Day 31 & 32 – Prague to Berlin

IMGP1198 Well Prague has to be my favourite city so far. Its breathtakingly beautiful and the people aren’t twits. What more could you ask for?

I decided I’d try one of these free tours that they advertise on the free maps they have lying around the hostel. Since I didn’t know a whole lot about Prague or what there was to see I thought it would be an easy way to see the sights without having to go to too much trouble myself. I’m lazy you know.

So I arrived up at the meeting point a little early. There was another guy from another tour company standing in the spot that the one in my brochure picks up from. His tour started at 10:30am where mine was to start at 11am (sneaky bugger). Unfortunately for him he didn’t get any takers for his tour so he left promptly on the dot of 10:30am mid sentence while I was talking to him. Maybe that’s why you’re not getting any takers? Silly American. Anyway these tours are ‘free’ because the guides work on tips. Shame I don’t tip then hey? 😀

IMGP1224 So the walking tour got going eventually. Quite a lot of people showed up for this one. Enough to split us into two large groups. Unfortunately I got the overly (and I mean overly) enthusiastic one which made it a bit hard to take in the information she was dishing out while struggling not to just quietly blend with the crowd and leave the tour.

Between the bad jokes and overly loud presentation (think that guy from police academy that had the weird voice. You know that one that was all screechy and stuff. The red haired guy. I think it was in Police Academy 2 or 3. Its been a long time. I forget his name. How many did they end up making? Oh right the tour) I was able to glean some information about Prague that I didn’t already know. Mostly they don’t like to fight and are pretty passive people. They had one day of freedom after WWII before the Russians came and set up the communist shop and they really liked Mozart.

Back to the city itself. Its a really beautiful place. After finishing the tour I went back to the hostel for a bit. Unfortunately the weather had turned bad and went to escape it for a bit. The sun came out again in the afternoon and I went out and revisited a few places from the tour and also went back up to the castle to catch the night time view up close.

IMGP1206 As the sun went down and they turned the lights on (I got to see up close where they hide all the lights) the place just starts to glow. These Czechs really know how to illuminate a building. I walked back down through the castle to the streets below and back across the Charles IV bridge taking some night shots as I went.  I really wish I bought a new camera before I came on this trip. Mine is just not cut out for night time shots. I think I managed to grab a few good ones. More by fluke than any skill.

Again I surprised myself with how long I’d been out wandering around and headed back to the hostel. I was planning on taking a morning train to Berlin.

The next morning I headed over to the train station and hoped the next train heading to Berlin. It was a long slow trip for some reason. Might have been because my laptop ran out of juice about halfway. Then the temperature dropped and I was freezing my bits off in my t-shirt and shorts. Low and behold I arrive in Berlin to dreary, rainy weather and the hard task of finding my hostel ahead of me.

IMGP1274 The location of the hostel as marked on hostelbookers was wrong so I spent a good 45min walking around in the drizzling rain trying to find the place that just didn’t exist as on the map. I finally worked out the stations were wrong and walked about 2kms back to the other station to find the hostel. Which is pretty much where I’ve stayed. The weather is crap outside, you can’t see anything for rain and fog plus its cold. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow. I might try another free tour.

Day 29 & 30 – The Best of Budapest and onto Prague!

IMGP0967 The lady at the hostel was very helpful in marking out all of the sights that are worth seeing in Budapest. I started with the castle of course.

Budapest is divided by a river (a really frikkin wide one) with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. Kinda like Harden-Murrumburrah or Albury-Wodonga but worth seeing. 🙂

Budapest was the first place that I’ve really encountered hasslers of the sort that you’d find in places like China or Egypt. Although only around the train station. As soon as I got off the train I was being offered all sorts of things and they’re pretty persistent. Luckily they didn’t stray to far from the train station as the rest of Budapest was really remarkable.

I was staying on the Pest side of the river so I walked across the bridge heading towards the Buda castle. Its on top of a hill like every other one. I suppose it would have been a bad idea to make them easily accessible. There is actually quite a lot up on top of the hill. IMGP0999 The Palace, a town, church, and I think there was even a hilton hotel. It was a really warm and sunny day so by the time I got up there I needed a bit of a break. There is a mix of new and old up here. Pretty much the same old story of someone built it, someone knocked it down, someone else rebuilt it and so forth. You can see pretty much all of Budapest from up here. Its a very beautiful city.

I headed back down the hill and crossed the bridge again to go and have a look at their building of Parliament. I could see it from up at the castle. Its a gothic style building and makes you think that we’re not trying hard enough with our parliament buildings. Its very imposing.

I walked down their main street which has all the exclusive shops like Louie Vuton, Versace, McDonalds and all that to get to the other end where there’s a large park that includes another little castle, a few monuments and also the baths.

I went and had a look inside the baths. Which is just a fancy public swimming pool complex with a few statues. Its also pretty expensive.

IMGP0989 There seemed to be a lot going on in Budapest. A few little festivals and things going on in the street. I also noticed that have a big music scene too and is an attraction for some big artists. Up and comers like Mark Knophfler, Natalie Cole, and Jerry Lee Lewis all had upcoming gigs. I kid……

That was pretty much it for Budapest. I really liked the place but there wasn’t a lot to see plus I didn’t know a whole lot about what I was seeing either. I think I knocked off all of the main attractions. I heard about some caves that you could crawl through as I was leaving but not really my thing.

The following day I boarded the train for Prague. Its a 7 hour journey so I packed some lunch and held on for the ride. Everything was going smoothly until we hit Slovakia, which was a surprise to me, I’d forgot to check to make sure the train stuck within the limits of my Eurail pass. Slovakia isn’t covered by the pass so the conductor wanted 22 euro for the ticket through Slovakia. Which seems a little inflated for the location but the conductor said if I didn’t need a receipt he’d give me a discount and only charge 10 euro. I doubt the rail company ever saw that money but it helped me out. 🙂

I arrived in Prague around 4:30pm. The train arrived over 20 min early and I nearly didn’t get off as I wasn’t convinced I’d reached my destination yet.

IMGP1051 I headed over to my hostel and checked in. Took the opportunity to sit down and surf the internet for a little while and then headed out for a walk around. I only planned to go out for a quick walk but ended up walking around for about 4 hours. Prague is a beautiful place.

I crossed the river and walked along it until I reached the Charles IV bridge then decided to walk up and have a look around the castle (up another hill). Prague is absolutely magnificent. I’ve never seen anything like it. Its beautiful during the daylight but nothing prepares you for when the sun goes down and they turn on the lights. Everything gets lit up. The most impressive of all is the castle. This 500m long beast sitting on top of the hill with a gothic church poking out of the top is just amazing. Its has to be one of my favourite sights in all of Europe. I took lots of photos.

I crossed the Charles IV bridge which is a stone bridge built in the 1300s. Everything is so old here. Its pretty much the only city that didn’t get bombed to kingdom come during WWII.

IMGP1182 By then it was getting really late so I headed back to the hostel for the night. There are some free walking tours so I might try one out.