This post is a little out of order, as I wrote about Normandy, France previously. I travelled in Normandy for a few weeks in July 2017 and then, again, at the end of August. In between my Normandy adventures, I was in The Czech Republic, Poland, Ireland, Poland again, and Ukraine.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague was cool, but it really didn’t blow my hair back. I was surprised because I had been hearing how amazing this city was from fellow travellers. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t like it. It was very pretty.
Prague is very pretty. I was super stoked to finally see the astronomical clock, as I have been wanting to see it for years.
Curious as to why so many people raved about Prague, I started asking what it was they loved about it. The answer was almost always, “It’s a great place to party! The beer is so cheap!” Absolutely, it is! But Krakow and Budapest are better, to party in my opinion.
So, I would dig a little more and ask if they liked it better than other places with cheap beer. They would always say they hadn’t been. I now understood why, in their opinion, Prague is the best place in the world.
Pilsen, Czech Republic
While I was in Prague, I took a day trip to Pilsen (or Plzeň) the birthplace of Pilsner beer. 100% this was worth every penny. The was first created in he Pilsner Urquell brewery there. Of course I did the tour!
Perhaps the best thing about the tour, is that you can drink the unfiltered beer directly from the barrels. Yes, it is better. Top five favourite beers I’ve drank. Up there with Cantillon Gueuze and Kriek (#1) (at the brewery), Guinness (at the brewery), Tripel Karmeliet (#1). I have many more beers listed here: https://untappd.com/user/matt604
I completely understand why Rick Steves said Krakow is the next Prague. It’s way cooler! ?
It was INCREDIBLY hot when I was there in August. How hot? This hot.
It was also incredibly beautiful.
Being there in the Summer was amazing. The little AirBnB I was staying in was a block away from a market all the farmers bring their wares to sell. Because everything was so fresh and in season, I ended up cooking and eating local stuff.
Of course, cooking and eating is thirsty work. I had to wash it down with local drink. Polish beer was very good, but I wanted to try the famous Polish vodka. I picked up a little bottle and had a taste.
However, something seemed off… I’ve drank enough Vodka to know how it’s supposed to taste and smell. This smelt weird and burned my throat different than it should. My Spidey senses tingled. Perhaps it was the Vodka making me tingle. Either way, I did a little searching found tons of online articles on fake vodka. Even reports of people dying from drinking it! (Oh no!) The articles said if it smells like nail polish remover, don’t drink it. When I read that, it dawned on me that was the smell I was trying to place. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the bottle.
From Krakow, I headed to Kiyv by way of Dublin and Warsaw.
Kiyv floored me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. From what we hear in North America, I had preconceptions, all of which were immediately smashed. Kiyv is one of the coolest cities I visited on this trip. The architecture really surprised me; it’s heavily European in places, reminiscent of Paris, Communist Brutalist, traditional Ukrainian with many, many more architectural influences. It is one of the prettiest cities I visited.
Of course, a city that celebrated it’s 1,500 anniversary, 35 years ago, has a rich history. It was strange walking through the city seeing the places it’s history was unfolding only a few years earlier.
Something that impressed me, is that Ukrainians don’t seem to shy away from unpleasant parts of history, as can be see in monuments around the city, such as this one.
As I have mentioned previously, I was a child of the 1980s and a North American during the Cold War. Seeing CCCP era things really gets that little kid inside fired up. So, seeing this almost blew my socks and shorts off!
As did this.
The coolest CCCP thing I saw was much, much smaller.
This little beauty was tucked away in a back corner of the old farm house my good friend’s father-in-law is renovating. As far as I can tell it’s at least as old as I am, and possibly goes back to the space race (?).
Actually, thinking about seeing this is really getting the little kid in me excited. I should probably calm him down with a beer.
But before I go, I have to one last note from Kiyv. I had an amazing tour guide in my buddy. Of course, being a good person, he knows a bunch of good people in Kiyv. As everyone knows, when good people meet, there are good times to be had and, usually, no small amount of drinking.
When the sun comes up, and you have another day of sightseeing, you can’t let a thing like a little hangover slow you down. Fear not! The Ukrainians have you covered. Kvass!
It’s a slightly (1%) alcoholic beverage made from Rye. You can find it around town from little street vendors for not too much. It’s also VERY refreshing on a hot Kiyv summer day, regardless of your previous nights debauchery!