A Travellerspoint blog

Checking out the Czech Republic

Prague, Kutna Hora, Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov

all seasons in one day 14 °C

We are on the bus right now from Prague to Budapest. I haven't ridden a Greyhound bus in years and they may have the same amenities but having WiFi, movies and drink service on a long bus trip is great. And I think there's even a bathroom! So settling in for 7 hours.... We tried to rent a car to take to Hungary but although rental cars are cheap here the drop charges are crazy. And we wouldn't be allowed to take a car into Romania or Bulgaria anyway. So if you hear it's easy to rent a car in one European city and drop in another, have a closer look!

Prague is as beautiful as everyone says it is. None off the architecture we have seen so far compares to this city. This is the only place where we rented an air bnb and the old apartment was centrally located near the old town and on a tramline. We were able to navigate easily and sometimes for free (quick 3 stop ride to the bus today - buy ticket - hmmm no!). We spent the first day walking around a part of the old town. Beautiful buildings were everywhere. We ate at a local franchise called Lokal and it turned out to be the best food throughout our stay except for a great vegetarian meal last night in Cesky Krumlov. We attended a chamber orchestra performance in a historic Spanish style synagogue before the end of our first night. On Thursday we took the transit to Kutna Hora, site of the famous bone church or ossuary. But don't bother asking a local person where to find this! As it is the most famous thing as about this town we were somewhat confused when 4 different shopkeepers scratched their heads in confusion. Never heard of it! We found it and it was pretty neat although we still aren't sure why a blind monk started making piles out of skulls in the 16th century. We took a train back to Prague as the bus ride there was long and uncomfortable. On Friday we rented a car for the next 3 days and headed toward Karlovy Vary to go to the Moser glass factory. This factory still produces handblown and hand decorated glass. We caught the last tour and really were impressed with what we saw. Kellie really wanted to buy some glassware but it was cost prohibitive. Later she googled the glass on e-bay and found she can buy some cheaper at home if she wants. Glad she didn't buy and ship! We must now talk about the world's worst servers at a restaurant. In Karlovy Vary we went into a restaurant where 2 female servers were sitting eating at a table. They motioned for us to sit down at one of 2 tables. We could already tell their was mega attitude coming our way. One had a black eye, likely from a previous customer! Kellie's beer was slammed down so hard it spilled. Long story short we ate quickly and warned other diners off and gave a terrible review on trip advisor. Most rude and disrespectful people we have ever met. We figured that 70 % of the Czechs we met were pretty stand offish.

On Saturday we had planned to go to Castle Karlstejn and a monastery brewery in business since 933 but we wound up walking around more of the old town instead. On Sunday we ventured to the castle before heading south to Cesky Krumlov but we got lost (driving around and through Prague is very difficult without nav) so by the time we arrived we didn't have time for the tour. And we got in trouble from the police again because I had to pick Kellie up on a side road (no tourists allowed) due to her knee. Aargh! On to Cesky Krumlov - the famous picturesque village in southern Czech republic. I forgot to mention that the temperature when we arrived in Prague was 29C and humid but by day 3 it was pouring rain and 10C. We were freezing in Cesky Krumlov but what a lovely place.

Posted by kelshell 09:51 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Balloon videos from Cappadocia

We have managed to upload some videos of the balloon flight. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/8TFkSP3gTWk
https://youtu.be/8khGRd0viqU
https://youtu.be/gJlFd0ZeNdE
https://youtu.be/rc4uOQk6ztg
https://youtu.be/Ny4bSdZ4cZA
https://youtu.be/xEFT7Z7GzpQ
https://youtu.be/lKrRgh3i4A8

Posted by kelshell 02:19 Comments (3)

On Vatera beach Lesvos

Sun and sea

sunny 33 °C

After leaving the quaint little village and with directions from our host, we traveled 8 km toward Antalya to stop at a cave. Kellie patiently waited in the car while I climbed down about 300 feet to the entrance of a cave set in a cliff above the ocean. Once entering the cave it was a steady walk down for about 20 minutes among stalactites and stalagmites of enormous proportions. Simply stunning. At the bottom was a lagoon but no visible sign of entrance from the ocean. I guess cave divers found it. I couldn't read any of the information on the sign at the entrance as it was only in Turkish. After climbing back up we got back on the highway. After a few hours on a windy, mountainous road we decided to stop at Gavipasa on the sea. Our host had been a guide throughout Turkey until his recent retirement and he said that I had seen a place that probably 99% of Turkish people had likely never seen. Even he hadn't been to this cave but he knew about it. I went swimming while Kellie rested her leg. After breakfast the following morning we got back on the highway to Antalya to return the car. We stopped on a mountain pass to buy bananas as we had been driving for days through banana country. Due to the high winds (we think), these plants are housed in mile upon mile of greenhouses. The whole coast for 500 kms was lined with them. Reaching the town of Alanya about 150 km from Antalya we found a pharmacy and in it a wonderful English speaking pharmacist who fixed Kellie up with a heavy duty knee brace. They had no canes but could order one in for the following day. We couldn't stay though. Five minutes later he told us to wait. After about 20 minutes a store employee came back with a brand new adjustable metal cane! Kellie was all set up for - drum roll - 27 CDN!

We dropped the car off at the Antalya airport and took a local tram an hour to the bus depot. We bought our overnight bus ticket for Ayvalik which we then waited hours for. We again found the language barrier frustrating at times as the bus ticket salesman could not understand where we wanted to go even though we were pronouncing Ayvalik the way the locals we had talked to did. We tried about 5 different ways to say it even saying "after Izmir" where it's located and "ferry to Lesvos." When he finally said Ayvalik the exact way we had said it at first, we rolled our eyes and said, "you'd think we are speaking Martian or something!"

After our long, long wait for the bus 12:00 midnight finally arrived. Taking this cheap option to get to Ayvalik was not ideal but we decided given it not only got us to where we needed to go for a cheap price, it also was our over night accommodation it would be good. Given some of the financial setbacks, Shelley and I decided this would be a prudent decision. While Shelley is a strong sleeper and would likely get some sleep, I figured I most likely would not. After heading out on the bus, Shelley fell asleep and woke up at about 1:30 am needing to go to the bathroom. Given that Shelley doesn't usually wake up it was a bit comical to see her so groggy. After about 5 minutes she returned to tell me she couldn't find the bathroom anywhere. I figured it was in her stupor that she must have missed the doorway to the bus toilet. On the bus there was a steward of sorts who had overheard our conversation and Shelley's confused tone. He approached us and started pointing outside. Shelley turned to me in surprise and said "I have to go outside?!!" Seeing Shelley still half asleep trying to process this information was so funny to me I started laughing. Shelley quickly sat down and we discovered that there was not a toilet on this bus that was traveling 9 hours, but that it made several stops along the way at gas stations and road houses for bathroom breaks. We both found this different from our past bus experiences both at home and abroad. Finally at about 9:45 am the next day we were in Ayvalik and took a taxi to the ferry that would take us to the 5th country on our adventure - Greece, and the island of Lesvos.

The ferry ride was great and we landed having to go through passport control, which was a breeze. Knowing our hotel we set out trying to find the cheapest way to get there, keeping in mind I wouldn't be able to walk too far. Having booked a hotel at the best beach on the island, in an area called Vatera, we soon found out it was very far (over an hours drive) and the bus had already left for the day. We got into a cab and had a lovely local driver, who was excited to plug in his favorite music, which he described as the hits from the 80s and 90s. He also was able to stop at shop for Shelley to get more liquid vape for her e-cigarette, which she had been searching for for a while. Having never been to a Greek island before, I was a bit surprised to not see the white and blue houses dotting the coast line. As well, most of our drive was through heavy forested areas with no villages to speak of. By the time we reached the coast where Vatera was located, we had only passed through two villages in an hour.

Arriving at the hotel, which was across the street from the beach (which was how all of the accommodation was along this stretch), we were immediately welcomed by Eleni and Costas, the owners. She invited us to sit for coffee and I had a lemonade. Eleni was a kind and lovely women who seemed genuinely excited to meet us. Her knowledge of English is limited but we managed to have a great conversation and in no time Shelley and I both felt like we were a part of the family. Despite requesting a ground floor room Costas escorted us upstairs to our room. We later found out that the ground floor rooms do not have air conditioning. After settling in we went down to check out the beach and go for a swim. The beach here is a mixture of darker sand and pebbles. The water was another surprise to us as it was not the turquoise colour of the Aegean I think we were expecting. Getting in the water for the first time was also a bit of a shock as it was way colder then the Mediterranean waters we had experienced two days prior. We swam anyway before coming back in for a wonderful huge dinner prepared by Eleni. A group at the next table asked us to join them and we spent the evening with a bunch of expats from various countries who all have had homes here for years. They kept us in stitches as they spent the evening trying to figure out how they could all get to Vancouver Island to visit on Sean's yacht (really a large rowboat) by crossing the Atlantic to Nova Scotia then they figured they could get to the Island via waterways throughout Canada. After clearing up the geographic confusion, they agreed the Panama canal was the only real option! Day two was spent at the beach with Shelley walking further down the beach to check out snorkeling opportunities. There were a few fish and spiny urchins but very little else. Dinner was again delicious and we went to bed early. Today was another beach day and we will be heading for dinner again soon.

Kellie has decided that with her knee brace and cane she will continue on with me rather than staying behind. She will rest her knee as much has possible over the next week or so. Also, we have downloaded great videos of our balloon flight but don't seem to have enough WiFi to upload to You Tube, the process we must do in order to add to the blog. We will keep trying. We will fly to Athens on the 28th and will be there a couple of days before flying to Prague.

A word of caution about Google translator - maybe don't use the voice option - Kellie decided to tell Eleni that "today is nice!" Unfortunately what came out in Greek (which Kellie could see printed on the screen) was, "gay is nice!" Eleni gave her an odd look and didn't really laugh but Kellie couldn't stop laughing, considering we are on the island of Lesbos (now called Lesvos)!

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave

Cave


Ocean below cave

Ocean below cave

View from Vatera beach Lesvos

View from Vatera beach Lesvos


Eleni and Costas from Omiros hotel Vatera beach Lesvos

Eleni and Costas from Omiros hotel Vatera beach Lesvos


Our beach - Shelley far left

Our beach - Shelley far left

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFg6iOtTQcY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nefEolIo6QU

Posted by kelshell 23:05 Archived in Greece Comments (2)

Driving to the Mediterranean coast

Beautiful sea

sunny 36 °C

We left Goreme with heavy hearts. Such a lovely place to be. We started driving toward Mersin, a very large city on the coast. We stopped in the late afternoon at Erdemli and found a fairly well priced hotel on the beach. After a swim and included dinner we tried to blog but WiFi again a problem. After breakfast we headed out to travel the coast toward Antalya where we will drop off the car on the 23rd. We stopped at a lovely tiny village in a cove as we saw a motel sign. We have parked ourselves here for tonight. An afternoon of snorkeling (yay finally) and a fresh fish dinner (I apologized to my fish) and a lovely night swim (sans suit per Kellie's insistence) we have thoroughly enjoyed this spot.

Hi there (Kellie speaking), it is with a heavy heart that I mention my knee issue, which started in Istanbul, has not resolved. The issue got very bad again yesterday and while trying to rest it and not do inclines or stairs, that almost seems next to impossible in this country. I believe I have an acute knee tendonitis, which is limiting my ability to walk considerably. So, I needed to ice it, which is also next to impossible in this country because no one has ice. On our drive down the coast Shelley popped into several grocery type stores for some frozen item to use as an ice pack. The last store did have a freezer and Shelley emerged with four frozen personal size pizzas. So as we headed along the coast I "iced" my knee with several pepperoni pizzas, which worked just fine. Shelley has been amazing through all of this and has been so supportive and helpful. I couldn't ask for a better travel partner. While I have to face the fact that my knee will not mend if I keep walking as we need to do, I have decided to give it a more substantial recoup period. Shelley and I discussed options and we have decided that I will stay back in Lesvos for an extended period of time. She will head to Athens then on to Prague on her own. After Prague our hope is that my knee will be in shape enough for me to get around and I will then fly to meet her in Hungary. Such a damn shame and I'm feeling bummed out about the whole situation. At this point I am really hoping to complete the trip so this is the only thing that might allow me to do that. Jenny, OT extrordinaire has provided me with taping info and suggested I get a cane, which I will surely do.

We will continue our drive tomorrow and make our way closer to Antalya. Let's hope we find another great little cove for a swim and some R&R.

In the cave church

In the cave church

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Ulchisar mushrooms

Ulchisar mushrooms

Ulchisar

Ulchisar

Ramazan with traditional wine decanter

Ramazan with traditional wine decanter

Perched rock

Perched rock

Dawn

Dawn

More caves

More caves

Posted by kelshell 13:06 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

Stupendous Cappadocia

Natural wonders

sunny 40 °C

We arrived in Kayseri after a quick flight. Hoping that our bad travel luck was over we approached the Hertz desk. We had booked and paid for our car online in March, having ordered a standard as it was cheaper. With Kellie's forgotten and then lost ( it may have arrived in Russia after we left) license, we had changed the booking online in Istanbul to an automatic with all of my license information. That change hadn't registered at the Hertz outlet but he did have an automatic. But he couldn't change the booking from Kellie's name to mine. Impossible on his system - the Hertz system! After attempting to have me pay the drop charge (pending fee) so that my credit card would be linked for insurance, he said it would be best to cancel everything and register in my name. But he couldn't cancel Kellie's reservation. She had to go online do it. With no WiFi (we haven't found an airport with free WiFi since leaving Canada). So he hooked her up to his cellular WiFi and she tried to cancel but the site wouldn't let her. He kept interrupting our transaction as he had other impatient customers. Finally 2 hours later with me paying double for the rental (no cheap fare if not pre-booked and our pre-booking was no longer in existence) we drove off in the pouring rain in the dark, not even knowing if we could get the refund because he didn't know for sure as it was canceled after pick up time! The bonus was it had navigation - in English! Driving for over an hour and stopping just once once in Goreme to ask where Aren Cave Hotel was, we made it! While tired and a bit frustrated, once entering through the lovely courtyard to our hotel, our emotions changed as we looked around at the beautiful hotel that was built into one of the famous Cappadocia caves. Our hotelier was waiting for us and checked us in. We were so impressed with our room and the surroundings we almost forgot about our rental car issues. Having arrived very late and in the dark, we were excited to see what sights the next morning would bring.

The next morning we awoke to find our view was of other amazing caves and enchanting fairy chimneys that this region of Cappadocia is known for. Our stay at the hotel also included breakfast, which was up on the third floor in an enclosed glass room. Each table was preset with an amazing assortment of cheeses, honey, olives and bread. Once we sat down the cook then prepared a platter for us containing eggs, salad and various sauces. It was a surprise to us to feel so pampered and everything was presented in a thoughtful and artistic manner. Once meeting the hotel owner, whose name was Ramazan, we quickly understood why… he is an extremely talented ceramics artist, and designed all of the elements of the hotel, even down to hand making the serving platters for breakfast. Ramazan offered to come with us in our car to tour us around the must see sights. We saw so many amazing things. The open air museum at Goreme is an area of cave churches. Ramazan explained that these were originally chipped out of the stone by the people. No one is sure where the rock dust and debris wound up but likely amended soil for crop growing. The cave dwellings moderate the harsh climate staying cool in summer and warm in winter. Summer temperatures are up to 40 C and winter temperatures can be -20 C. There are cave dwellings in the fairy chimneys all over the region and were inhabited until the 1950s. Many have homes now built above due to government intervention. The chimneys were formed when 2 volcanic mountains surrounding the area erupted thousands of years ago. Over time wind and rain have eroded the landscape creating these formations. Evidence of Hittite people living in these cave dwellings dates them to approximately 4000 years old. Over our time in Cappadocia we also went to underground cities, again community dwellings dug into and below the earth some reaching depths of 60 metres or more.

On my grandson Keaton's first birthday, August 18th, Kellie and I went for our much anticipated dawn hot air balloon ride. We had booked this in March for 90 minutes. Due to air current conditions we were advised the day before that we would likely only get 60 minutes. This turned out to be perfectly fine. What an incredible experience! We were picked up at 4:30 am and transported to the balloon office where they provided a lovely breakfast. Afterward we were driven a short distance to the launch area. Some balloons were already in the air while others were being inflated. In our balloon were 16 people, 4 per chamber. We were in a chamber with a lady from Hamilton. We also met a woman named Eve from Australia who had quit her job and sold up to travel for a year. She had left in February and was headed home after Istanbul. She was missing her children and grandchildren. The balloon ride got up over the fairy chimneys and valleys as the dawn sun broke. Priceless! Champagne and strawberries upon touchdown. We went back to the hotel to rest. Later on we went traveling around the area, stopping at a quiet lake for a nice swim. First swim of the summer (except for the Baltic Sea dip for me). We went to a wonderful Turkish dinner and dancing night where the action continued non-stop. The next day we did some more sightseeing, had dinner with Eve at an excellent restaurant beside our hotel. All in all Cappadocia is a must see! Uploading photos and videos take forever to upload with really spotty WiFi so will post what we've done for now and add more later. We are currently at a lovely Mediterranean seaside village for the night and need another swim before nightfall.

Nar Lake Cappadocia swim afternoon

Nar Lake Cappadocia swim afternoon

Drinking our coffee

Drinking our coffee

The 3 beauties

The 3 beauties

Cave dwellings

Cave dwellings

More chimneys

More chimneys

Open air museum

Open air museum

Fairy chimneys

Fairy chimneys

Rock perched precariously

Rock perched precariously

Balloons

Balloons

Dwellings

Dwellings

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum church

Open air museum church

Shouldn't have bought sunglasses from the drunk Mongolian guy!

Shouldn't have bought sunglasses from the drunk Mongolian guy!

In the cave church

In the cave church


https://youtu.be/O1AdlRgEMcs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHW4YYCy960

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxIu0PKyp5A

Posted by kelshell 00:35 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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