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-   -   First Trip Report Ė Prague, Krakow and Budapest plus the less travelled road inbetween Ė A road trip (https://www.fodors.com/community/road-trips/first-trip-report-prague-krakow-and-budapest-plus-the-less-travelled-road-inbetween-a-road-trip-710596/)

tomboy Jun 8th, 2007 06:08 AM

Glad you enjoyed Spis Hrad.
Your comments re Levoca led me to remember my thinking 2 yrs ago, that what Slovakia needs is a first rate minister of tourism. The local entrepeneurs must not travel to other European countries, nor have the imagination to see what others have, and SR lacks, and how to bridge the gap.
Where did you find the roads "like farm tracks"? We travelled WELL off the beaten track, but the roads we encountered were all well paved, with no potholes. The only negatives we met were the ever-present slow truck (do they have a limit on horsepower there?), and that crazy woman who tried to pass us on the curve up the mountain, only to sideswipe our car.

shandy Jun 8th, 2007 03:20 PM

Tomboy, this sounds ridiculous I know, but I haven't a clue where we were when we following the farm tracks. Because we were completely reliant on using the GPS system, we just went wherever it told us.

At the time, I said that I can't believe this is meant to be the quickest way from Zakopane to Levoca. I had in fact expected it to take us through Stary Smokovec to get to Levoca. I knew that this was what via Michelin had suggested before we left home. By the time we realised that we obviously were not going that way it just became a matter of keep going and we had never seen a signpost to Stary Smokovec along the way to follow anyway. When we did the trip back from Levoca to Stary Smokovec they were all on quite reasonable roads.

Either the GPS had a hernia and took us on a wild goose chase or possibly, or should I say probably, we misunderstood its instructions at some stage made a wrong turning and the GPS instead of asking us to turn around just recalculated a new route using back roads.

The advisability of having a general road map to refer to will become even more obvious in my final instalment. There is something to be said for the old fashioned way.

Incidentally, I think it might have been you who suggested we stop along the road at Spissky Salas for a meal. We had a lovely lunch there. It was a wonderful spot, sitting outside having lunch and enjoying the view. Apparently it used to be a sheep milking cottage, although it made for a pretty substantial cottage - perhaps it was the dairy as well. It looked like there were some nice walks starting from there.

Did you take the time to investigate the little walled section of the town just before you get to Spissky Hrad? I thought it looked as though it might be nice as we drove past and had intended we would stop there on the way back but didn't get around to it.

tomboy Jun 8th, 2007 04:16 PM

No, it looked interesting from above, but...maybe next time.

Magellan_5 Jun 9th, 2007 07:57 AM

Hi shandy - This is a great report - very helpful! I have a question about the language in Prague. You noted that in the main tourist towns, English was spoken quite a bit and that you had no problems.

I'm curious - I've heard that in some of the smaller towns of the Czech Republic itself that German is still spoken in certain pockets. Did you notice this? Or did you mainly hear only Czech and English?

I'm asking because I'm wondering if - in addition to learning some Czech - I should be brushing up on my German (I won't be traveling outside of the Czech Republic when I go). If you had to do it over again, what would you advise language-wise?

Thanks!

katt58 Jun 9th, 2007 09:11 AM

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience. Will save specific ?? for Budapest.

callalilli Jun 9th, 2007 09:51 AM

Shandy... thank you so much for this great report. So much interesting and useful info.. i'm sure i would have had no idea what 'no bathers' meant.. thank you for the insight. i will be in Krakow end of this month, then on to Prague.. Your report just makes me all that more anxious to go!! (and.. very good writing style !!)

tomboy Jun 9th, 2007 04:11 PM

Magellan, if I might add my observations: I had also heard that German was spoken in many places. On both our trips thru the Czech (granted, only Prague and southern Bohemia and all Moravia) and Slovak republics, we found NO ONE who spoke German. This surprised me, since one stop was to meet my third cousin who has the same (Germanic) surname as my grandfather, since they had a common Slovak ancestor. No one in the family spoke German. Indeed, Grandad's census and work records say he spoke German as well as Slovak. WW2, and the subsequent Russian orientation, must have eliminated the Germanic dialect.

Magellan_5 Jun 9th, 2007 04:29 PM

Hi tomboy - Thanks! That info really helps. I'll just spend the next 3 months concentrating on my Czech instead :D Appreciate it.

LowCountryIslander Jun 9th, 2007 06:36 PM

Great trip report Shandy....it brings back lots of memories. I did almost the identical route last September.

Skatedancer...I stayed at the Maltanski last year and give it high marks. Was very clean and comfortable. And I had the best cappucino ((C)) at their breakfast buffet!

shandy Jun 9th, 2007 08:13 PM

Magellan, we did in fact here a fair amount of German being spoken. Certainly in tourist offices, several times I heard it being spoken fluently to the German tourists who came in.

How much is spoken conversationally by the ordinary person, I really couldn't say because, obviously, we didn't try to communicate with anybody in German.

The owner of our B&B in Budapest spoke German quite well and commented, most people of my generation can speak a bit of German. I assume this was a reference to WW2. Likewise he was fluent in Russian, probably for much the same reason.

The lady from our B&B in Cesky Krumlov had very little English, but she spoke schoolgirl french so obviously she had been taught that at one time. I would have thought German would have been taught quite a bit at school as well.

Although there were a number of times, when the people we were speaking to had no English at all, don't assume this meant it just made things too difficult. At no time, were we not able to communicate at all when we really needed to. Its amazing how much body language, gestures etc can get you by. For example, when we needed money from an ATM everyone recognized the action of inserting a card in and out of an ATM even when you weren't holding it.

When we were in Zakopane, we drove past a spot with lots of tour buses. We could see it was a walking trail and decided to follow it on the basis of, if there are this many tourist buses it must be good. Consequently we had no idea where we were walking to or how long the walk was meant to take. We passed some of the by now inevitable school groups and I simply addressed a group of a few students at large asking "Does someone speak English" and you could be sure one or more would volunteer having learnt it at school.

Overall, I don't think it is worth the bother of brushing up on your German. You will get by with English, and if that fails, you can try falling back on a few stock standard German phrases to see if that helps and, presumably you remember those anyway.

Thanks to all for their kind comments about the trip report generally. I will type up the final section later today.

shandy Jun 10th, 2007 06:55 AM

Eger

It was off to Hungary today. We would loved to have spent another night at Stary Smokovec but we had used up all the leeway time I had left in the itinerary. It was actually gone 11am before we finally left the hotel. It was just as well that we had already given up on taking the funicular again and looking for the waterfall. DH had to make a few business calls and was having considerable trouble getting through using a phone card or mobile. In the end, he used the hotelís landline which only cost a minor arm and leg.

It was to be a 3 Ĺ hour drive from Stary Smokovec to Eger and was, in fact, about 4 hours and seemed to take a lot longer. This was a combination of no passing lanes and getting stuck behind a truck and today was the day that we realised we should have invested in one map of central/eastern europe for when the GPS system fails you.

Several times during our travels the GPS didnít know about new section of motorways but it hadnít been a problem apart from the fact that the GPS getting trying to direct us to get out of the ďfieldĒ we were driving through. As we were whizzing along this nice new section of motorway, I noticed an exit which gave the name of a town with the letter HU after it, obviously meaning that the town was in Hungary. Of course, the name of the town meant nothing to me and we werenít sure whether this is where we should have been taking the exit or there would be another more appropriate one later. It was in fact a rather moot point because we were in the fast lane and couldnít have really moved across to the exit lane without cutting across everyone else. We decided to keep on going and see what the GPS came up with once it realised that we werenít in fact driving through a field. After another 15 minutes the GPS didnít have anything to offer and we decided we should turn back and take the exit. Of course, by now we on a smaller windy road and had to travel another 10 km before we could find a place to turn around. This we did, but the GPS and us are still confused and we missed the turnoff onto the new section of motorway. Consequently it calculated a new route. We thought this meant that it would get us back onto the motorway at the next entrance, but no, we then did the lets go through every little town in Slovakia route. We contemplated turning around again, but without a map decided to just stick with what the GPS was advocating. We did drive through some lovely countryside but, as I said, the drive seemed to take forever, but that was to a large extent due to us being annoyed at mucking it up.

Finally at about 3pm we arrived in Eger which is only about 90 mins from Budapest and is a well known wine region. We already knew that we would have to hunt for our hotel because the GPS did not know the street in which it was located. We drove into the central area of town and parked. Of course we needed a parking ticket and, as usual, didnít have any Hungarian money. I found an ATM quickly, but then to change the money. We were actually at the local market and I knew I couldnít change the large denomination notes issued for a banana or a punnet of strawberries so eventually found a stationery shop. I bought a pen but then the girl in the shop still had to go to two other shops to get change. By the time I got back to the car in which I had left DH sitting in case a parking inspector came, he was not happy.

However, it was then off to find the tourism office and get a town map which we managed without too much trouble. We then navigated the old fashioned way to get to our hotel, only to find that if we stayed on the road by which we had originally entered the town there was only one turn to get onto the street we needed. I had chosen the Hotel Villa Volgy which is in the Valley of the Beautiful Woman, where all the wine caves are located, but still only about a 10 min drive top from the centre of town. The hotel comprises 3 separate buildings, the original being rated 3 star and the two new ones being 4 star. I had already requested a room in the four star section. The hotel looks lovely from the outside and has very nice gardens surrounding it. Our room itself was fairly small, but neat and quite modern. The bathroom was very good. If you should book here, do ask for a room that overlooks the garden as ours overlooked the caravan park next door which didnít really add to the ambience of the room. I really would have expected a bit more from a room that is rated four star but I think the rating probably comes from having a restaurant and a wellness area.

I tried out the wellness area and bathers were expected this time much to my relief. It had a nice pool and several steam/sauna rooms. The lounges outside overlooking the garden were a very nice touch, especially on such a sunny day. It was very humid again and the room had its own air-conditioner which was good or so we thought. When we turned it on after coming home from dinner we could hear it whirring away but it took us about half an hour to decide that although it was blowing out lots of air, it wasnít cold air. It was now about 11pm and we didnít bother to inform reception because we knew we couldnít be bothered to change rooms at that stage. The staff were very good and I donít doubt that if we had realised earlier in the day and asked for a change they would have accommodated us. Consequently we rather tossed and turned the whole night as it remained humid.

We decided to forgo sampling wines at all the nearby caves (within walking distance) as we live near a wine region anyway and I opted for a swim and DH had to do a bit more work before we headed back into town. We got the hotel to call us a taxi this time because we really had had enough of driving today and besides DH wouldnít have been able to down a few wines during dinner if he was driving. It only cost about $5 each way anyway.

I thought Eger was a lovely little town. A couple of lovely churches, plenty of outdoor cafes and a very nice main square with lots of historic buildings to wander around. We went to have a look at the minaret as I had never seen one before. It was tall as I expected, but also a lot skinnier. When we went to pay, the man said we would have to wait a few minutes until the previous people came down. Once they did, I could understand way because there is no possibility at all of two people passing. It was then our turn and DH went first. After about 20 steps, quite steep and as tight as any spiral staircase you have ever seen, he said to me that he couldnít continue and wanted to go back. Thus down we came. Now DH has been up lots of towers and some fairly tight places in his life but this is the first time he has ever turned back. He said he really felt quite claustrophobic. Thus I left him downstairs, and I ventured forth on my own. The only way I could do it was to approach it more like climbing a ladder because the steps were so steep. I was literally using my hands as well having them a couple of steps ahead of where my feet were. It was quite well lit inside but I also found that I could only cope by staring straight ahead and concentrating on the next step. The couple of times I tried looking upwards it made me feel quite uncomfortable as well. When I finally made it to the top you could go outside and walk around the little walkway Ė just wide enough for one person at a time. Now I donít actually like heights and once I got up there, I couldnít bring myself to move more than 3-4 feet away from the door. Fortunately the door was on the side with the better view, or so I said to myself. I didnít dare lean forwards at all to wave or yell to DH to show him that I had made it.

All the way up I had been concerned about the trip back down because it is going down that I really have trouble with as I have arthritis in my knees. I had thought that I would have to approach it ladder style again but fortunately I didnít need to. It is so narrow though that I had my back literally against the wall the whole way and sort of walked down sideways. I must say that I really felt quite proud of myself at having accomplished it. I know that for many it would have been a breeze, but for me it was something of an achievement.

We then generally wandered around the old area for town for quite a while. We stopped at one outdoor café in the main square for a drink and in fact, ended up going back there for dinner after investigating a number of other restaurants. It was a lovely evening. For the whole trip it would be at least 9.30pm or so before it was completely dark which gave us plenty of extra time for exploring. I commented to DH that of all the larger towns that we had been to, this one seemed to me to the most liveable if you were a local. It had beautiful buildings, a lovely square, plenty of restaurants but it wasnít inundated with tourists. As we sat having our drink, lots of families came into the square to let their young children have a play before taking them home again. They obviously lived within walking distance.

Budapest

The next morning it was off to Budapest. Breakfast at the hotel had plenty of variety and I really enjoyed spending an hour or more sitting on a lounge in the garden reading whilst DH spent a bit more time on the computer.

The ride to Budapest was a breeze, motorway all the way. Driving though Budapest was another matter altogether. I really donít know how we would have managed without the GPS. The traffic was appalling, there are lots of one way streets and they meander all over the place and several times the street we wanted to turn into was closed because of road works. Our B&B was on the Buda side and thus we had to drive across the whole city, crossing the river to get to where the B&B was. Fortunately the GPS knew exactly where the B&B was and deposited us within 20 feet of it. It was only another 1km drive from the B&B to Budget and we still needed the GPS. We were really quite happy to hand over the car by that time.

I had chosen Bellevue B&B after several recommendations here on Fodors about it. We were very happy with the location Ė being on the castle Buda side interested us more than the commercial/shopping Pest side. The B&B is only a few minutes walk from the Fishermanís Bastion which had the most spectacular views and less than 10 mins walk to a Metro station. I had booked a room with a view over the Parliament and this is exactly what you get. It was quite pleasant on the little balcony which was big enough to have a couple of chairs outside. The room was quite a reasonable size and done up well. The bathroom wasnít big but quite adequate. As with most places we stayed, no elevator but we didnít mind that. Judit and her husband, our hosts, were very welcoming and a mine of information. If you are concerned about your security this is the place for you because Judit is extremely security conscious, to the point that it was actually a bit of a nuisance. There was only one key for our room/front door so if we split up one would have to phone the other to let you in which meant running down the three storeys to open the front door. DH wasnít too impressed when I woke him from a mid-afternoon slumber to let me in on one occasion. Generally, speaking there is no one there from morning onwards so you canít just ring the doorbell for Judit to let you in. The weather remained hot and humid the whole 3-4 days we were in Budapest and there is no air-conditioning at all. It had not occurred to me that this was something I should consider in May. Consequently we slept quite badly the whole time. Even without any bed clothes at all, we kept tossing and turning. There is an overhead fan in the room but it is centrally located and you donít get much benefit from it when you are in bed. Breakfast is downstairs in the kitchen and whilst, hardly a sumptuous repast, was more than sufficient. As it is only small you share you table with the other guests and we found this most enjoyable. Nearly everywhere else we had been, there was more than sufficient room for everyone to be given their own table and thus reduced your chances for conversation.

I thought Budapest was a lovely city to wander around and the Metro system is very easy to use and extremely efficient. We bought a three day pass on our first day simply because we thought this would be much simpler than having to buy individual tickets each time or having to worry about whether we needed transit tickets or not. I had thought this would probably cost us a bit more, but I think we probably saved money in the end. Because we had the pass we took advantage of the public transport more than we would have otherwise. Several times we jumped on a tram or bus going the same direction we were without a clue as to its actual destination, deciding that as soon as it turned off from the direction we wanted we would simply alight and start walking again.

I had booked Opera tickets for our first night over the internet before we left. I probably booked about 5 weeks before we left and, at that time, the only seats left I could purchase two side by side was up on the top level. I booked these through www.jegymester.hu for the princely sum of about $4 each. We got there half an hour early in order to avoid ďthe tumultuous scenesĒ at the booking office. This is what the print out actually said and we were rather disappointed that there werenít any tumultuous scenes at all. What was interesting is that there was a sign beside the window saying that they would only honour tickets booked through the Jegymester site and specifically said that tickets booked through viennaticketoffice.com would not be accepted even though paid for. Perhaps this is what the tumultuous scenes refer to, when the patrons realise they will not be given any tickets. After collecting the tickets we went to head up the beautiful central staircase but were turned away and told to go outside, walk around the corner and use the entrance there. This we did and walked up and up and up to our allocated seats. However we were not walking up a grand entrance at all but an extremely ordinary rather dull one. Obviously at the time it was built, it was considered that you couldnít run the risk of the well-to-do running into one of the plebs in the cheap seats and thus separate entrances. Once we were ensconced in our seats it didnít matter that we were up so high, the venue is absolutely beautiful and, in fact, despite being quite high up it was still an excellent view. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Tosca. One of fellow guests at or B&B said that he had scored a seat in one of the Boxes which would have been lovely. Our host at the B&B said if you are a single person it is not actually that hard to get one of these even if it is fairly close to the performance.

After the Opera we had dinner at Belcanto which is virtually next door. If you are facing the Opera House it is on the left and one building back. I had booked these before we went and I am quite sure we would not have got in without a prior booking. We really enjoyed our meal there and the entertainment was great fun. A group of live musicians, two opera singers and of course the waiters breaking into the Toreador Song on a couple of occasions. All in all, a most enjoyable night.

Our other memorable meal was at Spoon (the restaurant on the permanently moored boat near the Chain Bridge) which I had also prebooked and requested a table on the side so we had an unimpeded view of the castle. Sitting outside on the deck on the quite warm evening was a delight. We sipped cocktails as we watched the sun set behind the castle and the food was excellent. I particularly enjoyed my avocado in tempura with an accompanying thai style salad. Iím not sure what they put in the salad but I have to say it was one of the nicest I have ever eaten. DH was just as impressed with his three types of goose liver pate Ė very rich. For main course I had enormous king prawns on top of a thai flavoured risotto. DH had ordered the beef wellington and asked for it to be medium rare. When it arrived it was definitely on the medium rather than rare side. When the waiter returned after a couple of minutes he commented on this and it was instantly whisked away and another done which was just perfect. As it turned it was simply a misunderstanding, in that the waiter is obviously not used to the term medium-rare as we use it, and thought it simply meant medium.

We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the area around the castle and Fishermanís Bastion and because we were so close went up to the Fishermanís Bastion several times. Some of the market stall near the castle had good non-tacky souvenirs. We picked up some glassware which was handpainted that we are really pleased with.

We had intended to do a tour of the Parliament but when we went the next morning it was already too late to buy tickets for that day and it was shut the next day for some reason so missed out on that one. We strolled along Vaci Utca but canít say that we were particularly excited about it as a shopping street. It was quite pleasant but I was probably expecting a bit more from it. I did also enjoy having a stroll around Margaret Island on the very warm afternoon. It is obviously very popular with the locals who use it as a park. Were impressed with both the Matyas Church and St Stephens Basilica. We walked over to the Synagogue which looked nice from the outside but as it was a Saturday we couldnít enter it of course.

One of the highlights for me (DH refused to go) was going to the Szechenyi Baths. I went fairly early one morning, leaving about 7.30am and getting there at about 8.00pm using the metro. It is right over the other side of the city from the B&B. As there are no signs in English and no one seems to speak English it is rather intimidating but it didnít stop me from having an enjoyable time. When I arrived I joined the queue and the woman at the desk certainly understood one ticket and wrote down the price for me which I duly paid. I then walked through the entrance and thought where do I go next. A guard type person pointed further down the corridor and I could see the change rooms so well and good. I went in and got into my bathers. If you are feeling very bashful, there are toilets a bit further on that you could pop into to change in privacy but I didnít worry Ė certainly no one else around me had the slightest qualm about stripping off regardless of whether they were 20 or 80. Once I had changed I couldnít work out what to do about a locker for my clothes (incidentally you canít take a camera in, the woman next to me tried and it was very strongly indicated no) but then a woman approached me with a key. She pointed to a locker so I put my clothes in and then she gave me a token with a three figured number on it, which number she also wrote in chalk inside the locker. The number on the outside of the locker is completely different. It is up to you to remember the two digit number and you tie the token to your bathers. It is actually quite a good system. If you should lose your token, a thief canít take advantage of it because they still have no idea which locker number it relates to.

After satisfactorily making it this far, I wandered though a door at the end and thought where do I go now. After a little bit of investigation I found three of the indoor pools. One quite cool, one moderate and one quite hot. However, I was more interested in the outside pools, especially on such a beautiful sunny day. I probably spent several minutes wandering around before I found the entrance to the outdoor pools. Once outside it is absolutely glorious. The place looks superb and has three fairly large pools. The middle one is only slightly warm, so suitable to do laps in if you so desire. The far one was quite a bit warmer and had jets that you stand above so it was rather like a spa. It also had a circular section within the middle of the pool which had a fairly strong current operating within it. Once you joined the stream the current was strong enough to push you around this fairly large circular section without hardly any effort from you. I thought it was quite good fun. It was sufficiently strong that you had to time your leaving it quite carefully or you ended going around yet again. In the third outdoor pool it is quite hot. I just loved the areas set up with chess sets so that people could play whilst sitting/standing in the water. It was quite obvious that going to the baths was a very social thing to do. Watching the other people I could see groups where, at home I would say lets meet for coffee each week, they say lets go to the baths each week. Even though it was only about 8am there was one group of people in their 70ís who were popping the champagne corks and having a wonderful time. There was obviously a lot more to the baths than I discovered but I really did feel a bit too intimidated to explore further not being sure whether I should be in these areas or not. There were lots of private cubicles which I assume were for massages and I am sure there were meant to be more indoor pools but I didnít see them. Regardless I really enjoyed myself. After getting changed, and do bring your own towel because I never did see a place to hire one, it was back down the corridor to leave. At the end you put your ticket (which you have kept in your locker) into a machine which reads it and then it refunds you any money. When you buy the ticket you buy an all day one, so if you donít stay there all day you get a refund.

Our final night in Budapest was a fitting finale to our trip. After we had dinner we wandered along the river to the Chain Bridge and then took the funicular up to the castle. We then strolled over to the Fisherman Bastion. It was once again a very warm and humid night. The view at night time over all of Budapest is superb and we spent quite some time taking photos. We had not been up to the top level of the Fishermanís Bastion because you had to pay and we didnít think the view would be any better, but at night time you can just walk up anyway Ė they leave the barriers open. There was a gentleman playing the accordion on the very top level and the music drifted over the whole area in the still night. Whilst we were there a fireworks display started on the other side of the river which went for quite some time. We stood and watched that and listened to the music and there was some occasional flash lighting which beautifully lit up the shapes of the clouds in the sky. All in all, I couldnít have wished for anything more.

The next morning it was pack up (taking home one extra suitcase then we had started the journey with!) and off to the airport to catch our flight at noon. It took us about 33 hours to get home with our layovers but at least this time it was Business Class. I hadnít travelled in Business Class since they introduced the flat beds and I must say they are wonderful. I did have to laugh at DH. When we got to Singapore he complained about the way you keep sliding down the bed. He was suitably chagrined when I explained to him that if he had kept holding the button down it would have gone completely flat.

Thanks to all those who gave me tips in planning this trip and to all those who took the time to stick with this very long trip report. I hope you will find some useful tips in it for your own trips.

Magellan_5 Jun 10th, 2007 10:11 AM

Thanks, shandy!

maitaitom Jun 10th, 2007 02:21 PM

Wow Shandy! That was exceptional. This weekend we happened to be visiting the couple we are traveling with to most of these places next year.

I am going to re-read and will probably have a few questions in the future, if you don't mind. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this report. I am sure it will be an invaluable tool for us next year.

((H))

Oddsocks Jun 11th, 2007 11:40 AM

Haha, Glad to hear you enjoyed Olomouc and that you stayed on the right side of the Police. I've seen them be pretty unforgiving on the main square, so maybe it was the cooler weather that was helping their moods?

It's good that you went into St Michael's as well, a lot of people are put off by the external appearance which is a real shame.

I have question for you though...If a two-hour walking tour was offered around Olomouc, would you consider taking it, and what kind of figure would you consider too much? I sat the exam to be tour guide mostly out of interest, but as Olomouc remains chronically under-appreciated (in my slightly biased opinion of course) I'm considering offering daily walking tours to at least attempt to alleviate the problem.

What do you think? Will people go for it in a city they're not expecting much from? Would you do it if it was free, but not if it was 200Kc? Would you do it if it was 200Kc, but not if it was free?

I'll be grateful for your thoughts, Thanks, Oddsocks.

Oddsocks Jun 11th, 2007 11:55 AM

Just a quick word about the speaking of German. In my experience, it's not that common. In the places close to the relevant borders, it's often spoken as a second language, just as is Polish along the northern border, but twenty words of Czech will be much more useful than a hundred of German. Especially among young people and tourist industry employees, English is easily the most common second language.

Ethnic Czechs and Germans lived side-by-side for centuries, but the forced expulsions of all German speakers (even those who actively resisted the Nazis) almost completely erased the language from the Czech lands. The word for it in Czech is 'Odsun', if anyone's interested to go into it further.

As an aside from this aside, I've heard it said a couple of times that "the most famous Czechs were all Germans", in reference to such names as Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka, Oscar Schindler, Gregor Mendel, Gustav Mahler and co....

Travel wise though, best thing is to learn as much Czech as you can, and if you resort to English, pronounce it clearly leaving spaces between the words. Sounds obvious but.......

shandy Jun 12th, 2007 12:25 AM

Hi Oddsocks, it's nice to hear from you.

As you know, Olomouc wasn't so much a destination in itself for us, but a stopover on the way to somewhere else. Given that, and I think quite a few people treat it the same way, they don't allocate it much time. I of course now realize that it was deserving of more time that we gave it.

But because we didn't allocate much time I think a walking tour would be a good idea. We are generally not that big on walking tours because we have several days to discover a destination and in Olomouc we didn't. I'm thinking of it bit like in other destinations, if you are very short on time you do a one day bus tour to fit in as much as possible. In Olomouc, a walking tour would fit the bill.

I would happily pay 200Kc to do so but this is also based on the fact that, having been there, I realise there is quite a bit to be seen. Before going I might not have considered a walking tour because I didn't realize now nice the town was. I'm not quite sure how to get around that problem.

I did go the Tourist Information Office there and I must say they have excellent brochures on the town. They are amongst the best put together collection I have ever seen. If there had been a sign at the Office saying a walking tour was available I may well have looked into it after seeing all the things in the various brochures.

As to whether people would value a walking tour more if it was free or they had to pay a small price for it, I'm not quite sure. I could only assume, that it was free there would be more people who avail themselves of it.

I suspect you are not really thinking of this as a money making concern but because you would like to show off your town. Regardless, if the tour was free I would no doubt have been thinking of tipping you about 200Kc to thank you for your time and effort in showing us your town, because I have no doubt you would do a good job.

This is all a bit confused, but I hope it gives you something to think about.

noe847 Jun 15th, 2007 01:36 PM

thanks for the report, shandy. You included lots of quite interesting details about the cities and the less traveled places. I will keep it for reference as I hope to get to Krakow in Sept (have been to Prague twice). A great read!

Oddsocks Jun 17th, 2007 09:56 AM

Thanks for your thoughts, shandy. I think I'm going to give it a try; I talked to tourist info and they're keen to support it. The plan at the moment is to make the tour free but also make it clear that I'm not paid to do it and that tips are gratefully accepted. If it doesn't work out, all I've lost is my time and I could do a lot worse with that than walk around the old town for two hours each morning...I'll let you know how it works out and thanks again for taking the time to put down your thoughts, Greg.

shandy Jun 19th, 2007 05:39 AM

Greg, all the best with your walking tours. I hope it is a winner for you.

maitaitom Sep 12th, 2007 02:53 PM

Hi Shandy,

Thanks to your report, we reserved Penzion Na Hrade in Olomouc for our 2008 trip. They didn't request a deposit nor did they give me a confirmation number. Just a "look forward to seeing you." Was that how it worked for you?

We are also driving to Olomouc from Cesky Krumlov, but will probably bypass Telc so we can give more time to Olomouc.

Last question (welll, for today anyway): How long was your drive from Olomouc to Krakow?

Thanks forthe tips and, of course, thanks again for the fun and informative trip report.

((H))


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