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

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

We can head home now. Just after we'd had our early breakfast on New Year's Day it started snowing. It wasn't just token light snow but proper, full-on snowfall. This is what Dad had been hanging out for, not satisfied with our white Christmas that involved no actuall snow falling. We enjoyed the snowfall from our top floor room balcony but pressed on by heading off with our bags full of dirty clothes onto the Metro.

After 1 change of line we had arrived at Namesty Miru, a square not too far from the centre of Prague where there are 2 laundromats. We walked in the still-falling snow to the first laundromat only to find that it was shut for the public holiday and thus headed back to the square to try the other one. When we reached the second laundromat we discovered that it too was closed for the day and that we were going to have to return to the hotel with our clothes still unwashed.

With an hour wasted with the fruitless washing activities we were determined to get into some activities so our first move was to take tram 12 to across the river from the Stare Mesto and walk into the city's main boat pier. From here we purchased tickets for a 12pm 1 hour cruise on the Vltava and we filled time with a caffene break at the bridge bar, underneath the bridge, near the jetty. The prices for the drinks here were extortionate; Mum and Dad's coffees cost $10AUD!

The cruise itself wasn't fantastic as the commentary had to cover a cumbersome 6 languages. The one lady recorded all languages, with a pretty bad accent that was hard to understand. In addition to this the commentary was constantly out of sync and thus irrelevant. At least it wasn't an expensive trip and it was warm.

Because of our bad public holiday experiences earlier in the morning the plan was to do things that were not likely to be closed. In line with this policy we walked along the river toward Karlov Most (Charles Bridge), which we hoped wouldn't be too clogged with tourists. Before we could keep walking we did have to eat lunch and the place that took our eye was a nice Italian place with a "crazy cow" sign out the front. Our pastas were nice but, as to be expected by the location, a bit more pricey than necessary and they wrote on the bill the amount of the recommended 10% tip!

Crossing Charles Bridge was a slow process. It seemed as though most tourists and dreaded tour groups were on the bridge at once, creating heaps of traffic jams as groups stopped to look at the view, watch a band play or buy something from one of the tourist-trap stalls. Despite this situation there was a cyclist trying to ride over the bridge and also several people with dogs.

Over on the north bank of the Vltava we were at a tram stop we had passed through earlier in the morning on tram 12. Here we took a tram 1 stop in the wrong direction before figuring ourselves out and taking a 20 the right way, up the hill around to the top side of the Castle. The tram was really full when we hopped aboard but then a stop or two later some stingy tour leader put her entire tour group on the service, making it very snug indeed. Unfortunately this made it very hard to get off, even at our popular, touristy castle stop.

Our visit to the castle was a relatively simple through walking affair, from 1 end to the other. We did of course have to stop many times to admire the structures and also have some arvo tea and check out some shops. It was an unwise idea to enter any of the churches or major paid buildings because the queues were so horrendous. The crowds heading down the hill from Castle back toward the river and the city were swelling as it was now the afternoon of the biggest public holiday of the year.

We took our favourite tram 12, also quite full, returned us to the hotel for a quick turn-around before our return to the city centre. At 5:15pm we headed into the deep subterranean tunnels of Andel Metro Station, where we were greeting by a very packed train heading inbound. We exploited the uneven platform spread of passengers to find space at the back of the train and board relatively easily. At Mustek we exploded out of the train and headed to the surface, however up in the open we realised that we were in an undesirable location to view the 6pm fireworks. To change this I felt that the best option was to take the Line B train 1 stop to the foreshore at Staromenska and so we descended once more. At this time we had 20 minutes before the fireworks show but the Line B train was packed to the rafters. It was questionable as to whether anyone could fit onboard but I used the Tokyo principle and managed to push into the carriage to get enough space for the 3 of us.

The Prague Metro train carriages are registered to carry 48 sitting passengers and 216 standing but I think that last night this limit would've been exceded. After the 1 stop we exploded out of the open doors only to find the station hall crowded as well. All 3 escalators were heading up but they kept stopping and people seemed reluctant to walk up the steps. It took us 10 minutes or so to get to the escalators, amid a tight crowd with some people elbowing, pushing and shoving. One has to feel sorry for the families with small children, who would've easily been scared by the situation.

At the top once again we managed to get away from the crowds and walk along the street to a part of the river where we could see Prague's giant Metronome, the staging point of the fireworks display. We arrived just as the first shell exploded and stayed for the entire show, which impressed us with its uniqueness and difference from the norm here in Australia. To all the Czechs out there: Happy Czech Independence Day and thanks for providing me with an equivalent to the Australia Day Skyshow, which I will miss this year :(.

Despite the thousands of people out and about to see the show no roads were actually closed, the only change being that some tram routes were deviated between 5:40pm and 6:30pm. When the show ended people were spilling out all over the roads and some idiots were incredibly trying to drive through it all. As our arrival on the Metro was fresh in our memories we were determined to not travel home by the same means, thus we were walking largely against the flow to the main bridge over the river. Once we managed to get onto the bridge we snapped some night photos and appreciate Prague at night, with other fireworks displays visible from nearby districts as well as people letting off handheld crackers around the place.

We just missed the first number 12 tram but the second wasn't too far away. Our return was slow going as the tram had to deal with stupid car drivers queueing over intersections and buses being too wide. The great thing about Prague is that the capacity of the roads is so small that it isn't viable for many people to own and drive cards. This was very apparent last night. Luckily the trams often have exclusive lanes in the road so we travelled much faster than any of the regular road vehicles.

When we got to Andel we checked out some of the restaurants in the revitalised shopping district but dismissed them all. It's clear that this area has undergone a lot of change in the recent years with brand new shopping centres next to the old railway yard with now disused tracks leading out into the streets and the Staropramen Brewery. We ended up at a Czech joint just up the road from the hotel, a place I had spied on our first night but we hadn't thought to go to until this point. The food was surprisingly good, the staff were very friendly and the prices were good old fashioned Czech value, not the inflated tourist prices of the Stare Mesto.

This morning was an early affair with breakfast and quick trip back into the Metro. We were successful with our Laundromat experience and were all finished within an hour and a half. From hogging the entire 8 operable machines of laundromat to the hotel to Old Town Square we rolled with the punches for a full morning. We were back at the square to check out a Alfonso Mucha exhibition we had noticed when the Christmas Markets were on. But before we visited the exhibition we had to check out one of the main tourist symbols of Prague: the Astrological Clock. It didn't seem like it was worth the hype, it's not as if it's the only one in the world, but yup I've definitely seen it! Mum had several Mucha posters when she was younger and it was interesting to see the works of this Czech artist who had done so much work in Paris, especially from a Paris Metro style angle for myself.

Beyond the exhibition we were intending to enjoy the Czech Cubism museum but unfortunately the best we could do were a couple of Czech design and cubism shops, as well as the museum restaurant. Unfortunately the museum itself was closed for renovation but the fantastic cubist building and restaurant were fun to visit. I had a fantastic chicken, mushroom and cranberry crepe for lunch followed by a Czech "profiterol". This was like a giant, flat profiterole filled with both cream and custard with caramel on top - very delicious!

Undeterred by the closure of the Cubism Museum we pressed on with our plan, taking the number 8 tram out of the city, over the river and up to the Holesovice district. Here we walked, via a nice Chinese-run mini mart to buy some tissues, to the Czech Technical Museum - supposedly one of the largest in the world. Unfortunately we were to be once again disappointed - this Museum was also closed for winter upgrades.

By this time we were starting to feel somewhat down-trodden and the wind chill, especially on top of the hill at the Technical Museum, was really cooling us down. For something a little different we didn't walk back to where we disembarked from our previous tram but instead through the park down the side of the hill to the riverfront road and then onward to the nearest tram stop. From here we were able to take tram 17 directly across the river and along the southern/eastern bank. This enabled us to not only warm up and see other parts of the city but also travel in style.

To the south of the city, in the Nove Mesto we disembarked from our service to appreciate the Frank Gehry-designed "Dancing Building". It looks like 2 buildings, addressing and connecting with each other, in a way that could be compared to dancing. Regardless of it's name I feel it fits in well with the existing urban fabric while at the same time adds something new. This is something Perth should do to make its city centre more interesting.

From this point we were able to expand our tram repetoire even futher by taking the number 14 directly across the Vltava and back into Andel. Because of our bad run with the Museums it wasn't yet too late in the afternoon so the parents headed back out once again by tram to get to the Prague Museum. I opted to stay at the hotel because Dad hogged the laptop last night and thus I hadn't done any blog. In addition to this I had laundromat and other research to do for my travels with Belinda so it was important for me to exploit this high-speed, free internet at the hotel.

Mum and Dad seemed to enjoy their trip to the Museum, discussing it with me on the way to dinner which was again at the Czech joint just up the road from the hotel.

Tomorrow we're travelling, again with a fun 4 train connection to get to Wernigerode in Germany. Stay tuned for all the fun details!
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albert3801 on

Did Charles ever get re-united with his luggage?

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