McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Czech Republic

Days 5 and 6: Prague and Final Day 7 sights

To start of day, our brewery hotel had a cute little breakfast plate for us and a fancy espresso machine with fresh made cloudy apple juice.

We drove the couple of hours to Prague and first headed to the outskirts to see an art installation called The London Booster. It is a 1958 Double Decker London Bus that has been turned into a beefy athlete complete with a nice round rear end. ha He does pushups every day at 3pm… but when we were there, the engineer was inside crawling around, so I’m not sure if he’s still doing pushups or not.

It was designed by artist Cerny for the 2012 London Olympics but after the Olympics, it has lived here in an industrial office park.  It was just weird enough, I had to see it. 

Both of my children played on the playground next to the Booster. ha until the sprinklers came on… then we booked it out of there.

We made our way downtown to the old town to meet the people with our apartment key because they had asked if we could meet them earlier than we had agreed.

We got to the apartment an hour before the meeting time and then the girl ended up running late, so we were parked near this old boat ramp to the river and Norah wanted to go chase bubbles that this gypsy man was peddling. Having no real idea of the Czech conversion rate at the time.. Kegan handed me some coins so Norah could drop them in his cup… turns out I paid the guy like $6 for his bubbles. haha Hey, she enjoyed herself. He even let her use the sticks and make the bubbles… it was cute.

Our apartment we rented was better than expected. Furnished with Ikea- as to be expected in a rental in Europe… but it had a prime location, lots of light, comfy beds and pillows, a full kitchen (which we didnt touch)…for less than $200 a night..so not CHEAP…but for what it was and WHERE it was… I would highly recommend this place.

It even had a private courtyard that you could pull your car into. So we parked our car here and didn’t touch it until we left Prague. It was perfect.

The view of the Charles Bridge from the boat ramp at our apartment. Built in the 1300s, its a very old stone bridge. It’s mostly new parts these days- mutliple floods over the centuries have caused it to be washed away. Since the 1960’s it’s been a pedestrian bridge only, with lots of renaissance style statues decorating it along the way.

We started out on a walk for the afternoon. We were staying just next door to the Franz Kafka museum, so we headed that way to see the art installation in the courtyard.

Here we have 2 men micturating on the Czech Republic. Affectionately titled “Piss”, you can text a message to a certain telephone number and the men will write out the message with their streams.  Again, art is weird.

We didn’t go into the museum because honestly- neither of us know that much about Franz Kafka. I have never read Metamorphosis- his most famous book… and seeing a bunch of manuscripts, poems and first editions of books I know nothing about wasn’t a super interesting proposition. ha If you’ve read Kafka, or can give me some insight- please do!

Right next door is the narrowest street in Prague. Definitely a little tourist spot, everytime we left or returned to the apartment, there were people standing and taking pictures. It’s not truly a street. we went down the little path and it just ends at a restaurant…

We continued on exploring and made it to the Lennon Wall; a graffiti wall dedicated to The Beatles. Since the 1990s, students and others have come here to write song lyrics, peaceful protest, etc… standing against Comunist oppression. The wall is actually owned by The Military Order of Malta – a Catholic knight order-that allows the graffiti to continue. When we were there, there were some college kids playing and singing ‘Imagine’ and a couple people putting some fresh art up.

Prague was a gorgeous city… amazing architecture and style on every street. Most of the buildings are 4 or 5 stories tall… very clean and well kept. I really enjoyed this city. It felt like what Paris is supposed to feel like… only Paris just smelled like pee and was covered in litter in most places.

We were hungry and we saw a cart serving the traditional Czech dessert Trdelnik. Sort of like an elephant ear that is baked around a rotating cone. It was very good. Eating it plain is traditional.. most places serve it warm with soft serve ice cream and chocolate sauce on it.

We continued on towards a park at the base of Petrin Hill to see the Memorial to the Victims of Communism.

A metal strip runs through the center of the memorial… displaying statistics on the number of people affected by Communism.

  • 205,486 arrested
  • 170,938 forced into exile
  • 4,500 died in prison
  • 327 shot trying to escape
  • 248 executed

This is also the site of The Hunger Wall- a medieval defensive wall built to guard the Prague Castle from attack. The construction occurred during a famine in 1361, so it is said that the project was more to keep the poor of the city with work and food during a hard year… and it’s also said that the Emperor Charles IV worked on the wall himself for hours a day to help with its construction. A king who can get his hands dirty. You don’t hear that much throughout history.

Next we visited St. Nicholas Church. It’s a fantastic Baroque cathedral built in the 1700s. A prominent Count donated his entire estate for the construction of the church.

During the Communist years, the State Security used the top of this tower because they could keep an eye on the American Embassy from here.

I must have missed getting a photo of the organ, but it has over 4000 pipes and was played by Mozart himself!

From there we started up the hill to the castle.

Looking back from a bend was a really great representation of old town Prague. It really was a gorgeous city.

We arrived at the castle, but it was too late in the afternoon to go inside and tour. We were just able to walk around the outside.

There are guards out front that do a changing of the guard ceremony every day…but not while we were there.

You can see the Petrin lookout tower on the hill. It’s a similar look to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was inspired by some Czech tourists who visited Paris for the World’s Fair in the late 1800s and came back and raised money for the construction of their own tower.

Views for days.

Shows just how large of a city Prague is. Look out in the distance at the newer part of the city with skyscaper buildings.

Dinner was across the street from our apartment in a beer garden. Norah quickly started in on the pretzels that were on each table.

I had duck liver pate for my starter

Kegan ordered the beer cheese plate. Which I assumed was a cheese made with beer… but came out with a shot of beer and some FUNKY cheese. When in Czechia I guess. ha

I had traditional dumplings with smoked meat, saukerkraut and a pickled purple cabbage.

Kegan got the pork knee, a local traditional food they are known for here. and it was great. It was just something we should have shared. Huge amount of meat.

I ran over to a little gingerbread shop across from the restaurant and grabbed some dessert. I think Norah was a tad excited. haha

We waddled back across the street to our apartment and called it a night.

We woke up Day 2 in Prague and stepped outside our courtyard door to see this huge hustle and bustle of old US Army jeeps and men in American WWII uniforms. We were very confused! ha

Kegan did some Googling… and they were in town to celebrate the anniversary of the liberation of the Czech Republic, which happened on April 27th, 1945. It just happened to be April 27th! 🙂 Apparently, this was where they were assembling before driving through the downtown streets to re-enact the liberation of 1945.

We found a little bakery and coffee shop called BAKESHOP. Kegan had a cornish pasty- Beef, potatoes, parsnip or rutabaga in a pastry crust with a marinara type sauce. Kegan read that traditionally they had this edge of pastry, because the mine workers would eat these for lunch, made by their wives, but their hands would be so nasty, they would hold it by the edge, eat the whole thing and throw away the crust. Who knew!? Great idea. Basically, a bread handle.

I had a walnut and blue cheese quiche with a salad. Salad for breakfast is weird for me as an American. ha There is nothing like real quiche in Europe though. I get it every time I see it. Once we get our chickens established and I have more eggs than I know what do with, I’m going to start experimenting with making a real quiche.

We wandered through the Vojan Gardens across the street from our apartment. It’s said to be the oldest park or green space in Prague. It was originally a monastery garden, then a fruit orchard… it wasn’t opened to the public until the 1950s. We had heard they had peacocks.. and they did! Including a white female.

We walked across the Charles Bridge checking out all of the statues along the way.

At the end of the Charles Bridge, stands the Old Town Bridge Tower- one of the only remaining Gothic towers in Europe- built in the 1300s. The Bohemian kings used to cross the Charles Bridge, through this tower arch and on to St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle as part of their coronation ceremony. I ALSO did this same walk. and it was tough. ha Even the kings were in better shape than me apparently. But, as you saw the views over Prague I have above from Prague Castle, you’ll see the kind of elevation that trek is!

This cherub was having the Monday-est of Mondays.

Something you’ll only see in Europe- naked men and women adorning the front of your downtown office building. ha

We paid to walk through the Old Jewish Quarter of Prague. I feel like we must have missed some things though, because our walk was very short. The men are encouraged to wear a head covering in the cemetery, so Kegan sported his yamaka. He was none too happy about it though.

The cemetery is the biggest Jewish cemetery in Europe- in terms of number of Jewish people buried here anyway. They say 100,000 people are buried in this small cemetery. Most of the headstones mark bodies that are stacked over 12 deep. The cemetery was used from the 1500s to the late 1700s when the king put a stop to burials within the town for hygienic reasons (this was plague time).

They couldn’t buy land to expand the cemetery, so they kept bringing more soil in and layering it on top.. eventually some areas being 12 bodies deep. The cemetery is surrounded by retaining walls, holding the dirt in that makes this area so much higher than the surrounding land.

Outside of the Jewish quarter were lots of street vendors. One of them really loved Norah and showed her a marionette that was locally made. (We had already planned to let her pick out a puppet…so it was really perfect.)

Norah picked out “Czech Norah”- a little girl with blonde hair (the only one-the rest were black haired) that was dressed in a traditional Czech outfit.

Now… it was time for the main event. The biggest attraction in Prague. The Astronomical Clock!!

Yeah. It was CLOSED. Like CLOSED closed. Boarded up, covered. Bleh. They printed a picture of it on the canvas they covered it with though. That makes it all better (sarcasm.)

So, I was disappointed….because this clock looks soooo amazing. It has statues that chime the hours, apostles that show through windows above the face, moon, sun, star charts… ugggh. Legend has it that the town leaders had the clockmaker blinded so he couldn’t make another clock as beautiful in another city! Things sure were different in the 1400s.

Guess I have a reason to go to Prague again… it’s supposed to open back up in July 2018. (I’ll never convince Kegan to go back to Prague so I can look at a clock. haha)

You can see the spires of the 14th century Church of Our Lady before Tyn from the square.

I loved this very Art Nouveau house in the square.

In the middle of this gorgeous square is the Prague Meridian. From the 1600s to 1918, there was a large column that stood in the square. At exactly noon, the shadow of the Marian Column fell where this strip of metal now sits- so they installed this “meridian” to keep the time in Prague. A sundial of sorts. A group of rioters tore the column down in 1918… but the meridian line still stands.

These hotels looked very cool. Maybe when we go back to visit my clock. ha 🙂

Inside another close building, we found another Cerny art project. King Wenceslas Riding on an Upside Down Dead Horse. Your guess is as good as mine on what it means, but most people think it’s a political statue… but he doesnt comment on his work. Art-weird. seeing a trend in Prague? ha

Next up was the Franz Kafka head- a rotating modern fixture that was Norah’s favorite part of Prague. ha

We finished our tour by strolling by this figure of Sigmund Freud hanging from a pole outside a window. This is also by the artist Cerny. Freud suffered from tons of phobia during his life, but one was the fear of his own death. Cerny dipicts him in this perpetual struggle in a work titled “Man Hanging Out”. Turns out a lot of tourists have seen this and thought this to be an ACTUAL person and a real suicide attempt- prompting many called to emergency services. ha

A unique offering in Prague. The Sex Machines Museum. I would have honestly liked to see it… but maybe with a super analytical 5 year old isn’t the best time…. We’ll add this one to the ‘clock return trip’ that will never happen…

Since we had basically covered my entire list and it was only 3pm… I suggested we maybe go to the Prague Beer Museum which seemed to have a large collection of Czech beers on tap as well as some decent looking food.

We sat down at a table and looked over the beer menu. They had a few different 5 and 10 beer flights listed but at the bottom it said “TRY ALL 30!” We discussed briefly our ability to tag team 30 beers in an afternoon while still being able to be responsible for our child in a foreign city…. and ultimately decided that since it was only the equivalent of 7 Irish pints, as long as I drank 1/3 of each beer, we would be good. So it was decided. ha I think the waitress was equal parts impressed and concerned by the time she was bringing out the 3rd flight of ten. I told her Norah drank most of them, so we were fine. ha

All in all, a lot of Czech beers are pilsners… so not really my thing. Better than American light beer, but nothing I’d ever order again. They had a cherry beer that tasted exactly like Robitussin….and overall I really liked about 3 of them.

Kegan got some pretzels with mustard. Norah got a big basket of french fries and I ordered some pickled sausage. Pickled bologna looks so much fancier in Europe. lol

 

We went back to the apartment for a quick nap because 30 beers is way too much during daylight hours…

We went out to grab dinner around 8:30pm. Went to the closest place to the apartment with a traditional Czech menu. It was greasier and saltier than I would have liked, but I didnt leave much on my plate. ha The first night’s restaurant was definitely our favorite.

Kegan had a 3 meat sampler with sausage, pork, beef and potato pancake with bread.

I had a traditional steak with potato pancake and pickles.

We headed out of Prague on Saturday morning, bound for Berlin to catch our Sunday flight. We took a long way around that routed us slightly into Poland instead of straight up through Germany so we could see a couple of other sites that we could make happen on our way.

This one wasn’t planned- but cool none the less. Someone created a bar/restaurant out of an old airplane alongside the interstate! ha

We drove through the town of Most- with this ENORMOUS coal power plant. There is a huge lignite coal mine here and has been operating since 1904. During WWII times, they demolished the entire town of Most and relocated all the residents to expand the mine. I’m sure “relocated” is a very nice word for what actually happened…

This particular area is known as The Black Triangle. Up until the 1990s, pollution in this area was so bad, area residents were seeing health effects. Acid rain was killing forests. There is even a documentary about this little 60 km area of land- sort of like a little panhandle of Southwest Poland.. The Black Triangle: The Foothills of the Ore Mountain

We were headed to another WWII sight.. but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Europe’s own Big Butter Jesus. (King of Kings Statue. Touchdown Jesus. Lebanon, Ohio. I75?… google it- it burned down a few years ago haha)

Poland’s ridiculous Jesus statue is the tallest statue of Jesus in the world- standing 33 meters tall- the age Jesus was thought to be at his death. I say ridiculous because this thing was over 1.5 million dollars to build. Can you imagine the actual help you could give people for that? sigh. Anyway- it was really a neat statue… and you could see it for miles… I just find something odd about this level of showy Christianity….doesn’t seem to fit the doctrine. Maybe someone could enlighten me with a different point of view.

Our last stop of the trip was the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Region – an area that used to be part of Germany, but is part of present day Poland. Before WWII, Hitler knew he was gearing up for war and began fortifying key areas around Germany’s borders.  This was similar to the famous Maginot Line on the French border that the French built to defend themselves from an attack from Germany. (Fat lot of good that did, though…. )

This Miedzyrzecz Region was fortified because it was the easiest path for the Soviets to attack Berlin, between two rivers, so the Nazis created HUGE underground chambers, ammo stores, lookouts, anti-tank lines… massive scale fortification in preparation of what was to come.

These little pillbox areas look so tiny on the landscape…but underneath them are tunnels, rooms and other defensive weapons as far as 150 feet down.

After a short look around here, it was time to call it an evening and get to Berlin. I booked a hotel I wouldn’t normally book. It was downtown, no parking and old. haha But it had so much character I am so glad I picked it. We had no problem finding parking and the rooms were beautiful.

The hotel was built on 6 floors, with just a few rooms each. When you got off the elevator, you have to enter into this foyer, then on to one of the rooms.

The elevator was an old style Berlin Elevator with the metal gated doors and counterweight, all open between the floors. It was the highlight of the hotel for sure. The girl at the front desk was quick to point out that they ‘had the best one in Berlin’.

From here we headed to the airport to get back home to be with family since we had learned Kegan’s grandmother had passed.

We hope to get back to Europe in July this year but no idea where yet. Thanks for following our adventures 🙂

Day 4: Wroclaw, Poland and back to Czechia

Standard Euro breakfast this morning at the Radisson. They had Ratatouille, which seemed odd for breakfast- but I ate it. I also had some smoked dried fish and pickled herring because I absolutely love that weird stuff for breakfast.

We had to get some Polish cash out as well to pay for parking for the day. In case you ever wondered what Polish Złoty looks like.

Our first stop of the day was the Panorama of The Battle of Racławice, a 360 degree panoramic painting depicting a battle in a war against Russia called The Kościuszko Uprising. Poland eventually lost the war to Russia and eventually lost their independence, but they won this particular battle in 1794- so its remembered as a point of national pride. I had never heard of Thaddeus Kościuszko… but I totally recommend a read through his Wikipedia! Turns out, he had quite the life and was quite an asset to the United States. When the American Revolution began, he set sail for the US and enrolled to fight for the American side. He was a huge engineer asset for the Americans- fortifying structures and setting up roadblocks for the British, serving under multiple generals and even Benjamin Franklin. He sailed back to Poland after not being paid for his 7 years of soldiering (he got an IOU basically that he would collect 20 years later) and was made a commander of the Polish Military where he led this famous uprising and war of peasant Polish fighting with scythes against their Russian overlords. He was captured, but political Tsar change in Russia led to him being pardoned for his crimes of rebellion. He returned to the US-became friends with Thomas Jefferson.. returning to Europe again when he found out his sister sent his nephews to fight with Napoleon in his name.  Seriously- there are memorials and namesakes to this guy all over Poland. He was a Revolutionary war hero in the US, was smuggled into France under fake papers as a spy for Thomas Jefferson, worked with Ben Franklin and left his entire US estate to the education of black slaves and for buying freedom for all of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves (which- was never executed, by the way… apparently friends up to the “take my slaves away” part.) Basically- a truly interesting guy. I cant wait to read more about him! I feel like you should, too. We all know names like Benedict Arnold or Paul Revere who are famous for things they should never be infamous for.. (Paul Revere didn’t actually even make the ride… don’t get me started. ha) but I’ve never even heard this guy mentioned. Have I just been living under a rock? I do find that I missed human class sometimes.

Anyway…. panoramas seem to be a cultural thing in this area of Europe. I see a lot of towns with some sort of panorama exhibition. This particular painting is the oldest panorama in Poland and considered one of the best. You ascend up the circular ramp into the viewing platform. They held us hostage for a 20 minute Polish-only description of the battle and painting. Norah made friends with a group of Polish schoolgirls of course. Poor thing just wants some friends. Can’t wait for her to go back to school in August.

The painting was completed on canvas custom made in Brussels for the project and painted over 9 months by multiple artists. The painting was originally in another city- Lviv- since 1984 but since Poland was “owned” by the Soviets after WWII, the painting was considered “politically sensitive” – meaning portraying Russia in a bad light… so therefore they wouldn’t restore it. It wasn’t restored until the 1980s, reopening at its present location in 1985.

It really does have a semi-realistic feel to it because of the real trees, bushes and dirt that stand between you and the painting, making it feel like you’re looking out into the distance instead of staring into a painting in a frame like usual. It was neat… but for like 5 minutes- not 30. ha I was ready to go when they finally released us.

  

After finally exiting the panorama, we encountered our first Wroclaw dwarf just hanging out eating an ice cream cone.

The Wroclaw Dwarves actually have quite the history as a form of anti-communist rebellion. A movement called The Orange Alternative in the 1980s. Sort of a peaceful protest against the soviets who had declared martial law in the city. People would spray paint anti-communist slogans on walls and the government would come through and paint over them with white paint. So, some students started spray painting dwarfs over the white paint. Soon, dwarves were popping up everywhere around the city…the students and artists started organizing marches for “dwarves rights” and other ridiculous things… basically requiring the police to arrest them for protesting dwarves or some other extremely ridiculous or awkward thing. One march everyone dressed up as Santa Claus, so in turn over 76 Santa Clauses were arrested. For what?… no one really knew. ha It was a satirical way to stick it to a government that was oppressing people. The police tried to crack down on these pro-dwarf gatherings… but hearing the news report about the police shutting down a demonstration about dwarfs sounded ridiculous. ha A non-violent jab with a stick if you will. The movement’s biggest event would later be known as The Revolution of the Dwarves in 1988 with over 10,000 protesters marching wearing orange cone hats chanting “Freedom for the Dwarves!”

In 2001, the city wanted to honor its history of anti-communist rebellion with a bronze dwarf statue at the location where the group originally used to meet… but it has since become somewhat of a tourist attraction. There’s even an iPhone app for tracking the dwarves you find. Anyone who is anyone in Wroclaw seems to get a dwarf in their likeness.  In fact, I may have a new life goal before I die- attain status where I am deemed worthy of bronze dwarf-dom. ha I’m gonna need my dwarf to have a passport, a laptop and some sort of gardening tool…  “travelling wifi garden gnome”, if you will. 🙂

We walked along the waterfront of the Oder River checking out some of the historic buildings along the way.

These birds have 4 wings. i have no idea why. lol Art is weird.

We crossed over the Tumski Bridge. oh my gosh…so. many. locks. Turns out it’s nicknamed “Lover’s Bridge” and couples come here, declare their love, lock their lock on to the bridge and throw the key into the river. I remember a similar bridge in Paris just had a piece collapse a couple of years ago because the locks in total weighed something like 40 tons. I’m not sure if Poland is checking the health of their 120 year old footbridge… but they might want to.. ha

 

The Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the seat of the archdiocese of Wroclaw.  The twin spires can be seen towering about the skyline. It also houses the largest pipe organ in Poland and what used to be the largest in the world. We were going to go inside, but there was an admission fee that amounted to like $20 for us to tour it… and I have a problem in principle with someone charging for me to look at a church… so, I decided I didn’t care that much. ha

 

We really should have went across town to see the Old town square and look for more dwarves, but Norah had decided she didn’t want to walk anymore and Kegan had been carrying her… so we returned to the car and headed back towards the Czech Republic. There were a couple sites we ran out of time to see the day before, but with extra time today, we decided to swing a little out of the way to fit them in.

The first was the Muzeum Molke- a “museum” of sorts.. it was more like a guy living in an airstream who owned the land and was hoping to make money off showing off some old Nazi factories and mine. His dog was on guard outside his trailer to “welcome” us. haha

The reason I was interested in this site was for this thing right here: the “Muchołapka” or “Flycatcher”. In the beginning stages of WWII, this area of now Poland was Germany. Alfred Nobel (same Nobel- prize…dynamite…etc) had a munitions factory here… and prior to the war, there was already a huge coal mine active here… so the Germans just decided that the mine would be a perfect way to power their war machine.

 

There is so much conspiracy and so many unknowns surrounding this site. Most people believe this was just the base of a cooling tower for a power plant like another one that exists a couple hours away:

Which is of course the most logical… but the conspiracy theories are WAY better. LOTS of people seem to believe that this site was the location for a top secret Nazi secret weapon program. An author, Igor Witkowski, even has a book in Polish about it, based on interrogation and testimony of soldiers after the war.

Some people believe that Nazi scientists were working on an anti-gravity machine- called The Nazi Bell or Die Glocke and that this concrete structure was a test rig for the device. Some say time travel was the goal. Some account of a local kid says that a mirror on top of the bell could show images from the past…

There ARE some things that don’t add up with this being a standard cooling tower. Inside the mine we went through and out from the concrete structure are giant trunk power cables…. according to people with much more experience than myself…would not have been needed for a standard cooling tower. Also, the area was tested for radiation and they found increased levels of Cobalt-60… so… maybe the Nazis were working on figuring out time travel! 🙂 I guess we will never know.

We did get to go inside of the Nazi bunker which was pretty cool. I think what was best about it is that we were literally the only people around, there was no signage… and it felt almost like we were trespassing into some secret place we shouldn’t have been. Especially since this wasn’t a well-toured facility… like, we went down one tunnel inside and it was pitch black and water was running on the concrete slope.. finally after turning our phone lights on… we were like…ok- lets head back.. this obviously isnt the way. ha  Giant swastikas on the doors didnt really help that feeling of being inside an enemy stronghold.

Norah was scared. ha

On into the Czech Republic, I found a house along the way that needs a little McKinney love. ha  Gorgeous AND run down- our specialty 🙂 (We will NOT be moving to the Czech Republic I can assure you. haha)

Some beautiful views along the drive.

We stopped in the little town of Kudowa-Zdrój to see the Kaplica Czaszek or “Chapel of Skulls”.

The chapel was built in 1776 by the local parish priest. He was inspired by his pilgrimage to Rome by the Capuchin Cemetary ( an ossuary cemetery we tried to visit when in Rome-but it was closed that day). He returned here and exhumed and cleaned the bones of over 3000 bodies- mostly who died of famine or disease or during the Thirty Years War one hundred years prior (one of the deadliest wars in history- over 8 million casualties…I’ll write more about that from Prague, when we see the window that started it all when the Protestants threw a couple Catholics out of a 3rd story window. ha)

Under the floor of the chapel are 21,000 more bodies. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside- the above is from Wikipedia. A very stern nun in her habit told me no photos and no phone in Polish- but it was quite clear what I was being instructed. ha. We got there for the last tour of the day-rushed into the back of a group by said stern nun after it already started. Another 20 minute hostage situation while we listened to a Polish presentation on the history and the bones. ha But overall, a pretty neat place.

Everything in town seemed to be closed except a little food cart across the street that had Tosty’s. An open face sandwich with mushrooms, cheese and other toppings. I got ham on this one for Norah. It was decent for the $3… but nothing crazy. Norah was happy.

As we sat in traffic for a bit I was able to snap a couple pictures of the cherry blossom trees here right now. They are gorgeous and they seem to be everywhere. Also, apple trees- they are literally in everyone’s yard, alongside the roads, fields full of them. Apparently, this is an apple growing region…

We got to our hotel and restaurant fairly early… around 5:30pm. Pivovar means brewery in Czech. They had their own beers on tap, a wonderful menu, playgrounds inside and outside for the kids, rock climbing wall, tennis courts, outdoor bowling lane, concert venue… this was your one stop shop in this area- for sure.

Norah played on the playground before we ate dinner, played inside in the little ballpit while we ate dinner, then was back outside again. She was in need of some free play time.

I forgot to photograph our appetizers from the restaurant. I had beef carpaccio and Kegan had a beef broth gnocchi soup. Kegan’s main was Beef Cheeks.

I had Lamb shank, which really was mutton shank…and I was totally ok with that.

and we had a lighter fluffy cheesecake to finish.

Also, with the exchange rate.. our 2 appetizers, 2 meals, Norah’s pizza, 2 apple juices, 4 large beers and 2 cheesecakes cost us around $65. and this was gooood food. So far, food is really cheap here comparatively to the rest of Europe.

We’ll head to Prague in the morning for a couple days, but that will be the end of our trip this time. We changed our flights to return home earlier to be with family due to Kegan’s grandmother’s condition.  Updates overnight have not been positive and we felt like this was the right decision. We would have been able to head home today on a flight, but we are 7 hours from Berlin at this point and we couldn’t make the flight in time. Friday and Saturday were sold out on our airline, but Sunday we were able to adjust to. Perhaps another trip to explore Poland will be in the cards down the road.

Day 3: Saxon Switzerland and the Czech countryside

We started our day out in Germany, just north of Dresden in Coswig at the Historische Spitzgrudmühle hotel. We were actually quite happy with it! Dinner was great, the rooms were clean and large…I would absolutely recommend it.

Fantastic Euro style breakfast with a couple oddities! If I don’t know what it is or I’ve never had it- I am 100% in every time. ha They had these cold meatballs, some sort of pickled fish mayonnaise salad and the fanciest deviled eggs I’ve ever seen on this cute little plate. Like, caviar and anchovies on a deviled egg. I thought it was fantastic. Kegan thought the salt and fish was too strong…but it was so pretty.

We headed out to make the 3-4 hour drive to Wroclaw, Poland across the Czech countryside knowing it would probably be a light day.

Our first stop was an hour or so in at the Bastei bridge and the Ferdinandstein Vista Point. Mountains cut out by the Elbe River over  million years ago.

Beautiful views…

We continued on into the Czech Republic. When we crossed the border, there was a dilapidated border checkpoint… but it didn’t look like it had been in use for quite a few years. That is one thing I love about the EU- the free movement of people and goods.

I snapped a few photos as we drove through some small towns and villages along the way.

 

Since we were mostly in the countryside, lunch was some snacks from a gas station. Fast food just isn’t a thing in most of Europe outside of the major cities. You can’t just swing through a drive thru and get something quick. A lot of times it’s hard to tell if any place is open during the day or in our case here, whether or not we would even be able to communicate to ask if they were serving food. So… some chips and pretzels got us through. haha

Norah found a familiar favorite, so she was good.

Our next stop was Panska Rock, a basalt formation with hexagonal jointing. Similar to The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland… when the geologist hears hexagonal jointing, he gets excited. ha

The girlie enjoyed some climbing time out of the car.

When we went to park in the lot at the rock, we had to to take a ticket… no problem. Typical. Then we realize that the Czech Republic doesn’t use Euro. And we just got here. And we have no Czech money. And the parking machine only takes Czech coinage. GGGRRRRRR. I saw a little ice cream shop open across the highway so we walked over there and luckily, right on her window she had the Czech conversion rate of 1 EUR=23 KČ. Phewwww… saved. ha Paid in Euro, change in Koruna. We got iced coffee, a capri sun and Kegan got a pastry of some sort and we were off with some fresh Czech cash to get us out of the parking hostage situation.

We continued on a couple hours to the Teplice Rocks or Adršpach Rocks. Unique super tall weathered rocks alongside a lake. It’s a big destination for rock climbers and rock jumpers- some popular adrenaline junkie sport where you try to jump rock to rock.

We admittedly didn’t explore the area much. We were slightly behind schedule and the ticket booth seemed closed to the park and lake… so we just explored around the parking lot and continued on. Looking online, I see that there are tons of hiking trails and rocks jutting out of the Earth so you could easily spend a day in this area alone.

Kegan snapped this photo of this wooden road guard that has been scraped down both sides by passing vehicles- it was so narrow in our little car…I can’t imagine driving anything bigger through there! The picture didn’t really do it justice.

We eventually crossed the border into Poland headed to Wroclaw.

The roads in Poland and the Czech Republic leave a little to be desired. Patches and potholes everywhere. A lot of roads look about like this because apparently it’s construction season in Poland, too.

We did spot a familiar site. Ikea is everywhere. ha

We arrived to downtown Wroclaw in the rain and slightly after dark and Norah wasn’t in any shape to go sit for any super fancy restaurant, so my tentative plans of dinner on a boat in the inlet went out the window. ha

We were staying at a Radisson Blu hotel (because of the location and the price- 5 star hotel downtown for like $120 equivalent.) We ate at their restaurant, Aquarelle, which was pretty fancy itself for having a Norah in tow, but it was late enough and we sat in the bar area, I just gave her my phone and she was happy.

My starter was a smoked ham, blue cheese, pea and radish salad with quail eggs.

Kegan had freshmade Russian dumplings/Pierogi.

My meal was a pistachio crusted pork loin with veggies

Kegan had a sous vide guinea fowl. He said it looked prettier than it tasted. (He’s a tough one to please in a restaurant haha)

Tomorrow we will explore Wroclaw a bit and head back into the Czech republic stopping at some sites we missed on Day 2 and ending at a brewery hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Off We Go Again!

This evening we’re heading out to Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland for a two week trip. I’d call it a “vacation”, but that makes it sound like a great escape that we excitedly planned haha This was just leftover Ireland plane tickets that I was going to lose the value of if we didn’t use them before May and we were limited to Ireland, Berlin or Madrid. Since we just went to Spain and well, Ireland didn’t really want us…I chose Berlin since we’ve never been there.

Really, outside of World War II knowledge, I didn’t know much about Poland or the Czech Republic….I vaguely remember the Berlin wall coming down as a very young kid.. so I went into this trip sort of blind about what we would find to do. I fully admit to a lot of history reading and research for this trip! I was worried this was just going to be a 2 week super-depressing concentration camp/Hitler tour haha but I think we were able to incorporate WWII sites and history with plenty of other cultural things as well. But prepare…WWII touched everything here. More like demolished everything here. So its hard to discuss most things without at least including that context.

Itinerary highlights for this trip: We are flying overnight into Berlin via Iceland, followed by Dresden, then into the mountains known as Saxon Switzerland in the Czech Republic. Cutting into Poland to visit Wroclaw (pronounced something like RO-clawv – Polish and Czech are HARD to pronounce it turns out! ha) then to Prague in the Czech Republic, next- a tour all around Poland: visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp, Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk and back to Germany for a couple towns like Potsdam and Leipzig. All the yellow marks on the map are places we’ll be visiting.

We usually stay in AirBnb houses or apartments but the last couple trips I have had some issues with people cancelling our reservations same day, not being around, the property not really being clean or really even being a rental… I guess just since AirBnb has gotten so big and easily accessible, there are more people using it that just shouldn’t. This trip we stuck to mostly hotels…only one apartment- in Prague that seems like it will be awesome, right downtown overlooking a big historic bridge. Here’s hoping anyway.

We should have a good mix of city, country, history, modern, beach and mountains in this trip and hopefully some great Polish food. This is the first time we will have visited a country with Russian history, so seeing Soviet influences and residual culture will be neat.

There is a little area on the edge on Northeast Poland that is actually still owned by Russia. There is a city there called Kaliningrad that I thought might be neat to visit… so I looked into what it would take to visit. Basically, long story short… as Americans, we cant. They offer a 3 day visa for Canadians and Europeans…but not for Americans….and after the events of the last few weeks with Russia, I think it best to stay firmly in the EU for now 🙂 I’ve never met a Russian person I didn’t like… but I fear their government. But never judge a people by it’s government. haha

While we’re both exhausted from work and house projects-(Kegan built a fence around our house this week and I’ve spent all week in Alabama on a red-alert client issue) I hope the trip is worth the time away. We just got some drywall finished up that will allow us to finally finish our master bedroom and dining room and it’s prime gardening time, so really about the least ideal time for us to pick up and spend two weeks away…but thankful for family to watch the dog and water my plants!

We are currently boarded and leaving Chicago.

Kegan is already disappointed because he thought they said there was an “orgy” on board 🙄 Boys. Haha

They just brought Norah a cute little travel bag with a bottle of water, a padded eye mask for sleeping, headphones and a turkey sandwich. Pretty cool.

I’ll post after Berlin. See ya soon!