Prague - November 2004 Megamail

Why Now? Why Prague?

Prague has been on the radar for quite some time. Everybody whom we've ever spoken to about Prague had the best time there and thought it was a beautiful city. So it was definitely going to be visited sooner or later. We were considering going to Rome, but opted to take that journey some other day.

As for why now, well, Thanksgiving is increasingly difficult for my family to get together with it being stretched across the country and of course deer hunting season is always big so many times taking a week long vacation during Thanksgiving is wise because it ends up costing us only three days of vacation. This was especially critical this year with our wedding in Spain sucking up a huge amount of vacation in April.

In a nutshell, Prague is awesome!!! If you've already been there then you know this to be true, but if you haven't visited, then we cannot recommend it enough! Go to Prague. Now! Stop reading this lengthy essay in travelology this instant and go!

Why are you still reading? OK, I guess you might be out of vacation this year so Ill spare you. But I won't spare you from another dreaded MEGAMAIL!!!!

Getting There

A few years ago, when we went to London, we used a package for that trip and were pretty pleased with everything. Given that positive experience, we used them again for this trip to Prague and again were pretty happy with the results. has air/hotel packages to probably anywhere you might visit in Europe, as well as some other places in the world so if you are thinking of traveling abroad, you might want to check them out.

Our flights on United were for the most part uneventful and timely. Flying into Prague, I was surprised at how small the city seemed and definitely surprised at how small the airport was. Customs was run of the mill, other than I was probably in the slowest line imaginable.

After getting our luggage we got us some Czech cash, the crown. A warning about the ATMs: numerous times when withdrawing money, we would ask for 2000 crowns, which is about $80. Instead of giving us 2000 crowns in 500 crown bills as we were expecting, the ATMs would give it to us in one big fat 2000 crown bill. Breaking this guy can be a chore at times and in fact, we felt really bad about our first purchase which was a couple of bus tickets to the city. The cost of those was 24 crowns total. So imagine taking a $100 bill and trying to buy less than a dollars worth of stuff. You can imagine the look that we got: something like 'stupid tourists' just about sums it up.

24 crowns equals about one dollar, so 50 cents per person allows one to take the bus 20 minutes into town. I cannot stress enough how cheap mass transportation is in Prague. 50 cents will allow you take any bus, tram or subway with transfers. They offer a weekly pass that costs like $10 or something, but when a single fare costs so little, it didn't seem worth it and in fact, that turned out to be a wise decision because we would not have come close to breaking even.

The bus, number 119, picked us up right outside the terminal and dropped us off right in front of our hotel, the Hotel Diplomat, which is also right in front of the Dejvická metro stop. So as far as convenience of getting to and from the airport and to and from the city, we could not have made a better choice. The hotel itself was pretty nice. A word of caution though, the listed rate for the hotel was over $200/night, which we obviously wouldn't have paid, so if you want to stay here, definitely get it as part of a package.

Our room had an excellent view of Prague Castle and was pretty spacious. The breakfast buffet was excellent and so our daily routine was to gorge ourselves every morning at the hotel and then skip lunch. During our breakfasts, housecleaning would somehow clean our room. How they did this so fast and with such regularity I have know idea. The only complaint I had about the hotel was that the water in shower had two temperatures: scalding hot and brain numbing cold. Finding an comfortable temperature took some patience.

Sunday (St. Agnes Convent)

Not having a gauge for distances yet, we decided to walk that first day from the hotel to the city center. In the future we would take the subway, but this first day we were both stiff and tired from the flight and needed to wake up so we enjoyed the walk.

During our walk we stumbled upon the Hanavský Pavilion in Letna Gardens (Letenské Sady). This place offers a stunning view of the city. Of course, what we didn't know at that time was no matter where you are in Prague you will have a stunning view. Prague is just that beautiful of a city. It is human civilization at its height. Naturally, this makes places like Detroit so depressing.

Anyway, the Pavilion has a pivnice (bar) so I could imagine someone sitting there for quite some time, sipping a wine or a beer and just enjoying life and the view. As it was still morning and the place wasn't open yet, we moved on to the Jewish Quarter (Josefov).

We decided to spend the first couple of days, and particular Monday in the Jewish Quarter because many things of interest elsewhere were closed on Mondays. However, in the Jewish Quarter, most things of interest are closed on Saturdays. One of the things we wanted to see today was the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia (Klášter sv. Anežky české), which was more difficult to find than it should have been. Along our meanderings we saw some supreme facades, which again, we wouldn't know that we would see these throughout the trip. Prague is one city where just walking the streets is a treat in itself. We would spend a lot of time this trip doing just that.

Anyway, one thing we didn't know was that the admission to St. Agnes, which cost about $10, also bought admission to two other galleries that were near the Castle. That makes the somewhat steep ticket much more bearable and in our case, recommended. Unfortunately, jet lag set in during our perusal of the collection at St. Agnes, and as Sam puts it, some of the statues and pottery got very nervous as we staggered about. So we probably didn't appreciate the collection as much as we would have if we had visited a different day. However, there were some paintings by Magister Theodoricus that are a must see. They remind me of something out of the Lord of the Rings.

After St. Agnes we stumbled upon Café Marcel, which our guidebook recommended, and, as it was noticeably cheaper than the Czech restaurant next door, we decided to partake of our only lunch during the trip and ingest some much-needed caffeine. End result, not bad, but I wouldn't go out of your way to visit Café Marcel. It also was strange to have a Spaniard and an American taking a German plane to a Czech city in order to eat at a French restaurant.

We then walked our way to the Old Town (Staré Město) and past the Municipal House (Obecní Dům). One thing about many of the structures in Prague you should know: you can look but you can't touch. Meaning, you can enjoy their beauty from the outside, but you cannot enjoy the inside without attending some function. And most times, that function is a concert. The Municipal House was such a place and they were offering tickets to performances by a symphony for that night and the next. Although you will be enticed to buy tickets by vendors outside this venue, tickets are slightly cheaper at a tourist information center in Old Town Square (Staroměstské Náměstí). I'm not sure that is always the case though. But don't worry; there are concert performances every night of the week somewhere in Prague. And most are far more intimate than that of watching an entire orchestra.

The Municipal House is right next to the Powder Gate (Prašná Brána), one of the 'big three' as I call them. We went up the other two, but not this one. It just looks menacing, all dark and gnarly. From here we began a journey to main plaza in Prague, Old Town Square, the site of the Old Town Hall (Staroměstská Radnice) Clock Tower (one of the other big three) and the Astronomical Clock.

We warmed up with a Horka Cokalada at Hotel U Prince in Old Town Square, which I must say, was one of the best hot chocolates I have ever had. Expensive, but not overpriced! And then we hurried out to catch the hourly performance of the Astronomical Clock (Orloj). Which would be the first of I think three such performances we caught. There is a huge crowd to watch it so just go where all the other tourists go.

In fact, that brings up an excellent point. Even though it was November and it was cold, there were still tons of tourists. I cannot possibly imagine how crowded Prague must be in the summer!

While in the area we collected numerous pamphlets for future concerts and checked out the Church of St. Nicholas (Kostel sv. Mikuláše, in Old Town, not Little Quarter), which is definitely worth a peek. We then headed off for Charles Bridge (Karlův Most) and a glimpse of the last of the big three towers, Old Town Bridge Tower (Staroměstská Mostecká Věž). By the way, just before you get to the bridge, on the left, there is a small mall of sorts containing many souvenir shops. One of these has the cheapest post cards in Prague, at 3 crowns a pop. The next cheapest, which we saw many times, was 5 crowns a card.

You might find it hard to believe that we are still talking about the first day in Prague, but we are still not even close to finished. We did a whole lot of walking that first day and it made sleeping that night well worth it. Just think about how much you will appreciate sleep after you finish reading this!!!

Anyway, we then crossed the bridge, which has many vendors selling souvenirs...some interesting and some not so interesting. It was dark so we decided to save our in depth exploration of Charles Bridge for another day.

We then stumbled, literally by this point because we were both cold and tired, into Little Quarter (Malá Strana) and quickly found the other Church of St. Nicholas. If that first one was nice, this one is terrific, but we'll tell you about that later when we actually went inside.

And then finally, my friends, we made our first stop for a beer, or pivo as the natives call it. The place we stopped at, U Kocoura on Nerudova street, came recommended by both our guide book and a web site I found: This place was perfect and I would highly recommend it. It is small, noisy and definitely popular with the locals, which is what we liked. Sam made friends with somebody's dog and we just enjoyed being there.

A thing about beer in Prague: if you pay more than 30 crowns for a half a liter of beer, you are paying too much. Though we would at times pay as much as 50 crowns (around $2) per beer if the place looked nice and the rest of the prices on the menu looked reasonable. For example, 50 crowns for a bowl of soup and most entrees fewer than 250 crowns is reasonable. If they do not list the price of pivo you will probably get ripped off so be sure to check the menus outside. Pivos at U Kocoura were 26 crowns by the way.

I just about fell asleep at the place so we decided to head to the hotel, shower up and find some place for dinner. We walked up some stairs leading up to the Castle, along the way seeing a number of establishments where we could imbibe on later days and scurried our way over hill and dale back to the hotel. This would be a walk that we make numerous times during the following days.

We then went back to the Little Quarter via subway. By the way, Prague's subway system is very nice. Most of our tickets were 8 crowns each, which is ridiculously cheap.

OK, so we found this restaurant, U Kostela, in Little Quarter Square (Malostranské Náměstí). It was extremely nice and had a guy playing piano during dinner. Either the portions were enormous, or our appetites had not yet adjusted to Prague time for neither of us came close to finishing our meals, though they were both excellent. Sam had salmon pasta while I had some pork chops stuffed with ham, cheese and a mixture of veggies. Awesome!

It felt like 11pm to us, but actually it was about 7pm and so we finally decided to call it a day. The feeling that it was later than it was occurred every day during our stay in Prague. I guess our bodies have still not adjusted to Daylight Savings Time or something.

Monday (Synagogues)

As stated previously, most things in the Jewish Quarter were open on Mondays, while the same is not true for many other things so Monday was Jewish Quarter day. And the things most people will want to see here are the synagogues.

The best one to start with is the Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasova Synagóga), which is now a memorial to Czech people from the Prague area that were killed during the holocaust. It is a very somber to go through, but becomes even more so when viewing crayon drawings made by children who never came back from the death camps.

Well, on that cheery note, we will then proceed to the Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý Židovský Hřbitov). Wow, I'm just setting you up for a fun day, aren't I?? The cemetery is right next to the Pinkas Synagogue and is the best part of the Jewish Quarter in my mind, with the Spanish Synagogue a close second. All those gravestones, jutting about here and there dating from 1400 through almost 1800 is very cool to witness. It is hard to believe that although there are only 12,000 or so gravestones, there are over 100,000 people buried there.

And then immediately following the cemetery are an additional synagogue and a building they call the Ceremonial House. The Synagogue was OK, but the Ceremonial House is definitely worth a trip. It is a museum that highlights the burial process that went on while the cemetery was being, ahem, occupied. Of particular interest to me were the paintings by an anonymous artist that depict each part of the burial ritual.

Outside this area is a nice little street with many street vendors selling souvenirs and other trinkets. Not far from there is the Maisel Synagogue (Maiselova Synagóga), which was more of the same and then finally a few blocks away is the Spanish Synagogue (Španělská Synagóga), which is truly fabulous. From the outside it is just OK, but from the inside it is like something you've never seen before.

Now, all the places I mentioned above can be viewed with a single ticked that costs 300 crowns. There is a separate 200 crown fee to see just the Old-New Synagogue (Staronová Synagóga), which Sam and did as well. Although the place is extremely cool, I also don't think it is worth 200 crowns. 100, maybe, but not 200.

Right next to the Old-New Synagogue, is the Jewish Town Hall (Židovská Radnice), which has two different clocks, one set for normal time and one set for Jewish time. That was interesting to see.

Another aspect of the Jewish Quarter that was interesting was the fact that the place was pretty much gutted at the beginning of the 20th century and so it had cohesive architectural style in the buildings that the other areas didn't have. Don't get me wrong, all parts of Prague have beautiful buildings; however this part is just different enough to make it worth a stroll on its own.

We decided that we would attend a concert that evening at the Klementinum (a university), but had a couple of hours to kill before then. So we pretty much spent that time walking around Old Town, and before we knew it, New Town (Nové Město). There is a market in between Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square in New Town that also has some excellent souvenirs. We picked up some wooden tulips there on a later evening.

During this time, we hiked up the Old Town Hall Tower for a bird's eye view of the city. It was well worth it.

During all this walking, we also noticed there are like five different Black Light Theaters. Which is an artsy performance that takes place entirely in the dark, except for black lights from college parties gone by. We never did investigate further, but needless to say, your options are not limited.

Eventually we made it back to the Klementinum, which is very close to the Charles Bridge in Old Town and made our way to the splendid Chapel of Mirrors (Zrcadlová Kaple). There a trio of a piano, violin and cello treated us to an hour-long performance. Awesome! You should definitely take in a concert at least once while you are in Prague.

Afterwards, we stopped at O'Ches, which was a place that was recommended by our book. We, on the other hand would not recommend it. It is just too pricey. Instead, go down the street that intersects near O'Ches (Anenská I think) and head into the establishment with the green Bernards sign. We stopped into this place on a later evening and it was much, much nicer...and cheaper.

We then wandered back to New Town and explored the area around Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí). You will see a lot of things around Prague with the name Wenceslas. The guy was a fact, his whole bloody family are saints, except for the brother that killed him. Anyway, I digress. Wenceslas Square is a big shopping area. Lots of people. Watch out for pickpockets here. No, we did not have any problems, but it just looks like an area ripe for that type of thing. Same thing goes for Old Town Square and Charles Bridge.

Our last stop for the evening was a brew pub off of Wenceslas Square on Vodičkova street called Novoměstský pivovar. I found out about this place on-line at the website I listed earlier and would definitely recommend it. They brew two types of beer, light and dark, and after trying both; the light had more to say to me. We also had dinner here. Sam went for the spicy goulash and I tried some Bohemian Platter with all sorts of meats and dumplings. Both were excellent. Upon exit, it was raining and so we quickly headed to the Můstek metro station for the journey home.

Tuesday (Prague Castle)

Tuesday morning greeted us with solid rain and wind. But what started out as a pretty crappy day, turned into a pretty nice one later in the afternoon. Tuesday was also designated Castle Day. Again, we walked to the Castle from our hotel. By the way, this route brings one by both the Spanish Embassy and the Spanish Ambassador's House. Just in case you are interested.

Anyway, the crown jewel of the Castle (which is free to walk around the grounds, by the way) is St. Vitus's Cathedral (Katedrála sv. Víta) and it is *the* must see attraction in Prague. It is arguably the best cathedral I've seen...and from past megamails, you know I've seen my fair share. It is big, it is tall, it is bright, it has awesome stain glassed windows and equally as cool sculptures. I won't dilly dally with details, go see St. Vitus's Cathedral!!! Now! Seriously, you could go to Prague and see it for yourself before you finish reading this ridiculously concise e-mail.

There are three different tickets you can buy for the castle, which allow you to see a varying amount of stuff. We got the most comprehensive one, which also permits access to the Old Royal Palace (Královský Palác), which was interesting. However the main hall, which is also the main attraction, is currently under renovation. There is small museum in here as well that is quite interesting.

The ticket also permits access to the Golden Lane (Zlatá Ulička), which could easily be renamed Tourist Trap Trail. Unless you have a dire need to purchase overpriced knick-knacks, I wouldn't bother. However, if you want to stop in to take a photo of the picturesque street, we will forgive you. At the end of Golden Lane is Daliborka Tower, which I think you are supposed to pay for, but I don't think you do, and regardless is worth the journey. Especially cool is the pit that served as a prison cell.

Also on the ticket was the Powder Tower, which I guess is under renovation and is now just a crappy little museum so I wouldn't bother. But finally, the last thing the all purpose ticket gets you into is the St. George's Basilica and this is definitely worth a peek. It has nothing on the Cathedral, but is quite nice just the same.

Right next to the Basilica is St. George's Convent (Klášter sv. Jiří), which we had already purchased the ticket to from the St. Agnes Convent the other day so we decided to check it out. Again, it is probably the fact that we were zombies that first day and didn't appreciate the art there, but St. George's Convent seemed to have a better collection than St. Agnes. Of course it was overrun with unruly teenagers, but that didn't stop us from appreciating the collection.

During this trip we learned all about the suicide of Lucretia. In all the paintings she is topless and stabbing herself in the chest. It reminded me of the line from Princess Bride: There is a shortage of perfect breasts in the world; it would be a pity to lose yours. Anyway, there are several paintings on this topic.

Oh, before I forget, at St. Agnes, many of the paintings and sculptures had people with really long and skinny fingers. Oh, and one more thing. In 80% of the landscape paintings I saw, the general layout is from the point of view of someone standing at a switchback of a path leading down a hillside. The path comes from a wooded area; switches back and then heads off to some open valley. All landscape paintings are based upon this principal. Go ahead, prove me wrong!!!

By going in winter, some things that we missed because they were closed were all the gardens around the Castle and I think one can go up one of the Cathedral towers during the summer too. We also passed up some other art galleries that existed in the Castle that we may have checked out if the weather remained crappy.

As the rain had stopped falling by now we retook some earlier photos of the Castle and also took some nice panoramas of city of Prague. Before it got too late, we went to the Sternberg Palace (Šternberský Palác), which was a little difficult to find, but it is within spitting distance of the main castle gate. This was another art gallery and was the third and final one on the same ticket that included the Convents. This gallery was definitely the most diverse of the three that we looked at and so I would recommend this one if you only had time for one of the three.

OK, by the time we finished with this museum, it was just about closing time and very clearly dark. We snapped some nighttime photos of Prague and then set off in quest for beer and food. First we stopped in to one of the places along the stairs on Radnické Schody. This is where we learned the lesson to always look for prices before entering or else we would get ripped off. And sure enough, we were ripped off. Unfortunately, we cannot remember the name of the place, but it was the topmost establishment on the stairs, so avoid this place no matter how charming it might look.

Afterwards, we moseyed over to the Loreto and the Strahov Monastery to see if they looked interesting. We didn't have time to see them that day, but if they looked promising, we would do them the next day. Along the way were mildly harassed by some drunken juveniles, but nothing too major. On the way back we stopped into another pub recommended by our guide, U černého vola. This place we can definitely recommend.

In classic Czech pub fashion, this is no frills fun. We also encountered some traditional pub etiquette that we had not encountered before, but were prepared for. First, if the place is crowded, you will likely end up sitting down at a table with somebody else, which we did here and several other places during the trip. Second, it is sometimes assumed that you will continue drinking all night so don't be surprised if the waiter sets a full tankard of beer in front of you without asking. Just say no if that is not desired, don't worry, they won't get upset. There is also a fine selection of cheap eats here, but as the menu had not a scrap of anything other than Czech, we didn't want to risk it. Oh, and beers were a mere 21 crowns.

Hunger had clearly set in by this point so we trekked off in search of food. Not more than a block from the Black Ox we found a splendid restaurant with an awesome view of Prague. The place was hard to find though and in fact, all we saw was a menu and no clear indication of where the front door actually was. The restaurant, Nad Úvozem, is half way down the steps from Loretánská street to Úvoz street.

Besides the splendid view, the food was very good and reasonably priced. We ended up eating here the last night in Prague too and both meals, with a bottle of wine, were under $40/meal for the both of us!!! I found my wiener schnitzel and was very satisfied. Sam had some chicken with asparagus that was scandalous.

The bottle of wine put us into a jovial mood so we walked back down to the Little Quarter and found a bar called Jo's (another one recommended by our guide). This place had a bit of an Irish feel to it. I think beers about were about 50 crowns each and Sam and myself had plenty of them. Too many in fact so that before we knew it, it was past midnight and we could no longer take the subway home. So, back up and over the castle we walked, and back to the hotel for some beer induced slumber.

Wednesday (The Loreto, Petřín Park, St. Nicholas Church, Charles Bridge

Well, our partying the night before had consequences the following day. Easily, the day that we awoke the latest, we got a late jump on our tourism activities, which began almost were we left off with yet another walk to the castle area from our hotel. Our destination was the Loreto (Loreta), which in our minds is another must see destination in Prague.

It is just a monastery, but it is the quintessential monastery. Walking around the courtyard, you immediately feel as you have stepped into another dimension of tranquility and you can easily forget the outside world. It is another art filled location, but this time, all the art is outside in the form of frescoes and sculptures.

After the Loreto, we took the short walk over to the Strahov Monastery (Strahovský Klášter), but as it was closing for lunch soon, we opted not to go and never had a chance again. But it looked interesting so you may want to check it out yourselves.

Almost immediately outside the main gate to the Monastery is another brewpub, which was not in any of our guides. However, we decided not to stop as we were still feeling the effects of the night before.

Instead we took a walking tour through Petřín Park (Petřínski Vidikovac), which was a major location of the 1891 world exposition. You cannot miss this park because it looks like it has a little Eiffel Tower in it and in fact; it is a 1/4 size replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. If you have a few hours for a nice walk, we definitely recommend walking through Petřín Park. It offers alternative views of the castle and the Prague that you cannot get anywhere else. But, be warned. Despite what the guidebooks say, attractions in the park are only open on weekends. Thus, we could not go up the little Eiffel Tower or into the hall of mirrors.

Another major aspect of this park is that some enormous city walls from eras gone by are still present and in sturdy condition. The park is on a hillside, but if you do not want to climb up, you can take the funicular that costs only 50 cents for a trip up.

The next major attraction on our agenda that day was the Church of St. Nicholas in the Little Quarter. This is another recommended attraction. However, it was here where I was at my angriest as it clearly indicated upon entrance that no photos should be taken and yet it looked like the paparazzi trailing the royal family inside. It never ceases to amaze me the selfishness of tourists. So, my advice is, you better see St. Nicholas church before the rest of the world ruins it. Be sure to note the statues around the church and ...well, the whole thing is just plain cool so I guess I don't need to be specific.

Afterwards we needed to charge up our caffeine supply, but unfortunately went into a place that didn't have a bathroom so we had to find another place. That place was the scene of the crime the night before, Jo's. We snagged some overpriced jalapeño poppers while we there too.

Next up was the Charles St. Bridge, which we wanted to do a more thorough examination. If you have a guidebook that describes each statue on the bridge, as we did, this can take quite a while. Add to that all the little vendors present and you can easily spend a couple of hours just crossing the bridge. On the Old Town side of the bridge we went up the Old Town Bridge Tower for some aerial views of the bridge and river.

During our analysis of things to see in the Little Quarter, we discovered yet another brewpub of sorts called At St. Thomas (Pivnice u sv. Tomáše). We decided to head there for a beer, but ended up having dinner there as well. The venue here is truly cool, a bunch of old cellars, but the place is so large that it can seem rather lonesome and empty at times. Our experience here was that we can definitely recommend the beer, but cannot recommend so much the food.

Sam went for the ribs, which were not anything like ribs in America. Super dry and served with ketchup. My plate was bit better and was a mixture of duck, sausage, beef and I think some other kind of meat. The duck was pretty good, but the rest was ho hum. So, if you go, definitely go just for the beer and that means staying in the first room you come across. Do not venture deeper or else you're getting dinner.

Exhausted, we headed for the subway to go home for the night.

Thursday (Karlštejn, Vyšehrad)

Thursday was Day Trip day. The plan was to take the train to Karlštejn Castle, which is about 40 minutes outside of Prague, and spend whatever amount of time as we needed to see it. This turned out to be a bit of disappointment because upon reaching Karlštejn, we found out the castle was closed until Christmas!!! Talk about a major bummer.

But the trip was not a total loss for you megamailers. We did get some nice photos of the castle, and we can tell you how easy it is to get there. First, we departed from the Smíchov station (Nádraží Smíchov), which is not the main station, but a smaller one further along the way to Karlštejn. It was a little seedy, but the smallness probably made it easier to get tickets and get prepared for our trip.

I again want to emphasis how cheap mass transportation is in Prague. The round-trip train ticket for Karlštejn, 40 minutes away cost us a whole $4 for the both of us!!! You cannot go wrong there.

The train ride back to Prague allowed us to get organized for what to do next. We decided, because it was another nice day, to walk around Vyšehrad, which is further south of New Town than walking probably permits. The subway is an excellent way to get there though.

Vyšehrad was at one time another fortress/castle that has been since converted to a park. So expect a lot of big, bulky walls and green grass. This place doesn't offer as many nice views of Prague as others because other hills obstruct those views.

The one thing to definitely see in Vyšehrad is the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul and the accompanying cemetery. The church is only open for services unfortunately, but I imagine it is pretty cool on the inside. The cemetery is a somewhat modern one with many graves of very import Czech historical and artistic figures. It provides a sharp contrast to the Jewish Cemetery from the other day.

Next up was a more thorough examination of Wenceslas Square in New Town. Here we did some more browsing of stores and markets. We stopped for a soup at Svatého Václava and would recommend this place in the jungle of overpriced tourist traps. I think at some point we ended up back in Old Town Square and even the Jewish Quarter where we had a beer at Bier Fabrik. If you look at Prague on a map, and see where all these places are, you will realize we did a whole lot of walking in Prague.

We stopped for lots of beers and appetizers during this walking. One place in particular that stood out was Pivnice Na Ovocném trhu which we stumbled upon on Ovocný trh street. This was another small hole in the wall establishment that we enjoyed very much. The only negative was that they overcharged us on our meat and cheese platter so we shafted them on a tip. Still, this aside, I would look for this place.

Another place that we went to for a drink was Restaurace U Pinkasů, which is at the northwest end of Wenceslas Square. This place came recommended in our book. We were kind of turned off though. We distinctly said to the hostess that we just wanted a beer yet she guided us to a table for food. True, the bar was crowded, but not overly so. When we left, we found the bar to be even more crowded and when we went to the bathrooms, we found a second bar downstairs. So, in general, we were not too happy with the service at this place.

Disillusioned by U Pinkasů, we sought out a restaurant to entice us, however we found nothing and eventually found ourselves back at the Novoměstský pivovar brewpub that we attended an earlier evening. I can't recall what Sam had, but I had supposedly spicy chicken in a creme sauce. It was good, but certainly not spicy. During our stay here there was some raucous polka music being played up in the main bar. It sounded like quite a good time. But when we went to check it out, it was pretty much one table making a whole lot of noise and soon the whole place cleared out.


Our last day was another gorgeous one in Prague. Sam had a craving to see the Ginger and Fred cubist building (Tančící Dům) so we got off in the subway station in the Jewish Quarter and walked south along the river bank. We definitely recommend walking along the river because it provides some alternative views of the Charles Bridge and castle that you don't get elsewhere.

You also walk by some rather cool building including the Rudolfinum, the Smetana Museum (Muzeum Bedřicha Smetany), the National Theatre (Národní Divadlo) and the aforementioned Ginger and Fred building. Along with that, there are some awesome ordinary buildings with frescoes and sculptures along the river that are just a plain treat to see.

We then ventured over to the Slavonic Monastery (Na Slovanech), which is an interesting blend of old and new and then off to Charles Square (Karlovo Náměstí). A church that looked interesting to see, but that was closed at the time was the Church of St. Ignatius (Kostel sv. Ignáce). Also of interest on the north end of the park is the New Town Hall (Novoměstská Radnice).

While we were in the neighborhood, we made a quick stop for beer and soup at U Fleků, one of the oldest brewpubs in the city. That place was quite a bit of fun. If the timing had been different, we probably would have stayed longer.

While in Charles Square, we saw a cathedral off in the distance that looked pretty cool so we headed for it. Along the way, we passed yet another brew pub, the Pivovarský Dům, but did not go in. The cathedral that was so cool had no name. See, that is the thing with Prague. There were so many cool things to see that some of these things that if taken to another place, they would be a major draw, but in Prague, they don't even get mentioned in the travel guides!

At the base of the cathedral was a very nice little market in Náměstí Míru selling Christmas related merchandise. And so began our souvenir shopping in earnest. We walked back to Wenceslas Square, past the National Museum (Národní Muzeum) and the State Opera house (Státní Opera), bought more knick-knacks, back to Old Town Square, more knick-knacks (though we did not catch one final performance of the Astronomical Clock). On to Charles Bridge, more knick-knacks.

We flirted with the idea of taking in one last concert, but ended up getting distracted with all this souvenir shopping that we just plain forgot.

Upon crossing the bridge, our quest for souvenirs was replaced with a quest for beer. We tried to find someplace new, but nothing called our attention so we returned to U Kocoura and also took in some sizable cheese plates. On the same block as U Kocoura there is U Krále Brabantského, another place claiming to be the oldest pub in Prague. It is another highly recommended joint. It is on the same block, but right before you going up the steps of Zámecké schody. We loved it!

Up the castle steps we climbed for our final dinner at Nad Úvozem. I mean, why ruin a perfect trip to Prague by risking some other establishment when we found the perfect one already. I had some stuffed chicken breast and Sam went for the trout. Again, both were awesome and we pretty much just sighed at what a great trip it had been and how great a city Prague was.

Afterwards, it wouldn't be a trip to Prague without another walk past the castle on the way to our hotel. Besides, we had to check out where the bus picked up on the way to airport the next day and as we had to get up at 4am, we didn't want to have to think about any detail that early in the morning.

Our trip back was again uneventful, except for the small fact that there was some snafu in our schedule and instead of taking the 7am plane to Munich, we were on the 9am plane. If only somebody had told us sooner, we could have slept later! The big ride back to the US was on a Boeing 777, which meant individual monitors for watching movies. I took in Spiderman 2, Harry Potter and I Robot in addition to reading The Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka.

So... you've reached the end. Don't you have a sense of accomplishment? Just think of all the Christmas shopping I have saved you from!

Oh, and here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

Adios muchachos!

Eric and Sam


Prague streets heading away from Old Town Square.


Sam makes friends with a Czech dog.


The spires of the Church of Our Lady before Týn.


Church of Our Lady before Týn at night.


Stained glass window in Prague Castle.


View of castle from Petřín Park.


Karlštejn Castle


Karlštejn Castle


View of Prague Castle and Charle's Bridge.