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Few things to be careful about when making online reservation (by Honza Opletal)
   Nowadays, it's very common for travelers to use Internet when planning their vacation. One of the most common ways how to reserve accommodation is to use an online reservation system. When doing so there are several questions a traveler should ask himself before completing such a transaction.

   1. Do I need visa to travel to Czech Republic? (This applies especially to Canadians who often forget about this)
   2. Is the advertised location near the center? You can find many cheap places, however the distance from the center is so big that you have to spent a lot of time in the public transportation every day.
   3. What is the cancellation policy for reservation in case of changes in plans or other unexpected things?
   4. Am I sending my credit card information through secure server? (This can be easily checked at the lower right corner of your browser - you should see a small yellow lock). If you are not doing so you are risking a potential misuse of your credit card.
   5. How am I going to find the accommodation after arriving to Prague? The best and cheapest way to get from an airport to your hotel or apartment is to use "Airport - Center" taxi services for about 350 Crowns. If you decide get a standard taxi make sure that you agree on a price before getting into the car. It happened many times that tourists got ripped off by Czech taxi drivers.

There are many other important things that you should be careful about. For closer details visit www.prague-hotel.co.uk.

ABSINTHE- the green miracle (by Michaela F.)
   A new Czech 'wild nature' is now seen nightly. Picture a dark Czech sky, a full moon over the Prague Castle and dozen of cafes each with many of their clientele soaking cubes of sugar in glasses of absinthe, lighting the mixture and drinking. This then, is what you can expect to see upon entering a dark coffee shop in Praha.

   It happened in 1989 in Prague when all began to change. Hundreds of thousands of people marched onto the streets, jingling their keys and ringing their old-fashioned alarm clock. They were all cheering loudly and happily: "It's all over". Many things have changed since then. Nowadays the city of a hundred spires has recovered from forty years of communism and the private ownership of businesses has restored to its lost vitality. The new cafes, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs that appeared have been welcomed like spring flowers are after a terrible winter. Students and middle- aged adults are not only enjoying the good- old beer, and Czechs consume more beer than anybody else, but also something new and mysterious- absinthe.

   Absinthe as a drink was very popular in France in the late 1880's. Not only did the impressionists celebrate absinthe drinking via their pictures (Manet: The Absinthe drinker, Degas: L'Absinthe) but also their followers such as Picasso (Absinthe Drinkers, Glass of Absinthe) and van Gogh (Still life with Absinthe). The bohemian poets of Paris such as Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire also embraced absinthe.

   The attraction to this emerald- green colored liquid is its wormwood. Wormwood is a plant. The addictive and hallucinatory power that wormwood has on the human mind is due to a substance known as thujone, which makes up 40 to 90 percent, by weight of wormwood. Thujone is somewhat similar to the active stuff in marijuana. The difference between the two drugs is their functional side groups. The absinthe drinkers of the 19th century must experienced similar effects to what we now know about THC addiction. They were at times in a delirium, experienced a sharpened sense of perception and had a psychological dependence or addiction. Currently the available versions of absinthe contain more than ten times less thujone then before. So it is not likely for a person who actually wants to experience the effects of the old impressionists of over a hundred years ago by drinking this version of the drink. There are not any "psychoactive" effects, unless you count the effect of the alcohol, which is as high as 74%. So you will be plenty drunk before you experience any of the effects of the absinthe.

   Well, the fall of communist era has not only introduced new businesses but is also trying to create something new and unknown, recreate the forgotten. The old tradition of gathering in the pub discussing politics and sports and drinking beer might slowly change with the new generation. Absinthe definitely has its own history, its unique contents and its unforgettable bitter taste.

   If you would like to learn more about the so-called Green Fairy, we recommend the excellent Buy Absinthe online guide. It provides a wealth of interesting information, including brands reviews and a list of the best places in Prague (and beyond) to sample the curious drink. And, if you can't wait to experience the magic of the Green Fairy until you get to Prague, they also tell you where you can purchase absinthe online.
all comments are welcome on michaela@prague 2001.com, please note that this article by no means promotes excessive drinking!

   You can get your tax back on products you buy in the Czech Republic and take with you out of the country. The Value Added Tax (here called DPH) is 22 %, that is what you can save. How does it work? First, the price of the item must be at least 1000CZK. You need to save the bill and fill out a form (they should give it to you at the shop). When leaving the country ask the custom officer to give you a stamp on the tax form. And when you come back (it must be in three months), you go back to the shop and they give you the money back.

   But what if you feel like not bothering with all this stuff or you are not coming back anymore? There is a special company that will do it for you- www.vatmax.cz. Lets say you arrive to Prague airport Ruzyne: pick up the tax forms there, then do all the shopping and before leaving the country get your money refund at the airport again. It is that easy. There are some limitations though, so read carefully the pamplet you get with the tax forms. Happy shopping!!!

Guide for the first time visitor by Sean
   My friend and I have just returned from our first visit to Prague and we both thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The architecture is breathtaking, the people friendly and the transport system is very efficient.

   We would like to offer the following advice and recommendations to anyone planning a trip to Prague: From the airport travel in a CEDAZ people carrier to anywhere in Prague for 360CZK (maximum four people). They are easy to find, walk a few metres beyond the standard taxis that are right outside the arrivals exit. Buy a tourist tram/metro ticket for 24 hours unlimited travel for just 70CZK. You can buy them at any time and when you make your first journey you stamp it in the machine on the tram which will record the time that the 24 hours starts. The trams are brilliant, simple to use and when you have your tourist ticket you can just hop from one to the other. We travelled for many miles on trams in the few days we were there. It is a great way to see the city and when we got tired from walking we just boarded a tram and recorded video film through the back window, the results are very good and show Prague life in an interesting way.

   Make sure you take some comfortable walking shoes. We found that there was always something interesting at the end of each street or around the next corner and as a result we walked further than we planned. A warm coat is essential at this time of the year (March). The wind chill factor makes it feel much colder than the published temperatures.

   We stayed in an apartment belonging to Prague Bed and Breakfast Association in Zizkov that was basic but spotlessly clean, warm and comfortable. We happily recommend it strongly and found it amazingly good value at 500CZK per person per night based on two sharing. (There are four beds in the apartment and it has basic cooking facilities etc, even towels are provided). Find out more at www.penzion.cz or find others at ABAKA.com. Zizkov (Praha 3) seems to be a very good area for dining and wining. It is only a few tram stops from the city centre (trams 5, 9, 26, 55, 58) and we found some excellent restaurants, a few of which are listed below: Quido (Kubelikova 22) offers excellent Czech and international food in nice surroundings with impeccable service. We enjoyed a fine meal with good wines for 1000CZK (two people) which included a good tip. U Sloupu (Lucemburska 11) is a restaurant with wonderful ambience. It is totally art nouveau and very tastefully decorated. It is worth ordering the soup (30CZK) even if only to see how it is served. Prices are about the same as Quido but you do not need to spend as much as us. When eating out is this good and the prices this low we tend to 'go for it'! See their menu at www.usloupu.cz but don't bother booking a table by e-mail because it doesn't seem to work. TV Tower Prague. You will have no trouble finding this restaurant, the tower can be seen from all over Prague but most people do not realise that there is a restaurant in it. The food is good and service very friendly. I do not need to tell you how good the view is! Insist on a window table. U Zlateho Hroznu Chlumova/Seifertova Zizkov (I may have got the restaurant name mixed with another but this is on the corner of Chlumova street and Seifertova, just across the street from our apartment). This restaurant is a little gem but don't expect to find any tourists here. This is the real Prague. When you walk in it will seem that it is fully booked and you may be tempted to walk out and find somewhere else. You may have to wait and you will probably share a table with some other people but it is worth it. The lunch/midday menu is hand written and in two parts. Ignore the standard stuff that can be cooked to order, go for the menu of dishes cooked specially for the day, they cross them out as they are all consumed so get there early! Unless you can understand Czech then I suggest you see what others are eating and if it looks good tell the waiter that is what you want. Prices are between 39 and 79 CZK per dish. This restaurant stops serving food at about 8.00pm and is best at lunchtime. We found that restaurants a few tram stops from the centre of Prague offered best value and were more relaxed. With such an efficient transport system it is not a problem to travel a mile or two. However, in the centre we found the Trinidad restaurant to be good, especially their chicken goulash with dumplings.

   Overall we found Prague to be a wonderful place to spend a few days. We were especially impressed by the excellent and friendly service wherever we went. We plan to return and hope to see more of the Czech Republic. If anyone has any questions or would like more insights of Prague from a first time visitor's point of view please do not hesitate to e-mail me at sean@braiden.com.

How to stay connected and in touch while travelling
   Times are changing and you need to stay in touch with your friends and family while travelling. How??? The easiest and also the cheapest way is to send an email. But how if you don't have your computer with you? First find an Internet cafe you like. Just walk through the centre of Prague or any other city and you will be passing one at every corner. The rates are pretty much the same everywhere, so it's just up to you which one you choose. Get in and order something to drink. No, this is not obligatory, but you will feel better :). So now you are sitting in front of a computer and a surprise! No Outlook or Eudora. No email client. What to do now? You need an online based email account. If you are using AOL, no problem for you, just go to their web page and check it. Also users of Hotmail, Yahoo and other services are all set. Just log in. But what if you don't have such an account? Don't worry, you can get one in less than five minutes.

   But where should I store my files? That's a good question. You have two possibilities. Either take a floppy disk with you- however than you are very limited. Or store your stuff online. Sounds like a good idea? It sounds good to me. You can store up to 100MB at xdrive.com for free and you will be able to access your stuff from anywhere in the world. Are you using a digital camera and don't have enough memory? Just stop by an Internet cafe, copy your pictures on your online hard drive and that's it. It is very easy to use, as you log in, your online hard drive shows up just as another hard drive number on your computer.

   Mobile phones, that's what it is all about right now. So you took your phone with you but don't know how to use it in a foreign country. It is very easy. The same way as at home. But if you are calling abroad (that is to your country) don't forget to add a prefix (for ex. for the Czech Republic the prefix is 0042). The roaming calls are however very expensive, so if you are planning to stay here a little bit longer consider buying a new SIM card from one of the Czech operators. You can replace your original SIM card while staying here and then when you go back, just switch it back again. It is very easy to do. Go to a store and purchase a SIM prepaid card either from Eurotel (the best quality and the most expensive), Paegas or Oskar. The price for such a card is about 1500 CZK. As you put it in (your mobile phone must be able to operate in the 900/1800 MHz, that is the GSM standard for the whole Europe) you will begin to operate under a new assigned number.

   Normal phones. It is no problem to call home from a public phone. There are a lot of public phones on the streets. Buy a prepaid card from Telecom in a news-stand (please note, prepaid cards brought from abroad, such as Sprint or Thomas Cook don't always work) and dial the number on the card + your home number. That's it.

   And what about a snail (that is a normal) post? A post office is called "Ceska Posta" here and the main post office is in Jindrisska ulice, very close to the Wenceslas square. You can buy a stamp in a news-stand, but you need to tell them where you want to send it. If you have a stamp on it, just throw it in an orange mailbox, that are usually hanged up on the buildings.

I understand that absinthe makes the tart grow fonder. —Ernest Dowson
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