Travel diary

22 December
I ran into many fellow teachers in the Kuwait airport with me as I await the flight for Istanbul. Watched “Elysium” on the flight to Istanbul and enjoyed the sight of mountains and snow! Now debating whether or not to exchange some currency and have a beer while I’m waiting for my flight to Prague.

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Goodbye Kuwait

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This answers THAT question.

Parker should be headed toward Prague where his friend, Chris, will meet him and hang out with him until I arrive about 4 hours later. I think we’ll jump into activities tomorrow, after a bit of dinner and a sleep. Included in our hotel is a tour to 36 places in Prague. I’m not sure how comprehensive the tour will be, but it seems like it will be a good introduction at the very least. We will plan a couple of excursions out of the city as well. I suspect our time will fly by. I also anticipate that Parker will keep later hours than I with Chris, and he will see things I am apt to miss. Somehow clubbing with mom just doesn’t quite cut it.

23 December
We got up and went down for breakfast, which is excellent and included in the price here at the hotel. Then Chris arrived and we began walking around Prague. We were also looking for a place that I could exchange all the KWD I had brought with me. Sadly, no exchange place or bank would take the currency, so I’m stuck with charging at this point. Of course, not every place takes a credit card. I have this wad of cash from Kuwait that I will have to take back and redeposit.

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one of many Christmas trees and cathedrals

We saw lots of little street stalls that were selling fish. It turns out that carp is a traditional Czech meal for Christmas and Easter, so Chris’ mom, Hana is going to fix it for us tomorrow. After we bought the fish we headed to Hana’s apartment for tea.

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carp stand

We hung out there and chatted until dinnertime and went to a little place around the corner from Hana’s for dinner. She went home and Parker, Chris and I went back to the hotel. Chris and Parker then went to his apartment and on to clubbing.

24 December
Awoke early after a fairly fitful sleep. Parker was out all night with Chris. He finally came in at 10:30 am with a large gash in his eyebrow. He and the cobblestones had a disagreement about which direction to go, and with his hands in his pockets he fell without hands to brace his face. I tried to pull it together with a band aid after he had showered, but it looks kind of like it needs stitches to me. Anyway, he slept for a few hours after that and then we headed for Hana’s house for the traditional Christmas Eve meal. We have been trying to arrange a tour that is included with our hotel price, but it has not been possible for the last two days. We are told it should be available tomorrow, but we’ll see. Surely by the 26th at least!

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Prague Castle Complex on Christmas Eve

25 December
Again no tour, but arranged it definitely for tomorrow. Then decided to head up to the castle and St. Vitus’ cathedral. It was an interesting climb to the top of the hill and enjoyable to wander around the grounds.

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city of Prague from the Castle grounds

 

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backside of St. Vitus’ Cathedral

 

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the castle

We decided to pay to climb up 287 steps to the top of the bell tower, which you could walk around for a 360° view of Prague.

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view from the bell tower with zoom

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front facade of St. Vitus’

Then we returned to the hotel where we met up with Chris, grabbed some dinner and then headed to the movie theater to see “The Hobbit 2: Desolation of Smaug”. Good movie, but not a fan of the cliffhanger end. (Just make one movie, for heaven’s sake.) Chris and Parker were headed off to another club and I was supposed to take the subway back to the square by our hotel. The subway stopped running its regular route, so I ended up far away from The Charles Hotel or anything familiar. I walked to a hotel that I could see from the tram stop and asked if anyone spoke English. Fortunately someone did, they called me a taxi that would take a credit card and I made it home.

26 December
Breakfast and then the tour picked us up at 9:30 am. We rode by van to the castle where we met our guide Jana (“Yana”).

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main entrance gate to the Castle Complex

We learned a lot about the castle complex and St. Vitus’ that we didn’t get from our earlier visit. We walked down again and into the Old Town Area of the city,

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Lesser Town church

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Lesser Town church

from there we went to the Lesser Town Area and saw John Lennon’s wall.

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John Lennon wall

We climbed up to the Charles Bridge, and then went on a boat tour loop to see the city from the river.

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boat for our river “cruise”

From there we went to Il Pavouk (which translates to spider) for lunch in an old medieval cave type place underground.

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medieval restaurant underground

The final sights to see were the Jewish Quarter,

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synagogue in Jewish Quarter

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cemetery outside Jewish Museum synagogue

which included where Franz Kafka was born and a street that was modeled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. Very posh shops. Return home to video chat with family and Parker and Chris go out again.

27 December
Up and get tickets for the train to Kutna Hora. We find Chris and arrive to Kutna Hora by around 1:00 and head to the Sedlec Ossuary (Church of All Saints), also known as the Bone Church.

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cemetery outside the Ossuary

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a small few of the bones inside the ossuary

So many human bones (40,000-70,000) are used to decorate the below ground chapel. It was a desirable place to be buried because a handful of earth from Golgotha had been sprinkled over the abbey cemetery. Many thousands were buried due to the Black Death and the Hussite Wars. The display was solemn and a little overwhelming.
After that we walked up to St. Barbara’s Church, a famous Gothic Cathedral high up on a hill.

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St. Barbara’s Church

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front entrance of St. Barbara’s Church

St. Barbara is the patron saint of miners, appropriate for a former silver mining town. Suddenly it was time to briskly walk down the hill to the train back to Prague. For dinner we met Chris B. and Hana, Hana’s boss, Chris P. and his husband, John. We had a delightful time getting to know one another and found out that Chris P. works with Parker’s step-dad, Dean. I walked home with Chris P. and John as Parker and Chris B. continued on elsewhere.

28 December
Relatively slow paced day for video chats and catching up. Chris B. showed up and hung out with us, then we went to meet Chris P., John, and Hana for a nighttime walking tour.

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plethora of Christmas trees in Wenceslas Square

Powder Tower near the Municipal building

Powder Tower near the Municipal building

It was beautiful and again we received insight that only Hana could provide. We ended up at the Hemingway Bar to try absinthe. It was a ritual worthy of experiencing. I would love to get the paraphernalia for it, as it is beautiful!

ice water holder for absinthe

ice water holder for absinthe

After trying both green and white absinthe, we wandered home.

29 December
We meet Chris B. and Hana, and Chris P. and John to go to Letná Park, which overlooks the Vitava River.

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Vitava River and bridges from Letna Park

It was atop this hill that a 50meter plinth was built to support a massive granite statue honoring Joseph Stalin that was unveiled on 1 May 1955 after more than 5½ years of work in Prague, Czechoslovakia. It was the world’s largest representation of Stalin, and was destroyed with 800Kg of explosives in 1962.

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Parker and Chris atop the plinth

Then we went to Chris B’s school and saw some of the architecture projects students were working on. Nearby we found a nice little pub in which to have lunch. The rest of the evening was low key. We went out to get beer and brats and then returned to the hotel.

30 December
We met up with Chris and John and walked to the funicular to go up to the “Prague Eiffel Tower”, known as The Petřín Lookout Tower or View Tower. It is a 63.5 metre high steel framework tower in Prague, which strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower.

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Tower of Petrin

We paid to climb the 300+ steps to the top for some spectacular views.

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view from on top of Petrin Tower

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St. Vitus’ from on top of Petrin Tower

On the way to the funicular we stopped to view a Memorial to victims of Communism, which was sobering and rather disturbing.

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memorial to the victims of Communism

After walking all those steps we had built up an appetite and walked back down the steep hill to get lunch in a pub. Parker returned to the hotel and I joined Chris P. and John to go to the Modern Art Gallery and see the Black Babies sculptures.

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controversial and famous “Black Babies” sculpture

We met up again with Chris B. and Hana, as well as a few of Chris B’s school friends: Katrina (from Russia), Julia (from Kazakstan), and Elio (from Lebanon) for dinner. It was nearly midnight by the time I got back to the hotel!

31 December
I made a number of mistakes in planning this trip, and one was only reserving the hotel through the night of the 30th when we weren’t leaving until the 1st. So, where to stay? We ended up at Chris B’s one room apartment with a loft. Chris B., Parker and I grabbed lunch and hung out for in the apartment, then went to meet Chris P. and John at the Ice Bar.

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Ice Bar

That was an fun experience, but it was timed and we had to leave shortly after finishing our drinks. So, we proceeded to another pub. Chris P. and John left after one drink, but Parker, Chris B. and I stayed for another round or two. It was New Year’s Eve after all. There were all sorts of fireworks exploding around the city, but it didn’t seem distinctly timed for the New Year. It just sort of kept happening all night long and even into the very wee hours of the morning.

1January
Happy New Year! I’m up and out of Chris B’s and on my way to catch the metro to the airport by 8:20.

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New Year’s Eve debris on New Year’s Day and goodbye to Prague

Everything went smoothly, and I said fond farewells to the boys before I left. Here is where my other mistakes come in to play. I mentioned earlier my inability to exchange KWD for any other money, well this was true even in Istanbul. I did not have a PIN for my credit card so I was also unable to get cash that way. Istanbul has two airports about 45km from each other and they have quite a racket set up. You have to pay for a visa into Turkey in order to collect your luggage and then pay for a bus to the center square (Taksim) and another bus from Taksim to the other airport. Of course, they mostly only accept cash in local Turkish currency. When I went to pay for my visa, my credit card didn’t work for the woman and she was not terribly helpful for what to do. This is when I went up to the cash exchange to find out that even in Turkey no one recognized the Kuwaiti dinar. I went back down and tried again, and a man had a machine that could read my card. I got my visa. Then came the problem of getting to the other airport. The only way I could find was to pay with my credit card for a taxi. It was out-of-this-world exorbitant, but I was near tears and decided I was willing to pay. I had planned to meet up with Kelly and Gabe in Taksim and take the bus with them to the other airport, but I couldn’t access the wifi in the airport so I was unable to let them know I wasn’t going to make it. It was a frantic feeling, but I made it to the other airport and found Kelly and Gabe there. Yay! The rest of the trip was uneventful and the 3 of us staggered up to our apartments by about 3:30 am. It is nice to be home.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Helen Webb
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 18:30:43

    What a great diary of your time in Prague, plus going and coming. Interesting to see the pictures and read your story. I love you.

    Reply

  2. adriannedawn
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 22:24:29

    Phew! What a trip. I’m glad you journaled it like this – it’s fun to hear about your adventures! xoxo

    Reply

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