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Published: August 30th 2016
PragueDay 213 Thursday 18th August 2016 – Dresden to Prague
The Gothic masterpiece of St Vitus Cathedral
Woke up kicking ourselves for not planning more days in Dresden as there was so much more we wanted to see and we both actually need to shop for more clothes. After this many days on the road most of what we are carrying is turning into rags and I think people are starting to mistake us for tramps. We sprang (fell) out of bed at 7.30 and walked a block away to a supermarket that had a small café inside and picked up a bread roll and a take away coffee for breakfast.
Got a taxi ride to the bus station without any hassles and waited for our bus. The Dresden bus station isn’t a bus station as such but just a series of bus stops next to the train station. We only knew where to stand because this was where we were dropped off at 3 days ago otherwise we may have been lost like a lot of other people including locals who we had to help. Our bus arrived late but was underway quickly and two hours later we were
As seen from the town
in the city of Prague. Our hotel was fortunately within walking distance of the bus station so 15 minutes later we were at our new home.
Dropped off our bags and then hit the streets and before we went too far stopped and picked up some cash as the Czech Republic doesn’t use the Euro but their own currency the Koruna. The exchange rate to the Aus dollar is 1 to 18.3, which isn’t one of the more easy numbers to have stored in our head. Walking down towards the old town and we came across a plaza that had lots of stalls selling handicrafts and food, we ended up stopping and got a bite to eat, which consisted of one sausage and a plate of fried veggies. The meal was sensational but because the veggies were charged by weight we think we got ripped off by about $5. Not a good introduction to Prague but we need to be more vigilant.
We pushed on towards the old town and the closer we got the bigger the tourist crowds. Soon realised this was perhaps the world’s largest tourist swarm, there were tens of thousands
Crowds in front of the town hall clock
of tourists, it was unbelievable, and to add to the misery were all the attached hawkers, and Segway riders and touts. Got to the main square and just pushed our way right through to the other side and kept walking. Knew this was a popular town but didn’t quite expect this and to be honest, on first impressions, we think Dresden, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius were better, but we have 5 more days here so let’s hope the town warms to us.
Walked around for a few hours before heading home briefly and then at 6 went looking for a beer. Found a great local sort of place with beers at a reasonable price and may have stayed there for dinner except the food looked pretty bad and we did notice that not many of the locals were eating – they knew better. Headed further down the road to an Italian restaurant for dinner and soon discovered that the only beer available was Budweiser. I hope I don’t offend any Bud fans out there but not particularly keen on the drop, and when I asked the waiter why there was only Bud on the menu when Prague
Skulls and bones
is renowned for having some of the best and cheapest beers in the world he replied “sorry Sir but this is an Italian restaurant”. Didn’t feel like that was an answer, except probably a starting point for more questions or an argument so we ignored it. The meal was okay except Shelley finished hers before I got mine and then my food was cold, and then to add insult to injury they hit us with an additional 21%!V(MISSING)AT tax on top of the menu prices. Done twice in the same day – not happy. Back at our room we did some research and apparently all prices should include taxes or it should be noted that they don’t. Now that we know we will be on the lookout over the next few days. Picked up some take away beers on the way home that ended up more expensive than the pub – sort of getting the feeling that this place is one horrid tourist trap and I am really hating it. Day 214 Friday 19th August 2016 – Prague
The hotel we are staying in is very quiet and comfortable
so got a great night sleep and a fantastic breakfast included so a great start to tackle the day. Out on the streets and keeping an open mind then we hit the crush of humanity and got through to the Old Town Square just before the hour to see the Astronomical Clock do it’s 45 second display. We barely saw anything because of the huge number of tour groups with their leaders holding up all manner of stuffed toy animals on sticks obviously these are the new flags for them. We have already said we will do this section early one morning to get a better look at the buildings but not sure how early it would have to be. Moved towards the Charles Bridge I ducked into a shop for a quick look while Scott got into the shade, it took me longer to cross the street back to him than I spent in the shop. Scott just looked at me smiling as I tried to fight through the endless tour groups who would not let me across.
After that we did a left hand turn and escaped down along the river to Zofin Garden a
Main Square madness
small island in the river passing through much quieter streets with beautiful buildings not the big ticket items but still great to see. Along the way we saw St Giles Church which is run by the Dominican monks and it is in the Baroque style with the frescoes painted by the Czech Wenzel Lorenz Reiner, Scott was so excited by these details. Walking along we saw the beautiful National Theatre which is very impressive from the outside, but not sure if we have time to see an opera again Scott was excited by the thought. Crossed over the Legion Bridge to see the Lennon wall which is on the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (thought the crusades were over) building. The graffiti started in the 1980’s with John Lennon images and lyrics from songs but it is constantly changing even while we were there someone was adding more. Can I say this is definitely not the best Graffiti art that we have seen, so I it comes down to the day or week what is on the wall.
Braved the Charles bridge which had thinned enough to get across and marched through the madness of the old
Crowds at the ramp up to the Charles Bridge
town and back to the hotel for a rest and some quiet.
Went back to the local bar where we are the only tourists. For the oldies out there who remember the TV sitcom “Cheers”, there is the debonair barman who is friends with everyone and also smokes and drinks beer (yes I know Sam was a recovering alcoholic that did not drink but you get the image). Next there is Norm and I am not exaggerating he is a larger man who everyone greets as he walks in the door, the others are a local butcher, not postie who brings in bones for Norm who may or may not have a dog or it maybe it’s for his soup?? A few council workers and their table has a reserved sign on it every night, so everyone sits it the same place.
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.”
From this bar we went
tower of Charles bridge without the crowd
looking for a feed and our first try was at a restaurant that looked okay but before ordering we asked the waitress if the prices on the menu included the 21%!V(MISSING)AT. Now before asking this she spoke to us in English very well, but then replied to our question with “Sorry I only understand Gastronomic terms and cannot understand English”. This to me was her saying “if you believe that BS you deserve the 21%!t(MISSING)ax I am going to hit you with at the end of the meal” – so of course we walked but I sort of wished I had asked for the manager and vented my spleen. Ended up finding another Italian restaurant that guaranteed us that their prices included the tax and so we ate here and it was pretty good so we will return. Day 215 Saturday 20th August 2016 – Prague
Off to see Kutna Hora which is about 1 hour from Prague by train, the walk to the station was around about but finally got there and found the ticket area. There was an information desk that printed out the
timetable and told us which platform, we then had to line up for tickets with the line out the door and only 10 minutes to departure. We made it but all the seats were taken except the aisle fold down seats so the whole journey we had a tour guide running in between compartments talking to her group and the suckers in the aisle had to move - one man in the end refused and she had to climb over so eventually she got the message.
We made it there and made our way to Sedlec Ossuary (Bone Church). The history dates back from 1278 when the King of Bohemia sent an abbot to Jerusalem and all he brought back was a T shirt, well actually a jar of “Holy” soil. This was spread around and then everyone in the area wanted to be buried here, in the 15th
century a church was built near the cemetery and the basement was used for an ossuary (crypt for bones). A half blind monk was given the job of exhuming the bones of 40,000 people that died from pestilence and war and stacking them in the ossuary, legend has
Midday crowds on the Charles Bridge
it that he did such a good job that he got his sight back or maybe he found a spare eyeball. Then in 1870 a man named Franitsek Rint was told to rearrange them so he decorated the basement with the skulls and bones into a beautiful ornate monument that we see today. We spent about 30 minutes looking over the bones and as we were walking out a large tour group turned up so it was perfect timing.
From here we visited another church or should I say I did as Scott waited in the cool under a tree and maybe that was the better plan. It was OK and the artwork was nice but a bit ho hum after what we had just seen. Got the train back and this time there were no seats left so had to stand the whole way back.
Starting to get predictable as we went to the “Czech Cheers” for a drink with the boys and then onto the Italian restaurant we have found. Day 216 Sunday 21st August 2016 – Prague
Slept in a bit
Charles Bridge in the morning
today as it was raining in the morning and our room is a bit of a cave. Have sort of got used to not setting the alarm as the light in the morning wakes us up but when it is cloudy and raining our brain just lets us sleep. Slow start to the day, called home for all the news and then waited till the showers eased before heading out. Contemplated visiting the castle and churches in town but thankfully I (Scott) won the arm wrestle and so we headed off to see the Technical museum.
Took about a 15 minute walk to get there and only got slightly damp on the way. Had thought that we would only be there for about two hours but ended up staying 4.5 hours, a bloody great museum. There were displays dealing with Cameras, photography, architecture, and astronomy but by far the best was the transport section. In a huge hall ringed with 4 levels of walkways were a fabulous selection of historic vehicles. Czechoslovakia has had an incredibly long and proud history of bicycle, motorcycle, car and plane manufacturing and this museum showcased it perfectly. The bicycle display was
The tourist streets without the tourists
perhaps one of the best in the world with an incredible array of one off designs a lot of which were produced here, and it made you realise how eccentric push bike designers were a hundred years ago. A great selection of motor vehicles, steam locomotives, aircraft (a great Czech piloted spitfire) and of course motorbikes. The motorbike display mainly centered on the large range of Czech motorcycles, but it also included several very rare American motorcycles like a 1931 Indian 4 and a “Ner-A-Car”. Being Prague, this museum does not get a lot of publicity and was mainly full of Czech families, but if you are here and sick to death of tourist hordes, old architecture and cobblestoned streets this is the place for you.
Walked back to our room for a break and then to our favourite “Cheers” bar where of course “Norm” made an appearance. On the television was the Men’s Mountain bike race from Rio, in which the Czech rider won silver and the entire Pub erupted into applause- no actually no one was watching but Norm cheered and we clapped. Normally we only stay here for two beers but tonight stayed for
Tour Guide stuffed toy poles
three – but they are half litre beers. Dinner consisted of pizza again at the only restaurant in town we know we won’t get ripped off at before heading home. Day 217 Monday 22nd August 2016 – Prague
Back on the train today and off into the Czech countryside to Karlstejn Castle, it was a great day. We had been warned that the crowds at the Castle were terrible but we must have missed the large tourist groups because it was not bad at all, there was no pushing or shoving on the way up. The castle looms over the small village and is picture perfect so definitely worth the walk. We did not go in, there are 3 tours and you have to do a tour, it did not look that exciting with the cheapest version being 270 Koruna (AUD 14.85) for foreigners and it looked like from the pictures that all you saw were a few empty white washed rooms. Maybe the more expensive tours showed you better stuff but we were not interested. On the way up we passed a man heading down complaining he had visited
The Lennon Wall
the castle before and the price had gone up quite a bit and he asked the ticket seller if the castle had got a lot bigger since last time – I really liked that one. Maybe that is why the crowds were down, people are starting to wonder if the prices are worth it. I still think it is worth a train ride to look around as it is only 40 minutes from Prague and 90 Koruna (AUD4.95) each return, so a cheap day out with great views. Even the majority of the restaurants were empty which is sad for the locals but as I said maybe we just picked the right day and avoided the crowds.
Slowly walked back to the train station through the village where there are your usual souvenir shops and ice cream vendors. The other good thing about the tourist numbers was there was plenty of seats on the train. Day 218 Tuesday 23rd August 2016 – Prague
The best way to see Prague is get up early and out the door so we did. Up at 6.00am and threw some clothes
Coat of arms, made with arm bones
on and walked to the Old Town you still have to contend with the garbage trucks, beer trucks, the multitude of couples getting wedding photos but only a few tourists so you can actually get near things.
When you can see the buildings and stop in front of them without being pushed along with the throngs of tourists being led by someone with a stuffed toy on a stick or jumping out of the way of a Segway zipping past this is a really pretty city. We stood in the plaza looking at the buildings and really enjoying the place. The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn which is partly obscured in the plaza by other buildings containing cafes and we could see that you enter it by walking down a lane between them. We could stand in front of the Astronomical Clock and see it (though it did not chime at this time of morning) and not someone’s back as there is always someone taller in front. We moved onto the Charles Bridge without the crush and could admire the statues that grace the sides and the views of the river.
is great before 8.30am and even as we started to walk back to the hotel for breakfast the people were slowly arriving. The breakfast at the hotel is good so we made sure that we did not miss it.
About 10.30am we ventured back out to see Prague Castle and more importantly St Vitus Cathedral these are situated on top of a hill so can be seen quite often as you walk around the town. We know we should have gone earlier but we had already decided not to do the tour, you can walk around the grounds for free but it is ridiculously pricey to visit the Palace and Cathedral. As we got to the top of the hill we had to go through a security check which did not take too long and then we strolled around the grounds. The cathedral is a magnificent gothic building and definitely worth walking around even if it is only the outside. The outer gardens also have great views overlooking the city and are a little bit more peaceful. Late in the afternoon we headed out for a last drink at our “Cheers” bar and another feed of pizza.
Tomorrow we are leaving, thankfully as we haven’t exactly enjoyed Prague, and in fact Scott reckons he would rather spend a week in Bulahdelah than another day here.
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