A round up of my 16 days in Myanmar.. More details to come!
Hallstatt was a place that we have swooned over and over while researching for the trip. It was this extremely unreal looking alpine town, tucked away amongst the mountains. And having the thought to take a ferry across the lake to get access to it - that in itself was enough to make us fall head over heels for this magical little township.
Imagining it to be unreal and finally being there felt surreal. We took a bus from Salzburg to Bad Ischl and then a train from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt.
Tip: The train ride is very scenic so remember to sit on your right side!
What was facing us while on the ferry was an amazing view of houses (those kind that we draw as kids!), a tall clock tower of sorts, very clear blue waters, with the Dachstein in the background. The Dachstein was even snow capped!
The water was extremely still when there were no ferries on it, and the reflection of what's on land was almost exactly the same image in the water.
We decided to spend a night in Hallstatt as it was on the way to our next stop the following day, Graz. Instead of rushing, we took it slow and stayed a night. The day was spent exploring the 'city center', but really it was not a city because of how small it was! There are only 700 odd people living there, and its 'center' consists of many hotels and probably 1 expensive restaurants and 2 middle range ones. It was extremely surprising that alot of shops and restaurants/ eateries were not open. I had a daunting moment thinking we might have to starve! Even the supermarkets opens at 9am-12pm, and closes from 12pm, and only reopens back from 3pm-6pm! Perhaps the traffic is really very low and there is just no point to be open for business for a full day.
Things to do
By the time we arrived in Hallstatt it was already mid-day, so we decided to soak in whatever Hallstatt had for us, walking along the lake. There were many little lookout points and pontoons as opportunity for some scenic photographs.
There are obviously other things like the Bone House, or Catholic Parish Church to visit, but even if you don't, its really ok! I thought it was quite enjoyable just getting lost in the beauty of the town, walking through different lanes and admiring the houses, the colours, and the stillness.
We did however took up the challenge to hike up to the salt mine early the next day. The hike took about 1 hour, with our pace being quite slow and leisure. On other days a furnicular runs from the foot to the top however it was closed when we were there. The hike was good in a way because it was extremely informative on what kind of ancient and medieval methods were use to retrieve salt from the mine. It was also accompanied by the ever changing view of the lake from above, as the fog moved in and out, and the lake and mountains seemingly playing hide and seek with us.
The view on the observation deck was V-shaped, and perched over the mountain, sticking out and hovering above the town Hallstatt. There are just no other words. I just have to re-iterate again, it's breathtaking and beautiful and truly stellar.
Old Town Square
Charming, quaint.. all these words have been overused to describe this city, but I can see why. A birds eye view of the old town square can be viewed from the astronomical clock tower. A small fee to be paid for a huge eye opener. I think it's pretty worth it!
The interesting part of the clock is when the clock is about the strike at the hour, everyone crowds around but are unsure what they are looking at and end up going "What did I just saw?"
St Vitus Cathedral
One of the best examples of Gothic Architecture and a very important and big one in the country. It is located within the compounds of the Prague Castle. We spotted several brides having a bridal photoshoot there. Both sides of the Cathedral are lined with stained glass windows. The roof is exceptionally high - light streaks through the stained glass windows - the mood in the premise is hauntingly serene.
Take a slow walk across over to Malá Strana, the lesser town of Prague, where Prague castle resides. The structure of the city is a bit different from that of the old town - it is less systematic and the buildings are older. Don't miss out on the John Lennon's wall! It is very well hidden, but somehow we managed to stumble upon it while getting to Cafe Savoy for breakfast.
Cafe Savoy - Restaurant - Patisserie - Vinotheque | Vítězná 124/5, 150 00 Praha 5, Czech Republic | Opens 0800 - 2230 daily.
The setting in Cafe Savoy was very much like that of coffee houses in Vienna - all that posh interior, very elaborate facades and tai-tai style breakfast. We almost got turned away at the door as the whole place was full except for one small table which the manager insisted it was only suited for people just having tea or small snacks. We squeezed within that table anyway. And indeed, the waitress was right! We ordered 2 sets to share, with 3 sets of drinks, and they also served everything with a basket of assorted bread (very very yum!!) and the table space was almost insufficient as seen above. Everything was perfect though the lack of space - the jams tasted different and the dark hot chocolate I had had to be the best I ever had. The moral of the story is to remember to make a booking to prevent being turned down! We got in lucky.
The Petřín Tower strangely resembles the Eiffel Tower. To get to the top of the tower, you'd have to climb 299 steps. The view is nothing short of breathtaking. Observation decks are always nice to get to because of the panoramic view they offer. What's more it's a good workout! Get those glute and thigh working and earn your workout complete ;)
Tricafe | Anenská 3, Prague, Czech Republic
A hidden gem tucked away in a little lane, the coffee tasted close to what specialty coffee was (according to Kiat), which seemed pretty rare in Prague as well as many parts of Europe we have seen. The cakes served were delectable. Our pick was blueberry lemon cheesecake and a warmed up apple crumble strudel. The interior was decked in vintagey furniture and vinyl cut outs of famous people like Steve Jobs, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Albert Eistein and more. They also had a blackboard to mark the different nationalities who had chanced upon this cafe! The coziness of the place on a cold winter's day was definitely the reason that made us go back again on another occasion.
'Charles Bridge' needs no introduction to people familiar of it's existence. I remember when I first researched for my trip, the top 2 things in Prague to see was the Astronomical Tower Clock and the Charles Bridge. Photographs of these places of interest were aplenty but I knew I had to see it for myself to have a taste of this place that encompasses a huge part of Prague's history.
The most famous bridge in Prague and the whole of Czech, it spans 520 metres over the Vltava River, and used to be the only bridge connecting Prague Castle to the old town. It was known as Karlův Most to the locals, was once called Stone Bridge/ Kamenný Most, then Prague Bridge/ Pražský Most, and was name after King Charles IV only after 1870, with it's current moniker and what we know of it, Charles Bridge.
It was built with 16 arches and 3 towers, 1 at the old town/ Stare Mesto side and 2 of which located at Lesser Quarter/ Mala Strana. The bridge sits near to the waters, seemingly floating just above it, and have since been prone to floods and damage, which cost 3 of it's arches. Along both sides of the bridge are a set of around 30 statues that were erected back in the 17th - 18th century. Currently, the original statues are removed and preserved in the National Museum, while replicas take their place. These statues are actually that of Saints and Veteran Saints of that time.
The Charles Bridge is held in high esteem because it encompasses almost wholly of the medieval town, as it fell almost unscathed during World War II to the Germans and Russians.
So where exactly and what time is the best time to view the Charles Bridge?
Avoid the crowd at Sunrise
At sunrise, the bridge and it's surrounds could be viewed with a rosy blush engulfing the architecture, casting shadows all around, leaving mysterious looking silhouettes of the statues on the surfaces. We were reluctant to get up (due to the cold - it was so nice and cozy in bed!), but did so anyway because we just knew it would be a fantastic time to see the bridge without too many other people.
Admire the bridge and bird watch on Smetanovo nábřeží
The view from Smetanovo nábřeží allowed for a different view of the bridge. Approaching the bridge is a museum - Bedřich Smetana Museum - it had a perch that had a small cafe for people to drink coffee and be outside. You don't have to spend a single cent if you don't want to, as the area consisted of many people who were just admiring the view and are not patrons of the cafe. We spotted some bird playing in the water and flying around in formations, which was quite deslightful. We visited Tancici Dum - the dancing building - before walking down here as it wasn't too far off.
Make use of bridges parallel to the Charles Bridge
Mánesův most is a bridge that is parallel to the Charles Bridge. From this view you will be able to see all the arches and one of it's tower. This bridge is mainly for cars and trams and there are walkways on both sides of the road. From here, continue walking down náměstí Jana Palacha and Křižovnická, making your way towards the Muzeum Karlova mostu which is just beside the start of the Charles Bridge. There are a couple of benches to sit on and just relax and watch the world go by.
Explore the stalls set up on the bridge on a weekend
Though crowded, it is still an experience to be on the bridge on a weekend to see the stalls that are set up. They usually sell their craft - drawing caricatures, watercolour landscapes, as well as what we noticed as a small handmade instrument (think ocarinas) and other assortments of postcards and posters. And of course, in the day time it is better to take a close look at the statues (if it was too dark at dawn to see it properly).
Cross over to Malá Strana, climb up 299 steps up Petřín Tower
Take the challenge and climb up 299 steps to get to the Petřín Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna). It is a 63.5m tall, steel-framed tower that resembles the Eiffel Tower (and is taller too!). You can either hike up the Petřín hill, or take the furnicular to get to the tower. It offers 2 observation decks and a 360 panorama view of the city. Try spotting famous landmarks like the Charles Bridge and the Prague castle. You might also be able to spot the old town square and the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the iconic church standing in the old town.
At night, when the lights under the arches light up at Malá Strana
On the bridge Mánesův most on the Malá Strana side near the Vltava River, watch as a flock of swans waddle to the shore in search of food. We spotted a mysterious lady in black bringing a bag of bread (which seemed to be unsold from a bakery) to these swans. She patiently tears us to bread and throws it in all directions for these hungry birds, in case they are unable to break it down into smaller pieces - all this happening with the illuminated Charles Bridge as a backdrop. As the night slowly gets deeper, it gets quieter. And that's where the bridge looks ever so curious and enigmatic.
Where is your favourite place to see this bridge?