Our European Odyssey

This blog covered our month-long trip to Eastern Europe -- specifically the countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Live on the Levee

Last night we went to the first concert we'd been to in quite some time. Our concertgoing days almost ended after the Buzz in Columbia (the original Buzz) went off the air. When it was around there were many more cheap and good concerts at The Blue Note. With the Buzz's demise we haven't been to any rock concerts in a while (although we did find ourselves at a Three 6 Mafia concert earlier this year). During that time, our musical tastes have broadened some, however. For example, Jake is practicing his tin whistle right now. He's getting pretty good, but Jake plus tin whistle equals an end to the quietness of a Saturday at home...

Back to concerts, though. We saw Sister Hazel and Better than Ezra under the Arch on the riverfront. It was free, which is always a big draw for us. St. Louis is putting on free concerts on weekends throughout the summer as part of Live on the Levee. Both put on great shows, and the Better than Ezra lead singer was really funny.

One of the neat things about the concert was the interpreter for the hearing-impaired. We'd never seen an interpreter at a concert before. She would sign the lyrics, of course, but when there were no lyrics going on (which happens quite frequently), she was dancing to the beat, playing an air guitar and banging on air drums. She was really into it. Her job was to express the music, and she certainly did. She was impressive and had to have been exhausted after the show. The lead singers of both bands seemed really impressed. It was obvious they don't see interpreters for the hearing-impaired at most of their concerts. They both commented on how impressive she was. They also tried to throw her off by saying random or made-up words. It was funny.

After the concert, there was a fireworks show. It was a good one, too. They shot the fireworks from a barge in the middle of the Mississippi.

It was the first evening we'd spent in the city since moving here, and we still managed to be home shortly after 10. Sister Hazel started playing at about 6:15, Better than Ezra played at 8 and the fireworks started at 9. Early start times for a concert, but we're not complaining. It just means our early-bird schedules weren't thrown off too much.

Hope everyone is staying cool. This is one of those days when you're thankful for your air conditioner.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Bus is the Best

Andrea says: I never thought I would love the bus so much. After battling traffic during my first week of work, I decided to try out the Madison County transit system. I can drive to the bus stop from our apartment in about one minute (yes, I could walk, but I have to go through a busy intersection), and the bus stops right outside my work. It couldn't be any easier. I bought a month pass for $45. $45! I would have been paying that much for gas in a little more than a week. Plus the mileage, wear and tear on my car. (Powerhouse Escort that it is.) Anyway, I've ridden the bus every day for the past two weeks, and I plan do continue doing so. It takes a bit longer than driving myself, but I can read the paper, read a book, knit, etc. It's great. I also feel like I'm doing my little part for the environment.

Jake really likes my riding the bus as well. He for some reason says I was a little stressed out that first week when I was driving myself...

We're both getting into the swing of things at work. We're getting into our routines and feel like we can actually enjoy ourselves in the evenings now.

My mom and Jake's parents both visited us this past weekend. We actually have a bed and an extra room for them to sleep in. It's nice to be able to host people and not have to have them sleep on the couch.

This weekend we're going to get our Illinois license plates. Exciting stuff.

OK, I'm off to watch a Spanish telanovella with Jake. It's his way of "learning" Spanish. He's also reading the sixth Harry Potter book in Spanish, which is pretty impressive actually. He got it for me for my birthday, but I think we know why...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Working Life

Now that we've exhausted our European posts, we thought we'd give an update on our new home and new jobs.

First, the apartment still feels so spacious. Two bedrooms and two floors -- we hardly know what to do with ourselves. We've also noticed that our TV suddenly seems small, sitting there all the way on the other side of the room.

The jobs are going well so far. Jake drives about 20 minutes to get to the refinery at Wood River. He works with a British man who loves soccer and whose accent occasionally gives Jake troubles. One day he asked Jake to place a call about a unit called "Big Car Key" (or so Jake thought). Turns out he was saying "Big Khaki." Jake realized this after inquiring over the phone about "Big Car Key."

Andrea has a longer commute. It only takes her 30 minutes to get to work in the morning, but the afternoon drive home has been much worse. Construction on the Poplar Steet Bridge is adding to her troubles. Some days it's taken her more than an hour to get home. She's going to try out taking the bus, which leaves from very close to our apartment and stops right outside A.G. Edwards. It won't be any faster, of course, but at least she can read the paper, read a book, knit, listen to music, etc., instead of getting frazzled by the barely moving throngs of cars.

She's enjoying her job, though, and also slowly finding her way around the company's huge campus. (OK, she can get from the parking lot to her office, and that's it.)

In other news, Madison County (where we live) is starting to hold discussions on banning smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants, of course. Columbia couldn't get its act together and pass a ban before we left, so we hope Madison County will get one in place soon.

It's also nice to be in a blue state. It's a big change when your senators go from Kit Bond and Jim Talent to rising Democratic star Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, the Democratic whip. Unfortunately, this means we won't get to do our part to give the Democrats back the Senate by voting for Claire McCaskill this fall. But we get the Post-Dispatch and listen to St. Louis radio, so we still get to keep up with Missouri news.

Happy Fourth!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Vienna Photos

Well, this is probably the last of our photos we will upload from our European excursion. We hope you have enjoyed them. Drop us an e-mail if you would like copies of any of them.

First, one of the famous Viennese pogo stick crossings.


A typical street sign in Vienna's Inner Ring.


Hofburg Palace.




A statue in the Fine Arts Museum.


A statue of Hercules battling Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound of Greek myth.


And finally, pictures from Vienna's beautiful Volksgarten.






Saturday, July 01, 2006

Cesky Krumlov Photos

Here are photos from our time in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. It was a picturesque medieval town located on the Vltava.













A sign for Budweiser Budvar, a Czech beer that predates the American Budwesier. It was (unsuprisingly) quite good.