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The Czech money is based on the crown, or koruna. There are 25 crowns to a dollar. So something marked at 250 Kc is $10. Some places take Euros too, but not American money. There are many currency exchange places throughout the city. The exchange rates seemed to vary from place to place, and some places charge commissions. I also obtained money through an ATM machine. Czech bills commonly come in denomination of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 2000. A 1 Kc coin has a picture of a crown and is about the size of a penny, but silver in color. A 2 Kc coin is larger and 11-sided. A 5 Kc coin is bigger still and has a simplified Charles Bridge picture on it. There is also a “heller,” which is 1/100 of a crown. A 50 heller coin is small and flimsy. These coins all had the same emblem on the back along with the words Ceská Republika. I also saw larger 10 and 20 Kc coins during the week that were colored.

We then arrived at Old Town Square (Staromĕstské Náměstí) which is a large open area surrounded by three magnificent churches, included the very recognizable Our Lady of Tyn and it’s two towers and many spires. This church was completed in the late 15th century. Old Town Square was very crowded. We also arrived in the middle of a soccer rally, as there was much chanting going on (and many more “orange” people).

We proceeded through Old Town down some more narrow streets that contained numerous souvenir shops, including a street with outdoor vendors. Popular items for sale here include crystal, puppets, chess sets, and the usual souvenirs, like T-shirts, postcards, magnets, mugs, etc. We walked through one shop of medieval items.

We then arrived at one of my favorite landmarks, the Charles Bridge (Karlův Most). This was also one of the most crowded areas, as it links the Old Town and Lesser Town areas. The Charles Bridge spans the Vltava river that runs through the center of Prague. The bridge was completed in the early 15th century and features many stone arches. The bridge is 1/3 of a mile long and 33 feet wide and is lined by a total of 30 large, black statues on both sides. Each end of the bridge is marked by a large, stone tower. Across the way is a gorgeous view of Lesser Town (Malá Strana) with the castle sitting atop the nearby hill. What a sight! The bridge is closed to traffic and is full of vendors selling portraits and the like. As you might expect, the bridge abounds with many tourists and their cameras. Live musicians are also common here. It does take awhile to walk completely across the bridge, especially when crowded.

After crossing the river to Malá Strana, we went up a narrow street lined by souvenir shops to a central area. The large-domed, Baroque-style St. Nicholas Cathedral is nearby. It is said that Mozart once played the organ there. At this point, Michael went home to the hotel. He was understandably tired after the short night on the plane. The rest of us took a tram to the nearby building where we would be playing checkers beginning on Monday. Unfortunately, we got on the tram going the other direction at first (another thing to be careful of!). After quickly backtracking, we arrived at the Tyrs’s Sport Museum. There were many mind sports going on that day as part of a festival. This building was also lined with pictures of youth and adults participating in various disciplines such as gymnastics, swimming, etc. After winding through the upstairs of the building, we came to a medium size playing room where a Czech-style checkers tournament was in progress. The Czech rules feature flying kings like pool checkers, but single men cannot jump backwards, unlike many other international forms of checkers.

We proceeded back to a Chinese restaurant close to the Charles Bridge, and took the #22 tram back to the hotel. Dennis explained that our hotel was selected because it was located at the very end of the #22 Tram line, so it would be obvious where to get off. At this point in the week, I am still feeling lost about how to get around town, but today was a very helpful start.

I checked into my single room at the hotel. It was small, but nice. There was a single bed, an old-fashioned radiator, bathroom with shower, a small TV (which seemed to pick up 9 or 10 local channels) and a large wooden closet with dresser drawers.

We met Kim Willis from Missouri and Jan Mortimer of New Zealand downstairs. Kim Willis was the third representative of the American Checker Federation (ACF) besides Jim Morrison and myself. All federations kicked in $200 to cover our room and board for 8 days, plus 2 meals a day. We just had to pay airfare and any other daily expenses. Jan Mortimer will be playing Patricia Breen of Ireland for the Women’s world title in a couple weeks. I had just seen Patricia at the International Match in Las Vegas two weeks ago. So, both ladies will have good warm-up competition prior to their match.

I walked around the hotel neighborhood briefly before dark. Jan mentioned a nearby grocery store, which I never could find for some reason. I found a beverage shop (closed for the weekend) and a bar. Otherwise, this area was mostly residential and contained small high rises with lots of young adults. Like Michael, I was very tired at this point.

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