lake in the mountains). Karin suggested we take a day-trip to this resort town...skiing in the winter, lake in summer.

It's a 1-1/2 hour ride through rural Austria to Zell at an altitude of 2,500 feet. The mountains encircle the lake and town. They reach 7,500 feet and are snow-covered year 'round. As we ascend, there are clouds caught in the mountains, but by the time we arrive, it is clear and warm. Quite a scenic train ride.

Zell is a small town with lots of tourist charm. After a quick stop at the TouristInfo Center, we decide to take the lake cruise at 2:00. A perfect day for it, and we have a little lunch on board. Forty minutes later, we're back in the harbor. Very dramatic mountain views. You can ski year round. The lake is drinking water pure. They advertise you can ski, play golf and swim all in one day. Nice, small quaint town with a very nice hotel right on the lake. We used their WiFi, which was great.

In some ways, we are reminded of Lake Sunapee...set among mountains that come down to the lake. Lake Zell is much smaller...about 1.8 sq. miles, 225 feet deep. Not as many homes either. The ski areas appear to be very close to the lake. And, they have seven golf courses nearby, just like Sunapee-New London.

It's a good biking locale...relatively flat around the we rent bikes for an hour. That's not enough time to go completely around the lake, but the rental place closes at 5:00. Good path right along the lake and comfortable bikes. We both feel like we got quite a bit of sun. I even dipped my toes in the water.

We had thought we'd stay until 7:15, but there's not much going on. We had a late lunch and are not hungry yet, so we depart on the 5:15 back to Salzburg. Seems we can now do a small town in a few hours ! Nice leisurely day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Exploring More of Salzburg and a Musical Finish

06/01, Friday
The weather is not too good...raining. We had planned to go to Zell am See, a small town about an hour away from Salzburg by train. A late start trying to find a wifi shop slowed us down. Salzburg is not as wifi'd as other cities we've visited.

We ended up going to the Salzburg City Museum and Panorama, good for a rainy day. Got tickets for Zell for tomorrow. The museum was very extensive and quite new. Built in 2007. It described the city problems and growth through the lives of the artists, political figures and musicians.

They started early promoting tourism since people enjoyed coming to the Baroque City. The Panorama (360 degree wall art) was done in the early 1800's, before photography, and showed the marvelous setting of Salzburg from the perspective of the fortress. It toured Europe for many years before becoming a fixture in Salzburg.

This part of the museum also showed the making of "Sound of Music" and many original scripts, posters and other interesting tidbits. Julia Andrews was just paid $250,000 for making the movie and it has brought in hundreds of millions.

Other actors that were considered for her part were Grace Kelly, Leslie Coran, and Doris Day. Other male actors that might have portrayed the baron, played by Christopher Plummer in the movie, were Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, and Yul Brenner.

Certainly the highlight of the evening was a program Salzburg has once a year on June 1st called Lange Nacht der Kirchen (Long Night at the Churches). Again our timing was right on! All the churches offer frees concerts and we were entertained or I should say mesmerized for four hours.

We happened to choose St Peter's out of 21 other venues. That was our very good luck. We walked in just before 8:00 and the church pews were almost filled. We found good seats in the choir on the side behind the performers. About 25 chorus members paraded in and at least 12 orchestra players, all in black...very formal. For the next 1-1/4 hours we heard a live performance of Handel's Messiah...I guess 12-15 movements. The group was superb. The performance and the surroundings were profoundly touching.

As we were about to leave for another church, we noticed a woman carrying her medium-sized harp forward for the next set of music. Mom loves the harp, as you know, so we immediately took seats near the front on the aisle. The next two hours of music was unusual and intriguing...we loved it.

The group, d' Salzburger Nockerl, of five players were very talented on their instruments and vocally...harp, accordion, flugelhorn horn, double bass, guitar were the primary instruments, wight he addition of several sized didderydoo, drums, bells, monoharp...essentially Aboriginal instruments. (We will look them up on You Tube.)
The music and their beautiful voices was breath taking, not to mention the setting. An ornate gorgeous church with hundreds of lit candles. Another definite highlight of our trip.

We left thoroughly entertained at 12:30am and walked home through the picturesque streets of Salzburg. Wow !
On Display in the
Salzburg City Museum

The Sound of Music.
Is that Julie Andrews or Mom?

Orchestra and Chorus
Handel's Messiah

A Variety of Instruments
Played by
D'Salzburger Nockerl.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big day in Salzburg

Thursday May 31st
We really had a fun day and the weather cooperated. I think Salzburg gets some rain almost daily but it doesn't last long and doesn't seem to interfere with activities.

We don't have WiFi at our little pension, so we have been out of touch since arriving.

We would be a good advertisement for bike tours. We went on another one this morning, called Fraulein Maria's Bicycle Tours. The Sound of Music (S.O.M.) is their speciality, but you bike through the old city and a good deal of really pretty countryside while seeing some sights where the movie was filmed.

Two completely different homes were used for the front and back of the Baron's home. Fun hearing behind-the-scenes stories and about the Von Trapp family and the filming. People in town who didn't realize a movie was being made got upset and scared when they shot the Nazi scenes in a square.

Mozart, Haydn, and "Sound of Music" really put Salzburg on the map. Again, good bikes, comfortable seats, fun people and a very nice leader. Much smaller operation than in Paris though and not as organized. There were 26 people in our group and only one leader.

Right next to the bike shop are the famous Mirabel Schloss (palace) and Gardens. (It was built for the mistress of the Archbishop-Prince Wolf Dietrich...she bore 15 children, was exiled when Wolfie was jailed in the fortress.) The flowers, designs and fountains are spectacular. Maria and the Von Trapp children danced around in here. We will have to rent the movie!

We then went to the residence of Mozart. He lived here from age 17. The audio guide gave a fascinating insight to his life and works. At each stop you would hear an excerpt from his many pieces. What a prodigy !

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the fortress high above the city. First, we took a funicular to the top, known as Hohensalzburg, for a look down at the city. Then dinner, again with great views and very good food, including a special Mozart dessert called a Variation. After a leisurely dinner, we walked up no less than 150 steps to a concert in the Golden Hall. They have different chamber orchestras each evening. Again, a large dose of Mozart. They take their music here very seriously. A very fun and interesting day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Next Stop, Salzburg

05/30, WednesdayWe say our "good-byes" to Karin and Lukas and Jamie...Jakob has already left for school. Karin drives us to the West Bahnhof for our 10:14 train to Salzburg, where we arrive at 1:00pm. Taxi to our nice pension, top floor with a sweet patio of our own.

First discovery! Mom realizes our train ticket date for Innsbruch is a day early, 06/02. Our host, Hilda, confirms that the ticket is good any day after June 2, so everything is okay. We're back on track!

Our room is on the 3rd floor with a nice private patio. Our bags are so heavy, we need help getting them up the stairs. On our next big trip, we will not bring so many clothes. It is too much work pulling heavy bags.

Old Salzburg is across the Salzach River, a 15 minute walk to the Tourist Information center where we pick up ideas for our four days here. Lots of things going on and we want to squeeze in as much music as possible and a bike tour.

We have a late lunch/dinner and walk around the old town. The river, Salzac, is very fast moving and winds through the town.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our Last Day in Vienna

05/29, Tuesday
Our first venture is to the nearby botanical gardens which are adjacent to the Belvedere Palace and grounds. It's very well maintained, quite large, and with extensive plantings of flowers and trees. It has given us some inspiration to plant more native grasses and plants at the cottage in NH.

The Vienna City Museum (Wien Stadt Musee) is located in the Karlsplatz, an easy walking distance. It traces the history of the city from 1700-1815 on the first floor and from 1815-2000 on the top floor...wars with the Hungarians and Ottomans; fortifying the city with a perimeter of walls; removing the walls to make way for the Ring Strasse; expanding size and population; WWI and WWII bombing; persecution of Jews; rise and fall of the monarchy; feudal life to democracy through rebellion; and re-routing and covering the Wien River.

The Naschmarkt is just across a couple of streets. Rick Steves and Karin have suggested we stop there for lunch. It is a market place for fresh fish and meat, along with small eating places. TokoRi, an Asian restaurant, catches our interest. We haven't had much Asian food since leaving Singapore. Mom has Pad Thai and I have Thai Mango duck.

The main shopping street in Vienna is Mariahilfer Strasse. We pick up a couple of items at the Rags Store, Jakob's favorite.

Then, more walking to an art area called The Museum Quarter. There we find an Austrian Architecture exhibition. It covers two centuries (19th and 20th) of development as impacted by cultural, social, political, war, and economic conditions, as well as a chronological progression.

As an example, during 1939-1945, when Austria was dominated by the German Third Reich, Der Führer, Adolf Hitler, favored the city of Linz, not Vienna because it was too progressive. Thus, more time, money, and effort was spent in Linz, and Vienna fell into an architectural slump.

We had drinks on the Museum platz and hustled to the Opera, hoping to catch another performance outside on the screen. Too bad, no show on Tuesday.

Back home to say good night (and good bye to Jakob who leaves early for school). Karin treats us to homemade rhubarb strudel and milk before bedtime. Lukas is at a meeting with his pharmacist friends. We'll see him in the morning.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Outside of Vienna, Beyond the Ring

05/28, Monday
The public transportation here is "precise" and convenient. Today we are headed to the Schönbrunn Palace, another summer home for the monarch dating to the 1800s. It is beyond the Ring as well as the outer Ring and beyond the Gürtel so we take two U-Bahn to get there...maybe 25 minutes.

Schönbrunn is a huge estate...1441 majestic rooms plus a monster garden outside the Ringstrasse. Even though we've seen several other "royal apartments" in other cities and countries, we decide to take the tour here, too...only 40 rooms. (Many of the "apartments" are now rented to civil service workers to help support the maintenance of the property.) The monarchy ruled for 600 years until 1918. Then they weren't sure what to do with these magnificent palaces, but tourism became the answer. The Schonbrunn is the most visited site in Vienna. The gardens were also fantastic, where roses grow like weeds.

While the opulence is somewhat redundant from one palace to another, what we find interesting is the history of the royals and trying to understand the family tree. It is foreign to our American experience (no King's or dukes, etc.), it is confusing to put the lineage all together. Queen Maria Theresa (1790s) was the only female monarch in over 640 years of the Habsburg empire. Along with ruling, she had 16 children ! The more children that could be married off in other countries, the more peace without war. The Hofburg family ruled for over 600 years.

Since we are on the outskirts of Vienna, we U-Bahn to the end of U4 and bus 38A to the Vienna Woods high above the city. There we enjoy a late lunch on a terrace overlooking the city. Very special. We hike down a pretty path and our timing was good since it started to rain right when the bus arrived. The woods help keep the city pollution free and it is one of the cleanest cities I have ever been in. Another wonderful thing about Vienna is that it is so quiet. It is actually against the law to beep a horn in this city unless an accident occurs. There is a heavy fine for anyone not obeying.

In the evening we sit outside the opera house and watch a marvelous ballet, Don Quixote, on the new huge screen they have recently installed. What a grand thing and completely free. Plus you could hear the music perfectly since there is no street noise. The dancing and the music were superb. A wonderful summer-like evening in Vienna. This made up for missing last night's opera.

Vienna Within The Ring

05/27, Sunday
Lukas and Karin and Jakob are leaving for an overnight stay at their cottage about two hours drive away. It's a relaxed morning in the kitchen around the wicker counter/table for from a DeLonghi espresso, OJ, thin-sliced cheese and ham, very good grain bread, homemade peach jam, Nutella, and avocado...spread on bread, really good!

Lukas shows us their backyard, including a pet turtle. Their whole building had belonged to his grandfather and now several relatives live there. Great setting and location.

Mom and Karin have scheduled our remaining 10 days in Austria back to Milan, Italy. So, our first task is to get tickets at the West Bahnhof train station. (There are four stations in Vienna.) We are helped by a young man there who makes all of arrangements...we're all set to go.

It's about mile-walk to reach the Hofburg Palace where we are having a tour of the Lippinzaner horse stables. Mariahilfer, a shopping street, leads us past lots of global high-end stores as well as McDonalds and Starbucks. We arrive a few minutes before 2:00.

The Stable Tour is very interesting. Our guide (Alexia Havlacek, no relation to John of the Celtics) has lots of information and details and history about the Lippinzaner horses. Lippinz is an area in Spain where the horses originated. They were the first modern horses as opposed to large draft animals...much smaller and sleeker.

Emperor Leopold I, a Spaniard, imported these horses from Spain until he realized it would be easier to breed them in Austria. Most Lippinzaner are white, but a regressive gene sometimes produces a dark brown. These are considered good luck charms and are revered by the stables.

We saw the tack room where saddles and bridles are stored and maintained. The saddles are made of the same leather as the breeches worn by the riders. This helps them stay on the horse because the riders do not use stirrups. The stable is right on a busy center, but the horses get two months off each year to prance in the country. Their stalls are cleaned hourly, so they can stay so white.

There are strict criteria for a horse to be chosen as a performer, and, likewise, there are criteria for the riders. Training for both horse and rider is intensive...a horse can perform for 20 years; a rider for 35 years or more. The horse and rider are always paired together. Women are now allowed to become riders, and they are usually better suited to the horses. The hall where they perform seats 1000 people and beautiful, including large ornate chandeliers.

About 4:30 we stop for early dinner (no lunch today) at Stepl, the same restaurant we ate dinner with L&K&J on Friday. Too much food for both of us to finish. We rested at the apartment for awhile, and then trammed to the outdoor Opera screen, arriving at 9:00, just as It ended. We had our choice of seats anyway! Oh well, we'll try tomorrow night.

Now it's almost 11:00, our bedtime after a little reading. Just as we turned out the lights, we heard the front door buzzer. A lady over the intercom asks if we have lost a cat. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

Well, we haven't mentioned that the day we arrived, Friday, Karin told us their cat, Jamie, had not returned last night. She was very worried and upset about him, understandably. She and Lukas had been out periodically the last few days looking for him and putting up posters. Now, a woman around the corner has found him!

I ran down stairs to meet her (in my pjs), but Jamie is not with her, so I follow her to verify the cat is okay and bring him home. But, because I am not the owner, she refuses to let me take him. Mom, is upset because she thinks I have disappeared (maybe the "cat nabbers" have kidnapped me!) when I return. We called Karin to let her know that Jamie is okay, and she calls back quickly, very excited, of course.

So, the missing cat saga is happily concluded. Karin will bring him home tomorrow when they return from their cottage.

Mom and I are wide awake after this,so we play a game of Scrabble before settling down again for sleep.