Les vacances d’hiver: première partie

In order to éviter a huge long post comme la dernière fois, my adventures pendant les vacances d’hiver will be in deux parties. For anyone qui n’a pas le temps to read what is likely to be a long one nonetheless, this is basically about my trip to Prague (via Zurich), Brno, Vienna and Salzburg (22-27/02/15). On y va!

Après dropping Laurence at the airport, j’ai pris le bus à Bâle (small bataille with the ticket machines involved) before catching un train to Zurich. Feeling rather heureuse that it was a direct train (saving valuable minutes on a rather short trajet) I hopped on, avant de noticing that my ticket said ‘VIA FRICK O OLTEN’. Évidemment, being a direct train, it went through neither of these stations. This could have (rapidement) become une recette pour une catastrophe, but luckily the ticket men assured me that tout va bien and, heureusement, they were right. I got complètement confused by the leaflet for le parc zoologique de Zurich, written totalement in German, which was trying (and failing) to tell me quel tram to take to the zoo on a Sunday. In the end, I decided to aller à pied. Turned out this takes une heure, uphill and dans the remains of la neige…and said tram did indeed run on Sundays. Nothing like a bit of l’exercice, eh? De toute façon, the zoo was merveilleux! Chester Zoo will always have a place dans mon cœur, but I loved seeing les léopards des neiges, les hippopotames et lots of other animals that aren’t at Chester. Spectacled bears (surtout le petit ourson à Zurich) will always be amongst mes animaux préférés.

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toujours aimé par moi

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les hippopotames

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les léopards des neiges

After exploring tout le parc zoologique, including some storks who were casually stealing the limelight from the camels, I walked (j’étais un peu folle, but I had a lot of temps to kill) back into la vieille ville where I came across la fin of the carnival. I then headed à la gare to find mon train à Prague. Which, just to compliquer les choses, was listed as ‘Praha hl. n.’. Good job I’d already done mes recherches on that front so I wasn’t totally stumped. Le train was also due to split, at some unknown-exactly-when point pendant la nuit, with half of it going to Berlin and the other part to Prague. Needless to say, j’ai fait bien attention when boarding le train!

Après a fairly sleepless nuit (that’s what you get for buying le billet le moins cher) and a long stop in Dresden (during which there were quelques ingénieurs dans le train) I arrived in Prague sixteen hours après avoir quitté Zurich. With all directions to hand, tout allait bien and I arrived at my airbnb accommodation just after noon. I then spent tout l’après-midi exploring Prague. Tout d’abord, I went over to the Lesser Town (which is not any less jolie than the Old Town). En route to le château, I decided it was time for le déjeuner and bought something known as ‘trdelnik’; it’s a sugary, cinnamon-y, almond-y, caramel-y dessert/snack which is absolument délicieux and everyone should try it. My description doesn’t do it justice: just avoir confience en moi and try the stuff.

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trdelnik

Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) is considered to be the biggest castle complex en Europe. Rather than paying to go inside since j’avais aucune idée about what was actually inside and didn’t want to spend valuable time on a sunny jour inside, I spent the time wandering around the grounds (which was gratuit) and admiring the views.

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View from Prague Castle

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Prague Castle

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St Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle. (Katedrála svatého Víta, Václava a Vojtěcha)

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St Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle. (Katedrála svatého Víta, Václava a Vojtěcha)

I also went up the Lesser Town Bridge Tower for (yet another) vue panoramique of Prague. On a side note, quel idiot allowed the Žižkov Television Tower to be built?

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View from the Lesser Town Bridge Tower

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Luckily the horrendous Žižkov Television Tower is almost hidden from view here…

Ensuite, j’ai vu the John Lennon Wall (which if it hadn’t been for my hosts, I would have completely missed it!) which was up there with my favourite parts of la ville. Tout le monde can add something to the wall, which is really cool as it means it will always be different chaque fois that you see it.

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John Lennon Wall

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devant le mur

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I wandered across Charles Bridge avant de passer the rest of the afternoon exploring la vieille ville, including a look at l’horloge astronomique, until it hit the time to chercher quelque chose à manger.

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Charles Bridge

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Astronomical Clock

Following a recommendation from my hosts, I went to ‘cukrkavalimonada’ (translates as ‘sugar coffee lemonade’) and had an incroyable strudel (ironically better than the one I later tried en Autriche) and coke. I then spent la soirée chatting to my hosts, who told me lots of histoires intéressantes about the city of Prague – from the history of the former Jewish ghetto to the creation of the John Lennon Wall. À ce stade, I will give a huge shout-out to my hosts, who were incredibly welcoming and made sure I had a très agréable stay in their city. My host kindly forwarded me his sister’s latest book to entertain me pendant ma vacance; for anyone else who fancies a nosy, here’s the link: http://www.blankacechova.com/

Le matin suivant, after a much better night’s sleep, I set off to see the Old Jewish Synagogue and the cemetery which is six-coffins-deep. I then continued down by la fleuve to find the Dancing House; it’s considered to be le seul bâtiment moderne in “downtown Prague”, and is said to represent Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

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Dancing Building. (Ginger Rogers (glass) and Fred Astaire (concrete))

After picking up un croissant pomme at Bakeshop (merci encore une fois to my hosts for this recommendation) and more wandering around la vieille ville, including finding un marché selling the most bizarre cackling witches (ironically bearing the word “welcome” on their costumes) that I have ever seen, and la découverte of an M&S selling Percy Pigs (quelle joie magnifique) it was le temps to find le bus to Brno…

After deux heures et demi dans le bus, I arrived in Brno with quelques heures to explore la ville before crashing for the night. By this point, my camera had decided to mourir, so mon portable had to make do. Leçon appris: listen to Laurence when he tells me to take my charger. C’était une assez petite ville; nevertheless there were quelques choses à voir. The star attraction has to be l’horloge, built in honour of un conflit avec les Suèdes, and affectionately nicknamed the “cock clock”, “phallus” or “rocket” par les citoyens de Brno. There were also plusieurs églises and Mars Bars available pour seulement 9,50 CZK (equivalent to circa 25p) in the local Tesco (oui, you read that comme il faut), a personal point fort of the day.

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Brno’s clock/ cock clock/ phallus/ rocket

For the third matin in a row, je me suis réveillée early…so I left mon auberge de jeunesse early and (après a quick stock up on supplies at Tesco) people-watched at Brno station whilst waiting for mon train à Vienna (Vienne en français, Wien en allemand). Après some confusion with platform numbers and track numbers (seriously, pourquoi pas just have platform numbers, there is aucun need to complicate things!) and utter bewilderment de ma part regarding ticket validation I was en route to Vienna.

After picking up the essential tourist’s plan de la ville at the station, I opted for the quarante minute walk into town feeling that navigating a foreign metro system dans une langue that I don’t speak might have be too much for my brain à ce moment-là. Premièrement, I passed the Vienna State Opera House (un bâtiment très joli, comme presque all the buildings in Vienna) before arriving in Stephansplatz.

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Vienna State Opera House

Since it was mass dans la cathédrale, entry was gratuit; parfait for those of us who just want to prendre quelques photos.

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Stephansdom

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Interior of Stephansdom

Ensuite, I saw the Hofburg Palace, which is un complexe absolument énorme, before having a peek in the (très expensive-looking) Ferstel Passage.

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Hofburg Palace

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Ferstel Passage

J’ai continué à marcher vers the town hall. In front of the Rathaus was a post-Christmas winter festival, because clearly en Autriche there is no need for Christmas festivities to arrêter until March. Take note l’Angleterre and up your jeu.

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Rathaus

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encore une fois

I then saw beaucoup de beautiful buildings, including the K. K. Hofburgtheater, the Austrian Parliament et aussi ceux qui surrounded Maria-Theresien-Platz and the MQ (Museums Quartier).

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Parliament

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Maria-Theresien-Platz

Plus tard, après exploring a free exhibition in MQ, c’était le temps to try the famous wiener schnitzel. This involved a venture out of la vieille ville to a restaurant called ‘Schnitzelwirt’, which also did take away. Dix minutes plus tard, I was walking back into town, schnitzel in hand ready to eat at a bench au centre-ville.

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centre-ville

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Schnitzel time (photo doesn’t do it justice)

Turned out one schnitzel actually appears to traduire as two, both of which were délicieux. Chicken nuggets will never be the same again. I ended the evening by trying sachertorte dans un café; it’s un gâteau au chocolate, with apricot jam.

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sachertorte

The next morning, after un petit déjeuner gratuit at the “pension”, je suis allée (à pied) à la gare. To complicate things un peu, it was a different station to the one I arrived at mais it was facile enough to locate, essentiellement involving walking in a near straight line down a main shopping street for à peu près quarante minutes.

Trois heures plus tard, after some spectacular views of les montagnes, je suis arrivée à Salzburg, home of Mozart and ‘The Sound of Music’. Upon checking into l’auberge de jeunesse, I was told that every night there is a showing of the aforementioned film. When I said that j’ai jamais vu le film, the receptionist replied with “You’re practically Austrian then”. With no time to perdre, it was time to head into town following the très utile map provided by the hostel. First stop: Mirabell Gardens, location of ‘Do Re Mi’ (which at this point, I had seulement heard in the Andrew Lloyd Webber programme il y a quelques années) pour quelques photos.

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Pegasus Fountain, Mirabell Gardens

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encore une fois

Next, I crossed la fleuve (over un pont covered in love-locks) to get to the Old Town, which is très compact.

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Not sure what it is that I like about bridges like these…

Tout d’abord, I saw Mozart’s house and malgré le fait that I am by no means interested in la musique classique, I decided it would be intéressant to see (Dad you should be fier de moi). It was an interesting little visit et j’ai appris a few random pieces of information pendant the (self-guided) tour.

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Mozarts Geburtshaus (and no, that’s not me with bad grammar, that is how it’s spelt on the building)

I had a wander down Getreidegasse (one of les rues principales for shopping) and explored Mozartplatz, Residenzplatz (Maria-fans will savoir déjà that ‘I have confidence in me’ was filmed there) and Domplatz, avant d’aller à Fortress Hohensalzburg for une vue panormaique of la ville

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Getreidegasse

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Domplatz (with Fortress Hohensalzburg in the background)

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Domplatz, random golden ball.

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View from Fortress Hohensalzburg (one photo of many)

My very late déjeuner consisted of a chocolate cake/cherry crumble confection from une boulangerie, which was fantastique.

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Lunch.

I also saw St Peter’s Abbey and cemetery (film location for la fin du film) and explored the side streets and arcades un peu plus.

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St Peter’s Abbey & Cemetery

Not feeling très faim, “tea” consisted of streudel and un chocolat chaud at Café Mozart, a great fin de la journée! I then returned to the hostel (YoHo International Youth Hostel, if you were wondering) for the 20:00 viewing of ‘The Sound of Music’ (or, ‘La Musique du Bonheur’ en français). How fitting that la première fois that I saw the film was in the very lieu where it was filmed. The film was un peu longer than I had anticipated (but lived up to the hype) and after chatting to several others who were in my dorm (none of whom were European) it was time for a rather late night…

After a ridiculously early alarm (je suis sûre that my dad will think otherwise of an 05:45 alarm), some confusion when the MeinFernbus bus stop was literally just a poster attached to a street lamp and une petite panique when the bus driver checked my ticket and announced la date as though it was completely wrong, I was en route to Munich on the start of a twelve hour return journey to Colmar. Three buses, one train, and a while spent dans the cold waiting for the various forms of transport later, j’étais à Colmar. Sans doute, it was a great trip – and la preuve that you can go away toute seule and still have a good time.

À plus. (read: after this week’s aventures)

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