Prague
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Prague, the capital of The Czech Republic, is in central Bohemia, and has a population of 1.2 million people.  It is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.  Our group settled into the Don Giovanni hotel, which was comfortable but has a horrible modernistic lobby design.  It took a while to figure out how to keep the room lights on more than five minutes.  You have to leave your passkey in the slot of a receptacle located on the wall!  The idea is, shortly after you leave the room (hopefully with the passkey in your pocket), the lights will go out.  This is a nice energy saving idea, except that the AC goes off too.  By the way, Europe operated on 240 volts.  If you head that way, be sure to pack a 120-240 voltage converter and an assortment of weird-shaped electric plug adapters.  Otherwise, none of your stuff (hair dryer, iron, shaver, etc.) will plug into the receptacles, and they will go up in smoke quickly if you fail to use the converter.  Not that this mattered to me - my electric shaver holds a charge for over a week, and most of the better hotels provide blow-dryers.  Some have irons (even ironing boards) in the rooms.  Another good idea that Europe's hotels are adopting is placing safes in each room.

After dinner at the hotel, we headed for a folklore performance.  Here are several not very good photos I took during the show.  (They discourage use of flash at such events.  It distracts the performers.)  The show was excellent.  Afterward, we returned to our hotel and most of us turned in for the night.

 

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(Click on photo buttons to see full-size pictures)

The next morning, Tuesday, we had a fine buffet breakfast at the hotel.  I wish I had the time (and capacity) to try all of the different breads (white, brown , black) and rolls that were offered.  Ditto the jams and preserves.  We had real creamery butter, choice of dry cereals and scrambled eggs.   European sausage takes some getting used to.  It looks, and tastes, a lot like little frankfurters.  But the after-dinner coffee is delicious.  It's full-bodied - not the weak stuff that passes for coffee in the U.S.

After breakfast, we headed out to see the city of Prague.  Among the attractions were the 1,000-year old Hradcany Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Town, and something every self-respecting East European city has - an astronomical clock.  We ended up at Wencelaus Square, the main square of the city.  During the day, we took a luncheon cruise on the Vlatava River (we know it as the Moldau, made famous by the Czech composer, Smetena).  That evening, we had dinner at a tourist-trap restaurant in town, then headed for a concert at The Dvorak Museum, a converted private home.  Dvorak is perhaps the most famous of all Czech composers.

Here are some pictures I took, augmented by a few from a guide book.

Prague Castle's oldest sections date from about the 10th Century.  St. Vitus Cathedral, which is part of the Castle grounds, was begun in the 11th Century.  It requires seven keys, kept by seven different people, to open the door to the room where the crown jewels are kept.  

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Here are a few pictures taken downtown.  The Astrological Clock was installed at the beginning of the 15th Century.  It still works!  next to my photo is a LARGE picture from a guide book.  I wanted you to see the detail.  The top sphere measures the time and shows the movement of Sun around the Earth  A circular calendar with paintings showing the lives of the rural people is below the clock  Moving apostles appear in the window above the clock every hour.   

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Prague-Waterfront.jpg (42964 bytes)  Prague-main-Square.jpg (50159 bytes)  City from our cruise ship on the Vlatava River, and a city square.  I have no more photos, but here are some from a guide book.

First, city view from the Vlatava River.  Next, the famous Wenceslas Square (yes, named for the same king celebrated in the Christmas carol).  Finally, two guide book pictures of a section of "New World."  Have you ever seen such a rustic, peaceful atmosphere?     

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This concludes my visit to Prague, a city that almost requires another visit some day.  The next morning, we departed for Hungary, via Slovakia.

 

On to Hungary