Blog, Reader's Vote: Prague, Travel

The Reader’s Vote: Prague

At the end of February I let you the readers and Instagram followers pick my next city break destination! At a whopping 84% you chose for me to visit Prague versus Riga!

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As soon as the poll closed and while the recommendations were flooding in, I booked my trip and the countdown commenced. I finished up University for my 2 week Easter holiday and started my whirlwind few days with seeing 30 Second to Mars in Glasgow and then heading straight to the airport the day after.

After getting to Prague safely and a lovely night’s sleep, I woke up with a strong cup of coffee, had a yummy breakfast and laced up my trainers to hit the streets of ‘the city of a hundred spires’. I started venturing towards the Old Town Square and wandered through the side streets are accidentally fell upon the Jubilee Synagogue. The Art Nouveau decoration is just breathtaking!

Finally out of the side streets, I walked past the beautiful Municipal Hall. Originally where the court palace used to be erected, this magnificent building is now a concert hall and civic building. I then finally made my way to the old town square. Reader, I was honestly led to the square with the smell of Trselník and gingerbread as well as the excited chatter of tourists and children singing folks songs. Little did I know that I was about to experience one of the most incredible Easter fayres I have ever seen!

The Czech take Easter very seriously and are known for their tradition of men whipping women on Easter Monday. Don’t worry! It’s not meant to cause pain! According to legend a woman should be spanked with a whip on Easter Monday to bring health, beauty and fertility for the whole year. These whips (or pomlázka) are made from willow and decorated with coloured ribbons (I even came across a small decorative pot of ribbon decorated willow branches in McDonalds when I nipped in to get a bottle of water). Another Czech tradition is the distribution of hand painted eggs. There were several stalls with painstakingly intricate hand painted eggs catering to all budgets! The trees surrounded the square were beautifully adorned with colourful ribbons and decorations which is an instagrammers delight.

As I was wandering around the square soaking in the feast on my senses, I realised I was just steps away from the world famous Astronomical Clock. Sadly it was under renovation and I didn’t get to experience it’s chimes but it definitely did not dampen my spirits.

I decided to walk over Mánes Bridge so I could take in the view looking over at the famous Charles Bridge and was a much much quieter route to the other side of the city! I slowly meandered through the side streets slowly making my way up to Prague castle. Having stopped by the beautiful Malá Strana, I continued weaving through the throngs of tourists having accidentally went the most popular route up the steps to the castle. After dodging slow hordes of tourists, I managed to take in the breathtaking view at the top! The copper coloured roof tops just laced with countless spires of gothic architecture is one of the most picturesque views I have seen and something out of a book. After soaking in the courtyards of the worlds largest ancient castle, I discovered a little slip road that took me back down the hill. Ever turn of the steep stairs (that put Edinburgh’s old town to shame), I encountered beautiful views of the city and every angle.

When I finally made it back to the bottom of the hill (after maybe popping into a quaint boutique or two), I ventured to the Lennon Wall. This colourful display was met by a busker singing John Lennon songs as tourists soaked in the messages and pictures of love and peace. To add to the unique charm of the wall, a professional engagement photo shoot by a couple was taking place at one segment.

I decided to head back over the River Vltava using the Charles Bridge. The bridge is scattered with 30 baroque statues depicting saints. A famous statue is that of Saint John of Nepomuk, the court priest of King Wenceslas IV. If you touch his statue, it will bring you luck and you will return of Prague soon.

Having exhausted myself dodging tourists and taking countless photographs, I nipped into the Prague Beer Museum (thanks to reader recommendations) to sample some world famous Czech beer. I normally detest beer but seeing as I was in Prague, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try again. The bartender recommended Rohozec Višen, a cherry beer which tasted like a sour cider with a very faint malt finish. I highly recommend this beer to the point where after I had a small sample, I ended up having my first ever pint!

Tempted to stay for another several pints, I restrained myself so I could indulgently wander through the old town square one more time before relaxing in the hotel pool and venturing out for dinner. Through another recommendation, I went to U Medvidku which coincidentally was right by my hotel. This restaurant also is home to a brewery so I decided to be adventurous and have the “beer cheese” to start. It was interesting to say the least! A rich creamy cheese with a malty tang. For main course I opted for some traditional duck with cabbage and potato, bread and bacon dumplings. It was sublime was the perfect way to end my day in Prague, all washed down with a few nice glasses of wine!

Thank you so much for recommending this incredible city and all the sights to see and places to eat and drink! It was a whirlwind 36 hours and I have definitely not been disappointed and can safely rank this as one of my favourite cities in the world! I hope to return soon to explore even more and get to see the Astronomical clock in its restored glory.

AJ x

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Bratislava, Travel

Bratislava: An Afternoon exploring the Old Town of one of the world’s Newest Capital Cities

Bratislava was the final stop on my Danube adventures and was a pocket sized delight of old & new. Before becoming a world capital in only 1993 after the breakup of Czechoslovakia, it was a cultural hub of the Hungarian Empire.

I arrived back from Vienna in the early morning and managed to get some more sleep in our hotel before checkout. After a coffee, I ventured out to the main square where I was greeted by Čumil, the communist sewer worker. Urban legend suggests he is either fed up of work and/or looking up the skirts of female passers by. Thankfully I was wearing jeans on my travels to avoid him getting an unpleasant eyeful! Another interesting statue near by is of Ignac Lamar, a local character from 20th Century who was infamous for wearing a top hat and tails, greeting women in the street by asking to kiss them on the hand and offering them flowers.

Bratislava is dotted with unusual statues

I explored around the streets taking in the pastel buildings and quasi-architecture of Vienna and Budapest dotted around with views of glass skyscrapers. Highlights of the architecture mix include the Church of St. Elizabeth built in 1909 and just a few minutes away is the UFO bridge which is a poignant feature of the construction that occurred during the Communist era. Also for music lovers like me, there are plaques scattered around with iconic composers who made an impact upon Bratislava including Liszt, Mozart and Brahms.

UFO Bridge & St Elizabeth’s Church

As I wandered around the quaint main square before catching my flight, I popped into the Bratislava City Museum, the oldest museum in Slovakia. It has a little bit of everything to cater for everyone. A viewpoint at the top of the tower, painstakingly restored rooms and countless pristinely preserved artefacts showing the development of the town’s existence. There isn’t a lot to do in Bratislava but it makes a nice addition for anyone’s Danube travels.

Beautifully resorted ceilings in the Bratislava City Museum

Bratislava was a pleasant addition to my trip along the Danube for the afternoon, the whole trip was definitely a whirlwind! I found there wasn’t much to do in Bratislava so perhaps no more than 2 nights are needed if you are just coming here exclusively.

The ease and price of the public transport through my Danube adventures made it manageable and affordable to dot between countries. Each city was incredibly different and made it a memorable experience! Can you think of any other city hopping breaks I can do?

City Centre

AJ x

Vienna

Vienna: Prosecco & Getting Lost

My journey to Vienna was painless. A 55 minute comfortable bus journey took me over the border and into Austria. Getting off at Erdberg station, I took the U-Bahn to Stephanplatz in the city centre. As former centre of the Holy Roman Empire, I had high expectations of the classical architecture and I was not disappointed!

As I was meeting up with fellow blogger and Viennese resident Kirsten (check out her blog here) later in the afternoon, I wanted to take in as much of the city centre as possible to get a true feel for the city. To fuel up before my exploration, I snuck into Schachtelwirt, an Austrian fast food eatery known for putting a twist on local cuisine. I had its famous Pork Knuckle with Sauerkraut and Dumplings. It was a welcome and very filling introduction to this beautiful city.

Schachtelwirt lunch

I started my wandering at St. Stephen’s Cathedral which has housed countless occasions such as Mozart and Hayden’s weddings and Mozart and Vivaldi’s funeral. There was a mass occurring when I entered and it was an overwhelmingly peaceful experience compared to the hustle and bustle of the streets outside.

St Stephen’s Cathedral

For my first time on any vacation, I tossed my itinerary to the wayside and decided to get lost in the city. Each corner was a surprise of pastel colour and statues. I passed Café Central where Sigmund Freud, Tito, Stalin, Trotsky and Hitler frequented, climbed up some stairs to St Rupert’s Church, the oldest church in Vienna and completed in 740. I walked alongside the Hofburg Palace and Hero’s square, home to the Austrian Royalty of yesteryear where the horses and carriages were waiting to take tourists around the city.

An architectural wonder around every corner

I walked through opulent galleries with the most beautiful window displays that put London’s Old Bond Street to shame. There was not one segment of the Goldenes Quartier that was not truly beautiful.

My phone battery was draining quickly with all the photographs!

Having exhausted my eyes taking in the city, it was time to catch up with Kirsten. As soon as we arrived in a quaint local bar, the afternoon turned thick with bubbling conversation over plans for the future and reminiscing about our pre-teen shenanigans. The time escaped us as the Prosecco was flowing which resorted in a fun night of games and singing as we used to do some 10years prior!

Prosecco Pong!

AJ x

Budapest, Danube Travels

Budapest: A photo opportunity around every corner

My first Danube adventure took me to the city of Budapest. With only one full day in the Hungarian capital, I tried to get around as many sights as possible. I normally complain about the poor weather during my travel adventures but my time in Budapest was filled with blue skies and sunshine and it was reasonably warm for January too! (so much so that I had to put my scarf in my handbag and buy some sunglasses!)

The most incredible view I have ever woken up to

After a nice lie in, I left my hotel in downtown Pest and headed to the nearby Hold Utca food market to get some breakfast. Tucked away down a side street, the market was preparing for its lunchtime rush and packed with incredible smells. I left with some Kolach and Kifli wrapped up and went in search for the perfect spot to eat.

Hold Utca Market

I cut through Liberty Square and arrived at the Parliament building. I cannot explain how beautiful this building is at every angle! Sitting proudly on the banks of the Danube, this building is the largest in Hungary and the tallest building in Budapest.

Freedom Square heading towards The Parliament
Hungarian Parliament Building 

Having taken in this incredible building, I walked along the banks of the Danube towards the Széchenyi chain bridge trying to spot my destinations of choice over in Buda. I spotted another landmark as I walked along the riverbank, The Shoes on the Danube. Erected in 2005, this has become a tourist’s favourite when visiting Budapest. The 60 pairs of iron shoes honours the 3,500 people who were ordered to take off their shoes and shot on the banks of the Danube so their bodies would fall into the river and be carried away by the river’s current during the Arrow Cross Terror in World War II. Flowers and candles were scattered along these small sculptures with some shoes even having small handwritten messages of love tucked inside of them.

Shoes on the Danube

I left Pest and crossed the Széchenyi chain bridge to start my Buda adventures. I walked up the steep winding road towards Buda Castle which stands out majestically on the Buda Skyline.

I spotted an unusual looking roof in the distance so walked towards it to discover the beautiful Matthias Church. A building that has seen several coronations and royal weddings, in 1541 its religious treasures were shipped to Bratislava for a century and a half as the church became the city’s main mosque. Beside the church was the Fisherman’s Bastion. One of the best viewpoints in the city. Its seven towers represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in 895 and gets its name from fisherman’s guild who protected the city walls during the Middle Ages.

Incredible views from Fisherman’s Bastion

I walked down the hill and found the Európa liget, opened in 1972, it commemorates the centenary of the unification of Buda & Pest an Congress of the 29 European Capitals. Each leader planted a tree from their own country which could withstand the Hungarian climate. Also tucked away with a bronze statue of Hungarian Composer Zoltán Kodály.

Európa Liget

When I reached the bottom of the hill, I walked up to cross the Margaret bridge to head back to Pest, passing Margaret’s island on the way. On my way back to the hotel to rest my feet, I stopped off at a shopping centre and indulged in some January sale shopping and glass of wine (it’s 5o’clock somewhere right?).

Originally searching for goulash for dinner, I came across Meatology. Just across from St Stephen’s Basilica, this small restaurant is brimming with smells and the perfect stop for any meat lover! I opted for the Confit leg of Goose, Pearl Barley, Red Cabbage & Quince washed down with a glass of Hungarian Rosé. The meat just flaked off the bone and every mouthful was brimming with flavour.

Meatology

I ended up walking over 10 Miles during my busy day in the Hungarian capital and it was an unforgettable day. I wonder what my next Danube adventure has is store.

St. Stephens Basilica

AJ x

Copenhagen, Hygge, Nyhavn & Streetfood!, Travel

Hygge, Nyhavn & Streetfood!

Day two of my Copenhagen adventures did not have the weather on my side. I had a lazy morning before I headed back into the city. I headed over the Christiana for a spot of lunch at Papirøen’s food market. Sadly this place is closing down at the end of the year and has an array of wonders to behold. I arrived just as the stalls were opening, the smells were incredible and instantly made us both hungry. I opted for the Korean Fried chicken. I have never had fried chicken that fresh! The communal seating area, alight with candles gave this place a truly Danish feel.

Copenhagen’s Food Market

Having filled my stomach, I headed to The Copenhagen Contemporary to see Yoko Ono’s wish tree. This beautiful installation is only available until December and has been scattered over various cities in the world. Grab a wish tag and write your wish and tie it to the tree. The wishes are regularly collected and will be sent to Yoko Ono when the installations end. They will be turned into an art installation at the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland.

Make a wish at the wishing tree!

My final stop on our rainy Saturday adventure was Nyhavn. This 17th Century waterfront is full of beautiful coloured townhouses, bars and cafes. As a main canal, it was notorious with sailors, merriment and prostitution. Hans Christian Andersen also lived here for some 18 years. Now it is a delight for the general public and the perfect photo opportunity  on Copenhagen adventures.

Nyhavn

Copenhagen truly captures the meaning of Hygge. You cannot help feel the ‘togetherness’ of this city and the cozy, content and welcoming vibe of this small city. There were so many other sights we saw in passing on our 48hour visit to this former Viking fishing village. Pick up a bike or hit the city on foot. Eat, drink and explore the happiest city in the world.

AJ x

Copenhagen, Fairytale autumnal walks through Copenhagen, Travel

Fairytale Autumnal walks through Copenhagen

Copenhagen is one of the coolest cities I’ve visited to date. I have always loved exploring by foot and Copenhagen’s flat landscape makes this a breeze.

I hopped off the train at Copenhagen Central station and made my way up to Torvehallerne food market. On the way, I came across a beautiful park, Ørstedsparken. Open in 1879 and still holding much of its original character, it is full of memorials and classical replicas scattered across the promenade with a spectacular view of a lake which is the rememnants of a moat from a fortification.

Ørstedsparken

Torvehallerne was full of fresh produce to satisfy every foodie’s palette. The perfect place to have a coffee and soak in the city. I then ventured to Rosenborg Castle to explore the gardens. Originally established as a pleasure Garden in the 1700s and to supply fruit, vegetables and flowers to the Danish royal family, it’s pristine manicured lawns were a delight to walk through, with the spectacular view of the castle.

I decided to then delve deeper into the city and head to Frederik’s Kirke. This beautifully ornate church is commonly know as ‘The Marble Church’  and was originally meant to be built entirely out of marble but due to budget restrictions, the dome (which is Scandinavia’s largest) was built from limestone.

The gold writing at the front of the church reads: ‘the word of the Lord endureth for ever.’

Making the most of the dry weather, I then walked north through the cobbled streets to Churchillparken. Named after Winston Churchill  to commemorate the British assistance in Denmark during the Second World War. Passing St Albans church and Gefionspringvandet, I slowly made our way up to Den lille Havfrue (The little Mermaid). Elegantly perched on a rock, the life size sculpture has received mixed reviews by some, but I was not disappointed.

Churchillparken and St Albans Church

The photographs I took do not do these parks justice. The colours of autumn bring a sense of magic and capture the ultimate picture for sweater weather.

Den lille Havfrue

After an exhausting 10 mile walk, it was time to soak in the hotel’s pool and save the rest of my adventures for another day.
AJ x

Hometown Tourist, London vs Edinburgh, Travel

A Tale of Two Cities – London vs Edinburgh

Reader, I have lived in a few places in my life so far and was lucky enough with a former employer, to be based in two of the UK’s best cities, London and Edinburgh. I lived in London for 18 months between 2013 and 2014, moving to Edinburgh which I left in March 2017. This is my personal experience and thoughts of living in both these incredible places and which is the best city to live in overall.

Public Transport
London- The sacred Oyster Card. Who is a Londoner without it? It doesn’t matter where you’re going in the city or at what time, you will most certainly get there without needing a taxi. The well connected Underground have trains getting you to your desired destination every 2-5 minutes. Let’s not even start talking about 24hour buses! Your 3am flight from Stanstead will be a walk in the park.

Edinburgh – Now with the Trams, Edinburgh transport has gotten considerably better however there are still problems with Edinburgh’s transport system. Trains are always late and buses are nowhere near as frequent as London. If you’re enjoying a night out, bus timetables need to be watched or a taxi might need to be called.

WINNER – LONDON

Monument Underground Station

Night Out
London – London can give you the ultimate night out. Be it partying on the roof tops of Shoreditch or be tucked away at a cocktail bar near Holborn, London has the surprise of secret bars galore, so party until dawn with the confidence a night bus can get you to your door! The only downside is due to London’s size, it can take some time to bar hop from your favourite spots. (I used to sometimes travel between Angel and Liverpool Street and I found it quite tiresome). Also prepare to have very deep pockets as drinks do not come cheap!

Edinburgh – Edinburgh nights out are definitely filled with fun. You are within easy walking distance from the chic George Street to the bouncing hot spot of the Grassmarket. From personal experience, I have found Edinburgh has everything to offer and a much safer place to party without clock watching for last orders like in other towns of this size. Let’s not even start to talk about the spectacle of the Fringe Festival in the evenings! It just had to be experienced!!!

WINNER – EDINBURGH

Who doesn’t love a cocktail at Le Monde?

Food
London – New foodie phase? London will have it 3 months before you knew it even existed. Breast milk ice cream, Rainbow Bagels and Cereal Cafés, You name it! You are always within an arms reach of the latest flavours. My time eating through the capital had me picking off menus of countries my Dundonian mind could only dream of. You want Filipino fusion food at 3am? London is your city!

Edinburgh – Edinburgh has an array of bespoke bakeries to satisfy any sweet tooth (Stockbridge Market is a must), but sitting down to a meal requires some research if you want to go the extra mile. There are a handful of Michelin star restaurants but be prepared to have deep pockets! For you average grub, George Street is littered with flavours but somewhat lacking versus Glasgow.

WINNER – LONDON

La Gelateria in Covent Garden


Work Life Balance
London – London is the city that never sleeps and from my personal experience, working your standard 40hour weeks is non-existent. Expect late nights and heavily socialising with work colleagues vs friends. To London’s credit, I found it did give me a multitude of skills in a shorter space of time versus other cities but came at a hefty price of 11pm finishes and 6/7 day working weeks.

Edinburgh – Edinburgh’s work life balance for me was much more relaxed. Your shift finishes at 6pm? You’re walking out of the door at 6.01pm. Even when I was promoted to a more senior position, my work life balance only altered by a few grains of rice. I wish I could say it was due to better time management versus my career in London but it is definitely not the case!

WINNER – EDINBURGH

No work stresses on days off!


Things to do
London – London is full of sites to see. The centre itself is a hub of history and culture where you can happily stay a full day in just one museum. However most of these I have found come with a hefty price tag attached to it. I was shocked to pay £25 to visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum. As well as this cost, you are battling your way through the hoards of tourists which can be very frustrating. I saw a lot of shows in London and was more impressed at the work on the off-Theatreland circuit rather than the tackiness of the larger theatres, once again just catering to the tourists.

Edinburgh – Edinburgh is oozing with culture at every time of year. There are several castles within either walking distance or a short bus ride away.  As well as this, the amount and quality of the free museums is phenomenal. Start up at the top of the Royal Mile at the Writer’s Museum and snake your way down the cobbled side streets to the bottom of Greyfriars and you will be overwhelmed at the knowledge you can accrue. The live music scene is Edinburgh is also buzzing, from the talented buskers in the streets to sell out shows at the Playhouse and The Usher Hall, the opportunities are endless. Did someone mention the Fringe Festival…..?

WINNER – EDINBURGH

Staircase in National Portrait Gallery


So the overall winner goes to Edinburgh!

I love both cities and you never know, I might move back to them one day. It was such an experience to immerse myself in the ‘big city’ life for just over 4 years of my life and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Have you visited or lived in London or Edinburgh? Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know.

AJ x