Monday, May 25, 2009


I realize it has been a good long while since my last post. But we've had quite a few visitors as of late, and last week I was able to sneak off to Prague, Bratislava, and Vienna to accompany J on a work trip. And I have to say, one of the best things about living in Brussels is still the fact that places like Prague are just an hour away by plane. Speaking of air travel, we decided to chance it with discount airline Sky Europe, which bills itself "Central Europe's first low fare low cost airline." It was fine on the way out (even though you have to pay for your beverages), but a horror coming back from Vienna (flight delayed 3.5 hours, coupled with whiplash-inducing landing).    

But let's get back to Prague, shall we. It was my first time, and I have to admit I fell in love a little bit.  Walking around, it's tough to find a street corner that's not photogenic, to the point where I was worried I wouldn't have room left on my memory card for Bratislava and Vienna. Locals were very friendly and a bit wacky (my favorite combination), and most spoke English. Unfortunately, I had to pack my whole experience into little more than 24 hours, due to our travel schedule. But here's what I did:

11:00PM Tuesday. Upon arrival, gaze longingly out of hotel window at Prague Castle. Hotel was slightly weird (full kitchen but no cutlery?) but well-located in Mala Strana.
10:00AM Wednesday. Start leisurely walk to Gehry's Dancing (or Fred and Ginger) Building along the river. Cross Charles Bridge, which is already swarmed with tourists, into Stare Mesto. Consider buying "Kaffee mit Kafka" mug but decide against it (probably should have, given amount of Czech Koruna left).
11:00AM. Stumble across excellent Contemporary European Glass Sculpture exhibit. Visit it.
12:00 PM. Having taken a few pics of Dancing building (I'm surprised to be the only dork visibly doing so), wander from Nove Mesto to Stare Mesto.
12:30 PM. Mildly entertaining walking tour of Wenceslas Square courtesy of Lonely Planet (I love LP's walking tours - I just can't help it.) Allows me to take a few pics, including gorgeous Tesla Radio stained-glass window and Horse by David Cerny (whom, fatefully, we will see later that night). Slightly disappointed by Cubist lamppost. Sit down in Franciscan garden for a rest but have to move after overhearing two Irish guys' obnoxious conversation ("They're getting married?" "Well, you know how all women are. They just want to tie you down.")
1:30 PM. Inquire at gym/spa near Franciscan garden about possibility of getting a pedicure. Despite heavy use of charades, am shown to tanning booth. What does one have to do in Europe to get a pedicure?
2:00 PM. Getting really hungry now. After wandering through Old Town Square and its throngs of tourists, catching a glimpse of the Astronomical Clock, end up having lunch in garden of cute little restaurant Alma. Pay less than 6€ for excellent 2-course meal and beverage. Decide to travel only to countries that have not yet adopted € from now on.
3:30 PM. Meander around Josefov's Jewish museum sites. Realize most of the people here are Jewish American families from Long Island and New Jersey. Some of them seem to be eyeing me, wondering what exactly this Asian girl is doing here. Learn from LP that the reason these sites are so well preserved is that the Nazis preserved them because they planned to build a 'museum of an extinct race.'
4:30 PM. Consider buying Golem book, but decide against it. Consider buying Mucha 2010 calendar (shopkeeper pulls out three alternative versions as soon as she sees me eyeing one - Czechs appear refreshingly interested in commerce, at least compared to "Ce n'est pas possible" Belgians), but feel Art Nouveau'd out by Brussels. And apparently having a cheap day.
5:00 PM. See NYU in Prague campus sign. Have a little giggle. (Used to work for NYU.) 
5:30 PM. Return to hotel for nap. After all, am with child.
8:00 PM. J and I meet fellow journos (of his) at Palace Hotel. En route, manage to make up for day without commerce by picking up a few items at Botanicus. (From NYT article. See also their latest take on Prague, which came out after we left.)
9:00 PM. Have been escorted by Czech journalist, via walk and tram, to "tourist-free" pub in Mala Strana. Wish I remembered the name (it's near the American Embassy). Have another cheap meal (my first in an endless series of Wienerschnitzels on this trip). Go downstairs to book launch party of local macroeconomist. Apparently, the whole town is here (and getting down on the dancefloor), including local "bad boy" David Czerny of Entropa fame/infamy. Turns out Czerny only wears his signature black wifebeater, because his last name means "black" in Czech. His girlfriend seems to have gotten the memo and is wearing a matching outfit. Czech intelligentsia remind me vaguely of college.
12:00 AM. Time to call it a night. Leaving early for Bratislava the following morning.

(Slightly less-detailed posts on Bratislava, Vienna, and Wachau to follow.)       

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