Saturday, May 26, 2007

Trip to Prague

Prague is a beautiful city. It was spared being bombed in World War II, so its old architecture is largely intact. I would recommend visiting if you can. Overall the people are nice. Most spoke english well enough that language was not an issue.

We started our trip with a direct flight from Atlanta to Prague. 10 hours. It was a night flight so after they served dinner, I tried to sleep through most of it. Unisom to the rescue. When we arrived, we had a driver waiting for us, he was holding a sign with our name on it. Cool. I was not about to drive here where the the language was different and they drive like crazy. We rented an apartment for the trip as it was less expensive. It was in a nice location on Wenceslas Square. It didn't face onto the square, but in hindsight, that was probably OK as the square is party central on the weekends.

View from our room:
After we got in and settled, Patty and I went out looking for some soda and bottled water to stock the frig with. we walked around the block and found a deli/butcher. The lady serving us spoke no english and was really snarky. When it came time to get the change, I held out my hand, and she got all disgusted and put the change in a little tray on the counter. I was really starting to feel anxious that the language and culture differences were going to be bad, I didn't want to be an 'Ugly American'. The next day I was relieved that it was just her, everyone else was great and understanding.

That evening we were beat, we walked around and finally settled on TGI Fridays, yes I know that's sad, but we were hungry and tired, and just wanted some easy to understand food. For the record, this was the last time we ate at an 'american' place while there.

The dichotomy of this: The Communist museum is above a McDonalds!

The transportation system in Prague is great with both subways and street cars.

On Wednesday (5/16), We took a lunch cruise on the Vltava River. We got concerned briefly when 15 minutes into the cruise, the boat turned around and headed back to the dock. Hmm, maybe our concept of cruise was different than theirs. As it turns out, they went back and picked up some people that where late.

We went through a set of locks to get further up river.

Lunch was buffet, and was good. When we walked on the boat they gave us a shot of something strong, probably vodka, went straight to my empty stomach head. I guess that's some custom.

Views of the river:

After the cruise, we had a private tour of the Jewish town and old town Prague.

This was really nice as it was just us and the tour guide. It was easy to hear her, you could easily ask questions. Much better than a big group tour. While in the Jewish section, called Josefov, went through 4 synagogues. One of them had all the names of Jews from Prague that were exterminated in WWII. Over 88 thousand names. We also learned about Golem of Prague. It was reported to have been created to protect the Jews of Prague from antisemitic attacks.
Franz Kafka statue. It shows him riding on the shoulders of a bodyless man representing the struggles with bureaucracy

We went and walked the Charles Bridge, built in 1357, and got to go up in the tower.

Went by Kepler's house. Then had dinner at a restaurant on the old town square.

On Thursday, we went and saw the old town hall with the astronomical clock, called Orloj. Fascinating device. It shows Prague time, zodiac time, sun and moon time, and below the calendar.

We took a tour of Prague Castle. Its really a series of buildings and churches.

After dinner at an indian restaurant, went back and took pictures of the castle at night. Night comes really late there, well after 10pm for it to really darken.

Friday we had a tour to Kutna Hora, a small town south east of Prague. Our main point of interest was the Sedlic Ossuary. It is a church decorated with human bones.

Kutna Hora used to have a major silver mine, so much so that they also built a mint there for which we toured. While there, we got talking with Sophie from France. She was on a quick, 5 day holiday. On the way back to Prague we found out that they were not going to drop her back off at her hotel. Figuring out where she was staying, it wasn't far from where they did drop us off, so we walked her back.

We had dinner in the basement resturant. The food was good.

On Saturday, we were pretty leasurely. After brunch, we went to the new town hall and tower.

They let you climb the tower, and inside it still has its bell. Luckily, they don't ring it anymore, otherwise it would have been really loud in there.

Later we toured the the old town hall. Over the years it had been expanded into several buildings beside it. During the the tour we were taken to the basement level. This level used to be the ground floor, but because the square outside flooded alot, they filled in the square making the ground floor the basement. (Wow thats a lot of dirt moving for the 14th and 15th centuries).

On Sunday we had a lazy day. We got up late. Took a walk back across the Charles Bridge and had lunch. We then walked up a rather tall hill into a park. Along the way we passed the U.S. Embassy.
The park was nice and shady as it had gotten warm these last few days. On the way back down, Martha to a minor spill on an unmaintained path, louckly she walked way with only a scrape. That evening we ate at Rocky O'Reilly's Irish bar. Real authentic irish food.

Monday was our last real vacation day. We went down to the river and rented a paddle boat. Got some nice views while on the water.

Had a big lunch as we were taking a hot air balloon ride that evening so we wanted only a light dinner. Spent the day buying suvaniers and window shopping.

Later in the afternoon we sat around and played some gin rummy to fill the bit of time before they picked us up for the hotair balloon ride.

We took the balloon ride over the country side as we'd seen the city from above up on the surounding hills and towers. The countryside was beautiful.

The only snag we had with the ride was at the end, we thought we could pay for it with our credit card, but we could not. They wanted cash. In the end Both Patty and I went and got as much as our ATM cards would get out, and then I still had to go to Western Union to get the difference, plus commision, off my credit card. We were sweating it. I really didn't know if we were going to be able to come up with the money. Tuesday was our final day, we got up, had a little to eat, packed and was picked up at 10am for the trip home. The flight from Prague to Atlanta was good. Since it was a daytime flight, I got a lot of reading in.

Our layover in Atlanta was five hours long, so we ended our vacation at the same resturant (chain) that we started with, TGI Fridays. 24 hours from when we woke up, we finally made it back home, sleep came quickly.

Here's some goofy things we saw while we were there.

Some artistic photos: