Cairo traffic

The traffic in Cairo is absolute chaos.  With 25 million people in the city trying to get to different places with no apparent traffic rules (at least none that are enforced) you can imagine what the roads look like at any given moment.  Angie (our Egyptian guide) told us that there isn't rush hour, but rush day!  It's especially bad from 8 am - 3 pm.  She told us that you can't drive in a straight line here or you won't go anywhere.  There are constantly people weaving in and around other cars.  So illogical, but apparently true.  Here are few pictures I snapped of the driving we witnessed on the road.
Angie also said that drivers here, "Think that two inches is plenty of room to merge."  She's not exaggerating.  I was constantly gasping in fear as I watched cars dangerously zip around each other because surely there was no way they could make it without causing an accident, but somehow they always (almost) managed to narrowly avoid a collision. It's almost a talent to drive that badly without getting into a wreck.

In the US, every city complains about what bad drivers they have.  In Utah, it was always, "Utah drivers are the worst...nobody knows how to merge or use their blinker."  In DC, "Oh my gosh, people drive like such idiots here, always causing accidents, nobody knows how to drive in the snow."  Etc. Etc.  But it's nothing compared to some foreign cities I've been to (I'm looking at you Rome and Bahrain).  But still, nothing has ever compared to Cairo.  It's the first time I've ever seen thousands of people simultaneously drive badly at once.  And yet, somehow it's okay - there is a system that I obviously don't (and won't ever) understand but it works for them because they all seem to be on the same page of this insanity and manage to get to around just fine.  
Animals on the highway?  Sure!  At almost any given moment we would be cruising down the highway in our giant bus at 55 mph and right next to us there would be a donkey or horse pulling a cart like it ain't no thing.

Carrying awkwardly large loads are also no problem for Egyptians.  

Not only are there two men just hanging out on top of the truckload without any sort of seat-belt or safety feature, but the driver isn't even looking at the road.   

 Lanes?  Who needs 'em!  On the rare occasion there were white lane lines down the road they were totally disregarded.  Or maybe people just thought you were supposed to drive ON the lines, not inside of them?  Because in the two pictures below you'll see cars driving on the line - this wasn't just to change lanes, they stayed on the line for as long as I could see them. 

 I saw very few new cars - the vast majority of cars were old and well worn.  
  The two pictures below show parents squeezing on a motorcycle with two young children dangerously hanging on.  Forget about seat-belts for a moment and let's just at least get these children their own seat at a minimum!  It made me so nervous to see how precariously they were all situated on there, especially considering the already dangerous roads they were traveling on.

Sometimes the traffic was so bad that it felt more like a giant parking lot.  There was just no movement at all.
 Even the police don't seem to be any better at driving.  What's with the 45 degree angle turn happening below?
I must say though, that people were very friendly to us for the most part on the roads - we had many Egyptian men wave to us as we drove by.  Once, as were driving on the bus, some young boys drove up on motorcycles to my window and waved at me.  When I smiled back at them they started fist-pumping.  It was pretty cute.
 I need to post the video that goes with the picture below.  We were on a major freeway and all of a sudden two cars (see white car below) start going in reverse for a prolonged period of time, against all of the other oncoming traffic.  It appeared that they made a wrong turn and backed up until they could get onto the right road.  While it's completely suicidal, I somewhat understand.  The traffic was so bad it probably would have taken them hours to get back to the correct road had they continued with the flow of traffic.

Finally I saw the bad driving catch up to someone when we passed a recent car accident.  I'm just shocked it's the only one I saw while we were there.
If you're ever in Egypt I would not suggest renting a car and driving yourself around.  Let someone else handle the chaos to not only ensure your safety, but also so that you can witness all the funny things happening around you :)

Czech it Out!

It was an easy flight from London to Prague and as I looked out the window during our descent I saw the most beautiful, sprawling green countryside in a soft sunset glow.  I felt like I was being dropped back into the Middle Ages as I looked at the rolling farmlands with little towns clustered together.  It was a really magical sight.  No sign of modern influences until we got close to the airport.

The plan was to meet Brandon at our hotel since he would arrive much earlier, but his flight ended up being delayed and he got there just a little before I did.  I had no knowledge of this since I wasn't able to use my phone, but when I walked out of customs and saw his familiar face waiting for me I was beyond happy.  Such a wonderful surprise!!  
We took a taxi to our hotel (Fortunate West is the name I think), dropped off our belongings and then took a 20 minute tram into the city.  We were hungry, so where was the first place we went?  A nice Czech restaurant?  Nope, McDonalds!  We are such typical Americans.  Which is kinda funny because neither of us actually eats at McDonals when we're in the US, but we were super hungry and we needed something quick and cheap.  Plus, they couldn't have made it easier to find out as you can tell from the pic below - you're never very far away from one!
Then we went to find our friend Kelsey and her friends who were in Prague visiting at the same time.  We went to her hostel, but the front desk woman wouldn't let us go to her room and we were struggling to connect to their wifi so we had no way to reach them and tell Kelsey we were here.  However, with Brandon's good luck they just happened to come out just minutes after we arrived!  Keeping with our American food tradition we headed to KFC.
We had a bit of a challenge figuring out how to buy tickets, but eventually managed to get them.  The weird part though is that you don't have to use your ticket to get on the trains.  You can easily walk on the trains without a ticket, but they are monitored by security people who come on the train and check tickets and if you're caught you can be fined.
Thank goodness for google maps!  We would use the wifi at our hotel and screen shot all the directions we thought we'd need for they day and then refer back to it as we were out and about.  It was time consuming, especially since the internet was slow and we didn't always know ahead of time what our plans were, but it was still worth having as a backup.
 Once we decided to head back we couldn't find the right tram since it was 1 am and ours had stopped running at midnight so we took a fairly expensive cab ride back.  Then we booked bus tickets to Munich for a few days later and finally went to sleep at 4 am.

By the way, elevators are very different here.  This one required us actually opening a door to step inside - no electronic opening doors like we are accustomed to.
Despite the long day this was my face at the end of it all - so happy to be there!
After a mere 4  hours of sleep we got up and got ready so we could meet Kelsey and friends in Prague for a city tour.  However, we couldn't find the meeting place so we skipped it and went to Starbucks instead to try to plan what we should do while we're in Prague.  I also decided to exchange money and somehow in my sleep-deprived state of mind took out $700 worth of Czech money.  Good grief.

When we needed help finding a place there was usually someone willing to help in their broken English, but overall I didn't find the people there to be overly warm or friendly.  They were nice, but I think they have to warm up to you before they open up.

My hair is...white!!!  Wasn't part of the plan, but not much I could do at that point.

After the others finished the tour we all met up and went into Old Town and I fell in love with Prague immediately.  It was gorgeous.  So beautiful, medieval and timeless, just as I had hoped it would be.  

I could just envision this town bustling around with people in the 13th century.

Unlike many Central European Cities, Prague was not seriously damaged during World War 2 so it still remains well preserved and very beautiful.  
The city actually reminded me a bit of Disneyland.  I think it was the architecture, castle and just the overall magical vibe.

Grabbed a bite to eat before continuing on our way.  You might remember Kelsey from my trips with her in Mexico and Puerto Rico.  And you will see here again on this trip in Spain :)  Such a fun travel friend!  She spent the summer nannying in Spain, which is what prompted Brandon and I to come to Europe in the first place.  We wanted to visit her and at first planned to stay a week, then two and then it just grew and grew.  The other 2 girls with her are friends from Utah who were also nannies in Spain for the summer.  After they finished nannying they spent a week traveling around, which is how we all ended up in Prague together.
Flossing our teeth?  We're so weird.  
 We walked across the Charles Bridge, built in the 14th century, which was gorgeous and the perfect place to take lots of pictures. Then we walked across another bridge so we could see the Charles Bridge from a distance.

The weather was perfect! 

Next we headed towards the Castle.  It felt like we climbed a million stairs to get to this view, but it sure was worth it.  Sooooo pretty!!

The sea of red tiled roofs and blue river was gorgeous.  It looks so truly European and beautiful, but then off in the distance there is a handful of skyscrapers which seemed terribly out of place.

After our small hike we made it to the Prague Castle.  
Two interesting things in the garden - a self mowing lawn mower and a girl wearing a satin jumpsuit.  Fashion sure is different over there!
  The castle is a patchwork of palaces built over time with a church in the middle.  It was huge and looked very old.

Taking pics on the tram. 

Prague really is so beautiful.  I love the colors, the architecture and the details.


The accordion seemed so fitting for this part of the world.
Goulash!  Only in this part of the world would that word be advertised, especially with an exclamation mark.
Interesting benches and statues.
 I love the different cobblestones used on the street.

We eventually redeemed ourselves from our McDonalds meal and had more legitimate Czech food.  Goulash and bread with vanilla sauce.


The Czech language is crazy difficult to decipher for a native English speaker. I normally try to learn a bit of the language when I visit a new country, but this was hopeless.  It made navigating a bit tricky because normally I can remember the name of the street we walked down, but that wasn't possible here since I couldn't pronounce a single thing.  I just kind of made up what I thought it should sound like.

We visited and wrote on the John Lennon wall.  I'd never heard of it before, but it was a pretty cool, colorful wall filled with graffiti and a picture of John Lennon. 
After a really fun day together we said bye to everyone as Kelsey and friends had to head to the airport for the next portion of their trip.  Brandon and I stayed in Prague another night.  We left the hotel and stayed in a hostel that was an 8 person mixed (boys and girls) dorm room in the city.  People snored, moved around, played on their phones etc. so it was difficult to fall asleep.  It always is hard the first night in a hostel, especially with that many people.  But it was worth it nonetheless because it was cheap (only 7 euros a person!), in a good location and only temporary.  
 We took a free walking tour that was really fantastic - because it was free, very informative and very interesting.  Our guide, David, was actually Hungarian, but came to school here and was a dating a Czech girl.  I tried to take notes as he talked, but it was difficult to look at the sights, walk and type at the same time.  Plus I didn't want him to think I was being rude and just texting.  But here are some of the things I jotted down:
- The large astronomical clock in Old Town (which is really impressive), was originally built in 1410.  Death/Skeleton is the one ringing the bell to remind you that you're one hour closer to death so mind yourself.
- Supposedly, Czech leaders were afraid that the man who built this clock (which was extremely rare and unique) would go around building similar clocks in our other cities so they had to find a way to prevent him from doing this.  They didn't thinking making him swear to God would be enough to stop him, but felt death was too cruel so they blinded him and pulled out his tongue.  He was in pain for months, but got revenge by one day going in a breaking the clock.  He was the only one who knew how it worked so it stayed broken for 100 years.
- Neil Armstrong took a recording of symphony #9, written by a Czechoslovakian and played it on the moon.  Our guide told us that if you want to make friends with Czechs bring this up and it will melt their stony hearts haha.  
- We stopped by the Jewish Quarter (picture below) where Jews had to live until the end of the 1800s.  The Jews were made to live here because it was the first place in the city to flood.  No matter much their population grew they couldn't extend the borders of their area, until finally they let them out.  Once they did, the criminals moved in so the whole area was torn down and rebuilt and is now the most expensive place in town to live.
- After the area was torn down only 6 synagogues were left.  Hitler could have easily destroyed these, but left them intact because he planned to build a museum about the extinct race.
- They've found many artifacts in the area including drawings by children.  Despite the poor conditions they still drew happy things such as dogs and balloons.  
- Because Jews are not allowed to cremate or move graves they buried their dead in layers.  Supposedly there are over 100,000 bodies in the graveyard.
- I'm not sure who, but I wrote down that someone wanted to remove all the statues of Jewish composers outside the opera house, but didn't know who was Jewish and who wasn't so he took a ruler and measured their noses.
Our second day was much colder and cloudier.  Luckily we had one really good day of nice weather.
The painted brick look is interesting.

We visited St. James' Church and it was very pretty and nice (not to mention old - originally built in the 13th century), but the most interesting part is not something you'd notice right away.
Hanging near the entrance is a 400 year old mummified arm.  The story goes that a man tried to steal from the high altar in the church and supposedly the statue of the virgin Mary grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go.  Eventually they cut off his arm and hung it as a reminder in the church for people not to steal from God.  However it happened, multiple sources confirm it is in fact a real arm hanging there as a reminder.  That's not something you see in church every day!

Prague is an incredible city and definitely different (in a good way) from many of the other European cities I've visited.  It feels historic, authentic and beautiful.  A must-see.  
Our days in Prague went by much too quickly, although I feel satisfied that we got to see most of the important sights.  As evening came we went back to the hostel to pick up our bags and then took a taxi to the bus station and boarded our overnight bus to Munich.

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