Postcard from Prague I

There's no doubt that my very favorite job perk is the travel. But while these trips can seem pretty lovely and leisurely from the photos, the exhausting part is that we meet every morning at 7 am and then spend much of the day in large, dark (and in this case, hot!) session rooms, wander the exhibit halls to read posters, and then return the hotel to work on our conference summaries and interpret the data. Dinner can go on until 10:30 or 11:00 pm, as the Europeans have a different pace of dinner service than us Americans. When we return to our hotel rooms it's to catch up on all the emails from everyone back at the office, to bed by midnight or some nights 2 am. It makes you wish we maybe weren't such a well-connected society.

At least the World AIDS Conference does have its sense of fun and shock, like mosaics made of condoms - meant to destigmatize condom use. (That's me and a co-worker.) Click to enlarge and see all the details of the condom display, including inflated condoms attached to a long air pipe. After wrapping up our conference in Vienna, another coworker and I gathered our remaining energy for a side trip to Prague.

With the pace of my week, I was first of all so happy to see the luxurious and comfy bed in my room at the Buddha Bar Hotel. But no rest for the weary, since we were signed up for a 6 hour walking tour the following morning! (If I only had a weekend in Prague, I was going to make the most of it!)

I was most delighted to share my travel plans with my Grandma, who grew up in Slovakia until she was about 18 and immigrated to America. In talking about my trip with her, Grandma mentioned she'd stayed in Prague just before coming to the U.S. while waiting for her paperwork to be in order. This is the closest I've come to my father's side of the family's "motherland" and knowing that my 18-year-old grandmother might have walked the same streets was cause for reflection.

Not to worry, Grandma told me, everyone speaks English and it's very safe. (Despite her advice being about 75 years old, it was true.)

Even before our tour, our self-directed wanderings showed us that the streets of Prague were just full of charm and details to take in. Every street is cobblestone, with a sometimes vague definition of where you walk and where the cars drive, so we learned to listen for traffic before stopping to take a picture. Street cleaning crews rove constantly scrubbing and brushing, keeping everything painstakingly clean.

The buildings are ornate and it's hard to tell which ones are notable from your guidbook (something happened here) versus just notable in their design. Folding to the Nazis early might have spared Prague a lot of damage from bombing in WWII.

I liked the Art Nouveau architecture a lot, and there was so much of it! Since our hotel was close to the Old Town Square, we found ourselves here often, sometimes just to have a beer in a cafe and people watch. . Note the brand name of Budvar, a Czech original brand from the 1780s, stolen by an American beermaker and remade as Budweiser

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