Pretty Prague

The first bank holiday of the year (not counting Easter)! After work on Friday we caught a quick flight to Prague. Unfortunately we arrived quite late and our hotel was a bit out of town, so our first beer was at the hotel bar alongside some amazing Czech cheeses.

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Saturday was freezing cold, not my ideal spring day! We took the metro to the Prague castle, walked up the Old Castle Stairs to an amazing view of the city, then had a look inside the castle complex – the largest ancient castle in the world. It is almost a small city in itself; containing the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral, Basilica of St. George, a monastery and several palaces, gardens and defense towers. It is the official residence and office of the President of the Czech Republic and dates back to the ninth century. The castle has been a seat of power for many important people. We walked through the cathedral, then bought tickets to see an exhibition about the history of the castle, which hwas mainly about many wars and several big fires!

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After the castle we walked over to Charles Bridge and to the old town. Charles Bridge is famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river. Its construction started in 1357 under King Charles IV – apparently he laid the first stone – and finished in early 15th century. It wasn’t called Charles Bridge until 1870!

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In the Old Town we had a nice sit down lunch in an Italian place (Prague is full of Italian restaurants!) although I had a Czech dish of goulash with dumplings. Czech goulash is apparently milder and meatier than the Hungarian version – though both use a lot of sweet paprika. Czech recipes often use caraway seeds; they are widely used in Central and Eastern Europe to flavour breads, biscuits, cakes, stews, meat dishes, cheeses, sauerkraut and pickles. I didn’t really like the bread dumplings, but they were useful to soak up the tasty goulash sauce!

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After lunch we went back to the hotel for a rest, and to warm up! Later we went out for dinner, a place serving traditional food in the city centre. Alex and Aruna shared a fairly large pork knee. I had spinach stuffed chicken with a garlic cream sauce (pictured above). I wish I had tried the garlic soup, which I had seen everywhere! After dinner we went to a few pubs for a drink – we sat at one with a view of the Prague Astronomical Clock. The medieval clock was installed in 1410, making it the oldest working astronomical clock in the world! It has an astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky, a calendar dial with medallions representing the months and we saw the “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork  show of figures of the Apostles that happens every hour.

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Next we headed to a five-story nightclub, but on the way we decided to have a little taste of the famous absinthe. It’s a spirit of high alcohol content made from herbs. Anise and fennel give it a strong licorice flavor, while wormwood is responsible for absinthe’s supposed hallucinogenic side effects. We each sipped on a small glass each, pulling horrible faces at the overwhelming flavour! The nightclub, beside Charles Bridge, was five floors each with different music. A lot of good fun!

Sunday was a very relaxing day, which was nice to have after being so busy all week. We had a leisurely breakfast at the amazing buffet, and then walked through a nearby park, that contained old cemeteries and churches and old castles and had great views of the river and the city. Alex and I had a swim in the hotel pool  which was on the 26th floor and had even better views!

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Afterwards we went into town and visited the Staropramen Brewery for a guided tour and some tastings. It was very interactive and the beers were tasty!

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We had booked ourselves on a dinner cruise so we headed there afterwards. The cruise included a three course buffet and live music, and took us a fair distance down the river while it  slowly got dark. We watched the sunset and saw the beautiful city at night, as well as witnessing a music and light show off Charles Bridge. We weren’t expecting it, but it was incredible!

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The next morning we took it easy, managed to get a free breakfast from the hotel by turning up late, went for some souvenir shopping then did a World War 2 guided walking tour which was incredibly well done and informative. It is amazing how many things we walk past without noticing – certain statues or plaques on buildings. The city is full of hidden symbols! We happened to be there on May 5th, the anniversary for the Prague uprising during the war.

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During the tour we ventured underneath the old city hall into the underground part of town, and stood in a labyrinth where ground level was in the 13th century. I can’t speak highly enough of the quality of the tour, we all really enjoyed it.

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Our last memory of Prague was some terrible Italian food, a crazy taxi driver and a very late flight home. What a beautiful city!