Posts Tagged ‘Uncle Daryl’

Prague–Day 3!

Sunday morning we had plans again to meet with Lucie at 9.  We had her for another 4 hours, and we were eager to see the parts of Prague that we missed on Saturday: Old and New Town and the Jewish Quarters.   

Lauren and Our Guide, Lucie, in Old Town Square

Walking in Old Town

 

Us!

Lauren and Russ

 

Lucie showed us around Old Town Square and taught us about some of the buildings which we had been admiring for the past several days.  The magnificent church that seems to be blockaded by the buildings…..

Church on Old Town Square

Well, the buildings were actually in existence before the church.  The church was built in between the buildings because that is “where there was space.” Parishioners  must go inside the first building to get into the cathedral.  Strange!

We saw Kafka’s birthplace, and the spot where Einstein, Kafka, and famous writer Max Boden used to meet for coffee.  We also saw the concert house where Mozart debuted “Don Giovanni.” 

Kafka

Franz Kafka Statue

Don Giovanni!

We spent the majority of the morning in the Jewish Quarter, inside synagogues, and reflecting on the horrors of the persecution of the Jewish race for thousands of years.  In Prague in the centuries before WWII, Jews were already ousted several times and eventually subjected to living in ghettos.  Despite this, Prague had one of the largest Jewish populations in the world.  One synagogue in the Jewish quarter held a particularly moving display.  The names of each and every Jewish person killed during Hitler’s reign was painted onto the wall, and unfortunately the names filled almost every wall in the synagogue.  The synagogue, along with a visit in the oldest Jewish cemetery, was very moving.  However, we have no pictures from the experience. 

After the Jewish quarter, we made our way over the famous Charles Bridge, named for one of the most important leaders in Prague, Charles IV. The bridge was LOADED with people, but the view was nice.

Gate to Charles Bridge

The View from Charles Bridge

View From Charles Bridge to Castle Town

After seeing Charles Bridge, we had to bid adieu to Lucie.  She really was fantastic–friendly and incredibly knowledgeable!  I can honestly recommend www.praguewalker.com to anyone visiting Prague!!

After leaving Lucie we found a great little place to eat lunch — Pizzeria Giovanni!

Russ and Lauren in front of Pizzeria Giovanni

The best part of our day was when we took the elevator to the top of the Astronomical Clock Tower.  We had a fantastic view over Prague and saw the trumpeter bugling live! Daryl even conquered his fear of heights enough to enjoy looking over the edge of the tower and take some pictures!

Prague

Where we ate dinner the first night!

Daryl and the view from the tower

Lauren on the Tower

Old Town Square

Daryl and the Trumpeter

After descending we stopped at Starbucks for some afternoon coffee/hot chocolate.  We assumed alternate personas since Starbucks loves to write names on your coffee.

Zoolander?

Jacob (Ya-Cub) and Birgita (Beer-gee-ta)

After a rest we had a fantastic French dinner at La Gare, a restaurant near the hotel.  It was a perfect way to end a really fabulous weekend.  Prague is a great city!! Many thanks to Uncle Daryl for a great visit.  Come again!

Cheers!

Czech Folklore Show

On Saturday evening we got a taste of some traditional Czech cuisine, music, and dance.  The “hall” where the event takes place was a little outside of the main part of Prague, so it was extra nice that the show offers roundtrip transportation to and from your hotel.  Since it was an all-you-can-drink event, and the legal driving BAC limit in the Czech Republic is a smart and seemingly obvious 0.00 %, it was an extra nice incentive!

Russ and Lauren Outside of the Folklore Hall

We were greeted at the door with shots of Honey Wine and servers in traditional Czech costumes.  We walked into a warm-colored space filled with long wooden tables and walls and ceiling adorned with traditional tools, cooking devices, animal furs, and instruments. 

Inside the Folklore Show

The Ceiling

We were led to our table which was reserved with our name…sort of.

Mrs. Lauren.....Barca?

When seated, we toasted our wine with our neighbors, visitors from France, and enjoyed our cozy seats in the lodge. 

Prost!

Soon enough the music began.  The hall was filled with the driving beats of traditional Czech music courtesy of a bassist, violinist, violist, and dulcimer player.  They also doubled as singers!

The Music Corner

Add the Musicians

Our host introduced us to many traditional Czech tunes and also called on the dancers to demonstrate some Czech folk dancing.  As any performer knows, it’s most difficult to get the crowd warmed up in the beginning, espeically when you want them to participate.  We quickly became our hostesses favorite guests because of our willingness to go along with the “shtick.”  Within no time, some familiar faces were taking part in the dances.

Czech Folk Dance

More Dancing

Dinner was also served in the traditional style.  Big pots and bowls were brought to the table, and we dished ourselves the filling homestyle cuisine.  We started with soup and bread and later moved onto the main course.  A large crock of different meats was placed on the table: ham, pork, chicken legs, and others with different types of potatoes lining the bottom.  We also had coleslaw on the side.  The flavors and menu were very reminiscent of  what we enjoy at Grandma and Grandpa McCullough’s house.  Yum!

Soup Time!

The Main Course

After some more singing and dancing and some fantastic dulcimer playing, we were asked to share a folk song from our home country.  We heard songs from France, Portugal, Greece, and of course the US.  Lauren and Daryl fought the urge to belt a tune from Broadway, and instead we sang the classic “Take me Out to the Ball Game” and asked the other few Americans to join in. 

The Folklore Hall

While Lauren was using the restroom, Russ and Daryl played with props from the show including the broom from a specific dance and an instrument made of a pitcher and horse hair, called the farnfnoch, that sounded more like passing gas than anything remotely musical. The pitcher is clay and has stretched hide over the top with horsehair threated through it.  You play it by running wetted fingers along the hair. 

Daryl and the Bachelor's Broom

The "Instrument"

It was a great night, but little did we know that our cultural experience did not end with the show.  We all were slightly uncomfortable with our driver flying down the streets of Prague, passing cars on the left, and texting on his cell phone.  We were more uncomfortable when a police car pulled in front of the van and the “Pull Over” sign lit up.  Uh oh!

3 Americans Sitting in the Van Hoping to avoid Czech's Penal System

Daryl Surreptitiously Takes Pictures by Coughing Over the Shutter Sound while Russ Gives Disapproving Glances

Luckily we arrived home safely that night, relieved and amused.  A night full of new and old Czech traditions!

The City of Defenestration

Good Morning, Prague

We woke up on Saturday morning ready to conquer the city.  After a great breakfast in the executive suite (perks of being attached to a frequent traveler), we met our guide, Lucie, in the lobby of the hotel.  She had a great 4 hours planned for us, starting on the other side of town at the palace.  We rode the subway and then a tram to get there.

Daryl, Russ, and Lauren in Prague Subway

Russ and Lauren and our guide, Lucie

As we hopped off the tram and began walking, we encountered our first glimpse into Prague’s obsession with strange ways to die.  An homage to two scientists: Tycho Brahe and and Johannes Kepler.  Poor Tycho had the unfortunate circumstance of the unusual death.  A true gentleman, Tycho refused to leave the King’s banquet when the King himself was present, despite the fact that he really had to use the bathroom.  Instead of getting pissed, (sorry, I couldn’t resist), Tycho held his bladder until the King left the room, which proved to be very unfortunate for him; some historians attribute his death to a burst bladder, others say kidney failure.  Either way, our first insight into odd death involved the privilege to pee (Urinetown, the musical, anyone?).

Russ and Poor Old Tycho

 After viewing the statue, we climbed the hill and entered into the grounds of the Strahov Monastery, a beautiful complex, and in which they have one of the largest collections of original books in the world.

Pope Marks the Spot!

Strahov Monastery

Oddly, the monastery rested just inside the fortication wall for this side of the city.  The Palace relied on the protection of the monastery to defend them from incoming danger.  The only other buildings leading up to the Palace were old houses and palaces of aristocrats.  Stunning!

The View from Castle Town

Daryl and the View from Castle Town

 

Walking Through Castle Town

Prague Created and Borrowed Architecture. This Facade is Borrowed from Italy.

The Intricacy of the Etching

And Finally, The Palace!!

The Guards Aren't Just for Show; the current Czech President works out of the palace

"Giants" Guarding the Palace

 Prague’s history is long and pretty twisted, just like many other old European cities.  I’ll try to clean it up and only tell the important parts.  Before there was a Czech Republic, Prague was part of a region called Bohemia.  And from the 10th Century on, it pretty much went like this: King dies, war breaks out, religious strife, King is ousted, religious strife, war breaks out, repeat repeat repeat.  Except that Prague was one of the most important cities of the region throughout the mess of wars and abdications, and Prague was a center of Protestantism even before the emergence of Martin Luther. 

Cathedral in Palace Grounds

The cathedral in the above picture is literally inside of the Palace, or at least inside of the palace grounds.  To attend church, people had to enter through the palace gates.  Services are still held in this church and it is open to the public, despite Czech’s presidential seat lying nearby.

The Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

Crystal Mosaic on Cathedral

And now, the presence of the cathedral leads me to Prague’s favorite way to kill someone: DEFENESTRATION.  A reminder that defenestration literally means pushing someone out of the window and that this act was named for the city of Prague.  This is because Prague has two very famous cases of defenestration in its past. 

DEFENSTRATION #1: Hussites (basically early Protestants) were unhappy with the Catholic Church and felt that there was a lot of corruption.  In an attempt to persuade the city councilmen to release Hussite prisoners, a group of Hussites marched on the square.   Unfortunately while they were marching, a stone was thrown at the head of the organizer.  In a rage the mob stormed into the castle and proceeded to toss all 13 city council members out of the window to their death on the cobblestones below.

Defenestration Window One

Window of Pain-Defenestration Window #2

DEFENESTRATION #2: Though defenestration was definitely known by the time the 1600’s rolled around, I suppose it had not been perfected.  At this time, King Ferdinand (a Catholic) was expected to inherit the throne of Bohemia.  This caused a big problem for Protestants who feared oppression.  So what should one do? Throw the big-wig Regents out the 3rd story window!  Unfortunately for those unlucky Protestants, the men landed safely on a huge pile of dung.  And because of this incident (and others as well) the 30 yrs. war began.  Who would have guessed that so much of the #1 Bohemian city’s problems all existed because of #2.  Teehee.

Anywayyyy….from Castle Town we made our way down through Lesser Town which is full of more palaces and beautiful houses of the noblemen. 

Making Our Way Into Lesser Town

The doors were absolutely stunning!

The Seat of Congress

Russ and Lauren in the Congress Gardens

Daryl Outside the Artwall Which Can Only Be Described as "Ghoulish"

After 4 great hours of walking and learning, we had to let Lucie go.  Plus, we were pretty hungry and ready to have a seat!  We ended up at one of Lucie’s recommended restaurants, “Kolkovna.” 

Kolkovna Czech Cuisine

Russ and Daryl at Kolkovna

Beer!

After a great lunch we retired to our quarters for awhile.  We had a big night ahead of us–dancing and singing at a traditional Czech Folklore Show!

“Czech” back later for the folklore show and Prague Day 3!!

The City of Defenestration–Prague!

Ahh, Prague!  A city rich in history, architecture, and…defenestration?  Allow me to elaborate with some help from dictionary.com. 

Defenestration: 

de·fen·es·tra·tion [dee-fen-uhstrey-shuh n]

–noun

the act of throwing a thing or esp. a person out of a window: the defenestration of the commissioners at Prague.

It is no coincidence that Prague appears in the example sentence.  Defenestration was developed because of Prague, where throwing people from windows became, if not common, at least associated with the city.  Let’s turn once again to our friends at dictionary.com for the origins.

1620, “the action of throwing out of a window,” from L. fenestra  “window.” A word invented for one incident: the “Defenestration of Prague,” May 21, 1618, when two Catholic deputies to the Bohemian national assembly and a secretary were tossed out the window (into a moat) of the castle of Hradshin by Protestant radicals. It marked the start of the Thirty Years War.

Now that you can understand some of the city’s gruesome past and violent reputation, let’s start from the beginning of our travels to Czech Republic’s capital city.

Russ, Daryl, and I began our 4 hr. journey to Prague on Friday.  Initially we were pretty nervous about this (almost every website we read recommended we NOT drive into Prague for security reasons), but as flights and trains were expensive, we carried on.  We stopped on the border of Czech Republic and Germany to buy a driving sticker to make us legal on the highways and to get something to eat.  It was at this time that we realized we had made one of the etiquette errors that we simply hate in tourists; we didn’t learn the language.  Any of it.  Despite the research and the research and the detailed planning of our time in the city, we failed. Typically it is polite to at least learn the words used in frequency: yes, no, thank you, etc., but not a word was on our tongues.  We swallowed our pride and embraced our Americanness.  We chowed down on cuisine that can only be described as an “on the border” mix of German and Czech.  Daryl succumbed to his Americanness even further by ordering “Chicken Fingers ala KFC.”  I embellish nothing.  This is how it appeared on the menu.

A few short hours later and we began to realize why driving in Prague was not such a good idea.  Narrow streets, cars, pedestrians, trains, trams!  The most dangerous aspect of it all was that the cars drive on top of the rails for the trams.  No problem, right?  Well, in Prague the trams have the right of way!  You must check all directions to make sure that the trams are not coming before you turn because the trams cannot swerve or stop.

Defenestration be damned!  Enter death by tramcar.  We were more than relieved to reach the hotel and leave the car parked all weekend long.  Good job driving, Russ, and thanks!

 After we settled into the hotel we decided to head out into the streets of Prague for some exploration and eventually dinner.  It’s hard to explain the feeling of walking onto the streets of Prague for the first time.  The infrastructure was breathtaking and so beautifully lit at night.  The buildings are massive and architecturally-moving.  What struck me the most was that everything fit together, a completely integrated city facade.  This is different, perhaps, because we are used to touring German cities where we inevitably hear, “This part of the city was rebuilt after heavy destruction in WWII.”  Prague, however, was left virtually untouched during WWII thanks to an Allied agreement (save for one accidental bombing).

Russ and Lauren in "New Town" Prague

A Tower of the Old Gate Guarding the City

 

Panoramic View of Old Town Square

The concierge at the hotel had pointed us to Old Town, so we spent the night exploring.  We walked through cobblestone streets of shops, gawked at the buildings, and absorbed some local culture. Eventually we decided that it was time to take in some Czech cuisine.  Russ spotted a great outdoor restaurant that sat right beside Old Town Square.  The place was cozy and so warmed by space heaters that we enjoyed are entire meal without our coats. 

Russ and Lauren with Our Czech Specialties

Daryl with Cathedral View

The restaurant was also special because it was adjacent to the famous astronomical clock, where people gathered every hour to hear the chimes, watch the characters, and listen to the trumpet cadence.  It was great getting to experience this from our gemütlich restaurant.  (Gemütlich is not easy to translate to English, but basically means a sense of comfort/coziness/and hominess that is essential in all German households).

The Astronomical Clock

The View from our Restaurant

We enjoyed our night and our seats so much that we ordered delicious desserts.  Daryl, dumplings filled with cheese; Lauren, apple streusel with cinnamon ice cream; and Russ, real hot chocolate.  Warm, satisfied, and full of questions about the city, we decided to call it a night.  The next day we would be meeting our private tour guide, Lucie, for a get-to-know-Prague rampage starting at 9 am.  We had Lucie for 4 hrs. Saturday and again on Sunday for 4 hours.  There is no better way to see the city than with someone who lives it every day! (Degrees in history/art history don’t hurt either!).

Tomorrow: Defenestration Day!  Prepare your dung heaps! (Stay tuned for an explanation). 

Thanks again to dictionary.com for the help with etymology.

defenestration. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from Dictionary.com website http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/defenestration

Welcome, Uncle Daryl!!

Last week we had a very special visitor–Uncle Daryl!!  He had been on a business trip in London and was able to get away to enjoy Switzerland and Italy, and then Germany and Czech Republic in a whirlwind.  He accomplished something like 6 countries in 5 days!!

We were so glad to have him here, to show off our little city, and then to travel to unknown territories (Prague!) with him.  On the first day we spent time touring Heidenheim, hiking the castle, and doing some shopping.  We then went to our favorite dinner spot, Stattgarten, for some Deutsch Essen. 

Daryl and Castle View in Heidenheim

In Front of Lauren's Favorite Building

Spilled My Purse, Just Like the Fountain Lady and Her Dumplings

Clearly, this latest photographic masterpiece came straight from the magical advertising mind of Daryl.  I wouldn’t embarrass myself in my own home town for just anyone!

The River Brenz--Hence the city name, Heidenheim an der Brenz

On Thursday while Russ was at work and having conquered Heidenheim in the requisite half day, Daryl and I decided to take a train to Munich.  On the way there we found a quiet compartment all to ourselves.  This enabled the learning to begin–Daryl’s acquisition of basic German.  I think it could be an excellent business prospect.  “Visiting Germany?  Need to Know the Basics?  We’ll teach you in the time it takes to get to your destination…”  Regardless, he accomplished numbers, days of the week, and even dabbled in translating an advertisement. 

Our Private Compartment--Teachers' Lounge?

Munich Rathaus (Town Hall)

Rathaus--Just Missed the Playing of the Glockenspiel

Rathaus

We only had a short time in Munich and we wanted to get out to the Palace, so we took a Hop On/Hop Off bus to see more of the city.  The Nymphenburg Palace was built in the Baroque style during the 1700’s.  It is quite expansive, elaborately decorated, and maintains a beautiful green park of almost 500 acres. 

Nymphenburg Palace

Nymphenburg Palace-Front

Inside the Palace

We enjoyed the scenery and the paintings, but without tour or audio-listening device, we turned to ourselves for a slight bit of entertainment. 

Mirror Art? One in a Series of Many. Too Many.

We enjoyed our time in Munich, but it was time to head home.  I had already skipped German class for the evening, plus we had to get home to have dinner with Russ.  Turns out we ended up eating at Roma, our favorite Italian place nearby, and were joined by TWO friendly and furry creatures.  Here they are:

Furry Friend #1

Maybe-Not-So-Furry-Friend #2

 

Stay Tuned for Prague!