Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 4: Prague

Prague (or at least the touristy side of Prague) is an extremely walkable city - there's a pretty efficient public transportation system with metro lines and trams, but we just made our way everywhere on foot, which really allowed us to see more of the city and explore along the way. After filling up on Nutella and bread and yogurt and sausage (of course the sausage!) and plenty of coffee, we walked back across Charles Bridge for a visit to Prague Castle, the largest castle complex in the world - this thing has been around in some shape or form since 870. Holy smack, the ninth century...we're getting old here. Of course, getting up to the castle requires a little bit of work. After we tackled a rather daunting series of steps, we found ourselves up at castle level with a fantastic view of the city. We made our way into the castle grounds, threw down some crowns for admittance into the cool parts, and headed off to explore. Unfortunately, we missed the changing of the guard, but I did have a guard moment. Silly pictures just make it that much more fun, right? Thanks to all of my fellow travelers for indulging me in my ridiculous photo moments. One of the most impressive sites was St. Vitus Cathedral. We had a bit of a wait to actually get inside, but it was well worth it. The exterior of the church reminded me a little bit of Notre Dame with its Gothic take and gargoyles. Beautiful stained glass windows by Alphonse Mucha, the crown jewels and...well, and the dead body of Good King Wenceslas, a wooden carving of the city of Prague, crypts of all kinds of important people, ornate artwork all over the was just beautiful. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

We then headed over to Vladislav Hall, which served (among other things) as a marketplace for the nobility so they didn't have to mingle with the common folk. It even included a staircase that could accommodate horses zooming in for jousting matches when there was inclement weather. Indoor jousting - yipes. Another highlight - the rooms where angry citizen mobs stormed in and threw town leaders out the windows. They landed in piles o' horse poo. Fitting, I'm guessing, for whatever they did to prompt the throw-out-the-window business. Other stops on the castle tour included St. George's Basilica (so ridiculously old) and Golden Lane, which used to be the home of goldsmiths back in the day and is now the home of cutesy stores drawing in the tourist crowd.

After getting our fill of the castle, we made our way to Strahov Monastery to take in some more gorgeous city views and admire another ridiculously old place of worship. We attempted to find a microbrewery in the area for lunch, but Rick needed to hand us a few more details on that one...i.e. it's actually within the monastery grounds. We ended up getting our fill of schnitzel and fried potato products, along with a soup full o' cheese for Trinity, so all was well. The monastery did have its own little vineyard with some great views of the city, so we stopped for some photo ops and explored the grounds before heading back across the bridge (with a stop for gelato!) to Old Town Square. We watched the hour change at the astronomical clock at Old Town Hall - this is one of the oldest and most elaborate clocks around, and it was pretty cool to check out the astronomical dial, the calendar dial, and all the animated figures working through their routine to hit the hour. Then we hit up a few bookstores - I love traveling with fellow word nerds. I picked up The Trial at Kafka Bookshop in Old Town Square...I've gotten in the habit of picking up a book by a local author where I travel, so I have the Czech Kafka and the French Dumas and a random book about wine from a guy in Napa that turned out to be a pretty good read. We then wandered out way back to the hotel and the microbrewery where we picked up our complementary 0.33 liter servings of Oldgott, their locally brewed specialty. We learned about a "brewery tour" and tasting (more details on that in the day 5 update), which got Trinity all excited. There definitely was some brewing going on, and the hoppy aroma filling the air lent some ambience to our beer sampling.

After the refreshing beer stop at our microbrewery, we had a great dinner at a local place Megan had been to before - this place was ridiculously cheap and really tasty, even if the room temperature was a touch on the warm side. And we had chicken!! Remember, we're in the land of pork and sausage here. My chicken with pears and blue cheese over a bed of french fries was just yummy! Earlier in the day we'd picked up tickets for a show at the Black Light Theater, and we had a little time to kill, so we embarked on...Dessert Quest 2009. We thought we found a great spot, sat, inspected the menu...left. Thought we found another great spot, sat, inspected the menu a little further...and left. Finally we ended up pretty much directly across the street from where we started. Sigh. We needed some sugar in our systems, though, for the artistic theater adventure we were about to...endure. "Aspects of Alice," theoretically this Alice in Wonderland coming-of-age story-like thing was...interesting. The basic premise of Black Light Theater - no spoken words, so the message should be relevant for all audiences. We did hear chatterings of Czech and Spanish and English throughout the audience before the show started, and I thought it was pretty cool that even if we didn't have a common language, we could all understand the show to come.

I don't think anyone understood the show. It was...odd. And at one point us girls got the giggles...we managed to mostly keep things under control, though. It was definitely an experience, but I don't know if I'll ever find my way back there.

I'm just glad I didn't have any nightmares that night about flying through space, encountering scary clowns, or evading a creepy magician/priest/Mad Hatter-type guy. Phew. I mean, day 5 beckons!

No comments: