Castles and Crowns

Trip Start Aug 31, 2009
Trip End Jan 08, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Sunday, November 22, 2009

When we first began discussing the idea of moving to Europe we made a list of all the places we wanted to visit during our stay...Prague wasn't on it.  If I could go back in time and re-do our list I would definitely add Prague, probably toward the top.  Prague was everything I was hoping for and more, it's architecturally beautiful, mysterious, rich in history, and best of all, has gluwine (hot spiced wine) stands on every corner. :)  Prague has the most beautiful castles, bridges, and cathedrals I have ever laid eyes on.  We would have never gone to this cultural gem if it wasn't for Wendy's suggestion (and footing the bill :), and for that I will be forever grateful.  
We spent most of our days in Prague wandering from our apartment, steps away from Wenceslas Square, through the Old Town and down toward the Charles Bridge.  Every time we turned a corner Wendy and I would collectively gasp and squeal "Look at that!  I can't believe we're here!!", there was something breathtaking at every corner.  Pictures really can't do Prague justice, but see for yourself what I mean.  We discovered that the Old Town was hosting some sort of festival during the days we were there, so the middle of the square was filled with sausage stands, gluwine vendors, and these little huts selling something called "Trdlniks" (which you pronounce like the shirt "turtleneck").  Trdlniks are dough wrapped around a long stick that's about the same girth as a rolling pin and rotated over hot coals.  After the dough has cooked it is dipped in a mixture of sugar, toffee, and nuts - in a word, it's heaven.  Mmm.  The smells that were going through that square were indescribable, I could have eaten a large meal before walking through the Old Town and still be enticed to eat more by the glorious smell. 
Also in the Old Town square is the medieval Astronomical Clock, which is quite a sight.  According to Wikipedia, the clock is "composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months." 
Wendy found the street markets to be most enjoyable, in fact she scooped up multiple pashmina afgan scarves (including two for me!) and lots of other little souvenirs.  I also learned the Czech are very into egg ornaments, created by hollowing out a chickens egg, painting it beautiful colors, and putting a ribbon through it.  Both my Grandmas really like these ornaments, in fact I may have picked up one for someone special. :) Although the Czech is part of the European Union the country is still on its "old" currency, Korunas, or what they commonly just call "Crowns", which is roughly worth 5 cents on the US Dollar and made for interesting shopping trying to convert Crowns to Euros or Crowns to Dollars
My favorite part of the trip was going to the Prague Castle.  It is one of the biggest castles in the world where Czech Kings, Emperors, and Presidents held their offices, the Czech Crown Jewels are also held there.  We hiked what seemed like a million stairs to the top but it was well worth it.  Once we were at the Castle's gates we were rewarded with a breathtaking view of Prague, something I will never forget.  We reached this part of town a little late in the day and didn't get to go inside the Castle or the the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral but we didn't mind, the architecture outside was more than enough to look at.  We did, however, visit the Toy Museum housed inside a small part of the Castle (I bet you can't guess whose idea that was - ahem, Alex :).  The Toy Museum was fun, but it would be better if you could actually play with the toys, everything was behind a glass case which was a little disappointing.  There was also a Barbie Museum we visited which definitely brought back fond childhood memories for me.  I've never seen so many Barbies in my life, it was incredible!  They had Barbies from when she was first created in the '50's to special addition Barbies to Barbies I used to have, it was so fun!
We also got to eat some authentic Czech food at a local brewery which is quite similar to German food.  We sampled venison ragout, potato dumplings, fried cheese (!), roast pork, and sauerkraut.  The real treat at the brewery was tasting their inventive beer selection, I got a little sampler and tried, among other things, sour cherry beer, lime beer, banana beer, and nettle beer, which was sort of herby-tasting.  You don't see banana beer on every brewery menu and surprisingly all the beers were very tasty even though they sound a little odd, the flavors were very subtle and delicious.
After two full days wandering around Prague we left on the third day for a long train ride to Krakow, Poland.  We had no idea what to expect but isn't venturing into the unknown the best part of traveling?  Our next blog will fill you in on that trip...
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