Episode 366 – First Impressions of Prague

We disembarked this morning and spent the next 7 hours travelling by bus through Hungary and Slovakia to reach Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, where we’ll have just 2-1/2 days to do some exploring..

Our first impression of Prague’s spire-filled skyline, even coming in with snow and cloudy skies, was “wow”… and then we got to our hotel in an old Augustine monastery, with its own brewery, restaurant, and a gleaming modern bathroom. The front desk gave us “welcome Prosecco” while checking us in, the receptionist accompanied us to our room to get us oriented, and the young bellman effortlessly hoisted our large bag onto the ottoman at the foot of the bed. I really have to give Viking kudos for the hotels they’ve put us in on both of our extensions.

Top: the interior “rose garden”, which would be a lovely outdoor spot if it weren’t so darned cold. Bottom L to R: the arched hallways showcase the original monastery architecture; a larger interior courtyard; the decor in the “beer pub”.

A few of the decor elements. Each is interesting, and they’re widely spaced in an otherwise austere white-walled monastic setting.

I couldn’t do our room justice with piecemeal photos, so I’ll describe it in a way that will hopefully jog my memory when I look back at thos post. It is all cream tones, with Art Deco light fixtures, geometric wall mirrors and metal closet doors, a chaise longue (“chaise lounge” in North America), a washed wood dresser with pewter handles, a deep walnut brown bookcase filled with beautifully bound hardcover classic novels (some in Czech and some in English) and lovely white blown glass vases, a king sized bed with a padded and studded headboard, a leather ottoman, and interesting modern art in sepia tones. The one flash of colour in the room is a rich deep rust-tone velvet panel in each of the windows’ dark brown drapes, embroidered with a sinuous art deco style pattern of vines and stylized buds – a colour picked up in the glass cubes forming the base of the lamp on the dresser.

Plus there’s a 2 foot high stone Augustine monk in the bathroom.

Yup, all those bathroom options for just 2 people, plus fluffy robes and slippers (there’s a no-extra-charge spa downstairs with a sauna and steam room, which we likely won’t have time to use).

Our first order of business, after making late-seating dinner reservations and getting settled in, was joining Viking’s “Prague By Night” tour.

Unfortunately, Prague is not lit up as it was prior to the Soviet attack on Ukraine. The fact that electricity costs that have gone up more than 300%, combined with the reality that tourism is only about 3% of the Czech Republic’s economy, made it an easy decision to douse many of the mostly decorative lights on buildings.

Top: the National Museum. Bottom: the mesh sphere atop the Dancing House.

Canadian architect Frank Gehry is everywhere. We’ve seen his work at home as well as in Panama, New York, Los Angeles, Barcelona, and now here in Prague. His “Dancing House” immediately made me think of a beautiful 1960’s Dior dress, with its small waist and bell-shaped skirt. We should get a daylight picture of it on our panoramic tour tomorrow, but tonight we went inside to take advantage of its eighth floor open air viewing platform.

The Czechs are justifiably proud of their centuries of beer production. We visited the Strahov Monastery, the oldest Premonstratensian (aka Norbertine) monastery in Bohemia, to sample their beer and take advantage of their stunning hilltop location to capture more nighttime photos of the city.

Portions of the absolutely huge Norbertine monastery complex, much of which the 16 remaining monks rent out as commercial and entertainment space.

The city as seen from the monastery.

And then it was time for a really late dinner at our hotel’s restaurant.

Top left: under those crisp shards of beet (no idea how they did that) was a mousse of beet nestling poached oysters, resting on a bed of tiny caviar pearls. Ted said it would have been wasted on him, but I was thrilled by the taste and texture. Top right: Ted’s smoked venison tartare which came with crisp house-made lavash. Bottom left: Ted’s duck. Bottom right: my venison.

Tomorrow we have an early half-day tour of the city, mostly on foot. We’re hoping the predicted snow doesn’t arrive and instead we have a cool crisp SUNNY day conducive to taking lots of photos.

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