A Travellerspoint blog

Czech one, two! Is this thing on...

Or rather, some adventures in Prague... And more about Rome, later.

semi-overcast 23 °C
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So, beautiful, beautiful Praha. I made it here thanks to a cheap ticket found on eDreams... and flying Smart Wings! Who knew of such things? There's a lot to be learnt from eavesdropping; remember that. 
So, I arrived and found my beautiful hostel, beautiful in the fact that it is close to everything, is clean, very secure (they change the pass codes every day at 2pm, and guess who found out the hard way) and has a lounge area in the actual room! Private kitchen, private bathroom, Internet, wifi, seriously; hostel Rosemary had the works! Nice English people, then some VERY noisy and dare I say it, uncouth Americans, nice Brazillian guy that shared the mezzanine floor with me which I scored solo for the first two nights. And it's beautiful in the sense that it is in beautiful Prague! I mean, the only thing that could make this place better is if all my friends a d family could be with me here to share these moments, or if it was snowing and covered in powdery white. Or chocolate. But still, it is beautiful all the same. And keeping up with Europe's trend for beer to be cheaper than water, I have sampled some local ales, the *actual* Pilsner included. Very nice.
Today I watched two American girls out Gen Y each other as they graffitied the John Lennon wall, a place where John's face was painted on the 'once was white' wall the day that he was shot, accompanied by words from his, and the Beatles' songs - namely Love is All You Need, or variations thereof. So, one girl whinily explained that she DID in fact write "I am the Walrus", when the other girl scoffed and commented that "the last word looks kinda like Walrus..." Idiot. "No, I've heard the song.... Didn't I just say that I've listened to the song?!" Hilarious banter. You can't write that kind of dialogue. Meanwhile, I decided to add my own small scrawl seeing as everyone seems to be welcome, although, I have to say, that these two girls added terrible illegible giant letters to what was once a nice patch of wall... Yellow and blue words don't look good no matter how many times you try and outline the suckers in order to tidy up the miscalculated disaster. No matter; the government paints it white every now and again, but not so much after the end of communism. It used to be a meeting place of students and like minded people which would often result in demonstrations. I added my own demonstration of how I feel by taking my black felt tip Artline 200 to the wall and writing: "All you need is Jelly" and the date. I wonder how long it will take to disappear amidst other thoughts of love and peace and narccisisism? Speaking of disappearing, I am going to Berlin tonight on a very late bus, which means I have had one last full day of wandering in the streets of Prague and wondering in my mind.
I have visited the castle (and watched the humiliated castle guards that have their photo taken umpteen times a day. One guard had just finished a particularly gruelling barrage of flash photography, and he was once again by himself - I watched him pause, breathe in slowly and then let out a huge sigh... Classic. Poor guy.), been to a torture museum (fun decision), escaped the rain by having beef goulash with dumplings and hot wine (how can I resist a traditional Czech drink called 'Grog'?!), taken photos of the Jewish quarter, the dancing Fred and Ginger building (a structure that resembles Fred in upright steel, and Ginger in seemingly swaying glass), walked St Charles' bridge a number of times, watched the Old Town Square clock chime upon the hour replete with moving figurines and gawping tourists, remembering where I'd seen the astronomical clock face before (Science Focus 2 covers - thanks Kath!!), seen two films as they are cheap to Czech out!, made several puns, some new friends and some long lasting memories. Prague is like a fairytale land, and it makes it easier to feel this way with several locals getting about in traditional old gear and singing and dancing to quaint little songs. I have wandered the garden on the hill, visited a grotto of artworks by some tripped out hippie after a bad Sangria incident (him, not me), almost climbed the mini Eiffel Tower- but declined due to the cost (I'm not paying for that kind of thigh burn when I shall most probably get a better workout once I don my pack and walk 8.3km tomorrow), watched a little doormouse frollick in the long grass, watched bumble bees hover amidst the lavender. I have lain in the grass in some beautiful gardens, eaten a Czech sausage, been ripped off by having to pay for a whole buch of grapes (rather than the small half bunch that I wanted), had some crazy dreams, some crazily disturbing bunk buddies (who knew girls could snore THAT much?!). I have spent far too many pennies on having to use the lav, ALL over Europe in fact. Excellent marketing ploy, but badly timed all the same. By the time you reach your destination of the frequently signed W.C. - you'd gladly relieve yourself of ANY coins so that you may have the pleasure of relieving yourself. I think it's a ploy between Pilsner and the w.c. department. Beer that's cheaper than water and regularly sold in 500ml glasses as a matter of course, and then placing well signed facilities around the fair city. That and the constant flow of water in the beautiful fountains, the dronking taps and the running in the catchments in the river! It's a plot, I tells ya!
But really, who has time to sort through their change or go and GET change for the automated turnstiles in some places, especially when they are busting for a preverbial?! It's inhumane! 

Another thing I noticed, Prague seems to be stuck in the 80's: music wise. I've heard bad dance classics and Paula Abdul that many times... And all accompanied by the glare of garish fluro sunglasses and sneakerss that seem to have resurged. Apparently, Frankie went - and returned from Hollywood. How can one 'relax' with these bright primary and secondary colours and juantily placed oversized brim peaked hats?! Worn by barely teenagers, no less!!
But, Prague was, and still is, I'm quite sure, beautiful. Just because I cease to be there doesn't mean it stops being an amazing city, although it might give weight to my theory that it was all a show put on for the tourists, and at night they remove the painted plywood facades and the traffic returns, along with the highrises and gawdy billboards... I overheard (being forced to listen to a loud phone conversation versus eavesdropping) an English woman complaining to a friend back home that Prague was kitch and touristy. And yes, there is an element of that, sure - in ever city in fact, but you just have to travel the city rather than tour it... That's the way I'm trying to see these overdeveloped, overpriced, overcharged tourist traps... That's what we're all here to see, right?! No matter if you've got the nicest roller luggage or the tattiest back back, we're all here to look at and or partake in these foreign activities and sights. The trick is to really see a place... it just takes a bit more effort sometimes; but a city isn't just a preacribed top ten. Much the same as life. 
Whoa, I think I've had too much Grog. Sorry. Enough of that, now. I better Czech myself before I wreck myself!

See you in Berlin!
Pen xx

Posted by PennyJelly 04:39 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Rome - more

Part 2

sunny 38 °C
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The Colosseum 
Some things in life are as you suspect, others are not what you expect. The Colosseum for me was amazing , wonderful, but I think I wanted more. I didn't expect more, I just would have liked a little more bang for my buck. I am surprised and relieved that there are not images of Russel Crowe everywhere, or the film's soundtrack, or Oliver Reed's costume, and I certainly am most thankful that they are not staging mock fights (there are enough plastic clad over middle aged men with pasta paunches coercing tourists into having their photo taken with them, and anyone catching a free photo of others is shooed away with a gesturing of plastic swords and gruff voices) - but I would have liked to go under the arena through the tunnels and imagine the intricate mechanics of staging of sets and animals appearing through the floor, or see where the animals were contained, or sense the fear and blood of those gladiators who would ultimately meet their death. It is very interesting this place, and not super kitch or overdone... but I think I queued for more. Not to worry, I shall visit the crypt to get my fill of gore...

The crypt was amazing. A place set up by the monks to transfer the bones of their fallen brethren, also called a crematorium, but nothing in here was burnt, it had all just taken on new life. Just 5 or so roped off rooms of bones arranged in different positions, archways, clock faces, skulls with scapula wings... I can't even describe the artistically beautiful yet macabre images of these bones not so much laid to rest in peace, but laid out in beautiful pieces... Also cloaked and robed figures, lying down or standing to attention. 
Check it out on line... www.cappuciniviavineto.it spooky stuff. 

Posted by PennyJelly 12:44 Archived in Italy Comments (0)


Part one

sunny 38 °C
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I don't wanna spoil it for you, but this place is full of ruins! And I don't wanna ruin it for you, but this place is full of spoils!

They should clean this place up, though. What it needs is a Fed Square and a metal spire or something to make it unique; get some modern high class chic/kitch into it!

This is of course, all entirely out of order, but bear with me.

Day one and a half, I decided against visiting the major sites with the other girls from my dorm. Barely post pubescent American girls reading books by Nora Roberts (for those of you who endured my complaining about having to shelve the romance section of Borders, you'll recognise this name). There is no way I'm going to see this magnificent city with someone who is reading a book titled 'To Sin With A Stranger'. What kind of sin? I mean, can one still covet a neighbour's ass and it still be called a sin?! Anyhoo - here's some of the stuff from day one.
I visited the Cat Sanctuary which is nestled in the ruins of one of the squares. People dump 6 week old kittens or go away on holiday and make a stray of older cats, and some nice lady doctor decided to take them in and neuter, vaccinate and look after these kitties until, and only until they are adopted out. This is a no kill sanctuary, non government funded, essentially squatting, volunteer run haven for cats (and cat lovers). So it was nice to spend a few hours there, with a guided tour of the ruins, too. I hung out with a deaf cat, a blind cat, a three legged cat and an unfortunate but very sweet cat which had a type of cerebal palsy and thus couldn't walk in a straight line or stand up, but I preffered to think of him as a soft and happy, floppy drunk.

I also searched high and low for a DK guide recommended Roman Jewish lunch place. I negotiated down from the €21 lunch (no beer, no fancy pasta, covr charge included) and instead spent €15 on tap water, service charge (bread included) a simple but tasty and HUGE bowl of penne AND the piece of (no) resistance: a whole deep fried artichoke with salt. Dee-liciouso. You eat it tutti. All of it. Stem, crispy outer petals, soft and amazing inside. Perfection. I'm not sure if it was all worth the exhorbetent lunch price, (but I REALLY wanted to try a Jewish cooked artichoke (which is different to a Jerusalum artichoke) and i also felt that this type of meal should be shared and spilt between two) but it certainly filled me up, and I didn't even need dinner in the end. Once again, why am I paying for a place with a kitchen?! I have also found the perfect pairing of gelato flavours, in a once again a recommended Cremarie; pistachio and pear - in a cup of course. No point wasting precious taste buds on a stale or cardboard tasting cones. Delicious. I'll keep on the chase for the definitive gelato and continue reporting...      

Posted by PennyJelly 03:38 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

A piece of Pisa

My Italian journey begins...

sunny 37 °C
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Ah, Italy. How I love thee. Of course I have little to compare it to, I have yet to see a lot of Europe, either east or west, but as soon as I stepped off the plane I felt a sense of ease... Different to London, of course it was a good ten degrees hotter, and I mean hotter, not just warmer - but baking sun kind of hot, oven door open after a pizza bake off hot. Little shade, nothing around. This was due the fact that I stepped off the plane in Pisa, a bus shelter of an international plane terminal. I tried to act all cool and put my bag on my back and secretly looked at my iPhone map directions - cleverly photographed so I could utilize my phone without wifi. Although, I hadn't quite counted on the fact that the first thing I would see would be a tangle o roads and overpasses. My map in my mind doesn't do well with one level of traffic let alone three or four. So I headed off one way, and then went the other. Nothing seemed like a reasonable direction, I felt likening wanted to go straight ahead, but left or right seemed the only option. So, theninly thing to do was go backwards, back inside with my tail between my legs and ask an information point (that I hadn't seen before; what is this Labyrinth?! Damn you Jareth!) as to how to get toys town centre. They very helpfully gave me a map and pointed to straight ahead, but it seemed that going straight ahead wasn't as straihhtforward as there was the afore mentioned tangle of roads to get to the underpass. But once I mirror imaged the crazy back to front roads and determined just what level of crazy those crazy Italians drive at, I froggered itnover the road, down the underpass and into what looked like the end of a backyard that emptied out into a cul de sac. And walked straigt ahead. Past the train station, past the bus stops. Straight ahead, with a few hit and miss turns here and there. Now to find he hostel. Well, you know how I mentioned the 1980's cult hit classic film Labyrinth? Well, remember the doors that lead beyond the dangers untold and hardships unnumbered to the goblin city itself, the ones that turn into the giant robot goblin machine... Well that's what I had to go through to get to my hostel. Except the lock didn't work and the buzzer was tempremental - but inside I got and climbed more stairs. My reward was a bottom bunk in a large room of other travellers. Two bathrooms, one kitchen, use of wifi and a slow computer. All was well. I thought I'd hit the streets and familiarise myself with the ins and outs of Pisa so as to make my stay worthwhile and to make the trip to the tower a little easier for the next day. I spent €4 on lasagne that was the size and height of a five euro note, and paid €2.5 for a picollo beer which was 3/4 full and half of that was fluffy head, but I no complain. I am not in Siem Reap anymore... But I must tell you, I laughed when I was in H&M in London looking at cheap singlets and I saw that they were made in Cambodia... and they were £10 a pop, well I also saw the 'factories' where such clothing is made, in Phnom Penh, you know, where the Khmer Rhouge tortured and slaughtered countless thousands of their own people and 'buried' them in mass open graves... that place... Well, they do mighty fine craftwork, and for £10 it's a real steal!!
But enough of that aside... Let's put all that aside and get back to pretty Europe... 
So the next morning, I woke, showered, dressed and set off for the tower. I started thinking I should hire a bike, so I went to several points miming my request and speaking shattered Italian. I was reaching my wits end intrying to find the tower and trying to make my journey to the tower a bit easier and gave up just as I rounded a corner, saw a flag and thought that might be the city centre when I spied a load of other day pack wearing travellers... And it was only then that i realized what that flag symbolized. Toby!! I mean, the tower!!! And lo, here it was before me, not in a snow dome, but right there in front of me in all of it's leaning glory. It really is a bent object!! I laughed out loud and headed towards all of the folk vogueing their arms and hearts out. I of course tried to do the same by asking a stranger to help. A stranger that was clearly cross eyed or a dunce at basic hand eye coordination, but it's a funny photo nonetheless - and original to me. And I actually preferred taking photos of other people casting self respect and embarrasment aside. I decided against climbing the tower for €15. FIFTEEN!! as it was a four hour wait, there's NOTHING else to do in Pisa and I had a (soon to be) cancelled train to catch to Florence. And did I mention that the tower is small, much smaller than I expected - sure it was surrounded by chapels and cathedrals - but I have the Vatican on my agenda, and I like stained glass and PG15+ images of a bloody and tortured bodies in different repose as much as the next person, but the next person might have more euro and more faith than me, so I willfully abstained from the climb and surrounding buffer of religiostically bent activities.
The train, as I mentioned, was cancelled, as were any trains due to a train strike. Apparently this is not uncommon for Tuscany. Good to know! So I legged it back to the airport/park bench and booked a bus for 3 hours from then and laid in the grass unaware, yet waiting, for the Brazilian commentary on life and the environmental mutilation and governmental politics of the known world from Renaldo's pointnof view. The 70 minute trip seemed to take too long due to this... But my seat buddy was nice enough to let me view the picturesque Tuscany countryside on my journey to my next stop; Florence. 

Posted by PennyJelly 03:24 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Suntouched and sensitive on the Amalfi Coast

Or rather, my rambling thoughts from beautiful Amalfi, but with no description of my surroundings...

31 °C
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This morning I woke up to the sound of heavy snoring, and some unhealthy indicated wheezing from two different beds in the dorm that I was confined to.. It was so loud I almost got up then and there in order to greet the day, but instead, forced myself back to sleep - also trying to ignore the stinging of the skin of my belly and my upper thighs that had, until today, never seen the light of day. Needless to say, my translucent body covering didn't take kindly to being exposed to the Amalfi sun.
I had achieved this feat by wandering onto the small beach at Atrani, and seeing as I don't speak Italian and I was alone, decided to ignore my suspicion that these numbered twin sunlounge and uniformly nautically decorated umbrella arrangements facing the sea, were in fact part of a private beach set up. I noticed there was a small rope nearby dividing this nicely arranged area with several haphazard beach towels and old umbrellas akin to the one my grandmother had (with a distinctive and non beach appropriate floral pattern), but also chose to ignore it. I didn't, however, ignore a man walking around surveying the area from time to time, but seeing as he didn't come anywhere near me (and I was the only non pair person there, so kind of stuck out), I decided to stand my linguistically challenged ground, take a seat and get comfortable. What's the worst that can happen?!
So, I blinded the good people of Amalfi with my lunar tan, and waited for the man to come over and kick me out, but before this could happen, the sun went past the mountainous range of the Amalfi Coast and I decided it was time to rug up (put my singlet back on) and leave. No harm. No foul.
So the next day I did the same. I took up a similar position and got comfortable. The guy wasn't around, maybe this is the kind of thing that the people of Atrani do for their guests? It's a nice town, friendly people, not much to do - why not put out some sunbeds for the tourists to use?! Of course, I was once again choosing to fool myself, as I then noticed Mr Patrol Man taking money from, and opening the umbrella for, more and more people that were arriving. Maybe he's just being helpful?! A beach butler that people choose to tip?! A mafia connection one needs to pay off?! So I continued basking in the sun and the beauty of this perfect holiday destination - unaware that my white skin was suffering more profoundly than it currently let on.
This spell was broken when Patrol Man  once again strolled past, but this time stopped and said: "you no pay yesterday, you no pay today." but he wasn't really posing it as a statement or an offer of good will, rather, an accusatory judgement. And of course; he was right. No dispute. So I offered my apologies in my broad Australian, non Italian, "I'm not from around here and therefore don't understand the rules or the culture and I'm oblivious to what's going around me and I'm all by myself" accent, and made to leave, only now covering my touched-by-the-sun skin. I chose then to face my fears and purposefully walk towards Brella Butler to apologise once again and enquire as to the tariff on such a beach. He told me: €10 for a pair of lounges. Which is cheap. That's Monday to Friday. Saturday, Sunday it's €50." at which point I whistled (as it was indeed Sun-and sunburnt)-day) and wandered off in the hope that he wasn't even considering charging me. I offered another apology over my pink shoulder saying something like 'it was an honest mistake', and headed to the low class area - where you could also apparently hire the eye-sore umbrellas and lounges, but instead, lay out my $3 sarong amidst the sun worshipping couples, and wandered into the sea for a refreshing dip. I hoped that this, at least, was free...
Anyhoo, that's the roundabout story of my pink skin. Not too bad at all, but enough pink to render a slight sting when I tried to turn away from the horrendous noise echoing throughout this chamber of sleep. This was on the back of the two girls stumbling in drunk and unthoughtful with torches waving and objects dropping at 3 in the morning. I don't mind, of course, we've all been there, and it is a cheap dorm, so I reserve any harsh judgement in such circumstances. But next, next came the thing that most disturbed me and turned me agaisnt my bunk fellows. 
After returning from breakfast, I was most surprised to witness one of the offenders brushing her teeth at the dorm sink but leaving the tap continuously running! And not just a gentle stream but a steady gush of water, and not just between brushing and spitting, but also during wandering away for the two minutes it took her to rinse the toothpaste and wasted water mixture around her wheezy mouth!! I mean, the water was running, she was nowhere near the sink, arranging clothes in her bag, and then meandered over to spit out the last of the ritual from her snore infested mouth and then, only then, turned off the tap!! What waterlogged cutlure was this girl from?! Maybe i am being too harsh. Maybe she was indeed a mermaid struggling to breath in the oxygen rich air, thus the snoring wasn't her fault! But still, I, and my drought stricken Melbourne sensibilites, were aghast. 
So I showed her!! I then brushed my teeth with short controlled bursts of water and then quietly zipped up my bag without dropping anything and hoisted my bag on my shoulder. Ha! Ouch... Should have worn more sunscreen...             

Posted by PennyJelly 02:17 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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