Berlin – May 9-11

The bus trip from Prague went smoothly (aside from the non-functional WiFi that was supposed to be available). Got into Berlin in the afternoon, bought a 72-hr pass for public transportation, and eventually navigated to my hotel. Took it easy, just exploring the neighborhood. Impressive sidewalk cafe culture – many restaurants with tables 4-5 deep, all with chairs facing the street. A good place to sit and watch the world go by while sipping on a coffee or a beer.

The next couple of days were a mix of visiting culturally and/or historically significant sites, and just wandering around. I really enjoyed the city. Good food, people watching, and public transportation (important in such a spread out city!) interesting that not much is open until 10am or so – many cafes don’t even open until 9. After breakfast, I visited the east side gallery (part of the wall that is covered in murals now) as well as the nearby wall museum.

The wall museum had lots of videos. This one set in a 60s “living room”

After a quick lunch at a nearby bakery, I joined an underground tour of an old WWII bunker that had been partially destroyed / partially buried. They made several attempts to demolish it, but since one side was near the railroad tracks, and the demolition explosions weren’t quite as predictable as they wanted, they left part of it standing. A fascinating tour, but no photos allowed inside.

One of the explosions managed to push out part of the wall about 4 feet (towards the train tracks). Now, people use it for rock climbing.

Last full day in Berlin, I walked through the memorial, then over to the Brandenburg gate & along the river. Rode a bus for a little while but it was slow going and uncomfortably warm so I got off and took a train to a slightly less touristy area for a late lunch.

You can make your own Ritter Sport.

I tried to go to the rooftop terrace of the Park Inn (seemed like a good alternative to the tower & dome, neither of which I had tickets for), but when I got there, it turned out to be closed until 6pm for some sort of firefighter conference.

Delicious chicken doner kebap

I went to this unusual mall because it was raining

Piri piri spaetzel

Sunday morning bus to airport, flights to London & then home. So glad I didn’t have to go thru customs again at Heathrow as that line was brutal. The cats are happy I’m home!


Last (full) day in Prague – May 8

I ate way too much yesterday, and needed to get in some good walking (not museum or shopping walking). After swinging through the old town square, I headed across the river and up the hill to Letna Park for some nice views (and lots of happy pups running around). Then over to a nearby residential neighborhood for some delicious coffee (I would’ve missed the place entirely if not for the 2 people standing outside, smoking, with empty little glasses of espresso on the arm of the bench next to them).

Then back across the river to scope out the bus station for the next day’s journey (ticket purchased via an app already, but I wanted to make sure I knew where to go).

Walking back towards old town, I found myself in a hip little outdoor food/beer garden. I was tempted to stop for lunch, but was heading for a Czech place my hotel hostess had recommended (complete with details of what to order). Traditional roasted pork with two color cabbage. Only potato dumplings (not the bread ones). Extra cabbage. She didn’t steer me wrong. It was my best Czech meal yet!

After lunch, I made my way through the crowds across the Charles Bridge (ugh – but some of the music was nice), and then walked up to the top of Petrin hill, which has the fake Eiffel Tower. And then walked up to the top of it. Definitely some nice views from there.

Back down into town for an early dinner. So glad it warmed up enough to be able to enjoy sitting at a sidewalk cafe!

My attempt at using the panoramic picture option to capture the dizzying views going up the stairs

Prague, May 7 – Had fun storming the castle.

The Charles Bridge still wasn’t too crowded around 8am, and I had a pleasant walk over to the castle. No lines yet at the security/bag check, and just 15-20 people in front of me waiting for the ticket counter to open at 9am (and once it did, the line moved quickly). I opted for ticket A (and later also got a ticket to climb up to the top of the church tower – worth it!)

By late morning, the crowds were thick. Lots of tour groups and school trips. I’d hoped to see the noon changing of the guard but managed to be about 3 minutes too late to get out to a good viewing spot. So, I was stuck inside until they were done.

Afterwards, I walked around a bit, and eventually found a place where you could see the Quo Vadis statue (strange car on legs) but the view point was a ways away, from a playground/park behind a fence.

Up the stairs to the castle!

There was a prison cell/torture chamber down the stairs thru the little door.

I didn’t expect my smoked salmon crepe with salad to have the lettuce inside it!

Hot chocolate so thick it holds up a spoon

Duck liver pate, chicken soup, and a beer from the place just up the street from my hotel. Tasty but too much.

Prague, May 6

Up super early to check out the Charles bridge at dawn. Not yet crowded, but a surprising number of young couples out getting wedding photos. It was FREEZING (okay, technically just above freezing, but dang cold!)

Then over to the square and clock tower. Then back to my hotel to warm up (and go back to bed — nothing was open yet, anyway!)

Later more walking around the city. So glad I checked out the bridge before it got crowded. And there was a protest in the square, so that was even crazier than usual. I escaped to a (heated) rooftop terrace for a view, drink, & snack.

Other food included hot chocolate with ice cream (and sea salt!). Dinner was a traditional dish of roast beef topped with lemon, cranberry, and whipped cream(!?) with bread dumplings.

Prague, May 5, 2019

Easy arrival into Prague (just 2 people in front of me at my passport check line!), I bought a ticket for the bus & subway into town, and used google maps to find my cute little hotel. The cobblestone streets are all winding and provide very picturesque views, but the lack of a grid means I wind up navigating by landmarks (and my phone) more than by sense of direction.

I spent my first day doing things that might usually be on day 3 – I didn’t go to the castle or the Charles bridge (yet). There was a marathon that day, so some streets were fenced off. I wound up going down to Vysehrad and checking out the casemates there (and some of the original statues from the Charles bridge), before walking around the top of the wall and checking out the church there. Then, back into the old city for dinner.

May the fourth be with…London?

I hadn’t planned on having a half-day in London, but had managed to get an earlier & direct flight, which got me in at 9:30am instead of 8:30pm.

Apparently if I’d checked some of the flight boards at Heathrow, the day I landed (May 4th), I might’ve seen some funny stuff. But, I didn’t! After waiting 90 minutes or so in a ridiculously long and winding line to clear immigration, I was ready to get out of there!

Not feeling like doing the typical sightseeing things, I had googled for arts districts (or something like that) and had a few destinations in mind. So, I picked up a day pass for the city public transit and got some advice on where to catch the train to Stansted, that night. There was a left luggage at that (Liverpool Street) station, so I went there first, but just couldn’t bring myself to fork over the exorbitant fee to hold my little bag. I decided to bring it with me to lunch (it’s just a small backpack!) and maybe drop it later, so as to only have to pay the rate for 3hrs. I wound up just keeping it with me all day, which made it easier to catch the Stansted Express from a different, more-convenient-at-the-time station (Tottenham Hale). I spent my savings on tasty food and drinks around the city!

First, I walked over to the Shoreditch area and had lunch there. I’d been looking uncertainly at a menu when it started to sprinkle out, so I took it as a sign, and enjoyed their fancy salads and coffee. The building across the way had a strange facade.

Then, over to the Spitalfields market for some shopping, before hopping a bus down to Brixton. While I was on the bus, it started raining really hard, and even hailing a bit (good timing for me!) and it had mostly stopped by the time I got there. More wandering around & window shopping, before eventually taking the tube to Tottenham Hale and the Stansted Express from there, up to my airport hotel.

On the train, a group of 3 people at a table were all dressed up. When one accidentally spilled a full drink on the girl across from him, we got the story: they were wedding bound, and she almost never gets a chance to get dressed up! And now her blue dress is soaking wet! And their stop is coming right up! It was hard not to laugh, and would’ve been a great diversion for some kind of heist (or petty theft).

A good nights sleep, and a morning flight to Prague. At the Stansted airport, the barista spoke Spanish to the guy in front of me (a good guess – I asked while we were waiting for our drinks and he confirmed he was from Spain). To me, the barista first said “bonjour!” but then put on an over-the-top American accent after hearing where I was from. It seemed like he had found a way to have fun with his job.

Shanghai food-stravaganza – Saturday, December 1, 2018

I had a luxuriously lazy morning after a late night arrival, and with no agenda for the day in Shanghai but to walk, eat, and find a massage (foot and/or body), I wasn’t in any big hurry to get out the door.

By the time I did, it was closer to lunch than breakfast time, and wow, what a difference between a Tuesday and a weekend day on Nanjing street (and surrounding areas). Tons of people out and about, and amazing street food options. And I ate as much of it as would fit in my expanding belly. Some sort of savory crepe with egg, scallions, cilantro, some mysterious sauces, seaweed, bean sprouts, and other veggies. Amazing. Some scallion pancakes (I even found the place I’d frequented on my visit 5 years ago – it was indeed where I’d remembered, but apparently only had the pancakes on weekends). Various steamed buns and baked goods. Some kind of handheld pastry that tasted a lot like scallion pancakes…but somehow even better? Some noodles with braised beef. Some milk tea.

While I was enjoying some of my street food and milk tea on Nanjing street around noon, I saw a couple of guys making their own choices for lunch: fresh strawberries and cans of Budweiser. This city has something for everyone!

My hotel WiFi is really poor, but I found that a cheap foot massage place had great WiFi (that’s where I was when I uploaded my last post & pictures). I later found a nice/clean and conveniently located massage place on the 4th floor for a full body massage. I also walked a lot. And when I got tired of the crowds, I’d head up to my city view oasis for some quiet. My kind of perfect day in Shanghai.