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Monday, October 31, 2016

Czeching Out Old Town Prague



Yeah, I know...corny Czech puns. Sorry, can't help myself. Lucky for you, we're only here for a short time.

We have one full day in Prague so let's get to it.


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It's a bit of a late start as we sleep in a bit. Easy to do in this very comfy Hilton hotel. We decide to skip the hotel cafe (good thing too...it's ridiculously expensive) and just head out. 

We'll grab a bite along the way.

A short block, downhill from the Hilton, takes us to the nearest subway station. Hidden behind an adjacent McDonald's is a lift down to the platform.



The station here is a bit dingier than we'd find in Germany but it's accessible and functional.
A few stops later we alight in Old Town. It's still quite a walk along bumpy cobblestoned sidewalks to the riverfront.

About a quarter mile of walking along the river gets us to a couple of riverfront cafes where we try to get a bite to eat.  Try is about all we can accomplish because the wait staff is determined to pretend we don't exist. We have to exit through a tight and crowded market at the foot of the Charles Bridge where we cross the street to go back to a couple of other cafes that looked a little more laid back.



An extremely narrow sidewalk, just about an inch wider than Tim's chair, takes us there.



Café la Crème offers up a sidewalk table we can sit at, and good food to eat. Service is friendly and we're soon sated. Back up the narrow sidewalk, we take on the Charles Bridge crossing.



Sitting across this strategic span of water for over 600 years, this bridge was a lynchpin for east-west trade over the centuries. It's massive bulwarks shake off ice in winter and slice through spring floods. It was the only river crossing in the area and carried a massive amount of traffic along the sixteen arches supporting its weight over the water before being restricted to pedestrian-only traffic in the last half of the 20th century.



With all the tourists crowding for a place to capture the perfect selfie, you'd think it was still the only river crossing in this fair city.

Tim's getting stressed with people haphazardly walking into the path of his chair without looking. I'm getting stressed trying to watch out for him. Letty's getting stressed that we're getting stressed.

It's not a good look for us.

We're trying to take in the scenery, majesty, and history of this beautiful bridge but it's more of a time of self-preservation as we try to work ourselves to the other side with our sanity in check.

Eventually, we do make it over to the other side where the crowd eases up just a hair. Once Letty catches up to us, we start to make our way upstream to the next bridge, pouring over our map to find the best, most-likely-to-be-accessible route there. Eventually, we end up in a quiet alley on another narrow sidewalk. A glance to the right reveals a little courtyard café...Café Soda...blissfully ignored by the traveling horde.



I need a beer and this is the place that's going to give me one.



Winding our way to the back table, we're cut off from the world outside. A very nice respite with a cold pilsner to help us recover from the chaotic streets outside. They also have nice, clean bathrooms here that are, unfortunately, not accessible.



Rejuvinated, we make our way across the next bridge upstream with no crowd at all and make our way over to Wenceslas Square to see the Astronomical Clock and to eat a trdelnik. This is a type of rolled pastry that is cooked over a wood fire. Some places put ice cream on it, others a sauce like Nutella.

We couldn't find a place that would do both so it was ice cream for us. Suffice it to say, we didn't think it lived up to it's status as a legendary Prague snack.



Again with the crowds in the square and we're feeling more run down than anything else and start to head into the direction of our hotel. 

The streets are teeming with people. I see a little break in the buildings on the edge of the square so we duck in to find a maze of alleys. It's seems us and maybe five other tourists are in this warren. It's wonderful.



Old, medieval buildings line crooked, cobblestone lanes with little shops, cafes and bars. We've finally found our sweet spot in Prague in this area that looks like it came from a Hollywood set or Disneyland, only it's real and devoid of the crowds we've been fighting for hours now.



Around one more corner and we come across Vycep Nastojaka, billing itself as "the smallest pub in the world." The name translates roughly into 'standing room only,' although there are about five barstools.



The bar itself is maybe four feet long. The shelves behind are well stocked, though, and there's even a flat-screen on the wall to watch your favorite sport, as long as it's soccer.
Inside, we have about as much room to move around as we do in our bathroom at home. Besides us, there is the bartender and the local barfly. Both are friendly and eager to strike up a conversation with these out-of-towners that landed in their bar.

When they find out we're from California, we're the recipients of a number of toasts to our state. Along with a shot of rum, the bartender gives us a taste of slivovitz, a plum brandy that is the national drink of the Czech Republic (according to him). It's very tasty.

The barfly shakes our hands and bids farewell...he has to go back to work after his lunch break here...but stays a few minutes longer when the bartender hands him another pint of beer.



After a slow start, a frustrating few hours of summer crowds, and finally breaking away, we find a little bit of the heart of Prague in these two, sweet gentlemen at the 'world's smallest pub.' It's nice to be able to put a good ending on our day before heading back to the hotel.



And that's how we'll end our Czech adventure...crazy crowds but friendly, heartwarming locals.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

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