Lucky, lucky me.
Another week, another conference, another country. This time I’m in Prague, and am relishing the opportunity. Having got up at a ridiculous hour (4am, after 3 hours’ sleep), my colleague and I got into Prague at 9am. Quite impressive, considering most people back in Britain were still enjoying their Saturday morning lie-ins…
The Charles Bridge early in the morning
From the airport, we had the choice of paying the princely sum of 700 Koruna (about Â£18) for a taxi into town, or of using the efficient (and very cheap) public transport (bus, then metro), for 15 Koruna (30p). I learnt my second word in Czech (Vystup = Exit) – the first Czech word I learned was during my previous visit to Prague, 9 years ago. Somehow, I still remember that ice cream is called “zmrzlina” – maybe I considered it a useful word to retain, or perhaps its run of 5 consonants made it particularly memorable.
We found our way to the conference location, and our accommodation – the Prague Hilton. In a thoroughly modern area of town, away from the charming old architecture, the large glass building looked rather uninspiring from outside. Once within, the reception area opens out onto an expansive and very impressive Atrium, creating a huge courtyard topped by a glass roof 10 floors up. For some strange reason, they only have elevators on one side of the building, and due to the central space, reaching my room involves walking half way round the circumference of the building to reach the other side. The room’s window looks into the Atrium, with plants and waterfalls below, and the glass ceiling above – all very futuristic.
My French colleague and I spent the afternoon visiting Prague, walking the “Silver Route” from the Powder Tower and Municipal House, past the Cathedral and Astronomical Clock on Wenceslas Square, over the Charles Bridge, and up to Prague Castle. Each building we passed seemed more ornate and impressive than the last, and by the time we reached the castle, our reaction to yet another beautiful spired rooftop was rather blasÃ©.
Having walked around for nigh on three hours, we returned for a short nap before setting up our booth in the conference venue for the opening drinks reception, and offering product demonstrations to passing conference delegates. Now joined by our third colleague, we returned to the centre of Old Prague in the evening for dinner on Wenceslas Square, surrounded by the beautifully-lit Cathedral and Astronomical Clock Tower. We had another wander to Charles Bridge, to see the towers and Castle lit up, and to help digest yet more fried fare.
Prague Castle at Night
The bridge seemed a world away from its daytime persona – all of the street vendors and masses of tourists had disappeared. The gold-bearing statues along the sides merged into the night, and you’d see the occasional beggar, lying prostrate on the ground, head almost touching the ground, proferring a cup for charity. Giving the appearing of a meek, unworthy soul, it is certainly a radically different approach to the all-too noticeable beggars of London & Cambridge.