Middle Europe Musings


Stepping out from our hostel and into the circus spilling down from Karlovy Most right in the historic centre of Prague brought a giggle and a snicker to me every time. Euro-tourism really is something else, you can see every stereotype, every tourist scam, absolutely every thing on offer that you could imagine.


But what a city for tourism! It really could be the most beautiful city in the world, so it’s easy to understand how it wound up like this. All told, it actually seems to work pretty well. Competition for your dollar is high, so the prices for most things are generally quite reasonable, and there’s certainly no shortage of choice.

It’s eminently walkable, and indeed you can occupy yourself for a few days just wandering, gawking eating and drinking. No decision making needed. Tourist paradise, really.


With Jess’ Czech heritage, and that she hadn’t visited in 18 years (which was shortly after communism collapsed) the visit had some extra significance for us. We also were fortunate to meet up with Bart, a Belgian friend whom we met on a boat in southern Chile two years ago. Pictured below in anticipation of some proper Czech cuisine:


Before the night turned into another vintage performance from the ubiquitous Praha Drinking Team


Cesky Krumlov

Another return visit for me, but a first for Jess, CK remains a lovely place for a couple of days providing a refreshing contrast to the much busier Prague. Plenty of good food and beer on offer, although most of the restaurants seem to have an almost identical menu. Great value (although rather cold) in the off season.
It has a stunning setting hemmed in by some nearby hills which made for some nice (light) hiking. Very cold nights made the cellar style wood fired drinking dens all the more appealing. The Czech’s really do stand out from the crowd with their beer.


A first time visit for both of us, Vienna’s famed cafe culture is an interesting experience. The staff are a touch surly, and the drinks eye-wateringly expensive, and best kept in moderation due to the gob-smacking sugar content. Plenty of buzz for half an hour after consuming one, though. The original – and definitive – Sacher Tort was a little plain compared with the interpretation we see in Australia. Very surprising to see that smoking is still permitted in most places.


Vienna as a city seems like it would be a lovely place to live, not least due to it’s fantastic metro system. Every time we’d make our way underground, we’d be disappointed by the relentless arrival of the next train eating into our slouching time on the platform. And we’d invariably arrive faster than our time estimates. A brilliant system, it could be a model for any city.
We had a short stay, but a locally-infused one thanks to our CouchSurf hosts Alex & Sabine. Perfect weather, a backyard BBQ, local cider-wine named Sturm and Sabine’s home baked Apfelstrudel gave us a lovely insight into the day to day Viennese lifestyle. And a nice one it is.



We met up with my father for a few days exploring Budapest and my Hungarian heritage. My major impressions are of a fantastically impenetrable language, gorgeous women, good coffee and fantastic food. In all honesty we’d also have to mention the slightly downtrodden looks to pervades most of the faces in the street scape.
Of note is that this is the first city in the world where I can pronounce my surname rather than spell it out to inquirers. And for that matter we share our family name with some former aristocrats and consequently it’s used to name least one street in the capital. As is Gyula, the Hungarian translation of “Julian” which was, in fact, the street we were staying on. Lots of fun.

We met / re-met some of our extended family, including a trip to the country side near the Slovakian border on the Danube where my great-aunt’s-daughter’s family have built a very pretty country house with stunning views.
And look at the brilliant technique for cooking the quintessential Hungarian goulash:
The views from the house bring me to my impressions of Autumn which I’ve been musing since we arrived in London. In Melbourne, the omnipresence of evergreen flora means that Autumn doesn’t make its presence particularly felt. Probably also the fact that I’m not normally wandering the streets & parks much at that time of year.
IMG_6255 (this is a section that forms part of the Euro Velo 6 trans-European bike route)
Autumn in Europe is a decidedly grander affair. As we’ve progressed east and south, we’ve been delighted by an ever growing array of colours in the trees and along the paths. For the first time I can really feel Autumn, and the impending winter, encircling me.
So, south we head to chase warmer weather ;-)

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