I Made the Sun Disappear at Auschwitz

I planned our visit to Auschwitz on the last day of our eight country…33 day European adventure and was hoping for overcast skies to match the horrific history of this place.  Unfortunately, it was a bright blue beautiful day, but I made the sun disappear…

DSC_6554

While touring the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, things I had read ran through my head.  Over 1 million people murdered here.  I tried not to think about it and focused on taking photographs…I wished I could go back in time and save them!

DSC_6587

DSC_6592

DSC_6607

DSC_6470

DSC_6477

DSC_6499

This is some of the hair collected from the victims…

DSC_6502

The exhibits were very well done.  Putting faces in front of you and stories about the victims makes it more tangible.

DSC_6508

The poor children, cold, starving, afraid…so many tears fell on this very ground.

DSC_6519

DSC_6522

DSC_6524

This structure protected the soldier in charge of roll call from inclement weather…

DSC_6526

Block 20 was where the sick were kept and most of them eventually murdered by lethal injections of phenol into the heart.

DSC_6533

DSC_6535

DSC_6539

One of the rooms where victims were housed…

DSC_6544

The washroom where female prisoners were to strip before being led outside and executed.

DSC_6545

DSC_6555

DSC_6559

Ovens at Auschwitz where deceased prisoners were cremated.

DSC_6562

These were taken at Birkenau…

DSC_6590

DSC_6598

DSC_6605

DSC_6620

So many gone, but not forgotten!

A Rainy Day in Krakow

Sometimes it even rains when you’re on vacation, which is fine with me, so long as it’s not an all-day pounding rain!  It makes everything look different and there are cool reflections…

DSC_6452

and the sky is interesting!

DSC_6453

Some times (not for this photo) umbrellas are fun to photograph…

DSC_6461

I love to photograph entryways, tunnels, etc.

DSC_6427 Continue reading

A Sunny Day in Krakow

I reserved three spots on a train from Warsaw to Krakow a month in advance of our travel date to make sure I received the lowest price.  On July 2nd we boarded the 8:25am train and arrived in Krakow at 10:49am.  I then purchased our bus tickets while still at the train/bus station for our trip to Auschwitz two days later.  I couldn’t find an online site to purchase them before I left the United States.  We had about an hour to kill before we could check-in at our Airbnb, so we walked to a restaurant across the street from the train station for lunch.  After walking 10 minutes to our Airbnb and dropping our luggage, we strolled through Planty Park and made our way to the main market square.  These are some of the sights we passed…

DSC_6336

DSC_6348

DSC_6354

On a warm day, water fountains are quite popular…

DSC_6356

and the children really enjoyed the misting water…

DSC_6360

Continue reading

The View from St. Anne’s Church in Warsaw

If you’re looking for a great spot to climb up for a beautiful view of Old Town Warsaw, St. Anne’s Church is the place!  As I was surveying the scenery, I noticed a Nun cutting flowers…

DSC_6305

Here’s part of Old Town Warsaw…

DSC_6297

Love tiled roofs, dormer windows and color…

DSC_6309

Simply beautiful…

DSC_6312

I heart Warsaw!

The Streets of Warsaw, Poland

With only 1 1/2 days to explore Warsaw, I made the best use of my time walking the streets and taking lots of photographs!

DSC_6266

Warsaw was much prettier than what I had envisioned.  I loved all of the quaint sidewalk cafes!

DSC_6281

The center of Old Town was much like that of the other Eastern European cities we visited.

DSC_6290

The Central Market was well stocked and very nicely laid out!

DSC_6234

Continue reading

Lazienski Park in Warsaw, Poland

We arrived in Warsaw on June 30th via the 7 1/2 hr. Lux Express bus from Vilnius, Lithuania, and took a taxi 1 1/2 miles to our Airbnb.  After meeting with our host and dropping our luggage, we walked a couple of miles to the gorgeous Lazienski Park.  The 187 acre park is Warsaw’s largest, and dates back to the 17th century.

The Palace on the Water in the Park was even prettier in person!

DSC_6215

We explored the lovely interior…

DSC_6189

DSC_6205

Out on the terrace, a couple of peacocks were making lots of noise (maybe it was mating season).  They are my favorite bird!

DSC_6209

Continue reading

Green Acres is the Place to Be!

Green Acres Canoe and Kayak Rental  is my favorite place to canoe or kayak in the summer!  Located in Harrison, Ohio, on the West side of Cincinnati, the scenery is outstanding…

DSC_6919

Here’s where you pay and sign your waiver form…

DSC_6931

Continue reading

Magnificent Trakai Island Castle in Lithuania

Situated only 45 minutes bus ride from Vilnius, Lithuania, Trakai Island Castle is a perfect day trip.  The morning of June 29th, I escorted my tour participants to the Central bus stop in Vilnius, a 15 minute walk from our Airbnb for the short ride to Trakai.  The buses run every 10-20 minutes per day to Trakai and cost about 2 Euro each way.

The bus lets you off about 2 km away from Trakai Castle, so I was glad we arrived early enough to walk to the Castle before it opened at 10:00am.  Having seen photos of the Castle, I was so excited when it finally came into view.  It’s like a fairy book castle!

DSC_5977

The first phase of the Castle was built-in the 14th Century and had great military strategic importance.

Beyond the gate is a spacious courtyard.  Once inside, we agreed to meet back in an hour and went off exploring on our own.

DSC_5989

The drawbridge is massive!  Those are people standing beyond the door…

DSC_5996

It’s set up like a museum now, with lots of artifacts and exhibits from the Castle’s history.

DSC_5998

As you can see, the weather gods were shining on us yet again!

DSC_6032

I just had to pose in the guillotine type structure.  It was heavy!  That’s my purse hanging down on the right.

DSC_6034

Uzutrakis Palace is off to the left of Trakai Palace…

DSC_6059

Here are my tour participants, Paul and Jing…

DSC_6083

DSC_6094

After our explorations, we had lunch at one of the outdoor cafes bordering the lake with a view of the castle!

Views from Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, Lithuania

If you’re looking for some wonderful views in Vilnius, Lithuania, head to Gediminas Tower!

DSC_5893

We arrived just as they were opening at 10:00am and began climbing to the top…

DSC_5888

Paul and Jing — bringing up the rear…

DSC_5889

Continue reading

Beautiful Churches of Vilnius, Lithuania

During the 33 days I toured through Europe, there were many Cathedrals and Churches to visit.  Although not as colorful as some others, the simplicity and beautiful cream interior of the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Vilnius provides a tranquil shelter for those seeking peace.

DSC_5869

The spectacular interior has over 2,000 stucco figures and its ceilings soar!

DSC_5878

DSC_5880

DSC_5884

The Church of St. Anne and Church of St. Francis and St. Bernard are also lovely.  It is a bit confusing because they are right next to one another.  I don’t show a photo of the latter’s exterior.  The Church of St. Anne’s gothic architecture reminded me a bit of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

DSC_5920

Continue reading

Living like a local in Vilnius, Lithuania

The Lux Express bus ride equipped with wifi and restroom from Riga, Latvia to Vilnius takes four hours.  Upon arrival in Vilnius, we walked 15 minutes to our spacious and bright Airbnb, with three bedrooms, and two bathrooms.

DSC_5778

We followed our established routine, going out to a local Supermarket to stock up for the three night stay, and then hit the pavement!

DSC_5802

Our four mile walk included a stroll through beautiful Bernardine Park.

DSC_5819

I love capturing emotion…a mother’s love for her infant…and color!

DSC_5821

We also briefly explored the area called Uzupis, similar to Christiana in Denmark…The self-proclaimed “Republic” of Užupis is Vilnius’ Bohemian and artistic district. It has its own anthem, constitution, president, bishop, two churches, and the Bernadine Cemetery.

Continue reading

Riga, Latvia’s Architecture

Riga, Latvia’s architecture is lovely!  Much of it is the Art Nouveau style.  I love the variety of shapes, colors, and styles…

DSC_5641

The view of the Daugava River and Old Town is spectacular from the top of St. Peter’s Church!

DSC_5688

I could see the street where our over 100-year-old Airbnb was located…on the left side!

DSC_5693

Continue reading

Three Days in Riga, Latvia

On Midsummer Day, June 24th, we boarded a Lux Express bus at 8:30am from Tallinn, Estonia and arrived 4 1/2 hrs. later in Riga, Latvia.  The bus was equipped with wifi and a restroom, and was quite comfy.  Upon arrival, we walked 15 minutes to our Airbnb, which was located right in the heart of Old Town.  Actually, a little too close for comfort.  Music from a nearby restaurant/bar disturbed my sleep at night.  When you’re searching for an Airbnb that has everything you’re looking for: location, space, amenities — sometimes it’s difficult to have a clear picture of what you’re getting. 

After settling in, off to the Supermarket we went.  With only 2 1/2 days to explore Riga, there was much ground to cover.

Riga’s Old Town was filled with restaurants and cafes!

DSC_5713

The Pilsetas Kanal is quite lovely…

DSC_5658

Wandering through the Central Market we discovered fragrant flowers…

DSC_5661

and heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables…

DSC_5663

Continue reading

Views from Tallinn Old Town Wall in Estonia

The view from Tallinn Old Town Wall is wonderful!  The wall was originally 2.5 km in length, but isn’t totally intact now.  Along a road called Müürivahe, you can enter a wooden door, and for a small fee, climb the stairs and explore the top of the city wall.

DSC_5507

Originally, I was going to climb to the top of St. Olaf’s Church to view the City, but because it was a holiday, they were closed.  This view was quite spectacular also!

DSC_5499

There are other viewing platforms around the City for outstanding and picturesque views of the City!  Our Airbnb was located on the outskirts of Old Town on the Western side and the viewing platforms were only a 10 minute walk away…

DSC_5543 Continue reading

Kadriorg Palace & Park

Kadriorg Palace was built in 1725 by Russia’s Peter the Great for his wife Catherine I.  When Estonia gained its independence in 1919, the Palace became Estonia’s Art Museum in 1921.  During World War II, Germany occupied the Palace and then the Russians.  Finally, in 1991, Estonia became independent once again!

After years of renovation, the Palace was reopened in 2000 displaying foreign art.  The Palace, gardens, and park are lovely!

We walked over 2 miles from our Airbnb to the Palace…

DSC_5378

There are plenty of park benches to relax on and enjoy being in nature.

DSC_5370

DSC_5374

The Palace is quite colorful and we had another beautiful day for sight-seeing!

DSC_5381 Continue reading