* I wrote this post on Saturday but have only got around to posting this evening as my laptop power supply broke and I have been waiting for a new one!
I just got back yesterday from a 4 day city break to Prague. I have been a couple of times before but it's somewhere that I feel a real pull towards, it has lots of nooks and crannies to explore and I see something new every time. In this post I want to share with you my passion for Bohemian Prague...I hope you get a sense of my enjoyment and why I love it so much.
The Alchymist Grand Hotel & Spa
This was an amazing hotel in Mala Strana, in the little quarter. The hotel is in a fairly quiet street just a few hundred yards from St Charles Bridge and is one of the safest streets in the city, owing to it being the home of the US Embassy. This means there is a police presence 24/7 but I can't say I felt watched or that their presence was overbearing. The Hotel dates back to 1517 and has a glorious spa and fitness centre in the basement. The decor is baroque and then some. I'm sure it wouldn't be to everyone's liking but it is in character with the building and it's history. The rooms were a good size with all the amenities that you could want.
On site was a fantastic and popular restaurant called Aquarius and a cute Venietian inspired cafe called Cafe Barocco which served the most delicious hot chocolate and apple strudels. Perfect as a pick me up from all the walking in the cold. I noticed thoughout my trip that there are a lot of Italian influences around which makes me love the place even more as I have loved all things Italian since my first visit as a teenager.
The Castle (Prazky Hrad)
The Castle was our first outing and its a bit of an uphill treck, but so worth it for the view. The castle is not just one building, but a collection of historical buildings, that house an old convent, a basilica,offices, living quarters and the St Vitus Cathedral. The whole area is dominated by the castle and as such the area of Prague is called Hradcany. Inside the castle grounds is a small street called Golden Lane. As my visit was just before the Easter weekend each of the little houses that have been turned into shops were full of Easter decorations, like the gorgeous wreath that you can see. I also bought some leather and tin bookmarks, one of which is going to be a gift for my friends daughter's Christening (shown in the pictures below).
Easter Markets in Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) and Wenceslas Square
The following day we went to Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square over the St Charles Bridge to look at the Easter markets. The last time I was in Prague was just before Christmas and the square was filled with little wooden huts covered in decorations, selling traditional food and gifts. This time it was a riot of colour as everwhere you look was covered in sweet little ribbons. I bought some little painted eggs to remind me of this trip, hopefully I'll be able to use them as decorations in my flat. As it was snowing and -6 degrees we stopped to have a tradtional fastry called Trdelnik and a hot chocolate to warm up.
One of my favourite activities wherever I am in the world! I got to visit two of my favourite shops, Pylones which is a french shop selling all sorts of giddy coloured homewares and accessories and Tezenis which sells mainly underwear but some clothes as well. These are international brands so not specific to Prague, but I love them all the same. One of my new Czech finds was Manufaktura- they sell bath products, homewares, linens, decorations and wooden toys. I bought some wine and beer and shampoo and conditioner which smells divine. I'm so glad they have a website as when I run out I hope I can get some more! As well as buying Easter decorations, I also bought some wooden Christmas decorations in Manufaktura that worked out to be about 30p each which was a bargain. A more traditional purchase of mine was wafers. What's so special about wafers? Well these wafers were historically given out at spa's and were made from iron moulds to emboss their unique pattern. Between each thin and crispy layer is a flavoured filling, hazelnut being the most "authentic" but they come in a myriad of tasty varieties including tiramisu, chocolate, vanilla to name just a few.
One morning we set off early and took a walk over the bridge and went to find the Mucha Museum. I have always loved the Art Deco style and much of Mucha's work reflects this. Sadly no photography is allowed inside the museum but I bought a few small tokens to remind me of the visit. The blue coaster is called "Dance" and is one of my favourites. The exhibitions showed a lot of his works through various periods, including his time spent in Paris and America. One of the most moving parts showed drawings he did during childhood and the timeline of his life was shown in a short film. His love for his home country was evident throughout a lot of his work, so I'd recommend any art lovers to pay this small museum a visit. It's only a short stroll from Wenceslas square too, so a great place to stop and grab a coffee and a bite to eat afterwards.
Food and Drink
I love to eat, and that is evident as I'm currently 24 lbs heavier that I should be...it's coming off gradually though! There are plenty of places to visit in Prague if you are in any way a foodie. Again there is even an Italian influence in a lot of the food and we ate out at Restaurant Carmelita on 2 nights. They have a wood oven in the basement which makes the best pizza's, my favourite was covered with tomato, basil, pesto and olives. My fellow diner had a gloriously creamy looking topping of mozzarella, studded with chicken, blue cheese and asparagus.
I have mentioned them above but one of my treats in Prague is the Trdelnik pastries. Dough is rolled into a little snake and then wound round a metal roller, covered in sugar and put on a rolling spit of sorts over a flame until brown and sticky, and sort of like a doughnut. Some stands also swipe a layer of Nutella on the inside which is really decadent. There is plenty of chocolate in Prague and I always try and stop by Bon Bon which sells the most attractive individual chocolates I have seen...and I used to work in a chocolate shop! The nougat roof is always one of my choices as it has a crunchy snap on the top and bottom and in between is filled with soft and smooth milk and white praline. As the Czech Republic is land locked there are lots of influences from its neighbours, especially in the food. There are a lot of German nuances, particularly noticeable with all the cafes serving sachertorte and all manner of gateaux's and scrummy biscuits and cakes. I really wanted to visit Cafe Imperial but sadly I didn't manage it this time, I'll have to save it for next time. On our last night we had a lovely meal in U Cerneho Orla which is attached to a hotel on Mostecka Street. We had the beef tende which is served with a traditional casserole come gravy sauce with potato and bread dumplings and topped off seemingly bizarrely, with whipped cream and a redcurrant sauce. It sounds odd but tastes so good. The first time I had this was after a "pub crawl" of sorts on my first visit to Prague and it certainly helped to calm the spinning head after the "man pints" of pilsner. This meal however was much more civilised and I could fully appreciate the flavours. The beef melted and the dumplings helped to soak up the slick of sweet and savoury gravy. It's very warming and filling too, and cost only the equivalent of £3.50...not bad after a day of shopping! As an added bonus, the hotel put on a cheese and wine tasting every evening (you can see in one of the pictures). This meant I got to sample some Czech red wine that I wouldn't have tried otherwise and I discovered a very tasty cheese, a bit like emmenthal but with the addition of whole peppercorns.
Have you ever been to Prague? What would you recommend to do? I'd love to answer any questions about my trip, I've definitely got post holiday blues!