Our breakfast at the hotel was cut short when the receptionist, not the waitress, came out and told us that “breakfast is served between seven o’clock and thirty minutes and ten o’clock and thirty minutes.” After staring at her confused we realized it was about 10:40. We thought we just couldn’t get any more food after 10:30, not that we had to evacuate the premises. So we stuffed some food into our mouths and headed out for the day.
First up was the Prague Castle, which has been the home of the Czech government for over 1,000 years. It’s absolutely huge and spread out at the top of the hill (obviously a military strategy) and it consists of several parts including St. Vitus’s Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, and the Royal Gardens. And of course because you’re up so high, you get a great aerial view of Prague.
We walked around the whole thing, but were most impressed by the Cathedral. It had some very creepy medieval (gothic) looking structure and inside was stained glass the likes of which we’ve never seen. A few of the windows were made up of very small, intricate tiles placed closely together.
After the castle, we went back into “new town” and saw a Salvador Dali exhibit. It was my first taste of Dali and it was definitely hit-or-miss. Some of the stuff was just a little too much for me, but some of it was cool and interesting. It was definitely a far cry from the Renaissance Art we’d seen at the beginning of the trip.
Outside of the Dali museum was a huge outdoor market that was selling beer, sausages, hot cider, and more of Hanna’s TRDLO’s. We picked up lunch there and sat outside and ate it while we watched a group of 15 year olds drinking beer and taking pictures. Not sure what the drinking age is in Prague, but I’m pretty sure it’s not very strictly enforced.
On our way through the town I picked up a new soccer jersey, that of Rosicky, who I had never heard of but I liked the jersey and thought it would be cool to have another player to follow. We stopped at a café that had WiFi so I looked him up, only to find that he was a goalie (boo!) and that he wasn’t even from Prague, he was from Bratislava, Slovakia! Why would a store in Prague have the jersey of one of their hated rivals from Slovakia?
After much confusion I realized that I had typed in “Kosicky” instead of “Rosicky” and when I entered the right name it made a lot more sense. Rosicky is the floppy-haired captain of the Czech national team who plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League. I decided not to “accidentally” leave the jersey in the hotel room after all.
We hung out at the internet café for a while and enjoyed the sights. Prague gets kind of shady at night, with lots of loiterers hanging around looking like drug dealers. Although it was odd and a little disturbing, they never seemed like they wanted to hurt you or steal from you, so we didn’t really fear for our safety. Still, we trusted no one.
We headed back to the hotel after getting a full spread for dinner for about 5 euro (including two more half liters of beer). We ate and then I went down to post some articles using the free WiFi in the lobby. Not sure I like it as much as Vienna, but Prague is definitely at the top of the list. Next stop: Nuremberg.
We woke up in Vienna and packed while a television program that seemed to be some kind of German American Idol was on in the background. It was somewhat surprising that pretty much every song they sang was in English, and it was quite surprising and impressive that once the contestants started singing, you never would have guessed that they weren’t American. They sang in perfect accents, then when the song was over they went right back to speaking German…something quite difficult to comprehend.
Of course we picked up a new favorite song when one of the contestants, a German Beefcake rapper (which made me wonder why American Idol doesn’t allow rappers) performed his rendition of Kabinenparty. Here is the original below, but the performance on German Idol was much better as it ended with the contestant shirtless surrounded by beach balls and “chicks in bikinis.”
We ate breakfast and boarded the train to Prague, another four and a half hours. This stretch of the trip is quite exciting because Hanna’s going to places she’s never been before, but they journeys are extremely long. For the rest of the trip we won’t have a train ride less than 4 hours.
We arrived in Prague and were harassed at the train station by a homeless-looking woman who kept offering us a place to stay. Not that it wasn’t tempting, but we were having a difficult enough time trying to figure out the Metro ticket machine. Not only did the machine not take euros (only Czech money, the kc), but it only took Czech coins…no bills. We found that out the hard way and had to return to the money exchange a second time (which led to my first, and hopefully my only, temper tantrum of the trip…let’s just say some throwing and kicking of the map of Prague was involved).
We finally got our tickets and took the Metro, then the tram, to our hotel. It was somewhat intimidating when we got to the front desk and announced that we were checking in. The receptionist looked at us sternly, pointed to two chairs next to the front desk and commanded, “Have a seat.”
It turned out that she just wanted us to fill out our information, but she could have done it in a more pleasant manner. The room was nice, especially for the rate (31 euro/night…easily the cheapest of the trip), and we decided to head to the Charles Bridge.
Turns out the bridge isn’t quite as impressive as we hoped (it’s not even lit up at night), but it was pretty cool. It also gave us the opportunity to snap some artsy and cool shots. We were convinced that there were swarms of bats flying around the bridge (adding to the medieval theme of Prague), but it turns out they were seagulls. I’m sure in 10 years when we tell the story they will be bats once again.
Across the bridge was “old town”, which seems weird because the whole town looks ancient. The “old town” area is at the foot of the castle and full of little streets and old shops. It was very nice and quite romantic at night.
We looked around for a place to eat and noticed that, despite our book’s warning, the meals looked very cheap. We flirted with the idea of eating at a tourist spot along the river, but had our minds changed for us when we passed a tiny bar called “U KOGOURA” on the corner of one of the backstreets. We looked in and saw what seemed to be only Czech customers and there were only a few items on the menu, all Czech specialties, so we figured it would be good. Even the fact that everyone was smoking didn’t deter Hanna, and that’s saying something.
We walked in and experienced the typical needle-scratch moment to which we’ve grown accustomed. After about 5 minutes of nobody greeting us, we saw and empty table and decided to just go for it. That seemed to be the right thing to do, as a couple of minutes later the waitress (who looked like the other waiter/owner’s wife) came and asked us what kind of beer we wanted. You have to love a country where the question isn’t whether or not you want beer, but which kind of beer you want.
I ordered the Budweiser (not what you’re thinking…there’s a Czech version of Budweiser that has been in a battle with the American namesake for years), and Hanna got the Pilsner. Hanna always orders a different beer than me because she knows that she’ll take 3 sips and then I’ll finish it…ah, true love!
The guy brought out the beers in a truly awesome fashion. He would fill them up at the tap so that they were overflowing, carry them to the table as they spilled all over the floor, then drop them on the table with just enough force that a little bit of beer would spill out onto the table. He had it down to a science. It was all the more impressive when he would carry 4 or 5 beers in each hand.
We didn’t have to get far into the menu to see what we wanted: a plate for two featuring basically all of the items on the menu:
- 2 smoked chicken drumsticks
- 3 bacon dumplings
- 2 red pepper sausages
- 3 potato dumplings with smoked meat
- 4 potato pancakes
- 100 grams of Prague Ham (basically smoked ham) with horseradish
- 4 pieces of white bread covered in crispy onions
- 2 free beers (the ones we already ordered were scratched from the bill)
- Pickled onions and red peppers
- Sauerkraut that lined the entire bottom of the platter
Even the locals (a group of about 8 guys and one girl came and sat next to us right before our meal came) were impressed. Everything was absolutely delicious, and we finished pretty much everything, including the beers.
The total price for the meal: 540 kc. That seems like a lot, but when you do the conversion it comes out to about 22 euro. We had basically eaten an entire Thanksgiving dinner and a liter of beer for 11 euro apiece. I love Prague.
After dinner we walked back across the bridge into the “new town” and looked around for a while. For dessert, we stopped at a little shop where Hanna got to experience her first TRDLO, a Hungarian specialty that’s basically fluffy dough with caramelized sugar, vanilla, and nuts on the outside. It was quite tasty, as we should have expected.
We returned to the hotel extremely full and extremely happy about our first day in Prague.