As long term travelers we have learned to mix up our days of intensive activity with a few slow days. This rebuilds both our stamina and our enthusiasm. In Prague most Sundays are easy going both because many shops and cafe’s are closed and we try to avoid the extra busy tourist centers.
This last Sunday we wanted to take advantage of a free cake offer at the Costa Coffee at Karlovo namesti so I looked over the map to see what was near there that we had not seen lately. The Charles University Botanical Garden jumped out at me as a big green space surrounded by buildings. We had been in their green houses several times but had only seen a small portion of the outside gardens because we usually visited in the winter.
Both Karin and I had our expectations exceeded by the scope and beauty of the space. I am not that much into gardens but the tremendous variety in species was highly interesting. A large number of plants, shrubs and trees had descriptive signs, though few words in English, but also a large number had no signs. Perhaps the highlight for both of us was the Geology section because the explanations were in English as well as Czech.
As long as I have known Karin–a whole lotta years–she has collected seed pods. This day she was in hog heaven as the ground was covered with collectible items. All in all we had an excellent adventure walking up, down and around along the many paths.
To top it off the free cake–chocolate tort with pistachios and other stuff– at Costa Coffee was delicious. I am not a fan of their coffee or prices but Karin likes the atmosphere and they always seem to have the best locations.
So what is your favourite way to spend a slow Sunday?
Photos by Karin
Olšany, the biggest cemetery in Prague, although not featured on our Favourites page, is, nevertheless, a place we visit often. We wrote about it here and Karin has a photo journal here.
Now, according to a recent press release from the Czech News agency it will no longer be known to locals only. The Prague Cemeteries Management wants to attract both locals and tourists by organizing cultural and social events on its 50-hectare premises.
Martin Červený, director, would like picnics and workshops in the Olšany Cemetery, as well as readings from books of authors who are buried here. He suggested, “Outside the cemetery gate, a café could serve up black coffee and a popular Czech dessert with whipped cream called “rakvička,” or small coffin.”
“We would like to present Olšany Cemetery as a cultural site that is open to the living,” Červený said. “Such is progress,” I say. What say you? Please comment.
Have you ever heard of Brno, Czech Republic? Have you ever heard of Oaxaca, Mexico? What do they have in common? The former reminded me of the latter because Oaxaca is where I first realized how big and how populated our world is.
On our honeymoon in Mexico Karin and I found ourselves in a large bustling city that we had only heard of because we were scouring the map for places to go. Further as I watched the people go about their business in the crowded market, I realized that they in turn had probably never heard of my home city, Portland Oregon. Or as my brother put it after attending an Army vs. Navy Football game where 50,000 fans were rabidly involved in the outcome: 900 million Chinese could care less.
Similarly, Brno, the Czech Republic’s second city, gets little attention in the wider world. We found it very delightful. First thing we noticed was while it had all the facilities and size of a big city, the hustle and bustle was definitely missing. People walked at a slower pace—we could feel that the intensity of Prague or other big cities we knew was not here.
The city is home to the huge Masaryk University with over 42,000 students. As we approached our hotel we heard trumpet playing coming from a 3rd story window. We were delighted to discover we were across a narrow street from the Music Department—which in turn was across the street from the city philharmonic music hall where the next day we heard a rehearsal while walking down the street.
Like most places we really enjoy there is nothing spectacular to see in Brno. The castle has an interesting history but is not impressive to look at. For instance the well in its central courtyard is claimed to be the deepest in the country and therefore important to the survival of the residents. Yet looking down we saw just a black hole.
Reservoir Reflections — all photos by Karin
The first day we followed a walking tour of the city center’s main sites. The second day we went out into a couple neighborhoods and then to a large reservoir at the edge of town. All very pleasant. The highlight for me was a steak dinner at Monte Bu (Cow Hill). Karin really enjoyed the Romani Museum which displayed the history and culture of the gypsy migration across Europe since they came from India about 1,000 A.D. We both enjoyed buying cups with the authentic but very common Zweibelmuster design.
So my travel advice for the day is: don’t always look for the spectacular and impressive. Instead seek peaceful and pleasant experiences for a true perspective of the world.
Read more of our journeys away from Prague: Environs
Easter, Old Town Square
Photo by Karin
U Vejvodů is a large and busy pub/restaurant in the center of Prague’s tourist area near Old Town Square. On their home page they write:
“During our operation of this restaurant we have received several pleasant evaluations in the form of letters of thanks from the highest representatives of our government, artists and members of the diplomatic corps and authorities.”
They don’t write that they have been repeatedly fined (the most recent for over $8,000) for charging tips without notifying patrons, for charging for un-ordered bread, for serving short measure beers and other infractions.
Another on the list of heavy fines is the Mystic Cafe at Loretanska 174/3 above Prague Castle. Their reviews are so consistently bad I am surprised they are still in business. Other places recently fined include Bar Nebe(Heaven Bar) on Wenceslas Square, and two restaurants near Charles Bridge Čertovka and V Lázních.
Prague as any large city has problems with pickpockets and scamming taxi drivers and as any popular tourist area has unscrupulous people who take advantage of the naive. Just this week as I was visiting the Easter Market on Old Town Square I decided I wanted something to eat and settled on “Prague Ham 90 Kc” according to the sign on a permanent food stand. I ordered and counted out 90 crowns. Immediately the guy said “No, not 90 crowns. The portion is too small; it needs to be more.” I replied that I only wanted to spend 90. He shrugged. I picked up my money and moved on.
So, as all the travel guides, I repeat this travel advisory: Pay attention to what you order and what you get. Check your bill and ask questions until you understand and agree to everything on it.
Now for the good: Easter in the Czech Republic. We are having trouble choosing how best to celebrate the holiday. The weather is expected to be warm and sunny and our choices are too many. Maybe you can help. Check out this web page from CzechTourism: Celebrate Easter Old and New It lists local festivals all around the country. Let us know which you would choose.