Since leaving Ireland on September 10th, we’ve been bouncing around Europe to a few very cool spots. We flew to Amsterdam where we luckily found a cheap place to stay (it was expensive and we planned late), we then flew to Prague to explore the Czech Republic (it’s very cool) and then we took a bus from Prague to Munich to meet up with our good friend Jay and venture to Oktoberfest (and on a few hikes in the Alps). All three countries have definitely been different, but they all share a few things in common: nice city parks, friendly people, and plenty of opportunities for adventure. Read on to see what we were up to in the first two of these three spots, with a recap of Germany coming soon.
Also, note that we wrote this together, with me (Will) writing Amsterdam and Jenny writing Czech.
With only a couple days to soak up Amsterdam we were lucky* to find a great place to stay via AirBnB that included the use of a couple of well used bikes that we took full advantage of. We arrived in the afternoon and met our host at his studio apartment, got acquainted with the space and without much delay went out exploring the city on bike. Let me tell you: we loved the biking there! Our one-speed cruisers were more than adequate and we got used to the flow of bikers pretty quickly. Since we’re just on cruisers in bike only lanes it was easy enough to use my cell phone map to find our route as we went. Biking around was definitely more fun than walking everywhere, and it helped our legs (and Jenny’s feet) recover from the marathon in Ireland.
We (of course) used our bikes on day two for the tourist tour. We first visited the Rijksmuseum which is a very large 3 story building that is dedicated to arts, crafts and history. We easily spent 3 hours perusing art, history & folklore and had a lot of fun together exploring, pondering and learning. Post visit we biked further downtown towards the red light district. It was so easy to explore the city via bike, especially because the rear wheel has a lock (aka o-lock, ring lock, wheel lock or frame lock) and you can just park your bike, swing the lock in place and you’re on your way. You can see Jenny unlocking her bike in one of the photos above.
One of the activities that was highly recommended was a canal cruise. It didn’t take us long to decide on one that was at night and included wine and snacks. The cruise started about 9pm just as the city lights started to turn on. We had a lovely 2 hour cruise enjoying the wine, the sights, the fun little nuggets of history from the guide. We walked through the red light district post-cruise which showed us a different side of the area than what we saw during the day.
It was a whirlwind, but we really enjoyed Amsterdam and could easily see ourselves going back sometime. But for now, off to the Czech Republic!
*We planned our accommodations in Amsterdam waaaaay too late. We were busy in Ireland and just didn’t get around to it, and by the time we did we saw that most all AirBnBs were booked and hotels would have cost us about $250/night! Yikes… After a few AirBnBs denied us, we decided to sleep on the thought of paying a crap load for a hotel or going to a hostel and trying our luck. Well, in the morning we found that a new AirBnB showed up, turns out his guests cancelled last minute and we jumped at the opportunity. It was a little bit outside the city center, but it included bikes and it was the right price! A word of caution for others wanting to go to Amsterdam: book accommodations early and avoid travel stress and tears!
Prague and a road trip south
Jenny here, writing about our adventures in the Czech Republic
We arrived to our Prague AirBnB after a quick two hour flight in the early afternoon. We were excited because the city is fairly inexpensive so we stayed in a huge two bedroom airbnb in a nice neighborhood for the heck of it. After check-in we went to see our surroundings and the city – we’ve gotten really good at quickly unpacking the necessities and then heading out to explore. Little did we know we would walk over 6 miles exploring the city. The natural beauty from the historical town sucked us in. After some tasty Mexican food (and a margarita – man we miss Mexican food!) we walked across the famous Charles Bridge into central Old Town where we strolled through the small streets, past food carts and pedal cabs. We bought the common dessert, Tredelnik, which is a round, tube shaped piece of dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and filled with chocolate – it’s unique as they are cooked over coals instead of in an oven. Yum! After a long afternoon seeing the city (and it being a travel day) we crashed hard.
The next morning we woke to light rain, but nothing that would hold us back from a morning run. We went for a jog through the massive Prague Castle that is very beautiful. It is a must if you visit. We didn’t go inside, but the outside grounds and gardens (and views) are beautiful. Later that day we ventured on the metro into Old Town for some traditional food and beer and to see some of the sights. Our first stop was at the Old Town Hall Tower with the oldest working astronomical clock. After we climbed up all the steps to the top where we enjoyed a panoramic city view we headed to the Dalí exhibit at the Gallery of Art Prague where I wondered the art hall solo. Dali is one of my favorites after studying him during my courses in London while attending the University of Portland. Strange man.
For lunch we split a kielbasa sausage from a food cart (very common) and enjoyed a taster tray of beers (or rather, Will did) at the Prauge Beer Museum. He enjoyed the taster tray very much, it was nice to have a menu that included a full description of all of the beers they had on tap. After the initial 5 ( Konrad, máz, prácheňská perla, zemský ipa & kingswood cider) he went back for one more taste from a small craft brewer that was supposedly “making waves” in Czech Republic, the Matuska ESB. The last one was his favorite beer from the CR! While he was tasting beers, I had a warm mulled wine that hit the spot on a rainy day. One thing we made note of was smoking was allowed in bars, which is strange (and smelly) to see these days.
The next day we decided to rent a car to explore the countryside of the Czech Republic. What a beautiful country! We stopped an hour outside of Prague at Castle Karlstejn and took a tour. The guide was very informative as he showed us the oldest weapon from the 15th century (a cross bow), the knights wardrobes, old games the castle guards played in secret when bored and all the grand rooms displayed how they would have been in the 15th century. We then ventured on through beautiful forests and farm country for another quick stop at Budejevice for a Budvar, which is where the American brand Budwieser was inspired from. Did you know that the American Budweiser is banned from being sold in the Czech? Yep, it’s because of copyrights.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at our final destination, a small historical town with a river running through it called Cesky Krumlov (CK). We checked into our “pension” meaning guesthouse before a walk through the small town streets to the town square where we ate dinner next to the river that winds through the city.
We had the best nights sleep of our Czech stay at the guesthouse! Quiet, cozy and comfortable. Refreshed we went on a morning town tour run where we experienced a few beautiful sites: a foggy sunrise over the city, a path along the flowing river, the pretty CK Castle gardens, and a large path through the castle grounds. We returned to the guesthouse for a filling and tasty breakfast, packed up and ended our visit in CK by visiting the CK castle tower for a beautiful panoramic view of the town. That afternoon we drove back to Prague but stopped off for a hike along “the most romantic river in the Czech” (as voted by the people a few years back). The walk along the Vydra River was beautiful with plenty of spots for taking photos and enjoying the scenery. We stopped about 4km down the path to have our lunch and then returned the same way. Here’s the description we read that made us choose the hike:
“Take a walk through the romantic valley of the River Vydra, one of the most beautiful places in Šumava. What starts as a calm stream, later transforms into a roaring canyon with many huge granite rocks, and thus also with rapids and waterfalls.”
As we drove back to Prague we observed beautiful lakes, went up and down mountains, and drove through forests. A truly a fantastic drive.
Back in Prague, we spent the evening soaking up the city one last time. For dinner we went to a traditional Czech restaurant for some baked fish and Will finally enjoyed some goulash with dumplings (he had been craving it for days)! After we followed this up by going to our first ice bar (see me in the picture above)… What an experience?! We were one of a few over 20 year-olds there, but had a blast. It was freezing in the bar even with big jackets and gloves on. After the 20 minutes allotted to be in the bar and sucking down a “free” bright blue vodka drink we toured the five floors of the night club that was included in our entrance fee. It was pretty ridiculous with barely anyone there, but we had fun together. On our walk back to our airbnb we found a sticker for our laptop (it’s getting really full). Our airbnb came with a large jet bath tub so we took advantage of it before heading to bed for the last night sleep in the Czech Republic.
Looking back on our experience the most used words were dekuji (thank you), ano (yes) and bozkov (a cheap vodka brand that we purchased, drank and loved to say). Cheers to lots of fun in the beautiful country of the Czech Republic!
We’re finishing up our writeup of Germany, so look for that in the next couple of days!
Cheers from the road,
Will and Jenny