Prague, a delightfully charming European city, was the first stop on a recent trip to Europe. My sister is currently living in Italy, so we knew a trip across the pond was in order before she moves on. To kick off this European adventure, we spent three days in Prague, before meeting up with Pam in Italy.
But first, the getting there. Alaska is not the easiest place from which to begin a journey. Any journey!
The trip was roughly 30 hours of travel time, door to door, with several changes of planes and countries. It's pretty sad when you've already been traveling for seven hours and have only reached Los Angeles!
(But we did see an amazing view of Mt. Ranier in Washington along the way.)
Ready (or not so ready) for the long flight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam.
Sometimes Eva decides to take to the floor on long overseas flights. Not sure if this is "allowed", but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Whew, only one more flight to go, but only after an excruciating four hour layover.
The struggle is real!
Sadly, we didn't have quite enough time to leave the airport and explore the city. Next time!
And after a plane ride (x4), a bus ride and a train ride, we were finally on our last leg, which was finding the hotel in Prague.
We stayed right in Old Town and couldn't wait to explore. It's funny how you get your second wind, even through the sheer exhaustion!
After staying awake for 30 hours, and getting only a few hours sleep, we were still up bright and early before the sun. We had heard that watching the sunrise over Charles Bridge was worth the effort. We were up, so why not?
And at five-thirty in the morning, we even had Old Town Square to ourselves.
After a twenty-minute walk through the deserted, cobbled streets of Prague, we arrived at Charles Bridge.
Charles Bridge was ordered by King Charles IV in 1357, after the previous bridge was destroyed by flood a few years earlier.
The morning was crisp and gorgeous, and we practically had the bridge to ourselves. I guess at times, jet lag has it's advantages.
The 2,000 foot-long bridge, is also adorned with over 30 sculptures. Today, most of the statues are replicas of the originals, but we enjoyed wandering and looking. I loved how the rising sun hit the gold of this statue. The inscription, written in Hebrew, states "Holy Holy Holy is Our Lord". Amen to that!
The golden morning light was great for pictures and we actually look fairly awake in this one. (Don't believe everything you see!)
Watching the sunrise over the medieval bell tower did not disappoint. I highly recommend it!
All that sight-seeing made us hungry, so it was off to breakfast. All this before seven in the morning!
So it was back through the empty streets, and the Old Town Square, which would be bustling with tourists in just a few short hours.
We voted Prague as having the best hot chocolate of this trip. Perfectly creamy, and chocolatey goodness, (with a side of Nutella, of course)!
With full stomachs, we ventured back out for the day, along with my knights-in-shining-armor.
It was back through town and across the bridge to the other side, for our first stop, St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle.
Poor Ella was "shat" upon, en route. I think she kind of enjoyed the excitement though!
The Cathedral was massive and beautiful.
I especially loved the human-shaped gargoyles.
Construction began in 1344, and due to various wars, fires and lack of funds, was finally completed 600 years later, in 1929.
The stained glass was incredible!
Also in the complex was the Prague Castle, and Golden Lane, which was a small street of tiny 16th century houses. Inside a few, examples of how the people lived in that era were replicated.
The Prague Castle provided sweeping views of the city, on a beautiful autumn day.
Also, a great time for a pit stop to study the map for our next point of interest. Yes, we are usually old school on our trips, due to no phone service. Luckily, Matt is navigator extraordinaire!
So, it was back down the hill and across the bridge to the other side of town. Again. But I loved the walk and the scenery.
We passed many gingerbread shops as we wandered. Apparently gingerbread is a "thing" year round in Prague. The shops smelled like Christmastime and the cookies were decorated to perfection. There were also gingerbread loaves and other delectable goodies for sale.
Prague is also known for their handmade marionettes, and even have a national theater specifically for puppet shows.
(**side note- Marionette puppets originated in France during the Middle Ages and were initially used to depict Bible stories. One of the first puppets made was of the Virgin Mary, hence the name marionette, meaning "little Mary.")
I may or may not have broken into the chorus of Lonely Goatherd, right there in the shop.
Must be time for lunch. We found a cute corner cafe and had a seat.
The girls ordered a panini,
and I ordered an "egg sandwich". Ham, egg, and pickles on a fresh baguette. But the best part? The bottom layer was potato salad. What a delicious surprise! Why don't we do that in the States?
Fueled up and ready to roam.
We walked through the Prague Jewish Quarter, and right by the oldest active synagogue in all of Europe, known as the Old-New Synagogue, which was completed in 1270.
Also, the Old Jewish Cemetery. The oldest known grave marker is dated 1439, but the founding of the cemetery is unknown. Since Jews were not able to purchase land very often, some graves are stacked twelve deep, hence the jumbled grave markers.
You can even see the cemetery built up above the streets, in some locations, to accommodate burial needs over the centuries.
After some better sleep, we started the morning at the Astronomical Clock. Yes, it is totally my luck that it was hidden under scaffolding!
Every hour, on the hour (since 1410!), the clock chimes and a little show is performed to include; a bell-ringing skeleton, a crowing rooster, and the passing of the twelve apostles in front the opened windows. It took all of thirty seconds, but crowds lined up in the droves, nonetheless.
Day two brought more exploring in this delightful big city, with a small city feel. Grandma sent Ella her old phone, to be used as a camera on this trip. I think I have a budding photographer!
We enjoyed reading the inscriptions of the Love Locks, near the Charles Bridge. You write a message of your love, fasten the lock and throw the key into the river. Matt and I will have to come prepared next time, though I'm sure he'll need more room to fully speak of his love for me!
I absolutely marveled at the intricate mosaic design of the sidewalks. I can't imagine how labor intensive they must have been, but it sure was beautiful!
Just a few of the many examples!
As we walked, we kept accidentally finding famous landmarks, like the John Lennon Wall. You kind of can't miss it.
But I did enjoy the guitarist singing Imagine, as it really set the right mood for me.
Next came the penguins,
then the giant babies,
then the peeing men.....
wait a minute....peeing men?? Yes. Complete with running stream of water.
Whew, a break was definitely in order, so we sat on a bench by the river, and watched almost everyone who passed take the same photo, right in this exact spot.
Meanwhile, the girls entertained themselves making flower wreaths.
My flower children. Maybe the Lennon wall rubbed off on them.
We popped in a Czech grocery store for lunch and I chose this sausage, of sorts. Not bad for a hot dog.
Wenceslas Square was the historic site of the 1989 announcement of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, amongst many anti-communist demonstrations. The Czech borders were then opened and the barbed wire was taken down, after almost 50 years of communist rule.
Wenceslas Square was a wide, pedestrian street, full of shopping and cafes. Just my kind of area! Even the McDonald's had a cute patio for curbside dining.
Later that night, jet lag was definitely getting the better of us. Matt was sick, and went to bed at six o'clock. I was desperate to go to bed too, but the girls and I fought off the sleep for another few hours by taking to the streets for some treats. We had been wanting to try the pastry called trdelnik, (pronounced tah-DELL-neek).
Long strips of dough were wrapped around a stick then baked over open flames, and topped with sugar, ground walnuts and cinnamon.
Basically, the Czech version of a churro, in a super fun shape.
They were warm, perfectly crisp on the outside and slightly doughy on the inside. Yummmm!
Can you spot Eva?
Sauntering in the twilight was indeed a great way to fight the jet lag for a few more hours.
On our last day in Prague, we didn't have to be at the airport until late afternoon, so that gave us the morning to finish up our sight-seeing. We had read about a large farmer's market on Saturday mornings, so why not? And we just happened to pass the Dancing House, along the way.
The farmer's market was lots of fun and we were definitely not in a tourist area any longer.
The flower stands were gorgeous,
as were the berries, which definitely seemed to be in season.
Czech food seemed very similar to German food with lots of hearty stews, sausages and potato offerings.
Prior to our trip, Ella randomly read about a traditional Czech dessert called kolacky, while doing her schoolwork. We had been on the lookout, and found some at the market.
Kolacky is usually sweet or savory, and we tried the peach flavor. It was okay, a lot like strudel.
Then we noticed a different kolacky booth with a long line, so we decided try it again.
This one was plum, and was much better than the first. The locals were right!
We also tried some pickled cheese. Yep, pickled cheese. A local favorite.
But, we saved no room for pork. Pork knuckle, and pork in general, is also a popular Czech meal.
Finally, on the walk back to the hotel, we had time for one last picture with a beautiful Prague backdrop.
I couldn't get over the utter charm of this city; cobblestone streets, flower boxes and architectural flair- everywhere!
And it was also a very international city. I loved being surrounded by the delightful sound of dozens of different languages, and every once in a while, hearing a snippet of my own.
We no longer had Old Town Square to ourselves, though.
The area was bustling with tourists and some fairly odd street performers. Still don't really know what this was supposed to be.
But alas, our time had come to an end. Purchasing train tickets from a machine with very little English, is always an exciting adventure! There is much guessing involved.
Apparently, we managed okay and successfully made it back to the airport.
So long, Prague. I absolutely fell in love with the delightful charm of this city. It was so beautiful and very easily managed on foot. Now on to the the next leg of this European adventure, the one and only....Rome!