Prague Travel Blog

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"scumbags and superstars, tell me your name, i'll make a bet you're both the same" -- talking heads, lifetime piling up.

As I mentioned yesterday, I bought a walking tour of Prague on the bus, but after spending a good part of my evening the previous night listening to Stephen the live in history professor at the hostel have an arguement about the lack of pronunciation rules in english, I decded that I'd do a tour that he was holding instead.  Good choice.

Okay, this is where I go into a small tirade about tours, walking tours more specifically.  The walking tours that I have taken so far have been pretty good, don't get me wrong but the ones in Berlin definitely had some bad points, to the point, tour size. Now I know a tour guide has to eat just like every other human being on earth so in their mind more is better, but it's difficult to get any kind of rapport or anything of real significance when you're in a group of 40.  And this is May my friends, not July or August.  These tours must be absolutely crazy during those times of the years, when the places fill up with tourists from everywhere.  Keep that in mind.

Bill's travel tip of the day: some things are worth the price.  Stephen's tur was worth the pice.  Longer, more indepth and more intimate (we had less than 10).  Guess that really isn't a tip thogh, so Bill's tip is if you're going to be on a tour (or an itinerary bus) that sells acccess to local tours and such, more likely than not, you will be in a group of at least a bus load of your friends on that tour.  Keep that in mind as the tour group will be very large.  Look for quality and honestly, the bus has it's kick back for selling you the tour which means, that they're not always the best.  Were I to do berlin over again, I probably would have done a day long walking tour, which wasn't much more expensive than the 4 hour one that I did.

So Stephen's tour: 5+ hours, history and side entertainment, lunch and whatnot.  Picture this, an older (although not elderly) person with a bad leg, and incredible intellect and well, it was like getting a tour from one of the grumpy old men.  History with commentary, the random insult here and there to one of the participants (all in good fun though( a whole lot of invective towards the British stag party dudes, the gawking masses of tourists, lonely planet guides, the catholic church, easy jet, all subjects open and well, just crazy.  He was without a doubt the most entertaining fellow.  The man that dances upon that fine line between insanity and brilliance, liberally dancing upon it, jumping from one side to the next.

And we definitely went to places that no typical walking tour will take yu.  Wandering around the jewish old town, putting on our history glasses to imagine the 5 towns that were separated by walls, moats, the stratification of jewish society, the use of nazi propiganda, everything.  Everything from the operating sculputure of the two brittish guys pissing all over the czech republic (they really do not like the british stag party guys - oh so delightfully not PC), to his opinion of the john lennon wall (the wall was an outlet of czech students who wrote against the communist system and here yoko ono and a mexican art student put the portrait of someone who openly supported the communist philosophy).  The charles bridge, the wenseslas square (yes, i'm butchering the spelling, shaddup).  All kinds of interesting things, why the only bulletproof car in the city belongs to the US ambassador, to the reason why the most heavily guarded building in the city belongs to a radio station (radio free europe) and the dust up with the Bush administration that almost had him oh do diplomatically pull our embassy out of the country.  How the russians attacked the national museum instead of the parliment building when they invaded, to stories about the czech resistance during the second world war.  As an added bonus he pointed out a pick pocket crew whom we were able to see having just lifted a few wallets.  Anyway, can't recommend it enough, it was fascinating to get a tour from such a knowlegable curmudeon.

As per his suggestion, after eating some fantastically cheap and amazing italian food, I wandered into the city at night.  Starting aroudn 8ish, up to the castle .. and well, he was right, a good tour of that would have taken at least 4 hours.  First, it was very devoid of tourists at that hour, which was a good thing.  Meant that I could relax, since well, the last thing I want is to have anything off me lifted.  Beyond that, I got to see the amazing gothic cathedral with about 10-20 people.. which is about 1/1000th of the amount of people you'd normally see there even during this time of the year, during the day.  While some parts of Prague are dirty and industrial, it is definitely a safe walking city and the old town, which just sprawls and sprawls, well, it's almost indescribable.  It's easy to get lost and I sugget it wholeheartedly.  Open up your map only when you want to go home.  Wander into some dive and have a good czech beer.  Although make sure you do get a tram pass or two, cause a 500kc fine is pretty steep (I didn't get one, but Stephen was pretty adamant that you not take the metro without, cause they check it very often). 

Basically, prague is a jewel, an unexpected one if you're coming in or staying out in the newer parts of the city.  You really do get that feeling of.. "what the hell am I doing here" at first, but once you get down to the river and start walking toward the old city, you really start getting that feeling that you've made a horrible mistake.  You've only scheduled a few days and .. well, it'll not be enough.  The castle, the charles bridge, the buildings, it's like walking back in time, if say the past had a ton of tourist knick nack shops and subway.  But with your history glasses you can ignore these things, the gothic cathedral at night might be more impressive than in the day time, you can see some of the old town walls from the ramparts, .. just marvel over the fact that it is bigger than 9 football fields.  Then down throgh the town below to the charles bridge, which is so much nicer without the throngs of tourists and is probably the single most beautiful spot that I have set foot upon.  Past the statues to the real wishing point (unlike the one that the tourist guides take you to) where the local couples place their hand upon the mark (looks like a cross with an extra cross) and after they're married they toss a coin in the river so that their love will last as long as the coin is in the river.  Around, following the river, from the old city to the new city, which isn't all that new, all the while seeing the castle get smaller in the distance.  Back through the square, doubling back on yourself coming back to the hostel around 2 am.
berm6161 says:
Sabres won 3-2 against Carolina yesterday. Sounds like you are having a great time! Oh, by the way I think you have seen more churches in the last 2 weeks than you have in the last 2 years.(Ha, ha)
Posted on: May 21, 2006
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