We had been looking forward to our stop in Prague for a variety of reasons, above and beyond the fact that it looked like an interesting city to visit, and had a museum dedicated to sex toys. First of all, it marked the halfway point on our European adventure. But mostly because we were taking a break from using AirBnBs and treating ourselves to a bit of luxury.

We had upgraded to a platinum AMEX card before planning our trip, and those bonus points and the new perks allowed us to book a room at a very nice hotel, the Grand Mark Prague. Luxury surroundings, a spa, indoor pool, rec center, and two restaurants - one a Michelin star venue! We thought it would be a nice treat before we headed off to Croatia for two weeks, then on to Barcelona and Lisbon before returning home.

However, on our transfer day, we both were feeling pretty poorly with fevers and sore throats – Rita much worse than me. We had packed the night before, and caught our Uber to the train station. We were very early, because we were not sure how hard it would be to find our way around the depot.

It was a longer wait than expected, as our train was almost an hour late and we were feeling worse as we waited on the platform in the cool morning air.

Finally it arrived, and we managed to make it on the train and plop into our seats. Not the fanciest train, but hey - only $18 each, Vienna to Prague!

It was an uneventful but longer ride than anticipated, as the train had to stop to allow other traffic past several times. But at least we could relax for the five hour trip.

 By the time we got Prague, we were both ready to drop. I knew we were only a couple of blocks from our hotel, but figuring out where we were and which way we should go, and then dragging our luggage down city streets just seemed like an impossible task, so we called an Uber. Once again, very glad that our eSIM was working so well for us and we were able to make the call.

An embarrassingly short ride later, we were in front of the Grand Mark. We managed to get through the check in process, and up to our room, which indeed was very nice.Welcome to the Grand Mark Prague

Living roomKitchenetteIncredibly comfy bed

Rita immediately got into bed and passed out, but my throat was bothering me so much I decided to go out and try to find a pharmacy to get some lozenges. I also wanted to get us some milk for coffee and a few grocery items - the idea that we had room service now hadn't sunk in yet. Hey, I was kind of feverish, after all.

I actually found a tremendous mall just around the corner and got everything we needed. I made it back to the room, realized I could call room service for some food so I ordered dinner, and settled in to try and feel better by morning.

Tremendous three-level mall just a few blocks away

By morning however I was quite ill, with high fever and my throat felt worse.  Rita was in really bad shape, too weak to even get out of bed. Fortunately, I did a search on the internet and found a local doctor who made hotel calls. He came out that same morning with a nurse and diagnostic equipment, and quickly got to the root of our problems. Despite our having two vaccines and two boosters, we both had managed to contract Covid-19. Even better, we each also had separate bacterial infections. Rita had strep, mine was unidentified. 

Istanbul, I’m looking at you!

We most likely picked it up in the crowds of Istanbul, as we started feeling some symptoms towards the end of our stay in Vienna. I had that high fever once that caused us to take a one-day rest break and miss Budapest, but I assumed it was just fatigue from all of the exploring.

Fortunately, he had all the medications we needed for the symptoms and the bacterial issues, and he went out and got us the Paxlovid to treat the Covid infection. Within 24 hours, we are both doing much better.

It didn’t come cheaply though, as Paxlovid is quite pricey  in the Czech Republic. Like $2400 each pricey. All in all, the visit and the treatments came to just over $6,000.

Let me pause here to pat myself on the back for having the wisdom to buy Trip Interruption and Trip Cancellation insurance during our planning stage.

As we started feeling better, we now had an important decision to make. Should we continue with our trip, and just trust that we would feel well enough in just four more days to continue on to Croatia?

Part of the problem involved that Trip Insurance. We were pretty sure we could get the cost of the doctor visit and treatment reimbursed with the documentation the doc provided, since medical coverage was included in the policy. In fact, it was no problem at all. AMEX sent us a check for the entire amount less than ten days after filing.

The gamble would be on whether to file for Trip Interruption. The doctor wrote us both notes with his recommendation that we should return to the US to convalesce, but if we chose to go on to Croatia and we were still ill, we would need new examinations if we had to leave.

On the other hand, we had to decide soon because we would have to start canceling reservations and flights, and looking for the fastest transportation back to Knoxville when it was time to leave Prague.

Reluctantly, we decided it was best to remain in seclusion in our hotel until time to leave, and to call a halt to our plans for more travel and go home to fully recover.

I cancelled our AirBnBs, flights, and car rentals, and started searching for flights from Prague to Knoxville. The best I could do was an Aer Lingus flight to Dulles that stopped in Dublin along the way. From there we would rent a car, drive about an hour out of town and stay in a hotel one night, completing the trip with a five hour drive back home.

The rental car sounds crazy, but it was actually cheaper and easier than getting a flight for that last leg from Dulles to Knoxville. We would have had to get to and from Dulles to a hotel since there were no flights until the next day, then another day of flights from Dulles to Charlotte to Knoxville, and driving just seemed easier and less stress. Also, in case we were still contagious, we would have less contact with people.

We were very fortunate that we were in our nice hotel for our illness. We were able to get room service for all of our meals, and relax and recover in very comfortable surroundings. We didn't get to explore the hotel's amenities or restaurants, but we did feel good enough by our last full day to slip out and walk around part of the town.
One of the activities I would have loved to try

Our hotel was really well-placed, so it's a shame we didn't get to take advantage of that. Here's a few pictures that we took just making a short circuit around the area.

The Astronomical Clock

By the time the day came to leave, we had finished our Paxlovid course, and I was feeling pretty much normal, just a little tired. Rita was still a bit under the weather. All in all, we probably made the right decision to cut our trip short. We need get to Croatia sometime in the future - I was looking forward to sitting on the Iron Throne on one of the Game of Thrones tours!

We had a longer than expected layover in a rather dingy part of the Dublin airport, but other than that our return to the states was moderately uneventful. One bonus - the flight from Dublin to Dulles was mostly empty, so we were able to stretch out for the long leg. Rita was able to lay down across three seats in the center section of the airplane and take a nap.

What did we learn from our trip? Well, we should have worn masks more often in crowds, and should have been more careful about drinking water or using ice in Turkey and Greece – any place with plumbing systems more than a couple of thousand years old probably warrants some caution. Also we were reminded that these things can happen, especially for seniors, and insurance is always a good idea. 

Speaking of insurance, when we got home the checks for our medical bills were waiting for us, and although I was asked to provide a bit more documentation, we were also reimbursed for the non-refunded AirBnB payments, cancelled flights, and even for the new flight we had to book to return to the US. That $1,000 investment in insurance saved us a little over $9,000.

We also know that next time we will plan longer stays in fewer locations to minimize the stresses of packing and moving – and we have some strategies for planning our packing better.

And there will be a next time. We just spent a month in Panama City, Panama and are currently halfway through six weeks at the beach in Playa de Coronado.

We also have made a rather radical decision to try and sell our home and car, invest the money in secure high-interest savings accounts, and set out to roam the world for two or three years.

Are we crazy? Did COVID affect our brains? Possibly. There will be more about this in coming posts, and of course you can follow along real time by following our podcast, "Travels With Jim and Rita", available at https://travelswithjimandrita.buzzsprout.com/2292506 and all major podcast platforms.