A Travellerspoint blog

Prague

semi-overcast
View Prague, Czech Republic - Jan 07 on krissy's travel map.

Well we headed OS again, this time to Prague, the city of 100 spires. We started without hiccup this time. All smooth sailing or flying as it was, well except for some turbulence leaving London, but we survived that. We flew into Prague on Friday night, once working out the metro and bus system we found our way to the hostel we were staying at. It was quiet cute, we were lucky enough to get put in a 4 bed dorm instead of the 6 bed dorm we paid for and then managed to have it all to ourselves. After settling in we stepped out for some dinner and then headed back for an early night, Cathryn doing her usual grabbed some brochures and while reading noticed a great walking tour, so we decided to do that the next day.

We got up early and wandered in to the meeting point for the walking tour. The Guided tour ended up being over 7 hours long, boy that was a lot of walking, but we did get to see almost all of the major attractions and went through the history of them all. Mind you I think I have an information overload. I will endeavour to remember what everything was as I go through.
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We started the tour at 9.30am under the Astronomical clock in the old town square. The Astronomical clock is on the old town hall tower, everyone stops to watch it on the hour as the 12 apostles are lead out by Christ, while a skeleton of death tolls the bell to a defiant statues of turk who shake their heads saying its not time to die and that they want 1 more hour.
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When then headed across the square to the Church of Our Lady before Tyn. This is a fabulous church to see both during the day and at night. It took over 600 years to build as they ran out of money when they got to the roof and every time they had enough logs to finish it off someone would use them to hang people and then they couldn’t be used in sacred grounds and had to wait again for more logs to be cut and it went on for quite some time. Oh well it is finished now and looks beautiful.
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Then through the Tyn fortress which is just behind the Church. Back in the day Prague was on one of the major stock trading routes in Europe, this was where all the traders used to pay their tax on the goods and stored their goods safely while they were in Prague.
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The next stop was St James Cathedral, which has the largest pipe organ in Prague, they told us an interesting story about a thief that tried to rob this church. He tried to steal the golden chalice, one of the saint’s watching over the church did not approve of the thief taking the chalice so she wouldn’t let him remove his hand with or without the chalice. The Priests heard the commotion and also tried to help him remove is hand. With no success they had to get out an axe and chop off his hand, he got punished for his crime and the mummified hand still hangs in the church today. So I suppose no one will be trying to steal from that church again.
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On we went to the Powder Tower which is the last remaining section of the old City wall; we saw a few other places and then headed back to the Astronomical clock to pick up people joining us at 10.30. We then all walked down to the river Vltava, where we cruised along the river for an hour; this is where I really went in to information overload. Way too much to see and listen too at the same time.
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After the cruise we headed to the Jewish Ghetto, where we saw the Jewish Synagogue and the old Jewish cemetery which was really quiet interesting. As they were unable to expand the cemetery and you can’t disturb the dead they decided to build a wall, remove the tomb stones and fill over the top of the old graves. They poured about 5 feet worth of clay in and started again they kept doing this and so far have 16 layers of Jewish bodies in the cemetery with all the tomb stones on the top.

Well by this time with all our walking we were absolutely starving so lucky the next stop was at our restaurant, where we had our traditional 3 course meal, nothing special but was still nice enough. We stopped there for about an hour and then went on to see the Charles bridge, stopping here for a quick look we then headed over the bridge towards the Prague castle.
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We had to stop outside the Catholic St Nicholas Church while waiting for the old style tram to take us up to the Castle, wow that place is huge. We stopped first outside the offices of the Czech president; only a portion of the castle is open to the public as it is still used as parliamentary offices. We managed to see the changing of the guards, they have 2 types of changing of the guard parades one is a small one every hour to change the guards in the booths at the gates the other is a big changing of the guards where they do the big hoo haa and change, a new troop of guards come in to relieve all the guards on duty. We saw the small one, which was interesting to see but nothing special.
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We then went on to see St Vitus’s cathedral, which was closed but the outside was very impressive. They have quiet a few churches within the castle walls and this is the largest of them and it is also the largest church in Prague. We then headed on to a little lane, golden lane, where the soldiers used to live. There was a set of stairs running up to the top of the castle walls so that if they were sleeping and got attacked they could run out of their houses and up to defend the castle. The cottages were very cute and had tiny little doors. Well that concluded our walking tour. We tried to take some photos of the cityscape but as it was getting dark and I have the shakes it was a bit hard to get a good shot so we decided to come back up the next day to get some shots in daylight.
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As part of the guided walking tour we also got a ticket to a ghost trail tour which we did that night but had a few hours to kill before is started so we wandered around found some dinner and then headed out to hear about all the ghouls and ghosts that haunt the dark alleys of Prague. This was only a short tour and interesting but a little far fetched at times. Due to the day being so long there was no partying for us, we headed back to call it a night.
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Yes up early again, much to my disgust as I really just wanted to sleep in for a bit but we headed back over the Charles Bridge, while no body was out and about. We then walked past the St Nicholas Cathedral up the Royal route, which is the path that the kings used to walk, there are little silver plates on the sidewalks marking where they used to got with “Silver Line” We followed the silver Line up to the castle in the rain to take more photos. Thankfully the rain stopped and we were able to take some photos of the city. We managed to see the full changing of the guards and then went on to look inside St Vitus’s Cathedral.

Back down to the Astronomical clock where we went up the tower and took some photos over the city. This view was better than from the Castle, the only downfall is that you can’t see the river from this view point.
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We noticed a funny little thing on our travels; quiet a few of the houses have different carvings, statues or paintings on the front of their houses. We were told that this was due to the fact that in the past many could not read and it was an easy way of distinguishing which house was theirs for visitors coming to town.

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We then went on to look at the St Nicholas church, not catholic, and on to the Bethlehem Church, by this time I had seen enough churches for the weekend so we headed to see the local markets before heading to do a little shopping as things were so cheap in Prague. Made our way back to the airport and just got there in time as we slightly under estimated how long we needed to get there and be there before flying.

Posted by krissy 06:24 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Reykjavik

overcast 2 °C
View Reykjavik, Iceland - Dec 06 on krissy's travel map.

Well this trip started with a few hiccups, a week of fog didn’t help with this problem. We finally got to the airport and man I have never seen queues like that. We queued for 2 hours before getting called for our flight. Thank god we actually got to Iceland I was almost thinking I would have had to stay n London for Christmas. Well the forecast for snow ominous and unfortunately due to overcast weather the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) tour was not running so we didn’t get to do that one.

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We arrived on the friday afternoon and as we told Iceland was an expensive place to visit decided to wander around the town and check out some of the prices, we found the prices weren’t really that different to the prices in London, you just need to be able to do your conversions properly and stay away from the places that were more expensive than what we would normally pay. We found the info centre where we booked our Golden Circle tour for the next morning, now that was a little expensive but we chose the one that gave us the most value for money and there was really not much cheaper.

We started the day on a tour bus at 8 am and still pitch black. Luckily it took us about 2.5 hours to get to the first destination so we had a little time for the sun to come up so we could see the Geyser, that was cool to see we managed to see it blow a few times before freezing our fingers off.
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Back on the bus to defrost and on to Gullfoss waterfall, wow I have seen some really cool waterfalls and this one was up there with the best of them. We walked right down to the water itself so close that I got the spray of the waterfall on my lens.
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Once we finished at Gullfoss we headed on to see Stalkolt Church, which is the ancient seat of the Icelandic bishops in the south and where the first translations of the Old Testament was printed. This was a quaint little town, where they have the only remaining medieval ruins. It is also said that the founder of Reykjavik while sailing into Iceland threw two huge pylons in to the water and said that wherever they come ashore is where he would settle. While he was searching for the pylons he settled on this site, once the pylons were found he then moved to where they were and named the new town Reykjavik, which is now the Capital of Iceland.
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After that we headed off to see the Caldeira Kerio, which is a very colourful extinct volcanic crater that is filled with water. Another to add to the many beautiful things I have managed to see so far.
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Then we travelled around Lake Pingvillavatn where they have several hydro power stations and on to the Pingvillir National Park, where we were taken to see Alpingi which is the Icelandic Parliament in Pingvillir, which was founded in 930 making Alpingi the oldest know functioning parliament in the world and the most interesting thing about it is that it is held on wooden benches in an amphitheatre at the bottom of the American tectonic plate. Pingvillir National park has been created from the tectonic plates, American and European drifting apart over the years. The fissures and faults were quiet easy to see with my naked eye but unfortunately a bit harder to capture with the camera. We walked up to see Alpingi and took the opportunity to take some photos over the National park. After there we headed back to Reykjavik and had an early night as it was dark once again.
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Christmas Eve was a quiet one in as in Iceland it was a public holiday so everything was closed so no tours running. So we wandered around the city for a while, we had Christmas dinner buffet booked at one of the local hotels, which was quite nice but very filling. Christmas day Santa brought us a white Christmas it had snowed over night and it was fantastic to finally get some snow on Christmas. We didn’t really do a lot for those couple of days besides eating and relaxing but overall it was a lovely Christmas.
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Boxing day came round and we managed to get out to the Blue Lagoon, Wow that place is fantastic especially being that is was made by accident. The neighbouring geothermic plant thought if they dumped the used water that it would be absorbed back into the ground but the water actually had a chemical reaction with the volcanic rocks in the area and created the Blue lagoon as it is today. Well nothing like soaking in the mineral enriched hot geothermic water but first you need to get from the change room to the water itself trying not to knock over anyone on the way out trying to escape frostbite. Cat and I floated out in the lagoon for a few hours using the mineral slug left in the buckets on the side of the lagoon to exfoliate our skin, they pump boiling hot water was awesome but so was the waterfall, I could stay under there for hours it gave the best natural massage I have ever had. Well the fun at the blue lagoon had to end at some stage as both Cat and I were soon turning into prunes and that isn’t so attractive. We headed back tot he Guesthouse and got some dinner and called it a night as we had an early start in the morning to get out the airport. So overall I would have loved to see more but would advise if you want o see it all don’t go when they have public holidays as nothing gets done.
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Posted by krissy 11:36 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Salzburg

semi-overcast
View Salzburg, Austria - Nov 06 on krissy's travel map.

Photo Library - 3641.jpgPhoto Library - 3655.jpgWell we have just been to Salzburg, the birth place of Mozart and “The Sound of Music”. Salzburg is yet another of the absolutely beautiful cities I have seen lately. It is busy but peaceful at the same time. We arrived Friday afternoon and managed to read enough German to get ourselves to the hostel. We had an early night so we had a fresh start in the morning. Well the morning came and no fresh start to be had. Hostel was fantastic but we had some very noisy Asian ladies in our dorm, one was wearing high heal thongs while we were sleeping so we weren’t really impressed them at all. After breaky we headed off on the original sound of music tour, we saw quiet a few places of course all of them being sets used in the movie or places of interest about he real Trap family who actually lived in Salzburg. We had a ball singing along to The Sound of Music Soundtrack on the bus while driving around the beautiful country side around Salzburg, the mountains, rolling hills and lakes are just jaw dropping. We were going to do another tour the next day but we found out that we could do it all on the same day and get a decent discount so we ended up doing the Bavarian Alps and Salt mine tour as well. The Bavarian Alps are fantastic, we drove up the road to the Eagles Nest/ Hitler’s Retreat but we couldn’t get all the way up to there as it is only accessable during summer months, I didn’t managed to get any decent photos as the bus keep driving, it would have been really nice if they had stopped for a moment so we could take some photos of the alps as it was truly amazing. Anyway on we went down to the Salt mines in Bershtesgaden, little did we know until we got to the Salt mine that we had actually crossed the border and were in Germany, wow another weekend were I get to see 2 countries at once. Anyway back to the salt mines the tour took us an hour and half to wander and slide our way through, it was interesting enough but I wouldn’t really do it again. After we managed to get out of the mine due to problems with the train there was a bit of a delay the bus took us into Bershesgaden for a little while to have coffee, Cat and I decided to have a look around but everything was closing so really didn’t get to see much there. After the bus dropped us back both Cat and I were shattered so we just had some dinner and a drink and passed out. Mind you I should say we were both very tired prior to getting to Salzburg as it had been a very busy week, I had been out to a couple of theatre productions the nights prior to leaving for Salzburg, thus being knackered on Saturday night.
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Sunday we decided to wander around Salzburg for a bit and had a look around, we saw the Building where Mozart was born and grew up, then found some really nice Christmas markets in Old Salzburg (Salzburg is known for its fantastic Christmas markets) we had a quick look around and then made our way up to the Fortress on the top of the hill/mountain in Salzburg. This is really the most amazing fortress I have seen so far, it’s very impressive and really quiet large. We caught the funicular (train that goes up the mountain instead of a chairlift) up the mountain and decided to walk down, so after looking around we started to wander down, as it had been quiet cold over night there was still ice crystals on the shrubs so I thought I would be silly and touch it as I hadn’t seen snow in quiet a while, silly me didn’t think of the ice on the ground and fell flat on my back hitting my head on the cement in the process, so if you are here in winter and decide to walk down, TAKE CARE, as it really did hurt. While looking for a chemist with pain killers we wandered around well I hobbled around and saw the Nonnberg Abbey where they shot the movie. You can’t describe Salzburg it was just picturesque. After walking around all day we decided to head back to the hostel to thaw out before heading out for a traditional Austrian dinner and schnapps. While we were at dinner we ran into some interesting characters who, then turned up at our hostel later that night. They were having some Christmas celebrations and there were students dressed up as demons and saints wandering the streets of Salzburg. Not sure of the reasoning but it was interesting to see and that was the end of our trip to Salzburg. Overall this was not an overly busy trip, it was definitely at an easier pace than some of the others so far but still very enjoyable.
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Posted by krissy 08:18 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Rome

sunny 8 °C
View Vatican City, Italy - Nov 06 & Rome, Italy - Nov 06 on krissy's travel map.

Wow,
Where do I begin? Everyone is asking me which part was my most memorable. I really can’t pin point that as they were all so unbelievable. Well we got in very late on Friday night and decided to call it a night but when we were checking in Cat noticed that the hostel was having a guided tour the next morning and lucky for us there were 2 spots left, so of course we jumped on that opportunity and I am so glad we did, as it was fantastic. Will our tour Guide was a history student and has lived in Italy on and off for the last 4 years so had lots of little bits and pieces to tell us. This gave a fantastic basis of Roman knowledge to find our way around the streets and also of its history. Yes we were also lucky enough to have the Tomcat wedding in Rome at the same time so there were a lot of paparazzi out and about to capture those moments.
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On the tour we wandered around a saw heaps so I will try and rattle off some of the places we saw. I am finding it really had to describe the beauty of the buildings and places in Rome. Cat and I missed the Catacombs in Paris so we were very glad to see that the Roman ones were part of the walking tour. It may sound really grouse and in a way I suppose it was but it is classified as a Church by the pope so its not really that bad. I have heard this is a very small catacomb in comparison to the one Paris. In all of the rooms the walls were decorated not with beautiful paintings but with some really interesting artistry made up completely with human bones. We were unable to take photos in here so we bought some postcards and I will try to take some photos of the postcards so you can see what I am talking about.
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We meandered on to see the Trevi Fountain, which is said that if you throw a coin over your left shoulder it will ensure your return to Rome, so I had to do that. The Trevi Fountain is a really nice monument/ fountain to see and of course as it is Rome’s most known there is always quiet a few people there. So I managed to not get a photo of the fountain in all is amazing glory but just of the statues at the top of the fountain. On past the Temple of Hadrian to the Pantheon, it looks exactly as I had imagined it would but I was really quiet surprised when I walked inside. When I look at all the photos of the Pantheon in the past I didn’t realise it has a big dome on top. Wow to see this from the inside is total amazing. We were told that this previously housed statues of the pagan gods (gods that ruled the planets in astrology) but when the Catholic Church took possession they removed those and replaced them with Christian figures. The dome the largest single piece of cement poured in Rome. They poured the bottom of the dome with heavier cement made with limestone and as they got to the top they changed it to a lighter material like volcanic ash. There is hole in the top of the dome that allows both the sun and the rain and is designed in a way that it is a sun dial and at certain times of the day the sun would come through and highlight specific god that ruled for that period of time. The floor has lots of small drainage holes in the marble tiles to allow the rain to drain away immediately.

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Then on to the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, Campidoglio and on through the Forum, where we saw the Temple of Saturn, Arch of Septimius, Sanri Luca e Martina, Curia, Basilica of Constantine and many more ruins on the way to the Colosseum.
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After all that walking we felt we deserved a nice meal so one of the girls from the hostel walking tour suggested we check out the Hard Rock Café and its art work, we ended up walking past the Palazzo del Quirinale, which is the old papal palace (palace of the Pope) which is now the official residence of the Italian President. We actually got to see the changing of he guard as we passed through.

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After food it was on to the Spanish stairs, also known as Trinta dei Monti. Lovely spot but so happens that Tom Cruise and all his guests were staying at the hotel at the top of the stairs so there were was an influx of visitors to the area that night. After our dinner at the hostel we wandered out to see St Peter’s Basilica in the evening and wandered past the Castle San Angelo and the numerous beautiful Bridges along the Fuime Tevere an the way back we stumble upon the Piazza Navona where we had another of our many serves of gelato.
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Next day we decided to head straight to the Colosseum to avoid the queues, got in straight away and did a guided tour which was interesting to hear some more history of the area, while on this tour they talked about the Palatine ruins and the gardens on the hill overlooking the forum and as it was included in the price of the tickets we though we would check it out.
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We then wandered over towards the river to see St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, awesome sight to see both on dusk and in the daylight. There is a long road built like a castle wall that runs from the Basilica to the Castle Sant’ Angelo for the pope to escape along in times of need. Of course the queues here were long so we thought we would try to get into the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel but that was closed. We wasted few hours at the hostel before having our free dinner at the hostel and headed out to see a few more monuments and night shots of the Colosseum.
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Out early this morning to see St Paul’s Basilica but no that was not possible as the President was it there, it was supposed to open at 1pm so we thought why not see the Sistine Chapel while we wait and obviously everyone else was thinking the same thing so we had to queue for about an hour to get in but boy was it worth it, we managed to sneak a couple of photos in the Sistine Chapel itself but they are not the best as you are not allowed to use cameras in there and we had to hide our camera under a jumper.
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We went back to see St Peter’s Basilica after we had seen the Sistine chapel but unfortunately it was still closed, after waiting for about 3 hours we decided that it was probably best that we keep going and see the other things we hadn’t seen yet. We jumped on the Metro and travelled down to see some more monuments, on our way back I noticed that we hadn’t been to a monument in Repubblica, when we got there we came across a very rustic looking church called the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli, it didn’t seem to be anything special, but then again it didn’t look like any of the churches I have ever come across before. It looked quiet small with mud coloured rendered walls with a really simple cross, we decided to look inside just for the sake of it and I tell you my jaw dropped. I was absolutely amazing. Both Cat and I said it was almost like the church didn’t want anyone to know they had spent so much money on this church as it looked really poor on the outside and outrageously rich on the inside and it was huge. I would have taken some photos but there were military officers setting ups chairs for some kind of service and I didn’t want to risk deportation. After that experience both cat and I sat on the fountain in the Piazza and watched about 7 flocks of birds dancing in the sky. Then there was just enough time to grab some dinner, pick up our bags and head off to the airport. Well there is soooo much more to tell you about Rome but it really is something you must experience yourself so I recommend that you take a break and see Rome for yourself.

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Posted by krissy 06:59 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Bath

sunny 5 °C

Bath - 01.jpgBath - 09.jpgWe pulled into Bath quiet late and ended up driving around in circles to find our way to the hostel as we were given a map but neither of us realised that it was just of the main roads not of the street names in each of the towns. Once we finally found where we were staying and then found a car park we had dinner and settled in for the night. Got up bright and early to do some photography before going on our guided tour but as we walked out the door we walked smack into a cloud of fog, oh well as there were no photos at that point in time we settled for breaky instead. Once we had finished breakfast the fog had lefted enough for us to wander around and start taking some photos. We walked over one of three bridges in the world that have cute little shops lining either side, we then headed down to the river bank to see some fantastic veiws of the New Bath on top of the old, anyone coming to bath is strongly advised to head down and see it for yourself as it is a truely wonderful sight. We then walked down the river Avon for a bit and bumped into a lovely lady who told us a little about the history of Bath. We then went on to join one of the free guided historical walks, this is also recommended if you come to bath, as you wouldn't beileve some of the information and history you get to catch up on. We ended our day there looking throught the old Roman Baths and the Pump house, very interesting, definately worth doing but you really do need some time to listen to all the audio information. We were short of time so we just listened to the start of each section to get the jist of it all.

Posted by krissy 06:33 Archived in England Comments (0)

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