It was spring. The mind was asking for an escape from the daily routine and work! Spring vacations in Central Europe are ideal for me since the weather in the region is mild to warm and the scenery is beautifully green. This time tickets were booked to Prague, Czech Republic. From 18-22 of May 2017, I was going to enjoy the historical capital of the kingdom of Bohemia. Everything was planned; we were going to be hosted by “Π”, the cousin of my trip buddy. We arrived at Prague airport early in the morning and “Π”was waiting for us at the exit to welcome us. The weather was unusually sunny and hot, which made us feel more welcomed and happy to be there. The ride to the city, and to the apartment of “Π” at Prague 6, was comfortable inside the luxurious Land Rover of our host. After 30 minutes approximately, we arrived home. The neighborhood was beautiful and quite with lot of parks and green around. It was a posh area; for Christ sake we were staying just behind the Prague castle. The apartment was extremely cozy and classy, decorated with the personal style of the owner. Although we felt like being home from the very first moment, our fear was not to accidentally break any of the valuable antiques that were widespread in the apartment…
After half hour of rest, we were ready to explore the city. We walked towards the city center passing through a gorgeous park named Letenské sady which is one of the many green areas in the city. The trees were so tall and thick that didn’t allow the hot sun to touch our skins. The park was like an oasis giving us a temporary shelter from the unexpectedly warm weather of Prague. We reached the edge of the Letenské sady and in front of us emerged an astonishing and breathtaking view of Prague.
After some time of enjoying from the top the unparalleled beauty of sunny Prague, we decided to go downhill and stroll to the city center. We entered the famous Paris Street (Pařížská) which is the Mecca of all the luxury brands in Prague; from Chanel to Tiffany & Co., they are all there alluring you with their artistic and glamorous window displays. We then reached the old town square and the astronomical medieval clock. It was almost three o’clock and the square was packed with tourists waiting for the performance to start! Every hour, the clock becomes animated and two windows open to reveal 12 apostles greeting the city.
At that point, we were already feeling tired and hungry because of the walking and the heat. It was about time to have our first proper traditional Czech lunch. We chose Lokal at Dlouhá Street because I’ve read good critics about the restaurant and I was dying to visit. We entered the elongated interior and we took a table. The atmosphere was relaxing and cozy.
With some help from the waiter we decided what to choose. For starter, we ordered fried cheese with homemade tartar sauce, and cabbage salad with horseradish. Fried cheese is a traditional dish for Czechs but I wasn’t expecting to be so delicious. The tartar sauce was one of the best I have ever tasted and the combination of the cheese with the sauce was creating a gastronomic orgasm in my mouth. For main, we had butcher’s goulash with dumplings and minced beef, plus pork burger steak. The goulash was delicious but I avoided eating the lamb’s tongue contained in the sauce. Since we were at the country of beer, it was a must to try one of the most famous beers in Czech Republic, the legendary Pilsner Urquell. And guess what? It was the first time that I did not need water on the table. Pilsner was way different from all the beers that I tasted so far. I found it light, pleasurable and refreshing. I am not a fan of beer and alcohol in general, but I would say that I felt addicted to this beer. It was clear to me now why Czechs consume more beer than water during their life!
Shortly after lunch, we gained power and we were ready to explore the city more. Next stop was the Charles Bridge via Karlova Street. By the time we entered the Karlova Street we realized that Prague is one of the most visited cities in Europe. The cobbled streets were packed with tourists from all over the world, but Chinese were swooning over every corner of the old city. It is said that a famous Chinese movie was recently filmed in Prague and due to the success of the blockbuster many Chinese tourists are now visiting the city in order to experience from close some of the monuments of the city. Despite that Charles Bridge was crowded, it was still magnificent. We paused for a couple of minutes on the bridge to enjoy its gothic style and the 30 baroque-style statues and statuaries standing across it. The panoramic view around was astonishing. From the one side you could see the charming old town and on the other side the picturesque hill with the famous castle. Young people were resting with friends on the vivid green banks of Vltava River, enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
We walked all the way to the end of the bridge towards the castle side and returned back to the house for some relaxation before dinner. It was about dinner time and we decided to visit a restaurant near the neighborhood since we were tired from the flight and the first day of exploring the city. After 5 minutes walking from home we reached a small, cozy and casual Japanese restaurant named Mash Hana. We entered the venue and the lady welcomed us with a big smile, greeting us in Japanese language. The menu was long with a variety of real authentic Japanese food. I am the kind of person that I always like to consider all the options I have before I choose, so it took me some time to decide. At last, I ordered a small maki platter, whole-wheat noodles with vegetable tempura in soup, and chicken teriyaki. The food was well prepared but what made my eyes rolled back from pleasure was a bite of chicken teriyaki. OMG, it was so soft and tasty that even now that I bring it back to my mind it gives me a mouth-watering sensation! Next time I will be in Prague I will definitely visit again Mash Hana restaurant to enjoy a chicken teriyaki dish. After dinner we took a short walk in the neighborhood while chitchatting. Without realizing it we reached the Letenské sady again and from there we enjoyed a breathtaking panoramic night view of the city. The first night in Prague was about to end peacefully with full stomach and plenty of memories.
Next day, we had breakfast at home and we hit to the castle which was only 3 minutes walking distance. We reached the Royal gardens gate near the Royal Summer Palace. After a short time waiting on the queue, we entered the gardens. We instantly entered in a fairy-tale. The gardens have the style of an English park with details of Renaissance and Baroque style. It is a Botanical paradise and a place for relaxation and peaceful walks under the breezy shadow of the enormous trees. It is an ideal place to sit on a bench under the trees and enjoy reading your favorite book having as a soundtrack the bird’s song and the water falling from the fountain.
We then took the path to St. Vitus Cathedral and we entered the Golden Lane. Golden Lane is a street with small houses where they used to live the castle’s dwarfs guards. The houses are so small that you barely fit in. Nevertheless, they are very charming and well preserved. Nowadays, most of the houses are turned into souvenir shops and some others are used to display the way of living in that era. After enjoying the unusual view of the little houses we strolled to the East gate of the castle and so unexpectedly the whole city was unfolding in front of our eyes. The view was just astonishing!
It was about time to return home and pack since we were going to experience for a day the countryside of Czech Republic. In fact, “Π” recently made a big investment and purchased a castle, a palace, and a farm in a village outside Prague and we were invited for an overnight stay at the complex. The gates opened and we entered the complex of the old palace and the castle which were under major construction. For this reason, we had to stay at the auxiliary unit of the complex which was the only place that had all the amenities for accommodation. We unpacked and we went straight for dinner to a medieval tavern at the near village. And all the “fun” started…
The decoration of the venue was purely medieval with wooden tables and benches, hay on the floor, cages and embalmed animals on the dark stone walls. The serving wench greeted us with the appropriate impolite way since she was playing her role very well. I was already feeling uncomfortable. We sat down on the bench and a dwarf came to take the order. He looked like he was originally coming from the medieval age; glum with dirty face, hair, and nails. I felt that I wanted to puke, but we had to order… At that point, I decided that I was not going to try the food. In fact, I just wanted to leave the place and go somewhere else to have a proper dinner. But I was feeling embarrassed to open my mouth and ask that from the rest of the company, so I sat down and shut up. I was waiting for the time to pass as quickly as possible!
The situation was getting even more awkward. A huge bald guy showed up holding a snake in his hands and was going from bench to bench to socialise…. He was looking like a dungeon guard. After we got rid of the snake the food just arrived. It was a meat platter with lot of sauce and bread. As simple as that! No cutlery, no tissues… We politely requested for the essentials to be able to eat but we were almost bullied! The serving wench replied: you are in medieval period, forget knives, forks, and tissues and start eating with your hands or starve from hunger. I was starving and I couldn’t resist trying with my hands some meat, even thought I was feeling a bit disgusted from the whole situation. The food and the show with dancers and fires were below average. However, the experience was strong. I took a good insight into the way of living back in the medieval period and I was feeling very glad that I was born in the 80’s.
Next morning, we woke up in the medieval room and breakfast was already waiting for us. After breakfast and chitchat, we had an extensive tour to the castle, the palace, and the farm. We then walked for a while along the river of the village and observed the green landscape of the countryside. The tour to the village ended with a peaceful lunch at the golf club’s restaurant outside the village. We enjoyed our meal on the top of the hill, and continued watching the panoramic view of the green surroundings. Nevertheless, it was about time to return back to Prague.
In the afternoon, we planned to go to the theater. Tickets were booked for the Extraordinary Voyages of Jules Verne at the new stage of the National Theater of Prague. We were so eager to experience the performance. Indeed, the spectacle was amazing; great costumes, vivid colors, interesting music, lively props at the stage, and passionate acting performances! The show was a Czech language production. However, with the help of the English subtitles we were able to understand the plot.
After the performance, we strolled down to the city center and along to the river. We ended up standing on the Charles Bridge enjoying the magnificent view of the city. Prague is very beautiful during day. But during night it is magically transformed into a dangerously attractive and mesmerizing city combining mystery, romance, and beauty. It was late and we were rambling with empty stomachs in the center of touristic shops and restaurants, where prices are high and quality is usually low. At a point, we were lost in the maze of narrow streets, but suddenly we came across a beautiful atmospheric Italian restaurant. For an instant, we felt like being in Rome. The warm decor allured us to sit and order. To our surprise, the pasta was delicious and the service was great.
It was our last day in Prague. We decided to go for shopping in the morning at the Na Prikope str, a crowded and modern pedestrian street full of international retail stores. After many hours of shopping, it was lunch time. We walked back to the old town square and we sat at Mincovna Restaurace. Although Mincovna is located in the touristic area of Praha, it attracts many locals too, since it offers great quality food in logical prices, modern interior, and friendly atmosphere and service. The highlight of our meal was the aromatic and delicious asparagus soup served in a creative way.
It was late afternoon and we made a reservation at Marina Ristorante in order to properly celebrate the end of our trip to Prague. Marina Ristorante is an Italian floating restaurant next to the Charles Bridges, with great ambiance and exhibition kitchen. At Marina you can enjoy high quality food with reasonable prices, while admiring at the same time the extremely beautiful view of the old Prague, the Prague castle, and the Charles Bridge. For first dish, I had tomato soup with basil and sour crème. For main, I was thrilled to order a Prosciutto e rucola pizza but unfortunately the waiter informed us that Pizza is only served on the upper deck. As a result, I had to change my order to the roast corn fed chicken wrapped in bacon with vegetable ratatouille, which was well-prepared and full of taste. For desert we kept it simple with a sorbet ice cream. The atmosphere was very friendly and we took the opportunity to recap our impressions and experiences from our spring trip to Prague, while enjoying a glass of wine and watching the sunset under the Prague sky.
We really had a great time in Prague. I see myself going back for a romantic getaway. One tip I can give you is to avoid travelling there at the peak of the touristic season, because excessive tourism will destroy the romance and the overall experience!
– A. Yemenaris
What to see:
Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Old town square.
Where to eat & drink:
Japanese Restaurant Mash Hana (Must: chicken teriyaki) http://www.mashhana.cz/
Marina Ristorante http://marinaristorante.cz/en/menu/aktualita/
Lokal (Must: Fried cheese with tartar sauce and Pilsner beer) http://lokal-dlouha.ambi.cz/en/
What not to miss:
Walk along Charles Bridge during sunset.
A performance at the National Theatre of Prague http://www.narodni-divadlo.cz/en
Enjoy the panoramic view of the city from the Letenské sady.