1.21.2014

5 Things to Czech out in Prague


Prague Castle!
For years, I wanted to go to Prague. One of my favorite artists, Alphonse Mucha (who designed the window below), is from Prague. Ever since some chick told me about a bunch of great Mucha exhibits she saw in Prague, I've wanted to go there and do that. That made Prague a definite plot point in my trip. Besides, I'd seen pictures. I knew it was an un-bombed masterpiece of a city. Before I ever got there, I knew I was in grave danger of falling in love with the city.

Window with an Art Nouview!

Thanks to a couple of scheduling decisions, I visited Prague in mid September. Now, September is a very nice month in many places. In Prague, September is a cold drizzle that just won't quit. Did I fall in love? No. Will you fall in love? Maybe. Here's a five step guide to enjoying yourself, despite the cold:

1. Bundle up super warm, and look at the buildings at night!

The Vatican, according to Eurotrip.
Did I mention that it's cold? There's no denying that the place has a cold beauty. A very cold beauty. Especially at night.

Random towers everywhere!
And the art nouveau influences on the buildings are really a great feature of the city. Take some time to wander around aimlessly in the streets and look at the needlessly pretty detail on the faces of the buildings. You won't regret it, unless you hate things that are pretty.

Mucha more art inside

(That particular building, the Municipal House, even has some interior decorating by Mucha. And a huge gift shop of art nouveau stuff.)

2. Bundle up super warm and look at buildings during the day!

Not domed to disappointment.

Really, there are a ridiculous number of overly ornate buildings.

All agog at a synagogue.
There's also a castle. Did I mention the castle? Most of it is pretty standard castle. But the cathedral is kind of impressive. And that's where you can find the stained glass Mucha artwork from above.

Yep, pretty much like a Cathedral.

And there are more nice churches. If you're into that sort of thing.



3. Make Fun of the lame, but pretty, Astronomical Clock!

One attraction that is universally panned is the Astronomical Clock.
They say it's on par with the Munich clock. This one seems an even more effective snoozefest. On the bright side, it does have a pretty cool Astrological motif.

Technically, it's an Astrological Clock...

4. Listen to Classical Music in a place with great acoustics and pretty!

If you happen to walk by places when performances are about to start, you can get some very cheap tickets. This was the Mirror room, and they played music like Vivaldi four seasons. The sound quality was pretty great. It was civilized. Maybe too civilized.

Entirely too civilized.

5. Go look at bona fide bone church!

If you get really tired of the civility and class of the beautiful city, take a short train ride to Kutna Hora, a small town outside of Prague. 

Do you ever stop and think to yourself "Hey, self, I wonder what they did with all the bones after everyone died in the plague?" If you went to the Paris Catacombs, you would know that some people developed a femur-stacking hobby. If you make it out to the Sedlec Ostuary, you can see that skeletons are art supplies plus. 

Coat of Arms, Legs, and other Bones.

The whole chapel has a bare bones approach to interior decorating.

There's nothing humerus about a Skull Chandelier.

1.16.2014

Facebook Friendships with Travel Friends

So you've been bouncing around somewhere in the world on a massive trip. Your Facebook newsfeed is now in several different languages. (This is awesome, though it sometimes means a sidestep to Google translate to have any idea what your friends are talking about.) Can your new friendships withstand the complicated world of Facebook and internet etiquette across cultures?

There are some very awesome perks of being Facebook friends with the friends you make traveling: 
  1. You get to hear The Fox song before anyone else. 
  2. You get linked to news stories that are different from those your home country's media is fixated on. 
  3. You can practice your foreign language skills and get called out when your Spanish grammar is awful.
  4. You can share memories with the people you experienced them with instead of annoying your friends. 
  5. You can watch their humor styles conflict with other friends.
  6. You can plan future trips to visit each other. 
  7. If you are both traveling to a place you can maybe meet up again and explore a city together!
  8. They might even read your awesome blog! 
  9. They remind you that you didn't dream the whole trip. (As soon as you get home and into a routine, this is a clear and present danger.)
  10. They're awesome. You're awesome. That's why you're friends. And Facebook makes it official.
The people I've met have entirely revitalized my interest in Facebook! It's the easiest way to keep in touch with everyone ever, all at once!

But, you won't see these people in person for, at least, quite some time. How do you ever go about keeping in touch? Everyone is starting from a different cultural context, here.

No matter what your cultural context, 
Here's Some Basic Guidelines on How to Keep in Touch with your travel friends: 
  1. Be genuinely interested in what's going on in their lives. 
  2. Be awesome to each other.
  3. Make sure you can remember in which city you met and generally what you did together. 
  4. Remember, when making jokes, that it is a little harder to convey tone in a Facebook message. 
  5. When you remember an awesome place and the awesome people, take the time to drop your friends a line and remind them that it was awesome and so are they. 
Easy! Done and done. What could ever go wrong?

Usually, nothing. And it's awesome. 

But sometimes--sometimes--you catch up with people and realize that you knew them, really, only for a few hours, and that despite a previously pleasant exchange, their version of an online friendship is fatally different from yours.

Here's some Basic Guidelines on How NOT to keep in touch with your travel (or indeed any) friends:
  1. Do not confuse them with other people and reminisce on the wrong memories. (This will not make them feel special.)
  2. Do not post how much you hate a country, just because you had a bad day the one day you were there. (People from other countries can see you.)
  3. Do not post nationalistic/anti-immigration drivel about how foreigners are bad. (Again, PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU.)
  4. If someone is talking about travel plans, do not go into one-upping mode and talk down to them as if their plans or experiences are invalid and yours are in any way superior. (Yes, everyone is impressed you've been everywhere. No, it actually isn't all about you.)
  5. Do not scream "I've been there!" any time a reference to a place you've been comes up, even if it's a joke. (It's only funny to you. To everyone else it's a little bit braggy.)
The best thing about new far-flung friends is that you are reminded to stay open to different ways of thinking. However, as openminded as you want these communications to be, be aware that, regardless of cultural context, there are some lines you should consider not crossing.

Here's some Basic Guildelines on How to REALLY, SERIOUSLY, NOT keep in touch with your travel (or indeed any) friends:
  1. Look at the messages you are sending, and consider, before you send it, would it be considered wildly inappropriate if communicated in person? If not, do not send it. (It won't go well.)
  2. Do not message them just to tell them that they are super hot. (They're aware.)
  3. Do not ask about your new friend's sex lives out of the blue. If an acquaintance wants talk about their personal life, they will bring it up. (Facebook is not OKCupid.)
  4. If someone tells you they don't want to talk about whatever subject, respect their wishes and let it go. (Persistence is a virtue. Except when it's not. Then you're annoying)
  5. If someone does not want to talk about what you want to talk about, do not bait them and insult them. (It makes you look really mature.)
  6. In brief, don't be a creeper in person. Don't be creepy. Don't be creepy online.  It destroys friendships. (Unfortunately, there is no complete guide to internet etiquette. But come on.)
  7. Do not message people every day when they do not respond. (See above.)

There you have it! A complete guide to cross-ocean friendships. Travel is broadening, and introduces you to new people and new modes of thought. Staying friends with people from far off places remind you to keep a broad and open way of thinking. But there's a line between broad and open and creepy. It's not even a fine line. It's easy to see, and easy to avoid. Don't be creepy.

1.06.2014

How to Avoid Being in Munich, in Munich


All year long, it kinda looks like Christmas.

Chances are, if you find yourself in Germany, you'll stop in Munich sooner or later. 

You may be the kind of person that will walk into the old town and discover a beautiful quaint city of eternal Christmas and fall over from excitement. 

Every year, The Glockenspiel scores just below Prague's Astronomical Clock
as "most underwhelming attraction ever."
Traditions are rampant. You can wander around a very traditional food-market, and find all kinds of bratwurst--even horse sausage! But wait, there's more! Like really big May poles!

May Poll Question: do we need a May Pole?
And after seeing all that, chances are you might want to change things up a little and see something interesting. You're in luck! There are things to do near Munich.

1. Visit Neuschwanstein castle!

Located in F├╝ssen, a couple hours train ride from Munich, you can visit this lovely castle that inspired Disney's logo. There are some surrounding lovely mountains that you can stroll through. And a lake. Though I'd advise to to stroll around the lake rather than through it.

View from Marienbr├╝cke: aka tourist photo bridge.

It's a magical place. You can take horse carriages or a bus to the top of the hill. But if you take the time to walk, you might get a chance get swept into a fairytale.

And meet your toad prince!


2. Visit Dachau!

For less of a fairytale, visit a concentration camp! You can get photos and ammunition against any Holocaust deniers you meet. And it's only a 20 minutes bus ride from Munich. 

Legally prohibited from inserting a witty caption.


3. Oktoberfest!

Ok, this one is inside Munich. And there's nothing I can tell you about Oktoberfest that you don't already know.

Unless you do not already know the following key points:
  • It starts in September, not October. Next year the first event is Sept 20th, and the last is Oct 5th.
  • If you want to get inside a beer tent and drink, make a reservation and/or get there stupid early.
  • People watching is awesome: the lederhosen is pretty funny and the dirndls are super cute. 
  • Accommodation is super expensive, but you can find a way to make it work.

Oktoberfest is in tents.
And if you've had too much to drink and feel the need to get rid of your alcohol, there are a huge range of roller coasters, drop zone rides, and spinning teacups to choose from!

It's like a monster county fair.

4. The Olympic Stadium

It's something like 20 minutes from the central Munich station on public transit.You can pay to do some stuff, like zip line or whatever. But if you are feeling cheap, it's also a nice place to walk around and relive the glory of sports.

It's like a miniature Mount Olympus!
A stroll on a lovely day is highly recommended, to take in the sun and sit on the grass, and admire the retro-futurist design elements.

Live your Olympic dreams and sit around in a park!