February 16, 2010
Prague, Czech Republic, is my favorite large city in Europe. I’ve been toPrague at least a dozen times. My first trip was by tour bus and the remaining trips were all in personal or rented cars. The first piece of advice for anyone driving into the Czech Republic (and a couple of other countries in Europe) is to check the restrictions on the kind of car you are driving. I was living in Germany in the 90’s and there were some insurance reciprocity issues between the Czech Republic and Germany. It was not uncommon to have a German-made rental car confiscated at the border. If I told my car rental company that I intended to drive to the CR, they would ensure that I did not drive there in a German-made vehicle. It’s a good question to ask the rental car agency before you drive away.
The second most important piece of advice for someone driving is to ensure you get the highway toll sticker when you get to the border. It’s not always easy to see, but ask – do not continue on the highway without one. The cost is much more when you get pulled over by the police and do not have one. I found out the hard way on one trip. It cost me time and extra dollars that I had not dedicated to that expense.
The third piece of advice for someone driving into Prague is to park in a very secure parking lot. I always parked in the Hradcanska area which is south of the government area and castle and just west of Old Town across the river. I chose this area because the hotel (I didn’t stay at this one for day-trips into Prague) had guarded parking and was very close to local transportation. I could buy a 24 hour transportation ticket from the concierge at the hotel for a very small amount of money. It allowed me to travel on the metro, bus and tram. I would walk out of the hotel and catch the tram and take it to the metro station, hop on the metro and get to the other side of the river. I got off at the first stop near the Old Town and began walking to those special points of interest. Most of the time I acted as a tour guide for a very small group of military Reservists who wanted to visit Prague.
The fourth piece of advice for those using the public transportationsystems is to never use it without a ticket. The ticket is seldom asked for by the ticket inspectors, but you don’t want to be caught without it. In all my travels using the public transportation (and I used it a lot on some visits – in Prague and other cities around Europe), I was asked one time for my ticket. It’s cheap insurance to buy it and keep it with you. It saves a lot of walking. The public transportation system facilitates a fast way to buy stuff, get it back to your guarded car quickly, and return to your shopping.
The tourist maps identify the sight-seeing points of interest. One could spend hours on the Charles Bridge, or in Old Town and other places. There is so much to see. I like to take pictures just before sunset. The sun high-lights the buildings and adds a photographic quality to it – especially if there are no clouds. One place I always visit is U Fleku. It is a pub and restaurant with a micro-brewery. U Fleku has been brewing beer in that location since 1499. I find it comparable to the beer tents set up in Munich during Oktoberfest, except that the rooms are obviously much smaller, and each has a unique theme. There are restaurants around Old Town that have dates above their doors starting in the 1300’s. I don’t know if they have been serving food in the same place for that entire time, but the building certainly has been there. I find many of these places very interesting. Oh, by the way, the least expensive beer that I found was actually in Old Town on the edge of the square – a place that I would not expect it to be inexpensive.
I found that there are a lot of Americans living in Prague and English is spoken almost everywhere. I found it interesting that I could order a meal and change this item and that item without a problem in English, but if I asked a question about the weather, they didn’t recognize what I was saying. They understand tourist English about their food. The markets are different, they understand and lot and work with you to ensure you get what you want. I have one place on the square in Old Town that I buy my glass crystal. However, I drive to Karlovy Vary to buy chandeliers. The price difference is worth the trip.
The prices have inched up over time. It used to be Prague was a great place for food and trinkets. A year and a half ago during my last trip through the Czech Republic, we stayed in Pilzen, CR near the train station. It was by far, the best accommodation for the price and the cost of dinner was roughly half of what we had been paying all over Europe. The only competitive place that I came across for food/drink was in the capital, Ljublijana, Republic of Slovenia.
I can’t imagine any place in Europe offering more for a tourist to see and do in a small area than Prague. It is clean, safe and enjoyable. As with any travel, you must always be on guard for your personal safety and that of your possessions. I didn’t let my guard down in Prague, I chose to walk most everywhere I went and it didn’t make any difference regarding the time of the day. Maybe it was because we were a group of middle-aged guys sight-seeing, but my last trip consisted on two couples and we enjoyed a perfect trip. Bring extra money with you, because you will find something there you must have – and they will help you ship it home!
Choices have consequences. Your Prosperity Professor, Red O’Laughlin