Monday, May 28, 2012

Karlovy Vary To Parague

 The bus ride from Karlovy Vary to Prague the capital of Czech Republic is expected to be about less than 2 hours as the distance is only about 112 km as the crow flies to the east of Karlovy Vary. I found a window seat and keep looking for interesting sights to see and photograph.
Being an agrarian nation, we passed so many undulating fields covered with green meadows or yellow rapeseed fields interspersed with the occasional pine forest. The pine forest are harvested for their log on a sustainable basis. I won't be surprised if our country is devoid of our forest first before them as they are religiously preserving whatever forest that they have. Most of the European nations are doing that. Above all the forest is home to faunas such as wild deers which I open spotted grazing along the forest fringes. Ehere there are lakes or rivers, there will be wild ducks swimming around. I couldn't spot any fish though but after sighting some anglers trying their luck, I believe the fishes are there.

 A field of yellow rapeseed used to produce the canola oil, a form of biodesel. Thanks to Mek Yam of new york who identified the plants for me.

Occasonally we passed nearby small hamlets with the house compound planted with a few fruit trees which I believe them to be apple or pears and the likes.

        One field amazes me as they have wires suspended in a grid on poles. They are too high to be reached by hands and my guess is they are used to let creepers to flourish and provide enough shade for other plants planted on the ground. The height of the wires are high enough for the use of mechanical implements to be used under it. Anybody knows the exact use of this system in Europe?                                                                         

A slightly bigger hamlet. How I wish we could make a stop at one of these places to feel the pulse of the town.

A small hotel in the small town.

A R&R is dotted along the highways. Just like those that are along highways, they are large enough for trucks and cars to be parked. Toilets are rarely free but they are very very clean. The fact that they don't use water to clean their bottom holes made it possible to maintain that level of cleanliness. Anyway they always clean them up so you won't feel the pinch when you pay 0.5 Euro (RM2.00) for each use.
Initially I was surprised as all along the way I never see the bus stop at any toll booth to pay for the use of the highway. They must be free, I thought. My inquisitive mind took the better of me and I asked Frank the bus driver. "Oh yes we paid toll. Did you realize the beeping whenever we passed under a certain gantry?" It seemed that the transponder is sounded every time the bus passed under one as the machine on the gantry deducted the amount due from the bus's prepaid card. The driver must buy a fresh card at the entrance of every country and he will be refunded at the exit to the country after returning the transponder at the border station. The tolls are not cheap either. Along the way a special van can check by remote control whether a vehicle has credit or not and the penalty is 1 thousand Euro should one be caught without any credit. Too high for anybody to dare try to evade paying toll. By using such a system, they avoid the need of setting up toll booths which may impede the flow of traffic and create bottle necks like they often do in Malaysia during the festive seasons. The system will also allow many exits to be available along the highways even to a small hamlet due to the saving from having an interchange. I wonder why Malaysia can't learn from them.

We stopped at one of the R & R for our lunch. Each of us or each family on the tour are told to bring our own food for lunch if do not want to buy lunch from the R & R. This is a good way as we saved time as well as money as food in Europe are generally expensive. Be prepared to spend a minimum of 10 Euro (RM41) per meal. Furthermore it is not possible to buy halal food at the R & R. Only those that sell Nordse (seafood) are believed to be halal. Being mostly health conscious lard is seldom used in Europe.

We reached our hotel in the center of Prague with several hours of day light to spare. Hotel Downtown was located just a mere ten minutes walk to the Wencesslas Square in Prague. Some of us wanted to visit the square though the square is slated for tomorrow with local guide. Lin, the Tour Leader from POTO told us not to wonder around until late in the evening as safety is suspect in Prague. Well ain't it the same in KL?

Outside the hotel I checked for landmarks to ensure that we can find our way back to the hotel. The above picture is to the left of the hotel but since we were not going that way, I was not really bothered to look for any landmark. The important landmarks must be found on the right of the hotel.
What we saw across the road to the right is a shop called Erotic City. That I will surely remember and made a mental note to stop and check what is available in the store and perhaps learn a thing or two about the latest trend in Prague.

Our group led by the tour leader from Malaysia crossed the road and turned right towards Wencesslas Square.

A stretched limousine caught my sight. I bet this car could carry the whole 20 people from our group.

The building along the square are about the same height. No sky scrapers seems to dominate the skyline.
A pretty face getting herself photographed with the pretty flowers with the square as the backdrop. I couldn't resist the temptation of stealing a shot.
Now it is my turn to be photographed.

One for the album with my wife.

A statue at one end of the square.

A souvenir shop near the square is the favorite spot for the other half to buy souvenirs. It was too hot inside the shop for me so I prefer to stay outside.

Old trams are used snack station at the square. It was a noble idea as the colorful trams add color to the place.
A guided tour of Prague will be the story in my next post. It is definitely a city that is worth visiting. Please stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Karlovy Vary the Spa City of Czech Republics

Today is actually the second day of our tour in Europe. We were up early for our Subuh prayers which is about 5 am local time which is about 11 am in Malaysia. Unfortunately breakfast is only possible at 7 am local time and having woke up at 5 am, there is no way I could go back to sleep. At the Derby hotel in Karlovy Vary, wifi connection is only available at the lobby area on the first floor. There is little that I can do before breakfast.

Breakfast at the hotel is always an enjoyable meal. The breakfast spread is great in most of the hotel where we stayed. It will be good enough to supply the energy for the whole morning.
Immediately after breakfast we strolled around the hotel area. En. Baharom and his wife joined us. Having done the same on the evening before after arrival, I knew full well what to expect and to see.

During the morning walkabout around the hotel area before leaving for the Spa City I saw these two police couple who were on their beat. They obliged our request for a photograph with them.

Further down the road we met these not so female persons in the midst of preparing their stall for the roadside sale. They were so happy to be photographed. They must have felt that I  have failed to detect their true gender. Their protruding voice box on their throat and their voices were a dead giveaway.

Though the Spa City was just a twenty minutes ride by car from our hotel, the bus ride through the hilly and winding road took us through posh areas and crossing a very clean and beautiful river. This is the river that will pass through Spa City down river and later through the town of Karlovy Vary.

 Wild ducks seems to thrive on the river. If they were in Malaysia, they would become food on the table in no time.

Since buses are not allowed into Spa city, all the twenty of us had to be transported via a shuttle bus from the bus parking area. This is a good policy as congestion in the Spa city is avoided.

Veronica was our local guide for Spa City in Karlovy Vary. Lin on her left was the tour leader from POTO Travel.

Upon embarkation from the shuttle bus, Veronica started briefing us about the Spa City in Karlovy Vary. The Spa City was founded in the 14th century by King Charles IV. You can read more about it here. Some better pictures here.
As we walked to the various colonnades we came across many beautiful buildings housing shops and hotels.

Grandhotel Pupp is famous for it being the location for the filming of The James Bond film Casino Royale.

These three Malaysian tourists didn't stay at the Grandhotel Pupp but just posed beside another guest's Jaguar.

Shops selling Bohemian Crystal. If you ask for the price, that means you can't afford it. If you can afford it, just point at the items that you want and pay either cash or via credit cards.

 A marvelous set of ceramic on display.

This hotel is so posh and expensive that nobody stayed there. It belongs to a very rich Russian.

That is the name of the hotel and perhaps also the name of the owner, Felix Zawojski.

The well dressed can be seen in Spa City walking on the street. How about these two below?

Always eager to do a good deed, I helped this war veteran to push his wheel chair. Later we waited for our cup of coffee.

Along the road we saw workers washing the street before laying the tables when getting ready for business.

Veronica showed us the highest flood level that had hit The Spa City. That was some flood and all tourists will be reminded of it. I forgot the year it happened. If you insist on knowing it, either you google for it or take this trip like I did.

These 9 pieces of metal plates produce a different tone when stepped on. It needed quite a jump to produce a note. A 62 years young Pak Zawi became tired after making several attempts at producing a tune. Personally I doubt it was melodious at all as I was tone deaf. Though I have a video of me doing the jumping, I was unable to upload it here.

That is the name of the gadget.

Finally our group reached the colonnade where we were supposed to do some water tasting.

Steam seems to rise where the hot water surface in the river.

Tasting the water at the spa. The temperature of the water gets hotter as you go to the next spout. The last one is the hottest and at 72 degrees Celsius and you can't cup it with your hand to drink it. You need a special cup with a spout to drink it. The spout will ensure that the mineral contents  of the water especially iron will not stain your teeth. In the 14th century, the army had to drink 11 liters of water daily to remain healthy. I bet their internal organs will be coated with iron oxide after a year of treatment. Different doses are recommended for different ailments.

A geyser in the building spurts hot water all day.

You can buy your water tasting mugs at souvenir shops within and without the buildings. It is something to remember Karlovy Vary the Spa City by.


A group photo upon exiting the spa.

The ladies wanted to be on their own.

An interactive map being used by a tourist to locate a place.

 Ornately decorated wooden colonnade.

Glorious tulips.

Legend has it that a fragile old man came to Spa City for treatment. After the treatment he emerged to be a young strong man as depicted in the sculpture below. Will I emerge a younger man after leaving the place? Younger at heart, maybe.

Graffiti on a park table.

Another wild duck.

My next post will be about Prague, the capital of Czechs Republic.