Switzerland, You’re Always In My Heart and You’re Awesome. 

The story of my love affair with this country started in 2016 during my vacation in Colombia. It was there that I met lifelong friends and when I decided to go to Europe it was a given that I was going to visit them.

This isn’t my first time in Switzerland. In 2016 I went there for the first time. That was when I did the majority of my sightseeing in Zurich, Geneva, and its surrounding areas. That doesn’t mean that I’ve seen everything there is to see in Switzerland. In fact, the next time I go back I’d like to make it a point to see more of Switzerland majestic natural beauty. You see that’s the thing, I consider Zurich my home base in Europe and it’s all because of four very special women.

When I was backpacking in Colombia I met Nuri and through her I met Irme, Bahar, and Sabrina. Friendships blossomed and I can safely say that I have some really good friends in Switzerland. Zurich was the end of the line for me in Europe. I was fortunate enough that I was able to spend it with people that I care about.

This trip to Zurich wasn’t filled with going to the alps or partying it out in the town. I only had two days in the country. My point of going to Switzerland wasn’t to see the country but use the short time that I had to catch up with friends.

So from the bottom of my heart I’d like to thank Irme, Bahar, Nuri, and Sabrina for always making me feel welcome and also for always taking care of me. Irme, thank you for housing me, feeding me, being able to hang out with Dejan and introducing me to your beautiful little one. It’s always a pleasure to hang out and catch up with you and your family. Bahar thanks for the unexpected gift. I look good in that Jacket!! Nuri and Sabrina, it was so good to catch up with each other lives and I’m happy to know that you’re both doing well. Chiara, we met in Budapest and I’m glad that we were able to catch up in Zurich.

This post isn’t about an exaltation of a place but an exaltation to friendship. It was because of a trip in Colombia a year ago that I’ve made close friends in Europe. I know for a fact anytime I’m in the continent I always have Zurich to look forward to. All of you ladies know of my plans, so hopefully 2018 will be filled with more frequent visits.

So here’s to friendship! Switzerland, you’re always in my heart and you’re awesome.

PANO_20171006_155237-COLLAGE
Thank you all!!! Best People EVER!!!

 

Advertisements

Berlin, Williamsburg, It’s The Same Thing.

Berlin was not in the plans at all. During your travels you go with the flow. A good friend of mine, Dave said he was going to have his holidays in Berlin. I was in the general area and why not? Let’s meet up. So I said goodbye to The Baltics and took a flight to Berlin.

I just have to say there are two things that I didn’t like about Berlin. It’s minor but it annoyed me greatly. I got a local Vodafone sim card and I got to say, the service sucked. It was spotty at times, especially in the subways. I’ve never had that problem in the other countries I was at. Berlin you’re a cool place get you network together. Second, I wish Berlin was more open to credit cards. I went to twelve other countries in Europe and I was using my credit card most of the time. Germany was the first country I went to that had cash only places. C’mon Germany! Let me use my plastic everywhere!! Now I got that out of the way let me get back to the good stuff.

I had four days in Berlin. My time there was limited because I promised to see some friends in Switzerland. Honestly, if Dave wasn’t in Berlin I would’ve never went as originally I had no plans of going there. I am so glad that he went. I have to say I got a taste of Berlin and I cannot wait to go back to this city and properly explore it. Four days isn’t enough at all. I can spend an entire month in Berlin and I’ll barely scratch the surface of it. I’m thinking the next time I travel I’d like to focus some time in Germany. There’s just so much that it can offer.

I’m really happy to have spent my time in Berlin with Dave. One of the best things of travelling is seeing a friend from home. At this point I’ve been travelling on my own for three months and seeing a familiar face was just awesome.

IMG_20171001_184058
Two Filipinos in Berlin.

I was there for four days and I got to see some interesting sites. Number one for me is the Banksy exhibit. I’m a fan of his art and this happened in my last day. The weather wasn’t in my favor, it was raining but I forced myself to go out and see something. After some wandering around in the city I saw a sign for a Banksy exhibit. I’m so happy that I stumbled upon this place. Seeing his art was just awesome. This is most definitely a happy accident. I literally took a picture of every single piece of art that was presented in the exhibit.

IMG_20171005_142843-COLLAGE

For pictures of the Banksy exhibit click here.

Of course when in Berlin you have to go to the Berlin Wall. The story of the Berlin Wall is long so go on and read it. Bottom line, when in Berlin go see the Berlin wall.

IMG_20171003_114752-COLLAGE

For more pictures of the Berlin Wall click here.

I even got my nerd on and visited a computer game museum. This was great because there’s actually an arcade inside with vintage game cabinets. Since you’ve already paid admission the games can all be played for free. If you were a child of video games during the 80’s and 90’s the nostalgia alone is worth the price of admission. You’ll definitely see systems and games from all across the video game continuum and most importantly your childhood.

IMG_20171003_164904-COLLAGE

For more pictures of the Computer Games Museum click here.

The Pergamon Museum to me was so interesting. First of all go there because it’s just a bit surreal. This is the museum that DGAF! They just took things wholesale and plunked it in the building. There’s a lot of construction going on and the half of the museum isn’t actually available to the public. I’d love to see how it is after the reconstruction is done and the museum is back to its former glory. There is controversy going on with this place. That’s because of the fact that the items were taken wholesale and they have no intention of returning it at all. When in Berlin go to the Pergamon Museum and literally immerse yourself in history.

IMG_20171003_142304-COLLAGE

For more pictures of the Pergamon Museum click here.

These are just some of the places that I’ve been to. You can walk around the city and see history right there and then, from Checkpoint Charlie to Brandenburg Gate. It’s all right there for you. When it comes to nightlife Berlin has you covered. It doesn’t matter what you’re into from something low key to something that’s NOT low key, you’ll find it in Berlin.

So why the title? Berlin to me is hipster central. Granted I purposely sought out hipsterish neighborhoods so I did put myself in a bubble. The same energy I feel when I go to Williamsburg is the same energy I felt when I was in Berlin. From specialty coffee shops to exclusive beer bars to record stores to vintage shops and of course food galore…all of that is in Berlin. If you like the hipster side of Williamsburg you’ll feel right at home in Berlin.

Of course that’s not all Berlin has to offer. I’d love to see how Berlin is when the weather is warmer. One my fondest memories was I was sitting in a cafe and I started up a conversation. Her English was great but for some reason she was comfortable speaking in Spanish. Later on I found out that she’s a native Berliner that spent years in Spain. So, when she didn’t know an English word she just switched over to Spanish. It wasn’t a problem for me. I actually liked it as it kept me on my linguistic toes. She told me straight up, come visit Berlin in the summer because it’s a whole different world.

PANO_20171003_154906-COLLAGE

For pictures I took while walking around Berlin click here.

I love the fact that I was able to visit Berlin. The four days I spent there was just kindling to the fire. Next time, I’d love to go around Berlin and the rest of Germany properly. All good things must come to an end. Berlin, four days was too short but it was a great introduction to Germany. Until next time Berlin!!!

The Baltics and Finland

I had no idea what to expect coming up to The Baltics. The sun was shining and it was beginning to get cold. Fortunately I stocked up on winter wear whilst in Gdansk. I was ready as I’d ever be for my 11 hour bus ride. I had four days per country, thinking it was enough. This is the first time I had a definitive date to leave because I was going to meet a friend in Berlin. I can say this much after 12 days in this region I learned that 12 days overall is NOT enough. The Baltics, the best surprise of my Eurotrip.

Lithuania

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when I arrived here. In fact it was the complete opposite. My bus pulled in at 6AM and it was pouring. The last few arrivals I’ve had it’s been raining and at this point it’s the same old not fun routine for me. It was a short walk to my hostel and unfortunately they weren’t allowing check in until 2PM. Here I am with almost no sleep, waiting for a bed. Around 10AM I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go for a walk.

The sun finally came out and it wasn’t so bad. I was a sleep deprived guy walking around in sweats and flip flops in Vilnius, Lithuania. When it was finally time to check in I went back to my hostel and I just crashed that day. First day in Lithuania done.

IMG_20170919_125037-COLLAGE
My first day at Vilnius. Look at how excited I am.

The next three days was spent exploring Vilnius and some of its surrounding cities. First thing first coffee. Hands down in Vilnius there is only one place to go if you want your coffee done right. Fortunately, it was only a two minute walk away from my hostel and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories (CNCF)

I started talking to Maurice the shop’s front liner. They focus on micro coffee producers around the world. Also, they’re the only coffee shop n Vilnius that roasts their own coffee. You have an option for which beans you want and me being me,  I of course requested for a custom blend. I did a 60/40 blend (60 Costa Rica Arabica and 40 Kenya Arabica) The coffee I got was mellow, with a bold back note, and very nutty. Bottom line CNCF got the beans and they have the skills to do it right. When you’re in Vilnius head over there for your coffee fix.

IMG_20170922_125250-COLLAGE
Best coffee in Vilnius, period!

For more pictures of Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories click here.

One of the most unforgettable places I went to was The Hill Of Crosses. The history of this place is long so read up on it.  Needless to say if you ever go to Lithuania this is a can’t miss place. Even though it was raining hard that day I made it a point to make it there. A three hour train and bus ride later I made it. Sure, it was raining but it didn’t matter. This is a must see place. This is the site I used for directions on getting there.

IMG_20170921_144527-COLLAGE
It’s a lot of crosses.

For more pictures of The Hill Of Crosses click here.

Within Vilnius itself there are two places that I went to that I really enjoyed and learned a lot. First is the KGB Museum Of Genocide. This is the actual KGB building that’s been transformed into a museum. As you can tell by the name this place isn’t definitely about sunshine and rainbows. If you want to see an unabashed look at what Soviet Russia did to the people of Lithuania go to the museum.

IMG_20170920_143727-COLLAGE

For more pictures of the KGB Museum Of Genocide click here.

The second place that I enjoyed is the Contemporary Art Museum. Originally I had no intention of going here. It was a good thing that I went with a cool hostel mate and she put me on that it was free on Tuesday. It wasn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. I really liked the work that they had in the basement. It was a video presentation of love and languages. As far as I know though it’s a temporary exhibit and it may no longer be there. So when in Vilnius head over to the museum to see some interesting art.

IMG_20170920_120434-COLLAGE
ART!!!!

To see more pictures of the Contemporary Art Museum click here.

I really wish I had more time in Lithuania. I only saw Vilnius and some nearby places. I know that this country has more to offer. I’d love to see Lithuania in the summer. Lithuania you were great but it’s time for me to move on! Goodbye Lithuania, hello Latvia!!

Latvia

Here’s the deal. I was not in a picture taking mood when I was in Riga, Latvia. To see the very, very few pictures I took while in Riga and Jurmala click here. Again, I came into Riga, Latvia with zero knowledge and expectations and I was blown away.

Throughout my entire travels meat has been a constant. Fish was available but it was expensive. This was not an issue in the Baltics. In Riga, I gorged myself on seafood.

PANO_20170924_143323-COLLAGE
So good….so, so good!!

Due to its proximity to the sea, seafood was plentiful, accessible, and affordable. I mostly ate fish when I was there and I didn’t regret any single fish dish that I ate.

Aside from eating all the fishes in the sea, I did a day trip to Jurmala. Jurmala is a beach side town less than an hour away from Latvia. Let me be honest I didn’t bother taking pictures whilst there. I had fun, the water was cold so I just went in ankle deep. Unfortunately, it was the tail end of beach season so most of the places were closed. I just spent most of my time relaxing in the beach.

PANO_20170926_144619-COLLAGE

My four days in Riga could be summarized in these few words: I ate a lot of seafood, I went to the beach, and I relaxed. So Riga, thanks for the relaxing few days I spent there. Again, I wish I had more time cause I know that there’s still so much to see and do not just in Riga but Latvia itself.

To see the VERY few pictures I took while in Latvia click here.

Estonia and a day trip to Finland

Another event free bus ride to Tallinn, Estonia and that was fine by me. Out of the three Baltic countries, Estonia by far is my favorite. It’s the northernmost Baltic country hence the coldest. I was there during the end of September and by then you already need to have a good jacket. It was a good kind of cold though. It was great that while it was cold it didn’t snow so it was easy to walk around in the city.

Let’s talk about coffee. Tallinn has options when it comes to good coffee. My favorite hands down is The Living Room. The Living Room is run by Katya. When you’re there say hello to her and her wonderful staff. They source their beans from all over the world and it’s roasted fresh every week. That day I had a pour over and the beans came from Ethiopia. It was fruity, light, flavorful, and very easy to drink. The Living Room is a place to get your coffee and on certain nights they also have shows. It’s definitely a great place to meet locals. Go to The Living Room have a great cup of coffee and meet some very cool people.

IMG_20170929_170938-COLLAGE
That’s Katya and her coffee. Go over there and have a cup.

For more pictures of The Living Room click here.

There were many things that I enjoyed while I was in Tallinn. I have to say I’ve been through several walking tours but the funniest one that I’ve been was the one in Tallinn. When in Tallinn do the walking tour and I hope that you get Helen as a tour guide. She’ll definitely educate you and make you laugh.

I loved that fact that in Tallinn there’s a budding creative neighborhood. If you want to go where the locals go make sure you hang out in Kalamaja. From cool graffiti art to awesome bars and restaurants Kalamaja definitely has it all. I love the fact that there’s a clear distinction in aesthetics when you go to Kalamaja as it has that DIY feel. You can see the vibrancy of youth and creativity here. This neighborhood was an industrial wasteland just a few years ago. It has been slowly transformed into THE neighborhood to be in when in Tallinn. People wanted to change their surroundings for the better and the people did. They did it with their own ingenuity and hard work. Kalamaja also has awesome vintage shops. Make sure you stop by the the shops and go to town.

IMG_20170928_150921-COLLAGE
Kalamaja

I stayed in Hostel Euphoria during my four days there. The Hostel was very chill and very into music. Feel free to grab any of the instruments and play away. During my stay there they had band practice almost every night. Fortunately, the musicians were great and they produced awesome music. There weren’t a lot of people during my stay and I got to know the staff well. I was talking about the Philippines and it’s no surprise the locals knew nothing of it. I offered to cook them chicken adobo to introduce them to the closest thing the Philippines has to a national dish. I can gladly say that it was a hit. I fed the hostel that night and each and everyone of them had nothing but positive things to say. I’m glad that I was able to bring a little bit of the Philippines to Estonia. Lastly, I got to say much respect to the Asian grocery for having vinegar from the Philippines.

IMG_20170928_201457-COLLAGE
Chicken Adobo. Respect to that Asian grocery for having coconut vinegar.

One of the best things about being in Europe is that you can go to a different country for a day trip. Finland is only a 90 minute ferry ride away. Well, I took the three hour ferry ride cause I had time and it was cheaper. When I got to Helsinki I did a walking tour but I didn’t stay for the entirety of it. The guide was informative but just dry. I met Cynthia, another American doing the walking tour. Her and I just decided to walk around Helsinki ourselves and see what we can see in the few hours that we have. Helsinki is beautiful no doubt about it. Coming from The Baltics the prices there just gave me sticker shock. I would love to go back to Helsinki and give the city and country a proper exploration…in the summer. If you are in Tallinn, Estonia make sure you head out to Helsinki it’s an easy trip.

IMG_20170930_082300-COLLAGE
Helsinki, I wish I had more time…and money.

For more pictures of my half day in Helsinki click here.

I had a great time in Tallinn. The place and the people are beautiful. It’s proximity to Finland is a just a great bonus. Four days was not enough. The next time I head over there it’ll definitely be when the weather is warmer. I’d love to see how Tallinn and the rest of Estonia is during the summer.

For more pictures of Tallinn, Estonia click here.

I knew nothing of The Baltics and I’m glad that I went there and learned so much. These three countries are usually overlooked. Don’t do that, go there and spend some time in each. You’ll be glad that you did.

 

Time To Renew, Refresh, and Relax Yourself. It’s Four Days In Gdańsk. 

The rain just didn’t let up. It followed me all the way to Gdansk. Honestly, I thought I was going to have a miserable time here. Everyone I’ve met that’s been to Gdansk just kept on raving about it and I had high hopes for the place. I was hoping that there would be a break in the weather and thankfully there was.

The rain finally stopped!! I was elated to exit the bus and I didn’t have to worry about the rain. So, with a spring in my step I was ready to find my hostel and enjoy my time here. This lasted for about 15 minutes. The clouds came in quick and the rain poured, I mean it POURED. At least this time I found my bus quickly and the ride shouldn’t be that long. I was wrong, the normal 15 minute ride took 30 minutes due to the weather conditions and traffic.

Thirty minutes later I finally got of my bus and begrudgingly put on all my rain gear and proceeded to walk to my hostel. It wasn’t a long walk and a few minutes later I was in Mama’s and Papa’s Hostel. Papa saw my misery when I came through the door, it was fair to say at this moment I wasn’t in the best of moods. I got out of my rain gear and sat down to check in. I just wanted to get dry and go to sleep. But y’know what happened? Papa first offered me a hot meal, a hot drink, and just told me to relax and eat first. The check in can happen after all that’s done. The Golabki (cabbage roll) and coffee did that trick. It made me feel better. Yes, I was still wet but the immediate hospitality and the warm food just made me feel good again. I knew at that moment that I was in the right place.

When you meet people that has traveled to Gdansk and stayed in a hostel I’m sure 99.9% of the time you’ll hear them talk about Mama’s and Papa’s Hostel. This place has become legendary amongst travelers for their hospitality. The place is run by a Polish Deadhead couple (Grateful Dead lovers) and all the great things I’ve heard about the place couldn’t be more right. The place actually feels like home. The entire time I was there none of us patrons knew the couple’s name. We just called them Mama and Papa. These two will take care of you and help you out as much as possible. I was there for four days and they made me feel very welcome. Also, Papa has a great music collection in the commons room. If you’re into classic rock feel free to play great music when you’re there. Mama’s and Papa’s definitely lived up to the hype. It’s not in the city center it’s about 15 minutes away by bus (when it’s good traffic), but people will venture out there just to feel at home. If you’re looking for a place to relax while in Gdansk stay at their hostel. I highly recommend it.

The next day I woke up to sweet glorious sun!!! The rain is gone and the sun is shining HA-LLE-LU-JAH!!!!! Seeing the sun definitely put me in great spirits. There were a few things I wanted to do whilst being in Gdansk. Aside from seeing the town I was looking forward to doing some day trips outside of the place. This being the my first day in Gdansk. I started out with exploring the town.

IMG_20170914_122715
Sun! Glorious Sun!!!!

Gdansk has a sad history. During WWII the place was nearly wiped out due to bombing. Old Town was rebuilt using the original plans as much as possible. Unfortunately, they didn’t have unlimited resources. The center of Old Town was rebuilt greatly but when you go further out it’s more of the facade the buildings that were rebuilt. If you go the back the building are still bare. I hope that Old Town gets rebuilt to it’s former glory. It really is a beautiful place.

For more pictures of Gdansk click here.

At this point you can see that if I’m enjoying myself a lot, taking pictures is secondary. There isn’t a lot of it. The place follows the structure of a European Old Town so all the standards are there. Just trust me when I say that the place is beautiful so take a walk around and explore.

The second day I was there it rained again. Honestly, at this time I wasn’t mad about it. The hostel filled up with people and it ended up as a rest day. All of us there just decided to chill and relax in the commons room.  That was how the day was spent. I think for me all the bad vibes from Warsaw were released that day. Yeah, I didn’t get to go out and explore but being surrounded by awesome people and just chilling really helped me out. The rain didn’t let up that day and I was still alright.

A place I wanted to see was Malbork Castle. It’s touted as the largest brick castle in Europe. In truth, I wasn’t really super excited to see another castle but I did want to go out of Gdansk for a day trip. Thankfully I met some awesome Dutch girls in the hostel that were planning the same to do the same thing. The three of us headed to Malbork to check out this castle.

The day was great it was warm and it was just awesome to walk around with the sun out. Malbork wasn’t too far away from Gdansk, it’s less than an hour by the regional train. Forty minutes later we finally got to the castle and started exploring. Malbork Castle is…empty.

PANO_20170916_143623-COLLAGE
Thank goodness I met some cool people.

The Castle is actually an entire compound and it’s just empty. The rooms aren’t filled with anything opulent. In fact that castle was actually rebuilt as it was bombed heavily during the war. While the externals of the castle has been rebuilt faithfully the inside wasn’t filled in. Some of the walls still have their original art but in general the place is empty.

Despite this there were really no complaints on my side. Thank goodness that I had great company with me. In fact it turned into a little game. The three of us were all trying to come out with ways to explain Malbork’s emptiness.  The best B.S. philosophical waxing happened here. This is how the three of us kept ourselves entertained.

For more pictures of Malbork Castle click here.

My last full day at Gdansk the three of us headed out again to Sopot. Sopot is even closer to Gdansk compared to Malbork and it was so easy getting there. Sopot is famous for it’s wooden pier (supposedly the longest wooden pier in EU) and its beach. I actually brought my swimming gear just in case. When we got there the weather was nice, the water was cool but not cold. You can definitely still swim in it. The problem for me was the jellyfish. They were all over the water. That stopped my swimming plans and just went on exploring the town and chill by the beach. Again though, no harm no foul. I was with great people it was an awesome day nonetheless. Later on that night the three of us went back to Gdansk and we met up with the rest of the Dutch girls (the hostel was full of them) and just chilled in Old Town.

IMG_20170916_185638-COLLAGE
Dutch girls and jellyfish

For more pictures of Sopot click here.

An unexpected thing happened in Gdansk. Tomas was here for the afternoon! This guy just won’t stop following me!!! He was heading home to The Czech Republic and he had a few hours of waiting for a bus in Gdansk. We decided to kill that time by catching up. So, Tomas it was great seeing you again. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we’ll run into each other when I’m in Europe again.

IMG_20170914_163718-COLLAGE
This guy again. Tomas stop following me!!!

After four days it was time to go. I had a late night bus on my last day. I packed up my bags and I stayed in the hostel until it was time to go. It was raining that day so I really appreciated being indoors during that time. I was able to say goodbye to all the great people I’ve meet during my four days in Gdansk. I’m really thankful for Mama and Papa for their hospitality and their friendliness. Their hostel is really out of this world. All the people I met there were awesome. I had a great time hanging out with all the other guests that I’ve met there.

IMG_20170914_163718-COLLAGE (1)
Awesome people.

Gdansk was my last place in Poland. I was glad that it was where I got the bad vibes of Warsaw out of me and I was able to refresh myself. I’m thankful of my time in Poland. It’s definitely a country I’d love to visit again. I know for a fact that there is still so much to see and do. So here’s to you Gdansk and Poland thanks for all the great memories and great times!!

 

 

 

Rain,Rain, and More Rain. It’s Warsaw. 

IMG_20170913_102207-COLLAGE
I went from this to this…

That picture up there really summarizes my time in Warsaw. I’ve had a warning about Warsaw, how it’s not so great and might as well skip it. Well I wanted to form my own opinion of the place so I thought two days there won’t hurt. It didn’t hurt at all, I was just wet, wet the entire time I was in Warsaw. It’s fair to say I don’t have the best opinion of the city.

I arrived at night and the air was moist. You could feel the rain coming. When I got out of the bus I had to take a 15 minute train to the hostel. That part wasn’t a problem. After the train ride the rain just poured. It wasn’t a little bit of rain, it was a lot of rain. So, with a heavy sigh I put on all my rain gear and got ready to get out there and walk to my hostel. The hostel wasn’t far it was supposed to be just a 5 minute walk. It’s true it’s only 5 minutes away…if it was a direct walk. There were so many underpasses in Warsaw it got annoying quick. So, twenty minutes later I finally got to my hostel and checked in. The check in took 30 minutes. It was the hostel worker’s first day and there was a lot of problems with the machine. This was an ordeal to say the least. When the dust settled and I just got ready to go to bed. I wanted to put my first night in Warsaw behind me.

I had one full day in Warsaw and I wanted to make the most of it. When I woke the sky looked like this:

IMG_20170912_151732
Such lovely skies…

I was determined to make the most out of the day so I headed out and began exploring. I went to the old city and started from there. It rained for the first few hours and I decided to wait it out a little bit in a coffee shop. When It finally cleared up I started walking around. Warsaw is big, much bigger than the previous Polish cities I was in. In all honestly, the layout and the size reminded me of Montreal. I made the best out of it and just walked around Warsaw and tried to enjoy myself.

To see more of the dark and rainy skies of Warsaw click here.

A bright spot of my time in Warsaw was watching a Chopin concert. It was great seeing something so relaxing and the performer really did Chopin pieces proud. If you’re ever in Warsaw watch a Chopin concert.

IMG_20170912_175709 (1)
Classed it up a bit.

For pictures and videos of the Chopin concert click here.

It’s fair to say I didn’t have the best time in Warsaw. The constant rain played a large role to it. The two days I spent there was enough. I was glad to move on to hopefully greener pastures. So Warsaw, I wish I could’ve chilled there when you were all sunshine and rainbows, maybe then I would’ve enjoyed it.

Kraków… I REALLY like this place. 

The good times just kept on rolling in Krakow. Anna went ahead and Jason and I were headed up north to meet up with her. The great thing is that other people from Grampa’s Hostel were going to meet up with us within a day or two later. Anna was staying at Little Havana Party Hostel and Jason and I decided to stay there for one night.

Now, when you stay at a party hostel you have to be ready for some things. Especially a hostel that doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a party hostel. See, I have no problems with that as long as they’re upfront with it. I’ve had my share of party hostels when I backpacked Southeast Asia and I have an idea of how it goes. When I booked a bed I actually got an email stating that yes, it’s a party hostel so be prepared to party and also the fact that it’s for people ages 18-35. I’ve got one more year, then I can’t stay there anymore…. Lastly, it says that if you’re not comfortable with that type of atmosphere it’s better to cancel your reservations. I just find it amusing that if you’re 36+ you can’t stay there anymore.

So the three of us met up and just as expected you’re willparty hard if you stay there. Honestly, for me it was good for one night. So, if you want to party in Krakow a good start would be to stay at Little Havana Party Hostel. After that was done it was time for me to move on.

IMG_20170903_182828-COLLAGE
The Three Amigos.

The three of us stayed at different hostels afterwards and I stayed at Submarine Hostel. I booked a week there because I wanted to see how I feel in Krakow. I’d like to give the staff at Submarine Hostel a big shout out. They were extremely friendly and very cool to hang out with.

IMG_20170910_140807-COLLAGE

I took a lot of pictures this time whilst in Krakow. So here they are:

IMG_20170903_220827-COLLAGE

Random pictures of my time in Krakow click here.

IMG_20170909_174522

For pictures of Krakow’s Mound click here.

IMG_20170909_135839

For more picture Schindler’s factory click hereIMG_20170908_160044-COLLAGE.For pictures of Krakow’s Gestopo Prison and In time Of Terror Exhibit click here.

The Gestopo prison was a bleak reminder of how far people will go to hold onto power. This combined with the terror exhibit was a 1-2 punch for me. There were some serious stuff going on in this building.

IMG_20170905_205046
It’s not your run of the mill walking tour.

.For more pictures of the Macabre Walking Tour click here.

This is one of the most unique walking tours I’ve ever been in. The tour is about Krakow’s past concerning executioners, murderers, and the way they torture their criminals. It was a lot of fun because this was the first walking tour I’ve been at that’s at night and also as you can see in the pictures there’s a show and tell part towards the end. I highly recommend this walking tour if you’ll be in Krakow.

IMG_20170907_143935-COLLAGE

For Pictures of the Rynek Underground Exhibit click here.

I’ve done so many walking tours that at this point that I became so tired of it. I’m glad to say that the walking tours that I did do were top notch. I did the Macabre Walking tour as seen above and also I did the Jewish Walking tour and the World War II walking tour. Krakow has a vast history. The walking tours I did really helped me make sense of it all. All the walking tours that I did were free and it was done through this company.

Now, there are two places in Krakow that most people go to when they go there. I’m talking about the salt mine and Auschwitz. I didn’t go to the salt mines because it was just expensive. I talked to people that went there and while yes, it’s beautiful it can be very crowded and rushed because there are so many people. Also, you have to pay extra to take pictures. This rule is broken all the time but that’s still a big no for me. I went online and looked at pictures and watched videos of the salt mines and decided not to go. I’ve already been to the salt mine and salt lakes in Turda, Romania and had a great time there. I took a pass on the salt mines in Krakow, maybe next time I’ll go.

Auschwitz is a place that most people will go to if they visit Krakow. I went and I must say I implore everyone that’s near the area to visit. I made a conscious decision not to take photos as I feel that it’s just distracting and disrespectful. I struggled in Auschwitz and rightfully so. To see the gas chambers, the cremation building, the murder wall, and all the other horrible places and being told what happened while going through them… it’ll hit you. I posted on FB that I’ll be emotionally unavailable for the rest of the day and I was. I didn’t feel like going out or seeing anyone. I do think that places like Auschwitz must be visited. History isn’t always pretty, there a lot of horrible things that happened. It’s up to us to learn about it so it’ll never be repeated again. Go to Auschwitz, process the place and learn from it. I do hope that when you leave from there you’re a different person.

Krakow like Budapest is another city that I clicked with. I don’t know how to describe it but there’s a definitely a vibe that I connected to. The city and the people are beautiful. Who knows I might end up in Krakow to teach too.

Krakow is a place where I hung out with friends and made new friends. Krakow will always have a fond place in my heart. I had fun yes, but more importantly I learned so much. From what happened to the past and how people moved on, there was just so much and I know there’s so much more. Krakow made me appreciate my travels a lot. I was a bit burned out at this point and Krakow rejuvenated me. I’d like to thank Krakow, it was a great week there and I hope that I get to be there again.

 

When The Hostel Becomes More Important Than The City. My Time In Wrocław. 

Wrocław was my introduction to Poland and what an introduction!! This city is just plain fun. I had such a great time here whether it was rain or shine. Just look at all these beautiful smiles!

 

First thing first, how would you actually pronounce Wrocław I was pronouncing it as wo-ro-klaw or ru-klaw, and of course I was absolutely wrong. It’s actually pronounced vrot-swav…Polish, it’s an interesting language.

To say I had a great time time in Wrocław is an understatement. The city played a part in it. It’s beautiful there. What really made my time special in Wrocław is the people I met and the hostel that I stayed in.

Before I get into to that I’d like to take this moment and talk about gnomes. Wrocław is famous for having statues of gnomes all over the city. Some people make a game out of it, trying to find to find all of them. Depending on whom you ask the count for how many them differs. But there are definitely more 100 gnomes in Wrocław. So go ahead and try to find them all.

I landed in Wrocław and thankfully Grampa’s Hostel was only a 20 minute tram ride from the bus stop. I arrived and after a quick and painless check-in I went into my room for 10 people and the first thing I noticed was SPACE! Wonderful, beautiful SPACE! I was coming in from a very cramped week in Prague. Being able to freely move in a room was a great feeling to me. I’m finally able to move around without hitting anyone or anything else.

In a hostel being comfortable is one of the things that you want. What’s even more important to me are the people. See, there are two types of hostels. Hostels that just leave you alone and hostels that has a staff that set up events and go out of their way to hang out with the guests. Grampa’s Hostel is the latter type. I’m really gushing about the place because it really is fun. As soon as I got in the commons room people were up for chatting and staff members facilitated socialization through games, Sangria nights, and bar crawls. Even on their off times they were always up for chats and just plain old chilling. So, Carolina and Gonzo you guys were great and made my time awesome there.

Wrocław is a small place and it actually rained some of the days that I was there. This time though I didn’t mind. There were always people to hang out with and a Playstation to keep you occupied. Bottom line. I’ve had a great time here and I met a lot awesome people.

One of the best things that happened here is a lot of people in the hostel decided to meet up in Krakow. Somehow, someway the stars aligned and we were all going to be in Krakow sometime within the next few days. I met some great travel buddies there that I hung out with the rest of my time in Wrocław and my first few days in Krakow. Jason and Anna I’m glad to have met you both and the good times continued all the way to Krakow.

IMG_20170903_182828
Anna, Jason, & I in Krakow. For some reason we don’t have a picture together when we were in Wrocław.

For the rest of my pictures in Wrocław click here. There aren’t a lot of pictures because picture taking wasn’t a priority for me. I was hanging out with awesome people and I was in a beautiful place, the stars aligned in Wrocław. I was glad that the good times rolled over all the way to Krakow. So, Wrocław thanks for everything you were awesome.

One last thing a lot of time was spent in a water park when you’re there make sure you visit it.

Let me love you Prague and not just be in deep like with you!!! 

Prague I have arrived! One of the most visited cities in Eastern Europe and I’m finally here. Before I write about my happenings here. Let me just get the pictures out first because there are a lot.

Random pictures while walking around Prague click here.

For more pictures of Prague Castle click here.

For more pictures of Prague Museum of Alchemy click here.

For more pictures of Prague’s largest graveyard the Olšany Cemeteries click here.

For more pictures of Prague Alchemist Museum click here.

For more pictures of Prague Communist Museum click here.

IMG_20170823_204922
Click on the link to see the rest. Fair warning the pictures are NSFW. Look through it at your own discretion. 

For more pictures of Prague Sex Machine Museum click here.

For more pictures of Prague Museum of Torture click here.

I spent seven days in Prague and while I didn’t fall in love with the city I definitely fell in like with it. Prague is awesome don’t get me wrong but I didn’t click with it 100%. Do I hate the place, absolutely not. It’s just a feeling that I got. There are certain places that I went to in Europe that I know I’m 100% into. Prague wasn’t one of them it was more a 75% feeling. So Prague while I don’t love you I like you…A LOT.

My hostel was right in the middle of the city. It was definitely convenient but the room was small and crowded. The kitchen (if you can even call it that) was laughable, it didn’t even have a burner. Also, the common room was a bit meh, while people do congregate it doesn’t really have a homely feel. I definitely paid for the location, it’s in the middle of central and every where else was easily accessible.

My experience in Prague was a good one I had a lot of fun with people I met in the hostel. The locals I met were so friendly and helpful. I never had a problem when I was talking to them. I really don’t know why I never fully clicked with the place. Part of it is my fault. I do think that subconsciously I was constantly comparing Prague with Budapest. That’s just a killer. Never do that, always form your own opinion of a place on its own merits. Prague has so much to offer and I had good time there. I do think personally for me another visit to Prague would be great. Next time, I’d like to see how the city is in the winter. I’d like to give Prague a fair shake. Let me fall in love with you Prague, I don’t want to be just in deep like with you.

One of the best places culture wise for me is the Communist Museum. Growing up in the States you only get a shadow of what happened in Eastern Europe. Part of the reason why I wanted to go to Europe was to see how Communism had an impact with the area. Prague’s Communist Museum is one of the best that I went to so far. I learned so much from it. It was awesome seeing things from the other side. I grew up learning about the American side of things, this time I was able to see how things were on the other side.

In terms of nightlife and bars Prague has it all. Don’t worry if you’re looking to party and to hang out there won’t be a shortage of it. If you’re not used to the city life Prague can be a bit overwhelming. Especially the time I was there. It was peak tourist season so people from all over the world were congregating in Prague. What’s awesome is that you’ll meet people from all over. What’s bad is that you’ll also meet a**holes from all over. C’est la vie. I found respite from the city center just 20 minutes outside of it. That’s the thing about Prague in the center it’s jam packed but just go out 20-30 minutes out and you’ll find tranquility.  Take advantage of Prague’s parks that’s where you’ll find your r&r.

One of my favorite places is Náplavka. It’s basically a boardwalk of the Vltava river. Here you’ll find an entire stretch of bars and people just hanging out. Better yet you can always bring your own beer. This write up here can explain the entire place much better than I can. Suffice it to say, I spent a lot of time there. The place is cool.

There’s no shortage of things to do in Prague. In truth a week isn’t really enough. I could’ve easily spent another week in Prague. I know for a fact I barely scratched the surface of the place. Once again, Prague I want to fall in love with you and not just be in deep like with you. So, Prague in 2018? Who’s up for it?

 

 

A Short Stop At České Budějovice The Home Of Budweiser Beer…Huh???

What’s in a name? Apparently enough that there’s been lawsuits and disputes since 1907. It’s the story of Budweiser and being confused yo!!

So, here’s something weird I honestly don’t know why I went to České Budějovice (CB). I had no intention to go there I just kept hearing from so many people that it’s beautiful over there and it’s very peaceful. After Brno I said why not, so my next destination is CB. CB is a small place. I really do think it’s the smallest place that I’ve been to in my trip. I spent a total of three days there and that was fine.

When I go to these small places I go there to recharge, to go somewhere where it’s a little bit quiet. Yes, I’m on a holiday and I’m not working but it does get mentally tiring at times. Those that do long term travel knows that there are moments when you just want peace, quiet, and your own space. Well I stayed at a hostel and I didn’t have my own room but the great thing was that for one night I was the only one in my room. Having a room all to yourself is awesome.

At this point of the trip I had European Old Town fatigue. They were all merging together in my memory as one. Seriously, at this point I’ve seen so many old town squares, cathedrals, cobbled streets, fountains that they all were looking the same to me. What I did learn was that CB is also famous for Budweiser beer.

I’ve drastically cut down my drinking almost to none at all but I’m not a monk and I had to find out what the whole deal with this Budweiser name business. Even back in NYC I don’t drink Budweiser, it’s garbage beer, it has no flavor at all. In CB they have this:

 

Here’s the short story, České Budějovice’s German name is Budvar so a beer from Budvar is called Budweiser. That’s all I’m going to write about it. Wikipedia has a full entry on the history of the brewery and the whole Budweiser name dispute.  I was in the town and the brewery has a tour so why not, I went.

 

For more pictures of the Budweiser Brewery Tour click here.

Aside from the brewery tour I wasn’t really taking a lot of pictures while I was in CB. This was a time for me to just rest and not be “on” all the time. I did take a few pics of the places I went to. So, here they are:

IMG_20170822_163049
Saint Nicholas Cathedral

For more pictures of St. Nicholas Cathedral click here.

I also went to a motorcycle museum.

 

For more pictures of the motorcycle museum click here.

My time in CB was drawing to a close. It was time for me to move on. CB is the last small town that I’d go to in The Czech Republic. I had a good time relaxing here and my next stop would be Prague and it’s game on again. So, thanks České Budějovice I learned something new, I relaxed, and I recharged.

Crypts, Mummies, Bones, and an Ossuary. Oh…it’s just Brno being Brno. 

Brno…such a surprisingly weird place. A good kind of weird. On the surface it’s just like any other European old town. It has cobbled streets, a fountain, a cathedral, a square etc. It’s business as usual, just another old town. The surprises of Brno lays underneath the town. I’m glad to say as an introduction to The Czech Republic it was a great one.

When I arrived in Brno I booked a night in an unusual place, a converted nuclear bunker. 10-Z bunker was featured in many websites and why not? I’ve never slept in a nuclear bunker before. It was warm that day but because the bunker is underground it was perpetually cool, around 15.5 C (60 F). After checking in I went straight to my bunker.

IMG_20170816_173413
Home sweet nuclear shelter.

I thought that the hostel would be full that day but that wasn’t the case. My bunker was for 10-12 people but that day there were only two of us staying. Unfortunately I forgot the name of my bunkmate (it happens…you meet so many people) the two things I do remember is that he’s French and he’s been travelling for 1.5 years and still going strong (my hero). I only had one night in the hostel and I wanted to make the most out of it.

IMG_20170816_224318
1.5 years of backpacking and still going strong…Respect!

The hostel itself houses a museum. It shows its history and how fortunately it was never used for its intended purpose. As guests we had free reign in the museum part of the hostel. I don’t know if we were suppose to roam around the museum area during the night, but hey, we did and none of us got in trouble. So that night we roamed around the halls and we found some…sights.

IMG_20170816_224117
That’ll keep you up at night.

That’s just one thing that greeted us. The place was full of these types of things. If you’re ever in Brno and want to have a different sleeping experience stay at 10-Z Bunker. After roaming the museum and shelter halls it was time to sleep. I can honestly say while cold the provided sleeping bag kept me warm. It wasn’t a bad sleep. For me one night in that bunker was enough and it was time to move on to another hostel.

For more pictures of my stay in 10-Z Bunker click here.

Brno is a student town but since I was there during the student holiday season the town was bereft of them. Fortunately there was one student in town; Tomas! So, with great joy Tomas and I had our first of many European reunions. It was a good thing that he was there and I had a local guide around the city. The first night in Brno he took me to one of the local watering holes and just we just hung out and caught up.

image-271870145.jpg
This won’t be the last time I’ll be seeing this guy.

What I find interesting about Brno are the things that they have underground. I missed out my chance to see mummies when I was in Hungary and fortunately enough Brno doesn’t have a shortage on mummies. I went to the Capuchin Crypt and was not disappointed. It was the first time I’ve seen mummies outside of pictures and these mummies were preserved very well.

IMG_20170817_161350
Look at all these mummies.

For more pictures of the Capuchin Crypt click here.

Another new experience for me was going to an ossuary. I actually had to look up what an ossuary meant. I learned a new word that day. I headed to The Ossuary Of St. James Church and I had my fill of skeletons. It was just wall to wall human bones. One of the highlights of the place was a room with an arrangement of human skulls. This place is definitely worth a visit and I’m glad to have seen it.

For more pictures of The Ossuary Of St. James Church click here.

The last thing concerning underground Brno was the Brno Labyrinth. Check it out if you have time. It shows life in Brno back in the day. To be honest this one isn’t necessary but it’s cool nonetheless.

For more pictures of Brno Labyrinth click here.

I spent four days in Brno and I had a lot of fun. When I’m not looking at mummies or skeletons I was hanging with Tomas and exploring the rest of the place. Brno was a great introduction to the Czech republic. I had a great time there, it’s definitely a town that’s worth a visit.