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Perfectly Praha

Author: Barbara S.
Date of Trip: April 2009

Being budget minded, my husband and I drove the 3 1/2 hrs. from Roanoke, VA to Dulles Airport west of Wash. DC and parked in the airport’s economy lots on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 14th. Our flight to Prague on KL 652 left on time at 6:10 PM, and connected in Amsterdam with its air partner, Czech Airlines flight OK617 which got us to Prague (Praha) at 10:50 AM. I had read a lot about the taxi ripoffs in Prague, and so had arranged by email to have pick us up, and sure enough, he was right there waving a card with my name.

We had booked this trip as a flight/hotel package and had picked a hotel that was offering a sizable discount. Any concern we had was immediately dispelled when we arrived at The Palace Praha. Our room was ready for us when we arrived, was spacious, very quiet, excellent beds and linens including robes and a state-of the-art bathroom. We took a 2 hr. nap and headed towards old town square – about a 15 minute walk – through a thoroughly European City with winding streets, lots of trams, busses, and gorgeous buildings. The only Czech words that I was able to remember during the entire 1 week trip was “dobre den” (hello). It served very well since so many Czech residents spoke English and were genuinely surprised that I even knew that much.

We got back to the hotel about 6 PM, had our first Czech pilsner beer courtesy of the hotel, and took advantage of their 25% dinner discount at the hotel restaurant. The restaurant’s atmosphere was designed for tux and evening gown, but we received a warm welcome in our jeans and walking shoes, had our own private pianist and dined like nobility. Too sated to eat dessert, we returned to our room to find the beds turned down, new towels and amenities in the bathroom, classical music playing on the radio and a beautiful plate of 4 designer chocolates with a welcome card from the hotel manager. Both of us fell in love with this hotel.

The next morning we went to the hotel’s complimentary breakfast expecting to find the usual European granola, yogurt and bread. We were right, but in addition, they had incredible arrays of fruit, trays of cold meats and cheeses, eggs-to-order, potatoes, bacon, pancakes, crepes, juices, fresh vegetables like carrots, cabbage and beets as well as desserts. Yes, I said desserts. As in, “life is short – eat dessert first.” Each day we started with this repast, had some gelato midday from a street vendor, and finished the day with dinner.

We walked an average of 6 miles each day exploring Hradcany (Castle)Area, Josefov (Jewish) Quarter, Mala Strana (Lesser Town) Area, Stare Mesto (Old Town)Area, and Nove Mesto (New Town)Area. We saw Prague Castle, Strahov Monastery with its illuminated manuscripts, the Baroque Gardens of Vrtba Palace, John Lennon’s Peace Wall, Church of St. Nicholas, Tyn Church, the beautiful kampas (parks) of Prague, the Charles Bridge at sunset and the Jewish Quarter from which 110,000 residents were sent to extermination camps during World War II. We rode a funicular up Petrin Hill, hopped on the tram up to Prague Castle and took a train to Kutna Kora to see “bone chilling” Kostnice (the Bone Church) where everything in the interior is made up of bones from a nearby spot that had been used as a burial site for centuries. In the 19th Century a Czech woodcarver, Frantisek Rint, came up with this unique solution for using the bones. We followed the advise of traveler forums on restaurants and ate at traditional Czech pubs and a more modern restaurant called The Imperial. The food and atmosphere were great. At the traditional pubs you eat at big tables that are shared. One evening we dined with travelers from Australia and another with travelers from Spain. It’s very hard to have a bad time while drinking Czech beer. After our last dinner in Prague, we came back to our room to find another dish of scrumptious chocolates along with a thank you card from the hotel manager.

Our flight home was much easier than expected. The lovely KLM attendant moved my husband and I to a 3 seat middle row in the back of the plane. We each had an aisle seat with an empty seat in the middle. I watched 3 movies, had a lovely curry dinner with an ice cream cup for dessert, and arrived back at Dulles Airport at 3:30 PM on April 21st. Not bad for 2 retired senior citizens with tired feet. Barbara Smith 4/23/09

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