All aboard on Prague's new ferry link

Photo: Rosie Johnston

Visitors often admire Prague's integrated public transport system. But it doesn't just include trams, buses and the metro - your 20-crown ticket is also good for a number of ferries in the Czech capital. Tuesday saw the launch of a brand new ferry service across the Vltava. Radio Prague's Rosie Johnston was there for the good ship Josefina's first crossing, and has the story:

Jaroslav Knapp, photo: Rosie Johnston
The Bohemia Sekt was flowing for the maiden voyage of Josefina, a ferry which now runs between Prague's Podoli and the Smichov district on the other side of the Vltava. The ferry is an extension of the capital's integrated transport system, which means you can jump on using your CZK 20 tram or metro ticket, though the link is being run by Vittus group, a private firm. Jaroslav Knapp was one of the people behind the idea, and also takes his turn to captain the boat. He explains the idea behind this ferry link:

Photo: Rosie Johnston
"It's a big problem to get to the other side of the river on a bus at this time of the afternoon. The journey can take an extremely long time with all the traffic, so I think that we will help a lot of people get to work, and get directly home from work, without a big delay."

The ferry goes every half an hour from the stops Lihovar to Veslarsky Ostrov, though if you get there late and miss the boat, then you can always give the captain a call, says Knapp, and they will come over to pick you up at no extra expense. The ferry runs from six in the morning to ten at night, and is aimed, in particular, at commuters. But on its first outing, it seemed to impress a younger audience too:

Photo: Rosie Johnston
"I think it is really practical, and there are some definite advantages to it when you just want to get over to the other side of the river. I wish it went further up to the artificial beach over there, though. But the boat ride was fantastic - I have to say. It's been so long since I've been in a boat, and that was really super!"

This is not the first ferry of its kind in Prague. In June, a ferry link between Charles Bridge and Mala Strana was introduced, though this was specifically aimed at tourists, and a ticket to ride costs 15 times the amount of one for the Josefina. Every summer a ferry links Prague Zoo up with Podbaba, in the north of the city, as well. All of these routes were served by ferries in the past, but one by one, they all died out.

Photo: CTK
Following on from the launch, Captain Knapp took me for a spin in one of the smaller boats that he rents out. Down on the river, the view up to Prague Castle was really spectacular. So, would Mr. Knapp capitalize upon this and turn his ferry into more of a tourist-y, sight-seeing, venture?

"I think first and foremost, this is a service for Prague residents, because they are really the ones that have been asking for such a service. We rent boats already here, a lot of people have been coming to us and asking us to take them to the other side. So, we are aiming this at people from Prague 4 and Prague 5 especially. But of course, if a tourist comes along, we are not going to have a problem with that at all. Most of our clients will most likely be from Prague though."

Photo: CTK
At the harbor, this bystander seemed to agree that it would definitely solve his transport problems:

"Well, I have been missing just this sort of connection for quite some time, really, because I live in Barrandov here, and it is quite natural to want to cross over to Podoli to go to the swimming pool, or Zlute Lazne [a summer bathing spot]. As far as I remember, this business started last year, this boat hire here, and as far as I'm concerned this is a very useful expansion."

Photo: CTK
Josefina is a tiny little ferry which seats eleven, as this is the easiest boat to get a license for. But if you are a cyclist or a dog-owner, then never fear! There is plenty of space for you bike or pet, and prams are welcome too.

Just looking at poor little Josefina though, begs the question, how would she bear up in a storm?

"We are running this service until October, but we will wait and see the feedback from our customers and then decide whether to run the service all year round or not. The only problem for us is when it floods. Obviously, when there are floods, we have to close our service down. But a bit of rain, or the cold weather, doesn't affect us at all."