Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, had been on mine and Rebecca’s hit list for quite some time. So on Monday, June 26th, we set out for the City of a Hundred Spires. We caught the S-bahn over to the Berlin Central Bus Station, jumped on our 10:00 am flixbus with coffees and picnic lunch, and headed south out of the city. The four and a half hour journey passed through Dresden on the Elbe River before climbing into the Ore Mountains that have formed a natural border between Saxony and Bohemia for 800 years. We arrived at the Praha Florenc Bus Station and caught the metro across the river to Malostranská. We underestimated the distance (or more so the elevation gain) to our hotel which was located on Nerudova Street just below Prague Castle. It was quite a hike with our carry-ons in tow!
After getting settled, we walked back down the hill and found a pub named Lokál U Bílé Kuželky that Bec had pre-scouted. We enjoyed a fried cheese dish on a picnic bench with a woman from Peru traveling on her own. With some food in our bellies, we crossed the iconic Charles Bridge to Old Town. Following Bec’s advice, we found U Kunštátů, a cool beer spot in a 14th century palace. We had a pint of Czech craft brew and checked out the medieval basement. From there, we walked up to the main square, Staroměstské Náměstí, or Old Town Square. We saw the famous 600 year old Prague Astronomical Clock and then chilled out and people-watched. For dinner, we zeroed in on the original Lokál Dlouhááá. Bec chose the traditional goulash and I went for the beef tartare with fried bread.
On Tuesday, we strolled south through Malá Strana taking us to the Monument of the Victims of Communism where there was a ceremony in progress. We watched from the sidelines not fully understanding what we saw, but it reminded me of a Canadian Remembrance Day ceremony. I led Bec up Petřín hill and we stopped on a park bench for a snack. I somehow got a bee in my collar and he gave me a sting. Bec, worried about my sting given my history with such insects, set a beeline out of the park passing by a section of the Hunger Wall. With the sting subsiding, we found our way out of the park near the Strahov Monastery. It was still early so I led Bec over to the Loreto where we did a self guided tour of the church. We left the church and wandered down the charming area of Nový Svět which eventually led us to the gates of Prague Castle, but, we detoured and went back to the hotel to chill for a little while.
That night, Bec had a superfun evening planned for us. The Taste of Prague Food Tour. We visited 5 different restaurants and 2 bars which served delicious traditional and modern Czech food, beer and wine. We started with the Pilsner Urquell and a dark lager (Kozel) which happened to be where we had already dined the previous evening. We then tried some open-faced sandwich’s at Sisters Bistro and some different meat options at Nase Maso Butchers. Our main course was the roast duck with sauerkraut and potato dumplings at Next Door. We took a short break at the Bokovka wine bar to try some local varietals. We finished at an interesting restaurant called Eska with some modern dishes including burnt potato in ash with potato espuma and fermented red wheat with mushrooms. Needless to say we were well fed by the end of the tour however we decided to enjoy an after dinner cocktail at L’fleur before calling it an evening.
On Wednesday, we walked south along the Vtlava and eventually crossed into New Town. We had another picnic lunch in the Franciscan Gardens with the locals before popping out into Wenceslas Square. We strolled up and down the famous strip, but it was turning out to be a pretty hot day so we decided to pop into a few shops and I picked up a new pair of jeans shorts for the summer weather. We crossed the river to the north and hiked up to the top of Letna Park. We enjoyed a Czech brew in the beer gardens and wrote some postcards overlooking Old Town across the river. The skies turned angry so we packed up and headed west. The storm caught up with us at the Metronome and we bailed down the hillside and crossed the nearby bridge. We thankfully missed the majority of the storm and headed back to U Kunštátů. This time, we didn’t mess around and each ordered a beer tasting with some snacks. The storm blew off and we made our way across Charles Bridge and back to Hotel Neruda.
That night, we took our concierge up on a nearby dinner spot, but they seemed to have the doors shut while entertaining a private group. We redoubled and found the Pilsner Urquell Malostanska Beseda opposite the St. Nicolas Church in our neighborhood. Bec ordered the Svíčková, maybe the most popular of all Czech dishes, and I ordered the rabbit, much to our waiters distaste (he has pet rabbits). Both were delicious.
Our night didn’t end there though as Bec led us to the Vinograf near the river’s edge and we enjoyed some Czech wine al fresco. The sun was setting and we knew by the reflected pinks on the buildings that it was a good one. So we paid our bill and scrambled over to Charles Bridge for an amazing sunset. Halfway home and halfway to another spot on our list, we threw caution to the wind and headed to Hemingway Bar. We were lucky to get the last couple of seats at the upstairs bar and enjoyed some very interesting cocktails.
We saved Prague Castle for our last day, but it was pouring rain that morning. We tried to wait it out in the hotel, but it just would not let up. So we braved it and headed up the last few stairs to the top. There were a few other brave tourists at the gates. We visited St. Vitus Cathedral and had a quick look at the grounds before hightailing it back to the hotel. We caught the metro to the main train station and started back to Berlin at 2:3o pm. The train followed the Vltava River north to the Elbe where we continued alongside the river through the scenic Ore Mountains. Once past Dresden, the train was on a straight track and finally got up to its full speed. The huge low pressure system over northern Germany was dumping buckets of rain down on Berlin and there was flooding going on in the city. We made the quick dash from the Friedrichstrasse station to Bec’s place but we still got absolutely soaked. The most rain recorded in over 100 years. Needless to say, we hunkered down that evening and rented a movie, The Butcher of Prague.
On Friday, we had some errands to run for Bec’s German visa. Following that, we swung through the Galleria in Alexanderplatz to do some shopping. We sidetracked through a neat little neighborhood called Nikolaiviertel that neither of us had been to. We walked all the way west along Unter den Linden and followed the river to a beer garden Bec had noticed on a river run. Again, the rain found us so we finished our brew and headed back to the apartment to savour a home cooked meal.
My flight back to Abu Dhabi was at 5:00 pm on Saturday, but Bec still managed to find us somewhere to celebrate Canada Day. We went to a brewery that she had been to before named BRLO. They had teamed up with Steamworks Brewery from Vancouver for a Canada Day celebration. We were the first to arrive at noon and things weren’t quite in full swing. The band was still warming up and the poutine stand hadn’t received their French fry delivery yet. We had a couple Canadian brews sitting proudly in our Team Canada jerseys then headed for home to grab my bags for my flight to Abu Dhabi via Dusseldorf.