As we packed up and caught the train to Brussels airport, it seemed like we had just arrived in Belgium....and whoosh we were off again. The flight to Prague was an uneventful 90 minutes. We arrived and caught the Cedaz shuttle to Namesty Republiky (Republic Square). From there it was a short two stop ride on the metro (yellow line) to Karlovo Namesti (Charles Square). We found our way to the apartment we were staying at and checked in. The woman in charge, Lucia, was fantastic, quickly whipping out a map and giving us advice....the best of which was; "you can ride the tram and metro, but really, everything is so close, if you like walking you should walk." We weren't staying in the tourist laden Old Town, but in the area south of there called the New Town. It quickly became clear that Prague was a bit more edgy than Brussels, and yet, things were still pretty easy, with a few exceptions I'll detail a bit later on.
The first thing we needed to do was get some lunch. I had put together a list of possibilities organized by area and after walking the streets behind the National Theatre we found Hospoda u Novaka.
Hospoda literally means "pub" and the folks eating (and drinking) here all looked like locals....smoking is allowed in most pubs and restaurants in the Czech Republic and based on the amount we took in with the place almost empty, I can imagine how it gets here during busy periods. Our server spoke rudimentary English, just enough to get us a menu. We found this to be the case in many places, folks spoke just enough English to get by and sometimes, none at all.......I will say folks were really good natured at our butchery of simple Czech phrases like "hello" (dobry den) or the one that I just always seem to butcher, dekuyi - thank you. It also seemed that my pronounciation got worse the longer I stayed in the Czech Republic.
I started with a draft Gambrinus, a pilsner, very light, slightly sweet, highly carbonated, they really like a good amount of head when serving beers in the CR. This was very run-of-the-mill. The Missus had a dark that was also non-descript as I can't remember anything about it.
We'd come here expecting hearty traditional Czech dishes and we weren't disappointed. The Missus got the "vepřo-knedlo-zelo" - Roast pork with dumplings and cabbage.
"Cabbage" here means the vegetable either braised, pickled, fermented, or all of the above. It can be very sweet as most of the red cabbage preparations were....so the Missus was fine on this count as She loves this stuff. The bread dumplings were like a medium dense bread. I never found any potato dumplings that I enjoyed.; most were waxy, flavorless filler that just kind of stayed put in your belly long after eating. I'm sure that tradionally this was the purpose of the Bramborové Knedlíky. The roast pork was, well porky, pretty tender, and hearty, there wasn't a huge portion of protein, which I think also served a traditional purpose.
I ordered the Gulas.
A hearty beef stew, with just a smidge of heat, but with a nice bovine flavor.
As you can see, this was stick to your ribs stuff.
Hospoda U Novaka
V Jircharich 2
Prague 1, Prague, Czech Republic
The hearty meal meant that we had to burn some of it off and the Missus was rarin' to go. We headed north and came upon busy Narodni Tridna, full of shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Taking a slight right, we arrived at the beginning of Wencelas Square, busy, vibrant, full of history (more on that later), This was one (of several, it would turn out) of the Missus's favorite places in Prague.
I'll go more into the area in a later post...especially since, like the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square, we came here every single day we were in Prague, sometimes a couple of times!
As I started up the square, which is more like a boulevard, the Missus stopped me and said, "I have to get that." What was it? Another Chanel bag? Some shoes? No, She had spotted this stand.
"Shut up, give me some Euros, and get out of my way....."
Which I did post-haste, as no one stands in the way of the Missus when She has meat in tube form in front of Her.
Still, I wondered why in the world the Missus wanted this stuff, until I saw this.....
It was a pickled cabbage bar.....in other words, the sausage was just a vehicle for sauerkraut....egads!
She managed to eat all that cabbage and the sausage....She dumped the bread, the Missus now has the popular belief that gluten is bad for you. I made a quick mental note to stay upwind of Her for the rest of the day.
We headed back up Na Prikope and ended up in front of this rather ominous looking structure. It's called the Powder Tower. This Gothic structure was once a gate in the city wall and was also where gunpowder was stored. It stands next to the beautiful Municipal House and is a good landmark to help you figure out where you are.
Funny thing, I like to think we're pretty good at directions; but for some reason the location of the Old Town Square got us confused and turned around a couple of itmes during our first stay in Prague.
This was another of the Missus's favorite places in Prague.
Crowded with tourists, touts, and cafes, this is usually the last place the Missus would want to be. But there was something about how lively the place was....plus, the Missus fell in love with the "thingamajiggy" known as the Astronomical Clock.
Built in 1410, this is the third oldest astronomical closck in the world. Rather than me going into all the details, you'd be better off reading this. My first reaction to the thing was, "can someone tell me what time is says it is?' At the top of the hour "Death" pulls a cord which rings a bell, windows open and statues of the 12 Apostles roll on by......which for some reason got me humming "It's a Small World". The rooster on the top crows and it's over...like in a couple seconds and I'll post photos later of what seems like thousand of people standing looking upward waiting for this to happen, especially at noon.
Much like Manneken Pis in Brussels much of the fun was watching the folks watching the clock. And of course people watching is fun as well. You notice some amusing things, like this three people with their special telescoping "selfie tool". Really, someone actually carries this around in case they need to take a selfie?
At the Northwest end of the square is St Nicholas Church, again, more on all these places a bit later on.
We quickly noticed something about Prague, which would be true about the other cities in the Czech Republic we visited as well. Folks here loved their dogs, they rode on the trolleys, trains, even going to work with their owners in the morning. Maybe that's one of the reasons we loved the Czech Republic so much!
Well, we ended up at a bridge alright....but it obviously wasn't the Charles Bridge.
Still, the views of the Charles Bridge from the Manesuv Bridge were quite nice.
Looking up there seemed to be storm clouds rolling in.....the Missus really wanted to get to the Charles Bridge...would we make it before the rain?