I had mentioned to WiseMan that it might be nice to take a short trip to some place we haven't been before, maybe Prague, as he was there on a school field trip many moons ago. He didn't let this chance slide by, 30 minutes later he had the hotel booked and the train reservations done.

And so we got up early Wednesday morning and got the train just before 9am from Südkreuz. I's just around the corner, and there's a non-stop train to Prague that stops here. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day. Rather boring until Dresden, and lots of ruins still along the tracks. But the train soon picks up the River Labe, and chugs along the banks beneath steep cliffs. The water flows lazily, the big houses change style, and suddenly there is a flurry of signs and "Cheap this" "Buy that now!" across the river. And we are in the Czech Republic.

We make our way down the Elbe, turning off at the Moldau (Vltava, the Czechs call it) and continuing on down towards Prague. About 4 1/2 hours after we started, we debark at the hypermodern Prague main train station. We sort out train tickets - 3 daily tickets are cheaper than a 3-day-pass, but all are so cheap we decide to buy the 3-day one and just forget about tickets - and get some Czech crowns out of a machine.

We walk out into the sunshine, and really enjoy the walk to the trams. We manage to find the stop for the tram we need out to our hotel, now the question is: what is the name of the stop?

Czech is a language that either has a tax on vowels, or sold half of them to the Finns for a good price. They joke about the sentence "Strč prst skrz krk!" (Stick your finger through your throat) that needs absolutely no vowels. It is strange to be in a country where I can't quickly puzzle out what signs mean, so we have to turn on pattern matching mode. Being over 40, reading the map is hard enough when I can remember the sequence of symbols for longer than 5 seconds, it was far too difficult to try and figure out the name of the stop. And anyway, most of them are not marked, and who can understand what the lady is saying on the PA system?

We made it to the hotel - the Park Inn, which used to be a printing house. There's a Tesco's downstairs, and we have a lovely room. We're not even paying 50€ per person and night for this very nice place. We dropped our stuff, shed a layer of coats, and off we went!

I find the place reminds me a lot of Vienna, although I haven't seen any horse-drawn carriages yet. There is a sign, however, forbidding horses in one bit of town, so they must be here too. We are looking for someplace for lunch. Many places are darkish inside, in many people are smoking (although the travel guides said that the Czech Republic is now smoke-free), and lots have menus outside only in Czech.

Building with Art nouveau element on top
We pass Italian, Chinese, French places, nothing Czech-like. We finally give in to hunger and enjoy an Italian restaurant. After lunch we walk around, looking at the stores, the tourist junk, the tourists, the lovely Jugendstil (Art nouveau) buildings. We head for the Lucerna movie theater that WiseMan remembers. It is a funny, old, indoor mall, and there is a cafe with live piano - but ashtrays at every table. Even though the cake looks great, we truck on and have a coffee and tea at a cozy little place inside a bookstore. Cappucino is cappucino, and we figure out that Čaj, pronounced chai, is tea.

I look at some nice clothes afterwards - good price, but none exactly what I want. And then we hit the trams, pick up some stuff at Tesco's and munch in front of the TV before turning in. tomorrow will be another nice day!

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