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A July Trip to Poland and the Czech Republic

A July Trip to Poland and the Czech Republic

Old Jul 13th, 2022, 07:12 AM
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As wonderful as it is to visit Czechia, it is not nearly as satisfying or delightful for food as Poland. While traipsing through villages, we would ask locals for recommendations, and they would send us to pizza or Chinese food.

On our trip we also went to Slovakia. I am told that the Soviets didn't know what to do with the mountainous terrain of Slovakia, so they left much of it alone, except for the big, broad valley in the West which was appropriately Sovietized. The rest is blanketed with various national and and regional parks dotted with ruined castles.

Last edited by shelemm; Jul 13th, 2022 at 07:15 AM.
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Old Jul 13th, 2022, 09:37 PM
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Shelemm, I have to agree with you on food between Poland and the Czech Republic. Glad the beer is not boring though. It's been a minute, but I recall liking the food in Slovakia.

Back in Prague, After 12 Years

It was another early morning wake-up call for us. We had reserved a taxi for 6:30 to collection us at our hotel for the 30-minute ride to Ceske Budejovice, from where we would catch our train to Prague. We could have taken the train directly from Cesky Krumlov and change at Ceske Budejovice, but we did not want you chance connection times of 6 minutes and 8 minutes, especially with luggage. From Ceske Budejovice, it is a 2-hour straight shot ot Prague. An early train meant we would have virtually the entire day in the Czech capital.

We arrived at Prague's Central Station on time, just before 10:00. From the train station it was a short taxi ride to our hotel, the Century Old Town, managed by Accor. Our rooms were not ready yet. So we began our time in Prague the only way we knew how: a morning coffee along with some breakfast at one of Prague's most well-known cafes, the Cafe Imperial. Viennese-style iced coffee with chocolate for breakfast- ahhh!

Taste buds satisfied, it's on our feet as we wandered towards Old Town Square. Strolling the beautiful streets of Prague with its lively atmosphere and plethora of interesting buildings all around us brought back sweet memories of our prior visit. We arrived at the Square just before noon and in time for the astronomical clock to mark the hour. The square was bustling with tourists witnessing this mark of time. After the obligatory stop at the clock, we visited the Old Town Hall itself, viewing the state rooms and council chambers as well as climbing to the top for fantastic views of the city. What a gorgeous city!

We stopped at one of the Starbucks on the square for an ice coffee break before continuing on exploring more of the Old Town. Tyn Church. The Ungelt Courtyard. St. James, Church. The House of the Black Madonna. There is so much to see an admire in the Old town center of Prague, especially if you are a fan of Art Nouveau and Baroque architecture. To me, central Prague feels like a fairy-tale heaven.

We made our way to the Powder Tower, one of the medieval entrances to Old Prague back in the 14th century. The tower offers more commanding views of the city. Next door to the Powder Tower is the Municipal House, a temple to arts and culture in Prague. The venue hosts concerts and other events. We peeked inside to see what was going on. To our delight is a fantastic exhibition on the artwork of Alfons Mucha, a Czech artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who specialized in advertising posters done in the Art Nouveau style. Having visited the Mucha Museum during our last visit to Prague and enjoying his works and life story, we jumped on the opportunity. We spent about an hour enjoying the many works on display.

From the Municipal House we wandered a short distance to Wenceslas Square, the site of the Revolution against Communist rule in 1989 and today one of the city's primary gathering spots. Wenceslas Square, named after a Golden Age Czech ruler whose statue graces the square, has undergone a makeover since we last visited. The square feels more Westernized and a stroll here easily transported me to Paris.

From Wenceslas Square we walked back in the direction of Old Town Square, doing quite a bit of shopping along the way. It's easy to break the bank in Prague. In any case, music from Old Town Square took us out of our shopping mind and back to enjoying the atmosphere that is Prague. There was an impromptu performance at the Old Town Hall courtyard that we stayed for.

By now it is past 6:00. We decided to follow our memories of Prague and head to the Charles Bridge, which connects the old center of the city to Prague Castle and is one of the most popular spans in all of Europe. The energy here is so amazing. The crowds were not too bad but everyone who was here were happy to be alive and here. A joie de vivre could be felt for much of our stroll across part of Charles Bridge. It seems as though we were just there yesterday even though our prior visit was 12 years ago.

We could keep on turning corner after corner and peeling back the layers that are Prague, but dinner called. We made reservations at Michelin-starred Field and this is where we were headed, about 15 to 20 minutes away from Charles Bridge. While long at 3.5 hours, we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner experience at Field. The food was inventive and the experience memorable.

By the time we finished dinner and went back to our hotel, it was midnight. Yes, we were tired from the long day, but also beyond satisfied.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 11:10 AM
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There's not much that can prepare you for the beauty of Prague.

On the other side of the bridge, you can walk down the steps away from the liveliness of the bridge for the peaceful oasis of Kampa Island (formed by a slender canal).
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 11:18 AM
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Count me as another who preferred Polish food to Czech, though we generally ate well in both countries. There seemed to be more brightness in Polish dishes, which I guess is just more to my taste. The beet soups with dumplings--so, so delicious.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 11:47 AM
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What a wonderful trip report! Im finally catching up! Your descriptions are so evocative, with enough detail for me to almost feel like were there. And, having never been to any of these places, I now have yet more places to add to that ever-growing list of places-Iíd-like-to-see. Of course, I look forward to the photos that you will post later.😉

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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 03:58 PM
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Shelemm, you're right about the beauty of Prague. There are few cities like this. And thanks for mentioning Kampa Island. We were fortunate to enjoy some down time there today after Prague Castle.

Leely2, I do miss the Polish food. I've actually been staying away from standard Czech for the past couple of days. I will enjoy a couple more traditional Czech meals before I head home though.

Progol, glad I'm giving you some fresh ideas. Will probably get to photos a week or two after I'm back.

Political and Religious Prague

Time's ticking and there's so much of Prague to visit and revisit. We rose shortly after sunrise and walked from our hotel to Old Town Square, from where we grabbed a few breakfast pastries and coffee and enjoyed it on one of benches on the plaza. It was a treat to enjoy surroundings which would normally be teeming with tourists in the peace and quiet of the early morning. We had the Old Town Hall with its astronomical clock all go ourselves.

Stomachs and minds fulfilled we strolled across an empty Charles Bridge, admiring Prague in all its glory all around us. In a distance is Prague Castle, our destination for this morning. Taking our sweet time, it took roughly 30 minutes to make our way across the bridge and up the hill onto which Prague Castle sits.

Within Prague Castle is the impressive Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral as well as the Old Royal Palace, smaller buildings, and the working offices of the present Czech head of state. St. Vitus is a political and religious treasure trove of artifacts. The stained glass windows sing towards the heavens. The monument to St. Vitus dripping in gold and silver commissed by Maria Theresa is quite the sight. And the live organ music serenading us throughout our visit - the tourist life is good.

The rest of the sights at Prague Castle were quick looks. There's not much to look at inside the Old Royal Palace, but it was included in the price of admission to the castle complex. Same with St. George's Basilica and the Golden Lane, a narrow street once populated by jewelry makers and servants of the kings and queens who lived here. We spent close to an hour inside St. Vitus and a little more than an hour for the rest of the castle complex.

It was time for a coffee and dessert break after all this sightseeing. We enjoyed some sweets at one of several cafes in the castle courtyards, watching the place now taken over by tour group after tour group coming off the river cruise ships mindlessly following their guides as they sprint through the complex. We're so glad we came early.

We made our way out of Prague Castle through its south gardens, enjoying the wonderful greenery and the beautiful red-tiled roofs and many church domes and spires that dot the city skyline. We slowing made our way around and down the hill on which the castle sits, but not before making a couple of worthwhile stops. The first is Loreta Church, built and decorated in the Baroque style. It's absolutely beautiful. A short walk from Loreta is Strahov Monastery and Library; both are well worth the time. From Strahov, we simply followed one of the paths sandwiched between the castle and Petrin Hill towards the Vltava River, a very easy walk.

Before returning to the Old Town side of the city, we stayed in Lesser Town for a bit longer, checking out the Wallenstein Gardens for some people-watching and relaxation. A gem of a find is Kampa Island. There was a French street festival happening today that we had a chance to check out. Right by the river overlooking the Old Town, Kampa feels laid-back. People are out and about walking, sunbathing, and enjoying being by the water. It's an oasis in the city where I could easily just hang out for hours, perhaps with a good book and a cool beverage in hand.

From Kampa it was a walk back across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town and the Estates Theater, where we held pre-purchased tickets for tonight's opera performance of The Marriage of Figaro. The venue is perfect in that it is small and intimate, and the acoustics were very good. Other than Vienna, Prague is one of my favorite places to enjoy European high culture. As they say, when in Prague...

Dinner was at an Italian restaurant in the Old Town, Divinis. Portions were small but delicious. We loved the pastas ordered to share as well as the mains. I enjoyed octopus while my companions had turbot, quail, and short rib. Judging by everyone's plate, the meal was a success.

Time has flown. It was only yesterday that we arrived in Prague and we're halfway through our time here. Our trip comes to a close in two days' time.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 06:29 PM
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Tripplanner001, if you have the time, I recommend walking up to Vysehrad Park and Citadel. It's one of our favorite places in Prague, and it's usually quiet. It's on a hill overlooking the Vlatava River and is where Prague was born. We visited the beautiful twin-towered church, Sts. Peter and Paul, and the beautiful national cemetery where many famous Czechs are buried, including Mucha, Smetana and Dvorak. There are also remains of the 1000-year old fortress.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 10:18 PM
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KarenWoo, thank you. I plan to check out Vysehrad on Saturday.
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 07:28 AM
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Thank you, tripplanner001. Your TR brings back very fond memories of Prague and CK. Poland is of great interest, and I hope to get there someday.
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 10:10 PM
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ANUJ, you're welcome. I find much enjoyment in your report about your recent trip to France as well.

Kutna Hora

It was another planned late start for us this morning with breakfast at our hotel, probably the best breakfast we've had this whole trip. After two very full days in Prague, we temporarily left the Czech capital behind for an excursion to nearby Kutna Hora for a look around. There's so much to see and do in Prague that we could just as easily had spent the day in the city as well as several more days but we also wanted to zoom out too.

Kutna Hora is approximately one hour by train from Prague, on the way to Brno. The city used to be home to one of the richest silver mines in the world. Much of what is in town comes from the Middle Ages when Kutna Hora supplied currency for the Czech kingdom.

From our hotel, we hopped on the metro on Republic Square to the city's main train station, where we purchased tickets and caught our train. The ride from Prague to Kutna Hora was straightforward. Near the main train station in Kutna Hora were our first two places of interest of the day - the Church of the Assumption and the Sedlec Ossuary. Also known as the Bone Chapel, the Sedlec Ossuary is probably the most well-known tourist attraction in all of Kutna Hora with many of the key features of the church made from human skulls and bones. Most significant of all is the chandelier made of probably every bone of the human body available, and is located at the center of the church.

From the Ossuary is a two kilometer walk into the historic town center of Kutna Hora. The town is small and makes for good wandering. We popped into St. James Church for a quick look. In front of the church is a beautiful viewing terrace towards Santa Barbara Cathedral and the Jesuit College, perfect for nice photographs. We took lunch next door at Restaurant V Ruthardce. This is probably the most visited restaurant in town, including with tour groups. The food was excellent though. The duck breast with cranberry sauce accompanied by poppy seed mashed potatoes were delicious, as were the pork schnitzel and the grilled chicken with roasted vegetables. The outdoor patio is also delightful and relaxing.

We could just chill out with a glass of wine but have a full afternoon of sightseeing ahead of us. Just down the road from Restaurant V Ruthardce is St. Barbara Cathedral, a highlight of any visit to Kutna Hora. The Gothic church is gorgeous both on the inside and out. The alterpiece with the Last Supper is fabulous as are much of the other artwork located within this house of worship. The outside with its flying buttresses are also a sight worth seeing - in this way, St. Barbara resembles a mini-Notre Dame of sorts. St. Barbara turned out to be one of my favorite churches of all time.

Adjacent to St. Barbara is the old Jesuit College, now a contemporary art museum. We gave it a quick look as we are not so much into this type of art. Instead the museum on silver mining called to us. We joined a 90-minute tour on the history of silver mining in the area. As part of the tour, we donned miners' clothing and hardhat and descended into a medieval shift for more than half an hour. The tour was both enlightening and fun. It provided us with a good perspective of why the town was so important in the Middle Ages.

By now it was 5:30. We walked about town a bit more, taking in the Stone Fountain, the Stone House, the Italian Court (or royal mint), and enjoyed some ice cream on one of the inviting squares. We would have wanted to visit the museum at the Stone House which featured an exhibit on the life of the town's residents during medieval times as well as the royal mint, but alas it was already half past six. The museums were already closed. And we needed to high tail it back to Prague. In hindsight, giving Kutna Hora an additional two to three hours would have been worthwhile.

We took a taxi from one of the town squares back to the train station. You could also walk, which takes about 45 minutes (we did it in the other direction this morning), or you could take a public bus that went between the train station and the center of town. We caught the 7:00 train for the one-hour trip back to Prague.

We chose to wind down our trip in style for our penultimate dinner, at Michelin-starred La Degustation. We started out with several delicious amuses bouches, with the steak tartare being the most divine. This was followed by a delicious dish of sliced beets with tomato - we have a feeling this evening will be a feast on the palate. Trout is next, simply prepared with toast and horseradish - the fish tasted like butter. Pork belly with mushroom and pasta followed and the symphony in our mouths continued into the evening - who knew food could be this good. Venison with sweet corn - another dish, another great success. Our meal was rounded out by a fruit-and-cream type dessert, normally not my thing but this one was good. We walked back to our hotel after dinner.
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 10:13 PM
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Kutna Hora was great. Brings back so many memories. Thanks for this. You had me at steak tartare.
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Old Jul 16th, 2022, 05:55 AM
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You covered so much great territory on this trip. Thanks for letting us tag along.
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Old Jul 16th, 2022, 07:42 PM
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Maitaitom and Shelemm, youíre welcome. Glad to have you.

Prague Off the Beaten Path

We began our day with breakfast at the Dancing House overlooking the Vltava River. Also known as Fred and Ginger, the Frank Geary creation has become a Prague landmark since the fall of communism. The buffet breakfast was standard with all the items one would expect with an American-style breakfast, but where else could we enjoy glasses of mimosas while gazing at Prague Castle? At 350 Czech crowns per person, it is an affordable dining with a view option.

From Dancing House we hopped on the metro and got off at Vysehrad, the area where Prague began and the first Czech king was crowned. Enclosed by medieval walls, the Vysehrad of today is large, green, open-air park space with walking paths and superb views of the city of domes and spires and the Vltava River. We happily snapped photographs, enjoyed the fresh morning air, and visited the magnificent Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. A mini-St. Vitus of sorts, the Basilica is home to lots of politically-significant works of art. We spent about two hours in this urban oasis (thank you KarenWoo) before continuing our exploration of Prague.

A couple of short tram rides took us to Namasti Miru, in the trendy Vinohrady neighborhood. We enjoyed a light lunch of pizzas at Grosseto, an Italian restaurant right on the square. We spent a couple of hours wandering Vinohrady and nearby Zizkov. All around us are big, beautiful classical buildings with pastel colors. We also popped into a couple of churches and shops. In Zizkov is a TV tower offering 360-degree views of the city. Also in Zizkov is a national war memorial with a rooftop with superb views of Prague. We surveyed all that we saw today and enjoyed views of the well-known Old Town landmarks in the distance.

From there we traveled by metro back to the Old Town. We enjoyed an early dinner of traditional Czech dishes at Potrefena Husa on Narodni Street before a black light theater performance at Image Theater down the block. An art form unique to Prague, we were first introduced to black light theater when we visited the city 12 years ago. We attended the Alice in Wonderland performance at Ta Fantastika (it continues to run today) right by Charles Bridge and could not stop thinking about it and talking about it that night. Whenever we talk about Prague, to this very day, whether among ourselves or with others, you can guarantee that black light theater always comes up. As we were back in Prague, how could we pass up the opportunity?

So for our last night in Prague, we secured black light theater tickets. With several options, we settled on Image Theater and the show Abracadabra. Part whimsy. Part slapstick comedy. Hokey music. Dancing and gymnastics. The show was downright entertaining. Abracadabra is about 75 minutes long, so we were out by 9:15 as dusk fell over Prague.

We took one final stroll past some of our favorite Prague landmarks awash in the evening light with fresh, warm trdelnik in hand. The Charles Bridge. Prague Castle. The Old Town Hall with its astronomical clock. Tyn Church. Powder Tower. Municipal House.

And with that, our two week trip has reached its end. If all goes well, we will be home roughly 24 hours from now. Once again, I thank you for coming along on this trip with me. I hope I brought back some happy memories for some of you, offered fresh ideas for new travel, or simply provided a welcome escape from the everyday. I will happily answer any questions and will be back with some photos from my travels in the next couple of weeks.
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Old Jul 16th, 2022, 08:47 PM
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I am happy to hear that you visited and enjoyed Vysehrad. We first visited Prague in 2003 when our youngest daughter studied there for a semester and we visited her during her break. Our daughter had classes in a building at Vysehrad, and she brought us there to visit her classroom. Otherwise, I would not have visited Vysehrad because it wasn't mentioned in the guidebook I was using at the time. We visited again in 2009, and we always have such fond memories of that part of Prague. It is an urban oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of crowded Prague.
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 03:08 AM
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A wonderful read, thank you.
Have never been to Prague, or so many places really, it’s a delight to get an armchair ride.
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 11:11 AM
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KarenWoo, youíre absolutely right about Vysehrad. Seems like Vinohrady may be the next to become noticed. In any case, thereís so many places we could have explored but didnít have the time to do so. Going back somewhere makes it easier to visit the not-so-touristy places too.

Adelaidean, youíre welcome. Glad I may have offered you a window into a place for you. Itís one of the things I really enjoy when reading the reports of others.
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 12:26 PM
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Black Light Theatre in Prague is an astounding delight. I saw two shows when I was there. One by Image, and the other is maybe the oldest in Prague, still performed on a small basement stage,The Blacklight Theare of Jiri Srnec. The intimacy of the space lends a different kind of charm.
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 12:34 PM
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We also had an excellent dinner at La Degustation.

Thank you for sharing your trip! It brought back many happy memories for me.
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Old Jul 18th, 2022, 04:36 AM
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Shelemm, Iíll have to check out the Srnrc venue next time.

Leely2, Iím glad. Definitely one of the reasons I enjoy your and othersí reports.
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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 01:21 PM
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As promised, here is a selection of photos, beginning with our time in Warsaw. Reflecting back on our trip, we most enjoyed the Old Town. While reconstructed, it was full of life while we were there and such a vibrant antidote to the destruction that ravaged the city in World War II, not to mention the centuries of partition and occupation preceding it. We saw Warsaw as a powerful reminder that there could be a viable life after war, especially given where things are in the world today. Lazienski Park was also a highlight of our visit, as the Polin Museum.


Old Town, with Sigismund's Column and the Royal Palace

Another View of Old Town

Main Market Square in Old Town

View of "New" Town

Warsaw Uprising Memorial

Ghetto Uprising Memorial

Pilsudski Square

Palace of Science and Culture

Inside the Polish Army Field Cathedral

Dragon on a Building, a Symbol Found in Warsaw and in Krakow

Buildings From Post-1989 Warsaw

Palace on the Water in Lazienski Park

Theater in Lazienski Park
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