Prague

Managed to cut the photos down to about 140, check out the gallery here.

Group in front of Train Station

Last week Thursday was a public holiday here in Germany, so I managed to take Friday off and spend three days, four nights in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. I joined up with a group of 7 Brazillians who are studying with me at Reutlingen. At overlapping times 3 other groups of students from our international group were also in Prague.

We took the train from Reutlingen on Thursday afternoon all the way to Nuremburg where we switched to a bus for the last 3 hours of the journey arriving shortly after 21h00. We took a walk down to our accommodation just south of Old Town. We stayed in the Prague Lion Hostel, which for the 10 Euro per night we were paying was very nicely located and pretty decent accommodation. We checked in and went in search of some food. Walking around randomly and grabbing some food and a drink before heading back.

We had no plan for Friday but decided to just take a stroll through town. We walked up Wenceslas Square towards the Museum and across towards the train station. We then headed West walking past Henry’s Bell Tower and off towards the Powder Tower. We met up with some friends at the Palladium (mall type thing) to grab some lunch and joined them through the Jewish Quarter.

Here we went through the Pinkas Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue and the Jewish Cemetery continuing on towards the Vltava River and towards Charles Bridge. We walked across the Charles Bridge just before sunset and it was packed with pedestrians. The bridge is like an avenue with beautiful statues lining either side of the bridge. A brief visit to a curios shop and we were heading back to our Hostel along the river.

Jewish Cemetery

That night we had arranged with the other international students to do a pub crawl. We took part in the Prague Pub Crawl, which starts out at their own Pub, progresses on through three other clubs ending the night at Karlovy Lazne, the self proclaimed largest club in Central Europe. It was a long night, but a lot of fun and definitely worth it if you’re looking for something like that.

Saturday was a late start. We managed to see a bit more of the city. Headed up towards the Old Town Square where got a look at the Astronomical Clock and some of the other buildings in the area. Had a lovely supper at a local restaurant before heading back to our hostel. It’s amazing that even late at night you can see people being given tours through the city.

Saturday night we also made a pass by the Ice Bar. A tiny freezer room shaped out to look like a bar. Kept at -7C and surrounded by walls of ice, with statues, tables, chairs and the bar itself all made out of ice. Quite impressive although fairly small and freezing cold to spend extended lengths of time in there.

Sunday we made a plan to get up relatively early and head up the hill across the river to the castle. And so we headed off, stopping at a bakery for some nice pastries and coffee for breakfast. Up the hill to the gates of the castle with a pretty view over a large part of Prague. Through the guarded gates and a walk around the castle grounds. The castle is one large walled in area, with various buildings contained within including an astounding Cathedral. Some of us chose to climb up the tower. One spiral staircase for the 100m climb to the top for traffic in both directions.Once on the top you could walk all the way around and get views over the entire Prague. The sun even came out for a few minutes while we were atop. As we got down to the bottom we heard the sound of trumpets and were just in time to view the changing of the guard at 12h00.

After that we headed down and up another hill to the Petrin Tower, a kind of mini-Eiffel Tower. It was a lovely walk through the parks surrounded by red and orange trees. We decided to start to head back and stopped down in town for a late lunch. We then went back to our hostels, making a pass by the oddly named ‘Dancing Tower’.

Dancing Tower

A rustig night in the hostel and we on our way back to Germany.

Astronomical Tower

Prague has a lot of tourists. It draws people of all ages and has something for everyone. The city has a long history with buildings and stories to show for it. It’s a hub of cultural activities and museums with musical and dramatic events almost daily. They also attract big events and music bands, while there’s a major night life as well.

We stayed within the city centre for almost the entire trip, everything was close enough to walk, and boy did we walk. There’s also a regular tram system though we never felt the need to try it. I also felt safe the whole time. Sure most of the time I was in a group of 8 guys, but even walking by myself late the one night I wasn’t too worried.

The tourist areas do have quite a few hustlers. People trying to get you to go to certain restaurants, exchange money on the streets or go into certain shops. One just needs to be clear with them about what you want and don’t do anything if you’re not happy about it or feel uncomfortable. There are also exchange booths everywhere, open all times of night. One really has to read the rates carefully and look around. Certain places wanted to offer us only 20 Koruna (Crowns) to the Euro, whereas the best we got was 24.5. Most restaurants and lots of stores will also accept Euros, we either got a 24 or 25 Koruna to the Euro exchange amount there.

I had a great time and got to see a lot of the city. It’s really beautiful, full of old buildings, parks and lots to see and do. I do feel a bit that although I saw a lot, I don’t really know much about what I saw. I’ll definitely put Prague on my list of places to visit again, to see a show and research a bit more about the city.

Petrin Tower

This weekend a few of us are going to head to Stuttgart on Saturday and take a look through the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums.

Schloss Lichtenstein

A few photos can be seen here.

hiking up

A group of the Russians were heading off to the Lichtenstein Castle above Honau on Saturday, so myself and a couple others decided to join up for the trip. The castle sits atop a hill by the small town of Honau, which was just a 20min bus ride from Reutlingen. We decided to sleep late and take the bus at 12:30.

still hiking up

This had all been planned several days before, and it wasn’t till Friday that we found out there might be a bit of snow. It wasn’t till Saturday that we saw a good few inches of snow on the ground and a steady, light snow fall which continued throughout the day. The buses were still running so we decided to go. It’s the first time I’ve been in proper snow since I was about 9 and quite a few of the other international students had never experienced snow.

We got to Honau and had to hike about 2km up the hill to get to the castle. It was a lovely walk through a forest, with snow everywhere. We got to the top and did a short tour through the castle. The castle’s quite small, especially compared to previous ones we’ve seen. Also the lovely views which are normally present were completely clouded over. This along with snow falling the whole time meant we didn’t spend much time there and headed straight for the restaurant next door.

what we expected to see vs what we did see

A lovely meal at the restaurant alongside a wood fire and we had to make the descent back to Honau. We took a slightly shorter route, through an extra few inches of snow getting down pretty quickly with half an hour to spare waiting for the bus.

I took considerably less photos on this trip than on any previous trip, mainly due to the snow. There was very little cover to stand under and take photos on the trip. The snow was never ending and seems to get everywhere. Once again we weren’t allowed to take photos within the castle.

I only realised on the day, that the castle is spelt Lich-, as opposed to the country which is spelt Liech-. The same pronunciation did confuse some people when I mentioned where we were going for the day. The castle was apparently named after the rock it was built on which was very bright and easy to see. Lich being German for light, which was an old synonym for bright.

view from town during a slight cloud break

This week Thursday is a public holiday and quite a few people don’t have class on Friday. There’s a group hoping to get to Prague that I’d like to join, but at the moment transport seems to be a bit of an issue, but we will see what happens, else I’m sure we’ll find something else to get up to.

Sigmaringen

A couple photos I uploaded can be seen here.

Reutlingen university has a ‘students4students’ initiative where they link up local students to help out exchange students. One of the students4students, Jens (also linked with┬á Erasmus) organised a trip for us to Sigmaringen. We took a tour of the castle and then a 5km walk along the Danube River and back.

We caught the train just before 9am arriving in Sigmaringen shortly after 10, a group of about 45. We walked straight to the castle to start a tour through the public area. The castle is privately owned and the owner still lives in a large section of the castle. This was unfortunately as it meant we were only allowed through the guided tour section of the castle, but weren’t allowed to explore any further or roam the grounds.

The tour itself was very nice. A very knowledgeable guide took us through many rooms. All beautifully decorated and including many ornaments, paintings and tapestries that were hundreds of years old. Unfortunately because of all these valuable ornaments and heirlooms, no photography was allowed in the building, we assume for fear of someone doing a re-con to break-in at a later stage.

A walk through the town and a small market led us to a hill overlooking the town. Down the other side and through a bit more of the town and we came out by the Danube River. The Danube River is Europe’s second biggest river after the Volga. Sigmaringen however is very near the source of the river and as such the river isn’t particularly impressive, gaining size from many tributaries along its way to the Black Sea.

The weather was absolutely stunning, and we did a 5km walk upstream all along the river. There’s a nice path which was being used by lots of other people including cyclists. We had taken our time walking out of town, and stopped quite a few times. Also crossed a bridge called the Teufelsbr├╝cke and went to a viewing point over some farmlands and the river.

But on the way back we had to get back to Sigmaringen in time for our train so a brisk walk back along the river and through town got us to the station with 10min to spare. A peaceful trip back to Reutlingen and a nice supper at a restaurant called deja vu was all needed to complete the day.

Photo: Jens

Without any other plans at the moment, I’ll have to decide what to do next. A weekend in Reutlingen to get some work done on my thesis may be what’s required.

Heidelberg

A few more photos can be seen here.Today we had a group excursion to Heidelberg planned, the main attraction being a tour of die Schloss (Castle) Heidelberg. We took a bus at 08:00 through to Heidelberg where we had a bit of time to roam the streets before our tour started.

There was a short climb up to the castle where we were given guided tours. The castle is fairly expansive, although much of it has been damaged. I went to a couple castles in Scotland when I was there a few years ago, and although I’d say some of them compete in size, the ones here are more beautiful.

Bubble blower!

The Scottish ones were plain grey stone, like a typical King Arthur castle. The Heidelberg Castle was from a redder stone, and the design was far more intricate, with lots of sculpting taking place with the main faces been covered in patterns.

so many bikes parked outside the shops

After the tour we grabbed some lunch and walked round the town a bit. Crossing the Neckar river at one stage. A lovely wide river with a bunch of sailing boats out at one point.

The day started off overcast and it threatened to rain at one stage, but the sun and blue sky eventually came out in the afternoon.

Some stitched photos, nothing spectacular: