Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back to the past - Czech Republic

Ah, so now that we are starting to settle into a normal life again. Art & Judy are off, today we believe enjoying Beijing, Tina has had a few days of down time to clean, shop, and relax, and I am now back from a short trip to Shanghai.

So this is now the perfect time to roll the blog back to what we were talking about prior to our guests, and that is the remainder of our holiday in Europe....

Last we spoke about this trip, we were still in Vienna treating Barb to a proper birthday party. The next morning we were once again up and on a train, this time heading into the Czech Republic.

First stop was in Brno, which is pronounced exactly as it is spelled. It is an amazingly beautiful city, although the area around the train station is a little run down and doesn't exactly give you that warm welcoming feeling when you first come off the train.

Once we checked in at the hotel, a few of us went back into the center and wandered around. It was nice to stroll through the square and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we were all up bright and early for another walking tour of the city. We strolled through the streets, courtyards, squares, markets and churches.
Just another great day of sightseeing, later that evening we all went out to dinner at a bowling alley....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Migration Begins

Well, it's that time when the next wave of expats are coming while others are heading back home. The next to leave Xiamen, will be Jose and Edlin. They will be departing back to the U.S, in about 3 weeks. Like the Crazy Mexican they were one of the first group of expats that we met, and we will miss them.

So for the next few weeks there is a list of things that need to be accomplished. Oh yes, of course packing and all that boring stuff, but more importantly Edlin has enough time, to get a couple of foot massages, facials, pedicures, manicures and most importantly getting her clothing needs met.

Hey, during these times, you need the support of your friends and who am I to refuse a good ol' foot massage. We have the next three weeks planned so that she can use her last few weeks wisely and get the most out of Xiamen.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to Normal

Well another set of guests have come and gone. It's amazing how quickly time flies when you are having fun. Art and Judy enjoyed themselves so much so that they are talking about coming back next year, assuming we are still here.

It's interesting how everyone has had some trepidation when coming to visit us, and by the end of their stay, guests are quite comfortable about travelling within China. In fact our first guest, Emily is returning in November for 10 days. If nothing else, this year has gone by very quickly.

People have a perceived idea of what China may be like, either through friends advice, (which isn't always on the positive side) or through books or media, but it's nice to see everyone has been pleasantly surprised after staying with us.

It's always fun when we get to spend time with family and friends here in China, as it brings a little of home and comfort when people visit and of course it doesn't hurt when everyone comes with little gifts.

Ah, now it's time to go and clean, do laundry, stock up the fridge again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guest Blogger #4


This is my last post to the Wichmann Stories. We got a Chinese foot message. It's cool because they message not only your feet, but your back, neck, and shoulders. It lasted over an hour and costs $10... Just like the U.S.- yeah right...

After that we sat on the porch and watched an incredible lightening storm- would have been perfect had Mark been around last night. He had to go to work in Shanghai...
So today Tina had to entertain both of us.... We did one last trip through the back alleys to see all the vendors selling live ducks, fish, eels, and not so live pigs feet....

Well so long to Xiamen and look out Xian!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guest Blog # 3

Hi again from Xiamen..... I had such a good time blogging yesterday that I thought I would try it again. We ended yesterday's blog with a tour of the market... Later in the day Tina and Mark made us catch our dinner! Well you can imagine my angst when they told us we were going fishing- particularly given I'm from the city.

What I didn't know is that we were going shrimping! Can you believe that you catch shrimp with a fishing pole*&#@ It was sooooo much fun... Look how big the shrimp's wing span is... Reminds me of Shaquille O'Neil... It actually scared me to get near those things.

So the deal is you eat for free what you catch in an hour... We caught about 14 shrimps.. Not that I'm competitive but I caught the most with 5.... :) Sorry Art!

Tina was an expert at this process. Look how calm, cool, and collect she is with the shrimp... She makes all her guests do this I understand....

So the way it works is that you sit down by the shrimp pools with a beer, the help baits the hook, and come back to take the shrimp off the line for you. Finally they cook your catch for you...

Good thing-cause I would have never touched them... the funny thing is the lemon chicken we had with our shrimp dinner was the best I have ever tasted- who would have thought we would have had chicken in China...

So what do you do after you go shrimping- drink of course at one of Tina and Marks favorite bar.... The bar was as big as your kitchen and seated 8 people. Just like the bars in Chicago....

We ended the day doing it "Our Way!" Till tomorrow..... Judy

Monday, August 25, 2008

Guest Post #2 - Art & Judy

I'm Judy and today, I thought I would write the blog. We started the day walking through the back alleys amongst all the "marketeers". They are the street vendors that sell live animals such as the ducks (pictured in the basket behind us), dead animal parts like pigs feet, and live fish that are swimming in bowls awaiting their fate. I'm so used to going to the grocery store and finding my food in the back area of the store, wrapped in cellophane, ready to take home to cook for dinner. Just try and imagine seeing the Donald behind us, watching the vendor twist his neck, skin and clean him, and wrap him up for you to take home for dinner! Hard to believe this happens... It definitely takes time to get used to seeing this.

Next we went to Gu lang yu. This is an island off of Xiamen (which by the way is also an island). It was a nice walk meandering through the alleys. This island used to house the embassys of other countries when China wouldn't alow them on the shores of it's country..... It was such a nice day... but very hot so I had to break down and buy a hat!
This is definitely the coolest hat I've ever worn.... All I know is that you would wear this if it was over 100 degrees too....
After some awesome shopping which included the purchase of pocketbooks, pearls and watches, we decided we wanted a pinda pijiu (cold beer). What fun... The bar held probably 10 people at most. It was a very quaint place in one of the alleys on the island...

At one point, it rained unbelievably hard! We got soaked but it definitely didn't slow down our shopping!

So after the island trip, we went out again on Xiamen. We partied with the crazy Mexican- still don't know his name!
Today we went to a temple to pray for Mark, cause he didn't feel too good today. Must have been the crazy Mexican!
On the way home, we went back through the marketplace in the alley.... If you ever go to China, you need to see how the people really live. It is something special to witness....

Come visit Tina and Mark!!!!! They are such good hosts... Judy

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Guest Blog - Art & Judy

The view from the 20th floor is amazing; the ocean and high rises. Just like Miami Beach, except for the outdoor washing machines. I would replace the washing machines with an outdoor shower. Judy and I are two days in from Chicago so we are still dealing with jet lag and culture shock. Everyone says to stay up as late as you can to work through the jet lag and, fortunately Tina and Mark are doing their best to help us get adjusted. Lots of pee-joe (beer/I know its misspelled) and red wine. Fresh off the plane Tina and Mark took us to our first ex-pat party at Crazy Mexican's house. It was a great time: music, cold beer, wine and nice people. Mark and I had a laugh as Judy was hit upon by an attractive lady. I thought I was in Vegas for a minute. What happens in China ...


Visitor's arriving

Just a break from our vacation post today to let you know that friends will be visitin us today from the U.S.

We just spoke to Art and Judy, who are now in Shanghai, and will be flying down to Xiamen this afternoon. They got about 12 hours worth of sleep and they are hoping that they will be awake long enough to enjoy this evening's festivities.

Since this is now tradition, and one that we wouldn't dare of breaking, we will be taking our guests to our favorite place Temptations, which as anyone knows is the best place to dine in Xiamen. Okay, we're biased, but the super chef, Siew Hong makes outstanding dishes and tonight we have ordered our favorite, lamb and ordered our favorite dessert, the lemon tart. Sure she makes great
cheesecakes and apple crumble but the lemon tart is still our favorite.

So for the next few days, our guests Art and Judy will be writing about their experiences here in China. Then we will return to posting about the remainder of our European holiday.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Barb's celebration part II

A few of us decided that since Barb's birthday party wasn't quite as she had anticipated we would throw her another one, without her knowing it. The next evening Jo had arranged to have a night out at a vineyard approximately 20 minutes outside of Vienna. It included your meal, wine, and local entertainment. It was about a 3 hour show. It was a good choice.

During the day, Mark and I went out and picked up a cake, 2 pair of crystal wine glasses, from Vienna of course, wine, and some Mozart chocolates, her favorite. We could not find a place to buy a candle or candles, so figured the next best thing, would be a church, and yes we paid for the candle.

Mark and I left earlier, so we could explain to the manager what we wanted to do. As everyone came, we had each of the gals sign the bottle, with a special marker Mark had purchased without Barb knowing.

It was fantastic. She had no idea, as the dessert came out, the staff sang Happy Birthday to her, using a firecracker as a candle. All that trouble to get the candle and it didn't even get used. The vineyard gave her and Vicki a bottle of wine as a birthday gift. We laughed, drank and ate. The show was very entertaining and Barb's smile went from ear to ear.

The gals
The token male- Mark and friend Nancy The birthday gal - Barb
It came off better than we thought, and she was truly surprised. As Mark said in his speech, one doesn't throw their own birthday parties, that's why you have friends.

Afterwards, Mark and I found this quaint Austrian bar, that Leopold III went to back in the day. For those of you who don't know, he was one of the sons of the Hapsburg's. We suggested this place to the gals and figure if it was good for Leopold III, it would be good for our group.

We ordered a couple of bottles of champagne, and continued celebrating both Vicki's and Barb's birthday's. Barb finally got the birthday celebration she deserved.

Who says the getting older can't be a lot of fun?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


We had a few days here in Vienna. Again, a walking tour of downtown Vienna was arranged, where our guide took us through the food market, the palace of the Hapbsburg, St. Stephen's cathedral, some more historic places, and then ended up at the famous cafe where one could have a bite of the famous Sacher Torte.

Local Market

Part of the Hapbsburg's PalaceFront of the Hapbsburg's Palace ruled over 600 years

Inside St. Stephen's cathedral

Mark and I wandered through the streets over the next few days, going through the markets, into St. Stephen's Cathedral, taking snapshots of the Hapsburg's Palace, and still managing to have a few breaks to sit and people watch.

Mark suggested that we try one of the 7 wine cellars that are still around in Vienna, dating back to the 1100's. They serve typical Viennese food, so we decided while we were there, may as well go. The one we chose dated back to 1435. The atmosphere was great, and you can see the old tools that were used back in the day, and of course one cannot complain about the food.

Later we wandered around the old town of Vienna, and tried to capture some night pictures, as everything was so peaceful and lit beautifully. We still need practice on taking evening pictures but it was fun to walk around since Vienna seems to roll up their sidewalks by midnight and there were few people out strolling around.

Vienna is a beautiful city, rich in history, and in architecture.

Barb's celebration

We were still in Salzburg until the afternoon, when we took the train to Vienna. Some of the gals slept in, while others continued shopping or sightseeing. Mark and I opted to wander around and pick up some wine for the train ride in which we would then celebrate both Barb and Vicki's birthdays.

The wine was a hit and helped make the train ride that much quicker. We laughed, drank, and took many pictures of the scenery both in the train and outside of the train. Even the Austrian who had asked if we were ever going to be quiet, couldn't dampen our spirits for celebrating Barb's and Vicki's day.

That evening Barb made plans to celebrate her birthday in a castle, followed by drinks at a bar close by our hotel. No need to take taxi's when one can stumble home.

Everyone dressed for the evening occasion and off we went to have a fun filled evening.

Well, since there were 10 of us, a few of us arrived ahead of Barb and the rest of the group. The first question Kim asked was; are we in the right place? The taxi driver assured us, that yes this was indeed the correct place. The next question was; where's the castle? Perhaps we are missing something Jo countered.

What was once a castle appeared to be part of one or as Jo put it, perhaps where the stables once were, though the rest of the castle appeared to be missing and the fact that the restaurant felt no need to set aside any funds to restore this building.

It was quite dark inside when we first entered, and wondered if this was indeed the place that was recommended to Barb. The waitress finally decided to break with her two friends to acknowledge us but was in no mood to work or be helpful. Did I mention that we were the only guests? Yup, this was going to be an interesting evening.

Well, the rest of the gals showed up to the same quizzical look we gave upon entering the restaurant.

We ended up having a good time, with 11 different types of schnitzel and lots salad and wine. We clearly ordered too much. Barb was a trooper, despite the surroundings and the fact that she had expected something different didn't deter her or anyone else from having a good time.

We later went out for cocktails, enjoying the beautiful evening, and laughing, okay, perhaps not so much at that moment, but later on, about the dinner.

Hey, it's not about the venue, it's more about the friendships that have survived over the years, and the fact that Barb's friends came to Europe to help celebrate her birthday. So, hats off to you Barb and I'm sure it will be a night you will always remember.