Exit Through the Gift Shop

Once again, I fear that apologies are due because I have been so slow in posting. The good news is that in this case, it is for a particularly good reason, being that I have been very busy trying to get my life together for my new job in Washington DC, starting in July. It will mean a very busy three weeks as I move out of Vienna, swing through Monterey to move all my stuff out of storage, head up to Richland, Washington, for our one-week orientation, and then finally to DC to start my new job!

Despite all this impending craziness, it has not stopped me from finding adventures and being busy in Vienna. In fact, just the opposite, as the weather has finally gotten nice enough that it is difficult to justify staying inside when one isn’t getting paid for it.

On the non-work front, I have been busy as well, having visited Sicily, Prague, Bratislava, Graz, and now Ireland since I last posted. I unfortunately won’t have time to write posts on all the places, but I would have felt negligent to not write a post on Prague as I loved the city so much.

Prague

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For those who don’t know (I didn’t) Prague is only a 4-hour train ride from Vienna. It cost 30 euros each way and it definitely worth it! Its hard to do justice to the full awesomeness of the city in just a few paragraphs. So, I’ll share my two favorite stories, and hopefully that will whet your appetite for more.

When I booked my AirBnB for Prague, I noticed that some of the comments had mentioned entering the BnB through a gift shop. I didn’t think much about it assuming that meant they shared a common entrance from the street. However, in fact the truth was much more fun – the entrance to the BnB is the gift shop! During the day, it meant we walked by all the stuffed animals, t-shirts, beer steins, etc. to get to the little door at the back that led to our Apartment. Not a huge deal – kinda fun, but for some reason, walking through the gift shop at was so cool! Maybe its the perverse desire that I think most people share to secretly get locked inside a department store at night, so that you can play with all the toys, sleep in all the beds, and run up the escalators backwards. Regardless of the reason, it was really fun to go in and out of the BnB at night through the Gift Shop. It felt like we were real locals.

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Besides the cool BnB’s, there is so much to recommend the city of Prague. The Old Town and Castle are amazing. There are so many bridges and little lanes, that it is an utterly charming city to get lost in, and fortunately, the city center is so small, that it would certainly be a challenge to truly get lost. And the food… The FOOD. There is one Czech invention in particular, the Trdelnik, the left us particularly impressed. So much so, that my friend and I have begun scheming how to invent the next big American food craze along the lines of “Czech it Out! Pastries.” Check out the link above for more info.

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One of the most interesting parts of Prague was the Country’s relationship with the Soviet Union. Having traveled now in Russia and several other post-Soviet countries, it is intriguing to me how differently some countries responded to the collapse of the Soviet Union. There’s actually a joke in this line, about how long it took for the Soviet Union to collapse in each country; it goes that it took Poland 10 years, Hungary 10 months, East Germany 10 weeks, Czechoslovakia 10 days, and Romania 10 hours. Of course, it would be unwise to try to compare the countries based on cultural generalizations, but it suffices to say that the Czechs don’t seem to carry a lot of nostalgia for the Soviet days. They were  the most willing to let in Western countries after the collapse, as is pretty evident by the line of US companies with offices located outside Prague. However, in their attempts to move on, they have been careful not to forget the damage that was done, as is evident by the picture above – a haunting memorial to the victims of communism in the Czech Republic.

Finally – the last and most important part of my trip to Prague was without a doubt BEER SPA. I know what you are thinking – those words don’t go together, like government organization or Microsoft Works. However, the Czechs have found a way! Much like the Trdelnik, I am already planning to open my first beer spa somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. It will of course serve sandwiches. There will be beer. There will be spa.

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So, what is a beer spa?

Its pretty much a regular spa, except everything is beer themed! We started out with a 30 minute relaxing bath in a tub of yeast and hops. As we fermented*, we poured our own beer directly from the tap attached to our tub. Then, we got a beer massage (really a regular massage, but with beer lotion!) and finally got wrapped up like little beer sausages in warm blankets for about 20 minutes. Altogether, the entire thing lasted about 1.5 hours and cost 60 euros. And was worth every euro penny! When I left the spa, I think I could have flown – I felt so wonderfully relaxed and tipsy. I think I may bring a beer to all massages from now on…

p.s. If you go to Beer Spa, bring a bathing suit you don’t love or a friend you do. The beer tubs are roomy, but not roomy enough that two bros would probably be happy sharing one in the buff…

* An important note: We did not actually bathe in beer, as it may seem. I am pretty sure this would be pretty gross. It was instead just hops and yeast in hot water. Its apparently great for the skin and smalls AMAZING. Although, I was cleaning hops out of my orifices for several days…

 

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