Prague is a city I’ve wanted to visit, so we were especially pleased that this was part of the itinerary. But little did we know that in it lived a hidden gem. Twenty-five years ago a little girl named Kati and her mother Ria lived near us. If you’ve read the blog, you’ll know that we re-connected with Ria, her mother, in Vienna during this trip. In all of our talking, she told us that Kati now lived in Prague and was likely to be at home during our trip. So for one magical evening, we enjoyed time with “our” Kati as we ate, laughed, and reminisced.
But that was in the evening, after a long day of touring and exploring. So, first, a brief look at historic Prague. . .or at least the parts that interested me!
Entering the castle complex in Prague we passed by these stoic guards. Of course, the ones I didn’t have courage to photograph were the REAL guards in camo and machine guns. Worldwide. . . security.
When we entered the gates we were surprised to see this Korean wedding couple having their picture. That is, until our guide told us that in Korea there’s a soap opera in which the stars get married at the Prague castle. So. . . .there’s been a huge influx of couples getting married and having photos taken in Prague. Mike, Marty, and Marge went for a walk early in the morning and found lots of couples being photographed before the tourist hordes descended.
Good King Wenceslas, who “looked out upon the feast of Stephen” is/was Czech (907-935) and he’s revered to this day. We found him in the cathedral and in his own square.
St. Vitus Cathedral is the burial place of Wenceslaus, as well as others. I found the stained glass windows especially interesting because the shapes of the glass was unlike others we’ve seen. My iphone camera sure didn’t do them justice.
Exterior views of the cathedral. As usual, we wished we had time for a more in-depth tour, because we find that the local experts have so much to offer and tell stories not found in history books. But, alas, move on we must!
Back down in the town we strolled along the Prague “Fifth Avenue” where prices were 20% higher than in NY because the shops had just been built in 2000. Looking back over our shoulders, we saw a huge metronome, erected in 1991 to remind Czechs of their “times of the past.” The local citizens don’t think too highly of the metronome but glad that it replaces a statue of Stalin, the largest one in the world, which was removed in 1962.
A treat we all enjoyed in Prague was the “trdelnik,” sweet dough wrapped around a core and grilled over charcoal. Tim treated the entire group to this delight! Warm, sweet, and delicious.
The Jewish quarter was another area I’d like to explore more. Take a look at the clock, top and bottom. Why does the bottom one appear backwards? Because it is! It’s in Hebrew!
And further along was the famous Astrological Clock. We waited until 12 noon to watch the 12 Apostles make their appearance, brief though it was.
The market was nearby so we browsed and found a marionette which will be a birthday gift for Gemma. Marionettes and puppetry have a long history in the Czech republic, often used as political commentary so that the “puppet masters” could hide behind the curtain. But one unfortunate guy who spoke out against the Nazis got found out and sent to a concentration camp.
Lunch. . .yes, eating again. We found prices were extremely low by our standards, and it was easy to eat for $7-$8 per person. Another reason to return to the Czech Republic!
An afternoon stroll along the Vltava, better known to us as the Moldau, gave us some good views of the Charles Bridge and lots of people enjoying boating and kayaking.
Winding our way back to the hotel through local streets, we remembered the words of our morning guide who told us to always “look up.” I can’t begin to tell you the beauty and variety of statuary atop the most common buildings.
This is just one of a hundred examples!
After a rest at our post-Soviet hotel, which reminded me of places I’ve seen in Ukraine, we met Kati. Coincidentally she works right down the street from our hotel at the Lucerna center, home to this MOST unusual statue!
We went to a local restaurant which Kati suggested and ate MEAT. Yes, more meat. I had a steak which was tender and delicious. But this time it was beef or fish, cooked over an open fire. Just as a frame of reference, our entire bill for 5 people for all dinners, drinks, and tip was $110.
After an ice cream dessert at a different outdoor cafe, it was time to say farewell to Kati. I was wearing the necklace that her mother gave me 25 years ago, and I gave it to Kati, telling her, “You’ll know when it’s time to pass it on to someone else.” It’s the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Necklace!”
Despite all the splendors and wonderful places we saw on this two week exploration of Eastern Europe, the highlight for me was re-connecting with Ria and Kati.