A Travellerspoint blog

Prague

BY ABBY

sunny 21 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Musician on Saint Charles Bridge

Musician on Saint Charles Bridge

Today was our first day in Prague, so we decided not to make a plan of things to see, but rather just take in more of the town. We started off quite early, and after one metro trip we were already in the city. We walked towards the river at first, looking at the shops as well as the buskers. Along the streets and bridges there were people selling art, as well as a variety of different music being played. One group consisted of three men in overalls playing the washboard, a guitar, a horn, the cymbals, and a few other instruments. Lots of the singers that we heard were singing English songs, such as Hound Dog and Folsom Prison Blues. Another man was playing various songs on a group of crystal glasses with different amounts of water in them. He was selling some of his CD's nearby as well, but they weren't selling too fast.

After we finished walking to the bridge with went to a nearby square to look for something to eat. It took us a while, but 45 minutes later we had located the local snack we were looking for. Smažený sýr, which literally translates into "fried cheese", is a Czech version of our grilled cheese sandwich. It is cheese that is breaded and fried, and then put in a bun with mayo. I added ketchup as well, to make it a little more like the version I was used to, but we all enjoyed them despite the differences.

Wallenstein Garden: Artificial Stalactite Wall

Wallenstein Garden: Artificial Stalactite Wall

After lunch we wandered over to the gardens of Prague Senate for a little rest. While we were there we were visited by a peahen (female peacock) which gave off a little bit of a show in the middle of the shrubbery. Right beside the garden is a famous wall called The Grotto/Dripstone Wall. It is a wall of odd looking rocks, which have animals and faces carved in between them. It was a very odd but interesting thing to look at. Back in the gardens we were able to have a look at the paintings on the Czech Senate building, which were scenes depicting the Trojan War, painted by an unknown artist. We wandered around the maze of hedged for a little while, stopping at a fountain will a statue of Hercules slaying a dragon in the middle. The little pond was crowded with giant fish, and we were able to see a large amount of them come up to the surface when a young boy started throwing bits of his bread of the edge of the pool.

Wallenstein Palace

Wallenstein Palace

This was our last stop though, and we walked back the metro station and then back to our car. We had a picnic dinner of sandwiches and soup on our front lawn, and had a little chat with the husband of our host. We finished the evening off with an emotional West Wing before bed, to rest up for our next day in Prague.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sma%C5%BEen%C3%BD_s%C3%BDr

Posted by KZFamily 04:06 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged gardens prague czech czechoslovakia fried_cheese Comments (1)

Tursko

by Ben

23 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Home Decorating that may have brought the fall of Communism

Home Decorating that may have brought the fall of Communism

We left the very pleasant city of Olomouc after having a final mid-morning stroll through its cobble-stoned streets. In terms of mainstream tourism this former royal capital and ecclesiastical metropolis appears to be somewhat off the beaten track. Throughout our time here the streets have been sleepy and the shops selling bric-a-brac, few. At its height this city was as great as any of the capitals of Europe. At a different time in our travels we would have been much more willing and enthusiastic about plunging into its history. However, over the past few weeks we are avoiding history burnout and have kept museum visits to a minimum and have been content just letting the architecture and streetscapes speak for themselves. Olomouc had a lot to say whenever we were ready to listen. As you have gathered from our last two blog posts we have chosen to listen less to the past and have foregone haute-culture in favour of taking in more light-hearted present day fare. This too has been great fun. Our trip has been like having 30 different vacations back-to-back.

We drove west for a little over three hours today. We are still in the Czech Republic and staying just about 15 minutes from the outer limits of Prague. We are in Tursko, a sleepy village of 700 people. It boasts one restaurant and one grocery store. It is a village without any intuitive layout. That the restaurant and grocery store in such a tiny place are hard to find is testament to this fact.

Our accommodation is the bottom floor of a house. The owners built a new upper storey and have rented out the downstairs for the past few years. We have three bedrooms which is a treat for the girls. The quirky tiling and woodwork defy description and I am not sure photographs really do the combined effect justice. Let’s just say this place is a one-of-a-kind creation. I just hope that whoever chose the finishing materials was just being frugal rather than trying to fulfil a dream of being an interior decorator. All that said, this place is close to perfection where it counts. It has wireless Internet, secured parking, the much coveted appliance trifecta of dishwasher, washing machine, and microwave and a stocked fridge (contents included four half litre bottles of Czech Beer and a bottle of Russian Vodka) all for $81 Canadian a night. Only Abby feels short-changed because our home lacks a toaster. I guess she will just have to drink up.

Posted by KZFamily 08:55 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague czech_republic olomouc Comments (2)

Olomouc Zoo

By Hannah

sunny 21 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Hannah the Owl Trainer

Hannah the Owl Trainer

Our time in Olomouc has been a little quirky. We haven't done much of the traditional stuff, like museums or churches or castles. We've been rafting, mini-golfing, and today, we visited the zoo, our trusty Olomouc cards in hand. So far, the thirty dollars spent on them has funded five attractions. Here's hoping all the money we've saved here will balance out our three days in Prague.

We all connected with our inner child today. My favourite animals to visit are usually the monkeys, and it seems like most people there were thinking along the same lines. There was never a capuchin or a tamarind that not being stared at or cooed over. They really are the most fun to watch. There's just something about their antics that calls for affection, especially if one of them does something particularly human.

One of the highlights of the day for me was getting to hold an owl. A real live horned owl. He was attached to a special glove, and I felt his talons clench for purchase around my fingers as soon as I slipped it on. I had to steady myself as he settled his weight onto my arm. I got to stroke his feathers and admire his glossy head and amber eyes for a full minute. When I eventually detached myself, I found that he had left a small welt on my hand with one of his talons. Dad had a go too, but I like to think that I bonded with that owl more than he ever did.

Giraffs People Watching

Giraffs People Watching

One of the enclosures was open for visitors to walk through. Emus, wallabies, and prairie dogs greeted us nonchalantly as we strode along the path, and then lowered their heads to snooze in the shade again. There was one very eager toddler that marched through the gates ahead of her mother and promptly stepped off the path in order to "pet the doggies" underneath the tree. She was caught before then, luckily.

We saw lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), zebras, giraffes, wolves, lemurs, reindeer, camels, pygmy hippos, and more. Today was a small celebration of diversity, with the tourists coming from as many different places as the animals. And just before I wind up this blog post, I have to mention one thing, because I hardly ever get to write about my dad's soft spots. He has a special place in his heart for the adorable Malayan sun bear, of which we saw two. Watching him smile over them was another of today's high points.

Tomorrow we're off to Prague, which, according to Lonely Planet, is the new Prague.

Posted by KZFamily 13:55 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged animals zoo animal czech republic olomouc Comments (1)

Czech It Out

BY MURIEL

overcast 23 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Indoor Mini Golf Czech Style

Indoor Mini Golf Czech Style

Eager to get as much fun in as possible, there Ben was, waking us up to ensure we didn’t sleep past 8:30 AM. He’s been trying valiantly to reset our clocks so that we automatically get up earlier. Actually, it’s good to stay ahead of the tourist crowd and if we are out the door by 9:30, we can generally get an hour and half jump on the rest of humanity. That is a rarity right now, though, as we have the propensity to move like sloths in the morning. Nonetheless, we hoofed our way down to the main square in reasonable time and popped into the tourist office. Olomouc offers a tourist card that allows visitors many entries for a small price. Immediately upon buying the card, I felt the need to see as many things as possible. My family calmed me down and reassured me that at $30 for the whole family, we needn’t kill ourselves running around to get our money’s worth. One of the options which intrigued us was a river rafting trip through the historical town. Just as we were about to sign up for it, we felt the rain coming. Seasoned travellers that we are, were we going to let rain deter us? You bet. We had a family huddle to discuss other activities associated with the card -- throwing art museums and churches to the side, we determined that, today at least, the best indoor activity was mini golf! It’s not often that you can find a mini golf course located indoors. Knowing that in itself was a rarity worth pursuing, we went home to get the car, drove to the mall and located the prestigious setting. Now, usually they come with a bit of flare and colour to distract participants from what they are doing, hitting a little ball around an obstacle course for an hour of their lives. However, this one was quite bare bones, with no trappings like windmills and water features; each ‘fairway’ was laid out strictly parallel or perpendicular to its neighbour, and there were no colours save for the Soviet grey cement-like flooring and sporadic wooden deflection pieces. We looked around and sighed, ready to give it the old Czech try. The grizzled old caretaker of the place looked rather careworn as he handed us the four balls and clubs and motioned for us to start upstairs on the front nine. Within minutes, we had jumped in with both proverbial feet and were actually having a good time! Especially me as I was winning – who knew I had this secret talent – while Abby was set on seeing how many times she could drive the ball into a different fairway. While Ben coached Abby (and yes, that did bring to mind the adage of the blind leading the blind...), Hannah and I pulled away, vying it out for the treasured green jacket. Halfway through the bottom nine, the caretaker came over to watch us. I guess we were just that good. We noted at this point that he had only one leg; however, that didn’t seem to deter him from much as, when Abby once again knocked that ball out of the park, he nimbly pirouetted on his crutches, loped after it, balanced on his two artificial props and kicked the ball back with his true leg. It was at this point that he started to give us pointers, all in Czech of course. Soon, we came to understand that he thought we should all use MY ball, as apparently its composition had an advantage over the others. Just like that, the crowd of three turned on me, as if it was MY fault for having got the best ball, like I had sneakily chosen it over their equipment, knowing it had Golden Snitch-like qualities. Any grudging admiration I had received up to that point for my surprising skill on the course evaporated and I was left with only disdain. I have to say I didn’t much appreciate the interruption from Long John Silver. It didn’t throw me off my game but did render my accomplishment less-than-appreciated. I’m only glad I was writing the blog today so I could get the facts down correctly.

Olomouc's Main Town Square

Olomouc's Main Town Square

We lunched in the food fair, noticing a distinct lack of Czech foods, and opted for Japanese and gyros; it was about half the price of Mayfair Mall offerings. When we returned to the main square, the girls elected to walk home for a break while Ben and I remained determined to use those tourist cards. They had advertised tours of the main square so we popped over to sign up. It turns out they were only being offered in Czech and while we had learned some of the language from our Czech golf friend, ‘slice,’ ‘fore,’ and ‘putter’ weren’t going to serve us too well. As an alternative, the cards allowed us to get English audio guides so we listened to, or rather, endured Mr. Monotony list date upon date as we did our own self tour of the various statues and buildings nearby. The square is actually a very nice place, and its atmosphere is right up there with other European squares only it is much less busy. There are many unique fountains, and numerous church spires peek out from behind the rows of colourful facades. The highlight for me was to see the Holy Trinity Column, a Baroque monument created to celebrate faith and to show gratitude for the ending of the plague.

Since we wanted a view, we managed to get on a tour to go up the tower of the town hall. The tour guide was a young university student who said she would attempt to throw in some English along the way for us. The tower afforded us wonderful views of the city, and once the rest of the Czech tour had exited the top landing, she gave us our own private 360 degree tour of the landmarks. When she saw we expressed interest in the history of various buildings, she walked us through a few of the rooms in the town hall too. She seemed eager to talk of her town and confessed that while she had originally been studying biology and chemistry and never liked history, she was now much more interested in the subject; and, amazingly, if we got it right, she was switching her major to Dutch theology and planned to study in Holland. We spent an enjoyable 45 minutes with her and told her how much we appreciated her private tour.

Rafting a River in the Middle of Olomouc

Rafting a River in the Middle of Olomouc

And now, the time we had been waiting for, the boat tour. The girls had walked back to join us at an appointed time. Billed as ‘a non-traditional tour of the historical centre of Olomouc,’ it promised a trip past a number of notable landmarks through the heart of the town. There were three other passengers and two guides; we all clamored into the minibus and headed off to the ‘put in’ place towing the raft behind. The guides were silent along the way. They had matching buzz haircuts, wore twin navy t-shirts, and generally shared the same somber expression. I was curious what advertised ‘information about the journey’ they were going to share when we were in the boat. Once at the stream’s edge, they set the boat in the water and handed out paddles and worn, faded life jackets to us, their new crew. As promised, the ‘short instruction session’ was indeed short and contained instructions, exactly two: “when I say ‘go,’ you move like this; when I say ‘contra,’ you move like this.” One guide was to drive the minibus to the end of the route while the other steered the raft in the back. And we were off, with Ben and I lucky to be up front, and Hannah and Abby sharing the second row. As we paddled with the current, I began to relax and quite enjoyed the slow moving water and abundance of greenery surrounding us. Every few moments, we had to duck as we skirted under a leafy branch stretching out from the shore. Even though I was tempted to wait until the city monuments appeared to take pictures, I decided to shoot a few views of the river as we wound our way towards the town. We paddled through a very short stint in gently rolling water and I wondered if there would be more 'white water' up ahead. It was pretty, this rubbernecking along the river and I eagerly looked forward to seeing the advertised ‘Premyslid Palace, Bezruc Park, the ancient city fortifications, and St. Michael’s Church’ from this interesting vantage point. Presently, we came across some more choppy water and our guide, who had been silent since the initial ‘Go’ now indicated we were to bring the boat into the side and disembark. It appeared the rapids were too strong for us to go through and we would need to walk a few minutes around them. We got out and crossed the small bridge up ahead. But, wait, there was the minibus! The second guide reached for the paddles and I realized then the tour was over. Abby leaned in and, pointing to the pictures in the brochure, whispered to me “Where was all this?” I shook my head dumbly. He handed each of us a special certificate stating we had “successfully completed the rafting expedition on the river Morava throughout the historical city of Olomouc.” We all caught the ride back to the square and said goodbye. I checked my watch; exactly 32 minutes had elapsed since we first climbed on board the minibus. If this hadn’t been ‘free’ with the tourist card, I think I’d feel a bit taken in.

The last couple of events of the day focussed on food -- what else? We stopped at an ice cream bar and had wonderful sundaes for a third of the price it cost us in Germany and Hannah and I finished off the night with a sit down restaurant meal (with real cutlery) for a mere $12 total. If anyone is looking for a deal, we feel we have found the right place for people on a budget. Just don't sign up for the rafting tour.

Posted by KZFamily 13:45 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged czech_republic olomouc Comments (1)

(Entries 17 - 20 of 256) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 9 10 .. »