Prague & Kraków Adventure – August 2016

Summer holidays were upon us! We decided to travel this time to Prague and Kraków. On our walk from the metro station in Prague to our flat we saw the babies on the city’s television tower. Okay?

That night we had dinner at a restaurant not far from the apartment recommended by our host. The food was simple, but decent.

After dinner, we decided to walk around town for a bit. Our flat was a good 30-40 minute walk from the city center. I always enjoy seeing cities at night. We need to remember to walk around Paris more when it’s dark (which will be easy soon enough since the days are getting shorter). We saw the Powder Tower, the Old Town Square, and the Astronomical Clock (you see Death holding its hourglass reminding everyone that our time is limited).

We both have a major sweet tooth, so we also stopped into Créme de la Créme for some gelato.

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Eventually we made it down to the river Danube. The castle looked beautiful up on the hill reflecting into the water.

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We noticed a Pokémon sign on our walk…even Prague cannot escape the craze! I also love the road signs in other countries. This one we spotted was so cute with a hat and bow!

The next morning, we got up before the crack of dawn and walked down to Charles Bridge to watch the sunrise (passed through the main square on the way). There were more people up for the 5:36 am call than I thought there would be (plus we were there by 5:00 am), but this was the least crowded we would see this bridge! It was beautiful and peaceful to watch the sun come up. I’m really glad that we made the effort. There was also a couple taking wedding pictures on the other side of the river. A group of kids asked if they could get their picture taken with her!

Our next destination was the Lennon Wall (although Lennon never actually visited here) which has been around since the 1980s. This wall is filled with John Lennon inspired graffiti and is a place for anyone to write/create. It is serves as an outlet/monument for free speech and peace. It was a way for people to rebel against communism.

Doors are still my thing…loved this handle too!

I’m a dork…

Peeking into the garden area of the castle, we didn’t have time to visit it this trip.

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We had some time before breakfast, so we walked up to Letná Park. There were some great views of the city.

Breakfast time was getting closer so we started to make our way towards Café Savoy. We spotted an old and newer high water mark. The lower one set in 1890 was beat in 2002! There were also giant babies…maybe if I rub its bottom it will give me good fortune?

We arrived at Café Savoy for our breakfast reservation and started with dessert (a vetrnik pastry). The rest of the food was nice and the restaurant was classy (it has a Neo-Renaissance ceiling dating back to 1893 which was boarded up after changing owners during WW1 and remained hidden throughout the Communist era), but it was a little expensive for what we got in my opinion. I would go back though.

Andrew saw Jesus on this tree…do you?

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We made it to the Old Town Square in time for our free walking tour with Sandemans. The square is beautiful in the daytime too. The statue in the first picture is the Jan Hus Memorial. He was a symbol of strength against oppressive regimes and of rebellion. He was burnt as a heretic for his reformist ideas.

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This is the Astronomical Clock in the daytime. A couple days later, we see the Astronomical Clock strike on the hour and I’m sorry to say that it was really underwhelming! See for yourself here. It is impressive that the clock is over 600 years old and is still functioning! It is the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working! People say that if the clock is neglected that the city will suffer…

The “Il Commendatore” statue or “Cloak of Conscience” by Anna Chromy sits outside the Estates Theater, where Mozart first performed Don Giovanni. I liked this piece of art. On Wikipedia it says that Chromy quoted Albert Einstein as part of her inspiration for this piece:  “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science…”

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Universitas Carolina, or Charles University, is the oldest and largest university in Prague. It was modeled after the University of Paris.

This is a cover for the gas line in Prague. It depicts the symbol of the city.

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Cubist style is a big thing in Prague. The first photo is of the House of the Black Madonna in Old Town. Inside it houses the Museum of Cubism where you can see cubist furniture among other cubist creations (I wish we had had time to go inside). The second photo is another example of cubist style in Prague.

More photos from our walking tour. Click on or hover over each picture for a brief description.

Like in many cities affected by the Holocaust, you can find little reminders of what occurred. These gold plaques tell passersby about the Jews that used to live in this building and when they were born, deported, and murdered 😦

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The Metronome took the former spot of the enormous Stalin Monument which was blown up in 1962. Installed in 1991 after the fall of communism, the metronome symbolizes a change in time for the Czech people.

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This is the Jewish Town Hall in the Jewish Ghetto. The clocks on the tower are like the ordinary clocks we know, but the clock below is with Hebrew letters and the clock’s hands move counterclockwise instead of clockwise because Hebrew is written from right to left.

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This is the Old New Synagogue of Prague. Legend says that the body of Golem created by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel lies in the attic. A golem is a being magically created entirely from clay or mud and is controlled by the creator to protect someone/something or a community. This particular Golem stood on the Jews side during difficult times, but later grew violent and had to be destroyed. The attic is not open to the public and the lower stairs on the outside of the building leading to the attic have been removed. It would be neat to see inside that attic! I am really interested in the Golem folklore.

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Here is the Old Jewish cemetery across from the Old New Synagogue. If I remember correctly, there was limited space in the cemetery, so they ended up building upwards instead of out. That’s why the cemetery is so tall.

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Prague really is one of the most beautiful cities that we have visited so far. I love the architecture! We even found time to walk by the “Dancing House” along the river.

Nice bench!

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Here I am striking a pose at the Old Town Bridge Tower.

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People actually pay to be in one of these plastic bubbles on the river! The pods are attached to a central point so that you don’t float completely away. If we had had more time we might have tried it haha.

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We stopped into a restaurant to try the original “Budweiser” Budvar. We liked this better than the American brand. The two companies are constantly in a trademark dispute. You can read more about it here. There was also an interesting sign for sausages in the restaurant.

Another cute street sign!

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We had some time before our food tour and were a bit hungry, so we stopped at this café for a smoothie and carrot cake. There was a little friend on the chair next to our table!

Our food tour took us back to Café Savoy for the first stop. We had pastries to start – a vanilkový věneček (choux pastry with custard filling) and laskonka (coconut meringue with chocolate and coffee filling). Then we tried two open-faced sandwiches. On the left we have egg with potato salad and on the right we have goat cheese and grape salad. These were all fairly good, but the guy with us from New Zealand complained in a half joking way about the size of the sandwiches…I think it made our guide a little uncomfortable.

The next stop was at Bonvivant’s Bar. This was Andrew’s favorite spot! The bartender was extremely professional and knowledgeable and was even better after he loosened up a bit. He did take it a bit too seriously at times. We tried an absinthe cocktail, a creamy cocktail (this included apricot schnapps, lemon juice, sugar, egg whites, and a chocolate bitter on top), and a Becherovka Old Fashioned. This was a neat experience.

We spotted “The Hanging Man” while walking with our group. This sculpture depicts Sigmund Freud hanging by a hand and pondering whether to hold on or let go. This sculpture was exhibited in other cities and I guess that some people mistook it for a suicide attempt.

Lokál was the next stop on our food quest. Here we tried many things! Steak tartare (Andrew loved this and still talks about it), ham with whipped horseradish, fried cheese with homemade tartare sauce, marinated cheese (my favorite), beer, and a traditional Czech dessert (rakvička se šlehačkoi) which is a hollow biscuit with whipped cream. One of the guys with us had a birthday that day and they surprised him with this spectacle! Lokál was a great place and we can recommend it! We know we will return when we go back.

Our last stop was at Café Imperial. This was one of the fancier places we ate at in Prague. We enjoyed a dill soup with poached egg and mushrooms and for my main I had the svíčková (braised beef with creamy sauce, bread dumplings, and cranberries) and Andrew tried the kachna se zelím (duck with cabbage and potato dumplings). All was delicious! Overall it was a great evening!

The next day was a bit cold and rainy so we decided to go to the Communist Museum. I didn’t take many pictures inside, but it was interesting to go through it and very crowded especially due to the weather.

For lunch we went to a more budget friendly eating establishment called Repre (styled from the 1950s/60s). I apologize for the blurry photos. The quality of the food was not as good as what we had had, but it was okay and proves that you can get really cheap food here. Not that the places we had eaten previously were all that expensive.

More interesting statues! First we have the Wenceslas Monument and the second are people dangling from umbrellas, an installation titled Slight Uncertainty by Czech artist Michal Trpák. There is always something interesting to see around Prague!

We tried some medovnik cake before we headed to the spa. It was good, but I think it would have been better with some tea, coffee, or a glass of milk.

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The beer spa was a pretty cool experience! Very relaxing and all the beer you can drink! Oh, and the cold water from those buckets is freezing!

After we were fully relaxed, we made our way back to Letná Park. We played around in the park and enjoyed the amazing views!

I thought that Čechův most was one of the coolest bridges in Prague!

The Old New Synagogue that housed the Golem at night.

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We stopped to pick up dinner at Naše Maso (the butcher shop restaurant). Andrew got some steak tartare (although according to him, it didn’t compare to the one at Lokál). We also got the chai cake at MyRaw Café. We ended up eating the cake before we got home.

On Saturday morning, we went down to the river for the Náplavka Farmers Market. We tried mini kolač, a strudel with red cabbage, coffee (of course), rafaelo (a ball with coconut, agave, and vanilla), deer and wild boar sausage (we bought some of the lavender wild boar sausage to eat later), delicious fried potatoes dumplings with various toppings, and cider (regular and one with cannabis). There was also a floating flea market.

The Mystery Machine!

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Mailing Miss Eloise a postcard!

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On our walk to the day tour bus, I snapped this nice shot of my favorite bridge (so far) in Prague with the metronome in the background.

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We took the bus to the Sedlec Ossuary which is a suburb of Kutná Hora. This place is otherwise known as the bone chapel. Apparently an abbot came back from the Holy Land with a small amount of earth from Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) and spread it around the cemetery, making it a much desired spot for people to be buried. During our visit, there was an ongoing excavation outside the chapel.

Our next stop on the tour was St. Barbara’s Church. There were the typical gargoyles and grotesques (those without a water spout) on the outside. The inside contained interesting paintings and other artwork that may not be as typical for a church. The carvings on the pews were especially interesting.

We had a great lunch at Restaurace Dačický. I loved the artwork around the restaurant!

This is the Stone Fountain in  Kutná Hora.

Walking around Kutná Hora…

St. Barbara’s Church looked beautiful from here.

Back in Prague, I noticed that this statue of Moses had an especially long middle finger.

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We sent Karen a photo that this was where we were staying in Prague. We were kidding, but this place was just two doors down from our actual apartment. The neighborhood we were in was just fine! For dessert that night, Andrew picked up more cake from MyRaw Café! Yummy!

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On Sunday morning we took the train and then a bus to Kraków. They gave us free soda on the train and free water on the bus! We used FlixBus to make this booking, but LEO Express was their transportation partner. Loved LEO Express! FlixBus is also great; I guess they just pick good partners.

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Once we arrived in Kraków, we walked by the Barbican, Florian’s gate, and the Main Square.

We were getting hungry so we kept walking through town to find a place to eat. Eventually we found this place with multiple windows selling zapiekanka (an open faced sandwich). Andrew waited in line for the zapiekanka and I picked us up some fries and drinks to go with it. The line for the zapiekanka took forever, but it was really good!

After dinner, we continued our journey to Krakus Mound to watch the sunset.

Next to the mound was Liban Quarry. We saw some people walking into the area around the quarry so we decided to follow them to see where it went. After walking for a ways we decided it was best to head back the way we came because we had no idea where the path led and it was getting dark. Later we learned that it can be a dangerous place to be after dark. Luckily we had no problems. This quarry was also the former site of a Nazi labour camp and was used by Steven Spielberg as the set of the concentration camp in Schindler’s List. There was a cemetery next to the quarry.

We started to make our journey back to the apartment for the evening. Click on or hover over each photo for more details.

The next morning we had breakfast at Karma. It was a nice coffee shop.

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Afterwards we met our guide for the food tour and started the experience at a nearby farmer’s market (Stary Kleparz). We tried cheese and pickles. At first I had thought that some of the cheese was bread! The market also has other countries represented at the market (for example, their neighbor, Hungary).

We appreciated the architecture and statues as we walked around with our guide. She also showed us a picture of dolls wearing the traditional clothes of Poland.

I think these are family crests/coat of arms above entrances.

Following Moscow’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia placed a ban on importing Polish fruit and vegetables. This is a piece of art by Polish caricaturist Andrzej Mleczko depicting Superman eating Polish apples. Poland had a lot of extra produce and one thing they did was produce more apple cider (we would later buy some to try).

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Our next food stop was to try zapiekanka. We had already had this last night, but we had a simpler, traditional version paired with fresh juice.

We went to St. Mary’s Basilica. This is the sundial on the wall of the church. We waited for the trumpeter to appear. Click here to watch the video. Outside of the church next to the door were shackles used for punishment. Our guide was nice enough to demonstrate.

We walked through the Kraków Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) and then headed into the market place (Sukiennice, Cloth Hall). The knife hanging above the door goes back to the story of the jealous brothers who built the uneven towers of the Mariacki Church. Story goes that one brother, jealous of the other, murdered his brother and supposedly this is the knife that struck the final blow. The last picture is of the “Eros Bound” sculpture by Igor Mitoraj, which by one definition emphasizes the distance between finite being and eternal being.

 

The next stop on our food tour was at Piwnica Pod Baranami (Basement Under the Rams) – this used to be a literary cabaret against Communism. We had a bit of coffee and enjoyed the ambiance. This would have been interesting to see in its prime.

We had to sample some Polish vodka, so our guide took us to Szambelan to remedy the situation. I tried the Honey Pepper vodka and Andrew had the Walnut vodka. Mine was a bit strong, but good (even though when you watch this video it may seem different).

We walked through the Jewish Quarter and parts of this area were featured in Schindler’s List (particularly by the staircase).

She took us to the roof garden at Ogród na Dachu Kazimierza for a beer. The area downstairs was pretty neat too.

There was a nice fruit market in the area downstairs (this was at the same spot we had been the night before for the zapiekanka and fries). I also enjoyed the street art in this area.

We had soup and pierogi at Marchewka z Groszkiem. It was good, but we were starting to get really full!

If I remember correctly, one could tell that these were Jewish homes based on the diagonal mark in the doorway entrance (maybe where the mezuzah used to be?). A mezuzah is a piece of parchment (usually in a decorative case) inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah.

Our last actual food stop was at Delikatesowo for some ice cream (I think this was the Lodo brand found everywhere in Kraków). We also bought some apple cider here to have for later.

We stopped at Bar Mleczny Południowy to get an idea of what a Communist Milk Bar was like. Our guide told us that they had thought about having guests eat something here, but then thought it might be too much for them. The quality of food and cleanliness is not always the best, but this is an outlet for the people to have a cheap meal.

The last stretch of our trip was walking through the south side of the city to Park Bednarskiego. We walked by the church we saw last night after Krakus Mound. Also saw a movie theatre on our way (Kino) – always think of Clay when we see these.

We enjoyed our bus ride up to Wawel Castle! The tour was pretty good! Oh and cute sign…watch for children.

Since we were so close to Wawel Castle, we decided to walk up and check it out. Neither of us felt like going inside so we walked around the outside. Those three rectangular protrusions sticking out from the tower were toilets!

23…

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Lots of padding on those horses clopping through town…I would not want to be one of those horses.

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Speaking of horses…can you play the keyboard like this?

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We had dinner that night at Morskie Oko. Even though we had been stuffed from the food tour we managed to find room for more food.

Outside of the restaurant in the small square there was dancing going on. It was kind of like a large class.

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The next morning, Andrew picked up some eggs and cheese from the market for breakfast. We had it along with our sausage from Prague. So good! The eggs were delicious!

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Today we took a day trip to Auschwitz I and Auschwitz -Birkenau. I think this will be the last concentration camp that I visit, unless I decide to take our future kids one day. Everything was troubling about the place, but I found the piles of human hair especially disturbing and the fact that they made products from that hair was too much. How people can bring themselves to be so cruel to other human beings is beyond me. All I can say is that we must never forget the past or we are doomed to repeat it. The first group of pictures are of the Auschwitz I camp.

These pictures are of the Auschwitz- -Birkenau camp. It was much larger than the first one and was a death factory. Many of the buildings are gone today. The gas chambers and crematoriums were destroyed by the Nazis before the camp’s liberation, but the rumble is left as a reminder. I think the puddle behind one of the crematoriums is where some of the ashes were dumped (a memorial is there now).

Surprisingly we still had a small appetite afterwards, and had lunch at a place in between tours. One of the guys tried a drink called bread acid on the menu. He offered us a sip…it was interesting.

The next stop on our day trip was the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I think we were 135 m (443 feet) deep at one point. So many things made of salt! There was also an extravagant chapel complete with a Last Supper salt carving. Most things were made out of salt down here. I’m sure I would have gone mad working down there if I had been a miner back in the day!

On our last full day in Poland, we took another day trip. This time it was to southern Poland towards Zakopane! There were stork nests on the telephone poles! We also saw a few storks on the side of the road and flying around.

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We stopped in the village of Chochołów to peek inside a local wood sculptor’s shop. The village was filled with unique wooden huts, plus a nice bus stop, and cathedral.

The next stop was a wooden church in Dzianisz. The church was so beautiful. However, if I were parachuting and landed in this area, I would not want it to be on that pointy fence!

The weather was not so nice today, but the rain had let up for a minute so we decided to take the chairlift down from the highest point of Gubalowka Hill. Our guide let me borrow his jacket since I hadn’t brought one on the trip. It was such a fun ride down! Plus we weren’t the only ones on the lift so we didn’t feel too silly for taking it in the bad weather. I did have a little trouble getting off the chairlift at the end…thank goodness those guys helped me out!

The toilet at the chairlift place had the hole in the front part of the stool. I had never seen one like that before.

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Some cheeses at the Zakopane market and a cute bridge.

We walked through an antique cemetery (Na Pęksowym Brzysku) in Zakopane. This was one of the more interesting cemeteries I’ve seen so far.

The Big Ski Jump in Zakopane!

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We had lunch at Restauracja Regionalna Nosalowy Dwór. The food was very good! The picture on the wall on the way to the restroom was a bit peculiar.

Our last stop of the tour was at Jaszczurowka Chapel. A church sort of hidden by the trees… We liked the wooded area around the church.

That evening we had dinner at Ed Red and were lucky that we got a table there with no reservation. The food was good and reservations are worth it! However, we should have only ordered one dessert…

On our walk back to the flat we admired the park we passed through I liked the flower pattern. That night we also enjoyed our apple cider!

The next morning, we had breakfast at Karma once again. Andrew tried this corn fritter with avocado & broccoli guacamole – delicious!

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There was a Pierogi Festival starting that day around 11h00 and we wanted to check it out before heading to the airport. So many delicious pierogi and we tried the smoked cheese too!

A parade/festival was also going on in the Main Market Square (not sure if it was tied to the Pierogi Fest). Lots of festive costumes, singing, and foods for sale! Video 1Video 2Video 3

This trip was a great experience for the both of us and we hope to return to both countries one day! I will leave you with one last, humorous photo. Well, at least humorous to me. Why would a restroom stall have two toilets together? I guess it would be useful if you had kids, but that’s all I can think of and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this. I’ve seen a chair in a restroom stall, but this isn’t the same thing.

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Anyway, cheers! Hope everyone is doing great!

 

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