So we are on a six day side trip out of London to The Czech Republic to meet up with friends around the Prague marathon.  We first met Brian Gerhardson at a St. Patrick’s day race in 1997 and watched him run the Marine Corps. marathon in October of the same year.

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Brian is in the green shirt behind another friend, Paul Andersen.

That was his first marathon.  Since that time we have become very close friends with him and his partner/husband John Shade.  Brian has run 42 marathons on all seven continents including the six majors and is now trying to run a marathon in every European country.  When we heard he would be in Prague for the marathon in May we decided to meet him for the weekend.  Since we had a beautiful Airbnb with two bedrooms we invited our Boston neighbor Peggy Scott to meet us there.  When Dick and Andrew, living in Berlin, heard we were there, they decided to take the train to Prague for the weekend.  We left our apartment in London before 05:30 and took the tube to Heathrow arriving at 06:30 for our 07:30 flight to Prague.

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Welcome to Prague, Jim.

We arrived Prague a bit early and waited just one hour for Peggy to arrive from Boston via Paris.  After cabbing to our Airbnb we had a wonderful light lunch at The Hidden Garden Cafe and then met up with a tour guide we had scheduled for a 4-5 hour walking tour of the city.

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Lunch at The Hidden Garden Cafe.

What a beautiful city this is, it reminds one of a Disney theme park with pristine fairy tale facades, but this is the real thing with old European buildings behind the facades.  In all of our walking, about 10 miles per day, we only saw a couple of rundown buildings.  Our walking tour with Martin Belohradsky was confined to Malá Strana, small town, on our side of the Vltava River which bisects Prague.

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Just starting the tour with Martin, see all of the tourists on the left.

There were throngs of people and tours but Martin got us away from all of the tourists very quickly taking us to a hillside baroque garden Vrtbovská which is an Italian style terraced garden with a small aviary.

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Lowest terrace of the garden with the aviary directly ahead.

We climbed the stairs connecting the terraces to a very impressive viewpoint over the city.

 

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The red tile rooftops of Prague.
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View toward the castle and cathedral.

We then went to view the Infant of Prague in The Church of Our Lady Victorious which is very significant for Sandy with her Catholic upbringing.

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This is a wax-coated wooden statue.  Its clothes are changed quite often according to the Liturgical season.

Martin then led us up the hill to the castle and cathedral on narrow meandering streets.

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We passed the American Embassy on our way up the hill, another “pictures prohibited” zone.

The Prague castle is the official office of the president of The Czech Republic and is reputedly the largest ancient castle in the world.  As we were very underwhelmed by the castle we never really explored it at all, not sure what we missed.  We were there for the hourly changing of the guard in front of the castle and then went into The Cathedral of St. Vitus which is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague.

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Before the changing of the guard.

 

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The guard has been changed.
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The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert.

As stated above we did not really tour the castle at all but instead wandered back down the hill through tourist free hillside gardens with spring in full bloom, loads of flowers and pollen.

 

 

 

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Pink Horse Chestnut tree.

Our last stop was the Wallenstein Garden where an outdoor concert was in progress at the Sala Terrena.IMG_1110

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This is a manmade grotto of stalactites with animals and faces hidden in the wall.
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White peacock in the garden.

The tour was a great beginning to our Prague weekend.  Peggy did the tour after flying all night from Boston, without missing a beat and was up until after 22:00.  Our apartment was over the Shakespeare book store and backed up on a river inlet.IMG_7802

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The back of our apartment, the yellow building on the left.  Our bedroom is third floor windows.

Our first night in Prague we met up with Andrew, Dick, Brian, John and Don who is a running friend that Brian met in Iceland.  IMG_7809We spent the next four days walking all over the city, mostly with Peggy but some with all of the above.  Sandy, Jim & Peggy participated in a family 5K on Saturday.

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Getting ready to run our 5K.
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In the corral before the start.
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This is our competition.

On Sunday Brian and Don ran the marathon while Sandy, Peggy, John and Jim found different spots to support them with cheers, hugs and words of encouragement.  Sandy is an expert at doing this and is called “The Race Director” by all of our running friends.

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The race director with her support sign.  The crowds were not too large.
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Stopping for support at the 20 mile mark.

We saw Brian just before the end and gave him Sandy’s phone so he could take selfies at the finish line.

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Selfie #1 just before the finish line.
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Selfie #2 after finishing, how good does he look here?
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Not a selfie, but taken with Sandy’s phone.  This is where we found him when he did not show up at our meeting point.  We don’t call him the “Drama Queen” for nothing.
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Selfie #3 with his medical team.

Brian was resuscitated quickly by the expert medical team and looked great at our post-marathon dinner.IMG_1151

Peggy, Sandy and Jim were alone in Prague on Monday and did a nine mile walking tour, mostly of the old city which was across the river from us.

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Sandy really loved this paddle boat.
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Crossing the river to old town.
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Dancing house by Frank Geary, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers.

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So our impressions of Prague are that it is a beautiful Eastern European Capital which has been untouched by natural disasters for almost 600 years and was undamaged by the world wars.  The architecture is beautiful Baroque, Rococo and Art Nouveau and the city is very clean and well kept.  They love their statuary and saints adorning almost every building with something.  The people are quite friendly and can mostly get by in English. The food is quite heavy as they like their goulash, dumplings, strudel, sausages and boiled joints of meat.  We feel that we saw enough of the city and will probably not return for an extended stay.  It was really great seeing all of our crazy friends and meeting a new one in Don Wodarski from Houston who was there with Brian and John.  Below are some other assorted pictures and explanations from our five days in Prague.

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Dick bought this old Czech policeman tunic.
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This is the Charles Bridge which is normally chock-a-block with tourists.  Look for this early morning picture in an upcoming Improper Bostonian.
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Flying home, Sandy spotted all of the yellow fields of rapeseed.
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This was an idyllic lunch on our first day.

 

 

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