Prague – A Short Visit to an Old Favorite

It has been about 13 or 14 years since I first visited Prague. In the early 2000’s, it was a somewhat exotic destination having emerged from behind the Iron Curtain with a reputation for one of the best-preserved city centers in Europe. On a business trip to England, I made time for a long weekend to wander around Prague and found it to live up to its reputation, even if there still was some evidence of lingering attitudes from the Communist era especially when dealing with service workers. But, I was anxious to see how it has changed while here for a couple of days of business meetings.

The Prague Castle from across the river by the Charles Bridge

The Prague Castle from across the river by the Charles Bridge

 

From Vienna, I caught a RegioJet bus that took about 4.5 hours to Prague for a cost of 15 euros. Upon arrival, I was fortunate that the bus station was at the Florenc station that allowed a direct Metro connection to where I needed to be for my business meetings. For a discounted price of 24 Czech Korunas – approximately $1 USDI was across town and out to a business park area in the suburbs.

After the conclusion of our meetings, we found our hotel located just five minutes walk from Old Town and, luckily for me, only 2 minutes walk from the bus station where I would be departing on the conclusion of my trip. The Hotel AXA was built in the 1930’s and updated in the past ten years. While not necessarily a location I would pick again, it was in a great location, with decent art deco style furnishings, and only 72 Euros per night including breakfast. I had a street side room and it was bit noisy so I would recommend requesting a room on the back side of the hotel.

Hotel AXA, Prague

Hotel AXA, Prague

 

For business dinner, we went to Kolkovna Celnice, a well reviewed establishment with a classical Czech menu. It was an outstanding meal accompanied with Pilsner Urquell beer and it was heaving with people having a good time.

The next day, after the conclusion of meetings, a colleague and I had a couple of beers and snack foods at another local bar and, once again, the was lots of energy and vibrancy in the place. At least, until the US scored a second goal to beat the Czech team in the ice hockey match that was being closely watched.

I only had a couple of hours that night to walk around Old Town. The astrological clock, the Charles Bridge, wandering the pedestrianized streets, and taking in the architecture. Perhaps I am projecting my own impressions based on too little exposure but it certainly felt much different than my trip so many years ago. It felt more vibrant, more crowded, and more optimistic. With an economy that is doing extremely well and unemployment that is extremely low, there are more dining, entertainment, and shopping options. Despite the low unemployment rates, the attitudes and efficiency of service workers was vastly better than on my earlier trip.

Old Town, Prague

Old Town, Prague

 

If I have a chance in the upcoming years, I think I will put Prague on my list to come back to again and spend some time in this charming, but now modern city.

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RegioJet/Student Agency – Not Your Daddy’s Bus

I’m using buses quite a few times on my travels through Eastern Europe, so I thought I would go ahead and post about the experience as its own post since so few people in the U.S. are ever on a bus after they get out of school. Additionally, I think there are probably some impressions of bus travel based off sensational photos that one occasionally sees out of developing countries with people sitting on top of the bus, hanging on to its side, laying on the hood, and doing everything possible to cram 200 people into a bus designed for 60.

The bus line I’m using is RegioJet which is booked through an organization called Student Agency. Despite its name, it is not just for young kids on backpack tours of Europe. Instead, it is a reliable, well-appointed service that runs on time and offers great value.

The best option for my trip from Prague to Bratislava

The best option for my trip from Prague to Bratislava

 

The seats are very comfortable, if a tad cramped in regards to width and leg room. Individual entertainment screens at each seat offer internet access, movies, TV, music, and games. In addition, there is wi-fi available on the bus and all of this is included in the tariff. There are complimentary hot beverages and snacks and cold beverages available for purchase. Here is what the interior looks like..

Individual video entertainment screens

Individual video entertainment screens

A comfortable bucket seat with leather trim

A comfortable bucket seat with leather trim

 

And, for an idea of costs, my trip from Vienna to Prague – about 4.5 hours – cost 15 euros. My trip from Prague to Bratislava was even less – 10 euros – for a 4.5 hour trip. And, so far, the stations have been very close to my hotels. Needless to say, I think this is a great option for getting around this part of the world.

Hitting the Road for Eastern Europe

Back in February, I was sitting on a little over 170,000 American miles and trying to figure out what trip I could book before AA changed the mileage requirements on their award chart which, of course, made the miles less valuable, not more valuable. As I was considering this question, I got notice that one of the European meetings that I attend a few times a year would be held in Prague in May.

After doing some research, I figured out a way to use 50,000 AA miles to fly business class one-way to Europe for the meeting and then tie in some other travels on the trip. 50k for one-way business to Europe in a lie-flat seat with aisle access. This was a nice sweet spot on the AA chart that has now moved up to 57,500, which is still not bad. I couldn’t get directly into Prague but Vienna had availability and that is a city that I’ve wanted to visit for some time. Now, of course, I know Vienna is not actually Eastern Europe and neither is Italy which is where I will end up in a few weeks. But, the balance of my time will be spent in Eastern Europe and cities where I have never traveled with the exception of Prague.

For this trip, I decided to go ultra-light much like I did for Vietnam and Cambodia a few years ago. So, the Marmot Gunnison daypack is stuffed full and I am actually going to try a few new products this time around and see how they work. Probably the biggest challenge will be dressing well enough for the business meetings I will be attending. Hopefully, I have enough in the bag to make it work!

I’ll be moving quickly between cities over the next couple of weeks but I will try to keep relatively up to date with the blog and pics.