Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prague (part 3)

Thursday, August 26

IMG_0930Today we decided to take Abbie to the zoo.  She’s been to 3 zoo’s in her 15 months – the San Diego Zoo, the Phoenix Zoo and now the Prague Zoo.  Who would’ve guessed that her 3rd zoo experience would be in PRAGUE?  Not I, that’s for sure.   IMG_0937  
We managed to figure out the metro system to get out to the zoo, and then the bus system to go to the actual zoo.  We just followed the crowd of excited kids.  Funny how that works.  The zoo was only 150 czk per adult (about $8) and Abbie was free.  We were excited that it was so cheap, but there’s a reason it was so cheap… IMG_0984IMG_0965IMG_0957
This zoo wasn’t well kept at all.  There was overgrown grass and bushes about everywhere you looked, and gross, mucky looking water.  Most of the animals looked underfed and skinny, which was sad.  The zoo was basically on a cliff, with half of it on the bottom part and half of it on the top part, and a tiny single seat gondola ride connecting the two parts.  I still can’t believe that they let people take small kids on this thing.  The safety standards here are just so different than in the US.  I strapped Abbie on the front of me in the Ergo, but parents had kids just sitting on their laps in the seat suspended about 15-20 feet above this chain link fence mesh below it.  There was a very loose, thin chain that you’d connect across your lap to “hold” you in the seat.  It was fun, but if I’d not had Abbie strapped on to me, having a wiggly toddler on my lap on that thing would have completely freaked me out. IMG_1009IMG_1016     
Abbie loved looking at all the animals.  She had fun last time when she was about 9 months old, but this time she REALLY noticed the animals.  She’d stare at them and she’d point them out and tell you what they were (bird, duck, lion, bear, horse) and she would make some of the noises that the animals made.  It was fun to point things out to her that she recognizes in books so she could see what they look like in real life.  She wasn’t at the point of knowing what things were last time at the zoo, but this time she definitely did. IMG_1052IMG_0948
After Abbie’s (and our) nap, we headed out to the Palladium mall, which was near our apartment.  I miss shopping.  I haven’t really done any shopping since we’ve been in Italy, due to the fact that shopping in Euros is SUPER expensive, and they don’t really have many decent stores near us.  We were on a hunt to find Abbie some decent tennis shoes, and we found a cute pair of Nikes.  I’ve been afraid to buy her shoes online because kids shoes are expensive and the sizes aren’t consistent at all, so I didn’t want to her her some that’d be too small this fall, when she’d need them.  But I think the ones we got her will be good.

We decided to eat at the food court at the mall.  We went to this Mongolian BBQ place, that looked really good.  The food was okay though.  It was REALLY bland by our standards.  Usually Asian food as some sort of spice to it, but this didn’t even have soy sauce on it. 
After dinner we just wandered around more taking pictures and soaking in all of Prague.  It truly is a beautiful city.

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PS: Since I haven’t written about it before, I’ll include a little bit on our apartment.  The apartment was okay.  It had a lot of potential to be great, but it was dirty, which grossed me out.  The floors were dirty, there were cobwebs on the ceiling, the bathroom smelled really bad like mildew and there was a nasty blob of something on the floor right next to the bed…  *gags*  It was actually pretty large – the master bedroom was probably twice the size of our bedroom in Italy, it had a very large entry way that was the size of a bedroom, a large living room/ kitchen/ dining room and another good sized bedroom.  Having Abbie in a separate room from us was the best thing ever.  She slept great, and we slept great.  It was quiet and the location couldn’t have been beat.  It just could have been about 10x’s cleaner, at least.   IMG_0720

(Excuse my weird pose…  I’d just taken Abbie and the Ergo off and my shoulders and back were killing me…)

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Friday, August 27
We decided to check out Petrin Hill, which is a big park overlooking Prague, in the morning.  The weather was kind of cloudy and gross looking, but we didn’t want to sit in the dirty apartment all day so we took our umbrella and headed out.  We took the bus to the Funicular, which is a cable car that goes up and down the hill.  We got off at the wrong bus stop though, and ended up having to walk halfway up the big hill, through the park, and down the hill to get to the Funicular.   We’d bought tickets at the bus station, enough for the bus ride there, the Funicular and the bus ride home, since the book we had said that the Funicular uses the same tickets as the metro and the bus.  (Side note: there are different types of tickets you can buy – the 2 main ones being 26czk, good for 75 mins and 18czk, good for 30 mins.)   IMG_1080 IMG_1081 IMG_1090        IMG_1092  IMG_1111  
We boarded the Funicular after validating our tickets by getting them time/date punches, rode it up the hill and then got off to police checking to make sure people had bought tickets.  Mark hands him ours and he says that they’re not valid for the Funicular and that the sign “clearly states that in English”.  (We didn’t see anywhere on the sign that said the 18czk ones weren’t valid for it.)  We said that we didn’t know that and our book said they’re good and he basically said too bad, you’re getting fined and charged us 30Euros EACH for a fine.  Grr…  Mark, to say the least, was pretty pissed.  Instead of letting us buy new tickets for 26czk, he fined us 700czk.  What an asshole.  So I made sure and asked if we could get back down on the little stub that he gave us for the fines and he said they were valid for one hour.  Well we walked around for maybe 10 mins and we were both pissy so we just wanted to go home and eat and take a nap.  We handed the guard our fine tickets at the top when we were boarding the plane and he copped a HUGE attitude with us.  (It was a different guy.)  He said “These aren’t tickets to board.  This is a fine.”  We said that yes, we are well aware that they are a fine, but the police guy said they were valid for 1 hr and we could use them to get back down.  This guard dude got all pissy and said no, that’s just a fine, you need an actual ticket.  I thought Mark was going to knock the guy out.  So this other scrawny guard guy comes up and the first fat guard guy says something to him to Czech and then the scrawny guy says to us that they’re not tickets.  We start to argue with him and he cuts us off and says “I’ll just go ask the police”.  (He was on the other side of the cable car.)  So he leaves and comes back 30 seconds later and says that they’re good and we can go down.  I think Mark’s blood pressure was at least 140/110 at that point.  So a note for anyone wanting to ride the Funicular in Prague – get the damn 26czk tickets!! IMG_1124
After our naps, we did the same thing we always do, wandered around Prague and decided to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe.  Abbie colored again and the food was pretty good.


I didn’t take any pictures our last night there because I was enjoying not lugging the camera around and I guess the Funicular incident took me out of my picture taking mood.

Overall, Prague was amazing and I’d love to go back someday, sans Abbie.  I’d highly recommend seeing this city if you ever get a chance.

Oh, and just for fun, here’s proof of how anal ORGANIZED I am.  =)


Monday, August 30, 2010

Prague (part 2)

Tuesday, August 24
I checked the forecast and it was supposed to rain in Prague, so we decided to take a road trip to Cesky Krumlov, which my parents and a few friends had recommended seeing.  We were on the road around 10:30am and after about 10 mins of wondering why the GPS was taking us the wrong way down one way streets and avoiding main roads, we finally remembered we’d put in on pedestrian mode.  Oops.  (The same thing happened to us in Paris a few years ago… You’d think we’d learn, although this time it took me 10 mins to remember instead of 40…) 
Anyway, driving through the Czech countryside really reminds me of northern IL.  It’s very green, lots of trees and fields, rolling hills.  Definitely reminded me of home, which made me like the Czech Republic even more.  IMG_1345IMG_0303 IMG_0300
The ride would have been very enjoyable if it hadn’t been for Abbie screaming at the top of her lungs for about 90% of the way there….  Man!  I don’t know how to get her to stop screaming and she drives me absolutely NUTS when she does it.  I’m going to invest in a very good set of earplugs very soon.  And there was lots of farm equipment on the highway, which slowed us down quite a bit too.  The drive took us over 2.5 hours and by the time we got there I was half deaf, had a headache, had to pee really bad and just edgy.  Ick.
Driving into town, it looked a little run down and sketchy on the outskirts, but the historical downtown area is beautiful.  It’s a very quaint, picturesque little town, with narrow winding streets and a river weaving through it.  There’s a painted castle up on top of the hill that we wanted to tour, but it was a guided hour long tour and there was no way Abbie was going to go for that.  So we skipped it and just went up in the tower instead.  The town is a world heritage site and it is directly in the center of a triangle created by Prague, Munich and Vienna. IMG_1348
Construction of the town began in the late 13th century and most of the architecture in the town dates from the 14th – 17th centuries.  The castle is the 2nd largest in the Czech Republic.  The only one larger than it is the Prague castle.  “The Illusionist” and “Hostel” were filmed in this little town.     IMG_0309 IMG_0316 IMG_0317  IMG_0358IMG_0331IMG_0336IMG_0360
We ate lunch as soon as we got to Cesky at this neat little restaurant.  I had grilled pork tenderloin medallions that were AMAZING and Mark had this beef goulash, which is available most places over here too.  He said it was good also. IMG_0325IMG_0328IMG_0327
We wandered around the little town, looking for thank you gifts for the friends watching our dogs, and we watched the many kayakers on the river.  We hiked up to the castle (which isn’t really a “hike”, but it was mostly uphill and tiring since Abbie isn’t a feather and neither was the backpack) and decided to climb the tower to enjoy the views, only to realize that we didn’t have the cash for the 30 czk/each entrance fee.  So we spent the next 20 mins looking all over this tiny town for an ATM and finally found one all the way back down the hill and most of the way up another hill…  Go figure.  After we got money we walked all the way back up to the tower and then hiked all the way up the tower.  You can definitely tell this more “eastern Europe-ish” because the stairs up the tower probably wouldn’t have passed American standards.  Mark had to be pretty careful since Abbie was on his back and the doorways were pretty short considering you were going up and down stairs.  He had to watch and make sure she cleared the doorway before he stood up.  The views from the top were worth it though.          IMG_0353  IMG_0354   IMG_0355IMG_0395 IMG_0388
After that we checked out a few more stores and looked at the bears that were in the mote of the castle and then checked out the church in the town.  We let Abbie walk back to the car so she could burn off some energy and it worked some because she slept for about an hour or so on the way back home. IMG_0438      IMG_0352 IMG_0411 IMG_0414
We got back to Prague around 7pm and back to our apartment around 7:45ish because we took our time walking back and Mark got a kielbasa sandwich and I bought a few more souvenirs for friends.

Wednesday, August 25
We decided to check out the Prague castle today.  We also decided to try to figure out the public transportation system since the castle is up on a big hill and I didn’t feel like hiking up there.  (That actually would have been a hike.) 


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It was pretty easy to read the tram map and figure out which direction we needed to go, but we had NO clue where to buy the tickets at.  So we just jumped on the tram and rode it 2 stops before Mark got freaked out that we were going to get caught without a ticket and decided to get off.  I didn’t see anyone else on the tram with a ticket either though, but we read that plain clothed people come around and randomly check at times and if you’re caught without a ticket you get a big fine.   We only had to walk a few blocks (uphill) to get to the castle so it wasn’t a big deal. IMG_0709IMG_0517
We decided to do the self guided short audio tour of the castle.  They said that should take about 2 hours and the longer one could take up to 4.  It was 550czk each (22Euros) and we got these little wands that we typed numbers in to to listen to the descriptions of things. IMG_0523
We started off in the cathedral.  It was huge, as most cathedrals are, and very ornate.  I tried to listen to all of the descriptions in the cathedral, but some of them were pretty long and Abbie was getting screamy again (NOT a good thing when you’re in a cathedral…..) so I rushed through part of it.   I managed to take a bunch of pictures though. IMG_0596IMG_0533IMG_0547IMG_0589
We let Abbie run around the courtyard area after we got out of the cathedral.  She had fun running around and saying “Ciao, ciao!” to anyone who would look at her.  She ran up to a group of Asian girls and waved to them and they all ooo’d and aah’d over her and then asked to take a picture with her.  We’ve had at least 4-5 people (not all on this trip) ask to take pictures of Abbie when we were in touristy areas.  I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, or why they’re wanting to take her picture, but I guess it’s kinda funny.  The Asian girls were cute with her though and they all love it when she blows them kisses.  She can be quite the little flirt. IMG_0594IMG_0611IMG_0612IMG_0638
Next we toured part of the actual castle, which was really pretty neat, and had great views of downtown Prague, and then another chapel.  Mark really wanted to see the Golden Lane, which was in the castle, but it was closed for reconstruction.  Bummer.

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We went back to the apartment for lunch and Abbie’s (and our) nap, and then headed out across Charles Bridge again to the Little Quarter part of town.  We walked through this big park by the river and Abbie had a good time waving and blowing kisses to everyone and watching dogs run around.  We did a little more souvenir shopping and then headed to the Museum of Torture.  That was pretty interesting, but not very big and kind of gruesome.  Abbie was getting pretty impatient so we had to rush through the last floor of it, but we did see everything so that was good.  We ate at TGIFriday’s for dinner.  It’s amazing how you crave anything American when you live overseas.  The food was pretty good, although I was freezing because we were sitting outside and there was a stiff breeze coming down the narrow street and blowing in my face.  They had little blankets on the chairs, but mine wasn’t doing much good.  I survived though.  Abbie had her first experience with crayons (or “crowns” as Elyse calls them), and she had fun scribbling all over anything she could get them to write on, and throwing the crayons all over the place…  IMG_0813 IMG_0824 IMG_0829       IMG_0833 IMG_0838 IMG_0856 IMG_0864 IMG_0887