Prague

Vespa parked outside an old house

Although my alarm woke me at my usual time of 7:00, I didn’t leave the house until 10. I had zero energy! I was still totally zonked from the wedding.

The one place on my “To See List” turned out to be a 3 hour ride by public transit, so I decided best not to do that this trip. I reviewed the tourist map posted in my room and chose to go to the Charles Bridge as I remember my friend Kai taking gorgeous pictures there.

The ticket machines at the metro only took coins, so I went above ground to find a cafe to break a bill. I went into a small bakery and ordered a coffee and pastry. The coffee was a very thick and strong espresso, so I diluted it with water. I think the little round pastry was made with dates.

On the way to the metro, (and for the rest of the day) I was very aware of how the women in Prague dressed much more feminine than the women in Germany. It seemed like everyone was wearing beautiful skirts and dresses. I felt as if I was the only woman with jeans, T-shirt, and unruly hair! I kept my eye out for anything that looked like a Czech version of Value Village – I would have loved to bring some summer dresses home from Prague! Sadly, none crossed my path.

statue pointing to the sky
Statue on Charles Bridge

 

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge was easy to find from my AirBnB. It was a flood with tourists, a few cart sellers, and beggars (two of which were doing extremely submissive poses on their hands and knees, like a child’s pose in yoga).

The Steps Up to the Castle

I followed the crowds up steep steps towards the Prague Castle. I stopped in a couple boutiques along the way, one of which was a perfumery. The individual scents were in large glass gars with in a dimly lit white room. The sales rep waved some scents in front of me, but I didn’t know enough about perfumes to discuss what I liked. I considered buying a tiny vile for 15 euros to have in my purse, but I wasn’t totally sold on this guys wares. The tacky labels that looked like they were done on a home printer with bleeding ink under tape didn’t help motivate me to buy.

The Prague Castle

The facade of the palace was under construction, hidden from view by blue mesh fabric. It contrasted nicely with the gold gilding on the gates!

I wandered into the palace grounds with my camera. There was a big church with an impressive collection of gargoyles. I didn’t feel like paying money to be jostled around by crowds, so didn’t go in any of the historical buildings. I was quite content to go around the perimeter with my camera.

Funnily enough, there was one family who kept coming across my path when I was taking shots. Unlike other tourists, they stopped and waited for me to take my shot (or when I noticed, I would smile and signal them through). It was funny coming across the same people when time had elapsed and we’d both gone slightly off the conveyor belt of tourists going to the palace. The husband and I laughed about it.

Kavárna Nový Svět

I am not a fan of crowds and the crowds mixed with fatigue from the eventful week in Germany, made me eager to escape the swarms of tourists. I meandered around, taking whatever street took my fancy until I was [mostly] alone. I was hungry by then, and started checking out the menus posted outside the restaurants and cafes I passed. Most looked doable financially, but most were dark and stoic inside. When I saw two mums with their strollers sitting outside a white washed house covered in ivy, with cups of coffee, I thought “Aha!” and went inside.

Kavárna Nový Svět had a back balcony overlooking a small sculpture garden and a cozy interior. I sat outside initially, then moved inside to plunk myself down on the cushions. I ordered the “toast” which turned out to be a grilled cheese and ham sandwich with a side of cucumber, pepper, and tomato with basil. I ordered a cappuccino in hopes it would wake me up a bit. All were very good. (The meal cost 80 kr.)

There were two girls discussing their trip in English at the table opposite me. I went over to them and asked if I could look at their map. Turned out they were from Canada too – Vancouver and Ottawa. They recommended that I walk to someplace that started with an S, following the river. I thanked them and set out in search of the water. I periodically found it, but wasn’t able to follow it all the way down. I ended up back at the Charles Bridge – the opposite direction I’d meant to go, so just got on the metro and headed to Muzeum.
small houses in Prague

Muzeum

Muzuem was rather depressing. It was dirty and not very scenic. I amused myself in the pharmacy where I bought some makeup (I had to step up my game with all these stylish Prague women around!) and then headed back to the neighbourhood where I was staying.

My neighbourhood was not touristy nor was it well kept, but that added to its charm. I enjoyed wandering up and down the streets with my camera taking pictures of the residential buildings. There were a lot of communist statues built into the facades – and security cameras too! It definitely felt like someplace that had once been red.

Pivo a Párek

I went home around 5:00 to have a quick shower (so humid!), change my clothes, and put on full makeup. The information sheet in my room recommended a nearby restaurant with Czech beer and traditional food, so I Googled the address and went on over there.

I walked up and down the street, checking the signage, Google maps, and the notes from my AirBnB host, but did not see the place they had named. However, on the same spot, according to Google Maps was Pivo a Párek, a restaurant advertising Czech beer. Sounded good to me!

The front of the restaurant was a bar, refrigerators full with bottled beer, and a couple with a dog. My initial thought was that this was a shop, not a restaurant, but then I saw an arrow above a picture of chairs.

I followed the arrows to a back patio. There was a dog here too and a water bowl – obviously they had different health and safety rules here than at home! Dogs also tended to be off leash in Prague, or on leashes so long it hardly mattered.

My waiter spoke English and I asked him what he recommended. He suggested a sausage dish and a citrus beer, so I took that with no questions asked. The meal turned out to be two sausages, two slices of bread with two variety of mustards. Having already finished my first beer, I asked him to recommend another. This time it was ginger – my favourite!

The table opposite me filled up with other English speakers – at least some were from Vancouver according to conversation. I had no idea Prague was so popular for Canadians! No wonder everyone here asks if I’m from the French or English part of Canada when I answer where I’m from.

My eyes were stinging from all the cigarette smoke and I was having trouble relaxing with all the noise, so I finished my beer and paid the bill. Feeling slightly buzzed from the alcohol, I decided to go grocery shopping.
small houses in Prague

Last Night in Prague

I love going grocery shopping in foreign places! I went to Billa, which is what my hostess had recommended. It was like a tiny Loblaws – yellow bags, points cards, and everything.

I was very amused that cheese and milk cost under a dollar CAD. I got a box of milk, an apricot yogurt drink, a ‘dessert’ (turned out it was pudding, a chocolate bar, a granola bar, a box of black tea, and a can of alcohol with a word that resembled ‘lemon’ but with a picture of an apple (turned out it was sweet cider). 

The granola bar, tea, and unrefrigerated milk were for Iceland as groceries are expensive there. However, in the morning I questioned my logic of taking milk on a plane, so left it for the AirBnB host.

It was 8:00pm by the time I got home. I had a little feast of chocolate and pudding, then collapsed in bed. I was exhausted! I awoke at 12:30 when someone arrived home and sat awake until 2:30am. I packed up my things, checked social media, and drank some of the cider I bought (pouring most of it down the drain – it was too sweet!).
czech groceries

Last Morning in Prague

I was very eager to leave my AirBnB. I hadn’t found it a very pleasant or friendly environment to be. I had a quick shower, dressed, and saddled up with my bags. I was out the door by 8am. I dropped my keys in the mailbox as instructed (with a thank you card – but no maple syrup) and drank my apricot yogurt drink on the way to the subway.

It was very easy to get to the airport. I was there a little before 8:30am and got through security in under 5 minutes – even though they pulled me aside about the travel sized sunscreen in my bag (I got to take it on board, no problem! Flowers too!).

I amused myself in the duty free looking at the selection of liquor that we didn’t have in Ontario. I then went and had a cafe-au-lait and ham and cheese bun, wondering how long it would be until I got scurvy.

Czech Airlines

I got a window seat (YAY!) and was very impressed with the leg room in the economy seats. The staff often spoke English before Czech, which I thought was odd for the national airline, but hey, it works for me!

They served a simple sandwich of cheese and cucumber for lunch, with a slice of green pepper. I couldn’t remember the last time I had fresh veggies in Europe, and here I was eating greens on a plane! Imagine that!

My flight is to Oslo, Norway. I transfer there to Icelandic Air for the final destination of my trip – Iceland! winding road as seen through a plane window

Step Count: 22,574 (full day in Prague)

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Leipzig To Prague

Pots of flowers on stone steps outside stables

potted plants on the steps overlooking the stables
We checked out of the hotel the day after the wedding and the families spent the afternoon at the one place that was open in Mölkau on a Sunday, Stadtgut Mölkau. It was a cross between a petting zoo, playground, beer garden, and restaurant in what looked like to be the old village square.

Caro and I shared schnitzel for lunch. We took the twins on the swings (which they loved!) and to watch the horses in the field (although my lens cap was far more entertaining). Volkmar’s dad brought the leftover dessert from the wedding, and we decided to hand it out to everyone at the beer garden. People were resistant at first, but once we learned the German word for ‘free’ the cake got eaten up.

young woman and baby looking at a horse in a field

Volkmar and Nicole drove me to the bus ride. Both Nicole and I were tearing up! Volkmar gave me some travel advice – not to take taxis, not to use Euros or to do currency exchange outside of a bank. My best bet was to draw out money from a bank. This was problematic…

Train to Prague

Nicole came into the train station with me. This was very fortunate as my train had changed tracks and was late. There were no English announcements in Leipzig like in Berlin! We ran to the right track, then Nicole asked some passengers for help reading the ticket. One of the passengers explained to me seating, then checked up on me when we arrived in Dresden. I was a bit confused – Dresden had 3 train stops! She said the train ride to Prague was one of the most beautiful in Europe!

Dresden looked beautiful from the train window; vineyards, grand houses, old bridges and dome buildings. I think I’d like to visit there one day! Volkmar said its very pretty.

The train to Prague was different than either of the two trains I’d ridden in Germany. The first car I got into had cabin style seating with 6 seats. Turned out two seats in the cabin were reserved, so I got up so that a group of three could stay. I then migrated to another train with single seating. This train had electrical outlets at the seats with tables.

Arrival in Prague

Upon my arrival, I went to a exchange booth and got local currency. That done, I bought a train ticket. English was everywhere here!

It was very easy to navigate the train station and the metro to my AirBnB accommodation. The subway system had the same look and smell of the blue line of Montreal’s metro.

I found my AirBnB easily enough, but no one answered my rings. I asked some guys smoking on the corner where the nearest wifi or phone box was and they directed me to a small bar. The middle-aged woman working there didnt speak English, but I managed to get the wifi password and a beer.

Turned out my AirBnB host was running late. She offered to pick me up at the bar. She seemed a bit frantic as she gave me a quick tour of the apartment. It was a very odd apartment – I felt like I was in some college student apartment with its mismatched salvaged furniture, bare walls, old stained carpet, and facets that disconnected from the sink when you turned them on. This was nothing like my Rochester or Berlin AirBnB accommodations!

I checked the mattress for bedbugs and got a glass of water for my bouquet of flowers. I encountered one of her roommates in the kitchen, but he didn’t speak English or smile. So I retreated to my room and went to sleep. I was exhausted!

a vespa parked ouside  an apartment

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Packing for Germany, Prague, and Iceland

Photo of a cup of tea and a backpack

Packing for a trip is always exciting! The anticipation and excitement can be drawn out and fueled by planning and the act of packing. Here is what I am packing for my trip to Germany, Prague, and Iceland:

What’s in My Bag?

Backpack:

photo of items laid out: smoothie powder, vingear packets, sun hat, bamboo eating utensils, water bottle, poncho, uumbrella, towel, first aid kit, soap, sewing kit, backpack cover, and lock
Emergency items and essentials at the ready!
  • First Aid Kit: bandaids, Polysporin, tweezers.
  • Stainless steel water bottle; bamboo eating utencils
  • Compact umbrella; poncho; rain cover for backpack
  • Sun hat
  • Greens Powder & snack bars
  • Combination lock
  • Sewing kit
  • Laundry soap; hand soap
  • Travel towel
  • Vinegar packets (for cleaning my water bottle)
photo of ziplock bags with cothes inside
Labeled ziplock bags – compact, water resistant, and organized!
  • Nightgown
  • Underwear & socks (plus one extra just in case)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • T-shirts (x2)
  • Extra pair of jeans & a pair of shorts
  • Evening top (x2)
  • Bating suit; flip flops
  • Slippers
  • Jacket
Photo of cards, envelopes, maple syrup, and maple sugar.
Hostess gifts and cards for AirBnB.
  • Hiking shoes; shoes for the wedding
  • Cards, maple syrup, maple sugar (hostess gifts)
  • Foundation, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, sunscreen
  • Gorilla tripod
  • Washcloth
  • Sleeping bag sheet

Carry-on Tote Bag:

Photo of travel pillows, iPad and accessories, sleeping mask, book, maps, magazines, and toiletres.
Essentials, entertainment, and comfort for the voyage.
  • Camera, second lens, extra battery, charger, iPad adapter for SD card.
  • Noise cancelling headphones, extra battery
  • Tablet, Bluetooth keyboard, charging cables
  • Universal outlet adapter (CEE)
  • Travel pillow (neck and head); pillow case; sleeping mask
  • Toiletries & ear plugs
  • Medication with pharmacy labels
  • Maid-of-honour dress (can’t risk that getting lost!)
  • Paperback books (x2); maps
  • Kleenix; wet naps
Camera and photography gear, passport, wallet
Purse contents

Purse:

  • Passport, tickets, directions
  • Cell phone; wallet
  • Camera; extra SD card, battery, and charger; cleaning pen, wireless remote.
  • Sunglasses
Photo of a cup of tea and a backpack
Enjoying a cup of tea whilst packing.

My Thoughts on What to Pack:

Ziplock Bags

I acknowledge it makes me look a little crazy to have all my clothes in ziplock bags, but there is reason to my madness. Usually, I put essentials in plastic grocery bags to save me searching around my luggage for socks or underwear; or my special outfits to protect them and for organization.

When I visited my cousin Kate in Ottawa recently, she raved about vacuum compression bags that help you save space when packing. Then when I was hanging out with Dunter during my last trip to Montreal, he gave me a giant ziplock bag for my laundry saying that is how they packed dirty clothes when he was in the army.

Putting these two thoughts together, I went to the dollar store and bought a box of large ziplock freezer bags (thicker plastic). They work much better than grocery bags! I can get all the air out to ‘vacuum pack’ my clothes. The labels maybe a bit of a nuisance, but it may help make sure I have everything when I pack-up (have been known to loose things). I think they’ll work great!

Headphones:

Comfortable, noise-cancelling headphones are vital to an enjoyable voyage. I find that ear-buds hurt after wearing them for awhile, so bought over-the-ear headphones with a cushioned headband (headbands can also be uncomfortable) with an airline adapter. The Bose QuietComfort headphones I bought for the trip also come in a hard case to protect them during travel.

Budget tip: There are cheaper options out there for sure. However, if you’re set on Bose’s quality like I was, you can buy them second-hand on eBay or Kijiji, or if you have access to a broken pair, you can upgrade to the newest model at 50% off the retail price.

Tablet:

I found it a challenge to blog on my iPhone when in China, and the limited access to computers meant that I had no idea what my photographs really looked like most of the trip. For this trip, I purchased a second-hand iPad with retina screen, an SD card adapter to transfer photos, and a bluetooth keyboard to ease writing on-the-go.

Budget tip: I bought my iPad and accessories on eBay for a song. At least in Canada, eBay tends to be cheaper for Mac products than Kijiji or buying in-store. Another tip is to go for more memory if you can afford to spend an extra $50-$100 on a tablet (I went for 64 GB). As far as I can tell, there is no way to simply view photos off an SD card on an iPad – you have to download them onto your iPad first, which can take up a lot of memory (if you have found a better way, please message me).

Greens Powder & Snack Bars:

Food and beverages in Europe are extremely expensive – especially anything healthy. Iceland is particularly bad for this. So, I packed green supplements to help make sure I had a portion of my necessary greens and vitamins while on vacation. I also am considering purchasing some snack bars to satisfy my hunger when out-and-about to avoid making desperate purchases at over-priced corner shops.

Budget tip for a future trip: I was considering bringing some Greens powder in a ziplock bag to see how it goes over at Customs, but I’ve decided not to try this trip. However, it would be a cheaper alternative to buying individual powder packs, which run around $3 each at the health food store. I’ll try that another time…

Photo of tote back, backpack, and camera bag
Packed and ready to go: black tote bag, 40lb Aria MEC backpack, and Acme Made camera bag/purse

 

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