Prague is one of my favourite cities – a really nice old town and home to great (and cheap!) beer. We spent Easter 2015 there – in line with our Easter city break tradition that also featured thus far Paris, Rome, St Petersburg, and Hong Kong. We found ourselves back there for a friend’s stag do, which of course cannot be the subject of a blog post here. 😉 But there was one particular sight we missed last time around – the Jewish quarter was closed due to Passover. So we used our time wisely while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive.
Our first stop on our break back in Europe was Helsinki, home to my lovely wife. Finland, somewhat on the edge of Europe and mostly famous for ice hockey and heavy metal bands (plus the late Nokia mobile phone brand, R.I.P.) is certainly not known as the number one tourist destination. In fact, whenever we tell people that Natalia is from Finland they tend to respond “we’ve been to Sweden, but we never made it to Finland”. But for me the “land of swamps” (as they call it themselves) has some unique unpretentious beauty. I might be a bit biased though – on the one hand since it strongly reminds me of my own home in the North of Germany, and well, because it brought forth my wife on the other hand.
Some of the great spots in Rio, continued.
Mosteiro de São Bento
This is one of the prettiest monasteries I have seen. Build in 1590 by Benedictine monks it is still operational today. The gold-leaf interiors decorate the walls from top to bottom in a majestic but not tacky way. The ceiling is made from jacaranda – one the most precious granite stones in the world. Most importantly, one gets a sense of total peace there. This is a beautiful spot to take a few minutes off from the bustling centre of Rio.
Our visit to this landmark of Rio happened rather spontaneously after a rainy morning turned into a sunny afternoon. One of the first advices we got after arriving to Rio: If you get few hours of sunshine, use them as they might not last. So we saw an opportunity on the move and grabbed it.
First, I want to say few words about the surrounding area. Next to the Sugarloaf Mountain is a smaller hill called “Morro da Urca” that one must reach before getting to the actual mountain. The classic way to reach the Sugarloaf Mountain (SLM) is to take two cable cars, first to the Morro da Urca and second one leading to the top of the SLM.
The alternative way is to hike to the top of the Morro da Urca and then take the cable car for the second leg of the journey. That is what we did.
We started our journey from the beach at the base of the hills. It is so beautiful there – we only regretted not having time to lie around and enjoy the sun.
A couple of days have passed since we arrived here and I can say we are falling in love with Rio. It is a city filled with good vibe, happy people, good food and live music. Not to mention the most beautiful beachfronts we have seen. Prior our arrival we heard many warnings on how it is dangerous it is here for tourists from gun point robberies to scams with ATMs. So we were quite stressed out landing here and taking a taxi ride to Copacabana where we rented a flat through AirBnB. But our fears were quickly dissolved when we met our AirBnB host Guta who is a true Carioca (a person born and raised in Rio) and a very nice person. She told us that Rio is not that dangerous when we just use common sense such as not going on dark side streets and not carrying cameras/phones in our hands and so on. So far we haven’t felt at all uncomfortable and are now enjoying relaxing stay.
Local life in block of flats
We live in a residential building right off the Copacabana beach. The flat we have is very nice – see Guta’s listing. She also has her own YouTube channel. Some quirky little details, do stay here when you visit Rio.
Just few notes from my experiences about travelling in Germany as I know some of you might be travelling there soon.
Relatively cheap food and drinks
This is one of the first things I noticed after staying a week in Finland. Food and drinks are relatively cheap compared to Scandinavia and London. For example coffee and sandwich are about EUR4, half price what you would pay on average in Helsinki – very nice. Beer price is really low – for good beer it is normal to pay somewhere between EUR2-4 depending on the place. So yes, you don’t need too big food budget in Germany.
The big irony is that while Malaysia is a muslim country with pork and alcohol hard to come by, we had one of the nicest meals with pork here and a tower of beer on the house – more of that to follow. First though I should mention that food in Malaysia is certainly ticking the box of the nicest countries on our travels. I am not sure what it is exactly that makes even the simplest food so delicious – I think it is a combination of spices. And it is so cheap.
On our first day we had lunch from the street stall (we could sit down and everything) for MYR7.50 per person. It was spicy chicken, tofu, rice and a glass of ice tea. So much tastier than any street food we had in the Philippines for example.
We have now been good two weeks in Australia and it is time to reflect on what we have gathered so far on Australian lifestyle, at least here in the East Coast. Read More »
Let’s collect a few random observations. First, let me start with an apology. Before we took off, I already was complaining about Australian beer because all I knew and could think off was Foster’s whose taste cannot be described better than by the old joke:
What does Australian beer have in common with making love in a canoe? – It’s fucking close to water!
Truth is: Since we arrived here, I haven’t see Foster’s a single time. A quick research reveals that while it’s promoted as the Australian beer in Europe its popularity here is negligible. What a smart idea! Get all that tasteless piss out of the country! Instead, I enjoyed a variety of really nice lagers and pale ales. Kudos, Australia! Read More »