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Prague
Saturday Part I

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The first of two interesting yet very different tours... 

I did not sleep well at all. I don't think Larry did, either. I felt absolutely beat. At breakfast I guess I looked so bad, Paula kept looking at me very concerned and said, "Sweetie, have some coffee!"

We had breakfast at the hotel. I can't put my finger on why, but the atmosphere was bad. Also the food wasn't very good. Larry and Robert had to fight with their bread!

We had to decide what we wanted to do that day. There was a six-hour tour that included a boat ride and refreshments. That sounded good to us. The tour started at 10:30am at the Astronomical Clock. It was already 9:45am and we still needed to make a stop back by our rooms. With the luck of amazing timing with the metro, we managed to get there on time. Larry even said he was surprised we made it. I'm glad we did. The tour was mainly an orientation tour, not going much inside or in depth at any given point. It turned out to be an excellent way to find out what might be interesting to go back and see more of later.

Our tour guide turned out to be none other than Nina from the ghost tour. The weather was a bit drizzly and cold, but for the most part it didn't rain on us too much. I noticed that there were a lot of English speakers in Prague. Larry said he heard a lot of Russian being spoken. There was the occasional German spoken here and there, and of course, Czech. Most Czechs working in pubs, restaurants, and tourist areas spoke a little English. I remember the first time I came to the Czech Republic, the language seemed so alien. This time after only a couple of days it was starting to sort itself out. I started to even be able to discern the stops as they were called on the metro.

The tour began with a walk from the Clock over to the Vltava River for the boat ride. We all got refreshments; Larry had a beer, Robert had a soda, Paula had the world's smallest cup of coffee, and I had a hot cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles. Nina gave us a commentary on what we were seeing. It was neat to have a view from down on the river. The cruise was about an hour long.

Photo by P. Tedrow.
Prague from the River.
View from the boat. A scene from "Mission Impossible" was filmed on that bank of the river.

Photo by P. Tedrow.
View from boat.
I love this picture. There's the Bridge, the rain on the window, and Paula's reflection.

The world's smallest coffee.
Coffee and beer.
Paula actually ordered coffee, not espresso!

Hot chocolate.
My hot chocolate with sprinkles.

After the cruise we walked through the Jewish Quarter. We didn't go inside anywhere, but it was interesting just to walk around. I don't know why, but the thing that stood out to me the most was the Hebrew clock on the north gable of the belfry of the Jewish Town Hall (Zidovská radnice). The hands run counter clockwise or, "backwards," like Hebrew script. A cursory look around the internet and through the guidebooks we have didn't turn up much information about this clock. It always seems like the things I find most interesting are the things that are a bit more obscure and more difficult to research.

The other thing that stood out to me was the contrast in the area between tacky souvenir shops blasting pop music and the historical sites.

            I was still feeling pretty beat. While the tour stopped at a bookshop, I used the opportunity to try to rest a little.

Hebrew Clock.
Hebrew Clock.

Photo by R. Tedrow.
Holly trying to doze.
Paula watching me try to rest up.

       From there we walked by a museum dedicated to Franz Kafka (Franze Kafky). We also entered a crystal shop with a painting of a Prague from the past, then wandered past some of Prague's municipal buildings and library. Everything in Prague - every street corner, statue, building, fountain - has a story. If only I could remember them all! That's part of what makes Prague so fascinating.

Kafka.
Kafka.

This is one of my favorite photos from this trip.
Stone carving of woman and child.
Unfortunately I don't know the name of the building it's on, why it's there, or who the artist is.

      We finally made it to the Charles Bridge (Karluv most), which is quite a sight. It reminds me of the Old Saints Bridge (Alte Mainbrücke) in Würzburg (both bridges have statues of saints along their spans). The Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River and is alive with people and activity. There are street musicians performing everything from New Orleans jazz, to opera, to an acoustic-guitar-accompanied-marionette routine. There are vendors hawking mostly souvenirs, and there are of course tour groups and pedestrians. There is also a place to make a wish. Actually, there are two places. Apparently there is a bit of a dispute as to which is the proper locale to make one's wish. One popular location is at the base of the statue of John Nepomuk. He was the queen's confessor. The king killed him by throwing him off the bridge when he wouldn't divulge the queen's confessions. Our tour guide, Nina, showed us where the "real" place was to make our wish, which was an inconspicuous spot a little farther down from the St. Nepomuk statue. You put your right foot on a brass tab on the floor of the bridge, your right finger on another brass tab on the wall, and your left five fingers on the points of a star on the ledge. It may just be a setup to make tourists look silly, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

Photo by P. Tedrow.
Holly making a wish.
Me making a wish.

Photo by P. Tedrow.
View on Charles Bridge.
On Charles Bridge.

      Our next stop was for lunch at a little café, Malostranská Restaurace. Lunch was included with the price of the tour. (Our orders had been taken earlier while on the river cruise.) There was outdoor seating, but we were seated inside. The café staff tried to make the entire tour group sit at one table, but there wasn't enough room for me and Larry and Paula and Robert to sit together. We saw a perfect little table for four, but they didn't want to let us sit there. There was no one else inside the café besides the tour group (and it turned out that no one else came inside the entire time we were there). We stood our ground and were grudgingly seated at the table we wanted.

Photo by R. Tedrow.
Cafe.
Malostranská Restaurace.

The first course was soup. We had a choice between beef and cauliflower. Everybody on the tour got the beef soup, except for Paula, who had the cauliflower. As gross as that sounded to me, it was actually better than the beef! For the main course most of the group had goulash with rice. It was delicious, very savory and good. Larry had a traditional Czech dish with beef and dumplings (we later saw an almost exact photo of the dish in a Czech cookbook). Larry said he likes Czech food better than German food. Both are a bit heavy on meat, but I think I have to agree with Larry. We were fortunate to get to sample a lot of authentic Czech cuisine during our trip, and of course lots of Czech beer!

       For dessert we had a very sweet, hollow "biscuit" topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce, with coffee. It was a nice and light ending to our meal. Unfortunately we all felt like the tour group lingered a bit long in the café. By the time we left, we were more than ready to get moving.

Our next stop was the castle area (Hradcany). What sort of threw me was there isn't exactly a castle there. It's actually sort of a small town with a complex of royal buildings, squares, museums, and an amazing cathedral, all in one general area. Unfortunately, the price of our tour didn't include entrance fees. You can only see so much for free, then you have to pay.

       One of the first things we saw while walking towards the entrance was a garden. Ahead was a cobblestone walkway that becomes a bridge over a park area below. On the bridge was a very bold, friendly kitty, whom I of course had to stop and pet! I could tell Castle Kitty was used to attention.

Walkway to the castle entrance.
Looking back over the walkway in front of the castle area.

Castle Kitty.
Castle Kitty!

Photo by P. Tedrow.
Castle guards.
Guards at the entrance of the castle area.

Photo by P. Tedrow.
Back entrance to the castle area.
Entrance on other side of the castle area.

      The tour headed in and the first stop was St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála Sv. Vita). The cathedral was beautiful. I'd never seen stained glass windows so vibrant and vivid. The colors were truly amazing. I think what enhanced the effect was that each window kept to a main theme of one color. Photos cannot hope to capture the intensity of those windows.

Photo by R. Tedrow.
Cathedral window.
One of the amazing stained glass windows inside the cathedral.

The tour pretty much ended there, leaving us free to go our own way. We walked around a bit, enjoying the area. There was a great place just outside the castle area's exit that afforded an amazing view. We stayed a little while, taking pictures and just taking it all in.

View from castle area.
View of city from castle area.

      We made our way down out of the castle area. The way down was kind of neat. There were wide, shallow stairs, with a high wall on one side, and a shorter wall and the view on the other. There were vendors with bright yellow umbrellas selling souvenirs. It had an interesting vibe, like a mini-bazaar on a long stairway.

Stairway away from castle area.
Larry's in the black hat. Robert is on the far left of the photo in the baseball cap.

Either Paula or Robert took this photo.
Holly and Larry.
Me and Larry.

Our next destination was back to the Charles Bridge, only somehow we wound up under it instead of on it. We walked down to the river and wound up in a location where some of the movie, "Mission Impossible" was filmed! That was fun.

"Mission Impossible!"
Mission Impossible.
Larry enjoying being on location where parts of the movie "Mission Impossible" were filmed.

Paula and Robert by the river.
Paula and Robert by the river.

Photo by P. Tedrow.
Italian place where we had dinner.
That's Larry and Robert sitting there. You can barely see me next to Larry.

We did eventually get up on the bridge. We did a little shopping, then decided we needed to find some dinner. I saw a little hole in the wall Italian place at the end of the street, Pizzeria Caffeteria Vivaldi. We decided to go there. It wasn't very busy. It was open to the street, so we had an interesting view for people watching.

Larry somehow wound up with vegetarian pasta, which was not what he wanted. Paula traded him for her pizza with green olives. I had a very yummy European style thin crust "salami" pizza. Robert had a bacon pizza. Unfortunately, he accidentally poured sugar on it. The waiter brought him some parmesan, then charged him for it!

House next to Charles Bridge.
I took this photo from the Charles Bridge. I just really liked the way this house looked.

Saturday Part II

(I have no idea what the rhyme or reason is for the change of fonts throughout the page. It's a vagary of the site builder utility I use.)