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    "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful we must carry it with us or we find it not."

    R. W. Emerrson


    Bratislava, Slovakia After Dark

    Some cities seem to shine after sunset.  The streetlamps softly illuminate quiet corners and invite exploration of details easily overlooked in the brightness of day.  We found Bratislava, Slovakia to be one such city, more likely to reveal its secrets in the evening hours.

    Our lovely apartment was located mere steps from Bratislava Castle, the hilltop fortification that stands sentry over this charming municipality along the Danube River.  Each of our twilight wanderings started by passing through one of the castle’s many gates, the oldest of which dates from the 15th century.  Once beyond the castle grounds we found great satisfaction in:

    • Visiting the Grassalkovich Palace and gardens, home of the president of Slovakia
    • Crossing the SNP Bridge to Sad Janka Kráľa, one of the oldest public parks in Europe
    • Exploring the historic center, with its scenic promenade, historic squares, and ancient buildings

    While we were delighted by a daytime visit to the transportation museum (Múzeum Dopravy) and an unforgettable outdoor lunch at the nearby U Sokola restaurant, our most memorable experiences were derived from the more intimate encounters with Bratislava after dark.


    Czech it Out - Sampling Three Cities in the Czech Republic

    We spent nine days exploring three cities in the Czech Republic.  Each was unique and we took in a variety of sights and experiences.

    Matt requested Plzeň as our first stop.  What better way to complement Oktoberfest than a visit to the birthplace of pilsner beer?  In this small town we:

    • Toured the Pilsner Urquell brewery where we sampled unpasteurized, unfiltered beer sourced directly from traditional wooden barrels.
    • Explored a network of medieval underground tunnels beneath the old town center.

    From Plzeň we headed to Prague, a location many of our close friends had recommended.  This sprawling city along the banks of the Vltava River offers a fairy tale setting rich with unbelievable architecture and abundant statues.  During our stay we:

    • Attended a dinner where we enjoyed the performance of two talented opera singers accompanied by a string quartet.
    • Relaxed on a two-hour river cruise which provided impressive views of ornate bridges and opulent buildings along the banks.

    After contrasting the relatively small city of Plzeň against the much larger Prague, we made like Goldilocks and sought out a town that was “just right”.  Brno is large enough to house impressive attractions and lure world-class performers, but small enough to retain its accessibility.  It also offers some unique, if somewhat sobering, sights: 

    • The Capuchin Monastery with its underground tomb of 18th century mummified monks.
    • The Brno Ossuary containing the bleached-bone remains of an estimated 50,000 people.

    Throughout the Czech Republic we casually walked along quaint cobblestone streets, stepped into historic churches for moments of quiet reflection, relaxed on park benches, and sampled inspiring food and drink.  It's an impressively diverse country with something to offer for every taste.


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

    Munich’s Oktoberfest, a beer lovers’ festival of global proportions, provided the perfect venue in which to recognize Mike's generous "Bring Back Cocktail Hour" sponsorship.

    To locate Oktoberfest at Theresienwiese we simply followed the people dressed in traditional dirndl and lederhosen until the buildings parted to reveal a collection off impressive tents and well lit amusement park rides. The smell of roasted meat filled the air and spurred the appetite.

    We explored the grounds before selecting a tent that captured our attention. It was our first time drinking Pschorr beer and we enjoyed its frothy, cool, clean flavor. Our libations were perfectly accompanied by a freshly roasted hendl (chicken) which was juicy and well seasoned with a salty finish. The hours passed as we sang songs and shared camaraderie in this cross-cultural gathering of merrymakers.

    We raised our mugs with a hearty “Prost!” in appreciation of Mike’s generosity for helping us realize our delicious Oktoberfest dreams.


    Potty Mouth - German Humor in the Bathroom Queue

    "Ich verstehe nur ein bisschen Deutsch" is a handy phrase that means "I understand only a little German”.  We relied on this convenient response when the residents of our host country casually put forth flowing statements and questions in their local tongue.  Sometimes we could understand enough to respond, like when we were able to give rough directions to Marienplatz, but often we were dumbfounded.

    One such instance of assumed German fluency occurred while Matt was waiting in a ridiculously long Oktoberfest restroom line and a fellow reveler shared what turned out to be an entertaining joke accompanied by a hearty high-five.  A nearby friend translated the German quip, “as soon as I get through this line, I need to get back in the line again”.  This statement made one thing perfectly clear:  Toiletten-humor transcends the language barrier.


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Dawn Beach, Sint Maarten

    We headed to Dawn Beach as the warm sun descended towards the horizon. It was time to Bring Back Cocktail Hour thanks to the generosity of Bill and Denise who sponsored "dinner and drinks for two". Our culinary objective for the night would be a real treat, Caribbean lobster.

    The enchanted evening began with healthy pours of rum which we sipped while watching the waves roll in. The scene was so beautiful, we decided to take a romantic stroll on the beach to preemptively work-off some of our impending calories.

    After our stroll, we returned to the open-air restaurant. Our table was beachside, romantically candlelit, and a musician sang soothingly, accompanied by the sounds from the ocean surf.

    The beautiful lobster had been split, chargrilled to perfection, and presented with red beans and rice, beignets, and a small salad; truly mouthwatering. We also ordered shrimp tacos with all the trimmings which Matt described as the best he's ever had - And Matt knows his tacos.

    The evening was perfect and we send a huge thank you to Bill and Denise for making this amazingly decadent experience possible.

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