Czeching In..

Trip Start Apr 12, 2008
Trip End Jun 18, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

<Brian's brief chronological list of "highlights" (and of whinging)>
- Took the train to Prague... turns out this place doesn't use the Euro yet so we had to go get money from the ATM. There was a line there and the family in front of us took out 10000 crowns, so I took out 1000 crowns which was the second smallest offering on the list... boy were we surprised when the ATM did the normal cash dispensing drum roll and then spat out a 1000 crown note... what da? Who the heck is gonna take that? Luckily the lady at the deli type place gave me 950 crown change for my 50 crown train tickets... crazy!
- Finally managed to get the tram to the accommodation and got lead up 13 flights of steps (or 170 steps) to get to our room which was right at the top... Lang gave me a weird "I am stuffed, are we there yet?" look at the top of each flight The views were pretty good except it was a bastard to go all the way up there... coming down is even more fun as the steps are very narrow and deep, so its tippy toe all the way pretty much.
- Went for a walk around the town of Prague. Vaguely following the map (which has sex shop and escort ads all over it), we saw the Charles Bridge which is partly under renovations... I instantly recognized this bridge as the one from the amazing race Asia, but the statue with the hole that the clues were hidden in was unfortunately behind the renovation fence. Apparently this bridge was also used in Mission Impossible... need to check later on.
- Walked all the way to the old town centre, the architecture of every building is pretty cool... having an old look about it yet each one is slightly different in style to the one next to it. We followed the walking tour from the Rick Steve's book which does a 360 around the old town square, describing features and what happened which was quite interesting.
- We also could see a giant metronome down the road from the square. Lang asked if the ticking stick thing was called a melontome and I convincingly said "yup, that's exactly what its called"... HAHA...After telling her what a "melontome" was actually used for in music, I finally cracked up laughing and confessed it was actually a metronome... HAHA.
<Lang's Extended Version>
It was time to move on again, this morning we were heading to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.. I remember when I was about 6 or 7 years old that I was really proud of myself for knowing how to spell Czechoslovakia, little did I know that a few years later, this communist country would be split up into 2 separate countries - the Czech Republic and Slovakia..
Anyway, the train journey took just over 4 hours, not a lot compared to some of the others we had taken previously on this trip, but by now we were well versed in what to do to nab ourselves a private compartment. Basically, hop on the train and search for an empty compartment that has no reservations written on the outside and then proceed to spread all our gear out, close the door and maybe the curtains too.. Yeah, it's a bit anti-social, but it also gives us private time to sleep or watch a movie or something like that..
When we arrived in Prague, we headed to the nearest ATM as the local currency here is still Czech Crowns rather than the Euro. Although a lot of the places accept the latter, it's better to get the local currency. So given that the exchange rate was approximately 15 crowns per dollar, Brian decided to take out 1000 crowns.. You should have seen his face and reaction when the ATM pushed out one 1000 crown note.. It was priceless! We were somewhat worried that not many places would accept such a large denomination, but the lady at the stand didn't blink an eye when Brian handed it over to pay for our 52 crown transit tickets to get to our room for the next 3 nights...
Speaking of which, when we arrived to check-in, we had to walk up 13 flights of stairs or 107 steps with our packs on just to get to our room, which just so happened to be on the very, very top floor.. Brian was thrilled.. I was mortified =P
After a break to recover, we decided to head out to Charles Bridge and to the Old Town, of course.. Prague is one step better than the rest, it has 3 areas - the Old Town, the New Town and the Little Quarter, which is the area where we are staying..
It wasn't very far to walk to Charles Bridge, but we were kinda disappointed to find when we got there that the section of the bridge on our side is currently under renovation. However, we soon found that this was only a small section of the bridge and the rest of it was lined with locals selling their wares to the hordes of tourists. The bridge itself is adorned with 17th century statues, making the place seem magical.
We took our time strolling along the bridge and eventually ended up in front of the Astronomical Clock, apparently Europe's most overrated site.. A large crowd had gathered around as it was 10 minutes to 6pm, so the clock would soon ring on the hour. We decided to wait around and see what it was all about and boy, I think I have to agree with the majority and say that this was way overrated but still the crowd applauded!! What the??!!
Anyway, since we were now in Old Town Square, we decided to do Rick's 'spin-tour' of the sites in the square to find out a bit more about the sites and history of the buildings and area. It was somewhat interesting to learn that the 27 crosses in the pavement near the town hall symbolizes the death of 27 Protestants, by beheading, who rebelled against the Catholic Hapsburgs to fight for freedom.  
There's also a huge metronome (one of those things that tick from side to side like a pendulum) down one of the streets leading away from the square that replaced a 37m tall statue of Stalin when his empire fell. Basically it was put there to represent the passing of time.
Dinner that night was at one of Rick's recommended restaurants and we dined on potato soup, beef goulash in a bread bowl and potato with bacon and cheese (very similar to gnocchi).. It was so filling and also so cheap!
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