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Trip Report Prague Trip Report

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After a long flight from the west coast, a 5 1/2 hour layover at Heathrow and one more short flight, DH and I arrived in Prague on October 13. We were glad to find the driver from Prague Airport Shuttle waiting to take us to the Hotel Unitas. We were able to check-in quickly, drop our bags and head out to find dinner. The Hotel Unitas is on a quiet and fairly unattractive street but there were many good restaurants just a block or two away. For our first night we had a very good dinner at Palatina at the Hotel Leonardo.

Our hotel room was quite large and the bed very comfortable. It had lots of storage, terry robes, and a nice bathroom. We found most of the staff spoke English and were very helpful.

We were happy to get a full 8 hours sleep and woke up not too jet-lagged. We enjoyed the hotel's buffet breakfast then walked to the Charles Bridge (Karlov Most). Great views of the city on both sides of the river. From the bridge we walked back to the east bank and the Stare Mesto or old city which is also where the hotel is located. We wandered through the small streets and discovered that whether large or small, the cobblestones are uneven and many were missing. Both the streets and sidewalks are cobbled so there is no escaping them. We saw the astronomical clock mark the hour along with dozens of other tourists (can't imagine what the crowds are like in summer).

When it came to meals we avoided TGI Fridays and Subway in favor of local restaurants. For lunch we ate at a large beer hall called U Vejvoju where most of the other diners were Czech speaking. Later in the afternoon we found the perfect spot for a rest and some "dezerty". Really, that's the Czech word for dessert. After more strolling we went back to the hotel for a rest then a bit of an early dinner and to bed early with jet lag starting to take its toll.

On our second morning after another good breakfast at the hotel we traveled by tram #22 to Prazsky hrad or Prague Castle. We saw it lit up above the Charles Bridge as we were driven to our hotel on Wednesday night and were looking forward to visiting. We first visited one of the gardens next to the former president's home. Some of the trees were turning and gardeners were planting flowers in bloom so it was very pretty. After that we bought our tickets choosing 4 major sites in the castle complex. We started with St. Vitus Cathedral which has some beautiful stained glass including some from the early 20th century by the Czech artist Alfons Mucha. Construction of the Cathedral was only completed in 1929. It was quite crowded with lots of tour groups in German, Spanish and Italian but we just waited while some of them went by. Individual tourists like us seemed much fewer.

After the cathedral we wandered through the castle area toward Golden Lane. This is a street of small houses that have served as shops and residences over the centuries. Kafka lived in one of them for a couple of years. Before we got there we came upon a couple of very nice gift shops filled with crystal and Czech handcrafts. We spent some time checking out possible gifts and then it was time for lunch. A little place at the start of Golden Lane offered hot pannini and tea which was perfect on this cold day. Exploring Golden Lane we bought a tiny plate for the kitchen wall to go along with others collected over the years from Italy, France and Las Vegas.

Our castle ticket was good for two days so we decided to come back the next day and wandered down the hill back to the Charles Bridge. We passed a vineyard, the Belgian and Polish embassies, and many elegant buildings. Starting to feel cold and needing a rest we spotted a Starbucks on Malostranske square. I had a hot chocolate and DH a coffee with lots of cream which is not usually served with coffee here. From here it was an easy stroll to the Charles bridge with stops to admire the beautiful garnet and amber jewelry.

Strolling through the Stare Mesto, our neighborhood, we passed many tempting restaurants as we made our way back to our hotel. After resting a bit we decided to have dinner at Restaurant Rainer Maria Rilke. It had not occurred to us that we might need reservations and we were fortunate to get the last table. The waiter was great and the food very good. DH had chicken stuffed with salmon but I went for straight salmon from Norway. We had passed a placed called Choco Cafe earlier in the afternoon but now we were too full. So back to the Hotel Unitas to blog and plan our day for tomorrow.

This day started late. Apparently jet lag had not finished messing with us. The weather report promised cold and clear, so we wore heavier coats than yesterday when we wished we had them. We took the tram back to the castle since we had 2-day tickets. We came in from a different tram stop and this entrance looked a little like a mini-Versailles. People were already lined up for the changing of the guard which we decided to skip. We noticed the military guards had handsome uniforms and that some who were probably not working the ceremony had big knives on their belts. DH wondered if they actually got training in knife combat, or had once appeared in a production of West Side Story.

Inside the gates, we visited St. George's chapel and the old palace but everything was so crowded on a Saturday that it was difficult to see much. Fortunately one of the main sights was an arched ceiling in the palace so it could be viewed over the crowds. We noticed that as the castle was built over the years newer buildings were put up quite close to the cathedral and other buildings in the castle complex.

We also made a trip back to the castle gift shop where we had done some window shopping the day before. We bought some beautiful Preciosa crystal jewelry for gifts.

We took a little different route down from the castle so we could visit the area between the castle and the Charles Bridge. Enjoyed a tasty late lunch at the Restaurant Pod Vezi and DH finally had his first Czech beer. DH had roast duck and I had a sandwich and a salad with really good balsamic. Would have bought a bottle of that if we could. We also indulged in our first strudel which was very good. The service was also good here.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent window shopping and photographing the beautiful sights of the city, which included Hare Krishnas marching, some poor fool being given a bird's-eye-view of the city from a one-seater balloon tethered 200 feet in the air, and several shops selling absinthe.

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