Whew… this ended up being a LONG one!
My father and Leslie came into town to visit… kind of. They flew into Prague and I went and met them there for a few days.
Bravo went to the kennel Friday afternoon – which he was quite happy to do. He has figured out the routine and enjoys his visits there quite a bit.
I got on the road Saturday morning expecting it to take 2 hours but it ended up taking 3 when we added the tractor, fog, and road work to the mix. But other than that the drive went smoothly and I arrived at the hotel with no problems or wrong turns to find my dad outside flagging me down to the front of the ARIA hotel.
I will pause in my story here to tell you a bit about the hotel. The Aria was quite charming, and had a fun music theme. Upon locating my room and putting my stuff away I indulged in the fruit left and used self control to save the chocolates for later (I must find out where they purchase the chocolate because I am not sure I have had better). *Update: They make the chocolate there at the hotel! The art throughout the hotel is fun and engaging and continues the musical theme. They also provide a tablet and private wifi for each room which was fantastic! I also enjoyed the music and kept it playing anytime I was in my room. They have their own parking garage which for us was important since we had my car and later my husbands motorcycle to store away. The staff was so friendly and we were a bit needy, so I have to give them extra thumbs up for putting up with us and still continuing to make us feel welcomed and comfortable. They turned my bed down while we were out and kept a nice daily flow of their own chocolate in my room. So, if in Prague and looking for a place to stay, this was definitely a wonderful, comfortable, and worry free (which is at the top of my list) place to be. Oh, and the Gardens… I will tell you all about those later 😉
I got my stuff put away, had a quick breather and then we set out to find some FOOD! So we started our trek up, and up… and up… and up a little more. We decided to dine at the Lobkowicz Palace Cafe for a quick light meal. It was nothing spectacular, but it was good food, with good service and it gave us the energy fix we so dearly needed before heading out to explore this part of the city. If you need a quick inexpensive meal near the palace, this is your place.
Once we filled our bellies we first visited the Old Royal Palace, which I think I could have skipped and been fine. It was mostly one large room with a a few others and a view that was over crowded with other tourists. I honestly thought we had missed a turn and skipped the entire thing, but after coming home and looking it up, it appears we did see it all – which was very little.
From here we walked over to St Vitus’s Cathedral, which IS well worth a visit. It never ceases to amaze me, as a non religious person, how much these old cathedrals, churches, and basilicas fascinate me. The art history held within each of these I have been able to visit is enough for a lifetime of study. I do not believe I will ever tire of making these visits. And St Vitus’s is a wonderful example. Even before you walk inside you have to stand back and take in the Gothic Architecture from the 14th century.
Then once you go inside you are forced to appreciate the sheer size. But there is still art in abundance. Especially in the St Wenceslas Chapel where the walls are adorned with “over 1300 semi-precious stones and paintings about the Passion of Christ dating from the original decoration of the chapel in 1372–1373 “. There is much more to take in and I could go on and on, but you truly have to see it for yourself.
Because it was included in our ticket we then visited the Basilica of St George which is the oldest surviving church building within the castle grounds, dating back to 920. The church was enlarged in 973 to include the abbey and was largely rebuilt in 1142 following a fire. Even without any info I had an appreciation for the age while walking through and had guessed that it was probably the oldest structure in our general area.
Next we walked down the Golden Lane which was so crowded we actually skipped most of it. I would love to go back and wander through another time when I could actually walk inside any of the small houses. The houses are where lesser goldsmiths lived to avoid the Guild tax, and it is mu understanding you can go in and be taken into the passed to see how the people used to live.
From here we took a pit stop at our hotel and then started walking towards old town. IT WAS PACKED. I guess it is just the nature of Saturday in Prague, but there was an absolute river of people. We made our way across Charles Bridge without really getting to stop and enjoy any of the vendors (we did go back on Sunday and do some shopping when is wasn’t so crazy).
But we made it to the square and went straight over to the Astronomical Clock (as that was one of my goals to see) also known as the Prague Orloj – the third oldest of its kind and the oldest still in working order. It is such an amazing structure to see even now, but knowing the history is even more impressive. The top section was created in 1410 and the lower calendar was added in the 1800’s. As death strikes the time hour after hour the people of Prague keep the clock in wonderful working order as legend has it that suffering will follow if the clock falls into disrepair. The clock continues to keep the relative positions of the sun, moon, zodiacal constellations, planets, and also the date.
Oh yeah… and there were horses 😉
I am a sucker for a dapple grey any day!!!
From hear we followed the sound of music and ended up watching a Russian street performer who was playing classical on a piano in the middle of the square.
I wish I could tell you who he was, he was quite talented. But all I know is that he was Russian. We enjoyed watching for a while until he started playing newer stuff that we simply did not know. But as you can see, he had quite the crowd.
We wandered around the square and then made our way back to the hotel to meet Billy who was arriving shortly on his motorcycle. Once he arrived and we freshened up we set out for dinner. I picked out a place called Art and Food that was supposed to be a unique dining location and it did not disappoint. Everyone aside from myself had wine that they were quite impressed with and we all LOVED the food we ordered. They don’t keep a regular menu for food or wine because they are always purchasing locally and fresh and then build their currant menu around that. Well, it works! Everything was wonderful! I will be taking people back if given the chance.
We drug ourselves back to the hotel with barely enough energy to the drag ourselves up the stairs to our room to crash until morning!
So Sunday we had a hike up the mountain ahead of us. We decided to visit the Strahov Monistary, mostly because I wanted to see the theological library! We hiked up and up and up and then wandered through the vineyard fields while, yes, still going up. Once we reached the top we poked our heads in until we found the correct entrance. Finally we found it and made our way through the theological hall. It was fascinating. There was a lot more than just a beautiful library. The monastery was established in 1140, but the theological hall was not added until the 1600’s when Jeroným Hirnheim, a philosopher and theologian became the abbot of Strahov. There are longs halls of ancient sea animals that have been stuffed and put into cases. It must have been quite the collection of its time.
Not to mention the view… the view was amazing!
We did not get to walk through the “church” part of the monastery because it was Sunday and I think it was actually in use as it was originally intended.
This is also where I purchased my souvenir for the trip – art! I always watch for local artists to add to my collection when I am in a new place. I dont always find something, but when I do it is always very exciting. I have art from all over the world, from central america to Slvenia.
From here we walked back down and popped into the church of St. Nicholas. Now this is a church I knew I wanted to go into because I had heard about it but I had not researched and seen photos of. So it was a wonderful surprise. The marble work, frescoes, sculptures, and color take your breath away. There are details everywhere you look. Even looking way up in the dome of the ceiling there are details and sculptures that no one would ever see up close. This probably turned out to be my favorite church in Prague.
And… lunch time! We decided to try out the Valoria, a suggestion from the staff at our hotel. They are worth listening too, it was great! I think all four of us really enjoyed our meal. I had homemade tagliatelle with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes… YUM! It was the second best pasta I have ever had – only second to true homemade pasta made in Italy while we were in Sardinia. We ended up sitting and chatting for a long time because it was such a lovely day and the view from our outside rooftop table was to die for.
I feel like I am always praising everywhere I go… but I do put a lot of work into planning everything, even down to where we will eat. Because I dont want to leave angry and upset reviews… I like being happy : )
After lunch we went back to the hotel to wander through the Vrtbovska Gardens. We had access right from the hotel which was a really nice addition to our hotel stay. This garden is one of the oldest baroque gardens still in existence and an amazing place to spend some time. We enjoyed the time we spent wandering through and taking in the beauty before Billy had leave.
After he got on the road and we all took a breather we decided to check out some local art before going to dinner.
I love glass and crystal and think the process of creation is a pretty amazing talent. So we first went to Artel, an artist who is originally from the states but has lived in Prague for quite some time and learned their know-how in the glass and crystal art. Her work was breathtaking, but also came with a price to take your breath away or I would have come home with a piece myself. But if you have an interest, the shop is worth visiting just to look. From there we walked back across the Charles Bridge, getting to look at everything with a little bit less of a crowd, and then made our way to Manto Gallery. While this work was WELL out of my price range, I went in knowing this. It was more of a viewing visit to be sure, but again – well worth it.
Is it really already time to eat again? I feel like that is all I ever write about. But we went to one of my favorite restaurants (after I accidentally walked us around the block twice) – Restaurant Rainer Maria Rilke. I have eaten there twice now and I have to say, it is amazing. The ambiance, the furniture, the candle light, the staff, oh yeah and the food… all of this adds up to make the perfect dining experience. Even though none of us were starving I made everyone share the goat cheese starter… because it is just so stinking good. They both got the chicken and smoked Salmon dish and I got the Venison Dish – we all left very, very happy!
We again drug our sleepy bodies back to our hotel to crash for the night. I ended up putting on some Debussy and reading for a few hours, but crash is exactly what I did after that.
And now we find ourselves on Monday, my last day. We decided to take advantage of the fact I had my car there and get out of town. I wanted to make sure they got to see some of the real Czech country side and not just the infamous Praha. So we loaded up and headed south towards Karlštejn Castle which we realize was closed on Mondays about halfway there, but we were all enjoying driving through the little czech towns so much we decided to keep going and then just slowly make our way to Zamek Melnik Castle.
Once we found the small town of Melnik we first had to find someone to figure out how to pay for parking, which we lucked out and didnt have to pay due to it being the day after a festival. Then it was time to hunt for a WC sign and pee! I was about to POP! Once all of that was taken care of we walked toward the castle to find the restaurant we read about. As we walked along the wall we heard plates and forks clinking above us and followed the sounds to find our restaurant with the most amazing view over the river. It was buffet only and we just went with the flow and it turned out to be in our best interest. They were serving a rice dish with smoked pork and dumplings (completely different than an American dumpling… it is more like a very doey french bread). It was DELICIOUS and ended up being a little under 300 Krona for all 3 of us. We decided to leave a nice tip because the staff had been so friendly and the food so good.
As we walked from the restaurant to the gift shop to purchase the tickets for the museum and wine cellar we noticed something… unique… happening out in the court yard and went out to investigate. Every single car parked in the lot was something well worth taking a look at. Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini, BMW, Austin Martin… you get the idea. But in looking closer these cars were not there for our enjoyment… they had dead bugs on their fronts and stuff in their seats. These cars were being used as transportation, not for show! But… we used them as a show and thoroughly enjoyed it. Turns out it was a group touring together and this happened to be one of their stops. And then another equally unique treat – while out viewing the cars we met a man who turned out to be Mr Jiřího Jana Lobkowicze – the man who calls this castle home. It was a treat getting to chat with him so of course we also got a photo.
After we finished up viewing the cars we went back in to walk through the castle. I am very impressed! I have been to quite a few castles and palaces and this one had more room open than some of the larger city palaces I have walked through. While not as grand as those, the rooms are full of history and it was one of our favorite things we did in Czech. We also walekd through the wine cellar. This is a quick view, but still fun to see!
On our way out we made sure to stop in the sweet shop and buy a bag full of macaroons… none of which made it back to the car. So good!
And this concludes my whirlwind trip!
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