Look Up!

After the discussion last week about all the streets lined with rows upon rows of flats, I need to show you how the builders try to make their building distinctive. Many of these apartments are decorated with statues, paintings, etc, but the pedestrian needs to LOOK UP to see them.

On almost every block that I walk, if I remember to look up, I'll see some sort of adornment to a building. It might be balconies on the upper floors or etchings into the stone facades.

Just down the street (picture on the right), we have statues flanking the main door of the building. Often they look like Greek gods holding the building up.

In some instances, the ornamentation is built right into the pattern of the stone used in the building.  The picture on the right is one of the national art galleries on the hill near Prague Castle. The pattern on the blocks gives the impression that there are raised portions on the blocks, but in reality, the building walls are smooth with etchings into the blocks. …

They All Sit in a Row

Last week I mentioned that one option for parking cars was to park in the inner courtyard of your flat. Some of you may not get the idea of what I meant, so this week, I'll explain further. The apartment buildings here - which means most of Prague's older buildings - are built all connected together in one block.

When the buildings are the same color, they appear to be one long structure. This isn't unique to Prague. Many of the European cities that I've been in has this same arrangement with apartments that were built about one hundred years ago. The buildings are about five to six stories tall, with flats in the upper floors.

In many neighborhoods, the bottom floor is occupied by a business. In Old Town Square, many of the businesses are cafes, restaurants and pivovars (beer cafe) for all the tourists. In our neighborhood, a potraviny (grocery store), meat store, hair salon and realtor are on this first level.

Often the businesses are actually in a below ground area. …

No Car For Me, Thanks

In certain areas of Prague, like the street in front of our flat, car owners have to park at an angle on the curb. It's nice the police allow for this extra parking since cars are more abundant these days, but they didn't change the height of the curbs when they decided to allow parking.

As you can maybe imagine, the curb is no small rise for vehicles. Almost every day we hear a grating noise as the the bottom of cars scrape along the curb. I'm convinced that a car mechanic persuaded the city to allow this. They must make boodles of money when these cars need repair.

Gunning engines sometime wake us up in the middle of the night as owners try to mount the curb to park their car again. I have to say I'm happy we don't own one. I'm sure I couldn't get my car to do that.

Then, there's the problem of where the cars stop once they're on top of the curb. A white line is painted on the ground for the front bumper. Would you know where that little white line …

Memorial to the US Army of 1945

Last June, we ventured out of Prague for the first time to figure out how to travel by train. (Buying the ticket was the challenging part) Deciding to check out Pilsen, we took the two hour train ride southwest to that city.

The most surprising thing we saw there was the Patton Memorial Plzen.  On the 60th anniversary of the US Army's liberation of Pilsen, the city opened this museum as a permanent exhibition of the appreciation that the people felt toward the armies who set them free at the end of WWII.

General George S. Patton, Jr, marched his troops through the city of Pilsen on May 6, 1945, freeing the city and southwest Bohemia from the tyranny of the German army. The Czechs poured out of their houses surrounding the US Army vehicles. The crowd shared in the pure joy of the moment, laughing, cheering and giving gifts of food and flowers to the rescuers. They were so thankful for freedom again.

Unfortunately, US occupation of Pilsen only lasted until November, 1945 when the G…

Postcard from Vienna

As promised, today's post will be a glimpse of the sights we saw in Vienna last week. Vienna was a wonderful place to visit, even though it rained the first day we were there. We did manage to taste the original Sacher Torte at the Sacher Hotel, however.

We toured the majestic cathedral in the city center. St. Stephan's was started in the 1300s. It became a cathedral in 1722 when the pope allowed this church to become an archbishopric. It sustained some damage during WWII, but was rebuilt shortly after the war was over.

To avoid the rain, we spent the morning viewing the Peter Paul Rubens collection at the art museum.

Maria-Theresa stood watch outside of the art museum with her four guards on horses protecting her. She was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dynasty, reigning from 1740-1780.

 In the afternoon, we visited the Schonbrunn Palace, the summer home of the Habsburgs.
Located about three miles south of the winter palace, it's hard to believe that this humongous…

Riding the Rails

Train travel is a way of life in Europe. I've traveled on a train a dozen times during the eight months already. For Americans, train travel is rare and most have never been on a train. Over here, many people don't have cars so train travel is a necessity.

For me, the hardest part of train travel is booking the tickets online. There are so many different classes of trains: regional trains - stop more often; high speed - few stops; EC (Euro city) - few stops; IC (inter city) - many stops; ICE (inter city express) - faster, but costs more. By the time I figure out what I need, my head is aching. Some train tickets don't even come with a seat reservation, so you might get access to the train, but have no place to sit. I've seen over-booked trains where people are sitting in the aisles or standing in the space between cars.

When you finally get your ticket and have a seat reserved, the seat and car number are indicated on the ticket. Of course, don't forget that the ti…

2018 Comes in With a BANG!

Happy New Year! Prague certainly knows how to usher in a new year. It started with firecrackers and bangs about 7:00 PM on the 31st and didn't end until New Year's Day about 7:00 PM.

We were warned before last weekend that New Year's Eve is crazy in Prague. They told us not to go downtown, or into large popular squares. Prague residents take the celebrating into their own hands and somehow purchase firecrackers and fireworks that are set off by individuals, including the kind that fly into the air and burst into beautiful colors.

Taking the warnings seriously, we stayed at home and invited some friends to join us. The celebrating started way before midnight with the bangs and pops heard from our window early in the evening. It continued almost constantly until half an hour past midnight. My husband commented several times that it sounded like we were in a war zone.

The next day, the only evidence of the celebrating was an empty fireworks hulk lying near a tree as I walked …