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. Kutná 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 she 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, too, 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 to Yellowstone and back to Texas, 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 no 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.

20160804_134021.jpg

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.

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. 20160804_135004.jpg

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.

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.

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!

20160804_140557.jpg

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 were 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.

20160804_154419.jpg

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

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

20160804_161304.jpg

Dream trip day 74 Lennon Wall, Charles Bridge, Abbey 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.

20160803_141418.jpg

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 everything only for the image 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 Abbey brewery which cut through a garden, vineyard.

 

The view was spectacular and completely worth the effort.

20160803_163645.jpg

The brewery has a restaurant with unobstructed views of the city, but alas, all tables near the edge of the hill were all 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 and 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.20160803_153543.jpg

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 waitress stop to ask if I wanted food too, 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 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.

20160730_131021.jpg

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

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

We saw a very old synagog 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 burn anything but 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.

1200px-Kafka_statue_Prague.jpg

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.

20160806_160756.jpg

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 and 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! 20160802_172103.jpg

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 some 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 lead 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.

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

Dream trip day 72 Rain again, opera house, goulash

It was still sprinkling a bit when I awoke.

This time I wasn’t alone in my room.

Seems my Italian friend had been successful in landing a bird.

Very awkward to awaken to the sounds of smooching…man I sure hoped they were just kissing, I mean, I am less than 5 feet from them. They wouldn’t…nah, they are just kissing.

She was very cute and made me wonder what his girlfriend back home would think about this encounter .

I guess things don’t count if you’re in another country. Perhaps the girl was with someone else, too. Who knows their arrangement.

I had found a small coffee shop right outside the large wooden door of the hostel/restaurant and procured a coffee.

As it was still raining and the restaurant was closed, I sat at one of the long tables and finished my coffee.

I had packed a rain coat and I must say, always pack a rain jacket for any trips you may go on because it really sucks without one if you need it.

Today I decided to walk east, see what was in that direction.

I passed by a famous US wing chain known for tight, skimpy clothes that was full of English chaps, their tables full of large liters of beer and bowls of wings.

If only I could talk to them and explain this wasn’t really the US, but yet it sort of was ubiquitous. Most every city I went to had one, it just wasn’t my thing.

Just up ahead was a walking tour so I stop just within earshot to catch a bit of the tour.

The group was learning about the Estates Theatre, where many symphonies had been performed for centuries, including the debut of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Ah so it was no coincidence that there was a private space that was dedicated solely to this opera at a fairly hefty cost considering how inexpensive everything else was in Prague.

Suddenly it really began to really rain so I ducked into a brewpub I’d passed by before ‘joining’ the tour.

I sat at the bar but the chair was too short to really eat at.

After ordering goulash I was escorted to a table.

The goulash was served in a bread bowl and was a lot bigger than I anticipated.

It was delicious, peppery soup,  the best part was scraping the bottom to get a bit of soup/bread bite.

Main dish was rabbit and dumplings, a local staple from the description.

It was delicious and made me wish more places in the US served rabbit.

I lingered as it was still raining, not to mention I’d just had one of the largest meals on my trip and yet it was still around 10$!

Taking a long cut to the bridge I passed by a sign for a live, rock venue.

The whole trip I missed several bands I’ve always wanted to see live by days or weeks. It was a goal to see a concert whilst I was on the road.

Hmm what is this now: Už jsme doma, a band name I recognize from my college days.

They were playing in a couple of days, cover was 6$, so why not?

I soon passed by a small grocery store with a lot of beer so I picked up a couple and followed the road to catch another river sunset on the bridge.

After walking the bridge to the other side and back I continued back to the area around my hostel.

Thing about this area was some places closed early during the week, but were open late on the weekends.

I found a small pub with a few people out seated at wooden barrel tables.

After procuring a beer I spied a long padded bench not occupied and slid in.

My seat afforded me a view of the street traffic to my left as well as the bar to my right.

Large beer walking tour groups passed by a few times. By large, I mean these groups had over 20 people, most of which were already in the barely able to walk phase.

The vast majority of tours advertised ‘all you can drink for an hour,’ a veritable beverage buffet. Nah, that’s a horrible idea.

All the hostels had pub crawls and for sure if the right group hit up a club, it totally made that spot’s evening.

There was one club across the street and it was a bass thumping, dance club, a place I tend to avoid as it’s not a real local experience.

Plus I felt that’s where all the pickpockets would likely be, scheming to get a drunkard’s wallet.

The restroom at this spot was downstairs, where I encountered a couple aggressively making out.

The female had one arm in the air in a cast, her back to me, so all I saw before passing by was a girl’s blonde hair with a raised arm, then you see what she was up to as the guy came into view. Hilarious!

My initial concern was not bumping her arm soon turned into interrupting a make-out sesh.

After returning upstairs, I tried to talk to a table of guys, who shook their heads, no English.

I sauntered down the street which was extremely packed, shoulder to shoulder.

Great people watching awaited and I wanted to compare pub vs store prices for beer.

To my great pleasure, I was saving a bit at the store.

To my annoyance, the cashier was involved in a heated argument with a guy about the amount of change he gave.

It came down to the denomination of the bill the guy had paid with,

“I gave you a 20$! I need more change back”

“No you gave me a 10$, get out!”

Luckily there was a camera zoomed in on the register and the cashier’s hands so reluctantly he rewound the camera to the transaction.

Haha wow, the guy was right, he had been shortchanged!

“Baahhahhhaaaaa, here get out!” said the cashier as he pulled out bills and coins handing them to the satisfied customer.

A guy tapped me on the shoulder, as I’d been waiting in line for about 5 minutes while this back and forth continued.

“Hey, here’s some koruna, can you buy a litre and we split, yes? It cheaper, have cup, see.” said a near toothless man behind me.

Hey someone who spoke English, let’s do it, I thought as I selected a large plastic bottle from the cooler.

We leaned against a metal fence surrounding a tree in front of the store, across from my hostel on a busy street.

My new friend was Romanian and worked construction albeit not entirely legally he mentioned.

“No job at home, so I stay here. No visa, is ok, haha, both are EU,” he said after he gulped some beer. “Besides, I help here, yes, they get my koruna, yes, so all fair to me.”

He missed home, but he had to do what he could to live.

Prague was pretty inexpensive but that was through my American lens. I didn’t know how much per hour or year was normal. I wondered how much a construction job paid.

We told stories about various countries we visited, his construction career certainly had taken him around the countries.

Many large groups passed us by, easy to identify the stag or hen parties as they were always dressed up ridiculously: either dudes in dresses or only speedios always with one guy toting inflatable sex doll!?

The women always matched clothing either a themed outfits or customized shirts.

A few ladies dashed into an alley behind us, one standing guard out front. Soon the concrete was running with uh fluids. Ha now that’s classy, I thought as I shook my head.

When you got to go, you got to go!

It was late, my friend was rather incoherent by this point, sort of raving in what I presumed was Romanian. I felt it best to let him keep the rest of the bottle and split.

Another successful outing!

Beer: Zlatý Bažant

Song: Symphony No. 38 in D major (Prague)  Mozart

20160803_180027

 

Dream trip day 71 Dancing House, geese and karaoke

Woke up again to an empty room. My Italian friend’s things were there, but he was not.

No signs of any others staying in the room, either.

Did some research in the common room while air drying after a shower.

A hostel worker takes a group of females past me to the female dorms saying hello while the others just wave.

Located the celebrated Dancing House designed by Frank Gehry a short walk down the river.

One of my good friends is an architect so I always enjoy finding an interesting house or building and sending him a pic.

20160801_143457.jpg

It really is a stunning place to see in person. Nothing else around it looks similar, it exudes style.

Its located on a corner near a bridge so I cross the Vltava River, the wind whips my hair.

Soon I am on the other side of the city at a boat launching spot.

The spot is now taken over by swans, ducks and other water fowl, there are feathers all over, some blowing in the wind.

Quite funny to hear these bird noises especially compared to usually pleasant sounding air bird noises.

They are always honking to smaller birds to get out of the way. Its not a nice sound at all.

I watch awhile at the birds as well as taking in the view of the city.

Following the river I pass through several parks, all have a great view of the lazy river.

20160801_151105.jpg

Lots of paddle boats out during the day, party boats out at night on the river.

I decide to try to find my hostel by going through the neighborhood vs main road I was used to.

Lots of cool shops, bars, apartments with the odd church dotted my walk. Really liked the cobblestone streets.

The roads aren’t crowded, but yet traffic occurs due to everyone walking very slowly, gingerly.

Not just elderly which I expected would walk slower, I had to pass several slow Brits who seemed to be eyeing every step.

“Oh dear, don’t want to have a nasty fall here.” One older chap said as I passed.

You’ll be fine people. Just walk, one foot in front of the other.

Groups on these streets were also prone to abruptly stopping. I nearly ran into a gal in the back. They stopped just to finish up a conversation! Gah…

The cars zoomed by, not minding anyone since most of these roads were one way.

This despite the many tourists, new to the city, who are gawking at everything, not paying attention when they step into the road.

It seemed that the cars were racing someone to their destination, they were hauling ass.

Ah there’s an absinthe bar, I heard they were in Prague. Seemed a bit early to get into that stuff.

I soon passed by a Hard Rock Cafe as I knew I eventually would. Another pin!

I hung out with my friend in front of the convenience store after purchasing a beer.

It was fun to watch him try to work a group to come into the strip club.

95% of the time unless they were already drunk, a polite wave and a No was all he got.

He asked if I was going out, because if I was, well he was a man who could get things.

“I can get you come cocaine if you want my friend. I know everyone.’ he said.

His side business seemed much more lucrative as he pitched the strip club first, got a reaction, and then the would spring his connection in a low voice.

“Go over there and my friend will be with you in a few.” He would tell people, then would walk away or nod to a guy down the street who walked over.

A different guy for each substance it seemed.

I was a bit taken back at how many open sales went on around here. A handshake transaction.

I didn’t see any policie which again was a bit odd as we were only a couple blocks from one of the destination landmarks of the city.

Now it was dark and time to get away from this scene, I recalled seeing an English pub the other night when searching maps for things to do.

Maybe they’d have a game on or some cool people.

It seemed closed, but I walked in down a long alley anyway.

I mean there was a sign and an arrow out front, that’s how you know a place is open eh?

There was one guy inside setting up for karaoke later.

He came over and we talked for a bit as he poured my beer.

Turns out he was Dutchman whose girlfriend lived in the city.

“Just you wait, it’s going to get crazy here soon.” he said with a laugh and a wink.

I looked around, it was just me in there, football on TV.

He was correct, of course, as later a group of about 15 wandered in.

The bartender had to start things off before the others would get up. He even sang from the bar via wireless mic.

He had a good voice, with lots of intonation and verve. Made me wonder if he sang professionally.

More people showed up and the volume grew.

Some people just should not sing live, they were off key, off rhythm, off lyrics! So bad to hear so funny to watch, that’s karaoke summed up.

Quite fascinating watching several sing a popular song not in English I’d never heard. Very cool indeed.

The opening of Queen’s hit filled the room. Oh no, not this! Do not ruin this song, too!

They didn’t really ruin it, turned out fine, but man, that is a long ass song to be up in front of people with lots of solos and instrumental breaks. Plus there is only 1 Freddie Mercury who could sing such a song properly.

Don’t do it people, don’t sing Bohemian Rhapsody during karaoke.

I picked up one more beer from the corner store, which I drank on the smoker’s lounge.

It began to rain, a perfect end to a good day in Praha.

Beer: Briznak

Song: Queen  Bohemian Rhapsody

20160801_220652.jpg

Dream trip day 70 Prague, metronome and sk8rz

I awoke and to my surprise I was the only one in my room.

Gathering my shower items I was again surprised to find an open shower.

Seems I arrived on a good day as everyone was checking out.

After my shower I hung out on the smokers lounge watching people eat, unaware that I was watching as they were focused on eating or conversation.

There was a glass cover over each of the tables so any weather didn’t effect eating.

Just watching people talk, walk or play a game in a park, those types of people watching so an aerial view of a restaurant was a nice way to pass time.

I soon set out in search of coffee and went into a Starbucks next door to a sex toy museum, complete with rotating dildo piece that was the subject of many photos but I didn’t see many venture inside.

While sipping my coffee I searched for activities nearby. Thanks free WiFi!

I soon concluded that my French’s friend’s assessment of their coffee was sadly true: tastes burned if you get it just black or with a little milk.

Success! Worlds largest metronome was a mile away on top of a mountain. Should be cool to see both the metronome as well as the city.

Very excellent walk through the old town square, which opened up after a few blocks to a bridge and river.

During daylight the square was very full of fancy cars, Segways, and horse and carriages for tours around the city.

There was also a food court area where they served ham, brauts and goulash. The area smelled wonderful from the smoke coming out of large, metal smokers full of sides of ‘Old Prague Ham.’

I crossed a bridge and again was at the bottom of a lot of stairs, but the excitement of what was up top powered me through the climb.

I saw some Asian tourists walk up stairs in a diagonal fashion and it seemed to be a bit easier, less harsh on the legs.

You really can only use this stair climbing method if you’re the only person around, otherwise you’ll be bumping into people as well as enduring the puzzled looks from those behind you.

After pausing a moment to catch my breath, it was taken away again by the stunning view of the city.

It was a similar view as Lyon, I was on the highest point of the city and there wasn’t many tall buildings.

As I walked towards the metronome, I passed by a small bar kiosk surrounded by lounge chairs.

All the chairs were full and everyone had a beer or glass of wine.

Beer was about the equivalent of 1$ a pint up here, some of the cheapest I’d seen in person, but had heard that there were even cheaper options to be found.

Climbing more stairs I was at metronome level with an even grandeur view of the city.

The walls around the metronome were occupied by people drinking, hanging out, couples on dates holding hands or hugging. Very serene.

The metronome was overhead, slowly counting time, it’s pendulum rocking back and forth creating a small yet calming humming rhythm.

image

The area behind the metronome was open and had additional stairs so it was the skater hangout.

I took a seat and watched as the skaters turned tricks while the metronome swayed and couples kissed.

The stairs that were the platform of the skaters art lead down to a park.

Following the walkway, I spied a small road and wondered if it lead down to the road.

It didn’t go all the way down the mountain, but it did have an unobstructed view of Prague and the Vlatan River so I snapped several pics.

image

I encourage everyone to find the highest point near their home city, it’s a great view and new perspective of where you live.

I headed back down the stairs and into the city on the other side of the street.

There were different shops and other new sites to see.

There seemed to be several extravagant cars that will tour  you around the city in addition to the usual horse and buggy.

Only a few blocks and I was back in the city centre, the astronomical clock was a short walk and a right turn away.

Food was cooked and sold in a market. Old Prague Ham was one stall. Another was the cinnamon roll thing I saw lots of people eating. Had to try both eventually.

I made my way to a small convenience store across the street from my hostel and pick up a beer. Cost is about 1.50$.

I slowly wind my way down the main road, passed the sex museum on my right, elegant glass wear to my left.

Now have to slip past the crowd for the astronomical clock directly in front of me.

Soon I am in front of a large, chained off statue surrounded by benches.

Lots of people have already staked out a bit of space by sitting down or laying a sheet on the cobblestone.

Some had wine bottles out, beers or small food items. Again that cinnamon roll thing I’d seen before but this time it was filled with ice cream.

I decided that this would be my evening, just walking back and forth to the store and back to the statue, taking in the sites.

There weren’t any police walking around but there were policie cars around.

Many of the benches had been taken over long ago by several homeless people. It was almost camp like of temporary structures they assembled around the bench.

Others shared just sitting at a bench, telling stories or sleeping.

I’m sure they had to move these guys every night at a certain point.

If I was facing the direction of my hostel to my left was a huge Gothic church with a large clock tower and the astronomical clock. On my right was yet another huge statehouse with marble two black topped spires.

A very cool area to walk around in so I just wound up walking in a big loop spending about an hour or so to do it as I stopped to catch the hourly clock show.

There was always a huge crowd in front of the astronomical clock no matter the hour and it clogged up getting in or out of downtown.

I met a nicely dressed man whose was trying to get people to go into the strip club next door to the convenience store I was going into.

I never went into that club, it just seemed so shady, but he looked cool in his red hat and jacket, looked like a mayor or some character.

He told me about the city and what else to see and do. He liked the huge castle area to the west of the city as well as a walk along the river.

After several walks and beer, it began to sprinkle rain so I waved at my new friend and got inside my hostel.

I sat in the empty smokers lounge and watched the rain awhile.

A fine day indeed.

Song: Antonin Dvorak  Symphony No 9

Beer: Staropramen Premium

 

Dream trip day 69 goodbye Vienna, bus to Prague

I woke and collected my things, still only a backpack of all my possessions.

From previous travel days, I knew it was best to eat a big meal before hopping on a long bus ride.

There was a local chain bakery a few doors down that I knew was good as I’d had a croissant and coffee from another location in town.

This time I selected a substantial cinnamon roll like pastry and coffee. So good!

It always takes awhile to point at an item on a shelf and for the server to automatically select not what you are pointing at several times, each new wrong selection eliciting a curious eyebrow raise.

There was a grocery store on my walk back so I bought some fruits and nuts to snack on during the long bus trip.

Sometimes the buses stopped for breaks, sometimes they didn’t, I guessed the length of drive time was a factor for when buses stopped so it was best to be prepared.

Having time to plot my days I realized I had a lot of time until my bus left, but not very much time before I had to check out of my hostel.

I needed to shower, too, so I was going to have to chance it and shower after checkout to kill some time.

On the way to checkout at the hostel, I stashed a fresh shirt, undergarments and towel into a shower area and hoped no one would take them.

Checkout was simple and they let me stow my bags for a couple hours in a locked back room.

I sat outside for a few moments, scanning around at the nature as well as the reception area.

Finally, as I knew it would happen, the receptionist had some odd job to do away from the desk.

Seizing my chance, I strolled up the back stairs and hit the shower.

I’m not certain if anyone really cared about my shower, I had paid for several nights so they had made euros off me.

I was also technically not staying there at that moment when the water hit me. I figured it was all a wash, certainly much worse things went on than a guy using some water.

My only burden was now I had to travel with damp clothes, a fair punishment.

Per my map app, I was well over an hour walk to the bus depot. Appropriately I called for an Uber.

A very nice man picked me up and we talked about the city.

‘I love Vienna. It is so pretty. Often I find myself staring at a building while at a light or returning to a certain street to look at the architecture.’ He said with a huge grin. ‘Where are you from, the States?’ He asked as he turned around while we where stopped at a light.

I told him about Dallas and Texas. He was curious and I saw something in him I rarely encountered, but was searching for: he loved where he lived.

I’d determined that Dallas was just a place people worked, not a destination.

Few dream about moving to Dallas from outside the state or country, I reckon.

In some way this trip was about seeing how others lived, why do people live where they do? Is there a place for me out there, somewhere?

I waved goodbye to my newest short term friend and looked around the depot for TVs.

There is a bit of consistency at train, bus depots as far as scheduling info goes in that there were TV’s or a display with all the arrivals, departures it was just the location of these info portals was different.

I had over a half hour til departure so my info wasn’t displayed yet.

Typically only arrivals in the next 15 minutes were displayed, then more info was added if a bus was delayed, which happens a lot.

Thankfully my bus wasn’t delayed this time plus it wasn’t packed.

Only a couple trips I had a neighbor and the seats were close so you bumped shoulders, which is tough for several hours.

I slid into my seat, unpacked my iPad, headphones and water. I also had my camera phone ready as we usually passed by cool photo spots when driving out of town.

Surprisingly to me, most cities had a camp site just outside town. So that’s where the real budget travelers stayed.

I saw so many people with enormous packs, like big enough to fit a human in sized packs, strapped to all genders. Made me wonder how they were able to carry them for very long.

I’d also read about a website that connected people who were ok with camping in their backyard or gardens in town.

When traveling as long as I was, I’d become jaded about all the beauty outside my window. Rolling green hills, bucolic towns, old cathedrals, all blurred into one.

For sure rural Europe is far more pretty than rural US. They had style over here in whatever they built.

I guess I’m being a bit judgmental as when I think rural US I think of west Texas, or Oklahoma so long stretches of no trees, towns or hills.

Occasionally you’d see a collapsing farmhouse or windmill.

We pulled into the bus depot, train station in Prague or Praha as it was displayed.

Out front of the depot was a small park full of homeless people in varying degrees of sobriety or fully asleep.

In the other places I hadn’t encountered many homeless, but for sure I saw less than I did in Dallas. Per city I mean, had less or I saw less homeless than in Dallas.

I waved no as I passed by to the many calls for money or cigarettes that I presumed they were asking me for in Czech.

The route to my hostel took me through an open air mall that had a side entrance to a main walkway that soon connected to the downtown square.

I had selected my hostel as it was located in the old town, near the main square that had most of the attractions.

It was also the most affordable room per person ratio as I’d slept in a room with upwards of 10+ people, but rarely interacted with my suite mates. It came down to just more people snoring or stumbling in late.

The best place to meet people was in the common area or kitchen and this place had a great kitchen area with 3 tables.

I stayed on a floor that had 3 rooms with each room containing 6 beds.

Each of the hostels 3 floors had 3-4 shower/restrooms, a kitchen and lounge areas with couches.

The smokers lounge overlooked an Italian restaurant.

A large wooden gate with a small sign pointing you to the hostel which was on the far side of the building so you had to walk through the restaurant to check in.

My floor was accessed via iron gate just before the hostess station which was occupied by a friendly lady who would ask ‘Food or hostel?’ And direct you accordingly.

It was confusing and most guests walked by many times or tentatively wander the restaurant convinced they were in the wrong place.

My bed was in the back room so I walked through a 3 bed room, then a door to another 3 bed room.

Fortunately there was only 3 others staying so 2 people in each room.

I said hello and waved at my new roommate who smiled and shook my hand.

Where are you from? Is always the 1st question you ask anyone at a hostel.

‘Italy!’ He replied. ‘You French, English ?’ He asked me.

Wow must be the hat. I don’t know but most of the time I was rarely pegged as American or from the States.

We chatted a bit while I stashed my bag in the locker provided.

The only one that didn’t have a lock on it had a large dent, someone was using 2 lockers for their stuff.

I never heard of anything being stolen whilst at a hostel on this trip, but I read reviews where that happened.

I presumed it was locals invited in by trusting guests who specifically targeted these places because most people travel with iPhones, iPads or other easily sold electronics, not to mention stacks of cash.

I always had cash on me or in my bag for this reason. If anything was stolen from either place I was not totally broke.

My roommate was a soccer player teaching for an exchange program between the countries.

He spent a few months teaching in Prague, then played in games on the way back home with a semi pro Italian club that sponsored his stay.

He told me to be sure to go to the square at night as that’s where lots of people congregate.

A brief internet search I discovered it was a short walk to the Vltava River and I recalled how great it was watching the sunsets from a bridge in Budapest.

Along the way to the river, I located a noodle joint for dinner.

Pretty cool concept and affordable too. Build your own box using different proteins, vegetables and sauces.

To my surprise duck breast was on the menu here and most places I’d go in Prague.

Duck n noodles with spicy sauce for dinner it was. Beer only cost 2$ too so had a Thai beer.

Total cost was under 10$ for the whole meal. Quite a relief from the high Vienna prices.

On the way to the river, I encountered a small store well stocked with all sorts of Czech beers so I picked one up.

I cracked it open once I was at the bridge and had a good view of the river.

After a few moments I realized why this section wasn’t occupied as someone had thrown up nearby, maybe into the trash can or street. No visible liquids or solids around but what a smell!

I walked away from the stench and over the river on the bridge where I saw an immense castle in the distance.

 

I finished my beer as the sun went down, pausing to help a couple get a sweet pic of the river and sun in the background.

I always help someone take a great pic as I’d seen some very poor framing in many people I passed, stealing a glance into their screen.

Typically I took more than one shot with the goal of having one candid and one posed shot per session.

My favorite were always the candid shots because it showed people laughing, preening or embracing in very real ways.

Following the river a few blocks in the direction of my hostel but taking a different route, my map indicated a small brewery.

These joints were all over Prague and they only made enough to beer to serve in the restaurant, never bottled or canned.

It was a small spot, slightly elegant I dare say. Most definitely more restaurant than brewery, with wooden stools and tables covered by red velvet cloths.

image

I spied an empty 2 seat table and sat down.

A bald waiter arrived and said, “Dobry den’,  hello in Czech.

I returned his hello and asked for pivo, beer.

He showed me their beer menu, only 4 beers, all listed in Czech with lots of accent marks over some letters.

‘Uh English?’ I tentatively asked.

He smiled and pointed to a beer then stating only its style: ‘lager, dark, red, eh monk pivo. Ah don’t know how to say style name. Is very ah high taste.’

I understood, it was an Abbey ale most likely with high ABV so that’s where I started.

It was great, dark beer served in a goblet glass.

Looking around I spied the vats in the back, not many and very small which made sense as they didn’t need too much beer. Maybe a few kegs a month.

I noted most people were eating and drinking wine.

Haha wow I sure stuck out drinking beer alone. It came with my goal of trying to taste the most local beer possible.

I attempted conversation with the waiter and bartender about what to see in the city.

They had a brief exchange in Czech then revealed they both lived outside the city.

‘We just work, no go out here,’ he said with a laugh. ‘We don’t know much, but this place.’

I selected a red ale and was informed they were soon to close so this was my final beer.

A couple staggered in and to my shock they were served wine, despite their obvious drunkenness and near closing time.

They finished their wines before I could settle my tab and off they were into the night.

It was a very cool walk on stone streets to my hostel, passing by very gothic buildings on either side, occasionally passing an open pub or restaurant.

I heard a low roar and was soon walking through the city centre.

image

Long tables full of people eating and drinking surrounded the path.

Soon the walkway opened up into a large square.

An imposing gothic cathedral lay directly in front of me, the famous medieval astronomical clock to my left but due to an enormous crowd it was very hard to walk through without bumping into someone.

I paused after navigating the crowd to get a glimpse at the clock.

Seemed like a just a clock, a couple statues surrounding it, I didn’t see the big deal at the time.

After looking at the gothic cathedral I heard a large commotion and gasps from the crowd I learned what the big deal was: the statues were moving!

It wasn’t just a clock it was a dang show, every hour on the hour these statues would perform as they had done for centuries only now people took pics and videos of the show instead of just watching.

It was now late, after midnight and I had a long travel day.

I had been given 4 keys to access my room in the hostel. Each key was colored and numbered sequentially.

It took time, but I got the huge wooden door unlocked, then struggled with the iron gate lock, then the door to my floor lock and finally, the old mortice key to unlock my room which was most upsetting to me as in my struggles I awoke my roommates who let me in and locked the door behind me.

Beer: Klášterní special sv. Jiljí no 1
Song: Ocean Colour Scene  the Riverboat Song

image