Saturday March 24, Vienna - Prague


We have a four day break in the performance schedule: Michelle and Suzi are going to Venice, but I decided to go to Prague. So this morning I set out (in the rain) and once I got past the confusion over which cars I could be in, and how to choose a compartment in 2nd class, it was an easy 4-1/2 hour train trip to Prague. Here, the older residents generally speak some German along with Czech, while the younger generation is more likely to have some English. I am certainly making use of all the German I can muster! It helps that Iíve been in Vienna for two weeks already.

Arrived in Prague at 2:30 PM, and it was easy to get a taxi to my hotel. Iím staying at Hotel ModrŠ Rýěe (The Blue Rose), a building with a very long history Ė the hotel book says it was here during the reign of Wenceslas I, but that would put it in the 900s. Iím not sure I believe it goes back quite that far, but who knows! They do have records dating back to the 1300s. The name comes from a knight, Ojif of Friedberg, who came often to Prague and liked to exercise in the cool cellars of this building. He was said to "lay his heart and a blue rose at the feet of a lady," thence the buildingís name. Very romantic stuff, eh?! Now, all this being said, the interior has been thoroughly modernized, with air conditioning and hardwood floors in the guest rooms, etc., but I understand you can see the old cellars down below. Iíll check it out and report! The rooms arenít excessively fancy, but very neat, clean, comfortable, and convenient, including internet connection. I chose this off the web via Orbitz, and it is indeed a good choice. At just Ä60/night with breakfast, itís a great bargain in Prague. And very convenient to tourist activity, being between Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square.

Enough with the commercial! After checking in to my room, I headed out on an exploratory mission. Headed onto Wenceslas Square, which is actually a mile-long shopping district, with the state museum at the far end. I thought Iíd better look at shopping now, since so many European stores are closed on Sunday. (Plus, it was already after 3:30 PM, really too late in the day to try to start touring anything.) At the near end of the square there are a lot of nicely constructed market stalls, with a variety of food, souvenirs, and handcrafted items. [Yes, Michelle and Suzi, I bought a couple more eggs! I canít help it, these are a different type!] Fine Bohemian glass and crystal are big here, also amber, garnets, wood items, and of course the inevitable novelties. The whole area was jammed with people, I think a mix of Czech shoppers and tourists. And I discovered that quite a few of these shops, at least, are open on Sunday. Perhaps the 45% agnostic/atheist population has something to do with that . . . most of Europe wouldnít think of doing such a thing.

Late in the afternoon, things got a bit more exciting than needed. Apparently there was a big football game today, Czechs vs. Germans. And there was a very big, noisy, somewhat scary march through the streets, with a large number of police vehicles, plus street policemen fully armed, I guess to keep things from getting too far out of hand. I tried to stay well away from it, but unfortunately while I was on a side street, they suddenly came around the corner. Pedestrians dashed for cover when they started shooting off noise-makers (air cannons? Half-sticks of dynamite? I have no idea, except they were very loud and pretty smelly). I ducked into a shop doorway, and the shopkeeper came and let several of us inside and then locked the door. Fortunately we were able to go upstairs and exit the shop into an indoor mall, and I hung around in there until the excitement subsided. Not what Iím used to, thatís for sure! And I think not what the locals are used to either, many people seemed pretty spooked including plenty of Czechs.

By the time all that was done, it was 6 PM and it was getting dark, so I went back to my hotel for a while, and then ventured out to a lovely Czech-cuisine restaurant for dinner.

Incidentally, though the Czech Republic has joined the EU, they are still using their own currency (like Slovakia) and they still scrutinize passports at the border. Itís my understanding that they will change to Euros in 2009, and presumably at that point theyíll also stop checking passports. In the meantime, Iím getting used to yet another currency, this time the Czech koruna (not to be confused with the Slovak koruna, which is worth somewhat less).

Tomorrow (Sunday) Iíll fit in as many sights as possible, since so many places wonít be open to tourists on Monday. Iím looking forward to seeing the beautiful historic side of Prague.

Love to all,

Carlyn

Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to richard.c@morenus.org