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    by ibobi Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 20, 17 at 01:24 PM
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Trip Report Trip Report - Prague and Vienna - LONG

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This trip was a first for me for a couple reasons. First solo trip, first trip to a country where I don't speak the language, first trip I let a travel agent plan. Happily, I can say it was a success. I'll pass on my details as a thank you to those who answered questions, sent me info and gave me suggestions. Cheryl and Elaine come to mind immediately, but there were others?

I booked everything through Laifer tours. Paul Laifer was great on the phone and the package with all the travel docs was very thorough, even for a seasoned European traveler like me (this was trip # 20, I think!) The package I purchased included air to and from Prague and between Prague and Vienna (which was key for only 6 full days, I didn?t want to spend 5 hours on a train), hotel, private car to/from hotel/airport, breakfast every day and city tour in each city. I paid $1750 or so with my first time traveler discount (paid up for the single supplement) and I could not beat the price on my own for such nice, centrally located hotels. Believe me, I tried.

Saturday/Sunday: Left Boston for JFK to catch Czech Air to Prague. Everything was seamless, smooth transfer (although a 3 hour layover). I was a bit disconcerted when I was in the departure lounge and not many people around me were speaking English...what have I gotten into? Anyway, the flight over was uneventful. The CSA crew were wonderful, very friendly and attentive, the food was really good for plane food and we arrived a bit early in Prague. My private driver met me at 8:20 and I was at the hotel by 8:45. The Hotel Maximillian right off Old Town Square was delightful. Very nicely furnished, the room felt homey, warm and was immaculate. The location couldn't be better, a very quiet side street within 3 minutes of Old Town Square. The only ATM I found in the area was right around the corner at a bank (finding an ATM became a challenge...they are not as prolific as I'd read). Since my room was not yet ready, I headed right out with my camera and guidebooks. My first impression of Old Town Square reminded me a lot of Brugge, with the square and the architecture of the buildings, maybe just on a grander scale. I was at the Astrological Clock for 9:00 and saw it ring in the hour with about 5 other people (which is different than later in the day where the crowds are in the hundreds). I then walked on to the Charles Bridge, feeling the need to see what I'd seen so often on the webcam I was checking daily at work, waiting in anticipation for the trip. It was on the bridge that I realized that it was a LOT colder here than I expected. With the windchill, I'd say we were in the mid 40s, as a high, at best. I was dressed and prepared for 50s-60s...and I don't like cold!

I then went on to the Jewish Quarter and toured the synagogues and cemetery there. This was a real eye-opening experience for me. I haven't yet been to a country that was affected by the Hitler regime, and to be in the Pinkas Synagogue and see the rooms with walls lined with the printed names of citizens who'd been knowingly killed or just disappeared during that time was disturbing for me. The artwork by the children of Terezin is so poignant. You really can tour this on your own if you have a reasonably good tour book and just follow the assigned times on your ticket. I spent a few hours meandering between and within the sites in Josefov and learned quite a bit that I didn?t know about the Judaism and its customs and traditions and the history of Czech jews.

I had an early dinner at Restaurant Clementinum. I started with Czech fried cheese with cranberry sauce, followed by beef goulash with dumplings and ended with molten lava chocolate cake. All of it was really very tasty, and warming me up on a cold Prague night. The goulash was pretty much what I'd expected...the dumplings were kind of like underbaked bread, but mopping up the gravy with them was a savory treat. So far, day one in Prague has been a success. I fended off jetlag and returned to the hotel for bed, hitting the free internet in the hotel lounge before sleep.

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