Category: Czech Republic


Prague, my home for 1/3 of my life!

Prague, my home for 1/3 of my life!

I have had an amazing year since my family and I left Prague on July 31, 2014. In August 2014 we went to Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. We visited Amber and her dog Paws, in the beautiful Slovakian countryside.

Amber's garden

Amber’s garden

We swam in the sparkling Adriatic Sea with our friends in Croatia.

The food was delicious! We swam and ate and ate and swam.

The food was delicious! We swam and ate and ate and swam.

We drove to some interesting seaside towns in Montenegro, and we swam in the beautiful Bay of Kotor.

It was hot and the water felt good!

It was hot and the water felt good! The dog liked it, too.

You can read more about our adventures in Montenegro here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2014/08/16/the-bay-of-kotor-montenegro-stunning/

We visited our Indian friends, Sally and Ram, in Slovenia. They took us to Lake Bohinj, and we had a delicious picnic.

Too cold to swim.

Too cold to swim.

Then we flew to the USA in September and visited friends and family in six different states over the next two months. We visited our friends in Oregon. We visited Auntie Robin at her amazing cabin in the mountains, in California.

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We stayed at my little cousins’ house in Indiana. We played legos, and went to the zoo. I had a surprise early birthday party, and I got Angry Birds Star Wars telepods.

I was so surprised because it was a week before my birthday!

I was so surprised because it was a week before my birthday!

We visited my Grandma, Grandpa, and sister in Wisconsin. We stayed at our friends the Zideks’ house. We spent time with friends and family, and celebrated my birthday two more times!

We went out for Mexican food for my birthday!

We went out for Mexican food for my birthday. Not my best photo!

We stayed at my cousin Morgan’s house in Minnesota, where we played Gamecube Super Mario Sunshine and card games.  Then we visited my grandparents, uncles, and aunt in Texas. We went to NASA in Texas with my uncle and aunt.

The original control room for the Apollo missions.

The original control room for the Apollo missions.

In November we flew from the US to Prague, and we stayed there a week. We stayed at the Antblads, our good friends from Sweden. We visited my wonderful school. I met my old friends, including my friends David and Robbie. I was sad to leave my great friends.

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We flew from Prague to Dubai, and we stayed a few days with the Bevans, our British friends. We swam and played in the Persian Gulf. We saw a camel racing farm in the desert.

I wish we could have seen the camels race!

I wish we could have seen the camels race!

We went by elevator up the Burj Kalifa building, the tallest building in the world. It is 2,722 feet (830 meters) tall! We saw dozens of the tall, modern buildings. You can read more about our adventure around Dubai here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2014/11/23/beaches-camels-and-sand-dunes/

Good-bye, desert!

This is us with our friends, the Bevans.

Next, we flew to Bangalore, India and stayed with our friends, Martha and Susheel, at their farm. They have five cute dogs, and I liked playing with them. I walked the dogs almost every afternoon by the lake.

On the farm

On the farm

We went to Susheel’s second farm in the countryside for a weekend. On the way we saw many interesting animals. Indian food is the most yummy food I have ever had.

On the way to Susheel's other farm.

On the way to Susheel’s other farm.

We visited other friends at their 40 acre farm called Bamboo Banks, located in the jungle. We stayed in a small, cute cottage with a garden. I swam in the pool while Mom was reading in the hammock. I jumped really high on the trampoline.

The horses came by for lunch while I swam.

The horses came by for lunch while I swam.

One morning the monkeys woke us up when they were playing on top of our roof!

One morning the monkeys woke us up when they were playing on top of our roof!

On a jeep ride we saw deer, peacocks, wild boars, and monkeys. We watched the elephants eat their food at the elephant camp.

Sometimes we drove really fast!

Sometimes we drove really fast!

So close! We had to be really quiet.

So close! We had to be really quiet.

You can read more about our adventures in the jungle here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2014/12/27/bamboo-banks-paradise-in-the-jungle/

After Bamboo Banks, we stayed three weeks with Granny Ingrid. Every morning Dad and I went swimming in Granny Ingrid’s pool. The Zideks, our American friends, came to Granny Ingrid’s house for Christmas. On Christmas morning I opened my presents. Then we went to a party with fancy cars and delicious food. India was the best vacation ever for me. We spent six weeks in India, and I loved it!

 

Granny Ingrid

Granny Ingrid

Last Christmas I was really into Super Mario Brothers!

Last Christmas I was really into Super Mario Brothers!

On the way with our not-so-fancy car. Seatbelt laws aren't the same here!

On the way with our not-so-fancy car. Seatbelt laws aren’t the same in India!

 

This was at the Christmas Day lunch party with Auntie Ingrid's friends.

This was at the Christmas Day lunch party with Auntie Ingrid’s friends.

We  moved  to Turkey in late December 2014. In Turkey I  went to a new school . We love having guests and showing them cool places nearby.

 

Termessos!

We hiked up a mountain to see Termessos!

We like going on boat rides with guests!

We like going on boat rides with guests!

 

There is a nice beach here, too.

We went to Side to see the ruins. There is a nice beach here, too.

My cabin. I shared with three boys.

I went camping twice in Cirali; once with my school, and once with our church. This is the cabin I shared with three boys.

The mountains are not far away.

The mountains are not far away.

It has been a good year.  I like living in Antalya.  I like the mountains, the nice breeze, the sea, and the ice cream (dondurma). You would love it if you came here.

 

 

 

 

 

My ninth birthday party!

My ninth birthday party in September 2013

Life is one big adventure! I lived the last three years in Prague with my parents. My dad taught science at an international school. I went to the same school. We got to do a lot of traveling during our school breaks. During our October break we did a home exchange in Munich.

Munich!

Munich!

Dad’s favorite place was the Hoffbrauhaus. Read more about our trip to Munich here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/10/28/munichs-hofbrauhaus-the-worlds-most-famous-beer-hall/

Hoffbrauhaus!

Hoffbrauhaus!

Mom’s favorite day trip was to Salzburg, Austria, just a two hour train ride away. You can read more about our trip to Salzburg here;

https://globalnomadfamily.com/tag/salzburg/

Recognize this from the Sound of Music?

Recognize this from the Sound of Music?

My favorite place was Legoland!

Amazing!

My parents surprised me with a trip here on our last day.

In December we visited Grandma, Grandpa, and my aunts, uncles and cousins in the US.

Just after a snowball fight with Dad!

Just after a snowball fight with Dad!

In February we did another home exchange in Antalya, Turkey. Dad loved being on the Mediterranean. It was sunny and a little warm, even though it was February!

February!

February!

Mom loved the quaint old town of Kaleici with its 2000 year old Roman port. You can read more about our trip to Kaleici here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2014/04/24/the-picturesque-city-of-kaleici-in-antalya-turkey/

The old town of Kaleici.

The old town of Kaleici.

My favorite place was the Aquarium!

This tunnel was so cool!  We could see sharks swim over us!

This tunnel was so cool! We could see sharks swim over us!

My sister Sam came to visit us in March.

It was so fun to show her our city!

It was so fun to show Sam our city!

She loved exploring Prague!

Sam loved exploring Prague!

We went to Rome for our Easter break; another home exchange. Dad liked the Pantheon and St Peter’s Basilica.

The view from the Pantheon.

The view from the Pantheon.

We even got to see the Pope!

We even got to see the Pope right after Easter!

Mom liked walking through the streets and taking lots of photos.

Lots of photos, come ON, MOM!

Lots of photos, come ON, MOM!

I liked exploring the Castel San Angelo and the Colosseum.

Goofing around!

Goofing around!

But this was my true favorite…

Gelato. Simply the best.

Gelato. Simply the best.

May and June were busy! I was in the school musical, The Magic School Bus.  Lots of friends came to stay with us at our flat. I went to Summer Fayre, cub scout meetings, and birthday parties.

In July we sold all our furniture and stuff and moved out of our flat in Prague. Mom was sad, but Dad and I are excited for our new adventure. We get to travel for five months before we arrive in our new city and find a new home. Read more about our last days in Prague here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2014/08/02/good-bye-prague/

My room in Prague.

My room in Prague.

Good-bye room!

Good-bye room!

Since leaving Prague we have stayed in 21 different beds in five different countries! We are doing home exchanges, visiting friends and family. For now, home is wherever we are staying the night. Follow along on our travels and you’ll find out where our new home will be!

 

 

 

 

Good-bye, Prague!

My favorite European city!

My favorite European city!

We left Prague two days ago, after three wonderful years here as expats.  Global Nomad Family is doing what our name says…we are picking up and moving.  For the next five months, we will be traveling…with no home base until January 2015.  Where will we be moving?  Follow along, and you’ll find out!

Leaving Prague has been. really. DIFFICULT.  I have really loved living here.  People save up their money to Prague for a vacation. The city is flooded with tourists year round.  We had the amazing privilege of living in this beautiful city. For example, this is my view as I take the tram to the dentist!

Prague=eye candy

Prague=eye candy

However, most of all, it will be the people and the friendships that I will miss the most. We have been blessed to develop friendships with Czechs and expats who are really fascinating people.

We will miss Riverside School: the teachers, the staff, the students and our fellow parents.  If you are moving to Prague with kids, do yourself and your kids a favor and enroll them in Riverside School.  It’s truly a special place with outstanding teachers and staff, great kids from dozens of different countries, and a wonderful community of parents where all feel welcome.

 

Nate waiting for the bus on his day of school.  I was choking back the tears!  Notice the castle in the background.

Nate waiting for the bus on his last day of school. I was choking back the tears! Notice the castle in the background.

June was an an extremely difficult month for me. It was a month of  good-byes.  The reality of leaving hit hard. I was absolutely dreading June 26th, the last day of school. It’s always a half day, with an end of the year assembly in which each child who is leaving is called up to the front by their teachers; the teachers tell why the child will be missed, and the child is given a class-made good-bye gift.  The moms sit in the back with dark sunglasses on and get all weepy…even when it’s not their child leaving!  Expat kids have to move often due to changes in their parents’ work circumstances, and this ceremony is a really healthy way to give the leaving children closure.  It’s also good for the children who aren’t leaving as it gives them a way to say good-bye to classmates.

However, I’ve always dreaded the day that Nate would be one of those kids up there, being the one said good-bye to.  It was really, really hard for me.  I was also afraid of how Nate would do…would that be the moment he’d realize the finality of the fact that we were leaving, never to return as anything more than visitors? Would he burst into tears like a little boy did last year when he was called up there?

The last day assembly.  This is the moment I had been dreading ever since we made the decision to leave Prague.

The last day assembly. This is the moment I had been dreading ever since we made the decision to leave Prague.

Thankfully, Nate was completely fine!  He sailed through it with smiles, and even spotted me in the back and gave me a big thumbs up!  He is such an amazing kid; so flexible, adaptable, and excited for new adventures.  He’s still at the age where we are his life and he trusts us completely.  Friends haven’t yet usurped the most important place in his heart.  We’ll enjoy that #1 spot for as long as possible!

I’ll also miss our wonderful flat, up on a hill overlooking the city.

We LOVED this view.  We are so gonna miss it!

We LOVED this view out of our bedroom and guest room windows. We are so gonna miss it!

Sunrise, from our window.   That's the Crown Plaza Hotel, built in the 50's during Communist times.

Sunrise, from our window. That’s the Crown Plaza Hotel, built in the 50’s during Communist times.

We initially came on a two year teaching contract.  We arrived with just six suitcases and three carry-ons.  We found this flat on our fourth day of looking, and immediately knew it was the one for us.  It was completely unfurnished, so we had to start from scratch.  As most expat teachers do, we went to Ikea and purchased the least expensive furniture. We didn’t want to invest in “the best” as we didn’t know if we’d be leaving in two years.  It was fun to start over; two years turned into three, and little by little our empty flat became a home.

Lots of good meals and fellowship around that table.

Lots of good meals and fellowship around that table.

We sold or gave away all of our furniture and household goods.  We kept only what would fit into six suitcases and three carry ons.  On June 30th, the movers came to take the remaining furniture to the new home of the teacher who will be replacing Andy. We worked hard to complete our packing and to clean the place to make it ready for the next people who will enjoy the flat on the hill…

Good-bye living room and kitchen!

Good-bye living room and kitchen!

We have had more than a hundred guests during our three years in Prague!  We love hosting people.  We’ve had lots of friends, family, and even people we didn’t know come to stay with us. We gave guests the biggest room with the spectacular view of the city!

Now the blue sofa is in the Riverside Boys' Dormitory!

Now the blue sofa is in the Riverside Boys’ Accomodation!

Better to dance than to cry!

Better to dance than to cry!

This was our room… European beds are always low to the ground, and the duvet sits on top like icing on a cake.

Most of our furniture was purchased by the teacher who will be replacing Andy.

Can we say IKEA?!i

 

Ljudmila helped me clean the flat.  We would have been cleaning 'til the wee hours without her help!

Lijdmila helped me clean the flat. We would have been cleaning ’til the wee hours without her help!

And Nate’s room…

The maps on his wall are from places we visited during our school holidays.  They are the only personal decoration items we are taking to our next living destination!

The maps on his wall are from places we visited during our school holidays. They are the only personal decoration items we are taking to our next living destination!

 

Good-bye, Nate's room!

Good-bye, Nate’s room!

 

July was a very busy month of packing up, selling all of our furniture and household goods, and working on a seemingly endless list of things to do.  It was stressful!  I like unpacking and nesting, but I don’t like packing and moving.  Finally, it was all done on July 30th.  We left it spotlessly clean, thanks to help from Lijdmila…and completely devoid of all evidence of the love, life and laughter that was ours here, in this lovely home.

We were so tired after cleaning and packing all day!  The built in closet was the only place to sit down besides the floor.

We were so tired after cleaning and packing all day! The built in closet was the only place to sit down besides the floor.

Prague will forever be in our memories: our amazing three years in this beautiful city, our precious friends, Riverside School, and our home on top of the hill.  Good-bye, Prague!  You will ALWAYS have a special place in our hearts!

Stay tuned for our upcoming adventures in Slovakia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia…

Old Town Square

Old Town Square

This is our third Christmas season in Prague.  There are Christmas markets that spring up all over Prague in December, and the most beautiful one of all is in Old Town Square.  When I first came here, I was used to the US Midwest hibernation…when the temperature plummets, people stay indoors.  I was used to going from the house to the garage to the car to my destination.  It isn’t uncommon for people to circle a parking lot several times to find a spot closer to the mall entrance, or wherever it is we need to go.

During my first winter here in Prague, I was surprised to see how many people walk all over the city, particularly the center and shopping areas.  They go not just to accomplish shopping errands, but also to walk, talk with friends, and enjoy the atmosphere. The cold temperatures don’t seem to deter the crowds; people just bundle up, and walk !!

It’s a whole new way of life here in Prague, and I really enjoy it.  In the US, we had two cars and drove everywhere.  A car is a necessity in the vast majority of US cities, suburbs  and small towns (although I’ve never lived in New York or other cities with good public transport).  Here in Prague we don’t own a car.  We go to school, work, the grocery store, errands…everything…by public transport.  And we love it!  The public transport system is excellent: prompt, easy to figure out and navigate. I often feel like I’m a Disneyland tram, riding through the beautiful streets of Prague!

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I’ll admit, there are days where it is really cold, and I miss the warmth and convenience of having a car.  But we have no desire, nor need, to buy a car.  If needed, taxis (from a reliable company) are quick and inexpensive: 150-300 crowns for a ride across town ( $7-$15).

Old Town Square is always bustling with life throughout the year; it has an especially festive atmosphere when the Christmas markets go up.

Jan Hus presides over the festivities, as always.

Jan Hus presides over the festivities, as always.

For the past three years we always head to the US to spend Christmas with family, so I’ve never experienced what Prague is like right at Christmas.  I’ve heard that there are buckets of fresh carp that appear all over the city as it is part of the Czech traditional Christmas meal.

Early December is always filled with lots of events at my son’s school, Christmas parties, and last minute gift buying. I guess that’s the same regardless of the country! Some day I’d like to go to a Christmas concerts in one of the lovely churches. I’ve also heard that the New Year’s Eve celebrations are wonderful. We often see fireworks out our window throughout the year (we live on  a hill); I can imagine that there must be many spectacular displays of fireworks on New Year’s Eve!

Tomorrow we are off to the US to spend time with family.  We are looking forward to it!  Good-bye, lovely Prague.  See you next year!

I have been blessed to call this spectacular city my "home" since July 2011!

I have been blessed to call this spectacular city my “home” since July 2011!

I still have to pinch myself to believe that I live in Prague!  Can you see St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle in the top right of the photograph?  I see that out of our bedroom windows every day, from the other direction! Ordinary errands, like going to the dentist yesterday, are surreal.  I picked Nate up from school, took a bus to the metro, went by metro to Staromestka in the Old Town, then hopped a tram which took us along the Vltava River with stunning views of the castle as we passed by Charles Bridge. We got off at our stop along the river, and walked five minutes to the dentist’s office, past a beautiful 400+ year old church in a neighborhood with incredible architecture. It was an evening appointment, so after the check up we took a tram home through the city as all the lights were coming on. Prague is truly lovely…you really must put it on your bucket list!

Kutna Hora!

Kutna Hora: view of St. Barbara’s Cathedral!

We are briefly back in Prague before leaving on our next set of adventures!  This post is especially for future guests arriving soon. Kutná Hora is a lovely day trip from Prague.

If you saw my post on the Bone Church in Kutná Hora, you may be intrigued enough to see it for yourself.  However, even if you think the Bone Church isn’t “your cup of tea” you should still go see Kutná Hora.  The historical town center and St. Barbara’s Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Kutná Hora has not one, but several stunning cathedrals, which more than make up for the gruesome Bone Church!

Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and John the Baptist.

Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and John the Baptist.

The town began in 1142 with the settlement of  Sedlec Monastery, the first Cistercian monastery in Bohemia.

German miners began to mine for silver in the mountain region in 1260, which the miners named Kuttenberg. The mountain was part of the monastery property.

These are the relics of St. Felix, donated by Pope Benedict X!V in 1742 on the occasion of the monastery's 600th anniversary!

These are the relics of St. Felix, donated by Pope Benedict X!V in 1742 on the occasion of the monastery’s 600th anniversary!

Kutná Hora’s wealth was built on mining. There’s a legend that goes like this: when a lazy monk named Anton woke up from a nap in the monastery orchard, he found three pieces of silver sticking out from the ground near his face. Anton laid down his robe (‘Kutna’, in Czech) to mark the place. Anton’s fellow monks investigated further and discovered what was to become the silver mines. Kutná Hora would later become the richest silver mine in the Kingdom of Bohemia.

It was wonderful to wander the streets and see the fine architecture.

It was wonderful to wander the streets and see the fine architecture.

The prosperity of Kutná Hora silver mines reached its climax in the 14th and 15th centuries when the city became one of the richest places in Europe. It was one of the most important political and economic centers of Bohemia at that time, second only to Prague.

I have a weakness for taking photos of cute window boxes:)

My husband will confirm that I have a weakness for taking photos of cute window boxes:)

Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the day to take a tour of the silver mines.  I’ve heard that the tour is very interesting, so we will definitely go back!

It was fun to wander the streets!

St. James’ Church

St. James’ Church is one of Kutná Hora’s famous landmarks. Construction of St. James began in 1330, and was completed in 1420.

This is the Church of St. James, built in the 14th century.

Inside the Church of St. James, built in the 14th century.

Pope Martin VI declared a crusade against the Hussites in 1419, shortly before construction of St. James was completed. The Hussites were followers of Jan Hus, a Czech priest who was considered the first Church reformer because he lived before Luther and Calvin.

St. James was the principal parish church of medieval Kutna Hora.

St. James was the principal parish church of medieval Kutna Hora.

In 1420 Emperor Sigismund used Kutna Hora as the base for his unsuccessful attack on the Taborites (considered heretics by the Catholic Church) during the Hussite Wars…leading to the Battle of Kutna Hora. In that battle, the Taborites were encircled by the superior forces of Sigusmund; however, under the leadership of famous Czech general Jan Zizka they were able to break through the lines and escape.

St. Barbara's Cathedral in the background.

Thanks, Elsa, for these photographs!

According to Wikipedia, Jan Zizka is considered to be among the greatest military leaders and innovators of all time. He is one of six commanders in history who never lost a battle . There is an enormous statue of him in Prague, which can be seen from miles away. The surrounding area is called Zizkov!

All these photos came from Elsa's camera, since we forgot to recharge our camera before coming to KH.

On the way to St. Barbara’s Cathedral.

St. Barbara’s Cathedral was founded in the late 1300s by the rich mine owners of Kutná Hora. They were trying to compete with the grandeur of Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. Building plans were interrupted by the Hussite battles, so construction didn’t resume until 1482.

The stained glass windows are stunning!

The stained glass windows are stunning!

Kutna Hora passed to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. Things went downhill after that…the mines were flooded, insurrection against the Holy Roman Emperor brought harsh punishment, followed by plague and the Thirty Years War.  The city  was devastated by fire  in 1770. The mines were abandoned not long after.

The view from the balcony.

The view from the balcony.

Kutna Hora remained part of the Austrian Empire under the Hapsburgs during the 1800’s. It became part of Czechoslovakia after World War I, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The fun angels:)

The fun angels on top of the organ!

For more information about Kutna Hora, including how to get there from Prague, look here:

http://www.outsideprague.com/kutna_hora/kutna_hora_daytrip.html

http://www.myczechrepublic.com/kutna-hora/getting-there.html

So, if you are in Prague for more than a few days, definitely make a trip to Kutna Hora…you won’t regret it!

Rouen, France

Originally I had planned to get out a post every day to keep up with our road trip adventures. I failed miserably, as my last post was day eight…and I think now it’s day twenty-two!  We were having too much fun to keep up with that goal.  No worries! I’ll continue posting as time permits.

My blog countdown says I’ve got 5 hours to go on our European road trip.  It has been a blast!!  We finished our trip with a long, but fun driving day through four countries.

Yesterday we left the lovely home and friends we were staying with just outside Caen in Normandy, France.

Our first evening in our friends' backyard.

Our first evening in our friends’ backyard.

We drove to Rouen, where we had a quick lunch and a quick sightseeing/shopping trip.

Quick lunch included ice cream!

Quick lunch included ice cream!

Andy and Nate went off to see the cathedral to avoid shopping:)

Andy and Nate went off to see the cathedral to avoid shopping:)

After an unsuccessful shopping trip I met up with the boys at Rouen’s beautiful cathedral.

Just one of its towers!

Just one of its towers!

The inside was beautiful.

The inside was beautiful.

Next, we went to see where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.

The memorial to Joan of Arc.  There's a strange looking church next to it, but we didn't go inside.

The memorial to Joan of Arc. There’s a strange looking church next to it, but we didn’t go inside.

This is the actual spot, as you can see by the sign.

This is the actual spot, as you can see by the sign.

Next we sped off toward our destination: Raeren, Belgium…a little town on the border of Germany.  We chose it because it was 1. cheap and 2. only an hour’s drive to Cologne, where we are catching our flight back to Prague.

We brought along our usual picnic lunch: baguette, meat, cheese, lettuce, peppers and fruit.  Since we had lunch in Rouen, we decided to stop along the way and have an evening picnic.

Since it was so close, we said, “Let’s have our picnic in the Netherlands.” So we did a quick detour, crossed the border into the Netherlands (only a sign) and looked for a place for a picnic.

We found a lovely rural town, with peaceful fields and cows:)

We found a lovely rural town, with peaceful fields and cows:)

We drove into the little town; I think it was called Mesch.

We drove into the little town; I think it was called Mesch.

We continued to look for a park or field to have our park in.  The town was so small, everyone was looking at us creeping by in our car!!  Who are these outsiders??!!

The town was a victim of my drive-by shooting...of their cute town!

The town was a victim of my drive-by shooting…photos of their cute town!

We actually found what looked to be a public bench, and we were about to pull over to have our picnic there when two firetrucks pulled up twenty feet from the bench and they all piled out….we are not quite sure why!  It didn’t seem to be an emergency, and they were cleaning up their equipment. So we drove on.

So we ended up in another little town and parked next to this field.

So we ended up in another little town nearby and parked next to this field.

Picnic in a field!

Picnic in a field!

We got to frolic briefly in the field before a light rain chased us back into the car to finish our picnic:(

We got to frolic briefly in the field before a light rain chased us back into the car to finish our picnic indoors:(

So we finished up and drove on to our destination: a very cheap budget hotel in Raeren, Belgium.

Leaving our rural adventure in the Netherlands.

Leaving our rural adventure in the Netherlands.

We sped by this sign and came around to get a photo...Limburger...get it?

We sped by this sign and came around to get a photo…Limburger…get it?

Good-bye Netherlands!  It was a lovely 55 minutes!

Good-bye Netherlands! It was a lovely 55 minutes!

No matter our picnic got rained out...we enjoyed the rainbow while discussing leprechauns and pots of gold with Nate!

No matter our picnic got rained out…we enjoyed the rainbow while discussing leprechauns and pots of gold with Nate!

Our budget hotel happened to be on a road that our GPS didn’t recognize…a highway frontage road.  We saw a tiny sign for it as we passed the offramp to discover….

We were now in Germany!  Only for about five minutes, while we got off at the next offramp and turned around to find our hotel back in Belgium!

France, Belgium, Netherlands, back to Belgium, five minutes in Germany, back to Belgium…sleep in our budget hotel.  We woke up, packed up, and drove an hour to Cologne airport, where we are waiting for our flight to Prague.  That’s four countries in one day…or five in about 30 hours, once we arrive “home” in Prague tonight.  It has been an excellent trip!

Now I need to reset the blog trip-ometer..six days until we leave for Israel and Palestine!

What? Bones in a church??

What? Bones in a church??

Last September we visited the “Bone Church” in Kutna Hora with my friend, Elsa.  It was such a strange, creepy place!

Ahhh, another quaint European church...not!!

Ahhh, another quaint European church…not!!

Looks can be deceiving. It looks picturesque and peaceful from the outside.  But on the inside it is no ordinary church.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

It looks as if the Adams Family decorated the church! All of the decorations inside the church are made from human bones. Seriously??  Seriously!!

The next logical question is: Where did the bones come from?

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The chandelier contains every bone in the human body!

The bones come from the victims of plague in the 14th century, and from victims of the Hussite wars in the 15th century. Thousands were killed in these events; apparently they were buried in mass graves on the church property.

This is the coat of arms of the Swarzenburger family.

This is the coat of arms of the Schwarzenburg family, who used to own the church.

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Close up of the coat of arms above: worthy of Pirates of the Caribbean!

Why so many bones in one place, you ask??

The legend goes that the abbot of Sedlec monastery, known as Jindrich, brought back a handful of soil from his travels to Palestine, and sprinkled it on the cemetery. This made it a popular burial site for the nobility of Central Europe.

Creepy!

Creepy!

The number of burials outgrew the available space during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. So they began to dig up the older remains and stored the bones in the chapel.

The decorations came from the bones of 40,000 people.

It is estimated that the chapel contains the bones of 40,000 people!

There’s an urban legend  that a monk went crazy and made things from the bones. Another legend is that the bones were first piled in geometric shapes by partially blind monks who were taking care of the chapel. Sounds like an answer my nephew Aaron would make up while playing the game Balderdash (a game where you make up crazy answers to questions and try to get the other players to believe you)!!

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The Schwarzenberg family bought the monastery in 1870, and they commissioned a local carver, František Rint,  to  get creative with the bones…as “a reminder of the importance of human life and inescapable death.”

Am I really posing next to a chandelier of human bones? Odd!!

Smile for the camera while we pose next to a chalice made of bones surrounded by skulls: STRANGE!!

You can find out how to get to Kutna Hora from Prague here:

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/prague/0063020751.html

A big thank you to my friend Elsa, for these photos. My camera battery had died on the way.

After you leave the church, shake off the creepy feeling, and walk on to the picturesque town of Kutna Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I’ll write another post to show the “lovely side” of Kutna Hora!

While doing research for this post, I found this awesome quote by Greg, writer of  Outside Prague, a great website about the lesser known towns and cities of the Czech Republic.

http://www.outsideprague.com/kutna_hora/kutna_hora_daytrip.html

Greg writes:

“Visitors to the bone church often describe it as macabre, eerie or creepy and I once asked the lady at the desk if she ever felt bothered to be working there. She flipped her hand in a dismissive way and said “Pfft! They’re only bones, they won’t hurt you; it’s the living who scare me”.

Good point.”

From the castle walls!

From the castle walls!

We have hosted more than 50 guests since we moved to Prague in 2011!  Many more will visit us this year. Below is my top ten list of things to see and do in Prague if you have only a short time.  I’ve also included our favorite inexpensive restaurants (main dish for under 200 CZK ($10/8E) near the sites.

1. Prague Castle and Gardens

Take a picnic lunch with you to the gardens.  Or stop at the outdoor restaurant on the way down the hill to Malostranska. It is surrounded by an ancient vineyard and has the most spectacular views of Prague.  They usually advertise dessert and coffee for 99 CZK($5/4E)…other items are quite expensive.

See my post for insider tips about Prague Castle:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/04/13/beautiful-prague-prague-castle-and-st-nicholas-church/

The view of the castle from the gardens.

The view of the castle from the gardens.

2. Charles Bridge and Old Town Square

Going inside the clock tower is quite interesting. By some crepes (palacinky) from one of the food stalls in the square and enjoy the excellent people watching opportunities.  Don’t eat at one of the cafes around the square unless you don’t mind paying exorbitant prices!

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Old Town Square in 2010.

Old Town Square in 2010.

3. Jewish Quarter and Museums

Allow several hours to see this area, as there are six sites to visit in the Josefov district. Here’s a link to find out information about the ticket costs and other information:

http://www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/ainfo.htm

http://www.prague.cz/prague-jewish-town.asp

The Jewish Cemetary

The Jewish Cemetery

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

Find your way to the Cartouche restaurant for an interesting atmosphere and decor that makes you feel like you are in a tavern from the 1700’s. It has a pricier menu but there are a few Czech and other dishes for 199-249 CZK.

http://www.cartouche.cz/en/index.html

Inside the Cartouche.

Inside the Cartouche.

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

4. Wenceslas Square

It’s a pleasant walk from Old Town Square to Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square. The blue building will be on your left if you are in OT Square heading for Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square.

Nate with dear friends Curt and Sandra, AKA Doc and Marmee.

Wenceslas Square with dear friends Curt and Sandra.

The Powder Tower and Municipal house are also a short walk away from Wenceslas Square.

The Powder Tower. There's an interesting little museum inside.

The Powder Tower. There’s an interesting little museum inside.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

If you have some time, stop in at the Museum of Communism…

LOVE this sign!!

LOVE this sign!!

If you are hungry, try one of our favorite restauranst in Wenceslas Square: O Balouna.  It says “Traditional Czech Restaurant” on the outside. Here’s the website:

http://www.ubalouna.cz/en/

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It’s a few doors down from the Thai Massage place with big tanks of water in the window, where tourists sit with their feet in the water, allegedly getting their dead skin nibbled away by the fish. I say allegedly because my friend Elsa tried it and didn’t notice a difference…but it was a great photo op!

She said it tickled!

She said it tickled!

Elsa attracted lots of attention...she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch.

Elsa became a tourist attraction…she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch!

5.  Stroll along the river and rent a paddle boat.

Take a walk along the river from Charles Bridge heading south. After passing another bridge (Most Legii) and the National Theater (Narodni Divadlo)  you’ll see a small bridge leading to a little island (Slovanski Ostrov) which is pleasant to walk around.  You can rent paddle boats from here.

Our river walk in 2011.

Our river walk in 2011.

When you are ready for a meal, enjoy one of our favorite restaurants, Club Cestavalu (Caravanserai on the sign outside, a mint green building across the street from the island). The food is Arabic and Lebanese, with Indian menu choices as well. They have unusual photos of exotic places as part of their decor.  They also have some free exotic snacks for the brave of heart (which I was not)!

http://www.hedvabnastezka.cz/klub-cestovatelu-praha/english

What are they holding? Why does Nikolas look like he is going to throw up?

What are they holding? Why does Nate look like he is going to throw up?

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Another favorite restaurant of ours is Grosseto’s Marina. We love taking guest here because the views of the city and of Charles Bridge are spectacular, and the prices are reasonable.

http://www.grosseto.cz/en/marina

The view from the boat is outstanding.

It looks like a boat but it isn’t.

6.  Take a boat cruise on the Vltava River.

There are many different companies with a variety of cruise options, from a quick one hour spin to a several hour dinner cruise.  Our favorite is Prague-Venice, because it is a one hour cruise on a small boat which takes you through some hidden canals as well as along the Vltava.  Currently it costs 290 CZK ($14/11E) and includes a drink and ice cream.  You can buy tickets from the guys in white sailor suits at the end of Charles Bridge on the Old Town side.

http://www.prazskebenatky.cz/en/cruise

You can see the boat sign behind Nate. We also went to a concert in the church behind him.

This is the area to buy the tickets. Taken in 2010

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

There are several other options.  I have heard good things about the Jazz Boat.

http://www.pragueexperience.com/sightseeing/river_cruises.asp

We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That's Vikki and me:)

We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That’s Vikki and me:)

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Sunset is a great time for a cruise!

There’s also another cruise option, free with your transportation ticket!  It’s a little boat that zigzags along the river; especially fun for kids. We found it when we were walking along the river and hopped on.

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

7.  See an opera or ballet.

We  have seen three operas and one ballet and have really enjoyed them…even Nate (although he looks bored in the photo below)!  You can pay a lot of money to sit up close, or you can sit up high in the middle for 480-530 CZK ($25/20E) at the Prague State Opera. You will have a great view of the stage and orchestra, and the acoustics are great.

If you forgot to pack your opera clothes, it’s ok…at least in the cheap seats:)

The Prague State Opera House.

The Prague State Opera House.

Buy your tickets from Bohemia Tickets.  They don’t add a surcharge like other sites.  You can purchase them online, or get them when you are in Prague.  Go to the Mustek metro stop and follow the Na Prikope exit. The address is Na Prikope 16.  If they try to tell you they don’t sell the lower price tickets, tell them a local friend told you that they are available (unless they are truly sold out, which you can verify online).

http://www.bohemiaticket.cz/WBS/ang/contact.php

In front of the Estates Theater.

In front of the Estates Theater.

8.  Go to a classical music concert in one of the beautiful churches or other historic buildings like the Rudolfinum or the Municipal House.

We went to one at Saint Salvatore Church and loved it! The music, acoustics, and atmosphere were outstanding.

Waiting for the concert to start.

Waiting for the concert to start.

9.  Take the funicular up to Petrin Hill.

It’s free to ride the funicular with your valid transportation ticket.  Take a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the gardens at the top. Climb the “Prague Eiffel Tower”.

There's a nice view of Prague waiting...

There’s a nice view of Prague waiting…

Kids--big and small--will love the mirror maze at the top.

Kids–big and small–will love the mirror maze at the top. Taken in 2010.

Head down the hill...

Head down the hill…

Quench your thirst with the world's best beer--or apple juice:)

Quench your thirst with the world’s best beer–or apple juice:)

10. Take a day trip to Karlestejn Castle.

The castle was founded in 1348 by King Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. It is easy to get here by train from Hlavni Ndrazi.  See the websites below for how to walk to the castle from the train station…it’s good exercise!  The town below the castle is very picturesque, with many options for restaurants and shops.  Souvenirs are cheaper here than in Prague.

http://www.hradkarlstejn.cz/informations-for-visitors-2013/

http://www.myczechrepublic.com/regions/karlstejn.html

Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

This was taken in March...the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

This was taken in March 2012…the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

It's pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

It’s pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

So, that’s my list!  There are so many more wonderful things to see and do in Prague.  I’ll get to them in a future post.  Are there any other places you would count in a top ten list?

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View from the Powder Tower

Make sure you read these tips before arriving in Prague!  They will save you money and help you to enjoy your trip more.

1. Choose one of these three options to go from the airport to your accomodations:

A. When you exit with your bag, look for AAA Taxi Kiosk.  Give the taxi driver the address of your accommodations written on a piece of paper: avoid misunderstanding because you don’t know how to pronounce the street name!  A 15 minute taxi ride to where I live costs about 450 Crowns/CZK ($23/18 Euros).  They will give you a coupon for 47% off your return trip to the airport (which we think means you pay regular price). This is pretty reasonable for taxi fare, but read on to save more money…

B.  Leave the terminal to the outdoor parking lot.  You will see taxis of other companies coming and going.  Call Speed Taxi (see number below) and ask them to pick you up from the terminal parking lot (specify exactly where you are). Doing it this way  costs me 150 CZK less($8/6 Euros) than using the official AAA taxi. Read on for the most cost effective way…

C.  Buy a public transport ticket and take the airport bus #119 to Dejvicka. You can then enter the metro and proceed to your destination.  Alternatively, you can take a tram from Dejvicka or nearby Vitezne Namesti to your destination.

View from Prague Castle

View from Prague Castle

2.  Take public transport from Hlavni Nadrazi (main train station) to your accomodations:

NEVER use the taxis waiting at Hlavni Nadrazi Railway Station.  It will be double the cost! Instead, go upstairs and exit by Fanta Kavarna.  Call a taxi from one of the recommendations below and ask them to pick you up at Hlavni Nadrazi outside of Fanta Kavarna. See the link below so you know where to go:

http://www.360cities.net/image/fantova-kavarna-cafe-in-prague-czech-republic#-624.62,-11.73,110.0

However, it is really easy and much cheaper to arrive at your destination by public transport.  There is a metro station at the train station, and you can easily reach all parts of the city.

Basilica of St. George at Prague Castle

Basilica of St. George at Prague Castle

3.  Use a reliable taxi:

Never !!  call a taxi that is waiting on the street.  You will be overcharged!  Instead, call or send a SMS to one of the two taxi companies below.  Generally taxis are not expensive, from about 150 to 300 CZK.

Speed Taxi: +420 722 234 234 (my favorite, most reliable)

Taxi Nejlevnejsi:  +420 736 300 299

SMS: Please pick us up at ________address________.  My name is _______________.

The company will send a confirmation SMS with the make and model of the taxi, and its arrival time.

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral

4. Get these three free apps for your smart phone!

MHDapp:  You can enter your location and your destination and it tells you exactly how to get there on public transport. You need to enter the name of the tram, bus or metro stop and it does the rest.  The app even tells you how many minutes before the bus or tram comes, so you know if you need to run!

http://mhdapp.cz/

CG Transit: Similar to MHDapp, and  it also shows you on the map how to walk from your current location to the bus, metro or tram stop.

http://www.topappstoday.com/apps-travel/430848814/cg-transit-ndash-public-trans

Tripadvisor city guide for Prague: I love this app!  It gives you suggested itineraries, restaurants, and descriptions of the top attractions.  You can download it with WiFi, and use it offline.  It has a great map feature, and helps you find your way using your smartphone signal.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/apps-icityguides

Prague at dusk

Prague at dusk

5.  Get a Czech sim card at any Vodafone office (airport, Vitezne Namesti, Wenceslas Square and more).  They are only 200 CZK ($10/8Euros) and include prepaid credit for calls, sms, and you can add data for 175 CZK ($9/7Euros). You avoid  roaming charges, and you can use the travel apps and Google Maps online using 3G. Any calls or SMS you send will be at the local rate.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

6.  Don’t bother with expensive tours or the Hop on/Hop off bus!!

Prague’s public transport system is excellent. Trams are fun to ride as they wind their way around this beautiful city! Get a good map with the metro and trams marked, and you can navigate the city like a local:)

Here is the website for the transportation system.  You can find tariff prices, and you can use Journey Planner to figure out how to get from one area to another.

http://www.dpp.cz/en/fares-in-prague/

If you stay for more than 6 days, consider purchasing a one-month pass.   You can buy them at most major metro stations, including Hradcanska. The pass is transferable, and you can make someone’s day by giving it away at the airport or train station when you leave, to a tourist who is just arriving!

The “green” or “A” line will take you to almost all the important sights in the city center.  Here are some of the stops and what you will find at each of the stops:

Hradcanska: You can walk to the castle in about ten minutes from the metro at Hradcanska. Walk down K Brusce to the right of the old gate (Pisecka Brana, now a café), out to Marianske Hradby. You will see the Summer Palace (now a porcelain museum) across the street.  Go in the side gate and you will see the castle gardens.  It is a lovely walk through the gardens to Prague Castle…and no steep hill to climb!  Note:  the gardens are closed in winter, so instead take the tram one stop from Kralovsky Letohradek to Prasky Hrad.

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace

You can also walk to Letna Park from Hradcanska.  It has lovely walking and cycling paths, with lovely views of the Vltava river and the city.

The views are stunning!

The views are stunning!

Fall 2011

Fall 2011

Malostranska:   You will be around the corner from the bottom of the path to the castle.  There is also a lovely walled garden, Wallenstein Gardens, which has its entrance next to the metro. Walk to Malostranska Namesti to see St. Nicholas Church and Charles Bridge.

Wallenstein Gardens

Wallenstein Gardens

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St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Staromestka:  You can get out here to walk to Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and the Jewish Quarter.

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Old Town Square

The Jewish Cemetary

The Jewish Cemetary

Mustek:  This stop takes you to Wenceslas Square.  You can also change to the yellow line. From here there is a nice walk to Old Town Square. You can also enjoy all the shops, and walk to the Municipal House and the Powder Tower.

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square

The Municipal House

The Municipal House

The Powder Tower

The Powder Tower

Muzeum:  Prague State Opera is here.  You can change to the red line here.

Prague State Opera with Mom and Dad

Prague State Opera with Mom and Dad

Tram Stops:

Malostranska Namesti is the stop to see St. Nicholas Church, and the Mala Strana side of the Charles Bridge is a short walk away, just around the corner.

The tower at Charles Bridge

The tower at Charles Bridge

Ujezd is the stop where you can take the funicular (included in your public transport ticket) to the top of the hill.  There are pretty gardens, the Prague “Eiffel Tower”, cafes, and a mirror maze (great for children).

The Prague "Eiffel Tower"

The Prague “Eiffel Tower”

Ok, so there is a lot more to tell you about, but I’ll save that for another post.  What are some of your favorite places in Prague?  What tips do you have for getting around Prague in the most efficient and enjoyable way?