This is a blog about our holiday to Europe in 2014. We started off our travels in Venice, where we began a cruise of the Adriatic and Aegean seas, ending in Rome. We then travelled from Rome to the Netherlands by rail, stopping in various places along the way. We are: Me - Gill, my husband - Grant, my daughter - Paula; my father - Neil and his partner - Astrid. We are South Africans, from the lovely province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Our friends Lisa and Trevor joined us from the UK for the cruise portion of our holiday.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Prague, Czech Republic

6 July

We caught a taxi to the station, where we had enough time to buy some pretzels and sweets (from the lovely sweet shop and bakery at the well-equipped station) to keep us going during our long train ride to Prague.  When we boarded the train we discovered that there were old fashioned carriages (as opposed to airplane style rows of seats), so we had one to ourselves, really cute.

Sorry Paula, but it's the only photo we have of the old-fashioned train carriage!

The train trip was long, but quite pleasant, with nice scenery.  We are great lovers of train travel. 

We arrived in Prague and our transfer was there to greet us.  He dropped us off at our hotel - a lovely boutique hotel just a short walk from Wenceslas Square.  The receptionist made us comfortable in the little breakfast room, where she completed the necessary documentation for our check-in and she then spent some time explaining the surrounding area to us and suggesting outings that we might enjoy.  I was blown away by her friendliness and willingness to help, it turned out that all the staff in the hotel were brilliant.

Once we had freshened up we took at stroll to Wenceslas square.  Prague is full to the brim of architectural beauty.   

Wenceslas square is lovely, pretty buildings and lots of international shops, yet not intimidating. 

We had made a quick stop at Starbucks, before popping in and out of a couple of shops.  

'Cause that's what you do in Prague you know.... you go to Starbucks!!  Forgive us, we're South African...  Starbucks holds a deep fascination for us!

I made a bee-line for Debenhams (my favourite-favourite) but was disappointed to find that, even on sale, the clothes were too expensive for my South African rand budget.  We took a slow stroll back to the hotel to get ready for our evening excursion.

A mini-van arrived on time to pick us up and we then drove to the location of the folk show.  It was a lovely old barn, where tables were set up in front of a small stage.  

Yup, yet more untouristy photographs!

We were offered glasses of delicious mead on arrival - Paula decided we had to buy a bottle.  The show was great, with singers, dancers and musicians to entertain us.  It was a small scale production, but really lovely and friendly.  The food was exceptionally good  - a starter of bread and pates, followed by a delicious mushroom soup, the main consisted of a variety of meats with a traditional kind of mash, another potato dish and a cabbage salad, with apple tart for dessert.  The food was brought to the table in large serving bowls and we could dish up ourselves - it was plentiful and they were keen to offer seconds (we couldn't manage seconds!)  Local wine and beer, as well as fruit juices were on the house and a waiter kept circulating with trays of drinks.  The place was nearly full, I noticed a very large table from the Viking River Cruise line.

We had a lovely evening, with Grant, Paula and I even ending up on stage!  I am not normally a fan of landing up on stage - quite the opposite really, but this crowd were so friendly and the atmosphere was so relaxed that I didn't mind it at all.

To end the evening they sang a few typical WW2 songs and it was quite moving to hear the various nationalities all joining in.

We really enjoyed our evening.  Such fun.

7 July

We slept in and then had breakfast before readying ourselves for our tour.  Our bus arrived to pick us up and take us to a central location where we picked up more people and our tour-guide.  There were 16 of us in total, with a very sweet lady guide.  

We drove through the beautiful streets of Prague to Prague castle.  The castle itself was newer than I expected.  

We went into St Vitus' Cathedral in the castle grounds which was beautiful.  

There were pretty vineyards in the grounds as well as some lovely shops that I would love to have gone into, but unfortunately there wasn't time.  

We got back on the bus and headed off to the pier where we had a very pleasant boat ride up the Charles River.  The boat had a bar and snacks available and we enjoyed having a drink (and a plate of french fries!) while we watched the beautiful scenery go by.  The bridges were beautiful, very reminiscent of the Seine.

Once the boat ride was over we walked through the Jewish quarter into Old Town.  

It was a lovely area, with beautiful old buildings.  The astronomical clock was amazing, absolutely fascinating.  The tour ended at this point.

We wandered into a few shops (I was astounded to see marijuana lollipops!) bought a few things (No!  Not the lollipops!) and then had lunch in a nice pub, 

before making our way back to Wenceslas square.

We saw this really strange sculpture called "Dead Horse" by David Černý inside the Lucerna Palace - it's a parody of the statue of St Wenceslas on his horse, which can be found in the nearby Wenceslas Square:

We did a geocache at the National Museum building, bought a picnic supper at Marks and Spencers and then went back to our hotel to collect our luggage and meet our transfer to the station.

We hopped on board the overnight train - it was really hot - there seemed to be some issue with the aircon not working too well, once we got going it seemed to kick in, but it took quite a while to cool down.  We were in a 3-sleeper with our own shower and toilet.  It was a tight squeeze with 3 of us in the one carriage, but it was great fun to picnic and drink the (complimentary) wine in our carriage.  (Unlike the over-night train we did from Paris to Madried a few years ago, this one did not have a dining cart, which was a pity.)  The conductor in our carriage spoke Czech? German? We think it was German, and Grant does NOT speak the language at all, but this guy took great delight in telling Grant looooong stories.  He was very sweet, gave us a laugh!

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