Prague photos for my parents and advice on foreign cash withdrawals

imageThey didn’t ask for them, but we did talk about their possible future Prague trip yesterday. So, here are my photos from a trip to Prague last August. And you’re welcome.imageimageimageI had long wanted to visit Prague, even though I really knew nothing about the city. The inspiration came from my cousin who had visited something like ten years ago. There was something about the idea of a short holiday in Prague that sounded so completely European I filed away the intention under ‘things to do when I have a chance’. Last summer we had that chance, between going to Poland for a wedding and Matt attending a conference in Vienna. How very international.

I have an actual physical memento from that same ten-years-ago trip, my cousin, who is a much better gift giver than me, bought me a pair of earrings that I not only still own, I actually have them here in Italy with me. Because they’re so nice! Despite that, I did no jewellery shopping of my own on this trip. In fact, I don’t even think I bought anything.imageThis was somewhere near our apartment in Žižkov, on a hill and a tram ride/long walk away from the old city centre. We liked it a whole lot. imageimageimagePrague has just a little of the same feel of Budapest. A river runs through it, there are many  bridges and a large castle complex on the hill. We tried to visit the castle but arrived at the ticket office too close to closing, and they wouldn’t let us in.imageMore impressive than Munich’s nouveau ancien glockenspiel, Prague’s astronomical clock is actually from the middle ages. And the pieces still move! They were being cleaned on rotation while we were there. In this photo the top left two are missing, the next day they had been replaced and another two were gone.imageWe were in Prague in August and it was hot and crowded and hot. I do not recommend it, unless you like heat and crowds.

Also, advice from a walking tour guide for cash conversions and withdrawals in Prague: do not use the money exchange bureaus to buy Czech Koruna, they will rip you off. Nice! We needed cash as soon as we arrived at the train station and got a baaaad deal. Instead, use a reputable bank ATM to withdraw cash and, here’s the kicker that I guess applies everywhere and we didn’t know until then, when the bank machine asks if you want it to exchange the money for you (or convert it or change it into local currency, whatever it says) or somehow offers to do the conversion to your home currency, say no. What happens if you say yes is that the foreign bank/ATM owner will do the cash conversion and they will use a less-favourable rate. When you say no (which, at the time, seems like the wrong thing to do based on the wording and the fact you want some money) you let your home bank do the exchange, with a better rate.

This is apparently called Dynamic Currency Conversion. We were able to compare rates a couple of times, because the ATMs would say how much the withdrawal would cost us in euros if we chose yes. Our bank sends an SMS for any large cash withdrawal we make so we could instantly compare the Czech bank rate to our bank’s rate when we chose no, and our bank always gave a better deal. I’ve noticed when using my Italian bank card in the UK that a number of shops will offer to let me pay in euro (amazon also does this) and I assume the good rate/bad rate applies here too. Always choose to pay in local currency and let your bank do the conversion!imageimageimageFrom the Vysehrad cemetery, where each headstone is rather like a work of art. imageimageimageFrank Gehry’s Dancing House on the riverfront in Prague. The design was chosen to optimise the small space available.imageHere Matt tries to escape the heat with an ice cream and the shade of a street light.imageimageThe end!


First summer swim

Lago Di Garda lake gardaWe waited for one of the greyest days before our first swim of the summer – and my first ever swim in Lake Garda. But I think there’s something in swimming on grey days, somehow the water doesn’t seem so cold in comparison to the air temperature.

We don’t ever actually take advantage of our proximity to Lake Garda. It’s so beautiful! And so almost sea like.

Lake Garda Lago Di gardaLake Garda Lago Di gardaWe went with our lovely friends, who are actually leaving Rovereto soon.

Malcesine Lago Di Garda lake gardaMalcesine lake Garda Lago Di gardaWe had a quick walk through Malcesine, one of the towns on the shore of Lake Garda, before heading to our swimming spot. Everyone was taking advantage of the grey weather to have a town day – there were so many people.

Malcesine lake Garda Lago Di gardaBonus shot of Matt walking through Malcesine.

Life advice from Mr Bean

It was this clip I had in mind today when I offered a (barely used) plastic gym card to cut slices of cheese for a picnic lunch, when we discovered the knife had been left in the car. (It received a rinse and wipe off before use.) Although, watching again, I find that Mr Bean only used his credit card to butter his bread, the inspiration is still there.

I am away in Austria for two weeks, with the family of one of the girls I teach. Its a working holiday for me, but still with plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the beautiful area we are in. They are a very active family, so we have cycled, hiked and swum (3x) already and it’s only the fourth day in – and that’s counting a home rain day.

Everything is going well for us, but not so for the family goldfish. They survived the journey here, even after cooking a little in the hot car, but were dead by the second morning. RIP little fishes. (I have to remember not to use ‘fishes’ when ‘fish’ should do. I also have thoughts, not yet implemented, of ceasing my use of ‘yup/yip’ when ‘yes’ would be better for my student. This last one was bought to my attention by my now ex-students in Verona who asked if it was a New Zealand thing – i.e., if it was necessary to learn or discardable as one of my accent oddities.)

Staying with an italian family means I have to remember to take my shoes off at the door, but to keep my socks on inside. Bare feet are a bit of an oddity here. The family don’t look at me funny when I leave my freshly showered hair to air dry, and in turn I try not to look suprised when the freshly washed lettuce leaves are piled into a tea towel and taken outside to be shaken free of water. Mr Bean reenacts this with a sock in the above video, so maybe it’s only my NZ upbringing that is the odd one out here.

I had thought I would be without the internet up here, so had managed a couple of blog-bot posts to appear at random times to fill in for me. There are still a few to come, so happy reading.