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More Prague

Have fun storming the castle!

semi-overcast 67 °F

  • If any of you are grammar nazis or spelling nazis, I am terribly sorry. I didn't ever proof my papers in school properly and still hate proofing.

May 30th, 2014

Kindra had to run to work today, so the morning is ours to with as we please. And do we ever please. The master plan for the day is to go the Prague Castle! The fault in the plan is that we were up until after 3:30. By the time we were out the door it was already 11am. Off we went down the river until we came to a bridge to get us across to the side of the river that the castle is on. The walk really only had one mentionable. We came upon about 40 or 50 boards with WWII stories on them. The boards were double sided, sought 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide. We only stopped to read a few stories, but they were very intense. Many that we read were stories of people from Prague that had had to leave when the Reich had taken over. There were pictures of these people from the time they were young until the present. Very emotionally charged. It got me thinking about Germany and how modern Germans thought about Hitler and WWII. I told Nicole what I was thinking and that we should ask Anna when we arrived in Germany the next day.

When we made it to the base of the hill on which the castle is built, the medieval feel just took us away. Every single step revealed a more amazing view with more medieval sites. All the streets and sidewalks in Prague are cobblestone. The buildings line small cobblestone roads and loom up overhead. We found a bakery down a little alley just before you go under the gate that leads you to the castle hill. One woman was outside making some seductive smelling pastry, dressed in traditional clothing, and baking in a tradition way. She gets the dough out in a foot long snake like strand which she wraps around a 3 inch thick metal rolling pin looking thing. She rolls that in sugar and spices and then puts it over a heat source rotisserie style. When it is done, she slides it off the roller and has this cup looking thing, hollow at both ends. We hadn't eaten anything for the day and we just knew we had to try whatever this thing was. We went into the shop and there were pastries of all kinds! Croissants with cheese or bacon, fruit cakes, chocolate cakes, croissants with chocolate, and,
you get the idea. We bought a few of the pastries, coffee for Nicole and the cup looking thing. With our treasures we went outside and sat on the cobblestone sidewalk while we ate. Lovely, just lovely.

Our bellies happy, we started up the streets to the castle. Did you know that the Prague Castle is the largest in Europe? They also have super cool gift shops, in which we stopped and bought a fun souvenir. As we climbed to the top, I began to realize that it wasn't so much as a castle, but more like a fort. Surrounded by walls was basically a massive city that they called a castle. There is a beautiful cathedral, which we visited, as well as the palace that the president or chancellor or whoever, actually works out of. It is the Cveck version of the White House. Also there are tons of medieval shops with swords and armor of all kinds, along with the ceremonial hall where coronations and parties took place. It was a blast to the past. We literally lived it while we were there. It is not hard to take your mind to the workings of a coronation, or to imagine the great hall you are standing in to be full of nobility attending a high and fancy to do. It looked and felt like we were at Disney Land or a theme park of some kind. Completely unreal.

Our tour complete, we sauntered back down to the main part of town to meet Kindra and figure out a place to eat. I would be lying if dinner wasn't partly on my mind all day. I can't help but be excited for another tasty Cveck dish. However, dinner would have to wait for a little while. I was extremely tired from the previous night and needed a quick nap. Nicole and Kindra left to explore and print out our train ticket for the next day while I grabbed some z's. when they returned, I was refreshed and we all took off for the river. While i had been sleeping, Nicole and Kindra had already been to the river for a food and beer festival. It was amazing to me. In the states, if we had something like this, it would have been roped off with security or bouncers posted at each end. There probably would have been police officers on site, and you would not have seen all the families that were at this gathering. Everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves! The other thing missing at this party that would have been at in the states, were fights. No one was angry, there were no fights. Incredible. I bought a tasty grilled sandwich of some kind that Nicole and i shared while we dangled our feet over the river and enjoyed the setting of the sun.

The evening was finished out with an amazing dinner with Kindra and her friend Sophie that we had met the night before. I had roast shoulder of boar, because I'm a manly man. It was very good. We wandered through Old Town on our way back to Kindra's flat. Nicole told me that this had been one of her most favorite days.

Posted by hangtime41 13:28 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

How Travel Works 101

An Intangible

I have come to find that there are certain intangibles in the recipe of Europe back pack travel. I have one specifically in mind as I write this. Before I tell you what it is, let me set the stage. You plan your route before you leave as best you can. You print off every voucher, subway system map and set of directions you think you might need. You plan and visualize until you are ready. You are going to kick this trip's butt. And then, before you can even land on foreign soil, the plan goes to le toilette. You miss your flight, it's delayed, and you suddenly are facing the ultimate bad vacation. This stuff happens. Somehow, it gets figured out and you make it to Europe. Just as you are set to go to your next country, your host changes plans, and you have to scramble. Being the genius you are, you decide to visit a new country that wasn't even on your original itinerary. You get to this place, and realize it is the most foreign place you have ever been. You are going to be so lost, the language doesn't even have Latin roots! Yet, you have an amazing time. You make it to a friend's house in yet another new country. The next day you have to get to a new city and have zero clue where to start. Of course, you arrive and have a fantastic time. So, how were all these amazing memory making moments made out of potentially horrible situations? What is the intangible that makes this possible? People. The people around you are the ones who save you. In New York it was Justin, Megan, Liz and Andrea who surrounded us and gave us hope. Krystle rescued us from our rescheduled layover. In Prague, without Kindra we would have been lost in a sea of Czeck words that would have left us without direction. In Germany, without Anna and Eva, we never would have made it to Munich so easily, nor had such a good evening. Jenny and Damita made a great day visiting Neuschwanstein Castle into a spectacular day! And just now, the stranger on the train that came back to us after we had asked him a question about the direction of the train. He found us and informed us that we needed to get on the train in front of the one we were in, because this one was going to be dropped from the lead train. We made it with literally 5 seconds to spare. It's these people around us, German, Trini, English, American, Australian, and many more, that make this travel thing we do possible. The kicker is there is no way to plan for it, no way to prepare. When it happens it creates such a feeling of goodwill and gratitude. I thank all of you who have been there for us, and most currently you Mr. Random Stranger, especially since we are headed for Memmingen right now, and not Hausterhackenwhateverville.

Posted by hangtime41 14:16 Comments (0)

To Prague!

Cveck is hard to pronounce

overcast 65 °F

May 29th, 2014

Another potentially stressful day is upon us, but also the greatest potential for a magical experience. Our original plans for Germany were to fly out of Spain and land in Munich. Once in Munich we were going to stay at the the Olympic Park with Anna's friend Mike. Anna is a friend that Casey and I made when we were in Ireland in 2011. After one night there with him, we were going to meet Anna and head to her hometown of Berchtesgaden to stay with her family. The following day we would have gone to Salzburg, Austria, followed by another day in her hometown. Well that all went down the drain and we had a choice to make. We decided to hoof it up to Prague for an evening and day. Before we could make it to Prague, we had to catch the correct bus to the middle of Palma, then catch another bus to the airport. Once we caught our flight, we would need to catch a train to a bus hub and then catch the correct bus to prague. This opened up the whole day to any number of mistakes.

We made our first mistake on the very first bus. I don't know why, but the bus schedules don't make a lot of sense to either Nicole or I. So, because of this, we missed our first bus. It came, and went, right in front of us, but we were certain it wasn't the right bus. It was. So, instead of spending 10 euro to get to the airport, we spent 40 on a taxi. I am really glad the taxi was there, or else we would have been in big trouble. It took me a few hours to swallow the 40 dollars difference. We made it to our plane and flew into Munich.

Once in Munich it was fairly simple to catch our train and make it to the bus. At the bus stop was our first experience with some really good authentic food. We grabbed something called a lahmacun. It was some sort of wrap, but not a tortilla and not a taco. It had sauce on it, and I am pretty sure lamb as the meat, all sorts of lettuce and vegetables I didn't recognize, and it was served hot. Oh mylanta! It was the best food I have had in a long time. Spain was fun, but it is time for good food time. We boarded the bus for our 5 hour trip.

When we arrived in Prague, Kindra was so happy to see us! I was happy to see her too. We could use someone that knows what they are doing and where they are going. In the German language, I can make out what several words mean, and pronounce them if I have to. In Prague, the language is Czeck, and it is not as easy to decipher or pronounce. We ran into the station so that i could get some Czeck money. Ah finally! A decent exchange rate! We get about 20 Czeck crowns for every US dollar. That means I pulled out 200 US dollars or 4,000 Crowns. Yup, I am a thousandaire here. Kindra took us straight to her flat where we changed and headed out to dinner.

Kindra was stoked to take us to a local place for some authentic food. We ordered a traditional dish, the name I cant remember, and goulash. Both are extremely traditional and I could not wait. While Kindra and Nicole caught up on old times, I fantasized about dinner. The food was INSANELY GOOD. The traditional dish I can't remember is like a national treasure. The sauce they make has to simmer all day before it can be served. I need to look up the name in order to help describe it better. The goulash was also the most tasty plate of huge servings that I have had in a long time. They also make the most tasty potato pancakes on the face of the planet. All fueled up, Kindra then took us to a pub to meet with several of her friends and maybe catch some music. Boy did we ever catch some music.

Did you know that Rumplestielskin can play the accordion? About an hour after we arrived, this guy that looks just like Rumplestielskin, deary, came in and started singing and playing. He was really good at both. Then some lady with a flute and another with a violin began playing with him. They were all extremely talented. The music began to catch the people up that were there. All of the sudden, everyone in the pub breaks out into song. They were singing traditional Czeck song after song, no breaks. It was like something from the movie. A Czeck woman, with a massive beer in her hand sitting up on a table belting away at the female part of the song while the men carried on their part. Everyone was laughing and clinking beer mugs waving them around like only a movie director could produce. Then some random guy walks in with a trombone and joins right in without skipping a beat! He was so good that I would bet he could join any orchestra or jazz group in the states without blinking. He was probably 24 or 25 years old. The music was such a treat that we stayed until 1am. I cant forget to record the atmosphere of the bar. Two things in Czeck, beer is the equivalent of water, and smoke (cigarette or weed) is the equivalent of oxygen . That is the best way to describe it. So once you got past the burning eyes and sickly smell of weed, it was one of the best nights so far.

After we left the bar we decided to head home. However, as we learned about Kindra, the night is young and no plan is concrete! Once we reached her flat, she suggested we walk down to the water to see the bridge and castle. This way we would know which way to go in the morning when we went to tour the castle. I had just enough energy left to do this. Nicole and Kindra were wide awake. So we made it to the water and then decided that we should at least go see the famous Charles Bridge. It was about two city blocks away. I dug deep for the energy required ands we took off. By the time i was there, i was pretty much a zombie. But the coolest thing ever was that by this time of night, there were no tourists around, just us! We saw the castle up on the hill and walked about halfway up the bridge. I was done. We turned around and started heading back. It was 2am by now. As we reached the end of the bridge, Kindra decided to take us to Old Town Prague. After all, we were close and there wasn't anyone out and about. Old town was very cool, but by now I was only able to appreciate putting one foot in front of the other. You know that scene in The Lord of the rings with Frodo is trudging up Mount Doom? He can barely go on,and he can't even walk in a straight line. That is how I felt. I actually think that was the most tired I have been in my life. The ground was tilting under me. Either I was exhausted or the second hand weed smoke had got to me. We finally made it back at 3:30 and now I understand how you can fall asleep when your head hits the pillow.

Posted by hangtime41 14:11 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Palma de Mallorca

Slow day

sunny 71 °F

May 28th, 2014

We slept in. There I said it. We are on a European adventure and we slept in. Yesterday was so jammed packed that it did us good. We have to give back our car buddy today at 5 so we are going to make the most of the rest of the afternoon. We plan to grab some lunch in the main city of Palma this afternoon. It is a 15 minute drive from where we are. Or big goal today before we have to give the car back, is to visit the cathedral that Mallorca is famous for.

We managed to find some parking and had a quick lunch before heading over to the cathedral. What I really liked about this cathedral is that it isn't built out of the normal grey stone that you might picture. It is made completely of a brown almost sandstone looking material. So to have something as massive as this structure made out of brown stone was really unique. I would imagine that the entire thing could fit in the Dallas cowboys stadium. What is also unique about the interior is that there are no mountains or structures to block any of the sunlight. The whole thing is constantly lit in the daytime through the stain glass that was everywhere. I would try to describe the insanely high vaulted ceilings, or the incredibly detailed and ornate beauty of the structure, but you really have to visit it. We literally just sat in the benches and marveled for as long as we could.

Too soon it was time to get our rental car back. Kudos again to Nicole for getting us there without much of a problem. Fuel was only 35 euros for the 2 days we used it, which made me very happy of course. We caught a bus back to Santa Ponca where we sent the rest of the evening doing some last minute shopping and dinner. The food here has been a disappointment. Part of travel is to experience as many aspects of the local culture as possible. Unfortunately our area was far too much of a tourist destination and the food was a let down. Boo. We grabbed some groceries just as the store was closing and headed back to the room for a decently early night, and to be ready for the early morning trip out.

Posted by hangtime41 13:15 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Driving is fun!

Hope my brakes work.

sunny 74 °F

May 27th, 2014

What a memorable day! Let me tell you what went down on the Isle of Mallorca.

I woke up with apprehension in my soul. Today is the day that we are renting a car, in a foreign country, to drive all over in a foreign country and figure out how to get around, in a foreign country. We had to get up early enough to make it to Port Adriano for our pick up time. We decided to walk instead of figuring out transportation. Port Adriano is about an hour up over the hill and down to the other side. It was such a beautiful morning and it felt good to stretch our legs and get some good exercise. The whole time we were walking I kept self soothing and thinking,"At least I'm not driving right now. I know where I am going right now and I am okay, right now. I'm not driving yet, enjoy the freedom." I know it's sad, but its kind of freaky okay? We made it without any hitches to the port. Yet another beautiful little beach with yachts worth more than the city of Post Falls moored at the docks. The company we are using is called Sixt. We were met by a really nice lady to help us get our car. I listened to her talk to see if I could figure out where she was from. At first I guessed Australia, but that didn't seem right. Then I thought maybe she was english, but couldn't quite tell. I didn't bother guessing. That seems as bad as asking, "When is that BABY due?" You just don't guess. She told us about the history of the company. I didn't realize it was a German company, but it made sense. Really cool history too! The company is 100 years old. They started renting out Model T's way back in the day! What a forward thinking company. They were hit hard by World War II. Apparently they had to hide cars from the Nazis and all sorts of stuff. It is neat they have rebuilt. The Germans seem to be very professional and top of it. I even told her so. Then I asked her where she was from. Germany! I never would have guessed. She confessed her boyfriend is British and rubs off on her. That explained my confusion. Good thing I complimented the Germans before I knew she was a German! She took us to our brand new VW Polo. Nicole calls it cute. I think she meant to say ugly. The lady handed me the keys, and we were set to explore the island and....drive in a foreign country.

Nicole gets the award for navigator of the year. She was completely on it. I will say right now, that for the whole day, she got us everywhere we needed to go without any problems. That really helped. I really like the way the Europeans drive. The fast lane is for fast people and the slow lane is for everyone else. I found the drivers to be aggressive but respectful, especially of the fast lane. We certainly could use that courtesy in the States. Seriously. We headed straight for the mountains and began to climb. Our first stop was a little town called Soller. Quaint but very uneventful. The streets were a trip though. They kept getting smaller and more crowded by buildings the further we got into town. At one point it was one car wide, with buildings on either side and about 2 feet of room to either side of our ugly little car. We couldn't stop laughing as the roads continued to get smaller and crazier! We stopped and walked around for a bit, but decided to continue on. The craziest roads were yet to come. The mountains we were driving in we're incredibly rocky. Not ugly rocky, but more like Ireland and Glacier National park rocky, without the pine trees. There were little black goats everywhere too. We started toward a little hidden beach, the name escapes me, but little did we know what would be required to get there.

This road, this crazy road, was like nothing I have ever seen. If you have ever been on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, you might think you have been on a crazy narrow road. The Sun Ride is like a straight 6 lane freeway compared to the insanity we began to drive on. The road was BARELY the width of two of these tiny little ugly European cars. Barely. And that was at only some parts. Some parts of the road were only 1 car wide. By now i had driven enough that I was up for the challenge. We started heading up to the top of the mountain. Up switch backs and snaky roads. We were doing really well. Then came the tour bus. Are you kidding me? They let tour busses on this road?!? We slowly made our way past the bus, and let me tell you, insta-pit sweat. We cleared by maybe 3 inches, and we had not even seen the craziest sections of road yet. We get to the top of the mountain and look down. This road, going down to the coast, was like....it was like a cartoon or something. You look down the hill and the thing snakes and twists along cliff edges like someone had thrown a rope on the ground and said, "Let's make the road look like that." I say that to mean there was no rhyme or reason. The road would snake abnormally to the right, then disappear. Then reappear in switch backs of varying sizes only to snake like a drunken clown off the other direction! It was the single most interesting, peculiar and scary road I've seen in both real life and pictures. Throw on top of that oncoming traffic and a few more tour busses and it was a memory I will never forget. I have had the itch to go back and drive it again ever since.

When we arrived at the bottom, we are treated by the beautiful blue sea. A trail along the edge led us through two cave tunnels and out to one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The last cave led us to a huge bowl in the mountains. The ground is all smooth round rock, the kind you would never build a driveway out of, but would decorate with. Off to the right is what looks like a river coming down from the mountain and to the left, cut out of the rock is a little hidden beach. Pictures don't do it justice at all. It is so secluded, so secret, and I would bet that less than 1% of everyone on the planet will ever visit it. That is part of the charm. To get there you must brave the crazy roads and hike in. This has also been the biggest regret of the trip. We did not bring swim suits. How could we not bring swim suits? It was a perfect day for swimming, which many others there were taking advantage of. We sufficed to sit and soak in the awe inspiring natural beauty while avoiding the topless older women. Yes, I have not mentioned this yet, but topless sun bathing is a very real thing here. It wasn't super common though, so it is easy to maintain a decency with where you look.

The drive out was easier than the drive down. I'm not sure why, but thats that. We took off for the last stop of the day. There is a famous lighthouse at the very northernmost tip of the island. The roads were still nuts, but nothing compared to what we had already seen. The lighthouse actually turned out to be somewhat of a let down. Really not that cool and we didn't stay long. However, a few miles before the lighthouse we stopped at a breathtaking overlook and took some of the best pictures of the trip so far. From there it was back to Santa Ponca for a late dinner. The drive took a few hours, but really not bad. Nicole was running on reserves. It had been an exciting and exerting day. She was hilarious. She would nod off, only to jerk her head up and tell me to stay in my lane, only to fall right back asleep. It was endearing. We made it home, parked the car and headed out to dinner. What a fantastic day!

Posted by hangtime41 10:58 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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