Monday, July 11, 2011

Our trip is sadly coming to an end

Well, we are sad to say that we are leaving tomorrow. Although we miss the little buddy (Alex), we really have had a great time and don't want the time to end. There are so many other things we would have loved to see yet, but we are just thankful we got to see what we did.

Today we went to Ostia Beach. It's about 30 minutes away and we could get there by taking the subway. We went to a private beach (most of them are private which means you have to pay to get on the beach). The fee included a lounge chair for each of us and a table and a beach umbrella. Having those things included made us feel a bit more willing to pay to access the beach since obviously Brad didn't let me pack the beach chairs and umbrella. Even sitting in the shade most of the time we got sunburned. It was very hot today in the mid 90's and you could not walk on the sand barefeet without burning your feet. The water in the Mediterranean sea was so warm. Even though it was salt water, it felt great! We had done so much walking and sightseeing during the last week we decided that a relaxing day on the beach sounded good. And, we found out that a lot of the tourist attractions are closed on Monday's anyhow.

We will be getting our last gelato tonight. We will miss that treat when we get home. There is a little shop just up the road from our hotel and we have been there every night to get our nighttime snack. Mmm Mmm. Last night I thought I would try something different and I am not sure what happened (probably had something to do with the language barrier) but I got 1/2 of caramel (which I wanted) and 1/2 lemon (which I didn't order or even point at). The lemon was sooooo tart! And, mixing it with the caramel was not a good combination. Oh well, that's what happens sometimes when we don't speak Italian and they don't speak English. Tonight I might just stick with mint chocolate chip.

Thanks for reading our blog. We look forward to getting home and sleeping in our own bed again. But, we would also be ready to leave next week if we had the opportunity. We love to travel and are already discussing where we are going on the next trip. It probably won't be for a few years, but planning it is 1/2 the fun.

Brad was just checking his work e-mail and saw there were some huge storms that went through the area and took out some trees. We will go and check the local news websites now.

Kathy (and Brad and Beth)

Condo's on the beach

Mediterranean sea from our beach chairs

Sunday, July 10, 2011

città di molti passi - city of many steps

Well we are in Rome and it is very warm here.  It’s in the low 90’s but feels like high 90’s.  We have been going to see everything we can see, before we collapse on our bed for a rest and then we are back at it the next day.

The first day we had a tour of the Vatican.  We had to be there by 7:15am to get in at 7:30am.  The line started to form about 7:00am.  We had reservations with a tour group that got us in as some of the first without waiting in line. Our leader told us we were going to skip everything and go right to the Sistine Chapel, she said you will want to stop and take pictures but we will come back to take them afterwards.  She was right as soon as we started to walk through the first few rooms, I wanted to take pictures.  But we kept going to the Chapel.  We walked into the Sistine Chapel and there were only about 20 people in the chapel.  After the rest of our tour we had to travel through the chapel again and there had to be 200-300 people in there and we could hardly move through the crowd.  They do not allow pictures in the Sistine Chapel so we have none to show you.  Go check it out online, there are some good stories to read about.

After we rested for about 3 hours back at our hotel, we set out again.   First we saw The Capuchini Crypt.  Which is a church run by monks, built in 1645.  They have 6 rooms full of bones which are monks that lived there.

We then went and found the Spanish Steps.  Wow, was there a lot of people there.  Spent some time there and rested for a little bit. Then we went to find the Fontana di Trevi. We had to walk down some small roads, the classic Rome roads.  But after asking some people we found it.  I thought there were a lot of people at the Spanish Steps...there was more at the Fountain.  Same thing, we took pictures and rested then found a pizzeria for supper. Then we went back to our hotel to collapse on the beds.

The second day we had a tour of the Colosseum and Roman forum area.  Very cool, once again we had reservations so we could skip the lines which were about two to three hours just to get in.  We also got to go under the coliseum and see where the animals and gladiator’s moved around before they went out “on stage”.  Then we went to top and got a good look down, very cool, absolutely unbelievable.

As I am writing this we just felt a very small earth quake.  J
So here are some pictures we have taken.

The Vatican with the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the back ground.

St Peter’s Square looking back at St Peter’s Basilica.

Michelangelo’s  Pieta - Statue of Jesus and Mary.

Kathy and Beth walking down the Spanish Steps

The Fountain di Trevi

The Roman Coliseum  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saying goodbye to Cluj already

Well, it's hard to believe, but our time in Cluj has already come to an end. We knew we wouldn't have much time here (well Beth has been here since June 12), but Brad and I just got here on July 5. We would like to stay longer, but that is how things work out, so we are just glad we were able to come.

It has been a great experience. We had a list of things we wanted to see in Cluj and I think we were successful in seeing everything on our list. Every day we walked between 15,000-20,000 steps, so we are usually pretty tired at night, but we aren't complaining as the weather has been great and the things we have seen have been so awesome.

Yesterday we had a tour guide from Italy. I think his name is GianLuco (sorry if I got that wrong). He speaks good English (which is always helpful to us) and of course he speaks Italian and Romanian too. He is friends with the family that Beth stayed with so they were kind enough to arrange for him to be our driver and tour guide to take us to the Turda Salt Mine. Too hard to explain and pictures probably won't do it justice, but it is just absolutely amazing! Here is a link if you want to check it out:

Then from the Turda Salt Mine we went to the Turda Gorges. We did some walking around and a bit of climbing and the view from where we climbed to was unbelievable. We read that you can do rock climbing there, Beth said she wants to come back and do that sometime. We took a lot of pictures and again don't know if they will give the true picture of what it looked like, but at least we will have the memories.

This morning we walked through the Old City and also through one of the markets in Cluj. We had a Romanian pretzel called Covrigi, it was very good. That is one thing that is so neat about a city like this that we don't have at home. You just walk down the sidewalk and everything you would ever need is going to be in one of the stores you pass. Fresh meat, cold drinks, ice cream, pretzels, sandwiches, fresh bread and baked goods. Mmm Mmm. So much fun just to walk around and try different things.

Right now we are all packed and ready for the next journey of our trip. Our flight leaves Cluj at 7:40 pm and then we fly to Rome. We will then take a train from the airport and then a short walk (Brad's words) to our hotel which he tells us is near center the Rome. We will be there until Tuesday and then we fly back home.

That's all for now, sorry if my post got too long. Thanks for reading and thanks for praying for continued good health and safety.

Kathy (Brad and Beth too)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tired, but having a great time

Kathy here...thought I would try and update this blog. We are having a great time. Still adjusting to the time change (they are 7 hours ahead of us). We fall asleep pretty fast at night, but then wake up around 3 or 4 AM and then have a hard time going back to sleep. Brad and I were both awake and just laying in our beds for awhile between 3 & 5 AM before we finally fell back asleep for another couple of hours. We think we are doing fine, then all of a sudden I am sitting here trying to do some school work this afternoon (yes, I am taking my last two classes) and my eyes are so heavy I can't keep them open. All of us did lay down and slept for about 2 hours this afternoon, which felt good at the time, but now it is 10:45 PM and we should be sleeping, but we are wide awake. Well, Brad and I are awake, Beth is sleeping. Kind of crazy that body clock that we have.

We have been doing a lot of walking. I have been wearing my pedometer and yesterday we walked almost 24,000 steps. Today we only walked just over 15,000 steps. Guess that nap this afternoon didn't count for many steps. And we were driven around more today which also means no steps. Oh well, 15,000 steps is a lot more than I get at home most days.

We went to the Botanical Gardens and the Ethnographic Musem. Here are some links to check them out:

Very interesting places to visit. So much history here, it's just fascinating. We had a friend of the family named Cristina take us to these places. We could talk with her also as she speaks really good English. Many of the buildings were locked at the Ethnographic Museum, but she discussed with the workers there that we came all the way from America and so then they walked around with us and opened all of the buildings so we could see inside. And then when the workers were explaining the history of the buildings, she would interpret what they were saying for us. Then, we met up with a gentleman that worked there who told us he had not spoken English in 25 years (since High School) but yet he remembered enough words to explain to us how old the homes were and what type of people lived there and he showed us all the different stone and wooden tools and told us what they were used for. I am just amazed at their kindness to us "foreigners" as they call us. Really, everyone has been great!

Brad is going to post some pictures here too from our adventures today. Thanks for all of your prayers for our health and safety. We really appreciate it. We feel so blessed that we could come here and are really enjoying our time (even if our feet and bodies are tired).

Kathy Bouwkamp

Kathy and Beth interviewing each other in the TV studio run by the family friend
Family at the Botanical garden
Entrance into the Ethnographic park
The Romanian and the Foreigner wearing a Sheeps "coat"
We ended the day with Andi and Linda at a local restaurant
We ate outside as the grapes hung overhead

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Long time no see

Thanks for your patience as it has been a while since I last updated. I spent a few days home with Linda to help her get around and grab things for her especially when things were upstairs :) She is doing a lot better now so that is an answer to prayers. I also had my senior pictures taken over the weekend. We went to an old castle that used to belong to a count. The pictures turned out great! I couldn't be more pleased. Sunday we traveled up to the mountains where we enjoyed a small walk and lunch. The views were incredible!! I wish there were mountains closer to my home. At midnight on Monday my parents landed in Cluj!! I was so excited to see them!! I'm pretty sure that I didn't stop smiling the entire ride to the airport. Today I was able to take them around town for a little while. It was really fun to show my dad where to go because usually he is always bringing us around. Although, I'm sure it probably won't last long because he is a really good navigator. I was able to show them a few of the churches and bring them to the top of a hill to see all of Cluj. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant that served American-style food and it was very delicious. At night we went over to Andi and Linda's house where I introduced my parents to the neighbors and took them for a walk through the village. Over all it was a very good day. I am thankful that my parents are able to spend time with me here and I am very glad to have them here. Thanks again for all the prayers. They have definitely been felt.

Andi and Linda's house.  Very nice area away from the city and very quiet.
Andi and Linda's neighbors (Don and his Mother, Father was in the house)
Dad and David feeding the chickens.
Dad and David again, waiting for the cows to come home.
The cows come home at 7:20pm (I know you were going to ask)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Here are some pictures that Beth has sent us.  They are of things she has seen along the way of her time in Romania.

Gypsy house

Gypsy house

Sheep on side of hill

Bear skeleton in cave

View from fortress

The fortress

Roman ruins

Stadium in Roman ruins
Column (laying on the ground)

An old vault


Courtyard in castle (I don't know who that is with the cape)


Dinner table

Long hallway with holes for archers

Old Fireplace
Old Well that is 28 meters (about 100 feet) deep.
Legend has it that it was dug by hand by prisoners

Pit where prisoners were thrown to bears

Other side of castle

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Please forgive me but I won't be updating for a little while because I am staying home to help Linda. The weather looks rainy all week so I doubt there will be anything worth writing about going on. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Read this post second!

Please read this post after reading "It's like a roller coaster" :)

We started the day off with breakfast at the hotel. It didn't take much of a car ride for the boys to fall asleep so we decided to go out of our way a bit to see something else so they could sleep for a little while longer. We decided to go to a national park to see some European bison. They were pretty neat. It's amazing at how big the animals are, even the babies (calves). Then we continued on to the roman ruins. These were amazing. It was pretty much a field with all parts of an old roman city in it. We saw houses, a stadium, the financial offices, and the town center with a fountain, and vaults. It was cool because you could just walk through everything. There weren't any restrictions. Of course you don't jump on anything but still to be able to sit in the stadium or touch the pillars was pretty neat. I was told that the structures there were over 2000 years old. We then went  to the Castle. If you google Huniazilor Castle that is the one I saw. It was incredible. Absolutely unbelievable. It was so big and just awesome. Once again you could just lead yourself around at your own pace which was nice. Most of the rooms were on display besides a few that were under construction. There was a couple getting their wedding pictures done there and which I'm sure will be beautiful. Here is a link for information: I would have really liked to get a few senior pictures taken there but I wasn't looking very good today with the not changing clothes and everything. It was all good until Linda fell and sprained both her ankles. When we got back into Cluj the boys and I went to their grandmothers apartment so that Linda and Andi could get X-rays at the hospital. Luckily it didn't take long so we were home by 8 but Linda can't walk for 3-4 days so her father-in-law is coming over to help me with the boys tomorrow. I won't be going to the school because the teacher isn't able to make it. Pray a quick recovery for Linda because it will be a tough few days with her not being able to walk.

It's just like a roller coaster

Well, where do I begin than to say that this was by far the greatest weekend ever. Friday I was not feeling too hot and I knew that we had plans for Saturday so I just laid low and caught up on some sleep. Saturday we had to plan to drive a few hours to see a cave (pestera ursilor) that had some cool bear bones in it. It was pretty rainy but we decided to try it anyway and left mid-morning to drove through the mountains. These were some of the most gorgeous scenery that I have ever seen. Absolutely amazing. I must have looked silly because I was pretty much drooling looking out the truck windows. :) This is also where I could be quoted saying that the streets were like a roller coaster because you go up and down and take sharp turns. It was crazy! Oftentimes you would see herds of sheep grazing on the mountains. I asked if it would be OK to stop and take a picture. We did and ended up going to the herd and petting one of the sheep. It was pretty neat. We continued to drive and got to the town at about 1:00. We had some lunch before going into the cave. The streets leading up to the cave were lined with people selling souvenirs. One lady even said that she would take other currencies. Why she would think I would have a different currency it beyond me. :) Once in the cave we felt a sudden temperature change as it was much cooler. The cave was amazing. I got some great pictures. There also was full bear skeletons in it. Just sweet. We left the cave and I was told that we were going to take a different route home to show me some different things. About five minutes later Linda turns around and asks "Do you want to make a real adventure out of this?" "What do you mean?" I asked with hesitation. "Well we could spend the night somewhere and see Roman ruins tomorrow." She explained. "Does that sound like fun?" At this point I'm thinking NO! I have nothing to change into, no toiletries, absolutely nothing. I raised these concerns to her and she said that we would just sleep in what we are wearing and re-wear it tomorrow. This didn't sound appealing to me at all so I let them decide what to do. A few minutes later Linda said, "Oh, and we would see a really cool castle. You do want to see a castle right?" I get a big grin on my face and nod. "OK then," she said "We're going!" Now I was really excited. I have always wanted to see a castle. On our way to the hotel we passes an old fortress where we also stopped. That was pretty neat also. Then we went to the grocery store to get necessities like toothbrush, toothpaste, and diapers for the boys. We had dinner at the hotel at 10, then called it a night.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Not much happened today. I went to school like normal where everyone seemed very sleepy. haha. I walked through town again today but was surprised when the city center was blocked off because they are setting up a stage for a concert this weekend. I walked around trying to make sure I could get certain places on my own. I was successful. :) I was walking through a small side street where there are booths set up with different things. At the end an old lady was selling flowers. Before I knew it there were some in my hand. I asked her how much they were and she didn't say anything or even react. I continued to ask but finally gave up and said thank you and started to walk away. That woke her up "no no no buy" she said. I turned around and again asked how much. I feel that at this point she should have know what I was asking and held up fingers. Well she again didn't answer so I pulled the smallest bill I had out of my wallet and asked if it was OK. She nodded so I walked away. I guess they really know how to trick the tourists. ;) We are getting a thunderstorm right now so it is the second time that it has rained since my being here. From what I hear though it sounds like MI has been getting some pretty bad storms? Hope everyone stays safe.

Kids playing futbol/soccer

Blowing kisses

Lunch time

Better picture of outside of church

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Today started like any other at the school. I got a few more pictures that will be coming soon. At about noon the teacher said I could go on a walk today if I wanted. So I went on a walk to find a McDonald's because I have to know where it is so my dad doesn't starve while he's here. ;) I had never been brought there before but we pass it every morning on our drive so I thought I could figure it out. It was really simple. Follow the main street to the end and turn right. Besides having to do some weird things to get to cross walks it worked out fine. While there I got something to eat because when doesn't a burger sound good for 3.5 lei? ($1) Then I went back to one of the city center to eat. Afterwards I walked around some more just to get a better feel for where certain things are. I walked past a shop that had soccer jerseys in the window. My brother asked me to get one for him so I stopped in. There were no kids sizes but I looked on the clearance rack for something for my dad. When I found a good one I proceeded to the checkout. The lady there started talking to me in Romanian so I apologized and said I didn't speak Romanian. She must not have cared because she just kept talking. I continued to nod and smile like I knew what she was saying. Then all of a sudden she looks at me and goes Congratulations!! I start to look around thinking what is happening? There was no confetti or guys running out with a big check so I don't think I won anything, it must have been the only English she knew and just decided to say it without knowing what it meant. Well at least it gave me a laugh for the day. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm really starting to like it here.

Today was awesome. I went to the school in the morning where I took a few pictures of the kids to show what goes on there. Then I decided that I wanted to go somewhere for lunch so I left for about an hour to go grab something to eat from the city. I felt pretty confident on where to go and what to do but i was a little nervous. I got to the city center in about a 20 min. walk. Then I went down a side street to a kabob restaurant that I saw yesterday when I was being brought around. I knew what I wanted last night so I google translated the veggies that I wanted and wrote them down. I have never had to do research the night before for going out for lunch but today was an exception. Now just so you are aware the kabob is not meat on a stick, rather it is chicken, and fries warmed on a tortilla shell and then topped with veggies and sauce. I got to the window and said to the guy, "sorry I don't speak Romanian" and handed him my piece of paper. The only thing he had to ask was if I wanted a big one or a small one. I said small and I'm glad I did because it was HUGE. Then I walked to a plaza (where the ice cream festival was) and ate. I finished about half and will save the other half for lunch tomorrow. Tonight we had dinner with the bikers from the backyard. We had some mititei, french fries, and salad. It was all very good. Then one of the bikers said that he was willing to take me for a short ride if I wanted. Of course I said yes! He took me up the street and through the pasture. It was really fun. I got a video of it so I will try and download it if I can. On Sunday Linda told me to make it a goal to try something new every day that I am here. She said that it doesn't have to be food but just something. Well today was a pretty big day so I told her that today should cover the next two days. :)

The kids like to pretend that the radiator is a piano

 The kids enjoy playing ring-around-the-rosey

All fall down

This is my lunch view. So awesome!