Coffee, Crypts and RailJets

I was only in Prague overnight. My intention was to go straight from Berlin to Vienna, but when looking at a map of Europe, the most direct route is through the Czech Republic and Prague. If you do it this way, you have to change trains in Prague, and according to the man in Seat 61 (my train travel bible), if you do this there is a little known option on the Deutsche Bahn website which allow you to have an overnight stay in Prague on a single ticket. Essential you get two train trips for the price of one. Doing this I could see a few things in Prague (of course at the cost of a day in Vienna). When booking from Berlin, if you book First Class you get a reserved seat. You don’t get a reserved seat on the second leg to Vienna, but another little travel hack is to go to the Czech train website and just reserve a seat. The bonus of this is that you can reserve “Business Class” which on this train is a step above first class even. Not a bad option for A$25

I started a little later today, as my train to Vienna wasn’t until 12.51 in the afternoon. I got  up about 8.30, went down for the included breakfast (the Falkensteiner Hotel Maria Prag has been excellent). Whilst there one of the kitchen hands dropped about 50 ceramic plates on the ground accidentally, There was broken plates everywhere, which they cleaned up in seconds, people with brooms came from all corners. I wasn’t sure what to do today, I was thinking about the Museum of Communism, as its supposed to be quite good however having done a communist tour in Poland and the DDR museum in Berlin, I was a little over communism (much like Eastern Europe really…). It was as this exact moment I got a message from my mate Virgil in Sydney telling me not to forget to go to see the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral. The reminder was like a message from some sort of divine travel guardian as if I hadn’t received it at that exact moment I probably would have missed this completely. We went past it on last nights bike tour, but somehow I’d managed to forget about it. The museum there is free entry, however if you visit please donate a few dollars to assist with the upkeep, nothing is ever free, someone pays for to keep it going. Unlike all the kitch and tacky stuff in Prague this is truly worth seeing.

This church was the hideout used during Operation Anthropoid  in WW2 where the allies and resistance assassinated Reinhard Heydrich. The resultant search and reprisals are a truly harrowing story. If you don’t know the story and the wikipedia entry is TL;DR,  whilst Heydrich who was one of the chief architects of the Holocaust was killed, all the operatives in Prague died (either killed themselves to prevent capture or were murdered), their families were murdered and an entire town was liquidated and blown up.

After about an hour here reading and looking, I headed back to the main square to see if I could get some decent coffee. Whilst breakfast was included in the hotel, the coffee was machine made rubbish, not even Nespresso (although as a side note the hotel did give you a Nespresso machine in the room with pods). Wasn’t sure what I’d find and as I got closer to the tourist centre I was thinking the chance of great coffee was diminishing as I walked past numerous Starbucks. Googling for coffee indicated all the great ones were over 30 minutes walk away. I chanced upon “Made in Coffee”, and it turns out this was a great decision. I could tell by the skill the Barista poured the milk into the cup that he knew what he was doing and this would be a great coffee. An 8/10. At $5 is wasn’t exactly cheap, but considering what I’d paid in Copenhagen and I was in the tourist central area not too bad. Unfortunately the famous astronomical clock here in Prague was undergoing renovations.

After this headed back, checked out and made my way to the station. Purchased some lunch supplies for the train ride, which also helped me unload most of the last Koruna I had. At this point I got another message from Virgil to try some Kofola which is a local Coke/Pepsi substitute. Interesting, but way to sweet for my taste.

Business class on this train is fantastic. The seats are reclinable, and business class is almost empty. I have an entire section right by myself. The leather seats recline and are very much like the seats in a gold class cinema at home. I’m given a bottle of water, a free coffee and a €2 voucher to use against any other food order. The train also has a small display in each section which shows how far away each stop is and how fast we are travelling. I noticed it got up to 160kph on this trip. With included WiFi I’ve been able to use my laptop and write these blog entries as the beautiful Czech and Austrian countryside whizz by.

So far Austrian Railways with their RailJet has been my best train experience this trip.


Kitch in Prague

Prague is undoubtedly a drop dead gorgeous town, especially on a warm afternoon with clear sky’s it is stunning. This beauty as well as being in the cheaper central / eastern part of Europe with cheap food, drink and accomodation has made it a bit of a tourist mecca. There were so many people it was difficult to walk the streets. In comparison Kraków felt like a ghost town.

Unfortunately this also has attracted the tacky side of tourism, There is the “biggest wax museum in Prague” (you mean there is more than one?), a museum of torture, a dungeon museum, a senses museum, a museum of sex machines😳,  hot rod tourist cars, a chocolate museum, model Ts and your usual standard selection of street performers (gold and silver men, bubble men and if I looked hard enough I’m sure I’d find the floating Yoda). It’s almost like a little Las Vegas. I’m sure it’s all interesting stuff but has little or no relationship with Czech culture. I kept finding little museum after museum. Here is but a small example of some of the things on offer.

There is even a museum on Czech hockey, I never even knew hockey was a thing here, but then what would I know about hockey, When in Canada many years ago I had no clue who Wayne Gretzky was yet I still visited the Hockey Hall of Fame. At least that was a central part of the of Canadian culture and makes sense to do that when in Canada.

Walking along I rounded a corner and walked past an “Apple Museum”. I thought this has to be tacky and a complete waste of money, but I couldn’t resist paying my 300 Koruna (about A$18) and went inside to see for myself. At this point I instantly became part of the problem. For every 1 person that goes into the Apple museum, probably 50 go into the sex machine museum or the various wax museums.

In its defence the museum covered almost every Apple device imaginable, I was happy and I think I got my K300 worth. The English grammar on the displays was a little suspect. I liked the museum But did it have to be in the Old Town? Probably yes to get the tourist market, they rely on people just finding these places. If I had to get an Uber or metro out of the tourist area for this I probably wouldn’t have bothered where I would bother for some sort of cultural or historical museum or monument.

And of course there are more Thai massage places here than you can poke a stick at. I guess if there is a happy ending to this story it has to be that at least all this kitch and tack is keeping people employed and paying taxes so the city can be maintained. Striking a balance is difficult given how popular this place is. Of course I did also discover upon leaving here there is a Lego museum. Given a few days here I may have relented and visited that one too.


Coffee and Train to Prague

One the way into the main Berlin station early this morning (about 6.30) I let out a little cheer as the place where I bought my breakfast pretzel yesterday was open and I could grab another one. I also purchased a normal pretzel for later as this was a 4 hour train ride and food is expensive and not that great on them. I found the ‘Einstein Cafe” was open, and they did a pretty good coffee for a station shop. A passable 6.5/10


Later on the train they came through with a cart and offered coffee (drip style) which I bought and noticed it was provided by Starbucks. And this cost me €3.50.sheesh, you can’t escape it.

The train as it pulls in (EC177)

My seat

The train was comfortable and the view along the Elbe river into Prague on this nice day was stunning.

The hotel was only a 100m or so form the station so I checked in. It’s in a wonderful old building

I then wandered around the old town, over the bridges and had some lunch on the main square and checked out the Apple Museum. Apple museum will be covered in later post. As will the bike tour

Lunch. The potatoes didn’t sound too appetising on the menu but they were extraordinary

I’m not a large beer drinker normally but can’t have a schnitzel in the part of the world without one

Some pics from around town

Prague is a real party town and crowded. The photos I’ve picked above don’t really show just how many people there are milling about. I thought Krakow had a party scene, it was super tame compared to Prague