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Posts Tagged ‘BreAnna’

Day 3 (Afternoon-Night)

After depositing our coats at the hostel, we set out again, this time in search of lunch.  We walked across the Charles Bridge and eventually wound up at a pizzeria located across from the Hotel U Zlateho Stromu restaurant.  I got a spinach and cheese pizza.  The crust was similar to foccacia bread, with light sauce and chunks of spinach and cheese.

After eating, we went to check on prices for boat tours and ended up purchasing tickets.  While waiting in line, Al turned to us asking, “Do any of you girls get seasick?”  We all glanced at each other, each of us turning back to say, “No, why?”  “Well, I do,” he replied.  We found this quite amusing, although we worried that us going on a boat ride might cause him problems.  He said he’d be fine, and soon we were ushered onto a boat.  We were the last few people to get on the boat.  Each bench held two people, so BreAnna and Eliza sat together on one bench.  Al and I sat upon another bench across the aisle, facing the opposite direction.  It was a 45 minute boat tour with drinks and ice cream or bread.  The tour guide gave us historical information, told tales of the river freezing, and talked about the Charles Bridge.  At one point during the ride we passed near a small metal bridge covered in locks.  Lovers carve their names on a lock, attach the lock to a bridge or metal gate, and then throw away the key, signifying love forever.  I mentioned seeing a similar lock-filled gate in Paige.  The guide smiled and asked if Al and I had a lock up on the gate.  I laughed and told the guide we’d only just met a day earlier.

When we finished the boat tour we walked back to our hostel.  We sat and talked for a bit, then BreAnna, Eliza and I headed out for the night.  We invited Al to join us, but he had a previous engagement.  Eliza wanted to see a building called “The Dancing House.”  No, the building is not a huge 24-hour party building.  The name comes from the unusual architecture of the building, giving rhythm to the building.

After snapping night photos, we found a restaurant that our boat guide had indicated as a good inexpensive place for dinner.  The restaurant was a boat sitting on the water, and even though we didn’t get seats near the window, we still enjoyed the food.  When we got back to the hostel, we met our new bunk mates.  They weren’t sure of the sights, so I gave them our itinerary and a map.  I loved chatting with the girls, but they needed sleep and I needed sleep.  I hope they enjoyed their Prague trip as much as we did.

March 17, 2012

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Day 3 (Morning-Afternoon)

Saturday morning, we invited Al to join our touristy explorations, and he accepted.  Our band of four set out, cameras flashing, and bags jostling.  However, before our adventures could begin, we had to investigate the local cafes for breakfast.  The outdoor seating at the cafe we chose was divided, by a metal fence, from the outdoor chairs and tables of the neighboring cafe.  While sitting and enjoying the breeze, we were graced with the jarring clash of two separate radio stations thanks to the competing cafes.  At first, hip hop notes slamming around the classical tunes was amusing, but after about 5 minutes the music styles grating against each other made us wince.  Eventually our cafe conceded to its competitor, and we were blessed with music emitting from a single radio station.  Letting the classical music fall into the background we turned our attention to breakfast.  Deciding against the sweet crepe options, I chose a panini sandwich made from homemade bread, lettuce, tomato, pepper, cheese, and pesto.  It was excellent!

Once our stomachs ceased snarling, we started looking for Petřín hill (an “Off the beaten Path,” suggestion).  Instead of being smart and looking at the provided directions on the website of our 3-day itinerary, I Googled the directions, landing us at a different point than the itinerary suggested.  However, there was still a path to ascend, and we began hiking upwards, smiling at all the families flopped at various heights on the hill.  (I would like to commend Eliza on completing the entire hike, in fact surviving all 3 days, in heels).

At first we concluded our goal would be to reach the castle-like wall running parallel to our hike.  We took a left fork in the path and as we got closer, I decided a photo had to be taken.  Al volunteered, and I broke into a run, followed by dancing over the last few feet to the giant wall.  BreAnna and Eliza kept the normal-walking pace, so I probably looked a bit ridiculous running a race against myself, and performing a victory dance.

Photo by: Al

Once Al caught up, we wandered along the wall.  Unexpectedly, we located a passage through the wall, instantly transforming us into brave explorers.  Through the short passage was a small enclosure.

After dashing about the grassy area, like kids, and peering through slits in the wall, we exited on the other side to find a viewing platform.

I would have been content with staying there all afternoon.  The spring sun, slight breeze, and lazy attitudes conspired to keep us on Petřín hill.  The devious scheme was a success, and we stayed on the platform for an hour or so.

Then we spotted the wasp, a yellow jacket who was amused by our ducking and flailing.  No matter how miniscule a wasp may be, it’s a huge motivation for evacuating an area.  We graciously vacated our spots to the yellow jacket and sped down the hill.  I wanted to avoid appearing as though I was a statue for yellow jackets to sit upon and fan their wings.

We wound down the path to the bottom of the hill.  Relying upon Eliza’s phone for direction, we headed towards the John Lennon Wall.  Upon locating the wall, we added our names to the mesh of colors, peace signs, drawings, lyrics, and names.

After taking photos of this totally cool wall, we felt the sun was sending us rays of love.  So we headed back to our hostel to drop off our coats.

March 17, 2012

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Day 2 (Evening-Night)

After our tour through Prague, we started towards our hostel with the intent of depositing our candy and excess baggage.  We investigated a few shops, but mostly kept to our path.  During the walk we came upon a guy with a life-size doll of an Indian woman strapped to his back.  He was advertising a massage place on the second floor of the building across the street.  While intriguing, we decided it was an activity to save for a future trip to Prague.  Besides, my shingles were still visible, and I doubted someone would want to look at, much less touch them, and I certainly didn’t want anyone massaging the rash (OUCH).  So, we continued walking in the direction of our hostel.

Before we reached the Charles Bridge, we stopped at a marionette shop so I could look at a collection of Prague’s buildings carved from wood.  Like 90% of the other stores constructed for tourists, this shop had a wide variety of marionettes.  Springing upon the opportunity to sell us goods, the shopkeeper and her assistant delivered an in-depth explanation about marionettes.  Most marionettes found in stores are made from ceramic, and are therefore heavy, or a mixture of wood and plastic of low quality.  These puppets are produced in factories, and the label “made in Prague,” placed on them for authenticity.  During my trip to Prague a few years ago, I had purchased such a marionette, a Robin Hood puppet that I love.  Because of this purchase, I wasn’t sure if I wanted a second puppet.  However, the two women showed us marionettes that were hand-made, and told us that only marionettes with an artist’s signature were legitimate.  These marionettes were made entirely from wood, lightweight, and their looks dependent upon the artist.  BreAnna and I each decided to purchase a marionette.  Our little marionettes are jokers, the traditional puppet, with mischievous wood faces.  We both liked the black-haired version, but they only had one left since the puppets sold quickly, so I got one with brown hair.  The puppets were 600 Czech crowns each (about $30), and we’re both very happy with our adorable puppets.

We continued on our walk, stopping by a stand titled “Traditional Goodies,” to purchase drinks and a bread roll with cinnamon.  BreAnna and I each got a Cocobomb (hot chocolate and Baily’s Irish Cream), and Eliza got a Lomombomba (hot chocolate and rum).  Then we headed back towards our hostel to relax and decide what to do for the night.  After depositing our stuff in the room, we surfed the internet in search of a night time activity.  Resulting sites mainly gave names of clubs, and we weren’t up for dancing.  Maybe with a bigger group or a greater amount of confidence, we would have attempted a night club, but we felt it was a good night to sit and get a drink.

As we exited the hotel, three guys from our dorm also headed out.  They were walking several paces behind us, and I debated asking them if they knew of a place to get a drink.  Partway down the hill, I turned around and posed the question.  Turns out, they didn’t know where to go either.  We introduced ourselves and decided to go in search of a bar or restaurant.  The only thing I knew from the internet was that there were bars near Old Town Square, so we crossed the Charles Bridge and wandered into Old Town.

Two of the guys were Italians (and I’m afraid I can’t remember their names) who were visiting Prague, but leaving the next day.  The other guy was Alioune (or Al), from Paris, and was staying at the hostel temporarily while looking for a more permanent living place.  In Old Town Square a group of guys advertising an Irish bar came up to us, saying there was a massive St. Patrick’s Day party that we should attend.  “You should check it out, there are lots of girls!” one guy exclaimed to our group, then realizing that half our group WAS girls, suddenly announced, “Oh! And lots of guys too!”  We excused ourselves, saying, “perhaps later,” intending to avoid the bar entirely.

After wandering under the Powder Tower into the more modern area of Prague, we located Applebees and decided it would be a good place for a drink.  I got an Appletini cocktail, which was pretty good, even though I still have issues with the taste of alcohol.  The Italian guys went to meet a friend at a casino, but Al stayed and chatted with us.  After finishing our drinks, we walked back to the hostel, talked for a bit, and fell asleep.

March 16, 2012

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Day 2 (Morning – Afternoon)

Touring Prague

I woke up on Friday and let my brain process the fact that it was morning.  I wondered if perhaps the alarm set for 9am had failed, and it was now 11am.  Not that it particularly mattered since we weren’t running on a set schedule, but I didn’t want to start out so late that our explorations would be rushed due to shortening daylight.  A quick glance at Eliza’s phone averted my worries: it was 7:15am.  After midterm week with stress and early hours, my body alarm was set to before-school-time.  The bright sunlight filtering through the curtains may also have triggered my awakening.  First Eliza then BreAnna stirred, and I watches as their eyes perused the room.  Answering the morning’s bright bugle seemed like too much effort, and they rolled back over in their comfy beds.  I considered bounding from the room in search of photo opportunities, but instead, I tried to study.  I soon found myself dosing on my notes so I rolled myself into my bed sheets for more sleep.

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, the song from “Inception,” pulled me from my dreams, to observe Eliza stretching to switch off her phone’s alarm.  9am seemed suspiciously similar to 7am; our room was still bright, we were still blinking at each other, and the room was filled with us and quiet.  Wait a second!  Where was everyone else?  Around 7, the glance around the room revealed at least one other bed lump, and there was shifting in the other section of the dorm.  They were gone.  Of course, it’s not like we were expecting them to wake us up.  I had no idea what they looked like, and doubted they were concerned about our sleep habits.  We figured they had probably gone to breakfast.

Breakfast in the hostel was offered for a small charge, however, we wanted to explore the food options around Prague. So, we paraded onto our street and returned to our usual clattering and chattering as we clomped off to locate a meal.  We quickly located the Caffeteria (review coming soon, I hope), a Ferrari-loving shop filled with photos of cars.

After breakfast, we began to follow directions from a suggested 3-day itinerary that BreAnna located online.  We modified the order in which we saw various buildings and areas to fit our preferences.

Our first stop was the Prague castle complex.  From our hostel, we hiked up the cobblestone-lined hill, took a sharp right and continued hauling ourselves upwards.  The view of Prague below us was wonderful, although, personally, I preferred the view from the Clock Tower.

We walked through the castle walls, past the guards, and into a courtyard.  After a few minutes of locating our position on a map, we headed into a tunnel, in the direction of St. Vitus Cathedral.  Blocked by a group of stunned tourists at the end of the tunnel, we started to squeeze through the crowd.  Then we glanced up, and instantly halted, caught in the crowd of gaping mouths.

St. Vitus Cathedral’s Gothic spires loomed overhead.  The Cathedral’s entrance was planted so close to the tunnel that capturing the entire church in a photograph was impossible.  A photograph capturing both bottom and top of the church required circling to the right, where there was a greater amount of space.  After several minutes of fighting crowds and struggling to take photos, we headed inside the church.  Our necks craned backwards as we tried to take in the details.  Intricate stained glass windows filtered light into the church, and arched columns swept above our heads.  We weren’t willing to pay to circle around the church, all three of us deciding food was more important than a closer look.  So, instead, we tumbled outside to explore more of the castle complex.  We saw the old castle, a pale pink building stretching around the courtyard.  Then, we located the St. George Basilica, a ruddy red building with white trimming and white towers.  After learning that the Golden Lane required payment to enter, we wandered about the complex for a bit then exited through the palace walls.

We then went in search of a monastery, and while we found a religious building, I think we located a random church instead of the intended monastery.  However, we were content with this, as it gave us the chance to examine the statues that lined the front of the church and take photos of the church from an elevated parking lot.  By this point, hunger was bothering our stomachs, so we began tromping along streets in search of a meal.  Down some steps, we were drawn to a restaurant with outside seating called Mystic Café (review hopefully on its way).  While enjoying lunch, we noticed the sneaky antics of a pair of pigeons intent upon a bellyful of chips.  There were chips upon each table, and the birds repeatedly fluttered down to the walkway and performed a Pink Panther skip/jump to the one empty table at the restaurant.  The waitresses continuously chased the birds away ts-king at them, but after a few minutes, they fluttered down from their perch on the wall to make another attempt.  One even crept inside to attempt a raid of the indoor premises but was quickly chased out.  Finally, the pigeons seized a waitress-free chance and swept directly onto the table.  They hurriedly pecked at potato chips, gaining only a few bites before a waitress discovered their pilfering and shooed them away.

After lunch we headed across the Charles Bridge and began an exploration of the Jewish Quarter.  The exact synagogues that we visited are listed on Day 1 of our itinerary.  Having no knowledge of the synagogues’ histories, but still in need of entertainment, I adopted the role of tour guide.  “Welcome, thank you for coming along on this tour, I’m very new at this, and I hope we’ll get to where we need to be.”  I started making jokes about my “tour group,” intentionally picking on BreAnna (she started this by saying I wasn’t very good), and proceeded to mangle the names of the streets and synagogues.  At each synagogue, I announced our arrival, and we all took photos.  Then I commented on my extensive lack of knowledge on the building’s history and directed us to the next synagogue.

Whenever our brief time at each synagogue ended, I moved everyone along with the words, “Shall we?”  Before the Prague trip, it fit quietly into my speech pattern, but as a tour guide, I threw weight onto these two words, adding to my role as an incompetent, terrible tourguide to keep my group of two amused.  Now, these words are stuck as cues in my language for BreAnna and Eliza, and whenever I say this phrase, I’m assaulted by rolling eyes and sarcastic grins.

As our tour ended, we decided to head to Old Town Square for some water and rest, and once again, I shuffled us forward with my characteristic, “Shall we?”  The water and shaded park benches gave us an escape from the sun, which I’m near positive was responsible for half of my crazed tour guide antics.  Noticing a candy stand, the three of us grabbed bags and selected multiple candies for delectable consumption.  While sampling a few of our newly-purchased treats, we walked past the Church of our Lady Before Tyn, and wound our way to the Powder Tower, the historical entrance to Old Town.

We then set our eyes on the trek back to our hostel.

March 16, 2012

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Day 1 (Noonish-Bedtime)

“Guys?  We’re in Prague!”

Commence squealing and high fives. The 7 hour train ride was over, and we were officially in the capital of the Czech Republic.  Goal #1: Reaching our Hostel.  We used our expert skills of observation and followed the massive crowd of people away from the platform, towards the station’s main doors.  I have no idea what the train station looks like outside because we were focused on reaching our hostel.  So, we stayed inside, examining the map of metro lines.  We knew the name of our metro stop, it just took a bit of map reading skills to discover what metro trains we would need to board.  Then we weren’t sure what to do about getting to the metro.  It was obvious we had to walk down the stairs located beneath the huge Metro sign, but we weren’t sure if we needed someone to check our tickets.  We had the stamp “PID” on our tickets which would allow us on most transportation around Prague, but we weren’t sure if we needed that stamped signed or punched or whatever.  We tried to get assistance, but the man at the ticket stand indicated that he didn’t speak English.  After discussing the issue together, and then discussing it with two other travelers, we determined that it would be fine to head down and board the metro.  In Budapest, people simply board most modes of transportation without needing to show their passes to the driver, so we figured it was probably the same here.

When we reached the platform for the metro train, our guess about the passes was confirmed when a transportation controller walked over and asked us for our tickets.  We showed him the stamp on our train tickets and he nodded then wandered away.  I guess we looked clueless enough that he targeted us for potentially not having passes/tickets.

After the metro ride, we began walking towards our hostel.  The streets were cobblestone, and I wanted to take pictures, but we had to make sure we checked in first.  We followed Eliza’s directions and soon found ourselves hiking up a road, our suitcases weighing down as though the cobblestones had jumped from the street into our bags.  Then we spotted our destination, Little Quarter Hostel. I’m going to keep descriptions of the Hostel confined to My Review of Little Quarter Hostel (Post Coming Soon).  After storing our luggage and resting for a bit, we set out to locate the Charles Bridge, and ultimately, some food.

We clattered along the cobblestones, quickly reached the Charles Bridge, a 700 year-old, pedestrian-only bridge, and started across.  The weather was beautiful and a breeze flowing down the Vltava river slid through the crowd to tease hair into my mouth.  We drifted past street musicians, peddlers, and artists.  Atop the castle-like arches that funnel tourists from the town onto the bridge, trumpeters stood, their melodies flowing across the river, signaling the hour.  Statues of Saints lined the bridge, and people posed for photos before the statue depicting the crucifixion of Christ.

After crossing the bridge we crossed the street and decided to eat at a restaurant connected with Hotel U Zlateho Stromu.  (I will have a separate post for all restaurants/food soon).  After eating, we stepped back into the flow of pedestrians and followed the steps of the crowd to Old Town Square.  The first building we noticed was the enormous Astronomical Clock Tower.

We drifted around the square, admiring architecture, watching children chase pigeons, and listening to the street bands.  Amongst the hundreds of other tourists, we fit in perfectly, photographing every detail, gaping at buildings like nothing else was quite so beautiful and squishing through the crowd accumulating at the base of the clock tower.  After several minutes of fanatical photographing everything in site, we fixed upon climbing the clock tower.  We did reach the top, although instead of hauling ourselves up impossible staircases, we simply stepped into the elevator.  Even with the ridiculous crowd (no longer clogging the pathway since the clock stopped ringing), there weren’t may tourists who ventured into the tower.  In summer, attempting to reach the tower’s summit would have been an hour long wait, but since it was March, we were standing above Prague within a few minutes of purchasing our tickets.

Standing in the middle of Prague, at the top of the astronomical clock tower was like discovering a secret passage from which you emerge into an exquisite clearing in the forest.  I almost expected fairies to drift through the afternoon light and dance across the rooftops.  I could have stayed on the clock tower balcony until sunset.  It was difficult to remove myself from the magic and return to inside the tower for our descent.  This time, Eliza and I took the stairs while BreAnna went down in the elevator.

As the day stepped into evening, we began drifting into stores and working our way back towards our hostel.  We paused for gelatos, and switched into window-shopping-mode.  Later that night, we traveled back along the Charles Bridge for night pictures.

As we crossed the bridge, BreAnna threatened to throw me into the river (can’t imagine what could have provoked this declaration).  I figured my being thrown over the wall into the Vltava river was begging for the creation of a song.  You can sing the following lines to the tune of “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

Over the wall and through the air

Into the river she goes!

She’s swimming around, maybe she’ll drown

Thanks to Lucretia’s throw-o!

Lucretia is BreAnna’s evil twin, so it wasn’t really BreAnna who threatened to toss me into the river, it was Lucretia!  Eliza continued to walk along the cobblestones in her high-heeled shoes, while BreAnna and I played a game of Lucretia and her target.  Throughout our entire Prague adventure, Eliza strode along in her heels across cobblestone, conquering stairs and even climbing….. well, I’ll save that tale for another post.

After crossing the Charles Bridge, we decided to walk along the river and take photographs.  We entered a tunnel that lead us beneath Karlovy Lázně, the biggest club in Central Europe (5 stories high).  In the tunnel was a sign that read “Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments.”  We paused for a minute when all of a sudden Eliza suggested we try purchasing the torture devices.  Ensue silliness and jokes along the lines of adopting such devices for use in the bedroom.

Our night walk along the river involved pictures, laughter, and many more inappropriate jokes.

March 15, 2012

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Day 1 (4am-Noonish)

Train Traveling Tales

We really did not want to wake up at 4am, but by 4:30, at least one of us was awake.  For some crazy reason, BreAnna, Eliza and I decided the perfect train to catch was departing from Keleti Palyaudvar at 5:30am.  Let me backtrack for a minute and answer the basic question of, “Why Prague?”  Personally, I wanted to go back to Prague because my memories of the few days I’d spent there in high school were limited to a bridge, a marionette shop, a cafe, a boat ride, and a clock tower.  I remembered a beautiful city swollen with summer tourists, and bursting with dancing puppet legs.  I knew my trip money would be spent on Prague.  Luckily, BreAnna was also interested in visiting.  Then, the week before our trip, I invited Eliza on a whim, and she bought her train ticket two days later.

We three adventurers set our trip to extend over a 4-day weekend thanks to the Hungarian National Day which falls on March 15.  This year, the 15th was a Thursday, so school was canceled for Thursday and Friday.  When BreAnna and I wandered into Keleti Pályaudvar two weeks ahead of our desired departure date, we quickly located the international ticket section and waited for our number to be called.  (I didn’t think to invite Eliza until the following week).  Normally, the online route would have been simpler, but trying to purchase tickets online resulted in webpages in Hungarian, confusion over ticket prices, and difficulty in signing up.  Therefore, we chose to purchase them in person.  As I began listing the train times that we wanted, the woman behind the plastic wall said our tickets would allow us to board any train.  We thought this sounded marvelous.  She also suggested purchasing a transportation pass for Prague that would last the first 3 days we were in the city.  Since we were unsure where we would be traveling, we decided to pay the extra 10 euros.  We booked the hostel online, and by March 15 we were packed and ready.

At least our suitcases were ready, but at 4:30am, waiting for the 4/6 tram to arrive, we felt like falling asleep on the concrete.  The only thing keeping us upright was the excitement that had been building all week and was now keeping our knee joints and spines from collapsing.  After catching the tram and then a bus to Keleti, BreAnna and I met Eliza in the train station and found our train.  It was about 5:10am and the train was scheduled to depart at 5:30, so we boarded the train and found empty seats.  About 10 minutes later we learned why the “boarding any train,” wasn’t the best choice because that meant we had no assigned seats.  A family with reserved seats received the added bonus of evicting me and my friends from those particular seats.  They were actually very polite about it, but we stood around feeling foolish as the train car began filling up.  Soon it was clear that the seats in this train car were completely full, so we began working our way through multiple train cars.  This is an extremely complicated process as the doors between cars stay open for 10 seconds and then close whether or not you’re out of the way.  There were also issues of passing people loading their luggage and awkwardly smiling at others who also lacked seat reservations.  We were still drifting along when the train released its brakes and began to move away from the station.

Eventually, we located empty seats and plopped down for the beginning of a 7 hour train ride.  I was very excited and didn’t want to sleep.  Even though the Pennsylvanian town in which I live developed thanks to the train yard, I never had the chance to ride on a train.  So my first train ride in my life was this trip from Budapest to Prague, a fact that I had been discussing with friends and family ever since I bought the ticket.  After an hour, I was still ridding on my hype and was attempting to snap photographs of the unique houses rushing past.  Most of the photos are blurred because of the speed of the train and have glaring streaks of light thanks to the inside train lights reflecting on the windows.  Watching the sunrise was spectacular, particularly since I usually see sunsets.  My normal waking times are apt to prevent glimpses of early morning colors.  This sunrise consisted of an orange dome hovering behind blue mountain ridges and surrounded by a salmon-pink sky.

As we passed through a city, 4 skyscrapers rose above 3-4 story buildings, embracing the orange sunrise in their windows.  I took out my papers to study for midterms, however I couldn’t focus and put them away after 10 minutes.  Then I decided to relax and drift away into my dreams.  Around 9:00am, the train made one of its numerous stops and a young couple found us in their seats.  BreAnna and Eliza decided to locate new seats and allowed me to continue relaxing in the one remaining seat.  Several stops later, I found myself standing in the aisle.  I had noticed that a lot of people without seat reservations were sitting in the sections between cars, where the stairs and doors were located.  After a few more stops I began debating whether awkwardly joining the group would allow me the chance to sit down.  I then noticed an elderly woman rising to her feet and preparing to depart the train.  Her now vacant seat was located next to the window, and the other three seats, plus the four across the aisle were occupied by extremely boisterous guys drinking beer.

I headed over and asked if I could take the empty seat, and the guys immediately said, “yes.”  I settled into the seat, stared out the window and watched out of the corner of my eye as the group of guys passed around a bottle of vodka.  Judging by the cluttered trashcan under the window, it wasn’t their first drink of the morning.  At first, the guys asked a couple of questions and I mostly stared out the window as they chattered to each other.  About 10 minutes later, I suddenly became the center of attention.  Luckily, the guy who sat next to me spoke English fairly well, and questions directed at me were sent through him.  The group of guys were Slovakian, and only 2 or 3 of the group understood a majority of what I was saying.  Everything else was translated for the guys who understood some or very little English.  One guy sitting across from me was limited to naming American movie stars, movies, band names, and quotes in English. Most of what he said was accompanied by hand gestures, such as pointing to his arm muscle for “I’ll be back,” and “Govenator.”  Our conversations consisted of him saying words and me repeating them as a confirmation that I recognized the names.  We really made quite a comedy team, particularly as we compared bands we knew of, accompanied by doubtful head bobs and furious nods.

The guys talked to me about the Slovakian government and a bit about Slovakia.  They told me they were taught only a little English in school, and I was impressed by what they did know considering I know zero Slovakian.  Throughout our conversations they regularly offered me a drink from the bottle they were passing around.  Since I generally dislike the taste of alcohol, can’t stand hard alcohol, and was pretty sure the bottle held vodka, I politely refused.  “It’s European,” they told me, and I understand that drinking together is a sign of friendship, but I really hate strong alcohol.  Finally, they offered me a can Slovakian beer, “the best beer,” which they opened in front of me.  I figured since the top was clean and I hadn’t tried beer in a while that I would take a sip.  Beer is still disgusting.  So, they asked me what I drank, “soda?” No, I really don’t like soda, instead I drink juice, milk, and at about this point they tried to convince me that beer was milk.  They then opened a different can of Slovakian beer, half of them claiming it was a better beer.  I sipped it, and when asked which was better, I threw my judging platform out the window.  As far as I’m concerned, beer, Slovakian or otherwise, is not milk and tastes terrible.

After the assault on my taste buds, I calmly chomped on a bread roll to eradicate the beer taste from my mouth.  The rest of the train ride involved a great deal of laughter and some confusing issues involving translation.  The guys were impressed that I took martial arts, and one of the guys across the aisle expressed his respect for my dedication.  On the other hand, when one of the guys said something rude in Slovakian (left untranslated), others in the group said I should hit him for it.  I tried to say something clever along the lines of “not hitting defenseless people,” but I’m not sure the concept got across and I gave up.

When the train arrived in Prague, I found BreAnna and Eliza asleep in their seats.  If I hadn’t been worried about us missing our stop, I would have taken a photo.  We stepped off the train in Prague and I had my photo taken with the guys.  I’m still working on composing the other parts of this trip, but for your amusement, here’s me with the 7 Slovakian guys:

March 15, 2012

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Saturday I was wandering the Great Market with BreAnna and Elise when I spotted a Hungarian cookbook at one of the stalls.  Not only have I been looking for a cookbook for the past few weeks, but it was in English!  I scanned through it and noted that at least some of the recipes were non-meat.  I figured it was enough to warrant purchasing the cookbook.  So, for 3,500fts ($16), I acquired my very own Hungarian Cuisine cookbook.

My Hungarian Cuisine CookbookA good 70 percent of the recipes probably include meat, but for some of them I can substitute other ingredients.  Besides, BreAnna and I were running out of online recipes because unlike French and Spanish cuisine, Hungarian cuisine is not well known.

As we were perusing the market, I glanced through the cookbook and happened upon a fairly easy recipe.  So without further ado, we claimed it for our Sunday night dinner attempt and went about purchasing red onions and sweet paprika.  Our recipe of choice was Mushroom Pörkölt (Gombapörkölt).

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

  • 3 lb mushrooms (any type or mixed)
  • 8 tablespoons oil
  • 3 medium red onions
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • salt
  • 6 eggs (if desired)

Even though the recipe called for 6 servings, we planned to have Elise and Clare over, and we figured it would leave us with some extra.  Unfortunately, Clare was unavailable, so Elise, BreAnna and I buckled down to the task of cooking 3 lbs of mushrooms.  When I went to purchase these mushrooms, I looked up the following conversion: 3lbs = 1,300 grams.  Since mushrooms came in a pack of 260grams, we bought 4 packs, and used up the rest of an open pack in our refrigerator.

Our Ingredients

Directions:

Step 1: Peel and chop the onions, and chop the mushrooms into slices or wedges.  There is nothing like trying to chop 3lbs of mushrooms. Luckily, I wasn’t chopping mushrooms, instead I was crying while slicing onions.

Step 2: Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the peeled, chopped onion in it.  It looked silly sautéing the onion in so much oil, but we figured the two huge bowls of mushrooms would soak up the oil.

Step 3: Add the mushrooms, suaté a bit longer.  Unfortunately, only one huge bowl of mushrooms ended up in the oil, because our pot wasn’t big enough to hold both bowls of mushrooms.  Instead, we put the rest in a second pot and had to douse those mushrooms in their own oil to cook everything at the same time.

Step 4: Mix in the paprika, black pepper, and thyme.  After the mushrooms finished cooking they shrunk enough to stuff everything into one pot and add the spicing.

Step 5: Cook over high heat until all the liquid evaporates.  We thought the liquid would never evaporate.  After 10 minutes we began debating if we should just add the eggs or not.  Elise recommended we wait a little longer, and I’m glad we took her advice because eventually we noticed the liquid level in the pot was reducing.  Finally, the liquid was nearly gone, so we decided to add the egg.  We didn’t let the liquid completely evaporate because 1) we didn’t want the food to burn, 2) we’d added extra oil when we had to sauté our mushrooms in two pots, and 3) we were hungry and didn’t want to wait any longer.

Step 6: Add salt only at the very end, as the mushrooms do not absorb the salt easily and the dish can become overly salty.

Step 7: If you prefer, add the beaten eggs.  We did prefer, and we poured in the eggs.  After about two minutes, the eggs began cooking.  When we poured them in, the eggs turned red, but as they cooked, they turned brown, making the mixture appear to be mushrooms and ground beef instead of mushrooms and eggs.

Step 8: To turn this dish into a paprikash, mix in some sour cream as well at the end.  We had no idea what a paprikash was, but we still added two globs of sour cream to the mixture.

Alternative Step: There is an alternative option of preparing the dish with lescoWe decided against this, but you may be interested in attempting it.

  • Either add 1 scant cup of lecso at the end or
  • Add 2 each of chopped peppers and tomatoes to the onion base at the beginning.

BreAnna and Eliza

Yum!

It smelled delicious

Results:

  • MUSHROOMS!!!
  • One bite and lots of nodding. We didn’t want to talk about the food, we wanted to keep eating it.
  • The egg looked like ground beef, but luckily wasn’t beef.
  • Since we used sweet paprika, it wasn’t hot spicy.
  • We could have added more onion, but the red onions we bought were a bit small, instead of medium sized. Next time, we’ll be sure to acquire medium sized onions.
  • We probably could have added more sour cream as well, or perhaps none, I wonder how much it affected the taste.
  • Overall, it was delicious, and has been one of our favorite meals.
  • Between the three of us, we finished all of the dinner. That means we each ate about a pound of cooked mushrooms….. I’m still letting this fact sink into my brain.
March 11, 2012

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