We arrived in Prague on Tuesday afternoon and not having the patience to figure out the public transportation options, we hired a cab to take us to Hotel St. Charles for 600 kc (about $30 US). This included an extra fee courtesy of the driver – we smiled and paid it, vowing to return to the airport via public transportation. The 3rd floor room was quite nice: Victorian themed with a large marble bathroom equipped with a jacuzzi tub, TV with BBC, a fridge and a very generous free breakfast every morning (usually the best meal we would eat all day). We headed out to find food and ended up at a Canadian themed cafe with free wi-fi, that was playing a rerun of the 1972 Canada-USSR game. We then ate at the adjacent argentine restaurant. There were many of these kinds of restaurants, the people in Prague seemed to really like their meat. Jenni ended up with a thick steak, Andrew a rack of lamb ribs. This feast only cost us about 50 US Dollars, as it’s inexpensive to eat a 4-5 star dinner in Prague. You ever get a chance to go, make sure you treat yourself.
Afterwards we wandered around and found an indoor mall near the Angel subway metro stop. We were pretty amazed at the scale of the mall (4 stories), how much it resembled the ones typical in north america, and how close it was to the city centre. The oddest thing was the 2-story Tesco. 1st floor was for groceries, 2nd floor for Wal-mart type clothes & appliances.
The mall seemed fairly new, but the people were well accustomed to shopping. We wandered around and got a sense of what the czechs buy, most things were only a bit cheaper than in the US. We both ended up splurging on a set of headphones, as both of ours had become quite sad and travel worn.
Wednesday we headed to the Stare Mestro (old town) to catch our bike tour. Our guide took us and a pair of Irish ladies through the gothic powder tower – one of eight original city gates separating old from new. We made note of the Dvorak Classical Festival and the Museum Kampa as possible return trips. One of the interesting stops was the Lennon Wall – a relic from communist days where a small part of the sidewalk that is technically part of the Maltese embassy allowed for people to stand outside of soviet territory and express their thoughts with graffiti. John Lennon lyrics we especially popular at the time.
This tour didn’t include a food stop so afterwards we wandered and located a nice patio restaurant that served us mediocre food.
We returned to the Kampa, a modern art museum, and saw works by local Prague artists while being closely monitored by the museums security detail of near-sighted short old ladies. Jenni wandered into the gallery without first purchasing a ticket which prompted a grilling by one of these geriatric guards. We were then on their watch list and they were relentless with their ticket checking – you might have thought they would start smelling or tasting them to ensure their validity. It was quite amusing, but we enjoyed the art. The top of the museum had rooftop access with a see-through floor and a small terrace from which the charles street bridge and park can be surveyed.
Our hotel was actually located near the Vysehrad – a historic settlement surrounded by crumbling stone walls and filled with quiet winding paths. In the evening we ventured there in search of a beer garden, but by the time we found it they were done serving food so we continued our wanderings and happened upon a quartette practicing so we stopped to listen. We’ll post a recording of them soon.
Thursday we headed over to the very large Stromvk park, as Jenni had a walking tour linked to GPS on her iPhone. We took the gondola up and were beaconed to spend about 200 kc to be able to walk up a miniature Eiffel tower. We passed on this and proceeded down the forested trails to find a place to picnic and have views of the town below. Afterwards we went into a bar that looked at though it was decorated by Tim Burton with sandworm-like metallic sculptures and light fixtures that looked as though they could bite you. We happened to chat up a fellow Texan and photographer who had been living in Prague, preparing for an art show.
Friday we got up a bit late and headed straight to the Mucha museum. It’s a fascinating look into the life and work of one of the greatest art nouveau illustrator/printmakers. The collection included illustrations Mucha did as a young boy, photographs of him entertaining the likes of Paul Gauguin in his Paris studio and the original posters promoting Sarah Bernhardts productions, which made him famous.
We then jetted up the steep climb to Prague castle. This heavily touristed conglomerate of museums, palaces, and St. Vitus’s Cathedral was interesting, especially the main hall of the palace where the royal sock slide contest was held. In all seriousness, unless you really need to see another royal relic, this one might be a pass. I was sort of disappointed we didn’t see the nearby toy museum. After a cafe/wee fee/postcard stop we glamorously waltzed the red carpet of the Rudolfinum for an evening concert.
The concert consisted of one man opera adjoined with a man at a piano. The gestures, flipping of the hair and exaggerations of the opera singer while singing was the most fascinating part for Jenni, who had never seen a concert like this before.
Friday we woke at the crack and took public transit to the airport. Our entire day was spent getting from Prague to Venice, Italy, and consisted of: tram, metro, bus, airplane, bus, and bus. We’ll get into thoughts on Venice in our next post (there were some strong views and options), but clearly this was not the best thought out leg of our trip.