Three Bars in Three Cities

If there is one thing anyone can rely on when traveling in most parts of the world — it’s that there will always be a bar. When traveling, bars are not just a place to get a drink but a place to meet other travelers on the road and swap stories.  In my experience, it’s a place to meet the locals who can tell you more about the area you’re visiting and maybe even give you some good recommendations for getting off the beaten path. These are the places (drinking or not) that you start experiencing more of the place you’re visiting rather than just being a casual observer.

Budapest, Hungary — Szimpla Kert

I had heard about Szimpla long before I was even considering going to Budapest. Friends of mine from Germany, the U.K. and not to mention my Lithuanian husband had all been to Szimpla on their own respective trips to Budapest. So by the time I took my own maiden voyage to Hungary in October — I had high hopes for the bar.  Ruin pubs are unique to Budapest and they sound exactly like what they are, which is old buildings that are turned into bars. Szimpla is the ultimate ruin pub — it’s a massive old factory that has no roof (so everyone can smoke inside) and  multiple levels which include numerous bars. The place is covered in spray paint over it’s dingy walls, bath tubs cut in half serve as couches and old rusty bicycles hang from the walls tangled up in Christmas lights. I had never been to a bar quite like it. But, it lived up to expectation. When we were there we made friends with other pub goers who were from all over the world. People from Chile, U.K, Somalia, Romania, Italy, and of course Hungary were all happily sipping beer, sharing cigarettes as well as  stories. It was a fantastic place to go if you were looking for a friendly bar in Budapest.

Prague, Czech Republic — Hemingway Bar

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Hemingway Bar could tie first with Szimpla but it is a completely different type of experience. Hemingway was a huge highlight for my friends and  when we visited Prague in the fall of 2012. After a day of sightseeing we came upon a speakeasy style bar near the Vltava on the Old Town side of Prague.  This was a bit of a surprise as I’ve never seen speakeasy bars outside the U.S. and I admit I was skeptical. I rarely drink cocktails when I’m outside of the states because they often are over priced, way too sugary and just not as good. But, Hemingway won me over. They made a fantastic gin fizz and one of my friends couldn’t stop raving about his Manhattan which we all agreed tasted “magical.” In addition to great cocktails, Hemingway Bar offered a wide variety of cigars to enjoy with your cocktails. The atmosphere was incredibly laid back and we enjoyed our Cuban cigars and drinks on plush couches and chairs at the back of the bar.

Vilnius, Lithuania — Alinė Leičiai

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I am always on the hunt for a good home-brewed beer when I visit a new country. I find its a good cultural experience — especially if the country you’re in is renowned for it’s brew. My husband had been telling me for ages that Lithuanians make good beer and often win international brewing competitions. So when we visited his old stomping grounds in Vilnius, I was anxious to see if he was right. Leicai (pronounced Lay – chay) is a brewery in the old town of Vilnius that serves their signatures brews (light, dark and everything in between) as well as traditional Lithuanian food. Leicai is more of the perfect place to meet up with old friends (which is what we were there to do) than to go for a big night out. It’s a  place to relax and have a couple of beers and maybe a cheese/meat plate (which was enough to stuff three people).

What are some of the best bars you have been to?

Photo Credit: Aline Leiciai photo from Aline Leicia’s Facebook page; Hemingway Bar photo from Hemingway Bar photo’s Facebook page

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Postcard Pick: Prague’s Astronomical Clock

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When I visited Prague back in 2012, I paid a visit to one of the city’s most revered sights — the Astronomical Clock. The clock was created in 1410 and for centuries was considered a technological marvel.

Prague is a city of many legends and one story claims that when the Astronomical Clock was finished being made, the city councillors were so impressed with it that they did not want the clockmaster to create an identical clock for another city. So, that night they had the clockmaster blinded. In turn, the clockmaster managed to fumble his way back to the clock and break it. This damage led to it not working for a hundred years.

Whatever, the legend – the clock in Prague is the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. It is mounted on the Old Town Hall, where today it is a constant attraction for visitors. Large crowds of tourists gather around the clock every hour to watch the mechanical show that occurs. Essentially, the figurines move and “dance” when the clock strikes the hour. However, the locals seem to be less than impressed with the show. I was told that Praguers like to watch the tourists from the other side of the square and see the looks of disappointment and anticlimactic realization of those watching the show. What was considered a wonder of the world during the Middle Ages doesn’t hold up to modern day standards.

2012: A year of travel in review

While it is still the beginning of 2013, I wanted to take the chance to look back on all the amazing trips I have had over the last year. Some of them have not yet been featured on this blog but hopefully I will begin to catch up with the details of those journeys. In the meantime here is to a fantastic year and I’m looking forward to an even better one!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is one of the best cities I have ever visited. It is one of those places that just feels like home. My favorite thing to do in this ancient Scottish city is to get up early in the morning on a sunny day, pick up a cup of coffee and walk through the streets of Edinburgh until I end up on top of Calton Hill. It’s the best way to see the city wake up.

Madrid, Spain

Quite opposite from Scotland, it’s ideal to wake up late in Spain along with the locals.The earliest you should be eating breakfast is at 11 a.m. and it should be churros con chocolate with a strong iced coffee. Once you make it through the sprawling urban city of Madrid it will be 3 p.m. before you know it and time for lunch with a nice glass of tinto de verano.

Salamanca, Spain

After a few days in the massive city of Madrid, it’s good to take a vacation from your vacation and head to Salamanca for a weekend. The historic city is alluring with it’s two massive cathedrals and the most beautiful main square in all of Spain. In addition you can see the oldest university in Spain — the University of Salamanca.

Venice, Italy

Venice looks every bit like the postcards and posters you have seen of it. It’s a city that exudes history, magnificence and a massive tourism industry. Get caught up in the sinking cities infamous piazza’s, glass shops and canals. There is no other city in the world like it.

Prague, Czech Republic

The fairy tale like city of Prague has it’s own unique culture that includes a history of communism, a preserved Jewish quarter untouched by WWII and a steady German/French influence that has shaped it’s architecture. Walk over the river Vltava on the beautiful Charles bridge towards Prague Castle. Then hike up your way up to Strahov Monastery where you can drink amazing Czech beer that has been brewed by the monks there for centuries.

Postcard Pick: Old Country Praha

While walking around the gorgeous cobblestone streets of Mala Strana in Prague (or Praha) we stopped inside a small shop to pick up some souvenirs. My friend called me towards the back of the shop and pointed to several huge boxes of vintage postcards. She know me well. Personally, I love when I can find postcards that have previously been posted to others. It’s great to see the stamps, the messages, the age of the postcard. Therefore, this was a great find for me and I came away with these two beauties. If anyone can read Czech, please tell me what the postcards say!

 From 1925

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From 1952

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