Our family enjoyed a 3-night stay in Prague. We had visited the city back in 1984, when it was a gray dingy city under Soviet control. The changes since that time are breathtaking! The city now pulses with energy and excitement.
Our apartment was located downtown near the Intercontinental Hotel. It was very nice, although somewhat of a firetrap because you had to walk down stairs and then unlock two doors (with different keys) to leave. It was high enough that you would not want to jump out the windows. Due to rent control inherited from the old communist regime, the owner of the apartment probably got as much money for one night's stay by Americans as he would for several month's rent by Czech citizens.
Our wonderful guide in Prague for a day and a half was Sarka Pelantova, pronounced SHARK uh. (The Czech spelling of her name is Šárka Pelantová, and she also goes by the Anglicized spelling Sara Pelantova.) Her birthday is May 22, just a couple of days after we left. She was a good communist Young Pioneer as a child, and recalls her confusion and then joy at age 12 during the Velvet Revolution that brought freedom to her family and the nation. Sarka knows a tremendous amount about the architecture and history of her beautiful city, and speaks beautiful English. She trained at university to become a teacher, so she knows how to present information. On a scale of 1 to 5, Sarka would rate a definite 5. Her website is http://www.prague-guide.info.
Grammy-winning hip-hop rapper / producer Kanye West was filming a music video just outside our apartment. He was one of only a very small number of black persons we saw in the city. You can see some photos of the production of the video here.
We visited the Jewish quarter and learned the legend of the Golem
of Prague (also spelled Gollem, Gollum, Golam, Golim and Golum, not to be
confused with the Gollum of Lord of the Rings). The Golem is a large
frightening figure who roams the streets (see photo). We decided that a little clay
or plastic Golem figurine would be fun to buy as a souvenir, but very few could be found and they were pricey. The
local merchants haven’t yet figured out that this is a uniquely Prague item that could be promoted and sold to tourists.
When we first arrived in Prague a driver for Athos Travel met us up at the airport to take us to our apartment. Unfortunately, nobody from Athos showed up at 4 AM a few days later for the return trip. Since we had no phone, we had to haul ourselves and our luggage to the Intercontinental Hotel several blocks away and ask the night staff to call us a taxi. Fortunately, traffic at 4:30 AM is very light and our taxi was able to get us to the airport on time.
Many people warned us of pickpockets, but we took the standard precautions (money belt, purse in front, stay alert) and had no problems. Our guide did overhear two pickpockets talking in Czech, one complaining that the other should have stolen someone's purse.
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