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Trip Report Prague and Cesky Krumlov- trip report

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I am writing a short trip report to thank all the people who have helped in planning our trip to Prague. I want to keep it short, because last time I started writing about our trip to Rome and Florence I never made it to the end. SO the goal this time around is to complete it!!

After a fairly uneventful Easyjet flight from London we reached Prague at around 9:45am. The transport strike was on that day, so we took the airport shuttle. We almost decided to take the taxi, however remembered the advice that we had got on fodors and decided against it. The airport shuttle though easy and cheaper than a taxi was a bit claustrophobic for me. All the windows are tinted, people are sitting quite closely together, the air conditioning is not on and there is no source of fresh air. However it is a short ride and got us where we wanted to in about 15 euros cheaper than a taxi…so maybe if the public transport is not working it is a good option.

We reached our apartment at around 11:30 and were shown in. I am pasting a link to the apartment.

http://apartments-in-prague.org/rental-apartments-in-prague/apartment-prokopska/

Positives: Lovely, quiet street, great value (70euros/night), and two minutes from Charles Bridge. The apartment had everything that you can possibly need. The email exchange was easy and efficient and the owner was really helpful. He wrote to us about the strike a day earlier, suggested restaurants and gave detailed instructions on how to use the public transport. The first day was really hot, however opening the large window in the bedroom and putting on the small fan really helped matters. We found the mattresses really comfortable (slightly on the hard side), however we are Indians and we like that.

Negatives: I am being really picky here…and these things would not deter me from staying in this apartment again. This place was not squeaky clean (though not unclean by any stretch of imagination). The towel rail was slightly dusty and the drainer in the kitchen was not sparkling clean. I am sure by now you feel I am being ridiculous…but I can’t help noticing these things so I am saying them. However as I said earlier it would never stop me from renting this place again. It is definitely not a luxury apartment with fine furnishings and fittings…but then that is reflected in the price. For our needs it was perfect and I would heartily recommend it. It is very close to the centre with some great restaurants nearby.

Our first impressions of Prague were a little disappointing. It was really crowded in the old town area and to me it looked a little like Disneyland. Both of us had extremely high expectations from Prague. One of our friends had just been there and they couldn’t stop raving about it and we felt a little let down. However as we moved towards the Mala Strana area we started liking the place a little more.

The first day we were taking the Sandeman’s New Europe Free tour at 2:00pm. We got some quick lunch and gelato from Café Le Parle. It was fine…but nothing great. We reached the Old Town square and saw the red T-shirt guides with the red umbrellas. The group that came for the free tour was fairly large and got split into two. We were quite early and so got Michael. I am not sure about how the other guide was. We were given our tickets and went for the tour with Michael (Mike). There aren’t enough good things that we can say about this tour and guide. Michael is a German who was brought up in London and has been in Prague since the past 4-5 years. He knows about the city, is able to express really well and is very funny. He really did bring the city alive for us. After the three hours tour we were definitely more excited about the city.

I am sorry folks…brevity as you can see is not one of my strengths. I was hoping to write a quick and short report…doesn’t look like it…I will have to come back to it later during the day today. I am not even done with the first day here…

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    By my standards this is a very short TR.

    The Prague Old Town Square has been overrun with expensive cafes offering inferior food and plexiglass surrounding the cafes. You should have seen it when there were only a few cafes with flower boxes on the railings, a market in the center of the square, and a little hop on hop off tourist train, with commentary, taking you to various places in town. You could once get a lovely, inexpensive meal and buy nice things in the shops. Oh well. I was disappointed at the changes when I saw Prague for the second time last year. As you move away from Old Town Square you begin to see the loveliness of Prague.

    Apart from a couple of disappointments I'm glad you enjoyed Prague. The architecture there is quite wonderful and diverse.

    Let's have some more!

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    Irishface and Adrienne thanks a lot for your encouragement. I am hoping to continue. Adrienne Prague is such a beautiful city that it is hard not to like it. Though I do agree that there are way too many tacky shops and tourists. Though we are tourists ourselves and have no right to complain. The sad part is that the old town area no longer feels like a lived in city. The architecture is truly varied and beautiful. Though maybe we could not appreciate Art Nouveau as much…I am not even sure…as I don’t know what exactly is meant by Art Nouveau…to me it seemed like different coloured buildings…in a curvilinear shape with too much happening on some of them… I always liked Prague better during the nights or from a height (when I could see the red roofs and the spirals).

    Continuing from where I left…

    The tour as I said in the last instalment was great…Michael did mention the tip at the beginning of the tour and then at the very end. We didn’t feel that he was doing any hard selling for any other tours. At the end you could pay whatever tip you wanted to. This is a great tour to take. I have read on trip advisor that the free tour with this company is great; however the castle tour etc. is not that good. There is no way that I could verify this…though we were really bummed later that we didn’t go with their castle tour in the end. More on that later…

    This company covers London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Prague, Paris, Madrid and Jerusalem. Their link is: http://www.neweuropetours.eu/. There were people in the group who had taken the tours in other cities and liked them enough to come for this one…so hopefully they do a decent job at other places as well. We are planning a trip to Paris next month and we do plan to go for the Paris tour too. I will let you know how it went…

    Michael dropped us off at the bridge next to Charles Bridge so that we could get a proper view. We relaxed for a bit in the park next to it and then decided that we might as well go for dinner as I was starving. We wanted to go to Lokal, however when I called them at 5:30 for a table for the same day for 6:30 (which is fairly early for dinner) they said they were fully booked for the evening.

    We decided to try Orange Thai – a restaurant that was highly recommended by Mataitom and another friend of ours. I am sorry to say but we had a very bad meal there. G (my husband) ordered Tom Yum Chicken soup (which was good), some pad Thai and a beer. I went for vegetable spring rolls, Vegetable Thai green curry (it’s not on the menu), some Tofu Pad Thai and a bottle of water. We got the male waiter, who seemed really confused and didn’t get the order right even after asking about it twice. He got us both some chicken pad Thai. When I tried explaining to him that I am a vegetarian he said the green curry was vegetarian. It would all have been quite hilarious if it weren’t for the attitude of the waiter. He initially said that we had ordered wrong. Then finally agreed to get me a vegetarian pad Thai…and then I got a chicken piece in the vegetarian pad Thai. When I showed him the chicken piece in the pad Thai he said, he didn’t know how it got there. His English was passable till then, however once we found the chicken piece it seemed like his English deteriorated fast and for everything he kept saying that he didn’t know what we are saying. Finally without any apologies he took my half eaten pad Thai away. He didn’t offer to replace it or anything (though anyways after the incident I wouldn’t have eaten anything there). However he did not add it to the bill. The green curry had over cooked vegetables and the Pad Thai was tasteless. The service was completely abysmal. I would never go back to that place again…though I think we may have been unlucky and ordered the wrong things and got the wrong wait staff.

    We decided to put the bad experience of the meal behind us and visit the Obceni dum – Municipal House for dessert and coffee. We had the pancake with fresh cream, ice cream and fruits. The pancake was really light and fluffy and the coffee really good. The municipal house is a stunning building and I think it really is worthwhile to go there at least once.

    It was about 9:00pm already and we didn’t want to do the Mala Strana walk that we had planned on doing on our first day. We instead decided to just walk about in the old town area and then walk towards Charles Bridge. We reached the Astronomical clock at about five minutes to nine and saw the whole routine. I think more interesting than what the clock does is the whole anticipation with which hordes of people wait in the square and then the cheering and the clapping. We saw several people getting married there and the whole scene is quite interesting. We spent a good hour watching what was happening there. There were guides dressed up for the ghost walk…the bride and groom getting their pictures clicked, a homeless man trying to control traffic, carriages with young couples going for a ride, the segway tour guys and several people like us who were just wandering about. The city already seemed a lot better to us…

    By the time we got to the Charles Bridge the lights had started to come on…I think there is something magical about Prague in the night. The beautiful buildings, the lights on the castle, the small shops selling knick knacks, the artists performing…everything just seems to add on to the atmosphere. While we were on the bridge we heard a lot of cheering and clapping and moved towards the noise. When we peeked in from the bridge we saw that in a pub down below there was some live music playing and people were drinking and dancing…amidst lots of cheering. It really was a lot of fun to watch them and I was really tempted to break in to a little dance of my own…but given my dancing abilities I thought better of it and spared everyone else from the painful experience.

    We wandered about a bit more on the Charles Bridge…read about the various saints and what kind of good luck each one of them could get, made a wish at the appropriate statue. All I can say is at the end of day one…two contended people walked back to their apartment.

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    FYI - I recommended the Sandeman tour in Paris to an acquaintance and she and her husband loved it. Another free tour is Paris is the one at Notre Dame - excellent!

    I loved the Municipal House and took a tour there to see the interior rooms and red rooftops are always wonderful to look at!

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    That's great to know Adrienne...I will surely do the Sandeman tour in paris...I have have already said this but we loved the Prague tour...

    We unfortunately couldn't take the tour of the Municipal House...if there is a next time maybe we would do that...

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    Kwoo I am really glad that you are reading the report. Yours is one of the reports that was immensely helful in planning our trip. Vysehrad was one of the places I really wanted to visit after reading your report...unfortunately we couldn't make it. It was on your recommendation that we ate at HOTEL ZLATY ANDEL in Cesky Krumlov...hopefully if I get to that part of our trip...then I will write about it.

    It's really good to know that some of you are reading my report...motivates me to go on...

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    Always glad to read again about Prague. Anytime one has high expectations there is likely some let down. But you did recover the charm of Prague despite the crowds and especially as the lights came on. But you didn't dance wildly?

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    Thanks for your report so far, we are going to Prague for the first time in September, and I love to read recent reports about it!

    We took the Sandeman tours in Berlin and Munich and loved both of them too. We plan on doing it in Prague also.

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    Ozarksbill…you are right that is always the case. If you expect a lot you feel let down and if you don't expect you are pleasantly surprised.

    For some reason I never thought much about Florence (in the sense that I was pretty much indifferent to it). If they didn't have David there...maybe I wouldn't have got my return tickets from Pisa. However before our trip to Rome I started reading about Michelangelo and was a little more excited about going to Florence. However once I got there I was madly in love from the first moment. It is one city that I have been hankering to go back to.

    Prague was great...it was breathtaking at times...but it didn't have the same magic for me as Florence does...

    Lindy I am really happy to see even more people recommending the Sandeman tours...it is such a great concept and really does give everyone a chance to experience these great cities. I will try and get on with the next part soon...

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    Day 2: Visit to the Jewish quarter, museums in old Town and trying to explore the beautiful Gardens in Mala Strana


    As mentioned earlier our first day in Praha was warm and sunny. In fact we had to put on the small fan and open the window to make the bedroom comfortable. We had barely bathed and changed and lain in bed when we heard the first drops of rainfall. I had been checking the weather continuously since the past week or so, and rainfall and clouds were the prediction all through our visit. To hear the rain fall was like music to our ears. The harder it fell the happier we were as we were hoping that we the next morning we will be greeted by clear blue skies after such heavy rains. Feeling inordinately happy and congratulating ourselves for not succumbing to go to a last minute brain wave of mine of going to a club (and get drenched in the process) we decided to make the most of being in bed at midnight and get an early start.

    The plan was to get to the castle a little before 9:00 am. Spend about four hours there and then head back to The Inter Continental (near the Jewish quarter) for our tour with Wittman tours.

    Wittman tours had been recommended by quite a few members on the forum. I was split between going for Sarka ( The Prague-info guide) or going for the Jewish quarter tour with Wittman. Once I found good reviews for the free tour we decided to go for the Jewish quarter tour. G is really interested in history around WWII and has read numerous books and has seen every possible movie. I thought getting a tour for Jewish Quarter maybe the better option. Also the price for the tour included tickets to all the synagogues and so was not as expensive.

    Oh…coming back to the report…well on a holiday 8:30 start for us is early…which till date we have never been able to achieve…however I live in hope.

    Each time there is a certain routine that I follow. I get up at around 6:30. Look at G who is sleeping peacefully next to me…I do a quick calculation about how long it would take us to get ready…spend about 15 minutes doing this…reason out that curling up in bed for another half an hour would be not be too bad. I turn off the phone alarm…get back to sleep…and the next time I open my eyes it is 8:00- 8:30.

    I get out of bed cursing and in a real bad mood. I set unrealistic targets of being out of the house in half an hour and always say that we don’t need breakfast and could pick something on the way. G I think is quite used to such harried behaviour on my part. He always says yes to whatever crazy plans I am making…which pacifies me greatly and we end up not getting out for another hour or so. I am still saying that we don’t need breakfast…when he gently pushes me towards the most tempting breakfast place and suggests that maybe getting warm, freshly cooked breakfast would only take half an hour. It is hard to refuse good food when it is right in front of you. So I end up sitting in a nice breakfast place for another 45 minutes. However food does calm me down…and by this time I am generally working out a much shortened version of our original itinerary for the day.

    After following the exact same pattern it was 10:30 already and we were still in Bohemia Bagels. BTW it is quite a nice place for breakfast…they make a good omelette and decent cream cheese bagels with fresh fruit juice. Bohemia bagel is a local chain which serves decent and filling food at very good prices. Also if you spend 200 CZK you get a pass for a free castle tour with Sandeman. The tour starts at 11:00. We obviously didn’t get the free tickets because i) this tour wasn’t that great (I had read that on trip advisor) ii) 11:00 am start would be too late for us. Our revised itinerary said that we would be visiting the Castle at 8:30 am tomorrow. Our Wittman tour had to start at 2:00 and we didn’t have enough time to do justice to the castle. What we didn’t know was that you could use the castle tickets over two days…which I think is really useful…and had we known this we would have gone for a short trip the same morning.

    However we decided to visit a few museums in the Old town today and then do our Mala Strana and garden walk later during the evening.

    I am sorry I am really confused about some of the places that we visited. We started off the visit by visiting the two churches immediately after Charles bridge at the entrance of Old Town. I am really sorry and embarrassed that I don’t remember the names too well. I just remember that one of them is really nice and the other a slight bit of a baroque overload. I know it sounds awful…however I am just saying what I intuitively felt. We then climbed up the Astronomical Clock Tower and were greeted wonderful views on Praha’s red roofs, Valtava, the castle and the Charles Bridge. It was really breath taking. Oh I loved the decoration on Minute house (which is in the same square as the clock) and thought that style was something that I really appreciated. G went quite berserk clicking at least a million pictures by the minute. It’s difficult to imagine another city that looks like Prague from a height…

    We then went to Kinsky Palace. We went in to see the exhibitions…and though they were all right…if you have been to British Museum and some of the other bigger museums it’s basically not worth it. I thought the exhibitions from Korea and China were good…and the one from South Asia decent…but much better collections can be found elsewhere. We spent about half an hour there and wanted to visit the Tynn church before we rushed off for our tour. However it was already 1:00 and the church was closed. We popped in to Mosers for a look at the crystal and was amazed at some of the prices.

    We then decided to head off towards the jewish quarter and get some lunch before the tour, We ate lunch at this fairly nice Italian place on the street opposite Inter Continental Hotel. If you are standing with your back towards the hotel this place is the across the road on the left most side. The food here is great and we saw quite a few locals getting lunch here. We requested a quick meal and got the pizza and pasta really fast. The pizza had fresh cheese and veg and the pasta had a wonderful mild flavouring of pesto and garlic. This is a restaurant that we would definitely recommend. I am sorry I don’t remember the name…

    Vida was going to be our tour guide for the day.

    More on the tour and our meal in Kampa Park in the next installment….

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    Continuing:


    Vida our guide is a puppet artist and had a face that lit up the moment she smiled. When she started the tour she spoke in a monotone and the first story that she narrated about Gollum was real a let down. Michael from Sander’s had told us the same story in a much more interesting and animated manner. G and I exchanged looks and I was really panicking. I didn’t want to put up with three hours of a terrible tour. However G said maybe we should give her half an hour…and if we still felt the same way then we could leave.

    She took us to the Old-New Synagogue and left us to get the tickets. When she came back someone from the group asked some question about her own practice of the religion. The moment she started speaking about it seemed like she was a transformed person. Her personal stories and experiences were extremely moving and it is one of the best tours that we have ever been on. Along with talking about the Jewish practices and artefacts she also spoke about her dad’s experience of escaping from Auschwitz and her own experiences of being brought up during the communist rule.

    She spoke about what Jews had to put up with and most people from her generation had a greater angst towards Russians rather than Germans. She was really honest and candid and did say that she knew that the Russian Jews themselves had a very difficult time. However she said it is hard to put things into perspective sometimes and maybe the next generation can be more kind towards Russians. She spoke about her son going to a German university and how her family and friends felt about it.

    She said she only found out that she was Jew when she was fourteen and her brother was 18. She spoke about what that meant to them and the issues that they have faced since. It was a great tour and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in history and learning a bit about what Jews went through. We had four more people on our tour and they all seemed surprised that we were there for the tour. One even asked us if we were Jews and how did we find out about the tour.

    It has been said several times…but I can’t help but say it once more that viewing the Terezin ‘s children’s drawing collection and looking at the names of the people written on the wall in a hair raising experience.

    Anyone going to Prague must visit the Jewish quarters and if possible go for a tour…personal experiences add a different dimension.

    After the tour we were both not in a mood to talk much and just started walking back towards the old town. We went up to the terrace at Prince Hotel and had a coffee and crème brulee. The views from the terrace are really good and so is the crème brulee. The other desserts and drinks looked tempting too. However we wanted to do the Mala Strana walk and headed off towards the Charles Bridge.

    We went straight to St. Nicholas Church before it closed down. It is quite a magnificent building and interiors are stunning. We stayed there for a bit and then decided to go to the Church of my Lady Victorious. We could feel the peace and calmness in this church and it was really soothing. Even though I am not Christian I could feel that people come here with a lot of faith and prayers have been said here over centuries. I couldn’t help but bow my head and say a little prayer of my own. Anyone who believes in some kind of God or a greater power should visit this church…it gave me a sense of peace that is hard to explain…even though I am more spiritual than religious.

    We wanted to visit a couple of gardens in the area…however by the time we got there the gardens we already closed. We decided to come back to the apartment…change and rest a bit and then continue our walk. We walked towards the Lennon Wall and Kampa Gardens. I had basically combined a Frommers Lesser town walk and a national geographic lesser town gardens walk. We both thought that the Lennon Wall is really cool even though G insisted that if the communist government wanted they wouldn’t have let anyone paint a thing there. However the romantic in me refused to buy this theory and I like to believe that each day groups of youth showed their dissent and drew the graffiti on the freshly painted wall.

    The French embassy in front of the Lennon Wall is in quite a stunning building. The whole tree lined street looked lovely. We walked towards the Kampa garden from there. The water mill and the restaurant next to were really charming and I was almost tempted to ditch our reservation at Kampa Park and sit down there for a meal. However we decided to move on and visit the lovely gardens. Quite a few people were walking their dogs and running. It made for interesting people watching. Soon it was almost time for our 9:30 dinner reservations.

    We reached Kampa park and the guy who confirmed our booking was really friendly. He had spent some time in India and wanted to know which part of India we were from and where we lived. He showed us to a really nice non-smoking table…which had stunning views. We both went berserk clicking pictures of Charles Bridge in the changing light. The sound of falling water and the lights gradually coming up really had us enchanted. We both ordered soups…mine was an asparagus soup and G got some other soup…I am sorry I am not doing a good job of it. However both the soups were amazing and we really loved it. The rye bread that they served was great. They also got some salmon starter with salmon eggs on the top that G loved. You can probably make out that I am no connoisseur of food though I do love to have good food. The main course was a Salmon dish for G…which was quite good…though not the best that he has had…and mine was an egg dish. The two vegetarian options were i) risotto ii) the egg dish with spinach, cheese and cream. As I have tried risotto at several places and I really wanted to give French food a real chance I went with the egg option. I am sorry to say but half cooked eggs are not really my thing. The dish that I got looked lovely but I could barely eat half of it.

    I have decided that French food and I don’t go too well together. I love all kinds of food…however have never been able to find interesting main course vegetarian options in french food. maybe I ahve just been to the wrong places...I don't know. I love the French soups…the French desserts, their crepes and the French Kir Royale…and used to regularly go to a French restaurant in Tokyo for just their crème brulee and kir royale…but the mains have always been some version of eggs for me...and that has never really been great.

    We decided to give the dessert a miss…as we wanted to go back to hotel prince for the dessert. For drinks G ordered had wine and I had water ( I gave up drinking after India won the world cup in cricket).

    Our bill came to about £110. This by our standards was really expensive dinner and a special treat. The view was stunning and the service was great all through. The food was good for G (not brilliant) and average for me. Will we go there again…maybe not…but it was a good experience for us. The restaurant has a really romantic setting and it is a pleasure to be there.

    Next: The Prague Castle...the restaurant with most amazing views and the best bus ride to Cesky krumlov...

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    I'm enjoying your report. We're headed to Prague Oct 6 and will enjoy it with some friends we meet traveling from time to time. We will surely check out the Sandeman tour...

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    I'm really enjoying your report. I find it interesting that you saw many different things in Prague than I did and it makes me want to go back to see it again. I visited the Synagogues but not with a tour which would make a lot of difference. I'm adding a link to the Wittman tours for anyone who is interested.

    http://www.wittmann-tours.com/

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    Thanks a lot for letting me know uhoh that you are enjoying the report...I was starting to wonder if I was giving too much information and thinking about cutting it short...Sandeman is good and a great concept...it was three hours well spent for us. The only negative that I can possibly point out is that they did not discuss modern day Prague and how it is to live there now. However I am sure if any of us had asked, Michael would have happily answered our questions. I was thinking of writing a review for them on trip advisor and will suggest this to them.

    Adrienne wittmann tours were really worth it...if you go back do consider going for it...

    I will hopefully write another installment tonight...

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    << they did not discuss modern day Prague >>

    There is so much to absorb when traveling that it's difficult to remember to ask questions that come to mind later in the day or later in the trip.

    I stayed in Prague 6 both time and saw an amazing difference in car traffic. I had a private driver the second time who spoke excellent English and asked if the traffic had increased and yes confirmed that it did. I also asked him if he thought Prague had changed for the better and he said that the economy was so much better than it had been and people were glad of the economic change. Vehicle traffic and road construction does show economic growth.

    During this drive to my pension I had not yet seen the changes in Old Town Square so couldn't ask about his thoughts on the historic center although I bet many people living in Prague don't visit the historic center unless they work there.

    The rise in tourism in Prague is amazing.

    One huge change I took note of is the emotional change in the people. On the first trip (1995) the people in the market in the center of Old Town Square (not tourists since there were not many tourists then and Prague didn't even have a Tourist Info center) and others working in restaurants and other sights in town were more like small town residents. They were helpful, quiet, almost subdued (I'm having a hard time describing the general atmosphere of the Prague people at that time). It was nothing I was prepared for in a capital city, especially after having just left Vienna with its joyous atmosphere.

    I didn't think I would ever go back to Prague but your report is making me think more about the city. Both trips left me feeling unsettled; the first time because of the emotional climate (lack of city vibrancy and joy in the people) and the second time because of the changes to the city.

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    Adrienne your comments are really insightful. It is hard to believe how some of the large Indian cities have changed in the past 10-15 years. Usually change is so complicated that it is difficult to explain…it’s even more difficult to adapt / appreciate the change when it means that you will miss out on some of the things that you found most enchanting about a place…

    However I do think that this entire upsurge in tourism must mean more money for the local economy (or maybe even that is an over simplification)…who knows if the local people can even own the restaurants and hotels in the main areas.

    It’s an extremely interesting observation that you make about the difference between the city now and in 1995…now I think Prague has a real vibe…

    We felt that the younger generation were a lot more cheerful, friendly and smiled more. The women (of all age groups) we came across were really nice and polite but the older men in general were rude and sullen. This I know is a very broad generalisation and based on very few interactions…so we maybe completely wrong.

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    As you might have guessed it was already 9:30 and we were still sitting at Bohemia bagels (which was just was two minutes from our apartment) and trying to decide how best we could fit in all we wanted to see. We had planned to go to The Prague Castle/ Strahov Monastery and Loreta. We also had to be back to catch our bus at 5:00 to Cesky Krumlov.

    Knowing that we would be hard pressed for time we decided to take the tram up to the castle. Even though our apartment owner had suggested that we get the tree day transport pass (300 CZK), on the advice of our friends who have just been there we decided against it. I must say it was very wise decision. We would cross the Charles bridge at least 3-4 times during a day and it just took us 15 -20 minutes to get from one end of Mala Strana to the other end of Old town. We wouldn’t have bothered using the tram to go up to the castle either…had we slept a little less.

    As we had decided not to use the public transport I had not bothered to find out much about how to use it. I just remembered that one could take tram 22 to the castle. Just as we were approaching the tram stop we saw number 22 and made a mad rush to it. We were really chuffed with ourselves for our record timing on 200 mts which we had just achieved. With grins on our faces we tried asking the driver for the tickets… the driver simply pointed towards a number that was written on the train. We couldn’t fathom how you would get tickets for a journey by dialling on a number. However G’s phone was functional and thought might as well call on the number.

    Just then one of the passengers took pity on us and explained that we need to go to a tobacco shop (Tabac) to get the tickets…well given the number of people who smoke in Prague it kind of made sense. We got off at the next stop…found there was a Tabac shop right next to the tram stop and bought our tickets. We got two single (18 CZK tickets) and two more tickets to get to the bus station later (18 czk each). The trams were really fast, clean and their frequency was also quite good. If trams in any way reflect the rest of the transportation system in Prague I would say we were mightily impressed.

    Ohh as an aside…I got done with my breakfast a lot earlier than G and wanted to pop into to the apartment and re-fill our bottle of water. I must say I have this thing with water…I absolutely love it…and consume at least 3-4 litres in a day. This means that we always try to carry couple of bottles in our bags and buy some on the way.

    Given that tap water is perfectly drinkable I found it extremely wired when I was repeatedly told in the restaurants that we don’t have tap water. What does that mean…you don’t have taps in your restaurant? It really bugged me...I think it’s a cultural thing… in India you would be served water even without asking and it would be re-filled all the time at any restaurant. I have realised now that in Europe you need to ask for water…but we have never been told in any other country yet that ‘we don’t have tap water.’ This annoyed me the first couple of times…but then I accepted that this is how it must be done in Prague…though can’t say I ever got used to it. The only place where they happily served us water was Bohemia bagels.

    Well coming back to the report…we again spent about 450CZK on breakfast and could have asked for the Sandeman’s Castle tour passes for free that you can get from Bohemia Bagels in Mala Strana. We both thought we’ll get the pass and then decide later whether we wanted to do the tour or not. However while leaving the restaurant we both forgot about it. We only realised once we were at the tram stop…and after the delay with the tickets we thought maybe it was better to just go ahead. How we were to regret this decision of ours…

    We got to the castle and were standing in line for the short tour tickets and audio guide when we saw the notice that the audio guides are not available. It was really frustrating as I had read that the audio guide is quite good. We were told that the audio guides would be unavailable for quite some time as they were changing companies. I didn’t understand this too well…but whatever the end result was that I hadn’t read enough about the castle and St Vitus, the golden lane etc. and felt quite lost.

    Honestly I think we didn’t do enough justice to this part of Prague. We felt really stupid then about not taking the Sandeman tour for the castle (which would have been free for us!). We then found out about this other one hour tour (for 200 czk ) which would take us to the castle and St Vitus Cathedral and give us some background history. We bought our tickets (the English tour was at 1:00). We still had some time so we decided to go to the Strahov Monastery.

    I have to rush off now…but would definitely finish this instalment tonight…thanks a lot folks for reading along…

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    << who knows if the local people can even own the restaurants and hotels in the main areas >>

    They probably can't own the establishments but there is certainly more work available in restaurants and hotels plus in tourism and in the instance of the car service I used, the gentleman built up his business and employs others to drive his cars. There would also be an increase in public service employment (police, fire, road works, etc.).

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    FYI - tram tickets are also available in the metro stations either from a ticket box or from a window. I agree about not buying the pass as the individual tickets are so inexpensive and are good on both trams and metro and can be used for transferring between both for up to 30 or 45 minutes, depending on which ticket you buy. Since I stayed outside the historic center I needed 2 30-minute tram tickets per day and walked the rest of the time so I never bought the pass.

    I was refused tap water twice in Prague. The rest of the restaurants did serve me tap water when I asked for it. I had never encountered this before and the first time I was shocked at the refusal.

    Looking forward to hearing more.

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    I must get on with the report as I really do want to finish it this time around...I will do a short summary of the remaining day and a half...

    We literally ran up to the Starhov monastery because our guide book said that the library closes at 12:30. We reached there at 12:00 and found out that they were just closing the windows and would open again at 12:30...I really did want to see the libraries so we decided to spend some time in the area and then run back for our 1:00pm tour.

    We happened to walk down a path and came across this restaurant with the most amazing views...breathtaking is probably the word...I thought to myself if I had come to this place the first day in Prague maybe I would have fallen head over heels in love with this city. The restaurant is called Bellevue...and we decided to get a quick lunch there. We got an antipasti and we bot got pesto and garlic Pasta with salad tomatoes. The antipasti was fine...and so was the pasta (though it was on the cold side for some reason). However given the views I think even if they gave us hay...we would have happily eaten it. It was almost 12:30 by then...I wanted to have a quick look at the libraries. However G just wanted to have a coffee and cake and decided not to join me.

    I went and had a quick look around. The libraries are quite unique and fresco are beautiful...though in all honesty I didn't really do any justice to it. I came rushing back with 10 minutes to spare...and found that it had started drizzling . I couldn't see G where I had left him. I thought he must have moved in the shaded area because of the rain. I was trying to look for him when I spotted the waiter who was serving us. I asked him where my husband was...and he very snottily told me 'how do I know where your husband went.' I was really surprised at his attitude. Ifind it difficult to understand why people have to be rude and mislead others on purpose. I spent some more minutes going around looking for G...when I spotted by bag on one of the chairs behind the tree. I went up there and found G there. I told him what had happened...as I was quite furious by now. G told me that the waiter had served him coffee and cake at his new table and knew perfectly well that he was seated there. This wasn't a language issue...he was simply being mean.

    There wasn't much time to waste and we wanted to get back quickly for our tour. We reached the St Vitus Cathedral at ten past. The group had already moved inside. We went in and joined our English tour. The guide knew about the history and gave the information...but there is very little that I remember from that tour. Must say the cathedral is beautiful...and even though it was a cloudy day we couldn't help imagining how it must look when the sun rays would come through it.

    Next stop on the tour was the castle...which wasn't really impressive. The main rooms I believe are used for State occasions and hosting functions for dignitaries from around the world. They are closed to public. We saw the coronation chair...the main hallway where knights came on horses and games were held. It was fascinating to see that area...We also saw the window through which the second defenestration happened (people threw out others from 50ft high windows). In fact all the three people who were thrown down survived because of the shape of the moat below.

    I am sure there is a lot that has happened in that castle and there are several anecdotes. However the tour guide couldn't really make it come alive...she was quite matter of fact. The tour ended and we went down to the Golden Lane...which had opened after a renovation. I thought it was very cute and a good insight into how people might have lived. G wasn't really impressed by it...I think it also had to do with the fact that we needed to get back to the apartment and catch our bus to Cesky Krumlov

    We came down towards neroduva street...looked at all the interesting house signs. We would have loved to have a meal in one of the beautiful restaurants on this street. However we had eaten just a couple of hours earlier and we were also running late, so we decided against it.

    We rushed back to our apartment...collected our bags and took the tram 12 to Na Kempicsi. We reached about 45 minutes earlier...and both of us wanted to have something before we boarded the bus.

    While I sat at the bus stop and guarded our bags...G went to this Mexican restaurant and got great veg chilli box. It was really good and now we know of a great place to go to in Prague if we ever go back there. G didn't remember the name of the restaurant...but it is further down from the bus stop.

    We took the student agency bus to CK. We paid 7.50euros/head for a three hour ride. The bus was quite comfortable...you can book your seats in advance. There is a TV screen (on which they were showing a soppy movie)...but it was there and the assistant on the bus asks you if you want tea/coffee or hot chocolate. Ohh...they also give you newspapers and magazine (though in Czech). All of this for 7.50 euros...I was really impressed...it's incredible. The driver and the assistant were really polite and must have answered thousand questions from the passengers.

    We were is CK in a little less than three hours. It had rained all the way there...and by the time we got there it was raining quite heavily. We got off at the bus stop and called our hotel reception - Hotel Old Inn. The lady at the reception was extremely helpful and she said that she would send the hotel car for us for 100czk.

    As it was the five petaled rose festival (an ancient festival celebrated in CK) most places were booked by the time I started looking for hotels. The only place available was The Old Inn at 130 euros/night. This is quite expensive for us and especially for CK...where usually one could find decent places for 70-80euros. However it was just for a night and then we were also getting to experience the festival.

    The hotel was all right...there wasn't anything bad nor was it great. It was a 3/5. The women at the reception were lovely and really helpful. It was very well located...right on the square and one could see all the celebrations from our window. There was a some signing and dancing and a lot of people had come in their traditional costumes. There were stalls all around the old square selling all kinds of foods and pastries and beer. It was still raining and had turned quite chilly...so the celebrations couldn't really come alive completely. One can only imagine how much more vibrant and energetic the celebrations must be when the weather was good.

    We wanted to go for the midnight fireworks ...however we came up for a short lie in...thinking we would go back again...and dozed off. By the time we got up again it was a little after 12...so we didn't see the point of going towards the castle.

    Oh we had dinner at Hotel Zlaty Andel. G's food was really nice - he had some fish dish...potato pancakes and a beer. I had the pizza margarita with chilies...and the potato pancakes as well.The pizza seemed like a frozen one...though slightly greasy the pancakes were great. We also had the caramel, fresh fruits, cream pancake for dessert and that was good too. I think this is a really good place to eat specially if you are a non vegetarian. The dining area towards the end (the room in which we had dinner) had an extremely interesting mural of Cesky Krumlov. The hotel has three distinct areas - one for the younger crowd who want to drink and dance, the next area is a room with a pub kind of feel and the last two rooms are for dining. It's a really nice place and worth going to.

    The next morning we had periods of sunshine and rain...more rain than sun. We visited the castle and admired the amazing views of CK from up above. Ck is a really cute place...in a picture post card kind of way. It must look even more beautiful on a sunny day.

    We toured the castle then went to the castle gardens. There were small groups playing traditional Czech music...there were even more people (in fact families) dressed in beautiful traditional clothes. The atmosphere was lovely. Sometimes it felt like we had been transported in a different era. There was a local market...which was selling different kinds of stuff...ranging from pottery to clothes to souvenirs.

    It was still raining and we decided to get some lunch before we left for Linz for our flight back.

    We went to this vegetarian restaurant Laibon. We had the large plate for two (which had small portions of some of the things that they served in the restaurant). G had olong tea and I had coffee. We also had a pancake (which was the only thing at this restaurant that was really bad). The food was above average. David the person who was serving us was really full of life and extremely interesting. He had traveled around the world. He had gone from Prague to Italy and then made his way to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. He was a pleasure to talk to and could imitate different accents really well. The views from this restaurant are great and we had lots of fun looking at people who were kayaking in the rain. We sat outside in the shaded area and had a very interesting conversation about India and it's different states with David. Inside too the restaurant had a warm and cozy feeling. If for nothing else I think it is worth going to this restaurant for the warmth of the people who work here.

    We spent about a couple of hours here and had a really good time. We went back to the hotel and collected our luggage. We had got a great rate on the taxi 1000czk to Linz. The shuttle services were leaving in the morning and were charging about 400czk. For 200 more we got 6-7 more hours in CK and we thought it was great deal. We probably got such a great deal because the driver was dropping some friend off as well.

    Our journey to Linz was quite uneventful...at times the scenery was really beautiful and got us thinking about visiting Austria. We flew back to London on Ryan air for 40 pounds.

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    Some thoughts to end the report...


    - We really didn't do justice to the Prague Castle- Hradcany area. We both really liked this area...and ideally we should have spent a full day here.

    - We missed going to vysehrad ...it was one of the places that we really wanted to go.

    - Prague is beautiful city and even though sometimes it might take a while...you do in end appreciate it's charms

    - You meet all kinds of people...both good and bad make the place.


    - Food is really important to us (though we eat at budget places)...we have always managed to have great meals. Prague is one place where we didn't have a single great meal...unfortunately!

    - Prague for us was not so much a city which had amazing museums and landmarks...it was more a place to be explored and experienced.

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    << Prague for us was not so much a city which had amazing museums and landmarks...it was more a place to be explored and experienced >>

    Thanks for your great report. I do agree with this statement that Prague is an experience rather than a city filled with museums. It really deserves a bit more time than you had so you didn't have to rush around so much. I spend a day in the castle area and walked up Nerudova street and took photos of the lovely building facades and then went to the Loreta church (you mentioned wanting to go there but I don't remember a mention of it in your report) which is wonderful.

    I think the amazing landmarks are the beautiful buildings and the art on their facades which you only see if you have time to slowly explore.

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