Summer in Europe Part IV: Czech Republic

The last country I could visit before the clouds became more of a permanent fixture in the sky was Prague. My cousin and her fiancé came to Frankfurt for a week and a half to see me and with a train ride to the Czech Republic just 80 euros return it was a brilliant chance to experience one of the few cities my parents have been to in Europe and continually recommended to me.
It’s a six hour train from Frankfurt to Prague, and part of the ‘train ride’ which you book with Bahn includes a bus change.

Trying to get the most out of our days we left at 6am on the Sunday and were in the capital by midday. One of the things I love about the Bahn trains is how good the service is; after experiencing some of the worst public transport in my life in London it’s nice that when you have a bus on your journey, it’s the best damn bus you’ve ever seen and so comfortable I fell asleep somewhere in Germany and woke up driving past the Pilsner factory.

Upon arrival in Prague we explored the city and the markets and checked out the local brew and food. To me Prague is very similar to Germany, but one definite highlight was their soup which comes in a big piece of bread rather than a bowl. One of my favourite things in the whole world is soup and bread, it got me through many sicknesses in Melbourne and debilitating hangovers in London. Another local specialty you can’t get in Germany is Absinthe. Heading to the Absinthe museum, we queried where we could find the entrance at the bar. ‘This is it’ was their response as they motioned to the bar behind them, and so in the absence of any real artwork we decided to sample some absthine ice creams.

The Absinthe museum

I don’t know what the hell was in those ice creams but it turned things that weren’t funny into the most hilarious that I had ever seen or heard. It certainly became a museum of comedy if it wasn’t one before and after two helpings and a shot of ‘sperm’ we wandered around the city streets in a state of euphoria that i’m sure many Prague folk have also done at one time or another over the last few hundred years or so.

Being the tourists that we are no city break would be complete without an open top bus tour. It’s like a compact tasting of everything so you can decide exactly how much you want to do now and later if ever again. We were able to get in the castle, the jewish district and the monastery which served it’s own brew all in a day and saw all the sights of the city from their famous bridges to one of the ugliest buildings in the world (it has creepy looking babies crawling up it) and their version of the Eiffel Tower, which is proudly a teeny bit taller than the Paris one.

Chillin on the open top bus

I loved Prague but am not sure there’s much else to do than what we saw and experienced. It was the perfect little city break, and by the time the train was coming two nights later we were ready to head home. I didn’t get to experience the nightlife so much apart from our fun with the Absinthe, and this is probably why I’ll return some day.

Prague’s centre square
So many beautiful monuments in this compact city

Coming back on the late train is like a really early morning flight; you think it’s a brilliant idea when you book it but at the time you’re cursing your past self. When we finally got in at midnight bed couldn’t have felt better to fall into, and as I woke up early the next morning to start work I contemplated what Autumn in Germany would be like.

With Oktoberfest coming up in a few weeks as well as a visit from my mother and the boy’s birthday things wouldn’t be slowing down any time soon. And organising a hens party for another Frankfurt expat would also be keeping me busy in this place that has quickly become my home.


Summer in Europe Part III: Ireland

Two weeks after arriving back in Frankfurt and just after we’d settled back in, it was time to pack our tiny Ryanair-approved bags and head off to Ireland for a good friend’s wedding. After finding that flights to Dublin (where the wedding was) were about 200 euros more expensive than Kerry, we decided to head to Kerry, see some Irish greenery, then hire a car and drive across the country to Dublin for a night of beer and jigs before heading to the wedding on the Sunday.

With only the option of manual cars (unless you are happy to pay double) we had a tough decision to make – who will learn quicker, the boy on the wrong side of the road (for him) or me in a car where i can’t just push the gear to ‘D’ for the first time in my life?! We decided on the former. A few pull-ins to discuss the road rules and a small clipping of another car later – no damage to either of us luckily – he seemed to get the hang of it. And despite the windy roads our car proved to be very easy to get around in.

One of the weirdest things about being in Ireland for me was the fact that everyone spoke English. Seeing signs and understanding them, being able to order food without feeling slightly embarrassed and asking complex questions are things which I’m now totally used to not being able to do. It was like the radio was tuned into my station for a couple of days and no longer on white noise! As I learn more German I understand more but the effort is sometimes so tiring. To walk into a chemist, find the isle with what I wanted easily and pay without question felt like a nice emotional break.

But back to Ireland – we started in Kerry staying at a lovely bed and breakfast that served pancakes for breakfast. The boy’s experience of British food (I know we were in Ireland but the food is very similar) is particularly limited, so the first meal we went for was a roast. Delicious. Then we trekked to the Gap of Dunloe and went on a 2 hour walk interrupted by rain, but it was well worth it to get wet for the views.

Gap of Dunloe – Kerry

Having been in Frankfurt and two very summery holiday destinations, I’d forgotten my umbrella and the clothes that are generally appropriate for British (and surroundings) weather. As a result, when I say we got wet, we were drenched. It was a nice reminder though that while I might not be able to understand the street signs in Germany, at least for me now a summer is a summer and the sky doesn’t look like the above :)

We made a quick dash before the sun went down through the national park to see a castle and although it was smaller than the ones I was used to it was equally beautiful and so quintessentially Irish.
Kerry National Park
A quick 3km walk to the castle capped off the perfect day in Kerry
So after a night checking out the local pubs in Kerry – when ordering a shepherds pie with a side of chips the boy commented ‘they really eat a lot of potatoes here don’t they? – we headed off early in the morning to Dublin. Meeting up with some of my oldest and closest friends was great, and though we had planned to spend the afternoon sight-seeing the only sight-seeing we ended up doing was the inside of pubs at Temple Bar. A cocktail here, a Bulmers Irish Cider there, a wine in the next place, and by the end of the night I was just drunk enough to not be too bothered by the awful over-priced Hostel we were staying at.

The morning saw us busily ironing and getting ready in said awful-hostel – which isn’t easy when you’re attempting to look wedding-style perfect surrounded by backpackers drinking cans of beer at 9am. The drive to the church wasn’t too long and then when we arrived at the reception and checked into our hotel, it was so much better than we ever imagined. This wedding was in the most romantic and intimate Irish castle I’d seen.

The reception venue – perfect

It was a big night which involved a few trips to our room for top-ups of alcohol and by the end of it we were the only ones left on the dance floor, and singing Australian football songs with the groom’s grandmother at 3 in the morning. It was the perfect day and as we fell into bed we were not looking forward to getting up and making the four hour drive back to Kerry airport the next day.

The drive was long and filled with hangover pangs and the dash to the plane was even more difficult, but as we were bumped back onto the Ryanair plane I felt pretty grateful to my boyfriend for being willing to drive across a country – and back – in order to go to a wedding where he wouldn’t understand all of the language and meet a lot of people for the first time. It was a pretty big thing to do, particularly on the back of a very expensive holiday across Croatia and Hungary. So thanks Ireland, for strangely enough, making a little atheist like me feel pretty blessed.