Prague from above

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We tried to take the funicular railroad up to the top of Petrin Hill but, wouldn’t you know it, we came during the two weeks it was closed for cleaning and repair.  Instead, we braved the Prague trolley system and rode around to a higher entrance to the park and then hiked in.  This kind of walking was old hat for Wendy but the rest of us puffed a bit.

There’s an observation tower fashioned like a miniature Eiffel Tower on top of the hill that adds another 60 meters to your perspective.  The view from the observation tower at the top, however, was well worth the walk.  It’s a shame that it was raining that day but the pictures still have a nice soft-focus to them.

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We did get a brief moment of sun while we were having a snack in a little cafe at the top of the ridge line and the smiles came out.

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We ended up the day eating at a restaurant chosen simply because it was a short walk up the street from the hotel.  Certainly the name – The Three Cockroaches – didn’t endear us to it.   It was small and smoky.  The ceiling were quite low and vaulted.  The overall impression was we were stepping back into a medieval era.  But the food turned out to be quite good.  Some of us had the venison, some the duck liver.  Frank and I got a nice little buzz on from a local beer made in Belgian style that was 9% alcohol.  Wendy also got a bit of a buzz but I don’t remember if it was beer or wine that caused it.

A long day in Prague

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Basically, we did the four-day walking tour in one day.  First a trip up to Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.  Along the way we got to listen to a four-piece sidewalk band playing something that sounded, well, I have no idea what it was.  It sounded vaguely gypsy to me.  Then there was the archeological dig going on in the square outside the castle where they were digging up kitchen pots and refuse from centuries ago. The castle, itself, was quite imposing but lacked the impact of Český Krumlov for me.  It was a little too neat and prettified.  The exception was the Gothic cathedral where the stained glass was incredibly rich.

At this point I have to mention that there are many bronzes in Prague that pilgrims and tourists touch for good luck…saints, martyrs, angels, and…

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Our wanderings continued down, across the Charles Bridge, into Old Town, where we saw the famous Astronomical Clock.  It’s cool to look at but I agree with the guide we eavesdropped upon who said that the much-ballyhooed figures of the apostles that appear on the hour is one of the greater anticlimaxes in Europe.

The Lennon Wall, a symbol of rebellion during the communist era, was fun to see.  It  changes constantly as graffiti artists work on it.  The communists tried to stop it and failed.  The Knights of Malta, who own it now, permit it.

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The Jewish quarter was interesting but we were starting to flag, so we didn’t actually tour the cemetery but did spend some time looking in through the gate.  We tried to go into the Old New Synagogue, which is the oldest medieval synagogue in the world but the fees were high, the sights were few, and the restrictions were many, so we gave it a pass.

On to Prague…

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Breakfast was surprisingly hard to come by in České Budějovice but we managed and then headed on to Prague.

First, however, we made a detour out to the ossuary at Kutná Hora.  It’s the largest ossuary in the world with the bones of around 50,000 people.  It was creepy and fascinating at the same time.  Just imagine an entire room decorated in bones or a chandelier made out of skulls:

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All I can say about driving in Prague is everyone is right: don’t drive in Prague.  After our GPS tried to turn us off the little cobblestone street and down a stairwell, we parked, found the hotel on foot and then got careful directions to get there.

Wendy, fresh from walking the Camino Francés, came up to meet us, which was fabulous.

The hotel, U Zeleného hroznu (At the Green Grape), was perfect!  The recommendations to stay in the Malá Strana district were spot on.  It’s within walking distance to just about everything of major interest in Prague.  Dinner out on the square, served by Pavel who educated us in many thing Czech…particularly on the tipping of waiters.

Linz, Český Krumlov & České Budějovice

Jump to first day of Leak and a Liter

Monday saw us up and out of Salzburg on our way to České Budějovice – or Chesty Pecanowitz, as it got dubbed.  We stopped in Linz for a bite to eat on the town square and for a glimpse of the Danube…which is certainly not blue.  After lunch, we decided on a semi-Plan B stop in Český Krumlov.  The castle is closed on Mondays but we learned that the castle grounds are open, so a quick look-around seemed in order.  Definitely worth a stop, closed or no!

The view from the castle walls is spectacular and the town looks like something out of a story book.

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One incongruous note, however, was watching maintenance vehicles drive up through the interior passages of the castle.  I didn’t have my camera out in time, but just picture a Fiat coming up this hallway while we flatten ourselves against the wall…

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After a minor fender bender that left a paint scratch on the rental car (something that would concern me for a few days) we had a great dinner out in České Budějovice.  It’s home to the original Budweiser, a brew I find far more tasty than what comes from Anheuser-Busch.  We met Trish and Will at the restaurant.  They’re a couple who perform a small show called “A Brief History of Beer.”  We’ll have to put them in touch with the Reeds.

We spent the night at Residence U Černé Věže which was far more an efficiency apartment than a hotel, with a kitchen and washer/dryer in the room.