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Monthly Archives: December 2018

Budapest, Vienna, Prague: Honeymoon Edition: Day 17

Sun. Oct. 7, 2018:
Prague Czech Republic to Frankfurt, Germany to Toronto, ON:

Breakfast was open this time. The Nutella crepe followed by Nutella spoon in coffee was genius. Because the sun had woken me up so early we actually still had some time after breakfast, I spent it well, playing Mario Odyssey. I thought we were done with the stairs but apparently, I was celebrating too soon. We still had one more (bonus!) flight left. We walked away from the historic part of town and apparently that required yet another flight of stairs. We took a streetcar and then transferred to a bus that took us to the airport, sounds simple enough right? We got to the transit stop and had no idea how to buy fares, eventually I spotted a fare-vending machine on the other side of the platform. Why they didn’t have one on each side made little sense to me. More confusion ensued when we tried to transfer to the airport bus. There was a giant sign on the bus stop saying something about the route being affected this weekend. We went across the street to the metro station, where a schedule said the bus was coming in 2 minutes. So, it wasn’t affected? We ran back to the bus stop. If the bus didn’t arrive in a reasonable amount of time, we would look for alternative methods: from the metro map it looked like we could also take the subway to the airport. There was also no one at the metro station to help us. Thankfully the bus came and it dropped us off right at the terminal.

We were so early, two and a half hours! I wandered around the airport and visited all of the shops. I bought some chocolates for my co-workers. I was tempted by honey wine at the duty-free shop. But we had a layover in Frankfurt and I wasn’t sure if we would have to clear security again. I tried asking the people at the check-in desk but they had no idea. I set to googling it and found my answer: as long as it was sealed and marked with the duty-free it would be ok. I screen capped and walked over to the shop triumphantly. I would have my delicious Medinovar fix. On my way back, I stopped at the café and ordered a salted caramel cappuccino. I’m pretty sure they gave me a large, because it was enormous. I downloaded Bridget Jones’s Baby on Netflix for the flight in case there weren’t any good movies. During my airport wanderings I found that Pilsner Urquell had a restaurant in the airport. We split a pretzel and Brent had a beer that was a mix of light and dark beers, but the way it was poured they separated and it had a layered effect. The Prague flight was delayed by 40 minutes. We had to run like mad through the Frankfurt airport to make our connection. I was not happy about this, I was tired and achy and rundown. We made it just in time. I did wonder about our friend we had made in line at Prague, who was grumbling he would miss his flight to DC. On the second flight there was a great movie selection and I didn’t end up needing my iPad. We watched Get Out, Royal Tenenbaums, Lost in Translation and the first three episodes of Sharp Objects. We got home tired and exhausted, having briefly forgotten about the giant post-wedding mess strewn across the entire house. I was in need of a second vacation.

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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Travel

 

Budapest, Vienna, Prague: Honeymoon Edition: Day 16

Sat. Oct. 6, 2018:
Prague Czech Republic:

I was really starting to miss curtains. The breakfast door was locked again and I really did not feel up to battling with the coffee maker. I tried searching for some nearby cafes but nothing was open yet, the earliest was a 10am open and I did not feel like waiting an hour for coffee. Especially given the curtain-less sleep and awful wakeup. On the way out I had to leave a note on the door: we were out of toilet paper. I tried the Starbucks by the castle but the line was too long, and I figured the wait would be even longer if everyone was ordering barista drinks. Instead I went back to the McCafe. It was incredible how long it took only 2 people in line ahead of me to order. I had almost been better off staying at Starbucks. One lady was trying to order cheesecake. She had two options: plain or strawberry. Apparently, this was a monumental decision and had to be done very carefully. To go with my caramel latte, I had a nougat donut, even though it was actually Nutella.

Rather than go back to the Klementinum (where we were pretty much guaranteed entrance) we started our day at the Old Town Hall. We were there on a Saturday and it was only going to get busier. People LOVE the 600-year-old astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall. We had to push through the crowd to get inside for tower tickets. Because the tower is square shaped, we didn’t have to climb stairs. Instead we walked up not-steep ramps. It was only at the spire that there was a narrow spiral staircase. Except it had an genius design. At the top and bottom entrances there were traffic lights. That way there was only one direction of traffic flow on the stairs at a time. Brilliant. I wish the same had been done for the tiny tower terrace. It was a glut of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, all slowly moving as one mass. Until it wasn’t. Until someone decided to go the wrong way. Until someone decided to take more than the usual amount of time to view (as determined by the movement of the crowd as a whole). Then it became nightmarish as we had o try and squeeze past and around people. There was an obvious rhythm to it and some people were just dumb. You stopped when there was a moment, took a photo through the window gate and moved on. There were beautiful views of the town and of Old Town Square down below. We could see two churches, one of which was our next destination. We could also see people down below looking at the astronomical clock.

We walked across the square towards Our Lady of Tyn. The entrance to the church was unclear and we ended up circling the building before finding an alcove between two restaurants that lead to a small courtyard where- finally- we found the entrance. The buildings had been built around the church. We had no chance of getting a full view of the church façade. We weren’t allowed photos inside. It was killing me; the interior was so beautiful and there were intricate wooden sculptures and everything was gilded in gold. I recognized it as Baroque style. We saw Tyco Brahe’s grave. Apparently, he used to live in the building that was now our hotel. Brent loved pointing out, every time we left or entered the building, the plaque stating this. I hated it. Almost as much as I hated the stairs. Afterwards we stopped in at the Old Town Square for a quick lunch. I could see the vendor slow-roasting a giant ham hock over an open-fire beside his stand. There was no way we weren’t going to try some (authentic?) Old Prague Ham. Especially when it was that fresh. It was so freaking (*not the original adjective I had used) good. We had ordered a plate of 100gr to split. It was only later when Brent went back for more mustard that I saw the sign saying you could order any amount; the price was listed per 100gr as a reference point. Oops. The bread on the side was stale and therefore utterly useless. There was no real need for it, the ham was that good. No one in the town square was selling “hot wine” or mead. My only options were beer or nothing. We walked around the town square but there wasn’t really much to see, other than a few other food vendors.

The amount of people looking at the astronomical clock had doubled in size in the past half hour (from when we were up in the tower). We stopped in at a more tourist-y alcohol shop and I found two new ones I had never tried before: TK Mojito and a Carling cherry cider (*insert hearts). I went into a souvenir shop looking for a Szwejk figurine as a souvenir for my dad. The lady followed me all around the shop, plus it was rather expensive.

We got to the Klementinum Library and while we were waiting in line one employee was asking everyone what language tour, they were interested in. When he got to us, he recognized us. He wrote a note on our ticket giving us readmission on the noon hour tour. We had half an hour before the tour. We sat on a low wall nearby. Brent read his book, I listened to podcasts. Out of nowhere, a little black kitten appeared. We later found out the kitten’s name was KIementin, there was a sign on a restaurant patio about it. At first the kitten was busy doing the butt wiggle and pouncing on unsuspecting bugs. She came out from under the fence and started play-attacking Brent’s elbow. She was tiny but her claws were sharp. We were unsure what she liked so much about his elbow. The shadows in the folds? Did he smell like ham from the town square? Eventually the kitten got bored of us and left. We later saw it doing the same song and dance with a lady who was decidedly not cool about it, yelping and then giggling. Things got worse when she tried to pick up the kitten.

The first part of the tour was a repeat but we did get to see the innards of a clock and learn how clocks work- that was pretty mind blowing honestly. Same as yesterday, we did not get to stop further into the library but at least this time it was properly lit. We had a better view of the ceiling frescos and the intricate details of the bookcases. It was worth it to have come back.

At the start of the bridge I found another tourist shop and found a much more reasonably priced figurine for half the price and none of the being-followed-around. The bridge was quite crammed but it was moving well. While Brent stopped in and went to the bathroom at what was supposed to have been out hotel, I cracked open the Carling cherry cider. It was rather hot outside and I was dehydrated. It really hit the spot. I almost finished it in the time he was gone. We stopped at the grocery store for snacks for lunch. We were having an early dinner again. I got a Milka ice cream bar because it was so hot outside. Brent had an Oreo ice cream bar that had a cookie (!) coating. Yet again, I grumbled about the stupid stairs.

Everything that had been set up the day before on the castle grounds to celebrate 100 years of independence, including a full stage, had all been taken down. Why would they set it up for one day?! They could’ve partied into the weekend! It seemed silly to me. The strings duet was there again, playing the same song, and having the same effect on me. Making me feel all smooshy and lovey.

We got to the hotel room and the cleaner was there. We threw our coats on a chair and went back out. We walked further down the street our hotel was on. Apparently, there was an old wooden house down that way, that the hotel guy seemed fit to recommend. As promised, at the end of our street, there was a little wooden house. It was labelled a “romantic” hotel. We circled around the Loretta abbey, seeing it from the other side. We checked out the Czernin Palace Garden. There were some nice roses bushes but the fancy pools weren’t filled so we didn’t get the full effect of the gardens. We continued via the backstreets and rounded the corner of the main square. We didn’t usually get to see this side of the square, as we usually cut diagonally across it (aka the opposite of this side we were seeing now).

Back in the hotel I steeped some tea. But it was too hot to drink right away and I was thirsty. I cracked open a mojito to hold me over while I caught in my notebook and waited for my tea to cool. Reading in bed, I finished Amy & Isabelle and took to Pinterest and catching up on Try Not To Laugh’s animal videos on Facebook. Fun times. We went out for McDinner around 4:30pm. This time I got their version of a Quarter Pounder, it was good. But the best part was still the fries with the sweet chili dip. Brent had the regular Maestro burger. It had horseradish, which would sound weird, but was actually really good.

My plan was that while Brent was at the play at the Estates Theatre, I would go out and photograph the sunset. We walked together through the castle square and parted ways at the Starbucks. I refused to go down the stairs, I vowed that with our McDinner that would be the last time. The sun was not setting over the town but over the hill. I got a few nice photos but not as many as I would have liked. It was an awkward spot. I wandered past the Starbucks in the opposite direction of the giant stairs and away from the castle grounds. I found a better view of the sunset over a monastery/church/nice-looking building. Walking back, I continued down the street rather than taking the left turn back towards the Starbucks. It was the same as all other roads, lots of little shops, cafes and restaurants. I half suspected it would lead me all the way to under the Charles Bridge. Instead it led me to the mini-square and church before the steep hill to the bottom of the horrible stairs! I had found a roundabout way to avoid the stairs! Instead of going up them it was a winding ramp way to get to the top! Good thing I found it, at least now I had a story to tell. There was no way I was hoofing it up the stairs, I went back the way I came. Along the way I saw two girls who were stoned out of their minds. One was crouching in the street, doubled over laughing. She then had to lean against the wall, she couldn’t contain herself. The other girl still had a solid ¾ of a joint in her hand. What lightweights, I thought.

I stopped in at the Starbucks for a white hot chocolate and sat on the patio. I used their ledge as a pseudo-tripod to get some night shots of Prague. At the castle square I found a nice ledge to take more night photos. A lady had walked into my shot and started apologizing and I shrugged and said it was ok. It was such a long exposure she didn’t even register in the shot. I got back to the hotel room and the TV was showing MLB baseball. Brent didn’t know how to disconnect the app on his phone from the TV and we just assumed once he was out of range it would stop playing. It did not. I sent him an email about it from the iPad. He had messaged me saying he was sitting in box with one lady whose boyfriend was in box next door and they talked over him. My joke about sitting in the hotel room watching baseball while he’s at a poetry reading did come true. Rubbing that dog on the bridge proved to be lucky after all.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Travel

 

Budapest, Vienna, Prague: Honeymoon Edition: Day 15

Fri. Oct. 5, 2018:
Prague Czech Republic:

I woke up just after 9am with purpose: I could finally write the postcard to my dad, I had finally eaten at U Kaliche. Never mind that the postcard would surely arrive way after me. We went downstairs for breakfast but the door was locked. We did not feel up to ringing the doorbell and having them make a fuss over us. We still had butter cookies and apricot jam in the hotel room, plus we had a coffee machine. I would survive. It was an awful coffee maker, with the stupid pods and it was impossible to figure out. When I eventually did get it going it turned even more disastrous. I went to take a sip and it was not even warm. Turns out the coffee maker had been set to cold brew. Except it wasn’t a nice cold brew, it was a room temperature coffee. Add insult to injury: there were grinds in the coffee. Disgusting. We stopped at the McCafe on the way so I could get a better coffee. The cookies with apricot jam barely helped improve my mood. The McCafe, even though it is in the McDonalds, was upstairs and separate. The downstairs kiosks didn’t apply. I had to attempt to order my caramel latte despite the language barrier.

We got to the Klementinum Library just in time for the 10:30am tour. I was so excited to see the Baroque library- it was the main draw. Alas, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. I was so sad about this. I settled for buying a postcard later on our way out. Things only got worse from there. The lights in the Baroque library wouldn’t turn on. I was really starting to regret not having rubbed the dog in the statue on the bridge last night. I vowed to rub it at some point in the day. When the tour guide announced the problem, one lady in our group asked if they couldn’t just open the curtains and let in some natural light. It made me shudder to even think about. Why did she think the place was kept in the dark? Clearly, she knew nothing about museum stuff. We continued on with the tour, the plan being that we would come back at the end of the tour and see if the issue was resolved. In the tower there was a camera obscura onto the Prague Meridian line and when the light was on it, you knew it was midday. It’s too bad we were too early. We continued up into the Observatory Tower. From the deck we had a view of all of Prague. Off in the distance we could see how crammed the Charles Bridge was with tourists- it was just a solid mass of people spanning the whole bridge. When we got back the lights were still not fixed. We were able to walk up to the barrier and at least peek in, once my eyes adjusted it wasn’t that bad actually. Everyone was so quiet, an atmosphere of hushed reverie as we all stole glances. We were told we could come back later and a staff member would escort us to the library to see. I secretly wondered if it would be the same view by the barricade, just better lit. Or would we get to walk through it? The same lady from before piped up again. She was mad and she was leaving town, she wouldn’t get to see it. What she seemed to not grasp was that an electrician had to come and fix the problem.

For lunch we went to a hotdog window shop. We tried to order one hotdog and one kielbasa but the guy said it’s the same meat, the difference is in getting a bun or not. We got two hotdogs with everything. I was too lazy to pick and choose my toppings. Therefore, I ended up with sauerkraut, red cabbage, cucumbers, mustard, mayo and ketchup. Not exactly the ideal assortment- it was still good though. Brent had a Pilsner Urquell, I had a mulled wine. Problem was, the hotdogs were two-handed meals. I held Brent’s beer while he ate, then he held my mulled wine while I ate. It worked out well, my wine needed time to cool down. The hotdog was an unruly mess. We backtracked to the Klementinum so I could buy some postcards (when we were leaving there was no one at the ticket desk).

We stopped at a grocery store on our way back to the hotel, the one across the street from our usual shop just after the bridge. I got a red cacao bean Kit Kat, a chocolate Cornetto ice cream, piquant paprika Lays and a Koppaberg Swedish cider with strawberry and lime. It was a tiny can, but I had run out of bottle caps to collect. Smirnoff Ice being the only one left. The chocolate Cornetto was a lie. The bottom 2/3 of it was vanilla ice cream with only a little bit of chocolate fudge. Why call it a chocolate cone?! Why only have chocolate ice cream at the top?! WHO DOES THAT?!?!?

Back in our hotel room we found that all of our towels, save for one crumpled one on the floor, were gone. The coffee bar had not been replenished and we did not have new sheets, the bed was just made. I felt like we were getting ripped off. I brewed one of the sample teas I had gotten from Kusmi, the lemongrass green tea. It was so good! Once I got caught up in my notebook, we settled on planning the evening, and if I had time, maybe some Mario Odyssey. I finished writing all of my postcards. The Czech stamps were so big I had to stick them on sideways. With this I had to move on to pen #3 of the trip, #2 finally giving up. In the course of the trip, I had only acquired one free pen. Thank god I brought some from home. My book, Amy & Isabelle, was finally available again. I made it through 2 chapters before I called it quits and took a 30-minute nap, I was so so so tired.

Dinner was at the Medieval Tavern, which apparently was under a kilometre away from the hotel? We must’ve walked by it and yet I couldn’t place it. I did remember passing a pub touting itself as medieval. Could that have been it? What were the odds that there were two medieval pubs? It was so funny to get there and realize how many times we had passed by it on our way back to the hotel. Now it made sense why I always saw people outside taking pictures. Even walking there, having confirmed the address, I still questioned it. Was this right? Were we going to the place that the Toronto Star had written about? As soon as we stepped inside, I was sure, this was definitely the right place. It was dark with low vaulted ceilings and lit only by candles. It 100% felt like Prague’s oldest pub. The outside had been misleading but it makes sense being so close to the castle. In the doorway a lady asked us if this was the place with all the bones. I said it was a good bet that it was, especially given the skulls over the entrance. For some reason they left.

When we said we had reservations, they asked (again!) if we were absolutely sure that we did not want to stay for the medieval show. The first time they had asked after we made an email reservation. It was hard to see when we first entered, it took my eyes a while to adjust. Reading a menu by candlelight may sound romantic- but it really isn’t. We didn’t order any apps because we’d had a pretty heavy lunch. Brent had the duck leg confit and I had the goulash. The first drink I ordered was grog. It was just as I had expected based on what I had read on the internet: rum in hot water, garnished with a lemon and sweetened with sugar. It was really hard trying to carve the duck leg by candle light, so instead of swapping plates we just traded bites. The goulash was so good. It was more along the lines of what I had expected and was used to. Except instead of potato dumplings (kopytka) it was served with “bread dumplings” which were just slices of white spongy bread. It was good for dipping in the gravy. Brent ordered a second pint, actually it was more of a half litre, but pint is so much easier to say! I had already finished my dish while Brent was still hacking away at his duck leg. I ordered a glass of mead when Brent’s second beer was brought. The lady asked me if I wanted it hot or cold: HOT! I almost yelled it from excitement. While I waited for my drink I wandered over to the bathroom- more so because I wanted to see the rest of the pub décor and I was curious what a bathroom in a medieval pub would look like. There were skulls and animal pelts hanging everywhere. The bathroom had an old-looking stone sink and it was tiny. The hot mead was the best drink I’ve ever had. This one was less sweet and slightly more herbal and it was amazing. There are hearts drawn in my notebook around this experience.

After dinner we walked over to the Estates Theatre. Brent had gotten the last ticket to a show. It was a Russian poetry reading with Czech subtitles. He really just wanted to see the theatre. I was more than OK sitting this one out. I had found a nearby mall where I intended to while away the time. The trouble was I didn’t have data on my phone. Brent had to walk me to the mall where I was able to connect to wifi and keep in touch. We agreed on a meeting spot at the Palladium Mall and I set off on my shopping adventure. Except my phone was being spotty about connecting to the wifi and immediately worry set in. After eventually getting it to connect I saw that Brent had messaged me. The theatre performance was the following night. Once we met up, we went to the Albert grocery store for the all-important snack supply. We grabbed white chocolate covered Oreos and vampire teeth gummies. We went up one floor and Brent found a spot on a bench while I set off for some shopping. The mall had a really confusing layout, there were half floors and all the escalators didn’t line up. I had to walk to the other end of the mall for the next escalator to the next floor. There were only a few stores I wanted to go to but now I did not feel like exploring to see if there were any new stores, I was unaware of. At C&A I found two dresses but they weren’t in my size. Eventually I found a black dress with white and blue flowers. I also found a ~$2CAD long sleeve t-shirt for Adrian. I had no idea how European sizing worked, who measures children in inches?! I got the largest size even though it still seemed so small (I later found it was for a 2-year-old toddler- oops).

Walking back, it was unbelievable how many people were still at Old Town Square. It was just a giant mass of very slowly moving people. I waited until we were at the start of the bridge before cracking open the Lisacke-Jablko cider. It was good, tasted more like a traditional cider and it was the perfect walking drink. The only downside was that it was in a can, so no new bottlecap for the collection. On the way back over the bridge I caved to peer pressure and rubbed the dog on the statue. As we passed by the Medieval Tavern the place was rocking, loud music was playing. No wonder it had been empty when we were there. Everyone wanted to see the show.

Going up the awful stairs, there was a small group of people sitting on the stairs. From afar I guessed it was rowdy teenagers out on a Friday night. I was worried they would laugh at me as I struggled up the stairs. When we got closer, we saw that there was one guy standing and telling stories to the group. My guess was that it was an improv troupe all telling stories about the stairs. But fine, maybe Brent was right, maybe it was just a regular old boring ghost tour. My version is more interesting. It was a small comfort knowing I’d only be going up those damn stairs a few more times.

Back in the hotel room I finished off the apricot jam (that for some reason became known as marmalade in my book halfway through) while catching up on writing. The Shake Cocktails: Mojito from the Ukraine was ok, but it was not the best mixed mojito by far. I was only trying to delay the inevitable: having to wash my hair in that stupid shower. It made me so mad just thinking about it.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Budapest, Vienna, Prague: Honeymoon Edition: Day 14

Thurs. Oct. 4, 2018:
Prague Czech Republic:

Breakfast was in the building next door, we had to go outside and around. I was unsure of what to expect, we had been told the door might be locked. There were two other people in there. It was a small café, with a limited buffet and only three tables. They did have a full espresso machine and freshly ground beans. There were warm crepes and little packets of Nutella. This was one of the better hotel breakfasts. They even had fresh poppyseed cake. I scooped out the remnants of Nutella left in the container with my spoon and used it to stir my latte- genius. Back in the room I topped off breakfast with some butter cookies with apricot jam, it was perfect.

We headed out to explore the castle grounds. It looked like there was a security checkpoint on the way into the grounds themselves. Something fancy was happening, we saw them unfurling and vacuuming the red carpet. There was a guy holding up the line at the security checkpoint because he beeped on his way in. He clearly hadn’t read the sign, as he sheepishly removed the keys and cellphone from his pocket and went through again.

We started out the day at St. Vitus’s Cathedral. We ducked under the velvet rope to cut in front of a giant tour group assembling. The guide laughed at us. Once inside though we found out we had to buy tickets and we ran back out. The box office was across the way. Turns out we had been a little too eager. The interior of the cathedral was stunning, with beautiful intricate stained-glass windows. We there at a good hour, the mid-morning light filtering through. It was almost impossible to see the chapel of St. Wenceslaus, it was so crowded and apparently that is what everyone came to see.

We had purchased admission tickets that allowed us into various sections of the castle. Up next was the Basilica of St. George. It was pretty plain, especially in comparison to the Cathedral. It did have really nice high vaulted ceilings. I did not expect to see a skeleton on my way out of the basilica- but there he was, all snug and cozy in a mini altar. The Golden Lane consisted of many little buildings, some of which were shops and some where mini-museums on one topic. It was a tiny stretch of houses between the castle and the walls. It was really crowded. Except for some reason the tourists were more interested in the shops than the museums. The museums focused on different aspects of medieval life: torture, candle-making, sewing. The torture museum was in the attics above the less-violent professions down below. At the end of the lane there was a tower- except instead of climbing up the stairs, we climbed down into a dungeon down below. There was one torture instrument down there called “the violin,” it sounded so innocuous. It was impossible to get a view of the city from the castle wall. It was just a solid mass of people and I had to elbow my way in. As I was taking pictures a lady asked me to move so she could get a photo. I was too tired to argue. We were there at an inopportune moment; the sun was shining right at us so it wasn’t great conditions for photos anyways. Our final stop on the castle tour was the Old Royal Palace. At first it was just a big grand hall, off to the side there was a small sign that the museum continued. We got to see a famous defenestration window (and I learned what defenestration was). it was amazing how many people were crammed into that one room given how empty the rest of the palace was. Everyone wanted to see that window. It was way too crowded for me and I stood off to the side where I found this gem: some museum staff saw it fit to set up a “do not open the windows” sign. I swear it had to have been a joke.

Back outside of the castle we set off looking for the National Picture Gallery which was in Sternburg Palace. There was no one in there except for some employees. Only on the second floor, having passed by the two security guards who were chatting did they decide that I needed to check my bag. We were almost done going through the gallery and NOW they decided I should run down two flights of stairs and pay to leave my bag. Eventually we found the other tourists on the third floor, all looking at the work or Reubens. I wondered if they had even gone through the rest of the museum.

It was around noon and I was starting to get hungry. There was a McDonald’s on the way back to the hotel and they had kiosks: lunch was settled. On the way we decided to also restock on drinks. I found Rekorderlig cider in a bottle, adding a new cap to the collection as well as a Ukrainian mojito mix. I also got a soda for afternoon drinking (and a new bottle cap): winter edition of Club-Mate cola.

The McDonald’s was a zoo swarming with Polish school children. Brent had the McMaestro with a spicy, sweet BBQ sauce. I had the Big Tasty which tasted like a Whopper- it was not good. We split an order of gouda bites with chili (it was so good!). We also had curry sauce for the fries. I stole a sip of Brent’s fizzy raspberry lemonade and wished I had also gotten a drink. Afterwards we went 2 doors down, I needed dessert and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about with the chimney cones. I asked for caramel to be put in the cone before the addition of vanilla soft serve. It was absolutely the right call- even if it was a giant sopping sticky mess. It was so fresh and it tasted like paczki. As the ice cream melted and seeped through the bottom of the cone it just got messier. The napkin was also a sticky mess.

I comforted myself at the bottom of the stairs: they were stupid and I only had to climb them one more time today. I was huffing and puffing the whole way up, cursing every few steps. Who designed this?! On the castle grounds there was a strings duo playing my wedding aisle song. It was perfect, we were on our honeymoon walking through beautiful castle grounds in Prague.

Back in the hotel my phone still wasn’t finding the wifi signal but our room had ChromeCast device attached to the TV making it all the worse because all of our other devices (which did connect to the internet) were all Apple products. Furthermore, the TV was mounted to the wall so I couldn’t even connect the HDMI cable. Writing in my notebook, my second pen of the trip started running out of ink. I played Mario Odyssey then did some online window-shopping, a very relaxing afternoon well spent.

We left almost an hour early for dinner- allowing me the time to take (many) photos along the way. We were having dinner at U Kaliche and I needed time to take photos of the restaurant itself as a memento for my dad (who told me to go there). On the way I picked up some more postcards (even though we were nearing the end of the trip) and some stamps. I felt like I had been ripped off when I bought stamps, they came out to ~$3CAD each.

I didn’t understand why my dad had suggested we eat at this restaurant. It was styled like a beer hall but branded everywhere with this little soldier figure. We could see the yellow sign blazing from down the street. We took some obligatory souvenir selfies outside (again, for my dad). On the way in they had a little souvenir shop with mementos for sale, sitting on a chair there was a mannequin of the character. The place was quite empty so we didn’t bother saying we had a reservation, we just sat down. I immediately grabbed two of the extra napkins and squirreled them away in my purse as keepsakes. The gift shop was way overpriced. I ordered slivovice (plum brandy) but it was served as a shot but I sipped it slowly. The server never came back so I could order a second one. We ordered a plate of the Prague ham to start and oh man was it great. Thick slices of ham with accompanying slices of rye bread and Vienna gherkins and horseradish on the side. I could see why my dad liked this place. As we ate, I Googled the place, the name and the character seemed only vaguely familiar and as I searched, I discovered: it was from a Czech movie we had watched together (dubbed in Polish) years ago! I immediately started laughing, remembering the bumbling fool of a character. This was great. I loved every minute of being there. And then the accordion player came out- in full matching costume. Brent had tried to order potato dumplings when the guy asked if we wanted any sides with our mains. The guy said “bad choice, too much bread.” I ordered the duck instead of goose leg, learning to read the menu not by price but by grams. The duck was 200gr, the goose leg was 350gr. The duck breast was braised in a wine sauce and it was delicious. The schnitzel was ok but nowhere near the same level as at the Hotel Sacher.

Walking back through Wenceslaus Square I saw a stand selling mulled wine. I was so there. Brent had a Pilsner Urquell (actually a rather local beer) even though he had to pee. We stopped at a bar that had an outdoor patio- they had no way of knowing for sure whether or not he was a customer. It was the perfect crime. On the next block over, I saw a chimney cone stand selling hot mead (Medinovar I thought?!). I had just finished my mulled wine not 15 minutes ago. But in the spirit of vacation: you gotta. It was a 2-minute wait while it finished heating up but it was so worth it. It was so sweet and so warm and so comforting- it was like a hug for my stomach. The cup was much smaller but the alcohol content was higher, 18%. We stopped at a potato-on-a-stick vendor just before crossing over the bridge. I had been convinced that it was in an episode of Travel Man and it seemed like the perfect walking snack. It was perfect, it hit the spot. The bridge was much more manageable at night. Brent stopped to rub the good-luck dog that was apparently a thing (as evidenced by how rubbed down and shiny the dog was compared to the rest of the bronze statue). We saw some very drunk Chinese people in fancy formal wear, they were clearly having a good time. We stopped at the same convenience store and got walking-up-the-stairs nightcaps. I got a lime Bacardi Breezer both for the low alcohol content and the bottle cap. Taste had nothing to do with it.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Travel

 

Budapest, Vienna, Prague: Honeymoon Edition: Day 13

Wed. Oct. 3, 2018:
Cesky Kremlov, to Prague Czech Republic:

I couldn’t believe I woke up after 10am, it felt so much earlier. We packed up and headed out. We stopped at Café Provence for a quick breakfast on the way to the train station. I asked for a small coffee, I got a shot of espresso. I mean it wasn’t entirely wrong. Between us we split a chocolate-lined cannoli and a sour plum yeast cake.

We had to go up a giant hill to get to the train station. Even with Brent carrying my bag, I struggled hard. My legs were toast, burnt toast. I had finished my Wiccy Magic Muscles massage bar from LUSH the night before. We got to the train station 2.5 hours early only to find out that our train had been converted to a bus due to some track issues.

We went inside the train station to ask for more details. The lady said we would have to take a bus to Cesky Budejowice and switch to a train there. We went back to the waiting room, still not content with the situation. We saw that there was a train to Cesky Budejowice at1pm. We were somewhat familiar with the city and knew where the train station and bus terminal were. We could easily make our way to Prague from there, it beat the alternative of sitting around the soviet-feeling waiting room. We figured we might even be able to arrive earlier in Prague than originally planned. I went off to the nearby Co-op grocery store while Brent sat in the world’s saddest waiting room with our bags. I found a raspberry-flavoured Czech brand of cola, white chocolate Twix and vanilla flavoured wafers. It would have to suffice for transit snacks.

We took the GW commuter train to Cesky Budejowice. On the way we had to get off the train and get on a bus and then we got back on another train a few stations later. The ticket checker had accompanied us and was directing people along the way. It was less confusing than I would have expected and surprisingly ran smoothly. The bus ride was quite nice, we passed through some forests, we saw some woolly sheep.

We got to the train station and found out that in an hour we could just take the train we had originally planned on taking- leaving us just enough time to go across the street to the bus terminal/mall to grab a quick lunch. There was a KFC in the food court. I ordered the “classic box” because it was way easier than trying to order a 2-piece chicken meal. It was a tiny bit more expensive but worth not struggling. Imagine my surprise when I was presented with a mountain of food. The price difference did not add up with the food difference. I had gotten a great deal- and a great deal too much food. In addition to the 2 pieces of chicken, I got 5 hot wings, fries and a soda. I tried the Miranda orange soda. I had seen it earlier in the grocery store but had been unsure whether it was orange juice or orange soda. After lunch I had a 10minute window before we had to head back to the train station: super quick shopping trip! I found a few nice things but I quickly realized that yes of course I like them- I already owned very similar dresses! Next door to House, was Orsay. I found a nice sweater dress but it was on a mannequin and I did not have time to try and figure out where to find it.

We got on the train and it was empty. The bus we would have been on hadn’t arrived yet. We had pre-purchased our tickets and had reserved seats so we both got window seats. Even still, there were 4 other empty seats in our little room. No one ever ended up joining us. Once we were heading out, a train employee came in and gave us mini-bar menus. This train was awesome. It was unbelievable how cheap everything was. It was less than $2CAD for a single serving bottle of red wine. The raspberry cola, Krofola Malina was the fakest fake cola I have ever had, it wasn’t even close. It was plain awful. It made gummy colas seem like a closer flavour match. The Haribo sweet & sour gummies were two conjoined gummy bears, one sweet and one- you guessed it- sour. It was one of the best Haribo mixes we’ve ever had.

Prague was even more beautiful than I had imagined. I was really glad we had done the trip in this order. It was unbelievable how many people were crammed into the old town section. There was also a lot of chimney stacks shops. Which made no sense at all. It is a Hungarian street food, it has no ties to Prague. Regardless, the masses were loving it. The famous Charles Bridge was crammed with even more tourists, it was stop and go the whole way- on foot. The vendors all along the side of the bridge did not help matters, only adding to the traffic jam. We got to our hotel, something about 3 ostriches in the name. We were told that, actually, we were booked in the apartments. We looked at each other like, ok what does that mean? She told us to wait for her colleague who would show us the way. And so, we sat there for a really long time, no word of explanation, why couldn’t she give us directions and we go ourselves, why the delay. Nothing. Eventually the colleague showed up. We followed him out of the building… and to a waiting car. What the hell was going on? He had to drive us to our hotel room? I was not pleased. A 15-minute drive meant it would take us that much longer to walk back to all the stuff that we planned on doing during our stay.

Turns out we had a small apartment (sans kitchen) all to ourselves. It was in a non-descript building that definitely did not look like a hotel. At this point I was grumpy and tired. It was already 6pm and we had been on the move since 11am. Not helping my grumpiness was the stupid bathroom door that wouldn’t close. And the shower was just a hose with no holder on the wall. I was not looking forward to my evening shower: having to hose myself down? Ugh. My phone also was not picking up the wifi network.

We walked to U Fleku for dinner. The walk was killing me, the sun had just started setting and we were in a new town. Alas we didn’t have the time to stop for photos. It was decided that the next day (when we had dinner reservations around the same time and distance) we would head out earlier. It turns out our hotel was a little bit above the city, on the palace grounds. Really, we were not that far from the main hotel, it just seemed that way because the car ride took so long thanks to the small winding streets, walking was much faster. We had to go down a giant set of stairs to leave the castle grounds. Crap. We’d have to go back up later. We made our way through the (now even more!) crowded Charles Bridge. Once we were out of the touristy area the walk was much nicer. I was surprised to see so many mini-marts- and all selling alcohol.

U Fleku was a wacky beer hall. There was a mess of people in the entranceway, we had no idea where to go. We had reservations but there was no one to tell this to. Brent asked a passing server, who seemed annoyed and pointed us in the direction of a guy standing by the bar. The server was very busy, but the guy at the bar was just standing there fanning himself with menus. We were seated in the far back corner of the restaurant. As soon as we sat down a server came over with a giant tray of shot glasses: two different kinds, light and dark. I thought they were beer samples, it made sense. This was a brewery beer hall. Brent grabbed one, I was going to pass but he told me to grab one. I did assuming I could give it to him. However, upon closer inspection it was not beer, it was liqueur. We figured maybe these were welcome shots? We grabbed one each and the guy marked something down on a piece of paper on our table. Brent downed his before we could trade halfway. Mine tasted cinnamon-y and I eventually deduced from the menu and the bill-tally that it was Becherovka. Meaning Brent had the Medovina. I would have to try that one next time the guy came around. No sooner had he left, another guy came by- this time with a giant tray of full steins of beer. The ladies next to us tried to order different beer and the guy laughed. This was it, this was the only beer they served: a dark brew. The system made sense for such a busy beer hall. The shots guy came back ground after we had received our food. Except I had been so distracted by all that was going on that I couldn’t remember the colour of the first shot I’d had. I figured I had grabbed the lighter one last time, for some reason thinking I would have preferred a lighter beer. I sipped it slowly, unsure if it was the same. Brent had a sip and confirmed definitively that it was not what he had the first time. Crap. I had grabbed the same one. The guy didn’t come back around until we were settling our bill.

We split an appetizer of beer cheese and toast. The toast was exactly what I needed, I was not feeling great. I was tired, run-down and achy. The room was also hot and loud. I had ordered the dinner size version of the sausage dish (conveniently listed as 200gr). It was too much food. I should’ve gotten the app size, but 100gr just seemed like so little! I made a huge dent in the potatoes and ate 1.25 of the 2 sausages. The sauerkraut was served warm but it still was just a little bit off and I wasn’t a fan. All that greasy and salty food, I really needed a drink- something more substantial than a tiny shot. I tried to order a Sprite but the guy said he had to go get our server so I could order. He never did come back and I never did get my Sprite.

Walking back, the Charles Bridge was still kind of busy but at least I got a few photographs of town and the side of the castle. Both were beautifully lit up. The walls of the bridge were not a flat surface, they curved up and were slightly rounded- not great to use as a platform for your camera for some night shots. I had to hold the strap of the camera and just hope my camera didn’t fall into the river down below. On the bridge we cracked open the drinks we had grabbed at a convenience store, apparently you can drink on the streets in Prague and we were all about that experience. The kid working in the store did not even look old enough to drink. There were also small packages of weed by the register- was it even legal? Brent googled it as we walked home- apparently, it’s a grey area.

Once we were past the bridge it was much less busy. We saw two cops up ahead and instinctively we both dropped our hands down by our sides, trying to conceal our drinks. We then laughed at ourselves. It was nice to walk around in the evening, enjoying a Wino z Winka (red wine and cranberry juice mixer), looking at all the old buildings. Once we got to the giant stairs, I had to crack a second drink. This was not going to be an easy climb. There were so many steps! Thankfully I had a Le Coq mojito (it kind of filled that earlier craving for a citrus-y fizzy drink).

Back in the hotel room I found more things to get mad at. The curtains were purely decorative and didn’t actually close. This meant that the next day at like 6am I would be getting a very rude wake-up call from the sun. The only curtains in the room that did work were the ones leading onto the deck- aka windows not facing the bed. My ebook had expired and now I was on a holds-list. I gave up and went to shower- having forgotten about the stupid set up. Every time I had to soap myself, I had to put the shower head down and then only my feet were in the shower, meanwhile I was shivering and cold. It was so not relaxing. There weren’t even any free lotions! The only good thing in the room was the kettle. Things were not looking good. In the end I was too tired to play Mario Odyssey and I didn’t feel like starting a new book. I opted for just going to sleep given I would be subject to early wake-up.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Travel

 
 
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