Cesky Krumlov 


I could throw up all over Cesky Krumlov and it would still be the prettiest damn town I’ve ever seen. It’s a fairytale village that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. Cobblestone corridors, a winding river, small white cottages with brick-red roofs and an impressive castle that looms over it all: Cesky Krumlov is freakin’ adorable. Immediately upon arrival at our hostel we knew we wanted to stay longer.

“Well this is the cutest town I’ve ever seen.” 

It was decided right then and there. We’re staying.

Krumlov is a Czech word that means “Meander”. The town was named after the river that “meander’s” it’s way through the city in a big “S” shaped loop. A large, baroque castle is built into the rock face on the North side of the river. From there, the entirety of Cesky Krumlov can be seen below. The flowing river, the green hills in the distance, and the whole town all squeezing into the space between your thumb and forefinger. 

The town is flooded with rooftop terraces and riverside patios waiting to be lounged on. Cafe’s and small pubs scatter the labyrinth of small corridors that envelop the city. They even have a wonderful brewery that makes their own “smokey beer” that is oddly delightful. 

We spent our time in Cesky Krumlov relaxing. Long morning breakfasts, walks around town, checking up on the bear moat (yes, the castle has a moat with live bears instead of water) and figuring out where to eat next. 

But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Krumlov. The town is rich with history and folklore. Ghosts run rampant in the town’s music school and spirits can be seen in the centre square. The castle was once ruled by a schizophrenic prince who threw his wife from the window of the castle. She survived the multi-storey fall miraculously after a tree softened her fall. She swore never to return to her husband again. But then the mad prince captured the princess’ father and threatened to kill him unless she returned. Reluctantly, she came back to the castle. The prince stabbed her to death only a few days later. 

And yet, even with all the gruesome history, the castle is still a sight to behold. It’s towering grey walls cling to the cliff side to create an imposing spectacle from the town below. And at night, large spotlights make the castle burst into an amber glow that can be seen from all over Cesky Krumlov. 

We were sad to see the city go as we packed up our bags to catch the morning bus to Salzburg. But there’s so much more to see and the crisp evening weather means it’s time to head South. Until next time Cesky Krumlov! 

Advertisements

Ghent

You can’t find a city in Belgium more quaint than the old town of Ghent. Nestled along the banks of the rivers Leie and Scheldt, Ghent’s cobblestone walkways and steeped-roof buildings make for the perfect town to sit back and relax. The town is small. It’s a short walk to anywhere you need to go: restaurants, shops, or one of the many Jazz bars that scatter the city. It’s amazing to think that this quiet, riverside town used to be one of the largest and richest cities in Northern Europe. During the Middle Ages, Ghent was the capital of Flanders. It was a major trading route and one of the first Industrialized cities in Europe. But a revolt against taxes lead to war and the long trip down the river meant traders preferred the quick trip to Antwerp instead. It’s crazy how fast things can change. Ghent went from being one of the largest, profitable cities in Europe, to having nothing. Trading stopped, taxes doubled, the capital was stripped from them. The city became so poor it couldn’t rebuild itself. But as a result, time has stood still in Ghent… And that has made it beautiful.Ghent’s Korenmarkt is the heart of Old Town. Waffles are sold on nearly every corner. Big, sugary, Belgium waffles, topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. Mayo-covered, double-fried Belgium fries are just as prolific. They come with every meal. You can’t escape them. They are the most delicious fries in the world. 

All paths in Ghent lead to the riverside. Friends gather and lounge in the sunshine to sip on one of the million types of beer offered in the city. The beer in Belgium is one of a kind. No one is quite sure how many different kinds of beer the country has. Most believe it’s in the thousands. The beers are rich in flavour and many have alcohol contents so high they might as well be wine. One bar we stopped in served over 350 different types of Belgium Beer. The menu is like a small novel. It’s a good thing the bars here offer a “beer of the month” nearly everywhere, otherwise I’d have no idea where to start. 

Our arrival in Ghent marked the arrival of the Festival of Flanders, a 15-day music festival held each year. The city swells with people from all over the country who come to listen to the classical music performed along the Leie River. The soft singing of string instruments echo between the buildings and through the Korenmarkt. The music continued all day, and was topped off with a spectacular fireworks show on St Michael’s bridge. Our hostel was pretty much ON St Michael’s bridge, and so we watched the fireworks from the common room window. I have never in my life been so close to fireworks. We were right under the explosions . The lights surrounded the building we were in, sparks falling to the ground around us. It was unlike any other fireworks display I’ve seen.

It’s not hard to see why Ghent is one of Jodon’s favourite cities in the world. And even after two years of hyping it up, it definitely did not disappoint. 

Rosario: River Life at its Best!

We ended up in Rosario for the sole reason that it was “in the right direction”.  A city 4 hours North of Buenos Aires, Rosario was a great way to split the long haul up to Iguazu.  Maybe it was because I had absolutely zero expectations, but I actually really enjoyed this place! It had the perfect amount of “big city” to keep things interesting, but lacked the overwhelming feel that larger cities like Buenos Aires and Montevideo have. To me, Rosario is the most “livable” city I’ve visited in South America yet.

My favourite thing about Rosario is the nightlife on the river. The whole city stretches along the big Rio Parana, and, while the downtown core remains practically empty on a Friday night, the river swarms with thousands of people! 
The first section of the river we waked through was upscale restaurants. At 11:30pmthese places are hitting prime time for dinner and drinks. Large outdoor areas are set up with tablecloth-covered plastic patio furniture so that groups can enjoy the still stifling temperatures with a cooler river breeze.  As we continued along we discovered the BBQ pit. Far below the walkway – which is several meters above the river level – are row upon row of picnic tables (all completely full with families, friends and good food). There are hundreds of BBQ pits set up along one wall for people to grill up their own food and have a meat cook-off! People brought boom boxes to blast tunes and everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening. Even further along we reached some stairs that brought our path down to water level. Couples lined the giant staircase, hiding in shadows, embracing one another and watching over the happenings below. At the bottom of the steps there was even more to do! Giant, graffiti-filled skate parks were packed with young kids trying out new tricks and showing off to their friends. Families gathered on blankets or lawn chairs on the grassy fields and caught up on their week. Everyone from young babies to grandparents were awake well into the morning, enjoying the lively river-life.  Many people fished off the edge of the walkway (on clearly marked no fishing zones) and EVERYONE shared mate with each other.

Even though I’ve been getting used to the late dinners, the mid-day siestas and having NOTHING open on Sundays, I’m still amazed by the late social aspects of South America. I can’t think of one place in Canada where thousands of families, young and old, friends and lovers will gather around EVERY night and socialize until well after midnight. And although this is still so foreign, I actually am really enjoying it!

We ended up spending 3 days in Rosario altogether. The first evening we went down to the water and joined in with the local nightlife. On the second day we had a “historic” day. I was a little disappointed in seeing Che Guevara’s birthplace. It was one of the top things to do on my list in Rosario, and I couldn’t believe all they had was a red sign outside the building he was born in that read “La casa natal de “Che” Guevara”. The building has now been turned into a bank. No museum, no plaque with something historic written on it… just a street sign.

The creator of the Argentinean flag, also from Rosario, was a completely different story. He had a huge 2 block squared monument for him! Giant columns with a huge, eternally burning, cauldron stood in front of a marble courtyard. On the other side of the courtyard was a massive building with larger than life statues of angels and warrior motifs along the walls. For 75cents you could take an elevator up the 20-story building and get a great view of the city and surrounding river. Worth it for photos for sure!

Our third day was a beach day, the temperature finally cooled to a MUCH more comfortable 33 degrees and was overcast (which tricked me into burning again, even with loads of sunscreen on). It was a perfect way to spend the day after a little too much beer, vino, cards and dancing the night before; also, it was a relaxing way to spend Nikki’s last day with us (so sad!). 
We took it easy that night to be up early for the bus this morning.

Adam and I had no clue this morning where we would be sleeping tonight. We figured we’d just head to the bus station and look for another city north of here. When we found out at 10:30 this morning that the next bus headed in our direction was at 4:45pm we were slightly deterred. We had hoped to spend the night somewhere near Posadas, but to no avail! So we found a bus at 2:30 to Iguazu Falls and picked that one.  We then spent a few hours in the air conditioned McDonald’s across the street, played a few games of our 4-month long crib competition (Loser buys full steak dinner in Buenos Aires at La Cabrera on our last night) and then hopped on the bus… for EIGHTTEEN HOURS!! Looks like “where I’ll be spending the night” is in this chair, with a baby behind me, and the worst movie choices in the history of the world. On the upside, we have been fed dinner, which was a total bonus! Unfortunately, It was a strange mix of what I think was a chicken breast with lemon (Nikki will get a kick out of this – “when you’re really craving a sandwich, get a piece of chicken with lemon”) and a weird slice of a wrap with cheese and ham.  Maybe it was an olive: something salty anyways. Then there was a stale bun with a slice of ham stuck to it, but the ham tasted like it was doused with sugar. Not sure why. There was also another rock hard bun, and a strange cookie that was dipped in yogurt? White chocolate? Not sure, nothing had any flavor in it. Adam swears the cookie was the best part, but I took one bite then passed it over. To compare, I would eat airplane food everyday of my life rather than look at that meal one more time. Needless to say, I’ve called dibs on the bathroom first when we get food poisoning, so Adam’s shit out of luck on that front.
  Anyways, I’ve now been on the bus for a little over 8.5 hours and I really think my years sitting in a car, working at BC Ferries, has prepared me well for South American bus rides! Unfortunately, sleeping on moving vehicles is NOT my forte, so Adam has promised to drug me up with sleeping pills so I can function tomorrow when we are dropped off in Iguazu at 9am.  These falls better be all their cracked up to be…
Wish me luck!

(As a side note, the bus took 20 hours, but we arrived safely!)