Prague – Day 9

Another gorgeous day in Prague!

We have one more full day in Prague before packing it in and heading back to H-Town. Without a doubt, we are winding down. We’ve got nothing pressing us for time so we’re just taking in this magnificent city for the last few days at as leisurely a pace as we can.

Cynthia wanted to get the post cards in the mail. They will certainly arrive in the US after we do, but no matter.

As we were looking for the post office we chanced down a street and found the Kafka monument

It was something we wanted to see, but had not put much effort into finding. A happy happenstance.

After we couldn’t find the post office we stepped into a tourist information center and asked. A helpful young man set us on the correct path and we were off again. This time we stumbled upon something we definitely wanted to see, knew was here, but had no idea where it could be. We saw it on the cab ride in to town and it was on our minds.

One symbolic element of the demonstrations of the Velvet Revolution was the jingling of keys, to symbolize the unlocking of doors. When 300,000 protesters flooded Wenceslas Square, noisily jangling their keys in a symbolic call to throw off communism it must have been something to see (and hear).

To commemorate this event on the 20th anniversary, people from all over the Czech Republic brought 85,741 keys to the local Vofaphon shops. These keys were then made into a sculpture by artist Jili David that resides in Franz Kafka Square.

The sculpture spells the word “Revoluce!” which is Czech for “Revolution!”

The sculpture is amazing and thought provoking.

After admiring the monument we found the post office and Cynthia sent them on their way.

From there we headed back to the park at the top of the hill where the giant metronome is. This is the park we visited yesterday. I wanted to see if I could get some shots from up there using my panorama equipment. We spend about an hour up there before heading back down.

While we were there we noticed there were a lot of policemen around and many people carrying balloons and wearing hats that had something written on them. Since we didn’t read Czech, we had no idea what they said and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. We made our way back to our breakfast place and got some food. After that we headed back out just to stroll around. We had decided to go to the river and explore the north and the east.

As we got to the Manesuv bridge we noticed the police had the street blocked off and that there was something going on at the Galerie Rudolfinum. There were hundreds of people and a public address system. There were news crews and a helicopters flying overhead. Something big was happening.

As we got closer to the bridge and were about tot turn right we noticed hundreds more people marching down the bridge with signs blowing whistles and vuvuzelas.

Then we saw that is was not hundreds of people. It was THOUSANDS of people.

And thousands more were pouring down from the hill top where the giant metronome is.

More and more streaming down from the hill top

The crowds were filling both bridges we could see and all converging on Galerie Rudolfinum. Cynthia and I were not going anywhere until this was over.

Apparently the civil service workers (police, firemen, etc.) we’re protesting proposed budget cuts that would reduce their salaries by 10%. Here’s an article I found online about the protests.

Thousands of people protest in Prague against budget cuts

It did eventually die down and we were able to move on and enjoy our walk.

Tomorrow is our last day. The weather forecast says more good weather. We’ll probably take it easy and get things packed up for our departure on Thursday. I am anxious for home. I love to travel, but I miss my own bed for sleeping.

Prague – Day 6

Man, the weather again today was fantastic! We didn’t really have anything specific on the agenda today. Cynthia calls it a “free day” where we just walk around and shoot pictures of whatever we want. With the sun being out I decided to try and capture some detail on the astronomical clock. I setup the tripod and captured these images:

I’ve got some more and some plans for processing to make them more “interesting” but I’ll need some time. I’m just wanting to find a different way to capture and present this magnificent clock.

We walked around the old town square shooting a few things and marveled at the clear blue sky.

We decided to cross Karlov Most (The Charles Bridge) back over to the far bank of the river. The crowds were already building up. There’s a fantastic jazz band that plays on the bridge every day and the music really sets the scene. Their name, cleverly enough, is The Bridge Band.

We strolled casually down the bridge, stopping frequently to snap pictures of the various statues that line Karlov Most

There’s this one statue on the bridge of St John Nepomuk

It is said that touching the plague beneath this statue brings good fortune and that you can make a wish. But you can only make one wish in your lifetime. Cynthia has made hers and I am mulling mine over currently.

We wandered and wandered quite a bit. I was shooting a lot with my Zeiss 70-300 which is unusual for me as I am primarily a wide angle kind of guy. But it was nice to capture some detail.

As we wandered down the river we came across a sculpture garden that was in the courtyard of the Kampa Museum of Contemporary Art. There were many interesting pieces, but this one stood out for me

It is what it looks like, a crochet car. It was created by a Jitka Havlí?ková in 2001 and is called Viktor – pomnik automobilu which roughly translates to Victor (or maybe Victoria) – Memorial Car.

We also took the opportunity to fulfill our travel tradition of dropping a Mr. Zippers feather at our travel destination. Mr. Zippers was Cynthia’s beloved Quaker parrot and w take a feather and drop it on every trip.

We dropped it in the river in sight of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.

From the river we turned into the city again and walked all the way to Wencislas Square. On the way I spotted this odd mirrored building that was reflecting the more traditional building directly across the street. I don’t know why this sort of thing fascinates me, but it does. Just like Haus Haus in Vienna did on that leg of our trip.

I don’t know what Nova Scena is, but that ball in the middle of the sign is made of yarn.

We walked and walked and walked. As Cynthia has been fond of saying: I’ve walked so much my dog are woofin’

We headed back to the apartment where I actually laid down and took a two hour nap. After which I got up and Cynthia and I walked down to Slovansky ostrov to go to, of all things, The Prague Wine Festival.

Cynthia and I do enjoy wine. Unfortunately we’re pretty vino ignorant. Still, we tried some Czech wines and enjoyed them. And we got to listen to some traditional Czech music. But before long the long day took it’s toll and we declared an early evening and headed back home. It was a lovely stroll back to the apartment after a very nice and relaxing day.

Prague – Day 5 – Part 2

After leaving the Lennon Wall we passed by the water wheel. From up on the bridge we noticed people stopping at the wheel and lingering. We thought they were just looking at the wheel and getting in the way of our shots. Turns out they were marveling at the wall of padlocks.

More precisely, “love padlocks

We’d seen something like this before in Florence Italy. Apparently lovers profess their undying love and the bond they share by locking a padlock to this gate and then throwing the key into the canal. Awww, how romantic! Engraved, painted and adorned with ribbons, they are really quite interesting to see. I found myself shooting quite a few pictures before we moved on.

Our next destination was Petrín, a hill in the center of Prague above the left bank of the Vltava River. Mostly just parks, but there is 1/5 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower up there that is supposed to offer some of the best views of the city.

On the way to there we came across the Victims of Communism Memorial

It shows seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs. The statues appear more “decayed” the further away they are from you – losing limbs and their bodies breaking open. It is supposed to symbolize how political prisoners were affected by Communism.

From there we made our way to the fenucular that would take us to the top of Petrín Hill. Once to the top we went to the minature Eiffel Tower and bough tickets. At the top the view was nothing short of spectacular!

After going to the top of the miniature Eiffel Tower we went to the basement to see the museum dedicated to Jára Cimrman. This was absolutely HILLARIOUS! Jára Cimrman is a fictional character created in the 60′s and he is presented as one of the greatest Czech playwrights, poets, composers, teachers, travellers, philosophers, inventors, detectives, mathematicians, politicians, lovers and sportsmen of the 19th and early 20th century. Playing the game on his real existence is part of his characterization. My favorite Cimrman quote “I am such a complete atheist that I am afraid God will punish me.” Check out the link above to learn more.

That was pretty much a full day. We had dinner last night at Boatel Matylda, a VERY nice Italian restaurant on the top deck of a floating boat hotel. Then we went to the Dancing House to get a night photo of the building. You’ll see that later. Now is time to sleep for another day awaits us tomorrow.

Vienna – Day 4 – Danube River Art Show

We decided to walk down the Danube River on our last day. We’d noticed some interesting art work slash graffiti and thought it might be worth checking to see if there was more. Turns out, there was. There were murals and sculptures up and down this one portion of the river and some if it was VERY interesting. It was like an outdoor gallery of street art. What follows are some of the more interesting pieces.

Duck Duck Duck

Cynthia In Orange

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Cynthia In Orange

Cynthia and I went to the Art Car Parade on Saturday. This time was different from years past because I was invited to be an announcer as the parade was going on with my friend and Technology Bytes co-host Dwight Silverman. It was a lot of fun, but I ended up not getting to take any pictures of the art cars. It took everything we had to keep up with the announcing.

I did, however, get some pictures of some of the numerous baby ducks at Sam Houston Park.

Baby Ducks

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Baby Ducks

Baby Ducks

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Baby Ducks

Baby Ducks

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Baby Ducks

All pics shot using the Sony A850 and the SAL 70-300G lens. Click any image for a larger (and much cuter) version.

Fergus

Baby Blue Jay

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Baby Blue Jay

Poor little guy. Looks like the wind blew him out of his nest which is up pretty high in the Bottle Brush Trees so I couldn’t put him back, plus it looked like he might have a hurt wing as a result of the fall.

That and the neighborhood cat combined didn’t give me a good feeling about his chances of making it through the night so we scooped him up and took him to the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition just to be safe. His parents were frantic and dive-bombing me like crazy. I’m sure it was quite the site to see.

I felt bad. But in this scenario, everybody lives.

Cynthia named him Fergus.

The Wild Peafowl Of West Houston

Off Memorial Drive between Kirkwood and Dairy Ashford reside the wild peafowl of West Houston. Peacocks and Peahens roam the yards and streets, putting on a show and making a racket. Their call sounds like a baby crying out or a cat in severe pain. Some residents describe their call as “sounds like somebody being murdered.”

Overall they seem oblivious to the human residents and the occasional gawkers like myself who drive down to see them.

Apparently the population of about 50 birds are offspring from a pair that a landowner gave his wife more than 30 years ago. From what I understand, most of the residents like the birds.


And this one particular Peacock had no problem at all with me taking his picture as he presented himself, in all his glory, to any Peahen who cared to have a romp or a gander.


Spring Is Coming – But Wait!

We’re having some very odd weather here in Houston.

The last few days have been very comfortable and rather mild. There’s been just a hint of spring in the air. I’ve noticed that the birds are gearing up for the upcoming mating season. You can see it in their activity around the house and in the neighborhood.

This male Cardinal was singning to beat the band and showing off his mighty crest.

Cardinal Crest

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Cardinal Crest

And these two House Finches are busily building a nest in the neighbor’s tree

house Finches

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House finches

They seem blissfully unaware that we have our second snowfall of the season predicted for this afternoon.

That’s right, snow.

again

in Houston, TX

Poor birdies.

Balloon Over Houston

There’s a tethered balloon at Discovery Green Park. It goes up 350 ft and back down again. The ride lasts about 10 minutes. A unique photo opportunity, not to be missed. Unless you’re petrified of heights.

George R. Brown through a fisheye lens

Balloon At Discovery Green

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Balloon At Discovery Green

The George R. Brown via the Sigma 12-24mm.

Balloon At Discovery Green

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Balloon At Discovery Green

Discovery Green Park viewed through the center of the gondola. Notice the ice skating rink. Also a fisheye shot

Balloon At Discovery Green

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Balloon At Discovery Green

Minute Maid Park and two more via the 24-70 Zeiss

Balloon At Discovery Green

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Balloon At Discovery Green

Balloon At Discovery Green

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Balloon At Discovery Green

Balloon At Discovery Green

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Balloon At Discovery Green

Nearby construction via the 70-300mm G.

Balloon At Discovery Green

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Balloon At Discovery Green

Backyard Birding Report Oct. 25th, 2009

Crow

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Crow

A murder of very large, very loud and very clever crows have taken up station at the end of the block. Apparently there’s a pecan tree down there yielding some nuts. The crows are flying to the top of the neighbor’s house and attempting to crack the nuts using their beaks. When this fails they let the nut roll down the roof and into the street to be crushed by oncoming cars. It’s quite a site to see. At one point there were about 7 or 8 crows lining the peak of the roof and all had pecans they were working on. One by one they let skitter to the street below. I can only imagine what it sounds like inside the house.