Dream trip Day 79   Train to Kraków, catching up with friends, Polish food

No issues checking out, just drop your key in a box, doors lock behind you.

Hardly anyone walking around the streets early in the morning, quite a change from the crowds I’d usually seen gathered.

Soon I was at the Praha hlavní nádraží (man do I enjoy all the accent marks on these letters!) the city’s rail and bus station.

Rail, bus stations are always active and usually crowded no matter the time of day.

I located my train to Ostrava, a small city close to the Polish border and where I was to hop a bus to take me the rest of the way to Kraków.

Ah sweet relief as I fell into my window seat and watched the city disappear into countryside.

I was soon asleep. Woke up to very beautiful, green countryside that soon gave way to the city.

We stopped and I had maybe 15-20 min to find my bus, a process that is always tense, but especially so when all the signs are in Czech.

Whoever decided to add images to signs will forever be my hero.

Fortunately this was a small depot and I quickly found the bus area.

I stood at where I thought my bus would arrive based on the sign only to see the Krakow bus pass by and stop further down the street.

Buses overseas usually don’t have their destinations lit up on top, but rather they hang a sign on the lower right corner of the windshield with the destination city.

Sometimes the bus made you stow backpacks and this was such an occasion. This is one of many reasons why you need a small bag or satchel on trips.

You can carry needed items like say a water bottle as well electronics, snacks, etc.

Not many people heading to Krakow this day so most everyone got seats to themselves.

Gorgeous views as we exited the city and soon we entered Poland!

After awhile we entered the city at a huge rail, bus depot that after walking awhile, I realized the depot was connected to a mall.

That is such a great idea, get off your bus or train to find food, clothes, most anything a person could need after or before a trip.

I ducked into a burrito joint, I know, why there right, but I didn’t see a kielbasas r us or a pierogis haus, nothing that was decidedly Polish.

Happy to report that the burrito I had was very fresh and tasty. I only wished this and other places that try to interpret Mexican food would ease up on the beans.

I ordered a chicken burrito, not a bean burrito with chicken, you know. Had to stop the lady from spooning yet another scoop of what appeared to be ranch style beans.

At least know that if you use beans, they need to be wet, in a liquid vs the pile of dry beans that was the option here.

I walked the mall afterwards and they are very similar to the US malls I’d grown up going to, sometimes willingly, most of the time clothes shopping or worse, for portrait pics.

Clothing stores pumped out modern dance music here, as did shoe stores. No arcade, but they probably don’t have any in the US anymore either.

On one end of the mall was a theater, cinema so that was a universal thing.

About the only thing that really stood out was the amount of coffee kiosks. For sure, there was no reason to wait in line for a coffee, just walk a bit further.

I stopped at one and was amazed at how many employees worked in such a small, not busy kiosk. Every girl did 1 job: take your money, make the coffee, or serve it to you. Plus another girl showed up to pick up the trash and was probably around to help if it got busy.

Made me think about the hectic US places where there was a long line and 1 person doing all the jobs.

Once outside the mall, I entered an enormous courtyard. At the far end was a salt mine tour.

For sure if you want to see an abandoned salt mine, Krakow has you covered. I saw many ads for this one as well as larger mines outside of town.

I located the main road to my friend’s apartment which lead under a bridge then opened into a wonderful park road.

It’s always a good thing to sit on a bench covered by trees to watch car traffic, walkers or in this case, a small girl trying to catch a squirrel.

She was not successful in her endeavor. Her mom chain-smoked on a nearby bench while loudly talking on her cell in Polish.

I followed the wonderful tree-lined road as long as I could before I had to cross the street.

I knew one of my days here would be spent walking the whole garden road, wherever it lead.

There were castles and fortresses on both sides of me on this part of the walk. More exploration options.

It was hot in Krakow, I was sweating. Make fun of me if you want, but I wore hiking pants that unzipped at the knee so I paused on a bench to remove my leggings.

My un-stylish pant option served me very well on this leg of the trip. It was August after all, it was supposed to be hot.

After passing over the tram lines, I was on a business lined street full of coffee shops, convenience stores and food options.

Soon I was at my friend’s apartment where I was buzzed in, took the lift to the 3rd floor and saw my friend.

Earlier in the year one of my former corporate work friend had messaged me about her new life in Poland. Come for a visit if you can she wrote. Haha little did she know 6 months after that invite I would be there.

She was traveling this week, but I knew her husband and he was cool.

We chatted and I filled him in on my trip. I was in a corporate supplied and furnished apartment.

It was super modern place, sleek, exposed pipes, dark hardwood floor. On one wall was old black and white photos artfully arranged into a unique, somehow still in a square pattern.

These photos were totally random shots of fashion models or movie stars. Seemed odd in a family residence, but they couldn’t change it.

They had another room for their son they let me sleep in, and I was super grateful for a bed, especially a bedroom with a door for privacy.

I had arrived around their daily call time so I was able to talk to my friend who was very excited I was there. She was in the US at the moment.

I soon learned they were going to meet up Paris in a few days. To my shock, she said I should just stay there in the apartment for the week. I could house sit.

The husband nodded approvingly, better to have someone here. They were so generous, I was flabbergasted and humbled.

Talk soon turned to food and off we went to a local spot the family frequented.

While tempted to order pierogi, I was assured those indeed were everywhere, including fresh ones sitting in the fridge in the apartment.

I opted for my first taste of white borscht, a soup that is very Polish as it also included kielbasa sausage. Most borscht was beet red outside of Poland.

My entree was pork served with potatoes or latke. A hearty gravy was poured over the dish along with cream. It was very good and rich.

Throughout the course of our dinner I discovered my friend’s family was of Polish decent, his grandparents immigrated to escape the Nazi’s and settled in Ohio.

He had grown up with many of the dishes he ate here regularly and even spoke Polish when he was little, but had forgotten it. He remembered enough to get by, but couldn’t hold a full conversation like he had growing up.

I was shocked when the check came in under 20$. That’s with 2 soups, entrees and beers for 2 people! Dang that’s affordable.

We stepped outside to light rain and I inquired about a neon sign I saw on a couple of apartments.

Turns out those were the massage parlors, aka prostitution rooms. Guys could pay for the company of women. It was not highly recommended for me to check them out.

We popped into a small convenience store and picked up some beer which we enjoyed on their balcony.

The balcony overlooked a courtyard with a couple of churches on either side.

My friend had an early morning at work so he soon retired, but not before inviting me to taco Tuesday with his co-workers the next evening.

I sipped a beer, watching the rain fall from the balcony before I retired for the evening.

Song: Władysław Szpilman   Little Overture

Beer:  Tyskie Gronie

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Dream trip Day 78 Water festival, island views, Pivovar Národní

Hooray sun, a great way to wake up!

I headed out for coffee and to plan my final full day in the city.

The west side area was very intriguing to me as well as the part of town I’d been to the least, may as well start there.

Success! There was a festival or competition going on as I heard sounds of music once I reached the bridge.

In the river below, they’d sectioned off the far side so they could host jet ski races.

I wasn’t aware racing jet skis was a thing, so this was a very excellent competition to stumble upon.

Making my way down stairs, the music grew louder and louder.

It became unbearably loud once I arrived to the stage. A DJ was spinning tunes and some girls flanked him on either side of the stage.

These 2 girls wore bikini’s and were sort of half ass swaying to the music, one foot in front of the other, repeat. They looked incredibly bored.

They were dancing to a lone kid, no older than 10, the only person in front of the stage rocking out to painfully loud EDM.

I watched several races, cheering on a girl who was for sure the youngest contestant, but alas, her motor dipped into the water and stalled out so she had to wait for a tow.

A dude in a lifeguard orange wet suit soon lassoed her jet ski around the steering controls and towed it away from the still continuing race as the girl hopped on the back of his jet ski.

What luck this event had cheap beer and brauts for sale so a late lunch was secured.

I nestled into a small area by a tree, the river to my right, the huge castle in the distance to my left, the Charles Bridge dead ahead across the water.

The sun shone down on me as I ate. I was so happy to be out experiencing this random event in a very cool city. Lucky, lucky me to be on this amazing trip.

I stayed way after the skiing event ended and the sun began to set on this island oasis.

There was a large brewery restaurant that I passed many times on my westerly walks, so tonight was the night to give it a shot.

It was still early…or late, dinner time was very different overseas. Point was most tables inside were full, so I was led out back by the very pretty, very long-haired hostess.

The inside was very wooden: long wood tables, big wood chairs complemented the wooden walls.

Not the case on the patio, full of several rows of metal tables covered by umbrellas.

I sat at a small, unoccupied table. A waitress duly came over and seemed even more disappointed I just wanted beer, not food. Hey at least she spoke English!

All the beers in this place were very good and very Czech. I was rather pleased that I’d developed a good palette for the many beer regions I’d been to on my travels.

Czech style were usually very light and crisp, perfect for a hot day or reward after a long work day.

Czech did have dark beers as well, but they weren’t super heavy, like dark Belgium or German beers that overwhelmed and knocked you and your taste buds on their ass.

This joint made both light and dark styles all named Czech Lion followed by the degree number. I’d read this degree was percent malts used OR sugars after fermenting.

Higher the degree the darker, sweeter the brew. I’d seen some US brands refer to this as Plato.

For sure it’s very complicated and was perfected by a German as most things beer related seem to be.

It lightly sprinkled rain on and off, and due to the umbrellas, no one moved inside.

After my third pint the friendly waitress said they would be closing soon. It was nearing midnight.

Probably a good thing to call it and ‘early’ night ( I know, right, midnight… early night?! I was on a whole different time-table due to my new, free schedule.)

I had an early train ride scheduled for 10 am. So early I know but when you add in check out time and a walk to the station, that made it early for me.

Oh well I could sleep on the train.

Next stop, Kraków, Poland!

Beer:  Czech Lion 11° Nefiltrovaný Ležák

Song:  the Chainsmokers   Don’t Let me Down ft Daya (NOT Rihanna like I thought. Heard this one a lot on the trip, but finally able to shazam it thanks to the festival DJ playing his entire set on max volume)

Dream trip Day 77   Petřín Lookout Tower, garden, Czech band plays CCR

Why, hello again morning rain, my travel companion.

Fortunately coffee and a burrito were a short walk away so I was all set to wait out the rain and stay a bit active.

I was able to chat up my roommate a bit, he came home very late and was usually asleep most of the morning.

He was traveling through Europe before he got a job. He was from Japan and explained this was likely his last trip until he retired. Vacation, hell, weekends weren’t much of a thing in his city.

‘We work ah everything, for money,  fun, boredom.  Always work, no night, drink! Hahah,’ he explained.

We couldn’t talk much, his English wasn’t great and my Japanese is nonexistent. I picked up he enjoyed going to big night clubs that were opened into the morning.

I shook his hand before we parted and wished him well on his travels. I was grateful for someone to talk with, even for just a moment.

My route up to the tower, garden was due west, straight down the road outside the hostel and up.

The clouds parted and I was off admiring the river.  There was a small island park about halfway across this particular bridge so I made a mental note to explore later.

After passing a busy road, I was on a separate walking train that lead to a sculpture and stairs.

Once up the stairs I was on the walkway to the top of a mountain.

I knew it was a bit of a hike when I came across a long queue for a gondola that took groups to the top. I had legs and a strong desire so I skipped the line and continued on the path.

It was a dirt path that zigzagged up the mountain and was quite popular with joggers and walkers alike.

Ever so often the path had a small rest area with benches or a small park area where people sat to drink, eat or play with their dogs. A wonderful yet steep walk.

About halfway up, there was a tiny restaurant, but more importantly for me, their restrooms were outside, perfect. I could pop in, use the facilities and fill up my water bottle.

If you’re traveling for any length of time, a wise investment is a durable, aluminum water vessel. You’ll easily pay for it and save $ due to the expensive water bottles vendors sell in areas like this or especially at airports.

Staggering water prices and most EU airports had water fountains. If not, there was always the rest room faucet, just mind the signs, some airports don’t use potable water.

I paused at a bench and took in the city view for a few moments. There was no hurry to scale this mountain, it had turned into a nice day.

After a few more uphill zigzags, I was at the top. What a view too!

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Through a floral archway I saw the tower. I’d read this was based off the Eiffel Tower, but with a Czech style influence.

There was a long line with admission to ascend the tower. I opted to walk it for free.

Under another floral arch was a lush garden full of roses and other flowers. A short walk revealed a circular walkway with another garden in the middle.

I sat on one of the many benches that followed the circle, spaced out about every 10 feet or so. Close enough to overhear a conversation at another bench.

A couple were talking in Czech and what I picked up based on tone, inflection and physical interactions they alternated arguing and making up.

About what, I wasn’t positive, but sex was for sure on the guy’s mind as he had his arm slung around her or on a choice body part then she’d squeal and bat him away for awhile before they’d make out and begin the process over again.

Suddenly he got up and picked a rose and put it in his teeth to her shock, which soon turned into a laugh. Smooth move, though likely illegal to pick anything in this public garden area.

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I, too, got up but didn’t pick any roses, just completed the circle back to the entrance.

I passed by the tour one more time and saw people going from the opposite direction I’d come up. Perhaps there was another route down?

Indeed there was another path that I followed for a bit until I saw a worn path in the grass which I took until I hit a fence with an ominous sign.

Ah I’d found a slice of the US in Czech Republic but it was fenced in. haha land of the free, sometimes, not here.

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Looked like a residence of some sort. Prime land with a view so likely diplomat’s home or for use by VIPs when they were in Prague.

Back to the main path and soon another tributary path was revealed, but this one was paved so it had to lead to some where cool, at least accessible.

It lead to a small rectangle area surrounded by small concrete walls about 3 feet high, maybe this was an overflow parking lot?

Sitting on a ledge with choice view of the city were 2 couples talking and listening to Pink Floyd via small, Bluetooth speaker.

They’d met at some club last night, the ladies were visiting and the guys were from Netherlands, but visited Prague often, I overheard while taking the view in.

They chatted and compared Prague vs Amsterdam and all agreed to meet up in Holland in the future.

I continued my decent after they began to hold hands and sneak kisses.

Back down to street level I encountered an interesting fountain where the runoff trickled down into a ground level reservoir for pets to drink, too. No waste here.

Why don’t we have more efficient things like this in the US, I wondered?

I was soon back at my hostel where I showered and got ready for the evening starting in the common area.

Foiled again, everyone was immersed in their phones.

I passed by the Vagon music club and had noted that tonight they had a CCR cover band.

A minimal cover, cheap beer and good tunes made for a great night out!

The band was spot on, too, each song is a classic and was played very well. The only way I knew it was a cover band was the Czech between song banter.

They took requests as the sweaty, beer bellied front-man said something to which the crowed called out song titles in English.

They played nearly 2 hours to great applause from the crowd. They did these songs justice and having never seen CCR live, this was as close as I ever would.

I lingered with a beer in the back after the show, finding a small place to sit near a screen that was showing rock videos.

My attempts to chat up some local goths, punks failed. Not much English spoken here.

After the band was finished, the placed morphed into more of a dance-y club that closed very late.

I finished my pint and headed to my hostel, whistling a CCR tune.

 

Song:  Creedence Clearwater Revival    Who’ll Stop the Rain?

Beer: Breznak

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Dream trip Day 76 Rugby, Kafka’s head, drinking with the locals

Began the day with a nice walk down Národní Street and taking a right at the Lego Muzeum for coffee.

I received the largest cup of coffee I’ve ever had, probably more like 2 cups sized vessel. I’m already nervous about spilling hot coffee on myself as it is, what with the small handle and all.

All the coffee I spilled went into my saucer and not on me so I was all good.

It sprinkled rain as soon as I left so I ducked into the restaurant portion of the brewpub I was in the night before.

Always stick to your gut if you feel lost and just turn around. I stumbled into the basement and encountered a table of Czech men who immediately stopped eating once they saw me.

They just stared saying nothing. I was surely lost and definitely in the wrong place.

“Pivo, beer?” I asked.

Men continue to stare for about 10 seconds.

“You are in a private place. This is a private group. Not allowed.” One finally said after even more staring.

I held up my hands and backed away as they continued to stare at me.

I knew going down those stairs felt like a bad idea!

I was soon in the main restaurant where I walked to the bartender. He was much friendlier.

“Please sit down, it is better for you.” he said, motioning to a waiter. He extended his hand to a table nearby. “Sit please.”

Ok so no standing at the bar here. I always feel weird eating at a restaurant with waiters by myself.

Scanning the menu, I decided cold and rainy weather called for soup, specifically beef noodle soup and a beer.

Within 5 minutes I had a beer then a large bowl with small reservoir in it appeared. It was like a sombrero sized hat bowl!

The waiter had a ramekin of noodles he dumped into the bowl, then with a small kettle poured steaming broth over the noodles.

It was quite peppery soup and the noodles were delicate, handmade. I felt more and more refreshed with each bite.

At most tables were racks of big pretzels that people snacked on while sipping beer. I hope they realize this isn’t like chips and salsa at a Mexican joint. They will charge you for these snacks, but there isn’t a sign advising their cost $.

Some places would add all manner of hidden charges to your bill so you had to be vigilant reviewing your bill before paying.

I’d seen a couple of arguments from groups with their waiter and the manager over these hidden fees. It’s what places do to tourists, they know you’re not coming back so they try to squeeze as much money as they could while you were there.

It was really the only surprising practice I saw in a lot of countries. It really bummed me out, but hey, sometimes these fees were due to rude behavior or demands by the table.

I had no fees on my tab so I gave my waiter a few korunas tip.

To my great pleasure, the sun was out drying the streets.

Taking a new route, I came across the other Kafka statue in town, the Head of Kafka. It was a wonderful installation of his head in sections that took about a minute to separate and then reassembled.

It reminded me of that liquid, terminator robot and was quite pleasant to watch.

I had a tip from a friend about a great Mexican food place a short walk away. Hey weird I know, but I missed spice, sabor. Very few things I ate had any spice aside from black pepper and I missed heat.

I crossed the city square, passed an Irish Pub I had thought about checking out. It was full and loud on the patio. My sign to avoid.

Finally I located the spot. I was the only one in the joint so I joked with the waitress a bit as she instinctively lead me to the outside patio.

“This is where you want to sit, it is nice day. You’re fine, its slow for lunch, order whatever.” the waitress advised me with a smile.

Chorizo, eggs with tortillas arrived soon after and yes there was spice, finally.

I asked for green sauce, too, as the dish came with red salsa. I was happy dipping tortillas into the sauces and feeling some heat.

After my satisfying meal I walked back through the Jewish Quarter to further investigate some of the sections we didn’t hit on the walking tour.

Clouds blew in once I arrived to the cemetery hill, which was only accessible for a fee.

Most of the placed I wanted to see in this part of town had a fee to enter so I just walked up and down the streets admiring the free views of houses and synagogues from the outside.

I was a bit salty about fees after hearing about the Prague Library, Clementinum, one of the most beautiful places in the world, was only accessible via high tour fee, no photos inside and extra if you wanted to climb to the top.

Enough negative reviews on multiple travel sites convinced me it wasn’t going to really be worth the money and I felt if you paid anything then you supported the velvet rope exclusivity and gave it credence as a practice.

Thunder made me pause a moment under a bench to research a pub to wait out any oncoming rain.

Ah ha, one was only a few blocks away so I fast walked in that direction, arriving just as raindrops fell on my head. Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling.

This was a very cool Irish pub. Instead of futbol on the telly as I was used to, today a  rugby match was on. So violent and without pads!

I chatted with the friendly barman who was indeed Irish. We were joined by a very pretty girl with mohawk dreads that reached her waist.

They swayed back and forth like a pendulum as she walked around the pub serving pints or ducking outside under the awning for a smoke.

We talked about the city and why he lived there vs Ireland. His wife liked the city, he thought it was just ok. They planned on retiring back home once they saved enough.

The only other people inside were a couple chaps playing darts and watching the rugby match after their 3 throws.

It rained outside while large plates of roast beef and potatoes arrived for the workers to eat. I stopped asking questions so they could eat and watched the rugby carnage unfold.

There were many autographed photos of famous visitors all over the wall near the bar.

What made these pics more interesting was they all seemed to be taken around closing time so lots of big smiles or narrow eyes haha.

After the rain I walked back to my side of town taking in the fresh ozone smells that follow a good downpour.

I was in search of a locals watering hole that was completely Czech. The guy that told me about it said they don’t try to speak English so be prepared to say pivo (beer) and další (another).

A wooden door was the only indication I’d arrived to my destination. What I found unique about Czech pubs was usually only 1 beer on tap. Definitely made it easier on me and less wait times since you didn’t have to stand behind a dude asking for local recommendation or what types of hop were used.

An older bartender didn’t respond when I asked for a pivo, he methodically and gracefully placed my glass under the tap until it overflowed, then he plopped it down in front of me, beer spilling all over.

Hey it was absolutely the most full glass of beer I’ve ever had.

After taking my money he used a squeegee to push the spilled beer into a sink.

I stood off to the side with a good view of both the entrance and the tables, all of which where full.

Overseas it was very common if 2 people are seated at a 4 top table for 2 others to join them. Rarely was there an empty seat or strangers in a pub.

Most people talked to each other including people they may not know. No one had their phones out like I saw in the UK and US.

I overheard an Australian couple talking about their trip. They mentioned a tower on the west side of town that was inside a lush garden.

I knew what I was going to do tomorrow thanks to them and tried to join them for a pint when another couple sat down.

They were the only people speaking English in this pub and I had missed my chance.

May as well get another glass.

The bartender saw me walk up and held up 1 finger and I nodded, “Další, prosim.”  

He had been doing the same thing for so long he had his process down cold: pour beer into glasses, then set onto bar for waitress. Pick up used glasses, dunk them into sanitizer, then water, and place onto drying area. Repeat. He was a graceful machine.

I alternated watching him and the couples at the tables smoking away.

After my 2nd beer it was onto a noodle joint for some dinner. Duck breast with noodles and peanuts in a spicy red sauce.

There was small store near my hostel with a large beer selection and I decided to try to meet some people in my hostel vs sitting in another pub. I’d done that all day thanks to the rain.

I selected a couple local beers I’d not seen before and took the stairs up to my hostel.

There was a couple trying to book a flight and were immersed in their computer.

A few guys had a small  bottle of some liquor which they passed around, finished, then headed out into the night in the span of 5 minutes.

Perhaps this Asian girl…no headphones on, chatting on her phone.

I stared outside taking a slug off my beer.

Song: Dvorak  Slavonic Dance, Op 72, No 2 in E minor

Beer: Staropramen

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Dream trip Day 75 Kutná Hora, bone church, small brewpub

Interestingly at my new hostel, the showers were co-ed, actual water closets with locking doors, a bench within and no curtain. The cement was raised a few inches so no worries about water overflowing.

Funny getting situated in a mirror whilst a couple of girls are blow drying their hair or adding makeup. Very domesticated environment for strangers.

I had enough time to get a flat white coffee from the EU equivalent of Starbucks, Costa.

I only name them as they had a large sign explaining all the ways one could order coffee with pictures of the amount of coffee vs milk. No more lattes or Americanos for me!

I had to trek back to the centre and good lord snakes! The downtown area has all sorts of people trying to get korunas off tourists.

Usually it was people eloquently dressed who stood like statues, but if you tried to take a pic without pay, they came to life: Pay me!

Another common sight was a guy or 2 suspended in an unnatural manner, like they were floating in the air or some other gravity defying trick. They had a metal stand hidden under their flowing attire was the trick.

This was the first time I’d seen someone with a boa constrictor, or python, hard to tell, walking around trying to get someone to drape the reptile on their shoulders for a pic, cash up front.

Before joining my tour I had to get a ticket at the tourist company, which was just off a busy road. Back and forth I walked but I couldn’t find it.

Ah it was down this narrow walkway, looked more like a mugging setup location, but yet there was a sign above a door to the tourist company where I picked up my ticket.

Our guide was a Prague native and explained the itinerary to us before leaving. Lunch was optional, but we all would stop for an authentic and delicious Czech meal.

She said she would eat at this place even if she had to pay, which she didn’t because she was bringing in 30-ish people.

First stop was the rail station, where she talked to us more as the train was delayed.

Hora was at one time the largest city in the Bohemia region due to silver mines that produced for centuries.

We hopped on the late train and I was joined in a compartment by a family of 5, all blonde haired girls save the man who had a graying goatee.

Once again, fate or destiny placed me with a family from Plano, of course, suburbs!

They listened intently as I outlined my travels. I told the girls how lucky they were to start traveling at a young age. Oldest was maybe 11, youngest was 6.

“When y’all get into high school and you study history, you can tell everyone what this area is actually like. It’s living history you can touch.” I tried to explain.

These girls could hardly give a shit where they were, they were thirsty and hungry, it was hot, why are they going to this small city when they could just stay in the hotel?

I’ve been there at that age, everyone has, oblivious to the cool trip you were on in an amazing location.

I now valued my parent’s hauling me across the US growing up. At that age, you don’t care about much other than video games (internet now), playing or fighting with your siblings, and just running around being dumb.

They slept most of the trip while I talked with their dad, occasionally the mom would add a comment or 2, asking about a city.

Our guide sat down handed us a menu to take down our orders so the restaurant could be ready for a big group.

All were traditional Czech dishes and very inexpensive. I want to say most were well under 10$ a plate. Beer was separate of course.

I’d say the family’s mom changed her mind on eating no less than 5 times, asking about ingredients, vegetarian options, and portion sizes.

Just a beef and dumpling dish in broth with cream for me. I’m easy and wanted to see how this roast beef compared vs my mom’s.

She was very put off at the thought of staying with strangers in a room when I told her I stayed in hostels. I just shrugged her off.

This family was pretty well off financially, I concluded and I’ll bet they took long trips overseas every summer. She hadn’t had to be around strangers or anyone in their big house back home and hotels on the road.

My family’s big trip when I was growing up was Texas to Yellowstone, 2 weeks. Looking back it was indeed life changing being gone so long. Sleeping in new towns, eating different foods, meeting new people. That’s living.

We changed trains to a much smaller, nearly trolley like line that led into the city.

We got out at one of the few large employers in town, a tobacco packing plant.

There were few signs of much employment here, quite a desolate looking town.

Reminded me of some of the small towns in west Texas that once were prosperous when they had oil, but it had dried up years ago…decades ago.

Not much keeping folks here other than that’s where they were born and it was all they knew in the world.

A short walk down a street and we saw the bone church, actually named the Sedlec Ossuary.

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It was quite small building with a long line of people queuing to enter I wondered how we’d all fit inside.

There were lots of above ground graves in the courtyard. Skull and crossbones statues were all over the chapel.

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The wind vanes turned out to be skull and crossbones, too. It didn’t seem like a holy or religious place. It was laden with death.

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Several ladies were detained at the entrance by a nun who explained that women who entered had to cover their shoulders.

All uncouth women were given shawls, but not a guy dressed in flip-flops, athletic shorts and muscle shirt with sleeves cut off bearing the always appropriate phrase, “Fuck you, I’m drunk!” emblazoned on it. Sure he was dressed ‘appropriately,’ but cover up them shoulders ladies, this is a holy site!

Ah the compartmentalization of religion when it came to genders knew no bounds.

On either side of the stairs the bones were piled high with skulls serving as visual focal points. This is where the bulk of the bones were. The rest of the bones were arranged into towers, spires and coat of arms.

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Alas they had removed the huge chandelier I’d seen when I first learned about this place. That usually happened as most things in Europe are a lot older than the US and as such they needed repair, restoration.

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I really enjoyed this place, put my bones up in an artistic way when I die for people to see and photograph. Ah artistic even in death!

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Our group was shuttled out after our allotted time was up.

Time for food after being in a centuries old ossuary!

A shuttle appeared and we drove awhile to our restaurant across town, where we were led into the back courtyard full of long, communal tables.

I sat down at a table next to a couple of cute girls, maybe I could make some friends.

They were French so that’s what they spoke until our guide asked them about a beverage, then they were fluent in English and ordered wine.

I selected a dark beer and asked them where they were from, Paris. They weren’t huge fans of Lyon, which I get, it isn’t Paris. They returned to their conversation in French. Damn.

A cute brunette seated across from me asked me a question about Prague. She was relieved someone else also spoke English at the table.

Her boyfriend joined us soon after, foiled again. I got up to wash all the bone residue off my hands.

I had a beer waiting upon my return and we all said ‘Na zdravi!’ along with the tour guide and some of the wait staff clinking our glasses together.

The couple was nearing graduation from college and elected to travel during their last summer break before getting real jobs.

Our food was soon delivered and it was indeed a sturdier version of roast beef, with doughy, nearly bread like dumplings swimming in an au jus sauce topped by non-sweet whipped cream.

Quite good but I think my mom’s got them beat on the roast beef tip.

After finishing the meal and another pint, we paid and were off to another huge cathedral on top of a hill with a wonderful view of the town.

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This was St. Barbara’s Church, a huge Gothic church.

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Inside we were informed it had been built over the course of many centuries, including a time it was run by Jesuits, who painted over many of the frescoes, removed many items and added Baroque elements to the building.

I wondered how the acoustics were in such a huge structure. What was it like hearing people sing in here?

Our tour concluded at the Italian court, a short walk away from the cathedral. It was the king’s residence whenever he visited the sliver mines.

All I can recall about his place was a huge, circle style courtyard with many small rooms used by Smithie’s to hand pound coins as this building was also the nation’s mint.

I joined a few dudes in a compartment for the ride back. It had been a long day of walking, good food, and great sites. We all napped on the way back to Prague.

I paused to walk around and through the Powder Tower or Gate, one of the original city’s entrances and it divided Old and New town’s.

This was a landmark I knew so I was heading in the correct direction.

It was still pretty early in the evening, so I walked through the market near my previous hostel.

Lots of small tourist trinkets for sale in addition to a few hand-made useful items like garments and stitch ware.

I decided not to take any touristy stuff with me on this trip, the only souvenirs would be coins from each of the countries. I didn’t have a lot of room to carry breakable items.

My shortcut turned into an interesting diversion as I passed by a small brewery. I walked by again before entering as it was quite small.

Yup why not end my day in here, it was small and not too crowded.

The beer was very good and they had Budvar dark on draft even though they made several beers there. Something for everyone, I suppose.

I sipped a couple of beers at a small bench just across from a huge, copper vat that was now used as a seating area.

A large group occupied the space so I decided to wait them out in hopes of sitting in this unique area.

I was one of the last to leave, but dammit, I drank a beer in that vat room!

What a day! One of the best on my trip.

Song: Misfits  Skulls

Beer: Dačický světlý ležák

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Dream trip Day 74 Lennon Wall, Charles Bridge, Klášterní pivovar Strahov brewery

Once again woken up with rain and checked out of my hostel.

I’d walked by another hostel on a road near the river, on the west side and felt like it would be good to change-up my routine.

I wanted to see as much of the city as possible and the best way to do that is to stay in different areas.

While checking into my new hostel, I asked about washing clothes. This one didn’t have machines, but I was told there were cleaners all over the city that would wash clothes same day for a couple bucks.

Prague didn’t have washaterias it seemed.

I packed up my clothes and slogged in the rain to a place I’d describe as a dry cleaners for dress shirts, slacks, nice clothes.

The lady didn’t speak English, but I was prepared, “Pradlo prosim.” I hopefully said correctly, laundry please.

Her face did not change, she just pointed to the clock and held up a finger, so come back at 1 o’clock to pick them up as she handed me a receipt.

Back to my hostel for more sleep, research and staying out of the pouring rain.

Bone church close by eh, well that’s rather interesting.

It had stopped raining by the time I picked up my neatly folded clothes. I paid and said, “Dekuji,” with a wave. She responded with “Prosim,” which I learned could mean please or thank you depending on context.

The walking tour guide told me I had to see the Charles Bridge, which lead to the largest castle in Europe. He also said that on that side of town there was a wall dedicated to John Lennon as well as an old monk brewery with a great view of the city.

The Charles Bridge is indeed quite a sight and very old, built around the 13th century.

It is now quite crowded and inundated with tourist snapping pics of the river, city or statues that line both sides of the bridge that it is hard to walk across.

There are also vendors selling you various paintings and things that help clog up the route.

I do feel it is a nice place to see if ever you’re in Prague, but for me, walking across once was enough.

The west side of town was very cool, old like the city centre.

I made a couple turns and there was Lennon’s mug on a brightly colored wall.

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While taking pics a group on Segways rolled up and the tour guide advised her group, “This is Lennon Wall, it is most hipster place in the city. Is great for Instagram, tell friends you were here to be cool. It is a ridiculous wall.”

My tour guide told a much better story about how after Lennon died, his face appeared on the wall as well as poems and grievances against the government.

At this time, Prague was under communist rule so they painted over only for Lennon to appear in the morning. They couldn’t catch whoever was doing it so like with anything government related, they eventually gave up paining over the images.

I soon located the long and winding road up the to Klášterní pivovar Strahov, the 17th century Abby that had been restored.

It was a long walk up a winding hill to the brewery, a path which cut through a garden, vineyard.

The view was spectacular and completely worth the effort.

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The brewery has a restaurant with unobstructed views of the city, but alas, all tables near the edge of the hill were full this day, not to mention that would be pretty selfish of me to take a big table for just one person. Share the views y’all!

I found a smaller table with still a very wonderful view and ordered a monk beer. It was delicious of course.

The story I heard about monks brewing beer is they needed something to do besides pray and worship, so some took up brewing beer. Thing was they really liked to drink beer and became drunkards so abbots would make decrees limiting the number of beers per day monks could drink.

Monks have time and knowledge thus began to brew higher and higher ABV, or alcohol % beers.

All the abbey ales or Belgium quads I’ve seen are at least 11% so yeah, drink 2 of those, you’re feeling good haha.

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I lingered slowly drinking my beer as my travel companion, rain, was looming over the city.

My views alternated from the gorgeous city below to a very young chef, maybe 18, cooking rather complex dishes given his small set up.

He literally had a grill for burgers and chickens, a fryer that would cook 1 order of fries at a time, and a small range for boiling water and pans.

There was only enough room for him and it was so packed he would flip a chicken breast, turn around drop some pasta into boiling water, then back around again to pull some fries.

This place was rather slow so I had a couple different waitresses stop to ask if I wanted food, but it was too expensive.

Not a good idea to pay the same price for dinner as a room, which is a real possibility in Prague.

I began my decent down, through a neighborhood down a main road.

Seemed like every place was built with white stone, quite lovely.

I used a different, less crowded bridge to get back to the city.

As I walked across, I spied yellow penguins. I didn’t think much of it at the time so I didn’t take a pic, but a recent search of things to do and see in Prague is to locate these yellow penguins.

I walked along the river awhile until I was back at the metronome.

Some people on the walking tour told me the night view from the metronome was great and they had very cheap beer, too.

Tonight was a local band playing popular EU music and traditional Czech tunes on acoustic instruments. There was no stage, they just played on the ground with people walking in front of them.

I got a 1$ beer from a guy who set up a keg near the band.

All seats were taken so I had to sit on the concrete near some stairs.

For sure one of my favorite things to look back on was listening to this band, wish I caught their name, as the sun slowly went down and darkness enveloped the city below.

I tried to photograph my view, but only using a camera phone couldn’t do it justice.

If you can look over your city at night I couldn’t recommend it more.

I spent a couple of hours up there, before calling it an early night.

I had an early morning trip set to Kunta Hora.

 

Song: Queens of the Stone Age   My God is the Sun

Beer: Sv. Norbert IPA

 

 

 

Dream trip Day 73 Walking tour, Jewish quarter, Texas flag encounter

Woke up to the sounds of rain and snoring. Another traveler had joined our room overnight.

Always bring earplugs and eye shades if you’re staying in a hostel. Someone will always, always, snore in your room and it will be way louder than you thought humanly possible.

These plugs also come in very handy at other times so be sure to either buy good ones or a lot of the disposable kinds and leave in your bag. Sometimes the front desk will have plugs so check there.

It was also my experience that my bed was directly in view of a window, and most hostels won’t spring for any type of shade, so unless you want to wake up at the literal crack of dawn, you’ll need eye shades. These will also aid with the inevitable occasion when your roommate comes in very late night and flips on the lights to see.

People are just pretty rude most of the time especially given the incredibly long travel times and early arrivals for budget travel.

Still raining after a shower so I researched a free walking tour of the city. It didn’t start for a few more hours so what to do?

I was on vacation and had spied a beer I’d heard about for a long time, but had never seen for sale in the US.

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Duffman haha! It wasn’t bad, made by a Dutch company if I recall correctly. It was nice, light lager.

After the beer, I felt it time to finally try the conical cinnamon roll pastry I’d seen people carrying since I arrived to town.

Skalický trdelník was the local name for this pastry. Dough is wrapped around a metal rod, cooked over coals, and finished with a cinnamon/crushed walnut mixture. You could also add ice cream, but it seemed pretty indulgent already.

It was good, tasted like a cinnamon roll. I unraveled it as I walked over to the stature in city centre to meet my free walking tour.

Red umbrellas are the thing to look for walking tours and then you’ll be directed to another person who takes your info down and give you a number.

Due to groups being over 100, they break them up into 2 groups of 50.

My group was led by a guy born in Prague who was a history major with a psychology minor so he encouraged us to ask him quite literally anything about this city or emotional crisis we may experience due to what we were seeing.

We began with the very dark history in the Jewish Quarter as most cities isolated or segregated Jews from the other parts of town for centuries.

This made things a bit easier in the 1940’s sadly.

Remember, Europe was at one time ruled by the Catholic church who wasn’t a huge fan of any non-Catholics.

We saw a very old synagogue then a few blocks over was a very tall Jewish cemetery.

The cemetery was centuries old and since it was the only place to be buried if you were Jewish, they had to stack graves on top of each other, creating a noticeable hill.

We then located an eerie statue dedicated to the Franz Kafka who was born and resided in the city until his death.

Oddly enough, he wasn’t published during his lifetime and as such directed his friend to burn his writings upon his death. Lucky for us all, his friend read everything and decided not to publish them.

There are 2 Kafka statues in the city and we were at the one of a man in a top hat sitting on a creature’s shoulder, but it didn’t have a head, hands or feet.

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A short distance away we encountered the Old New Synagogue, which is the oldest active synagogue in use, dating back to the 12th century!

The legend is that a golem resides in the attic and strangely, almost as if it were planned, the stairs no longer go all the way to the top.

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We soon took a break at a bar and encouraged to eat and have a pint.

I was safe from the rain due to umbrellas. Over my beer, I overheard a guy being hired as a tour guide. Mainly his job was to encourage people to join this boat tour as his salary was totally based on the number of people he got on board.

His 2nd most important job was to be on time and stay sober.

Our tour ended at the State Opera house that was still in operation since the 1880’s.

Despite the sprinkling rain, I spied a familiar sight coming my way: the Texas flag!

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They walked too fast for me to find how what they were protesting, but it was a nice reminder of the homeland.

Deciding I was hungry, I popped into a small grocery store and picked up some items to make pasta.

It was strange what you missed on the road and yes, cooking was one of those modern annoyances that I wanted to do again.

I thought it turned out well and my Italian friend even had a bowl I offered him.

He gave me a thumbs up, though I suspect it was due to the fact I didn’t drown my pasta in sauce like he thought I would.

He and his new girl of the week were going to the statue in the square area to drink some wine and people watch. I told him I was off to see a rock show.

This venue was downstairs and I was met by a rather surly door guy, well he may have just been Czech, hard to say.

The cover was around $6 which was entirely reasonable I felt.

The band was a 5 piece and all looked like pretty normal dudes, but the crowd was fanatically in love with them.

People danced alone, swayed, or sang along arm in arm with a friend the whole show.

One guy kept raising his glass quickly, spilling a bit all around him, but he never did get anyone else wet.

I was quite taken by a female dancer with a shaved head, suspenders and boots who danced front and center the whole show.  Oh she was so graceful!

She later retired to a table occupied by a chain-smoking, long-haired guy who she kissed.

Oh well, I doubt she spoke English. The band didn’t either so I have no idea what songs they played or how funny they were. Lots of laughing in between song banter.

I left quite happy with a ringing in my ears.

Staying on the street led me back to the English pub where I’d seen karaoke a few days ago.

“Ah you came back!” said the Dutch bartender. “I thought we’d run you off!”

There were maybe 5 people here so we all sat outside as that’s what he wanted to do.

When I told him I had come from a Už Jsme Doma show everyone at the bar perked up and shouted.

“Oh man, wow. They are still playing! I played a show with them in the 90’s.” the bartender related to me.

A couple at another table told me they loved the band too and were happy I was able to see them.

“They are best Czech band, good experience for a tourist to the city.” one of them told me.

Alas the mood didn’t sustain as the bartender related how good his time in the band was compared to now.

Apparently they toured the UK and Europe and did well, but couldn’t sustain the lifestyle and broke up.

Now he seemed stuck in Prague with his girlfriend. I advised him Prague was a great, cheap city to be in. He didn’t disagree, but rent was due and he barely made it.

Apparently most nights were like this, not many people and he wasn’t paid much for his work.

I made sure to toss in a few koruna into his tip jar after he poured my final pint and we returned to our table.

He opened his beer with a very familiar opener that resembled a key. It was the same bottle opener from Boulevard Brewing in KC that I had on my key chain.

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What are the chances?! Such random coincidences like this made me feel like I was on the correct path. I was again in the place I was supposed to be.

We shook hands as I left and wished me well. I returned the sentiments.

What a great day in Prague. You don’t win rain!

Song: Už Jsme Doma – Propast/Abbys

Beer: Pilsner Urquell