Night Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Song of the Day: Someone like you - Adele
Mumisode of the Day: Bursting into the Segway office in a lather and announcing, "I'm stonkered!" while David, Gemma and Amber were finishing their private tour, then proceeding to strip off some layers and dump them on the chairs.
Major highlight of the trip so far today. The three children had a Segway adventure on the Prague Viewpoints Tour. For those of you who don't know what a Segway is, see the picture! It is a 2-wheeled platform that contains gyroscope technology (think iphone) so that it checks its position more than 100 times per second to keep it level. It propels forwards and backwards by sensing pressure in your feet and turns using the handlebar that is pulled left or right. It is possible to do a complete 360 turn while standing still. It powers up hills and holds its speed down hills while recharging itself. Amber and Gemma were both very alarmed at the prospect of getting on one of these as it looked very scary and like it would be extremely easy to capsize.
After being introduced to our guide, Thomas, we went outside for our mandatory training. David was the first to try it out and increased the girls' alarm as within the space of a few seconds he had attempted both of the two things that we had been warned could cause the Segway to fall over: coming too close to a wall and running into it while turning and, falling over a gutter. Amber was up next and after a shaky start got the hang of it very quickly. Finally there was Gemma, the only one of the three requiring three practice laps before the guide felt confident to let her out on Prague's streets.
Off we set, very gingerly at first. There were some comments made about ours being the slowest Segway tour ever! The first viewpoint was by St Nicholas' Church. All of us had great difficulty concentrating here as we were forced to try and hold still on a slight incline and listen attentively when all any of us could focus on was, 'Don't fall and don't roll backwards'. Interestingly this church bell tower was used by the American spies during the Cold War and now houses a spy museum.
Next we made our way upward via the Royal Way to Strahov Monastery, set high up on the hill above Prague Castle and looking down over the city. The leaves are starting to turn here for autumn so everywhere you look there is a rich green contrasting with bright gold and orange. The monastery is famous for two things: its brewery and its library complete with Baroque books.
We moved down the hill a little toward Prague Castle and saw the changing of the guard. For the first time ever we have seen one of the guards (the ones that are meant to stand perfectly still and never smile or talk) laughing. He caught the giggles and couldn't stop. It was hilarious and our guide particularly found it funny as he comes to the castle often and has never seen a guard break with tradition. As the guard walked away, the crowd broke out into applause. His boss did not look pleased.
Next was the Royal Garden complete with the Summer Palace (Belvedere) built for Queen Anne by her loving husband. Sadly, she never saw it completed as she died giving birth to her fifteenth child, poor lady!
Then came even more fun as we moved into Letna Park. Here were some wide paths that we could really get up speed on. All Gemma could hear during this point was, "Go faster, Gemma!" The park is massive. It contains the Prime Minister's house (no guards here), some monuments and a beer garden, all of which look out over the fantastic scenery and 8 of the 17 bridges over the Vltava River. We were quizzed as to which Hollywood movies have been filmed in Prague and did not do that well. Couldn't go much past Mission Impossible. We just said lots of spy movies!
Our tour included a stop for a hot chocolate in the beer garden. We were a little concerned when we were asked, "Do you want your chocolate sweet or sour?" There may have been some communication problems here; he meant to say milk or dark chocolate.
The tour ended in the lesser town of Prague. We went under the famous Charles Bridge and saw markings on the wall where the massive flood of 2002 came up to, basically one storey high. The flood was so bad that the government here has invested money in some automatic flood barriers that can pop up out of the ground when required.
The highlight for David was the visit to the 'Pissing Fountain'. This is certainly something that you would not see back home. The base of the fountain is in the shape of the country of the Czech Republic. At each end of the country are two men made out of green metal. Interestingly, the pelvis of each man swivels and a large penis wees water into the fountain. The 'wee' falls over the two areas where the two largest cities of the Czech Republic are. Tourists throw money into the fountain so you can see coins on the bottom. The saying goes that the people put money into the country with their taxes and the government 'pisses' all over it.
Another highlight here was a one-way pedestrain street. This is the narrowest street in Prague, so narrow that only one person can fit through and there are green light walk signs to manage pedestrian traffic.
Final stop was the Lennon Wall, the only place in Prague where it is legal to graffiti. When Prague was still under Communist rule, not long after John Lennon was killed, a man painted an image of Lennon's face on the wall. It was promptly painted back over but it soon reappeared. It kept reappearing until the government gave up and changed the law. The wall is now completely covered with Lennon quotes, Beatles lyrics, and other graffiti.
Before we left on the Segway tour we had arranged with Mum and Dad that they would be waiting at the office for our return so that they could see us on the Segways. We rounded the corner and they weren't there! Our guide took us inside and we were finalising payment and going over the map when in burst Mum and Dad, sweating and puffing. The guide leapt up and said "Do you have a tour?" We explained who they were and then they started stripping off clothes. Mum announced, "I'm stonkered!" It was a little awkward!
While the children were on the Segway tour, Mum and Dad had been busy buying tickets for the next two nights. Tonight we went to the State Opera Theatre to see The Phantom of the Opera performed as a ballet. The building is just magnificent, built during the Hapsburg reign, all gold and glamorous complete with chandeliers. Everyone got dressed up; Amber even wore her heels. The performance itself was fantastic, and even Dad who hates the ballet and has thus far declined to attend, enjoyed it. The ballet is an original Czech production complete with original score and was performed by the Prague State Opera Orchestra.
Tomorrow we go exploring the Jewish Quarter and have tickets to Smetana's 'My Country' (Ma Vlast) performed in the Smetana Hall of the Municipal Building.