More like Kutna Hora-ble

How to get stuck in rural Czech Republic:

1- Take an hour train ride to Kutná Hora on a day trip to see the bone church.
2- Agree that bone church is cool.
3- Ride this wave of agreeableness into town for some lunch.
4- Ask a local for directions on how to use the bus to get back to the train station.
5- Get told use the local train instead.
6- Wait an hour for the local train which never arrives.
7- Walk 3km to the train station.
8- Miss the 630pm train to Prague because you had to walk.
9- Wait until 9pm for the next one.
9a- Play a game a throw rocks at train infrastructure.
9b- Play a game of handicapped railing slides.
9c- Play a game of currency bowling in the ultra modern train concourse.
9d- Write blog posts.
10- Congratulations! You now hate Kutná Hora.

The bone church was cool though. Basically a little chapel decorated with the bones of the over 40000 people estimated to be buried there. Specifically interesting was the chandelier made from at least one of every bone found in the human body.

Photos:
1) thumbs down Kutná Hora, thumbs way down
2)a game of throw rocks at things
3) a game of ski down the handcap rail
4) currency bowling
5) the bustling train station
…Then 4 shots of the bone church…

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Prague

Day 1 in Prague started a bit late as we needed to nurse our heads from the previous night’s exploits, but once we got going we were going.

We walked into the city center along the main drag and were immediately greeted by some the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen. Every single one is adorned with either some kind of fresco, relief carving, or statue(s), and most carry multiple of all three. Each building is uniquely painted in contrasting manner to it’s surroundings, but when thrown together on a street makes for a very lively and characteristic appearence. In short, Prague just looks cool.

We walked along the main strip until coming to the Powder Tower, which is a really old gate tower whose construction began in the 1600s. It’s been through many repurposings since then, including an gun powder repository in the 1800s (hence the current day name). We climbed the tower and got a good view of the city.

We kept along the main drag until coming to the main town square where the old palace used to be. This area is now set up as an open air market of sorts and it was here that we had lunch: Klobasà in a bagette. Also in the main square is an astronomical clock which I guess is cool to some people because a lot of people were looking at it.

Forking from the main road to the north we walked along with gaped mouths at all the buildings. You suddenly just stop taking pictures of things because every buildin is so cool that to take a picture of them all would make you look even more ridiculous than you already do. (I don’t know what that means, I look awesome actually…).

We crossed the river on a bridge just to the north of the famous Charles Bridge which was commisioned when the palace was to be moved (big surprise) to the top of the hill adjacent to the town. We got a good side profile of the bridge, and planned to cross it again later on our way back down from the palace.

The walk up the hill was to be expected, but the expansiveness if the interior of the palace was not. The literature we have on the church said that if you only visit one church in Europe, that is the one. Seeing as how I hadn’t visited any yet, or at least couldn’t remember doing so, we went in. First of all, from the outside this place was as intimidating of a structure as I had ever seen. I couldn’t get the height or breadth of it in frame of the camera. It’s actually quite a beutifully gothic church, complete with gargoyles, cleated spires, and seemingly unnecessary stone carving. The inside wasn’t anything to scoff at either. Filled with all sorts of church goodies, it was a veritable treasure trove of … well, church stuff. The most shocking thing however had to be the imensity of the structure itself though. Absolutely incredible.

We came down off the hill through a tourist-trap old town area and crossed the Charles Bridge. Unfortunately a good part of the expanse was under construction so the experience was probably a little less than what it should have been. The bridge is about .5km long, and every 20m or so on either side is another crazy statue that looks like it would have taken 10 years to make. This was about the time that we stopped taking photos. No picture would do it justice (and all the scaffolding would be annoying), atleast no picture I would take.

We concluded the walk with a stop at a cafe in a satellite square from the city center and then took the metro back to the hostel where we took some time to check into a day trip for Saturday (more on this in my next post), and figure out a place to go for dinner.

The hostel guy pointed us back to the city center and to a specifc restaurant that he frequents on the elbow of a back street. Food was good (chicken wrap with curry and yogurt sauce) and cheap as we had two entrees and beers for 270 csz ($11). We walked along the river and had another beer at a bar and then headed back to the hostel for the night around 12.

All in all good day seeing the city.

Photos:
-the Prague tv tower. Those are little babies climbing the side…weird
-the interior of the huge church
-(part) of the exterior of thy giant church… That represents maybe the top 3rd
-Prague city view
-astronomical clock
-powder tower
– a typical Prague building…see all those statues on top?…this is the norm

From the last train to the green fairy

Yesterday we woke up early to catch the 930 train from Budapest to Prague, which we did. However, for whatever reason, the train ended up leaving 45 minutes late which was not so great. The ride started out fine. The train was really nice and we had our own compartment to stretch out in. I’d say we slept until about noon (which is by far the best way to pass time in the train…especially if you forget to buy a book at the bookstore right next to your hostel…idiot). Around the afternoon though my cold started acting up an I was officially miserable. Compounding the miserableness was the family that moved into our compartment at the Bratislava stop with their kid. He could have been worse, but being sick and cramped while a toddler tears around a 40 sq ft space filled with 4 other adults while screaming is not ideal. I tried to sleep, no dice, so I went to the dining cart and had two beers. When I came back they were gone.

The rest of the train ride seemed to go on forever, but we finally pulled into Praha at around 530, and set out on the usual course of action: get money, get a map, find hostel. At least this time we didn’t have to worry about getting another train ticket.

We jumped on the red line, transfered to the green, and made a short walk to the Clown & Bard hostel where we will be bunked until Monday. The hostel is nice enough, bar downstairs (a complimentary Pilsner Urquell upon check in), free Internet one floor up, clean rooms, etc. The pillow on the bed looks like a plate of lumpy mashed potatoes, but hey, it’ll do.

We settled in and showered up (something about being on a train that long makes you almost drip with grease) and went downstairs to the bar to game plan a bit. We fell in with 3 English guys who we went and got dinner with at a place with a beer garden that the hostel guy recommended. For the 5 of us to eat and have 2 beers each cost 850csk (Czech crowns) which is the equivalent of about $45. Soo, this city seems pretty cheap (though not as cheap as it used to be I’m told).

We all then decided it would be a good idea to bounce around from bar to bar in the local area (the hostel is just outside the city center) and drink pints until we couldn’t…so we did.

We drank a pint in a dimly lit, (supposedly) Canadian run punk bar that looked the Adams Family’s living room. They were playing MXPX though so it was kind of rad. This was also the place where we ran into Josh from Kalamazoo, MI who was moving to Prague to teach English, and from the looks of it, stage a porn-stash revival.

We drank a pint in what looked like no more than a two booth sandwich shop that was showing a Czech soccer match to a (up until our arrival) lone patron. Said lone patron would continually try to talk to us, realize we had no idea what he was saying and then smoke a cigarette. This happened about 4 times, and now that I think about it, isn’t that funny.

You know that sound effect of a record screaching that is typically associated with a crowd stopping experience? Well we walked into an obviously local bar and that happened. Even the toothless guy in the back of the bar who wasn’t wearing a shirt stopped short. Oh well, we had a beer here too, out back in their beer garden, which in the light probably looks a lot more like a private back yard than anything.

We came back to the hostel and had another beer downstairs and decided that an even better idea would be to break out the Absinthe.

So here is the first word on this stuff: meh. First of all, you could drive a tractor with it as it tastes like a delicate balance between gasoline and black licorice. Second of all, we took it as a shooter and the bartender was “out” of small shot glasses (this at least how I remember it). I can safely (unfortunately?) report that no hallucinagenic effects were felt. We’re told that you have to have two before you’d have a chance. Maybe another night.

After consuming about 70 glasses of water I went and slammed my face against the bed. There will be no hurry in leaving it in the morning.

R-e-l-a-x

Our last full day in Budapest we decided to head to the western side of the city and try out the Turkish baths. We walked down Vací (the shopping district) to get there and stopped to get a lunch of Hungarian goulash.

We went to the Gellért Fürdö bath on the Buda side of the river, underneath a hill with a giant statue called the Szabadság szobor, or independence monument. Ironically, this monument was erected to celebrate the communists victory in liberating Hungary in 1945. However, all of the soviet adornings have since been removed and it now stands for what it should, I guess.

Anyway, the baths were spectacular. The Gellèrt baths are housed in a hotel of the same name and allow you to cycle through an above ground pool “with artificial undulation,” an enclosed swimming pool, and the actual bath section which is gender segregated. We spent most out time in the bath rotating between the 38C water designed to open your pores, the steam room designed to help sweat out the crap in your skin, and the cold plunge designed to be really cold. After about 5 (VJ will tell you he did 6, but he did not) revolutions of this cycle over the course of 3 hours we felt pretty good…my skin felt new, like I was breaking it in for the first time.

We headed back along the Buda side of the river past the waterfall coming down from the statue, crossed back over to the Pest side and sat down at a cafe in a small square at the end if Vacì for multiple beers. We were also killing some time until it got dark as we were told this was the best way to see Hösök tere (Hero’s square) which was our next stop.

We took the orange line out to the square and by this time it was pretty dark. The square is set up as two symmetric arcs each containing 7 statues of old kings/rulers/etc of Hungary. In between the two arcs is a tall obelisk with an angel perched on top with a crown of laurels and a double barred cross. This things symbolize something, but I’m pretty sure I forgot what.

We went for a few more night photograph runs, particularly the chain bridge and castle hill, as well the basicillica right by our hostel an headed back to get some sleep. We head to Prauge tomorrow morning.

Dubrovnik Sites

Been a little behind on maps…they take a while…

1-swimming area by hostel, home of early morning swims
2-hostel
3-club fuego
4-old fort
5-fountain at the old city gate, we would refill our water hotels here as the eternal was safe to drink
6-bar that served drinks in fishbowls…whoops
7-restaurant where I had squid ink, on purpose
8-Taj Mahal restaurant, my first run in with čevapčeći an ayvar
9-bar on the outside of the city wall perched upon some rocks…awesome view
0-the oldest pub in Dubrovnik and where I had my first run in with rockia

Budapest

The first night in Budapest we ate dinner, had a few beers (Dreher) and went to sleep…and slept. It was the first day we didn’t have to catch some mode of transportation at the crack of dawn in a few days, so we ditched setting an alarm and slept in.

The next morning we rolled out of bed and got mobilized to go over to castle hill on the Buda side of the Danube river, which is a world heritage site. We climbed up (I know it seems like everywhere we go we hike up a hill to a castle…that’s because we do) and got a good view of the city and got out berings. I have to say that we are both pretty impressed with how contemporary this city is. I didn’t expect it to be filled with mud huts or anything like that, but their are stretches that wouldn’t look out of place in Chicago or New York. I guess being in Croatia an the sleepy little Ljubljana the past week made me forget what a big city is supposed to be.

We came back to the city center and caught a bus that takes you out to Memento Park. This place is a work in progress, but it houses all of the statues torn down in the city when Hungary kicked the Communists out in the late 80s, early 90s. Particularly striking is the sawed off statue of Lenin. Only the boots remain. There was also an exhibit that played a Secret Police training video which explained how to monitor citizens, conduct illegal home raids, etc.

We came back and had some beers in the square in front a giant church, St So-and-so’s basilica, and went back to the hostel to make a reasonable attempt at going out. A freind of mine used to live here so we had an army of places to go and check out.

We found the place he recommended to eat dinner, called Fátal on a street in the shopping district but were completely unable to find any of the bars he talked about. Thoroughly confused, we pressed on trying to find anything that was going on, but I guess it is a Tuesday night.

In other news Im sick with a cold which is very lame.

Pictures
– me sitting in a commy-car, apparently you had to wait 8 years on a list in order to be approved to own a car…this is what you got…
– the famous chain bridge across the Danube
– a huge statue from the Memento park
– Lenin’s boots
– Budapest from castle hill

Budapest via Everywhere

The travel woes continue unfortunately. We got up early (again) and pounded the free breakfast our hostel had, and used about half of their meat and cheese tray making sandwichs for later. These would come in key. We caught our 840 train from Ljubljana to Budapest and prepared for the 9 hour grind. Turns out the rail operators had some surprises for us.

We never spent more than 3 hours on any one vehicle. It went like this:

– train from Ljubljana to nowhere
– bus from nowhere to nowhere
– train from nowhere to the Slovenia/Hungary border
– walk 100ft across the border to a train
– train from border to nowhere
– bus from nowhere to nowhere
– train from nowhere to Budapest train station
– subway from train station to city center
– walk to hostel

As you can imagine this was crazy and tiring and ridiculous. Couple that with cough I seem to have developed, the fact that the last train was a smoking train, and the fact that I couldn’t buy water anywhere because we either would miss our bus/train, or they didn’t take Euros. (hadn’t exchanged any money yet).

Luckily our hostel here is really nice and it feels good to be back in a big city. Perhaps we can muster up the strength to get out tonight