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Prague, Day 1

September 7th, 2017 · No Comments · France, Prague, tourism, Travel

Not much time today in the Czech capital, given that we flew out of the south of France in mid-afternoon, changed planes in Paris and landed in Prague at about 8:30.

(Where the airport is perhaps best known for being named after a poet, Vaclav Havel, who was president of the Czech Republic after the downfall of the Soviet empire.)

By the time we picked up a bag and got a cab ride into the heart of the city (and on into an eastern suburb) it was after 9 p.m.

Just in time to find out another interesting bit of information about the historic Czech capital.

Prague is a “late” city.

The fortysomething gentleman who set us up in an apartment, looked up at a clock saw “9:15” and said: “You’ve got plenty of time to go out.”

Which is a statement that would never be uttered in the south of France at that time of night. Nor, for that matter, in most of Paris, which is locked up tight by 9. A few prominent places are still jumping, many of them on the Champs, but in general nobody in France expects their local bistro to seat people at 9, when most of their countrymen are snug in their homes and  preparing for bed.

Who knew?

I am old enough to remember when the former Czechoslovakia (now divided into two countries) was part of the Warsaw Pact, the eastern European collection of Soviet satellites who waged the Cold War with the West. Thus, it seemed a little surprising to pick up luggage and walk straight out of the airport without some sort of evil-eyed border guard giving us a close look.

A couple of notes about traveling from our regional “big” town, Montpellier, to Prague.

You can’t get here from there. Not by a direct flight. Not even by a flight heading in the general direction. Which surprises me in this “everyone belongs to the EU” era.

(The Czechs even have their own currency, still, the koruna.)

To get to Prague, we went from Montpellier to Paris, which is hardly any closer to the Czech Republic than is Montpellier, to catch a second flight, to Prague.

Even in 2017, Europe is channeled into two sorts of routes — 1) linking capitals, or 2) bringing northerners down to Mediterranean cities both large (Nice) and small-ish (Beziers, Alicante, etc.) and then back again.

(I suppose I was thinking of the U.S., where flights from here to a lot of “theres” are possible, even if it is a dinky plane. Europe is not yet that interconnected. Not nearly.)

As close to “Montpellier by air to Prague” as we could get was a flight from Marseilles to Budapest. The first is at least two hours from where we live, and traveling at the other end (Budapest to Prague) would take even longer.

Originally, we considered a train, but trains are falling to pieces (and out of fashion) in most of Europe, which continues to astonish me. The trains still running are surprisingly expensive. It would have cost something north of $300.

We could have done what a lot of people in Europe do, now, which is drive … but we would have needed a dependable (rental) car, and most of 20 hours behind the wheel, buying gas and, in particular, paying tolls. And finding places to park once we got to the city …

“Two flights” is easily the least expensive way to get, from those particular points A and B, and takes the least time. Disappointing.

So, a day lost to crammed planes and fidgety spells in airport terminals. We all know that drill.

We can vouch that Prague looks good in the dark, particularly when we looked up from a bridge across the Voltava River to see, all lit up, Hradcany hill, where the city’s most prominent castle and one of its most important churches are located.

Instead of going out on the town, we sat and listened to the apartment owner describe what can be seen and done in Prague, and how he would do it.

It was useful information, but it took an hour … and by 10:15 not even tourists (who don’t have to get up on a weekday morning) are stepping out. Unless they are significantly younger than this one.

We did get one important thing accomplished, for any visit to Prague, which is to drink some beer. The owner had placed two pint bottles of Pilsner Urquell, and he told us that Czechs drink more beer than anyone in the world. More than the Irish. More than the English. Even more than Australians. He clearly was proud of that.

So we popped off the cap and … “Na zdravi!” (cheers) … we had done something very Czech.

From here forward, we have plotted, with the aid of our host, a plan of movement for two days. Now we have to see if we can execute it.



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