Tag: Praha

27 Things I learned in Prague.

When the devil shows up to your tram stop it’s time for a selfie.IMG_4665

When the devil gets on your tram and looms in the back, you might consider getting off at the next stop and seeing if Jesus is on the next tram. You never know in Prague.IMG_4666

Sometimes shorts and pants have to meet somewhere in the middle.IMG_4447

If you stop in for a dessert and coffee in an Art Deco wonderland café you may never get your dessert. That’s okay, I’m sure there is a reason you didn’t get your apple cake…like the waiters suck.IMG_4573

If you are trying to decide whether you should get a Trdelnik in Budapest or Prague, it is no contest. In Prague, they put ice cream inside it. In Budapest, when you ask if you can get some ice cream inside the Trdelnik they say, “No,” and then ignore you like you are a Gypsy beggar. Get it in Prague.IMG_4585

There is never a bad time to be on the Charles Bridge.

Sometimes advertising for hot dogs is tough.IMG_4604

There is a very small and cool 9/11 monument next to the southwestern side of Charles Bridge.IMG_4605

Monks make good beer.

I’ll never get over seeing these little monuments all over Europe. These are located outside apartments and homes of people who were killed during the Holocaust. Look down as you walk the streets and you will see them.

The Vltava River can flood big time.IMG_4610

The Czechs have set up these floodwalls to prevent further damage. They have metal walls they can connect to this base when the waters start to rise.IMG_4611

The stained glass in St. Vitus’ Cathedral is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I’m sure there are lots of good times to see the glass, but during the summer go as soon as the doors open (9AM) and move to the southwestern side of the cathedral. Most tour groups arrive around 9:30 so you’ll have some great alone time with this.

It isn’t hard to find the Lennon Wall and it is worth finding. I saw lots of people who were close to it and looking at maps. It’s right across from the French Embassy so follow your wine diviner and you’ll find it.IMG_4621

This sign means something: 1. Watch out for houses on sleds when you are driving on a soccer field, 2. Adults in Prague have tiny heads, 3. Your hands will be chopped off if you play soccer in Prague.IMG_4556

The best garden in Prague is hidden but worth finding. You will have to work to locate it, but once you do you can wander for about an hour and pretend to be someone special. http://www.vrtbovska.cz IMG_4633

Kafka’s Head is the greatest piece of public art ever! I could spend hours watching this thing.

There is no better city for taking pictures with statues. Even if your wife thinks you are an immature idiot, it is worth getting a few gems for your FaceBook profile picture.

This does not mean there is an illuminati worship center in the airport…but it could.IMG_4693

Beer is inexpensive and really good in Prague, but this is just playing with fire.IMG_4694

There are lots of statues that are supposed to bring you good luck when you touch certain parts of them, but this is the kind of luck I’m not interested in.IMG_4544

This suit of armor is called The Draymond Green protector. (This is a joke that only .005% of my readers will get, but I’m okay with that.)IMG_4536

David Cerny created the Kafka Head and many other pieces of public art in Prague. This one is outside the Kafka museum. When it was first introduced you could text a message to the peeing guys and they would spell out your message in water. Yes, that is a map of the Czech Republic they are peeing on.IMG_1907

When you are trying to buy tickets to get into the Kafka museum and the machine printing the tickets breaks, and the guy who was selling tickets leaves his post to look at Kafka postcards without saying what is going on, and a tech guy shows up to fix things but can’t explain anything because he doesn’t speak English (which is okay because it is the Czech Republic), and the other cash register is for “T-shirts, posters, and books” only, you are permitted to say, “This is Kafkaesque,” three times.

Prague is a magical city. It is a city where men who are 5’3” can wear pants with these measurements. Yeah, even if it is metric his inseam is 10 whatevers longer than his waist.IMG_4474

This is what 80% of the food in Prague looks like.IMG_4661

Some people don’t take their jobs too seriously. “Did you mop the courtyard? The whole courtyard? Wow, that was fast.”

I’m glad I didn’t see this in Budapest. IMG_4587

 

Goldilocks in Prague

There is something perfect about Prague. I cannot put my finger on it. I don’t mean that the city is perfect, because it isn’t, but there is something about the city that is just right.

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When we arrived in Prague we had visited seven pretty interesting cities but each of the cities had their flaws: Oslo and Copenhagen are expensive, Amsterdam’s weather could be better, Munich was too hot, Vienna was a little too opulent, Bratislava was a little small, Budapest was a little too Soviet Block, and then we arrived in Prague and it fit like two year old Birkenstocks.

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Our hotel was in the Mala Strana (Little Side or Lesser Town) and will remain unnamed (Golden Star) because I don’t want you taking my room (33) next time I’m in town. One of the best things about Prague is that you would have to try pretty hard to overspend on a hotel. You could do it, but you can also find 300 hotels for less than $50 a night and I’m not talking about hotel rooms that are located next to the airport or near the meat packing district, these $50 rooms are going to be clean, well-located, and have free breakfast.

 

The next thing that is great about Prague is that you would have to try pretty hard to overspend on a meal. Czech meals are meat and gravy extravaganzas that are best washed down by the cleanest, freshest, cold beer you can find in the world. A platter of meat, potatoes, dumplings, slaw, and gravy and two beers will set you back about $10. (If you eat like this for a lifetime you’ll probably die by the time you get to the age of 50, but you will die fat and happy.)

The last wonderful thing about Prague is that there is always something to do. This is a city that opens early and stays open all night. The parks are vast, the collection of museums spans interests, and history oozes from every corner. Want to do an idiotic bar crawl? Well, hang out in the central square around 10 PM and look for the guys wearing the shirts that say, “The Greatest Night You Will Never Remember.” Want to see work by Mucha? There is a small Mucha museum and his great work The Slavic Epic is on display in one of the major museums in town. Like Kafka? Go visit his tiny house on the Golden Lane next to St. Vitus’ Cathedral, or drop into the Kafka Museum and learn about one of the world’s most interesting writers. Even if you are flat broke Prague is a town where you can have a great time. Wander the streets, get lost (which isn’t hard), watch people, hang out on the Charles Bridge, sit in a park overlooking the city, sneak into St. Vitus’ Cathedral with a tour group, and eat street food for a fraction of what it costs anywhere else in Europe.

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Our visit to Prague wasn’t perfect, but it was just right. Maybe it wasn’t as great as I think, sometimes things seem better in the moment than they really were, but someday I’ll find out when I get back to Prague.

 

 

 

An Inaccurate Guide to European Manhole Cover Art: Prague

Today’s manhole cover comes from Prague. Prague (known to the locals as Praha for some unknown reason) is the capital of the Czech Republic and a pretty sweet city if you like your cities with a little second-hand smoke and grit. As you can see, Prague also has a pretty boss manhole cover.

Prague

Prague. The finger in the upper right hand corner is part of a new movement in photography. I call it the finger in your eye movement.

(Note: I am wearing black socks and surf-sandals. This is okay, because I was traveling alone and I am from the Pacific Northwest where socks and sandals is perfectly okay.)

Prague’s history as an open-door can be seen in its manhole cover. Look how inviting it is. Praha means threshold in Czech, so depending on the direction you are traveling Prague is either the gateway to the East or the gateway to the West, either way, lots of people (including people who decided how the people of Prague should behave, who they should get along with, and who should govern them) passed through the city so it is not a bad idea to have a manhole cover that looks tough. If you hadn’t noticed the cover has multiple images of power on it.

Power image number one: It is hard to miss the disembodied arm and sword sticking out of the main entrance. This is an odd threat since the door is wide open. “Welcome to Prague. Come on in. Beware of arms carrying swords.”

Power image number two: The castle wall with the three towers is delivering a message about the wealth and power of Prague. The three towers symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; they could also symbolize Larry, Moe, and Curly for all I know; there is an outside chance that they don’t really represent anything and the artist was just trying to make everything symmetrical.

Power image number three: The half-open iron gate. I don’t want to come across as a know-it-all but I think if the gate were all the way closed it would be more effective. I realize that would mean restructuring the whole bodiless arm and sword thing, but if you  want to scare people off you might consider putting the arm upstairs kind of hanging over the edge of the wall. That would keep people away from the wall and you might be able to attach the arm to a body. Maybe the artist was not very good at doing people’s chins or something and didn’t want to take on the additional challenge of creating a warrior’s head, well if that is the case, then put a helmet on the dude and call it good.

Power image number four: The wooden hinged doors. These doors look like one of my fix-it-up projects. You cannot tell me that those doors fit snuggly into that portico. A sloppy job of craftsmanship isn’t going to intimidate anyone.

Power image number five: The castle, doors, arm with sword, and wall are all on a shield. This is one of those subconscious images of power. Most observers would not notice this, but that is why I am here, to point out the mildly obvious.

Not really a power image, but an image of how many cigarette butts are on the streets of Prague: There are three cigarette butts in this picture. I will estimate that the picture is a square meter (I am American, I have no idea about the metric system because it is a rational and logical system of measurements and therefore not accepted in the USA). The city of Prague is 496 square kilometers, which means it is 4,960,000 square meters (I might be off by a factor of ten here).  So if there are three cigarette butts for every square meter, then there must be (4,960,000 x 3) 14,880,000 cigarette butts on the streets of Prague. That seems like a lot of cigarette butts, but there is good news. Every couple of years the Vltava River floods and all those cigarette butts get washed away. The Vltava drains into the Elbe and then out to the North Sea where fish eat those pesky cigarette butts. Problem solved!

So there you go, another European manhole cover down. Have a great day and see you real soon.

 

The Summer of Jon: Czech Rail

English: CD class 682 007-0 Supercity "An...

English: CD class 682 007-0 Supercity “Antonín Dvořák” (SC 16) from Vienna to Prague crossing the first bridge over Thaya (Dyje). Note: the second rail track was under reconstruction at that time (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the past week I have attempted to buy a rail ticket from Prague (Praha) to Vienna (Wien). I have had a few difficulties since I am not a native Czech speaker and everything about the website confused me. I am no rookie when it comes to navigating foreign language websites, I know how to find the button near the top of the website with an American or British flag (I can read and write in British also) and push the little icon. These icons can be helpful when a traveler might be language challenged like me. I did have five years of Spanish classes and I can say some pretty entertaining things in Spanish like: “There are many tacos in the airport.” “The elephants are very long.” “The door is closed.” These key phrases have helped me when making my Spanish-speaking relatives laugh, but I have yet to travel to a Spanish-speaking country where I needed to use this wealth of language.

My language limitations have not stopped me from doing what most Americans do when traveling: expecting everyone else to speak English. This makes it hard for me to have meaningful conversations about philosophy or global politics, but I can live with that. I doubt if I spent the next 30 days studying Icelandic it would pay off anyway. Icelandic people speak English better than most Americans and how often will I be called upon for the rest of my life to say something in Icelandic?

So, back to the Czech rail site. I have tried unsuccessfully for about a month to buy tickets for my trip from Prague to Vienna. I finally figured out that I cannot buy tickets from the website until the trip is within a 60 day window, for German rail it is 90 days  so I was semi-aware that this could happen to those of us that want to have our trip planned out five years in advance. I waited until I reached the 60 day window and then I went to the Czech rail website to buy. I found the little “en” button at the top of the page and pushed it and the page was transformed into actual, readable English. I filled out the little boxes at least five times and got rejected each time. This was a bit frustrating because each rejection had the same paragraph about why my request could not be fulfilled. I switched a few things around, maybe leaving later would work, nope. Maybe I should try earlier, nope. Eventually I lucked out and my request was accepted. This was great, but I could not tell you why it worked or what magical combination you should select if you were going to be traveling between Prague and Vienna.

The next problem I encountered was selecting a seat. Reserving seats is for suckers because most rail passengers just grab whatever seat they can find, but since reservations were only 7 Czech monetary units (either 25 cents or $2.50, I think) I pulled the trigger on reserving a seat. The seat map was wide open since the rest of the world was not waiting to order their tickets at the moment they became available. This was mildly exciting for me. I looked at each of the train cars, thought about what it would be like to sit in different locations and then notice that some of the cars had those private four seat rooms. I have never traveled on a train with those little rooms so I narrowed the seat selection to the two cars with little rooms. One of the cars had a bike storage area and I decided that I did not want to be on that car since people stuffing their bikes on my train would get in my way. (The real reason had more to do with body odor, but that sounds even more shallow than having to wait to get to my seat. I figured people riding bikes might be sweaty and being in a little room with smelly people for four hours does not meet my romantic idea of traveling on rail.)

I finally narrowed down the seats and looked for a lucky number (77) near a window. I pushed the button, paid for the ticket and then had all kinds of second thoughts. Reserving a seat might put me in a little room with a pack of Gypsies, or even worse a pack of loud Americans. It was too late. My ticket was approved and I printed it off.

Hopefully my little room with be filled with travelers like me: quiet, and self-centered. Then we should all get along.

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