Monday, July 28, 2008

Europe by Rail - Trip 4: Prague, Czech Republic

We should have known things were going too smoothly when we started out in the morning! The night before we downloaded a Freeware Alarm Clock in order to make sure we got up in time to catch the 7:16 bus to the train station. We wanted to make the 8:15 train to Prague – a 4 hour trip – which would give us plenty of time to tour the Castle Prague and perhaps a bit of old Prague before heading back to Bratislava to prepare for our long journey home.

The alarm clock worked perfectly! We woke up to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony playing on the PC at 6:30! A quick shower and a quick walk down the street and we were on the 7:16 bus a full 5 minutes early! Things were going smashing! The weather was great! A beautiful blue sky – a nice breeze and a prediction of mid-80’s in Prague! It is certainly looking like a perfect ending to a wonderful trip!

We arrive at the station with a full 45 minutes to spare only to find that the train to Praha (Prague) is delayed by 10 minutes! Ok – not the end of the world – perhaps they will make it up down the line somewhere. We press on by stopping to get a pastry, water and a Pepsi Max for me! The train finally arrives and off we go!

Hold on!

We pull about ten feet from the platform and stop – for about twenty minutes! We don’t know why and for the rest of the trip into Prague it continues like this. Delay upon delay! Stopping in the middle of the tracks for no apparent reason – no announcement – just more delays! By the time we arrive into Prague we are nearly 70 minutes behind schedule!

But – being troopers and being the fact that we are in Prague – we suck it up and head into the city! Remember my three steps from the previous post? We follow those: check the departing times (these are a little easier to understand as they list the entire route this time) – exchange some cash and head to the tourist information. Upon arriving at the tourist information office though – we find that we must take two different trams to the Prague castle and while it is only 5 KMs away – we are a little nervous about taking a late train back (based on the delays we have experienced over the last two days with trains coming out of and to Budapest – which this line is). So after some discussion we deicide that it is just not worth it and instead we will find some place nice to have lunch in Prague and try to catch the 3:30 train back to Bratislava.

A better choice when you break it down as we are leaving at 4:00 AM tomorrow and we still need to finish packing and we would like to clean the apartment a bit. So we head out down the boulevard towards, where we hope, we might find a café or two to have a nice Czech lunch.

Well I can say with certainty that what I did see of Prague, I like it much better than Budapest. It is a much cleaner city – with much of the same architecture as most of Europe that we have experienced so far. The buildings are fantastic – those that we saw that is. And the people that we ran into and experienced were all friendly and warm – as I mentioned earlier – no stink eye here!

We eventually made our way to the nicest little café just off of the boulevard simply called ‘7’. Inside it had a very modern feel to it – decorated in deep, dark wood textures with a nice mixture of stainless metals. The menu was small – printed that day with a very limited selection. I had a Beef tip cooked in burgundy wine sauce with a baked potato and Lisa had a delicious chicken leg that had a coating like a pot pie on it with fries and a small salad from the salad bar. It was a wonderfully delicious lunch that only cost $279.00 crowns. I mention this because I tipped the waitress (quite on accident- they use coins like we use bills and I was a bit flustered as I had no change) about $160.00 crowns! Oh well – every Christmas for the last couple of years – we go out to lunch somewhere – any where, it does not matter, and Lisa will leave very large tip as a Christmas gift. Our way of spreading good Karma; so the way I figured it we just spread a little Christmas Karma in July!

Either way we had a good laugh about it and felt good doing it! We walked back to the train station to catch the 3:33 back to Bratislava – the plan now to have a nice good-bye dinner, finish off packing and clean the apartment. Thankfully there is a McDonald’s at the Rail Station so we are able to load up on ice cold (in Europe apparently, they do not believe in cold drinks or ice – except at McDonald’s) Coke Light! Refreshing! We get to our platform all excited to have been in Prague and succeeded in covering 5 countries (6 if you count Serbia) in just over two weeks! I mean how cool is that? We saw: Bulgaria, Slovakia, Austria, Hungry, Czech Republic and Serbia (if only from a bus)!

We walked the same paths that Mozart walked!

We stood in the same church that Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer filmed The Sound of Music in!

We stood in Heroes Square where many died for the freedom of Budapest!

We had dinner in Slovakia on a balcony that overlooked the Danube River into Austria!

We tasted fruit off of the vine in Bulgaria from a country village home that our host was born in!

We had lunch in Prague – just because we could!

Now that is a cool vacation!

Even the notice that our train to Bratislava is 15 minutes late could not dampen our excitement! Of course it was late! What else could it be at this point. Now – it does not matter. By about 8:00 PM – we will be back in our cute little apartment in Bratislava preparing to go home. Home to our children! Home to our dogs! Home to our friends! While I love going on vacation – it did feel like we were gone a long time. I am ready to be home!

Next year – I think we’ll take a cruise with the kids. Be pampered for ten days or so!

Oh wait – I forgot! Nikki is marching in the Pope’s New Year Parade in Italy in December/January! We’ll be baacckk!

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