The wife invited me for a relaxing weekend break in Prague just as the winter was starting to set in, from 27th to 29th November 2010. They had 20 degrees in the previous week but this weekend, which was the beginning of the Prague Christmas Market, and the lighting of the christmas tree, had -7 degrees. So we dressed up with super wool underwear, wool and cotton socks, mountain walking shoes, and our winter coats. Whilst my wife’s coat is made for winter, mine just looks really warm and the wind goes straight through the zipper. I therefore had to add even more clothes underneath – the most layers I had during the weekend was four.
We left from Manchester Airport (the most illogically constructed airport i’ve ever been to) on the Saturday morning with BMI Baby. With BMI Baby you have to pay extra to sit together so I was placed one row behind my wife. I really hate it when they place you apart just so you’ll pay more to sit together. There were many others sitting alone with empty seats where WE could have sat. Anyways, rants aside, the about 1 hour 50 minutes flight went reasonably smooth and we arrived in Prague early afternoon.
My wife looking around the airport
When you exit Prague airport you’re met by loads of yellow cabs, just like in New York, but these were VW Passats. I’m sure the yellow cabs must have monopoly on picking up people on the airport as the average cab in the city was a lot more… old? Alot of Skodas, which after all was a Czhech brand of car before it was bought by VW.
Outside Prague Airport
We weren’t picked up by a yellow cab but by the driver from the hotel Mamaison Suite Hotel Pachtuv Palace. He also drove a Passat, but an unmarked one.
Our driver in the mirror taking us to our hotel, Pachtuv Palace, and that's me in the back seat.
My wife had chosen the most amazing hotel, which was situated right on the river with a view of Charles Bridge. Pachtuv Palace is a suite hotel so we had a sink, microwave and toaster (not that we used any of these these), as well as a big bed and a very nice bathroom. Apparently this was the place Mozart once was held hostage back in the days.
Our bathroom had everything you need to survive
After settling in we quickly got ready to go out and explore the city. After discussing with the hotel staff which restaurants we should visit, we totally disregarded their advice and headed off to a place we had researched in advance. We didn’t want touristy food so had researched places that served more traditional Czhech food. The place of choice was Mlejnice. It had mixed reviews (mainly great but also some bad) but we were certain the negative reviews came from people who would more enjoy Mc Donalds or one of the many shops selling pizza, and were determined to try the local. The Mlejnice restaurant pulls in about 50/50 tourists and locals.
We arrived and the place had a very homely and grounded feel. There was a little wait, so the very kind locals in front – David and his girlfriend – invited us to sit with them at their table. It was great to talk to normal locals who are not guides or trained in tourism.
Our new friends in Prague
David works in security and has experienced the horror of hosting football games against England/Scotland. He also told us about his travels to North Korea and how he was one of 50 guests to the country each year and was one of 10 people staying in a 500+ capacity luxury hotel. If you’re interested to find out more, ask me.
After dinner we went to see the Christmas tree being lit… but we were late and this was the view that met us:
Our view of the Prague Christmas Tree
Lesson learnt: If you go to see the Christmas tree being lit at the Prague Christmas market and take some nice photos of it, make sure you get there early and don’t get stuck in a side narrow side street.
Anyways, we did get to see the Christmas tree finally!
Prague Christmas Market Christmas Tree
After checking out the tree we found some really interesting tubular dough based food that we needed to try. It’s called Trdlo and is dough wrapped around a stick, added sugar and baked over the fire. Below are some Trdlo photos – by the way it tastes very nice. You should try!
Trdlos being baked over an open fire
My wife and her newly acquired Trdlo
Look for the characteristic Trdlo Sign next time you're at the Prague Christmas market!
After the Trdlo we walked around in the Christmas market. Here are some impressions:
This is what a typical stall looks like at the Christmas Market in Prague.
A wide selection of (most probably) home made sweets. Yummy, but we didn't buy any as we'd just eaten.
The very characteristic (and spooky) Church or Our Old Lady Before Tyn in the background of the Christmas Market in the Old Town Square
You don't go to Prague Christmas Market without trying the local delicacies - the sausage in a bun.
Before we went back to Pachtuv Palace Hotel we went for a walk to Charles Bridge which you can’t avoid crossing at some point when visiting Prague… That is of course unless you spend your whole holiday in the business district or in the new town shopping! We saw both beautiful and sad things, including quite a few beggars who beg in a different way compared to other countries. They sit on their knees and don’t bother you. Here’s a shot of the Christmas tourists standing on Charles Bridge with a beggar sitting on the side hoping for a few coins to be able to afford his supper:
A beggar on Charles Bridge
At the same time we saw some very nice views from the bridge:
Northbound view from Charles Bridge, Prague
Southbound view from Charles Bridge, Prague. One of those buildings on the left was our hotel.
Of course before we went to bed we needed something sweet, so what better place to go to than Phenix Cafe next to our hotel? My wife had a very nice cake whilst I of course had a Czech beer.
Chocolate Cake at Phenix Cafe, just next to our hotel in Prague.
After a long day of travels and “Market-ing” we took a reasonably early night. Ready for the next day! I will provide another update with day 2 soon, so make sure to add my blog to your RSS feed so you can keep up! In the meantime check out the rest of the pictures from day 1 of our Prague Weekend Break.