Saturday, August 13, 2011

Europe 2011 - Day 6 - Prague Day 3

This morning was an early start with a tour included in our Uniworld Cruise Package. We departed at 845 on a bus ride to Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle) to start our walking tour of the castle/city. Prague Castle is a magnificent example of a classic European castle with an interesting history involving royalty, politicians and revolution. We started with the Saint Vitus' Cathedral then worked our way through the outside to the dining hall and then through the small individual rooms.

After that, we climbed down the steps of the south side of the castle, Svatovaclavska Vinice (St. Wenceslas' Vineyard), towards the Vltava river. We proceeded to the Charles Bridge but right before we got there, the rain poured very hard. Our group opted to hide from the rain for a little bit under one of the underpasses of the Charles Bridge. When the heavy rain started to let up, we climbed up the stairs on to the bridge where it then promptly started pouring heavily again. On the way across the bridge about 3/4 the way over, the rain finally let up. (Though we were already drenched). We continued on down to the Old Town Square where we concluded the walking tour.

The Old Town Square was extremely busy as there is a summer program where locals open up small food carts selling local Czech specialties. I got to try some roasted meats, local potato chips, grilled cheese, kebab on a bun, and of course, beer! We were having a friendly conversation with some Germans (who couldn't speak any English of course) and shared some of our food for them to try.

We then met up with our group for an optional excursion at 150pm. We toured around the inside of the Stavovské Divadlo/Národní Divadlo (Estates Theatre/National Theater). We got to take a view from the seats at the lower level of the theater where a tour guide gave us an explanation of the history of the theatre. We proceeded to the Mozart Salon where we got a "mini-concert" (from a quintet of musicians) of songs from Mozart's operas such as Don Giovanni, and the Marriage of Figaro. They then opened up the Imperial Box (where the Emperor had reserved seating, and also the best seat in the house - center of the theatre with a frontal view of the stage) where we could see the best view of the theatre. The theatre had a hidden surprise as we got to travel underneath and see one of the underground passages that crossed over to a building beside it, the Kolowratsky Palac/Divadlo Kolowrat(Kolowrat Theater).

The next part of our optional excursion was a guided tour of the Obecní dům, Municipal House. I didn't get any photos of the interior of the "exclusive" areas of the hall because I was too cheap to buy the 3Euro photo license, that I now regret not getting. The Municipal House is a stunning example of extravagance in the 18th century and stands as an iconic monument to the heroes of Czech history. I highly recommend anyone who's interested in seeing something artistic, architectural, cultural and historical in a few rooms that are not seen by many people.

The rest of the night was pretty laid back as we decided to take it easy. I shopped at Lidl, a local (German discount chain) grocery market a few steps down from our hotel. I had fun buying a few drinks and snacks that seemed pretty weird. (Those who know me, understand that I am an adventurist when it comes to food and that I love trying things especially when I have no idea what it is). One of the most interesting finds is some flavoured drink that I think is Jasmine? or Chrysanthemum flavoured water (Korunni Lipovy Kvet-Jemne Perliva).

For dinner, we decided to stay near home and just eat at the Cafe Imperial restaurant inside our hotel. The highlights: the daily special - Duck Breast with Lentil Ragout and Orange Sauce, and the Veal Schnitzel with the best mashed potato I've ever had.

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