Verona feels Italian!
We got to Bergamo, tried to figure out how to get to the train station, missing the train due to lack of understanding by seconds. And yes, you can buy tickets on the train it seems. Because we missed the train, we didnt get to Verona until dark. The whole direction, navigation thing is quite hard, especially when you rely on Google maps, and you got no visual references. We took a taxi 300 meters…
Next day we started fresh, got ourselves a Verona card, and got stuck into the Tocati Festival. We didnt understand what was going on, but it was fun and lively. Heaps of people in town, lots of activities and shenanigans going on. But get the Verona card, much better value!
One of the main highlights, besides the very nice factual cultural things, is the Romeo & Juliet museum. We went, we smooched, and we left. No lovers lost…
We did see some nice factual cultural things though, one of them beeing the monastery, it had catacombs, and stuff like that (Im not that into it), and a religious feeling I dont experience too often.
Rest of the time in Verona, we spent eating icecream, they have a very good Gelato range and selection, drinking beer, and Louis Vuiton spotting. So many fakes!
We went to Prague for the weekend, on the back of a canceled conference with non-refundable WizzAir tickets.
Vlad had told us about Prague, so we got a nice little hotel just out of the old town. It was good, without the traffic noise at night, and breakfast in the old potato cellar. Our driver kept calling Sara “madam”, and held nothing back when he raved about the beauty and intelligence of the Czech girls compares to the British. Not so much a stab at Sara, but an attempt to explain why there where so many British men in town!
Next morning we started exploring, first of to the bridge. It wasn’t hard to find, but you where constantly pushing through, trying to get past all the other tourists. There where so many that it was hard to see the bridge through the crowds. And this was out of season! At a certain spot on the bridge, there is a bronze plaque, that is meant to give good luck if you rub it. I got my go just after a greasy and grubby hand, no wonder the thing as smooth! The plaque itself depicts what I believe is the scene where the bishops gets tossed out the window of the castle, or some other noblemen are in trouble. What about that gives good luck, I don’t know.
We also had a look at the pissing statues next to the Kafka museum. Not very inspiring, and the John Lennon wall had been gratified over.
Next up, we met up with some of my colleagues that had stayed back after the conference, and we did a few tours with them. First we headed to the castle, but the queue was to long to get into the Cathedral, so it ended up being a quick stroll through. Then we had some lunch, in what was meant to be an authentic local restaurant. I have to say, the local food is not good, unless you are into fat and arteries. They also enforce a policy where “if you don’t reject it, you pay for it!” If you don’t want bread, send it back, since your bill just keeps growing with all the extra services. However, passive smoking comes for free at every restaurant, and no one is shy of lighting up!
Afterward, we bought a dodgy canal ride, where the tours where oversold, so we spent as much time waiting for the boat, as we did in the boat. Canals where not worth it.
It might be sounding like Czech is not great, but it is pretty. However the hoards of other tourist, and what felt like a profiteering mentality, made Prague itself, and especially the old town less appealing, compared to other places.
On our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon something that seemed like a scaled down version of the Love Parade. All these people where driving through town with there vans decorated with slogans and with techno blaring from their generator powered music systems. The whole thing was covered by a heavy police presence, whom seemed ready to bash anyone of them who might consider causing trouble. They even had a police helicopter hoovering for about 5 hours covering this! When we headed out again a few hours later, we found that they had congregated at square nearby, still with the police in heavy presence with the ever so annoying helicopter. The police seemed drastically on edge for what looked like a pretty harmless group of free spirits. Later on our way back, the square was clean without a trace of the vans.
Now it’s time for another gripe, and that is the Prague cityguide for the iPhone by LonelyPlanet. Throughout the day, I had attempted to use it, but with poor results. The map wouldn’t tell me where I was, and if it did, it was rearly the correct location. I had to enable dataroaming to get the app to work in the first place, which it wasn’t meant to do either. We went looking for a particular restaurant, that it turned out hadn’t existed for quite a while, and it took a lot of walking due to misaligned maps. In short, don’t buy it, pick up the book instead! The current iPhone implementation is not worthy.
Next morning we where of to the castle again, this time early to make sure we got into the church, but then it turned out it didn’t open for a few hours, so we explored the WWI history instead.
Then, in due time for the church opening, we lined up, and sure enough, yet another sidling couple tried to join the queue. Same shit, different place, but Sara couldn’t contain herself any longer and snapped at them and told them where their spot in the queue was.
The cathedral was nice, but we got through rather quickly. Main highlight was the stained glass windows. By this stage it was time to head towards the airport, and we only just made the shuttle with help from the hotel. We managed to miss the clockwork every time though.
WizzAir took us home, with yet another example of terrible Norwegian queue culture. I have never before seen such sneaking, pushing and elbowing as trying to board that plane, but there are a few other contenders where fellow countrymen has participated.
So in summary, Prague was nice, but I wouldn’t rush back. Other places would be better, or maybe the Czech countryside.