Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Salt Mines

So we're back in Poland (I mean Poland pictures, not that I'm physically in Poland again) for salt mine photos.  Lee and I signed up for a tour that picked us up in Krakow and took us out to the mine, where we had a guided tour underground.  What is it with us and underground stuff?  We've been to the Parisian catacombs, an underground tour in Edinburgh and one in Rome, and we did another underground museum in Krakow.  That's just what I can think of off the top of my head.


The sign at the entrance to the mine, kind of fun.  We had to wait for a few minutes before our tour group descended into the mine; it started with 378 stairs down.  You'd go down 7 stairs, turn, 7 more stairs, lather-rinse-repeat and I lost count so I cannot verify that there are, indeed, 378 stairs.


This mine produced rock salt, and at the beginning our guide told us that if you lick the walls, they do taste like salt.  The tour only goes over a tiny part of the mine; it's really, REALLY old and has about a gabillion miles of underground corridors.  We got to see a number of statues that were carved by salt miners/amateur sculptors.  They have to keep the humidity rigidly controlled because too much and it makes the statues disintegrate.  Some of the statues are pretty old.


So this picture looks like a confused jumble even if you click on it to see it larger.  You can see a bunch of white/light gray bits encrusting the walls; when water seeps through the rocks, it takes the salt with it so the walls are kinda sweating salt.


There's a really cool picture of a chandelier on the Wikipedia page (link at the top of the post) and now I'm kinda jealous we didn't get one that good.


There you can see the salt pretty well.  The mine doesn't produce salt commercially anymore, but they have to keep working the mine and doing certain things to make sure that it doesn't collapse (which could happen if a bunch of water goes through and dissolves the salt and makes the mine structurally unstable).  So it does still produce a little bit of salt.


They had a few...what would you call this, dioramas? to show how the salt was mined.


Personally I feel sorry for the horses who had to work down here.


Here's a statue of Polish king Kasimir or something close to that.  He's, like, a big deal in Poland.  (My Polish history is pretty lacking.)


Not the best picture but that's a whole lot of stairs leading yet further down.  The red cast kinda makes it look like the descent into hell, doesn't it?


But it's not.  In fact, here's an underground cathedral.  There are friezes (they are friezes, right?  Man, my art terms are rusty) on the walls all carved out of salt, and even the chandeliers are made with rock salt crystals.  They have weddings down here and everything.


There was another one that was the Last Supper but that photo didn't come out so great.


The space is quite large, you could have a good-size wedding down here.


Do you recognize these people?


So there's a statue of Mary lit up; the rock salt is kind of translucent.


Stuff to keep the mine from collapsing, and one more picture...


Can't take him anywhere.

Just kidding, I made sure he did this slow enough that I got a picture of him licking the walls!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Flowers in Feltwell

I hosted a book club at our house last night (this time only 4 of us, but for once all of us had read the book) and then after everyone left around 10:00, I stayed up to try to finish off a book for *another* book club on Saturday and then it was 12:30 and I went to bed.  I woke up around 7 this morning, still tired, so I took care of the kids (read:  dogs) and went back to bed, this time with a sleep mask on since the sun was up.

Big mistake.

I thought I'd sleep until 8 or 8:30.  Nope, when I regained consciousness it was almost 11.  I should know by now not to sleep with a sleep mask on unless I set an alarm.  Oops.  And now since my sleep schedule was all out of whack, I've got a pretty good headache going.  Yep, that was a great plan.

So anyway.  I know I said I'd share the salt mine pictures next, but this is my blog and today I want to share flowers.  I've had this idea in my head for a scrapbook layout with flower pictures, starting with snowdrops in January and going on through roses and lavender in June, so those are the pics I'm sharing today.  Obviously only up through April since I can't time travel yet.


I admit, I had no idea what a snowdrop looked like until the movie Stardust, but I love them.  They bloom, no kidding, in January; we even had a small patch of them in our backyard next to the conservatory.  These ones were in the graveyard just up the street from our house (if you're curious, no, it's never bothered me that there are two graveyards within a five-minute walk of our house, even though I think ghosts could exist I've never felt haunted here).


One day last month (I think last month?) I took the camera with me when Lee and I took the doglets for their daily tour of the neighborhood.  I was looking for flower pictures, but took a few of other interesting things in our neighborhood.  This is on the side of a building that I bet *used* to house a blacksmith, but now it's some kind of hall that I think you can rent out, and there's a playground next to it.


There's a house two blocks from us that always has beautiful flowers in their front windows, and earlier in the spring they had this line of several varieties of daffs.  You'll see a picture later from the same yard after the tulips came in.


Not the best daff pictures, but I didn't want to go walking all over people's yards so I was taking pics from the sidewalk (or pavement, as it's called here).


You know the part in The Amazing Spider-Man when Gwen Stacy's dad comments about how she said she wanted to live in a chocolate house, and she said it would be impractical and also fattening?


I think I'd be okay with a chocolate cottage like this.


I've seen quite a few village signs like this one, so here's ours.  The colors on it are a bit washed out, I wonder how long it's been there.


So that was the last of the pics from my March flower walk; this week I decided to go on photo safari again for more pictures.


The safari started in my kitchen.  I got this little daisy plant last June when I hosted Karyn's baby shower just because it looked so cheerful.  I'm quite amazed that it's still alive because I have black thumbs; just this week it even bloomed again after I thought for sure it was going to die out altogether.  So now I'll have to find someone else to give it to when we move.


The wisteria on our house is just starting to bloom.  Most of the leaves haven't come in yet.


I think these are lilacs?  They're just one or two houses down the street, this giant too-big-to-be-a-bush-but-doesn't-look-like-a-tree plant.


And I think these are primroses.


So this was taken in the same yard that had all the daffodils, this time with bright red tulips.


And some yellow ones.  We had some bright yellow ones in our backyard but the flower heads fell off before I got out there to take pictures.


I so want a better picture of these.  The flowers are bright white and the flower centers are actually deep purple.


Some more tulips, love that color.


I have no idea what this is, but I thought it was neat-looking.


This is the first time I've ever seen a lily of the valley in real life.  Each little blossom is only about as big as my pinky nail.


I thought I'd missed all the daffs (sadly I did miss the croci this year, that's the correct plural of crocus in my brain), but here are a couple of late bloomers at the school a block away from us.  They have a whole line of daffs along the fence (mostly past their prime now).  I almost didn't go back out to get this picture today after walking the dogs because of the headache, but I'm so glad I did because THIS:


Isn't that gorgeous?  I never even noticed this tulip until I was on my way back home from the daffodils today.  It's in a small planter in front of a house, you can see the flint on the front of the house behind the flowers, blurry in the background.  I'm kind of in love with this picture.


And here's a vertical shot too, but I think I like the first one better.


That same house also has climbing roses and wisteria, both of which have just started blooming.  Usually the wisteria goes first and blooms for a hot minute and then the roses take over without too much overlap, but there are a couple of early flowers on both of them.

I'll have to wait a bit longer to get pictures of the lavender blooming since that's usually around June or so.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Krakow

Okay wow, I've been neglecting this blog shamefully.  Well, we've been busy getting Sadie and Vader ready to fly back to the States (next week!  noooooo I'll miss them so much), and I've been stitching and lately working on my scrapbooks like a madwoman which as been great fun.  I've done more scrapbook pages this month than I did in January, February, and March put together, so yay me.

Soooooo let's talk about Krakow, which we visited way back in February after our quick stop in Vienna.  We took the night train from Vienna to Krakow (kind of fun but not at all restful) and got in around 6:30 in the morning.  Luckily we were able to check into our hotel (Holiday Inn FTW!) and get some sleep.  I slept until about noon, and probably would have stayed in bed even longer had I not been so hungry.  So we got ready for the day and ventured out to find some lunch.  I didn't want to waste time looking for something (hello, HONGRY) so I was bookin' it in the direction of the arrow to McDonald's when we spied this instead:


Nothing says Poland like pizza, am I right?


I got the "Greca" pizza.  Pineapple and black olives seemed like an odd combination (even to me), but don't knock it 'til you've tried it--it was excellent.  We both liked this place so much we went back the next day.  Because YUM.


So Krakow is kind of like the cultural capital of Poland; this is St. Mary's Basilica on one side of the main square where the Renaissance cloth hall is.  I kinda wish we'd gone up inside the tower of the church.  If you look real close at that picture, you'll note that right next to it is the Hard Rock Cafe.


For some reason, Blogger is uploading my pictures out of order today, but this is a detail from one of the columns on the cloth hall.  The cloth hall was interesting; inside it's lined with stalls and people selling all kinds of things like polished wooden boxes (very cheap and pretty!), amber (LOTS of amber, there was even an amber shop in our hotel), and your standard souvenirs.


Clock tower that I just think is interesting looking.


There's the cloth hall itself, you can see where the columns are.


This lady looks supercilious (vocabulary FTW!); I bet she's married to this guy.


I find the expression on his face quite entertaining.  And that mustache!  He reminds me of Sir Ector on Disney's The Sword in the Stone.


We came back to the square after dark and Lee got this most excellent shot.  Had there been more people still running around, I'm sure we would have gotten some funny looks:  Lee set the camera down on the ground and we took almost a dozen long-exposure shots, fiddling with the camera angle by putting random objects like my gloves under the camera to raise it up a bit.  All for a good cause.


When dinnertime rolled around, we didn't want to walk back to our hotel (several blocks from the main square) and find the address of the restaurant Lee had looked up, so we decided to be Americans and go to the Hard Rock Cafe.  (The food was actually really good.)  We had to wait a bit to be seated, so we sat next to the window in the bar that looked toward the basilica and Lee noticed the cool reflections on the glass, so he took this picture.  It was around Valentine's Day, hence the heart balloons, and that silver and black blob on the right is a reflection of the motorcycle they have hanging from the ceiling over the bar.  Still, a neat picture I think!


The next day, we got up early to go do a tour of the salt mines (pics of that forthcoming) and in the afternoon we wandered a bit more around the town.  No real idea what we're looking at, I just liked the architecture.


Nice colors.


Just because I thought he was kinda cool-looking.


 And here's just another neat building, nice landscaping on this one too.


Here we have proof once again that the word for "chocolate" is pretty much the same the world over.  Czekolady = Chocolate.  ("Police" is also pretty common, but I think chocolate wins the prize for easiest to translate.)  This place smelled heavenly and they had fun things like high-heeled shoes made out of chocolate.  For decoration/eating, not for wearing, because why waste good chocolate with melting it on your feet.  Even Cinderella knew better than that, which is why she had glass slippers and not chocolate ones.


One more building, and that's it for today.  Up next:  that salt mine I mentioned.  Cheers, peeps!