Praha and Kutna Hora

Time for another short break. Over the weekend, we were in Prague for 3 days.

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Prague Castle
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Prague Castle (image swiped from http://www.ichotelsgroup.com)

The hotel. Stayed in the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Prague Castle. Lovely hotel. A walk away from the grounds of Prague castle and within the Monastery grounds. Room was a good size, though our room was at the top, with a small window looking out into the courtyard. On short breaks, we usually put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door all the time. Just because we don’t like people going through our things and at the same time, trying to be a bit greener as the sheets and towels will not need changing. When we went back in the evening, we found our room cleaned – at least the towels were not changed (they do have a policy for this – put them on the floor if you want them changed), took away the used soap near the bathroom sink (and did not replace them). Breakfast was unimaginative and not much choices (scrambled or boiled eggs, bread, sausages, bacon, choices of cereals, coffee from a vending machine, fruits, salads, cheese, cold meat). No wonder, people don’t recommend it. If you stay for more than 2 days, better to start looking at having breakfast elsewhere. Other than these, it was a very comfortable stay. Staff were pleasant (if a bit weary looking). The bed – i wanted to but forgot to look at the brand of the mattress – was really comfortable.

First day. This is one of those cities where everything feels differerent. We took our time at the airport trying to get information. This is not an english speaking country, but there are a lot of people who speak even a little English. Maps were a bit expensive at more than Kc70 from the information counter. We got the 3-day pass valid on all trams, buses, metro around prague. I still think it would be cheaper to get single tickets, though I couldn’t be bothered finding change and ticket machines each time we need to commute. The 3-day pass was worth Kc330. Took the 119 bus to Dejvicka (make sure to validate the ticket as soon as you board), the green line metro to Malostranska, then tram 22 to get to the other side of the river in the centre (you cannot get a tram map listing all the stops, you had to keep guessing where you are, or if you’re going in the right direction).

We saw people rowing in the river and decided to give that a try – with Al rowing, and me admiring the view 🙂 We spent a little over half an hour on the river. There are points you need to go back as there are dams and ferries ply the other side – you have to turn back way before you reach the Karluv Most. Best to do this in the mornings as there are more people later in the day. Found lunch in an Italian restaurant near the old town (expensive, ok food, good wine, 10% tip was already calculated for you and you have to pay the tips in cash). we actually ventured first into a restaurant frequented by locals a little off the centre. realised, you have to find your own seat first. waiters ignore you if you stand by the door waiting to be shown in. i actually said hi, and was ignored! anyway, there were no free seats.

Headed for the old town to have a look at the astronomical clock. There is a ‘performance’ when the clock strikes on the hour. The little windows at the top of the clock opens and the 12 apostles makes an appearance. I was expecting something a more extravagant display though (way better pa ang COD or Ever Gotesco).

Astronomical Clock

We crossed the famous Karluv Most (Charles Bridge). Filled with merchants selling quite unique crafts. It is flanked with statues of saints. We then headed up to our hotel. And got a bit lost on the way. Stopped and asked the police on the road who were able to understand a bit of english.

View from the Charles Bridge
View from the Charles Bridge

Dinner was at the Klasterni Pivovar (St. Norbert’s Brewery) just around the corner from the hotel. It is said to be popular with the locals and they brew their own beer. Of course, with me leading, we got lost again. Anyway, it made for some good walking up the hill into the monastery grounds. Kung di lang kami gutom. We had these Czech specialties (we took the photos midway through eating):

Pork with potato dumplings
Pork with potato dumplings
Goulash with onion and Czech dumplings
Goulash with onion and Czech dumplings

We’re not beer drinkers, but I knew we had to try the beer here. And I finally knew what real fresh beer tastes like. I had to say, they were really good. Slightly sweet and really fresh. There was a party going on in the cellars. Lots of local music and traditional dancing. We just can’t see most of it. We walked around the monastery grounds after dinner. Seen a sky lantern sent off. And the amazing view of Prague from this hill (our camera takes really bad pictures at night). Listened a bit to the trumpet player playing at another restaurant. wished i could listen a bit more. but already had too much to eat.

Second day. After breakfast from the hotel, we set off for the Hlavni Nadrazi (main railway station). I was watching this guy at the tram stop – he had his arms outstretched. When the tram was coming, he started shouting. I had no clue what he was saying. But everybody was ignoring him.

We were trying to catch the 9:56 train out to Kolin. But had no idea how to get the train tickets. None of the information booths were open (either it was still early or because it was a Sunday). There were ticket machines around but had no idea how to purchase as you had to know how long you’ll be travelling. After some time, we realised there was a big ticket office in the mezzanine. Blame it on tourist-unfriendly information labels. Couldn’t get much information from the staff as they don’t speak English.

Train arrives on the platform and we were half-running to the door (train got in early). I saw a puddle of water and made a side step to avoid it. Bad move, I slipped and fell. The husband came to the rescue and I knocked his sunglasses off and saw it falling onto to the railtracks. There were no staff in sight. And we had to resign to the fact that it was lost forever. We’re not risking our limbs to get it. And we got on the train minus Al’s sunglasses. hu hu.

The train stops at some other Praha stations. The ticker on the platform will not exactly tell you all the stops. So we took instructions from an english-speaking lady sitting with us in the same car.

Kutna Hora is a little over an hour away from Prague. A medieval town which grew rich from the huge deposits of silver found here during the 13th century. What attracted me to this town was the Sedlec Ossuary (kostnice). This ossuary is estimated to have the remains of around 40,000-70,000 people. In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the heaps of human bones into order. And the product was this macabre spectacle – the decor in this ossuary was made up of human bones – disinfected and whitewashed

Huge chandelier made of human bones
Huge chandelier made of human bones
The carpenters name spelled in human bones
The carpenter's name spelled in human bones
more human remains
more human remains

Kutna Hora was a sleepy town on a Sunday. Only a few shops were open. We walked from the main station to the Sedlec Ossuary (not very far and well signed). But had to walk into the town centre for more than 30 mins. There are buses plying the Masarykova street, but they were few in between and we couldn’t find the bus stop.

St. Barbaras Cathedral
St. Barbara's Cathedral

Also spent some time as medieval silver miners in the Hradek museum. They make you don white robes and hard hats and huge flashlights to go through the towns and the tunnels underneath. It’s claustrophobic and it’s wet. But it is an experience. Wear long-sleeved shirts (i had to question the hygiene of donning those robes, they’re worn by many people throughout the day), water-proof shoes, and fold your trousers. Had a hard time understanding the guide with all the Czech accent. Some in the group were huffing and puffing midway through the tunnels. I silently wondered if they allow fat people in this tour. Seriously, they would get stuck in some really narrow passageways in the tunnels. The magnificent Bohemian Gothic St. Barbara’s Cathedral is a short walk away from the museum.

Dinner was back in Prague – Klub Arkitektu near the Bethlehem Temple. Food was great. You might have to share tables though. No pictures this time as we were sharing tables with a British couple, also out on their holidays. Told us they spent a whole day in Prague castle (right beside our hotel, but we haven’t been yet). Nightcap was another round of delicious beer at the St. Norbert’s Brewery (they close at 10, ang aga ha).

Sometimes I wish I don’t have to sleep in places like these. If only I wasn’t tired, I would have sat on top of this hill and just gaze into the town below.

Third day. Really, 3 days in Prague is not enough. We were a stone’s throw away from the Prague castle and we had to leave going there till the last day. There were only a few places here I wanted to see and I wasn’t interested in paying the Kc350 entrance fee to get everywhere when we only have a few hours (allot a whole day to see everything in the castle grounds). Unfortunately, the Golden lane, a medieval street, was gated off – you need a ticket. Here’s a few pictures around the castle grounds

View from Prague castle grounds.
View from Prague castle grounds.
You had to see the detail to believe it. The designs are carved into the stone.
You had to see the detail to believe it. The designs are carved into the stone.
I want doors like this!
I want doors like this!
St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral

Took the tram 22 all the way to the other end. Not really something you’d want to do whn you have no time as the trams are slow and there are hundreds of stops. But I wanted to see what’s it’s like beyond the touristy areas. See the locals out and about. Took the tram 22 back to the old town and had a last lunch at a pub by the river near the Karluv Most. walked back to the old town to catch the metro and then bus to the airport.

I had today off to go to the dental hospital to take a wisdom tooth out that’s been troubling me for years now. I thought I had been quite brave, not getting nervous before the operation. I was afraid of the anesthesia injections the most. That didn’t hurt too much even though I felt like a pin cushion. I ate before the numbness wore off (in spite of being told not to). But good thing I did. I was crying in pain when the anesthesia wore off. So I think I will be high on painkillers this week. Hope that would be enough to numb the pains of going back to work as well.

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