I’ve had a lovely weekend with my parents and some friends who came to visit. They flew in on Saturday morning, which was the start of the sunniest weekend Prague’s had this year. Lovely.
Their flying here surprised me in itself as, the last time my parents visited they had one of the most dreadful travel experiencee of all time. Their flight was delayed by seven hours (which is rather a lot considering that the total London-Prague flight time is under two). Six of those hours of were spent sat on the plane on the runway at Heathrow waiting to be de-iced, whilst sipping the one cup of tea British Airways thought fit to give them. The return journey was also a bit of a head-ache, with four flights being cancelled and their stay in Prague extended by two days. As this was only three days before Christmas my mother spent much of this time making frantic calls to kindly neighbours to see if anyone could pick up her turkey.
As a result, my father told me he would never fly again.
I almost believed him. There are after all, other ways to get here. There’s an overnight train from Paris which, although rather pricey, sounds very “Orient Express” and rather lovely. You can drive, enjoying the nice fast German Roads with the Top Gear team. You can sail along the Danube, onto the Vltava and through to Prague, which I know is a trip my mum has her eye on.
You can also cycle to Prague. Although this might not be very appealing to some of you, this part of Europe has loads of really good bike lanes, many of which lead from Germany and Austria into the Czech Republic. Back in October we had two friends arrive by bike. They came from London and are on their way to Kathmandu. They’re doing it for charity and expect the trip to take ten months. After cycling with them for just one day I realised that they are total legends. Complete with camping equipment and cooking stuff, their bikes weighed more than me but they made it look effortless. If you are interested you can follow/sponsor them here.
Alternatively you can just grit your teeth, swallow the air miles, and come with Wizz Air. Whilst this is a fairly miserable experience that hardly qualifies as flying, their planes were at least up in the air and on time during the whole Heathrow-fleet-being-grounded debacle.
And once you actually get here, Prague airport really is alright. Ok, so it’s not T5, or Singapore (one of the nicest airports ever. It has coy carp in a little pond, loads of spas, and almost qualifies as a destination in itself. Almost), but it is near the city centre and doesn’t cry at the first sign of a snowflake.
There are two terminals – one for destinations within the Schengen Area, and one for everywhere else (the terminal for Schengen States is definitely superior – better shops, nicer cafes and a really nice cheese and wine shop that I would highly recommend if you are ever stuck there with nothing to do). The first time I flew from Prague I had no idea what the Schengen Area was. Apparently, being (dare I say it) mildly intelligent does not equate to knowing pretty standard or helpful information. I can tell you all sorts of interesting things about niche areas of early modern history, but clearly have pretty limited general knowledge. I would most definitely come unstuck during the second round of MasterMind.
Whether inside or outside the Schengen Area, I find airports to be a bit of a deathtrap financially. I do love to airport shop. Duty Free is my happy place. Even though they mainly sell really pricey brands, it always seems like a bargain when you compare it to the non-airport price. Longchamp bag? Yes please. Even though I have a rainbow spectrum of these already, and despite the fact that upwards of 1200 czk is a lot to pay for some brightly coloured canvas and leather straps, I cannot resist their call. Similarly the Bobbie Brown concession. Another neutral eyeshadow? Thanks very much. And if I buy three that are almost identical you will give me a little bag that I won’t use and a lip colour I will never wear? BARGAIN! It’s normally best I’m supervised pre-flight.
The straw that could break the camel’s back (or my bank manager’s) is also found at the airport. Prague’s biggest rip-off: 90 czk (over three quid) for the smallest bottle of water the world has ever seen. Obviously, as we’re all now potential terrorists you can’t take your own water through with you, so you can’t avoid this unless you are actually a camel. Outrageous.
Even without Longchamp and Bobbie Brown, I think I’d be better off cycling…