Crossing continent, ocean, and several security moats in Frankfurt, they have wound their way to the Czech (yourself before you Wrzech yourself) Republic for a dream destination honeymoon type thing.
Thank god we didn't do this right after getting married! I am exhausted already and it's been two days. Can't imagine trying to do all this Prague trotting after a big old wedding and whatnot.
The detailed travel logs begin below. While I rather liked Leslie's suggestion of calling these editions the "Prague Blogue," it seemed more fitting with the linguistic oddities of our current country to moosh more consonants together and have ourselves a PLROG.
Pragueperations Progress Little Luthfansey check-in
It's technically midnight according to my thoroughly baffled internal clock. And/or 9:30 or so according to the several helpful - and no doubt highly accurate - time pieces on display about the Frankfurt airport.
Given that we left early to allow for plenty of travel disasters, none manifested. Traffic was actually quite "pleasant" (read, "did not cause me to cry and/or renounce my affiliation with humankind") and security was a thorough breeze in the Seattle area.
Our plane was timely and quite patently not an American carrier. Which is neither a positive or a negative, but the differences were amusing. We had an overabundance of entertainment options and free headphones to enjoy these options, but the sound was so quiet that I turned the subtitles on for my riveting Captain American and Xmen Double Header. Actually, quite glad for the forced time to finally see the most recent of both. I think that XMen Future Past wins over Captain America Winter Soldier, but then again Andrew and I kept trying to synch our play backs of Captain America and my screen reset itself 3/4 of the way through the movie, so I kind of lost the pacing a bit on that one.
But the low volume: same with all the announcements. I thought peradventure that it was just difficult to hear because I had orange foam jammed into my airs, but it was genuinely difficult to hear anything over the roar of the plane. Quite the opposite at the gate, where neither of us can speak to each other whenever the announcer comes on. For all I know they announced the coming of the Apocalypse and the new world order. But I just kept repeating "water?" plaintively, and received my share.
Another distinctly "this is not an American flight" definitely were the portion sizes. Well airlines always try to cheap you on food, so I would say the meals were generous. It was more the water glass, which looked like an overgrown shot glass. The little cup holder was somewhere between anemic and adorable.
Anyways, over the course of a ten hour red eye, we lost nine hours, so breakfast came nipping at the heels of dinner. Given my pill regimen requires (1) an empty stomach of at least 4 but more like 6 hours before the synthroid, (2) an empty stomach for 1 hour afterwards, I was glad to have several tupperwares to stuff the breakfast into for post-passport-control consumption.
And we had to pass through security again, to which I lost a tub of Vasoline and got a thorough pat down. Apparently Vasoline is a liquid on the continent. But hey, I got to keep my shoes on, and every one was quite pleasant as various parts of my thoroughly cotton clothes bleeped off as suddenly metallic.
We're here for another hour or two and there are plenty of adorable Oktoberfest souvenirs. I definitely needs me some beer skirts and fake braids! Or sleep. Possibly both.
Let the adventure evolve.
The Prague Blague a/k/a Prlog Makes it all the Way to Prague Proper
Well it's either 9 p.m. (bedtime) or 6 a.m. (weekend wake up time) in my wild world of wandering. Since we crashed at about 8:00 p.m. and/or mid-morning, I think we're gonna make the switch to local time and call it morning hereabouts. Although it is still pretty dark and Andrew is still making sleepy rustling noises in the bed area. Our bed, incidentally has created a whole new solution to the typical blanket wars: there are two slender comforters - his and hers in a Solomonic solution to the typical tug-of-war? - instead of a single large one. This works pretty well until the inevitable point of evening when the goose down comforter is too warm and both parties ditch theirs by making a mountainous pile in the middle of the bed. Actually, they make good pillows as an alternative, so maybe it still works pretty well.
As promised in Frankfurt (after a bit of a layover which was notable for a loooooong terminal with several ornate camel-themed smoking chambers, ...
and our first international dining experience in which Andrew attempted to discover what the going tip-rate was in Germany before realizing there was no line on the credit card for tips and giving up)...
we did make it in to Prague yesterday! Hip hip hooray.
Germany may have found us cagey enough to subject us to several additional checks and security measures (and to confiscate all our viscious viscous semi-liquids!), but Prague was happy enough to just let us wander in unczeched (bwahahahaha). The plane we took to Prague was... well initially it was a bus actually, which was cause for a minor bit of concern. Turns out that the bus was just taking us to a small plane several miles away from the gate. Phew. The entire flight was about 45 minutes, which seemed like the blink of a bleary eye after our 10 hour mid-air marathon and customs coda.
Our driver met us with a sign and a smattering of excited English toting his related tour business. After a brief drive, we made it to the Grand Somethingorother Hotel. Which is right in the thick of things, roughly on top of the Palladium and a few feet from NIFTY PRETTY BUILDINGS, as I believe the area is officially called.
We took a nap first, but decided our first real day in Prague and our first real jet lag of the trip demanded at least a moderate bit of wandering. The perambulations began with a bit of a block-by-block "wait, what's that... can we go look at that?" Mostly at my impulsive behest, since Andrew was still degrogging from that nap and powerless against my whim. We eventually decided to head towards the Vlatva (and Smetana begins pulsing in my head!)
And, of course, on the other side of the Vlatva there were stairs to be climbed! Andrew had obviously woken up. I charged ahead with the proviso that NO, NO This would not be our running route in any near future incarnation.
Needless to say, elevations must be conquered so we mounted the stairs and ramps into the Letensky park up ahead. I want to live in this park. It's extensive, perfectly poised for photo-perfect glimpses of the city between the trees, and littered with whimsical children's playgrounds between industrial art installations. Also, killer fruit. This stuff is spiky and comes plummeting from the placid trees with a nasty splotching vengeance. I'm amazed we made it out of there alive.
Oh also graffiti. This town, in addition to being strewn with hipsters, is quite thoroughly buried in graffiti. Doesn't necessarily work against the stone and brick, but it looks spot-on emblazoned over the Metronom's skate park of a look out area. We walked to the edge of the park and back home around the water front. The Vlatva is littered with bridges and boats and affords equally exquisite views at surface level.
Naturally the grog set back in after the sitting resumed. My grog and Andrew's definitely come at different potencies. While I just got a bit tired, Andrew was back to his head-bobbing eyes swollen narcolepsy by the time we hit dinner. I'm amazed he didn't plunge headlong into our little amuse bouche (home pate on a bendy spoon, and I forgot to photograph it - gasp!)
Today we're determined to follow some sense of an itinerary, but we'll see how long that lasts. Wandering aimlessly is just so appealing. Prague definitely has an interesting vibe. European in the same way that Buenos Aires is... though geographically it holds that claim better. Similar eras of development and mish-mashes of baroque, gothic and deco styles in between the industrial and modern rises. There's a little bit of a mixing of international flavors, though the ground level has the recondite cobbled roads that also flirts with comparisons to Rome. Oh and lots of tourists. Though not obnoxiously so, there's definitely a pretty amazing contingency of certain-aged American patois kicking around the street. I was actually quite amazed in the Frankfurt terminal just how prominent English was. By far the most bruited language.
And the loris beast has stirred, so let the day commence! With little packets of instant coffee for him. And hot water for me because I did just take my stupid pill and all....
Prlog Day Two The Endless Wanders of the Wanton Wayfarers
Our second day was what one might call a Prague Slog. Not in a bad way, but boy are we beat! And by beat I mean "Andrew once again couldn't sit down for more than five minutes without nodding off mid-sentence." I don't think even a rousing discussion about something bike related could have saved him. Sure a few tenseish conversations about our various travel preferences (no doubt as metaphor for relationship) got him through dinner... I'm not saying I stoked "discussion" just to keep myself a dinner companion, but it was probably the only thing that would have worked.
Short takeaway: both of us may be overly cautious about the others' preferences, and are reading into the others' default reaction to suggestions in such a way as to collectively limit out options by lacking a single rambunctiously and unapologetically enthusiastic person... Andrew's default reaction is to say "sure" in the same laconic and affectless tone that could either mean "sure, but first could we jam a red hot poke up my nose" or "sure sure sure, that sounds awesome." Mine is to begin by listing all the negatives and downsides of a potential idea and gradually talk myself into it (if uninterrupted, but usually I'm interrupted). But then again we're pretty damned tired from what we managed to do yesterday, so maybe opening our options of activity would be a bit ridiculous). I suspect that we both benefit from being pushed a bit out of our comfort zones by the encouragement of another, so I'm hoping we can both serve that way for the other... without things getting too one sided. Or even more exhausting.
Oh we also have the perpetual merrigoround about dissonant eating preferences in which I would rather eat all my meals in the hotel and he'd rather eat with me at a restaurant that hopefully serves some ridiculous local fare. We compromise in all sorts of ways, but I am still convinced there's a perfect balance of him eating ridiculous local fare and us sometimes eating together at the crazy scads of vegan restaurants that I'm at least kind of curious about. Yesterday - to start at the end and regroup to encamp back at the beginning - we finally ended up at a vegan restaurant called Loving Space. Very in line with Bamboo Gardens and the several vegan Asian restaurants that I adore. And damned cheap. I think my meal was a couple of dollars. They have an actual buffet for lunch, so this may require a repeat. It wasn't on the Lonely Planet list of five or six veggie restaurants, but it was half a block from the restaurant. I think there's another Indian veggie place about a block and a half further afoot.
And also by beat, I also mean "I'm apparently so overstimulated that I can't sleep and so am up at 3 a.m./6:00 p.m. looking at pictures and typing quietly in a corner, because if I have to lay in that bed for one more hour next to my tossing husband and his separate comforter..." It's going to be good practice for our Monday morning 3 a.m. shuttle to the airport at any rate! And I have no natural time zone at this point.
But a well-earned overstimulation herabouts. To hop a touch in the way-back machine and go full circle through the masticatory pleasures of a day well chewed, we began at the Grand Plaza breakfast buffet. Which is the most exquisite early-edibles Eden I could possibly imagine. Foods well into the horizon. For me: yogurt, piles of fruits (both dried and fresh), vegetables in traditional but light salads, plain vegetables, hard boiled eggs, milk, herbal teas, cottage cheese, all kinds of cheese... For Andrew: multiple colors of sausage, scrambled eggs, a small bakery's worth of different breads, more meats, jams, more cheeses, several pastries and exquisitely good coffee. I could have called the day at breakfast as felt it was a success.
As you can see, it was entertaining for having European portion sizing with American appetitive ammo. Many, many, many trips were required and it started off our day o'walking on the appropriate note.
Our first destination was back up the hill, but towards Prague Castle this time. With some detours. We tried to find a good crossing over the Vlatva, but in addition to different travel styles, the boyfrianceband and I have slightly different senses of navigation (neither of them definitively sterling). I do exceptionally well retracing steps and navigating by landmark. Once I have a sense of how landmarks relate to each other, I can find my way anywhere. But kind of a useless skill before I have that sense. Thus my impulse wandering led us pretty far out of the way before I deferred to Mr. (W)right for the rest of the day. He has a great ability to orient on maps, use the sun and other boyscout approved reference points, and navigates by East/West/North/South. This is helpful until you start to get a little turned around on some of the wonky street patterns afoot. We might have overshot our corrective pathmaking a few times yesterday. But hey, we do have a map, and we discovered lots of things we do want to see eventually.
After ping-ponging back from the National Gallery and Nove Mesto areas, we crossed the Vlatva and ended up in search of the Funicular. Is it just me or does any one else think "Bunnicula" whenever you hear that term. On our way, we stumbled into the Malostrana and Patrinksy Park area. Including the Memorial to the Victims of Communism sculpture, which was... just pretty darned amazing.
But funicular. Andrew was excited about this and I was game. Except first we couldn't find it. Then we didn't have exact change to buy tickets. Then I had to go and shoot my mouth off and say that I couldn't have coffee these days when Andrew suggested we break change by stopping for coffee. So we skipped the fun part of the -nicular that morning and decided instead to wander towards the castles and scale a few cobblestone inclines (and/or walls) to reach... Prague Castle - the largest coherent castle complex in the world, and a huge blend of different architectural eras glommed into several religious and governmental splendors.
And - because we will not survive this tour with overdosing on spectacular views - there were some pretty spectacular views.
We were a touch bedazzled and a bit shy at the sheer throng of tourist presence, so there was some park sitting and reconsidering of options upon arrival at the main gate. We sat outside one of the surrounding palaces that had my favorite facade - The Schwarzenberg.
There were several different ticket options, most of them requiring a bit of calculus to suss out. Very few a la carte options, and naturally the two major attractions we most wanted to see were on separate passes. After some panicked wandering through the throngs, we opted for an a la carte option that seemed somehow less popular: climbing the steps of St. Vitus' bell tower.
We may be in better shape than the average tourist, because I felt pretty a-ok bounding up the 200-something steps, while most of the folks we encountered were gasping for air. But perhaps, they were gasping in admiration at the view, which was even more betterer than the previous perfect panoramas we'd already run into. As a sucker for gothic architecture, I can't say whether I was more distracted by PRAGUE in all its panoramic glory
... or the bird's eye view for the roof detailing.
But it was definitely an amazing experience.
Well followed up by one of the more surreal experiences. I might not have mentioned that after my summers in England and Italy, plus a pretty thorough tour of Israel and the usual haunts of Europe, I am fairly burnt out on a lot of the regular tourist fare. I'll go to galleries for specific artists, but I've seen enough of the same general old stuff that I don't get super excited about it. I have seen my share of cathedrals and, while exquisite, they start to bleed together. These days, I have kind of a preference for the quirky, so naturally of all the remaining options in the castle area, I went for the toy museum. I'm pretty sure I dragged Andrew along to that one, but it was an appreciably surreal and interesting display of toys throughout the ages. Oh and a history of the Christmas tree for good measure.
We returned via Charles Bridge (tourist hell over water) and "all over the freakin' place" to the hotel around lunchtime. I immediately set to eating. Since Andrew seemed unexcited about getting food for himself (I'm sheerly baffled, since the street food around here is so Andrewfied - enormous kebabs, ridiculous hotdogs, but I guess he'd prefer to sit down at a restaurant and that gets awkward if I don't come along or refuse to order anything), I made him a peanut butter and raisin sandwich and we again agreed we really ought to find that supermarket... before not finding that supermarket and instead using our insecure hotel connection to secure a number of reservations for the coming days. And Andrew attempted to sort of long distance roaming via chat with AT&T service representation. It came to nothing, but provided a bit of a forced break and rest during the afternoon. I think I'd like to use that time today for a nap, since I am feeling less sleepy by the sentence over here at 4 a.m. (yawn).
We ventured back out with determination to see (1) The Funicular (WITH CHANGE THIS TIME), (2) The David Černý sculpture Quo Vadis. And maybe some of the things we "missed" back on the castley type hill last time. We didn't manage to ride the funicular yet again. This time because there was a pretty hectic hubub of tourists in on the funiculing action. In lieu, I suggested walking up to St. Nicholas Church, which we had indeed missed previously. On the way, we stopped at the Church of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Kind of a surreal experience as well. The Infant Jesus of Prague is a 1400s wax sculpture of baby Jesus. Said to have protected Prague from Swedish siege in the 1600s. It has over 200 vestments (baby doll outfits for the sacrilegious) and some jewelry.
We did make it back to St. Nicholas in time to check off ostentatious and nifty CHURCH from our vacation to-do list. As one would anticipate, it had scads of incredible sculpture, fresco, organs, tiling, etc. etc. Quite lovely.
And with something accomplished down at the foot of the hill, it was my druther to scale the wall yet again. Not entirely towards the palace, but up up up and away towards what turned out to be The Strahov Monastery. Amazing. Only about twenty minutes out of Mala Strana, where the buzz was deafening, but it felt like we were several miles into country side. Everything was so still and fresh. Needless to say, there were more exceptional views to be had.
Although, honestly, the view of the orchard around the monastery was equally amazing.
As was the presence of a free access porta potty.
There are plenty of WCs hereabouts, but invariably they are pay toilets and invariably I don't have the proper change. While we're speaking of public utilities and plumbing, I've also noticed that drinking fountains are a rarity around here. I've been bringing a water bottle with me every where, but between the dearth of WCs and the absence of bubblers, I've been pretty sparing with that spare water. Next trip, I may need to bring a camel back and an adult diaper. Or limit our excursions down from four hour at a time treks.
We made our way back down the cliff in search of Quo Vadis, which we found only by glimpse, as it turns out it's in the gardens of the German Embassy. But by golly, we did see a sculpture of a car with legs! Really!
And with some semblance of sense, we forewent one more stab at the funicular and began our long wind into "lost in between the Nove and Stare Mesto areas because no matter what we do, the streets keep changing on us and we end up heading the exact opposite direction than our intention." I think it took a surplus hour to hour and a half to make it back home. Part of the excitement. In good news, I now have some sense of nearby landmarks. And - after a despairing few "I'm too tired to try to think about food" minutes in the hotel, we made it half a block down (and this is where it all comes full circle) to reach vegan heaven.
By the time we made it back to the room, it was just a bit past eight and Andrew couldn't keep an eye open with an industrial load lever. We attempted experimenting with Czech tv, and did run into a pretty bizarre episode of South Park dubbed into German. But gave up quite promptly for a thorough night of tossing and turning.
Tonight we have tickets to view the National Marionette Theater's production of Don Giovanni. All life-sized puppets. I'm pretty excited. I'm also thinking that we've barely had a moment to relax with each other since we got here, so (selfish sleeplessness aside) it might be a good day to take it a little easier, stay closer to home, and take a goshdarned nap. The Municipal Hall has an Art Nouveau display I'd like to see. And perhaps, just perhaps, we'll actually make it to the hypermarket!
And sure, sure, I know you'd rather just see the photos. Well. Here's a link to the first few days.