Dresden – Day 1

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We are now in Dresden which is the capital of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. This city was bombed heavily during World War II and most of the city was destroyed. It wasn’t until fairly recently that this city has begun a full reconstruction and major historical buildings are being rebuilt in the same style (baroque and rococo) and craftsmanship as it was before their destruction

Upon arrival into our hotel, the amazing QF Hotel, located in the centre square of the Old Town, we headed on a quick private tour beginning at the restored Opera House. Our 1 hour long tour took us to several halls and meetings area which were magnificently reconstructed to their original style. Although there weren’t a lot of photos pre World War II, most of the citizens from Dresden were interviewed and shared their memories which gave the architects a way of reconstructing the Opera House. Alas we were not allowed backstage, which is larger than the actual seating area I was thoroughly impressed with the structure and acoustics.

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We continued for a quick tour around the old town to get ourselves familiar with the town. It was obvious that their tram system is amazing with a tram running in all directions from the old town.

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We later celebrated a birthday of one of the fellow tour attendees at an amazing German restaurant – Sophienkeller. We even sat in their merry go round table which had swings and actually rotated around. We had several people take photos of the tour group, alas I don’t have any (which might be a good thing 🙂 )

Prague – Day 3

I didn’t sleep well last night. My throat was swollen and I was completely stuffed up causing me to toss and turn. I was getting worried that I was getting a cold or this was a very strong allergic reaction to something. Taking an Aerius seemed to have calmed the symptoms down, but I was still groggy for most of the day.

We started with a walk to the St. Charles Bridge, the original bridge into Prague, which allowed me to take some great shots from this vantage point. As this is a main tourist area, it was filled with people walking up and down the bridge.

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We later booked a tour of the Old Town Municipal House which showcases some of the best Art Deco and Art Nuevo examples I’ve ever seen. Built in 1911. Municipal House gained fame on the 28th October 1918 when the historic proclamation of the independent state of Czechoslovakia took place here. The interior houses many ball rooms and concert hall areas which are still used today. As usual with some of the tours, a photo permit is required if you want to take photos costing 55Kc (approximately $3 CDN).

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Our day ended with an authentic dinner and folk dance in a restaurant outside of the city. We were treated to a 3 course meal that included all the beer, wine or soft drink you wanted. The dancing was fun and it was great to see the group and other tours come in a join the fun.

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A great evening was had by all and our return trip back into the city our bus turned into music central with the driver playing some great tunes that got everyone swinging their hands in the air.

We will miss you Prague. You were a great city to visit with tons of culture.

Tomorrow we head our way to Dresden for a couple days to enjoy what they have to offer.

Prague – Day 2

Today was a busy day. We woke up early to enjoy the buffet breakfast at the hotel and then got ready for our city tour.

Our first stop was the Prague Castle. The castle is the largest castle spanning a total area of 74,100 square metres. The castle itself has many representations of architecture from Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Romanesque. Most of the castle is open to the public with a few areas where a ticket is required. We were lucky to have our tour include some of these areas from the famous St. Vitus Cathedral, Gold Lane, Presidential Palace, and Vladislav Hall. Be warned that some areas require you to purchase a separate liscence to be able to take photos costing about $50Kc (approximately $3 CDN).

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There are some great vantage points around the castle grounds that let you see into Prague, so this is a must see.

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Our tour continued down into the old town where we walked around the old Jewish area, which houses the oldest synagogue in Europe. It was interesting to hear from our tour guide that even though there are many churches and a few synagogues throughout Prague, only a fraction of the 1.1 million people here actually practice their faith.

Our tour ended with a walk to Old Town Square which is filled with many great restaurants, cafes, hotels and the famous Church of our Lady before Tyn, St. Nicolas Church, Old Town Hall Tower, and the Astronomical Clock.

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Russ and I later came back to the square where we took the elevator up the Old Town Hall Tower to get some great shots of the city during sunset. Alas I missed a great opportunity with the lighting, but still an amazing journey up the tower for 100Kc (approximately $6 CDN).

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All in all a very fun filled day. Tomorrow is a free a day for us, so not sure what we will get up to. Maybe visit the St. Charles Bridge or walk around a bit more and explore.

Prague – Day 1

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So after a 24 hour delay in Montreal, we finally arrived in the Czech Republic at the wonderful city of Prague. Luckily we emailed our tour ahead of time and had them send a car to meet us at the airport, which made the trip into the city much easier.

After checking into our hotel – The Grand Majestic Plaza, we met up with other people on the tour over cocktails before heading out to dinner. Russ and I both thought we were the last to arrive, but looks like there are two other people that got held up and hopefully will be joining us on the next day before the grand city tour begins.

We headed out for our welcome dinner at the Hanau Pavilion which had a great vista view of the city. The Pavilion is was built in 1891 b for the Czech Jubilee Exposition. As our tour is a Baroque tour, this was a perfect setting to meet others on the tour as well as get familiar with our new home.

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After dinner we headed out on a short walking tour to the St. Charles Bridge where I tried to take some night time shots.

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We ended the evening with an excurtion to a local bar before heading back to our hotel for a much needed sleep.

Day 2 will bring a day tour of the city with a first stop at the castle.  Stay tuned for more, but you can see all the Prague photos on my Flickr set.

What an Ordeal

What an ordeal it’s been up until now. I’ve heard horror stories about people missing flights, delayed flights, and lost luggage, but yesterday we experienced all three at the hands of Air Canada.

As all of you know, Air Canada’s customer service and ticket agents were on strike and Air Canada suggested everyone checks in online. Alas we were not able to connect online and complete our checkin which was very annoying. Reaching YVR International we told the Agent (which was management) that we were not able to complete the process, and when we tried the kiosk everything worked well. Alas the flight itself didn’t leave on time and we were delayed by 20 minutes. This would give us 30 minutes to make our connecting flight to Brussels – tight I know.

During our flight we were told that we would be arriving in gate 49 and our connecting flight was in Gate 50. This was possible. On landing our gate was changed to Gate 15. Stressing out about our connecting flight we rushed to our gate with 20 minutes to spare. This is when it all went sour. Air Canada was refusing to let us, and 12 other passengers from Vancouver, on the flight because they said our check in luggage would not make it. There were 2 passengers who had only carry on which refused as well since the system would not let them check onto the flight. 3 Managers at the desk had no idea how to allow this and there excuse was that Air Canada was experiencing a labour distribution. So much for the “business as usual”. The agent pretty much told us to grab our luggage at the baggage claim and then rebook ourselves for our trip.

At the baggage claim, Air Canada could not find my luggage. Stressing out, we headed to at least try to book ourselves back to Europe.

The ticket agents were swamped. From what I could tell, many flights went without their passengers. Looked like anyone that was transferring to Europe from Montreal were out of luck. For me the most frustrating part was that we had eurorail tickets from Berlin to Prague that now were no longer valid. The Manager at the rebooking counter didn’t care. Her response was that we were being booked to Berlin the next day and the rest we were on our own. We asked if they could get us to Prague at least, but she would not do it. After she left someone else came to our aid and she was able to book us to Prague for Saturday arrival. I can’t remember her name, but she was able. She couldn’t give us our new boarding passes, but gave us our booking number and told us to checkin online.

Air Canada booked us at a hotel for the night, and when we arrived there in tried to check in online, but failed. As you can imagine, stress level continue.

This morning there is hope. We got checked in and are booked to Prague. Additionally my luggage is here too and we will be able to get that checked.

What I am disappointed with Air Canada. This is an airline I’ve always had no problem with. I’ve always have been treated fairly and with dignity. This did not happen yesterday. Air Canada failed, and their response was horrible. I have been so close to canceling this trip and going back to Vancouver. What I am out now is a day in Prague, a hotel night in Prague, and 2 Eurorail tickets.

I will be going after Air Canada for this loss.