I had almost forgotten about this blog. However, I do update my blogspot frequently. It was a trip I took about a month back but here are some quick highlights.
It started when my friend from Finland flew into Poland. We sure do come from Nepal, but after spending some years in such a highly organized, wealthy and safe country like Finland, we begin to complain when we go to other countries around. Poland seemed dirtier, older and much less modern to my friend, with whom I mostly agree. But after experiences, I tend to believe that it’s not the place itself that makes it so likable, but the people and the memories. I do miss certain things about Finland, but I like it so much better here in Poland and am trying to extend my stay here. She stayed for a couple of days in what they call the ugly city of Poland, Lodz, during which I didn’t have much to show to her, except the cheap Vietnamese eat-outs and the mall. And some really old buildings of course.
Prague was beyond my expectations in many ways. The weather really favored us and we managed to see all major attractions in one day. We were worn out by the end of the day, but it was worth it. We didn’t feel very safe in the city, considering the number of homeless and weird people we saw, especially in the subways. We even ended up donating some kroners to an old guy who seemed helpful at first but scammed his way into forking out some coins from us. The city was just so lively and overrun by tourists. “Kasto ramro” – Nepali equivalent of “so beautiful” quickly became our overused phrase during the whole stay. I was surprised that it was still a bit more expensive than Poland. We were glad that we managed to see everything and even had one spare day to just relax and absorb the Czech architectural and cultural beauty in Prague.
We had rented an apartment about 20 minutes from Prague city center via airbnb. The host was quite nice and explained us the main attractions in Prague and the ways to get there. On the first day, we saw the magnificent National Museum of Prague and were impressed by the exteriors. We decided against going inside as we had limited time and the day was too lovely to spend time indoors. We followed the street directly in front of the museum, meanwhile being surprised at the sheer number of tourists. We almost felt no need to consult the maps as we could just follow the tourists and reach any sites. We exactly did that and soon reached the old town square. It was.. gorgeous! So much beauty, so much. The weather had obviously played a big part, but the churches, the buildings, the palaces, the striking Czech architecture, the lovely old clock tower, I loved them all. We spent some time in the square, merely standing, looking around and appreciating the beauty around.
We then went up the clock tower from where we could view the entire old town and the surroundings. I was mesmerized. After spending some time on the viewpoint and taking some pictures with difficulties because of the crowd, we went downstairs. We enjoyed some grilled meat on skewers from a stall at the square, some delicious fried potatoes and of course Czech beers. We then decided to walk around, with no particular destination on mind. The area around old town had many direction signs allowing us to reach the major sites without having to consult map. We reached the Prague Castle after about half an hour of walking (with many stops 🙂 ) from the old town center. Prague Castle was impressive. Elaborate exteriors and a big castle offering beautiful views of the city as it sits atop a hill. We were truly enjoying despite slight feet ache. After descending from the castle, we reached the world-famous Charles bridge. It was all so vibrant – beautiful weather, the golden late-afternoon, sound coming from the street musicians, small cute stalls and beautiful views from the bridge. There were actually so many similar looking bridges on VItava river that you could see from Charles bridge. The bridge towers on the bridge were beautiful. We then proceeded to have dinner, delicious goulash with beer, at a place with live music. We then went back to Charles bridge and enjoyed the night view. On the second day, we basically did the same things with slower pace. In the evening we discovered a local outdoor concert near from the river and enjoyed the show as well as riverside views. It was time to depart for Vienna with our night bus.
The Czech bus (Student Agency) that we took to Vienna was excellent, easily the best bus I have taken so far. They even had a bus hostess who basically did everything an air hostess does. The seats were comfortable and it really mattered because we had to anyhow get maximum sleep in this 4.5 hours journey. I could sleep for at least 3 hours which ended up proving minimal the other day.
My first impression of Austria was that it was definitely richer than the so-called Eastern European countries of Poland and Czech Republic. [Note that Austria lies further East to these countries]. It was easier for us to compare the prices since we were now in a Euro zone country. Vienna looked like any other Western European city at first glimpse, but our sleep-deprived bodies had yet to discover. We ironically started off with McDonald’s on world fitness day (or so, I suppose). It was the day of Vienna marathon so we were there in a bad timing. This time also we figured out all major attractions without the help of maps or GPS. The normal route of transportation within the main city center was halted for half a day because of the marathon. We ended up walking everywhere midst the hoards of cheering crowds. I wasn’t as excited as in Prague because my exhausted body desperately needed some sleep. The weather, on top of that, was gloomy for the entire day. Turns out that Vienna is a city full of beautiful yet similar architecture crammed with lots of palaces, theaters and museums. I felt that Prague has something to offer to everyone while Vienna is more of a place for art and history lovers. Given that we didn’t do extensive reading on the Austrian/European history, it was too much to take in. I, however, loved just how anciently beautiful the city looked, yet was modern, like Western Europe. We merely scanned the city leaving too many things to do for the next time.
The next bus journey of 10 hours dropped us off to Katowice, an industrial, Southern city in Poland. I loved this night bus ride through the Austrian and Slovakian highways while listening to my favorite music. I was surprised how close Bratislava (capital of Slovakia) was from Vienna, a mere 50-something kilometers. After stopping in Bratislava to pick up some passengers, I had to share my seat with someone else.It was hard to sleep with very little to almost no space to bend or stretch, but amazingly enough, I fell asleep for at least half the journey. The weather upon reaching to Poland was at its worst: it was raining heavily. We still had a 1.5 hour journey to Krakow, a historic and beautiful Polish city.
We decided to head out despite the thunderstorms and rain while in Krakow. The old town was beautiful, would have looked more so if it was sunny. It wasn’t as overrun by tourists as Prague, but it did have a different feel than Lodz, the city where I study and reside. We saw the old Jewish town, the famous Wawel castle and had some typical Polish lunch. My friend had to take a 10 hour bus ride to the Northern city of Poland, Gdansk, from where she would fly to Finland whereas I had to take the 5 hour ride to the central Polish city of Lodz. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I reached to Lodz. The other day I had much to look forward to, God is an Astronaut live in Warsaw with my friend Piotr. The concert experience was exactly what I had expected, spectacular!