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Tauranga customised photo tour starts today (Sept 18) with airport collection about midday.
I have designed a personalised tour focusing on landscapes and night shoots commencing in Rotorua for the first afternoon then shifting to Tauranga.
A stop in bottom of Pyes Pa Gorge Road on way to Tauranga for some long exposure shots round off the afternoons shooting.
Morning beach sunrises, bush walks, waterfalls, and evening harbour and night lights shoots will follow over 4 days. We’ll throw in travelling in a vintage Ford Model T for a visit to a kiwifruit orchard, its pruning season, so not most interesting time but expect to see workers in action, and a cruise across, and around, Lake Rotoiti in a vintage boat with fish and chips lunch.
So here’s a little summary of the tour. It’s fair to say it went really well. We covered a lot of territory in the days available, we were able to share photography techniques, see some new ones tried and in the evenings look into expanding the use of Lightroom by a better understanding of some of its features.
Early morning, blue hour at Mount Maunganui;
Lex sets up for a shot of stream while Lex and Eric take in the view.
Lex lines up a log and casts a long shadow.
Then off to see a kiwifruit orchard in 1930’s Ford. Stopping by the orchard outhouse for workers.
At the Bridge Marina for our last dinner together when we caught this little tacker on a scooter.
Four days, a great range of photo opps, and the chance to utilise a range of photographic techniques – a great few days.
These and a selection of other images can be seen at www.brianscantlebury.com
A rushed drive from Delphi to Athens, deliver the car and and get to airport to fly to the island of Skiathos started our time heading for our Greek island experience.
In all we will spend near three weeks on the three “postcard” islands of Skiathos, Santorini and Naxos.
First Skiathos, a typically Greek/Mediterranean island, (really, the second of the 4 for us including a short visit to Hydra), is a relaxed and popular place for tourists.
As always there are some thrills, some issues and some fun and lots more of photographic images to share than can be included in these blogs.
Walking the streets, lanes and beaches of these islands provides lots of photographic opportunities.
A few facts, Skiathos is one of the northern Sporades group in the Aegean with a current population of abut 8,000, is recognized as a party island with tourist numbers said to reach up to 70,000 at a time. Its known for its beaches, olives and is very green compared to the mainland.
Walking the streets for a meal you’ll come across large trays of whole fish packed in ice, ready for your selection for dinner. This was along waterfront restaurants on Skiathos.
Though some of these shots show empty streets, July & August are the hot months, both from point of view of tourists and temperatures which have been well up into the 30’s.
The sky’s have never had a cloud in them and the sunrises and sunsets are intense, especially on Santorini. The Greeks are on holiday too, and swelling the numbers of tourists and those returning home from the mainland, so hectic is the way here at this time of the year. Many heading to the beaches to hire a deckchair and umbrella, bare some flesh and darken their skin a little as well as bathe in the luke warm Mediterranean water and sipping the odd cocktail in between.
Dining on these islands offers great variety. From the rip sh.. and bust fries with everything including your Greek salad (excuse the mild exaggeration)to really lovely “fine dining” restaurants.
Luckily we spent our time here with a group of great friends who ensured we dined in splendor.
Our hotel at Santorini, our next stop, deliberately chosen to be out of the two main touristic hotspots of Ia and Fira is just the best. The Ampelonas Apartments, it turns out is situated at the highest point of Santorini. And it it is a lovely comfortable and well run property. Sunsets and sunrises without moving (other than to wait 10 hours and turnaround that is), quite unique.
And turnaround – 10 hours later;
Another Santorini sunset, with silhouetted thistles
This is an island in the Cyclades group. Has a resident population around 16,000 before tourists arrive. Grow grapes and olives and is comprised essentially of the 2 cities (Ia and Fira or in their alternative spelling Oia or Thira) built on the caldera.
From our hotel in Imerovigla its only about 20 minutes walk to Fira, one of the 2 postcard style towns and the capital of the island, and about 30 minutes bus or taxi (a story about this later) ride to Ia (or Oia).
So to Naxos on the ferry. Hell just getting on and off this this thing is an experience. The mayhem of Greek organisation seems at it peak in this exercise. No signage for the hordes to work out when or where to move, just people shouting unintelligible instructions, men in uniforms blowing whistles and waving their arms while the aspiring travellers rush about in some form of unmitigated confusion and chaos. Somehow most seem eventually to make it. A bit like the bus timetables, a lower level of chaos, but then often the bus will depart 5+ minutes early, so don’t arrive bang on time and expect to be on. That it seems to me is high -risk strategy.
Like the others the island of Naxos comprises historic buildings and not so historic presented for the tourists, separated by narrow stone paved lanes with those white painted mortar patterns.
Along with the flowering bougainvillea, the oleanders, the wild figs and olive plantations cats abound. Little wonder there’s no birds or wildlife to speak of. They are everywhere and if you look, they are usually in multiples.
But our find in Naxos was in form of a very pleasant and helpful guide, Stuart Thorpe,
There’s little sign of any industry that’s not tourism or olive related, but this old abandoned industrial building just out of Chalki (or Halki) caught my eye as we walked between a couple of villages with Stuart.
Thanks to Stuart, we got to out of the way villages, a Byzantine church in a paddock somewhere and an authentic lunch up in the hills at a family run taverna. The owners quickly prepared a range of dishes we shared. All the produce was grown on their own small farm. A great experience and one to be recommended if you are seeking a bit more than the typical tourist.
Below, the remains of our multi course meal.
I am progressively loading images to my site. Also some on instagram at “briansphotography” if you use that.
Stopping at seaside village for a coffee as one does, this sign offering free shower caught my eye.
Later we turn left off the Rion-Antirion bridge and before long we are in Nafpaktos. Nafpaktos is built around a tiny fortified medieval harbour. Beautiful.
This town has a castle on the hill overlooking it, which we drove too before leaving only to find it was closed until 10.00. Didn’t want to wait so missed that, though did get some great views of the town and harbour below while up there.
From there we head to Arta as a stop off point en-route through the mountains of west Greece. Heading off we set the GPS for the back-roads as normal, but bugger me, somehow we get directed to the motorway with it’s multiple tollgates and boring vistas. And naturally, once you are on it, it hard to get off. But fast I guess.
Arriving in Arta we stop to find accommodation. Found something that looked ideal, booked it then tried to GPS it. Could not find it on the GPS anywhere. Reviewed our booking on the mobile and noticed we had somehow been directed to Arta, sure, but this one was in the Balearic islands, Spain. Ha. The GPS was of course set for Greece. Thats travel.
After a night in our re-booked lovely country hotel on the outskirts of the town we head off early through the mountains. The previous days mountains were interesting, small villages, mostly left behind by the passage of time, rugged roads and only reasonable scenery. Enough to make she who must be obeyed say “boring”. Would not go that far myself, but there you are.
Today was about to be a revelation. Some of the highest hills in the country, some of the windiest roads anywhere, and so many little and not so little groups of red roofed homes scattered among the trees.
But spectacular scenically understates it. What a drive. One not to be missed if you are ever doing a road trip through this country. But, your GPS wont take you there automatically. There is a new toll motorway that Lonely Planet says is also pretty good, but they missed this one.
Have I mentioned the Greek Orthodox churches, shrines and memorials that almost out-number the population?
I later learn they are rarely, sometimes never used in prayer!
Gradually we make our way to Kastraki hotel. This is a beauty, getting to it another story in our excuse for a car. The wee Micra struggles on hills, its 2nd gear often doesn’t realise its being employed. I have never driven so far in 1st gear, but the revs drop and you may as well push. Bloody hopeless is another understatement.
So through the little lanes that double as streets and to bottom of a rise between houses almost less than 1 car with in parts and uphill. The Micra took several hill starts to make to the top. But we did it. And it was worth it.
Couple of sunset shots. We did a sunset tour on our first night in an effort to orientate ourselves. These are from the favorite spot for tourists at sunset. While waiting for the sunset we were taken to the main church in Meteora, We’re filling in time, our guide is explaining every part of every picture. As you’ll know, there is no part of a wall or ceiling that in not artistically painted and turns out they all have meaning. Talk about tedious, so we sat down. And as we do crossed out legs. Not long after a priest came bustling through, was past us when he realised our legs were crossed and in Greek launched into what I’d call a tirade about our legs. Not being sure what was going on I uncrossed mine, no good reason, just a reaction, but Anne didn’t. Well we nearly needed rescuing. Still don’t know what that’s about, but there’s a word of advice there if you are visiting Greek Orthodox churches. Anne does get caught out in these ways. On another occasion we are in a nunnery (monastery that’s been taken over!!). No hats. Anne, wandering around feels a tap on the shoulder, is about to react as she does when I do that, but just in time sees a rather severe nun on her shoulder. Nun points to cap and shakes head, message received, cap removed. A little while later instinctively returns cap to head, just in time for another shoulder tapping and head shaking. We only went into 2 of these monasteries.
Two of the dozen or so monasteries of Meteora.
A couple of days driving the Meteora hills and visiting a couple of the bluff-top monasteries has been a treat.
Then from Meteora via the scenic route, across the cropping plains of Greece and through 3 mountain ranges. the the ancient town of Dephi, I’m just told the ancients regarded this as the centre of the earth. Clearly, they’d never been to New Zealand!
Travelling Greece by road is full of surprises, from the small churches and monuments to wild goats or cattle on the road there seems to be another point of interest around most corners.
Then back up into the winding hill roads, a shell of what once was in middle of nowhere.
And around next corner, something Hitler would have been proud of.
Eventually to Delphi.
So tomorrow, off to join the rest of the group on Skiathos, followed by some rime on a couple of other islands. Until then, keep in touch.
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Borneo, jungles, beaches and wildlife; a photographers dream. And we are expecting an experience like no other.
Borneo, the world’s third largest island. About 3 x size NZ and headed-off by Greenland and New Guinea. It is best known for its ancient 165 million years they say), bio-diverse rain-forest (15,000 plant species) , home to and incredible array of wildlife (over 1,4000 animal species) including the man of the forest, orangutans. But that is only the start.
Leaving Auckland incurs about a 40 minute delayed departure on 8 May. That’s traveling for you, and the first of a series of minor hiccups.
We arrive on May 8th. The Tawau forecast is for thunder storms, we fly though and above cloud and mist from KL the predicted weather does not eventuate.
Looking down on expanse of oil palm plantation through a break in cloud as we arrive.
Our bags though decide they want a holiday on their own and head off somewhere else. We’ve sent the search party out hoping to find, apprehend and return asap. Let’s hope, at least I have my cameras.
We are met by Zahari our naturalist photographer guide at airport 40 minutes late, but he turns out to be the nice guy we expected. He gets us to the Shervinton for or first night. A “flash on-the-outside but rough-as-guts on the inside joint”. Guess that’s the standard for the next 3 weeks but we didn’t come here for the hotels.
Tawau is a typically Asian city but with less motorbikes. The 3rd largest city in Sabah – Malaysian Borneo.
Earning a living. Row of umbrella protected shoe repair and second hand sales operators on street in Tawau and in local food market below.
From Tawau we head to Semporna and our first resort. Lato Lato is a built on stilts resort that looks spectacular as we approach by boat. It touches no land but the shallow coral seabed where the stilts made out of slim tree trunks (I’m told they are ironwood, never rot and as hard as hell, but never-the less a little spindly looking) a bit like old fashioned fence post.
Through the chalet window at Lato Lato looks relaxing and wonderful, but this belies the underlying story.
We check in and head to our room. Kind of unprepared for this we were. The room is rustic, but without charm, the bathroom has a dunny, no seat, a bucket and ladle as a substitute for a shower. a tap, a shower-head for appearances sake cos it ain’t plumbed. But something even more interesting, as we walked the gangplank, so to speak, to get here I noticed the external plumbing and wondered where the waste went. Looked specifically at ours and it appeared to terminate about where the tidal level then. We did a wee test, flushed the loo, and voila into the tide she flowed.
Hmm, went back to our guide and explained that we would not stay in that room and explained the environmental concerns we had. All denied, until we said we would photograph another test. Change of mind occurs, oh yes you right comes an admission, the tradie hasn’t quite finished comes the excuse, we’ll shift you.
Mattered not really, because it wasn’t long before someone else was checked into that room. uuggh. Temps are about 30+f, humidity about 500 and only a fan to cool us during any time we spent in our room.
Tall palm trees on one of the Semporna islands we visit.
Children of sea-gypsies we pass visiting some minute tropical Semporna islands see us approach and paddle out in their little boats in hope of receiving some gifts.
Sea-gypsie mother and two small children peer out at us from window of their boat off a Semporna Marine Park island.
Decided to check out a day early from this place, the Lato Lato Resort.
Idyllic tropical sunrise from Lato Lato Resort, on the morning we leave, Sabah Borneo,
Our guide had to find somewhere else. we end up at an expensive but very nice Hawag Danum Valley Resort in the middle of the jungle.
It’s expensive, but lovely. aircon and a nice clean room. It’s a package deal, so we get their guides to handle us for our stay. Sagely, we’re advised to buy some leach socks.
Dumb Kiwi’s that we are we put these big baggy things on, as you do, under your trousers, then to to meet our guide who asks if we have leach socks. proudly we say yes, pull up our trouser legs and display them. Laughs from our guide, and no doubt others standing around as its explained you put them on the outside and tie them below the knee, well we had that right).
Off we set, very soon to learn the importance of these things. By the time we get home the blood sucking leaches had beaten the socks and found ways to attach themselves all over us. Deprived of lots of blood and being in a place with no alcohol (that’s a blood substitute I’d always believed) we had to re-calibrate our expectations.
Although we spend 2.5 days being leached every which way (and i mean that) this was to turn out to be a beaut experience.
Dinner then a night drive. Bumping along a dusty on back of a ute with a couple of spotlight wielding spotters and our guide we look for critters under the trees, in the trees and flying about.
Venomous wrangler pit viper in Borneo in rain-forest, Sabah.Danum Valley.
Brown wood owl high in tree in Borneo Rainforest, Danum Valley, Sabah
File-eared tree frog in Borneo rainforest at in Danum Valley, Sabah.
There’s a long story to be told here, but that best left for a separate blog, or another time. It involves our guide, a few lies, and the police. enough said, but it becomes important to dump him.
We just published our photographic book. Take a look, a full preview is available for free.
The comprises 30 pages of full color images on 30 pages and dust jacket.
Be interested in any comments you have too.
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That’s the question, why Namibia?
With the thousands of images I have returned with, it will be quite a while before I get through them all. So, this will be an evolving blog. It will be updated progressively.
And back to the “more than a few reasons;
Landscapes, I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything like what Namibia has to offer;
Sossusvlei dunes are breathtaking. Dead Vlei and Hidden Vlei are so immense and stunning
Touring photographers cast shadow on golden sand dunes.
Then there’s the Quiver Tree Forest with it’s unworldly aloes scattered randomly across a rugged rocky terrain;
Wildlife, big cats, Lions and cheetahs in particular, there’s more to come of these;
Flight of the flamingos at Swakopmund as sun sets over wetland
We came across these lions, him & her, not long after they had made their kill. Here feasting happily together. We went back next morning and watched him take charge and drag the rest of the carcass away from her. She then left the scene and headed to a water hole about a kilometer away, as the crow flies, where we came across her again.
All creatures great and small;
Small desert adapted lizard and a shy palmato lizard poking its head out of the sand
What about the people;
Portrait of traditional tribal woman holding child.
Dancing in the tribal way. The Himba people in their small remote village and woman sitting outside shack (below)
And finally some birds in flight, Southern Yellow Hronbill, pale chanting goshawk and lilac breasted roller below.
We head off for a family week on Koh Samui as the first of 2 Thai stops.
A 40 minute drive from airport see’s us at our villa for the week. A lovely place and it would prove to be a great stay. Magnificent and always cooperative staff make a huge difference.
A visit to the market seems essential activity in this part of world.
The Samui Sunday night market fills a couple of hours. Typical bustle of toursists and vendors. No redeeming aspects here
The bottles of 40 baht motorcycle gasoline must have all sold out. The rack is empty. Although along the little sparsely populated road to our accommodation there’s about another 6 or so ramshackle sheds, shops etc that also sell the fuel by the bottle.
Morning walks along the beach are ever interesting. Sunrise is delayed by cloudy horizons most mornings while we are here. A small fleet of longtail fishing boats is moored a little way along. Above a silhouetted fisherman prepares for the day. Looking the other direction a light mist shrouds the shore, boats and distant islands.
Typical tropical island beach lined with coconut palms on another cloudy morning but later Blue sky and water highlight and reflect a classic fishing boat.
Buddhist culture dominates of course with shrines and pagoda all around. this pagoda is on the beach a few minutes walk from our fabulous accommodation. We’ve spent a week with our wonderful family here enjoying every minute of it. Can only say a great big thanks for the organisation, time and memories here and for the generous celebration and gift.
Our 1st week comes to an end tomorrow and we head off to capture some of the scenes and life in northern part of the country.
There’ll be no more SUPing, kayaking or beach walks at our next stop.
Next stop Chiang Mai
The streets of Chiang Mai are full of colour and vibrance, not to mention people and spots to eat or markets to buy everything from copy art to clothing and souvenirs. See more photos at;
Temples, chedi and Buddhist cultural paraphernalia are everywhere.
Some more urban street scenes;
Germany, land of engineering excellence, great cars, historic cities, good wine, tons of photographic opportunities, and reluctantly I have to say, disappointing coffee.
Arrived in Munich by train, about 40 minutes late. Not that it mattered much to us, but it’s interesting for me at least to find that the German reputation for efficiency and service is not all to be believed. The trains we’ve been on have a comparatively low level of facility, ie mostly no wifi, no extras, bottles of water etc, and then late on this last trip. You can see it’s all adding up.
Did our usual city wander by afternoon then out for a cheap meal, and a short stroll after dark.
Our hotel has absolutely crap wifi service. The worst we’ve experienced anywhere on tour. It is handy location-wise albeit interestingly in “Little Arabia”. Walking distance to station and central city points of interest.
Took the train to Dachau this morning. Spent several hours at the concentration camp memorial. What an experience. Man, what those poor buggers had to put up with at the mercy of the Nazi’s is beyond comprehension. We have all gotten to believe this anyway, but seeing this memorial, a really well presented museum with tons of imagery and information boards was a really moving experience. Overwhelming. Could only take about a third of it in. That was enough. Another city walk tonight. Munich is another really interesting city, historically, architecturally and culturally.
Corridor and and cell interior through inspection opening in door from corridor of bunker block
The BMW Museum is a worthwhile experience for any visitor to Munich. About 15 minutes from central station and you arrive at the BMW plant, museum and BMW Welt (World). The cars, company history and the marvelous architecture will ensure you find this an interesting outing regardless of your auto enthusiasm.
Arriving at these peak tourist attractions is a hectic experience. Usually 2 or 4 buses seem to have heard we’ll be there and arrive simultaneously disgorging the thousands (or so it seems) tourists all jostling for prime position with their forest of selfie-sticks waving in the breeze. Yuk!
the architecture and cars are equally impressive. Sorry no photos of cars, but you know what they look like.
Last day in Munich. Rained all night, still drizzling when we arise. Being Sunday everything closed, except McDonalds. So that’s our breakfast venue.
Then we walk in the drizzle to the Pinakothek der Moderne, What a wonderful gallery. Art, installations and the interior architecture defy the what from the spartan outside concrete block construction. Then the afternoon is filled with a walk through the English Gardens. What a feature to have in middle of city. Rivers, creeks, trees, fields and of course people. As rain stops becomes quite pleasant, though still overcast and cold. High today 14. Have had up to 26 over the last week.
So, once again we training, Munich to Stuttgart. Once on and settled very relaxed way to travel.
Scenery changes from urban/industrial on outskirts of Munich to attractive rural and back to industrial as we approach Stuttgart about 2 hours later.
Once into hotel we head off for a walk around city, and back for the evening drinks in our room. The usual cheap as hell bottle of wine and cheeze and crackers. the latter have to be cleaned up on the night we buy them due to the fact that most accommodation in this part of the world provides neither fridges nor tea and coffee making facilities in your room. At this time I’m in for another disappointment. The hotel, Novum Boulevard in city centre, bills as it’s top benefit free high speed wifi. Well, its the worst. Thought the last place set the record for that, bugger me, no this one leaves it for dead. I give up after an hour. At almost 10.00 pm I manage to successfully logon. Then it takes over 10 minutes to upload this web page to the stage above this paragraph. Sure as hell makes me want to revert to snail mail. Could have bloody near walked home with the message in the time wasted on this, and the hotel doesn’t want to know. Claim no one else has complained.. agggah.
Stuttgart has a city population of about 600,000 and a wider metropolitan number about 6 mill. Of course its the home of Mercedes, Porsche, to name the obvious. Weather deteriorates and limits our activities to wandering the city streets.
And on last day venturing by train to the Mercedes Museum.
Worth the effort. Weather a little inclement, windy, cool and odd spot of rain. Mercedes have integrated a history lesson into the evolution of their brand. Well done, though we both think the BMW experience was more embracing.
So Stuttgart ends our 2017 European tour. We fly out at 7.45 tomorrow, means getting to airport at about 5.45. Asking hotel reception for a 4.30 wake up call elicits an incredulous response, but our request is eventually accepted.
We leave the land of biergartens, pretzels and crap coffee with enough photos to keep us busy for next six months. In case you are wondering the wifi hasn’t improved either. For a country thats an engineering world leader, produces some of the best autos money can buy we are left wondering why they haven’t put the same energy into the little things like useful wifi, decent coffee, trains with facilities that match those in other countries we’ve travelled.
Otherwise, been really enjoyable, lots to see, lots more in fact than we’ve gotten to, and lots to learn. The history, as you surely know is amazing for us little antipodeans.
So for now it’s auf wiedersehen,
Yes, truly the city of sights. The architecture, the historic buildings, castles and churches,the streetscapes, the scenic river, and the fairyland by night, truly the city of sights.
Our intro to Prague is probably not the first thing that’s remembered by most visitors.
Picked up at train station and delivered to our accommodation we’re greeted before even getting in the door by the owner, Kristina. An effervescent lady and so full of information, she should really be Prague’s tourism ambassador. Coffee in hand she quickly settles into redrawing the city map with helpful notations and small pictures. Brilliant assistance that proved to be. The Aparthotel in Prague is a 20 minute walk from centre, if that’s not a problem it’s my 5 star recommendation. A “boutique hotel” with a wonderfully friendly, fun and super-helpful owner. excellent continental breakfasts are reasonable price to boot. Kristina’s more of a host than a hotel operator.
Following our induction to Prague, dropping our bags we head off on the first recommended walk, into the Old Town and Charles Bridge. I’d read the best time to “see” the Charles Bridge was about 6 in morning. We learn why. It’s chokka full of those pesky tourists who are always in my way when I’m shooting, peddlers selling their pictures, jewelry, and other sundry items. Shoulder to shoulder we march back and forth before heading into the town.
I get up early next morning and head back. Certainly not too many people there, but clearly others had read the same info I had. A few hundred people now scattered waiting for the perfect shot of sunrise over the monumental east end tower. Of course a maintenance crew had to drive the Goddam big truck, park right in the middle and proceed to carry out some repair or other. Nice for those who’d got up early and made effort to get there ahead of the crowds, including the 3 wedding groups there for the photos of their lifetime.
Evening street scenes.
As with all tourist hot spots restaurants are everywhere. Of course we are in a foreign land and so the things usual to us don’t always apply. Like in may parts of Europe when you order a meal they deliver a basket of bread, sure its often dry, like it’s about 3 days old. I guess its not really, but certainly it different for us. Here’s a beaut in getting caught out though;
We pick a restaurant at one end on Wenceslas Square. Not one of the ones above. Now I know you’ll likely say serves you right for restauranting in the mid of the tourist centre as opposed to heading out a little. After being dragged in by the staff at the menu board, we sit down, eventually someone arrives to take our order. Anne has been repeating herself all day about wanting to try traditional Czech food. Firstly, parched after a day long wander in 25+degrees we seek a gin and soda. 3 minutes of discussion in broken English/Czech (which we are totally inadequate at) we learn the flat soda is extra. Oh well, need it. Then the food order is being placed. A chicken dish is ordered, at which the waitress turns the menu page points to and says you need bread too, NO not needed says Anne. You must its compulsory and it’s 100 koruna. This EU member doesn’t use the Euro as standard currency. Then shrugging and giving up on that , we’re told the stands of pretzel sticks on the table are for us, complimentary, well that’s what we believed was said. Not being fans of these anyway, we take one each, nibble the end and deposit the balance on a plate. Then “compulsory bread” arrives, its one little bun with a wedge of butter. Be thankful for small mercies my mother used to say, in this case the small mercy was the butter, not that the bun was big, it wasn’t. and it had an exterior as hard as an Amsterdam madam. Would have been easier to eat concrete! The fun of travel. For the rest of it meal was ok though. Then came the bill. Gin, water, bread, meals,and bloody pretzels all accounted for. No discount for fact the pretzels were still largely intact! What would travel be without these stories? Then came the stand-over tactics. On bottom of bill comment tips are optional and 3 sets of tip calculations for our convenience. Actually, when we arrived we’re told can pay with card for food and drink, tips must be cash. This was repeated at least 3 times during our meal. I pay on card and the waitress stands there saying tips must be in cash, again and again. I nod sagely, I understand, so? She ain’t going anywhere. Tips are optional the message says. Seems to us she’s saying “like hell”. So I fish into my pocket and pull out coins that must amount to about 50% of the minimum helpful calculation and put them down. She glares disapprovingly at my coins. I say no other cash. She “gracefully” grabs them and says thank you very much as she rushes off to the next set of suckers.
A “fun” experience, but I must say way from typical here. Generally, very courteous and friendly and they try hard.
We’ve had two beautiful, though hot, cloudless days in a row, we’ve seen a lot of fantastic historic buildings, walked a million miles and got lost in the old city late at night, twice and Anne is still on about a traditional Czech meal, not sure of the connection, but thought I’d mention it anyway. We head out to Vysehrad a top of a hill significant Gothic church, magnificent little graveyard full of Czech notables (dead of course), and a chance to catch a sunset. Another excellent suggestion by Kristina. After a climb, a wander through the graves and a wait for a sunset that didn’t eventuate (that’s nature for you). We head down to a restaurant we passed on way up stating it provided traditional food. The menu looked interesting, but turns out without a booking no chance at 8.00 pm of getting in. Bugger. Walk on, come across another where judging from what we can hear all the diners are local. Seems worth a try. On the menu are these things we’ve seen on menus everywhere – dumplings. I decide it’s time, dumplings with roast pork. Well they duly arrive, interesting but you’d have to be hungrier than me. Anyway the meal was pretty good and reasonable.
We are at Prague Castle for changing of the guard.
Our wanders expose us to streets and streets of wonderful old European architecture.
Old Town night scenes we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t allowed ourselves to “free run” (get lost in Anne’s terms)
With a little impressionist input, an almost fairy-world look to the Old Town Square cathedral.
So much to see here. Today wandered past a church with crypt under. In we went. Turns out it was the church crypt that Czech soldiers hid in after their assassination of a SS commander and where the Nazi’s hunted them down and shot them. Incredible history.
Architectural detail is everywhere
And at the other end of the square to our now fabled dining experience;
An interesting public art piece in entrance to the Dancing Building.
Like much of the continent, use of public toilets incurs a fee. By the time you find one the need has often become urgent, if not critical. There’s usually someone standing in your way right when you least appreciate it, asking for 50 krona. As you fumble for your money/wallet and wait for the change the fear that your pants may be employed for something you’d rather they weren’t. No photos of this though!
The more one wanders, the more one sees. And we have seen so much more, but this is hopefully a small expose to our experiences in Prague