Prague – Walkabout

After a fitful night’s sleep, I wasn’t quite over the jetlag but at least feeling more motivated to start exploring this very cool city. Fortunately, the weather gods agreed as the rain was gone and now there was sun streaming into our loft.  As Chris had arrived earlier into Prague he had already been to Old Town so he guided us down from our neighborhood to the heart of the city.

As we approached Prague Square, the vibe turned demonstrably more touristy, with trinket shops and teeming masses seemingly everywhere.  I was slightly annoyed by this but soon got over it as the scenery was really spectacular.  Massive Gothic buildings surrounded as we walked down the cobblestone streets.

I had read about a new butcher shop Nase Maso, run by the son of one of the most famous butchers in the country, where they will cook various cuts of meat to order.  Thankfully, it was a bit past the tourist and on a relatively quiet street.  Not surprisingly, there was a line of what appeared to be businessmen on their lunch break – always a good sign.

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A large counter laid out the selected meats for the day and there was a small dining area along with some more tables outside.  After some initial confusion thinking I spoke Czech, the manager came out to explain the concept.  The choices for the day included their own Czech pork sausages, some Vienna beef links, steak tartar, flank steak and burgers.

We decided to each get the large Czech pork sausage with paprika (Czech’s spice of choice) and share the sample platter of the pork, beer and mixed links.  Of course, this had to include some beer, which for today was an unfiltered blueberry based pilsner.  We were given paper cups and told that 1 beer = 2 refills from that cup – for $2.  The manager also instructed us to tip the cup to the side (as if we didn’t know that already!) to avoid getting all foam.

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Finally, the sausages arrived and due to our hunger, we had already eaten most of the sample platter before realizing we didn’t take a pic.  Ooops.  I made sure to get a snap of the main sausage though as it was fantastic.

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The sausage was almost all pork and barely any filler, with just a hint of spice from the paprika.  The real kicker though was the homemade mustard, which was a perfect blend of sweet and spice, complementing the sausage beautifully.  Full of meat in tube form, we made our way over to the famed Charles Bridge.

Prague Charles Bridge 1

Charles Bridge across 1 Charles Bridge across 5 Charles Bridge across 6

Unfortunately, the bridge was packed with tourists and the schlocky stands of lousy looking tchotckes that inevitably follow, along with the inevitable portrait artists and street performers.  There was a brief respite at one point though with a very talented violinist providing a nice background to the beautiful surroundings, which I appreciated.  Still, by the end, I was more than ready to get off the bridge and move to a quieter street.

Prague 2 Prague 3

We walked along the river via a nicely shaded path and made our way towards the Cafe Savoy, a Prague institution since 1893.  Since we had stood eating at the butcher shop, it was very nice to settle into the comfy booth and rest my aching feet.  The main room was quite resplendent with a huge ceiling decorated with chandeliers.

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I had read about their famous patisseries but I was drawn to the unusual description of a sundae with homemade eggnog.  I was a bit confused as to how that would be served and failed in my attempt to get a clearer explanation from our waiter.  But it was only $6 plus I wanted to see what in the heck it would look like.

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The ice cream turned out to be a mix of chocolate and marzipan, with the eggnog layered in between the 2 scoops along with some whipped cream.  It was even better than it looks above, the eggnog had been spiked with some brandy and the whopped cream perfectly fluffy – delicious.

Before we left, I took a quick look around and found a large portal into the patisserie, where a baker was busy making what appeared to be the beginning of a croqueembouche

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The cafe was right next to the 22 line tram, which runs close to our loft, so we decided to check it out.  After some miscommunications on how tickets worked, we eventually found a tobacco shop to buy some, based on the duration of the intended trip(s).  Soon what appeared to be a brand new tram pulled up and a mere 20 mins later, we were back in our neighborhood – very handy.

We rested up for a couple of hours before it was time to head out again.  When I had posted on Facebook I was making my way to Prague, an old friend of mine, Steve, had told me he was going to be in the city at the same time.  I hadn’t seen him in over 20 years so it was going to be a real treat for me.  Knowing he was a beer lover, I picked a spot that was close to our respective locations plus supposed to be a pretty good upscale pub.

Called Nota Bene, the restaurant was tucked down a small side street and an outdoor terrace for summer drinking.  However, it was a bit cold out so we chose a table inside.  Once again feeling like something darker, I chose a dark lager which had some nice roasted notes to it.  The menu was pretty small but had several good selections.  I had been reading about the Czech version of schitnizel, which isn’t as heavy as its Austrian neighbor and almost always pork-based.

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The batter was nice and crunchy but definitely lighter than a traditional schnitzel.  The mashed potatoes were delicious too, with some kind of pickled element on top (never found out what it was, alas.)  It was great catching up with Steve but after a couple of hours and another beer – this time an Indian saison, which was a nice capper – I was spent.  Tomorrow would be the best weather so Prague Castle lay ahead.

 

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