We spent Wednesday visiting Devin Castle, up the Danube and just on the Slovakian side of the Austria/Slovakia border. I can't recommend this trip enough, it doesn't cost much (the return boat ticket is 150Sk and castle entry 80Sk per adult) the ruins are cool, and you get amazing views up and down the Danube.
We got back at 6:30 and went for our last Slovakian meal - for starters, a selection of meats and cheeses with bread (including super-cheesy super-garlicky spread) then dgym had steak with blue cheese sauce and I had pork stuffed with sheeps cheese and peppers. After all that and the yoghurt-and-cheese topped greek salad, we were feeling a bit cheesed out.
On Thursday we got up at 6:30am, checked out of our luxurious residence and headed for the bus station. Unfortunately the 8am bus was full and the next was at three, so instead we went to the train station and got on the 9:20 Eurocity to Praha (We were discussing whether to call it Prague or Praha. I'm all for calling places by their proper names but at the same time it seems a bit pretentious. We like Bratislava all the more for not presenting us with this dilemma.)
The train was horribly packed to begin with, reminded me of the good old days in London rush hour, but we got a seat eventually. This time we managed to get on a direct train and realised what we'd done wrong on the out-journey: gone from the wrong station in Prague - we should have gone from Holesovice, not the main station.
We arrived in Prague at lunchtime, hungry and ready for some dumpling action. We went to Prague about a year and a half ago, so we know where to go and get dumplings (Kolkovna, Staroměstská metro) and we shared a dish of assorted meats, dumplings and cabbages.
Being encumbered with luggage, we only had a little wander around, tested the ice cream (decent enough but expensive) and found ourselves a park behind the main square, furnished with a murky pond, plastic fountain and huge tree that looked like it had been split in two by lightning. We sat around for a couple of hours, chilling and watching two little girls gradually empty the pond by means of plastic bottles.
In the evening we had dinner at an old favourite of ours, Titanic (near Muzeum but tucked right out of the way, we found it during a random wander). We both had steak, with potato pancakes and peas, all of which were fantastic - the steak was even better than I remembered it being. I don't think the prices had even changed since last time (yes, we're used to the English habit of pushing up prices by super-inflationary amounts every few months).
Prague is a busy, busy city - there are some beautiful buildings there and several years ago it was probably a lovely place to visit - but the tourist industry has gone insane there - too many people, too many souvenir stalls, Russian doll shops, overpriced restaurants - the contrast with Bratislava is amazing. Bratislava is a lot more relaxed, fewer tourists, not overrun by tacky souvenir shops, you can easily find a bench to sit on in the centre, and sure there are some overpriced restaurants but it's easy to find good ones. It also has some entertainingly bad jugglers. I hope Bratislava doesn't turn into Prague.
After dinner, we went to the airport and caught our flight home. Again we were delayed leaving, delayed arriving and our baggage took ages to come out - we got past customs at about 00:40, well after the last train home. So we spent another jolly night at Gatwick South Terminal (yes there have been previous jolly nights) except this one was a bit less jolly as it was noisy as hell, and they've changed the seating so there are fewer squishy benches to lie on. We probably got about half an hours sleep each, before catching the first train at 5:30.
And so we're back. Hopefully there's some nice pictures of the trip which will be posted shortly - in the mean time, look at a few of Pete's pictures, which includes pictures of our zoo trip, and of the scary highwire thing.
I remember my Christmas in Prague. My impressions and memory after spending Christmas in Prague:
· No snow just cold - but we did see the snow in Melbourne on the news
· Christmas markets - we are market old hats at this stage and nothing could surprise us
· Wandering around the town - town hall, bric-a-brac shops, cobbled streets, locals and the Jewish quarter
· Christmas breakfast in one of nice Prague accommodation - beautiful hotel and dinner with champagne desert
· Prague Castle - a somewhat disappointing castle after all of the hype that it received. It has nice views of the city though
· Charles Bridge - a very nice bridge to look at
· Vysehrad gardens - peaceful gardens in the middle of the city with beautiful views up and down the river
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