Prague Diary: The Hotel

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We stayed at the Hotel Juno, which is in Praha 10, away from Tourist Central, in a quiet, more residential part of the city. There was a bus stop right across the street, and the metro was about five blocks away, with other busses and trams also available.

The hotel was bigger than we expected, and clean. The inner part of the lobby was set up kind of like an English pub.

The clerk told us that there was a water problem (hence the workmen in the street), so we couldn’t check into the room yet. We figured we’d sit in the restaurant and have a meal — after all, the website boasts a restaurant on site and even lists a menu with prices. But, for some reason, the restaurant was closed.

The clerk gave us directions and recommendations. We locked our luggage in the luggage room, checked out the grocery store, checked out a flea-market type affair near the metro, and then walked through the lovely residential neighborhood to the restaurant. The market was interesting — it reminded us of the Asian markets down near Canal St. here in NYC — with lots of knock-offs, low prices, etc. There was a pair of red leather stiletto boots with a silver side buckle that tempted me — but I rarely wear stilettos — something that marked me as an odd woman in Prague, where stilettos are the norm, even on the cobblestone streets.

There were two restaurants, side-by-side, and we couldn’t remember the name of the one recommended.

We walked into the one on the corner — obviously a local joint, very simple, clean, full of local guys smoking. I was the only woman in the place. We took a table and tried to sort out the menu, which was in Czech. We figured “goulas” was “goulash” and we couldn’t go wrong, so we both ordered that, and some beer, since the country’s famous for its beer. Costume Imp isn’t much of a beer drinker, but when a place is famous for something, you try it, right?

The beer was very good. The goulash was quite different than the Hungarian-style goulash I usually think of as “goulash.” it was chunks of beef and liver (neither Imp nor I have eaten liver since childhood) in gravy and something called “bread dumplings”. Those are a dumpling-like concoction cut like bread slices (and made of bread?) to soak up the gravy. The food was fine — in spite of having liver in it. And the beer was good. And it was inexpensive — about $8 for the whole meal.

We wandered back to the hotel and checked in. Our room was on the first floor — which in Europe is the floor above the ground floor. It overlooked the parking lot, which we didn’t think, at the time, would be a problem.
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The room was fine — beds, long hallway with closets (one third blocked off, one third usable, one third shelves and a small safe). The beds weren’t traditional beds, but pallets, as you can see from the photo, quite low to the ground, but comfortable. There was one chair, and three small night stands on wheels, but no desk, which meant I either wrote up my notes each night sitting on the floor using the nightstand or sprawled across my pallet. There was a small television which got a variety of Czech, German, and Italian channels, along with CNN.

I took a tepid shower — no less than I expected. We rested for a bit, and then were hungry again. The restaurant in the hotel was still closed, so we went back to the other restaurant in the neighborhood, U Kasparka, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant in Prague.

They were really nice and spoke enough English so we could all get by. It was mostly German-themed, with a lot of German dishes, but also Italian, Czech, and even Mexican — there was no way I was going to try one of those! The service was good and friendly. The food was outstanding. I had chicken schnitzel, which was fantastic, and Imp was in rapture over the pork. We had more beer, which was excellent, and after-dinner coffee. Again, the whole meal was maybe $12.

Wine is more expensive than most of the entrees, and I’d been warned to stay away from Moravian wine, no matter what, because it’s awful. So I skipped the wine for the trip, although more and more French wine bars are opening near the center of town.

We were quite proud of ourselves for still being up and about.
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The walk back through the soft night air was beautiful. Really lovely. There’s a vast array of architecture in the neighborhood, which is interesting. We stopped at the grocery store — since it was obvious we weren’t going to be able to use the restaurant!

We settled in the room as busses arrived in the parking lot, disgorging batch after batch of tourists. We watched TV — I have to say, watching CSI dubbed in Czech is pretty funny.

So, the positives: The hotel was in a great neighborhood, near good restaurants, convenient to public transport, and was very, very clean. Once the water problem was fixed, we had fantastic, hot showers all week. I’d been warned that the cleaners burst in early in the morning and had prepared signs in Czech asking them to return later, but we never needed to use them. I’d also been warned that they stole from guests, but we never had a problem. We didn’t use the safe — they wanted a 500 czk deposit. We used my locked suitcase. Never a problem.

The problem was the busloads of tourists and the fact that the overworked staff was unprepared to deal with breakfasts for 400-500 pushy Eastern Europeans (I think we were the only English speakers all week — most of them were German, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, etc. And the Germans were the politest of the lot, which is saying something), acting like they were in a breadline every morning. That was the only time the restaurant was open — breakfast — even though they had signs in the elevator advertising “Hamburger — 2 pieces” and meals from 11:30-3:30.

What we soon discovered was typical in the area was that, if something doesn’t work, you keep doing it instead of finding a better way. They’d actually bar people from entering the breakfast area, and then, when they let people through, the buffet was nearly stampeded. The buffet was huge — there was no way they were running out of anything — certainly not the cabbage and sour cream.

Most of the breakfast offerings were a little too heavy for me: Stew, steamed vegetables, lots and lots of cabbage and sour cream. At 7:30 in the morning, it was a bit too much. Their cakes were lovely –especially the one morning they served an exquisite poppy seed roll, which is just about my favorite thing in the world after eclairs — and sometimes I ate a roll with some ham or something. But most of the time, I had a few squares of pound cake lightly flavored with anise and a few square of gingerbread and that was it. As the week progressed, the busloads grew larger and the cakes grew staler.

The coffee was decent, thank goodness, or I would have wound up splattering some of those rude tourists against the wall. Unfortunately, the tourists would stand in front of the machine and stare at it instead of using it. Two at a time could use it, and the buttons were in six languages. It had a sensor, so you place your cup on it, press the “coffee” button and it knows how much to put in. Then you add the milk from a pitcher.

But they’d just stare at the machine, or only use one spout. I stopped caring about pushing past and using it after the first day. Don’t get between me and my coffee, and trust me, my Ugly New Yorker can beat your Ugly Eastern European any day of the week.

We were always pleasant to the staff, albeit sometimes through gritted teeth. But some of those other guest were absolutely vile.

And yet, the dogs were all beautifully behaved.

My other problem with the room, that revealed itself throughout the week, was that, since it overlooked the front door and the parking lot, we got all the cigarette fumes and noise of people standing around smoking and talking, and all the bus fumes when the busses revved up in the morning to scoot everyone off to their next stop. Between 7 & 8:30, the room was carbon monoxide central.

Had I realized it in the first day, I would have asked for a room change. As it was, we soldiered through — we were up pretty early (poor Costume Imp, who is not a morning person, was one this week) and, after the debacle of the first morning, we went down to breakfast after 7:30, when the hordes were toodling their luggage out to the busses –we missed the majority of the rude ones AND the majority of the bus fumes.

The only other issue we had was on the Saturday of our stay, when they didn’t make up the room and gave us attitude when Imp asked for clean towels. Needless to say, we got the towels.

We did like the neighborhood and the convenience to transport. The hotel was cheap and very, very clean, and if you like cabbage for breakfast . . . 😉

The bar was closed most of the time we were there, too (it called itself a “saloon” with US Western-themed doors that were usually padlocked). But we did manage to return early enough one night to be the only one in the saloon and try slivovice, which is a native drink, kind of a plum brandy. It was very good and quite strong, which why I wanted to try it at the hotel.

My feelings about the hotel are mixed. It was fine for what we needed, and a good price. We had hot water, which was more than I’d hoped for. Would I stay there again? If I could afford a different hotel (we found one on our travels we want to stay in), no, but if I needed a cheap, clean, convenient base, yes. But not in the room directly over the front door and the parking lot!

Previously: Getting There.

Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 7:03 am  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. […] next Prague essay, “The Hotel” is down […]

  2. Your trip sounds like quite an adventure. I had no idea people couldn’t be polite, then again it’s hard to find many polite people here.

  3. ok


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