Prague Penta Hotel 2
After months of preparation Wednesday 19 April 2017 finally arrived. We were off on our first River Cruise – on The Danube.

First we would have 3 nights and 2 days in Prague and then 7 nights on the river itself. The first leg of our journey was Durban to Dubai from where we would make a connection to Prague. Dubai airport is bigger than HUGE and seemingly as busy as central London no matter the time of day. It is in the process of further extension and when the 4th Terminal is in operation the total area of the airport will be 54 sq. miles.

[Here a gentle reminder. One must always add at least 2 hours from arrival time at an airport to arrival time at one’s accommodation destination. I will use our experience in Prague as an example. We landed on time at 13:30 but by the time the plane had parked, we had disembarked and been through Passport Control, collected our luggage and checked through Customs it was almost 14:30. An hour later we arrived at our hotel and another hour before we were in our room. Thus, what may have appeared to be an afternoon in Prague for a first look was not a possibility.]

It was not a surprise that the hotel was far from the city and the interesting places to visit as I had learnt what I could about the Penta Hotel in Prague on the internet. What a useful tool was invented for us in 1999. What did surprise me a little was that the Reception was part of the bar. On entering the hotel the bar was the first thing one saw. The staff all appeared to be under 30 but were truly friendly and welcoming. The other surprise was that our room keys were not ready and we had to wait until every one of the 29 of us had filled in the registration form before they were distributed.

Prague Penta Hotel 2Entrance to our hotel

After a good night’s sleep and an excellent breakfast we decided to follow an itinerary as described for a 2-day stay in Prague in a booklet produced by the Ministry of Regional Development CZ. Incredibly, not one other member of our group had seen this information in the back of the book which many of them had picked up but not looked at.

An excursion had been offered by our cruise organisers but we were told about it as we arrived at the hotel and were expected to make an instant decision. Unfortunately only 6 of the required number of 14 people put their names down and so the excursion was cancelled.

According to our booklet, we were to start in the area of the Hradčany Quarter to which a very helpful young lady at Reception described the route for us. First we needed to change some US dollars into Euros and then to catch a tram. Each of these turned out to be quite a task. There was no bank or exchange close to the hotel so we started walking. Our guide had told us that a tobacconist just up the street would do the exchange but the little lady in the shop was totally disinterested as we wanted Euros and she did too!

As we walked up the street we saw 2 things of interest. First was a sculpture of a lady made out of recyclable materials. It was incredibly life-like. Behind it was a beautiful park with a church in the background. I love spires of all kinds, not only those on churches, and this church had some particularly beautiful ones. We took a walk through the park filled with beautiful Spring flowers to what we could now see was The Church of St Ludmila. 

Prague recycled ladyLady created from recycled material

St LudmilaSt Ludmila

We continued to walk slowly towards town in the hope of finding an exchange and eventually arrived at a second underground station, having passed the first about 200m from our hotel. Once again there was no exchange here either but I met a lady who spoke excellent English and she said, “Go round the corner, under the bridge and opposite the bank.” Perfect directions but quite a walk to an exchange which offered a very good rate and charged 0% commission.

Now to get a ticket for the tram. They are not available on the tram nor at every stop so, as they can also be used on the train, we went back to the station. There was no ticket office with a human to be seen and using the ticket machine proved very difficult until we learnt that it was ‘Out of order!’ Just go around the corner and get your ticket from the office hidden in the back of the building, we were told. Wow, now why didn’t we think of that?

Senior citizens tickets in hand we walked to the nearest tram stop being very aware that they were valid for just 30mins after validation on the tram. We dutifully validated them and finally were able to sit down. We had left the hotel at 08:45 and it had taken us over 2 hours just to get Euros and tram tickets! Prague had better live up to its name.