January 3rd, 2015 - Prague Czechoslovakia - Day 139

Today would be our only real tourist day in Prague.  Yesterday was a bit of a waste as we were all zombies and we would be flying out of Prague to Chamonix tomorrow morning, so we needed to make this day count.  We had a nice morning and then decided to head out for a walking tour of the city.  I had found an audio tour through Rick Steeves which I thought sounded good, so we all downloaded the tour and set out to learn a little more about the city.  

Czechs love there beer - this was from the Spa across from the hotel - hang in the hot tub and drink as much beer as you can - great idea!

The tour took us several hours, but it was great because we could move at our own pace and we could understand everything he was saying - as opposed to the guides in some other cities.  The tour was really informative and we all agreed it was a great way to see the city and learn some of the history.  

Astronomical Clock

The tour took us all through the New Town and the Old Town and ended at the Charles Bridge with a great view of the castle.  

Throngs of people packed the streets of Old Town

The castle at night

The castle at night

We ended the tour by making a wish to St. John of Nepomuk, who was thrown from the bridge for disobeying the king.  This was the shortest stop on the trip, but everyone enjoyed Prague and agreed it was worth the visit.  


January 2nd 2015 - Prague, Czechoslovakia - Day 138

Our first day in Prague was bleary eyed.  We had not slept well for two nights now (New Years Eve Party + Overnight Train) and we were all just tired and a bit crabby.  We arrived into the main Prague station at 6:30 AM and after getting some money headed out to catch a cab.  One small problem, we got to the cab station and there were none there and none in sight.  In fact it seemed completely deserted.  I am not sure we were thinking clearly, but we decided to start walking - even though we did not have any idea where we were going.  Life without a phone has been largely wonderful, but in times like these having a phone with an internet connection to jump on Google Maps for directions would have been wonderful.  However, we wandered for about 10 minutes until we found an open coffee shop with free wifi and went inside.  We ordered some really weak coffee and jumped online to see where we were.  The streets were still completely deserted, however we did notice the tram running by frequently.  We found the Sheraton and it looked like we could catch the tram for a stop and then walk the rest.  I went next store, bought us tickets and then we jumped on board, we were in the lobby about 20 minutes later feeling like veteran travelers, but still tired and crabby.

The experience at the Prague Sheraton could not have been more different from the Krakow Sheraton.  The person checking me in was not helpful and did not seem to know much about the hotel she was checking me into.  Our rooms were not adjoining as requested.  We could not get breakfast, the rooms would not be available until 4:00 in the afternoon etc, etc.  I was not in the mood so I asked for the manager - she was not there and would not be for another hour.  So we waited and once the manager was in she fixed everything.  We would indeed have adjoining rooms and they would be ready at 12....nice.

So we had some breakfast and went out for a walk, but of course it was raining.  We grabbed some umbrellas from the hotel and headed out anyway.  Prague is a wonderful city and great for walking.  We wandered around and grabbed our first Trdelnik - this wonderful, hot rolled pastry covered in cinnamon and almond slivers -I could eat like 1000 of these, and the way they cook them is so cool too, over hot coals with a chain driven roller.

We made it back to the hotel just before noon and our rooms were ready.  We hustled up there and jumped right into bed for a nap.

When we woke up we decided on an easy dinner and Stacie suggested Thai food.  We all agreed that Asian sounded good and she found a place about 10 minutes walk from the hotel.  The food was fantastic and a nice break from the Western food we have been eating for months.  The last Asian food we had was Indian in Burford almost three months prior.  It was a nice way to end a very long couple of days.

January 1st 2015 - Travel from Krakow to Prague - Day 137

The New Years Eve party at the Sheraton continued late in to the morning and it was really hard to sleep with the band cranking right outside our door.  As a result we slept late and got a very slow start on the day.  We knew this would be a long day, not only because of the lack of sleep, but because we were taking an overnight train from Krakow to Prague and it did not leave until 10:00 that night.  We had arranged for a late checkout at 4:00, but would need to kill 6 hours on New Years day, which apparently the Polish take very seriously because EVERYTHING was closed.  

We got a nice workout in and attacked the free breakfast again before heading back to the room to study and try to get some more rest.  

At 4:00 we checked out and gave the bellman our bags.  Fortunately we were able to hang out in the club lounge for as long as we wanted so we settled in there for the wait.  

At about 9:00 we headed to the train station and got ready for the overnight.  We booked this specifically so the kids could have the experience of traveling by overnight train.  I had done this so much when traveling around Europe as a 22 year old and loved it.  However, train travel in Europe has become more expensive and less convenient as compared to the inexpensive flights that are generally available, so we have not really had the opportunity or need to do it much on this trip.  I had done a little research back in Burford on what type of car to book for us, but forgot to refresh my memory before heading to the train station a few days before our departure.  While I did make sure we had a private compartment, I booked a couchette rather than a sleeper car and knew it when I saw the car.  

Tight quarters

Tight quarters

We still had "beds" with clean sheets, pillows and blankets, but the "bed" was just a really hard seat turned sideways.  In a sleeper car you get a real mattress and there are only 2 beds per car, here we had 6 "beds".  The kids were psyched and climbed straight up to the top bunk.  Stacie and I were not so psyched as we pictured 8 hours of sleeping on a rock hard bench.  None the less we made our beds and tried to get as much sleep as possible.  It was not the quite experience I was hoping for and my back is still letting me know about my mistake, but at least the kids had fun.  

p.s. Thanks to Peter we actually have pictures, I was too busy kicking myself for messing up the booking to worry about the photos.  

Having fun on the top bunk

Having fun on the top bunk