Sometimes the weather is cloudy and sometimes our memories are; unfortunately, both were in Prague.
When we travel Brunette takes detailed, copious notes. Except when she doesn’t.
For our couple days in Prague last October she jotted down only that we humiliated ourselves. We were 24 hours and 45 minutes late for a dinner reservation we made months earlier. We didn’t have enough euros to tip a cab driver so had to run up to our hotel room to get more money. Her very brief notes conclude with “A lot of mistakes were made”.
So now we have to turn to the interwebs to be sure we don’t lead you astray. It’s very tempting to just make up stuff and see if anyone calls us out on it but we’re going to take the high road instead. (For a change.)
Prague Castle Hill
We are total suckers for UNESCO World Heritage sites and Prague’s rather extensive Historic Centre is one ripe for walking and gawking. Covering all of it would result in a longer post than your attention span or ours so we are only going to tell you a little about Castle Hill and Lesser Town. (Apparently they weren’t ones for euphemisms or political correctness in the Middle Ages.)
The original Prague Castle was built from timber sometime around 870 A.D. The usual litany of castle fates such as abandonment, a massive fire, defenestrations here and there and then ultimate rebuilding and active use went on for many centuries. One source says Adolf Hitler spent a night in the Prague Castle, “proudly surveying his new possession during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II”. (File under: Don’t count your chickens before your eggs hatch”.)
Today the castle holds the jewels of the Bohemian Crown, the St. Vitus Treasury (a very old collection of Christian religious artifacts) and is the office of whoever is currently President. Because it is also the President’s office you cannot actually tour very much of the castle.
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
However, as it’s an active place of worship you can go into St. Vitus Cathedral, an imposing Gothic structure that looks down on the roof of the castle (symbolism anyone?). St. Vitus is, for all practical purposes, the spiritual center of the Czech Republic and where many former rulers are buried. (In the present day the Czech Republic is well-known for its density of atheists, not its religious adherence.)
Clearly the cathedral was built in a time when religion was more popular as it’s quite the architectural masterpiece as well as a bit of a mishmash due to being pieced together, destroyed and then put back together again over many centuries.
The picture above is part of the Golden Portal to the Chapel of Wenceslas, In case you’re thinking “Oh was that Good King Wenceslas” of Christmas Carol fame?” the answer is – more or less. He wasn’t a king, he was a duke and his brother murdered him. The lyrics speak of him bringing firewood to a peasant who lived beside a forest (duh) and was originally composed as an Easter song in Victorian England. Whatever …
Prague’s Lesser Quarter
After having a look around the castle (the largest intact castle in all of Europe) and the cathedral you will most likely exit from the front gates of the grounds. Turn left and walk down the pathway that will have the castle on your left. You can go either way but the vast majority of visitors go down the other side of the castle. So, not surprisingly, it is sometimes crowded and much more commercialized than the other side. The views are also prettier going down the right side.
You will descend into the Lesser Town (Lesser Quarter), so known not because of some snootiness from the Palace but because it’s on the Left Bank of the River and somehow generations of bungled translations led to it being called “Lesser” instead of “Left”.
Originally an area of Baroque architecture that housed German and Italian craftsmen and merchants it was, as we would now say, “gentrified”around 1257. By “gentrified” we mean King Ottokar II of Bohemia booted out the original inhabitants and decreed it a royal city.
Also, as per usual, it was largely destroyed by fires twice. The first time the match-crazy Hussites burned it down. The second time a more conventional fire wrought devastation. After that they rebuilt using Renaissance style architecture (perhaps thinking it was fireproof) so the look of the area has undergone a lot of changes over the years.
We enjoyed the many small shops, each seeming to specialize in one thing only. Many were whimsical, some creepy and a few downright menacing. You could waste serious amounts of time and money playing in the shops. Amazingly, we did not.
We did wander over to a small bridge that is covered with those ubiquitous “love locks” which many people find to be charming. We think they weigh down ancient bridges and obliterate the architecture. Blonde thinks an end could be put to the practice by requiring all couples who place a lock to have to fly back together at their own expense to remove the lock if their relationship doesn’t last. That should free up a lot of bridge hardware!
Prague – food and humiliation
But one good thing about the love locks was that they led us to do something we usually don’t; eat street food. Although these are made throughout Prague the ones at this location smelled and looked too good for us to resist. They’re rolled and heated dough with lots of butter painted on and sprinkled cinnamon sugar. We could have eaten handfuls of them if our dinner reservation at Terasa u Zlate Studne had not been pending.
We knew the restaurant was only a couple minutes away by foot but tried to find it a little early as they were generously comping us to dinner and we wanted to be sure not to be late. But we couldn’t find it anywhere! On TripAdvisor it’s rated #1 of 4,432 Restaurants in Prague so we assumed anyone could tell us where it was located. Wrong! As we grew later and increasingly stressed someone finally was able to lead us to the restaurant. It’s on the rooftop of the Golden Well Hotel and isn’t easy to find. We were mortified to be 45 minutes late.
We showed up, apologized for our lateness and were given some very odd and not entirely pleased looks. It turned out that our reservation had been for the previous night and they had had their chef and PR person available to meet with us. It was a terrace so they couldn’t (as I’m sure they wanted to do) defenestrate (your new word for the day) us, so they fed us.
It was an absolutely magnificent meal. Because of our shame we gratefully accepted things we won’t normally eat, such as tuna tartare. (We would have eaten boiled raccoons and smiled if we thought that would make things right.) But maybe shame is a way of learning to enjoy new food experiences as we loved every morsel we were very graciously served. It was nice to not only have top quality food but to also have an international menu that did not consist of only Czech food (too many meals of that can be, well, too many meals of that).
Afterwards we were too full, humiliated and tired to navigate our way back to our hotel using public transportation. We asked the man at the hotel desk on the ground floor to call us a taxi. He did – and then we didn’t have enough money on hand to tip the driver at the end of the ride. Blonde had to scoot up to our room and do a euro grab while Brunette sat in the taxi as a token of our good intentions.
It had been a very interesting and, upon reflection, rewarding day but – “ A lot of mistakes were made”.