A few days ago in the Czech city of Budweis (home of the original Budweiser beer) I was taking photos of the town square when an old man on a bicycle came up to me and started to talk. I said I didn’t speak Czech and he started talking in very good English and asked me where I was from.
I told him I was American and his face lit up.
He said he had been to American many years ago as part of a musical group he was a member of. They toured the midwest playing Czech music in cities like Minneapolis, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Milwaukee and Chicago. He was excited to tell me about how much he enjoyed America and how well he was treated by Americans.
He also went out of his way to tell me how much Americans were different from what the Communists told him. He offered to help me if I needed anything while I was in Budweis as a token of thanks for the kindness he received in America.
There is a lesson about traveling that I took away from the old Czech man on the bike:
You have to see things yourself. What he had been told about Americans by his government he had seen with his own eyes to be wrong. I’ve experience the same thing in the Middle East meeting Arabs. You can’t rely on what people in positions of authority tell you about the rest of the world. You have to see it for yourself and odds are what you see will not be the same was what you were told.
This is just one of the many reasons why you need to travel.
I have no idea what happened during that man’s trip to America, but whatever happened lead to him treating me nice in a random encounter in a Czech town square years later. I’m glad he was able to visit my country and I’m glad I was able to visit his.
I’m in Vienna today for Easter Sunday. In 2009 I spent Holy Week in Jerusalem. Witnessing Easter, Passover, Palm Sunday and Good Friday in Holy Land was an experience I’ll never forget. Here are some of the image I took during that week. Continue reading “Photo Essay: Easter in Jerusalem”
Over the course of the last four years, only a small fraction of the things which happen to me end up on my website. Most either don’t merit a mention or sometimes I forget to write about it.
Today something happened that I didn’t think twice about when it occurred. They were simple enough events but are the sort of things that petrify some people and keeps them from traveling.
My goal today was very simple: I was going to get on the train in the Czech city of Ceské Budejovice (Budwise) and go to Vienna. I would have to make one train switch near the border, but that was it. It should be pretty easy considering there is no border control you have to pass through. Continue reading “Dealing With The Unexpected While Traveling”
This leg of the trip I’m on was never intended to be much more than an opportunity to see some of Europe that I hadn’t seen, before I head off on a cruise from Venice. My three days in Prague was nowhere near enough time to really explore the city, especially when you factor in a day of recovering from the flight over. Thankfully I should be back here in November for TBEX Europe where I can see some of the things I missed.
Time once again to dip into the mailbag and answer questions about all things travel, blogging and Green Bay Packers.
Irish Polygot Benny Lewis asks: My question: Does the sense of wonder diminish with time over travelling, or do you still come across places that leave you breathless?
No, but things are different now.
There is a sense of anticipation and wonder of the unknown that exists when you first start traveling. Most of that feeling really doesn’t have anything to do with any particular location you visit. It is just part of doing something new. The thrill you get of actually being somewhere new, however, is still there for me.
One thing I’ve done is changed how I travel. For the first 2.5 years, I spent most of my time going from place to place as if they are links in a chain. Now I do more jumping around around the world. Next year I might do things in yet a different way. The key to not getting burned out is to change how you do things.
I’ve been to a lot of places, but there are still far more places I haven’t visited, than places I have. I could travel for several decades and never visit a place I’ve been before, with the possible exception of airports.
My arrival in the Czech Republic means not only a new country for me, but a new installment of “8 Facts You Might Not Have Known…”
Prague is the defenestration capitol of the world. If you are like me, you probably love a good defenestration. Two of the most famous defenestrations in world history both occurred in Prague. The first defenestration occurred on July 30, 1419, when seven members of the Prague city council were thrown out by a mob lead by a priest demanding the release of several prisoners. When the city council didn’t give into their demands, the mob stormed the city hall in Charles Square and threw seven people out the window where they were subsequently killed. The second defenestration took place on May 23, 1618, when a group of Protestants threw three Catholic representatives of the Emperor out a third story window in Prague Castle. All of the defenestrated survived the fall by landing in a pile of horse manure. One of the victims, Philip Fabricius who was a secretary to one of the imperial regents, was later given the title the “Baron of Highfall”.
There have been other less noteworthy defenestrations in Prague over the years as well.
The main elements of the massive fortification of San Juan are La Fortaleza, the three forts of San Felipe del Morro, San Cristóbal and San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo), and a large portion of the City Wall, built between the 16th and 19th centuries to protect the city and the Bay of San Juan. They are characteristic examples of the historic methods of construction used in military architecture over this period, which adapted European designs and techniques to the special conditions of the Caribbean port cities. La Fortaleza (founded in the early 16th century and considerably remodeled in later centuries) reflects developments in military architecture during its service over the centuries as a fortress, an arsenal, a prison, and residence of the Governor-General and today the Governor of Puerto Rico.
San Juan is the second oldest city in the Western Hemisphere after Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The old city of San Juan still has the feel of a Spanish Colonial city. The fortifications of the city are still mostly intact and served to defend the San Juan harbor. Tip: If you visit the old city of San Juan, make sure to stop by Carli’s Bistro and listen to former Beach Boy keyboard player Carli Munoz play jazz.
La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States (since Puerto Rico is a territory of the USA). This site was inscribed into the UNESCO list in 1983 for its universal and cultural value. This site consists of secular monuments and military fortifications that are of well-preserved state.
Another factor that enabled it to earn the nod from UNESCO is the significant role it played during the Spanish colonization of the region. The defensive system tells the long and storied past of this region.
About La Fortaleza
La Fortaleza, or The Fortress, is the first half of two major sites encompasses by the UNESCO site La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico. This site is currently the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. This site was built sometime in 1533 to 1540. It was initially built to defend the San Juan harbor from attacks. This structure is also known by another name: Palacio de Santa Catalina. This exclusive mansion is the oldest of its kind in the New World and is the sole structure that is still continuously being used.
In 1640, the chapel of Santa Catalina was demolished from the original structure. Originally, the chapel existed outside of the walls. But during reconstruction, it was integrated into the main walls of the structure.
About San Juan National Historic Site
The San Juan National Historic Site is the other half of this UNESCO property. It is located in the Old San Juan section of the city of San Juan in Puerto Rico. It is also managed by the US National Park Service. This historical site is known for preserving and protecting colonial-era forts in Old San Juan, such as the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Other notable monuments that are protected within this site include powder houses, bastions and the old city walls.
In 1966, this site was added to the list of National Register of Historic Places. By 1983, the San Juan National Historic Site together with La Fortaleza, was designated the World Heritage status by UNESCO. Only 12 US National Parks are also known as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and this is one of them.
Tips for Visiting
Before you visit La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico, here are a few practical tips to know:
This San Juan National Historic Site is open from 9AM to 5PM from Mondays to Fridays. However, La Fortaleza is open from 8AM to 3PM on weekdays.
The address for this UNESCO site is in 501 Norzagaray Street, Castillo San Cristobal, in Old San Juan.
Puerto Rico has a year-round tropical climate. Rain is expected any time of the year, but April is the dry season. If you want to avoid visiting during the hurricane season, do not book a trip in June to November.
An entrance fee of $5 is required for all visitors and it will give you access to the forts in Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
This park and world heritage site is open for wedding and photography locations. You need to pay for administrative and application fee of $150 each. Other fees may apply as well.