Johanna 's Travel Blog

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July 07, 12:18 AM
Berlin

James and I are leaving to Budapest today. Yesterday was a major Czech holiday celebrating the religious reformer Jan Hus was burned at the stake in 1415. We didn’t know about it. And so, we are rushing to pick up my computer this morning, before our train. The computer repair center kept it for over a week, so I am hopeful that they repaired the issue, or got a new power adapter under warranty. If not, I will but a new one today.

This past weekend (well, we tried to align it with the US weekend so Saturday through Monday for us)we were in Berlin. We saw the Check Point Charlie Museum, a very interesting though poorly organized exhibit and the Museum of Film, which was in modern spacious building with an extraordinary amount of content and very digitally savvy. We ate at a great vegi place recommended by Claudia and Matt called Cafe V in the very hip Kreuzberg neighborhood. Review coming soon. On Saturday night we were also recommended a Vietnamese place by bikers who were caught in the downpour with us. The place offered a vegi dish of the day and a scrumptious wanton soup.

Berlin entwines the new and old, different from any other city we have seen so far. The transpiration system is also top notch, with frequent U and S trains. Guards in pedestrian clothes come around all the time to check tickets, so you better have one (we bought the day pass for about 6 euros for Sunday that went until 3am) other wide you get pulled off and have to pay a fine.


July 05, 10:23 AM
Berlin

These ideas were shared by my friend Beth from college who spent a semester in Berlin:

sites: brandenburger tor (brandenberg gate), reichstag (old legislative building, cool “green” addition with a good view), and holocaust memorial (a few years old) are all very close to each other.

the street leading there is unter den linden – very pretty, tree-lined, and very pricey. potsdamer platz is also near-by — the super-commercial attempt to “globalize” berlin, not very interesting. (except for a really nice, modern philharmonic building, where there was recently a fire)

fun neighborhoods: kreuzberg, prenzlauer berg, and neukölln.
my fave street is kastanienallee in prenzlauer berg (where i lived) — check out morgenrot for veggie food (especially weekend brunch if possible!) and radical politics. also Babel, for the best falafel i’ve ever had (lebanese) and “der imbiss”, which has an upside mcdonald’s M as it’s logo and delicious naan pizzas (the name is stolen from those little carts that are all over the city – “the snack” – so asking around for it might not be productive, but the logo stands out. near the corner of Zionskirchstrasse).
the strassenbahn (streetcar) goes down kastanienallee and passes all of these places. you can also turn and walk down schönhauser allee for more shops etc. the mauerpark (wall park), a portion of where the wall was, is very close to there also. there aren’t wall remnants (read: not touristy), but it’s a nice park, sometimes people play music, sundays there’s a flea market.

note, you can always get cheap falafel on the street from vendors, but it’s usually nasty, premade stuff – watch out.

kreuzberg has large turkish and hipster populations. neukölln is the new wave (more turkish & arab, increasingly hipster). kreuzberg is probably the better of the two for wandering around. try oranienstraße — U1 to Kottbusser Tor.
there’s a fairly american bar called 8mm, which i liked ( 177b Schönhauser Allee, via U2 to Senefelderplatz). white trash is another popular bar/club that’s nice.
I think 8 mm is not far from The Circus, the hostel i know people have rated well.

the “fernsehturm,” a ussr-era tv tower at alexanderplatz (tall, ufo-looking, you can see it from almost anywhere in the city) has a terrific view – i’d say it’s worth the 7 or 8 euros.

my favorite history-related museum is the museum of the resistance/Widerstand


June 30, 05:19 AM

As the second largest city in the Czech Republic,I was expecting something of Philadelphia,Pa like proportions, instead, it more closely resembled something like Brattle Mountain, Nv. it had two main cobble stone streets, and several other narrower paths leading to gothic style churches,small buildings and shops. As testament to it’s small size, there was only one KFC and no McDonald’s.The train from Prague was about 3.5 hours, and once there, we found little to do. Climbed up to a park, saw a church or two,thought about finding a near by castle, but it was already 9pm so we thought to get dinner. Always looking for interesting cuisine, we came across an “Africana restaurant.”intrigued we walked inside and up a flight of stairs to a dimply lit room with alligator skins on the ceiling. Very hungry and still game (ohhh that’s a miserable pun) for spicy food,we looked at the menu. They had blueberry beer on tap, that James quickly ordered and darker ale that I tried and found enjoyable but could not get through all 5 deciliters. Their menu had both appealing things (like the salmon cooked with bananas in caraway seeds served with fresh vegetable,s kiwi and whipped cream)as well as more objectionable offerings like zebra,elk, antelope, ostrich and wildabeasts. As such, I recommend it with trepidation.

Their information is as follows:

Africana Restaurant
Dum U Kamenne Panny

Orli 16,602 00 Brno, Cesk republika
tel: 00420 542 214 215 mobile (I wonder why…it is a restaurant) 00420 720 589 072
www.africanarestaurant.cz

After dinning we discovered that the next train back to Prague did not leave until nearly 1 am. We walked a few blocks in search of an interesting scene, but ended up at a movie theater, screening the late show of the American film “Zach and Mari Make a Porno”. A minor blockbuster and major pop culture film, James was turned off. However, we had to kill 3 hours some how, so we paid the price and sat down in a nearly empty theater. It was terrible, as we expected, but I take a small pleasure in exposing James to the opiate of the masses, Seth Rogen and melodrama.

Our train was sadly delayed by about 45 mins and we did not get back to Prague until nearly 4am. I would recommend staying in Brno for a longer period of time, should you choose to go, but honestly, I would skip that adventure all together if I were to do it again.


johanna is in the filozoficka fakulta Univerzity Karlovy v Praze
June 30, 05:14 AM
ovocnz trh 1, prague
June 30, 05:14 AM
Prauge

A few of the unexplained textures of everyday life in Prague:

1. Trams are free.
Er, we have not figured out how to pay. The city’s vast nexus of prompt transportation has allowed us to get virtually everywhere by using one of the five trams that stop right outside our door. The system is unbelievable. As a case in point, we arrived in Prague 4:10 am yesterday morning as our train from Bruno (the second largest city in the CR after Prague, see entry)was delayed several times. Moments after following the bleary eye crowd out of the station, we picked up the 52 tram that took us to our bridge.At all hours of the day and night does this impressive system run.

To assuage our conscience for all of the free rides we have resolved to buy stamps. We figure that the money goes to the same place (the government industrial complex?) so what not support it an an indirect way?

Let me know if you would like a letter sent to you, consider it a small tribute to the transportation of the great Czech Republic.

2. Women love nylons.
Not the thick ones that were en vogue this winter in the states, not the loud colors we saw in London, but the tinted ones I used to wear to formal events or those involving my grandmother. James is oblivious, but all women here wear nylons! Open toes sandals,closed toe pumps, sling back heels, the telltale seam is on their toes. Why? I can only imagine to give legs sun-kissed look? Provide modern girdling? A nod to decades of female modesty? I feel so exposed, bare legs and all.

3. Disputes of how to pronounce thank you.
“Deequee” some say ‘dickay’ others ‘deekee’ the dictionary who speaks to us one line emphasises a ‘quee’ sound as in “acquiesce”. We have not heard the same pronunciation from person to person. It is worth exploring how you say thanks.

4. Like in Germany, everyone waits to cross at the lights. This is in stark contrast to oblivious or self important-college students, Brazilians and impatient New Yorkers. Even if the street appears empty for miles, you wait for the ticking sound to alert you to the green light.

Add your observations here. I am sure my list will grow as we enter our last week in Prague.


June 25, 09:28 AM
Prauge

My macbook stopped working. This is the first time this has happened to me abroad,well, I guess that is not saying much considering this is the first time I’ve taken it traveling for a significant period of time. What is noteworthy however, is that I tried to negotiated my need for a new power cord in gestures alone. We found a computer service center miles outside the city in a strip-mall-waste-land of nearly-suburbia. Not sufficiently able to explain if it was the power cord that needed to be replaced(it had grown frayed)or the battery that needed to be repaired, we entrusted the machine to a woman who had me sign a few forms and confidently said ‘warranty.’ In fact my warranty had expired, but perhaps there is some underground network of Czech computer whizzes or at least a black market where a new cord can be found. I am confident, but in the mean time amusing myself with some books. Umberto Eco, Neal Stephenson, Keith Gessen, Marilynne Robinson, Gertrude Stein. That gives the company, oh, about 40 more hours to fix my machine:)


June 22, 07:54 AM
vienna, Austria

An enjoyable weekend visiting our south western neighboring country Austria. German is spoken, Mozart candies are sought out but never consumed, reference to an animated movie about a mouse in the Rathaus is made but never quite pinned down and incidentally, I got locked into the room of our hostel.

Our first evening, we arrived at Wesbanhof train station and made our way to HappyHostel (Kurzgasse 2 Viennap)where we found a spacious suite-style apartment. More precisely, it was three rooms (ours had three single beds, two of which were pushed together in the typical European style makeshift double bed) and a shared kitchen area with a toilet and shower (separate rooms of course) and an assembly of painting of nautical scenes most prevalent in American thrift stores. Our room was spacious and sunny. The apartments seems appropriate for long stays. We were recommended a vegetarian restaurant and attached market, called St. Josephs in walking distance, but upon arriving learned that both had closed for the evening. Only slightly disheartened, we set out to explore the city’s treasures by moon light. We saw the Rathaused and debated of we had previously seen reference in “The Great Mouse Detective,” “Fifel Goes West,” or some other movie neither of us could recall the name. We also saw the illumined outside of the Hapsburg Palace and the beautiful buildings of the Museum Quarter around the Maria Theresa church. We wondered through parks abound with sculptures of Greek gods, including the fountains of bare-breasted women that James loves so. Hunger set in around 9pm and we wondered to an area that oddly struck us as “little Italy.” We heard jazz music in a courtyard and then wondered a bit further until we arrived at what appeared to be a shop. The owner, who was grating Parmesan cheese as we entered (we would later learn, he had spent 10 years in Italy discovering the finer distinctions of wine) informed us that he had food for dinner. It was one item: pasta with a marinara of morels and slight spices. He spoke German and some Italian, and assured us that we would love it. We moved to the back of the restaurant (more a living room outfitted with several tables and painting of amorous males) and knew that we were in for a culinary threat. The restaurant seemed patronized entirely by older,gay German speaking males, coupled off and holding hands by candles. The pasta arrived about 30or 40 minuets after we sat down, since, inevitable, the owner had to socialize with all of the patrons and pour fantastic open bottles of red or white wine. The pasta was al denete and authentically Italian. It was nearing 11pm when we received a cappuccino and the bill—a fabricated number of “23.50 euros.” I would surely recommend this place, granted it can be discovered again, and advise you to have a snack before you go. The meal is solely what the chef, owner, manager, effervescent older gay man prepares for the day and, we found it delicious. On a full stomach we wondered back to the main street Maria Hilfer (where there were a lot of commercial stores.

The following morning, we decide to go for the 5euro per person (‘large’) breakfast at the hostel consisting of eggs, cereal, coffee, breads with jam and fruit. The owner or manager, we never really figured it out,was very nice and accommodating. After the hardy breakfast, We set out to see the Kunsthistorische Museum (Museum of Fine Art) with a magnificent ceiling and, as James is inclined in any museums, we began the Egyptian wing. I preferred the paintings (16-18th century) and a special exhibition on domestic spaces. After about an hour there, we sought out a different vegetarian place (also recommended by the hostel manger) to eat, but fell short. We found another Italian-esque place in the extremely touristy area between the museum quarter and the Imperial apartments (Hapsburg complex), called the Sisi collection for the much loved queen. We ate a tasty but rather pricey pizza and salad in rushed way to make it to the Kaiserappartements, Silberkammer before they closed. We grabbed an English guided tour (recording) and immersed ourselves in the royal china and accouterments of splendor. The tour was not all that historically factually oriented, instead commenting on the gossip and personal habits of the palace’s inhabitants. We finished shortly after 6pm and thought we could squeeze one more museum in before our evening ended. Thus, we found our way to the Kunsthalle Wein, contemporary art exhibition (tied to the university of art and design) that was exceptional, only in that is closed at 7pm. The exhibition, however, left much to be desired. Thomas Ruff, the sole exhibitor, was smug in his interpretations of ‘contemporary art’ and generally, uninspired. In my strong opinion, he lacked in technical talent. I regret paying 7.5 euros each to enter this show. I further resent that the galleries affiliated with arts universities should charge anything at all for entry. A bit disappointed by the ‘modern scene’ we returned to the hostel for a bit of respite. Later, we ventured out to an Indian (or Indische) restaurant we had passed earlier that day. Located on 1070 Burggasse, a street parallel to the main shopping artery I mentioned before, we ate fantastic Indian food. Very unique flavors.

Though they don’t have a web site, their info is as follow:
Zum Moghulhof , Indische Restaurant (holkehlengrill vom lehofem, vegetarische und curry) telpehon : 5262864.
They had a wonderful vegetarian selection and very flavorful rice, mango lassis and unique modes of preparation. We had a very compete dinner (vegi brianni and a lentil curry, chai and mango lassi for about 40 euros).

Today, despite the drizzle, we set off for the Schonburnn Palace and explode the grounds. See my review. We saw vivid greenery, Greek and Roman statues and, since it was free, the facade of the palace. Without allowing ourselves much time at all (it was 10:30 when we realized we should leave to catch at 11am train) we rushed to the Undergrad, and gleefully made our way (on time, but just barley!) to catch the 11am train back to Prague. The anxiety was palpable when we were tying to make our very tight connection, but were able to breath a sigh of relief once we were on board heading home. We are now back in Prague,working away and making ourselves inexpensive food once again. It was a very full weekend, and I will appreciate the serenity of Prague until we head to Berlin next weekend.


johanna heading to Vienna today
June 20, 02:05 AM
vienna, Austria
June 20, 02:05 AM
  • 1. That the world’s oldest zoo is located here
  • 2. Vienna is tied with Vancouver, Canada as the world’s most livable city
  • 3. Vienna was home to many world-renowned celebrities and artists, such as: Gustav Klimt (painter), Siegmund Freud (no introduction needed), Arthur Schnitzler (author), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Strauß and Gustav Mahler (musicians)
  • 3.5 and…I will be there this weekend!

June 19, 06:54 AM
Prauge

A drizzly morning presented the great option of vising a museum. I had read about the Douglas Gordon exhibit: Blood, Sweat and Tears and since I found the Tate a bit of a let down, I was ready to be impressed again by contemporary works. Adams large scale exhibition included projected images of an elephant trying to right himself, an acrobat turning over slowly and the frames of “Psycho” slowed down to fill the 24 hours of a day. Very interesting use of light and sound, as well as sporadic phrases such as “I know what you want”, “you see dark and think green” written in alternating Czech and English with subtitles. The next exhibit, nanoSKOP, was lost on me. There were several interactive robot imaging game-like programs set up and other virtual interfaces that I didn’t find all that engaging. Continuing upstairs, there was a beautifully terrifying exhibit: 14 S, 14 artists 14 themes. Each artist contemplated a single idea (death, solitude, sex, fear, silence, despair,sorrow etc.) and in brilliant mixed media ways communicated a terrifying interpretation. Each project involved the viewer’s senses in new ways and challenged me. I found one of the displays (a monologue of a woman hurt in bed) too painful to watch. Outside there was an evocative display of countries in the EU symbolized by their chief export on a ‘snap off’ sheet of tabs. See the picture below and try to match each country’s outline with the message the artist was communicating with each. To explain a few: Portugal is meat, Spain is a traffic jam, Romania has a count and haunted castle. We took the tram (#12) back to our area and then walked to Clear Head for lunch. Read the review I wrote and without a doubt, visit it if you are here. I already raved about the food, but to expand on the ambiance, I would compare it to an East Village cafe with less attitude and more color, infused with Brahman traditions and hippie vibes. After a phenomenal lunch (allow yourself about 2 hours as they are a discovered gem and only have a few tables) we walked back home. The drizzle continues and it is a wee bit colder than I expected (I wish I had a sweater). We plan to continue our day of cultural wonderment by attending a film at the Kinosvetozor arthouse: http://kinosvetozor.cz. The film is called ‘Home’ by a Czech director and focuses on how Earth’s problems are interlinked. There will be English subtitles, and with a bar connected to the theater, maybe we can discuss the film’s theme: it is too late to be a pessimist with other international attendees.