Prague trip report.....

Nov 23rd, 2002, 08:52 AM
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mark
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Prague trip report.....

Sorry for posting this so late but the past month has been very busy for me - I'll be posting additonal parts to this thread over the weekend.

October 21
Arrived in Prague as scheduled - the driver and hotel had been arranged through Travelcook. I will use this service again - http://www.travelcook.com/English/. The weather was grey with occasional drizzle - a bit chilly but tolerable. I stayed at the Hotel Constans - which is located in the Mala Strana near the US Embassy Location was great for exploring the Mala Strana and the Castle area - it was only a 5 minute walk to Charles Bridge. The room was huge - queen size bed, couch, wet bar, shower, great bath tub, bidet (no, I didn’t soak my feet in it) - lots of amenities. The view was not so great - I looked over a construction pit, which in 6 months will be a garden. I was concerned about noise but the double glazed windows and an agreement between the hotel and construction crew limited the noise and besides, it encouraged me to get out and about. The staff was eager to please and was very helpful. I would definitely stay here again - www.hotelconstans.cz

Was able to check in early and decided to grab a couple hours of sleep. Woke up around noon and meandered around - the light rain peppering my umbrella, the wet cobble stone. Had lunch at U Zlate Sudne because reviews had mentioned a spectacular view and competent food. The view is incredible - looking out over the clay tile roofs of the Mala Stana towards Stare Mesto. Started off with a terrine de foies gras with apricot coulis, which was ever so slightly spiced with black pepper. The foie gras was silky smooth and luxurious on the tounge. The breast of duck was nicely prepared and for desert a vanilla panna cotta with strawberries. I had a couple glasses of bohemia sekt - overall a well prepared light czech meal and perfect being that i was jet lagged.

www.zlatastudna.cz; email: [email protected]

 
Nov 23rd, 2002, 08:54 AM
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I spent the afternoon wandering around. You do not need the metro - Prague is very compact. Some businesses that were closed due to flooding have reopened while others are still closed. Kampa Island is open. Some streets are being re-cobbled but that did not interfere with my sightseeing. There was light drizzle on and off through out the day. The hills were decked out in autumnal colors - reds, rust orange, yellows. If you love fall I would recommend visiting Prague at the beginning of October. Crowds were minimal - tourism is way down. Go before the crowds return and have Prague to yourself.

For dinner I decided to try U Modre Kachnciky - reviews had praised this place for exceptional Czech cuisine. They have two locations - the Prague Post recommended the one in Stare Mesto. However when I went there the maitre-d insisted on sitting me next to a table of six eyebrow plucked, collagen-botox injected British queens. I was not in the mood to deal with that and went back to the one located in the Mala Strana. The meal, in comparison with the other meals I had in Prague, was mediocre. The first glass of bohemia sekt was flat - I insisted on a fresh glass, which they complied with. The duck liver in red wine sauce was over cooked and tasted like chicken liver. The fallow deer was okay - but once again, in retrospect, I had much better quality and preparation at other restaurants. I would not recommend this restaurant. I may try the one in Stare Mesto next time I’m in Prague but for lunch, not dinner.

http://www.eol.cz/MODRAKACHNICKA/defaulten.htm

The light drizzle had ended by the time I finished dinner so I walked around Prague underneath a full moon. The Charles Bridge is mysterious at night - the statues silhouetted against the night sky, the murmuring Vltava, people shifting from figure to shadow - and if late enough you may even have the Bridge all to yourself.
 
Nov 23rd, 2002, 11:16 AM
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Sherry
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Thanks Mark. Am very intersted in reading all about your trip as we plan to go to Prague in late Spring.
Please give me some tips about how you went about looking for airfare and also which carrier you used.
 
Nov 23rd, 2002, 11:24 AM
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October 22

Woke up to grey skies, light drizzle and chilly. I had arranged for a personal guide, Sabina - recommend by other Fodorites, to show me around Prague with emphasis upon art nouveau architecture. She arrived on time and off we went. She gave me a well rounded tour of Prague which helped me orient myself for the remainder of my time there. I will definitely arrange a personal guide when I visit other cities - it’s a wonderful treat. I saw numerous herds of tourists (cattle) being led around Prague which struck me as impersonal. Sabina showed me numerous art nouveau buildings I would have probably missed on my own. The tour was about 4 1/2 hours and cost $40 (US). After the tour I went to U Petrske veze (Peter’s tower) for lunch - located next to one of the remaining towers of the town wall - very easy to locate. Started with a warm appetizer of goose liver with onions and armagnac on toasted points - really well prepared (and I don’t like cooked liver - seared foie gras I love). For the main course old-Bohemian style breast of wild duck in black sauce with Carlsbad dumplings - deep, rich and hearty, perfect for a grey drizzly day. Desert was traditional Czech pancakes with bilberries. Once again - I had a couple glasses of Bohemian sect and a terrific glass of Moravian cabernet sauvignon (unfortunately did not write down the name). I will come back to this restaurant for dinner next time I’m in Prague.

http://www.upetrskeveze.cz/english.htm

Heading back to the hotel, turning onto Charles Bridge - sunlight was streaming through the clouds high lighting the tips of the spires against the grey clouds and blue sky - it had warmed up considerably. The Bridge was thronged with people just milling about - the blackened statues in the afternoon sunlight set against the blue sky and streaming grey clouds. A totally different mood compared to the bridge at night. Hung out for awhile on the Bridge letting it all soak in and then headed back to the hotel for a nap.
 
Nov 23rd, 2002, 11:27 AM
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Sherry-
I flew Czech Airlines - round trip from NYC, direct, for a little more than $500.

http://www.csa.cz/en/
 
Nov 23rd, 2002, 11:59 AM
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For dinner I had reservations at the Francouzska restaurace, located in the Obecni dum (The Municipal House). I had the menu de gustation (1750 Kn) - terrine de foie gras with apples and cumberland sauce, sea dog gnocchi with spinach and lobster sauce, chicken coq au van with grapes and couscous, veal with pearl onions and potatoes - all excellently prepared and presented. Had an acceptable red moravian. Finished with dessert, espresso and slivovice - a plum brandy - request the golden style, which is much smoother than the clear. The art nouveau dining room is a real treat - service was attentive and professional. The only thing that could have made the evening better was if it had been snowing outside - get a table next to the windows.

http://www.frenchrest.obecnidum.cz/

Walking back to the hotel stopped off at bar in the Mala Strana for a night cap - absinthe. It actually has a pleasant taste - herbal, like Becherovka. I did not, however, see the green fairy - and I had 3 glasses of it. I found it easy to be single / alone in Prague - the city seems to foster a brooding, contemplative attitude.
 
Nov 23rd, 2002, 01:15 PM
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October 23
Slept in late and woke to clear skies and mild temperature. I knew exactly where I wanted to go today - Letna Park - across the Vltava from the Jewish Quarter. I had read that the views from this park are superlative - they were right. From the plateau overlooking the city you can see all the bridges spanning the Vltava - the view is a must do. There is a restaurant located in the park - Hanavsky Pavilion - “a impressive structure in luxuriant Dutch pseudo-Baroque style, all made of cast iron complemented with masonry” . The food was nothing special. I would recommend getting a table outside, weather permitting, ordering a bottle of moravian white and just sit for a few hours. The longer I sat the more I began to see - Prague really is the city of 100 spires. The sunlight rippled across the rooftops casting the city in moments high contrast - the wide expanse of the sky and the rolling clouds - the silvery green of the Vltava - trams and people crossing the bridges. The second movement from Dvorak’s New World Symphony kept coming to mind. Occasionally other tourists would appear but overall I had this incredible vantage point to myself to enjoy. I was able to pin point various buildings the longer I sat. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

http://www.hanavskypavilon.cz/Indexa.htm
 
Nov 23rd, 2002, 01:58 PM
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After sitting at Hanavsky Pavilon for at least 3 hours I headed to the Hlavni nadrazi train station to see the art nouveau lobby. The lobby was a let down - it needs to be cleaned and restored. While sitting there I ordered an espresso - it was the only time in Prague I was given incorrect change back - twice. No other time did I experience any attempt to be ripped off - even by taxi cab drivers. There was a rain shower late in the afternoon but quickly dissipated, the evening was clear skies and mild temps.

Being that the restaurant Kampa Park was closed due to flooding I went to the Alcron at the Radisson Hotel for dinner. The Alcron specializes in seafood - a nice contrast to all the meat dishes I was consuming. The hotel is near the Fred&Ginger building - not a particularly nice area. I started off with Dublin bay prawns with seared foie gras with carpaccio of mango and brown poultry stock. The foie gras was perfect - the prawns were average, too much work for too little meat ( A crawfish boil is an entirely different matter, as is stone crab claws and lobster, but I digress). Then had lobster soup with shell fish oil, grilled artichokes and lobster meat. The soup was at a perfect temperature - it was velvety and flavorful on the tongue. It was a chef’s speciality which made me decide to try another recommended dish: smoked eel with black truffles, scrambled eggs and potatoes. This was an incredible dish - the flavors were amazing - stop me dead in my tracks. Then had grilled scallops with mushrooms, summer truffles, fried cepes and pasta. The scallops were buttery smooth - the pasta was okay - the mushrooms firm. Dessert was warmed blinis with strawberries and raspberries and warmed vanilla sauce - a nice ending. Had a very good Czech white - Veltlinske Zelene, Vinne Sklepy Vatice, 2000. My only quibble - the room had F. Scott’s Fitzgerald inspired 1920 NYC skyline murals on the walls - I could have been eating anywhere - the one problem with eating in a hotel environment. A very nice change of pace.

http://www.radissonsas.com
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 08:09 AM
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October 24
Woke to clear blue skies, breezy and chilly. Spent the morning exploring the Castle area. St Vitus cathedral is an amazing space - the stain glass windows are gorgeous. You can buy a ticket which allows you admission to numerous restricted areas in the castle grounds. The morning sunlight set the trees around Strahov Monestary ablaze in brilliant fall colors. Be sure to walk through the South Gardens - wonderful views looking out over Prague. Once again, I just meandered down streets and alleyways - turning here, turning there.

I had lunch at the Savoy Hotel, which is located near the castle. I decided to try the menu de gustation, which included wine pairings (2100 Kn): Salmon tartar with fresh blinis, tiger shrimp, creme freche and salmon roe w/ Chateau Radyn brut; foie gras with parma ham, figs and grilled endive w/ bohemia sekt prestige -demi sec; saddle of fallow deer with game farce, stewed white cabbage in champagne and herb-potato noodles w/ cabernet sauvignon, Moravska Nova Ves; mousse meringue with chocolate cream and vanilla sauce; Hennessy XO. All the dishes were excellently prepared. I would love to come back here in the late spring because the roof of the restaurant slides open. The chef also does a four course surprise menu for 1300 Kn using seasonal ingredients. As for the hotel itself- it’s suppose to be pretty posh.

www.hotel-savoy.cz

For the afternoon I had reservations to tour the Mullerova Villa. If you’re an architecture buff - this is a must do.The house was designed by Adolf Loos. You must make a reservation to take a tour - group size is limited to 7. Tour cost 400 Kn. To make reservations: [email protected]<BR><BR><a href="...lt-cv.html</a>
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 09:04 AM
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I had dinner reservations at Cerny Kohout (The Black Rooster) which is located in the 5th district, about a 10 minute cab ride. The Prague Post review: “ elegant and remote. The perfect place for entertaining hard to impress visitors.” The cab ride from the hotel cost 300 Kn - I was a bit concerned when the cab turned down a dirt road. This restaurant specializes in game done in modern preparation - contemporary czech. This was by far the best meal I had while in Prague. I had arranged in advanced an 8 course tasting menu. Started off with a salad of wild duck with strawberries, orange, frisee, cherry tomatoes - bright, beautiful presentation, perfectly balanced. Soup of roasted zander (sweet water fish) with garlic, asparagus and carrot - clean and light. White goose liver roasted with venison foam, served on stewed apple in sweet smelling muscatel, decorated with forest fruits and blackberry sauce - perfectly cooked and beautiful presentation. Roasted quail served on peas compote with dried plums - solid, on the mark. Baked zander with cucumber gnocchi and dill cream sauce - nice counterpoint to the meat dishes. Roasted venison with bacon gnocchi, roasted pear, glazed apricots, raspberry sauce - rich, dense and satisfying. Dessert consisted of home made pie with forest berries on cream foam and smoked czech cheese, camembert and goat cheese baked in puff pastry - both delicious. Add to that 2 bottles of wine. And incredible meal - I recommend this restaurant highly. And the bill, including tip, came to about $80(US). Also the cab ride back to the hotel only cost 300 Kn.

www.cernykohout.cz
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 12:25 PM
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October 25
Woke to clear skies. Had reserved a space for the tour of the Municipal House for the morning. Be sure to reserve in advance - spaces are limited. If you love art nouveau architecture - take this tour. The only way you’ll be able to see the galleries upstairs is by taking the tour. The tour also includes the concert hall - which you can also see during a performance. Each gallery is unique. It cost about $40 million to restore the Municipal House. Beautiful interiors. The tour lasted for about an hour. Don't forget to check out the basement.

http://www.obecnidum.cz/e_index.htm

For lunch I had reservations at Flambee - a czech french restaurant. It is a cellar restaurant and had just reopened 2 weeks ago. Numerous cellar businesses had been flooded even though they were not near the Vltava. If you’re looking for a swanky, elegant evening, this is the place. The restaurant is done in 1920 art deco style yet the barrel vaulted ceilings remind you that you’re in Prague. The food is international - the service is exceptional. I tried the menu de gustation: mousse of wild duck w/ grilled crepine of duck breast and foie gras with apple orange jam and brioche; roasted fillet of brittany turbot served with truffle jus, potato creme with fave beans; stuffed lamb saddle under pine crust, fricassee of provencal vegetables and polenta croquette stuffed with marscapone; campari blood orange sorbet; chocolate creation using Varlhona chocolate. The only dish that failed to impress was the dessert - everything else was wonderful. The service can be a bit intimidating - at one point I told the waiters to just leave me alone. Had a wonderful czech white wine: Rulandske Bile, 1999.

http://www.flambee.cz/
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 01:00 PM
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When I returned to my hotel room I found a complimentary bottle of bohemia sekt - today was my birthday. I took a nap and soaked in a hot tub for awhile - the cobblestones do wear you out. It began to lightly rain early in the evening. I had dinner reservations at Belleveu. I had read numerous reviews praising this place - I was looking forward to an exceptional evening. Unfortunately, this restaurant was a let down. While the food was competent nothing stood out as exceptional. I had foie gras, breast of french duck and a dessert. The restaurant struck me as a tourist haunt. The room seemed a bit dusty and dowdy. Even the view of the Castle, while nice, didn’t really add much to the evening. Don’t get me wrong - the food was solid but in comparison to other meals, not unique or special. By the time I had finished dinner it had stopped raining - I stopped off at a bar in the Mala Strana for a night cap of Becherovka.

www.zatisigroup.cz
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 01:08 PM
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Grasshopper
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Mark, I've been wondering how your trip was. Now I've gained 10 lbs just reading your trip report! How long will it take you to clear your arteries of all that fois gras? It sounds like you had a great time and definately know how to travel. One question; What were you reading on this trip?
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 01:29 PM
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Grasshopper -
On my trip to Dubrovnik I had read ‘The Best American Travel Writing, 2001’, edited by Paul Theroux - which I thoroughly enjoyed. For Prague I picked up “The Best American Travel Writing, 2002’, edited by Francis Mayes - which is not as good a collection as 2001. There is one story I love though - Forty Years In Acapulco - by Devin Friedman - hilarious.
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 02:43 PM
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October 26
I slept in till noon. The day started out cloudy and chilly but around 3 pm the clouds broke and so did the temperature. After 5 days of rather intense eating - I was ready for a change. I stopped off at a deli / bodega in the Mala Strana and picked up some czech salamis and cheeses and went down to the edge of the Vltava to eat my lunch - and it only cost 94 Kn. After lunch I went to the palace gardens beneath the Prague castle (Ledeburska Garden, 95 Kn). I started at the top, accessible through the South Garden, and worked my way down its numerous terraces. The views from the garden are, once again, wonderful. I will definitely come back to Prague during a late spring to see these gardens - I’m sure the gardens are a great respite from the crowds. Afterwards, walked over to the Jewish Quarter to look at more art nouveau buildings and just meandered my way back to the hotel.
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 03:02 PM
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Michael
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Great report, Mark. I have one question: do you remember which sites in the Jewish quarter were still closed when you were there? Thanks.
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 03:18 PM
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mark
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Michael -
The Jewish Cemetary was open again, as were the synagogues. The Four Seasons Hotel and the Inter-Continental were still closed, as was the metro. I believe the C line was scheduled to be open by the NATO meeting that just occurred. Some small businesses may still be closed due to insurance issues. The Museum of Decorative Arts was open.
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 03:22 PM
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Dinner reservation was at David’s, located in the Mala Strana, almost around the corner from the Hotel Constans. It is a small, intimate restaurant - probably about 12 tables max. You have to ring a bell to gain access. I had foie gras with wild berries marinated in Port wine, baked quail in armagnac with plums, marinated deer's back in smooth truffle cream sauce with fresh vegetables, served with gratinated bacon flavored potatoes and for desert, home made poppy seed gnocchi with vanilla-mint sauce and fresh fruits. The waiter recommended a Czech cabernet sauvignon 1994 - which was a nice compliment. This meal struck me as what traditional Czech is - each dish was delicious and a work of art. Afterwards, a complimentary glass of slivovice served in a special hand blown glass. My only quibble: I wish the owner would turn the lights down just a tad. I recommend this place highly - a real treat.

http://www.restaurant-david.cz

Afterwards, I walked around the castle district all the way to the end of Novy Svet. The sound of footsteps on cobblestone, leaves being blown about by the wind, the smell of wood burning in fireplaces - walk around this area late at night, either alone or with someone special - it’s classic Prague. I then walked over to Staromestske namesti (Old Town Square) and sat at an outdoor cafe, Kovarno for a late nightcap. Great view of the square. Late at night walking back across Charles Bridge - it almost seems like the statues shift their gaze or gesture just ever so slightly - “obscure ghostly beauty”.
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 03:53 PM
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Beverly
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We just returned from Prague about 3 weeks ago. We stayed at Pension Vetrnik outside the city. We were there only 4 days and plan to return over the summer for 5 days and stay in the same place. We loved Prague, everything about Prague even the cool damp weather. We managed to get around on the trams as 18 of the metros were down related to the floods. We can hardly wait to return!
 
Nov 24th, 2002, 04:12 PM
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October 27
Light rain on and off through out the day, chilly and breezy. Went to the Museum of Decorative Arts - I was hoping for a better art nouveau collection but there were some interesting pieces. There is a great view of the Jewish cemetery from the bathroom. I was going to pass on lunch but then decided to go to the Municipal House and eat at the Pilsen restaurant - which is located in the basement. The Pilsen restaurant was originally named “Folk Restaurant” - it’s a large brasserie with folk type motifs from the Slavonic countryside - dark blue green tiles, dark woods, ceramic pictures - definitely more peasant tone. Lunch: potato soup with wild mushrooms; prague ham with horseradish, mustard and pickled gerkins; piquant sausage from Davle with mustard and apple horseradish; assorted czech cheeses and a large glass of Pilsner (the only time I drank beer while in Prague). It was a simple, nice meal - just right. It had stopped raining so I went back over to Letna Park for one last view - sat outside at Hanavsky Pavilion and had a glass of white moravian and watched twilight settle over Prague. The shadows deepened to violet grey - the orange creamsickeled lights came on - the trams crossing the Vltava - and then it began to lightly rain again, which meant it was time to head back to the hotel. As I walked down the hillside the rain fell harder blurring more and more of the tableaux - once again, obscure ghostly beauty
 

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