Czech Republic – Kutná Hora & Český Krumlov

After visiting Prague it was time to move on to my next destinations; Kutná Hora and Český Krumlov. First stop was Kutná Hora.

Kutná Hora was first founded in 1142 with the settlement of Sedlec Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery in Bohemia. In 1260 German miners flicked to the area to begin mining for silver in the surrounding mountain region. There was great economic prosperity from the 13th thru 16th centuries and the city competed with Prague economically, politically and culturally.

In 1420, Emperor Sigismund made the city the base For his unsuccessful attack on the Taborites during the Hussite Wars, which lead to the Battle of Kutná Hora. Kutná Hora was taken by Jan Zizka, but was burned by imperial troops in 1422 to prevent it falling into the hands of the Taborites. Zizka still the reigns of the city nonetheless and it emerged to new prosperity.

Kutná Hora was eventually passed to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. In 1546 the most prosperous of the mines was flooded. Eventually the plague, 30 years war, and a fire did the city in. The city became impoverished and the mines were eventually abandoned at the end of the 18th century.

The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. When I was here I visited the Church of Saint James (which was under construction), and St. Barbara’s Cathedral.

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After visiting Kutná Hora is was time to drive further along to my next stop, Český Krumlov, where I would be staying for the next two days.
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Český Krumlov started in 1240 when a settlement rose around a castle by the Vitkovci family, descendants of the Witiko of Prčice. The family died off in 1302 And Kind Wenceslaus II ceded the town and castle to the Rosenberg family. Peter 1 of Rosenberg, the Lord Chamberlain of King John of Bohemia, resided here and had the upper castle erected. Most of the people living below the castle were German-speaking at the time and migrated from Austria and Bavaria.

The Rosenbergs encouraged trade and crafts within the town wall, and when gold was found next to the town, German miners came to settle. William of Rosenberg, High Treasurer and High Burgrave of Bohemia, had the castle rebuilt in a Renaissance style during the time.

In 1602 Williams brother Peter Vok of Rosenberg sold Cesky Krumlov to the Habsburg emperor Rufolf II, who then gave it to his son Julius d’Austria. After the Battle of White Mountain, Emperor Ferdinand II gave Český Krumlov to the noble House of Eggenberg. From 1719 to 1947 the castle belonged to the House of Scwarzenberg.

After Word War I the city was part of the Bohemian Forest Region, which was initially declared part of German-Austria. The Czechoslovak army occupied the region by 1918, and it eventually became part of Czechoslovakia. in 1938 it was claimed by the Nazi Germans. After World War II the German speaking population was expelled and the town was returned to Czechoslovakia.

Under the communist ruling of Czechoslovakia the town fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution in 1989 much of the town has been restored. The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. The town was severely damaged in a great flood in 2002, but has since been repaired.

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2018-03-11 – Paris

Today I woke up at 5:45am. I started the day off by going to Moulin Rouge to take a photo of the exterior, but was disappointed that it wasn’t lit up. I’ll have to try again later. I then visited the two remaining Art Nouveau stations left in Paris (Abbesses and Point Dauphine). After that I went to Sacre Coure. It’s absolutely beautiful inside but sadly you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, and in fact I tried to take a photo but got in trouble and they made me delete the photo. My camera is so noisy you can’t hide the fact that it’s taking a photo. After that I took the Funicular down and went to the Grand and Petit Palaces, and Pont Alexandre III Bridge.
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I decided it was time for a break so I went to a Starbucks near Arc du Triumph. There was quite a bunch of hungover young women draped all over the couches in there. I was laughing on the inside remembering a few of those days in my youth. After having a coffee at Starbucks I went to The Arc. It was absolutely stunning and well worth the 200 or so steps to climb to the top!
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After visiting the Arc I went and saw the Eiffel Tower, found a good Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, and then went back to my hotel for a short nap.
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After waking from my nap I went to see the Parisian Catacombs. The lineup was about 1 1/2 hours but it was well worth the wait. The catacombs was originally used as a rock quarry and then later used as a mass burial ground when the city ran out of cemetery space and later bared burials from happening within city limits. Its estimated over 4 million people’s remains are in the catacombs. It’s an incredible but creepy sight to see.
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Random fact about the catacombs; during 2004, police discovered a fully equipped movie theatre in one of the caverns. It was equipped with a giant cinema screen, seats for the audience, projection equipment, film reels of recent thrillers and film noir classics, a fully stocked bar, and a complete restaurant with tables and chairs. The source of its electrical power and the identity of those responsible remain unknown.
After the catacombs I went to a highly rated (on Google) beer market called Brewberry Beer Cellar. There I picked up three beers; Jet Lag IPA, Jai Alai White Oak IPA, and HibouBerry Double IPA. All were absolutely amazing, but my personal favorite was the Jai Alai. I’ve been scoping out that one for a few years now since I heard about it on one of the podcasts I listen to. It’s brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida, USA.
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I headed back towards my hotel and stopped for a Crepe and then relaxed in my hotel room for a bit and had my beers. After having my beers I went to take photos of the Eiffel Tower at night, and I must say it was definitely worth it!

I got back to my hotel quite late, around midnight. Tomorrow I’m off to see Mont Saint-Michel!!!

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Thailand – Day 1 – Bangkok

I departed Calgary for my around the world flight to Bangkok on December 30th 2017, which meant that I had the unique opportunity to spend my 2017-2018 New Years in the air. I flew business class from Calgary to Frankfurt on Air Canada on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

I transferred to a Lufthansa Airbus A380 for my Frankfurt to New Delhi flight. This flight was great because it was mostly empty, which meant I could stretch out across all three seats to sleep, and I got to celebrate New Years on board the plane, where we were served a complimentary bottle of champagne. It was fantastic!

After arriving in India I realized I was slightly in over my head compared to my usual travels because the airport was fairly run down, disorganized and few people spoke English. I had to collect my Thai Airways ticket from this desk, where it was total chaos. After spending an hour collecting my ticket and consuming precious time before my next flight I walked to the gate and stopped to get some bottled water and a coffee from a shop.

I boarded a Thai Airways 787 Dreamliner for the final leg of the journey to Bangkok. The staff on the flight were so friendly, and the food was amazing! The flight was very empty so again I had the whole row to myself so I could lay down in a makeshift bed.

After arriving in Bangkok it only took me 10 minutes to walk and clear immigration / customs and then I boarded a train to the Center of the city, which only cost 45 baht (less than $2).

After arriving in the Center of the city I found a 7-11 where I got a huge bottled water for 7 baht, and then started walking towards my first stop, the Golden Mount. Half way there I decided I would try to catch a cab, the first one turned me down, but the second said he would take me. It’s routine for cabs to turn you down in the city if it’s not worth it for them; they don’t like tourist traps because they get caught in traffic and it’s not worth it to them.

I successfully survived my first panic attack I’ve had in years when I was at the Golden Mount. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that were there and I literally couldn’t move and felt trapped, but the place was pretty cool.

After visiting the Golden Mount I walked to my hotel, the Warehouse Hotel, to drop off my bag. I wasn’t able to check into my hotel at this point in time, so I left my bag, grabbed a 25 baht cola and relaxed for a few minutes before heading to the Grand Palace.

The Grand Palace has free entry today because of it being New Years, which was great because I’d later use the 500 baht fee I was going to pay on some delicious Thai food! I’m lost for words on how to describe the Grand Palace; it’s grand, it’s a Palace, and it has so much gold and gems I don’t even know where to begin! It’s so fantastic!

I then walked across the street to Wat Pho, the laying Buddha. Pictures don’t even do this justice; it’s enormous!

I was starting to get fairly dizzy at this point in time due to lack of food and sleep so I stopped at a small restaurant across the street where I ordered Pad Thai for 150 baht. It was delicious, but the portion was fairly small. I also got some street food; homemade potato chips!

After eating my late lunch I boarded a water bus to cross the river to the other side where I visited Wat Arun which is an amazing white temple with a tall spire!

The next stop was Wat Kalayanamit, where there is a massive gold praying Buddha. This place was beyond words; it was so breathtaking watching hundreds of people pray to the Buddha.

On the way to seeing Wat Kalayanamit I realized I was not in the touristy part of Bangkok any longer because I was starting to see a lot of homeless people, and people that were living in tiny little shacks. One thing that really got to me was seeing these two kids laying on a bare mattress under a bridge watching a tube television that was plugging into this rats nest of wires that had been spliced into a main power line. Their fridge and propane stove were in the same cramped dark conditions.

I was getting sleepy so I took another water taxi across the river, and then walked back to my hotel, where I checked in and took a nap, which turned into sleeping all the way through to the next day. Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow!

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August 11th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 2 of 10

This morning we woke up early at 5:30. Breakfast was a simple Australian bush style breakfast of toast and basic cereals. I have not had cereal in years, but I had some corn flakes with skim milk, as well as some toast with jam. We set off towards Jim Jim falls at 6:30am. The drive took us down a 1 hour extremely rutted and bumpy gravel and shale road. After about an hour we came to the 4×4 trail where I hopped out and locked the front hubs on the truck to put us into 4×4. We took the 4×4 trail at a reasonable pace in order to not bottom out the truck but still at a reasonable rate of speed. About 15 minutes down the 4×4 trail we then came to the parking spot for Jim Jim falls.

During the fall Jim Jim falls has a very high flow rate, and you are not able to see it from land. The good photos that you see from the internet are from an airplane or helicopter. Luckily we came during winter so we could actually see the area where the waterfall would be, but also swim underneath. After parking the truck we walked about a half hour to a beach below Jim Jim falls. Most of us went in the water, while a few stayed behind because they were scared of crocodiles, or couldn’t swim. We swam a bit out from the beach towards some rocks, which we climbed over, to the other side where we saw a beautiful plunge pool. The water in the plunge pool was a little warmer, but absolutely beautiful. I swam to the other side of the plunge pool and relaxed under the barely trickling waterfall.

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Afterwards we hopped back into our 4×4 and drove back to the same camp that we stayed at the night before. We had leftovers and sandwiches, which were delicious. After lunch I helped hook the trailer back up to the 4×4 (we couldn’t take the trailer with us this morning due to the extremely bumpy road).

We started driving towards Mount Bundy, three hours away, where we are going to stay tonight but made multiple stops along the way. The first stop, an unexpected stop, was to clear a tree that fell right in front of us because of a small bush fire. We had to come to a sudden stop. The tree took five of us to move and two people to watch traffic in either direction. The second stop was a massive cathedral termite mound, which was taller than I was. The cathedral termite mounds grow 1 metre every ten years, so it is a slow process. The cathedral termites build their mounds from dirt, water, grass, and poop.

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The next stop was the Buklukluk Lookout. We learned about the foliage in the area and how the indigenous people made baskets and bracelets out of some of the foliage by weaving the fibres. We made bracelets, which took about 10 minutes, so image how long it would take to make a basket.

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Along the way to our next stop I was nominated to be a trivia quiz master, so I asked a series of ten questions each about World History, Animals, and Australia. The questions and answers were already prepared for me. The best team got 22/30 correct and won a prize of candy at the next stop. The next stop was pine creek, and old mining town, where we got ice cream, beer for camp tonight, and watched some caged snakes eat mice. I also received a bag of candy for being a quiz master, which I shared with the group. Gold mining was, and still is huge in the area, so many little towns along the highway were founded in the mid to late 1800’s. So much gold was found in the area that they were short of workers, so they got Chinese people that were serving time in Chinese jails to come work in the Australian gold mines, in return for freedom after a period of time. They did their time and stole gold by smuggling it back to China in urns of deceased family members, and then became quite wealthy. It is unknown how much gold was stolen, but it was suspected a fair amount.

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We got back on the main highway, called the Stewart Highway, towards Mount Bundy. The Stewart highway received its name from the explorer who was the first person to travel from Southern Australia to Darwin in 1861. The first telegraph in Australia was made in 1871 to England through Asia and Europe, which apparently took six years to complete.

We arrived at Mount Bundy, which is a beautiful farm area that has wild dingos, a bull, some horses, a miniature pony, and an alligator pond. When we arrived I setup my tent, and plugged in all of my equipment to charge (these tents all had electricity, which was nice). I took my camera and went in search of wallabes and the bull to take pictures of. I didn’t have the correct lens to take a picture of the wallabes, but at least I was able to capture some. After that I met up with the rest of the group who were sitting around drinking and talking politics, before we had to start preparing dinner. Dinner was mashed potatoes, buffalo steaks, sausages, and cooked vegetables. After dinner we went in search of toads and crocodiles by flashlight. We were unable to find any crocodiles, but did find some poisonous toads that if you lick them you will get high.

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I went to bed at 11:00pm. Check back tomorrow for more of my adventures!

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