Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arrival in Prague, Kafka, Funicular, and Charles Bridge

October 6, 2010 (Wednesday)

The cab we ordered for 6am turned up around 6:25am. Our flight to Prague was at 8:25am, and I expressed some concern about the timing. The cab driver, however, raced us – and I literally mean "raced us" – to the airport. Despite the heavy traffic, we arrived at 7am. There was no line to check-in, no wait at security, and no problems. We took a bus out to the Smart Wings plane, boarded, and took off on time.

I checked a carry-on so I could take along the waiter’s corkscrew.

We arrived at the Prague airport at 10am, retrieved my bag, and bought a couple of transit tickets at an airport stand.

A note about public transit in Prague: it is cheap, efficient, and easy. For 26 Czech Korunas each ($1.49 as of this posting), we were able to transfer between a bus and the metro to get into old Prague, roughly a 30-45 minute trip.

We took bus 100 to the Zličín stop, transferred to Metro Line B and got off at Náměstí Republiky. After some brief map checking, we found the street we needed and checked into a gorgeous room at the Art Deco Imperial Hotel.

This room was by far the nicest I have stayed in. The bathroom walls were tiled with a richly veined dark marble.

The hotel restaurant, Café Imperial, was decorated in lovely, large art deco mosaics.

We ate lunch at Café Imperial, squeezing between business men and women in their suits and ties. We had Pilsner Urquells, and I ordered the potato soup to start and then braised beef with mashed potatoes. Jer had the club sandwich with a fried egg on it.

After this delicious meal, we explored. On our way to the Charles Bridge, we stopped at the Tourist Information area under the Astronomical Clock in Wenceslas Square and bought a Prague Card. This card allows free entry into a few locations and discounts on others. Very worthwhile.

Across the Charles Bridge (now crowded with tourists and people selling photographs, jewelry, and caricatures) we stopped at the Kafka Museum and used the Prague Card to buy discounted tickets. This museum was interesting – all about Kafka’s life with some interpretative installations to set the mood, such as a darkened room full of black metal filing cabinets, selectively forced open and lit to reveal certain documents and books. A model of a strange torture device, with what looked like a clay person face down in pain, wires coming out of his back. Another room with a few chairs and a continuously looping black and white video of shadowy, fragmented images.

The icing on this absurdity sundae was our visit coincided with a high school field trip. The place was soon packed with bored students, aimlessly shuffling through the place, totally bored.

On leaving, we used our Prague Cards to visit Lesser Tower and climbed to the top to get some overhead shots past the Charles Bridge.

Later we stopped at a traditional Czech restaurant and ordered starters -- nakladaný hermelin (a soft cheese marinated in oil, garlic, and spices), ham, bread, and mustard – and two dark Masters. Delicious.

Refreshed, we decided to find the Funicular, which takes riders up to the top of Petrin Hill.

This is a Funicular

Petrin Hill is known for its great views of Prague, its rose park, Lookout Tower (a miniature Eiffel Tower likeness at 60m tall), observatory, and Mirror Labyrinth. We used our Prague Cards to visit all of it. And let me just say, climbing to the top of an Eiffel Tower copy is still exhausting. Great views though.

We took the Funicular back down, walked to our hotel, visited the hotel bar for a couple of Pilsners (awesome bartender named Michael), and slept.

1 comment:

Maya said...

Awesome! I love Prague.