On December 6, we left
Kroków for a 370 mile journey to Prague. It was only a short
trip to the border town was
the border there were long lines (like in miles of long lines) of
commercial trucks waiting to cross into the Czech Republic. Most
commercial trucks waited about 24 hours to cross the border. We noticed many trains with
full coal cars. Once in the Czech Republic we traveled through the heart of Moravia and
close to the capital city of Brno. This area produces the best
wines of the Czech Republic. We continued south
into Bohemia to have lunch in Olomouc.
informed that this was a very special day in Europe - the arrival of
St. Nicholas with gifts for the children. In discussing the
Czech Republic, we were told there is up to 30% unemployment.
The factories that produced goods for the Soviet Union could not
compete in international markets, so many factories were closed.
Many of the citizens expected miracles after the collapse of the
Soviet Union. Consumer goods were subsidized by the government
and 100% employment under the Soviet rule. People are still
learning about a market economy and capitalism.
We arrived after dark to the Hotel Don Giovanni
which was east of the Old Town. There was a beautiful Gingerbread
House in the hotel lobby.
The next day our
tour of the city started with the Historical
Library and the Prague or Hradcary
Castle. This is a massive complex that includes palaces,
museums, churches, and government buildings. There are some great
views of the city from the castle area. While we were in the
square when a VIP arrived with the changing
of the guard. We walked on the Golden Lane with shops
built into the castle wall, and visited the gothic St.
Vitus Church. Inside were some beautiful stained
glass windows. In the afternoon we wandered around Old
Town, the market square and the Christmas Market. We walked
over to Wenceslas Square where Kirsten entered a casino to ask for
matches. They issued her a casino ID card after viewing her
passport. She was the only person in our group with an
official casino card.
That evening we had a
wonderful dinner on a boat on the
The next day was sunny with
temperature in the 20s and we were off to the National Museum for a
lecture by Professor Jiri Amort on "40 Years of Communism to
Free Market Economy." While other European capitals were
destroyed during WWII, Prague survived virtually intact.
Afterwards he took us on a tour of Old
Town, Wencelas Square, and to
see the famous 15th century astronomical
clock at the Old Town Hall. Every hour crowds assemble below the
clock to watch Christ and the twelve apostles appear at two little
windows followed by the skeleton of Death tolling the bell. We
then walked across the Charles Bridge
and the Vltava River to visit
Free Europe building was next to the National
Museum. After the 9/11terrorism in NYC, the streets around
the building were blocked by armed troops.
next day we used the subway and public bus to return to castle
hill area and worked our way down the hill. We witnessed
the changing of the guard again, walked by the old castle
wall and cobble stone streets. The Christmas markets had lots of
marionettes and puppets on sale. Many marionette shows were
advertised. This was the cheapest city for public
transportation - about 35 cents per ride. By Wenceslas
Square we witnessed some male models in department store
windows. Everyone was just walking by the windows without
realizing the models were live. When we stopped to take
pictures, a large crowd soon developed. Kirsten found a large
vegetarian restaurant that served cafeteria style.
next day, Monday, we had a full day to ourselves. We took the
subway to the Vysehrad area where a huge bridge crosses the valley
and the Vltava River. Some old
city walls still remain in the area. There were some lovely
and brightly painted houses in the valley and on the hillside.
We then walked across the bridge to the Panna
Maria Church and monastery. We visited St. Ludmila Church
and the Christmas market set up in front of the church. Walking
around we found a great Italian restaurant where we had
lunch. We then realized we were close to the National Museum
to again ride the subway back to our hotel. Some local
sites we saw on our own.