Double G's on a Segway

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Oct 23, 2009

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Monday, August 31, 2009

Well here I am in Praha, Prag, Prague.  Whatever language they say it in, this is a pretty neat city a world away from Guatemala.  Except for when I lived in Germany many moons ago and a few trips over when I was really young, Europe in the summertime is a new experience for me.  Almost 100% of my visits since then have been smack dab in the middle of winter so I have quickly relearned a few things about the high season:

    1.  It is VERY, VERY crowded.
    2.  The sun actually does shine here and daylight lasts longer than 6 or 7 hours.
    3.  The temperature really can go above 65 degrees in Europe.
    4.  Did I mention how crowded it gets here?

On the way into town I traded business class on a 767 for the proletariat class of a bus and subway ride on an already warm and muggy morning.  On the outskirts of town block after block of identical Soviet era apartment houses are reminders that the past really isn't so distant. Even the subways and trams look like some relics from a black and white Soviet movie circa 1947.

What a difference the few summer months can make for a visit.  Normal for me is freezing my butt off in darkness at 3pm in Helsinki in the middle of a January blizzard or trying to see Edinburgh through dense April fog and drizzle.  Having to share the streets with thousands of tourists getting in my way with their oohing and aahing over the littlest things is a new one as well.

For example, how a McDonald's of all places in Prague can possibly elicit such an oohing and aahing reaction from three Americans I observed I will never understand, but they were just entranced by a picture of an ice cream cone with Czech writing.  The ad had them mesmerized because the product looked exactly like what we have in the States.  I mean come on now...McDonald's?  They traveled 5,000 miles to take pictures of something found in every crappy mall food court or at every highway access road back home???

These women of size looked like a few cones of that garbage hadn't missed them at all so I can only assume they are product experts.  I really wanted to tell them we exported the's the same non dairy "ice cream" product from the dollar menu they obviously sample with a lot of gusto back in Iowa.  Only here it's a quarter cheaper.  So eat up, ladies and move along...nothing to see here.

After the Mickey D's drama, at 1 pm I noticed the Astronomical Clock drawing a huge crowd so I decided, ok, I'll bite.  Maneuvering my way into about 300 of my closest friends took some skill and I patiently waited for whatever on earth could corral so many tourists.  Finally on the hour the bells chimed and two windows opened about three floors up.  An eery hush fell over the crowd and all eyes went skyward.  Little dancing figurines filled the windows for about ten seconds, and the crowd went nuts with cheers and clapping.  As quickly as they opened, the windows snapped shut and a bell then tolled one time.  I hate to sound jaded but that's eight whole minutes of my life gone forever.  A glorified cuckoo clock that people wait up to an hour to see?  Maybe I am missing something but I just can't imagine people making this a Pragian must see.  Then again an ice cream cone on a poster is all the rage here, too so who knows what people are thinking.

I did find my own two must sees though.  Across the Vltava River from the old town is a funicular railway up a mountain to a large pretty rose filled park.  A steel tower harking back to the communist days rises above the trees like some miniature Eiffel Tower and five bucks let me climb 300 stairs (yeah, I counted) to a viewing platform.  The whole city spreads out below and with the cool breeze, blue sky and awesome view, and I found it hard to leave.  

An hour later, another couple of bucks got me to the top of the building that houses the Astronomical Clock with its crowd drawing figurines and if oohing and aahing over something is an absolute, do it from the top of the tower and not from the sidewalk on the hour when those cheesy figurines dance around.

Until about twenty years ago Prague was hidden behind Iron Curtain, and I can't help but wonder what people here think about their new lives and prosperity now that the Czech Republic looks westward rather than east to Russia.  I am glad the curtain has lifted because a beautiful city of old buildings was lurking here all along waiting to be discovered.  I read that WWII barely touched the place and that means the Old Town is a living museum of buildings painted in light peaches, pinks, creams, and light blues.  It's like an Easter basket exploded with all these muted pastels everywhere.

A Barbie Doll dancer on a Segway advertising some strip joint got my attention in the main square of the Old Town.  The area where she stood on that two wheel thing had a wood box built around it with pictures of women in various states of repose.  I can probably bet 1000 kroner that 20 years ago a bleach blonde chick in a Hooter's type outfit with fake double g's bouncing over the cobblestones would have been unimaginable.  Even more unimaginable is that the massive front heavy load burdening the Segway's sense of balance did not cause it to tip forward.  Both her chest and the Segway's engineering capabilities were scientific marvels.

Shortly after watching Segway Girl bounce around in all her glory, a sex toy museum wedged in between a store selling tourist tchotchkies and a Starbucks caught my eye.  I am on a budget and really need to watch where I spend my money so I am not sure if a museum of who knows what is worth it.  Curiosity hasn't gotten me yet but tomorrow is another day here in sunny Prague.

And to think the Commies kept all these delights tucked away behind the Iron Curtain all those years.  Who knew back then what we were missing??!!

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