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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Europe Trip Day 13: Prague - day trip to Nizbor

On June 6th, we planned to take a day trip to Nizbor, Czech Republic where the Ruckl Crystal glassworks factory is. This was supposed to be the day with the most questionable weather so we purposely chose it for this activity. Although it never did rain, it was a mix of sun and clouds - more on the cloudy side but perfectly fine weather. We heard about the crystal factory from Megan's friend who had been before. We woke up, got ready and walked to the train station and bought tickets. To get to Nizbor take a train to the Beroun station and then get on a small motor train to take you to Nizbor, all explained in the Rick Steves book. The entire journey takes about an hour. The train to Beroun was pretty empty so we had our own compartment just like in Harry Potter but more modern and without any owls.

Once we arrived in Nizbor you have a short walk to the factory... the town seems very small and kinda in the middle of nowhere so it wasn't to hard to see where the factory was.

At the factory we bought our tickets to take the factory tour and were told we had about 30 minutes or so to wait until the next tour time. We passed the time by looking at the beautiful crystal in the shop. They had a Pittsburgh Penguins trophy.

During the 45 minute tour they start off by explaining the history of the crystal factory and ownership.

They talk about the job. To work with the crystal you train for three years and then do an apprenticeship.

You get to walk through various parts of the factory. First is where they are using heat to form and blow the glass. It was quite eye opening as there seemed to be zero concern for safetly or regulations. No OSHA here for sure. At the same time employees were working with fire and glass we saw them smoking, wearing headphones, wearing flip flops, not seeming to pay attention and sitting in a random seat from a car that happened to be in there among other things. It made me nervous for them although no one looked phased.

There was the quality control room to check the glass. They also see if anything with imperfections is repairable.

Then our guide explained how the different designs in the glass are made prior to taking us to that room.

Then glass cutting, grinding and painting. Again they were working with these wet saws to cut the glass into specified shapes without much protective gear at all. It was amazing to watch them work so quickly too, true craftsmen and women.


After the tour you are led back to the shop, of course. The main purpose of coming here was to buy some affordable crystal and ship it back home. It is really high quality and in Prague was marked up at least 3 times compared to right from the factory. The crystal is made of 24% lead so that stuff is heavy, no joke.

We all picked out some gorgeous pieces. I knew immediately I wanted this one side dish sized bowl I saw when we first came to the shop and then I also picked out a couple more things for myself and for my family. Megan picked out a bunch of crystal items for herself and others. One item she fell in love with was this huge basket shaped crystal that could be used as a big punch bowl or just decor. I'm pretty sure an entire Nizbor family can now eat for a year since Megan bought that basket. They were loving us.

The bowl

The basket

When we were checking out we were told that they do not ship items. You must take them with you. That was slightly disappointing especially given how much stuff we had and how heavy it was but we decided just to seek out a UPS or DHL right when we arrived back in Prague to ship them that way.

We wanted to grab a bite to eat in Nizbor but there was literally nothing. We found a very small grocery store and bought some crackers, nuts, raisins, cheese and fruit to eat for lunch. We made our way back to the place where the train trolley picked up to go to Beroun. This is showing all of our loot.

Then boarded the train in Beroun to Prague. We ate our "lunch" during that train ride.

Once we arrived in Prague it took us a bit to figure out if there was a UPS or DHL nearby. No one we asked seemed to know so we finally got wifi and saw a DHL was a few blocks away.

Well at the DHL we were told they only ship express back to the US, no ground shipping, so the cost to ship our stuff would have been much more than we even spent on the crystal in the first place. Ridiculous! They pointed us in the direction of the post office several blocks from there.

The post office was huge with at least 10 different windows/booths. You take a number like at the grocery deli counter and wait for it to show up on an electronic board above a window where a post office employee will help you. After waiting and then explaining what we wanted to the post office man at the window, it was immensely clear he spoke zero English. He tried really hard but yeah.... He did manage to somehow communicate that they don't sell boxes (which we definitely needed) but had a couple random boxes in the back that he gave to us so we could pack our stuff in it.

We noticed there was a TI (tourist information office) in the corner of the post office. Megan and I went to wait in line and talk to the man there who helped us with the exact forms we needed and wrote down in Czech what we wanted so we could just hand it to the post office worker. We had already been in the post office awhile and were worried about it closing but the TI man informed us the post office is open 24 hours. Wait a minute... grocery stores close at 7pm but the post office is open all the time? What?

We then went to the packing shop area of the gift store to buy packing peanuts and tape. We carefully assembled the two boxes the post office man gave us with our boxes of crystal and packing peanuts. There were just a couple of small items that weren't going to fit right so we decided those could just go in our carry on luggage. Then we took a new number and waited again. Sure enough we happened to be called to the same post office man's window. He must have been thinking it was his lucky day for sure!

We were able to ship both the boxes with insurance on them (not sure how we would have really made a claim on that but it made us feel better) for a reasonable amount and much much cheaper than the DHL. All in all I think we were in the post office for like 2 hours. Honestly UPS needs to just set up an office in Nizbor and offer ground shipping. I can't say I would go through all that again... I'd probably just pack an extra carry-on bag for crystal and then check the carry-on I came with. We did contemplate this if the post office hadn't worked out but I think the crystal basket probably wouldn't have fit. Anyway if you go to the crystal factory, keep the shipping part in mind. They did sell plenty of small pieces you could have fit in your luggage FYI.

After all that we deserved some ice cream... well even better, gelato! We went to Angelato, which I highly recommend. It is a pretty small shop but all the flavors we tasted were delicious!

We stopped at Bakeshop (again I know!) to pick up some cookies for later that night. How convenient it was on the way from the center of town to our apartment :)

Then we headed back to the apartment to relax for a few minutes and decide where to go to dinner. We looked through the restaurant recommendations from the apt owner and decided on Pizza Nuevo. It was actually in the same area as the mall with the grocery store at Revoluční 655/1. It was in between casual and dressy but seemed family friendly too. We were seated immediately in this open room upstairs where diners have a slight view into the kitchen where the wood fired ovens are, the takeout portion is downstairs.

We had delicious wine, salads and Naples-style pizza with thick crust on the edge and thin crust in the body. Yum!

After dinner we went back to the apartment to enjoy our cookies and Eric and I went on a little walk down to the river.

Only 1 more full day left in Europe!

Update on the crystal: believe it or not the boxes did arrive on June 19th! Woohoo! We were crossing our fingers it would show up and we had no idea how long it would take. Only 1 item ended up broken (a vase Megan purchased that we think they didn't end up wrapping in tissue like the other items) and out of all the stuff we bought we considered that a success!

1 comment :

  1. Just to be clear...the blog post doesn't even begin to describe the real horror of those post office hours...everyone was exhausted, thirsty, had to pee, etc...needless to say the wine and beer was much needed at our delicious dinner!! Still though--despite it all--it was a HILARIOUS day and the kind of thing that only happens to us!! I might also add that the basket is a prized possession now and has made its debut at a bridal shower with beautiful fruit...amazing!!


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