Czech Republic Budget

Hi everyone!

I thought I would try to make finding our daily budget per country easier to find so I have created a budget page. I will post the figures to both this page and the country page. All figures will be in Canadian Dollars.

Our goal for Czech Republic: $40 CAD per person per day (pp/d)

Number of days spent in country: 4

Daily average: $31.27 pp/d

I will also recap what we found cheap or expensive in each Country. For the Czech Republic, beer was very very cheap. Groceries were also cheap. Transport within country was very reasonable. Entrance to Museums, the castle, etc was expensive for our daily budget.

Cheers!

End of Prague, Start of Poland

Hi Everyone,

Our last few days in Prague were spent in much the same manner as the first, wandering the historic old town enjoying all the beauty the city had to offer. We did a 10 km walk along a ridge that rises over the city, providing stellar views of the city. The walk ended at the iconic Prague Castle, which we walked the grounds for free and enjoyed the incredible views of the castle and city. We then continued to climb the hill to the monestary, where monks brewed beers for hundreds of years, but in recent time has been taken over by a third party. The inside of the pub was very well preserved, with a beautiful wooden bar that had copper pipes that piped the beer from the mash tuns to the bar. As mentioned in Chris’s Corner we tried several unfiltered beers which were fantastic. That evening we splurged on supper and went to the restaurant Anthony Bourdain visited on his show “No Reservations.” We had the roasted pork knee (I didn’t know you could order such a thing) as it was his recommendation of what to eat. I am not a huge fan of pork, but this was definitely the best pork I have ever had as it was tender and not at all dry, which are usually my two biggest complaints about pork.

Our final day in Prague we spent getting ourselves organized for the coming days. It is comical to us how much planning and booking is required in Europe vs. South America. In SA if we wanted to go anywhere we just had to turn up at the bus station and wait for a random guy to yell the name of the city we were going to know where to buy tickets. “Bogota, Bogota, Bogota,” will forever be etched in our minds as the soundtrack of South American bus terminals. In Europe you must purchase everything in advance, or risk not getting tickets or paying much more by turning up at the station. There is also massive discrepancies between prices of transportation between given places. For example, an overnight train from Krakow, Poland to Budapest, Hungary would have been $140 CAD each, and the bus is $25 CAD each and is actually quicker than the train. A Eurorail pass would not be practical for us as we are spending 2.5 months in Europe, in mostly Eastern Europe, and travel much slower and off the beaten path than the usual (20 year olds) whirlwind Europe tour. Therefore, it is necessary for us to spend the time researching the different modes of transportation.

I am going to share our average daily expenditures in each country as I think people have an interest in that, as well as to encourage others to realize their dreams of traveling. We had paid for our round-the-world plane tickets in advance, so they are not included in the daily averages. We still have a few dates to move around and 1 additional flight to add in, so we do not have a final number. When we do I will share that number. With all that being said, our average daily expenditure in Prague, Czech Republic was $31 CAD. That is $9 dollars each under budget. Off-season travel is crucial! We looked at some hostels with peak season dates, and they were double the price we are paying!

We headed from Prague to Wroclaw Poland via Polski bus which is an excellent company. (Tip:You can only book tickets with them via their online website) We arrived to Wroclaw around supper time and had a quick bite to eat, bought a few groceries, and then turned in early. The next day we did 2 free walking tours, one of the old town and one of the Jewish District. The walking tours allow you to cover so much ground and see the majority of the cities, and are incredibly informative and interesting. Also, the guides usually point out their favorite restaurants and pubs, which are infinitely better and cheaper than any of the guide book recommendations. We have been trying to go on tours that only employ locals, as some tour companys will hire anyone meaning you could be led around a Polish city by a British guy. My favorite part of the tour was learning about the 302 gnomes located around the city, which started as sign of rebellion but turned into adorable art adorning the streets. One gnome is so small he requires a microscope to view him so he is kept at a local university.

We took the recommendation of the guide on a restaurant, and were not dissapointed. Chris had beef goulash over gnocchi, and I had dumplings stuffed with potato, cheese and spinach. Both dishes were heavenly.

We went to the most popular attraction in Wroclaw, a 114 meter long by 15 meters high 360 degree panoramic painting that took 750 kg of paint to complete. The painting depicts a battle between Poland and Russia. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Not only was the painting incredibly detailed making it seem life-like, it also had props all along the bottom of the painting further making it appear 3D. For example, if there was a fence post at the bottom of the painting there would be a continuation with a real post perfectly color matched, making it impossible to determine where the painting ended and the props began. If you are traveling to Wroclaw this panorama painting is an absolute must.

We then traveled from Wroclaw to Krakow which was a 4 hour bus ride. We arrived and made a quick lunch and then headed out to walk around this beautiful city. We then met up with someone we met at the hostel in Wroclaw for 4 PLN (just over a dollar) beers at a local pub. The next day we woke up and again went on 2 walking tours, one of the old town and one of the Jewish Quarter. Krakow is 70 km from
Auschwitz meaning this city has an astounding amount of historical significance. We learned and were able to see so many things, it is not possible to share all of them via this post. I also think it is important to see these places for yourself, as no amount of words can accurately depict the history that has taken place here. After the tours, we visited Schindlers Factory, which is a museum not only about Schindler, but about all of Poland during this era.

Tomorrow we are heading to Auschwitz. We have opted to go on our own and join the tour provided by the museum guides (3.5 hour tour of the grounds). It is obligatory to have a guide to tour the grounds, so the options are to go on your own and join the tour once there, or join one of the many tours offered all throughout the town. We opted to go on our own as we wanted to have time to walk around on our own, and to stay as long as we like. The tours from town are a specific length of time and do not allow for you to go at your own pace. Worth mentioning is that as of January 1, 2015 you can no longer turn up and join a tour on spot, you need to prebook the museum guides ahead of time. The biggest issue with this is it takes up to 24 hours to process your payment and issue your tickets, so book well in advance. We were told by a local tour company that it costs the same to do it on your own (it will probably cost about half the price of the tour) and that the museum guides were booked until the following week. Don’t be fooled, they just want you to buy their tour. We will let you know after tomorrow our impressions of going on your own vs. what we have heard of tours.

We will then be heading to Budapest on Sunday.

Thanks for reading,
Kathleen

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Roast pork knee

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Wroclaw

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Gnome!!!

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More gnomes

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Goulash and dumplings!

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The restaurant

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Krakow

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View from Krakow Castle

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Bridge to Jewish Quarter Krakow

Chris’ Corner #1:  Prague, Czech Republic

Dobry Den (hello) and welcome to the first entry in my little section of the blog.

I don’t have much of a way with words, so I prefer to leave that to Kathleen for the most part.  However, I will be weighing in from time to time throughout the trip, here in Chris’ Corner.

Its been a whirlwind first week here in the Czech Republic, and I sit down to write this post as we wait for our bus, en route to Poland for the next stage of the journey.   I am not only left with fond memories of our days spent in Prague, but also a bit of a queezy stomach, and a lingering headache.  This brings me to the topic of Chris’ Corner #1: Czech Beer!

We Canadians think we can handle our liquor, but over here in Czech Republic  the national average is 165 litre of beer consumed per citizen, per year.  As Kathleen mentioned in her blog, this includes the elderly, and young children.  Considering this, the national average is estimated more around the level of 300 litres of beer per person yearly.  You can only imagine what type of stats the heavy drinkers are raking in yearly: they may even surpass Wes Moran.  This is not entirely a surpise, considering beer is literally cheaper than water: a 500 mL beer costs 19 Czeck Krowns (95 cents canadian) in the stores, and as low as 28 Czeck Krowns (1.40 canadian) in Prague.  Pubs in smaller towns charge as low as 90 cents canadian.  These prices include taxes.  Thus, in any restaurant, its common practice to have beers with lunch as well, even on working days.

Pilsner beers are the king, as the first Pilsner was invented in a small town called Plzen (Pilsen) which is about a 2 hour train ride from Prague.  Due to national pride, proximity, and cost, the Pilsner has dominated since its inception hundreds of years ago.  Having said that, the craft brewery scene is alive and well here, not only experimenting with different types of Pilsners, but all other classifications from IPAs to amber ales to double IPAs to Stouts to Porters, etc.  Alcohol content is not an important concept here, as beers instead report “Degrees Plato” which is a measure more reflective of the color, flavors, and aromas of the beer.  It is referred to as the ‘size’ of the beer.  A conversion for us canadians, is that the alcohol content will fall around 40% of the degrees plato.  For example, a beer listed at 10 degrees, will have a content of about 4% alcohol.

Another interesting point, is that the goal in pouring a good Czech beer is to have as much foam as possible.  Sitting at the bar enjoying my first Czech beer experience, I was shaking my head when the bartender handed me a glass which was over a third full of foam.  Here I am thinking I am a beer veteran and know how to pour a beer, but its a whole different world with true Pilsners.  The foam is thick and tasty, often referred to as the “milk” of the beer, and is a key aspect of a good beer. FYI: The foam is delicious.

Our first night in the city, we decided to take in a traditional Czech pub so we walked about 10 minutes from our hostel, through the old town and town square, to a little hole in the wall called ‘U Zlateho Tygra’ which means “The Golden Tiger”.  We were told that it is where the locals go to drink, and is far from a tourist destination, so act accordingly.  We wandered around a last corner, and there it was in all its glory, or not: An old building, windows stained glass black so you couldn’t see through, and the only entrance being through a side alley with the door consisting of only a black curtain.  In we went, and it was jammed to the gills with locals, enjoying their Thursday night.  The only server, a big burly man, motioned us to the only empty table.  As we wondered where the menus were, he pounded down two big Pilsners in front of us, threw down a little piece of scrap paper on the table, and put two lines on it with his pen.  Could this be any simpler? It would make waiters in Canada jealous: the pub only served one type of beer, and in one size.  Effectively, when you ordered, it consisted of YES or NO.  When you were 3/4 through a beer, he would slam another one onto the table and add a tick to your tally on the scrap paper.  Effectively, it wasn’t a YES or NO, it was an implied YES YES YES until you got up from the table and paid.  The burley bald waiter managed to serve the entire pub of over 100 thirsty people by himself, while still managing to slam pint after pint himself.  This scene was a trend that continued in the following days as we made our way through numerous other Prague drinking holes.  Lets just say we were doing our darnest to keep up with the national drinking average throughout our stay.

Another highlight of the beer scene in Prague, was when we made our way up to a Monestary where monks continue to live and practice to this day.  They not only have a long religious tradition, they also have a long brewing tradition.  For hundreds of years they have brewed all their own beers, and only in recent years has the brewing been taken over by a third party.  It was craft beers at their finest.   We were able to try an unfiltered dark porter, an unfiltered amber, and a dark wheat beer made without hops.  We made sure to get a snapchat or two, which I was more than happy to send to Tom Forbes, taunting him a bit, as I know how much he loves both travelling as well as beer.  We figure if I taunt him enough, he will quit his job and join us.  He will have to get used to waking up in Calgary to head to work, with daily snapchats sitting there waiting for him.

We are sad to say goodbye to the Czech Republic, as it treated us well.  Having said that, I am pretty fired up to see what Poland has to offer!!

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Until next time,

Chris

Prague, Czech Republic

Hi everyone!

Firstly, I do apologize to those who are subscribed to the blog, I did try to compose this post earlier but got pulled away and deleated the post as it had only one sentence. I know you still got an email saying I posted, sorry for the confusion!

It has been a whirlwind getting settled into the first (very exciting) days of our trip. We arrived to Prague at 5 pm on the 8th and were extremely pleased with how simple the process to get to the hostel was. Compared to getting around in South America, it couldn’t be easier. We had signed up for a communal supper in the hostel, which cost 50 Czech Crowns which is the equivalent to $2.50. Quite a good value for what we got as it was a home cooked vegetarian meal. We then went for a walk around town, our hostel is a 5 minute walk to the historic old town square, so we are in a perfect place to wander. It was rather cold, so we picked up a mulled wine from a street vendor (warm wine with orange, cinnamon and several other spices) to keep us warm. The old town is absolutely stunning, it is so incredibly well preserved. The numerous different styles of architecture that even our untrained eyes can detect is breathtaking. We decided to take a break from wandering and warm up in a traditional Czech pub. I won’t go into too much detail about the pub as (spoiler alert) it may just be the first post of Chris’s Corner. It was a hilarious experience, and 0.5 L cost us each 27 crown, which is just over a dollar. No wonder the Czech’s drink the most beer per person per country, at a whoping 165L. This average accounts for all ages, even newborns. One can only imagine the amount that is truly consumed by of age adults. We then briefly visited Charles Bridge before jogging home in the rain and rather cold evening.

The next day we went on a free walking tour of Prague which lasted 3 hours. It was very informative and interesting, as we passed many things from the night before that we remarked were interesting, and when the guide explained the story behind them our minds were blown! Had we not joined the tour we would have never known how remarkable these things were. My favorite part was an explanation of a clock on the corner of the historic town square. The night prior we thought “wow, that is a cool looking clock.” The next day with the tour guide we learned the clock accounted for contemporary time, the position of the sun and moon, and the position of the earth in the “center of the universe” as it was believed to be when the clock was made. It also has 4 figures above the clock face and 4 below, with the 4 above representing mortality, greed, vanity and indulgence, and the 4 below representing the “good” fighting the evil so there are angels and saints etc. Every day on the hour 2 windows above the clockface open and 8 figurines protrude and encircle back into their windows to music. While this may just seem like a rather long rant about a clock, I mean it to illustrate the value of the tour as if we had not gone we would have left thinking we saw just a “cool clock.” I would highly recommend the tour to anyone, it is a fabulous way to see the city and learn the history. Later in the evening we went to another traditional Czech bar with a few people we met at the hostel and had a lovely evening. (Resulting in a slight headache this morning).

Today we took the train to Kutna Hora which was an hour train ride away. We showed up exactly 7 minutes before our train was leaving as the seamless journey from the airport to hostel lulled us into a false sense of ease regarding getting around. Needless to say, we did not make the train. Luckily tickets are bought for the day, not specific trains. It took a bit of doing but we figured out where we had to be and when, and made the next train no problem. (For anyone traveling here, the letter “S” in Czech does not represent “South” but rather quite the contrary, representing “North” this caused us a bit of confusion but we got there in the end!) We traveled to Kutna Hora to visit the Bone Ossurary which is a chapel that inside is decorated entirely with bones from 40 000 people. During the war their bodies were dug up for some reason and the blind monk who lived there used their bones to make massive pyramid sculptures. It is said when he finished he regained his eyesight (logically). Others who have tended the chapel have contributed since to the displays. It was a very interesting and unnerving place, it was quite peculiar. We didn’t stay overly long before heading back to the station to catch the train back. It was worth a visit, but was an odd experience I will say. We then bought some groceries to cook meals, as everything is very cheap here. The time difference (5 hours) and beer being cheaper than water has caught up with me so tonight will be an early night.
The plan from here is to spend tomorrow walking around Prague and visiting the castle and the monestary where monks brew beer (isn’t it ironic). Monday we will head from Prague to Poland! The proximity of countries and places is very much appreciated, considering everything in South America was so spread out.

I have attached photos, I will add more tomorrow after our walkabout.

Cheers,
Kathleen

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