You can click on "photos"
directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second
page (if there is one).
4, 2007 to August 10, 2007)
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
The museum is located at the end of the Wenceslas Square, which isn't
actually a square but a 750 meter
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
So we consider ourselves seasoned travelers and aware that lowlifes
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
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.
DEPARTURE DAY - 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
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
Until next time, safe
Copyright © 2007,
Roaming America with Rich &
Diane Emond -
All Rights Reserved