New and Old

Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
Trip End Feb 24, 2008

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Comin' right at ya is another update from Prague, the last of 2007. But before you get all nostalgic and start singing Auld Lang Syne I've still got the details of today's adventures to cover and it's time I started.

Breakfast at this hotel is another new buffet and it contains some rather odd food choices. Along with the standard hot food items of sausages and egg there is also boiled brocolli and bean/corn mix. In addition to bread the sweet pastry selection is apple strudel and doughnuts!

Once we were equipped and ready to face the day we headed out to the nearby tram stop and travelled in true Prague tram style to the Petrin Funicular. Our ascent was accompanied by many Mediterranean tourists while the descending car was empty. At the top we enjoyed the scenery but lamented the unexplained closure of the viewing tower. In order to get a view of the city across the river Vltava (Moldau) we walked down to the level of the funicular's intermediate station, where there are less obstructing trees.

The funicular returned us to the foot of the hill and we boarded the next tram travelling across the river and into the Store Mesto (old town). Here we explored the narrow and confusing streets, passing many touristy shops and passing through throngs of mainly Mediterranean tourists until we arrived at the old town square. In Prague the main Christmas Market, in the old town square, runs through until the 1st January and so our Christmas Market experience was extended with the visit to this different style of market. It wasn't as large as the others we have visited this trip and the emphasis was on local wooden crafts. The highlight would have to be the Trdelniks that we shared fresh from the fire. These are a local sweet dough wrapped around a cylinder, covered with crushed almond and vanilla sugar and then rotated over a flame until cooked. Yummy!

We managed to find a nice pizza joint down and just off the main shopping street, leading toward the river from the old town square, in which to have lunch. It was a bit weird sitting next to a young British couple who had sterotypical accents after having been surrounded by the Med. tourists since arriving in the city. In fact it's been surprising how few Americans (they must all be on bus tours and not actually exploring the city) we've come across and how many Meds and even French tourists are in town, something weird is definitely going on!

After lunch we walked the rest of the way to the river and found out when, where and for how much we could go on a sightseeing cruise tomorrow. On the way Mum did manage to get us side-tracked at the Swarofski shop, using the excuse that they are a Czech brand and the prices were notably cheaper than at home.

The number 12 tram that runs along the western (non-old town) side of the river was our mode of transport back to the hotel, although we did have to walk across a nice bridge facing the city's giant hillside metronome to get to the stop. Once back there was time for a bit of a regroup and final research about the city's New Year's Eve celebrations before we had to head back into town. The metro took us in to Namesty Republicky station, which is adjacent the Municipal House. Here we were booked to see a New Year's concert in the Smetana Hall at 4pm.

Our tickets had to be collected from the box office before we could proceed upstairs and find our seats in the large art nouveau auditorium. While the space was aesthetically pleasing it's high ceiling and many hard surfaces were not sympathetic to the string or woodwind sections. The concert itself was highly enjoyable with the orchestra playing a repetoire of well known classical hits ranging from Mozart to Strauss to Bizet and, of course Smetana and Dvorak. I must admit that I have sympathy for the orchestra members who would be sick of playing Smetana's My Country (The Moldau) and Dvorak's ?New World Symphony all year long. Just prior to the concert commencing Dad obtained a program however once the music began it became obvious that the insert listing the music of tonight's concert was incorrect. It took us a while to obtain a correct set list at the conclusion of the concert, asking random ticket sellers and staff that were associated with the event if they had any left.

Dinner was had at a Lebanese restaurant on the top floor of a relatively new shopping centre. Many of the restaurants there seemed to be having New Year's Eve parties and were still in the process of setting up so our choice was limited. We left the restaurant after our meal feeling somewhat used after they provided us, without any mention, with a bowl of bread and then suddenly it appeared on our bill at the end! Talk about tourists being used.

In Prague the major New Year's celebrations are actually on the 1st of January because this is also the anniversary of the Czech Republic (separation from Slovakia on 1/1/93) and this is when the biggest fireworks are. As such we had decided to head home to rest and instead enjoy tomorrow's festivities instead of the regular NYE thing, which we are never that into anyway. Thus, to the sounds of people launching their own fireworks and rockets in the street (this is legal here!) we descended into the Metro for the trip back to the hotel.

By the time you read this it is definitely 2008 at home but still 2007 here in Prague. Tomorrow is a new day, a new year full of new experiences but I doubt it will mean too much for this extremely old city that has seen so many years already.

Happy New Year and a prosperous 2008 to you, wherever you are!
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