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© AUS120 Sean O'Brien.
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Straight after a week of man-ing up with the boys, I picked up the girls from Berlin on the way out of Poland and did a few days of roadtripping through Checkers and Austria on the way down to Switzerland for the next FW Euro-Cup. For those who aren’t up with the lingo, Checkers is what we nicknamed the Czech Republic (Ceska Republika); both the people and the money used there. With two Kiwi girls beside me in the van we headed straight into Prague (Praha) and spent two nights and one long day missioning on foot around one of the most interesting and older cities (older in terms of not being punished during WWII) that I have seen in Europe so far …

Czech Republic is quite cheap – on a similar par with Poland – but Prague now appears to be overrun by tourists so I would think the prices have gone up for everything in the last few years. We found a nice 15th century hotel in the centre square of town which was only 30 euros each per night including breakfast. Nice. The hotel was absolutely fascinating, with its carved stone walls, 5m high carved wooden doors and private courtyards complete with stone sculptures and ferns growing all down the walls in some of the rooms (ours included).

We only had a short time to see everything so we started early in the morning and walked up to Prague Castle and checked out some of the amazing Cathedrals both inside the castle and on the surrounding hill. At the front door of the castle were the royal guards at each post. Similar to Buckingham Palace guards in LDN (London) they don’t flinch, smirk or even move despite what you do in front of them and I got a few great photos with the girls planting a kiss on each cheek of one unsuspecting guard. He didn’t even smile, but he had that look in his eye that deep down … he really wanted to.

After this we went to Charles Bridge which features many cool statues including the one in the picture at the top of this post with a medievel priest giving the “hey, how you doin?” finger point … were people REALLY this cool back 1000 years ago?? That’s awesome. About 50m down from him was a statue of two priests doing the peace sign. Checkers people were waaaaay ahead of the times it seems. In the middle of a bridge was one statue where it is said that if you rub the statue it gives good luck (and/or health). There was a queue of people lining up to rub themselves up on the statue but we thought it was funnier to just watch and take photos. One guy and his wife waited in the queue for nearly 25 mins and then preceded to rub their DOG on the statue – literally just holding their little shitzu and wiping him across a 1000 year old dirty and dusty statue … poor dog!

Next up was an old toy museum with (supposedly) the biggest toy collection in the world. They did have the biggest collection of BARBIE dolls there which was a real highlight as it featured hundred’s of “one-off” Barbie’s made by famous designer’s like Dior, Calvin Klein, Prade, Gucci, Donnatello Calvedi etc and even some avant garde outfits which were made out of foam and molded plastic. The highlight for me was this group of cheerleader Barbie’s (see picture above) as seriously, if Barbie’s were THIS cool when I was a kid I’m sure I wouldn’t have destroyed my sister’s collection that much. Some other interesting things were the random Barbie trivia like apparently the first talking Barbie used to say things like “maths is boring and stupid” until the American Mathematics Association and Society complained and they changed Barbie to say more intelligent things like “I think I need a new outfit” and “this is totally the right fit”. Classic.

Later we ate some potato and bacon dumplings (famous Checker’s dish) and also some roast duck for dinner and sampled one of my favourite beers: Pilsner Urquell. At night we caught one of the famous Checkers sunsets over the river and then went to checkout a puppet show with the old-school carved wooden finger puppets which Prague is famous for. They look a lot like Marionette dolls (think Thunderbirds and Team-America: World Police movies) and some of their faces are so spooky looking you probably wouldn’t want to own one and keep it in your house because they might come to life at night – Chucky style! 

It was fun to spend this trip travelling with girls as I think if the boy’s did this mission we would’ve spent the time at the bar on the corner of Charles Bridge and later going to the “biggest dance club in middle Europe” as was confirmed on the side of one 4 story nightclub. Although driving with girls can sometimes be a pain as they seem to need to stop to get chocolates and go to the bathroom every 1.5 hours but these two were doing great and as I know them both from windsurfing in RS:X we could even spend some of the time talking about windsurfing!

After Prague we went to Salzburg in Austria which is the home of the Sound of Music Movie. The girls wanted desperately to go on the Official Movie Tour to all the spots in the movie but I would rather have stuck a spoon covered with vinegar in my eye than do that tour so I spent the afternoon up in the Austrian Alps on my roadbike; punishing some of the biggest mountains I have ridden yet and taking my new Descente Cycling Gear to the next level. Next on the cards is Switzerland and I’m told the drive from Austria to Silvaplana is magnificent because instead of going through the tunnels and the Julier Pass as you do when you drive from Holland, we come in from the East and follow the road completely on the edge of the mountain with no tunnels to miss out on the views… perfect.

The verdict for Prague – 10 out of 10. Easily the cleanest, most interesting, cheapest, fascinating and vibrant city you will see in Europe. I think it will become the norm to visit there anytime I’m near Eastern Germany as its only 3.5 hours drive from Berlin and shorter from Poland …

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