A European Roadtrip: The Prague Edition.

That brisk Vienna morning we gathered our belongings and loaded up our small car once again. We were so excited for Prague, but we had no idea how much enjoyment was still to come. nikon-1-057-1

Since breakfast was not included with our hotel in Vienna, we decided to stop at a McDonald’s on the outskirts of the city. Once again, it was fancy… Making American McDonald’s look pathetic! (What the hell, McDonald’s?!) This was longest leg of driving (almost 4 hours) that we faced, and we knew we would need food, because without it, there could be murder.

It was probably one of the more dull drives. It was filled with simple sights of rolling fields that went on for miles (or should I say kilometers). We passed through a few tiny villages, and eventually found ourselves on the outskirt of what we found to be the massive city. Thankfully, this time, we did not lose our GPS signals on our phones, and had an easier time locating the hotel, Hotel Majestic Plaza, which was definitely crucial since it was tucked back on a one way street.

Once we were there, we parked our car & brought our bags to the front desk, made arrangements to valet the car, got our room keys and headed for our room. However, our mission was lunch. We headed back out right away toward the main square, Wenceslas Square, which contains a large number of big name stores, and restaurants. They literally have something for everyone.

We wandered past many restaurants and shops along the way, but wanted to see what awaited us further ahead. There were several options, but I wanted vegetables (and a break from all the bread) & a familiar sense of home so we went to the Hard Rock Cafe since we stumbled upon it during our journey.

One decent cobb salad later & we began to explore the city. We wandered through the small streets examining the small shops & restaurants, making notes of where we might want to return. I found a shop that I thought looked quite intriguing called Manufaktura (I would return there the next day!). There were a few street vendors selling paintings as well. TIP: A painting is always a good souvenir to bring home. Once you have it framed, you have a keepsake that you can always show off in your home.  Also, framing it allows you to personalize it a bit too. NOTE: Don’t buy a painting just because you want a painting or because it’s done by someone grand. Do it because the painting moves you. It should speak to your soul. 

iphone-latest-148All that aimless wandering really worked up an appetite within us. We ended up stopping at a cafe right next to Old Town Square (which features the beautiful Church of Our Lady before Tyn & The Astronomical Clock). I was able to get a delicious pasta dish filled with veggies which is exactly what my body had been craving. The food was exquisite, and our waitress was fantastic!  TIP: The great thing about Prague is that it is very culturally diverse. Everyone speaks great English which makes it easy to get around, and there is a culinary delight for everyone, too. 

Once we were re-energized we were back on our feet and headed out to explore some more… We headed toward the river and walked along it’s edge for a while, taking in the beautiful lights and the magical views of a whimsical city.  From the rivers edge we were able to view the Prague Castle (sadly, my evening photos didn’t turn out well, but there will be more).

iphone-latest-143As we continued on our journey we reached a bridge and decided to cross. It was Charles Bridge. It’s structure was hypnotizing, as we had never seen another like it. With large statues on both sides staring at you as your cross from one side to the other, it had almost an eerie feel in the light evening fog.  As we approached the end nearing the castle we decided to explore a bit. Unfortunately, we reached a couple dead ends, and didn’t want to go too far as we were in uncharted territory. We decided to save it for the next day. We headed back and marveled at the beautiful tower ahead of us that we would pass through as we re-entered the heart of the city.  Following it on our left was the beautiful structure housing the Charles Bridge Museum. We stopped there to take a quick photo, and then continued on our way.

To our fun surprise, the streets became more lively in the evening, there were men with large eagles, and one with a trio of tea-cup pigs that just melted my heart(I have a thing for tea-cup pigs, which is why I suppose I almost cried with excitement when I saw them & got to give them a little piggy snack). There were people playing music & some pretending to be statues, and others roasting tasty Czech treats like trdelnik (not our favorite thing that we tried). It was lively… More lively than any of the other cities we had been wandering through at night. Prague’s winter night life did not revolve around a Christmas Market, and I think we found that to be refreshing.  On our way back to our hotel we stopped in to a small gelato shop, for some of the best Nutella gelato we have had (the best is still in Barcelona, though)…  We arrived back at the hotel completely beat. Rest was in order. We knew the next day was gonna be a doozy with so much to do.

nikon-1-058-1On our second day we awoke hungry and willing. We headed downstairs and enjoyed a tasty buffet breakfast full of all the usual European options… eggs, Deli meats, cheeses, fruits & veggies, breads, pastries, tea and coffee… We munched until we were satisfied and headed back out into the chilly Prague air. We were going to visit the castle & it was going to be a long journey. All bundled up in our coats we head back toward the river to Charles Bridge. Once we crossed over we made the trek up the hill and towards Prague Castle. It was quite the winding adventure, as we made our way toward the stairs to the top.  Funny enough, when we got there we found a Starbucks just off to the side. We stopped in for a quick bathroom break which required a rough climb down a steep spiral staircase. Once that was through and reconvened on top we took a moment to take in the city view which truly is breath-taking.  Nearby, we found a grouping of “huts” serving up all sorts of delicious snacks, and also some selling souvenirs and toys. We continued on with the intent to eat later. We arrived in the front square which was a very small park or what was just a large plot of grass surround by interesting architectural buildings, of which I do not know the purpose. nikon-1-059-1

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After quick admiration we decided to press on through the gateway. We embarked upon the palace grounds. We wandered through various structured palace walls, until we reached St. Vitus Cathedral. A beautiful structure that reminds me of Notre Dame, as they share in that same Gothic feel. iphone latest 168 1.jpg

nikon-1-074There was a really cute nativity set up outside of the cathedral along the side in honor of the holidays. The whole thing was made of hay, and was truly something to admire.

amiptheatherFrom the Cathedral we moved on, wandering through the village that sits on the Castle grounds. It was a magical area. Different buildings were painted in different colors. The area was lively with students & tourists. It was a morning of shenanigans. We didn’t tour the palaces or any of the other tour locations because each came at a price, and we were a little burnt out on tours, so we just laid low on foot. We eventually headed back toward to the entrance, but we did find a fun spot. A small amphitheater. It was quite unusual. The acoustics were amazing! We had a lot of fun playing there for a few minutes, and it even got us interacting with other patrons.

We did stop off at the huts for an amazing snack break. We feasted on mushrooms, a pasta thing, and perhaps a meat dish??? It was soooo delicious!!! A true taste of the Czech Republic, and it was like eating a reward.

 iphone-latest-173-1We headed back down the stairs to the heart of the city & took in the gorgeous view once again.

I stopped into a couple of the ornament shops on the way that had a great array of beautiful blown glass ornaments in all different designs. HINT: Beautiful glass ornaments are one of the fantastic things that the CR is known for.

We took ourselves back across the bridge & headed back into town.  We were still hungry so when we reached the main square we grabbed some schnitzel & fries from one of the food stands. It was amazing!!!  After putting a hot meal in our bellies we began to wander once again.

I found it… one of the fun shops I read about. The egg shop. They had many beautiful hand-painted  eggs in all different sizes. I wasn’t sure if wanted to dedicate my attention and funds to eggs & I still had my heart on a painting. So once again, we were on the hunt for the spot I had found the day before. Once we found the spot, on my second glance, none were as I remember, and there was not one we could agree upon so we moved on.

We ended up finding our way back to Manufaktura. I was so excited.  I spent some time wandering through & finding some great Christmas goodies (one of which is a beautiful painted wooden angel, that I am certain I will love until the day I die). FACT: I can’t wait to go back to Prague, just to revisit this shop. They have great bath and body products, wooden toys, and small home goods. I’d definitely recommend to anyone visiting in the area.

iphone latest 183.JPGAfter some shopping, we were back on the streets, and brad wanted to try to different breweries… I’m not a big drinker, so I had to say Nay. But we did find one gastro-pub that seemed interesting. We both ordered our brew and a couple small dishes off the menu & decided to chill. We scrolled through our phones, talked business, and just shot the breeze. It was a nice time relaxing with my favorite man-friend (J.K. I only have one).

From there we ended up back in the Old Town Square & got to admire the architecture in the day light. We watched the Astronomical clock as it did it’s hourly performance, then walked through the small church across from the Cathedral. It was a great spot to grab some great photos. iphone latest 200.JPG

iphone-latest-189We pressed on still to find a very small synagogue, The Old New Synagogue. I believe it was the first synagogue in Prague. We were curious and wanted to check it out. We found the ticket counter a little ways away. The tickets were rather pricey, we completely understood what the ticket was for. We thought we were getting a great setup, especially for the price. I think Brad considered to be one the great heists of the year because it turns out the only other synagogue we could tour with it was on the opposite end of town, and would be difficult to get to.

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When you do the tour of the Old New Synagogue, you go through a tricky-to-operate old wooden door, once through, an elderly woman takes your ticket & suddenly you step back in history. It’s such a quaint space that you can’t help but find intimate & intriguing.  The best part of this tour was this picture of my wonderful husband. It easily makes the top five .  The tour was quick since the synagogue was so small, and Brad was really irked about the ticket prices, so we decided to walk it off.

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While on our journey we had the pleasant surprise of finding a performance of traditional dance & music in Old Town Square. It was fun to watch for a little bit as other patron observed or passed through. We were right by the Christmas Market, and there was alot happening around us. We eventually branched off into the small streets near by to explore the shops, one of which was an old fashioned toy shop with tons of fun wooden toys and puppets. It was fun to go play with things that I hadn’t seen in years. It kept us entertained and warm for a little bit. Brad began craving a beer, so we ended up going into an old fashioned pub-style restaurant near by. The type where they serve up pig knuckles on what looks like a wooden cutting board. We got some light food to share and hung out until Brad was ready to go once again. We decided to take the long way back towards our hotel and walked along the river once more. It was a beautiful time to oversee the city in the foggy evening air. It was probably one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.iphone-latest-210

iphone-latest-215-1From there we headed back to the hotel. We were cold and tired, and I could shake the feelings I was having for painted eggs. We took our direction toward the main square, and our way into their beautiful courtyard, and walked through their french door once again. I quickly perused over the option and settled on 2 beautiful pieces. This shop is must if you are in Prague. Its a great way to enjoy a Czech tradition.

Eventually, we did end up back at the hotel. We dropped off all the goodies, and rested for little bit. However, trying to get back up seemed impossible for me. I was exhausted after a long day of adventure and shopping.  We needed to eat. Brad suggested Indian food, of which I was inexperienced and hesitant about. (Apparently, they have Indian restaurants in the DRC, who knew…) Indian it was, I wasn’t feeling overly hungry, and I knew it would make Brad happy. A dish of chicken korma, basmati rice, and garlic naan; we were satisfied & it was a great surprise for me. I really enjoyed it… That was the night that Indian food became a major craving for me. After dinner, we wanted more gelato, so we trolled our way through the city back to the place we had gone before and it was worth the exhaustion. However, after we were done we headed straight back to the hotel to pass out.

The next morning it was time to go. We got our buffet breakfast & headed back to the main square once again. Why? I wanted another egg.. There was one that I didn’t get the day before that I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about. I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t try… However, when we arrived we found out that the shop was not open that day, and because of that we turned right back around, got our bags from our room, checked out, collected the car from Valet, and headed off to Nuremberg…

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) Prague is one of the most beautiful and unique cities.

2) Anyone can survive Prague, even as a new traveler

3) Prague is crazy affordable, as it is not a part of the Euro.

 

 

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The Compulsive Traveler

out to see the world, and snap beautiful photos while doing so.

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