Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Four Countries Tour - part 2

On to Czechia (also Czech Republic, aka Szkicia): Saturday 15th July
Our train, Berlin hbf to Praha h.ln, EC171- Carl Maria von Weber - hurtles on towards Prague. First stop in CZ: Decin h.ln, then Usti nad Laben hl.n; dep 10:16, (cable car, large railyards, dereliction), then Praha - Holesovice. Destination Praha-hl.n - touts and robbers offering to change money are on the concourse. Not a good first impression.
Switch to Track 4S 12:22 EXP143 for Ostrava-Svinov, arrive 15:34.
Stops: Praha-Leben, Kolin, Pardubice, Ceska-Trebova, Zabreh na Morave, Olomouc, Hranice na Morave, Ostrava-Svinov.
Going back in the direction just travelled S3 15:42 to Studenka. Stops: Polevka nad Odrou (DNS), Jistebník, Studenka.
16:11 Two car train with open-ended carriages. Stops: Sedlnice, Pribor (charming town), alight Kopřivnice - Zastávka.
Walk to: Interhotel Tatra, Záhumenní 1161, 74221 Kopřivnice, Czech Republic (1 night). A Polka band is playing Saturday night in the square.
To the Brown Frog in hotel: Pilsner Urquell, Penne and salad 305.00 CZK plus generous tip 400.00 CZK for two. Chris Froome retakes lead in TdeF and yellow jersey. Hotel noisy all night.
Sunday 16th July
Breakfast - funky coffee machine Bravilor Bonamat, second cup. The town has a collectivist feel with architecture (we didn't see the old town).
The lady at the hotel desk kindly phones the nearby Technické Muzeum Tatra (Tatra museum) on our behalf: contact Mr. Zatopek, curator (speaks English), but not there during our visit. Tatra used to have a factory in Bratislava. In 2 to 3 years there will be a new museum in the local factory (took photos of Tatra factory).
Exhibits: 1967 marathon de la route #65 type T603 B 5. Tatra with Vignale styling. 1920-1930s Zenith carbs. A Hyrail with artillery wheels. Jikov (1936-37), also Solex carbs (1935-1937). Paris-Dakar truck entries 1988, 2009. Special Exhibition re Emil Zatopek, the runner.
Walk to Oldtimer Kopřivnice Auto Moto Museum, Stefanikova 220 - Czech motorbikes: Manet M90, CZ, JAWA, Ogar.
Exhibits include: Skoda - 1908, Skoda 966 Supersport, GAZ M-20, Velorex Czech microcar. Recommended.
Depart Kopřivnice - Zastávka 12:19 for Studenka on 2-car train, watch run around at Studenka while we wait for the 12:58 to Prerov, sunny. RegioJet train roars through in direction of Ostrava.
Prerov direction Brno. Stops: Suchdol nad Odroui, Hravnice na Morave. Changed Prerov where we're refused boarding the 13:59 - private LEO Express train - listed in our Eurail intinerary.
Switch to 14:16 departure for Kolin. Stops: Olomouc, Ceske trebova, Usti nad Orlice. Cheese and crackers lunch, Zlatie Ovesne biscuits. We are stuck with a nutty woman, who curses the ticket-inspector: "Bureaucratic Devils".
16:29 Kolin - Nymburk: directed by the conductor onto the wrong train. We end up at Praha-Masarykovo.
17:51 S2 to Nymburk hl.n. Slow train with many stops: Praha Uysocany, Praha-Horni Pocernice, Zelence, Mstetice, Celakovice, Celakovice-Jirina, Lysa nad Labem, Ostra Stratov, Kostomlaty Labem, Kamennne-Zabozi, Nymburk.
Take #38 bus to Mladá Boleslav. Walk to "Pension Telephone" Bozeny Nemcove 559, 293 01 Mladá Boleslav. Arrive at 20:00, three-and-a-half hours late. Wait until 20:15 but no one is there to let us in. Our booking dishonoured, hungry and tired, we walk to the Hotel Forman, Markova 693, also shut. Taxi to Hotel Venec, Rohacova 188/37, 2400.00 CZK, third floor. This hotel puts the sketch in sketch republic - Hotel Venec turns out to be a relic of the communist era with ancient Grundig TV with a vertical hold fixation, old Ikea furniture, and a serious attitude problem at check-in.
We retreated into the bar across the street, too late to get fed. Restaurace Zlata Kovadlina, Zelezná 33, 29301 Mladá Boleslav. The one decent place we found in Mladá Boleslav. Drinks 120 CZK.
Spotted a convenience store at closing time. Snacks 64 CZK.
Monday 17th July
Walk to the Skoda Museum - closed for the day - "State Visit" PITA. See PunchBuggy Passim. Skoda now a VW-satellite with suits speaking German, totalitarian approach.
The past 24 hours has been like a crash course in crisis management. Adding to the gloom Mladá Boleslav turns out to be a Craptown. Take 09:05 bus to Cerny Most, 45 mins. Bus fare 75.00 CZK x 2. Lady bus driver like Wreckless Eric, swerving on the highway. Yellow line underground to Florenc, red line one stop to Hlavni Nadrazi, 24.00 CZK each.
Falkensteiner Hotel Maria Prague, Opletalova 1402/21, 110 00 Nové Město, Prague, Czech Republic. July 17 - 19 (2 nights).
Arr hotel 10:20, a short walk from the main station. Wait for check-in in foyer (with coffee), in room by 10:55. Good service. Endless Brexit on TV. Tour de France - catching up with yesterday, win for Bauke Mollema, now Rest Day.
Walk to lunch at Pizzerie Green Tomato Restaurante, Jindřišská 938/18, 110 00 Nové Město. Antique decor, tram watching. Choice of 3 flavours of iced tea. Czech Wine: Veltlinske Zelené 0.2l, 55.00 CZK x 2; broccoli and tomato soups, pizza and pasta pesto. Total 622.00 CZK. To Henry's Belltower nearby, then walk to Wenceslas Square.
After time out, walk to the Czech Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror. (The Czechs disposed of their chief Nazi tormentor rather more efficiently than the Germans. They took him out.)
Walk to Charles Bridge. Art installation: Victoria pragensis - a labyrinth of 936 potted medicinal plant species by Czech architect Juráš Lasovský, at Václav Havel Square, National Theatre Piazzetta. Besides classical buildings there is much modern architecture in Prague, for example the Dancing House.
Hotel Bar: Apple Juice, Budweiser Budvar beer x 4 (one free with welcome drink coupon) 300 CZK, 360 CZK incl tip. Bar empty. Thankful not to be drinking U.S. Budweiser! Later watching TV: Silk Way rally from Moscow to Xian - Kamaz and Tatra trucks.
Tuesday 18th July
We blunder into Cafe Arco, patronized by Kafka etc: "the most peculiar part of the rules was the offer of 'severance pay' for incorrigible guests in exchange for a written undertaking that they would never come back to Arco again".
Nearby to Praha-Masarykovo station named for Tomas Masaryk.
Walk across bridge over the Vltava River, climbing through a park to Národní technické muzeum (National Technical Museum), Kostelní 1320/42, 170 78 Praha 7, Czechia. Arrived at opening time. Mercifully the "Technical" name cuts down on tourists, especially early in the day.
Exhibits: Model of Josef Božek's steam car from 1815 (recognizable as a car). Benz Victoria 1893, first car in CZ. NW Prasident - 1898. Lavrin & Klement 1913/1921 of Mladá Boleslav. 1919 new Tatra marque at Kopřivnice. Tatra 11 - 1925. Jawa 750 -1935. Mercedes Benz W154, 1938-39. Aero 50 HP - 1939 - British Registration "GGO 941", also CD plate.
Switch on Nazi takeover from left to right steering wheels. Germans enforced driving on the right. General Alois Elias was Prime Minister, 1939. "In 1942 the Nazis executed General Elias for his activity in the resistance movement." WW2 Three Czech fighter squadrons with Spitfires.
Bill Ivy killed on 4-cylinder Jawa motorbike.
Tour of transport hall takes 1 hr 40 mins; then Kantyna 45 ck x 2 espresso coffee, Kavarna Muzeum, Kosteni 42. Then "Technology in Households" gallery: Filter Coffee machine A-Reiss Hoffspengler Viden 1870-1890. Alcohol burners were placed under two vessels. Photographic studio; Chemistry Around Us gallery explained the science behind everyday materials.
Walk to Billa Store at Modletice 67, 2 x water, chocolate 37 CZK. Then #26 tram from near museum to main train station. I sat in the stammtisch (best seat).
Near hotel spotted "Larry the Lada" Riva 2105, 1295 cc on the Mongol Rally - "keep the CarMa running". Conversation with crew: Dianna Taylor and Gonzalo Palacios. Five weeks; 200 cars; 10,000 miles. Rules call for an old car with a small engine, unsupported (no road back-up). Ten events held already. Arrive Ulan Ude north of Ulan Bator. London-Bruge-Prague controlled stage. Then free-for-all route to Mongolia.
Pitstop at hotel. Walk to Cafe Milani, Jindrisska 23. Rescued a ladybird. Snack lunch 394 CZK, 450 CZK including tip.
Mucha Museum, Panska 7. Museum entry 400 CZK (240/160). Mucha (1860-1939) is among the first to be arrested by the Gestapo, dies in Prague, 14 July 1939. (Germans occupy Prague 15 March 1939.) Alfonse Mucha (a Mason) designed Fouquet jewellery shop in Paris.
Spotted Toyota Tsusho Hybrid.
Visit Central Station to check out airport bus depart 07:30, busstop AE for terminal 2 at airport. 60.00 CZK x 2 - tickets bought in advance.
Nazareth play Lucerna, Praha, 29 August (four piece band).
Bookshop Neopalladium purchased: "Today We Die a Little" by Richard Askwith re Emil Zatopek, 299 CZK.
Supper once more at Pizzerie Green Tomato, 928 CZK - 1100 CZK including tip.
Wednesday 19th July
Bus to Prague airport: impressive, modern, uncrowded. Czech Airlines keep adding additional charges. 09:00 in Coffee Shop - SO! for coffee. 200 CZK including tip.
Exhibit at Vaclav Havel Airport: SKODA 422 - 1930.
Annette bought a copy of the Guardian (a claimants newspaper), hazelnut chocolate, a book: Mucha - an Illustrated Life by Roman Neugebauer, total 430 CZK.
Czechia is now a German colony once more with Autobahns and Lidl installed, the commanding heights of the economy, e.g. Skoda, back in German control. Many towns look delapidated as uncompetitive industries closed down. They replaced socialism with shopping (with a nod to the Plastic People of the Universe). They have good beer. Prague is plagued by mass tourism, but has much to commend it off the beaten track. Overall I cannot recommend a holiday in Czechia. It is too much like hard work.

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