How time flies when you are having fun

The past three weeks flew by so fast, that I barely had any time to realize it's 2016 already! I think in these few weeks Ryan and I visited more Christmas markets and more countries than I ever thought was possible. All that kept me so busy I barely had any time to go through my pictures. After the long posts about visiting the North Sea and it's nearby countries, we got a chance to travel to Vienna and Budapest for New Years and then I flew home for Russian orthodox Christmas.  

St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna, Austria  

St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna, Austria  

St. Peter's church ceiling in Vienna, Austria  

St. Peter's church ceiling in Vienna, Austria  

One of the halls in the Opera House, Vienna, Austria

One of the halls in the Opera House, Vienna, Austria

Opera, Vienna, Austria

Opera, Vienna, Austria

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View of Budapest, Hungary

View of Budapest, Hungary

Parliament and the Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary

Parliament and the Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary

Fishemen's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

Fishemen's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

Hero's square, Budapest, Hungary

Hero's square, Budapest, Hungary

We have a family tradition of getting together with my god mothers family that day. We eat, drink, play, and the next day we go on long walks. As tradition would have it, we often end up walking either in the woods or by the Novoerysalimskiy Monastery - a New Jerusalem Cathedral that finally was restored. This year was the first time I see it without any construction on site. And even though it was around -20C outside, it was a breathtaking experience, just to be able to see this monstrous beauty with my own eyes. 

Novoerysalimskiy Monastery, Istra, Russia

Novoerysalimskiy Monastery, Istra, Russia

Novoerysalimskiy Monastery, Istra, Russia

Novoerysalimskiy Monastery, Istra, Russia

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Spending time with family usually means that's all you have time to do - so many people to see, so much to do. But in between seeing everyone I got a chance to visit another beautiful cathedral on the way to my aunts house. This beauty was built in 1327 and still stands to this day.  

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Getting back home to a quiet life in Vilseck was almost a culture shock, but it is definitely nice to relax and unwind from a great Christmas vacation.

THE FLEMISH GIANT & A TRAVELING DOG (PART 1)

As the Army would have it, birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates in your life often go by separated from your loved ones. But no matter how sad that might be, it is never a reason to get sad. It is more a reason to plan something fun on what would normally be just another day.

Missing our two year anniversary, or rather being separated by many miles and countries, Ryan and I planned on 'delaying' our romantic celebration and turning it into a small vacation in beautiful Belgium. Why Belgium? As a high school kid I visited Antwerp and it made me fall in love with the city and country so much that I couldn't wait to share that love with my one and only true love, my husband.
And so we agreed on a four day road trip, rented a thick travel guide at the Rose Barracks Library and packed each day full of new and exciting places to see.


Day 1: 

We left Vilseck around 2 am and traveled under the veil of the night all the way to Luxemburg with only one stop to refuel in Rammstein. The city welcomed us with a sunrise, farmers market and a quiet park overlooking the town's castle. There we recharged with some fresh fruit and a nice stroll to let Darkwing run around and get tired before we got back on the road.


Our next stop was Waterloo - a location of the famous battle in which a destiny of a great empire ran its course. Expecting to see something that would wow us, we were faced with a green hill that seemed to have endless stairs leading up to the top, where a grand Lion laid still, like the lands around it. There was almost no one around, it was quiet and it was peaceful, and it was empty of any resemblance of a historic event.

Beautiful as it was, the site left us wondering why we came (besides letting Darkwing run), so we decided to take turns and visit a museum that (we hoped) would have some insights on the battle. I took the first turn (as dogs were not allowed inside) and this is where a surprise awaited me. I have never been to a more interactive and well thought out museum in my entire life ( and I have been to plenty). Everything was animated - paintings, maps, figurines. Elaborate descriptions of the battle, followed by interesting historic facts, all dressed up in amazing presentations were like candy to a child. Deep down I wished we didn't travel with Darkwing, so we could spend as long as we wanted inside, reading, learning, being fascinated, but I had two of my loves waiting outside for me so my time in the museum was cut short. After Ryan took his turn inside (and caved in to the consumerism), the four of us (Ryan, Darkwing, myself and Napoleons bust) packed back into the car and headed to our final destination of the day: Brugge.
Upon arrival to Belgian Venice (parking troubles and hotel check-in included) we finally all fell on the bed in absolute exhaustion but hunger won us over and dragged us back out onto the streets of the Christmas cheered old town. Our small exploration ended with a quick dinner at an amazing burger restaurant called Jilles - that turns burgers into an artisans craft. After trying two of their local beers (the restaurant carries over 100 different types of Belgian craft beer), we couldn't fight sleep any longer and satiated headed back to our cute boutique hotel to rest (Jan Brito).


Day 2:

We began the day with some great finds - a nearby city park for Darkwing to run around in (only one street down from our hotel), a half awake Sunday city that is so quite that you'd never know you are in a popular tourist destination, and how well behaved Darkwing has become (you almost would never guess he is a village dog and isn't used to crowds ).

Our plan that day was to visit Atlantic Wall Open Air Museum (Raversyde), which is located right on the beach and is dedicated to the events of the two world wars. Being an important location, the beach was mainly used by the Germans to keep the allied forces out and to this day one can walk through two world wars in bunkers and trenches. However, we faced a difficultly and a disappointment almost right away - the museum was closed for winter and all we could do was walk through its' nature park. That, however, did not stop us. We were determined to see the beach, and the beach we saw. Darkwing almost broke his leash, pulling in the direction that smelled like fish and salt water and moments later the much awaited meeting happened: Puppy, meet the Ocean. Ocean meet the Puppy. 

To be continued...