Travel Log: The Czech Republic

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After Belgium and Austria I entered the Czech Republic from Vienna, Austria. Brno first, then Prague, Budějovice and Krumlov. Then I returned to Prague again and left the Czech Republic for Bratislava and then Budapest. Originally I had planned to go through Vienna after the CR on a different and more optimized route in which I would exit the CR into Vienna and then fly to Italy. I decided not to go to Italy and will be making my way through to the Balkans soon to see Montenegro.

Sunset from Spilberk Castle in Brno

Brno was a pleasant city to spend a few days in, but much like the rest of CZ, I didn’t walk around nearly as much as I did in other countries, but I did trek up to Spilberk Castle twice. I had hoped for some interesting long exposures at night from the castle, but the most interesting photo that I managed to get was of the sunset.

I stayed at Hostel Jacob right next to the Kostel svatého Tomáše church in Brno. Each night the streets adjacent to the church fill with over a hundred people sitting outside on the street drinking. I awoke one morning to broken bottles and a guy passed out on the curb.

By the time I was in Prague in early October the weather became disappointing: light scattered rain and cloudy with an occasional break of sun every few days. The first time the sun broke through I rushed to the Žižkov Television Tower and got a ticket to the top for a 100 meter high view of Prague for about 200 CZK ($8.29). This is the highest view in Prague, but definitely not the “best view” of Prague in my opinion. The city just doesn’t look that interesting from 100 meters up. You won’t get any good photos from here through the glass either.

Then I walked up to Vitkov Hill where there is a great view of the surrounding area of Prague. The view is the perfect elevation for photos of the immediate area, television tower and some other landmarks (including the National Monument on Vitkov hill). I took this photo from Vitkov Hill.

In Prague I stayed at the Brix Hostel. I gave Brix the first perfect 10 rating on Hostel World. It was the best Hostel experience that I’ve had so far. As I was telling one of the employees there: you always hear about the hostel experience before you go backpacking, but in most hostels you don’t always get that experience. They have very friendly staff and a great facility that feels cozy and homely. Some tenants left a mess in the room that I was originally assigned and I was offered to move to a cleaner room with less beds. After I visited Budojovice and Krumlov I decided to return to The Brix for about another week before heading towards Bratislava and Budapest. Then I extended my stay twice. I didn’t want to miss that last bowling night for the third time.

Tourist occupied bridge in Prague.

Tourist occupied bridge in Prague.

I didn’t spend a lot of time sightseeing in Prague and never crossed the Charles Bridge to the other side of Prague while exploring. I wasn’t able to do much exploring because of the weather, but I did eventually make it to the Charles Bridge (where a lot of tourists go) and some other areas of Prague.

The last day in Prague on my first visit I went to an Escape Room game with a British guy and girl from London which was about 300 CZK ($12.44) a piece. We didn’t finish the game without hints and it actually took us about an hour and 20 minutes, but it was fun and I would highly recommend trying these while in Prague. I’ve also seen them on the street in Budapest, which is where I am now.

Cesky Budejovice was my next stop after Prague. It’s a small town and there isn’t a lot to do there. I was almost fined 10,000 crowns ($409.15) for smoking outside of the bus station there and got reamed for doing so.

Raft and Kayak on the Vltava River in Cesky Krumlov.

After Budejovice I stopped in Cesky Krumlov which is a gorgeous town. It was very cold. A lot colder than Prague. The day that I got there I watched over a hundred rafts and kayaks pass by on the Vltava River. Men which I expect worked or the kayak and raft companies were standing in the river when the temperature was close to freezing.

If you asked me to pick two cities to visit in the Czech Republic and I had to choose between any of these cities which I visited I would recommend Prague and Krumlov. If you do visit Krumlov, do it when it’s warm and do it before the city shuts down completely. Get some friends together and make an appointment for one of the escape room games in Prague. When you get to Krumlov just start walking. It’s a very small city.

Prices in the Czech Republic are close to what you would expect for many things in the United States and significantly less for other things like a taxi fare.

  • Meal at McDonalds $4.83 or 183 Korunas
  • Coca Cola $1.21 or 30 Koruna
  • Taxi (1km) $2.62 or 65 Koruna
  • Hostel (one night) about 398 Koruna or $16


Travel Log: Three Cities in Belgium

Check out the photos from Brussels, Gent and Bruges in Belgium.

I spent about a week traveling from Brussels to Gent and Bruges.

It wasn’t particularly interesting to walk around aimlessly in Brussels for hours on end. There’s a lot of the same everywhere you go in Brussels. It does have its moments with interesting architecture strewn about in various places. As far as the food: there were a lot of small cafes offering various national foods. I randomly chose one cafe offering Turkish food. Soon after I was witnessing an argument that I was expecting to get physical. Belgium doesn’t seem to have “Belgium food” but it does have a lot of Belgian chocolate and other things.

Uppelcity Hostel, Gent

Uppelcity Hostel, Gent

Gent in the few days I spent there walking around was basically a city under construction and there wasn’t a whole lot of reason to stray from the center area next to the bridge where the Uppelcity Hostel was located. I can’t imagine any other lodging has a better view in Gent. It was exceptional. Unfortunately Gent just didn’t seem to have a lot more to offer anywhere else in the city.

Bruges was beautiful and mostly “untouched” by tourism. There were a lot of tourists there on the first day that I arrived, but at about 5PM they all vanished, the town was quiet and I didn’t see a large number of people the rest of the time I spent there. The canals have great views. During the day there is an occasional boat tour that enjoys invading your photos. Minnewater Park was awesome, with a long scenic walk stretching from close to the square.

Park walking in Bruges

Park walking in Bruges

Bruges turned out to be the real gem. That warm small town historic feel with the interesting architecture was there and it lived up to a lot of expectations that I had for small European cities.

Bruges at Night

Bruges at Night

It’s what you might hope to see in a city not ruined by modern architecture and tourism; by saying “tourism” I’m placing the fault on the cities that change what was beautiful rather than to preserve it. That preservation is what tourists expect to see, but too often that effort to cater to tourists ruins the experience. I know a lot of people love these canal boat tours, but when you can’t view the canal itself and take a photo because of an unattractive motorized tour boat with 20 passengers passing through your camera viewfinder every time you almost had a clear view… it can be rather annoying. There’s an obvious effort to preserve single landmarks in many cities, but not the city itself.

One street in Bruges

One street in Bruges

One thing that I noticed about Brussels, also shared by another backpacker that I spent part of a day with viewing the city is that Brussels is very “random”. There’s not a real pattern or uniformity to what you see in the city.

The Atomium is a great example of this. You have old historical buildings and then there’s a giant structure with massive chrome balls. When you go inside you are met with what must be described simply as “the weird”: music that reminded me personally of Interstellar the movie, flashing lights in some rooms that would induce a seizure in part of the population and flashing, strobing lights in the escalator, music that put me in the mind of the boat & tunnel scene in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) minus the lunatic ravings of Gene Wilder (unrelated comment: that movie is awesome – RIP Gene Wilder).

I’ve noticed one thing to be common in lots of cities: jewels packed tightly and randomly in between unattractive restaurants, tourist attractions, souvenir shops and occasionally the annoying fences, gates, rails and construction around landmarks that appear wide open for photo opportunities in the pictures and videos we have commonly seen but aren’t so open in reality. This was the case in Gent unfortunately at the time that I was there. It’s also a serious problem in parts of Paris, but that post will come later.

In places like Gent I found the construction to be aggravating.

Gent Canal

Gent Canal

Construction that is an obstacle in many places, not allowing you to access the canal and its views easily or just outright blocking any hope of a photograph worth seeing due to objects like scaffolds all over the canal. Then there’s the boat tour kiosks and other things that aren’t very welcome in a photo in my opinion. Some of the most pleasing areas of the city are littered with “tourism crap”.

Graffiti which is at times an eye sore,  was kind of cool and expected

Brussels Canal Graffiti

Brussels Canal Graffiti

in Brussels. These unwelcome things can be interesting; the construction around the Palais de Justice turned out to look really cool, rather than ruin my photos. I reiterate: in Gent the construction just can’t be framed as pleasing so easily – it’s just a wall that makes you want to punch someone.

Palais de Justice, Brussels

Palais de Justice, Brussels

The best high city view in Brussels was from outside of the Palais de Justice which looms a bit over the city allowing you to see the Atomium in the distance: which has a much higher and wider view at the top, but you have to question whether the price tag is worth seeing it through the smudged glass from inside of a room. The Palais de Justice outside view can be accessed by elevator for free, but I found myself walking to the top and missing the elevator because I’m an explorer and don’t prefer quick convenience… well that’s my excuse. Usually this is true, but I forgot about the elevator.

If I were to choose which city to return to in Belgium, it would definitely
be Bruges. Certainly. If you wouldn’t be pleased by the things I’ve mentioned: go straight to Bruges. Seriously though, if you want boat rides in a canal go to Italy. I honestly believe the money would be wasted in these cities.

Four Days Backpacking in: Stockholm

Arriving at Arlanda airport and transitioning through customs was a pretty pleasant experience. It wasn’t difficult to find a ticket machine and pay for a bus ticket to Stockholm city using Flygbussarna. The bus is clean as well as comfortable. They also have a stable wireless connections.

The walk from the bus terminal in Stockholm to the City Hostel was short. I only booked one night with City Hostel and they were fully booked for the next few days when I got there.

City Hostel is clean, has very nice bathrooms and kitchen. This was my first hostel and I quickly learned that I’m not a fan of 10 bed dorms. These dorms just felt a bit like a prison dorm. Very simple rooms. The winding hallways were a bit confusing. The kitchen is nice and is the “common room” in the hostel.

Generator Hostel Bed

Generator Hostel Bed

Due to no rooms being available at City Hostel after the first night I quickly booked a 4 bed mixed dorm ensuite at Generator Hostel.

I was extremely happy after upgrading when I saw the facility. It’s a lot like a nice hotel. I paid about $33.59 each night ($66 on Saturday the 10th). I have only nice things to say: it is very clean, comfortable, a great environment with lots of varied seating in the lounge area and staff are available 24 hours. They are very helpful with any questions. Wi-Fi coverage is great inside the hostel. You can order breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast, porridge, etc) at about 7AM and other meals later in the day (lunch starts around 11). There’s a variety of different croissants and beverages available: orange juice, apple juice, soda, beer, etc.

The rooms in Generator Hostel have private bathrooms and large lockers that roll under the beds. The lounge is a great place to sit and hangout, even if you don’t want to be bothered. The shared small rooms only have a bench to sit on, but if you rent a double room you get some extras like a desk.

Generator Hostel Stockholm

Generator Hostel Stockholm

Stockholm isn’t budget friendly, but the flight from New York is one of the cheapest from the east coast in the United States (about $160). It is picturesque no matter where you go. The streets are clean and the architecture is interesting.

A simple breakfast in Stockholm will cost more than $9 or 76 krona . You can easily pay $17 (144 krona) for a meal from any restaurant. A small soda is about $2.35. A taxi ride will cost about $30. I walked everywhere.



Everywhere you go Stockholm is gorgeous. Especially on the water and in the parks. At night you will see half a dozen rabbits eating in the park (and the occasional group of rats running by). On the streets you will see countless people dressed in suits. There is a large shopping area just a short distance from Generator with hundreds of places to shop like H&M.

Restaurant Hemma

Restaurant Hemma Lasagna

I wasn’t able to locate any amazing places to eat, but I had a great meal at Restaurant Hemma. I asked some locals and was told you can’t eat for much less than 70 Krona.  I had the lasagna with fish, shrimp and broccoli at Restaurant Hemma for about 140 krona ($17). Meatballs for the People does have good meatballs. I’m not sure it was worth the long walk there from my hostel though.

You will find 711 convenience stores everywhere, but here in Stockholm the prices aren’t cheap even at 711. A soda goes for about $2.30-2.50. They have a great selection of pastry and muffins though and I recommend the weinerbrod. It’s kind of like a donut combined with a croissant.

Here are two apps that are useful in Stockholm:

  • You can buy a 3-day pass for a city bike for 165 SEK ($20.59) online or through a reseller (possibly your hostel). Using the mobile app you will be able to find any of 140 pickup and drop off locations with the GPS on your phone. I wasn’t a fan of the quality of the bikes but they can easily get you from point A to B. They only have 3 gears.
  • Stockholm Commute App: Searches through different forms of public transportation to get you from one location to another.


  • Budget breakfast (croissant and a drink): this could easily be about $8.
  • Soda (from a 711): about $2.35.
  • Average dinner at an average to pretty good restaurant: averaging around $17-30.
  • Beer: $5-8.
  • Taxi: could average anywhere from $8 to $30 or more depending on distance and other factors.
  • Boat tours: $33 – $85

Budget backpacker rating: Walk everywhere or rent a City Bike, see this gorgeous city in the first 24 hours and then get out quickly.

Stockholm is a great place to visit, but if you’re on a backpackers budget you will want to avoid it or limit the duration of your stay to a very short time. The prices are just as expensive in Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Photo Favorites: Stockholm

Today is the last day in Stockholm. I’ve walked endlessly in random directions to see what I can find and I have a blister on my foot. It’s my day off from taking photos and walking, so here are my favorites from Stockholm. Tomorrow I’m off to Brussels, Belgium. View all of the photo favorites here in the gallery.

Backpacking: Europe and Asia Checklist and Gear Guide

So you’re considering backpacking through Europe, Asia or other parts of the world? You can spend a lot of time preparing by researching, finding the right gear and asking hundreds of questions. Read on for a quick start.

Think small and light. You’re only bringing the essentials. If you can’t fit it on your back comfortably or on-board as carry-on then you aren’t going to take it with you. Set a goal for a maximum of 15 to 16 pounds: just under the carry-on weight rules for most airlines.

Size does matter.

You’re allowed one bag and a personal item on the aircraft. This can be your backpack and a day bag (such as the Patagonia Atom Sling). The backpack and day bag should count as separate weighted items, so move heavier items into the day bag when checking in. Split up the weight between your bags to avoid exceeding weight guidelines.

You should opt to pack minimal clothing to save space and weight for carry-on. Additional clothing can be purchased later if required. Use travel size items such as deodorant, toothpaste, first aid kits and the smallest versions you can find of items such as: travel towels, water bottle (try the Platypus), electronics organizer, packing cubes, etc.

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First time abroad: Kharkiv, Ukraine

In the past year I spent a total of six months in Kharkiv, Ukraine. This was my first time traveling internationally.

Kharkiv is a great place to visit. American’s have seen the negative media (especially the political problems and riots in Kiev in 2013) and heard about the warring in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. As most travelers will tell you the reality is always much different from the stories. Kharkiv is far from any of these problems.

The city center is beautiful. There are multiple parks to visit and Gorky Park is massive with attractions, rides, restaurants, a skate park, rentals, tennis courts, a Ferris wheel and more. Ukrainians are friendly and many can speak English or want to learn. English schools exist all over the place and this is a good opportunity if you want to volunteer or make a little bit of money.

Ukraine is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe for an American. During my time in Ukraine the US dollars to Ukrainian grivnas conversion averaged around 1:25. One dollar is almost enough for a sub sandwich at Freshline or half a dozen bus fares. At one point prior to my arrival the ratio was 1:30. Locals regularly convert their money to USD.

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