The train ride over from Berlin took about 4 hours; it was kind of nice to relax for a bit. It was mid-afternoon by the time we found our hostel (did well will the Metro but once we got off, got a little lost a few blocks away). There were some Italians checking into the hostel in front of us, and between their broken English and the receptionist's broken English, it took them a good 20 minutes to get anything accomplished. I listened to the Italian comments they were making to each other and understood a good deal of it, and had to laugh to myself realizing that they had no idea what they were doing... kind of like me in Rome. Almost made me want to say, "Posso aiutarvi?" (Can I help you?) and try to translate for them.
Anyway, that night we went to a restaurant around the corner from our hostel, called Lemon Leaf. An instant favorite. It was very classy and the food was among the most delicious I have ever tasted, with a very diverse menu. Everything from Thai to Chinese to American and Italian-inspired. That night I had a carrot-ginger soup followed by a lamb dish. Sara had spring rolls and Pad Thai. Our bill came out to 1,044 crowns (roughly €30) which we found entertaining.
After dinner we donned our Babushkas and set off to experience Prague nightlife. It was so much colder than Berlin or Barcelona had been!
On our way to Bombay Bar we got a bit lost trying to find Dlouha Street using a crappy free map that Sara got when exchanging money at the train station, but we didn't mind the scenery one bit.
After Bombay, we went to a 5-floor dance club called Karlovy Lazne. Only three of the floors were open that Thursday night, and there were a lot of young people, but a really cool atmosphere and a nice selection of music. First floor: "Black Files" aka hip-hop, rnb, anything that we could arguably call "Black" in a non-PC way in America. Second floor: trance, techno, the usual with some smoggy lighting effects and a nice lounge. Third floor: 70s/80s music with a funky light-up disco dance floor that reminded me of The Sims. Every floor had a bathroom, bar, lounge, dance floor, and nice traffic flow. There's the ex-architecture-student in me.
One other Prague peculiarity: they don't mind soliciting tips. You pay for your drink and they begin to hand you the change, barely extending one wrist over your outstretched palm as they inquire, "You give it to me?" indicating the tip cup with a slight nod of their head.
The next day, we decided to go on a tour which was advertised at our hostel. It was only 200 kc with our 200 kc discount from the hostel. I'm really impressed with the collaboration between hostels and outside businesses here, but I guess it's a lot different in Europe than in America where our hotels are full-service, offering dining and entertainment within their own doors. Anyway, it was a pretty rainy day but we packed our umbrellas, donned our Babushkas, and went to find breakfast before the tour. I had an "English breakfast" consisting of eggs, toast, a mini hot dog, sausage, and other deliciousness. We then met the tour group in Wenceslas square.
After an extensive, drawn-out overview of Prague history from our nationalistic Czech tour guide while moving all of five steps in one direction, one of our first stops was in the Lucerna shopping complex, where we saw David Cerný's upside-down version of the Wenceslas statue. Quite entertaining.
After that we saw one of the theaters in Prague where Mozart either played, worked, or did something notable. Also mentioned was the Prague "Black Light Theater" which we didn't get a chance to see but includes dancers and people performing under blacklights.
Next up was Old Town Square, where we had taken our detour the night before. Our guide explained the astronomical clock, which has more ways to tell time than I ever imagined possible, and the whimsical imagery of a married couple carved into a church door, among other things.
Next up: the Jewish Ghetto, where our tour guide noted the two clocks displaying different times, one reading left-to-right as usual, the other right-to-left as in the Hebrew tradition.
On the way to our next destination we saw a memorial to a little boy whose face was cast in bronze or iron and slapped onto the side of a building or something. Our tour guide was kind of boring me at this point, and I became more interested in the view of the Prague Castle on the hill.
Crossing the Charles Bridge, we heard a story about St. John of Nepomuk, who was martyred by being thrown into the river. Rubbing his little gold body on one of the statues is supposed to bring good luck, but a lot of tourists like to touch other parts of the statue which have been polished gold... pictures later. Here is a picture from the Old Town side of the Charles Bridge, of who else but King Charles?
Our leg of the tour ended in a cute little cafe under the bridge, since we had only opted for the 2-hour instead of the 4-hour version. A very good decision given our tour guide.
We had these things called Carpas in the cafe, like little sandwiches filled and pressed shut on the grill. Yummy and light.
When we were kicked off the tour, meaning the 4-hour part of the tour group left us, we headed back to the bridge on our own. We stopped for a picture with the flood line of 2002, marked on the side of the bridge. I couldn't even reach the top!
I bought a souvenir photograph from one of the vendors, and Sara took this cool shot...
Then we stopped for some good luck from St. John. While others stopped for good luck from the golden puppy, who maybe will bless them from heaven but was actually shined up by some drunken college students 20ish years ago. Or the big lady underneath St. John, who also looks tempting with her golden sheen but probably doesn't carry the same weight as a martyr as far as good luck goes. But whatever floats your boat. The Chinese seem to like it.
Later that night, we did some more shopping and stopped for some traditional Czech food at a place that, according to our Czech tour guide, "is even good for me sometimes," called Medvidku.
We opted to stay in that night and rest. We also got two roommates in our 4-bed room; one from Georgetown named Veronica who was visiting a friend on Spring Break, and one who didn't speak much English and had already left the next morning before we woke up. Veronica passed out around 8 o'clock, jet-lagged, in her sneakers and coat atop her bed.
It hailed all morning so we got a late start. When we finally left our hostel, we walked south towards the Dancing House, an art nouveau office building.
We enjoyed the scenery for a bit and took this video:
Then we headed north along the river, destination: Prague Castle. We took a pic of the club we had gone to Thursday night as we passed in daylight.
Once over the Charles Bridge, Castle in sight, we stopped in the cafe from the day before for some refreshments.
We really were fascinated by the big bills. (The Czech Republic is on its way to converting to the Euro, however.)
On the other side of the river, we stopped in the church of St. Nicholas. Breathtaking. These pictures came out a bit blurry because we were inside with no flash, but you still get the sense of the gold, glitzy interior.
It's almost sacrilege. Anyway, to the Castle!
We made it! The Italian word for "watch" is "Guarda," I am wondering if there's any connection? Anyway, we had some fun with this one.
They did a fun little march at about 4 o'clock, just after we found out that the Castle closes inside after 4. So on our tour yesterday, if we had opted for the extra two hours to venture up to the castle, we wouldn't have seen it anyway. Really glad we didn't do all four hours. But yeah, the guards were really serious while looking like complete ballerinas. Cute.
Soooo windy up there.
Back on the bridge, I had to get a picture of this statue since it wasn't in any postcards I had seen. Another interestingly gilded concoction. And Hebrew letters. Person on the right for a sense of scale.
Another bit of whimsy on the way back to the hostel. Doors to someone's apartment building maybe.
Lemon Leaf again. Loved it just as much, and the manager even brought us some nice appetizers. I had the most amazing goat's cheese salad for my main dish... just loved every second. The cocktails weren't bad either.
We went to a club called Mecca that night with our roommate Veronica, but I wouldn't recommend the trip up there. Hard to find, way overpriced, and really rude at the coat check. We should have gone to New Town. Meh.
Time to say goodbye to Prague. And Spring Break!