Friday, November 26, 2010

Panoramic 'Headache'

Shall we walk up the hill, climb the stairs of the old church/tower? take the funicular/the elevator/the chair lift? dine at the restaurant at the top of...? do it at the beginning of the tour, towards the end of the tour? all of it?

Well, these questions are about ways to get a panoramic (wide-angle) view of the city we've come to visit. A lot depends on the amount of time one has at one's disposal, weather, mood, and of course physical fitness.

A panoramic view is a Must as it offers some of the most exquisite moments in one's life. Who could ever forget the panoramic view of the Bay of Naples from the top of Mount Vesuvium in Italy, or the view of Athens from the Acropolis in Greece, for instance. Certainly
Not Me.

In Prague there are quite a few spots that offer a stunning panoramic view of this fascinating city: The astronomical Clock Tower, the Powder Tower, the Ziziko TV Tower (pobably the highest place not only in Prague, but in the entire Czech Republic) ,
the Castle, the french Restaurant on top of the Dancing House, etc... The above mentioned towers and the Castle are the most famous attractions in the city.

the Astronomical Clock Tower

the Powder Tower

If it's a clear , nice day, I would strongly recommend the Petrin Hill for a panoramic view of Prague, and not only for this. The Petrin Hill is home to lush gardens, a house of mirrors, churches, and...a look out tower ( copy of the Eiffel Tower, 60 m high, 299 stairs to climb to the top platform, unless you decide to take the elevator).

to the Petrin Hill

There are two ways to get to the top of the hill: by walking uphill or by taking the funicular. Once you reach the top, there's the imposant observation tower. After being up and taking some pictures, you walk down towards the Castle that also offers amazing views of the city.

the Observatory Tower - Petrin Hill

people, food, and fun near the entrance

panoramic view from the Observatory Tower

view of the Castle from the gardens of Petrin Hill

view of Prague from the gate to the Castle

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Becherovka and Hot Springs

Becherovka - sounds nice, tastes sweet- bitter. It's a herbal based liqueur produced in Karlo Vivary (Karlsbad ), a lovely spa town, a two hours drive from Prague.
This liqueur made with spa water , originally for medicinal purposes, comes in green bottles of all shapes and sizes . Its aroma is dominated by cinnamone and anise seed. Its recipe is top secret like that of Coca Cola.

cute liqueur- selling street Booth

Karlo Vivary's hot springs (12-15 numbered main springs) are, of course, the big attraction of the city. The average temperature of the water which flows through special taps is around 60 degrees C. It is said to help with various health problems, mainly digestive ones.

Colonnade (there are five)

It goes like this: you buy a porcelain cup (there are various sizes and qualities) with spout, fill it with the spring hot water, then sip from it slowly while strolling on the promenade, through the Colonades, or sitting on a bench near the spring. I did that of course, but wasn't too excited by the taste. I suppose it takes time to get used to it. Some people, by the way, prefer to bring a bottle and fill it with the curative water. Anyway, whether you like the water or not, the cup is a nice souvenir.

my personal cup

checking the temperature

enjoying a sip and a chat on the bench

curious boy

king Karl's the4th hot spring

Next time, with God's will, if I happen to be there again, I'll go in the footsteps of historical and cultural personalities (including cinema stars that attend annually the Karlo Vivary International Film Festival) - and take a few mineral baths and massages.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Quick Bite in Praha.

At home , I'm more or less disciplined as to what I eat; after all, I do believe in the saying: "You are what you eat and drink" . When I'm away from home, especially in another country, I am always eager to sample the local food (which usually tastes pretty good , but is not exactly the dieter's friend).

The Czechs have booths and stands placed strategically in central squares, markets, at touristic sites - selling a great variety of fast, mostly hot food which goes very well with the cold weather, and with beer.

The sausage (klobasa) is the king, and the delicious fried cheese sandwich ( smazeny syr) is the Queen of this sort of food. There are various types of sausages, and they are eaten with mustard/ketchup/sauerkraut. In the meat category, one could also choose to buy chicken shawarma topped with veggies and sauce or chicken fried cutlet.
The fried cheese (Edam cheese) which comes with mayonnaise on top and is placed in a bun, is a 'star', both on a simple food stand, and in a classy restaurant.

There are ,of course, various side dishes such as those based on potatoes (boiled, baked or fried), pasta, rice, dumplings. The main beverage to go with all this is local beer. They say, by the way, it is best to eat fried food items after you've had some beers, as the fat will absorb the alcohol.

Sweet treats are fairly represented by waffels, dumplings filled with fruit or cream, crepe, and yeast-based pastries.

The smells in the area of the booths and stands are irresistible, and the atmosphere - cheerful. People obviously enjoy eating & drinking in the open air, especially when there's also some entertainment around.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Prague at first sight

Last week I was in Prague (the capital of the Czeck Republic). That's a lovely city with very impressive architecture and lots of attractions.
The weather was cold (especially in the area of the famous Vltava river), but the sky was clear and even sunny at times, and this was good for walking around and taking pictures.

Most of the locals don't know English or any other major language . If a foreigner enters a store to buy something, both the salesperson and the customer get irritated as they have no common language. In this respect, Prague is not a friendly city. Driving is crazy here, and it's really dangerous to cross a street with all its tram lines and very few, if at all, traffic signs.

There are some love-sculptures in public places that are a delight to look at. Two such sculptures caught my eye in particular. One is placed in front of the Intercontinental Hotel ( a few steps from the Vltava), another, on the Petrin Hill (which offers a panoramic view of the city).

In the very center of the city, at the entrance of a book shop - a poster of Madeleine Albright (Albrightova, in the czech language). It seems that the Prague-born former USA Secretary of State is loved and admired here.

I can't remember anything specific about her as a Secretary of State. I think I will remember though, the present one, Hillary Clinton, for the fact that although she couldn't keep an eye on her husband, she thought she could keep an eye on the World.