The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
Prague, Czech Republic
BJ was coming up on her Delta Anniversary date and we still had priority passes burning a hole in our pockets so we decided to head back over to Prague. Tony found a good deal on a room on the concierge floor of the Prague Hilton where we had stayed a year ago (Was it really a year ago? My, how time flies). Tony reserved something called a triple-double room in case some of our friends wanted to tag along. Our friend Cathy was the only friend who was "spur-of-the-moment" enough to join us, but the day before we were to leave, a routine doctor's appointment landed her in the hospital with heart issues. (She's okay, but they put her on some new heart medications).
BJ logged onto Facebook a few days before the flight and lo and behold, one of our old neighbors had posted her status as "wondering if anyone has fun info on Prague. I have a layover there this weekend!" She lives in Memphis now so we rarely get to see her. We were excited about getting to spend time with her.
We went through our usual departure routine which includes a stop in the Crown Room before heading to the gate. BJ tried out her new Wi-Fi enabled Blackberry to make a few phone calls using the T-Mobile Hot Spot in the Crown Room. It still isn't clear what the advantage is to the Wi-Fi calling. We were hoping it would become apparent when we got to Europe that we could call home for less than the usual $1/minute that T-Mobile charges.
The flight over was uneventful. Our neighbor was our flight attendant and she provided wonderful service right up until we fell asleep! She was amazed at how well we can sleep on a plane. Just before landing, we woke up and discussed getting together for dinner. She would nap during the day and we would meet at 5PM at her hotel for dinner.
We bought a 24 hour transportation pass for 100 CZK (~$5) per person and caught bus #119. BJ remembered that the Hilton was near the Florenc metro stop. The bus let us off at the Dejvická metro stop and from there, we took the Green (A) line to the Mustek stop where we transferred to the Yellow (B) line. We got off at the Florenc stop and walked the couple of blocks north to the Prague (Atrium) Hilton.
Our room was on the Concierge floor so we could go right up to the 8th floor to check in. Since there were only two of us, they gave us a room with 1 king bed. We didn't get to see what the "triple-double" would have looked like. A fruit basket welcomed us to our lovely room.
After we freshened up a bit, we decided to explore the area north of our hotel. We hadn't been in this area before. Along the way, we passed a statue. BJ has always been drawn to statues and enjoys posing like the statue for a picture. It took her awhile to get bent into just the right pretzel shape for this one.
We crossed the Hlávkův most. (Most means bridge in Czech.) The bridge crosses over a small island (Ostrov Štvanice) in the middle of the Vltava river. The island is home to a wide variety of sporting facilities, including a tennis stadium, an ice rink and a skate park. There is a kayak racecourse on one side of the island. Just past the kayak course is the railroad bridge.
We saw some spires in the distance so we kept walking until we got to the Kostel Sv. Antonina. It was a beautiful church situated in the middle of a fork in the road. The doors were locked so we didn't get to peek inside.
We found the Vinárna U Počtů where we stopped for a beer. We found a table near the window where we could do some people watching while we played cards. The sign out front advertised Wi-Fi but we weren't able to communicate well enough to get the key needed to log in.
We continued our walk, encountering lots of pretty buildings, but without a guide, we didn't know what they were.
BJ spotted a gate and since there was no "Keep Out" sign, we decided to enter. Inside, was another church that was also closed.
There was a statue across from the church but BJ didn't have the right "equipment" to pose like the statue so she made Tony do it. As you can see from the expression on his face he was less than thrilled to oblige.
We peeked over the wall behind the church and there was a huge park down below. We decided to wind our way down the path to the park.
There were lots of dogs and children playing in the park. It was a little bit grey and overcast but we were fortunate that it wasn't raining as was predicted. There were a number of hollow logs in the park. We thought this one was interesting with the bark growing on the inside as well as the outside.
One of the hollow logs had been used to make a bench in the middle of this bridge. The hollow log was open all the way down to the water.
On the way out of the park, we made an emergency stop at the train station to use the facilities. The agent at the station spoke no English but we were able to communicate that we needed a key for the restroom. Thankfully we had our own toilet tissue for this experience. Refer to our packing list for this and other essential packing suggestions!
Our meandering took us through a Czech Cemetary. At first we thought there were a lot of people named Rodina but we finally figured out that it means Family. Most of the graves had the photographs and names of several people on them. We weren't sure whether there were several people buried in each plot or maybe just ashes in the crypt. There was a vending machine by the gate where you could purchase a candle to put on a grave. Many of the graves had burning candles on them.
We found ourselves in a very residential area, so we kept meandering until we found the Pivnice U Švejka, a sports-bar kind of place where they were watching downhill skiing. All of the tables had reserved signs on them and the bartender was very cool to us, but BJ needed to use the facilities so Tony stood around and waited. It wasn't clear where the restrooms were, so she made a brief accidental tour of the kitchen before finding them. We were just about ready to walk out when a table opened up. We hovered around, waiting for it to be cleared but the bartender came over and frowned and wagged his finger at us. He gestured to a table over near the bar so we sat down there. Several minutes passed before he came to take our order so we weren't sure if we would be allowed to stay or not. We finally got beers and played a few hands of Casino. BJ forgot to tell Tony where she found the restrooms so he made an accidental tour of the kitchen as well.
When we left U Švejka, we turned on the GPS and typed in the address of our friend's hotel, the Crowne Plaza Prague Castle. We hadn't allowed quite enough time for the walk to make the 5PM meeting time so we decided to jump on the Metro. We hadn't done our research on where the hotel was located so we just picked the Metro stop nearest the Castle. The Malostranska stop was still 1 1/4 miles from the hotel so we had to hoof it and we were still late getting there. (If we had done our research, we would have known that we could have taken tram 22 or 23 to Pohorelec and walked just over 1/10th of a mile.) The hotel is not visible from the street so we had a little argument at the bottom of the hill about which way to go. For future reference, the hotel is up the hill on the left of the tram tracks opposite a massive wall. Its a quaint little place with a garden out front (and a statue for BJ to pose with).
Thankfully our friend hadn't given up on us and was waiting patiently in the lobby. After we caught our breath, we got out the map so we could get our bearings and discuss where to go to dinner.
A quick statue photo and we were off to have dinner at Annabar.
It had started to drizzle a bit, so we put on our raincoats for the walk down the hill to the St. Charles Bridge (Karlův most). The view of Prague at night is beautiful. Pictures can't do it justice.
We waited what seemed like an eternity to cross Smetanovo nábř. The light is probably timed so that there is extra time to do some shopping at the end of the bridge. After crossing the bridge, we took a right to walk along Smetanovo nábř to Anenské. Annabar was not crowded at all so we took a table near the front of the cave-room.
BJ had the garlic soup followed by wild mushroom risotto, Tony had the traditional Czech beef goulash and our friend, the Czech plate special. The Czech plate was deemed the best meal. The Czech plate was a lovely array of roast pork, smoked sausage and bacon, served with cabbage and potato pancakes. The entire meal including wine was less than $35! What a bargain!
We had a little difficulty figuring out how to buy a ticket for our friend to ride the tram back to her hotel. From what we could understand, it was not permissible to buy a ticket onboard the tram so we looked for a place to buy a ticket. The places we stopped spoke very little English, but one person finally directed us to the metro station. The metro station had machines where you could buy a ticket but we didn't have any change. We asked at the ticket window but the person inside just pointed to the machines. There was a grocery store next to the metro but it must have been closing because, although the door was open, the guard at the door would not let us inside. We asked at a candy store and were directed down the street. We finally figured out that we needed a Tobacco Shop. We got the ticket, put our friend on the #22 tram and hopped on the Metro back to our hotel. We got back to our hotel in time to enjoy a night cap and late night snack in the complimentary lounge on the concierge floor.
Saturday, we had a leisurely breakfast in the executive lounge. We chose to eat from the buffet, although we could have ordered from a variety of items on the the ala carte menu. The buffet included bacon and scrambled eggs so there was no need to look any further. The bacon could have been a little crispier but we hated to complain when it was free! They brought us a check, which confused Tony at first but we only had to sign it. I think they bring it just to give the guests an opportunity to slip in a tip.
BJ used the complimentary computers at the hotel to print some walking tours from http://www.citiwalks.com/prague/index_prague.html.
We had agreed to meet our friend at 11AM at the St. Charles Bridge (Karlův most). We had to buy more 24 hour train passes since ours expired at 10AM. We didn't allow quite enough time to find a Tobacco shop to purchase the tickets so we were running late again. This was very upsetting to Tony who is perpetually early for everything. To top it off, we had a pretty long wait for the next train. Tony sulked and BJ used the time to practice some of her clogging steps.
We had to make a connection to the green line at Mustek. BJ thought she heard the train coming as we were walking up the escalator so she broke into a run. She stumbled up the escalator, bruising her shins and scraping her hands. She's having a really bad run with escalators lately. We made it to Karlův most without further incident. We found our friend at a few minutes after 11. She was running late too.
We had all already seen the Castle so we decided to follow the Old Town walk first. Since we were already at the Charles Bridge, we picked up the walk there. There was a beautiful garden on our walk.
It was a hazy day, but the castle still made a pretty vista across the river.
The Rudolfinum (home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and an art gallery) was an impressive building.
In Jan Palach Square, next to the Rudolfinum there was an unusual sculpture which was made by the Spanish artist, Jaume Plensa. The piece is called “We” and it is made up of letters from different alphabets. According to our internet research (upon our return home) the intent was to express the artist’s belief that, at some point in the future, the whole world will be unified.
Continuing our walk, we found ourselves in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov). There was a crowd waiting to go into the Museum and Cemetery. We had seen it before so we didn't go inside.
Blacklight theater is very popular in Prague. We passed a number of places like this.
Tony glanced at his watch and realized it was a few minutes until noon. We hurried to the Old Town Square so we could see the 12 Apostles come out to bless the city while the skeleton of death tolls the bell. We got there just in time.
We took a few minutes to admire the buildings on the square before continuing our tour.
We started down Celetna to continue our tour but quickly became distracted at the candy shop by the men making candy. They had a table covered with a clear substance. When they poured a vial of colored liquid in, it started to bubble. They poured three sections with red, yellow and green and stirred it for awhile. As it started to harden, they used scissors to cut apart the colors. They put the red and green on another table to rest while they split the yellow into two pieces and stretched it over a hook. We didn't stay to see what happened next.
The next stop on our tour was the House of the Black Madonna. We had looked for the Black Madonna on a previous trip and found what we thought was it, but when we finally saw it in a cage on the corner of a building we realized that we'd never found it on the previous trip.
BJ spotted a jewelry store and found a pretty little garnet necklace that she just had to have.
We passed through the Powder Tower and took a quick look at the Municipal House.
Not far from the Municipal House, we happened upon Restaurace 22 where we had eaten twice on our last trip. Since it was a known entity, we decided to stop for a light lunch. We shared a couple of appetizers and some fries. The cheese croquettes were served with a berry jelly. The grilled eggplant appetizer had a tomato and mozzarella cheese on top and was drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The fries were, well, fries. A generous portion.
We passed a post office and poked our head in the door. There was a very beautiful ceiling but a sign on the door indicated no cameras so we didn't get a picture. We did sneak a statue picture in the lobby.
We finished the Old Town tour, so we decided to pick up the New Town tour. We picked up the walk at #8 on the map and did the tour backward. Novoměstský pivovar is a working brewery and restaurant. If we hadn't just had lunch at 22, we might have eaten here. It looked very quaint.
Doing the tour in reverse order was a bit of a challenge. Following the map was easy, but the written directions were a little hard to follow. #7 was the New Town Hall.
#6 was a church dedicated to the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius. It was closed, but we were able to see in one of the windows.
We skipped #5, the Antonin Dvorák Museum and went on to #4, Faust's house. It is a Gothic building dating from the 14th century. The fable about the place is that it is where the alchemist Dr. Faustus made his pact with the devil.
We missed #3 and went onto #2, the National Memorial to the Bohemian victims who suffered under the rule of the Nazi chief Reinhard Heydrich. The church upstairs was open so we peeked in. The crypt was below the church. There was a sign on the door that said "Push Hard" or we might have given up, thinking it was locked.
#1 was the Dancing House, an interesting example of modern architecture. It looks rather out of place with all of the old buildings in Prague. Its called the Dancing House because it looks like a man and a woman dancing.
Circling back, #13 on the list was a Thai restaurant called Lemon Leaf that, according to our tour, is popular with the locals. On our way to #13, we encountered a domestic dispute (or so it appeared). A man and woman were yelling at each other in Czech. We hurried along to give them their privacy.
#12 was "a recommended local lunch spot" U Matěje Kotby. We decided to stop in for a beer. The sign on the door showed the price of beer to be comparable to the other places we'd seen, but we must have been charged the special tourist price because our bill was much higher. BJ questioned the waiter, thinking perhaps we couldn't read his writing and he might have meant 1 instead of 7, but he held up 7 fingers. We were too tired to argue so we just paid it.
We abandoned the tour and just walked around after that. BJ decided she wanted the matching earrings for her necklace so we went back and bought them. Tony bought a pretty glass fish for his mom. We stopped into a little place on the Old Town Square for a glass of wine. It was actually the place we had stopped on a previous trip just before a friend's backpack was stolen. We taught our neighbor to pay Casino. She loved it and beat us soundly! This place also advertised Wi-Fi but could not provide us with the key. BJ still wanted to try out Wi-Fi calling on her new Blackberry.
We walked back over to the Castle side of the bridge so our friend would be closer to her hotel.
Dinner was at a little place very near the St. Charles Bridge called Putyka. It is just up the street from the bridge at Mostecká 16 and the sign out front just says "Restaurant". It was an excellent find, with a traditional Czech menu. BJ had the grilled pork tenderloin which was stuffed with sausage, Tony had the goulash (again) and our friend had the roast pork with cabbage and potato dumplings.
We parted ways after dinner and headed back to our hotel for a night cap in the executive lounge. It was included in our room rate so we HAD to take advantage of it. It would have been wrong not to!
We set our alarm so we would have time to get up and have our complimentary breakfast before taking the metro and bus back to the airport. While Tony was showering, BJ went to the computer to check the flight and found that it had snowed in Atlanta so our inbound equipment was late, delaying our departure by 3 hours. We had a leisurely breakfast and left the hotel around 10AM. We were able to use our 24 hour pass from the day before to get back to the airport.
Of course we were early so we decided to see if our Crowne Room card would get us into the Czech Air lounge. It did! Once again, we couldn't get the Wi-Fi to work, but we had a cable and were able to plug Tony's laptop in so that we could monitor the flight. We still didn't get to try out Wi-Fi calling.
On the way home, we napped, ate, drank, watched movies, ate, drank, napped, watched movies...
It was another great trip and so good to get to spend time with our friend!
BJ and Tony