Czech it out...

Trip Start May 09, 2007
Trip End Jun 04, 2007

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ahoj.  We finally managed to find an internet cafe.  There are not very common here...far less than in South America. 

We are in Prague after our overnight flight to London on Wednesday and our afternoon lay-over in Heathrow Airport, arriving close to 10 p.m. local time.  We managed to avoid major delays and are feeling pretty good - Zora (Mark's mom) gave us melatonin to help us sleep.  We stayed up with Mark's relatives when we got in and did the Czech thing of having a social drink when we arrived despite our tiredness.  On Friday we walked around town and did a few necessities like getting cash and groceries.  Zora was quite the travel guide being from here, and Mark isn't too bad himself given that we've been wandering around for 4 days without a map (he's been here a few times before).  The big reason for coming here in the first place was Zora's sister's 70th birthday and her husband's 75th.  That evening was the big party for them at a private restaurant near the castle.  It had an outdoor courtyard and patio where we met the other 30 or so guests, and sipped champagne and repeated "Nasdravi!" (cheers) over and over.  The champagne kept flowing the entire night, as did the beer and wine.  The guests of honour gave a nice speech about their life and having to leave the Czech Republic during communist times for Germany, and the hardship of being separated from friends and family.  It was interesting to hear such a personal story about such a historical time.  The Czechs were a bit shy about speaking English to us, but after a few drinks they opened up.  It was an experience definitely off the tourist route. 

It was a rainy morning on Saturday so we decided to go to the National Museum, which is a piece of architecture in itself.  The displays were unlike anything we'd seen before; every possible fish, bird, or other animal known (or extinct!) was stuffed and behind glass.  Since there was no English translation and we were a bit tired from jetlag, we didn't stay too long.  We met up with Zora's sister, Darja, for coffee/lunch at a famous cafe where artists and musicians used to meet.  We then spent the rest of the afternoon with Zora and Darja, seeing the famous Charles bridge, Prague castle, and wandering the side streets.  We even ran into a sculptor that Zora started talking to, who is one of the most famous sculptors in the country - he designed many of the famous coins.  He invited us in to see his studio, and it turned out that Darja had met him years ago, and they had quite a few friends in common.  That evening we thought we'd try out the local nightlife, and went to the well-known Karlovy Lazne bar.  It used to be an old fitness gym, and has 5 floors with different music and a quiet bar on each floor.  Two of the dance floors were even old swimming pools!  We liked the choice of moving around a lot.

The best way to see Prague is on foot, so we've done a lot of wandering around (somewhat aimlessly), but this has made for an interesting perspective.  The weather has heated up significantly - we are roasting in 30 degree weather the last 2 days.  Yesterday, my cousin Zuzana picked us up and took us to the famous Karlstein Castle, where Charles IV of the Bohemian Empire (and ruler of the Roman Empire) lived and conducted all of the most important kingdom business and hid the crown jewels.

As luck would have it, on Friday night Mark's uncle Jirka chatted with a relative of Darja who happened to organize the big classical music festival happening now in Prague (Prague Spring Festival).  There are over 50 concerts in the event and we managed to score free tickets to see the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in the Municipal Hall, described as one of the premier and most beautiful music halls in Europe.  It was quite a fancy event and we had to dress to the nines for it.  It was a very Czech experience - the orchestra played a symphony by the country's most famous composer, Smetana, in a room named after him.

Today we tried (almost in vain) to find internet and do a few errands.  Things take time here! 
Now we're off to the country to the family cottage that's been around over 100 years for some biking and relaxing.  Pictures to come...
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