A Travellerspoint blog

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Counting down the days

Only two more sleeps and then Todd and I are on are way to Eastern Euruope!! We fly from Edmonton, with a stop in London, then arrive at our first destination - Prague, Czech Republic. Can't wait.

Posted by toddllama 15:39 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Made it to Prague

We made into Prague at about 7:30 last night. We had pretty good connections with very little waiting time. Even met some local celebrities at the airport, Ladislav Smid and Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers. Enjoyed talking hockey with them, Linda thought they had fantastic bodies! Both were very nice to us, and explained where they would be playing in the Czech Republic till the NHL sorts out it"s problems. We hope to catch a game.
Todd, Ladi Smed and Linda; Edmonton Airport

Todd, Ladi Smed and Linda; Edmonton Airport

Ladi, Todd and Hemmer; waiting for luggage in Prague

Ladi, Todd and Hemmer; waiting for luggage in Prague

Went out a little bit last night, we're only two blocks from the main square in Old Town Prague. The square and surrounding area we've seen so far is very beautifull to say the least. At our dinner last night Linda made the first faux pas of the trip, at the restaurant she asked the waiter for the check, I think he thought she wanted to take him home. We will have to figure out how to ask a Czech for a check.
Todd with Pilsner and Spicy Sausage

Todd with Pilsner and Spicy Sausage

The band at Restaurace u Supa

The band at Restaurace u Supa

View from our street

View from our street

Outdoor cafe

Outdoor cafe

Posted by toddllama 02:34 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Czeching out Prague

Our first couple of days in Prague have been quite hectic to say the least. Linda will have us both in shape in no time. There are so many sites to see and not much time to see them, or, so I thought. On day one here we have been on one tour which took us to Prague Castle, which is the largest castle complex in Europe, a boat ride down the Vlatova river. Our "english speaking" guide, whose english was not very good, explained the history in quite good detail, only thing is we could not understand him. Did pick up a few things from other guides though. After that explored the main square and surrounding areas on foot. Prague is such an amazing city with tons of energy. Life is so much different than in North America. We finished off the evening with a nice dinner and drinks.
Prague Castle

Prague Castle

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Gargoyle at Prague Castle

Gargoyle at Prague Castle


Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Prague

Prague

Prague

Prague


Day 2 on our own, no tour guides! Our hotel, the K&K Hotel Central is quite a little gem. Close to the main square and has a great breakfast buffet. Champagne is even included.
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After breakfast we headed out on foot to look for some sites we have read about. Some we found, some we gave up on. The streets are similar to a corn maze and sometimes you have to just give up. We did find the Old Jewish cemetery and museum which dates back to the early 1400's.
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In the museum, handwritten is the names of 77,000 Czech Jews who were killed in the Nazi holocaust. After that we made it to the Charles bridge, the oldest bridge in Prague. No more vehicles there, just vendors, musicians and lots of tourists.

One of our to do things was visit the Golden Tygr (tiger) pub in old town Prague. My work buddy Kamil, a Czech native told us to go there, explaining it's the best place in Prague for a cold beer. His dad still goes once a week and is 88 years old. Took a bit, but we finally found it. Once we sat down we were promptly given two cold draught beers. You don't have to order here as they only sell one thing - cold beer. We made some friends here pretty quickly and after we were done our beer the waiter immediately had two more in front of us. Our Czech buddies then explained when your'e done drinking and don't want anymore you have to cover your glass with a coaster or they will just keep coming. We just had two beers but our new Czech friend managed to down six in the same time. I guess we're just lightweights.
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Happy Todd at dinner (following beers at Golden Tyger)


Later after dinner we thought we would find the train station as we had an overnight train booked to Krakow. Gotta figure there is two train stations. Went to the wrong one first, but got to the right one and had plenty of time to catch our train. Quite excited for the overnighter, should be very romantic, so Linda expects!

Posted by toddllama Sunday 23 September 2012 18:54 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Journey to Krakow, Poland

OMG, what a nightmare! No romance on this train. If you could get past the musty smell of this sleeper car you would be doing good. I don't know if the rules have changed, but I'm sure you could leave your car and explore the train before. Not here. The guy in charge of our car had some kind of bi-polar thing going on. Couldn't quite tell if he was happy or mad. Something right out of Seinfeld. Anyways, the beds were made out of plywood, making your body feel like it should not feel. This four by eight cabin has got to be similar to prison. 11 hour ride - no sleep. Don't worry, we will forge on.
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Posted by toddllama Monday 24 September 2012 09:25 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (2)

First day in Krakow (left or right), and time in Auschwitz

After getting off the night(mare) train early in the morning we needed to find some accomodations in Krakow. We had researched a few places in Old Town that looked good. Old Town Krakow is only a couple of blocks from the train station so it shouldn't be a problem finding it. We managed to circle it for an hour or so but not quite locating it. Never assume something will be easy! After booking in to the Floryan Hotel and a little rest we went out to explore the main square a little bit. Here we booked a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. The tour of these camps took about 4 hours to complete. Still intact and original are hundreds off buildings the Nazis used to house, torture and exterminate 1.3 million people, mainly European Jews. In each building we toured had photos and artifacts from the attrocities that were held there. Our guide was great at explaining the history of the war and the suffering of the people that were housed here. At the end of the tour we walked down the same road, about two hundred metres, that some 400 thousand Hungarian Jews did. They did not enter the camp, but were led to their immediate deaths. Not a fun place to visit, but as one sign read- We must remember, so as to never forget.
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Posted by toddllama Tuesday 25 September 2012 03:16 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Exploring Krakow

After day 1 here we needed a little bit of pick-up. No better way than to do a DIY audio walking tour. We started out at about 10 and finished up close to 7 o'clock. With our I pods and map in hand we headed out to see as many of the 87 historical places on the map we could. Didn't get to them all, but put a pretty big dent in the list. It was a pretty sunny day and very warm. We have had pretty good luck with the weather so far. We criss-crossed Krakow with our list seeing many cathedrals, museums and historical buildings. It also took us to many areas, including the old Jewish quarters, where we stopped for a drink. Deciding to move on, we had to make a choice to go back to Old Town, or take the one stop which was the furthest away on the map. Glad we decided to go the long route. Oskar Schindler's original factory has been turned into a museum which tells the story of the Polish people from before and till after WWII. Unfortunately we only had about a hour and half to view this amazing place. The amount of memorabilia from the war is astounding. This museum really gave you a good impression of what it would be like living here during the German occupation. Tomorrow we are off to Zakopane, for some well deserved rest. It's the Jasper of Poland!371028584_750484.jpg270_371028433_111907.jpg371029462_907498.jpg371029575_053842.jpg371030018_645464.jpg270_371030235_501767.jpg371030304_677615.jpg270_371030371_743010.jpg270_371030473_089424.jpg

Posted by toddllama Wednesday 26 September 2012 01:11 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Zakopane, Poland

Zakopane is a quaint little mountain town on the Polish side of the Tatras mountains; it's like a Polish version of Jasper.
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And seriously.... Todd's idea of a relaxing day in the mountains was not so relaxing. On our first full day, we got up early, took a 50 minute bus ride to the trail head, then a 9 km hike up the mountain, a trip around the lake, 9 km back down, then the bus ride back to town (an 8 1/2 hour journey). Although "relaxing" it was not, it was very, very scenic. Our hike was in the the National Park to a lake called "Morskie Oko"... Once you reach the lake there is a rustic lodge where you can have lunch, coffee and of course, beer. I haven't learned the Polish word for "small" so everytime I order a beer it ends up being a large one; not that I'm complaining... after 9 kms uphill it was well deserved.
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We headed back to town and stopped for dinner in a Polish steakhouse, lots of specialties on the menu (pork knee, knuckle etc). Todd had chicken and I had the pork kebab; both were edible, but not much more than that. We went back to our B & B for an early night.

Posted by toddllama Friday 28 September 2012 03:19 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

Another day in Zacopane

Well I guess we did need some more rest. The hike to Lake Morskie Oko has taken a bit out of us. The total distance that day was about 24 km. Enough to make us want to sleep in, finally. Had a somewhat relaxing day, we took the funicular (just a fancy word for electric I think) train to the top of Mt. Gubalowka. Of course our map reading is not so good so we went the wrong way (again!) but managed to find it. At the top was a good view of Zacopane, restaurants, amusement games and vendors. Also at the top were lots of tourists, and I mean lots. Zacopane is nice but is just a bit overcrowded to say the least. Our food choices at the summit were not so good, both ended up in the garbage. Linda at least ate a little of hers, mine went straight in the trash. Win some lose some. Linda still says I can afford to skip a few meals. Pretty much wrapped it up early as a storm blew in early in the evening. Our plan is to head to the High Tetras in Slovakia next.

Posted by toddllama Wednesday 3 October 2012 23:11 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

High Tatras, Slovakia

Caught the early bus across the border to Tatranska Lomnica, a small town in the High Tetras mountains. My work buddy Kamil had recommended a few things for us to do here. What we managed to do was take the tram up to Skanate Pleso, a lake high up in the mountain range. Unfortunately the weather has not been on or side. At the top we were completely covered in clouds. Still managed to have a nice lunch at the restaurant at the top. I managed to make friends with a cat that lives up here, he certainly did not want to see me go. Don't tell Jackson, he's already angry enough at us! After coming down wee took the electric railroad, which links many mountain towns to Stary Smokovec, to go out for dinner. We had a nice dinner and Linda was quite enjoying the Slovakian wine. Turns out it was actually Slovakian moonshine. Anyway it was me that ended up dancing with a large Slovakian lady, mainly because Linda was getting a little tipsy and was giving the rest of her moonshine away. I had to get Linda out of there as we still had to make it back by train to our hotel. We made it back safe and it was a fun evening out. The Slovaks we have met our pretty nice, even if we can't understand each other.371025546_384175.jpg270_371026481_126119.jpg371026622_775586.jpg371026762_220211.jpg

Posted by toddllama Wednesday 3 October 2012 23:13 Archived in Slovakia Comments (0)

Weather not great-moving on to Hungary

It's too bad about the weather, because unlike Zacopane here it is very peaceful. But because of the weather we have decided to get out of Slovakia and head off to Budapest Hungary. The train to Brataslava, connecting on to Budapest is quite crazy. We haven,t quite got the art of rushing on and trying to get seats yet. It's like a free for all. Soon i'm sure i will lose my Canadian niceness and say WTF, time to push some of there rude Euros out of the way and get my seat. Even from Bratislava to Budapest we didn't get a seat, but this train had a Dining car, so we sat there for the last leg of the trip. As usual, when we get to where we're going we have to find a place to stay. Sometimes easy, sometimes not. Luckily here after we got off the train a nice old lady came up to us and told us about a suite she has right in the heart of Budapest. She said we didn't have to take it if we didn't like it. What the hell, am I gonna let a little old lady rob me? Her name was Maria, showed us how to buy bus tickets, and took us to her apartment on the bus. She rents out two apartments in her building, first telling us about her life and how she was born and raised in Budapest. She then told us of all the things to do in Budapest. She was not kidding when she said it was close to everything, it was right in the middle of everything. We made a very good choice trusting her and she trusting us, for this was a stroke of luck meeting her. And yes the price was about half of what we were expecting to pay. After unpacking we headed out on foot to explore, and were amazed at how beautiful Budapest is. You never know if you are going to like the next place, but we sure like it here.371027634_200646.jpg371027868_312569.jpg

Posted by toddllama Wednesday 3 October 2012 23:16 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Exploring Budapest

Budapest is an amazing city with lots of pedestrian streets with nice cafes and shops. The city is divided by the Danube river, with Buda on one side, and Pest on the other. Our apartment is on the Pest side which is the more vibrant and modern of the two. Just outside our door is a very nice cafe we have stopped at a couple of times for coffee and wine (and a really great spinach pastry that Linda was raving about). Met a rather obnoxious American who, it turns out had, also met Maria at the train station and was staying in the same building as us. Anyway we headed out in the morning and walked over the Elizabeth bridge to the Buda side, which has many of the historical sites. Pest is flat, Buda is very hilly, which made for some tough walking. We visited Buda castle; parts of which date back to the 1200's. It houses among other stuff the Royal Palace, the History Museum, Hungary National Gallery, Fisherman's Bastion, and of course, a very old Church as well as Magdelene Tower (what's left of a gothic church that was destoyed in WWII) . There is also a beautiful view of the Parliament buildings across the river. We stopped in the Castle District for lunch before heading back to Pest to book a dinner cruise on the Danube. It wasn't a problem finding the tourist info to book the dinner, but unfortunately the rain was starting to begin. From here we decided to go to the train station on the subway to book our next tickets to Cluj Napoca, Romania. Rain was coming down pretty good so got pretty soaked. Seems that the trip to Cluj Napoca is not an easy one, had to make it to another train station and our trip tommorow leaves from a third train station! Quite an experience, seems we have to take a train followed by bus followed by train. More on that later. We went off in the rain, which now is a lightning storm to dinner. We had to meet at an Opera house, go figure, to meet at 7:00. We walked right by it the first time by but eventually found it. Along with all the other dinner cruisers we walked in the rain to the boat. Meal was buffet style and was okay, as was the live band. Too bad about the storm, which had now blacked out half of Budapest. Not the best view because of the rain, but overall had a really good day. Off to Cluj Napoca, Romania tomorrow - or so we hope!
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Posted by toddllama Sunday 7 October 2012 20:44 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Which train do we catch?

We have our tickets in hand, but have no idea where and which train to catch. Our tickets (hand written) just have our final destination on them, with no indication of the route we have to take to get there (train, bus, train - but from where to where?). After asking various people we somewhat have an idea what we're supposed to do. Made it early to the third train station to start our journey to Romania. Got onto the first train, hoping it was the right one, which it was, and headed on. Actually it was pretty straight forward as all the next connections turned out ok. Seems you have to take a bus over the border to Romania (hence the train, bus, train). It was a pretty long day of travel and got there late afternoon. Met a nice couple from Minnesota who just arrived and also had the same problem with the confusing tickets. They could not access any money so when we got there we paid for the taxi to their hotel. This was good for us as we didn't know where we were staying, but now did. It appears they were staying at the Hotel Transylvania, named rightly so because Cluj Napoca is in Transylvania. Very nice hotel, finally had a bathtub for Linda to soak in (first one of the trip). Our american friends bought us some beers for our kindness - they were able to exchange some other currency they had. It was the last time we talked to them, hopefully they are not stuck there with no access to money. Explored the city a bit and came back for a nice dinner at our hotel. We booked a rental car for the the next three days to do some exploring on our own. Looking forward to a more civilized form of transportation and checking our the Romanian countryside.

Posted by toddllama Sunday 7 October 2012 20:54 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

Driving to Sighisoara (Transylvania, Romania)

Picked up the car at the airport at about 10:00 without any hassles and headed out to Sighisoara. Took about three hours to get here, stopping at a few towns along the way. Every little town has some kind of historical monument, often fortified churches with big castle walls surrounding them; most dating back to the 1200's or earlier. There is a new town every few kms or so, which makes driving a little slow. Some things we have to avoid in the towns are people driving horse carts (very common), cows, sheep, dogs, pigs and other various animals. It's a huge difference between the cities and towns, the cities for the most part are quite modern and 21st century. The towns have been stuck in 16th or 17th century it seems, with people still working the land by hand with their horses and carts. Mostly dressed in traditional Romanian clothes. Very interesting to see, but couldn't imagine myself working that hard. After making it into Sighisoara found a great hotel to stay at, Hotel Korona. This is the nicest place we've stayed at so far on this trip. We walked to the Citadel Complex which was close to the hotel. This place was just great with many of the buildings still as they were over 700 years ago. Took some amazing pictures walking inside the walls of this complex. It's located atop a hill and still has a working clock tower and many of the 14 towers inside are still standing. Even though this is a world heritage site, people still live inside the complex which is really neat! Linda and I both agree this is one of the best historical place we've seen yet!
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Posted by toddllama Sunday 7 October 2012 21:06 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

That was a strange dream

I had a bad dream that I was somewhat lost, driving around a strange country where no one could understand me in the dark. That wasn't a dream after all, that's what really happened. There was a couple of things I wanted to do while we were in Transylvania - one was to visit Bran castle (you know the Dracula place) and the other was to drive the Transfagarasan Road (voted best road in the WORLD by Top Gear to drive on). Only problem was this is tough to get to both in the same day. Even though places are close, it is slow getting through those previously mentioned towns. Bran Castle was interesting, but couldn't get a good picture of it. They must take the good ones from helicopters because the trees got into the way from all our angles. We took a walk through the narrow halls and staircases inside. Was okay but maybe expected a little more scare for my buck.
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Now on to the good stuff, the Transfagarasan Road is as difficult to drive as it is to pronounce. Took some three hours to get there but I think was well worth it. This road is over a 100 kilometres of hairpin turns that twist through the Fagaras mountain range. Wish I had a little better car to drive it, would have liked to have scared Linda a little more than she already was. We only drove the north portion and went through the 1 km tunnel to the south side at the top of mountain. Our pictures don't do it justice; a great road to drive on.
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Getting late, and we still had quite a drive to get back to our hotel. We had to get through Sibiu to turn off towards Medias. This is where the major problems started, as the road to Medias was closed due to construction. After talking to a few gas attendants we managed to get even more lost. We eventually found to a different route (on our own thank you) and got back to our hotel at about 10:00. Pretty tough driving in the dark but after navigating the Tranfagarasan it wasn't that bad! We both slept great after that exhausting day.

Posted by toddllama Sunday 7 October 2012 21:47 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

Last day in Transylvania

Both decided it would be a great day to sleep in after yesterday. Not too much to do today, except stop at a few towns as we head back to Cluj Napoca to drop the car off. Taking it easy is the only things on our minds. The scenery and countryside is beautiful in Romania. Stopped at a few towns and had lunch before getting into Cluj at 5:00. Dropped the car off and the guy at Thrifty was nice enough to drive us back in town. Stopped by the main square where there was a harvest fest going on. Had a couple of beers before going out to the train station at 8:30. Oh did I mention that we're taking another night train! Could it be worse than the last one?
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Posted by toddllama Sunday 7 October 2012 21:52 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

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