Central European Road Trip 2016 Part 7: The City of a Thousand Spires

 

A little bit of advice I don’t mind sharing: When you stop for a wee-wee and a spot of lunch, whilst on a road trip in the Czech Republic, or in fact anyplace where you can’t speak the language, please refrain from ordering a glass of wine. It will save you a world of pain. You will also not offend the not-so-friendly wait staff, by attempting to explain your discontent with the aforementioned beverage, by pulling faces, sticking out your tongue and making gagging noises, all the while pointing at the offending liquid. So much for my success rate at playing charades….back to beer we go.

So even though the wine was brown vinegar and was probably opened in1976, the beef broth with liver dumplings sounded promising. Let’s just say that I have had better road food and leave it at that. The Husband, most certainly, hit the gastronomic jackpot this round with his standard order of Schnitzel and beer. Dammit!

Onwards to Sedlec Ossuary, also known as The Bone Church, a small chapel located in Sedlec, in the suburbs of Kutna Hora. If Prague is your base, this is easy enough to visit and should definitely be on your to-do list. Kutna Hora is about an hour’s travel from Prague.

From the outside the church looks pretty mundane. Step through the doors and let the magic happen. The interior of the church is entirely decorated by more than 40,000 human skeletons. You would expect this to be quite creepy, but the bones and skulls are so intricately and artistically arranged that there is an incredible beauty and almost vulnerability to it. A truly magnificent place that will leave you feeling slightly stuck, between shock and awe.

Our home for the following 3 nights was the Vintage Design Hotel Sax in Prague. A quirky decorated hotel with lovely big rooms, a veranda on the top floor where you can inhale your tobacco and very centrally located to all the splendour the city has on offer.  And the view from our room was delectable.

For dinner we took ourselves to Lokál U Bílé kuželky, a vibey place just around the corner from Charles Bridge. We first mingled (hah!!) with the ‘locals’ outside, sipping on the now standard beer and was lucky enough to grab a table in the cellar. The place is really popular and was packed. We gorged ourselves on traditional cheese curds, fried cheese, cucumber salad (more like a cold soup) and The Husband’s now obligatory, Schnitzel. This time, he was completely out of control and had Pork Leg Schnitzel. We thoroughly enjoyed Lokál and our cheeky waiter made it all the more fun. You can find the place at Míšeňská 12, if you’re in the mood for     a good night out without too much debauchery.

The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to miss the masses on Charles Bridge. It was blissful strolling across this magnificent bridge and taking in all the sights without being jostled. By 9am we were on the other side of the bridge on our way to the Dancing House, also known as Fred & Ginger.

From there we made our way to the head of Franz Kafka….mmm…could have skipped that, and then had a walkabout on the Old Town Square or if you’re local, Staroměstské náměstí.

Most of the shops that I had on my list either closed down or moved, a bit disappointed on that front. However, I did manage to ensure that the plastic was still in working order at Boheme. The shop is managed by a delightful lady that does not speak a word of English and her equally entertaining side kick, a scruffy Jack Russell. The store stocks both a local Czech designer and a Swedish label. Stunning stuff.  This time, playing charades was immense fun and no gagging was required.

We also stocked up on souvenirs at the Blue Shop, definitely the better of the myriad of souvenir shops.

We finally stopped for lunch and a well-deserved beer at a microbrewery called U Medvídků.  For a starter snack we shared the Bear Claws. Delicious. I had the roasted barley with fried onion as a main dish – also very tasty. even though I was going to pay the bloat-price a little later (but when you’re married for 10 years somethings, although not completely accepted, are tolerated). The Husband really pulled out all the stops and indulged in a plate of Goulash with bread dumplings.

Side note regarding the food until this point:
All the restaurants that I researched and that made it to my list, served traditional food of that specific country or region. What was I thinking? There is no way on earth the locals eat like that every day. Yeah, maybe in winter when is minus-ridiculous-degrees or they’re big burly men doing manual labour. But come on. City dwellers? No way.
Thank goodness we walked our little toochies off every day!

For the remainder of the day we ambled about with no real plan or agenda and rested at the hotel in the afternoon. And guess what? There was wine in the mini-bar!!!! Oh joy!! I immediately quaffed the teensy tiny little bottle. Mother’s milk after all the beer that I had to force down.

We dined just down the road from the hotel that evening. The weather finally was getting cooler and glorious rain serenaded us while we were stuffing our faces, yet again. This time we went more cosmopolitan and ate at an Italian restaurant….although sausage and sauerkraut really does not roll off the tongue that well in Italian. And I had some more wonderful fermented grape juice. Went to bed a happy lady.

Day number two in Prague dawned overcast and blessedly cool. A perfect day for sightseeing. Our first stop was at Prague Castle just up the hill from the hotel. The view from up there over the whole city is breath-taking and I finally understood why Prague is called the city of a thousand spires.

On our way to Petrin Hill, we walked through Nový svět or New World, the most picturesque quarter in Prague. Remember to look up while you’re ambling through this neighbourhood filled with small houses. Indeed very pretty.

After we stopped for a while at the top of Petrin Hill, we took the funicular down and made our way to the Lennon Wall. Imagine The Husband’s surprise when the wall filled with graffiti had nothing to do with Lenin but was named after Lennon. My bad.

The baroque backstreets of Mala Strana is filled with beautiful little shops, traditional pubs and restaurants and includes some fabulous views of the river. Once you’ve ooohed and aaahed enough, try and find Vrtbovská zahrada back towards the main drag. We walked past it twice before we finally spotted the entrance. It is truly a magnificent, baroque garden, completely hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The views from there are gorgeous and it is a popular spot for wedding photography. We gawked to our hearts’ content.

So one of the things that every person and guide book tells you, you must do in Prague, is eat a Pork Knuckle. And like a good little soldier, that is exactly what I had for lunch. Well, I use the word ‘had’ in a very loose way here, of course. The beast definitely got the better of me. How on earth do you eat this monster without looking like a Neanderthal? People literally stopped and stared while I was wrestling my way around the knuckle. I’m probably captured on film by half the western world, chomping like a mad woman my way through this thing. And if that was not enough to scare the living crap out you, the side dish was a truly ginormous portion of potatoes with the standard parsley…I really do not like parsley. To make matters worse, The Husband was delicately eating his two tiny stuffed peppers while I was sweating my way through half a pig.

Needless to say after all that food, I was in no mood for further walking around. Unless somebody could carry my now extra stomach. Plus, Charles Bridge looked like an ant nest with the queen on the move and that amount of people freak me out in a second flat. But it was our last day here and we still wanted to see more and smell more and experience more. Plan B was to jump (read crawl) into a beautiful old car and take a scenic route like proper middle aged tourists through the city. Bliss.

Dinner for our last night in Prague, consisted of Trdelnik (try and say that 3 times) dusted with cinnamon. A messy affair to eat indeed and do not laugh while it’s on its way to your mouth…I managed to sprinkle everything in a 5 meter radius with cinnamon. Trdelnik is a very common pastry that you’ll find on the streets, made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick and then grilled. It basically looks like it sounds: twirley. The toppings normally are cinnamon, sugar or a walnut mix.

We got up really early the next morning and while we sipped our coffee on the upstairs terrace, we listened to the birds on Petrin Hill. Best time of the day for me and a wonderful way to say goodbye to this stunningly beautiful city.

Next stop: Budapest!!!

Love & Light
xx

PS. I post pictures in the next post. Promise.

Central European Road Trip 2016 Part 5: A High-impact Bra and Buckwheat

Good grieve but the road into Poland from Germany is shite! Never in my life have I missed my high-impact sports bra more than on that road. 50km of pure jiggling hell. Sinkplaatpad se moer.

It was however worth the now very saggy mammaries. At a very unassuming road-side stop, just after the road from hell ended, I tasted a pierogi and am now converted for life to these doughy delights. Who knew?
But that’s not all folks! At the very same unassuming road-side stop, they had a buffet that went on for kilometres. From chicken doing the backstroke in oil, to a slightly healthier option of borscht, all the way to a schnitzel with a mound of rice. Again, do not forget that favourite side: the ginormous portion of sauerkraut. And the place was packed with fellow road users, which to me is a good sign that the food can’t be too crap.
Apart from the oily chicken, I had a great lunch of pierogis, a cucumber concoction and some unidentified meat…..the price you pay when you mingle and do not speak or understand one single word of polski.
I love finding these gems in a place that you would normally only stop to have a pee-pee.

This bode well for our time in Krakow.

(I seriously have the attention span of a gnat, the road-issue was completely forgotten until I started writing this!)

I absolutely adored Krakow and if you have not been there, put that on your to-do list immediately. Food was amazing, design is exciting and the city is breathtakingly beautiful. The people that we came into close contact with (in other words, people that you said more to than please, thank you, hello and good-bye), where all delightfully friendly and had a mean sense of humour. My kind of peoples.

We arrived in Krakow in the late afternoon and after dropping our bags at the Andel’s by Vienna House Hotel, we set off to explore the city. First things first: The hotel is very central, staff is exceptionally helpful and rooms, as well as the public areas, are visually pleasing and practical. They also have parking (at a price of course) in the basement.

Our first point of call was Rynek Główny, the main square where you’ll find a whole bunch of performers, overpriced restaurants and horse drawn carriages, manned (womanned???) by attractive women with sultry smiles. And a shit-load of people.

But it was golden hour and photos had to be snapped.

Just around the corner from the square, down a quiet side street, was our eating spot for the evening. Morela is a traditional polish restaurant and their speciality is buckwheat. Like the pierogis, this is something that I’ve heard about or seen on cooking shows but never ever tasted. And like the pierogis, I am converted to this as well. In fact, since we’ve been home, I’ve made buckwheat risotto twice already and it is delicious.
I should do something more adventurous than add mushrooms…maybe try to re-create the dish I had for dinner at the restaurant: Bacon & Prunes Buckwheat. The Husband’s dish looked quite tasty as well – he had Buckwheat with Polish Sausage, Paprika Peppers and Mushroom Sauce. Nomnomnom.

Day two in Krakow dawned slightly cooler – most welcome after the sweltering few days in Berlin. We set off on my planned route with the first stop at Plac Nowy for a double espresso. Plac Nowy is a pretty square in the Kazimierz area, with loads of restaurants and bars. Onwards to Kładka Bernatka Bridge where there are a whole circus act of sculptures swinging in the breeze. Just beautiful.

On our way back to the main square, we were forced to do some shopping. We walked away from Ciuciu with bags and bags of the most precious candies I’ve seen in a long time. All handmade right there in the shop. Next stop was Pasaz 13, an intimate shopping centre with disappointingly few local designers on show. Still, it is an interesting building.

We could not find Galeria Plakatu, a shop that sold communist posters. I don’t know whether they moved or closed down, and nobody that we asked seemed to know what the hell I was on about. Sad.
We did however found some pretty cool T-shirts at Red is Bad. And not only do they loads of anti-red shirts but also anti-blue. They were very proud about the fact that they frown on the whole euro-malarkey. Cool shop with cool people and one I can most definitely recommend if you are there and looking for a souvenir.

Forum Mody is a bit of walk from the main drag but it was a non-negotiable for me. It is a concept shop/gallery that promotes Polish designers – both clothes and homeware. And just again to illustrate how amazeballs these Poles are: when we arrived at the shop (after of course having a bit of a domestic on the way there….it had to happen at some stage), we realized that they were closed. Fear not. The nice man, after he heard that we travel a gazillion miles by air and a final few by foot to come and browse their goods, opened the doors and allowed me to roam free. I could have bought half the shop right there and then. Stunning goodies but a tad oversize for hand luggage on the return trip. Apparently, they do ship internationally and so all is not lost. Yeah!!!

Needles to stay, after all that, including the kiss and make-up part with The Husband, we staggered back to the hotel and collapsed on the terrace, weary to the bone. I was able though, to muster up enough courage to down a few glasses of wine (hello my old friend) and to ward off starvation with a plate of white borscht.

All in all, I LOVED Krakow and will most definitely return one day and spend longer in the city as well as travel a tad more in the country. It is a stunning city filled with great people.

Love & Light
xx

Central European Road Trip 2016 Part 3: Kippenvel

When find yourself, slap-bang in the middle of The Netherlands (no jokes – Barneveld is really in the middle of the country), stop for lunch at Ina’s Eetkamer.

This was our first pit-stop from Schipol to our overnight stop in Hanover, Germany. The town of Barneveld is very conveniently located just off the A1, about an hour from the airport.

A bit about Barneveld: It is known for its egg production and poultry farming and one of the Dutch’s most popular breed of chicken, is named after the town…or the town was named after the chicken….

From hundreds of restaurants that came up when we searched for a place to eat and more importantly, to have some liquid refreshments, Ina’s was the place I decided on. Why? I cannot tell you….but when these kinda things happen, I just go with the old trusty gut feel.

The ‘eetkamer’ is owned and run by the magnificent, yup, you’ve guessed it: Ina. There are about thirty seats in the cosy dining room and plenty of seating outside, which was absolutely damn marvellous for us. Fresh air and sunshine after the crossing over Africa, was indeed welcomed and apart from possibly the best bitterballen in the world and plenty of tipple, best of all, I made a new friend.

Surrounded by happy bees pollinating the rose garden next to our table, sipping on a complimentary bottle of wine, Ina and I were able to cover a vast range of topics in the time that we visited. From travel, to plastic surgery, to mierentietjes (the most stunningly visual word I’ve heard in a long time).
Her, in her beautiful, descriptive Dutch and me in my sucky Afrikaans, peppered with English. I cringe when I think how bad my moedertaal has become!

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It was a simply stupendous way for us to start our road trip and all the thanks goes to Ina and her generosity.

Ina, als je in Kaapstad bent, zal ik extatisch om uw gastheer te zijn en zou de mogelijkheid om uw warmte, openheid en vriendelijkheid terug te betalen waarderen.

Love & Light
xx