To Germany we go, where it looks like you could be related to everyone

12 August 2014

We had an early morning wake up to catch our train towards Germany. We first had a few hour ride before we had a short transfer right at the border in the small town Usti nad Labem. Here we had just enough time to spend our remaining Czech Krona on some lunch (seriously if you are in the Czech Republic grab a sandwich at Baguette Boulevard, easily the best chain sandwich ever made) and whatever drinks we could find in the small market across from the train station, hint: it might have been beer.

After riding almost an hour the train pulled into Dresden and soon we were looking around at the city and people doing a double take. It was the first time since we left America that we’ve been in a country that reminds us so much of home. It looks like everyone here could be some long lost cousin and all the buildings (at least outside of the old town) look like they could be middle America anywhere. When we checked into our hotel which was a small business hotel chain the view from the window looked like you were looking out of a hotel in America. All you had to do was change the name of the restaurant in the parking lot to Chili’s and it would have fit in anywhere.

In the evening we wandered out to explore some of the beautiful old town of Dresden and grab some dinner.

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Today’s Travel: Taking the train from Karlovy Vary back towards Prague with a transfer at Usti nad Labem with a short 45 minute ride to Dresden. That evening we wandered around Dresden

Accommodations: Achat Comfort Dresden. Nothing more than a business hotel located a km or two away from the old town of Dresden. It’s a good location for walking to and from the train stations and then easily into the old town.

Are we in Russia?

11 August 2014

I don’t think we got the memo that this is a major destination for Russian tourists. I am pretty sure this is the Palm Springs equivalent for Russian’s over 70. While the Chateau Spa was just across the street, I can see the entrance and people inside from our room), we choose to head to the new town section to the Elisabeth Spa as they had thermal pools in our price range. Plus it was a good excuse to walk to the other end of town and check off another site Smetana’s Gardens. Unfortunately the Spa was a pretty big letdown as it didn’t amount to anything much more than an indoor pool with a pseudo hot tub. Somehow in this area of thermal water they managed to have all the pools filled with cool water and the hot tub was at best luke warm. Maybe they figure everyone’s getting their fill of hot water from drinking it out of the silly cups.

After relaxing in the cold tub we decided to go for a short hike up to Deer’s jump, which turned out to be a short walk where we actually had to use the map three times. It is just on the hillside above our hotel, however the few paths ways we tried and first were dead ends. They looked like maybe at one point in time they were maintained, but now are just forgotten steps. It wasn’t long though before we found a pathway with a sign directing us to Deer’s jump. Good thing this town is really small!

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Along with the pretty architecture, the other thing we found out we loved in Karlovy Vary are the spa wafers. Apparently back in the day they thought that sugary wafers bigger than your face were a healthy companion to visiting a spa and the tradition lives on.

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The wafers are pretty similar to the wafer cookies you can buy in the grocery store back home except they’ve got a bunch of delicious flavors (apple cinnamon, and raspberry being our two favorite), and literally being the size of your face. We somehow managed to eat quite a few of these…all in the name of our health of course.

Today’s Travel: Walking around the old and new town in Karlovy Vary

Accommodations: Chebsky dvur – Egerlander Hof

Off to Karlovy Vary

10 August 2014

We hopped on an early morning train to head to our next destination in the Czech Republic, Karlovy Vary. It was about a two hour train ride until we pulled into the station, hopped on a local bus and rode a few stops toward town. We managed to get off at the right stop that we had seen on the map at the train station, but what we failed to take into consideration was that we’d be several hundred feet up a hill from our hotel. Oh well, the walk down the hill from the bus stop provided a nice overview of the town and took us directly in front of St. Mary Magdalene Church, and at least it was a walk down and not up.

Karlovy Vary has been a popular Czech destination since the time of Charles IV (about 700 years ago), as visitors back then and today come to this small mountain side town for the cold and hot thermal springs used for baths and drinking treatments. Although today, based on the number of ads, I think it just might be the place for people to come for plastic surgery, silly weight loss treatments (like the ones I have only seen in ads from the 1950’s), botox and of course to shop.

After dropping off our bags we took a quick stroll through town and we immediately realized that we were bringing down the median age of this place. We walked into the Thermal Springs Colonnade since it is just across the way from our hotel at the bottom of the hill. The thermal water fountain here reaches 14 meters in height and in the enclosed room it feels like a sauna. Or just like a cool evening in Vietnam.

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And no more than a stones throw from there is the Market Colonnade, and then before you realized it and after passing a few more shops we were at the Mill Colonnade. Needless to say they are quite big on their Colonnades here.

One of the colonaides

One of the Colonnades

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Another Colonnade

Another Colonnade

And on a Sunday night this was the spot to be. Here there were many springs of piping hot water, 60 degrees Celsius was the coolest I saw, were everyone was filling up their glasses. Now these are not just regular glasses, these are one of a kind Karlovy Vary cups that look like tall flat tea glasses where you don’t drink out of the cup by you sip slowly from the handle. Also it must be a byproduct of the design of these cups, but there’s apparently no way to drink from them without looking like a complete fool. Or maybe that was just our opinion.

In this tiny little town, we were once again in front of another colonnade, Orchard Colonnade. This one was not as crowded but the Dvorak Public Gardens were in front of this spring. So after about 20 minutes of walking, very slowly I might add, we had seen four of the five Colonnades in town. Since we didn’t want to pay tourists prices for dinner, we continued on towards the pedestrian street at the ‘border’ of new and old town and managed to find a tasty tea room that also served up some small plates of Mediterranean food which provided a nice respite from the heavy meat and potatoes diet it feels like we’ve been subsisting on.

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Today’s Travel: The tram to the train to Karlovy Vary (aka Carlsbad) and the bus into the town center with a walk down the hill (who knew this place had hills). Later in the evening we ventured out to explore the old and new town sections of Karlovy Vary.

Accommodations: Chebsky dvur – Egerlander Hof.

A different Castle on a Hill

9 August 2014

This morning we hopped on the metro to ride down to Vyšehrad castle which is kind of like Prague’s red headed stepchild when it comes to castles located on a hill. While Castle Hill gets all the attention (and deservedly so) Vyšehrad provides some great views of the city and an enjoyable crowd free atmosphere to stroll through. We started our wandering along the old castle walls looking out over some of the colorful architecture that is ever present throughout the city.

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After strolling for a good distance we then stumbled across the Church of SS Peter & Paul church and the attached cemetery. The cemetery takes the cake as the most impressive and grandiose cemetery we’ve seen. It almost appeared as if each grave was trying to outdo the one next to it and the end result was artwork and statues that could be placed inside a museum.

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After finishing up at Vyšehrad Castle we made our way back up to Letna Park to see the view of Prague and its many bridges during daylight. Needless to say the view was just as impressive during the daylight and well worth the climb up the stairs.

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For our last meal in Prague it probably won’t come as a big surprise that we made our way back to Klasterni Senk. This place easily takes the top ranking as our favorite place to eat and drink in Prague, which considering all the great food and drink options in the city is saying something. We ordered up the roasted pork knee as well as a delicious goat cheese salad (you gotta have something to fight off the meat sweats), as well as some beers to toast to our great time in Prague.

Today’s Travel: Around Prague: Vyšehrad Castle, Letna Park

Accommodations: Penzion Chaloupka

The sights of Castle Hill

7 August 2014

Because we enjoyed our first meal at Klasterni Senk so much and because there were several different dishes we debated ordering on our first night here we decided to head back for a nice lunch. The food and beer were again delicious and we left to start our sightseeing on full stomachs.

We made our way up to Castle Hill and soon we were heading into St. Vitus Cathedral. St. Vitus is the dominating sight on the castle grounds and provides some beautiful scenery on both the interior and exterior.

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We then continued our walk of the castle grounds and found our way to what has to be one of the more beautiful viewpoints of a city skyline. The orangish-red roofs combined with the peaks from the many churches and bell towers make for a stunning vista.

DSC_7651DSC_7654IMG_2312At this point the rain was beginning to fall from the sky so we figured what better way to wait it out than with some cake and coffee so we again made our way over to Green Stove Cafe.

Today’s Travel: Around Prague: Castle Hill, St Vitus Cathedral

Accommodations: Penzion Chaloupka

Kutna Hora

6 August 2014

Today we decided to take a short train ride out to the town of Kutna Hora which is famous for its Church of Bones.

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After the hour train ride we pulled into town and walked a short distance to the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist. The church itself was pretty cool, but nothing extraordinary.

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After strolling through the church we figured it was a good time to grab some lunch so we walked the few kilometers into the main town to see if we could find a good spot to eat which is not that difficult to do in this country as long as you avoid the complete tourist traps.

After lunch, we were about to leave the main center of town and as we stopped to take a peek at St. James‘ Church we saw in the distance what we would soon learn was St. Barbara’s Church. It was one of those, holy shit what is that, and to think we were about to leave this little town without ever setting eyes on this beautiful church. We hiked up to where St. Barbara’s church was and were in awe of architecture of the church. It was almost like a smaller version of the Notre Dame and was made even more amazing by the fact that we had no idea it was even there. Sometimes it pays not to do any research at all.

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After now seeing all that the main town had to offer (we think) we made our way back to the outskirts of town for the main reason of our visit to Kutna Hora, the Sedlec Ossuary, more commonly known as the Church of Bones.  The Ossuary is quite a sight to see as it is packed to the brim with human bones that have been displayed in all sorts of unique manners.

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Just to brighten the mood a little, we saw this sign post on our walk back to the train station. Yep...that's really happening.

Just to brighten the mood a little, we saw this sign post on our walk back to the train station. Yep…that’s really happening.

Once we arrived back into central Prague we made our way to Cestr which is a phenomenal steakhouse located right in the city center for a nice dinner.

Today’s Travel: From Prague to Kutna Hora with a quick stop in Kolin to change trains on the trip out and a direct train on the way back to town

Accommodations: Penzion Chaloupka

Prague, here we come

4 August 2014

With what is becoming our new normal today started off with fairly long train ride to one of our favorite cities, Prague. This allowed me to catch up on writing while watching more scenic countryside pass us by. And to the guy in the train car two seats over, cutting your nails on the train is so not cool.

We didn’t arrive to our hotel until just before 7:00 so after checking in and dropping our bags in our room we set out to a nearby brewery and restaurant that I had found online, Klasterni Senk. I don’t think Adam stopped thanking me for finding this restaurant, because not only was the food absolutely delicious (seriously one of the better food we’ve ever had), but they also brewed an IPA which Adam has been sorely missing over the past few months as he’s been relegated mostly to pilsner type beers.

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Also with the beer being cheaper than the water here (seriously have we mentioned that Prague is one of our favorite cities) it made for a great dinner and a wonderful welcome back to Prague.

So we saw this sign on the walk back from dinner, thought you might enjoy.

So we saw this sign on the walk back from dinner, thought you might enjoy.

Today’s Travel: From Vienna to Praha by train

Accommodations: Penzion Chaloupka. This very nice pension about 20 minutes by tram from the Old Town city center has everything we needed. The rooms were spacious, laundry is available and breakfast is included. For us the location was a huge plus as it was far away from the crowds and the tourist price restaurants.