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Archive for March, 2012

Until a few weeks ago, we had envisioned Budapest as one city, but the fact is  there are many sides to this spectacular place.  From a literal perspective, there are two sides, Buda and Pest, sitting opposite each other along the Danube River. They officially became one city in 1873 and today are joined by a series of bridges and rail lines that make up the greater city of Budapest. However, beyond the two banks of the river, lie the many different faces of Budapest, and this is what makes it such a great place to visit; there is something for everyone.

Budapest for the History Buff

Like many other capital cities in Europe, Budapest features a historic castle quarter. Located on the Buda side of the river, Castle Hill is the place to go for the best views of the city, and it is home to several museums and monuments including, not only Buda Castle, but numerous churches, the National Széchenyi Library and Sándor Palace, the official residence of Hungary’s President.

Check out this spectacular diamond tiled roof of the Matthias Church on the Buda side

View of the Hungarian Parliament Building as seen from Fisherman’s Bastion

After exploring the castle district, take a ride on Budapest’s underground metro system, the oldest subway system in continental Europe. Many of the stations have classy tile work and a very historic feel to them. Lastly, don’t miss the Hungarian National Museum which houses great exhibits about the nation’s history and current archeological excavations.

Budapest for the Foodie

Eastern European food is generally not anything to write home about; but, we had high expectations for Budapest. The bar was set high by one of our favorite restaurants from home, a Hungarian spot in Denver called Budapest Bistro. We were not disappointed. Hungarian food takes the basic meat and starch components that are used in so many Eastern European countries and jazzes it up with paprika. This spice doesn’t add heat, but flavor. Some of our favorites included: chicken paprikash, rabbit in red wine sauce and garlic seasoned goose leg.

Chicken paprikash with spaetzle…this picture does not do it justice, we were more concerned with eating it at the time than getting a good shot

In addition to the traditional Hungarian restaurants that cover the streets of Buda and Pest, you should also check out the Central Market Hall (Nagy Vasarcsarnok). At a first glance, this market looks like any other in Europe with produce, meat and seafood stands, but upstairs there are several food counters where you can graze to your heart’s content. We particularly loved the stuffed cabbage rolls.

Nagycsarnok in Budapest – Home of many delicious Hungarian food stands

Budapest for the Party Fiend

If you don’t look closely, you may miss one of the most interesting parts of Budapest’s nightlife: ruin bars. Tucked into warehouses and dilapidated buildings, these bars are often unmarked and therefore easy to miss. Stop by during the day for a relaxing coffee or beer, or visit on a Friday and Saturday night to experience the liveliest atmosphere in town. Ruin bars are eclectically decorated, including anything from rusted old cars that have been converted into seating to toilets that are being used as planting boxes. They feature many types of entertainment from DJs to dancers to interactive art pieces.

Funky decor in Szimpla’s outdoor patio

Random and fun interactive art piece in Szimpla Ruin Bar. This basic circuit board controls a crazy assortment of lights, bells, whistles and music.

Hidden seating area at a Budapest ruin bar

If you want to read a detailed summary of ruin bars in Budapest, check out this post.

Budapest for some R&R

Likely brought into popularity when the Turks invaded Hungary, gyógyfürdő (thermal baths) are a traditional part of Hungarian life. These facilities usually include indoor and outdoor pools whose temperatures vary based on the minerals of which they are composed. Definitely set aside at least one full-day for relaxing in a fürdő during your visit to Budapest. We loved our visit to Széchenyi Fürdő, one of Europe’s largest thermal baths situated in the center of City Park. You can purchase tickets which provide access to various services, ranging from the use of the basic thermal baths for about 3,000 HUF to pool access with a private cabin, including massages and spa treatments for upwards of 9,000 HUF.

Outdoor thermal baths at Széchenyi Fürdő. These get up to 38 degrees Celsius – the biggest hot tub we’ve ever seen!

Locals playing chess in the thermal baths. They must be prune proof.

One of the indoor thermal baths at Széchenyi Fürdő

If public baths aren’t your style, no need to worry; head over to Margaret Island (Margitsziget). This island park sits right in the middle of the Danube River and can easily be reached by foot or by public transportation. The park is just over 5 kilometers around and has countless areas for picnicking and sunbathing. There are also tennis courts and trails for biking and running, if working out is your idea of relaxation. A small petting zoo, water park, ice cream stands and cafes make it a family friendly destination.

Budapest for the Arts Lover

If arts and theater are your thing, be sure to visit Budapest during the Budapesti Tavaszi Fesztivál (Spring Festival) which happens each year in March. We happened to be in town this week, and although we didn’t take advantage of its offerings, you can be guaranteed so see a wide variety of operas, shows, and live musical acts at venues across the city. During the rest of the year, the city houses several art museums, including the Hungarian National Gallery which includes a feature on famous artists from Budapest.

Frescoes at the Hungarian National Museum

As for our personal experience in Budapest…fantastic! Even before we arrived things were going our way. The night before we left Vienna, we saw a sign at the reception desk of our hostel that said “free ticket to Budapest.” Although it seemed too good to be true, we asked for more details. As it turned out, a fellow traveler had purchased a round-trip ticket and wasn’t going to be using the return. So, rather than trying to sell it, they asked the hostel to try and find someone who could use it. Funny how things like that work out; we were actually planning on doing the exact same thing with our round-trip tickets from the Czech Republic.

Free train ticket to Vienna thanks to a kind stranger!

But anyway, back to Budapest, it has been one of our favorite destinations thus far. Despite the fact that neither of us speaks a word of Hungarian, we felt at home. Before arriving, we had heard some bad things about Budapest being a “sketchy” city with lots of people out to scam tourists; so we had our guard up a bit when we arrived. As it turns out, everyone we encountered was friendly, helpful, and honest. Add the delicious food, sights, and activities, and you have all the makings of a wonderful city. If you are planning a trip to Eastern Europe DO NOT miss Budapest.

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Surprise! We’re in Vienna. Well, technically speaking we are in Hungary now, but we were in Vienna.  We had no intention of visiting Austria during our RTW trip, but had to in order to get to our desired destination, Budapest. It took four hours, a bus and two trains from Český Krumlov, but before we knew it, we had arrived.

Vienna was a lovely surprise. Granted, we did spend our only full-day of sightseeing slightly hung-over, but you have to make sacrifices sometimes, right? Life is short. Two Americans, one Korean-born Australian and one Argentine in Austria = a jolly good time. Jägerbomb anyone? We have no idea where Diego and Lisa are now, but we wish them safe travels.

So, what did we see on this glorious day in Vienna, you ask?

Naschmarkt

An incredible outdoor market that stretches on for blocks, with stall after stall of flowers, spices, pastries, sipping vinegars, produce, meat, seafood, and more. Most importantly, it provided a much needed hummus fix for Amy.

Naschmarkt entrance. You can read about the history of this market here.

Colorful tulips. Christina, I was thinking about you when we walked by this stand.

That’s a lot of kraut!

Rows upon rows of tasting vinegars

An interesting observation we made in Vienna is that Austrians are constantly eating on the go; there are countless food stands strewn across the city, and it seems as though every third person you see is eating on the move. Anyone giving Americans a bad rap this behavior should visit Vienna. Naturally, we had to give eating Vienna-style a try, so picked up some fantastic noodles-in-a-box from the Naschmarkt.

Yum.

Ringstraße

The heart of Vienna is encircled by roads that are collectively called Ringstraße (Ring road). We spent a few hours walking it and were astounded by how grandiose everything is; architecturally it is one of the most impressive European cities we’ve seen thus far. Pictures simply do not do it justice. It is quite an experience to literally be stopped in your tracks by the magnificence of a building, every single block, for five straight kilometers.

The Austrian Parliament Building situated on Ring road

The Vienna City Hall, also located just off of Ring road

The stunning Upper Belvedere Palace, near Ring road

People Watching

Honestly, no place we visit is without this activity; however, people watching in Vienna seemed to be of particular interest. Every park had a sign posted that attempted to communicate “do not walk on the grass” with stick figures, but none of them seemed to get the point across. There were bodies littering the grass and soaking in the afternoon sun; ideal for people watching.

All in all, our less than 48 hours in Vienna were pure and simple fun. We didn’t feel obligated to do and see everything since our time was limited. Hell, we didn’t even have Viennese coffee. What we did manage to do was get a pleasant taste of the city that left us wanting more.

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Ever heard of Pilsner beer? How about Budweiser? Unless you have been living under or rock, the answer is likely yes. Our journey into the heart of Czech beer country led us to the birthplace of Pilsner and the home of the original Budweiser beer. As beer lovers, it was a lot of fun to tour the Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery (a.k.a. Pilsner Urquell) in Plzeň and check out the Budweiser Budvar facility in the town of České Budějovice; that being said, our vote for best beer in the world remains with American craft brewers. Sorry Czech Republic, but the creativity and variety of beer in the States is simply amazing.

Gates leading into Pilsner Urquell

Tasting unpasteurized, unfiltered Pilsner Urquell straight out of the barrel. Only place you can get this stuff on earth.

Nice and heady Budweiser Budvar. We prefer less foam, but when in Rome…

While the Czech Republic was not the beer mecca we had envisioned, our route was still filled with many other delights: among them, the pork knee and Czech hockey. A knee may not sound very appetizing, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Mike became nearly obsessed with trying this traditional Czech dish after watching an episode of No Reservations; when he finally got his fill in Plzeň…well, you might just say he was in “hog heaven.”

Roasted pork knee (not pictured: Mike, drooling)

In most of Europe, and the world for that matter, football (soccer) is the king of sports. Not the case in the Czech Republic. Hockey reigns supreme. By pure chance, our visit to the country coincided with the playoffs of their pro hockey league; so, we decided to check out a game in České Budějovice. What a time. Football may not be the Czech sport of choice, but the fans are no less enthusiastic: drums, horns, flares, and all.

HC Mountfield vs. HC Liberec at Budvar Arena

Face off following one of the many fights that broke out on the ice that night

The Beer Route through Plzeň and České Budějovice was great, but the real gem of our trip to southern Bohemia had nothing to do with beer at all, it was a small town called Český Krumlov. For many it is just a day trip from České Budějovice, but we made a long weekend out of it. Learning from the many expats that we met during our visit, we took to calling it “The Krumlov,” and we must say that we think it is one of the most photogenic places in Europe.

Český Krumlov from the castle tower

The Vltava River winding through Český Krumlov

In addition to its looks, The Krumlov captivates you with its charm and slow-paced way of life. Just as the Vltava River delicately bends and curves around the old town, locals and tourists alike seem to walk a step slower than in the rest of the Czech Republic. Stores close at 6pm during the week, before noon on Saturday, and are closed on Sundays. At dusk, your senses come alive as a haze fills the sky from wood fired stoves; you can smell the evening setting in as fires warm the quaint village homes.

Český Krumlov Castle all lit up at night

During the day, the town seems torn between two worlds. Many streets are lined with gift shops and tour groups are common, but turn the right corner and it feels like you have traveled back in time to medieval Europe. The castle moat is still guarded in the same way it has been for centuries. Forget the armed guards, try live bears!

One last picture in The Krumlov

It seems that as we let go of planning and set itineraries, we stumble upon more hidden travel destinations. At first, traveling in this style had us both a bit on edge, but with each passing day, we are beginning to appreciate the true sense of freedom that it brings.

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Sometimes bad weather is a blessing in disguise; allowing you to get chores done, or serving as an excuse to just be lazy. Rainy, dreary Prague caused us to try something we had not yet done on our trip, spend the day at a museum. We know it must sound crazy, no museums in two months of travel? If you know us well, you know that we are not museum people. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the Jewish Museum in Prague.

The Jewish Museum is divided into several buildings throughout Prague’s old Jewish neighborhood, including four synagogues, a cemetery and ceremonial burial hall.

We learned that Prague held one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe, which was unknown to us before visiting the museum. During their occupation of Europe, the Nazis destroyed many Jewish monuments and neighborhoods but chose to leave Prague’s Jewish Quarter relatively untouched for the purpose of creating a “museum of an extinct race.” It is chilling to think back to those times. They even shipped Jewish artifacts from across the continent to Prague. Many of these remain, giving the modern Jewish Museum one of the world’s largest collections of Judaic art.

The Spanish Synagogue, interestingly designed in Moorish style

Just a few of the hundreds of Torah pointers on display at the Jewish Museum in Prague

Slanted array of headstones in the Old Jewish Cemetery

After the clouds lifted, we set out exploring the city by foot. The picturesque buildings, castle and bridges that span the Vltava River give Prague a fairytale feel. Adding to this whimsical atmosphere is the city’s Astronomical Clock. A clock may not seem too cool, but take our word for it; this one is. Not only does it tell the time, date, season, and current zodiac sign, it also gives a really fun show every hour.

The Prague Astronomical Clock just before putting on its hourly show

After checking out the old town and watching the clock strike noon, we headed for Prague Castle, crossing over the river on the Charles Bridge. The bridge and castle are said offer great views of the city, and while worth a visit, were a bit too touristy for our liking. We didn’t stick around too long.

Walking over Charles Bridge towards Prague Castle

Prague Castle from the backside, as we walk towards the Prague 6 district for lunch

While searching for an elusive beer garden (turns out these are more of a summer thing), we discovered that the real place to get a great view of Prague is from the bluffs of Letna Park. About a 10-15 minute walk from Prague Castle, this park was a perfect place to peacefully soak in the beauty of the city, bridges, and far off hills.

Beautiful view of Prague and the Vltava River from Letna Park

Our original itinerary for the Czech Republic only included Prague, but on a recent flight we had read an article about the Czech Beer Route in a magazine. As beer lovers, we were intrigued to learn more, so we did some research and decided to depart from Prague in the direction of Czech’s famous beer towns of Plzeň, České Budějovice and Český Krumlov.

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Two Months Under Our Belt

It has been exactly two months since we left the USA to begin our RTW trip. We have visited 20 cities in 5 different countries, and have traveled via 5 flights, 6 trains, 1 cruise ship, 4 bus rides, and countless miles on our feet. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves as a reminder that this is our life now.

The majority of our blog posts thus far have centered on the places we’ve visited, the sights we’ve seen, the food we’ve tried, the people we’ve met, etc. Today we’d like to take this post in a different direction and reflect on the lessons we’ve learned so far in order to mark the two month anniversary of our expedition.

Stressful situations often turn into the best memories – at the moment, it’s usually not funny. Amy is the one who does the freaking out, and Mike is the one who keeps his calm. After the fact, we almost always laugh about it though. Like the time we were carrying around our packs with nowhere to stay at 4am in a small town in Spain. Or when the airline canceled our flight to Europe three days before we were supposed to leave. Or the time we became the victims of bed bugs in Portugal. Or when we had to spend the night in the Madrid airport.  We’re certain there will be plenty more of these crazy situations during the remainder of our trip, and with several now under our belt, hopefully they will be a little less stressful and a little funnier.

We don’t need stuff – we have received a lot of comments about the gear we’ve brought along with us, mostly along the lines of “that’s all you have for a whole year?!” We learned pretty quickly that we have all that we need. Our belongings do not define who we are, nor do they determine how much we can get out of traveling. Not to mention, it’s SO much more comfortable to only have a 20lb. 40L pack on your back when walking around town. Thus far, we’ve been able to pass them as carry-on luggage as well; it’s nice to keep our bags insight.

The path is not set in stone – prior to our departure, we made a list of countries that we hoped to visit on our trip. While we have always known that the list would morph over time, after two months on the road, we witnessed that notion become a reality. We have now reached a point in our trip where we do not have any flights, train tickets or rooms booked into the future; our itinerary is open. It is a liberating feeling to have an undefined path in front of us.

Hostel dorms are not for us – we did the hostel thing when we were in college, no problem. Dorm full of strangers, partying all night, snoring guy in the corner, you get the picture. We’ll still do it when we have to, but we have come to realize that we enjoy our days exploring more when we have our own space at night. To us, it’s worth forking out the extra cash for the private room.

It’s OK to take a day off – this trip took years of planning, so naturally we want to get the most out of every moment. When we arrived in Europe we were pedal to the metal, sightseeing 6-8 hours per day, everyday. Only recently have we learned that it is OK to take a day off; nonstop tourism can be exhausting. So now, instead of feeling guilty about sleeping in and having a movie day, we enjoy it.

We love sharing our travels with you – whether you’re a friend, stranger, our moms, or fellow travelers, we really enjoying sharing with you via our blog. It allows us to take a step back from what we just experienced and translate it into words to share with you.  All of the comments and emails that we have received so far have amazed us – please keep them coming, we love hearing from you! Contact us to share funny stories, suggestions for our blog, or anything else that’s on your mind.

With two months behind us it’s exciting to know that we have another ten to go!  Only time will tell where we’ll go and what we’ll learn…

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You must be wondering, what is hjem? Maybe a typo? An obscure town in Russia? It actually is the Danish word for home. We flew into Copenhagen on the 28th of February to spend a week with the host family that Amy lived with while studying abroad in Denmark in 2006. Returning to Denmark felt like a homecoming, thus the name of this post.

Family dinner in Osted

It was such a treat to spend time with Lene, Nils, Mathilde, Daniel, Martin, Sabrina and Mikkel! We enjoyed delicious meals each night with great conversations and lots of hygge. Hygge is a Danish word that is difficult to translate into English because it describes a feeling and atmosphere, not a place or thing. Cozy is the closest synonym, however does not do it justice. When relaxing in a Danish home, surrounded by candlelight, enjoying good company and often food and drinks as well, you get hygge.

Creating hygge at the summerhouse

Having spent five months living in Denmark, Amy had already seen many of the must sees, but one that had not yet been checked off the list was the Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg Palace in København (Copenhagen). We had not intended on going to see this event, but as we were driving through the city one day, Amy’s host brother, Martin, noticed the time and suggested that we stop to check it out. It was a lot of fun to watch especially since we were able to get the inside scoop from Martin, who served in the Danish Royal Guard himself. Click here to watch a video of all the action.

Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg Palace

Over the weekend, Lene & Nils, Amy’s host parents, drove us to their summerhouse in northwest Sjælland. It was fun to see the completed house as it was under construction when Amy was living in Denmark.

The summerhouse!

We spent our days Sjӕllands Odde exploring the scenic drives, beaches, viewpoints, and historic sites of the area, which we definitely recommend as a side trip if you plan on visiting København.

Atop a hill near Asnæs, Denmark – looking out onto Sjællands Odde

View of the beach and sea near the summerhouse

We learned about some very peculiar ancient burial mounds spread out all over the landscape. They date back to the Stone Age, and we visited a well preserved site built circa 3500 B.C. At over 5,000 years old that definitely makes it the oldest building either of us has ever entered.

Amy inside of one of the large burial mounds

In the evenings we retreated back to the summerhouse for some delicious home-cooked meals and hygge time with the neighbors, Leif and Annika.

Starter of fresh salmon season with dill. Yum!

Fish filets spread with pesto and topped with prosciutto

After returning from the summerhouse, we took a day trip to see Møns Klint and visit Lene’s mom on the island of Lolland. Møns Klint is a series of steep, sharp cliffs on the east coast of the Danish island called Møn, another place you should see if visiting Denmark. Descending nearly 500 stairs from the top to the beach below provides a stunning view of these chalk-white cliffs.

Stairs leading down to the beach of Møns Klint. Easier going down than back up again.

Chalk cliffs dropping into the sea

After driving from Møn to Lolland, we ended the day at the farm where Lene grew up. All week we had heard stories about “whiskey time,” so were much anticipating arriving to the farm so that we could experience it firsthand. Lene’s parents created this tradition of serving whiskey each day at 4pm to any friend, family member or neighbor who made it to their home in time. We really enjoyed whiskey time and think it is a fantastic tradition to bring people together for the simple purpose of savoring life after a day’s work.

It was more difficult to leave Denmark than the previous countries we have visited because we weren’t only leaving a country we love, but people we love. However, we will certainly be coming back to Denmark time and time again in the future, so instead of saying goodbye, we just said vi ses, which translates to “see you later” in Danish.

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Our first 24 hours in Marrakech consisted of: a no show airport shuttle driver which then led to being ripped off by our taxi driver and subsequently the boy who carried our bags while leading us to our riad. Walking through a maze of overcrowded alleys with motor bikes weaving in between pedestrians, with fly-ridden stacks of stinking old sardines for sale on the side of the road. Having our reservation lost by our riad, and then being given a room that had a log of feces floating in the toilet. And last but not least, having our hands hennaed by force in the main square by gypsies. Welcome to Morocco.

In all seriousness, after the culture shock of the first 24 hours wore off, Marrakech became one of our favorite destinations on our trip thus far.

Despite the unappetizing way that meat, fish and produce are sold by street vendors (not refrigerated with dirt being kicked up onto it from the street), Moroccan food is incredibly delicious. Couscous, tagines, lamb, Moroccan soup, root vegetables, figs, honey, and crepes, just to name a few. We quickly became unabashed at being “those” tourist who take pictures of their food. Documenting our meals with photos somehow makes the taste linger longer.

Tagine with lamb, artichoke hearts, olives and preserved lemon rinds

Meat skewers ready to grill at a food stand in Djemaa el Fna Square

And the mint tea. Oh. My. God. We must have averaged three or four pots per day. As a Muslim country, alcohol is taboo and not widely available (with the exceptions of being available to non-Muslim tourists in select hotels and restaurants). We found that mint tea is consumed in its place, and as ubiquitously as Coors Original at a Rockies game.

Mint tea glasses lined up at Djemaa el Fna Square

Anyone writing about Marrakech will tell you that you must visit the “souk” which is a vast network of shops and walkways. Within this labyrinth of merchants, you can find nearly anything from Nike running shoes to a live goat. Should you chose to venture to Marrakech one day, we suggest you remember these tips to help you survive the onslaught of vendors who, despite their friendly smiles, show very little mercy to unsuspecting tourists.

Tip #1: For your first visit to the souk, don’t bring your money. This will allow you to browse for items you might like to purchase, but prevent you from being persuaded to buy something you have no use or desire for. You can’t buy if you don’t have money.

Tip #2: Learn these phrases “non, merci” and “la la, shakrun.” They mean “no, thank you” in French and Arabic, respectively. They won’t be enough to stop the vendors in their tracks, but just smile and keep walking.

Tip #3: Before returning to the souk for some haggling, ask a local Moroccan working at your hotel or riad how much they would pay for each of the items you want to purchase. Keep those numbers in mind, and don’t pay more.

Tip #4: You can always walk away. Vendors in the souk are good at what they do and have a whole arsenal of methods for convincing you to pay more for a product than you should. They will likely act offended, angry, or outraged at the prices you propose. If you are feeling too much pressure or are unhappy with the negotiation, smile, say thank you, and walk away. They may try to stop you, or they may let you go. Either way, no harm, no foul. It’s actually a lot of fun.

Tip #5: Whenever possible, do your haggling in a language other than English. French is good because it is an official language of Morocco. Spanish is even better because most of the vendors understand and speak a few words, but are less comfortable with the language (anything you can do to gain an edge and make the vendor feel less confident is a plus). Americans pay double prices or worse, so if you must speak English be from “Vancouver” for a day.

Winding alleys through the souk

Colorful shoes for sale in the souk

Tea sets for sale in the souk. Mike successfully haggled for one of our own!

Adjacent to the souk is Djemaa el Fna Square. This is where much of the action in the city takes place.  It is visited each day by thousands of tourists and locals alike. The square takes on two different personalities, which are literally day and night. During the sunlight hours, Djemaa el Fna is lined by countless fresh juice and dried fruit vendors. The juice is a real steal at four Dirhams (about 50 cents) per glass!

Piles of dried fruit and nuts for sale at Djemaa el Fna Square

Amy with a juice vendor at Djemaa el Fna Square. A daily trip for us while in Marrakech.

Each afternoon the square begins to transform into its nighttime form. More than 100 food tents are set up each evening for outdoor dining and groups of musicians and snake charmers create a very mystical environment. We made a video of the square coming alive one afternoon before dusk, which you may watch here. If you visit, be sure to watch out for the women offering henna tattoos; day or night, they will grab your hands and start tattooing before you get a grip of what’s happening.

Click on this picture to watch a video of Djemaa el Fna Square coming alive just before dusk

A riad is a traditional Moroccan house designed with a courtyard and fountain in the middle. Although there are hundreds of riads in Marrakech alone, you may be hard-pressed to find one as their doors are plain and unsuspecting, but always open up into a beautiful and peaceful building. After a few hours of haggling at the souk and an evening in Djemaa el Fna Square, escaping back to the tranquility of a riad is the perfect end to a day in Marrakech.

The entrance to our riad – you would never suspect the tranquil place that lies behind this door

View from our room of the fountain in the riad’s open air courtyard

Intricately painted ceilings and carved metal light fixture in our room

Courtyard and fountain in the riad

Despite the initial issues we had at our riad, everything was smoothed over and it turned out to be a fantastic place to stay. Breakfast each morning consisted of homemade crepes and harcha with a variety of preserves, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee.

Traditional Moroccan breakfast, served each morning at the riad

Sitting in the courtyard or on the rooftop terrace always lowered our blood pressure after being out on the town. It was here that we first experienced the “adhān” which is the Islamic call to prayer. While we were familiar with this religious custom, Morocco was the first Islamic country that either of us had visited. Hearing the adhān five times each day was a part of the trip that we will certainly never forget. We made a video of the call, which you can watch here. It often begins as nothing more than a low distant hum, but soon becomes a 360 degree barrage of sound. For the most part, business continues as usual in the city, and everyone does not drop what they are doing and run to the mosque, but the call to prayer definitely creates a special feeling in the air.

Click on this picture to watch a video of and listen to the Adhān (call to prayer) in Marrakech

Marrakech was a crazy place, no doubt about it. It caught us off guard and left us feeling a little rattled. It was the first time we felt truly out of our comfort zone and in an entirely different world. But that is what traveling is all about.

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