Our Bohemian Birthday Bash

Our birthday trip last month was AWESOME. (and yes, I know I’m laaaaate posting this.) As I’m sure you’ve surmised by now we spent 3/3.5 days in the beautiful city of Prague!  It just may be my favorite major European city we’ve visited so far, and if it’s not my favorite, it is definitely in my top five, and it is a city that I think that everyone should visit.  Also, JP and I just might have been geeking out while walking around and figuring out the layout due to Prague being the setting to a tabletop RPG we were playing last year with friends in Bloomington.  Also looking forward to going back and playing again 😀

We opted to take the bus, the more economical choice as we were able to both go for the price of one plane ticket.  Also as an added bonus I didn’t have to worry about tracking down mini shampoos for this trip.  The ride wasn’t too bad.  We both read and JP did some homework.  And being able to see the Czech countryside, which included a hotel that had to be accessed by cable car and a few castle ruins was pretty cool.  Then we arrived and I did the most boneheaded thing and LEFT our kindle on the bus, which I didn’t discover until the day after.  We tried to recover it, but the people at Eurolines desk in Prague spoke very little English and less German (which still doesn’t make sense to me…).  So RIP Kindle and awesome case.  You are missed.

The weather while we were in Prague was fantastic.  Warm to almost hot, clear beautiful skies, perfection.  We arrived right at Noon on Friday, and our hotel thankfully allowed us an early check-in even though I didn’t note it on our reservation.   After throwing our stuff down we headed toward Old Town for lunch where we got our first dose of Czech food.  Let me take a moment out to “sing” the praises for the food — it took me a couple meals, but now I am in LOVE with Czech dumplings.  It’s like eating spongey warm heaven, and they are SO awesome, especially when you have them with gravy and meat!  And speaking of the meat, if you ever go to Prague you must eat klobása.  I think it might have surpassed weisswurst as my favorite sausage in the world. Though, it’s close.  Klobása is sweet and spicy and it has that amazing “crunch” sound when you bite into it and oh my gosh SO amazing.  If we ever go back to Prague I plan on eating my weight in them.  Well, and the dumplings.

After lunch we walked around to see the sites around old town square, hopped over to the Jewish ghetto, and the Tim Burton exhibition.  Had we realized it earlier we would have hit up with exhibit earlier in the day so we could have caught one of the films.  JP and I were actually talking about the trip a couple nights ago and we both realized that was probably one of our favorite things.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to take pictures, but highlights of the exhibition included seeing the actual puppets from several films, Tim’s first submission (a children’s book!) to Disney Publishing when he was 18, letters, napkin sketches, and short films.  It was seriously amazing.  Plus I got to see Maggot up close!!!

We finished up the night by hitting up Starbucks for our Prague mug, buying a HUGE macaron to eat back at the hotel and climbing up the town hall clock tower to look out over the city.

Our first morning was interesting.  We were up fairly early — 7:30 so we could get up and going, and all of the sudden the door to our room opens!  Turns out the maids were going to just barge in

Saturday was a day of “steeple chasing” for us — which is totally the norm where ever we go.  Our first stop, the Bethlehem Chapel,  wasn’t actually an official church, – if I remember what the guide said,  but rather an old medieval meeting hall that was associated with the university somehow.  The claim to fame for this site is that it was the home base for Jan Hus, one of the early protastant reformers, well or heretic depending on where  you are religious spectrum 😉

After the chapel, we headed over to Our Lady of Victory to see Baby Jesus, and after spending some time in the church we found a gift shop with a really neat Christmas ornament.  We grabbed lunch from a food stand — moar sausage for me, and JP got a Czech specialty that pretty much amounts to a fried mozzarella stick on steroids. After lunch we checked out a couple more churches before we headed across the Charles Bridge (so many wedding parties among the tourists) to meet up with a friend of mine who has been teaching in Prague for a couple years.  We went and grabbed a beer and chatted for a couple hours in a park near the giant metronome looking out over the city.  After we departed, JP and I decided to dash across the river again to attend vigil mass at the church of St Thomas.

Following Mass we ended up finding ourselves over by the Kafka Museum, and around the corner of the fountain that lots of people found amusing, we had dinner at a beer garden   The atmosphere was great, and at a couple tables away there was the BEST behaved English Bulldog.  He was SO wrinkly and I just wanted to pop over and scrunch his face and baby talk to him.  But then our food arrived distracting me.  I ate more of, you guessed it, those awesome dumplings!  There was also meat and gravy and a cranberry/lingonberry-esque sauce.  JP had a different type of potato dumpling that was stuffed with bacon. So yummy.  After dinner we opted to head back t the hotel by taking the long way around through the Jewish Ghetto and simply enjoying the weather and sights while our food digested.

Sunday we had a laid-back morning, not heading down to breakfast until 9, then it was off to the Convent of  St. Agnes, which is now a museum, for the Medieval art collection.  Unfortunately something was being filmed so we didn’t get to go into the chapel area, but the art collection was good, and very well organized.  After we finished with the Convent, we hopped across the river and went up the hill to the Šternberk Palace to see some Cranach and Dürer paintings, since we’re cool like that.  After the museum we headed back down the hill to seek out lunch, and ended up getting more Czech food.  JP let me order some pickled cheese as an appetizer, her got a bowl of goulash soup served in a rye bread bowl, and I got some smoked ribs.  Holy crap those ribs were good, and after discussing it, JP and I have a feeling that Texas BBQ just might have been influenced by the Czechs who settled there.

After lunch we opted to head back to the hotel and just chill.  On the way home we stopped by the grocery store to pick up some salads for dinner to offset all the awesome Czech food we had been eating.  Because let’s be honest, this isn’t quite light fare.  Delicious, but it’ll go straight to your hips.  After returning to the hotel and getting settled I realized that the kindle was missing, so I tore to the bus station to see if EuroLines had a lost and found, but no cigar.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, RIP kindle, you are missed!  The remainder of the day was spent with me goofing around online, catching up on blogs and such, and JP spent it reading for classes.  After opening our salads and being underwhelmed we both really wanted to go back out for more Czech food, but we were good!

Monday morning we were up bright and early so we could both shower, pack and eat before stashing our stuff in the hotel’s luggage room and setting off.  Monday was Prague Castle day!  We ended up having to walk through the vineyard due to some construction or restoration thing going on, but it was neat to go in the “back way”.  After oogling the St. George statue and the outside of the the St. Vitus Cathedral, we headed into the ticket office to figure out what the damage was going to be to our remaining Czech money.  You have the option to buy passes for the “short tour” or the “long tour”, and there are various other add-ons, including a fee if you plan to take pictures in the Castle and other sites.  We eventually settled on the short tour, which consisted of the Castle, St. George’s, the Goldsmith’s road, and St. Vitus, with the photo pass (because why wouldn’t you buy that?), and headed in.

We started off by dodging a large tour group of older people who seemed to think it was ok to try to shove us out of the way so they could see.  I mean, really people?  We opted to head in different directions from them after the initial contact, so it wasn’t too huge of an issue.  Though, I did get the stink eye from the same old lady a number of times.  The next tour group we ran into was a bunch of high schoolers who seemed very intent on instagramming the entire thing.  It was interesting to see that the guards were all over the younger group about not taking pictures if they didn’t buy the photo pass, but they weren’t all over the senior group.  Personally I think that the Castle complex should just up the prices 25-50 koruna per ticket and call it a day.

What we saw of the Castle complex was really really pretty.  Aside from dealing with tourist hordes in varying capacities we enjoyed ourselves.   As always it was cool to walk through and area that had been established early on and slowly built up over the years.  And while St. Vitus was a gorgeous church, I’d have to say that I preferred St. George’s.

We ended up leaving the complex as the changing of the guard was taking place.  We opted to beat the crowd out of the area instead of staying and watching (not that we could see!), and sought out lunch, which was, you guessed it, more Czech food!  We ended up finding a really nice little cafe higher on the hill with a beautiful patio overlooking the city.  If I remember correctly JP had a pork dish with dumplings, and I had a bowl of a sausage and cabbage soup.

We aimed south toward the New Town area, and along the way we saw the John Lennon Wall, and some of the infamous barcode babies along the way, along with the Dancing House.  By the time we made it to New Town and Wenceslas square it was late afternoon and we were both feeling more on the tired side, so we leisurely made our way back to Old Town, where we people watched, and spent way too much on a bottle of water before heading back to the hotel to get our baggage, hit up the lobby bathrooms and go catch our bus, where JP attempted again to recover the kindle, but no cigar.

The bus ride home for the most part was uneventful.  There was one girl who got on who desperately needed a bath.  And not in a skipped-showering-for-a-couple-days, but more like hadn’t showered in WEEKS.  Thankfully she wasn’t sitting within smelling distance… then we we made the brief stop in Dresden an American girl popped up with a ticket to Berlin, and the driver tried to communicate to her (his English was actually pretty good) that she had the wrong bus station and had booked her trip for a bus that was across the city, but was nice enough to let her on.  Her reaction the entire conversation was “I don’t understand” in a voice that reminded me of Peggy from Mad Men.  Then when he says she can get on the bus, and needs to get on right now so we can leave she asks to say goodbye to her boyfriend. Oy.  I could totally tell that the driver wanted to headdesk it right then.  Oh, and then finally when we get to Berlin, she asks JP and I where the sbahn in, to which I point to the sign and say this way (there are signs EVERYWHERE at the ZOB), and then we see her get onto the sbahn without buying a ticket.  Oy-of-vey.

So that’s our trip in a just over 2000-word nutshell!!  We really enjoyed our time in Prague, and really hope we have another stint in Europe and a chance to go back and explore the city some more.

Oh yeah, and pictures from our trip coming Thursday! Or, simply CLICK HERE!

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