From Nuremberg it was northeast by bus to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Before we could enjoy the city, though, we had to get there which wasn’t as easy as one might have expected. If we were still traveling in China getting from one city to the next would have been a breeze, and maybe we got a little spoiled. In China, it was always super easy to figure out how to get to your next stop, information was always in English, people were around to help. Catching that bus out of Nuremberg couldn’t have been more different.We bought the tickets online and saw that the bus station was only a few blocks from our hotel. Easy enough, we thought. When we got to the “station” though, there was no station, just a street that buses parked in. No big board telling you where your bus was or whether it was on time. (In China the latter piece was probably redundant; they were always on time.) With a little looking around I found what I thought was the area where our bus would be: a schedule at Area 4 that had a bus to Prague at the time we were leaving. But the bus parked there when we should have been boarding was going to Berlin. Maybe it was stopping in Prague on the way? The driver was absolutely no help at all. Meanwhile buses are loading and leaving but we can’t find anything telling us what bus was going to Prague.
Eventually, at almost the last minute, we saw a sign saying “Prague” on a bus that was getting ready to leave. But not before we’d gotten on a different bus, where the driver knew (from our ticket) that we were going to Prague and he presumably knew he wasn’t going to Prague. Still, he put our bags in the storage area and had us get on the bus, until we figured out it was the wrong one. Such a frustrating experience when it seems like everywhere else on earth they have that whole bus schedule and information thing figured out. It’s not the only confusing or difficult travel experience we’ve had in Germany and our guess is that it’s not the last.
OK, eventually we get to Prague, and when you see the beauty of the city all the bus frustration is forgotten if not forgiven. We’d been to Prague once before, at Christmas time in 2003, but ever since I’ve been eager to see it in the summer, when you can spend more than 20 minutes outside without starting to freeze. It fully lived up to my hopes, though the pictures we have somehow don’t do the city justice.
Prague has a grand history, having been the capital of Bohemia for centuries and twice the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor. It was in the Prague Castle in 1618 that Protestants, fearing the loss of their religious liberty, threw a few Catholic ruling types out of a window, thus setting off the Thirty Years War and giving us the word “defenestration.” Add to that Prague’s role in challenging Soviet domination – the ill-fated Prague Spring of 1968 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989 – and the city’s subsequent embrace of the West, and you end up with a city that deservedly is one of the worlds great tourist destinations. There’s even a great cocktail bar there, so you know it has to be good.
Unlike too many cities in Western and Central Europe, Prague was mostly spared from the bombs of World War II and thus retains stunning architecture, seemingly dropped everywhere in and around the Old Town. We toured the old palace area, saw some great churches, and enjoyed lazy afternoons at cafés in the warm summer sun.
One morning we hiked up to the National Museum, a huge, grand building at the top of Wenceslas Square. Supposed to be a good museum. Well, the building was completely closed for some massive renovation. Across the street, though, was a modern building that is a wing of the national museum so we figured it would have at least some of the collection. Not so. Instead it had three bizarre exhibits, the only one worth even mentioning was about … death. One section about suicide, including displays on some of the great suicides of history – Cleopatra, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobane, Virginia Wolff, Joseph Goebbels. Personally, I was disappointed Judy Garland didn’t make the list. Then there was the section on capital punishment and the various means by which people have been executed over the years including beheadings, impaling, hanging, burying alive, quartering, and boiling. The exhibit was not recommended for those under the age of 16 or something like that. Strange.
All in all a grand four-day stop. I’m already looking forward to coming back when we have a little more time.