Trip Start Jul 06, 2013
47Trip End Ongoing
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We took the Student Agency bus service to Prague, about five hours with a stop in Brno. Cheap, decent bus, cheap. Our hotel was a charming little establishment, on a small street we thought was an alley. The original part of the building was a "palace" dating back to the 14th century. Way cool vaulted ceilings. Our room must have been in a newer section, it was on the third floor and overlooked a courtyard. Still not a Holiday Inn though.
We arrived in time to have a hearty mid-day meal at a brew-pub, U Flecku, just a few blocks from our hotel. Another medieval building, fest-hall seating, to-die-for beer plunked down in front of you when you got seated. Tim's roast pork was delicious, my beef, ho hum. Important tip, when in a country specializing in pork, get the pork
After lunch, we went a-wandering. Easy to do because Prague's streets and maps defy straight path navigation. And not just because the only map our hotel had was in Italian. Another tip, when you get to Prague, buy a good map, don't rely on the freebie from the tourist information desk either. The map is too small to read the bus and tram information. The metro is also challenging because while you can get out at the correct metro stop, your exit might still be six blocks from the exit you thought you wanted.
Despite these challenges, the city is not so big that you can't eventually stumble on most of the things you wanted to see, and the journey there is still full of worthy sights. A picture everywhere you look. Fortunately, the river Vltava cuts through the center and is a great landmark. The Charles Bridge, ("Il Ponte Carlo" on our map) built in the late 1300's, is a great stroll and reference point also. From there, we climbed the hill to the castle and cathedral, shopping and snapping photos along the way. Beer and pastry for "supper" then back to the hotel for an early night.
We started Saturday with a visit to the opera box office to secure tickets for that evening's premiere performance of "Tannhauser." We also bought a hat for me and gloves for Tim. From there, our plan was to hit the Old Town center and then go to the Monastery at the top of the hill. The town center was accomplished with little difficulty, but the Monastery was much more problematic, partly because it wasn't on any of the maps we had. We eventually got there, had a light snack at their brew-pub and then got in to see their magnificent library. After the Monastery we walked back down the hill and wandered around the old town and markets before heading to another recommended brew pub for our late mid-day meal. And yes, Tim was able to describe this trip as "the best three days of beer he has ever had."
Back to the hotel to change and then get to the Opera House for the 6:00 curtain. The opera didn't disappoint, and the opera house was none too shabby either. We were pleased to see that the house was nearly sold out, the surtitles were in Czech and English, and that the locals dressed up for the event. It was a lovely evening
First thing Sunday morning we went to the bus station to buy our return ticket. From there, we went to the Jewish quarter. Before Hitler, Prague had a thriving Jewish population, mostly relegated to a small section of town. There are still some ancient synagogues and the cemetery in the quarter, as well as the old town hall. It was a brief, but very interesting visit. The Jews were allotted a very small space to bury their dead over hundreds of years, so the graves were piled on top of each other, with the headstones jumbled together. One of the synagogues has the names of all Prague's Jewish citizens lost in WWII inscribed on the walls. No photography allowed in there, but suffice to say, every wall, floor to ceiling, corner to corner, was filled with names. Very sobering.
Caught the 12:30 bus back to Vienna, arriving home to the apartment by 6:00. The only mishap being that I left my fine, new hat for which we paid I think 5 euros, on the bus. While Prague is part of the European Union, it has yet to adopt the Euro for currency. The Czech Koruna is worth .04 Euros, so our 500 Koruna tickets home cost us 18.22 Euros. Prague is a very inexpensive adventure in the off-season. Our hotel will double its rates in Spring and Summer.
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