3 April 2023 – Bad Vöslau Austria and Prague Czechia

Sometime in mid-March, I tried out an inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) for the first time. I’m a big guy, so standing and balancing was a challenge. I lasted about 5 minutes before I toppled into the water. Later, when reviewing YouTube, I discovered that the best way to maintain balance is with forward motion, like riding a bike. Balancing in still water and not moving is quite difficult for a beginner.

On 24 March, we made another quick trip to Austria to visit with our son Raoul, his wife Amelia, and our grandson Thorsten (now 2 1/2 years old). We have weekly video chats with Thorsten, and try to visit him in person when possible to reinforce family ties.

We bought and used an “e-sim” for our phones, and setup a 30 day plan (covering 35 EU countries) with 3GB of data for $18 CDN. This took effect from the moment the plane touched down in Vienna, and was very convenient as we travelled through Austria and onwards to Prague.

Thorsten is now going to Kindergarten, so with his busy weekly schedule, we decided it was time for us to visit someplace new. This time, we took a train to Prague Czechia (the Czech Republic), a country and city that we have never visited before. That brings the tally to 76 countries. The train was a great experience, on time and economical. As senior citizens, we are getting discounts now.

This, of course, gave us the opportunity to sample some local delights. We had a few beers.

One day, I had a hot dog (long awaited pork) for lunch and Diane had what she described as the best hamburger in a decade!

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic (Czechia) and the historical capital of Bohemia. Now that is something that I did not know. The city is situated on the Vltava river and home to about 1.3 million people – and receives more than 8.5 million international tourists every year. Prague has a rich history and Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectures. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, most notably Charles IV (1346–1378).

Prague is home to a number of well-known cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. The main attractions include Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter (where we stayed in our AirBnB). Since 1992, the historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

We took a stroll across the Charles pedestrian bridge. It was cold but still swarming with tourists.

The city has more than ten major museums, along with numerous theatres, galleries, cinemas, and other historical exhibits. An extensive modern public transportation system connects the city. The City centre was surprisingly busy, despite the cool weather conditions. This is probably the coldest environment we have been in since leaving Canada 14 years ago. This did not seem to deter the thousands of tourists though. If it’s this busy now, I’d hate to see what the crowds are like in July!

We had a traditional lunch of slow roasted ham, bread dumplings, potatoes with cabbage.

One morning at precisely 11am, we observed the changing of the hour at the Astronomical Clock, constructed on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism has three main components – the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; statues of various Catholic saints stand on either side of the clock; “The Walk of the Apostles”, an hourly show of moving Apostle figures and other sculptures, notably a figure of a skeleton that represents Death, striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

Afterwards, when we climbed the stairs, we had a look inside at the mechanism.

The rooftop views were very scenic.

Along the street, we sampled TRDELNIK, a rolled and cooked pastry.

One day we ventured to the National Museum, but mistakenly visited the National Museum of Technology, which was also right next to the National Museum of Agriculture. When we did visit the real National Museum, we were very impressed with many of the exhibits. This particular exhibit of sea birds was the best I have seen.

I ate potato soup in bread, and a spicy goulash, while Diane had regular goulash.

One day, we walked (and those cobble-stone streets are murder on our feet) over to visit Prague Castle, built in the 9th century. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres (750,000 square feet), at about 570 metres (1,870 feet) in length and an average of about 130 metres (430 feet) wide. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Prague, the seat of the Archbishop of Prague – and inside the complex of the Prague Castle. This cathedral is a prominent example of Gothic architecture, and is the largest and most important church in the country. It contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors.

Inside the cathedral, we found the Chapel of St John of Nepomuk, and the vault containing the remains of St Ludmila. These are the remains.

We visited the statue of “Good King Wenceslas” (positioned just in front of the National Museum) – and I recalled that there is a Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king who goes on a journey, braving harsh winter weather, to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen. What is “the Feast of Stephen” then? Saint Stephen’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr, celebrated on 26 December in Western Christianity and 27 December in Eastern Christianity. King Wenceslas refers to Saint Wenceslaus, sometimes called Václav the Good, who was the Duke of Bohemia from 921 to 935 and venerated as “the righteous king” for his great piety and charity. After his murder in 935, he was sainted and Holy Roman Emperor Otto bestowed on Wenceslaus the posthumous title of King.

We also stopped by to see Kafkova Hlava or Kafka’s Head. This eleven-metre-tall statue is a technical marvel of the 21st century in the centre of Prague. Forty-two moving panels rotate to create the face of the famous Czech writer Franz Kafka. The statue created by the artist David Černý is situated near the Quadrio Shopping Centre, it combines art with modern technology adopting the traditional “golden hands” of Czech craftsmen. If you haven’t already seen it, watch the “The Metamorphosis”. Wait for all of the panels to align and reveal the face of Kafka!

After returning to Alanya, we are on a schedule now, aiming for departure from Alanya and Türkiye in “early May”.