about a dream: Day 74: Prague

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 74: Prague

Finally, we made it to Prague! When I went to Europe in 1998, Prague was my favorite city. I couldn't wait to get back and see it again.

We left early Saturday morning to catch an 8:00 train out of Baden. We took that one three stops to one of Vienna's major train stations where we got on our train to Prague. It was a five hour ride, so it was important that we make ourselves comfortable!

The train was divided into cabins that contain 6 seats and close off from the aisle with a glass door. The seats pull out flat kind and make a giant mattress when they're all extended. This was endlessly fun!

The good news is, the girls love travelling by train! It's more fun than car, easier than flying, and faster than boating. Works for us! We bought a family train pass this summer that allows the girls to travel for free within Austria, Nick and I to travel at a reduced rate (this varies from 25 to 55% off, depending on which kinds of trains we're using), and gives the four of us a reduced price out of the country too (how much varies. In the Czech Republic, Maggie travelled for free, Nina was half price, and Nick and I were 25% off).

So, yeah, the trip was a delight, plus we didn't have to pay full fare. What more could we ask for? In fact, the trip was so much fun that Paris is back in the cards! We're tentatively planning our trip for the week of Nina's Easter vacation. The girls are thrilled with the idea of getting a sleeper car.

Well, we got in to Prague at about 1 and made our way to our hotel. We were going to take a cab, and they quoted us 25 Euros to go the 1 or 2 km to our hotel room. We walked away. They guy came after us and offered to take us for 15. I told him that on the side of the cab it says 2 Euros to get in, 1 Euro per km. He walked away. Never assume in Eastern Europe that the rates on the side of the cab are anything but a total lie. Though to be fair, the streets in Prague are so twisty, narrow, and crowded (1,000 times worse than Boston. Really), I could see charging 10 or 15 Euros to get to our hotel. Just be honest on the side of the cab about it.

It turned out that the subway was probably faster anyway, because we were just 2 stops from the hotel. The only thing we don't like about taking the subway is that they seem to be much deeper underground here than in the US, and you end up taking these long, steep, fast escalators down and up. Maggie gets vertigo on them (don't tell her, but so do I. It's hard to not feel like you're just going to tumble over!). So, I have to hold Maggie and she has to keep her eyes closed, and it's a little scary for her.

We made it though, and immediately settled into and started to trash our lovely hotel room:

We'd gotten a triple, which contained one king-sized bed and one twin. The whole 2 double beds per room that you're treated to at no extra charge in the US doesn't happen in Europe, so we have to spend a little more to upgrade. It was a lovely room though, antique furnishings and all. I think the brochure said the building was built in the 1300s and hasn't changed much since then. I'm continually surprised at how nice buildings were in the 1300s and how little they've changed. I mean, I'm sure the walls have been re-plastered and whatnot, but still, it looked like it could have been built in the 1800s.

Our room had a large, lovely bathroom too. I'm sure all this wasn't there in 1300:
When the kids saw it one of them exclaimed, "Look, it has a kids' sink and a grown-ups sink!" We had a quick discussion about what a bidet is, but I still caught Nina trying to wash her hands in it. No one used it for its intended purpose.

Ok, on to the city! Well, the first thing I noticed was that it was packed with people. Packed. We're talking New Orleans about 2 weeks before Mardi Gras packed. I'm not kidding, I kept expecting to see people with beads carrying a hurricane. I was craving a cafe au lait and some beignets.
See? Throngs. That's Old Town Square and the Tyn Church in the background. Our hotel was right around the corner.

Here's Old Town Square, deserted on early Sunday morning. It's huge and dates from the 1300s, I think.

On that first day we got some Czech food in Old Town Square (potatoes, sauerkraut, and ham all mixed up. It was very good, probably the best thing we ate the entire weekend. Prague isn't famous for its food.)

Then we made our way down to the Charles Bridge. These are photos taken on Sunday morning when it was quieter. Our Saturday photos are so thronged with people that you can't even see the bridge.

The bridge is for pedestrians only and is lined with beautiful statues. There must be 2 or 3 dozen statues, here's one.
At the bottom are two bronze-colored leaves that, if memory serves me correctly, are good luck to touch.
Nina was excited to touch them, but Maggie declined. I'd explained that they were probably pretty germy from being touched by a thousand people, so if she touched them, she had to remember to not touch her face or pick her nose afterwards. So when I asked her if she wanted to, she said, "No thanks, I'd rather eat my boogers."

At least she has her priorities straight!

We got as far as the playground on the other side of the bridge on Saturday, then we crossed back onto our side and had a quick dinner next to the hotel. We were exhausted and conked out by 9!

That's enough for now, I'll write about Sunday this evening.

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