Day 4 started as it did yesterday with breakfast at Frescos just up from the hotel and right beside Checkpoint Charlie We had packed almost everything the night before and thought that we had plenty of time to linger as the central station wasnt too far away. We had our last few shots of German coffee and then Kathryn and I headed off to C.Charlie to grab a few last minute photos. Of course this whole area is a tourist trap now. There is the checkpoint hut itself and although we were too early, there are usually a few fake soldiers 'manning' the hut. These are the two iconic photos facing both the American and Russian sectors.
American Soldier at Checkpoint Charlie
I thought that in their absence I might stand guard instead
At Checkpoint Charlie
We walked up past the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (somewhere we had visited before and loved) and saw this plaque of Mr Brezhnev. This is a plaque donated by the Russian Federation to the museum.
We then headed off to the hotel to collect David and the cases and said goodbye to the staff who I have to say were all very friendly and helpful during our stay. It took me all my strength to walk past the chocolate shop without going in but in my defence, at least I hadnt had a stein of beer yet today. When we got to the station we realised that one of the stations we had hoped to go through was closed and we would have to go on a far more circuitous route to get there along with far more changes along the way. We were getting panicky now as we knew we were cutting it fine.
At the station with only 8 minutes to spare we had to queue up for the tickets as well as walk quite a distance to the train. We had hoped to buy something to eat but that was impossible as we had to purchase them from a very rude ticket seller and run. I kid you not, we got on to the train with 30 seconds to spare and were walking the length of the train to find seats as the train moved off.
We settled down beside a very sweet German guy who was going to Prague for the second time in three weeks to meet up with his boyfriend, but were then joined by about six Czech guys behind us who had a crate of beer and didnt shut up for 4 ½ hrs.
All I can say to anyone who is planning a trip to Europe is, think of a trip to both Berlin and Prague. They are two totally different but equally fascinating cities and the train journey between them is absolutely beautiful. The first 1 ½ to 2 hours was a trip through what was the old communist East. It was flat but interesting. There were still lots of old badly constructed soulless buildings and houses but also lots of new building too. It was almost impossible to take photos at speed through a not very clean window but I managed a few so that you could get an idea.
Little did I realise how awesome (that is the only word I can use) the scenery would be after 2 hours but to be honest, all my son and daughter could do was read! After all Red Dwarf was about to come back on the screen and Kathryn had to get prepared for it.
Getting ready for the new Red Dwarf Series
I wasnt prepared either for the beauty of the towns we were about to go through. As we approached Dresden station I could see the city in the distance and wished that I had time to get off and have a look. It is situated on the River Elbe, a river that cuts through the most amazing sandstone cliffs with castles and vineyards along the way. It was known as the Florence of the Elbe before the bombing of the city in February of 1945. Have a look online to see just how beautiful it once was. However, many of the buildings and churches have been reconstructed and it is a beautiful city once again. I have to visit it some day, thats for sure. This is the station as we passed through. There has been a lot of reconstruction as it too was badly damaged.
Terrible photo but it was the best I could do on a fast moving train with a dirty window
Tourists on a boat
I couldnt get the photos I wanted moving at speed but the scenery was amazing – this pic I stole from the net. The high sandstone cliffs, the castles, the vineyards and the beautiful scenery were breathtaking. I had no idea that the journey was going to be like this
By now we were getting close to the Czech border and the city of Dien. The scenery didnt let up even as we travelled into the Czech Republic
City of Dien in the Czech Rep
Another photo of the beautiful scenery – I couldnt get any quality ones but this gives you the idea of what a fabulous train journey it was
After a wonderful 4 ½ hour train journey we finally reached Prague Central Station. Now I know that when we travel abroad we all expect English to be spoken or at least some sort of signage in English to help the tourist (we shouldnt but we do) but Prague and the station in particular were a mess. We were in search of a ticket booth to get a 3 day ticket to use the city transport (we knew that we could use the tram, buses, underground and funicular) but despite all our efforts we could find nowhere. Eventually we found someone to ask who pointed us to a machine. We found the machine but it only took coins and all the instructions were in Czech. I think that London Underground are more helpful than that! So, back I go again and this time I queue up and go to a booth (any old booth – dont know what it is for as there are no instructions in any language apart from Czech) and when I reach the front, Im sent to another booth. Eventually we get the tickets from a booth where there is absolutely no sign at all and we are on our way.
The underground in Prague is very good and easy to negotiate. We head to I.P.Pavlova and our hotel, the Novotel. We get checked in and are given a room on the first floor. Thankfully this time it isnt facing the road.
Novotel Hotel Prague
The hotel was a good basic 3 – 4 star. We got settled in and then decided to walk down the hill and head into the town. Even as we stepped out of the hotel, we were surrounded by the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. They were all beautifully painted and preserved and many had lovely decorative carvings. After a while, I just had to stop using the camera as every building seemed more beautiful than the last.
The first beautiful building we saw
Another – but I soon learned to be discriminating
What we were really looking for was the Old Town but by now we were tired and hungry. It wasnt quite time for a meal but we decided that a cup of coffee and some nice cake would do the trick. We found Cafe Paul and headed in for a much needed sit down. Kathryn had a lemon tart and David a raspberry macaroon. Both were delicious, especially the macaroon.
Cafe Paul Lemon Tart
Walking past the cafe and heading towards the Old Town, I saw this Art Deco building. I am a sucker for 1920s and 30s architecture and thought it was just beautiful.
Loved this Art Deco Building
We headed through the Powder Gate towards the centre of the old town to see the Astronomical Clock.
I saw this in a shop window and just had to have a photo
By now, it was beginning to get slightly dark but the crowds surrounding the clock were huge. I can see the attraction of this 800 year old amazing time piece.It is stunning. People gather in particular for it to strike on the hour as the figures on the clock move. As well as that, there is a trumpteer who blows his trumpet after the clock strikes. I apologise for the poor quality of the photos here as it was getting dark and my hand seems to have been shaky too.
By now we were pretty hungry and with our TA list of restaurants we decided to go to one called Cafe Colore. This restaurant stood out when we were looking at recommendations in terms of food and pricing and it proved to be a great choice. David and Kathryn had hunter's steak and I had shcnitzel. I forgot to take any pictures of the food until it was too late
Half eaten dessert – this was a mint panna cotta and was totally dreamy
I do remember though that we had four glasses of beer, three desserts, and three main courses which came to just over £30. The food was terrific and I was determined to go back. While we were seated and waiting for our food two men and two women came in and were seated at the table next to us. The manager was all over them and shook hands again and again with each one of them. They were English, but one of the men was very familiar looking. I dont know who he was but each one of us looked at him and thought the same. We thought he was either a politician or an actor but whoever he was, he was obnoxious. They were loud and guffawed all evening. At one stage the guy who looked familiar said, 'You know, it's not arrogance, it's just a matter of being right'. At that moment I thought I might just be a little sick. Apart from having to listen to these eejits all night we had a wonderful evening. The manager even came to talk to us and told us how his son had gone to study at a language school in Cambridge (which is clsoe to where we live) but had learned very little as he had far too good a time.
Full, and having had a great evening, we left the restaurant and slowly walked back to the hotel taking in the evening air. I couldnt resist taking a photo of this in an off licence as we headed back.
We all headed off to bed , tired but looking forward to tomorrow when we would spend the whole day exploring Prague .
Stunning pictures! The Powder Gate is Wow! and stunning!
Brilliant photos again Mags, it looks like you had a great time, the scenery is just amazing.
Another great trip report with pictures. It makes me wish I was still living in Europe. I was in Dresden when it was still in the Communist Zone. It is a beautiful city. I went in on a bus tour and when we were leaving the bus driver took us "behind the scenes". The main part of the city and fronts of the buildings were gorgeous. From the back however it looked entirely different. I never got to go to Prague but would certainly love to.