Day 16-17: By the time we arrived in Munich, I was starting to realize some things about this trip — the biggest one being about our travel style. I’ve always held visiting as many countries as possible as one of my lifetime goals. And I struggle with a feeling that if I’m living in Europe and not traveling, then I’m wasting my experience. But I was quickly discovering that the big cities were not as exciting for me. Part of it was tourists and crowds, part was exploring alone, and part was that I realized that I was rushing through to “collect them all.” It’s really made me look at the other places I want to visit and see if there’s really something I want to see there, or is it just another check mark.
Huge Beers at the Hofbrau Haus
In Munich, I didn’t really do the touristy things. The first day, I wandered around the downtown shopping area. Did you know they sell Lederhosen right there along with jeans and dress shirts? Crazy! I found a cute watch in a department store, and some used English books in an Oxfam shop. I spent probably an hour looking through a toy store – the toys were all so creative, thought-producing, and well made. There were shelves of Ostheimer wooden figurines, all kinds of construction and block building kits, boardgames I wish I could have bought, puzzles, dress up clothes, etc. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t see tons of plastic crap or toys based off of TV shows. In the afternoon, I ate lunch on the side of a fountain and people watched. And then, I found an outdoor cafe to sip a cappuccino and read one of my new books. It was a great day! The second day, I toured the Deutsches Museum, the German equivalent to the Smithsonian.
Quiet Beirgarten at the Augustiner
Both nights that we were in town, Thomas’ coworkers took us to famous breweries for dinner. The first night, we went to the Hofbrau Haus, originally the Royal Brewery and now open to the public. It has been around since the 1600s and was one of the places where Hitler started holding Nazi party events. The waitresses wore bar maid outfits and a band played traditional Bavarian music. It was really loud and packed with tourists, but we had a great time. The food was delicious – pork knuckles and potato dumplings – and the drinks were huge. I tried my first radler (beer + lemonade) there. The second night, we went to the Augustiner which dates back to the 1200s. This place was much quieter and had a lovely beer garden outside.
I’ve finished editing the photos from the Prague leg of the trip and have posted them on Flickr:
Day 9 & 10: I’m combining these two days because we didn’t have any extended stops in this stretch. First, we drove from Prague to Brno, spent the night, and then from Brno to Budapest. We wound around to some interesting stops making it so we passed through 4 countries – Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary.
Our first stop was in a small town outside of Prague called Kutna Hora where we toured the Sedlec Ossuary. It’s a Roman Catholic church that is decorated with 40,000-70,000 human skeletons. Most of the skeletons were placed there in the 14th century after the Black Plague. My favorite part was a huge chandelier in the middle made of arm and leg bones and skulls.
We were going to try to stop by the Moravian Caves for our afternoon stop, but we arrived too late to go in. Still, the drive in that area was gorgeous and we were glad to have some rest time in the hotel in Brno.
One of the things I’m finding really interesting on this trip is the differences in the country areas we drive through – different landscape, house architecture, agriculture, etc. The sunflower fields are my favorite.
The next day, we crossed the border into Austria to tour the Marchegg Stork Sanctuary. There were a ton of storks – from the viewing tower, we saw 11 nests, but unfortunately, the mosquittos were so bad that we couldn’t stay long.
Afterward, we crossed the border again to have lunch in Bratislava, Slovakia. One of the tricky things with this part of the trip is that Czech, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary all have different currencies and different languages. When it comes to the Czech, Slovakia, and Hungarian language, I’m totally lost. I couldn’t translate a word even if I guessed.
After lunch, we hopped on the highway and headed to Budapest, Hungary where we’re staying for a couple days while Thomas works.
P.S. I’ve now met my New Year’s Resolution to visit 10 countries this year – Hungary was my 12th!
Day 8: Since Prague was the first city where Thomas had a chance to tour, he chose to do it by Segway. Let me just say — those things are cool! We did a 3-hour tour of sights around the city, and though the tour wasn’t that exciting, the Segways were really fun to play on. Segways are controlled by shifting your weight. It sort of feels like roller-blading or skiing, except you can’t really fall over on them. They go up to 12.5 miles per hour and go forward, reverse, or in circles depending on which way you shift your weight. Here’s some video I shot of Thomas on his Segway; it’s bumpy because I’m also on one. (Sorry about all the wind noise…)
Prague is a crazy city. To me, it felt like a tiny Amsterdam – not in the way of bikes and canals, but in partiers and trippy things. I loved looking in the souvenir shops in this town – among the weirdest were string puppets and absinthe. I got some Matryoshka nesting dolls. I thought they were more of a Russian thing than Czech, but oh well. :) That night, we saw a Black Light Theater troup called Ta Fantastika that my brother toured with when he was a teen. It’s hard to explain Black light theater – it’s a mix between magic and the circus. Here’s some clips from the show we saw:
Prague was a quick stop, but worth it. The food and beers were excellent, the city is beautifully ornate, and though crowded with tourists, they’re all there to have a good time.