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Christmas 2006, Prague © R. Craig Collins, 2005/6

Complete; but alas, so many picture make it slow to load. I'll work on that later :)

Paris Christmas Card, 2005 Well, what better time than when it is 100° outside to start planning winter travel... especially as the 'good' flights were already filling up (you can actually watch the seats disappear if you watch Expedia every night for a few weeks).

Of course to get the great rates we need, it means flying on holidays, but this in now a tradition for us. Last year it was Paris for Christmas.

So in August we started planning; a lot of places where on our short list: Dublin, Prague, Budapest, Copenhagen, etc., but the one that was coming up the cheapest was Prague, in the Czech Republic.

(Click here to skip the planning, and get straight on to the Prague pictures...)

Prague Christmas Card

So, after hitting the Books A Million and Barnes and Noble, and doing a lot of on-line research, we decided that Prague was a great mix of art, history, churches and castles... even though it was pushing our comfort level.

After all, Czech is nothing like any language we had encountered before, and Eastern Europe has only been out from Soviet domination for 18 years, meaning fewer people would be able to speak with us in English. But, one of the hotels offered by Expedia looked interesting and was well located, so we took a leap of faith that we could get by.

We were enticed by the largest city in Europe not to be bombed during WWII had to offer, and August 18 we booked the flights and hotel with Expedia.

Expedia Reservations

We also used Expedia to purchase the 'Prague Card', which included the required medical insurance, plus Metro and tram passes, plus discounted entry to many sites. When all was said and done, this is what was reserved:

Lufthansa flight 439, near 10 hour flight from Dallas to Frankfurt on an Airbus 340, with four seat across the middle of row 40, leaving at 4:20 pm Dec. 25

Lufthansa flight 3260, a one hour hop from Frankfurt to Prague on a 737, arriving about 1:00 pm, the 26th.

The accommodations were to be at the Hotel Venezia, with one double bed and two twins.

Then Lufthansa/United flights backs, 3259 to Frankfurt, 941 to O'Hare, and 357 to DFW.

Airport Reservations We then set about getting parking at DFW, and transfers from the airport to the hotel, and back. From previous experience, the cheap lots at DFW proper are always full; but as we had used The Parking Spot, and Air Park Express before. Air Park Express, at the Sheraton near the north DFW entrance, had a coupon, so we made an email reservation for the car.
Czech Currency

During our research, we found that credit card fraud is one of the few draw backs to Prague, so we decided to go 100% cash, if we could. After putting a pencil to it, we decided $500 would probably take care of the transfers, the meals, and souvenirs.

(Yes, all of that for $500.)

So, we ordered 9200 Czech Crowns (ck) from TravelEx, and started working out the details of what we wanted to see, and how to organize it.

Prague Planning Calendar

After scanning the Internet for local tour companies, we opted for three tours we wanted to do.

The whole plan:
wander Wenceslas Square Tuesday afternoon,
take the City Tour (Bus and Boat) Wednesday afternoon,
visit a Castle Thursday afternoon,
further visit Prague Friday, and
visit an Historic town Saturday afternoon.
  Click here or calendar at left for larger version.
This left us every morning to explore, plus Friday to hit the places we missed, or wanted to get back to.

Czech Language Crash Course

The language issue was of concern. Our research indicated speaking a little Czech could make a big difference in service, treatment, and final cost.

Our Spanish background was useless, and though I had studied French before our last Christmas trip, that would be of little use in Prague. So, I ordered a Berlitz book and CD, and worked on my Czech almost every commute to school (50 minutes one way...).

  Click here or lexicon at left for larger version.

I also began hammering out the Czech crash course for everyone else... the basic phrases, the Czech equivalent, and a English word based phonetic pronunciation guide. I didn't get fluent, but I did get conversant!

[PS web fonts don't like many Czech typed letters, so many spellings below are Anglicized.]

Bohemia-Gray Line Tour Reservations

After comparing with Viator, we finally settled on Bohemia-Gray Lines for our tours, and in November booked:

the Golden City Prague bus and boat overview tour,

the Karlstejn Castle (the 13th century Royal Treasury castle) tour, and

the Kutna Horá (middle ages silver mine and mint; a UNESCO World heritage city) town tour.

We also managed to arrange hotel pick up to the tour company, so we could preserve the 72 hour metro/tram pass we were getting with the Prague Card we ordered with Expedia.

Prague Transfers Reservations

After checking with many businesses, we then made reservations with Prague Transfers, to get us to and from the hotel. While it sounds indulgent to be met at the airport door by someone with a sign and your name on it... it truly saves so much time, and is much more reliable, at least for a family with kids traveling.

It is usually much cheaper than a taxi, and so much easier than a bus or train.

In the past, we often tried to take local transport both ways, but early departures are almost impossible to make if you are hauling luggage, then waiting for a bus to take you to a train, etc.

While most of our travel is on a shoestring, this one concession is now a requirement for us.

Collins' Passports

The week before the trip, it is time to retrieve the passports, Czech cash, and tickets from the safe deposit box. Then start printing emails, vouchers, additional maps... three copies, one for me, one for Susann (insurance), and one to leave at home, in case someone needs to find us, or bail us out!

We bought our 1 quart plastic bags for liquids, our 3 ounce shampoos and so on, and got a few new carry-on sized duffle bags for the trip. (We seem to use up luggage pretty quickly, for some reason.)

We had a small get together in Austin Saturday, and had our Christmas Sunday morning. Church was Sunday afternoon, and then we packed away all the Christmas items.

Christmas morning we packed the car, and the vacation officially began!

Airbus  A340 Dec 25, 2006, Monday
11:00 am Central, Depart Leave for DFW
1:00 pm, Arrive Air Park Express
What a mess. Cars everywhere, even stacked in the drive areas, waiting to be parked. But we had a reservation, so we got a slot of sorts, and headed to the terminal.
1:20, Begin check in. Lufthansa actually weights carry on, with an 8 kilo limit. Susann's bulky case was 10 kilos, so she has to check her bag.
2:00, Eat Fuddruckers and 360 Burrito in the food court, and have Famous Amos Cookies for dessert.
4:00 pm Central /23:00 European Time,
Board Lufthansa Airbus A 340. Our seats are the four middle on Row 40 (in red to the left.) No seat back entertainment system, sadly. Had Salmon/Pasta for dinner, the girls watched two movies, Step Up, then the Breakup on the ceiling mounted TVs.
Frankfurt Airport Plan

Tuesday, December 26

1:00am/08:00 (Tuesday), Pasta Cheese Breakfast

9:00 Arrive Frankfurt. The whole airport seems to be getting remodeled, so the plane parks on the tarmac, and we take a bus to Terminal 1, near gate 50. It is laid out like a huge ‘bus station’, and we had to kill time until 11:00, when security would let it into the gate area.

11:20, board a bus, which takes us to a Lufthansa 737; we board the rear stairwell, as our seats are on row 21 of 24.

It is a short, 1 hour hop, but they manage to work in food service, with cheese sandwiches.

Fred and Ginger Building, Prague

Dec. 26, Tuesday
1:00pm (13:00)
Arrive Praha (how the Czech's pronounce their home..)
We quickly get through passport control, but did have to wait for Susann's luggage, which Murphy's law correctly predicted would be one of the last unloaded. We waited at the EuroAgentur office in the arrivals hall, to exchange our vouchers for the Prague cards, but they never came back from break... our driver is waiting, so we head out and literally walk right through customs to a cool, clear afternoon.

13:45, We are picked up by Prague transfers VW driver. We endure his van's air fresheners, and his aftershave, during the ‘scenic’ trip to hotel. On our way, we passed the ‘Fred and Ginger’ building.

View of Prague Castle

As we crosses the Most (bridge), we can see Prague Castle to our north. Actually, we can see St. Vitus Cathedral, which is within the castle grounds. We head up Národní tríndna, then begin the maze of one way streets. I had my map in hand so I could try and get my bearings, as we circled our destination a few times.

Finally, the driver pulled up on to the sidewalk, and looking over, we saw we had arrived.

Hotel Venezia, , Prague

2:30 (14:30) Arrive at Hotel Venezia.

It is a 5 floor building (they say the top floor is the 4th floor, since the first floor in Europe is the first floor above the ground level.

The hotel is near many shops, but our hotel is the only door without a sign hanging out over the sidewalk... I would have missed it, and would then had to backtrack using the big blue addresses.

But there was the red Hotel Venezia sign above the door.

IP Pavlova Nam. overlooking  Hotel Venezia, Prague

We chose the hotel because it was just around the corner from a tram stop and a metro station... both at IP Pavlova námestí (square), in New Town (Nové Mesto).

Further, it was only about a 5 minute walk north to the National Museum, which was at the south east end of Wenceslas Square, also in New Town, which is called Václavské námestí in Czech.

Easy walking, proximity to transportation, and good reviews on Trip Advisor made it an easy choice.

Hotel Venezia, Reception Area, Prague After dropping our passports at reception, the clerk lead us through to the elevator. We got off on the 3rd floor, and faced three doors. She lead us through the door to the left, then around a corner to no. 20. We had two keys on a door knob sized fob. One was for the door just off the elevator, and one was to the room.
Room 20, Initial view, Hotel Venezia, Prague

The room was fairly stark. Tall, perhaps 12 foot ceilings in a bright white paint. There was one picture above the double bed across from the door, with two red lamps on either side of the bed.

To the right was the bath with shower/tub, bidet, and heated towel rack. Right out side was a wardrobe, and to the left of the door was a desk with a small TV and satellite receiver.

The wall to the left faced the street, and had two tall windows with pale yellow curtains over interior and exterior windows. One twin bed was parallel to the double, and one twin bed was perpendicular, next to the desk.

Perhaps not fancy, but fairly large, clean, if not new, and full of character.

oom 20,  Hotel Venezia, Prague The room had radiators for heat, under the windows, and each bed had a coverlet, two towels, and a shampoo and soap. All in all, a nice place to crash.
View out of room 20, Hotel Venezia, Prague

Across from the hotel was the Restauranc Primitiv, which we never visited. To the left of that was a fire station. While we never saw a building afire, we constantly heard the fire engines at night... about the only downside to the place. If you go, ask for a room in the back.

We unpacked our gear, got our stuff into the wardrobe, and fought off the jet lag and one certain daughter's desire to nap, to head up to Wenceslas Square, (Václavské námestí).

We went down the four flights of stairs, picked up our passports (unusual for them to finish that quickly... foreigners are reported to the police, using the passport info), and turned in our keys.

Out the door, and turned left.

Wenceslas Square, from Museum looking toward Mustek, Prague

15:30, We walk up the hill, having to cross the street several times, due to pedestrian blocks, to the front of the National Museum, overlooking Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square).

Just across the street was the statue of Wenceslas astride a horse, and of course, a McDonald's. This really isn't a park-like square, it is Prague's main boulevard for apartments, hotels, bars, clubs, restaurants and shops.

We wandered around, and located Abraham EuroAgentur, but it was closed, so again our Prague cards would have to wait. At the far, north west end of the square was a Christmas Market.

Wenceslas Christmas Market, Prague

The market was begun with a huge christmas tree, and near that was a carved wooden Crèche style nativity scene.

The Christmas market had probably 40 stalls, selling everything from Trdlo (a circular cake cooked on what looks like a heated metal bar) to sausage, roasted chestnuts, pottery, and paintings.

The sun was already setting about 16:00, but the whole place took on a new life, as the Christmas tree began to sparkle in purple, with the "Czech Crystal" star at the top glowing and the lights dancing around it.

Just in case you wondered, there was a McDonald's at this end, too. Plus, you would not believe how many KFC's!

Wenceslas Christmas Market, Prague

We saw hundreds of flyers advertising concerts, and saw one was to be held in the Nation Museum that night. So we walked back to the other end of the square to check on it. There was a table set up just inside the museum, with pictures of people sitting along the grand staircase, no chairs, listening to chamber music.

At ck 350 each, that would have set us back ck1400, or about $70, for sitting on a stairway, so we decided we might stick with the concert at St. Martin in the Hole, a church literally built into the city wall, that came with the Prague Card.

Wenceslas Square, the Champs Elysee of Prague

We returned to the square to look for food.

As it got darker, lights in the trees came on, giving it the feel of the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

There were a lot of sausage stands, but we knew better than to eat at a restaurant right on the busy square, where prices are usually higher.

So we began wandering, looking down the long arcades that branched off the square.

Wenceslas Square, the Champs Elysee of Prague

There was a couple of what looked like old tram cars in the middle of the square, but it looked mainly to sell drinks. Wandering on, we were starting to get hungry; having earlier seen a pizzeria sign, we finally decided to check that out.

Pizza is often the cheapest, and most reliable food if traveling on a budget. That, chinese, and sandwich shops.

We strolled across the way, passing the Hotel Evropa and some brightly colored casinos until we got back to the sign.

Sign on Wenceslas Square pointing to Astoria Pizza

17:00, we walked down the arcade, noting the Ru Yi chinese restaurant for future use, and found the Pizzeria Astoria... across from the Prague Kabaret, evidently featuring Ginger and her girls.

The pizzeria was very nice looking, so we went in and ordered two Margharita (Cheese and Tomato sauce) pizzas, at ck96 each.

The girls had Fanta, and Susann had Cappuccino. The girls really like getting Fanta in Europe, the bottles are interestingly shaped, and they say the taste is far different that what we get here.

Astoria Pizza Entrance, Prague

The pizzas were good sized, and reminded us of the pizza we got on the Spanish steps in Rome. Thin, a bit crispy, with a taste we just can't find in the US.

We decided to splurge a little, and finished off with two chocolate Gelato creations.

All told, dinner, drinks, and dessert came out to ck481, or about $24.

Once back on the square, the early dark, plus our long long day, had us pooped. Even though it was 6:00 pm local time, that was 11:00 am, meaning we had been up a day and a half straight, already.

But we have a custom in Europe, cookies before bed, so off to find a market.

Pamona Market, near Museum, Wenceslas Square, Prague

18:00, on our way back to the hotel, we stopped in the Pomona Market, and spent some pocket change on cookies. ck17,50, or about 88¢

Upon arriving at the hotel, we got our keys and started up the stairs, when the lights went out. They were on a timer, and there just wasn't enough time to find the light switch on the next floor. So we stumbled to the elevator, and used the elevator light to get in the hall door.

19:00, Cookies at hotel, then to bed, after about a 30 hour day!

Breakfast Room, Hotel Venezia, Prague

Dec. 27, Wednesday
Rainy overnight, cleared am

8:15 was opening time for the breakfast room, which was in the basement. It was neat: laid out like a maze, with a pretty good breakfast spread of cheese, ham, juice, breads, yogurt, and cereal. There were even some cookie bars.

Havelská Market, Prague

9:00, Walk to Václavské námestí, and finally picked up the Prague cards. We decided to not activate the 72 hour metro and tram passes just yet (Prague is a very walkable city, and we can use transport after we have seen the sites), and walked to Havelská Market, just north west of Václavské námestí.

This is a permanent market, down the street from St. (Sv. in Czech) Havel church. Candy, fresh foods, and games in the market stalls, and souvenir stands in the buildings around it.

Interesting enough to drop ck235 on gifts.

Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

Walk through small winding roads to Staré Mesto, Old Town. The central Old Town square is called Staroménské.

While New Town, Nové Mesto was created by Charles IV in the 1348, Old Town dates to 1091.

So, I guess new and old are relative terms.

The Orloj in the Clock Tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

The Clock Tower contains moving characters that parade on the hour, similar to the Glockenspiel in Munich, but the most recognized feature is just below it, the astronomical clock called the Orloj.

The face has arabic and roman numerals, as well as keeping track of the astronomical movements of the planets, as know when it was built.

The city fathers were so proud of it, they blinded the builder so he couldn't build another one someplace else.

Clock Tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

The clock tower as a whole is also the Old Town town hall, and even had a church at one end.

Click here, or on the DK Eyewitness Guide excerpt below left, to read about the the Orloj.

(Some browsers shrink pictures to fit the screen; just point to the lower right corner of the image if this happens, then click on the arrows that pop up to zoom the picture to full size; do this also with the other brochures to follow that detail the clock tower, churches, etc.)

Staré Mesto, Old Town, was really alive with their Christmas market and Christmas tree, in front of the Kinský Palace and Lady of Tyn Church (Týnský Chrám), and of course more Trdlo stands.

Diane got a trdlo for 40ck, and shared. Pretty tasty.

About the Orloj, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague  Trdlo stand, prague
Ginger Bread House,  Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

 At the farthest reaches of Old Town square (Staroménské), in front of St. Nicholas church (Sv. Mikuláše), was a huge model gingerbread house.

Please note, the more famous St. Nicholas church is in the Little Quarter, or Malá Strana.

We tried to have lunch in a cellar restaurant, U Orloje, as we did at the Ratskeller in Munich, but the place was booked for a private event.

So back through the narrow Melantrichova Passage to Václavské námestí and Restauranc Prístavu: ck421 for goulash, potato wrapped chicken, etc.

melantrichova-passage Restaurace Prístavu, Wenceslas Square, Prague
Map of Prague, and many items on Golden Tour

After lunch we walked to hotel to freshen up. We headed down stairs at 13:15, and were picked up shortly to begin the Bohemian-Gray Line Golden Tour. We were taken to the starting point, Národní square, just west of Václavské námestí.

Click here, or on the map to the left to see some of the sites we would see.

14:00, we board the little blue bus with Marta, our guide, on a cold afternoon with fog coming in.

Bus: We passed Old Town's Powder Gate Tower (one of 13 entrances to the city in the 1400s, it is a copy of a Charles Bridge tower not a mile away) and Municipal house, Mozart’s residence Bertramka...

Mozart's Estates Theatre, Prague

... and the Estates Theatre, where Mozart premiered Don Giovanni. It was also featured in the movie, Amadeus.

We also passed the Rudolfinum, Klementinum, Charles Bridge (Karluv Most), the Opera house, National Theatre, and after crossing the Vltava, drove past the Hunger Wall, and St. Nicholas (Sv. Mikuláše) of the Little Quarter. (More on many of these later.)

Walk: We got off the bus, and walked up by Thunovská street to Prague Castle.

Near Prague Castle, looking down Thunovská Near Prague Castle, looking up Thunovská
View of Prague from just outside Prague Castle

Prague has 5 'cities' or quarters. Castle quarter, Little quarter, Old Town, New Town, and the Jewish Quarter, Josefov.

Just outside the Prague castle main entrance, we could see a great view of the cities, even as the fog was rolling in.

The famous St. Nicholas (Sv. Mikuláše) of the Little Quarter's huge green dome stands out well, across the river is Old Town, to the north (left) is Josefov, to the south (right) is New Town.

Changing of the Guard, Prague Castle

Marta timed it just right, we got to the gates right at the Changing of the guard;, not as pompous as Buckingham, quite a bit quieter than the Tower of London, but neat still the same.

And yes, the guards stand rock steady as girls pose next to them and flirt, etc.

After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the new President Havel moved his office to Prague Castle, which is one of the largest castle complexes in Europe.

Hapsburg courtyard, Prague Castle

Just inside the gates is the part of the castle built later on, during the Hapsburg reign (1516-1916).

The castle itself was begun in the 9th century (while the Hradcany, or Castle quarter, was started as the castle's outer bailey in the 1320s).

Behind the girls is the Matthias Gate, built in 1614. We then passed the Presidential entrance, and then after leaving the second courtyard, we came to St. Vitas cathedral's western entrance.

Presidential Entry, Prague Castle St. Vitus, Prague Castle
St. Vitus, Prague Castle

Click here, or on the excerpt from DK Eyewitness guide to the left, to find out more about St. Vitus Cathedral.

(Some browsers shrink pictures to fit the screen; just point to the lower right corner of the image if this happens, then click on the arrows that pop up to zoom the picture to full size; do this also with the other brochures to follow that detail the clock tower, churches, etc.)

St. Vitus is the resting place of Good King Wenceslas; a church begun in 1344, but not finished until 1929.

St. Vitus, Prague Castle

Marta, inside St. Vitas.

Very much like Canterbury Cathedral, in that it is very long, and thinner than many other cathedrals, such as Notre Dame.

The tomb of Wenceslas is to the right.

St. Vitus, Prague Castle

 The south side of St. Vitus, with the Golden Portal highlighted at the lower right.

A close up of the Golden Portal detail work is below.

The Golden Portal was the King's door, since there is no longer a king in the Czech Republic, the door is not used at this time.

Close up of detail above the Kings Golden Door, St. Vitus, Prague Castle

 A close up of the Golden Portal detail.

Directly across from the door was a portico, where the President makes many speeches.

Prague Castle overlays,  near the moat

To the north of St. Vitas are the Moats.

As we walked across the moat bridge, fog set in.

The pictures to the left overlay to actually show how St. Vitas towers above the castle proper, and really looms high above the moat area.

(Better pictures, taken on a clearer day, below)

Once we boarded the bus, we drove past the Summer residence of old, Belvedere.

Charles Bridge, near tour boat ramp on the Little Quarter side of Prague

We crossed the Vltava into Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, and passed the New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), and the old Cemetery. We headed back down to the only Canal in Prague, near the Charles Bridge (Karluv Most).

The Charles Bridge was started by Charles the IV, Holy Roman Emperor, about 1357. Until 1741, it was the only bridge over the Vltava, but is now only for pedestrian use. Statues and plaques line the bridge, which has gate towers at both the Little Quarter and Old Town ends.

Tour boat ramp on the Little Quarter side of Prague

We then boarded our tour boat, where we got drinks (tea, cappuccino, hot chocolate) and cookies.

As the sun set we headed north then east; we passed by a monastery, Ostrov Štvanice island, the old Hospital, St. Agnes Convent, the Ministry of Industry, and several botels... boat hotels.

Those are pretty sizable boats moored on the river, and operate as hotels.

One of the views from the Tour Boat, Prague The Ministry of Industry and Trade at night, as viewed from the tour boat.
Night view of Tyn Church, Staré Mesto Old Town

After the boat tour, we again boarded the bus which took us to Staré Mesto, the Old Town.

Again the Staroménské square comes alive at night, especially near Kinský Palace, Tyn Church (Týnský Chrám), and the Christmas tree.

We wandered the Christmas market again, heard music from the live stage as well as the organ and choir from Tyn.

We then made our way to the Clock Tower. We could see flashes from the top, so we knew it was still open...

Night view of Clock Tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

... so up the internal ramp we went, to the top ourselves.

Inside the tower was a very unusual wire mesh that held the glass elevator, running up the shaft in the middle of the ramps that followed the walls.

Prague's Old Town Clock Tower elevator

View from top of Clock tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague


The tower had a walkway outside, and we made our way around, looking at Old Town below us.

View from the top of the clock tower.

That's the narrow Melantrichova Passage to Václavské námestí by the lights.

View from top of Clock tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

View from the top of the clock tower.

That's the Christmas Market, and Kinský Palace.

View from top of Clock tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

View from the top of the clock tower.

That's Tyn Church (Týnský Chrám), and the tip of Christmas tree.

Door to chambers in Clock Tower, View from top of Clock tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague As mentioned earlier, the Clock Tower also used to be city hall. At left is one of the beautiful doors to chambers.
Brochure on Clock Tower, View from top of Clock tower, Staré Mesto Old Town, Prague

Click here, or on the brochure at left to learn more about the Clock Tower of Old Town.

(Recall again, some browsers shrink pictures to fit the screen; just point to the lower right corner of the image if this happens, then click on the arrows that pop up to zoom the picture to full size; do this also with the other brochures to follow that detail the castle and churches, etc.)

Ru Yi chinese restaurant, off Wenceslas Square, Prague

It was getting late, so we walked back to Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square), looking for dinner.

17:30, we settle on the chinese restaurant spotted yesterday, near the Astoria Pizzeria, Ru Yi.
We had Fried Rice, Three flavor soup, and Kung Pao Chicken, total was ck432 (about $21.50)

18:30, we window shop Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square) for about an hour, waiting for the doors to open at the All Color Theatre, midway between Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square) and Staroménské, Old Town Square.

(Tickets came with the Prague card.)

Brochure for Faust, presented at All Colors Theatre, Prague

20:00, the show begins at the All Color Theatre: Faust, done in Black Light.

Black light is the use of black costumes to hide black clad puppeteers, so only the fluorescent puppets, and characters down front in the white light can be seen.

It was the oddest, semi-comical telling of Faust ever. Some of the effects were okay, some were great, but would you believe there are probably 10 more Black Light theatres in Prague?

I'm glad we got the tickets with the Prague Card, I'd hate to pay the gate price for something like this, but I actually kind of enjoyed it!

One of the many Casinos in Prague

21:00, we walk back to the hotel, past the casinos that are now the only places open.

We got to the hotel, and had some cookies saved from breakfast at the hotel. Not too hot, so we decided to buy cookies for the remainder of the trip.

However, Gracie would carry some of the breakfast cookie bars, and give them to beggers who looked hungry.

Prague Metro Station

Dec. 28, Thursday
08:15, Once again, the standard Breakfast with again a pretty good spread of cheese, ham, juice, breads, yogurt, and cereal.

9:00, time to start using the metro passes, so down into the Red Line Metro, Red LineIP Pavlova metro station, stamp our passes to ride to the Metro, Red/Green Line Museum station (where the red and green line cross), to change to the Metro, Green Line Staroménské train, to get very near the Vltava river, just west of Old Town.

(We never did ride the Yellow Line...)

Prague Metro Station

The station maps were great, once you were close enough to read them. A box indicated which station you were at, and to get to stations to the left of your station of the map, you went to the train to your left.

To get to trains on the right part of the map, you got on the train to your right.

In other cities, metros require you to scan or show your pass every time you ride; here, once validated, you just keep it with you during its valid period, so there are fewer bottlenecks at stations.

Rudolfinum, Prague

We walked toward the bridge, Mánesuv Most, by the Rudolfinum. Though we had seen the building from a bus, we got a better look at the statue of Dvorak in front.

There are drawbacks to Winter travel... the fountains are always shut down, and any gardens are barren, but this does let the focus stay on the history, and architecture. Further south, the National Theatre has a huge, modern wing... but I prefer the grand old buildings. I didn't even take a picture of that.

Craig and Susann on the Vtalva, near Mánesuv Most, Prague

Craig and Susann, on the Vltava, with Prague castle behind us.

Many places we visit it seems to be historic site, then travel past the mundane until the next jewel appears... but in Rome and Prague both, the entire cities are solid jewels, at least in the city center.

Beautiful historic buildings and photo opportunities everywhere. We took almost 300 pictures here, and I was constantly referring to my guide books to find out what 'that' building was.

Prague Castle from Mánesuv Most,

Mánesuv Most; we decided to cross the river here, so we could cross back toward Old Town on the Charles Bridge. That way, we wouldn't be retracing steps.

Prague Castle is so large, I'm not sure if I ever got all of it in any one picture. Here, you can just make out the western boundary of the castle right next to the lamp pole, and the Golden Lane area runs down below the castle tower, as you scan to the right. Of course, the Castle has constantly been rebuild over the millennia, making it more palace than castle.

'Little Venice' near Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge)

The canal near the Charles Bridge, with a water mill.

Marta had called this Prague's Little Venice, and had also shown us the high water marks on some buildings from several floods of the Vltava.

To get an idea of how high the water had risen, the discolored paint and brass markers on some of the buildings would have put that water mill a few meters below the flood crest.


Craig at Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge), Little Quarter side, Prague

Crossing from the Little Quarter, going to Old Town on Karluv Most (Charles Bridge).

Note the famous baroque green domes of St. Nicholas rising behind the gate towers.

Every few feet were monuments and statues, though many of the statues are duplicates... the originals now housed in the National Museum, to protect them from the elements.

No car traffic here, though the bridge was designed to handle four carriages abreast.

Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge), Little Quarter side, Prague The Little Quarter gate towers, St Nicholas between the towers, and St. Vitus above the rest of Prague Castle, to the right.
Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge), St. John Nepomucene, Prague The St. John Nepomucene statue and plaques, rubbed by Diane for good luck.
Organ Grinder, Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge), Prague An organ grinder; I gave Diane some change to reward him for his music.
Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge), Staré Mesto (Old Town) side, Prague The Old Town side, with St. Francis church on the left. It would be easy to confuse which side you are on, being that there is a church at either end with a green dome, but the Old Town Side only had one gate tower.
Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge), Staré Mesto (Old Town) side, looking back to Prague castle Looking back over the 1500 foot bridge, toward the Castle. Again, I couldn't get all of the castle framed... the tower on the right does not mark the end of the castle.
past St. Francis, the Klementinum in Old Town (Staré Mesto ) Prague

Finally, we cross from Little Quarter (Malá Strana) to Old Town (Staré Mesto), passing St. Francis, and the Klementinum, the huge old Jesuit College.

Instead of walking back to the metro station, we decided to just head Staroménské, the Old Town Square on foot.

On the way we passed the Museum of Torture (not open, so I didn't have to fight Gracie on that one, she really wanted to see it for some reason), and the Clam-Gallsuv Palace, another frequent host to concerts.

Our Lady of Tyn (Týnský Chrám) near Kinský Palace, Staré Mesto square, Pague

Back in Staré Mesto, we circled Our Lady of Tyn (Týnský Chrám) near Kinský Palace, trying to find the entrance. We finally found the entrance of the church required you to go through an arcade beside an art gallery.

We couldn't take pictures inside, but the girls bought and lit some candles, purchased a rosary as a gift, and I got a postcard (below).

Post card of the interior of Our Lady of Tyn (Týnský Chrám),Staré Mesto square, Prague Postcard of the interior of Our Lady of Tyn Church (Týnský Chrám).
U Bodovce Týnská , behind  (Týnský Chrám),  Staré Mesto, Prague

10:30, behind Tyn (Týnský Chrám), we had seen
U Bodovce Týnská. Though we didn't want pizza, the menu said soup and such so we went in for Beef-potato-tomato soup and the girls had ‘toast’ sandwiches (ham and cheese toasty).

We were eating early, as our tour pickup at the hotel was at 12:30, and we would need time to get there and freshen up after lunch. But as usual, serendipity gave us a place full of character.

Interior of U Bodovce Týnská , behind  (Týnský Chrám),  Staré Mesto, Prague

The interior of U Bodovce Týnská, with lots of musical instruments all over the walls.

We then walked to Metro, Green LineMustek and rode to Metro, Red/Green Line Museum, and changed lines toward our
Metro, Red Line IP Pavlova station.

12:30, we were picked up and taken to the Bohemia Gray Line Tour site, and boarded the bus with Mikala.
13:10, Leave for Karlstejn; before we even got out of town, we had to stop for a group we started calling the ‘4 babies’

Postcard of Karlstejn

While Marta had held her arm up, and turned just the top of her hand to point out places of interest as we drove, I think Milaka just read notes.

14:10, we arrived at Karlstejn, but we have to wait a the base of the narrow leaf covered dirt path to the castle for ‘4 babies’, it seems one may have been sick, probably from the junk they ate on the bus.

Walk up 1 km, castle breaks into view: tall, and long, hugging the contours of the mountain top.

Poster of Karlstejn

After getting up the trail, we discover our 'four babies' delays have made us miss our scheduled guided tour. While we wait for the next tour, we wander the Courtyard welcome area (2), have some chocolate, and visit the 78 meter tall well tower (1) until finally the tour starts.

We viewed the knights hall (3), then see scale model, similar to image on the left.

Charles the IV used Karlstejn as his treasury, and though it was sieged twice, it never fell.

Much different from British castle design.

View approaching Karlstejn

We then moved into Royal Palace (4) and saw the audience room and the Charles bed chamber, secret door, and toilet.

The toilet is a wooden box hanging off the side of the castle, with a hole in the bench. There was also one for his guards.

The secret door connected the king's chamber to the queen's chamber on the next floor. The only person to use it, aside from the king, was a princess who was killed by the King's hunting dogs, who didn't like surprises.

Susann and Diane at Karlstejn

We could not actually go to the Central tower (5), where the chapel and its encrusted gold and stone walls were.

Due to deteriorating conditions, it is now held in a very strict micro-climate, is only open in the summer, and allows only 12 visitors per hour.

But they had set up part of the Palace area with a great model, and many displays. Copies of the walls, some of the paintings, copies of some items from the treasury, and even a model of the crown (the model was so accurate it cost $45,000).

Courtyard at Karlstejn

There was also a crocodile head sold to Charles as the head of the dragon that St. George was supposed to have slain. Some people's trash...

The buildings were fairly sparse, as a later Hapsburg king so liked the furnishing he moved them all to Austria a few hundred years ago, but the buildings were just fascinating.

While we saw some stone bridges that connected the buildings, were were told the originals were wood, so they could be set afire is the castle was attacked. 

View of castle from Karlstejn courtyard  View of the castle, from near the Well Tower, looking back toward the main entrance... the path to the town that we used would be at the lower left hand area.
Well tower of Karlstejn

The 78 meter high Well tower.

Inside was old clock works, and we could look down to the water many hundreds of feet below.

Craig at Karlstejn

 Craig at Karlstejn.

The central tower is to the left, the Royal Palace behind the clock tower; our tour began at a gate just out of the shot, to the right. (See below).

Tour entrance to Karlstejn

 Looking up toward the castle from the tour starting entrance at Karlstejn.

Even if invaders breeched the walls, and managed to get through the gate, it would have been all up hill, or up narrow stairs.

Clock tower at Karlstejn To the left of the tour entrance, the gate that separates the welcome area from the outer bailey, and the walk-way to the path down the mountain.
Family portrait at Karlstejn The Collins family portrait, at Karlstejn's Welcome area.
Brochure of Pod Drací Skálou , Karlstejn

After finishing the castle tour, we walked back down the path to Pod Drací Skálou, a restaurant and inn, for hot chocolate. THere were two waiters who must not have been able to see us sitting there, they passed us for 30 or fourty minutes before we finally got their attention to take our order. Mikala was sitting at a table with some male tourists, and they finished their meal before we were finished.

Oh well.

Oh, and since we were so delayed, we didn't even head out to the bus until just before 17:00... the time our concert in Prague was starting.

But we did get a nice treat as we headed out...

Snow outside of Pod Drací Skálou , Karlstejn

Head to bus: it is snowing

Head slowly back down the snowy icy mountains to Prague

Snow at Národní 17:50
Dropped off at Národní Gray Lines, we decide to pass the metro station, and head to Václavské námestí, a few blocks away.
Diane in snow at Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square) Diane at the Václavské námestí Christmas Market, in the snow.
Libations at Astoria  Pizzeria

We check several possible places to eat, and finally decided to go with a known quantity, and so we walked to Pizzeria Astoria.

Sinch the Czech Republic is famous for its beer (Pevo), and it's consumption, beer is cheaper that water. So, I did have to at least try one Pevo, while the girls had cappuccino and Fanta. Yep, Gelato again for dessert. ck 486.

19:00 We walked to one of many Bankrot branches, sort of like a Dollar store. Gracie goes crazy, and spend ck190 on things like a Barlie (not Barbie) puzzle.

Snow at IP Pavlova

20:00 Metro, Green LineMustek to Metro, Red/Green Line Museum to Metro, Red Line IP Pavlova.

Remember I mentioned that you don't stamp or slide a valid pass? How do they make sure they aren't being cheated? Well, we were pulled over by Metro cop, who checked our passes.

Huge fine if you don't have one, or if it hasn't been activated with a time stamp.

Still snowing as we exit the station.

Cookies and bed soon followed.

Prague Tram and Bus Map

Dec. 29, Friday

Diane and Susann get satellite TV working, and we watch BBC World. This is the first we hear about President Ford's death, and impending Saddam Hussein hanging.

8:30, We have our Standard Breakfast, again with a pretty good mix of cheese, ham, juice, breads, yoghurt, and cereal all the way around.

Time to explore, so made sure the bus and metro map at left was handy, and off we went.

Tram at IP Pavlova Na,., Prague

9:15 Walk to Tram 22/23IP Pavlova Tram 22/23 Stop, just around the corner from the hotel, and just down the street from the Metro entrance.

For our purposes, 22 and 23 both went where we wanted, and we didn't have to wait long for one of them to show up.

Not as fast as the metro, but far more scenic!

Gracie on funicular railroad at Petrín Hill , Prague

We ride to the first stop across the Vtalva, and then walked past Victims of Communism memorial statues.

The statues look incomplete, to imply how much communism took from the people.

We could see the tracks to the top of the hill, but it took us a moment or two to locate Újezd, the station to ride the funicular railroad up Petrín Hill (318m).

Looking up funicular railroad at Petrín Hill , Prague

The track was about a 45° angle, so the cars were stepped like stairs.

Looking up the track, at the train coming down the hill, as we go up.

Two trains are used to counter weight each other. It is a single track until the middle, where the split so the trains can pass each other.

There is a restaurant just above half way, but we stayed on, to the top.

Hungar wall, Petrín Park, Prague

At the top, we walked through the Hunger Wall, then around to Petrín Tower.

The Hunger wall is 6 meters high, and was build by, of course, Charles IV. It is called the Hunger wall because of a famine at the time. Working on the wall meant you got to eat, so if you were hungry, you went to the wall and were paid in food.

This is also the site of an exhibition in the 1890s, so there was a hall of mirrors, and an observatory at the top, as well.

Petrín Park, Prague On our way to Tower, we passed some great architectural items.
Observation Tower, Petrín Hill , Prague

Petrín Tower, modeled after the Eiffel tower that opened 10 years before.

It was 299 steps to the platform at 60 m.

Long walk up, but great views of the city were the reward.

Plaque on Observation Tower, Petrín Hill , Prague Plaque on Petrín Tower.
St. Lawrence Church and the Observatory, from Observation Tower, Petrín Hill , Prague

View of the top of Petrín Hill from the Tower.

Note the church, lower left, which was built into the wall, and the dome of the observatory, center.

A huge soccer stadium was just to the right, as were so empty looking, soviet era apartments.

Kaluv Most (Charles Bridge), from Observatory,  Petrín  Tower, Prague View of the Vltava and Charles bridge, from Petrín Tower
Prague Castle, from Observation Tower, Petrín Park, Prague View of Prague Castle and the castle quarter, from Petrín Tower
Susann and Diane on funicular railroad at Petrín Hill , Prague Susann and Diane in the funicular railway car.
View down the Gracie on funicular railroad at Petrín Hill , Prague

The operator area of the funicular railway car, looking down.

From here, we walked, then sprinted, to catch the next Tram 22/23Tram 22/23, where we had gotten off earlier.

We rode north toward St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše).

After getting off the tram, we could see the dome rising, so we circled to find the entrance.

St Nicholas of the Little Quarter Square (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Just before entering the church of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), I took this shot of St. Vitus rising above a monument in the square.
Post cards of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Period post cards showing the area around St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše) built between 1703-1761
St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague

Click here or on the excerpt detailing St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), a high baroque masterpiece.

(Some browsers shrink pictures to fit the screen; just point to the lower right corner of the image if this happens, then click on the arrows that pop up to zoom the picture to full size; do this also with the other brochures to follow that detail other churches, etc.)

Brochure on St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague

Click here or on the brochure to the left, to learn more about St. Nicholas Church.

(Some browsers shrink pictures to fit the screen; just point to the lower right corner of the image if this happens, then click on the arrows that pop up to zoom the picture to full size; do this also with the other brochures to follow detail the other churches, etc.)

Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Views of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)

Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Views of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)
Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Combination of pictures to try and capture a better view of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)
Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Views of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)
Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Views of the ceiling of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)
Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague Art was displayed in the upper galleries of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)
Organ, Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague The organ of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)
Interior of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague

From the entrance, beneath the organ, looking twoard the alter of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše)

Below are pictures taken back by the tram stop.

St Nicholas of the Little Quarter  Square (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague St Nicholas of the Little Quarter  Square (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague
Caffeteria, St Nicholas of the Little Quarter  Square (Sv. Mikuláše), Prague

The Square of St Nicholas of the Little Quarter (Sv. Mikuláše) had a little place to eat called Caffeteria; we had Hot chocolate and toast or sandwiches...ham, cheese.

We should have looked a little harder. Boring food, and the highest price we paid for a meal... ck 610.

Plus, we were crammed around a table the size of a stool :)

Diane on Tram 23, passing the Belvedere, Prague Castle

Ride Tram 22/23Tram 22/23 passing the summer home of Queen Ann, now just called the Belvedere. Not open to the public, but very neat to see.

This is at the east end of the Royal Gardens.

We would have gotten off here, had the gardens been in flower, but again one of the few drawbacks to winter travel is we don't get to see many gardens. Instead, we ride back to where we had left off Wednesday.

St. Vitus, Prague Castle

We get off at the Prague Castle Moat Entrance stop, and get some better pictures of St. Vitus and the castle than were possible in the fog.

The very deep moat area below is now drained, and park land.

Craig in front of St. Vitus, Prague Castle Craig across the moat from St. Vitus, near the Royal Horse and Stable area.
Brochure of Prague Castle

An Aerial view of the Castle.

Click here or to the left for a larger version of the castle brochure.

(Some browsers shrink pictures to fit the screen; just point to the lower right corner of the image if this happens, then click on the arrows that pop up to zoom the picture to full size; do this also with the other brochures to follow that detail other churches, etc.)

St. Vitus, Prague Castle Closer view of some of building detail work of St. Vitus
St. George's Convent and Basilica, Prague Castle St. George's Convent and Basilica, to the east of St. Vitus. The Royal palace is to the right, the Golden Lane further down.
Dalibor Tower, Prague Castle At the end of castle near the East entrance, we could see Dalibor Tower...
Belvedere, Prague Castle ... and Belvedere across the Royal garden.
The flying buttress of St. Vitus, Prague Castle

Walking back, the rear view of St. Vitus, with the flying buttresses very evident. Very Notre Dame like.

About 925 Prince Vaclav I founded a Romanesque rotunda at the current site of St. Vitus, parts of which are still visible in the cellars. Starting in 1060 it was converted into a triple-naved basilica with two steeples. In 1344 Charles IV began the construction of what is now visible, the 124 meters (400 ft) long Gothic cathedral, finally completed in 1929.

Panorama of Petrín  Hill and the Charles Bridge  (Kaluv Most ) 15:00
Back across the moat bride, and boardTram 22/23Tram 22/23 to Malostranská. Rather than hop a metro to cross, we just walked across the Vltava at Nanesuv most, with Petrin hill and the Charles bridge to our right.
Plaque on New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), Josefov, Prague

After crossing Nanesuv most, we walk to Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, the home of the New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga)... built in the 1200s.

The is the Synagogue of the real Rabbi Löw from the 1500s, who created the Golem, or clay figure that supposedly came to life.

New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), Josefov, Prague The exterior of the New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), a very central part of the city.
Plaque on New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), Josefov, Prague

Click here, or on the DK Eyewitness excerpt to the right to read more about the New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga)

(Some browsers shrink pictures to fit the screen; just point to the lower right corner of the image if this happens, then click on the arrows that pop up to zoom the picture to full size; do this also with the other brochures to follow that detail other churches, etc.)

A No-Waco truck, near Plaque on New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), Josefov, Prague

Okay, this just cracked us up. Living near Waco, we saw this delivery truck.

The door actually blocks part of the name, which is even funnier: NoWaco.

They are a seafood distributer that sold off their production and distribution activities in the Czech Republic.

Near Plaque on New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), Josefov, Prague Even the newer buildings across the street (again, newer is a relative term here, have beautiful jewish themes.
The Cemetary, near Plaque on New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), Josefov, Prague The red roofed Klausen Synagogue, by the Jewish Cemetery.
High Synagogue and Jewish Town Hall, Josefov, Prague The Jewish Town Hall (right), and the High Synagogue, both built in 1570, are just to the right of the New Old Synagogue (Staronová Synogoga), whose roof is visible at the left edge of the picture.
Directions, Cemetary, Josefov, Prague A sign above the market, with the Jewish Cemetary behind.
Klausen Synogogue, Josefov, Prague One of my favortie buildings, Klausen Synagogue, built in 1694.
St. Agnes Convent

Gracie had wanted to see the St. Anges Convent, built in 1234. This is next to the oldest hospital in Prague, a few block north and east of Josefov, right on the Vltava river.

Founded by Agnes, the sister of Wenceslas, the convent was abolished in 1782, and sat rotting until it was restored in the 20th century to become a part of the National Gallery.

Unlike her brother, Agnes was not canonized until recently, 1989.

Sign, Museum of Communism,  near Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square)

We had one more site on our list of sites to hit, so we walked to Metro, Green Line Staroménské station and rode one stop to Metro, Green Line Mustek.

Or course there are 10 exits for Mustek, and instead of emerging from the station close to our target, we had to wander from the middle of Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square) back past the Christmas market, trying to find the Museum of Communism.

But, using a map, I got us close, and the kids finally found a sign.

It was hard to find because it shares a building with a casino.

This was a very moving experience.

Brochure, Museum of Communism,  near Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square)

There were displays of schools, factories, and interrogation rooms. The story of Soviet moles that took over the Czech Republic in the late 40s.

The story of the huge statue of Stalin built at the cost of perhaps 40,000 houses, while people starved, only to have the next soviet leader condemn Stalin... the statue was then blown up, leaving just the base at Letenské Sady (shown a few row below.

The slogan of the museum of Communism:
Dream, reality, nightmare.

Other side of brochure, Museum of Communism,  near Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square)

There were also movies of the 'communist leaders with a kinder face of the late 60s being hauled off to Moscow, and the Tanks rolling into Prague in 1968, and the 20 year struggle that followed until Havel lead the Velvet Revolution... so called because of the lack of violence in the transistion back to a democratic republic in 1989.

Click here or here, or on the brochures to the left, for larger versions. Again, you may have to point to the lower right of the image that opens, and click the arrows that appear to zoom to full size.

Clock Tower, Mustek , Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square)

This is the site at the far end of Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square), opposite of the National Museum. The street, Na Prikopé, had more modern buildings but I thought they tied the new and old together well.

The Bohemia Gray Line Tour busses departed about 3 blocks to the left, and the Museum of Communism was a block to the right.

We decided to see if we could find something to eat and worked our way down Wenceslas Square to see if anything looked interesting.

McDonald's, IP Pavlova Nam. Prague

So, now back down by the Metro, Red/Green Line Museum, we though we might ride to Metro, Red Line IP Pavlova, and see if there was anything there. We had heard of Bohemia Bagels, but the one at this end of town was a kiosk, not a restaurant, so we continued to wander. Finally, we gave in to the tire calls of the kids, and resorted to, I hate to say it, McDonald’s. Set us back ck363, or $18 for what would have been $10 in the US. Another example of a weak dollar.

PS, Ketchup would have cost us ck5, each.
19:30 Need to get the taste out, so
Metro, Red Line IP Pavlova Metro, Red/Green Line Museum station, where there was an Albert supermaket, to get cookies. Back to the hotel for snack and bed time.

Letenské Sady(old Stalin statue site), Prague
Letenské Sady, site of the old enormous Stalin statue, which was blown up just a few years after it was complete, and Stalin's reputation was soured. Now the base is all that remains, and a minamalist work called the Metronome sits on the site.)

Dec. 30, Saturday
8:30, The Standard Breakfast, unchanging. However the weekend breakfast attendant has the radio on loud, playing US country musis songs done in Czech. Quite interesting.
9:15 Time to finish shopping for gifts, so Metro, Red Line IP Pavlova to Metro, Red/Green Line Museum to Metro, Green Line Mustek. Shop all the markets we had been to earlier, Staroménské Christmas market, Havelská Market, and the shops and Christmas market of Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square). Drop about ck 934.
11:00, After all the walking, we have no desire to hunt for lunch, so, taking the budget into account (now down to ck1400, not counting the ck600 for the transfer to the airport. Cheapest local place, our favorite, pizza at Astoria... ck 352.
11:40, Metro, Red/Green Line Museum to Metro, Red Line IP Pavlova and hotel to freshen up.
12:40, Picked up for tour, joined by guide Alison

Kostnice Ossuary, near Kutna Hora

13:00 drive through the city again with Alison at times lapsing into Italian commentary, then head out into the country; I was worried as it was really foggy, but it did clear after our 45 minute ride to the Kostnice Ossuary, outside Kutna Horá.

(Alison spoke very good English, and was very knowledgable and enthusiastic, prefacing many statement with "I MUST tell you...")

We were told that everything in the Ossuary was made of human bone, and that if we wished to take pictures, we would need to buy a license. We thought, ho hum, we'll see a spoon made of bone, and just walked in.

Within 10 seconds, I rushed back to purchased a license after my first real glimpse of the layout

Bone decorations in Kostnice Ossuary, near Kutna Hora

Kutna Horá had a terrible time with water bourne Black Plague, and even the huge cemetary was not up to the task.

The monks, feeling human remains were not as important as the human soul, therefore got creative, decorating and cleaning up the overflow of human remains.

Everything you see are human bones, not paintings.

Bone decorations in Kostnice Ossuary, near Kutna Hora A statement on the body and mortality at Kutna Horá; everything you see are real, human bones.
Bone decorations in Kostnice Ossuary, near Kutna Hora Continuing the statement on the body and mortality at Kutna Horá; everything you see are real, human bones.
Bone decorations in Kostnice Ossuary, near Kutna Hora Continuing the statement on the body and mortality at Kutna Horá; everything you see are real, human bones.
Bone decorations in Kostnice Ossuary, near Kutna Hora

Continuing the statement on the body and mortality at Kutna Horá; everything you see are real, human bones.

At each of the four corners, they opted for quantity, instead of quality...

After we walked out, we bought some local chocolate, to put the world back into perspective.

Postcard map of Kutna Hora

A postcard map of Kutna Horá, the Silver Mining town that made Czech kings so powerful.

Alison said the small town grew to the size of London, but about 80% of that population were miners, and about 20% were prostitutes.

To the left is the massive Church of St. Babara, the patron saint of miners. To the right of that, the cream and red structure, is the old Jesuit college, empty for 600 years, running next to the All Saints bridge. To the right, with the green roof, is the old church, St. James. To its right, the Italian Court.

Postcard of St. Barbara, Kutna Hora

Post cards of Kutna Horá, and the Church of St. Barbara.

You see a picture in the lower right of a miner, dressed in white for visiblity. They word black aprons to slide down the deepest mines in the world at the time, then slide them around to kneel on as they worked.

Postcard of interior of St. Barbara, Kutna Hora

The church of St. Barbara has wonderful paintings, coats of arms on the cielings, and a statue of a miner in his gear. Massive; three naves. It would have been 5 haves, if the silver hadn't run out.

This is why the town is now a UNESCO site, it has changed so little since the silver ran out in the 1600 and 1700s.

No pictures allowed, so I had to get a few postcards, shown at left.

Begun in 1380 by the same architect that began St. Vitus in Prague, the main presbytry was done around 1499.


St. Barbara, Kutna Hora An exterior shot of the Church of St. Barbara, in Kutna Horá.
St. Barbara, Kutna Hora An exterior shot of the Church of St. Barbara, in Kutna Horá.
Jesuit College and All St. Bridge, leading from St. Barbara, Kutna Hora

We had to get to the Italian court before it closed, so we toured the church for about 20 minutes, then walked past the Jesuit college on All Saints bridge to St. James.

They are starting to refurbish the college, but after 600 years of dis-repair, it is slow going.

St. James, Kutna Hora A great view of St. James, in Kutna Horá.
Entrance to a silver mine, Kutna Hora

We strolled past this entrance to a silver mine. The tour used to go down about 500 feet, but too many guests felt a bit claustrophobic, and it is not part of the tour any more.


Window on Hrádek (Small Castle) Town Hall, Kutna Hora

Hrádek (Small Castle), the old Town Hall.

Once the mines started pulling up 5 or 6 tons of silver a year, around the mid 1200s, the kings of the Bohemia of course took interest. They came to town once a month to collect 90% of the silver mined, and needed a place to stay. So, the town hall was taken over for that purpose.

Plaque on Hrádek (Small Castle) Town Hall, Kutna Hora Plaques on Hrádek (Small Castle), the old Town Hall
Looking back at St. Barbara, Kutna Hora Looking back at the Church of St. Barbara, the three nave spires clearly rising up above Kutna Horá.
Italian Court, Kutna Hora

The Italian Court. This is where Flemish experts were brough in to set up mints for all of that silver.

Each little arch originally housed a one man mint, where they made Grochen coins, the most circulated currency until the Italian court started making the Tollar. Tollars found their way to the American colonies, and were called Dollars.

Italian Court, Kutna Hora


The entrance to the Italian Court.



Italian Court, Kutna Hora

Susann and Diane, Italian Court, Kutna Hora

Alison helped Terezza, who meekly showed us coins, kings, minting processes, and the mine codes.

We also went to the councilor’s chamber (Outside the door was a saying about leaving all human ideas outside, and only going in to discuss the law), and we also saw areas used by Wenceslas IV, his bedroom and chapel.

Wenceslas the IV was the son of Charles the IV, if you are trying to keep up, time wise.

The outer entrance to the Italian Court, left.

Alison in front of Plague Memorial, Kutna Hora A memorial to the Black Plague, in Kutna Horá.
Toward the oldest house in Kutna Hora As we strolled through Kutna Horá, we walked past oldest house there; Alison told us it was used as a library, and considering the residents during the heyday, miners and prostitues, she said that is why it is still standing and in such good shape today... implying it wasn't used much.
the oldest house in Kutna Hora A better view of the oldest building in Kutna Horá.

Below are statues outside the church of the Czech and Bohmeian patron saint, St Nicholas (Sv. Mikuláše)
St. Nicholas (Sv. Mikuláše), Kutna Hora St. Nicholas (Sv. Mikuláše), Kutna Hora
Well cap, Kutna Hora We ended our walk about Kutna Horá at a wonderful well cap. While no longer used, this well was the deepest in the city, and therefore the only one not contaminated by the plague.

16:45, Depart Kutna Horá, and Alison starts to tell us about the big New Year’s celebration being planned at Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square) in Prague, and how it should finally beat the rival celebration being planned in Old Town square (Staroménské).
Chinese restaurant off Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square), Prague

17:30, we drive up Vodickova to arrive right next to the center of Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square). On the way in, we saw several restaurants, and settled on Shend De Chinese. We all had fried rice and such, for ck435.

After dinner, we window shop, take pictures of places we had been earlier, and we work our way to the Mustek Albert supermarket, to buy snacks and breakfast, since we were leaving before the breakfast room opened.

ck176 for cookies, juice, and cressant eclairs.

Stage with dancing pirates, near Museum, Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square)

As we near the Museum, we see a huge stage that had been going up was finished, and they were practicing for a show that would be televised.

Gracie wanted to leave, until she heard the Pirates of Carribean theme, so we watched them practice a Pirate dance right below the stature of Václav (Wenceslas).

Stage with dancing pirates, near Museum, Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square)

More pictures of the New Years Eve show rehearsal at Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square).

18:30, we take our last stroll in Prague, down to the Metro, Red/Green Line Museum station, to ride to Metro, Red Line IP Pavlova, and back to the hotel for Cookies, and to Pack

747 diagram, flight from  Frankfurt to Chicago

The little red spots amid ship, on the right,
indicate where our seats were.

Though a Lufthansa flight, it was operate by United

Dec. 31, Sunday
6:45, After our ‘Albert’ breakfast, we ride elevator down in the dark with our bags, but our key’s didn’t open last door to the reception area… finally the counter man opened door… We checked out, and the Prague Transfers VW arrives about 6:55.

We load up VW van, and zoom in and out of the light predawn traffic, arriving at the airport about 7:20. We were dropped at Terminal 1, but of course the Lufthansa desks were like number 150-153, so we had to walk all the way across to the next terminal. Though we can’t get all our boarding passes, we do get to carry on all our bags; we breeze through security and buy snacks and souvenirs to exhaust our remaining coins (ck300 was all we had left, about $15... pretty good planning.

Just after 9:00 we board Airbus A320, and at 9:55 we are off to Frankfurt (uneventful one hour flight there). At about 11:00 we land at a real gate, but there construction has Security wanding everyone, and it is a pain getting our boarding passes at the SRO gate before boarding the 747 with the last group.

Pick up the Car near DFW

The 747 is so large, even the seats next to the windows are three across, so we sat 2 and 2 behind, with strangers in the window seats. We felt like we had a long flight, until we talked to our seat mate who started of in Nigeria, and was going to Charlotte after Chicago.

12:45 pm (European/5:45 am Central)
Off to O’Hare in 747. The offered four movies, again, on ceiling mounted TVs; we watched Talladega Nights, Neverwas, and Invincible.

2:45 pm Central
Early into O’Hare. Breeze customs in Terminal 5 but we all got searched in Terminal 1 Security.

We find our last flight has been delayed, so we have misc. Airport food while we wait. ($20.62)

5:35 pm Central, off to Dallas, about 45 minutes late.

7:45 pm, Arrive DFW, Terminal B. Called for pick up, and taken to a much emptier Air Park Express

Lots of Tickets from Trip

8:15pm, we get in the car, and found out one head light was out, but decided to head home anyway.

10:15 pm at home

11:00 pm, we celebrate New York's New Years with sparkling apple cider left by Clay and Dianne, then shortly turn in, after our 25 hour trip home.

A collection of ticket stubs from the trip, at left.

What a great trip! Even after calculating how much it all cost (below)

Totalling up the trip, without ck spent in Prague ck spent while in Prague