Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 1 in Prague, Communist & Nuclear Bunker Tour and Communist Museum

I woke up at 5:15 am to get ready to catch my 6:46 am train from Berlin to Prague.  I left the hostel around 6 am and took the bus to Berlin's central train station.  I looked for my train on the departures board, did not see it and went to information to ask which track the train for Prague departed from. I later noticed the train terminated in Budapest, not Prague, that is why I did not see Prague listed as a destination on the departure board.

I had a few minutes before my train departed, I went to the German bakery at the Station, bought a croissant and the German style pizza bread.  I boarded the train, found a seat in first class, I did not see my seat number listed on the ticket, so I just chose an empty compartment.  Two German businessmen joined my compartment, I looked at my ticket again, realized I was in the wrong seat and decided to move.  I moved to a compartment with two more German businessmen, took my window seat and read Stasiland on my Kindle. I don't think anyone cares about seat assignments on the trains, I just decided to move to my assigned seat today, not even sure why.

Somewhere between Berlin and Dresden I fell asleep on the train, I woke up when the train stopped in Dresden, the two German businessmen got off the train. I read a little more on my Kindle, looked up Dresden in my Europe Guide books and fell back asleep.  After we crossed the border into the Czech Republic, or at least when I think we did, another person joined me in my compartment, I think she was Czech.  I fell asleep on and off until we reached Prague.

Lynnae in Prague's Town Square
In Prague I asked for directions to the station where my hostel is located, I had to ask twice for clarification and to find out how much I had to pay to get to my destination.  I had no problems on Prague's subway, but I did have trouble finding the hostel.  The directions on the hostel's website were vague.  The hostel provided adequate directions on getting to the closest metro station, but did not explain how to find the hostel.  The directions I wrote down said, exit the station and the hostel is a 2 minute walk away.

I walked around, then stopped in a money exchange place, asked the men if they spoke English, they said yes and gave me directions.  The men at the money exchange were not Czech, they looked like they could be from East Africa, they were helpful, gave me a map with my hostel's location and pointed  me in the right direction, I was grateful for their assistance.  I left the money exchange place and walked in the direction they pointed me, trying to read the map they gave me too.   Prague's streets are confusing, they remind me of Washington, DC.  Prague is not laid out in a grid, the streets curve, end suddenly, change names and the street signs are not easy to find.

I asked for directions one more time before I found the hostel and checked in.  I got to the hostel around 1pm, I decided to drop my things off and head out for a walking tour.  I chose the Communist and Nuclear Bunker Tour, the tour covered the STB, Czechoslovakia's secret police, spying during the Cold War, and we got to explore a nuclear bunker designed to hold 5000 people if there was a nuclear attack on Prague. The tour was interesting.

Lynnae in front of Czechoslovakia's former Secret Police Headquarters
Lynnae in front of Nuclear Bunker in Prague
 I shared my CIA experience with a man from Sweden on the tour, I also gave my cards to the tour guide and the other two people on the tour with us.  A woman from Beirut who was on the tour said, this is why you were interested in the tour, after learning I am former CIA.  I am interested in Cold War history and the operations of intelligence services, my CIA, Intelligence Community background is one reason for my curiosity.

After the Communist & Nuclear Bunker Tour, I went back to my hostel, no easy task, I had to navigate Prague's confusing streets.  I bought a sausage on the way back to the hostel, asked for directions from a Segway tour guide to be sure I was headed in the right direction and found my hostel without too much trouble.  I got online briefly after returning the hostel, the WIFI is horrible here, my blog and picture posting will be delayed.

Lynnae in Nuclear Bunker Dressed up as a Communist

I am only spending two nights and 3 days in Prague, 2 of the days are travel days, tomorrow is my only full day to explore the city.  I decided I wanted to get in as much sightseeing today as possible, I looked at some brochures and saw the Communism Museum was open late, I decided to go check it out.  The museum was small but interesting, it recounted the history of Communism in the Czech Republic and the country winning its independence from the Soviet Union. 

After the Communism Museum I went to a coffee shop and used the internet, I left when the coffee shop closed. I am now at my hostel, going to sleep soon, it has been a long day of traveling and sightseeing in Prague.

I will add my photo album to the blog post as soon as I get to a hostel/country with a decent WIFI connection. 

Day 1 in Prague Photo Album

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