Amid a flotilla of umbrellas, across the liquid air of the market square, Nettie and I toddle along like duckies following mama duck, or in this case, papa duck, our tour guide leader, as we puddle our way through Prague’s Old Town. It’s the rainiest week here in fifty years. Exhilarating!

clock crowds


Or it would be if we could move a bit more freely and see some of the tourist attractions our guide’s pointing out a bit more clearly. But it’s so damn crowded, and the rain has done nothing to dampen the multitude’s enthusiasm. In fact, the sprung umbrellas make it harder to see and navigate the cobble-stone streets, which are the only thing I can see unobstructed except by my soggy feet.

Our guide (part of the innovative “Free Walking Tour” rage that’s competing with traditional touring) says the Oroij Medieval clock is just ahead of us. I believe him though I can’t really see it until the crowd parts. It was the most technologically advanced instrument of its time, he says, that charts simultaneously the position of the sun and the moon and the Zodiac signs and the day of the year and the day’s time and the temperature of the Apostles for all I know…and it’s still working after 600 years. Damn impressive I agree. So impressive that the clock’s creator was blinded with hot a poker when he finished the clock so that he would never be able to build another one for anyone else. But what would be even more impressive is if I could see it by myself without a few thousand other people oohing and aahhing in my ear, splashing water on my feet as they struggle to snap a picture.

And the Tyn Church and the Nicholas Church are very pretty, especially the Tyn Church, except that you can no longer actually go into the Tyn Church since they’ve built a wrought iron gate at the main entrance that tourists have to stand behind like gawkers at a freak show watching real Catholics pray in their pews on the other side of the gate. And I don’t mean to compare Catholics to freaks. I am, after all, one of them or was until I was excommunicated for not taking confession for over two years about fifty years ago. I understand the necessity of separating the pagan tourists from the flock in this way. Really…I do.

I’m not complaining, honestly (well, maybe just a little). I admit I’m a bit weary from nearly two months of travel and three weeks of a relentless cold and cough so that I’m a tad snarky and prone to exaggeration. And I do miss Krakow already…

But Prague is truly a beautiful city. There’s no dispute about that. It’s currently one the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It’s like being the most popular kid in the class…everyone wants to be your friend. Everyone wants to be seen with you and eat lunch with you. So I can understand why all these people, including me and Annette, are here today trying to suck it all in. And it’s our fault anyway. You see, we normally travel in the “off season,” which is becoming a shorter and shorter season as more Boomers retire. For us, it means we aim for October and November. We just felt that Poland might be too cold in those months. What’s funny, if “funny” is the right word, is that Prague is very cold and rainy this June…but still overflowing with people.

Oh, well, how lucky we are to be here at all! And I’m not being facetious. Honestly.



We arrived on Friday after a ten hour train ride from Krakow in a first class sleeper “couchette.” It wasn’t quite North By Northwest comfort, but it was cozy and a trifle exotic crossing into the Czech Republic in the wee hours of the morning and being greeted by a porter tapping on our door at 6:30 a.m. announcing Praha Station with a tray of tea and croissants to wake us up.

So, don’t get me wrong, we’re still having fun on the road.

Here’s what we’re looking forward to next week…sun first of all. The weather should improve and then we’re headed to the other side of town, across the fabulous Charles Bridge to the Prague Castle district where we take roost in another apartment, a quieter, calmer, less popular part of Prague, or so we’re told.



We’re hoping everyone doesn’t know that Prague Castle is the largest castle in all of Europe, over eighteen acres of beauty and marvel. It’s the former center of Bohemia, which makes up two thirds of the Czech Republic. The castle at one time housed the famous Luxembourg Dynasty and the Hapsburg Monarchs. Maybe people have forgotten them since their glory days have long been passed.

Maybe, too, tourists won’t remember that Agnes of Bohemia was such a popular kid herself that she was betrothed at age six, then fought over by warring kings until she finally stood up to them all, became a nun and received the blessings of Rome to establish the first hospital in 1232 serving the poor. And Nettie and I are hoping most people don’t know that she was the first Saint Canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1989, nearly 700 years after her death. The Polish Pope was pretty darn popular himself, which may be harder for tourists to forget I admit.



But then again, maybe the delicious and succulent barbequed ham sold by the market square vendor will distract tourists from sightseeing altogether. He quickly became the most popular kid in our book. We hang out with him as soon as the Tyn Church bells ring in the lunch hour!

To see some photos of our first day in Prague (and a few of our last days in Krakow), click here: Prague & Krakow.



5 Responses to The Popular Kid

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  4. Virginia says:

    Frank and Annette: Joe and I were in Peru but at home today, I was able to catch up on the last 3 posts and all the photos. Your trip is absolutely amazing. I’m so glad to be able to ‘visit’ this part of the world via your writings and pics. Safe travels!

  5. Sunny Tneoh says:

    Hi Frank, Thanks once again for your writing. Prague is indeed very popular both the square and Charles Bridge. I hope you got out before the flood.

    By the way I finished reading Passage from England in 2 sittings. Young Frank had so much chutzpah despite the tragedy all around him. You have done good.

    I identify with your situation my dad left China and didn’t have a home to go back to until nearly too late 46 years before he saw his mum again. After he left China it turned Communist. I wrote about him with my meagre writing skills in

    Are you back in California?


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