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A fairytale weekend amongst the castles!

Written on: Friday June 12th, 2009

Prague was a wonderous city!  Intruiging neighborhoods, church spires galore, fantabulous food and drink and a proper hilltop castle that brought you back to childhood fantasies of roaming the royal grounds as a Prince or Princess.  I was about to spend a long weekend there, exploring everything the city had to offer.  And to make it a thousand times better, my wonderful friend Isabella had managed to get away from Germany to join me.

While I was still en route via Eurorail from Munich, Isa had already made it to the room.  My two hour train delay was only a minor setback.  Navigating the city tram, I soon found myself at the office door for Castle Steps, a incredibly unique collection of centrally located, urban buildings-cum-guest rooms. 

***enter shameless hotel plug here***  http://www.castlesteps.com/rooms.htm 

The first room we had the pleasure of experiencing was the Foxglove, an enormous, elegantly decorated room.  I had to admit that the difference in accommodation from bunking in a Munich hostel to the current set up was beyond description!

That night we made it out on the town a bit, with our first order of business the infamous Charles Bridge.  With our hotel being located on the west side of the Vltava River, the short route to the bridge took us past quiet neighborhood shops and restaurants.  Soon we were at the bridge, admiring the multitude of sculptures that adorned its length.  Not only that, but there were caches to be found!  Plenty of them.  Isa was now a full-fledged geocacher, having just purchased her first gps a few days earlier.  So we cached and explored, allowing the desire to find another hidden treasure lead us to remote corners of the city that we surely would never have found on our own.  Our ears caught the sound of a lovely jazz band in the distance, and based upon that alone, we decided to dine at the establishment from where the music originated.  Traditional dishes were tried by both of us before our first night in the city came to a close.

After a ridiculously restful night of sleep, we moved our gear to the even more posh Buttercup Room just up the road.  While devouring the complimentary breakfast, we decided that today would be spent exploring the city via geocaching, trying to follow a somewhat predetermined route.  Once again we crossed the Charles Bridge and stopped on the far side to climb its tower, where we were rewarded with spectacular views of the city!  From there we entered Stare Mesto, or 'old town', where churches, clock towers and monuments lined the tourist-filled streets.  We strolled the sunny avenues, eventually making our way back across the river and up into the Letenske, an enormous city park that oevrlooked the entire city.  It was a wonderful viewpoint.  As our city tour came to a close, we realized two things: one, we had found thirteen caches today!  And two, we were starving!  A little beer garden caught Isa's eye, and we went in to check it out.  Despite the initial unfriendliness of the waiter, we stuck around and absolutely gorged ourselves on smoked ham, mouth-watering sausages, grilled vegetables and potato pancakes.  Washing it all down with an ice cold beer, we had the makings of the absolute perfect post-caching meal!

On our way back to the room, Isa asked, 'Do you see what I see?'  I peered around for only a few seconds before locating the Irish pub ahead of us.

"Sure!  Let's stop for one."

But upon entering the place it was packed.  We opted to skip waiting and continue on to the room.

 'Do you see what I see?'

Yeah, that was cute, but we weren't able to stay. Too bad.  But when I looked up at her she had this mischievous grin on her face, and I suddenly knew she wasn't simply rehashing the past.  I searched and, sure enough, there was another Irish pub just around the corner!  Now THAT was cute! We went in a had a couple pints, talking of the day's events and starting to think about what tomorrow might bring.

When tomorrow came it was time to be a traditional tourist.  In basic terms, that meant touring the castle.  The commute to the castle grounds from our room took about 150 seconds, with much of that time spent avoiding the countless number of tour busses ushering folks in from all corners of the city.  We started with an audio tour of St. Vitus Cathedral, the central focal point within the castle.  Although shorter than Isa's hometown cathedral in Koln, its enormous spires towered above the city.  We walked through Vladislav Hall in the Old Royal Palace, admiring the space and architecture.  The basilica of St. George was equally impressive.  The region we ended with was a former sixteenth century tradesmen's quarters now known as Golden Lane.  The tiny houses were now convertaed into an over-bundance of tourist shops; still, it was interesting to see the former weapons and dungeons, as well as try our own hands at target shooting with the crossbow! 

Back on the less crowded streets outside the castle walls, we walked south along the river, bagging caches as we went.  An afternoon glass of wine aboard a permanently docked ship was the perfect break in the day.  We continued our tour of the city, making our way to Nove Mesto, or 'new town'.  The square was filled with tourists and the nearby restaurants were well aware of that fact, with all menu items costing a hefty three times as much as the average neighborhood joints just a couple blocks away.  So we walked those couple blocks and settled into a Budvar restaurant.  Budvar, one of the many delicious local beers, was also the original Budweiser, of US fame.  As I washed down my pork and kraut I couldn't help to think what a disappointment it would be in the future to drink the American version after sampling THIS beer (sorry Hombre).

We topped off the evening at an Irish bar that housed a quaint little music venue below it.  Tonight there was a brilliant, local jazz band playing, which we were more than happy to experience for a couple hours as we wound down from the day's activities.

A final breakfast at CastleSteps was followed by an abrupt departure for Isa.  Her flight back to Germany was approaching quickly, so rather than a risky trip via train to the airport, we hailed the nearest cab and, like that, she was off.   I felt sad to see her go, as we had spent a lot of time togeter in the last couple weeks.  Instead, I focused on the positive, reliving all the wonderful experiences we shared as I hoofed my was across town to the train station, ready to venture into my own next step. 



From isa on Jul 5th, 2009

Oh yes, Prague was superb! We sure had the best time in this wonderful city. "Do you see what I see?" made me laugh out loud. :) I will always remember our spontanous precious Prague adventure. Take care, isa

From Ziemer on Jul 10th, 2009

Sounds like you had a blast. I was able to spend just an afternoon in Prauge a couple of years ago, it was great. I would definitely like to get back again someday and stay somewhere closer to the action than the Courtyard at the airport...

From Jennylee on Nov 21st, 2011

For the love of God, keep writing these arctiles.