Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007


I had a day layover in Lisbon on the way home, so I made the most of it by walking around from my hotel, near the Marquês de Pombal monument, to Baixa, the historic downtown.

Marquês de Pombal
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
This street had really wide sidewalks with some intricate inlaid tile patterns.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Fountain at Rossio
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Praça do Comércio
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

After sitting for a bit in Praça do Comércio, I decided to walk over to São Jorge Castelo (St. George Castle), up on a hill. But, I got totally lost in the Alfalma district of Lisbon, which was a maze of narrow sidewalks with constant stairs and turns. I kept going up since the Castle was somewhere above me, but buildings blocked the view. Eventually I emerged and got my bearing, but I decided it was too late to go in the castle (the grounds were closing in 30 mins) so I headed back to the city center. Eventually I decided to just ride the subway back to the hotel since my feet were tired.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I spent a few days in Budapest, mostly walking around with city with Eric, Kelly, and Jennifer. At this point I've actually walked around Budapest a lot more than I've walked around Orlando, FL!

Tile Roof
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
The tile roof on this building caught my attention. This is a city market, where farmers come to sell fresh fruits, vegatables, and meat. The second floor is more touristy stuff - souvenirs and so forth.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
We passed this large synagogue on our walking tour. I think it is the largest one in Europe.

Freedom Monument
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Built by the Soviets to commerate freedom from fascism of WWII. Of course, they didn't leave for another 35 years! Our guide told us the monument is locally referred to as "the bottle opener".

Danube River
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
The Danube River (Duna River locally) with the Hungarian Parliment in the distance.

City View
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
View from near Budapest Castle.

Hungarian Parliment
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
A few of us took a short tour inside the building, which consisted of the grand staircase entry (basically only used for heads of state), an atrium with some of St. Stephen's relics on display, and the Parliment chamber.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
This flag is at the 1956 Revolution Memorial. The seal in the middle reminded people of the Soviet conquest, so they chopped it out.

Heroe's Square
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
This monument celebrates Hungary's millenium. The base of the column are seven horse riders, for the original seven horse tribes that conquered the Carpathian basin. Angel Gabriel is at the top.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Prague to Budapest Bike Trip

The trip concluded with our arrival in Budapest, Hungary. Over the 8 days of biking we did a total of around 295 miles, averaging 36 or 37 per day at a 10-15 mph pace.

I of course mapped it out with my GPS. ;) Unfortunately I don't have mapping data from the first day, which I think is partially related to memory size on the GPS unit, plus the fact I hadn't disabled heart-rate data capture. Thus, day one's data was a lot larger than it needed to be and was overwritten.

Our route:

  1. Konopištĕ to Sedlec-Prčice

  2. Planá nad Lužnicí to Telč

  3. Telč

  4. Rozkoš to Hlohovec

  5. Malacky to Děvín

  6. Neudsiedl am See to Sopron

  7. Osli to Györ

  8. Györ to Panonhalma

First, the trip was relaxing. Our daily mileage was very reasonable and in many ways this trip was more of a vacation than other guided tours I've been on. For example, in India and China we had to be up at 6 am, be done with breakfast and on the bus by 7. Here, we could sleep in until 7:30, eat a leisurely breakfast and be ready to go at 9 am. Much, much nicer!

The daily mileage and pace requirements were easy. I tell non-bikers about 35 mile days at 15 mph and that sounds high to them. But let me assure you that those numbers are very easy to anybody in reasonable bike shape.

Our lunches were picnic style, so most days went like this: eat breakfast, short van transfer to a rural area, load out on bikes, ride for 2 or 3 hours to lunch, have a picnic lunch, ride another 2 or 3 hours to a van pickup, go have a beer while the guides loaded bikes, short van transfer to next city/hotel, check in, ~90 mins to rest and shower, eat dinner, then laze around. Perfect. :) On many days there was a site of interest to check out - usually a castle or monastery - so we would stop and wander around that for a bit.

Our guides were Martin, Martina, Klara, and Pavel. Martina unfortunately broke her ankle while loading bikes on the trailer, a freak accident from jumping down and landing partially on a curb and twisting/breaking it. She eventually had some screws put into her ankle in a hospital in Brno, so Pavel came along to drive the van while Martin took over riding with us. Martin is the owner of the tour company, and Klara is a medical doctor taking the summer off between some kind of program for the World Health Organization. Both of them were interesting as they were also mountain climbers and talked about Everest and K2 and other 8000 meter peaks like it was no big deal. They had some crazy stories about Karakoram, living in Pakistan while organizing expeditions, attempting K2, and being 300 meters from the summit of Everest but having to turn back due to weather. Wow! I told Martin someday I'd like to visit Everest base camp and he made some joke that it was easy, grandmas and cripples could "easily" get there. Riiiight. ;)

They also had some questions for us, about why we picked the tour. Everybody along basically said the same thing, which was basically the thought of traveling behind the Iron Curtain or to the Eastern Bloc was just unimaginable, back in the 80's. When the borders opened up in the 90's it still seemed so remote. So we were all curious about Eastern Europe. Martin was quick to correct us - Czech Republic was CENTRAL Europe... don't confuse us with those bumpkins out in Bulgaria and Romania for heaven's sake!! ;)

The trip entered four countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary. Granted, Slovakia and Austria were a few hours or overnight only. Each of these countries had different currency: korunas in Czech Republic, korunas in Slovakia, euros in Austria, and forints in Hungary. The Czech koruna is different than the Slovak koruna, but we weren't there long enough to really worry about it.

Coming soon: pics, more comments.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Our trip included a quick visit to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Bratislava Castle
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Czech Pics

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
A typical small village in the Czech Republic. Every one we rode through had a central Cathedral and town square.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
We spent our first night here in this scenic town.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Telč is a UNESCO World Heritage site - a small village built around a town square with a castle on the side.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
The castle in Lednice.

Castle Ruins
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
These ruins overlook the Danube river, in Devin.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I arrived in Prague after 22 hours of flights, taking me from Orlando to Newark to Lisbon, then Lisbon to Brussels to Prague. So I was beat when I arrived around 9 pm in Prague, and just about immediately fell asleep.

In the morning I had a few hours to wander around the city. My hotel was on Wenceslas Square, near Old Town Square where a famous landmark is, the Astronomical Clock.

Astronomical Clock
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Old Town Square
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

After walking around about 2 hours, I made my way back to the hotel to get ready to meet the group. I wish I had been able to spend a full day in Prague before the tour started since it is a scenic city with a few bridges and old buildings to see.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Quick Note

I did finally get my passport, a day late for my flight to Portugal. I picked it up on Saturday and with a bunch of phone calls and juggling, I was able to alter things to catch up to the bike trip which leaves Prague on Tuesday. So... I'm off to do it!