The Hills are Alive

For Easter holiday my friend Audra (currently teaching in Spain) from high school and I decided to join forces and take Europe by storm.  Compromising on distance (a little bit) and utilizing economic strategy, we agreed to meet in Munich, then hit up Salzburg, Český Krumlov, and Praha.  What the weather lacked in pleasantries we made up for in our own indomitable cheerfulness.  In order to make the best use of time, I took an afternoon train from Ostrava to Vienna and then an overnight train to Munich.  I didn't reserve a sleeper, and I was a bit wary after a friend got her baggage stolen a weekend before en route to Vienna.

6:30 AM had me pulling into Munich with backpack safely in tow, and the adventure began.  Our plan for Munich wasn't really for Munich at all, but for Neuschwanstein Castle.  However, with inclement weather obstructing the view, the trip becomes a bit pointless.  So, we enjoyed a luxurious breakfast at a French cafe with a friend of Audra's before going to the Museum Brandhorst.  When I looked at the gallery map, my mouth began to water with anticipation: Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, John Chamberlain, Mike Kelley, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Alex Katz, Mario Merz, Gerhard Richter, and Sigmar Polke among others.  That seven euro ticket was bound to be worth it.  They didn't actually have any Nauman or Richter on display, but the museum really left nothing to be desired.  Hirst's pill piece was up as well as an installation/video piece.  There were also two nice film pieces. One by David Claerbout and one by Barbara Hammann.  Both had to do with the interaction of people and landscapes.  Often I'm not too captivated by film pieces, but these were quite engaging.  On the top floor, they had gallery after gallery of Cy Twombly--especially later works.  I enjoyed the whimsy of many as well as the juxtaposition of depth of content and simplicity of gesture.

Where they filmed the outside of the Captain's residence.
After we had our fill, we wandered around Munich a bit, entering every Tretter's store in hopes of buying TOMS, before resigning ourselves to some pizza and then tea with our hostesses--Audra's German friend Melissa and her mother.  Later, at a birthday party of one of Melissa's friends, I spent quite a bit of time talking with a Greek girl named Stella..  It was quite the international gathering.    Audra and I also enjoyed making the acquaintance of a lively Panamanian (or Panamaniac) named Glenn.

The day done, we then boarded a morning train for Salzburg.  Once there, we trekked it up a hill to our bed and breakfast, Haus Christine, before getting some victuals and hitting up the Sound of Music Tour.  Going on that tour was like going to a midnight showing of High School Musical.  Everyone there was a full-on fan and ready to geek out.  We all knew we were doing something very cheesy, but we embraced it, and loved it.  Our tour guide was a hoot.  He would sneak in the occasional snide comment and was a bit irreverent at times, but he also was a spring of miscellaneous information.  Aside from geeking out on The Sound of Music, the tour gave the opportunity of seeing various parts of Salzburg as well as a couple nearby towns.

Audra and I loved every minute, especially the few minutes spent eating apple strudel (we'd already had some authentic strudel at the birthday party, but, of course, we needed to give it another go).  (Did you know that strudel literally means "whirlpool?").  An evening of laughter, romping about Salzburg, eating chocolates packaged with Mozart's face, and bratwurst ensued.  Tired, but undeterred, we found our way back to Haus Christine for some shuteye before a 5:59 AM train.

Saturday had us bound for Český Krumlov *UNESCO site.*  The weather continued to be muggy, but it set us up for a romantic view of the town as we walked from the station.  After a couple days in more sizable cities, we welcomed the lazy (and very cute) town.  Old architecture and beautiful shops abounded.  Gingerbread, honey, trdlník, and other tempting treats abounded.  In the square we perused Easter eggs for purchase as well as some other local wares.  There was no particular agenda in the city, but we did want some lunch.  We went to a restaurant my sister had mentioned to me in a chance article she'd read on the place by Rick Steves.  We were soon equipped with some traditional Czech food.  Řízek (wiener schnitzel)for Audra, soup and ovocné knedlíky (fruit dumplings) for me.  The dumplings were a bit dry, but otherwise the ambiance was nice and the food warm.  More wandering brought us through a chateau and a castle.  Audra's favorite was a bear we discovered in the moat.  Yes, a bear moat.  At first I joked about it, like, "Why not fill your moat with bears!"  Then I got home and realized that historically that's what it was, and people decided to bring it back in the 90s.

We were both totally enamored with the town, and coffee and trdlník kept us warm before going back to the station to head to Prague.  The two days in Prague were chilly, but still enjoyable.  We stayed with a couple that I know and I tried to pour as much Prague down Audra's throat as possible in 48 hours.  We had our priorities straight, however, and Easter Sunday we went to a joint church service between an international church and a typical Czech church.  The whole service was translated back and forth, so Audra got to enjoy some Czech language.

Our last two days together in Prague abounded with socializing, delicious food, and the typical sites.  The socializing was primarily with some Czechs I met over the years through English camps.  The food included Indian food, Czech food, pizza, and lots of trdlník.  Along with the typical sites of Old Town Square, the Prague Castle, Petřín Hill, Fred and Ginger, we ventured out to the "baby tower" and to Vyšehrad.  The latter proved to be Audra's favourite, and it's one of my favourite places in Prague.  It's a castle complex from the 10th century, and it features a beautiful cathedral, a cemetery full of renowned Czechs, and some nice views of the Vltava River below.

Jana, Martin, Audra, Anička

The whole trip was filled with beauty, and perhaps the adverse river helped balance at the experience to keep us from overdosing.  However, more than anything else, the trip was filled with filling bouts of laughter with a very dear friend.

Enjoy some more photos below. (If you click on any given photo, it will switch to a gallery view, though there won't be captions.)


Our exuberant tour guide
Where Maria had confidence

Two kinds of strudel!
Sculpture that needed some lovin' in the park that the kids ran through during "Do, a deer"
Where the kids ran through in their curtain clothes
Easter eggs
Mozart chocolate on the top of the fortress
Good night, Salzburg.

Hello, Český Krumlov

Random chateau

Trdlník being made.  Dough is rolled out like a pencil, then wrapped around those rolling-pin-esque
deals and cooked over coals.  Once finished, it's rolled into cinnamon-sugar, nuts, or whatever you like.
He is risen!
Enjoying our trdlník
Jumping pictures at Petřín Hill--that'll get a stare.

Lunch at the microbrewery: 8 samples of beer, beef and dumplings, chicken and potatoes
Easter markets in Old Town Square and Jan Hus presiding
Gehry's Fred and Ginger (aka Dancing House)
Till next time, Prague.


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