A Travellerspoint blog

October 2015

Stuttgart- London- Cardiff

So I might be a little behind now, better throw some stories down whilst the memories are fresh. I arrived in my Stuttgart Hostel after a leisurely 15 minute stroll through the arts precinct, to find a very cool little hostel awaited. Super comfy couch, which I promptly crashed out on after enjoying the 2hr train trip. I think so far the best train scenery, after those glorious Birch trees that seemed to stretch on for 1/3 of the worlds surface in Siberia, would have to be the Austrian country side. The trips from Vienna- Grunnau and then into Germany were awesome. Rolling, lush, bovine filled meadows, with a dramatic backdrop of perilously steep snow capped mountains, all with a sullen layer of fog that refused to lift from the low lying fields was pretty fantastic. The changing colour of the trees also added a certain je ne sais quoi to the proceedings. Beautiful.

Stuttgart was a pretty cool little town. Vineyards were about a 20min train ride away, always visible on the hillsides surrounding the town, a huge amount of parklands, which we did our best to walk through all of them, a lot of cultural institutes, it seemed to be a pretty good place to live. We smashed out a huge walk on the second day through some of the parklands, all the way down to the next suburb across the river, called Bad Canstatt. Why? I hear someone ask. So we could cruise around "The Hall of Fame" underneath the overpass over the river. This is another site of graffiti, that has evolved over time to be a sort of permanent gallery. The quality was not as good as in Munich, or Camden, however more of a reflection of street arts origins. So some pretty good lettering styles, but if your into the mural side of things not so good. Again I did a little dance, because hitting these sites has been fun. I mean, travelling all away around the world finding graffiti/ street art is pretty cool.

Following on from this site, we decided to check out the Schweine Museum. Right, I'm a fan of our porcine cousins, they're tasty, provide a good human analogue for research in some circumstances, pretty good at sniffing out truffles, make cute pets when they measure the size of a teacup and have delicious knuckles. (Side note, sitting in Cardiff hostel, early morning, and Belle + Sebastian's 'Boy with the Arab strap" is playing........so just going to bliss out for a second). Back to this museum. It was crazy, like a man/women had been collecting anything pig related for 20yrs, then either the wife or the husband laid down an ultimatum. Me or the collection. So, correctly, they chose the pig collection, turned it into a borderline psychotic homage to the tasty trotter. When the museum then became successful, the discarded spouse came back to reunite the couples relationship and boom, together they now manage a museum with over 50,000 single items of pig paraphernalia. Complete with an adjoining restaurant, showcasing the masticating delights of the flavoured Porkys. Seriously, they even had a section to the Erotic Pig. Which was quite disturbing. Weird, thankfully my dreams were normal.

In a nutshell, that was Stuttgart. Apart from wondering around, looking at cool clothes to by, and getting very confused with what 30% off means, we smashed it out. Also made some pretty awesome meals, Emma didn't burn herself cooking which is quite the momentous achievement and I ate a lot of pasta. About 1/2kg. Come to think of it, I ate the rest of Emma's mash potato last night, which was about 3kgs worth of mash, man last nights meal was rad. We rolled into Cardiff, found a traditional pub and had Cawl for a starter. Which was like a fatty stew, with a slab of cheddar and good bread. Then Pork sausages with mash and peas. Good god it was friggin the bomb. Clearly those Anglo-Saxon genes are speaking to us.

Anywhos, might continue with our stop to London. We flew into Gatwick Airport, then caught the tube to our respective hostels. The plan was to meet at mine, near London Bridge and then head onto the Trafalgar Sq. fanzone. Emma got a bit lost. Which was just as well, because we had no time to reach TS so setup camp at the sports bar downstairs. Massive game. Thankfully the All Black's prevailed. We ended up having an early night, a combination of time traveling catching up with us from Stuttgart, early afternoon drinks catching up with me and the fact that it was pretty dark at 6:30. Incidentally, it is pretty much night time here in Cardiff at 7pm. I can only assume it will be earlier in Iceland and Norway. Not long to Iceland by the way. Plenty still to look forward to and this sojourn is not even halfway over!! So, the next day we hit Camden Markets. The maze of shops was crazy. It went on forever, located Cereal Killer Café, which will be a must see destination on our return. Then it was back to the Hostel pub in Camden for the second game. Colour me not surprised. Another corker of a match. It seems that the inevitable inertia that has been building around this RWC has eventuated and now the final that had to be, will be. Not sure where I stand on the outcome. That part of the human psyche that sees patterns/ faces in nature where there are none, for me, views the outcome of this match with added symbolism. Ladies and Gentleman, it may determine the very future of my life. Who will win?, where will I live?, the twin questions have been circulating around each other like a binary star system in a death spiral, a collision will occur, it has to, and a decision will be reached, lets be honest it probably already has and I havn't realised it. Luckily we didn't end up at the fanzone in Trafalgar Sq. as neither games were been shown there. We can only assume that it is out of spite that only the final will be been shown, why else would you have a giant screen in a public place with beer stalls and associated goodies and not show either semi-final?

Back to Camden. Managed to snap a few nice street-art sites just off the main drag. It pays to walk around the odd corner. Also saw the obligatory John Lennon mural. All these I caught on my phone, so when we head back I will take the camera and get some more stuff from down by the canal. Anyway, snapped up some good stuff in Camden, so as a treat for those without FB I'll include them. Mum, I think you should definitely cruise around Cardiff when you have some time after Christmas, think you'd like it. People are crazy friendly over here. Especially people asking for spare change, super polite. I imagine if we get held up at knife point and stabbed our assailant would drive us to hospital and call our mum's to inform them that he/she has just robbed us and stabbed us in the kidneys, but don't worry we are now safe in hospital. He/she would probably be kind enough not to take our credit/ debit cards, because that is a super hassle to sort out replacements. Cardiff, just brilliant. Good food as well. Nice craft beers and plenty of walking to be done.

So that might bring us back up to date. Few other adventures were had. I bought some more clothes and now have decided to get a wheel based travel case to use as a carry on bag so I can cram heaps of clothes in it. Also created what I think is a new word, "meonderings"; a combination of meandering and wondering to describe what we have been doing most days. Emma seems to think that meandering is essentially the same thing. I don't know, meonderings, see totally awesome word. Ty it out, see how it rolls. Your welcome! Bought a Poppy as well. Had a good conversation with my brother as well, always nice to hear a familiar voice and eagerly awaiting our impending reunion.

First two photos are from the Stuttgart Hall of Fame, the other three are from around Cardiff.

So, cael diwrnod da, think that is legitimate?!

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Posted by kidd1200 02:58 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Munich

This is all a little crazy. Two posts in a single week. Thought I would continue rambling on, about stuff you know. Quick update on my loose plans. The only confirmed date and destination is Iceland on the 3rd. Havn't sorted out a ticket because not entirely sure about where I will be. Also confirmed is me arriving in London on the 24th October, but that weekend will be dedicated to two big RWC games, probably hanging out in the Fanzones in Trafalgar Square. Or a pub. Essentially anywhere with a giant TV and the elixir of the gods. Depending on the outcome of these games, the next move(s) will be decided. Also, my erstwhile travelling companion will be cutting away for family time when I head to Iceland. Will also squeeze in Berlin either before or after Iceland. Not sure!! Sorry, please don't hold off on your own plans J, I have confirmed accommodation in Cambridge in December, so will be able to do some revision of my own numeracy with the budding mathematician. Now that I think about it, I know it's super cold but I hear Scotland has a 'Right to roam' law or some remnant of antiquity that allows you to camp wherever you want and have fires. Hmm, might have to investigate this for December and get lost in the Scottish Highlands.

Again, we absolutely killed it in Munich. Second day in, we did our own free walking tour with the mission of finding some quality street art sights. Managed to complete this mission, and also kicked around in a giant loop of walking and through a combination of dumb luck and skilful vague ideas of directions hit all the cool joints that interest people. My highlight was finding the tunnel underneath the Angel of Peace statue. It was rad, I may have done a little dance. Yeah, I totally let the beat take over. We only have an appreciation for the outside of buildings. Having been spoilt for amazing internal delights of both architectural subliminity and sumptuous ephemera at the Hermitage and the Kremlin Museums, we are content with admiring the macro forms and scintillating detailed appendages of Gothic gargoyles that adorn the Castles and Churches we've come across since. You get the idea. Also saves money.

When we headed out to Neuschwanstein Castle, the sun rose early and made a solid start at burning away the early morning fog that shrouds these parts for almost the entire day. Clearly, we have been pleasing whichever god is responsible for carting the sun across the sky in his chariot, because he has been stoking that firey ball of flame well. And props to Thor for occupying himself on the days when we decide to have adventures outside of the cities. Whether it's a cycle along the Danube, or picnic on the lake at Neuschwanstein, we have had the clearest, warmest, unusually brilliant weather in an otherwise bleak, cold, wet and misty month. We only spent 15Euro on our return ticket, and just kicked around in the glorious outdoors for a few hours. Boom. Sorted. Smashed the photos as well. Having learnt how to blitz a supermarket for lunchtime goodies, and of course listening to the echoes of our mothers and purchasing healthy options, we have graduated to top of the Vodkatrain Class when it comes to value for money and gourmet deliscousness. Again, the little things in the life of a traveller. We splurged the other night when we bought a faintly musty, sub-par bottle of vino at the local Lidl supermarket, spent 3Euro. Crazy kids. I think we should have spent only 2.50 and got the bottle from Straya, m8!

It's a quick 2hour trip to Stuttgart, another pin in the cushion of Europe cities. Hope to check out another street art sight, underneath a train station. Hope it's cool. Also, I think we might fork out the cash moneys and hit the Porsche Museum. And it looks like there's some pretty massive parks to wander. I'm going to post a 5 panel piece from Munich. It's sweet. Maybe a photo of the lake at the castle. Just search for actual images of the castle, if you want to see what it looked like. Oh, and a shot of a gargoyle at some church in Mariensplatz, or somewhere in mainstreet Munich. I mean I presume it's a church. Could just be a big building to hold up a small clock.

See, who needs guided tours!

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Posted by kidd1200 00:44 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

Grunau im Almtal- Salzburg

Currently kicking out in the Wombats Hostel in Munich, we arrived yesterday and last night had a few beers to wish Hester bon voyage, so it's a slow start this morning which is fine when the weather is that wonderful mix of mist and incessant light rain. So the sights can wait. As a homage to the fantastic Irish pub we were at a few nights back in Salzburg, I'm listening to The Pogues- Dirty Old Town..........might go to Ireland, just throwing bombshells out there now ;) Sorry sister in law, I have held up your comment whilst I mull things over. I may well reach Cambridge a bit early to have that frozen Gin and discuss all things future based.

So I might just ramble on a little disjointed about some stuff that's been going down of recent times. Again, chasing RWC matches around Europe is very fun. I arrived around 3:30 yesterday in not so sunny Munich and spent an hour looking for an Irish pub, seems the rainbow doesn't touch down in this area, so had to settle for watching it at the hostel. What a game, I almost chewed my left arm of in nervousness, thankfully it was a sweet win.

I left Salzburg that morning. It was not without a minor detour. Having been told that there was an 1103 train to Fesslaising or somesuch town, at 1045 I decided to board a train that appeared to have a final destination in that locale, alas this was the wrong train. But, this is how you need to roll, I started chatting to two other backpackers, from England, who had done the same thing. We had all stuffed up. So it was back to Salzburg, and having now missed the 1103 mysterious train, had to wait till 1303 for the next connection. It seemed the platform and train info didn't come up until 10mins prior to the train departing. Trust me, this is really unusual. Anyway, we got it right a few hours later. We were joined by about 200 other passengers, it was a very busy train across the Austrian- German border. Both in Vienna and Salzburg the train station has been home to quite a large police presence and quasi-military personnel, or maybe just Customs officials. Hard to tell because I'm not familiar with Austrian state apparatus. Anyway, also there are large tents set up outside, with Red Cross staff and associated humanitarian aid workers. At various times large groups of refugees would be escorted around the station to certain platforms by police officers. It was all very orderly and I can only assume that it was mayhem a few weeks ago.

I had a good yarn to Rhianna and John from England during our almost four hour commute. Good conversation, they had been travelling from Budapest, West and eventually down through to Barcelona then back home again all on trains. Speaking of good conversation, Emma and I located a pretty sweet Irish pub in Salzburg where we watched the All Blacks beat France. By some bizarre sequence of events, a couple who lived in Queensland but were originally from Dunedin also rolled in. They were followed by a mother with her teenage daughter who also were originally from Dunedin. So we had a bit of crew of vocal supporters for the game. I thought the old couple were a little too vocal, they had a very different take of the refugee situation and a rather dim view of the 'animals' who found their way into Europe. I had to cut away outside for a breather when the old dude yelled at the TV/ French and said something like 'we don't forget The Rainbow Warrior, bloody French'. But that's cool. I suppose. Not what I would bring up, but I was only 4 when that all happened.

Another interesting individual we met, was in the sleepy hamlet of Grunau. This was a tiny place in the Austrian mountains about halfway between Vienna and Salzburg. I caught a train to a place called Wells and then transferred onto a single carriage train that took about an hour picking its way down the valley, dropping of school children along the way. I was met by the guesthouse owners son, Sebastian, who must have been 17 or 18. A really cool kid. He loaded my pack in his boot, next to the sub-woofer, and turned on some metal as we drove the 10 minutes out of 'town' to the house. We talked about his car, drifting, snowboarding, metal and how excited he was to see his girlfriend in Germany soon. He also demonstrated how poor the grip on his tyres was. It was a sweet ride.

There was however a sinister side to Grunau. Its name was Olaf, from Sweden. A really odd character who just did very creepy, unsociable, disgusting things constantly. He had driven from somewhere and, when he needed to relieve himself, instead of pulling over on the side of the autobahn or waiting for a WC, just pissed himself in his car and kept driving. Constantly asked, seemingly only of the girls, if they wanted lifts into town or wanted to go to Prague with him. I mean this was beyond just been friendly. Because he had a shovel and a tarp in his car boot. Seriously. You read about these kinds of people. Shit was weird.

Anyway, Grunau was a wonderful place for a few days of R and R. It was constantly misty/raining, but still beautiful. After this, it was onto Salzburg. Emma and I are getting really good at walking around cities, seeing all the 'sights' without really using maps and just smashing it all out in a few hours. Today we kicked around Munich. Again, seen pretty much all the big tourist places without really aiming too and often just stumbled onto amazing places.. Tomorrow will head to the crazy castle. Salzburg seemed to be a very rich persons playground. It was a place where money certainly flowed. I also ate a lot of dough. Mostly in the shape and form of giant pretzels. Delicious. So too was the pork knuckle we had today. Although it seemed more like a hip bone. But I could be wrong, pigs may have giant knuckles, just never noticed them because I was always busy thinking how nice their ribs taste.

Anyways, might kick off to bed.

Actually, big shout out to Emma's mum. Don't worry about the fact Emma takes a long time to heal from 'ouchies',in my humble opinion it is no cause for alarm.

So some photos. One of these is of someone getting ready to throw a rock at me.Time keeps ticking along. Also, will be in London by the end of this week.
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Posted by kidd1200 13:12 Archived in Austria Comments (2)

Český Krumlov- Vienna

Having arrived in the quaint Medieval town of Český Krumlov, I was deposited in the main bus terminal, or what really was a collection of bus shelters in a park. This was totally fine as the walk to the brilliant Hostel Krumlov House was a mere 800m. Somehow I managed to miss the road it was on, which considering the town consisted of only about 3 1/2 roads, was a bit of a rookie move on my part. Error rectified I was checked into my villa. What a sweet little abode, with the choice of three beds, a kitchenette, with a duelling canopy of vines outside my door, it was a blissful arrival. Furthermore, the light was hitting that sweet spot just before dusk when, with a clear sky, it seems to set alight the botanical foliage in a fierce display of spectral wonder. We headed out for a stroll around the town, which was a very small place and did about 3 laps of the entire area. Really, it was a postcard moment around every corner. As it is Autumn, the trees were in a magnificent state. It was even more impressive than the endless Birch trees in Siberia. The town has a fairly strong flowing river running through the centre of town, which is spread across both sides of the steep valley. There is a pretty amazing castle built along one side of the valley, with the river forming a natural defence. It did appear as if it was in a prime position strategically, which is probably no coincidence.

So as the sun set and the temperature started to drop to zero, we headed out to grab some food. For the life of me I can't remember where we ate, but I'm sure it was delicious?! The next day was a slow start as we cooked up bacon and eggs from the local co-op and made the most of the facilities on over. It's always a joy beyond belief when after travelling for so long you actually get a chance to prepare your own food. Job done, we had a day of circumnavigating the entire town at least another 20 times and I took close to a million photos, which I havn't really done so far. We pretty much had the entire town to ourselves, except for the residents of Beijing who had decided to turn up with their ever present umbrellas in some kind of flash mob. Luckily it was the low season, as apparently this town doubles during summer from 20,000 to around 40,000. On an unrelated note, strangely there were some brown bears in a small enclosure under one of the entrances to the castle. This must be a remanent of the ruling family, as the emblem of the town and a lot of coats-of-arms had bears as the motif.

As this day was the night of New Zealand v. unlucky team we sussed out a awesome place to watch the game. Gorillas Rock Bar was the place, and as we had worded up the ageing rock owner as soon as the bar opened we had control of the remote. Luckily, as having set up camp a few hours prior to kick off, the joint rapidly filled to bursting point with assorted locals all in need of their early week drinks and hard rock fix. We drank a lot. It was cheap. In fact, it was pretty awesome all up. Especially when a really wasted guy rocked out massively in both air-guitar and air-drum. He was ace.

So this was pretty much Cesky. A beautiful place to visit for a few days, especially when the leaves are changing. Next stop was Vienna. The trip was pretty uneventful except for when getting dropped off at my 'hostel', the shuttlebus driver scrapped a parked car. I gave him a small tip, so hopefully he wasn't out of pocket too much. My digs were essentially in a semi illegal bording house in an apartment block. The kind of place you read about when there is a fire and all the inhabitants die because of poor emergency procedures. But the owner was nice, having ascertained my surname was Kidd preceded to call me Mr. Peter Pan. A few times I felt like I was working for her as well because she kept leaving when other guests were due to arrive and would ask me to let them in and give them keys. She also had a clarinet lesson in the kitchen/ living/ common area. I think she also ran a laundry service as there seemed to be a crap load of washing in disproportunate quantity to the four people staying there. She was lovely though. Vienna was a little bit of a ride off, as we arrived on Sunday when absolutely nothing was open.

In fact it was great, as the next day we did a wine tasting/ ride day trip along the Danube. It was a full day and the weather briefly cleared so we had the only day of clear, sunniness in the three days we were in Vienna. It felt great to get out amongst the country side, leisurely cycling alongside the river, through vineyards and apple orchards. Really great. Learn't a fair bit about this important wine producing region in Vienna. I promptly forgot most of it after tasting the strongly alcoholic apricot schnapps that is an Austrian specialty. I think I also had some at PPE, or something similar. we also had Sturm, which is only available at this stage of the wine harvest/ production cycle. It is still fermenting grape juice from the first press. Mmmmmm, tasted like lightly sparkling grape juice. Only has an alcohol content of <5%. Fantastic.

Currently writing this on my way to Grunau im Amtal, which is a small village in the mountains on the way to Salzburg. Should be a nice escape from the big city's which are starting to get a little annoying. There are only so many churches and museums you can go to before getting a little jaded. The churches in St. Petersburg will be very hard to top in my opinion. But that's cool.

Side note, the station at Vienna had both free wifi for regular passengers as well as specifically for refugees and an online refugee information site.

It is also time to respond to some comments.

To the Cambridge clan, glad to hear that the important orders of business have been sorted out. I'm getting excited to see the little rambunctious J and stop constantly moving and just have some chill out time with her! I may also head to Wales prior to Iceland, depending on the finalists in the RWC. It has been great travelling whilst it has been on, as when I did my solo stint in 2006 the soccer world cup was on and it gives an alternative activity to look forward to. Sorting out optimal viewing conditions is also, sometimes, a bit of a mission. Travelling around with, and as an honoury Kiwi is good because eventually we may have to have an epic night where my true colours come out. Considering I may move to Wellington, this is not as simple decision as one would think?!

Yes, it may be time when I actually do something challenging in my life for once instead of just thinking about it.

Mum, sorry about that really brief phone call, but was great to hear a familiar voice. I think you'll have a fantastic time over here. And now that I've been for a cycle for the first time in about 10years, may join you on some adventures down the Cam, perchance.

Also, things I have lost so far; an SD card with photos of my time in Amsterdam and my laundry bag so now just using a plastic bag which smells like death.

I was going to respond to some other comments, but I might look out the window for a bit :)

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Posted by kidd1200 07:47 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (3)

Prog Power Europe- Prague

From Metal to Medieval

Having met up the Norwegians, it was a mass rednezvous at Schipol to join the exodus to Eindhoven then on to Venlo and finally Baarlo. The cup truly over floweth during these 4-5 days at Prog Power. It started flowing on the train trip from Amsterdam and was only punctuated by sleeping, breakfast and, well not much else. The exodus was a bit of a baptism into the family that is the ProgPower audience. The hilarious personalities were evident right from the start and they didn't let up all weekend. Thankfully there were a few other first timers, who more than likely will return again much like everyone else does.

Castle de Brock was a pretty impressive place to stay, complete with a moat, peacocks, giant courtyard, magical fairies who would clean up all the empty beer cans every night and thankfully free wifi. As Shani had said, this was a much better place to experience a range of amazing, at times cheap, staggeringly broad variety of alcohol from all over Europe than Oktoberfest. There were people from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Dubai, England, Ireland, France, Columbia by way of Canada and a small number of Australians. All the Europeans bought their best drinks from their delightful countries. So quite the experience and that's just the alcohol side of things. Everyone was super friendly and went out of their way to make the newbies feel welcome. Truly a top festival that felt like hanging out with family. Which for me was literally true.

Music I hear you ask, yes there was quite a bit of it actually. I was exposed to some fresh sounds which is always a good thing. Definitely will be listening to Until Rain, Myrath and especially Exeens...........so the education was worth it. I also missed a lot of the bands, as I wanted to continue watching the Rugby. Pretty sure no one really held it against me, because for some people the festival was just as much of a social event as anything else. I most definitely would want to go again, and as an opportunity to see a small town in the Netherlands glad I didn't pass it up. A lot more could be said about it, but sometimes it's best to keep certain experiences to yourself!

So after nursing a very sore head back to Amsterdam, I checked back into the hostel I was staying at and went to pick up my laundry. I had deposited said bag of smelliness at the laundry about 5 days beforehand, intending to pick it up the next morning before heading to Baarlo. This was not to be and despite returning all this time later, with no receipt the Indian laundry wallah managed to find it and kindly gave it back. So now I was back in action. Strangely Dan and Sarah had arrived that night so miraculously managed to walk into them seconds after my phone turned too cactus at our poorly organised meeting point. Quite lucky. We swapped some stories and grabbed a meal. I had what could be described as an interesting walk home, having gotten vaguely lost. At night every single canal looks the same. But I made it back. The next morning I made a snap decision to head to Prague, as the thought of kicking around Amsterdam solo style for another day seemed a bit beyond my abilities. So a quick flight to Prague it was.

This was also another step in the ongoing series of 'how many cities in Europe can I meet up with Emma in". I was also eager to head back East as the cheapness was a drawcard. Prague, a pretty sweet place. I do prefer Krakow at this stage as it Is a little smaller and the quality of graffiti is definitely at a more advanced level. Prague seemed to have a lot more tagging as opposed to your bigger mural/ wall pieces. But hey, I'm cool with that having no skills myself. It is quite the historical town, with a very interesting history. The Czech's also appear to be proud of their history and some important players throughout European history have been from Prague. Kafka for instance. Well, some bigger players to do with the Roman Catholic Church such as the Huseites and the early Protestant movements that pre-dated Luther. Some beautiful old buildings, one of the oldest University's, Mozart premiered here as well. Good stuff. If you can remember it!

Good beer as well. We did head out to Kutna Hora, which was the old silver mining city back in the olden days. It is also home to the Bone Chapel, which is a chapel with a lot of human bones decorating it. Bizarre. Kinda cool, not as creepy as the Kuntzkamer Museum in St. Petersburg. The town itself was well worth the visit, giving us a taste of our next destination. The smallish Medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, about 3 hours south of Prague. I'm pretty excited about this place and not just because I have a deluxe villa with ensuite, kitchenette and presumably a bed.

Writing this on that bus trip, just tried to upload a video from the Trans Siberian leg of the train trip, but because I added some sick audio track to it got removed. Stupid IP.

Can't we all just share everything?

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Posted by kidd1200 04:18 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

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