A Travellerspoint blog

Couch (and crowd) surfing and backpack sledding in Prague

Now one of the first things you should know about Prague in the winter is that it pretty much is constantly snowing lightly. Never really a blizzard, always slightly more than a dusting. What this means is that the city is always in a perpetual state of picturesque beauty. I got into the city and found my way to the most reccommmended hostel i could find, Hostel One, and immidiately knew I had found a place that I could stay for a while. That night I met my friends Pedro and David, enjoyed the free dinner the hostel provided me and crashed that night with a smile on my face.

The next day a couchsurfing host accepted my request and I just couldnt turn down the free accomodation. Since she could only meet me at night a spent the day wandering the beautiful streets. I stumbled across a Salvador Dali exhibition and spent an hour trying to decipher the meaning in his works, some of which were beautiful and arresting and some of which were simply too distorted for my tastes. I found my way across the Charles Bridge and hiked up to the Prague Castle, home of the St. Vitus Cathedral. The outside of the building was impressive, the inside was mindblowing. I'm constantly amazed whenever I see any of these old buildings and sights at just the sheer man hours that it took to create such structures and the care that was obviously taken to make such impressive sights. Exiting to the right I began the climb up to the top of the building, where a snowscape panorama of the city presented itself, looking out over a city that in many ways still feels like it belongs in another century. Gone are the skyscrapers and glass, present are the red roofs and winding streets, the city wrapping itself around the Vltava River on both sides.

Needing to burn a few more hours I made my way back to the city center and grabbed a seat at a starbucks that my iPod said was only a 15 minute walk from the metro stop where i was to meet my host. With a half hour still to go I got up and decided being early was far better than being late to meet someone who was offering me a place to stay simply out of the goodness of their heart. So, off I went. Quickly I came across the park that my map clearly had shown was between me and my destination and trudged upwards on a small footpath, not quite what I thought I would be walking on but mildly impressed that google knew of such a miniscule route. But then the path peters out. Up no longer being an option I decide the path to my left seems the most promising and quickly head in that direction. Meeting time in 15 minutes. The path keeps going left, taking me around the park instead of over it. I quicken my pace. A switchback occurs and through the woods i see a statue and a large building that must be right next to the meeting place as far as I can fathom. With only 5 minutes left i hop up over the retaining wall and with minimum bushwhacking I break through and look wildy around for the metro stop. "I have to be close" I think as I work my way around the large building I thought would help steer me to my destination. And then I see the other side. I am not on the other side of the park, but rather on top of it, in the center with a steep downhill to where I need to get to now if I am to not be late. Hustling along the running path I scan for any sort of route downwards. I find one, slippery and not very used but its the best I've got at the time. Down, down down I go until I'm not 300 meters from the street that I need to get to. I turn off the path and start walking, sledding on my backpack, falling my ways towards the street until I come to a ledge. 20 feet below me lies train tracks, lots of them, and a 10 foot fence to prevent any trespassing through them. This is not good. meeting time was 10 minutes ago but at the moment I just want to be able to get back onto any street. I follow the ledge along and thankfully an embankment presents itself that allows me to get down off the ledge and to the fence. I look for a hole or something to get through and, finding nothing, continue to walk along. Amazingly I end up on an actual street and even more amazingly the road leads me right under the tracks and onto a street not two blocks from my destination. With fingers crossed that I'm not too late I burst into the metro station and feel like falling at the feet of Anita, my host, when I see her there. Beyond grateful, she leads me back to her spacious apartment where I collapse and fall asleep instantly.

The next day I decide to take easy, my previous nights adventures were enough for two days and I spend most of the day sending couchrequests for Krakow (my next destination decided on that morning). Since Anita has work all day I head out to find dinner and bump into a group of germans that I had met at the hostel. They invite me back to watch the soccer match on ( ac milan vs. barcelona) and I happily spend the evening with my friends again drinking beers and trading stories. On my way out the hostel bartender, Samwell, asks me if I'll be in town the next day. I tell him I wasnt planning on it but that I dont really have anything definite planned on my next move. "Your coming with us tomorrow" he tells me with no hesitation, "theres a big Erasmus event and you don't want to miss it." Erasmus (I figured out later) is an exchange program that is very popular all over Europe and that hosts events for all the kids that are in it in a certain city. Since I already told Anita earlier that day that I would be heading out tomorrow I book another night at the hostel then and there.

Samwell wasn't kidding when he said that it would be a great time. about 24 hours after I confirmed my night at the hostel I found myself crowdsurfing in a packed club with celebratory Brits, Germans, Czechs, Spainards, and probably 10 other nationalities. The music was great, the atmosphere better, and I was so glad I had decided to stick around.

I left the next day for Krakow and arrived safely at the home of Aleksandra, a photographer and student here in Krakow and an easy and great person to stay with. Budapest is up next.
Have a good one,
Jesse

Posted by jesse.tutor 05:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

trains come she will

I'll get a post on Prague up really soon but I had to put this up first. I'm on a train from Prague headed towards Krakow and the beauty of this song coupled with the snowy fields of the Czech Republic sliding by my window just put me in a state of awe. I wish I could share this moment.
http://youtu.be/PYD-DIggB2k

Posted by jesse.tutor 04:59 Comments (0)

Berlin: currywurst? Suppose life could be worse

Alright. Berlin. I arrived in the city at 4 30 in the morning hoping to find some Internet and discover my couch surfing inbox filled with acceptances. Starbucks shined like a beacon and I hopped onto their network. Nothing. My requests had brought immense sympathy and kind words from many people but not a single person could have me at the time. Facing the first trouble I'd had on the trip I decided to hop on the tram and wait a few hours to see if any if the people who hasn't responded would get back to me with better news. I fought off sleep as the cityscape blended into the country and the train began passing through snowy fields instead of concrete jungle. Thankfully the train did an about face about an hour after I got on it and another hour later I wound up at Starbucks again. Still nothing. With my pack feelin heavier all the time I started googling good hostels and found a number very close to me. I set out feeling glad I finally had a destination. Walking along the Berlin streets I glanced to my right and stopped, realizing the wall across the street was far from just a wall. Crossing over I soon realized that I had been walking along what was once the death strip, the dead zone that along with the Berlin Wall, once separated east and west Germany. It's hard to describe the feeling but it was one of the most powerful emotions I've had in a long time, just looking down and knowing what the ground under my feet had once signified and the sorrow and grief it had once created. I walked reverently along the wall for another mile or so, most of which now only consists of the supporting rebar.

As you know from my last entry I made it to the east 7 hostel and dropped my bag and with it my fears about not having a bed for the night. 5 minutes after I posted my last entry two guys entered the dorm room I was in and one dropped off his bags. I introduced myself and found out the Matt an Aussie studying at the university of Berlin, was leaving in a couple days for home and after losing his apartment keys the weekend before he was no longer welcome at his place and so was staying at the hostel his final nights. So as you can imagine he and Paul ( his friend, an Irishman) were in a celebratory mood. An invitation was extended in direction. I accepted. After eating the best doner I'd ever had ( 5 months and turkey and nothing there even came close to as good) we hoofed it over to Belushi's, their favorite bar where we met up with a number of their friends and then ventured to the meeting place for a pub crawl they knew well. For 10 euros you got a free drink at 6 bars and other deals as well at each place you went, culminating with a visit to Matrix, a club I had seen adds for all over the city. Needless to say everyone had a great time and I made some great new friends, though my jet lagged body clock was in no way improved from the evening.

Saturday brought me to Rachel Harding, a friend of my brothers girlfriend and who had kindly offered me a place to stay in Berlin. I thankfully got to bed earlier that evening and was grateful to be in the comfort of a home. I also made the decision to travel to Prague on Monday and started sending out couchsurfing requests to people in the area, wondering what adventures my next city would bring. On Sunday I got down to sight seeing business and hit the east side gallery, a mile long wall of graffiti and murals, along the way stumbling into a reggae hamlet that in the summer hosts street soccer tournaments, a definite destination in the future. From there I made my way over to the Brandenburg gate and from there to the Jewish memorial. Pictures to come soon I swear. For lunch I ate currywurst, basically a hotdog in a doughy casing and covered in a rich, smoky ketchup, kinda like ketchup crossed with barbecue sauce. Not the most high class food but German without a doubt. The next day I hopped on the train to Prague and when I leave for my next destination after here I'll post again on what my Czech forays consisted of. Have a great one.
Peace,
Jesse

Posted by jesse.tutor 04:57 Comments (0)

Berlin: currywurst? Suppose life could be worse

Alright. Berlin. I arrived in the city at 4 30 in the morning hoping to find some Internet and discover my couch surfing inbox filled with acceptances. Starbucks shined like a beacon and I hopped onto their network. Nothing. My requests had brought immense sympathy and kind words from many people but not a single person could have me at the time. Facing the first trouble I'd had on the trip I decided to hop on the tram and wait a few hours to see if any if the people who hasn't responded would get back to me with better news. I fought off sleep as the cityscape blended into the country and the train began passing through snowy fields instead of concrete jungle. Thankfully the train did an about face about an hour after I got on it and another hour later I wound up at Starbucks again. Still nothing. With my pack feelin heavier all the time I started googling good hostels and found a number very close to me. I set out feeling glad I finally had a destination. Walking along the Berlin streets I glanced to my right and stopped, realizing the wall across the street was far from just a wall. Crossing over I soon realized that I had been walking along what was once the death strip, the dead zone that along with the Berlin Wall, once separated east and west Germany. It's hard to describe the feeling but it was one of the most powerful emotions I've had in a long time, just looking down and knowing what the ground under my feet had once signified and the sorrow and grief it had once created. I walked reverently along the wall for another mile or so, most of which now only consists of the supporting rebar.

As you know from my last entry I made it to the east 7 hostel and dropped my bag and with it my fears about not having a bed for the night. 5 minutes after I posted my last entry two guys entered the dorm room I was in and one dropped off his bags. I introduced myself and found out the Matt an Aussie studying at the university of Berlin, was leaving in a couple days for home and after losing his apartment keys the weekend before he was no longer welcome at his place and so was staying at the hostel his final nights. So as you can imagine he and Paul ( his friend, an Irishman) were in a celebratory mood. An invitation was extended in direction. I accepted. After eating the best doner I'd ever had ( 5 months and turkey and nothing there even came close to as good) we hoofed it over to Belushi's, their favorite bar where we met up with a number of their friends and then ventured to the meeting place for a pub crawl they knew well. For 10 euros you got a free drink at 6 bars and other deals as well at each place you went, culminating with a visit to Matrix, a club I had seen adds for all over the city. Needless to say everyone had a great time and I made some great new friends, though my jet lagged body clock was in no way improved from the evening.

Saturday brought me to Rachel Harding, a friend of my brothers girlfriend and who had kindly offered me a place to stay in Berlin. I thankfully got to bed earlier that evening and was grateful to be in the comfort of a home. I also made the decision to travel to Prague on Monday and started sending out couchsurfing requests to people in the area, wondering what adventures my next city would bring. On Sunday I got down to sight seeing business and hit the east side gallery, a mile long wall of graffiti and murals, along the way stumbling into a reggae hamlet that in the summer hosts street soccer tournaments, a definite destination in the future. From there I made my way over to the Brandenburg gate and from there to the Jewish memorial. Pictures to come soon I swear. For lunch I ate currywurst, basically a hotdog in a doughy casing and covered in a rich, smoky ketchup, kinda like ketchup crossed with barbecue sauce. Not the most high class food but German without a doubt. The next day I hopped on the train to Prague and when I leave for my next destination after here I'll post again on what my Czech forays consisted of. Have a great one.
Peace,
Jesse

Posted by jesse.tutor 04:57 Comments (0)

Running into Wonder

With my breathing heavy and visible I kept pace with Anna, my friend and host in Copenhagen, as we wound our way through the streets of the city on a late-night run ( not my idea but I didn't regret taking Anna up on the offer one bit.) Ducking into a park the already hushed noises of the city died down to a whisper and a hush fell over the two of us, the only noises our exhaling and the soft crunch of the snow under our feet. " almost there" Anna tells me softly. Trudging up one final hill we break out of the park and I see her, gazing in our direction like she's been waiting for us all night. The Little Mermaid sits perched upon the rocks of the beach, peaceful and serene, welcoming us to join its reverie. As Anna serenades her with "Part of Your World" I gaze out at the water and wonder how I've found myself at this place and time and the wonder of it all makes the atmosphere for me feel a little like a fairy tale.

I spent three days in Copenhagen, wandering the streets and exploring what I could find. On the last day Anna took me to visit a family friend on a farm outside of the city, an hour bike ride that brought me to a place that felt a little like home. Dierk and his wife run a small establishment, growing peas and basil and boarding horses. They farm, they work, they live, and for me I find that simply seeing people do that, in places around the world, is when you have truly gotten a sense of the country and I hope I can search out more people like Dierk in my trip. That night I hopped on the night train to Berlin and shared a car with a Swedish girl and two Korean guys that were on the rail pass like myself. We all attempted sleep to varying degrees of success and now I find myself relaxing at the East Seven Hostel in Berlin. Not sure what my adventures here will turn out to be but I have no doubt they will be as memorable as my previous ones. Life is good.
Till next time,
Jesse

Posted by jesse.tutor 05:19 Comments (0)

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