Fortunately it was a beautiful day so we could enjoy the scenery as well as see many abandoned buildings, both homes and factories. This was due to the fall of socialism and many people moving to the west for better opportunities. While unemployment was minimal previously, with the new capitalist systems newly introduced jobs were not that easy to come by. Also much of the infrastructure was collapsing.
An abandoned rail station
Left front is an abandoned garden restaurant
We saw a very large lake soon after we crossed the border from Hungary into the Czec Republic. There was no need to have passports or visas checked as both of these countries are in the EU and we had a Schengen Visa from Germany. We had been checked from Croatia to Hungary because, at the time, Croatia was finalising its EU agreements.
As we neared Prague we enquired of a couple of passengers if they knew where our hotel was. As usual, it had been booked based on the fact that the website said that it was a 5 minute walk from the station. A dear old lady told us that, to get to the street for our hotel, we were to walk to the “mausium”. It took a while to confirm that she was talking about the museum! So going on those instructions, we turned left out of the station and walked and walked until we came to the corner where the museum was housed.
At stations we passsed the Station Master would come out, watch the train pass and go back in
This is when we met the first rude and unhelpful person in Prague, a policeman! “No, no. I do not know where that hotel is but maybe go down this road then turn right.” By now it was dark and we were tired. When we turned right some 10 mins later we found that we were in the right street but could see no sign of our hotel. We asked some young people who were standing on the corner but got no assistance. Suddenly, a ‘man of the road’ says, “Come, come. I will show you the hotel.” We follow along behind him and walk the full length of this street and there it is. We said thank you and he stuck his hand right under my nose demanding payment. We had no small money so offered him some food as he had indicated that he was hungry. This made him really angry and he hurled the food on the ground. Some of the locals protected us from his waving stick so that we could get into the hotel.
Entrance to our hotel
We finally arrived, almost a half hour after leaving the station and then had to endure the longest check-in for any establishment that we could (and still can) recall. The Receptionist was a very young lady who spoke minimal English and battled to find anything, including writing implements! Although, by now we were exhausted, we went to the in-house restaurant and had a very nice dinner. Directly across the road we could see a beautiful fountain surrounded by 4 dancers.
Vicky in front of the Dancing Fountain of Czech Musicians
You may remember my describing the lady on duty in the dining room of the hotel where we stayed in Lyon. Well, her ‘twin sister’ was on duty in this Prague hotel. As we entered the dining room for breakfast the first thing we notice was a sign in large, bold capital letters:
NO FOOD OR DRINK MAY BE REMOVED FROM THE DINING ROOM FOR ANY REASON
The oh so friendly large lady at the door with her arms folded across her chest, indicated with a nod of the head that we could sit anywhere – or, at least, that is what we understood from the response to our question. Her real job was to end see that the above noticed was adhered to, we think. We enjoyed a very simple, but well-presented, breakfast and then went out for the morning. Once again we had been unable to secure 2 nights in this beautiful city due to a misunderstanding when making our bookings for the various hotels. (See more detail and advice on a page under Bookings on the website)
We left our luggage at the hotel, no permission to leave it in the room or opportunity to freshen up as in Budapest though, and went to see what sights we could. We found both the hop on hop off bus terminal as well as a 2-hour guided city tour in a mini bus. As we had limited time, we chose the latter to get an overall view of Prague. We saw very little really and are so pleased that our Danube tour in April starts with 3 nights in Prague. We have been told by many that it is such a magnificent city so we really want to explore it.
The original City Gate
Entrance to the National Theatre
What we did see was absolutely beautiful and very interesting. The trip started with driving past the original city gate which is really huge. As we drove up towards the top of the town we saw a number of buildings decorated quite ornately but the murals were still very clear and colourful. This was unlike many we had seen in other European cities where many of the murals are faded and some even damaged by graffiti.
One of many buildings with beautiful friezes
At the top of the hill we got an incredibly glorious view over most of the city with many spires and interesting architecture. We stopped here for a half hour and so were able to take a closer look at the layout of Prague. The streets are cobbled and rather steep so we were pleased that it was not raining. There were 2 gift shops in this square and both were beautifully decorated on the outside.
One of the steep cobbled streets
One of the gift shops
Entrance to a bank in a lovely building
On our return to the terminus we walked around other parts of the city near our hotel, enjoying our light lunch, with NO breakfast food, in a lovely park. We finally collected our luggage at 13:15 and were shown the quick (advertised) route to the station. It took us just 8 mins to get there even though it was all up hill. What a difference from the night before.
As I have said before, travelling is an education in every way – the people, history and geography of a place plus the modes of transport and quality and accessibility of accommodation.