This is Part 2 of my belated trip blog. While staying with my cousins in Prague, I used weekdays to explore the city and take some trips. It was a long visit and I wanted to see more places and give them a break. My destination list for Prague and surroundings keeps growing so I had plenty of choices. This year I checked several of them off.
Being more comfortable with the Czech language helped. I have a wonderful Czech language tutor at home and have been studying with Jana since 2017, usually from October through April. My progress has been slow and I get frustrated. Learning a language in your 60’s is a real challenge. When I learned that Czech is a difficulty level 4 out of 5 on the U.S. State Department’s list of world languages, it was comforting and I felt a little better. The studying paid off. I can’t carry on an in-depth conversation, but I can get around on public transportation, order off a menu, talk a little with the boys & other Czech speakers, understand and read a lot more than two years ago. It makes everything easier and people appreciate it when you try to speak their language.
Dresden – Only a two hour bus trip from Prague, Dresden is a vibrant city. Literally a phoenix risen from the ashes. Dresden was fire bombed by the Allies during World War Two. The Altstadt (old town) was destroyed and 25,000 people killed in one hour as incentive to end the war and retaliation for the Blitz. Rebuilding did not begin till the 1990’s, post communism. This was fortunate because the Altstadt was restored to it’s original state. Ibis Budget Hotel was the perfect location adjacent to Altstadt market platz, and an easy walk from the train station. In spite of rain, I wandered the city, enjoyed a walking tour and museums and logged 16 miles in 2 days. The Kunsthof Pasaj, an artsy alley in New Town, the Frauenkirche and the Zwinger Palac were the highlights.
Brno – The second largest city in the Czech Republic (380,000 population), with a much lower number of tourists. My mission was to see the Vila Tugendhat, a UNESCO World Heritage site, It was designed by modernist architect Mies Van der Rohe in 1930. I became interested in it after reading the book The Glass Room. Apparently, many people did too because the tickets are sold out several months in advance. I got lucky and found one the week before. The house tour group was only 12 people and really worth it. I stayed overnight in the city center and enjoyed the Spilberk Castle and park, an art museum, wandering around and the Zelny Trh (Cabbage Market) underground tour.
Karlovy Vary – another pleasant bus trip one hour from Prague. This is a spa town in the West Bohemia region has 13 main hot springs and was founded in 1370. It has been a popular tourist destination since the 1800’s. It is fun to spend the day walking along the warm Tepla River, visit the different springs and park areas, and people watch. I tasted all the springs, but did not find one I actually liked. The architecture and colors of the buildings are amazing. The steep funnicula up to the Diana Tower gets you a great view of the surrounding forests. In June it Karovy Vary is the site of a large international film festival. Photos of American movie stars are all abundant in hotel restaurant windows.
Amsterdam was my longest solo trip of four days. Flights are cheap within Europe so I flew to save time. It is only a short ride on the Prague Metro to a connector airport bus so that was easy. Then a quick train ride from Schipol airport to the city center of Amsterdam. I really wanted to stay in a canal house and booked a little hotel in a lovely neighborhood not far from the museum area. It was relatively inexepensive and no frills. My room was at top of the house overlooking the canal. Translation: the attic. The last flight of stairs was almost a ladder and it was fortunate the weather was comfortable because there was no air conditioning.
I walked everywhere and found the city easy to get around. As long as you are ALWAYS watching for cyclists. My favorite must-do’s were an evening boat ride, the Van Gogh, World War 2 Resistence museums and the Rijksmuzeum. I loved all the canals, bridges, squares. sidewalk cafes and the Dutch building styles. I ate a pancake the size of a platter for breakfast and enjoyed some good beer. One evening I met had dinner with a Olga Be.liuskina, a young nuclear physicist from the Ukraine who works in Finland, Meeting interesting strangers is one of the perks of traveling alone.
Bruges – From Amsterdam, I took a bus trip to Bruges, Belgium. It was a six hour round trip and a 12 hour day, but I was so happy I went. The ride went through beautiful windmill country. The city is another UNESCO site, with a charming city center. In Bruges, food is a thing: mussels, beer, chocolate and waffles. The old city center is the perfect size for wandering and admiring one great building after another. Six hours wasn’t enough, but I got there.
Prague – random pictures from my wanderings. I have still only scratched the surface of this fascinating city – another good reason to return.