Guest Post: My experience travelling in Germany

Editors Note: The following is a guest post by Natalya Pobedova. For more information about writing a guest post for please email johnguzdek1@gmail.com

Anyone traveling to Germany is in for a treat, as well as an amazing cultural experience. This is what happened to me when I visited there. I had taken a few years of German language in school prior to my trip and even had a friend from Germany. But the Germany I experienced during my four weeks of travel, was not at all like the one I was expecting.

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Expansive crop fields juxtaposed with the gorgeous Bavarian Alps off in the distance, while taking the hour long train from Munich International Airport out of the city outskirts into downtown Munich, was my first glimpse of the country. So this was Germany. Land of beer and lederhosen.

The first time stepping out of the Munich Hauptbahnhof into downtown Munich was exhilarating, to say the least. German BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s zipped by in every direction, gorgeous German architecture stood in every direction and amazing scents wafted out left and right from various bakeries and street side food vendors. Shops of all kinds were selling interesting trinkets and souvenirs and anything else, as I made my way to the city’s famous Frauenkirche cathedral.

My experience with public transportation and hostels while traveling through Germany was amazing. It floored me how quickly and easily I could get anywhere I needed to go, by using the extensive train, subway, tram and bus systems present in even small German towns. Often I just needed to buy a day pass for a couple city Tarif Zones and could use it pass as much as needed. Connection times were rarely an issue either.

The hostels I stayed at during my four weeks were all wonderful. I chose the cheapest accommodation options and usually paid about 20 Euro a night to sleep in a shared room with typically 5-6 other people. There was always a locker where I could lock up my valuables while away for the day. Some of the hostels offered fantastic continental breakfast with authentic German rolls, meats and cheeses, Nutella and fruit. There was usually wireless internet connection as well, but the best part of staying at the hostels was getting to meet other Germans traveling around the country too.

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Making an effort to meet people all along the way, I met a lot of really nice Germans who would show me around. They often seemed initially a bit reserved and standoffish, but would eventually warm up to me with incredible kindness and incredibly funny humor. It really broke down my stereotypical view of what most Germans are like, and I was surprised me at how many Germans across the board can speak amazing English.

Four weeks traveling in German changed my whole perspective on the country. It’s not just the land of beer, wurst and lederhosen. It is also home to some of the kindest and most welcoming people I have ever had the fortune to meet. I am forever grateful for my decision to spend four weeks there, and not somewhere else.

Bio: Natalya Pobedova is a travelling nomad and backpacker from beautiful Brno Czech Republic. She is 27 and makes a living as a freelance web developer to support her traveling needs. She also runs a travel website for backpackers as a hobby: http://www.travelsiders.com/. She dreams to fly to Brazil and speaks Portuguese fluently. She visited 14 countries already and most of them are in Asia and Europe.

In the Footsteps of Charles IV

At the weekend I went walking In the Footsteps of Charles IV. Yes, the Charles IV of Holy Roman Emperor fame, Charlie-Boy. C-Bomb Number 4. No? Basically, I was apparently walking in the footsteps of a 14th century Czech king.

In the Footsteps of Charles IV is an organised public walk outside of Prague to Karlstejn that’s put on every year for anyone who wants to do it. The full route is 50 kilometres but it’s possible to do 10, 15, 20 kilometres or whatever you can be bothered to do. As a group of occasional walkers and hardcore gulash eaters, we did 15 kilometres.

By some miracle of human perseverance I pulled myself out of my comfortable, under-used bed at 8am and with my flatmate met a gaggle of similarly hungover looking people at Prague’s Main Station. From there we took a short train journey out of Prague to some random, ramshackle place called Černošice where we would start our walk. After an almost uninterrupted five months of bleak weather that made going out into the Czech countryside less appealing than a weekend in Chernobyl, this weekend was the first tempting chance leave the urban sprawl of Prague and get in touch with mother nature. Or something.

The Czechs love the outdoors and, one thing I’ve learned from my students is that they are always out in the nature (as the endearingly incorrect Czechism goes). Inevitably out on the walk we met hundreds of families, dog-walkers and couples sampling the beautiful spring sunshine and we even passed a women’s football game. Possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long while.

The walk was pleasant as the route snaked through Czech villages that were pretty and Czech villages that were under construction, past colourful meadows and through forests, ending at Karlstejn Castle – a touristy but charming little town which sits under an imposing Gothic castle. To be honest, the scenery was charming but not spectacular and the pace and elevation were never quite taxing enough yet it was just the ticket to brush off the winter cobwebs and dissipating hangover.

Somehow, for the second time this month, I managed to finish the day with a bright red forehead and a rosy neck, so at this rate, the year’s going to be filled with peeling skin and a head permanently coloured like a tomato. Interestingly enough, with a forest continually to the right of me and open space to the left of me, it was only my right which turned red and so I ended up with a ridiculous kind of football strip of skin.

Probably the highlight of the day was the finish where we received a diploma to mark the momentous occasion of finished a 15 kilometre walk in the mammoth time of five hours (thanks to much sitting and eating) – on green card with my name written in felt tip pen. I felt as happy as a small child and now it’s up on my wall just next to my Nobel Peace Prize and Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

An Englishman in Prague: Wroclaw – Let’s Go to Plan B

Continuing my quest to visit every place worth going to within a 500 kilometre radius of my temporary hometown of Prague, I went to the lively, university town of Wroclaw (Vrot-slaf) in South Western Poland at the weekend. This fairly small city is renowned for it nice architecture and student vibe.

Compared to many cities in Central Europe, Wroclaw should be pretty close to Prague but it isn’t when you get the longest local bus in existence. A 250 kilometre journey took us over five-hours thanks to a bus that stopped at every town, village and tree to pick up old ladies with their shopping, families with dogs and escaped convicts to then deposit them in the next hamlet two-miles down the road. On a nearly empty bus my friend and I suffered repeatedly from those awkward moments where you’re having loud conversations along the lines of ‘if you had to shag an animal which one would you choose’ before realising that all the people in front of you can speak perfect English.

I am by nature a reserved person. Think of the classic Englishman complete with bad teeth but without any of the suave and sophistication. So when I go on holiday I normally put the emphasis on the sightseeing and to a lesser extent the culture. Hardcore partying takes a back seat. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely drink (like a typically unskilled Englishman that doesn’t listen to his limits) and do my fair share of bar-hopping but due to my lack of social skills/shyness I won’t end up naked in a sauna at 6am with a group of local girls or in a prison cell doing tequila slammers with the city police.

So a messy weekend in Wroclaw in Poland was a welcome change. I left the missus/ball and chain/old lady/trouble and strife/significant other at home and took my flatmate James – a guy who has a few talents I lack, including a total immunity to embarrassment, absolutely no self-censor, a total free reign on the ‘shit chat’ part of his brain and about half a metre extra height. This is a guy who within an hour of being in Poland had got into a shouting fight with a Polish shop-owner after urinating over the back of his shop and then walked around for the weekend with plastic bags tied around his feet to keep them dry. The entire weekend was spent with him playfully harassing every girl he could find with the line “Are you from Poland? …Where is good to party? …Can you come with us?” And, to be fair to him, it worked. We ended up being taken to many excellent bars by lovely people to drink cheap, good beer. In its compact city centre, Wroclaw boasts a huge amount of clubs, beer cellars, micro-breweries, bars, traditional pubs and possibly the cheapest English pub in Europe.

My Polish friend always bangs on about the Poles being very friendly and the being women amazingly attractive but he’s Polish so I usually take it with a pinch of salt. Mythbuster: the Poles are very friendly and amazingly attractive. It was a nice change from the Czechs who are lovely when you get to know them but in public have hearts of stone. Wroclaw is a really youthful city that’s full of students so this probably counted in its favour and I might just be generalising a little.

To be honest, drinking and being hungover were two of the only real choices open to us. Wroclaw as an actual tourist destination is attractive  enough but not spectacular. It’s a pleasant historical town with a charming town centre made up of multi-colour houses and more churches than you can count. We arrived after snow had been falling for a couple of weeks and the temperature was still a couple of degrees below zero which left most of the river completely frozen over. It’s the kind of scene that needs the maximum self-control not to do a running jump and face-plant on the ice and I don’t think I have never been so jealous of a duck. Unfortunately the sky was completely grey which made all the admittedly fine buildings seem very depressing indeed and our photos turned out far from impressive. There was no point walking around for anymore than an hour or two as even Rome or Star Wars’ Cloud City would look fairly unspectacular in the unrelenting greyness. We must go back in the Spring.