21 Jul Prague
Today, I’m trading Butterlust for wanderlust with this third of four posts describing my recent and completely unforgettable European travels. You can read my first post about Istanbul, Turkey here & my second post about Cappadocia & Izmir, Turkey here. If travel isn’t your thing, no worries, I’m still pumping out desserts so check back soon for more buttery, sugary goodness. But today, Praha!
Okay, so I’ve been holding onto these photos for waaaaay too long now. Like three months too long. But y’all, life. It’s busy and nonstop and can we just all take a moment to slow down and catch our breaths?
BREATHE. Alright, onwards…
First there was Istanbul. Then there was Cappadocia. And then, then there was Prague. Our first stop on the trip where it was <3 just the two of us <3, and it was, well COLD. Like, the kind of cold that this thin-blooded Texan would normally only venture outdoors into in order to walk back and forth to her car, and maybe, on brave days, check the mail for her Stich Fix box. But when in Prague, you suck it up. You tough it out and face the cold like the dumpling-scarfing monster you know you truly are…
Read: I ate myself warm.
When I think of Prague, it’s neither the whimsical architecture — almost too pristine to believe, somehow miraculously spared from the widespread bombings of WWII — nor the rich history that radiates from each and every nook and cranny of the city’s cobble-stoned streets, that comes to mind. Instead, it’s the food. All of the food. (If you’ve read my previous posts, you might be starting to notice a trend.)
In Prague they offer all kinds of amazing, belly-warming food options to keep your insides feeling toasty and happpyeeeee even when you can’t feel your toes, despite arming them with extra fuzzy socks and thick leather boots. And we ate all of them. My absolute favorite was, the whosyerdaddy of Czech pastry, Trdelník (pictured below) – a spiral shaped sweet dough roasted on a spit over hot coals and then rolled in a mixture of cinnamon, sugar & nuts. Far too few vowels for me to accurately pronounce, but perhaps the Czech’s most delicious invention for combating, or at least distracting, from the windy, bitter cold.
But of course we didn’t stop there. There was also mulled wine, and sausage, and beer (pivo), and freshly fried potato spirals on a stick, and dumplings (!!!) and then, of course, more pivo (beer). Thick, yeasty Pilsner Urquell poured liberally into heavy, thickly-handled mugs, and the equivalent of water to rosy-cheeked Czechs the size of lumberjacks.
And now for your viewing pleasure, street snacks, sausage porn, Steve eating street snacks, and, of course, pivo. Go!
We were immediately surprised by how small Prague felt. After a week spent in the 14-million strong Istanbul, our heads spinning the entire time, quaint, dare I say sleepy-by-comparison Prague (we avoided its infamous nightlife), offered much welcome respite from its chaotic predecessor.
We hit all of the major highlights — the astronomical clock (a must-see but unendingly packed with tourist groups), the Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral & the Castle District — as well as some lesser trafficked sights including a (slightly painful) climb to the top of Prague’s own “mini Eiffel Tower” for the city’s best panoramic views, a quick stop by the city’s Lennon Wall to pay homage to the late John Lennon and channel our inner flower children, and a trek (on foot) across a major highway to marvel at the impressive The Slav Epic, a collection of mammoth-sized paintings depicting the history and mythology of the Slavic people by Czech Art Nuveau painter Alfons Mucha.
We also attempted to spend a half day touring the Jewish Quarter — considered to be perhaps the best-preserved Jewish Quarters in Europe, as it was once planned to be a “museum of an extinct race” by Hitler — but unknowingly planned our visit on one of the mornings of Passover and were unable to enter any of the sights. (See the photo of the Old Jewish Cemetery through it’s iron gates below.)
Fortunately, when you miss a sight in Prague, there’s always more beer (and Trdelník!). Not quite the same historical significance, but an afternoon well spent all the same. Cheers!
WHAT WE ATE & DRANK:
Trdelnik :: a spiral shaped sweet dough roasted on a spit over hot coals and then rolled in a mixture of cinnamon, sugar & nuts
Klobása :: sausage, typically served on hearty, sliced bread with mustard and kraut
Prague Ham :: grilled over an open fire in Old Town Square and the most delicious smell in the world when you’re freezing your buns off
Bramborová Spirála :: spiralized potatoes on a stick
Knedlíky :: steamed dumplings, either bread or potato & best when soaked in gravy
Bramboráky :: potato pancakes, the more garlic the better
Medovník :: a traditional thinly-layered honey cake, Butterlust recipe coming soon!
Mulled Wine :: spicy, hot and served in Styrofoam cups to warm chilly hands
Pilsner Urquell :: the world’s first Pilsner beer, served pretty much everywhere
Pálinka :: fruit brandy (mainly plum), tastes a little bit like rubbing alcohol but fun to sip out of cute little glasses after a long, hearty dinner
Becherovka :: herbal bitters, consumed as a digestive aid — love this one!
Restaurant Rainer Maria Rilke :: the best meal of our trip, hands down. Flavor, atmosphere, value, service — all perfect. Warning: arrive hungry, the portions are HUGE and you must save room for the Czech Honey Cake. If you ask to share a slice, you’ll still get two. 🙂
WHERE WE STAYED:
Unitas Hotel :: A little off the beaten path but within a 5-minute walk to both the Old Town as well as the St. Charles Bridge. The atmosphere of the hotel was slightly sterile, but for what it lacked in charm it made up in service. Located just across from the police station it was once a convent and then a harbour for the Secret Police during WWII — perhaps an explanation for the minimalist decor. The staff was attentive and always knowledgeable when we asked for dinner or sight-seeing recommendations. The rooms were comfortable and surprisingly quiet for its central location. The best part though, was the breakfast — both buffet and a la carte were included with the room and the spread was insane — breads, cheeses, pate, cereal, fresh fruit, crepes, eggs, traditional sausages dishes (including one very strange hangover cure), yogurt, local honey…you name it, they had it. I highly recommend it!
HOW WE GOT THERE & AROUND:
Again, Turkish Airlines! We built this leg of the trip into our round trip flights from Houston for less than $800 total! In the city, we almost exclusively got around on foot — nearly everything is within walking distance and there is really no need for a car or public transportation. The one time we did take a cab was back from seeing The Slav Epic, which was about 2 miles from the tourist center of the city.
Thanks for taking this little trip down memory lane! Have a fantastic Tuesday!