This post will remain at the head of the blog for the duration of my current road trip. You can track my tour map here.
Please chip in with suggestions for things to see, people to meet and diversions to make.
My photo course is over and the farewells said. We had a celebration dinner this evening in a restaurant by the river with a wonderful view of Prague Castle. A slide show of the participant's best efforts has been prepared by the organisers and I hope to post it here in the next few days, once I have been able to download it and host it here.
Tomorrow (Sunday) I shall drive to Berlin via Usti Nad Labem in the Czech Republic and (if I have time) Dresden. My first stop is for tea and buns with Tim Worstall, the author of one of my favourite blogs. The second would be just to see a city I have never visited before.
The most delicate operation of the day is to reverse Speranza out of a very narrow entrance to the hotel car park. She has been accorded pride of place at the upper level to avoid the need to descend a ramp that might have been too steep for her road clearance. This secure billet has no room for a three-point turn however! Should be fun. The fans she has made among the hotel staff will no doubt help me.
Prague is much-photographed. I had many shots of it in already. We brought the Misses Paine here from our then home in Warsaw when they were young. I visited many times on business. On one memorable occasion, I led an entire Czech beer hall in singing the Welsh national anthem - in Welsh. They set to with a will. In my memory (probably made unreliable by vocal-chord lubrication) their rendition would not have disgraced the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.
This week, however, we "serious" photographers were on a quest for the picture that millions of visitors to this beautiful place had not found. I am not sure I pulled it off, but it was fun trying. It was also fun watching the public's puzzlement at my odd antics.
This evening (Good Friday) we were set the task of photographing "a face in a place"; a local person in their work context. I went to a bar and drank myself brave; after seven or eight pilseners finally broaching the subject with the barman.
An assistant credit should go to my new friend, Joe - an American engineer working at his company's head office in Germany. Not only did he lend moral support but he held the off-camera flash just out of shot.
My fellow-students took a bus from Vienna to Prague yesterday. Having bought yet another "vignette" to drive on the Czech "motorways", I met them at the lunch (and photo shoot) stop in the UNESCO world heritage city of Telc. Speranza performed patiently at the slower pace of motorised Czech life, but we had some "Ferrari moments" passing the many trucks that suggest Czech trade is booming.
One of my fellow-students, a charming lady from New York, hitched a ride from Telc to Prague and the time flew by as we chatted about this and that. Once again this proved that I would be far more comfortable as an American. The political views that terrify fellow dinner party guests in London went down perfectly well with her.
We had a sunset shoot in the Old Town and - having done the whole tourist thing many times before - I amused myself by photograping photographers making clichéd Prague photos. I call it paraphotography.
Grüß Gott! I had a splendid run through Germany to the Austrian border this morning. I left Nuremberg at 0700 so had a quiet hour or so before traffic built up and was able to improve on yesterday's speed. Bear in mind that's still short of Speranza's maximum by some 26kph. So there's still something to shoot for on my runs to and from Berlin.
Weather and road conditions were generally good but there were quite a few roadworks to spoil the fun. As I neared Austria, the weather turned bad and I was reduced to positioning myself behind proper cars, rather than the trucks and "mommy vans" people inexplicably favour. A regular saloon doesn't throw up blinding spray onto the windscreen of a chap in a Grand Tourer. If you must drive trucks, people (and I can't imagine why, when I so rarely see them loaded) please fit them courteously with mudguards!
I met my friend - let's call him Forrest - after he had completed his section of the Vienna Marathon. You see him here with the Q (whom some may remember from the Great River Road section of my American Road Trip 2013) and the Q's son and heir.
I joined the whole relay team (from various Central & Eastern European offices of my old law firm) for lunch afterwards. It was hot, brown and tasty but not helpful to my weight loss campaign.
Especially as, after the initial briefing for the photography course I am attending, the 16 participants, trailing spouses and faculty went out for another Austrian meal. I shall walk it off tomorrow though as street shoots are good exercise.
The Q pointed out something I had never noticed on many previous visits; that Austria is one of the last countries to retain the hammer and sickle - if not in quite the classic Soviet form - in its national heraldry. Here's the proof.
I note the imagery of the broken bonds but have to say (despite my retirement from political blogging) that those tools forged more chains in their day than they ever broke.