It was our last day in Prague and we woke to the beautiful blessing of gorgeous clear skies. Melody and I had some important things we wanted from our day and first on that list was breakfast at the Municipal House in Prague. Designed by Alphons Mucha, the building is one of the finest examples of the Art Nouveau style for which he was famous.
The walk to Republic Square was becoming quite familiar to us, and within fifteen minutes after leaving the hotel we were seated in the glorious sunlit restaurant. Breakfast was a simple Czech omelet, served with a variety of peppers, but the coffee and the sunlight is what made the morning magical.
After breakfast, we toured the magnificent complex with the touch of Mucha everywhere we looked. I wished so much for more time to spend in Prague, more time to eat, since the beautiful Francouzska Restaurant on the main floor was breathtaking, (as were the prices on the magnificent menu) and the Plzenska Restaurant in the basement had a more traditional Czech lively beer hall atmosphere. Next to the restaurant was the dramatically beautiful American Bar, claiming to be the oldest continuously operating bar in Prague. Oh oh, for more time in this amazing city.
The marble staircase that leads up to the Smetana Concert Hall was embellished with carved white stone and gold trim, with hundreds of lights and Mucha art everywhere. Municipal House opened in 1912, and became famous as the site of the historic proclamation of the independent state of Czechoslovakia in 1918. The rooms and halls were filled with beautiful frescoes, intricate stonework, richly colored tiles, and stained glass windows. Municipal House is home to the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and concerts are held here. What a treasure!
After breakfast we once again walked beyond Republic Square, and under the Powder Gate, one of the original entrances to Prague’s Old Town. We wanted to spend some time just hanging out in Old Town Square and it was just a short walk away. We meandered along the streets taking time to window shop and decided to try to find the jewelry shop we had seen on our first day. The Czech Republic is famous for its garnets, and I knew I wanted to bring something special home to my other daughters. Of course, since the area between Republic Square, Old Town Square, and the Charles Bridges is so incredibly popular with tourists, it is also lined with incredibly touristy shops. The ones that really caught our eyes most were the shops filled with those Russian nesting painted dolls, and beautiful lacquered little boxes, costing upwards in the hundreds of dollars. I still couldn’t quite figure out why Russian nesting dolls would be such a big deal in the Czech Republic, but they were certainly gorgeous.
I did manage to hold on to my credit card until we finally found the sweet little shop selling garnets with two sweet little Czech guys inside just waiting for an easy mark like me to walk in. Nice part of this was that I had my jeweler daughter with me with her jeweler’s loup between me and the sales! She knew good gold when she saw it, and she knew the pieces that were set properly. It was great fun, and by the time I walked out I was the proud owner of a couple of great presents for the daughters who didn’t make it to Prague.
I think an entire hour had passed since morning coffee, so we found a lovely open air restaurant with a great view of the square and settled in with another coffee. It was fairly chilly, and we snuggled in with the cozy fleece blankets provided on the back of each chair. People watching and coffee drinking in Old Town Square is entertainment bar none! Before long we heard throngs of people screaming and saw someone carrying signs and thought maybe we were in for one of the demonstrations that are so famous in this part of the city. Instead, it was just hordes of teenaged girls screaming over some singing idol that was in the square that morning.
After warming a bit, it was time to explore the old city hall building that houses the Astronomical Clock . People gather here day and night at the base of the clock to watch the apostles do their thing, and hear the chimes. From the outside, it is a lovely clock face on a very old building, but the true secret to seeing the clock is to go inside the old city hall and climb the stairs to the top of the clock tower. The clock itself was first installed in 1410 and is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, and is the oldest one still working.
Something I didn’t even think about until later is that the clock has the earth as the center of the universe. The clock was created to show the then presumed rotation of the sun and the moon around the earth. The clock also shows the movement of the sun and the moon in relation to the signs of zodiac.
Climbing the old stairs and reading the interpretive panels on the walls made the clock come alive in a way that it never would simply viewed from the base of the tower. The panels told of the amazing history of the clock maker, how the clock came to be, how it has languished for as much as a century in disrepair, been repaired and restored, even bombed for fun by the Nazis, and how it survives.
Then when you finally reach the top of the tower, the view of the square and the city of Prague unfolds before you in a breathtaking vista, all the more magnificent because you are trying to squeeze your way around the balcony with literally hundreds of people. Yes, it was still fun. Melody even got all excited about donning some Renaissance garb and getting her photo professionally done at the top of the clock tower, and it is beautiful.
After exploring the tower, we wandered off through the streets on our way to the Bridge and when Melody saw the Hard Rock Cafe, she of course wanted to check it out. Somehow after nearly two weeks of eating wonderful, fabulous, interesting food a big fat hamburger sounded pretty incredible and I found a table for us in the outdoor pavilion while Melody went off to buy Hard Rock stuff for her kids. The hamburger might have been the best I ever tasted, with fat french fries and a side of macaroni and cheese washed down with pints of really good beer. We shared the burger between us and it was still huge.
Check out the warm fuzzy blanket on my chair. Yup, more chair blankets in the outdoor restaurants. You can see a guy behind me with a fuzzy blanket on as well. We watched a rather snotty guy get his comeuppance when his chair collapsed underneath him and he fell in a heap. His companions were laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe, but of course Melody had to go over to help him up and make sure he was OK. I figured it was what he got for trying to take my blanket when I first sat down! That little episode provided endless moments of silly laughter for us.
We spent what was left of the afternoon wandering the narrow streets of the city, checking out the shops, going once more to the Bridge to watch the people and listen to the street music. It was the time of day as light was waning and we wanted to do more and more, and yet we knew that the trip was ending, and that it was time to let it go.
Instead we found one more magical moment behind the huge cathedral in the square. It was twilight, after 6pm and the cathedral was closed, but we found a street vendor selling hot red wine in paper cups with fresh placinkas and decided it was time for more sustenance. You haven’t had wine till you have had it hot, in a paper cup on a narrow street in Prague. A toast to an amazing city, and to the daughter to shared it with me.
Our morning wake up call was coming at 2:30 AM, in time to dress and be downstairs for the bus to the airport. Lorena was no longer around to run interference for us, and there was a bit of confusion as we tried to decipher the signs and figure out just where we were supposed to stand in line to check in for our flight. We waited in the wrong line, with a few others, and by the time we got to the right one it was incredibly long. It was stressful at the time, but now looking back I feel a bit like I look in this photo. “It’s all good”
Every city that we visited on this trip is a place that begs for more time to explore the hidden and not so hidden wonders that we never managed to see. We only barely tapped Melody’s original list of things to do in Prague, but in spite of the short time in each place, it was perfect.
It has been just over a month now since we returned and writing the story has been so much fun for me. I know I would never remember it otherwise, everything would be a huge blur, with crystalline moments thrown in, but all out of context.
Tomorrow morning Mo and I are driving south to San Francisco to board our ship leaving for Hawaii, and I do have great plans to keep up with writing every day. The cruise has a lot of sea days, so I might actually manage to do that.