Day 3 - Prague - PM - Prague Castle
Trip Start Oct 30, 2009
20Trip End Nov 09, 2009
The bracing ten-minute walk along a tree-lined ridge connecting us to Prague Castle would have been lovely had the weather obliged, but today it is just a rather wet slog. Elva complains that her feet are wet, and wonders if we can return to the hotel to change. There is a rumbling within the group and I fear mutiny. Passing the Strahov Monastery we come across the best panorama of the city. Of course it would have been an impressive view had the sun been out to burn away the gloomy miasma. When the group sees how far we have come, the grumbles fade away.
We are now wet and somewhat despondent. The drizzle doesn't let up, and the air turns cool. We hurry past the Loretta Church, famed for its carillon, and peer into the extravagant palaces built by Prague’s nobility during the 19th
Two Middle Eastern gentlemen have now joined our group. At each stop I am reading from our guide book. The new companions are fascinated and seem to look upon me as their personal tour guide.
Miryam takes me aside. "Who are those men?" she asks.
“I haven’t a clue, but they are a darn site more interested in Prague Castle than you lot are.”
“You shouldn’t tell them too much. How do you know they aren’t terrorists?”
That hadn’t occurred to me. Could it be that Rick Steves and I are aiding and abetting a couple of al-Qaeda operatives who may be looking to blow up the most vital parts of Prague Castle?
There is an entrance fee to the castle, but by now we are tired and those wishing to visit the complex are outvotedSt. Vitus Cathedral and the warm, cosy gift shop next door.
Within, our attention is drawn to the stained glass windows by Alfons Mucha. It seem odd to find Art Nouveau within an ancient cathedral. Also noteworthy is the solid silver tomb of St. John Nepomuk and the fancy Wenceslaus Chapel, its walls encrusted in precious and semi-precious stones. The public can no longer enter this chapel as the jewels were relentlessly disappearing from the walls.
Throughout the tour my Arabic chums lap up every word. Could it be they are after the jewels? We finally give them the slip, but not before they tell us the thrilling news that their itinerary is similar to ours, and they look forward to meeting us again in Vienna and Budapest.
The gift shop is indeed warm and cosy. While I am perusing a rack of 2010 calendars, a man pushes by to look at some maps. Just in case, I grab my waist pack. Later I see him do the same thing to Papa Lucho and I call out to the nearby security guard, He approaches the man, who flees the building with the guard in hot pursuit, knocking a couple of tourists flat on their backs.
“Poof”, says the cashier, “he must be Romanian!”
After watching the sodden changing of the guard, we descend bedraggled through the palace vineyards to the tram stop. The passage back down the hill is mercifully dry.
This evening we can’t face trudging the wet streets again. The restaurant downstairs offers a 25% discount to guests. I am somewhat wary; being just off the main tourist street of Old Town Prague, such a generous offer seems too good to be true.
Fortunately I am outvoted, and we troop downstairs to the U Zlatého jablka Restaurant, “At the Golden Apple”. We find an attractive ambiance with an impressive and reasonably priced menu. I order the special Bohemian plate of roast duck, pork, smoked ham, potato pancakes and bread dumplings. It is a triumph.