Berlin Vacation

At the beginning of June Mark and I took a vacation in Berlin for a few days.  We really enjoyed Berlin!  It was clean, convenient, almost everyone spoke English, we had great food, and it was fun learning about its history.  It was a short vacation, so we weren’t able to cover everything in the city.  We did spend a day outside of the city in Potsdam, a day in the Berlin Zoo, and went to a classical concert at the Konzerthaus Berlin.

Mark was so nice he got us a room at this very nice hotel.  I enjoyed several cups of espresso everyday from the espresso machine in the room!

Museum Island

Brandenburg Gate (and Yoda)

Berlin Philharmonic Hall.  I’m a big fan of the Philharmonic.  Unfortunately tickets were sold out way too early.

We learned a lot about the Berlin Wall.  That’s Mstislav Rostropovich (one of my favorite cellists) playing by the wall the week after the Wall fell.

Checkpoint Charlie

What’s left of the Wall

To be continued…


Sheep and Goats

Last month we traveled to a nearby country to visit a friend.  In some ways this country carries resemblance to where we live.  But mostly it’s quite different.  The culture is a more conservative one (men and women are much more segregated).  The landscape seems quite desert-y, where sandstorm is a frequent occurence.  The size of our friend’s city is a fraction of our city of 16-18 million people, which means much much fewer tall apartment buildings and much much more individual houses.  And you can easily spot a flock of sheep grazing, whereas in my city you’d have to drive maybe 30 minutes before you spot a large patch of grass.  So it was an interesting experience for us, and a nice break from the city life.

In our part of the world it’s hardly a trip without a visit to the local market.  The electrical wiring is complicated to say the least.

The city is situated between two hills.  If you look closely, the little black spot on the side of the hill, an ancient cave, is our destination.

We hiked up the hill and came to this cave where some ancient carvings, which supposedly date back to 700’s BC, are found.  Unfortunately it has not been given the best care (starting a fire under anything historic is not a good idea).

Mark doing what he does.

View of the city from the cave.

We visited a local family, had lunch with them and visited their baby sheep while the son went delivering lunch to his father who was shepherding.

If you can’t tell already, I am very inexperienced at holding livestock.

This is a very old bridge in a neighboring city.  Sorry I don’t remember the historical facts.

I had to post it.

Birthday getaway

Last month for my birthday Mark surprised me with an overnight trip to one of the islands on the Bosphorus.  It was a great trip – nice hotel, great weather, beautiful scenery!

The view from our hotel.

Personal vehicles are prohibited on the island.  People get around on bikes or horse-drawn carriages.  This was our ride to tour the island.

I guess these little guys have their own way of getting around.

See how beautiful the scenery was (if you can overlook the barbed wire)!

It’s a fish market.  They must be waiting for lunch.

We had raspberry cheesecake and chocolate waffle for lunch.  It was my birthday.

Let’s play again!  Where’s Waldo?


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!  We spent Christmas with friends in a city near to ours  last week.  It was a lot of fun!  We are thankful for friends who are like family to us.  And yesterday we brought in the new year at a friend’s place with coke floats!

So here are some more pictures from our trip to Ephesus.

On our walk to Ephesus we saw this little buddy walking along the sidewalk, perhaps on his way to Ephesus as well.

And we saw this house.  It was funny to us that the top floors are already painted and in use while the bottom floors are still being constructed.

Now pictures of Ephesus for real.  The weather started out awful.  We thought we had to tour Ephesus in the rain and not able to take many pictures.  But as the day progressed the weather kept getting nicer.

Can you imagine sitting so close to someone while going?

This is the famous Library of Celsus at Ephesus.

This road used to lead to the port when the water was much closer to Ephesus.

The larger of the 2 amphitheaters in Ephesus.

Cats of Ephesus

About two weeks ago I finished my first one month intensive language class.  To celebrate my successful completion of the class (and to celebrate our 3rd anniversary) we took a mini-vacation to the city of Selcuk.  The main purpose of the trip was to visit Efes (Ephesus), which is walking distance from the city center.  We have many pictures to show you.  Here’s a little preview.  No one lives in Ephesus now, as you know.  But apparently many cats do!

Where is Waldo?

Last day in London

Well friends, we’ve finally made it – my last post about our London vacation!  Our last day in London happened to be Mark’s birthday!  To celebrate his birthday, we took a trip to Windsor Castle.  We were so impressed with the castle.  We were told that the Queen actually prefers Windsor to Buckingham.  She often comes to stay at Windsor on the weekends.  The grounds were beautiful, and the weaponry and art collections in the State Apartments were amazing (sorry, no pictures to show you).  One interesting thing in the castle was Queen Mary’s Doll House.  While it’s nothing compared to the grandeur of the rest of the castle, this doll house boasts extremely intricate details, such as real silver dining sets, running water, flushable toilet, real books written by famous authors and bound in scale size (1:12), and real wine in the wine bottles.

In the evening we came back to London to go to Royal Albert Hall.  Soon after we arrived London we found out the BBC Proms (a classical music festival that takes place in London every summer) actually opened during our week in London.  I was not about to let go of this chance of going to a BBC Proms concert in the Royal Albert Hall!  And to hear one of my favourite pieces ever!  Mark was very kind to let us do that  on his birthday.  In my opinion we could not have ended our London vacation any better!

We caught the end of the changing of the guard at Windsor when we arrived.

I’d like to think of our snack as royal ice cream.

This is a house in the town of Windsor.  Can you tell what’s wrong with it?

Going to hear Rachmaminoff’s piano concerto No.2 in the Royal Albert Hall!

Prince Albert Memorial across the street from the Albert Hall.  To be honest, the memorial seemed a bit out of place there.

The grand finale.  Thank you, London, we really enjoyed our time with you.  I hope to see you again in the near future.


London Day 6 – Covent Garden and the British Museum

Okay, this is getting out of hand.  I NEED to finish posting pictures from our London trip.

On day 6, which was a Sunday, we first visited Covent Garden market.  We watched some street performers perform, shopped in the market a little.  We had lunch at a pub next to the market, I had the famous Sunday roast.  I love me some roast!  Then we spent the afternoon at the British Museum.  There was simply too much to see.  It was a nice and relaxing Sunday.

Covent Garden

“I ain’t done nothin’ wrong by speaking to the gentleman. I’ve a right to sell flowers if I keep off the kerb. I’m a respectable girl: so help me, I never spoke to him ‘cept so far as to buy a flower off me.” – Eliza Doolittle

I thought you might like a picture of my half eaten Sunday roast.

The British Museum

Assyrian lion from the 800’s BC

The Rosetta Stone

Mark wished he was one of them 🙂

What’s a trip to the British Museum without visiting the mummies?  Apparently everyone else thought so, too.  It was so crowded I couldn’t get a good picture of them.

Quick Update

So it’s taking me forever to finish posting about our trip to London.  I will continue to put some pictures of the rest of our London vacation on the blog.  It’s been three months since that trip.  In the last three months we have gone back to the US for training, finished training, visited families in the northwest and Iowa, come back to Central Asia, and this past weekend, moved into our own apartment!  Woo-hoo!!!  After moving 6 times and living out of suitcases this year, it sure is nice to have our own place again!

We have started our life here in CA at full speed.  We are both busy with our jobs, and soon we hope to get back to language learning.  In the midst of all that we will unpack, set up our apartment, and try to establish some kind of routine.  It’s good to be home!

London – Day 5

Day 5 in London began with a tour of the Westminster Palace, or the Houses of Parliament.  We had to pay to get tickets online, but it was worth every pence!  A couple of months before we left for London I had been following UK’s general election on television.  Since I learned more about UK’s politics it was especially interesting for me to visit the House of Lords and House of Commons.  The whole place was so regal.  But, you guessed it right, no photography was allowed inside.  The only place we could take pictures of was Westminster Hall, the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster, built between 1097-1099.

After lunch we headed to Tower of London.  For some reason, it seemed to me more like an enchanted castle from a Disney movie.  All the mysteries and stories we read about on our tour there made it seem even more unreal.  But it’s a real castle!

We went inside this building to see the spectacular Crown Jewels.  For a moment (maybe longer than a moment) I wished I were the Queen of England!

Part of the White Tower, the oldest part of the castle (circa 1080)

The largest and smallest armours in the royal armour collection

Tower Bridge

Day 4 – Cambridge

On this day, we took the train out to Cambridge.  The train ride was a good way to start the day.  The countryside was so beautiful and peaceful.  We walked from the train station to town.  On the way I got me a cup of latte that was probably one of the best I’ve had in my life.  Yum!  We visited King’s College Chapel first.  Ate lunch at a cozy English pub, where Francis Crick and James Watson first made the announcement of their discovery of DNA on February 28, 1953.  Then we walked through St. John’s College, down the Backs, up to Clare College.  Went into the Cambridge University Press bookshop.  But we did not feel very intellectual that day, so we did not buy any books.  After browsing through the market place, we made our way down to the River Cam to go punting.  We opted to have a chauffeured tour, so that we could enjoy the view and have a relaxing time without having to worry about keeping the punt from flipping over or running into the river bank.  It turned out to be a very enjoyable time.  That was our day in Cambridge.

King’s College

We came in at the right time.  Someone was practicing on the organ, and the acoustics were amazing!


St. John’s College

Punting on River Cam (traffic was a bit heavy)

View of King’s College from the river

Wren Library