Sunday, December 2, 2012

Prague, Czech Republic - Another beautiful city

June 18, 2012
I had a pleasant five-hour train ride to Prague today. I really enjoy traveling by train; it’s so pleasant to just sit back and watch the changing landscape. 

I meet a girl while we are both exchanging euros for Czech crowns, and we spend the rest of the day wandering around together. Prague is beautiful, full of amazing architecture.

June 19, 2012
I’m happy to find another free walking tour in Prague. I like hearing the stories behind what I’m seeing. I learn that the astrological clock tower in one of the many squares was the first of its kind. The officials of Prague invited the inventor to a meeting, but failed to mention that the purpose for meeting was to burn his eyes out in order to prevent him from duplicating the clock tower anywhere. For revenge, the inventor stuck his hand in the gears and broke the clock. It was decades before they could get it working again. 

It was also very interesting to learn more about living here during the communist regime - I think many Americans (myself included) don’t fully comprehend how bad it really was, how controlled and regulated the peoples’ lives were. When the regime left, many children were so excited to drink Coca-Cola, one of the many products prohibited during Communist rule. And wear jeans. And read books.

I have heard a few similar remarks during my journey from other travelers. One college-age girl declines a sweet because she “already had one today.” Another woman attempts to rationalize her indulgence in a street food by claiming that she “burned enough calories with all the walking” to eat a treat. Both times they are worried about weight gain. What about just enjoying the cultural cuisine? So what if you gain a pound because you are enjoying so many new and different flavors and dishes? It’s one thing to make eating choices based on health, moderation, and balance, but I found it kind of sad that these women felt too guilty to just let themselves enjoy the cultural cuisine. It’s not forever; why not just enjoy it freely? Maybe it’s not the best approach, but I’m grateful that I don’t have this hang-up, that when traveling I enjoy food to the fullest. And when I go home, a pound or two heavier, I just eat a lot of salad. ;)

June 20, 2012
Today, the plan is to hike from the small town of Beroun to Karlstejn Castle. Well, I take the train to Beroun, no problem, but I can’t’ find the trail someone told me about, even after asking a shopkeeper and a hotel receptionist. I end up walking along the river on a footpath at first, but then a road. Still, it is pleasant walking along in the hot and sunny weather, with greenery all around me... 

It is a ten kilometer walk to Karlstejn, and then 1.5 kilometers uphill to the castle (castles are ALWAYS on top of hills). Needless to say, I’m pretty beat by the time I arrive. If the walk alone wasn’t worth it, reaching this castle was. It’s one of the nicer castles I’ve seen. 

June 21, 2012
My last day in Europe! Three and a half weeks is the longest I’ve ever been from home, but it went quickly. I think venturing to a new location every few days contributes to that feeling. Always on the move, exploring new places, just doesn’t give time a chance to “slow down.” Today, I take the train to Kutna Hora, a popular day trip. There is an ossuary that’s decorated with human bones dug from their graves, and it’s pretty surreal. The chandelier contains every bone found in a human. In the town, there doesn’t appear to be much of any interest, so it’s a pretty quick trip. Still, I think it’s worth it to check out the ossuary - it’s almost difficult to pull your eyes away, it’s so hard to believe what you’re seeing.

Back in Prague, I see the marionette version of “Don Giovanni.” It is fun to watch, maybe a little corny, and I wish I thought to learn the story beforehand because it’s all music and puppetry - no words. 

I’m excited to go home. I feel lucky because probably not many people love going home as much as they love leaving for vacation - but I do. I miss Nick and my friends and my home. And my bed. :)

A bartender recommended Lucerne when I inquired about a restaurant that served typically Czech food. So, I went there for dinner and enjoyed garlic soup and goulash with bread dumplings. (I also discovered my fondness for hruskovy napoj, pear juice. It’s very refreshing on a hot day after spending all afternoon traipsing around with a large backpack. The brand, Cappy, offers much more interesting fruit juice flavors than the typical American orange or apple.)
Address: Vodickova 36, Praha 1

My first morning, I go to Cafe Louvre for breakfast, a cafe established in 1902 that knew Kafka and Einstein as patrons. I order the Czech breakfast, which turns out to be almost embarrassingly large. Instead of one plate, I get many - a basket full of bread, a plate of ham and cheese, a silver dish containing one hard boiled egg, and a plate with a generous slice of cake. It was good, but just too much - I would have been happy with cappuccino and slice of cake (like the girl sitting next to me, whom I enviously watch while she takes tiny bites of her chocolate cake). 

My envy gets the best of me, and I return on my last morning in Prague for a breakfast of coffee and chocolate cake. It’s delicious. I wish I ate cake for breakfast more often. :)

Address: Narodni 22, Praha 1

There are many street stands selling sausage. I had a klobasa sausage - it was huge and tasty. The mustard, called estragon senf, was really good, and I’d love to figure out the name of this type of mustard in English so I can get some!

Absinthe, an alcohol, is legal and popular here (it's illegal in the USA), but the closest I got to it was having absinthe ice cream, which tasted all right. 

Lokal - My dinner here was delicious. I ate roast pork belly with steamed cabbage and mashed potatoes.
Address: Dlouha 33, Praha 1

Free walking tour -

National Company Czech Republic Puppetry Performances - Shows are twice daily (17.00 and 20.00)
Address: Karlova 12, Prague 1

Day trip to Karlstejn Castle
Address: 267 18 Karlstejn c.p. 172

NOTE: I found it difficult to know how much Czech crowns to get, since I didn’t really know how  much anything cost. I traded 200 euros when I arrived. After four days, I converted my remaining crowns, and I received 50 euros. So, I spent about 150 euros on food, transportation, activities, and souvenirs (minus whatever I lost in conversion fees).

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