Hard to believe we are on the final leg of the journey, but Prague, Czech Republic will be our last stop before I head home on Friday. Much of the morning was spent in the drive from Vienna to Prague, but we did make a very pleasant stop in a small village long noted for the medicinal properties of its hot springs.
Back on the bus, early in the morning, saying goodbye to Vienna and the Danube canal.
Goodbye fancy waste treatment plant.
On the road again. Austria looks just like America, doesnít it?
So what could be more American than stopping for a bathroom break at McDonaldís? Check out that menu.
This guy is ordering an Egg McMuffin from a kiosk. Theyíre trying to make fast food faster I guess. I tried one of these kiosks in a Memphis McDonald's a couple of weeks ago and the result was a disaster.
I think the truth is that McDonald's shared space with a pastry shop, but still this is the best McDonald's selection I've ever seen.
At last, What better place than a McDonaldís parking lot to spot my first General Motors car of the trip.
See the Christmas tree on top of the pole over there? Misha has explained that itís a May pole, and that every little town in this part of the world puts one up in the spring and decorates it with ribbons.
But that is just part of the story. Misha told us that teenage boys compete in the game of sneaking to neighboring towns under cover of darkness to cut down the rival townís pole. Now any teenage boy knows it would be a terrible dishonor to have your May pole cut down, so they form town guard squads to protect theirs carefully, 24 hours a day. Itís a tradition in these parts. Itís what they do.
The Road Scholars are enjoying the ride.
Christmas tree poles in every town.
Now we are in the Bohemian part of the Czech Republic that is famously known as the Sudetenland. They really love their carp here. We are about to go exploring in the town of Třeboň. Surrounded by fishponds, itís known for its spas and therapeutic treatments.
That's where they brew the town's beer.
Hundreds of years ago this was a swampy area, until some man-made ponds were created. They donít like to call them lakes if they are man-made. So these are ponds. We are walking up onto the top of a levee.
What a beautifulÖ pond. it has been here a very long time, And it is full of delicious carp. Thatís right, carp. Have I mentioned the people here love to eat carp?
Josef ätěpŠnek Netolickż (c. 1460Ė1539) was a Czech fishpond builder and architect. Netolickż worked as a regent of the Roěmberks' domain and designed fishpond system in southern Bohemia, around the town Třeboň. He is still honored as the builder of all the ponds.
He looks like a fun guy.
And he made a nice pond.
Letís go into the town. Weíll pass through what used to be the city wall.
And cross over what used to be the city moat.
That is a moat goat.
St. Stephen. But you knew that from the halo.
Let's check out the city park.
Misha is telling us about the park situated next to the castle.
This place has orange rhododendrons.
Třeboň boasts a beautiful town square.
With a St. Stephen statue.
And a maypole.
A maypole planted firmly in the ground.
It's a pretty place.
With striking architecture.
And for lunch we had carp soup. Truthfully and contrary to all my expectations, it was very good.
The fried carp on top of the salad, however, was a different story. Put a little blob of that white horseradish on it, though, and it was enjoyable. Kinda.
There are ducks in the carp pond.
Pretty ducks. Now letís find the bus and head for Prague.
I was merely resting my eyes for just a moment. Rachel was disappointed because I closed my mouth just before she snapped the picture.
Ah...Prague. Our final city on the tour.
We are staying in a very nice hotel right in the center of Prague.
That is Powder Tower, one of the original 13 city gates in Old Town, Prague. Construction began in 1475. The tower was intended to be an attractive entrance into the city, instead of a defensive tower. The gate was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, hence the name Powder Tower or Powder Gate. It's very tall -- visible from most places around the inner city -- and very distinctive, so I memorized the route from it back to our hotel. That's how I always could easily find my way home.
Lots of interesting sites are within easy walking distance.
Thatís Municipal House, a civic building that houses Smetana Hall, a celebrated concert venue. It is located on NŠměstŪ Republiky next to the Powder Gate in the center of the city. itís just a short block from our hotel.
This is a popular place. Lots of people are out enjoying themselves.
Well I know what it says it is, but the logo doesnít look right.
Thatís a nice toy store. It specializes in marionettes, which turn out to be a treasured part of Czech culture.
I am pretty sure there will be marionettes in my future. I have signed up to go to a marionette show tomorrow night: Mozartís Don Giovanni. Performed by marionettes. They say it is a very Czech thing.
Tourists everywhere you look.
Prague is medieval. And beautiful. And Bill's belly is showing the effects of two weeks of three big meals a day.
Now that's an interesting looking city tour vehicle. It's for the regular tourists, not the Road Scholars.
I think I'm going to like this place.