This years' trip abroad with the Norwegian Association of Blind and Partially Sighted was held from August 9 to 14 to one of Europe's most beautiful cities, Prague.
The plane was going to go far too early in the morning. I had to get up at half past five because we had to meet at Fornebu (the airport) at six! I had showered and packed in advance, so I didn't need much time to get up. I even jumped over breakfast, but that was because we didn't have any bread in the house.
A fantastic view met us from the top of the tower in the cathedral. This picture is taken towards the south along the river Vltava.
I took a taxi to the airport, and the taxi driver was a bit sour and irritated because he had been driving the whole night. He said all the stupid people he had been driving had made him so angry he could have punched them...
At Fornebu I met the rest of the gang. Einar was grumpy, maybe because I (for some strange reason) was quite cheerful and energetic. On the plane I flicked through VG and ate the small breakfast we were served.
In Copenhagen we met those from Trondheim and Bergen. We had to take a bus out to our plane, a F28-4000 that wasn't very big! There I managed to read the rest of VG together with Anne Berit. The prawn sandwich on the plane didn't really taste very good at all.
The airport in Prague seemed new and modern. After the bus had driven us to our hotel and I had carried my baggage to room 305, we all met on the terrace outside the hotel. There we had a short presentation round so that those who didn't know each other could get some idea of who was along. Ivar also said a bit about how things were planned for the coming days. I eagerly wanted to get moving and go to the city centre.
Before we left I changed some dollars I had with me into Koruna. We were quite a lot of people who travelled with the bus and metro together into the centre to a station called Muzeum. We strolled down Valeavske namesti and Tore Johnny and I bought an ice cream. We found somewhere to eat, and I munched my first meal in Prague, consisting of a salad.
Afterwards we walked around and looked in shops and looked at T-shirts. We lost the others, so Tore Johnny and I looked around the city hall square called Staromestske namesti. Among other things we had a look at the astronomical clock there. It was all quite interesting, except for some irritating sales people walking around selling some plastic things making a noise like chickens.
After I while we decided to go home and found a suitable metro station on the map. But when we got there, we discovered it was closed. We didn't bother to walk all the way to another metro station, so we decided to take a tram. We jumped onto a tram just to find out we couldn't buy a ticket... But we rode along to a metro station anyway. Then it was just to take the metro and bus back to the hotel.
On Karl's bridge there was a lot of activity in the evenings, at least aimed at tourists. Like many other places, they were selling different rubbish, and paintings. There was also some people playing like here. Out over the water a special atmosphere was created without all the hustle of the town.
But we were a bit tired, so we managed to go past the bus stop at the hotel. We just had to walk back a stop. Then we realised how enormous the blocks of flats were in the area! There were some great big blocks of maybe 100 apartments in each of the 10-12 floors. And there were maybe 15-20 such blocks just around were we lived! It wasn't strange the public transport to town was so good!
I thought it would be fun to eat somewhere outside the hotel. But it wasn't that easy, because even if there were lots of people living in the area, there were few restaurants. But after a lengthy description from the receptionist, we set out. First we took a bus three stops before we messed around a while and in the end we found the restaurant we were looking for. It was a very pleasant place with good and inexpensive food. They couldn't speak English there, but luckily the waiter spoke German so there wasn't much of a problem.
This is the oldest part of the cathedral. From the left: Geir Åge, Sølvi, Majvi-Anita (behind), Anita S., Anne Berit, Tore Johnny, Ivar, Siri, Anita Mariel and Geir Ove.
I got up a bit before 8, showered and ate breakfast. I had to wait a bit before the others were ready, so just before 10 we took the bus and metro into the city. While we were on the metro, we saw a pocket thief trying to snatch a Japanese tourists wallet. Another man only just managed to stop him and retrieve the wallet. Several of us Norwegians discovered that the pocket thief had opened our bags...
On this side is the group taking over the guard from the other group on towards the building. In the windows you can see those playing during the ceremony.
We went up "The Old Castle Stairs" to the castle above Prague. We walked around in the castle grounds and found a place to sit down and drink some lemonade. The weather was hot and the sun baked from a sky without a single cloud.
Luckily we were out in good time to get a somewhat good place to see from. Not everybody were as luck as we were.
Just before twelve we found a place to stand and look at the change of guards which occurs every day at 12. There were quite a lot of people there so it wasn't easy to see what was happening.
At last the leaving group were allowed to go!
It still was quite warm. We found a little park and sat down in the grass and slurped some lemonade from cans Ivar magically produced.
As I was going back to find the others in the crowds, I nearly walked straight into these two guards having a smaller change at one o'clock.
On the way back to the castle, I saw a smaller change of guards at one o'clock. I nearly walked straight into the man in blue uniform with his rifle and its threatening bayonet! I was only trying to make my way through the crowd...
The air was fairly poor in the staircase, and when people came down it was quite tight too. Good thing this cathedral wasn't made of wood in case of fire!
Geir Ove in front of the cathedral
We walked into the Veits cathedral which is a magnificent church in the middle of the castle grounds. Anne Berit, Siri, Geir Ove, Anita Mariel and I climbed the 287 steps up 80 metres to the top of a tower in the church. We had a splendid view over the whole of Prague. I calculated the spiral staircase went around in 25 circles!
Inside the castle wall was The Happy Street with small houses along the wall. Among others Frank Kafka lived here.
Afterwards we went over to "The Happy Street" and looked at all the small houses there. Kafka had allegedly lived in one of them. Then we found some Karlovarske Oplatky biscuits we stuffed into us and an ice cream too. We were really quite hungry and decided to look for a place to eat. We walked down the Kings Road towards the city centre and found a nice place were we eat.
The cathedral was mighty large and very impressive.
At the St. Nicolaus church there was a concert. We decided it would be quite fun going to a church concert where they were going to play Mozart, Händel and Vivaldi. The concert was very good and especially beautiful in such nice church like the St. Nicolaus church. The sound was also perfect.
The evening came creeping on and we walked down and over the Karl's bridge. There you could by dice, jewellery, glass etc. In addition there were several musicians playing and people sitting around listening. There was a very lovely atmosphere everywhere.
The Karl's Bridge is a neat bridge! Just as the sun was going down the colours were so excellent so I just had to take a photo... From left: Marianne, Hanne Å, Øystein (behind), Anita S., Cecilie (behind), Ågot, Anita Mariel and Geir Ove.
We met the other people from our group, and I decided to go with them instead. We walked back over the bridge and found a small restaurant under the bridge itself where we ate supper.
It was getting quite late, so we went home to the hotel. There we planned what we were going to do on Monday...
I got up a bit earlier than normal and went down to eat breakfast at round half past seven. We had planned to leave at quarter past eight, but we weren't ready before closer to half past. I changed the rest of my dollars to koruna and Ågot and I got the timetable for the bus from the hotel. Then we took the usual bus 187 which today went further than usual. Luckily it went straight to the main bus station so we didn't need to take the metro. We didn't really understand why until we were told the next day that there had been a bomb scare on the metro...
There wasn't a single seat left after we had boarded the bus. It was jam packed, and we had to sit scattered around the bus. But that didn't make it any more boring, did it now, Ågot?
But we didn't have much time. Cecilie managed to get hold of a very helpful man that showed us the way through this fairly large bus station to the right place. There he negotiated with the bus driver so we could pay him instead of having to buy a ticket at the ticket office. We were 7 people and there was exactly 7 places left on the bus! The two hours and twenty minute bus journey cost 84 koruna, which is equivalent to around 21 Norwegian kroners (or 2 pounds). The bus drove directly without stopping a single time.
One of the first things we did in Karlsbad was to go into a supermarket. There were lots of exciting things there and here you see Marianne paying at the till.
We got to Karlsbad and walked around to have a look. We bought a map of the town and found a place to eat lunch. I went to meet the next group coming with a bus a bit after us but I never found them. They had changed their minds and didn't come after all.
The lunch was quickly swallowed, at least in Ågot's case, who wasn't particularly found of all the wasps swarming around her.
We found a charming horse driven taxi which took us around the town. Karlsbad seemed like a really lovely town. It was a very pleasant way of having a look around, particularly because of the sound of the horses pulling the cart we sat in was so relaxing compared to other vehicles.
Karlovarske Oplatky were two biscuits which had sugar and a nut mixture between them. The biscuits were warmed up so the sugar melted and they stuck together. Mmmm!
The main street followed the river and we walked down along it too. Along the way there were some warms springs we could drink from. Ågot put her finger under one of them and roar "Ouch!". It was quite warm water! Later we bought some elephant cups where you could drink through a tube in the handle.
Why I bothered to scan in this photo, I just don't know!
I handed in a film for development and we went up a cableway to the top of the hill above the town. There we climbed up a tower with splendid view over the whole of Karlsbad and the surrounding area.
Here Øyvind, Cecilie and Anita S. are eating their dinner in Karlsbad. It was eaten in a restaurant on the main street, that followed the river in the valley.
Down in the town we ate dinner. Most of us had Goulash, which is the national dish of the Czech republic. I also fetched my pictures which were finished and we had a look through them as well.
Where is the bus, now then? The answer was that there never came any bus... From left: Marianne, Cecilie, Ågot, Hanne Å. and Anita S.
It was getting fairly late and we decided we had to head back to the bus station if we were going to catch the bus which went at quarter past seven. We had read somewhere that the bus was meant to leave at half past seven, so to be certain we got there a bit early. So we sat there and waited, but no bus came. The bus we had planned to take only went on Sundays... So there weren't any more buses back to Prague that day! Whoops...
There was only one solution if we were not to wait for the next bus at five next morning. We jumped into two taxies and went to the train station. We had to take three different trains and we were not back in Prague before closer to quarter to one at night.
It's always fun to travel by train! Particularly when you don't catch the bus...
The first train was a real local train. The conductor walked around with his shirt open and happily showed off his belly button. The train stopped all the time and once Ågot exclaimed: "This isn't even a milk ramp!"
We changed to a better train and travelled for another while. Marianne had to go to the toilet, and we wrote a song about how disgusting the toilet was. We sang quite a bit and it was fun. I don't really know if the others in the wagon appreciated our songs...
We got acquainted with different Czech train types during the evening and night.
Back in Prague we had to take a taxi the last stretch home. The first people we asked wouldn't give a price in advance, and said the taxies had metres. But my guide book said that was just a load of crap and this was the way you got cheated. After a bit back and forth they wanted 600 koruna, something which was way above what I'd heard other people paying for longer rides. After a bit more back and forth, we decided to look elsewhere. Ågot was a bit sceptical, since it would be a bit embarrassing having to come back if we didn't find anything else.
Cecilie, Ågot and I waited for the taxi to come back and pick us up.
But we did find something else. Back at the bus stop Ågot waved down a taxi, something the guide book also said was a bad idea. The driver couldn't speak either English or German, so I gave him my key card with the hotel address on. He probably couldn't see to well, because he got out a big magnifying glass to read the address! He wanted under half what the other taxi drivers asked for, so we drove home with him in two groups.
The castle was quite big and could be seen far away. Here you see the tower, the castle's highest part.
This day we didn't get up so early, because the bus was going to leave the hotel at 9 in the morning. We crowded into the bus and drove for a while before we got to the castle of Karlstejn.
Inside the castle was a model of the buildings. I thought it was quite difficult to see it inside the glass case so I took a picture of it instead...
After having waited in the castle yard (and eaten an ice cream) we got a guided tour of the different parts of the castle. A Czech guide told us about it, and then we had someone who translated to Norwegian.
The library in Karlstejn was well stocked with old (and allegedly) valuable books.
The tour went through different great halls and rooms like a very well-equipped library. The ting one maybe remembers best after the tour was the cruel torture changers... (not depicted!)
Anita Mariel admiring what once was the hall where the king spent much of his time at Karlstejn.
After a lemonade we took the bus back to Prague. We jumped off in the centre to find somewhere to eat. After going in the wrong direction, we found a suitable place, and I swallowed some spaghetti. We walked around and look at some stalls, but since it was around five o'clock, they were busy closing. I bought a bird hanging in some fishing line that Terje got for his birthday in the autumn.
I experiment far too little with the camera. That is why I decided to take a close up of a detail in a stained-glass window, something I managed with great success.
Many of the others had said a lot of nice things about the folklore restaurant at the hotel. It was maybe those who were a bit boring and didn't go other places, and who even managed to eat dinner twice at McDonald's...
I hade a bit to eat, even though I wasn't very hungry. Afterwards I sat outside talking to the others over a coup of tea and having a pleasant time!
This was our last whole day in Prague, so we exploited it as much as possible. Ågot knew of a out-door market in Prague which wasn't very marked by tourists, probably because there weren't very many tourists who went there.
We had to have some food! Here you see Anita, Tore Johnny and myself.
So we took the bus, underground and tram to the market. Tore Johnny and I walked together and soon found this was a very exciting place. No-one could speak either English, German or Norwegian (!), but that didn't matter very much. If you just looked at a pair of trousers, someone came and e took your measurements and found a suitable pair...
The marked had everything! Here was all sorts of vegetables and various cloths and everything else imaginable. I found myself a watch with huge numbers that I bought for 300 koruna, around 75 Norwegian kroner (or 7 pounds).
As always Anita Mariel and Geir Ove were just as photogenic as they always have been. That's why I just had to use the opportunity to take a beautiful picture of them!
In the evening it was a co-called folklore evening or "Folk dinner with programme and music" as it said in the programme we had been given. Yet another time we all flocked into the bus and drove around to the other side of Prague. There we sat in a large dining room in a hotel and was served a nice dinner. There also was lots (!) of live music.
And while I first was busy taking beautiful pictures, I tried to take a picture with myself in as well!
Einar and I soon found out that the beer was included in the price, but there really was a alcohol ban on the trip. But since there are only two flights each day from Prague to Copenhagen and we were going to take the next flight home tomorrow morning anyway, we decided to try to be sent home on the next plane... a plane we already had tickets for! We tried to make a toast with everybody, and frequently with Ivar, who was a little concerned after a while... even though everything went quite fine.
Times flies when you're having fun! This it surely did this time too! An incredibly nice holiday in Prague was at its end and we had to take farewell with the Czech republic. The flight home was fairly undramatic. The only thing which was a pity, was that I had some Czech money left I should have used on my quota, but I never got time for that...