I was sitting at the dinner table eating a sandwich. A couple of my cousins where there in the kitchen with me goofing around like we used to do many, many years ago. We were in my grandparent’s old house; Grandma and Grandpa Stout were sitting in the living room in the two rocking chairs.

When I finished eating, my grandma asked me to clean the crumbs off the table. In my little boy mind, it made the most sense to move all the items off the table and take the table cloth outside to shake it out. When I came back inside, my grandma thanked me and asked me to close the kitchen window because she was getting cold. Almost at once, something clicked inside my head and I immediately began to panic. My grandma passed away a couple years ago. I had no idea what was going on anymore. I screamed and ran over to jump into my grandpa’s lap. “Grandma’s not here! Grandma’s not here! Grandpa, help me!” I yelled. My grandpa, with his arm around me, he looked down at me and said, “Wake up, son.”

I woke up this morning with a big, violent shake, literally gasping for air. It was the first dream like that I’ve ever had, so I quickly went over to grab something to write it down. It felt so real.

I was in Prague in my hotel room and breakfast was being prepared in the little restaurant next door. I tossed on some clothes and my shoes to go outside to find where I could find breakfast. I went around to the back of the hotel and there was a deck with a couple people sitting outside eating. I went inside and saw some meats, cheeses rolls, and cereal along with juice, yogurt, and milk. I took at least one of everything and found a table to sit down to eat.

When I got back to my room, I hopped in the shower to get ready for the day. I tried the wifi to contact the people in Prague going to Austria, but it wasn’t working this morning. I asked the lady at the front desk if there was a McDonald’s nearby. She didn’t speak English, so I repeated “McDonald’s” and traced the two, golden arches on the wall. “Ahhh”, she said, and pointed down the street in the direction where I’d find it.

After a fifteen minute walk up the road, I found a McDonald’s in a large shopping mall. I got online and replied. My main point of contact up to that point had been a Chinese girl who organized the event. She gave me the phone number for her boyfriend, Jackie, and said I could message him on WhatsApp. I installed it and messaged him, and he replied almost immediately. He said we could meet up later that night and offered me a place to sleep as well if I needed it. It was time to explore Prague.

I was on the outskirts of town so I located the nearest metro station and rode into the city. As I began walking around Prague, it didn’t take long to realize just how beautiful of a city it is. The architecture was just amazing. I crossed a bridge headed for the castle that sat atop a hill. After a short walk and a steep staircase climb, I found myself next to the castle in a large, green lawn that overlooked the city.

I continued around the castle and ended up on the back side. This is where I discovered my favorite building in Prague, the St. Vitus Cathedral. The design of the building was amazing. While the entire cathedral was a huge building, it was actually just one end of the cathedral that caught my attention. It was built with an architectural style that I’d never seen before in person. I had to take tons of pictures.

I started walking back down the hill towards a small tower that sat atop another hill near me. In pictures, I noticed this tower resembled the Eiffel Tower to some degree, so I wanted to head over and see it for myself. Nature trails zigzagged all the way to the top of this next hill, and for the most part I was the only one on them. I reached the top and found that I was on the backside of the tower.

There, while taking pictures, I kept hearing a huge crowd yelling and cheering. It seemed like an odd place for a huge crowd, so I followed the cheering to see where all the commotion was coming from. There was a wall with an arch over top in the distance. When I reached the arch and saw what was on the other side, I was quite surprised. There sat a huge, temporary arena had been created in a park. “Battle Of The Nations” the sign read. It was a medieval style event set up to simulate battles from the middle ages. All the fighters were wearing armor and their crew wore Renaissance-era clothing. It was an all weekend event. I didn’t pay for a ticket to enter because I there still a lot I wanted to see, but just standing on the outside listening to the battles I could get a sense of what was going on inside. Each round started with horns followed by what sounded like a stampede of wild elephants. The crowd absolutely loved it.

Continuing past the battlegrounds, I came across an observatory surrounded with flower gardens. It was the perfect spot to stop and rest for a bit. As I sat there I realized just how much I really liked Prague.

When I began down the hill again, I kept seeing signs for something called the “Magic Cavern”. I had no idea what this was, but it didn’t take long to find out. Standing on the side of the path, I came across a woman dressed with in interesting attire. She was advertising the Magic Cavern as she stood in front. As it turned out, the Magic Cavern was actually an art gallery for a French artist, Reon Argondian, whose art pieces looked like they were painted by a man who went swimming in a pool of LSD before he picked up his paintbrush. I had to see what was inside.

The entrance served as a sneak peak to what lied ahead. It was a small entry way with a spiral staircase leading both up and down. The woman at the entrance, Zuzanna, suggested starting in the basement first. I descended the stairs, passing paintings for each sign of the zodiac. When I got downstairs, I was transported into a crazy hallucination-inspired world. Most every square inch of wall space was taken up by paintings. Beautiful, half naked blue and green skinned goddesses. Twisting demon dogs. Landscapes that only existed in dreams. Some paintings portrayed no recognizable elements, though they still served to demonstrate just how crazy this fantasy world was.

Slow, melodic music with a female singer played throughout the cavern from hidden speakers. Sangria and was sat on a table available for all gallery guests. So many of the paintings made me wish I could climb through the canvas to experience this wild world firsthand.

I made my way back up the stairs, stopping to chat again with Zuzanna on my way up to explore the attic. Upstairs felt less like a cave but still contained just as many paintings on the walls. Taking photos was allowed and encouraged. In the end, I think I photographed almost every single piece of art in the place.

It was around 5:30PM when I finally made it back down the hill into town. I decided to stop at a McDonald’s to message Jackie. He asked me if I could be at his place by 7PM because he had to run some errands later that night. Luckily I found a metro route connecting to a bus route that got me there just in time. After arriving, my instructions were to cross the street from the bus stop, head around to the back of the apartment building there, and look for Jackie’s name on the buzzer next to the door. Just as I rounded the corner to the back of the apartments, I heard my name. It was Jackie.

I introduced myself and went upstairs to his apartment. He showed me the guest bedroom where I’d be sleeping. He said he had some extra time before he needed to leave tonight and suggested we go grab something at the grocery store. I got just enough stuff to make a couple of sandwiches that night and some donuts for the next day. We went back to Jackie’s house and ate before he needed to leave; he was taking his cats to his parent’s house for the weekend while we were going to be gone. He said I could stay at his place if I wanted, but I had him drop me off at the nearest bar instead.

I ordered a beer. “10 or 12?” the bartender asked. I had absolutely no idea what this meant but chose the bigger number. I found a seat as far from all the smokers as I could and took a sip. A German bartender once told me there was one country that made better beer than Germany: the Czech Republic. I was not let down. This beer was so smooth, it felt as if it flowed into my mouth faster than I was pouring it. As if the liquid was fighting its way to be in my stomach. I was happy.

After a couple of beers, Jackie messaged me to find out if I was still at the bar. He met me there where we had one more beer before heading back to his house. We talked for a short while about the trip the next day. We had quite a drive ahead of us, but what we had planned would make it all worth it.


I woke up in Lucern, Switzerland, and to my surprise there it was not raining. While not blue skies, it was nice enough to go exploring. I found a Blablacar ride in Basel, Switzerland, leaving later in the day which gave me some extra time to explore Lucern before I had to leave.

It was a 45 minute walk from the hostel to the train station. It was only after this walk that I realized I had left my jacket behind. With only a few hours to explore before I had to catch a train, I decided to hop on a bus back to the hostel. My jacket was waiting for me in the lost and found. Another bus ride back to the train station got me back to where I wanted to be but I had lost an hour.

I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted to in Lucern, but I kept reminding myself that it was going to rain that night. There was no way I could stay another night when it meant most of the time would be sitting around inside. I walked around, seeing some of the main sites before heading back to the train station.

It didn’t start to rain until just before I reached Basel. I arrived at the station and just as I got off the train, I realized I had left my hat, sunglasses, and water bottle back on board. I had plenty of time to go back and grab them all, but I’m not sure where was head was today.

There was a bus sitting out front of the train station that I knew would get me to the airport, the pickup point for my Blablacar ride. I still had just over an hour to kill when I arrived and a pocket full of change that was only good in Switzerland, so I went inside and bought a bacon and tomato sandwich and a banana. Ten minutes before my scheduled pickup time, I went outside and waited. Standing next to me was another backpacker.

“Are you waiting for a Blablacar ride?” I asked. He was. We talked for the next ten minutes while waiting for our ride. He was a Swiss guy with a Tibetan name, Dorji, who had just finished backpacking across France and Spain for the last 3 months. He went on a hike known by the locals as “Camino de Santiago”. Americans call it the “French Way”. He had nothing but the best things to say about the experience and said of all the traveling he’s ever done, this was his favorite. Now he was heading to Vietnam. It was nice to meet someone who was backpacking like me.

Dorji received a phone call from our driver, Sanaz, as we waited. By coincidence, it was the same Sanaz he had met years prior; Sanaz was Dorji’s sister’s roommate for a year. Sanaz was waiting inside the airport in line to get a rental car so we went inside to meet her. There we met her friend Sabina, got the car, and took off.

This has been my favorite Blablacar ride yet. Since Sanaz and Sabina were friends, Sanaz and Dorji already knew each other, and Dorji and I talked for quite awhile before meeting with the girls, the entire ride felt like a road trip with friends. No one was in a hurry, so we even stopped half way to Frankfurt for awhile to have coffee and snacks.

When we arrived, Sanaz showed us around the city. She was so excited to be there; it was one of her favorite cities in Germany. She told us about some clubs and bars, one of which was supposed to be a metal music bar. The girls had plans of shopping and dancing that night, so they left us in downtown Frankfurt. Dorji’s flight to Vietnam wasn’t until the next morning, so him and I booked a hostel and decided to go out that night. We dropped off our things at the hostel and set out to find something to eat.

We were both looking for something cheap. Kebab was becoming a theme for this trip; anytime I didn’t care what I ate and just wanted to save money, kebab was the answer. Dorji agreed, so we wandered around Frankfurt in search. After half an hour, we still hadn’t found anything so we began asking the locals. No one seemed to know for sure, but they all had guesses. After another hour of following guesses and wandering about, we still hadn’t found anything. I didn’t care. I was having a good time hanging out with a fellow backpacker who spoke both German and English. We finally stopped and asked someone who had a sandwich in his hand. Obviously this guy knew where to find food. He pointed us in the right direction and told us we’d find plenty to eat there.

He was right. There were several cheap restaurants on both sides of the street in this neighborhood. In the end, we both decided on a cheap Chinese restaurant. For less than five euros, we each ended up with as much chicken fried rice as you could possibly pile on a plate. I barely finished half of mine, but somehow that crazy Swiss ate the whole damn thing.

Now, barely able to walk, we set off for a bar Sanaz had told us about called “The Cave”. It was supposed to be a metal bar, and that’s all I wanted to do that night was hang out with a bunch of German metal heads. Earlier in the night, Dorji and I found the bar on our quest to find food so we knew exactly how to get there.

In the beginning, there actually weren’t many people. A few very young girls were dancing on the dance floor. I was suprised that they would let such seemingly young people in a place like this. Dorji ordered the first round, and we sat around the bar talking for awhile. The music started off with pop punk bands from the early 90‘s, all American bands and most of it was stuff I recognized. As the bar began to fill, the music got more and more aggressive until they actually threw in a few metal songs every now and then. At one point, Dorji and I met a crazy German guy named Andrei. Round after round, we danced around on the dance floor for hours.

It was at least 4AM and the bar showed no signs of closing anytime soon. At this point, Andrei and Dorji were completely hammered. Just as I was getting ready to leave, I met a girl named Nicola. We talked for awhile before I left and decided to meet up for coffee the next day. I left Dorji at the bar. He asked me to make sure he didn’t miss his flight in the morning. I told him I wouldn’t as long as he made it back to the hostel that night. I walked back to hostel just before the sun came up. I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night, but it was totally worth it.

Lucern In The Rain

Rain. All day it rained. Hard.

Apparently today’s lesson was that not all days are going to to be full of excitement. Today was exactly the opposite, in fact. I was feeling unmotivated and wandering around outside in the rain was the the last thing I wanted to do.

I lay around the hostel for most of the day. I wrote. I wandered around the hostel. I ventured out into the rain to get something to eat (more kebab).

I finally got around to watching that James Bond movie that took place in Switzerland. In the end, James Bond sleeps with two different women two nights in a row. The next night, he just happens to run into his British girlfriend on an ice skating rink as he’s escaping from the bad guys. That night, he proposes to her. Charming.

I wanted to take a nap but I couldn’t sleep. I grew restless and played games on my phone. I was killing time until it was late enough that I’d feel OK about eating again even though I wasn’t all that hungry.

I ventured out into the rain again, this time eating at another restaurant next to the kebab place. It was labeled as a “family restaurant” and had several different types of food from all over the world. When the server learned I was from America though, he insisted I had their signature burger, “The Atlantic”. I must admit, it was pretty good.

That night I checked the weather reports for other cities in Switzerland. Zurich… rain. Bern… rain. The forecast for pretty much every city in Switzerland called for rain not just the next day, but for the next 7-10 days. I checked the radar and the entire country was covered in rain clouds.

As much as I loved the picturesque countryside of Switzerland, seeing it in the rain just wasn’t an option. I had to find somewhere in Europe that wasn’t raining. The southern border of Germany was still covered in rain clouds according to the radar; the first major city with clear skies was Frankfurt.

Heading to Frankfurt led to one of the best nights I’ve had on this trip so far.