Well, that’s it. After more than a week in beautiful, inspiring Prague, I’m on my way home. As I write this, I am sitting at a little coffee shop near the main train station in Prague. The sun is shining and the city is going about its business. This really has been an amazing trip.
Looking back at the last 9 days, it’s amazing to think how much Road Scholar managed to pack into this adventure. As I look back over my time in Prague, I am reminded of the “3 P’s” that make travel such a wonderful experience – people, places and new perspectives.
Let’s start with People. I always meet such amazing individuals when I travel – and this trip was no exception. First, there was Penny. At 86, she was my hero.
Penny was travelling with her daughter, Leslie and her son-in-law, Miles. She had the entire group totally exhausted, just watching her exuberance and passion for life. This was her 30th Road Scholar program.
When Penny wasn’t dancing, she was jogging across the Charles Bridge in her Doc Martens. She was a constant reminder of what resilience and joy looks like.
Then there was Elizabeth, a competitive ballroom dancer, who entertained us with her graceful moves, bright colored clothes and stories about her 20-year-old Russian dance partners – men who, she assured us, kept her feeling young and sensual.
There were 15 of us, in all – Barbara, Linda, Carol, Gunnar, Cynthia and many others. Every single person was unique and inspiring in their own way.
I also have to mention Tomas, the country coordinator for Road Scholar and the manager of the beautiful Hotel Petr, where we spent time learning about the local architecture, culture and art.
His organizational skills were outstanding and his passion for Prague shined through in every conversation. He really should write a book!
Since 1990, Tomas has coordinated Road Scholar’s programs in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He was especially proud of his sparkling new “magic bus” that drove us around town.
The hotel was comfortable and Tomas’ employees were so friendly and patient with our many questions. How they prevented themselves from bursting into laughter every time I tried to order a cup of coffee in Czech, I will never know! Their English, on the other hand, was great!
Our tour leader, Misha and music and art experts, Mark and Suzanna, entertained us as much as they taught us. Their depth of knowledge and human approach made it easy to appreciate the city.
Misha even helped me to fulfill my goal of seeing Prague’s 7 hills. She sat patiently as we mapped them out together. Then she told me wonderful stories about each hill – Opys, Vysehrad, Petrin, Karlov, Vetrov, Emausy and Skalka. As our tour bus travelled through the city, she pointed each of them out. Well, that’s one more amazing 7-hilled city I can cross off my list!
Then there were the unexpected people that I met along the way. On every trip that I have taken, I found moments of serendipity and unexpected joy. This program was no exception.
On a sunny day, in the Vrtbovska Gardens, I came across a young couple getting married. I was fortunate enough to take the following photo, which surprised all of us with its spontaneous beauty and simplicity. We exchanged email addresses and this picture is now in all of our hearts.
Next, let’s talk about places. The Vrtbovska Gardens were special because of their unique beauty and the panoramic views that they offered of Prague. A series of steps and labyrinths took us to one of the most spectacular spots to view the city.
The Municipal House was another of my favorite places. It is an art nouveau palace, where Bohemian kings once ruled. Now, it offers an opportunity for lovers of art, textiles and architecture to get lost in its beauty.
Prague’s art galleries were awe-inspiring, especially the National Gallery, where the Anfons Mucha Slav Epic was on display. I also loved the smaller Mucha Museum, which had many more examples of his work.
The churches, including St. Vitus and St. Nicholas, took my breath away. As I walked past the shimmering stained glass, gold leaf and solid silver, I was transported to another time – at times, it felt like I was taken to another universe.
This trip provided an abundance of new experiences, which, of course, led to new perspectives. My opinion about group travel changed. I have always been happy as a solo traveler. I am usually satisfied to explore new places as a free spirit. At the same time, I have to admit that my solo trips have occasionally been a bit lonely. This Road Scholar trip offered a perfect middle ground.
The group ate breakfast together. For 3 days out of 9, we met in the morning for a short presentation on art, architecture, economy and music. Then, we hit the road for our bus “adventure.”
Then, for the rest of the time, we were on our own. The team helped us to understand how to use the public transportation system and it was comforting to know that we had a “home base” to return to. But, we were free to explore our own passions – like my desire to visit all of the city’s 7 hills.
There were also optional cultural events and concerts, which most of us took advantage of. The concert for organ, violin and soprano in the St. Salvator Church offered the perfect end to a perfect trip.
As the founder of Sixty and Me, I spend a lot of time writing. This trip offered an amazing opportunity to get out and explore the world with other people my age who are challenging aging stereotypes and living life on their terms.
I left Prague determined to get in even better shape so that I can enjoy everything that this world has to offer. At the same time, I couldn’t resist having one last award winning caramel choux pastry at the Savoy Café, before leaving.
Thank you Road Scholar for a wonderful trip. I know it won’t be my last!
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Have you ever taken a Road Scholar trip? What was your experience like? If you could visit any country in the world, where would you like to go and why? Please join the conversation.
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