Friday, August 25, 2017

Eastern Europe – Berlin to Budapest – July, 2017
Booked a G Adventure trip from Berlin to Split and started my voyage with a shuttle to LAX.  Great restaurants at the John Wayne Airport now so had a delicious salad at Tavern, a wonderful restaurant located in Brentwood.  Arrived  in Berlin about 3 p.m.  Took a bus into the city and walked to Schoenhauser
Studios near Alexander Platz, a wonderful place to stay!

Although it was raining, I decided to walk down Prenzlauer Allee to get my bearings, i.e. museum island, Brandenburg Gate, etc. Had dinner at Bricole nearby but the food was rather disappointing…i.e. cauliflower three ways, wild shrimp with buckwheat and roasted tomatoes and chocolate mousse…

Zeit fuer Brot is the “in” place for coffee and pastry as there is always a long line so in the morning I got a pain du chocolate and wonderful strong European coffee. Wandered first around the Nicholas quarter, the old part of town and then on to Museum Island to visit the Cathedral, walking up the 267 stairs to step outside for a breathtaking view of Berlin and then waited in line for about an hour at the Pergamon Museum which was fabulous!!  Inside were the Roman market gate, Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Museum of Islamic Art, especially the Aleppo house among other things.  Afterwards I wandered over to the Gendarmen Markt Square bookended by the domed cathedrals and the concert hall where someone was playing the violin while I had some apple strudel and coffee outside.  Next stop the Brandenburg Gate, hidden in East Berlin for 30 years.  Stopped by the Reichtag to see the dome but you have to stand in line to get a free ticket and have some ID.  So I got a ticket for the next day!

Walked along to the Holocaust Museum, a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.  It consists of a 4.7 acre site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.  There is a visitor center downstairs which contains memories of the holocaust…

Headed to the Potsdam area and randomly stopped for dinner at Lutter and Wegner for a delicious warm chanterelle mushroom salad with greens, goat cheese and toasted almonds.  Better choice than last night!!!

Another delicious pastry and coffee at Zeit fuer Brot in the morning and then took the U-bahn to Charlottenburg to visit the castle built in the 17th century as a summer residence for Queen Sophie Charlotte and Frederick III.  Some beautiful rooms, crown treasury, porcelain, etc.  Walked down to the Belvedere to see the exquisite porcelain collection, especially the tea and coffee services.  Also wandered in the beautiful gardens.

Spent some time in the Tiergarten and then took a tour of the amazing Reichstag large glass dome with a 360 degree view of Berlin.  Took the metro to Kreuzberg area which took a very long time and walked to Altes Zollhaus for dinner.  Had duck with cabbage and potato pancake and crème brulee torched at the table and even a glass of wine.  Delicious!

Walnut pastry at Zeit fuer Brot next morning and walked to Hackescher Markt, a beautiful courtyard filled with shops, galleries and markets.  Stopped by the Synogogue but it was closed so will go tomorrow.  Walked to Bermauerstrasse and spent a couple hours visiting the wall museum, area where the wall was, etc.  So very interesting.  Spent a couple hours in the Modern Art Museum which had some very clever exhibitions. 

Our G Adventure Group met in the evening and then I went back to Potsdam Plaza for another chanterelle salad instead of joining the group for dinner…There will be plenty of time for that as we will be spending a couple weeks together.  My room mate is from Canada and seems nice.

After breakfast I walked to the East Side Gallery to see the murals on the wall and then continued along the wall way to checkpoint Charlie and read some history about the wall.  Visited the Neue Synagogue air raided and destroyed and now being rebuilt and the cemetery as well.  Went to the Kadewe to see the food court but it was Sunday so it was closed…Heard a lovely Mozart Klarinette Concert in the Kaiser Wilhelm-Gedackneskirsche nearby and then walked the Kurdam, stopping for cheesecake and coffee along the way. 

Spent the afternoon at the Cinema Museum highlighting Marlena Dietrich and other German actors.  An outstanding museum!  Wonderful dinner at Katz Orange, i.e. roasted octopus with hummus, pork ribs with lentils and lemon brulee tart with apricots.

Early breakfast and train to Warsaw, Poland.  Grabbed a quick pastry and coffee at the train station and tram to the hotel.  Walking tour with guide of the old town which was completely destroyed during the war and rebuilt quite nicely.  Visited the Church of the Holy Cross, Mermaid statue in the main square, etc.  Charming.  Had an assortment of pierogi for dinner which were delicious. 

Hearty German bread and great coffee for breakfast with lots of fresh fruit.  Bus to Lazienki Park, a beautiful park with manicured greens, once a hunting ground attached to the Ujazdow Castle.  Lovely walk around the lake, etc.  Tram to train station and cheesecake and coffee before taking the train to Krakow where we took part of a walking tour.  The city was never bombed so all the old buildings are genuine.  Stopped for dinner near the Jewish Ghetto and I had sautéed salmon with boiled potatoes perfectly cooked.  Finished the walking tour.

Visited Auswitz in the morning which was very depressing…  Day was hot and humid so walking around was really difficult…In the afternoon I visited St. Mary’s Basilica, Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the Franciscian Church.  All were beautiful.  Wonderful dinner at Guliwer, i.e. warm goat cheese salad and lemon meringue tart – hit the spot!!!

Walked to the castle in the morning, stopped for pastry and coffee nearby and then took the salt mine tour at Wieliczka.  A section of 22 chambers are open to the public with underground lakes, chapels, chandeliers, etc.  Interesting but not as great as the one in Salzburg!  Stopped for cake and coffee for lunch and then visited the outstanding Museum of Stained Glass.  Took the tram to Schindler’s Factory housing a great museum on the Nazi occupation and spent the rest of the afternoon there.  Another delicious goat cheese salad and tart for dinner at Guliwer.  On the way back to the hotel stopped in the main square to listen to a very talented guitarist play…

Train to Prague in the morning arriving about 4 p.m.  Took an orientation walk to old town and saw the astronomical clock in action.  Walked up to the castle for a nice view of the city and had dinner at the Medieval Restaurant nearby along with a show, i.e. sword fightings, fire blowers, etc.  Fun.

In the morning, I took a walk along the river to see the dancing house, a pillar of modern architecture by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry.  Met at 10 a.m. for the remainder of the orientation walk, i.e. Lennon wall, back up to the castle passing some churches, etc.  I stayed on at the castle complex and visited the royal palace, the basilica of st. george and the golden lane of streets representing shops for seamstresses, etc.  Saw the beautiful Mucha window in the St. Vitus Cathedral and then visited the Lob Kowiczky Palace, a 16th century palace housing a private museum of paintings, musical memorabilia, etc.  Stopped in a courtyard for cake and coffee.
Had a delicious salmon later for dinner at U Mateje Kortby near our hotel.

In the morning walked through old town to the Jewish Museum and took a 2 hour guided tour through seven of the synogogues, some working and some turned into museums.  The cemetery was also very interesting to see.  It was raining so stopped for traditional honey cake and coffee before proceeding through the powder tower where all the processions start to the Mucha museum, which was rather small but worth seeing all the same.  Walked along the river and had dinner at Nuance, sitting outside which was very pleasant.  Had duck sous vide with sweet potato puree, blue potatoes and kale – nicely prepared.

Took a nice walk to the castle in the morning before heading to Cesky Krumlou, a very cute little medieval town.  Took our orientation walk and then had a traditional chicken platter with millet cake, potato pancakes, cabbage, etc. for dinner which was not really that great…A bit too heavy for my taste.

Walked up to the castle in the morning and took the museum and tower tour.  There is also a very extensive tour of the whole castle and theatre which I wish I had done.  Stopped for apple strudel and coffee overlooking the river and then we got into rafts each holding 4 persons and spent 3 hours rafting down the Vitava river which was great fun.  Went to a vegetarian restaurant nearby for dinner outside overlooking the river, i.e. Indian vegetables, lentils and pita bread.  Nice.

Took an early morning walk to the castle and drove to Vienna where we had an orientation walk starting at St. Stephan’s Cathedral and wandering to the Habsburg, Albertina, etc. to give us some history and help us plan our time.  Afterwards I visited Mozart’s apartment in old town where he resided with his family from 1784 to 1787 and wrote “The Marriage of Figaro”.  Took the metro back and met a few of the group for schnitzel and cucumber/potato/cabbage salad in Prater Park.  It was great having some traditional fare.

In the morning although it was raining, I visited the Schonbrunn Palace, a 1,441 room Baroque palace where Franz Joseph was born and the lovely grounds, Nasch Market filled with fruits and vegetables and the Belvedere to see the extensive collection of Klimt’s works, especially the famous “Kiss”.  The gardens are also very beautiful.  Afterwards I had apple strudel at Demel’s, a famous Austrian café and then walked to the Succession building to see Klimt’s famous panal to Beethoven which was very impressive.  Took a tram ride around the Ring streets and then had a quick “dinner” at the café in the Dobo Hotel overlooking St. Stephans, i.e. hummus, grilled eggplant, borek and a brownie.  In the evening I went to a Mozart concert in the Golden Hall which was outstanding.  Didn’t have time to visit the Opera House or walk along the Danube…next time…

Train to Budapest in the morning, orientation walk and then spent the afternoon at the famous SzechenyThermal Baths, 18 indoor and outdoor pools situated under neo-Baroque domes.  A lot of people!!!

Very nice dinner of salmon, spinach and mushroom ragout, potato puree and music which we dined.  AT 10:00 p.m. took a lovely boat ride on the Danube.

Toured  the Parliament building, which lies on the banks of the Danube and is currently the largest building in Hungary, in the morning which was very interesting.  The building is quite impressive inside with ceilings of frescoes, etc.  Walked over the chain bridge to the “castle” which is now the Museum of Art and thoroughly enjoyed the paintings, etc.  Stopped by to see St. Matthais Church but there was a wedding going on so I couldn’t go inside.  Took a bus back to St. Stephan’s square for cheesecake and coffee and then took a very nice tour of the Opera House.

The next part of our trip will meet this evening so I am looking forward to what comes next!!!

Monday, August 21, 2017

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 leek, white part only, washed well and finely chopped
1 lb. fresh spinach, cooked, squeezed dry and chopped
5 – 6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
1/4C fresh dill, chopped
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
1/4C pine nuts, toasted
salt and pepper to taste

½ package phyllo dough leave, completely thawed out
1 stick melted butter

Sauté leek in butter until soft, add spinach and sauté a few minutes to dry out.  Let cool.  Combine spinach mixture and remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until fairly smooth.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Using one sheet of phyllo at a time, butter, fold in half vertically, butter, cut into 4 long strips.  Place two teaspoon filling in the left-hand corner of each strip, fold into a triangle and continue to fold in a triangle until the end.

Brush with butter and place on a cookie sheet.  Repeat until filling has been used up.  Bake until golden – 15 minutes, turning once.
MAKES:  3-1/2 dozen or so