Day 65 - Tue Jun 7 Berlin, to Prague
(Chris) Happy birthday to me. Cough cough! No sleeping in today, as we have a train to catch. Jen and I left our deluxe American hotel, and ran a few quick errands before taking the subway to the train. The errands were: horrible-tasting cough suppressants for Chris (the female pharmacist explained: 'you must cough up the sli-eeme. The sli-eeme must go.'), Starbucks for Jen (there was a punk youth there, looking just like an American punk except he had a swastika on his arm with a red slash/circle through it... apparently he needed people to know he wasn't a Nazi), and bagels for both of us.
The train ride was quite pretty, mostly flattish green farmland in SE Germany, changing into rolling trees & rocks along a river into the Czech Republic. The ride was uneventful other than taking about 5 hours of time. Well that and various officials checked our passports about 5 times, which is 3-5 times more than normal for a border crossing. Arrival in Prague was odd though, as trains from E. Europe go to a secondary station, which was mostly deserted, in the middle of the day. I thought for sure we were in the wrong place, but it turned out to be correct. We learned yet another slightly-different subway system (our 6th I think) to avoid getting scammed by a taxi, and also I think because we have a subconscious desire to ride subways. We also had to change money here, and unlike the Euro, it's hard to get used to.
The Czech 'Crown' is about 25 to our dollar. So we took 3000 out of the machine at first, and then 2000, and then still ran out of money in 2 days. Yes we can still do simple division and multiplication, but you just get used to money being a certain way so it takes awhile to unlearn. We had heard (and Reeck wrote) that Eastern Europe is cheap, but... I dunno, our hotel and dinner seemed to be just as expensive as the rest of Europe (and not as good quality). The subway is uber-cheap ($0.30), and groceries somewhat cheap too, but overall not a big bargain if you asked me.
In that mode of thinking, we reserved a room with a bathroom down the hall, because it saved us $40/night, but what a pain... it requires a key to get down the hall that has the shared bathroom, and it's about 150 feet from our room. That's a long ways at 3am when you have to pee!
We had dinner at a big Czech beer hall. It was decent and different. They drink a lot of beer here (per Reeck #1 per capita consumption). I had a Pilsner Urqel, and it was fine but no different than home I think.
Day 66 - Wed Jun 8 Prague
(Chris) The Bubonic Plague lives on. In me. Ahem... Given our excellent experience with the Berlin walking tour, we decided to try our luck with the same in Prague. We met our tour at 11am, for a 4 hour tour, advertised "with break." Unfortunately, it was only a restroom break, and there was no food to buy, so we were pretty famished only an hour or 2 into it (in part because the included hotel breakfast was... too interesting for us). Anyway, we marched by a bunch of sights, as our tour guide expressed the importance in fairly broken English. She was nice, and to be fair she told us at the end it was her first ever tour (after it was over).
As far as sights, there were a few old churches, a lovely town square, a pretty impressive bridge across the river lined with statues, a big castle on the hill overlooking the city, and the Jewish Quarter. The river flooded about 15' above the West bank in 2002, so there was some interesting damage from that. The city also has the nickname 'The City of 100 Spires," but I could only count maybe 20. Along the way we got a healthy dose of how it was to be granted independence (as Czechoslovakia), then go behind the Iron Curtain, then have freedom restored. She also told us that Czechs are mostly atheists, because way back when they were a fairly Protestant country and at one point in history everyone had to convert to Catholicism or be deported. So they are apparently jaded on religion.
After the mega-tour, we did some laundry, and Jen took a nap to ease her migraine from not having food. We found a great Italian place for dinner not far from the main square and had a great meal. Then we spent an hour or so forming our master 'strategery' for the next 7 days, before we go visit the DeMoss' in Nice. Cough.