Sunday, August 29, 2010

Prague (part 1)

IMG_0052     Well we’re halfway through our trip and I have to say, I LOVE Prague.  This is right up there with Rome on my list of favorite cities in Europe.  It’s just beautiful here and the Czech people are SO nice.  Maybe that’s just because we’re used to the Italians, which aren’t all that nice at all really.    I haven’t had the time, nor energy to do any blogging since we got here but I wanted to do some now before I forget all the details!  Here are the summaries of the first part of our trip.

Sunday, August 22
We managed to get out of the house by 7:30am, a little later than we wanted, but not bad considering our track record for leaving for big trips on time.


We stopped at a rest stop in Austria somewhere between Villach and Salzburg to get some lunch.  The food was good, the people were friendly and they actually had a changing table for Abbie!  (I have yet to be at any rest stop in Italy that actually has a changing table…)  The drive through the Alps was gorgeous as usual.  I’ll never get tired of looking at those mountains.  IMG_1285 IMG_1301 IMG_1312 IMG_1324 IMG_1337 IMG_1345
We arrived in Prague, in Wenceslas Square, to pick up the keys to our apartment around 8:30pm.  Our GPS took us to the place right away, which was nice.  Once we got the keys, we set off to find the apartment, which was close by, but the GPS took us the long route.  But again, we found it.  We unloaded our car, which was VERY full, and just kept the Ergo and a backpack in it, and then set out again to find parking since we couldn’t read the street signs to know if we could park near the apartment or where to pay for it or when to pay for it, etc.  So we went in search of a parking garage.  That’s where it got a little interesting.  We were using the GPS again and it took us to 2 parking lots, but we wanted a garage or someplace with security so our car would be safe.  Finally we decided to go back to where we picked up the keys because they offered underground, secured parking for 16E per day.  We can WALK from our apartment to Wenceslas Square in under 10 mins and it took us at least 25 mins to find our way back, due to construction and the GPS taking us down roads that are technically roads, but not really…  Like narrow streets, lined with shops and restaurants, filled with people walking everywhere…  Yeah, that kind.  We were the idiots holding the GPS, trying to drive down the street while people blatantly stared at us.  Oops.  But we finally got back to the place.  And this parking garage is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  You pull the car into this one car garage basically, onto this platform and park it there.  Then when you get out and get all your junk out and the garage door closes, another garage door inside opens and the platform moves forward into that area and then drops the car below ground.  It was weird, but neat.

(Wenceslas Square)IMG_9947
We had a fried cheese sandwich, which is really popular here, on the way back to our apartment.  It’s just fried mozzarella on a bun, with mayo.  They’re everywhere, and pretty good.  We all slept like logs, Abbie included, that night, which was good.  IMG_9960IMG_9954  IMG_9969

(Old Town Square)IMG_9983
Oh, and Abbie did relatively well on the drive up.  There were a few times she got pretty screamy and I was ready to jump out of the moving car, but considering she spent almost 9 hours in the car that day, she did pretty well.

Monday, August 23
We were up bright and early, thanks to Abbie on Monday.  She woke up at 7:30am, which is early for her, and I think it’s because the room was so bright.  (I close the shutters in her room at home at night, so it’s pitch black in there except for her night light, until I open them.)  But that’s okay.  She slept well and I didn’t hear a peep out of her all night.  In fact, I don’t even think she moved all night, which is VERY unusual.  I got up at 6am because she was in the same position she was at midnight when I checked on her (on the video monitor I brought along with us).  That freaked me out so I went in to make sure she was still breathing.
Anyway, we were up and out the door by 9am and we decided to walk around the Jewish part of town.  We bought tickets to view a few synagogues and the Jewish cemetery and a museum.  They were pretty neat, but you couldn’t take pictures in any of them but the cemetery.  One of the museums was this church type building with over 80,000 names and dates written all over the walls of Jews that were killed by the Nazi’s during WWII.  The cemetery was the coolest part of it all.  The Jews were only given this small plot of land to bury their dead on, so they had to bury bodies on top of bodies and put graves on top of graves.  Very interesting.  According to Wikipedia, people were buried here between 1439 – 1787, and there are somewhere around 12,000 tombstones in the cemetery, and 100,000 bodies, with 12 layers of graves.


   IMG_0079 IMG_0088
We were going to do more of the Jewish tour in our book, but decided to go get groceries and eat lunch and get Abbie down for her nap.  We went to this grocery store in the bottom of a HUGE mall here and I just wanted to cry because it was so nice to be in an actual mall again.  Seriously, Italy doesn’t have normal “malls” like we think of a mall to be.  At least the part of Italy I’m in doesn’t. This was 4 levels of normal stores, not 90%  outrageously priced kids clothing, like in Italy.  They had a STARBUCK’S, which of course, we got.  We didn’t really walk around the mall too much because I probably would have gone crazy looking at everything, but Mark did say “Too bad there isn’t a base in Czech.”  We both love this country.  IMG_0098 

(The astronomical crowd looking at the astronomical clock.)IMG_0102 IMG_0104 
Grocery shopping in a foreign country is tricky at times, especially a country with a language like Czech, which is pretty much NOTHING like English.  With Italian, you can pretty much guess, or figure it out by comparing and contrasting things, but not here.  Looking at packages of lunch meat type foods, we had NO clue what anything was.  And milks – no clue what was skim vs whole.  But we managed to get what we wanted/ needed and we managed to carry it back to our apartment, along with Abbie and a large backpack. IMG_0114
After Abbie’s nap, we wandered around Prague some more.  The nice thing about this apartment is that it’s pretty much in the middle of everything.  We can walk to Old Town Square in 2 minutes, or the Jewish Cemetery in 2 mins, or Charles Bridge in 10 mins.  We walked across Charles Bridge and took lots of pictures and then wandered around the part of town across the river.  We got some souvenirs for us and friends and watched this guy run into this other guy with his car and them start screaming at each other…  That was interesting.  By the end of the day, my shoulders were killing me from carrying the heavy backpack or the heavy Abbie, but it was worth it.  IMG_0140       IMG_0144 IMG_0202IMG_0155      IMG_0167 IMG_0181 IMG_0183 IMG_0187 IMG_0190 IMG_0199
We ate dinner at the Crazy Cow (by the way, Abbie knows what a cow says now and hearing her “moo” is hilarious, and she also has been pointing out all the “horth” (horses) to us, and puppies, and babies…).  We ordered a t-bone steak but I would have bet money that it was a pork chop we were eating and not a steak.  Apparently it was a “young cow”  and apparently, young cows look and taste just like pigs when cut into t-bones.  Mark said he thought it was a little different than pork, but I thought it was just like pork.  I don’t doubt it was beef, and it was good either way.  The waitress said that everyone asks if it’s pork so I didn’t feel too dumb. IMG_0258IMG_0267 IMG_0227 
Things in the Czech are fairly cheap.  Gas is the same as everywhere else in Europe (read VERY expensive), but food and clothes seem to be cheaper here.  A pop is usually about 50 CZK (Czech Koruna).  1 czk = $.05 and 1 Euro = ~25czk.  I bought a pashmina for myself that was 150czk, so that’s about 6Euros.  The conversion was screwing me up completely when I first got here, but I’ve got it figured out now.  It takes some getting used to to hand over 500 czk, because we’re not used to seeing bills with 500 written on them, but that’s only about $25.  We got out 4000 czk when we got here, and it was just odd to see that much money.  It felt like a lot more than it actually was.  (It was only about $160… too bad it wasn’t in USD instead of CZK…)  The thing that REALLY confused me was at the grocery store, they had prices for things like 15.90 CZK.  (Side note – for the currency here, the smallest BILL they have is 100, and then they have coins for 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1.  They do NOT have what would be equivalent to our cents.  So they don’t have any .25czk.  The smallest currency they have is 1 czk.)  So I just don’t get how they can price things at like 15.90 czk, because they don’t make cents here, so how could you pay for the .90?  I guess they’d round it up to 16 czk.  They’d have to.  It took Mark and I a good 20 min conversation for him to figure out what the heck I was talking about.  Lots of things in the grocery store had prices with “cents”.  Like eggs were 13.70 czk, and milk was like 15.90 czk.  I don’t understand why they price things like that when “cents” don’t exist here.  The smallest coin they have is worth a full 1 koruna.  I’ve only seen that in the grocery store though.  Everywhere else things are like 5czk or 349czk, or I saw a camera lens for like 16699 czk. (~$850)IMG_0019

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