Sunday, September 13, 2015

Day 31: More Beautiful Views of Prague

Our hotel bed (left) and part of breakfast (right)
I want to tell you about a strange custom "they" do over here. Chris experienced this in Germany and now we re in Prague. The hotels often put two personal comforters, instead of one big one, on the bigger beds. Every day they clean your room, they remake the bed with each comforter folded in thirds and placed sideways. At first, it's weird. But I soon grew to enjoy my own comforter (I can't steel it away and neither can Chris).

Side note: I talked about the yogurt bar. I'm enamoured with it. I have fun eating out of the tiny little jars. I want to take some home. I like putting honey and jam into it and mixing it up. Yum.

Today's first goal is to see the Petrín Tower Lookout. We could see this "Eiffel" look-a-like from yesterday's view from St. Vitus Cathedral. It's another good tourist spot and there is a mirror maze nearby. Unfortunately, the little train that runs from the bottom of the hill to the top is down for repairs, so we'll have to hoof it up (a 30 min walk uphill).

Google Maps says one thing. The woman at the front desk (who's English isn't very good - but obviously better than our Czech) says another. We talked with her at length, asking all sorts of questions. Google says we can take a bus right to the top? No, you must walk. Ok. But... no, only way is to walk.

So, we decided to follow the woman's directions. After breakfast, we find our way to the metro station. Well, we thought we did. We found trains A and B, but needed C, or, I can't even remember now, but it was a simple transfer one stop away. Note: There was a security guard at the bottom of the escalator (which go VERY fast and are SUPER long) to check that we validated our tickets. He says our kids can ride for half price. Oops! But we got the tickets from the hotel (they probably only sell one kind and they are only $1, so we don't mind). And says our tickets are, "super," so we may continue on our journey.

The long ride down (left), Escalator Selfie (middle), looking back up (right)

Well, we thought we found the right train. But then, we couldn't find the stop that the woman said to use. So, we went for Petríny stop. Just so you know, Petríny and Petrín are NOT the same. Duh. So, we found ourselves in the middle of a suburban area. No big-green hill to be found. We pull open Google Maps, and dang, we are on a completely different side of town. Oops!

Side note: On our way out of the metro, another security person checked our tickets on the way out. Wow! After Germany, and not really having to show tickets, this is a lot of ticket checking. I can't imagine how many people they have to hire to check everyone's tickets on the way in and the way out.

At the stadium. What is it?

Ok, let's try a bus! We get on a bus (we used a new set of tickets, as we think our 30 minutes is probably about up and we're not sure we'll make it in time), that we think will take us to the right place now. Still NOT the stop the woman labeled, but we thought it was right... I can't even remember the stop's name, but we get off the bus and... "Where the f*2k are we?" It's desolate. No one is there. We are alone. Just us. Get the picture? Us and the olympic stadium. Crap. What now? Google Maps again. Oh, we are sort of close! We can walk from here... Right?

Well, we did take the opportunity to take photos for our "mistake" We tried to take this detour as a "bonus sightseeing" stop. Something we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

As we walked (and checked Google Maps EVERY minute), we discovered a rose garden. It smelled so wonderful. The flowers were beautiful. The kids had fun playing up and down the aisles and running the labyrinth. Another "bonus sightseeing" stop. Ok, sometimes it's nice to get lost (except, did I mention the kids have been bickering and Chris and my patience are running low in general?)

The rose garden (left), Xander running the labyrinth (middle-left)
A beautiful rose (middle-right), Chris stopping to smell the roses (right)

Well, we rounded a corner and what did we see? The tower!!!! Yay! We made it! And what arrived at the same time? A damn city bus! I think it was a city bus. I heard it, but couldn't see it. Chris saw it. I told him to tell me it was a charter-tour bus and not a city bus. I really don't want to know.

Before we head up the tower (the sign indicates another 300 steps to get to the top tier), it's time for a bathroom stop. Here in Prague, there is a similar system for bathrooms as in Germany. Some are free. Some ask for tips (via a wall mounted coin collector, no attendant) and others demand payment (via an attendant). The bathroom Venice and I used was 10 czk (about 20-25 cents?) each. We handed our coins to a large man (who smelled a lot like smoke) who was sitting in an "opening" between the men's and women's bathrooms. Later,  Chris used another bathroom that it only cost 5 czk. Dang it! We'll use that one next. Way cheaper and the attendant wasn't as "icky".

In the top right photo, you can see the Prague Castle and
the St. Vitus Cathedral spires (if you squint).
So, another day, another tower, more steps to climb. This fake "Eiffel" tower has two lookouts. A little over 100 steps to the first tier, and then the rest to get to the top. Xander made it comfortably to the first tier, but wasn't excited about the second tier and went back down. The top was a lot more windy, crowded, AND you could feel the tower sway. We didn't spend too much time up here. There was plexiglass covering the views and only two windows open for clear photos. People were taking a long time at them and it was so crowded, it was tough to share or even to get a turn. So, we took our photos, didn't even make a full circle around, then came back down to the middle level to pick Xander up before heading all the way down.

More beautiful views. You can see the Charles Bridge in the river (left-ish)

That was tiring! Time to refuel. They were out of hot dogs, so all of us got sausages. The way they are served seems common. On a plate, in a pile of ketchup and mustard with a slice of wheat bread on the side. Of course, we ordered fries to accompany the sausages, along with some sodas and water. And hello, when in Prague... another trdelnik! This trdelnik was better than yesterday's. Either it was cooked longer (so a little crispy on the outside), or it was because it was covered with cinnamon, or it was because we ordered it with Nutella on the inside. Too many variables to be sure, we're just sure it was tasty.

Re-energised, we headed for the Mirror Maze. We new to expect it to be tiny, but it was smaller than we thought. The maze itself seems like 30 feet long (if you stretched it out all the way). So, it was a bonus to see a room full of "circus" mirrors for our amusement.

Mirror Maze

Circus Mirrors
Yes, there are Segways
on the hill too!

We tried to find the Cavern on the hill, but couldn't find that. We did see the tracks for the train that goes up the hill, bummer it's being fixed right now. Time was running out, for the day, so we decided to head down the hill (we had to use Google a lot going down as it wasn't clearly marked, I'm sure all roads going down would have worked, but we wanted to take the shortest path..)

As we walked down the hill, we realised how long of a hike it was. At this point, we were very grateful for our mix up in directions this morning. Since we landed at the Stadium, our short walk to the tower was relatively flat. This path down is very steep, uneven, and long. So, it would have been a tiring walk up hill, for sure. The kids were able to have energy to stop at a park and even to pick a few apples along the way!

Photos along our way down, including some of the stairs down.

There were TONS of apple trees along the way down, all dropping rotting fruit.
The kids picked some ripe ones from the tree and had a free snack!

We headed across one of the bridges (to get to the other side) and stopped half way on an island. On this island is a park, where the kids played for a good half hour, and a floating bar, where Chris and I stayed for a good half hour.

It was so beautiful on the water. Not too hot (we were in the shade), tasty beer (it was actually cider and was pretty good). Nice and relaxing. However, when I look at the photos from this spot, I will only remember that I ruined the idyllic moment. Remember how I said the kids were bickering? Chris and my patience were gone. Guess we've been traveling for a while now... anyway, someone said something and it went down hill from there. You don't need the details of what was said (who can remember anyway), but there were tears, there were attitudes (and that's just me, just kidding... well sort of) and we all left in a huff. We recovered. We all apologised. But I think, for my part, I was running low on tolerance because I was dealing with my own disappointment for running out of time to go to the Toilet Museum. You read that right. The Toilet Museum. Sigh. I am mostly at terms with this and know that if I ever go back, I'll make sure to see it first.

Such a lovely afternoon  (until it went to shit :)
See the photo of the women using a Flyboard (I think that's what it's called),
we saw a few people try, she was the best.

During our "cooling off" period, we walked to the Dancing House. A modern building that has won some acclaim as well as controversy. There isn't much to do here but to look from the outside. There is an art gallery there, seems you might be able to gain access (not sure if it's free or for pay, we didn't check it out) and you can go up to the roof. If you see the "sticky ball" on the top of the building on the right, people are standing inside there looking out over the street and river. We've had our share of heights, so decided to skip this one (if we could have even done it).

Time to head back to the hotel. We tried using Google Maps to get us to the metro station. But it pointed to the middle of a building. We tried circling, couldn't find it. Finally, we found the station, and it was "kind of" where Google pointed. It was on the other side of the building, not in it, and there were obvious stairs leading down (obvious if you were on the right side of the building). OMG, can it just be easy?

We used up the last of our transportation tickets to get into the metro. Interesting, no one there checking tickets this time. Not on either end. Maybe they only "spot check" and we just happened to go at a time they were checking. We got back to our hotel, first try. We're pros now! Time to crack open that champagne the hotel left us!

Tonight's dinner is at Lokál, recommended by several sources and it's just down the street! Perfect. Another fantastic meal. Unfortunately, both kids's tummies were feeling "off". Heat? Dehydration? Family stress? Who knows. Venice got soup and Xander finally was able to eat and felt better by the end of dinner. It was an entertaining dinner, as the bathrooms were near us... or so we thought. Turns out it's only the men's bathroom and the signs were small and not easy to see. So many, many women almost went into the men's room on accident. We had a good time helping them find the right bathroom, on the other side of the bar. We thought the food was tapas style, lots of little dishes. But it was more like ordering a la carte. So, any dish you order was normal sized, but without sides. And the sides? They are "all you can eat"! And pasta is one of the sides, Xander was in heaven! Except, since his tummy wasn't the tops, we didn't need to test the "all you can eat" theory. Anyway, fantastic food. A second tasting of goulash, pork terrine (not my favourite), rabbit (tasted like chicken), and others. All for $45 (compare this to our first night's meal at $140). Wow, what a deal!

The restaurant was super large (length of the city block) (left), beer drum (middle), big spenders (right)

Since I didn't get to see the Toilet Museum, the family was nice enough to accompany me back to the astronomical clock. I was thinking it was a bummer to not have seen it do "its thing" on the hour. I double checked online and the clock does "its thing" from 9am to 9pm, so 9pm was going to be our last chance to see it. Plus, I love seeing these places at night time to see how it differs from the day. So, after dinner, we headed on our 8 min walk to the square near the clock.

I'm so glad we went. There were street performers, beautiful lights, and ice cream (always good). There was one group of musicians I enjoyed enough to donate money. We wanted to save some of our Czech coins as souvenirs, so we couldn't donate too much. But when I went to drop the money in, we saw US dollars, so we decided to donate again, but this time Euros. Cool.

Church of Our Lady before Tyn during the day (left) and at night (right)

After walking around to see the square in the dark, after ice cream, and after buying Venice a souvenir, we headed to get a view at the clock. We were 15 minutes early and already a crowd was beginning to form. At one point, I hear clopping... but didn't register what it was until I looked over my right shoulder and see horse nostrils blowing inches away. Ack! I jumped forward with Xander and we turned around to see a horse-drawn coach go through the thick crowd. Another woman never even moved (she was into her phone, like I was) and missed being run over by centimeters. Crazy.

Narrowly missing being trampled by horses, we were ready for the clock to strike! Confession time: I had watched the clock strike the hour on YouTube. I was worried we wouldn't get to see it in person, so I watched on YouTube "just in case'. So, I knew it was short and knew what to expect. But it was still fun to see it in person and hear the crowd clap (it really wasn't very impressive, but still).

Horses during the day (left), nighttime clock watching (right)

We have enjoyed our time here in Prague. It's been short. It's been full. But it's time to go. We all picked up one more souvenir on the way home (we love the cobbled streets and such.. so we liberated a few broken stones... since they were broken, they won't be missed, right?) Then packing and early to bed because it's an early morning train tomorrow.

Good night, Prague.

1 comment:

  1. I bet your Russian would work a little here....maybe not. I love the ups and downs of your trip...staircases, tiredness, missed buses, wonderful scenery.