Prague!!

Alarm was set for 9:30 this morning and by about 10:30 we managed to get up and get ready for the day.  The first stop was breakfast.  Dave had a friend who recommended a place over the Charles Bridge so we set out to find that.  The Charles Bridge, as I understand it, is the bridge in Prague.  It was built in 1400 (like…before there was America) and is only for pedestrian traffic now.  Half of the bridge is under construction but the other half has artisans making sketches of tourists and such.  There are also people selling hand made jewelry and such. Every 20 feet or so there are large statues which are religious in theme, as you’d expect.  They are actually really cool.  The statues themselves are made of stone but are black with age.  The only un-aged part is the gold details on each one.  On some there are halos, others there are palm leaves, and others there’s a cross.  These parts appear well polished and really stand out against the black statue.  Across the bridge, we looked for the breakfast place but it had been replaced by a bagel place.  Instead, we split a slice of pizza because it seemed slightly more reasonable to come all the way to Prague and get pizza rather than bagels.  By that time it had begun to rain so I bought an umbrella for 200Kc ($1=23Kc btw).
This is our only full day here so we had to get the most out of it.  It seems that Prague is a city with much to see, but it also seems like the kind of place where one should just walk around and absorb the general Prague-ness of it all.  Anyways, with that in mind we head out on a day of walking.  The first stop was Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad).  We walked through narrow, steep streets until we reached the steps to the castle.  Wow there were a TON of steps.  It looked a lot harder than it was, though.  I no time we were at the top and it had stopped raining.  There were guards outside of the castle (the ones that can’t show any emotion) but I didn’t get an amusing picture or anything like that – too embarrassing.  Inside, we wanted to go into St. Vitus Cathedral but couldn’t until noon.  We had a half hour to kill so we walked around the cathedral and took some photos.  It’s very cool from the outside.  At noon we entered and I have to say that in general churches seem very old and boring but this one was definitely not that way.  We walked in with a group of people and the organ was playing at full volume, just filling the entire place with very medieval sounding music.  That coupled with the insane architecture, impressive stained glass windows, and high ceilings…just wow.  I really can’t do it justice and neither could any photo.  I tried to take video but I’m sure it will pale in comparison to the actual experience.  We walked all around the place and saw all of the windows and all of these little side rooms too.  I’m not really sure what they were.  Either way, it was so so impressive.  We saw a tomb of this (seemingly) important man who had died in the 1300s.  Dave wants his tomb to be like this.  I’m writing this here so everyone is made aware of this.  Gold lions, statues galore, it’s going to be a big deal.  Also, the lion statues have to be holding swords.  Because really, lions without swords just aren’t that intimidating.
From there we walked out of the other side of the castle and down back towards the city.  We stopped to talk some pictures and in a few minutes were at the subway station.  Before entering Dave bought this ”European hot dog” which was quite strange because it comes in a bun but not in the sense that we are used to – it’s just a roll that has the hot dog kinda shoved in there, sticking out of the top.  Very weird. Btw, and I wasn’t going to write this, but the pictures of this hotdog make it look like a dog’s penis.  The actual food is all good, but they should really change the drawing.  Anyways, we got on the subway at Malostranska.  The subways are so, so cool – very modern and clean.  I really enjoy public transportation in other cities.  We took the subway a couple of stop to Muzeo which left us at one end of Wenceslas Square.  It’s not so much a square as it is just a long, commercial street like a High Street in London or something.  The National Museum was not something that interested either one of us so we continued to walk and take in the sites.  We were looking for a place to eat, as it was 1:30 already, but Czeck food kinda sucks and it was too cold to eat sushi.  We walked from one end of the square to the other and on to Old Town Square again.  Now, while waiting for the cathedral to open this morning, I had done some reading on this astronomical clock.  Dave had basically told me that it was useless and the Lonely Planet had confirmed this fact.  I was still curious though so I read about exactly what it measures and how it works.  Hidden in all of this nonsense was a description of the statues around the clock.  It turns out that there are 4 status depicting the 4 troubles of the time when this clock was built (1400s).  These troubles were: Vanity, Greed/Jews, Death, and Pagan Invasion.  Wait, what?  So people are walking around taking pictures of this clock all of the time and it is basically THE symbol and Prague and it’s basically this anti-Semitic time-piece?  I feel like this should be more well known.  And really, I thought that things were bad in the 1400s, and one of their top 4 fears were Jews and Vanity? LOL, maybe things weren’s so bad back then after all.  You know, unless you were Jewish.
We decided on this Italian place for lunch and split pasta and risotto.  They were both quite good.  We then walked though Old Town Square again and sat in a cafe under a heat lamp while I had a cappuccino.  It was very nice and I wanted to carry the heat lamp around with us – so cold!!  After that, we tried to get into another church (church-hopping!!)  but it was closed.  We decided to walk over a bridge to the other side of the river, walk south to see the Lennon wall, and back over the Charles Bridge back to our hotel.  So, we walked up Parizska Street until the Cechov Bridge.  We stopped for a minute to just look at the city.  It is so beautiful and I’m glad we are here in the winter rather than summer because I think it would just feel odd for it to be hot.  Soviet cities like this feel more “right” in the cold.  Along the other side of the river, we walked until we got to the Lennon wall, which started before the fall of communism.  Western music wasn’t allowed but some Czech musicians played Beatles songs and got jailed for doing so.  Teenagers started graffiti-ing on the wall and drew Lennon and words to his songs on this blank wall.  Police tried to jail the kids but without success and even repainting the wall didn’t stop the problem.  It’s a pretty cool story and we took a few pics and walked around it.  After a little while we returned to our side of the river via the Charles Bridge.  I had a cup of hot wine, which they seem to sell everywhere, for 29Kc.  That to me felt very Prague.  Just walking in the cold drinking hot wine bought on the street for practically no money.  It was very good btw, tasted like hot sangria.  We returned to the hotel to relax before dinner 🙂  Also, our hotel is really just awesome.  I would love to have it as an apartment in real life!!

We are now wrapping up the day.  I just showered and Dave is in there now.  At around 8:30 we set out for Mount Steak which I have been hearing about for over a year.  It’s a restaurant that specializes in meat, and in particular, rare meats.  I was excited yet still a bit nervous because Dave seemed to be insisting that I try something really different – like horse, which I was not ok with because they seem too much like pets.  Anyways, across the Charles Bridge we found Mount Steak.  The place is in a basement and is very medieval looking, like a lot of things in Prague.  Low ceilings, candles, kitschy decor.  We sit down (in a room by ourselves of course) and are presented with menus simply rife with animals to eat.  There were even things on there that neither of us had heard of!!  Some of the more interesting choices were zebra, bear, and antelope.  I, however, saw the kangaroo and just had to get that.  I really enjoyed it in Australia and haven’t had the opportunity to have it since then.  Dave opted for the ostrich, which I had tried before in Vietnam actually.  We ordered potato croquettes and these crinkle-cut potatoes too.  The meals were simply amazing.  The kangaroo was seasoned so well and Dave’s ostrich with garlic was so so good too.  I can not stress enough how much I loved it – definitely a meal that I will always remember.  It cost less than a cheap night out at PF Changs, even with my glass of wine lol.  We left there and headed back to the area of the hotel in search of nutella filled crepes.  Old Town Square seemed to be the only place to go so we made our way through the narrow streets.  The streets are just great btw – very narrow yet curvy with the high facades of buildings on both sides.  It’s a feeling unlike any other city (that I’ve visited yet).  We found what we were looking for at an outdoor cafe along the perimeter of the square.  With the assistance of good heating lamps we sat there and ate 2 orders of crepes with nutella and strawberries along with some sparkling water.  I’m sad to be leaving tomorrow but I do think that I’ve experienced what I wanted to experience in Prague.  It’s a city that has to be absorbed rather than sought out.  It’s also a city that is on the verge of becoming more like the major cities of Western Europe with their high prices and more American feel.  I’m glad I had the chance to see it before that inevitably happens.  We headed back to the hotel around 11:30 to head to bed.  A few phone calls later and I’m showered and ready to sleep.  A few more things to do here tomorrow and then we are off to Budapest!

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