A quick walk tot he train station and we were on our way to the Bohemian forest for the weekend! We had one very important stop on the way though, to the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen! The brewery was built in 1839 after the city became upset at rising beer prices. To this day, the brewery still uses the same recipe to make their golden beer! The tour we went on was informative and a lot of fun! The brewery site is huge, and we took a bus around and got off at each of the buildings. My favorite part of the tour was going down into the cellar and drinking beer straight from one of the massive barrels!
Once the tour ended, we had to rush to the train station to catch our ride to Stribro, where AH's mom would be there to pick us up and drive us deep into the forest where we would spend the next few days prepping for one helluva wedding! The train ride was, once again, a highlight of my trip. The boys had a couple beers and we played some music on IC's bluetooth speaker in our private cabins with the window down. The trains were mostly a group of small cabins inside each of the cars. The cabins had 6 seats, a door, curtains, phone chargers, and a small table! It was very relaxing, especially good for longer trips when you want to spread out a little! I also liked how quiet it was, and how I knew we weren't disrupting others with our music and laughing.
When we arrived to Stribro, AH's brother and mom were there to take us to the forest! After a little bit of a car issue (overheated engine) .. we hit the road! The drive was about 30 minutes through canola fields, so it was obviously gorgeous! We were so excited to get there and to see everyone, and to also get to work! The 'tent guy' was already there when we arrived and the boys got straight to work building it. My job was to take pictures.. so I got to relax a bit and just snap a few photos. After the tent was up and stable, the guys got to working on building the dance floor while MW, AH, and I started on some smaller things like decorations! For dinner BHW and IC grilled us all brats and we ate and worked well into the evening. I went to bed around 11 but the guys stayed up and drank beers while working on the sound system and rigging the tent with lights for the reception! The wedding day is quickly approaching and we are glad to be able to be here and help out!
Laced up and ready to conquer 13 miles of walking through the beautiful city of Prague to see all that we could see during our only full day there! MW had a few places she wanted to see, so we decided to start the morning with her ideas! She was super excited to try this gluten free bakery called Sweet Life Bakery. We got there a little before opening so we walked to a park nearby to soak in some fresh air! When we got back to the bakery we were hungry and ready for.. pizza for breakfast! I wasn't about to pass up the chance! BHW and I shared a bacon and egg pizza and it was delicious.. and only $6! It was honestly the best gluten free thing I've ever had. I don't often try gluten free... but when I do, I'm never really impressed! When I got through my first slice I looked at MW and said, 'are you sure this is gluten free?!'.. it was THAT good!
We continued our walk down to Vyšehrad to see an old church and walk through the park! The old fortress is a common place for Czechs to celebrate New Years Eve! The weather was beautiful and we kept shedding our layers as the sun rose higher and higher. After walking through the park/fortress area.. we went home to take a nap and chill before heading out again for the evening! On our walk home MW and I stopped at Puro for some gelato! I got caramel, it was so nice to have something cold to eat while walking through the hot city!
After our rest, we headed in the opposite direction from Vyšehrad to the Old Town Square! We got there around 4:30 and wandered around the busy square until it was time for the Orlos Clock to ring at 5! The Astronomical clock is the third oldest of it's kind in the world and the oldest one still in operation! The clock was installed in 1410! I was so impressed at the condition of something so old.. granted.. it's had it's fair share of renovations, but it's still so beautiful! A crowd started to gather around the clock around 4:50PM but I had already been standing in front of it since 4:40, so I had a nice view right in the center! Each hour, the clock has a 'show' that people come together to watch! I actually read on a couple blogs to just go see the clock and to 'skip the show' because it's not worth it and it gets really crowded. I thought about it, but in the end decided to stay. I'm glad I did! The 'show' wasn't that impressive at all when you think about a huge ringing clock. The crowd around me was audibly unimpressed but I was pleased with it! Can you imagine this thing in 1410 with spinning statues and ringing bells and gold and everything else it has?! It was probably a thing of wonder back then! And to me, it still is!
We were planning to meet up with JWD (the friend we care for/live with in Colorado) for dinner, as his family was also in the area for the wedding! Before we met up with him, we stopped at a coffee shop I had been hoping to visit, EMA espresso! The coffee was just as good as I had hoped. I knew it wouldn't compare to Coffee Collective in Denmark, but it was still the best cup of coffee I had in Prague! When we were all ready for dinner, we went to JWD's hotel and picked him up for dinner. The place I had chosen was near the hotel and had great reviews with an affordable price tag! We showed up at Lokál to a packed building! The style of seating was similar to a beer hall.. a very long skinny building with as many tables crammed in as possible. We walked through and tried to find a table.. nearing the back of the hall I started to get nervous that we wouldn't find a seat! The third table to the end opened up right as we were passing it! We swooped in and sat down as quickly as possible, not risking the chance of looking any further! Our server showed up and asked us how many beers we wanted. She brought out 4 and a lemonade for MW. We all ordered something different and kind of shared with each other. I got the goulash and a huge salad with feta! The salad was more like tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta mixture on a leaf of lettuce. It was really filling and tasty! After dinner we took JWD back to his hotel and started the walk back to our apartment to pack up!
Our time in Prague was short, but I think we covered a lot of ground.. and our feet can sure agree with that! Now, off to the forest we go for the wedding we have all been waiting for!
Back to Prague I go, but this time to meet up with my baby and friends! AH and I both got on the train from Stríbro to Pilsen, because she had a meeting that morning also! The ride was about 30 minutes, then she hopped off and I stayed on for the rest of the ride to Prague! The ride was 2 hours of rolling hillsides and never ending canola fields. I still feel strongly that everyone should take a train ride in a new country if the chance arises. I couldn't stop staring out the window and smiling, a feeling I could totally get used to!
When I arrived in Prague, I briefly connected to the wifi at the train station so I could load the map to the office where I was to get the key to the AirBnb. It was just a block away, how nice, and I was able to leave my bag there until check in, around 130PM. Now, MW (a friend from Philly also going to the wedding), was already in Prague, so I met her at a Starbucks. Starbucks is a good meeting place since you can't miss the logo.. and they always have wifi! Don't worry though, I didn't get a coffee there. HA! We hugged a lot and chatted for a minute before it was time to pick up the boys from the train station and go drop our stuff off at the apartment. The guys got off the train and immediately cracked open a beer.. and then proceeded to tell us they had already had a few on their 4 hour train ride from Berlin. Boys will be boys...
We ended up walking through Wenceslas Square on our way to the apartment, man was is just packed with people! The square is a popular place for tourists.. and I'm still trying to figure out why. It's basically a bunch of expensive shops, cheesy restaurants where people dressed in costume serve you goulash, about 15 Starbucks, and a gazillion boys on Segways begging you to go on a tour. I get pretty uncomfortable in tight quarters with people yelling at me to buy something all while carrying everything I own on my back. We veered off onto a side street just to get out of the congestion of the square.
Our apartment was on side street near lots of the things we wanted to explore! It was clean and big enough for all of us to have enough space to spread out and get some good sleep! We unpacked a little and rested our feet before heading out for the evening. The boys napped on the couch together, 5 days of drinking in Berlin can really zap it out of you. haha.
Rested up and ready to make the best of the afternoon/evening.. we started towards the Charles Bridge. The bridge, probably the most famous one in Czech Republic wasn't as crowded as I was expecting, thank goodness! There are many bridges that make up the city of Prague and we were pretty close to crossing all of them that were near the city center! Each bridge had its own beauty and history! I was really looking forward to crossing the Charles bridge in the dark, so we made our way up.. and I mean UP.. to the Prague Castle and the Saint Vitus Cathedral. The castle sits on a hill with stunning views of the city as well as the many bridges. We arrived right as mass was about to begin, which I think requires buying a ticket? I overheard someone saying to find your assigned seats and enjoy the mass. I guess visiting the biggest and most important cathedral in the country would be something that could require a ticket! The Cathedral was massive and the detail blew my mind! It's so hard to believe that these intricate buildings were built so so so long ago! The construction on this one started in 1344!
On our way down from the castle, we wandered around for a bit to find the John Lennon Wall. The John Lennon wall was once just a normal wall in the back streets of Prague but has been converted into a symbol of love and peace beginning in the 1980's. The wall was originally covered in all things John Lennon as well as quotes about love and peace. Graffiti on the wall is still legal.. so it's an ever changing symbol of the city! When we visited, it smelled very strongly of spray paint! We also happened upon the 'love lock' bridge... a much smaller version of the one in Paris. I can't remember where we ate that night, we were all starting to get a bit hangry so we just ate a place near the Lennon wall. Dinner was delicious, BHW and I shared schnitzel, potatoes, and a salad. We also all split an order of fried cheese.. yum!
We got back to the apartment and crashed pretty hard.. lots of walking in the mix for tomorrow so we needed to rest of little feet!
Our previous day of hard work for the wedding was followed by a day of rest because the little guy was sick! High fever and a bout of strawberry yogurt puke out of the nose was our day. I felt so badly for SC, but he seemed to know his body needed to sleep instead of play, so there were lots of naps for all of us.. and if you know me well.. you know I didn't complain about napping!
In the afternoon I decided to venture out to the town square, in my pajamas, to go get a manicure for the wedding. I was in my pajamas because I decided that it would be a good day to wash every single item of clothing I brought.. not thinking about the lack of dryer in the apartment. Rookie mistake for sure. The nail salon was literally a stones throw from where we were staying. AH had already gotten a manicure there a few days before so she warned me that they wouldn't understand anything I say because.. they didn't understand her either! Apparently there is a large population of Vietnamese in her town because there is work in the factories and the housing is quite affordable. I walked in and the two women working were assisting other ladies but we somehow managed to get on the same page about me coming back in 15 minutes. There was a lot of air writing going on. To pass the time, I people watched on the square but soon realized that I was more the center of other people's people watching than the other way around. I meandered to the bakery and bought myself a jelly filled pastry for 50 cents. When it was time for my manicure, the other women were still being helped, so I sat quietly for an additional 15 minutes. All in all, the awkward language barrier wasn't so bad, a friendly smile and lots of pointing can get a long way if you try. I also only paid $8.50.. so there was that.
For dinner, AH and I made our way to the restaurant where her caterer for the wedding works, as she had a meeting with him after the kitchen closed. I ordered the classic Czech potato pancake and a plate of sausages with kraut on the side, they were both on the 'starters' menu. I like to ordered a few smaller things instead of a huge meal of one item. Well, the potato pancake was spilling off my regular sized plate, so I will remember that for next time. Everything was delicious in that, 'I'm really sick of potatoes and sausage so I'm going to try it in pancake form to see if it is any more exciting' kind of way. AH and I also shared some panna cotta for dessert.. yum!
The chef arrived, in his street clothes, sipping on a coca cola. He plopped himself down and the meeting got under way with a quick smile and nod towards me. AH and the chef started talking so fast in Czech that my mind started spinning! I tried to look interested for about 20 minutes and then my brain felt like mush so I politely hopped on my phone for the last 15 minutes. It felt a bit rude at first but AH said she was happy that I started doing my own thing because she felt bad that I couldn't understand anything.
We headed to bed after dinner because I had to get to the train station early for a couple days in Prague with BHW, IC, and MW!
I spent the morning worshiping the porcelain god. My poor grandma-ish lifestyle couldn't handle the smoke, shots, and 4 am bed time. AH's mom had to listen to me all morning while she and SC played quietly in the living room while letting the girls rest from the night before. So is life I guess.. pretty sure the appropriate saying for last night is YOLO. Between getting sick and sleeping in, I didn't make it out of the bedroom until around 10:30AM.
After forcing down a piece of plain bread and trying not to get sick while watching everyone drink coffee, we headed over to Babea's house for a morning of working on things for the wedding! AH's grandma greeted us at the door with kisses and lots of Czech I didn't understand. She was petting my face and speaking very quickly to me. AH said she was asking me if I was feeling ok, because, apparently, AH's mom told her I was getting sick all morning. Totally feeling like a dumb American who can't hold my liquor. She then spoke again, well, Babae is pretty much constantly speaking. But AH told me that she was saying my sickness was probably from all the cigarette smoke, I had to agree a bit.
Babae took me by the arm and led me around her modest apartment. She has lived there for around 50 years, moving there with her husband because of the near by military base in the town. She had a sense of pride in her eyes when she was showing me around and talking in Czech about her life. AH lightly translated that she was the youngest of 7 children and that she is currently working as a cleaner at a local hardware store. Still has a job, at 85 years old, I've always heard the key to staying alive is to keep moving! Her husband died a few years ago.. 6 or 7.. and there were pictures of him on the table in her kitchen. Babae brought us two pairs of slippers while we were busy working on wedding things, saying she didn't want our feet to get cold. AH said we didn't need them, but you just do what Babae says. We worked hard for a few hours with Babae fluttering around, never missing a beat. She was so helpful and wanted to be involved. She made us Turkish coffee and gave us a huge plate of cookies, expecting us to eat them all.. we did without hesitation. When at Babae's, eat what's in front of you, and eat it all.
She made us lunch, a traditional Slovakian meal, Haluski. Haluski is cabbage, ham, and gnocchi. Apparently Babae always goes to the store and gets ingredients for Haluski when she knows AH is going to be in town. We ate at the table while she continued to work tirelessly on things for the wedding. With our full bellies in her cold kitchen (glad she made us wear those slippers after all) we were just finishing our work for the day when SC and AH's mom came in! Babae just lit up when she saw her great grandson, and he did the same for her. Lots of giggles, smiles, and yelling 'Babae!!'. She offered us some chocolate cake and I said that I would 'take a piece'. She proceeds to cut an entire loaf of chocolate cake and sits it down in front of me. The saying 'when at Babae's, eat what's in front of you, and eat it all' was a little frightening. I had my one piece and gave AH the eyes of 'help me eat this dang cake!!'. Of course little SC helped out and by the time it was time to go we had polished off 5 out of the 10 pieces (they were quite small). Babae gave me a look like I was supposed to eat them right then and there and I told her I couldn't! So, she wrapped them all up for us and sent us on our way with lots of kisses and face petting. You guys, I could totally get used to the face petting here.
I can't wait to party hard with Babae at the wedding. She told me she loves beer, so we are basically best friends. But really, I just can't wait to spend a little more time with her! She is such a fire cracker and I loved every minute of my day with her! Thank you Babae for giving me an unforgettable 'true Czech experience' at your house today. It meant the world to me, and I will cherish it always.
Our morning started by walking down to the local bakery to get an assortment of traditional pastries for breakfast and some Chlebíčky (an open face sandwich). AH's town is really small so everything is just a couple minute walk away! I offered to buy all of our pastries, 4 of them and 3 Chlebíčky's, it came to a total of $4. I had read that everything was pretty affordable in Czech Republic, but it's even more affordable outside of Prague!
We took our food back to AH's mom's house where AH had a trial run for hair for the wedding! I chatted with her and her friend who was doing her hair. She knew a little English, but AH did a fair amount of translating throughout the morning. SC was running around with babae (grandma) all morning while we had some 'girl time'.
Once her hair was finished, and man was it beautiful, we went for a walk outside to the garden nearby. AH showed me the silver mines below and told me about where her and her friends would hang out when they were teenagers to drink beer and party. It was really fun to be back in her home town, filled with so many memories and stories!
In the evening we prepared to go to AH's bachelorette party! We all met at a restaurant right by AH's house, called Mells. Her closest friends had decorated the room with balloons and had a sash and tiara for her. The Czech in the room was literally flying through the air. I tried to keep up but mainly I just smiled a lot and drank a lot of beer. AH translated when she could, but she was obviously busy celebrating her last fling before the ring! I ordered a simple dinner of caprese salad and a side of cashews. Looking back, I should have certainly gotten a burger or an entire pizza to soak up what was to come in the evening. After dinner we chatted and danced a bit in the party room that was set aside for us before moving to the dance club. Before we left, we had all had a lot to drink, those ladies love their shots. Pretty much the only English word they all knew was 'cheers' which they said as American as they could, which sounded like chEEEErs.
The dance club was literally one door down so the walk was thankfully quick during the chilly night. I walked into the club and was hit with wall of smoke. Man, these Czechs love to smoke! The theme of the night was 'fairytale' which I think was similar to a throwback night of sorts. I knew a couple of songs, they were Czech versions of American songs.. the songs were 'Summer Lovin' and 'All About the Bass'. We danced for hours. The girls kept buying round after round of these shots Slivovice, a shot made with plum and often has a whole plum in the glass as well. I can't tell you how many plums soaked in alcohol I had that night.. far too many. There was a moment in the evening when one of the girls came up to me and said, 'Much respect to you dancing all night Czech songs. You are now Czech girl. Respect.' Me: 'Music has no language!' I was pretty proud of her proclaiming me 'Czech girl'. The dancing continued until 4AM when we stumbled home for the evening! What a night to remember! Feeling so lucky to be experiencing all of this, even if I can't understand a single word.
At 7:30AM I was awoken by the girls in the hostel getting ready for the day. Somehow I was the last one up, even for it being so early! I didn't have much planned for the morning, as I had a train ride to catch in the afternoon, so I slowly got ready for the day and packed up my bag to check out. I said bye to my new friend and wished her well on her journey through Czech Republic and Slovakia! When I checked out, I left my bag at the front desk so I could wander the city without my heavy pack. The only thing on my agenda for the day was to go to a coffee shop and read while drinking endless cappuccinos, if only every day was like that! haha!
The walk to Proti Proudu Bistro was about a mile. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for a walk to a less touristy part of town! I saw many people walking around with a crescent shaped pastry and I walked past a stand on the street selling them so I decided to stop and try it. The one I got had vanilla pudding and powdered sugar on top, sugar for breakfast? YES PLEASE. I ate my pastry while I continued my walk to the coffee shop, finding it on a quiet side street. The coffee shop was adorable on the inside, and many of the tables were full of smiling people. I ordered a cappuccino and asked the server what she thought I should have for breakfast. After trying to ask a few different ways, she finally understood and told me that they make their museli in house and it comes with fresh fruit, she said it was her favorite! The food was delicious and the coffee was also good! Not the worlds best, that's currently Coffee Collective, but it was much better than most I've had! I sat for an hour or so reading and just enjoying having nowhere to be.
On my walk back to the hostel to grab my bag, I saw a couple second hand stores and popped in to see if I could find a shirt for a party I was going to in a few days. I was told, after I had my bag packed and was in Denmark, that I was supposed to wear black and white to the party. I didn't bring a black or white shirt with me, so I had to find something in a pinch! Aside from a shirt for the party, I found a couple other cute tank tops! Once I got my bag from the hostel, I needed to find the train station to catch a ride to Pilsen with AH (the bride) and her son, SC! I, of course, ended up at the wrong train station. There were two stations close to one another and I went to the wrong one. After running to the correct station, I found them waiting for me, only slightly worried I wouldn't show. SC and AH had already had a 4 hour train ride that morning, so they were ready to be home!
We boarded our train and there were no seats for us. I was a tiny bit annoyed no one moved for AH and her baby boy, but we made do on the floor in a car with some other people. SC had room to walk around and play, so I think it ended up better anyways! He fell asleep once I blew up my camping pillow for him, it was a much needed nap, poor buddy was exhausted! The train took us past rolling yellow hillsides that AH said were used for oil. It was beautiful, but she told me the plant is actually quite stinky! Our train ride was almost 2 hours, and brought us to Pilsen. AH's parents were there to meet them and her mom took us to their town, Stribro. The drive was another 20 minutes and we drove through a number of villages before we reached her town! Stribro is small and beautiful and it used to be a silver mining town, Stribo actually means 'silver'! After being in congested Prague, it felt good to be in an authentic Czech town! By the time we arrived it was past SC's bedtime, so we put him to bed and went out to dinner while her mom stayed back with the boy. AH's mom lives right near the town square, so everything was just a 2 minute walk! It was a chilly evening, so I chose a potato soup in a bread bowl with a side of veggies to warm up my belly! Like most meals I have when I travel, it was so tasty! We were both pretty pooped from travel, more so AH than I.. but we called it a night and went to bed pretty early! I feel so lucky to be experiencing this part of the Czech Republic, I can't wait for the next few days with AH, her friends, and her family!
BHW and I have officially fallen in love with Copenhagen. Besides the culture, bikes, lovely people, and food... we have fallen in love with the drinks. Coffee and beer to be exact, and we were on a mission to find the best today. With the huge Mikkeller beer festival going on, I knew it wasn't going to be too hard to get our hands on some rare beers! Brewers and bars come from all over the world to experience this festival, and somehow we ended up here right in the middle of it all! I love it when a plan comes together, just kidding, this wasn't a plan at all, pure luck!
Our feet were done for, and after being in awe over the cyclists, we decided to rent our own for the day. BEST DECISION EVER. The cost was $18 for 24 hours and it was worth every single dollar. I was a little nervous about riding the streets of Copenhagen on a bike but it was the most blissful thing I've done on the trip so far! BHW was the navigator, per usual, and rented our bikes through Copenhagen Bikes with a discount from the Copenhagen Card (seriously the most awesome deal ever!) The first and last part of our ride was probably the most idyllic scene, riding up and down Nyhaven Harbor! It was straight from a movie! We rode about 15 minutes through the city, enjoying the rush hour traffic and cool morning breeze. Who can say they enjoy riding through rush hour traffic?! If you're on a bike, it's really amazing. I guess if you live in Copenhagen it probably gets annoying, but I loved being surrounded by so many bikes!
We grabbed a cup of coffee at the original Coffee Collective in Nørrebrø, which is a very hip part of town. The space is tiny and they have a roaster right in the room with you! They don't use it to roast very often, as their coffee roasting operation has grown. They are currently roasting at the location we visited on the first day, by our apartment! There were a few people sitting outside but the inside was fairly empty, so we had a chance to chat with the barista for a bit. He was the nicest and also the nerdiest barista. I love talking to people who have a similar, in this case greater, passion for coffee as I do! I ordered a cappuccino and BHW a cortado. We were then asked the sweetest question of the day, which espresso would you like? You know you're in a good shop when you can choose your espresso! The morning before we had their espresso #2 so today we chose #1! It was just as delicious as the previous day, but with lighter and brighter tasting notes! About halfway through our drinks, the barista brought us out an aeropress, just because! He said he was dialing in and wanted us to try it. UM, YES PLEASE. He was genuinely interested in our experience with the coffee and it just made my experience 10 times better! Sorry, had a little nerd moment right there blabbing about coffee!
We were trying to get to Carlsberg for a brewery tour at 11AM. We got there just in time, exactly at 11AM! Our Copenhagen Card (are you getting my point here?!) got us in for free, which included 2 beers. The tour that was included was a self guided tour, although we could pay to have a guided one. After all the brewery tours we have been on, we basically have the speeches memorized, so we didn't really need the guide! We walked around the brewery and learned a lot! Not really about the brewing process, as we knew that already, but more about the workers and their lives! Included in their pay was 4 pots of beer A DAY! The pots were like a half gallon!
After the brewery we headed straight for Mikkeller to have some of the most sought after beer in the world.. right from the lovely Hoosier state. Yes, we had to go all the way to Copenhagen to get beer from Indiana.. that's how sought after it is. We saw some bottles of Dark Lord, a beer you can only purchase one day of the year directly from the brewery in Munster, IN, for $100 on the shelf at a specialty beer store in Copenhagen. The beer is from a brewery called Three Floyds, we have visited (of course), and were so excited to see all their beers on tap in another country! We pulled up on our bikes and every table was full and there was a line to get in. We didn't care on bit, we were here with people who loved good beer, the wait was worth it. BHW's love for craft beer runs as deep as mine with coffee, so far, we were totally in our element. When we got to the bar we ordered 3 beers; one Dark Lord, a Zombie Dust, and a sour, all from Three Floyds. It cost us almost $50.. and the glasses were small! This stuff is seriously liquid gold! We stood outside with our beers and BHW got out his beer notebook, and for once, he wasn't the only one taking notes! There were tons of guys with their notebooks or phones out taking notes about the beers! It was actually really cool to see them all hard at work sniffing, swirling, tasting, but mostly just smiling ear to ear about being at such an exclusive event!
One last beer stop of the day, at least we thought at the time, was to Warpigs in the meat packing district. Warpigs is a bar owned by Mikkeller and also Three Floyds, the people putting on the event we just went to earlier! The same type of people were at warpigs, beer nerds everywhere! Aside from amazing beer, they also serve Texas style BBQ. We grabbed some wings and pickles as a little snack, the wings were amazing! They were so smoky.. and the house made blue cheese was delicious (and I hate blue cheese)! After all that beer it was time for more coffee. We rode our bikes to a nearby shop that was suggested to us by the nice barista from the morning! Prolog is a super tiny experimental coffee shop that serves great coffee and you can also roast your own marshmallows for a treat! At some point, you can no longer consume and more liquids in a day, and we were completely at that point. We rode our bikes to the apartment and relaxed for a bit before heading back our for dinner in Nørrebrø.
The evening ended with pizza and one.last.beer. A tiny glass that we shared at the Mikkeller & Friends bar right next door to Stefanos Pizza! We got home late but packed up our things to get ready for a busy day of traveling the next day! We love you Copenhagen!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRIAN! Spending your birthday in 2 different countries during the day, what a lucky duck!
BHW and I woke up early to get one last cup of joe at Coffee Collective and also some breakfast at a place I had read about! We had a few more hours with our bikes so we rode back over to Nørrebrø. After our coffee, which was fabulous.. AGAIN.. we walked to Grød. Grød is a tiny restaurant that serves only one thing, a Danish specialty, porridge! You can choose many different toppings, sweet or savory, to go with your grød! BHW wasn't very hungry so we just got one to share. I chose fresh apples, caramel, chocolate, and granola! It was absolutely delicious! If I had the chance to get it again, which hopefully I will, I would try a more savory version! Many people refer to this hole in the wall as 'Porridge Paradise'!
On our ride home we decided to take a 'shortcut' through the cemetery, Kirkegård. We stumbled upon the world famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen's grave. It is quite a modest grave for someone so famous. Time was ticking, and we needed to get our bikes back to the harbor before our 24 hour rental ended! After we rode our bikes down Nyhaven Harbor (SO GORGEOUS!) one last time, we had to return them. It was such an awesome experience being able to pedal around town like a local. I would highly suggest renting a bike, but also making sure to at least explore for one day on foot! We got a 20% discount on our bikes using the Copenhagen Card! Both ways are fabulous for getting to know a city, make sure to do both! My flight left at 1:30PM and we had a few more hours to spare. We took the metro back to the apartment and gathered our bags! BHW took out the trash through the courtyard while I locked the front door and dropped the keys in the mailbox for our host, Jan. Just as soon as I heard the clink from the keys hitting the bottom of the mailbox, BHW comes to the door panting and banging on the window. Somehow, he had left his shoulder bag upstairs in the apartment! I tried and tried to squeeze my hand through the tiny slot to reach the keys but it didn't work. Thankfully we could still access Jan's internet and I was able to FaceTime audio him. He was 'very far away' from the apartment but he said the caretaker was on the premises and should be there in a couple minutes to unlock the door. We got SO lucky that someone was around to help us out!
After we got all that drama out of the way, we hopped onto the metro to head towards the airport, making a stop before there to explore the Den Blå Planet, the aquarium! Can you guess how much we paid to get in? I'll give you a hint.. it had something to do with that amazing Copenhagen Card.. so.. FREE! We had a little less than an hour, but we enjoyed our time there! They had a really cool water tunnel with sharks! The aquarium also had sea otters!
Now for BHW's birthday surprise! BHW and I left for the airport so he could make sure I get through security and got to my gate. I faked being so nervous and afraid to fly alone and that he HAD to come with me so he could calm his frightened wifey. I mean, I was a little nervous to visit another country alone, but I made it super dramatic... It was great. His flight didn't leave until 8PM so he had the whole day to 'drink alone at the airport on his birthday'. He whined about this for months as I tried my hardest to feel sorry for him while holding in a huge secret!
I got through to my gate and literally start sprinting to the other side of the airport to find none other than BHW's best friend, IC, who is also flying in for the wedding. IC was also heading to Berlin to go to the bachelor party. He had left from JFK and we told BHW he had a direct flight to Berlin. Little did BHW know, that Ian actually had a super long layover in Copenhagen, and then was on the same flight with BHW to Berlin.
I never actually found IC. I tried to hold on as long as I could but my plane was boarding, so I had to call BHW and tell him he needed to find the arrivals gate at the airport. He was so confused. I told him he needed to meet IC there. He said, 'Wait, WHAT? IC?' I then responded, 'So stop whining about drinking alone on your birthday and go have fun.'
I think the best part of the surprise was that it wasn't planned at all! It was just chance that their flight was the same to Berlin and that Ian had a crazy long layover in the city Brian was already in! Sometimes life just works like that.
They had an awesome day in Copenhagen and are now happily in Berlin drinking until they can drink no more, and I am on my way to Prague for a day of solo travel!
I landed in Prague at 3PM and bought my bus ticket to take to the city center to find my hostel. The bus ticket was soooo expensive.. $1.85. HA! The bus ride was about 20 minutes and then I had to take the subway for a few stops. I thought I would be a little more nervous about being in a foreign country alone, but I actually felt quite confident and calm. Nothing was in English anywhere, but I just told myself that if I got lost it was OK to ask. When I got to the city center I tried to follow the directions I had written down earlier but got a little turned around. I found a cafe and stood outside to sneak a little of their free wifi to download google maps. Once I downloaded the map, I walked towards the hotel. Even without internet, if the map has been loaded.. it will follow your walking! The only thing it will not do it re-calculate if you make a wrong turn. I found my hostel within a few minutes of downloading the map, sometimes technology is a time saver! I paid for an all girls room at Hostel Rosemary, it cost me around $20 for the evening. The hostel was nice and my room was clean with 4 other beds, three of which were occupied. There was a communal bathroom and hang out room/kitchen!
When I got into my room there was also a woman there who had just landed from India! She asked me what I was doing for the evening. I didn't have anything planned so she offered for me to join her for the night! As we walked towards the main square, we were chatting about her reason for coming her etc. Deepika is married and has a 5 year old son. She was telling me when she first had her son she spent 3 years at home, rarely doing anything for herself.. typical mom life, right? After the 3rd year she said 'enough is enough' and that she had to take some time for herself. She then traveled to Munich alone for 2 weeks. She and her husband have agreed to each take a solo vacation once a year and then one together as a whole family. I thought the entire idea of it was very interesting and also super cool. I told her I had a lot of respect for her to do something so big for herself, many moms I know just opt for a 60 minute massage at a spa down the road!
When we reached the square we stopped for a treat, I hadn't eaten since early in the morning when I had some grød! We ordered a pastry called a Trdelník! The pastry is dough rolled in sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes walnuts and then roasted over an open flame on a spinning rod! I had one filled with lemon custard, fresh strawberries, and nutella! It was heavenly! Deepika had her evening planned out and I sort of just tagged along happily! We walked through a light drizzle to the Museum of Torture Instruments, a 6 Euro entrance fee and a little too touristy for me. But I went and enjoyed reading the information about all the ways they tortured people, what a weird thing for people to pay to visit! Some of the devices were downright insane! The strangest ones were where they locked people up in uncomfortable positions, causing cramps after an extended period of time.. then they just died from going mad over the pain! Deepika was a little sick and it was raining, so we decided to grab some dinner and call it a night, I was pooped, so I didn't mind a bit! We found a restaurant in busy square and shared traditional Czech beef goulash and pea soup! Both were delicious and filling on a cool rainy night! The place was filled with a tour bus of older Asian folks. Bleh, I typically look for somewhere a little more off the beaten path, but I just went along with it with a smile.
After dinner we went to the hostel and headed for bed! I had most of the morning the next day to really explore on my own. I was looking forward to that! Overall, my first solo travel day went well, and I didn't get kidnapped or hurt or anything my mom was probably worried about!
There's probably a very good reason everyone rides bikes in Copenhagen, because if you don't, you end up walking 15 miles in a day. Most likely not true for everyone, but it was the case for us! We woke up early and feeling rested after a night of sleep in a bed, which hadn't happened for a couple days! Our plan to do some historical things like castles and ... more castles!
The first stop was coffee, you can never have enough! We went to another Coffee Collective, but this one was in Torvehallerne. Torvehallerne is an indoor food market, similar to Paper Island, but the shops are there permanently! There are also produce and flower markets and other goods for purchase there, not just restaurants! We got our coffee to go (not my preference!) because we had a lot of ground to cover, literally!
During our walk to the Botanical Gardens, it was the middle of morning rush hour! We are continually amazed at all the bicycles! I think the thing that amazes me besides the sheer number of them is the fact that the roads and rules of the road are so well organized and followed! There is the road for cars, next to that is street parking, then a little raised road for bikes, and lastly another raised portion for pedestrians! Everyone uses hand signals and there are even separate street lights for the bikers! They are tiny lights mounted onto the side of the car street lights! One thing I really like about the lights is that there is a 'get ready' light! The lights go green, yellow, red.. but before it turns back to green, it goes to yellow! That is the 'get ready' light! Pretty smart huh?? On our first day, we thought that everyone just left their bikes unlocked because we never saw any u-locks or chain locks. Today we finally noticed someone unlocking their bike! The locks are mounted to the back tire and have a little arm that just locks the back tire in place! This means you can park wherever you want, not just near a pole or bike parking spot, and you don't have to bother with taking the lock on and off and storing it in your bag! Sometimes I wonder when America is going to catch up!
When we arrived at the Botanical Gardens, many of greenhouses were closed, but it was such a nice morning that we got our fill of beauty walking outside through the gardens! We came to a bridge inside the gardens and there was an older man taking photos of this beautiful heron! The bird was sitting right on the railing of the bridge, without a care in the world! We got so close to it, and it didn't mind a bit! Another animal we saw during our walk was an amber squirrel with tufted ears! Our stroll through the garden landed us near the Rosenborg Castle, which was next up on our agenda!
Rosenborg Castle was originally a summer home built by Christian IV. A castle for a summer home.. must be nice! It was closed for another hour, so we decided to walk through the grounds and head towards the Little Mermaid and Kastellet. Kastellet is a star shaped fortress, one of the best preserved ones in Northern Europe! The fortress was another architectural project of Christian IV, you'll learn this guy loved to build stuff/make other people build stuff! The fortress is now used as a public park and was filled with many runners when we walked through! Kastellet backs right up onto the canal, which is where the Little Mermaid sits! BHW and I had already seen her the day before from the back side, but figured it may be nice to see her from the front also. The Little Mermaid is a statue that Carl Jacobsen (son of the founder of Carlsberg) had commissioned due to his love for the fairy tale and also his love for the ballerina that played the Little Mermaid in the theater. The statue has been vandalized a number of times, but it still sits near the edge of the water where tourists flock to see her. When we arrived there were already 3 tour buses there. I'm not sure why BHW and I put ourselves through things like this, it was so crowded and people were so rude, all to see a tiny statue of a mermaid that they probably know nothing about.. except from Disney. I snapped a quick photo (not even good quality) and got out of there, feeling stressed and claustrophobic.
We continued on towards Amelienborg to see the changing of the guard at noon. Like I shared yesterday, Amelienborg is where the Queen resides along with her son and his family. There was a small museum on the grounds which we got into for free with our Copenhagen Card. A little before noon we joined the many other folks outside to watch the changing of the guard. It was fun to see such tradition carried on in the 'modern world'. I really just think it's interesting that many countries still have royalty! They don't necessarily have political power, as is the case for Denmark, but are still treated with much respect and dignity! At the edge of Amalienborg is a church called Fredrik's Church. There was a crepe stand outside the church so we grabbed a crepe and sat on the steps to enjoy it! Nutella and banana, always the way to go when it comes to crepes! We popped into the church for a moment to admire the inside of the dome and also the details of the pulpit and organs! Old churches are always so gorgeous!
The crepe satisfied our hunger for a little bit so we decided to hold off on lunch and head back to Rosenborg Castle to tour through the museum, also free with our Copenhagen Card! Lying beneath the castle the royal jewels and other regalia are held in a vault. I was completely blown away at the detail and opulence of everyday objects like a cane handle, beer stein, or a simple notebook! And of course, the crowns and the Queen's jewels were just out of this world!! BHW is always fascinated with the guns and swords, anyone surprised? Although I'm not too into the weapons, their detailing and decorations are crazy! Who would have thought a gun needed to have intricate ivory carvings in it? I mean.. it's basically jewelry! My camera was having trouble catching good images in such low light, but luckily my cell phone came to the rescue and captured some of the amazing detail of these objects, thanks Steve Jobs!
After being underground in the castle museum, we were ready to be above the city! We walked over to the Round Tower to get a birds eye view! The Round Tower was originally built as an observatory and it is still used as that! An interesting feature of the tower is that it has a ramp to go to the top instead of stairs! The climb was 35 meters (115 feet) above the street! Our feet were really tired of walking at this point, but we pushed through and the views were worth it! We could see the entire city, and almost every place we had already been to thus far! We had fun trying to find all the castles and buildings we had visited.
At this point in the day, we were ready to sit down and fill our bellies! We headed back to Torvehellarne to find something tasty! Smørrebrød, a fancy open face sandwich and also a Scandinavian specialty, was on our 'must eat' list! We also got a hot dog.. I kid you not.. these Scandinavian countries flip over their hot dogs! They're everywhere, people love them! I feel like we've had a hot dog every day on our trip so far! They traditionally come with spicy mustard, mayo, ketchup, raw onions, and crispy onions.. and they're delicious!
We wandered back to our apartment tired and full! There, we took a break to get ready to go back out for the evening! I soaked my feet in some ice water and took a little nap. After an hour or so we decided it was getting dark enough to go explore Tivoli! I heard the best time to go is in the evening when all the lights are on! We arrived right as the sun was setting, which made it perfect to see in the light.. and in the dark! Best of both worlds for sure! Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world! It opened in 1843 and had a whopping 4 million people came to visit in 2012! Our Copenhagen card got us into the park for free, and if we wanted to ride any rides, we just had to buy a ticket for each ride we wanted! BHW and I decided to just walk through and enjoy the whimsical environment while watching everyone ride the rides! Tivoli has a roller coaster that actually has a 'brake-man' on it who controls the speed of the ride, only 6 other roller coasters can say that! A night at the amusement park calls for a beer afterwards if you ask BHW! We stopped by the brewery of all breweries, Mikkeller, for a couple beers. There is a beer celebration going on right now so their already crazy draft list was even more out of this world than usual! By midnight we were pooped, we grabbed a dönner to satisfy our beer munchies and headed home to sleep!