Archive for December, 2014

Cosmos Tour: Prague, Vienna Budapest – Red Bull from Austria

Monday, December 29th, 2014

In 1976 in Thailand, Chaleo Yoovidhya introduced a drink called Krating Daeng whose main ingredient is taurine.  Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz visited Thailand in 1982 and noticed that the drink cured his jet lag. In 1984, Mateschitz co-founded Red Bull GmbH with Yoovidhya, modifying the ingredients to suit Western tastes, and launched it in Austria in 1987. Red Bull is the highest selling energy drink in the world.

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Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – Prague Astronomical Clock

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Walking through the streets of Prague, you will come across the Astronomical Clock. Each hour, the wooden figures of apostles appear in the windows and some of the sculptures move. When the apostles finish their story, the golden rooster crows and shakes its wings, the bell rings and the clock chimes the hour.

An urban myth which went on for centuries was that when the Prague Councillors found out that the 15th century clock maker Hanus (Jan of Ruze) was going to make another clock, they became jealous and blinded him. However in 1961, the real artist was discovered in an old document which described the astronomical dial and says it was made by Mikulas of Kadan in 1410.

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Canada: Children Love National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

Sunday, December 28th, 2014
Maman the Giant Spider

Maman the Giant Spider

Most people would not think of taking children to an art museum. However, The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa offers Artissimo,  one of the best children’s programs I have come across  – and at an amazingly reasonable price of only $24 for 2 adults and 3 children. They try to teach kids about the art through different senses.

– First up was the creation of Art Buddies, toys (like dolls or animals) which can be found in paintings. These exact reproductions are given to the kids to hold, and then they are pointed to galleries where they can try to find them in a painting. Our Marguerite Charlotte doll had golden curls intertwined with green ribbon, and was holding a little blue bird in her hand.

– Second fun activity was the touch box which the child wears around his neck. They can put their hands in the sides (like a muff) and feel textures inside. Each box relates to a painting which has these textures in it; they have to guess what they are feeling and what in the painting represents it: a feather, lace, fur, picture frame, etc.

– Thirdly, was a real hit for ages 4-10. In Sounds Like Art, they are given headphones which play sounds. In each gallery, they have to find a painting which would relate to that sound: water, a crying baby, horses’ hooves, crackling fire.

The Arts and Crafts Area

The Arts and Crafts Area

For completing these games, the kids are rewarded with collectors’ cards of the paintings.

– Lastly there is an arts and crafts area set up in the most beautiful setting possible – the Great Hall with its soaring windows. While they are creating their works of art, you (and they) can oogle the magnificent panoramic view of Parliament Hill, the Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River.

The children also enjoyed finding the surprise garden (from above and at ground level), the ceiling water window in the lobby, the “sound sculpture” in the chapel and, of course, Maman, the giant spider outside.  And yes, there is also the fabulous collection of art. We spent 4 hours there easily.

Location: 380 promenade Sussex Drive, Ottawa ON K1N 9N4
Phone: 800-319-ARTS
Hours: Tues-Sun 10-5 (closed Mon Oct 1-Apr 30)

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Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – First dinner

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

PragueNHDinnerThe first included dinner of the Cosmos tour started with a light beef broth and then a plate with a large bready dumpling  sliced up (a bit of a rye bread taste) and fanned on the plate next to pork with duck gravy and a tasty cooked red cabbage side. The dumplings soaked up the gravy quite nicely.

Germany: Munich Beer Gardens

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Hofbrau Park Beer Garden


Play Structure in Beer Garden

It was surprising to learn – and see – that the expression “beer garden” means exactly that. there are huge garden  spaces filled with picnic tables – some have umbrellas or are covered by the trees. Families bring their own picnic food but no beverages. They buy beer from the concession. Some have play structures for the kids to climb on.

There’s even an outdoor beer garden at the Munich Airport.

Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – Paprika in Hungary

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

PaprikaIn Hungary, paprika cream is a condiment on the table – they use it like we would use ketchup or mustard. It’s quite spicy. Locals like to call it  Hungarian Viagra. Why?  If you eat it, the heartburn will keep you up. Since you can’t sleep, you have to do something  to keep  busy, soooo….

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Germany: Munich has Beaches

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

The Isar River flows through Munich. There are many beautiful bridges spanning it. If you get hot while touring, why not take advantage of the many beaches along the shore of the river. There’s even a public bath house which you can use for only 4 Euros. If you get hungry, there’s a cafe there too.


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Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – Halushka dumplings and Cimbalon

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

On the Cosmos Tour to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, the first optional excursion was a typical Slavic evening in the well-known U Marčanů restaurant, and included folk music with Bohemian, Moravian and Slovakian singing and dancing, plus gypsy music and dancing. The performers were fabulous at getting the audience involved, and great fun ensued. A musical instrument called a cimbalon was played; it’s a large, trapezoidal box with metal strings stretched across, and is played by striking two hammers against the strings.

Here’s a short video of the cimbalon in action:


The  3-course meal accompanied by unlimited drinks (wine/ beer/soft drinks) started with my favorite food of the whole trip – halushka , little dumpling bits topped with cheese and  fried bacon (probably called bryndza) which is one of the the Slovak national dishes. Now we know why. The main course was pork on a skewer with delicate Lyonnaise potatoes, green beans and roasted potatoes.PragueDinner

Everyone ate and laughed and enjoyed the evening.

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Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – Charles Bridge Prague

Friday, December 26th, 2014

The Charles Bridge over the river Vltava is the oldest bridge in the city, built between the 14th and 15th century and lined with statues and lamps and with Gothic towers on both ends.

St John statue on Charles Bridge

St John statue on Charles Bridge

The bronze statue of St. John of Nepomuk is the oldest (and most famous) one, created  in 1683. St. John was a parson who refused to betray a secret confided to him by Queen Sophia when asked by King Wenceslas IV. In 1393, he was tortured on the king´s demand and then thrown into the river from the Charles Bridge. After his death, supposedly five stars  appeared above the river.

There is a brassy cross with five stars at the place on the parapet, where he was thrown to the river. If you place your hand on the cross, so that each finger will touch one star, you can wish for something and it will be fulfilled. People also touch the relief on the statue for luck.

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Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – Prague Jewish Ghetto

Friday, December 26th, 2014
Old New Synagogue

Old New Synagogue

The former Jewish Ghetto (now called Josefov) in Prague goes back to the 12th century. In fact, the oldest synagogue in Europe, the Old-New Synagogue, is still there and it is still used for its purpose, as there are regular services. An old legend says it was built of stones from the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This quarter was demolished in 1897. Today, there are 6 synagogues, the Jewish City Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery from the 15th century. Notice the Rabbi’s house has gold decorations and the clock with hebrew letters which dates to 1674.

In 1389 the biggest anti-Jewish pogrom in the Middle Ages took place here, when about 3,000 citizens of the Jewish Quarter were killed, turning the walls of the Old–New Synagogue dark with blood. Their homes were plundered and burned.

However, in the 16th century, this quarter was thriving. Some of the synagogues we can still see were built then. The Maisel Synagogue houses an exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Prague. In the 1950’s, the Pinkas Synagogue became a Memorial to victims of the Holocaust. The walls of the nave, gallery and vestibule were covered with names of about 80,000 Bohemian and Moravian Jews. You can also see drawings of Jewish children made in the Terezin concentration camp between 1942 and 1944. There were more than 10,000 children under the age of 15 there. In 1577, the High Synagogue was built as a part of the Jewish City Hall, and the original vault with some Gothic features and stucco decoration still can be seen.

The Rabbi's House

The Rabbi’s House

Nowadays, Paris St. in this area is one of the most popular places to live in Prague. If you get hungry, you can eat at the King Solomon kosher restaurant. Michelle Obama ate there when she was in town.


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