Prague and Cesky Krumlov- trip report

Old Jun 22nd, 2011, 06:11 AM
  #21  
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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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Old Jun 23rd, 2011, 05:59 AM
  #22  
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I am still to write the next installment...I will hopefully do it tonight or tomorrow. I should be done with the report over the weekend.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2011, 06:55 AM
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>

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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Old Jun 23rd, 2011, 07:02 AM
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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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Old Jun 25th, 2011, 07:51 AM
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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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Old Jun 25th, 2011, 08:00 AM
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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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Old Jun 25th, 2011, 06:54 PM
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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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Old Jul 9th, 2011, 07:46 AM
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bookmarking, thanks.
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