After a short stint in Finland (which included a wedding, spending quality time with my mum, eating twice at my favorite vegetarian restaurant and suffering from a ruptured ear drum due to flying while sick), I returned to Prague. I had an entire week in Prague, but since I still felt a bit under the weather after having a bad flu, I made it a calm week. My days mostly consisted of drinking lots of tea and a little bit of sightseeing.
Prague is a popular tourist destination so it’s very easy to find a walking tour there. I participated in the Sandeman’s New Europe Free Walking Tour. Sandeman’s is a big company that operates free walking tours in several large cities. It was the first time I participated in a Sandeman’s tour and I have to say they live up to their reputation! The tour was interesting and our guide Colin very engaging. The free walking tour takes approximately three hours.
The highlight of my trip was probably having a massage. In Prague, there are massage parlors in every corner of the city, so you can just pick and choose one. Many of the massage parlors have discounts during weekdays. I went to Shanti Massage, where they have happy hours from 10 am to 3 pm on weekdays. Between these hours, a 60 minute massage costs 490 Kč (approximately 20 €).
The town of Kutná Hora, approximately 70 kilometres from Prague, makes for a good day trip. There are several organized tours to Kutná Hora from Prague, but the best way is to just go there using local transport. The train ride from Prague to Kutná Hora takes around one hour and costs 205 Kč round-trip.
I already mentioned Country Life in my previous post, but I can’t praise this place enough. Located right in the city centre, this vegetarian restaurant offers a pay-by-weight buffet for 29,50 Kč / 100 grams. I ate here nearly every single day.
Hippocrates has been quoted to say: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The past week has shown me just how food can be either a medicine or a poison. I’ve never understood how one should ruin their body and then try to fix it afterwards with all kinds of drugs. How about trying to prevent sickness instead? I hate being sick, so I try to avoid processed food and eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries instead. Yes, I indulge occasionally, but usually I prefer the feeling of food giving you energy, not making you lethargic. On the road however, it’s not as easy to maintain a healthy diet. Especially in the countries I’ve visited in the past few weeks (Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic), food is often laden with fat, dairy, wheat and sugar. I like to try the local cuisine, and usually it’s not a healthy option (and I feel it would be rude to constantly decline).
Yes, I can find vegetarian restaurants in most cities, but spending the last week in a house, where food is prepared for you, my body really took the toll. I am very rarely sick, but after six days in Oslavice, I feel awful. Even though the family was amazing, the food was so different to what I usually eat, I got very ill. I actually had to leave the volunteering position early.
I decided to rent an apartment in Prague to give myself some time to heal (Trying to sleep in a hostel dorm while sick? No thanks!). The good thing about travelling long term, is that I don’t have to feel bad about just sitting inside watching TV, knowing that I will have an entire week to explore Prague. Right now my priority is to get better.
There are so many vegetarian restaurants in Prague, I could just pick and choose one within walking distance and then retreat back to my Gilmore Girls marathon… I don’t care what anyone says, watching a cheesy teenage drama series is a sure-fire way to get better!
I am flying back to Helsinki tonight in order to attend a wedding this weekend. While I’m not looking forward to the flight (flying while sick is generally not the best idea), I am looking forward to my mother’s healthy cooking :) Mum’s food is always the best. Especially while sick.
There is no such thing as travelling for free (or if there is, please do tell). Even if you only slept in tents and train stations, walked or hitch-hiked everywhere and rummaged for food in dumpsters, you would still need a budget – at least to buy a backpack and the clothes you wear.
There are ways to travel though that don’t require you to spend money. How about paying for food and accommodation with your time instead? There are several hostels, B&B’s and farms that provide travellers with food and accommodation in exchange for volunteer work. To find such opportunities, you can contact a place directly or use one of three major websites that connect volunteers with hosts:
WWOOF , or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a website that links volunteers with organic farms.
Similar to WWOOF, Workaway connects volunteers with farms but also with hostels, families or even schools.
This website has a wide array of hosts, from yoga retreats to hostels and from homestays to farms. To contact hosts, you need to pay a 20 € fee, which gives you a two year membership.
By contacting a few places through HelpX, I got the chance to spend six days with a family in Oslavice, a small village in southern Czech Republic. I got my own room with private bathroom, plus food as much as I could eat. It felt like I was treated more as a family member than a volunteer.
I also helped with various tasks in the family’s large garden, did some ironing and made magic wands out of glass beads! The parents of the family run an e-shop and the magic wands are sent as presents to the customers.
On my day off, the family was heading to the nearby city of Jihlava and they dropped me off in the city centre so I could do some sightseeing.
Volunteering is a great way to get a very in-depth look into the lives of locals. With so many different options, only the sky is the limit!
After an amazing time in Warsaw, I continued my trip to Poznań. Since I had such a good experience with BlaBlaCar, I used it again to get from Warsaw to Poznań. The trip cost me 25 złoty.
Poznań is a big student city and I actually couchsurfed in a student dormitory! My host didn’t have too many classes so we had a chance to spend some time together.
From Poznań I took the train to Wrocław (33,90 złoty). In Wrocław I couchsurfed with a fun couple and their beautiful husky. As I was in Wrocław during the weekend, I could spend a lot of time with my hosts.
After nearly two weeks in Poland, it was time to move on to Czech Republic. Even though Wrocław is located close to Czech border, I found out that it’s not easy to find a good connection to Czech Republic from Wrocław – unless you want to go to Prague. If you want to visit another city first, the best bet would be to go by car. I couldn’t find a suitable ride so here’s what I did:
Step 1: Take the tram from couchsurfing hosts to Wrocław bus station.
Step 2: Take a bus from Wrocław to Katowice. I used Polskibus, who only sell tickets through their website. The trip from Wrocław to Katowice cost 25 złoty.
Step 3: Take the train from Katowice to Ostrava in Czech Republic . Since it’s an international train, the price is much higher than regular trains (70 złoty).
Step 4: Take a trolley bus from Ostrava train station to a pre-arranged meeting point.
Step 5: Carpool through BlaBlaCar from Ostrava to Brno (12 złoty).
Step 6: Get dropped off at IKEA, take bus to city centre of Brno.
After I got to the city centre I walked into Hostel Eleven and luckily they had some space. A bed in a four bed dorm cost 390 Kč (approximately 15 €). Hostel Eleven is a clean and modern hostel right in the city centre. When I checked in, the receptionist gave me some ear plugs as a welcoming gift. Unfortunately I needed them. As the hostel is so centrally located, there is a lot of noise from traffic, people and construction sites just outside your window. The loudest noise though, was a snoring room mate… On my second night I had the entire dorm to myself, which felt like such incredible luxury.
I was only in Brno for one full day. It was quite a cold and rainy day so I mostly spent time inside, sitting in cafés and visiting churches. I was in Brno on a Monday so unfortunately all the museums and art galleries were closed.
I found a small yoga studio, Yoga Lokah, close to my hostel. I had attended a few yoga classes in Poland, but they were all in Polish. Nada, who is the owner of Yoga Lokah, runs weekly yoga classes is English for medical and veterinary students. She was kind enough to let me participate in the class.