Fri. Oct. 5, 2018:
Prague Czech Republic:
I woke up just after 9am with purpose: I could finally write the postcard to my dad, I had finally eaten at U Kaliche. Never mind that the postcard would surely arrive way after me. We went downstairs for breakfast but the door was locked. We did not feel up to ringing the doorbell and having them make a fuss over us. We still had butter cookies and apricot jam in the hotel room, plus we had a coffee machine. I would survive. It was an awful coffee maker, with the stupid pods and it was impossible to figure out. When I eventually did get it going it turned even more disastrous. I went to take a sip and it was not even warm. Turns out the coffee maker had been set to cold brew. Except it wasn’t a nice cold brew, it was a room temperature coffee. Add insult to injury: there were grinds in the coffee. Disgusting. We stopped at the McCafe on the way so I could get a better coffee. The cookies with apricot jam barely helped improve my mood. The McCafe, even though it is in the McDonalds, was upstairs and separate. The downstairs kiosks didn’t apply. I had to attempt to order my caramel latte despite the language barrier.
We got to the Klementinum Library just in time for the 10:30am tour. I was so excited to see the Baroque library- it was the main draw. Alas, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. I was so sad about this. I settled for buying a postcard later on our way out. Things only got worse from there. The lights in the Baroque library wouldn’t turn on. I was really starting to regret not having rubbed the dog in the statue on the bridge last night. I vowed to rub it at some point in the day. When the tour guide announced the problem, one lady in our group asked if they couldn’t just open the curtains and let in some natural light. It made me shudder to even think about. Why did she think the place was kept in the dark? Clearly, she knew nothing about museum stuff. We continued on with the tour, the plan being that we would come back at the end of the tour and see if the issue was resolved. In the tower there was a camera obscura onto the Prague Meridian line and when the light was on it, you knew it was midday. It’s too bad we were too early. We continued up into the Observatory Tower. From the deck we had a view of all of Prague. Off in the distance we could see how crammed the Charles Bridge was with tourists- it was just a solid mass of people spanning the whole bridge. When we got back the lights were still not fixed. We were able to walk up to the barrier and at least peek in, once my eyes adjusted it wasn’t that bad actually. Everyone was so quiet, an atmosphere of hushed reverie as we all stole glances. We were told we could come back later and a staff member would escort us to the library to see. I secretly wondered if it would be the same view by the barricade, just better lit. Or would we get to walk through it? The same lady from before piped up again. She was mad and she was leaving town, she wouldn’t get to see it. What she seemed to not grasp was that an electrician had to come and fix the problem.
For lunch we went to a hotdog window shop. We tried to order one hotdog and one kielbasa but the guy said it’s the same meat, the difference is in getting a bun or not. We got two hotdogs with everything. I was too lazy to pick and choose my toppings. Therefore, I ended up with sauerkraut, red cabbage, cucumbers, mustard, mayo and ketchup. Not exactly the ideal assortment- it was still good though. Brent had a Pilsner Urquell, I had a mulled wine. Problem was, the hotdogs were two-handed meals. I held Brent’s beer while he ate, then he held my mulled wine while I ate. It worked out well, my wine needed time to cool down. The hotdog was an unruly mess. We backtracked to the Klementinum so I could buy some postcards (when we were leaving there was no one at the ticket desk).
We stopped at a grocery store on our way back to the hotel, the one across the street from our usual shop just after the bridge. I got a red cacao bean Kit Kat, a chocolate Cornetto ice cream, piquant paprika Lays and a Koppaberg Swedish cider with strawberry and lime. It was a tiny can, but I had run out of bottle caps to collect. Smirnoff Ice being the only one left. The chocolate Cornetto was a lie. The bottom 2/3 of it was vanilla ice cream with only a little bit of chocolate fudge. Why call it a chocolate cone?! Why only have chocolate ice cream at the top?! WHO DOES THAT?!?!?
Back in our hotel room we found that all of our towels, save for one crumpled one on the floor, were gone. The coffee bar had not been replenished and we did not have new sheets, the bed was just made. I felt like we were getting ripped off. I brewed one of the sample teas I had gotten from Kusmi, the lemongrass green tea. It was so good! Once I got caught up in my notebook, we settled on planning the evening, and if I had time, maybe some Mario Odyssey. I finished writing all of my postcards. The Czech stamps were so big I had to stick them on sideways. With this I had to move on to pen #3 of the trip, #2 finally giving up. In the course of the trip, I had only acquired one free pen. Thank god I brought some from home. My book, Amy & Isabelle, was finally available again. I made it through 2 chapters before I called it quits and took a 30-minute nap, I was so so so tired.
Dinner was at the Medieval Tavern, which apparently was under a kilometre away from the hotel? We must’ve walked by it and yet I couldn’t place it. I did remember passing a pub touting itself as medieval. Could that have been it? What were the odds that there were two medieval pubs? It was so funny to get there and realize how many times we had passed by it on our way back to the hotel. Now it made sense why I always saw people outside taking pictures. Even walking there, having confirmed the address, I still questioned it. Was this right? Were we going to the place that the Toronto Star had written about? As soon as we stepped inside, I was sure, this was definitely the right place. It was dark with low vaulted ceilings and lit only by candles. It 100% felt like Prague’s oldest pub. The outside had been misleading but it makes sense being so close to the castle. In the doorway a lady asked us if this was the place with all the bones. I said it was a good bet that it was, especially given the skulls over the entrance. For some reason they left.
When we said we had reservations, they asked (again!) if we were absolutely sure that we did not want to stay for the medieval show. The first time they had asked after we made an email reservation. It was hard to see when we first entered, it took my eyes a while to adjust. Reading a menu by candlelight may sound romantic- but it really isn’t. We didn’t order any apps because we’d had a pretty heavy lunch. Brent had the duck leg confit and I had the goulash. The first drink I ordered was grog. It was just as I had expected based on what I had read on the internet: rum in hot water, garnished with a lemon and sweetened with sugar. It was really hard trying to carve the duck leg by candle light, so instead of swapping plates we just traded bites. The goulash was so good. It was more along the lines of what I had expected and was used to. Except instead of potato dumplings (kopytka) it was served with “bread dumplings” which were just slices of white spongy bread. It was good for dipping in the gravy. Brent ordered a second pint, actually it was more of a half litre, but pint is so much easier to say! I had already finished my dish while Brent was still hacking away at his duck leg. I ordered a glass of mead when Brent’s second beer was brought. The lady asked me if I wanted it hot or cold: HOT! I almost yelled it from excitement. While I waited for my drink I wandered over to the bathroom- more so because I wanted to see the rest of the pub décor and I was curious what a bathroom in a medieval pub would look like. There were skulls and animal pelts hanging everywhere. The bathroom had an old-looking stone sink and it was tiny. The hot mead was the best drink I’ve ever had. This one was less sweet and slightly more herbal and it was amazing. There are hearts drawn in my notebook around this experience.
After dinner we walked over to the Estates Theatre. Brent had gotten the last ticket to a show. It was a Russian poetry reading with Czech subtitles. He really just wanted to see the theatre. I was more than OK sitting this one out. I had found a nearby mall where I intended to while away the time. The trouble was I didn’t have data on my phone. Brent had to walk me to the mall where I was able to connect to wifi and keep in touch. We agreed on a meeting spot at the Palladium Mall and I set off on my shopping adventure. Except my phone was being spotty about connecting to the wifi and immediately worry set in. After eventually getting it to connect I saw that Brent had messaged me. The theatre performance was the following night. Once we met up, we went to the Albert grocery store for the all-important snack supply. We grabbed white chocolate covered Oreos and vampire teeth gummies. We went up one floor and Brent found a spot on a bench while I set off for some shopping. The mall had a really confusing layout, there were half floors and all the escalators didn’t line up. I had to walk to the other end of the mall for the next escalator to the next floor. There were only a few stores I wanted to go to but now I did not feel like exploring to see if there were any new stores, I was unaware of. At C&A I found two dresses but they weren’t in my size. Eventually I found a black dress with white and blue flowers. I also found a ~$2CAD long sleeve t-shirt for Adrian. I had no idea how European sizing worked, who measures children in inches?! I got the largest size even though it still seemed so small (I later found it was for a 2-year-old toddler- oops).
Walking back, it was unbelievable how many people were still at Old Town Square. It was just a giant mass of very slowly moving people. I waited until we were at the start of the bridge before cracking open the Lisacke-Jablko cider. It was good, tasted more like a traditional cider and it was the perfect walking drink. The only downside was that it was in a can, so no new bottlecap for the collection. On the way back over the bridge I caved to peer pressure and rubbed the dog on the statue. As we passed by the Medieval Tavern the place was rocking, loud music was playing. No wonder it had been empty when we were there. Everyone wanted to see the show.
Going up the awful stairs, there was a small group of people sitting on the stairs. From afar I guessed it was rowdy teenagers out on a Friday night. I was worried they would laugh at me as I struggled up the stairs. When we got closer, we saw that there was one guy standing and telling stories to the group. My guess was that it was an improv troupe all telling stories about the stairs. But fine, maybe Brent was right, maybe it was just a regular old boring ghost tour. My version is more interesting. It was a small comfort knowing I’d only be going up those damn stairs a few more times.
Back in the hotel room I finished off the apricot jam (that for some reason became known as marmalade in my book halfway through) while catching up on writing. The Shake Cocktails: Mojito from the Ukraine was ok, but it was not the best mixed mojito by far. I was only trying to delay the inevitable: having to wash my hair in that stupid shower. It made me so mad just thinking about it.