Thursday, October 17, 2013

European Adventure - Part 3: Prague, Czech Republic

The Czech leg of our journey started on September 13th. Our flight from Rome arrived in Prague around 3pm. We hired a taxi to take us to our apartment near Prague's "Old Town." I'll admit that I was a bit nervous about hiring a taxi; I'd honestly never ridden in one before (which seems hard to believe) and all the guidebooks I had read during pre-trip planning mentioned that one should be careful to avoid being ripped off by taxi drivers in Europe. In the end...all was well! The taxi ride took about 40 minutes and brought us directly to our apartment.

You might remember, if you read my post about Italy, that we planned to meet up with some friends in Prague. In fact, we were staying with them...for the rest of our trip. As we stepped out of our cab we saw them across the street, already enjoying a beer.

Here we all are...that's right folks...FAMILY VACATION 2013!!!!! Introductions, from left to right, are Kellie's sister (Allie), mom (Diane), sister (Jamie), boyfriend (ME), then Kellie, brother-in-law (Josh), cousin (Jenna) and dad (Bruce).

So in January 2013, when we first started talking about this trip, the original plan was that Kellie's  immediate family would all embark on a European adventure starting in Prague....then wander through Germany....and end in a group. Ultimately Kellie and I went a week early so we could also visit Paris and Italy. The rest of our trip, however, would be done family style!

After meeting up with everyone we hit up a restaurant to grab dinner. No food pics (sorry) but I will say that the place we ate was really cool. It was essentially in a little cellar below ground level. I have no idea how old the space was, but it was cool. After dinner half of our group turned in early. They all were still adjusting to the new time zone; earlier in the day they had endured an 8 hour flight, 5 hour layover and another 2 hour they had been awake...FOREVER.

Kellie and I were, by now, well adjusted to the time in Europe and thus decided to hit up a bar for a beverage before bed. Allie and Jenna were both easily lured into our plan! The bar we found was near our apartment, and more importantly, had spindles of pretzels on each table!

...OR....face masks....your preference....

With our Italian wine buzz finally wearing off it was time to try some authentic Prague beer.

The beer pictured above is the second and fourth down on the menu below. But let's be honest with ourselves...order the .5 liter. This beer was soooo good. I'm actually new to drinking beer. Until a few months ago I had maybe only had 10 beers in my entire life. I started making myself drink beer in prep for this trip....and I'm glad I did....because I had several tasty brews along the way, as you'll see in this and future posts to come!

After a few beers (and a bunch of pretzels) we called it a night and headed to bed.

The next morning we all headed toward the river in Prague. Our plan was to cross at the Charles Bridge and then make our way through the cobblestone streets to the Prague Castle. The picture below is of Kellie and I as we crossed the Charles Bridge.

It took us a good half hour to cross the bridge on this maiden voyage across. Vendors were setting up little stands all along the bridge and the scenery required photo documentation. Below, a panorama facing south (I think).

This is a shot of the Prague Castle as seen from the Charles Bridge. The main building in the picture is actually a cathedral within the castle walls.

You can see a vendor's little stand in the bottom left of the picture below. The bridge looks relatively empty, but this photo was taken in the early morning. Later in the day the bridge is packed with foot big cluster as people make their way from one side to the other and/or shop at the various vendors along the way.

Kellie and Jenna, admiring the scenery.

Among the places Kellie and I had been on our trip to date, Prague was quickly shaping up as one of my favorites. I found myself increasingly obsessed with the cobblestone streets...

...and various roof patterns. The architecture was beautiful!

I especially liked this little scene! Imagine living in one of those places. WOW!

Any "Bachelorette" fans out there? I'll admit (proudly) that Kellie and I are....and we are convinced this is the Marionette shop from Emily and Jef's date in Prague....located on a street just below the Charles Bridge on the "castle" side of the river. We didn't go in, but we should have.

Moving on from our guilty-pleasure TV shows to the subject of this post; beautiful.

...simply gorgeous...

I'm pretty sure I loaded up a good portion of our memory card with random shots of these amazing buildings...

...including their doors...

...and the cobblestone streets.

Oh...and don't forget....their roof tops!

Below...three of my traveling we entered the grounds of the Prague Castle.

The St. Vitus Cathedral lies within the walls of the castle.

Still obsessed with this architecture!

The ceiling below is up there as one of my favorite things from our entire trip. Imagine the parties that were thrown in this room! This building is within the castle grounds. The windows to the right in the photo below overlook a terrace that overlooks Prague. The view was stunning!

We spent a good portion of the morning/early afternoon exploring the castle. In addition to touring the main cathedral and the building that contained the ballroom above we also saw living quarters for the castle staff, a really old church (probably used before the cathedral was built), hallways originally used by guards patrolling around the castle perimeter and the castle dungeon.

I mentioned the would you have liked being hung on display in this contraption as consequence of your crimes? OUCH!!

Before leaving the castle we all snapped quick couple shots...

...and headed back down to the river to eat lunch on this boat. is probably correctly referred to it as a barge. Boat just sounds more...romantic!!?

First order of business at each meal...order a beer! I ordered one of these...

...and Kellie chose a Stella. The boat restaurant came recommended as a good "Italian" place by our landlord. You may be asking "Italian food in Prague???" YEA YEA. We were starving and it was delicious!

After lunch we headed back to our apartment for a quick "decompress."

Then we hit the streets again in search of the Lennon wall. We found it!

After a few minutes taking in the wall and reading some of the messages written on it we decided it was a good time to find a place to have a beer! This looked like a good spot...

...and it worked. BEER! Cheers!

A waiter took Kellie and my orders separately, before everyone else, since we were at a different table. Our drinks took longer than our traveling comrade' we took some lovely photos while we waited.


.......and then finally our beer came!

After finishing our beverages we decided to walk to the Old Town Square where we planned to have dinner later.

When we arrived in Old Town we found an Irish Pub called "The Dubliner - Prague" that Bruce had visited on prior trips to Prague. It was, as was our restaurant the night before, below ground level in a cave type environment. You might be thinking...Irish Prague?? Well...yes we did...and it was delicious!

Below, Bruce and Diane break from selecting their drinks for a quick photo.

I loved the atmosphere of this place! AND....our drinks came quickly. I ordered a Kilkenny beer....a tasty choice!

Jenna orders some wieners!! The food at this place was really good. I had a fish and chips basket and sprinkled it with vinegar. This place had a vinegar bottle at each table...and it was really, really good on my fish! I'm going to have to remember to do that at home!

After dinner we split up a bit and toured the city around Old Town Square on our own. Below are some shots of the Old Town Square at night.


In the square sits an old clock tower that puts on a little show, every hour, on the hour. I've included a video I took of it. The tower was built in 1338 and the clock was added in 1410. In 1490 a calendar dial was added to the clock.

More pics of Prague at night:

The next morning, our last day in Prague, we headed out and did a bit of shopping. The shot below is of the little square our apartment overlooked.

After some morning shopping we picked up a few things for lunch and headed back to the apartment for lunch. It was fun to eat in instead of out for a change; at this point Kellie and I had eaten out for every meal for the last week. Plus, we wanted to have at least one meal in our awesome apartment.

More pics of our place....also rented through VRBO!

After lunch we headed to Wenceslas Square to see more sights and do more shopping!

I thought this was a cool need to repaint next year!! Just insert different colored stones into the cobblestone.

After walking around for a while we enjoyed some Budweiser Budvar....Czech Budweiser, I guess?

It was okay...but not my favorite.

I don't have pictures from the rest of our day. We spent the day out and about....doing things! We had dinner at a Czech restaurant that was really good! The wine started flowing and we spend a couple hours there. After we did some bar hopping!

So here is the deal....most of the restaurants in Prague have outdoor seating areas covered either by a large canopy or table umbrellas that display branding for the main type of beer sold in the associated restaurant. I was using this primarily to gauge whether or not I could get a new kind of beer at each place we considered drinking or dining. I had spent all day making sure I had covered each type of beer based on the name on the canopy/umbrella logos. ALL DAY I had missed the ones that said Mattoni (below). FINALLY, the second to last place we bar hopped on our final night in Prague had a Mattoni branded umbrella. When our waitress took our order I pointed up to the umbrella and explained that I wanted a "dark one of those." I explained that "I'm trying to cover each kind of beer I can find," to which she laughed and responded "I'm sorry, sir, but Mattoni is a brand of water." We all had a good laugh about it...and I was extremely embarrassed.

Our last night in Prague was soooo much fun. I don't have many pictures of it because...well (I'll be honest)....because we were drinking a lot of beer. The last bar we found was huge but relatively empty; it had multiple levels underground. We found a table in the first level down in a huge room that was empty of other people...essentially it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Thinking back on it, I wonder if our waiter may have put us down there on purpose; we were talking excessively...and laughing excessively. And why not???? After all...we were on vacation!!! It was TOO much fun!

The following day around 9am we all loaded into a 9 passenger mini van and hit the open road.....

...bound for Germany. Munich, in particular!