A Travellerspoint blog

Prague Part 3

Sunday October 9 -Day 19

semi-overcast 11 °C
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Garry couldn't refuse the offer of the Irish Pub next door to open at 7am so they could watch Aust v. Sth Africa and it was worth it!

Cool (2-11 degrees) and light sprinkle as we set off for a walk to the Jewish Museum and Cemetery. Decided to walk along the river rather than take on the large number of tourists lined up. We started with the group to get Tim's incredible knowledge on everything we passed. 

Walked along the river and had a great view of most of the famous buildings in the sun. Walked back to the town square for coffee and watched hundreds of tourists mostly Japanese waiting for the astrological clock to do it's thing. Wandered around the markets. Great atmosphere with church bells ringing and a jazz quartet playing in the middle of the square. 

Later in the afternoon we walked along the side streets and discovered the 'real' Prague where the inhabitants catch buses and take their dogs for a walk. The day remained cool but it didn't rain.

  Tonight we are dining a la carte at the hotel dining room as some more of the group are heading home; about 17 are bussing the 560 kms to Budapest tomorrow where we board the boat  - apparently the river is low in one place so we will probably not be traveling on the same boat all the way.  Scenic will have to bus us around the low spot and we board the boat that has come from Amsterdam. Luggage is transferred and we have the same room number as the boats are identical.

Posted by suengarry 09:51 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague Comments (0)

Prague part 2

Praha

rain 8 °C
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Prague Part 2

Saturday October 8

Dobry den (good day) from Prague, capital of Czech Republic (Ancient Bohemia). 

Today we experienced two new things: 
1. Our first dose of lousy weather - Raining intermittently, Max Temp. 8 C Min 2C and windy. Garry foolishly ignored the weather forecast and left the extras (beanie, gloves etc.) in the hotel. 
2. Crowds - can't imagine what Prague would be like in season because it is wall to wall tourists here at the moment on the most miserable day we have experienced so far. Weather doesn't look great for the next week or so around here. 

Coach took us to the top of the hill to Prague Castle. The history of the castle stretches back to the 9th century (870).

 A Romanesque palace was erected here during the 12th century. In the 14th century, under the reign of Charles IV the royal palace was rebuilt in Gothic style and the castle fortifications were strengthened.  St. Vitus began building of a vast Gothic church, that wasnt completed until almost six centuries later.

 In 1485, King Ladislaus II Jagello began to rebuild the castle. The massive Vladislav Hall (built by Benedikt Rejt) was added to the Royal Palace.

A large fire in 1541 destroyed large parts of the castle. Under the Habsburgs some new buildings in renaissance style appeared. Ferdinand I built Belvedere, summer palace for his wife Anne. Rudolph II used Prague Castle as his main residence. 

During the subsequent wars the Castle was damaged and dilapidated. Many works from the collection of Rudolph II were looted by Swedes in 1648, in the course of the Thirty Years' War. The last major rebuilding of the castle was carried out by Queen Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century.

Prague and the castle was occupied by the Germans in WWII but escaped serious damage so it retains the old world charm of narrow cobblestone streets and town squares. The smaller cobblestone footpaths  require constant maintenance. We are amazed that they hold together as well as they do. 

Our walking tour (about four hours in total) took us down the hill from the castle to the old town across the most famous bridge in Prague.  Charles Bridge which crosses the Vltava River was built in 1357 and was the only bridge over the river until 1841. 

 As we move west toilet facilities improve but the toilet paper and hand towel are  neither white nor soft. At least  we can flush the paper! Now both enjoying food and wine after the Russian experience and have just had a very nice Italian red with lunch while the others went shopping in the cold.

Posted by suengarry 05:17 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague Part 1

October 7 - Day 17

semi-overcast 14 °C
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October 7 - Friday Day 17

Berlin to Prague - Czech Republic

Berlin has only four hills - one for each point of the compass - made up of rubble from the war. 

Farewelled eleven of our little group last night with a very pleasant evening of pre dinner groups atTim and Jorg's apartment and dinner at the hotel. 

Left through East Berlin and then onto the autobahn south towards  Prague in the Czech Republic. Lunchtime break in Dresden where Tim took us on a quick walking tour of the Old Town. Dresden was bombed back to rubble in 1945. Why? Who knows? There was no industry or anything directly supporting the war effort. So we will need to do some research on that. It was the centre of the Reformation so it is primarily Lutheran. The iconic photo of Dresden after the bombing shows the one window and corner that remained of the cathedral which has been historically restored. A most unusual church, circular in construction with a large central dome and galleries around all sides except for the altar which has a very large organ over it. The organ actually melted during the fire storms that followed the bombing and protected the alter.

Finally some hilly country!!  We climb out of Germany into the Czech Republic over the hills to the large industrial and mining centre of Usti (silver). Followed the road upstream alongside the Elbe River into steeper mountain countryside. The Czech Republic has had a short volatile history being declared a country in 1918 and then being annexed by the Germans in 1936 and now separate to Slovakia.

Prague is full of tourists!  This is the first time that it has been cool - temperature only rose to 14 so the breeze was quite cool as we went for a quick location tour before dinner. Our hotel is very central again so we can wander around the old city easily. We heard that Tamworth was only 15 today so it's not too bad.

We have 2 days here and only tomorrow morning is organized for us so we will have time to wander. Lots of designer shops but nothing leapt out and said "buy me".

Posted by suengarry 12:10 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague Comments (0)

Berlin Part 2

October 6 -Day 16

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Oct 6 Thursday - Day  16

This morning we visited Check Point Charlie Museum which was first started in October 1962 in a two and a half room apartment overlooking the border crossing. Now a rambling collection of memorabilia cataloguing life and times from the beginning of the wall in August 1961 to the end of the GDR and the opening of the borders in November 1989. It is a private museum and the owners special rapport with escape helpers led to the donation of cars, kayaks, balloons, mini-subs and ultralight aircraft used in successful and unsuccessful escapes. 

Afternoon to do our own thing. Decided to wander back to the Reichstag and do some people watching. Lunch believe or not was at the Australian Corroboree Bar and Restaurant in the Sony Centre over the road from our hotel. The Ritz Carlton has lived up to it's name.... Probably the classiest place we have ever stayed but not pretentious ...... Staff really friendly and helpful. 

Tim our guide has kindly invited our whole group to his home for pre dinner drinks this evening. Not sure how his partner will cope with that but it says lot about our relationship with Tim .... Easily the best guide we have ever had. 

Posted by suengarry 05:11 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (0)

Berlin

October 5 - Day 15

sunny 20 °C
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Oct 5 Wednesday - Berlin - Day 15

Garry went on the bus Tour of Berlin. Through the centre of western Berlin area. Historical restoration of most significant prewar buildings has been completed or in process  Wide avenues lined with Linden and Lime trees. All rebuilt since the war and therefore better laid out than prewar Berlin. All public trees in Berlin are numbered and registered. All have a little disk implanted above man height. Very large central park area not the result of war damage but the historical royal animal hunting grounds. Wild animals and birds were captured and then released under controlled conditions so that the royal hunting party could sit in marquees and dine in style while happily slaughtering the animals. Berlin connected to all major rivers in this part of Europe by canals. 

Large brightly painted pipes are a bit of a blot on the vista in some parts of the city. It is necessary when digging building foundations in the sandy soil to pump out the water otherwise it becomes a lake. Another reason why there are not a lot of gigantic high-rise.  In 1925 a change in the building codes for workers accommodation resulted in all units having  bathrooms and running water. These nondescript apartments now heritage listed. 

 Three levels of high school: 9 yr, 10 yr and 12 yr high schools. Any student who satisfactorily completes the 12 yr school can attend university which is free. Course availability a function of high school averages and course popularity. No residential colleges but there is a lot of cheapish single bedroom units (built after the war) available to rent or buy. Students traditionally do not share with others. 

Travelled through the richest area of West Berlin. Homes not particularly palatial but the wealth is apparent. Ordinary home in this area worth 1.5 million Euros and 500 sq. Metres is considered a large block. 

Continued on towards Potsdam. Crossed at the bridge where the exchange of Cold War spies occurred on three occasions between 1961 and 1989. 

Potsdam was the capital of the old Brandenburg state. The Potsdam Conference of the allied leaders (Stalin, Eisenhower and Churchill) commenced on May 8 1945 to determine what was to be done about Germany. It was held in the Potsdam Palace originally built for Crown Prince Wilhelm and designed to resemble an English Tudor country house. Now a museum of the Potsdam Conference with very little of the earlier furniture or artworks. Most of the furniture is antique but was brought in from elsewhere by the Soviets.  Fascinating stories of one-upmanship by each of the leaders but particularly Stalin which of course eventually led to the Cold War. 

Then onto another rococo/Romanesque palace 'Sans Souci' built by Frederick the Great. Magnificent gardens which are terraced down below the palace. 

Returned to Berlin to the Reichstag for coffee and cake in the parliamentary cafe. Sue took a rest day and explored the streets of the city centre and people watched outside Starbucks. Arranged to meet the group at the Reichtag as it is only a 15 min walk away. Very striking modern building behind the restored facade. 

Dinner tonight at Lindenbrau (under the linden tree) one of the restaurants in the magnificent Sony Centre. The modern architecture around our hotel is really spectacular.  The more we see of Berlin the more we would like to spend more time here. We will but scratch the surface of this fascinating city. 

Posted by suengarry 04:37 Archived in Germany Tagged architecture berlin Comments (0)

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