Prague visit Sept 13, 14, 15,16 - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Tuesday Sept 13 - After a ten hour flight we landed in Frankfort Germany, waited three hours for the two hour flight to Prague.

Once there we needed to get some Czech Crowns seeing they are not part of the Euro Zone. After some hiking around and asking we found the ATM. I asked for 6000 Cz. It gave me three 2000 Cz bills, each worth about $100. I figured that probably wouldn't work in a bus ticket machine so I also took the rip-off option of using a conversion machine and putting in $20. Now I had some useful bills and change. The bus/public transportation information booth was open but not manned. After some chasing around we finally got to the ticket machine. I did not understand it. Some girl was helping another person buy their tickets and offered to help us. Rick Steves warns about people trying to help you especially with money things. But I let her help. Unfortunately the funky machine would not take our coins. The bus arrived. We got on and with her help paid the bus driver and validated our tickets. It was actually quite cheap like $1 each. The bus took us to the Metro station. I don't recall the details but we finally got on and rode to the second stop - Malostranska. After much fooling around trying to figure out what tram to take and in what direction, we finally took a tram to our neighborhood. Unfortunately it was getting late.

We hiked around and could not seem to find the street we needed to get to the hotel. I went into the Starbucks (YES A STARBUCKS!) and asked directions. The street across the parking lot had the wrong name but we started hiking. We asked a couple people and found the street name changed after a couple blocks to the correct name. We hiked up this enormous hill lugging our suitcases over cobblestone streets and sidewalks until we found our street. This street was steep downward. We had to carry our suitcases down quite a ways. After some hiking down the hill we found our hotel.

The hotel Deb picked is called the "Vintage Design Hotel Sax". It was very arty and very nice. We checked in and went to our room. We hadn't eaten in several hours so we asked at the desk for a place to eat. They sent us to a very nice restaurant a couple blocks away more or less across from the American Embassy. It was too nice and too expensive, plus the chef had gone home. We hiked on down and found a simpler place where we had beer and a sandwich (as I recall). Back up the hill and to bed.

Day 1 Wedensday Sept 14 - The hotel is terrific. The whole place had an art theme. It was mostly 60's and 70's style. Our room had op-art designs on the walls and art objects all around. The Room was more like a suite with an entry hall, a living room and a bedroom. It included a nice HP laptop computer for our use. The bathroom was nice but the toilet was oval shaped the wrong direction and a bit large for me. The breakfast room was very nice with perhaps the second best breakfast of the whole trip. We met Grace and Gene from Vancouver Washington.

About going to the castle RS said - "don't go in the morning because it is crowded". Despite that we decided to hike up to the castle and see if we could get in. It's quite a hike. There were thousands of people mostly in tour groups from all over the world. We asked at the ticket desk if it was less crowded later - it does get better after 1pm. So we hiked up the hill to a monastery. Not much going on there. It was too early to try their beer so we took a few pictures of the spectacular view and hiked back down looking for Loretta church. Loretta Church sounds really interesting. It supposedly has part of Mary's house there. We couldn't find it. Then on to "Little Square", which has the Starbucks on it. We looked around for a place recommended by RS for lunch.

After asking at the parliament if they had a local map, they didn't, we continued looking until we found U Hrocha ("By The Hippo") a funky local restaurant. It was run by two guys who did all the work. There were about five bench type tables. You were expected to share the table. The menu was on the chalkboard on the wall and they only served one type of beer - Urquell the original pilsner. We had a simple lunch of a beer cheese plate, potato salad and couple sausages with some mustard and horseradish. Note the salt, pepper and paprika. Delicious and a great experience.

We looked at the Church of St Nicholas and decided to climb the tower. It was not crowded but quite a climb. The church is not on the castle hill but down near our hotel and Little Square. We saw a costumed kid whose job is to blow the trumpet several times a day. As part of the tower they had displays of how the secret police used this place to watch and check on the people during the communist days.  The tower had burned at one time so there were singed beams. Only one bell survived the fire.
Some very nice views of the area. Notice the Charles Bridge with people in the distance. This picture shows Little Square. The Starbucks is directly below us. A restaurant we ate at is in the grey building.

Back up to the castle. When we went to buy our tickets we found the cathedral was closed. Apparently for weddings. We saw several brides and bridal parties walking around. We did not stay.

We hiked down to our room and took a brief nap.

We then hiked over the famous Charles bridge trying to find Old Town Square. The bridge is amazing. I picked up a map in the left tower. It is pedestrians only and lined with statues. There were several artists and street entertainers along the way including a guy who was kneeling with his forehead on the ground and a donation hat in front of him. I guess he was doing penance and trying to make a couple Crowns.
   The crowds were amazing as were the sights as we walked. We got a little lost but finally found the square. It was huge and interesting. More or less in the middle was a grand statue of Jan Hus an early critic of the Catholic church. He was burned in 1415. Tyne church looms over the square. The square had many vendors of every thing from entire pigs roasted over an open fire to sausages and beer as well as the usual junk.
   We wandered around a bit and found the famous Astronomical Clock. It was quite spectacular. Somehow it tells several versions of time, phases of the moon, and other times. It appeared to be a clock with two faces and various circular shapes revolving around them. There is also a major show of action on the hour. Unfortunately we were pretty tired and only saw the anti-climactic half hour chime... next time.

We hiked back over the Charles bridge and back toward our hotel (movie). Here is where you can find real Czech people. We stopped at the local Irish pub for a beer. We were sitting outside at a table when along came Grace and Gene. They had a beer. We had a good conversation and decided to have a dinner at a place recommended by RS. After some hiking around Little Square we found the place. I think it was named Beseda. A very nice dinner for two including beer, appetizer and meal for 300Kc + 70Kc tip or about $35.

Then home and to bed.

Day 2 Thursday Sept 15 - Had our very nice breakfast. We went to Little Square to a tobacchi and bought 24 hour Tram tickets for about $11. We took Tram #22 then #14 to get to the "Dancing House", sometimes called "Fred and Ginger". It's by Frank Geary. Interesting.

We went to a stop near St Wenceslas Square which is really a long wide shopping street with a statue of St Wenceslas and the National Museum at the end. We were looking for the Mucha museum - recommended by Rick Steves.

After some miscues we found the Mucha museum and enjoyed seeing the art there. A very nice easy museum. They use Mucha's art on their currency. He is a very important artist for the Czech people.

One of our goals was to go to the train station and see about our train to Vienna. After much hiking up St Wenceslas square we viewed the big statue of St Winceslas. Unfortunately the lighting was wrong. We then walked through a pedestrian passage to the funky train station. We were told, once again, that we didn't need a first class ticket. Just get on, choose a seat and show our Eurail pass. We took the Metro back to
Malostranska square and tram #22 to Little Square. We had a lunch of goose pate and beer at the place where we had dinner last night.

We then took the #22 tram up to the castle to avoid the grueling hill. We toured the St Vitus Cathedral (Including a Mucha stained glass window), the castle, a chapel and the Golden Way shopping area. Here are some views inside the cathedral. Look at the flying buttresses. Holy moly there was some guy riding a balloon. We took the #22 tram back down to Little Town Square. We went to our room for a break. Not many pictures considering it was a major goal of the Prague visit.

We had beer and met Gene and Grace again for dinner. We struggled to find the place along the river recommended by RS. As we hiked we ran across some art works (notice the Charles bridge in the background). We finally found the restaurant and it was empty. We were assured the fish was fresh. We had a rather pricier dinner here. I found my fish excellent the others were not as impressed. We had an excellent conversation with G&G.
   Gene and Grace are retired and are into collecting art glass. They had a couple leads on gallery's that might have some glass for sale. Apparently some places were hard to find and/or nonexistent. They have a dream of developing a significant collection and creating a museum for others to enjoy. 

Back to the hotel and to bed.

Day 3 Friday Sept 16 - We decided to have a taxi take us to the train station rather then riding a tram and the metro to get there. When we checked out the hotel was nice enough to take our Czech Crowns plus a credit card. The taxi guy spoke good English. He has relatives in the US he visits often.

We got on the train for the 4-5 hour trip to Vienna.

Comments -

- Our room and the hotel were highlights.
- The Czech language is complex. We did learn to say "thank you" - DUCKquee and they liked us trying.
- They had some old restored cars for touring around the city.
- You can see many videos of Prague on youtube and hulu.
- I never felt threatened or had any problems with people here.