I WASN’T in the mood for leftover Slovak breads and fruit my mom packed from the previous hotel’s breakfast buffet. Three and a half hours on board a bus to Prague through lunch and surviving only on the complimentary onboard coffee, we finally arrived in Prague. Although about an hour away from the bus terminal by car, the Residence Bologna was only a ten-minute walk away from the famed Wenceslas Square.
The first order of business was dinner after quickly checking in. I zeroed in on the Staroeská Selská Pánev at the Hotel U Prince’s outdoor extension restaurant. The Traditional Bohemian Farmers Pan includes Pork Neck, a Pork Chop, Smoked Brisket, Sausages, White and Red Cabbage and Dumplings.
Everything here sounds like a spell or some exotic potion and they taste just as magical. Our waiter, Jakub, highly recommended this Staropamen Lager, a local Czech beer to wash the meats down.
We made good of the remaining daylight to tour the immediate area. Sundown was at nine and we weren’t quite ready to hit the sack so we found ourselves sampling Kozel’s at the hole-in the-wall next to our hotel. We still found it hard to refuse the offer of a beer pair and ended up with no regrets. Tomatoes and Mozzarella with Pesto on a split Baguette made up the Bagety in simple and simply fantastic bites.
Breakfast the next day was heavy on breads and cakes but I stuck to the cold cuts, cheeses and fruit before heading out to our complimentary tour. Our rather eager guide, Margaret, directed us to the. Prague Orloj for the eleven AM chimes. The Prague Astronomical clock, a medieval astronomical clock–the third-oldest and the only old one still in operation, fell short of my Disneyland-It’s-A-Small-World-Attraction-Clock expectations. I was later pacified by the information that each hour had different and progressively interesting automations.
We swept the entire square with the full, enthusiastic detailing of the guide. There was the Church of Our Lady before Tyn with the towers lovingly referred to Adam and Eve — the bigger man shielding the smaller woman. In truth, they overspent on construction of the first tower and couldn’t make the second as grand. The massive Jan Hus Memorial imposes within the square as a symbol of reform and national rebirth. Nearby was the Baroque St. Nicholas Church, the interior of which was inspired by Paris’ St. Louis Des Invalides.
Meandering further into the circuitous streets of the Old Town, Margaret’s tone dropped theatrically somber as we reached the Bazilika Svatého Jakuba Vetšího. The Basilica of St. James the Greater features the Madonna Pietatis, the tomb of Count Vratislav of Mitrovice and, weirdly, the naturally mummified hand of a thief who tried to rob the richly decorated altar. Even more weird is how it was the statue of the Madonna that held the robber by the wrist until he was found the morning after the bungled burglary.
The ornately gothic Prague curiously gave birth to the Cubist movement and had proof in the Cubist House, now a hotel and restaurant replete with cubist pastries. Begrudgingly passing by without trying the food — methinks commissions have not been agreed upon here — we moved on to other attractions along the route.
We broke for lunch and jumped into the nearest café. Why do just mozzarella sticks when you can breadcrumb-batter an entire block of cheese and bring it to a crispy golden brown with a deliciously oozy center? The people here do with a variety cheeses, usually Edam, in the Smažený Sýr or Smazak. Cambrinus, often ID’d as Jan Primus I, Duv of Brabant, is said to be the inventor of beer and hailed it’s king. A local namesake brew made the perfect accompaniment to the cheese.