What I learned on my visit to Prague
–The climate and history must weigh heavily on Czech humor. Yes, a decided dourness abounds, but nothing a few words in Czech can’t penetrate (at least learn “thank you”, or děkuji, if nothing else). I think the Czechs would say that American service employees are two-faced, with their false friendliness and smiley helpfulness intended only to improve profits, not to gain friendship. With the Czechs, on the other hand, you get honesty–WYSIWYG.
–Russian matryoshka dolls are the Prague equivalent of the flamenco and bull fighter figurines you find in many cheap Barcelona curio shops. And those furry USSR hats? Yep, same category.
–The Charles Bridge is mostly empty at sunrise–except for a dozen or so tripods with their attached cameras and photographers.
–There are probably 10,000+ locks in and around the Charles Bridge area (not counting the locks the boats use), all left behind by hopelessly enamored couples confirming their committment to each other. How many keys are at the bottom of the Vltava River? How many couples now wish they could return to Prague with a pair of heavy-duty bolt cutters?
–I wonder what the rest of Prague is like? The heavily-touristed city center is gorgeous, but super-trampled. What is life like in Prague for the typical resident not living or working in the tourist zone?
–There are penguins in Prague, albeit yellow plastic ones. And giant brown-bronze babies, too.
–Some people who write on the Lennon Wall are outright idiots with no sense of culture or history. A few are thoughtful. Not too many.
–Winter is freezing-ass cold, what with the fog and humidity and all…and it wasn’t even quite winter for us. Oh, how it cuts right through all your lumpy layers whilst you wait in line for your warm trdelník.
–I could definitely live here–from April through October, that is. The city is gorgeous and there is a lifetime of history and architecture to explore. The cold rest of the year? How about Mallorca!?
–It was crowded as hell the first week of December…what must the busy summer tourist season be like???
–The public transportation is awesome. With the Metro, buses, and trams, there is almost no need to use a car or taxi, especially downtown.
–They might be using the Euro in the Czech Republic by 2020, but they currently still use Czech crowns, or koruna. Current exchange rate: roughly 24-25 koruna to the Euro.
–Prague is part of the Schengen group of countries in the European Union. What does that mean? It means no customs or passport controls when traveling to/from these countries. This is a major convenience…like going from Colorado to California, for instance.
–McDonald’s and Ryan Air must use the same interior decorators. You need sunglasses to visit both…then there are the fast food ads on the backs of the airline seats that look they came from a Dairy Queen menu.
The B61 Nuclear Bomb
Finally, and soberingly, I was once a young F-16 pilot (“lawn dart”, or “viper” driver), based in West Germany, tasked with the job of “laying down” a B-61 nuclear bomb (or “dial-a-disaster”, as the kiloton yield could be adjusted with a dial on the bomb itself) on some underground Warsaw Pact communications center outside of Prague. That is, if the big bad balloon had gone up and the USA and the USSR had pressed their respective and figurative red doomsday buttons. All this, of course, IAW the SIOP…which carefully integrated the US military’s triad into a massive end-times attack as the ultimate of various options.
Ah, fun times during the Cold War.
The real B61 nuke “device” to some, had a beautiful mahogany nosecone and was much smaller than you’d think–less than a thousand pounds and easily stored in most standard living rooms on a very sturdy coffee table. Upon delivery of the “package”, even at Mach-snot, the Escape Distance Actual was less then the Escape Distance Required, if I remember right. That was way BITD in 1987-1989. Then The Wall came tumbling down and suddenly we were all friends, Trabants (“spark plugs with roofs”) were putt-putting into Berlin to buy stuff (anything!), we shook hands with the guards in East Berlin, rented a hammer and chisel from a couple of young Turks, and ended up with a multi-colored piece of The Wall on our mantelshelf.
Interesting how times and politics change. Thank you, Slim Pickens!
Oh, yes, photography!
As to the photography theme…I used the Sony RX100ii exclusively during this trip. It fits in your pocket–a huge convenience–and has a 20mp sensor that does pretty well in low light despite its small size. Its image stabilization works fairly well also, thus making for a good handheld system for a traveler. The lens has a 28mm to 100mm equivalent optical zoom (f/1.8-4.9). Newer versions of the RX100, starting with the iii (3), have a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 equivalent lens–so, you get a much faster lens for low light at the expense of telephoto range.
In the following pics, I will give you the basic EXIF data with each of these images (along with a few relevant comments) so you can judge for yourself how effective this little Sony might be in your personal paws. (They are up to version 5 now; the one I used on this trip was a version 2, or ii.) Click here to see a selection of Prague images, with commentary. Thanks!