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Trip Report: 17 days in Switzerland, Austria & Czech Republic

Trip Report: 17 days in Switzerland, Austria & Czech Republic

Old Sep 7th, 2008, 06:20 PM
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Day 14: Thursday, Aug 14: PRAGUE:
We got up a bit late, and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The hostess Kristina made us some good cheese toasties. We left the hotel at about 9:30am, walking first to Na Knezeci bus stop nearby, and booked our tickets for Cesky Krumlov for the following day. Then we boarded the tram to Malastranske namesti, where we changed to a different tram going up to the Castle. Got down at Pohorelec.

We walked to Loretanska namesti, and sat and admired the Loreta Church from outside, hearing its bells chime 11am. Right opposite it is the imposing Cernic Palace. Then walked past the Archbishop’s palace, and entered Prague castle through the gate of the battling Titans. We bought tickets for the short tour. Briefly went out to the Powder Bridge to see the castle moat, and returned to see the changing of the guards at noon, when a brass band plays from the windows.

Next we entered the St Vitius Cathedral, and admired the stained glasses, especially the one done by Mucha which stands out. Then entered the Old Royal Palace, where there was not much to see (a few bare ceremonial halls), except great views of Prague from a terrace. Then went inside St George’s Basilica, which is a simple Romanesque church. Finally we went to Golden Lane, which we found to be the most interesting part of the Castle tour. Very cute and colorful. Not much to see in Daliborka either, as we exited the Castle complex. We were frankly a bit underwhelmed by the Prague Castle.

From the exit East gate of the Castle, we walked down to Mala Strana through the Gardens beneath Prague Castle, kind of like terraced gardens. As we reached the bottom, we saw the Indian Embassy next to us. Peeped inside for a hello. Then walked to Maltezske namesti, where we lunched at “El Centro” – a tapa bar. Superb veg paella plus nachos with cheese & salsa, and black beer. Brought back memories of our Spain trip last year.

We needed to buy ballet tickets for the following night at Smetana Hall. So we walked back to Stare Mesto over the Charles Bridge. Left DW at Male namesti to do some window shopping, while I hurried to the Municipal Hall and back, having procured the tickets. Did see the Astronomical Clock strike 4pm on the way. We crossed back over Charles Bridge to Mala Strana, and sat down at a small café called U Certa on Malastranske namesti. This was just behind St Nicholas Church. We had some refreshments and rested our legs for an hour.

We then walked westwards to the end of Nerudova, trying to spot all the unusual buildings on the way: House with 3 Fiddles, House with 2 Suns, etc etc. Then walked back to Malestranske namesti, which was gradually getting lively, as all cafes, shops were opening, and the crowds were coming on. Continued walking to Maltezske namesti, and on to John Lennon Wall, full of interesting graffiti. We next strolled on to Kampa Island, and walked all along the Vltava river, stopping to sit down at benches on the way to admire the fantastic views. It had cooled down by then, and the weather had become pleasant. Liked the vast green spaces in the middle of the island, and the huge sculpture of a chair in the middle of the river.

At the end of Kampa Island, we crossed back into Mala Strana, and walked to Ujezd. Went inside a bar called Klub Ujezd. It was a very funky bar with extremely unusual décor of metal dragons hung on the ceiling, and bartenders in equally weird attire. Liked the place. Had a few drinks and left. Walked to a nearby restaurant that we had identified, called “Cantina”. It was an excellent Mexican restaurant, with great décor. Fun atmosphere. Had a spinach filled burrito and jalapeno-stuffed quesadilla, which were both excellent. Would highly recommend this dining place to anyone.

Finally, we took the tram back to our hotel. Went to the nearby Tesco supermarket, and did some grocery shopping for breakfast items. Went to bed by 10pm.


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Old Sep 7th, 2008, 06:21 PM
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DAY 15: FRIDAY, Aug 15: PRAGUE/ CESKY KRUMLOV:
Woke up and had breakfast in our apartment. Boarded our 8:30am bus from Na Knezeci to Cesky Krumlov. Had a nice snooze on the bus, which reached CK at about 11:45am.

The weather was very cloudy, and quite cold. We had been spoilt by the excellent weather during the last 5 days, and had ignored carrying our umbrellas. As we started walking from the bus station to the town center of Cesky Krumlov, it suddenly started raining quite heavily. We waited in a shop, but when the rain showed no signs of letting up, we were forced to buy raincoats.

We went inside a lovely café, which was an old mill that had been converted into a museum-cum-café. The place had great character and décor, but the staff were overbusy. When no one attended us for 20 minutes, we were forced to leave and went into a less crowded café across the street. Had some Algerian coffee, and fried cheese which tasted surprisingly good.

Cesky Krumlov is a lovely town, and we immediately loved it. We just could not stop clicking our camera. The whole town was spectacular, and each building was worth taking a picture of. Seemed like doll-houses, painted by a five-year old, in all kinds of imaginative colors. Only bad thing was the weather, as it kept raining. We walked up to the Castle, and did walk half-way through it. But we felt that it was more fun to just stroll through the town, so we hurried back and started wandering about the narrow lanes, loaded with wonderful shops.

The buildings are so pretty, that they make the merchandise in the shops look even prettier. We found it hard to resist buying a lot of souvenirs from all the shops. Saw lots of people canoeing and rafting in the winding Vltava river, which twists and turns all over Cesky Krumlov. Too bad we did not have enough time for all this. We were cursing ourselves for doing CK as a day trip, and not spending a night here.

For lunch, we went to an excellent place called U Dwau Myris (At Two Mary’s). It had authentic Czech décor, with a lot of seating both inside and outside. We took an outside table by the riverside, and had an excellent Bohemian meal, comprising of garlic/cabbage soup, fluffed barley, buckwheat, baked millet, potato cakes, dumplings etc. Divine food, and superb draught black beer.

Did some more shopping in the intermittent rain, and very reluctantly started moving back to the Bus station, as we had booked the 4:10pm bus for the return journey. During the return journey, the driver kept loading more and more standing passengers on the bus. Thankfully, we had reserved seats. We finally pulled into Prague at 7:20pm. We immediately boarded the metro to the Municipal House, as we had ballet tickets for the 8pm show. The ballet dancers were performing with the Prague Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Smetana Hall. A superb performance, in an excellent hall. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

When the performance got over at about 9:45pm, we walked past Old Town Square to a Thai restaurant called Siam-i-Sin. Had a very good meal of Papaya salad, plus green tofu curry with jasmine rice. We then boarded the metro back to the hotel, again going to sleep at midnight.

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Old Sep 7th, 2008, 06:23 PM
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Day 16: Saturday, Aug 16: PRAGUE:
This was the last day of our vacation. Once again we had breakfast in our apartment. Once again, the bad weather continued, and we faced a light drizzle throughout the day.

We started off by walking to the Vltava riverfront, and over to the Dancing Building. After clicking pictures, we took the metro to the Museum stop, and emerged at one end of Wencelas Square, near the National Museum. Climbed the steps of the National Museum, saw the statue of St Wencelas, the spot where Jan Pallach had fallen, and the memorial in honor of Jan Pallach and another student. So much history has occurred around this Wencelas Square.

As we walked on Wencelas Square, we came across a roadside photo exhibition of the Soviet invasion of Prague in August 1968 (it was the 40th anniversary of the event). Lovely black & white photos, which told a poignant tale. Walked passed the ornate Grand Hotel Europa, and went inside Lucarna Palace, where we saw the Wencelas statue on an inverted horse. Popped into a café for a dose of Espresso, and walked passed the Melantrich Building (now Marks & Spencer), from where Vaclav Havel had proclaimed the end of Communism in 1989. Then went into the Bata Shoe store building, and strolled through its 6 floors.

We turned into Na Prikope, and kept walking in and out of shops. Went inside the Museum of Communism, which we found very interesting and informative. Liked the displays, the photographs, the written description of historical events, the Interrogation Room, and the short movie. A very good museum which gives an excellent perspective to Czech history post WWII.

It was past 2pm, and we returned to Lucarna Palace, as we had spotted an Indian restaurant there called “Mayur”. Had a good lunch of typical Indian food, which was authentically cooked. Then walked on Narodni Trida till the end, and then walked along the river before ducking into Old Town Square. Went for a repeat visit to Ebel Coffee House, and had excellent coffee with Apple strudel. We had kept the afternoon for shopping, and bought a lot of exquisite glass items from Celetna shops.

At about 7:15pm, we went for dinner to Klub Architektu on Bethlemska namesti. A very nice and popular restaurant, made to look like a cellar. Had to share a table with an excellent old couple from Mississippi, USA. We ordered beer and soup, which was very nice. However, the place was overcrowded, and our main course did not come for an hour. Regretfully, we cancelled it; the bill still took a long time to come. Finally, we were forced to go to the counter, pay and leave. We quickly boarded the metro back to our hotel, stopping at a shopping mall nearby to do the final bits of shopping. Settled our hotel bill, completed our packing, and regretted that a wonderful vacation had come to an end. Prague had definitely been one of the high points of the trip, and we had loved the city. It is remarkable how much the Czech have achieved in just 18 years of post-Communist rule. Their beer, their architecture, and their gorgeous women will continue to haunt me for days to come.

The next morning, we took a taxi to the airport, and had a comfortable and uneventful flight back to India. This completes my Trip Report. I look forward to your comments and queries.
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Old Sep 7th, 2008, 06:32 PM
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Thanks for the great trip report. I really enjoyed reading it.

May I ask your opinion about Cesky Krumlov please? We are a family with 3 children who are planning to spend 2 nights and one full day in Cesky Krumlov at the beginning of December this year. Our idea is to only arrive in Cesky Krumov about 5pm on day 1, to spend the whole of day 2 there, and to leave early in the morning on day 3 for Prague.

I know that the castle will be closed. We have wanted to visit Cesky Krumlov for years and can only travel in December/January, so it is unikely that we will be able to visit when the castle is open in the foreseeable future.

Do you think we have allowed too long for Cesky Krumlov, or would we be able to have a lovely full day exploring it?
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Old Sep 7th, 2008, 06:55 PM
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Ozziez, thanks for your comments. I think you are spending the right amount of time in Cesky Krumlov; I wish we had done so ourselves. The Castle is no big deal. The town is absolutely lovely, and you will love wandering all over it. There is also canoeing and rafting to do, which I am sure you will enjoy.
Lots of interesting shops and cafes. You will have fun !
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Old Sep 7th, 2008, 07:56 PM
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enjoy reading your trip report!
I visited Vienna, Salzburg, and Graz last year, which was wonderful and memorable. Now I am planning my trip to Prague, Dresden, and Berlin. Your trip report is a great help! Thanks!
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Old Sep 7th, 2008, 09:59 PM
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MulberryRoxy, you are most welcome. Hope you enjoy Prague as much as we did.
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Old Sep 8th, 2008, 06:11 AM
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Thanks for the report. It was great for me as I will be visiting Prague and Vienna in December. After reading your report, I am more anxious than ever to see Prague.
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Old Sep 8th, 2008, 06:22 AM
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Thanks elcon. I guess Prague will be pretty cold in December. But I am sure you will enjoy it. I have heard that Vienna is very pretty at Christmas.
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Old Sep 8th, 2008, 09:08 AM
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bookmarking
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Old Sep 8th, 2008, 12:59 PM
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Great report, indiancouple. I've wondered from time to time how your trip had gone. It sounds like you enjoyed the journey and the destination--congrats. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Old Sep 8th, 2008, 06:46 PM
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JN, thanks for your replies to our queries earlier, which helped shape this trip.
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Old Sep 9th, 2008, 10:02 AM
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indiancouple,

re: Hotel Oberland - it's been maybe 8 years or so that we stayed there. I thought the rooms would need a bit of renovation, but I still enjoyed my stay.

Thanks again for the detailed report. Enjoyed it thoroughly since I've been to all those places before. It's interesting that you enjoyed Salzburg more than Vienna - the opposite for me. ;-)

Also, some comments on Prague and the Czech Republic in general. Yep, I have to agree on the beautiful women there, LOL. Too bad you didn't go inside Loreto church. It's really gorgeous.

When it comes to sights we all have different tastes. Good thing. I personally enjoyed the puristic Romanesque architecture of St. George's Basilica very much, ditto for the 'bare' halls of the Old Royal Castle. I am a fan of medieval architecture. And I *hated* the touristy shops in the Golden Lane. Overpriced and of obscure quality IMO.

Cesky Krumlov is definitely picturesque. Probably my favourite Czech town. Too bad you had bad weather - the castle garden e.g. would have been wonderful to walk around in the sun.

For Ozziez: It will be a bit different in winter. It's no fun to walk around for more than, say 3 or 4 hours in the cold (maybe snow) and gaze at the facades. No canoeing or rafting either in December. The castle is going to be closed and you'll be stuck with shopping or eating.

Ingo
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Old Sep 9th, 2008, 04:28 PM
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Hello indiancouple,

We've enjoyed your report very much -- my husband is interested in knowing if you simply have a wonderful memory for detail or if you travel with a small recorder to help remember all the nuances of your experience. In 2 weeks, we'll be visiting Salzburg, Vienna, Prague and Budapest. We'll be 3 nights in each city. We've read and researched but we don't have your moxie for being so totally independent and on your own so we're traveling with a tour from city to city, but there is plenty of free time to explore on our own. I actually learned a lot just reading about your trip and we're definitely more encouraged to do more on our own. We're very excited to get going. Thanks again. K2
PS - Where are you going next? ;-)
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Old Sep 9th, 2008, 07:03 PM
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Ingo, quite understandable that our tastes are different. It would be strange if everyone liked the same things ! As for Golden Lane in Prague Castle, it is the colorful small houses that we liked, not the touristy shops.

k2ok, thanks for the appreciation. I do carry a small notepad with me when I travel. Make some jottings whenever I have some spare time, like when I am sipping a glass of wine before a meal or something. I did refer to my notes when writing this trip report. As to where we are going next - haven't decided, but leaning towards either China or New Zealand ! Yes, we do like to travel completely on our own, and we prefer to use the public transport system everywhere, instead of renting a car. This way we get to interact so much more with the local populace and with other travelers, which we greatly enjoy. Europe is so tourist friendly, making it so much easier to travel on your own.
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Old Sep 9th, 2008, 08:26 PM
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Ingo: Yes, I am still pondering your advice that we might be spending too long in Cesky Krumlov (1 full day) seeing as it will be in winter (December) and the castle will be closed.

I am wondering if we should arrive in Cesky Krumlov at 5pm on day 1, spend half of day 2 there and leave straight after lunch and drive to Prague, arriving in Prague about 5 or 6pm.

Do you - and anyone else - think this would be a better plan?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2008, 11:40 PM
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indiancouple, i just finalized our bookings for our trip to munich, salzburg and switzerland from oct 17-30. we will be in lauterbrunnen for 4 nights ( thanks to your trip report ) and 1 night, our last night, in zurich due to a very early morning flight back to the US. we will also be staying at hotel staubbach. i booked one of the south facing rooms, we will have a view of the falls. God willing, i will post a trip report here, a small way to return the favor to all of you who had been such great resource.

we will be driving from innsbruck and liecstenstein and will drop the rental car off at interlaken. i re-read your trip report and will be doing the swiss pass for 4 days just like you did. it made the most sense considering how we plan to spend the next 4 days in B.O. if we have time and get lucky with favorable weather to visit the jungfrau on our second day, we might have time to visit bern and maybe gstaad.
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 07:41 PM
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worldclass, have a great trip, and do post your experiences when you get back. Just pray for good weather, and have a lot of fun ! Glad to be of help.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 08:24 PM
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We are just back from our European adventure and wanted to thank you again for your review on berner Oberland. we spent two glorious days in Lauterbrunnen at Hotel Oberland and felt like we were in heaven!! First day we arrived and followed the suggestions of the gondola to Grultschalp and then the hike to Murren with the train back. Unbelieveable!! The views are extraordinary. Had a superb meal of fondue and rosti for dinner with great service and atmosphere at hotel. Owner is Australian so felt at home!! with many other aussies staying there.

Woke to rain next morning but still decided to venture up to Kleine Scheidegg> Anyway we were blessed with snow falls from Wengen up and when we arrived at Kleine to brilliant sunshine and 50cm snow we knew we were in heaven. A wonderful surprise as snow was not expected so early and never seen in our part of Australia. Spent the afternoon in sunny Grindelwald.

We had a magical time in Switzerland however brief and so very thankful to the fodorites who recommended venturing into the Alps area around Lauterbrunnen.

Much appreciation indian couple for your wonderful report.
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 08:52 AM
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bookmarking. Thanks Indiancouple!
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