Prague; tired legs, drunk bodies, cultured minds

Hello lovely people!

Onwards and upwards with more adventures from my European trip. Round 2 for my tour team signified my return to Prague, a city which firmly stole my heart this time around. It’s a beautiful city, with a much more traditional feel than Berlin. But, perhaps more importantly, the beer is cheaper… (thanks Eastern Europe).

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John Lennon Wall; the perfect opportunity for our first full group picture

How It Went Down

The team arrived in Praha Hlavní Nádraží at 9:30pm, leaving our new German friend (who had spent the whole journey laughing at our idiocy) behind. More importantly at this point my lovely college wife (don’t ask, I’ll explain later) Oana joined us; you bet I jumped on her in the station. We then walked to our hostel as it wasn’t so far from the station, checked in and made it our home for the next 2 nights.

The Hostel

This might be one of my favourite hostels I’ve ever stayed in. A Plus Hostel cost the equivalent of €18 a night, and god was it worth every cent.

We shared an eight bed room which was very spacious, and even had the exciting added extra of a table (you know you’ve done too much budget travelling when even a table excites you). The main thing I loved about the room was that the four bunk beds were arranged in a circular fashion, which made it much more communal than the traditional rows often used by hostels. It’s the little things.

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE SHOWERS. After living in a flat with shower pressure that was more dripping hosepipe than hair-washing for a year this hostel’s showers felt like you were being pelted in the face, it was so good! The boys would like to make it be known that the men’s showers didn’t have curtains though, something which I only heard about once or twice (or eight times…).

Two words. Free. Breakfast. I’ve been disappointed by far too many hostel’s offer of a bit of bread and some weak juice to feel anything but apprehension for that kind of advertisement, but this breakfast was mad good. Cake, coffee, meats, bread, fruit, yoghurt, and a toastie machine (!!!) was a perfect way to wake up everyday. Oh and did I mention that this was all served in an underground bar/restaurant with the coolest aesthetic ever?

My final plus because this section has gone on for far too long already is that the hostel is located across the road from Florenc metro station, making travel super easy. However, it’s also a short walk away from most of the city’s main attractions, so we only found ourselves using the metro on our second day. When I next find myself in Prague I will definitely be staying at A Plus again.

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Look how spacious and communal it is! Fab fab fab hostel

Wait… What Actually Happened?

After arriving pretty late at night we woke up ready for a full day of sightseeing. As I said earlier we chose to do it all on foot, which definitely felt fitting in an older city. We saw all of the main sights thanks to our fabulous Eastern Europe correspondent Natalia, from the Astronomical Clock to Charles Bridge, the John Lennon Wall and Old Town Square. The main thing I loved about doing this was the wandering; cute little side streets, chilling in parks and getting to know each other on that level you never really get to until you travel together along the way.

After all that walking it only felt right to spend the evening sitting down. Naturally, we found a bar in which to do so. When I visited Prague for the first time in 2017 I stumbled upon U Vejvodu by accident when looking for somewhere cheap to have drinks on the last night of our trip. Turns out it’s a pretty big deal online, and more importantly it’s absolutely huge, with outdoor beer gardens as well as spacious indoor rooms. The night started with Czech beer costing a dangerous £1.50 a pint. Enter a lot of rounds of never have I ever, a few more rounds of beer, and we found ourselves at shots of tequila and absinthe. Safe to say I was a little worse for wear by the time we arrived back at our hostel…

My notes for day two start with the words “Big hill and tower – cool view but v hot”, which just about sums it up. The hill in question was Petrov hill, with stunning views across the whole city. Personally I was a bit out of it on this particular morning (no, it wasn’t due to the alcohol, which surprises even me), so I probably didn’t appreciate this opportunity as much as I usually would.

My highlight of the day was Prague’s beautiful Old Town, the area which surrounds Petrov hill. There we visited Prague castle, as well as spending a little more time taking in the architecture and general surroundings. If you take anything from this post, take that I love having a good wander and a good look at cool stuff.

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Natalia is wasted on Philosophy and Psychology, please harass @nataliagola on Instagram to become a full time tour guide

Obviously then we had to watch football come home, returning to our haunt from the night before for another beer alongside the game. To complete my middle-aged Englishman aesthetic I chose to put bets on this particular match (and by I, I mean Callum chose me some bets and I paid for them and pocketed the cash), bets which actually came through and won me £18. Thanks England, guess I’m a football fan now.

Our Unplanned Escape

Now, the plan was to leave Prague at around 9pm and take a night train onto our final destination; Budapest. Whilst this was only for half of the group due to the train being sold out, it seemed like a pretty solid way to wake up feeling refreshed in a brand new city.

Oh how wrong we were…

When the four of us arrived on the train, we were told (quite rudely, might I add), that our ticket had been booked for the wrong date. Arriving back on the platform we found that yup, our ticket was for the wrong month completely, after a nightmarish booking scenario involving lots of phonecalls and badly designed Czech websites. So, we obviously had to find another route.

We quickly discovered that the next train out of Prague that was heading to Budapest wasn’t until 6am the next morning. Now, I don’t know about you, but spending the night in an Eastern European train station was a little too on the terrifying side for me. There had to be another way. I mentioned earlier that only half of our group were taking the train, as the remaining four were opting for Flixbus, a Polish bus company who work just like National Express coaches in the UK.

FLIXBUS SAVED THE DAY; HELL YES! We were able to book four seats on the Flixbus our friends had been taking all along, and whilst it was a little bit of extra money and stress, personally I didn’t find the ordeal too horrific – it’s all part of the life of a traveller. There’s a lot of entertaining little stories to go along with the journey, but I think I’ll save those for the next post (hah, now you have to come back)

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Ok but Oana’s face is the biggest mood (Brno, near the Hungarian border, 6am)

So, that was Prague! A cultural gem best discovered on foot, with bar prices to die for thrown in for good measure. The city has definitely given me an appetite to see more of the Czech Republic – who knows where I’ll go next.

Come back next week to hear about my Flixbus “nightmare” (I’m still not sure if it was tragic or hillarious).

-Megan, listening to Mellow Pop on Spotify because I’ve gone mad

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Berlin, the city of veganism, gayness and lefties

Hello lovely people!

It’s been a while since I posted anything, because I’ve hardly even been in my area, let alone my own house! Sorry not sorry though, because I’ve been having far too much (expensive) fun and now you will get far too many (overindulgent) posts.

So, let’s kick it all off with a throwback to the start of July. I spent a week travelling through Berlin, Prague and Budapest using pretty much every type of public transport possible with 7 other friends – staying in hostels, seeing the sights and drinking (a bit too much of) the beer. There’s going to be a post for each city because I am very extra like that, and in the interests of chronology we’re venturing to Berlin, Germany first.

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How It Went Down

After an uneventful train ride to Manchester and an overpriced airport pint, myself and my friend Ffion arrived in Schönefeld airport mid-Tuesday afternoon. We met the rest of our group who had arrived earlier that day from Warsaw and London before checking into home for 2 nights; Generator Prenzlauer Berg. We spent 2 further days in Berlin before taking a train to Prague on Thursday evening. All good in the hood.

The Hostel

At €27 per night, Generator was our priciest hostel, and whilst it’s difficult to compare value for money between Western and Eastern Europe, this was by far my least favourite hostel.

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I stole this photo from Google because I’m too shit at blogging to remember to take accomodation pics

We were greeted by a pretty grumpy receptionist, although to be fair I can sympathise as someone who works in customer service and also has to deal with the hell that is the general public. We had one room of three and one of four, and whilst they were small, they were pretty functional (even a mirror!), so no real issues there. The real problem was the school trip.

Yup. Come on holiday only to feel like you’re back at school again.

Thanks to my almost constantly awful luck we had been allocated the very room that the teachers had decided to sit in front of all night. Combine their chats with the screaming kids at 6am and it’s safe to say not much sleep was occurring in Berlin. This is my main gripe with hostels like Generator & Meininger; they’re just too big-business. I’ve stayed in some Generators with better atmospheres, but for me they always miss the home-grown atmosphere of the independents. I like those that are off the beaten track and communal, not chosen by teachers for their overzealous branding.

That said, the showers were alright and the public transport links were ridiculously close so I shouldn’t complain. It was okay, we were comfortable, I just wouldn’t rush back.

Wait… What Actually Happened?

Well, England were playing in the World Cup on night one, so that was basically required viewing. This resulted in us ending up in a locals-focused German smoking bar full of opposition fans, in which my friend Natalia got yelled at to leave because she didn’t want to drink. Carlsbergs all round then, mostly drunk by me, some thrown over me by Callum (I’m definitely not still bitter about that). On the plus side England won, so we quite rapidly paid the bill and got the hell out of there.

A big highlight for me was Museum Island. There’s an option to buy a ticket for all the museums on the island, but we decided against paying as it was quite expensive, and that would cut into the beer money. Instead we spent a good while just wandering around the area. Some of the buildings there are absolutely stunning, whether that be the museums themselves or the famed Berliner Dom cathedral. We even decided to walk from the island to see the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag, which in hindsight wasn’t our best decision on one of the hottest days of the trip, but I live to tell the sweaty tale.

 

 

Out of all of the museums we chose the DDR museum, because I fucking love Cold War era history. It was definitely worthwhile! The place was completely packed with information taking you right from the rise of Hitler to the fall of the Berlin Wall. I particularly loved their mockup of a typical East Berlin apartment during the German Democratic Republic, as well as the interactive exhibits throughout the museum.

 

 

You can’t go to Berlin without seeing the iconic symbols that map out 20th century German history, so we made sure to head to Checkpoint Charlie, the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Checkpoint Charlie is very tourist-heavy now, with even a lovely ironic McDonald’s alongside it to cater to all this capitalism. Crossing the road however you’ll find information boards everywhere; plenty more fuel for my Cold War fix.

I love the East Side Gallery so much. It’s the ultimate fuck you. The Berlin Wall was the biggest symbol of division and oppression in the world for 28 years, so to see it transformed into an area of artistic freedom and diversity is just beautiful. To me it represents every value I hold of fighting for a better world for everyone, regardless of anything that may try to divide us.

 

 

We also visited the Olympia Stadion which I’m reliably informed is one of the last standing buildings that Hitler commissioned. I had no prior knowledge of this, but it proved yet again to me how much I love a good monument with a bit of past behind it. Also, quick fix for my architecture obsession, so I was very happy.

But Really Are You Eating Tho?

Berlin’s food is INSANE. Like, wow.

My biggest favourites were Vöner and Pizza Peppino. Voner is an all-vegan kebab place, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more content to eat a kebab whilst sober. Located in the vegetarian/vegan heavy neighbourhood of Ostkreuz, my vegan kebab was cheap, filling and served by very friendly staff. If you’re in Berlin you’d be mad to miss it. Pizza Peppino was a bit more of a random choice, as I can’t for the life of me remember what we were doing by Oranienburger Tor that lunchtime. That said, it was another cheap choice, and made sure everyone was full-enough to be satisfied by our train picnic dinner.

Special shoutout to Prater Garten for being the cutest beer garden I’ve ever drunk in – it’s not the cheapest but has such a cool atmosphere!

Other special shoutout to REWE supermarket for providing me with my supply of ricecakes and knockoff hazelnut spread for the week’s breakfasts; you the real MVP.

 

 

THAT WAS BERLIN, I’m going to leave it there before I fall asleep at my keyboard.

I wouldn’t think twice about returning. Berlin has a very modern feel to it, with efficient public transport, quirky neighbourhoods and it’s openness to veganism and us LGBTQ+ folks. However, it’s still steeped in history and geopolitics and I love it for that too. Basically, it satisfies my edginess, gayness, vegetarian tendencies, nerdiness and political interests all at the same time. I was one very happy Megan by the time I got on that train to Prague, if a little sad to leave such an amazing city behind.

Stay tuned for the more chaotic stories that are Prague and Budapest 😉

 

-Megan, listening to the Love Simon soundtrack like an actual piece of gay trash

2018; a year of absolute bangers (so far…)

I am famously awful at keeping up with new releases. I know, for someone who claims music to be one of the biggest parts of her life I’m a bit useless. I just listen to way too much stuff now; gone are the days of being 14 and refusing to listen to anything without guitars in. I float aimlessly between rock and pop, grunge and grime, metal and indie, aiming to find the best bits of each.

2018 has been an absolute belter of a year for new releases so far. Gigs have taken a backseat, paving the way for some truly striking new albums. Let’s take a look.

 

Pray for the Wicked – Panic! At The Disco

pray-for-the-wickedAllow me to be a bit of a dick for a minute – it’s no I Write Sins… is it? I don’t even always long for the emo days; Death of a Bachelor was and still is a huge hit for me. I’m just not seeing the same strong voice and emotion in this album. I can still see the lyrical creativity we know and love in songs like Roaring 20s, and (Fuck a) Silver Lining will always be a bop, but in reality it’s an album made for the mainstream. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic and a little pompous, but god I miss the old days. Perhaps it’ll grow on me, perhaps it won’t, but for now at least Pray for the Wicked isn’t the album for me.

If you listen to anything, listen to Hey Look Ma, I Made It and Roaring 20s

 

Staying at Tamara’s – George Ezra

This has to be up there in the best pop albums of the last ten years. It’s fresh, summery 71Lj0GBhLfL._SL1211_.jpgand feel-good, supported by a continually unique vocal. However much I hear these songs on the radio, they’re not getting old, something which pop is often tainted by. They’re the kind of songs that make you want to dance, fall in love, have adventures with your friends and party. I cannot wait to see some of these hits live at Truck Festival next weekend.

If you listen to anything, listen to Hold My Girl, Pretty Shining People and Shotgun

 

Knowing What You Know Now – Marmozets

Marmozets-Knowing-What-You-Know-NowMarmozets are quite possibly my favourite modern metal band, and this album proves that. I’d argue it’s less heavy than the last, but considering it’s only their second album this kind of musical diversity is still to be expected, and definitely suits them. The album is the perfect balance of fast-paced energy in songs like Major System Error and quieter appraisals of the band’s ability to take it slow in songs like Me & YouI also really appreciate a move into the political with a dip into working-class culture in Like A Battery, something which I hope to see more of from Marmozets.

If you listen to anything, listen to Like A Battery, Lost in Translation and Run With The Rhythm 

 

A Dying Machine – Tremonti

I’m still gutted I had to work for Tremonti’s most recent Glasgow date, because I’m tremonti_a_dying_machine_0618beginning to think this album is my favourite to date. It’s a concept album following a story, which gives the album a cohesiveness I’ve never seen before from the band. The breakdowns are tight, guitars big as always, and Mark Tremonti’s vocal development appears to have reached a new level. Along with their support spot for Iron Maiden, 2018 is looking like Tremonti’s year.

If you listen to anything, listen to Throw Them To The Lions and Trust

 

Kindness is the New Rock and Roll – Peace

PastedGraphic-2_1Here lies the reason why I bought a Thursday entry ticket for Truck Festival. This album confirms Peace’s place at the forefront of indie rock, taking a more guitar-filled approach to their music than ever before. Everything from the huge vocal of Power to the intricate intro of Angel confirms this as a huge album for this sphere of music. Peace’s development is fantastic to see, and I’m excited to see where they go next.

If you listen to anything, listen to You Don’t Walk Away From Love, Kindness is the New Rock and Roll and From Under Liquid Glass 

 

Combat Sports – The Vaccines

The Vaccines have been a background band for so many years for me, never really 105492appearing at the forefront of my listening habits but never fully leaving them. Combat Sports has changed that. It builds upon their former releases, meaning it satisfies my need for a perfect balance between progression and keeping a similar sound. Filled with big festival-style songs like Nightclub and slower, sexier songs like Young American (which I think may be one of my favourite songs of all time), this album does not disappoint.

If you listen to anything, listen to Young American, I Can’t Quit and Rolling Stones

 

Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life – The Wombats

wombats_beautiful_people_will_ruin_your_life_0218_v2The Wombats have to win the award for most relatable title right? The band have come a long way since the very teenage approach to life featured in Proudly Present…, meaning for me this album represents a real maturity we didn’t see much of from the band until now. That said, we still get our fix of party lifestyle lyrics in Lethal Combination, along with their classic relatableness in I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do. It’s perhaps not as much of a festival album as their past music, but this is a welcome change for me.

If you listen to anything, listen to Lethal Combination, Turn and I Only Wear Black

 

Megaplex – We Are Scientists

What better way to end than with my most anticipated album of the year, Megaplex. Wewe-are-scientists-megaplex Are Scientists have a special place in my heart and my past, meaning I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed with this album. My main issue is with the overuse of synths. I don’t think they particularly add anything to the band’s sound, and take away from some of the authenticity we know and love. But, if I’m honest, I’m being overly picky here, and lusting for the days of With Love and Squalor. I still think they’re one of the most underrated bands in rock, and wouldn’t hesitate to see them live again.

If you listen to anything, listen to Your Light Has Changed, KIT and Now or Never

 

How are we only 6.5 months in? I’m now patiently awaiting tours following these albums, as well as the other new releases coming up from As It Is, Emma Blackery and Twenty One Pilots to name but a few. Or, maybe I’ll go full time metalhead and ignore them all. Only time will tell…

 

-Megan, listening to inventively titled playlist “Pissed in a Field” (it’s my Truck Fest favourites; I’m way too excited)