Prague - Tick

Aaron and I can safely say we can tick Prague off the list. We have seen almost all there is to see in Prague except one thing that we did want to see but couldn't, more on that later.

On Tuesday we decided to explore the area of Prague we were already in, Nove Mesto and which we had started to do the night before. So our first stop was the Narodni Muzuem (the National Museum). This was a pleasant change to other museums we had seen as there was little or no religious artifacts. Aaron was relieved to find this as he has developed an aversion to 'Jesus on a donkey'. This museum was full of zoological (ie stuffed dead birds and animals), palentological and mineralogical stuff from not only the Czech Republic but around the world. After 2 hours inside (our time period for museums) we came out to find the blue skies had gone and the rain had set in. This was the beginning of a few days of annoying drizzly rain that has only now just gone away (hopefully).

With umbrellas in hand we continued to wander around Nove Mesto seeing sights such as the balcony from where the death of Czech Communism was pronounced in 1989 (the building is now a Marks and Spencers store), a nice little garden called the Franciscan Garden and a Cubist lamp post dating back to 1915. After a lunch of sausages we visited the Mucha Museum about the Art Nouveau artist Alphons Mucha. I enjoyed this little museum cum art gallery very much as I quite like the art nouveau style. To Aaron though it was just another museum.

The following day we caught a tram up to the Prague Castle and wandered around up there. St Vitus's Cathedral is magnificent. It has brilliant stained glass windows, including one designed by Alphons Mucha. The Old Royal Palace was disappointing. We found it very dull compared to other places we have seen. St George's Basillica was good but the Golden Lane was our favourite. It is a street of small coloured houses (which are now shops) with a medieval museum on the top floor. It was great, lots of suits of armour, swords etc and there was also the opportunity to shoot a cross bow. Aaron had a go and found it harder than he thought it would be (he only hit the target once out of five shots). The Dalibor Tower which was a former dungeon was also great as it had a number of torture instruments.

There was also a toy museum in the castle grounds which we of course had to visit. Surprisingly this toy museum had different things to the ones we saw in Nuremberg and it did have a good assortment of teddy bears. Speaking of which I forgot to mention in my last post that the teddy bear count is now up to 6. I bought one in Fussen and another Steiff bear from a Steiff shop in Nurmeberg.

After the castle we then walked across the Charles Bridge and into the Old Town Stare Mesto where we saw the very impressive Astronomical Clock.

On Thursday we decided to explore the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) but due to it being a Jewish Holiday (not sure which one) we were not able to visit the Jewish Cemetry that we wanted to (the holiday continued on Friday and has Saturday is their sabath we missed out altogether). After visiting one of the better souvenir shops where Aaron bought me a lovely bohemian crystal necklace (in most of the souvenir shops in Wencelas Square particular, you are followed 2 steps behind you by staff and are watched like a hawke) we crossed one of Prague's many bridges and went to Mala Strana (the Little Quarter). It was raining quite a bit so we just looked at a few of the lovely buildings and parks and went back to the hotel to rest.

On Friday we ventured out of Prague on a bus tour to Kutna Hora, a town about 60 minutes drive away that was important for silver mining. Our first stop of the tour was at the Church of All Saints, an ossuary that has chandeliers and things made up of the bones of 30 000 people. It was very cool and something that I had really wanted to see. For some reason I love ossuary's. This is the third one I have been to now. We then went for a walk around the town with a guide filling us in on some great history. Lunch was at a great restaurant where I have had the best dumplings I have ever had. The beef goulash was great too. Then we visited the Cathedral of St Barbara (one of only 4 cathedrals in the Czech Republic) which had really nice fresco's on the walls. It was also nice that the rain had stopped and there was some blue sky so that we could appreciate the painted glass windows of the cathedral. It was then time to head back to Prague along some of the most bumpiest roads I have ever been on. Sydney roads are nothing compared to these.

And now it is today and we went back to the Little Quarter where we caught the Funicular Railway up to the top of Petrin Park to visit the Observation Tower which is an imitation of the Eiffel Tower but at a quarter of its height. I decided not to climb to the top but Aaron did. It said it was quite windy up there so I am glad I didn't. Today we again encountered the Czechs dislike for large notes when trying to buy Aaron's ticket for the tower and so that I could visit the toilet. One thing I am getting sick of is having to pay to go to the toilet. I must admit though that this restroom attendant actually did something while I was there unlike other places I have been to where they just sit behind a counter reading a magazine or whatever.

So now the blog is up to date. We are off to Salzburg tomorrow which will take us over 7 hours. Hopefully the trains won't be crowded.

Finally, my impressions of Prague. The buildings are lovely, there is lots of churches, but there is an ugly side to the place as well. It is very touristy, so many souvenir shops and money changing places. We have encountered some friendly locals but most of them seem very grumpy, (particularly in long supermarket queues). We have also had to develop great patience in queueing as we have had to do it so often.

Good King Wencelas wen to town

Good King Wencelas wen to town... Aaron has been singing that song evey since we arrived in Prague yesterday and now it is in my head. Let's back track a bit.

Last Friday we visited Castle Neuschwanstein, mad King Ludvig II's castle in the Bavarian Alps. I have wanted to visit this place since I was a teenager and bought puzzles of it. I didn't make it there on my last trip to Europe so I was definitely determined to go there this time. What did I think of it? It was fabulous, very impressive. You weren't allowed to take photos of the inside so I made up for it by taking lots of photos of the outside as I could. Plus the location is spectacular. High on a hill. I knew I wouldn't be able to walk up the hill to the castle so we took the easy option of the bus, us and 100 others all crammed in like sardines chugging away up the hill. We did walk back down again, as well as the 4kms or so back into Fussen which was nice and flat (I checked the terrain on the taxi on the way before I committed to the walk back).

Fussen itself is a nice town. Very pretty. And the river is an amzing green colour. I am not sure what makes it that colour (but I would like to know so if anybody already knows please tell me and save me the trouble of googling it later). On the Friday night before dinner Aaron and I found a nice park to walk around and we had fun trying to take photos of the squirrels climbing in the trees. Gosh they are quick little buggers. Cute but quick.

On Saturday morning we packed up and made our way to Munich on the busiest train we had encountered so far. Lots of people, tourists and locals in national costume were heading to Oktoberfest which was just starting. As I cannot think of anything worse than being in a packed city with a bunch of drunks we quickly made our way to Nurmberg on a lovely ICE train. Nuremberg train stations is one of the biggest we have encountered so far, mainly I guess due to the attached shopping centre. We eventually found our hotel, after walking through a carpark called Nelson Mandela Square (not what we pictured in would be in our heads). It was a nice charming little place called Hotel Mozart. The owners had a little cute dog called Una ( I think) who was always quick to come and greet you as you came or went.

Nuremberg is a lovely place. It has so many museums you could easily spend a week there and not see them all. Some a bit strange though, like the wheat beer glass museum (I think that is what it was called). We did go to the German National Museum, the Toy Museum and Albert Durer House. There was also some nice looking chuches but we didn't go into to any of them, Aaron is a bit churched out.

On Monday we left Nuremberg for our longest train journey so far to Prague. We had about an hour on one train before we had to change to another at Marketredwitz (or some name like that) where Police on the train were more interested in our passports than our rail ticket. We did get another stamp in our passports though which I am happy about. I get disapointed if I get let into a country without a passport stamp. Anway, we then had to change trains at Cheb and we could definietly tell we were no longer in Western Europe. The station was very drab, but the amount of denim the locals were wearing was at least something to look at. Our train was due to leave at 12.12pm and it normally left from platform 2. They waited until 5 minutes before the departure time to announce the platform so we (plus the hords of people travelling 2nd class) and to bolt down stairs and up again to get to the platform. Then it was another mad dash to the end of the train to our 1st class cabin, where for part of the journey it was just Aaron and I. It was definitely no ICE or TGV. But we made it to Prague and the long walk up the hill to our hotel which is lovely and comfortable and inlcudes free breakfast and internet, yeah.

Today we explored Nove Mestre, the new town but as I have been hogging the Internet for nearly an hour I will leave it there for now. I have to check the weather forecast for tomorrow before going up to bed. It rained here today and I want to know if it will be continuing.

Au Revoir France Guten Tag Germany

We have left France behind for now and are now in Fussen Germany and I am battling with a non-qwerty keyboard.

After our 5 days in Paris we headed by train to Blois in the Loire Valley to find that we had just missed the only bus for the next 4 hours to Chitenay the village we were staying in for the next week. After finding out that a taxi was doable and not bank breaking we arrived in Chitenay, just after lunch on Monday, the day everything closes in town. Not that there is much there anyway.

Our hotel the Aubege de Centre, or something like that, was a very friendly hotel with great food. Each night we had the set menu of 4 courses plus hors doerves if we were lucky. The staff were lovely, and 2 of the men reminded us of Inspector Clouseau, which made us continually laugh to ourselves.

Now to the cycling. It was good. We didn´t fall off at all. There were a few hills which I walked up but all in all I was happpy with how I went. I did manage to continually bruise my legs on the pedals, get a sore butt, naturally, and cause numbness in the tips of my little finger and ring finger on my left hand. Which is still there. Oh well. Put it down to experience. We saw some fabulous chateauxs. I think Cherveny was my favourite.

After we left Chitenay, our real train travel began, and all just this week. First from Blois to Paris, then to Strasbourg, overnight there, then onto Stuttgart, to Ulm, no vacancies, so onto Geingen, home of the Steiff, back to Ulm, then to Augsburg and now to Fussen.

The Steiff museum was great. Well worth the visit. And yes I did buy some teddy bears. 4 to be exact plus a little lamb and a hippo.

Now we are in Fussen, staying at a guesthouse and going to visit Castle Neuschwanstein tomorrow.

That´s a quick update of the last week and a half. Hope all is well at home for everyone.

Auf Wiedersein

PS Please forgive any spelling errors in European names and words. I do not have my phrasebook with me.

Paris by Foot

This is day 4 in Paris, 3 of those we have spent solid sightseeing around the city by foot. I don't know the last time I did so much walking. Each night when we get back to our hotel we do our stretches so we are not so crippled for the next day. How do all the oldies (ie retired folk) cope?

Paris is fabulous. I love it. You never know what you are going to see around the corner. There are so many wonderful churches, all just as nice but obviously not as big as the Notre Dame.
We started Thursday with a vist to the Catacombes. What an amazing place, and our first introdcution to those narrow spiral staircases the Europeans seemed to love so much. Then we walked down to the River Seine, via a stop at a gourmet food market and a lovely little park for lunch. After passing the Musee D'Orsay we wandered along the Seine until we reached the Notre Dame. After visiting a public toilet and not having to pay (we tipped the rest room attendant anyway as she was friendly) we joined the masses of crowds (our first for the day) and went in to check out the mighty cathedral. We then wandered back to our hotel in the Latin Quarter passing by the Sorbonne, the Pantheon and the Luxembourg Gardens on the way. We also stumbled across a children's library which we went into and talked to the staff. They we very friendly and let me take photos inside (see an upcoming issue of the Quill newsletter for more details, hope you like the plug Helen). We went to a restaurant in the Latin Quarter for dinner and had a basic set menu which only set us back 12 euro each before crashing for the night.

On Friday, we decided to catch up with the Mona Lisa so it was off to the Louvre we went. We got there soon after opening so we didn't have to battle the crowds to see the famous painting. The whole Louvre itself is amazing. Obviously we didn't see it all, but we did see part of Napoleon's Apartments, many great sculptures and some crown jewels.

After spending the morning at the Louvre we ventured to the shopping mecca of Galeries Lafayette and more wandering around the streets. And no I didn't buy anything. The teddy bear count is still zero. Dinner was a quiet affair (McDonalds) as we were both so exhausted.

This morning, we woke up to the first blue skies we have seen in Paris and so it was off to the Eiffel Tower. After a quick phonecall home to Aaron's mum Julie to make her jealous, we joined the queues to begin the 40 minute wait to go up the tower. The views were spectacular and I am so glad it was alot warmer up there than my last visit where I saw ice on the tower. Even though I am afriad of heights there was only 1 or 2 moments when I felt scared, the rest of the time I was fine.

Our journey on foot continued to the Arc de Triumph and the Champs Elysee where we sat and had lunch while people watching. Very cool.

I then dragged Aaron into the mega Sephora (make up) store and the Virgin Mega Store where I am happy to say I picked the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest CD. This goes with my 2006 and 2007 ones I already have. I love Eurovision.

After more walking, through the Tuilerie Gardens and back along the Seine to our hotel my legs and feet were had it. Though after half an hour of stretching and having my legs in the air I felt better.

Tonight's dinner was a baguette and apple pastry in the Luxembourg Gardens. Aaron has fallen in love with baguettes so we have been eating them every opportunity we get. Only a week more of this before we move on to sausages and schnitzel in Germany.

Tomorrow we are having a quiet day, sticking to the Latin Quarter as we head down to the Loire Valley on Monday to begin our cycling tour. I can't believe we have only had 6 days of our trip so far. We have seen and done so much and not thought about work at all, well not in any real depth anyway.

Au reviour

Dubai Done and Dusted

Well Aaron and I have been and one Dubai and are now in Paris. Dubai was a very interesting place but very very hot. We learnt 2 lessons while we were there. 1. Do not go out walking in the middle of the day and 2. Aaron's stomach does not handle curry very well.

Our flights weren't too bad, the landing into Singapore could have been better. We only gave the pilot a 6/10 for his effort. The flight was packed so there was no spare seats around us. I had Aaron on one side and David a nice man from Lismore on the other. I didn't sleep much, Aaron got more than me. For some reason I can sleep on a Brisbane City Council bus in Brisbane going home from work but not on an aeroplane. We had an hours sopt in Siingapore but didn't get off the plane, we just stood up and walked around while the plane was cleaned around us. I can't complain about the food on Emirates, there is plenty of it. I slept a bit on the flight to Dubai but not enough to prevent me from fading in the early evening.

After waiting about 3 hours for our hotel room (we were supposed to have 24 hour check in) we freshened up and then learnt lesson number 1. It was so hot outside, after we walked down to Dubai Creek and caught a water taxi over to Deira, I couldn't walk much further as I started to feel sick. We then turned around and walked straight back to the hotel after stopping for a few minutes in an airconditioned shop where I just sat on a pile of rugs while Aaron looked around.

The Sundowner Dune tour we went on that night was great. We were in a fwd and went up and down the dunes with a few stops outside to have sand blown in out faces. The people in our fwd (of about 36) were always the first to get back into the vehicle out our stops. Then we went and had a camel ride before having dinner at a campsite and watching a belly dancer. You could also get henna tattoos but as I was very very tired I didn't do much but sit and try not to fall asleep, (which I did in the fwd back to the hotel).

The next day was a bit cooler so Aaron and I picked up an Iranian driver from the streets who took us to see the Burj Al Arab and then to the Mall of the Emirates, a huge shopping centre that has a ski field inside. After a nap back at the hotel, we headed back to the souks in Deira that we attempted to see the day before. We spent a few hours wandering up and down alley ways but did n't manage to find the gold souk. 350 stores devoted to gold and we couldn't find them. We did go to the public library though.

Our flight to Paris left early the next day so we had a quiet night in the hotel.

And now we are in Paris and my internet is about to run out so that's all for today.