Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Search for Strudel: Prague Jan. 31st-Feb 2nd

Let's just start off by saying that our first weekend trip was quite an adventure. Long story short is we took an hour long bus ride to the wrong airport but made it to the correct airport with the help of a speed limit breaking taxi driver just in time. We finally got on the correct plane, AirOne, not RyanAir, and made our way to Prague. We left the dreary acqua alta of Venice and arrived to a chilly, but dry Prague. There was even some snow on the ground in some areas.

When we got off the shuttle bus to downtown, we were starving. We passed a Billa (the same supermarkets they have in Venice) and felt a familiar comfort. We stopped by this little cafe that looked decently priced. Unfortunately we were stuck in the smoking section and our waiter's first impression of us was, "Do you take euros?". I think he got a little annoyed with us, but the food was pretty good. Lauren got a chicken sandwich with egg on top. Madeline got a Caesar salad with bacon, peppers and giant slices of Parmesan. Emily and I both got a sandwich with arugala, pesto and sundried tomatoes and ham. I got mine without the ham.

Our hostel was really close by and the receptionist was from New York so she was very helpful with directions and advice for restaurants and bars. The room was cozy but perfect for the 4 of us.

We started exploring the town and found this little fruit shop. The largest apples I have ever seen in the states are Honey Crisp apples, but the apples here were all that size or larger! This is when I decided I would have some apple strudel while I was here. The architecture in Prague is different from in Venice, with wide streets. It was pretty easy to get around and the city was not as big as I was expecting.

One of our landmark's became the James Dean bar/restaurant. A thing I noticed was that a "Y" was added to many English words to make them "Czech." Right next door was this bakery with giant meringues. We never actually bought anything here but walked in several times.

On the way to Old Town Square, one of the art galleries had a bumper car track inside of it!

Another place we frequented, but never actually bought anything was the Chocolate Story Museum. There were taffy making demonstrations and a bunch of truffles and marzipan.
Prague is known for their handmade marionettes so we went into a little shop which ended up being a little creepy. These were no Pinocchios. There were trolls and witches and political figures and anything else you could imagine.

For dinner the first night we took the advice of our Hostel receptionist and went to a place called Lokal. When we walked in we waited a little to be seated but then after a couple minutes of everyone staring at us, we were told to seat ourselves. We continued down a long corridor lined with wooden tables. The place was very busy.

We were assigned a waiter that spoke English and he was great. He could tell we were looking at the menu with bamboozled faces and quickly offered us the English menu. I ordered the potato dumplings with a side of spinach and homemade mustard. The other girls ordered a sausage sampler and chicken.

We wanted to order two desserts and split them, but they ran out of the caramel apple dessert so we got this traditional czech biscuit instead. It was a little disappointing because the cookie was actually a hollow wafer, and not suitable to share with 4 people. We also got a chocolate filled meringue and that was delicious.
The famous beer of Prague is the Pilsner Urquell. We all ordered it and in Prague, (like how wine is cheaper than water in Italy), beer is cheaper than water. A giant mug full cost only 41 Czech Crowns or about 1.50 euros.

 On Saturday Morning we woke up and decided to go on the 10am free city tour. It started at the astronomical clock and ended at the Prague castle. We got a little chilly so decided to go back to our hostel and change and then finish seeing the sites on our own. One place we passed was the church of St. James and Greater. Legend says that a thief tried to steal the jewels on a statue of the Madonna and baby Jesus, but when we grabbed for the jewels, Mary's hand grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go. When we was found the next day by the priest, Mary still wouldn't let go. Finally, the priest went down to the butcher shop and sawed off the thief's arm. When you go into the church there is a petrified arm hanging from a chain.

 For lunch we went to a Spanish restaurant and had the most delicious rosemary olive bread with garlic spread. I also got potato gnocci and Emily got empanadas. We felt bad for going to a Spanish restaurant in Prague, but all the food in Prague was so cheap and delicious even though it was not the traditional fare.

 We walked to St. Charles Bridge and it was a sunny, clear day so the water was beautiful. We touched the "Buddha Stomach" of Prague for a lifetime of good luck.

 Right after the bridge we walked to the John Lennon wall. It was really cool and artsy, perfect for picture taking. There was even a guy with a guitar playing Beatles' songs.

 When I was standing by the wall there happened to be a pipe dripping water right above me. I thought I had gotten pooped on! If it had been, instead of water, I would have decided that I needed to get pooped on in every country. Ha. (I've already gotten pooped on twice in Venice. In St. Mark's Square. That means 14 years of good luck, right?)
 The climb up to the Prague Castle reminded me that I need to do more cardio, but the view from the top was spectacular. A little snow on the roofs, but clear and blue.
We should have spent more time in and around the castle, and we didn't end up going into the Cathedral or actually inside the house. The Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world, and it was like a little mini town inside the walls.

 On our way back out of the castle area we stopped at a little cafe that had a special going on for 75 Czechs or 2.75 euros for any coffee and cake. I was excited to finally get my hot chocolate and apple strudel. Just my luck is that they ran out of the apple strudel and hot chocolate was not included. I got a decaf mocha which was almost as good, and we each ordered different cakes to share. We got the Chocolate Guinness cake, a lemon cake, carrot cake and rhubarb tart. The frosting was the best part and they were all delicious.

 We also passed this gingerbread shop that literally had EVERYTHING made of gingerbread. It was amazing to see all the decorated gingerbread houses, frames and animals.

I wish we had more time in Prague, because I wasn't expecting it to be so amazing. When we got to the airport I NEEDED my apple strudel, so I got one at a cafe there. I was SO disappointed to find that the inside was applesauce. Applesauce, seriously? And this is the reason why I never buy food at the airport. I guess I will just have to go back sometime to get my Hot Chocolate and Apple Strudel!

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