Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prague, Czech Republic

Cab ride from Vienna to Prague
We were able to sleep in a bit before getting up to pack and head to the train station. We are supposed to be on our way to Prague today. What we didn’t know and only learned when the train arrived, was that the Czech transportation system is on strike today, so no one is taking a train in or out of the country today. It’s not that another night in Vienna would be bad, but we have our hotel paid for and we have a tour bright and early the next day. LESSON: Check your train at the ticket office before assuming that it's still going to be there...Lesson Learned!
Wenscelas Square
We laughed a bit about our luck and then began plotting how we were going to get to Prague without the train tickets that we already had in hand...
I went into the ticket shop at the train station and ran into another group that was in the same predicament. They had looked up airfare, which was going to be $600/person, one way. That wasn’t an option. We could take a bus, but it wasn’t going to leave until 3:45pm and it would take at least 5 hours to get there. Ugh...After talking with these people a bit longer, they had decided to take a taxi to Prague, which was going to cost them 300 Euro. Kim and I decided that this was going to be our best bet, so we were in. We then met Van from Texas, who is an aerospace engineer (rocket scientist) and works on helicopters. We offered him a seat in our car to cut costs and he accepted. Two others from Phoenix joined in the hunt and got a taxi of their own. Soon after we were on our way to Prague by taxi and the price went up to 350Euro per car. I was a little annoyed, but the fact of the matter is that we would lose money with the hotel situation, plus we’d have to find place in Vienna, and we might even miss the tour tomorrow.
National Library in Prague
So, we are on our taxi journey to Prague, riding along through the beautiful countryside hoping for the best. There are always bumps in the road and it’s how you deal with them that counts. I think that we are doing the best that we can and what’s a few more dollars at this point?? We definitely don’t have money to throw around, but we can make due and just be careful to stay on budget from here on out!!
Astronomical Clock
When we arrived in Prague, the cabs dropped us all off near Wenceslas Square. We knew that our hotel was nearby, it was just a matter of finding it.  After asking a couple locals, we began a short journey up a steep hill with our suitcases. Within less than 10 minutes we had located our hotel, in very sweaty fashion. The upside was that it was a nice hotel within walking distance of everything and the weather seemed like it was going to be fantastic. The downside was that we needed to cool off and refresh before we could do anything!!
Prague from the hill
We gathered ourselves, asked a few questions of the receptionist and made our way back to the square. We decided that we were going to try local cuisine that night at a restaurant suggested to us by a local that Kim had previously met in Mexico. The food was delicious and we were extremely full, so we decided to walk to the Charles Bridge to try to get a few night pictures. The scene was supposed to be stunning. Along the way we came across the Astonomical Clock in the Old Town Square. This was the Prague that we had read about and dreamt about visiting. There were lots of people, small streets with shops and food, outdoor cafes, and old buildings lit up for the evening. The Old Town was mysterious and kind of creepy, but in a very welcoming and warm kind of way. After taking numerous pictures, we headed to the bridge where we found yet another mass of people, but breathtaking scenes all in one. We even ran into many of our taxi-mates from earlier. We were able to get pictures of the bridge, river, Prague Castle, and Cathedral. It was beautiful.
Charles Bridge from the river
Guards at Prague Castle
On our way home, it began pouring rain, which meant it was time for us to turn in. It had been a long day anyways and we had a tour the next morning. Very happy with the city and our location, we turned in for the night, excited about the prospects of the next day.

We got up fairly early the next day, grabbed some breakfast, and headed out to meet our tour. We had to walk through Wenceslas Square to get there, but we found it without much issue.  The tour drove us around much of the city, pointing out some fo the major areas and took us across the river to the castle. We were able to get out and walk around the castle, where we saw the changing of the guards, took some stunning pictures of the city from above, and walked through the gothic cathedral and vineyards on our way back to the bus. The bus then took us the to boat, where we had a short river tour of the city and were about to take pictures of the Charles Bridge from a different angle. From the boat, we walked through the upscale shopping area, Jewish area, and back to the Old Town Square. It was explained to us that when the clock chimed on the hour, the 12 saints appeared in the small blue windows above the clock, and the skeleton rang the bell. That’s what everyone had been staring at the night before!!  Oops!
Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge
After leaving the tour, Kim and I decided to walk back to the Jewish Cemetary, which had over 12,000 headstones confined in a very small area, basically built one on top of the other. It was very sad, but definitely something worth seeing. There are also many Synagogues in Prague, but we chose to not visit those. We walked back to the Old Town Square, sat at a cafe and ate desserts for lunch! We shared an ice cream sundae with baileys on it and apple streudel. THey were yummy!! Then we walked back to the Charles Bridge for more day time pictures, and then on to the train station to check on reservations for the train to Berlin. Since we had seen most of Prague and had an extra day to travel on the train, we thought that it might be neat to take a day in Berlin. Once finding the train station and information, we were told that no reservations were necessary, which was fantastic, and we headed back to the hotel. Along the way, we grabbed some McDonald’s as a cheaper dinner alternative.
We napped for a short bit and then got ready to go out. We had been looking forward to going out in Prague and we had a list of places to try. Most were within walking distance, so it seemed likely that we would be visiting a few. We began with a drink at Deja Vu. It was a cool atmosphere, dark with 70’s music playing. The crowd seemed laid back and the drinks were decent. We then headed to Harley’s. Harley’s was underground and decorated to be like hell. The bartenders were all in devil horns and chains, but very good looking. We had a traditional Czech shot and a drink. What a way to get started, but much cheaper than the other place! The bartender then gave us another free shot, so we were definitely having a good time. We took a few pictures, enjoyed the music, and had another round.
Jewish Cemetary
McDonald's Massacre
Kim decided that she wanted to go to a dance club, even though it seemed like Harley’s was what we were looking for. So we grabbed a cab and headed to Mecca. After paying the cab driver 500 crowns (yikes!), we went into the club, where there was no one, and they wanted to charge us almost 300 crowns per person to get in. We quickly decided that this place was dead and we needed to head back to Old Town. Another 300 crowns and we were back within walking distance of the hotel. We tried one more club, which was three levels decorated like Pulp Fiction, and there was no one there. 
Feeling tired and let down, we headed back to the hotel. Of course we had to get McDonald’s along the way because by that time and after that amount of alcohol we were starving. After grabbing our food to go, we headed back through Wenceslas Square towards the hotel and it started pouring rain. Once again, we got back “home” drenched and with the food barely making it. Kim had done her best to protect the food, but we did have one set of fries fall through the bag onto the sidewalk, which were promptly scooped up and put back in the heap of food! It was delicious though. The only casualty that night was the bed spread.

Sausage in Prague

Prague is an amazing city that I would go back to in a heart beat. It has an old gothic feel to it, which was dark and mysterious in its' own right. It's a very romantic city in a different sort of way, but a place that you can definitely spend some time in and truly enjoy the culture and blending in to the daily hustle and bustle. The local cuisine was amazing and the people were a blast. There is so much to see that we took in as much as we could in the time that we were there...but it's definitely on the list to see again. 

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