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Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Beer Garden at Vyserhad

Originally uploaded by lostinplace.

Finally! Thanks to my traveling pal CJ, who actually OWNS a digital camera, we finally have some photos from our trip. I’ve uploaded some to the blog, and others to my Flickr account. Just click on the photo ( or here) to see more. I’ve got to fiddle with the sizing on some, but this was what I had time to do quickly, there are photos from Warsaw, Krakow, Prague and out hike yesterday here in Cesky Krumlov. I took this one with CJ’s camera at a beer garden in Prague last Friday night. But most of these photos were taken by her…thanks CJ!

Cesky Krumlov and Climbing to Klet

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.

~ Louis L’Amour

We went on a 4-mile hike through the low hills surrounding Cesky Krumlov today and trekked to the top of Klet Mountain, about 1,000 meters above sea level. We packed a light lunch and our journals and had hoped to hang out up there for a few hours this afternoon, but the weather had other plans. We started about 10 am under overcast skies, the drips began about halfway up the steep climb, and by the time we reached the top a strong steady rain was falling. We ate our cheese sandwiches and granola bars under the shelter of a summer restaurant/lodge, took a few photos and began the return trip — a fast, soggy decent. Despite the rain, I still loved every minute of the invigorating hike, the serene landscape and the silence. It was delightful to hear only the soft bubble of mountain streams, the pitter patter of falling rain and the crunch of earth beneath our feet — a wonderfully peaceful hike, a great workout for our legs, and of course, by the time we got back to town around 2:30 pm, the sun was shining and we were all dry 🙂



I am enjoying Cesky Krumlov much more than I thought I would. This place is a tourist magnet, so I was hesitant to come, but we have hit it a week before the official tourist season kicks off and are able to enjoy quiet cozy cafes and nearly deserted streets in the evening. A few tour buses come through during the day, but we really have the place to ourselves, which is just how I like it. This place must be mobbed in summer and I would not come then, it is much too small to handle throngs of tourists. That said, this charming village has got a hold on me…and so I’m staying for a few days longer. CJ leaves for Vienna tomorrow but I will stay here for at least two more days. I’ve got lots of reading and writing to catch up on, some travel articles and hostel reviews to work on, and of course, more travel planning! The internet is cheap here and the cafes are empty, and our hostel, Krumlov House, is rustic and magical in a very comforting way. Completely different than our last hostel, the new urban-chic Czech Inn in Prague, but just as charming in its own special way…so I will linger. As the half-way point of my European adventure approaches, I really feel the need to slow things down more often, and this place is perfect for now.

Beer Cheese is the Best

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Have you ever had this stuff? It is a favorite here in Prague and CJ and I indulged in this local treat on two separate occasions this week. A generous portion of beer-flavored cheese is served with toasted bread and whole cloves of garlic. You rub garlic on the warm toast, spread on some cheese and take a bite, followed by a swig of a pilsner or something darker if you are a real beer lover. I am not a huge beer gal (boy do I miss those Spanish-wine-with-every-meal -days) but this beer cheese treat really goes quite nicely with a cold one.

We are wrapping up our stay in Prague, and it has been a faulous and memorable week. On Friday we visited Vysehrad, a fortress high on a hill with great views of the river and castle. While there we went to a great rustic outdoor beer garden on the fortress grounds, full of jugglers, dogs and families enjoying a Friday night drink. We then headed to New Town to a very famous, and more touristy beer hall, U Fleku, where we tried their traditional dark brew and met five very nice Brits too, who we then bar-hopped with for a bit. I/we wound up drinking a super-mojito, which I didn’t expect to do in Prague, but it was all part of a fun night out.

We spent most of Saturday and Sunday doing intensive travel planning at an internet cafe for the next leg of our journey. We’re headed to Cesky Krumlov next (3 days), then CJ and I will split up for about four days,eventually reuniting in Budapest for a week, followed by another week or so in Slovenia before we split up for good in early May. We will both be spending time in Italy after that, but will be visiting different friends and family in different parts of the country. Lots of logistics to work out, especially with the high season fast approaching, so it was important to get started on all this. It meant that I did not get to a museum as I had hoped, but all the more reason for a return visit one day.

Springtime in Prague

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Finally!! Since I last wrote things have improved dramatically…the weather has cooperated with a strong sun, budding trees and flowers, and the forcast calls for 60 degrees all week. And the hostel we switched to is a gem…great breakfast, showers and helpful staff…nicest and newest hostel we have stayed in by far, it only opened last month in the less-tourist Vinohrady district. It’s amazing what a little warmth and a comfy pillow can do to boost my spirits. Ofcourse this absolutely glorious city has played a part in the uplifting too…It’s more magical than I imagined…full of amazing architecture and parks, an excelent public transport system (I’m loving the trams!) plus spectacular views from all around. I may have written this before, but I just love cities with hills…it seems to add such character to a place, and as CJ said today, this city has wonderful hills in the right spots. I also adore cities with green space and parks where you can feel away from it all and still be in the heart of the city…and Prague has plenty of this too. We had a picnic lunch on Petrin Hill today, in the shadow of the Strahov Monastary and Prague Castle. Yesterday we did a 4 hour early morning walking tour with Prague Walks and today we retraced our steps and visited some of the gardens and chuches in the quaint Little Quarter, Mala Strana. And of course we have enjoyed walking along the Vltava River and over the famous Charles Bridge. There are some unique museums and art galleries here, including ones that feature Czech cubism and Art Nouveau styles, I’m hoping to visit them this weekend, and tomorrow we may visit the Jewish Quarter. There is laundry and some spring clothes shopping to do (time for new socks!) and of course travel planning, I’ll fit it all in, even if there is no rainy day.

Two Month Mark

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Yesterday CJ and I celebrated a low-key and peaceful Easter Sunday. We also celebrated milestones in our journey. It’s been one month since she landed in Madrid, and it’s been two months since I touched down in Portugal! Back in mid-February, I was wandering through the Alfama and sharing drinks with university students in Lisbon, and one month ago in mid-March I was nestled away in the mountains of Spain making friendships that I hope last a lifetime, while also learning lots about Spanish culture and language. And now I’ve arrived in Prague…Wow. I’m one lucky lady. Somebody pinch me. Is this for real?
Actually, somebody hug me too, okay? 🙂

No worries…I’m FINE — but I’ll admit this past weekend was an emotional one, partially because I was reflecting on my amazing travels thus far (and thinking lots about what’s to come in this journey, and afterwards) and also because my heart was really far away, with my family and friends back home. I missed participating in one of my favorite holiday tradtions — Easter Sunday at Williams Lake — but thanks to mom, I already received photos via email and was so happy to see everyone in their Sunday best looking fantastic and beautiful, enjoying the day and the great weather.

Central Europe suffered one of the coldest winters they have had in years, and spring is slow to come here. That has def. got me down a bit…I’m ready to shed some of these worn clothes in exchange for cheap new ones, but the weather has to improve first. At least mom is happy I’m STILL wearing the great scarf she knit for me for this trip! Yes mom, you are still hugging me daily!
It seems as if Easter back home in NY was much warmer and springy than the one we celebrated in Krakow, although it was a nice day just the same — CJ and I bought dafodills for the dorm room, ate a special cake we had blessed, and even bought an Easter basket. Celebrating the Easter holiday in Warsaw and Krakow was something I will cherish forever, it was a very special experience for me. As mom and dad said in support and love on the phone yesterday, I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now,which I believe is true too, but I do miss the warmth…and I miss baseball and long phone chats with good pals and my fam.
But it is all good, I’ve just got lots on the brain today — that’s what a 7 hour train ride will do to you! There is lots to sort through — we’ve got to come up with a loose itinerary for the next few weeks, and figure out when CJ and I will split ways. Then I have to get working on plans with my Aunt C, who I’ll be spending time with in Italy and Croatia next month…and then there is June and World Cup plans!! I’m lucky enough to have some tixs, but no accommodations yet…fun stuff. It will all work out, but I should take advantage of the less-than-stellar weather we are having and really organize my plans for the remainder of my trip while I have time this week.

Well now — how’s that for a Monday evening, two-month mark brain dump? And that’s not even the half of it…you should see my daily handwritten journals (yup, I’m on to journal number two already) It’s great — lots of energy and ideas and stories…writing is one of my daily joys. And reading too.
Well, happy spring everyone, I hope to be in touch with some of you soon via email and phone…and shoot me a comment when you can! How are each of YOU??

Holy Week in Krakow

Friday, April 14th, 2006

We’ve been in Krakow since Monday and are enjoying it very much, but unfortunately there is no time for me to write about it. The hostel allows a half hour free internet each day and I am maxing mine right now so I must make this short. It is incredible to spend Holy week here and participate in the services and festivities. We went to Holy Thursday mass last night and I was amazed at what we wintessed, massive crowds and a beautiful ceremony. I can only imagine what Easter Day will be like in this devout Catholic country. We have also wandered aimlessly through Old Town, spent time in a wonderful bookstore cafe, and made the important and somber visit to Auschwitz — all very different experiences, but all part of our week here. Lots of education and prayer this week, and we are meeting some great folks in the hostel too, and running into some people that we met earlier in our travels.

We made it to Warsaw

Friday, April 7th, 2006

We took a train to Warsaw today, where we will spend the Palm Sunday weekend, then head to Krakow on Monday and spend an entire week there, including Easter Sunday, before heading to Prague for another seven days. It’s nice to have the next 2+ weeks planned out and booked…

Berlin was cool, the best was Terry Brewer’s ten hour walking tour, which was a life-altering experience…no other words to describe it. Truly, a great history lesson, some laughs and a few intense and difficult moments too, but an excellent introduction to the city.

No time to write more now, but oh how I wish I did. Gotta get some grub, wash up and get some zzz’s.

Berlin Bound

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Well, actually, we are already here, arrived a few hours ago. And I already wrote a bit about our excellent train ride. This city is huge, so a walking tour is definetly in order. There are some well-known free ones, and also a popular 8 hour all-day one for only 12 euros that we are contemplating for tomorrow, as long as the weather looks decent. We need something organized to get our bearings in this place. The hostel where we are is fantastic, I hope to have more time to write about it and this city later this week. For now just a quick hello to family and friends to let you know that we have arrived safe and sound.

Thoughts from A-Dam

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

It is a rainy Sunday morning here in Amsterdam, and I’m spending several hours at the Easyinternetcafe on Damrak to catch up and connect with family and friends. I really don’t miss being on the computer all the time, but this trip makes me realize just how dependent I have become on the internet for so many things — communication, research and news being the top three reasons I normally spend time online. I’m completely behind in my online reading, and not up to speed on world events, even though I’m out here traveling through it. Browsing my favorite websites must now be done in a flash, with no time to linger and read, but I do make sure to check the BBC headlines every time I log on.

You’d think that I’d be reading more books since I am not online that often, but because of my train queasiness, I’m not able to really get ahead with my offline reading either. I am currently halfway through a collection of letters that Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo. I bought the book in Baltimore for $3 bucks back in January, and have been carrying it with me all this time. Whatever I finish today will be it, because I think I need to leave the book behind in the hostel, since I just bought two more books this weekend in Amsterdam and cannot afford to become a heavy traveling library.

Speaking of books, we went to a small book fair here in Amsterdam that is held at Spui center every Friday. Their were lots of second-hand English lanuage books, plus a great collection of 45’s, albums and prints of maps from old books. The area is full of bookstores too, and in one of them I bought Bryson’s Neither Here nor There, which I really want to read (it’s about his return backpacking trip to Europe after 20 years) and Rick Steve’s guide to Eastern Europe which we will use along with our Lonely Planet and Let’s Go guides as we head into Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic in the next few weeks.

We also spent time in the wonderful Centrale Biblioteek, where you can get a half-hour free on the net each day. I wrote more about our weekend in Amsterdam here, plus some fascinating talk about a truly international topic.