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Saturday, April 28, 2018

SOLO EURO: DAY 10 & 11 [PRAGUE]

by the next day i my mood and health improved. it was raining, but it stayed pretty bright outside. i started my day early so i could go to prague castle right when they opened (i heard it gets really busy). the tourist sites are pretty walkable, but like most castles this one is up a hill. i decided to take the city rail system up to the top of the hill so i could visit the attractions while going down hill. on a side note, the easiest way to buy rail and bus tickets is to use the ticket booth managed by employees (there are very few automated ticket machines).

the complex was founded in the 800s and housed the kings of bohemia, the holy roman emperors, and the presidents of czechoslovakia. to enter any of the buildings you have to buy a ticket. there are 3 different 'citcuit' tickets that allow you to go into a set number of buildings.



i decided to go one stop past the castle to see novy svet. down this narrow street is where the castle workers were housed.



prague has some complex building designs. i enjoyed all the little details.









the first stop was st. vitus cathedral. this building is definitely one of the most popular attractions in the city. even though it was my first stop, there were still a swarm of people. it is in the gothic style (c.1344) and houses the tombs of bohemia royalty.. i've never been to paris, but i felt like i was in the disney renaissance classic, hunchback of notre dame.




the good thing about the rain was i was able to see the gargoyle drainage system at work.




now i have not been to many epic catholic churches, but i noticed there is a trend. i love how they are never uniform. each chapel is created in a different time for a different person and therefore has its own style and personality. there was so much stained glass, but in different artistic styles.






of course my absolute favorite was the one created by alphons mucha. i knew right when i saw it thar he designed it.


after visiting the cathedral i also went to the old royal palace and st. george's basilica. while working my way downhill, i visited zlara ukicks, golden lane. these cute little buildings were my favorite part of the complex. there is even a little cafe in one of the buildings.





i had to get a latte, how often do you get to enjoy an espresso drink in a castle?


the little houses were originally built in the 1500s to house the castle guards. not too long after, artisans moved in and eventually the area became a slum. they were private residences until the 1930s. today, they are souvenir shops or educational exhibits. luckily, it was not too busy. i heard this street gets swamped by the late morning.





                         




to the left is a herbalist's house. to the right is the house of an amateur film historian. he safely hid czech films during the nazi occupation.










there are about 5 souvenir shops that sell crafts made by locals. i bought something in almost every single shop including a stained glass magnet, a handpainted little cermaic dish, and a leather and metal bookmark. i then made my way towards the exit.



the view from one of the castle walls. 



statue of karel hasler, a czech musician who died in a nazi concentration camp.


i then made my way to the wallenstein gardens, but unfortunately they were closed. on the locked gates, it did say they could close due to bad weather, but this was just a small southern california rain. so i made my way across the river to the old jewish quarter of prague. jews settled here as early as the 10th century, but most of the quarter was demolished by the beginning of the 20th century.  



pinkas synagogue (c. 1500s) is now a memorial to victims of the holocaust. 



the interior walls of the building are the painted of names of over 78,000 czech and moravian victims of the holocaust.





the old jewish cemetery. there are as many as 12 layers of graves.



the old new synagogue (13th century gothic) 


for the most part, the inside of the synagogues are modest, with the exception of the spanish synagogue (which is only spanish in design). it has some pretty crazy domes.



a star of david light fixture.






i next went to a little cafe across from the synagogue. you can never have enough coffee. i literally felt like i was being served in somebody's kitchen. i also stopped at some shops and ended up buying a green amber ring.



as i have said before, i really love the concept of sitting in to drink coffee. i also discovered my taste for flat whites (but they are so expensive here in the states!)



monument for the velvet revolution.


after getting lost many times, i attempted to find my way back to my hostel. i ended up having dinner at narodni kavarna, the nationalist cafe. founded in the late 1800s, up to the mid 20th century it was a meeting point for literary people (i found this out after the fact). stepping inside is like a time machine. it feels very 1920s-30s. i think it's considered a little fancy, but the price is reasonable in american dollars.





mushroom soup, fresh bread, and peach tea. 




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now for the hostel. during my entire trip, this was the strangest one. as i said before, it was on the third floor of a strange building (there was a thai massage place and casino inside too), but why i would not rate this the highest is the vibe. they had signs saying you were on camera (not a very homey trait).

also, all the lights in the common areas (hallways, kitchen, bathroom, and living room) were motion detected and would turn off right when you stepped out of its proximity. so when you walked down the long hallway reminiscent of the one in 'the shining' you would just see a trail of lights turning off and on. once one shut off the next one turned on. i thought it was creepy.



entrance to the hostel.


also this was the quietest hostel i stayed at. nobody talked and in the mornings no one else was in the common areas. it's not bad, but normally in hostels people are quite social. the only person i ended up having a conversation with was this italian girl who was here for school. she knew very limited english and said she was having trouble with adjusting to a english speaking school. she was very nice though. she always said good morning and good night to me. for being such a quiet hostel, she was probably the kindest fellow hostel-goer i met during this trip.



my female dorm room




now for some pros. the location was perfect. it was on one of the main streets of old town and very close to public transportation and stores. also for being so close to a busy center, the hostel was quiet. the view was also really great. there were tons of opportunities for people watching. on a side note, central europe does not do window screens. you could literally crawl out the window if you wanted to. i experienced this at every hostel and hotel, but because of the it being fall there were no bugs.





















the view from the hostel.


now for a song! i think i am just going to pick old songs from my ipod since that was all i had (and i am running out of ideas). i heard this song back in the 10th grade in a 90s playlist itunes put together. since then, i have never heard of this band or song. 'crazy town',' by velocity girl. enjoy!

p.s. i am going to change things up because this is my blog and i can. i just got back from a solo road trip through 3 southern states. i am going to start posting those because i am more motivated to write about it and i don't want to make the same mistake with this trip (taking absolutely forever to post), so look forward to that.

Monday, April 2, 2018

SOLO EURO: DAY 8 & 9 [BAMBERG & PRAGUE]

i left in the morning to catch the train to bamberg. fortunately, the schedule was often (twice every hour). this was more of  a 'i don't have much planned and let's just see what i run into' kind of day. i'm glad i went, but did enjoy the day before at rodt much more. there also is not as much to do if you don't drink beer. most people visit to drink their smoked beer that tastes like bacon.

instead of taking the bus, i walked to the old town. compared to the other old towns i visited, the buildings are more of a mix of old and new. i walked through old town pretty quickly. bamberg does not have many attractions or museums.







the cathedral that was closed to visitors due to mass.



king triton from the little mermaid?



alte hofhaltung, the old palace.


the one thing i did have planned was altenburg castle. i knew there was not going to be much to see (most of it is now a restuarant). i could see it up the hill, but i could not figure out how to get there. i gave up on my directions and just followed the street signs. once you make it past the city, you have to go up a long foothill. it was a little creepy. i was the only one using it. 



once you take the foothill through the fields, you have to enter a plant tunnel (like something out of alice in wonderland).



altenburg castle


the castle was a bit lackluster for having all that trouble to get there, but it was my main attraction of the day. the only building you can enter is the tower.









in the ye old days, a real bear was kept on the property. now they have a stuffed bear that looks like the title character from 'big bear in the big blue house.'



altes ratheaus, the most popular landmark in the city


on a side note one of the scariest things happened to me on the way back. while i was walking on the curb, a bus drove behind me and the side mirror almost hit me in the back of the head. my head fit in between the mirror and the bus. if it had hit me, i for sure would have gotten a concussion. after that, i learned to walk closer to the buildings and away from the street 

by now i was done and decided to return to nuremberg. i took the train back to nuremberg, returned to my hostel, and had an espresso shot while trying to figure out what i wanted to do for the rest of my day. i settled with the db railway museum, a quick stroll from my hostel. 




surprisingly, it opened as a railway museum in 1899! i'm glad i went. i'm also glad i asked if there was an english audioguide. the reception lady never offered it to me and all the captions were in german (most big german museums do have english captions). the museum is chronological and unfortunately the section on east and west germany was closed (the section i was the most interested in). there is also an outdoor museum that showcases the different trains used throughout history.





the opera house across the street.



i forgot to show this on the last post, but this is the view from my hostel room. pictured is the old town wall.


i did not realize, but in bavaria most places are either closed on sunday or have short hours so finding dinner was a nightmare. dinner ended up being bread with cheese and tomato from a street vendor and a mars bar.

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the next morning i caught a db bus to prague. sure there are cheaper ways, but i read such nightmares about budget buses. it was a nice ride. the bus was a double decker and i sat on the top floor in the very front (i forgot i reserved that seat, but was happy to be reminded), so was able to look out the window. our bus was late due to traffic, but it was not too bad.



central station is really pretty, even though an old grumpy couple ruined my picture.


when i arrived i made a big boo boo. i took out wayyy too much money from the atm ($800 in us dollars. i ended up only using about 1/3 of it the next 4 days). i also met the rudest person i encountered during the entirety of my trip and he worked in customer service! i walked away from him before i was on the verge to cuss him out.



a creepy art installation at wesceslas square.




the epic art nouveau europa hotel.


i then made my way to the hostel and got lost. prague was definitely the hardest town to navigate. there are so many long street names and the streets are not set up in a grid. they run in all directions and some even turn 90 degrees while keeping their name. also the blocks are so tiny and most often triangular in shape. i knew my hostel was in a strange location. it is common for one building to have a different business on every floor. in my building the first floor was a casino (with security being an older lady), the second a thai massage place, and the third the hostel. more on the hostel in a future post. after checking in, i decided to stroll around a little bit.





i tried a trdelnik. these are all over prague and poland. it is advertised as an old bohemian (really it's slovak) dessert and pretty much tastes like a stuffed churro. i had one with vanilla custard.



this guy was actually part of my itinerary, 'the cloak of conscience.'




the first museum i went to was the alfonse mucha museum. he is one of my favorite artists of all time. a lot of his work is all over prague. overall, the museum was okay. it was a little expensive and you can't take pictures inside, but i really did like the gift shop.




the next stop was the museum of communism. the name is a little misleading, but it is really just about the influence communism and socialism had on the czech people. as most museums during my trip, this one was very emotionally charged. it was really interesting to learn specifically about this region because most often you learn about england, france, or germany.

they also had a really great gift shop. for being such a serious musem, there were tons of merchandise that joked about the ideology. for example, there was a santa dressed like the grim reaper and a nesting doll with fangs. i even got a postcard that said, 'opening, late, closing soon, annoyingly long lunch break.'





even though this wall may look like it is celebrating socialism, the museum overall was very critical of the ideology. 







after, i stopped at the grocery store (got 2 liter of water, 2 cold pasta sides, and 3 bananas for less than $3!), got lost (entered one door and did not realize i exited a different one), and returned to the hostel.



for dinner i stopped at a quick little cafe and got schnitzel, potatoes, and ginger ale (it's cheaper than water). after that, i called in a night.


now for a song! i've been listening to a bit of classical lately and one one my favorites is 'gymnopedie' by erik satie. it is hard to describe, but i like songs that make me feel like i am looking into the past and reminiscing. this song makes me think of that. enjoy!