Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cruise without leaving the dock.

January 3 - Feb 8 (one month!)

It's been so long since I've written the on the blog, I just had to get back on because I miss everyone out there in cyber land (or space).  Not much of significance has happened because Cheryl and I are still in recovery from the Holidays but we still make it a point experience new more local places/events.

We decided to jump on the A4 and drive an hour and fifteen minutes to Rotterdam for the weekend.  A very unique city, Rotterdam is home to 633,000 people.  It is a major logistic and economic center and believe it or not, is Europe's largest port.  The architecture is very interesting and more modern than other Netherlands cities because the city center was completely decimated during bombing raids in WWII.
As most of you know, Cheryl and I love cruise ships and since it has been a few years since our last cruise we decided to spend the weekend on the USS Rotterdam.  The USS Rotterdam was launched in 1959 and had a wonderful career (do ships have careers?) sailing around the world until being retired and turned into a floating hotel at it's home port.  OK OK so we didn't really go on a cruise but we had a blast nevertheless.   The ship had all the expected cruise ship amenities like the lido deck and it's 50 mph winds.  Unfortunately there was not a salon on board to help Cheryl put her hair back together.

They did have a piano singer in the Captains Lounge who was very good.  Though I must say it was interesting hearing him say "Welkom in de kapiteinslounge. Dus erg leuk om je aan boord te hebben." Then crank our some Billy Joel and Beatles songs in English.  It was appreciated too.

One of our goals when we moved to Amsterdam was to try and get more "cultured."  I'm not sure if that's possible considering we still have our "You Might be a Red Neck If...." calendar in the bathroom.  Ever the optimist, we bought yearly membership passes to The Netherlands museums.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that we bought them in early December and used them for the first time last week.  For those of you keeping score at home, that is six weeks.  It likely would have been less time if the Heineken Museum was included but unfortunately it was not.  So we walked to the near by and famous Rijksmuseum.  It was as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside and I was amazed by the fascinating works of art.  My brain was not used to all of that mental exercise so after about an hour we decided to kill some of the cells we just exercised with a few beers.  Hey, we need to slowly lean into this culture thing.  We certainly don't want to pull a muscle.

As for our evenings, during the week we are pretty low key.  We may visit a neighborhood restaurant but usually we stay in.  We've started a few Netflix series.  Ozark was really good though I was bummed there were only two seasons.  We are currently on Black Mirror and House of Cards (OK, I know we are late to the party).

On the weekends we always go exploring.  Sometimes we just grab a Tram and say "OK let's get off at the 5th stop and see whats there."  That usually produces good results but most of the time we've prefunctioned in our apartment beforehand then can never remember where we ended up.  So if you come to visit don't expect a lot of recommendations.

Though Cheryl and I have not traveled outside The Netherlands since the kids left, I have had to travel a bit for work.  I went to Istanbul for the opening of a new office there and then went to Barcelona for a meeting later the same week.  Every time I write statements like that it freaks me out.  Seriously, Istanbul and Barcelona the same week?  The sad part is that sometimes I feel like a "corporate traveler." I get stuck behind a person who actually thinks is OK to recline their seat.  Are you kidding me?  Also when I traveled to Barcelona my flight got in late and I was tired and actually just ordered room service, did some email and went to bed.  OUCH.  Felt bad that I didn't take in the city, so after our meeting the following day I made it a point to go for a walk around the city. 

We hope you are all doing well!  Until next time.......

Thursday, January 3, 2019

European Holiday with the Family!!

December 8 - January 2 (2019!!!)

Well it's been a long time coming and something we have been talking about since April.  The Winkler's invade Europe!!  I'll end the suspense right now.  No one got deported or arrested, but we did have a lot of fun.  There is a lot to cover so sit down and grab your beverage of choice and get comfortable.  Personally, I am going to have some water as I need to dry out a little after two weeks of singlehandedly attempting to empty every keg and wine bottle in London, Amsterdam and Barcelona (but more on that later).

Before the family arrived, Cheryl and I took a weekend trip to a fun little village called Valkenburg.  It's about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Amsterdam near the Belgium and German borders.  In fact, that is one of the reasons to visit as you can stand in three countries at one time just south of town. Of course Cheryl and I had to partake and stood in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany all at one time.  It was pretty cool.

The town of Valkenburg is known for creating a Christmas atmosphere with fun shops and decorations and we wanted to get in the Christmas spirit so off we went.  Now you know those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies where the entire town looks like a Macy's store window and you laugh at how everything is just perfect down to the carolers walking the streets?  Welcome to Valkenburg.  We had a wonderful time just walking, shopping and getting in the Christmas spirit.  The funny thing was, while we were in the hotel getting ready for dinner we heard drums playing outside our hotel window and when we looked out?  Yep, a Christmas parade.  Did I just say Hallmark movie?

The next week was filled with anticipation as we waited for the our flight to London where we would meet the kids for the first leg of our European Vacation (step aside Chevy).  The plan was to all meet in London but unfortunately Kyle and Lindsay got stranded in NYC because of the drone fiasco at the Gatwick London airport.  Though we missed them terribly, they were able to get a flight to Amsterdam on the 23rd (whew!).

The 2 days (actually 1.5) in London were a whirlwind.  A lot of walking, site seeing, eating and drinking.  If you've never been to London during the holidays it is terrific.  There are decorated streets around every corner.  Not quite like Valkenburg but pretty neat.  We were able to see all the classic sites like Buckingham palace, Parliament, Westminster and of course Big Ben.  That was a little underwhelming as the clock tower is undergoing a renovation but of course we still needed to get a selfie.   We (along with 100,000 other people) walked Carnaby Street which has incredible lights.  To add additional impact, the lighted banners had the words to Bohemian Rhapsody to mark the release of the movie about Queen.   We ate at a terrific Indian restaurant called Dishoom that Jenna had on her list and shared many small plates.  Finally, as if all that was not enough for 1.5 days, we decided on a trek out to Abbey Road where we could walk across the famous crosswalk that the Beatles did in 1969.  It was hilarious watching people try to avoid traffic and get that perfect Instagram shot.  Of course we were right there with them.  I'm sure the locals just love idiots like us stopping traffic 24/7.  Wish we had more time in London but we had to get make to Amsterdam for Christmas!

Cheryl and I have been looking so forward to having the kids see our life in Amsterdam.  We wanted to schedule specific activities yet provide everyone time to explore on their own.  You know, so they could smoke a joint or see a sex show in the Red Light District.  Experience the real Amsterdam!  We had everyone stay in our place the first two nights but figured people would start requiring additional space by day three so we rented a room at a neighborhood hotel (come on, we love each other but we aren't idiots!)

Our first experience was a canal ride on a boat to see the lights of Amsterdam from the water.  Though we had great weather every day but one, it so happened the one was during the canal ride.  We were stuck in a 20 foot boat with plastic on three sides.  Fortunately for us we had plenty of beer and Gluhwein wine to keep us going.  Oh and I mustn't forget the matching Amsterdam hats we got to keep us warm.  The only thing missing from those were the neon lights spelling out "tourist"

The remaining three days were filled with traditional activities on Christmas Eve like making mini pizzas and watching Christmas movies.  We played board games, drank wine and enjoyed each others company.  It was a wonderful time.  After Christmas we explored the city visiting the Food Hallen (think big food court) wine tasting and of course we had to test our ice skating abilities.  Not a lot to share there except that fortunately there were no injuries.  We took the "More Beer Tour" (think BrewCycle without the cycle) and of course walked the Red Light district.  I must say, regardless of how old your kids are, it's a little awkward walking past half naked women in windows and sex shops and theaters with them.  "Hey kids let's step inside the Banana Bar and see what's shakin'.  I hear the food is delicious"

Two legs down and one to go.  Since the kids spent so much vacation time and money to "cross the pond" we felt it would be a shame to not visit one more European city.  There are so many options!  We discussed visiting the snow in Austria or the Colosseum in Rome but settled on the great and historic city of Barcelona!  Jenna was meeting a friend of hers to taste the delicious cuisine and wine in Paris and was unable to join us.  We missed her but from the pictures we saw, she had a great time.

We rented an Air BnB in a great location near the center of town so we could walk to most places.  And walk we did!  My Apple activity monitor had us walking an average of over 20K steps a day!  We even walked to see the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  For those not familiar with Barcelona, that's the one on the TOP OF THE HILL on the outskirts of town.  If you're keeping score at home, I got 21K steps and 131 floors climbed that day.  Did I mention I was wearing jeans?  Hello?  This is vacation!

The rest of the trip was a lot of fun.  We saw the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, the, Cathedral of Barcelona, the Olympic Stadium, attended a Barcelona basketball game and dipped our feet in the Mediterranean Sea.  Unfortunately the tickets to see the inside of the famous La Sagrada Familia were sold out, but just being near the outside is extremely impressive.  A few us even decided to take a sail boat ride on the Mediterranean Sea.  If you're keeping score at home, I got no steps for that trip and was extremely happy about it.

It wasn't all about seeing the sites, we also had some terrific meals and plenty of beer and wine (big surprise there!).  We had street food at the Central Market, amazing paella at Bodega Joan and Italian at the El Nacional.  Barcelona is catching up to the beer culture and we found many great beer places like the Beer Garage and the Humble Beer.

We were fortunate to be able to spend New Year's Eve in Barcelona.  We had dinner as a fun place called Beer'linale.  From there we went back to cheers a fantastic 2018 and welcome 2019 and play Kings Cup.  It was my first time playing this drinking game, and between having to drink with T-Rex arms, naming types of cereal and answering questions with questions, I'm surprised we made it out on the town to celebrate at midnight.  But we ended up at the Dow Jones Bar where prices for drinks fluctuate with how many drinks are sold.  Needless to say, prices soared when the Winklers walked through the door.  We had a great time and loved that we had no where to be the next morning and slept until 11 am.

Unfortunately the time came to say good bye.  Cheryl and I had an early flight back to Amsterdam while everyone else flew out later in the day to London.  I think it was good that the good byes happened quickly in the morning which minimized the tears.  We had so much fun being together and I so look forward to when we are all together again.  Cheryl and I love and miss our family so much.

Until next time........Happy New Year everyone!!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Life in Amsterdam

November 16 - December 7

Well we've reached the 6 month mark of our European experience.  As I reflect, there is a part of me that says the transition and been extremely smooth, but at the same time we have had to make major adjustments.  Since we are in a bit of a traveling break I thought I'd share a few of those.  I will start with transportation.  The city is always a buzz with people moving about, all with somewhere to go.
So you've heard of the movie titled "Planes Trains and Automobiles."  Amsterdam should be titled "Bikes, People, Trams, Scooters, Trains and Automobiles."  One of the key differences in The Netherlands and the US is personal responsibility.  The mixing of people and vehicles is like a large jambalaya.  You are expected to look where you are going and pay attention.  No guardrails or loud sirens.  Just a bell on the tram and voice from a bicycle "ga uit de weg!"  Look down.  If you are between two rails you'd better move.  Not too complicated.

On a related note, do not drive in the city unless you absolutely have to.   There is movement everywhere and if a car runs into something, it's is always the cars fault.  Combined that with the rain and darkness at 4:30 pm in the winter and if you drive, you are shaking hands with danger bro!

We have verified that the "whatever, whenever" reputation of Amsterdam is well earned.  There are outdoor urinals, the smell of marijuana at every corner and of course the red light district.  People typically dress in darker colors and a little more conservatively, but they don't blink an eye at wild outfits, body piercings and tattoos everywhere or brightly colored hair.  Cheryl and I have yet to partake into many of these activities but I did keep with tradition and dress up for Halloween.  Funny how people walk right past the person with 58 nose and ear piercings and florescent yellow hair but stair in amazement at a "pumpkin pi" costume.

With all the wonderful things The Netherlands as to offer, native food is not their strongest attribute.  Certainly you can get delicious food in the city (particularly Indonesian) but home grown food is an acquired taste.  For example, I have become friends with a local marathon runner Paul Zwama, who by the way, just set the world record for running a marathon on a treadmill (click here.)  He is a good cook of Dutch food and invited us over for Hutspot.  Its a native dish of mashed potatoes and carrots often served with sausage.  It is healthy and Paul did a great job cooking it, but it's not something you would seek out in a local restaurant.

Cheryl and I live in a terrific location in Amsterdam a block from the Museumplein (think Van Gogh museum).  We are always walking over there to see what's going on.  They do a terrific job transforming this area into new and unique experiences.  For example, this summer they set up a polo match.  No joke, the kind with horses and the whole deal.  Right now they are in the holiday spirit and have created a winter wonderland including an ice skating rink.  There are markets, museums (obviously) and simply people picnic on the grass.  It is a very unique and popular place.

Stairs, stairs and more stairs - The unique architecture in Amsterdam is from the 17th century and believe it or not, they didn't have the ADA back then.  Most of the buildings are at least 5 level and contain narrow steep stairs.  Our apartment is better than most but I still need to do a little stretching and get in a mental zone every night I come home from work before attacking the stairs to our living room.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes - There are over 880,000 bikes in Amsterdam compared to a population of 850,000.  Now I'm no Einstein but that's a pretty high ratio.  People ride their bikes everywhere in any kind of weather.  Sorry, mine's stored until spring!  You can see Cheryl cruising on her fancy bike along the canal (when the weather was warmer of course).

It's December now and the kids will be here for Christmas.  We are really looking forward to that and you can bet there will be a few stories to share.  Knowing our family, they might not be fit for all ages.  Until then, enjoy the Holidays!!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The blurry lights of Berlin

October 27 - November 15

Germany has been on the must visit list from the first day we arrived in Europe.  Our initial plan was to go to Munich for Oktoberfest for large steins of beer of course!!  Between the Belfast trip and going to Barcelona, we could not get the schedule worked out. I can't believe I just wrote that.  Until 9 months ago our biggest travel conflicts were fitting in a Woodburn Walmart trip in between a visit to Vernonia City Park and shopping at Washington Square.  Fortunately, Nike has an office in Berlin and I needed to take trip there to meet the local team and tour the area.  Though not the foamy steins of beer, loud music and wearing lederhosen (yes I have a pair) that we expected, Berlin was a wonderful experience.  As we have traveled, we have found most cities in Europe have extremely rich and interesting histories that date back hundreds of years.  Berlin also has its share of old history, but it’s more recent history including WWII, the cold war and rise and fall of the Berlin Wall is captivating.   

We decided to stay in ANOTHER 25 hour hotel.  No balcony tub here but there was a sauna room just down the hall.  We decided to go for a sauna fairly late at night and I had the bright idea to get comfortable and remove my contacts so I could close my eyes and relax.  I didn’t realize that the sauna had a glass wall that overlooked the city.  Cheryl told me it was an amazing view and was oooing and ahhhing and I just saw blurry images that looked more like a kaleidoscope than the lights of Berlin.  Then just as we were leaving, a couple came in and enjoyed the sauna the European way (if you know what I mean.)  Again, I just saw blurry images, but from the report Cheryl gave there was not much to ooo and ahhhh over.  To quote famous line "They were real but they weren't spectacular!"

We took another Hop On, Hop Off bus to tour Berlin.  I must say, we really enjoyed driving through Berlin.  It is the capital of Germany and home to 3.7 million people.  Though it has a long history dating back to the 12th century, its recent history is what was so fascinating to Cheryl and I.  The symbolic significance of Berlin as the Capital of Germany during WWII and the many buildings that still show damage from the bombings and then the building of the Berlin Wall in 1969 and finally the reunification in 1989.  As we drove past Checkpoint Charlie into the former East Berlin, you can see a definite change in architecture.  The East is more utilitarian with simple, efficient, square buildings.  Even the landmark "TV Tower" which served an important function, but was also meant to represent Communist power is quite plain and simple.  

We definitely enjoyed the food.  It was as expected, in terms of lots of meats, potatoes and heavy sauces.  Our Nike site lead recommended a place called Schnitzelei.  They have a long list of appetizers/tapas that all looked very good so we ordered 9 of them.  OMG, it was delicious.  Of course there was a lot of bread to go with it so between the loaf of bread and 9 tapas and of course a beer (or two) I felt like Augustus Gloop.  Staying true to tradition, we had to try the local pub and bar scene.  We eventually "stumbled" upon a cool bar called the House of Gin.  It's located in the Hotel Palace Berlin and has over 150 types of gin on their shelves.  The drinks are very creative.  My Old Smoke Fashion was served in a smoke filled lantern.  

We were also able to see all the other sites including the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag (German Parliament building), TV Tower and Berlin Cathedral just to name a few.  Our favorite attraction was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  It is a breathtaking place.  It covers 200,000 square feet with over 2700 individual concrete slabs.  A very impactful memorial.    

No more big trips planned until the family comes over for Christmas so we will hang out in Amsterdam and getting ready for the Holidays!!  Until next time........

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Balcony Tub and Game of Thrones!

October 5 - October 26

Seriously, how hard can it be to update a blog?  Sheesh, I am so far behind.  Between all the traveling, food and alcohol tasting and trying to at least fake like I'm doing something at work, I have fallen very far behind on keeping up to date on the blog.   A friend mentioned to me that they enjoyed reading about the Istanbul trip and I thought Istanbul?  That was forever ago.  We've been to Western Germany, Northern Ireland and Berlin since then.  I guess I'd better grab a Heineken (or 3) and start typing.

After that terrific trip to Istanbul we decided to stay a little closer to home for a couple weeks which for us means not flying.  We still wanted to go somewhere new by car or train.  Where to go, where to go.  How about Germany?  Only a 2.5 hour trip by car to the border.  Sounds good!  We settled on a stop in Dusseldorf for a night then to Cologne.  We didn’t put much thought into it (our typical procedure involves a coin and flip), but figured they must have beer, food and old buildings to look at so how can you go wrong?  As a special bonus, the historical Rhine River runs through both cities!

The first learning as we crossed the border was no speed limit.  As you know, I am very gun shy when it comes to speeding following my 3 speeding tickets for going less than 5 km/hr over the speed limit in the area outside Amsterdam.  I didn’t see any of the familiar red, white and black signs so I set the cruise control at what I figured was a safe 100 km/hr and moved over to the right lane with grandma and grandpa.  Much to my surprise, cars were flashing their lights and blowing past us like we were standing still.  I mustered up the courage to go 120 km/hr but that was it and we turned on a “How I built this” podcast and settled in for a nice drive to Dusseldorf.

Dusseldorf is a very nice town of about 600,000 people known for telecommunications and art and fashion (I still wore sweats and a T-Shirt).  We stayed at a fun/trendy hotel called 25 Hours and had the option to pay an additional 5 euros for a soaking tub on the balcony and of course we went for it.  Nice that the weather was still warm so there wasn’t too much shrinkage going from the tub to the room.  I signed us up for a boat tour on the Rhine River as I thought it would be a terrific way to see the city.  We decided to go early to ensure we knew where the pier was.  We’d then walk the park and city until our tour started.  What a great plan!  We went to KD Pier and saw one tour boat there and figured we were at the right place and off we went exploring.  We returned 10 minutes before our scheduled departure and as we approached the boat noticed that there were no people boarding.  In fact there were no people at all.  Hmmmmm.  Not a good sign.  So I double checked the location and verified we were at the right pier but upon closer inspection the “pier” is essentially the entire East side of the river bank and our boat was 3 km away!  So much for the boat trip!

On to Cologne.  It is about 45 km from Dusseldorf so an easy and quick (with no speed limit) drive.  There are 1 million people who live in Cologne but it didn’t feel that big.  We stayed at another 25 Hour hotel (our new favorite) in a central location with an easy walk to many fun places.  It was also the weekend of the Cologne marathon.  I was going to run it but unfortunately entry was closed (and if you believe that…).

We of course hit a market and had to have a German beer and Bratwurst.  From there we took a walk to see the Cologne Cathedral.  What a magnificent building!  The area around it has become a central square and many musicians playing and artists producing beautiful drawings on the walkway.  We decided to have dinner looking right at the Cathedral.  I don't even remember how the food tasted.....

My team at work had an off site planning session in Barcelona at the new office facility there at the beautiful La Rotonda building.  It was a quick trip and Cheryl decided not to join me.  The team got a lot accomplished, ate at a nice restaurant and enjoyed some authentic Flamenco dancing.

The next weekend Cheryl and I got itchy to fly somewhere so we decided on Ireland before it got too cold.  We settled on the logical choice and were headed to Dublin.  A couple weeks before, we were strolling around Amsterdam and walked into an Irish bar for a beer (big surprise there).  While bellying up to the bar, we struck up a conversation with the bartender and he convinced us that Belfast was a better place to visit.  So we changed our plans and headed to Northern Ireland.  Though I'm sure we would have enjoyed Dublin we had a terrific time in Belfast.

There is a lot of history in Belfast. It is a city with a population of about 300,000 but in its hey day in the early 20th century was over 450,000.  It is a town know for linen production, tobacco, rope manufacturing, and of course ship building.  The Titanic was built in Belfast in 1912 by the famous ship building company Harland and Wolff.  There is a wonderful interactive museum at the site where the Titanic was built and Cheryl and I had a great afternoon there learning about the terrible, yet fascinating tragedy.  Yes we even paid the 10 euros for the cheesy staged photo.

We also spent a day wondering the city center with all of the historical buildings including City Hall (which was very cool).  Two of the oldest buildings in Belfast are pubs, so of course we had to check them out (Dirty Onion 1680, Kelly's Cellars 1720).

One of the prettiest drives in the world (at least that's what the locals say) is the Causeway Coastal Route.  This drive consists of beautiful countryside and rugged coast line with castles to see and other points of interest.  Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and we had to deal with the rain the entire day.  This, coupled with me having to drive on the left side of the road had trouble written all over it, but we survived.

We visited the Carrickfergus Castle, Bushmill Distillery and the Dark Hedges.  Bushmill Distillery was granted a license to produce whiskey in 1608 and built the distillery in 1784.  The official tastings were closed for the day when we arrived but that didn't stop us, we just split shots!  Too bad I had to drive us home (that left side of the road thing too) and the tasting was cut short.  The Dark Hedges was also a fun stop.  Many of you may know it from the Game of Thrones which is filmed in Northern Ireland (another fun fact brought to you my the Winkler European blog!)

Cheryl and I are really enjoying our time here trying to maximize this opportunity which fills up the days.  We miss the family a lot and CAN NOT wait for Christmas when they will all join us here in Amsterdam.  It is going to be sooooo much fun.

Until next time......

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


September 26 - October 4

With a successful and wildly fun wedding behind us and a lovely new daughter law in the family, Cheryl and I can get back into the routine of exploring Europe.  Next stop?  Istanbul Turkey.  Yes you read that correctly.  I am going to Istanbul Turkey.  6 months ago I couldn't find Istanbul on a map and now I'm going there.  This sh*t is crazy! 

Nike is opening up a beautiful new office space in Istanbul and my team gets to provide the service experience for the employees there.  We had an all employee meeting to introduce the project so Cheryl decided to join me after the meetings so we could take a long weekend and explore this wonderful mid-eastern city.

Before Cheryl arrived, I had the fortunate experience to join my Nike colleagues and watch the first game of the Champions League at Turk Telcom Stadium.  Team Galatasaray  from Turkey and Lokomotiv from Moscow played with Galatasaray winning 3-0.  It was an AMAZING experience.  People often say how popular and fanatical the fans are in Europe but OH MY!  I had no idea it was like that.  We arrived 30 minutes early and there were no players on the field and the place was ROCKIN’!  Cheer’s and songs going non stop from 30 minutes before the start until the game ended 2 hours later and they don't even serve alcohol in the stadium!  My ears were ringing like I had just finished an AC/DC concert.

I know many of you probably snickered when I said I didn't know where Istanbul was, but I would bet any of you a glass of raki that you wouldn't come within 200 kilometers of it on an unmarked map (go ahead and try smarty pants).  A few fun facts for you.  Istanbul is the worlds 7th largest city (largest in Europe) at over 15 million people.  The Bosporus Strait that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea is the boarder of Europe and Asia and goes through the city.  The currency in Turkey is the lira which is worth about 1/6 of a euro (keep that in mind for later).  Cheryl and I stayed in the Taksim area which is in the heart of the city and a across the "Golden Horn" from the historical section of the city.

Following my work commitments, Cheryl arrived Wednesday evening and took a cab to our hotel.   I reminded her that cab drivers only take cash so be sure to have cash.  What I neglected to say was lira cash.  I happily met her in the lobby and before the hug, before the welcome kiss, the first thing she said was “wow that cab was expensive!  It was 120 euros!”  I felt a hot flash as I realized she paid 6X the cab fare (or 20 euros!)  I suggested we go have a drink in the bar then I broke the news that she made the cab drivers week by paying him a days wages for one cab ride.  Oh well, a Merry Moment came early in Istanbul.

The weekend was filled with visiting old historical sites including mosques, shopping in the markets and eating many delicious meals.  The sweets are especially delicious and we had our share of the Turkish specialty made by Hakkizade (est 1864).

There were many highlights, though I'm not sure what to share.  We went to dinner at Sur Balik seafood restaurant on the waterfront with a fantastic view of the Bosporus bridge.  We toured the Basilica Cistern (an underground reservoir) which was built by the Romans in the 6th century.  That's freaking OLD!  We really enjoyed the markets.  There was the Grand Bazaar and the spice market each filled with a variety of things to buy (Cheryl was in heaven).  She even got a pair of Birkenstocks for 60 TL (or 10 euros for you people tracking at home).  Of course they were knock offs but hey, as long as they aren't Nikes.

Though everything was very interesting, my most vivid memory was at the intersection of two streams of pedestrian traffic entering the Grand Bazaar. I have never seen (or felt) so many people in such a confined area.  If you are claustrophobic then you avoid this area at all costs.  It was insane.  People "copping a feel" and not even meaning to.

Another fantastic European city (or is it Asian?) to check off our list.  We have many more planned and until next time......

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Introducing Kyle and Lindsay Winkler

August 23 - September 25

Well it happened.  Kyle and Lindsay got married! The past few weeks have been filled with excitement and anticipation for the big event.  Cheryl and I returned to Oregon on September 1 to spend time with the family and help with any final preparations for the big day.  The flight back was OK, though I will say we have been spoiled flying in business class.  Sounds pretty pretentious coming from a couple who recently sold their 1998 Purple Dodge Stratus.  Once seated in our cramped seats in coach, the excitement grew as we watched person after person walk by us without sitting in an extra seat next to Cheryl. Then it happened.  We heard the attendant say “we have closed the cabin door.”  YES!  We won the seat lottery!  Spread out and enjoy the long flight back to Oregon 

Though Jenna, Kyle, Lindsay and the rest of the planning team had done a lot of work prior to our arrival, there were many errands to run during the week and much beer to drink as we made time to visit family and friends.  The Dossier Hotel provided free beer from 5:30 to 6:30 pm each night so Cheryl and I even made some new friends there. 

On Thursday the events kicked into gear with the rehearsal dinner on Jenna’s apartment terrace catered by Crown Piaya.  Delicious food, of course more beer, and a few fun stories about the bride and groom really set the stage for the eventful weekend left to come (most notably morning headaches).  On Friday we all grabbed a coffee and aspirin and headed to Hood River for the 9 am rehearsal at the beautiful wedding location (Mt Orchard). Yes 9 am!  I had not visited Mt Orchard since Kyle and Lindsay reserved the space nearly a year ago and had forgotten how amazing it was with fruit trees surrounding the venue and Mt Hood as the backdrop.  Breathtaking.  Everyone then met at Waterfront Park on the Columbia River for more beer and a wonderful BBQ.  Lindsay’s family and friends from Boston were there and it was so nice to meet them all.   

Then came Saturday.   What a wonderful day!  Family and friends all gathered in one place to celebrate Kyle and Lindsay.  I have been to more weddings than I can count but it sure is different when it’s one of your kids.  Needless to say, it was emotional and there were a few tears (didn’t see that coming!) as I had the honor of walking with Jenna down the aisle to met Kyle at the altar.  A moment I will never forget.  Congratulations Kyle and Lindsay.  September 8, 2018.  #winklerwedding2018

Though the wedding was the big news since the last entry, there have been a few other happenings.  Cheryl and I took a 2 day Netherlands Culture training class.  I know what you’re thinking…..  Chris and culture is an oxymoron but Nike is doing their best to help me grow into being a man of the world (don’t laugh!).  We learned Dutch history, food traditions and societal norms.  It explained why I’ve received a lot of the funny looks since I’ve been here. 

We also continued our exploration of the Netherlands and spent a weekend on Texel island.  Texel is an island with a population of 13,641 in the province of North Holland in the Netherlands.  It is a beautiful area that you must travel by ferry to get to.  It is a quiet place with lots of sheep and farmland and the home of Texel Brewery.  Funny how we quickly found that.  We stayed in the small marine town of Den Helder in a fun hotel called Lands End.  Of course I had to take advantage of the complementary robes to make the walk to the hot tub both comfortable and very stylish!

Finally, Cheryl and I began to receive visitors for the states this past month!  My sister Corinne and her fiancee Wilson, were our first official visitors.  They ended their 1000 kilometer bike trek across northern Europe in Amsterdam and we spent a few days walking the city (they didn’t feel much like riding bikes).  We then had Devin Brown and his girlfriend Olivia stop by for, yep, more beer and then Dee Rumburg and her sister Cindy also completed a bike tour around the Netherlands and stopped by for a few days prior to heading home.  So great to see familiar faces from the good ol USA.  Remember everyone, we have a spare bedroom! 

Now that the wedding is complete, Cheryl and I will be in Amsterdam for the foreseeable future and time for us to get back on the road.  Next stop?  Istanbul Turkey! 

Until then.......