Back from 5 nights in Prague (long)

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Jan 18th, 2005, 08:15 AM
  #1
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Back from 5 nights in Prague (long)

DH & I decided to take advantage of cheap airfares and spent 5 nights (7-11 Jan) in Prague. Stayed in Penzion U Suteru (www.usuteru.cz) in the New Town for a bargain €65 per night for a double with bathroom (inc. breakfast). The building dates from the 14th century but was renovated in the 1990's. Rooms were comfortable and the bathroom was fine. The only small caveat were the low doorways - I kept waiting for my 6'4" husband to crack his head on the lintels. However, despite the large amounts of beer ingested he never did! The location was good - a quiet street near Wenceslas Square and about 10 minutes walk from the River and from the Old Town Square. It was also very close to Tesco's - which was handy for buying water and snacks.

We took the bus and metro from the airport - quite easy to do and lots of tourists were doing the same thing - it only cost 12 crowns each (as opposed to about 300 crowns for a taxi). There's a desk in the airport which will sell you a ticket.

On our first night we arrived at about 8pm so we ate in the hotel - duck cabbage & dumplings for me, goulash cabbage & dumplings for DH, with very nice pancakes with cream and blackcurrants for dessert. Coupled with a couple of beers, this came to about €20. We had checked out the praguepubs.com website before we left so after eating we decided to make for U Pinkasu - a traditional Prague pub - which was quite close to the hotel. Enjoyed a couple of drinks there and then went for a wander through the Old Town Square and down to the Moldau to take a first look at the Castle and Charles Bridge all lit up. Magical.

The next day was bright and sunny - which was true for all our time in the city - we were incredibly lucky with the weather. It had been nearly 15 years since I had last been in Prague and I was simply stunned with the changes in the city - most of them for the better. Dining out had become much easier - a smile when you entered a restaurant instead of a glum face turning you away because you had no reservation. In fact, people seemed happier all round. Of course the massive influx of tourists mean that everywhere is more "touristy" - but I'm not carping if that means better service, even if the prices are a great deal highter (but still cheap by Irish standards).

We decided to head up to the State Opera near Wenceslas Square to book some tickets for Rigoletto which was being staged that night. Yes I know that you can book them in advance - we just weren't that organised! No problem - picked up two tickets for the second balcony, front row centre for the equivalent of €20 - fantastic. As we were up that end of town we decided to visit the National Museum - there was an excellent special exhibition dedicated to Czech football (soccer) which DH loved so much that we spent two hours there. Definitely worth checking out if you're a fan.

Can't remember where we had lunch that day, but we spent the rest of it wandering around the Old Town Square before heading back to the hotel for the Opera at 7pm. Because we were running late, dinner was in McDonald's in Wenceslas Square (!) - but we did have champagne during the intervals of Rigoletto - which I loved and DH slept through (revenge for the football exhibition!). Had some cocktails in a very nice bar off Narodni called Ultramarine - I think it was on Jillska - it was back to the hotel.

The next day - a Saturday - was to be dedicated to seeing the castle. It was another beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed it throroughly. We paid in to see everything - and also hired an audioguide which was well worth it. My highlight of the day was when a tourist in St. Vitus Cathedral burst into a beautiful rendition of Gounod's "Ave Maria" while we were there - and earned himself a round of applause from everyone, including the security guards. I had tears in my eyes. From the sublime to the ridiculous - another highlight was the Barbie exhibition in the Toy Museum. The day ended on the balcony of the cafe attached to the Castle museum drinking coffee and eating strudel and watching a magnificent sunset across the Moldau towards the Old Town.

That night we ate in U Medvidku - another beer hall. Lovely chicken noodle soup and a couple of goulashs - all that walking had made us ravenous. U Medividku also sells delicious Budvar beer, and a large range of memorabilia - we bought a couple of glasses. It's a lot of fun - with music on a Saturday night - again it's touristy but who cares - I'm a tourist! From there we took ourselves to Pivnice U Zlateho Tygra (The Golden Tiger) - a Prague instution among pubs. Not for those who don't like cigarette smoke though. Service lacks charm but it's kind of funny - you take your place at a table and beers are slapped down in front of you by a grim looking barman. Most of the customers seemed to be Czech but there were one or two tourists to chat to as well. A lot of fun.

The next day - a Sunday - we decided to go in search of the Church of Our Lady Victorious to see the Child of Prague - who very kindly provided us with a sunny wedding day four years previously (it's an Irish custom). Can there be anything more magical than crossing Charles Bridge at 11am on a sunny winter morning with the church bells of the Castle and the Lesser Town ringing out? We paid our respects to the Infant - there's an English Mass there at 12pm each Sunday - and then went for a wander through the Mala Strana for the rest of the afternoon - taking in lunch and coffee along the way. Can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday. From there we decided to check out U Fleku - another beerhall that serves its own distinctive black beer - a bit loud with English stag parties but still fun - they got really drunk so we left before things got messy. Nice beer though - plus we shared a beckerovka (sp?) - wow it's strong!

Dinner that evening was meant to be in La Perla de Prague in the Ginger and Fred building but alas! It's closed on Sundays and Mondays so the treat that was reserved for the end of our trip will have to wait for another day. Instead we went to Cafe Louvre (www.cafelouvre.cz) on Narodni which served an excellent mid-priced meal. Two chicken noodle soups, pasta for DH, an excellent steak for me, two desserts of delicious home-made ice-cream, bottle of wine and two coffees for the equivalent of €27!! All in a lovely turn of the century building, also with a cafe and a billiard-room. Highly recommended.

Monday was our last full day so we decided to follow the guided walk through Petrin Park in our Eyewitness guidebook. If you don't mind mildly strenuous uphill walking then this is for you - especially on a day like the sunny day we had. The views were fantastic - although because it was a Monday the attractions at the top of the hill were closed. The walk took about 2 hours with plenty of stopping to take in the views.

From there we walked to the Strahov Monastery for some lunch in the microbrewery and then visited the church and the Library. As Librarians we were heartbroken that we had not written to the Librarian there for a tour (it's a librarian thing) - another thing to do the next time. The Library is beautiful and well worth a visit. In the afternoon we visited the Jewish Quarter - the simple beauty of the Pinkas Synagogue Memorial will stay with me.

That night we returned to Cafe Louvre - and because it was our last night we had a bottle of Bohemian sekt to accompany our meal of two delicious fillet steaks with potatoes on the side. Mmmmm.

On our last morning we decided to do a boat trip up the river - we were the only people on the boat and it was FREEZING. The commentary was poor but we still enjoyed it. We had our lunch in Le Patio, beside the Louvre Cafe - nice food but small portions at tourist (i.e. expensive for Prague) prices. Le Patio doubles as a shop - the owner makes furniture from cast iron - I bought a picture frame and a nightlight holder there. DH stocked up on Sparta Praha memorabilia as his souvenirs and after a couple of farewell beers in U Medvidku (plus a history lesson from the friendly waiter) we picked up our bags at the hotel and took the metro and bus to the airport.

Our queue for checking in took ages - so leave plenty of time for this when you're leaving Prague.

And that was Prague - transformed since 1990 but even more charming and fun. Of course we were incredibly lucky with the weather - had it been raining every day we would not have had such a good time. As a winter destination we'd totally recommend it - go there before the summer hordes descend!

ter2000 is offline  
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Jan 18th, 2005, 08:50 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Great report. Brought back memories. We spent five days there in 2003 and fell in love with Prague. Glad you were blessed with good weather and had such a wonderful time. It is a great place to visit for many reasons.
Giovanna is offline  
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Jan 18th, 2005, 09:42 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for writing back with a report.
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