Getting better in Kudowa Zdrój 

Last post I’m sure I bored you all to death with my detailed description of my sickness. Well this is the blog post where it stops!

Early in the morning (think 6 AM) the tour group met up to catch the train to Kudowa Zdrój. The first train took about three hours and there was a dog riding as well! This cheered me up. Then we caught a second train for a quick 30 minute ride.

Trains are fun!

We had about four hours in Kudowa Zdrój to do whatever we wanted before going to the hotel. I got lunch and walked to see the thermal water. Kudowa Zdrój is known for its water, which has an abundance of calcium, sulfates, and other stuff I can’t remember.You can even drink the water and supposedly treat some conditions. The water comes warm and cold. I started with cold and stuck with it. Read more about Kudowa Zdrój

A park in Kudowa Zdrój.
Cheers!

The taste was…very interesting, which is what my parents taught me to say when I hate something. If I had to explain it, I’d say it tasted like how I imagine radioactive water from the apoloclypse will taste. I ended up drinking three cups and then running out to catch up with the group.

My stomach felt very rumbley the rest of the night, but I did wake up the next morning without a sore throat OR runny nose. I think this is the part where I’m supposed tell you to always try things out and not judge blah blah blah. My real advice is just to try thermal water.

After meeting up the group made a pit stop before the hotel. I didn’t know about this pit stop until we literally stopped, so I didn’t know what to expect. It turns out that there’s some really cool rock formations in the Bohemia miuntains. They are called Błędne Skały which translates to “incorrect rocks.” It took us about 30 minutes to weave through the rocks, then there was a small hike back to our starting point.

Me looking dorky as usual.

Beautiful views.
No running with deer!
It was quite a big park.

 

It was a great experience and I was sad to go, but also exhausted from a long day of traveling. We headed to the hotel and walked right into a wedding reception. Unfortunately, we were staying at a hotel that was also hosting a wedding the same night. After having dinner we hoped the music would die down…but no. It got even louder. In the U.S. I’ve heard about noise laws for certain towns or counties. I don’t think Poland has any. The music continued to 3 AM, but there were 30-minute breaks with silence every so often, THANK GOODNESS. At least I got about five hours of sleep compared to three. Anyways, it was an adventure and it (mostly) brought the good in everyone in my tour. One person was hilariously angry, but this individual had been angry for basically the entire tour, so we barely even noticed.

PRO TIP: don’t stay in hotels the same night as weddings.

Getting sick in Prague 

I woke up on Friday with a sore throat. I rarely get seriously sick, so I just drank a lot of water and went about my day. I stayed east of the river yesterday, so today I wanted to go across the river and see Prague Castle. First I headed out to the bake shop a few steps away from my apartment to pick up a coffee my roommate Elizabeth. She was heading to the Jewish quarter afterwards, so I decided to head there with her then go to the castle. 

My heaven.
 

The Jewish question quarter in Prague is made up of many different synagogues located near each other. The oldest synagogue is the Old-New Synagogue, which was completed around 1270 and is the oldest working synagogue in Europe. In one of the synagogues (I think it was the Pinkas Synagogue) I found my surname on the walls, which had the names of all of the known Prague Jews who died in the Holocaust. Finding it among all of the other names was one of those big moments in life where the breath gets knocked out of your body. I felt both connected and disconnected to my past. Connected because I was looking at my name and my history. Disconnected because I had no idea who the people behind the names actually were and what they had gone through. 

We passed the Franz Kafka statue on the way there.
Old-New Synagogue.
More of the Old-New Synagogue.
My surname.

I headed to the Jewish Cemetery afterwards. At this point it had started to rain. The graves, practically laid on top of each other, looked extra old and significant in the rain. I didn’t take any pictures because I wouldn’t want someone taking a picture of my grave.
After I was done touring the synagogues I headed across the bridge to see Prague Castle. At this point my throat started to get really sore. My nose was also running nonstop. I made a quick pit stop in an apothecary. I had to act out my symptoms to the pharmacist behind the counter, but she finally caught on and got me some high strength throat lozenges (pro tip: ask for lozenges NOT drops or mints).

It had also started to rain harder, so when I eventually arrived at the castle I didn’t know how long I would last.

Told you it was rainy.
An unsmiling palace guard.

I ended up staying about an hour. I headed to St. Vitus’ Cathedral first, which has really unique stained glass windows. Then I went to the main castle and finally to the remants of the working class village. There were so many people pushing and shoving down small little stone hallways and my nose was running like crazy. I called off being a tourist for the day and began a rainy walk back to the apartments.

The outside of the cathedral.
The inside.
Stained glass windows.
The castle.
Me and child enjoying fan.

The tour group got together to have dinner since we were heading out of Prague in the morning. Even though I had spent a good portion of day the blowing my nose and popping lozenges, I still thought that it had been a success overall. It’s important not to be too hard on yourself (though much easier said than done), and it wouldn’t have been fair to myself to stay at the castle and see more with a sick body. 
Anyways, on the walk back from dinner the sun was just setting and I got some pretty shots in the square.

PRAGUE.

I wrote Prague in capital letters because that’s exactly how I think of the city. It’s powerful, quick, and curt. This makes sense once you understand its history of communism. I didn’t know much about Prague before visiting, but after two days exploring the city I had a much better understanding of its people and past. It also helped that our tour guide, Marketa, is Czech and taught us about the culture of her people. 

We arrived in Prague early in the morning after catching a 9 AM bus from Cesky Krumlov. Marketa showed us to the apartments that my tour would be using during our stay, then took us out for a guided walk of the city. 

A subway station built during the Communist era.
Me looking goofy while waiting to put my bags in the apartment.

We had dinner across the Vltava River (the same river that flowed haphazardly through Cesky Krumlov), then headed back to the apartments. My apartment had a prime location right next to the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí). 

The view from my room.
The chandelier in our apartment.
The next morning I headed out to see Prague east of the river. I started at the Old Town Square then headed to the famous Saint Wenceslas statue in Wenceslas Square. Wenceslas was a duke in Bohemia until his brother assassinated him. He was made a saint, and the legend goes that if the city should need him, he will awaken from his statue and defend the city with a hidden army. Sounds a lot like the Lord of the Rings to me….

The Old Town Square.
The famous astrological clock.
Saint Wenceslas’ statue.
After that I headed to the Communist Museum. I couldn’t take many pictures, but the information was great. Based on what I learned about Emperor Franz Joseph in Austria, I couldn’t help but wonder how he would have reacted to the events in his land and to his people during this time. Learn more about Communism in the Czech Republic.


Marketa recommended the Cubist Museum to me, so I headed there next. The museum is located in the House of the Black Madonna. I actually ended up wandering the whole first floor of the museum for free before I was asked for a ticket! The furniture on display was really unique.

When I tried to go to the second floor of the museum a woman stopped me to ask for a ticket. I hadn’t seen a ticket office anywhere, so I’d just headed in to the first floor. There was a guy protecting the exhibit, but he’d never asked for a ticket from me. I guess I have an honest face…

I planned on just getting a coffee at the cafe in the museum, but they had an alcoholic coffee available so I went for it.

I ordered the coffee grand orient.
Beautiful!

I love how coffee–good coffee–is such a big deal in Europe. It’s usually served on platter with a biscuit, cookie, or wafer. I never really know if I’m supposed to dip the food in the drink, so I always just eat it.

I wanted to get a little present for my grandmothers, so I went back to the Charles Bridge from the night before. Local artisans set up on the bridge to sell their jewelry, paintings, etc. Each artisan must be registered with the city in order to sell art on the bridge. 

A panoramic view of the city from the bridge.

After the bridge I headed back to my apartment to charge my phone and rest my feet. On my way I came across this beautiful church (?), with symbols that appeared when the sun shone above. I don’t know the name, which religion it’s associated with, or what the symbols mean, but it took my breath away. If anyone knows something about these symbols please let me know. 

It was a beautiful day.

After resting for a bit I went out to meet my roommate Elizabeth to rent a paddle boat. It was such a warm, sunny day that everyone else had the same idea. The river was filled with rowboats, paddle boats, and small motor boats. 

There we are!
It looked like it was about to rain for a little while but it passed.
The famous Dancing House designed by Frank Gehry is the leftmost building.

Elizabeth and I got dinner at a beer hall called Lokal. We both got steak (me hangar, her entrecôte). I got a selection of Czech sausages with mustard and (I think) whipped horseradish. Elizabeth got a cucumber salad on the side. I got a kick out of seeing this on the menu because it’s my stepfather Rus’ staple dish in the summer. 


Oh yes, and we got beer too. Lots of it.

Later that night we met up with some more people from the tour to do karaoke. Brent, a quiet, always smiling member of our tour, had suggested the idea of karaoke the night before. Everyone was shocked that he would willingly be the center of attention. He’s an accountant from Ohio, so I knew something must be up. Shy accountants from Ohio must be hiding something. Sure enough, Brent had a wonderful singing voice. I wish I could say the same for myself. I hadn’t realized until that night how hard it is to keep singing when you can hear your own voice warbling off key into a crowded room. Also don’t try any Whitney Houston song. Bad. Idea.

The big surprise was a lone Canadian who random appeared and asked my group if he could join us. UM YES. Any and all Canadians can join. He was a squat little fellow in his 30s wearing a pea green polo shirt, but he went wild when he got up on the stage. He would swing his arms around in big, spastic circles during each chorus. Obviously I had a great time.

Exploring Cesky Krumlov 

Today I wanted to explore Cesky Krumlov on my own. I was itching to get out and wander at my own pace in the daylight. But first my tour had a bike ride down the mountains. I haven’t been on a bike for 10 years, which is basically since I broke my arm falling off my bike. My first few pedals were very unsteady. 

The forest we were biking in plus speeding biker.
Biking back into town.

After we were done biking, I headed out on my own to the Cresky Krumlov Castle. It’s a large building, or rather 40 connected builds, that can be seen from practically any point in the town.

The first half of the castle.
The continuing second half.

I wanted to learn more about the history of the castle, so I bought a ticket for the castle museum and the castle tower. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until much later that I only bought a ticket to the castle tower museum. There was a whole other part of the castle that I didn’t see. It was an easy mistake to make, so I wasn’t too upset with myself. Here’s what I learned about the castle in my limited tour:
The castle construction started between 1240 and 1290 according to the age of wood found in the castle foundation. The entire town sits on a particularly curvy part of the Vltava River. Ownership of the castle passed between the House of the Rosenbergs, the House of the Eggenbergs, and the House of the Schwarzenbergs. The Schwarzenbergs eventually left the palace to reside in Prague, and for many years a castle mayor of sorts kept the castle up. Today many of the rooms are available for rent, though some rooms are used by the town for events.

A model of the castle tower.
The view from the tower.

Climbing the tower was very scary because a lot of other tourists were pushing and rushing to the top, and I had a hard time communicating that I was scared of heights. One Asian woman kept looking at my scared face and laughing hysterically. I did end up making it down in one piece (I almost kissed the ground). Then I went to a river bank and sat contemplating life and taking selfies, as any 21st century 20 year old does.


After dinner it started raining, so I went on a walk before bed. I was excited because I got to test my new rain jacket. It’s the small things in life.

Rainy cobblestones.
I love the style of these houses.

Finally I went to bed. I haven’t been sleeping very well since I arrived in Europe. I attribute this to the softness of the pillows. Traveling is fantastic but boy do I miss my bed.

To the Czech Republic I go

Early Monday morning we departed Vienna and made way to Cesky Krumlov, a small town situated right in the middle of Vienna and Prague. The trip took about three hours, and along the way I got to see a lot of countryside. 

What makes Cesky Krumlov so special is its incredible preservation. As most of you already know, during World War II much of Europe was bombed. Countless historical buildings and statues were destroyed and lost forever. But Cesky Krumlov was untouched by bombs, even though Adolf Hitler came to the town himself. The only thing that was damaged was the interior of the town synagogue. 

After we arrived and checked into our hotel, we went for a guided walk around the town. Our guide was named Olivishka (Olive-ish-ka) and she had her boobs and legs proudly on display. Her knowledge of this town and its history was incredible.

The first look at Cesky Krumlov.
My roommate Elizabeth in our room.
Awesome Oliveishka.
I call this one “Boy with candy the size of his body.”
The main square when Hitler visited.
The main square today.
More snitzel.
The town is amazingly picturesque.
Inside the castle walls.
The town from inside the castle.
Me looking goofy.

After we were done with our guided town tour, we went to dinner. My table ordered the Bohemian Feast, which had dumplings, pancakes, sour kraut, a cabbage salad, pheasant, chicken, and rabbit. It was delicious, but I was still hungry (typical), so I got a desert made out of grilled dough and sugar with Nutella on the inside.

The streets at night.
The castle all lit up and beautiful.

My dessert.
THE FEAST!

Saying goodbye to Vienna

I write this in a hotel room situated above the Danube River. In the past few days I’ve come to call Vienna a new home in this big, big world. When I got off of the S7 train from the airport and walked to my hostel, this city seemed foreign and scary. But as the days have gone on I’ve started to learn this city’s geography and culture. I’ll be doing a summary of Vienna post next, but in the meantime I’ll fill you in on my past two days.

I started off my Saturday with an early breakfast at Naschmarkt, which was conviently located right across from my hostel. Naschmarkt is a market that began in 1793 when a law was passed that all fruits and vegetables arriving in Vienna had to be sold in this specific location. Naschmarkt translates to “munch market.” I strolled through the different stalls and accepted all small samples that the owners offered me. 

Stuffed olives.
Various nuts and dried fruit. All were delicious.

For breakfast I had ham and eggs, and melange, which is half steamed, frothy milk and half coffee. Melange is a Viennese specialty.
A very colorful breakfast.

Then I headed to Weiner Straatsoper, the opera house I talked about previously. I did a 40-minute guided tour and even got to go onto the stage. 
The view from the philharmonic in the front of the stage.

One part of the stage. It goes back 50 metes more.
The staircase to the seats.
Emperor Franz Joseph’s box.
Then I headed to the national library. I’d seen a few posts on Pinterest about the library, so I knew that it had some beautiful artwork. It still took my breath away. 

When I was done, I returned to my hostel and took a taxi across the city to my hotel. I dropped off my bag, then headed back out to the city via the U-Bahn (you way), which is an electric subway. 

I got off at Stephensplatz station, which is right in front of Stephensdon, and went to Demel, a famous Viennese dessert cafe. 

An Annatorte and an Oberscremeschnitte.

Later I met up with my tour to do introductions. Everyone is very nice. It’s mostly Australian older couples, but there’s a few youngish people as well. Marketa, our tour guide, is Czech and very direct. I enjoy her honesty!
The next day (today), I headed to Schloss Schonbrunn, the summer castle for the Habsburgs. Empress Maria Theresa, Marie Antoniette’s mother, lead in the effort to decorate and furnish the palace so luxuriously. 
The view of the castle from the back.
The Palm House.
The outside of the Palm House.
The fountain at the rear of the castle.

Tomorrow I head to Cesky Krumlov, a small town located in the Czech Republic.

Getting by without data

I’m not perfect. I know that we can get by without phones. But I don’t like to. Browsing apps and the Internet on my phone is my favorite thing to do between actually doing something. Even when I’m upset or stressed, browsing my phone and looking at crazy Instagram accounts with a dumb blank stare on my face gives me comfort. Browsing my phone is akin to sucking my thumb as a child. I do it all the time without noticing it and ultimately waste a lot of time accomplishing nothing. But I like it. “So how are you doing so far without having any data on your phone?” you might ask me. And I’d say, surprisingly OK.

Today I went to Schloss Belvedere, aka Amazing View Castle (that’s the literal translation). And wow what a view.

The view from the front of Schloss Belvedere.

I ended up walking there, which took me about 30 minutes (I stopped a lot to take pictures). After I was done I walked to one of the many famous coffee cafes sprinkled throughout Vienna, where I got goulash and Vienna sausage. Then I wandered around so more and finally walked back to my hostel. And I didn’t use data once. I relied on a map (crazyyy) my memory, and the wonderful realization that Google Maps will still show your location on its map even if you have airplane mode on.

Instead of browsing on my phone, I listened to people around me speaking in German. It was also incredibly hot, so I spent a lot of time making strategic stops in the shade. Sure, I missed my phone, but it was nice to be without it.

Here’s some more shots of Schloss Belvedere.

Reminds me of Pemberly in the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice.”
A very long walk.
I can report that Pokemon Go is alive and well in Europe.
I loved all of the Gustav Klimpt paintings on display
This painting is based on the story of Holofernes and Judith, who seduces and then cuts off his head to save her people.
This woman ruined everything.

Klimpt, killing it again.
I loved how much light poured into this room.
Just a little selfie to prove I’m actually here.
The Marble Hall in Oberes Belvedere (Upper Belvedere).
The ceiling.
That famous painting of Napoleon Bonaparte from everyone’s grade school history books
Practically everyone laughed when they entered this room.
I think this guy loves books.
A legitimate statue of a snow man.
There were fountains everywhere.
The Goldkabinett (Golden Room) in Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere).
Contemplating going outside again just to start sweating.

Schloss Belvedere was built by Prince Eugene, a famous military strategist. He built Lower Belvedere first, then expanded his estate by building the much bigger Upper Belvedere. If you ever come to Vienna, I recommend just doing the Upper Belvedere. Read more about Belvedere. 
After seeing Belvedere and grabbing lunch, I started walking back to the hostel. Along the way I came across this graffiti.

After having a nap (hey, it is my vacation time), I ate some Austrian snacks and headed out into the city center to take photos of the city at night.

Wein Straatsoper, one of Vienna’s famous opera houses
The same church from yesterday. It’s my favorite.

And that’s it! I hope everyone is enjoying my posts. If you have any suggestions or question, send me an email or Facebook message.