Friday, August 11, 2017

Beading through Bohemia Reviews Part 1


This was an interesting trip. Barb and I booked it with the idea that we’d see some places we’d never been, get in some good bead shopping, and have some beading time. As with any trip, there were some things we really liked, and some we weren’t too happy about. Also, our perceptions of the trip didn’t necessarily match those of other travelers. For instance, we really liked our first local guide, Blanca. She had a wealth of knowledge and filled the air with information. Our expectations for group behavior seemed to be the same as Blanca’s: keep up, ask questions, pay attention, and realize that the local guide wasn’t there to service just one person. Blanca did far better with some of the folks in our group than I did; I’d have sent them home on day one. Since this is a very long blog, it’s divided into two parts. This one covers Where We Stayed and What We Did; What We Ate is in the second post. In previous blog posts I've written about many of the things we did, so rather than rehash those experiences, I've given you links back to the specific pages. To see how my rating system works, take a look at Reading the Reviews.


Where we stayed:
Three and One-half Carrots
Avalon Waterways (http://www.avalonwaterways.com/) ship was the 
L to R: Stateroom, Bathroom
best of all the places we stayed. Although the room and bathroom were small, there were plenty of plugs, the beds were comfortable, the internet worked well, and we were on the same level with 24/7 coffee and cookies. Several folks complained about the size of their bathrooms, but not about anything else associated with staying on a ship. The people at the front desk were pleasant and efficient. While it wasn’t as upscale as Viking, it was a nice place to spend a few days and I would do so in the future.
Three Carrots
Hotel and Palais Strudlhof (Pasteurgasse 1, 1090 Wien, Austria, +43 1 3192522) was in a lovely location, close to public transportation and 
Left: Bedroom
Right T to B: Bathroom, Toilet
several restaurants. Once they got the air conditioning fixed it was a comfortable place to stay. Because of their cooling issue they gave us all free drinks at their bar. The plug and pillow issue were both a bit better. We really liked having the toilet in a separate room from the shower. The internet connection wasn’t the best. The people at the desk were nice but rather ineffectual. Breakfast was also included with this room. Other folks on this trip seemed to have the same experience we did.



Ibis Styles Budapest Center (Budapest, Rákóczi út 58, 1074 Hungary, +36 1 462 8100) has a kid-friendly décor which was really off-putting to
Left: Bathroom
Right T to B: Bedroom, Desk
some of the folks with whom we were traveling. However, this was the most modern of the hotels in which we stayed and had more of what we needed – including plugs, and slightly better internet. The bathroom was tiny but functional; it got really steamy when we showered. The air conditioning worked very well. Unlike the other hotels, we could walk to most of the places we wanted to see; however, it was close to the subway if you wanted to venture farther. Some of the folks were surprised to see homeless living in the subway and were scared/upset by this occurrence. Breakfast was included with the room. Although our room was big enough, other folks complained about having rooms that were too small to meet their needs.





Two and One-half Carrots
Hotel International (Koulova 1501/15, 160 45 Praha 6, Czechia, +420 296 537 111) took Barb and me right back to Russia. The service was like what we had in Russia, as well! The hotel was clean and within walking 
L to R: Bathroom, Bedroom
distance of public transportation. While the beds were fine, I wanted pillows with some body and Barb wanted an internet that actually worked; I’d have liked a good connection, as well. As with many older hotels, there weren’t enough outlets for our electronics. If Barb and I wanted to use our computers at the same time, one of us had to sit on the floor to be close enough to a plug. The bathroom was okay; it had a hair dryer and a trashcan. Evidently we had a different experience that did some of the other travelers. They lost power in their room and were told that nothing could be done until an engineer came in the next day; they were not offered any alternative. They coped by using their phones for light. This reinforces my feeling that customer service wasn’t the top goal of this hotel. Breakfast came with the hotel room and it was just fine (see below). Some folks had a good experience with dinner in the hotel, but we did not – a surly waitress, told to eat off the buffet and stay out of the way.

What we did:
Four Carrots
Belvedere Museum (Schloss Belvedere, Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Wien, Austria, +43 1 79557134) see ‘Viewing Vienna’.

Budapest Card (https://www.budapestinfo.hu/budapest-card) was really helpful in that we got into places free or at a reduced price. We also had free access to public transportation. This card is well worth the price, particularly if you are going to be here for several days.

CURIOCITY Budapest, co-owned by Bogáti Bogáta (https://www.facebook.com/ccbudapest/?pnref=lhc) provided a very good
The lady in the center is Bogáti.
tour of Budapest. Our guide, Bogáti, had lots of information for us and made sure that if we had questions we had a chance to ask them. She also had a great sense of humor and was willing to play with us a bit. My only complaint was the lack of ‘whisper boxes’, those ear pieces that connect you to the guide, were missing. Of course, by the time we got to Budapest many of the group members chose to stay in their rooms or in shady spots rather than run amok through the city, so it wasn’t difficult to hear what Bogáti was saying.

Dohány Street Synagogue (Budapest, Dohány u. 2, 1074 Hungary, +36 1 343 0420) see ‘Being in Budapest’. This is one of those places that you must visit in person to get the impact of the history that had happened on these grounds.

Koralkarna (Krymská 103/27, 101 00 Praha 10, Czechia, +420 271 740
Top: Store logo
Bottom L to R: Ivona's creations, Barb shopping
596) is one of several bead shops in Prague. We visited here to talk with Ivona Suchmannova (
Beads of Bohemia) about her creations and to do some shopping. There are loads of things to see in this shop and the prices are quite competitive. If you are a die-hard beader, this is a must-stop place, particularly if Ivona is at the shop; we spent at least three hours here. Luckily for the non-beaders who ventured out with us, there was a bar on the corner that was happy to serve tourists.

Kunsthistorisches Museum (Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Wien, Austria, +43 1 525240) see ‘Viewing Vienna’, has some wonderful historic art pieces.

Lennon Wall (Velkopřevorské náměstí, 100 00 Praha 1, Czechia) see ‘Prague, again’. This is just something you have to see; it’s free and it’s close to the Charles Bridge. Peace and love, man.

Loreto/Loreta (Loretánské nám. 100/7, 118 00 Praha, Czechia, +420 220 516 740) see ‘Prague, again’. I had not been here previously and I’d certainly go again.

Melk Abbey (Abt-Berthold-Dietmayr-Straße 1, 3390 Melk, Austria, +43 2752 5550) see ‘Mincing in Melk and Dancing in Dürnstein’.

Memento Park (Budapest, Balatoni út - Szabadkai utca sarok, 1223 Hungary, +36 1 424 7500) see ‘Being in Budapest’.

Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague (Široká, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia, +420 222 749 211) see ‘Peeking in on Prague’.

Prague Card (https://www.praguecard.com/index.php?lang=en) is a good value for the price. While it gets you into some places free and others at a discount, its big bonus is that you can get on all of public transportation free with the card. And while Prague is a walkable city, if your hotel is not in the historic area, this card helps you get to the things you want to see.

Prague Castle (119 08 Prague 1, Czechia, +420 224 373 368) see ‘Peeking in on Prague’.

L to R: Cynthia with two bunnies,
Rocking Horse Toy store
Rocking Horse Toy Shop (Loretánské nám. 109/3, 118 00 Prague, Czechia, +420 603 515 745) is a lot of fun whether or not you buy anything. They specialize in traditional toys from Bohemia. I purchased two rabbits. One has articulated arms and legs that move when you pull a string. The other rabbit is the friend of Krtek the Mole. There were lots of other toys in the shop that looked like great gifts for kids and the owners were happy to let me play with whatever took my fancy. I could have stayed there for hours!

Saint Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansplatz 3, 1010 Wien, Austria) see ‘Viewing Vienna’.

Saint Vitus Cathedral (III. nádvoří 48/2, 119 01 Praha 1, Czechia, +420 224 372 434) see ‘Prague, again’.

Schönbrunn Palace (Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria) see ‘Viewing Vienna’.

One of the castles in Vienna
Stift Dürnstein (Dürnstein, Stiftgasse, 3601 Dürnstein, Austria, +43 2711 227) see ‘Mincing in Melk and Dancing in Dürnstein’. This is such a beautiful place.

Vienna Card (https://www.wien.info/en/travel-info/vienna-city-card), like the other city cards gives you free entry, discounted entry, and access to all the public transportation. It is well worth the price and although you can walk over most of the old city, it is helpful to be able to ride around on the trams to get to know the city. There is a lot to see in this city, so no matter how much time you have to spend, you’ll need more.




Three and One-half Carrots
Castle Hill (Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2, 1014 Hungary) see ‘Being in Budapest’.

Gellért Hill (Budapest, 1118 Hungary) see ‘Being in Budapest’. This is a good place to get some nice views of the city.

Hlavné námestie (811 01 Staré Mesto, Slovakia) see ‘Bratislava Byways’ for a description of this square that has some of the statues for which the city is famous.
Top: Spices for sale
Bottom: No kangaroos

Kafka Statue, Metamorphosis (Spálená 22, 110 00 Praha 1-New Town-Nové Město, Czechia) see ‘Prague, again’. I’d certainly go see this statue again, particularly if I was with someone who hadn’t seen it. I’d also try to get a table for a cocktail or a snack.

Naschmarkt (1060 Vienna, Austria, +43 1 400005430) has lots of foodstuffs including spices, places to eat, and shops to poke through. We could have stayed there for much longer than we did. There was at least one ice cream shop that we needed to try, as well as places to sample some of the delicacies that Vienna has to offer.



Petit Point Maria Stransky GmbH (A-1010 Wien, Hofburg-Passage 2, Wien, Austria, +43 1 533 60 98) is an art museum in fabric and needlework. The pieces they have for sale range from earrings to large bags. There may well be other even larger pieces, but I was so overwhelmed with the small items that I didn’t pay much attention to what was on the walls. It’s worth a stop whether you shop or not.
Petit Point shop

Prague Boats (Dvořákovo nábřeží, 110 00 Praha, Czechia, +420 724 202 505) see ‘Prague, again’. This is a great way to spend a hot afternoon. We had some very cold beer as we cruised down the river and listened to a running commentary about what we were seeing.

Prodejna Bizuterie Jewelle Shop (Štefánikova 34, 468 22 Železný Brod, Czechia, +420 483 332 211) is a ways out of Prague, but an interesting shop if you are a beader and/or if you want to purchase glass jewelry. We got to see ladies making the beads which made it worth the visit for me. (See ‘Prague, again’)

Saint Martin’s Cathedral (Rudnayovo námestie 1, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia, +421 2 544 313 59) see ‘Bratislava Byways’. This is an interesting church, but not nearly as decorated as some of the others we’ve see. Also there’s a dearth of information about the decorations of the interior.

Tatika (Budapest, Váci u. 40, 1056 Hungary, +36 30 979 1241) see ‘Being in Budapest’. I enjoyed the art in this store as well as the shopping.

Topferei Brandl (Krummnußbaum, 3390 Melk, Austria) see ‘Mincing in Melk and Dancing in Dürnstein’. This is where we purchased ceramics.

Vajdahunyad Castle (Budapest, Vajdahúnyad vár, 1146 Hungary, +36 1 422 0765) see ‘Being in Budapest’. Although this was a nice place, I might have enjoyed it more had we had more time to explore.

 
Three Carrots
Great Market Hall (Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary, +36 1 366
Vegetables and chiles
3300) is located near the Chain Bridge. I’m torn about how to evaluate it. There were lots of food booths, but the places to eat were like ‘fast food’ establishments and getting through those areas was very uncomfortable and crowded; I almost turned back when I saw the crush of people. There were, however, other booths that sold clothing, domestic decorations, and all sorts of other things. While these areas were crowded, they weren’t the free-for-all that surrounded the food aisles. Would I go back? If I were taking someone who hadn’t been here before, then yes; if it was just me, then no.

Styx Taste and Beauty (Hauptstraße 11, 3390 Melk, Austria, +43 2752 52529) see ‘Mincing in Melk and Dancing in Dürnstein’. This is a shop in which we purchased yarn; it’s a nice enough place with a potpourri of items to see.


Triple M Tours (http://www.triplemtours.ca/) is run by two very nice people. Any tour company cannot control weather, larger than usual crowds at popular places, a bus that suddenly loses air conditioning, and a hotel whose air conditioning breaks during a particularly hot spell. Unfortunately, our group included fellow travelers who lacked understanding about uncontrollable conditions, could not follow directions nor keep up with their tickets, and argued with guides as well as other travelers; they were a pain. Some issues could, and probably will be, corrected on subsequent trips: the timing of introduction/celebration dinners, daily information about the itinerary, individual headsets that are controlled by the guide, and a separate guide for people who have impaired mobility.
Walking along the Charles Bridge


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