Prague 2002-04-19


My first trip to Eastern Europe and my first hop into a former Warsaw Pact country if you don’t count East Germany. Course it has been over a decade since Communism fell and most people just talk about the Prague scenery these days. The majority of soviet-style apartment blocks are on the outskirts and not having a wall to remember, really reducing the historical undertones.

Admittedly, I wasn’t go to Czech to see the city. Jan had started teaching English a month ago, and I was finally able to see her. I always enjoy visiting friends in their new places abroad, and usually they are quite happy to have someone from "back home" to show where they have been living of late. But on this trip, I was going to see Jan, and the fact that I could see Prague in the process was just an added bonus.

It is a very beautiful city, and I was taken on a delightful walking tour with a bread, cheese, wine picnic lunch and dinner at a very cool Vegetarian restaurant. Living in Germany can be affordable, but eating out and going to shows are two of the things one would have to cut down on. It seemed like such a treat to live in such a beautiful European city and be able to afford to do things, rather than just marvel at the scenery. I always thought Paris was a great fifth date, but Prague would offer so much more for the same budget... But in the end, knowing me, I am just too inclined to give my money to airlines and train companies, to go somewhere, just to sit, and look, and savour, and eat the aforementioned picnic...a shame that it is hard to combine my loves of travel and cooking.

We walked across the Charles bridge a few times, as every visitor should. It is nice that such a functional and resilient structure can offer such attraction. I guess that took hundreds of years to prove, but I would imagine that if Toronto wanted to build a "world-class" bridge that people would flock to, they would insist on filling it with over-priced and unappealing attractions and affixing signs with "world-class" over the gates, just above the words "sponsored by..."


Prague 2002-05-09


Went to the wee communist museum with Jan. It is the pet-project of a soviet era antique collector, and is priced well above the local norm for not that much, so it is really is only for tourists (and would make Intourist) proud. Really, ultra-capitalist Czech should put all its effort into marketing its communist past. Germans flock to North America to be Cowboys, Knights and Castles cause the inverse. A nice big state run communist land filled with rusty tanks, big ugly buildings and whatever else would be a great draw. Plus any long queues and mechanical failures could be considered "realistic". Budapest has a big Statue park for such specific capitalisation, I am sure there is enough surplus stuff in every former Warsaw-Pact country to enhance all their big cities.

Bratislava 2002-5-13


When I open a hostel…it very well will be in Bratislava, cause gosh darn it, it needs a hostel downtown. Alas, the city is so quiet and reserved and infested with embassies, to really be a great place for backpackers. I guess it is more likely that I will be some ambassador sipping some overpriced wine in a spotless cobblestone street who is thankful that there isn't a backpacker community tainting the city.



Budapest 2002-05-14


A Budapest! The poor traveller's Paris! I checked into the hostel, and in hindsight realised that it was the first hostel that I have been to since September. It was also full of Canadians, which was a bit of a surprise, since they outnumbered the Americans 10-1 (ah…memories of Keele). So I put my Toronto hat on, joined the "Go Leafs" banter and was on my way.


The city just had that feel. That…you could have a little apartment here feel, sit in that café over there everyday, just do whatever and feel chic about it feel. Indeed, it was also refreshing to see locals, since Prague and Bratislava seemed to be housing half of Munich and New Orleans (and the EU is worried about westward Migration…)