Monday, January 16, 2012

There's No Place Like Praha!

This post has been long overdue but we've been a little preoccupied with... BABY STUFF.  The craziness has begun!  Between appointments, organizing our delivery plan back in MN, and online shopping, I've been swamped!...ok maybe not swamped but my mind has been elsewhere.  I promised family and friends that I would blog a little about the baby in each entry, so if you have no interest, scroll down.
News on the baby front, I am 18 weeks and feeling really good.  We've had a couple milestones in the last few weeks. I had an appointment with our midwife on the 4th and were able to hear the heart beat. After 6 weeks of not seeing a doctor, I was starting to get a little nervous wondering if I was still pregnant?! Without being able to feel anything and not really showing too much, it was sort of a scary 6 weeks.  BUUUUUT within the last few days I've been able to feel the baby move!  I've felt it for a while, maybe since 16 weeks or so but couldn't really tell for sure what it was, but now I definitely know.  It happens alot when I'm just waking up and lying on my back, I'll feel flutters.  It doesn't so much feel like kicks but more like the baby is rolling around.  I feel a little guilty that I'm the only one that can feel the baby right now.  Gino's rushed over a couple times to try and feel the movements but of course the baby is probably too little to feel from the outside.  I'm anxious for him to have the chance to feel too!  Until then its bonding time for me and the little one:)
  I just have to mention that the 16 week, heart beat appointment, was the 3rd clinic/hospital that I have visited since I've been pregnant.  Early ultrasounds were done by a private doctor, blood tests were done by another doctor in a small clinic near Storgata, and now I'm seeing a midwife at another clinic that is only midwives.  They can check heartbeats and talk about your worries etc but any sort of testing or ultrasounds will be done by the 2nd doctor.  This was a little annoying to have to figure out but luckily there's another couple on the team who is about 7 weeks ahead of us that have paved the way!
 The midwife is really sweet and speaks English very well, which is wonderful.  She said that we can either meet with her every few weeks or switch back and forth between the doctor and her. Whatever we please.  Of course, again, any ultrasounds would be done by the doctor but I think we will be meeting with the midwife for most appointments.  I felt really comfortable with her and she asked alot of questions etc.  We've (well actually my mom) has been working on finding us an OBGYN at home for when we deliver.  We have a few appointments set up in April, depending on how early we're home, to meet with our doctor.  The only thing she requsted was that all of our medical records be translated to English.  Looks like Gino and I will be google translating until our fingers are numb!  All in all, everything seems to be working out perfectly and we are set up with doctors and insured in both Norway and MN. For all of you wondering and asking, we will be finding out the sex on Jan 19th and are very excited!!  I'll keep you all posted.
  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I'm sure by now, things are starting to slow down a bit.  Which is a good time for me to write about our incredible trip to Prague.  I know I say this about every country/city that we've visited in Europe but please put this city in your bucket list.  There hasn't really been alot of time to travel but Gino had a pretty nice break over Christmas.  We knew that with a baby on the way and a friends wedding in Mexico in April, we wouldn't have time for an end of the year trip.  It took a few months for us to decide on where our one getaway would be.  I don't think we could have chosen a better city for our short trip!  Not that Paris wasn't amazing, but Prague was much smaller and easier to get around.  Especially in 3 or 4 days.  I would save Paris for a week trip...if not more and maybe in the Spring/Summer.  I wouldn't visit Prague at any other time than Christmas!  The weather was great, in the 40's and the city was extremely festive with Christmas markets and lights strung around every street corner. 
We decided at the last minute to sign up for a city tour on the first day of our trip.  It was only a 3 1/2 hour tour and I'm glad we did it because we were able to see the entire city, guided.  That left the 2nd and 3rd day of our trip for roaming around and re-visiting sites we saw on the tour that we loved.  The tour took us on a bus ride to the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, a local pub, down the streets of Prague, through Wenseslas Square and ended at the Old Town Square Christmas market.  The Prague Castle was beautiful and gothic.  It was perched up on a hill overlooking the rest of the city so you had views of it from almost any location in the city.  Here we are standing on the Charles Bridge, you can see the castle in the background.

The Castle was built back in the 9th century and here's a fun fact.  According to the Guiness Book of World Records, its the largest castle in the World!  The views of the city from the castle stairs are breath taking and I will always remember the sea of red rooftops. 

After parking the bus by the castle, the walking part of the tour began.  I know I said that we had great weather...and we did 98% of the time! But right as we started the walking started to rain.  It was more like a mist/rain combined with wind, which was awful to walk in. Anyways, we had to walk over the Charles Bridge in order to get back into the city.  The Charles Bridge was probably my favorite site that we visited.  Old, gothic, and beautiful!  I never thought a bridge could be so interesting.  It was built in the 1300's and is held up by 16 arches.  I felt very safe!
The bridge was lined with 30+ Gothic statues that I could have taken photos of all day.  There were dozens of painters selling their work and we found out from our tour guide that everything sold on the Charles Bridge, by law, has to be made in Prague.  We ended up buying a painting from one of the vendors on the last day of the trip.  I'm so happy we decided to do that, it will bring back so many memories! 

The  wanna be artist in me:) It's hard not to take a million photos of the same scenery...

Once we got to the city side of the bridge, the rain started to stop and I noticed a garbage can over flowing with broken umbrellas from all the wind!  We lost 2 umbrellas that day...RIP

We ended the tour at the largest Christmas market in Prague in Old Town Square.  Gino and I ended up spending every evening back in the square enjoying the atmosphere, food, beer (Gino), and hot chocolate (Laura). 

The guide took us to the Old Town Hall Tower which has the oldest, still working astronomical clock in the world.  It was built in the 1400's.  On the hour, every hour, people gather under it and wait to see the walk of the Apostles.  They basically put on a little show and walk around the outside of the clock then as the clock strikes the hour, a skeleton type figure appears striking the time.  I tried to tape it with my camera, but naturally, my camera ran out of batteries right as the show started. 

After the clock show, the guide ended the tour by taking us to try the famous Prague Ham, which is  a salt cured pig that is smoked over a spit.  They had them smoking all over the Christmas markets.  Very popular dish and delicous as well as cheap!   I was so relieved to have my appetite back in full swing so I was able to enjoy the food!

After the tour ended, we roamed around the Christmas market for an hour and checked out some of the vendor stands.  People were selling lots of ornaments, and Prague memorabilia.  There were about 2 dozen food stands selling, smoked cheeses and bread, roasted chestnuts, sausages, hot wine, candy, Czech pasta dishes and something that looked like Indian fry bread with garlic butter, marinara and cheese.  Everything we tasted was really good, and I think the atmosphere made everything taste that much better.  We walked over to the stage area by the big Christmas tree and watched some little Babushka's singing Christmas carols in Czech. 

If that doesn't make you feel like you're in the Czech Republic, I don't know what will!
On Day 2 we had beautiful weather so we spent the morning trying to find this little restaurant (Bohemian Bagel) that some of our friends told us about.  It took us a bit to find the place and by the time we found it, we had pretty much missed breakfast and basically saw the rest of the city.  Regardless, we stopped in for a late lunch.  The food was awesome and well worth the wait.  After lunch, we decided to walk back accross the Charles Bridge and get some sunny pics and then walk back over a bridge that sat parallel to it so we could take some side pics of the bridge.  By this time it was almost dusk and I swear I made no edits to this picture but must have caught the sun at the right time. I may crop it a bit and have to blow it up.
After snapping about 50 more pics and Gino complaining that it was taking us too long to get over the bridge, we headed back to the hotel to lounge for a bit and get ready to hit the Christmas markets.   As we left out hotel we could immediately hear bells comming from one of the markets around the corner from our hotel.  We started walking down the street and saw a big crowd surrounding a trailer on wheels that had the side opened up and a man sitting playing what looked like an organ of different size bells..if that makes sense. 
It sounded just like Christmas mass! 

We continued on our walk to Old Town Square. Since it was our last night in Prague I really wanted to go on a carriage ride through the city.  The carriages are all lined up right inside the square.  It just sounded like such a "Christmasie" thing to do.  We saw one open and jumped on.  I think for a 30 min ride it was $40 or something like that.  The driver wrapped us up in wool blankets and we were on our way!  I could have listened to the bells on the horses for hours.  That was probably one of the coolest things we've gotten to do in Europe so far.  It was very romantic!  Riding around in a horse drawn carriage at Christmas time in Prague...I will remember that forever.

After the relaxing ride, Gino needed to get his beer fill so we went on a pub crawl.  There were a couple different beers he was told to try so we had to track them down. Staroprammen, Plzn, and the original Budweiser (Budvar).  Luckily, most of them were sold right in the square so we didn't have to go far.  I think his favorite was the dark Budvar (Budweiser)
I, on the other hand, enjoyed hot chocolate...
The next place we had to track down was U Flecku, a little brewery that someone on his team told him to go to.  It was sort of hard to find and was off a random side street.  It didn't look like much from the outside but was packed inside!  The whole place allowed smoking, which us Minnesotans aren't used to in a bar or restaurant.  All the tables were long wooden benchs so everyone basically sat together.  The waiters came around immediately and without us ordering, set down beer and a cinnamon apertif shot.  Apparently, this restaurant only served one type of beer and were known for their pork knuckle.  That sounded horrible to me....but Gino wanted to try it so he ordered the pork knuckle and I ordered a piece of apple strudel.  The pork knuckle was actually pretty amazing and probably one of the most tender meats I've ever tasted.  This was a very traditional Czech restaurant and honestly, I think we were the only people there that weren't Czech. 

On our last day, we had until about 3pm so we thought that the best way to spend the few hours was to head back to the Old Town Square Christmas market and check out the views from the Astronomical Tower.  It was very beautiful to see all the red rooftops! In the picture below, you can see the Prague Castle in the distance. 

We had just enough time for a quick pizza lunch before heading back to our hotel to pack our things.  I just have to post the photo of the pizza place we ate at.  It was down a little alley and so darn cute!

Again, please put Prague on your list of places to visit!  It was a wonderful short trip for us and the city is pretty magical.  If you want to experience "old" Europe or what you imagine to be old Europe...this is the city for you!  Have a great week, miss all of you!

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