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 All of the statues have been replaced by replicas, which seem aged and "gothic" enough to suit my taste.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.....
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.
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.
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.
8 V Kolkovne
Prague, Czech Republic