Tuesday October 13, 2015
This stretch of our trip covers PRAGUE!! I had been dying to see Prague and was so excited to visit the Czech Republic.
We woke up (still in Leipzig). We showered and hit their breakfast buffet. WOW! I wish Holiday Inns in the US would take note. They had the normal items plus fancy cheeses, smoked salmon, and all kinds of breads and spreads. Yum! We drove to the airport to rent a car and drop off the Porsche at the Porsche plant in Leipzig. Seth read that Czech Republic is not a place to mess around with certain cars and that border patrol can be super strict. Rather than risk a hefty ticket or encounter trouble, we rented an Audi and left the Porsche.
I have not driven a manual in YEARS (decades), so I was a little nervous. Thankfully, it went fine and we were off. See ya in a couple days, Germany! The drive was uneventful, but we quickly noticed how much cleaner and better the roads are in Germany. Czech Republic has been through a lot of changes over the years and is just coming into its own, so to speak. It shows. Prague was different- you can tell there is more money there and the city has been restored.
This is the view from our hotel. It overlooked the Vltava River. There were pretty bridges crossing over. The side we were on was great for walking around the city. The castle was on the other side of the bridge. We checked into our hotel (which was so nice!) and quickly set out to explore. Unfortunately, it was quite chilly and felt like it would rain any minute all day.
Our first stop was the Astrological Clock in Old Town Square. It's the oldest working astrological clock in the world. It has 3 components: the astronomical dial, the "walk of the apostles", and a calendar dial. It's pretty mesmorizing
We found a terrific lunch spot right across the street and sat and had pizza and a beer. We happened to be sitting there at 3:00 and this clock puts on a great show on the hour. It was cool to see it do its thing! PS: I know it seems like we drank beer at every meal. Well, we kind of did. Water was never included and was twice as much money as beer. Don't worry; we drank plenty of water too!
We walked around a total of 4 hours, covering 10 miles (according to Seth's iPhone). We had a tourist map and hit the highlights. In Germany, so much is in English. In Prague, we had to guess what we were looking at. It was all beautiful but kind of frustrating to not know what it was. The picture above basically shows you how beautiful ever building was. Every single US chain restaurant and store exists in Prague and they're housed in these historic, gorgeous buildings. I guess this is how they're thriving and rebuilding their economy.
Ergh....another sideways picture. A street vendor placed bread dough around iron bars over fire. They would rotate the bar, baking the bread into a spiral shape. Then they sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top. YUM!
That night, we ate at U Fleka. Two friends had told me about this place before we left, so I thought we better check it out. We took the public train there. This was a traditional Czech meal. They offered one type of beer and a man with a tray of them was walking around. If you wanted one, he marked a tally on a piece of paper on your table. We shared goulash, a Greek salad, and a side of red cabbage. I am going to have to make goulash at home soon. I just loved it!
Ha, ha! Check out the beer pint lights!
Wednesday October 14, 2015
Yuck. We woke up to rain, rain, and more rain. The hotel had a super nice gym so I did a short little workout before showering and getting ready for the day.
The conceirege at the hotel told us about a bakery called Bake Shop. Oh my goodness. This was hands down the best coffee I have ever had. They had pretty pastries on display. I just had passionberry yogurt and granola. Seth had a croissant filled with apple and brie and we both enjoyed a double cappuccino.
Did I mention it was rainy this day? And cold! :( We did a red bus tour, hoping to see/understand more of the city. We stayed on until we reached the castle. A guided tour was included with our bus tour. We lucked out with our guide- he was outstanding. He was a history buff and loved sharing Czech history. Even though he wasn't originally from here, his mother was and he had a deep sense of pride. He told us all kinds of interesting stories that gave us a broader understanding of this country.
We saw the changing of the guards.
This is inside the cathedral. It was impressive!
Stained glass windows in the cathedral
This is the extrerior. It took from the 1300s to the 1900s to build!
This is Golden Row. Castle servants lived here. Additionaly, some famous poets and authors lived here too. They have been restored and now you can see glimpses of what a house would look like, purchase souvenirs, and see a lot of weapons and knight armor. It was really cool!
The torture chamber!
After touring the castle for (seriously) 4 1/2 hours, we had some hot wine to warm us up. We were frozen! We caught a ride back on our tour bus to the other side of the river and made our way to Klemintinum. This was a university library in the 1600s. Major astrological discoveries were made in Prague, and upstairs was an area where we learned more of their accomplishments and were able to climb to an observation tower.
We weren't allowed inside the library, but this is a glimpse of what it looked like. They had a beautifully painted ceiling filled with symbolic scenes. There were thousands of old books, astrological clocks, and large globes.
Upstairs were several of the first telescopes and devices used for studying the skies.
We climbed to the top and were lucky to get this incredible panoramic view of Prague. The rain had seized, and we loved looking at the rust colored roof tops and unique building shapes.
After that we walked halfway across the pedestrian-only Charles Bridge. It was sunset and so pretty! Sidenote, the castle is off in the background. This castle is the largest one in Europe. The Rolling Stones held a concert there in 1990's (they were the first international band allowed to play there). As a thank you, they purchased exterior lighting for the castle so that it would be lit up at night.
Enjoying the bridge and sights!
We wrapped up the day with a great meal from Hotel U Zlateno Strome. Even though it was cold, we ate outside near a heater. Restaurants in Germany and in Prague often have blankets draped over chairs for customers to use. BRILLIANT! We didn't eat lunch, so we were both famished. I had roasted pork, cabbage, and we shared a salad. Mine was so good! Seth had goulash but this one wasn't as good as the one we had the night before. After that, we went to a dessert place across the street that specialized in the bread baked over the fire. This time we got it filled with chocolate and nuts. It was so good! Our hotel had a hot tub, so we relaxed in there before a good night's rest.
Almost done with the Germany trip posts! :)