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Winter in Middle Europe (part 4)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

At 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon we boarded a bus to Vienna from Prague, the last stop of our official Mid Europe trip. I visited Vienna many years ago on an Insight Vacation tour, but it was more of a passing through, so was looking forward to the visit. Also, after much walking for many days, I was looking forward to putting my feet up for a few hours!

Our hotel in Vienna was outside the city center and as we were only arriving after 7pm, the plan was to just go for dinner close by and have an early night. As usual, I had a walking tour booked for the next morning…

When we arrived in Vienna, it was drizzling and I immediately called an Uber to take us to our hotel. After settling in, connecting to the wifi, we walked down the road to get some dinner. There were a few options, but we decided on the most authentic looking Viennese restaurant, Mimoza, on Siebenbrunnenplatz. The food portions were astonishingly big and extremely reasonably priced (Bianca had a Chicken Cordon-Blue for €6.90 and Anya and I both had Schnitzels for €6.50 each).

After dinner we retired to our hotel as we had an early day the next morning.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

After a delicious buffet breakfast, we set off to find the bus into town. The map provided by the hotel was slightly confusing, and we were not sure where the bus stop was but after spotting a bus with our number on it, and a bit of a sprint to make it to the bus, we arrived at our meeting place in front of the Albertina, for our walking tour with Good Vienna Tours.

Ready for another walking tour

I booked the tour in advance, even though there was no upfront fee, but rather tip based and I was very glad I did. The group was quite big, so initially I was a bit apprehensive, but Iva, our guide controlled the group very well. She was equipped with an iPad which gave her the opportunity to show some pictures of art and even a couple of movie previews along the way to spice up the tour a bit.

Our meeting point was across the street from the Hotel Sacher Wien, and Iva started off by telling us the story of the most famous Viennese culinary specialty, created by Franz Sacher for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in 1832, the Sachertorte. We never managed to go and eat this special chocolate cake at the Hotel Sacher, but I did manage to eat a piece at the airport on the way out, and it really is deserving of its fame!

Sachertorte at the airport

Iva also explained how the standing tickets for the Vienna State Opera works, that’s of course assuming we had the energy to stand in line for a few hours for the chance to get cheap standing tickets to the Opera…which we didn’t.

Next, we moved on to the entrance of the Albertina, a large art museum built on the last remnants of the fortifications of Vienna. She showed us a picture of the most famous picture in the Albertina, the Young Hare, a watercolour painting by Albrecht Dürer, dating back to 1502.

We proceeded to the Burggarten, behind the Hofburg palace, with its statue of the emperor Franz Joseph and of course the famous Mozart marble statue. Iva spent some time explaining the importance of the Habsburg family in the history of Vienna and contributed some more to the discussion of the Viennese love-hate relationship with Mozart. The Mozart statue or denkmal, is situated on Southwestern end of the Burggarten and has a flower planting area in front of it in the shape of a treble clef (music note). Apparently it is beautiful in summer as the flowers bloom. But apparently much more difficult to take a picture!

Emperor Franz Joseph, Burggarten

Mozart denkmal, Burggarten

Mozart denkmal, with flower planting in front

Our next stop was the Heldenplatz, where Hitler announced the Austrian annexation by Nazi Germany (the Anschluss) on 15 March 1938. The Heldenplatz was commissioned by emperor Franz Joseph as part of the Ringstraße boulevard project. It has been the setting for many historic battles and events in the course of Viennese history. Iva explained many of the historical events that took place and showed another video clip (the name of which escaped me now…).

Hofberg Palace from Heldenplatz

We walked through the entrance of the Hofburg palace past the Imperial Treasure Museum towards the Spanish Riding school, where they still train Lipizzaner horses (tracing back to 800 AD) in the classical dressage methods. Iva highly recommended attending a show of the horses which I’m sure would have been fabulous. As a side note, we have our own Lipizzaner horses, tracing back to the Croatian branch of the Tulipan breed of Lipizzaners in Kyalami in South Africa, where these Spanish horses are still trained in the classical method as well. The South African Lipizzaners were brought to South Africa by Count Jankovich-Besan in 1944 from a war-torn Europe. I saw these horses perform with the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir a number of years ago and it was magnificent! It was great to see where they originate from.

Entrance gate at Hofburg palace

Quite impressive is the fact that entrance to most museums in Vienna is free to under 19 year olds. Unfortunately there are so many fantastic museums that we barely scratched the surface!

After the Hofburg Palace we stopped at Rosenberger restaurant, a large buffet style underground food hall for the quick coffee to warm up from the cold.

On our way to St Stephen’s Cathedral, we walked through the Neuer Markt, which is actually one of the oldest places in Vienna. The elongated square is surrounded by shops, including A. E. Köchert, a jeweler where original diamond hair stars, such as those worn by the much loved empress Sisi, can be bought for a small fortune. The square also hosts the Donnerbrunnen fountain, which didn’t have any water in when we were there but was still very impressive. The naked figures (allegories of the Danube’s tributaries) were removed by the Empress Maria Theresia when she established the Chastity Commission in 1773, but was thankfully restored to their rightful place in 1801.

Donnerbrunnen fountain, Neuer Markt

A. E. Köchert jeweler, selling Sisi star jewelry and hairpins

St Stephen’s Cathedral (or Domkirche St Stephan) with its multi coloured roof tiles, is breathtaking. The current Romanesque and Gothic style building dates back to the 14th century but stands on the ruins of two earlier churches. We decided to return at a later stage, as we were told that the view from the roof is magnificent.

St Stephen’s Cathedral

We also walked past the Mozarthaus, where Mozart lived (in apparent luxury that seems quite a contrast to the poor pauper end of his life) and composed. A short walk took us past Figlmüller, a restaurant famous for the best Wiener Schnitzels in the whole of Vienna at not an unreasonable price of €14.90 (for a schnitzel big enough to feed two people with leftovers…). The restaurant is however very busy, so even though we did try and get in the next day, we were not successful.

Finally we walked down Fleischmarkt street and ended our tour at St Rupert’s Church (Ruprechtskirche) an ivy covered old church dating back to the 12th century. At the end of the tour Iva spent a bit of time giving some recommendations for restaurants, and answered some questions. It was certainly a very worthwhile tour and a great way to kick-start our trip to Vienna.

Ruprechtskirche

After a quick snack, we made our way back to the Albertina museum, as I was very keen to see the Monet to Picasso exhibition. There was also a Ways of Pointillism exhibition on at that time, showcasing the transition of art through Pointillism from George Seurat, Signac and Van Gogh, which I found breathtaking and very informative.

Entrance to the Albertine, the steps showcasing Van Gogh’s Sower

At the Albertina

We spent a few hours in the museum and eventually had to rest our weary feet!

We went for dinner at Reinthaler’s Beisl (another recommendation) and had delicious schnitzels (as you do…) and made our way back to our hotel.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The morning started with much excitement. Bianca had applied for au pair work in America, as she decided to take a gap year, before starting varsity. She turned down a potential family just before we started our trip, following her instincts, and I was very proud of her for making such a brave decision, with no other options to fall back onto. And then almost two weeks passed, in which I could see she was stressing about what she would do if she did not receive any further interview requests. So, it was with huge relief that she woke up to an interview request from a family in New Jersey. She sent off a return email but since it was the middle of the night in the States, we would have to be patient.

As a bonus, it was a beautiful sunny day, although it was freezing cold outside. We had a tour planned to Schonbrunn palace on the outskirts of Vienna and we were very excited. After breakfast I realised that our tickets were only valid for entrance for a very specific time, and we decided to take an Uber to the palace, saving us the hassle of finding our way to the palace via public transport.

At entrance to Schonbrunn palace

We has booked the Grand Tour and spent a good hour plus walking through the imperial rooms of the palace, from the impressive Hall of Ceremonies to the intimate rooms of Maria Theresia, who ruled the Habsburg dynasty for 40 years) for with her many kids and doting husband, the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I.

I was quite impressed by the number of her 16 children (10 of whom survived into adulthood) went on to become queens and kings and princes in their own rights. She was also the mother of the famous (or infamous) Marie Antoinette of France, who died under the guillotine after the French Revolution.

Afterwards we strolled through the beautiful palace gardens, which very much reminded me of Versailles. It was really cold, but it was lovely to experience the bright winter sunshine.

Schonbrunn palace gardens

In front of frozen fountain, Schonbrunn palace gardens

The girls entranced by icy fountain

A walk in the woods, Schonbrunn palace

View over palace gardens

Schonbrunn palace in the background, with the girls

Beautiful skyline with Schonbrunn palace in foreground

We made our way back (on the metro this time around) to the city centre and decided to take the historical Vienna Ring Tram, a 30 minute tram ride around the Vienna Ringstraße with commentary. Of course we had some Käsekrainer or hot dogs with chunks of cheese in the sausages on Stephanplatz before we boarded the Ring Tram! It was delicious.

On board the Vienna Ring Tram

Afterwards we tried to find a restaurant for lunch. As mentioned above, we tried Figlmüller but unfortunately we would have to wait too long for a table. We found an Italian restaurant on Schulerstraße, which looked like the type of place we could sit down, enjoy a glass of wine and a relaxing lunch. And indeed, Ristorante Da Capo was such a place.

Unfortunately, it was during lunch that we received notification that our flight to Amsterdam, which was due to leave at 6:55 the next morning, has been cancelled. A quick internet search confirmed that lots of flights to Amsterdam Schiphol had been cancelled and delayed as a result of fog. This did create a bit of a panic but we were told to wait for re-booking information so there was little we could do but wait.

The sun was starting to set as we walked to St Stephen’s Cathedral. I wanted to go up to the tower and catch the sunset from there. It was a bit of a squeeze into a tiny lift, but the view from the top was magnificent. The multi coloured roof tiles were even more impressive from close up! Unfortunately, there is a cage-like structure at the top (presumably to protect people from falling off the tower) but this does distract a bit from the view.

View from roof of St Stephen’s Cathedral

From the other side of St Stephen’s Cathedral roof

On top of the roof

Afterwards we made our way back to the hotel, to give Bianca a chance to email the family and to try and find out what the plan was with our flight. We had accommodation booked in Amsterdam and I was uncertain whether we would be able to extend our stay at our hotel in Vienna, so it was important to find out if we would still be able to get a flight to Amsterdam the next day.

St Stephen’s cathedral at dusk

The Vienna State Opera at night

Finally, just after 8:30 in the evening we received confirmation that our flights were re-booked, but only on the 31st of December, which would mean that we would only arrive in Amsterdam in the afternoon of the 31st. Luckily we were able to find a room in our hotel in Vienna. We had to move to a smaller room though but at least that was sorted. And all of the sudden we had an extra day in Vienna, so we decided to have a bit of a sleep in.

Friday, 30 December 2016

We had a relaxing morning, went to breakfast a little later, packed and moved rooms. Late morning, we made our way back to the city centre. It was another glorius, sunny day and I gave the girls a choice as to what they would like to go and do.

They chose the Natural History Museum, which they were keen on the day before, but we decided it would be too rushed. I googled the museum that morning and realised that we struck gold. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the NHM arranges a tour to the roof of the museum, and as our luck would have it, there was a tour on this Friday afternoon at 3:00pm. It promised to be an unforgettable experience.

In front of the Natural History Museum, Vienna

Once again, under 19 year olds could enter the museum for free and adult entrance fees were only €10. We did have to pay an extra €8 per person for this extra tour, but it was definitely worth it!

The Natural History Museum is housed in one of two identical buildings on either side of the Maria-Theresien-platz. The other building houses the Kunsthistorisches Museum or Museum of Art History. If we had more time I would have been very keen to visit this museum as well. The two museums were commissioned to house the formidable collection of the Habsburgs. The two buildings are exactly the same on the outside, but apparently the interior is different.

Statue of Maria Theresia on Maria-Theresien-platz

The Natural History Museum

Christmas markets in Maria Theresia square

The NHM opened in 1889 to the public. The museum hosts a very large, very impressive and informative collection. The audio guides were great, the many interactive displays provided entertainment for kids (and adults) of all ages and we just loved it. I could spend a whole blog post talking about everything we saw and learned, but suffice to say that some of the most impressive exhibitions were the Venus of Willendorf exhibition, the history of science exhibition, some of the wonderful gemstones (including the gemstone-and-diamond bouquet of flowers which Maria Theresia had made as a present for her husband), the dinosaur collection and the huge mammal exhibit.

The famous gemstone-and-diamond bouquet, NHM Vienna

Some dinosaurs, NHM Vienna

Venus of Willendorf, 28 000 to 25 000 BC (the artifact is 11 cm high)

The view of the dome of museum from bottom

And then of course, as part of the rooftop tour, we got to see some areas that are not open to the public, including the 40 000 large human skull collection in the Anthropology department! There were even some decorated and skulls painted with flowers from the Bone House in Hallstatt.

The skull collection, Vienna NHM

View of dome from top

View of restaurant below from top

And of course, the view from the rooftop was just amazing. We made it up there just as the sun was setting and I would have quite happily spent another half an hour up there taking pictures but alas, it was time to go back down. A fantastic experience all and all.

The rooftop of the Natural History Museum, Vienna

View of Vienna from NHM roof

The sun is setting behind the dome of the NHM

With the girls on the roof of the NHM

Statues holding guard on the roof of NHM

We left the museum when it was already dark, and after a bit of gift shopping near St Stephen’s Cathedral, we started making our way back to the hotel.

Trdlenik at the Christmas market on Maria Theresia square

Bianca had an interview with her potential family at 6:00pm, which went very well and afterwards we went for dinner at another restaurant in the area, Restaurant Maria Rosa. I would be amiss to say that there were not Schnitzels served at our table…and beers.

Some more Schnitzels…

The next day was going to be a busy day, with our flight scheduled to leave at noon, but we went to bed satisfied to have had such an excellent bonus day.

We loved out time in Vienna!

Next up, New Year in Amsterdam

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2017 in Family, Travel

 

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Winter in Middle Europe (part 3)

Winter in Middle Europe (part 3)

24 December 2016

We woke up early on Christmas Eve, as we had a train to catch to Prague from Kraków. Actually, it was a combination of bus and train, as the first part of the trip, from Kraków to Ostrava (just after the Czech border) was by bus and the rest of the trip to Prague was by train. It was going to be a long day commuting…

I did some research before the time, and as it is, the main Christmas celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, as most Czech people stay at home (read most restaurants and shops are closed) and have a traditional Czech Christmas dinner with the family. Apparently, in the days leading up to Christmas, the markets sell live carp everywhere which will be taken home to cook up a storm for Christmas dinner.

I was happy to have stumbled across this little tidbit of information, and decided that when in Rome, do as the Romans, so we had a booking for a traditional Christmas dinner at a restaurant in Prague Nove Mesto (New Town).

We arrived at the Praha-Libeň railway station after 3:00pm in the afternoon and it was immediately clear that the city was empty. A lonesome man at a ticket counter grumpily pointed us in the direction of the automatů to purchase tickets for the tram. Luckily, the tram ride was a short one and we arrived at the Luxury Family Hotel Bílá Labuť soon after with a bit of time to kill before we had to leave for dinner.

Another tram ride brought us to the Nove Mesto, where we had a short walk to the medieval Restaurace u Českých pánů, where we had a booking for dinner. The restaurant is set in Gothic cellars, restored to offer the feel of medieval times, and we booked for a traditional Czech Christmas dinner. The ambiance was pleasant, with live music and an explanation of the food on offer, with little extras to assist in mimicking a traditional Czech Christmas dinner.

We were welcomed with a complimentary drink of Becherovka, a herbal liquer, or a glass of Prosecco. Starters were Old Czech mushroom Cuba, a sort of barley risotto and was very delicious, followed by a creamy fish soup (made from carp, of course). The main course was breaded veal cutlet (don’t let the ‘let’ in cutlet fool you, it was a monster portion…) with homemade potato salad. Apparently, potato salad is also a very traditional addition to the Christmas dinner. Dessert was an apple strudel with ice cream, followed by coffee or tea and Christmas cookies. All this in a medieval cellar setting with Christmas music played by traditional folk musicians.

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Apple coring, walnut, and delicious food

All and all, the food was good, and we dutifully followed the instructions for the Czech traditions, including coring an apple. If the inside of the apple is shaped as a star, it means that everyone will get together the next year in happiness and health. A four-pointed cross is a bad omen and means that someone at the table will fall ill or die within a year. In addition, we each had to crack a walnut by hand, and if it breaks clean, with the insides pretty much intact, it is meant to be a positive omen.

 

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I couldn’t resist a picture with one of the many knights in armour on display…

The only downside and disappointment was that the service was shoddy to say the least. After the starter drink the waiter never once came to ask if we wanted to order anything else… dishes were brought out in rapid succession, but not once did he stop and ask for further drinks orders. Our coffee was ordered from the manager who happened to clear a table next to us. We spent almost half an hour jokingly trying to get the waiters attention to get our bill, imagining there was an invisible wall around our table (with much amusement from fellow diners).

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Wenceslas Square

When we got outside, the girls joked about checking the newspaper for the year. I am thankful that we were all in good spirits and we didn’t let this poor service spoil our evening and actually good food. The set menu was CK850 pp (almost $35) which was not a cheap meal by any stretch of the imagination, but luckily we saved on wine or prosecco, because…erm…we weren’t offered anything…

Before heading back to our hotel, we walked down to the Wenceslas Square, a traditional setting for demonstrations and surrounded by shops and the business district. It was more a very large boulevard than a square, but the lights were pretty and it was a nice round off to a pleasant evening.

25 December 2016

We woke up on Christmas morning ready to explore the city. After a great breakfast, we set off towards the Old Town or Staré Město where we were to meet our guide for another walking tour. There was light rain forecast and we were not sure what would be open on Christmas day, but that didn’t put us off.

Upon recommendation from my friend Ingrid, we joined the Prague Tip Trip with Jana for a walking tour. The tour started off with a quick overview of one of the most amazing clocks in the whole world, the Prague Astronomical Clock dating back to 1410, the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. Jana showed us how to read the months, the lunar phase and the approximate time. For an accurate time reading, there is a proper clock at the top of the tower…

The Prague Astronomical Tower

The Prague Astronomical Tower

We moved on to the old town square, which was starting to show signs of live as the Christmas market was starting up for the day. The huge Christmas tree on the square also features a small show of lights in the evenings (although we didn’t ever see this). We walked across the square to the statue of Jan Hus, a religious reformer who was burnt at the stake for his beliefs.

Large Christmas tree on the Old Town Square

Large Christmas tree on the Old Town Square

Following one of the exits from the square, we walked to the Tyn Courtyard, founded in the 12th century where merchants came to pay customs for their goods. The courtyard features the Granovsky Palace, a Renaissance palace with the walls decorated in sgraffitoes and wall paintings. Unfortunately many of the paintings are faded badly, and in need of restoration. We stopped briefly at St Jacob’s church or the Basilica of St James, where we were able to view the inside of the church through a one way window. Jana shared the story of the mummified arm which, according to legend, belongs to a thief who tried to steal from the bejeweled altar when the statue of the Virgin Mary came alive and grabbed his arm, where he was found in the morning. His arm had to be amputated to rescue him and the arm was put on display in the church as a grim warning. Moments later the grumpy priest slammed open the door of the church and Jana sneered at him. Clearly not a lot of love lost there!

The wall murals

The Renaissance paintings on the walls of the Granovsky Palace

We made our way past the Grevin Praha, or the Madame Tussaud’s of Prague, which was closed for the day, to the House of the Black Madonna, a Cubist building that houses the Cafe Orient, which according to Jana served delicious cakes and sandwiches. We did peek into the building to see the awesome staircase, which is apparently often missed.

The staircase of the Cubist

The staircase of the Cubist House of the Black Madonna

Next, we made our way to Municipal House, next to the impressive Powder Gate, one of the original 13 gates of Prague. The Municipal House is a civic building that houses the Smetana Hall, a concert venue, where classic music concerts are held daily. The residents of Prague claim to have first discovered a young Mozart after his opera The Marriage of Figaro was performed there with tremendous success. The next year, Mozart visited himself and apparently he “counted this day as one of the happiest of his life”. His opera Don Giovanni debuted in Prague later that year to very appreciative audiences. Apparently Mozart famously said “Meine Prager verstehen mich” (My Praguers understand me). Jana told us the story of Mozart with some scorn and highlighted the fact that the Viennese today does not know where Mozart is buried as he died very poor and was buried in a mass grave.

The Powder Gate

The Powder Gate

After this we moved to the other side of the Old Town square to the Jewish Quarter or Josefov and the impressive Spanish Synagogue, with the bizarre Franz Kafka statue next to it. The statue is inspired by the short story written by Kafka called “Popis Jednoho Zápasu” (Description of a Match). By now it was raining but we managed to get a peek at the Old New Synagogue, the Jewish Ceremonial Hall and the Maisel Synagogue. Jana also shared the story of the legend of the monster Golem, in the 16th century by the Rabbi Loew, to defend the ghetto from antisemitic attacks. The monster was created from clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought to life through Hebrew incantations. The rabbi deactivated the Golem every Friday night by removing the shem, but legend has it that one Friday he forgot, and some reason the Golem went on a rampage. The rabbi finally caught up with him and removed the shem and he fell to pieces. Legend has it that the body of the Golem was stored in the attic of the Old New Synagogue and still lies there today.

The Church of the Holy Ghost, Jewish Quarter

The Church of the Holy Ghost, Jewish Quarter

The statue of Kafka

The statue of Kafka

The Old New Synagogue, Jewish Quarter

The Old New Synagogue, Jewish Quarter

The Maisel Synagogue

The Maisel Synagogue

This concluded our walking tour and we were happy to make our way to a small little restaurant, Paneria, on Jana’s recommendation to warm up and dry out a bit.

After lunch we made our way to the Klementinum, a historical complex of buildings which once housed one of the largest Jesuit colleges in the world. And of course, it houses one of the most impressive libraries in the world, the Baroque library hall, which I was dying to see. We booked a tour and was not disappointed with the library (which we unfortunately was not allowed to photograph), but the building also contained an observatory with wonderful equipment. And finally, the view from the tower was definitely worth the claustrophobic climb to the top.

The chapel of Saint Clement at the Klementinum

The chapel of Saint Clement at the Klementinum

The Barogue library in the Klementinum...no pictures were allowed

The Barogue library in the Klementinum…no pictures were allowed

The staircase to the Observatory of the Klemintinum

The staircase to the Observatory of the Klemintinum

Some of the equipment in the Observatory

Some of the equipment in the Observatory

The view from the Klemintinum tower

The view from the Klemintinum tower

Beautiful Prague from the Klemintinum Observatory Tower

Beautiful Prague from the Klemintinum Observatory Tower

After the visit to the Klementinum, we started making our way back to the hotel as we had a boat cruise on the Vltava river planned for the evening.

View of the city on the walk back to our hotel

View of the city on the walk back to our hotel

I originally wanted to book the Jazz Boat, but by the time I came around to making a booking, the seats were all booked out. So we settled on another boat cruise with a buffet style dinner and live music, through Viator. The cruise was pleasant and the food was reasonable and in the end we had a fun evening. We made turns to brave the cold to go up to the deck for pictures as it was difficult to see anything from insude the boat.

On the dinner cruise with my gorgeous girls

On the dinner cruise with my gorgeous girls

View of Prague Castle from the river at night

View of Prague Castle from the river at night

After dinner, we went back to the hotel to recharge our batteries overnight!

26 December 2016

After a very busy Christmas day, I relented and we had a bit of a sleep in the next morning. We wanted to visit the Castle district and the Charles bridge on our last full day in Prague. We initially thought we would join Jana again on a visit to the Castle district in the afternoon, but I wanted to go and visit the castle itself, so we decided to do it on our own steam.

After a short tram ride, we made it to the other side of the river, and made it in time for the ceremonial changing of the guards at noon. The queues at the castle were horrific. I can only imagine how busy it must be in summer. We had to queue at every entrance and the crowds were crazy. In the end, it made the whole experience of the castle very tiring, but it was still worth it. There are various tickets giving you entrance to certain sections of the castle. We bought tickets that gave us access to St Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica and the Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower which was as much as i thought our tiresome feet could withstand.

St Vitus Catherdral, Prague castle

St Vitus Catherdral, Prague castle

St Vitus Cathedral was very impressive, once we managed to get inside (another half an hour queue). Construction on the Gothic Cathedral started in the 14th century, but construction was halted in 1419 because of the Hussite wars and remained uncompleted for centuries. Only in the late 19th century was construction resumed and repairs to the original section undertaken. The cathedral was completed in Neo-Gothic style and solemnly consecrated only in 1929.

The interior of St Vitus Cathedral

The interior of St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral gilded altar

St Vitus Cathedral gilded altar

St Wenceslas chapel is next to St Vitus chapel and is meant to be a cult center for St Vitus. The value of the decorations of St Wenceslas Chapel is incalculable. The lower parts of the walls are decorated with more than 1300 gems, made in Bohemia. The joints between them are covered with gold.

St. Wenceslas Chapel, Prague castle

St. Wenceslas Chapel, Prague castle

St George’s Basilica was originally meant to be a second church for Prague castle in the 10th century. The current Romanesque appearance of the church dates back to the time of the reconstruction carried out in the 12th century. The interior of the basilica is austere and monumental. There are tombs and skeletons visible, one of whom apparently belongs to Prince Vratislav, father of St. Wenceslas.

St George's Basilica

St George’s Basilica

The eerie crypt in St George's Cathedral

The eerie crypt in St George’s Cathedral

The origins of Old Royal Palace dates back to the 9th and 10th century. In the 12th century it was replaced with a stone castle, remains of which is still preserved. In the 14th century, the king and emperor Charles IV enlarged the Romanesque building and so a Gothic palace with a vaulted interior for state purposes and a band of arcades on its northern side came to be. After a period of 80 years where the castle was empty, the King Vladislav Jagiello commenced a large scale reconstruction, adding the magnificent Vladislav Hall.

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The Vladislav Hall, Old Prague Castle

Our last stop of the Prague Castle was the Golden Lane. The modest dwelling, in small scale architecture, were inhabited by defenders of the Castle, servants or for example goldsmiths and the Castle marksmen. The tiny houses were occupied until World War II, but already during the period of the First Republic, care was taken to ensure that the picturesque character of the Lane was not changed in the course of modifications. From 1916 to 1917 house No. 22 was inhabited by the writer Franz Kafka.

Anya assisting Bianca with tying her shoelaces

Anya assisting Bianca with tying her shoelaces

Golden Lane, Prague Castle

Golden Lane, Prague Castle

I found my size house! Golden Lane, Prague Castle

I found my size house! Golden Lane, Prague Castle

Views from the Prague Castle Hill

Views from the Prague Castle Hill

Steps leading down from Castle Hill

Steps leading down from Castle Hill

After the castle visit, we walked down towards the river, sharing a traditional trdelnik covered with chocolate. You can buy trdelnik everywhere in Prague and they resemble the Kürtőskalács or chimney cake we had in Budapest. The cake is rolled around a wooden stick and then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix. Decadent and delicious! Something I would love to try at home.

And... time for some Trdl

And… time for some Trdelnik

We strolled back over the magnificent Charles bridge as the sun was setting and despite my feet being so tired, that I could not stand still, I could not get enough of the bridge!

With the girls on Charles Brigde, Prague

With the girls on Charles Brigde, Prague

The girls on Charles bridge, Prague

The girls on Charles bridge, Prague

Views from the other side of Charles Bridge of the Castle district

Views from the other side of Charles Bridge of the Castle district

One final one from Charles Bridge, looking back towards the Castle

One final one from Charles Bridge, looking back towards the Castle

Afterwards, we took a short walk to Restaurace Sedm Konšelů, another one of Jana’s recommendations. where I had the tradiční českou svíčkovou, which is fillet of beef in cream sauce and cranberries, served with traditional bread dumplings. It was good, and I ate the cranberries like Jana directed, a little bit at a time with the sauce.

After this late lunch, early dinner, we returned to the hotel, as we had tickets for the ballet at the National Theatre that evening! Knowing how much Bianca loves the ballet, I thought it would be a real treat to go and see the Nutcracker in the National Theatre, which dates back to the 19th century. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that it was a modern day adaption of the Nutcracker and actually had very little resemblance to the original ballet, other than the music, but it was still a fun evening out! The theatre is magnificent and it was a real treat to see a show there.

The National Theatre, Prague

The National Theatre, Prague

27 December 2016

This was our last morning in Prague, and we decided to go and do some shopping. Bianca’s suitcase broke when we arrived in Prague, and we needed to get something else. We also wanted to get some souvenirs and gifts. After some shopping, including the cutest Bohemian glasses, we returned to the Old Town Square to view the hourly show of the Astronomical clock, which we have missed until then. It was extremely busy, with people shoving and pushing, but it was worth it. Afterwards, we did a final visit to the Old Town Square, a last Trdelnik and a couple of last pictures before we headed back to the hotel.

The making of Trdlenik

The making of Trdelnik

View over the Christmas market, Prague Old Town Square

View over the Christmas market, Prague Old Town Square

I absolutely loved Prague. The crowds were quite something and I really wished I could have had at least one sunny day for some nicer pictures, which will give me an excuse to return again one day in summer!

Finally, at 2:30pm, we boarded the bus for the semi last leg of our trip, to Vienna. I was glad to put my feet up but sad to leave this beautiful city behind.

Au revoir!

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in Passions, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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