Heroes of Prague

On Tuesday morning, we woke up early to go get our rental car from the Prague Main Railway Staton. I have to give Prague an A+ in ease of public transportation. It was clean and on time. Before we left for the trip, I realized that Google Maps would only tell me bus routes, but not metro or tram options. I downloaded the 2GIS app, and it made it very easy to get around. We rented an AMAZING apartment through VRBO on Karoliny Svetle and it was super convenient to everywhere we wanted to go. It was also beyond gorgeous and the hosts were amazing. Seriously, if you ever want to go to Prague, stay at this place. It was two bedrooms, two baths (with heated floors!!), had a large kitchen, and living space. Also, Chandeliers!!

IMG 9870IMG 9867IMG 9866

img_9731

Once we got the car, we loaded up, then drove to the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror at the Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Mehodius to see where the heroes of Operation Anthropoid took their final stand. A few years ago, I read the book HHhH and that sent Prague way up on my travel priority list. When we started talking about going to Europe again, Prague was the first city I mentioned  because of that book and Operation Anthropoid. I am glad I got to see the movie first because it gave me a better understanding of the semantics of the fight and I could more easily identify what I was seeing in the church.

The first thing we saw when we got to the church was the memorial where the Nazis shot up the side of the building by the only window into the crypt where the parachutists were hiding. It is also the window where they shoved a water hose through to try and drown them.

IMG 0013IMG 0014

It was sobering to see. I just can’t imagine the bravery that it takes to not only parachute into an occupied city to assassinate a terrible and ruthless man, but to be trapped in that crypt knowing that you won’t get out alive is unimaginable.

IMG 0055

The church wasn’t open to visitors, but we could somewhat see inside through a glass door and we were able to see the balcony area where they fought off the Nazis and the stairs that the parachutists tried to block to keep the Nazis from getting up to them.

IMG 0020

In the church crypt, they have a room set up with information about the Czechs in World War II, the occupation of the country, and Operation Anthropoid. They covered all of the people who died to house, care for, and protect the secrets of the parachutists. People who were true heroes in the face of unspeakable danger.

IMG 0026

After reading the material in the museum, we entered the crypt through a special steel door.

IMG 0032

I know a lot of people believe it’s bullshit, but we could feel the heaviness of history in that room. It was upsetting to see where these brave men had lost their lives in the hope of saving others. You could feel the desperation, especially when looking at the space where they valiantly tried to dig out of the crypt.

IMG 0053

IMG 0037

The window from the inside:

IMG 0035

The secret passage where the priests had originally dropped the parachutists down into the crypt.

IMG 0048

The stone (to the right of Ashley) that the Nazis broke through to finally access the stairs down the crypt:

IMG 0046It was a very solemn space. It was much smaller than I thought it would be, and I felt the weight of sadness being in a place where young men lost their lives because of the egomaniacal actions of a dictator and his followers. It was even sadder reading about the professions and families of these men who were totally ordinary people before enlisting. One was training to become a cobbler, another was a confectioner, and another was in law school. They and the men and women who helped them were just ordinary people who did extraordinary things in the face of terror.

IMG 0038

I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to go at all because it is closed on Sundays and Mondays, but everyone agreed that it was worth the stop before leaving town, and I am thankful to have seen it. If you don’t know at all what I’m talking about, I can’t recommend watching Anthropoid enough. It’s a truly extraordinary tale of a network of brave people trying to save their country from evil.

We left Prague after the museum, and drove toward Budapest. We stopped in Bratislava for a late lunch, and much to our absolute surprise, the Christmas market was up and going. We were going to walk around town for a couple of hours, but we decided instead to cruise around the markets and eat. What little we saw of the city was so pretty, and the food was delicious. I hope to come back and spend more time in Slovakia and the Czech Republic because there is so much here and I have been so impressed by the beauty and history of this region.

IMG 0059

IMG 0067IMG 0070IMG 0074

Sari and I both got potato pancakes, and I tried honey wine. It was a bit too sweet for me, but the hot red wine that I tried later was excellent.

IMG 0079

I don’t know what this is, but it tasted like a crepe. I had one with Nutella and one with cinnamon, sugar, and honey. Both were A+.

IMG 0080IMG 0086

Then it was time to head to Budapest for the night, so we left just before four so we didn’t get in too late. I can’t wait to go back one day!

IMG 0099

We arrived in Budapest around six, and checked into our apartment. We decided to walk over to the Christmas market at Vörösmarty tér for the evening. It was big and beautiful!! We cruised around there shopping and eating for a few hours before heading back for the night.

IMG 0125IMG 0119

A new mug for my hot toddies!IMG 0118IMG 0112

Prague Food Tour

Earlier this summer, I was talking to a Professor at work and I mentioned our upcoming trip. He suggested the Taste of Prague Food Tour, so we signed up to go on Monday night (I recommend reserving in advance). It was a four hour tour walking to different spots in the city and it was SO AWESOME. I was 1000% happy with it, and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Prague.

We were joined by three others and were guided around by Anna who was a local. She was fantastic – excited, energetic, and passionate about her city and its food. She started the tour by telling us about the history of food in Czech culture, and how communism destroyed the creativity and many of the traditions. I never realized that when communism took over restaurants would belong to the state, and they had fixed menus with fixed prices. It never changed. I never considered the impact of communism on food culture, but I am glad to see that Prague is bouncing back with great style and deliciousness.

We started at a local coffee shop called onesip coffee where we had cascara which was like a tea with brandy in it. I was surprised by how much I liked it. We then moved to Sisters Bistro where we were served open-faced sandwiches. We had one with beet root puree and goat cheese with a caramelized walnut (this was my favorite thing we ate which was shocking because I HATE beets), then one with a celery root salad. Anna even made sure that Sari had vegetarian and vegan options to eat at each stop.

IMG 9952IMG 9948IMG 9949

We next tried meat dishes from Naše maso butcher shop. We ate meatloaf on bread, Debrecen sausage, and the beef steak tartare. It was SO GOOD and such a cool shop. Apparently, one night a week they close the shop and do private dinners for seven. I highly recommend checking out if you live in the area.

IMG 9951IMG 9941

Our next stop was Lokal pub where we had Pilsner Urquel lager in three different styles. There are three levels of foam which I had never seen before:

IMG 9960IMG 9965IMG 9955

The last one is called “milk style” and I’ve never seen anyone drink beer with that much foam on purpose. Anna ordered some and let us skeptics try it, and it was actually really sweet and almost milky. It was pleasantly delicious. The beer was great and it was a really neat pub. We ate chicken schnitzel, Prague ham with horseradish cream, and beef shin goulash with dumplings. We were so full at this point, so I was thankful that we had a break from eating and went to the wine bar called Bokovka. The place didn’t have a sign, it was in a dark alley, and there was what looked like a blood droplet (it’s a wine drop in reality) on the pillar in front of the door. I was thought we might be going to a vampire wine bar, and I was 100% ready for that. But, it appeared to be the living inside and it was a cozy bar that felt like a cave. I didn’t know that the Czech Republic doesn’t produce enough wine to export, so it was exciting to get to try wines that I otherwise would probably have never have tasted.

IMG 9971IMG 9975IMG 9978IMG 9984

Our last stop was at the Eska restaurant which was so modern and pretty!

IMG 9989IMG 9990IMG 9992IMG 9993

It was such a fun evening and we were stuffed to the gills. It was absolutely worth every penny, and Anna was an amazing guide to the city. We were able to explore food in a part of the city we would not have otherwise visited, Karlin, and we tried foods that we wouldn’t have experienced. It was fun listening to Anna explain the role of these foods in the lives of Czech citizens, and her adventures with cooking and mushroom gathering. We had a great group and we talked Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, compared vacation leave policies, and talked about food. If you’re ever in Prague, I cannot recommend this tour enough. It was great and was a wonderful way to end our time there.

Old Town Prague

Happy Thanksgiving American friends!!!

We left the apartment early on Monday to head to the metro. Ashley was excited.

DSC 0308

We rode down to the Vysehrad Castle (which I learned really means “fort” and not a castle castle) complex.

DSC 0216

We started at one of oldest buildings in Prague, the Rotunda of St. Martin, which dates back to the 11th century.

DSC 0220

We walked up to the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, and it was gorgeous in the fog.

DSC 0225DSC 0226

The greatest door of all time:

DSC 0235DSC 0234DSC 0241DSC 0248DSC 0253DSC 0267

We then walked through the cemetery where many famous Czech artists and writers are buried. It was so beautiful.

DSC 0279DSC 0286DSC 0289DSC 0288DSC 0294DSC 0283

I would imagine that this is a great view when it’s not so foggy, but it was still pretty.

DSC 0301

We took the metro back north to explore Old Town for the afternoon. We started at the Astronomical Clock.

DSC 0318
DSC 0330

It was really pretty, but I was surprised at how small it was. We spent the next few hours walking around Old Town and had lunch.

DSC 0333DSC 0323DSC 0316DSC 0331DSC 0352

Doug and I tried to go into The Church of our Lady before Tyn (the one with the black gothic spires below), but it was closed.

DSC 0339

What was interesting and surprising was that the buildings in front of it were built right up against the front of the church (as shown below). I have never seen that before.

DSC 0349

The rest of the day later!

Beer Bathin’

After the monastery, we traveled by tram to Pivni Lazne Spa Beerland for a beer bath! We wanted to do a beer bath when were in Germany last time, but we never found one anywhere near where we were. So, once we decided on Prague, we started searching. Thankfully, there are several and Ashley and Doug actually did one at a different spa the first night they were in Prague before we arrived. It was the perfect end to a long day of walking. We arrived about 45 minutes early because we had nowhere else to be, and they just let us just hang out and drink beer until it was time for the bath. FOR FREE. They gave us glasses, pointed to the kegs, and told us to enjoy.

IMG 9770

We reserved an hour with two tubs. We had a private room, and our host set up the tubs with hot water, then filled them with hops, yeast, malt, and beer.  We got changed, and hopped in. We also had a plate of beer bread and unlimited beer from taps next to the tub. It was SO FUN. We were laughing the entire time.

IMG 9780IMG 9784
IMG 9791

After the bath, we had a bed of hay to lay on. It was all very medieval stable, and it was so relaxing. I will definitely be looking to do this again!

IMG 9789

After the bath, I wanted to walk across the Charles Bridge to see Prague at night. The hottest chicks in Prague:

IMG 9805IMG 9797

IMG 9828DSC 0168
IMG 9819

We walked to Cafe Savoy which was recommended by the hosts at our apartment. It was a great suggestion and we loved it. I had a meat plate which had rabbit, pork belly, duck, and ham. No one does a meat plate better than Europe.

IMG 9834

After dinner we walked across the Legion Bridge and back home. A fog had settled in and it was so beautiful and quiet. I learned that I need to take about 400 pictures at night just to get a decent one. I need some classes.

DSC 0196

IMG 9844IMG 9860

Church of Books

After moseying across the Charles Bridge, we made our way up to the Prague Castle complex. We climbed a ton of steps to get up the hill, and by the top I was huffing and puffing and having to strip off layers. I was not prepared for such a nice day!

dsc_0036

We purchased “skip the line” tickets in advance with a tour for 12:05 PM, but we didn’t realize that to get to the tour guide, we had to wait in a long security line to get into the castle complex. So, we totally missed our tour because we got in line at 11:45, and didn’t actually get into the castle area until almost one. So, that was a bust. Thankfully, once we were inside, the lines weren’t bad at all, and everything was fine.
dsc_0041

Our first stop once inside was the St. Vitus Cathedral. It was a gorgeous gothic cathedral that was started in the mid 1300s and not completed until the 1920s. It was absolutely stunning. I freaking loved it, but that is not surprising because I always fall for an opulent cathedral.

dsc_0044 dsc_0046 dsc_0050Great ceilings.

dsc_0062

dsc_0087 dsc_0098 dsc_0116 We next viewed the Basilica, then went through the castle museum. I was thinking it would be more castle-y (like a palace), but it is more of a medieval fortress. They had a fantastic museum portion that went through the history of Prague, Bohemia, and the castle. I realized that outside of their time as part of the Austria-Hungary Empire and in World War II, I don’t really know anything Prague or its history. It was really interesting and I need to brush up on my Czech history.

Our final stop in the castle was Golden Lane. The Lane was named for the alchemists who once had shops there and worked to find chemical reactions that would produce gold. Franz Kafka also lived there for a couple of years. I’ve tried to read Kafka so many times, but I just don’t get it. Not smart enough for Kafka.dsc_0118 dsc_0123

We made our way down from the castle and had lunch. dsc_0129 dsc_0035 dsc_0137 dsc_0138

After a late lunch, we zipped over to Strahov Monastery. Unfortunately, the Monastery was mostly closed because it was Sunday, but their library was open. No one else wanted to go, but I sure can’t miss a good library. It was beautiful. I was stunned by the glory and got a bit overwhelmed. dsc_0139img_9766The rest of the day will be concluded tomorrow!