On arrival in Prague we joined others in a mini-bus taxi that took us efficiently to the city and our hotel for a very reasonable rate. A good taxi ride, what an excellent start! The hotel was first class and we had an interesting room in a converted attic that was clean and spacious but with a lot of what I thought were unnecessary instructions on how guests shouldn’t move the furniture around, I mean, unless they were practising Feng Shui and were particularly picky about the bed facing a special direction or something why would anybody want to?
The receptionist was very helpful but gave far more information about the city than anyone could possibly cope with in one go and forgetting most of it almost simultaneously as it went in one ear and straight out of the other left the hotel to find somewhere for an evening meal. Because it was late we decided not to go too far and found a charming little restaurant in an adjacent street and sat outside on an uneven pavement at a dangerously unstable table and ordered a first meal in Prague.
After a generous beef stroganoff we walked around for a while had another drink and then went back to the hotel. We found the way back without a problem, but once inside the labyrinth of corridors got completely lost. We had missed the correct staircase in the confusing warren of corridors and were in completely the wrong part of the hotel. We sorted it out after a while, went to bed and slept well.
In the morning there was a good breakfast with the usual cold buffet full of continental offerings but with some unusual hot items in addition. There were sausages but unfortunately they were frankfurters and I am afraid that I just do not like frankfurters because of that horrible rubbery chewy consistency. Not much chance of a superior Lincolnshire sausage here because it is close to Germany of course and clearly under the Teutonic influence when it comes to bangers.
The weather was overcast but seemed to be improving so we left the umbrellas behind and went out into the city. Our first planned destination was the City’s old town, which was reached by crossing the Charles Bridge and I know that it was overcast and there was no sun to help cheer things up but the famous statues were dull and grimy and seemed to me to be desperately in need of a good scrub. There must be enough tourist revenues pouring in to fund the process and I am sure that the city authorities are thinking about it but they really need to get on with the job.
I have an idea to help them. One statue, St John Nepomuk, is supposed to bring luck to those who touch it and it is polished bright where tourists rub their hands on it. If the City spread the word that touching any statue would bring similar good fortune then they would all be gleaming clean in no time at all.
Actually I found this statue a bit surprising because poor old John Nepomuk didn’t seem to have a great deal of luck himself in his lifetime as he was a Jesuit priest who was tortured and killed by King Wenceslas in 1393 and his body was thrown into the river. Because of his aquatic final resting place he is regarded as a protector from floods but he must have been off duty in August 2003 when the city endured its worst floods for two hundred years and forty thousand people were evacuated and the cost of repairing the damage ran into billions.
The streets were busy and we walked until reaching the old town, which opened up into a spacious and welcoming central square and it was free of traffic so we were able to wander aimlessly around looking ever upwards and admiring the buildings that surrounded it. In the centre is the Jan Hus monument, a religious reformer who was burnt at the stake for his beliefs. I was beginning to detect a gruesome pattern here. In the Middle Ages there always came a time where persisting with a point of view became dangerous to life and limb and poor old Jan obviously did not get his timing right, a bit like Thomas More and his out of touch views on King Henry’s wedding plans.
It was about half past ten so we sat at a pavement café and had a Staropramen, which is a pleasant Czech beer and surveyed the sky and speculated about whether the sun would come out. Although it was early I don’t think anyone in Prague would have found this early drinking unusual because according to the Economist, in a poll in 2006, the people of the Czech republic are the biggest alcohol consuming nation in the World.
The weather didn’t look very promising but we strained my eyes searching for spreading patches of blue. They appeared sometimes but always to be cruelly snatched away just when things seemed to be improving. We optimistically assured ourselves that it would definitely be out by the afternoon.