Dream trip Day 119 Rainy bus tour, stroll through the city, Japanese dinner

Woke up to rain, no surprise. No worries, there is coffee and buffet to bide the time.

After ordering coffee, I strode towards the buffet line intent on procuring a pancake from the oft empty machine.

Success! I was able to get a couple cakes out before it needed refilling. Judging by the time, this was going to have to do.

We arrived perhaps 30 minutes before end of service. They aren’t filling the bag again.

A leisurely meal whilst reading the local paper. My mom was filling in the crossword. I helped with words occasionally but more often than not, she completed  puzzles on her own.

We had learned of a bus tour through Limerick and felt that if there was a break in the rain, we may as well take the dry bus vs. staying in our hotel all day.

Fortified with a hot meal in our bellies and rain coats, we walked the half mile or so to the bus stop.

We were 2 of 4 people who ventured out in the rain. The bus driver waited about 5 minutes after we got on before we left.

“Maybe we can get a couple more stragglers,” he ventured to us via the microphone.

That was the last thing he said as he switched on the pre-recorded tour as he pulled away from the curb.

A nice Irish gentlemen gave us all the highlights of the city from certain historical houses to the cherished Thormond Park, home to Munster Rugby Club.

It reminded me of Odessa’s Permian football team, small town with a stadium fit for college teams, tens of thousands seating.

My mom is a Permian alumni. If you care to know more be sure to read Friday Night Lights, a great book about the football team and small city life in west Texas.

After the hour bus ride, the sky was as clear and open as our itinerary for the day.

We strolled down main street popping into a very tiny mall, shopping center. We didn’t stay long, it wasn’t much to see.

Keeping the River Shannon on our right, I knew we couldn’t get lost.

We found a house near the water, the roof serving as a home, restroom for many birds, mainly cranes by the looks. For sure, only big birds get the spot in the sun.

My mom soon asked me that dreaded question, “What are you going to do when you get back? You can’t travel forever…”

It’s like, what are you going to do, eat 1 month from today. Do you know? I mean, some people who eat the same thing regularly could provide an answer.

No one knows what will happen so you’ve got to learn to roll with life, take it as it comes.

I didn’t know there was a castle across the river until we saw it, so I took a pic.

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Shoot, I had to figure out where I was going to go next week! Today was our last day in Limerick, we had a train to Dublin tomorrow, then my mom flew out the following day.

I had planned as far as Dublin with her, maybe we should head back to the hotel for some Wi-Fi so I could plan my next stop.

A couple of ways I searched for destinations and how to get there was using Rome2Rio or Gopili when I was overseas. Pick a starting point and they figured out how to get you most anywhere in the world via bus, train, ferry, plane or car share.

After scanning a map, Wales is just across the sea from Dublin. Wait, so is Liverpool!

It was quite a trip to Liverpool unless I fly, so may as well take the ferry again, see Wales, why not? My 2nd grade teacher went there, said it was pretty.

Plus, what is up with that  name?! Ain’t no whales in Wales! I shall just have to find out.

Once I had figured my next stop, dinner was in order.

To my delight my mom mentioned she saw a Japanese spot next door to the Locke Bar, I do love sushi, udon so let’s do it!

We passed by the shipwreck, now the boat was under more water due to rain than when we arrived.

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Slow night at the sushi spot in Limerick, which made for a great night.

A very friendly waitress appeared and took our beverage order. When my mom asked a couple of food questions, she just sat down with us.

There was only 1 other table, “Just served that lot, they’ll be fine. Let’s get you sorted out!” she exclaimed.

She sat at our table for close to 5 minutes if not longer not just helping with our food order but filling us in about Limerick and Ireland.

After she left, as parents are wont to do, my mom winked and pointed, basically saying, ‘Hey single son, there is a lady why not ask her out?! We needs grandkids!’

Being the still single son I pointed out the huge ring on her finger, her heart belongs to another.

I typically order noodles and unagi, freshwater eel. Served with delicious tare sauce, my favorite sushi!

Our waitress did seem intrigued by my trip and I gave her the abridged version before another large party walked in.

“I’d love to stay but it is slow, this table might make rent! Have a wonderful time in Ireland!” she said as she dropped out check and swooped on the new table.

It had been quite a day so I only had a shot of Jameson and a beer before heading up to the room.

The talkative bartender was very subdued this evening, not many stories to share.

Last night in Limerick was a good one. Tomorrow, train to Dublin!

Beer: Harris pale ale

Song: Boomtown Rats   Rat Trap

 

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Dream trip Day 105 Farewell Belfast, train to Dublin, hurling championship

Parting is such sweet sorrow, today was my final day in Belfast. I started out with a final breakfast at the cafe.

What constantly surprised me is places I thought were just for hostel guests, as in they were connected or just inexpensive food, but locals came and ate at the cafe too.

I don’t know, eating at a youth hostel or YMCA equivalent seems odd to me. I can’t place my reason for this opinion to this point, but clearly I was wrong. It was good food.

I never really saw or talked to any of my roommates, and there were a couple groups who passed through. Like passing ships in the night I suppose.

Checking out the train options for some reason I elected to walk to the main station vs. hopping on at the small station close by. I think this had to do with extra cost to some degree, or maybe I just wanted to walk through the city 1 more time.

The walk along the River Langan passes by the main rail station so that was the path I chose, one away from cars and traffic.

I’d just missed a train by about 5 minutes so I had to wait for about an hour for another 1. There weren’t many tracks at this station, maybe 3 I want to say.

Ireland sure is green and pretty. I do enjoy a train ride. Play some tunes and watch the countryside rolling by is nice.

A short ride to Dublin. Nice to have good weather for a change. Well it wasn’t overcast down in Dublin anyway.

For once I took my hostel’s location in relation to the train station, so it was a short walk.

It seemed to be about writers here as I walked on James Joyce Street to my hostel.

Check-in was a breeze and I was soon greeted by a guy and a gal laying on their bunks in the room. The girl was just as pretty as the guy was creepy. I mean dude turned out to be a step away from only wearing a long raincoat.

We chatted a bit about where we were from. The guy was Austrian, shaggy greasy dirty blonde haired guy who would just fire odd questions at you for a few moments before saying, ‘I must go smoke,” then leave for a bit, return as if nothing happened and resumed talking.

The girl related she was just beginning her trip through the island and through the UK.

I bade them a goodnight and headed out to see what was good in Dublin. 1st order of business was to get a Guinness, brewed right here.

A main street close to the hostel was severely under construction. I noted about 3 tough looking pubs on this side of the street.

Soon I was walking on O’Connell Street and encountered the Spire. It’s a big spike in the middle of a street, mainly used as a meeting place or orientation spot.

Ah a bridge over the River Liffey, I paused on the bridge to watch a ship pass under.

Wow, Dublin was beautiful, very cool city already and I just arrived. Continuing on the path I begin to keep an eye out for a cool pub.

I found one, a couple seats at the bar, right near the tap. I could watch the bartender pour Guinness, maybe learn a proper pouring technique.

Probably in my head but the Guinness here was very good, creamy malty. Different than I can remember even compared to Belfast.

The place was full of people, eyes tuned to TV’s with a sport I’ve never seen before. It looks like rugby but with sticks. Ah because rugby clearly isn’t violent enough, let’s give them a weapon too.

These guys were charging at each other full speed, trying to knock the ball holder down to get the ball back. Slashing their sticks while they ran.

I was watching the all Ireland hurling championships and by the sound of things, a lot of people here were well invested in the game.

There is always lots of singing, chanting at oversea events, made me wish we had something similar for baseball games in the US. Makes games much more of a group experience.

I decided to finish out the match here before heading out. 1 more perfectly poured pint of Guinness my good man!

Pint after pint, all Guinness, all night, my goodness! Tray after tray kept going out.

A huge cheer, Tipperary were the winners! A victory song was sung.

I give a nod to the bartender while saying thank you and back on the streets I went.

A bit hungry for some more fun or more like it I was just physically hungry.

There was a corner spot called Doyle’s that looked perfect. Fairly small place with not many seats, but there were some around the bar so I took a seat and scanned the taps.

They had it, Tubög! A beer I’d had a lot when I was in Copenhagen a couple years ago.

I’ve not seen it since, but the reality is it isn’t a great beer, just a good memory in a pint.

A guy sitting next to me commented on the beer, ‘that’s where I am from! Why do you like it?’ he asked.

I told him about my Copenhagen trip and we traded some info about the city as I’d only seen a small portion of it. He had grown up there but was now seemed to always be traveling for business. I think he was a banker.

He knew a lot about Dublin and filled me in pretty well whilst I enjoyed a burger, he just drank, like a machine, beer after beer.

“See Dublin College, don’t go to Jameson tour, Guinness is good,  get an Irish fry up at least once, it is my favorite thing to eat in Dublin. So so good!’ he said.

By this point, he had a 3/4ths full pint in front of him.  He chugged the pint, then hit the streets. Time to go.

After another pint for me, it was time for me to leave as well.

Once at the bridge, I paused just staring at the water. I don’t know how long I was out there looking at the water but I found some peace in that water, if only for a moment.

Beer:  Tubög

Song:  My Bloody Valentine   When You Sleep

Dream trip Day 97 Scottish fry up, train to Glasgow, Drygate Brewery

Even though my hostel was literally across the street from the city’s main train depot, or is it train station? At what point does it become a depot?

At any rate, I had all afternoon as it was a 1 hour train ride so I had to kill some time due to the late afternoon check in.

I had talked with one of my friends about a beer that we felt should have been easy to obtain in Scotland: McEwan’s Scotch Ale. Turns out it is made by an English brewery.

Using a beer finder app, I located a bar that a user reported had McEwan’s beer, plus they served breakfast. I’d need both things before heading to Glasgow.

I packed up my bags and headed into the overcast day. A few turns and I was at the Black Rose Tavern.

This was the pub I should’ve gone to most nights, it was real Scottish pub/music venue!

They had an all day Scottish breakfast consisting of eggs, hashbrown toast, haggis, black and white pudding, fried tomato and mushrooms. It was sooo much food!

This was one of my favorite meals on my trip. It was the 1st of many UK style fry ups that I’d have in Scotland, Ireland and England.

This was my first encounter with pudding, aka blood sausage. It came in black and white options. I presumed the black was the one made with blood, while the white was just a regular breakfast sausage. Both are delicious especially when dragged through the runny yolk of a fried egg.

Again, haggis isn’t bad and I enjoyed having it again. A nice Scottish meal sendoff from Edinburgh!

I did get a McEwan’s but not their scotch ale, it was a draft lager. My group of friends back home discovered this beer and hounded the bar where we visited to carry it. That was years ago, the brewery stopped exporting it for some reason.

Making my way back to the train station was easy, the hard part was finding the right place to buy tickets, then finding the correct track.

Lucky for me, Scotland has an intern program so there were people all over the station desperate for someone to ask them a question.

Not only was I pointed to the right booth for tickets, I had enough time to get the next train to Glasgow.

I was quite fortunate with my trains, but soon enough, I’d stumble like we all do.

Only an hour trip which flew by as fast as the countryside. A lovely country, made me wish I went up to the Highlands to see more.

I’d selected a YMCA style hostel near the tracks, but I only elected to stay 1 night so I could check out the place and that part of the city.

It was about a half hour’s walk through the bustling downtown. I arrived with still time before my check in time so I elected to wash clothes until they would let me into my room.

After washing I was able to check in. My room was empty when I got into my bunk for a nap, then was completely full when I awoke.

I noticed that there seemed to be 1 person who never left their room. They would arrange their bed with a sheet door so they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Some would be on their phones chatting, skypeing or just playing games their entire stay, from what I saw. At least I would have some stories other than hey remember that time we talked when I was in Scotland? Yeah that was cool….

I got dressed and mapped out a route to the nearest brewery, Drygate Brewery.

My route took me through an industrial part of town with not many houses, but I soon faintly heard music.

I saw a pub across the road I was walking and they were blasting Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35. You know that song: Everybody must get stoned.

Well this was a karaoke version lead by a man with the most stereotypical Scottish brouge I’ve heard to this point.

He was also adding in lyrics in between Dylan’s so it went:

They’ll stone ya when yer walking down the street (tha bastards!)

They’ll stone you when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat (cunts!)

They’ll stone you when you’re walkin’ on the floor (wankers!)

This is what I heard all down the street, big grin on my face. What a welcome to the city!

After turning away from the loud pub, I was on a main thoroughfare with lots of shops, pubs and restaurants.

Another right hand turn and while I thought I was heading the wrong way, the empty lots and warehouses gave way to the brewery.

It was a 2 story building with several picnic benches on an outside patio.

I made my way through the large indoor bar. In the back was the store where you can buy beer to go.

This would never work in Texas. The current law, unchanged since Prohibition, requires a 3rd party distributor. You can brew beer but you cannot just sell it directly to a person.

Sparse crowd out tonight, a week night and early at that. I’d soon learn they closed early too.

I picked up my pint and opted to sit outside, there was another group of guys out there as well as a table of girls, maybe it was a mixed group.

The sun went down just like the beer in my pint glass.

I sauntered back to the bar where I was informed this would be my last beer, but I could buy 2 if I liked.

Opting to taste a couple beers, I selected my final pint and sat down inside.

A girl came in and ask me for a lighter which I lent her. I’d gotten into the habit when traveling of carrying a lighter as it is a good way to meet people, start a conversation.

“You from Glasgow?” I ventured.

“Have to run, thanks for the light, cheers!” Came the reply.

I returned to my beer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t.

The walk back was a bit concerning due to the low light. They really needed to upgrade or install more lights, as several times I had to walk down a dark street.

No loud karaoke from the pub I’d passed before, just a group of people out front.

Once again I’m faced with McDonald’s as a late night option as there was 1 across the street from my hostel. Nah it isn’t real food.

I’d read this book and stopped eating fast food a few years ago. This trip was my ultimate test. Could I resist a taste of home?  A taste of something familar, or ould I venture out and try some local restaurants, a taste local flavors?

Tonight I won the battle and still don’t know what McD’s tastes like overseas.

A good travel day, tomorrow I explore Glasgow!

 

Beer: Ax Man

Song:  Belle & Sebastian   Stars of Track and Field

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!)

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 15-20min 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 souvenirs, 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 my 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 removed 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 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.

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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.

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!

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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 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.

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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

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Dream trip day 55 farewell Ghent, back to Barcelona, friends

I was awoken to the rustling of all the other guys packed up. Seems they were a group and all had to catch the same early bus.

I groggily got out of bed and made my way to the shower which shockingly was open.

Barely made it down for free cornflakes and coffee. I dumped flakes into my bowl and they took the dispensing contraption away, I was the last one to eat.

I encountered 2 Canadian guys I’d met on the pub crawl in the lobby and talked with them a bit. I’m still not sure if they were a couple or just friends.

In the most Canadian of ways they asked me to join them, ‘So we all should go to the rail together yeah eh?’

I was grateful for the invite as I wasn’t so keen on a 30 min walk as I was when I arrived. Plus they knew how to buy a tram ticket.

On the way to the tram, we popped over to Facebook Street, which was the last thing they wanted to see in town.

Some guy renamed a small alley Facebook St so people would visit and take a pic.

While people did visit, they kept taking the sign. It wasn’t there when we visited, we all laughed at how ridiculous the whole thing was.

No issues hopping the metro, but I was running low on euros and still had to buy a ticket to the airport.

I had just enough euros for a ticket and we make the train easily. After a bit the conductor stops by and looks at my ticket.

‘English? Yes, you only have a ticket to get inside the airport. We tax everyone entering airport. You need another ticket to travel to the airport. I’ve brought this up to them before, it is confusing for tourists. 17€ please.’

Dang I felt bad but this guy was being cool about it even though he had to go through this a few times a day. I had only a 20€ note left, damn cutting it too close.

My Canadian friends were heading to Germany so they had to get out in Brussels. One of their family lived there so they had a place to stay and explore.

I waved goodbye and we shook hands as they left.

Alone again.

I was greeted at the rail station by a military guy directing me to a security check.

I wondered if this meant I wouldn’t have to do it again. Wrong.

Two security checks, one before entering the airport and then before the plane.

I made it passed the airport check and walked towards my gate, but I felt lighter. Doh! I’d left my bag at the security check!

I flew up the escalator convinced my bag was gone and I’d have 20 questions to answer before they gave it back to me.

I was relieved to see it was just sitting where I’d left it.

I swung it over my shoulder as nonchalantly as I could and walked to my gate.

It was a long walk to the gate so I stopped at an ATM for more euros, but was surprised when it spat out dollars.

I thought a moment and figured I had about 20$ in cash left so it was now worth exchanging dollars for euros once I got to Barcelona. Always one more thing to do.

About 10 minutes before takeoff, we see our flight was delayed. Then 30 minutes after that we learn the gate has changed, too, so everyone runs to the new gate.

No issues during the flight, but it was sold out so not as cool as the flight to Belgium where I got a whole row to myself.

I exchanged my cash at the airport, knowing that while the sign claimed no commission, they would give me a horrible exchange rate. I had euros now so I could get a metro ticket.

My hostel was near city centre this time, randomly selected as I was only staying 3 nights, long enough to see the rock festival tomorrow.

I got checked in and stowed my bags. I was staying in a 16 bed room and it was packed, no ac I noted.

Matt’s hotel was about a 20 minute walk away so we agreed to meet up later that evening for dinner.

We met near La Rambla and I was elected leader as I’d been there before.

I picked walking down one side as I knew the expensive places were in the middle, there were some side streets that should have cheaper options.

We soon had to pick quickly as it began early to sprinkle. Always raining.

A waiter lead us up narrow stairs and we took over the top floor as there were 9 in our party.

It was a tapas spot so lots of seafood, sausages and salads soon appeared.

After a nice, light dinner 5 of us broke off from the bigger group to walk around and sight see.

A few turns and we were in Gothic quarter and I learned how the city was laid out.

We passed by the Arc, dildo building and we were near their hotel after a few blocks walking.

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The bar they wanted to show me was closed, but we located another one only to run into the crew we had just left.

This was a tourist bar, connected to a hotel and was full of students taking shot after shot: a hookup bar.

While waiting to order I noticed a very pretty girl next to me who took a shot with some bro before turning to me,

‘Nice glasses, very cool. What’s your story?’ she asked.

I told her what I was doing, backpacking through Europe and to my surprise the bro guy left me with her. I was talking to who I thought was the hottest girl in the room and doing well.

Turns out she was from SMU on semester abroad and was meeting her mom in Italy. I put her age at 20, maybe 21. We high fived and she left.

I didn’t really had a chance, maybe if I bought her a shot and joined her group but the jig would be up as soon as I revealed my age.

She was better off with the bro dudes her age.

Still I was chuffed to have the exchange, I was gaining confidence, unfounded though it may be.

I stepped outside and talked with Chad a guy on the crew as he twisted up a spliff. I smoked a bit too much but luckily the night was over.

A nice walk coupled with a cool ocean breeze carried me back to my hostel.

Beer: Cruzial

Song: Orelha Negra feat. NGA & Prodigio Ovelha Negra

Dream trip day 54 goodbye Bruges, Delerium Brewery, ribs

Woke up in time for end of breakfast. Today, rice crispies and hot coffee.

My train trip was still a few hours away since you can’t check into a hostel before 3.

I still had 1 beer in my bag and figured may as well knock it out before leaving.

I watched some guys play air hockey next to me, one tried to buy a beer but it was still too early to sell.

I waited until they were served before getting my chilled beer from the fridge.

It was a nice chocolate stout, a bit heavy to start the day but I didn’t know when else I’d have a chance to chill it.

After my beer I walked the half hour back to rail station.

The hostel I selected was solely based on the fact they had a shuttle to Delirium Brewery. I would just make it in time for the last tour of the day.

Ghent was very lovely, old and gothic. I probably could have taken the tram but figured I’d walk following the tracks to my area, it wasn’t raining.

Located a schwarma place for lunch, I had over an hour before check in and tour.

Got settled into the hostel and got on the list for the brewery tour with 30 minutes to spare!

As soon as I closed my door I remembered I’d locked my key card inside. Dammit!

I paid for the tour and told reception about retrieving my card.

I met a pretty girl who was also going on brew tour. She was from Alberta, Canada and had just been on the craziest itinerary I’ve heard. One to 2 nights in a different city for the past 3 weeks via train from Paris to Amsterdam and most places in between.

We all piled into a van and I was lucky to get an end seat while the Canadian took shotgun.

It was a 20ish minute drive to the brewery, some talked, others fell asleep. Such is the life of a traveler, sleep when you can.

We were greeted just inside a side door by a thin man wearing a lab coat.

‘Here for the tour? Good, well we have a bit of time, why don’t we begin with a beer yes? Is this agreeable?’ He said with a grin.

We all said yes enthusiastically so he lead us upstairs into a large room full of brewery memorabilia, then into a small room that contained only a wooden bar.

He poured beers for us all and lead us into a meeting hall with several long wooden tables.

We would watch a film, then the tour would start. He had issues with the projector so he just began with the history of the brewery.

Room after room he unraveled the brewing process as well as the history of the brewery and the family that owns it.

The coolest part was walking through the warehouse where there were rows and rows, tens of feet high of kegs and bottles, both sold in the EU were returned, cleaned and reused.

They were already off the grid and made their own electricity, were nearly finished a water recycling program and had an entire department staffed only with mentally challenged people. Very forward, long term thinking was going on here.

The tour finished back in the meeting hall where we were given 30 minutes to have as many beers as we could drink.

I met a few other Belgian students and a Frenchmen who was touring Belgium via bike. That’s insane normally with all this rain, too. He said it wasn’t bad, less cars.

The students were very interested that I was from US and Texas.

The usual discussion points began with Trump and the election. It was 100% Sanders support, he was the most European candidate. Everyone was baffled that Trump was front runner.

‘I don’t understand guns. Why does everyone in a city need guns? I can’t comprehend why police would need guns.’ One of the Belgian students said to me. Cities have a special well trained team with weapons, beat police don’t carry.

I’ve grown up around guns, shot one at an early age but was really around guns in Kansas. I understood why people needed them for hunting but I lived in a rural area then.

In cities it was protection from robbers and rapist. Guns made people feel safe.

It was fascinating talking to someone who felt so safe he didn’t feel even police needed weapons. And that’s what makes Europe superior to the US, most people aren’t as violent, better educated, more in touch with others to the point they don’t see harm as an option.

We talked more or well I did, unraveling US and Texas values to bewildered Europeans.

They wanted to hang out more so we put plans into motion on the ride back.

Had a couple beers at the hostel bar while a couple people showered and got ready.

We then rolled out wandering the streets for awhile before agreeing we were all more hungry than thirsty.

I’m still a bit shocked about learning all you can eat pork ribs are hugely popular dining option in Belgium but that’s where we went.

We all also agreed on sharing a huge bottle of red wine with our ribs, it was the Belgium way.

Ribs, salad and baked potato were all refillable as many times as you wanted for around 12$ and they were all very good.

I had a slab and a half of ribs, the bones were tossed into a metal bucket in the middle of the table. I felt very medieval, primal at the sight of overflowing bucket of bones.

We rolled out to a Belgium bar home to jenever, a precursor to gin that can be flavoured with any fruit. The bar we arrived at was behind another bar where we started off with a beer.

Jenever is a very Belgium beverage served in shots filled up to the very top so you had to lean in and sip  before you could pick up the glass.

Shots were about 3€ and I was cautioned to wait awhile between shots. I selected blackberry and it did indeed taste of blackberries but not was sweet as the fruit.

I stepped outside as it was a very small, hot bar.


I watched a very drunk couple finish their beers only to knock the glasses off the table and then break on the ground. They laughed.

A guy next to me stopped talking and grabbed the guy and said something in Dutch, then in English very sternly, ‘is that your best?’ While indicating towards the broken glasses on the ground. ‘Is that your best effort?’

The drunk guy slouched, defeated, and bent over picking up big pieces and throwing them into a nearby trashcan for a few moments before a guy came over and swept up the bits. If only there were more people who asked each other if that was their best, how better things would be.

I go back inside but everyone had left. I was very tired so I decided to just go back to sleep.

Oh yeah my card! Yup midnight and while I had a room, I didn’t have a key to get into it.

There was a late night number to call on the door so I punched in the numbers but no answer. Wait a moment, dial again, finally a female answers and I say, English, then the name of the hostels.

What? Yes this is hostel.

I’m at the door, I’m locked out. I say: Click, she hung up.

Soon a door opened and a pretty blonde emerges rubbing her eyes.

She motions me to the reception desk, I explain what I did and my name.

‘Sigh, well I have to take your deposit for this. You should have got key in afternoon. It’s ok, let’s have good sleep.’ Then she hands me a new key card.

I climb into my bunk and am fast asleep.

Beer: Gruune Meuk

Song: Last Shadow Puppets  Sweet Dreams, TN