Well, the good news is that, for the first time in a long time, we are feeling positively youthful. The reason for this is that our group of mainly Americans are using enough walking sticks to build a Mai Mai and we have been told by many of them how long it is since they had their last knee or hip replacement or how long they are having to wait for one. The one thing we are not wanting to talk about on this holiday is health issues but we can see that many in the group have them but they are making the most of every day – like us!
There is so much history about Prague and the Czech Republic that we have found out about over recent days not least of which is that the Czechs consume more beer than anyone else in the world – 44 gallons per person per year! Now that is rather a lot of beer and it costs about $8 per half litre for Pilsner or 120 Czech Koruna. There is a zero alcohol tolerance here for drivers although there are bars on every corner but – now this is unbelievable – there is a “Beer Ambulance” which will deliver beer to you at your home or wherever you are partying or drinking if you are running out and this is to encourage you not to drive. Maybe you just collapse on the floor where you are and wake up the next morning and drive home! For goodness sakes – taking the beer to you! I forgot to tell you that you can’t get away from the Lime scooters and I can also report that there appears to be no speed limit on them here, no people limits, no helmets required, and they are zipping around at great speed all over the roads between the trams, buses and cars and people! The boss has, a few times, offered to double me on the Lime when I am wilting but honestly, can you imagine that sight! It would resemble Mickey Mouse and Minnie trying to skateboard! Most definitely will not happen and the travel insurance would not handle it. The other thing I need to report is that the shower cap over the big dinner plate in the shower did fill with cold water – that is all I will say!
The population of Prague is 1.2 million and it was interesting to find out that Czechoslovakia was under Communist Rule from 1948 when a Communist Coup overthrew the Government. The Soviets ruled here until 1989 (that coincidentally was when the Berlin Wall came down). At that time this Republic was known as Czechoslovakia but in 1993 it broke up into Slovakia and the Czech Republic each having their own Government, currency and language. The Czech Republic has been a member of the EU since 2004 but still predominantly uses its own currency – the Czech Koruna. They have not made the transition to the Euro although a few places will accept it. The economy is driven by car manufacture (Skoda), tourism, some manufacturing and agriculture (although the Govt has made the farmers replace some crops with Canola for biofuel so from the air all you can see are vast areas of Canola growing). They say they have a problem in Prague with Russians purchasing a lot of real estate and hence the prices have risen for locals to rent or buy in the city – does that sound familiar?
After visiting the Jewish Quarter we left Prague yesterday to travel to Dresden crossing the border into northern Germany. We visited two synagogues and the oldest Jewish Town Hall in Europe. We then travelled to the Bastai which is a rock formation towering 194 metres absolutely vertically above the Elbe River in the Saxon Switzerland National Park. The lady in charge of the “P”s did a walk along many bridges to view the river and the rock formations (and Pappy went to the bar to sample the local lager!!!!). We then drove on to Dresden passing many wheat, sunflower, corn, canola and flower fields on the way to reach the land where the house roofs are extremely steep, the traditional lace net curtains decorate all the windows and the beautiful window boxes have colourful displays of geraniums.
So here we are now comfortably ensconced on the riverboat docked in Dresden and going nowhere – but very comfortable it is. Actuallly, it has become a houseboat!! We were greeted warmly by the crew who were lined up to welcome us aboard and very soon the glass of champagne was in the hand and we were introduced to ze captain, ze first officer and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all! As has to be ze case, you ‘ave to do ze safety briefing and be shown ‘ow to use ze life jacket – really! So as we sip the champagne and eat the nibbles we are told to blow on ze whistle if necessary BUT we are going nowhere because we have also found out that if we need to jump overboard we will likely injure ourselves badly because ze water is about 80 cm deep! Heaven forbid! Then they demonstrate the “Abandon Ship” siren but we are told if this does sound then take your time, finish your drink and go ashore! If we have to, we will be able to walk right across the river, Right – we have taken note of all the safety measures which gives us a great deal of comfort as you can imagine and will ensure we sleep well tonight. The ‘Otel Manager also gave a presentation telling us that the front desk is manned all the time 24/7 to take care of our problems except when no one is there! Our lovely cabin has a balcony and the little water there is in this Elbe River is flowing past very quickly this morning as are hundreds of people cycling to work on the other side of the river while the sun shines brightly and we prepare to go and explore Dresden, then have a little cruise on a paddle steamer and then a classical concert at the Zwinger Palace tonight. It’s a tough life as you can imagine and the one in charge of the B’s is coping well as long as the one in charge of the P’s does not ruffle his feathers! We have just returned from a morning’s sightseeing in Dresden including a visit to the Staatliche Museum which has a huge collection of the most magnificent and remarkable treasures including the Dresden Green Diamond – a 41 carat green diamond dating back to 1768. We have become experts at visiting International Museums, but this truly is the very best museum we have ever seen (and its pretty tough to beat the Smithsonian in Washington).
A little raft has just come by playing loud music – it is a beer raft and the few people on it are having a BBQ, beers and music and they are all waving madly to me as ze aroma of ze German sausage is wafting from ze BBQ! Tomorrow we move to Wittenberg to board another boat for three nights so although we aren’t sailing anywhere we are staying on ze boat which is very comfortable and ve are still seeing everything ve came to see so life can’t be bad!
Well – we ‘av arrived on ze new boat on the Elbe in Wittenberg, Germany – which thankfully is absolutely identical to the other boat and we have the same stateroom number and all is well and……. so far we can work the bathroom out which is a miracle in itself and absolutely cause for celebration as those who have followed our bathroom dramas over the years would understand! Why didn’t some clever inventor come up with a way to standardise bathrooms – or write a “Bathrooms for Dummies” manual to get us out of all the fixes we have encountered in our travels? The good news is, we didn’t have to have the safety briefing again because, as you know, zis boat is going nowhere!
We travelled via Meissen passing vineyards on the sides of very steep hills rich in minerals giving the wine special properties and visited the porcelain china factory where we did the most interesting tour to see how this magnificent china – known as Dresden china is made. Their famous trademark is the two blue crossed swords. It is the largest porcelain china factory in Europe and dates back to 1710. It was then onto Wittenberg via Leipzig. So now we are in the land of ze schnitzel and sauerkraut and ze BIG beer steins! Vunderful! We are onboard this boat for three days and then it is on to Berlin. It was the last day of the school year here yesterday and much celebration for the children. Vern went up to the Square and saw dozens of children carrying colourful balloons which they all let go of to rise into the sky. Apparently the biggest tradition here for the last day of school is that the children are given a sweet cone which is full of lollies – and then the teachers send them home to their folks!
It is Saturday here and I had cause to catch a taxi – an experience in itself. Taxi man spoke not one word of English – I spoke not one word of ze German and he drove like an absolute madman to ze destination, which luckily for me ze ‘Otel Manager here on ze boat explained to him! I don’t know what the urgency was but I think he thought he was in the Monaco Grand Prix – unbelievable!
Auf Wiedersehen till next time