Afternoon Tea and Good King Wenceslaus

To quote Henry James,
“There are only a few hours in life that are more pleasant than those devoted to the period of “Tea at Five” ritual.“

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..off to Wenceslaus Square and Novo Mesto, the New Town

Beautiful painted walls on this building.

And some more beautiful buildings along Wenceslaus Square. The buildings here are all so beautiful, except a few communist era buildings which are very plain and functional I’ve never seen so much decoration and so many statues!

A monk with a scooter – just liked it.

Looking up the square towards the National Museum

And in contrast, a Communist era building, actually a little more interesting than some I’ve seen in other places.

The good saint himself, King Vaclav (Wenceslaus), shown with the four patron saints of Prague. On left, his mother, Ludmilla.

This is a memorial to two young men who both died in this vicinity protesting the communist take-over by burning themselves to death. Just my age and I was beginning college then.

The small balcony where Vaclav Havel announced the “Velvet Revolution” had succeeded in toppling the Communist rule, in Dec 1989. Its the wrought iron railing in the lighter building (Marks and Spencer building).

And a picture from the day

Inside another Art Deco building, Lucerne Palace, with sculpture of Wenceslaus on an upside down horse by David Cerny (who also did the Octopus from a prior blog post.

And some other photos from the beautiful interior – gorgeous marble walls and rich woods.

Just as we got in, a monk came and told us it was closing and no pictures – just after I snapped this one. Not the best but all I could get as we turned to leave.

The cute market where we bought food near dusk.

And we ate at Lokal – sausages, pickled herring and beer basically.

Here’s how they kept track of the beers – we obviously did not drink our share…

Favorite picture of the day

Visiting a fairy tale?

.Today breakfast was at a little coffee shop where we got croissant sandwiches or granola/yogurt cups and coffee.

Our barista

This is an Evangelical church that looks quite old. It says on it that Mass is in “Deutsche Sprache” – German language. We happened to see a German tour guide talking about it to his tour – evidently a highlight.

And then it was time to start our trek to visit a hotel with the name Hotel Popelka – the surname of my sister-in-law – which happens to be a word that is used for the title of the Czech version of “Cinderella”. Popelky means ash, or cinders.

It was quite a long walk up a big hill and then down and back again. We started by heading for the river.

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We crossed the Legion Bridge (Most Legii) named for the legions that fought in WWI. Beautiful view.

We did get stalled a little watching the double set of locks moving boats up the river.

A pretty square across the lake. We were definitely getting into more residential and areas frequented by locals.

And then we started UP.

Judy noticed an interesting building with hand sculptures doing sign language. A little work with Google Translate app revealed that this is a school for the deaf.

Then we found this church and cloister that is FOR SALE! I want to live in it now…. shall I start a GoFundMe?

Look at the tram going up the hill to the building above (with NH sign on it).

Finally getting close to the goal.

We went in the hotel to see it and told the clerk about Judy being a Popelka which basically just made her giggle a little – not sure if there are any Popelka’s involved in the hotel or they just used that word as the name. It was a fairly plain, small hotel probably serving visitors of a few local small manufacturers not really a fairy tale hotel…

So we went on and found the U Popelky Bar a short distance away. The 3-4 locals in the bar seemed to get a kick out of the story – but only the bartender seemed to really speak any English. One man called out to Judy “Cinderella” when he heard her name.

Judy showing her driver’s license with her name on it.

Drinking some Gambrinus beer.

To get back we managed to figure out we could avoid climbing back up and down the hill and took a level way back. This went through the “centrum” or main downtown, as opposed to the “old town” or “new town” (but both old) on the other side of the river. Lots of nice stores, office buildings and shopping centers.

This time over the Jiraskuv Most

At first glance, this looks like a zoo on a boat! But its a boat to take you to the zoo….

The “Dancing House” – intended by the architect to look like it was dancing…

Around Prague there are a number of modern art sculptures including this octopus. We did manage to see three of them.

And now back to the Old Town – but the rest of the day will have to wait – but it does include some guys have tea at 5…

Brews and Views – our beer tour of Prague

After spending the morning in the Stare Mesto, we headed north across the Cechuy Most (bridge) over the Vltava River to Letna Beer Gardens in the huge Letna Park.

This was our meeting place for Craft Beer and Food Tasting Tour.

It was a steep climb – both stairs and steep path but worth it for the view.

Here at the beginning of the Bridget – what we were going for was at the top of the hill across the bridge.

Some views from the bridge of the city

We met our group and our tour guide, Rob. He was one of the best tour guides we’ve had – knowledgable, friendly and enthusiastic!

The first beer was a gambrinus made with 100% malt, Czech hops (evidently very special!) and a decoction mash. This beer is kept in a tank which is frequently emptied then quickly cleaned and a new delivery comes. Always fresh.

The park is a lovely spot, full of places to sit and drink beer, lots of families, picnics, but mostly beer.

Next, back down the hill and across the bridge and a talk about the history of brewing in Prague.

Remember this? Our next stop was Pivovar Lod – a micro brewery on the boat. The beers here are brewed on the boat and not available anywhere else. Paired with them were some pickled snacks.

The sausage like part was actually fish – three types and pickled.

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The larger mug was called Monarchie and the small one was Legie. I liked both.

Next on the tour was the butcher shop/pub owned by Paul Day, a former sous-chef at Nobu in London. He’s one of a few butchers in Prague working to bring back the great meats that were no longer available during communist times. His shop is Maso a Kobliha and is part of the wave of micro-brewing craft beers inspired by the Trent in the US. Beer here was named Raptor but you won’t be finding it anywhere else…

Paired with some fantastic Scottish Eggs!

This was really living up to its name now – the view from the next place was fantastic. It was a beer terrace (do you get that the Czech people like beer?) on top of a several story shopping center. First we had to take a few pictures…

Here we had an unfiltered draft Pilsner called (after the beer pub), T-Anker. It is made for them by the oldest brewery in the world, Brevnov, which was founded in 993.

Going down the UP staircase.

For a little snack before the last beers, we visited another butcher with a little hot dog store – Nase Maso. These were not your usual hot dogs though. Delicious sausages I’d say. Everything home made including the mustard and ketchup.

And another little stop in a store selling Gingerbread where they had made some special cookies for our tour.

I just liked the sign for this place…

Next stop was not as likely looking. Called Beer Story. We were down in the basement. And actually managed to get an extra hour and a half with our guide, probably making him late for meeting up with some people afterwards…

Here we got to try four beers. This pub, Pipa, has eight taps, very unusual where most bars have 3 at most. They rotate and we did have one from their tap, a Benedict. The others were ones normally consumed from bottles, some like Weizenbiers are meant to be served that way rather than in a tap. This Weisenbeer (at left) is Primator Weizenbier. We also had Pardubicky Porter, a dark lager, Bernard Cerny. The Bernard beer is dark, normally considered a “manly beer” but this one has a taste that is more liked by women.

Noticed both the James Dean restaurant and the Coca-Cola truck.

Then it was back to the apartment to rest a little, look at pictures, recharge batteries (literally) and get ready to go back out!

Unfortunately no sunset as it was cloudy and by the time we went out too dark for even dusk pictures. But here’s a sample of pictures from and near the Charles Bridge.

First one of Charles IV himself.

Not sure who these girls were – maybe a bachelorette party? One of them was dressed in black – the bride??

And finally settled on a place to eat – and drink a little more beer. This time – Budweiser – the real one from Czech Republic.

Sausage, gnocchi and a shrimp salad to share.

And one final stop – dessert at Le Terroir, the little restaurant below our apartment. Restaurant pictures are taken from the walkway near our apartment and are during the day. This is a little French restaurant. They were closing when we got there but agreed to serve us dessert if we paid the bill right away – normally the bill does not come until you request it – there’s no rushing you out of restaurants here.

A kind of chocolate mousse cake and Creme Brûlée.

Stare Mesto – the Old Town of Prague

The Stare Mesto is the medieval settlement of Prague, first settled in the 9th Century and was expanded in the 14th Century, something we in the US cannot even relate to. When we think of old, a 200 year old building fits the description. The city itself formed under Duke Wenceslas 1100 years ago and peaked under Charles IV (c. 1350) who built many of the city’s best known monuments.

There was a market here since the 11th century. The town hall was built in the 13th century. At that time it was the site of markets, parades, demonstrations and executions. Now it is mostly cafes and souvenir stands…

The square with the Tyn Church on the right with its twin spires. In medieval times it was Catholic, When the Hussites took over (1420-1620) it was their main church, after they were defeated by the Habsburgs, it became Catholic again.

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Memorial to Jan Hus, early Catholic reformer who protested against the Vatican. Although he was always a staunch Catholic, his supporters known as Hussites, eventually formed their own church.

Next we found a restaurant and had breakfast at Cafe NG Kinsky.

Cafe Vienna

Matcha Pancakes with homemade sour cream and yogurt with a croissant. This was quite different and delicious. The pancakes were made from a “flour” made from matcha green tea.

Mushroom omelet

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Church of St Nicholas

Beautiful baroque interior with an amazing chandelier.

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14th Century Old Town Hall with the scaffolding where they are cleaning and restoring – we will eventually go inside for a tour. It’s most famous feature is the Astronomical Clock, which performs every hour. Not really exciting but amazing to thing what a marvel this was so long ago.

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There are so many lovely buildings – I love the colors and unique look of each building.

Ungelt – one of the oldest places. During the Bohemian Golden age, a cosmopolitan center of international trade, now mostly upscale restaurants and shops.

Restaurant tables built right up against a church.

And every city needs an Irish Bar (as I’ve commented in every city). We’ve seen three already

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Prague is “Queen of Art Nouveau”

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Basilica of St Jacob also known as St James – maybe just a different translation of the name?

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I just liked this statue – kind of a sad Jesus

Gorgeous altar and Pieta.

And then there’s this!

.I regret a little that I did not go inside to see exactly what made these toilets “deluxe”!

The Powder Tower was the main gate in the town wall and housed gunpowder, which is the reason for its name.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, Prague was a center for avant-garde art, second only to Paris. Art Nouveau and Cubism were very popular. The House of the Black Madonna is an example of Cubism – rectangular windows and cornices. In the interior is a Cubist Museum and a cafe in Cubist style. The parabolic spiral staircase was very interesting as well..

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The Municipal House is from the Art Nouveau period, built in 1911. This was a movement against the sterility of the then modern-age construction and comes from the same period as the Eiffel Tower and Europe’s great train stations. Art Nouveau was born in Paris but Prague has been considered the place it really flourished and it is known as the “Queen of Art Nouveau”.

Below they were setting up the finish line for a 10K race.

Beautiful elevator

The Opera House, most famous for having been the place that Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered. They were setting up for a show and we were able to peek in the back door. Best picture I got – and although I missed it in this picture, the workmen waved when they saw us photographing them!

The statue commemorating the premiere of Don Giovanni. Standing by it was interesting, I kept hearing different languages being spoken but in the middle of each conversation were the words “don Giovanni”.

I love how this very old building was transformed with new windows and yet still looks good. It houses a modern art museum.

And last photo for the morning – this is getting too long. This was of a floating brewery – a hint of something that we didn’t know was coming up. The afternoon will be its own post. The word pivovar means brewery.

Praha

We really liked our Air France crew and the airplane – at least in Premium Economy. Uneventful trip except I could not sleep at all. My leg was just too achy and restless. Bill slept quite a bit of the way and Tim did some. So arrived in Paris around 11AM, and then had to navigate that somewhat complicated airport. At least we are through

customs and in the EU so no more customs until we go home.

Second flight was a smaller plane and quite full but somehow, after much changing of seats by certain groups who wanted to be together or something, we ended up with three seats for the two of us – so I got to lie down and finally got an hour or so of sleep.

Landed in Prague – Praha is the local name. We had a great driver waiting for us. Just had to get a picture because it was so fun to finally be one of those people who had a driver waiting with a sign and my name! Actually its not the first time but it was fun. The 30 minute drive was a great chance to talk to him about sights in Prague and he pointed out several restaurants near our apartment – before going back to pick up Kevin and Judy.

Our cute little (3 bedroom) apartment is right near the old town and perfect. Tiny elevator fits one suitcase and one person.

Our door – we love having an apartment instead of feeling so much like a tourist in a hotel.

Cute little French restaurant, Le Terroir, in a courtyard below our apartment

This street is so characteristic with its narrow winding path and pretty ornate buildings. The view is from just outside our apartment.

September is a little less busy but still lots of tourists and since it is a Friday night, lots of locals mixed in.

We chose Pinovar U trí ruží, a brewery with traditional Czech food.

First a toast with five different beers.

The waiter was great and suggested things a little differently than some of us had planned but every plate was pretty much licked clean! Based on this first experience, Czech food has a lot of hearty sauces on meats, delicious cabbage and dumplings! Below a few of our plates including pork ribs, duck and goulash.

Couldn’t quite surrender to bed this early so we walked around the Stare Mestro (old town) for awhile. Located a bike store, chocolate store and interesting dessert to try another time.

The astronomical clock – plan to visit it on the hour tomorrow

Bohemian glass seems to be everywhere.

And saw two Absinthe stores during our short walk, this one called Euphoria. Absinthe is a once illegal reportedly hallucinogenic and definitely highly alcoholic drink credited with providing inspiration to many artists and writers. It is often green and nicknamed The Green Fairy.

Tomorrow – the Old Town during the day and “Brews and Views” tour.