It’s Love at first sight. This is how I would describe Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. One of the most romantic and stunning cities in Europe, and known for its large castle and the narrowest street in the world.  

Its towers, gothic churches, baroque edifications, red roof tops and labyrinth of alleyways will immerse you in its medieval history. Other spaces bring back the bitter memories of the World Wars, the Nazi invasion and Communism.  

Prague is a city that can be known by walking, as its streets are an open museum, but it may take you at least 4 days to get to know it better. Here’s my advice for a weekend visit. Do comply with the proper precautions related to covid19 restrictions.  

1.- Observe the Astronomical Clock’s show   

The skeleton pulls the rope, the figures that are allegorical to the vices move along, the 12 apostles appear by the little windows and finally the rooster sings. Hundreds of tourists crowded every change of hour to take part in the most amazing show in Prague.  

This has to be your first stop. The clock is on the square of the old city (Staré Mésto area) and it’s been working for more than 600 years. Wow! It can display the time, date, position of celestial bodies and astronomical cycles. Impossible not to shoot a video.  

2.- Climb to the Old Town Hall Tower   

The best postcards of the medieval city are undoubtedly from the Old Town Hall Tower, above the Astronomical Clock.  

It’s 70 meters high (229 feet) and from the top you can see the churches and castles that adorn the city. Its price is 10 USD (250 Czech Koruna, they do not use the Euro).  

3.- Visit the Church of Our Lady Tyn  

One of the most emblematic gothic monuments in Prague. It’s also its oldest church. Finding the entrance is a bit complicated because it has no facade. The entrance is from a side alley. It’s free of charge, but they ask for a voluntary contribution.  

4.- Know the Powder Tower  

It was the gateway to the old city (13 in total), and as its name indicate, it was where the gunpowder was stored during the 18th century. In the upper area of the tower there is an outdoor terrace. From there, you get great views of the district.  

5.- Crossing the Charles Bridge  

The best-known areas of Prague are Staré Mésto (old town) and Malá Strana (the new city). The two are connected by the crowded Charles Bridge.  

This iconic bridge was built by King Charles IV. Its allure is undeniable: you’ll be surrounded by street artists, who play romantic melodies or sell their paintings. It’s so charming that it makes you want to cross over again and again. Yes, I’m cheesy! The best time is at night, but it’s also worth getting up early and enjoy the place without all the tourists.  

6.- Touch the dog of Saint John of Nepomuk for good luck  

The Charles Bridge has 30 religious’ sculptures, but they aren’t the originals. Although, the one that visitors are most interested is Saint John of Nepomuk and his dog.  

Legend says that the saint was the queen’s confessor. The king, who distrusted his wife, asked Nepomuk about her infidelities and because he didn’t want to reveal the true, his tongue was cut off and he was thrown into the Vltava River from the bridge.  

The popular tale says that if you place your left hand on the dog figure (a symbol of fidelity) and make a wish, it will be granted.  

7.- Walk around the Malá Strana area  

Across the bridge and the old city is the Malá Strana area. Its vibe is more youthful because it’s surrounded by bars, restaurants, galleries, bookstores and shops. Without leaving aside the castle and its churches.  

You can find also the Petrín Tower, a small imitation of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but with the best panoramic view of Prague; the museum of the writer Franz Kafka, and in a few steps, you can’t miss the narrowest street, where a traffic light will tell you whether or not you can walk.  

8.- Explore the Prague Castle  

It’s the largest in the world, but it isn’t only a castle. It’s an architectural ensemble that also includes palaces, towers, the gothic church of San Vito and the golden lane (the old neighborhood of goldsmiths and where the novelist Kafka lived).  

The castle has endured invasions, fires and wars. It was a Nazi headquarter in World War II and later on, the Soviet offices of the communist government operated from there. Now is the official residence of the President.  

You probably need to be in good physical condition to climb the hill and the cobbled stands where the circuit begins. But when you go down the steps, there are places to sip a hot wine or beer with a spectacular view. From its downstairs, the metro station is nearby.  

9.- Take a picture on John Lennon’s wall  

Whether you’re a Beatles fan or not, this is an important stop as it’s the symbol for freedom of speech in Prague. And, why not! You get to listen to some of the songs of the band interpreted by street artists.   

It became part of Prague history when John Lennon was murdered in New York in 1980. As part of the world’s tributes, his portrait appeared surrounded by phrases against the communist regime that dominated the Czech Republic that decade. Although the communist authorities continually painted the wall white, they portrayed it repeatedly along with new messages.  

10.- Make the route through the David Černý art   

The antithesis of the monumental and historic Prague is made up of the peculiar and controversial sculptures of the Czech artist, David Černý. It’s worth appreciating some of his crazy works, created with a tone of social protest.  

In Malá Strana and in front of the Kafka museum entrance, you will be surprised by two moving figures who urinate on a pond shaped like the Czech Republic. Returning to the old city, on Husava St, you will have to look well at the sculpture that appears hanging from a beam (Sigmund Freud).  

A few steps away, the most sought-after piece by tourists. His great work called Metamorphosis, which is the moving steel head of the writer Kafka on an 11-meter (36 feet) scale  

Walking towards Wenceslas Square and hidden in one of its buildings is the sculpture of St. Wenceslas, who is the saint and symbol of Czech identity. This figure’s version shows his horse face down, dead and with the tongue sticking out.  

11.- Photograph the Dancing House  

If you continue to look for artistic, modern, and out-of-the-ordinary works there is another stop: The Dancing House. A couple of Hollywood dancers inspired this construction, which was initially criticized for its style -nothing linear. Now it’s another icon of the city and you can even climb to the terrace bar and have a drink with the view of the Vltava River.  

12.- Try Trdelník, Goulash and craft beers  

On every corner of Prague, especially in the old city, you can see locals baking some rolls and then filling them with ice cream. Yummy! It’s the Trdelniks and even if it’s a kilo of sugar you can’t pass the opportunity to try them.  

Goulsah is another typical dish, consisting of stewed meat with spices. The taste is quite strong. It’s served with bread or potatoes. The tradition is to have it with a black beer.  

And if it’s about beers, the Czechs are known to consume more beer than anywhere else around the world. There are 30 breweries only in Prague. The Pilsner Urquell is one of the well-known.  

Before the pandemic, tours of breweries that have been in place for more than a century were organized and, of course, tours of the bars. If you are going by this time is better to check on the official websites so you’re aware of what is open.   

To note:  

  • Prague is an affordable city. Hotel rooms, restaurants, transportation, tours, everything will be much less expensive than other European capitals. The best prices are in winter season.   
  • The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia and separated peacefully in 1993.  
  • Its language is Czech  
  • Its currency is the Czech Crown, despite being part of the European Union.  
  • In the old city, it was easy to find free tours. Of course, leave a tip.  
  • If you have more time you can add to your list the Jewish neighborhood and cemetery, Wenceslas Square and take a cruise along the Vltava River.   



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When I thought that no city in Europe could surprise me anymore, Vienna appeared. Elegant. Majestic. Monumental. Imperial. Streets rich in medieval, renaissance, and progressive memories; and with corners immortalizing his son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his adopted son Ludwig van Beethoven.

Graben Av. is one of the busiest streets in Vienna

Thirty thousand steps in less than 24 hours (according to my iPhone) was  necessary  to enter into the time machine and live the essence of the capital of Austria: Have a classic coffee and eat chocolates in cafeterias where artists, philosophers, politicians and revolutionaries enjoyed  their  talks; eat the traditional Wiener Schnitzel (veal meat), and enter the opera for a ballet performance.

At the same time, I got carried away by its modernity, crossing the bridge over the dazzling yet choppy Danube River in a scooter, which has become so popular in Europe.

How did I get to Vienna?

During my stay in Germany, I opened one of my flight apps (Hopper). Just 37 USD (one way) on Wizzair. I could never say no to that tempting offer! It was February, the cheapest month of the year; not just in air tickets, but in hotels and theaters as well.

It was 8am when my plane landed in Vienna. I took the airport bus (line VAL2) and in 20 minutes I was in the city center. Unsurprisingly, the hotel could not check me in, but they seamlessly agreed to store my bag.

Later, I started my journey. I opened my map and without hesitation, my first stop would be for breakfast in one of the most traditional cafes in the country for decades, if not for centuries: Café Central.

Café Central

The waiting time is up to an hour

The charm of Vienna’s most famous cafeteria makes your visit a sweet experience. Its history, gastronomy, and architecture are a magnet for the dozens of tourists who line up daily for up to an hour to access a table.

Inside it looks like a baroque church, but with paintings by the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph and Empress Elizabeth, known as Sissi. The service is quick and its atmosphere, welcoming. In my case I ordered the “Mohr im Hemd”, which was a hot chocolate cake and Viennese-style vanilla ice cream. It was spectacular! But, the most famous cake is the Sacher cake (I found out later).

Café Central is one of Vienna’s most iconic sites because since 1860 it brought intellectuals, politicians, and artists to its premises. So, it is inevitable to think that at the next table Freud, Hitler, or Stalin might have sat down and tasted the same coffee in your hand.

The Hofburg Palace

It was almost noon, so I was against the clock. When I left the cafeteria and without looking for it, I came across the great Hofburg palace.  The horse-drawn carriages trotting around this splendid site brought you back to imperial Vienna 600 years ago.

Since the sixteenth century, this architectural ensemble was the residence of the Habsburgs, one of the most influential royal families in Europe. Inside the citadel, you can see the ancient chambers of the emperors, the museums, the church, the winter school of Horseback Riding and the office of the President of Austria.

Graben and Kohlmarkt Avenue

As I kept walking, I found my favorite streets: Graben and Kohlmarkt. They are the luxury avenues in Vienna, surrounded by the shops Gucci, Hermes, Fendi, Burberry, Tiffany, Dior… and cafes with gardens that decorate the city.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church near to Graben Ave.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral or ‘Stephansdom’

Walking along Graben Avenue, I reached the heart of the Austrian capital:  Stephansplatz and the Gothic Cathedral of St. Stephen, which rose above the ruins of an ancient church. At first glance, the pointed needle-shaped tower that has more than 100 meters protrudes. Visitors can go to the tower viewpoint and have one of the best postcards in Vienna, specially at the sunset.

The entrance is free but you’ll need to pay to get close to the altar, climb a tower or view the catacombs.

The City Council or ‘Rathaus’

The town hall with neo-Gothic style was builder between 1872 and 1883.

The soul of Vienna is its buildings. One more imposing than the one you saw two minutes ago.  My favorite and the one I saw in geography books and travel magazines: the town hall or ‘Rathaus’. In the winter months they open a huge ice-skating rink and surround it with food stands.  “What a good vibe!!”, was what I expressed when I saw the place full of tourists enjoying the sunny day.

The Hundertwasser House

It was 4:00pm and it was time to meet the other side of Vienna. Its colorful, modern, and surreal part. After getting lost, I arrived at the 3rd district, the Hundertwasserhaus residential complex.

Defining it, it was not built by any emperor in the past centuries. Nor is it resembling gothic architecture. Rather, it was created in 1983 by an artist who is considered the Gaudí of Austria, Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Construction is like a puzzle. There are no straight floors only fancy shapes, bright colors and in some windows, you see branches.

A gallery called Hundertwasser Village is a former mechanical workshop converted into a gallery and café.

The Danube River

As it was winter, the sun was saying goodbye earlier and I had to hurry to get acquainted with one of the most important European rivers in the world: The Danube. Being a little far from the historical circuit, I had no choice but to get on the scooter. I memorized the map and the direction I was supposed to take and took off.

The experience was fantastic. There is a lane only for bikes and skateboards. I also passed by one of the best-known parks, the Prater, but I did not stop. It was dark and I relished the experience of crossing the bridge over the river. A good opportunity to put on my headphones and listen to the famous melody: The Blue Danube.

The Vienna Opera House

It is inevitable to link the image of Vienna with the music. That is why the jewel of the Austrian capital is its opera, one of the best known in the world. Due to the low season I got my online ticket  for $49 USD. When I went to claim my ticket I had a pleasant surprise: I was upgraded to one of the first rows.

Entering the theater, which was destroyed in World War II, is an almost mythical experience. It was to enter a Renaissance film or travel back in time and feel that behind the curtains would be Mozart getting ready for his performance.

Another stroke of luck was the play. It was a British ballet of choreographers Kenneth MacMillan, Wayne McGregor, and Frederich Ashton who each represented, with their dancers, the evolution of this art.

Arriving at midnight, my last steps were to the hotel. On my way through some dark alleys, I found Mozart’s house. Everything was closed and quiet.  That made me realize that 24 hours were not enough to discover this sublime city and a future return is needed. In the meanwhile, my next destination was Prague (Czech Republic).



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I was a bird. Slowly flying over the valley. At times I descended and drew near the rock formations that resembled giant mushrooms. The sun began to see me little by little—rising up—even though the dense clouds tried to hide it. The sky lit up with its blue, yellow and pink tones.

My way was marked by a gentle breeze that caressed me. Suddenly, the noise of the burner brought me back to reality. I was not a bird. I only had a privileged view from a balcony among the clouds, connected to a gigantic hot air balloon.

I wasn’t alone. In my basket 18 tourists and two pilots stayed with me. In the sky more than 2,000 others shared my extraordinary experience in this hot air balloon festival.

Cappadocia at 6 am

Where? Cappadocia in central Turkey. It’s a site with surreal landscapes and unique geological formations, the product volcanic activity and erosion. With many dovecotes in the rock formations along with ravines, you’ll even find vineyards.

This region is considered one of the most famous in the world for its daily hot air balloon festival, since the weather conditions are “almost” always good. The pilots of the 150 balloons are able to drive through the air with great precision. I say “almost” because the very day of my tour(along with the previous day) all flights were suspended due to bad weather.

This is how my adventure—which I had planned for six months—began, with the most discouraging news. As soon as I landed at the Kayseri airport I received an email notification.   The news of my hot air balloon tour cancellation and the unavailability of any tour flights for the next day left me helpless. Getting to this balcony among the clouds had become a impossible mission.

Frustration and disappointment lingered and didn’t allow me to fully appreciate the magical landscape of such a historic valley that I had encountered. I recognize that. I’m obsessive and particular about my travel experiences. However, the next day I took a tour to the villages of Goreme, Avano, Urgup and Uchisar throughout the Cappadocia region.

I found impressive chapels and churches inside caves with almost intact paintings that captured the life and crucifixion of Jesus from the fourth century. It was part of the Open-Air Museum of Goreme. Cappadocia is an ancient area, where the first Christians hid inside the caves due to the persecution of soldiers from the Roman Empire.

Cappadocia was molded by mother nature. The volcanic eruptions of millions of years ago added to erosion created these lunar landscapes. Among the Fairy Chimneys are the Castle of Uchisar, the Love Valley, Pigeon Valley and Imaginary Valley (Devrent Valley) where you can see the rock formations cast different silhouettes like mushrooms, hats or animals shapes, unlike any other place.

The locals make the area more welcoming for the tourists: swings adorn the area for the playful, trees are decorated with ceramic pots and blue eyes that repel bad vibes, souvenir shops, ice cream vendors that put on a performance while they serve you delicious ice cream and camels ready for you to hop on for perfect picture.

Taking in all what Cappadocia had to offer made me understand that the site was not just about the hot air balloon rides. Many tourists with a fear of heights don’t include it in their agenda and are enriched regardless. That said, I wasn’t about to give up on finding another hot air balloon tour. I knocked on the doors of at least 20 agencies, and I messaged a lot of pilots and tour guides on Instagram. I still couldn’t believe it. Everybody had the same answer: “There’s no openings.”

Mustafa Budak, the manager of the Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia travel agency, offered me an alternative tour. A behind the scenes intimate look of the balloon setup process before takeoff from the best possible vantage point to see all the airborne balloons in the region. My sister, a Mexican couple and I had no other choice but to accept.

The day arrived. The clock marked 3:45 a.m. and the sound of a mosque’s call to prayer woke us up. It’s never been so easy for me to get up as it was then. Immediately, Mustafa took us to an open field. Dozens of cars with baskets and tour buses were approaching.

It was dark but you could see the balloons. They looked like multicolored whales. As the minutes passed they took their giant forms with fire-heated air from the burner. Excited tourists cheered as they boarded these air cetaceans.

With the first rays of light, the balloons began to levitate. Around me about 50 stood at the same time. It was impossible not to cry because of a mix of feelings I had. They were leaving without me.

“Jessica there is only one space in the last balloon!” I was shocked by what I heard. That spot was really mine. My hands were shaking as I climbed into the basket. This ecstasy I had was shared by all tourists in our basket. Most were from India, some of whom shared this magical experience with their families via video chat.

We lifted gently off the ground. Vertigo? Fear? Motion-sickness? They were not on my mind at all. Smooth maneuvering by the pilot makes you forget such things. All that mattered was that we were floating while the rest of the world just moved below us.

Memet, the pilot, carefully steered the hot air balloon through different areas that let us fully appreciate Love Valley. We went as high as almost 800 meters and descended near enough to pass a couple who was getting married on a canyon ledge. His 9 years of experience in ballooning and 4yrs as an airplane pilot gave us the assurance that there would be no mistakes.

An hour traveling through the clouds, a perfect landing on a trailer-bed, a glass of champagne to toast this experience, the recognition of personal accomplishment and the satisfaction of a goal realized signaled the closing of this unforgettable experience, which left floating for several days.


  • Cappadocia has two airports: Kayseri and Nevsehir. The first is an hour and a half and the second at 45 min. Hotels offer transfer services.
  • The prices of the ride in the hot air balloon vary between 180-250 dollars, depending on the capacity of the basket and the time that can be from 60 to 90 minutes.
  • The best season to ride the balloons is from April to June and September to November.
  • The hotel offer is wide with all kinds of accommodations. The best are the ones in the caves.




Asian and European; Catholic, Muslim and Jewish; Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman; Chaotic, dense and calm; Ancient and cosmopolitan… This is Istanbul, a city with more history, culture, personality, and contrast than most of the world.

Istanbul’s streets are fragrant with the smell of corn and chestnuts. The city displays a mosaic of colors in its mosques, women’s veils, and beautiful lamps. From the stores and restaurants, one can hear sensual music, and its favorite flavors are the pistachio for the famous baklava, and apple for its tea.

I stopped first in this city before my trip to Cappadocia. Honestly, I thought two days would be enough. What a huge mistake! I had not realized how enormous Istanbul was, full of mosques, temples, museum, markets, towers… and with population of 15 million people!

But wait! When one first arrives, the overpopulation, the noise, the chaos, the language, and the 95-degree heat is the worst welcoming combination. At least it was for me.  After traveling on a bus for 90 minutes, and being scammed by a taxi driver who charged me a looot more money for the ride, I would say I kind of freaked out. OMG! Where did I arrive? Will I be safe? These were the questions that I kept repeating in my mind while waiting for my room.

“Don’t be afraid,” the receptionist told me, as he opened the big city map. After enlightening me of the landmarks and places to go, he emphasized that I would be safe and wouldn’t regret coming.

So I followed his advice, and started my short adventure to ancient Constantinople. And seriously, I had to hurry up! At that time, I only had day and a half.

One more time, it’s true! Don’t believe in first impressions. Once I was out of my hotel, I began to realize how beautiful the neighborhood, Sultanahmet, was. It was full of colors, with little streets, restaurants, cats, dogs… and the view of the two most important landmarks: Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia church.

Hagia Sofia or Ayasofya

Two medallions in Arabic, dedicated to Ala and the prophet Muhammad, made me bristle. They were right next to Jesus Christ in the arms of the Virgin Mary. Was this the church where the first fusion of cultures and creeds was observed?

In the 3rd Century, it was first a Byzantine Orthodox Cathedral, then it became Catholic. In 1453, with the Ottoman conquest, it became a mosque, and only in 1935 did it finally become a museum.

Hagia Sofia is an architectural jewel, composed of an altar and magnificent chandeliers. It holds marble pillars from the Ottoman era, eight huge medallions with Arabic calligraphy, tiles, Byzantine mosaics, imposing columns, a huge dome and stained glass windows. All together they caused a visual ecstasy.

Its entrance is 60 lira, equivalent to 10 US dollars. And you can completely explore it in two hours.

Bosphorus by ferry

The sunset was approaching. I had read that the best view was from the Bosphorus, the strait where Asia and Europe shake hands. There was only a short time to choose a cruise. The simplest option was a ferry to cross to the other continent: the Asian district of Uskudar.

Ferries departed every 20 minutes and the ticket was less than 1 US dollar. They were spacious and comfortable. On the trip, the seagulls escorted us. It was the best place for a panoramic photo of the city, where the illuminated mosques, the lighthouses, the bridge, and the Galata Tower were framed.

Once back, it would have been unforgivable not to dine on one of the terraces along the Bosphorus and under the Galata bridge. Dozens of Turks would use their skills to convince us to stay in their restaurant.

The Blue Mosque

8 a.m.! I had few hours left to finish this journey. I went quickly to the Blue Mosque, the symbol of Muslim beauty and an icon of Turkey.

Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the outside had an ascending staircase of domes and semi-domes that ended with a larger one. Inside, it was covered by 20 thousand handmade blue colored tiles.

The light entered through its 200 windows, and was decorated with verses of the Koran.  The floor was covered with well-preserved carpets, of course you must enter without shoes and your head must be covered. Only Muslims have access to the prayer area, so the route can be short. The entrance was free.

The Topkapi Palace

The history and treasures of the Otoman Empire, which lasted about 500 years, were in the Topkapi Palace. It was giant, and its rooms portrayed the richness and extravagance of the sultans. There were rooms for their harems, their libraries, and their artillery. The imperial dagger was wielded with gold and emeralds. The palace also holds the fourth largest diamond in the world.

The Grand Bazaar

My favorite moment of the trip had arrived: shopping. How does one not to go crazy among the near 4,000 stores that encompass the Grand Bazaar? It’s impossible not to get lost among lamps, chandeliers, carpets, cushions, plates, cups, scarves, wallets, bags, jewelry…

It’s a mixture of the traditional, like amulets with eyes, and the modern, like the replicas of shoes, purses, and clothing, such as Chanel, Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton.

I wanted everything! And, with every step I took, the vendors didn’t make it easy for me. They tried to get my attention by inviting me for an apple tea, and trying to convince me to buy what I didn’t need.

In the Grand Bazaar, the bargaining culture was a priority. I squeezed that skill until I bought a bag, in which I was asked for 1,500 lire and finally paid only 500.

Galata Tower

The night came to Istanbul. Too late to go up to the viewpoint of the highest tower in Istanbul: the Galata, located in the European district Beyoglu. But, it was early enough to tour the immediate area.

Its streets were narrow and, being a hill, you had to climb stairs. Upon arrival, the imposing medieval tower welcomed me with illuminated blue and orange colors.

Around it, music, art and traditional dishes merged. Inevitably, I delighted in the traditional sweet baklava and my last Turkish tea in this city. All the while contemplating the magnitude of the tower.

To return to the hotel in Sultanahmet, the fastest way was with the tram. It is safe, convenient and the ticket was worth less than 1 USD. Of course, I would be lying if I said that I understood how the ‘Istanbulkart’ worked. The directions were in Turkish, but I was lucky that there was always someone willing to help me.

This was how, and almost without feeling in my feet, I squeezed out my two days in this monumental city. I failed to reach the Egyptian Bazaar, the Asian neighborhoods, the history museum, or the other mosques. They will be the reminder that I must return someday. With more time and with more bags to take all the lamps with me.

Hagia Sofia