After a great time in Berlin (a city I will be visiting again, if not living in), Dad and I hopped on a train for a quick, one-night stop in Prague, Czech Republic, while en route to Munich, Germany.
We were now in the country that we both knew the least about. We knew zero Czech words and we had none of their currency either; they aren’t on the euro. As we were pulling into Praha (Czech name of Prague), there was a noticeable difference in the language and writing on the signs. There were also relatively a lot of regular people walking around and across the train tracks. It also looked rather run down. Maybe that’s just what the old communist states look like.
After figuring out the exchange rate of euros (and, in the back of our heads, dollars to euros) to crowns, we were off on the metro in search of our hostel that we got for 12 euros per person! At the time, 1 USD was about 20 crowns. It was cloudy but not too cold, and, knowing we were there for only one evening and were departing to Munich in the late morning, we had to get out and explore. We had dinner at a local restaurant of goulash and some beef with cranberries and drank Budweiser Budvar. Yes Budweiser, but it’s not the American kind. Google ‘Budweiser in the Czech Republic,’ and you can learn about it. With filled stomachs, we went off on foot in search of the Prague Castle which I have been wanting to see for years.
I would have loved to have taken a tour or caught the castle at sunrise too, but this will have to do for my first visit there. We kept walking and wandering around the city as we tried to absorb all the sights and sounds we could.
The next morning, we had a big breakfast at the restaurant at the hostel and were off for a few more hours of exploring before we had to grab our bags and head to the next train.
Our stay in Prague was nice, but just too short. There was so much I just didn’t get to see. If I were doing it again, I’d cut out the city completely and spend another quality day in another city instead of hours on the train and just a few hours exploring. Quality over quantity.
A number of hours and a couple of trains later, we were in Munich. I was really surprised at how happy I was to be back in a German-speaking country. I’ve only ever taken about 4 classes of the it in 6th grade, but I remember it quite well. Maybe it’s my German heritage trying to call me back. We had a tasty dinner of sausage and Augustiner at a beer garden and were in for the night.
We caught up with a guided tour of Munich for a brief intro to the city and spent the rest of the day walking and hopping on the metro.
A tasty kebab from an all-hours restaurant near the train station later and we were in for the night. I performed a quick, YouTube-guided surgery* (Hi, Dad), and we figured out logistics for our visit to Dachau in the morning.
Our guided tour of Dachau was an important goal of mine. I wanted to get a better feeling for the horror of World War II and what my grandfather was fighting to end. The stories and history we heard were interesting, but I was surprised at how unemotional the tour was for me. It was challenging to think of the terrible things that happened there and across Europe, even through the pictures and a few of the buildings that were still around. It was hard to imagine something so awful happening from my modern day perspective, but I’m very glad we went and experienced it.
We made our way back to Munich, a 30 minute train ride, and checked out some of the department stores near Marienplatz. When I go to Germany again, I’m buying authentic lederhosen.
A couple days of drinking Augustiner, eating sausage at every meal and hearing some funny maypole stories in Munich were over, and we were off to spend a few in Rome!
For more of my traveling adventures and to see the previous EuroTrip posts, click here.
© 2013 Ethan Klosterman
After all of my exams were taken and essays submitted, it was time to begin a big adventure. A few months before, my dad accepted my invitation to come to Europe to visit me after classes were done. We decided to do a big European tour by train. The specific Eurail pass we got allowed us to travel unlimited miles and through any of the 23 countries in which the pass was valid during ten 24-hour periods within 15 days. With that constraint in mind, we planned a long route through Europe beginning May 29 and ending back in Madrid from where we would both fly home on June 15.
First city: Amsterdam
Our first travel day was spent flying (the only airplane leg of the journey) from Madrid to Brussels, Belgium on May 29. From there, we would start our train adventures and end the day by arriving in Amsterdam in The Netherlands.
We flew from Madrid to Brussels Charleroi on Ryanair. It my first experience with one of the discount airlines. The 3-hour flight north was different. From the minute that the doors to the cabin were secured, a team of flight attendants were on the loud speaker informing passengers about different kinds of things we could buy during the flight. This wasn’t the typical “we have sandwiches and liquor” pitch. They tried to hawk things like magazines, food, water, perfume, smokeless cigarettes, and lottery tickets. To add on to the annoyance of the constant sales speeches, I was sitting in the middle of two people (one being my Dad). Ryanair definitely doesn’t give any more legroom that is likely mandated by law. As a 6-foot 5-inch guy, I had zero room to move or stretch out. Thankfully, the flight was so short.
After arriving at rainy Charleroi and catching a bus to the train station, we began what would be a journey filled with train ride after train ride in city after city.
After a brief layover-turned-photowalk in Brussels proper, we were on our way to see the Belgian and Dutch countrysides on our train to The Netherlands. It was interesting to see the landscape change from flat farm fields to watery canals as we made our way farther north.
We arrived in Amsterdam late, so we found our hotel and grabbed a quick bite to eat, and called it a night.
The first things I noticed in Amsterdam were bicycles. Men, women, old, young–all riding bikes. It was amazing to see a place where bikes greatly outnumber cars by such a large margin. I’ve seen estimates of the number of bikes in the city around 550,000. It’s amazing considering the population is around 720,000.
I found some great lines in Amsterdam Centraal (yes two As) station.
This is one of my favorite frames from the whole trip. It was amazing how much light there was at 10 p.m. even with the clouds!
Amsterdam was a great place to start our adventure. I loved the canals running through the city and the gazillions of bikes around every turn. This visit was a good warm up to a longer stay that I hope to have there in the future.
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Spaniards call Easter break “Semana Santa” (Holy Week). I was off to Sevilla and Cadiz in Andalusia in the south of Spain for a few days of picture making. This is day one and part one of the trip.
If one was to drive to Sevilla without stopping, it’d take just under 6 hours. I rode the high speed train on the right. At speeds near 186 mph, I was there in 2.5. Fantastic! These trains were smooth-riding, had more leg room than airplanes, two AC outlets at each couple of seats, bathrooms, a dining car, movies, complimentary headphones, and no small overhead compartments that I had to worry about getting my stuffed ThinkTank bag into. To top it off, there were no stops (at least on the trip there), and I got to see the countryside.
This was one of my very favorite parts of Sevilla. It is the world’s largest wooden structure. I watched a video about it a few days ago, and found out there’s a walkway on top. I wish I would have known that was an option when I was there! Oh, and it only cost a cool 90 million euros to build!
My next post will be all about my day trip to Cadiz. If you have comments, drop them below. Thanks for stopping by.
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