Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Post 15: Meet Me in the Middle: Prague

Observation Deck at the MUC airport

Hello, I am guest blogger, Amanda and I am here to tell you about our adventures in Prague. Contrary to popular belief, Ryan and I are not independently wealthy and even though I would have loved to meet him in Krakow and tour some of Poland, two things were standing in my way. Number one, I couldn't get enough time off work and number two, I have a budget. I can fly for "free" only to places where my airline goes, and they do not go to Krakow. I could get to Munich on our airline, but then I would have to get some other sort of transportation to Poland. I can get "discount" tickets on other airlines, but they are for standby travel and sometimes that is more of a headache than it is worth.  I looked at the discount airlines, Easy Jet and RyanAir and thought about buying a full fare ticket, but they were not that cheap. The train or bus was an option, but it would take a full day to get from Munich to Krakow and I just did not have enough time off to waste another full day traveling. So getting to Krakow was problematic for me. Then Ryan was booking his trip back to Munich where he could then get on the "free"  (I keep putting that in quotes, because it is not really free, we still have to pay taxes on the cost of a full fare ticket) flight back to the USA and he noticed that he had to change buses in Prague. "Why don't you meet me half way in Prague?" he asked. And a plan was hatched.

Observation Deck was a nice place to sit and read
I again started looking at trains, planes and buses from Munich to Prague. I ended up taking a bus from Munich to Prague, planning to arrive in the morning. Ryan's bus from Krakow to Prague would arrive in the afternoon and we would then take an additional full day to tour the city before leaving for Munich together.

I flew from Seattle to Philadelphia to Munich all on American Airlines. I am very familiar with the Munich Airport because I used to work flights to Munich quite often. So it was very nice to have some time to kill at the airport before I caught my bus to Prague (I was taking the overnight bus!) I visited the observation deck at Munich Airport which was very cool and you could watch the planes landing and taking off. I found out later that there was actually a tour I could have done! Shucks, maybe next time. And I had a fabulous lunch in the beergarden. The weather was gorgeous and it was just a relaxing few hours. Then I had to board my night bus to Prague.

Flix Bus is packed
I chose the FlixBus company and I really liked it. They had wifi and the bus was very comfortable. It was completely full and I was glad that I had reserved a ticket ahead of time and not risked purchasing onboard from the driver. The trip from Munich to Prague was approximately 4 hours (the bus made 3 stops during the night) and I arrived in Prague at 7am in the morning. I thought I would tour around the city a bit and get my bearings before I came back to the bus station to greet Ryan arriving from Krakow. First of all, Ryan was coming in at a different bus station. I had arrived at the train station. These were two different places (and on the map, it only looked like they were half a mile a part), but I did not think I would have trouble finding the bus station. I headed out of the train station towards the Old Town section of Prague to look around. I was glad I walked around in the morning before the crowds arrived.

I saw several brides out early also getting their photos made with the great morning light and a lack of people milling about everywhere. Later in the day when we returned to Old Town, it would be wall to wall crowds everywhere.

The problem with being out so early in the morning was in finding a bathroom. I found out that the public restrooms were NOT OPEN yet. Many of them did not open until noon. I did ask at a few places where people were opening up, one hotel, a hostel and even one bar. But they all told me to use the public restrooms out in the square...The ones that were not even open yet. I did find one that had an automatic turnstile, but I needed change for it and I only had paper money, so then I had to find someone to make change for me. The going rate for the restrooms in Prague is approximately 50 cents. I decided then and there that I was not going to be able to drink anything for my entire stay in Prague, either that, or just sit in our hotel room and drink beer there!!

Of course it is under renovation
One of the most famous sites in Prague is their  Astronomical Clock. It was first installed in 1410 and is the oldest one in the world that is still operating. Although, while we were there we did not see it work. It was covered with scaffolding and undergoing repairs. It is very pretty though.  The dial has a background representing the Earth and sky and a zodiacal ring with all the signs of the zodiac, then an outer ring with the Sun and Moon phases. There are figures representing Vanity, Greed, and Lust and Death.  The Twelve Apostles also are represented above the clock.  I read several descriptions of how to read the clock, but never got the hang of it!! It is basically a mini planetarium! So I just appreciated the pretty carvings and artwork on it.
The netting is to protect them from pigeon droppings
What time is it?

I also scouted around and found several used bookstores, so that I could come back when they were open and look around. Then I headed back to the bus station to meet Ryan and I got incredibly lost. I had a map and I knew where I was trying to go, but the Old Town is just a maze of cobblestone streets and there are very few street signs telling you where you are to begin with!! I finally got out of the Old Town section and was back at the train station and then was trying to find my way out to the bus station. Part of the problem was crossing the train and tram tracks and one major highway that was between me and the bus station. when I finally got to the other side of the train tracks. I could not figure out what street I was actually on. I could see a crazy TV tower which is a sort of landmark in town and I knew where I had to be in relation to the TV tower. In short, I walked way out of my way and was in the wrong area. I had to backtrack quite a bit and I kept getting frustrated by the lack of street signs. And again in the maze of streets, I would think I could get across the train tracks and I would come up to a dead end and have to back track again and try to find a road that had a tunnel or bridge across the tracks. At least, once Ryan joins me I will KNOW where I am going. Since I had already gotten lost once, I was sure I would not make the same mistake again.

Lots of interesting architecture in Prague. This is a Cubist Kiosk

I can recognize a used bookstore in multiple languages

President Woodrow Wilson

I should also mention that the only word I could master in Czech was good day: Dobrý den (sounds like Doe-bree den) [Ryan's note: It sounds very much like the Polish dzień dobry with the words reversed--which made it easier for me to remember! There was quite a bit of words I'd hear that sounded vaguely Polish.]) This is most commonly used for all greetings. I kept forgetting the words for please and thank you and I couldn't get the pronunciation right anyway.  So I was pretty much stuck with saying dobry den and then just asking someone in English if they spoke English.  And pretty much everyone had some English. It was very easy to get around and talk to people. 
Winston Churchill

I waited at the bus station for Ryan and his bus was an hour and a half late. Luckily we had planned to meet by the Burger King in the bus station, so I had a place to sit and wifi and power and I could pay to go to the bathroom in the bus station (50 cents!!) 

When Ryan arrived, I suggested that we walk to our hostel by way of the Old Town and the square with the clock. I am an expert now since I got lost before he arrived. He agrees and we get to the square, which is now crowded with people in the late afternoon. Now to head out to our hostel. I am sure that I know the way [Ryan's note: despite my protests that my smartphone suggested the route she wanted to go was 180 degrees in the wrong direction], and off we go and we meander through the maze of streets and in a minute we end up right back at the Astronomical Clock!! I had gotten us lost AGAIN. Ryan of course thought this was hilarious. So we start out again and where I am POSITIVE we should turn right, Ryan suggests we go left instead. Every fiber in my being says to head to the right, but as we now know, that will just put us back towards the square. [Ryan's note: Every fiber of my being wanted to turn right as well, but my smartphone kept telling us left, and I trusted it more than I trusted myself or Amanda!] 

So we go left and lo and behold we get out of the maze of streets and are heading directly to our hostel! We check in and find that we have a private room which was unexpected. An added bonus of checking in relatively early and getting first pick of beds. Since I had taken the overnight bus and already walked all over Prague, I was beat and decided to go ahead to sleep. Ryan went back out for a little while to see the city as it was lit up at night along the river. And that was our first day in Prague. 

Loved the facade on this building

1 comment:

Mary said...

I was in Prague a few years ago with friends who wanted to visit there. I had no idea it was so beautiful and untouched by WWII. I recognize the building in the last photo. I never saw public bathroom signs and love that sign!