the beauty of the city
Vilnius is not much of a going out city for travellers. The main focuses of this city is the beautiful old town, the main square and the fortress on the hill. I found Vilnius to be a romantic city for couples who can stroll the gorgeous courtyards of the hundreds of pre-WWll buildings.
The many small streets of Vilnius
Vilnius from Gediminas Tower
The many beautiful courtyards in Vilnius
Vilnius has so much to offer in terms of beauty and elegance. The budget traveller will have a wonderful time taking candid photos of this alluring Baltic city. This stunning city easily tops as the country’s most visited area, drawing thousands of tourists each year.
The capital may be a bit out of the way while heading north through the Baltic countries, but it's highly recommended for the ultimate photographer or the romantic couple. Vilnius is Europe’s largest baroque old town, which made UNESCO's World Heritage list. And don't forget the exquisite cobbled stone alleys, decaying corners of buildings, grand hill top views and gorgeous courtyards on every street.
Vilnius hasn't always had bright moments in its history. There are constant reminders of terrible times, from the despicable acts by the KGB to the Jewish ghetto where the Jewish community lived before their they met their fate during WWll.
Yet, Vilnius is an up and coming city with a lot to offer. The rich history of this Baltic city will make you want to come back more than once. I found it to be quite charming to sum it all up.
the republic of uzupis
Užupis, a unique neighborhood of Vilnius, is characterized as its own country. Technically this area of Vilnius is completely separate from the Lithuanian statehood as well as Vilnius. It has similarities to Monmartre in Paris and Christiania in Copenhagen. Užupis is recognized as the “republic” of artists. Just like an other country in the world, Užupis has its own anthem, constitution (on Paupio Street), president, church, graveyard (Bernardine Cemetery) and seven bridges that connect Vilnius.
This district or "country" is one of the oldest parts of Vilnius - pre-dating to the 16th century.
In the early days of Vilnius, the land where Užupis stands today was considered the slums of the area. Only poor craftsmen set up shop in this area due to the neglect by citizens. During the Soviet Ruling, Užupis was considered the most dangerous part of town with thieves and bandits roaming the streets for pray. Once local artists starting buying up the cheap land in the mid-20th century, Užupis opened up as a gentle peace loving area for anyone who wanted to create a new culture.
There are two symbols that best summarizes Užupis. The first one is a bronze mermaid that lies near the Vilnia River, which is the starting point of the republic. It is said that the mermaid is there for vistors to renunciate their love and charm for the republic. Once that is done, the visitor's soul is forever welcomed to Užupis. The second symbol is a bronze angel that was created in 2002.
The name Užupis means “place beyond the river." The Vilnia River runs right next to the opening of the republic making the name quite suitable.
The symbol of Užupis. It is also on the Republic's flag.
This video below will explain more about the uniqueness of Užupis.
Visit the site of the video here
Overall, my time in Užupis was a learning experience. I had been to Christiania in Copenhagen prior to this visit, which made me prepared for the outlandish ways of life in The Republic of Užupis. I have the upmost respect for people who do live this way because they seem content with their lives as craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs. But the life style can get overwhelming after a while. Maybe I would fit right in with this society. I can't say much without trying!
P.S. The constitution in The Republic of Užupis states that dogs must love their owners for who they are. But, cats are allowed to "only" tolerate their owners. What an interesting motto to live by!
Trakai national park and town
I had heard great things about Trakai, a town 30 minutes outside of Vilnius, Lithuania. I took a bus from the main bus station to the town square. There, I walked around the quaint little town for the next three hours.
The old town of Trakai, which is extremely popular for foreigners and locals, sits between beautiful hills, forests and a few lakes. The town is famous for its picturesque views of the lakeside and forests surrounding the area as well as the mythical Trakai Castle. The castle has been around quite a long time dating back to the 14th century. The castle was intact while Trakai was the capital of Lithuania. The castle was also an important military and political center during the early years, and the headquarters and home of the Lithuanian Grand Dukes. Now, Trakai Castle is a museum/monument of Lithuania.
Here are a few photos of my encounter of Trakai and the Trakai Castle.
The quiet town of Trakai
The views from the opposite side of the lake near Trakai Castle
An old boat between two trees
The clouds glistening off the lake
Trakai Castle situated on its own island across from town
The front entrance to Trakai Castle
The main square of the castle
The walls protecting the castle
My time in Trakai was spent touring the castle's outer parts (for free), walking around the town and taking photos on such a gorgeous day. The budget traveller needs to see Trakai. It's a measly 3 Euros round-trip to see this incredible part of Lithuania. It's a must see in my books.
Food and beer walking tour
Today I went on a walking tour of Warsaw's beer and food neighborhoods.
My first stop was at Bambino's Eatery in the center of town. Bambino's Eatery is one of the last known restaurants that uses communist rules to serve food. Everyone has to stand in line to order their meals at an open window. Once their number is called, the customer picks up their food. When the dish is consumed, the customer buses their own table. This may sound like a cafeteria style way of eating, but it is the normal way for communist countries to serve food. And, Warsaw being a former communist run city, the tradition still lives on at Bambino's.
I enjoyed an old Polish tradition, beet soup. It was quite sweet with a bit of a salty aftertaste.
Bambino's Eatery menu
My next stop on the tour was Dzik Malina Restauracja i Sklep Wiejski. This restaurant is a traditonal Polish eatery with charm. I enjoyed cold polish sausage and Polish dumplings.
Dzik Malina Restauracja i Sklep Wiejski eatery
The third stop was at another traditional Polish eatery called Zapiexy Luxusowe. Here, the eatery is known for its cheese toast with different varieties of meats, veggies and cheeses. I had the most popular toast with Polish cheese and mushrooms. To wash it down, I had a soda that was created pre-WWll. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of it.
Our fourth stop was a bar off the mains trip in Warsaw. There we all took a shot of Polish vodka with a chaser of Polish pickles. What a weird combination!
The fifth stop was at a famous donut shop in old town, Cukiernia Pawlowicz. I enjoyed a Polish donut with rose jam in the center. The rose jam literally tasted like eating a rose petal!
Cukiernia Pawlowicz donut shop
The last stop on the tour was a bar called, Beer Heaven, with more than 200 different kinds of beers on tap. We tried five different kinds of beer. These five will be up on the beer review page in the near future.
Overall, the tour was insightful. It's highly recommended when in Warsaw.
5-star restaurant with two friends
While on my tour, I met a Australian girl who was also a solo travel blogger. We hung out the rest of the night with one of my friends from Hong Kong. We both met up with Hubert at one of his favorite restaurants in the city, U Kucharzy w Arsenale. Here, we all had a 4-course meal with wine, beer and veal tartar. I had never tried veal tartar before. What a delicious appetizer. Or other dishes consisted of salmon spread with bread, pickled herring, veal neck in cream sauce with sage, spatzle and pickled carrots. All in all, we had 7-8 dishes of food... I was considerably full.
The three main courses, pork with mashed potatoes, red beets and potato dumplings with veal neck.
The veal tartar being finely chopped up in front of us.
Every dish is freshly prepared in front of all the guests.
After a wonderful meal the night before, Hubert had another surprise up his sleeve. All three of us went to a wake boarding spot in the middle of a farming community in Warsaw. Here customers could sit alongside a man-made beach with cabanas, beds, beach chairs, a bar, pool tables and a wake boarding area. I, unfortunately, didn't get a chance to try the wake boarding due to a long line and Hubert having to leave for work. I did, however, enjoy a beer while sitting in the sand under the sun.
Overall, my two days in Warsaw were delightful. I enjoyed getting to see my friend Hubert after three years. As for the city, I prefer Krakow over Warsaw due to the preserved culture that still exists in Krakow. Warsaw was completely demolished during WWll, which makes 99% of the buildings post-war. There are plenty of things to do in Warsaw. It's a pretty inexpensive city. But, if I had to pick between the two cities, I'd go with Krakow.
Heading to Krakow one more time
As my time in Humenne was up, I wanted to check out Krakow, Poland one more time on my way to Warsaw. As I rode in my BlaBlaCar to Krakow, the driver picked up two Polish hitchhikers looking to get to Wroclaw. I ended up making friends with the couple (hitchhikers) who proceeded to invite me to their home town when I had a chance. The things that happen when travelling!
Once I got into town, I would stay with a friend for the night. The next morning I found myself walking around the main square on a gorgeous day. While strolling the square, a farmers market was in full swing.
A bread cart in the middle of the square
A beautiful day in Krakow
Another market inside the main building of the square
After the square, I went and checked out the Jewish Quarter. I had to get a Polish hot dog to make the day complete.
A polish dog with mustard and spicy chili sauce
This memorial, in the Krakow Ghetto, can be found on the outskirt of Kazimeriz the Jewish Quarter. The chairs represent the tight cramped apartments the Jews were forced to live in after WWll. The chairs are pointed toward Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkeanu concentration camps.
A restaurant in the Jewish Quarter
Krakow’s city center was spared by the German's in WWll. Because of that, the main square and Jewish Quarter in the photos above are completely intact. Krakow has gorgeous Catholic Churches that run along the main square. In the Jewish Quarter, Jewish Synagogues peak out of the numerous restaurants and bars. Roaming around the square of the city’s "Old Town" gives off beautiful views of these churches, as well as towers and statues.
Several tour busses and golf cart tours will take you to the World WarII related historical sites, including the Krakow Ghetto and Schindler’s Factory. A must see is the infamous Auschwitz Concentration Camps.
Overall, Krakow has plenty to offer for the budget traveller. It's a must see city while travel to the Baltic States.
blablacar to kosice
What a tremendous few days in Budapest. I decided to split off from the group to see more of the north. The six Dutch guys would travel down to Croatia. I wasn't interested in going that far south just yet. I was more inclined to see the Baltic countries before the weather turned.
Growing up, my dad's two brothers had created a family tree of the Hellinger family. I had heard the countless stories of love and loss, a famous film directing great-uncle and my great-great-great grandfather who lived with his family in Humenne, then part of the Hungarian Empire. I was close to Humenne, Slovakia, which made the choice of going to the east an obvious decision.
My goal of this trip was to find out any kind of information about the Hellinger name. The two days I would spend in Humenne was catered toward this research.
My first step was to find a ride to Kosice, Slovakia where I would take a 1.5 hour train ride to Humenne. I found an affordable Blablacar that would take me from Budapest to Kosice directly. I ended up riding with two Ukrainian cooks who were both going home for the weekend. Thinking I was the only BlaBlaCar rider, we stopped at a hostel to pick up another traveller. The gentleman had just quit his job in Israel to travel a year the world. His goals were to see parts of Eastern Europe of South America. In a years time, he'd be getting his green card to work in the U.S. as a IT professional.
The drive was six hours to Kosice. Once I got there, I headed straight to the train station. I made the last train of the night by five minutes! I arrived in Humenne around 5pm.
I settled in for the night while dining at the hotel restaurant.
Old town in Kosice, Slovakia
Some intense clouds overhead
finding city hall and research
My search for the town hall was incredibly hard. I first asked the hotel receptionist who had no idea what I was talking about. She ended up giving me directions to a restaurant around the corner. My next stop was the police station. I walked in with 4 officers staring me down. I asked the same question as politely as I could to the male officer at the desk. He shooed me away due my lack of the Slovakian language. A nice female officer stopped me at the door to ask what I needed. I tried explaining to her what I needed. It took a good 15 minutes to describe my problem. She finally gave me an address. And, of course, I ended up at another restaurant... I decided to use my phone to figure this out. It didn't end up well. There was no way to determine if there was a building with documents of family members from the 1800s in town.
I went back to the hotel to cool off from the scorching sun. I did a bit of research about the family name in general. I came up with a list of Holocaust victims with the same last name. I have no idea who they are or if they are related to the Hellinger family. I will have to ask my uncles about this.
I was upset I didn't find any type of documentation about my family living in Humenne. There has to be some kind of way to find this information. I'll keep at it.
six hour ride to budapest
The previous night was a blast. I may camp more often. I will remember to bring a sleeping bag next time.
All seven of us jumped in the van for our next destination, Budapest. We had been travelling pretty extensively in the van the past few days. I slept the whole way there with no problems at all. We got into Budapest at 4pm. All of us previously booked an AirBnB for the two days we would be staying in the city. It turned out that the AirBnB wasn't what the photos portrayed. In the end the rooms were fine for $15USD a night.
Both nights we went out. The second night we ended up at a pub crawl that turned out to be one of the best nights I had during this trip. I met a ton of travelers doing the same thing as me. The pub crawl group went to six bars with four of them being ruin bars. This type of bar is extremely popular in Budapest. The concept behind the ruin bars is simple, the owners take old buildings and create a bar. It's that easy!
A ruin bar via Hostelworld.com
The second day all of us took to the streets with our rented bikes to see the city. I had heard Budapest was similar to Prague in terms of architectural design. But, I had no idea how beautifully unique this city was until I saw the sunset. What a magnificent scene to witness.
Architecture in Budapest
An apartment building amongst the clouds
A government building near the waterfront
The Shoes on the Danube is a commemorative memorial to the Hungarian Jews who were shot by the Arrow Cross militiamen between 1944 and 1945. For more information click here.
The waterfront from my point of view looking across at the Buda Palace
An eagle holding a sword near the Buda Palace
Heading to the Folk Arts and Crafts Festival through an old tunnel via bike
The Budapest Arts and Crafts Festival
Hungarian cinnamon bread rolls
Guards watching the doors of a building connected to the Buda Palace
The Budapest skyline from Buda Palace
The sunset with the ferris wheel in the background
Overall, my stay in Budapest was fantastic. As of August 29th, Budapest is my favorite city that I've seen so far. From the ruin bars to the overall architecture of the city, Budapest has so much to offer. I can't wait to go back explore more of this alluring city.
camping in Mala Fatra national park
After an unimaginable day at Auschwitz the day before, the six Dutch guys and I headed to Mala Fatra National Park in Slovakia to camp. I wasn't prepared for the freezing nights in Slovakia. With no sleeping bag or tent, I slept in the freezing van with as many clothes as I could fit on my body.
Before that that miserable night of sleep, I had a enjoyable night drinking beer and camping around a fire with the six Dutch guys. We ended roasting some disgusting Slovakian hot dogs. They tasted like hard plastic beef jerky. I recommend to not eat the cheap Slovakian hot dogs.
Scouting out the river near our camp site
It was a welcoming change to be able to camp. I hadn't been out in the wilderness with a fire going in a few years. It brought memories of sitting around a fire with friends in college. I'm hoping for more spontaneous adventures like this one.
my entire day learning about auschwitz
One and half weeks ago I took the 6 hour tour of the infamous concentration camps, Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. I knew this was going to be a surreal moment for me. I have heard incredibly disturbing stories of the horrors of WWll and Hitler's destruction of the Jewish, Roma and Polish races.
For those of you who don't know the background story to the two concentration camps, I will paint you a picture. For those who do, you can skip to the photos and my reactions.
On January 27, 1945 ally soldiers entered what was left of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camps in SW Poland. The Nazis had torn down and blown up some of the most atrocious buildings days before. On that cold January day, the ending of the largest mass murder in a single location in human history took place.
According to documents at Auschwitz, Nazis killed at least 960,000 of the 1.1-1.3 million Jews deported to the camp. Jews weren't the only prisoners at the Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. The other victims included an estimated 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and at least 10,000 nationalities from around Europe. Auschwitz is known as the most deadly concentration camp in the history of man-kind.
The ally troops found sickening evidence of the true horror of the events at Auschwitz. About 7,000 starving prisoners were found alive in the camp, which is minimalistic compared to the 1.3 million who walked through those gates. Countless amounts of belongings to men, women and children were discovered. More than 110,000 pairs of shoes, 15,000 kitchen utensils, 4,000 suitcases and 400 striped camp garments were discovered along with 13,000lbs of human hair. Everything can be seen at the main Auschwitz concentration camp.
In January 1942, the Nazi party decided to roll out the “Final Solution” or the "Camp of Death." This camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was dedicated to the mass murders of Jews.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, with its sections separated by barbed-wire fencing, had the largest prisoner population of any of the three main camps. In January 1942, the first gas chamber using lethal Zyklon B gas was built. This building didn't house sufficient room to kill enough prisoners at once. Four more buildings were built due to the previous building being too small. All four buildings were used until 1945 when the camps were liberated by foreign allies.
The horror continued with disturbing medical experiments being conducted on Jewish, Roma and POW prisoners. The infamous “Angel of Death,” Nazi doctor Dr. Josef Mengele, was one of the physicians using awful practices at the Auschwitz l. According to the camp information, his particular interest was experimenting on twins.
The Nazis began to evacuate the camp in the middle of January 1945 once Hitler knew the war was being lost to the foreign allies. About 65,000 prisoners were forced to march an astonishing 30 miles west where they would board trains to other concentration camps. It's estimated that 15,000 died during that grueling march. If there were any weakened prisoners, the Nazis would kill them off from the groups.
More than 7,500 Nazi personnel are thought to have worked and witnessed the horror at Auschwitz. But only a small amount of those have been prosecuted for their crimes.
Via Auschwitz-Birkenau History website and the Myths and Facts of the Holocaust website
my reactions and first hand account of the camps
The entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
The train track that brought in prisoners
As I walked into the entrance of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I felt a chill go down my spine. It was a warm day with the heat reaching 33 Celsius. Even with the heat bearing down at me, I felt uncomfortably cold while standing at the entrance. I walked to the right where the iconic Star of David (flag of Israel) flag hung in the barbed-wire fencing with flowers around it.
The Star of David
The building behind the fence was a quarantine area for prisoners when they first came into the camp.
To the right, a description of the building's purpose.
The inside of the quarantine building
Remaining chimney stacks from numerous housing structures
This road was used to escort the prisoners who would immediately die in the gas chambers. To the right is an actual photo of the assembly line.
Housing dorms for those picked to immediatley die by the Nazis
This part of land was once used to store ashes of murdered prisoners
Two blown up buildings where Nazi documents were held. The Nazis blew up the majority of buildings like these to cover their tracks.
This is the original gas chamber entrance. Here, prisoners would strip down naked. At the end of this building, the gas chamber doors would open.
A Nazi shack that overlooked the operations
An old water tank that's missing its top
More burial areas for the ashes of the victims
The Nazis believed that Jews, Roma, Gypsies and basically every race other than German were disgusting animals. This building was used to disinfect all victims.
This first room was meant for undressing and collecting valuables the victims brought with them
The main bathroom as they stripped down
The items taken
Cleansing stations for items taken
German for "Hair Clipping Space"
The explanation of why the Germans cut off the hair of each victim
The next room after being stripped naked was the shower. Only scorching hot or ice cold water were available.
A chilling photo of prisoners using the shower room
An explanation of the shower room
This was the next room. The drying room.
An explanation of the drying room
Surviving confiscated photos of loved ones from numerous victims
The history of the Kohn family. Eli Aron Kohn was the only surviver of the Kohn family.
Eli Broder, the only surviving member of the Broder family.
Housing units in 1943. And now, in 2015.
Another gas chamber in 1943. And now, in 2015.
Before victims were sent to the gas chambers, they had to wait in this forest with temperatures at or below -20 celsius in the winter.
This train is a commemorative piece for the Jews from Hungary that were victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau
After a 4 hour walk around Auschwitz-Birkenau, I almost had enough. But, I did have to see Auschwitz while I was already here.
I took a shuttle bus from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Auschwitz l. At this point I had seen a great deal of devastating loss... I had no concept of what was in store for me at Auschwitz l.
The entrance to Auschwitz l
The real entrance to the concentration camp. "Arbeit Macht Frei" means "Work Sets You Free" in German. Chilling.
Two layers of barbed-wire fencing surrounds the entire camp
An original sign to warn the prisoners
The many buildings at Auschwitz l
This room was meant for sick prisoners who would be killed by lethal injection to the heart. 121 Polish and Jewish boys were killed in this exact room.
Blankets used by sick prisoners in Block 20
A few rooms from Block 20
After walking around other Block buildings, I went to witness the most disturbing part of the whole experience. The hair, clothes and skeletons of the victims.
Out of the respect for the victims who were murdered, I did not take a photo of the hair or skulls. It was too emotional for me. Twenty tons of hair was collected and compiled. This made me sick to my stomach as I walked through the disturbing gallery.
Side note: As I was researching the uses of the human hair, I came across an article from 2009 that accused car manufacturer Schaeffler of using hair from 40,000 victims for textile purposes. Take a quick glance at it here.
This tour was overwhelming. I find myself unable to truly explain my overall reactions of visiting Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. In fact, trying to find words to sum up this experience is difficult. It's been a week and half since I saw the camps, yet, I still get the sick-to-my-stomach feeling every time I think about it. It's difficult to contemplate that entire day. There have been other horrific genocides since my birth in 1990. But, this is the first time I've ever witnessed the aftermath.
I highly recommend seeing these two museums. However, I would strongly advise those who go to not book anything thrilling afterward. I wasn't in any mood to do go out that night. The thought of having any kind of enjoyable night would have been disrespectful to those lost.
In terms of preserving both sites, I believe everyone needs to see the two camps. It's vital to history to learn from what happened in those 4-5 years in Poland. Others may think the two sites should be closed to protect the existing history. I disagree. I knew about the Holocaust from documents and documentaries. However, once I stepped foot on those two sites, my entire world turned upside down. Experiencing something like Auschwitz can't be explained. It must be seen to be understand.
KRAKOW OUR first stop
Before I knew I was going on this van ride, I had booked 3 nights at the hostel I was staying at. I luckily got my money back for the two nights I wasn't going to use.
I met the guys at their hostel. We then headed to the van in the center of the city. We packed up our stuff in a giant Mercedes Sprinter van. Our first stop on the trip was Krakow, Poland. I have a friend I met in Hong Kong that is currently living there. I gave her a heads up that 7 guys would be hanging out with her that night.
My ride the next 6 days
The drive took 6 hours. I was in and out of sleep during the trip. The previous night consisted of a lot of cheap Czech beer. As we were driving through the outskirts of Prague, I noticed how similar the farm fields were to Eastern Washington. It felt like I was on a cross country trip through the U.S.
We finally got to Krakow after the 6 hour drive. Our first glimpse of Krakow reminded me of Berlin's slums. Krakow on the outskirts of the city isn't nice. There's a lot of graffitied abandoned buildings as we drove into the center of town. Once we got to the main square, I understood why we went to Krakow. The center of town is gorgeous. Giant old buildings surround statues of important individuals of Poland.
Krakow's main square
The seven of us got settled into our hostel that overlooked the main square. I called Alex to tell her we'd meet her at a restaurant close to our hostel. The restaurant we all went to had a special for Monday night. One liter of beer for $1USD and $4USD for Polish Schnitzel. It was a heck of a deal for all of us.
We all ended up drinking here for most of the night. I do regret not seeing more of the city while here. I have decided to go back to Krakow for one more day on my way to Warsaw. There is more to see in Krakow than I thought.
Tomorrow the seven of us go see the infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz.
My missed ride to brussels
Matt and I split off after Amsterdam. He had to get back to work in Canada after a 3 week vacation. I had a great time travelling with him. He's one of the best people I know to travel with. He's a really outgoing guy who likes to have fun. That is the type of person who makes travelling fun.
After we said our good byes, I headed to my BlaBlaCar ride share spot where I would take a car to Brussels. However, the guy never showed up... I decided at the last second to book a bus to Prague. I was itching to see Prague my entire trip. I put off Brussels for later on in the trip.
Once I got to the bus station, I noticed all the shops were closed. This meant I couldn't write on my blog for the 3 hours I had to wait. Ten o'clock rolled around with no Prague bus in sight. I was getting nervous because my previous ride hadn't showed up either. I then asked two Dutch guys if they were waiting for the same bus. They indeed were, which made me feel a bit better. I started talking to both of them about their travels. Frits, a 23-year-old was travelling to Slovakia to go to school as part of a program for the United Nations. He'd split off once we all got to Prague. David, a 20-year-old student, was meeting friends in Prague to start a van tour of Eastern Europe. We all talked for the majority of the 12-hour bus ride.
Once we got to Prague, Frits split off while David and I headed to our hostels. Coincidently, our hostels were two blocks apart form one another. I was glad that worked out because English in Prague isn't well-known. The two of us had a difficult time finding out stop.
Once we both got to our destination, David invited me out to drinks with his buddies. After settling into my hostel, I met the guys at a random bar near the famous Charles Bridge.
An amazing photo of Charles Bridge. Not my photo. Check the page out here.
Charles Bridge in the day time
There I showed them many American drinking games. The beers were $1USD each, which made it easy to spend a little bit more that night. At the end of the evening, the guys invited me to join them on their van tour from Poland to Italy.
I was only in Prague one night. I will back track and go check out the city on my way back from Oktoberfest in Munich.
Marijuana policy in amsterdam
Matt and I jumped on an overnight bus to Amsterdam after Berlin. I didn't have many plans for Amsterdam on this trip. I wanted to see the coffeeshop culture in particular. The Red Light district was also on my list to see. Both are highly questionable topics anywhere else in the world.
Marijuana has been hot topic in the U.S.A for some time now. Most countries have strict laws against marijuana. It is common knowledge throughout the world that Amsterdam is the place to buy "soft drugs" as Holland refers to them. When you walk into a "coffeeshop," you are handed a menu with drugs of the day. There can also be a special menu, you just have to ask. The price of four pre-rolled marijuana joints cost the same as a pack of cigarettes. Edible marijuana treats and Psilocybin mushrooms or psychedelic mushrooms are also legal in Amsterdam. Police will not arrest anyone with paraphernalia on them.
So what kind of laws are these? Doesn't the Dutch government want to regulate the consumption of marijuana and magic mushrooms? Well, Amsterdam's drug laws evolved the same way as any other major city the last 100 years. But, the lax drug laws obviously didn't follow the same patterns as other countries.
The Dutch drug policy declares that every human being may decide what is best for its health. The Dutch consider this rule to work the best for tourism, overall health of its people and crime rates. Although other countries such as Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and some parts of the U.S. allow marijuana with controlled consumption, those countries do have problems with underground drug smuggling. Another idea which guides Dutch laws in their drug policy is the act of trying to hide the negative stereotypes of marijuana and magic mushrooms does not make them disappear. It actually makes them worse, because when concealed, they become far more difficult to influence and control.
The Dutch see the use of drugs as a health matter, similar to the use of tobacco and alcohol. They also point to the fact that prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. from 1919-1933 brought more negative effects such as more drug consumption, illegal moonshine sales that increased the death toll during that time and criminal activity as a whole.
I thought once I got to Amsterdam, the street would be filled with pot smoke while people were stumbling down the streets. That is not the case. The only reason coffeeshops exists is due to the overflow of tourists looking to smoke a joint. The negative stereotypes of Amsterdam's legal marijuana businesses don't exist inside the country. It's looked at just like alcohol and tobacco.
Red light district, amsterdam
The Red Light District consists of brothels to sex shops to museums, the Amsterdam Red Light District leaves nothing to the imagination. It is very likely that you will have heard about this neighbourhood and to be frank, everything you will have heard is probably true , but to really put rumours to rest, you have got to check it out for yourself. The Rossebuurt, as the locals know it, is unlike any other place. Guaranteed. Certainly, the Red Light District in Amsterdam that everyone knows about is the one where women, of all nationalities, parade their wares in red-fringed window parlours, many ready to offer more than a school boy peep-show in a private cabin. Another familiar image of the Amsterdam Red Light District is of packs of men, young and old , couples holding hands and pointing in shock of it all, giggling groups of women celebrating a hen night , and busloads of Japanese tourists toting cameras (except not in the direction of the female entertainers! Strictly banned!). This is proof en