Czech Republic: Day Two

Posted: under 2011/04 - Czech Republic.

And a good night of rest is all that was needed!

Thank goodness for travel packages that include breakfast. I am not shy when it comes to venturing out to try the local foods and customs, but sometimes in the morning all you want is a quick bite to start the day right. The Ibis hotel has a great buffet too, local things like chicken salami cold cuts and apple strudel. But plenty of fruit/bread/egg dishes to keep you fortified.

Today we try out the mass transit system here. We purchased a Prague Pass which is a city pass that allows entry into a multitude of venues and comes with 3 days worth of all you can ride mass transit. And like most European countries, they have an excellent system to get you around town. Their Metro system (subway) is fast and efficient and BOY do their escalators haul ASS! Serious, it was almost like being launched off of them at the end. They have a tram system (cable car) that goes all over town. And buses that run 24/7.

We are right next to the Andel station which is a major hub for all transit in the SW corner of the city. It was interesting coming from a major city like DC where you don’t really see many ads around the subway to a place where they plaster everyplace with ads. I think they may still be in the honeymoon stage of capitalism. That may pass, but in the mean time seeing cat food adverts all the way up the escalator was interesting.

Our stop was the Mustek station near Wenceslas Square. Yeah, the one from the Christmas song, Good King Wenceslas. We have two museums near by that we want to check out.

The first museum we went to was the Mucha Museum. Bob decided not to go in with us and headed out to the streets to check out the area. We will meet up with him at our next stop. 

This was one of the things I just had to do while in Prague. Many people may not know the name, but everyone is aware of his work. He was a guiding light behind the Art Nouveau movement in the late 19th century. But he was a practical artist that worked not only on lovely paintings and illustrations, but also did work for advertising agencies. The museum is not large, but it is well packed and has a very informative film at the end. Seeing his work up close in very large format was a treat. No pictures were allowed, but here is one of his illustrations so you can get a feel for who he was.

Next stop is the Communist Museum. Seemed only appropriate that we check out such an establishment while we were here.  The bemusing thing about this museum was its location. Bob had looked for it while we were in the Mucha museum but couldn’t find it. There was a large entrance to a building that was all boarded up which certainly looked like it could have housed the CM, so there was some thought that it had just shut down. But with a little more time investigating the area we found it was now housed up the same staircase where one of the Casinos was located.

No discount from our city pass, but everyone wanted to see it. It was a good museum and certainly captured the spirit of the time. It was seperated into different areas, one for schooling, industry, agriculture, etc. They also had a film about the Velvet Revolution near the end of the museum. This was the time when the Czech people finally kicked the Russians out of their country and became a democracy again.

Ahh…street food! They have some nice kiosks on the square where there was wonderful selections of sausages and beer. I do love a country where I can walk around and drink a beer. I kinda sound like a lush there but that isn’t the case, just like the ability to do things I can’t back home (except maybe Vegas). And speaking of Vegas, the entire Wenceslas Square area is a big ol’ tourist trap…and of course we loved it. Plenty of high end shops, low end souvenier shops, casinos, bars and restaurants. And definitely one treat that we had to try out later on.

This is where we say our goodbyes to Ben. He had arranged to meet a woman he had been courting long distance and as of this writing he is off with her. Supposedly we will see him when it comes time to head home but otherwise he will be enjoying himself elsewhere in Prague.

We ran across a shop that sold artistic eggs. I had read that the Czechs had certain crafts that were very unique to them, one being eggs that are decorated and used around the house year round. Using simple egg shells of various types (chicken, duck, goose, etc) they would drain the contents through a small hole and either paint on them or sculpt them into various designs. Some look like pieces of art and some look like an Easter egg your child might decorate. It was neat looking around an entire shop full of them though, and we even got a photo op with a giant egg out front!

But for now we headed toward the National Museum at the end of the square. A giant structure that houses the oldest museum in the Czech Republic, dating back to 1818. We figured that this is where we could find some real history of the Czech people. And with our Prague Pass we were able to get in for free. I think we were all surprised with what we found inside as it really reminded us of the Natural History Smithsonian back in DC. While there was some history of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia it was mostly a museum of mineralogy, palaeontology, anthropology and zoology. Which was all cool, but frankly it was much like things we had seen before.

What really struck us about the place and made us look around was the building itself. The fresco’s and statues found throughout the structure were simply amazing. One ballroom we just wondered around for 10 minutes just craning our necks up to check out the lovely ceiling. That and the various bronze busts and statues made it well worth the visit.

Just outside of the National Museum is a grand statue of Wenceslas. Who, regardless of what you learned growing up singing the Christmas song, was not a king after all. Turns out it was all a PR campaign to change the image of the Bohemian area. Wenceslas was actually a Bohemian Duke but word spread around Europe in the 10th century about all his good deeds that he his status in the tales got escalated to being a King. Not bad even if not exactly true. Many people consider him a Saint though in the area.

This next part may disturb some people, so feel free to skip if you like.

One of the things that we saw on the square was a Thai Massage place. But not only did they have traditional Thai Massage, but they also had Fish Reflexology. Never heard of it? Well it is banned in several US states, but usually for really stupid reasons (like Virginia because you share a fish tank with others and that is not allowed). They take Turkish (or sometimes African) spa fish nibble on all the dead skin from your feet and lower legs. When me and Bob saw this we just had to try it out!

They washed our feet so that the water wouldn’t become contaminated (and probably best as we had been walking around all day). Then we got to place our feet in the tanks in the front window of the shop. Slowly lowering our feet into the tanks the little minnow sized fish started feasting on our feet. Mine got more attention but it was probably due to more volume than anything else, though I did tell Bob I was obviously better tasting.

It was quite nice actually, no pain or anything like that…just a tingling sensation kinda like you get when your foot falls slightly asleep. We were supposed to stay in the tank for about 30 minutes but we were there for closer to an hour. We were drawing a lot of attention to the shop and several people came in to enquire about the procedure. We had TONS of people gawking at us…bemused, confused, disgusted looks from all people. We also got TONS of pictures taken of our feet. I am sure we are now internet wonders around the world! Well, our feet anyway. I took pictures of a bunch of the surprised people too!

Next we headed back to the hotel for a short time before dinner. I have found that these little breaks in the afternoon/early evening make the trip much better and you are not wiped out at the end of the vacation, or crashing someplace before the end.

Allison has that Top 10 list of Prague bars for us to try out. Tonight we are heading to the Potrefena Husa brand-named pub of the Staropramen Brewery. Luckily it was a short walk from the hotel and I was really looking forward to the Staropramen line of beers. And their slogan was quite nice too, “Our objective is to create a place that will renew one of our country’s favorite traditions-  the beer drinking culture.”

Several of us feasted on the house special Yeast Beer, an unfermented wheat that was very tasty. Traditional fair was had by all, though I opted for the grilled vegetables platter as it seemed like I was just eating meat left and right.

Afterward we dropped Abe off at the hotel and headed on a tram toward the Prague Castle. We did not make it all the way to the Castle, but did find ourself at the Charles Bridge and enjoyed the city at night. I even snuck down to the waters edge to photograph a working water wheel all to the lamations of my companions (no adventure). The photos for the evening came out pretty well but we will be back this way later to see everything in the day time.

I do love the Castle at night. We may make the tour of it tomorrow and if not it will be the next day. Can’t wait!

1 Comment

  1. Sophia Says:

    Nicely done, sir. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit. And I’m sure you *are* tastier. ;)

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