Munich, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow 3/4/12 - 21/4/12
Dzielnica Iv Prądnik Biały, Poland
Firstly, sorry about the gaps between paragraphs, not my doing, secondly the internet is not good here in prague and I havent been able to upload all of the photos, will try in next location. However next location is Turkey, so may not even have internet access.
We got into Munich after what started being a pleasant train trip but ended up a bit harrowing as 5 young women joined us for the last couple of hours and even though they could see we were trying to sleep, they never shut up, worse still don't even know what language they were talking. We got a cab to our hotel, which not only had a tram stop outside the door, but had a kitchenette. So we found the local supermarket and bought food to cook our own meals.
As in every new city we jumped on the tram for the short ride to the city center and found the big red buses (except these were yellow) and spent most of the day traveling around Munich seeing the sights, especially the Palace of Nymphenberg. It's a very old city with lots of old buildings mingled with very new buildings. It gave us ideas of what we particularly wanted to see, but once again we were slightly limited because it the Easter weekend and both Friday, Sunday and Monday were public holidays. We didn't see the point in staying the whole time long weekend as there wasn't much open.
We once again caught the tram into town and first thing was to book our ongoing trip to Prague, the bus is cheaper faster and just as comfortable so we opted for that, then we bought our Bahn ticket for our trip to the country on Saturday, then got our ticket for the day. We found the subway and eventually after walking around and around someone headed us in the right direction and we found our train, we had to change trains but when we got to the station to change at the connecting line wasn't working, so then we were directed above ground to catch the bus.
All worked well and we made our way to the BMW complex for the tour. I tried to get the factory tour but because of Easter it was booked out so settled for the museum tour, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. We then ventured to BMW Weld (world) and saw their newly released vehicles.
We were also planning on going to the top of the Olympic tower which give the best view of Munich, but it was a really overcast day and we wouldn't have been able to see anything. So we made our way back to Marienplatz, the largest plaza in Munich surrounded by beautiful old buildings, in particular the Rathaus mit Glockenspiel which has a large musical play performed at the top of the spier twice a day.
We had a wander around the markets, then found the Hofbrau house. Needles to say Marty had a large litre of beer and on Laura's recommendation I tried a wheat beer, didn't like that either, we had a traditional Bavarian meal each, mine was sliced pork knuckle with Bavarian kraut and a bread dumpling, while Marty had pork sausages with sauerkraut. We stayed for a few more drinks , and fortunately the music started, Oma, ompa, type music, shared an apple strudel, then staggered our way home. Marty of course wanted to catch a cab, but I managed to get us home on a couple of trams, with Marty's help.
Today was a public holiday and everything was shut, and Marty had been suffering with a cold that wasn't improving, so we decided to spend the day in, planning and bludging.
We were up early to catch the early train to Fussein, this took a couple of hours, then we got a bus to Oberammergau where we spend about 4 hours exploring and touring 2 castles, the first one Neuschwanstein Castle was 2 of 3 castles built by King Luis 11, that were never completed because Luis was eventually declared insane and found mysteriously drowned a couple of days after he was kicked off the thrown. I can't comment on the other 2 castles but the Neuschwanstein castle certainly showed he was insane. The other castle was built by Luis father and was beautiful. To get to the castles you had to either walk or catch a bus up, we walked to the first castle and caught the horse drawn carriage down, leaving the castle the way they would have done when they were built.
We opted to to bus it up to the second castle because it was a long long way up. And once again caught the horse drawn carriage down. 2 memorable things about the day, firstly it was freezing raining and neither had dressed prepared for the cold and secondly 1/2 the castle was covered in scaffolding and coverings for repairs. Just about every significant large structure we have seen has been obscured by something.
The trip home was challenging as we were on a carriage with a large group of Canadian high school students, they were very nice but noisy!
We returned home late, cooked a lovely Thai chicken curry and did some washing.
We woke this morning to snow and lots of it. Because of all the snow we opted for a cab to the train station and caught a bus to Prague. This was a new experience for us, and we chose the bus because it was direct and cheaper and what a great choice. We were up the top deck, and they provided snacks and drinks, delivered to your seat. After about 1/2 hour we realized we had a rather noisy squeak happening above our heads, we asked the waiter if we could move and we ended up on the back seat with all 5 seats to ourselves. It was a really delightful way to travel the 4 1/2 hrs to prague.
When we arrived in Prague to this old dingy decrepit main train station, and along the way seeing the place we both had a feeling that we hadn't had for a long long time. We were both a skeptical that this might not be a good place to be. We exchanged some euro for czech czk and went looking for a taxi, we were directed down the elevator and it was like stepping into another world, the new part was downstairs! That made us feel a little better anyway. We found where to catch a taxi, and as I was getting the info out to tell the driver where to take us, the police started on with a drunk guy sitting on the ground, and by the time we walked outside they literally picked this guy up and threw him outside. We told the taxi drivers where we wanted to go and they said something like 900czk, the hotel had already told us it was 250 czk, so we refused and started walking back inside when one young driver said he would take us for the 250. We were very grateful and gave him a generous tip.
We went for a walk around the neighborhood after checking in and realized that this was definitely a poor country, one good indicator is when you have to pay to use the public toilets. We had dinner at a traditional Czech restaurant and tried a traditional Czech dish, yuk! Duck, ham, selection of various meats, and some other stuff I couldn't describe or even eat, won't do that again.
We were worried that everything would be closed as it was east Monday, but not so, apparently it was classed as summer and the tourists were increasing so everything was happening. We found the big red bus and did the 45 min tour of Prague and fell in love with it, such a beautiful. It's with so many things to see. We then found our way to the Old Town Square which has various architecturally different old buildings including the gothic Týn Cathedral and baroque St. Nicholas Church, the Astronomical Clock, which does a rather unusual performance every hour and includes a guy in traditional garb playing a trumpet from the parapet at the top.
But the most exciting thing was that the square was teaming with little stalls with souvenirs, traditional foods (that looked a lot better than what we had had the night before) and a stage set up for entertainment. We thought we were very lucky to have struck this on Easter Monday. We bought what is called the Prague card, because it gave heaps of discounts, then went looking for the Sex Machine Museum, (for purely educational purposes for me). We walked all over the place, basically getting lost but enjoying the sights, until eventually we returned to the square to find it just off one of the other narrow streets. First thing was we went into the theatre and watched a spanish porn movie from 1915, it was hilarious but at the same time quite disturbing. Interesting museum, the top floor being devoted to S&M.
We went for a walk over the famous Charles bridge, famous because The Old Town bridge tower is considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world and the fact that it is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style. It is only used by pedestrians but is full of stalls selling all sorts of things. We stopped for a drink on the other side New Town, which isn't actually new, just newer than the Old Town, then made our way back.
We then found a Segway tour and negotiated a reduced price for a tour the next day. Had dinner then headed home, fortunately walking distance.
We were booked to do the Segway tour at 11 so had a lazy morning, then walked to the square to meet up with the guide. Turned out to be a young girl who had only been doing the tour for 10 days. Once she realized that we were confident on the Segways we headed off. We saw the Jewish quarter and the Jewish cemetery, this cemetery is amazing, because they had so little room to bury people in there quarter, they put another layer on top of the already full cemetery, but first removed the headstones and placed them up on the new layer, and repeated this for several layers, each time removing the headstones and placing them on the new layer. The numbers of grave stones and numbers of people buried there is uncertain, however, it has been estimated that there are approximately 12,000 tombstones presently visible and there may be as many as 100,000 burials in all.
The oldest active Jewish synagogue, around lots of different places I can't remember them all, it was pretty rough going because most of Prague's roads and footpaths are cobblestones, and not well kept either. We were going up a steepish footpath, when we came to quite a large step, the guide had no problem going over it, and I heard Marty say behind me that he wasn't going to try it, but I sort of didn't really have time to think about it and ended up having quite a spectacular fall onto the cobblestones. Actually looked worse than it really was cause all I ended up with was a couple of bruises on my knees. The guide didn't seem too concerned about me, more concerned about the Segway, understandably as they are not cheap, but it also didn't sustain any damage so I got back on and headed off. Even though it was rough going it was just as much fun as previously. We then headed to Prague Castle, which is one of the biggest castles in the world. We didn't actually go into the castle but were able to stop and sort of see the changing of the guard. She then took us to Romanesque Basilica of St. George, a monastery which brews its own beer, then offered to take us in to buy a beer. Unusual as the other Segway tours have been adamant about no alcohol. Anyway, Marty had a beer, and I had wine. We continued through the castle then down through the park, where they have a fence looking over onto the canal, where people pledged their love by locking a padlock onto the fence. It also had a mill wheel with an unusual statue in the canal.
We finished the tour back at the square, had lunch then joined the "Communism and Nuclear Bunker" walking tour for the next 2 hours. We were both surprised to hear that communism in Czechoslovakia ended as early as 1989 after the 'Velvet Revolution' and that Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in a peaceful separation in 1993. Anyway we ended up going down into one of the many nuclear bunkers that were built because of the Cold War but were never actually used. The one we went into is used as a museum, and parts of it now have bars set up so groups can have parties down there!
I woke feeling particularly unwell with the wog, but we had to get to the train station to,buy our train ticket to Vienna. We asked the girl at reception how to get to the station and followed her instructions only to get horribly lost. We ended up on the subway, went what we thought was one stop too far, so got off and went back, but realized that we had got off one stop too early so went back 2 stops. Eventually we got there and got our tickets, then went out to catch the tram back to our hotel, but we went the wrong way, so got off and waited and waited for a return tram, which never showed up so got another one back to a central stop and eventually got our tram back to our hotel. It took us 3 hours to do something that should have taken us 1 hour, but fortunately it didn't cost us much as we bought two 30 min ticked for $2.60 that took us everywhere because the trick is you don't validate the ticket, and if ever asked which we haven't yet, we would play dumb tourists.
Anyway we spent the action resting, which was fortunate as we had booked a river and dinner cruise for the evening. It was very pleasant traveling up the river at night and the meal was quite nice too and we had the company of a lovely Italian couple.
We used the same tram ticket to catch 2 trams up to Prague Castle and because of the Prague card we got free entry to all the attractions, of which there were many, including Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus, the Old Royal Palace, the New Royal Palace, but the most interesting was Golden Lane, a street of small houses built in the gothic fortification in the 16th century for the castle rifleman and craftsmen. We also saw Daliborka Tower, a fortification tower built in 1496 which doubled as a prison. T
His took up most of the day and when we returned to the square intrude dead to visit Klementinum including the Mirror Chapel, Baroque Library Hall and climb the Astronomical clock, but who would read about it, it was closed today for some government visitors. We had been at the square every day and it had been open every day but the one day we wanted to,see it it's closed.
We woke both unwell with the wog (actually I think I had tonsillitis), would loved to have stayed in bed all day, but we had a train to catch. We got a taxi that took us to half way to the station, then had a bit of trouble finding the platform, but did eventually. This train was quite different, we had to sit in cabins with 4 others, bit crowded, but still ok.
I had quite definite directions of how to get from Wien Meidling to our accommodation and as it was mid afternoon Marty was happy to give the public transport a go. We found the subway line and the direction we needed to, and even bought tickets. Once we arrived at the required station, we then found our way to the street where we had to find a bus. Took us a while and once again managed to buy tickets, took the bus the two stops, got off and found our hotel with no problems.
I was feeling particularly unwell, so when we found a restaurant to have dinner I wasn't able to eat anything at all, I don't remember feeling as sick as what I Di that night for a long long time.
We had booked seats at the Spanish Riding School to see the Lippanzer horses, and had no idea had to get there, so asked the concierge for directions, he gave us directions as how to get to the general area, but we were quickly to discover that Vienna is an extremely difficult city to navigate. We got to the general area an hour before we needed to be there but it still took us 40 mins to find the school, get the tickets and then find the gate to,where we had to enter. We were at least seated before the performance began.
And what a performance, 80 minutes of extraordinary harmony between horse and rider, so glad we spent the money. Unfortunately we couldn't take photos, but they would not have don't it justice anyway.
Next we found our way to the train to book our overnight train to krakow, at this point we were a bit lost as to what to do, but Marty had remembered that we had passed some sort of festival, so we made our way back to this. It was Vienna's version of "The Good Food & Wine Show". Our first taste test was Brackwurst with what we thought was sauerkraut, but one mouthful that I ended up spitting out revealed it was raddish, yuk, poo, hot as hell but more like wasabi hot. The sausage was good though. We wandered around for about 2 hours, watching traditional dancing and bands, talking to locals, drinking different wines, it was such great fun, so lucky to have jagged this event which apparently happens only once a year.We certainly didn't need dinner as our last taste test was rotisserie pig with cabbage, dumplings and loads of gravy.
I will just add that there were no free samples like at home, it all cost, but nothing overly expensive.
We had a Segway tour booked for 2pm, so had a lazy morning, although I went for a walk and ended up walking with and the against the Annual Vienna Marathon, which happened to be going down our street. This monumental event involved 36,000 runners participating in full, half and relay marathon. It was pretty exciting because as I was walking the streets were lined with people cheering them on.
We headed off with plenty of time, walking to the meeting point, which took us once again through the marathon, with entertainment and people and rubbish everywhere and an atmosphere we just weren't expecting.
Eventually we found our Segway guide and along with a mother and son from Rhode Island USA and 4 Germans/austrians, we joined our 3 hour tour. Was great riding the Segway, and seeing the sights of Vienna, but I had 2 problems with this tour, firstly Vienna is a great big wealthy city made up of square buildings, didn't really impress me at all, secondly the mother from the USA was not very competent on the Segway and instead of being patient with her he got quite abrupt and that annoyed me. Marty was more help to her than the guide. Anyway at least we can say we saw the main sights of Vienna.
After it was over we raced back to the hotel to try and book a tour to Budapest the next day, the concierge managed to book it for us thankfully as it was one of the destinations we were planning but time, difficulty in traveling from there to Istanbul and energy required saw me just throw my hands up in the air and admit it was too hard. We decided a day trip,was better than nothing.
So after securing the booking we made our way back to the festival and partook of the last of the meals and wines going cheaply as it was closing for the year. We had an early start the next day so had an early night.
We were picked up from our hotel at 7 am and delivered to the big bus, where we got comfortable and basically slept for the 3 hour trip to Budapest. The day involved
* tour of both Buda and Pest by bus
* lunch which consisted of traditional Hungarian goulash soup, traditional chicken paprika with homemade pasta (basically lumps of half cooked flour and water) and a traditional dessert. Mostly pretty good over all and not too expensive.
* guided walking tour
* another guided bus tour
* 2 hours free time where we went to St Stephens cathedral (Basilica), I went to the top to get photos
*took Marty to a bar for a drink and he didn't even notice till I told him that it was a gay bay, lol.
* 3 hour trip back, arriving back at the hotel at about 8pm.
Some memorable things -
Austria is not pronounced austria , it's pronounced Oorstreia
An orangutang is an oongatangs
A zoo is sewer!
A kilometer is a kylometer.
To use this in a sentence:
It's 21 kilometers to the zoo to see the orangutangs becomes..
It's tventy one kylometers to za sewer to see da oongatangs.
Long day and lesson well learnt, although glad we did the trek, we don't like organized tours in big buses with lots of people.
We knew today was going to be a long day as we had to check out at 12, then we hung around the lobby for a while, then made our way to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the premier museums of fine arts and decorative arts in the world. Let's face it we had to see one famous museum while here. Last time we saw several fine museums including the louvre, and mostly they are not our thing, but we had 10 hours to kill, so why not bore ourselves to death.
We then made our way to the train station hoping to be able to get into the lounge early but at 6pm we were refused entry, so we hung out in the shopping center where interestingly the Internet was free. At 8pm we were allowed into the lounge where we waited 2 hours till boarding.
This was and will be the only ever overnight train we take anywhere. It was hot as hell, cramped but worst of all the train kept stopping all night.
Arriving in Prague at 7 am we had directions to walk to the apartment, and being tired and grumpy we were a little dazed at how poor Krakow looked. We made it to the apartment but had no way of letting the owner know we were there. So Marty ventured off to find a public phone, but first he had to get some Polish Zloty, then buy something to get change for the phone. So after all that, he found a phone only to find that it only worked with a card. Some old lady told him where to buy a card, then helped him use the phone, to have the call go to message bank. So back to square one, I went and tried the mobile number and got hold of the owner, who met us and helped us up to his apartment with our luggage, then said we couldn't check in till 2 pm. Aaaaggghhhhh.
So we went for a walk and sat, and walked and sat for the 6 hours until we were able to check in. I was not in a good place by this stage and decided that krakow was one of the ugliest cities I had ever seen and how were we ever going to keep ourselves occupied in this hole for nearly 4 days. We went and bought supplies, and literally collapsed for the rest of the evening.
We decided today to have a look at the Barbakan and only remaining part of the old city walls, we were walking there when. Got distracted looking for a new e cigarette for Marty, ended up walking another extra kilometer with no luck, but eventually found the Barbakan, and found a lovely street from the city walls to the town square. I think because I was in a better frame of mind, I changed my mind about krakow and decided it did have quite a lot of charm.
We kept walking until we got to the Schindler Factory on the other side of the river, and did the tour of the museum, we thought it was going to be mostly about the Schindler Factory but it was obviously named after him, and had a full graphic history of WW2 and the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people. Horrific yet so glad we saw it.
Today was meant to be rest day but after walking all over Krakow, collecting our washing, having a meal, which incidentally was delicious at an Italian Restaurant recommended by the owner, Marty had his first steak since we left home, we didn't get home till aft 8 and we were exhausted.
We were collected from our apartment at 8am and driven to Auschwitz then to Birkenau, we spent several hours touring these camps, and unfortunately I am unable to write about these places as words just can't describe what we saw and how we felt. Maybe when we are home we may be able to talk about it but just not at the moment.
Our driver then drove us to the Salt Mines, this extraordinary mine has been in existence for over 700 years, and although no longer a working mine is now a museum, entertainment centre, marriage place, it has chapels, sculptures, way too much to describe. It took nearly 3 hours to do the tour, and was a memorable one.
So we won't from wondering how we were going to occupy ourselves for the 3 days, and we just about wore ourselves out. Fantastic place.