When we arrived in Prague we checked into a wonderful apartment in district seven of Praha. Prague is divided into ten districts which essentially serves as a cluster of neighborhoods. District seven (yes this sounds like the Hunger Games to me too) is then divided into different neighborhoods we are in a section near the hockey rink, a climbing gym, a large park and metro station. It isn’t the most glamorous section of Prague but it is well located to get to almost everywhere we want to go plus has a few fun bars, restaurants and a nice large park to walk the dog.
The best way to get around town in Prague has been the tram. The choices in Prague for public transportation are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Options range from commuter trains, the metro, the bus, to the tram and are all equally convenient. Since we are going to be here a month we picked up an unlimited public transportation pass for around $40USD each which takes care of all our transportation needs in Prague for a month. It takes us about 15 minutes on the tram to reach the old town and most of the major sights.
Our first week in Prague was spent seeing the major sights, learning our neighborhood and figuring out the daily logistics. Tommy’s work schedule is based on PST time so he has been working mid-afternoon to late nights which gives us the morning to explore town together. During the first week we visited major sights around the city and enjoyed walking around exploring on foot and by tram. We went and saw the vital Art Nouveau exhibit at the Municipal House. The Municipal House itself is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. It was built as the current building today in 1905 and opened in 1912 at the height of the Art Nouveau period and restored in the 1900’s after years of decades of neglect. If you are a Art Nouveau fan this building is a MUST see, it is dripping with detail and beauty. It is used today as a concert hall, ballroom, civic building, and as the location of cafes and restaurants. They give guided tours of the building and hosts exhibits like the Art Noveau collection. The exhibit was a selection of works from the collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague (which is closed until 2017 for reconstruction). It had pieces from Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Klimt, Tiffany and more. The exhibit was an overview of the art of the period from interior furnishings to fashion and art.
The Christmas markets are in full swing in Prague and consists of brightly decorated wooden huts selling traditional handicrafts, food and drinks. There are several markets throughout the city but the old town square Prague christmas market is the biggest and oldest. The Czech markets have their own version on hot mulled wine like the German markets but they call it Svavrene Vino. Just as popular is the hot drink of choice, Grog one part rum to 4 parts hot water served with a piece of lemon and sweetened to your choice. My favorite though is called Medovina, which is hot honey wine or mead. There are lots of food choices that being a vegetarian I don’t find particularly appealing but Tommy enjoyed his fair share of sausages, and meat cooking on a spit. The enjoyable to watch and alright to taste treat of choice is the Trdelnik, a sweet bread with varying flavors which is mix is wrapped around a revolving cylinder and cooked. It smells like a cinnamon bun and is enjoyed by many I just personally found it was more fun to watch than to eat myself.
Our first weekend in Prague we left for a weekend adventure. One of the reasons we choose Prague was access to other areas and ease of transportation. The train between Prague and Vienna is about a four hour ride. The cost is around $50 each way direct or with one transfer for about $10 less per ticket. We did both options we went there direct and on the way home choose to save a few dollars by trying out the transfer. There was only a three minute period to change trains but if you are paying attention and can move quickly you can save ten bucks. The trains are fast, efficient, comfortable and easy to navigate. My only complaint with them is that I can’t help but think the whole time how messed up it is that we don’t have anything like it in the states. That however is a whole long rant I don’t have time to go off on.
We took a morning train and arrived for an early check in to our hotel. We booked a lovely little hotel for a great rate right by the train station. The public transportation was wonderful and the tram took us straight from the hotel to the main part of town in just a few minutes. Our first stop in town was to indulge in the world famous Vienna coffee. Vienna is known for its love of coffee and we found amazing coffee within minutes of stepping off the tram, which wasn’t hard to do since the city has around 2,500 coffee shops. There are dozens of types of coffee available at the coffee shops and are of amazing quality.
We spent the first afternoon in the MuseumsQuartier, an ensemble of museums, cafes, restaurants and bars inside former imperial stables. The area was the site of another amazing Christmas market. We went into the Kunsthistorisches museum, an art museum in a magnificent building housing, a picture gallery, Egyptian, Greek and Roman section, coin collection and more. We spent a couple hours enjoying the building and the wonderful works of art before heading outside to explore the Christmas market and streets of Vienna. We found dinner and then went to a Wagner concert at the Musikverein venue. We prebooked tickets for the standing section for about $7 and got as dressed up as was possible with our travel clothes. The venue is home to the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra and is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world due to its highly regarded acoustics.
The next day we spent the morning at the Belvedere palace and museum. The Belvedere is divided into two buildings separated by a large garden and holds an impressive collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to present day . We were short on time before we had to check out of the hotel so we focused on the upper Belvedere. The highlight, at least for me at the museum was seeing in person the famous Klimt painting, “The Kiss”. I had the classic poster in college hanging up in my dorm room of The Kiss, following me throughout adulthood until having an unframed poster hanging up seemed out of place. I’ve always loved the work composed of oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, it is full of romance and beauty and standing in front of it was breathtaking. Side note here: as I was taking in the wonder of the painting I hear “no way” as Tommy notices the sign pointing to a room to the side called “selfie room” where you could take a picture with a life size blow up of the painting since photos where not allowed by the original. There was a line to get a selfie with copy and most the people were there longer than in front of the actual painting itself. Made me stop and wonder what is going on with this world…. Anyway the painting was amazing and I feel lucky to have stood in front of it.
We checked out of our hotel at noon and had to spend the rest of the day in the cold, because we were traveling with our dog and couldn’t go in most places. Traveling Europe in the winter with a dog, recommended? umm depends on how much you love your dog. It was a nice but freezing day, there was a low cloud ceiling and everything felt very damp and reminded me or winters in Seattle. We wondered around town for the afternoon, I found an amazing veggie burger at I Love Veggie Burgers and at outside in a square with our dog begging for food at my side. When the night came we were back at the train station headed back to our temporary little home in Prague…
To be continued….