Oh they are smart, these Tauck professionals.
They could tell some of us were outliers, the nervous renegades at the edge of the herd, snorting and stomping at the idea of being rounded up.
So they gentled us in to it. First with an elegant evening of fine dining, and then, oh, just a little walk through old-town Prague the next morning. No big deal, of course, but here, hang this Vox Box around your neck and follow us.
Vox Box? What the…?
It’s kind of like lasso-ing the wild stallion, getting that Vox Box around the neck of a solitary wanderer. But Tauck has their ways. They are the travel whisperers. One day the CE viewed himself as a proud lone-wolf traveler. The next day, he gave it up, swang the lariat over his head and full-up joined the herd:
We went from never having heard of a Vox Box to obsessing over its whereabouts at all times. Did you remember the Vox Box? Is the Vox Box charged? Is your Vox Box turned on, is it on the right channel? Don’t step too far away from the group because your Vox Box won’t work and then all is lost!
Okay, so maybe you look like an idiot drone tourist, yes, but the Vox Box is actually a great little accoutrement. Your tour gaggle can proceed in almost monastic silence, not disturbing others around you, and your guide, well ahead of you, can almost whisper into her microphone, with just the occasional flag raise to keep stragglers in line. She eased us into it with a brief stop at Prague’s lovely St. James Basilica:
And then, assured that we were all behaving, she moved on to the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia. This is one of those experiences we probably would have missed if we had been on our own. Left to my own devices, I would probably have spent the day walking back and forth across the Charles Bridge because I love it so, but Tauck gave us a glimpse of this jewel instead.
Agnes was the sister of thirteenth century King Wenceslaus I, who donated the property along the Vltava River for the convent. Agnes and her followers were influenced by the Poor Clares, dedicated to caring for the ill.
Today the convent houses an exquisite trove of medieval art. The quiet, austere setting of the convent makes it a perfect showcase for sacred paintings and sculpture. A few of my favorites:
Madonna of Vyšehrad (Prague, after 1350):
Madonna from the Franciscan Monastery (Prague, after 1350):
Madonna of Roudnice (Prague, around 1385)
We emerged, blinking, from the barely-lit convent into the mid-day sun, clutching our Vox Boxes and looking to our guide for our next move. Just like that, we had become part of the herd.
And then – just like that – she released us with a wave of her hand. “You’re all free for lunch,” she said. “Just don’t lose your Vox Box!”
Free? On our own? However would we manage? We ambled tentatively down the street and ducked in to restaurant V Kolkovne, Vox Boxes secured in an effort to retrieve some sort of cool factor (that’s a joke, I know full well we have no cool factor whatsoever).
Tafelspitz and that famous Czech Pilsner Urqell were on the lunch menu, and thus fortified, I could almost face the looming prospect of an afternoon and evening touring by ourselves!
One last solo dinner in Prague, one last walk across the Charles Bridge and through the beautifully-lit city of Prague, past the grand doors of the Klementium and then back to the hotel to pack our bags for an early morning departure.
Truly sorry to leave beautiful Prague, but we would be ready to go at 9 a.m. sharp. With our Vox Boxes! Because now we were fully-tamed, full-fledged members of the herd…and happily so!