Monday, November 5, 2012

Trip to Prague - Part 1 of 3

I'm just going to ignore the fact that I haven't posted in 3 months. Y'all don't want to hear my excuses, and none of them are any good, anyway.

Soooooo, here we go. In August we went to Prague with our friends, Lacie, Yahreen, and baby AJ. They had been to Prague before, but I found a super awesome LivingSocial deal that none of us could pass up. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I LOVE finding travel deals on Groupon & LivingSocial! Anywho, the deal was 3 nights at the Residence La Fenice in Prague, including breakfast every morning, a welcome drink, and one 3-course dinner at their on-site restaurant. The cost? $150 per couple. Total. How amazing is that?

Prague is about 6 hours away from us, so we were up and out pretty early. With us, we always plan to leave at a certain time, but in reality we leave 30 minutes later. It's a little more difficult to leave on time with two couples and a baby. Especially when someone forgets to charge the gas card, and we have to run on base to add money (I'm lookin' at you, Yah). And, we had a ton of stuff to pack.

I think I've explained the gas thing before, but here it goes again, just in case. If you're stationed over here, you get American gas prices - as long as you go to an Esso, and use your charged Esso card. BUT, you only get American prices if you're in the country where you're stationed. So, we get American priced gas in Germany, but that's it. Luckily Prague is only an hour and a half, two hours or so from the German border, so we didn't have to worry about paying for gas on the economy. Which is a lifesaver - I mean, have you seen gas prices lately?? It's almost $8/gal in Germany! Sheesh. And do you know how fast some locals go on the Autobahn? I get regularly smoked, while going 80mph. Redic.

But, I digress. Anywho - trip to Prague! We only hit traffic once, I believe, and it really didn't last too long. We did have to stop several times (damn my bladder!), but I learned the joy of self-cleaning rest stop toilets! Each stall automatically locks when you enter. A little light on the outside of the toilet turns red. When you're done, and leave the stall, the stall automatically locks again (light's still red). There is an AUTOMATIC CLEANER in the stall, that sprays & cleans the whole damn bathroom. Then, the light turns green and the next person can go in. Genius!! Especially for my germaphobic self. Although I must say I'm not a huge fan of damp toilet seats.

The last place we stopped for gas before the border was in N├╝rnberg. I'm not sure if that's the last Esso before hitting Prague, but we didn't want to take our chances. We had ourselves a parking lot picnic at that Esso (which are sometimes the best kinds of picnics), then continued on.

The Czech Republic is one of those countries where you have to buy a vignette to display in your car, if you're going to be driving on the freeways. Austria & Switzerland also require vignettes. It's basically in place of tolls. At the CR border, you'll see huge signs directing you to places where you can buy vignettes - right over the border was a huge gas station compound. I could have sworn we paid €16 for 10 days, but all the sites I can find say €12 for 10 days. This is what I get for waiting so long to write a blog. Oy.


Really, though, L&Y said that they didn't even buy a vignette last time, and they completely got away with it. The only problem was that for our trip, everyone forgot their international drivers licenses (we had our German licenses with us). Ooops. So, we decided to buy a vignette, just in case we got pulled over & got into even more trouble for not having a license.

That's right, we live on the edge.

So, we're finally into Prague - it really did only take us 6ish hours. Not bad! Our hotel was in a quiet area, but still within walking distance to everything. However, we were only a block from the subway system - score! One thing I will note about our hotel - the staff were SO helpful! They had wonderful customer service, and they helped us with directions, helpful hints, suggestions, etc.

Unfortunately, our rooms were really far apart. We were on the first floor, and L&Y were on the 6th. Our room was very old-school - antique furniture, very very high ceilings. No a/c, which we're used to, being in Europe. We actually ended up getting a two bedroom, two bathroom suite, and both rooms had kitchenettes. We thought our room was nice.

Until we went upstairs to see L&Y's room.

We got hosed.

Their room was COMPLETELY updated, with a living room, a view, and air conditioning. It wasn't until spending the first night in our stuffy, faintly moldy room that we became completely jealous of their awesome room. But, that just meant we spent more time in their room, and just used ours for sleeping. It was nice they had a living room, because then we were able to play games together.

But I'm skipping ahead.

After we unloaded the car, became disillusioned over losing the who’s-got-the-better-room game, and had a glass of wine, it was time to explore Prague! Like I said, we were only about a block from the subway - score! The subway is NOT very extensive. Basically, there’s a straight line, and we only used 2, maybe 3 stops during our entire trip. There are two off-shoots from the main subway, but we never needed them. It would be very very very hard to get lost in the subway system. You’d pretty much have to be a slack-jawed yokel, a la The Simpsons, in order to get lost there. It was a little harder figuring out how much we should spend on subway tickets. Rather than figure it out, certain members of our party (who shall remain nameless) decided it would be best for everyone to buy just one thirty minute ticket each, and keep that ticket the entire time. There are scanners for you to scan your tickets, but they don't prevent you from continuing into the subway system if you DON'T scan them. We also NEVER saw any sort of law enforcement in the subway area. I'm not necessarily proud of what we did, but...well...hell, we rode the subway for free (or mostly free).

I should note that the escalators going to & from the Prague subway system were the scariest escalators I have EVER been on. They had to have been the steepest, fastest ones in the world. At least the ones by our hotel. Truly terrifying, and I even had to keep my eyes closed the first few times.


Our plan for the afternoon/evening was to explore Old Town.




Old Town is definitely a great place to people watch. One thing we discovered, though, is how different big-town Czech Republic is to big-town Germany. You can tell that CR is a poorer country. Things are a little dirtier, a little more run-down. Not bad, by any means, just noticeable. Germans tend to have more of a pride in the upkeep of their cities (which I’m sure has a lot to do with the fact that Germany has more money than CR). Also - there were a lot more “street people”. (I was trying to find a PC way to say “bums”. Actually, I rather like the term “street people.”)

Old Town Square also has the Astronomical Clock. At the top of the hour, the clock goes off, and all of the moveable figurines come to life, and put on a little show. Then, somebody at the top plays a trumpet for a few notes. It's worth waiting around to see, just keep track of who is surrounding you. Prague has a problem with pick-pockets, and hundreds of distracted tourists gaping up at a moving clock make for perfect targets.


When we went to Amsterdam, Josh and I had a great time at the Sex Museum. It was so much fun there, and hilarious! So, we decided we HAD to try the Sex Machine Museum in Prague. Yahreen didn’t care about seeing it, so he stayed outside with the baby, while the three of us went in.

I believe it was €10 to get in. I don't know if I would have done it, knowing what was inside. Some of it was really interesting, but there were some rooms......oy, it was uncomfortable. Josh and I have no shame, and we never get weirded out about stuff. Well, some of the contraptions in this place gave us the willies (ha! get it? willies? sex? haha!).




After being completely skeeved out, we all decided it was time to eat. Right across from the Astronomical Clock was a restaurant that L&Y had been to the last time they were in Prague. The Restaurant U Zlate Konvice, which is located in a 14th century cellar. We were all really hungry, but the first thing we needed was a Czech beer.


One thing we ended up learning is that you should judge the restaurant based on the price of its beer. You can get a half liter of super awesome beer for 30czk (about $1.50). Well, a lot of the places near the most touristy areas will sell beer for 80czk ($4). Now, $4 for a liter is pretty normal in a lot of places, but NOT in CR. That's waaaaay too expensive. But, that's not to say that the beer isn't worth it. Czech beer is awesome. I actually really really liked the dark stuff (normally I'm a pils drinker). Anywho, the restaurant we were at (Zlate Konvice) was one of the touristy places - 80czk for beer. But, at this point, we were starving, so we really didn't care. Plus, certain members of our party get really crank when they're hungry (I'm lookin' at you again, Yah). Btw, even though the Czech Republic is part of the EU, they're still using the Czech Koruna for currency (right now, 1czk = 0.039 Euro = 0.05 USD).

Sometimes, certain European towns seem to have just one option for vegetarians. For instance, in Brugge, Belgium, every restaurant had a vegetarian lasagna as the veggie dish. Well, in Prague, the vegetarian dish on every menu was fried cheese. I’m so not complaining about that, either. :) Most of the food was more “peasant-style”. Boiled meats & vegetables (well, cabbage & potatoes), boiled bread (dumplings), etc. It sounds a lot less appetizing than it actually is.


Even though the restaurant was kind of expensive, it had a good atmosphere, and we all left full & happy.

Yahreen's "I'm hungry" shot:

Yahreen's "I'm happy" shot:


I guess it's true what they say. The way to a man's heart really is through his stomach.

After dinner, we really wanted to go on the Ghost Walk. L&Y did it last time, and really liked it. It also has very good reviews on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately, it started raining. Boo! But, since we were staying three nights, we decided we could do it another night (FYI, kids, don't ever put off for tomorrow what you can do today...). So, we went back to the hotel to play games & drink wine (when traveling by car - always bring a box of wine with you on vacation). Although, that night we never actually played games, we just ended up chatting all night. It's so awesome to be able to travel around Europe with good friends. Gah, we're so lucky!! (and maybe a little spoiled)

Stay tuned for Prague Part 2.

5 comments:

  1. You're back!!...to the world of blogging, I mean.
    I will definitely be looking to this when planning our trip to Prague. Still haven't made it there but it's at the top of the list.

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  2. I reaaaaaaly want to go to Prague. I have tje travel bug majorly and just want to see everywhere. Looking forward to the next installment. Xx

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    1. Thanks!!! All 3 installments are already done. ;)
      http://aycock.blogspot.de/2012/11/trip-to-prague-part-2-of-3.html
      On the right side of the blog, there's a column that shows posts by month - you can check out the November section, and see all three posts on Prague.

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  3. I had no idea livingsocial was available in Germany! I could kick myself!! Thanks so much for sharing. Prague is a really neat city. It does make you appreciate how clean Germany is. No matter where we have traveled in Europe, coming back to Germany always feels so nice and...clean :) BTW I'm in the Germany blogger group too. Where in Germany are ya'll (I love that word, hehe) stationed?

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    1. I always check out Austin's LivingSocial and Groupon pages (the travel sections are national, so it doesn't matter what US city you access on the sites). And, I always check out London's LS & Groupon travel sections - they always have awesome European vacations. The Prague trip was from the London LS travel page. I actually never go onto the German sites (although they DO have them).
      We're at Ramstein (husband is civilian). And yes, I'm a proud Texan, and say all the Texas slang. I also curse like a sailor, and am not very ladylike in my blog posts. I just try to keep it real. ;)

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