Flying to Prague was a Prague-blem

LAX to London to Frankfurt to Prague
April 27, 2022

Image Credit: Google images

As usual the Browns were so early to LAX that the long line to check into British Airways was for the flight before us. Oddly there were no kiosks for self check in, so after a wait we were one of the first in line for our flight. Our flight was delayed an hour that put the crunch on our layover in London. The London layover was to be 1 hour and 50 minutes to connect to the flight to Prague via British Airways. No problem right?

Except that the connection was at another terminal that the Heathrow website stated would take approximately 20 minutes to get to. Two helpful BA employees told us that we would have plenty of time to make this and one circled our map of the terminal showing us how to get on the tram from terminal 5 to terminal 3.

The plane arrived a few minutes early to Heathrow and our luggage was checked through to Prague, no problem, and there was the tram sign as indicated. Ha! Easy peezy. There was a stop for Terminal 3 our destination for the connection. I boasted that we were ahead of schedule and jinxed it. We now had to get off the tram and take a bus to terminal 3, a bus that ran every 10 minutes, a bus that we just missed, a bus that circumnavigated Heathrow and the greater city of London for 20 minutes before getting us to Terminal 3.

And then there was another security check that I would later comment that was “running at the speed of sand”. This security check was to simply check our passport to our boarding pass without a metal detector or strip search but the security person was taking close to a full minute for each passenger and I started doing the math. Crap! While we were being tortured with our increasing wait time a group of handicapped passengers started cutting through the line with their entourage of airline employees and family members. We both spoke up and told them that our flight was now boarding and we couldn’t let them pass to which they understood however we felt bad in saying this. A new security officer arrived and started getting passengers through every 5-10 seconds and we thought we had a chance to make it however were told at that security checkpoint that the gate had closed to our flight as we were now less than 30 minutes to departure.

We had to go see Passenger Service for another connection flight. Marla had noticed our seat assignments had disappeared off the BA app and later we found online travel tips that said to give yourself 90 minutes to get to the far, far away terminal known as Terminal 3 from terminal 5. We should have insisted on a new connection at LAX.

We were not alone at the Passenger Service desk as other couples from the LAX flight had missed their connection. The best they could do was to book us on a Lufthansa flight from terminal 4 to Frankfurt and then on to Prague. There was a commotion at the counter with an elderly Syrian couple who missed their Beruit connection. There was a language barrier and they could not understand that they would have to go to Frankfurt to connect and since their luggage was already on the plane they missed, as ours was, they were upset and confused about that. The patient clerk explained this at least 4 times to them and since we were all booked on the flight to Frankfurt the clerk asked us to babysit them to the next gate. Marla and I agreed to get some good karma back after losing some from telling the wheelchair posse to back off. We had about a 3 hour wait and the Frankfurt gate had not been assigned yet, which stressed this couple out even more, so it gave us time to explain the situation to them several more times.

We walked with them to the Food Court to find out they didn’t have credit cards and only US Dollars. BA had given us $20 in food vouchers but not them. We were at a self serve sandwich shop when this came to light and a nun overheard this who paid for them.

The couple Abraham and Mimi were from Syria now living in Southern California. We got them on the Frankfurt flight and the last we saw they were trying to arrange a wheelchair ( and a guide) to their Beruit flight.

Our luggage not only made it earlier but was some of the first off the conveyor belt upon our arrival.

We we finally got to Prague around midnight instead the afternoon after 30 hours of fuckery. Thanks British Airways…

First Day Walkabout in Prague

Prague, Czech Republic
April 29, 2022

After hitting the breakfast buffet and having too many espressos to shake the jet lag off we took a walk to the Vltava river and up towards the old town.

We had to detour to across the river and then back over to a popular shopping area before venturing into a small shopping mall. We needed to sit down and use the WC, and there was the Golden Arches. Why not?

The WC turned into an adventure and learning experience. A sign in a hallway had the word “paid” and sure enough had a turnstile with different ways to pay: Debit Card, cash or use you receipt from a purchase at the mall. With some assistance I figured out that the QR code didn’t work to open the gates to the kingdom but a small UPC code on the receipt did. Now it was Marla’s turn and I proudly mansplained the procedure to her except she found out it was only one use per receipt before she had to return for a debit card. The charge was 15 CZ or about 50 cents.

We walked back towards the hotel taking a different route and made it back to the main road that follows the river before passing a Pagan Store. Huh? It was a unique shop of Viking swords, helmets, armory and trinkets. Hey kids how about a fake velociraptor claw?

Our most important find of the day was a Mexican restaurant near the river and about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. After some jet lagged induced naps we had a nice hmmm “ Mexican “ dinner, that was more Tex-Mex but it hit the spot. It was so much better the “ nachos” ( Melted cheese over funky corn chips with pickled beets on top) that we had in Finland.

Orientation Meeting

Prague, Czech Republic
April 29, 2022

We have been so lucky with our last two trips with Gate 1 being partially filled due to the pandemic. Ecuador was a group of 14 people and Egypt was 15. The boat in Egypt held 300 passengers and there was only two tour groups for a total of around 40 with a crew of 60. Lots of room, no rush at the buffet line and we really got to know each other. So, we got to our Danube River cruise orientation on time to find a group of around 20, then 30, then 40 before stopping at 50. Our tour guide said that we will be using 2 tour buses for excursions. On the plus side only two couples appeared younger than us and the rest were not that much older. As we all introduced ourselves many were adventurous travelers which we have found to be the case with Gate 1 tours. I noticed a preference for easy to care for travel shirts, pants and lots of running shoes. Nothing high maintenance, good. For once me and my stupid foot may not be the slowest of the bunch.

During the introductions a younger couple (around 50 years old…) mentioned that they had recently been to Ecuador and we instantly bonded with each of us sharing our Ecuador stories. They were both originally from Russia and we had another connection from our 2016 trip there; we had many enjoyable meals with them throughout our trip.

Terezin Memorial

Terezin, Czech Republic
April 30, 2022

The weather was still cool as we left old town Prague and headed about an hour north to the town of Terezin, which was originally constructed as a walled fortress in 1780 and converted into a Jewish Ghetto and Nazi concentration camp during WW11. Terezin was unique because it was wholly created as a transitional camp before being sent to Auschwitz and latter it served propaganda purposes. Many educated professionals and artists were sent here and although not designated as a termination camp, 33,000 died here from malnutrition and disease.

As we prepared for a solemn history lesson, our tour guide Jana gave us some background on what to expect before reaching the Jewish museum, our first stop in Terezin this afternoon. No matter how prepared you are, you’re not and what you think you know, you don’t.

The Museum is very emotional and contains numerous exhibits, but it was the childrens drawings that really got me. The pictures were created in a class taught by Jewish artist Frieda Dicker-Brandeis who encouraged the children to express their emotions through art as a kind of therapy. The drawings were completed over a two year period and by 1944 the children as well as the instructor were sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

We then walked around this deceptively nice looking town / converted Jewish ghetto that was portrayed by the Nazis as kind of a resort for relocated Jews.

Men, women and children were separated into different barracks with a few lucky ones assigned cramped apartments. We walked through one of these preserved units as well as a prayer room, which was encouraged to keep the people calm.

In 1944 an inspection was demanded by the King of Denmark because of the 466 Danish Jews that were interned here. The representatives included the Danish Foreign minister, International Red Cross and two Swiss delegates.

In order to prepare for this visit the Nazis created a plan known as “Operation Embellishment” which involved sprucing up the buildings with fresh paint, fake cafes and store fronts. Also overcrowding was managed by deporting approximately 7500 people to extermination camps. Questions were also prearranged by the Nazi officers and explicit instructions given for the interned to avoid all interaction with the delegation.

There was even a performance of “Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi” that was attended by the Swiss delegation and Nazi officers and conducted by the famous Czech composer Rafael Schachter with a choir of 150 Jewish adults. Afterwards all Jews involved with “Operation Embellishment” were sent to extermination camps.

Photo credit:

This ruse was so successful that Terezin thereafter was sought out for additional propaganda purposes. While visiting the Jewish museum we watched a short documentary film or what was left of it, most of the film was destroyed. The documentary was used to convince the outside populous of how happy the Jewish people were with their new home. This film portrayed a summer camp like atmosphere with young fit men playing soccer, fans watching and young people flirting. The film took 11 days to create and was directed by an interned Jewish actor. As with “Operation Embellishment” the people in the film as well as the director were also sent to various extermination camps.

Next we drove across the river from the ghetto to the Terezin Memorial where we walked past Jewish and Christian gravesites. The deaths became so numerous here that eventually the crematorium was used and the ashes were dumped in the nearby river.

Just past the Terezin Memorial is the Small Fortress that was used as a Gestapo prison. The infamous Nazi sign of “Arbeit Macht Freight” (Work sets you free), similar to the one seen at Auschwitz, was written above the arch in front of the inner camp where not only Jewish but anyone considered enemies of the state were imprisoned.

Within the barracks were the wooden frames that served as beds and I found it difficult to imagine how 60 people could fit in these damp cramped quarters with one toilet. Disease, dysentery and malnutrition became all too real. You can read about these appalling conditions and see pictures, but when you come here in person you experience a different kind of connection.

Nearby we walked through the shower area and where the prisoners would strip down in order to have their clothes “sanitized” by some steam devise. Theoretically this would kill the bacteria but not remove the dirt from the clothes. After their shower the inmates would put these wet steamed dirty garments back on or go naked.

How can anyone honestly relate to the atrocities that were committed against these people? I can’t. I can only try. All of which made this post difficult to write.

“Burning of the Witches”

Prague, Czech Republic
April 30, 2022

Photo credit: Getty Images

One of the best things about travel is discovering the unexpected. Something different.

Earlier this afternoon we saw a procession of people wearing witches hats and carrying an effigy of a creepy figurine. What sort of Coven was this? I had images of Nicholas Cage in the horror movie “The Wicker Man” where it ends with his sacrificial demise and a gigantic burning wicker man.

Photo credit: Travel Earth

So what were we looking at? Our guide explained that today is similar to our Halloween, but not exactly. That this is a celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of spring commemorated by the burning of symbolic witches in bon fires and having BBQs, of course. This centuries old ritual, otherwise known as the “Burning of the Witches”, is observed annually across the Czech Republic on April 30th.

It was now the evening of April 30th and I felt particularly spirited as we found ourselves walking toward the Vltava riverfront, about 3 blocks from our hotel.

It was as if a spell had been cast as we promenaded down the steps to the river and into an open air market place that encompassed a large section of the boardwalk. Being dusk we agreed to stop at the churro stand before the market closed. We were also looking forward to checking out the riverboat restaurants when we noticed something utterly unique.

I’m not sure what to call them, but on the opposing side of the boardwalk and within the walls of the riverside embankment are a series of Vaults with huge circular hinged glass doors. These cool spaces with their humongous “water tight” porthole like doors were former storage units that have been converted into a series of waterfront bars, cafés and galleries. So totally unexpected since they are not visible from the top of the embankment.

After exploring the boardwalk a little further we stopped to eat pizza on one of the riverboats, which also turned out to be a great place for people watching. Being Saturday night and a Pagan holiday there were a lot of young people out and about. I enjoyed checking out the latest in European fashion mixed with a splattering of Witches with hats.

Before returning to our hotel only one “burning” question remained; had that churro stand closed yet?

Lower Than but Not Less Than

Prague, Czech Republic
May 1, 2022

Prague has an area they refer to as Lesser Town but not in an disparaging way, our guide Jana didn’t like the term either. Lesser Town means it’s lower in elevation in its proximity to the river and more prone to flooding.

The area is also where most of the foreign embassies are located in beautiful old buildings. The streets are narrow and are made of cobblestones that give a unique yet comforting sound as cars drive by. You can judge the speed of a car by the pitch of the tires whining upon the cobblestones.

Many of the houses also have names like Three Stork, Blue Horse, Golden Flower, Golden Snake ( two houses were named that) and Golden Crown to name a few. The namesake of the house similar to a coat of arms is often located above the door or mounted on the corner of the outside of the house and you guessed it are usually painted gold.

The lower elevation of Lesser Town has historically caused problems when the river floods and in 2002 they had a massive rain storm for three straight days causing the river to raise to alarming heights. A door to a house was marked with the flood levels of years past and the 2002 water level was at 7 feet, this house sits over 20 feet high from the current river level!

So here’s what Prague did to mitigate future flooding, there are 10” wide strips of stainless steal imbedded at ground level running down streets, around buildings and sectioning off areas. If there is any risk of flooding they unfastened the plates and insert barriers to keep the water out of the buildings. Many of the buildings are government buildings in this area they need to protect.

The neighborhood is also home to the John Lennon Wall, a wall thats been a gathering point for past protests and Lennon became a symbol for peace. The wall is painted with encouraging, thoughtful words and poems of peace. There are also notes of hopes and dreams from those who seek solace from the past and the future. We took a shameless selfie.

Down the street from the mindfulness of the Lennon Wall was a small river with the statue of the River Man, a Boogie Man from past fairy tells who would pull you into the river if you didn’t behave or eat your peas. Sorry mom but I hated peas.

Our morning walking tour now led us to the river with a view of “Child’s” bridge. We had heard Childs Bridge mentioned or pointed out on maps since our arrival and we now learned it was really named Charles Bridge after King Charles, but with that cute Czech accent…

I appreciate and respect anyone who speaks more than one language so the following is not to insult anyone but to demonstrate the charming Czech accent as applied to English words. Our lovely guide Jana spoke wonderful English but a few words had her own special spice to them. I did a double take when I heard her say “ many men lived in the buttocks”. What? Below are a few translations.

Buttocks = barracks
Pea coat= peacock, bird
Off Asses= offices
Hell see= healthy

All Along the Clock Tower

Prague, Czech Republic
May 2, 2022

Our group finished our morning tour by walking across the Vltava river over the Charles Bridge towards old town. I’m sure we passed various ABC’s ( another bloody church) but I can’t remember my thoughts were already on how to take the #17 tram back to our hotel and take a nap.

There was one thing that interested me and that was a library that is claimed to be the most beautiful library in the world. I had seen photos of the Strahov library on my Instagram feed posted by travel junkies. We would have to navigate a tram or two but my feet were killing me and Marla had a couple aches and pains too.

The tour guide marched on to the astronomical clock with the hordes of Sunday afternoon tourists and drunken wedding parties. The astronomical clock is very popular with newlyweds for good luck. But, what was that we just passed? Hmmm, shall we, we did in Greece, Singapore and we did it twice in Rome. The Hard Rock Cafe was off the main square and had a marquee that read “ Marla and Allan we have big diet cokes with unlimited refills”, so we didn’t want to be rude and headed in.

It was 11:30 and we were the first customers of the day, when we left it was packed with mostly American tourists getting their fix of Americana. We sat in the corner underneath a framed pair of Elvis Presley’s trousers and a Barbie sized doll of “ Comeback Special Elvis”, we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming. For those Yanks who travel Europe, you will know how special it is to get not a tiny 6 oz glass bottle, not a 8 oz bottle but a big 16 oz glass with lots of ice and Diet Coke. Ahhh, it hit the spot and after her third refill it hit my delicate wife in another way. The wait staff was attentive and used to this quirky American indulgence, our pulled pork and chicken sandwiches arrived with what we now refer to as “ Czech Fries” or French Fires with so much salt on them they appear to have been dusted like a pastry with granulated sugar. You could feel the salt crunch in your mouth.

Travel Tip- This was our second time getting Czech Fries and we have made a note to order fries without salt next time.

Anywho, after lunch the carbs were kicking in and a 2.5 mile walk back to the hotel didn’t seem like fun so after walking about 1 mile we decided to take the #17 tram.

Before we got on the tram we admired our favorite melting clock artist, Salvador Dali and his statue of a unicorn thrusting his horn through a heart shaped hole in a brick wall as a symbol of virility. Hmmm….Dali also had a nakid golden lady to make it interesting and that made me think of a scene from the James Bond movie Goldfinger.

Taking a tram is so easy it makes you feel stupid to be an American and our lack of easy transportation in cities. The electric tram is on the honor system, no one checks your 30 cent ticket and people over 65 are free! Easy Peezy and they haul ass when not stopping for red lights. There is always a slight if not significant anxiety of using foreign public transportation for the first time. In our earlier travels we were briefly paralyzed in London before descending into the Underground and enjoying the color coded ease of The Tube. Mind the Gap y’all.

Remember that third soda refill I mentioned? Well, it does not only increase bladder volume but speeds up your walking pace back to the hotel.

Puppets and Beer

Pilsen, Czech Republic
May 2, 2022

There were lots of nervous glances and chatter on the bus before leaving our hotel. Does everybody have their passports? Yes. “How about your vox boxes (voice boxes)?” Yes yes. “Did you check your luggage and pay your hotel bills??” People were getting on and off the bus while checking this and that, then finally we were on the road. Whew! For anyone who’s done a group tour this is all pretty common, but this is a large group with a bit more chaos.

So today we were off to visit the town of Pilsen which is known for its production of the Czechs popular Pilsner beer. So with that in mind, it’s interesting to note that the Czech Republic has the highest consumption of beer drinkers per capita in the world, yet China, USA and Russia are the largest producers of beer.

The story goes that in 1838 unhappy bar owners dumped 36 barrels of their local beer in the town square because they said it was unhealthy and tasted awful. The tavern owners and citizens got together and brought in a German brewer by the name of Josef Groll and “Pilsner Urquell” beer was born. The brewery opened in 1842 and was the first to produce a pale lager.

It’s also kind of interesting that the song lyrics “Roll out the Barrels” was attributed to the American soldiers who liberated Pilsen at the end of WWll and whom didn’t know the original words to this traditional German song.

So what else do you do in Pilsen besides drink beer? You can pray at St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral located in the main square and rub a cherubs head for good luck on the outer gate of the church. There is a legend that in 1739 an Executioner wanted to exchange wedding vows within this Cathedral, but it was not allowed because of his profession. So he arranged to have another man stand in as his proxy. During the wedding ceremony the Executioner fell ill and started to fall, but was saved by grabbing the head of a cherub. To this day it is believed that good fortune will be bestowed upon you by rubbing the head of one of these baby angels….

Or if rubbing shiny objects isn’t your thing, you can go to the Puppet theater and museum….or not. Yep, as it turns out puppetry has been a tradition here since the late 19th century and has functioned not only as a means of entertainment, but a way to express moral lessons and folklore to the children. The theater/ museum is also located conveniently in the main square but we’re not really into puppets, so we took a picture of the door.

Our local guide Renata whose hometown is Pilsen, is very knowledgeable and had talked nonstop without breathing since we left the hotel. How does she do that? So it was with great pleasure that we were finally cut free. With only an hour left we didn’t have enough time to take the brewery tour, or the puppet theater, or the underground ghost tour which sounded pretty cool. So, we decided to eat lunch and people watch other people “people watching” before departing onward to Nuremberg.

The end.


Nuremberg, Germany
May 3, 2022

Photo credit:

Nuremberg is the infamous home of the WWll Nazi war tribunals which were held in courtroom #600. That courtroom has been used for major crimes throughout the years and only recently was turned into a museum memorializing this significant event of the past.

We did not go into the courtroom yet we passed along the street in the front, the bus briefly stopped while our guide pointed out the room from outside the building. It was sobering. The trial was to last 3 months and lasted 11 resulting in the hanging deaths of 6 men who all had pleaded not guilty. They were all cremated and their ashes dumped in the river in an undisclosed location to avoid pro Nazi sympathizers turning it into a shrine of sorts.

People can be screwed up, do bad things and as the saying goes “the existence of evil needs good men to do nothing” like many “good Germans” who did nothing carrying the guilt and shame for the rest of their lives. They went along with it and one could think it was to avoid death or imprisonment but too many Germans went along with it because they believed what they heard, and what they read. Misinformation was alive and well way before current political times.

We parked and saw the Zeppelin Stadium, later called Zeppelin Field to sound more military-like, across a small lake built to resemble the Roman Coliseum with a granite facade over bricks to stay within budget and to look impressive.

Photo credit: The Independent

We had earlier viewed the Nazi rally site where all those infamous black and white photos were taken of more than 100,000 people waving thousands of flags while Hitler’s Nazi elite appeared from a light cloud of spot lights in a staged production to impress, and it did.

To our rear a couple of hundred yards away was the former rally grounds, now a crumbling concrete “grandstand” for a lack of a better word.

Photo credit:

Another big production for a little man with a big plan, a big fucked up plan that too many people went along with. But in the end, two of the worse architects of this grand plan, of a perfect Aryan Race, of a permanent solution for the Jews and other war atrocities committed suicide.

How would it have all played out if people called them out sooner, told them they were batshit crazy and let them live their lives out as failed human beings? If that had happened we would have not had it to learn from. History is like that. The Germans teach their kids all about the Nazis starting in middle school up through high school and have to be tested on it to graduate.

So what have we learned? I don’t know, do people still think they are being good?

Dealing with the Devil in Regensburg

Regensburg, Germany
May 4, 2022

We drank coffee in the Aft lounge as our boat docked in Regensburg and where we watched from our perch as the city woke up to Wednesday. During these morning hours we contemplated how people along this canal seemingly emerged from nowhere as they headed somewhere with some purpose and thought about how soon enough we would debark and become one of those people.

It had been 17 years or so since we visited Regensburg and I was curious to see what we’d remember and what had changed. So with that in mind we started our walking tour around 9:00 am with a young chap who was eager to bestow upon us humorous stories. I estimated our guide to be college age when he mentioned that Regensburg was a college town with about 40,000 students out of a population of 160,000. It made me think about how cool it would be to go to school here with the public University of Regensburg so close along the southern edge of the old town. Someone in our group asked about tuition and he casually mentioned it was around 300 euros a year with additional expenses for books, food and housing. I was dumbfounded. Wow! I just couldn’t fathom this when you compare it with the high cost of tuition and the enormous burden of debt that students carry in the US. After a quick Google search this indeed proved to be correct with most colleges being tuition free.

We pressed onward until we stopped in front of the Regensburg Museum of Bavarian History and next to a hideous gold statue of what might have been a fish or a whale or some aquatic thing. Although I never got the gist of this golden glob, evidently there was money that needed to be spent so this was commissioned.

As we continued our walk along the canal’s boardwalk we came to “Garkueche aut dem Krarchen” which is a 750 year old Sausage Kitchen that our guide referenced as the “oldest fast food restaurant in the world” and told us that it’s not only a major attraction but where locals still dine.

The building was originally constructed as headquarters for the Old Stone Bridge, which we were near and also a good spot to see the twin spires of Saint Peters Cathedral.

Legend has it that in the 12th century the Master Builder of the Stone Bridge made a wager with the Master Builder of the Cathedral in that he would complete his project first. At that time the building of the church was progressing quickly while the construction of the bridge, with its many arches, was not. In order for the bridge builder to win his bet he made a pack with the Devil with one caveat, that the first 3 souls to cross the bridge would be his. In agreement the Master Bridge Builder was able to rapidly finish the Stone Bridge. Then when it came time for the Grand Opening of the Stone Bridge, the Master Builder cleverly arranged for a rooster then a hen and finally a dog to be chased across first. The Devil was so enraged that he unsuccessfully tried to destroy the bridge, which is why there is a hump in the middle of the bridge.

After goggling at the Old Stone Bridge and perhaps annoying a few construction workers nearby, we headed for the twin spires of Saint Peters Cathedral. It began to rain now and I was thankful that Allan had the foresight to bring an umbrella. Our group took shelter across from the Cathedral and our guide asked us if anything looked different about the church. To me it was just another large old gothic church with scaffolding for ongoing repairs. He then pointed out that it took over 600 years to build this church and with numerous delays due to financing, that only the bottom was constructed in expensive stone. The remainder of the Cathedral was completed in cement, which was a newer material for that period. Unfortunately cement has a tendency to crack over time, hence the scaffolding.