Australia day and back in Prague

January 27, 2006 |

I am back in the happy hunting ground of Prague’s old town.  Pulled in a little after 3pm, parked my gear at the Dlouhas Hostel and found this internet cafe. 

I hardly set a cracking pace in the last few days at Wroclaw.  The day before yesterday Kaisha took me to the premier tourist attraction, the Panoroma Radowice.  She is a generous host and has a seriously impressive computer set up.  The Panorama seemed so much bigger when I saw it all those years ago.  It is still impressive.  Definitely worth a look at if you come by Wroclaw.  We then went to the Cathedral, an imposing structure which was badly damaged during the war.  A feature of Polish churches I still find a little unsettling is the overt signs of nationalism.  In one of the alcoves there is a martial flag and two suits of armour of winged hussars, with lances.  Perhaps I am being a bit too low church but that seems somewhat incongruous in a church.  Then again the Cathedral in Buenos Aries has a full honour guard, with shouldered arms, at the tomb of Simon Bolivar (I think).  Different cultural sensibilities I guess. I had a simple but very enjoyable meal later at the Utniks and headed back to the hostel.  Had to be back by 11pm because it had a curfew.  Go figure.  Nobody was in a party hard mood so it didn’t matter but a curfew does rankle.  After night one I decided on a change of pace. Time to go upmarket.

I stayed there the one night because it was seriously cheap, at 50 zl it cost a little over $20 for the night, and it was less than a black from the town square.  It is a teachers dorm.  Very much built in the 1950s ne above ground fallout shelter Stalinist cubist style.  Very blocky with plenty of concrete tiles and that spongey linoleum as a floor covering.  The room was basic but comfortable.  The shower and bathroom was, however, another story.  Designed by the same sick bastard who designed just about every boarding school’s shower facility.  Designed for discomfort.  That did it for me.  It worked but way too many cold and clammy moments. 

I decided to stay a fourth night in Wroclaw and booked into the Hotel Patio for the last night ( ul Kielbasnicza 24-25).  It is a typical businessman/salesman haunt.  In fact when I was booking in a few of them were checking out.  Middle ranking company men dress the same way no matter what language they speak; blue or grey suits, a palm/organiser in one hand and a mobile in the other, pulling a trolley case and treating each hotel receipt like it is gold.  Not flash but comfy, with a shower, cable and a few other creature comforts.  I can do maybe one or two days in dorm living at a time but then it gets a bit tough.  The itch for creature comforts kicks in. 

Yesterday I saw the Museum Narodowne (the National Museum) and was surprised how good it was.  None of the big artistic names were there but a lot of Polish painters from the 16th century onwards.  It was interesting to see the very different style that developed in the East.  As time went on it got all a bit too melodramatic and overblown for me but it was worth seeing.  The modern art section was, however, another story.  That was dross aspiring to be drivel.  Modern art, like its predecessor, has a lot chaff and a little wheat.  I was caught in a chaff storm here.  When the artist couldn’t be shocking he (as it usually was) aimed to send a message.  Most of the work just ended up being pretentious.  I also saw the Museum of Wroclaw which was OK but quite limited.  A lot of it was shut off for some military celebration.

I tried seeing a few other museums but they were closed, despite the advertised opening hours.  I think the Poles should import a few Czechs and Austrians and get a bit of fine tuning on tourism management.  That said, the level of co operation has been quite good and fantastic compared to all those years ago.  With no more gallery watching I did a bit of window shopping.  And I passed a pen store…. and walked back and looked in the window…. and thought I’d just go in and have a quick browse….and….well you can fill in the blanks.  Also looked at a few other places.  The prices are very reasonable here. 

Had a drink with Patrick Utnik, Helena’s son, and his fiance last night. Lovely people.  We knocked over a few at the Irish Pub and then they took me to PRL.  It is a student place full of communist memorabilia.  I have had a say about Communist badging so won’t repeat but this was done to mock not support.  Quite a funky bar.  I called it a night early, being seriously beat and having to catch an early train this AM.  He is a thoroughly nice fella.  He must think Aussies are total wimps.  But hell I put 2 beers away at lunch and another few later on.  It added up after a while.

The train trip from Wroclaw to Prague was long, almost 7 hours.  Quite a long time for a relatively short distance.  But it was one of those stop all stations numbers.  Got a lot of reading and sleeping done.  What continues to amaze me is how simple and straightforward travel is here.  I keep building in a buffer for things going wrong and end up waiting on platforms or at airports for trains and planes that arrive and leave exactly when they are supposed to.  This is very UnPolish.  Even the locals comment how things usually run late.  Hell I must be the lucky charm then.  I thought of heading off to Dresden or elsewhere but the numbers didn’t add up.  I would have spent most of my time on a train, packing and then unpacking.  Not worth it. 

I’ll take it easy doing a bit shopping tonight and see if I have missed anything in Prague tomorrow.  After that it is off to Zagreb and then to Australia.  

Happy Australia day all.  It is almost Australian temperature today, only a little below 0 degrees. 

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