OK, Rick, we’re not mad at you after all

Today was a full day, with lots of incredible sights and views. We began by taking the little passageway by our apartment, which emerges on the street leading up to the Castle Quarter. When we first arrived, it seemed a bit crowded, but with good planning and some tips from Rick Steves, we were able to artfully dodge the tour groups and take our own self-guided tour.

The Castle Quarter sits high above Prague on Petrin Hill. It is an enormous complex, consisting of several churches, palaces, and the everyday buildings and residences that were required to keep royalty living in the way that they were accustomed.

We arrived at Castle Square, where we enjoyed the music of a great quartet. Here you are surrounded by the Renaissance Schwarzenberg Palace, where the Rozmberks stayed and now housing collections of the National Gallery, the Rococo palace where the archbishop still lives, the Sternberg Palace, with more National Gallery treasures, and the Castle Gate. Also in the square are the Plague Column and a statue of Tomas Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s first president.
20131008-092248.jpg20131008-092337.jpgWe entered through the Castle Gate, purchased our tickets and started at St. Vitus Cathedral. Started in 1344, this gothic cathedral was actually not completed until 1929. As Larry said, those contractors really stretched out that job! 🙂 The cathedral is home to magnificent stained glass and carvings, as well as the Royal Masoleum (the tomb of the first Hapsburgs to rule Bohemia) and many other tombs, including that of St. Wenceslas.
20131008-093327.jpg20131008-093409.jpgOutside the cathedral, we noted the obelisk, built in 1928 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia.
20131008-093638.jpgNext we entered the Old Royal Palace, which was the seat of Bohemian Princes, starting in the 12th century. The Large Hall, with it’s interesting gothic design and domed, flowered ceiling, has been used for jousting, royal elections and as a marketplace for the nobility. There are a number of smaller rooms where the royals conducted their business. We also enjoyed a great view from an adjoining balcony.
20131008-210233.jpg We then toured the Basilica and Convent of St George, Prague’s best preserved Romanesque church and the burial place of Czech royalty. St. Ludmila, the grandmother of St. Wenceslas, is also entombed here.
20131008-182114.jpgWe strolled down through the castle grounds and along the Golden Lane, which originally housed castle servants and now is the home to many small shops. We also stopped in at the medieval prison.
20131008-095439.jpg Leaving the castle grounds, we meandered through the Little Quarter and stopped for lunch at a restaurant in an Art Gallery. Debbie and Larry enjoyed soup and salad, Harvey went Italian with spaghetti and I had the American staple of a club sandwich and fries. It was all very good and D&L especially liked the Turkish coffee.

After lunch, we headed up Petrin Hill, stopping to take in the Monument to the Victims of Communism. This moving monument consists of several statues – as the statuettes move up they hill, they gradually atrophy, not dying but losing body parts.
20131008-210653.jpgAfter a very strenuous climb up the hill, we reached the Petrin Tower, which is loosely modelled on the Eiffel Tower – it is 1/5 the size, but it’s position atop the hill gives it similar elevation. The views of the city as we climbed the hill were wonderful!
20131008-211714.jpgA path from the tower lead us to the Strahov Monastery, Loreta Square and back to Castle Square. Here we stopped at what arguably could be Starbuck’s most picturesque location – overlooking the city of Prague.
20131008-211948.jpgWe toodled back home for our afternoon wine and then decided to return to yesterday’s restaurant for dinner. Larry & Harvey swapped dishes, each having what the other had the night before. Deb ordered the grilled, smoked chicken leg (which she described as so good, something she has never tasted before) and mashed peas with fried onions. I tried the baked pearl barley & wild mushrooms (delicious) and farmer sausages (which turned out to be basically wieners – could have given them a miss). Again, the presentation and flavors were so far above what one would expect of a tiny neighbourhood pub.

A stroll across the river and back across the Charles Bridge and the end to a very interesting day!



We go for the croissants…

This morning started with a yoga class, conducted by Debbie, with Bev and Harvey as participants. Harvey dropped out part way through with a foot cramp??

Then we were off on the streets of Prague once more. We walked through the Letka Park, with beautiful views of the city. It also has a giant metronome that was erected to replace a statue of Stalin. Random…


We wandered around the Jewish Quarter, looking at some of the exterior sights, but decided not to visit the interiors.

We did however, stop at the Franz Kafka Cafe, now it seems it is known as Kafka Snob Food, for coffee/lattes and treats.

We also encountered a restaurant that definitely attracted Deb’s attention –

We then made our way through Old Town and stopped to purchase tickets for a Black Light Theatre performance this evening. From there we stopped off at Wenceslas Square for a bite to eat for lunch.

We spent the afternoon exploring nooks & crannies, stopped in at a department store to check it out and relaxed at the apartment with wine & cheese.

For dinner, we traveled just up the hill a bit to U Magistre Kelly, a very small restaurant, obviously family owned & ran. And the majority of the small number of tables were filled with what we suspect were family members, visiting and having a beer or two.

We were expecting some traditional home cooking. What we got would rival some of the finest restaurants we’ve been to. Bev & Deb each had cauliflower soup and spinach salads; Harvey had potato dumplings stuffed with smoked meat and served with sauerkraut that he said was unlike any he has ever had (don’t tell his mom); and Larry had goulash with potato pancakes. The flavors of everything were superb and the presentation was wonderful. And did we mention that all of these meals, and beer, and expresso & dessert for Larry, totalled about $35.

After dinner, we were off to Old Town once more and the Black Light Theatre production of Yellow Submarine, Rock Therapy. This was a very interesting experience. Stay tuned for a guest blog review of the performance, by our own arts critic, Debbie!

Another great day in a great city!