Saturday, July 03, 2010

Save a Horse, Ride a Baby?

This past Sunday, we arrived in Prague – the capital of the Czech Republic. Heather couldn’t stop laughing after snapping the above picture of Jonathan at a park along the river in Prague, so we thought we’d share it with everyone! In all seriousness though, all the tour books and fellow traveler comments were right on – this is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (see picture below). Another great thing about Prague is how cheap this city is, at least in comparison to many of the other places we’ve visited. You can get a great half-liter beer on draught at a restaurant for just a little more than a buck (beer actually costs less than water)!

On Monday we got an early start to try to avoid the hordes of tourists. There are so many things to see and visit in Prague! We decided to take another free tour offered by the New Europe tour company (the same tour we’ve taken in several other cities) as a way to gain a better understanding of the city. After showing us some of the major sites in Old Town (the square, the clock tower, churches, theaters, etc.), our tour guide took us to the Jewish Quarter (see picture below). During World War II, the Nazis destroyed most Jewish neighborhoods in cities throughout Europe. However, the Jewish Quarter in Prague is remarkably well preserved, largely due to Hitler’s gruesome plans for the area. According to our guide, after removing the Jewish people from the neighborhood, Hitler instructed his troops not to destroy the area. His plan was to preserve the neighborhood to create a “museum” to an extinct race where scholars could study their buildings, relics of their religion, and objects used in daily lives. Today most of the area is devoted to the Jewish Museum, Synagogues (including the oldest in Europe), and graveyard. Although we didn’t visit the Jewish Museum, our tour guide told us an especially moving story about some of the contents. During the concentration camp period, a Jewish artist was able to smuggle in basic art supplies. Rather than use them herself, she gave them to the children in the camp. For many, their art work hanging in the Jewish Museum is the only evidence left that they ever existed.

After the tour, we grabbed lunch at this place called Bohemia Bagel, which serves all kinds of crazy sandwiches on a variety of bagels (definitely worth a stop on any trip to Prague). We then made our way over to enjoy a couple beers along with a shot of herbal Czech liquor (Becherovka) at the oldest brewery/pub in Prague – U Fleku. It was a really cool place and another must on any visit. For the World Cup, Hyundai built a “fan park” in the Old Town Square with a giant screen for people to watch the games. Live bands played before and after each match, and local vendors were set up to serve food and drinks around the area. We decided to partake in the festivities on Monday night, watching Brazil (the crowd favorite) destroy Chile! Here is Heather enjoying a Czech Budweiser during the game.

Tuesday we started the day by trying to visit the Staropramen brewery (Jonathan’s favorite Czech beer). Unfortunately it was closed for renovations, but we were able to eat lunch in their restaurant. We spent most of the remainder of the day revisiting sites from our walking tour and taking pictures (it is always hard to take pictures during the actual tour). Below is a picture of us in front of the Astronomical Clock (tower) in Old Town Square.

Wednesday was another jam packed day, which included a tour of Prague Castle and an area of the city called “Lesser Town” – ultimately lasting over four hours. The tour also included a changing of the guard ceremony at the castle which was rather pathetic compared to some of the others we’ve seen before. Interestingly, while the guards at Buckingham Palace work seven hour shifts, the Prague Castle guards only work one hour shifts. Here is Heather giving a “high-five” to one of the guards in front of the castle.

We were quite tired and sweaty when the tour was all done – leaving us just enough time to run back to our hotel, quickly shower, and make it back to the Municipal Hall for a classical concert we were attending that night. After almost three months of doing our best to avoid anything and everything we consider “touristy,” we somehow picked the most “tourist” concert imaginable! In our defense though, our first choice was to attend an event at the Rudolfinum, but the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was out of season. The building housing the touristy concert was extremely beautiful though (both inside and out). Here is a picture of us with the Municipal Hall in the background.

We spent most of the day on Thursday revisiting sites in the Lesser Town, including the Strahov Monastic Brewery (a microbrewery run by monks – see picture of Jonathan below). We finished our time in Prague with another Czech meal at a local restaurant.

We arrived in Budapest last night and are staying at the nicest hotel of our trip! We look a little grungy at this point (have you noticed how long Jonathan’s hair is), so we are sure the hotel staff was really excited to see us arrive!

Beer List (we are going to detox when we get home!):
• Staropramen Lezak (a Czech Pilsener)
• Staropramen Granat (a Czech Euro Lager)
• Staropramen Cerny (a Czech Dunkel)
• Staropramen 11° (a Czech Pilsener)
• Kozel Medium Lezak (a Czech Pilsener)
• Kozel Premium Lezak (a Czech Pilsener)
• Kozel Cerny (a Czech Dunkel)
• Kozel Svelty (a Czech Pilsener)
• Budweiser Budvar (a Czech Pilsener)
• Bernard Svatecni Lezak (a Czech Pilsener)
• Gambrinus 11° Excelent (a Czech Pilsener)
• Krusovice Cerne (a Czech Schwarzbier)
• Pilsner Urquell (a Czech Pilsener)
• U Fleku Flekovsky Tmavy Lezák 13° (a Czech microbrewery Dunkel)
• Saint Norbert IPA (a Czech microbrewery India Pale Ale)
• Saint Norbert Weizen (a Czech microbrewery Hefeweizen)
• Saint Norbert Amber (a Czech microbrewery Marzen)

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