We had really enjoyed our time in Prague. While a bit more edgy than other places in Europe, there's an interesting sense of humor, the sights are quite stunning, as is the architecture. The lively city isn't full of itself, folks don't appear quite as jaded by the mass of tourists as other places, and the food is hearty. We had gotten to enjoy our large and spacious apartment, especially the fact that it wasn't located in tourist central....yes, there were the loud drunks pouring out of the bar in the basement at closing time and the place had so much security, locks, and gates, that you sometimes felt like you were settling into a fortress at night. Still, I think we got a lot out of staying just close enough to the sights, but far enough to interact with locals. The Missus has already put Prague on the "must return" list.
For our last meal, the Missus selected U Tri Ruzi. She had really enjoyed the beer, food, and ambiance of the brew pub the night before. And She really wanted the duck rillette again. So U Tri Ruzi it was.
I mentioned previously how much we loved the wall paintings, many of which involve the Czech history and love for beer.
And that Vienna Red went down as smoothly as on our previous visit.
We ordered the duck rillette, but were given the duck pate. We notified the folks of the mistake and they were going to swap it out, but we decided to just go ahead and have the pate....which was nice and creamy.
The Missus ordered the duck confit and asked if She could replace the potato dumplings with cabbage. They were nice enough to comply and so the Missus was in braised cabbage heaven with both red cabbage and braised sauerkraut.
The duck decently done, fairly moist with a simple, but good duck flavor. They braised the sauerkraut with bacon, so it was double delish for the Missus.
I saw the roasted pork knuckle on the menu, the price, something like 260 CZK, about eleven bucks sounded right. I was amazed at what arrived at the table.....holy smokes.
For some reason, I really didn't think they'd serve me an entire pork knuckle.....sheesh. The skin was adequately crisp, it could have been better, but the meat was very moist and tender, slipping right off the bone without being mushy, the seasoning simple and balanced. Unlike many cases of "the other white meat" here at home, this was nice and porky.
Our Server told us that people do actually finish all of it! He also said that they will be indicating that the portion will be enough for two on future menus.
We saved the leftovers and had it the next morning with all our other leftovers for breakfast before leaving for our flight.
U Tri Ruzi Husova 10 Prague, Czech Republic
The Old Town Square is just a block away from U Tri Ruzi. Being one of the Missus's favorite places we took a walk over one last time.
Tourists we strolling up and down the square as the shadows grew longer marking the coming of dusk.
Not bothered by the crowd and noise, a solitary dog bathed in the early evening sun.
We spent a few minutes soaking it all in, then headed back to drop off our leftovers.
Taking a few moments to reresh ourselves, we took our last walk in Prague. We decided on a walk down the Vltava River, just strolling, taking everything in.
Near the Most Legii (The Legion) Bridge we saw something that made us smile.......
Do you see it? Here's a closer look:
Two women, faithful canine in tow, heading off into the sunset in their paddle boat. This just seemed the perfect time to call it a day......time for us to head off and think about the next stop on our trip.
Thanks for reading!
And if you want a bit more about our time in the Czech Republic:
The day after returning to Prague, we started things early. We'd been to areas like Wenceslas Square, the Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square countless times. But after all of this itme, we hadn't visited one area, Hradčany - the Castle Quarter. Located up the hill from the Little Quarter, it seems that the Missus was "saving" this place for our last day in Prague.
The sun was shining brightly, even this early in the morning.
Though it was kind of weird seeing the Old Town Square so empty. Kind of eerie in the bright sunshine.
We had gotten used to the crowds, which made us fell like we were almost on a movie set. Strange, we usually enjoy having a place all to ourselves, but it just didn't feel right. Though it was great for taking photos.
Not dodging folks ocming right at and past you, we had a chance to notice other things....like this sign I love; "Techo! House! Jungle Rap ! disco duck?" You gotta love it.
The Charles Bridge was sedate, peaceful, sprakling in the morning sunshine as we looked up at the Castle Quarter.
The Missus decided we'd walk up the hill to the Castle Quarter (of course). Walking up steep Nerudova Street, you can't help but notice the charming buildings that line the street, various restaurants, embassies, hotels, most of which sport very distinctive signs above doorways.
These signs used to indentify the location/residences. Thing of them as addresses of a sort.....
Soon enough, we'd made it to Castle Square.....
Th courtyard area is quite impressive, though nothing tops St. Vitus Cathedral whose spires rise high above Prague and can be seen from quite a distance.
We had arrived pretty early and the ticket offices weren't open yet.
We wandered around just taking in the area, relaxing, grabbing a cup of coffee.
And then, one of those "only in the Czech Republic" moments happened. Every hour, there's a changing of the guard. Nothing odd about that. The band was playing, the sun was shining....then the music stopped and a motorcade appeared, though the car only had a driver. A demonstration of precision driving I assume?
They drove around the courtyard doing figure eights, loop-de-loops, and other patterns from the precision driver's handbook......
Then the motorcade drove away into the distance and the Castle Guards appeared, looking quite dapper and cool behind those shades. They went through a drill routine and marched to music from the band. I stopped when I recognized the music....I swear, it was the theme to "Mission Impossible"! Da-da-da-duh, da-da-da-dah.... Yikes! I actually filmed part of it on my iPhone but it never came out. Bummer......
A few minutes later, we had gotten our tickets and headed off...with the theme from Mission Impossible still playing in my head. Quick, try not to think of that catchy tune right now. Couldn't, could you?
The very Gothic looking Cathedral has quite an history. It was started in 1344, but plagues, wars, deaths of the various Master Builders, and lack of funds delayed the completion of the Cathedral until 1929, almost 600 years!
There's quite a bit to see here; the Royal Mausoleum, amazing stained glass work, The Czech Crown Jewles reside here, displayed once every 8 years. I was especially taken by the wood carving of Prague, which was done in 1630. You can still see familiar landmarks.
As we left, a visiting choir, walked to the middle of the cathedral and began an impromptu performance in an area that seemed to have perfect acoustics....it was amazing; beautiful and haunting. It actually gave me "chicken skin".
The view of the Cathedral form the back is no less impressive....
It is so large that it was used for jousting tournaments. In fact, that large stairway used for exiting the building was where the Knights and their horses entered the Hall.
The views of Prague are quite tranquil. It hard to believe that in 1618 two Catholic Governor's were thrown out of the windows of one of the offices in the Ludwig Wing by angry Protestants. Luckily, a dung heap saved them from certain death. This act, called defenestration, started the Thirty Years War.
As you exit the Palace, you can't miss the understated, yet stunning in its own right, the oldest existing church within Prague Castle, the Basilica of St George.
Originally founded in 920, the interior is fascinating and haunting, built in the medieval Romanesque style.
A few steps downhill and to the left is a small street of tiny dwellings called "Golden Lane".
Named for the Goldsmith's that originally worked and lived here, this tiny street also housed castle servants and was in use until World War II. Number 22 is quite popular since it was inhabited by Franz Kafka from 1916 - 1917. Ah, if those walls could talk.....
You exit via a staircase and thru a cannon tower, cum prison which is stocked with a few examples of....well....let's just say "devices".
I know, it's a loooong post and you're wondering "where's the food?" I know by this time we were getting hungry. Though the Missus has a way of making me earn my calories and this was no different. We walked the couple of kilometers to Dlouha, pretty close to Kolkovna to a place I'd read about perhaps 2 dozen times. A pub named Lokal.
The interior itself is quite interesting.....one long hallway....the smoking section is (thankfully) in the back. We arrived a bit early so managed to get a table with no problem.
I had read that the Servers here were actually supposed to be gruff and short with you....it's part of the...well, theme, I guess. But the guy serving us didn't have a nasty bone in his body.
It was a pretty hot day as you can tell by the photos. If there's anything Pilsner Urquell was made for, it was to quench your thirst.....amazingly, the Missus had two!
We started with the "Pork terrine with onion and vinegar dressing". This basically a head cheese, a very nice head cheese!
This was lovely, they don't screw around with flavor here. This was nicely porky, sour, pungent, and probably the best head cheese we had the entire trip.
The House Sausages with Mustard and Whipped Horseradish was fine, if not particularly memorable.
Meanwhile, the sausage made from Prestice Pig, a Czech breed, was very nice. Moist, very much like a tender Kielbasa....a very tender and moist Kielbasa.
The pork neck was very nice as was the gravy. You can order bread dumplings as a side.......which is all you can eat. Even though these might be the best I'd had in Prague, who could eat more than one serving of these belly bombs?
A pretty nice meal.
Lokál Dlouhá 33 Praha 1, Prague, Czech Republic
We rolled out of the place and walked, quite slowly back to our apartment.....those bread dumplings meant a nap was in order. We'd enjoy our last evening in Prague after a nice nap.
Returning to Prague of the Student Bus, we felt, well, like we were coming home. Returning to a city while on vacation always feels that way. We were staying at the same apartment, we knew where to get what we needed, it just seemed so familiar. After dropping our stuff off, we headed to some of those, by now, familiar places.
Starting at the Powder Tower and the Municipal House, one thing was definitely nicer....the weather!
Things were overcast and drizzly when we arrived, but now everything seemed so bright and shiny.
It's really hard trying to get everything in one photo here. By this time, we decided to start things off the next morning with a nice long walk....starting here. So on this day; we'd just, well, according to the Missus, "take it easy".
It was nice to just kind of relax and loaf around. We got a chance to take our time and notice things we missed before; like the House of the Black Madonna, an example of Cubist Architecture. As I mentioned before, each building has it's own personality, and yet, just blends in seamlessly into the city. The building is named after the statue of the Black Madonna mounted it.
It's all pretty unassuming, until you learn that this is the Ungelt Courtyard, originally built in the 12th century. This fortified area once housed visiting merchants and their good which would be put on sale at the Old Town Square. Having only two entrances meant things were secure.
Out the other end of the courtyard and you come to the Church if Saint James....which looks rather unassuming on the outside, but the interior is quite stunning.
It's quite a sight. This church is home to the Madonna Pietatis. The Madonna "piety" full of jewels. We never saw it; but according to what I read, there's a mummified arm hanging near the door......it's the limb of a thief who tried to steal the jewels from the statue. His arm instantly froze as soon as he touched the Madonna Pietatis....they had to amputate his arm in order to free him. The arm hangs as a warning to anyone with similar thoughts!
One thing we noticed during our travels, whether it's Hawaii, Greece, or wherever, are the Japanese wedding photos. And why should Prague be any different?
As we left the church, the Missus told me to "hurry up....it's almost time." For what you may ask? Well along with the Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square, the Missus has a thing about the Astronomical Clock. It was almost noon....the time for the best viewing of the best viewing time. Not of the clock per se....just watching folks, watching the clock.
First the crowd gathers......
So thick that even the folks having their wedding photo taken can't make it past in their limo.....
It's kind of festive.......i'm not the biggest fan of crowds, but I kind of enjoy this.
"Oh look....it's starting!"
"It's the grand finale....ok everyone, all together now....ready....aim....shoot!"
It's quite amusing.....though I hoped no one got their pockets picked....with everyone looking up and all. Then of course, you need to deal with the crowd dispersing.
It was now past noon and we hadn't had anything to eat since leaving Brno in the morning. I'd heard of a place close by; a microbrewery and pub, which supposedly had decent food by the name of U Tri Ruzi.
It's a multi-story restaurant....we never made it beyond the first floor.....we both got a kick out of the wall art.
We both loved the fact that there were several microbrews to choose from; a nice switch from the standard pilsner, light or dark, or half and half. My favorite was the Vienna Red; nice malty-sweetness, it goes down easy, but has some body. The semi-dark bock that the Missus ordered was a bit too boozy for Her. Tons of maltiness in this one, good tongue-feel, thick, bitter finish.
We decided to go light....but not really light....it was the encased meats and meat paste route for us. Starting with the duck pate.
Nice, creamy, not too "livery", good duck flavor....rich. Quite good!
The duck rillette was super......fantastic "duckiness", nice texture, with substance.
This was really good stuff.
The lamb sausages were ok, basically a mild facsimile of merguez. Don't ask me about the cabbage....I never got a shot at those.....
I finished things off with a Dark Lager. Quite a bit of carbonation on this. A bit too bitter for my liking, but not too heavy. At least it had some character.
So let's talk about price....I know I've said that everything in Prague is at least 30% more expensive (usually more) than other places in the Czech Republic. But....it's all relative. I wrote down the price of all we had, 560 CZK. Sounds like a lot, huh? Well, it was about $25 US for this. Not bad at all......try and get those prices in North Park!
U Tri Ruzi Husova 10 Prague, Czech Republic
Belly full of food and beer, I was ready for a nap....but oh no, the Missus wasn't having any of that. She wanted to check out Her other favorite place; the Charles Bridge.
Another hour had passed while we were having lunch. It seemed like we had to fight tooth and nail to get past the maddening crowd.
Strangely enough, the Charles Bridge seemed strangely sedate. A good amount of people, but not the mob we expected. And the Statue of John of Nepomuk seemed to revel in the sunshine.
It was such a bright, but still mild day, our best in terms of weather thus far in Prague. Everything looked just so much better....
Since we were in the Little Quarter, why not visit one of my favorite places.....the Lennon Wall.
On the way back to the apartment, we made the decision to self cater dinner. In Brno, we came across Sklizeno Foodie Market and I recalled seeing that in Prague as well. And what do you know.....I'm not (that) senile yet.
The conversation, or should I say, attempted conversation here was hilarious......we all tried so hard and at the end of the day it was mission accomplished. Yes the nap was also accomplished as well.
The Missus wanted to complete the trifecta of Her favorite places before dinner. So we headed out to Wenceslas Sqaure.
We headed out in a bit of a different direction, down some different streets. I have to say, some of the businesses were a bit interesting. I'm still wondering about Erotic City Supermarket......supermarket? One can only imagine what the produce and, ahem, meat aisles would be like. This one is a bit too easy.....so I'll let it go at that.
Wenceslas Square remains one of the Missus's favorite areas and I can understand why. The architecture, the vibrancy....there's such life to everything.
We'd been here several times already, so it was easy enough to take a seat and people watch. Or in this case doggie watch. This little pooch decided that he didn't want to walk anymore. His long suffering owner looked at us, said something in Czech, smiled, shrugged her shoulders, then picked the little spoiled guy up.......I'm thinking this is probably the norm for this pampered pooch.
Before heading back, we stopped at Tesco and got some pickled cheese and the makings for a salad.
The beer we got; we enjoyed the Kocour Weizenbock we had earlier, but the Kubik and the Saurus just weren;t to our taste.
Still, we enjoyed trying things that weren't Pilsners.....
And yes, I needed to try the Paprika Lays.....
Not so piquant, but slightly smokey.....
I sat at the window looking down at the side street below, somewhat worried about the thin woman who looked slightly od'd. Someone came by and got a cab for her.....
As folks poured out of the pub in the basement of the building I was staying in, I thought of the quirky sense of humor we'd encountered here. Not in the daily interactions, but in the stories and....i'm not sure if I should call it public art. Stories that had what I call the "Czech twist"...... There seemed to be a sense of irony and dark absurdity to things. One can't help but get involved.....so, if you're inclined, click on the photo to the right....... It's my contribution....
After lunch, we had a nice little nap. When we awoke, the weather had cleared. This was the first time we saw such clear skies in the Czech Republic. The Missus was ready to go back out exploring again.
Brno was a city with a great sense of humor, it seemed to thrive on a good story, with that little "twist" to it. On one side you'd see the interesting statue, take a look from another angle and it would look a bit strange, perhaps odd, maybe somewhat creepy......
Up on Petrov Hill, we headed back to the Old Town Hall.....which is a little treasure trove of stories....
The first thing you really notice are the pinnacles above the portal of the Old Town Hall.....and you quickly notice that the center one, the tallest and most obvious is strangely bent. Of course there's a legend about this one, right? According to one of the stories, the Architect and Sculptor Anton Pilgram who built the portal and pinnacles found out that he wasn't going to be paid for his work; so he decided to leave his not-so-little mark on the Old Town Hall....another story suggests that Pilgram was too drunk when designing the pinnacle, which led to a "little problem" when it was built. Shades of the "Indecent Little Man" of St James Church!
During the late 10th and early 11th centuries, there are stories of a great beast terrorizing Brno. It is said to have lived in a cave near the Svartka River, eating and tormenting the citizens of Brno. A butcher came up with a plan to rid the city of the "Dragon", he filled a pelt with quicklime (Calcium Oxide) and set it in front of the cave. The beast, thinking it to be an easy mark devoured the lime filled fur bag. When the beast drank water from the river, the exothermic reaction killed the beast which now hangs in the Old Town Hall.
So here's the Dragon of Brno:
Hmmm....sure looks like a crocodile to me. According to what I read, this was probably brought back from the Crusades. Though I prefer the Brno Dragon story.....
And then there's my favorite. It's about this:
Yep, a wagon wheel, but not just any wagon wheel. You see, in 1636, in a pub in Lednice a wheelright named Jiří Birk claimed that he could fell a tree, build his wheel, and roll it from the town of Lednice to Brno (over 25 miles) in a single day. This seemed like easy money, so a bet was made. Jiří Birk was a real master of his craft, and he managed to do what folks thought were impossible and win his bet. The amazed Mayor hung the wheel in the Town Hall. All's well that ends well, right? Remember, this is the Czech Republic, and boy do they like to add those little twists to their stories. After the feat, rumors started going around that Birk had made a bargain with the Devil, who helped him achieve his feat. Folks started avoiding him, he lost all his business, and Jiří Birk died a broke and broken man.
As we made our way to Freedom Square, the sunshine made Brno seem like a total different city from the one we'd seen the day before. Folks were out and about, walking their dogs....you know, I think people might actually take their dogs to work with them...we say them on Trams and at all times during the day...even having lunch with their owners in business suits.
Freedom Square was abuzz; there was a band playing, people were milling about..... this actually did look like the second largest city in the Czech Republic.
Everyone loves a nice, mild, sunny day....as these two young men illustrate.
Man, those kids made me hungry. It was time for dinner. We decided to eat at this pub, which we found out was another Pilsner Urquell restaurant.
By now we were used to the drill in these places; you head right in and find yourself a table. We found an area away from all the cigarette smokers......some of these places can reek of cigarettes when busy. Luckily, it was still early.
I started off with a Fénix, a light, wheat beer with citrus tones. It was very easy to drink.
Well, you know what we started with, right? Pickled sausages of course. These were really light in terms of sourness and really just tasted like Kielbasa.
Even though we were no longer in Olomouc, I wanted to try the Pickled Cheese.
I really enjoyed this. It was a bit more ripe, funky, milky, and had less of a waxy texture than Olomoucké tvarůžky.
I saw Pork Cracklins on the menu and of course had to order it. Fried pork with crouton like cubes of bread that seemed to have also been deep fried. To be eaten with more bread! Of course, there was that ramekin of lard to use as a spread....so hell, I'm not complaining about this one bit!
We also ordered the Smoked Lamb Sausages.
These tasted a bit like merguez, but I feel it needed a bit more spice and it really didn't have enough stronge lamb flavor for us.
This was a decent meal. We avoided most of the heavy smokers and got a couple of pretty good dishes. Remember when I said, "once you leave Prague" things really got inexpensive. If I recall, the entire meal, including 3 beers came in under $25/US, which I thought was bargain.....I mean really, who serves an entire serving of lard here in San Diego? If you do, let me know!
Brno was a blast, there seemed to be an offbeat sort of humor and it was without a doubt a totally different lifestyle. In the morning, when we were leaving the apartment we noticed that trash was being picked up. One of the guys opened up the area where the dumpster was contained. He called the driver and brought out two bottles of Pilsner Urquell, which were either left for them, or just thrown away. You can be sure they weren'r going to let those bottles go to waste. They popped the tops and actually clinked the bottles together in a toast and chugged down the beer, both finishing with an "aaaah"....things sure were different in the Czech Republic.
We were leaving for Prague in the morning. Back on the Student Bus. There were so many here in Brno, but there's one thing left unsolved and is still bugging me. On Masarykova is the oldest pharmacy in Brno.
But I still can't figure out what the lobster has got to do with the place...lobster...pharmacy...what's the connection? Also, why only the body of the lobster....what about the tail? Brno has so many stories...this one has evaded me.
The Missus seemed a bit pooped on our first morning in Brno, so I decided to let Her sleep in a bit and took a walk around the neighborhood.
There were quite a few apartments in the area we were staying. A street parallel to ours seemed to be one of the main avenues in the area; with quite a bit of bus and tram traffic. There were a good number of little shops on the street, several bakeries, convenience stores, a burger place, and the little shop with the humorous name to the right....at least you can't accuse them of false advertising, can you?
I got a couple cups of coffee and a pastry for the Missus...no, not from Junk Food Cafe.....
Bolstered by caffeine, we soon headed off, back up the street named Husova. While walking up the hill, something caught my attention.....
I pointed out this mannequin seated on a chimney which looked like a commode.
We walked off to one of the side streets to take a better photo of...well, what was it, an art piece? A political statement? Or perhaps yet another example of the quirky, sometimes odd, but totally funny Czech sense of humor?
Before getting to the main intersection which heads up to Cathedral of St Peter and Paul, we headed up some steps on the side of the road and ended up in a nice little park. We came to find out the name of the park is Denisovy Sady - Denis Park.
The park is situated on part of what was the city walls and was built between 1814 and 1818....which is pretty significant. There's is a obelisk in the park which was built in 1818 to commemorate Naploleon's defeat. You can read more about the park and the French occupation of Brno here.
There were some nice views from the park; this one is facing the area where our apartment was located. Though, I'm not sure what it looked like from above.
A street or two above the park is the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. Which I mentioned, along with a neat story about why the noon bells ring at 11am in this post.
We took a quick look inside.....
Then headed to the back area of the Cathedral...where we noticed gardens and terraces nad also a nice view. This is to the area at the intersection of Husova and Nadrazni..... I'm not quite sure why that tram goes right through the grass on the street, I thought it odd.
To the left you can see the train station, which we thought was kind of seedy. Also, the Tesco at which we shopped is also in view.
Notice also the stairs heading down from the former city walls. We knew that the Nadrazni went right around Petrov Hill, but never knew what a short distance it was....we'd found a faster way to Freedom Square! We ended up going down the stairs, past the still closed shops...passing Malinovsky Square along the way. On the square resides Mahen Theatre, a significant building....it was the first theatre in Europe to be completely lit by "Edison Bulbs", electric light bulbs. In fact, Thomas Edison actually designed the plans to light the theatre.
We were headed to a green belt/park area to the east of Petrov Hill....
It was along this area where Zdenek had indicated that the "Cabbage Market" had relocated while the original location was being renovated.. At the end of the park we noticed booths and tents set-up.
We ended up getting some tomatoes and headed off to our next stop; Špilberk Castle. Overlooking Brno, the castle has a long history.
The paths up were an easy little walk; though I was glad it wasn't raining anymore. The walkways would be pretty slippery when wet.
The castle currently houses the Brno City Museum. I castle is quite understated and not quite what you'd think upon hearing the word "castle".
The view though is wonderful.
After a short visit, we decided to head back to the apartment for lunch. We stopped off at a market we'd seen earlier in the day.
Appropriately named, this little market chain has a nice collection of upscale and health food products, nice meats, cheeses, and beer. The folks here were really nice, even though no one spoke any English, it was easy communicating and getting what we wanted.
As I mentioned in my previous Brno post, it was drizzling as we walked through Freedom Square. The rather dreary weather really didn't dampen our spirits though as we found the area to be quite interesting.....in that rather odd "Czech" way. Everything had some strange twist to it; an odd story......something would catch our eye that just seemed out of place.
Take for instance, historic St James Church. Along with its long history, going back to the 13th century, it also houses the largest ossuary in the Czech Republic, the second largest in Europe housing the remains of over 50,000 bodies. As I mentioned in my post on Capela dos Ossos in Evora, the Missus really isn't interested in this stuff so we skipped it.
Still, the interior of the church is quite impressive.
Beyond all of this, there was something odd about one of the statues on the exterior of the building.
Can you see it? No? Well, how about a closer look?
Doesn't it look like the little guy is mooning us, with his hand going up his......??? We thought this rather odd, so we did a bit of research and found this little guy is called "Neslušný mužícek" - the Indecent Little Man. Ah yes, the Brno twist. Depending on your source, this is a fairly normal type of sculpture of the late gothic period...or......the statue is facing his butt to the Cathedral on Petrov Hill, due to some rivalry or other colorful story. You know which story we prefer, right?
We walked a bit further, then headed off to Tesco to buy some items for dinner....all of the heavy food we had at lunch needed to be balanced out a bit.
After a short nap, we headed back out, back up Petrov Hill......it was still misty and damp.
Well, there's the Old Town Hall, so I guess there has to be a New Town Hall, right?
We then headed back down to Freedom Square and some familiar sights.
In what was a bit of good luck, we had noticed tents being set-up as we passed earlier.....
There was now music playing to the sparse crowd.
It turns out this was a food festival......I was told it was the "Mediterranean Food Festival", though all the booths were French. Regardless, this was nice.....
We picked up some cheese, grabbed some charcuterie....
The young man in the booth selling pate was so nice....he took time to chat with us about the various terrines. We ended up buying some rabbit pate that we brought back home to the states with us.
I even got some escargot to snack on.
All under the watchful eyes of the Four Atlantes (athletes).
It's too bad the weather wasn't cooperating as I'm sure the food festival would surely have been a hit.
We decided to head back to our apartment, skirting Petrov Hill and taking the round-about way back, passing the Cathedral of J. A. Comenius, also know as the "Red Church".....
As we walked down the street, the Missus stopped and went, "oh no...Chinese..." Good God, you could hear them talking three blocks away!
Just as when we arrived in Beijing, I heard one of the guys go, "huuuuaaackkk p-tew"..... Yikes! Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you heard someone letting go of a big wet one in the Sistine Chapel....
We made it back to our apartment and put together a nice simple, but satisfying dinner.
After all that meat, we needed some salad and my favorite beer in the CR so far, Starobrno.
We noticed Utopenci at Tesco, so we just had to try some.....the young lady manning the deli was so nice; she made sure to have some onion and pickle in each of the sausages.
There was all the great stuff we picked up at the food festival.
Of course the Missus needed Her fermented cabbage.....
As I looked out the window of our apartment, I thought we'd had a very nice day in spite of the weather.
And I was looking forward to another fine day.....
How we ended up taking the Student Agency Bus from Olomouc to Brno was one of those wonderful "mistakes" that happen when you travel. We walked to a window that said "Tickets" in the Olomouc Train Station. We asked for tickets to Brno, which were pretty cheap. We came to find out that we'd gotten tickets on the famous Student Agency Bus. This popular "yellow bus" service was originally started as an au-pair agency and has grown and blossomed into the second largest road carrier in the Czech Republic. We really enjoyed our trip on the student bus, it was comfortable, free tea or coffee, not very good, but still nice, movies, and most importantly, free wifi!
Plus you get a nice view of the countryside.
We arrived in Brno as scheduled. For those who have never heard of Brno, it is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. and the Judicial Seat of the CR. To be honest, I had never heard of Brno before planning for our trip. I'm glad to have done a bit of research and we're glad to have visited Brno. The folks were very friendly, there's a somewhat quirky sense of humor in play here as I'll describe in future posts....we call this the "Brno twist". Every story never ends where it should seem to. I have one little tidbit below, but there's many of these examples we'd discover over our short time here.
We had rented an apartment in Brno. The wonderful owner Zdenek even picked us up at the bus station, I'm glad we took the bus as the train station looks kind of seedy. Zdenek got us situated perfectly, he pointed out the location of the Tesco, across the main street and under the train tracks; also noting that the "Cabbage Market" had moved temporarily while the main square was being repaired.
After unloading we headed out to explore and grab some lunch. We were right downhill from the city center. It seemed like a bit of a hike, but really wasn't as it seemed shorter every time. In the end we found even a faster way. We passed the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul on Petrov Hill, a major landmark that you can see from many places in Brno. It is also placed a very important part in the history of Brno. In 1645, during the Thirty Years War, Swedish Soldiers had surrounded Brno. Olomouc had already fallen in 1641. Field Marshall Torstensson believed that Brno would fall in a week, but the local citizens had been holding the Swedes off for three months. Torstensson, furious and frustrated, called his officers into a meeting at a tavern telling them, "Tomorrow we shall make our last attack on the city. Before the bells on Petrov strike noon, Brno must be ours. If not, we shall retreat." Unbeknownst to the officers in attendance, the owner of the tavern understood Swedish. On the 15th of August, the battle began, the Tavern Owner worked to get word to the defenders of Brno. Just as the Swedes were breaking though the Brno defense, the tavern owner got word to the French born German Imperial Field Marshall, Jean-Louis Raduit de Souches. Souches found the bellringer, an elderly man whom he ordered to ring the bells of the cathedral as if it was noon. The bellringer managed to make his way up the tower, severely damaged from cannon fire and rang the bells. The Swedish soldiers, thinking that it was noon and they had failed in their mission retreated....and Brno was saved! I'm not sure how much of this is true and how much has been embellished over the years.....but it was stories like these that really brought so much color to our visit to Brno. Oh, and ever since that day, the Petrov Bells ring at 11 instead of noon each day.
The main square of Brno housed a couple of the sights that we really wanted to see; the Cabbage Market, the Brno Underground, the Capuchin Crypt. Unfortunately, as you can see, there was some major construction and restoration going on....bummer.
We decided to just find something to eat. Spalicek is supposedly the oldest restaurant still in operation in the city. This seemed like a good place to start.
The place was empty except for two tables, which seemed ot be manned with students, all having soup.
The menu is multilingual, which is usually a warning sign, but we were later told that it is also a favorite of students and visitors to the University. Folks also come here to get more traditional style Moravian dishes. I will say the menu is quite meat heavy...H-E-A-V-Y.
While Bohemia is known for beer, Moravia is known for wine, so while I went for the local brew Starobrno (owned by Heineken), the Missus tried a white....which was much too bitter for Her liking.
I still hadn't been particularly impressed with various pilsners in the CR. This was the first that I really enjoyed; clean, fizzy, slightly grassy; this was a nice refreshing pilsner, with a bit of character.
One of the dishes I'd read about, but had not really seen on a menu was smažený sýr, fried cheese......yep, fried cheese. So of course I ordered this.
Three different types of cheese; the best one was a soft, semi-ripe cheese....which I was told is Hermelin. Served with something like a tartar sauce, this was fine, but nothing I'd order again.
Based on my previousposts, you know of our affinity for the pickled sausage known as Utopenci. So naturally, if it's on the menu, we'd be ordering it.
These were pretty good; not as sour as we liked, but it did refresh and had decent flavor. It also goes real well with beer!
We decided to share the traditional Czech Sampler - Starocesky Talir, which seemed to have every meat in the world.
If you're keeping score; roast duck breast (not bad, though on the dry side), roast pork neck (chewy, but good flavor), smoked sausage (good flavor, overcooked), and "ham" (smokey, great flavor, but really tough). Red and White Cabbage, which the Missus enjoyed....She's rarely had fermented cabbage She didn't like. I actually thought the bread dumplings were some of the best I'd had so far; it wasn't too dense or chewy.
To put things into perspective....this huge plate was about $14/US....... So you can't really be too disappointed. As we were eating large groups started coming in, so the place is popular with tourists. Service was nice, though a bit overwhelmed once they got busy. This is considered on the high side in terms of prices.....but man, compared to Prague.....
Restaurace Špalíček Zelný trh 332/12 Brno, Czech Republic
After lunch we headed "down" to the area known as Freedom Square. This used to be known as the Lower Market and is the oldest square, dating back to the 13th century.
In spite of the drizzle, we enjoyed the wide open area....the tram (which we never needed to catch) goes right though the middle of the square.
You'll find quite a few interesting sites right around the square....among them, well, what else, the local Plague Tower.
This one was originally built in 1679.
In Freedom Square you'll notice a structure that looks out of place. It's this black "obelisk".....which looks like something else......I'll let you're imagination work on this one.
This is a typical Brno "twist" story..... This is actually a modern astronomical clock, built to commemorate the Petrov Bells...which is why I wrote the story about it above. Everyday, at 11am, a glass ball comes out of the "clock" and rolls around the grooves in the structure which was built to resemble a rifle cartridge....BUT, in the typical "Brno twist" kind of way, it's called something else by many locals. Now this clock cost 12 million CZ, about $570,000 and you don't quite know where that glass ball is going to emerge from so many folks actually miss that part...... You gotta love it!
In spite of the weather, we kind of lucked out by being here....you'll see why in an upcoming post!
I know...1300 words+. If you hung around, I think you for reading!
There are some benefits associated with staying in corporate style hotels.....many of them have pretty hefty, buffet breakfasts included.
The Missus and I went over the plan for the day over breakfast. Being right across the street from the train station also had it's benefits. We had decided to do a day trip to the city of Kroměříž, where the Archbishop's Summer Palace, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We caught the train to Hulin, changing to a tiny little train which was more like a single car to Kroměříž. Exiting at the train station, we made our way up to the main square. Things were pretty quiet on this day.....
Except for some music....we followed the notes and were treated with a nice performance in front of the local museum. That kid on the left was really getting down....to traditional Czech Folksongs!
The main reason for coming here was to visit the Archbishop's Chateau and the gardens. Unfortunately, the gardens were closed because of all the rain.
So we decided to just have a short walk around, then head back to Olomouc. It was nice to just get out and about....once out of Prague, we found folks to be much more friendly, laid back, and things were much cheaper.
Then we headed back. The train trip was kind of funny because apparently there was some kind of glitch with our train transfer. The attendant on the train didn't speak any English and he tried so hard to explain to us what was going on. Folks here are friendly....all I had to say was "Olomouc" and one of the other passengers used sign language basically telling us to follow her....which we did, ending back up in Olomouc. We then got on the tram....right tram, wrong direction, to the amusment of the tram operator....who basically told us to just stay on. In other words we got the scenic tour. And ended up at our destination Moritz Microbrewery.
Like many similar type businesses, this was a basement type deal. On a wet, windy, and cold day, this was a cosy deal.
We had been pretty disappointed with the beer in the Czech Republic so far. But since we were at a microbrewery....
And we were pleasantly surprised, the 10° was quite refreshing, clean, mildly hoppy, but with nice floral-citrus to my palate. This was by far the best beer I'd had in the CR so far.
Being in Olomouc, well, we had to have the Hanácká česnečka - Garlic Soup.
Bitter and much too salty.....
Seeing what became one of our favorite items; the Utopenci, basically pickled sausage, one of the things we brought back with us. This was a bit too mild for my taste.
As I mentioned before, at places like this there are "lunch specials" which are really cheap, under five bucks US. The problem being, these specials are never written in English and even more interesting, in Olomouc they specials are written in Hanakian, the local dialect. For the Missus this was a challenge....She decided to randomly order something from the local menu and went ahead and chose something at random.
Which was this:
Basically pork and bread dumplings....... for about four bucks. I'm sure this would surely fill up the hungry local!
Tired of Gulas, I ordered ribs....which seemed so cheap at under ten bucks......kind of scary actually. I was shocked when this hit the table.
Man, this was like 3/4 rack of spareribs........lightly seasoned, but with some smoke flavor. This really wasn't too bad.....could not even come close to finishing this.
We ended up taking most of this back to the room, having it for dinner.
Heading back to the hotel, we stopped by the Lower Square.
Which seemed so quiet.......
I'm not sure if it was the weather, or if this is normal.....
We'd be leaving in the morning, which is an interesting story itself. We enjoyed our stay in Olomouc, but were looking forward to our next destination.
After lunch, my main objective was to catch the tram back to our dry, warm hotel room for a much needed siesta. The Missus however, had other plans, the clock was inching its way to high noon and the Missus wanted to see the "show".....which, unlike what happens in Prague lasts a whole six minutes...which seems like 60 minutes in the wind and rain. It was just the Missus and I, plus about 4 (of 12) hardy, perhaps foolish, obviously tourists who actually stood and watch the parade of figures march by. The original clock was said to be the grandest in Europe, but it was destroyed by the Nazis in World War 2. This version was rebuilt by the Communist regime in 1953. So instead of apostles marching by, you get milkmaids, blacksmiths, teachers, chemists....good communists one and all!
So, while the clock in Prague had me humming "It's a Small World", this one was more like, "Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it's off to work we go....."
There are many fountains in the Upper Square area. most of them have characters out of Greek Mythology. There's one of Caesar, who is said to have founded Olomouc, though the city was once a Roman encampment, there's no documentation that Caesar actually ever visited in person.
But my favorite, is the Turtle Fountain right next to the Town Hall.
The turtle is said to represent Olomouc's ability to persevere. On its back resides a pillar on which there are etchings of maps and other documents. The fountain itself is called the Arion Fountain which actually depicts the story of a poet saved when thrown overboard by a dolphin and yes, there's a dolphin and I suppose the poet.....but it's the turtles I remember.
We did eventually make it back to our room and a short nap ensued. After which, the Missus was ready to get going. So we made the same walk we did earlier.......
This time around, in spite of the angry looking clouds, we took our time. We turned up a street and found St Wenceslas Cathedral. Not only is Olomouc a college town but the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Czech Republic is located here. It was established in 1063..... So a visit to St Wenceslas Cathedral just seemed to be the right thing.
Being the seat of the Catholic Church, there have been many esteemed visitors. Their visits have been documented on displays within the cathedral, Pope John Paul II (more on this later) and Mother Teresa (Matka Tereza) jumped out at me.
And while I'm a sorta-kinda agnostic-thiest, born Buddhist, raised Jehovah's Witness, grown to cynic.....I respect the beliefs of others.
I also find the history, as much as I'm willing to scratch, fascinating. And yes, those are photos of Mother Teresa's visit.
What seemed a bit strange to us, was, while Olomouc has a population of over 100,000 with an urban population of about 500,000, things just seemed mighty quiet.
We headed back up to the Upper Square area and it seemed almost abandoned.
The Missus also wasn't sold on my choice for dinner either.....and it became even tougher when we had to try and find the place. Which, we of course finally did, a non-descript simple building.
And yet, there seemed to be no activity. However, this was no sign of what was actually going on within St Wenceslas Brewery. As you walked to the door, you could hear the buzz of conversation. This was the largest concentration of people we'd seen in Olomouc so far!
Like most places in the CZ, you saw a table and went for it....then you ordered every single beer on the menu.
Which is what we did. And you should do as well. They do like a good "head" on their beer here.
Our server was totally awesome, he was friendly, kind, accommodating, and willing to let us try every beer they had. My favorite was the 12°, which, while not outstanding, had a distinct peppery bite to it. To be honest, we still hadn't had anything that got our attention.
In one of our favorite moments....the Missus asked our very friendly server if She could get and order of "just cabbage".......really, all She wanted was fermented cabbage. Aiyah. The server said he's asked the kitchen.....and guess what?
She got Her plate of cabbage! Just for this; if we're ever back, we'd come here in a second.
Of course there was more beer.......
While waiting for our check we noticed a group of gentlemen wandering around looking for a table. Well, in the Czech Republic, it's "dining Darwinism" when it comes to that. I grabbed one of the guys and told them we'd be leaving soon....just hang on and we'd be done. It turned out that they were visiting professors from Chile! So, who know who you might meet at Svatovaclavsky pivovar?
Saint Wenceslas Brewery (Svatovaclavsky pivovar) Marianska 4, Olomouc, Czech Republic
As we headed back to the hotel we noticed people...many more folks than we'd seen before, standing in lines. After looknig around a bit we found that it was "Museum Night" in Olomouc, where admission to various Museums were free. We couldn't help but indulge!
And while we enjoyed the dramatic displays at the Natural History Museum, our favorite photo was this.......
Giant Rodents looking at a kid who wants to be a giant rodent!
On the way back, we decided to stop by the Archdiocesan Museum, located next to the St Wenceslas Cathedral. This museum was built after Pope John Paul II's visit, when he asked the Archdiocese and the city to build a museum to document/celebrate its history.
We had a great time visiting the museums. What was quite apparent was the hospitality and pride of the locals. They obviously knew we weren't from these parts, but went out of their way to welcome us. Moravian pride and hospitality........
Ever heard of Olomouc (Oh-loh-moats)? Well, I wouldn't blame you if you hadn't. We here in the states seem blissfully unaware of any city in the Czech Republic not named Prague. The Missus' tolerance for staying in one city is quite low, knowing this, I had to come up with a plan. I thought why not travel to some of the other cities, not the big tourist destinations, but real cities, with real people. The city of Olomouc appealed to me because it is the historic capital of Moravia and is a University town. There's supposed to be quite a bit of history here.
It was quite rainy and overcast during our stay in Olomouc and we were kind of glad to be staying right across the train station.
On the good side, it was easy finding our hotel, after staying in apartments staying in a rather corporate hotel felt like a nice change of pace.
Especially when you can get a suite for under a hundred bicks a night!
Did I mention that once you get out of Prague, things are really inexpensive?
The down side? Well, it only five tram stops to the center of the city....but, if you decide to walk it, like we did, it's at least 20-25 minutes, which seemed much longer with the cold wind and intermittent showers.
Still, we found the City Center with little difficulty. The Royal Town is made up of the Upper Square with the Town Hall and the Lower Square, where several churches and the market is located.
One of the main sights on the Upper Square is the Plague Tower (Column of the Holy Trinity).
This striking, yet ominous looking spire was built in the 18th Century as a monument of thanks for surviving the plague that ravaged Moravia between 1713 thru 1715. It is the tallest tower of it's kind in Europe. Master Stonemason Václav Render designed and donated his entire fortune to build this tower. As we found, the Czech people love a little "twist" or tragedy....so they'll quickly add, unfortunately, he died before its completion and thus, never saw the beauty of what he designed.
We found Moravian folks to be quite friendly, yet quite proud....there also seemed to feel a bit of competition with Prague. They'll be quick to tell you, "our tower is a full six meters taller than Prague's". Astronomical Clock? "Ours runs for a full six minutes at noon, not a mere few seconds like Prague!"
Both sights are next to the Town Hall. In fact, on the day we were here, there was a wedding party taking photos in front of the Plague Tower. Which I found odd for some unknown reason.
I also quickly noticed how empty the town squares were....I'm not sure if it was the weather, or what, but after Prague, this just seemed so quiet.
After checking a few sights out, we went looking for lunch. Unfortunately, our first choice Hanacka Hospoda seems to have closed down so we had to go to "Plan B". Walking through the Lower Square and outside of what seems to be former city walls we found Drapal, which, like Kolkovna is a Pilsner Urquell Restaurant.
I'm not sure what it was, but we followed a sign at the door around the corner, only to find it led to nowhere....the door was actually where the sign was posted, duh.
You usually don't hesitate in most places in the Czech Republic. You see an opening and go get the table, waiting around will draw stares.
Our server was a very nice young lady who didn't speak a lick of English. The menu however, was translated into English. There is a little "local secret" with many of these restaurants; they have a very cheap lunch menu. Mainly for locals, this list is never written in English. Here in Moravia, it's actually written in the local dialect. Here in Olomouc, it's the Hanakian dialect.
Of course this being a Pilsner Urquell restaurant we needed to start off with a couple of brews. A pilsner for me, a Half and Half for the Missus.
I had done a bit of research before our trip and there were a few regional specialties we wanted to try; starting with Hanácká česnečka - Garlic Soup. If you've read long enough, you know I love garlic, so I couldn't wait to try this.
We tried this just about everywhere we went in Olomouc. This was probably the best one as it wasn't too salty and the beef based broth didn't have a strong artificial flavor to it. I enjoyed the garlic flavor, which (of course) I didn't think was very strong at all. There's a nice heartiness to this soup which had croutons, sausage, and some Olomoucké tvarůžky - Olomouc stinky cheese in it, making it actually Loštická česnečka.
Speaking of stinky cheese; Olomoucké tvarůžky, we needed to try this.
This is classically eaten on bread with butter, and no kidding onions! I really didn't think the cheese was particularly smelly, it did have a mild smell, sort of like feet, so I'm thinking Brevibacterium is used to ferment the cheese. Brevibacterium linens is the bacterium which causes foot odor....don't you just want to out and grab some Limberger right now. The cheese is very waxy and low in fat, it has PGI Status in the EU and only cheeses from Lostice is allowed to be called Olomoucké tvarůžky. One other little detail, this cheese is supposedly aged under meat.....
For my main, I chose the Spicy Pork Neck in potato pancake.
The pancake was really salty which really knocked the dish off kilter.
The Missus went with the standard pork neck with cabbage and dumplings.
The pork was adequately tender and moist. It had a decent pork flavor. The fermented cabbages was not bad, though the Missus is a sucker for these.
We still weren't sold on the waxy potato dumplings, nor the rather dense bread dumplings, and this did nothing to change our opinion.
In the end, this was a really inexpensive (like under $25 with beers) and hearty meal, which went well with the rainy and windy weather. In spite of not being our first choice it was still and enjoyable meal. We were now ready to head back out into the rain and wind.
Original Restaurant Drapal Havlickova 1 Olomouc, Czech Republic