Archive | August 2015

Reflections of Prague

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I have officially left Prague and am now in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. So I thought it would be nice to reflect what I had learnt in Prague and the feels that I got whilst there. I’m not the one to be giving a history lesson but if you don’t know the history I can give you a brief run down. Formally known as Czechoslovakia, it was one of the most strongest European countries economically up until World War II where it was taken over by Nazi Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Czechoslovakian citizens and their jewish populations were sent to concentration camps, interrogated in prisons and/or were forced labourers. It wasn’t until 1945 before Soviet and American armies arrived to liberate the country from German rule and is now known as the Spring Uprising. The country was then a communist state up until 1989 when the Velvet Revolution occurred, where the country became a democracy peacefully in that year. History lesson over.

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The 2 images above are of the John Lesson Wall, which is located in Lesser Town just off the Charles bridge. This wall was like your average everyday other wall until 1988 when the youngsters decided that they weren’t happy with the communist country and how it was being run. Apparently, authorities had tried cleaning the wall only to have it become graffiti-ed over again and again with world loving messages. Today, it is a vibrant addition to the city and is changing everyday judging from the people drawing with pen on the wall. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I stood there looking at the wall. This is the sign of unhappy citizens in a country who wanted to be heard and change their country for the better (I hope). A country that had gone through so much from being one of the strongest countries in Europe to one whose Government was exiled during World War II. It gives me hope! So much so, it was making me teary.

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This is a picture of the Zizkov TV Tower aka one of the world’s ugliest towers, which was built by the Nazi German’s to block radio signals from the east. I stayed close to this tower so got to see it lit up at night (Czech flag colours). War bunkers and communist-styled buildings dot this city. Adding something to the Gothic, baroque and cubic architecture. To me, it’s a blend of their history into the modern day Czech Republic and a reminder of their past so evidently everywhere. It makes me want to play a lament to the country and I hope they see additional good years to come.

-S.

Live from Prague: Karlovy Vary

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Karlovy Vary (or Carlsbad) is approximately a 2 hour drive west of Prague. It’s known as a spa town and I’d seen pretty pictures of that town so that was enough to get me to book a day trip out. I went with Prague Sightseeing Tour (booked through Viator) for the 10 hour day trip. It’s a scenic drive out of Prague past hops plantations and fields of green and forest on each side. We passed through the Moser glass factory before setting foot in the Old Town. There are taps dotted throughout the promenade and nearby you can buy these VERY niche Karlovy Vary mugs. These mugs let you drink from the handle to try the assorted mineral water. Incase you had forgotten, let me remind you that mineral water contains more minerals than the average drinking water from the tap so let’s just say there were a lot of faces to suggest that the mineral water did not have a nice taste. Perhaps, it’s an acquired taste.

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Other things that originate from Karlovy Vary are the Czech liqueur Becherovka and the Carlsbad wafer (Karlovarské oplatky). I have not tried the liqueur but you can buy it there (or any liqueur store in Prague) but I can tell you about the wafer. You can find them in boxes being sold on the promenade, you won’t miss it. Just look for the hoards of people infront of boxes. You can also buy them individually to eat straight away if you want to taste it first. Personally, I would get flavoured ones unless you like plain original flavours. It IS just a wafer. You have been warned. I would also stock up on it because since returning (a whole 24 hours ago), I have tried to see if I could find it in the local supermarket but have been unsuccessful. If anyone knows where to get them from in the city centre, let me know!

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The town is very picturesque and I would recommend it. Personally, unless you want a spa treatment, the one day trip of the Old Town is ample to get a snap shot of Karlovy Vary.

-S.

Live from Prague: Food

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Food!

I’m pretty bad at taking pictures of food. Once the plate hits the table, I’ve already reached for cutlery and cannot stand friends who prohibit you from eating until after they get their snaps. Part of a culture is their food so what better way to experience it than to eat it. If you’ve read anything about Czech cuisine, you will hear that it is heavy. This is correct. The traditional Czech foods involve some hearty meats served with dumplings. This is not to be confused with Asian dumplings, Czech dumplings are made from flour (can be anything from potato, what or buckwheat) which is then boiled and then sliced up and served with the hearty meat. I tried the beef goulash after getting over my sickness, delicious. No picture here as I had already eaten it before I thought about taking the picture.

First picture above. Smazeny syr aka fried cheese. This particular one was camembert cheese served with potatoes and cranberry sauce. Can I just say that this is the best thing ever invented after sliced bread? A friend had told me to go and try this and it was actually quite hard to find in the Old Town. It was heavy but the cranberry sauce was a nice addition and I almost finished it minus the potatoes. Tip of the day, always walk to surrounding streets of touristy areas to find the best deals. I will definitely try and hunt for more tonight!

Last picture is Trdelnik. Now I have eaten this back home in Aus at a Hungarian patisserie so was confused when I arrived here and found these everywhere. After alittle research (googling), turns out it’s just generally Slovak which each country claiming it as their own but it actually originated from the Hungarian-speaking Romanian town Szeklerland. It’s made from dough that’s rolled into a thin log and then spun around a pin. It’s covered in sugar and then roasted until golden brown. There are variations to how it’s garnished, sometimes just sugar on the outside, you can also have nuts and the option of nutella on the inside. Personally, I would go without nutella as it’s already quite sweet from the sugar. Perfect afternoon snack as you people watch.

What are some of your favourite Czech foods? Let me know!

-S.

Live from Prague

Hello guys,

I am currently writing this in Prague, not that I have actually seen much outside the area I’m staying at yet. I landed mid-morning after the mammoth 21 hour plane trip (3 flights in total) and have since spent my afternoon in bed feeling sick. Yes, I have thrown up. Yes, I’m currently drinking some peppermint tea and yes, I am about to eat some blueberries.

This trip has been kept under wraps for a while. I initially booked this trip about 3 months ago and it has been crazy until now. Oh yeah, did I mention anywhere on my blog that I’ve submitted my PhD thesis? This is the post PhD party and a 2.5 month one at that. Minus the getting sick bit. It is safe to say that this trip is the first in years where I don’t have much to really think about and can try and relax. Does anyone even know how to relax anymore?

I’m not sure how often I will be posting but probably not every day as I’m also keeping a personal diary (old school handwritten).

Leaving you here with the mystery as I need to be un-jetlagged, quicken the drying process of the currently flooded bathroom floor after my shower and I also need to make up for the 3 hours sleep I got over the past 2 days of flying!

Keep living guys,

S.

Accommodation Choices

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Obviously when you’re travelling, you need a place to stay but aside from the hotel, where else can you stay and save?

One of my favourite websites to use for accommodation bookings is bookings.com. It’s easy to use, you just plug in your dates of travel, number of guests and town and hit search. It brings up a whole list of hotels/hostels/B&Bs so you can compare prices, reviews from other people and compare features between each place. Things I keep an eye out for are air conditioning and wifi as not all places have these included in the price or at all. I also like to book rooms that have $0 cancellation costs incase you find a better place to stay or want to change your dates. I also really like the review feature which lets you browse through to see what other people’s experiences were like and make sure you leave your own for the next travellers.

If these prices are still too expensive or I want a place with a kitchen to stay at, I will look at Airbnb. You get to pick whether you want a whole apartment to yourself or a private room within someone else’s home. The benefit of this is a more personalised type of accommodation and someone to ask questions to about local things. The downside is not having the chance to stay around other guests (although some places do rent out all their rooms so you can expect to bump into someone else) or have the safety back-up of a “hotel or hostel corporation” like structure to smooth out any issues right away (although AirBnB does have legal say in things to protect hosts). Just another tip, a service fee is involved in each booking that goes straight to AirBnB and you don’t get this back if you need to cancel. I’ve used Airbnb before and will be giving it some more goes but it’s very dependent on individual experiences both with the place and with the hosts so goodluck!

Another option is to use couchsurfing. This isn’t just free accommodation (but yay free) but more of a community exchange. For the free stay, you should at least make a meal for or take your host/s out for a meal to say thanks. On the couchsurfing website, there are reviews of both hosts and guests so have a look through this thoroughly as not so good things have happened. You can message past guests to ask about the host. I haven’t used couchsurfing yet but maybe I will soon.

Hope I’ve given you an insight of my booking ways. If you wish to leave a comment, let me know what you think and what sites you use.

-S.

A letter from Sophie

Hello there.

I initially drafted this post as a July post but never finished writing it in time so happy August!

I have been a little MIA and am thoroughly annoyed but things have been busy on my end with trying to get my thesis ready to submit. Woo!. I hope there will be more regular-ish posts from mid-August onwards. I have also yet to figure out how to change the time zone in my posting section so if anyone else knows, let me know!

In the meantime, I came across this article recently about 9 dying tourist sites because of tourists and is actually focused on a topic that I have wanted to blog about for ages so I better get writing now that it’s been re-triggered in my mind. As much as I love travelling, all human behaviour has an impact on our environment and I think we are so behind the times on where we should be at addressing these issues (in every sense). Leaving you with some food for thought until next time.

I hope the world is finding you well or vice-versa and I shall be updating you soon!

-S.

Wanderlust Inspo

I’m not sure if wanderlust can have inspiration or is the verb of already having been inspired but anyway, check out the video above for some SERIOUS wanderlust.

-S.