Prague is a city that fits perfectly into the dreams of a European traveler. Everything feels quaint and historic, especially during the holiday season. There's a chill in the air and the town squares are filled with Christmas markets selling fresh mistletoe. We kissed a dog or two. Does that count for some mistletoe action?
Becca: "Kate, go over there so I can take your picture."
Photo 1: Kate begins to skip into position.
Photo 2: Kate realizes that the skipping has been photographed and feels a little sheepish.
Photo 3: She decides not to care and pulls together a decent pose.
Becca and Cristina value efficiency- my favorite thing. We conquered most of the tourist hotspots in a single day. From hoofing it up to the Metronome and taking in the panoramic views of the city, to meandering through the Christmas market in front of Prague Castle- we saw it all. We also made our way to the Lennon Wall for some Instagram-worthy pictures.
One of our goals was to eat some authentic Czech food during our time in Prague. Our first experience (pictured below) was at Restaurace Mincovna where we tried traditional potato soup consisting of potatoes (obviously), mushrooms, fresh marjoram, and truffle oil. If you ever go to this place, for the love of all the truffles on this planet, do not split this dish with someone. You will resent them for eating half of it. Just get your own blessed bowl. We also sampled beef tartar. I have no idea how they make raw meat safe and delicious to eat; I find it best not to ask questions. And last, but not least, we enjoyed goulash with potato dumplings. It was like a fluffy sherpa blanket for the digestive system. Czech food is hearty food.
After conquering Prague in a day, we decided to take a train to Český Krumlov, a small town located in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. Because she's never met a stranger, Cristina began asking the guy sitting across from us about different Czech words. By the end of the trip, we had become buddies with Jiri (pronounced "yee-dee"), a native of Český Krumlov. We were also able to count to ten in Czech, say "I don't speak Czech," or conversely, say "I speak Czech very well." Based on the way that Jiri has thrown his head on the table in utter awe of our talent in the picture, we clearly will only be using the "I speak Czech very well" option.
Once we arrived in Český Krumlov, we explored the most adorable town I've ever seen. Cobbled streets with shops selling Christmas ornaments and gingerbread, combined with a delightful Christmas market in the town square made me very suspicious that we had been sucked into a snow globe (sans snow).
Later, we met up with Jiri at Tavern Šatlava, which is a place that would make all of the hobbits feel right at home. The tavern was incredibly cozy, with an open fire used for cooking yummy, hearty Czech meals. We each ordered a Czech staple: garlic soup in a bread bowl, which I devoured. Afterwards, my breath could have single-handedly destroyed the ring and defeated Sauron (Apparently this post is a not-so-subtle homage to my love for Tolkien). We also ordered hot-off-the fire sausage served with fresh, and surprisingly mild, horseradish sauce, as well as pork skewers.
Getting back to Prague from Český Krumlov was actually sort of an ordeal, so we were extremely fortunate to have Jiri with us. After speaking in rapid Czech with the train attendant, his only translation for us was "Everything is okay." We then found ourselves in a "Harry Potter-esque" compartment on a train, snort-laughing at how horribly I was echoing Jiri's Czech pronunciation. If you need a visual, I cannot confirm or deny that there is video evidence. If said evidence did exist, I'm taking it to the grave. But if you're really hung up about it, go watch the episode of "Friends" called "The One Where Joey Speaks French." It's pretty much the same.
"Insider" tip: If you're looking for the genuine Czech food experience, you can skip the chimney cake stores on every corner labeled "Trdelni'k." I called them "turdlinks" because I'm an American. Butchering other languages is what we do. They market these cakes to tourists as a Czech specialty, but they're actually Hungarian, I czeched ("checked"- see what I did there?). Jiri said that five years ago, no one in the Czech Republic even knew what the cakes were. The more you know...
It was such a privilege to travel this beautiful country with these two beautiful souls. Also, the Czech Republic has a "Teach English" program, so when Spain decides to stop renewing my visa, I may have a backup plan. I told my family that I may never leave Europe. They were warned.