Lots of local beers sampled on this trip, plus some brewery visits too! Will caption these individually as I get the time with what they are, who made them and where we had them!
So today is the last full day of the trip, we get a flight tomorrow lunchtime so we feel a bit sad but try and make the most of it! We start the day at Prater Park. Famous for the Ferris wheel in the film The Third Man….which I haven’t seen I’m afraid!! I was under the impression it would be a cute park with maybe a couple of things to do. I was SO wrong!! It’s like a mini free Disneyland that sort of hits you in the face as soon as you get there. its AMAZING! You just pay to go on the rides rather than pay an entrance fee. Jim hates fairground rides so we compromised by taking the tiny kids train around the part – which was adorable!
We tried to get some lunch inside the park, the restaurants are a bit touristy but we had hear good things about Schweizerhaus but it was crazy busy by the time we got there. Instead we stopped at a Wurstel Stand again and tried Käsekrainer – a cheese filled sausage extravaganza! From here we head back into the city centre and take the Ring Tram to see the sites (mentioned in yesterdays entry). We carried on doing a bit more shopping before stopping for a drink at Mel’s Craft Beer in the afternoon – a sleek bar with a good range of international beers on draft. Did the job I would say but not my fave.
The weather starts to look a bit biblical so we head back to get ready for our final night out. we wanted some traditional Austrian food before we go so take a punt on a little restaurant near where we were staying called Schank zum Reichsapfel. After frantically google translating the menu at the apartment with little to no luck we head out, turns out everyone speaks great English and is super helpful (always slightly embarrassing for us brits really). It was so nice – really beautiful authentic food in a quiet courtyard. From here we headed back to the small “beach” bars along the Danube that we went to last night.
No diary entry for tomorrow as we just really get out act together to go home! However its worth noting that we went to Karmelitermarkt – a farmers market with a few bakeries and cafes around a pretty square for breakfast – would definitely check out more of this if we go back!
That’s it for this trip! It was a great two weeks seeing as many places as possible and getting to grips with the European rail network. Very easy with the help of Man in Seat 61. If you are ever planning any trip like this make sure you take a look at his (very informative) website.
Next trip is Hamburg in a few weeks!
We go for coffee at Balthasar fist thing. Coffee houses are obviously a Viennese institution but we wanted to go for something more modern and not as stuffy – this place was great. I wish we had more time to lounge about there but we had to keep moving – things to do! In another break from tradition we wanted to do some shopping. in the Neubau area. I went to Kauf Dich Glücklich, a shop i’m in love with since going to it in Berlin and Hamburg. We checked out the Naschmarkt which is Vienna’s biggest food market and made a trip to Beer Lovers – an absolutely HUGE bottle and home brew shop.
We checked out the Museum Quarter – with more time it would’ve been good to see some exhibits. however the courtyard itself is lovely enough just to lounge on for a while. I get the impression there are fairs and other stuff that happens in the square at weekends. Time to start sightseeing, we walk through Maria Theresien Platz where two big museums sit opposite each other. From there we see the Hofburg and walk through the Volksgarten and see parliament and the Rathausplatz. This whole area is just beautiful and i can’t wait to go back and see more of it one day.
Its time for lunch now though, and this is something i’ve really been looking forward to, its not wienerschnitzel or strudel (although i do love those two things…) its BAO! Vienna has a tiny place that does gorgeous pillowy soft steamed buns. We then go for a couple of drinks at 1516 before heading back towards the canal.
We knew there was a bit of nightlife along the canal but until it hit the evening we didn’t realise just how great it was, we scoped it out in the afternoon and could see things starting to open. We stopped in for a quick on at Badschiff which is a bar/restaurant/swimming pool/basketball court on a boat!
We go back to the apartment to get ready for our evening out! We get the underground a few stops out of the centre and head to Beaver Brewing. Worth the slight detour out of the city but we don’t hang around as we wanted to get back down the canal before the sun sets…. drinking outside along the canal…my goals haven’t really changed since being a teenager….
Today we went to see the Metronome. I knew very little about it, except that it was at the top of Letna Hill. After a bit of research I now know that it sits on the plinth where a huge 17,000-ton statue of Stalin loomed over the city from 1955 to 1962. The metronome was put in its place in 1991 as a symbol of the slow tick of growing democracy. Worth the trip up the stairs to see it and the view from the metronome is great. From here you can walk through the park and to the Letna Beer Garden. Some welcome calm from the crowds too!
We get the train just after lunch from Prague to Vienna. It takes just under four hours and its a busy train so I’m glad we reserved seats on this one. Modern train with air co and a bistro carriage too.. Once again Netflix is my friend on this journey!
We get to Vienna and get the keys to our Airbnb. We stayed on the other side of the Danube Canal around Leopoldstadt. it was cheaper and after doing some research in the weeks before we left seem to have a bit more of an edge. plus public transport in Vienna was easier (even though we had the same problem with google maps not picking up the local transport network). We mainly used the underground as it seemed to take us where we needed to go – we did get the tourist ring tram though as it seemed like a fun quick way to see some of the sites with a brief audio guide.
We were going to just grab some food and take it back to the apartment – however note that all the supermarkets seem to close mega early! trying to nip to shop past 7pm seems to be impossible over here! We grab some quick dinner and a couple of drinks at Taschles which was great.
It’s another early start. Prague doesn’t seem to get up very early either so we had to find something to do….naturally we went to the beer spa! Yes, it seems a bit naff and touristy but it was so much fun! These things get booked up in advance but last night i emailed a few to see if there was any chance! One of them replied saying yes – so we went there for an hour at 10am! you get a little room to yourself and there are two hot tubs made out of old barrel. There are taps so you can pour yourself unlimited drinks – and then they make up a concoction of beer, hops and malt which gets stirred into the hot tub. you are left to your own devices to get in and its set on a timer for 25 minutes. After that you rest on a bed of straw that also happens to be in the room…..i don’t know why…… but there is beer to enjoy and homemade bread so its pretty relaxing. they say that the hops are good for your skin….
Art: Prague has lots of great public art, much of it by David Černý. We managed to find the old Trabant on legs which is at the German Embassy – you have to peer through a fence in the back gardens but its worth it. We also managed to find the Freud “hanging out” statue, the rotating Kafka head and got closer to the TV tower with the weird babies crawling up it.
Getting around: Here’s the thing about Prague which i didn’t notice when i went before. Its busy…..reallly busy! As it’s a beautiful old city with lots of small winding passageways it tends to get pretty cramped. Plus it’s not pedestrianized which is noticeable when you’ve been travelling through other cities that tend to be. We used both the tram and the underground to get around which was fairly easy – the whole buying tickets from kiosks can be difficult at some of the smaller stops though!
We didn’t have a great deal of time in Prague, so although we did go up to the castle we didn’t really get a chance to properly look round – we went to the monastery to try the (lovely) Matuska beer and enjoy the views. We checked out some of the beer bars i’d visited previously; U Hrocha, U Zlateho Tygra. We also went to U tří růží (Three Roses) which i think might have been recommended to me but i can’t remember! These are all fairly traditional old-fashioned czech beer bars – usually just the one type of beer on and it just gets given to you by a surly old dude as soon as you sit down, when they see you’ve finished, another beer appears from nowhere! be warned – if you aren’t a middle-aged man everyone will be rude to you. This apparently is “part of the charm” however now I’ve been there twice i realise that this just isn’t for me. My kind of pace are things more like Beer Geek – a new-style multi tap-room with people enthusiastic about varieties of beers. I had Sibeerian Raven which was a collaboration with Sibeeria and Pivovar Raven breweries. Two Czech breweries I’d be happy to try more of!
For dinner we went to Pivovar U Dobřenských which is another small brewpub – these guys are making slightly more experimental herb infused beers in what is a very traditional city. It was a bit quiet which was a shame as i really loved the food and drinks here! We both had the lemongrass beer which i would recommend.
Lie in day today – free breakfast from the hotel (to compensate for some non-existent building work that was taking place during our stay) and then another hot tub before leaving the room. Our train isn’t until 10pm so we needed to find some fun! We walked down and around the Kazimierz district. Lots of nice little shops, bars and restaurants around the windy streets of the Jewish district – we went to Singer – a cafe where all the tables outside still have their old sewing machines attached to them. Also we were hunting for Bigos! a polish meat and sauerkraut stew type thing (they have it at the Southbank food market in london – always tasty!).
Final stop before leaving was at the Tap House – a really nice, simple and stripped back brew pub from Pracownia Piwa. Had some really great beers in here and got a couple of bottles to take home – v friendly and knowledgable staff, looking forward to finding out more about these guys
Time to get the train!
The train got at about 7:30 in the morning – it can be hard work to try and find something to do at this time. i did email ahead to the hotels to see if there was any chance of checking in super early but as you can imagine they couldn’t accommodate. First thing to do was to drop off the bags (which are feeling heavier at each stop!!) We took a walk through the square which was really nice at that time of the morning as everything is so quiet – we then walked down past the Jewish quarter – over the bridge and headed to Schindler’s Factory. this is more about the occupation of Krakow during the war rather than Schindler himself. Housed in the old administration buildings of Schindler’s factory it was detailed with some excellent exhibits.
We took the tram back up towards the square. One thing i must point out is that the public transport system isn’t linked to google – so unless you have a map or know where you are going you are a bit screwed! I was also a bit scared of how much i have relied on google maps this whole trip! Also – don’t worry too much about the whole public transport thing – you really don’t need to use the tram system at all in Krakow – everything is very close by
We stopped for a drink at the Black Gallery pub and ate some pierogis. These are tasty little dumplings that you can get all over the city. Time to check into the hotel. We stayed at the Betmanowska Residence on the square – it was a bit of a splurge when we booked it as we paid for a room with a hot tub! however after taking a sleeper train the night before (and another one the following night) it seemed only fair! And it was really nice – one of the warmest welcomes I’ve had at a hotel for a long time – the free minibar didn’t hurt also.
After a bit of a rest at the hotel we go out to Wezze Krafta – Jim had seen a recommendation online and then when we googled it there were quite a few other places nearby…. curious right …..what kind of place was it going to be!? when we walked in and found a huge industrial complex (an old tobacco factory) with restaurants, bars, gallery spaces etc we knew it was definitely our kind of thing – i’ve since looked it up – https://www.inyourpocket.com/krakow/tytano-krakows-off-centre-city-centre_74446f?&page=2