Yes, we made it! Even though we were illegally on several trains (despite repeated attempts to make it legal, but no-one was interested. We discovered later why none of the Italians could help us.) we quietly slipped into Prague. We had helpful conductors, none of whom asked the right question! I mentioned the war once in Germany, but I think I got away with it.
The photo above shows celebratory drinks as we rumble through the Czech Republic with some of their wine and beer. Did you know that the Czech Republic is the biggest swiller of beer in the world? Followed closely into second place by Australia! I did my bit for the stats whilst we were here.
The trip through Austria & Germany was fantastic: steep mountains and idyllic high country villages. The photo below is an example of much that we saw. Germany & Austria were neat, tidy and prosperous looking. Not so the Czech Republic.
We left Venice at 7:00am and arrived in our Prague Hotel at midnight. Slightly over train travel by then. Discovered on the way, courtesy of some very nice Austrians and a German lady, that it is all the fault of the wonderful Italian Prime Minister. Journey that took us 18 hours should have, and used to take 6 hours. However he decided he didn’t want Austrian trains travelling through Italy, so 2 years ago he stopped a century old practice!
In Prague we stayed in the Hotel Merkur – the next morning we discovered it was an Eastern Bloc version of Fawlty Towers! Came down for breakfast and discovered the reception was being presided over by a huge Brunehilde type woman. We quickly discovered that they were doing us a favor by letting us stay, as did some other guests.
I was at the counter when another poor customer was barked at for daring to want to checkout before the appointed hour of 11:00am. ‘Vot iss da problem’ was hissed at him. He obediently trotted off to come and try again later. Hope he didn’t miss his flight…. I retired to await a more opportune moment. I’m not sure she realises the wall has come down…
I have lost count of how many people told us Prague was beautiful when I mentioned we were coming here. They were right. An VERY old town that was spared the bombing of WW2. A guide blithely informed us that we were passing the ‘new’ synagogue built in the 13th Century and then the ‘new’ Town Hall, built in the 14th C.
There are castles, clock towers and church spires all over the place, but in a very small area, so the total impact is quite breathtaking. Here’s an example:
We had pre booked 2 tours before we came. When we showed Brunehilde the 1st tour we were going on (a river cruise) she sniffed pejoratively, as much to say ‘You haff made your bed, now lie in it!’ she was right.
The next day we did a Grand 3 hour tour of the highlights of Prague. If you had seen a video of it, you would be convinced that some good Aussie comedy company had made a spoof TV show about guided tours behind the (former) iron curtain.
For the past 6 weeks, we have watched guided group after guided group being led by an energetic tour guide holding a (usually) furled umbrella on high, like a shepherd with a flock. We used to laugh and avoid them as much as we could. Well today we gleefully discovered we were going to have an umbrella to follow.
The guide was a very nice Russian woman with a fascinating accent and a distracting lisp (what rotter put an ‘s’ in that word anyway?). We had a variety of people on the ‘walk’ including a woman in a wheel chair (she got up and walked at one stage, but I resisted the urge to shout hallelujah), a group of Russians and a perennial moaner.
You get one in every group don’t you? The seats too hard for my back, it’s too hot back here in the bus…. And also a complaint that the tour wouldn’t finish in time for her to catch her next tour. Did you not read the timetable lady?????
At this stage I met a long lost relative from Canada with his wife, both on the tour. His sense of humor was fantastic (read, like mine) and we swapped great stories about other tourists. He was obligingly taking a photo of C & me when some other tourists came right over to where we were. You should have seen the look on his face, it was priceless! C says it was identical to the one often on mine when other stupid people do stupid things!
We swapped moaner stories and he told me of being on a tour in Jerusalem, doing the 12 stations of the Cross. Also on the tour was a quadriplegic lady who had saved all her life to do this trip. Most of the other tourists were Americans. They were on a fairly tight timetable to get back to their bus and by about the 6th station it became obvious they might not make it as the woman slowed them down considerably.
The Americans started complaining and in the words of my new found best buddy, ‘in this Holiest of places, the Americans wanted to ditch the quadriplegic!’ Somewhat of an ironic attitude.
Here’s a photo to cheer you up:
Then came the changing of the guard at Prague Castle. In true Eastern Bloc style they strutted out in great formation, stamping their feet and slamming the butts of their rifles on the ground. A great spectacle. Unbeknownst to them, C was 2 paces behind, doing a great imitation! Here’s proof. (it’ll be the final photo at the bottom)
A health scare for C last night. A tooth broke plus some filling disappeared. Several emergency calls later, we ended up at an emergency dental clinic where running repairs have been made. It means C can only eat soft food for the rest of the trip as she can’t bite anything. Try finding gluten free soft food with no cooking facilities! Challenging!
Tomorrow (well, today really) we head to the Greek Islands – woohoo. We’ll be on Naxos for 4 days and Santorini for 5. We should have wifi on Santorini, not sure about Naxos. If I go silent, don’t take it personally.
Up at 5:00 tomorrow morning, arriving on Naxos at 11:35pm! Another long day. Will need to fortify myself on the ferry I’m thinkin’!