Thursday, April 22, 2010
Czeching out of Prague
Prague has exceeded our expectations and that's hard to do. They were set high but nothing can prepare you for the enormity of delights in this city. Our only problem? Navigating on foot. It's hard to figure out which direction you are heading when surrounded by so many buildings. We often set off in the opposite direction from what we intended, got lost, then completely turned around. And this was while using a map! Asking for help was often our only salvation.
So what do you do on your last day? For us, it was a stroll through everything we hadn't seen and of course, food and drink. We started in Malá Strana (the Little Quarter), where we stumbled upon a lovely, quiet garden, the Vojanovy Sady. Once an orchard planted in 1248, it was opened to the public in 1954 and named after leading Czech actor Eduard Vojan.
From there, we strolled through the windy streets to the John Lennon wall. When he was killed in 1980, a large wall was spontaneously covered with memorial graffiti. The police painted over the "All You Need Is Love" and "Imagine" graffiti again and again which popped up day after day. Finally, when independence came in 1989, people gathered here. This is a wall that is remembered as a place that gave hope to locals craving freedom. There is even what looks like a nice café, The John and George, but we weren't quite ready for food yet.
We made our way across Kampa Island, through the lovely park and came upon these very strange giant baby sculptures. Their faces were scrunched into what looked like a bar code. Interesting.
Crossing over one of the many bridges over the Vltava River we wound our way towards Wenceslas Square and The New Town. One of us spotted The Louvre Café and we decided maybe it was time for an early lunch.
I had my eye on a broth full of vegetables but then I spotted a Havana on the menu. This was described as a sundae consisting of coffee and chocolate ice cream, egg liqueur, caramel, whipped cream and a wafer.
Chuck became so discombobulated when he heard me ordering, he couldn't figure out what to do. "But I thought you were ordering lunch!" I told him it was our last day and when I see a coffee sundae, I just have to have it. I suggested he check out the daily special baked goods and he swiftly chose the apple strudel with vanilla sauce and whipped cream with shaved nuts.
Oh, we also each ordered a cappuccino.
Fortified, we took off for Wenceslas Square.
Wenceslas is the "good king" of Christmas carol fame. He was the "wise and benevolent 10th century Duke of Bohemia." He was literate and well-educated; he Christianized his nation; he had the foresight to ally with Saxony, which gave Czechs a vote and political clout when the Holy Roman Emperor was selected. He was murdered in 929 and then canonized. He is a symbol of Czech nationalism. The four other national patron saints on the statue are associated with books, learning and culture rather than military power. What a concept!
We opted for a Rick Steves Walking tour out of his Prague guidebook but took our time and ogled the architecture. The day was perfect with bright blue sky and just the right warm temperature. Starting at the St. Wenceslas Statue, we read that this is a popular meeting place where people say "Meet you under the tail."
Just down from the St. Wenceslas statue is a memorial to two young men who immolated themselves in 1969--a month apart--to stoke the fires of independence. They hoped to inspire people to work for freedom.
Grand Hotel Europa
This building is from the Communist era (hideous, isn't it?) Between 1994 and 2008 it was home to Radio Free Europe.
We found our way into a grand mall called Lucerna Gallery with some Art Deco from the 1930s. Our favorite, though, was a sculpture--called Wenceslas Riding an Upside-Down Horse--hanging like a swing from a glass dome. It was created by David Černý, one of the Czech Republic's most original contemporary artists.
We hurried over to see the Mucha Museum Building, one of Prague's best Art Nouveau sights. I wasn't impressed with the building but I loved the doorway.
Our rush was to meet up with my former boss from 28 years ago, Dave, and his wife, Suzy who are here in Prague. They are my inspiration for this trip. When Dave retired in 1984, and Suzy 2 years later, they bought a VW camper in Amsterdam and traveled through Europe for 11 months. They stored the camper in Europe and returned several times for periods of 3 to 6 months at a time. If they hadn't done that trip, Chuck and I wouldn't be doing this trip.
Our trips overlapped by this one day. We met them at their perfectly located hotel, Hotel Golden Age. It was so good to see them! What a treat for us. They weren't even sure their plane would make it, due to the Iceland volcanic ash issue. We walked down the street to a cute café that Chuck and I had spotted just before we got to their hotel. Two hours sped by way too fast but we had to get back to Homer and get ready for our drive to Berlin tomorrow.
Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Pooh ~ A. A. Milne
Posted by Chuck and Claire at 4/22/2010 09:29:00 PM