Originally published 20 June 2013
We arose in Prague today and had breakfast....after this, Laurie, David, and Sheree headed for the Jewish Museums and I headed to The National Technical Museum! What this actually is....it's a museum of cars, trains, planes, and motorcycles. To those who know me I'm sure this makes a bit more sense now.
The view down the Vltava river
I took the tram, got off at the proper stop, and wandered through a part of town that doesn't see a lot of tourists......and I liked it. Prague, when you get out of the Old Town tourist area is an odd mix of 45 years of communism, a handful of years under the nazis, nearly 25 years of freedom, and several hundred years of history long before that. Throw all this together, and you've got Prague today. Soviet style buildings coexist with modern glass towers, and historic old buildings......it's a mish mash of everything they've been through.....and they don't seem to discount any of it.
Old Soviet era apartment buildings
I wander into the museum and go to the desk to buy my ticket. I say "anglitski?" yeah....I know it's not spelled properly, but it means "English?". She looked up at me and replied "deutsch?" Just coming from Germany, I replied "Ja! Ein bitte!" (Yes! One please!). So I'm speaking German to communicate with the Czechs! I enter the museum and the docents came with the place when the communist handed the keys over. They've all been there forever.....and know every nut and bolt in the place. They don't speak much English, but they're quite nice and try to help the best they can.
A real Czech Skoda race car!
The place is full of airplanes, motorcycles, trains, and especially Czech cars! What a great time I had browsing through! I also talked to people from the Czech Republic, Scotland, Holland, Germany, and the United States. Every gear head in town is there! Expect heavy commentary on the pics I post.....the museum was great....and all the staff were nice and accommodating.
Jawa made sports cars and now makes Czech motorcycles
One of the women who worked in a photography exhibit spoke to me in Czech. I asked in Czech "English?". She replied "ne"......no in Czech. She then proceeded to take me to each display that had english explanations and point them out to me. Not all displays had them, but she wanted me to be aware of the ones that did! As I said....the people were great, even though we understood very little of what each other said.
Glorious traktor moozeem's not so glorious wheel chair ramps.
Upon exiting, I noticed a building next door....it had tractors out front. After years of joking with my friend Brian about Soviets and their beloved tractor factories......I had found an Eastern Bloc tractor museum!!!!!!!!! I enter and go to the desk. It is quickly established that she speaks very little english....maybe as little as I speak Czech. She says "ees tractor moozeem. Agriculture." I nod and say "ano" (yes). She repeats "tractor moozeem and agriculture?" I nod and reply "ano" again. She looks at me skeptically and says "hokay!". I buy my ticket.
Steam tractor that used wood. Note the small door by wheel.
I enter the museum to find out that not only am I the only American visitor at that point....i'm the ONLY VISITOR! The people working there are glad to see someone come in. Any time I enter a new area, they rush up to me to see if I have questions or comments. When they find out I speak English and only a few words of Czech, they try to communicate as best they can and point things out to me that they think might be interesting to me. I wish I spoke more Czech as they seemed very friendly!
Soviet bloc construction at it's finest.
Both of the buildings the museums were in were old Soviet style buildings, and the Technical Museum has had extensive renovations. Glorious traktor and agriculture moozeem........not so much. It looked as eastern bloc on the inside as well as the outside. Wires were poking out of the walls, things were crumbling.....it had a real "behind the iron curtain" feel to it! A lot of things in that part of town were like that. It wasn't a tourist area and some things are still transitioning......while others have transitioned so far into capitalism they aren't ever coming back.
People are the same everywhere. A young couple in the park.
The museums abut a park. I wander into the park, and the place is almost exclusively locals. They sell beer in the park..and beer is cheaper than bottled water. Bottled water costs about $1.25 and beer (good beer I might add) is less than a dollar. Everybody has a beer going. Everyone here drinks. I saw a pretty young 20ish girl on the tram drinking straight from a 2 liter bottle of Sangria. They drink here, that's for sure.
The metronome, replacing the Stalin statues. Marking time.
I pass on a beer and wander through the park, eventually arriving at the lookout point where Stalin's statue sat for many years. One thing is for sure here......communism is OVER. If it's communist/soviet, they either knocked it over or have a line to piss on it. There's no love lost. The old monument site is covered in graffiti, kids are skateboarding, and a giant operable metronome replaces Stalin's statue. Stalin and his plaza are obviously considered distant memories of an asshole.
Graffitti on the metronome.
I wander out of the park, past the Israeli embassy, and pause to take a pic of the sign at the gate. I'm run off by the cops. They're very careful about security with the Israelis. The Spanish embassy next door, the gate was open and I could have peed in the yard. Not so with the Israeli embassy. They meant business. Then again, who's trying to get the Spaniards?
At the metronome with Prague as my backdrop.
I have lunch in a Chinese place. No english is heard on the streets in this part of town and few restaurants have menus in anything other than Czech. That's fine with me. I manage. Lunch was quite good......I had dumplings, and then what we in the states call sweet and sour chicken, but what the Chinese in Prague call "Chicken strange taste". I read it twice on the menu before ordering.....the name had me gun shy. But it was quite good.
Czech bakery. Order from the little window.
I left out of there and got a text from Laurie. I hopped the subway to meet up with the rest of the gang. We did an abbreviated castle tour then grabbed dinner. After dinner we headed to the main square in Old Town. There was a free concert of the philharmonic and Bobby McFerron. My hearing issues left me not hearing the concert but the ones who could hear it said it was quite good. We called it a day, and headed back to the hotel.
A long way down into the subway.
More tomorrow....we'll see where the day takes us!
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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