Charles IV 700 Anniversary Events

May 14th marks Charles’ IV 700th birthday. Charles IV was a beloved king of Bohemia and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century. He was born in Prague and loved his country very much. He became a patron of culture and arts, since he founded various institutions, namely Charles University, and built many monuments and castles that are still around to this day. He is still remembered as a great and fair ruler and many Czech citizens like to say that world leaders could take a page out of his book and rule as fairly he did.

 

In honor of Charles IV, there are many special events in the Czech Republic this summer. Here are our top 5 events that are definitely worth going to! There are countless other events that will be interesting, but this is what we are planning on seeing.

 

Prague

Crown Jewels

IMG_0231.JPG (2)From May 15th until May 29th you can go see the the Crown Jewels of Charles IV at the Prague Castle. This only happens on special occasions, so the last time they were available to see was three years ago when a new president was elected. I definitely suggest you go see this, but be prepared for crowds. When we went in 2013, we got there before the opening at 10am and we still had to wait in line for 5-6 hours. After waiting for such a long time, we were let into the room and we got to see the jewels for a couple of minutes and then we had to leave. So it is up to you, if you want to dedicate so much time, but the jewels are rarely seen, so you might as well take advantage of it!  

 

Diamond Museum

The Diamond Museum in Prague just opened and as part of the celebrations of Charles IV, part of their exhibit includes gemstones from Charles’ IV era as well as equipment they used to saw the stones. The rest of the exhibit are diamonds and gemstones from the 21st century, probably still worth the visit! The special exhibit for the gemstones from the 14th century lasts until the end of August, so you should definitely go see them, while they are there!

 

Reenactment of the Coronation of Charles IV

One of the biggest events planned for the celebration of Charles IV will happen on September 2 and 3. There will be a historically accurate reconstruction of the coronation ceremony and all the rituals that are a part of it. Since this is such a special event, and on top of that free, be prepared for huge crowds, but if you are in Prague this will be a spectacular event that you should go to!

 

Karlstein

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Karlstein Treasure

The Karlstein Treasure is a collection of 400 small items from the era of Charles IV. They include buttons, other accessories and objects used in the day to day life in the 14th century. During the Hussite wars, the residents of the castle hid these objects in the walls, so that the precious objects wouldn’t fall into the hands of the rebels. There they stayed hidden for the next 600 years, until the castle was being reconstructed and they fell out. Usually the Karlstein Treasure is in Prague, but in honor of the 700th anniversary of Charles IV, they were brought back to the castle.

 

Noc na Karlštejně

Noc na Karlstejne, will be a stage adaptation of a Czech musical film from 1974. It is a musical telling the story of Charles IV and his wife Elizabeth. Of course this stage production will be in Czech, so for those who do not understand the language, this might not be the right event for you. However, it will be a beautiful event that takes place right on the courtyard of the castle. I suggest you buy tickets soon, because they will probably sell out their 12 shows quickly.

 

If you are in the Czech Republic this summer and beginning of fall, definitely look into these events! There is a lot more that you can do in honor of Charles IV 700th anniversary, just keep your eye out for these events!


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San Francisco in less than 3 Days

A couple of weeks ago we went on short (2.5 day) trip to San Francisco and yes, we did a lot of touristy things! It was our first time on the West Coast, so we took advantage of the nice weather and explored some of the main sights.

 


IMG_6259Friday night we walked from our hotel, which, amazingly enough, was right by Union Square, to the Fisherman’s Wharf. It was about a thirty minute walk, half up an excruciating hill and the second half of it down. The directions weren’t complicated, literally we just had to walk straight. So that wasn’t an issue, we only got a little doubtful when we got into a very sketchy looking Chinatown. But we made it through and were rewarded with a really good fresh crab and a octopus-calamari salad when we got to the Wharf.

 

For dinner we took an Uber to a small restaurant, that the receptionist at our hotel recommended to us, called Pacific Catch. I got an amazing salmon filet with really good sweet potato fries! We were all so happy after that meal, but exhausted! We ended the day and headed back to the hotel. Since we were all jet lagged, all coming for the trip from very different time zones, we ended up going to sleep at about 9pm, so much for being a crazy college student, am I right?

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The next day we went for brunch and I love brunch food, so I was very excited to get good brunch and not just food at my dining hall. We searched around on Yelp! for something that was nearby and lucked out when we came across Honey Honey Cafe and Crepery. We randomly picked it out, because it was close by, but we were blown away with the quality and amount of food we got. It turned out to be a cute little cafe with a really long line. However, we didn’t wait too long and we managed to get a table right away. I definitely recommend this cafe! It is a must! Just make sure you get there at a good time, because I’m sure the place gets even more crowded.

 

Next, came an activity Alena and I feared a little. Ok, that’s a lie, we very afraid of it: biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. We were up for the challenge, but it was definitely going to be a struggle, since neither of us has gone biking in about 10 years. However, I am quite stubborn, so, with words that I was afraid were going to be my last, I declared CHALLENGE ACCEPTED and got on my bike.

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We rented bikes from Blazing Saddles, I questioned the name of it, but kept my doubts to myself. My favorite, however, was their short video we had to watch before renting the bikes. This amazing and not at all cheesy video gave us an overview of our tour and sights “we definitely cannot miss”. The very excited woman told us not to forget to turn right onto the bridge, which shocked us all, and told us to “just enjoy the view” as we rode across it. Meanwhile the woman at the counter got very sassy about it, clearly annoyed at having to watch the same video over and over.

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We weren’t sure what to expect of the actual bike ride, but we loved this trip! The weather was amazing and the view was priceless and as the video recommended, we “just enjoyed the view”! After a while we even got used to dodging families on the sidewalk (we never got used to cars, but that’s ok, we survived)! The journey was about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) long and took us 4 hours, which I definitely count as a huge success! We managed to get to Sausalito, where we took a ferry back to the ferry building. And we even navigated the busy streets of San Francisco and got back to Fisherman’s Wharf without getting hit by a car!

 

TIP: Bring enough water! It’s a long journey and you definitely need to keep hydrated

 

That night we deserved a nice big meal in a great restaurant, the name of which was forgotten after three glasses of wine. Our dad’s friend order basically EVERYTHING on the menu and we ate almost all of it. And just like the night before, we passed out after our long day.

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On our last day we went the Cliff house and went for a walk/hike along the coast. Finally, we saw the Golden Gate Bridge from all possible angles and took hundreds and hundreds of photos of it, and I felt complete :D. I could leave San Francisco knowing I took more than enough photos, about 400.

We ended our trip with The Cheesecake Factory, so yet again, another big meal. Our trip was so much fun and even though we didn’t manage to see everything we wanted to, we call it a success! We will definitely go back to see more sights and especially tour Full House filming sights!


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How to plan your trip (without going crazy)

DSCN2952Originally I was going to write this post while planning my three week trip to the US in September, but because, as usual, life happened and I had to cancel last minute. But even though I didn’t go, I went through the entire process of trip planning, so I decided I would share with you how I do it.

Even though it depends on what sort of a trip you’re planning – weekend getaway, road trip across a foreign country or a beach getaway, you have things to learn and plan, so here are my tips

  1. Flight (alternatively bus or train tickets, or car route). Basically, how are you getting to your destination (or the start point of your road trip) and back? It’s always good to start with this so that you have definite time information about the beginning and end of your trip. Personally, I check on websites that compare multiple airlines, so that I get an idea of the prices and can pick who I want to fly with. But I usually end up buying tickets with the airlines themselves, they are usually ever so slightly cheaper and the terms might be better. So it’s worth it to check out both the airline itself and other websites.
  1. Now that you know how and when you’re getting to your destination, it’s time to decide whether or not you will be in one destination for the entire trip or if you’ll be moving around. If you’re going to be moving around and spending time in different places, the next step is to check out transportation. Will you be renting a car? Taking a bus? Train? Look up arrangements, costs and travel times and possibilities. As was the case with my trip to the US, I looked at a few bus companies and AmTrak. I ended up picking a combination of buses that suited my route and budget the best. Map out your entire journey – if I plan on moving around, I like printing a map and drawing my routes in or looking them up on Google.
  1. Hotels! This is my favorite part. I love looking at places to stay and sleep. And since you have your individual trips planned out, you know where you will be staying. Look up possibilities and make sure to look at customer reviews on websites such as Trip Advisor. Also, don’t trust the amount of stars a hotel has. We’ve seen so many different three star hotels – ranging from nearly luxury suites to tiny moldy rooms.
  1. Now that you know the most important things, it’s time to see what you can do and see when you’re there! Obviously, if all you want to do is lie on a beach, your job is super easy. If you want to see as much as possible, look at things that are reachable by public transport or within a couple hours’ drive.
  1. And, most importantly, HAVE FUN!! Be flexible, don’t freak out when things don’t go exactly according to plan, they rarely do. But that’s what makes life interesting :)

My final tip is – you never know when you’ll have or won’t have access to the internet or a printer. Make sure you have the most important documents printed – plane/bus/train tickets, hotel reservations and possibly a list of places you want to go.

Is there anything you like to do when you plan a trip? Let me know below :) Fun travels!


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Top 10 Castles, Château, and Palaces in Czech Republic

Czech Republic has hundreds and hundreds of castles, chateaus and palaces. Though we haven’t visited all that many of them, here are our 10 favorite castles. Why they are our favorite varies, some are just beautiful and some we have loved since we saw them in fairytales as little kids.

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1. Prague Castle – this is one of the most beautiful places in Czech Republic. If you are going to Czech Republic, then this is a must! For me, summer isn’t quite the same if I haven’t gone up to the Castle at least once. Dating back to the year 880, the Prague castle is one of the oldest and the largest castle in the world. Though the paid tours are definitely worth it, I also just love walking around the castle grounds and through the gardens for free.

 

2. Karlštejn – this is a very popular castle, mostly because of the numerous movies it showed up in and its history. Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, built it in 1348, mostly for his treasures, including the Czech coronation jewels. And eve, though we haven’t been there recently, we have quite a few childhood memories of hiking up the steep hill (that got less steep and shorter as we got older) towards the castle. Best times to visit are around Christmas and Easter with markets and beautiful decorations.

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3. Konopiště – this castle was built as a fortress in the 13th century, but in the 15th century was expanded into a castle and a mansion, that was eventually served as a home of Franz Ferdinand d’Este, who was very fond of this castle. You can still tour his personal quarters and see his extensive collection of trophies around the castle. I’ve visited this castle twice and found it was worth it to go on a tour both times. The interiors are beautiful, and I found myself wishing I could live there :)

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4. Křivoklát – this is one of my personal favorites. Growing up, we would go to Křivoklát at least once a year. Over the past 900 years the castle survived numerous attacks and fires, but always ended up being reconstructed and expanded, into the beautiful structure it is today. Though all of the interiors aren’t furnished, there is definitely a lot to see, like the large library that has 52,000 books. Every time I’m there, I desperately want to spend hours going through all of the books.

 

5. Lednice – the Lednice castle is very fairytale like. I was 11 when I went there on a class trip, so I don’t remember much about my visit, but I do remember being in awe of how beautiful the castle is. The complex doesn’t only include the palace, but a greenhouse and a minaret, which seems to have appeared there out of nowhere. Of course when we climbed the stairs up to the top of the minaret we carefully counted the steps and then compared our numbers, competing for who was the closest to the actual number. It is also quite a young castle, dating only to the late 18th century.

 

6.Bouzov – this is another castle that appeared in various films, mostly Czech fairytales. This medieval castle was built in the 15th century and its still fully furnished, making the tours of the castle even more magical and fairytale like. It’s the place where you can daydream about what it would be like to live in a fairy tale.

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7. Chateau Jemniště – Chateau Jemniště was built in 1381. The history of this palace is long and complex, because the owners changed frequently. Some of the most important owners include Sternberg, Trauttmansdorf and Lobkowicz. Eventually the Germans occupied it during the Second World War and the communist regime nationalized it in 1951. In 1995 it was restored to the Sternberg family, who own it to this day. Since the history of this place is so complex, taking the tour was a very detailed history lesson, mostly of the 19th and 20th For history lovers, like us, this was amazing and so much fun. But then again, we might just be history geeks :)

 

8. Kunětická Hora – This is a 14th century castle was built as a fortress during the Hussite Wars, but it was eventually reconstructed into a large castle that was a very popular social destination in the 15th and 16th Eventually the castle started falling apart, and became too dangerous to stay in. Now it’s mostly just ruins, but you can still visit and climb up to the tower to see the surrounding countryside.

 

9. Chateau Lány – this is the presidential summer palace. Unfortunately this means that entrance into the chateau is not allowed. But it is definitely worth it to go walk around the gardens and checking out the palace at least from the outside.

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10. Červená Lhota – this is a picturesque little chateau, with a beautiful park surrounding it. However, inside it is a little different from other castles and palaces. Instead of gorgeously furnished and decorated rooms, filled with furniture dating back to the renaissance era, this palace is just a state museum. Though this can be interesting, it was a little disappointing when we visited.

 

If you go to Czech Republic, definitely visit these, they are very much worth going to and paying for the tours.



Sources

https://www.hrad.cz/en/prague-castle/prague-castle-tourist-information/visit-of-prague-castle.shtml

http://www.hradkarlstejn.cz/history/

http://www.zamek-konopiste.cz/history/

http://www.krivoklat.cz/

http://www.zamek-lednice.info/en/

http://www.czechtourism.com/c/bouzov-castle/

http://www.jemniste.cz/en/history-of-the-chateau/
http://www.hrad-kunetickahora.cz/

 

Cape Town in 72 hours

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We went to Cape Town a few years ago, but thanks to my travel diaries and the bajillion pictures we took, I can definitely write about it even now. I distinctly remember seeing Table Mountain for the first time. There is something majestic about it that none of the photographs, postcards or posters capture. At that moment, I knew I was in love.

We rented a car and decided that, for the sake of time, we would commence our first adventure:  the trip down to Cape Point. This proved to be an adventure, as the GPS decided to guide us through a web of side roads and right past a township.  Even though we didn’t quite know where we were headed, we got to see the Indian Ocean and the adorable little towns along the coast that seem like they were taken straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Many stops were made along the way, including a war memorial and a penguin watching spot. But, we were there during the wrong season, so no penguins for us.

We continued the journey southwards, towards the point that was feared by many explorers centuries ago, with a breathtaking view around every turn. All of a sudden, were entering the Table Mountain National Park. As we were driving through the park towards the famous lighthouse and Cape Point, I didn’t know in where to look first – we were on a strip of land and could see the Indian Ocean on our left and the Atlantic on our right.

 

After reaching the parking lot, we braced for the cold and headed towards the lighthouse and then down to the beach. We were freezing, but we got to see the two oceans meet and learned a lot about the history of Cape Point. Did you know that New Delhi is about as far from Cape Point as Paris?DSCN1635

As much as we wanted to stay, it was time to head to our next destination – The Groot Constantia Vineyard. On the way, we experienced and an unexpected delay in the form of a turtle crossing the road. All traffic stopped until the turtle was safely on the other side of the road. It was great to see this level of appreciation for the local wildlife :) And the turtle was adorable.

We wrapped up Day 1 of our visit by wine tasting at the Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia Vineyards. I tasted their local specialty – a desert wine. It is the sweetest wine I’ve ever tasted and you can drink only a little at a time, but buying a bottle or two is definitely worth it.

On Day 2, we woke up with the sunrise. To avoid long lines, we headed straight to Table Mountain. As drove upward towards the cable car, the city covered in fog came into view.

The cable car ride up the side of the mountain lasts less than five minutes and you rise more than 700 meters. The view from the car is beautiful and most of the ride is pretty smooth. The scariest point comes when you arrive at the side of the mountain and the car dramatically slows down, making it seem like you stopped mid-air. Slowly, the car rises to the station. I got off, knees shaking, and needed a few minutes to adjust to standing on firm ground again. If you’re afraid of heights, brace yourself, it’s not a super pleasant ride, but totally worth it.

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Once you’re on top of the mountain, everything below you seems tiny. On one side, you see Cape Town, which was slowly emerging from the morning fog. On the other, there is a clear view of Cape Point and the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Most of the clouds were below us, so I could see the amazing cloud formations above the Atlantic. We walked around on top of the mountain, which was surprisingly warm and headed back.

We devoted Day 3 to history. In the morning, we left to get on the ferry to Robben Island. We first took a bus tour around the island, where you can see the layout of the prison, see where some famous prisoners were held, see the lime quarries and hear about the history of the island. The bus tour is then followed by a tour of the inside of the prison.

We entered a large room and a former prisoner greeted us, as only former prisoners and wardens serve as tour guides, which gives the tour an interesting perspective. He told us his story and where it fit into the history of South Africa and the Apartheid. We then walked through the prison and saw some of the famous places, which were decorated by photographs from the time it was still a prison. We saw individual cells, each with a story of an individual who resided there, including the cell of Nelson Mandela. I got goose bumps while walking through these spaces and reading the stories.

DSCN1651As the tour finished, we were told that one of the largest penguin colonies in the world resided on Robben Island, but that this was out of the way and we had only 15 minutes before the ferry left. To be safe, we headed for the ferry and, once again, missed seeing the penguins.

Cape Town offers a lot more than I expected, with its natural beauty and history, that spending three days there is simply not enough. I definitely plan on going back and seeing what I missed. If you haven’t seen it yet, it should go on your bucket list!


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