Saturday, April 21, 2012

Prague: July 17- July 20


I can barely remember our train ride over to Prague. Thank goodness I have my handy dandy itinerary with  more detail than the president's SOMETHING to revamp my memory. We left Berlin early...ish and arrived in Prague around 1:30. After realizing the Euro is not used in the Czech Republic and understanding that 2000 Czech Crowns was actually not much money at all, we found a cab and headed to our hotel: The Hotel Casa Marcello! This once monastery was hidden on a back road in the old part of Prague and was absolutely breath taking. We "Czeched" into our room ;) and oo'ed and aw'ed at the beauty of it all. Our window opened to a small cobblestone ally that looked onto several other older buildings with similar architecture. 

The inside of the hotel was just as fantastic as the out. Several winding staircases and long hallways brought us to our suite at the corner of the old monastery.

After unpacking and settling in for our stay, we did what all people visiting the Czech Republic would do and went to eat at an Argentine restaurant (hopefully you caught the hint of sarcasm in that statement)! This specific restaurant, La Casa Argentina, which we didn't get to till around 10:00 that night, was so delicious and the atmosphere was so fun! The inside resembled a jungle in the Amazon and near the entrance, music and dancing filled the night air. In the picture is Nathan's order: beef carpaccio (basically thin cuts of uncooked beef), which I refused to try. I stuck to the steak! You can't go wrong with steak! Unfortunately, I can't remember what exactly happened after we ate. I'm assuming we just headed back to the hotel and crashed out for the night!

Our next day in Prague was scheduled for a half-day tour of the city. Our mini-tour bus came and picked us up at our hotel and brought us to a central location somewhere downtown where, like all the tours we went on, were herded around like sheep and shoved onto another tour bus. Finally, after several mix-ups and forgetting to pick up one couple, we headed out on our tour. Most of the trip we just drove around Prague, but when we finally reached the top of a large hill, we began a walking tour of Prague Castle. It was so incredible beautiful, and full of tourists. We visited the cathedral, saw a great Czech band play some of their traditional music, and enjoyed amazing views of the city.

At this point, we got a little one-on-one time with our tour guide who was a total creeper. The first thing he asked me was where I was from. When I told him the United States, he was shocked and said it was not possible because I wasn't fat...hmmm, thanks? After several minutes of being hit on, with Nathan just laughing in the background, we continued on the tour and actually learned some fascinating information.

When we finished the tour, we were dropped off in the Old Town Square where Nathan and I wandered around for a little bit. I forgot to mention that on our train ride from Berlin to Prague, while walking through about a million cars to get to our reserved seats, my suitcase broke. That was probably the worst thing that could have ever happened on our vacation. My luggage had been having some minor issues with the bar since Paris, but it finally snapped clean off once we left Berlin. To make matters worse, the handle on the side also snapped, so I couldn't even carry the suitcase if I wanted to. I think it took me a good 20 minutes to make it through the train with that stupid bag!

Anyway, back to Old Town Square...we hit up a little side shop in hopes of finding a new suitcase. We quickly spotted a place that sold way overpriced low quality luggage and settled on a grey one that looked somewhat like a gun safe on wheels!

View of Cesky Krumlov
Courtyard at Cesky Krumlov

Palace at Cesky Krumlov 

Finally, back to the hotel we went! We ate a late lunch at the hotel restaurant, which was located in this amazing outdoor courtyard at the center of the hotel. This was the start of my losing battle in ordering eatable food. I took one bite of my sandwich, which was slathered in ketchup, and that was that. Nathan, on the other, managed to order something delicious everywhere we went.

That night, we decided to try our luck with a traditional Czech restaurant. Just around the corner from our hotel, we entered this wonderful little restaurant, where we were seated outdoors. The service was so wonderful; they even brought me a blanket because it became a bit nippy. Of course, my food was awful and Nathan's was delicious, but the experience, nevertheless, was amazing!

One of my favorite things in Europe was the time people took to eat. We never ate dinner before 9:00, which was the time most people seemed to prefer dining out. Once you entered the restaurant, the service was amazing! Every place we stopped at, the waiters and waitresses treated you like family. Rarely did we actually leave a restaurant before two hours of eating and talking. It was just so relaxing and fun!

The next day, we woke bright and early to catch our next tour to Cesky Krumlov. After waiting for quite some time and no bus ever coming to pick us up, we ran to the meeting place, which was the same as the tour we took the day before, and informed the people they had forgotten us! After sometime of them finally figuring out that, indeed, they had left us behind, we headed to Cesky Krumlov. Let me just tell you know, although the idea of a tour and the ease of it all is quite enticing, not one of the tours we went on were actually worth it. They drive you around no where for hours on end, making stops at various retailers, who are partnered with the tour company, and both hope to sell you worthless merchandise. After you spend 4 + hours on the bus when the actually drive should have taken a little over an hour, your tour guide starts talking in 2-3 different languages to accommodate all on the tour. It was quite annoying.

So, after the longest drive ever, we finally made it to Cesky Krumlov. It was soooo beautiful and breathtaking! An old castle sat at the top of a huge hill and looked down over the medieval city. A small river ran through the town, making it even more serene. We spent sometime with the guide wandering around the city, ate lunch at a really neat pub sort of joint, met some polygamists, and then were allowed some time on our own, like a whole 30 minutes, to explore the area ourself! We went into several old bohemian shops, bought the boys a few souvenirs (swords), and then headed up to the palace. The tour of the palace was fascinating, but unfortunately, no photography was allowed. Believe me when I say I tried to snap a few shots, the guide for the castle was onto me though and kept eyeballing my attempts. I finally gave up!

Restaurant we ate at and my faithful shoes. I had another pair in aqua and between the two, they saw some serious mileage!

We ate A LOT of ice cream!

We left the castle and made our looooong drive back to Prague. That night, Nathan and I decided to try the Afghan restaurant down the street from our hotel. We had walked by it on the first evening of being in Prague. When we walked in, I was a little nervous that my husband would go all commando, being as he had just gotten home from Afghanistan a few weeks earlier, and start beating up the waiter. Luckily, he maintained his composure and we had an enjoyable time. While we were preparing to leave, another couple in the restaurant came up to us and asked if Nathan was in the Army. I thought for sure we were going to be suicide bombed right then and there. Nathan told him yes, and the guy told him that he was also in the Czech army and had just gotten home from Afghanistan. He said when he heard that we were from the U.S., he figured the only reason two Americans would wander into an Afghan restaurant is because one had been in the military and had served over there. He was definitely right. He and Nathan chit-chatted for a bit and then we parted ways. Once again, it was close to  midnight because we didn't even arrive at the restaurant until 10.

The next morning, we were truly sad to leave this amazing place. Sometime during our stay there, and I'm thinking it was probably the first day, we wandered around town and did some shopping. We went to a 5 story tall department store, where we
bought socks, and then entered an amazing pink mall across the street, which, if I can recall correctly, was also around 5 stories. We also came across the most amazing, gorgeous, fabulous home decor stores I have ever laid eyes on. I wanted everything in it! We ended up walking past the store several times a day and each time, I had to look through the windows.

We also became closely acquainted with a little convenience store down the street from us where I fell in love with these yummy lemon wafers, of which I cannot find in the United States for the life of me! Nathan and I decided then and there that one day we would move to this place!.

We left Praha via Holesovice train station around 1:15 pm and began our longggg journey to the Eternal City: Rome!