Travel

Ljubljana travel highlights

Ljubljana riverfront - cultivatedrambler.comstayed: Our one and only hostel, Hostel Celica which was a converted Soviet jail. Each cell was designed by a local artist and ours included bunk beds with intricately carved wood work. Although a bit of a walk from the main core, it included breakfast and offered inexpensive dinner options too. You guys, having breakfast = key to success. I never had to wait for a shower in the mornings and they even gave you a fan in the room. This is a well-run establishment folks. Highly recommended even if you don’t think you’re a hostel person. Try it!

Lake Bled, Slovenia - cultivatedrambler.comBled Castle, Slovenia - cultivatedrambler.comPredjama Castle, Slovenia - cultivatedrambler.comPostojna Cave, Slovenia - cultivatedrambler.comsaw: Slovenia in One Day Tour. Highly recommended! It is a bit steep on the price side, but I think you get your money’s worth seeing some of the most spectacular sights in the country. Stops included: Bled Island, Bled Castle, Predjama Castle and a spooky trip to the Postojna Cave.

Ljubljana graffiti - cultivatedrambler.comWe took a free walking tour the second day we were there. Local architect Jože Plečnik pretty much designed everything in the city including the funky bridges. His name comes up A LOT. I will ace this Jeopardy question one day…Also, graffiti is a thing here. It’s everywhere and VERY cool.

A milk machine kiosk! Local farmers bring their unpasteurized milk and literally dump it in the machine for people to purchase. They even had a variety of bottles for you to choose from. Mind blown.

conquered: An 8 hour bus ride with two border crossings. With the train situation being a bit sketchy while we were there, I opted to book us a bus to Slovenia. We had to cross the Croatian border twice during that trip so there was a lot of getting on and off the bus with passports. I’d say half the drive was just getting on and off the bus.

Dragon Bridge Ljubljana - cultivatedrambler.comLjubljana has a thing for dragons and the Dragon Bridge fully represents that!

Ljubljana farmer's market - cultivatedrambler.comBe still my beating heart! A Farmer’s Market you say? Open every day? I’m packing up my bags and moving here right now.

Ljubljana Castle - cultivatedrambler.comLjubljana Castle, which is also a beautifully renovated event space too. Get outta here. This event planner liked that.

other travel notes: This was by far our favorite city. Note to travelers – If you plan on being in this neck of the woods, give this country a few days. I wish we’d had more! What beautiful countryside ready for exploring!

I’m pretty sure we ate at a restaurant with foul (aka baby horse) on the menu :-/ Sorry Liz.

They are on the euro, which is nice IF you remember that AND kept your euros from Amsterdam. Yeah, we didn’t.

Ljubljana Main Square, Slovenia - cultivatedrambler.comThe statue in their main square is of a local poet and his topless muse. Not a war hero gallantly riding his steed, but a poet. Notice the tree to the left – planted to keep her lovely nude figure hidden out of site when you exit the church after services. That right there sums up this country.

At this point in the trip, we were OVER paying for bathrooms and water. Ljubljana was a breath of fresh air with free bathrooms and free water fountains!

Try those greasy bureks. Yum. And they make this red pepper spread that’s the bomb too.Ljubljana art - cultivatedrambler.com

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Budapest travel highlights

The Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest - cultivatedrambler.comstayed: An air bnb in the shadiest looking building but holy geeze, it was amazing on the inside. It looked straight out of an IKEA catalog all shiny and white-like. I didn’t want to leave! I wouldn’t consider Budapest an easily walk-able city, but this apartment was in a decent location to all public transportation lines. It was also close to plenty of good restaurants.

saw: A whole ton of PDA. European teenage boys are the kings of it I think. On the bus, at dinner, on the street…you name it. We saw one try to get to second base on the tram! Sheesh.

Ruin Pub, Budapest - cultivatedrambler.comA laid back ruin pub. As I recall it was a Sunday night, so things weren’t poppin’ but I could see why this outdoor bars were so popular.

Kelti Train Station, Budapest - cultivatedrambler.comThe infamous Kelti Train station. We’d seen this place on the news a lot prior to our trip and I was a bit worried about what it’d be like there. We arrived on our second overnight train around 8:00 a.m. and found the station to be very quiet. As we made our way to the subway, we did see some tents and a few groups of people sleeping.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest - cultivatedrambler.comThe Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest - cultivatedrambler.comconquered: The Szechenyi Baths. We weren’t able to check in until later in the afternoon so figured chilling at the bathhouse was the best way to kill a few hours. The hot water felt SO good after another bumpy train ride. All shapes and sizes were present strutting their stuff. It’s a huge facility with three large pools outside plus a bunch inside with hotter than hot steam rooms.

Drying laundry on a train – check!

Chain Bridge, Budapest - cultivatedrambler.comThe highly recommended Absolute Walking Tour which included a strudel stop and a recommended gelato stop, which we made later that day. Oh and yes, they did show us the main sights in the city too 🙂

Fisherman’s Bastion – the best view of the city IMO!

other travel notes: They’ve got small cabins (basically a small closet) to rent at the bathhouse that fit all of our backpacks, etc. so we didn’t have to worry about storing our stuff in another location. Note to travelers – Bring a towel if you got it, or else you have to rent ‘em. OK to bring in food and booze too.

Fisherman Bastion, Budapest - cultivatedrambler.comAll of the buildings on the hill of the Buda side were destroyed by the Nazis so everything you see there has been re-built. A big bummer for this history buff because things felt a bit “new” over there, but what can you do?

The streets can look rough, but it’s totally safe to walk around. I’d feel totally comfortable walking around by myself at night.

Note to travelers – Order the chicken paprika with dumplings. You won’t regret it. Best strudel place: ReteshazBest gelato place: Gelarto Rosa.

Budapest treats - cultivatedrambler.com

 

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Krakow travel highlights

Krakow Main Square - cultivatedrambler.comstayed: An air bnb on a bustling street right next to the tram. It was a crazy funky room in a shared apartment. We were only there for one night and had a bit of a shocking wake-up call when our host thought we were gone and attempted to start cleaning up our room :-/ I would recommend staying closer to the main square where most of the action is.

saw: Auschwitz and Birkenau. A sad, but necessary stop in our itinerary. The scale of Birkenau was mind blowing and just sickening. It was just rows and rows of old chimney stacks where the structures used to be. Our guide told us that the amount of visitors they see per day (up to 10,000) were the amount of people that were brought here daily during the war. Shudder.

Auschwitz, Poland - cultivatedrambler.comWe had a brilliant driver for the day though and chatting with him was very insightful. I really enjoyed grilling him about his country, the refugee crisis and his puppy Winston 🙂 He also helped us switch around our tour time so that we had more time in Krakow. Note to travelers – highly recommend this car service. Ask for Bart. He was really, really great.

Wawel Castle. Not much to report here, but walking the grounds were free.

The Main Square. Holy square! Probably the most impressive part of the city.

Wawel Castle, Krakow - cultivatedrambler.comconquered: People watching and dessert in the square. Try Słodki Wentzl, a local favorite I’m told.

Our first night train from Prague. Ugh. Probably the single most horrible way to travel. Sure, it gets you from point A to point B but at the detriment of your health and well-being. I had all sorts of romantic notions of a slowly swaying night train but alas, this was NOT it. The train started, stopped, reversed and slowed down on repeat ALL NIGHT LONG. I was abruptly woken up all night long thinking we were at our destination.

Night train from Prague to Krakow - cultivatedrambler.comOur first laundry wash. Granted, our host started the washer, but we proudly hung everything up on the drying racks. Ahhh, fresh clothes!

A milk bar! We went to this one. Basically a cafeteria concept made popular after World War 1 and carried through to the Soviet era. Now, they’ve become small, inexpensive restaurants that take advantage of welfare state nostalgia. I wouldn’t say this was our best meal, but it was a fun experience. And no, they don’t just serve milk!

Krakow eats: dessert, perogi, Milk Bar - cultivatedrambler.comother travel notes: Residential homes bordered both concentration camps and I wondered how people felt about living next to such horrible places. I suspect home prices reflected these less than stellar locations but still….Also, some people in our tour group took photos of themselves in front of every building in Auschwitz, which seemed very strange to me.

Krakow felt like a college town. Peeps were y-o-u-n-g making this gal feel o-l-d.

We were in Krakow on a Friday night and tons of people were on date night. Most women carried these cute lil bouquets of flowers given to them by their significant others. I found this very romantic.

Perogi = breakfast heaven.

Also, booking trains over the pond was harder than I imagined. I used this site to help me navigate the confusing websites. Also, trust your conductor to let you know when to get off the train. They start and stop a lot and we actually got off at the wrong stop. Luckily, ours waved us back inside before it was too late. My bad.

Krakow art - cultivatedrambler.com

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Prague travel highlights

Prague skyline - culitvatedrambler.com

stayed: An air bnb right on freakin’ Old Town Square, which is where a ton of the major sites are located. It was baller status people. You could spit on the Tynn Church if you wanted to. Highly recommended and the host gave us all sorts of restaurant recommendations, which is a huge help when you have to make that decision three times per day. #travelerproblems

saw: Old Town Square including Tynn Church and the Astronomical Clock.

The mall Footlocker twice. You’d be surprised just how hard it was to find decent replacement tennis shoes, which I never did. Anyone want an EU Footlocker gift card?

Charles Bridge, Prague - cultivatedrambler.com

Charles Bridge on a rainy, moody afternoon. Do your research before rubbing a status on there for good luck. We rubbed the wrong one. Whoops.

Cesky Krumloff, Czech Republic - cultivatedrambler.com
A day trip to the charming castle town of Cesky Krumloff. Note to travelers – use Student Agency bus service. It’s very easy AND they have wifi! Join up with a walking tour with local guide. And don’t forget to see the bears. Rawr.

John Lennon Wall, Prague - cultivatedrambler.com

Cheeky Prague art - cultivatedrambler.com

John Lennon Wall and other cheeky Prague art.

Prague Castle, which I’d recommend get there early, like right when they open. They have a decent audio tour that’s reasonable. Note to travelers – before you do anything else, get into the Cathedral before the hordes of tour buses arrive.

conquered: How to successfully ice my feet each night. Frozen water bottles = success.

Prague public transportation. The maps look confusing but it was pretty straightforward. Great for getting around if you aren’t able to walk a ton.

How to avoid “noise” in photographs. Prague is crowded with a capital “C” and trying to capture photos around them is an acquired talent.

other travel notes: Good restaurants include: Mincovna right on Old Town Square and Lokal, which is near the Jewish Quarter. Our host told us that restaurants don’t stay open late, and he was right. Note to travelers: plan on eating dinner semi-early in Prague. Bars are open until the wee hours though. Breakfast is hard to find too. Cheerios, yogurt and apples became our go-to for the rest of the trip.

Appetizers at Lokal Restaurant, Prague - cultivatedrambler.com

If you see something you think you might need, buy it right then and there! You don’t know how many times I kicked myself in the ass on this one. Ugh. A prime example – a pharmacy is different than a drug store. You can only find important things such as Aleve at a pharmacy NOT a drug store. Get that ‘ish when you can.

Dogs can go everywhere and 99% of them are off leash, even on busy streets! Those were some well-behaved pooches. Perhaps I should ship Stella off to Eastern Europe for some training!

Tynn Church, Prague - cultivatedrambler.com

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Amsterdam travel highlights

Amsterdam canal and boat - cultivatedrambler.com

OK, quick and dirty recaps of each city we visited coming your way! First off, our first stop – duh. Amsterdam.

stayed: An air bnb in the Leidseplein district. We stayed in a shared apartment on a canal (!) that was very easy to get to from the airport. We took the bus into town with no issues. It was a classic, old school apartment with crazy narrow, steep steps. I don’t know how an intoxicated person would make it up and down them without breaking a leg! It was very close to the museums and Vondel Park, but not so close to the bustling Red Light district and where I’d say the better restaurants are located.

Flower market, Amsterdam - cultivatedrambler.com
saw: A dad on his bike, with a dog in the front basket and his child standing on the back hanging onto his shoulders on the way to school. Talent. Pure bike talent. A lady on a bike full on kick a car who almost hit her and the street fight that ensued. I thought Amsterdam peeps would be a lil more chill then that :-/ Tons of canal boat houses that made me want one – BAD. School kids taking recess in a local park playing, wait for it, dodge ball. That would never happen in the U.S.! Such a dangerous game 🙂

conquered: Rijksmuseum. I die for those still life paintings. And Rembrandt? You’re cool and all but man, the crowds! Note to travelers – bring your own ear buds so you can follow the free app tour on your iPhone.

Rembrant Rijksmuseum- cultivatedrambler.com
Apple pie with extra whipped cream? ‘Nuff said.

The line for the Anne Frank Museum. We got in line a little after 8:00 a.m., thinking we’re smarter than everyone else. Yeah, not so much. Hundreds of others thought so too. We did eventually get in around 10:30 a.m. Note to travelers – purchase this ticket ahead of time if you can. That way, you won’t have to stand in that long line.

Mike’s bike tour. Highly recommended. I’d suggest doing a bike tour first so you get the lay of the land. Then you can go back to the places you thought were most interesting.

Mike's Bike Tour, Amsterdam - cultivatedrambler.com

other travel notes: Brown cafes aren’t THAT amazing. Everything purchased were spiffs. You might as well just smoke a ciggy, but I guess that’s how people can spend hours in the cafes and not end up on their faces. Make good shoe choices. I wore Nike Airs on our museum day and got a nice, painful case of planar fasciitis that took a week to clear up. You kind of need to be able to walk whilst traveling and this was a huge setback for me at first. I cried like a big ole baby but then discovered bike tours, which helped me stay off my feet AND still see the city. Mint tea. OMGee. Fresh mint tea. Just take sprigs of mint and shove them in a cup of hot water. Genius.

Canal view, Amsterdam - cultivatedrambler.com

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