March 11, 2007
I strike up a conversation with a woman who says she’s going "to country cottage" to go fishing. It’s an absolutely beautiful day and the scenery is really beautiful as it rolls by. Gradually we get out into the countryside and we can see these teeny-tiny cottages. Each look to be about 15 feet by 15 feet with a little plot of land and a garden. There are many riverside fishing spots along the train’s route as well. People are out and about, enjoying the first warmish Spring day of the year.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
My mother complains as we walk up, and up, and up the hill toward the castle giving me the adult version of “are we there yet?” It is a long way up, but really, not that steep. There are supposedly horse drawn carriages which will take people almost to the top (no cars allowed) but we don't see any the entire walk up. Later, we discover the pick up point is near the parking lot at the bottom of town. I think it's $6 per person.
As we walk up the hill we pass a man with full dark beard, dressed in medieval garb with a full sized owl on his arm. The owl sits there looking stoic and slightly sleepy, while the man stands, calling out "one euro, one euro!", waiting for people who would like to have their picture taken with the owl on their arm. There is a sign in three languages saying that the money raised here goes to support “handicapped owls”.
I look at the man and ask (referring to the owl), “Is he handicapped?”
He replies, “Yes, handicapped, one euro”, holding out the leather arm cover and the bird.
“No”, I say, “can he fly?”
“Fly, yes, one euro”.
Hmmm…how does that work? What we have here folks is a failure to communicate.
I decline the photo op, slightly irritated by the guy who is maybe just out for a buck (or euro), uncertain as to whether or not the bird is being exploited, and not wanting to contribute to it. Looking back on it, I slightly regret my decision, as I would have liked to be able to hold the owl up close.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
We finally reach the castle entrance and it opens onto a central courtyard. There is a ticket booth and the entrance fee is 220 kr per person, compulsory 1 hour tour of castle included in various languages. The next tour in English is in 25 minutes so we walk around the exterior of the castle and down to the well tower.
Once the tour starts, everyone must stay together and the guide opens doors to each room with a key, locking us in behind her as we go. No photos are allowed inside, yet there is a family (mom, dad, two teenage boys) who are surreptitiously taking photos when they think no one is looking. The woman is brazenly videotaping at one point, using the kids as lookouts. This is such a bad lesson for the kids, “the rules don’t apply to you, just don’t get caught”. My mother says to her, “no photos” and the woman just shrugs and keeps doing it anyway.
After the castle tour, we walk back down the hill. We have about an hour to kill before the train and I’m hungry. I make the mistake of ordering a doner kebab from an outdoor vendor and it’s so bad it’s barely edible. We end up in a restaurant right next to the big parking lot where the tour buses park. Lunch is surprisingly decent, but rushed- good goulash in bread bowl, fries, and an undressed Greek salad for 220 kr.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
The train ride back into Prague is uneventful. I look at my map and determine that if we get off the train at an earlier station and transfer to the Metro, we can walk past the famous Gehry “dancing” building. This is a good idea and a bad one. Good because my map reading was sound, bad because we had to get on the metro and did not have tickets nor change. Lots of walking around the station ensures that we miss the next metro and have to wait 15 min for another one. Then, once we get to the right station, we have a hard time figuring out which way to go. We don’t even realize we’re there until we’re right under the building. It’s smaller than I expect, but still charming and I’m glad we see it, if only quickly in passing, while trying to find a place open with a restroom at the same time (not easy on a Sunday).
We walk back through OTS one last time and decide the weather is so nice we’re going to spring for a glass of wine in one of the cafes. It’s 10 min to four in the afternoon and somehow, we manage to snag what is probably one of the best tables on the square for watching the clock do it’s thing on the hour. We’re right, front and center for the show, and it’s amusing to watch the crowd gather, oooh and ahhh for 1 min and then disperse just as fast.
Our last evening in Prague ends with dinner in the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, “The Gourmet Club”. This dinner is included in our package and is three courses with a bottle of domestic wine. When we arrive, we are the only guests in the restaurant. As we dine, only one other couple comes in. Consequently, we get fantastic, attentive service. There is a piano player playing on a grand piano the entire time we are there.
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