PragueAuthor: Judith A. (More Trip Reviews by Judith A.)
Date of Trip: July 2006
We arrived in Prague exhausted and ready to lie down and rest in our hotel. We took a shuttle bus to the center of town and walked to our hotel (not as easy as it sounds, since it involved a half hour wait and a bit of wandering about dragging our luggage looking for the right street).
We finally found it, checked in, and when we opened the door to our home for the next 7 nights we both sighed in disappointment. The room was a tiny, tiny box. A box without air conditioning, in July. It was like a stuffy closet, and it was not comfortable. But I washed my face and took a nap while Robb went out to explore the town a little and find an ATM.
I was a little refreshed after my nap and we decided to eat (what else?) Czech food for dinner. We explored old town Prague a bit on our way, however. Old town Prague is really gorgeous. It was never bombed in WWII, so many of its old buildings remain intact. It is a mixture of architectural styles and is quite large and festive, with outdoor cafes, music, and people everywhere.
We lucked out on the timing of our visit to Europe, and we arrived during the semifinals of the World Cup. There was a huge television screen broadcasting the games in a corner of the main square and all kinds of sausage and beer stands all around, and excited soccer fans chanting soccer fight songs. It was like a big outdoor European party. That night Germany was playing Italy (Italy won).
The Czech restaurant we ate at had quite good food (potato pancakes!) and we both found that it’s true: Czech beer IS the best beer in the world. And I don’t even really like beer all that much, but Czech beer is delicious. We also tried another Czech favorite, pickled brie. That we didn’t like so much.
After dinner we walked through the old town and over the famous Charles Bridge. The Charles Bridge is famous as one of the oldest (because most of them got bombed in WWII) and most beautiful bridges in Europe. It is lined with 30 statues of saints. Some of which have interesting stories behind them. It seems to me that you can’t become a saint unless you die in some horribly gruesome manner (i.e. being boiled alive, etc..).
Also lining the bridge are all kinds of merchants, artists, & musicians. Very festive, and from the bridge you can see Prague castle all lit up. Very atmospheric.
Prague is a city made up of 4 quarters. The Old Town, the Little Quarter, the New Town, the Castle Quarter and the Jewish Quarter. Ok, well that’s really 5, but the Jewish Quarter isn’t really there any more. But all these areas are very close together and easy to get around. We never even took the subway. We walked all over the old town, crossed the Charles Bridge to the Little Quarter to see the Lenin wall (artistic graffiti wall dedicated to John Lenin, in defiance of the communists who kept trying to paint over it), and had a couple more beers and lunch at a little café on the banks of the Vltava River. Then we walked to the New Town and Wenceslas Square (where the Velvet Revolution that eventually overthrew the Communists occurred). Then I took a late afternoon nap while Robb went to have a Thai massage.
That night for dinner, I wanted to eat at a restaurant on the main square. We knew it would cost more than to eat somewhere else, but it was so scenic and fun, it was worth being overcharged. And we also had an interesting experience with watching the wait staff at the restaurant we chose. Right before we were seated, one of the waiters started yelling and threatening one of the patrons. I don’t know what they were arguing about (since it wasn’t in English), but boy were they going at it. So I looked at Robb and said: “OK – we know what kind of service to expect!” and that is what we got. Our waiter refused flat out to bring me butter for the bread and forgot to bring Robb’s beer to him, and we watched some of the other wait staff bully and be impolite to other patrons also. . .So we had two types of entertainment to choose from that evening. People watching on the main square of Prague, and/or watch the wait staff intimidate fellow diners. Rude waiters in Paris can’t hold a candle to the rude waiters in Prague.
After our amusing dinner we sat in the main square to watch Portugal play France (France won). It was fun because the Portuguese fans and the French fans were having little chant battles. First the Portuguese started it up, chanting their soccer fight song, and as soon as they stopped to take a breath, the French would start in with their chant. You could also hear plenty of “Vive Le France!” and “Ronhaldino sucks!” calls.
The next day was our arranged excursion to Cesky Krumlov. A small medieval town in the Southern Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. Our driver came to pick us up very promptly from our horrible, hot hotel and we were off! The countryside of the Czech Republic looks a lot like Minnesota. Cornfields, same types of trees, etc. (Except Minnesota doesn’t have any mountains and the Czech Republic does).
It took us about two hours to get to Cesky Krumlov and I was so tired I slept most of the way. A downpour started just when we were about there, and we were both not exactly enthused about the idea of walking around for hours in the rain. But before we got there it cleared up and turned into a beautiful day! We were very lucky.
We had arranged for a local guide (Jiri) to meet us, and he took us around the town he loves for about 90 minutes. Very interesting tour. Cesky Krumlov is almost perfectly preserved (well, restored anyway) from the Renaissance period. It is DARLING. The castle is set on a cliff above the little town, which is surrounded on three sides by the Vltava River (it curves through the town). So it was easily defended. The river is a big draw for rafters and they were out in force.
After our tour with Jiri we walked around a bit and settled on a place for a leisurely lunch by the river.
We could have spent another day here, not only is there rafting, but hiking in the area is supposed to be nice, too. But we had to go back to our horrible, hot hotel in Prague. So we met our very prompt driver and headed back to the city.
On the way back to Prague we stopped at a 13th century castle called Hluboka. It looked brand new. I think because it had a fresh coat of white paint on it. Robb & I didn’t want to take the time to tour the interior, so we just walked around the nice gardens and took some photos.
That night for dinner we found a cute little Czech restaurant in a little alleyway and Robb had Gulas (goulash to you & me). The food was very good there.
The next day was Sunday, and the official start of our tour. We slept in, walked around Prague some more, did some shopping and just strolled around until it was time to meet our guide at 5pm.
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