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And It's Off to Prague

overcast 65 °F

And we were off to Prague, a 2-1/2 hour drive.

We could not drive our car into Czech, something about a problem with the insurance. We planned to ride the train but at the last minute Dieter got the days off and we rode with him.

We checked into our hotel, the same one we’d stayed at 2 years ago; they let us check in an hour early. This time we stayed in the main hotel, last time we were in rooms off to the side.

We had arranged to meet Dieter and Inge at the Café Slavia, a place across the street from the National Theater. We walked across the square stopping for some Czech style ham (ham heated on huge spits) and a potato dumpling salad. The salad was more dumpling than potato.

We had a little time to kill so we had to cross the Charles Bridge, just because… At the café we found Dieter and Inge, quenched our thirst with wine and beer then started walking. Guys went to a model shop while Inge and I strolled arm in arm thru the old city. Very European I must say.

We found some chocolates at a little shop I remembered from other trips, then sat down in an outdoor restaurant at the square. We were enjoying our cappuccinos when the guys walked up.

Off to dinner back at the Café Slavia then a night walk across the bridge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bridge
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Posted by Miss Chris 01:33 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged food prague walking travel charles_bridge Comments (0)

Hotel Adventures

Hotels we stayed in

IMG_4861.jpgAs I promised some time ago, I wanted to write about the hotels in Europe, at least the ones we stayed at. I have referred to each of the hotels in various blogs but will write some additional details now

When we first planned this trip I wanted to stay in hotels within walking distance to the middle of the towns. I didn’t want to take trolleys or buses every time we wanted to go to the squares and we didn’t want to spend much over $100/night.

I picked up a travel book with hotel recommendations and a good map with the recommendations located on the map. Then I got on hotels.com and trip advisor, reviewing the ratings for each hotel along with the location.

Our 1st hotel was in Munich which I booked at the last minute and got the last room available. This hotel, “Kings First Class” appeared to be within walking distance to the square but on the map looked a little distance away. As it turned out, the hotel is about 2 blocks away from the train station and maybe a 10 minute walk from the old city square. The hotel is in an area filled with adult shops but is very safe, we never felt threatened at all. Beware that there is no breakfast included when you book on Hotels.com but a Coffee Fellows is just 2 blocks away and they have all sorts of food items plus great coffee drinks and internet.

Next we were in Salzburg where we had quite the experience at the Amadeus Hotel. This hotel is in the new city, just a few minutes’ walk to Mozart’s residence, the Mirabell Gardens and the foot bridge to the old city. The front of the hotel faces a pedestrian only street and the rear faces the cemetery with the grave of Constance Mozart and Leopold Mozart immediately in view from the rear facing rooms. There are 2 balconies in the rear with chairs and tables.

If you stay at the Amadeus Hotel beware that there is no one at the desk after 6pm. This is normally not a problem but if you check in after 6 they leave the key card in an envelope on a little table in a small lobby between the entrance door and a sliding door which needs a key card to open after hours.

Our key card was apparently lost or taken before we arrived; our arrival was late due to train problems. We arrived at 11pm and when we found no one there and the main lobby doors locked. We were able to slip into the main lobby when another guest opened the door to enter.

In the entry we called on the call box and reached a male who said that he would be right over. After waiting for about 45 minutes I called again and he said he was on his way. After another 30 minutes Dale called and the male said it would be a few minutes so Dale asked what a few minutes meant to which he replied that he would be at the hotel in 5 minutes. In the meantime I’d called Hotels.com but after 10 minutes on the phone got disconnected. We were about to start screaming!

Finally a security guard came to help us and after numerous phone calls found our room number and got us settled in. It was 1a.m. Needless to say the front desk heard about our ordeal in the morning and they gave us two dinners at their sister restaurant in the old city. My advice is to check in before 6pm just to make sure you get your room key.

The Amadeus is a small hotel but there is an excellent buffet breakfast included in the price and an afternoon coffee if you are around. Great little pubs with outdoor seating are all around and the street is vibrant both day and night. We will definitely stay there again but just arrive earlier in the day.

In Vienna we stayed at the Hotel zur Wiener Staatsoper. This hotel is a little larger than the Amadeus, also very old and located very centrally, only ½ blocks from the main street. Restaurants with outdoor seating are next door. We walked to the St. Charles Church, the Concert Hall, St. Stephens and the tube is only a couple of blocks away.

The room keys are very large so they encourage you to leave it with the desk when you are out which means that you must leave the keys off then pick them up on your return. The door is locked at night but there is a bell and the night watchman will let you in. The staff will encourage you to take various tours but will also be helpful if you want to travel on your own. Breakfast is also excellent and included with the room.

Our last hotel was in Prague, in the Stare Masto, the old town square, the Hotel U Tri Bubnu. This hotel is a little difficult to find as it is tucked into buildings just on the other side of the square. The hotel has 2 areas, one above the check-in counter and the other around the corner separated by a restaurant. Our section of the hotel appears to have a room per floor but we were not sure. Our room was quite large with old fashion double windows on 2 sides. The building is hundreds of years old and the story is that an executioner lived in the building frequenting the tavern located there. You enter this hotel thru an old wood arched door then walk up a narrow spiral staircase to the rooms.

If you are arriving by train it is an easy walk from the station but when you arrive in the square it will be on the street ahead and to a slight left. You will take the pedestrian street that goes by the St. Nicholas Church to the Kafky Square. The hotel will be to your left just past the ticket agent shop.

We will stay at all of these hotels again if we are in the areas and highly recommend them.

Posted by Miss Chris 07:33 Archived in Austria Tagged prague salzburg vienna hotel austria germany europe munich old_town_square Comments (0)

Last Concerts in Prague

Our last concerts for this trip

IMG_5218.jpgDieter had to return to work after leaving Salzburg until noon today and then he and Inge were going to head our way so we anticipated an early evening rendezvous somewhere near the Charles Bridge around 6pm

Just in front of our hotel is a square named Kafka after Franz Kafka, an influential writer from the early 1900’s. This square is very small but nevertheless it is a square, maybe the size of the lot of our home. Next to the square is the St. Nicholas Church built in 1735 and it is one corner of the Old Town Square.

We decided several things yesterday: 1. We’d take Dieter & Inge to a concert tonight 2. We’d introduce Dieter and Inge to champagne and chocolates on the Charles Bridge and 3. We’d visit the Lobkowicz Palace nIMG_5024.jpgext to the castle area and attend the 1pm concert in one of the palace rooms.

Yesterday we saw a poster at the St. Nicholas Church for a concert tonight at 8 so we thought that it would be a good on to attend with Dieter and Inge.

We headed over the bridge and walked up the narrow walk up to the Palace. We got there a little early so decided to have a cappuccino in the courtyard while waiting for the line to start.

The palace was built early in the 16th century and inherited soon after by the Lobkowicz family. The family holdings consist of about 4 castles but at one time were about 10. Great-Grandpa Lobkowicz was married to a British woman so when the Nazi’s came she was already in the U.K. with the kids. She wrote a letter saying that she was dying and Grandpa got out with the clothes on his back. After the Nazi’s were gone the family returned and got everything back. Then the communists came and took everything again. This time the family came to the U.S.

The current Lobkowicz grew up hearing about castles and carriages. He came to Prague to study when the Velvet Revolution took place and he was able to recover nearly all of the lost property. He and his family care for everything today.

The concert lasted 1 hour and consisted of 3 musicians; violin, flute and piano, playing various popular pieces. Some of the pieces really worked for the 3 of them while some were not so great. Nevertheless we enjoyed being in an interesting Palace for some music.

After the concert we first ate some lunch on the balcony overlooking the old city then took the audio tour which turned out much more fascinating than we had imagined. We were primarily interested in the collection of music from Beethoven and instruments but ended up looking at all of the portraits, dishes, and other collections.

We’d finally finished with the castle when Dieter sent a text; they were getting on the trolley so we got down the hill arriving about the same time Dieter and Inge got off the trolley.
Inge and Dieter were dressed for the concert so we all walked back to our hotel, buying champagne and chocolates for later, although they did not understand what we planned to do. A little street food to hold us over in the square then into the concert.

There was a large group already gathered so we got into the pack for seats. No one was sitting on the seats placed in the center so we went to get those when I saw that the folding chairs in the very front row were not taken. I quickly went to the front and signaled the rest to follow so we ended up with the best seats in the house.

The concert was a string orchestra playing various pieces including Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”. Now when we entered the sky was cloudy but that was it. During the Mozart we saw thru the stained glass windows behind the orchestra, a bright light flash then the thunder hit. The orchestra was thrown off briefly; it was funny to watch the reaction as we could see each lightening flash and knew that the thunder would sound.

What an ending to our trip.

Posted by Miss Chris 22:48 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague travel music tourist czech concerts Comments (0)

One Last Day in Prague

Goodbye from Prague, I'm wishing for good luck to come back.

Oh, our last day in Prague and really Europe, as tomorrow we will be riding the trains all day to Brussels.

I wanted to shoot a couple of photos of the Estates Theater and just look at it again. We’d arranged to meet Dieter and Inge at the base of the bridge so we left a little early to see the Estates on our way across the bridge.

We met up with Dieter and Inge and none of us really had an agenda for the day. We were walking along the river, something we hadn’t done before, looking for coffee when we got close to the train up the Petrin Hill. Since we’d never been on this hill before it seemed like a good idea. At the top of the hill is an observation tower, a small version of the Eiffel Tower that is visible in the old city of Prague. We went to get on the train but the line was really long so we decided to walk. The walk wasn’t really difficult and we got up much more quickly than we would have by train. Once at the top we had our coffee and looked out over the city.

We didn’t want to go up into the tower as again the lines were long; I’d wanted to cross over from the tower to the castle so we took the trails across the hills, crossing the old apple orchards and forests to the castle.

Once at the castle we wanted to show Dieter and Inge one more thing, a natural sound chamber discovered many years after the castle was built. Someone, when building the castle, built a small amphitheater, about 15’ across with stairs on the back half and a small pedestal in the center. The front looks to a small plaza. If you stand on the small pedestal and look to the back there are several rows of trees running from the amphitheater to the back of the area. Standing on the very center of the pedestal, if you speak the sound will come back but only to the speaker. Anyone around the speaker cannot hear the echo. The echo actually hurts some people’s ears while others are not bothered at all. The sensation is very strange.

From the castle we walked down to a park, where we parted ways for a few minutes, we’d meet again at a restaurant at the bottom of the bridge for dinner.

I shot some photos then went to find our 1st or 2nd choice meeting place for dinner when I heard a commotion. I ran following people who started running and ran to the stairs at the south of the bridge. There were hundreds of people dressed as zombies, moaning and groaning, yelling and screaming, walking up to and onto the bridge. I’d already read on Facebook that it was predicted that zombies were going to take over the world, so here it was happening in Prague, of all places!

Things settled down and we all met for dinner, at least our world didn’t come to an end. After dinner Dieter and Inge decided to return to their place so we parted ways on the center of the Charles Bridge, touching the statue for the luck that we will meet again.

Dale and I started back to our side when the sun, that was getting low in the sky, broke out turning the buildings golden. We just enjoyed our last moments on the bridge then bought some last chocolates and sat in the darkened square eating our chocolates and drinking some Czech red wine.

Until next time, Goodbye from Prague.
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Posted by Miss Chris 21:50 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises prague travel czech old_town_square Comments (0)

An Opera at the Estates Theater

Attending a Mozart opera at the Estates Theater

When I first visited Prague, maybe 8 or 9 years ago, I was with my friends Dieter and Inge. We did a walking tour of the old town, Stare Mesto. This area was originally laid out in about 800a.d. and some structures are still used which were built in the 13th and 14th centuries. Now I’ve been to the Middle East and our own Mesa Verde so ancient is something I’ve experienced before but I’ll never forget the 1st time I saw the Estates Theater just a short walk from the square.

The Estates Theater was built in 1783 and is nearly all preserved in its original state, except for the wiring for electric lights and plumbing for modern flush toilets. This is the theater where Mozart opened Don Giovanni, conducting the opera himself and Paganini, Clara Schumann and Wagner performed here. The interior is mostly blue velvet with gold trim. The ceiling is very simple with a huge chandelier.

So the 1st and 2nd time I saw the Estates we could not go in as there are no tours. I determined that I did would return to Prague to see a performance in the Estates. I really wanted to see Don Giovanni but alas that was not to be as May was one of the only months in which it was not playing. We did find tickets to see the Barber of Seville and since that was a Mozart production it was going to be good enough.

Our box seat was about 3 boxes away from the stage and the 1st row up with 2 chairs and 1 high chair. We looked down to the poor saps below and looked up to the nose bleed section where some people had to stand up and we were feeling very smug indeed!

The stage is different than the one at the opera house in that stage is completely separated by the orchestra pit. This production was also different in that the costumes were period. But what a wonderful production the singing was so great and we were just above the orchestra so that we could watch the conductor closely as well as the various individuals. I went back in time and imagined Mozart conducting. We did learn some very fun sayings like: “my face lies but I do not”.

After the performance was over we took our time leaving our box, looking lovingly around. Then as we slowly walked out we stood for a very long time just admiring the theater and reflecting on what we had just experienced. It appeared that most everyone did the same.

We walked back to the square, probably like most did in the 1700’s, found a little outdoor café and had some good Czech food.

A guide book had suggested that a very romantic thing to do at night is to take a bottle of Czech bubbly out to the middle of the Charles Bridge and have a drink. We did just that along with some cream truffles. What an end to a most amazing night, standing on the Bridge in the moonlight looking that the reflections of the castle in the water.

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Posted by Miss Chris 00:21 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged bridges prague travel opera europe estates_theater Comments (0)

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