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Eastern Europe
September 17, 2004

Hello friends, family and acquaintenances! This e-mail is coming to you live from Prague in the Czech Republic!

We are on a 3 week trip of Eastern Europe. We're starting off in the Czech Republic, then heading to Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and then finishing off in Croatia.

We started the trip in Toronto, as we had a wedding to attend to there. As is the case at any event where alcohol is free, it was a blast. It was held at a lovely home, with a backyard pool, which many guests inevitably ended up in, fully clothed, after tossing back a few.

From Toronto we flew to London, via Air Transat (a charter company). Now, those who know me, know that I will put up with any level of discomfort to save a buck, but Air Transat is a whole new level in "no-frills" airlines. The seats are so small that your knees touch the seat in front of you BEFORE your fellow passenger decides to recline his/her seat.

On most airlines, requesting the window seat is a smart move, because you can tilt your head, and have a little snooze against the glass. Not on Air Transat. If you so much as try to turn your head to look out the window you will already have bumped your forehead against it. I dropped an item on the floor and nearly required shoulder surgery after contorting my body ways I never knew to be physically possible to retrieve it. I wish I was exaggerating! I'm certainly not looking forward to the 9 hour flight back to Calgary in a month.

But enough whining. Arriving in London, jet-lagged and weary, we caught our ridiculously cheap flight to Prague on EasyJet (great airline, think WestJet but for Europeans). Prague is a beautiful city, and we got to see a lot of it as we wandered around trying to find our hostel (The Golden Sickle).

They claim to be the 3rd highest ranked hostel in the world, but I'm not sure that's accurate. It's decent, but nothing special (great location though). There's a British fellow in our room, but may as well be a chainsaw as far as I'm concerned because his snoring keeps the whole hostel awake. Last night I waved a towel in his face while he was snoring and scared the tea and crumpits right out of him. He stopped snoring though.

We spent the first night getting lost in the wonderful, old streets of Prague. The restaurants here are delicious (a lot of Italian food) and the most you'll pay is about 10 bucks Canadian each (with a beer and tip).

On Tuesday at 1AM Czech time, we found a sports bar and watched Canada bring home the gold against the Finns. There was a small group of Canadians there, but they were more interested in attempting to pick up chicks (and failing miserably at it, embarassing our nation in the process. Good to see the boys on the ice had better luck scoring. What happened to Kiprusoff, didn't he used to be a good goaltender?

Today we went and walked around the "Jewish Quarter" in Prague, walked through Jewish graveyards, look at Jewish documents, yada-yada-yada. It could be fascinating I suppose, if you had the slightest interest in Jewish history. The Prague castle was much more fun, even though you had to battle wave after wave of Italian, German, and French tourist mobs. This is September, go home!

Tonight I'm trying to convince CB to go out to a Czech discotheque and get bombed on absinthe (green alcohol that has hallucinogenic properties, not legal in most other countries). We're both pretty tired though, so we'll have to see!

Anyways, the trip has been great so far.

Day 1 - Prague, Czech Republic

This is the story of 2 travellers, Chris + Chris. Arrived in Prague, couldn't find hostel since we didn't have the address for it.

Went out for dinner (pasta) and walked around old town square, Charles Bridge. Kept awake all night by snoring guy!

Day 2

After a breakfast of bread & cheese, we went to Prague Castle (St. Vitus Cathedral). Tons of tourists!

Rode tram to park. Went + watched Canada win the World Cup Of Hockey, starting at 1 AM.

Day 3

After sleeping in after our late night, we went to the Jewish Quarter, saw some synagogues, and a cemetery.

Tried Absinthe and went to a tourist bar.

Day 4 - Ceske Krumlov

Took the bus to Ceske Krumlov, very windy roads

Walked around town + up to the castle tower

Day 5

Went horseback riding. CM had a bad day, lost his money, we missed our train to Vienna, finally arrived there late that night.

Day 6 - Vienna, Austria

Got up early, went to the Royal Treasury, but it wasn't open.

Went to the Lippizaner's training session, CM fell asleep.

By then the treasury was open. Next we went on a trolley ride around Vienna's 'ring' and toured through the Schonbrunn Palace.

We had dinner near our hostel, and went to Volksgarten disco, a trendy nightclub in a park. Coke was served separately.

Day 7 - Budapest, Hungary

3 hour train ride to Budapest. Stayed at Caterina Hostel, lots of stairs.

Walked around Budapest. Went to the Opera, CM fell asleep, woke himself up snoring.

Walked around more of Budapest.

Day 8

Walked up Castle Hill, across the Chain Bridge.

Saw the statue of the bird (Turu) the Royal Palace, a church, and the fisherman's bastion.

Then we went to City Park and enjoyed the baths. Spaghetti for dinner, drank Becherovka and wine.

Next we went on a boat cruise and saw the sights at night.

Day 9 - Szentendre

Cool little town near the Danube (apparently near the Danube bend). It became quite windy and we had to leave.

Day 10 - Ljubljana, Slovenia

Got up early for our 8.5 hour train ride to Ljubljana. Checked into our jail cell at Hostel Celica.

Walked up to the castle and saw the virtual museum. Had pizza (again) and went for ice cream. Walked around a bit more and hung out near the Triple Bridge. Great jazz music, river looked pretty, saw a drug deal.

Day 11 - Skocjan Caves

Beautiful, enormous caves full of stalagmites and stalactites. Giant river flowing through it, and a 50m bridge overlooking it.

Very cool, straight from Lord of the Rings! Had a traditional Slovenian dinner, and hit the hay early, because CM's feet hurt.

Day 12 - Bled

It rained. Found an umbrella in the trash, but it couldn't save the day. Weather really put a damper on this cool medieval town.

Dinner was filling.

Day 13 - Croatia

Took the busy to Ljubljana, train to Zagreb, and then the busy to Plitvice Park. Wandering on the highway at night, we were picked up in a car, and offered accommodations.

Old lady gave us moonshine. Some travelers from Prague were there. The house was incredibly cold, even with 3 blankets.

Day 14 - Plitvice

Hiked around Plitvice, after being dropped off by the lady. Saw a lot of gorgeous waterfalls and scenery.

Took a 6 hour bus ride (and only 300km) to Split and caught the ferry to Stari Grad.

Took the bus to Hvar, wandered around looking for our hostel. Just as CM was about to give up, we realized it was right beside us.

Walked around Hvar, a lovely seaside town in Croatia. Plenty of boats, beaches, and people watching.

Day 15 - Hvar

Walked around Hvar, not much left to see, more relaxation than anything. Weather wasn't co-operative, lots of rain and wind.

Looked for a beach, found rocks and gravel. Went to a local restaurant, drank a bottle of wine on a bench, went back to the hostel.

Day 16 - Korcula

Bright and sunny, but we were leaving! Took to ferry to Korcula, and went home with a man offering accommodation near the centre of town.

Day 17

More boats, less rain, still no beach. Well, there was a beach, but no sand. Nice place though, not a whole lot to do but relax.

Day 18 - Dubrovnik

Got up early and took the bus to Dubrovnik. Walked around the walls of the city. Attempted to find a beach with sand but no luck, just ended up doing a LOT of walking instead.

Took the bus to Split and then caught our flight to Rome. Made our way to the campground + the worst beds we've ever slept in!

Day 19 - Rome

Walked around Rome + saw a lot of sights: St Peter's Square, Castel Sant Angelo, a church, Trevi Fountain, Capital Hill, and the Colosseum and the Pantheon.

Went for dinner and then sat on the Spanish Steps.

Day 20

Saw the Pope giving mass, walked around the Roman Forum, went to St. Peter's Basilica and climbed the steps to the top of the dome, 300 stairs!

Our last night Rome :(

Had some Sangria and enjoyed some of the sights at night