(August 4, 2007 to August 10, 2007)

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DAY 1 - Saturday

After bidding our friends farewell in Switzerland, we went to the airport in Zurich for a short flight to Prague (Praha) via Cirrus Airlines. My maternal grandmother came to the USA via Ellis Island in 1913. At that time, where she came from was known as Austria-Hungary. That became Czechoslovakia, which today is split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. My grandmother came from what is, today, Slovakia. I was so used to hearing the language spoken between my grandmother and my mother, aunts, and uncles, but hadn't heard it spoken in decades since my grandmother died. It was interesting to hear it again.

I had sent a note to a company that did transfers from the airport into the city, but they didn't answer me, so I didn't reserve a way for us to get from the Ruzyně airport in Prague to the hotel. We would have to get our luggage and then figure it out, so this figured to be somewhat of an adventure. First stop was to find an ATM that would give us some of the local currency, which are known as korunas (crowns). Then we started looking for a ride to our hotel, the Marriott Courtyard Flora.

We did see Cedaz, the company that didn't answer my email to them, but skipped them for that reason. Then we saw a guy at a booth for Smart Shuttle, so we asked him how much it would cost to get to the hotel. He said 480 crowns, so we said fine. Although there are signs and photos of vans with logos, I could tell we were getting something else when he called someone to see if he was available. It turned out to be a private driver, which was fine with us as the cost was the same as Cedaz and their vans. We were told to go sit on a bench for a few minutes and the driver would arrive shortly. It took about ten minutes for him to get there. We walked out to his car and  loaded the luggage. Then he took us on the roughly 30 minute drive through town to the hotel. He spoke very little English so there wasn't much conversation.

When we arrived at the hotel there was a huge crowd in the lobby that arrived via a tour bus and were checking in. It looked like it would take forever to get to the front desk until I realized that there was one person handling the checking in for the group. So we went up to the desk and a very friendly and helpful person named Karla checked us in. We got to see Karla just about every day we were there and she was very helpful and pleasant, so much so that we would wait to talk with her if she was busy with another customer. She is definitely an asset to the Marriott organization.

After unpacking and getting settled in we walked to the four story Flora Mall across from the side of the hotel to find the market. It was Albert's Market where we could stock up on breakfast food and snacks. Although the Courtyard Flora was on the edge of Prague, we were fortunate to have the mall across the street with a metro station attached to the mall, as well as a tram station. We walked around the entire mall to check it out and to find the internet cafe, which was on the top floor where the movie theater and food court was located. We didn't see any movies while we were in Prague, although some were in English, but we did use the internet cafe almost every day. It had many terminals, but also advertised itself as a FREE WIFI hotspot. Hooray. Unless they had a western keyboard we wouldn't have been able to use their terminals because their language is so different and the keyboard was nothing like what we are accustomed to using. The guys who worked at the internet cafe were very nice and let us use a terminal table to hook up our laptop.

One of the advantages to staying a week in a location is that we never feel rushed or pressured to see everything right away and be on the move all the time. We always have time to relax and lounge around. Today we just found a nice local Czech restaurant for our first meal in Prague and then relaxed in our room for the evening.

DAY 2 - Sunday

Yesterday we just checked out the mall, but didn't do much shopping other than to pick up some cola for Diane, so this morning we walked over to the mall to get some food. We found the food to be incredibly inexpensive. For $5 we got a liter of milk, a liter of orange juice, two boxes of cookies, a baguette, and two pastries.

As a rule, we don't do planned tours, but will occasionally sign up for a city tour to get the lay of the land in a new place. The tour we signed up for had free pickup from the hotel and the driver was right on time to take us into the city to the starting point. It was a three hour narrated tour on a small bus. The tour guide gave the narration in English and German and was very knowledgeable. Most of the tour was on the bus, but a part of it was on foot around the Prague Castle. The tour was well worth it as we made notes of places we wanted to come back to during the week to spend more time visiting.

Prague is sometimes referred to as the city with a hundred spires as there are numerous churches in the city with the huge St. Vitus's Cathedral at the Prague Castle being the largest and most impressive. There is also two Church of St. Nicholas, one in the Old Town and one in the Lesser Town. The Vltava River flows through the city and its level was 450 feet above where it stands today. Millions of years have reduced the level of the river to its present level. The river has flooded with devastating consequences which is one of the reasons the Charles Bridge was built. Dams on the river helped to control the flow of water, however, one of the worst ever floods was the one that occurred in the city five years ago in August 2002.

The tour ended at the old town square. We got off the bus and walked around the square for a while checking out the shops and beautiful buildings. Our second dinner was at the U Prince hotel where they had an outdoor area for dining. It was a beautiful evening so we opted to eat outside. The meal was delicious. Prices were not like Paris, but they also weren't inexpensive. I would say they were like prices we see as we travel around the USA with most entrees in the $12-20 dollar range. There were some entrees under $10 for some of the local dishes. When we sat down we were given a basket of bread, which is quite normal to us. What wasn't normal was that they charge for the bread. They don't ask you if you want it. They just put it on the table and put it on the bill. That was fine once we understood that was how they did things. One surprise was a charge for a glass of tap water. I did question it and found out it was common in restaurants to charge for tap water. Strange, but true.

As the sun started to set we walked to the Charles Bridge to get to a metro station nearby.
The Charles Bridge was started on July 9,1357 by Charles IV. It is about 1,500 feet long and has 16 arches. The original bridge was not as lavishly decorated as it is today. Originally, it had only one cross on the bridge. The decorations seen today were added in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. At each end of the bridge are the towers: the Lesser Town Tower and the Old Town Tower. The higher Old Town Tower was considered the most beautiful Gothic structure in Europe when it was completed in the 1370s. The darkest hour in its history came at the end of the Thirty Years War when its western section was destroyed by Swedish bombardment. The current form of the tower was completed during the years 1874 to 1878.

Legend has it that there are several places on Charles Bridge which, if you touch them, can make your wishes come true. One is the double brass archbishop's cross with five stars set on the bridge balustrade at the place where Jan Nepomuk was thrown into the water. They say that your wish will be granted if you place your hand on it with every finger touching one of the stars. Another place is the statue of Jan Nepomuk where one can touch a bronze plate to get your wish fulfilled. Wonder if that means we'll win a lottery someday.

We had a city map and it was very necessary to get around the city. It was always possible for me to memorize the names of some streets as we walked around cities, but that was not the case in Prague. The language is so different and so difficult that it was not possible to remember names of most streets. With names like
Lucemburska, Vinohradska, Francouzska, Naprstkova, etc, a map was required. We were looking for the Starometska metro station and found it a couple of blocks from the Charles Bridge. It was our first experience with the Prague metro and were impressed with its cleanliness. There were three lines running through Prague and the trains move fast, so it doesn't take very long to get from place to place.

DAY 3 - Monday

Today, we walked into the city, which took about a half hour from where the Flora area. Our goal was the National Museum. What luck to find out that admission was free today. We spent hours walking through the museum looking at the exhibits, especially the archaeology and paleontology sections.

The museum is located at the end of the Wenceslas Square, which isn't actually a square but a 750 meter
long boulevard with a pedestrian section separating the two sides of the road. It was part of King Charles IV's New Town project and was the modern center of Prague. The original name of the square was Konsky trh (Horse Market). The name Wenceslas Square originated upon the initiative of Czech patriots in the revolutionary year of 1848. It's upper part was enclosed by a Horse Gate that was later replaced by the National Museum building. Wenceslas is a popular name and is called Vaclav in Czech. It means "more glory". We learned that it is the first name of both the current and previous President of the Czech Republic.

Since 1913 the upper part of the square has been dominated by the equestrian statue of Saint Wenceslas and four saints: Ludmila, Anezka, Prokop, and Vojtech. This place has much symbolism for Prague as it was where the independence of the first Czechoslovak Republic was declared in 1918.

We walked the entire length of the square and found a place to have some lunch, and then back to the museum. Diane and I both love riding on European trams ever since we first experienced trams while on a business trip to Amsterdam back in 1995. The metro includes the tram and bus systems, as well as the underground. We checked our map and found a tram route that would take us back to the Flora area. It was a great day with beautiful weather. We grabbed the laptop from our room and went back to the mall to get something to eat and check email at the internet cafe. Then back to the room to relax for the rest of the evening.

DAY 4 - Tuesday

Today we went back to some places we had seen on the tour so we could spend more time there. We took the metro to the Malastrana station and walked to the Church of St. Nicholas on Lesser Town. The church is a beautiful Baroque style church. From the outside, one can see the dome from a distance as it is part of the Prague Castle skyline. An admission was charged, but they did allow people to take photos.

There was a Church of St. Nicholas as far back as 1283. The Baroque style church was constructed from 1673 to 1752. It was built at a time when Prague was in the process of undergoing prominent changes when the existing Renaissance style was replaced by Baroque, a style representing political and social changes having arisen after the Battle of Bila Hora (White Mountain) in 1620 - recatholicization and consolidation of absolutist power.

The interior of the church dazzles the senses with its magnificent artwork and statues, along with the beauty of marble and gold. There are several altars and chapels in the church, each with their own artwork and statues. Although, Diane and I agree that it was probably not a good way to use the people's money, one can only be awed at the beauty of these churches and cathedrals built during the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

From there we walked up to the Prague Castle to visit the St. Vitus's Cathedral. We only had about ten minutes in the church during our city tour on Sunday and that wasn't nearly enough time to take in the hugeness and beauty of the cathedral. This is one of the most sought after sights in the Czech Republic. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this is the largest continuous castle complex in the world and is dominated by the cathedral. We took our time to walk around inside the cathedral admiring its beauty and grandeur.

During the city tour on Sunday we took a break prior to walking to the castle and we noticed a sign at a restaurant that offered beef goulash with bread, potato pancakes, and dessert for about eight dollars. We went to find the restaurant to see if that meal was just a special for that day or a daily offering. It turned out to be available every day so we got a table out on the sidewalk and had a nice lunch. However, we were quite surprised to find out that a bottle of Coke was five dollars. I guess that makes up for the reasonable price for the goulash lunch.

Given how much we enjoy riding on trams, we walked to where we could pick up the #23 tram that would take us to the Manesti Miru station near the city center where we decided to walk the roughly 20 blocks back to the hotel.

DAY 5 - Wednesday

Diane and I are definitely not early starters. We prefer to sleep in and head out sometime mid to late morning. I was up before Diane so I headed over to the Internet cafe to check on email and Diane came over a bit later. Then it was back to the hotel to drop off the laptop (there was a nice little safe in the room to store valuables), put on our walking shoes, and head out for the day.

We wanted to go back to see more of the area around the old town square, so we took the metro to the Mustek station and walked to the square. One of the streets the bus went down during the tour was Pariska where the tour guide said people go to "see and be seen". We walked up one side of the street and down the other to do some window shopping in stores like Cartier, Hermes, Louis Vitton, and others of that type where very expensive jewelry and crystal was displayed. There were also several sidewalk cafes with prices that seemed to match those of the stores. Back on the square we visited the other Church of St. Nicholas.

Then is was on to the Charles Bridge to get some photos of both sides of the Prague skyline from the bridge. It was amazing how the cathedral stood out from wherever it could be seen. I took photos of it from various parts of the city as we walked. The bridge is a pedestrian bridge and always had lots of people on it. We crossed to the other side and found a place to have a late lunch at a sidewalk cafe. We were once again near the Church of St. Nicholas on Lesser Town and saw that an organ concert was scheduled for this evening. We were amazed at how many concerts were going on in the city. One could take in one, two, or even three concerts every evening. We saw some that were advertised as starting as early as 5 p.m. and some starting at 9 p.m. These were all one hour concerts. We opted not to do the concert, which turned out to be a mistake because I realized when we got back to the hotel that we probably blew a great opportunity to hear a big organ playing classical music inside a huge church. However, all was not lost as we knew there was going to be a trumpet and organ concert on Friday evening.

We again too a tram to Nemesti Miru, but this time we hopped the metro back to Flora. The metro tickets are transferable from bus, to tram, to underground within a 75 minute time period during the week and 90 minutes on the weekend. The underground has a station attached to the mall, so we came up from the metro and decided to just find a place in the mall to eat a light dinner given we had a late lunch.

DAY 6 - Thursday

Today was one of the more exciting days we have ever had in all the traveling we've done. More on that later.

Yesterday I noticed a tea shop when we were on the tram and thought Diane would like to check it out, so I made a mental note of its location. The weather was beautiful this morning, so we walked to town to locate the shop in the Norodni area. We did find it, and Diane bought some tea she thought she would like to try.

From there we walked along the river toward the Charles Bridge as a storm was moving in. We found a place near the bridge where we could have lunch outside before the storm arrived. We got seated and ordered something to drink. We waited and waited, but the gal never came back with our drinks. After ten minutes, which is more than enough time to wait for drinks to be delivered, we left. If she ever came back with the drinks, I'm sure she was surprised to find an empty table, but for whatever reason, she disappeared. The U Prince hotel restaurant wasn't too far away, so we walked there to eat, but opted to sit inside rather than outside. That turned out to be a very good choice as the clouds opened up and the canopy over the outside dining area wasn't enough to keep the water out. We got a very nice table near a window when there was no one inside. By the time we were being served, the inside was full of patrons wanting to avoid the rain.

Now for the exciting part.

Those of you who have known us a long time know that we have had run ins with pickpockets. Diane's purse was picked in Madrid on the day she arrived. She lost about $25 in pesos, but we were able to recover the souvenir change purse she bought in Tokyo. Someone tried to pick her camera case on the metro in Paris. Some guy was trying to warn us about that, but he looked kind of suspect so we were ignoring him. However, a colleague of mine was watching the scene develop and was ready to act if the guy was successful. In Buenos Aires we were accosted by the "mustard people". That one is documented in two travelogs in the international travels section of our website. So we consider ourselves seasoned travelers and aware that lowlifes exist everywhere.

After finishing our dinner, we walked to the Starometska metro station, which was more crowded than usual due to a thunderstorm up above. There was a crunch getting on and I told Diane to watch her fanny pack. I had my camera bag and wallet, which I keep in my front left pocket, to worry about. The train started moving and that caused me to reach up to grab a bar, and I reached up with my left hand. I'm sure that's when it happened. When I reached down to feel for my wallet, it was gone. I turned to Diane and said "they got my wallet", actually it's a card holder. As I was looking around and mumbling something about my wallet being taken, some guy finally pointed to the floor. There was my wallet along with some of our social cards and a few odd papers I had in my pocket. But not the cash. I figured they got what they wanted and then decided it wasn't worth the risk to try and pick up the wallet. I thought that I may have knocked it out of the guy's hand when I reached down to protect it. My daughter's theory is that the guy may have dropped it given I was starting to make a scene which would bring attention to them. Usually, these lowlifes have your wallet and are long gone by the time you realize it. This time I just missed catching the guy in the act. I dug into my pocket and the cash was there. Whew. Close call. At the next station, about 3-4 guys all got off together, the same ones that got on together at the station where we boarded.

I was lucky. Part of the luck was due to the fact that I turn my wallet vertically in my pocket which keeps the papers, cards, and cash a couple of inches lower than the top of the wallet. I'm thinking the guy got in my pocket and grabbed the first thing he could find, which was the wallet and he got some of the paper next to the wallet. I keep my cash up front and always thought that was safest for me. It seems too easy for a pickpocket to lift something out of a back pocket or shirt pocket, but a bit harder to go deep into a front pocket. But these guys are skilled and I have to give the guy credit for being able to lift my wallet out of my pocket without me even feeling his hand in there.

Oh, he would have gotten about 1,600 crowns (korunas). That's about $80, which is more than I usually like to carry in cash. I try to never have more than $50 with me, but this is very much a cash society, so we were using more cash than usual for meals, snacks and transportation.

Well, that's it. Our exciting time in Praha and I can live without such excitement. It took me a while to calm down and Diane said she had never seen me shake like that after it was over. That shaking is because I was livid that someone got that close to picking my pocket.

We got back to the hotel and went out for a relaxing dinner.

DAY 7 - Friday

There was a changing of the guard at Prague Castle that we wanted to see, but were never there at noon. Today we went back up to the Prague Castle and watched the changing of the guard. We've seen ceremonies like that before, but they are always fun to watch.

After that we walked down to the Church of St. Nicholas on Lesser Town. After passing on the organ concert on Wednesday evening I told Diane that we probably missed a great opportunity. When we saw there would be an organ and trumpet concert at St. Nicholas on Friday evening we decided to get tickets. We stopped at the church and bought tickets for the 6 p.m. concert. It was mid afternoon so we decided to find a place to have our big meal of the day. Right across from the church were several restaurants and we picked U Mecenase. Given that it looked like rain we opted to eat inside. The name "U Mecenase" means "The Philanthrophit's) and the building dates back to the late 1500s. The first floor and the facade were rebuilt in 1608 and it is one of the few houses in the Mala Strana (Lesser Town) area that has maintained its original look. The inside was dimly lit and cozy.

One person was there when we arrived and we struck up a conversation when we realized he spoke English. It turned out he was an art dealer from San Francisco. We chatted about our impressions of Prague. When we told him we found it beautiful, but we just didn't get all the graffiti on so many of the buildings he told us that graffiti was very common in Roman times and considered art. To us it was just a sign of hooligans with spray paint who felt they had to leave their mark. We very much enjoyed our conversation with him.  I was neglectful in not getting his name.

We had plenty of time to go back to the hotel to relax for a while before coming back for the concert. The church wasn't full, but there were a lot of people at the concert. It was marvelous. I couldn't even begin to describe the sound of the organ along with the trumpet. It was powerful. The two men who played the instruments got a standing ovation when it ended. One thing for sure, when they say it's a one hour concert, then it is a one hour concert. They ended exactly at 7 p.m. and no encore.

Our week in Prague was drawing to a close and it was time to pack up for our return to Atlanta on Saturday.


This was one of those times when Diane and I had to do an unnatural act, that is, get up at 4:15 a.m. to catch our ride to the airport for a 7 a.m. flight to Dusseldorf via Czech Airlines where we would hook up with Delta 25 to Atlanta. Thankfully, our driver was at the hotel right on time at 5 a.m. to drive us to the airport. The city was deserted so it was a quiet ride through the city.

Checking was very easy and we didn't have a very long wait for our flight. It was another small plane that was virtually empty. Given that we had business class seats on the Delta flight we were in the first class section on this short connecting flight, and we were the only ones in first class. The connection with Delta was smooth and we boarded with plenty of time for an on-time takeoff. We waited and waited and the plane wasn't pulling back from the gate. Then the captain gets on the speaker and says there was a problem taking off due to the airport having closed the long runway. The captain said they were informed of this about an hour and a half earlier so I'm not sure why they boarded everyone knowing they would have to take stuff off the plane to reduce the weight such that it could take off on the shorter runway. They removed all the commercial cargo and still weren't light enough, which now meant they had to remove some jet fuel. To do that they had to have everyone deplane. This was a full flight so it took some time to get everyone off the plane and then back on after the correct amount of fuel was removed. That put the flight about 45 minutes late taking off. The pilot said he would try to make up most of that while enroute which, to his credit, he did as we arrived only about 20 minutes late in Atlanta.

We had a wonderful flight, as we always did when we traveled abroad. However, getting out of the international terminal in the Atlanta airport remains a joke. As is the case with any international arrival, one must go through passport control and then customs. Not a problem. That actually went fairly quickly. The joke is that you can't exit the airport from the international terminal in Atlanta. That means you have to take the train to the main terminal baggage claim area to exit the airport. To do that, you have to recheck your luggage which is then sent to the baggage claim area in the main terminal. So you have to deal with two baggage claims. Then you have to go through a security check to get into the terminal area in order to get the train to the main terminal. That means a full security check as though you are just entering the airport from the street. There was talk years ago about building an international terminal that one could enter and exit from the outside, but it never happened. It's the only airport I'm aware of where you have to recheck luggage and go through security to be able to exit the airport.

Our first trip abroad in over seven years came to an end and we had a great three weeks. So much so that we had the same feelings we always had when we arrived back in Atlanta during the years we were doing a lot of business travel abroad. As we walked through the international terminal we saw all the people going the other way and preparing to head out to some distant foreign land on a business trip or vacation. We always wanted to turn around and board another plane for another adventure in some foreign land and that feeling grabbed both of us
as we went down the long escalator to board the train to the main terminal. Although we love being RV fulltimers and living life on the road, we also love seeing new places on the planet and experiencing other cultures. Now that we've been bitten by the international travel bug we may have to plan another trip sometime before another seven years goes by. After all, we certainly aren't getting any younger.


We have enjoyed Prague, but it's probably a "been there, done that" kind of city for us. Would we go back? Sure, but it wouldn't be at the top of our list of places to visit again unless we were traveling with other folks who maybe haven't been there. The architecture is unique and beautiful. The people were okay, but most seemed rather cool. This was our impression, but impressions could be incorrect, or at least personal. We know folks who find the French to be rude and cool, but we have never found that to be true in the ten weeks we have spent in France, mostly in Paris. I would imagine folks who think that the French are rude would also consider the Czechs to be rude and/or cool. We did meet some folks who were very friendly, especially the lady who worked the evening shift at the Marriott. Her name was Klara and she was very helpful to us with anything we asked her to check out for us.

The city seemed to have its fair share of idiots, fools, jerks, or whatever, who think it's cool for them to leave their mark on buildings with their graffiti. It seemed like just about every building we saw had graffiti on it from the sidewalk to as high as an arm could reach. It was on doors and on the buildings. The entire city could use a paint job. It's not the dirtiest city we have visited, but it wasn't the cleanest. Lots of cigarette butts and papers and other garbage along sidewalks. As with other European cities, you do have to watch where you are walking as they aren't like conscientious RVers who pick up after their pets. It's not widespread, but we probably saw 10-15 "loads" on the sidewalks. We also saw some on the dirt part of the area around the trees that line the streets, which isn't as bad as on the sidewalk. That would not be a reason to not visit Prague, or any other European city, but it isn't what we are used to and isn't very attractive. Just like it isn't attractive when we see an RVer not pick up after their pets.

The next travelog will be back in the RV section as we will be heading up to Indiana to have some work done on our Dutch Star, mainly to have it painted.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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