Prague is Made of Hills

The bus to Prague was supposed to leave ridiculously early in the morning. We even had to do special early check out because our hotel did not have 24 hour front desk service. Fortunately for us the hotels were only like a 5 minute walk to the bus station so it definitely could have been a lot worse.

Ultimately it did not matter how early we arrived though because our bus ended up running over an hour late. This pretty much stressed out the girls, but the boys did not seem terribly worried. Mostly they were too preoccupied with playing Pokemon to pay much attention. I had my 3DS charged to play Pokemon as well, but I was too worried with when the bus would show up (if it would show up) to go play while we waited. And we had no way of knowing what was going on.

Fortunately for us the bus did eventually show up and we were on our way to Prague. Prague had not really been on my list and originally I had considered separating at that point, but our friend who had left first had seemed almost personally offended that that would mean I would not be going to Vienna – he loves Vienna. I ended up joining them. Now I’m glad I did because Prague was downright beautiful.

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The View from the Castle in Prague.

In Prague all 5 of us were staying in the same hotel. Our rooms were only a floor away from each other. When we arrived the chaos did not quite end immediately. Our phones were telling us there was no way to walk to our hotel and we were getting a bit turned around. It did not help that we were already a bit short tempered because of the chaos from the morning. Thankfully, we did eventually figure out a way, but unfortunately for me our hotel was basically up a bunch of hills. I had no idea Prague was so hilly and it was hot and we were all rather irritable. It was definitely a relief to get to the hotel.

The couple decided to spend the rest of the day as a date day while the other 3 of us poked around a bit. Our big destination in mind was the Castle. Which was, unsurprisingly, on top of a giant hill. Oh well.

When we got up there we hurried our way through a self guided tour of the Castle. At one spot where you could look out over the city there was a tv crew filming some sort of segment. The tour was pretty cool. The others were particularly impressed by a room with a bunch of old music stuff – including original music written by Beethoven. I thought to was neat too, but not to the same level as the other two. I had had no idea they were such music buffs.

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St. Vitus Cathedral

When we made it out of the castle we discovered we were near a bunch of other cool tourist spots. I was particularly impressed by the churches – the Basilica of St. George and St. Vitus Cathedral. Sadly they were all very expensive and we did not have much time considering how much later we had arrived in the city than we had expected to. Still, at least we got some good pictures. After, we headed down and decided to walk back towards the city centre. We stopped on the way to grab some souvenirs and we each grabbed a fruit smoothie too. The day was hot making the smoothies just that much more refreshing. We did not rush ourselves and enjoyed meandering slowly back. We also stopped to get some kind of sun burn soother. Hilariously, the one buying it almost accidentally bought sun tan lotion. Luckily one of our friends speaks Ukrainian which is sort of (ish) close to Czech and she was able to stop him in time.

The next day we split up in the morning. I joined the couple for a free walking tour of Prague while the other two went and did their own thing (more on that later). Our walking tour was fabulous. Our guide was actually Czech-Canadian and had grown up in Toronto before moving to Prague after high school. What a small world, right?

 

Our tour started in the Old Town Square near the astrological clock. Word is that there is a big show that happens at the clock, but according to our guide it’s easy to miss because it’s just the really small animated figures that are involved. We didn’t see it, but I’m not overly disappointed. The clock was cool to see, but it was still a clock.

Along the way we learned some neat little facts and phrases. Not that I remember any of the phrases anymore, but it was sweet of her to give us the short lessons. I do remember that apparently the people of the Czech Republic don’t like Sweden because apparently the Swedish government has a bunch of stuff they took from the Czech Republic in their museums and won’t give it back. The rivalry is apparently a friendly one, but it does mean that the one person from Sweden in our group ended up being the butt of a joke or two.

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The Kafka Statue!

The tour was actually pretty cool – we saw a lot of the main city. A few places I doubled back to later in the day for a better look, but I would definitely recommend the free walking tours to anyone wanting to get a sense of the layout and history of Prague.

Not only did we get a language lesson and a few funny stories along the way we also were walked through the Jewish quarter, stopped at the Kafka cafe for a snack, and saw the Prague opera house among other things.

I had to laugh because at the end of the tour our guide left us by “Voldemort”. Obviously it was not actually Voldemort, but that was what she called the statue near the opera house. I had to take a picture and after putting it on Facebook it is only too obvious how amazing and dorky my friends truly are.

I uploaded it with a Welcome to Night Vale reference (do not approach the hooded figures) and the comment thread referenced both a dementor and ring wraith. I really do love my friends.

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Voldemort, hooded figure, dementor, or ring wraith…

After the tour I went off by myself and just walked around. Took a walk over the Charles Bridge, had gelato at Angelato, wandered back through the Jewish Quarter, and up to Wenceslas Square. Really I just tried to hit all the interesting spots on the Prague map app I had downloaded before meeting up with the others for dinner. We had decided to meet at the mall mostly because it was big and hard to miss.

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The Charles Bridge.

We had wanted to go to Lokál for dinner, but it was far too busy. It was pretty disappointing since we had heard such good things about it from our tour guide. Hilariously (or perhaps sadly) we actually ended up eating at the mall. We did have goulash so at least it was Czech food – and it was actually pretty good – but it’s perhaps a little lame.

We also got to hear what had happened to the other two who had done their own thing that day. Turned out that they had actually spent most of the day in the mall after being mugged by a guy with a snake. He cornered them, put the snake on, and demanded they give him their money. Boy had they had an adventure in Prague.

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I stumbled upon this beautiful synagogue completely by accident!

As much as we had all enjoyed Prague we were very much looking forward to moving on to Vienna. Vienna was also somewhere that we would be staying for a decent amount of time which meant that our adventuring could (in theory) be a little more relaxed. This wasn’t completely true though because we had planned a day trip to Salzburg. But that’s a whole other story.

  • Kali
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Walking the Wall in Nuremberg

We arrived in Nuremberg in the early evening and all 5 of us were impressed from the very start. We were split up once again – 2 of us in one hotel and 3 in the other. But our attempts to stay close to one another paid off – we were only a 2-3 minute walk away from each other.

The hotel we were staying in was nice, but small. Unfortunately for me things had already become tense between myself and the person I was sharing with. We are very different people and had not really known each other when we had joined the others. Our first night in Nuremberg we all went and had dinner. Fortunately both of our hotels were essentially in the centre of town so we had a lot of options open to us.

After dinner all of us went out for a short walk before retiring to our separate hotels. My roommate informed us he would not be joining us the next day though we would all meet up for dinner. I felt bad, but was kind of relieved that it would just be the 4 of us.

When we met up in the morning we soon discovered the downsides to small town Germany on a Sunday. Everything seemed to be closed. We did manage to find a coffee shop to have what we had started calling ‘European Breakfast’ (aka coffee/tea and a baked good) before heading off to our first stop of the day (and the reason Nuremberg had even made the list) – the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. On the way there though we discovered the Strasse der Menschenrechte (The Way of Human Rights).

We only noticed it because the stark white entrance stood out among the rest of the town. Naturally, our curiosity led us to check it out and we were taken by surprise by the pillar lined area with each of the pillars engraved with one of the articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each one was in a different language so the only one we could actually read was number 7 (All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law). It was a really neat thing to stumble upon considering 2 of the 4 of us had spent the first half of our summer learning about international public law including the UDHR (one of the others had been doing international business law and the other was a significant other who had not been doing our program).

We did eventually make it to the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, home to the memorial to the Nuremberg Trials. This was an amazing visit. We all had our English audio guides and it was an amazing experience to be able to sit in the same courtroom (though most of it was blocked off – understandably) where high ranking Nazis such as Herman Goering and Rudolph Hess were tried. The majority of the place had been turned into a museum which was interesting though obviously there was a lot of review. In many ways it felt like a very natural extension of ours studies. Especially when I saw a sign proclaiming ‘From Nuremberg to Den Haag’ since now I had visited both.

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The Courtroom!

After leaving the memorial we were getting pretty hungry. Based on our experience from that morning we had easily decided that we would eat something at the first place we saw that was open. The other big place that we had on our agenda to see was Nuremberg Castle and we figured we could get there easily enough by just following the city wall. And so that is how we found ourselves walking along the wall.

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Follow the Wall!

We seemed to be walking along the wall for a lot longer than we had expected. It was not necessarily a bad thing – it made for a beautiful walk and because there were only 4 of us it meant no one was left out. At various points during our wall walk all of us said how much we liked Nuremberg. It was, quite honestly, the surprise gem. It had been added solely because of its place in the tribunals, but it was probably my favourite place that we went in Germany. I would have expected it to be Berlin because I love big cities, but it was Nuremberg that really stole my heart.

One of the best parts was when we came across a playground along the wall. And all of us took a few minutes out to play. One of us climbed this rope structure and then all of us played on the giant tire swing. We even tried to take a picture of the girls on this rope balancing thing. We barely managed to keep it together, but it was a lot of fun.

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The best way I can describe Nuremberg is that it felt like we had stepped into a world of fairy tales. When we finally did reach the castle we got a little lost, but eventually we found the entrance and we managed to see most of the gardens as well. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we were disappointed that we were spending such a short time in Nuremberg.

When we met up with our fifth member he told us he had had a good day as well. He had not made it to the Trial memorial, but had seen the castle and wandered along part of the wall.

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I had to take this picture… they just looked so sassy!

Dinner was a simple affair and then I tried to make myself scarce from my room so that my roommate could Skype with his girlfriend. It seemed like giving them their privacy was the right thing to do. Besides, it gave me the chance to walk around Nuremberg some more. We were leaving pretty early the next morning so I wanted to take a last chance to see things.

13668974_10157108986665125_7257954035957029839_nThe final soccer game was going on that night as well. The other 3 had returned to their hotel to watch the big game. I myself was kind of relieved to not have to watch it and pretend to care. I would have, but I didn’t have to. A lot of people were watching it outdoors so I still caught snippets of it here and there. Enough to know who won at least. I’m not sure who we were supposed to be rooting for in the end since our team (Germany) was already out, but no one seemed devastated by the ending the next day so I’m assuming the French win was fine with our group as a whole.

I was sad to leave Nuremberg the next morning. Even though I was excited to visit the next city on our list (Prague) I kind of wished we had more time to spend in Nuremberg. While it had not been on my initial list of ‘must sees’ in Europe I was very glad we had taken the detour.

The next morning we were up and checked out early and we all met at the bus station. The bus from Nuremberg to Prague was scheduled to get us into Prague at around 9:30am. Unfortunately that was not the way it played out since the bus was over an hour late getting into Nuremberg. Needless to say we were more than a little stressed. But more about that in the next instalment.

  • Kali
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One of the most beautiful views we came across during our wall walk.