Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Prague

Sunday morning we left
our hotel in Berlin after eating a quick breakfast so we could get to the
Hauptbanhof (train station) for our 7:42 train. It arrived on time, of
course, and we took our seats and settled in for the four-and-a-half
hour trip. We napped some at the beginning, read our books, and looked
at the scenery. The part of Germany that we went through was quite
flat, and Berlin quickly gave way to farmland. No sprawl like in the
U.S. After the Czech Repub. border it started getting quite
mountainous. We even saw terrain that reminded us of Yosemite, as the
train tracks followed a river with sheer rock cliffs jutting up from
the banks.

Our train happened to arrived in the smaller of the Prague train
stations. We decided to take a cab to our hotel, since we didn't have
any idea how to do public transit here (we only took one cab in
Berlin, to the hotel this morning, because the buses weren't running
frequently enough that early on Sunday--only about $15 for the cab
ride). We were quickly spied by a cab driver who offered to take us to
our hotel for 500 Crowns -- about $30! I didn't realize the exchange
rate and that we should have bargained with the cabbie. Oh well. Now
we know.

Lunch was at a restaurant near our hotel. It was an Italian place, but
we had some Czech sausages in addition to our salads. The salads were
not quite like anything we knew -- I had tuna and Nathan had fried
calamari. His came in the shape of onion rings on a bed of cucumber,
super-thin-sliced onions, eggs, tomatoes, etc (mine was on the same
bed). It was good, but the beer and sausages were great.

After that we checked into our hotel room. Then we
took a bus down to the main part of the city and walked to the castle,
which is by far the most popular and most celebrated attraction in the
city. It's really a little city unto itself on a hill above Prague.
And it is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants just waiting to
ensnare tourists (most of whom speak English or German). Prague
reminds me of the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco, with it's
throngs of tourists, souvenir shops and signs blaring -- mostly in
English -- things like "best ice cream in Prague" or "oldest pub in
Prague." In spite of all that, the castle is amazing. Construction
started in it in the 1300's. It took a couple centuries for it to be
mostly finished, I think. We visited St. Vitus (sp?) Cathedral within
the castle. It was crammed with people tilting their heads to take
pictures of the enormous stained glass windows, the towering ceiling
and the colorful light reflected through the glass onto the stone
walls. Nathan said it reminded him of Notre Dame, and I think I heard
someone else there saying the same thing. After that we wandered
through some of the rest of the castle and down through the gardens in
front. Then we walked down the main touristy drag and did a bit of
souvenir shopping. (Prague is known for its crystal and blown glass
items.)

Monday morning we had breakfast in our hotel -- included again, and
pretty similar to our breakfasts in Berlin, but we missed having
orange juice. After that we checked out of our hotel and took the bus
to the main part of Prague. It was a bit of an adventure. First we
couldn't get on the 133, the bus we took last night that took us right
where we wanted to be, because it was too full! So we waited a few
minutes and took the 207, which stopped a little short of where we
wanted to be, so we had to walk an extra half mile or so. The bus was a bit slow because of traffic jams -- a thing unknown in Berlin. The subway
and trams in Prague don't seem to cover a great area. The buses seem
to go just about everywhere, but I don't think we had a great transit
map. The streets are so windy in Prague that I had a very hard time
getting my bearings, and the language is so unfamiliar that it was
hard to remember the names of the streets we were on.

We spent the whole day wandering around the main part of Prague,
stopping here and there to sit and watch the people go by. Prague is
an amazing city, and a bit overwhelming. Walking the cobblestone
streets and alleys between the centuries-old buildings is a unique
experience. This is a day we won't forget; hopefully we'll be able to
come back here some day.

One last thought: Before we came to Prague, we heard lots of talk about how cheap
it is. From what we can tell, that's a bunch of hooey.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think Prague used to be fairly inexpensive. It certainly was when I was there 9 years ago. But like any good attraction, the more interest, the higher the prices :) - Linda

EuropeanTop said...

Hello and thanks for the opportunity to read and post on your blog.

I’ve just posted an article related to travel tips for seniors on my blog and I thought maybe you’d be interested in reading it. Here is short preview of some of the areas I covered:

- Prefer a backpack on wheels instead of a suitcase, you could pull it behind you when your back hurts or you are exhausted.
- Consider checking your bag in with the airlines, because it would become an unnecessary burden to be dragged all over the airport or the city if you are going to have a short visit.
- You could stay outside the city, in a hostel maybe, because it is cheaper, less crowded and the air is much fresher, but you have to walk or use the transport more, to get in the city or to the station.
- Most museums, some concert halls, railways, airlines, bus lines, ferry and shipping lines have a discount policy for seniors.
- Electronic devices are useful but sometimes they can give you a lot of headaches. You could help yourself with a micro-tape recorder to record your notes. It would be easier than to write and you would put them down on paper later, to share your notes with your family.
- If you bring a camera with you to keep the beautiful images alive along the time then make sure you know how to handle it or you might fail to record them not only on that camera but also in your eyes.

For more resources on visiting Europe you are welcome to visit my blog, where you can also get acces to some excellent maps of Prague and Prague hotels, together with information on restaurants adn rent a car services.

Best regards,

Michael R.