The Window Nook

Adventures in living abroad

Transportation Adventures


I’ve never lived in a city with a metro system before, and I have grown to appreciate the Prague metro more each month that I have lived here. Granted, the ticket checkers are a bit grouchy, especially when one mistakes them for sellers of cheap tourist knick-knacks. On the other hand, I’ve sure they’ve heard that excuse a thousand times, and it lost its humor years ago. (In my defense, they really do look like random salespeople. I have witnesses that will back me up on this). Also, each metro station has its own quirks, which one must learn quickly so as not to accidentally exit 4 blocks away from where you wanted to end up. But overall, it is a well-run and organized metro system. Passengers who race for the doors of the train as they are closing are promptly reprimanded by a long, loud blast of the horn. This blast is well above 100 decibels, and forestalls the need for any caffeine that morning, or possible the whole day. I have noticed that children, women, and older people are given priority seating, and younger people still sitting when an older person boards the train may find their ankles rapped with a cane as they are politely kicked out of their seat. Mothers with strollers are often helped onto trains, and the mass of passengers politely shifts to allow them room and seats. My favorite, though, is the subtle glances that occur when a child rides the train alone, as if each of the other passengers were quietly looking out for them, making sure they get to their destination safely.
It is also customary to see dogs and even cats on the metro, as they are allowed on metro trains, buses, and trams. Smaller dogs are carried in bags, and larger dogs are muzzled and leashed. I am impressed at how well they handle the noise of the metro and the trickiness of the escalators. As parts of the metro were originally built to double as a bomb shelter, and the escalators often rise several stories, navigating through the metro tunnels can be a challenge.
One often has the option of getting to a destination via the metro or a network of buses and trams, and it is fairly easy to get within a block or two of any destination in Prague via a bus or tram. Most buildings near the city center rise four or five stories, leading to dense population within Prague itself, and any major center is connected to other parts of the city by several trams or buses, often running every ten minutes or so. Also, I’ve learned that buses are numbered according to their destination: a route number beginning with a ‘1’ means that the bus route is limited to the city limits of Prague, while a number beginning with a ‘3’ signifies that this route includes service to outlying villages. Opencards (mass transit membership cards) come with discounts on the extra prices for destinations outside Prague, so these longer bus trips usually cost the equivalent of a dollar or two. Train tickets to villages are equally cheap, and for under five dollars one purchase train tickets out of town to a number of picturesque villages, national parks, or castles surrounded by hiking trails.
One interesting quirk about this organized transit system is the near absence of street signs in Prague, with the exception of the downtown areas. Local Czechs tell me they were taken down during WWII to confuse the occupying Germans, and never replaced. Whatever the reason, once one leaves the metro station, following the signs helpfully marking the streets near each exit, they are on their own, navigating by landmarks and the occasional helpful local. While this has led to a number of adventures while finding my way about a new city, I have to say that it’s improved my ability to navigate Prague, and led to the discovery of several shops, restaurants, and pubs which I never would have found otherwise.


Author: annekemae

Enjoys writing, photography, reading mystery, historical fiction, and travelogues, chocolate in any form, and tulips.

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