Berlin Day 4

Thursday 21st August was our last full day in Berlin. We were quite museumed out so slept in, paid some bills and what not then went to find a food market and shopping street from the guide book.  On the way we went to have a look at the local street art murals and did a spot of shopping in the sute shops we had seen a day before.

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The food market was great and we had a yum lunch of burger and 3 little patties with salad. The best part though was the café we found down the road. IT SOLD REAL COFFEE!!!! They had pour overs and chemex and drip coffee and a real coffee machine and a real guy who knew how to use the real coffee machine – heaven. So we had a delicious coffee nom nom nom!

Coffee Syphon

Coffee Syphon

Post delicious coffee we went to find this shopping street, fairly sure we were in the right place but never really found it. Did however walk past a jeweler with his workshop in the shop front and bought a new pair of butterflys for my earning as I had lost one when getting undressed in Olomouc.

We then jumped on the underground and went to find an art deco style shopping mall which had a tower of crushed cars in it. The crushed tower of cars was quite cool and the art deco was indeed very pretty. The surrounding shops were rather expensive.

Tower of crushed cars

Tower of crushed cars

On the way home we found an icecream, settling for Movenpick when we couldn’t find anything else. At the underground station we had used everyday we happened to go up out of a different exit to normal and found ourselves in a department store of a more reasonable kind. More like a farmers than the Smith and Caughys we had found the previous day when shoe and shirt hunting. Funny that it had been there the whole time and would have been much more suitable!

Headed home, got changed, sorted out how to get there and get back and headed off to Reinstoff to eat Jourdan’s birthday present. Reinstoff has two Michelin stars and a description of modern, creative and superior. No clue what superior means but it was delicious.

Pre dinner drinks

Pre dinner drinks

We were very early to the restaurant so walked around the block and until we found a place we could have a drink. We ended up in the garden of a restaurant which was quite nice. At 7.20 we headed to Reinstoff around the corner for our 7.30 booking. We were the only ones there which was very quiet and strange. The restaurant was in a brick building and the inside had 3 boxes that opened to the inside. The kitchen and wait staff were all out of the room behind the boxes but could see in using the large mirrors on the back of the boxes. We were slightly unsure of how it worked but just went with it.

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Before we had seen the menu we were served four appetizers. Then we picked the “far away” menu as opposed to the “near” menu, just meaning that the ingredients were sourced from further away. We picked out 5 courses from the 8 on offer, as expected everything was absolutely delicious and we devoured every little bit of it. A fanatastic experience for our tastebuds!

AMAZING dessert

AMAZING dessert

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Berlin Day 3

On Wednesday, our third day in Berlin we headed to Museum Island with the plan of going to the Pergomuseum, Neues Museum and the Berliner Dom Church to get a good view of the city. When we got there the line for the Pergomusuem was ~4hours long – but clever us, we went to the Altes National Musuem where the line was super short and bought a Musuem Island day pass! Then we went back our, straight past the queue and to the man at a side gate, he politely informed us that the queue was not just to buy tickets to the Pergomuseum, it was to get inside. Oops. We had no intention of waiting 4 hours up to get into a museum so we went to the Neues Musuem instead as it had no line. The museum had Egyptian artifacts and other plunder for afar as well as artifacts dug up around Germany dating back thousands of years. It also had a free audioguide which was quite good.

War Memorial

Sarcophagi

Sarcophagi

Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics

Next we headed over to the Berliner Dom which is still on the island. Unfortunately we were turned away at the door as our museum pass did not include entrance to the Beliner Dom as our guide book had implied. We were a little bit peeved but I guess we should have more properly checked what was included in our ticket.

Berlin Dom

Berlin Dom

We headed off in search of some lunch and found a restaurant where you got given a tablet with the menu and ordered from it yourself. When the food was ready you took a little card from the back and collected the food. A bit new, at least the food was reasonably good.

Next up was the DDR museum, not included in our museum pass but relatively cheap at 4 Euro each, the place was packed with people. There were displays on what it was like to live in East Germany and East Berlin under the DDR. The displays were a bit more interactive than normal with doors and drawers to open to find information. On the whole a really good worthwhile visit.

GDR Fashion

A post museum icecream was essential, Jourdan chose an uncharacteristic citrus and raspberry flavours! We plopped ourselves down in the sun in a park just over the canal to enjoy it. It was a bit chilly, mainly due to the wind. It must be starting to feel cold to the locals as they all look like they are dressed for the middle of winter in Auckland. Like jeans, jacket and scarfs! So maybe not wooly scarfs but still a warmth inducing neck attire. People can probably tell we are tourists straight away from the shorts and t-shirt.

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Ice Cream

Ice Cream

It was about 5.30 by this time and we still needed to find Jourdan something to wear out to dinner the next night. The awesome suit he bought in Olomouc doesn’t really go with maroon chucks. Said maroon chucks were also looking quite grubby from days of wandering and the WUOC party. In the guidebook was a department store nearby an underground station so we headed there. First floor was the likes of Chanel and Armani, probably not quite the brands we were looking for. Upstairs in the menswear was still pretty pricy and none of the shoes in more of the right price range where suitable. The shirt situation was also no good. We headed out across the road to a less expensive looking shoe shop but didn’t find anything there either. Retiring to a search of the internet for what would be suitable for the restaurant we decided that cleaned chucks with new laces, jeans and a shirt would be fine. Purchased new laces at a grand total cost of 2 Euro and headed home via a bakery.

All the bakeries are buzzing with bees eating the sugar of the sweet goods, but no one seems to be bothered about it. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we had the same thing for dinner at the apartment – mice, carrot, tomato and capsicum with bread and butter. A bit simple and was greeted with “Mmmm I love this meal” by the third night but super simple, quick to make and required minimal thought and planning.

Berlin Day 2

On our second day in Berlin we planned to do more wall related activities and head back to the art museum that was closed on Monday. In the morning we headed North from our apartment across Golitzer park and across the Spree to the East side gallery. On the way we went past some cool murals in the area between the river and the park. We might head back for some more mural hunting on Thursday. The eastside gallery is the longest section of the wall remaining and is covered in street art. Unfortunately lots of the street art is covered in graffiti also, most of which seems to be left by tourists. There were some cool parts, my favourite being the art work from Pink Floyd’s album “The Wall.” This was of extra interest to me as it was also painted onto the wall of the Year 13 common room at school. After walking the length of the East side Gallery we headed away from the river up to Karl-Marx Allee. This is a wide (90m) street in East Berlin that was built as a show piece by the Soviets. It has large apartment blocks on either side of it which are almost palatial in look. It was called Stalin Allee until a few years after Stalin died and the Soviets used to use it for military parades. We popped into a café which had a small exhibition on the history of the area to learn more. We then got onto the U-bahn and travelled up to the Berlin Wall Memorial. Again we learnt more about the history of the wall, as well as being able to view a reconstructed strip of the full wall system, including inner wall, outer wall, vehicle traps, goose neck lamps, guard towers etc. Having had enough history for the day we grabbed some lunch and then headed back to the Museum fur Gegenwart. The museum is in the old Hamburg Train station, which gives plenty of large space for an art gallery. Our favorite parts were the Andy Warhol paintings, a couple of works by Robert Rauschenberg and an exhibition of wall art. The wall art exhibition was very large taking up a wing of the gallery that must have been around 200m long. Of course the works were also very large seeing as they were on walls. To rest up a bit we went to the Prater beer garden which is the oldest in Berlin. Upon arrival we found it quite empty and seemingly overpriced, so retreated to a neat looking bar that we had passed on the way. After a couple of drinks we headed back home for our standard Berlin meal of mince, carrots, peppers and tomatoes on toast.

Mural North of Golitzer park

Mural North of Golitzer park

Spree Bridge

Spree Bridge

The photo of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev kissing, depicted as a mural in the East side gallery

The photo of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev kissing, depicted as a mural in the East side gallery

East Side Gallery - Pink Floyd

East Side Gallery – Pink Floyd

East Side Gallery - Colourful people

East Side Gallery – Colourful people

East Side Gallery - Fall of the wall

East Side Gallery – Fall of the wall

Karl Marx Allee

Karl Marx Allee

Memorial for people who died crossing the wall

Memorial for people who died crossing the wall

Reconstructed section

Reconstructed section

Australian version upside down, with Aboriginal Decorations

Australian version upside down, with Aboriginal Decorations

Wall works

Wall works

Berlin Day 1

On Sunday the 17th it was time to leave the Czech Republic and head for Berlin. Our day started early, we had to pack and get to the station for 0819. The train to Prague was 2 hours where we would get on our 5 hour train to Berlin. The intercity trains within Czech Republic are much more comfortable than the international trains run by the national train company! Once in Berlin we made our way to our airbnb apartment. We walked through what seemed to be a bit of a dodgy area, quite dirty, lots of graffiti people loitering etc. Eventually we seemed to turn away from this area and a block away was a bit nicer, which is where the apartment is. The apartment is very small. There is one room and a bathroom. The bathroom is within the main room, and on top of the bathroom is the bed which you have to climb up to. We were pretty tired after spending all day travelling so went to a restaurant nearby which turned out to be very nice. Our waiter was very welcoming and quite funny. He didn’t know why New Zealanders were called Kiwi’s, so we kindly educated him. The menu had some interesting things, like veal cheek and eagle fish. I had an asparagus and walnut risotto and Celia had a Goat’s cheese salad. Half way through our meal I pointed out to Celia that we had suddenly become vegetarian.

We had a small sleep in in the morning and then headed to a café right below our apartment around 10. Again a nice place with great coffee. After breakfast we headed to the main train station to get a Berlin Welcome card which gives you multiple days of free transport and discounts to attractions. It took a while to get to the due to a comedy of errors such as lines being closed and going to the wrong train station, whoops. Eager to continue our mistakes we walked up to the Museum fur Gegenwart (Modern art?), only to find that it was closed on Mondays. After the mishaps we were keen to do some actual sightseeing so headed down to the Brandenburg Gate and Parizer platz. In the atrium of a bank in the square is a really cool conference room. It was a cool design but was also interesting as it was a bit of a hidden attraction away from the busy square. We then walked south to the Holocaust memorial. The memorial consists of 2711 sarcophagi like concrete blocks of varying height on undulating terrain. It takes up a large space and walking through it reminds you of the scale of the atrocities that occurred. There is an information center/museum at the memorial but like the art gallery it was closed on Mondays. At this point it started to rain so we ran into a restaurant beside the memorial to shelter and get lunch. I had currywurst, sausage with ketchup and curry powder, and Celia had Bratwurst. When the rain had subsided we walked down the road to the site of Hitler’s bunker, which consisted of an information board. The bunker was demolished and filled by the Soviets. It was interesting to read about the bunker and see a diagram of where all the bunkers were in the area. They even had a bunker for cars and drivers. Next up was Potsdamer Platz where there were some wall sections and information panels. We then deviated from the line of the wall heading west to the Resistance museum. The main focus was attempts by high ranking officials on Hitler’s life, but there were also sections on other types of resistance such as youth groups and civilian figures. The museum was situated at the site of the execution of General von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators after their failed assassination/coup combo in 1944. After the looking around the museum we headed back to the wall at Potsdamer platz. Down a side street was an original GDR watchtower, again this was a little visited site so was nice to get away from the rush of tourists.

Brandenberg Gate

Brandenberg Gate

DZ Bank Atrium

DZ Bank Atrium

Holocaust memorial

Holocaust memorial

Wall Sections

Wall Sections

Stauffenberg memorial

Stauffenberg memorial

"Put your hand through my face and stomach and I'll do the same"

“Put your hand through my face and stomach and I’ll do the same”

Next on the list was the Topographie des Terrors which was a museum about the Gestapo, built on the site of the now destroyed gestapo building. At the front of the site was a long series of panels about Warsaw’s fate during WWII. This was something neither of us new much about and the story was presented well. We ended up reading it for about 75 minutes. We were running short on time at this point so only had a small visit to the Topographie des Terrors. On the way home we went past the world’s largest captive balloon and Checkpoint Charlie. I think the balloon was just a helium balloon tied to the ground which you can go for rides up to 150m in.  Checkpoint Charlie was the third Berlin Wall crossing point, an area where there was a standoff between Soviet and American tanks at some point in the 60’s I believe. Now there is a touristy Checkpoint Charlie cabin and a memorial/art work. The memorial is a light box with an American soldier on one side facing into West Berlin and a Soviet Soldier on the other, facing East Berlin.

GDR Guard Tower

GDR Guard Tower

Warsaw rising

Warsaw rising

Checkpoint Charlie from the West

Checkpoint Charlie from the West

Finally we stopped at the supermarket to buy some food for dinner, cooked it and wearily climbed up to our loft bed.

Interim Update

We’ve been a bit busy during the WUOC week but the team has made a couple of posts during the week on the Orienteering NZ website. Tomorrow is the relay and then we travel to Berlin on Sunday. We should have some more time to update you once we arrive in Germany. For now here are some links to the team posts.

Opening Ceremony and Sprint Relay

Long, Sprint and Middle

Team after the Sprint

Team after the Sprint

 

Jourdan & Celia at the Sprint event center

Jourdan & Celia at the Sprint event center

 

Jourdan finishing the sprint

Jourdan finishing the sprint

 

Arrival and Training Week in Olomouc

On the 3rd of August we packed up our things at the hostel, had breakfast and got taxis for the short trip to the train station. Maybe a bit lazy but the thought of walking through the heat with our packs was not the slightest bit appealing.

Found our train and reserved seats and settled in for the easy 2 hour air conditioned, food car fed trip to Olomouc. The organization here has been great, we were the first team to arrive and were met at the train station by the organizer and his wife who drove us across the city to the university where we have two cells on the ground floor. Good we don’t have to climb stairs but a bummer we can’t leave our Windows wide open to get the breeze all day and at night. They have quite a cool window system here which allows them to be swung open horizontally or lent open vertically. Hopefully that makes sense.

We get lunch and dinner fed to us at the local restaurant. Which is ok but we don’t have much choice and English is limited. We have so someone there to translate though. Our Czech is limited to saying hello, please and thank you, but we really haven’t got thank you down. We went to the massive supermarket/hypermarket to get our full of fruit and snacks, a tent and picnic blanket.

Pimping in Olomouc

Pimping in Olomouc

 

Czech views

Czech views

Monday the 4th we had a free morning where everyone chilled out, lunch and then got on a bus for about half an hour to go to a middle distance training.

Tuesday was also make distance trading in the morning at a different map. In the afternoon we went into town for a look see. We went and had a look at Olomouc’s astronomical clock, got yummy huge gelatos and iced coffee. We then walked around what must be the old town looking at the buildings and churches, unfortunately we were under dressed to go into the churches past the front reception area so we will have to go back with more demure clothing on.

 

Olomouc town

Olomouc town

Candy coloured buildings

Candy coloured buildings

Feeding our faces with Gelato

Feeding our faces with Gelato

Gelato!

Gelato!

Miniature of the City

Miniature of the City

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Considering the Astronomical Clock

Olomouc Astronomical Clock

Olomouc Astronomical Clock

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In the square in Olomouc

In the square in Olomouc

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Really pretty ceilings in this one :)

Really pretty ceilings in this one 🙂

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This guy

This guy

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Sweet as drain covers

Sweet as drain covers

Looking into one of the many churches we were too indecent to enter

Looking into one of the many churches we were too indecent to enter

Touristing

Touristing

The Pie Institute

The Pie Institute

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Wednesday the 6th was long distance training and our bus took a rather interesting route to it, pretty sure we got a little lost for a bit.

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Snake!

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Swimming snake!

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There was a little pond with frogs and fish and snakes (ick!) We got back reasonably late from that one and didn’t have time to into town.

 

Filling up on fruit and vege

Filling up on fruit and vege

Ran out of toilet paper

Ran out of toilet paper

Fluffy dog, the main attraction on the way to dinner

Fluffy dog, the main attraction on the way to dinner

On Thursday we went to Borzou Castle for sprint relay training. There was a permanent orienteering course at the castle which we did. After training we had a go (many many goes) at the luge / down hill mini cars. Pretty fun, definitely would not get OSH approval at home with no sides and no helmets. Going off the sides of the track was not so nice with stinging nettles. Celia was fastest with 59.3s down the track.

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Lime and Berry Beer - the closest thing to cider outside of Prague

Lime and Berry Beer – the closest thing to cider outside of Prague

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Tourdan strikes again

Tourdan strikes again

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Cups on posts, because why not?

Cups on posts, because why not?

 

After luging we walked past the castle into the small village to have lunch. It was really very hot but they still served us soup for starter and then schnitzel. So we found some ice creams and a place to cool down. We got dropped into central Olomouc on the way back so we could get more gelato and go to the supermarket.

Kutna Hora and Sedlec Ossuary

On the 2nd of August we walked into the old town square with Greta and Tessa via the market to get delicious cherries, grapes and berries for our day trip to Kutna Hora.

At 11 o’clock we met up with our tour guide Bianca from Romania, she wished she could tell us something amazing about herself but sadly there was nothing to tell – this seems to be a bit of a tour guide joke as the girl at the riding school in Vienna said something similar.

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Synagogue on the walk to the train station in Prague

We walked with a rather large group to the main train station where we boarded a regional train that was to take about an hour. The train stopped often in the middle of nowhere and I think we finally got off it at about 1.30. When we boarded the train the whole group spread out to find seats, assured by Bianca that it would be fine when the ticket collector came. We ended up a couple of rail cars away from most people rather dubious about how ok it would be when the guy came. Sure enough he came and it wasn’t ok, the only English he spoke was “ticket”, we had to go find Bianca and so ended up standing for most of the journey.

We got off at a little station and got on a little yellow train – the bumblebee. From the bumblebee we walked through the small village Sedlec to the bone chapel, the Sedlec Ossuary.

Inside the Sedlec Ossuary

Inside the Sedlec Ossuary

The area was settled in 1142 by monks as the first Cistercian monastery in Bohemia. The monks found silver around 1200. The story went that a hard working monk lay down for a rest one day and beside him appeared rods of silver, magical! That caused a silver rush in the area and the monastery became rich. Rich enough to send an envoy to the holy land. The envoy collected earth from the holy land and sprinkled it around the monastery when he got back. They then declared the monastery land holy land. This meant that everyone that knew about it wanted to be buried there. Sick people would travel to the gates so that when they died they would be buried in the holy land of the monastery and their sins would be forgiven. The monks took it a step further and said that your remains would breakdown in 3 days, which was a appealing as it reduced the chance of someone breaking into your grave, stealing your bits and then dumping the rest of you somewhere. So lots and lots of people were buried in this small area.

During the 1400’s in the Hussite Wars one side trapped the other side in the silver mines until they all died from injuries or starved to death. All these bodies were buried there also.

Later on the bubonic plague took out thousands who were also buried in the area.

Around 1400 a church was built and in order to lay the foundations they had to exhume a lot of bodies. The bones of these bodies were cleaned and arranged decoratively into the bone chapel below the chapel, which is what partly what we went to see. 40-60,000 bodies were used in the construction which was completed for the last time in 1870. The info made it sound like the bones had been arranged more than once. The chapel was not for devil worship, from photos we could see that there used to be pews in the bone chapel.

 

Crest of the family who commissioned the decoration of the Ossuary

Crest of the family who commissioned the decoration of the Ossuary

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Chandelier made of every bone in the human body

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From there we got vans into Kutna Hora and St Barbaras cathedral which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

St Barbara Catherdral

St Barbara Catherdral

Construction of the cathedral started around 1300 and was slowly constructed over a few hundred years until they realized they didn’t have the funds to finish it and so walled one end off for a while with a wooden wall. No idea how everything inside didn’t get wet and snowed before they walled it up. The paintings on the wall and painted shields of the contributing houses on the ceiling were really lovely. Some were faded lower down by the humidity in the region but still I find much more preferable to the heavy wood and gold of lots of the other decorations. A shorter version of the planned cathedral was eventually completed in 1905.

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Crests on ceiling

Crests on ceiling

Painted walls from around 1300

Painted walls from around 1300

Painted ceilings inside St Barbara

Painted ceilings inside St Barbara

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We had lunch at a restaurant looking over Kutna Hora and back up to St Barbaras, then wandered down through the town.

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Looking back up at St Barbara Cathedral

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There was another cathedral, god only knows why they need two so close together, called St James. This one looked to be in need of repair and had a tower that was never completed as the earth was not stable enough and they realized that completing the tower would compromise the rest of the building. We also went to the Italian court in Kutna Hora, I it was named so because of the Italian minters they brought in to mint the silver as they were apparently the best. That reminds me that there was a painting in st Barbara which depicted the punishment of the time, you served as the person who held the silver to be minted for the minter to hit with his hammer. You had to serve for a month and in the process had most of your fingers crushed.

Statue of King Wencelas - actually a replica of the one next to it which was the repaired original. I am a fool and took a picture of the fake :(

Statue of King Wencelas – actually a replica of the one next to it which was the repaired original. I am a fool and took a picture of the fake 😦

From there we walked back to the bumblebee train, raced across the next train station to get our train back to Prague – only to wait 15-20 min for it. Rode the hot train back into Prague, luckily with much less stopping in the middle of nowhere and then went on search of dinner.

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Train station in “Czech middle of nowhere”

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One very tired Jourdan on the train back to Prague – too tired to keep his eyes open to read his book

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Awesome ceiling in the main train station in Prague

We had maybe our best dinner so far at a place that had live music and beer, we were a bit early for the live music but the much needed vegetables in our duck salad hit the spot.

Czeching out Prague

On the 31st we got an early bus from Vienna to Prague. The bus took about 5 hours (around the same as the train) and was quite cheap at ~16 EU. The bus was well equipped with comfy seats and TV’s at each seat.

Upon arrival in Prague we made our way to our Hotel where we would stay for a night before meeting up with Greta and Laura. We booked the Hotel/B&B through airbnb where the rate was about half that advertised on their website. The receptionist was very helpful supplying us with maps, advising us on places to go and making a much need espresso. After putting our bags in our room we headed into town to explore.

We headed into town around 3pm and planned to get our bearings and have a look around rather than trying to see anything specific. We walked back to the train station and got it one stop into the old town and started our wander. We went to Wencelas Square, which was really more of a road in front of a big building with nice gardens down the middle. That is Wencelas like Old Kind Wencelas in the Christmas carol.

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Horse statue in Wencelas Square – they are pretty into their men on horse statues

Got a street sausage which are massive and reasonably tasty in the “Prague Sausage” flavor – not a clue what was in it. Then we wandered down into the narrow streets, there are zillions of tourists everywhere. We went to the old town square and saw the astronomical clock and Tyn church, headed past the market where they sell these rather annoying puppets that cackle when you make noise, and of course the noise of one cackling sets of the others – I don’t know how the stall people stand it all day every day!

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Pretty Building on Old Town Square

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Astronomical Clock – we saw it go off at noon which was pretty cool – figures moved past windows that opened, the golden chicken moved and there was a trumpeter at the top

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On our way to the Charles Bridge there was a gypsy with a massive yellow snake around her neck – have since seen a few more people with snakes, tourists must pay them to hold the snake and have photos.

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Snake gypsy lady

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Charles Bridge

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Gate House on Charles Bridge

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Down by the river was really nice, we stood outside the largest night club in Europe which kindly provided us with Wi-Fi to get hold of Rachel and Greta.

We went over the Charles Bridge which is lined with statues and a few lucky plaques which are shiny and clean from people rubbing. There were also lots of portrait painters and caricature artists painting rather favorable portraits of people on the bridge. Some were actually quite good. I was surprised by the number of famous people that must have crossed the bridge, like Harry Potter, Emma Watson, Avril Lavigne etc, all the artists had been lucky enough to draw them at some time (lol). There was also lots of market like touristy stuff on in stalls – as there seems to be everywhere, the number of shops selling coloured glasses and sparkly things is clock like (astronomical).

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Jazz band on Charles Bridge with a guy playing with whisks!

Walking along by the river on the way up to the meet Greta and Rachel at the Chechuv most was quite nice. We met them and went up the stairs to the beer gardens. There was a metronome at the top and quite a good view of the city. We had beer, cider and pizza in the beer gardens which were nice and cool and then walked back through town quite late. Completely exhausted really.

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View from near beer gardens

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The first was Celia’s birthday! YAY! We got up rather late and had breakfast at the hotel, there were a few interesting things to try, pasta with a sweet sauce and cinnamon on top (a little strange for breakfast but quite yum), chocolate muesli, an apple and custard slice, and strange meaty things. We checked out and traipsed with our packs in the heat down to the subway and back to the bus station where the hostel we stayed for the remainder of our time in Prague with the rest of the NZ’ers. We somewhat hesitantly left our bags including most of our money and laptop in the bag storage across from the hostel until we could check in and headed off for more touristing.

We headed straight for a café we had seen the day before as it most resembled a NZ café and picked it as our best chance of good coffee, delightfully the coffee was good! They added another 4 kiwis to their tally of international visitors they keep, there were a lot of different nationalities on the board which is not surprising as there are so many different faces and languages spoken on the streets.

 

Post coffee we headed over Charles Bridge and up to the caste. It was quite a long way up and gave great views of the city. We got even better views after paying to go up the South Tower. The climb up the tight spiral staircase was mildly nauseating.

P8010073 flat

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Cathedral in the Castle grounds

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View from the top of the South Tower

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The castle grounds were lovely with flowers, trees and pretty doors. There was an automatic lawnmower for one of the walled lawns, just like the automatic vacuum cleaners it turned when it hit a wall and went off in a random direction.

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Guard at the Castle – it was very hot

Kind of a funny thing to have out in the grounds of a castle. It was interesting to read about the history of the castle and how it developed and got built up through the ages. Also interesting is the attitude of people through the ages, our attitude now towards old things seems to generally be preservation, whereas many buildings have been renovated and updated to the style of the times in previous centuries.

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Things infront of every park on one street

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Nice park and river in the middle of the city

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Same park river and bridge!

We found a restaurant to have lunch (at like 3.30 but we’ll till call it lunch) in the old town, it was pretty good pizza, pasta risotto and salad. When it came to paying we may have had an oopsy – as he put the bill on the table he said something like “the service is not included” which confused us a bit, so we got our cash out to the amount on the bill, tucked it into the bill folder and left somewhat quickly before he came back and we found out if we actually needed to tip on top of the bill. Tipping is rather irritating, I guess we will get used to it in the US, but we expect it over there, whereas up until now we haven’t been asked to tip here.

First gelato was post lunch – DELICIOUS!

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Gelato!!

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Mmmmmm

Headed back to the hostel, checked in, chilled out, had a shower, got dressed and then headed out for dinner. I dressed in my fluoro orange dress for the occasion. Earlier in the day I had seen people eating a Czech dish of duck, red cabbage, dumplings and sauce that I wanted to try out. Unfortunately the only option for that on the menu was half a duck… I went for it anyway – it was literally a cooked duck chopped in half lengthwise. Enormous. It was ok, a bit dry and not enough sauce, but now I’ve tried it. They offered us some lemony spirit shot, which we tried without knowing how much it cost – oops, it added a wee bit to the bill.

All in all a pretty good birthday away from home. It didn’t feel so much like a birthday as there was so much going on that it wasn’t the focal point of the day like it is on a normal day, but a most enjoyable day czeching out Prague none the less!

Wien Day 3 – Decorated Buildings

Our last day in Wien got off to a cruisy start, Jourdan went for a run around the city while I snoozed and coughed up some phlem (blegh).

Today Tourdahn was unleashed – running shoes on, camera at the ready and map in hand

Tourdahn

Tourdahn

We headed off to the train mid morning and went to the Schönbrunn Palace and gardens. The gardens are expansive and full of tree lined lanes, fountains, sculptures, flowers and squirrels – which resulted in running up and down under the trees after them trying to get a good picture. In total we wandered about 5km around the gardens and probably only saw a small part. There is also a zoo in the gardens but we decided not to go into it. We didn’t go into the palace either, it was full of tourists and like everything fairly costly to get in. A glance though the window did show a very extravagantly decorated room – as one would expect.

Squirrel!

Squirrel!

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Tree trimmer platform

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The palace and garden directly infront

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Facing the palace at the end of the gardens and lakes is the pool house

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This was mildly interesting – the trees were pruned on the outside of the lanes so that they grew all their leaves towards the inside of the lane making it a pretty wall of leaves

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Around 2pm we left the palace and took the underground back into town to get lunch, and then more coffee and cake – NOM NOM NOM!

Celia's cake - strawberry cream

Celia’s cake – strawberry cream

Jourdan's cake - half gone

Jourdan’s cake – half gone

We then headed off using our Vienna for Aliens guide – courtesy of Greta and Rachel – to find some buildings apparently worth a viewing. The plan had been to use the city bikes, but they don’t come with helmets and having to regsiter and what not did not appeal so we walked.

Quite interesting the decreasing decoration on the buildings along the street

Quite interesting the decreasing decoration on the buildings along the street

Street art in a park

Street art in a park

Naptimes at the traffic lights

Naptimes at the traffic lights

The bulidings were indeed quite interesting, a little piece of home actually! They were designed by the same guy that did the funky looking toilets in Kawakawa. Friedensreich Hunderwasser deisgned the quirky buildings, which have few (if any maybe) straight lines). We visited both the Kunthaus and the Hundertwasserhaus. A map showed his work to be all over Austria.

Hudertwasserhaus

Hudertwasserhaus

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At Kunsthaus

At Kunsthaus

Kunsthaus

Kunsthaus

We came back walking along the river / beach?? I don’t know, the sand on the concrete riverside, beach chairs and people fishing confused me. We are guessing that you have to pay to use the beach/river thing – seems crazy.

"Beach" on the river

“Beach” on the river

Swimming pool on the river

Swimming pool on the river

Dinner same as last night at the apartment – pasta, pesto, pork, salad – been putting more effort into day sightseeing than imaginative dinners.

Its raining and thudery now, hopefully it clears up for the morning. Tomorrow we have an early bus to Prague, should get there a bit after midday.

Tired feet make for a lack of fashion

Tired feet make for a lack of fashion

Vienna

On the 27th we flew from Tokyo to Frankfurt to Vienna. After getting our bags we geared up to find our apartment. We had some directions from our host and set off eagerly. When we got on the right street (StraB) we were feeling a bit lost when our host popped out of a phone booth, where he had just been trying to call us. He showed us to the apartment and answered a few quick questions before racing back to work (at 7:30pm on a Sunday in shorts and a t-shirt, no idea what he does). We headed out hoping to find a nice diner soon after, but eventually resorted to burger king in our increasingly tired state. 

On the morning of the 28th we headed out for a run which was a great way to quickly get orientated. We headed down past the Belvedere palace and touched the edge of the old town before heading back. After recovering from the run we went headed back into town to meet Rachel and Greta at the opera house to begin the days sightseeing. First of all we walked down to St Stephens Cathedral which has been under construction since ~1100. It was partly under scaffolding which was attempted to be hidden by the netting hanging on the scaffolding having the image of the part of the cathedral that it covered on it. It was a fairly touristy Cathedral, even featuring Samsung sponsored displays inside. Pretty but a bit strange. Next we headed just around the corner to see an apartment where Mozart lived for a few years. From the outside it just looked like any other apartment, so we took a picture to tick the box and headed on.

We then meandered through the town toward the Hofburg Palace and on to the Naschmarkt, where we had a Greek lunch. Along the way we took a shortcut through the University chemistry department. After entering a lift and deliberating for too long on which lower floor to choose the lift starts going up. When the doors open a student in a lab coat with a large measuring cylinder enters. He asks us, “Are you from the university?” Five people in casual clothes holding cameras? I don’t think so. Never the less he gave us directions to where we needed to be. 

After lunch we went back to the center of the old town and went into the Albertina which had exhibitions featuring the film Blow Up, Alex Katz of New York, as well as a donated private collection featuring Picasso and Monet. It was cool to see a Picasso painting from before the war, as well as one painted during the war (II). The description talked about how Picasso had to reign in the style of his paintings during the Nazi occupation. The painting from during the war, Still life with guitar, was a plain painting but featured a red sabre, a statement against the occupation. The Albertina also had some state rooms which were still decorated in the style of 19th century(ish). 

On the way to find dinner we went past the University, Rathaus and Parliament, which were all quite interesting buildings. As it turns out Vienna has a film festival running from the end of June till the end of August. It was an open air cinema in front of the Rathaus with a bunch of food stalls around it. It was a really lively atmosphere when we went past, about 3 hours before that nights film was due to begin. For dinner we tried to have Vienesse dishes, schnitzel, stuffed schnitzel and faiser goulash. 

Today (29th) we met Rachel and Greta again and headed out to Prater, which is a fairly large amusement park in the city. We got there around 10am and it was only just opening. The old wooden Ferris wheel was running but pricey so we opted for the newer, cheaper one to get a good view of the surrounding area. We then headed out to have a look at the Danube and an island which breaks the river in two for about 12 miles, which apparently is a great place to run or cycle. On the western bank of the Danube was another impressive cathedral, in quite a different style to the ones we had seen in the old town. On the inside it seemed to be recently refurbished. It was nice to have a look around a church which still operated as that, as opposed to the tourist attractions we had seen previously. 

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Celia’s Morning tea – Raspberry Bombe and a Beauty Coffee (Ice and espresso)

Growing weary we decided it was time for kaffee and kuchen. We managed to find a place with good coffee and cake, right on the main pedestrian mall, and for a good price too. We parted with Rachel and Greta and went to the Spanish Riding school where we had booked a tour. It was really interesting to see and hear about how they train the horses and the history and traditions that are alive at the riding school. Their tack room was a tad more organized than Celia’s, which you would expect when there are 72 stallions in your stables!\

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After the tour we headed over to the House of Music which was an educational museum about music. The most interesting part was a series of exhibits about the great composers who lived in Vienna, Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Mahler and Strauss. Our ticket included entry to the Mozart Apartment so went there next. By this time we were growing a bit tired and we had already just heard about Mozart. We found that the museum in the apartment presented a lot of detail about Mozart’s life, which seemed especially unnecessary having just come from the House of Music. I would only recommend this attraction if you are die-hard fan. This evening we cooked dinner at the apartment and enjoyed some well deserved cold drinks!