A few weekends ago we headed to Prague. The occasion was Heinz and Jola’s 50th wedding anniversary. Truly something to celebrate, I was excited that they requested a traveling celebration and chose us as traveling companions. In addition, they invited a couple who are also celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year. They have been friends since the olden days. So it only made sense to be together for the golden day.
In two cars we headed east toward the Czech Republic. After about an hour and a half we crossed the border and stopped at a roadside rest area. I figured we were stopping for a pee-pee break only to realize that Heinz and Jola’s friends had prepared a little brotzeit and a champagne toast. They set a casual but very sweet table behind the gas station and we all munched on bread and ham and fruit.
A group of gentlemen celebrating a bachelor party were in the parking lot nearby. Jola started what became a weekend tradition: She went to chat with them telling about the momentous anniversary of she and Heinz. After that we saw a number of bachelor parties in Prague and each time she stopped for a chat (and maybe to show them what their future looked like…haha) Each time the groom came to congratulate them on their 50 years.
Meanwhile, inside the gas station, I was milling around looking for something to buy so that I could get change. At most places in Europe you have to pay 50 cents or so to use the restroom. At first this bothered me but now I love it. Almost all public bathrooms are really clean so it’s totally worth it.
Anyway the guy must have realized my issue and was nice enough to just give me change. I meant to use English in this exchange but then I used German. It didn’t matter in the end because neither one was Czech. Every time I’m in a situation like this I just wish I knew how to say thank you in the appropriate language. It’s simple but so powerful and important to be able to thank people in a language they can understand. Once we got into the city I learned. Thank you = Danke= Děkuji (de-kū-oooi)
Prague is only about three hours away so even with out stop, we arrived before noon and checked into our hotel. It was sunny and warm. This time I did not have to worry about parking in the parking garage, thank goodness.
As mentioned in the post about Neuschwanstein, traveling with Little Mouse is never boring. True to form, this time she had a her first cold. If I’m being honest this didn’t make for the best weekend. In truth she was up all night all weekend with a stuffy nose. We also kept her out too late every night so dinner was like eating with a ticking time bomb and in the end I was practically running out of every restaurant to avoid the explosion. The whole trip was a little exhausting, but I already remember it as lovely because there were so many lovely parts. As seems to be the trend in this phase of life, it was the best and the worst. And you only celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary once.
First things first, upon arrival we made a little walking tour of the city. We walked on the street next to the river between the National Theater and the Charles Bridge, admiring the many beer gardens down below. The sheer number of steps deterred us from attempting to get down there with the stroller and we wanted to see more before we settled on a spot to sit. But it was a stunning view.
Then we headed to the St. Nicolas church. It didn’t disappoint. Thorsten played priest inside the cathedral asking Heinz and Jola if they wanted to renew their marriage vows and they both agreed too the next 50 years together. I looked over and saw some tears from all three. They were some of the sweetest minutes I’ve ever spent inside a church.
We browsed through some shops and then headed back toward the bridge. At this point I saw some old ladies eating ice cream cones and went off to look for some myself. I didn’t find a typical ice cream cone but I did walk into a tiny bakery to find the jackpot food find of the trip.
Tdelník, a sweet dough roasted over hot coals and filled with ice cream or whipped cream and strawberries or chocolate. Sometimes the middle was smeared with Nutella. Oh my delicious. I have never been so glad that I couldn’t find a gelateria. I think we ate it three more times before the weekend was complete. So travel tip number 1: when it comes to pastries, take chances and try things that are unfamiliar.
That evening we dined in the oldest brewery in Prague, U Fleku. The region is famous for Pilsner but we drank a darker sweeter beer that evening.
The food was traditional Czech but to me it was a little like German with a twist. The meat and sauer kraut were cooked similarly to Franconian food. It was only the potato and bread dumplings that were really different. There was a wonderfully fun accordian player who tried very hard to win the affection of Little mouse but being that it was past her bedtime, he didn’t have much luck. Everyone was singing and carrying on and I could hardly tell if we were in a bavarian beer hall or in an altogether foreign country. It was really quite festive so you couldn’t even hear Little mouse crying. Well I could, so we walked back to the hotel a little early and left the happy couple to party til dawn (or 11pm as it were. hahaha.)
The next day we got up really early, let the old partiers sleep in, took the stroller and made a quick morning city tour before all the tourists came out.We toured the Jewish quarter and stopped by the famous clock in the main square.
We walked by a few of the theaters, a church, a countless number of architectural gems and were back in time for breakfast.
On the way we passed a stand where they were selling bricks to support a school being build for handicapped people. You could paint one and have it included in a wall, so we did. Later that day we walked through the pedestrian zone, witnessed a parade/protest/celebration in front of the famous clock as it struck 12 and did its hourly performance.
That afternoon after sitting outside for lunch, I was able to sneak away to meet up with an old friend for a coffee, cake, catch-up. She is living in Prague, what luck! We met at the lovely Cafe Louvre at Narodni 22. It was an elegant cafe on the second floor with an outdoor garden, impeccable service and a very nice cake selection. They even had a gluten free cake.
In the early evening we took another stroll across the bridge near the National Theater
and found two restaurants we’d love to try next time–Kolkovna Olympia and Cafe Savoy, also both on the Narodni.
Our goals on the last day of our visit were gardens and castle. To our great luck we had the most beautiful weather for the journey. The castle and most of the gardens were north east from our hotel across the river. We walked across a different bridge this time and wound our way through gardens and small streets. Lilacs were blooming everywhere, filling the air with their unmistakable fragrance.
This side of the river felt a little like Italy. So many people sitting outside, lots of tiny cafes and windy streets. Prague’s castle sits a top the city and it is quite a hike. All of the sudden it turned from feeling like Italy to being reminiscent of the the hills of San Francisco.
It was pretty funny when we got to the top of the hill and saw a Starbucks. They certainly have the corner on the market for views and they invited all the visitors in English to enjoy it (and their free wi-fi.) With a beautiful terrace overlooking the city right next to the castle, the actual starbuck is down a winding staircase. Who would’ve thought?
The famous Prague Cathedral is actually inside the castle complex, something I haven’t seen before. And the castle complex is the largest I have ever seen in all my (4) years of castle hunting. It was overwhelming. We got inside the cathedral but only on the outskirts to really get inside you needed a ticket. Something we didn’t know until after we waiting in line. The line moved fast and it was beautiful albeit crowded inside, as expected. Little mouse made it clear that she was finished with her stroller and luckily this time we had the baby carrier. (small victories!) We did a quick switch and she was much happier. Thank goodness. Even though there were plenty of people inside the church, we didn’t need to add a tiny screaming person.
In a totally atypical twist, we decided not to tour the castle that day. We strolled through the gardens instead and made our way back down to the car (parked at the National Theater).
The nights of no sleep caught up with us and Little Mouse. She fell asleep in the baby carrier as we walked back down the hill and it was the calmest she had been all weekend. There was a sweet peace about it, Little mouse’s sleepy head on my chest, sunshine, and a breeze. We didn’t want to break the spell, so without stopping for lunch we decided to head home mid-afternoon.
We have every intention of visiting Prague again. On our agenda for the next trip: actually touring the castle, sitting in one of those beer gardens, seeing the ballet, eating at a number of other restaurants, a boat tour and the guided tour of the Jewish quarter. Even though we really just dipped our toes in the cool sparkling water that is Prague–I feel pretty safe saying that Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. We can’t wait to go back and explore. Stay tuned.