DRIVE TO PRAGUE
Stephen and my Dad picked up the car from Europecar near the train station. We found all the driving we did very easy and enjoyable. We did have a TomTom which we found very helpful. We also had a large map and I had printed out maps from Yahoo Maps, so we were pretty covered for all eventualities. However, TomTom never let us down. It took us about four hours driving time from Munich to Prague. Shortly after we crossed the border into the Czech Republic we stopped for gas and food and to buy our vignette sticker for the car. I took Michael to the McDonald’s there which was the nicest McD’s I have ever been in. It was very hip and modern inside, and aside from the area where you order, you would never know it was a McD’s.
We arrived in Prague and settled in at Hotel Savic (review here). Stephen and my Dad headed over to the covered, monitored parking garage to park the car and the rest of us hit the streets. Wow! I was really enjoying Prague. Charming narrow cobblestoned streets with beautiful buildings and quaint stores. We did a bit of shopping – we really enjoyed the smaller local shops and then headed to Old Town Square just in time to see the astronomical clock go off.
The square was just amazing. The Tyne Church is spectacular.
Today was Lauren’s 16th birthday so I had made a dinner reservation at Kampa Park on the other side of the Charles Bridge.
We walked leisurely there across the bridge taking in the incredible views of the castle and the city.
We had a wonderful dinner as we sat outside with a view of the river and the Charles Bridge. Our food was very good and service was good, although a bit slower towards the end of the meal. This was a wonderful place to have a special occasion meal, but a bit expensive for just a regular dinner.
As we walked back across the bridge and turned around to look at the castle as the sun is setting I am overwhelmed by the stunning view.
PRAGUE DAY ONE
We booked a guide through www.prague-guide.info/ as Sarka was highly recommended on Fodors and TripAdvisor. She was unavailable but we had her father, Milan, who was wonderful. One of the most interesting things about Milan was talking to him about living under the iron curtain. He printed a “subversive” newspaper then and had a lot of interesting stories to tell about those times and the Velvet Revolution and his mother’s take on everything. He took us for a tour of the Jewish Quarter. He was a great guide very interesting and informative.
My only complaint was that he seemed so concerned about us having to pay money to go inside the cemetery or inside certain synagogues, that he kept trying to get us to sort of “sneak” in or just look at the cemetery through the gates. I finally told him that I did not mind spending the money, I came all the way here and really did want to go inside, particularly the Cemetery and the Old Synagogue. We enjoyed them both, especially the cemetery and Milan had several more interesting stories to tell as we wandered through it.
The Pinska synagogue is particularly interesting as it has engraved on its walls all the names of the Czech Jews who disappeared during the holocaust.
For lunch we ate at KolKovna (V Kolkovně 8) located not far from the Jewish Quarter and Old Town Square. This looks like a big pub so I was not expecting much, but the food was actually really good (in fact we went back for lunch on our last day in Prague). We did a bit more shopping and then headed to the Torture Museum, which is just to your left before you go over the Charles Bridge. We had been to the torture museum in San Gimignano and as we were leaving there someone said, if you ever get to Prague you should see the one there. Well, of course Michael remembered that so we had to go there now that we were in Prague. In all honesty, I thought it was pretty much the same, but Michael really enjoyed it so that was nice.
For dinner we ate at Chez Marcel (Hastalska 12) a few blocks in back of Tyne church. It is a sort of French pub/bistro. We enjoyed another great meal, particularly the pate (yum!) and had a delightful meal visiting with a couple from Chicago and enjoying the excitement as Germany was scoring in their Euro Cup Quarter Final game.
PRAGUE DAY TWO
We had booked Milan again to take us to Terezin. He arrived at 9am with a van and driver. It was about a 1 hour drive out there.
There are certain places that you can wander on your own, the cemetery, a small museum in the fortress, and the women’s barracks but the main part of the camp you must go through with one of their own guides.
We met up with our Tour guide at 11:00am. It was a very interesting tour as we went through barracks, cells, showers, and passages. One of the most disturbing things was to realize that where the guards family’s lived (wives, children, etc.) was just behind the concrete wall where they would line people up to shoot them…..
Next, we drove about 5 minutes over to the Terezin ghetto, where people were allowed to live in apartments. and generally live as a family, but they all knew when the trains came they were headed to places like Auschwitz. Terezin ghetto was basically just a way station to keep them until they were ready to be sent to a death camp. Milan took us to a secret synagogue that had been created in a small room in the basement of one of the apt. buildings. It was beautiful with much of the original wall and ceiling paintings intact.
The ghetto feels pretty much like a ghost town now, although there are some people living there. They are giving rooms away as low-income housing, but apparently not too may takers.
We got back to our hotel about 2:30pm and decided to go to Au Gourmand (Dlouha 10) for lunch. This is a little patisserie which had good sandwiches and great quiche but awful service. If you wanted to sit at a table you had to wait for them to serve you there, which was fine, but they kept helping the people with “to go” orders first, which became extremely annoying.
For dinner we ate at Tri Stoleti (Misenska 4, Mala Strana). The notes I had said it was an Italian restaurant, but it really was Czech. We had a very nice dinner, not too expensive and our waitress was the friendliest we had since our arrival in Prague.
PRAGUE DAY THREE
Today our plan was to go to the Prague Castle. We decided to take the tram up there. Note: the machine we got our tickets from only took coins, and you must validate your ticket after you buy it, which you can do when you enter the bus/tram. But note, that public transportation appeared to be on the honor system like Munich’s was.
Once up on the castle grounds we bought family tickets for the short tour and the audio guides. You could wander around the castle grounds for free but can not go in any buildings nor the Golden Lane without a ticket, however, you can go inside St. Vitus’ Cathedral without a ticket. Our ticket included the Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, The Golden Lane and the Tower. I had to agree with those who say the Palace is not all that interesting. The audioguide was fairly informative, but several of the rooms were closed for renovation when we were there.
As I mentioned, for St. Vitus’ Cathedral you could enter without paying, but if you have an audio guide you could go through another entrance. This turned out to be a very lucky thing for us. There was a morning mass going on when we first arrived which they said would be done at 12:00. We arrived at the cathedral about 12:30pm and mass was still going on and there was an INCREDIBLY long line all the way around the church for people waiting to go in. The line for those with audioguides was MUCH shorter. We still had to wait about another 30 minutes for the mass to end and the church to clear out. However, it was quite interesting to see the many parishoners, nuns, monks and even the Archbishop (with his red hat) leave the church.
We walked back down the hill and really had the sense that the crowds were much bigger today, maybe because it was Saturday and the weekend. We decided to have lunch at Kolkovna again, which was a good choice as Josefov (Jewish Qtr.) was pretty empty since it was Sabbath.
For dinner we had an 8pm dinner reservation at Restaurant David (21 Triezeste, Mala Strana) to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. It was located right near the American Embassy which Michael likes, as he loves to stand in “America” when we are out of the country. We had another lovely meal of salmon, ghoulash, sea bass and veal. They served us complimentary champagne for our anniversary in the biggest glasses we had ever seen!!
Next up Cesky Krumlov – click here for details.