Exploring the Eastern Bloc!

Czech Republic Travel Blog

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After leaving Austria, I headed up to Czech Republic to meet Zach in Prague.  It doesn't look like a long distance on the map, but lordy, those Czech trains are a nightmare!  I thought they were going to start loading cattle and chickens into the car with me.  I had to make so many stops, get off and get on, change money, take a bus (??? at a train station???), and finally arrived in Prague.  I immediately went to the tourist information office to find out how to get to the airport and pick Zach up.  While I was talking to the man in the information booth, a woman nestled up uncorfortably close to me.  So when I tried to move away from her, I noticed her hand was in my purse!!!!  Fortunately I didn't keep anything valuable in my purse, for that very reason.  So my only response was to yell, 'Hey!' and move my purse to the other side.  But it was so funny because the woman wouldn't leave!  She just sat there like she didn't do anything.  So while she sat there, I noticed that she was dressed in a suit and looked like she was on her way to church or something.  Maybe she picked pockets on her lunch break?  I had no idea.  I was worried she would try to do something to me so I finally had to tell the information guy to call the police, which made her finally leave.  But really, watch out for the church ladies in the train station!  I thought it was just the dirty hippies with no shoes you had to worry about!

Finally, I picked Zach up at the airport and we ventured about in Prague for a couple of days.  I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for this, but Prague is overrated.  I don't shop much and the only stores in Prague were for crystal, garnet, and amber.  Or your other option was to hang out with Australians and drink overpriced beers on a tourist riddled terrace.  I just felt like Prague didn't have any culture.  While it had all the beautiful buildings you see in Europe, it didn't really have any charm.  It was so touristy, and I heard more English spoken there than I had since being home in the states. 

Next, on the advice of my friend Bekki, I went to Cesky Krumlov, a small medieval town. It was such a nice change from Prague.  While it was still touristy, it had cute little shops and restaurants, that actually looked like locals might go there, or went there once during the communist regime.  We even at trout which had been caught in the local river!  It was delightful. 

We next headed to Vienna on the most hellish train ride of my life.  After asking the advice of which bus to take (at the train station), we were directed to the wrong bus and sent back to Cesky Krumlov!  I pretty much lost it, but after a 5 hour detour, we finally arrived in Vienna at 10 pm, without a hotel.  We stayed at a nice hotel, which provided breakfast and were delighted to hear from our German breakfast companion that Vienna offered lots of culture!  Unfortunately, his version of culture is museums and more museums.  Not that I can't dig on a museum, but you gotta have the right mindset for them.  And I just wasn't into it that weekend. 

After a couple days in Vienna, we flew to Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Dubrovnik was beautiful, but it rained quite a bit, and the city was filled with about 10 cruise ship loads of vacationers.  It was still amazing and the little town inside the 'city walls' was amazing and felt like traveling back to the Roman Empire. 

After Dubrovnik, we drove up the coast to Split, which was an amazing beach town and still had remnants of the roman empire in the Diocletian Palace.  One thing unique about Croatia is they seem to take ruins and turn them into retail, by putting shops and cafes all throughout.  Normally, I'm turned off my the commercialization of history, but Croatia somehow managed to do so without offending my romantic sensibilities. 

Our trip in Croatia ended with a drive up to Zagreb.  Zagreb was a cute little city.  I spent most of my time making Zach go shopping with me.  Since it was near the end of the trip, I figured could carry stuff around.  I also made sure that I ate as many kababs as I could on my way out, since they just aren't the same in the US! 

Then it was off to Budapest, where we learned that you can only buy a roundtrip ticket from Zagreb to Budapest.  So while we had to buy one roundtrip ticket, we managed to get a free one way ticket to Budapest from somebody who wasn't going to use it.  Sometimes Europe has the wierdest rules.  For example, while visiting my friends in Italy, I learned that restaurants are required to be closed one day a week.  Really?  So bizarre. 

Finally, in Budapest, we spent our last few days in Budapest, where it was freezing!  Zach and I without any winter clothes decided to tough it out, and refrained from buying coats in the last days of our trip.  I absolutely regretted that decision when we took a nighttime river cruise on the Danube.  While it was beautiful, I couldn't remember the last time I was that cold.  However, we did see the first McDonald's on the Eastern Bloc, so I guess it was worth it all.

Our last night in Budapest we went to the 'baths', which are kind of like spas.  When we left the baths, everything was closed.  We thought it odd on a Saturday night that nothing was open.  Then we noticed an unusual number of police cars.  We were heading to St. Stephen's church, which I was dying to see because it held the entombed hand of St. Stephen, which incidentally, they take out for the annual St. Stephen's day parade.  Who wouldn't want to see that?!!?!  So on our way to the church, we noticed riot police and big police tank/trucks.  We didn't know what was going on, except that the church was closed, and we had no place of refuge from whatever the riot police were after.  We stuck around to see what the fuss was about and even saw a flash bomb down the street!  But it turned out to be a dudd of a riot and headed back to our hotel for the night.  When we got up at 3 am to go to the airport, all the bars had opened back up and everybody was still out partying.  So it was an exciting end to the trip, you could say!  My first Eastern European riot! (Kind of). 
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