Thursday 26 February 2009

A wonderful week

For my birthday, my amazing girlfriend not only gathered my friends for a surprise party, she also gave me a trip to a spa. A beer spa. In the Czech Republic. This of course meant we had to go to Prague. I know. Really sad, isn't it?

Well, over christmas, we ordered tickets and a hotel room, and then she started on finalizing the plans. As it turned out, the guy who arranges the spa, is also a tour guide in Prague, and offered to pick us up at the airport, take us to the hotel, and then take us on a guided tour of the city.

Arriving in Prague after a slightly delayed flight from Oslo, we met our guide, Filip. He's a local, but speaks fluent Norwegian. After leaving our luggage in the Hotel, we drove to the top of the old town, and started our tour at Klasterny Strahov, the Strahov monastery. The monastery brews beer, an excellent amber lager called Sv. Norbert.

Castle Cathedral, Prague, InteriorHaving sampled Sv. Norbert, we went to the Castle, and saw its amazing cathedral. After that, we went to the "Little side", where we stopped for our second pit stop at another of Filip's favorite haunts, that served the best gulasch I've ever had, with traditional Czech steamed knödel bread, along with a very nice lager called Svijany, and grog.

That's right, grog. Not unrelated to the drink sailors have drunk for time immemorial, it is a real heater, as it's served hot, and based on a rum-like liquor. The pub, ancient as it looked, had a theatre stage in the back. Apparently, this is where anti-communist meetings were held during the communist times. Being in there was like breathing history.

Following the heater, food and beer, we went back outside, to cross the beautiful and ancient Charles bridge. Unfortunately, parts of it were under restoration. Even so, it was gorgeous, and immediately after crossing it, we went into the Klementinum, the old city library. From the Klementinum, we went on to the old town square and its beautiful town hall.

Leaving the town hall behind, we went on to Prague's kubist house. In the second floor of the house, there's an amazing 20's style kubist cafè called Grand Cafè Orient, a very nice and charming place, full of atmosphere.

When we left Grand Cafè Orient, it was getting late, and so we headed towards our hotel.

The next day, Tuesday, Anne and I grabbed our cameras, and went to town. Some of the results for my shoots of the day can be seen on Flickr. We started out in the Prague City museum, at the Florenc station on the Prague subway. Among more or less interesting exhibits are two pieces that stand out. One is a gorgeous mural by Salvador Dali. The other, and the key piece of the museum, a huge, intricate, detailed paper model of the city made in the years 1826-1834 by Antonin Langweil.

Following the museum, we took the subway a few stops, and then switched to the city's tram line number 22. Forget any other tram line, the number 22 is the way to get around town. We literally only used that, and our feet, to get around town. We went back up to the Castle, from there moving back to the Charles bridge, and then to the other side of town, where we took photos around the town square before heading back to the Grand Cafè Orient for some hot drinks.

In the evening, we went to a restaurant called Cowboys. It's a nice enough place, but there are better places, even for their specialty, steak. The next day was spent walking around town without cameras, doing a little light shopping, and enjoying the town. Among other things, we picked up a few very nice pashminas.

Thursday morning, Filip picked us up at our hotel, taking us to the Chodovar brewery where the spa I mentioned a while back is located. The spa treatment started with a bath in a mix between hot water and dark beer, with cold beer served on the side to go with the bath. We were then taken to a room to relax, before we had a massage.

This was followed by lunch, nice pike in a rather strange curry-ish sauce. Following lunch, we went to Plzn, the home of Pilsner Urquell. We were taken on a tour of the brewery, and served some of their famous beer.

On our way back, Filip recommended a place for steak called Ambiente - the living restaurant, and even made reservations for us. Although the steak at Cowboys was nice, this was something else entirely, and at half the price to top it all off.

Friday morning was spent finishing our packing, before we checked out of our hotel room, waiting for our transport to the airport in the lobby.

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