I’m sitting in the shade of a big walnut tree, outside of an old Czech Manor or mini castle in a place called Elbancice. I’m sampling another of the tasty amber beverages the Czechs are known for, as I’m quite thirsty after a bit of a bike ride into the nearest town, Mlada Vozice, perhaps 5 km away. It’s my second full day here, and its a bit of a change of pace and outlook compared to the previous 10 days or so.
I’m in the countryside surrounded by fields of wheat, with forrests of oak and pine overlooking it all. It’s nice to hear the sound of birds again. It’s quite a peaceful spot.
So I’m staying here for another of those Workaway situations. I hadn’t planned on it initially, but I received a phone call when I was in Zagreb from my original Czech workaway telling me they had to go to Switzerland and wouldn’t be able to have me until later, but they got me in touch with their friend Marcel who owns a big castle type thing, who would certainly appreciate the help. So here I am.
The place has a historical significance because of the natural waters that used to flow here. There was a chapel over the baths, and a massive estate house/castle built to accommodate the daily excursions of folk visiting the baths. Apparently when they built a road nearby, they must have struck the water flow as it stopped. So the chapel and baths went to ruin, but the house has lingered on with a high level of charm and uniqueness.
In exploring the place when I first got here, I discovered a large selection of antique swords and axes, that was cool. As I’ve seen plenty of them in the museums that I’ve visited, but never have i been able to hold them and swipe the air with them, well, thats a different feeling.
So yeah I’ll be here until the 9th then I’ll head over to the other place where I’d originally planned to go. So yeah I’ve got a bit of time to enjoy in the Czech Republic.
But how did I get here?
Well, I spent another beautiful day in Split, Croatia, the rugby turned out to be alright. Not exactly too flash, but not too bad. There was also some games on the next day as well so that was a treat.
I liked Split, it had a cool Mediterranean feel to it. I liked Zagreb too, the capital of Croatia. Though I was only there for an afternoon, but what I saw I liked. I went to the “Museum of broken hearts and failed relationships”. Mainly because I hadn’t seen anything like that before, and a little curious. It wasn’t that great to be honest, some of the stories donated by people were not that surprising as to their failures, some fairly twisted and broken people out there.
I did get to sit and enjoy some of Croatia’s finest Craft beers though, surprise surprise. Was at the Golden Bear, and it was terrific.
The other highlight of my trip to Zagreb was almost loosing my iPad again. I was on the tram back to where I was staying, and I got chatting to a Croatian fella now living in the States, and we were having a good conversation when all of a sudden it was my stop. So I bid him farewell, shook his had and got off the tram. Only to realise perhaps 5 steps later that “CRAP” my iPad was still on the tram now moving away at speed.
Many a scenario past through my head as to what I should do; go back to where I was staying and hope my host could track it down, run after the tram, or try and swallow the loss. I didn’t do any of those, instead I sat there and waited. I waited for the next tram number 6 which came along 8 minutes later. I explained to the conductor guy my situation, thankfully he understood English and was able to suggest getting out at the next station as that tram with my iPad should be coming along shortly. He was right, it came chugging along imminently and its conductor was ready for me, reaching out his window holding my iPad book case thing. Pretty thankful. That’s the second time my negligence hasn’t cost me…
The following morning I took a train for Budapest, a place I had heard many a good thing.It was probably one of the better train journeys I’ve had. I met and chatted with two other fellow travellers, and shared a first class private booth, a good way to spend 4 hours.
In Budapest I was not disappointed. Firstly, my accomodation was 10 metres from a craft beer bar, that was nice, but also Budapest is very beautiful, charming and a great place to walk around. The only complaint would be the number of other travellers with the same idea. So many tourists, tour groups, school groups, stag and hen weekends, and general revellers to contend with. Still I enjoyed myself.
Not however to the full extent of what was on offer in Budapest. I was offered cocaine at one point, by one of the most unlikeliest drug dealers. I was walking back to my place after checking out the city at night, probably around midnight, I was almost home when I walked past a youngish fella out walking his dog, with his lady. I walk past him and he called back to me, then comes closer asking with a pronounced stutter, “you want any c-c-c-c-cocaine?” “Nah, I’m alright thanks” was my polite response. “What about some m-m-marijuana?”, to which again I graciously decline his generous offer, “nah, I’m all good thanks bro.”
So yeah, turns out Budapest is a bit of a party town by night, and the locals will spot foreigners and offer them all kinds of drugs, as another fella I chatted to also told me, as I saw him get offered them right in front of me. To be honest, I preferred what Budapest had to offer during the daytime.
One more unexpected thing however, was on my final night there, I had heard about a really beautiful old theatre that had been made into an eclectic movie theatre, and it was really close by. So I went to go have a wee nosey, and yeah it was pretty darn beautiful, but the cooler thing was one of the movies they were advertising was “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. Turned out it was their main movie that night, so I thought why not, I’m in Budapest. I found myself sitting to some nice young German ladies who had heard a great deal about the movie and were very excited to see it. So I let them know I was happy to answer any questions they might have about the New Zealand peculiarities from the movie. It was nice to hear the laughter and appreciation for a now classic Kiwi film. Though I did find that I was the only one laughing at certain moments.
I pushed onto Bratislava the following day after spending 4 days in Budapest, and to be fair to Bratislava, I probably should have visited it after Bosnia, as it was a bit of a step down from Budapest. The train station was old and run down, apparently the city had been battling corruption in trying to get it renovated. But that wasn’t the depressing part, it was walking down to where I was staying, through derelict, graffiti ridden parks, along uninspiring streets to a hostel, where I had the pleasure of sharing 3 nights with 3 other dudes, two of whom, loved a good snore. But I digress, Bratislava, I heard, has a very cool old town and square, again I was a bit underwhelmed, sure it was nice, but the communists sure did a number of the place. Very drab 4 story buildings, with not much in the way of beauty, apart from a change of colour here and there. I walked around pretty much all it had to offer in the space of 2 hours. I began to regret committing to 3 days here, but I’d already paid for my accomodation. I figured a couple of day trips to Vienna would be a better use of my time, as it is only 45 mins away.
So the next day, I jumped on a bus first thing and headed to Austria’s capital, a place stepped in real history, power and prestige, and I was not disappointed.
It was just great! Once I got off the subway station into the heart of the place I was just a happier person. Vienna has class, beauty and sophistication. Beautiful streets, buildings and many a wonderfully kept park. It even had a whole punch of folk dressed up like Mozart asking me to come to their performances.
I very much enjoyed Vienna! It’s not surprising really that Vienna is so very nice. When you think of its history. It was the power and influence behind the building of much of Eastern Europe. The Austro-Hungarian empire was quite a biggy, and it was home to a number of very fascinating people.
I left it with every intention of returning there the following day. However, when I got back to the vastly quieter Bratislava, I had to check the reality of my spending that day. It was a hefty day, museums and food was probably 3X the usual, or rather what I had become accustomed to in Eastern Europe. So I sadly had to put a pin in Vienna, and try to enjoy a quiet day in Bratislava.
I just faffed about, had an average coffee, attempted to visit a museum which was naturally closed. I thought I’d hire a bike to go out to another museum at a castle, but that was also closed. So I went to the castle the commies built in the 50’s. It was a white block with 4 cylinder turrets, thats about it.
I tried to make the most of it by reading in the park beneath it. That was nice until an English girl of perhaps 7 years came off a swing nearby and probably broke her arm. That was poor.
The poorest thing though was the inaction of the dad.
When it happened, mum ran over there in an instant, and dad just reluctantly followed suit. Mother then looked to comfort the girl, dad watched on. It didn’t look like they were going to be able to get her back down to the main road, as mother was trying to coax the girl, and dad held the bag.
I didn’t feel it my my place to interject, but I felt I needed to do something, so I went over there and asked if they had any items in their bag that might be useful in making a tourniquet. “Oh no, I don’t think so” says dad looking… and pulls out a spare girls dress. “That’ll do”, I say and get to work, remembering my wilderness first aid training, and trying to put little Isabel at ease in the whole situation. She could move her fingers, but it hurt a lot, and she couldn’t raise it up, so I made it immobile by tying it to her side and got her walking down. She didn’t like the idea of going to the hospital, but by the look of the swelling that had recently appeared, that’s was going to have to happen. I regret not seeing them all the way down, but figured I’d done enough.
So yeah, Bratislava, ruining everyone’s day since ages ago.
I was glad to be getting on an early train for Prague the next day, but it probably wasn’t early enough as I was joined the night before by the snoring champion of Syria, a good guy when awake, but a complete ballhead when asleep. Prague from what I saw of it was pretty darn nice, fricken hot, but nice.
I gladly paid the 24hour bag storage fee to briefly walk around outside to get a SIM card for my phone. Once that was sorted I got in touch with Marcel, the guy I’m staying with in his Castle for the workaway, who picked me up from the train station, and gave me a small tour of the city in the car. It’s handy as he spends half his time in Prague, so knows it well. The other half is spent at his country Castle, accomodating guests and weddings, and from that, renovate the place. That’s where I come in, I guess.
I’m pretty stoked I’m getting to have these experiences in far away places, it’s pretty unique.
On my return from the bike ride today I stopped off at a much older castle, well the ruins of it. And there is a homestead nearby, where the people have utilised their location by putting on an annual medieval fair over the weekend. I’m told there will be a number of cool things to see, do and taste. So yeah, thats my weekend sorted:)