If you are reading this and feeling abit apprehensive about driving to Prague, please don’t be. Read on.
When I was here in March 2009, Dave was working everyday including weekends, so we had no opportunity to visit Prague. This time round, it is the weather i was nervous about – Europe is experiencing one of the coldest winters on record. Besides the weather, I was abit apprehensive about the drive because i read a blog from 1998 and it made me very concern about driving to Prague.
The blogger mentioned that once the autobahn ended, the drive would be on rural roads, along farms, about seeing hookers lining up the roads on both sides of the borders and in coffee shops.
In my mind’s eye, I imagined the rural roads to be pot holed and rutted and if it snowed hard these roads would be unplowed and I imagined farmers coming out with their pitch forks and donkeys to pull us out of snow drifts. I was so worried that I thought it would be best to go by train. However, Dave was not worried at all – he said we would turn back if the weather got really bad.
I also read somewhere that if one is driving a nice car to be extra careful of parking because it could get stolen. My anxiety level went up a few notches. One is also advised to find paid parking areas and not to park in free parking areas. A few days earlier, Dave had gone to Avis, to get a permission letter so we could drive our Class C Mercedes into the Czech Republic. Again, the Avis guy warned us to “be careful since this is a nice car.”
The night before we left, I went on the internet and came across a very useful website: http://www.pragueexperience.com. It had maps, and info on different parking garages, interesting places to see in Prague and places to stay. I was only interested in the locations of the parking garages and not the hotels because Dresden is only about 160 km away from Prague and this is just a day trip.
We set off early morning after telling our car Navigator where we wanted to park our car. We chose a paid parking garage close to the Historic old bridge. We would be avoiding the city centre. It was not snowing when we left but the thermometer in the car registered -18 deg C at one point. I took a picture of it at -16 deg C. I knew this would not be a comfy sight seeing day yet again. (The day before we were in Berlin and it was -12 deg C!!)
The autobahn, A17 towards the border was clear of snow and it was easy driving with not much traffic at all. We did go through a bit of a mountain pass but the weather was ok. In fact abit of sun was trying to come out too.
At the border crossing, I spotted a German police car but no Czech police and we just drove through. No one checked our passports or the permit to drive our rental car. Actually, it was only about 50 km to the border from Dresden.
The rest of the driving was uneventful, except when Dave missed the last toilets on the German side and I was very worried in case there was not another rest area for miles and miles. Dave said the Czech people need bathrooms too you know. Our Navi lady told us that we would have to turn off the autobahn pretty soon towards Losovice, and we spotted a gas station. We stopped to spend a penny (it was free) and to buy a map. The cashier accepted euro currency, the map was 59 czech dolars(whatever the currency was) and we gave him about 2.50 euros. It was disgustingly cold when we got out of our car!
We think one of these days the autobahn would connect to the one in the Czech Republic but for now, the Navi took us on a two lane road passing through small towns to connect to the freeway in the czech Republic. I did find a few pot holes but not to the extend of my imagination!
I think since 1998 when that blogger wrote about his travels, alot had changed. The autobahn was great and the road leading us to the Czech hiway was ok. We did not meet any farmers nor hookers along the roadside!
My fear and anxieties about driving to Prague were baseless. It was a nice easy and uncomplicated drive. The roads in between the two freeways was clearly marked for Prague. One has to obey the Czech Republic speed limits, though, and they have zero tolerance for alcohol. It would be very difficult to get out of a situation when it involves the Czech police as they do not speak English.
What would we do without our car navigation system?!! It took us direct to our parking area. It was an open air one, by the River Vtlana, and a guy gave us a slip to display and off we went, making sure we bundled up as much as we could. For future winter travel, I would bring alot of hot hand warmers, the kind that people take to go skiing. I brought only two but one was a dud. so for about five hours of walking around checking out castles and cathedrals, we were absolutely frozen. I have never experienced cold like this before and the locals said that this was unusually cold for Prague.
So to recap: From Dresden take the A17, E55 …oh well, I forgot. I will update this later.