6/30- Krakow, Poland
This morning we packed up and took a cab to the Prague Airport. I'm learning. Last night I got some Czech money so that I could pay the bill quickly and efficiently. They didn't take US dollars nor credit cards for fuel. Fuel was a reasonable $3.15 per gallon and parking (separate charge day and night), landing, handling, airport tax, VAT, etc. was about $140 (plus gas). We were there for 4 nights. Not really too bad for a major airport. Our handling there was great. Picked up at cab, brought to plane, unpacked van, taken through customs (a minute or two), and seen off.
We packed up the plane. Well, actually (top pix), you can see who does the work. In all of our travels, this is the FIRST TIME we could not understand the ground controller in Prague even though he is speaking English. We even have a recorder built into the intercom and played back what he said a couple of times and really couldn't understand him. I asked him to repeat but it really didn't do any good. Finally the only thing I could think of was to repeat back what I WANTED him to say and he either corrected me (and I repeated again) or said that was OK. Finally we took off from Prague (2nd pix). The enroute controllers speak perfect English.
We were in and out of some small clouds all the way from the Czech Republic to Poland. When we were about 25 miles we began getting vectors for an ILS approach. The sky was clear. At about 15 miles out, and at 5,000 feet I told the controller I could see the airport and asked for a visual approach. I was told he could not approve that since we were number two. Finally the guy (regional carrier) who was number one said "I can see the airport too." At that point he was cleared for a visual approach, and we were immediately thereafter. During the vectoring however, we had a great view of Krakow from 2,500 feet (3rd pix). We landed on a nice 8,500 foot runway(4th pix) and were met by soldiers, who were pleasant, and then our "handling agent" arrived. We didn't arrange for any agent but they handle all of the private aircraft. Their charges are not high for what you get.
Before we left Philadelphia, we had hats made up like the one in the bottom picture. These are similar to the ones we wear. Sharon looked up how to write "thank you" in all of the languages of the countries we planned on visiting. When we land, we take a couple of hats, write "thank you" in their language and sign Arthur & Sharon. We give hats to the the first few people we meet (handling agents, fuel service people). Actually it's 2 or 3 at each airport. We thought this would be an ice-breaker and maybe make things a little easier. It has been generally successful and sometimes extremely so. The number of the plane is on the hat, with an "N" as the first letter indicating a plane registered in the US.
When we landed today, we gave a hat to the handling agent who met us. He got our baggage to customs. We were alone there with the two customs agents. I gave them hats (they spoke no English), they smiled, stamped our passports and pointed us toward the cab stand. As we walked out, one of the agents ran after me and handed me the patch you see in the bottom picture next to the hat. It's a government patch for the unit that is assigned to the airport. We all smiled and nodded and we took the cab to the "Grand Hotel." We walked around a bit and got something to eat. (Sharon, Bill & Judy had Pizza. I had Kielbasa.) We're resting now and will go out to dinner soon.