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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Beats, Eats, and Cheats of Prague

Lunch at Snek Bar
Goulash, Brambory, Obloha (Snek Bar, Prague)

Liver-stuffed Turkey (Snek Bar, Prague)

Getting my laptop on the internet at The Globe was no problem. They have 10T jacks along the back wall of the cafe, and they'll even loan you a cable if you don't have you own. But I was disappointed that they short-changed me $20. Lonely Planet warns of "mysterious pauses when counting back your change" and with someone piling foreign notes and coins into my hands while counting in half Czech and half English it's pretty much beyond my restaurant-math abilities to keep track, so I usually just wait until they're done, say thank you, and then count the change on my own. He was of course very nice about it when I found him again and pointed out the discrepancy, but he clearly switched to playing-dumb mode in order to smooth over his transgression. I fed him a courteous "it's very confusing" and he happily echoed it back to me and shook his head (no) as if he too were a tourist and not someone who counted out Czech change a hundred times a day. Anyway, I'd just hoped that at least The Globe, which I understand to be an ex-pat friendly place, would be more trustworthy, but it seems the rule in Prague is: watch carefully anything you wish to keep. Even Snek Bar this morning charged us 40 for the "cover charge" when their advertised rate was 10 a piece. (Most tourists probably never even realize a cover has been added to their bill at all, since the receipts are generally handwritten Czech scrawl.) I wonder if they understand that they're fostering a reputation that Czechs are an untrustworthy lot. I wonder if they read the travel guides.

We dropped the laptops back off in our 1000 square foot locker and headed to the bus station to get tickets to Cesky Krumlov. (This was actually our second try since the station we went to yesterday wasn't the right one for buses leaving at the time we wanted.) The woman at the window spoke no English and expressed no interest in working with us. She just said "Ne" and turned back to her computer as if just waiting for us to walk away. We tried a few other options in or around the station but determined she remained our best bet, so Clare* used our limited refs to write out our request in Czech -- two tickets, one-way, tomorrow, Wednesday 14, Praha -> Cescky Krumlov. We went back to her window, handed her the note, and she just took it, clicked away at her computer and produced two tickets. Voila.

All accounts I've read or heard depict Prague as having "English spoken most everywhere". I can only assume they weren't here off season (or maybe just didn't roam or stay as far from center as we've been).

After getting the bus tickets, we returned to Wenceslas Square in search of Symphony tickets.
Wenceslas Square, Prague

The ticket office there said it was sold out, but we went anyway and had no trouble getting tickets at the door that practically gave us a row to ourselves. The symphony itself was a mixed bag, some pieces great, some which I actively disliked (Kilar was great, Snitke made me want to run away screaming, and Dvorak was good but harder to sit still for after all that Snitke).

Another touristy shot outside the symphony:
Near the Symphony, Prague

We got two dinners and shared a beer for a total of $6 at Radegast:
Radegast, Prague

The food was actually rather mediocre--we likened it to a Czech diner--but it was quite tasty anyway if only because Czech food in general is still scoring high culinary novelty points with us.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com