Czech Republic, Poland, Austria & Hungary With Derick   2 comments

Jim, Marilyn & Derick

Oct. 23 – Nov. 12, 2009

Touring Prague, Kunta Hora, Wroclaw, Krakow, Wieliezka, Auschwitz, Vienna, Eger, Budapest, Cesky Krumlof

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Derick completed is service with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria on Oct. 21, 2009.  On the 23rd Jim & I met him in Prague to begin our adventure of touring the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria & Hungary.   I have always wanted to do a trip on our own, by train in Europe and now was the time.  Derick and I conversed many times on Skype and had the itinerary completely planned.  The lodging was already booked and included hostels, pensions, and a couple hotels all of which were carefully selected (by me) to be in the historical old towns.  On-line I bought tickets to performances at the Great Opera Houses of the area.  The Eastern European rail passes were purchased, and to make it a less expensive trip, Jim & I had enough air miles to get a free international RT flight.  Jim had told us that he didn’t want to be on the road for three weeks, so the trip was two weeks, six days!

Since Derick has lived in Europe over two years and has experienced public transportation Jim & I knew we’d have a good tour guide.  And I must say that between Derick and his Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe tour book we were able to figure out most any challenge.  Now, I will also tell you that this kind of travel includes a lot of walking.  But after the first few days Jim & I were marching right along in our usual formation of Derick, Marilyn and Jim, in that order.  Derick was very patient with our plodding along.   And very importantly, we are of the opinion that we ate our way across four countries!  Our itinerary:  Prague Czech Republic, four nights; Wroclaw Poland, two nights; Krakow Poland, four nights; Vienna Austria, two nights; Eger Hungary, one night; Budapest Hungary, three nights; Cesky Krumlof Czech Republic, two nights; and Prague airport hotel one night.

For this travel blog I’m going to post highlights about the splendid places we toured.  I’ve included this map and the red pins indicate the cities we visited.

Map picture

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is the largest town and capital of the Czech Republic.  It is situated on the River Vltava in central Bohemia, where it has been the political, cultural, and economic centre of the Czech state for more than 1100 years.  The old town center is a UNESCO world heritage site.  These are pictures in the old historical center of Prague, and it is so beautiful.  Our hostel was located in the center.  Each evening we enjoyed sitting on one of the benches in the little park and gazing at the beautiful place….as seen in the first picture.

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Prague is famous for the Charles Bridge which crosses the River Vltava near the old historical center.  The building of it began in 1357, it is packed with artists and tourists day and night.

View Charles Bridge

Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, and was constructed in the 9th century.  St. Vitus church lies within the castle grounds, construction began in 1344.  Twice we hiked to the very top of the hill to the Castle area.  It was a lovely place.

View Castle Hill

We attended the Ballet “Romeo & Juliet” and the fantastically beautiful old Opera House in Prague.

View prague opera

Kunta Hora, Czech Republic

While in Prague we caught a local train to Kunta Hora.  We toured the Sedlec Ossuary (Bones Church) and what an experience that was.  The story goes that in 1278 the abbot of the monastery went to Israel and when he came home he sprinkled soil from the holy land over the abbey cemetery.  Everyone wanted to be buried there.  In 1400 a new Gothic church was built on the grounds and mass graves where unearthed during construction.  They used those bones to decorate the Cathedral of our Lady Church.

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St. Barbara’s in Kunta Hora

A UNESCO world heritage site, construction on the Gothic St. Barbara’s was begun in 1388.  St. Barbara is the patron saint for miners which was highly appropriate for a town whose wealth was based entirely on it’s silver mines.  The church had many beautiful altars and stained glass windows.

Wroclaw, Poland

We traveled by train by Prague to Wroclaw Poland.  The Rynek town square is absolutely beautiful and construction of it began in the 13th century.  Across the River Oder lies Cathedral Island, and you guessed it…there are lots of churches there.  One evening we ate in a restaurant in the third story underground of a medieval building, and that was the finest place we ate on the trip.  We even managed to pick up last minute tickets to the opera…a beautiful building but we didn’t enjoy this particular opera.

View Wroclaw 2

Krakow, Poland

Next we were off to Krakow, Poland by train and stayed there four nights.  Our Hostel was literally located on the beautiful old town square.  The city is from the 7th century and the historic center is a UNESCO world heritage site.  Krakow began as a hamlet built on the banks of the Vistula River in the 10th century.  Wawel Hill and the Wawel Castle were constructed in about 1000.  Saw lots of very old and very beautiful places.

View Krakow

Wieliezka Salt Mines, Wieliezka, Poland

While in Krakow we took a bus to the Wieliezka Salt Mine which is a UNESCO world heritage site.  The mine is one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines, being in continuous operation since the 13th century.  We descended a wooden stairway of 378 steps, then the tour was almost two miles of mine’s corridors.  Miners have carved elaborate underground rooms and sculptures within the salt.  The Great Cathedral is a large chamber carved entirely within salt, including floors, walls, ceilings and decorations.  The chandeliers are even made with salt crystals.  The earliest carvings were done in the 1600’s.  Amazing place!

View Wieliczka

Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau Concentration Camps

Also while in Krakow we took a bus to the concentration camps.  The Auschwitz camps were the largest of the German concentration camps.  Auschwitz II-Birkenau was designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.”  From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe.  The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Hess, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trails, that up to three million people had died there, around 90% of them Jews.  It was a somber day, actually being in the place that such atrocity was commented against human beings.

Top row is Auschwitz I and Bottom row is Auschwitz II – Birkenau

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Vienna, Austria

The highlight of our time in Vienna was going the Vienna State Opera house and seeing the Ballet, “Swan Lake.”  It was fantastic!  We had box seats on the third level and they were really good seats.   The next night we saw the opera, “Salome.”  Our seats weren’t as good, because we couldn’t see right stage and missed the beheading of John the Baptist scene of the opera.  Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing.  That opera house is absolutely beautiful, it was worth the price of admission to just get to walk up the grand staircase and see all that beauty.  While in Vienna we also enjoyed going to the Hofsburg Imperial Apartments Museum and the Hofsburg Imperial Treasury Museum.

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Eger, Hungary

Eger has been inhabited since the Stone Age.  Today’s Eger was formed in the 10th century by St. Stephen, the first Christian King of Hungary.  The first cathedral of Eger was built on Castle Hill, within the present site of Eger Castle.  Eger is a small town with a cute little old town and castle area.  Our hotel was right on the little Dobo square with easy access to everything in any direction.

View Eger

Budapest, Hungary

It was just a short train ride from Eger to Budapest.  Our hostel-apartment overlooked St. Stephens Basilica.  That is one awesome church, both inside and outside.  The walked across the famous Chain Bridge to the Buda side and saw the Castle quarter.  It was a foggy, rainy day and we couldn’t get very good pictures looking back at the Pest side with the famous Parliament building and the huge old city.  We had tickets to Ballet “The Brothers Karamazov” at the Hungarian State Opera House.  It was a beautiful place and an enjoyable opera and we had good seats.  Thus my mission was accomplished….the go to a performance at the famous opera houses in Prague, Wroclaw, Vienna and Budapest.

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Cesky Krumlof, Czech Republic

Our last destination was Cesky Krumlof and it was a ten plus hour train-bus ride from Budapest.  I love little medieval towns and Cesky Krumlof was like walking back into time.  Construction of the town and castle began in the late 13th century at a ford in the Vltava River.  It fell into disrepair during communism, but since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the towns former beauty has been restored.  We enjoyed strolling all around the little town and the walk up to the Castle area and on up to the top of the hill where a lake was located.  It was a grand place!

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It was a grand adventure and grand memories…..Dad, Mom and Derick!

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Posted January 9, 2010 by marilynfarmer in Travel

2 responses to “Czech Republic, Poland, Austria & Hungary With Derick

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  1. Prague is beautiful! Let’s go there!

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