Monday, April 28, 2014

 IVF Czech
April 22

 We drove to our hotel in Krakow after visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  It was around 7pm so we decided to stay in and eat at the nice restaurant at the hotel.  The next morning we knew we didn’t have a lot of time to see Krakow and go to Auschwitz too, so we headed into the city and found a parking spot.  I recommend always making sure you have change for the parking meters over here.  Trust me, no one will make it for you!   
Town Hall Tower where men sentenced to death were detained

Wawel Royal Castle
   After wandering, to find the famous town square, we finally met a nice street vendor that showed us the way on a map in one of the books that she sold.  Just to be safe, and to thank her for her kindness, I bought the book, which definitely helped us out later on. She sent us two streets down to the famous Kanonicza Street, which leads into the main square.   Kanonicza Street is the famous route royalty took to the Wawel Castle in the old times.  The houses date back to the 14th century.  Pope John Paul II, who is beloved in Poland, lived on this street when he was cardinal.  

Kanonicza Street

The house where Pope John Paull II lived when he was a cardinal in Krakow. Can you see his picture in the window?

 While walking, we had seen horse drawn carriages, and since we were short on time I figured that it might be a good way to see the sights of the city.  Our guide on the carriage ride, Joanna, spoke excellent English and did a good job explaining everything.  I am a horse person so I apologize for multiple horse pictures!   For my horse friends, these are Silesian horses native to Poland. 

Our horse drawn carriage

Horse drawn carriage in the town center

Horse drawn carriage in front of the Royal Castle
  We arrived back at the square around lunch time and Joanna said that all of the restaurants were good so we picked one called Szara and had a wonderful lunch.  Everything was good except the asparagus soup that John ordered.  He was not a fan at all!  I had mushroom soup that was delicious, and we both had roasted rabbit and vegetables.  The rabbit tasted like chicken and was also wonderful! 
John eating Asparagus soup
  In the center of the square is the Cloth-Hall which dates back to the Renaissance.  It was a market for spices, leather, cloth, wax and salt from the Wieliczka Mine.  Today there is a museum on top floor while the bottom floor consists of tourist shops that sell local crafts and souvenirs. 

Cloth Hall

The center of the Cloth Hall with various vendors
  We shopped a little and then meandered back to our car for the hour drive to Oswiecim where the Auschwitz Concentration camp is. There are tours that are guided, but unfortunately we missed the last one so we wandered around on our own.  The museum is free and is open to individuals after 3:30 pm.  It was raining and dreary out, which I guess is fitting considering the circumstances.  I don’t have much to say other than it was a very humbling experience.  To think that there are or have been people out there that can commit such atrocities to millions of innocent human beings is despicable.  To walk in the place where it happened is another story.  I only took pictures of the outside as taking photos of the inside felt too personal and exposed.    There are areas where no photography is allowed out of respect to the victims and their families, but that didn’t stop some from taking photos anyway.  We didn’t stay long, just enough time to see the major areas and displays.  

Guard gate from the inside of Auschwitz.  Sorry I couldn't find my picture from the other side.

Barbed wire fence outside the main gate.

Just a few of the many many buildings

This is the entrance to the courtyard where the execution wall was located

 We have our next appointment tomorrow.  We will find out how many eggs I have and when the retrieval will be.  Stay tuned.

More to come...

Kelly and John

Friday, April 25, 2014

IVF Czech
April 21st

  We drove from Szczawnica in the early afternoon to Wieliczka which is just outside of Krakow.  John did all of the research for this trip so I had no idea what the salt mine was or what to expect.  When we arrived and got our tickets there were people everywhere.  They had tours in at least six to eight languages running every hour or more.  After buying tickets we only had a few minutes until our tour when an announcement stated that this would be a three hour tour.  I looked at John and said three hours!!  At this point I have started to get a little tired and with my ovaries producing a lot more eggs my back was starting to hurt too.  My sweet husband said we can go if you think that it is too much.  I’m not a quitter so I of course said no, and boy am I glad I did.  My photos do not do justice to how neat this site really is.  I apologize for the poor photos - not a professional and haven't mastered taking them in the dim light.  Not to mention that at some point there was water spots on my lens??

One of the chambers in the salt mine - sorry I can't recall the name

  The mine tour took us 135 meters (443 ft) underground where we got a peak at three different layers and multiple chambers.  The mine dates back to the twelfth century and even though it was officially closed in 1996, it is still worked in order to keep it up for safety.  When you first go in you have to descend about 378 steps all at once, but throughout the tour you end up going down over 800!  We saw everything from how they transport the salt, to sculptures and beautiful chapels completely made of salt. There are also underground lakes and canals.  It truly was amazing and I am so glad that I decided to go. 
The grotto used to transport the salt

One of the underground lakes

 The environment down in the salt mines is incredibly clean and healthy.  Bacteria and germs don’t thrive in the salty environment so the people and animals that lived and worked down there were very healthy.  Up until 2002 there were horses that worked in the mine.   The horses had stables and were well taken care of, living a normal life of over twenty years.  If you are wondering about the excrement created by the horse they sent it back to the surface and the locals would wait for it as it came up the shafts to compost and use in their gardens.  The last horse, Baska, left in 2002 was because of protestors outside of the mine.  Apparently after she was removed she lived a normal life, but wasn’t very happy being on the surface.  Who knows?  

Horses were used to transport the heavy salt blocks
  The mine goes down 327 meters (1073 ft) and is 287 km (178 miles) long.  This beautiful historical site has been visited for centuries by royalty, political leaders, the Pope, scientists, and artists.  The St. Kinga Cathedral still has a service on Sundays and meetings and cultural events still take place in some of the chambers.  During WWII the Germans took over the mine to store military items for various war related industries.  
St. Kinga Chapel
  When it was time to go we went past a restaurant and had to descend down the 135 m to get to the elevator.  I read that technically each elevator car holds only 9 people, but when there are 50-100 people waiting they tend to over stuff.  John is claustrophobic and was not happy about being treated like a sardine.  I’m not sure how they got the last lady, who was very reluctant, in our car, but they shoved her in.  Luckily the ride up to the top only takes about thirty seconds. 

  Overall this was definitely a highlight on this wonderful trip.  John and I loved all of it and would do it again.  After leaving the salt mine in the evening we drove to the ApartHotel Vanilla in Krakow which was very nice.  It wasn’t near the old town, but it did have laundry facilities, a nice restaurant, and most importantly to John good pizza and great beer!  The laundry was the most important to me, although I had to look up the model number in English just to use it. 

 More to come...

Kelly and John 

IVF Czech
April 20-21st 

Well if you read the previous post you know that I had my second appointment at the Clinic of Reproductive Medicine and Gynecology and it went well.  We decided that since we had four days until our next appointment that we would take another trip.  This time we headed to southern Poland to the town of Szczawnica. The drive was beautiful all the way to Poland.  We had to go into Slovakia for most of the trip and then up to Poland.  The view of the snow-capped Tatra Mountains in the distance was stunning.  When we arrived in Szczawnica Sunday evening we were pleasantly surprised to find a mountainous village with quiet streets and beautiful views.  

Somewhere in Poland - Tatra Mountains
  We chose this area because John found a rafting trip you could take on the Dunajec Gorge in the Pieniny National Park.  We had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  We didn’t even know where to pick up the raft or if you drove to the park, because the information on the internet was limited.  We finally figured out there was a parking lot with buses down the road, and they took you to the starting point up in the mountains.  It was only about fifteen dollars each for a two and a half hour ride. 

Dunajec Gorge, Pieniny National Park in Poland/Slovakia

  The boats usually have two guides, but we had a young man in training so there were three.  None of the guides spoke any English, which we expected might happen, but we had a good time anyway.  Apparently our guide was hilarious because everyone else in the boat laughed a lot, while we sat and enjoyed the scenery.
Dunajec rafting boat and guides

  The neat thing about this trip is that on one side of the river is Slovakia and on the other is Poland.  It is the only national park in two different countries.  

Dunajec Gorge - Poland is on the left, Slovakia is on the right

Slovakia from the rafting trip    
I believe this is the Polish side of the park

A stork nest on top of a building seen while rafting Dunajec Gorge !!!

 The trip ended just across a bridge from our car and dropped us near some restaurants.  We sat and ate pierogies and polish sausage, which were both delicious, and John of course had to try a beer.  It was a great trip, but we left shortly after lunch for the Wieliczka Salt mine which is near Krakow.  

More to come...   

Kelly and John 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

 IVF Czech
  April 18-19th

  We had our second appointment today at the IVF clinic in Zlin.  The first thing that I did was have my blood drawn to check my hormone levels.  John also had to have his blood drawn because they do another STD panel on everyone even though you had it done in your own country.  Again we had to wait an hour so we ran to the grocery store and got a few things and then went back in for our appointment with the doctor.  My hormone levels were all good so we went in to do an ultrasound.  The doctor found at least seven eggs all of normal size around 8mm.  He said that he would like a few more so he bumped up my Puregon (FSH) dosage.  Overall though he said everything was looking good.   He again wrote out my protocol and added another medication called Orgulatron.  Orgulatron is used to help the eggs from prematurely bursting. 

  I went in with the nurse Eva and she went over all the meds again and had me do my shots for the day.  We had a little scare when she asked me for my extra vial of Puregon.  I was supposed to bring my meds in, which I thought that I did, but when she asked for that I got concerned.  I was told my first day when I received my meds that the nurse would change my Puregon Pen when I got there for my second appointment.  Puregon must be refrigerated and I didn’t realize I had a second vial in one of the boxes that contains the needles.  I thought that I would get it on my second appointment when the nurse changed the pen.  I then realized I had left that box on the desk in our apartment!  This is the most expensive medication that we have to purchase so we were a little freaked out.  Well all turned out OK, Eva went and asked the head nurse and apparently it can be left out for up to 30 days.  Whew!!
At this point I have felt pretty good.  I am starting to bruise from all of the injections and the Orgulatron, which I started Sunday, hurts a little when given in the leg.  So for now I will continue the Puregon and Orgulatron and hope for the best at my next appointment on Wednesday.  

Zlin  Daily Market
Zlin Daily Market

 After our appointment we went to the local street market to get some vegetables and were excited to find that in the square down the street was an Easter market/festival with crafts, food, and even a carousel for the kids. 

Carousel Zlin Easter Fair 2014
Wooden Carousel Zlin Easter Fair

 I believe the kids are off of school starting Thursday through the national holiday of Easter Monday so there were a lot of children at the market festival. The Easter holiday seems more significant to the start of spring than Christianity. From what I understand this is because during the Communist regime religion was suppressed so many Czechs are not religious but still enjoy the traditions.   One of the traditions is hand painted eggs.   The eggs are real, hollowed out, chicken eggs, and they come in many beautiful colors.  The eggs are given by the girls to the boys and then in return on Easter Monday the boys whip the girls with braided pussywillow twigs to get candy.  The painted eggs originally were not hollowed out because they represented fertility as did the blessing of the girls with the whippings. I believe the whippings aren’t as common as they used to be and many girls dreaded them each year.  

Czech Hand-painted Easter Eggs
  We planned on eating an Easter dinner at home Sunday, but decided to leave and go to southern Poland instead.  We didn’t have to be back until Wednesday morning for the next appointment so we had a few days to explore.   John did a little research and came up with a rafting trip in Szczawnica, Krakow and a tour of the salt mine, and then to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp for a humbling experience.  

More to come... 

Kelly and John