cesky krumlov day 1


It's an odd thing to be nostalgic for a city one hasn’t even left yet, but our emotions leaving Prague for a brief interlude in Cesky Krumlov could accurately be described as such. Long story short, Prague is one of those cities that it hurts deeply to leave; that you wake up months and years later longing for out of the blue. Again, there is no time to let these feelings set in, we have had to get used to leaving one enchanting place for the next. 

We arrived in Cesky Krumlov midway through a stunning spring day and wasted no time getting out on foot to see what the place was about. The second largest feudal settlement in the Czech Republic aside from Prague Castle, Cesky Krumlov was an important place of influence for centuries, and has retained potent residual charm from those times passed. The old town is small and easily navigable on foot. The castle complex and surrounding hills provide scenic views of the terra-cotta roofs, church steeples and iconic tower. The castle moat is famous for being home to some bears, though their utility as a method of defense is questionable at best. While wandering throughout the day we had noticed a church perched on a hill in the distance and figured it would probably be a pretty great place to watch the sun set over town. We decided to walk to it, and ended up chewing off quite a bit more hike than we had originally imagined. The aching legs were worth it though as we finally got to enjoy the sun setting over the rolling, unmistakably European countryside from a bench in front of an 18th century church.


prague day 5


On our last full day in Prague we planned to knock a couple more sites off of our list, but mostly just enjoy a leisurely day in what had quickly become one of our favorite cities in the world. A visit to the Old Jewish Quarter revealed a colorful and unsurprisingly tragic history for Jews in Prague. Now only representing 1% of the city’s population, there was once a thriving Jewish community living in Prague and at a time in the early 18th century Jews accounted for about one-fourth of Prague's population. Unfortunately the havocs of WWII left their mark on the community as most Jews were either deported and/or killed by the Nazi Germans during their occupation of the country starting in 1939. The Jewish Quarter is worth a visit for its rich history and architecturally notable Synagogues. Although situated outside of the Old Jewish Quarter, we particularly enjoyed the sight of the Jerusalem Synagogue pictured here; built in 1906 and designed in Moorish Revival form with Art Nouveau decoration. It was an interesting contrast to the Old New Synagogue that we'd seen just minutes before in the Jewish Quarter, the oldest surviving and still-operating medieval synagogue in Europe and one of Prague's first gothic style buildings.


We ended off our city-wide viewpoint tour at Vysherad, a giant park built around and within old fortifications. This area is home to another drop-dead gorgeous cemetery and cathedral, great views of the city, and, whaddaya know, a beer garden. We sketched and read in the company of the warm sunshine before floating gently back through the city as it greeted dusk with the orange glow of streetlights.


prague day 4


Having hit most of the major tourist walking areas, we decided to dig a bit deeper and booked a WithLocals tour of some of the historical sites in Old Town and the adjacent areas. In addition to learning more about the architectural movements present in the city, we also gleaned some knowledge about the WWII era in Prague. Most of all, it was just interesting to be able to talk one on one with our guide, a Prague local who remembers as a child making a game out of finding and calling in unexploded ordinance leftover from war.


We ended the day atop Letna Park. In this expansive area, visitors can find another idyllic beer garden, the Prague Metronome (and surrounding blissful revelers and skaters cruising an improvised skatepark), and this famous view from a terrace below a gorgeous old-world cafe. 


prague day 3


Ignoring the aching protest of our legs, we set out on a beautiful Easter morning to explore the Castle District. Prague Castle, built and renovated during 13 distinct centuries, has been an important cultural and administrative site since the earliest days of the city and is now the official home of the President of the Czech Republic. Deciding to keep our self-guided tour cheap and relatively solitary (visitors were out in droves on the holiday), we mostly enjoyed wandering around the free areas of the complex and the surrounding parks and streets. As pictured above (the quaint Míšeňská St), this part of town is very photogenic and reminiscent of times past.


Later that evening we decided to get some culture at the New Stage (Nová Scéna) of the beloved National Theatre - a treasure of Czech cultural institutions in the ensembles of ballet, opera, and drama. We saw a historical piece of theatre called Wonderful Circus, originally performed in 1977 by Laterna Magika which is an independent and unconventional multimedia theater company of the National Theatre. When it first premiered, the show was quite an innovative act; employing panoramic projected video recordings that actors would interact with to advance the storyline. We enjoyed the evening in the modern style 80's theater and were stunned by the building's staircase as we left the show. Once again an example of the endless architectural gems hidden deep within this city that aren’t mentioned in any guidebook.


prague day 2


We had inadvertently arrived in Prague during the throes of its Easter weekend celebration. The streets were lively with visitors from all over the world; shuffling through the main attractions and enjoying sweets and refreshments in the holiday markets erected in each of the city’s squares. On this chilly Easter’s Eve we decided to take the main Old Town area head on. We enjoyed playing tourist in the Old Town Square market and warmed up with some incredibly delicious hot honey wine and a snack of Trdelník - a Czech specialty pastry made of rolled dough wrapped around a stick and roasted before being dipped in sugar. Looming over the square are some of the most photographed buildings in Prague: the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn (circa 14th century) and the medieval Prague astronomical clock (15th century). After walking around Old Town for nearly the whole day, we finally headed back to our Airbnb by making our way over the Charles Bridge - just in time to take in another famous view of the city during sunset. The vibrant sky, intricate architectural detail and excited din of the tourists all leant to an enjoyable, electric mood.


prague day 1


We had hit the ground running in Prague. About as soon as we checked in to our accommodation we turned around and headed out to a show at the Meetfactory; a former, you guessed it, meat factory, that has been transformed into a venue and art space. The following morning we shook off the drinks of the previous night and hit the town for a full day of exploring. We trammed over to the Žižkov neighborhood, a trendy local area outside of the touristy old-town. We enjoyed a chilled out day of taking in some the fabulous architecture that Prague is known for. Because it was largely spared from bombing in WWII, Prague is like a giant museum devoted to centuries of distinct architectural movements. Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Moorish Revival and even Czech Cubist style buildings can all be found there very much in their original form. We marveled at how every nondescript building had a level of detail and artistry that would make it a landmark anywhere in the United States. Reliefs, murals, statues and gargoyles gazed down at us from the entire length of every block we explored. Pictured is the Palac Akropolis, a beautiful art deco building which houses an art gallery, nightclub, cafe and restaurant.


Later in the day we walked through the Olšany Cemetery, the largest graveyard in Prague; also located in Žižkov. When the cemetery was built in 1680 it was located outside of Prague city limits, so served as a place to bury the victims of plague a safe distance away from the living population of Prague. Immediately we were drawn in by the beautiful and ornate gravestones marking each plot. Like the city’s buildings, the stones were each unique; embellished with reliefs, statues, metalwork and masterful gold leafed typography. The place evoked a tragic beauty and sense of antiquity that walked beside us as we explored its solemn lanes. We quietly ambled away from this moving place to round out the day with a sunset view and refreshing beer atop Reigrovy Sady. This would mark the first stop in our weeklong quest to enjoy the end of each day atop one of Prague’s wealth of amazing viewpoints, all existing within a few steps of a park’s beer garden. Its fair to say that Prague had imparted on us an overwhelmingly positive first impression.


berlin to prague


As quickly as our time in Berlin had begun, it was now ending. It was time to embark on a day of travel toward Prague via Europe’s incredibly robust rail system. Berlin is a ten thousand page anthology — it's so rich with history and such an important point of genesis for heaps of popular and sub culture — and we only felt that we had read the prologue by time we had to leave. Berlin is not the kind of city one can understand at a glance, and perhaps that’s why it's so alluring. We made a pact to return and dive deeper into this world of a city; maybe next time in the summer though. With hardly a second to reflect, we said goodbye and prepared to take another one of Europe’s world-class cities head on. It was time for Praha. Pictured is the evening view we got of Prague's mighty castle (the largest ancient castle in the world) as we made our way from the train station to our accomodation. 


berlin day 4


On our last full day in Berlin the city fell back into the jealous grip of winter; not quite ready to let spring take the spotlight completely. We spent the morning in a cozy coffee-shop in Kreuzberg and headed back to our accommodation to wait out the sleet and snow. Later that afternoon we decided to brave the unfriendly conditions to participate in another free walking tour of Berlin. This tour took us to some of the more mainstream attractions, and our informative guide filled us in on the significance of each. Pictured is the famous Holocaust Memorial designed by architect Peter Eisenman who purposely left its meaning ambiguous and open to interpretation. The memorial is powerful to experience, as its hidden slopes and labyrinthine confines create a sense of unease. One of the more interesting tidbits from the tour clarified that while this is often mistaken as an all-encompassing Holocaust Memorial, the truth is that it's dedicated specifically as a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Many other Holocaust memorials exist in Berlin that are dedicated to the other populations that perished during this time including homosexuals and the disabled. 


berlin day 3


Being in a city like Berlin, so covered in and receptive to graffiti, and not participating in some way is a special kind of mental anguish for Max. Luckily, a portion of the former Berlin Wall has been designated as an area where it is A-OK to spray, any time of day. The legal wall is in Mauer Park, which, coincidentally, translates to 'wall park'. 

The Park is situated around a hill with a remnant of the Berlin wall on top. In darker times, the area on the eastern side of this wall was a “Death Strip”; a 160 yard wide buffer of terrain covered in combed sand (so footprints could be tracked), guard dog runs, razor wire, anti-vehicle trenches, floodlights and trip-wire machine guns — all of this under the watchful gaze of guards with 'shoot-to-kill' orders for anyone trying to cross. Basically, the “Death Strip” that ran along the barrier’s 27 mile entirety was the real wall, and the reason over 100 people died trying to cross into West Berlin to be reunited with family or other aspects of their previous life. It is easy to forget that the first iteration of the Berlin Wall went up practically overnight. People on either side were all-of-a-sudden cut off from their jobs, friends and loved ones with no perception of how long the divide might last. Turns out, it lasted almost 30 years. 

Now, there is a sports stadium where the death strip once existed, and artists gather every day to paint colorful letters and characters on what was once the most infamous symbol of the ideological divide that defined the second half of the the 20th century. Pictured here is an interpretation of body, mind and self that Max visualized during our meditation retreat in Thailand some weeks ago. 


The beautiful day wound down as the sun set over a canal in Kreuzberg, our neighborhood during our time in Berlin. Once a poor, isolated part of West Berlin, the area became an epicenter for counter culture when the city was reunified and artistic types congregated in the gritty affordable neighborhoods. It's dubbed as home to Berlin's revolutionary punk-rock movement, and was frequented by the likes of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and Lou Reed.  The omnipotent hand of gentrification has recently, and unsurprisingly, plied Kreuzberg into one of the most desirable areas for young people to live and work.

‘Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.’ — David Bowie


berlin day 2


We started our second day in Berlin with a fabulous alternative Berlin walking tour led by a charismatic British expat called Jake. The tour covered glimpses of current and historical alternative culture and used similarities in them to reveal the spirit of Berlin in its most distilled form. Our tour guide gave an example of two unlikely heros from different eras in the city that perfectly demonstrated Berlin's collective love for rebels and acts of courageous resistance to authority. He drew a parallel between Wilhelm Voigt, an ex-convict caught in the dilemma of starting an honest life who successfully robbed a bank by impersonating a Prussian military officer in 1906 and became an unlikely champion of the people (there is now a sculpture in his memory in front of the bank he robbed) to the modern example of the graffiti artist JUST, who when caught redhanded doing a giant fire extinguisher tag showed the police a fake permit, sprayed DO IT next to his name, explained that he was part of a guerrilla marketing stunt for Nike and walked away a free man. Pictured above is a street sculpture by Danish street artist TEJN made in support of the Standing Rock protests. Once again, this piece of subculture perfectly illustrates Berlin's international and courageous soul: A celebrated illegal sculpture installed on Dircksenstraße Street by a Danish street artist standing up for Native Americans affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline.


Our tour ended near the famous East Side Gallery, so we decided to walk its length and continue indulging in the day’s healthy diet of wall art. What is now the East Side Gallery is the longest remaining section of what once was the Berlin Wall. Nearly a mile of wall is covered in large-scale murals… It is perhaps the largest and longest lasting outdoor gallery in the world. A good deal of the artwork is inspired by feelings that come from the city’s fragmented past. Definitely a must-see on a Berlin visit of any length.