Adventures in Prague

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Astronomical clock

A recurring theme in our adventure is our desire to go to cities we’ve heard of, but as soon as we arrive we have no idea what to do once we are there. The only thing we knew about Prague was that everyone says ‘it’s so beautiful’.  We checked into our hostel, Hostel One Prague, we stayed with the Hostel One group in Barcelona. Our room was fantastic. We had a  full kitchen  and a loft with two extra beds, we had so much space to ourselves and it was a welcomed change from the usual hostel rooms we’ve stayed in.

Our first night we decided we would have some local Czech cuisine and went to a local restaurant. We had some roast beef medallions topped with some berried jam, with  gravy and bread dumplings. The meal was amazing and super cheap, about 100 Czech Crowns which is 5 dollars Canadian.  We went back to our hostel and thought to ourselves, ‘how could we stay in such an amazing room with such cheap food for only three nights’? We immediately changed our booking to stay an extra night and changed our next booking in Vienna.

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Prague

The next day we took the tram to the old square to do our free tour.  On the tour we saw the Astronomical Clock (the third most disappointing tourist attraction in Europe), The Charles Bridge (a beautiful large bridge lined with statues), the Old Jewish Quarter with the Jewish Cemetery, and many facts about the city and its history. The Old Jewish Cemetery was very interesting because we had just seen the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. When looking at the cemetery you could see the influence it had on the memorial. The cemetery was one and a half stories high with so many headstones jammed into one space. It looked so cluttered and depressing. The reason for the cluttering and the height was because back in the 15th to 18th Century the Jewish people in Prague could only bury their loved ones in one space, and when they ran out of space they added soil to the existing graves, removed the tombstones and placed the tombstones on top of the new layer of soil resulting in 12 layers of graves with over 12,000 tomb stones visible.

Midway through our tour our tour guide took a 30 minute break. Gavin and I wandered over to the Old Square to get some street meat. Gavin had been excited to go to the Czech Republic because they were historically linked to Bavaria, the land of Pork Knuckle.  We found some ham and potato salad at a wooden stall.  The potato salad was sold by weight, 30 crowns per 100 grams.  But when the woman put it into the bowl it was definitely more than 100 grams. When we were given a huge hunk of ham (which was mostly fat), the price came to 880 Crowns.  At first we didn’t completely get the conversion until we sat and thought about it. One Canadian dollar is 20 Crowns, which meant for a hunk of ham and some potato salad we paid 44 Canadian dollars!!!!

Following the tour we did a beer tour with our tour guide Bara. She was really smart and knew a lot about beer. We first went to a beer museum with over 30 different kinds of beer. Gavin ordered a beer taster of  a stout, a chocolate, a cherry, and a couple of dark ales. The chocolate beer was very strong and not great tasting. We went to a few more places followed a place where Gavin and I ordered a Czech specialty of half a duck and some potato dumplings with red cabbage. It was very delicious.  The last place Bara took us to was an old communist bar called Vodka Bar. The bar was covered in communist propaganda posters and had specialty flavoured Vodka like Honey Thyme, Jalapeño, Mars Bar, Green Tea, Coffee, and Saffron.  We had a single  beer and quickly left the bar after our tour guide had left. The majority of the people on our tour followed.

The following morning we wandered the city. We ended up making our way to the Prague Castle which was on the other side of the river and up a large hill. This day may not have sounded that exciting but there was a lot of beautiful architecture that we walked by. That night Gavin did a beer tour with our hostel and I stayed behind and read.

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Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora

The next day we did a day tour to Kutna Hora, a town about an hour outside of Prague. Kutna Hora was historically a town that minted the silver for most of Europe hundreds of years ago. The town was also the home of a bone chapel, The Sedlec Ossuary. Since we missed the Paris Catacombs we really wanted to see the chapel.  When we arrived in the town we learned the bus from the train station left every 30 minutes. We decided that instead of waiting 20 minutes for the bus we would walk the kilometre and a half to the bone chapel. The walk was long and hot, but

We figured we would catch the bus from the bone chapel to the town so 20 minutes in the sun was no big deal. When we arrived at the bone chapel the building was so cold and dark.  The Ossuary was decorated with the bones of 40,000 to 70,000 people. The human remains took the form of chandeliers (which contains at least one of every bone from the human body), and coats of arms.  After the chapel we had just missed the bus into town.  We decided that waiting 30 minutes for another one would be silly so we walked the remaining 3.5km into town. It was about 34 degrees and boiling hot. A walk that normally would have been no big deal was suddenly uncomfortable and heat stroke inducing. We both had headaches from lack of water. When we finally reached the town we went to the local museum and signed up for the tour of the silver mine.

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Inside the Hradek Mine

The ancient underground silver mine, Hradek dates back to the 1300’s. The tour was all in Czech, but they gave us a pamphlet with english translation so we could understand most of it. They showed us a replica of the old wheelhouses, great machines powered by 6 pairs of horses that would draw up great leather satchels that would hold the ore. Afterwards, they gave us robes that were replicas of what the miners once wore and we descended down a staircase to one of the shallowest tunnels. It was extremely cramped and damp, with low ceilings and suffocatingly narrow corridors. There were other tunnels smaller still that one would have to crawl through in order to get to. We were told some of the tunnels went 600m deep, which seems incredible for the technology of the time. After we emerged into the sunlight again, they had replicas of the forges and coin striking processes the mined silver would undergo after it had been brought up. It was a really neat experience.

Following our tour of the silver mine we promptly walked back to the train station. The walk wasn’t so bad this time ( it wasn’t noon and we had water). We took the train back to Prague. We spent the evening hanging out in the Hostel bar.

The bartenders were very fun and had a great energy. The only draw back was that in Prague you can still smoke in bars, and this bar was in a basement with no ventilation which resulted in our clothing reeking of smoke. Smoke aside we had a great time with this bunch and reluctantly packed our bags for Vienna.

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Munich and Athens (so far)

Our backpacking trip started only three days ago and so far it’s been pretty exciting. Our first stop was Munich. We took a train to Munich from my cousins home with relative ease. Our train traveled at 200 km per hour. Just when we thought we had the train system figured, the conductor told us we apparently took a slow train and that we should have taken a faster train! We didn’t mind the slow train, we enjoyed the scenic route between Ansbach and Munich. When we arrived in Munich we ate at this lovely little Italian place on the corner of our hostel. I had the most amazing ravioli! We tried checking into the Wombats Hostel (which was next door to the Jäger Hostel that I stayed in years ago and nowhere near the Cocoon Hotel we stayed in last time we visited Munich). Wombats said they were undergoing renovations so we could not immediately go to our rooms so we hung around the hostel and watched Argo until check in time. Check in involved getting a key card that let us get into our rooms and lockers, a free beer pass, and grabbing fresh clean sheets for our beds. We went up and made our beds like good little hostel dwellers then went downstairs and waited at the bar for anyone to talk to us. A few Canadians were at the bar but we found our home with a group who had met earlier in the day (some even met at different cities previously). Understanding that we all would only know each other for the one night we all identified with each other through the names of where we were from. There was Texas, Argentina, Estonia, and three Australians: Sydndey, Melbourne and Adelaide. All of us enjoyed Happy Hour at the hostel before wandering the streets of Munich to the Hofbrauhaus. The beer hall was less busy this time and we all had a great time absorbing the German tourist trap. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and I went straight to sleep.

IMG_1401The next day Gavin and I decided we would go on the four hour OZ free Tour of Munich, and boy did we make Fantastic choice. Our tour guide Ozzy was the most charismatic and interesting person. Our tour was not just looking at sites with his commentary it was learning about local culture And customs while relating the history of Munich to everything around us. Ozzy was hilarious, insightful, and informative. After the tour he took us all out for a beer at a local beer hall. We laughed at jokes and got to know other people on our tour. After the beer hall we went to another beer hall where we met some of Ozzys friends. Before long a tour that had started at 11am turned into a hang out that lasted until 7pm. After hanging out with Ozzy we went to the hostel grabbed our things and journeyed to the airport where we would grab a shuttle to our airport hotel.

The next morning we woke up at 4am to catch a shuttle to the airport for our Air China flight to Athens, Greece. We expected the flight to be terrible, after all we got the tickets for $123cdn and all the reviews online were unfavourable. Shockingly enough the flight was great! It was two hours, they served us a delicious hot meal, I could watch a tv show, it was good. WAY Better than any American flight I have ever taken and better than some Canadian airlines *cough* Air Canada *cough* .

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We landed in Greece and were immediately given tourist cards that gave us a 50to 20 percent discount in Athens, which despite the economic crisis is expensive. It was strange going from the country with the top GDP in Europe to the one with the lowest. As we were driving into Athens from the airport we noticed every large billboard was in disrepair and that there was graffiti tags and litter everywhere. We arrived at our hotel (which had a nice lobby) and found ourselves a little disappointed after leaving Munich on such a high. We looked out of our hotel window and saw tons of smog, the mountain view was not even enough to bring our spirits up.

After a quick nap we wandered hoping to find a cheap food stand because we could see Athens getting expensive fast. Taking public transit was easy enough, given that the Greek alphabet is shapes and letters that we could neither say or read without confusion. We ended up at the public shopping centre where our spirits started to glow a bit. We saw so many mini markets and exciting food vendors and stores that sold local goods. The shop keepers we spoke to were all so kind taking the time to speak English to us and explain things to us. We ended up at a restaurant where the owner showed us photos of each dish and made suggestions. I ordered Calimari which came back crispy and flavourful whilst lightly battered and free of oil. Gavin got Lamb souvlaki which was juicy and flavourful. We even got a free desert, Semolina. After we went to a fruit stand and bought the juiciest strawberries we ever tasted, juicy tangerines, kiwis and bananas all for 5 euros. We walked around Athens with well treated taste buds and finished our evening with coconut candy. We went back to our hotel wondering what we would do next….

Munich Part Two: What We Did!

After checking out of our cool hotel we ventured off to Marienplatz to do some shopping! Unfortunately we kept missing the Marienplatz Glockenspiel , a famous clock in the Munich City Hall that is very elaborate. My cousin and I did a little shopping and bought some jewelry, then we headed off to the world famous centre of Oktoberfest, The Hofbräuhaus. The Hofbräuhaus is a gigantic beer hall which seats hundreds of people and serves them classic Bavarian meals while musicians in liederhosen played traditional Bavarian music (Gavin’s favourite Pork Hocks and Sausage and Sour Kraut for me), as well as one litre glasses of beer.  I ordered a wheat beer with lemonade and Gavin ordered the darkest beer they had. After about two hours Gavin had three litres of beer.

The First Litre

The First Litre

The Second Lite

The Second Litre

The Third Litre

The Third Litre

My cousin had just turned 18 so we wanted to take her clubbing for the first time so we took her clubbing in the world famous Kult Fabrik District which is a huge complex of  30 to 40 nightclubs.  In Germany night clubs open at about 11pm and the night life doesn’t start until 2am. We got to the club at about 1am and after a night of loud music and bright lights we went  back to our hotel at 4:30am.

The next day we went to the English Garden, one of the largest parks in Germany. While we were there  we visited the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower), a 25 meter high wooden tower. Later we went to see the Olympic Stadium and tower from the 1972 Olympics. Afterwards we went to the BMW museum (which is across the street from the Olympic Stadium). The BMW museum was an incredibly huge building.  We sat on sample motor cycles and Mini Coopers, and even got to see Rolls Royce phantoms.

Our trip to Munich was fun and exciting. It was nice to see a different side to one of my favourite cities. I missed out on Ice cream fondue… but I am going back in a month so we shall see….

Bamberger Bier!

A couple of days ago we did a day trip to the city of Bamberg with my cousins Melissa and Flo. Bamberg is known for being the beer capital of Germany. We intended to go on a couple beer tours and just have a day of fun but unfortunately in Bamberg you could only do the beer tour if you did all of the breweries and a tour of the city which would have been very long and tiresome so we decided we would do our own beer tour.

Bam Berg DomThe first place we went in Bamberg was to the famous Dom Cathedral which despite the name did not have a dome. It wasn’t anything special, just another elaborate cathedral that had stood in the same spot for a thousand years (which is impressive). We did a quick walk through.

Next we went into the Bamberg Museum which was free on the day we visited. The Bamberg museum was probably the worst museum I have ever been to.  The museum was filled with different aerial maps of Bamberg. To express how little the museum had, one of the main pieces was a rod from a bridge that broke…Safe to say I did not take any pictures at this museum.

After the museum we went to the restaurant portion of a Schenk Specialfamous Bamberg Brewery, Schlenkerla, which is known for its Smoked Beer. We sat down in the restaurant and found there was nothing but red meat and potatoes so Melissa and I didn’t order anything. Gavin and Flo ordered the Schlenkerla house special which was a gigantic slab of meat (pork leg I think) and a knödel in gravy. Gavin ate  the entire thing in fifteen minutes, then ate Flo’s slab of meat. Then he drank  an giant glass of smoked beer.

Next, we went to a restaurant/ brewery next door so Melissa and I could eat, I got a classic Schnitzel with fries and Melissa got a salad. Gavin decided he would have the Beer sampler.  Which consisted of three different types of beer. He also ordered Beer Punch which was hot beer with sugar (apparently it tasted good).  After that restaurant we wandered around Bamberg. Gavin bought two six packs of the Smoke Beer (which weighed 25lbs!). We decided we would go to one more bar so Gavin could taste more Bamberger Beer.

We went into this hole in the wall pub which actually looked very nice on the inside. we sat next to a hearth and Gavin ordered  the beer to end all beers: Gaas Moos, one litre of Beer, cola, and a bunch of different liquors in one mug.

After tasting 6 different types of Bamberger beer, Gavin felt it was a good time to go home.

Here is a gallery of Gavin’s Beers from the trip: