Thursday, March 22, 2012

Venice, Italy

Leaving Milan and the first half of the trip--
Bright and early this morning we had to get up and walk to the train station so that Kim could catch the shuttle to the airport. We made it there with little effort, but it was a quiet walk because we were both sad that she had to leave already. Although there was a part of me that was ready to leave too, I couldn’t. I still had 10days left of my trip and there was no home in the near future for me. We made it to the shuttle and bought her ticket with little issue, gave each other a big hug and parted ways before we both started crying. I didn’t think that it was going to be so hard to part ways with Kim, but when you come to rely on someone that you travel with the way KIm and I do, it is very hard to part with that person. Our trip was over. 16 days and it was over. We have so many memories and saw so many amazing things while overcoming some tough times and mental breakdowns, but we had done it again and we were already thinking about what was next. 
Grand Canal
It’s very rare that you find someone that you can travel with for such a long period of time. It takes a special bond to be able to be away from home in a place so unfamiliar that you are out of your element, yet you find a way to survive and thrive in this new place. It’s even harder to find someone else that you mesh with that can do the same thing. Someone who compliments you to the point that where your deficiencies take hold, their efficiencies step up and fill the void and vice versa. Kim and I have that bond. Despite our disagreements and little issues that are inevitable, we are always on the same page and we have many of the same dreams, as far as traveling are concerned.
Rialto Bridge 
Around 930am, I was sitting at McDonalds finishing a journal entry and waiting for Ida. I was hoping with everything in me that she would follow the directions that I had given her and would be able to find me with little trouble. Just when I was beginning to get nervous, I saw her walking towards me and felt very relieved. We first decided to grab some cash, but we had to find a bank...and then get something to eat for breakfast. We had croissants and coffee and then walked around a bit. We had some time to kill before our train left, but Milan is too big to try to do some sightseeing with our suitcases. It just wasn’t going to happen. We decided to walk a bit more, go the train station to get our ticket validated and then just wait it out.

Heading to Venice--
Gondola Ride
Smaller Canal
Our train for Venice took off on time and we easily found our seats and had little issue with our luggage. The only problem that we encountered was how hot it was on the train. I couldn’t figure out why the air conditioner wasn’t on, as all of the other trains that I had been on were freezing cold! Shortly after checking our tickets, the train usher told us that the air conditioner was broken in many of the cars and that we were invited to move to car 9, but there was no guarantee of empty seats. After taking a walk back there and seeing the cluster fuck that had ensued, we decided to sweat it out in our current car. There was really nothing that would help and the air wasn’t really working in any of the cars. Not to mention, the cars that had been cooler were no so packed with people that it wasn’t worth the time. We stayed in our seats, almost everyone else had left the car, so it was the best that we could hope for.
When we arrived in Venice, I was happy to find that the train took us all of the way to the island...that was one worry out of the way. We made our way onto the Vaparetto and took it to the Rialto Bridge area, which was supposedly near our hotel. After messing around for about an hour, we finally found the hotel down a dark alley. It wasn’t what we expected, a small apartment in another location with a shared bathroom. The only positive was that it was clean and centrally located. We decided to get settled and cleaned up, then walk around a bit and grab a nice dinner. I didn’t realize at the time that nice dinner meant 100Euro. OUCH! That hurt. Half of my money was already gone between the vaparetto pass and dinner...It just cost so much because we were sitting right next to the Grand Canal staring at the Rialto Bridge...
Bridge of Sighs
St. Mark's Square
We got up pretty early the next morning so that we could get out and do our tourist thing. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel and went to the vaparetto to take us down the canal to St. Mark’s Square. Along the way we stopped for a Gondola ride...60 Euro and 10  minutes later it was over and I wanted to punch our “driver”. He didn’t give us any information, he just yelled at the other boats, and I’m sorry, but it wasn’t worth 6 Euro/minute. Not in a million. But it was an experience...just look for a gondola ride that will last longer than 10 minutes when you go!
We then headed to St. Mark’s. This was the huge tourist area and I knew it would be a cluster, but Ida hadn’t seen any of this before.  When we arrived we took some pictures and got in line for the Cathedral. The line moved fairly quickly, but you weren’t allowed to take bags or anything in and that made it a pain in the ass to try to see anything. We finally made it inside, which was okay Nothing that the other 1000 churches I have seen in my life weren’t, so I headed out to grab my bag quickly. Ida stayed behind and looked some more and met me outside about 30 minutes later. We then decided to check out the Doges Palace, which I hadn’t toured before and was interested in. 
Beer at Orange
Piazza San Margherita
We took a few more pictures and headed back to the hotel to relax a bit. The sun was hot and people everywhere were getting a bit much. We grabbed a slice of pizza and decided that we would eat light later and then hit up a bar. We did have dinner at a small cafe by the hotel and then we went to Campo San Margherita, where we sat at bar Orange. It was the same bar that Jen and I had been at 3 years ago. There was a lot going on in the square, so we had a few beers, enjoyed the locals, and headed back to the hotel around midnight.
Venice is a place that you either love or hate. I love Venice...the energy, the people, the water everywhere. It’s so amazing how people basically built everything on water and travel everywhere by boat. It’s a very confusing place to try to navigate because there are small alleys everywhere and some of them dead end in small canals. Walking around at night is especially creepy because you almost don’t know where you are going. Knowing your sights and walking by visual cues is the best advice that I can give. 

MIlan, Italy

With the last day of Kim’s trip upon us (I was continuing on without her from here), we got up at 9am and headed out into the city of Milan to check it out for the day. It was the last day of the trip with Kim and we wanted to make the most of it. Well, those were good intentions, but we didn’t get out of bed until 11am. Oh well, we needed the rest and we both felt refreshed after getting ready and heading out of the hotel by noon. We went straight towards the city center in hopes of finding a good meal for lunch. We found a small tobacco shop that had some decent lasagna and carbonara. After eating, we hit up some of the more famous piazzas and the Duomo, and then headed towards the Castello. We had some great pictures and we were enjoying the day, although we could have done without many of the tourists. The inside of the Duomo was gorgeous and huge, as expected.
When we got to the Castello, we found the hop-on/off bus and decided one more time would be great. So we spent the next 3 hours being shown random things around Milan, most of which were pretty boring and didn’t need to be discussed. When we got off of the second bus, we grabbed some gelato and hit up some local shops. With nothing to buy, we went back towards the Duomo and galleria where they had a wood-oven pizza restaurant. We split a pizza and had a glass of wine. While we were sitting there, we heard a bunch of music and saw people running through the galleria, realizing quickly that Milan was having it’s gay pride parade. We ate quickly and ran out into the festivities. It was a blast!! Not as good as in Chicago, but it was a ton of fun and they didn’t hold back with anything!! We danced and took pictures and watched the parade for about an hour.
After the excitement of the parade, we headed towards Maria Del Grazzia, where we were going to see the last supper. We stopped for a glass of wine to pass the time, where we spent the last of our Euro:(
The Last Supper was amazing. It was huge and took up an entire wall. The best part about the tour was that we were told about the intentions of the painting and why each person was depicted as shown. The painting was fading, but still very visible. It had just undergone a 21 year restoration to remove any newer paints that had attempted to improve the work. We basically saw it in it’s original form. It was beautiful, sometime that most people will never get to see. I would go again if I had the chance, but I would recommend to everyone that I know, that they go and see this masterpiece for themselves. (You have to get tickets far in advance to see this painting. It is a very popular attraction, and they only allow a limited number of people inside. It won’t be available for much longer, so if you get the chance, get to Milan and get your tickets! It’s worth the 60 Euros).

After the tour, it was getting late and we had an hour walk back to the hotel. We took a few night photos of the Duoma and Castello and made our way back to the hotel. We split a bowl of pasta and a piece of chocolate cake before packing our suitcases and calling it a night. Another long successful day under our belts. Despite all of the BS and craziness that came towards the end of the trip, everything turned out okay and we had an amazing time together. It was sad to think that it was over:(

Cinque Terre, Italy

Getting up even earlier the next day was horrible! Holy cow, it felt as if we were never sleeping, all the same, we were spending our time seeing amazing things and eating great food, so it was time to stop complaining. 
Bay at Riomaggiore
We got to the train station and our train was not listed. AWESOME! We walked around for a short bit and then headed towards the tracks where we saw other listings and noticed that our train was there. We boarded the train, quickly realizing that it was a commuter train that anyone could get on, found a seat and braced ourselves for a long ride. It was jam packed the entire way to the towns and we couldn’t move. People were everywhere, trying to cram themselves onto the train where there clearly was no room. Those were the longest 4 hours of the trip I believe.
When we finally got off the train in La Spezia, we began walking towards the piers. The train arrived late, which put us in a crappy position because when we got to the pier, we were 20 minutes too late for the ferry and it wouldn’t be coming back for at least another 2.5 hours. There was no way to get back to where we wanted to go without getting on the train again and backtracking to a place that we could have gotten off on before. It was hot, my legs were so swollen that I couldn’t bend my ankles, and we had to walk 15 minutes uphill at a fast rate just to make the earliest train. I don’t know how, but we boarded that train with about 1 minute to spare and I was longer looking nice in my sun dress!!
So Kim got us back to the train station in record time and we made it back to Riomaggiore. It was quaint, we had some bruschetta and wine and laid on the rocks in the sun until it was time to take the ferry to the other towns. The ferry ride was nice, there was a beautiful breeze and great angles for taking pictures. It definitely was the best way to see each of the villages and get an idea of what Cinque Terre really was. If I go back, I will definitely walk the path between the towns, but for a quick trip, the ferry was a great choice. Once we got to Monterosso (which has some of the best beaches in Cinque Terre), we found a great little restaurant and had some amazing pasta, which we split of course. It was a great view and definitely hit the spot because we hadn’t eaten much again today.
Gulfo de Poeti
Beach at Monterosso

After a quick lunch, we headed down to the beach to catch some late afternoon sun and get in the water. After the heat of the day, a quick dip in the sea was necessary. Cinque Terre surrounds a body of water called the Gulfo de Poeti. It is an inlet off of the Mediterranean Sea. Hot sun, cool water, beautiful views. What more could we ask for. We enjoyed the sun and surf, and around 6pm we headed back to the train station, grabbing some much needed gelato along the way. It was an easy end to the day and the ride home was nice because although it was a 3 hour train ride, we were back in first class, with a small compartment, few people, and no noise! I read the entire way home while Kim took a nap. The fresh air had worn us out and we were ready to head back to the hotel and get some much needed rest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lake Como, Italy

Boarding the boat in Como 
Since we had messed up our tour plans the day before, we decided to take the train to Lake Como and tour it ourselves.
We arrived in Como and we were told that we would have to take the bus to the lake. Fantastic. Well there were no buses going anywhere for quite a while, so we decided to try to walk, and we were in front of the lake in about 8 minutes. Glad we paid for those bus tickets! (More people lying to you for your money, always a beautiful thing!)
Exploring Bellagio 
The town was quaint, not quite what we were expecting, but nice. The tourist information people were amazing and in about 5 minutes, we had obtained our boat tickets that would get us up to Bellagio and back. This day was getting better. The only major issue was the clouds, but you can’t have everything...or so we were quickly finding out. So we sat down for a quick snack and glass of wine and had our first amazing plate of pasta in Italy. (The food in Milan is okay at best) It was fantastic and just what we needed. Shortly after, we boarded the boat and set sail across lake Como for Bellagio. It was going to be about a 2 hour ride, so we needed to find a good place to take pictures. About 20 minutes into the ride it began to rain. Even better! So we had a few good pictures, but we decided to head inside to have another glass of wine. At 2Euro, you couldn’t beat it! There was a big storm, downpour, thunder, lightening, the whole bit...but it cleared after a short while and we decided to head back outside for more pictures and fresh air. We were sitting out front for maybe 15 mintutes when the crew starting waving at us from inside the steer house. It was funny at first, but then they asked us to come in the steer house with them, where they offered us food and wine. We had just eaten, but we’ll always take free wine!! So we sat up front talking with the 6 men and their broken English, wondering what they were saying about us in Italian, drinking wine. It was a great way to see the lake, learn about the area, and have fun all at one. When the wine was finished, they asked if we’d like some more...of course we would...and the next thing you know, here come’s Dino (the head chef) with a bottle of Prosecco (champaign)! It was fantastic! We were having a blast, but we were also excited to get off of the boat and explore a little bit.
View from Bellagio
We walked around Bellagio for about 30 minutes, attempting to find a villa, at which we failed. Kim was a bit bummed about that, but we needed to eat! We headed back to this quiet little wine shop that we had seen walking up a path and when we got there, our take was surrounded by pictures of George Clooney. It was great! We shared a slice of lasagna, which was out of this world...cheesy goodness...and had another glass of wine. We had to move quick because our boat was coming to get us very soon. So we took some pictures, thanked to owner and got his card, and headed back to the dock.
George Clooney's Homes
Back aboard the same boat, we found a quiet place to hide from our new friends for a while to enjoy the scenery and take a few more pictures the sun was breaking through the clouds, so the lake looked completely different! It was still beautiful, but in a much different way. For the last 30 minutes of the ride, or so, we sat up front with our steer house friends, making pleasant conversation again. They were telling us about a big festival with fireworks that was taking place this upcoming Saturday, and that we should come back. We would have loved to, but at that point we were planning on being in Switzerland. We thanked them for all of their hospitality and alcohol and headed back into Como.
Back on land, we grabbed a scoop of gellato and continued our walk. We journeyed through the town of Como deciding that this was where we needed to be. If we could just find an investor, we could run an amazing Bed and breakfast on the lake for a great price, and run it ourselves, able to enjoy the beauty of the area everyday. It was perfect. Eventually, dreams in hand, we made our way back to the train station, bus tickets still unused, and boarded our train to head back to Milan. 

Lake Como is beautiful and amazing, everything you would dream it to be. In my eyes, having mountains and water, is the perfect place to live. We saw George Clooney's houses (yes, plural) and many other beautiful villas. It is a beautiful area with many quaint and gorgeous towns along the lakes. Everyone there was friendly and seemed happy. This is a great place to spend a few days and just relax, maybe even honeymoon if the mood strikes. I would visit Lake Como again in a heartbeat!!

Verona, Italy

Streets of Verona
We woke up very early the next morning because we had a 9:05am train to catch to Verona. We showered quickly, got dressed, packed, and headed with our suitcases, back to Hotel Fenice. After dropping off our luggage, we felt a little bit better about our trip and knew that we would have a great time in Verona. We would have a great meal, drink some wine, take some pictures, and write a letter to Juliet. What could be better?
The train ride was fine, nothing new. When we arrived in Verona, we realized that we would have to take a bus to get to the city center, which was okay, but we had envisioned walking. Oh well. 

Juliet's Balcony
City Center Square
We got off the bus, took some pictures and began walking around. There is a small Colosseum where they now hold concerts that leads your way into the old town area. The streets are very narrow, seemingly more so than many of the other places that we had visited. It was almost hard to walk as there were people everywhere, tours, families, was a madhouse. SO we saw the major sites, Juliet’s Balcony, the arena, etc...and headed away from the madness. We walked around most of the city, sweating and looking for a place to eat. Juliet's balcony was crowded. It's in a small courtyard down a small street, somewhat hard to find at first. Then you find all of the people. Holy cow, you can barely get in and getting a good angle for a picture was almost impossible. The walls in the courtyard are covered in graffiti and gum. People just write on the walls and keep going. I guess that's their answer to leaving letters these days. Makes your realize that the movies really do romanticize some of these places!

The main square in Verona has a market and many restaurants. It was also very crowded, but the architecture is beautiful. Big buildings all around built out of old stone. If there had just been a few less people, the pictures may have been better...but it was good people watching! Walking outside of the main town area, we were able to see the real Verona. Vineyards on hillsides, churches, gardens, bridges over the river...beautiful, peaceful.
We had a nice lunch in Verona, with a fabulous glass of wine. We walked around a little more and grabbed some gellato. Ice cream always helps! We walked back to the train station, which really wasn't that far, as we had been told...but it was warm and the weather was beautiful, so there was no reason to not walk.
Verona is a nice city, some place that I was glad to have visited. Having more time to walk around and visit some of the surrounding towns would have been nice...but for a day trip from Milan, it was perfect.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Munich, Germany

Another pretty early morning, we had to get up, eat, and walk to the train station. The walk wasn’t too bad, even with our big bags, especially because it was all downhill. We made it with plenty of time to spare, relaxed a bit, and boarded the train. We managed to get double seats to ourselves again which is fantastic because the extra room on a 6 hour ride is essential to keeping your sanity. We are currently on our way to Munich, and I am so excited to get there. It seems like our hotel is in a great location again, and we should be able to walk most places. Our goal for today is to see a few things and head to the Hofbrauhaus for some food and drinks. It probably won’t be a crazy night because we have a tour early tomorrow again, but we shall see where the night takes us! 
Kim at the Irish Fest
Once we arrived in Munich, we found that our hotel was about 2 minutes from the train station, which was very convenient. We checked-in, cleaned up a little bit, and decided to walk to the city center. Munich is a very interesting town with lots of people. When we got to the city center, there was an Irish festival going on with live music and lots of beer. We quickly joined in the festivities, and two beers in decided that it was time to get some food, before things took a wrong turn! We headed to the Haufbrauhaus and along the way, we went through Marianplatz, where there was another big festival going on. There were people everywhere and we didn’t even know which way to go!
Fun at the Hofbrauhaus...the face was for effect....I promise!
We made our way to the restaurant, where we were served liter sized beers by an interesting looking waiter. It was a huge place and you just had to find a table area with enough room for you and your party, and join in the festivities with those around you. We sat with two Taiwanese men and an older couple, who were friendly enough. We ordered a couple different kinds of sausage and took in the atmosphere. After two beers and too much food, we were being bombarded with guys trying to talk to us, people staring and asking if Kim was famous. It was almost more than we could handle. The waiter and one of the managers told us that if people were bothering us, we could let them know and they would keep the others away. It was quite a scene.
We decided, after spending 3 very interesting hours at this landmark, to head to another bar. The waiter recommended one, but we never found it...Maybe it was the beer, maybe we just weren’t meant to find it. Whatever the case, we decided to head to an Irish pub, where we were told there would be karaoke and fun times. It was packed!! We found a spot near the front, grabbed a couple of beers, and sung along with whoever was brave enough to get up on stage. Soon after arriving, these guys started talking to me. They were harmless and there was a big group of them, so I went with it. We were all having a blast. Then these girls at the bar started talking about Kim and I. They were staring and making comments about us, things that were very inappropriate. Just before I was about to confront them, because enough was enough, they left. Thank the lord. We continued having a good time, met more of the guys in the group. They were from Northern England, in for a bachelor party. They were a blast. We actually all drank and sang until we were kicked out of the bar because they were closing.
The fountain in front of the Munich City Center
Along the walk home, I decided to get one of the guys to run through the big fountain in front of one of the city gates with me. It was stupid, and I froze the entire way home, but it was hilarious! There was a group of teenage boys walking by and they all stopped to hi-five us, saying we were awesome! Whatever, just another night in Munich right?

After leaving the boys to head back to their hotel, Kim was on a mission for french fries and BK. We got both and went back to stuff our faces and pass out before our tour the next morning. What a great introduction to Munich!

Country castle of
King Ludwig II
Neuschwanstein Castle
Tour day! Yea, we were up early and hungover! OUCH:) We did manage to get up and moving in time, it was a quick walk to the meeting place and we boarded the bus just to sit by a bunch of annoying people. There was a woman and her three daughters who wouldn’t stop looking at pictures, where the camera made noise with every button you pressed. The people behind us reeked of smoke, and everyone else were just a bunch of idiots who couldn’t follow directions. With that being said, we were headed into the German countryside, which is absolutely beautiful. Mountains everywhere and just scenic views. It’s easy to see why people would want to live there. We first stopped at a smaller schloss of King Ludwig II. It was larger than it appeared, but perfect for one person and it was hidden back in the woods, which made it a beautiful location to relax. It was complete with a giant fountain and beautiful gardens all around. We then went to a small Bavarian town...(Oberveron???) where we could take pictures and we learned about the passion play that they put on once every ten years. From there we went near the Neuschwanstein Schloss and had lunch. (I”m done with frankfuerters)...walked up a huge hill, and entered a magnificent castle. It is the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle (Disney) and is perched high up in the mountains. You could walk up, take the horse carriages, or the tram. We decided to avoid the long lines and save some money by walking. What a walk it was. Good exercise though. The tour was nice, annoying people trying to take pictures when they aren’t supposed to, but nice all the same. We were able to see all of the castle that is complete,which is only about 1/3 of the original plans since the king died before it was finished. We then took the same path back down the hill and waited for the bus ride home. There was another castle on the other side of the small town, but we did not have time to visit that castle. It was an older castle than the Neuchwanstein.
German Countryside
Neuschwanstein Castle
Our tour guide was an interesting fellow. He was dressed in all black and clearly took his job very seriously. He had a soft voice and he didn’t move his mouth much when he spoke, but his voice was a bit shaky and squeaky, which was interesting. He spoke much like you would think of a vampire talking, with all v’s instead of w’s...which greatly amused me. He spoke very highly of everything in the castle, walked and moved very slowly, and lightly gestured to everything in the room with a sweep of his hand. He had a ton of information, which was great, and he always paused long enough for us all to take in what he was saying and see what was around us. When he walked, he held is arms straight down, slightly in front of his body, almost like a tired zombie. Also, very amusing. He made me think of a creepy old butler in a big castle from the movies. It was cute and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Olympic Park, Munich
The bus ride home was long enough an we were exhausted by the time we got back, but we needed to go out and eat some food and make the best of our last night in Munich. We found a great tex-mex restaurant called Zapata, which was a little ways from the city center, but we found a new cute part of town. The food was great and the atmosphere was a lot of fun. Dark and relaxing, but could turn into a rowdy time if permitted! On the way home, we stopped at the Augustiner beer garden, went down into the wine cellar where they had live music, and had another beer with the locals. It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day or night, how old you are, or where you are from, the best way to be like a local is to just drink beer! They love their beer and they love to sing along while they drink. It was a blast. Prost!
Nymphenburg Schloss (Castle)
After all of that, we headed back to the hotel to check emails and get some rest. We were in for yet another long day and needed some sleep!

We got up early this morning, grabbed a croissant, and headed out to do the tourist thing. We had decided the night before that because of time and energy, we were just going to take the hop-on/off bus and try to see as much as possible. We took the first bus which showed us Nymphenburg Schloss and Olympic Park. Both were very neat. I’d love to have the chance to get back and spend some time in the park. Munich is actually putting in a bid for the 2018 Olympics as well, which would be very cool. So there is a lot of renovations happening right now throughout the city. After we returned from that circuit, we hopped on the City Tour and looked at the major sites around the city center. It was hard to take many pictures because we were too close to many of the buildings and the bus was packed. But it was nice to learn about the history of the city and see where some things were.
After going for both bus rides, we headed back to the city center on foot to hit up the market. The fresh fruit looked amazing, so I bought a couple of pieces for the train ride. After spending about 50 minutes walking around, we headed back to the hotel to grab our suitcases and work our way towards the train station. We grabbed some goodies from the bake shop and got on the train.
This train ride is going to be about 8 hours long and we sit in little compartments with space for 6. The problem is, is that there is no room for luggage. So it was entertaining to see people struggle to climb over ours, while we patted ourselves on the back for getting on the train before the rush. We had two other people in our little car, but they were off the train within about 1 1/2hours. It seemed like there wasn’t going to be anyone else joining us. We brought our luggage in out of the way, spread out, and laid across the seats. It was amazing!! We were so comfortable, and I took a short nap before it was snack time again. Then, with about 3 hours of the trip left, another woman joined out cart. We had to pick everything up quick and move our things to let her in. We apologized for the mess and did everything as quickly as possible. She just sat down and kept to herself. Fine, nothing wrong with that. Then Kim moved towards the window and put her feet up and the lady yelled at her to put her feet down. Kim rolled her eyes and said no, and the woman started saying a bunch of stuff in Italian or German or something, so she finally put her feet down. They lady was just obnoxious...mind your own business. So here we are, trying to finish journaling and enjoy the rest of this long ride after a busy morning, and we have someone’s mom trying to play god. Fantastic! Ugh, can’t they move her to another seat or something!? I figured she would try to move and I almost wanted to be rude just to push her out, but the bigger person right? 
Neuschwanstein Castle
Oberveron, Germany
Beyond that, the train ride was okay, nothing much worth noting besides the beautiful scenery along the way...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prague, Czech Republic

Cab ride from Vienna to Prague
We were able to sleep in a bit before getting up to pack and head to the train station. We are supposed to be on our way to Prague today. What we didn’t know and only learned when the train arrived, was that the Czech transportation system is on strike today, so no one is taking a train in or out of the country today. It’s not that another night in Vienna would be bad, but we have our hotel paid for and we have a tour bright and early the next day. LESSON: Check your train at the ticket office before assuming that it's still going to be there...Lesson Learned!
Wenscelas Square
We laughed a bit about our luck and then began plotting how we were going to get to Prague without the train tickets that we already had in hand...
I went into the ticket shop at the train station and ran into another group that was in the same predicament. They had looked up airfare, which was going to be $600/person, one way. That wasn’t an option. We could take a bus, but it wasn’t going to leave until 3:45pm and it would take at least 5 hours to get there. Ugh...After talking with these people a bit longer, they had decided to take a taxi to Prague, which was going to cost them 300 Euro. Kim and I decided that this was going to be our best bet, so we were in. We then met Van from Texas, who is an aerospace engineer (rocket scientist) and works on helicopters. We offered him a seat in our car to cut costs and he accepted. Two others from Phoenix joined in the hunt and got a taxi of their own. Soon after we were on our way to Prague by taxi and the price went up to 350Euro per car. I was a little annoyed, but the fact of the matter is that we would lose money with the hotel situation, plus we’d have to find place in Vienna, and we might even miss the tour tomorrow.
National Library in Prague
So, we are on our taxi journey to Prague, riding along through the beautiful countryside hoping for the best. There are always bumps in the road and it’s how you deal with them that counts. I think that we are doing the best that we can and what’s a few more dollars at this point?? We definitely don’t have money to throw around, but we can make due and just be careful to stay on budget from here on out!!
Astronomical Clock
When we arrived in Prague, the cabs dropped us all off near Wenceslas Square. We knew that our hotel was nearby, it was just a matter of finding it.  After asking a couple locals, we began a short journey up a steep hill with our suitcases. Within less than 10 minutes we had located our hotel, in very sweaty fashion. The upside was that it was a nice hotel within walking distance of everything and the weather seemed like it was going to be fantastic. The downside was that we needed to cool off and refresh before we could do anything!!
Prague from the hill
We gathered ourselves, asked a few questions of the receptionist and made our way back to the square. We decided that we were going to try local cuisine that night at a restaurant suggested to us by a local that Kim had previously met in Mexico. The food was delicious and we were extremely full, so we decided to walk to the Charles Bridge to try to get a few night pictures. The scene was supposed to be stunning. Along the way we came across the Astonomical Clock in the Old Town Square. This was the Prague that we had read about and dreamt about visiting. There were lots of people, small streets with shops and food, outdoor cafes, and old buildings lit up for the evening. The Old Town was mysterious and kind of creepy, but in a very welcoming and warm kind of way. After taking numerous pictures, we headed to the bridge where we found yet another mass of people, but breathtaking scenes all in one. We even ran into many of our taxi-mates from earlier. We were able to get pictures of the bridge, river, Prague Castle, and Cathedral. It was beautiful.
Charles Bridge from the river
Guards at Prague Castle
On our way home, it began pouring rain, which meant it was time for us to turn in. It had been a long day anyways and we had a tour the next morning. Very happy with the city and our location, we turned in for the night, excited about the prospects of the next day.

We got up fairly early the next day, grabbed some breakfast, and headed out to meet our tour. We had to walk through Wenceslas Square to get there, but we found it without much issue.  The tour drove us around much of the city, pointing out some fo the major areas and took us across the river to the castle. We were able to get out and walk around the castle, where we saw the changing of the guards, took some stunning pictures of the city from above, and walked through the gothic cathedral and vineyards on our way back to the bus. The bus then took us the to boat, where we had a short river tour of the city and were about to take pictures of the Charles Bridge from a different angle. From the boat, we walked through the upscale shopping area, Jewish area, and back to the Old Town Square. It was explained to us that when the clock chimed on the hour, the 12 saints appeared in the small blue windows above the clock, and the skeleton rang the bell. That’s what everyone had been staring at the night before!!  Oops!
Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge
After leaving the tour, Kim and I decided to walk back to the Jewish Cemetary, which had over 12,000 headstones confined in a very small area, basically built one on top of the other. It was very sad, but definitely something worth seeing. There are also many Synagogues in Prague, but we chose to not visit those. We walked back to the Old Town Square, sat at a cafe and ate desserts for lunch! We shared an ice cream sundae with baileys on it and apple streudel. THey were yummy!! Then we walked back to the Charles Bridge for more day time pictures, and then on to the train station to check on reservations for the train to Berlin. Since we had seen most of Prague and had an extra day to travel on the train, we thought that it might be neat to take a day in Berlin. Once finding the train station and information, we were told that no reservations were necessary, which was fantastic, and we headed back to the hotel. Along the way, we grabbed some McDonald’s as a cheaper dinner alternative.
We napped for a short bit and then got ready to go out. We had been looking forward to going out in Prague and we had a list of places to try. Most were within walking distance, so it seemed likely that we would be visiting a few. We began with a drink at Deja Vu. It was a cool atmosphere, dark with 70’s music playing. The crowd seemed laid back and the drinks were decent. We then headed to Harley’s. Harley’s was underground and decorated to be like hell. The bartenders were all in devil horns and chains, but very good looking. We had a traditional Czech shot and a drink. What a way to get started, but much cheaper than the other place! The bartender then gave us another free shot, so we were definitely having a good time. We took a few pictures, enjoyed the music, and had another round.
Jewish Cemetary
McDonald's Massacre
Kim decided that she wanted to go to a dance club, even though it seemed like Harley’s was what we were looking for. So we grabbed a cab and headed to Mecca. After paying the cab driver 500 crowns (yikes!), we went into the club, where there was no one, and they wanted to charge us almost 300 crowns per person to get in. We quickly decided that this place was dead and we needed to head back to Old Town. Another 300 crowns and we were back within walking distance of the hotel. We tried one more club, which was three levels decorated like Pulp Fiction, and there was no one there. 
Feeling tired and let down, we headed back to the hotel. Of course we had to get McDonald’s along the way because by that time and after that amount of alcohol we were starving. After grabbing our food to go, we headed back through Wenceslas Square towards the hotel and it started pouring rain. Once again, we got back “home” drenched and with the food barely making it. Kim had done her best to protect the food, but we did have one set of fries fall through the bag onto the sidewalk, which were promptly scooped up and put back in the heap of food! It was delicious though. The only casualty that night was the bed spread.

Sausage in Prague

Prague is an amazing city that I would go back to in a heart beat. It has an old gothic feel to it, which was dark and mysterious in its' own right. It's a very romantic city in a different sort of way, but a place that you can definitely spend some time in and truly enjoy the culture and blending in to the daily hustle and bustle. The local cuisine was amazing and the people were a blast. There is so much to see that we took in as much as we could in the time that we were there...but it's definitely on the list to see again.