As you know Zach and I are on our grand tour of Europe after arriving into Berlin late last week we’ve spent the first few days acclimatizing to European life.
Berlin is an easy city to explore especially once you get your bearings and understand that Under Der Linden divides the city into north and south as it runs east-west across the city from the Alexandraplatz to the Brandenburg Tor (gate). Our hotel was just north and adjacent to the Hackesher Markt and so with close proximity to the city it was a breeze navigating our way around the various neighbourhoods.
Most days we’ve walked between 15 – 18 km’s per day which is good hike especially in 30C plus weather.
It was clear from the onset that Zach identified strongly with the vibe of Berlin which helped him feel right at home and which made for a great start to our adventure. Like most cities Zach loves to explore and figure it out by himself, and so after spending half a day together he was off wandering by himself seeking to discover what makes Berlin tick.
Gee I wonder where he gets his adventurous spirit??? 🙂
On the second night, as we talked over dinner about our experiences that day he said that he could definitely see himself living in Berlin at some point in his life, which he described as incredibly friendly, cosmopolitan and with a strong self of community. He’s right, Europeans are definitely more communal than North Americans, you could see it in the way they congregate in parks, restaurants and markets. Everyone here is your new best friend and incredibly welcoming, it definitely has an old world feel to it which we both find very refreshing!
So after three solid days of exploring Berlin we caught the train to Prague in the Czech Republic. Its a mere five hours by train south east of Berlin but it may as well be in another galaxy. One notable thing in Berlin was that there were very few old buildings, a handful at best that weren’t totally destroyed during WWII. Whereas in Prague is city that you might see in a fairytale with spires everywhere you look. So vastly different!
Zach has had a couple of high points on our visit to Prague. The first was the Castle that overlooks the city, in particular the defenestration room (don’t worry I had to look it up as well…it means the room where people were thrown from the windows). Apparently in the 17th century a bunch of Bohemian nobleman threw two Austrian magistrates and a nobleman from the windows of the castle because they were upset with the Austro-Hungarian rule at the time. Surprisingly, all survived the 30 meter drop.
I must admit its fun traveling with a history and politics aficionado cos’ I’m learning so much as we go. It truly takes traveling to a whole new level…
Crossing the Charles Bridge was another high point here in Prague, especially since it was built in 1357 and is now purely a walking bridge, providing access from the Old City to the New City (lesser town) on the west bank. These two medieval towns make up Prague and both come with an enormous amount of charm, especially with their cobbled streets and beautifully architected old buildings.
As I write this the other interesting thing Zach experienced today was the soccer fans from Red Star Belgrade who are in town for a game tonight against the local Sparta Prague for a Europa League match. Earlier today he was wearing a Sparta t-shirt in the square as we wandered along after breakfast and a guy started chanting to him…neither of us could understand why except that he had a similar shirt and guessed that Zach was ready for the big match tonight…we were clueless at the time.
Not thinking anything more of it until we walked to the main square in the old city for lunch, as we got closer we could hear singing and chanting even from our apartment which is some five blocks from the main square. We didn’t realizing what was going on until we got closer to the square and began noticing the significant police presence on the streets.
The Red Star Belgrade fans had taken over a couple of restaurants that spill out onto the square, it just so happens that the old square is equidistant to the stadium from the train station.
It was a bit of a tricky situation in that the police were on forming up on one side of the square, tourists in the middle and the Red Star fans singing and chanting their team songs from the other. Yep, they were taunting the police…which made for an interesting standoff.
The restaurants didn’t want to upset the fans, so continued to serve them alcohol while many of the tourists began to dissipate from the square. The game starts at 7:00 pm tonight and late this afternoon they were escorted by police through the city to the stadium, with police helicopters hovering overhead and the sound of their chants and songs reverberating through the old streets. Not something you’d experience in North America!
Just another memorable moment that Zach won’t soon forget, although he won’t be wearing his Sparta Prague soccer jersey to dinner tonight, best save that for a quiet night back in Canada. 🙂
Tomorrow we leave for Vienna where we continue our grand tour in the best of traditions.