Epilogue

30 days and 7 cities later I returned to San Francisco. I've already written about my itineraries but there are a few observations that I want to add.

Money

In 2017 I expected to only need Euro when I travel to Europe. Unfortunately I had to use 4 different currencies for the 6 countries I went to. Hungary uses their Forint, Czech Republic and Sweden with their different Krona. Imagine the embarrassment when I handed the barista with a krona and was told it's not a Swedish Krona when clearly it said Krona on it (Swedish Krona is worth about 2.7 times as much).

1 krona

I get it, different economies want to be able to inflate/deflate their currencies. But as a traveler it's very inconvenient to keep track. To add to the confusion, there were two versions of Swedish 1 Krona coins in circulation.

Of course, I could always use plastic instead of paper. But as I mentioned in the Stockholm post America chip and signature cards aren't always accepted in Europe. I had the most trouble in train stations (at both Barcelona and Stockholm) and also wasn't able to drink myself out of the trans-Atlantic flight misery (the flight attendant was very nice and offered me a free beer for embarrassing myself, but surely that's not enough for a 10-hours flight). There were also plenty of places that wouldn't accept credit card at all. Such as train stations in Prague. Which brings me to the next topic.

Public Transportation

In general public transportation systems are really good in Europe. That said, as my friend Andrew likes to say, it's European good but not Asian excellent. Like I mentioned, in Barcelona the day passes were only valid from 05:00 - 23:00. And of course people who live there don't use day passes so no one could tell me when the pass stops working and it's not printed on the ticket itself. I got on a bus around midnight and to my surprise the ticket wouldn't validate, and with my limited Spanish eventually I understood that the ticket was "no good" for "noche". Thankfully on the buses they gave you change so I didn't have to have the exact amount.

In Vienna, Google Maps didn't have public transit directions and you buy bus tickets at cigarette stores (because they were cheaper there than buying them on the bus).

In Prague, the ticket machines generally only accepted coins and not paper. Many tram stations didn't even have ticket machines. If you had a local sim card I gathered that you could just text a number and get a ticket that way. In the main train station I found machines that would accept paper money but the maximum denomination accepted was 1000 and the ATMs only gave me denominations of 2000... The tickets were only $1 each so I could forgive a lot of their flaws.

3 days pass

In Germany, we stuck with day passes after the whole fiasco with getting a 10-ride ticket. Turned out for adults each ride took two stamps so 10-ride was really 5 rides which didn't split evenly between two people.

In Stockholm, you could get an app to buy subway tickets but they were notoriously expensive. Each ride was 43 SEK which was almost $5. They were valid for 75 minutes so sometimes you could rush through and get two trips out of each. Also, you get a QR code for the mobile tickets which you could scan at the station, but someone had to physically press a button to open the gate for you at the turnstile. So good luck if they were busy answering questions from tourists.

Food

I found the Austrian-German food to be pretty boring although the Turkish food in Berlin was quite good. Food in Stockholm was generally uninspiring with the exception of the fish soup. The reindeer stew was hit and miss. I am already too spoiled by food in San Francisco but tapas were genuinely better in Barcelona. Czech and Hungarian food was okay, but things were cheaper there (especially in Budapest) so fancier restaurants were more affordable. Hipster places in Europe were just lesser versions of what I could find in San Francisco so I would avoid them next time.

There were lots of cafes everywhere in Europe although as a black coffee drinker I found most of their coffee just so so. Interestingly if you order an Americano many places would serve you an expresso and water in a separate cup. Only in Germany do they understand what "regular coffee" means. Still, I went to cafes more often than I usually do because I was walking around all day and so that I could use their wifi. I also ate more ice-cream there in a month than I do here in a year.

Many restaurant there charge for still water and often time that could be more expensive than a pint of beer or a glass of wine. It's perhaps not a wonder that Europeans drink so much. Supposedly Swedes drink less than Americans and coincidentally tap water there is free at restaurants. I've always liked Spanish wine but Hungarian wine was a surprising find. Anyone know where I can find that in SF?

by khc on Wed Jun 21 13:38:45 2017 Permlink
Tags: travel

Stockholm

After Prague I flew to Stockholm as my last stop before returning home. I arrived to my Airbnb just as rain started pouring. After dodging the rain for a little while I headed out for lunch and Museum of Medieval Stockholm. Most museums in Stockholm were free but unfortunately the free ones also closed at 5pm. I spent the rest of the day strolling around and enjoying sunset at 11pm.

Next day I did two different walking tours, both for the old town and the new city. I had the same guide that Andrew did when he went to Stockholm and the guide repeated the same joke. The city tour was more interesting and I did not know that H&M was a Swedish company. I enjoyed some fish soup in between and struggled to pay to use the toilet. America had switched to chip and signature credit cards but unfortunately some places require chip and pin cards. Thankfully the toilets had a lesser security requirement.

In Stockholm I also bought my subway tickets from an app for the first time. It's quite convenient and almost made me forgive how expensive the rides were. Virtually everything at Stockholm was more expensive than the other cities I've visited on this trip.

Saturday I went to both Swedish History Museum and the Army Museum. Both were excellent. I returned to the old town to stroll for a while and ended up at Stampen for some jazz. I was told that Swedes don't like talking to strangers so I was surprised that someone made small talks with me. Turned out he was Norwegian. I had too much to drink and thought going to an outdoor club was a good idea, but gave up after I saw the line at Trädgården. I decided to end my adventures and headed to the airport for the night.

See Google Photos for more pictures.

by khc on Mon Jun 19 23:05:04 2017 Permlink
Tags: travel

Munich and Berlin

I took anther six hours train ride from Prague to Munich to meet my friend Andrew Gaul. This time the train ride was more miserable because of the lack of wifi. I would write about my days in Munich and Berlin in detail but Andrew already did so I don't have to.

andrew and I

See Google Photos for more pictures.

by khc on Mon Jun 19 21:46:29 2017 Permlink
Tags: travel

Prague

After Vienna I went to Prague first so I can meet up with my friend Andrew later in both Munich and Berlin. Czech Republic also didn't use the Euro and some places accepted Euro but would give you back the change in Czech koruna. I mostly spent the first evening people watching at the Old Town Square and sipping beer. I had more fantasy about Czech beer before I arrived but I suppose living in SF I probably already had most of the great beers and the rest I lack the palate for anyway.

old town square me

Second day I slept in a bit and went to the castle area. It's free to go in but the inner exhibitions required tickets. I was tired to pay to see another church so I opted to just walked around. I met a friend that day and went to the monastery to have a beer. After that we shared a giant pork knee and went to the Hemingway Bar and got a Star Wars themed drink. We ended the night at the 5 story club Karlovy lázně with each floor having its own music. I was sightly embarrassed that my new Indonesian friend knew more American oldies than I did.

castle stairs bridge beer

The next day I wasn't able to get a reservation at Alcron so I ate next door at La Rotonde which was surprisingly excellent. Afterwards I met my friend at National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror which was at the site where the final battle of Operation Anthropoid took place. During WWII German SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated in Prague and the rebels hid in a church during their final days before they were discovered. All of them were either killed or killed themselves. I had only recently watched the movie based on the event so I enjoyed the small museum which gave more background for the real event.

dancing house

I then met my friend's flatmate who happened to also be Indonesian. I learned that there weren't many Indonesian in Prague and they all knew each other. We strolled to the north side of the river which is apparently where the younger locals hang out. We ended the night at Cash Only Bar and headed back after I got spilled on.

I was supposed to head to Amsterdam and Belgium after Germany but returned to Prague due to travel fatigue. Didn't do a whole lot in those few days except visiting the passable Museum of Communism and went to a great hike near Karlštejn Castle. Also hit my Micheline star restaurant #2 at Alcron. Made the mistake of getting the 6-course with wine pairing because in the end everything tasted like wine.

castle

See Google Photos for more pictures.

by khc on Mon Jun 19 23:02:33 2017 Permlink
Tags: travel