Czeching out Czech – Prague, Cesky Krumlov and Kutna Hora

Forgive the pun, I came up with so many when I was there. I couldn’t help myself, it was like word vomit that couldn’t be stopped. Czech please! Spell Czech. Czech this czech out!

Apart from the sad puns, I WENT ON THE BEST WALKING TOUR OF MY LIFE!!! We went on one by Sandeman’s and Michael was probably the most hilarious and enthusiastic tour guide I’ve had thus far. Other than showing us around Prague, he also highlighted a few quirks about post-communist countries that I guess most people write off as being rude. For example, it’s usual for waiters to leave you to your meal instead of asking you “Is everything okay?” as they often do midway through a spaghetti slurp in the UK. Michael explained that this is because those who were once under the communist rule preferred to mind their own business because back then, that’s what people did. He blamed the secret police. If one in every three persons was an informant, I think I’d keep my trap shut and eyes to the ground to avoid suspicion too.

I bought a ticket to Krabat, the ballet! 

People were dressed to the nines in suits and gowns, I was dressed in.. clothes.

Cesky Krumlov

It’s a UNESCO heritage site because it was not blasted to smithereens in the second world war. It’s a really beautiful place, three hours away from Prague. We went on a free walking tour that ended in the castle.

For anyone planning to go there, consider going to the open air theatre that is really one of a kind. The garden transforms into a theatre and the seating area, which is on a circular platform, rotates as the actors run from one end of the garden to the other. Shows start at night so you might need to spend a night there.

Kutna Hora and the Bone Chapel

Back in the day, this town was really successful due to the amount of silver that was mined here. The town became the main producer of the silver coins used in some empire.. I was a little distracted by all the bones around me.

The Bone Chapel was decorated by 40,000 human bones. Most of them died from the many wars that occurred here. Others were victims of the plague that also killed John the Blind.
The Bone Chapel was decorated by 40,000 human bones. Most of them died from the many wars that occurred here. Others were victims of the plague that also killed John the Blind.

My stay was short and sweet, barely long enough to even scratch the surface of such a beautiful place with great beer. Till next time Czechs!

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How to fall in love with Budapest without breaking the bank

I think it must be it’s tortured dark soul masked by it’s beautiful facades. Maybe I’m one of those delusional girls who are attracted to those with a broken past but have managed to rise up from the ashes (like a phoenix). We only spent 2 days there but I’ve fallen in love. Who knows why I love this place, but I do. That’s a lie, I like this place for its beautiful buildings and great sunny weather.

Before listing down all everything awesome about this place, it’s useful to know that Budapest is made up of two parts, Buda and Pest. They are separated by the Danube river that flows all the way to Bratislava. Right, so here are a few things we discovered in Budapest, and loved.

To do:

Visit the pretty buildings – This includes the Hungarian House of Parliament, St Stephen’s BasilicaSt Matthias’ Church (probably the most mind-blowing one I’ve seen thus far) and the Fisherman’s Bastion (next to the church) with great views of Pest (the hipster-er and cheaper part of the city).

Visit the pretty buildings at night – I think the night time really highlights the beauty of Budapest. We even strolled along the river (Pest side of course) at night when it was cooler and breezier, and found quite a few bars sprinkled along the river. Obviously, the one thing you simply cannot miss at night is the Chain Bridge. The view of the bridge itself is amazing but stand at the midpoint of the bridge and your heart will skip a beat – the views of both Buda and Pest are stunning.

St Stephen’s Basilica

Gellert Hill, Liberty Statue and the Citadel – We walked up from 11.30am, in the unforgiving heat. It took about an hour of walking and half an hour of complaining to reach the top. Was it worth it? I think so but I would have preferred to go up either really early in the morning to catch the sunrise or in the evening to catch the sunset.

Elizabeth Square – The only place where you can legally drink outdoors. I would get a beer in the supermarket around the corner (with some snacks, or just skip the beer and get ice cream :D) and head over to the square. There’s usually some sort of street performance that provides just the right amount of background music, creating a lovely atmosphere.

Picture taken by Sue Huey
Picture taken by Sue Huey

Instant (pronounced as Inshhhhtant) – An “enchanted forest with horny animals” themed club in an old ruined building, it’s supposed to be the best of it’s kind. Ruin pubs are a growing scene in Budapest and they seem pretty dope y’all. I’m sooooooo down with the kids these days.

To eat:

Frici Papa – Cheap, awesome and authentic. Great food with WiFi. What more can I say? OH, try their Goulash, it’s nothing short of awesome. Wash it down with some local beer (ask the waiter what that might be because I can’t remember) and embrace that feeling of pure bliss.

Kis Parázs 2.0 – A Thai place just a few doors away from Frici Papa. I was craving asian food and this place hit the spot for me. Their Tom Yam was spicy and sour enough and thinking about it now makes me want to have more. Oh my goodness I can taste it in my mouth, holy cow. Be warned it’s definitely more expensive than regular Hungarian food, for obvious reasons.

Gozsdu Udvar – A long stretch of restaurants, pubs and cafes. This place is buzzing with people and music and good food. We walked along this street twice but never got anything to eat because it seemed a little pricey. Definitely a good place to splurge if you’re up for that.

However, do avoid buying food from the city’s central market. Most of the prices were jacked up, despite what it said on the signs. Do not be fooled by the good smells and the juicy looking chicken, it’s not what it seems, really.

Till next time you beautiful son of a gun.
Till next time you beautiful son of a gun.

Split – Diocletian’s Palace

*I’m typing this out of a Croatian bar in Zagreb at 4 in the morning. It’s more like a Croatian mamak with the smoking and loud radio playing in the background if you ask me.* 

*But I’m posting this up 11 hours after typing because I couldn’t get a steady connection at the Croatian mamak*

I spent three days in Split, along the coast of Croatia. Although I was there for an incredibly short time, I fell in love this sunny place almost immediately. It is protected by mountains and fed by the sea. The views here are absolutely breathtaking.

I’ve been staying in an Airbnb with a friend and it’s just in an amazing location. We have a giant room that we could definitely do a couple of pirouettes in. They also have a very cute dog who will do anything for food.

She will use those eyes to get anything.
She will use those eyes to get anything.

My Croation Fairy Godmother

Upon exiting the airport, I had trouble finding the bus stop that would take me to the city. That’s where I met my fairy godmother. (I have a feeling that I’ll be meeting many fairy godmothers in the next three months.) I asked if she was heading to Split too and she said yes. At this point, it was clear that I didn’t speak Croation and she didn’t speak English. We walked to the bus station together and tried conversing a little more. I found out that she was born and raised in Split. She offered me a sweet too. That was about it. When the bus arrived, we got on and she disappeared into the crowded bus never to be seen again.

Diocletian’s Palace

This dude was swimming in money back in the day, AD305 to be precise. His crib is ginormous. Today, it’s become a UNESCO heritage site, also a major tourist attraction. Apart from museums, there are loads of shops and cafes sprinkled all over the palace. It’s also where Game of Thrones is filmed and the famous tunnel where the Unsullied were ambushed and Khaleesi’s right-hand man, Ser Barristan was killed.

The Palace is always busy, with lots of restaurants that open into the courtyards. 

We (Sue Huey and I) visited the Cathedral and the Bell Tower in the palace. There’s a small entry fee for both places but we got into the Cathedral for free with a Split Card (get one at the Tourist Information Centre or a Hotel or a Travel Agency).

Outside the cathedral is the bell tower. It takes a lot of guts to climb up the steep stairs and the flimsy metal steps that seem to hang out of the air.

A Lost Student’s Guide To Exeter

So I’ve left Exeter for good. I’m probably never going back, unless I somehow inherit a ton of money and decide to fly across the world. Before leaving, I spent my last few days wandering around alone, trying to take in as much as I can, forcing my neurons to retain all the sights, sounds and smells. So as a final tribute to this wonderful place I called home for three years, I decided to put together a list of places to eat and visit for people to truly enjoy Exeter.

To do:

Quay – Canal – Double Locks – I love going for a run/jog/walk/cycle by the Quay. If you follow the Exeter Canal (not the main river), you’ll came across the famous Double Locks. Keep going and you’ll find yourself halfway to Topsham. It’s meant to be a route for cyclists and you can actually make your way to Dawlish in a few hours, or take a ferry to Topsham. Why go? Because it’s stunning. Even under a cloudy sky, it’s just beautiful. 

The Exeter Phoenix – For days when I feel like checking out some pretty interesting art exhibits. I never understand what’s up on the walls but it’s a great place to discover someone’s interpretation of life. They’ve also got live performances and bands and stuff. I signed on to their mailing list and often got invites to talks the by the artists who’s work was being showcased (there’s probably a proper term for this, let me know if there is!).

The Bike Shed Theatre – For budget plays and a relaxed place to catch live performances. Loads of acting companies use the space to test out their “works in progress” that end up in interesting debates and discussions. I rarely contribute but it’s always great to hear what other people got from watching the same thing I did.

We also have a museum, The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and the always stunning Exeter Cathedral. I once attended an Evensong and was pleasantly surprised to see the head of Flexible Combined Honours (my “school”) singing in the choir.

To eat:

The Glorious Art House – The prettiest place out of the lot, this places serves pretty good food and coffee. I usually get a soup or a stew or curry when I’m there. I love the paper straws they use too. Go up to the 2nd floor and there’s a really pretty clock. Carry on to the 3rd floor and you’ll find a small gallery showcasing work from local artists. It’s a really unique place. AND they have Wifi!

Devon Coffee – A cosy and tiny place squashed between some watch shop and Cafe Nero on Queen Street. I loved revising for exams in there. There was no wifi so it forced me to focus on my work, whilst enjoying their awesome playlist and the smell of coffee in the air.

The Exploding Bakery – They make amazing pour overs (I am appalled at my level of coffee snobbery) and quesadillas. I usually slap on some mustard or Sirarcha and it’s perfection. Another thing to try is their brownies. It’s absolutely moist (I hate that word) and doesn’t feel too heavy (or jelak for Malaysians), the way brownies can tend to morph into after the first few bites.

Boston Tea Party – For more substantial food, or just really yummy pancakes, I usually go to The Boston Tea Party, which is where I’m wrote the first draft of this post (fun fact for you there!). I love their high ceiling and giant windows. Equipped with Wifi, this place is usually swarmed with very hipster looking people in the middle of hipster meetings or typing away on their Macs. I try my best to blend in. #noshame

Coffee #1 – For a place with more couches and no Wifi, ideal for reading or eavesdropping on conversations, I go to Coffee #1 just behind Princesshay. The baristas there are incredibly friendly. It’s the perfect place for a 3pm coffee break, which I’ve been taking quite often these days.

The Old Firehouse – An oldie but a goodie. They serve awesome drinks and giant pizzas (even-a-6ft-rugby-player-would-struggle-to-finish-this, sort of ginormous) after 8pm every night at ridiculously cheap prices. I love their Pulled Pork Pizza, it’s a great mix of pork and jalapeños and barbecue sauce. Head over on Sunday evenings to catch live gigs by uni students. 

I hope this is helps anyone visiting or heading over this September to start a new term. I’m going to miss this place so much, and no I am not sorry for going on and on about it.

Till my next post, ta!

Horseman
This guy gets a new outfit every weekend.