This blog consists of 3 parts, focussed on Prague, Austria & Bratislava, and Budapest respectively. Feel free to jump to the section of your choice.
The capital cities of Prague, Vienna & Budapest are often referred to as the Golden Triangle. And while little Bratislava often passes under the radar, it deserves attention during any visit to this area - for the welcoming people, if nothing else. In 11 days, we covered all these cities, AND a fascinating Austrian gem a.k.a must-visit, even though it took us beyond the triangle. This is Part 2 of the blog. To see Part 1 (Prague) click here.
Part 2 - Austria & Bratislava: For us, the trip comprised of two parts: city and the mountains.
Day 1 & Day 2 - If possible, we’d advise you to take a train straight to Halstatt, past Linz. This will allow you to stop by to see the city if you’d like. It depends on the time of the year because your trip really should revolve around the opening times for Krippenstein cable cars from Obertraun. What’s all this, you ask?
Hallstatt is considered one of the prettiest little towns in existence. A picture-perfect lake town, it’s a hidden gem that a lucky few have been able to visit. Like us, there is a good chance that you too might see yourself retiring here. Luckily, the train station is on the other side of the lake, which means not only do you get a jaw dropping view of rivers, lush greenery and snow-capped mountains to train-ride by, you also get to ride a boat on the pristine lake to the gates of the town. Take your time here, but make sure you’re back across the lake to catch the train to the very next stop (literally 2 minutes away) at Obertraun. Timing is key to catch one of the last cable cars going uphill. Two rides up will leave you top of the Austrian Alps, at Krippenstein. The day we arrived was the first day of the season (hence, the need to time our entire trip around this). If a lucky few get to Hallstatt, the luckier still get to Krippenstein.
This station is second of three stations on this route, with the final station leading to the Dachstein glacier. There is a lodge here for you to spend the night (highly recommended), and there are several hikes and paragliding options to take your breath away. Do read our dedicated blog on this part of the trip (because it deserves one of its own!).
Day 3 & Day 4 – It’s a 4-hour journey to Vienna which, to our own admission, did get a limited share of our itinerary. But we found that it was enough still. There’s a lot to do in Vienna, like in any major capital - the river side, Duomo and the shopping streets around this main cathedral being prime examples. Both the cathedral and the brand-laden streets surrounding it are worth lingering in. A few peculiar visits on our itinerary included a visit to the Schmetterlinghaus: The Imperial Butterfly Park, and a gentle walk down the street to the Sacher Hotel for their uber-famous Sachertorte - a classic Viennese cake that combines chocolate and jam in a heavily guarded original recipe invented by Austrian Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich.
Across the street from the Sacher Hotel is the royal Vienna State Opera, worth a visit and even an opera show if it meets your taste. Mr. Fly and I went, tuxed and dressed respectively, to catch Fidelio, the only opera written by Beethoven. And in a classically loco fashion, we walked out of the regality to grab a falafel pita on a streetside bench at a little stall - oh, the memories!
Day 5 - The next day was Mr. Fly’s birthday and he of course planned it in a novel fashion. To put it succinctly, we woke up in Vienna, spent the day in Bratislava and slept off in Budapest (Leaving me to plan this part of his day)! The three capital cities are amazingly close to each other and Bratislava deserves a stop on the way. The residents were the friendliest we came across on our trip. The city is small enough to cover on foot in a day. You can start at the Bratislava castle (though, with Budapest castle coming up too, you may find yourself overwhelmed by castle visits). Stroll out to the other side of Staromestska street to zigzag across the little alleyways, exploring the shops, the Roland’s Fountain, the famous Man at Work statue, and Laurinska street until you arrive at the picturesque Blue Church. This stretch post the castle can also be done in reverse fashion, as it will conveniently lead you close to the Most SNP or the Bridge of Slovak National Uprising. On the other end of this bridge is the UFO observation deck and restaurant, an excellent spot towering over the city to feast and drink through a sunset on river Danube. An honourary mention must also be made to Teleport for the party afficionados, but then there’s something even more amazing awaiting in our next phase of the trip. Let’s jump straight to it. Click here to head to Part 3 of our trip!
This blog consists of 3 parts, focussed on Prague, Austria & Bratislava, and Budapest respectively. Feel free to jump to the section of your choice.
The capital cities of Prague, Vienna & Budapest are often referred to as the Golden Triangle. And while little Bratislava often passes under the radar, it deserves attention during any visit to this area - for the welcoming people, if nothing else. In 11 days, we covered all these cities, AND a fascinating Austrian gem a.k.a must-visit, even though it took us beyond the triangle. Here is how to do it all right.
Part 1: Prague: The sheer medieval beauty of this city is nestled within the vast central area that we covered mostly on foot.
Day 1 – We arrived in Prague in the afternoon, to the classic issue of misplaced baggage that forced us to return to the airport in the evening. I noticed a somewhat ordinary setting for most of the journey past the outskirts and outer zones to our B&B. So Mr. Fly used that disruption to give me a glimpse of what Prague was really about - not the castle, nor the bridge, but a walk through the old town streets and past the Old Town square bustling with a fair that beckoned us to try an ice-cream filled chimney cake. Once properly settled with the luggage safe and sound, we returned to this square to truly begin the journey. It turned out to be a great place to start (and why you should try to stay close to the area as well) for 3 reasons:
Day 2 – We woke up late & headed out for a very Czech-start to our morning: the Beer Spa! Yes, you read that right. The Beer Spa is just as awesome as it sounds. Click here to read more about this unique beer soaked spa experience!
With the spa and unconventional breakfast behind us, we took a streetcar across the river to the Prague Castle area, getting off near Malostranska. The thing about this area is that it is its own walker’s paradise, just like the Old Town square on the other side of the river. We realized this in blissfully ignorant fashion once it was too late to head to the castle.
Our lunch stop was at Secret Garden Cafe close to the Charles bridge. Find it and don’t miss it, if the idea of escaping in a beautiful quiet little courtyard appeals to you. Their sandwiches are worth trying, though you will get your fill simply by being in the moment there. Once out, head to the nearby Vojan Gardens for three things: the garden itself, a curiously & almost eerily beautiful Dripstone Wall, and the peacocks!
From the gardens, we traced our step backwards to explore the rest of Mala Strana, taking a pit stop at the Gingerbread museum store on the Neurdova street and then at the cutest little streetside patio crowned naturally by leaves just a few steps further ahead. This was our Spritz Aperol stop. As we walked further, we finally arrived at what would turn a non-vegetarian like me into a Vegan food lover. Keeping any biases aside, I’d strongly recommend the restaurant Vegan’s Prague, not only for deh-li-ci-ous-ly unique food but also the gasp-worthy view from their terrace seating of the Prague Castle. Once again cozy, once again secretive and once again mesmerizing, it stamped more and more why Prague is simply lovely.
We walked rather aimlessly through the streets, trying to soak it in as we made our way to the river side, almost pretending we were in Paris. The feeling couldn’t be more contrasting, Prague having more of a medieval charm, romantic in the way watching spooky movies cuddled in your beau’s arms is. Mr. Fly testifies that the experience doubles if you visit in the foggy fall season, though I can now vouch that Spring is no less amazing.
Take a moment at the riverside once you reach it to admire the Charles Bridge from underneath as well as the brightly lit opposite bank. We spent the evening walking across the bridge again (it was equivalent to our treatment of Eiffel Tower in that we just kept coming back to it), along the eastern bank until the Narodni crossing, which feels like the edge of the old-and-beauty this city has to offer, and eventually back to our base.
Day 3 - This was the day of Prague Castle. It’s a good idea to head to the Letna hill and explore the Letna beer garden and the towering Prague Metronome first. From here, you can hike up to the Prague Castle. Our plan was to save time for some shopping, so we skipped it and a streetside breakfast aside, made our way up the hill and bought one of the shorter packages at the ticket counter that allowed us to see some of the high points, including the main church, the castle halls with a grand balcony view of the city, the mini township as well as the medieval torture prison, armoury, chemist lab, and some crossbow shooting. The walk back from the other end of the castle goes past a little vineyard if you’d like to splurge a bit. The next few hours went by shopping in one of the city malls far away from the touristy Old Prague, before making our way to the last stop - the stretch of Wenceslas Square with Narodni museum at one end. If you time it right, you can catch a semi-private concert in the museum. Alternatively, just walk the length of the square, visiting the many shops and munching on this-or-that.
Prague has a ton of other things to explore - the dancing building, the sex machines or the beer museum (both of which sound more hype though) and the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, and Lazne na Lodi (or Sauna in a boat, open seasonally), to name a few. If you have a day to spare, you can also consider visiting Cesky Raj, which makes for a beautiful day trip to the other end of Czech Republic, worth visiting. For us, it was time for the next phase of the trip - Austria. Click here to read more on how you can explore Austria and Bratislava in 5 days!
If you’ve ever lived in Canada or even visited it you are probably aware of the “winter blues” that drag on for nearly half of the year. So when the warm summer breeze finally starts to blow and our heavy jackets start getting packed up each one of us hits the street looking for some fun summer activities to get that gloomy feeling out. That’s where Uxbridge comes in! Known as the Trail Capital of Canada, this little town is the perfect destination to get your summer vibes back on.
Ideally worth a day trip, Uxbridge is easily accessible via the GO bus from Toronto and takes usually about 1 hour 30 min to 2 hours during peak hours. A good way to start this day trip is with a wholesome brunch at Urban Pantry Restaurant located at 4 Toronto St N, Uxbridge, ON L9P 1E6. While I loved it, Mr. Fly found it great, but not quite up to Cafe Belong. Some options worth trying include their Eggs Benny, soft poached eggs, spinach & mushroom, rosemary focaccia, hollandaise. served with home fries and the Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes made of macerated berries, lemon confit, whipped mascarpone, pefferlaw dark maple syrup. Wash this delicious duo down with either a glass of their Mimosa or the classic Cappuccino! Okay, the growling belly now needs a chance at redemption. It's time to hit the trails! Uxbridge has Nine Town Trails in and around the town of Uxbridge that link into a growing network of Countryside Trails linking the smaller communities, and tying into two major trails that intersect in the township – the Trans-Canada Trail and the Oak Ridges Trail.
Upon the advice of our helpful server at the restaurant, we decided not to walk to the trail but opt for the local taxi service (You can call one at (905) 852-2222). Our driver was a friendly old man who was more than happy to see us to the starting point of our trail as well as to chat about how much he adores the little town for its cosiness. He was kind enough to actually hang about the town till we got done and come back to pick us up! With our return plans in place we were now off to the start of our hiking adventure at the Glen Major Forest trail. Upon entry we were greeted with rolling plains of greenery, buzzine beez, butterflies and flowers that added just the right touch of pretty. The trail took us about 3 hours to and fro (including a point in the busy forest where it seemed met another trail (the Trans-Canada?) and ended at the Glen Major Forest viewing point. Now this is an unassuming piece of gem that you may easily just walk by. We’d recommend you stop “to smell the roses”. Sit down at one of the jutting rocks and look out at the vast expanse of rolling greens, smell the fresh grass, feel the sun soak your skin and float your senses through the lack of sound, except the occasional bird and your own breathing. This panoramic view truly caps that break you needed from city life that got you here in the first place.
My advice to those who choose to take this hike on would be to carry sunscreen and maybe some mosquito repellents (afterall the area is surrounded by unending tall trees, rolling hills and all of mother nature's natural creations untouched by man!). Saying our goodbyes for the day, we caught our cab back, to the York-Durham Heritage Railway (YDHR). If you time it right and plan in advance, YDHR runs fun train rides for its passengers on occasional evenings every year! Choose between an escape train where the Copper Cogg Society offers you the chance to get initiated by them by hunting clues and solving puzzles! The fictional Society is rather picky about who it lets in, after all! Or are you instead up to challenge your detective skills? In that case, try the Murder Mystery where you can join some of the Society's brilliant scientists in an opportunity to show off your most wondrous ideas. And if you simply want to relax and have a fun evening with your family and kids then you can choose between Winne’s Train Festival, Thomas train, Passenger Appreciation BBQ and many more!
Our adventure began at the station at 7:00 pm when we climbed the mysterious heritage train. Upon sitting at your reserved table you will find a few puzzles neatly placed for you to get a head start with. Meanwhile, the hosts start you off with your pre-selected three-course dinner consisting of Veg, Chicken or Fish dishes while the train takes you across a scenic route for about 2 to 3 hours. If, like us, you forget to reserve your bottle of wine or beer, you can purchase them on board too. Once the 3-course meals are done, it’s time to take part in the “Initiation” with a series of interactive experience featuring live actors and puzzle challenges - a cross between dinner theatre and an escape room, but with a running countryside view!
As we came back to Toronto, we couldn’t believe the layer of dust the city seemed to have been blanketed in. Only gradually did we realize that it was an entire day in Uxbridge’s pristine clear air that had made the city air stand out so sharply. And that sums up the little town. For the country’s Trail Capital, we remain astonished at how little known Uxbridge is. But that, perhaps, is its biggest charm. One way or the other, it makes for a cosy day trip.
Who are Mrs. & Mr. Fly?
Mr. Fly is a central character in the ongoing Kalki Evian series of books. Originally conjured in the fictional narrative to describe an unbiased view of our everyday world, he was soon joined in real life by a jolly Mrs. Fly who taught him how to truly discover pleasures in little things often missed while living out fast-paced lives. As they began exploring, this blog took shape with a view to share what they saw.