Subject: Out of Prague sites and Shopping
Hluboka is VERY definitely worth taking a day to visit, rent a car or arrange a tour. The Caesar glass factory worth going to if you like the modern glassware, which i fell in love with, definitely cheaper, and you won't find its address in any tourist book. My young guide and i did some sleuthing to find it. No one will tell you where it is because they want you to buy retail from them instead!! Hope this info has been of value to group. Sandy, same disclaimer applies here too.

Do not take a tour out to Karlstejn Castle. Although it is very imposing as you walk up the steep hill it sits atop, the only thing worth seeing inside is the chapel and that is under restoration and so closed. The rest was very disappointing, white walls with some 19th century furniture. Nothing from its ancient past. Don't go until the chapel is reopened.

Hluboka: (phone 42038/965045). This fairly tale castle was built between 1708 and 1722 as a meeting place and hunting center on a site originally occupied by a 13thcentury castle. The last reconstruction, in Romantic Gothic form dates from 1841 - 1871. It is fabulously furnished in neo-Renaissance, with the walls and ceilings covered with hand carved wood panels that took seven men 25 years to complete! You need to rent a car. Entrance fee about $4. Open 9-12 and 12:30 to 5. Closed Mondays and the months of November through March. Getting there: Drive to town of Ceske Budejovice, follow sign that says centrum. then there will be signs to zamek (castle). follow signs to Hluboka n. Vlt, it's about 17 km from Ceske Budejovice. You will see castle on the hilltop to your right. A wonderful one day outing from Prague. For a romantic overnight stay at the Hotel Stekl, 373 41 Hluboka nad Vltayou; 011-42038/7967-491; fax 011-42038/7965-943. Built to resemble Hluboka castle, it is across from the entrance to the castle grounds. Large, beautiful, luxuriously furnished rooms, bathrooms and lobby. You will indeed feel like a king or queen staying here. They even have two rooms for handicapped persons. Single: $60 to $75; double: $75 to $100.

Konopiste Castle: From Prague take the E50, direction Brno, get off at exit 21. Take E55/3 (the main route to Austria), direction Benesov. Follow directions to castle. Open 9-12 and 1-5. Closed Mondays and November through March. About $3 admission for English tour. This is one of the major royal castles. It is about 700 years old and passed through several Czech and German princely ownerships until it was finally the home of Francis Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria who in 1914, along with his wife, was assassinated in Sarajevo, triggering WWI. There are three separate tours each showing a different aspect of this richly decorated, elegantly furnished, much of the furnishings being original, castle. Tour one is the part of the castle furnished from the mid to late 19th century. Tour three, however, is the most interesting, being the personal apartments of the Archduke. A definite stop on your way to Austria.

SHOPPING

Most of the glass shops are on either side of the Charles Bridge. If you like the clear glass combined with blue, green, teal, red or black you can get your best buys out at the factory shop, which is an hour or so out of Prague on the way to Brno. There is also a great castle to stop and see (Sternberk). Caesar Crystal Factory. Take E50, exit 90, direction Svetla n Saz(avou). Go through town and look for faded blue sign on the right, partially hidden by foliage (or the street sign that says Josefodole) that points to the right to Josefodole. Turn right and factory is at end of road. Park and go to house behind red gate. This is the shop. Ring the door bell. They take charge cards, but they do not ship. Open from 7 am to 3 pm.

Most of the glass shops are on either side of the Charles Bridge. If you like the clear glass combined with blue, green, teal, red or black you can get your best buys out at the factory shop, which is an hour or so out of Prague on the way to Brno. There is also a great castle to stop and see (Sternberk). Caesar Crystal Factory. Take E50, exit 90, direction Svetla n Saz(avou). Go through town and look for faded blue sign on the right, partially hidden by foliage (or the street sign that says Josefodole) that points to the right to Josefodole. Turn right and factory is at end of road. Park and go to house behind red gate. This is the shop. Ring the door bell. They take charge cards, but they do not ship. Open from 7 am to 3 pm.

Moser factory outlet glass shop, Na Prikope 2, 110 00 Prague , in the city center. Tel: 2421- 1293.

For authentic paper mache-painted boxes go to Arine, Karlova 25, a passageway with the shop in the courtyard.

Big Ben Bookshop, Mala Stupartska 5, near the Powder Gate, old town, and Narodni 10, near National Theater. English bookstores.

Intricately cut Czech crystal can be found in shops such as Bohemia Glass on Maislova Street. Paris Street, close to Hotel Inter-Continental is a popular shopping area for handicrafts, souvenirs and top designer labels.

All shopping expeditions in Prague begin in the middle of the city, on the Karlov most (Charles Bridge), a medieval pedestrian bridge that straddles the river and links the city. It is the center of Prague's new entrepreneurial spirit. Enterprising vendors set up shop on small tables and blankets, lining both sides of the historic bridge. They hawk everything from leftover Soviet military watches and handmade hair ornaments to tiny crystal hedgehogs and Guns 'n' Roses compact discs. This is the place to do a little bargaining and buy some souvenirs. Charming black-and-white and color illustrations of Prague street scenes, including many of the fabulous bridge itself, can be had for as little as $3-$4. Small crystal objects are less than $l0. The same items cost three to four times as much in the duty-free shops at the Frankfurt airport.

While shopping on the bridge is fun the best values-quality and price are to be found in the crystal and china shops scattered throughout the city. Most of the stores are still state-owned. Locals jokingly claim that if the staff is friendly, the shop is probably new and privately owned. While you cannot bargain, the prices are so reasonable, you will not need to bargain. Prices are consistent from store to store. However, you should shop around because the selection varies greatly from store to store, especially those that carry crystal and china. Credit cards and traveler's checks are not widely accepted in Prague. Shopkeepers readily exchange U.S. dollars at fixed government rates with no commission charges. You can exchange your traveler's checks at one of the ubiquitous exchange booths. Most of the crystal shops offer comparably priced packing and shipping services to anywhere in the world. Look for Bohemian glassware, wine and drinking glasses, vases, bowls and decorative objects. Styles range from traditional Bohemian to modern, with colors and etchings common.

Leaving the Charles Bridge, head for Mala Strana on the left bank. A short walk leads to Eko-Invest Porcelln. It has charming three-piece china sets for children. A cup, plate and bowl decorated with fanciful clown and Indian patterns sell for less than $4. Czech china services for six will run about $l00. Beautiful coffee services are less than $50. A set of six glasses sells for $22; eight- to ten -inch tall Bohemia glass vases sell for less than $25; a large cut-glass ashtray costs $l0. Karmelitska 21. Open: Mon.-Sat. 1000-1700. Mala Strana Square features shops, cafes and sidewalk artists.

Nerudova Street is lined with many appealing shops. Bohemian Crystal specializes in small chandeliers. The ceiling is hung with scores of delicate light fixtures priced about $l00. The shop, like similar stores, will ship chandeliers anywhere in the world. Even with shipping, prices are so reasonable you cannot afford to pass them up. Crystal bead necklaces run $l0-$20. 13 Nerudova St., tel. 53 33 38. Open: Mon.-Sat. 0900-1700.

Farther up the street Jiri Chyba has a huge assortment of modern and traditional crystal and china at comparable prices. It features a particularly fine selection of colored modem-style geometric-shaped glass paperweights. Crystal and glass decorative items are available in a range of colors. Nerudovn 25, tel. 73 9S 87. Open: Daily 1000-1900.