Well, I’m finally back from my first solo trip overseas and, rather miraculously, I’m back in one piece and no major dramas! No lost passports, cards or luggage. I did get lost many times, particularly from train stations where my bearings were consistently wrong and stubbornly, I would only ask for directions once I realised that the place was taking much longer to get to than stated. I later learned that if I was certain that I was going the right way, it probably meant I should be heading in the opposite direction!
Over three and a half weeks, I travelled to Seoul, Vienna, Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Teplice, Auschwitz, Krakow, Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, Budapest and finally London. I loved all the places I visited but I especially loved Cesky Krumlov, an UNESCO listed town with most of their original buildings and castle preserved from Medieval times.
Everything was just so picturesque including its state forest where I went for a three hour (mostly downhill) bike ride – the first time I’ve been on a bike for nearly seven years! Somehow, I made it (except for three strenuous hills) and I only crashed once and it was into a fence five minutes away from our finishing point. It was either crashing into an old man hobbling along or the fence. I think I made the right decision. 🙂 In Cesky, I also picked up two books from a charming little bookstore named Shakespeare & Co. (is this a chain?).
Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Cesky
Since my pack was so small (50 litres) and I wanted to travel light, I had made the decision to only buy books that were unique to that particular region. From the bookstore, I selected two books about the Czech Republic – one specifically on Prague and the other containing folklores from regions all over the Republic. Sadly, I only managed to find these sort of folklore books in Cesky Krumlov and so didn’t pick up anymore books until London.
In Vienna, I stopped by their National Library and famous State Hall. The baroque style hall was beautiful but it did somewhat empty of character and I was a little disappointed. Perhaps it was because the library was in the middle of being digitised which is fantastic but, nevetheless, the library was still stunning.
The State Hall - Outside
The State Hall with the bored security guard
Two level of shelves. The frecoes (?) on the roof were also stunning.
There were secret doors hidden amongst the shelves. 🙂
The stunning upper level. I love how the light just hits the statue.
The beautiful roof frescoes. I could have just laid on the ground to stare at them.
While I managed to pop into various bookstores (Budapest was absolutely peppered with great little bookstores), I didn’t do anything else too bookish. However, I did manage get my first snow experience! That’s right, I’d never seen snow until I went to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Not a bad place to experience your first snow. 🙂 The mountains were absolutely stunning and the place was pretty much deserted since it was in between seasons.
Tatra Mountains - The frozen lake
Tatras - that odd thing sticking out is the old ski jump
And, of course, my first snowman 🙂
Another highlight from my travels would have to be meeting other bloggers in London. 🙂 I met the lovely Claire (Paperback Reader), Kim (Reading Matters), Polly (Novel Insights) and Sakura (Chasing Bawa. Also, thanks for the Pocky! They were a great sustenance during those long queues :-)) a few hours after reaching London at Waterstones cafe and, although I was a little tired and sleepy, they provided me with such a warm and friendly welcome and weren’t short of suggestions or handy tips! 🙂 Unfortunately, I forgot to take some pictures. The next day, I met Another Cookie Crumbles, who took time out from her busy schedule, and we had more scones and tea at Harrods and sat talking until we were asked to leave since Harrods had closed half an hour earlier!
In total, I spent nearly five days in London and it was nowhere near enough. The days just flew by incredibly fast and I didn’t manage to do half of what I wanted. I’m suspecting I may have dallied away the time in the many bookstores I disappeared into. I loved Charing Cross and found great little second hand bookstores including one that stocked second hand Persephones. Persephones! I also spent a couple of days tracking down the bookstore. My silly map (although to be fair, it was a bus map) didn’t have Persephone’s street on it and I didn’t write down directions. When I finally found it the next day, I was elated!
At last! Persephones!
I went a little crazy in the store and would have bought far more books if I had more room or the muscles to carry them. I was more than thrilled to find that they had a special on if you bought three books. I also bought some of their lovely postcards and a bag. Ah, if only there were more stores and books like Persephones (especially in Melbourne :-)).
So: my final holiday book loot. I did have to buy an extra bag in the end but nothing terribly extravagant.
Holiday Book Loot
- The Adulterous Woman – Albert Camus (this was waiting for me at home).
- Odour of Chrysanthemums – D. H. Lawrence
- Through the Wall – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (I’ve been wanting to read this since Novel Insight’s review)
- The Tooth – Shirley Jackson
- The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan (this was also waiting at home).
- Sweet Valley Confidential – Francine Pascal. Yes, I know but I couldn’t help it (I’m looking at you, Another Cookie! 🙂 ). It’s also a gift for a friend.
- Two Prague Stories – Rainer Maria Rilke
- 22 Czech Legends – Alena Jezkova
- Frost in May – Antonia White
- Farewell Leicester Square – Betty Miller. A lovely gift from Another Cookie Crumbles.
- The Carlyles at Home – Thea Holme
- There Were No Windows – Norah Hoult
- Miss Buncle’s Book – D. E. Stevenson
- The Blank Wall – Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
- Miss Ranskill Comes Home – Barbara Euphan Todd
I also got two bookmarks. Quite restrained, in my case. One from Prague and another gifted from the lovely Claire. 🙂
And finally, the Persephone bag which I love. I think I had the whole Persephone experience. 🙂
Finally, I managed to only read two books: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson which I absolutely loved although it was quite disturbing and What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. I still have a mixed reaction to that. And now, what should I read next? I obviously don’t have enough books.