Monday, July 20, 2015

Eurotrip 2015 - Day 15 (7/11/2015) - Returning Home, and Final Thoughts

Prague does not have an idiot-proof way of getting to the airport by public transport, but it's actually pretty straightforward.  After checking put around 7:45 I took the A (green) subway from Muzeum (at the nearby National museum) to Nádraží Veleslavín, where I caught the 119 bus to airport Terminal 2.  There are plenty of cues to help a traveler on this route: the subway map on the train is marked with an airport bus symbol at that stop; there are signs directing to the airport bus at the station; and the stop announcements on the bus are also in English (if the airport isn't obvious enough), and also provide information that flights out of the Schengen Area leave from Terminal 1 while intra-Schengen flights depart from Terminal 2.

With the light Saturday morning airport traffic, I was through security by 9, with plenty of time to kill before my 10:25 flight to Zürich.  So I grabbed a bit of breakfast to spend my remaining Czech Koruna.  A couple of nice things about Václav Havel Airport: it has free WiFi as well as a rest area where you can sleep off a long layover.  The flight was delayed about 20 minutes, which made my originally scheduled 45 minuted layover in Zürich even tighter, but that plane ended up departing for Chicago a little late anyway.

Upon arriving in Chicago, I breezed through passport control (at least relative to my expectations, considering that I scheduled a 3 hour layover) and had plenty of time to switch terminals and check in for the flight to St. Louis.  As it turns out, my friend Alex was on the same flight as me - he was returning from a trip to China.  When we arrived in St. Louis we took the MetroLink together into the city, with him getting off a couple of stops before I did.  I then had the brilliant idea to walk the 1.4 miles home from the Grand MetroLink station instead of taking the bus partway - and thus went my reintroduction to the heat and humidity of a St. Louis summer, even at 9 in the evening.

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Some closing thoughts about the trip...

Istanbul was probably my favorite of the places that I visited.  It has a great combination of location, history, culture, and tourist attractions.  It might stand out particularly because of the culture, as that was obviously more different there than any of the other places I went.  Their society does seem to be as progressive as I had read, though, and my slight concerns about visiting during Ramadan turned out to be unfounded - we had no problems getting food whenever we wanted.  I also liked the change-up in architecture, with all the minarets everywhere.  It's definitely a great place to visit, and I would recommend it to pretty much anybody.

Santorini was a different kind place than I'm used to visiting on vacation (I'm more of a sightseer), but I'm glad that I went there.  The island is gorgeous and riding ATVs for a few days was a fun new experience.

I had slightly low expectations of Vienna, so I ended up enjoying it more than I anticipated.  A couple of people I knew didn't think there was much exciting there, though I also knew another couple of people who enjoyed it.  I fall into the camp that enjoyed it, though I can understand understand a lack of appeal if you're not into seeing palaces, museums, or other such sights.  It also gets extra marks in my book for having an expansive metro system.  Overall, I thought it was a good place to visit, even if it's not mind-blowing.

Prague seemed to me to have more character than Vienna (no, I don't really know what I mean when I say that), but it wasn't without its annoyances.  Part of it is due to having an old town where walking is just about the only way to get around (though the rest of the city is quite walkable as well).  For better or worse, this also means having tons of other tourists walking around the popular areas, and the things that come along with that.  It also helps to have a legit river running through the city and a hill-side park that overlooks the area.

One more thing that I learned on this trip - I can sunburn on my arms.  Of course "burning" in my case thankfully only means some leathery and then peeling skin (without any pain), and a nice "farmer's tan".  I came prepared with a hat (I had only previously experienced peeling on my forehead, and didn't want that to extend to my balding head), but never anticipated that 2 weeks of walking and lying in the sun would get my arms too. 

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An album of all my favorite photos from the trip can be found here:
Google Photos (no photo spheres)
Google+ Photos (includes photo sphere functionality)

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