We are planning to travel as light as possible and will only be taking our day packs. My pack is a 28 litter REI pack. For the five weeks we are in Europe, we will be using trains, buses, and our feet to travel so we did not want suitcases or large packs. In May, we did a test of our “travel” by traveling by train to Seattle and walking to all the destinations.
Still making last minute decisions on what clothes to bring!
Brief overview of trip: fly to London and spend three days, take train to Bruges Belgium for five days, then 3 days in Amsterdam, then 7 days in Germany - mostly along the Rhine River Valley, then off to Prague for 4 days, after Prague we go to northern Czech Republic to go on a seven day walking trek - hiking hotel to hotel. Back to Prague, fly to London, then fly home.
Determined the native iPhone app does not work but web does The journey continues!
Took the tube to the Tower of London this morning. Very efficient transportation- you have about 15 seconds max to get on or off. Walked across the Tower Bridge then walked along the Thames River - stopped for a pint and a sandwich. Walked through the financial district to get St. Paul’s.
Took tube to Queensway and visited Kensington Castle and the walked through Kensington and Hyde Parks.
All around London are painted Rhinos, to raise awareness of the threats the Black Rhino is facing.
One thing we have learned is that public restrooms cost money. Make sure you always have some local change in your pocket!
Took bus from Lille France to Bruges Belgium and walked about 2 miles to the Hostel Snuffles were we will staying for the next five nights.
Today was a walking day - we walked the remaining portion of the trail that circles around the city. It was a beautiful morning with sun and a light breeze. Walked by all the large windmills and saw a fencing “sword” competition. Visited the Zut Brewery, and ate at one of the hundreds of Cafes, bistros, and restaurants located in the town.
Rented bikes and rode from Bruges to the North Sea - where the water is warmer than the ocean water off the coast of Washington. Rode about 30 miles. There was a bike tour map, it sucked, but we were able to find our way anyway. A lot of farm country in the area growing corn, potatoes, and onions. Reminded me of my teen years (yes I can remember those times) riding through the farm land of Ohio.
Walk, Walk, and more walking! Started off by climbing to the top of Belfort tower into the bell Bellry. They were doing a bell concert while we were up there so it was amazing to see all the bells in action. Then over to the train station to plane our trip to Amsterdam. Then walked through the parks on the SW side of Bruges along the canal. After lunch and a nap, we explored the SE section of town. How many churches does one city need! All are large, ornate, and have some amazing architectural features. I now think we we have walked over of streets in the city center. Tomorrow, we are going for a bike ride to some area castles.
Bicycle day #2. Rented bikes again and did the long route castle tour, we think we did about 40km (you can convert to miles). As we left Bruges, we followed one of the main canals west that goes to Ostend along the coast. Then headed south to Varsenare where we stopped for beer and coffee. We then visited the Beisbroek Observatory, then headed to the Tillegem Castle, and then slowly made our way back to Bruges by the long way around. Rode primary through farm land and some forested areas. Very scenic all along the route, along with some nice old farm houses and estates.
Here was our day: Walked to bus stop, went to Breskens by bus, Vlissingen by Ferry, then train to Amsterdam, then a Tram to Nieuw Sloten, and walked the final 1/2 mile to our VRBO. We then took bikes to grocery store and finally walked to dinner and around town!! Food Kipsate - chicken satay Eendenborst - Duck Breast Surprises over the last week: French fries - every restaurant serves french fries with everything: with Salmon, Filet Mignon, stew, etc.... House with gates - seemed like all the houses in the country had driveway gates. Bikes!!!!! We have never seen so many bikes. Great bike lanes and even motor scooters and small motorcycles can use the bike lanes. Narrow Roads - they have put bike lanes on almost every road, meaning there is only one lane left for two way vehicle traffic. Room electricity- you needed to use your room key to turn on the electrical in your room.
Today was mostly about food. We met my brother and his wife in Amsterdam and did a 4 hour food walking tour. We had 12 food samples from 8 different establishments. Food included poffertjes, kibbleling, brined herring, tulip bulb vodka, gooey stroopwafel, sateayam, kroepoek, beer and bitterballen, ossenworst, boerenmetworst, Gouda cheese, warm appeltaart with whipped cream. We also learned a lot about Amsterdam as we walked around town. After the food tour and saying goodbye to Steve and Tess, we took a boat ride through the canals. Then end with a walk through the Red Light District before catching our team. When looking at the pictures, pay close attention to how the builds lean - I am not sure there is a square building in town.
Instead of heading back into the city, we decided to rent bikes and bike along the Amstel River. We ended up riding about 31 miles for the day - which was a lot considering we were riding single bikes without hand breaks. I bet it been 38 years since I ridden a bike like that!! Stopped by the Amstelhoak Golf Course on the trip - it had one of the best practice facilities I had ever seen. Since the section of river we rode had so few bridges, there were several very small ferries - two small cars max. It cost us 70 cents to cross. Rode through several nice parks along the way and saw lots on nice house boats.
Travel day from Amsterdam to Koblenz. Took tram back into Amsterdam and walked around the central core. Walked through a fantastic outdoor market. We then hopped on the train to Cologne then switched to the train to Koblenz. Train was running 20 minutes late so we missed our bus to Kesselheim were we are staying for next two nights. Hated to rent taxi, was hoping to make entire trip with using taxi or Uber. We are staying in an AirBB about two blocks from the Rhein River. Took a nice walk along the river this evening. Looks like Koblenz is having a festive this weekend with lots of music and dancing. I guess I know we we will be tomorrow evening. I am having a very difficult time uploading photos since the WiFi is poor.
Spent day in Koblenz. Took bus into town, then took tram up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. As pictures show, the stone work is amazing. Spent afternoon in Koblenz enjoying the local festival. Lots of German folk music and American pop music. Surprised that they had cigarette vending machines through out city and at bus stops - any kid could buy cigarettes. Google translate is becoming our best friend!! Amazing you can just open app point camera at text and it translates life. Great for menus and small signs.
Up the Rhein River Took bus to Koblenz then took ferry to St. Goar. Along the way passed several large castles. After getting off ferry, we walked on the Rhein Castle trail to Rheinfels Castle. The money to build the castle came from collecting tolls from those who used the river which was one of the major trade routes. Kathy was a bad girl today, had to put her in the stocks.
Headed upstream to Oberwesel and Bacharach. After a hardy breakfast, we headed off an a trek along the Rhein Castle trail. After a very steep hike up to the plateau, we hiked along the rim of the canyon through farm lands, small towns, and some forested hill sides. What goes up must come down - in this case it was a very steep and narrow trail that had steal cables for help. Walked around Oberwesel then caught the train to Bacharach. Hiked up to a Castle that has been converted into a Hostel. Overall, we think we hiked around 12 miles today. After some ice cream and a cold beer, we took the ferry back to St. Goar. We are starting to become experts at washing socks, underwear, and shirts in the sink.
St. Goar to Rothenburg Ob der tauber
Trains, Trains, and Trains. Today we took 5 separate trains - two of the changes were a little short. One change we only had 3 minutes to get off one train, find the correct platform and board. Luckily a young German guy was making same connection and we could follow him. We had 10 minutes at our next change, which felt relaxing! The only train that was late leaving was our last one!
Have not seen school buses - looks like all the kids use public buses and trains to get to school. In Koblenz, they even had one bus in morning just for Students.
We are staying the next two nights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. A medieval town that is significantly intact. A walled city where you can walk 2.1 miles around the city on top of the wall.
Took a guided tour with the “ NightWatchman” - a lot of fun and good history.
Today we started off by walked twelve kilometer through the countryside around Rothenburg. Beautiful scenery, old houses, and a double arched bridge where Germans surrendered the town before the American army destroyed the town at the end of WWII. Visited the criminal justice museum and learned all about how torture was used to get criminals to confess. Anyone need a thumb screw, shame mask, shin spikes, chastity belt, or some other medieval device? After having a picnic dinner just outside the walled city, we found a foot therapy walk. You walk barefoot across 12 different materials - grass, wood, logs, pebbles, sand, pine cones, bark, stone, crushed rock, and more - then you soak your feet in a cold pool. Watched another beautiful sunset and strolled around town one final time. Hard to take a picture that really provides the perspective of how massive the walls are surrounding the city.
Sad to leave the walled city of Rothenburg this morning. Today we took five trains to Cham. Pronounced ‘Kom‘. Wrong pronunciation almost got us train tickets to Cheb instead - where ever that is. Cham is about the halfway point between Rothenburg and Prague. Rothenburg to Steinbach, to Ansbach, to Nurnburg, to Schwandorf, to Cham. While we had some very short changes (4 minutes or less), we did not feel as rushed as last time. Met a woman from Seattle - she was on her way to October Fest. After a short walk to our hotel we headed off to explore the country side around Cham. First stop was a Bier Garten (Beer Garden). It would be a perfect place for an RCO after work safety meeting!! We walked 8.21 kilometers along the river and through two parks. Had a brief rain shower here about 7 pm - reminded me of Ohio because of how warm it was. We went to the organic market down the street and picked up fixings for dinner in our room. Ate and listened to the church bells from the four churches surrounding us. Could not believe how cheap bourbon is here! Too bad I do not have any excess room in my pack. After three weeks on the road, we feel we have the correct amount of stuff. I could probably have brought less clothes but do wish I had my sandals. Next morning - those church bells ring every 15 minutes and announce the hour. At 6 am this morning, the bells rang 100 times!
Off to Prague - it is about 20 degrees cooler today. We just hope it stays in the 60s for our Trek. Today we hopped on our train to Prague - one train all the way :) We had an entire 50 car train car to ourselves, then....train stopped in Domazlice CR where we had to get off because they were working on the tracks. Got off train and everyone including locals and train and bus staff all seemed confused. No one spoke English - even station staff. We just say Praha (Prague) and they point. So we just hoped we were getting on the correct bus! Switched back to train in Rokycany for the final leg to Prague. Tourist City!! Walking from the train station to our lovely apartment with a courtyard, we must of passed 40 separate walking tour groups. The Charles Bridge was a mass of humanity - all speaking different languages. We will be getting some good exercise here - our apartment is up the hill from the Prague Castle. We are taking it easy this evening, so we are prepared for tomorrow. Spent 1,280 Koruna for a pair of sandals and 50 for 1 beer today - for the beer that is about $2:50 US. Weird carrying around five 2000 bills. There are a lot of good beers to try!
This was the first day of rain we have had when we were sightseeing. With all of the sidewalks and roads being cobblestone, it required walking carefully. Visited some of the touristy places today - Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Astronomical Clock, walked the river front, and visited the Sex Machine museum (sorry no pictures). Thousands of devices from many centuries that might excite you or scare the hell out of you! Went out for an evening walk and got back just before the thunder and lightning storm reached us. Found two monastery breweries just down the street and some nice restaurants - places to check out tomorrow or Tuesday. FYI - Heard from several folks that they have tried to post comments but they will not save.
Today we hired a local tour guide to give us a tour of the hidden gems of Prague - places most tourists do not go. We left at 8:30 and got home at 6:30 - a long day and we hiked over 15 miles. Temperatures were in the 40s and 50s most of the day with strong winds and scattered rain showers. Michael showed us all the hidden alleys, shared a lot of history, pointed out all his favorite pubs and cafes, and shared his knowledge of the local architecture. As the map shows, we walked all over Prague. The monks here have a brewery - I like their beer name.
After the long day yesterday, we took it a bit easier today, probably only walked 6-7 miles today. We purchased tram passes so we would not have to walk down or up the Prague Castle Hill. While the temperature was in the 50s, at least the sun was out. In the morning we explored the park and gardens to the south of the castle - they were created by the monks. After lunch we strolled around old town and did some people watching. In the afternoon we explored the other large park north of the Prague Castle. Note, it is easier to find a beer in Prague than drinking water - no I am not complaining! For dinner we met up with Mal Murphy and Jane Boubel. They were in Prague for a few days before they begin a 13 day river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. We had a great dinner and enjoyed some of Prague’s nightlife. Back to our apartment and packing for our train trip to Turnov where we begin our Six day trek. Almost every street and sidewalk in Prague is “cobblestone” - granite, marble, or other stone. One picture shows the stone streets just outside our AirBB, another shows eight men installing a sidewalk. I cannot imagine the amounts of work or requires to construct and maintain the roads and sidewalks.
Left Prague early this morning and took a train to Turnov. Tomorrow we start our six day trek from Turnov to Jicin. Got to Turnov before noon, checked into our hotel, ate lunch, then took a 7 km walk into the countryside. Today’s walk was a warm up for our trek - saw some interesting rock formations, walked along some streams, and climbed a few hills. Looking forward to the next three days.
Today has been one of our favorite days so far - got to explore some amazing natural rock formations and visit two medieval castles. Hiked over 12 miles with 2500 feet in elevation gain - steep steps, ladders, forested paths, grassy lanes, forest roads, and some very narrow roads. Ours pictures just cannot capture the beauty of the area. First we visited the Frydstejn Castle which had a tall tower and several rooms cut into the sandstone rock. The second castle Vranov was even more amazing - it was built into and on top of a narrow ridge of rocks. All along the route there were interesting rock formations. Our favorite was the labyrinth. Only saw about six hikers along the trail and saw another 30 while at the castles.
This morning we had the best weather of our entire vacation-blue skies and temperatures near 64. It was perfect for our hike through the woods, fields, rock hoodoos, and visiting two medieval castles (Hrad Valdstejn and Hruba Skala). Found out today was a national Czech holiday-they celebrate being Czech. Being a holiday there were lots of people on “our trail”. Walked by an old farm house today where previous owner was a rock sculptor. He made some amazing stone reliefs. An outdoor festival is happening at Hruba Skala Chateau next door. We watched a rock climbing movie and a slide show of a Czech woman who hiked the PCT. Saw lots of rock climbers and several folks doing slack lines - 50+ feet high! Watch out for the wicked step sisters.
Another beautiful fall day in the Czech Republic. The temperature was in the 30’s when we started off this morning - but it was not too long until I was in shorts. It was a bit nippy so we were wearing long sleeve shirts except for one hill climb. The primary destination today was Kost Castle. We did not take tour because it took 1 1/2 hours. However the highlight of the day was seeing six Big Horn Sheep - not something I ever expected to see on the trip. A lot less people on the trails today, only passed 10 people in the first 7 miles. Overall we did 14 miles. At the end of the day while we were try to capture the last of the sun, we look up and see eight hot air balloons. Saw several more slack liners - at least 100 feet up. Two interesting things we have encountered in Germany and Czech Republic are that you have to use the key to lock you hotel door from the inside. Another item is that almost all outside doors open in versus out. Neither would be good in an emergency. I do not know how many times I pulled versus pushed! Finally, on our trek we have noticed large number of houses that have coffee mugs on fence posts. One woman told us it is tradition but we could not find out more information.
Weather was similar to yesterday, started off cold then turned into another beautiful fall day. The primary destination today was Trosky Castle - which was the most intimidating castle we have seen. Dual towers sit on top of some rock columns. The view from the tower was amazing. We had a mixture of trails today from forest paths, county lanes, rock steps, and short portions on road shoulders. Overall, it was a relaxing day and a wonderful 12 mile walk in the Park! Today was the first day where Google Translate and/or pointing failed me. Google was not translating the menu so I pointed at the food of a customer - thinking it looked like beef tenderloin - turned out being Liver! Good thing I had some beer to wash it down. Bears ears and Castle ears - both worth saving.
After a great dinner and evening at our hotel in Prachov, today we headed out for the final leg our our five day trek to Jicin (yitchin’). No castles today. The highlight of today’s hike was Prachovske Skaly - which would be our equivalent of either a state or national park. A protected area containing hundreds of tall sandstone spires. Park has 5-6 miles of trail with lots of steep rock stairs and many viewpoints. We had the entire park to ourselves for the first hour. After the park, we meandered through forests, farms, and some small towns on the way to Jicin. We made it to Jicin under blue skies - however, the clouds rolled in as we arrived at our hotel. Started raining after being in hotel about 30 minutes - perfect timing! You have heard of Tex-Mex, well tonight we had Czech-Mex! Other than the five tortilla chips on my plate you could not have guessed we were at a Mexican Restaurant - with that said, dinner was excellent. From what we have seen, Jicin is a nice looking town with pedestrian friendly streets and some lots of nicely restored buildings.
After a hearty breakfast, we technically finished our trek from yesterday. The last 2 miles of the planned hike from yesterday was to the top of the Zebín. But because of the approaching rain, we skipped it. So today we did the Zebín and walked around Jicin (7 miles) - then just relaxed at our hotel. Tonight we are going to a American movie with Czech sub titles about a 15 year old girl that lives in woods outside Portland. We are not sure if it is Portland Oregon or Maine. The views from the top of the Zebín (small mountain) and from the town bell tower were great. Today was probably the coldest overall day of our trip. Yes, I am drinking a Budweiser! This is a Czech beer - I guess there was an ongoing lawsuit with the US Budweiser Company. For dinner Kathy had a stuffed pumpkin - delicious!
Movie from last night was called “Leave no Trace” - and it was Portland Oregon. We enjoyed it - along with the other 3 people in the movie theater. Until five minutes before show time, it was just Kathy and me - we thought we were going to get a private showing. This morning we took the bus from Jicin back to Prague. We will be in Prague for just one day - we fly to London tomorrow. Nice rolling hills along the route along with a castle ruin or two. We visited the Jewish Synagogues, cemetery, and museum. The walls covered with the names of those killed in the Holocaust - sobering and impactful. We walked around portions of Prague that we had not seen before. They had finished the repairs to the Astronomical clock, so it was nice to see it. Had a great dinner and used up most of remaining Czech currency - just need enough to get to airport and have 20 crowns for the toilet!
Two days of travel to get home. Bus from train station to airport. Flew from Prague to London Gatwick. Then took Uber to our B&B “The Curious Pig in the Parlor. Went for a stoll through the English Countryside before dinner. We had hoped to walk from airport to our hotel ( 3 miles ) but did not look like there were any good walking routes. This morning we took a taxi to the airport for our 10 am flight home. Now we are about to board for our 10 hour flight to Seattle. When you buy cigarettes in Prague airport, you get greeted by disgusting pictures of what smoking does to your body.
Flew home from London today. It was not a full flight so it was nice to have some extra room. Matt picked us up at the airport and brought us home. The highlight from today was the views flying over Greenland and the Canadian Rockies. Some amazing views of the glaciers and mountains.