We finally got to Prague, collected our luggage, and got some Czech money from the ATM in the lobby (so convenient!). We didn’t know how much to get so we only got 2000 Czech dollars, whatever they’re called. The driver that Gordon had arranged to pick us up through the Hilton charged 900 and we didn’t know if we were supposed to tip so Gordon just rounded up to 1000 Czs–which turned out to be the right thing to do. The driver got us to the Hilton in a Skoda which is a VW car produced in Czech Republic. That was new. We got installed in our room and went looking for a place for dinner. The first place we tried was underground and looked really interesting but they were closed for a private party. So we went around the block and settled for a Czech/Italian place. The food was good but I had to try a Moravian wine which I didn’t like at all–but at least I tried it. We were falling over so we went back to the hotel and fell over.
The next day we were picked up by Gordon’s first cousin once removed (I think that’s the relationship) for a day of touristing. May 1st was a national holiday so Suzanne (the cousin) had the day off. I’d only met her husband, John, once (at their wedding) so it was nice to get to know him. I’d never met either of her kids (I won’t use their names to protect them) but they were smart and attractive. Suzanne took us to the usual tourist attractions except we got to see things close up and personal. We climbed the hill from the Moldau up to the castle which was quite a hike. But we got to see lots of shops on the way and I found a pair of amber earrings I couldn’t live without. We went down the hill to watch the astrological clock ring in the hour. I loved the saints going around and the skeleton ringing his bell. Then we had trdlenks–that’s as close as I can come to the spelling of the pastry. It sounded to us like ‘turtleneck’ with the accent on the second syllable so Gordon and I just called them turtlenecks. They were very good. Suzanne took us over the Charles Bridge and told us that one of the magnificent statues had been carved in the 16th century (I think) by one of her ancestors on her father’s side. What a great connection to have!
The kids were getting tired from all the walking (me too!) so John got the car and drove us all to their lovely home in a small town outside of Prague. Suzanne told us that the microwave was something most people didn’t have them but the company wanted to make Suzanne happy. I had to smile at how spoiled Americans are; who’d have thought a microwave would be a big deal. Suzanne and her daughter walked us around the lovely park that’s two blocks from their house. She says that the rhododendrons in the park are world-famous. We walked around the lake and admired all the flowers. I was glad we were in Czech Republic in the spring. We went to dinner at Suzanne’s and John’s favorite restaurant that translated to Grandma’s Kitchen. I had the duck with red cabbage and mushroom soup. The food was very good. The duck was domesticated so it wasn’t as gamey as I was used to. I had the Czech beer instead of the wine which was a good choice. The Czechs make great beer but I never found a wine I liked. John drove us back to our hotel and we died again.
But, of course, we had to get up and see more the next day. We bought ‘hop-on-hop-off’ tickets and retraced our steps from the day before. We also checked out spots that we skipped with Suzanne and family. We had dinner on a boat on the Moldau which was wonderful. The next day Suzanne picked us up again because Gordon wanted a tour of the candy factory she manages. We got in our protective gear and got an explanation of the machinery and what candy was sold to what country. It was an impressive operation. Suzanne is certainly making her mark in the world. I was so glad that Suzanne was able to spend so much time with us but the next day we were on Viking’s schedule. They basically took us over most of what we’d seen with Suzanne but we spent more time on the other side of the river. We got to see the Jewish cemetery which is a graveyard lasagna–graves have been stacked on top of each other for 400 years. I ran away from the tour to buy an Infant of Prague Christmas ornament and ran back in time to finish the tour. When they freed us Gordon went back to a glass shop and bought two crystal wine glasses I’d admired a few days before. We also stopped at Smetana Hall to see if there was a concert we wanted to attend but we couldn’t seem to coordinate our schedule with theirs. We took our loot back to the hotel and took a nap before dinner. Gordon had figured out Prague’s public transportation so we took the metro to a restaurant called Karnaver Slakia–or something like that. We had Czech goulash and another awful wine. The goulash was good but the dessert–a crepe–was spectacular. The Czechs take their time eating so dinner took about 2 1/2 hours. That gave us time to take a picture of the lights on the castle. That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about Prague; they light up the city at night. It’s gorgeous.
We took a cab home from the restaurant because it was raining cats and dogs. But we really enjoyed Prague–and the fact that most of the people we ran into spoke English. Czech is apparently closer to Russian than anything and I couldn’t even read the menus.
On to the next stop. But special thanks to Suzanne and John for entertaining us so royally.
This is the only decent picture we got of the Prague castle lighted up. Too bad I’m in the picture too. This was at Karvarna Slavia or whatever it was called. Forgot to mention there was a painting called The Absinthe Drinker. Guy in the painting is staring and drooling at a green ghost. Went well with the Art Deco motif.