Autumn Travels: Discover the Magic of Prague

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Their history is studded with events of random defenestration and for that reason, (among others) Prague had my full attention. Once upon a time, the leaders of their society had such a bad day that they decided to take an obvious solution: throw their enemies out the window. I know this was cruel, and too bad for you if you were the one being thrown out, but if this was made legal nowadays, life would be so much simpler. Because today, idiots just seem to be everywhere – but so are windows. Problem. Solved.

On a serious note though, Prague is a beautiful city with a history that is just as colorful. So colorful indeed that some of the truth got mixed with a couple of myths and the interesting part is – it could still be hard to tell which is which. When travelling, I have always considered a day trip into the itinerary but this time I was too smitten to go away even for a day. I ended up staying there all week, day by day walking along Old Town and ravishing random street food I could find. Smiling at random strangers and finding delight in the talent of the street performers. The beautiful architecture, abundantly consumed beer and the meat-based diet made it hard for me to leave – so hard indeed that I never looked back to say goodbye as my plane flew back to London. But if there is any truth about the plate of St. John of Nepomuk in Charles Bridge, then farewells were not yet in order anyway.

With the -ber months here once again marking the start of a new season, the warm air has dissipated and there is finally relief from heat wave season. In so many ways, Autumn is a great time to travel, not only because of the pleasantly cool weather but also because of the beautiful landscapes and views undergoing seasonal transformation. This may as well be the best time of year to travel around Europe. And if you’ve never been to Prague, then why not make it your destination this fall? Here are a few things I adored about the city that come highly recommended!

1.Old Town Square

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Dreamy scenario captured in Old Town Prague

Almost constantly buzzing with tourists is Prague’s Old Town Square, a place that resounds of places we thought only existed in fairy tales. There is never enough space between the tourists and the random street performers trying to earn a buck or two. But there is a reason for all that chaos. Surrounded by structures rich with stunning composition and historical affiliations, Old Town is simply magnetic.

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Some of the buildings surrounding Old Town Prague
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Old Town Hall

2.Astronomical Clock

2016-30-10-11-11-51Among Europe’s iconic landmarks is Prague’s Astronomical Clock – a clock that has a rather whimsical and medieval appearance. But being the world’s oldest working clock is enough excuse for this.  It stirs into life every hour with its much awaited mechanical show of the Apostles and figurines. This makes it a tourist hotspot every time the hour hits its last few minutes. The mechanical show itself may fall below the expectations of gawking tourists, but the clock’s design, together with its history and context, still makes it worthwhile for curious travelers like me.

3.Prague Castle / St. Vitus Cathedral

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Prague Castle as seen from Charles Bridge

Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world that is still in operation. It is undeniably an important symbol to those who live in Prague and remains relevant even in today’s times by being the Official Residence of the President. It is best described as a castle complex, comprising of various grandiose buildings and palaces. I found this a truly beautiful destination, with stunning architecture and such lush gardens that offer unparalleled views across Prague.

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Overlooking view of the city
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Clockwise from left uppermost image: Castle Courtyard, St. Vitus Cathedral, Statue of St. John of Nepomuk and rear view of St Vitus Cathedral.

4.Charles Bridge

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Charles Bridge

Next to churches, I have always admired bridges across Europe. Among my personal favorites are Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge of Budapest and of course London’s Tower Bridge. In my country, I equated bridges with being dilapidated, low – cost or unnecessarily blundered with a politician’s name from end to end in all caps. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that in this part of the world, they have become one of the things I look forward to, enchanted by the charm it adds to a city’s ambiance. I find that it lends over a dreamy factor because it usually crosses a body of water. Prague’s Charles Bridge is no exemption indeed, rich with detailed architecture that is truly one of a kind. Guarding it bilaterally are Baroque statues that usually represent something significant from history, one of which is St. John of Nepomuk. Touching his plate supposedly garners good luck and ensures your return to the city of Praha.

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Charles Bridge as seen from the banks of Vltava River. The plate of St. John of Nepomuk is one of the highlights of the bridge, attracting tourists from all over. Notice how the color has changed in the middle due to the number of tourists rubbing the famous landmark. It is said that touching this ensures a traveler’s return to Prague in the future.

5.Czech Cuisine

Prague’s food scene is brilliant and even more so if you are a fan of a highly carnivorous diet. I am talking about delicious slabs of meat, succulent, juicy and not necessarily in healthy portions. I especially adored the Roasted Pork Knuckle and the traditional Medovnik Cake. More details about my favorite Czechia Food here.

6.Lesser Town

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Streets of Lesser Town

If you are looking for a little freedom from the hoards of tourists trooping around then Lesser Town Prague just might do the trick. Sure, you’d still find a tourist here and there but not in volumes that they are in Old Town Square. Walking around Lesser Town is a great way to get a closer look at Prague and appreciate its streets, hidden corners and medieval charm. Be sure to find and drop by St. Nicholas Church.

Viajera Travel Tip: Food is cheaper in Lesser Town so be sure to feast upon some delicious Czechia food!

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St. Nicholas Church

7.Vltava River

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The calm currents of Vltava

Overflowing with a sense of tranquil, the Vltava is one of the highlights of my journey in Prague. It is almost romantic, how this river cascades so placidly, evoking thoughts about how in the end, things always fall in the right places. Because destiny. Because no matter how chaos we generate in this world, the unseen forces of the universe somehow always win.
Walking along Charles Bridge, one can already admire panoramic views of the river but it is best appreciated aboard one of the boat tours. There is the option of booking a lunch or dinner cruise, but as an alternative an hour long cruise without food is also available. Discovering Prague from this vantage point gives you a chance to see the city from a different angle and could prove to be a great opportunity for taking truly unique photographs. Be sure not to miss this!2016-30-10-13-28-02


2016-30-10-13-58-16Autumn is undeniably a great time for travel. The trees are painted with various shades of yellow and brown, the landscapes panning out in glorious fiery colors. Personally, I love traveling during fall because the views are just outstanding. This season doesn’t just prepare the world for winter – it acts as a constant reminder of how some truly elegant things emerge from change. Wherever life takes us, the beauty of it is in how we can always look forward to the good things that are yet to come. Ultimately, this makes it the most important journey each and every one of us if ever going to make. And for as long as we are unsure as to whether there are future lifetimes ahead for us to live, then make the one you are in right now count. Because I still believe that if we live this one right, this one – way ticket is all we are ever going to need. 

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Where are you headed off this Autumn? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Stunning Sceneries From Scotland to Fuel Your Wanderlust

The movie Braveheart may come to mind when Scotland is mentioned – alongside bagpipes or men in checkered skirts. Their past of conflict and bravery is both enthralling and tragic with story lines that easily remind me of Game of Thrones – only with real tempers lost and unbelievable amount of bloodshed. And although that era of violence is now just another page in their rich history, much of it is still remembered as they are still deeply rooted in the unparalleled landscapes found here. From Ben Nevis to the scenic Glencoe – Scotland is truly a one of a kind destination.

Here are a few snapshots of Scotland that just might give you the extra nudge to finally book that ticket for your next adventure. These photos were taken during summer, but I was told that Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands are just as stunning on winter time. I love looking back at these pictures and recall how truly one of a kind Scotland’s landscapes are. I hope you find a little bit of travel inspiration in these photos and I wish you many happy travels ahead.  Go ahead and fuel you wanderlust!

The city of Edinburgh is a walking city and a tourist can easily navigate around and hunt for picturesque corners. You will never run out of things to point that camera to when in Scotland’s flourishing  capital.

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Calton Hill
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National Monument of Scotland
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Scott Monument
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Streets of Edinburgh
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City Center
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Statue of Walter Montagu Douglas Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch

The Scottish Highlands is a paradise of rolling mountains, pristine lochs, meadows and endless stretches of foliage and trees. It’s a great destination for those longing for a break from the suffocation of concrete jungles and busy urban crowds. The vastness of The Highlands alone is enough to make you take deep breaths and forget city life for a while.

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That Scottish Highland landscape
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Loch Lubnaig
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The Highlands
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Enveloped between the tall trees of the Highlands
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Sunset
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Edinburgh Skyline

The world is full of unseen places, waiting to be discovered by curious minds and hearts awaiting to be captivated. For me, the best destinations are those we did not intend to see, those we ran into by accident or some form of destiny. In these places, sometimes we meet new people who stay in our lives as friends and then there are those lucky few who finally meet themselves for the first time. Happy travels dear reader, and sooner rather than later, I hope you find what you are looking for. Continue reading Stunning Sceneries From Scotland to Fuel Your Wanderlust

Top 5 Prague Eats

2016-05-10-13-22-45If you love your meat like me, then a trip to Prague is best accomplished with a gastronomic adventure. A word of warning: traditional Bohemian plates may dawn as a nightmare of sorts to your average vegan, as Czechia cuisine is a carnivore’s dream.

With Czechia heavily relying on succulent slabs of pork, rabbit, duck, chicken and beef, it is no wonder they consume that much alcohol. I honestly cannot think of a better pairing for flavorful Czechia beer other than tender pieces of properly seasoned meat, usually slathered with a savory sauce. Meat consumption is so serious a business here that when I ordered a side of roasted vegetables (out of guilt from my three – day carnivorous spree), they actually served it on a separate plate. When I took a bite I think they basted it with meat drippings. Not that I am complaining. Vegetarians just might die of hunger here.

Aside from an obvious adoration for protein, Czechia food is usually served with some bread dumplings (houskové knedlíky) which I liked very much because I used them to shamelessly wipe the sauce off my plate. Horse radish, cabbage and potatoes are among the staple side dishes I found quite nice. Those with a sweet tooth shall not leave disappointed as Prague is also home to some cakes and treats that can be nominated as building blocks of comfort food.

Now, food from this part of the world is known to be filling and not exactly a prime example of a balanced diet. But who comes to Prague for a salad anyway? If after a meal you find yourself feeling like you are carrying a brick in your stomach, then rest assured you’ve had the proper Czechia food experience. It’s nothing a good walk around the town square cannot solve! Ultimately, you shall never walk away hungry from a meal while you’re here and you’ll always get your money’s worth. Good food, a cold beer and a post card view? Oh yes please. Here’s what made it to my top five Prague eats in ascending order of goodness!

Top 5: Medovnik / Honey Cake

2016-05-10-13-31-02To say that Medovnik falls under the most unique cakes I have devoured is an understatement. I think by far it is the most creative in terms of preparation and its element of deception makes me love it just a little bit more. Upon inspection I actually thought it was going to feel dry and crumbly in my mouth but I could not have been more wrong. However, this is not exactly a moist cake and is rather best described as somewhere in between. It is very light and has a characteristic sweetness that of course, comes from honey. Cafe Lippert’s rendition came with a dollop of cream but it was scrumptious enough on its own. You have to try this for yourself in order to understand why despite the simple exterior, Medovnik proves to be one of Prague’s most famous cakes.

Top 4: Trdelnik / Funnel Cake

2016-05-10-13-43-49It may be the Czechia people’s love for anything being roasted over an open fire that inspired the creation of Trdelnik. I don’t really know, this is merely an honest observation. But I must admit, it’s a stroke of genius and the Trdelnik – making process is mesmerizing as it is. Imagine cake on a stick, but instead of baking in an oven they have a rotisserie of golden brown pastries; twirling around until it is ready for your mouth. The real challenge though, is eating it without getting chocolate or crumbs all over your face.

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Top 3: Sausage / Grilovane Klobasy

2016-05-10-13-48-02Standing out from the things I have tried out in Prague were their Grilled Sausages. These lovely bolsters of tubed ground meat may be familiar to most but the Czechs have somehow made it their own. It has that distinct smokey flavour but not so much as to ruin the dish, with grill marks sealing in the juicy goodness. As a main course, it can be ordered with sides, of which the local waiter suggested I go for the Frites. All in all a very good meal!

Grilovane Klobasy is also a popular street food choice, packed with enough calories to set you afoot for an entire afternoon. A portion from one of the numerous stands will get you one giant Czech sausage and a piece of bread, condiments are usually on the side as usual to mix and match as you please.

Viajera Travel Tip: As a general rule, do not eat anywhere around Old Town Square as the prices are 3-4x more. If you are paying for more than 45 Czech Korunas for a beer, then rest assured that you are being ripped off. Lesser Town Prague is a better location to go for food trips, you’re welcome.

Top 2: Beef Goulash with Dumplings

2016-05-10-14-03-04A classic offering among Prague restaurants is Beef Goulash, although the books might tell you that the dish is more of Hungarian in origin. It comprises of tender chunks of beef braised in a mildly spicy sauce, served with a few dumplings of bread. Villa Richter’s version is traditional and appealing with portions that leave just enough room for cake and coffee.

Viajera Travel Tip: After taking the Prague Castle Tour, head over to Villa Richter Restaurant for lunch or afternoon coffee / tea. Located just outside the castle, be sure to book a table by the balcony and enjoy overlooking views of Prague with authentic local food.

Top 1: Czech Pork Knuckle

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Aaaand we’ve got a winner! Undeniably among Prague’s gastronomic pride is their rendition of Roasted Pork Knuckle. One can always spot this dish under the “house specials” and indeed rightfully so. This is not by any means a humble portion of pig knuckles cooked in an attempt to make use of an animal’s part that otherwise would have been thrown away. It is a more than generous serving of pork meat sliding off the bone marinated and seasoned with a sweet savoury sauce reminiscent of Pata Tim. It could have easily fed four people, but I almost finished it, apart from two more bites. Sweet, salty, sticky and oozing with fatty juices cascading down with every slice. You have to eat this before you die.

2016-05-10-13-56-06Viajera Travel Tip: We stumbled upon Restaurant U Malvaze along Karlova Street, a place that surprises its customers with spacious rustic interiors that come unexpected from its seemingly meek facade. The food items are priced reasonably and I found the staff to be very friendly. I ordered their version of Roasted Pork Knuckle and it sent me straight to pig heaven. Some things are not worthy of words – unutterable pleasures in life are simply too hard to describe.

Needless to say, hunger was a feeling that never came to me when I was in Prague. The food was delicious and almost every meal was heavy, even the snacks. The meat lover in me rejoiced in whimsy with the fact they considered a Pork Knuckle the size of a fat tissue roll “single serving”. But this is one aspect of travel I have always mused about. Perspective about spice or portion may vary from one place to another but the love for good food will almost always unite us. As for me, I’ll eat and enjoy every foreign morsel with as much gusto I have in my body. And I cannot wait to see what I’ll sink my teeth into next. Continue reading Top 5 Prague Eats