Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prague, Czech Republic

Day 14: This trip started in an interesting fashion. Looking into trains on (German rail website), I noticed most trains from Munich - Prague had connections through Frankfurt. This seemed a little crazy to go to Frankfurt, considering how close we were to Prague. Through more research, I found a direct train that was VERY cheap (35 Euros for both of us) and the quickest out of all the options (5 hours). BOOKED! Come to find out, I booked an Expressbus! When we found out the truth, I was SO worried about the state that this bus would be in, but I can honestly say it was nicer than most of the trains we were in. It ended up being totally fine and definitely saved us a lot of money and time.

Prague Wins the Award For: Most Friendly (tied), Most Beautiful, Best Street Vendor Food

We got into Prague in the early afternoon and through MUCH help from a Czech Republic native, made our way to Hotel Julian. Seriously, this guy walked us around the train station, told us where to buy multi-day tickets, and gave us directions to our tram stop. Oh, and then he thanked US for visiting Prague. Prague actually has a great public transportation system - only problem is that everything is in Czech. With Spanish, Italian, French and even German, you can get the main point...Czech was a completely different story for us.

Anyways, our hotel was adorable and recommended by Rick Steves..can't go wrong. After unloading our stuff, we went to a Thai place, Noi, for dinner. I think drinks, appetizers, entrees, dessert and tip was less than $40. I love Prague already! We decided to see if Prague was as beautiful at night as Budapest, so we started our night adventure.
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle

  I thought this was a person and freaked out.            Before walking across Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Jason (in maroon) on Charles Bridge

Definitely close, but Budapest still might be my favorite at night.

Day 15: During the day was a completely different story. Prague is stunning. The ground is completely decorated by mosaics, the streets are immaculately clean, and everything has been restored. We had a great time walking around, eating, walking around, and eating some more.

Eating a trdlnik - a sweet pastry common here. It is made by rolling dough around a wooden rolling pin and heating it up and then topped with sugar and walnuts. This thing was incredible!

Just walking around - notice the stone mosaic street.

Old Town with the church of Our Lady before Tyn

Astronomical Clock that features an appearance by the apostles every hour.

More delicious street food - sausage on a baguette. Cute picture Jason.

Old Jewish Cemetery

We learned that it is against Jewish law to remove tombstones. This meant that when the cemetery ran out of space, more layers of soil were placed on the existing graves, the old tombstones were taken out and placed upon the new layer of soil. This explains why the tombstones in the cemetery are placed so closely to each other. This resulted in the cemetery having 12 layers of graves...crazy!

Charles Bridge during the day.

A statue on Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background.

Prague was Jason's favorite place of the entire trip! So now for the sad news. We were supposed to be in Prague one more day and we had planned to visit the Sedlec Ossuary outside of town. Unfortunately, Jason's cold came back and now I had caught it too. After walking around all day being sick, we literally crashed...complete with room service food for dinner. The good thing about flying standby was that we could catch a flight back a day earlier than planned.

Day 16: We made it back into Houston with no problems other than our runny noses and extreme exhaustion.

Our city of a plane.

We would definitely fly Lufthansa again. I think I am in love with Germans! Mainly, thank you Southwest Airlines. Sometimes I forget how lucky we are, but we are seriously getting the opportunity to make some great memories. Southwest has kind of given us the best gift - the world at our fingertips!

Just for curiosity's sake, I looked up the exact flights we took for this trip a year from now and was SHOCKED to see how much it would have cost. We were able to travel to Europe for $12,000 less than the cost of what we would have normally paid. It simply would not have been possible otherwise. 

Up next for us:  I will be going to NYC in a few days for a work conference. In the beginning of November, we are planning a trip to Santa Fe, NM to celebrate our 3 year anniversary. The planning has already started for our trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam this spring as well. Many exciting things in our future...stay tuned! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Munich, Germany {Oktoberfest}

Day 11: We took our chances and flew Ryanair to Munich - super easy as long as you read everything thoroughly. The people weren't the most friendly, but it's to be expected for a $30 flight.

Munich Wins the Award For: Best Party, Most Modern

What a refreshing change of pace! I would say Germany is the most similar to the United States in terms of technology. Riding the train was a breeze (once we figured out how to buy tickets!) and I wasn't scared for my life on it like in Budapest. We started our time in Munich with a trip to Hofbrauhaus. This is one of Munich's oldest breweries and one of 6 that is allowed to serve beer at Oktoberfest.


Sausage sampler with sauerkraut - MMM!

Pretzels of course!

This beer hall was crazy - it gave us a little taste of what Oktoberfest would be like. We had some delicious sausage and pretzels here as well. Later, we would purchase pretzels that were the size of our heads!

Day 13: OKTOBERFEST! One of the craziest days of my life. It's taken some will power to even be able to recant this...

6:00am - We started the morning early so we could get in line for the unreserved spots in the tent.

7:30am - Waiting in line for the Hacker Festzelt tent with literally hundreds of people. It started to rain, of course! The girls in front of us proceed to take some kind of pills washed down with straight vodka. We are wondering what the European version of 911 is...

9:00am - The security guards roll in - holding people back by force as they attempt to get into the now-open tent. The crowd is aggressively pushed forwards - I don't know if my feet are even on the ground.

9:05am - We squeeze past the security guards (except for John, who gets left behind).

John is in the tan behind the burly security guards...

9:10am - John gets in and the doors open. People are madly running to get a spot at an unreserved table. Jason spots a guy on his phone with an open table and sits down and steals it from him...SUCCESS! We also find John's A&M MBA friends who are also in town for Oktoberfest.

We are in Himmel der Bayern (Heaven of the Bavarians), so the tent looks like a beautiful sky.

10:00am - Eat some kind of delicious baked potato soup.

11:00am - We are asked to "fill up" our table (it seats 12), so we were joined by a group of really nice Australian guys - including THOR! You can judge, but we thought he could have been his brother.

11:30am - The parade arrives! The owners of the tent are ushered in by a full band.

12:00pm - The keg is tapped and we can FINALLY start the party!

12:15pm - Our first beers of the day arrive...the waitress carries 5 in each hand. PROST!

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemutlichkeit!

After that, the day became crazier and crazier! We had a great time learning traditional Bavarian drinking songs and dancing on the benches. I would definitely get reservations if I ever go again...and maybe not go on the first day. All in all, it was a TON of fun and definitely one of the most memorable parts of our trip.

Hacker-Festzelt Tent

After we had had enough craziness, we went back for a nap and grabbed a quick bite to eat. This is where we parted ways with our amazing travel companions. John and Mallory headed back to Paris the next morning and we made our way to the last stop on our trip.

I honestly wish we had more time in Munich - I loved Bavarian culture and it was great embracing my German roots. I definitely see where my family's love of pretzels and sauerkraut comes from! Germany (along with Switzerland) would probably be my first choice of places to revisit in the future.

If anyone is thinking about going to Oktoberfest in the future (it should definitely be on your bucket list), let me know! I'd be happy to provide some of our tips/tricks for getting a seat in a tent, where to stay, and how to get around.

Last Stop: Prague, Czech Republic!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Salzburg, Austria

Day 12: Today we drove from Munich to Salzburg for a short day trip.
Salzburg Wins the Award For: Best Atmosphere, Best Pretzels (sorry Munich!)
Jason was sick today - he literally slept all day. Feeling the guilty wife right now, (he told me to go!) John, Mallory and I drove to Salzburg via autobahn to catch a Sound of Music bike tour with Fraulein Maria's bike tours. I will be honest and say I haven't seen Sound of Music in a few years, but it was still so fun to see all of the places that the movie was filmed. Apparently, the people of Salzburg only recently started warming up to the idea of the movie -  but now they love it. We got to hear about the history of the real life couple as well, so that was fun!


Fountain from "I Have Confidence"

Untersburg in the distance

The back of the house

The front of the house...notice that the front and back look nothing alike!


The town was extremely bikeable, which made the tour fun and easy. There was a festival going on downtown, so we even got to try a pretzel from the oldest pretzel stand in Salzburg...mmm!


Buying my pretzel with marzipan

We made a quick lunch stop afterwards and had some weiss beer and weisswurst along the river. I thought both were delicious!

Since Jason wasn't feeling so well, we cut our day a little short and made our way back to Munich to hang out with him. He was resting up because the next day was...