Inis Mór

May 2, 2010

Before I start the post, just wanted to let you know that the photos always come out darker on my blog because they shrink them down to fit on the page. If you want to see a photo in a bigger size, just click on it!

Back in March, Ralf came to visit me one last time before he had to move back to Germany to finish his degree in translation. We had beautiful sunny weather for the duration of his stay so we decided we would head to the largest of the 3 Aran Islands: Inis Mór. The 14 X 3 km island has a population of about 800 people and it is one of the 15 Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region) islands. We took a lovely 45 minute bus ride out to the pier, passing through Gort and An Spidéal. The 45 minute sailing from Rossaveal was smooth and we had a good laugh when we saw this sign in front of us:


I was feeling rather rebellious so I decided to keep chewing away on mine… ;)

We were greeted with a really lovely view:

We could have hired bicycles to get around the island but because of the very rocky, hilly terrain, we opted for a mini-bus tour. There were about 4 mini-buses in a row just waiting for passengers; the drivers all had maps with them and were shouting out what we would see if we chose to join their tour. We were approached by a very nice gentleman and decided to just pick him instead of shopping around as we figured the tours were probably all pretty much the same. It turns out we made a really good choice; the gentleman in question was named Noel (yes, he was born on Christmas day) and not only did he have the cutest accent and personality ever, he was really funny too! I asked him if I could take a picture of me and he said: of course luv!

Noel told us that there were 14 villages on the island and there was three of everything: 3 schools, 3 churches, 3 graveyards and 6 pubs. Haha! Ralf and I liked that one! We started our tour of the island along the only road. The first thing that struck me was how many rocks (limestone) there were everywhere! I mean, you see stone walls all over the place in Ireland but this was amazing! There are no trees and it is not possible to grow crops. Noel was telling us that it was only recently that they had access to electricity – before that, they used generators. Internet access only started last November! There is one wee post office on the island and a Bank of Ireland, which is open once a week for 4 hours. They have had an ATM (yes, just one) since 2003, but the other 2 islands don’t have one! There is one doctor and one nurse, who serve all three islands. If  there is an emergency, the patients are flown by helicopter to a hospital. There is just one grocery store, which is actually not a real grocery store, it’s a Spar (a German chain found all over Ireland, which resembles a 7/11). Everyone living on the island speaks Irish; the kids are taught all subjects in Irish (apart from English classes, of course)! As a linguist, it was a treat for me to finally listen to some native speakers! They have very strict rules about building houses on the island. You cannot move there and build a house; only people already living there can have permission to do so. You can only move to Inis Mór if someone is selling a house.

Our first stop was at Teampall Chiarain (dedicated to St. Ciaran), which was built in the 6th century on the site of an earlier church.

The surrounding area was so very beautiful:

After that we stopped to see a seal colony. Again, lovely views…

I was so sad I had not thought to bring my zoom with me; I didn’t know there were seals! Well, you’ll have to take my word for it, they are in this photo, in the middle, on the rocks:

They had some really lovely beaches; the water was the same colour as the water in Nice:

We also visited the Na Seacht dTeampaill (The Seven Churches) — a monastic settlement built between the 8th and 15th centuries. There are only in fact 2 churches despite the name, the rest are ruins of domestic buildings. Ralf and I both wished we had more time to explore this fascinating place:

Ralf did a little climbing:

We carried on our way after that. I found the island so enchanting that I’m having trouble deciding what photos to post:

Notice the walls — no mortar is used at all…takes a lot of skill:

We then went to visit Dún Aonghasa, which is an Iron Age fort that stands on a cliff top, about 300 feet above sea level. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%BAn_Aonghasa

You cannot get there by bus, you must trek up, so off we went! On our way there, we got a good look at one of the lace stone walls:

Some of you may remember my post about The Burren, well, parts of the landscape on our way up to the fort made me think of the Burren’s landscape:

And yet, it was different from what I’d seen before elsewhere in Ireland:

The fort is much more impressive when viewed from above, but it was still really special to see it from the ground level.

There was a breathtaking view of the cliffs:

Here you can see the famous defensive feature known as “chevaux de frise” (prehistoric “barbed wired”):

Now, is it just me, or was this rock happy to see me?

After visiting the fort, Ralf and I had an interesting conversation about whether or not we would live on the island. At first, recalling all the beautiful sites, smelling the fresh air and noticing how calm and simple things were there, I said yes, in a heartbeat. But then I also remembered that life is not easy for the islanders; the land doesn’t produce, there is limestone everywhere, it’s often cold and windy and of course, there are hardly any services available. Ralf also asked me whether I thought they were happier than we are and we both agreed that they probably are. There is always a strong sense of community in small places like this — people help one another out and life is slower, less complicated…you are always close to nature too, which I think is always a good thing. I was wondering if I could handle living on an island with no clothing stores, no cinemas, no theatres…living abroad for a year has taught me so many valuable lessons, one of which being that I need very few material things in order to be happy. I have lived for almost a year now with no telly, no radio…in fact, pretty much nothing but my clothing, my camera, some jewellery, cosmetics, yarn and art supplies…and I have been so very happy here in Galway…however there is one thing that would be impossible for me to give up for any length of time is art in all its forms…I could not give up going to see movies, plays, dance performances, the orchestra perform etc…it’s part of what makes me feel alive. Of course, they can take the ferry but only if the weather permits and it’s far enough to Galway (it also involves planning in advance, which I’m not too keen on)! So I think that spending a week there would be grand…but no longer!!

Spring was already making an appearance on Inis Mór:

We had some time left before we had to head back to the ferry so we walked around for a bit, then Ralf decided he was hungry so we went to an adorable little café that had a thatched roof. We were going to eat inside by the fireplace but there was a Celtic song looping over and over again — it was driving us mad! Ahhh, the things they do to “please” tourists…Luckily it was a lovely sunny day so we had a seat outside. Of course, Ralf decided to have a pint of Guinness!

We then walked around a little more and found this lovely cross:

And a random couch (love this photo):

And some other lovely sites:

And well, as true adoptive Irish, we ended up…going to a pub. Ralf had another Guinness…what a surprise.

When we were in the ferry on the way back to Rossaveal, a group of students were very agitaded as they saw some of their friends coming down a hill on the bicycles they had hired…they missed the only ferry back! Hope they found a nice b&b to sleep in!! Haha. When we arrived, the sun was starting to set, it was beautiful.

And as you already know, I love sneaking pictures of elderly people…they have such character and they warm my heart:

When we arrived in Salthill there was the most stunning sunset…

What a perfect way to end our day. I’ll never forget my trip to Inis Mór…it was truly special to me for so many reasons.


My birthday in Kilkenny!

February 9, 2010

This year I celebrated my birthday away from home for the first time in my life. Luckily, I didn’t celebrate alone; Saturday morn I was greeted by Ralf saying “happy birthday” to me! We left his flat early enough to catch the 9:00 a.m. bus to Kilkenny! It was a very dreary, chilly, hazy day (ergo the dark photos, sorry!) but at least it wasn’t raining!

We arrived there at 11:00 and headed straight for the castle. I managed to pass for a student so I paid less than half price to get in — felt good given that I had just turned 36 (I still can’t believe that I am 36…I certainly don’t feel it)! The 13th century building went through many stages of development to become what it is today.


Unfortunately, they did not allow us to take photos inside. My favourite room was the Picture Gallery Hall. The ceiling of the hall was stunning, it was made to look like an inverted Viking boat. There was a very charming and well-informed man working there who was good enough to tell us all about the various portraits and to explain to me that the ceiling had Viking, Celtic and Aboriginal designs (from North America, although to me, it didn’t look as though it did). He asked me where I was from and whether I had any Irish blood (I am often asked that here and am happy to say YES every time!) and when he found out that I was French Canadian, he put forward his best impression of de Gaulles’ very controversial “Vive le Québec libre”! He explained to me that there were some connections between some of the people portrayed in the hall and Canada — all in all, he was a very interesting man and I really enjoyed visiting the castle!

We were both famished after our tour of the castle so we wandered around for quite some time trying to find a quaint little restaurant (Ralf wasn’t in a soup and sandwich kind of mood), to no avail. There were mainly cafés and pubs where we were so we settled for a very nice café which ended up having very good food. After lunch we went to visit Rothe House, which was built between 1594 and 1610. Rothe house is in fact a series of 3 houses and the garden in the back extends to part of the original city walls.

I enjoyed the garden and the bits in the courtyard between the houses too:

We went to check out the 13th century Saint Canice Cathedral but alas, it closed at 4:00 p.m. so we just admired it from the outside and enjoyed taking photos of the tower, which dates from the 9th century:

At the bottom of the stone wall above, we found some really nice urban art drawn on paper and glued to the wooden door:

After that, Ralf was feeling tired (he had not been feeling well for a week) so we went back to our b&b for a rest. Ralf gave me my birthday presents when we got there: a hilarious book entitled “A Year in the Scheisse: Getting to Know the Germans” and a lovely bottle of eau de toilette.

We went out to a Nepalese and Indian restaurant for my birthday supper and let me tell you, the food was outstanding; it was in fact the best chicken tikka masala I’d ever had and Ralf loved his lamb dish as well. After supper, we decided to go back to our b&b with a bottle of red wine as we had to get up early the following day. As we were walking home, an elderly gentleman was walking towards me and he kept looking me in the eyes — finally, he said to me in the sweetest way: “are you OK? Are you looking for anything in particular”? I guess in such a small place it’s easy to spot a tourist even when they don’t have a camera around their neck!

Yesterday we only had a few hours to walk around the city and of course, it being a Sunday, everything was closed! We had a look at a really cool church that was still in use yet also partly in ruins:

We both love exploring graveyards and ruins so we took our time taking photos.

We then decided to just stroll along the streets and stopped for a coffee in order to wake Ralf up (it didn’t work)!

This made me laugh:

The city was not what I had imagined it would be but it was quite nice. The streets are very quiet and the city centre is quite big considering it has a population of around 8 860!

This was clearly from the same artist as above:

All in all, I felt that our trip to Kilkenny was too rushed; I would have needed another full day to see everything I would have liked to see but I got a good taste of it. I could see myself living there for a while! As we walked to the bus stop to wait for our bus back to Dublin we realized that we had forgotten to have a Kilkenny beer!! Oops!


Praha

January 15, 2010

I am finally taking the time to write about my trip to Prague, way back at the end of September. You will soon see why it has been called The Jewel of Europe…and why I took so long to post this! So much beauty in one place — it took my breath away.

For those of you not familiar with Prague, it is separated into four quarters (well, more than that, but these are the touristic spots): The Old Town (Staré Město), The New Town (Nové město), The Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana) and the Jewish Quarter (Josefov). I stayed in a lovely four star hotel in the Malá Strana — very close to the castle. I was immediately charmed by the way the haze softened the lovely warm colours of the buildings that surrounded me. As I crossed the first bridge and caught my first glimpse of Prague, I knew that in the days to follow, I would be filled with wonder. Prague did not disappoint. I was happy that I had 4 full days to explore each one of the lovely quarters.

As I set out to wander along the beautiful streets of Prague, I was amazed at how ornate the architecture was. Simple things that in North America we tend to see as purely functional (yes, there are exceptions!), and therefore not deserving of much attention, such as door knobs and knockers, were things of beauty here…

Interestingly enough, houses have two numbers in Prague: the red signs are land registry signs, and the blue ones, are the actual address.

I purchased the Prague card and was really happy that I did as I took full advantage of the savings it offered! In particular, I went to the top of many towers, in many buildings, to enjoy the stunning view and take loads of photos! I would highly recommend it to anyone. My favourite place to visit was the Old Town Hall, built in 1338! I started by joining a tour given in French, but the lady’s accent was so thick that I ended up joining the English group instead! We were given the opportunity to see the famous procession of the twelve apostles in the Astronomical Clock (dating from the 15th century) from the inside! I had wondered why there was a huge crowd of people waiting in front of the clock outside; I had no clue about the procession, which takes place on the hour, every hour. The inside of the hall was amazingly beautiful and I loved the tour guide! We finished in the underground passages; it was really cool down there!!

I visited the castle (which isn’t really a castle, but rather, the Old Royal Palace), St. Vitus Cathedral, St George’s Basilica and convent and the Powder Tower.

I arrived right on time to see the changing of the guards! I don’t think I’ve ever seem so many handsome men in one spot before! Oh la la…

The Golden Lane, dating from the 16th century was really lovely. I’ll let you read about it here: http://www.prague.net/the-golden-lane. Kafka lived in this wee house!

When I visited the Jewish Quarter I ended up following a tour group for a while so that I could learn more about it! A little sneaky, but hey! I heard some very moving stories…I was disappointed that it was so expensive to visit the inside of the synagogues as I feel that it’s such an important story to tell…I decided to just learn what I could and look at the buildings from the exterior.

This is a clock with Hebrew numbers that runs backwards:

And some other pictures of the quarter:

And here are some random pics; just to show you how gorgeous it is there!

I thought this guy looked really cool in his skirt. :)

And this girl was the perfect example of a bohemian…she was full of passion for her music.

 

I met some very nice people while I was there! In the morning, I was always stunned that people in the hotel were eating inside when there was a beautiful patio, where you could sit and enjoy the sun gently warming you as you planned out your day. The first morning, I sat there alone and a really nice Swedish man asked if he could join me, and of course, I said yes! We ended up having breakfast together every day and telling one another about our adventures. As it turns out, I was to meet two other Swedish men, on my last night there, sitting on the patio of a quaint little French bistro right by my hotel. To be honest, I picked the restaurant because the servers were very handsome and looked friendly ;). The men talked to me the whole time and we laughed a lot! They seemed very concerned about me travelling by myself (in a fatherly way) and worried that I may feel lonely but I assured them that I really enjoyed it! You meet so many more people that way and you can selfishly enjoy every moment at your own pace without having to compromise. At the end of the evening, they both got up and gave me a nice, warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. It felt so good to have some physical contact; it had been such a long time! I felt really happy about the two weeks I had spent discovering Bratislava, Vienna, Ceský Krumlov and Prague, but sad that it was coming to an end and that I would have to return to Dublin…It was the perfect end to my perfect trip. May many more follow…


Retrospect

December 23, 2009

It’s been cold here in Ireland for the past week; much colder than usual, I am told. Of course, it being Ireland, it’s a very damp cold so it chills you right to your bones! But it won’t last, or so they say ;).

I sit here this evening feeling a little woeful as I am starting to sense that my adventure will soon come to an end. A year is simply not long enough, alas…I can’t believe that I’ve been gone for almost seven months already…In the past month I have come to realize how attached I have become to Ireland — thanks, no doubt, to living in the beautiful, friendly city that is Galway. The road has risen to meet me.

I have posted some photos of Galway and Salthill (the seaside resort that is 20 minutes away from me on foot) on my Facebook account; here are the public links for those of you who do not have an account:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=170167&id=517875490&l=dcbcceedd5

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=166373&id=517875490&l=a219ae591a

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=165761&id=517875490&l=19b4182594

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=163156&id=517875490&l=ca7eb31691

And I have posted many more on my DeviantArt page: http://enelrahs.deviantart.com/

November was very difficult for me; some of you surely heard about the torrential rains and the severe flooding that Ireland experienced over the course of the month, and my county was one of the worst hit. Imagine it pouring rain like you’ve never seen every day, for a month, in combination with winds so strong that an umbrella is rendered useless. I felt like a prisoner all alone here in my little flat and the moral was very low. I tried in vain to find a job but it’s near impossible in Galway what with the recession…finally I decided to sign up for tai chi classes on Monday evenings and to join the local knitting club, which meets every Saturday. I am so happy I did!

My tai chi classes are very relaxing and there is a guy my age by the name of Patrick who enjoys teasing me every class — “ask the Canadian, she knows”. We talked for a good hour after last class and he was kind enough to drive me home — we exchanged numbers and will surely do something in the New Year!

I absolutely adore going to my knitting group! The group consists of about 25 women from all over the world: Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, England, the States, Poland, France etc.! Most of the women are younger than me or my age but there are older ones too! We sit in a big oval and chat about anything and everything, and most of all, we laugh, a lot. I felt warmly welcomed from the start and I have come to know some of the women a little more. I have exchanged numbers with a girl by the name of Miho, who is from Japan, and we have decided to do something in the New Year! It’s great as she lives only a few minutes away from me! We had a little Christmas party a few weeks back and we did a secret santa exchange! Here’s my group (I am the 2nd from the left in the back row):

The girl in the front is super cute; she crocheted that outfit herself!! It actually makes me think of aboriginal clothing!

December was a great month for me — the weather has been outstanding; sunny every day, hardly any rain and best of all, I went to see two amazing concerts in Dublin!! That also gave me the chance to visit Ralf, which is great! The 1st show I went to see was The Tragically Hip!! I had the BEST night! I met up with a bunch of fellow Canadians I’d never met before (they were all SWAP participants, like me) at Whelans Pub and then we headed out for one of the best shows I’ve seen! It was a really special experience to see one of the biggest Canadian bands play in Ireland; best of all was being surrounded by a bunch of Canadians asking one another where we are from and talking about what we miss back home. I was truly lucky as I managed to score a pass to the after party and got to meet the band!! A guy I was with took pictures of me and the band but he never sent them to me :(. I’ll try to message him again about it. After the show, this young Irish guy started hitting on me big time and wouldn’t let up!! He kept asking me to just give him 14 minutes (why 14 and not 15, I don’t know!) and went so far as to follow me outside!! I finally managed to ditch him and went to meet Ralf for a pint! We had a really nice weekend together :).

The second show was The Swell Season, and this time Ralf came with me. The singers formed a band after they made the movie “Once” together, which was filmed in Dublin! It’s a beautiful movie that I saw in Ottawa with Luc — it was so lovely in fact that I couldn’t stop crying, the music just moved me so much…I even ended up getting an eye infection after! Hehe. Anyway, the show was amazing, as was the opening act, who played traditional Irish music. Glen Hansard (the lead singer of The Swell Season) has a really great sense of humour and he had us sing along on more than one occasion. And as it turns out, a young Irish guy was all over me after the show, once again! Ralf asked me whether I had a magnet on me ;).

And recently, I have decided to enjoy my time off by knitting up a storm! I made Ralf a scarf and a hat for his birthday, I made my sister two cowls hor hers and I made myself a hat! I also made a crocheted hat, which I gave to my landlady — she looks super cute in it and she was really happy!

And now I am preparing for my friend Shannon, and her friend Sarah (whom I’ve never met); they arrive here in Galway tomorrow! We will spend three days here, then we’re off to Belfast for three days and finally, we will sail & rail to Glasgow!! I’m soooo excited, especially about spending hogmanay (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogmanay) in Glasgow, because when I went in 2007, I fell in love!

As most of you know, I’m not a Christmas person, but tonight I was sitting here knitting when I heard jingle bells and the sound of a choir. I rushed outside, camera in tow, to enjoy the group of carollers singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo on my street. The mix of fog, frost, music and lights made the experience magical and I found myself filled with the Christmas spirit. Go figure ;).

I know I’ve fallen behind on my blogging but every time I decide to do my Prague post, I am overwhelmed by the hundreds of pictures I took there, and the amount of stories I want to tell about my adventures, and I end up not doing it…I will though, eventually, I promise. And of course, I’ve not yet blogged about Belfast in July or Cork! But I will, oh yes, I will.

So on that happy note, I want you all to know that I really miss you and that my friends and family are dear to me. I wish you all the merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year.

Sharlène xo


DeviantART

November 16, 2009

Salut les amis!

Je voulais vous faire savoir que j’ai maintenant un compte sur le site Web DeviantART. J’y ai déjà affiché 172 photos! Elles sont presque toutes nouvelles pour vous alors allez faire un tour! http://enelrahs.deviantart.com/

Hi all!

I wanted to let you know that I’ve create a page on DeviantART. I’ve already posted 172 pics! They are almost all new to you so go have a look! http://enelrahs.deviantart.com/

Sha x


Český Krumlov: A Bohemian Dream

November 6, 2009

And now we get to the magical Český Krumlov…I must admit that just looking at the photos has made me feel so very nostalgic.

I had not planned in advance how to get from one city to the next as I had 4 nights in each place and I figured it couldn’t be that difficult, right? Well…this was the exception. I found out it takes about 9 hours and 3 trains to get to Český Krumlov from Vienna and there were no charter buses!! How could it be? Český Krumlov is a UNESCO world heritage site and Vienna is the capital of Austria after all! I was feeling quite worried by then, as the thought of changing trains in a place where I don’t know the language did not sound very appealing! I kept researching and luckily, stumbled upon a review on Trip Advisor of a mini-bus company who picks you up at your hotel in Vienna and drops you off at your hotel in Český Krumlov, in about 3.5 hours! It was a tad more expensive, but so worth it, I was really relieved. I was lucky too because they were closed up until the day before my departure, as the driver was going on holidays!! Phew. The ride went smoothly enough (apart from the tailgating…) and the driver was a nice guy, about my age. As we were getting closer to CK, I kept seeing very young women on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, dressed as though they were about to go clubbing. Suddenly it clicked in my mind, I’d seen this before in Florence…I asked the driver whether they were prostitutes and he exclaimed: yes! It made me sad :(

When we finally went through the charming gate at the entrance of CK, a huge smile immediately appeared on my face; I knew right away that I would never forget the days to come…for people like me, who are fascinated with medieval times, CK is truly a dream.

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I entered my 15th century pension (which is just beyond the town gate) and was warmly greeted by a young man, who even helped me figure out how to set up the Internet connection on my new Asus Eee!

This is the pension, with a close up of one of the paintings on the exterior wall:

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I settled in and decided it was time to enjoy a nice supper. I decided not to walk too far, as I was tired and I didn’t want to walk alone in the dark, in an unknown place. Only a minute away from my pension, I came across a lovely gourmet French restaurant by the name of Le Jardin, which had a nice patio. I didn’t think I could afford to eat there but I decided to have a look at the prices and was pleasantly surprised! It was still warm out, but as dusk began to fall there was a little chill in the air. The waiter came out to greet me and to light some torches – it all felt so poetic…

This is the restaurant itself and the view from it (you can see my pension on the left):

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The menu made my mouth water…I opted for a lemon chicken dish…I wish I had written down what it was exactly as it turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. And the presentation was just stunning…I can’t believe I only paid about $11 for it…

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So very delicious….

I had a dessert that was equally as delicious and stayed there for a long time just taking it all in, then reading a little.

I wish you could have been there with me so that you could understand how special CK was…In many ways, the colourful buildings bearing medieval paintings reminded me of Lucerne, which comes in at a close second. Words and photographs could  never suffice to convey the special atmosphere of this fairy tale place; I can only try my best!

The construction of the town began in the 13th century along the winding Vlatava River. Luckily, it was not touched by the great wars and so, the Gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture, which dates from the 14th to the 17th centuries, has remained intact.

As the cobblestone streets follow no rules, I decided to set off with no particular route in mind…the scent of burning wood permeated the streets and little lanterns had been lit in front of the quaint little stores, so as to welcome visitors.

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I truly felt as though I had been transported back to medieval times as I roamed around…I came upon a lookout at some point and the view was just breathtaking…There was a young couple so intensely in love; seeing them made me recall that I too once felt that way…I wished I were not alone at that moment.

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I was very pleased to discover that Egon Schiele, the Viennese artist I had discovered in Vienna, had lived in CK for 10 years (his mother was from there) and as such, there was a museum dedicated to him. I took advantage of the only rainy day of my trip to visit the museum, as well as a marionette museum (Czechs are famous for their marionettes).

My second day I saw people walking around with what looked like some kind of pastry that seemed really delicious and I found out that they are called Trdelnik, and they truly were amazing!! They are made from rolled dough, wrapped around a stick then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix or cinnamon. I had one each day I was there…

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The castle was one of my favourite! It was stunning. When I arrived I noticed that I had to join a tour in order to visit the castle. For the luxury of going on an English tour (or any other foreign language) one had to pay a lot more so I decided it would be amusing to take the tour in Czech! It was funny…I understood about five words the whole time!! Sadly I could not take photos inside…but here are some of the outside.

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I went to visit the castle grounds too and at the very back of them was a magnificent pond with lily pads and red fish. On my way there, a really sweet looking old Czech man and his family were walking in front of me. I really wanted to take his photo and I sneaked a few but I could never get a good one. Luckily, at the pond, the perfect opportunity arose: the gentleman caught me trying to sneak a picture but I pretended I was taking something else so he started laughing. That is when I asked him if I could take his photo. Hi son was good enough to translate for me and the gentleman didn’t seem to understand why I would want to take his photo but at the same time, you can see that he was quite proud:

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I also sneaked some pics of this lady…

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After that I visited the coolest art gallery ever! It was in the castle dungeon!! The lighting was subdued, it was humid, there was water dripping…very eerie. The work of a local artist by the name of Miroslav Paral was being featured and it turns out that I really loved it…

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I took so many lovely photos in CK that it’s hard to pick! Here are some more:

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I came across what I can only hope was a very early start to a stag party…yes, that’s right, a guy with a chicken on his head drinking beer barefoot on cobblestone streets…ouchies.

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As usual,  a few candid shots:

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The best evening I had on my trip was here, sitting at a traditional Bohemian restaurant called U Dwau Maryi (The Two Marys). The owners went through extensive research in order to serve the food that local people ate in medieval times. I sat on the patio, the Vlatava flowing to my side, and looked at the castle and the ducks swimming around…dusk was falling, lanterns were lit and the atmosphere was just amazing…the waiters were having a blast, everyone had a beer in front of them (including me!) and everyone was in a good mood.

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The food was completely different from what I had at the gourmet restaurant but it was just as delicious..again, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I opted for the “Bohemian Feast” which included chicken and ham cooked on the fire, millet cakes, dumplings, sauerkraut, potatoes and salad. Mmmmmm. I tried to find something similar in Praha but alas…I will have to return some day…There are photos on their Web site: http://www.2marie.cz/5/en/normal/photogallery/

I also treated myself to a dessert; cheese dumplings covered in a blueberry coulis…I didn’t take this photo but it happens to be exactly what I ate so here it is:

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I sat there for a long time just enjoying the feeling…I didn’t want to leave. They offered wool blankets to those who were cold and played beautiful traditional Czech music. Perfection.

I am finally coming to the end of this post, which again has taken me ages…hope you enjoyed. Here are a few night shots for you before I finish:

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And to end on a light note…

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I left Canada over 5 months ago…almost half way through my adventure…

Miss you, Sha x


Vienna

November 2, 2009

From Bratislava I took a very short train ride to Vienna; they are the two closest capitals in the world. I met some very funny American women on the train, one of them clearly had had breast implants (she was a tiny woman with a VERY large bust), her nose done, had blue contact lenses (she was Asian, it looked weird) and was totally faked & baked. They were getting drunk and offered me a glass of wine (although there was a sign beside them saying drinking was not allowed on the train), which I declined. One of the women said that in Austria, people spoke Austrian, I had to chuckle to myself…

When I arrived in Vienna, I took the bus to my pension, which was perfectly situated, right in the heart of the action. The woman at the pension didn’t speak a word of English and there were no signs with the name so I was starting to wonder whether I was in the right spot! Sure enough I was, she got very agitated because I was speaking to her in English, she was quite rude, I was surprised! Anyway, we got things sorted and I went up to my room which was lovely! It was bigger than my flat, believe it or not! Austrians are known for their cleanliness and you could tell by the attention paid to my room, I was quite pleased.

The first night I walked around trying to find a nice little restaurant nearby and I met 3 people from the Czech Republic. One of them came up to me, thinking I was Austrian, and said with a perfectly straight face: excuse me, but could you please tell me where we could sit down for a pint and not feel like we are hopelessly under-dressed? I laughed and told them I had just spotted a quaint little Greek restaurant and was on my way there, if they wanted to follow me, and so, they did! We had a really nice evening; they were fascinated with Canada and regarded me as an exotic creature. They asked me all kinds of questions and told me they had never met a Canadian before! It was nice to socialize a little and I went back to my room feeling happy about my 1st night in Vienna.

The following day I took off to roam around and I was floored by how beautiful everything was…wow.

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I think this shot is really cool, the modern graffiti with the classic buildings in the background:

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I found out why I had such difficulty finding a hotel in Vienna (I had tried for 2 days, only to be refused countless times); it was because there was a conference that 15 000 people were attending! It just so happened that while I was in Vienna, there was an agricultural festival and there were people dressed in traditional Austrian costumes everywhere! I had the urge to burst out into song: “The hills are alive, with the sound of music” but thought better of it ;) Many great photo opportunities came out of the festival!

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They had all kinds of little food stalls in front of city hall so for lunch I had some Greek food. The man serving me was very flirtatious and he gave me a free shot of ouzo!  Then I decided I had no other choice but to have some of the famous apfelstrudel when I saw this:

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It was fresh out of the oven and it was the best apple strudel I’d ever had!

As I was taking pictures of a clown who was making balloon figurines for the kids, he stopped and said: I saw you taking pictures of me and I think you should have someone take one of the two of us together. And so I did, to make the clown happy! He then asked me out for a date and told me that he thought I was beautiful. Well folks, that’s a first, I never thought I would some day be asked out on a date by a clown; not sure whether that’s a good, or a bad thing, hehe. He gave me his phone number and told me if I needed anything, he would come running. Needless to say, I didn’t end up calling the clown… Turns out that I was very popular with Austrian men as two others asked me out while I was there! One very gorgeous young man by the name of Adrien, who ended up giving me a very good deal on tickets for a wonderful performance at the Kursalon (23 euro instead of 39!!)

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This is the lovely Kursalon, where Johann Strauss gave his first concert in 1868.

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I arrived there early for the show so I waited on a bench, in a park at the rear of the building. I noticed a man who kept looking at me, he finally came up to me and introduced himself and sat beside me. He said he couldn’t stop looking at me and that I had beautiful eyes and a very mysterious look…oh la la. He wouldn’t stop complimenting me and asked me out. He gave me his number and stayed with me until the show was about to begin. Again, I did not call him as he came on wayyy too strong…but still, good for the ego. ;)

The show was really amazing and it even included some dancers and some opera singers. The room was gorgeous:

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The concert was really good and I’m happy I decided to go!

I went to loads of art galleries in Vienna! I discovered an amazingly talented artist by the name of Egon Schiele, who sadly, died at a very young age…and of course, there is the famous Gustav Klimt! I went to the Belvedere Palace so that I could see, among other stunning pieces, “The Kiss”. I was floored by its beauty…alas, photos were not allowed inside, but here is one of the palace.

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The weather was stunning the whole time I was there and I met the most interesting people in Vienna. Here are some more shots:

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I saw some very interesting people here:

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Wow, this post has taken me ages! I wish I were back there now…Vienna is a vibrant city full of beautiful art and architecture and very nice people; I had a truly lovely time. :)


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