Sunday July 3rd 2011
Travelling to Prague was my first holiday in 14 years. I’d been to this city back in 1992 as part of a month-long interrailing trip with Nigel, a good friend from University, and we spent three days there. This time I took a flight, but back then we got off the train and, seemingly despite our better judgement, when approached by a man who had accommodation available for students, we ended up following him back there via tram and streets which were a bit off the beaten track. When we eventually arrived at the house, which was owned by a woman, it turned out she let out a room on a regular basis and that this was the done thing in Prague. However, once we were there and were left to our own devices to dump our stuff and head out, Nigel produced a Swiss Army knife, which I hadn’t seen before and said, “Just in case…” 🙂
Flying to Prague was also the first time I’ve been on holiday by myself, which does present the occasional logistic annoyance such as the fact that I couldn’t just leave my bag in most places while I went to use the toilet, but since it was a backpack it wasn’t the end of the world as I could just sling it behind me. You soon learn to time things such as using the loo when you’re planning to eat somewhere or when you get back to the hotel. Yes, there are public toilets, but they often charge around 10kr (40p). Still, that’s better than chancing it with the cheap 5kr (20p) price charged in the underground because those toilets not only fail to come equipped with toilet rolls (you have to make sure you get some from the area outside the cubicles before you go in) but the standards of hygiene were such that they made the toilet from Trainspotting look plush by comparison(!)
Getting to the airport, since I hadn’t been abroad by plane since before 9/11, I was clueless about all the 100ml liquids thing, the clear plastic bags, etc. and had no idea whether my suitcase was over the limit and if my hand luggage was oversized, but my sister said about the suitcase that since I was going by myself, there’s no way it would be over the 22kg limit, and also it was quite compact so I took a chance rather than buying one of those hand-held weighing things. As it turned out, on the way out my luggage weighed 14.5kg (on the way back it was 18kg) and my backpack hand luggage was fine with the rack by check-in which checks the size (on the way back I found it weight around 3.2kg, where the limit was 10kg, so all was fine with that).
Anyway, once the BMI Baby plane set off around 8.15pm, almost an hour behind schedule, the pilot told us that he’d try to make up some time, and so a 2hr 20min scheduled flight ended up lasting just 1hr 45mins. Due to the time difference of an hour, it was then 11pm rather than 10pm. It took another 30 mins to get my suitcase at Prague Airport, during which there was nothing really to guide us towards the baggage claim for a while so I just ended up following everyone else. I also had a Shuttlebus to meet on the other side of it and was wondering what would happen if I’d since missed that as a result of the late flight and delayed suitcase collection.
Once I got through to the other side, thankfully, the guy was still there to meet me, but he did acknowledge that he’d been waiting for a while. For a while we had to wait for someone else who was meant to be on that flight, but they can’t have got on as he gave it another 20 mins and then we set off for the hotel, the Best Western Hotel Kampa on Vsehrdova 16, Prague 1, around 20 mins walk from the Old Town Square and across the River Vitava, so it was close enough to easily get to everything important, but also far enough away not to be bothered by pissheads. In fact, thanks to the period I picked to travel, from Sunday to Friday, that worked out best as it meant I would have avoided all the stag parties.
The hotel was very clean with a medieval banquet-style restaurant area and for around £43/night when I went, it couldn’t have given better value. There are many pictures on the Tripadvisor website here.
(it’s actually a twin-bed room even though I only wanted a single)
As soon as I got in the room I noticed the sealed 1litre water bottle on the table. While the mini-bar is self-explanatory and contains a clearly-printed price list which is typed, I didn’t realise at first that the water bottle had a price tag of 120kr (£5) around the neck because (a) it just looked like a regular label, (b) the price was written on in joined-up writing and (c) the lighting is quite dark: there is no ceiling light in the rooms, just a couple of lamps including one bedside light. Since I often used the socket for one of these to charge up my mobile, that took me down to one lamp and so when I was there late in the evening, I’d frequently leave the bathroom door open with the light on so I could see what I was doing.
I unpacked and made use of the free wi-fi on my phone and put the TV on. Let’s face it, there’s not a great deal to watch, but then you won’t be spending too many waking hours in there. I generally flicked between CNN, RTL for the breakfast show (since the only clock I had was on my phone, it made it easier to have one viewable as I was rushing around to get ready) and Pro7, which mostly showed US programmes and films dubbed into German. Once the first one I saw had finished, I found via Google I’d been watching the last 20-30 mins of Watchmen, which didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense in German, but then I gathered from what I saw that it probably would’ve been just the same in English, too. I’ll have to get the Blu-ray at some point and watch it properly.
Next was the film… erm… Next, with Nicolas Cage, which I’d seen before and you didn’t really need English dialogue once you knew what was happening as it was a piece of engaging sci-fi nonsense. I’d very much recommend that for anyone who wants a bit of escapism. With that, it was nearly 3am and I so needed some sleep. Given that breakfast was only served from 7-10am, I would be getting there towards the tail end of it, no doubt. I am not an early riser.
Go to page 2 for what I saw on Monday July 4th, and subsequent pages for subsequent days.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.