Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finally, Prague

European countryside is beautiful and lush, with fields of green grass, yellow rapeseed and as you get into the eastern European countries, red poppies. Houses are different country to country but they are all very neat and pretty.



It took a whole day's drive to get to Prague from Frankfurt, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Lucky the pit stops had pretty good food.

My daughter visited Prague (Praha to the locals and pronounced that way too, "Prah ha") four years ago and loved the city. She's not the only one. Everybody who's been there tell me it's special. Get there too before it becomes like Paris or Rome, filled with millions of tourists.

The buildings are dirtier looking but charming in their unrefined, unrenovated state.

There are a few new buildings too, notably Frank Gehry's Dancing House or 'Fred & Ginger'.


Ginger looks like she's giving Fred a hard time here.

Prague is a very old city and I wasn't impressed at first sight. It looked dirty, old and chaotic--just what you'd expect of an eastern European communist country. But check out the city and you'll find that they have more interesting sights and places than the more developed European countries. Two places you mustn't miss are The Old Town Square and Charles Bridge. Touristy but charming and rustic.


Walk through the narrow street and the town square spreads out in front of you.


The main attraction in The Old Town Square is the Astronomical Clock, made 600 years ago, that looks like it belongs to Disneyland. This clock not only shows time, but the brevity of time and life. It also shows astronomical details of the sun and moon, the months and squeezes in some bible figures too. Two figures on each side of the clock represents men's temptations.

The trumpet is sounded at the top of the tower after the clock stops chiming.

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The things that lead to sin: L to R: Death/Grim Reaper, Infidel (a Turk invader) or Debauchery to some, Vanity &amp and Greed (a Jew).

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Every hour at the hour, Death'll ring the bell, the windows open and the apostles roll by (above the clock in the two little square windows) very quickly. A guy at the top of the tower--in court costumes--will blow the trumpet and bow to the crowd. Fun to watch. Everybody watches with a grin. The message doesn't sink in. We watched the show three times over two days.

There's plenty to explore in the town square. There's a beautiful church (Tyn) but the line was long so we skipped that. Near the clock, 27 white crosses on the ground marked the spots where 27 protestant men were beheaded in 1621 by Catholics who were against the spread of Protestantism. Radiating away from the square are shopping streets.



15 minutes' walk from the town square are the Jewish Quarters, one of the best kept in Europe. The quarters keep the history of the Jews who lived here since the 10th century. It started to rain and when we got there, it was about to close so they didn't let us in.

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I passed a couple eating pork knuckle on a spit and drooled. I didn't want to get into trouble so I took a photo of the menu board instead. On a tour, you either sight see or dine. There's not enough time for both. Restaurants in Europe take a long time serving your order.

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Dinner was some kind of wurst which I was beginning to tire of. I couldn't walk fast with the ache in my legs. We nearly missed the bus.

This is a segway and I wished I had one. There's so much walking in Europe that I still get pain in my thighs some nights, a month after the tour.

p.s. Are you praying for us? We'll be in France when you read this.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday Flea Market In Delft

Delft comes alive on Saturdays with the farmers' market, flea market, town square activities and other shows all on at the same time. The flea market especially is worth a stroll because it covers many streets and there are thousands of things to see. I'm not a flea market person until now. There are so many beautiful items at incredibly low prices. I'm so tempted to ship a few boxes home.  I bought a quaint thermometer encased in wood for 2 euros, a ceramics plate & key hanger for 3 euros, a small ceramics plate of a Dutch boy & girl for 3 euros and a large wood & leather peg for 4.50 euros. The things are pretty, some are unusual and they are all cheap (eg a large copper bucket with blue & white ceramics handles for 7.50 euros!) but would be a problem to bring back. If my friend Su was here, she'd have shipped the whole market home. Linda too. Ladies, Wedgwood plates for 4.50 euros each and I didn't buy!









there was a school band performance in the main town square. When Yo visited, the weather in Delft was the worst I've experienced: rain, wind, miserable cold. Pity because a day after she left it turned warm and sunny, just beautiful.
Every Saturday, we buy fresh flowers at the farmers' market. When the stalls are about to close, flowers go as low as 1 euro a bunch. What a life. The large wooden peg that says 'Morgen' was about 4 euros. I love Delft.

That's a pretty small baby you got there.

Delft has lots of canals too. Look at the water level.

At the Vermeer Museum

Delft is famous for its blue and white pottery, something they copied from China a long time ago. Delft's most famous son is Johannes Vermeer, the guy who painted Girl With The Pearl Earring which is referred to as "Mona Lisa of the North". The painting hangs in The Hague.

vandermeer painting

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yo In Delft

Yo flew into The Hague (Den Haag) last weekend and zipped by Delft to spend 2 days and a night with us. A true friend, because she had to sleep on the floor in an unheated room when she had a king-sized bed in a 4-star hotel. Unfortunately, it was cold, windy and wet and the Saturday farmers' and flea markets were half their usual size. People were also indoors watching Nederlands play against Japan.  However, we had fun; it's really special to meet up in a corner of the world that we never heard of a few months ago.

Ever the nice friend, Yo brought mangoes from her garden and rice dumplings (zhongzi) made by her friend. We gave one mango and one dumpling to Yi's fellow exchange student from home who squealed with delight. Carlos, Yi's coursemate from Spain, also loved the mango. I think our Luzon mangoes and India's Alfonso mangoes are the best mangoes in the world.

Yo's zhongzi were delicious and full of yummy ingredients.

A's nyonya zhongzi, made here, were very good too. The rice was very fresh and 'noo' and the addition of coriander seeds gave extra flavor.

We were thrilled to eat zhongzi in Delft, of all places! I considered sending a couple to Heather in Luxembourg but decided against it because I wasn't sure the zhongzis would keep.

Not pretty but delicious.

Forest peaches (that's what the vendors told us)

Yi bought some of these flat persimmon-like peaches a few days ago and they were fragrant, sweet aand juicy. These ones that we bought a few days later for Yo to bring home weren't as good. We should've tried one before buying.

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We had a ham & cheese toast (3.30 euros), a grilled veggie pesto foccacia that was yummy (6.90 euros) and an organic Iberico chorizo panino with black olive dressing (6.70) that was rather heavy with flavor with a sweet red pepper soup (2.50 euros) that was yum. Yi didn't like the portugese egg tart (2 euros!) because it more custard pudding than egg and the crust was cheese-flavored.

Go Yo go

Haring broodje

The haring in Delft's farmers' market on Saturday is the best. You won't miss it because you'll smell it first and then see the crowd standing with heads back and fish in hand, dangling above their heads. On other days, there's a seafood shop but their harings are too salty. Haring has gone up since two weeks ago. It was 1.25 per fish or 5 for 5 euros. Now it's 1.75 each, 3 for 5 euros. I don't like haring broodje (sandwiches) because you can't taste the haring. Imagine sashimi with bread. My record is 2 1/2 haring at one go. I get a little queasy beyond that. If you like, a squeeze of lemon takes away all the fishiness and gives a different taste to the haring. I really am going to miss these little fishes.


The reason Yi & Cheryl don't want to leave Delft is not the stroopwafels they buy at this stall every Saturday. Cheryl, you are out-numbered 3:1. We prefer the blue-eyed cutie who stands on the right every Saturday but here's your cutie.

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Stroopwafels. Architect students have dirty nails.

Stroopwafels are pancakes split open and spread with a caramel syrup. If you get the ones from the supermarket, soften the syrup by placing the stroopwafel over a cup of hot coffee or tea for a minute.


Yi made a simple, elegant & yummy snack with some red & green figs, parma ham, buffalo mozz, basil and an olive oil dressing.

After the heavy lunch and our snacking on fruits, haring and stroopwafels, we were kept full and had dinner at home at 9:30 pm. It doesn't get totally dark until 11 pm now and it's hard to go to bed before that. The sun rises about 4:00 am.


A kind of asparagus? So pretty and elegant, like mini sheaths of wheat.


Witlof (endive) quartered, boiled, then cooked in butter and caramelized with malt sugar was super yummy (thanks, Lianne! I love it!), the mini 'asparagus' was crunchy, good tasting, and the white asparagus was juicy and sweet. Yes, that's somebody's hair on the asparagus/camera. Mine I think since I was the cook.


When you buy at farmers' market, you can't choose your veg or fruits; they pack for you. In the store you can choose and I chose big thick pods. Mistake. The peas were starchy, like frozen peas.


Pan-fried store-bought pork rolls (yummy) and beef rolls (a bit dry).

Two Saturdays back, I bought some petit pous in Amsterdam. They were sweet even when raw because they were very petit.  Not starchy at all. I boiled them briefly and left them in the pot to keep warm. They became wrinkled like frozen peas but without the frozen taste. So, get the petit ones and do not overcook them.



On Sunday, it was still cloudy and cold and we asked for a ride from A and J. A and J met my daughter when she went to their church a few months ago and A recognized her as she reads my blog.


We aren't the only ones who are tri or quad-lingual. The Indonesian-Dutch praise in Dutch, Indonesian and English. The Dutch are bilingual.

It was Father's Day.


Yi said A & J are excellent cooks. She loves their beef soup. A and J drove Yo and I (Yi stayed home to study) to Den Haag (20 min by car) for a scrumptious meal at the best Chinese restaurant--I've forgotten the name. I am especially grateful for the ride because I packed some stuff for Yo to bring home and it would've been tough to get to the train station from the campus and to the hotel. They also brought us to the Scheveningen resort beach which we would otherwise not get to visit on our own. I've met so many wonderful people through blogging!

On the way to Den Haag I had problems with my memory card and had to use Yo's camera so I don't have photos to post of our dinner and Den Haag. Yi's computer is also stricken with virus or something because the mouse keeps stalling. Worse, my 16 GB memory card which has photos of our trip around Europe can't be read. I consulted a photography expert, CK on my link, who referred me to a recovery software. CK adviced to not use memory cards of large storage so as to limit loss should the cards be damaged; makes sense. So with all these problems and the uncertainty of our upcoming trip this Friday (accomodation and transport in Spain, France and Italy not yet booked), I'm stressed and worried. I reach London on 10th July (brought forward by skipping southern Spain, sad about that). If I can get an earlier seat, I'll go home earlier. If not, on the 18th. By then I'll be lean and mean. And very broke.
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