January 1999


Part One -- Getting There
(A hura do hospody!)



    Here are pictures form a recent trip to Prague. Attracted by a $465 round-trip fare on Continental Airlines, I left New Orleans on January 1 in mid afternoon on a direct flight to Newark. I was running just a few hours ahead of a major storm that was just approaching New Orleans and was heading east. Had I been flying six hours later, the trip would have been very problematic. In fact, when the storm reached Newark it blanketed the airport with a foot of snow and shut it down for hours.
Route map
Route map
    Lucky as I was, I arrived in Newark on a beautiful sunny day, spent the first hour of my layover watching the highrises across the water in Manhattan and the second hour in a beer bar next to the Czech Airlines gate. Although the flight was listed as Continental, the leg from Newark to Prague was operated by Czech Airways. Having traded in their Russian-built Tupolevs and Ilyushins for Boeings and Airbuses, their Service is just as good as any other western airline -- perhaps even better when it comes to the ample supply of Pilsner Urquell and Velkopopovicky Kozel. The flight crew hands them out as fast as a waiter at Oktoberfest. Once we took off, the atmosphere became unmistakably Czech. The flight attendant, when asked for a small bottle of Czech red wine, hands over two and suggests two cold sliwowitz to as a "disinfectant" before the meal. I remember service like this only on Taca Airlines to Costa Rica.
New airport
Prague International, northern terminal
    The second leg was a direct flight to Prague. Unlike Delta that will make you change planes in Frankfurt, Czech Airways will fly you to Prague in about eight and a half hours. In our case, we had a hundred and twenty mile-per-hour tailwind and we were over Prague in less than 7 hours, two hours ahead of schedule.
    The first slight surprise was a new airport in Prague. The stairs and busses ferrying passengers from the plane to the old 1960s terminal are gone. Instead, there is a new terminal with jetways, cafes, boutiques, shiny new Skodas showcased on rotating pedestals and enterprising Czechs with cellphones stuck to their ears. For a minute I thought I was at the wrong airport.
Alexandra, Radim and Ondra
Radim with Alexandra and Ondra Zak
    That night, after having slept off most of the jetlag during the day, craving dumplings and beer I took my parents out and met my highschool friend Ondra and his wife Alexandra for dinner. Ondra picked the restaurant, a cool brewhouse, called The First Prague Brewery (Prvni Prazsky Pivovar) near the corner of Jecna and Stepanska streets. I loved it. I have not seen Ondra for 4 years and this was an excellent venue to celebrate! At 10 pm, we sent the parents home and decided to hit the Metropolitan Jazz Club, a place reminiscent of the Jazz Preservation Hall in New Orleans.
Hospoda U Certa
"The Devil's Pub"
    Prague has a huge number of very delightful pubs. For those who like beer, this is the Beer Imbibition Capital of The World (even more so than Munich or Nuremberg). It is important to realize that the entire Czech Republic is only about the size of Louisiana, yet it has 106 breweries (at last count).
    A well known classic Prague pub is "At The Two Cats" (U Dvou Kocek) in the Old Town.
Hospoda U Dvou Kocek
"At The Two Cats"
For me, it holds even more significance because the two Cats look just like our Fang and Kotchka.
    Prague is a great place to dine out and party: just as much fun as going out in the Greenwhich Village, Georgetown, or the French Quarter -- only the palaces and townhouses here are about 500 years older...



Pertinent links:
1.- Czech Airlines
2.- Prague Airport (in Czech)
3.- Prague pub guide
4.- Metropolitan Jazz Club
5.- "At The Two Cats"
6.- List of Czech breweries

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(c) 1999 - Radim and Lisa Kolarsky

Last updated on April 5, 1999

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