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Pleasant Surprises · I am gen­er­al­ly pes­simistic be­fore each trip, ex­pect­ing the worst. But it’s not al­ways like that. Item: In Prague the pub­lic tran­sit sys­tem is ef­fi­cien­t, easy to un­der­stand, and cheap; I paid 500Kč, more or less $25, to taxi from the air­port to town, and 20Kč, more or less $1, for the train/­tram ride back, which was a lit­tle slow­er but stress-free. And there are more good-looking wom­en on tram­s. Item: On the way from Prague to Ljubl­jana, Czech Air­lines gave me the best air­line lunch I’ve had in years; a tasty cold-cuts plate with some cheeses you’ve nev­er heard of and an unbelievably-fresh sal­ad. Item: Pret­ty well all the beer in Prague is ex­cel­len­t. Item: In Slove­ni­a, plan to drive if you get the chance. The high­ways (at least the airport-Ljubljana-Koper se­quence) are out­stand­ing, bet­ter than most Cana­di­an road­s, and while they’re toll roads the tolls are low, the moun­tains you drive through are love­ly, and fi­nal­ly (if I un­der­stood the sig­nage cor­rect­ly) it’s au­to­bahn style, as in no speed lim­it; my poor lit­tle Opel made alarm­ing sounds on up­hill turns at 160kph as I cack­led ma­ni­a­cal­ly. [Up­date: They tell me it’s 130kph, good thing I didn’t meet an in­dus­tri­ous pub­lic ser­vant late on Fri­day evening.] Al­so the signs are easy to read, I nev­er had to look at my la­bo­ri­ous Mapquest print­out­s. Item: Koper-Capodistria is way cool, worth a whole on­go­ing frag­men­t. Item: Slove­ni­ans seem un­rea­son­ably nice, gen­er­al­ly. Item: Slove­nia is un­rea­son­ably cheap; it just can’t last, among oth­er things it’s too close to Italy. Item: The Slove­ni­an “Tolar” runs about 200 to the dol­lar; it’s soon to be re­placed by the € I imag­ine; but any­how, when you take mon­ey out of a bank ma­chine and look at your re­main­ing bal­ance, you feel like Bill Gates. Item: I got to Ljubl­jana air­port some­time be­tween 6 and 7AM with breath­ing time be­fore the flight, so I got an apfel­strudel & cof­fee at the smoky stand-up bar in the harsh pre-dawn air­port light. It was a rev­e­la­tion, the fill­ing eye-wateringly tart and the pas­try fluffy yet chewy, with cin­na­mon and oth­er com­plex ac­cents. Then Adria (Slove­ni­an air­ways) gave me a damn fine cheese sand­wich on fresh-baked bread on the way to Frank­furt.
Unpleasant Surprises · I am gen­er­al­ly pes­simistic be­fore each trip, ex­pect­ing the worst; even so, some parts turn out worse than you ex­pec­t. Item: The Hil­ton in Prague is in­sane­ly, crim­i­nal­ly, stupid­ly over­priced for what it is. Among their many sins were the $4 lo­cal phone calls and the gold-plated In­ter­net ser­vice, up and down like a yo-yo. Nev­er again. Item: Taxi drivers in Prague are gen­er­al­ly crooks it seem­s; take the train. Item: The food in Prague is wild­ly vari­able, I had the worst schnitzel I’ve ev­er en­coun­tered, at least you can wash it down with good beer. Item: Either we had bad luck or Slove­ni­an red wine is Not Ready For Prime time; not just bad, but hero­ical­ly bad. The peo­ple are nice and the beer is good so I’m sure they’ll do bet­ter. [Up­date: An­drew Brown writes to say there are ex­cel­lent red wines from Western Slove­ni­a.] Item: It makes me ner­vous when you’re check­ing out and you pull out your cred­it card and the ho­tel of­fers you a big dis­count for cash. Item: The Ho­tel Sil­vester, near Ljubl­jana air­port, is de­cent enough and cheap but you might want to avoid Fri­day night­s; there was a wed­ding or birth­day or some­thing in the bar un­der­neath my room; the med­ley of Slove­ni­an folk-songs and Deep Pur­ple hits went on till 2AM. Then they all stomped in uni­son for a while—like, minutes—before they broke up and had loud beery con­ver­sa­tions in the hall­way out­side my room. Mys­ti­fied, I was go­ing to go down­stairs to in­ves­ti­gate the stomp­ing but then maybe it was a se­cret Slove­ni­an fer­til­i­ty rite and for­eign­ers who see it Must Be Killed. Item: WiFi in Frank­furt air­port is ex­clu­sive­ly by T-Mobil which should be OK be­cause I have an ac­count but they de­mand to know who your home provider is and then want $0.18/minute roam­ing, no that’s not a mis­print; are they mad? Item: Frank­furt air­port is less tol­er­a­ble ev­ery time I go there. Its sav­ing grace is de­cent­ly id­iosyn­crat­ic stores; but I gath­er they’re about to fix that by fill­ing it up with The Body Shop, Star­buck­s, and friend­s, so it’ll be ex­act­ly like ev­ery­where else, shopping-wise. It is full of smoke, ev­ery­where, al­ways. Earth to Ger­many: Per­va­sive pub­lic smoke is no longer con­sid­ered ac­cept­able among civ­i­lized peo­ple. There is noth­ing good to eat af­ter you go through se­cu­ri­ty. The wash­rooms are smoky, grub­by and sized for midget­s. I will take ex­treme mea­sures to avoid go­ing back. But that prob­a­bly won’t do any good.
Prague Street-Lamps · It’s a tourist town, you see, but that’s OK; I come from one so I un­der­stand. Here­with Prague words and pic­tures ...
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