Monthly Archives: June 2015

Prague

Day 1

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I took a lot of pictures in Prague, so I’ll let them do most of the talking.

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The first day I walked all around the south and west of the city for 5 or 6 hours and enjoyed some beautiful views and the breathtaking sunset above.

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A modern cathedral supposedly built to resemble Noah's arc

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A renowned Czech graffiti artist, the Czech Banksy if you will, put sculptures of babies crawling up this retro space-age looking radio tower.

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Sculpture on Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge in the Czech Republic

Day 2

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Day 2 I took a 3 hour long tour that was mildly interesting but met a couple of cool fellow travelers.

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In the peacock palace!

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After the tour I walked around for the rest of the day and saw the castle complex with its spired cathedral.

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I also had a lovely walk through the castle gardens where I was pleased to find that every tree of note had a sign detailing its origins and common characteristics. The arborist in me was overjoyed.

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Future fig trees!

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Returning to my very low-key hostel that night I met two Canadians, an American who currently lives in Boston, and an Australian.

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I hit it off especially well with the Aussie and the fellow Bostonian as we searched in vain through the wet and rain to find a beer garden supposedly open late into the night.

Day 3

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On the third day I walked around with my newly made Aussie friend and hit up a monastery brewery where we had what we both agreed was the best beer in the Czech Republic. After making my way around the country for 2 weeks trying my fair share of beer, I feel like that’s actually saying something.

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Wannabe Eiffel tower

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Brewing diagram from the incredible Monastery brewery on the hill

After the monastery, we walked to the island that the penguins below are pointing to. We stumbled upon a rope obstacle course there and of course took a thirty minute break from being tourists to act like fools while inventing all manner of crazy ways to traverse it while little children scattered out of our path. 

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Penguins to infiniti

That night I hit the town with the Boston girl (who’s actually writing a guide of sorts for Harvard where she’s currently studying). I didn’t mind accompanying her to a few bars–all for the sake of her guide writing efforts of course 🙂 — in the up-and-coming Žižkov neighborhood where the hostel was located.

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Nothing makes an American in Prague smile like a well made burger

Now I’m in Berlin which to be honest I wasn’t super excited about visiting (I found a cheap flight from here to London). But I’m quickly becoming a fan of its quirky international cosmopolitan feel. Perhaps there’s something for me in Germany after all.

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A relaxing respite

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The south Bohemian jewel of Česky Krumlov felt like an anomaly to me after a week of biking through tiny Czech towns, encountering almost no native English speakers. After a week of conversing primarily in very basic English, it was comforting but also a slight shock to run into a cast of Americans in this tiny hamlet tucked into the hills of South Bohemia. Four days there gave me the time to reflect and feel a little more grounded in spite of my recent nomadism.

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My favorite fish pond in all of Česky Krumlov

I had some great talks with one of the owners of a hostel I stayed in who hailed all the way from LA. She had lived what sounded like a more nomadic, untraditional life so her reflections were extremely helpful in processing what I envision for myself in the next decade of living.

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Skippy playing guitar and singing beautifully

I felt quickly at ease in the city and could have easily spent a week or more there. I passed hours at the above pond hidden in the back of the castle gardens, observing the narratives of multiple duck families. I took daily swims in the swift river that coils back and forth around the town center, making it feel like an island and providing countless riverside strolling opportunities.

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I also decided to hike up a nearby mountain on a whim my last day and was rewarded with beautiful views of the city below as well as all the countryside I had traversed on my last day of biking.

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Although with each passing day I long more and more for the comfort and familiarity of home, the incredible freedom I enjoy is not lost on me. Rarely am I able and inclined to pursue any fanciful whim I might have on such a regular basis as this trip has allowed me. That is one of the joys of travel that bring me to these farflung places time and again. I’m almost at the end of my 3 day stay in Prague and then just a couple more weeks before I jet back home. Do I sound travel weary? 🙂

A good one to go out on

So I meant to post the following entry 5 days ago right after arriving in Česky Krumlov but I just realized that it never uploaded. Here it finally is:

Ahhhh… I write to you dear readers from the comfortable and relaxing river terrace of my hostel in Česky Krumlov. This has been quite a day though. This morning I awoke to discover that the courtyard of the hostel where I was staying (and my beautiful bike in said courtyard) was inaccessible. So after an hour of waiting for someone to arrive I took matters into my own hands and essentially broke into the courtyard and wrestled my back through a window. I’m pretty sure if I ever choose a life of crime, I have the necessary skills.

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Bike just after being smuggled through the window

I was rewarded for my breaking and exiting by a scenic riverside ride to the coolest castle I’ve seen so far.

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And as you know, I’ve seen a lot of castles. I don’t really have any facts to give you about this castle because the only tour was in Czech. I can say that it was awesome though.

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Like Disneyland awesome. There was also a really great gallery in the old church next to the castle with some cool modern art as well as an impressive collection of gothic art.

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Modern

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Not modern

I then decided to do a pretty big loop and go see Holašovice, a UNESCO world heritage site due to it’s 13th century farm buildings that have been continuously in use and show the typical 19th century South Bohemiam architecture (there are the facts).

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At this point I realized I was running a bit behind. I had told my hostel I’d arrive around 5pm but it was already 415 and I had chosen a very hilly (mountainous might be a better word) route to Česky Krumlov. To get to Holašovice I had spent about 45 minutes to go 15km straight into a very strong wind that despite my yelling and cursing would not subside. So I was pretty spent already.

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Luckily I was quickly welcomed back into the dense windproof cover of the woods. With beautiful views of rolling valleys.

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Unluckily rolling valleys also means an obscene amount of hills. Hills followed by quick exhilarating descents and then… MORE HILLS. So yeah the point is there were a lot of hills. But the forest was beautiful.

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And I actually did bike up a mountain so I had a ridiculously fun and satisfying conclusion to my bike tour/entrance into Česky Krumlov.

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View of the city on my way down into it

The hostel where I’m staying tonight is run by two of the coolest people I’ve ever met in a hostel. One is from LA and described the city as “that really cool friend you have who doesn’t talk much and you always tell your other friends ‘I promise she’s really cool once you get to know her.’ You just have to spend a LONG time getting to know her.” They recommended an awesome vegetarian restaurant to me where I had a delicious veggie curry with this wonderful view.

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It really is a beautiful city, not too big, tons of old pretty buildings, a CASTLE, all surrounded by water. I’ve already requested to extend my stay here by one night. I don’t think Prague will mind. And check out the graffiti I found.

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Best narration for a selfie I've seen yet

Also, total mileage for those interested:

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357--Shabam!

Okay thanks for reading about the bike trip. If I do anything else interesting on my travels I’ll write another post or two. Peace!

Out of the highlands and into the fish ponds

Today was the most challenging day so far, both physically and mentally. I expected that by Day 5 my quads would have hardened into steel and soreness would be a thing if the past. But alas, I woke up this morning feeling my most sore. Luckily the first half of the day was a smooth and easy 30km over primarily flat terrain past some beautiful fish ponds.

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The largest fish pond in the CR

The region around Třeboň is known for its massive and plentiful ponds full of carp. As my host from Slavonice informed me, carp from this region is considered a Czech specialty. Although she prefers sea fish, she did say she ate carp once a year at Christmas which is the traditional Czech Xmas meal… how straaaaaange.

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Vytek fish pond

The ponds were lovely though and apparently some of the dams creating the ponds date back to the 16th century.

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Typical fish pond dam

There were super informative signs all along my route which I of course had to stop and read.

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The one above told me the types an percentages of trees in this region’s forests.

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My favorite fish pond of the day

After a pretty relaxed hour and a half of actual riding time, I reached what was supposed to be my destination for the day, the charming town of Třeboň. The town was awesome with parks galore, lakes all around, a castle with peacocks, and a brewery dating back to the 14th century.

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Male peacock courting female peacock in castle courtyard

Unfortunately none of my couchsurfing requests bore fruit and the campsite I was counting on as a backup was all full. So after exploring around Třeboň for a bit and grabbing a couple delicious beers at the brewery, I got my butt in gear and set off towards Česky Budějovice.

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Awesome Regent brewery in Třeboň

I said today was challenging because at 3pm I still had another 30km to ride to a city where I had no definite sleeping arrangements. Luckily the journey only took another hour and a half. After a very strenuous first hour of uphill climbs and straightaways with the wind buffeting against me, I crested the most glorious hill of my life whereupon I was rewarded with a view of Budějovice splayed out below me just waiting for me to glide down into its ruffled streets. I took no pictures because I was in high speed racer mode flying down the mountain. Thankfully all my accommodation worries were assuaged when the tourist info people called up a hostel I’d found and informed me they were NOT all full.

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Very pretty town hall/tourist info center

Now I’m just chilling in the lovely town square, people-watching, next to a large and legubrious group of Chinese tourists.

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And I forgot to mention that Budějovice (Budvar in German) is actually home to the original Budweiser (“from Budvar” in German [2/3 of the town actually speaks German as their mother tongue]). Apparently the American Budweiser developed a beer using a similar but watered down recipe as the original then tried to sue the original for copyright infringement. How very American… Needless to say, I have some beer to try tonight :).

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Czech Canada

Biking today, I felt like I was transported to another country, maybe even another continent, maybe even… Canada? Strange as it may sound, the region I biked through today is called Czech Canada.

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It was hands down the most beautiful day of riding so far. I chose to leave behind the well-marked Prague-Vienna Greenway and went through the depths of the spruce forests that make this region so enchanting.

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I even managed to stumble upon a bison ranch, which was bizarre but idyllic.

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They had some interesting Native American wood carved sculptures and teepees scattered around. I saw no signs and didn’t stick around long enough to ask anyone so the origins of these anachronistic items will remain a mystery.

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After I emerged from the woods I biked through farmlands with ponds and lakes around every turn. The one above was particularly peaceful and I spent a nice moment lapping up the tranquil surroundings.

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Unfortunately I was unable to find a couchsurfing host for the night so I’m staying in a hostel that turned out to be surprisingly well situated right next to the castle.

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The castle rotunda just beside the hostel

I also want to mention my awesome hosts last night. Tomáš and Marushka were two very open and laid back individuals with a lovely home and family.

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Marushka in their beautiful garden

They’re both involved with a nonprofit based in Slavonice called the Center for the Future that works on landscaping projects trying to bridge the historic and cultural divide between the Czech Republic and Austria.

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Poster showing a project the center is working on

And it just so happened that when I showed up to their home, they were in the middle of a meeting with the owners of the nonprofit, two Coloradans named John and Pam. Such strange coincidences seem to be the norm with couchsurfing and I really love that about it.