Weds 25th December – Merry Christmas

You know you’re on holidays when… You have to ask others what day of the week it is!
Ok so yeah it’s Xmas day. I know this because we have had five hours sleep since attending Midnight Mass. I also know because at 7am the Cathedral bells chimed to the tune of Silent Night. Yep pretty cool!
So how many get to say that they started Xmas day in Salzburg and then finished the day in Prague? Well that’s how it is for us.

The day began with a present exchange, a quick tidy of suitcases and another great breakfast complete with hot chocolate ( we passed up the champagne ). Sitting at breakfast I was one happy little piggy…you know those piggies that live in… Great food, good company, a yummy drink, and no-one hassling me. The day mine to create and live in the moment soaking up each and every experience. Yep one contented little piggy (who by the way if she keeps eating like this will be back to being a big piggy!)

The taxi picked us up at around 9:30 and took us to the train station ready for the 10:08 train to Linz. It was 10 Euro but it was a lot easier than dragging suitcases and needing to rush the morning. The weather today is a little more overcast, shops are shut and tourists are wandering around with that look of “what do you do today…it’s Xmas Day?.”  Having been in Salzburg before at this time, we know that Xmas Day is the day for families; not much happens unless you choose to catch one of the buses that are still operating and see the nearby countryside. For us it was a good day to travel knowing that Xmas eve is the big time around here. Yep the benefit of experience and good planning by Elliot tours!

Our Regional City train had a great system where a screen recorded speed, time of arrival, a map showing current location and destination and the time to arrival. We managed to get a carriage to ourselves and for the hour travel sat back and soaked up the Austrian countryside.
Trees that have lost their leaves glistened, shining silver in the light, waiting for the dusting of snow that will undoubtedly come. The terrain is far more undulating than Germany, indicative of the Alps areas both in Switzerland and Austria.

As we neared Linz, the fog set in, shrouding the nearby area and making visibility a little more difficult. The  temperature seemed to have dropped a little something that wasn’t lost on Philip who loves the cold. Linz seems like a more industrial town. Chimney smokes from industry spewed massive amounts of smoke into the atmosphere – we weren’t sure what it was producing but it must have been important as it was happening on Xmas Day.

We swapped trains at Linz ready for a four and a half hour train trip to Prague. Our train was waiting for us – one of those trains where there are enclosed seating spaces of six seats in their own compartments. We were on the only ones of the carriage and quite possibly on the train! We proceeded to take the scenic route, stopping all stations. Let’s just say this is not the train you take if you’re in a hurry. For us though it was no big deal. Music on; snacks at the ready and plenty of space to stretch out, we settled in with time to relax and watch the world go by.  How refreshing and quite pleasant given that last night had been a late one.

You know you’re in a new country when…
* Telstra sends you a message on your phone telling you how expensive it is to make phone calls
* The names of train stations change markedly
* The uniforms on the conductors changes especially their hats
* People speak in a language that you just don’t understand
* The terrain outside suddenly looks and feels different 

It was no differently crossing in Czechoslovakia. On top of all that things just seemed poorer. The beautiful shining trees changed into tall black sticks devoid of all colour. The ground seemed less kept; like people live on the land not are part of the land. Pride doesn’t seem to be as high or maybe it’s just that that German pedantic personality isn’t here.  Small contrasts but things that change the perception of a place when you are travelling through  it.

So after three and a half hours on the trip I was done. Claire had done her usual eat then sleep routine, whilst Philip had worn out the battery on his phone and hence the music ceased. I had just had enough of looking out the window at the same vista and just wanted to get off and do something – sitting for this long is just not something I’m used to doing. It also got dark quickly and by 3:30 the gloom had settled in and no doubt the locals were getting ready to light the fires inside their little houses.

We arrived at Prague at 4:30pm and were greeted by a lady asking us if we wanted a taxi. As we had no idea where we were and knew that we did need a taxi we accepted her offer.She then proceeded to lead us to who knows where (amazing how you just diligently follow people and trust that they will do the right thing). The taxi cost 700Czech Krone or around $35. According to taxi meter this was very expensive but then it was Xmas day and we were staying in an area that taxis cannot get into. With little option but to accept we jumped into the cab and headed for the U Kapra Apartments. When we got as close as we could to the accommodation the taxi driver dropped us off and muttered in broken English that it was just around the corner. He then collected his money and took off leaving us to work out exactly where we were. Added to our dilemma was the copious number of people, little Xmas stalls  and brightly coloured restaurants all encapsulated in exquisitely preserved 13th century buildings. Whilst trying to figure out exactly where we were staying I turned the corner and was instantly hit by the scene of one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen. It appeared to be a church but it had spires that seemed to project into the sky as if trying to touch space itself. Its height was impressive especially as the top had been illuminated upwards increasing the scale and size. My words were instantly “holy crap” as I ushered Philip no Claire around the corner momentarily forgetting that we were yet to find our hotel. I can confirm that their response was pretty similar.
With a little help from a the contact listed on our booking form we found The accommodation; a two bedroom attic apartment that is literally one minute walk from the Old Town Square. It’s location is superb and the sort meant itself is just as grand. Exposed old timber beams, a massive living area, two bedrooms, kitchen and laundry. Everything that we need and more. Once again we have scored!
Following a few oohs and ahhs we went for a walk around the square and then found Wensceles Square also. We proceeded to eat away around Prague just as had been done in Salzburg. This time it was donuts wrapped around a metal rod and then cooked to create a hot crusty outside coated in sugar and a soft inside. A little like a sweet damper but in a cylinder shape. The highlight for Philip though was the massive chunks of ham that were being cooked on a open flame.  The chunks were then cut off and sold by weight. $12 Aus got you a huge piece and a couple of pieces of bread. Let’s just say Philip was not that interested in two pieces of European bread but boy was he interested in the hot ham. Ham will never taste the same again.

Despite us only looking around for a short time tonight the question that hangs in our heads is “how come we haven’t been here before?”  The buildings are just works of Art. A little like Paris but more individual in colour and facade. The churches are marie gothic looking and interesting in their originality, grandeur and size. Tomorrow we will get to have a look around more of Prague including a concert in the castle but for tonight we go to sleep satisfied that visiting here has been a great choice and excited by what we might see in the daylight.

What a Xmas to remember!

By |December 26th, 2013|Czech Republic, Europe, Our Trips|