When I think of the word closure, I think of season two of Friends, when Rachel is out on a date, forcefully/drunkenly borrows a stranger’s cell phone, and leaves Ross a message about how she now has closure.  The next morning he is checking his messages, Rachel remembers what she did the night before and jumps on his back in a desperate attempt to get the phone from him.  I love this episode – specifically the end of it, at the coffee shop, with the rain and all the locks.

surprise! this is me, jumping out from behind a hedge to surprise you with the news that this post is about Europe. New and different, right?

However, this is not a post about closure of fake tv relationships.  I’ve had some complaints lodged about the abrupt ending and lack of closure to Spinster Sister Vacation Part 2: Europa.  In efforts to help you find closure and the strength to move on from my vacation, I would like to share two things.

1: A link to the Women at Hope blog where I highlight some moments from being on holiday.  I am handing out awards like they are candy.  Click here.

2: A viewing of 12 days of vacation in 4 minutes flat.  (it is not actually 4 minutes flat.  It is four minutes and some odd seconds.  Four minutes flat just has a nice ring to it.)

I hope this helps, and that now you will be ready to move on to other things, like cupcakes, paddleboating, and fireworks.  If not, you can schedule a private viewing of the slow motion (not fast forward) version of my vacation slideshow, and I will regale you with stories you may or may not have already heard.

3.  You should read this advice.  It has nothing to do with traveling or closure.  But starting now I will strive to be as funny as this girl… amusing link

All good things must come to an end…

Today is the last day of our trip.  While I will be sad to say goodbye to the beauty and age that is Europe, if I were to continue traveling, I would need a vacation from vacation.  Or a holiday from being on holiday.  (Doesn’t holiday sound so much nicer than vacation?  I remember thinking that during college in London as well).

We once again had a slow start to our day, which we loved.  Have I mentioned my newfound love for putting a little Nutella on my banana?  Probably not a good choice for daily consumption, but a great choice for the last day of my trip. 

Today we headed to Prague Castle.  If you are like me, you might be wondering what the difference is between a castle and a palace, since we saw several of each on our trip.  I will save you the googling effort, and say that a castle was built for defensive purposes, while a palace is built to be a luxurious dwelling place; an ostentatious display of wealth. Word on the street is that Prague Castle is the biggest castle complex (in the world??).  I should really start googling these facts I am telling you to double check them, but instead I just litter my posts with parenthetical question marks. 

Well, the castle grounds sure were impressive.  So impressively large, that as usual we had no idea which direction to head, and picked the wrong way.  It is a wonder that we made it to all our destinations AND home again, with our extreme navigational difficulties this trip.  We toured the St. Vitus Cathedral, full of beautiful stained glass; St. Peter’s Basillica, simple stone beauty; Golden Lane, the adorable tiny row of houses where the king’s guards used to live; and we think we also saw the royal gardens.  We ate apples and siesta bars here.  It was quiet and peaceful.

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Peter's Basilica

Golden Lane: So tiny and cute!

Despite our seemingly late start and disorientation, we managed to beat the crowds, which was so nice.  Then we found our way to Petrin Hill.  Not an easy task, as Prague likes to camouflage its public transportation stops.  We took the funicular to the top of the hill, where we first found the rose garden.  I use the term “found” loosely, as basically we exited the funicular directly into the garden.  We enjoyed the garden, also with some pigeons and a nice Czech woman, who’s picture I took in front of the flowers.  She then let us in on a little secret botanical garden nearby, hidden from the main path.  This garden is what I imagine The Secret Garden to be like.  It was out of a dream, and overflowing with beautiful flowers.  We fell into our normal flower roles: me taking pictures and Rachel reading, before heading to see Prague’s miniature Eiffel Tower.  I wanted this to be a cuter stop on the trip than it was.  We then wandered along the hill top and stopped to read on a bench that overlooked the city.

at the rose garden

in the secret garden

We enjoyed some people watching from our perch.

People Watching Memorable Moment #1:  Seriously – why do so many people walk carrying bags together – each holding one handle of the bag?  Our favorite couple that did this jointly carried the bag in the middle and each held a GIANT jug of water in their other hand.

People Watching Memorable Moment #2: A biking tour consisting of a family of four and a local tourguide stopped right in front of us.  Here is their exchange:

Mom: Are we going to go across the St. Charles Bridge?

Guide: No.

Mom: Can I ask you a question about it then?

Guide: No.  Bikes are not allowed on it.

Mom: [begins asking question anyways] How… ?

Guide: [cuts her off]: No.  All your questions will be answered later.  [and he gets on his bike and then all follow him, pedaling away]

Our View.

We then walked down a charming street back toward the city.  We passed by a man getting a ticket for driving the wrong way on a one way – but there was a bit of a language barrier, so it was a little amusing. We then stopped for dinner on a cute patio.  My view was of two 14 year old girls dressed in white robes, performing mediocre music on the street on their flute and violin.  Rachel’s view was of a creepy marionette shop with an even creepier puppet outside their front door.

We spent the rest of the evening packing, taking a gelato break, watching a movie, and heading to bed before flying home the next morning. 

I’d count Spinsters Sisters: Europa Edition a successful trip!  Thanks sister!

A bit of culture. A bit of regret. A bit of wonder.

We had a couple of cultural/theater experiences planned for the Prague segment of our trip.  We would have liked to experience more culture in Vienna as well, but as I’ve said, all the talent was on holiday while we were in Vienna.

We were quite excited for the Black Light Theater.  It seemed to be a theater experience unique to where we were traveling, and different from anything we’d seen before.  It sounded so excited: black lights, puppetry, dancing, acrobatics, video imagery.  And I guess it did include those things, but not in a “wow, what a visual treat for my eyes” sort of way, but rather in a poorly done high school theater trying to be artsy sort of way.  (enphasis on the poorly done of the high school theater genre.  I’ve seen some great high school theater productions.  This just would not even qualify for that sort of rating).  I found this video online.  If only we’d watched that prior to our ticket purchase. 

And this was before the baffling partial nudity in the second act, which left everyone confused, and probably wishing they’d left at intermission (at least that is what we wished).  Seriously Alice, put your shirt back on.  What the heck.

Here is the “before” and “after” of our experience.

Before: our eyes are full of promise

After: what the heck??!? make it stop.

The next night was a much, MUCH, more enjoyable cultural experience.  We went to the ballet!  The Best of Swan Lake was wonderful and beautiful, and captivating, and all we could have hoped for.  We never fancied ourselves as the ballet-attending type of girls.  Apparently we are?  We would gladly go again.  It was the abridged version – under 2 hours – and we wished it had gone on so much longer.  Beautiful.  We loved it.  When can we go again?

Before AND After: loving it

Karlstejn: A fairy tale? Or a misspelling of my last name?

Today our agenda primarily involved a day trip out to a castle.  The reasons we chose this day trip are two-fold.

Fold #1: the tour book told us this castle is like a fairy tale

Fold #2: the name of the castle reminded us of our last name, or more specifically, ways our last name could very well be spelled by a pizza delivery or on junk mail, or by my horrid boss at Old Navy back in the day.

Clearly, this was meant to be part of our Europa Adventures.

Because up until now we have traveled, learned European history, toured, experienced, seen, and feasted ourselves into a state of tourist exhaustion, we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves that our Prague days were not filled to the brim like the rest of our trip has been.  We took full advantage, and slept in (until 8:00) and leisurely made our way out the door (after 9:30) and worked our way to Karlstejn.

Let’s just say it is a good thing we planned to take our time, because this day wasn’t among the simplest.  But it was among the loveliest.

Sometimes when you are standing on the platform at the train station, you think to yourself, “I wonder if this is really my train I am getting on”.  Well, it usually is, so no worries.  Today we didn’t really have time to even ask ourselves that question, as we got to the tracks 2 minutes before our train was scheduled to depart.  So we hopped on, crossed our fingers, and hoped for the best.

Let’s just say the jury is still out on what exactly went wrong.  I’m not entirely convinced we were completely on the wrong train.  Although if a kindly woman across the aisle from us hadn’t spoken English, we probably still would be wandering the Czech countryside.

hmm... this doesn't look like Karlstejn... confusing.

The train was headed the right way,  Apparently it just wasn’t heading far enough.  We got off at the end of the line (per nice woman’s directions) and waited about 35 minutes for the next train to come through.  We got on that one, rode two more stops, and found ourselves in Karlstejn.  Tricky, no?

Rachel says, "If you fall down that hill trying to take a picture of that flower, I'm not coming after you." What kind of a sister is she??

The tour book told us that the Karlstejn Castle rises up on the hill like a fairy tale castle.  When I looked at the pictures of it, I wasn’t convinced.  So I won’t take it personally if you feel the same way looking at our pictures.  However, it was in fact like we were in Sleeping Beauty (or some other such tale).  I loved it so much: the turrets and parapets, and imposing grandeur.

this castle is almost named after me

The hike up the hill began to disillusion us.  However, just when we thought we were a third of the way up and would likely die before reaching the top in this heat, we discovered we were there!  We didn’t want to pay to go in (I mean, we’ve toured approximately 1,792 castles, palaces, and churches at this point in our journey) but we did wander around the castle grounds and enjoy the view of the village below.

I love me some ivy on a wall

I especially enjoyed this little pocket of flowers brimming with butterfly/moth/something pretty fluttering about.  I will not subject you to the series of 43 butterfly/moth/something pretty fluttering pictures that I took in the next 3 minutes.  You are welcome.  I will however share this one. 

We walked down, stopping in little shops, being mistaken for a couple of Danish girls on holiday, and then bought hot dogs from a vendor for lunch.  They drilled a hole in a loaf of French bread, dropped the dog down into it, and put it in this jovial paper bag. 

We found a cute bench and sat down to enjoy our “feast” and then headed back toward the train station.  We arrived two minutes before the train back to Praha (Prague to you non-German or Czech speakers) and enjoyed the scenic ride back to the city.  One of our favorite scenes was that of a medium sized, extremely fluffly, white dog being toted about on the train in the tinest of wicker baskets.  How it fit in this basket, I do not know.  Why it sat so well in its cramped quarters I also do not know.  What I do know is that I regret not getting a photo of this for you.

We treated ourselves to some gelato from the Restaurant U Prince gelato stand (per my friend Liza’s recommendation) once we got back to Prague.  I had the cookies flavor and the caramel flavor.  It was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.  Especially when accompanied by watching this small child single mindedly chase this pigeon all around the square (seriously, where were his parents?  This is the most crowded spot in the whole city).  Yes, I’m a creeper who took a picture of a child I don’t know.  But seriously, it was an amazing bit of people watching.  He truly had mad pigeon chasing skills, which is impressive as he was not big enough to even have pedals on his bike.