Monday, April 11, 2016

Tales from Europe- Part 1

This is Part 1 of my overdue post from our most recent Europe trip, which definitely deserves to be written because the trip was pretty epic, considering we flew across the Atlantic with a 6 month old baby and all! 
We are, admittedly, travel addicts and getting to know new places is our guilty pleasure; now, traveling as a family of 5 is a whole new level of awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks in the old continent with our crew. 
This time around we were lucky to visit 4 amazing cities; Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest and for the purposes of this post I will focus on the first two. 
I will start by saying that traveling with Oliver was much easier than I imagined; I will admit to the fact that on the weeks days leading up to the trip I was starting to doubt myself and feel that I was crazy to even think of taking a baby to such far places and such long trip; I was seriously having nightmares about the plane ride, train travels and everything having to do with the trip but thankfully my baby proved me wrong and things were a breeze. 
Berlin was COLD! To us Floridians, the 30's are definitely unknown territory so we were bundled up the whole time we were there. I wore Oliver most of the time and he remained warm and cozy next to his mama and sleeping away in our Tula carrier. I discovered that Germans, although not the sweetest people, are very kind to babies and their mothers; I enjoyed their cordiality everywhere we went. We got to visit historic places such as the remains of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate and other famous spots in the German capital. 
A few things about Berlin:
- Ice is a foreign concept...what??! I could never enjoy a cold beverage and most places offered NO ICE at all! This is terrible for the ice lover in me...
- Metro tickets are not checked- gotta love the German honor system.. I don't think that would ever fly here!
- Supermarket bags aren't free, I'm sure all my "green" friends would support this want a plastic bag for your groceries? Then you can pay for it!
- No soda refills.. I'm sure it's like that pretty much across Europe, but still awful to me
- Public restrooms aren't free! This is another European thing I always have issues with. Why would people get charged to use the restroom?? Sometimes even as much as a Euro ($1+) and if you don't have change, you're basically screwed because restrooms have a fee even in shopping malls.. Not cool, Europe.. not cool! (kids don't pay so I guess that was a plus)
I really love that the kids learned so much about history during this trip; they really showed genuine interest about the history of the Berlin Wall and the wars and we really enjoyed teaching them about it. I'm a strong believer in exposing the kids to new places and cultures as early as possible.
Here they are learning about East and West Berlin and the location of the Wall. 

About to start our tour of the Berlin Wall

Iggy "crossing" the Wall

The girls being tourists in Berlin..

Family at the Brandenburg Gate

..and the girls with the Bear, which is the mascot of Berlin.  There are literally hundreds of bears around the city, all painted with a different theme.  The girls enjoyed finding new bears all over the place and taking pictures with each of them.  This was one of the highlights of this city. 

Our second city was Prague, which is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Prague has the most beautiful buildings, bridges, lakes, churches, etc.  We got to Prague via train, which I must say is an amazing way to travel with kids.  
Trains in Europe are like metros on steroids since they combine the convenience of metro platforms and the comfort of a train. Arriving 30 minutes prior to departure time is more than enough so this makes traveling much easier. Trains also feature small snack bars, clean restrooms, private cabins (optional) and curtains to block out the light.  The kids really enjoyed the train travels and so did we. 
Here they are with daddy arriving at the Prague train station.  

Some things about Prague:
- People are pretty rough around the edges; I thought many of them were quite rude and not very welcoming, especially considering how touristic Prague is. 
- Not very many spoke English but most of them at least tried. Czech can be a very difficult language to understand...
- Again.. NO ICE.. omg! Next time I'm bringing my own ice machine
- Fast food places have no trash cans but rather a tray storage system for people to just leave them there to be picked up
- Bathrooms aren't free! This seriously drives me nuts.. but in Prague was even worse than in Berlin because even kids were charged for restrooms! Even McDonald's charged for restrooms for its customers.
- The Czech local currency (Koruna) made for very CHEAP things. I guess the exchange rate worked in our favor and this one one of the cheapest places we visited. Score!

Tour buses are amazing when traveling with kids; they make for an easy way to get to know the whole city by exploring the main highlights and you can go at your own pace. Hop On Hop Off buses also offer voice narration in many languages, which makes for an even more entertaining journey. In most cases, kids are free and  prices are fairly affordable.  We used these tour buses in every city and they were a real hit!

Here's the family at Prague Castle, one of the most iconic buildings in this beautiful city. 

The kids being tourists in Prague.  These fellas were hilarious and earned their tip by making the girls feel like real queens with all their props...This picture will turn into a classic in no time. 

Prague had the most amazing views and the weather was warmer than Berlin, which made for way more comfortable days for this tropical family. 

I got to fulfill one of my life long dream of visiting the Infant of Prague at the Church of Our Lady Victorious.  Not only did I get to visit this amazing place, but we also got to attend Easter mass there and enjoy the wonderful vibe that filled the whole place.  What a blessing!

Celebrating Easter in Prague was pretty epic; we enjoyed one of the most perfect days and spent some time at Old Town Square, one of the most visited spots in the city. 

Prague's architecture was breathtaking.  Here's the Ginger & Fred building, a famous structure by Frank Gehry and quite peculiar. This one is worth the million pictures we took of it. Lovely place. 

We really enjoyed visiting Berlin and Prague and the kids did incredibly well during this adventure. The food was delicious, the days were beautiful, our hotels were amazing and everything was perfect. Most people speak English but communicating was easier in Germany than in the Czech Republic.  We especially enjoyed trying local foods such as the Trdelnik and getting to visit iconic buildings. 
On my next post, I will write about Vienna and Budapest as well as our return flight and other adventures from our journey and additional recommendations for traveling Europe with small children. 

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