A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Ciara-Gissane

Yamas

My next big adventure brings me to Crete. While I was living in Prague I decided I wanted to spend my summer living abroad, but besides going on a J1, all I could really see was promo or bar work, which didn't catch my eye. My next idea was to work in a hostel abroad, but one day I came across Starbeach. And so I ended up getting a job in a bungee jump on a beach on the island of Crete. I loved the job, and our little bungee family.

The whole Starbeach family, with the bungee crew in the front right
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A visit from the squad
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Elafonisi, on the Western tip of the island, with the clearest water and a pink sand beach
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The bottomless lake of Agios Nikolaos
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Churches in Agios Nikoalos
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On the boat to Spinalonga
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The tunnel leading to Spinalonga, an ex leper colony
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Plus, I finally got to fulfil my Greek dream of smashing plates
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When I moved to Prague, I had a safety net of people from my college who were going, and plenty of other Irish people studying there too. With Crete, I was completely on my own, hoping that my job and accommodation would work out okay, and that I'd make all of the 3 buses I needed to get across the island. Being on my own meant I made a close group of friends from all over the world, and being the only Irish girl working there led to plenty of free shots!

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That summer involved plenty of raki, crazy nights, new experiences and friends from all over the world.

Posted by Ciara-Gissane 12:22 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

21

Kavos

Snorkelling boat trip
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Draaanks
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The view from our little house
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The main beach
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The sunsetting from our balcony
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Posted by Ciara-Gissane 12:16 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Prague

I started this blog just before I went to Prague, and updated it with some photos of trips while I was over there, but had since forgotten about it. Recently, I was thinking that I wished I kept a diary so I could better remember my time over there, and then I remembered about this site. I also got a scrapbook last Christmas with the intentions of printing and recording all of my travels, which never quite happened. I will eventually get around to printing photos for the scrapbook, but until then its nice to know that I have somewhere to keep my photos and memories to look back on. Here are some random photos from my time in Prague, in no particular order.

Old town square from the clock tower

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Signal Festival of Light projecting onto a church

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Prague Castle from the side

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Golden Lane, a street beside the castle with tiny and colourful old houses

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The view from the top of Petrin hill, where the "Eiffel Tower" is found, theres supposed to be a little tram that takes you up the (steep) hill, but on the day we visited it was broken, so we climbed the hill and the 299 steps to the top of the tower.

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The John Lennon wall

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The doors of the church at Vysehrad, a castle in Prague

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And the view from the hill it is situated on, which looks towards the city from the south

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King Wenceslas riding on an upside down horse, by David Cerny found in Lucerna Palace

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Snow on campus

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The view from Petrin Hill on a sunny day

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The church of Tyn on Old Town Square

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One of the sites that makes up the Jewish Museum

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Sunrise over Charles Bridge, the only time its not packed with crowds

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Posted by Ciara-Gissane 10:52 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Na shledanou

(for now)

So today is the day I have all my exam finished, and my last full day that I’ll be spending on campus in my adopted home.
Tomorrow I have to clear my dorm room and check out, collect my AirBnB keys, and then collect my lovely mother from the airport, for my last two nights in Prague.

I’ve been asked many times how I feel about leaving Prague, but every time I struggle to know how to exactly describe how I feel. On the one hand, of course I feel sad to be leaving this beautiful city, where I’ve met so many new people, had so many new experiences, and lived a different lifestyle.

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But at the same time, I always knew that it wouldn’t last forever. I have to go back to working and (properly) studying. And unlike a lot of people, I have had two semesters, not just one, so I got to experience everything that I wanted and more, and not at a rushed pace.

I am glad that I am somewhat distracted, the day after I arrive home, I’m turning 21, so I’ll get to see my family and close friends basically immediately, which is something to look forward to. Then, during my month at home, there are loads of 21st parties to go to, things to organise before my holiday, and I’m spending a weekend showing some guys I met in Budapest around Ireland. This definitely helps the transition from one place to another, like at Christmas I was so happy to be arriving home at that time.

It is strange not knowing when the next time I’ll be in Prague is, but its definitely not na shledanou forever, just for now.

I know I’ll definitely come back to a place that I have such great memories in, and have spent a significant amount of time in. But, at the same time there also so many other destinations that I want to see before that!

My top list is
Edinburgh
Barcelona
Stockholm
Amsterdam
Croatia (I’ve already been to Pag)
Italy (maybe Rome, or somewhere coastal:

Reflecting on my time in Prague, the things I’ll miss are:

  • Cheap everything! I know Dublin prices are going to kill me
  • Amazing public transport - everything is on time, right to the minute. There has never once been a bus that hasn’t come. And to top it all off, its €9 a month
  • The Weather: when it rains here, its not even real rain. Maybe I’m just too used to our Atlantic weather, but I don't think Czech rain is real rain. Also knowing that when there’s a “heatwave” at home, it’s still much warmer here
  • The travel: being literally in the centre of Europe is such an amazing opportunity. It makes so many places easy accessible to you, in terms of time and price. Plus, you can just say “hey I think I’ll go to Berlin tomorrow, €30 return, perfect.” I’ll miss that freedom
  • Not working!: Thankfully, I was able to work when I was home for Christmas, and Irelands lovely €9.15 an hour minimum wage goes so far in the Czech Republic (where the minimum wage is €2!).

The things I won’t miss are:

  • Sometimes it just feels so far: its undeniable that there is such a different culture, and even though its only 2 and a half hours by plane, sometimes you can’t help but miss familiarity, or the warmth of Irish people, the lack of a language barrier, and all of this is 10x worse if you are sick. Thankfully, I was just sick once and besides that I only felt homesick one or two times.
  • The language barrier: knowing that I was here for one year, I definitely put in an effort to learn some Czech, I think its pretty ignorant to expect the whole world to speak English. I (struggled with!) a Czech class last semester, where I picked up the basics. Even so, it is a pretty difficult language to learn, but I once I’m in a taxi and I’ve had a few drinks, the taxi driver hears my best Czech.
  • The food: I miss proper bread, milk that isn’t UHC (which lasts forever, which freaks me out), a nice pint of cider, being able to get everything in wholemeal (which makes you feel less guilty as a bread lover), and thick crust pizza!

Overall, I am sad to be leaving, but I am so excited to turn 21 and for all my plans and travels for this summer. If there’s one thing I found on Erasmus, it’s how happy it makes you to constantly do things that you enjoy. Not to count down to something that is 5 months away, wishing your days away.

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I have enjoyed this experience so much, and I’m so glad that I made the decision all those months ago to live abroad. But for now I’m ready to close this chapter, and to see what's next.

Posted by Ciara-Gissane 10:34 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Venice

April 8th 2016

Venice was probably the top place on my to see list. But I decided to wait until the weather would be slightly warmer, so Venice was my last trip abroad of second semester.

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Unfortunately, my plan for nice weather didn't work, and it drizzled rain on my first 2 days, and there was gorgeous sunshine on the day I was leaving, typical! This meant on my last day, being the Insta lover that I am, I re-took some of my photos, because sun makes everything better!

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But my cheap plane tickets pretty much make up for it. My flight out was only €19, which is amazing because Prague doesn't have too many cheap routes, compared to Dublin where you can get everywhere pretty cheap, especially if you wait around for a sale (Love you Ryanair xo). Well, what I didn't know was that they were cheap because Venice air traffic control were striking on the Saturday! So I guess a lot of people didn't want to fly that weekend, but all the better for me!

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I also somehow got a really cheap hostel in a good location. Venice is an island, connected to the mainland by a bridge/road, and a lot of the cheap hostels and hotels are located on the mainland, so you're not staying in the gorgeous, unique little canal lined streets of Venice. Plus, public transport in Venice is quite expensive, so that would be an added cost.

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This was my first time travelling alone (besides flying alone), which kind of added something. This is because I am always the planner, the one who organises the trip and how to get from A to B. I know that my friends appreciate it, but sometimes it makes you feel like you are being overbearing and bossy, so it was nice to just organise everything for myself, and do exactly what I want to do.

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So after arriving in the airport and getting the waterbus(!) to the island, I had 2 hours to kill before I could check in. First stop: pizza! After being awake since the crack of dawn, this was much appreciated. After a bit of wandering around, I checked into my hostel and was pleasantly surprised. Then I set off towards the most famous areas.

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It's true what they say, that you're not doing Venice right if you don't get lost (but thank god for Google maps). Even just trying to get from one place to another is so enjoyable, because of everything you see on the way. A lot of cities in Europe, although beautiful, have similar architecture, and really you could be anywhere. But Venice is so unique, you just know that you are in Venice and no where else is like this. Everything is so picture perfect, you feel like you are in a film.

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I went to St Mark's Square. One of my favourite parts was the blue clock, on the gate you pass through to enter the square. The Basilica was breathtaking, it's huge and even though I've seen so many gorgeous churches and cathedrals on my travels, it was something else. After an obligatory stop for some gelato I walked along the sea for a while, before looking in some of the shops. And I can't wait to come back to Venice when I have more money, because the shopping was amazing, although I was relegated to window shopping.

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On the saturday, I headed to the Arsenale, which is where the boats were built, I went there via water bus, which was still a complete novelty to me. I stumbled across the Maritime History Museum, which was amazing. There was so many different types of boats, some huge, some tiny and ornate, all with a different story. This is probably my favourite museum I've ever been to, my inner nerd was so happy. I stopped for a coffee at a cafe beside the entrance to the Arsenale, then I went back to St Marks square and went up the clock tower, which gave a gorgeous view over the city and out to the sea. Then I headed back in the direction of my hostel, to see the Jewish Ghetto, there wasn't a lot to see, but it was nice to see a less touristic, more local and authentic part of the city, that has a lot of history. Then it was time for pizza round 2, I was really tired, so I grabbed a takeaway pizza from a pizzeria near me that got really good ratings.

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That evening I wanted to see Venice at sunset, because the previous night I napped through it! I wasn't disappointed, the colours of the sunset reflected on the canals were just gorgeous, as was walking along the promenade on the north of the island. I found another huge cathedral near there, so went inside for a while. I headed back to my hostel, walking the long way and stopping for some more gelato.

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On Sunday, my final day, I could finally pack away my umbrella and crack out the sunglasses, the weather was amazing. I couldn't do too much that day because my flight was at 3, and I was conscious of making it to the airport on time,it being my first time travelling solo. So I just wandered around my favourite areas, taking some more photos. Then I got a snack and sat in the square in the sun. Even though I was in a city which is so popular for tourists, sitting in that square, with the grandparents sat on the benches after mass, and the local kids running around the square playing, it feels like you could be in a little Italian town.

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So I, sadly, said goodbye to Venice, and got the boat back to the airpot, and enjoyed a bellini before the short plane trip home.
Although it's nice to share memories and places with your friends, it's important to be able to enjoy time by yourself, and to stand fully on your own two feet, and Venice was the perfect city to do just that.

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Posted by Ciara-Gissane 10:13 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Vienna

March 26th, 2016

Vienna was the first trip of the second semester, and this was the final country to visit that bordered the Czech Republic.

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I had considered visiting it last semester, but it wasn't really high on my to see list. Which I was completely wrong about, because I thought it was such a beautiful city, and we had such a nice, chilled weekend there.

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Something that always helps, is that the weather was amazing that weekend. We visited on Easter weekend, so there was a nice buzz around the city with the Easter markets on, and a lot of (delicious) food stands. Sitting in the sun, in front of the palace, with a drink in your hand... perfect!

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What I loved about Vienna, was that there were so many sights to see, but they were so easily walkable, even though the city was bigger than I expected. You didn't need to meticulously plan how to get from one sight to the next (even though this is something my friends know that I'm good at!), you just wander between them, at your own pace.

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A lot of the cities I have visited are known for their nightlife, but Vienna was a nice change, we had a nice dinner each evening, and then a cocktail or two and weren't home too late, so we were fresh for more exploring the next day. The first night, we went to this really nice fancy rooftop cocktail bar. The second night, we went to an American style cocktail bar, which was beside the gorgeous Italian that we went to for dinner. Because I'm a solid believer in trying a pizza in each place you go...

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Vienna was sunshine, sights, great food and drinks and a lot of laughs with the gal pals.

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Posted by Ciara-Gissane 15:11 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Krakow

December 4th

This was the last trip of the first semester, and the last trip I would be on with my friends who weren't returning to Prague for semester two, but this was definitely the best trip!

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We had 3 nights in Krakow, around 4 days so we had plenty of time to see what the city had to offer.

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Krakow was also in Christmas mode when we arrived, so there was a nice buzz around the square with the markets and the decorations, and the gorgeous tree. I didn't expect it to be such a beautiful city, but there was so many lovely buildings around the city centre.

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Our hostel was doing a bar crawl, with loads of drinks included and entry into a few different clubs. We did that, and met a lot of lovely people staying there, so there was a fun group of us going out. We ended up doing the bar crawl the next night again (but for free).

We did a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter, and they pointed out the oldest pub there, so on night three we went there for a few drinks.

Then we did an evening tour to the salt mines. I had no idea about the salt mines, but it was fascinating to hear how it was so important for them back then, and to walk the same path as those miners. It was like a whole different world underground, there was even lakes and churches and they got married down there and bred animals down there.

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We saw online about a place called Lost Souls Alley, which was like a haunted house escape game. To say we were scared is an understatement, it only lasted 20 minutes but the six of us were clinging together fearing for our lives. We laughed about it for so long afterwards.
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We laughed even more when they sent us photos.

The last big thing we did, was a trip to Auschwitz.
After visiting the war memorial in Berlin and learning more about the Holocaust, I did want to visit Auschwitz for myself to learn even more.
It is such a difficult few hours and you are so overwhelmed by the information and the emotions you feel. There are parts of Auschwitz that no words are needed for, you are just flooded with emotion.
The thing that affected me most was hearing about women in Auschwitz, once my tour guide mentioned pregnant women. I had never even thought about the fear and sadness that these women must have felt, in what should have been a happy time for them
Seeing the living conditions that they had to endure, it really put everything into perspective, all the stupid things we complain about, when these pour souls had to experience the worst conditions and treatment imaginable.
There were parts where I broke down into tears and couldn't compose myself and had to leave the room.

There's no other way I can describe it than difficult, but I think it is something everyone should see for themselves, and remind us that we can never let humanity come to that again, and that religion, race etc should never be what divides us.

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Posted by Ciara-Gissane 05:13 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Budapest

November 14th

This trip started with a not so lovely 8 hour bus journey...

We arrived in Budapest and checked into our (crazy) hostel located above ruin bar. And although I wasn't the biggest fan of our hostel, where sleep was impossible, I loved what was on the wall in the common area:

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Our first stop on our first full day was the ferris wheel, to get a view over the city.

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The city had just entered Christmas mode when we visited, so we walked around the Christmas markets in the main square for a while.

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We attempted to do some more sightseeing, so started off doing a walking tour which brought us from one of the main squares, and along the river. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy and the tour felt so long, so we said we'd go back to the hostel and have a nap (due to our lack of sleep), to get ready for our big night out.

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Before we arrived, we booked tickets to go to SPARTY - the spa party in the thermal baths that looked amazing.

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We met two guys in our hostel who were going too, so we all headed there together. It was amazing, like nowhere else I have been. We all had the best night, one of the guys we met had a GoPro with the waterproof case on, so I of course borrowed it for a while.

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One thing I noticed on the way to the Sparty, as the tram went across the bridge was how beautiful the city looked a night, all lit up. So the next evening once it got dark we set our for some night time sight seeing.
We got off the tram on the bridge to see that view again.

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And then we went to Heroes Square, which was empty at night time, but so beautiful.

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On our last night we decided to try out the club that we could hear the night before when we tried to sleep! It was one of the ruin bars, unique to Budapest: a club made up with around 20 different rooms, all decorated different ways and interconnecting.

Overall, I loved our trip to Budapest, and although we didn't see all of the sights of the city or spend all day out walking around, we did what we enjoyed and I had one of the best nights out of my life!

Posted by Ciara-Gissane 04:57 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Berlin

November 7th

This time I got to visit one of my best friends who studies there, so it was my first time going somewhere on my own.

To be honest, I didn't do too much sightseeing here, I was more happy to spend time with my friend. And I know I'll probably visit Berlin again in the future, so I didn't want to be rushing around doing everything she has already done several times before, all of the touristy things..

One thing that struck me about Berlin was how long it took to get everywhere. In Prague you can get from one side of the city to the other so quickly, and 40 minutes would be a long journey. But in Berlin I just felt like the S-Bahn was going so slow, until my friend pointed out how big Berlin is.

I loved the small pieces of the Berlin wall dotted everywhere, a constant reminder of the past.

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We went for a walk around some of the city centre, to see some of the sights.

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When we were walking back past Brandenburg gate, it looked so pretty with the sun setting as the backdrop.

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Being in Berlin, we of course had to go to one of the clubs, and I was excited for something different to Prague, where the Erasmus nights can begin to feel all of the same. After getting refused from About Blank after queuing for an hour, we went to Tresor at 4am.

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Their stamp definitely describes Berlin nightlife.

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The next day we dragged ourselves out of bed at a not so early hour to see more of the city.
We went to the Holocaust memorial, and the museum inside. It was so heartbreaking reading the stories of the families, especially seeing them from so many different countries, including my new country. My friend also showed me where Hitler was killed.
I never found history interesting at school, so I never learned that much about it, but seeing all these stories in front of your eyes brings it to life, and you realise how important it is to remember these people.

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Posted by Ciara-Gissane 04:34 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Cesky Krumlov

October 25th

My first bit of travel within the Czech Republic was to Cesky Krumlov, a pretty medieval town in the south.

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After an initial disaster, we needed to find accommodation for that night, as our accommodation was booked for the wrong date, and our bus home wasn't until the next day (homeless for the day?). We went to a restaurant for wifi and found a cheap but not so chic "ubytovna" to stay in. The restaurant was right on the river and it was such a pretty day so we couldn't help but laugh at our slight disaster

It was like stepping back in time, and it was such a gorgeous place. We went up to the castle, which had the prettiest views over the town and the river.

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First things first, the castle had a BEAR. This felt like the most random thing ever, but its an old tradition in the castle.

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I also liked the castle because it was such a different style to other ones I had seen, with the bricks being painted one, meaning it was more colourful.

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That night we found the coolest little underground cocktail bar, which felt like we were drinking in a cave.

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The next day after a nice brunch we met up with some friends who had arrived, and went to the Egon Schiele Gallery.

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I think it is a shame that everyone just visits Prague, when theres gorgeous other towns like this.
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And lastly, this bit of street art found among all the medieval prettiness.
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Posted by Ciara-Gissane 04:21 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

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