In and out of Prague
Not sleeping this time!
Breakfast at home, then Birgit drove us to Vienna's Sudbahnhof. We picked up some sandwiches (wienerschnitzel for Hillary, tomato/veggie, cheese, sweet pastries) for the train ride. Along the way, Hillary came to the realization that she had not intended for us to go to Prague. She had wanted to go to Portugal. (They're almost the same, right?) The ride was uneventful, and we found our way from the northern train station (Nadrazi Holesomething) to the hotel by tram.
Excellent Czech beer, with a snack platter
After dropping luggage, we strolled across the bridge to an island for coffee, beer, and a "devil" sausage plate with cheese and wimpy horseradish.
Some deliberation later, we decided to rent a rowboat to putter around on the river. It gave a different view as the sun was getting lower in the sky. We saw the purple crocodile on the art museum, Fred and Ginger dancing, and lots of swans. Roswitha rowed for much of the time, then Hillary zigged and zagged for a bit until I brought us artfully and precisely back to dock.
Prague Astronomical Clock (Praha Orloj)
We strolled around the old town, checking out some luggage (to replace my dying Tumi bag) and internetted. Towards sunset, we checked out the beautiful art deco Municpal house and cafe, the dramatic Powder Gate, the main square, and the Astronomical Clock.
We did a bit of shopping in the crowded tourist zone, crossed the Charles bridge without incident—it is renowned for pickpockets—and had dinner at the unremarkable Italian place next to the waterwheel (garlic soup, goulash with dumplings, pork steaks with fried, and apple strudel). Before turning in, we had an absinthe, Czech digestive, and orange juice in a seedy-posturing metal bar.
Up to the castle
We had breakfast in hotel Roma, then took a slow stroll up to the castle. As expected, it was crowded, and it started to rain as we did our tour through the old castle, St. George's church, and the kitschy golden lane. Fortunately, the rain had chased away many tourists, making for a shorter line into the very gothic St. Vitus Cathedral. While waiting in line, we got to see the gargoyles in action, drooling down runoff onto the queue. St. Vitus Cathedral dates back to 1344, and is a gorgeous example of Gothic architecture.
Potato soup, panini, BLT
We stopped for a longer-than-intended lunch, and walked down the steps to the river. Along the way, Roswitha slipped and twisted her ankle, but felt that she could carefully walk on it.
Old Jewish cemetery
We crossed the bridge to the old Jewish section, and had time to see the Pinkus Synagogue where we found several Ashkenaz-ish (my paternal grandfather) and Deutsch (maternal grandmother) names listed as having died from the local communities. The walls are filled with the names of people who were killed. No photos are allowed, and I got yelled at. But when I explained that my name was Ashkenaz, the guy apologized and invited me to continue. We strolled quickly through the cemetery, and toured quickly through the incredibly beautiful Spanish Synagogue. But we were running late.
We took a taxi the short distance to the eastern end of the Charles Bridge, and met Josef Snitily, distant cousin of our friend Mark. We had met him on our previous trip in 2003, and he looked even better. He explained that this was due to a heart attack last year, and eye surgery. This has prompted him to exercise more, and he had just come off of a year off to start work again that very day. He's been spending lots of his time working on his country house. We strolled across the bridge to the Kampa, where we had a delightful chat about distant and recent history while watching the beautiful light play over the river and bridge.
We walked him back across, looked for a few more quick shopping opportunities, and then ended up at the Mexican restaurant near our hotel, to my protests. The food was better than the one in Vienna; we had salsa & guacamole, Tacos, a quesadilla, a saucy chicken thing, and gazpacho.
The next day, we flew to London for Hillary's final stop.