Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Berlin and Back in Less than 24 Hours

Berlin is place I would say - would be nice to go but not on my immediate list. But when the opportunity presents itself - my bags are easily packed! Had a blast going to an art gallery and out to dinner which we ran into the PM of Germany - pretty cool. 

While I would have loved to stay longer - at I can say I've been there and back in less than 24 hours :)
View from my hotel

Art Gallery in Berlin

Friday, May 24, 2013

Here Horsey, Horsey - Nachod, Czech Republic

Back to the sign in Dublin - What have you done today that you have never done before?

Horseback riding.

Our friends have invited us to a weekend getaway in the Czech Republic at the Gallop Ranch, about 2 hours away from Wroclaw. It is a family run establishment that resembles a Native American Ranch with American Western Style horseback riding. The owner's vision is clear.

This dude is legit. He built all the cabins himself. There are limited modern amenities which is part of the experience: no running water, no indoor plumbing but there is electricity. His friend down the way made all the brass/metal for things like door knobs and such. There is an outhouse for the restroom, a homemade Indian style smoke house, outdoor fire pits and outdoor shower. It is like an upscale, minimalist ranch.

Our cabin (we were top level)

The main house

The Smoke House from outside
Chris in his element manning the open fire grill

Making fire in the smoke house
He makes all the saddles by hand - he said he can make 2 in a winter. Pretty amazing. He has a ton of hectors of land with horses and one of the largest herds of buffalo.


Chris coming in from a more advance ride

Handmade saddle
His wife and kids live on the estate with him and help give the horseback riding tours.

With it being my first time on a horse, I am nervous but excited. I make it very clear to the owner, I have never been on a horse and don't know what I am doing. These horses aren't like most other horses, they are almost wild but very well trained. They are huge and beasts of an animal.

So they pull up my horse, his name is Kevin but looks more like Thunder (no kidding he was huge), I hop on. Their daughter helps get me situated and gives me these instructions: toes in stirrup, left is left, right is right, pull together to stop and most importantly, do not yell if something frightens you. I can't believe that is it. I feel like in the states, you'd have to sign a million waivers, they would put you on a pony and have someone walk you. I have to admit, it is kind of nice having this be my first experience. It feels natural being in nature and riding through open hilly fields and through the woods. And how cool to say my first time horseback riding was in the mountains of the Czech Republic - I never would have thought.

Kristen and Kevin

While most of the group thought the ride was too slow, it was perfect for me. We rode in a line through the woods, no one around, empty but for the trees, grassy hills peaking through the branches. Chris was praised for his riding skills, even though he hasn't been on a horse in the 9 years I've known him - doesn't surprise me though - he's good at everything he does.

That night, Chris and I wandered off into the hills and through the woods for some time together. The whole weekend was a great experience and something unexpected. Highly recommend it to anyone in the area.

A walk through the forest (happens to be hunting season too so heard gun shots go off - not too reassuring)

View from the top of the mountain/hill

Horsing around

This is the real deal dude rancher - pretty awesome guy
Interested in visiting or more information:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wash uffizi, drive me to Firenze

May 16 - 19, 2013: Florence and Bologna

5:26 am - take the 406 to Wroclaw airport: we are getting used to this route - however, we are curious why it is so busy so early and there is one stop which seems out in the middle of nowhere that everyone seems to get off at. We care but not really because we are headed to ITALIA! Two times in less than a year - not too shabby (we went to Naples, Proccida and Almafi for part of our honeymoon in October).

We arrive in Bologna super early thanks to Ryan Air. We have decided to break up our visit by going to Florence first. So we head straight for the train station from the airport. The bus is easy to navigate and fairly cheap (6 euro pp) so we would recommend this to anyone visiting or even trying to get into the city center of Bologna.

Florence is about 50 miles south - and takes only 30 minutes - so we arrive and it is still morning. We both need to do home office so we search for a cafe with free wi-fi. Lucky us - there is one right in the city center and over looking the Duomo. Pretty amazing office view.

Our home office for the morning

Duomo from behind

After catching up on emails - we check into our hotel, Hotel Martelli, which is near the historic center. Drop our bags off and make our way around the city on foot. We find ourselves at the River Arno and as we look down, we see a grass lawn with chairs. The perfect place for a glass of wine we think. We we find ourselves making our way down to the private rowing club of Florence. Apparently they are having a private party - but we still ask the bar tender if he will serve us a glass of wine. To our surprise he's down - knowing we aren't with the group (Drinks: 4 euro a glass). It was so worth it - amazing views, so romantic, lots of laughs and doing our own thing.

The rose wall

The rowing boats

The view of the "Ponte vecchio" or old bridge on the River Arno

The glass is half full for Chris

Chris keeping it classy

A little rain storm came upon us so we stayed there until it passed and then made our way to the other side of the river and explore some more.

Superman or super drunk? :)

Florence at night

Florance at night

Florence at night

Duomo lit up at night

The Hamricks <3
If you haven't picked up yet, we are walkers and no matter where we go, we feel this is the best way to really see a city. On our last day in Florence, we walk through the leather goods area, hit up the indoor market, visit the inside of the Duomo (free and worth it), find our way to the David but the line was too long, hit up a place for lunch, do a little cafe for free wi-fi and some wine, tour an old fort that has a food festival going on and then make our way back to the train station and on our way to back to Bologna.

Leather goods (clothing, notebooks, bags...)

Italian Pottery
The dome of the Duomo

Art near the fort in Florence
Chris buying train tickets

The train station in Florence
 Bologna, Bologna, Bologna 

We arrive in Bologna in the late afternoon, no hotel booked but a few in mind so we start walking. It is a short walk from the train station to the city center but the roads there are easy to get distracted. We make our way to the Best Western Hotel San Donato which is our first choice and glad it was - we got hooked up with an amazing room with an great view and for a great price.

View from our room of the towers

As always, before we go, we do our homework on the food in the places we visit. Life is too short to eat too many bad meals or miss a great food/wine experience. Our first stop: Swine Bar. It is a wine bar and the cool thing about Bologna (and really Italy in general) - when you order a drink, they also feed you, sometimes they will bring a small dish to you, others have free buffets. Salute.

Some wine and apps at Swine Bar

We then it's time for a Spritz at this cool bar that was once a church, La Stanze. While they offer a free buffet - we recommend 1 drink here because it's cool - then move on. 

Spritz is the local drink of choice
La Stanze Bar in Bologna 
Bologna is known as the home of bolognese. We heard Trattoria Del Rosso was a good place to go. The food and restaurant were simple and good. I would say it wasn't the best meal of our lives but we can now say we had Bolognese in Bologna.

Some other highlights of the trip/Bologna: 

La Baita Formaggi for Il Nero - it is the only place in the world to sell this Parmesan Cheese and it is so yummy.They sell it air tight so you can bring it home or fresh cut to eat then. Suggest going with both options.

 In the same area, there are great vendors selling fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, fish, flowers.

There really isn't a way to describe the streets of Bologna until you are there walking them. They are beautiful, mystifying, take you back in time - yet modern, the city itself has the same vibe and is very much alive. You can just get lost for hours walking. One thing you will notice - every street's side walk is covered with these beautiful arches (we say it would be the perfect place to be if it rained a lot - you wouldn't even need an umbrella).

Street music is always a fun thing when traveling - it tells so much about a place. Here we found a great band performing in the main square. Even bought their CD.

Fact, the University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world. Our hotel was right around the corner from it and one night there was a street party with a DJ playing out of the bed of a small truck. When in Rome - we joined the college students for some drinking and dancing the night away.

All in all - we LOVED Bologna. It has so much going on and a lot to offer.

(Word on the street is they are reinventing themselves in the tourist industry with traditional Italian cooking classes - if visiting - might be worth looking into. I hear they have over 20 schools to choose from so lots of options to find the one that is right for you.)

Travelers Note: Our Trip Adviser Review of the Best Western