The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
Prague, Czech Republic
Our friend, Milburn Drysdale, informed us that he had an upcoming business trip to Prague, one of our favorite destinations. Milburn suggested that we might wrap a pleasure trip around his business trip and enjoy the fruits of his labor. We jumped all over that suggestion. Milburn reserved a room at the Prague Hilton for the days he would be working. We would have to make other arrangements for one night of our trip. As word got out, it started to look like there were going to be more travelers than even airline employees (well, ones of our age) would cram into one hotel room. This prompted us to start looking into alternatives. Both BJ and Milburn are members of the Hilton Honors reward program so they decided to cash in some points to get an extra room. BJ only had enough points to get a room for 1 night, so Milburn (a diamond member) had to cover the rest.
We had learned from a previous trip to Prague that it could be inadvisable to arrive in Prague on a weekend without hotel reservations.
Milburn flew over ahead of the rest of the group since he had work to do. He would be staying at the Diplomat hotel for the first part of his trip and would join us at the Hilton on Friday. The rest of the group met in the parking lot at work and got a ride over to the airport. The security line was no problem so we made it to the E Concourse Crown room in time to visit a bit with Jethro, our rookie traveler. We joked about how much he had packed. He said that he had been doing laundry and he had two piles, one to put away and one to pack but he was in such a hurry that he got mixed up and packed both piles.
Taking a lesson from our last trip, we headed to the gate in plenty of time to avoid that last minute panicked sprint. The gate agents joked with us as they gave us our Business Class seats. We had earlier learned that Deltas Number 1 Seniority flight attendant was supposed to be working our flight. We were looking forward to meeting her, but in talking to the other flight attendants we learned that she would not be coming along on this trip. We hope she is okay! The other flight attendants did a great job, giving us excellent service. Sometimes we have a complaint about the service and we often joke that our lives must be really good when our biggest complaint is that the hot nuts were soggy, or, as was the case on this flight, the Surf and Turf was missing its Surf. We had an enjoyable flight over, landing in Prague around 8:30AM.
We bought a 24 hour transportation pass for 100 CZK (~$6) per person and caught bus #119 to the Dejvická metro stop. From Dejvická, we took the Green (A) line to the Mustek stop where we transferred to the Yellow (B) line.
We had forgotten about the LONG high speed escalators in the subway stations. The subway must be deep underground!
We got off at the Florenc stop and walked a couple of blocks north to the Prague (Atrium) Hilton.
European hotels are sometimes funny about how many adults sleep in a hotel room so when 5 of us showed up to check in for 2 rooms, just to be safe, 3 people hid over near the elevators during check in. Milburn had reserved his reward room in Tonys name, so Tony checked in for that room while BJ checked in for her award room. Two Morrises caused great confusion but they finally sorted it out.
BJs room, on the 3rd floor was perfect for the 3 singles, Miss Jane Hathaway, Elly May Clampett and Jethro Bodine, since the toilet was in a different room from the shower. Tonys room was on the 7th floor (the executive floor an advantage of being a Hilton Honors Diamond member). We were instantly spoiled when we entered the room and found a complimentary bottle of wine and fruit basket.
After we freshened up a bit, we headed out in search of some French fries. We found the U Provaznice and ordered 4 Gambrinus beers for 28CZK (~$1.70) each.
The fries (hranolky) were a bit more difficult to get. Either weve started craving more fries when we travel or the Europeans have made a pact to make fries only available with a meal. Just as we experienced on our last trip to Belgium, when we ordered fries, we were told that they were only available as a side dish with a meal. We studied the menu looking for something else to snack on when the waitress relented and said she would bring us fries.
We ordered 2 orders and some ketchup. Two little bowls of ketchup cost as much as an order of fries 30CZK (~$1.80). Jethro asked the waitress how to say Thank You in Czech. It sounded like she said Dick Weed. We werent sure if she was calling Jethro a name or giving him the pronunciation. We learned later that the word was actually spelled dękuji.
After our snack, we hurried to the old town square to see the clock strike noon. We were disappointed when the 12 apostles did not make their procession from the doors above the clock as we had seen on our previous trip. We passed the clock twice more at the top of an hour and those elusive apostles never poked their little heads out. They must be taking a winter break.
Most of us skipped breakfast on the plane so we had worked up an appetite for lunch. That was quite evident when we placed our order for pizza at the restaurant Maestro. http://www.maestropizza.cz We each ordered a pizza and they turned out not to be the personal pan size. Tony got the nod for ordering the best meal. The spicy Diavola (devil) pizza was popular. The other pizzas werent bad either.
We asked the waiter once again, how to say thank you, wanting to verify the information we had gotten previously. He confirmed that the pronunciation of dękuji is actually Dick Wee (the second d is silent) but said slang is just Deke or DK. We felt like we were calling everyone an ugly name when we thanked them, but the new pronunciation certainly made the term easy to recall!
Next on our agenda was the Charles Bridge. It was just as we remembered. Old and dirty and crowded and beautiful! The wonderful weather had brought out a number of artists and musicians.
We took our time walking across the bridge, admiring the statues, enjoying the music and browsing the various vendor offerings.
At the other end of the bridge, we ducked into the Hotel U trí ptrosu to see the authentic hand-painted wooden ceiling from the 1500s.
After more wandering around and gawking at the historic sites, we stopped into U Glaubicu.
When we got inside, we recognized it as the place we had been before where we met the couple from Marietta and laughed about their trip to Vienna Austria and our trip to Vienna, Georgia. We were mesmerized watching the bartender pour beers, adding a thick foamy head first and then filling the beer from the bottom, letting the beer push the head to the top. When she delivered our beers to the table, we cheerfully said, Dick Weed!
By mid-afternoon, we were all starting to fade, so we decided to grab a cup of coffee. Czech coffee seems to be quite fancy. Dick Weed for the fancy coffee.
We hung around the coffee shop until it was time to meet Milburn at the Hotel Diplomat. We could have taken the metro but we thought the walk might wake us up. Milburn introduced us to his friend Dash Riprock who was in from Atlanta also, working with Milburn. We discussed dinner and came to no conclusions, so Tony suggested we go back to a place we had been on several previous trips. We took the subway from Dejvická to Staromestská and then Jill (the GPS) showed us the way from there to Anenské street. Although the name had changed, the Annabar was just like we remembered it. http://www.annabar.cz/index-en.htm
We went through the door and down the steps into the cave-like atmosphere. BJ settled on the special of the day, roasted pork tenderloin, but Dash ordered first and got the last order. BJ switched her order to the Pork Curry with rice. It was an excellent choice, highly recommended. Several of the group started with garlic soup. Everyone had a taste so that we would all have the same enchanting breath. Jethro had the mushroom risotto which was delicious but a small portion. Milburn had a huge scalding hot calzone that was still steaming until the last bite. Tony had the goulash with dumplings. It was a soupy version and the dumplings were very bread-like. He shared with us later that at the bottom of the bowl was a HAIR! Eeeeuuuuwwww! Thank goodness he didnt tell us while we were eating! Dick Weed for that hair!
Back at the hotel, we found another treat in our room. A bottle of champagne and another bowl of fruit! Dick Weed! We invited Jethro, Elly May & Miss Jane in for a night cap.
BJ read in the room that guests on the executive level were eligible for a free breakfast on the 8th floor in the executive lounge. She went down to get Jethro, Elly May & Miss Jane who had to check out of their room anyway since it had only been reserved for the one night. Milburn would arrive that evening to claim his other room. All of the bags were moved to the room on the 7th floor and the gang headed up to the 8th floor to get breakfast. The executive lounge was quite elaborate. We were greeted by the Maitre D and asked for our room number. She raised her eyebrows as the four of us (Tony stayed back in the room) gave 1 room number. Once seated, we were offered a choice of menu items or the opportunity to enjoy the buffet. We all chose the buffet which had bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, potato pancakes, a variety of cold cuts and fish, salad and a kajillion different kinds of bread. As we were enjoying our breakfast, the waiter brought over a check and handed it to Jethro. We were concerned that BJ had misread something and this breakfast was going to cost a lot! The waiter must have seen the look of concern because he said, I just need your signature, Mr. Morris, there will be no charge. He assumed Jethro was Mr. Morris since he was the only male at the table. We enclosed a 200CZK (~$13) tip and signed the check. Dick Weed!
Todays agenda was to take one or two of the walking tours that Miss Jane had printed from the internet. The first tour would start at the Muzeum metro stop. We elected to walk rather than take the subway, so BJ looked for Muzeum on Jill. There were a number of choices, so she just picked one. Jills directions took us around the block and back to where we started. Dick Weed, Jill! We decided to get out the paper map. BJ played tour guide and would hold up the map when the group got separated to gather everyone back together.
Along the way, we saw an elaborate Jewish Synagogue.
We made it to the Muzeum and actually went inside this time. We are not enthusiastic museum people though, so we just looked around the lobby rather than pay the admission. Jethro stopped to talk to a young man who was selling tickets to a concert that night. He negotiated discounted tickets for our group and suggested that we come back for the concert. Dick Weed! We decided to wait to purchase them until we saw how our afternoon unfolded.
The Muzeum is an imposing structure, overlooking the busy Webceslas Square and shopping street.
Large yellow signs directed us to Rocky OReillys, Pragues biggest Irish pub. We enjoyed a Budvar (no relation to Budweiser) and commented about the waitresses shirts. The shirts were decorated with two green handprints strategically located on the front. Interesting.
We finished our beers and the boys finished their gawking so we continued the tour. Jethro had spotted an interesting little covered alley, so we ducked in and were rewarded with the site of this upside down horse hanging from the ceiling.
BJ stopped to visit with this man, but he was not a very good conversationalist.
The next stop on the tour was the Charles University. Charles must have been an important person to have both a bridge and a university named after him. The tour moved us through the Powder Tower and ended at the Municipal House.
Lunch was next on the agenda. Since we were so close to the Jewish Quarter, we decided to walk in that direction. We were starting to think we werent going to find a restaurant when we stumbled upon Mikulka, a little Italian restaurant at Benediktská 16. http://www.pizzerie.cz/mikulka/ We could smell garlic when we opened the door. BJ and Tony split a pizza this time. The others shared a couple of pasta dishes. Everything was delicious! Dick Weed!
BJ relinquished the tour guide duty to Tony for a few minutes, but took it back in order to lead the group to the Jewish Cemetery.
From our previous trip, we remembered having learned that the bodies are buried standing up, in order to use less room, and are reported to be twelve deep.
We found ourselves back at the Old Town square at 4:00PM sharp, so we waited for the apostles to come out, but they never made an appearance.
We discussed the evening concert. Only Jethro and Miss Jane were interested in attending. We all browsed at a little market that we found and then split up. BJ, Tony and Elly May went to a little wine bar. The wine was pricey by Czech standards, at 550CZK (~$33)/bottle, but it was very good. We lingered over it for quite awhile before moving on, playing a few hands of 99.
When we had savored the last drop, we moved on to the Hotel Prague Inn, whose claim to fame is the best address in Prague. This would be a good place for us to wait for our friends to return from the concert. Without looking at a menu, we ordered a bottle of the house red wine. The waiter asked if we wanted Cabernet. We responded, Cabernet is fine. The waiter asked, Cabernet Sauvignon? We responded, Thats fine. When he went to get the bottle, we looked over the beverage menu on the table. This wine was even pricier than the last, at 660CZK (~$40). Oh well, we thought, its vacation, well splurge. There were some stale pretzels on the table, so we ate a couple of those. The wine was passable, but not nearly as good as what we had at the wine bar.
Soon we got a text message from Miss Jane asking where we were. They found us without problem and helped us finish the wine. As we were about to leave, we got a text message from Milburn. We asked for the check and were shocked when the waiter brought us a bill totaling a whopping 1281CZK (~$77.50). 1232CZK (~$74.50) for the wine and 49CZK (~$3.00) for the stale pretzels. Thinking that there had been a mistake, we called the waiter over and told him that the price should have been the 660CZK that was listed on the menu. He produced a menu from the back that showed the Cabernet Sauvignon listed at 1232CZK. We showed him the menu on the table and he argued that we had not ordered what was on the menu on the table http://www.hotelpragueinn.cz/EN/napojovy-listek, we had specified Cabernet Sauvignon. We asked to speak to the manager, but got no help from him either. He would only repeat, Was the calculation on your bill incorrect? We finally paid the bill and left, angry about the bait and switch we had fallen victim to. We'd have to advise tourists to beware of the Hotel Prague Inn!
We found a nice traditional Czech restaurant called 22 for dinner. http://www.restaurace22.cz/ The setting was much like the one at Annabar, underground with a bricked barrel ceiling. BJ had the chicken risotto and Tony had goulash.
The food was delicious and the wait-staff very accommodating. The bill was exactly as expected! Dick Weed!
We walked back to the Hilton and after a brief nightcap, retired for the evening.
Our plans for Saturday were to take a train to the little town of Kutná Hora so we met early for breakfast in the executive lounge. Milburn was with us this time so we were more comfortable since he knows how this executive level treatment works. When we gave our room numbers, they welcomed Mr. Drysdale and showed us to our table. We had another delightful breakfast, finishing in time to walk to the train station for our train.
Dash met us at the train station. We bought 7 tickets to Kutná Hora for the 10AM train. The ride was just over an hour. From the train station, we walked about 20 minutes to the Ossuary (Bone Church) in Sedlec.
We were amazed at the collection of bones inside the church. The story goes that in 1278, an abbot brought back some dirt from the Holy Land and spread it around the Sedlec Cemetery. This Holy ground made the area a popular place for burying relatives. Bodies accumulated during the plague and by the 1300s there were over 30,000 in a very small space. The ossuary was built around 1400 to house the bones and then in 1511, a half-blind monk was given the task of gathering the bones and putting them in the crypt. In the late 1800s, a local woodcarver was hired to decorate the inside of the chapel with the human bones. Truly bizarre.
It was almost a 2 mile walk to town from the church. We encountered a group of students from Emory University in Atlanta on our way. They tagged along since we had a GPS to lead the way. The write-up we had described Kutná Hora as a sleepy little town. True to the description when we came to the main street, we didnt see any open shops or restaurants!
We finally found the Pizzeria Restaurante Corso. After our standard Italian lunch, we explored the town.
The main attraction was the Cathedral of St. Barbara, a beautiful church built with the proceeds from the towns silver mines. After admiring the church, we planned to tour the Silver mines, but they were closed for the season.
We wandered back toward the center of town and stopped into a place that advertised 15CZK beer. That is less than a dollar. Who could pass that up? In front it was more of a game room, but in back, there was a nice quiet little area where we could relax.
In the front hall, there were parts of a grand piano in various states of disrepair. We didnt make a note of the name of the place, so we just referred to it as the piano bar.
We almost stayed too long, so we had to hurry back to the train station. We had a little trouble figuring out which track. We listened to the announcements, but it sounded like they kept saying chess set.
On the train, we couldnt find seats together so we had to split up into different compartments. We were afraid this might be a problem since we had 1 train ticket for the seven of us, but the ticket-checker managed to find all of us.
We went back to the Hilton, supposedly to freshen up for dinner, but we made a stop in the executive lounge and never made it out for dinner. They were serving heavy hors doeuvers and an open-bar.
Sunday morning we got a pretty late start. When we went to breakfast we did not have to give our room number. We were greeted with, Ah, the Family Drysdale!.
Milton decided to stay in the hotel and catch up on some work. He would join us in the afternoon. The rest of us decided to go to Petrín Hill to see the miniature replica of the Eiffel tower and then to the Prague Castle. We bought 24 hour metro tickets at the Florenc station. It was Sunday so the ticket office was closed, but we were able to buy some from a shop in the station. The shop only had four, so we had to scrape together enough change to buy the other one from the machine.
We took the subway to the Národní trída stop and walked across the most Leglí. The view of the castle was lovely. It was a beautiful sunny day!
We had talked about taking the funicular up the hill, but the line was so long that we decided to walk. (We later learned that our transportation pass includes the funicular so had we waited, we wouldnt even have had to pay!)
Miss Jane and Jethro took one route. BJ, Tony and Elly May took the other. We were all huffing and puffing when we got to the top. We stopped a few times on the way up, allegedly to take a picture of the beautiful view, but the truth was that we needed to catch our breath.
We elected not to pay the 50CZK each to climb up the tower.
After resting for a few minutes over a beer, we hiked through the woods toward the castle.
We passed the Loreta church http://www.loreta.cz/en/index.htm and some other interesting statues and architecture.
Arriving at the Castle at 3:00PM, we were just in time for the changing of the guards! The ceremony was not quite as elaborate as the one at Buckingham Palace, but it was impressive just the same.
The St. Vitus Cathedral was breathtaking with many beautiful stained glass windows. It was REALLY cold inside the cathedral, we had to go outside to warm up.
We walked down Golden Lane and found the exit.
Just as we were leaving, we got a text message from Milburn. We stopped at the first bar we came to on the right to wait.
Once we hooked up, we continued our walk toward the Charles Bridge. Jethro had spotted a place he wanted to go for a beer at the base of the bridge. We looked at the menu. They didnt list the price of beer, but the soup was ~$30, so we decided that the beer would probably be more than we wanted to spend.
We kept looking and found another place on the river that was out of our price range as well, but it had this interesting fountain in the courtyard.
Across the street, we stopped for a Master beer and some fries. Master is a rich dark high alcohol beer so we limited ourselves to one. We had the same problem ordering fries as before, but the waitress finally relented and let us order them.
By the time we left that place, it was dark so we got to see the Charles bridge at night.
We elected to go back to a known entity, Restaurant 22 for our last meal in Prague and we werent disappointed. After we had eaten dinner, we discovered that the restaurant had a little outdoor section with heaters so we stopped for one more glass of wine.
Back at the hotel, we just barely had time to stop into the executive lounge for one beverage and then it was back to the room to finish the rest of our complimentary items.
The Family Drysdale had one final breakfast before heading for the airport. It was a wonderful trip.
Dick Weed to Milburn for letting us impose on his business trip!
BJ and Tony(Part of The Family Drysdale)