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True confessions of a girl who writes dirty books--and loves it!

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Prague Blog (Part I)

Prague is beautiful, in a tired way. Something about how old the buildings are makes them even more impressive--there's definitely nothing plastic or Disney about the Old Prague Castle, or St. Vitus Cathedral. The medieval is squashed in with the baroque, and more recently, the vestiges of communism. The Czech Republic is essentially a post-Communist Kleptocracy (in the words of someone far funnier than me), and it was in Prague that I really had my first conversation with someone who grew up under communism. Her name was Pavla, and she was a tour guide we hired to take us out to Terezin, which will be the subject of its own, probably fairly depressing blog, so more on her later.

The weather was gorgeous, if slightly rainy, but even rain couldn't keep the hoards of German tourists in check. They were EVERYwhere, in enormous gaggles--the Charles Bridge was at a virtual standstill every time we walked down to it, except for once. That particular morning we got up early, and there was a cold misting rain in the air. The city wasn't quite awake yet, and none of the buskers or craftspeople were out on the bridge with their tables. It was just us, and the bridge, and the river. I touched the five-pointed brass cross embedded in the stone wall, to ensure my return to Prague. And I found my favorite statue, situated just beyond the edge of the bridge, so that you have to look over the wall to see him. Roland, the warrior, holding his magic sword, all shiny and gold, with a crouching wolf at his feet. The sword itself, the original, is said to be embedded in the stonework of the bridge, awaiting the city's most dire need. Hmmm...I wonder how I could possibly use that in a book?

Czech food is denigrated in guidebooks as being heavy and bland, but I didn't find that to be universally the case. Obviously, some dishes were better than others, and I think I had a pretty good idea of what I like to begin with. I'm not a dumpling person, for instance. Spaetzle either. Ew. But I do like roast duck, and sauerkraut, and potato pancakes. And I absolutely adore Czech hot chocolate. Everywhere we went, it was phenomenal. Like drinking melted brownie batter, all thick and rich and very dark. And as if that weren't enough, it was often served with whipped cream, and I'm not talking here about anything that got squirted out of a can. Other than that, we had apple strudel and honey cake (a sort of layered cake with honey, cream, and walnuts--some of my favorite things) at Cafe Carolina, which is in the house Jan Neruda lived in. Neruda is a Czech writer, who is, unfairly perhaps, probably most famous for inspiring the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to take his name. The best Czech meal we had was sort of nouveau Czech (if that makes any sense) at the restaurant halfway up Petrin hill, the tallest hill in Prague (so tall and steep that there's a funicular to get up it!), so there's a fantastic view. We walked everywhere, until we figured out the tram system, and then we took that.

Ok, that's enough for now. I think this will have to be continued tomorrow...

11 Comments:

At 7:04 PM, Blogger Ellen said...

Great pictures!

I love the iron work on the cathedral (or was that the castle?).

Roland -- as in "Song of" and Charlemagne fame?

I actually think I would enjoy the food -- and all of it. Thanks for letting me see some of Prague. :)

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Lillian Feisty said...

Mmm. Melted brownie batter.

I loved looking at those pictures! Keep 'em coming!

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger Louisa Edwards said...

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At 10:07 AM, Blogger Louisa Edwards said...

Ellen - all that fancy scrollwork is actually stone, and you guessed correctly: it's the cathedral. The statue is actually of Bruncvik, translated by my guidebook as 'Roland', and looking back through my notes, I see that it's actually a lion crouching at his feet, not a wolf. I choose to believe that he's the Roland who fought with Charlemagne and died defending his faith at the Battle of Ronceveaux. Makes a better story that way...

Lillian - I wish I could accurately convey the divine deliciousness of that hot chocolate. I make it a point to try the hot chocolate wherever I go, and this Czech stuff kicks cocoa ass.

 
At 2:17 AM, Blogger MarlyMathews said...

Wow...you took some beautiful pictures, Louisa. It looks as if there is a magic timelessness to Prague. I loved the picture of the brass cross! Just makes you tingle looking at it.

Thanks!

~Marly

 
At 4:39 AM, Blogger Mel Francis said...

fantastic pictures! what a beautiful place.

and that chocolate? mmmmmmmm

I can't imagine how overwhelming it would feel being in a place with so much history. Humbling.

 
At 1:11 AM, Blogger MariaGeraci said...

Wonderful pictures and stories, Louisa. Keep em coming!

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Debra Parmley said...

Mmm, I'd forgotten about the chocolate.

Definately on the top ten lists of must do things in Prague.

 
At 8:47 PM, Blogger Maureen McGowan said...

I love Prague. I'm so jealous.

 
At 5:43 AM, Blogger Chuck said...

When I visited Prague I didn't quite know what to expect. I had assumed to see a lot of faceless concrete buildings, and time worn faces on the local population. That couldn't have been farther from the truth. Prague is at a crossroads between old and new, constraint and freedom. It has an incredible history of conquest, peace, and domination. The Czech Republic has seen many changes in the last few decades and it is nice to see that Prague hasn't lost any of its charm. This was my first trip to this capital city.
We booked a room in one of the Prague hotels right in the center of the Old Town - wanting to be close to everything. I was able to see really interesting architecture, listen to very talented musicians and see works of art in many different forms. If you haven't been to Prague yet it should be on your list for places to visit in Europe.

 
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