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....
Actually, we had quite a bit of leftovers and decided to drop a place we passed early in the morning.
So we decided to dodge the raindrops on the way back to the apartment and see what the place had to offer. Havelské Tržiště (Havel's Market) is the oldest market in Prague, dating back to the 13th century.
Two-thirds of the market stalls seem to be dedicated to souvenirs, which looked pretty inexpensive compared to other places. Stalls at the other end are dedicated to mostly fruit, with some vegetables.
We managed to find some good cherry tomatoes and lettuce for dinner.
Back at the apartment, we did most of our packing, we'd be headed out to our next stop in the morning. After a short nap we decided to take a nice walk along the Vltava River. I just love the buildings in Prague......there's no uniform nod to any one style, which makes each structure unique.
There are a couple of islands in the Vltava River, the largest being Slovanský ostrov. The island was gradually formed by deposits from mills in the area. It is a pretty good sized island.
There actually was an objective to all of this. The Missus wanted to see the building named the Dancing House (Tančící dům). This distinctive structure was designed by Vlado Milunić and a very familiar name - Frank Gehry. I've been to two Gehry designed structures, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, so this made it a nice trio.
I guess it does kind of look like a couple dancing, thus the nickname, "Fred and Ginger". Perhaps tilting your head a bit brings a bit more life to the structure?
Well, maybe not.....
Having reached our destination, it was time to head back.....at this point, the Missus decided that we should have a last beer in Prague. So we found Minipivovar U Medvídků, a microbrewery owned by Budvar
The place was packed, so we decided to just grab a couple of beers to have after dinner.
The Oldgott Barique Ležak 13° seemed to be a higher alcohol version of the "half and half", half dark, half pilsner. The aroma was on the sweet side, but the beer was woody and bitter, not my favorite combination.
The X33 was basically a doppelbock, kind of funky, almost sour scent, foamy, but with a mild fruity initial taste.
Hm. We were still looking for something in the Czech Republic we liked. And we'd sure keep trying until we found it!
We awoke early as we usually do when on vacation. It seemed the sun had risen even earlier as it was bright and sunny when we stepped outside.
The Charles Bridge was to be the first stop this morning. There would be no messing around with the weather and getting lost in the streets around the Old Town Square. This time we headed west and walked along the Vitava River. Along the way we passed Kranner's Fountain, which you can read about here.
And then of course, there is the view of the Charles Bridge, Little Quarter, and Castle Quarter looking like it came fresh out of a postcard.
The bridge really had a strange pull on the Missus...well perhaps it was Prague itself that drew Her. We kept coming back to the Bridge at all times of the day. Each time it seemed to have a different personality. On a morning like this, it seemed so peaceful and serene.......
Construction of the bridge was started in 1357. In keeping with all the lore surrounding the bridge; Charles IV, in addition to being Roman Catholic was quite interested in astrology and numerology. In order to have luck on their side, the palindrome 135797531 was used to guide in the building of the bridge; which started on 531 am on July 9th, 1357. Apparently, Charles IV's Astrologers also noted that this would be a favorable time to start as well based on the positioning of Earth and Saturn.
The bridge itself features 30 statues, the earliest of which was built in 1683. All of the statues have been replaced by replicas, which seem aged and "gothic" enough to suit my taste.
Of all the statues, the one thing the Missus wanted to see was this plate.
This marks the spot where John of Nepomuk was thrown off the bridge and drowned by the order of King Wenceslas....I guess he wasn't "Good King Wenceslas" after all? Apparently John was the priest to whom the Queen confessed all her sins. Of course the good King wanted to know all the juicy details, but John refused. Thus, he was tortured, but still refused to give up the goods. The King decided to put an end to John by throwing him off the bridge. Notice the five stars? Apparently, when John hit the water five stars appeared above it. Time has been good to John, who became Saint John of Nepomuk, the National Saint of the Czech Republic. His statue, also on the bridge is probably the most popular.
The bridge ends right below Prague Castle in the area known as the "Little Quarter" (Malá Strana). Originally the area where the ethnic Germans settled, some of the architecture still reflects that time.
We headed right up the street and had an espresso at the cafe right in front of the Church of St Nicholas. As you can see, clouds were forming, it was getting to be a bit windy, and it looked like rain was again on the way.
After our cup of fortifying espresso, we headed right back down the street toward the bridge. What, were we done? Not quite. Right at the Little Quarter end of the bridge; before the tower are stairs. These stairs lead to "Kampa Island", built from the rubble of the Little Quarter.
Water was diverted to feed the waterwheels of the various mills that were located on the island. If you'd like to see the last existing water wheel, you can see it by finding the bridge with all the "love locks" - padlocks sometimes inscribed with names or initials, the keys are thrown away to symbolize a love that cannot be broken.....
How quaint....though the cynical side of me wondered out loud, "in how many cases have these locks outlasted the unbreakable bond?" Which had the Missus mark me as "unromantic". To which I replied, "ok, how's this.....my love for you is unbreakable....it is forever....now let's go to Home Depot and buy a lock!" The Missus reponse? "You're right...I'm better off telling you to give me a couple of hundred bucks to go buy some lululemon......"
Yet, right after this conversation, all my synicism melted away.....
Right around the corner and down the street is the "Lennon Wall". When John Lennon was killed in 1980, this wall was suddenly filled with artwork and graffiti. I can only "Imagine" what the music and lyrics of the music of John Lennon and the Beatles would mean to those who felt repressed by the Communist regime. I've read that the wall would be whitewashed constantly; only to have it full of graffiti by the next morning. In the end, it had become a symbol of freedom and perhaps, an agent of change....a wall. To this day new messages and artwork is constantly added, the originals are long painted over.....but, if you take time to read them, dodging the photo opportunity "peace sign for the camera folks" ....some of it can be very touching.
For me, this was probably my favorite place (other than sitting in a basement having some sausages and beer) in Prague. We'd return one more time to the "Lennon, not Lenin" Wall. Funny thing is, the folks that now own the wall are the Knights of Malta! So, two years ago we went ot Rhodes and I found out about the Knights of St John, who were defeated by the Ottomans and settled on Malta, which we visited last year.....I know, I'm way behind on travel posts.....but if you only knew how much I want to make these posts "right".........which takes a large chunk of time when you do things "stream of consciousness" style.
After this we headed up Ujezd....the area is colorful, though we were now dodging an occasional drizzle. There was one last thing I wanted to see. Up on Petrin Hill, in a serene, park area is this sculpture.
It is a haunting piece.......the human figures start whole at the top, but slowly appear to disintegrate as they move down the hill. This is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. Down the middle of the sculpture the inscription repeats, "205,486 arrested, 170,938 forced into exile, 4,500 died in prison, 327 shot trying to escape, 248 executed......" Kind of heavy I know.......
We walked back up and around.....the Missus wanted to "save the Castle Quarter" for when we returned.....
Where I saw what is probably one of my favorite signs of all time. You can't say the folks here have no sense of humor, can you?
We walked past a variety of people......folks who seemed to be government bureaucrats, tourists, locals trying to make a buck. And yet, this area didn't seem quite as touristy for some reason.
And so we ended up where we had been the day before.... more confident and comfortable....but still not quite sure where the heck we were.
I pride myself on having a decent sense of direction....but what the heck, who really cares, right?
Soon enough we were at...guess where?
Yep, Old Town Square....and the Ooompah Band was playing "If I Were a Rich Man"...... Take a left right past St Nicholas Church and you're at the "high rent district" with upscale shops and upscale shops. Right past this is the Jewish Quarter........the Missus and I were in need of a break by now though I really wish we spent more time here.
When we're back, we'll spend much more time here.......
At this point, two things were happening; first we were getting pretty hungry....second, it was starting to rain. This meant we needed a stop for lunch, which was close by.
There were several restaurants I had on my "list" in the area, but Kolkovna was the closest. With raindrops starting to come down, we decided this should be the place.
I believe this restaurant is owned by Pilsner Urquell, not necessarily a stamp of approval in my mind. The restaurant does look slightly corporate, but there's a non-smoking area in the basement.
The menu is large and full of items ranging from Greek Salad's and Jambalaya (???) to Moravian Sparrow.
Kolkovna is known to have it's Pilsner Urquell delivered "tank style" straight from the brewer, so that was obviously the way to go. The Missus went with a "half and half" - half Pilsner Urquell, half Kozel Dark.
We started by going with a sampler of Czech beer food type items.
Much of the charcuterie was fairly routine; ham and head cheese. What we both really loved was the pickled sausage, called "Utopenci", which literally means "drowned man". Typical of Czech humor, this pickled sausage is either named after the creator of the dish, a pub owner who got drunk and drowned to death, or because the sausages bobbing in their jars resemble......drowned men. Either way, we loved the tart-sour-porkiness of it. We'd have it almost everywhere we could, even from Tesco, but this was our favorite by far....the most sour. The pickled cheese (nakládaný hermelín) had both that wonderful perky sour flavor and the fermented milkiness. It's made with hermelin cheese which is like camembert.
The Missus went with everything but the kitchen sink.....the Bohemian Platter.
In case your keeping score; beer sausage, thick cut "bacon", smoked pork, sparrow (gamey), red and white cabbage, bread dumplings, and a duck leg.
Nothing really stood out and of course the Missus said the duck was missing Five Spice.
We took a lot back to the apartment and had it with dinner.
It was an interesting way to taste a lot of dishes......and yes, this is for one person!
I ordered the Cabbage Pancakes.....think of potato pancakes with sauerkraut and bacon in it.
These looked greasy but were not. Nice crisp exterior, some smokiness from the smoked pork, a little tart-sour form the cabbage, this went well with the garlic-sour cream condiment. It was also a bit lighter than it looked. Since cabbage was involved, you know the Missus loved this.
Overall, we thought our meal here was decent and would return if in the area. Service was casual but efficient and our server was kind of funny, even joking with us. Of course, as we left the place started getting crowded, it was a good decision to eat early. The prices were also reasonable; we ate all of this and had 3 beers for about $45 US.
We had intended on getting the the Charles Bridge from the Old Town Square but had ended up at the the Manesuv Bridge. As we headed down toward the Charles Bridge storm clouds could be seen above the Castle Quarter. Indeed, by the time we reached the very gothic Bridge Tower we could tell that it was going to start pouring. Umbrellas started opening and in a matter of a minute or two it started coming down....our little travel umbrella came in quite handy. As I started to walk toward the bridge, the Missus told me to wait, "let's go back to the apartment and save the bridge for early tomorrow morning...." So we turned around and crossed the street in front of the "Klementinum", the National Library.
We made our way down the side streets and suddenly ended up right in front of what became our major landmark and daily stop for us, the giant Tesco Department store.
After our heavy lunch, we decided to grab some head cheese, cheese, and makings for salad for dinner....and a couple of beers as well of course! The lower level of the department store houses a large supermarket with just about everything you would need.
Our apartment had a huge living and bedroom, plus a serviceable kitchen area. Our flat was on the third floor with a view of tiny Odburu Street below. We found the amount of "security" a bit over-the-top, the deadbolt on the door to the street was super heavy duty....it nearly broke your fingers to turn the key. Then, once in the building there was a security gate, which was heavy-duty, making me feel like we were headed into a super-max. The door had a knob lock, deadbolt, and alarm system. One can never be too secure I guess.
Nevertheless, the place was large, comfortable, and dealing with the folks at PVH Odburu was a joy. It was nice to be able to come back after a long day and hang out here. The location was great, not in tourist hell, but just a 15-20 minute walk from everywhere.
We've come to enjoy apartments when traveling, this one had a washer/dryer as well. Of course, we tried to take full advantage of the kitchen.
This was a nice, light, and satisfying dinner. Of course the Missus had to have Her cabbage. Later, on our return trip to Prague we found a decent specialty shop down the street with a better selection of charcuterie and cheese.
Having just been in Brussels, the beer in Prague had been a bit too "light" for our tastes. Though I bought this as sort of a novelty.....
I saw this and knowing the history just had to check it out. No, it's not who you think it is. You may think that Budweiser is an "All-American" beer, but there's been a fight over then name for 108 years. Anyway, České Budějovice (aka Budweis) is actually a city in the Czech Republic. You can imagine what an ugly trademark war has been taking place. I'm not sure you even know that Anheuser-Busch is actually owned by a Belgian Company, InBev. Well, whatever, this "Premier Select" was actually pretty good....it was in fact, the best beer we had in Prague our first time around. Light, but not "lightweight", mildly hoppy, with a sweet finish.
Dinner done, but with a good stretch of daylight still in front of us the Missus decided that She wanted to walk around a bit. The skies had cleared up a bit, so we headed out.
The Missus wanted to go back to Wenceslas Square, which is more like a boulevard that stretches from the National Museum to Na Prikope which basically borders the New Town and the Old Town.
It's a lively place, full of tourists and locals alike.
We loved the varying architecture, each building was unique, like snowflakes. Like the Art Nouveau Hotel Europa.
With all this historic architecture, it's easy to forget that "Czechoslovakia" was a Communist, single party government until 1989. From November to December of 1989, the event called the Velvet Revolution took place, with demonstrations and strikes leading to a transition from single party rule to a parliamentary republic. According to what I read, crowds of hundreds of thousands gathered here when it seemed that a new age was at hand.
We soon realized there's so much history here, that if/when we're back in the future, we'd look into getting a private guide and do this right.
There's a statue of Saint Wenceslas....yes it's Wenceslas I, aka "Good King Wenceslas". Which stands across the street from the National Museum, which was closed for renovation during our stay.
Darkness started to fall as we headed back down the square. We paused to listen to the really talented guy playing what I believe is a Cimbalom. This dude was really good; he was jamming to the standard "Autumn Leaves" and doing some pretty good improvisation. The Missus thought it funny that I could recognize the music being played by street musicians and small bands.
There was one more place the Missus wanted to check out before heading back....yep, Old Town Square.
Though the crowds had thinned, there were still a good number of people milling about.
We then headed back and settled in for a nice night.
The place had great wifi, so I went ahead and did a post, and opened up the two beers I had gotten earlier at Tesco.
I really didn't care for either. Did you notice the "degree" values on the beer? No, it doesn't mean percentage of alcohol, rather, it's a percentage on the Balling Scale measuring the sugars in the wort before fermentation. There is an indirect correlation to alcohol content; a 12 degree beer will be stronger than a 10 degree beer, but the alcohol content of a 10 degree is about 3.5%.
We'd had a pretty busy day which led to a wonderful night of sleep. Which was good since the Missus had a busy day aplnned for us!
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.
"Good god, after that lunch you want a sausage from the sausage 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.
Somewhere down this street was supposedly the Charles Bridge.....supposedly.
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?