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Day 4

Eliza’s alarm roused me at 5:30am, and I hastily shut it off, hoping everyone was still in dreamland.  I began dressing, tiptoeing about the room, and gathering my camera bag into my arms.  Having successfully crept from the room, I walked downstairs, nodded to the sleepy receptionist and emerged onto the streets of Prague under a deep blue sky.  What crazy idea was it that caused me to clop down the streets like a solitary horse wandering from home?  I wanted to photograph the sunrise in Prague, and by my calculations, the Charles Bridge was my best bet.  That meant I had to wake up at 5:30 to give myself enough time to reach the bridge before sunrise.  We were leaving this day, and it was my only chance for these photographs.

After completing my photo shoot, I went back to the hostel with stiff fingers from the morning chill, but with a proud smile on my face.  At the hostel I flopped down to snag a few more hours of sleep.  We left Prague at 11:17am, slept for most of the train ride, and woke at 6:30pm in Budapest.

The trip to Prague was incredible, and I am hoping I’ll have the chance to see this city again.  If you would like to read from the beginning of our Prague journey, please click here.  Or go to my “Trips” category.

March 18, 2012
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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

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

The Nomad Grad

Are you interested in pursuing a gypsy lifestyle? Traveling the world professionally? Constantly making new friends and exploring new places? Welcome to the club!

Don’t know where to start or how it can be done? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, I am constantly receiving e-mails and comments from people asking how they too can pick up and go.

Often times, I feel like its difficult for people to fathom how I lead my life. It’s like I’m constantly trying to act out the season finale of Lost. No-one gets me.

This is partly my fault. I just kind of started this journey and continued to blab about it without much regard for others looking to travel. Sorry about that.

So this is the beginning of a series of blogs elucidating the best kept secret of full-time travelers: how they manage to make it happen. You’ve asked for it…

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Busy_Me

Hey all friends, family, bloggers, readers, creepers (Yes Meg + Bri, I know you’re reading this).

I’m currently playing catch-up with my blog posts.  After my trip to Prague I had midterms week, then a week to clean house before leaving on a school trip to Venice and Vienna.  It is now currently spring break, and my enthusiasm to write ran outside to enjoy the weather.  BreAnna and I went on a free walking tour of Budapest today, and that story is stuck in a crowded room of unwritten posts.

While I’m trying to pound these posts (French-style) into proper grammatical form with a dash of chemistry, I’m going to let my Inner Writer rest and release my Fanatic Photographer Persona.

Photo for Today (currently un-edited):

On our first trip to Margit Island we walked off the bridge, a few feet down the pathway, spotted this festive tree, and decided we were done walking.

Photo Taken: March 23, 2012

Last year Billy Collins gave a poetry reading at my college.  So, when I saw this reblogged by budapestivities, I figured I’d share this with everyone else.  I sometimes find poems difficult to get through, but I really enjoy Billy Collins’ poetry.

Let Scrooge Read!

Nirmit Shah sent across this unassuming video the other day, about Billy Collins (two-term U.S. Poet Laureate as he reminds us) reciting five of his poems set to animation.

The video really caught my attention at poem four (The Country) about a small white mouse and a matchstick – its completely unexpected twist in the plot had me glued to the poem, with twinkling eyes and an affectionate smile.

Billy also recites a poem at the end of the talk, addressed to a 17-year old teenager. This poem has no animation – but it doesn’t need it. Not in slightest. Listen on, as faces of all your siblings/ neighbourhood kids / school juniors burst hilariously into your head.

PS – Watch the video in HD. The animations and stage look crystal clear, and you can count every wrinkle on poor Billy’s face.

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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