While living in Glasgow during my husband’s sabbatical, we’re trying to do some traveling but we have some considerations: 1) time — we can’t be away from Glasgow too much as he is working and 2) money. Time and money. Big considerations at most points in our lives, eh? But, we won’t be this close to the continent of Europe (obviously) once we return to the U.S., so before we left we did a lot of talking, dreaming, planning, saving and researching. We agreed to a few “longer” trips, 5-7 days and several long weekend trips, mostly in the U.K. — after all, we don’t want to miss seeing God’s country when we’re living there! But — traveling – even from the other side of the pond – is not cheap. We watch our British pounds, our Czech Korona, our Euros — whatever money we’re dealing with, we try to spend as little of it as we can so we’ll be able to take another trip when we want.
We are on our first longer trip away from Glasgow. For this trip, much of the planning and purchasing was done before we ever left the States. My husband is my travel agent and I always trust him, and appreciate the work he gives it. We flew on Easyjet from Edinburgh – which involved an early (around 4 a.m.) bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh airport. Easyjet is a low cost airline over here — it’s especially low cost if you’re willing to fly with a minuscule (by American standards) carry-on and no checked luggage — which we are doing. The size of the carry-on also limits shopping while away – there’s simply no way to bring back anything substantial without incurring a checked baggage charge of around $40 or more.
We arrived in Prague on Sunday. At the airport, my husband located an ATM and we got a supply of Czech Korona. Then, we found the bus from the airport to the main train station. (It’s a rare, rare event for us to use a taxi in a foreign country. We rely on public transportation which is much lower cost and not as challenging to figure out as you might guess. If you’re as directionally challenged and map-phobic as I am though, I highly recommend traveling with someone who is not either of those things.) From there we walked to our hotel, which allowed us to check in early. Had a great (and cheap!) lunch at a nearby restaurant and spent the rest of the day on our feet, exploring the beautiful city. My husband had been to Prague before, I had not. I’d read up, watched the appropriate Rick Steves videos, talked to well-travelled friends and I knew that tops on my to see and do list were the Jewish Quarter and Terezin. First though, that get acquainted with Prague walk on the first day there. I love being in a new place – love that jolt of recognition that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Like when you can’t read a sign:
Sometimes there are signs of events that you’re aware of from the news. For example, many years ago while I was in Paris, John Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette, died in a plane crash. Somewhere back in Milwaukee in print format I have a picture from a street ad for a paper in Paris the next day — a giant photo of John and Carolyn with Ooo La La and something else on it. Well, Prague offered its own moment of recent news in a picture for us. On November 17, 2014, Prague celebrated twenty-five years since the Velvet Revolution. If you were of a certain age in 1989, you can not forget the pictures and news streaming out of what we then called Czechoslovakia – what we thought of in the U.S. as a Soviet satellite state. In particular, the photos of students filling Wenceslas Square would become unforgettable. Remember?
ARCHIVES D’ARCHITECTURE MODERNE, BRUSSELS
Six weeks after the revolution began, Vaclav Havel, a writer, philosopher and dissident, became the first democratic president of the Czech Republic since 1948. He died on December 18, 2011 in Prague. Apparently, the anniversary of his death is marked by hanging a banner with his photo on the National Museum at one end of Wenceslas Square. When we arrived, the banner was still up.
On more than one occasion I’ve felt more reverence for history in Europe than back home, but that’s a topic for another post.
For now, on the idea of keeping costs down, we enjoy our walking expeditions in new places. And, the internet has made exploring for deals easier than ever. Today as I write this post I’m sitting in a studio apartment in Vienna – my husband is sitting across from me doing some work on his laptop. He found the apartment on booking.com and it is a great value and location for what we want to do here. Today we walked to an information center and purchased a Vienna Card, which gives us discounts at some museums, restaurants and cultural events — enough of which we’d like to go to to make the cost of the card well worth it. In the end, we will save significant Euros. The apartment, with its small kitchen, means we can have our breakfast and lunches here, with supplies we buy from a nearby grocery store.
Because we’ve been careful here, we will be able to travel to Italy next month and Croatia and France in June. That will leave us a lot of time in April and May to explore more of Scotland. And, we should not be suffering from that terrible affliction of credit card debt. We think, we hope, we believe. If we’re wrong, we’ll adjust our future plans.
A quote often attributed to Mark Twain appears on several websites – and I love the quote, though mentalfloss.com says he didn’t say it. The “quote” – from someone – which inspires me is: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
I want to see as much of the big wide world as I can before the inevitable grim reaper comes calling for me (and, before my body can’t tolerate travel – with my arthritis, that may come sooner than it would for others). I want to hear as many languages as I can and speak a few words of each of them. I want to see that people are people everywhere on this earth — no one’s special, no one’s better. We’re all just plain awesome. I want to make people smile wherever I can. Not sure I’ve done that yet in Vienna today — time to get back out there. (Making others smile is free too.)
Hope you’re having a smile-filled day wherever you are.