Czech Republic: Day Three

Posted: under 2011/04 - Czech Republic.

Our day started pretty typically and we had a plan to take advantage of a free walking tour today. As a bonus to us for booking the car service to/from the airport we received a 4 hour tour going from the old town Center Square up to the Castle. Josh decided not to join us today something about the heat and the distance walking. So he went off on his own today.

We took the Metro to the Mustek station near the Center Square. On the way to the square we ran across a weekend street fair. Lots of cool local crafts and foods mixed in with the typical tourist junk. Some of the handy crafts were pretty cool, including a lot of marionettes of which the Czech culture is apparently known for. Also some nice art prints of which I picked up a couple for home.

After shopping around for awhile we headed toward the Astronomical clock tower to meet our tour guide for the day. This is an amazing piece of mechanics as well as architecture. The Clock is actually multiple clocks in one, one giving the Old Czech time, modern time, another the phases of the sun and moon (astrological sign), and another showing the official Czech Name Day. It is facinating and beautiful. On the hour a skeleton, representing death, rings the bell and several animated figures come out of two doors above the clock.

The clock tower is part of the old town hall, where they apparently hold several weddings every day. Since this was a Saturday we got to see about 3 couples come out after their service and get some picures taken. The whole square here is rife with beautiful buildings and history. Plenty of little sidewalk cafes and rooftop ones also. And it being the weekend there were also several street vendors on hand to ply wares or sell something to eat/drink.

We met our tour guide for the day, Monica. Lovely Czech girl who’s English was quite good. We had a group of about 16 dutifully following her around Prague. She gave us a lot of the history on the clock tower and the weddings going on. After that we headed around the square, looking at the gorgeous Saint Nicholas church and the church of our lady Tyn. That was probably one of the most distinct images from Prague with its twin steeples.

After the square we winded our way through a lot of the small alleyways and streets that make up the Old Town part of Prague. We got to see the Estates Theater where Mozarts fans flock to see the original showcase for Don Giovanni of which Mozart conducted. After that we found ourselves at the Carolinum, the seat of education founded by Charles IV in 1348.

Next up was the Church of St. James. An amazing church from 1689 that we were able to go in to. The walls must have been very thick, as outside it was pretty warm, mid 60′s but inside it had to have been in the upper 40′s at best. It is a working church, but no services were going on today. It really isn’t possible for me to put a description here in words, but I did sneak a couple of photos while in the main hall. I am certainly not a religious person but its places like this you almost get an otherworldly feel.

We headed toward the Jewish Quarter where we are planning to break after the first half of the tour. Since it is the sabbath, none of the Jewish places were open, but we still got to walk around and check out the buildings. The Spanish Synagogue, the Old-New Synagogue and the old Jewish cemetery were pointed out to us by Monica. We will be coming back tomorrow to investigate the sites more thoroughly when they are open.

Our last stop before break is at the New Town Hall. Monica gave us all 30 minutes to grab some lunch, but that just wasn’t a practical amount of time. This was an area of sit down restaurants, not street vendors. The pace in Prague is very laid back anyway, so we decided to have a leisurely lunch and catch the second half of the tour tomorrow. We found a place for lunch at the Parlamentu Restaurant. Good typical Czech food and I got to try a new beer, Kozal. A nice dark beer that is very smooth…and boy was it refreshing. Bob split off from us and headed back toward the town square.

With it being Saturday it is only to be expected that some activities were going on in town that were not tourist related. Today there is a marathon going on along the river front. We saw the finish line as we headed toward the Museum of Decorative Arts (free entry with Prague pass). This was one of the museums that Allison recommended and it was quite interesting. Lovely crystal and glass collection and some amazing clocks. There was also a wing full of textiles and dresses…not as impressive to me, but I can appreciate the craftsmanship none the less.

Now we are off back to the town square to meet with Bob and tour the old city hall. We get to catch another hour change and see the Astronomical clock chime. LOTS of people in the square to catch this happening, glad we got to see it again.

With our Prague Pass we got free entry to the Town Hall and access to the top of the clock tower. The view from up here is amazing! Not only is the square all open to us but we can see miles in every direction. It was a perfect weather day and the fluffy clouds just made the scenery that much better. I love how the red rooftops stand out against the white buildings. And how these little streets wind through the buildings just make me want to stay and explore every knook and cranny. But I think my compatriots are running out of steam, so for now its back to the hotel for a break before dinner.

We went to a small pizzeria called Pizzeria Amfora. Based in an old cellar I think the ambiance was better than the food. We did not tarry long, just ate our food and headed to our next stop.

Allison recommends we check out the Pivovarsky Dum, a beer hall with a brewery on site. This is a very popular place and the first that we actually had to wait to get a table. With a party of 5 that isn’t to surprising I suppose. They had a sampler of their beers on site so I had to try it out. Here is my review on the different beers, needless to say after this all I wanted to do was head home and sleep…long day after all!

Sampler:

Svetle (light) – a typical lite pilsner, better than the light beer in the US but still lite beer.
Tmave (dark) – good stout beer, very smooth.
Visnove (sour cherry) – a strong pilsner with a nice cherry aftertaste, definately a beer that I could drink all night.
Kavove (coffee) – Allison says it tastes like Canfield Chocolate Soda. Since I don’t like coffee it tastes like crap.
Penicne (wheat) – This is my beer of choice when I drink so I found this one very palettable.
Hop – Very surprised by this beer. Its an unferminted wheat with a nice hippy taste. Much tastier than I imagined.
Koprivove (nettle) – Sometimes I think brewerers get bored thinking of their next brew. Nettle looks like a wheat grass beer, translucent green. The taste is slightly bitter and reminds me of pine needles.
Marzen – This is their special of the month. Its an amber with a nice aftertaste.

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