April 25, 2012 Prague

Our main goal today is to visit the Prague Castle complex. After only a short amount of time spent in trying to figure out the tram system, we successfully reach our stop. But, wait, what’s this? A monument to Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler? Time out for a geek shot.

Sarah and John by the monument of Brahe and Kepler

Then it is on to Prague Castle. There are a lot of people here – large groups with tour guides, school groups and individuals such as ourselves.

Approach to Prague Castle

We stop to take a picture of the guard and reminisce about our picture of Sarah and the guard at Busch Gardens. A five year old Sarah is making a face and turning away – when I used to ask her to cooperate in picture taking or even in letting me put her in an outfit that had buttons, she would say, “No cooperation!” (She had a strange aversion to buttons.) I decide not to ask her to stand next to the guard.

Guard at Prague Castle

We buy the Palace Complex long tour with audio guides and our first stop is the Basilica of St. Vitus (one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers).

Basilica of St. Vitus

The oldest part of the church has a Gothic interior with a soaring vault. The audio guide is very comprehensive and we learn a lot about Bohemian princes, saints and martyrs. The St. Wenceslas chapel is beautiful but can only be seen from a distance.
Interior of Basilica of St. Vitus

St. Wenceslas chapel

After the Basilica of St. Vitus, we go to the Basilica of St. George (also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.) This is a much older church and there appear to be some great frescoes but they are blocked by scaffolding. We see the tomb of St. Ludmilla, the grandmother of Wenceslas, who was martyr by being strangled with a white scarf that she wore around her neck. I need to learn more about these middle Europe saints.

Finally we go to the picture gallery. There are several Tintoretto paintings which are enjoyable but we are pretty worn out. We’ve been on our feet for several hours and are in need of lunch and fewer people.

We stop at a tavern nearby. Once again we are greeted by Good Soldier Svejk this time seated at a nearby table.

Life-size Good Soldier Svejk

We order the local beer which is disturbingly green. Wanting a light lunch, we order from the small plate selections.
Happy St. Patrick's Day
Sarah has country pate and fruit
I have ham, horseradish and pickled pearl onions
John has salmon tartar

Later in the afternoon we cross the bridge again and find some concert tickets to buy for tomorrow night.

View from St. Charles Bridge

Then as all good tourists do, we watch the clock with its mechanical saints toll out 5 PM.
Prague clock

We head back to the hotel and decide to take advantage of our 15% discount at the restaurant. This meal did not turn out so well. The waiter first wants us to get their special cocktail. We say no thank you. Then he really wants us to order the lamb knuckle which from what we can see going by is a lamb shank on mashed potatoes with vegetables. Fine, but not what we want. Sarah orders duck. I order pork knuckle. The waiter does not want me to have this. He tells me it is tough and fatty and I should try the lamb. Of course this makes me dig my heels in and I ask for the pork again. John orders fish. Oh, sorry no fish how about lamb. Okay, John says I will have the lamb. Excellent choice, sir.

Now I am on the waiter’s shit list. Anytime anything needs to be given out, menus, wine, whatever, he waits on me last. The food comes. Oh, sorry lady, I ordered the wrong thing for you. How about this piece of extra dry pork tenderloin or you can wait another fifteen minutes or so for something else. I say okay I’ll take that but I would like the pickled vegetables that come with my original order (really the whole reason why I ordered it in the first place.) Off he goes and there is a lot of discussion in the kitchen. He comes back with a plate of salad, heavy on the bell peppers. He tells me they are pickled vegetables. I give up.

Sarah orders duck breast

John has the waiter's favorite, lamb knuckle
Mary is served dried out pork tenderloin

Later, after we turn down dessert, he brings us a special gift. It is the Czech digestive, Becherovka. It is the most vile thing I have ever tasted. It is flavored with anise seed, cinnamon and 32 other spices. It is like drinking a pine tree. I only take a sip but Sarah has downed the whole shot glass in one gulp. She is very sorry afterward. We read later that it is used in several former Eastern Bloc countries as a home remedy for arthritis. Yuck.

And so ends another exciting vacation day.

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