Prague tour

Trip Start Mar 26, 2010
1
5
14
Trip End Apr 04, 2010


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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Sunday, March 28, 2010

I  was woken by some loud (presumably drunk) Czech-ans around 5am. We had decided to get up around 6am because Viking needed to collect our luggage at 7am, so I decided against going back to sleep and got ready for the day.

Ms Jones didn't wake until I finished getting dressed, so I went to the lobby with the phone card in hand. One of the Viking reps had tried it out on the lobby phone last night and had succeeded, but when we were in our room I couldn't get it to work. I had figured out that 6am in Prague was 1am back home, so I was confidant that everyone back home would still be awake. I walked up to the front desk and asked if I could use the lobby phone. I explained that I hadn't been able to get it to work in our room, and I really wanted to call home. One of the girls behind the desk went over to the lobby phone and dialled all the bagillion sequences of numbers that were required and lo, I was connected to Baltimore! Surprise surprise, everyone was awake. We talked for 16 minutes, and then I went back up to the hotel room and put our luggage outside our room and headed down to breakfast.

Breakfast was served by Viking, buffet style, in the hotel restaurant. FYI, sausage tastes like hot dogs here in Europe, which is an odd sensation at 7am. In my family, we don't eat hot dogs often, except for summer holidays. And only for lunch too.

Afterwards we checked out of the hotel and waited to board our designated bus. We had to identify our luggage and watch them put our luggage on the bus. We weren't allowed to board until we had identified every piece of luggage sitting on the sidewalk.

First thing you notice while driving through the Czech Republic? Graffiti. Everywhere. It isn't illegal here and any small child can buy a can of spray paint. Consequently there's tons of graffiti under bridges, on the walls next to the roads, signs, all over the place.

First stop of the day, Prague Castle (oldest castle in the world)! Our tour guide was a local and her English was rather good. She handed out receivers with head phones so we could hear her talk from a 100 yards away instead of being right up in her face to hear her. We didn't go inside the castle per se, but we did go inside the castle courtyards. And there were many. Our guide said the castle was mainly open to the public, but it's so huge we didn't have enough time to go in at all.

Just outside the main castle bit, there were four musicians playing some Mozart: a cello, accordion, violin, flute. It was very charming and added to the feel of the Czech-an love of classical music.

Because it was Sunday we were unable to go into St Vitus church, which was inside the castle grounds, but we did walk all around it. It took a long time, as it's a huge church. We walked down some small alleys, looked at chapels (you'd think with a church so close they wouldn't need chapels, but they did), and no matter what we looked at, our tour guide had something to tell us about it.

There was no time to go to the gift shop, which was disappointing but not too terrible as it was really cold and we did a lot of standing around which didn't help. We hurried back to the bus which took us to the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Now I don't know anything about the rest of Prague, but the Jewish Quarter was breathtakingly magnificent. No matter what we looked at, the buildings were very unique and extraordinarily colorful. If you've ever been to Charleston you know that all the houses are different colors, mostly pastel, and mostly fairly simple. Prague is much more colorful and much more ornate.

Walking through the town and listening to the history of the area on our headphones was very nice, as I could lag behind and take lots of pictures. Fact: Franz Kafka was from the Jewish Quarters. Not that I know anything about his works, but we did pass a cafe named the Franz Kafka cafe. How different could eating at the Franz Kafka cafe be from reading his books? I'm sure it's almost the same thing.

At one point in the morning, my camera's memory card said it was full. I'd been having problems with my memory card for a few months and to have it start to wig out on in the middle of Prague was heart sickening. I had to keep deleting pictures that I felt were 'unworthy' and let me tell you, trying to look at pictures closely enough to see if they're worth keeping, in sunlight, while walking and trying to keep up with the group and not trip on cobblestone pavement is pretty hard. I couldn't pay attention to what our tour guide was saying most of the time!

What I did pick up on was how anti-Communist she was. Having been alive during the Communist regime she had nothing good to say about Communism. The Communist takeover involved the state taking all private property. No small businesses, nothing. There was decay everywhere. After the fall of Communism all the property was restored to it's previous owners and the rebuilding of Prague was started. Nowadays when you're in Prague and you see any scaffolding, you know that it's the first time since the fall of Communism that that building has had any outside work done.

Our tour guide took us through the courtyard of the Klementinum ('the first observatory where daily temperature measurements were taken since 1775 and where Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion'), showed us Charles College, the Charles Bridge (although we didn't go on it), and the Astronomical Clock. The deeper we went into the Jewish Quarter, the more amazing it became. One building looked like the entire front was a colorful tapestry from the medieval  ages, and if it could speak I'm sure it would express it's hearty displeasure at being the current home of a Hard Rock Cafe.

We were given two hours on our own to eat lunch and then meet up again in front of the  Astronomical Clock. Finding a place to eat was kind of hard, but everyone had a menu in English outside the restaurant. We chose a quaint place that looked like it only sat 10 people. Ms Jones panicked slightly when she realised how empty the restaurant was. For the longest time, it was just the two of us and five empty tables with a curtain in the doorway to the kitchen. I ordered potato soup (my safe food), and we got three different kinds of butter with our bread.  Regular, some kind of orange butter, and what I believe to be butter with garlic in it. After trying them all (because my father would have had a cow if I didn't), I decided they were all very good but that the best was the garlic.

Restrooms are a bit different here in Europe than back home. At the restaurant the restroom  was a room with two stalls (one mens, one womens) but with floor to ceiling doors, and a sink inbetween the doors. Also there are no levers to flush the toilet. Instead there is one large button that you press that flushes the toilet. From the few restrooms I've been in, what we have in the states --called stalls-- the doors don't fit like doors to a room, as oppose to here, where you have mini rooms inside every restroom. (I feel like that previous statement I just wrote doesn't make any sense. So if you don't understand, don't worry. It's not you.)

Shopping for gifts was a bit hard, as everyone seemed to have the same thing. One store had some postcards and some cute things made out of wood, and as I was anxious to get spend all my krona so I wouldn't bring any home, I bought a lot! Next to the Astronomical Clock was an Easter Market, where they sold something called a Trdelnik ('traditional Czech sweets... 'Trdelnik', a hot sugary coated pastry'). Someone in our group recommended that I try the 'roll thing', so I while we were in the Easter Market I got one. Unlike most sweets, it wasn't overly sweet. It wasn't rich, more like a doughnut, but the sugar coating wasn't like a doughnut's coating, not overly rich, but sweet enough to be a dessert. Also in the market were some water colors of the city which were 550 krona a piece. I had 600, so I got a 50 (cents?) piece back and I'll probably hang on to that for awhile, as we're only going to be in the Czech for a little bit longer, and what am I going to buy with 50 krona?

Ms Jones wanted me to get a picture of the John Hus statue in the market square. They had some sort of stairway overlooking the square, so I got a really, really great picture of John Hus with the building's behind him and the stalls with ribbons tied to the roofs.

We met back up with the group and I got a picture of the Astronomical clock up close and personal. I don't know if the picture I got does it justice, but I tried. Walking through more of the Jewish Quarters we saw the theatre where Don Giovanni premiered, a gorgeous opera house, and a couple of other things that I couldn't take pictures of because I didn't have the heart to delete anything else. Our hotel happened to be down the street from the gorgeous opera house, which made our hotel look really ugly compared to what we had just seen.

The buses were late so we couldn't board right away. Ms Jones needed to sit down but all the seats were occupied. Except in the children's area. I don't know if it was because it was a Sunday or because that's what all wealthy little European girls wear, but all the little girls wore dresses except one, and they were adorable.

On the bus I was called to the front to identify my backpack, which I had forgotten about, and then we were on our way to the boat. The scenery was breathtaking, but I got no pictures because of my ridiculous memory card.

Arriving at the ship was nice after a few hours on the bus. No one knows why it took us so long, but our driver had to make a couple of u-turns which flabbergasted us and made us lose faith in his ability to get us to our destination. Our room is small (120' is what it says on the website), and the bathroom is really small. As I am a small person, I have no problem. Others have complained about the size, but I find it quite comfortable.

The first evening on the ship will have to wait for another entry. Not that a lot happened, but I've written enough for now and I need lunch!
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Comments

Christie on

I'm enjoying your travelogue heaps and bunches! In reading your description of the restroom and its facilities: I don't know if you are aware that some of the toilets you may encounter will have a "double button" to push. One in the shape of a 3/4 moon and the other that fits in the cutout of the moon. One button would be for #1 (for a mini flush) and the two together would be for a heavier flush (to flush any solids you may have "deposited")!

Dad on

You earthy thing, Christie! TMI.

hobgoblins5
hobgoblins5 on

OH. Aunt Christie you are a gem! I did not know that and I thought it was odd that there were two buttons when one would have sufficed. And I'm too much like my parents in that regard; I never would have asked! Travel is so educational!

Dad on

What do you mean I wouldn't have asked? "Hey, you over there: What's this extra button for??"

See? That was easy.

Mom on

What, isn't that on Wikipedia?

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