Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pouring in Prague

We arrived in Prague by air from Copenhagen last yesterday afternoon. During rental car from Klippan to Malmo, though I forgot to fill up with gas, and our north american credit cards do not work in unattended gas stations. I fear a major fuel bill coming from the rental car company. I really do prefer trains, and so did the boys. The whole hour long trip down, they complained and fought.

Took the short train from Sweden to Denmark, where our flight was to leave from. Got through customs in a breeze -- the European Union border controls are almost nil. The cheap flight was fast and uneventful. Prague was 8 degrees hotter than Sweden, and considerably more humid. Elwyn was sweaty right away, his eczema irritating him for most of the day.

My old friend Radim, who Ive known almost as long as Ive known Karen (same goes for Roger, now that i think about it) picked us up in his company car and we drove to his apartment which is right in Prague. He has two children Raja and Emil, both the same age as Elwyn and Alden. They have enjoyed meeting and play well, in spite of the total spoken language barrier.¨

Radim and Vera live near the largest mall in Central Europe. It is an impressive place, well priced, good selection, lots of things to do for the kids. When we went out there to eat supper, they had a childrens centre, kind of like at Ikea, where you can drop off the kids for a very small fee, and pick them up when you are done shopping. They are well attended by adults, and they get to play with all the dream toys you can think of. The four of them had a ball, while we ate a very tasty dinner.

The next day we got up and out of the house at about 10am, going back to the mall for good coffee and bagels first, before heading out on Pragues excellent metro system. The stations are a mix of pre and post communist. This station was particularly cool in the stark communist design. We went to Wencalis Square (of the christmas carol fame), then walked around the old city centre for several hours. topped up the SIM card of the old cell phone that Radim lent us (there are twice as many active cell phones as there are people here, and life seems almost impossible without them), and headed out.

The humid air got more humid and an extended thunderstorm crashed down on us by about 2.30pm. We were in a cafe eating and were trapped there for a little while before we decided to head back to the metro and try to get back to the mall. The boys were pretty moody and argumentative, and no one was particularly happy in this modern and stylish cafe.

The rain broke after about an hour, and we checked out a very historic square where the old city hall was located. The impressive old architecture was evidently refurbished in the 1980s just before the communist government collapsed in the Velvet Rrevolution. We hopped on a bike-drawn carriage and zipped through the old city to the metro.

We met Radim back at the mall (Vera was home sick for the day with the kids), and we headed out to the river bank, overlooking some baroque period ruins and the city below. There on the hill is the a pleasently nontouristy VyŇ°ehrad castle. It was built in the 10th century, on a hill over the Vltava River.

While we were very much enjoying walking around the grand grounds of this castle, the thunder started to flash again. We quickly walked to an odd little cafe-pub, made up of left over communist huts just beside (or possibly within) the castle walls. We had juice, coffee, roasted corn and bbqed mushrooms, while we sat under a large umbrella outside the cafe. It poured cats and dogs. The umbrellas over the outdoor seating areas started leaking through so we went inside. The rain and thunder and lightning continued to thunder down for almost an hour. A little lake was created in the gravel outside the cafe, and then just as quickly as it started, the rain stopped. The whole city started moving out from under shelter again, and we headed back home for supper, some chatting and to bed. Hopefully tomorrow Vera will feel a bit better and can come with the kids with us to Prague Castle.

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