Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summertime in Praha

Tuesday August 14 - Thursday August 16

The day Tuesday August 14, had been by the far the most stressful day of our trip. Let's start with our train ride from Warsaw to Prague, the train hadn't even reached the half way mark of the journey before we got told by Polish authorities that our Eurail global pass was not valid (which we learnt from Polish authorities on crossing the German border into Poland the couple of days before). So we ended up having to pay 220 zlotys for a train ticket to the border of Poland for both of us. We had only been given our train reservation ticket for the train ride from Warsaw to Prague, a separate ticket, we still had to use our Eurail pass from the border of the Czech Republic to Prague. We had never been told to pick up a separate ticket by anyone(travel agent included) for Poland.

Then when we arrived at Hotel Julian in Prague after our eight and a half hour train journey; we found our reservation wasn't until August 15, wow were we swearing at our travel agent in our heads. The lovely receptionist however gave us the last room for 112 euros for the night, and it happened to be the attic business suite, and we didn't have to move from there for our whole stay. 

Thank goodness! We then got into the room, and double checked all our train tickets and made sure they matched the nights we check into our hostels.

After a stroll the night before we were excited to see what the city of Praha had install for us. We headed in the direction of the embassies, to have a look at the John Lennon Wall, a dedication to the man who was an embodiment of love and peace for then teenagers growing up through Communism Prague. The wall was everything I expected, scrawling hand writing and paintings of John, accompanied by many tourists making their mark on history.

Strolling not much further than the wall, we came to a nearby park where we stopped to have a couple of chocolate pralines we'd bought from a shop moments before. The park gave such a great view of the Vltava river and the other side of Praha.

After walking further around the city, and across one of the many bridges, J and I noticed heaps and heaps of paddle boats on the river. We quickly found one on our side of the river, renting it for an hour. We paddled and relaxed under the midday sun. Having just come from Winter in Australia, we welcomed the heat and of course quickly applied sunscreen. It was a great afternoon activity(as touristy as it was), we had the breeze lifting off the river and got a panoramic view of the city.

We unfortunately we settled for lunch at La Taressa, a Spanish tapas bar. Though I had warned J about eating tapas, when we were just weeks out from actually being in Spain. We paid for the gorgeous view of the city and the overpriced food.

Later that night we entered the centre of the city, to go on a tour of Prague's microbreweries for 500 Koruna each. I hadn't realised the Czech Republic loved their beer so much, until I found out that night, they are the highest consumers of beer in the world; Australia didn't even make the cut last year. The tour began at the microbrewery Puazsky Most where we had two of our complimentary beers for the evening(one light and one dark). The dark one had the sweetest caramel notes of burnt sugar. The funny thing J and I have found out so far on our trip, is that you aren't served icy cold beer; there isn't even icicles on the beer taps like there is back home.

The second brewery Budweiser Budwar is where they actually sell the original Budweiser (not the American crap), the Czech Republic had invented it first. Tough we didn't try this Budweiser, J and I were very happy with the beer we tried there; one that had been stored in a wooden barrel and was red in colour, it was soon enough our favourite beer we had tasted thus far in Europe.

We finished the tour at Il tri ruzi, a newest microbrewery, where we tasted a golden light lager. Finishing our beers, we were given our 'free' beer guides, and J found soon enough the next microbrewery to visit. We headed off in the direction of The Pub with Australian, Daniel and Canadian, Rhiannon whom we spoke a lot to on our tour.

The Pub was quite an exceptional bar, as you could sit down at a table which had an electronic beer tap in the middle of table, so you could record and pour your own beer. You could also compete against the other tables, with a projected screen keeping tally. Unfortunately we never came a place, especially when we were up against a table of nine, who had drunk 40 beers by the time we had arrived.

Then you know beer turned to spirits, and J and I found ourselves walking across the Charles Bridge after midnight.

To be expected after that many beers(for me anyway) but I didn't feel too crash hot the next morning. So we ended up staying in the hotel till one, when we headed out to go up to the palace for a free walking tour.

The walking tour was lead by a bubbly local lady, who was excited to share her secrets about the city she called home. We started at a monument of Braha and Kiepel to astronomers hired by the king years ago that also called Prague home, then we made our way to the palace grounds while the tour guide continued sharing her local knowledge and secrets. Walking to the front of the palace, you notice what a great view of the city you have from being a little higher up. The guide shared the local legend about the crown jewels being cursed for anyone other than the King to wear them; wearing them could result in death. The only person in history to ever wear the crown jewels other than the king was Heidrich Himmler during the German occupation of the Czech Republic; he died a few months later(not that the Czech people were upset by that). The guide also loved sharing stories about former President of the Czech Republic, Havel. Whom the country are still mourning since he passed away last Christmas.

After our walking tour, we returned back to the hotel to change into warmer clothes; the weather changed from the perfect summer day to typical European weather. We then returned to Budweiser Budwar to eat dinner in the beer hall(I had beef goulash and J had roast chicken) and to drink one of those Budweisers. Well we ended up preferring the beer we tried the day before compared to this one, but thoroughly enjoyed our hearty dinner.

We ended the night packing our backpacks and getting ready for the next day, when we heard a few loud noises. Looked out our attic windows with the view of the city and saw a brilliant display of fireworks. Oh yes summertime in Prague!

The John Lennon Wall

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