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Trip Report Trip report, 30 days in Prague, my new favorite place!!

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Trip Report- A month in the Golden City of Prague

My trip to Prague lasted 30 days so rather than do a chronological listing I thought it best to talk about my experiences in categories. I am very sad to be home (although happy to see John again). Prague is my new favorite place!!

Overview
I had signed up to go to Prague for the entire month of July 2007 as a student photographer with CDIA/Boston University (cdia.com and cdiaphoto.com). The program was described as:

Field Workshops in Prague
Photographing Place:
Stories from Prague
In this four week intensive workshop you will learn to work internationally in the field, exploring and documenting one of Europe's most beautiful, historic, and cultural capitals. Taking full advantage of the workshops location and with hard to get access to many of Prague's cultural treasures, you will learn to tell this cities stories, and develop the ability to create deeper visual essays about any location.

Instructors will include both North American and Czech photographers, as well as guest lecturers on Prague's history, art, architecture, and contemporary life. And as you get to know Prague, instructors will get to know you through daily one-on-one reviews of your work and through frequent group presentations.

At the end of the workshop you will have completed three photo essays suitable for print and web publication. Prague with its rich cultural history and dramatic social and political developments will provide many fascinating story opportunities and your instructors will help you develop your ability to tell these and other stories in a way that makes photography a potent force in our lives.

The problem was that this is the first year that the program was offered, and I was the only participant. Right up until the last week it looked like the trip might be cancelled. I was bummed, it sounded so exciting Thankfully at the last minute three other American students and two Czech students signed up for the course. BU also ran a film course in which two Americans and two Czech students were enrolled.

It was amazing to see how much my photography improved and to see the photos and short films created by the other students.

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    Preparation
    I had lots of camera gear to carry so I decided to pack lightly. This was a new concept for me but it worked perfectly. I actually wore every piece of clothing at least once. I brought 3 pairs of khakis, 2 pairs of capris, 1 pair jeans, 8 V-neck tee shirts, 1 sweatshirt a rain coat, PJs , one dressy outfit, sneakers, a pair of flat shoes and a pair of sandals. This was far less than I take on a week vacation much less for a month!!



    Flight
    I used miles to fly to Europe. Up until a week ahead I had 4 connections each way. I called daily hoping to get something better. The United customer service person suggested that I call back just after midnight central time as that is when the all the 3-day holds are removed. I set my alarm for 2 AM and sure enough that night I got flights with only one connection each way though Germany. The catch was that I had to fly business class (30,000 extra miles) and I had to pay $100 change fee.

    I had never flown business class overseas previously. It was wonderful!! The food was good, I had a selection of movies to keep me entertained but best of all, the seat flattened into a bed and I had a real pillow and blanket versus the tiny things you get in coach.

    Hotel
    When I booked the Arcadia Residence I had expected a great experience based on the reviews from trip advisor (they are rated #1 in Prague). My actual experience was greater than I ever could have imagined.

    I have traveled extensively for work, pleasure and was also employed as a "secret shopper" for a hospitality company for a short period where I secretly reviewed hotels. In my entire life I have never stayed at a place as unbelievable as this one.

    The residence is run by an Italian family - Pasquale and his mother Anna. Before I arrived Pasquale exchanged several e-mails with me to let me know that there was construction going on next door that it could be noisy. I had lots of questions and I changed my flight 4 or 5 times. He was always very polite and promptly responded to all my questions and schedule changes – if I drove him crazy he never let on. I was a bit worried that he did not require a deposit but my fears were unfounded.

    Pasquale arranged for me to be picked up at the airport. When I arrived at the residence, Pasquale was standing out on the sidewalk waiting to greet me. It was a very nice touch.

    He took me inside, gave me a tram/metro ticket and then personally walked with me to show me where the tram stop was, showed me where there were two markets, and pointed out a few good restaurants. He also gave me some basic info and a map of Prague.

    Breakfast is incredible (homemade by mama). It was enough food for two days of meals and always included some homemade treat like tiramisu or coffee cake. It changed daily but included eggs, cereal, yogurt, fruit, bread, cookies, nuts, meats/cheese, treats, OJ, tea & coffee.

    A few nights I came home to mama Anna offering a piece of homemade tiramisu that she had just made - it was the best I ever had!!!

    Since I was staying for a month, Pasquale had told me that I could use the onsite washer and dryer. I asked to use the laundry machines one day and Anna insisted that I just leave the laundry and she would do it....I tried to object but she insisted. She ironed everything and even sewed the hole in one of my socks! She even asked if I wanted my clothes dried outside or in the dryer.

    The hotel is located outside of the town center about two blocks away from the river. You can catch a tram at the river and it is 3 stops to the Charles Bridge. I walked to the Bridge a few times and it took about 15 minutes it was a really nice walk (note that this tram has been temporarily rerouted due to construction through October 2007 - this adds about 5 extra minutes to get to the Charles Bridge and the tram no longer travels along the river).

    The residence is close to the tourist area but far enough away that it's quiet. It is next to Vysehrad, a beautiful park and historic site (if you are looking to see the location on the map).

    My room (number 11) had a fridge, hot plate, sink and utensils (flatware, plates, pots/pans, wine opener, etc). The water pressure in the shower is great (although Pasquale thought it was funny that I should care about this) and the room is pretty big for Europe (and I had the smallest room in the hotel).

    All rooms have an internet connection at no additional charge. I forgot my cable and Pasquale lent me one. He also lent me power converters (he has a whole box full of different ones) and has a few Prague guide books in the office that you can use. There is no A/C but my room had a very large fan. In the 30 days that I was there it was only hot for about 3 days and the fan easily cooled down my room. They also have an elevator (key in Prague, none of the other students had this luxury).

    The customer service was just wonderful. Either Pasquale or his mother were there to great me on most days when I left or arrived home. Pasquale was always asking if the construction noise bothered me (I could barely hear anything from my room) or if there was anything that he could do to make my stay better. It was very nice to chat with them both each day. Mama taught me a bunch of Italian words, she was really sweet and caring. Also, Pasquale speaks perfect English.

    I was there taking a photo class and wanted to do a photo story on a marionette factory. I mentioned this to Pasquale and he immediately called the factory and asked in Czech if I could come take photos. He then walked me over to the workshop to make sure that I wouldn't have any problems.

    Another day I had to print out a document and fax it to the US. He let me use his printer and fax machine (much easier than trying to find an Internet cafe). Pasquale has stamps, tram passes can help you with day trips and event tickets. He is very honest. I asked him about the Black Light Theater and he told me that about 70% of his guests are disappointed. He really works hard to make sure everything is perfect.

    I could say so much more as this was really a wonderful experience but my review is getting a bit too long. Pasquale is really unbelievable. He also owns two apartments in town (one near the Old Town and one near the Castle). There were days that he got up at 4:30 AM and went to bed in the wee hours of the morning so that he could meet all the needs of his guests at all three locations. Almost every night Pasquale took the time to chat for 5 or 10 minutes before I headed up to bed. He tries to make a habit of staying up until all the guests are safely home. If he’s not there his mother runs out of her first floor apartment to welcome you home when she hears the door shut (she stays up until midnight).

    In essence, Pasquale and Anna (and dad Luigi) really made me feel like I was part of their family and I was very sad to leave them (and yes I did cry in the cab on the way to the airport).

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    The Photography

    The course was held in a large apartment just outside of the Old Town Square in the Jewish quarter. There was no elevator so we had to walk up 106 steps every day (good to make up for all the pastry I ate). It took me about 15 minutes via tram and a short walk to reach the apartment. The school provided laptops with Photoshop and Lightroom and wireless access.

    The instructor was Bob Caputo. He is amazing - his website is www.robertcaputo.com

    His bio: Robert Caputo has traveled, photographed, and written about Africa since 1971. As a graduate of New York University Film School, he assisted Baron Hugo Van Lawick in filming the wildlife documentary series "Jane Goodall and the World of Animal Behavior". He was based in Nairobi for two years as a stringer for Time. Since 1980, freelance assignments for National Geographic Magazine have taken him to Zaire, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Namibia, as well as Kenya.

    He is passionate, patient, a great teacher, has a wonderful sense of humor and is just a really nice down to earth guy. He’s had some amazing life experiences which he shared with us. He also gave us each a copy of his book “National Geographic Travel Photography Field Guide”

    During the first week we had a Czech photographer come daily for about an hour to give a presentation about the history of the country. He just had his 60th birthday so he had quite a bit of his own experiences to share with us. He was very interesting.

    Our first assignment was to do a photo story on Prague. Bob told us to go around town and look at all the postcards so that we would know what sights were popular and hadto be included in our photo story. We then had to come up with two other stories on our own. Bob gave daily lessons during the first week covering things like fill flash and photographing motion. One day he gave each of us a bottle of Czech beer and told us to go make creative pictures. Each day he held a group session where everyone would show 5-10 of their best photos and listen while he critiqued them. He also met with us each individually for 30-60 minutes or more if we wished (7 days a week) to discuss our individuals issues and view/critique additional photos. It was truly an incredible opportunity.

    The school rented a photography studio one day and hired two models so Bob could instruct us in techniques for photographing models – it was lots of fun. The group got a private tour of the National Museum at the end of Wenceslas Square (I missed this as I was busy finishing up my marionette story but the group said this was quite interesting). We also did a few other group trips/dinners as I mention later in this report.

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    Shows
    - *Krizikova Fontana: this is an outdoor water, light, musical dance show held at the Vystaviste fairground after dark. Shows include things like Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet and The Nutcracker. Tickets were 180 Kc each (a bit less than $20). The show lasts about an hour. Check out the website for shows and times. Some of the shows are just music, water and lights (I think the earliest one). The show that includes the dancers was really good. I bought the ticket at the box office. I used the directions in a guidebook to get there taking 2 trams and 2 metro trains. On the way home I found that tram #17 stops right in front of Vystaviste . This tram also stopped right near my hotel at Vyton. So it took about an hour to get there and 10 minutes to get back to the hotel! When you arrive at the fairgrounds the place will look deserted. To find the show walk around to the rear of the exhibition hall (head inside the gate and to the left).


    - *** "The Opera of Operas" - Don Giovanni , Marionette show, National Marionette Theatre Žatecká 98/1, near metro station Staromestska. Mozart composed this opera, this version uses the classical marionettes. It is presented in the original Italian librette and lasts about two hours. Although it’s not in English I found it to be very cute and funny. Also very interesting to watch the puppeteers. I bought tickets at the door at 7:15 PM for the 8 PM show. I was the first to arrive – the person selling the tickets said that the best seats were in the middle of the last row of the first section. This is a must see for all kids at heart. Make sure you go to this particular show/location as I have heard that other shows aren’t nearly as good.
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    - *Violin concert with Jaroslav Sveceny, Krakovska 5, near Wenseslas Square: Jaroslav Sveceny is one of the best contemporary Czech violinists and a prominent personality on the Czech musical scene. The hall was small and intimate (about 25 people). They had a tiny bar which served drinks and chlebicky (open faced sandwiches). He is a really great performer. He also will answer questions, most were in Czech but he speaks English well. Check the show listings before you attend. During one of his shows he doesn’t play much but just explains the violin differences in Czech (this particular probably not of interest unless you speak Czech, but his others are great for all – the club also has other venues). http://www.sveceny.cz/index.php?id=8&L=1 (Sveceny) and http://www.violino.cz/ (club)


    Parks and Walks
    - **Walking along the Vltava from the Arcadia Residence to the Charles Bridge was beautiful and relaxing. There are times when you can walk right along the river’s edge. There were very few tourists. I watched men fishing, lovers strolling and kids feeding the swans pieces of bread. The walk takes you passed the Dancing House also known as “Fred and Ginger” and the National Theater. During the journey you also have the option to stroll around a few of the city’s small islands. Usually quiet and virtually tourist free.

    - *** Vsyehrad – this is very close to the Arcadia Hotel (about a block). There is a beautiful cathedral, cemetery (many of Prague's great artists, scribes, musicians and politicians lie here, most notable are the graves of Dvorak, Smetana and Mucha.), park, ruins and a variety of restaurants. There is a wonderful view of Prague . At sunset I went to one of the food places and got a plastic cup of wine to go (the wine was just average, but they also had beer). I sat on the wall and watched the sunset. There was a group of people tightrope walking. It was pretty interesting I sat and watched them for awhile. I visited Vysehrad on several occasions. The park was very quiet. There are lots of walking paths and a variety of views. While I was there I watched a man propose out on the ruins (she said yes, she was still crying when they walked back to the main path). It’s a great place to wander around, people watch or have a picnic lunch/sunset snack. If you walk to the other side of the park you reach the Vysehrad metro station.

    - ***Letna: This is worth a visit. Once you get to the top of the steps stop to watch the skateboarders. Head to the left and walk through parks all the way to the castle garden. The walk (I strolled) took about an hour. With every step the views got better. About ½ way into the walk there is a beautiful beer garden where you can stop for a drink. Here you have unobstructed views of the bridges on the Vltava. Great late in the day and hardly any tourist. You will eventually pass through a gate in the castle grounds. At this point you can walk up some steps, straight or down some steps. All three paths end at the castle garden. If you head up the steps you get a great unobstructed view of St Vitus (walk behind the large bushes on the path, there’s plenty of space to walk along the wall) and walk through Kramářova vila, residence of Czech prime ministers. Straight takes you passed the palace greenhouse (it was never open when I walked by – this was my least favorite choice), down takes you into the moat and through a maze of quiet paths and gardens. Note that if you take the down route at some point you will have to walk back up.

    - ***Petrin Hill: Worth a visit. You can walk up the hill (pretty steep), take the funicular or take the tram (#22 or #23) up to the rear entrance of the park. If you take the funicular get there at 9AM when they open so that you don’t have to wait in line. If you head to the Hill later in the day it is probably faster to take a tram or walk. Once you are at the top there is lots to do:

    o The mini Eiffel Tower has 299 steps but offers a really wonderful view of the city (one of the best). Although the tower is 1/5 the size of the real Eiffel Tower because it is on the hill it is technically the same height as the real Eiffel Tower (or so I was told).
    o The mirror maze is a bit lame but the kids seemed to enjoy it.
    o There is a beautiful rose garden and lots of walking paths. This is a great place to wander or relax and on the two occasions that I was there it wasn’t crowded.

    - Charles Square (also a tram stop – Karlovo namesti); There is a park but it’s nothing exciting. It’s kind of small with a few benches and a fountain. Not really worth a visit.

    - *Stromovka Park next to the Vystaviste Fairgrounds, to the left as you are looking at the Fairground which is also the home to the Krizikova Fontana show mentioned above (and the end point of the Saturday/Sunday historic tram #91, also tram 17 stops here). This is a huge, beautiful park. It has a pond with ducks, is great for biking, walking and rollerblading and has lots of flowers and a few 1960ish playgrounds. The walk is wonderful and ends at the Troja palace and Prague zoo where you can catch a bus for a few stops to Trojeska and then tram #17 back to Prague. It is pretty easy to get lost. I used the lonely planet guidebook to navigate through and also the help of some police officers on horses. There was a map at the entrance; I was thinking later that I should have taken a digital photo of it so that I could refer to it as I was walking. There were a few signs but they didn’t help much as they were few and far between.


    Kids (or kids at heart)
    - ***Off the beaten path at the Castle – not to be missed: As you walk into the palace garden on the right hand side there is an area (daily from 12 PM to 5 PM) where a woman brings several hawks and an owl. For a donation on 50 Kcs you can hold the birds (wearing a glove), if you do not want to hold a bird admission is free. She speaks excellent English and explains the bird’s rehab program. Great photo opportunities. This is definitely worth a visit. One of the kids in our class did a photo story here. I don’t think he has posted it yet as he had hundreds of photos to go through but it should be up on the CDIAphoto.com website in the next few weeks. This was not listed in any of the guidebooks nor did any of the castle employees know of it – it took me a few minutes to find it but well worth it!

    - **Prague Zoo in Troja. Tram 17 to Trojeska and then a bus to the zoo (3 stops, about a 5 minute ride). The zoo was really impressive. 100 Kcs for adults. It had a large variety of unique animals, a cute chairlift, two kids trains for rides around the park, playgrounds and reasonably priced food. I guess the zoo was nearly destroyed during the floods of 2002. They did a great job of rebuilding. Probably one of the best zoos that I have ever visited. I tried to visit the Troja Palace on two occasions (next to the zoo). It’s is closed on Monday (my first visit) and it was closed for a wedding one Saturday (my second attempt). Note that you can also take the boat back to Prague from the zoo/palace. I did this after my first visit. The ride took almost two hours. Most of the ride was spent getting through two locks. There were lots of whiny, cranky, very tired kids who had a miserable ride after the excitement wore off (5 minutes into the ride). The boat was overcrowded and very hot. The 20 minute tram ride back to the city is much more desirable.

    - Museum of Miniatures, a small shop/exhibit near the Stahovy Palace at the back entrance of Petrin Hill. This was interesting (things like a drawing on an apple seed). There were about 30 such exhibits that could be viewed under a microscope. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit but would stop if I was in the area.


    - *Public transport museum, Patockova 4: Tram 1, 8 or 18 to Vozovna Stresovice, in a renovated tram depot houses a collection of restored trams and buses along with a vast array of related items, from uniforms, old plans and maps, to advertising and photographs. The museum is open to the public from 9-5 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from early April to mid November. Groups can book weekday visits in advance. This is also where historic tram #91 starts/ends its weekend journey (runs every hour starting at noon). Great for kids – maybe a 30 minute visit and then take the historic tram ride (vintage tram from 1908-1924). No English, all exhibits are in Czech. If you start here the ride ends at Vystaviste fairground (you can get off at any other stop) – offers a great overview of Prague.

    **Zlute Lazne : On a hot day the Czech coordinator suggested Zlute Lazne. It was wonderful!! It is a huge park/beach/sports center/playground on the river very close to the center of Prague. It is free after 6PM. I think it is about $3.00 admission during the day. They also had plenty of parking for cars.There was a huge kids playground and a fairly large kids shallow swimming pool. There is a beach area (really the river but people were swimming) with real beach sand and a grassy area where people were just laying out on towels. Also had quite a few cabanas with tables that fit 4-8 people and hammocks.
    There are volleyball nets, rock climbing, paddle boats, a DJ & dance floor, an adult workout area (punching bag,chin up bar, rope to climb), a nude bathing area (gated so you couln't see inside). Also had picnic tables beer/drinks & food (typical beach food). People were rollerblading and biking; kids had scooters. Lots of families, lovers & singles.
    They have a website but it is in Czech. There are pictures an a map of the grounds. http://www.o2zlutelazne.cz/gfx/areal_go_zlute_lazne.pdf

    I got there by tram #17 (then I took #3 on the return) - the stop is called Dvorce which drops you off at the front gate. There were lots of other trams passing by as well. I didn't get the numbers but if you look at the tram schedule it will give you the numbers. It's about 9 tram stops from Wenseslas Square and also 9 from the Charles Bridge.

    Just found an English site - here's what it reads:

    In June, 2005 the gates opened of the modernized area, tuned in the retro style of the thirties of the 20th century. The popular place at the bank of the Vltava river, where the citizens of Prague have come for almost a hundred years already for recreation, rest and sports, has the area of 3. 5 hectares. Available is a sand beach with hammocks, a children corner, padding pool with slides, nude beach, beer terraces with more than 2 500 places, restaurant and Internet café. The sports offer is represented, e.g., by five beach-volleyball courts, a football cage, twelve grounds for pétanque, table tennis, streetball, three-metres climbing wall, chess with giant figures, foot-netball, boats, pedal boats and lending office of sports equipment and motor boats. Situated in the area of Žluté láznì (the Yellow spa) is the lending office of popular dragon boats for twenty-member crews, paddling according to the rhythm. Beginning from 2006 anchored at the bank will be a more than 70 m long reservoir ship with built-in swimming pool, roofed beaches, cabins and sauna. All the year round, daily 8:00–2:00, metro to Karlovo námìstí then tram 3, 16, 17, 21, 52 (to Dvorce)

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    Other Sights
    -Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square: This is one of those “must sees”. Every hour mechanical figures do a short performance (watch the skeleton on the clock as the performance starts). Even more fun is to stand under the clock and look at the tourists looking at the performance. It’s really funny (and a great photo) to watch about 300 digital cameras all pointing upward at the same time.

    -The tower above the Astronomical Clock offers a great view of the city. It is accessed through the Old Town Hall. While looking at the clock, the entrance is about 100 meters to the left in the tourist information area. There is a small fee. While I was there the elevator was broken. There are ramps (not very steep) and a short spiral staircase up to the top. If you are looking for an Old Town Square photo opportunity a better choice is at the top of the U Prince restaurant.

    -On weekends in the Old Town Square they set up a stage and various events were held. We went to a Jazz fest one weekend another weekend they had dancers. I couldn’t find anyplace on the Internet that listed events for the square but it’s worth stopping by for a look to see if anything is going on.

    -Prague Castle: I wandered around the Castle Grounds, especially beautiful at night when St. Vitus is lit. Admission to a portion of St. Vitus is free as is entrance to the bell tower – lots of steps (287) but great views and the cathedral is beautiful inside. I visited Golden Lane (and paid the admission fee) these are quaint little colorful houses, now gift shops, attached to the side of the castle. I found out later that entry is free before 9AM and after 5PM. Of course the shops are closed (but you wouldn’t be missing much). To get to the castle you can walk up the hill or take tram 22 or 23.

    -The changing of the guards at the Prague Castle: This occurs hourly but the most elaborate is at 12:00 noon everyday. I got some great photos. It’s best to sit on the pavement and shoot upward thereby focusing on the guards and virtually eliminating the crowds for the photo.

    -On the way up to the castle wander up Nerudova Street and check out the historic house signs (these are all over Prague but this street has the most). Before there were house numbers people used these as identifiers.


    -**The Charles Bridge: This is a pedestrian only bridge with lots of vendors (art & jewelry), musicians and tourists. I climbed the Tower’s on each end (small fee). The one closest to the Old Town offered a better view (and was open until 10 PM – the tower on the other end closes at 6 PM). The bridge gets pretty crowded. I got up before sunrise one day (4:30 AM) and took a walk to the bridge. It was nice to walk the bridge without tourists – just a few other photographers and a few drunks from stag parties headed back to their hotel. They shut off the lights at 4:57AM so you need to arrive early if you want a photo of the bridge empty of tourists with lights. I’m sure the time changes with the seasons. This is a beautiful place to watch the sunset over the castle. My favorite musician was a guitarist named Petra Ester Kahle – I bought her CD, it’s really great. She was on the bridge almost every evening. Most interesting was the crucifix with the Hebrew words “holy, holy, holy lord” that were paid for by a Jew that disrespected the cross and the statue of St John Nepomuk (he was thrown off the bridges for refusing to divulge the sins of the queen to the king) which you are supposed to rub and make a wish.

    -John Lennon Wall – this was pretty cool, it’s a colorful wall of graffiti a few minute walk from the Charles Bridge on Kampa island. To get there you pass an old mill wheel the last of many that used to line the canal. The Rick Steves guidebook gives some background information.

    -Wenceslas Square – I guess this is something that you have to see. It’s a really long street with lots of junk shops and tourists. There are some nice flower gardens down the middle of the street but other than the flowers it was my least favorite place in Prague.

    -***The Crypt in the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius: the church is between Charles Square and the Fred and Ginger Building. This is an amazing memorial to the Czech assassins of top-Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich, and the place where they hid after the Operation Anthropoid and where they, after a fierce gun battle, reportedly committed suicide to avoid capture. The entire exhibit is explained in English. Another sight not to be missed. Just an FYI that the lonely planet guidebook mentions an exhibit on Heinrich at the Army Museum. I arrived at the museum to find that the exhibit had ended 2 years ago.

    -***Wallenstein Palace (Valdstejnsky palac) Valdstejnske namesti 3; the entry gate is just behind the metro station entrance and tram stop Malostranske namesti. This is a great place for all ages. A large pond houses large fish (lots of kids were feeding pieces of bread to the fish). There are peacocks (including little babies) who wander freely around the palace garden. There are also some caged owls. Worth seeing is the grotto with stalactites and stalagmites. Hidden among the rocks are animals and scary faces – I found a puppy, frog and snake. The palace itself is rarely open but the garden is really worth a visit. The gardens are open 10-6 (5 on weekends).


    -**Prague-Venice boat ride on the Vltava. There are people dressed up as sailors all around the Charles Bridge selling tickets to these boats. They offer a 45 minute ride on a medium sized boat or small boat (same price, your choice of boat). The price includes an ice cream and a beer (which don’t really mix but both were good). The ride was nice because it was short and the boat stayed around the area of the Charles Bridge and Kampa Island. The best time to cruise (at least in July) is at 9:15 PM so that you get a nice sunset ride beneath the castle. The guide was very informative and spoke English well. I had heard that the other cruises (jazz, disco, etc.) run for 3 - 5 hours and spend a long time getting through the locks, I am sure a jazz cruise with adults would be a better experience than my return trip from the Troja zoo but I didn’t want to take any chances!!

    -TV Tower, this is Prague’s tallest landmark, Jiriho Z Podebrad metro stop. Great views but you can’t see the Vltana so the views from Letna and Petrin Hill are better (and free!). It is a very bizarre structure. There are 10 giant crawling babies attached to the outside. Not on my top ten but if you are in the area it’s worth a walk by. Admission is 150 Kcs

    -There is a 2007 art project in Prague http://www.editionartco.com/e/art.php http://www.editionartco.com/e/sgp.php - it’s fun to go look for this art. My favorite is the one of a pig on a diving board just outside of the Namesti Republiky metro station.

    Tours and Day trips

    -As a group we visited Barrandov Studios. We got a great tour. I was amazed at how many movies are filmed in Prague. Barrandov is the largest film studio in the country and one of the largest in Europe. No cameras allowed and the guide told us that he would immediately end the tour if he saw anyone trying to use a camera phone or camera. They are getting ready to film part two of the Chronicles of Narnia for Disney. We were able to view the giant castle that they are building for the film. It was really amazing - It was a 20 minute cab ride outside of Prague. I am not sure if this is open to the public. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrandov_Studios. During my month in Prague we noticed film crews out on several occasions filming commercials and a history movie.


    -***Lidice, (a small town outside of Prague, it was a 13 minute bus ride) This was so moving. The town was completely destroyed by Hitler in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Hevdrich. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lidice No need for a tour guide here the museum is wonderful and moving. There are beautiful gardens and a statue remembering the 88 children who were killed. There is also a short film shown in English in the Gallery (a few hundred meters from the museum) and a moving exhibition. There is a small restaurant and market in the town. Admission which included the museum and gallery was 85 Kcs, the park is free. This really isn’t mentioned in many of the guidebooks (it sometimes gets a few sentences) but is a not to be missed site. The bus stop is at the metro station Dejvicka across the street from the Hotel Diplomat. You pay when you get on the bus, just tell the driver that you want Lidice (write it on a piece of paper so he understands) and he will tell you if it is the right bus. The metro pass is not valid on the bus. The driver collects about 20 Kcs when you board. The bus schedule lists two Lidice stops. It really only stops at one. Buses leave hourly. When you get off the bus you are left in the middle of a big field. Just walk toward the yellow shelter 20 yards away that says “Lidice” and cross the street (small highway). You will see the entrance directly in front of you. The bus taking you back to Prague arrives hourly in the same field on the other side of the road (you will see the bus sign).

    -*Jewish Tours: I took two tours with Wittmann (based on fodorite recommendations) as one of my photo stories was Jewish Prague http://www.wittmann-tours.com/

    oI first did the 3 hour “Prague’s Jewish Quarter” with Bela it covered all of the Jewish sights with the exception of the Old-New Synagogue. They offered me a student price and a 10% discount for paying in Kcs, total 500 Kcs. Bela was really great. I had already done all the Jewish sights on my own but I learn so much more having a guide. She told us about the ghetto, the mythical Golem and other interesting facts. Our tour had only 8 participants. Most of the tours that I saw wandering the streets had 20-40 participants. It was nice to be part of a small group. Best were the Jewish cemetery and Pinkas Synagogue (now a memorial to Czech victims of the Nazi’s; this Synagogue also has an exhibit of pictures drawn by the children of Terezin).

    oThe second day I went on the Terezin concentration camp tour led by Natan (I got a student price and 10% off for taking a second wittmann tour, total 900 Kcs). Natan was very knowledgeable but he was quite distracted. He took 5 or 6 cell phone calls during the tour. He really rushed us through the exhibits saying that we really didn’t have time to see it all and that he would be explaining most of it anyway. His presentation was a bit scattered and disjointed. We arrived home an hour earlier than scheduled. He explained that this was because the timing was based on having a group of 20 participants versus 8. I really feel that we didn’t get the full experience with him. He was nice enough but I wish we had a better guide. He did take us to a small “secret: synagogue of Terezin that a resident discovered in his shed a few years ago. It was pretty interesting. It’s house L225 Zidovska modlitebna and numbered 17 (brown door/yellow building)



    Day trip to Cesky Krumlov
    As a group one Sunday we visited Cesky Krumlov. It was a long way to go for a day trip. If we had to do it again we’d stay over a night. Because of traffic & construction it took 4 hours to get there (and 2 ½ hours to get back to Prague). The city was magical. There was a colorful tower, we walked to the top for a great city view. Although very touristy it was the most romantic place that I have ever been in my life (too bad John was back in Boston). It was really a magical place. Great place to rent a canoe or rubber raft and float around. I wish we had time to do the 3 hour rafting trip mentioned by Rick Steves but without staying over we didn’t have the time. The shops were all upscale. We ate at Restaurace Barbakan on Horni 26. I ordered pork (a bit tough) and potatoes fried with onions and mushrooms (awesome) and cucumber salad (also good). It was a cute place along the river with picnic tables, good Czech beer and reasonable prices.

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    Food

    Take Away/Breakfast/Fast Lunch
    - Au Gourmand, Dlouha 10. This little French place had good salads, quiche, mini pizzas, ice cream, desserts and coffee. I had several meals there during our first week until I realized that they were quite expensive compared to other nearby lunch/snack food choices. They do have four tables if you want to eat there. It’s just outside of the Old Town Square.

    - Pekarstvi (which means bakery) was a little further down also on Dlouha closer to the old town square on the opposite side of the street (on the corner and had a display of bakery products in the windows). This place was great. It was about the quarter of the price of Au Gourmand. My favorite was the cherry strudel (which is close to a foot long – enough for 4 people). It cost less than a dollar and was the best dessert I had in Prague. They didn’t have them available very day (probably a good thing as I was addicted). They also had donuts, breads, pastries and bakery type lunch items.

    - Cremeria Milano (Parizska 20 in the Jewish Quarter): this is an upscale coffee/pastry/ice cream shop on the most expensive street in Prague. Interestingly although this street is the “Champs Eysées” of Prague it was originally the heart of the Jewish ghetto and was the poorest most overcrowded section of the city. I had a few latte’s and ice cream here. A bit expensive but pleasant atmosphere.

    - Bohemian Bagel: There are several of these that I visited. I found the best to be just outside of the Old Town Square. They also have locations on the other side of the Charles Bridge and near the funicular entrance to Petrin Hill. The establishment is owned by an American and is also an Internet Café. The food was a bit overpriced but it was pretty good. I had lunch there several times. The guidebooks say that this is the best place to get a great breakfast but I wasn’t impressed (I had breakfast at the one near the Charles Bridge). Lunches are much better.

    - **I don’t know the name but next door to Bohemia Bagel in the Old Town (to the right as you face the bagel place) there was a hole in the wall place that I went to for lunch about 3 times a week. In was a take out place (a few stand up tables). You have to point at the special and ask for it or the woman will charge you a different price. The special is a liter size soda or lemonade and 3 Chelebicky for 69 Kcs. A Chelebicky is an open faced sandwich on a sliced baguette with various toppings (crab, ham, salami, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, pickles known as gherkins). You can get these at almost any bakery but this place had the largest, freshest looking and the price was good. It’s closed on the weekend.

    - Paneria, this is also a chain (pastries, sandwiches on baguettes, wraps, breads, coffee, drinks). I went to a few of these and found some to be better than others. The best was just outside of the Jewish area near the entrance of the old Jewish cemetery.

    - Pekarstvi, Siroka 10 near the Pinkas Synagogue and recommended by Rick Steves. I went here twice and wasn’t impressed. The food/baked goods on both occasions looked like they had been sitting for several days. I did get a pastry one day and found it to be very dry. Paneria is right around the corner and a much better choice.

    - Albertov tram shop (closest stop to Arcadia). There was a little market open late that had all kinds of groceries, beer/wine and a large selection of fresh fruit. There was a wonderful bakery with fresh bread, cookies and pastries. The pizza bread was really the best thing I ate in Prague (besides mama Anna’s tiramisu). There is a market up the hill a bit from the Arcadia run by a Russian woman. After being charged different prices for the same items on different days and having her try to convince me that I needed to buy more stuff (things like telling me that people from home would love chocolate or that I needed cheese to go with my wine) I stopped going there.

    - I had gelato daily at a variety of places. It was all good. I paid between 10 Kcs and 50 Kcs for a small scoop depending how far out of the city I was. My favorite was Stracciatella (like chocolate chip). The ones labeled “Cream and Dream” seemed to give you a bigger scoop for the price. You can also get two or three scoops but one scoop a day (kiddy size cone) was good for me.


    Casual/Mid-level
    - *Pizzeria Kmotra, V Jircharich 12: I got two small carafes of wine at 45 Kcs each (the second I didn’t order the waitress just brought it over – she said I didn’t have to take it but for $2.00 I figured why not…) The wine was just okay. The pizza was really good. I ordered a Margherita with onions (it was enough to feed two people). They were happy to make any substitution that I requested. There wasn’t much basil on the pie just a bit of dried basil sprinkled on one slice. I also got a pepper stuffed with cheese appetizer. It was pretty good. Total was 248 Kcs without tip. I would recommend this place for a casual night out. It’s a cute place, the service was very good and the food was good. Recommended by the Lonely Planet guide book. It’s a short walk from the Narodni Trida tram/metro station.


    - ***Cantina: Ujezd 38 across the street from the funicular entrance to Petrin Hill. This was the best Mexican food that I have ever had in my entire life. I had chips and salsa and a pork dish with a spicy pepper sauce, rice and cheese quesadillas. I didn’t find this until my last few days otherwise I would have returned a few more times. It was a bit crowded but I was able to get a seat at the bar.

    - **Restaurant U Cerveneho Kola, Anezska 2, it’s a few blocks outside of the Old Town square: This was a great choice. The place was pretty cute. It served traditional Czech dishes. I got Pork with dumplings (very yummy). The Apple Strudel was okay. Service was great. I am not sure of the price as one of our teachers offered to pay but my guess is that it is pretty reasonable.

    - Kvasnicovy Lezak, Vodickova 20 (right across from the Vodickova tram stop near Wenceslas Square). This is not a restaurant that I would have ever selected myself. The Czech coordinator decided that this is where we would have our farewell dinner. The food was amazing. I got the Bohemian special which included ham, pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings in a really great sauce. The beer is brewed on the premises. I tried the light beer which was very good. This was a really great meal at a reasonable price. Highly recommended if you are looking for a good Czech meal.

    - Kemenny Stil (outside in the middle of Old Town Square): this was my first Prague eating experience. I was jet lagged and tired and hungry so I stopped at the first place that happened to come into view. I got a glass of white wine, tomato/mozzarella salad and spaghetti carbonara. It was a pretty expensive lunch (about $30). The wine and the salad were just okay. The portions were of good size but the pasta was overcooked and had no flavor. Probably not a good idea to order Italian in Prague.

    - Chez Marcel (Hastalska 12 just outside of the Old Town Square): This was a little French Bistro that we frequented often. The film instructor was French so he became friends with the owner and staff. I had coffee here, lunches and dinners. Lunch was good (I had red pepper and cheese on a baguette, I asked if they could add prosciutto but there are no substitutions). One night I ordered pasta (bad choice) and another night I had chicken (great choice). The chocolate fallen cake was great as was the goat cheese/red pepper appetizer. Everyone in the class loved this place and most ate there at least once a day. Prices were reasonable but on the high end for dinner.

    - **U Fleku, Kremencova 11, this is supposedly the oldest beer hall in Prague. It was a lot of fun and the food was good. It was like a small German beer hall. There was a trumpet and accordion player and you were seated with other people. I sat with a nice Italian family from Pisa. I tried the Bratwurst, sauerkraut (really coleslaw) served with horseradish (the Italians did not know what this was but found the name to be pretty funny when I told them the English word), mustard and a very fresh roll. The beer was good too. A man was walking around with shots. I tried one because the Italian family ordered one. They were quite gross. Not sure what I was drinking but it burnt my throat!! Stick to the beer unless you are adventurous.

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    - Metamorphosis, Hastalska 3: I got pasta with tomatoes & basil and a glass of wine one day for lunch. It was starting to rain and this is the first place I saw so I stopped in. The service was really slow and the pasta was mushy with only a few tomatoes (also overcooked) and not much basil. The bread was really good. Total without tip was 425 Kcs.

    - Molly Malone’s Irish Pub, U Obecniho Dvora 4, this was just downstairs from our classroom/apartment. Good beer and bar food with reasonable prices. It’s usually not crowded as it is a bit off the beaten path a few blocks outside of the Old Town Square.

    - U Semika, Vratislavova 36, www.usemika.cz – this was located across the street from the hotel and was recommended by Pasquale. The outside terrace was full so I sat inside. The ambience was really great. I felt as though I was in an old (romantic) library filled with shelves of books. They had an old pile of Czech language National Geographics that I leafed through while I was there. The service was okay but not great. The food and wine were also just okay. I wouldn’t go out of my way to get here but it’s a nice meal if you are in the area. The bread was really good as was the caprese salad. The tagliatelle with spring veggies was cooked well but the spring veggies were previously frozen carrots, corn and green beans. The total price before tip was 238 Kcs.

    - U Prince (Old Town Square) http://www.hoteluprince.cz/index.html : great views and photos of the old town, they don’t take reservations but twice I just walked in and sat down. I had a glass of wine & cheese/fruit plate but others in the group tried the kabob and chicken. The food was pretty good but the views made it better. One day I just walked up and took some photos without eating. They didn’t seem to mind.

    - U Rotta Malé námìstí 3 (outside patio on the edge of Old Town Square). This was okay for a lunch. A bit expensive but I got a very good/large tomato/mozzerella panini and a salad.

    - Sovovy Mlyny, Kampa Island U Sovovych Mlynu 2: this was my only really bad food experience in Prague. It looked quaint as it was right on the water on Kampa Island with a view of the Charles Bridge. I was looking for the restaurant Kampa Park and couldn’t find it (until the next day) so I stopped at this place. The service was horrible. The waiter had a bit of an attitude and he was really slow. He took my wine order and did not return for 10-15 minutes. It was npt really busy. The entire inside of the restaurant was empty. I tried the fried goat cheese (after having a great experience with this at Bellevue. It was pretty gross. I ordered tagliatelle with sun dried tomatoes. The pasta was overcooked and had no flavor with the exception of the sun dried tomatoes (of which there were only three). There were bugs flying around everyplace. I felt bad for the people sitting close to the outdoor lights. Little gross bugs were landing on my table every few seconds. I finally figured out that they were attracted to the candle on the table. I blew the candle out. The bugs seemed to lesson but who knows, now I couldn’t see any of them. I am sure there were some in my food and wine glass. I decided to take a pass on dessert. Total including a bottle of water and glass of wine was 600 Kcs. I had planned to try the Palffy Palace but when I saw that they were affiliated with Sovovy Mlyny I decided not to take a chance.




    Splurges

    - ***Allegro Bar at the Four Seasons, Veleslavínova 2a/109; I didn’t have reservations so I was offered a seat at the bar. The only thing bad about this was that I couldn’t tell that I was in Prague. I felt as though I could be in any city in the world. The service was impeccable. I received a chef’s spoon with salmon and green foam. It was really good. They offered a dish of bar nuts/snacks and a dish of olives and a basket of various breads (pumpkin seed was the best). The food was all wonderful. I got two appetizers – tomato/mozzarella salad and walnut gnocchi. For dessert I had a terrific apple/apricot strudel. I had two glasses of French wine. Total was 1,750 Kcs without tip. There was a piano player in the lounge playing old American songs. It was a great experience but a bit pricy.

    - ****Bellevue, Smetanovo nabrezi 18, this was by far the best meal that I had in Prague. A bit pricy but best service, best view and best food. My water was refilled every time I took a sip. The bread was great. I had red wine, the scallop appetizer (pretty good), a goat cheese appetizer (incredible), and a Ravioli appetizer (also incredible). Total was 1,450Kcs not including tip.

    - ***Kampa Park, beside the river on Kampa Island, and next to the Charles Bridge. Very expensive but a great spurge meal. I didn’t have reservations so I had to sit inside. First the chef offered a taste of a salmon/ginger concoction that was really great. I had a salad with walnuts, goat cheese, and pears, it was filling and yummy! Next I had a spinach soufflé with a tomato sauce (equally yummy). I was so full I couldn’t eat dessert. The check which included one bottle of water and one glass of white Czech wine was 1,145 Kcs not including tip. Really great meal!!

    *****Rici Puppet Factory, Vratislavova, 23
    I visited the Rici Puppet factory (across the street from the Arcadia and near Vysehrad). Pasquale arranged for me to take photos of the workshop. I spent several days there. It was truly an amazing process. The owner Richard trains each employee himself. He also designs new puppets. Everything is handmade from cloths, shoes, noses, faces…. The office manager Tana explained everything that was going on. The employees were great. Everyone was so friendly and happy to show me their part of the process. I took hundreds of photos. This was one of my most memorable Prague experiences. The puppet quality is so much better than that of the shops in the tourist areas of Prague. They do sell the Rici puppets in their workshop (cash only), on-line and is some of the more upscale shops in Prague. If you buy a puppet, first look for the Rici label. They offer both more expensive elaborate puppets and simpler puppets for kids play. http://www.marionettesrici.com/

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    Other Stuff
    - Although I have been at BU/CDIA for a bit over a year I have never met the school founders. It was a great opportunity to meet them on this trip. I got to speaking with one of them and we discovered that our great grandparents grew up four houses away from each other. This was also the house where I grew up. His family sold the house when I was a baby but prior to that he was there every Sunday for dinner. He also believes that my great grandfather owned the land that his great grandfather rented to run a small store. Small world!!

    - While I was at Zlute Lazne a Czech man saw me with my camera and told me that I needed to get a book “In the Name Philosophie Photografie” by Wilhelm Flusser. I didn’t go looking for this yet….

    - I was amazed at how much graffiti covered the city. Luckily it seems to be controlled in the main areas.

    - I didn’t go to the Frank Kafka Museum on Kampa island but I got an interesting photo of the statues out front. I also spent about an hour walking around the Jewish cemetery where Kafka is buried searching for his grave. The directions given in the Lonely Planet book are not accurate. I couldn’t find the grave and none of the signs were in English so I finally gave up.

    - The ATM machine spits out large bills and I sometimes had trouble finding places that could break these into smaller bills (one day I did stop in a bank to have them change a large bill). I found that instead of withdrawing 4,000 or 3,000 Kcs each time if I took out an odd number like 3,400 Kcs then I knew that I would get two 200 bills. I saw a number of people screaming at the tellers at the street side currency exchange windows. It didn’t seem like a good idea to use these.

    - Trams: Each tram stop has a schedule posted. There are little arrows pointing to future stops in the direction that the tram will travel. There is a little “M” on the tram stops that are also metro stops. Pasquale gave me copies of the common trams that I would use. The metro and tram systems are easy to use and very efficient.

    - I had a laptop with me so I used Skype to make free calls back to the states. This took a minute or so to download and create a user name. Test this before you leave home as not all computers have a speaker. You can buy one cheaply if you don’t have one or you can also use Skype instant messaging for free. Very much worth it as Cingular now AT&T charges $1.99 a minute for calls from Czech to the US.

    - I learned the hard way (by a Czech lady yelling at me) that food and drink is not allowed on the tram. I was drinking a soda. I guess I should have noticed that no one around me had a coffee or water in the morning.

    - Keep some small change on hand. Public bathrooms are everyplace (WC) but it costs 5-10 Kcs to use the facility. The good news is that most were spotless, unlike the US.

    - Tesco is like the Walmart of Prague. There are several, they sell pretty much everything including some food, beer & wine. They had little plastic packets of Nutella (my favorite!!!), I bought a bunch and ate them as midnight snacks. I also tried the chocolate banana yogurt – it was a bit weird and I am a chocolate lover!!

    - My allergies acted up quite a bit in Prague (glad I had allergy pills with me) – I am allergic to pollen, dust, mold and everything green.

    - Bring an umbrella!! It rained almost every day for 5 or 10 minutes sometimes it was a downpour. I learned the hard way that even if it looks like a beautiful day you will need an umbrella at some point (also a great tool to protect you from the sun on hot days).

    - Cab drivers on the street should not be used as they will overcharge you. It’s best to call a driver (although the metro/tram system is so easy and efficient you really don’t ever need to use a taxi). The hotel an give you a number for a cab. If you do use a cab driver make sure you get a price and ask them if they use the meter. If they are hesitant to answer don’t use them (this was the advice we got from the Czech students).

    - Each house/business has two address numbers. One in red and one in blue. This can be confusing when you are looking for an address. I think it is usually the red number that is listed in the guidebooks.

    - I used 3 guidebooks (all from the library) and found all to be useful: Rick Steves, Lonely Planet & DK Eyewitness Travel (best photos).

    - I always felt safe in Prague (being a woman traveling alone) and found the Czech people to be very friendly and helpful. Almost everyone spoke some English.

    - I used the Pimsleur Language tapes before I left and found that the Czech’s liked that I attempted to speak the language. In reality the only words I actually used were:
    o Hello – Dobry den (Dough-bree-den)
    o Bye – Na Shledanou (nah-skleh-dah-no), I also heard people saying Ahoy
    o Please (also means You’re Welcome) – Prosim (Pro-seem)
    o Thank you – Dekuji, there were a few different pronunciations but Pasquale told me both were correct (Dj-ay-quee)
    o No – Ne (Neh), Yes – Ano (Ah-no)
    o Excuse me – Prominte (Pro-mean-tah)

    Note that if you stay at the Arcadia Residence you should learn a few Italian words so you can chat with mama. If not, no worries – she’ll teach you!! She is also great with sign language.

    Photos are at cdiaphoto.com under Prague project. Mine are listed under “Prague – Hall”, Jewish Prague, Making Marionettes, Off the Beaten Path and a few under “Images of Prague” (photographers names are on each photo).

    Things I missed but wish I had time for:
    - The Story of Prague Castle exhibit
    - Day trips to Kunta Hora & Karlovy and more time in Cesky Krumlov
    - A Prague walking tour with a private guide (or one of the 8AM group guides)
    - A concert at the Prague Opera House
    - Seeing a movie on Strelecky Island (or just watch the sunrise/sunset from the beach on the island beneath the castle and Charles Bridge)
    - Dinner at the following places recommended by guidebooks, message boards or my new Czech friends or other tourists I met while there):
    o Peklo (Strhovske nadvori 1/132),
    o Sushi Bar (recommended by the Czech coordinator, Zborovska 49),
    o La Perle (on the 7th floor of the Dancing Building, Rasinovo nabrezi)
    o Kogo (Slovansky, Na prikope 10)
    o Café Louvre (Narodni triad 20, breakfast/bakery/lunch)
    o Beer Cellar and Papa’s living restaurant in Cesky Krumlov

    And probably a whole bunch of stuff that I can’t think of right now because my brain is fried from writing this. I am also sure that I forgot some of my activities (like just wandering and getting lost in the maze of streets around the Old Town and Charles Bridge). If I think of anything really amazing I will repost.

    Thank you soooooo much to everyone posting on Fodor's who helped give me ideas, website links, sources for Christmas ornaments, etc., etc. You are all wonderful!!!

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    I am going to print this out to savor at home! Sounds like you had a marvelous time. Wasn't there also a very famous photographer named Robert Capa (WWII)? (your mentor's name reminded me of him).

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    adnil... this is a great report! i was there for 3 days on my way home from Poland a few weeks ago, but was pretty much too tired to enjoy it. i'm going back end of September for a week so really looking forward to re-reading your report.. and re-experiencing Prague. thank you for taking the time to post!

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    You did a great job on your report. I like the way you gave the cost of a meal in the restraunts. I hear some of these restraunts mentioned and how good they were but no one has really told what it cost to eat in these restraunts. Now I know which ones I can afford to eat in. Thanks for the report. It will be very useful.

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    This will be the definitive trip report on Prague for a long time to come.

    I just got back from a 4 week home exchange in Vienna. I went to Budapest as a side trip, but did not go to Prague.

    When I go to Prague, this trip report will go with me.

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    adnil1962...I am leaving for Prague in 3 days and was delighted to read your report. I made lots of notes. We will be travelling with 2 teenage girls, any recommendations on what they might like to see out side of the main attractons. Perhaps you had a place to clothes shop that you might suggest. I know our sightseeing will be dotted with trips in and out of clothing stores looking for something "interesting" to take home. Bargain hunting as well. Thanks eds

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    Adnil:

    I am impressed with your report. So much useful information and so easy to read. Your report is almost like a precious guide book, which I am going to take with me when I visit Prague.

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    going concern:

    Sorry I didn't have much time for shopping as I was so busy with the photography course (probably a good thing!) There were plenty of shops - I don't think you will have a problem finding them on your own!!

    I think the girls would love the birds of prey at the castle gardens and Wallenstein Palace (grotto and peacocks).

    If it's hot take a boat ride, rent a paddle boat (there were serveral locations near the Charles Bridge or on one of the small islands) or take them to Zlute Lazne.

    I think they would also love the marionette show.

    Have a wonderful trip!!

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    PS: My favorite clothing shop in Spain was a place called Zara. I see they also have one in Prague (Zara Na Pøíkopì 15 Prague). Not sure where it is but the kids might like it...

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    goingconcern, I have traveled to Prague twice with my 2 teenaged girls. Our (their) favorite shop was Promod, although they also love Zara. Both are European chains (not just Prague).

    adnil, I just stumbled upon this report and plan to savor it fully later. The photography course sounds divine - were all the participants young?

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    Adnil:

    One of my favorite cities..been there several times in the 70's, 80's and 90's...haven't been since '97..most recently stayed at The Three Ostriches on the bridge..great.

    I'm BU, Ed.M 1953, Emerson College, B.A. 1951...originally from Quincy.

    Nice to see a BU lady having a great adventure!! Happy Travels!

    Stu Tower (L.A.)

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    Hi noe847,

    This is the first year that BU/CDIA ran the trip to Prague so it was kind of a trial. What they learned was that not alot of people can take a month... I think next year they plan to offer two weeks or a month (BTW you don't have to be a BU student to attend). Ages varied, I was the old one though...

    In the photo class there was: me (I'll tell you that I am close to 39 but the 1962 in my screen name probably gives something away), Chris who was 30, Lindsay & Sara who were both 20 and Radek (a Czech student) who I am guessing was about 35...

    In the film class there were two American 21 year olds, a Czech 20 something and a Czech woman who was 35. There was also another Czech woman who sometimes attended who was also 35.

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    What a fantastic report! So helpful to all.
    Did you visit the Mucha Museum? Forgive me if you listed it, I didn't read the whole report word for word. If you did visit it, was anything said about Mucha's series of huge murals portraying the history of the Slavic peoples? These were supposed to be brought from eastern Czech Republic to Prague sometime, but the last time I was there (2002) it hadn't yet happened.

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    What a wonderful report! I really liked the way you organized your info. I didn't have time to read it earlier this morning, but glad to come back to read it carefully.

    Were the people in the classes pro photographers (or aiming that way) or were they amateurs?

    This report made me want to do such a program, but don't know if I am a good enough photographer or whether I could keep up at my age (a woman of a certain age whatever that means).

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    Gina & Teacher - No you didn't have to be a student at BU any random person can sign up.... I don't know that next year's trip in planned yet but on the cdia.com website there is a form where you can request information.

    The class was structured so that anyone could attend - beginners to expert. The Czech student hadn't even taken his camera out of the box yet!!

    I would confim that Bob Caputo was teaching the class before you signed up as he really made it a wonderful experience. He gave us each quite a bit of one on one time. I learned so much from him (and I have already spent a year in photography school so I knew the basics....) - he taught the basics to anyone who needed it... He was very positive and just a really nice guy. He also showed us alot of his work and gave us ideas on how to make a photo better.

    I don't think that age matters - I was the oldest (1962 :-) You could focus on any story that you wanted there were no requirements other than the first story which was just "Prague". Some of the younger kids went to nightclubs to take photos. I wasn't interested in this (nor could I stay awake that late) so I never set foot in a night club.

    From what I have heard they plan to offer 2 week classes next year as it seems more attractive to people.

    Kristinelaine - no I never made it to the Mucha museaum.

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    Thanks for your great report. Several years ago while in Prague I bought 3 photographs by Dagmar Hochova. She seems to be quite well known in Prague and I was wondering if you learned about her when you were there?

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    Thanks for all the very detailed info in this trip report. I am currently planning a trip to Prague and this posting is coming in very handy!

    (If there are any other Fodorites who will be in Prague the week of September 24 and want to meet up or share a tour guide let me know.)

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    adnil1962-your photographs are stunning! What kind of camera did you use? Did you do much manipulation after the picture was taken or did they just look that great from the moment you took them? You have a wonderful eye. I hope you pursue this as a career!

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    Thanks Italybound!! I have a Nikon D200 with an 18-200 VR lens. The photos on the website are as taken, Bob Caputo was pretty firm in his beliefs that we should not be using photoshop to correct anything.

    Some of the ones on the cdia website could use some color correction (which I admit that I did do once I got home and did prints for my own album).

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    I don't think they needed any correction. The color in your photos was the best I saw on the website. I hope you will continue to share your photographs on any other trips you take. I have way too much camera and you make me want to take some classes to use more than the "auto" button!!

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    hey adnil1962... just got back from Prague and Vienna... I had printed out your report and took it with me.. thank you again for taking the time to write so much good info. i had a total of 3 days in Prague.. not much time, but we made the best of it.. favorite part was getting up super early to go to the St. Charles Bridge and take pics with no people! that was the best tip - and who knows if i would have even thought of it myself. lol.

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    These tips were great!
    Recommendations on Arcadia Residence and the location? I know I have read dozens/hundreds of great things about it and only slight downfall was the location? Is that a big deal? Is it that out of the way?

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    I would have stayed there already a few times if it had a bit more central location. The owner and his mother, they seem so nice. Only the raves here and on tripadvisor.com. Yes, it's the location that keeps me away from booking it.

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    The owner, Pasquale, is a terrific guy. They do have apartments in Mala Strana (where we stayed in late May) and Old Town. Location in Mala Strana was perfect to see Prague. We had friends who stayed in the part of Prague where Arcadia Residence is located, and they said it was no problem getting all over the city.

    ((H))

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    I didn't think the location was bad at all. It is right along the river (about a 2 minute walk to river & tram stop).

    You can catch a tram at the river and it is 3 stops to the Charles Bridge (less than 5 minutes). The trams are easy to use (not to mention that Pasquale helps you), inexpensive and they run frequently.

    I walked to the Charles Bridge a few times and it took about 15-20 minutes it was a really nice walk - birds, boats, people watching.

    It's also a 2 minute walk from Acadia Residence to Vysehrad - I had some great romantic evenings there (unfortunately alone :-( as hubby was in the US) but great sunsets, sunrises and spot for a picnic and glass of wine at night.

    Mama and Pasquale were really the best hosts that I have ever had in my life!! It was so worth it being a mile or so away from the center.

    Another plus is that it is quiet at night - the city center seems loud (esp on the weekend when there are lots of stag parties). I would guess that many of the rooms there are noisy!

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    > I would guess that many of the rooms there are noisy!

    Not necessarily so. I have stayed at perfectly nice and quiet hotel Residence Mala Strana a few times so far, maximum 10 minute walk to Charles Bridge (many sights can be covered easily on foot), + 5 or more tram lines just in front to get you to various farther sights. Good sized room and good breakfast and I paid a low season rate of €39 last winer for a double room. Could Arcadia beat that considering the location and all? If it's not for Pasquale and his mother, would you prefer staying in that location to more central ones? I woudn't. I have been to Vysehrad a few times so I sort of know the area. Also I have stayed at a hotel in very central Oldtown/Josehof area (Residence Bene for €49 in September last year, large room with empty fridge and all) when R.Mala Strana was over my budget due to high season. I was slightly concerned about the noise/stag party thing but actually had no problem at all. Yet it was 3 minutes walk to the Old Town Square. I'm sure there are noisy locations (especially like Wenceslas Square where I wouldn't dream of staying in) but you can avoid noise and parties while staying in central areas. Perhaps you would need a bit of research but it was not that difficult in my experience.

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    Adnil1962, your excellent report helped enormously with planning Prague segment of my trip.
    Thanks to your trip report I contacted Pasquale to book Arcadia Residence. He suggested Kozna apartment at the hard of Prague just around the corner from the Astronomical Clock. Pasquale stopped by every morning to help with out plans for the day and make sure we have everything we need. Nice breakfast or yogurt, eggs, ham and cheese, fruits and cakes was served every morning at the arranged time.

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