Prague


Jodon is slowly falling apart like an old man. I poke fun at him for this constantly. But the day we flew from Belgium to Prague it really hit. Walking 30000+ steps a day in new shoes finally caught up. He’d pulled a muscle somewhere in his left leg and was completely incapacitated. It’s a miracle we made it to the hostel in one piece. He hobbled along through the trains and busses and planes and sidewalks until we fell into Mojo hostel on the outside of Old Town Prague. And that was where he stayed, unmoving, for three straight days. 

I felt so bad. Prague is Jodon’s favourite city in the whole world, and there he was, seeing it from the inside of a 6-bed hostel dormitory while I went out and explored. I came back occasionally: bringing food, drugs, frozen peas and pumpkin spiced lattes from Starbucks. But it was little consolation. 

The extra strength ibuprofen and the gel I’d picked up at the pharmacy were making no difference. So after 48 hours of moaning and groaning I found a second pharmacy to ask for something stronger. The lady behind the counter spoke no English. Heaven forbid I have to act out ailments in a pharmacy AGAIN. Mortifying memories of Vietnam and Brazil came back to me. My pharmacy charades have had a low success rate over the years: remember when I was given hemorrhoid cream instead of aloe vera? I can only imagine what was going to happen this time. 

After a couple minutes of acting out a pulled muscle, the lady stared at me blankly. I kept saying “Ibuprofen not strong” and she would repeat the same thing back to me. Then she smiled, opened up a drawer in her desk and handed me a small pack of pills.

“Strong” she said with a grin and what may have been a half wink. 

It was as good as I was going to get. The pills were cheap, it was worth a shot. 

I brought them immediately back to Jodon.

“I’m fairly certain these will do the trick” I said to him

“What are they?” 

“Mmmmm, I’m not entirely sure. But they’re strong”

“Ok”

Turns out these little pills were a miracle. Within five minutes Jodon could move his leg a little without pain. In an hour he was hobbling downstairs to the common area. By the next morning he was walking again. He went from seriously considering taking the next flight home, to suggesting we grab a beer at the beer garden on the North side of town. I was SO happy. 

So we did grab a beer. Years ago when Jodon was here with his friend Mike, the two stumbled upon this large park on the North side of Prague. In the park they had picnic tables set up and they served beer and kebabs from a little stand. The park was up a steep hill and had the most spectacular view of the city. 

We sat there through the late afternoon playing cards and watching the lights on the city shift as the day moved along. It had been a rough couple days, but also a great excuse to relax and get some work done. We decided to book another three days in an AirBNB so that Jodon got a chance to spend some quality time in the city.

And even with a bad leg, we managed to explore the Prague castle, drink beers brewed by monks in the monastery and make a weak attempt to eat 1.5 kilos of pork knuckle at Hospoda Lucerna. Overall I’d say that Prague was a success. 

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Luxembourg


“Why would you ever come to Luxembourg??” Asked our server, Oana, with a bewildered look.
“It was on our way, it was some place new, and the photos looked beautiful. We’re only here for two days.”

“Oh,” she said “two days is MORE than enough time to see Luxembourg, trust me. I came here only one year ago and I can’t stand it. Be careful, especially around the train station. The people will trick you with their Luxembourgish and steal from you!” 

“Really?” We said, very surprised that anyone that lives in such an idyllic little town could ever be untrustworthy. “Where are you from originally?”

“Romania”

“And would you say Romania is worth visiting?” 

“Romania? Oh YES! I mean we have Dracula, c’mon, we make children laugh!”

Oana was our favourite character of the trip so far. She was helpful, pushy, brutally honest and one of the best servers I’ve ever come across. She worked the whole restaurant by herself; this place called Bananas, right off the main square that sold delicious luxemburgers and huge portions of more traditional national foods, and yet still had time to chat every time she walked by. And despite the fact that she had no idea how children react to Dracula, we still loved her. However, our views of Luxembourg differ slightly. We found Luxembourgers to be very accommodating, and the city was wonderful: except for the hills.

Everything in Luxembourg City is built on a hill. Buildings are either on the side of a hill, or in a hill, or at the bottom of a hill, or at the very tip top of a hill. It’s exhausting. Luxembourgers must have the most amazing calves in all of Europe. But the hills and valleys of the cityscape make for some gorgeous photos, and, as we learned, some excellent high ground for defending the city from attackers. One of the top city sights in fact is the system of underground tunnels that were built to defend the old town that sits on the hilltop. These “casemates” are built into the city’s natural slope and contain over 40km of tunnels. The casemates have evolved and grown more complex in the previous centuries, but only a few kilometres are available for tourists. The history is confusing. It seems as though every nation in Europe had at one point manned the area against external forces. Personally, I found the casemates to be the perfect escape from the midday heat and a wonderful spot for photos of the Grund (the lower, “ground” area of the city).

The Grund was actually my favourite part of the Luxembourg. Nestled in the valley below the Old Town, the Grund was just a few square blocks surrounding a quiet little river. The area was full of lively restaurants and quaint hillside gardens. Stone, Romanesque bridges allowed people on foot to cross the river and look back at the cliffs that hold the labyrinth of underground fortifications. At night, the whole place is lit up with spot lights and the cliffs glow in a warm amber tone. 

We found a small pub on the riverside that served thirst-quenching Belgium beers and had enough room for 5 people to sit out on the small patio in the back. We sipped on the beer, hanging over the riverside and staring up at the ominous cliffs above us. I could get used to lazy evenings in Luxembourg. It is the perfect way to relax after the hustle and bustle that Paris brings.