Prague Part 1
22.01.2017 - 28.01.2017 -5 °C
We flew into the Czech Republic Sunday afternoon, coming in over dazzling snowfields, broken up by small forrest tracts. It really was a wonderful sight, surreal almost or should we say Kafkaesque. Fortunately the runways were clear and we landed without incident. We once again negotiated customs and passport control without a hitch. It was a marked contrast from our departure earlier that morning in Turkey, where it took over two hours to get our baggage checked, even though we had already checked in online. On top of that an overzealous official decided that Ian's back pack had to be completely unloaded, due apparently, to a suspicious 4 port power board. What was more amusing was her complete bafflement at Ian's UE Boom speaker. She handled it like a grenade as we tried to explain what it was thankfully "la musical "appears to be an internationally understood term.
Thanks to Cath's previous experience of Prague, it took next to no time to find the right bus, then the right tram to our lodgings. Ian was completely blown away by the gorgeous baroque buildings, orderly streets and traffic, cobbled pathways and numerous parks. As the tram trundled along, it was wonderful to catch glimpses of tall gold tipped spires and ornately decorated streets and buildings. With no offence to Istanbul, it really did feel as though we had finally found civilisation, as we know it, again.
Our apartment was immaculate, located on the second floor (although they call it 3rd, as the ground floor is referred to as 1st) of a baroque building only one block from the Vltava river. We headed out to a nearby Tesco's and bought provisions, including a bottle of Shiraz and one of Sav Blanc- risky given we don't speak Bohemian. We were a little worried that we may have overdone it, as the bill was 628 Kroner, until we did our conversions and realised it amounted to just under $33 AUD. The wine? About $3 a bottle! At that price you would expect pretty awful wine, but you'd be wrong. The Shiraz was quite drinkable and we haven't tried the Sav Blanc yet. It was a very pleasant evening, curled up in a modern, warm and cosy flat, excellent wifi speeds and a home cooked meal by the cheese and kisses.
But Baby Its Cold Outside...
We decided that although it was technically Monday, we would call it Saturday and so slept in before arising late and having a marvellous cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs. Ah the small things... Then we were off into the town. Everything is so close that we didn't bother with transport. The river is flowing and there is little ice, so there were plenty of ducks and numerous big white swans ducking their heads into the chilly waters. Poor buggers; it certainly looked like spanner water to Ian.
The city is so pretty. Gold topped ornaments, spires, statues. Buildings adorned with all kinds of creatures, gargoyles, cherubs and angels. Charles bridge has the most amazing number of statues, but Cath was determined to take Ian to Wenceslas Square to see the astronomical clock, so we plowed on. Ian absolutely loved it all, commenting that it was the nearest to a fairytale he had been. We stopped for strudel, warmed cinnamon apple juice for Cath and coffee, before making more purchases and then catching the metro and a tram back home as the temperature dropped to -8C with a "freezing fog" according to the weather report. What a "freezing fog" is, we remain unsure but it sure is cold and allows an afternoon of nibbling, reading, planning and wine of course.
Our neighbourhood, Praha 5, has many shops, delis, wine and beer bars, restaurants and bakeries. Naturally it was our duty to explore them and our lovely Airbnb host Zuzana had left some recommendations. As is our way we have found a local and settled in for a few of the best Czech Urquell Pilsners, Cath struggled with lifting the enormous glass to her mouth, pretty unusual for this girl not be able to get a drink in, but they are bloody heavy. Typically Aussie, it was home for a feed of steak and veg. Whilst we do like to try the local fare, it seemed like forever since we had an Aussie meal. We were left wondering what Queensland steak is, as it was labelled at Tescos.
Did somebody mention pork?
Tuesday was even colder, and we awoke to see tiny snowflakes tumbling down. After another of Cath's fine omelettes, we were off to see the castle. The cobbled pavements were slippery and we had to walk carefully like a couple of penguins, but we eventually struggled to the top of the hill where we found the largest castle in Europe. Along the way, delightful streetscapes greeted the eye in every direction; from the many statues of Charles bridge, crenallated walls, buildings tizzied up like so many birthday cakes and of course sprinklings of gold atop church spires and various other decorations. Prague, it must be said, is a beautiful romantic city and you do expect a princess to appear from her salon. We waddled carefully up the hill and after admiring the view tip toed down to spend a half hour in yet another Irish pub, out of the snow, whilst we established our next goal, a traditional Czech restaurant recommended by our host.
U Pinkasu was possibly one of the best, if not the best, restaurant we have been in. Established in 1843, it is still serving up recipes that are time honoured favourites. Accompanied by the now ubiquitous beers, the starters were a magnificent plate of various types of.... you guessed it, pork, ham, pork, pickled cabbage, red onions, spicy sausages, pickled onions, duck, more porkish type meats, chillies and a kind of terrine that was just so yummy. All this served up with a variety of breads and.... more beer. Did we mention that beer is served only in half litre steins, which consist of about a third of froth? Thoroughly delicious and you get a workout getting it to your mouth. The Czechs apparently lay claim to having invented pilsner and it is very good! We followed up with a couple of heavyweights in the meat eating stakes. Cath had pork knee, it must have been one huge pig to have had a knee that big, a slow roasted joint which eventually beat her into submission, served with mustard, horse radish, cabbage, chillies and pickles. Ian tackled a fabulous concoction of pork and other minced delicacies, wrapped in a filo pastry, together with a variety of pickled vegetables and spicy chillies and mustard. These two meals were delicious. Dare we say we were regaled by a magnificent repast? As this course was also accompanied by more steins of beer, we retired gracefully without dessert and caught the metro home, picking up a bottle of Shiraz for the evening, to leaven the pilsner. By the way, that meal and drinks, which would have cost well over $200 AUD weighed in at $52 AUD! The remainder of the evening was spent wallowing on the couch...