Finishing up my time in Central Europe, on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Sad to see it go, but kind of looking forward to being able to half-understand the language again. So here’s what I’ve been up to for the past week or so…
Not going to lie, I actually spent a fair portion of this day watching a stream of the rugby league from Australia. I did, however, go on a fantastic walking tour through the city, starting at St Stephen’s Cathedral. It was at least three hours long, the guide, whose name escapes me, was absolutely fantastic, both knowledgeable and charming. The tour was run by Hostel Culture, who run free walking tours in many cities. It’s a great way to see the sights in the city, especially on your first day.
I also made sure to eat proper Hungarian food for dinner at least once. I hit all the classics: goulash, chicken paprikash and a shot of palinka to wash it down.
Another slow beginning. I ran out of clothes, and had to spend the morning doing laundry.
I did get time to do another great walking tour, this time highlighting the Communist past of the city. It was more informative than about seeing sights. Another Hostel Culture tour, I can’t recommend it enough.
Travel day. I crossed Slovakia on a bus, I saw some gorgeous landscapes on my way into Poland. I really regret not taking an extra day or two in Krakow, it seems like a lovely place. There’s always next time.
But I was in Krakow for one thing…
Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau). The sites of the most evil events that have possibly ever occurred. Home to more death and suffering than anywhere else.
I hate to say it, but it was a little underwhelming after Dachau. Auschwitz I was originally a Polish army barracks, and that’s what it looks like. Auschwitz II has mostly been dismantled, the materials were needed to reconstruct Warsaw after the war, and lush grass covers the ground between the foundations. Compared to the stark greys of Dachau, it just didn’t really have the impact I expected
It’s still a must-see, and I really want to stress how interesting it is, it just doesn’t quite meet expectations.
Another travel day, this time from Krakow to Prague. I travelled by Leo Express, and it really seemed like a first-class experience, I was pleasantly surprised.
Every now and then, I have to let my tragic nerd side show. Today was one of those times. Legends of Australian rock, INXS, filmed the video for their classic ballad Never Tear Us Apart in the streets of Prague. I found a map and spent the day walking the same streets as Michael Hutchence and the others. It also happened to carry me past a number of Prague’s main sights, Prague Castle, the Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge and so on.
That night, I watched a short concert by the Parnas Ensemble, a string quintet featuring members of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and other top-level Czech musicians, performing a selection of classical and operatic pieces.
Another bucket list item got crossed off today. Unfortunately, the travel time was far greater than the time spent at the location. The Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, about an hour’s train ride from Prague Main Station.
Of course, the famous Bone Chandelier is currently being restored, but the other decorations in the church crypt, made entirely out of human bones, are still super-creepy.
Again, I took the chance to catch a game of rugby from home, before going out and seeing the city. I took another Hostel Culture walking tour. The tour didn’t seem to go far from the Old Town Square, venturing into the Jewish Quarter for the last half hour or so. While it took me to many sights I had already seen, the tour guide shared a wealth of knowledge that really made it worthwhile.
Which brings us to this moment. Tomorrow I travel to Berlin, where I’ll be spending about a week. I’m really looking forward to it.