| 25 - 29 August 2004
This is a report of a
trip from Munich to Prague, which we did by car at the end of August
2004. Since my first visit to Prague in 1993 a
changed. The country has modernised itself and a lot of infrastructure
investment has been done (and is still going on). The central part of
Prague looks great - clean streets, beautiful buildings, a vibrant
atmosphere full of life. You get the impression that the Czech are
proud of having made it into the European Union and have high hopes for
the future. Shopping complexes are open seven days a week, and on
Sundays downtown Prague is full of activity, with tourists doing
sightseeing and locals shopping.
Rooms in Prague are not cheap and in fact room
pretty much in line with rates in any Western European country, despite
the fact that local wages are much lower than in Western Europe.
Essentially most hotels in Prague cater to tourists. Eating in Prague
is a bit less expensive than in
Austria, if you avoid tourist traps such as the Old Town Square for
instance, but is not too cheap. Fuel for the car
was around 30 Kc/liter - only 10% less expensive than fuel in
Germany. Overall the cost of a holiday in Prague is medium
more or less in line with what a holiday would cost in Germany or
Italy. Staying in Prague is for example much more expensive than
staying in Portugal.
/ Exchange rate (August 2004)
1 Euro = 1.22 US $
1 Euro = 32 Kc
For current exchange rates
the Universal Currency Converter.
Several Internet cafes are available in Prague. We
one at the tourist information in the old town.
Mostly cloudy the first days, a bit fresh. The
improved towards the end of our stay.
None required or
EU nationals and nationals from several other
more information contact the Czech embassy of your country.
Well... in theory foreign branded expensive cars
(from what I've heard) and in fact for safety reasons we left the car
guarded parking at night. But then we drove with the car into town,
parked there and nothing happened. Pickpockets probably exists, but
nobody stole anything from us.
Prague has an extensive public transportation
underground lines and several bus and tram lines. We thought that it
would make sense to use this system, since we read that driving and
parking in the centre was complicated and were afraid somebody
steal the car.
On the first day we did indeed use the public
transportation system, but found out that if you are with a baby in a
baby buggy it is tiring and complicated to get around with trams and
underground, because the surface transportation system is not adapted
to buggies (buses and trams are not at ground level and to get in you
have to walk up a staircase). In the underground stations which we saw,
there were no elevators and even no escalators in some parts, forcing
you to carry the buggy down the stairs. Also, if it's 10pm and you are
downtown and are tired after a full day of sightseeing, you may not
want to negotiate your way back to the hotel with the public
transportation system. In addition taxis in Prague are expensive (we
Kc to get from downtown to Prague 3). So, the other two days we tried
using the car to
our surprise this was much better than taking the public transportation
system. It was easy to get downtown and very easy to find a parking -
although I suspect that where we left the car a zone permit was
necessary. It looks like most if not all parking spots downtown are
available only to people who have a permit. Leaving the car in a
parking would have been complicated as there are not so many parkings
in town and you have to find them (difficult if you don't know the
town). Nevertheless apparently the Czech
police showed mercy for our car (or closed one eye) as we were not
fined. Also, nobody broke into the car. To summarise it, unlike
Budapest, getting around by car in Prague was great - very easy to get
quickly from A to B.
24.08.04: Munich (preparing
It was quite complicated to find a hotel in
we were looking for a four star hotel. It turned out that hotels in
Prague are quite overpriced, with even some three star places charging
more than 100 Euro/night. The good value four star hotels we found were
all fully booked. After a lot of debating on whether to stay in an
apartment or not, we finally settled on a three star hotel - Hotel
Populus in the Zizkov area, which charges 56 Euro/night for a double.
Other places we found were the Strachov hostel which charges 23 Euro
for a double with private bath (which we ruled out as the rooms are
quite basic), Hotel Crystal (60 Euro/night for a double, but fully
booked on August 25th and a bit too out out town) and some apartments,
which we ruled out since they cost almost as much as hotels but don't
provide safe parking. At least the Hotel Populus has its own guarded
parking area (I do hope it's guarded, as I heard it's not safe to leave
a middle-class car in the roads of Prague), is modern and the rooms
look quite neat on the Internet page. We will leave tomorrow around 3pm
and I hope we'll
9pm. In theory it should be possible to reach Prague leaving from
Munich in four+ hours, but we are travelling with a baby and
there might be trafic jams. The weather is the big unknown - or should
because right now all forecasts are saying that it will be cloudy or
raining between Wednesday and Saturday. How to shoot good photos with
an overcast sky ?
Hotel Populus, Prague. Mid-range three
Euro/night for a
double with bath. Hotel is ok, but not too great. Rooms are clean with
TV, decently furnished. It's a newly built building, but the location
seems a bit inconvenient. To go downtown you have to take a bus.
Guarded garage is 200 Kc/night.
Weather: Sunny with clouds, very
sunshine alternates with an overcast sky. Overcast sky in the evening
when we arrive in Prague.
We manage to leave Unterhaching at 2:45pm and the
theory could be done in four hours, in reality takes a bit over six
hours - we reach the hotel around 9pm after a couple of stops. Alissia,
our four months old baby, is very quiet and sleeps most of the time.
She only starts briefly to cry at 6pm, because she is hungry.
Everything runs (almost) smooth in the German part of the trip as there
is just a small traffic jam a bit out of Munich. However when we pass
Regensburg along the A93 motorway and should change to the E50 which
continues to Pilsen and Prague, we miss the exit. I have to say that
the exit is not properly marked. Instead of getting out in Wernberg we
continue for about 10-15 km before turning back and getting back to
Wernberg where we fetch the E50.
Surprise, surprise the E50 is not a motorway. It's a narrow and winding
road which only becomes a motorway close to the Czech border. Long
convoy of cars behind very slow trucks.
At the border they let us through with no problems in less than one
minute. The lady just has to check with her colleague the passport of
Shirley. I guess it doesn't happen that often that a Malaysian crosses
the border there.
The 10 day vignette for the Czech motorways (actually there is just one
motorway from the border to Pilsen, Prague and Brno if I'm not
mistaken) costs 7 Euro. I change some money at the rate of 29.50
Kc/Euro (the interbank rate is 32 Euro). I also refuel the car -
surprised to see the cashier at the petrol station wearing a white
shirt and a tie (like an investment banker).
The Czech motorway is quite new. You can really see that there has been
some infrastructure investment recently in the Czech republic. Lots of
modernisation since I visited Prague in 1993. Around Pilsen the
motorway is "broken", i.e. you drive for some time on narrow country
roads before getting again on the motorway. We spend 245 Kc for a
dinner in a motorway restaurant.
We finally reach Prague around 8:20pm and then manage to reach the
hotel a bit before 9pm, after getting lost once (wrong motorway exit -
we find ourselves on the edge to nowhere).
Weather: sunny with clouds in the
hotel at 11:30am the sky is already overcast. Later it rains
intermittently and towards the evening the situation improves -
probably tomorrow the weather will be good. Quite fresh the whole day.
It's a challenge to play the role of the tourist
sightseeing with a four months old baby. I have to say that our baby is
probably more quiet and easy going than other babies, and manages to
follow us during our sightseeing without complaining too much (except
when it's food time and she is hungry). All Alissia wants is to be
carried in the arms every now and then and also to enjoy the
sightseeing. Alissia is a very curious baby and likes to explore its
surroundings. Still it's not easy to spend the whole day sightseeing
with a baby.
I wake up at 8:30am, but we only manage to leave the hotel at 11:30am
(Shirley wakes up at 9:45am - the baby made some trouble last night and
kept Shirley awake for a long time - in case you are wondering why I
slept, the answer is that I was using earplugs...).
Anyway, we manage to catch the 11:34 bus Nr 133 to the Florenc
underground station. We arrive there approx. 13 minutes later and the
first hurdle shows up: no escalator to go down (only to go up). We have
to roll the kinderwagen down the stairs. Well, further down there are
escalators which go in both directions, but then there are parts in
which one direction has no escalators, only stairs. There also is no
elevator - I wonder how people on wheelchairs use the underground here.
We take the B line to the Namesti Republiki station and from there
start our walk at 12:15pm. I'm impressed at how artistic and beautiful
the buildings are. We slowly walk towards the Old town square with the
Nicholas and Our Lady before Tyn churches, then continue towards the
Prague castle, crossing the Karlsbrücke. Over the next hours and
until the evening we alternate walks, sightseeings and stops in
restaurants and pubs. I even manage to drink three beers (actually
three Radlers - mix of beer and lemonade), which is quite impressive as
rarely drink beer. Around 6pm we try to walk up to the castle, only to
find out that it is only possible to reach it by walking up a long
staircase. Try doing that with a kinderwagen.
Dinner is at 8pm in an Italian restaurant along the Vltava river. I
finish the pizza as I'm already full.
It gets quite cool in the evening. Around 10pm we are in the St Maria
Tyn square and since we are tired and it's complicated to get back by
public transportation with a kinderwagen we simply take a taxi - which
however isn't cheap at all at 580 Kc (19 Euro).
Tomorrow we'll drive by car into town and will leave the car in a
parking. Should be less complicated than taking the bus and the metro.
Weather: overcast with sunshine in
lot in the afternoon with sunshine and a blue sky, then overcast again
in the late afternoon/evening. No rain, fresh but warmer than yesterday.
We sleep long until after 10am, thereby missing
only available until 10am (buffet style). In the morning I check with
the reception if we can extend the stay for one more night, but the
hotel is fully booked. So I call the travel agency which booked the
hotel for us and ask them to book a new hotel for us.
We leave the hotel around noon and this time we go into town by car -
when leaving the hotel I expect problems navigating through Prague,
finding a parking and possibly having somebody break into the car
(everybody keeps telling me that foreign cars get stolen often in
Prague). We manage to reach downtown quite easily and park the car in
the Dlouha street near to the Old Town square. From there
it's a short walk to the Old Town square, where we have lunch in
an Italian restaurant around 1pm. After lunch, around 2pm we climb on
the town hall tower for some great panorama shots of Prague. By now the
weather has considerably improved.
At 3pm we walk to Josefov, the
Jewish quarter of Prague. The idea would be to visit the old Jewish
cemetery and some synagogue. It turns out that there is a steep
entrance fee of 300 Kc (almost 10 Euro) per person, just to see the
cemetery and a few synagogues. Steep compared to the other entrance
fees in Prague (40 Kc for instance to get on the Townhall tower). The
cemetery is quite interesting, but the synagogues are a disappointment
- quite boring with nothing to see and to top it all photography not
allowed. Hard to understand why there are no entrance fees for
Christian churches but there are instead for Jewish synagogues.
Anyway, we finally get out of the Jewish quarter at 4:20pm (by the way,
except the cemetery there are no ancient buildings there - everything
looks as if it was built in the 19th century). We walk back to the car
and drive to the Letna park opposite the river which we reach around
5:15pm. There is a point in this park from which you have a quite
impressive view of Prague and the Vltava river. We stay there until
after 6pm, then get back to the car. I drive around the castle to
get an idea how to get there tomorrow. Then we drive back to Prague
centre and stop in a shopping complex, where I check my emails while
Shirley does some shopping. Dinner is at 9pm in
a restaurant in the Old Town square (overpriced, food is so-so).
We are back in the hotel at 10:30pm.
Hotel Prokop: this place has quite good
those of the
Hotel Populus), but the location is a bit arkward. A car is necessary
to get to this place.
Weather: overcast in the morning,
gets overcast again. No rain the whole day; fresh.
We pack our things in the morning and leave the
noon. Getting to the Hotel Prokop involves reaching the southern
motorway ring, following it until after the bridge over the Vltava
river, taking the first exit and from there and then finding the way
through a maze of roads. The area looks like kind of a rural area,
forgotten by god (or by the development). Anyway, the hotel manager is
friendly and the room is nice.
After unlaoding our stuff we immediately drive into town, this time
heading towards the castle area. We pass by a stadium and park next to
the Strahov monastery. Not sure if parking is allowed there or not but
get fined and nobody steals or breaks into the car. Then we start
our daily sightseeing by visiting the Strahov monastery, whose main
church however is closed.
From the Strahov monastery we walk down and realise that we are very
close to the
castle (by the way nice views of Prague from here). So basically we
walk to the castle from there - no need to climb stairs up or down with
a kinderwagen as we assumed would be necessary yesterday. We find out
later that it would have been even possible to get even closer to the
We reach the castle at 2:10pm and spend two hours there - until 4:15pm.
The St Vitus cathedral, currently undergoing restoration, is
beautiful inside - finally a "world class" church in Prague.
drive to the shopping complex which Shirley had spotted when we drove
from the hotel to the castle earlier today. It turns out that this is
the Andel shopping complex, open seven days a week and one of the
bigger and most modern shopping complexes in Prague. Since we are very
hungry and tired (already 4:45pm and still no lunch) we have some food
at the nearby KFC restaurant.
A half past five we start exploring the area - Shirley is looking for
the shopping complex main entrance. We find instead an Internet cafe
(cheap at 50Kc/hr) where I check my emails, while Shirley feeds the
baby. At 6:30pm we split - Shirley goes shopping into the shopping
complex, while I head towards the national theater for some photo
shooting. The sky is now free of clouds and the evening sunlight is
I'm back in the shopping complex shortly before
continues with her shopping and we leave the shopping complex around
9pm. After we drive to Wenceslas square where we have a light dinner in
Chinese restaurant. We are back in the hotel at midnight, after getting
lost a couple of times in the maze of streets surrounding the Prokop
and stopping at a petrol station to refuel the car (petrol here is
about 20 Euro cents/liter cheaper than in Germany). The baby refuses to
sleep until 1:30am - I guess she is either too tired and has seen too
many things today (or perhaps we came back too late).
29.08.04: Prague -> Munich
Weather: overcast in the morning,
sky). Later it gets overcast again and on the motorway it rains.
We manage to get up before 10am to still have some
our stuff and check out. We then drive into town. Actually it's quite
easy and fast to get into town from the Prague 5 district where the
hotel Prokop is located - if you know the way.
We try to get to the shopping complex near Namesti republiki square,
but get lost in the maze of roads and then stop somewhere downtown
after Shirley spotted an open air market. It turns out that we are
behind the beginning of the Wenceslas square. Shirley goes for her
shopping while I have a look around. Despite the Sunday all shops are
open and the Wenceslas square is full of life. Compare that to German
which on Sundays are dead and boring.
After lunch we leave Prague at 3pm and manage to be back in Munich at
7:20pm - a good time and that includes a 20 minutes stop at a Czech
petrol station near the border. Alissia is quiet during all those four