|Subject: Re: Travel to Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Munich|
Minna Stein asked about travel in these cities
and Prague-Budapest train connections in particular.
We (wife and adult daughter) visited both Prague and Budapest in 2001. Both cities were wonderful, and I wish we had more time to spend, especially in Prague. I hate to generalize about cities, but you get a much happier feel there than in Budapest because of differences in their respective economies. Both are beautiful--I would describe Prague's as an intimate beauty and Budapest's (specifically Buda, on the left side of the Danube--Pest is rather flat) as more spectacular. We did not go to Vienna or Munich.
We stayed in the Kinski Gardens in Prague and the Art in Budapest. Both were part of the Best Western chain, which I generally like because they manage to keep local ambiance. The Kinski Garden was relatively expensive; the Art was inexpensive. I would go back to either, and their locations were quite good.
Food was amazingly inexpensive and superb in both cities. In Prague, we ate at the Rotisserie and the Bohemia, and in Budapest, we ate at the Karpathia and the Club Verne. If I had to pick one, I would say that the Karpathia would be the unanimous favorite for the food. Although the food was basic, we also enjoyed a river boat tour that we took in Prague that featured a blues band.
We did go from Prague to Budapest by overnight train (as we did from Budapest to Trieste, where we spent the better part of a wonderful day with Paolo Maietta). We got couchettes booked through travel agents for what I believe was the same price had we fought the lines at the train station. We picked the Prague agent off the street and used American Express in Budapest because we were meeting someone who worked for them. I highly recommend the train.
One thing that may not interest all visitors but that was an important part of our trips to both cities were visits to the old Jewish sections. Unfortunately, the Prague ghetto is largely a museum with tours run by gentiles because of the dearth of Jewish residents. Our guide was quite informative, but not in the same way that someone raised in a tradition would have been. Sadly, this lack of Jewish residents illustrates the success of Nazism, since Hitler had intended Prague to be Europe's museum for an extinct race. In contrast, the Budapest community is much more active and tours are conducted by members of the community.
On a more general note, the Charles Bridge in Prague is great for people watching and even jazz groups. Budapest is larger, but you should visit Wenceslas Square in Pest and, of course, see Buda.
As I noted when we got back from the trip, it is useful to know a few courtesy words in the languages. Czech and Hungarian are not among the world's more widely spoken languages so people in those countries know they have to cater to other country's languages with English being at least the second language of choice. Thank you in these two languages comes out Djeckway and Kessenem, with my attempt at transliteration being, unfortunately, no better than the guides I initially used before simply asking natives. It is amazing what reactions you get by using just this single courtesy word. Of course, since it was fairly warm, it did not hurt that I knew that pivo is beer in Czech and nagy (pronounced nadge) is large (which brings you a liter of the stuff) in Hungarian.
Ira H. Bernstein, Ph. D. Professor of Psychology UT-Arlington