Another day of perfect weather Sunday and we joined hordes of tourists — no joke, I’m talking Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade size crowds, Iowa State Fair Size crowds, Obama’s (first) inauguration size crowds – crossing the fabled Charles Bridge to head up the hill to the Prague Castle complex, a series of grand buildings centered around the massive St.Vitus Church, where we watched the rather amusing changing of the guards, who wore shades and powder blue uniforms designed by Hollywood director Milos Foreman’s costume designer Theodor Pistek (at the then-new president Vaclav Havel’s request, no less!). (see bottom photo) Church construction began in 1344 and ended in 1921. yes, you read that right. Although the glorious Alfons Mucha art nouveau stained lass window came later, in 1931. (This trip has made me a mucho Mucha fan.)
Much of the complex required an admission ticket, alas, which we didn’t feel like paying. We did pay to wind down from the palace through some lovely terraced formal Royal gardens (
Zahrady gardens) and landed at Besada, a surprisingly good restaurant in Malostranska Square for lunch that we just chanced upon, that served surprisingly good hearty Czech food- snitzel, pork medallions, potatoes, potato and sauerkraut pancakes.
Next stop, we walked up and up and up steps of a nearby park to the funicular, which we used to sail down the north bank. Then we walked along the river, admiring the boats and the Sunday strollers until we reached the Charles Bridge again, this time dominated by a French food fair and a boisterous French brass band that the locals and tourists seemed to love.
Back at our pension, the lovely Green Garland Pension (Pension U Zeleneho Vence) on Retezov Street, we had one last coffee (tea for some) at Montmarte, an atmospheric cafe across the street and excellent gelato at a good place near the hotel, Creameries Milano ( 12 Husova) before bidding a sad goodbye to our London friends who flew home to London. We had adequate Italian food near our hotel at Olive Nera, enjoying eating at the outdoor cafe overlooking a pretty square and people watching. (Our evening was marred only briefly by a garbage truck that parked right in front of our table to pick up, slowly, the trash. On a Sunday night no less.)
On Monday morning we took one last wander around the area behind the big church in the Od Town square, finding even more gorgeous art nouveau and art deco buildings. And then off to Prague’s airport where I flew to London (on a decent British Airways flight) and then to Chicago (on a worn-out American Airlines plane) after going through three security checkpoints for that flight alone. (Another in Prague.)