Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday's Moment: Swimming with Papa

So some other bloggers do this....and I'm going to try it out for a bit. Once a week you post just a photo, could be a people shot, could just be a scenic shot, maybe a label or two. I've decided to go with Monday for this. A number of family members subscribe and get a nifty little email after I've posted why not start Monday off with a nice sweet moment that makes one smile. :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Training in Vienna Austria

Back in May, I was lucky enough to be able to attend some week long training in Vienna, Austria. My understanding was, for my position "extra" training (beyond what you normally would get at FSI) is not a normal occurrence. Of course, each Post and position can be different.

Due to some staffing changes at Post, I was asked to attend ISSO (Information Systems Security Officer) training. The closest training to me ended up being in Vienna. I have been to Austria before (Innsbruck) back in 2000, but I have never been to Vienna. Due to airfare price, Deb and the kids weren't able to join me ($500/pp round trip x  3 would be pricey) so I got to go by myself (don't feel bad though, Deb and her Dad got to go to Warsaw for a few days while I stayed with the kids).

I'm a big fan of using Instagram. It's much easier to take pictures with my iPhone and let Instagram do the post processing for me vs lugging around a dslr and then having to do post production on the computer. Plus it's easier to stash my phone in my back pocket.

As with almost every flight out of Tbilisi, you leave at the crack of dawn (or sometimes before). This was the view from my site as the sun began to rise.

Most of my days were spent in class, but I did get the chance to explore some in the late afternoon/evenings after class. The hotel I was put up at was in the Museumsquartier (aka Museum Quarter) of Vienna. The hotel was very trendy, not a place I'd normally stay but it was nice.

I had to take a picture of the bathtub and send to Deb. I'm not a huge bath fan, but I will admit I indulged in a few baths while there (the tub was too good to pass up).

I've come to ignore the weather forecast in Tbilisi, as I've found it's not correct quite often. So I chose to ignore the forecast for Vienna. It had been warm in Tbilisi when I left, so I figured it would be warm in Vienna too. Wrong, it was cold, windy and rainy. So I only ended up with 2 afternoons where I could go out and explore before the rain set in at the end of the week.

Obligatory selfie in front of the Hofburg Palaces Neuberg wing. This is now the National Library or Austria. Note my hair being blown around.

Stephandsom, St. Stephens Cathedral. The church was completed in 1160 and is the "mother church" of the archdiocese of Vienna.

Peterkirche, St. Peters Church. This church was completed in 1733.

Strauss und Lanner statue, located in the Rathaus Park. This park is located right next to the Rathaus. This statue shows Josef Lanner, the "father" of the Waltz and Johann Strauss, whose family made the Vienna Waltz world famous.

Rathaus, the City Hall of Vienna. The building is in Gothic style and complete in 1883. I walked past this building every day to and from class.

Another photo of Rathaus. Every year from November 14 - December 24, the plaza in front of the Rathaus is filled with stalls for the annual Christkindlmarkt.

Kunsthistorisches Museum, aka Museum of Fine Arts. The building was opened in 1891 by Emperor Franz Josef 1 of Austria-Hungary.

Karlskirche (St. Charles' Church). In 1713 the Black Plague swept through Vienna, and Emperor Charles V1 of the Holy Roman Empire, made a vow to build a church and name it after his patron Saint, Charles Borromeo. Borromeo was revered as a healer for plague sufferers. Construction began in 1716 and was completed in 1737.

Austrian flag in the wind.

Eagle guarding the entrance to the Volksgarten (Peoples Garden). The park was originally part of the Hofburg Palace, and was built over fortifications that were destroyed by Napoleon in 1809. The park was opened to the public in 1823.

Another view of the Hofburg Palaces Neuberg wing. From this balcony is 1938, Adolf Hitler announced the "Anschluss" of Austria into the Third Reich.

Statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy in front of the Hofburg Palace in the Heldenplatz (Hero's Square). He was a great Austrian General and Napoleon considered him one of the seven greatest commanders in history.

Statue of Archduke Charles of Austria in the Heldenplatz. The statue was inaugurated in 1860 and is meant to show how great the Hapsburg dynasty was.

I had a really good time in Vienna. I told Deb I wouldn't complain if we were stationed in Vienna at some point during my career.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Uplistsikhe is a cave town about seven km from the city of Gori. The town grew over several hundred years in the first millennium BC (aka during the Iron Age)! At one point in time about 20,000 people lived in the cave town and it was along a major trade route during the Middle Ages.

Some Mongol invasions of the 13th century, a  number of earthquakes, and the fall of Byzantine Empire cause most people to move out of the cave city. By the 15th century, only shepherds were still living here.

Resting after climbing up the first huge flight of stairs

At one point there was an entire town, with streets, churches, stores, palaces and residential houses! Everything was carved into the soft stone of the mountainside. They even carved little nooks and crannies to store things in. Not sure if the kids were really resting in the 'chairs' and 'beds' as they called them or not....

A nice staircase (it was a little narrow, so we walked around a different side).

Checking out the rooms and holes (there were some sacrificial pits noted on the map, not sure if these are them...eek, the Christians 'converted' the pits to storage) in the ground.

Sitting in a room in the medieval palace.

We were up pretty high and somebody constantly had to be remind to hold our hand.

The city overlooks the Mtkvari River (the one that flows into Tbilisi). The kids and I eventually left through a secret tunnel of rock that emerged right at the river.

My dad and Richard took a break from the heat to rest and watch lizards,

 while the kids and I went exploring more!

View from nearly the top.

The largest opening was the Three-Naved Cave Basilica.....the kids are obviously impressed (Clarissa was writing 'C's all over in the sand).

The three-Church Basilica was built in the 9th or 10th centuries and was used until the 15th century when the last of the clergy was killed. They were burning some incense and Clarissa didn't want to go in.

Little homes everywhere....we even happened upon the wine cellar but there was a large group in it so I didn't take any photos.

The kids did awesome climbing...once we made it up that first hill, we even kept exploring on our way back down!

Our GPS took us back home along a rural highway and we ran into some cows on the way.....Check out the super pregnant one in the back.

So that was our little adventure to the cave city. My dad said he enjoyed just driving through the countryside and small villages more than anything.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

We went chasing waterfalls

So in the Old Tbilisi part of the city (near Mother Georgia and the Bath District), there is a botanical garden located behind the Narikala Fortress and Mother Georgia). We had gone with some friends a few months ago to the playground (kid's zip line anyone? Clarissa even rode on it multiple times!).

So when we got to the National Botanical Garden, we paid and went in (about $0.50 each!). We headed up past the playground....oops, not the main trail. We meandered around some foot trails. At one point we were above a small bridge and rose garden. So when we came to forks in the trail, we started heading downward. We ended up at the base of the waterfall on the waterfall what do you do?

Why, you take off your shoes and walk through the water. It was very cool and refreshing (and not very deep at all).

Selfie with my dad!

I played with my shutter speed some, but it was so bright the real slow shutter speed photos were all over exposed.

The Queen Tamar bridge crosses over the top of the 40-meter waterfall.

So the botanical gardens were started as part of the palace/fortress in 1625. It was pillage during a Persian invasion in 1795, and after the gardens were revived it became officially establish as a city Botanical Garden in 1845. It has gradually expanded over time and currently covers 161 hectares (almost 400 acres).

We only visited a small fraction of the gardens. I feel I can make a lot more trips and a still find something new every time (the IWA Georgia, has a walking group I plan to join in the fall when I don't have to rush back to pick Clarissa up at 1pm that walks the garden).

Nice view of the downtown from the gardens.

The backside of the fortress wall.

An amazing strong and photogenic ant.

My dad :)

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Jvari Monastery with Papa

So Clarissa calls my dad Papa (shortened version of Grandpa I guess), she may outgrow it but it is cute for now.

Back a few months ago, we went to Mtskheta to explore. So I won't go into the history of the place, since you already know it.  One morning while the kids were in school, I took my dad to visit it. We arrived really early after dropping off the kids and Richard, the town was just starting to wake up. So we walked to the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. I remembered to wear a skirt and bring a scarf, but I forgot men are suppose to wear long pants. Since my Dad was wearing shorts, we just peaked our heads in.

My dad did sample the water from the interesting water fountains (after watching someone else grab a drink).

I also got a token photo by the church where I got a shot of the kiddos. At times, seeing the sheer size of the church compare to my dad really makes the fact it was built in the 11th century just that more amazing!

A couple days later. We all went up to Jvari Monastery. Jvari sits atop a hill overlooking the city of Mtskheta. You can see where the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers meet. (Mtkvari is the river that runs through Tbilisi). You can also the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral towards the middle of the photo.

A cross was built on this sight during the 4th century to mark the victory of Christianity over pagan gods. During the second half of the 6th century a small church was built north of the cross. This church is ruins, but the kids really enjoyed looking out the windows.

About a century later, a larger church was built around the cross. Other than some damage during an Arab attack in the 10th century, the church is in really good shape.

Inside the church you can still see the stone base of the original 4th century cross (can't see it in the was crowded during the service going on so we only got one shot)!! From the angle my dad, the kids, and I were standing at, a sunbeam from the window was hitting the cross directly. Richard got a photo in a different spot, but you can still see the sunbeam.

Since we had my dad with us, we took some family photos in front of the Georgian landscape.

I didn't say we were all looking at the camera may have been a tad breezy up on the top of the hill.

 She can smile nicely for photos!

 With my dad, Mason was a little uncertain of the edge/wall we were sitting on.

Cool tree with built in seat. Clarissa is blowing you kisses!

Richard announcing 'Livin' large!'

The old church ruins and the the current Jvari Monastery. After visiting the monastery, we took my dad to lunch to sample some Georgian food. We were too hungry....we did not get any photos of the food.