Prague, Day One

Wow, Prague is a beautiful city. We had a long day exploring many parts of New Town, Old Town, the Lesser Town and the Jewish Quarter.

We got up around 8:30 and had a nice breakfast here at the guest house. Very European. Thinly sliced cheeses and meats (salami, ham), cucumbers, tomatoes, bread (good German brot), pastries. They also had mueslix and yogurt. We got up too late to be at the castle when it opens, so we sent Lenka an e-mail asking if she wanted to meet us for lunch or coffee later – she replied almost immediately and we set up a meet time and place.

We started off walking along the river, then eventually got on the metro for a short ride into the center of town. We’re close to the tram, but we didn’t have coins for tickets. We decided to look for the Havel Market. We did a lot of wandering around before we finally found it, but that was perfectly fine. We dropped by the Charles Bridge (ornately carved with multiple statues and TONS of tourists). We didn’t go across because there were so many people there. The view of the castle from the foot of the Charles was really nice, though. We want to go back in the evening and see everything all lit up. We saw a lot of film crews working in town (Lenka’s son, Dan, said later they’re filming the next James Bond–we didn’t see any stars though). Cobblestone walks, interesting shops, people out for walks, beautiful old buildings.

We eventually found our way to the Old Town Square, where we saw the astronomical clock do its thing (it’s 500 years old!) and then from there ended up in the main tourist zone. What a change from what we had seen of the city so far. We’re staying in a quiet residential neighborhood, and our city wanderings to this point were mostly tourist-free. There were hoardes of people all over, and big tour groups galore.

We finally found the market. It’s a relatively small open-air market with fruits and vegetables, homey food items and handicrafts. Then we decided to continue on to the Powder Tower so we wouldn’t be late meeting Lenka and her son, Dan. We found the spot and were early so we went up into the tower. Great views from the top, but I had to endure a very narrow curved stairwell to get there. I kept the claustrophobia at bay. :)

We came down off the tower and wandered over to the cafe next door and immediately found Lenka and Dan. Dan is 15 years old and lived in the U.K. for much of his life, so his English is excellent. He has a British accent. Lenka told us we would go to a favorite restaurant of hers, one that serves good traditional Czech food. Along the way, she filled us in on the history of some of the buildings and areas we passed.

Lunch was in a restaurant that was underground (a lot of cellar restaurants and bars in Prague). The restaurant is decorated to look like a dungeon so it has a lot of atmosphere. The extensive menu was all in Czech, so Lenka offered to order for us (Hostinec U Sadlu at Klimentska 2). We had dark beers (yum!), and then we shared huge platters of food – roasted duck and pork, spinach, 2 kinds of cabbage, and three different types of dumplings – bread, potato, and one other I’m not sure of. It definitely had bread in it. The dumplings are sliced and are great for sopping up the gravy that comes with the food. Everything was excellent, even the duck, which I usually don’t like. The cabbage is well-cooked and kind of sweet. I liked the potato dumplings best.

After lunch we said goodbye to Dan, who is a typical teenager that doesn’t want to spend the weekend hanging out with his mom. He was really nice and we were glad he joined us for lunch.

We then headed to the tourist area, and ended up in Old Town Square, where there was some sort of Medieval performance going on. There were a ton of people dressed in costume, handicrafts and street food for sale, and a lot of Czechs hanging around. Lenka bought us a sort of fried dough pancake with caraway seeds in it. Good, but kind of greasy.

We then made our way to the Jewish Quarter, which is where the Jews were forced to live (in Ghettos) up until the late 1800s. Now this area is very affluent and is a really beautiful part of the city. We saw synagogues and the Jewish cemetery. The cemetery is pretty small but there are over 20,000 bodies buried there, because the Jews weren’t permitted to bury their dead anywhere else. The result is that up to 12 bodies are buried vertically in each plot, and the headstones are shoved in wherever there’s room.

We were really impressed by Lenka’s knowledge of the city. I had been thinking about how, if a tourist came to the Bay Area, I wouldn’t know a fraction of the history of the area that Lenka knows about Prague. Well, no wonder! It turns out she spent some time as a tour guide, years ago. How fortunate that she ended up sitting next to us on the plane!

We then headed to the Lesser Side. Lesser Side (of the river) is really nice. Right on the other side of the Charles Bridge is an area with canals, islands, and there are nice shops and not too many tourists. There was a park with an exhibit of photographs depicting world-wide environmental-related subjects. We stopped for drinks (a reallly tasty Mojito for me, Irish Coffee for Lenka and yet another beer for Larry). The place we stopped is an upscale eclectic place, with comfy couches and a great ambiance. Really Bohemian with a sandy area, a Turkish Tent, and Mediterranean Lounge. It’s right around the corner from where Lenka works as an acupuncturist. We sat and chatted some more and then finally parted ways. Larry and I stayed a while longer, and as we were leaving, it started to rain.

It wasn’t really cold, just wet and kind of windy. We just kept walking – we wanted to go to the train station to get reservations for our train to Krakow on Tuesday night. We found the station, and luckily the agent spoke excellent English, so we now have a reservation in our own sleeper car and we know where to goTuesday night.

The bus station is one stop up on the Metro, so we went there next, to inquire about busses to Cesky Krumlov for Tuesday. We got schedule information but didn’t make a reservation. Turns out we need a reservation, so we’ll need to go back.

We took the Metro back to the hotel. I was falling asleep on the train, so as soon as we got back I laid down for a nap – it was 6:30pm. I fell asleep immediately, and we didn’t wake up until 9:30. Whoops, guess we still have jet lag.

We walked down the street to Restaurant Josefina (at Na Dlinach 5), recommended by Jan. The waiter didn’t speak very much English, but they had a menu in English. Larry had chicken breast fried in a potato pancake crust. And a beer (surprise!). I had pork tenderloin in a pepper crust and a creamy sauce, and we shared potato croquettes. Everything was good, and inexpensive. The waiter brought out white vermouth from the chef (chilled), as an apertif. Also surprisingly good.

Then back to the hotel and now here we are, finishing up our blog entries for the day at midnight. We’re going to try to do our long run in the morning…. we’ll see how that goes.

One Reply to “Prague, Day One”

  1. Lucky Lucky Lucky for befriending a local! Glad it didn’t turn out like a the storyline in that movie “Hostel”. Aweful movie, don’t even follow up on the reference if you’ve not seen it:P

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