Euroadventure 2014: Blackout Curtains and Beer

I woke up on our first official morning in Prague to Dave saying, “Shit!”

“What?”

“It’s noon!”

Confused, I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s just midnight in DC and he forget to change his watch?” and said, “But it’s still dark out.”

“Um, I closed the curtains last night before we went to bed.” And thats how we found out they were blackout curtains. Womp, womp.

We jumped out of bed, showered and got ready as fast as humanly possible (well, as fast as possible for these humans). Even though we slept for close to twelve hours, my body ached with that haven’t-slept-in-days feeling and my head was so foggy. Dave was pretty agitated at having lost half of a day, so I tried to assure him that we had plenty of time and we could be flexible with our departure train for Vienna.

My plan was for us to walk through Charles Square (Karlovo Náměstí) to Wenceslas Square, then follow Rick Steves’ self-guided walk, which would take us from the National Museum, past the statue of Wenceslas and other notable spots. From there we would go to the Old Town Square, but with the huge loss of time slight disruption to our schedule, we decided to head straight for the Old Town Square instead.

A few blocks from the hotel, I saw a cafe with iced coffee to-go and we made a pit stop. It was honestly one of the best iced coffees I’ve ever had! Since it was almost 1 p.m., we figured we should eat lunch in an attempt to get our bodies on track.  We both had restaurants picked out, so we went to Dave’s choice, Mlejnice, and it actually turned out to be the same restaurant with traditional Czech fare I had in mind. (I kept referring to the nickname “The Mill” that Rick Steves uses so we didn’t realize it was the same place until we got there.) The Mill had the best goulash out of any place we tried, and we tried a lot! I added a side of spinach (still looking for those greens!) and Dave had a side of potato fritter balls.

Even though The Mill is tucked down a narrow alley, it’s only a block or two off the Old Town Square. My top priority was to visit the St. James church to see the legendary “thief’s hand.” The story goes that late one night a jewel thief tried to steal from the statue of the Virgin Mary on the altar. She grabbed his hand and would not let go. In the morning he was found by a group of monks who could not pry his arm from the statue’s grip and eventually were forced to cut off his hand. As a warning to other thieves, the hand was hung about 15 feet up from the ground to the left of the door before you exit the church, where it hundreds of years later it remains today.

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missing something?

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St. James Church

Our next stops were the Church of Our Lady before Týn and the Jan Hus Memorial in the square’s center. We weren’t allowed photos inside the church, but I snuck one in. (Shhh!) The memorial is dedicated to the reformist, Jan Hus, who eventually was burned at the stake when he refused to renounce his beliefs. This led to the Hussite Wars, a Protestant uprising against the Catholic Church. (Photo of the memorial is in the panoramic below.)

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Church of Our Lady before Týn

At this point, the skies were about to open so we made a game time decision to buy tickets to the Astronomical Clock. An elevator took us up to the top and a narrow platform led us clockwise around for stunning views of the city. I thought it was much better than Petřín Tower.

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panoramic of Prague from the Astronomical Clock looking toward the Church of Our Lady before Týn

On the way down, we winded around on a slow sloping walkway stopping periodically to read the  historical placards lining the walls. I also noticed some odd repetitive graffiti; in several places people had written, “Cake is a lie!” I’m still not sure what that means … Back at the bottom the downpour had subsided, and the square was practically empty, which gave us a great view of the “twenty-seven crosses.” It is the location in the square where in 1621, 27 Protestants were beheaded for rebelling against the Catholic Church.

From the square, we walked north along the ritzy, tree-lined Pařížská Street, featuring Prada, Louis Vuitton and a fancier version of the WCs we usually encountered. The street leads to the Jewish Quarter where our next stop was the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Eastern Europe circa 1270. We bought our tickets and Dave donned the required (but complimentary) kippah. Like the Týn Church, pictures were not allowed, and this time I felt more obligated to follow the rules – maybe because I’m not Jewish? Back outside we passed by the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Ceremonial Hall. (We had been by there the night before on our walking tour, but since we slept through half of it, we were more than happy to see it again.)

After all the sightseeing, it was time to enjoy a different side of Prague – the Czech Beer Festival! We continued walking north and crossed the Vltava River to Letná Park, where we caught some cool views before making it to the festival. We paid the equivalent of $15 total, which covered both our entrance fees and five beers to share. It was a steal! Multiple tents housed hundreds of beers, food and music. It wasn’t yet Dave’s birthday, but he thought this was the best way to celebrate.

To continue the beer tour, we returned to the Jewish Quarter and went to the Prague Beer Museum. No, we were not doing more sightseeing. Despite its name, the Prague Beer Museum is actually a brewpub. We tasted a few  different beers and shared a sausages plate before heading out to our next stop – dinner, finally! We hadn’t eaten since The Mill and had covered a lot of ground.

Our walk to the restaurant took us past the Powder Tower, which was the gate of the town wall in the 1400s, and then toward the New Town area. We picked another restaurant that served traditional Czech food, Restaurace U Pinkasů. It has an interesting history and was originally founded in 1843. Dave had schnitzel with potato salad and I ordered the meat roll, which according to the menu was the favorite course of brewer Josef Groll and first cooked October 5, 1842.

Since we were somewhat close to the train station, I insisted that we go there to buy our tickets for the trip to Vienna, even though it was pouring and the clock was nearing midnight. It was quite a trek and we were both happy once we landed back in bed! This time we set an alarm … to be continued.

tuesday things

Woah, March! I can’t believe we are 11 days in and I haven’t written a single word. Last week was a busy one at work, and I’ve traveled the last two weekends, so I have not been able to make the time. There have been plenty of thoughts though, so away we go …

Naturally I was excited to flip the page on my calendar. February was a wonderful month about loving others, but the message for March is to love what we do – or rather, do what we love. This has been a struggle for me, as I have now had four jobs and am still trying to figure out how to balance work and life so that I am happy and balanced. For those who know the secret to this conundrum, please advise.

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Since it is March and I am so beyond over this winter, I have decided to boycott my boots. I hate them and want to throw them in the trash at this point. It is so bad, that I wore flip flops on Sunday because they were the only other shoes I brought with me out of town! Yesterday it was supposed to actually warm up a bit, so I wore my flats. Then I saw a terrifying thing – my pale ghost-like legs. (Do ghosts even have legs? I mean, Casper just floated around like a blob, but real ghosts are more like people, I would think, and therefore would have legs.) I digress.
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scary white legs!!

After being frightened at the sight of my own skin, I decided that I needed to jazz up my footwear a bit. I have been coveting these leopard shoes from a blogger that I follow, yet couldn’t justify the price when I wasn’t sure how often I would realistically wear them. Well yesterday I was in luck, because I found a great pair for $23 at Macy’s. Score! I wore them today and no longer felt bad about my legs. (Or as my mother would say, “these shoes look so cute on my feet!”)

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cute shoes = less concern about scary white legs

Finally, I have some big news to share. We are going to Europe!! A few weekends ago Dave and I booked a trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. He’s never been across the pond, so that makes it all the more exciting. I am well-prepared with my usual travel books – those who have followed since the beginning of time know that I adore Rick Steves – but nothing can compare to first-hand experience from friends. So if you’ve been I want to hear from you.

What did you like?
What didn’t you like?
Where should we eat or drink?
What random tips do you have?
Ready? Go!

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if you fall off your moral horse, call it a cultural experience… italy is for romantics

those words were written by my favorite travel expert, rick steves. i have just received his italy 2009 guidebook and am starting to plan our trip – our being my grandma, mom, aunt, godmother, and myself. second to france, italy is the country i’ve most dreamed of visiting. our family is from campobasso, a town southeast of rome. not only do i look the part but i also have a love for the landscape, food and, of course… wine!

when i started my job with continental, taking grandma to italy became a goal of mine. although she had never really voiced the desire to my knowledge, i knew that it would be a meaningful experience for her and i wanted to share in it.

because continental is so overstaffed right now they are encouraging leaves of absence. my plan was to take a month-leave in september to ensure having off the weekend of sarah’s wedding. considering i am a bridesmaid, it was simply not an option to miss it – even though sarah’s attitude was, “if that happens we’ll deal with it then,” i was not going to miss standing by such a great friend on one of the most important days of her life. so the wheels began turning and i decided to take one of the many leaves being offered and use the rest of the month to take grandma on a much deserved vacation. we are planning for about two weeks mid-september so for anyone who has been before, any and all tips/advice are welcome.

i also recently decided to take august off so i can spend some time in texas, help mom at the restaurant, and really start looking for a new job – in houston, dallas, or DC. i should know mid-july if my leave request has been granted. if i don’t find something new, then i will put in my transfer to the houston base and continue with continental from there. it will be a nice change of pace and i have so many friends in the area. my living situation will be much more comfortable and my days won’t be spent idly waiting in a tiny crowded apartment for scheduling to call. even though i don’t love my job with continental, i like it enough to think that these changes will make me much happier in general. (questions, comments, concerns, words of wisdom are also welcome in this area too!)

on a closing note, i now have kevin’s address at camp so if anyone would like to send him a letter or care package, all of us lambs would greatly appreciate the thoughts and well-wishes! hope everyone has a great week :)