Spring Break 2015: Part III

6 April 2015 – 10 April 2015

Nuremberg – Prague – Vienna – Bratislava

Alright! It’s been a while, but I have now recuperated enough to finally sit down and write the next part of my exciting adventures, even if it is a few days late. This one will cover a lot more cities than the last did, but we didn’t spend nearly the same length of time in each. Apparently people were getting concerned that I had died, but that’s not true, I’m just lazy. I actually started writing this a few days ago, but just left it unfinished… But no longer!

In the last post, we had just finished our last day in Munich, and so the next day we got up early and made our way a few blocks to the bus station in order to catch our bus to Nuremberg (Nürnberg). As is typical with these bus routes, the drivers enjoy seeing how many small villages they can drive through, instead of just taking the highway. I will admit that before we left on our trip, I was a little concerned that all German cities would look exactly the same, and we would get bored of them after a few stops, but that isn’t the case at all. Every city really is unique from each other, and Nuremberg is no exception. While many European cities still have their old city walls intact, the city walls of Nuremberg are extremely impressive, sectioning off a portion of the modern city. Our hostel was located just inside the city walls, and our window even faced out to them, as some of the pictures show. The walls were probably two or three stories high, and even had a large ditch where a moat or river used to be, although now people are free to come and go. We spent most of our time inside the walls, as thats where many of the touristy attractions are located.

We arrived Monday morning, very excited as the weather had finally decided to turn nice again. We dropped off our luggage at our hostel, but since we had arrived before the 2 PM check-in time, we had a few hours to kill. However, we quickly discovered another problem with our plan. Remember how everything was closed Good Friday and on Easter? Well, turns out Easter Monday is a state holiday as well, so nearly everything was closed for a third time that week. We had been warned about this ahead of time, so it wasn’t as big of a disappointment as it was an inconvenience. However, all was not lost, as there were still some things we could do. We ended up going to a museum near our hostel (the name of which I’ve forgotten) which had many relics from the 1800’s and prior. Most interesting to me was that this museum was so old, there was a section dedicated to the history of the museum itself, which is something I’ve never seen before. Strangely enough, the museum was supposed to be closed on Mondays, but was open on Easter Monday despite everything else in the city being closed. Strange. After finishing with the museum, we wandered around the city, window shopping at stores we couldn’t go into. There were still some things that were still accessible, such as a small market that was operating, and Nuremberg Castle. We go to a lot of castles in Europe, it’s a common thing to do. The view from the castle was really spectacular, you could see out over the entire city, even beyond the walls. I took pictures, they’re below. Anyway, we lazily made our way back from castle to hostel and checked in. At this point in our trip, we were pretty exhausted, and nothing was open anyway, so we decided to take the evening off and just chill in our hostel (also Carlo fell asleep). The hostel in Nuremberg was super nice, and was probably my favorite place that we stayed. We did share the room with 6 other people, all of which seemed to have the same idea as us and stayed in, but it was still a nice evening.

The next morning, we had the idea to go and see the Nuremberg Trials museum, as the trials are arguably the most famous aspect of the city. Our bus was scheduled to leave later that afternoon, so the plan was to go to the museum that morning, and then look around the shops until the bus. We had breakfast, checked out of the hostel, and were on our way. The museum lied outside of the walls, so this was our biggest chance to see what was in the rest of the city. I personally think I liked it better inside the walls, it was much more “European”. Anyway, we arrived at the museum before noon, and wandered around a bit, unsure of where the main entrance was. Turns out the museum is attached to a big judicial building (makes sense), and the museum itself was… closed. Only closed on Tuesdays. Of course. Carlo was very embarrassed by this, and told me specifically not to mention it in my blog, which is my bad. There wasn’t much else to do after this, so we returned the walled portion, and pretty much just visited various stores to kill time until it was time for our bus to leave. All in all, Nuremberg was a really cool city, but we were definitely there at a bad time.

However, next we got to leave Germany and travel to an entirely different country altogether! By the time our bus arrived in Prague, the sun had already set, and there wasn’t much else to do but go find our hostel and make plans for the next day. On the surface, our section of Prague seemed a little sketchy (there’s a lot of graffiti in Europe), but it actually wasn’t that bad. Our hostel was… interesting. It was going for a hippie-ish vibe, so the guy had lit incense and had pictures of the Buddha around the front desk. Our room had wallpaper to make it look like the pyramids in Giza. I liked it, but it definitely was the least… polished of our hostels. We only had one roommate this time around, who was from Argentina. He did get in trouble with the owner for locking the door to our room before we arrived, but he was a cool guy. We bonded over kebab, then turned in for the night.

The next day, we decided to go on one of the free walking tours that the city offers. We walked around the city and got to see many of the big touristy attractions, such as the Astronomical Clock, and Charles Bridge. Once again, the weather became horrible, so we spent most of the trip rather cold, but all in all it was a rather good day. Let me take a moment to discuss how weird Prague is. There is a famous sculptor from Prague that is well known for making very unusual and… vulgar sculptures around the city. For example, one of his statues is a fountain of two men peeing on an outline of the Czech Republic. Another is a pregnant woman that you can climb inside. Prague is weird. They also have an interesting history of throwing people out of buildings. Apparently the Thirty Years War was started when they threw a bunch of Austrians out of a tower (they didn’t die, and returned to Vienna very displeased). The patron saint of Prague was killed when they threw him off a bridge. They have a number of places where you can get a “beer spa”, and in the olden days, if you were found making bad beer, they would throw you off the bridge as an example. Weird. It also doesn’t help that out of all the countries I’ve been to so far, the Czech Republic is the first that doesn’t use the Euro. Instead they have their own currency, the Koruna (“Crown”), where 25 Crowns equals €1. In any case, the city tour was pretty good, so we decided to go on a second tour up to Prague Castle, which really isn’t a castle at all. Prague Castle is a newish looking building that holds the president’s office and residence. Next to it, is an extremely elegant gothic cathedral, which apparently took them nearly 600 years to complete, due to lack of funds and whatnot. We also visited the Jewish section of the city, as well as a monastery that brews its own beer, but I’m pretty sure this trip was just for the benefit of the tour guide. We concluded our tour by walking across St. George’s bridge, and seeing where a huge part of Prague was flooded in 2002. We returned to our hostel and had dinner with our new roommate before turning in for the night.

I have no idea what we did the next day. I remember having breakfast, and that we stopped by the market and looked around there for a bit, but I don’t know what else we did. I guess we just shopped around before we caught our bus to Vienna that afternoon. I wanted to go to another town called Kutná Hora and visit a site called the Sedlec Ossuary, which has decorations and ornaments assembled from the actual bones of 40,000-70,000 different people, but we didn’t have enough time for that, although I’m sure Carlo was grateful we couldn’t make it. In the end, we caught another bus and traveled to Vienna. We got into Vienna around sunset, and made our way via metro across the city to our hostel. It was a pretty nice place, and we only had to share our room with two Norwegian girls who spoke about two sentences each to us. Our hostel was directly next to a big outdoor market region, and while most of the stands were closed at this point, we found food and wandered around for a few blocks around our hostel. In the end, we turned in somewhat early, as we had to get up early for our day trip to Slovakia the next morning.

For Carlo’s last day in Europe, we decided that we would travel by bus to the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, which is only an hour away. We got up early and made our way to find the bus station. To call this a bus station is being very generous. It was a parking lot underneath an overpass where buses would come and depart. I would get a better look at the place in a few days, but that’s for the next blog. In any case, we wandered about for a bit, and by some miracle found the right bus, and made our way to Bratislava. We arrived at around 9 in the morning, at another bizarre underpass bus station near Bratislava Castle, so we decided to make our pilgrimage to another castle. Instead of just wandering the grounds as we usually did, we actually paid to go inside and see the interior, which had been converted into a museum. We even got to see the crown jewels of Bratislava, which instead of being in some central grandiose location, were alone in a too-large glass case in a room you had to squeeze down some stairs to find. Also to note, there was a few rooms dedicated to old artworks of Slovakia, as most castles have; but here were several artists who were practicing their painting by recreating sections of paintings. Some of them were pretty talented. Following the castle, we walked around the central square of the city, and found lunch at a nice little restaurant before continuing our stretch. We ended up visiting a shopping mall, and ducking in and out of various little shops, before we settled down in a small cafe where we spent the rest of the afternoon. As the sun began to go down, we made our way back to our sketchy little bus stop, and went back to Vienna for the evening.

Well, that’s all for now! Sorry for this being a bit late, but I’m really lazy. I’ll try to have the final one out at a somewhat regular time, but no promises. I crammed a lot into one post, so I’m sure I missed quite a few details, but this is the gist of it! The final installment will be Carlo leaving, being by myself in Vienna, and then meeting up with other exchange students and traveling to Berlin. Until then!

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