Prague, Czech Republic
Our tour would begin at 3 PM. We began the day at the breakfast buffet that was served in the Italian restaurant across the street. There were literally dozens of choices including eggs prepared in a variety of ways, cereals of many kinds, a selection of yogurts, and Italian cold cuts and cheeses, as well as a variety of breads and cakes. We needed to find an ATM to get Czech money, and we figured we would find one while we explored the city.
Our hotel was just a few steps from the center of the Old Town Square, so off we went. We found the Square filled with beautiful buildings of many styles and colors. Some had balconies, others had murals, and still others had statues on top. There were also lots of locals and tourists like ourselves taking in the Square. We walked through the Jewish neighborhood, and then we searched for a street described as “Parisian.” When we found it, we saw that it was filled with designer shops.
From there we walked to the Charles Bridge. Rick Steves’ guide book says, “Musicians, artisans, and a parade of people make it a festival every day.” That is exactly what we found. Also, both sides of the bridge contain statues of saints. One statue is that of St. John Nepomuk, the patron saint of Prague. Legend has it that if you touch the plaque associated with the statue and make a wish, your wish will come true. This only works once for each person, so make your wish important!
After so much walking we were ready for lunch. We found a restaurant at the edge of the Square called Mincovna. Although we didn’t have Czech cash, credit cards were fine. We shared a goose pate appetizer and a duck breast salad. They were not Czech, but they were absolutely delicious. After our meal, we noticed that there were many open wagons that could contain about a dozen men (or women) who pedaled to provide the power to move the vehicle. Someone in the middle served beer to the peddlers. We thought these must be bachelor parties of a sort. Occasionally, one of the men (presumably the groom-to be) would strip down to his underwear and run through the Square. It was easy to identify the bride-to-be in wagons that contained women celebrating bachelorette parties. The bride was the one wearing a veil.
3 PM came before we knew it. Back at our hotel, we met our guide and our fellow tour participants. There were twenty-seven tourists in all, from nine different states. Many had taken other Rick Steves tours before, but there were a few first timers, too. Now about our guide. Katerina Svobodova (her surname means “freedom”) not only guides tours for Rick Steves, but she also has her own business as a private tour guide. There are not enough things I can say about Katerina to give you a complete picture of how special she made the trip. She is warm, welcoming, helpful, patient, charming, and generous. She is everything one would want in not only a tour guide, but a friend. I will be mentioning more about her throughout the trip.
At 5 PM we left for an orientation walk, followed by dinner. The walk began in the Town Square. The Old Town Hall was built in the 1350s! In its midst is an Astronomical Clock that tells the time and the daily astrological sign as well as the saint being honored on each day of the year. There are statues representing evil temptations such as greed, vanity and hedonism. One figure represents death. At each hour, a window opens and the twelve apostles rotate past, while the crowd that has gathered photographs the display.
It was time to go to dinner. We were eating together at a restaurant called Konirna, on the far side of the Charles Bridge. Crossing the bridge was just as much fun the second time! We had an appetizer of ham with sauce, a main dish of pot roast with gravy, and dessert of sorbet. Nick and I have not consumed any beer in the entire time we have known each other (46 years). It is not a taste either of us enjoys. However, here we were in a city renowned for its beer, and when in Rome, or in this case, when in Prague… Perhaps specific taste buds are required to like the taste of beer. If that is so, Nick and I do not have the necessary taste buds.
Two musicians, one playing an according and the other, a flute, entertained us, and they were really good! They were part of a group called the Prague Castle Orchestra and they appear in Rick Steves’ Prague video.
After dinner, everyone told Katerina where they wanted to go, and she directed them. We told her we wanted to find an ATM machine. She recommended using ATMs affiliated with a bank, because in case something went wrong, the bank would be able to help. She walked us to such an ATM, chatting with us as we walked. Nick and I returned to our hotel. What a fantastic day it had been!