Written by Sue Legro
If you are at all like me, you had no idea where the disposable diapers were located in the drug store until you actually had a baby of your own. In the supermarket, your vision glossed over when you passed the baby supplies (and not just because they were right next to the chocolate aisle). And you wouldn´t have known a baby carriage from a stroller if someone had held a rattle to your head.
An important part of my (ongoing) crash course on parenting in Prague involved the mysterious rites and rituals surrounding pram travel. While it is entirely possible (and surprisingly convenient) to get around without a car in Prague, it definitely helps to know the system.
Stop that Tram!
Hopefully, however, there will be other people who look strong and sober nearby to help you with the pram (remember: there is always the driver as a back-up). A simple “Muzete mi pomoc?” (MOO-zhe-teh mee PO-mots?) combined with pointing at the pram is sufficient to get some help. Be careful about where you board: in older trams and buses, prams enter at the rear of each car; in newer, boxy trams and easy-access buses, there is one entrance in the middle of the car.
Regardless of who helps you, you should be above your helper on the steps when you enter or exit the car (i.e., you board first and alight last). And don´t forget to signal the driver when your stop approaches by ringing the bell above the tram door (or the button on the bus handrail) twice. This signal is the only way that the driver knows to wait for you to alight before leaving.
The new roll-on, roll-off buses are a delight; you don´t need to ask for help or lift anything, and their coverage is increasing. You can find out which routes and times include these buses by checking the tri-lingual website http://www.dp-praha.cz/cz/index.htm (accessible buses are marked on the schedules with a wheelchair user icon). Many mothers with very young babies have also had good experiences using a baby carrier or sling on the MHD, which also allows you to board easily.
The metro presents its own set of adventures. Many stops are not accessible and may require asking for help with stairs. However, two key stops downtown do include elevators to take you and your baby to the platform: Hlavni Nadrazi and Museum. If you are up for taking your pram on the escalators, the local practice is to have your baby and pram above you at all times (i.e. you step on backwards going down and roll on forwards going up). Try practicing a few times without a new baby in the pram!
Mothers with twin strollers face the most challenges with local travel–as if they don´t have enough already! Both common types of twin-seaters are too big to fit on buses and trams (although more compact sibling front/back models have been seen on the metro). One mother consulted has had luck with a single stroller for one twin and a backpack or front carrier for the other (this also works for closely spaced siblings).
The Daily Grind
Getting around Prague sidewalks and crosswalks can be hair-raising to say the least. While cars are required by law to stop for you in any crosswalk, drivers are not always inclined to do so – be careful! Local groups like Prague Mothers (www.prazskematky.cz) are working to improve the situation, and they provide stickers for windshields saying “Don´t park on the sidewalk!” (available free of charge) – perfect for those frustrating moments in the center.
If you need access to a car for an off-hours or out-of-the-way trip, taxis are an easy option. AAA Taxi has always been courteous about having our car seat in their cabs – don´t forget to bring yours along on the trip! While Czech law requires child seats only on highways, studies here have shown that most accidents occur on local roads. Why take the risk?
Getting Away from It All
Trains are a terrific way to travel both for day trips and for longer journeys. There is nothing like being able to nurse, feed, and change your baby without having to make a stop along the way! It´s a bargain – children under 2 ride free on Czech Railways and in neighboring Slovakia and Austria – not to mention a safer option than car travel.
If you´re planning a day trip with a pram, many commuter trains in Prague are accessible (check www.idos.cz to see schedules – accessible trains are marked with a bicycle icon). If you take a pram on the train in the Czech Republic, there is a flat fee of 6 CZK; if you take a folding stroller and fold it once you are on the train, there is no charge!
While you cannot take prams with you onto Eurocity trains, you can send the pram ahead for a small fee or travel with a stroller or carseat/stroller combination at no extra charge. Many Eurocity trains have parent/child compartments, and with a small child you get priority seating.
Big Wheels for Little Ones
Finally, if you´d like to explore the great outdoors (or even that nice park behind your flat), there are several products available in Prague that will help you on your way. Jogging strollers have finally arrived in Prague, although you may be the first in your neighborhood to have one. The store Dve plus dve in Prague 4 (www.dveplusdve.cz) sells two models of chariot-style strollers that convert to bike trailers and can be used from 6 months of age. Other bike options include rear-mounted seats, which are available at most larger cycling shops in Prague. Robert Sterba, a highly-regarded cycling shop in Prague 4 (Sezimova 10) also sells a special attachment that allows the child to piggy-back onto an existing bicycle with his or her own pedals and seat. And don´t forget a helmet – they are required by law for children up to age 12! Helmets are available at hypermarkets and cycle shops throughout the city.